As one reads Vichar Sagar (download Word version) it is becomes evident that much of the Upanishads are based on speculation and assertion. That is only to be expected from a philosophy that, 2500 years ago, must have been at the "cutting edge", but clearly events have overtaken these speculations now.
I'm still midway through the book, but given Ramesh's insistence that the Vedantic is a higher order of science, and that therefore apparently that scientists should "direct their energies in finding the useful things which are almost infinite-Vedanta", I'm forced to comment on the HIGHLY speculative components of the Upanishads.
Ramesh also asks (re: modern science): "What is the use of the theory if it doesn’t explain the energy which is already there (assuming that energy can never be created)".
Well, let's examine the quality of explanations available in the Upanishads, before questioning the quality of modern science. Here's what happens upon death to some people:
The way to the Brahmaloka is gradual and takes place in the manner described below. When a person, always given to the worship of Brahma, dies, with his internal organ, the sensory and the active organs overpowered in a swoon, so that no consciousness is left, the angel of death comes not unto him to take away his astral body, but the presiding deity of fire with a conceit for it, gets out of the body at death, and takes him to his own abode, thence he is transferred to his own abode by the presiding deity of day, to be re-transferred by the deity presiding over the bright phase of the Moon to his own abode, thence to be carried to his own abode by the deity who has a conceit for the six months of the sun’s path on the north of the equator, thence to be taken away by the divinity presiding over year, next by the Sun, Moon, and the divinity presiding over lightning, who carries him to his own abode; there, appears in front of him by the command of Hiranyagarbha a fine person resembling Hiranyagarbha in appearance, to take him away from the electrical abode of lightning to Varunloka. In his passage, he is accompanied by the presiding divinity of electricity (lightning) to the next abode, that of Indra, and keeps company with the inhabitant of the abode of Hiranyagarbha who is accompanying the worshipper’s subtle body. The next stage is the abode of Prajapati up to which place Indra accompanies them; but Prajapati is unable to enter the abode of Brahma, so he arrives here in company of the fine or excellent person. The King of the abode of Brahma is Hiranyagarbha, who is called so, because he is the collective aggregate of intelligence of all gross bodies and for the conceit that he is so. His action is known by the designation of Brahma,and the abode of that active (Karya) Brahma is called ‘Brahmaloka.’
The progressive grades of ascent typified in what is called the “Road to Brahmaloka” which falls to the lot of a devout worshipper of Anthrapomorphism after death, cover a vast extent of time. For we find a passing reference to pralaya or cylic period of destruction. Now this pralaya does not occur except in the night time of Brahma. With us day is the period of waking and night of rest; with Brahma day begins with creation and night ushers in destruction, of the objective world. But Brahma’s night comes once after fourteen Manus, a period embracing a thousand Yugas. Each Manun is equal to seventy one Yugas, therefore for one thousand Yugas Brahma is engaged in creating. The twilights of Brahma are called the intervals of Mann or Sandhi. To enable our readers to form a correct idea of the subject we subjoin the following table.71 Mahayugas=l Manantvara or Manu.14 Manus or 1000 Human Yugas=1 Brahma’s day,14 Manus=1 Brahma’s night.But what is a Mahayuga? One solar year constitutes a day and night for a Deva and Asur. The Sun’s passage.in the north of equator is the daytime of a Deva and night of an Astir, while its passage in the south of the equator is the night of a Deva and day of an Asur, hence it will appear that 360 of our years will form a Deva’s year, and 12,000 such years will be equal to one Mallayuga.Therefore 12000 x 360=43,20,000 i.e.,43 lacs and 20,000 years go to make up a Mahayuga; of whichThe Satya has 4800 years of a Deva.Treta, 3600 years of a DevaDvapara 2400 years of a DevaKali 1200 years of a DevaGiving us a total of 12,000 Deva years.Now a single Brahma’s day has fifteen periods of intervals otherwise called Sandhi. In the beginning of the first day of Brahma there was an interval, hence there are fifteen intervals between the appearance of the Manus, each of which has a duration of 4000 Deva years.According to the Surya Sidhanta,Brahma took 47,400 Deva years to collect the materials of creation, and as one Deva year is equal to 360 solar years it will give us a period of 16,464,000 ordinary years during which the earth underwent changes ultimately to fit it for the reception of organic life.Brahma has a life time of 100 years. That is to say, 28 Manus multiplied by 360 days constituting a year, and one hundred such years is his span. That gives a period of 1,008,000, half of which must necessarily be night or the cyclic periods of destruction(pralaya).He is now in the fifty first year of his age; six Manantwaras have already been over and the Kali of the 28th Yuga is now passing over. It is very near his noon.The names of the several Manus are;—1. Sayambhu2. Swaroichisha3. Utarnaja4. Tamas5. Rajbata6. Chakshuha7. Vaivasuta.Brahma’s night comes once after 11 Manus, when there is a pralaya. But as a Manu is equal to 71 Yugas therefore during 1000 Mahayugas Brahma is engaged in creating and there is a similar period of night when every thing is destroyed. But he is not affected by these pralayas; when his hundred years are over, there is one mahapralaya and he too is destroyed, leaving the ONE ETERNAL REALITY quite unaffected.
