Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Idea of India as conceived by Sri Aurobindo

Peter Heehs: Publications
Articles in Magazines, Newspapers and Websites
2014. “India’s Etiquette Police.” Columbia University Press Blog. March 5.

2014. “Banished from the Bookshelves: The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.” Outlook, March 3, p. 56. Online version here

2011. “The Mother’s Evolutionary Vision.” EnlightenNext. Issue 47, 85-94.

2009. “Fisherman’s Cove” and “Hotel de l’Orient.” In Outlook Traveller Getaways: 100 Best Resorts & Retreats in India (New Delhi: Outlook Publishing), 275-276, 383.

2008. “The Bomb that Shook an Empire.” The Pioneer (New Delhi), November 22.

2008. Getting beyond the Conventions of Biography — and Hagiography Too. Columbia University Press Blog. August 4.

2008. “Trial and Error.” The Statesman (Kolkata), May 4, p. 7.

2008. “Creative Anarchy” (Special Feature on Auroville). In Outlook Traveller Getaways: Wellness Holidays in India (New Delhi: Outlook Publishing), 413–424.

2004. “Idea of India.” Life Positive. April–June.
Distorted view
In a speech of 1909, delivered at the invitation of a Hindu group in Uttarpara, Sri Aurobindo did connect his “religion of nationalism” with the sanatana dharma; but he made it clear that he did not mean by this any sectarian religion, but the “eternal religion” that underlay all limited systems of belief. “A narrow religion, a sectarian religion, an exclusive religion can only live for a limited time and a limited purpose,” he pointed out. The eternal religion would live forever because it was based on the realisation that God “is in all men and all things”.

In contemporary India, political leaders of the past have been turned into tokens that are exchanged by party bosses at election time. It is not surprising that Sri Aurobindo has been subject to this kind of commerce. One party places out-of-context quotations from his works in its manifesto; a rival party says it plans to base its programme on his ideals. A religio-political pressure group features him prominently on its website; a journalist writes that he was “was second to none” in promoting religion-tainted politics. None of these exploiters or critics of Sri Aurobindo’s legacy show adequate familiarity with his works.

A journalist, Jyotirmaya Sharma (in his recent book Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism), draws most of his quotations from edited compilations. In concluding, he perpetrates the following anachronism: “The Maharshi [Sri Aurobindo] has turned into a pamphleteer of the Hindu rashtra concept without being conscious of it.” It certainly is regrettable that proponents of the Hindu Rashtra should selectively appropriate Sri Aurobindo’s works, even when he explicitly stated that he was opposed to the very idea. “We do not understand Hindu nationalism as a possibility under modern conditions,” he wrote in 1909. “Under modern conditions India can only exist as a whole.” It is equally regrettable that opponents of Hindutva should combine out-of-context snippets from Sri Aurobindo’s works in a distorted presentation that excludes key portions of his thought.

Visions of future
On his 75th birthday, Sri Aurobindo sketched the five “world-movements” he had hoped to see fulfilled in his lifetime. During his youth, they had seemed to be “impractical dreams”. Now they were “on their way to fulfillment”. The first was “a revolutionary movement that would create a free and united India”. This (he was speaking on August 15,1947, the day India received independence) was now a reality. But his hopes for a more equitable international order extended beyond the borders of his own country. He dreamed also of “the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia”, and of “a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind”.

Sri Aurobindo’s nationalism, even while he was active in Indian politics, was not coloured by that smug self-flattery that characterises most modern ‘patriotism’. He noted as early as 1919 that Indians had to have “the courage to defend our culture against ignorant occidental criticism and to maintain it against the gigantic modern pressure”, but that they also had to have the “courage to admit not from any European standpoint but from our own outlook the errors of our culture”. Pride in the accomplishments of one’s motherland should not take the form of an “unthinking cultural chauvinism which holds that whatever we have is good for us because it is Indian or even that whatever is in India is best, because it is the creation of the Rishis”. What India needed was not an isolated self-glorification, but “a unity with the rest of mankind, in which we shall maintain our spiritual and our outer independence”.

