Friday, November 19, 2010

Reforms like a fixed tenure are an urgency

It is fairly understandable if Heehs defends CWSA including Savitri as he was the editor. The same is true for the books he has authored including The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. But when he supports the Managing Trustee with equal zeal, then suspicion arouses. So much so that, his followers are busy trumpeting almost divine status for the trustees overlooking all their faults.

This sort of blind mobilization must stop. Reforms like a fixed tenure are an urgency to save the Ashram from the pitfalls of aging and senility. This requires courage and goodwill in place of the shameful servility. [TNM] 

Proof of Yoga is in cursing

By creating the Ashram, The Mother & Sri Aurobindo gave an opportunity to people to practice Yoga collectively. But long years of living in a protected environment is liable to make the inmates callous and complacent. Given the complex nature of Integral Yoga, no one is demanding any empirical proof of their productivity, but when a senior member starts cursing others left and right, then serious doubts arise about their ability and intention. [TNM]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Safety nets in Savitri Era Religion

Yoga and Sadhana matters are not particularly socially palatable, although the ethical component can be said to be the cornerstone of a vibrant social order. Further, in the absence of appropriate yardsticks for evaluation, practice of yoga runs the risk of slipping into an anarchic course. Lack of authorized elders also leads to disastrous results in many instances.

Religion, on the other hand, incorporates many safety nets. Socially embedded and legally imbricated, it caters to man’s emotional necessities at various stages of life. If nurtured adequately, this aesthetic aspect carries the potential of storming the spiritual domains. Moreover, the way it glues a collectivity and fosters co-operation becomes a training ground for leadership and adventure.

Past religions, admittedly, have gathered rust and accumulated dross. There is practically no means to repair them. The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, therefore, have created this new shelter for the people from all continents. We can safely call ourselves Savitri Erans by forgetting our old identities. [TNM] 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Integral Yoga without the historical baggage

Sri Aurobindo has written outstanding commentaries on various religious texts but the spiritual path he recommends is never wholly dependent on them. He draws most of the principles of Integral Yoga from the tradition without relying exclusively upon any particular book. This in the backdrop of his warnings against past religions is a crucial distinction. Further, the way he disengages spirituality from the grooves of ritualistic rigor is in line with the demands of modernity that valorizes individual freedom.

The genesis of Integral Yoga from within the tumultuous Indian freedom struggle, however, is an intriguing aspect. Whether that was required as a preparation for the needed austerity and intensity in Yoga is hard to surmise, but is a historical fact. The present generation, understandably, has forgotten those circumstances, but the relevance of Integral Yoga in the modern life has rather heightened. Dissemination of Integral Yoga without the historical baggage, therefore, looks like a good strategy.

The Mother & Sri Aurobindo were pioneers of the next evolutionary step for the earth. What they ask from us is simply receptivity and collaboration but remembering them in this context becomes religion. History comes into play here as also hagiography which ultimately blend into mythology. Shifting facts from fiction will be a concurrent vocation but that will never deter some from turning a Sudarshan. [TNM]  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hang separately

In this post I will offer a short overview of some aspects of Michael Tomasello’s latest book „Why We Cooperate,” which is based on his 2008 Tanner Lectures on Human Values
But according to Tomasello, there are two aspects that also make human culture also qualitatively different from all others:
1. human culture is cumulative. That is, artefacts and behavioural practices often become more complex over time. Every improvement or accepted change will be transferred to the next generation and so forth.
2. human culture is unique in that there are social institutions, which create and enforce culture norms and practices… (Tomasello 2009: XIII)]

[Bats Gauge Sounds With Neural Teamwork New York Times - Sindya N. Bhanoo -  November 15, 2010
One of the keys to the keen ability of bats to process sound is that the neurons in a bat’s brain work as a team to convey the importance of certain signals — like an anger call or a distress call — while diminishing the effect of less-important sounds, researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center reported this past weekend in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.]

It needs to be studied why practitioners of Integral Yoga can’t work as a team.