Facebook is good. It spreads useful information around. Irrelevant information dies an early death. And so this brilliant talk (below) by Robin Sharma came by into my FB 'newsfeed'.
It reminded me of my previous blog post entitled, Preachers, Teachers, Doers – a theory of leadership. It also reminded me that I'm doing – since 1998 – what Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com reportedly said: "Even if I failed I wouldn't regret it, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying."
As many of you know, I'm trying the "impossible" – to TOTALLY reform India's governance. This is a ridiculously ambitious idea, and few people junderstand the scope and magnitude of the change that this involves.
Why would anyone have such an ambitious idea? Well, the answer is simple. I found in 1998 that no one else was doing it and so I couldn't join hands with anyone who was trying to do it. Therefore I resolved to do it myself. That simple!
And what have I done so far? Failed three times. But failure is crucial if one has to succeed. It is because of these failures that I finally hit upon what I believe is the strategy to reform India – which underpins the concept of the Freedom Team of India. This will work, whether it takes one year or 100. The key, as far as I'm concerned, is that I've tried, I've learnt, and I've kept trying. That's all one can do. The rest is not within one's control. (See this blog post that shows why FTI will succeed.)
It physically hurts me (less badly than it used to, because I've figured out a solution) to type these blog posts and other writings. In addition, I spend a lot of my own hard earned money on such activities (a matter of some concern since I forfeited a lot of financial benefits – leaving the IAS just before I would have become entitled to pension upon voluntary retirement). But all this is fine by me. It was the right thing to do. So I did it.
Today, the goal is clear. The method is clear. Now it is just a matter of finding the right people. If you are the right person, then join FTI and let India see your talent. Or at least support FTI from the outside. But India will suffer so long as YOU (yes, YOU) pretend that your country is not your responsibility, and that you have a god-given right to criticise others without doing anything to fix the problems.
Shantanu has published a link to talk by one Tarek Fatah. The talk is worth listening to, just to get one particular perspective, but one must be careful not to jump to conclusions based on that talk.
Here are the (slightly edited/expanded) comments I made on Shantanu's blog – that discuss how Islamic terrorism can be tackled:
The idea of a lower standard of law for Muslims (e.g. Taliban) should not be tolerated. In BFN I have advocated a COMMON MINIMUM STANDARD for all religions in India. That is not the same as universal civil code, but it will ensure that no one is treated badly just because he or she happens to have been born into a religion that has a lower standard (in some forms of its practice).
Had some time to read a bit more of Vichar Sagar (Word). Truly hard going, I must say. It requires concentrated attention, and I can't find time for that.