Peter Heehs is author of four books, including The Bomb in Bengal: The Rise of Revolutionary Terrorism in India (OUP, second edition 2004), and editor of The Essential Writings of Sri Aurobindo (OUP, 1997) and Indian Religions: The Spiritual Traditions of South Asia (Permanent Black, 2002). He is based in Pondicherry.

Articles in Professional Journals and Books
2014. “Practices of Non-Theistic Spirituality.” Gandhi Marg 36, 2&3 (July-December): 251-68. (Pdf file available here)

2013. “Aurobindo.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism, vol. V, ed. Knut A. Jacobsen. Leiden: Brill, 397-404.

2013. Roots, Branches, and Seeds: The teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo examined in the light of Indian tradition, colonial modernity and one another. Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Occasional Paper, History and Society Series, No.14. (Pdf file available here)

2011. “The Kabbalah, the Philosophie Cosmique, and the Integral Yoga: A Study in Cross-Cultural Influence”.Aries 11:2 (September): 219-247 (Pdf file available here).

2010. “Introduction”. In P. Vir Gupta, C. Mueller, and C. Samil, Golconde: The Introduction of Modernism in India. Bangalore: Inform.

2009. “Revolutionary Terrorism in British Bengal”. In E. Boehmer and S. Morton, eds., Terror and the Postcolonial. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

2008. “Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism”. Published online in AntiMatters 2.2 (April).

2013. Situating Sri Aurobindo: A Reader. New York: Oxford University Press.

2013. Writing the Self. New York: Bloomsbury. Named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 by Choice.

2008. The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. New York: Columbia University Press.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Evergreen essays by Sachidananda Mohanty


«  ‹  1 2 3 4  ›  »

Meditations on life


Two collections that explore the kaleidoscopic experience of life. »

Men who freed us from ‘majoritarian modernity’

M. S. NAGARAJAN | MARCH 16, 2015

A good deal of terms such as nationalism, multiculturalism, the local, and the global is afloat in the current discourse on culture studies of the academia. These terms do not necessarily... »

An original contribution to Tagore studies


In the popular mind, Rabindranath Tagore is synonymous with Gitanjali for which he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. And yet, very little is known about the background to thi... »

An original contribution to Tagore studies


Sachidananda Mohanty In the popular mind, Rabindranath Tagore is synonymous with Gitanjali for which he received the Nobel Prize for Literatur...»

Ode to the self


A well-crafted collection of poems lays bare one’s fragility and vulnerability. »

Ode to the self


A well-crafted collection of poems lays bare one’s fragility and vulnerability. Sachidananda Mohanty »

A reader’s delight


SACHIDANANDA MOHANTY looks at the different styles and idioms in modern poetry. »

A reader’s delight


The writer looks at the different styles and idioms in modern poetry. »

A battered, heroic sister


Sachidananda Mohanty recalls the American-born Indian nationalist Agnes Smedley on her 122 {+n} {+d} birth anniversary today. »

A battered, heroic sister


Recalling the American-born Indian nationalist Agnes Smedley on her 122 birth anniversary. »

Migrant memory


Poems with an eclectic world view matched by intense lyricism. SACHIDANANDA MOHANTY »

Migrant memory


Poems with an eclectic world view matched by intense lyricism. »

Iconoclast till the end


Albert Camus’ opposition to tyranny and emphasis on personal responsibility have lessons for the contemporary world. »

A literary trail in Taos


Sachidananda Mohanty visits a beautiful town in New Mexico that drew an endless stream of artists, writers, poets and musicians. »

A literary trail in Taos


The author visits a beautiful town in New Mexico that drew an endless stream of artists, writers, poets and musicians. »

A revolutionary from across the seas


He was the voice of the Indian freedom struggle in the U.S. but little is known about him. Based on research for a forthcoming book, SACHIDANANDA MOHANTY profiles Taraknath Das, best known for his debate with Leo Tolstoy on non-violence. »