Marx was peeved about surplus value and it also applies to the Ashram as a beneficiary of cheap and loyal labour. But as is well known, nothing comes cheap and there's no such thing as a free lunch. The inmates, therefore, tend to compensate themselves in various other ways and chasing fame is one of them.

Intellectual accomplishments duly circulated through writings and lectures became synonymous with spiritual achievement over the years, thus establishing a false generalization. Difference of opinion on various modalities and other mechanisms of power play have been in existence since inception. Specific instances like Dipti and Vak have many more stories to tell that are not altogether unrelated to the current controversy.

All this therefore calls for a paradigm change. But it is possible only through honest discussions and frank debates. If the laboratory faces a logjam today, there is no reason why the experiment should not be re-routed and re-engineered. [TNM]       

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Amal outlives Lal

[Prof P Lal, in memoriam from Agent Provocateur by Kanchan Gupta
He inspired me to seek a living from the written word
Poet-translator-teacher. That’s how newspapers described Professor Purushottam Lal — better known as Professor P Lal — who died in his beloved city, Kolkata, on November 3. Readers were also informed he was 81…
Kolkata will miss an intellectual who made the city his home, far away from Kapurthala where he was born. While others, including his students, left Kolkata looking for greener pastures, Prof Lal stayed on, resolute in his belief that this was his karmabhumi. In his death, I have lost an affectionate teacher and someone who inspired me to seek a living from the written word. Meanwhile, the queue ahead gets shorter. This appears as my Sunday column, Coffee Break, in The Pioneer on November 14, 2010.]

Amal had fought epic battles with Lal and now outlives him. [TNM]

Ambedkar and Heehs

The Draft was the result of collective labours of many persons. Several parts of it went through many versions. Several Articles were adopted, only to be overturned at the next stage. The Assembly itself reopened and revised, and sometimes completely overhauled several provisions -- many of them key provisions on which the very nature of the system of governance turned.
Not only did Ambedkar himself not claim authorship of the Draft. He did not even claim any great degree of originality for the Draft which emerged from these iterations and which he formally tabled. …
The overwhelming proportion of provisions were based on the Government of India Act of 1935 … On that count, not half but almost four-fifths of the Constitution was from the 1935 Act … How mere designations father myths! …
But now suddenly the Constitution is presented as something that sprung -- whole and complete, pristine and virginal -- from the mind and genius of Ambedkar.] 

Bulk of data in the book Heehs borrows from the previous biographies (which he magisterially disparages as hagiographies) and the rest from collective labours of his colleagues in the Archives. So there is nothing “whole and complete, pristine and virginal” about The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. [TNM]

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kiss Das Gupta Goodbye

“The markets hate uncertainty.” … The problem with these supposed truisms is they are no more accurate than the flip of a coin. A closer look at this uncertainty meme reveals it to be a false-ism -- one of those emotionally appealing phrases that ping around trading desks… To recognize how meaningless these statements are, consider the opposite:
Could markets function without uncertainty? It takes only a little thought to realize that markets actually thrive on doubt, imperfect information and a lack of consensus. Uncertainty drives the market’s price-discovery mechanism. Investing requires there to be differences of opinion. When there is broad agreement as to an asset’s fair value, trading volume falls. Without any uncertainty, who would take the opposite side of your trade?
History teaches that whenever the opposite occurs -- when certainty overwhelms uncertainty -- the herd tends to be wrong. In rare instances, when there is a near-total lack of uncertainty in the market, the outcome is usually a spectacular disaster…
When we discuss uncertainty, what we are really discussing is risk. All unknown outcomes contain risk, and therein lies the possibility of loss. Risk is inherent in the concept of uncertainty. However, anyone looking for performance must embrace risk, for without it, there can be no reward.
Uncertainty is what makes alpha, or market-beating gains, possible. Smart traders know that uncertainty is where the money is. No uncertainty, no risk; no risk, no possibility of outperformance…
The future, by definition, is unknowable. Investing involves making our best guesses about the value of an asset at some point after this moment in time. There will always be an element of uncertainty involved. We can discount various outcomes, engage in probabilistic analysis, but no one knows for certain what tomorrow will bring. Those who claim to know fail to understand the most basic workings of markets…
Pundits may hate uncertainty -- it tends to makes them look foolish -- but markets harbor no such bias. In fact, markets thrive on uncertainty. It is their reason for being. (Barry Ritholtz, author of the book “Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy,” is the chief executive officer of Fusion IQ, and blogs at The Big Picture. The opinions expressed are his own.) britholtz@fusioninvest.com]