My posts so far on Vichar Sagar include:
- The Metaphysics of the Upanishads (Vichar Sagar) by Nischal Das #1
- Preliminary taxonomy of God (i.e. types or categories of God)
- Pitfalls of “blind” reason
no system of philosophy can be complete that does not take note of the possible objections to be raised against it, by the rival schools, hence, more in harmony with the Madhyamika Buddhists … [Source footnote 67]
Similarly, Charvaka is frequently mentioned in the text as questioning the Vedanta, and so the book purports to provide a comprehensive defence against the apparent limitations of Charvaka thought.
I'm still trying to read the book, and will continue reading. So these ideas that I've absorbed are merely preliminary notes.
a) The logic is based on similies, some of them very clever. Consider these:
- The jar is invisible (it doesn't have inbuilt luminosity), so the only way we see it is through our intelligence which reaches out (like the arms of an octopus) to cover the entire jar instantaneously and therefore our intelligence "takes the shape" of the jar. This is an interesting theory of perception. Intelligence is therefore "self-illuminating".
"the internal organ issuing through the outlets of the sensory organs, goes to the subject of its discovery; then from the body to the subject of the jar, the elongated size of the internal organ like that of an aqueduct, as in the above instance, is called its function" [Source, p.107]
- The jar is nothing but a restriction on space which is infinite. The jar gets destroyed upon our breaking it, but the space inside can never be destroyed. Similarly when our body is destroyed, our consciousness/soul/intelligence can't be destroyed.
- Not everything that can't be sensed is unreal (this is in contradistinction to Charvaka's materialistic theories). Thus, for instance, consciousness is real although there is no sense organ for it. Happiness and unhappiness is real, similarly. If this is accepted, then our Self is real, and since Self is like the space inside a jar, the mere destruction of the body can't destroy the Self.
- And yet things aren't "really" real. These are all a form of the Brahma (hence maya; appearance – this allows for the evolution of the observed universe). The underlying reality is one – and distinct from matter. We are reflections of that reality. Our intelligence is "reflexive", being a reflection of the intelligence of Brahma.
Prakriti through the changes wrought upon it from a close contiguity of the Purusha or Spirit undergoes a change in its qualities, which disturbs its equilibrium and induces further changes, whereby the objective world and all it contains arc produced. In such a view, there is no need of a personal Creator. It is simply evolution brought on by the influence of the physical forces through the change impressed upon them, by the contact of the Spirit, in the same way as a magnet attracts a piece of iron and converts it into a temporary magnet, by imparting its properties. [Source, footnote 48]
b) There is an intriguing hint about the underlying complexity of "matter" which makes the universe both exist and not exist at the same time (quantum mechanics/uncertainty? - of course one should avoid reading too much into the fuzzy language that is found in these ancient books!)
Ignorance is explained in quite another way. It is the same as Mua Prakriti or the primordial undifferentiated cosmic matter. Sankhya’s Prakriti (Matter) and the Vedantin’s Ignorance and Maya are synonymous. It is described as neither existent nor non-existent. Existent since every one says ‘I am ignorant,’ it is present in all men and animals, in the inanimate world, and everywhere else. Non-existent, because with the advent of knowledge it disappears—for a similar reason it is called indescribable, i.e. to say something which cannot be definitely determined. [Source, above]
Evaluating the arguments in Vichar Sagar
The arguments are pretty strong – as far as sheer logic goes. The arguments seek to also prove that you can NEVER "see" Brahma since our senses can't "see" It. However, we can presumably sense It. That means there a physical test of God's existence can't be conducted.
While interesting (and intelligent!), these arguments hinge critically on the assumption that consciousness is similar to space and "ether", in that:
a) it exists regardless of the "jar" or "internal organ" (or body) that encompasses it; and
b) it is universal and eternal, and underpins the observed universe in all its forms and shapes.
The idea that consciousness is an entity independently of the "internal organ" (brain) is far-fetched and not proven conclusively. The validity of this assumption will make or break the Vedanta philosophy.
At places the assumptions go a bit wild. When it comes to explaining Rama and Krishna within the framework of non-duality, the Vedanta makes excessive assumptions, claiming that the body of these "people" was not made of ordinary matter. At some stage reason can't really work, and the Vedanta stretches one's credulity to the limit – almost like any other religion.