A revolutionary from across the seas


He was the voice of the Indian freedom struggle in the U.S. but little is known about him. Based on research for a forthcoming book, a profile of Taraknath Das, best known for his debate with Leo Tolstoy on non-violence. »

Tales across time


Short stories that critique tradition without irreverence, says Sachidananda Mohanty. »

Tales across time


Short stories that critique tradition without irreverence, says Sachidananda Mohanty. »

An ‘Indo-Anglian’ legacy


Vice-President at Kalakshetra. Muse to Sri Aurobindo. Friend of Tagore. And yet, James Cousins lies forgotten today, says Sachidananda Mohanty. »

Requiem for a revolutionary


With the passing of Binod Bihari Chowdhury (1911-2013), a curtain has been drawn on one of the most spectacular chapters of the history of militant nationalism in undivided India. A colleague o... »

The house of thousand lives


In focus Huma Kidwai’s book mirrors the city and its changing fortunes through a perspective from ‘Hussaini Alam House’ »

‘English language learning must go hand in hand with multilingualism’


In the classic Odia short story of the late 19th Century called “Daka Munshi,” Fakir Mohan Senapati’s memorable character, Gopal Babu, the English educated postmaster, treats his father Har... »

‘English language learning must go hand in hand with multilingualism’


In the classic Odia short story of the late 19th Century called “ Daka Munshi ,” Fakir Mohan Senapati’s memorable character, Gopal Babu, the English educated postmaster, treats... »

A portrait of the activist as a woman

M. S. NAGARAJAN | MARCH 12, 2012

John Ruskin observed, “Shakespeare has no heroes; he has only heroines.” Almost all his major women characters — Desdemona, Cordelia, Imogen, Rosalind, to mention just a few — were ‘conceived in t... »

Cosmopolitan Modernity in Early Twentieth Century India and ...
Jan 19, 2015 - Dr. Sachidananda Mohanty's Cosmopolitan Modernity in Early 20th-Century ... James Cousins, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Taraknath Das.

An intellectual destination - The Hindu › Cities › Puducherry
Jun 23, 2015 - Puducherry's contribution to intellectual heritage is not known enough, feels author Sachidananda Mohanty, and instead has been relegated to ...

Sachidananda Mohanty
The brilliance of Gangopadhyay's complex novel is effortlessly captured in translation.
A well-documented tribute to the French and their influence in India.
This racy account of Sri Rri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living movement heralds the arrival of newage spirituality in India.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

People are born with set predispositions and biogenetic destiny

We may wish human beings were more rational but our brains, created for a different time and place, get in the way... You can take the person out of the Stone Age, ... but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.

Leadership. As noted at the outset of this article, evolutionary psychology does not dispute individual differences. Indeed, an increasingly robust body of studies on twins conducted by behavioral geneticists indicates that people are born with set predispositions that harden as they age into adulthood. Genes for detachment and novelty avoidance have been found, for instance, which together appear to amount to shyness. It used to be assumed that shyness was induced entirely by environment—if a shy person just tried hard enough, he or she could become the life of the party. The same was said for people who were highly emotional—they could be coaxed out of such feelings. But again, research is suggesting that character traits such as shyness and emotional sensitivity are inborn.

That personality is inborn is not news to any parent with more than one child. You provide a stable home environment for your brood—the same food, the same schools, the same basic experiences on a day-to-day basis. And yet the first child is introverted and grows up to be an R&D scientist. The second, who never stopped chattering as a child, grows up to become a flamboyant sales executive. And still a third child is as even-keeled as can be and pursues a career as a schoolteacher. Evolutionary psychology would tell us that each one of these individuals was living out his biogenetic destiny.