Spotting leaders is much like stock picking. Group Discussions are an age old technique to bring out leadership quality to the fore. Uncertainty, not only drives price discovery, but also facilitates leader discovery. High time to dump Das Gupta and “embrace risk.” [TNM]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wait for the SC verdict

The past decades have seen a high tide of history distortion by the dominant Leftist school of historians in India
In the meantime, my position has been endorsed by the Allahabad High Court, the one reasonably impartisan institution that has held both argumentations against the light. After availing itself of the best archaeological expertise, it has ruled in favour of the old consensus, upheld until 1989 by all sources but denied since then by Guha’s circles, viz. that Ayodhya is indeed a case of Hindu victimization by Muslims through the imposition of a mosque on a Hindu sacred site in forcible replacement of a temple. In its verdict, the Court has also given a most unfavourable judgment of the historical “method” of the anti-temple academics. POSTED BY KOENRAAD ELST AT 12:29 AM WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2010]

Elst, alas, is precariously perched. [TNM]

Directed trade

[With Apologies to Debbie from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux
If you’re really interested in understanding international economics, you should instead read such books as Russell Roberts’s The Choice, Johan Norberg’s In Defense of Global Capitalism, Martin Wolf’s Why Globalization Works, Jagdish Bhagwati’s In Defense of Globalization, Paul Krugman’s Pop Internationalism, and Douglas Irwin’s Free Trade Under Fire. Sincerely, Don Boudreaux]

In our own country, this is precisely what led to the development of mighty cities like Bombay, Madras and Calcutta - built and administered by a private company. Trade was free - and the East India Company traded in opium, too…
In India, during British times, it must be remembered that there were over 650 "princely states" - and most of these were nothing more than small cities, as in Rajasthan. Gujarat was composed of over 150 of these - and there was perfect communal harmony, even during the Partition.] 

But the most operative wisdom in this respect comes from Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference by David Harvey. A trading transaction is a unique moment involving the triple players: space-time-person and hence nursing a wish for the same is only a feeble propeller. [TNM]      

Reinventing Integral Yoga

[I have learned the hard way not to trust anyone's "truth", starting from an Aurobindonian scholar like him. paulette has left a new comment on your post "Questions about Sudha Sinha and Ramanathan": Savitri Era Open Forum, November 11, 2010]

[I don’t know I am learning so many new things about the yoga these days. 
But here as I said I am learning new things! From alok pandey11:50 AM]

The Heehs imbroglio has brought home the futility of seeking peace and tranquility prematurely. The sage as a theoretical construct can be hugely misleading and so are neat instructions on intricacies of practice. Yoga as abstraction or in isolation can be a perilous addiction. More so for the facilitators, for common flaws like transference don’t vanish.

Thematic compilation of Sri Aurobindo’s letters excising out the personal references and chronology is the most worrying aspect on this score. The all-life-is-yoga matrix surely involves much unlearning and scales falling from the eyes. [TNM]    

Finding fault with someone is pointless

From Tusar N. Mohapatra tusarnmohapatra@gmail.com date 8 November 2010 04:46 subject Re: dear respected Mr Tusar n Mohapatra

The exacting standards that The Mother set in the Ashram are part of her mythology now, and it is unfair to expect someone to replicate the same. The trajectory of life’s journey is unique for each person and hence finding fault with someone is pointless.