The only good thing is that the Vedanta teacher doesn't IMPOSE his ideas on the pupil. He is willing to answer the questions of the pupil till the pupil is satisfied. That's a brilliant innovation – that the teacher MUST PROVE the case.
I'm posting below extracts from chapter 4 (section 4). The chapter offers, among other things, an excellent theory of knowledge (epistemology). If nothing else, this book chapter confirms that Indian thought was truly the world's most advanced, 2,500 years ago. Nothing in this book so far is inconsistent with critical thinking, being based on reason. Just that modern science has yet to understand anything useful about consciousness, and the string theory has not been proven, either.
The Vedanta operates between the known (visible) causes and underlying causes – which makes it very difficult to disprove (or prove). We await further evidence from science.
EXTRACT FROM VICHAR SAGAR
Pupil. Though the spiritual soul or intelligence (Boodhi) with the reflex is the seat of the perception ‘I am Brahma,’ and not the Uniform, yet such reflex knows that the Uniform Intelligence and its principle of individuality are the Atma indicated by the first personal pronoun ‘I’ which also is the same as Now ‘Aham’ establishes the Uniform Intelligence as always non-different from Brahma, as the space covered by a jar is always one with the infinite space from which it cannot be in any way demarcated. Hence the Vedantin describes this mutual relationship of the Uniform with Brahma as Mukha Samanadikarana (a main predicament or inference in which several things are included.
The witness and reflex are recognized in the function of Egoism, say then, whether they are contemporaneous or otherwise.
Bhagavan,you have said that in Egoism both the witness and reflex are recognized to be present; on this subject I do not understand whether the function of the subject [witness] of that individuality, or Egoism, determines the uniform and reflex intelligence at the same time, or at different times; do explain it so that I may understand.
Without relation of the senses, to know ‘I am Brahma’
How is rendered visible, Lord, explain it to me.
Now in reference to the body of a Ram or Krishna, virtue and vice plays no part in its production, nor is it derived from an action of elements; but as the time of creation arrives after each cyclic period of destruction, for enabling individuals to enjoy or suffer according to their merits and demerits of a previous birth, /want though entirely dependent on his own Will, is actuated with a desire to create the world; no sooner he resolves to do it, than the world is created; subsequently he determines to sustain it and he maintains it accordingly. Here ‘maintain’ signifies allotting to each man his share of happiness and woe according to his merit or demerit. In the midst of such determination to maintain the world by the sheer dint of devotions on the part of his worshippers, he resolves to set forth the images of Ram, Krishna, and though he is devoid of a particular name and form, yet the image of Krishna, Pitambar, Syam-Soonder, has its origin in his resolution. They are independent of action.
A few more general thoughts on privacy and associated issues.
At one time people did not lock their houses when they went out for work. That was because there were no thieves around. This is still (I gather) the case in Japan. I remember reading somewhere that newspaper vendors in Japan leave the newspapers in the open. People pick up what they want and pay for it. No one cheats.
Similarly, when the knife in the kitchen doesn't jump up and kill someone on its own. Or consider my bank account password. If I give it out publicly (which I won't!) then 99% of the people will do nothing with it. Some might log in to find what I earn and where my money goes, but that is just curiosity: with no criminal intent. Indeed, there are occasions when someone may want to disclose their financial details to establish credibility and integrity. For instance, I have promised to disclose my financial data publicly when I am ready (along with the team on FTI) to contest elections.
Instead, there are people who go to the other extreme, walking about without clothes, and even engaging in otherwise private acts in public. That creates the contrary problem – of indecency. Such people are told to dress up and go INSIDE their house. Indeed, even going inside the house might not be enough. I recall walking down the Kahun Road in Pune in 1981 in the late evening, where adobe brick army barracks of the British era abut the road, and found a couple with partly covered bodies doing their thing in their brightly lit bedroom with the large window wide open. Being inside the house is not enough. Sometimes the curtain must be drawn.