All three of these children are hardwired for certain dispositions. For instance, each falls somewhere along the continuum of risk aversion described earlier. But each one’s level of aversion to risk differs. The point is, along with each person’s fundamental brain circuitry, people also come with inborn personalities. Some people are more dominant than others. Some are more optimistic. Some like math better than poetry. People can compensate for these underlying dispositions with training and other forms of education, but there is little point in trying to change deep-rooted inclinations.

The implications for leadership are significant. First, the most important attribute for leadership is the desire to lead. Managerial skills and competencies can be trained into a person, but the passion to run an organization cannot. This feeds into the rather unpopular notion that leaders are born, not made. Evolutionary psychologists would agree and, in fact, posit that some are born not to lead.

Second, the theory of inborn personality does not mean that all people with genes for dominance make good leaders. A propensity for authoritative behavior might help, but some organizational situations call more urgently for other traits—such as empathy or an ability to negotiate. There are as many types of leaders as there are leadership situations. The important thing is to have the personality profile that meets the demands of the situation.

Third and finally, if you are born with personality traits that don’t immediately lend themselves to leadership—shyness is a good example, as is high sensitivity to stress—that doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. Rather, it means that you must protect yourself in certain ways. If you have a low threshold for stress, for instance, you would do well not to lead from the front lines. You could put your trusted senior managers there and position yourself in the corporate office to focus on strategy.

The worst problem an organization can get itself into, this line of thinking suggests, is to have a leader who does not want to lead. Reluctant leaders can survive as symbolic figureheads but will perform poorly if asked to manage other people. The motivation to lead is the baseline requirement for competent leadership. After that, other personality traits and managerial skills matter. They must match the demands of the situation. But if the person in charge is not born wanting to lead, he or she should do everyone a favor and follow or ally themselves with partners who do. 

A version of this article appeared in the July–August 1998 issue of Harvard Business Review. Nigel Nicholson is a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School.
Nigel Nicholson, Ph.D., has been a professor at London Business School since 1990. Before becoming a business psychologist, his first profession was journalism and he is a frequent commentator in the media on current business issues. He is widely known for pioneering the introduction of the new science of evolutionary psychology to business through a stream of writings, including an article in Harvard Business Review (July/August 1998), and his book: Managing the Human Animal (Thomson Learning, 2000). His current major research interests include the psychology of family business, personality and leadership, and people skills in management. In these fields, as well as others such as innovation, organisational change, and executive career development, he has published over 20 books and 200 articles. He led a major research project on risk and decision-making among finance professionals, culminating in the book, Traders: Risks, Decisions and Management in Financial Markets (Oxford University Press, 2005). His book on family firms, Family Wars, was published in 2008 (Kogan Page). His new book, taking a fresh look at leadership through the lens of biography and the self, is The “I” of Leadership: Strategies for Seeing, Being and Doing (Jossey-Bass, 2013), is the culmination of decades of executive development teaching and practice. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How to reconcile networks with hierarchies

Post-Capitalism by Paul Mason review – a worthy successor to Marx? Saturday 15 August 2015 David Runciman

The unifying idea with which Mason attempts to tie together his various schemes is “networks v hierarchies”. He rightly thinks that earlier theories of class struggle and revolutionary politics are too narrow to encompass the range of political possibilities now available (especially as he thinks that the move towards gender equality is the fundamental social shift of the modern age). But “networks v hierarchies” is too broad as a slogan to explain anything.
Mason never tells us how or why networks can be expected to overcome hierarchies. After all, hierarchies still have the advantage that they are hierarchical, which means they are much easier to control. Mason himself is not averse to embracing some aspects of hierarchical politics when the occasion demands. His own solution to the challenge of climate change is to push for action that is “centralised, strategic and fast … it will require more state ownership than anybody expects or wants”. Adaptable states will have to make use of networks – including “smart grids” for regulating energy supply – but it is impossible to believe that these states will themselves be nothing more than networks. The central challenge of contemporary politics is to discover new ways to reconcile networks with hierarchies through the institutions of representative democracy. You won’t find the answers in this book.