At a practical level, however, one can try to bring about change. You are free to don the garb of an activist in this particular case and list out the irregularities you find there and publish them (at SEOF or elsewhere). This is a quasi-political job and depends on how you are placed. [TNM]   

Twelve vs. Fevicol

To force his way out of the mother’s womb is man’s first political act. And letting out a shrill cry soon after is the second. The rest, however, is a long story of struggle for existence. But coping with the advanced age is perhaps the greatest challenge as social support wanes and the skills learnt are never enough. As insecurity sets in, one’s dependence grows and he is tempted to make compromises. Personal welfare concerns and the survival instinct often forces people to turn conformists.

There is no escape from politics from cradle to grave, upon the touchstone of which everything else should be judged. Spirituality does not breathe in a vacuum, but within an organic collectivity of human beings of all ages and sexes. Obviously, the problems of hierarchy and division of labor require constant review and fine tuning. 12 years (supposedly a Yuga) are the maximum for any tenure to run at a stretch after which the regime begins to rust. Following these standard tranches of time is prudence and not Fevicol. [TNM]       

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Heehsciyans believe in a single interpretation

Heehsciyans believe that every word of their book is distilled to embody crystalline purity. Each sentence has been crafted with a celestial chisel driven by supernal intuition. The odor of the earthly hand of the author has evaporated to be replaced by a heavenly aroma. There is no chance that the book can stimulate any awkward thought in the reader’s mind.

Heehsciyans, thus, believe in a single interpretation, a monologic/univocal leviathan. And therefore their abiding love for the Trustees (with a capital T). They constantly conceive their position in the cranium and certainly not at the fundament. The book, besides, is a gem of immaculate diction and exemplary clarity. All this makes it the Book of the Century (albeit, a bit early).

Heehsciyans are pretty alike the automatons. To your ten different objections they have an omnibus reply. When the Ashram says the book is bad, they refuse to take the cue. They insist that all that comes from that blessed pen is immortal and has the divine sanction. Three cheers for this new church. [TNM] 

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Four intellectuals have drafted a poor letter

Four intellectuals have drafted such a poor letter that I feel ashamed of hailing from the same state. Public intellectuals displaying such insensitivity towards human rights and disregard for the democratic bedrock of the country by offering such shabby arguments is really pitiable. Grow up boys and gals! [TNM]  

Monday, November 08, 2010

Unadulterated loyalty

[Three Bengalis from M.J. Akbar - Author and Veteran Journalist - Oct 25, 2010 2:04 PM In Third Eye: India Today Column November 1-7, 2010
Subhas Chandra Bose was undermined by Mahatma Gandhi with a rare pious savagery. … The Marxists inherited the Bose mantle, because Bose’s party withered in the absence of his charismatic leadership. … The baffling anomaly is that the CPI(M), a party that has ruled Bengal for more than three decades through a thesis that reconciled the antithesis between Marx and religion, stopped its pre-eminent Bengali leader, Jyoti Basu, from becoming India’s first Bengali Prime Minister.]

[Is India a 'Hindu' State? Rising Kashmir - 23 Oct 2010
Even Jaswant Singh of BJP has absolved Jinnah and holds Pandit Nehru responsible for partition. In any case, the partition could have ushered in peace and ...

[SP leaders welcome Azam's return to party Times of India - Nov 7, 2010
ALLAHABAD: The district president of Samajwadi Party, minority cell, ... SP district general secretary Mohd Israel said the return of Azam Khan would boost ...]

Jaswant Singh is back in BJP and Azam Khan in SP, but such luck is unlikely for Somnath Chatterjee. This is an admirable stand on the part of the CPI(M) as far as ideology and loyalty are concerned.

The Heehs imbroglio, likewise, has put the faith and devotion of the followers of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo to test. Their teachings are amply clear on how to act on such occasions. [TNM] 

Friday, November 05, 2010

Aurofilio is the new minister for the frog episode

Heehs’ hounds follow a terrific distribution of functions. One or two are handling the morons issue and some others spew venom against Pandey & Deshpande. One looks after the court cases and now one Aurofilio is the new minister for the frog episode.