But mingle any harmless thing (knife/ financial details) with criminal intent and everything changes. The knife can suddenly become an instrument of death. Our money can be stolen by criminals who hack into our account. So the problem is NOT that someone knows something about us (or even enters our house – if we customarily leave our house open), but that the person then uses this information for private gain (e.g. when someone sells information about celebrities to newspapers), or to harm us (e.g. to steal our goods or money).
We have the innate right of non-disclosure of our information to defend our security. That is part of our freedom. And we are well advised to keep our information out of reach of potential criminals and keep our house locked when we leave.
But we can overdo this "privacy" thing. Indeed, entire societies can overdo it.
For instance, the fear of government is so high in USA that everyone buys a gun to defend themselves. This is close to paranoia. Other societies trust their governments too much and prevent anyone except the government from owning guns. That, too, is inappropriate. The appropriate approach should be risk-based, with those whose lives are at risk being able to buy guns, and those not at risk choosing to live without guns. Thus, we should not keep knives lying around within reach of small children, but there is no need to stop using knives altogether.
There is no one-size-fits-all concept of "privacy". Privacy is one of the many choices we make. And all people are different. But there can be (and should be) a law against crime. A law against crime will, in some cases, even authorise an intrusion of our privacy. The thief has no "privacy" to secretly hide stolen goods.
This is very similar to the argument that is made regarding rape. A woman can choose to wear anything she wears (so long as she does wear something) but the kind of clothes she wears doesn't give anyone a right to rape her. Let people be free to choose. And let's keep the concept of liberty distinct from the concept of crime.
Even if I give out my bank account password publicly, you have no right to steal my money. Even if I leave the door of my house open, you have no right to steal my goods. I may choose ZERO privacy. That does not authorise crime.
The debate about privacy must therefore strike the right balance between concepts like liberty, transparency, decency, and prevention of crime. The key issue is the prevention – and punishment – of crime.
Two major Hayekians debated two Keynesians on 26 July 2011 at LSE. Apparently, in front of a boisterous crowd, "Hayek" won fairly easily.
See detailed article here. I trust the debate, to be broadast on 3 August on BBC, will ultimately go up on Youtube. The whole world needs to listen.
Btw, in case you haven't seen the latest rap re: ongoing American Keynesian debt fantasies, please watch this. Brilliant effort. For more details see this.
Raise da debt ceiling!
Raise da debt ceiling!
Raise da debt ceiling!
Raise da debt ceiling!
14 trillion in debt
but yo we ain't got no qualms
droppin $100 bills
and million dollar bombs
spending money we don't have
that's the name of the game
they call me cumulo nimbus
because you KNOW I make it rain
bail out all kind of cars
got all kind of whips
ladies ask me how I get em
I tell em STIMULUS
Social Security surplus?
Oh, guess what? it's gone
I got my hands on everything
like Dominique Strauss Kahn
ain't got no Medicare trust fund
son, that's just absurd
spending every single penny that
we see, son, have you heard?
ain't got no moral objections
ain't got kind of complaints
ain't got no quantitative
statutory budget restraints
Yo, we up in the Fed
and we living in style
Spending lots of money
while we sipping crystal
still making it rain
and yeah it be so pleasing
wait, not making it rain–
we be "Quantitative Easing!"
in every fund that I see
printing the cash
inflating the monies
callin up China
"a-yo we straight out of 20's!"
in the club
we be louding out
while to the market, yeah
we be crowding out
on the beach getting tan
and sipping Corona
we got a monetary plan–
and it involves a lot of toner…
So if you look at the chart
and examine the trend
we borrow 40 cents of every
single dollar we spend
and non-discretionary spending
increases every day
do you have a comment for Committee?
I MAKE IT RAIN
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker
would you beam me up?
A Congressperson cutting spending?
Couldn't dream me up
We're gonna default
if we follow this road!
I should have thought of this
14 trillion dollars ago!
I'm the king of the links
I'm a menace at tennis
I'm sticking spinnaz on my rims
picking winnaz in business
if you're looking for some cash
it's about to get heavy
I got some big ol' piles of money
and guess what–they shovel ready