However, a short review can barely do justice to the range of sources Mason enlists in his search for a solution. We get Shakespeare as well as Marx, Rudolf Hilferding along with Richard Hoggart. On top of everything else, he overlays his account with Kondratiev’s long-wave theory, which says that capitalism goes through generational cycles of stagnation and innovation. Mason believes the current wave is different from the ones that have gone before, because we are now essentially stuck. New technology has given capitalists the ability to adapt without innovating, by providing them with the tools to seek out new forms of value. At the same time, it has given the rest of us the ability to innovate without adapting, by allowing us to explore new lifestyles without having to think about the political implications.
Something has got to give. Mason builds a wholly plausible case that the present situation is unsustainable. But what will give, and how, is not something he can tell us.

As a slice of futurology this book is no better than its many, equally speculative rivals. But as a spark to the imagination, with frequent x-ray flashes of insight into the way we live now, it is hard to beat. In that sense, Mason is a worthy successor to Marx. David Runciman’s books include The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present, published by Princeton.

C. James Townsend
Suddenly I saw the entire steam of economic ideas, Marxist and classical liberal, unite into one stream leading to the same Omega Point, the event horizon of a coming economic singularity where all prices drop down an asymptote toward zero as technology advances exponentially.  It was this that really inspired me to write the book. I had to share that vision, that there is a way forward using “valid” economics to reach, for lack of a better word, utopia.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Clarity hinges on accuracy in the use of terminology

50 psychological/psychiatric terms to avoid: inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, confused terms
The goal of this article is to promote clear thinking and clear writing among students and teachers of psychological science by curbing terminological misinformation and confusion. By being more judicious in their use of terminology, psychologists and psychiatrists can foster clearer thinking in their students and the field at large regarding mental phenomena.
“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.”
(Confucius, The Analects)
Scientific thinking necessitates clarity, including clarity in writing (Pinker, 2014). In turn, clarity hinges on accuracy in the use of specialized terminology. Clarity is especially critical in such disciplines as psychology and psychiatry, where most phenomena, such as emotions, personality traits, and mental disorders, are “open concepts.” Open concepts are characterized by fuzzy boundaries, an indefinitely extendable indicator list, and an unclear inner essence (Pap, 1958Meehl, 1986).
Many writers, including students, may take the inherent murkiness of many psychological and psychiatric constructs as an implicit license for looseness in language. After all, if the core concepts within a field are themselves ambiguous, the reasoning goes, precision in language may not be essential. In fact, the opposite is true; the inherent openness of many psychological concepts renders it all the more imperative that we insist on rigor in our writing and thinking to avoid misunderstandings (Guze, 1970). Researchers, teachers, and students in psychology and allied fields should therefore be as explicit as possible about what are they are saying and are not saying, as terms in these disciplines readily lend themselves to confusion and misinterpretation.
For at least two reasons, issues of terminology bear crucial implications for the education of forthcoming generations of students in psychology, psychiatry, and related domains. 
  • First, many instructors may inadvertently disseminate misinformation or foster unclear thinking by using specialized terms in inaccurate, vague, or idiosyncratic ways. Six decades ago, two prominent psychiatrists bemoaned the tendency of writers to use “jargon to blur implausible concepts and to convey the impression that something real is being disclosed” (Cleckley and Thigpen, 1955, p. 335). We hope that our article offers a friendly, albeit greatly belated, corrective in this regard. 
  • Second, if students are allowed, or worse, encouraged, to be imprecise in their language concerning psychological concepts, their thinking about these concepts is likely to follow suit. An insistence on clarity in language forces students to think more deeply and carefully about psychological phenomena, and serves as a potent antidote against intellectual laziness, which can substitute for the meticulous analysis of concepts. The accurate use of terminology is therefore a prerequisite to clear thinking within psychology and related disciplines.