They are typal creatures and very focused who persistently raise pointed questions. They don’t broach allied issues and avoid encroachment into their colleagues’ turf. Whether their piecemeal approach is a strategic innovation or crude and shrewd manipulation is an easy guess. [TNM]

Of frogs and cobwebs and the tiger of time

[one of my favorite Latour quotes from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
“It is admirable to demonstrate that the strength of the spirit transcends the laws of mechanical nature, but this program is idiotic if matter is not at all material and machines are not at all mechanical.” We Have Never Been Modern, p. 124]

Stability and movement, we must remember, are only our psychological representations of the Absolute, even as are oneness and multitude. The Absolute is beyond stability and movement as it is beyond unity and multiplicity.]

Considering the complexity of the Heehs imbroglio and its genesis tracing inter alia to the editing of Savitri, a black and white depiction of it, though tempting, would be unjust. There have been lapses and motivated usurping with perhaps hubris and victimhood as combined triggers. But to overlook the provocation it marshaled and filth unearthed will be lack of (the now infamous) objectivity.

None can forecast the trajectory the Zeitgeist chooses but all players, interestingly, are confident of anchorage in divine motivation. There is no ontological contradiction though in such a position but the eagerness to win has the propensity of enforcing a premature wave function collapse leading to the illusion of riding the tiger of time. A simplistic Manichaeism, therefore, is out of question.

Brushing off dirt and removing cobwebs can hardly merit the epic comparison with the Vedic battles. The mundane applicability of the tenet, All life is Yoga should at least have some standards. The evolution is a long long affair and the present bubbles (frogs included) in Puducherry swell at their own peril. A much wider challenge outside is waiting for our more serious attention. [TNM]       

The book is no benchmark and praising Heehs to the skies is futile

Mr. T, Mr. D & Mr. H are effusive in their praises for the book on Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs published by CUP in 2008. On the other hand, Shri R, Shri S, & Shri J have pointed out several objectionable references in the book and are against Heehs’ stay in the Ashram on this ground. Thus the book issue is bloated into the expulsion/excommunication issue.

In a further nasty turn, the Ashram head becomes the target as he is seen to be siding with Heehs as well as his book. All hell breaks loose, and the fundamentalism bogey is floated. No holds barred polemics rule the roost and respected elders are minced beyond recognition. The tangle of the three chords now turns intractable.  

Verdicts, in between, of the likes of Dr. E & Dr G have no takers. Further, there is no reason why Dr G should abide by what Mr. D thinks of the book. Similarly, Dr. E is free to go by his own independent opinion and ignore the book altogether. The point is, the book is no benchmark but might hide a threat. Praising the author to the skies is no remedy for the seeds of acid buried between the lines in the book. [TNM]

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Zoo to Yoga


From The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo to Synthesis of Yoga and The Life Divine is a long journey. From Ever Since Darwin to The Adventure of Consciousness too is a daring dream. In between, Rights and Wrongs to Wronging Rights make a splash from time to time. Be that as it may, Ends and Means and Grounding Morality continue to be a conundrum to this day. [TNM] 

None can condone the quip and parting is inevitable

The Heehs imbroglio has brought about a division among the devotees/followers of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo along a clearly drawn line. The hostile The Lives of Sri Aurobindo is not the only irritant now. Larger issues like the management of the Ashram and editing of Sri Aurobindo’s writings etc. have turned this conflict much more complicated. Power relations revolving around academic irreverence and religious subservience has played havoc with the life and emotions of a whole lot of people.

The so called “dignified silence” of the Heehs camp is a huge fa├žade as hired masks go about denigrating the book’s detractors in a systematic manner. They have never attempted to address the grievances and apply correctives. Somehow, their strategy has been to silence these vocal few so that everything turns normal. Such persistent personal attacks against the critics of a book, however, are definitely rare and against the canons of civil conduct.

It is a matter of astonishment for outsiders that both the warring factions belong to the same commune who take their meals in the same dining hall. As inmates of an avowedly spiritual Ashram with lofty ideals like human unity and world peace, it is an irony that they nurse and betray so much of animosity towards each other. The management reacting to the complaints in a queer manner is another teaser in the whole enigma.

Holding on to power is a powerful instinct and any number of justifications can be marshaled to that end. There is no dearth of henchmen swirling the crumbs of office and lend legitimacy. Men of letters, too, roll out their tracts of interpretation validating all those acts others perceive as evil. No accountability and a conspiracy of silence becomes a sure recipe for autocracy.

Any other issue would have been debatable and hence ambivalent with some scope and hope for reconciliation. But this cardinal slur was such an inviolable weapon that Heehs himself has no means to deactivate it. It has already done irreparable damage and Das Gupta’s protection will go down in the history as an instance of gross impropriety.

Many seethe with consternation at this continued hostility and quite uncritically cry a halt. By this, they play into the hands of the Heehs’ hounds who also advocate silence and normalcy. Some others surmise that all criticism is evil and thus fail to empathize with the agony of those fighting against the book and its author. The gravity of the offence, predictably, is yet to sink in at various levels.

So, this is the hard reality after the two tumultuous years. None can condone the quip and parting of ways is inevitable. This unsavory prospect may not be all that unpleasant in the long run as there would be much independence for experimentation in respective spheres. [TNM]                  

Monday, November 01, 2010

CUP faux pas

Alcohol is the most damaging drug to the drinker and others overall, heroin and crack are the second and third most harmful, Professor David Nutt and colleagues wrote in the medical journal The Lancet today. 'Alcohol most dangerous drug to society' - Prof Nutt BBC News
Alcohol more harmful than heroin, crack cocaine: Study Times of India REUTERS, Nov 1, 2010
Alcohol and tobacco are legal for adults in Britain and many other countries, while drugs such as ecstasy and cannabis and LSD are often illegal and carry the threat of prison sentences. 
"It is intriguing to note that the two legal drugs assessed -- alcohol and tobacco -- score in the upper segment of the ranking scale, indicating that legal drugs cause at least as much harm as do illegal substances," Nutt, who was formerly head of the influential British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said in a statement about the study. Nutt was forced to quit the ACMD a year ago after publicly criticising ministers for ignoring scientific advice suggesting cannabis was less harmful than alcohol.]

The much acclaimed The Lives of Sri Aurobindo is more harmful than its less glamorous hagiographic cousins. [TNM]

Ontology overrides content

[on temperaments in philosophy from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
but if all philosophy were denunciation I can say for sure that I would never have chosen philosophy. This is why I can only enjoy Richard Dawkins for about 5 pages at a time, usually when he’s speaking of specific facts I never knew about, because I simply grow tired of his deep need to ridicule the benighted and the gullible of the earth.]

Harman has fried some crisp impressions of the following 12 philosophers whereas Richard Dawkins, justifiably, turns out to be the odd man out:
Heidegger, Levinas, Gadamer,
Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard,  
Deleuze, Zizek, Meillassoux,
Badiou, Agamben, & Latour.

Bright stars as they are of the 20th Century in the firmament of human thought, their works will continue to sway minds for a very long time, but none of them can strictly be identified as an ontologist, not even Heidegger. That title goes to Whitehead, and of course, Sri Aurobindo. [TNM] 

Religion in JNU: Round peg in a square hole

From Tusar N. Mohapatra tusarnmohapatra@gmail.com date 1 November 2010 11:50 subject Re: religion politics round table
[Religion and Politics: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue Round table discussion on religion and politics on Friday, 19 November, 2010 at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University]

The JNU roundtable on religion and politics is purely an academic exercise and it is futile to expect much from such routine deliberations. Because most participants will be the same worthies who have all the while prevented such a dialogue, and they are influential people. [TNM]