Psychology has long struggled with problems of terminology (Stanovich, 2012). For example, numerous scholars have warned of the jingle and jangle fallacies, the former being the error of referring to different constructs by the same name and the latter the error of referring to the same construct by different names (Kelley, 1927Block, 1995Markon, 2009). As an example of the jingle fallacy, many authors use the term “anxiety” to refer interchangeably to trait anxiety and trait fear. Nevertheless, research consistently shows that fear and anxiety are etiologically separable dispositions and that measures of these constructs are only modestly correlated (Sylvers et al., 2011). As an example of the jangle fallacy, dozens of studies in the 1960s focused on the correlates of the ostensibly distinct personality dimension of repression-sensitization (e.g., Byrne, 1964). Nevertheless, research eventually demonstrated that this dimension was essentially identical to trait anxiety (Watson and Clark, 1984). In the field of social psychology, Hagger (2014) similarly referred to the “deja variable” problem, the ahistorical tendency of researchers to concoct new labels for phenomena that have long been described using other terminology (e.g., the use of 15 different terms to describe the false consensus effect; see Miller and Pedersen, 1999).
In this article, we present a provisional list of 50 commonly used terms in psychology, psychiatry, and allied fields that should be avoided, or at most used sparingly and with explicit caveats. For each term, we 
  • (a) explain why it is problematic, 
  • (b) delineate one or more examples of its misuse, and 
  • (c) when pertinent, offer recommendations for preferable terms. 
These terms span numerous topical areas within psychology and psychiatry, including neuroscience, genetics, statistics, and clinical, social, cognitive, and forensic psychology. Still, in proposing these 50 terms, we make no pretense at comprehensiveness. We are certain that many readers will have candidates for their own “least favorite” psychological and psychiatric terms, and we encourage them to contact us with their nominees. In addition, we do not include commonly confused terms (e.g., “asocial” with “antisocial,” “external validity” with “ecological validity,” “negative reinforcement” with “punishment,” “mass murderer” with ‘serial killer’), as we intend to present a list of these term pairs in a forthcoming publication. We also do not address problematic terms that are restricted primarily to popular (“pop”) psychology, such as “codependency,” “dysfunctional,” “toxic,” “inner child,” and “boundaries,” as our principal focus is on questionable terminology in the academic literature. Nevertheless, we touch on a handful of pop psychology terms (e.g., closure, splitting) that have migrated into at least some academic domains.
Our “eyeball cluster analysis” of these 50 terms has led us to group them into five overarching and partly overlapping categories for expository purposes: inaccurate or misleading terms, frequently misused terms, ambiguous terms, oxymorons, and pleonasms. Terms in all five categories, we contend, have frequently sown the seeds of confusion in psychology, psychiatry, and related fields, and in so doing have potentially impeded (a) their scientific progress and (b) clear thinking among students.
  • First, some psychological terms are inaccurate or misleading. For example, the term “hard-wired” as applied to human traits implies that genes rigidly prescribe complex psychological behaviors (e.g., physical aggression) and traits (e.g., extraversion), which is almost never the case. 
  • Second, some psychological terms are not incorrect per se, but are frequently misused. For example, although “splitting” carries a specific meaning as a defensive reaction in psychodynamic theory, it is commonly misused to refer to the propensity of people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and related conditions to pit staff members against each other. 
  • Third, some psychological terms are ambiguous, because they can mean several things. For example, the term “medical model” can refer to any one (or more) of at least seven conceptual models of mental illness and its treatment. 
  • Fourth, some psychological terms are oxymorons. An oxymoron is a term, such as open secret, precise estimate, or final draft, which consists of two conjoined terms that are contradictory. For example, the term “stepwise hierarchical regression” is an oxymoron because stepwise and hierarchical multiple regression are incompatible statistical procedures. 
  • Fifth, some psychological terms are pleonasms. A pleonasm is a term, such as PIN number, Xerox copy, or advance warning, which consists of two or more conjoined terms that are redundant. For example, the term “latent construct” is a pleonasm because all psychological constructs are hypothetical and therefore unobservable.