Bhavan's Journal (English) Vol.No.54 Issue No. 1 Contents August 15, 2007
An Interview with Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet India’s True History Is In Its Myths
An Interview with Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet India’s True History Is In Its Myths
Q: You are a cosmologist and interested in the ancient systems of knowledge in India. Some say India’s spiritual base is rooted in superstition; this has to be let go so they can make the needed technological advances. How do you view the current discussion about science versus superstition?
Superstition in the Indian context is simply clinging to beliefs without a knowledge base. In the Vedic age there were ‘Laws’ of Correspondence and Equivalence which were on the order of what we know of as science today. There was no superstition. This system of knowledge had its own language, and if you did not know it, you could not begin to understand what was being conveyed.
Science really has no place in this discussion. Yes, today there is superstition, and it has to go, but not the system of knowledge at its origin. We have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater! In these ancient studies, what could be called occult sciences, though there are better terms for these things, there is a preparation that is different from a scientist’s point of view in that you are measuring fields that science is unaware of. Science is limited to the material field. In the same light, in these other systems of knowledge you have the possibility of measuring but the tools are quite different and the laws that pertain to this system are also different. You can’t say which one is wrong and which is right – they are two different systems. They pertain to different situations.
Q: This makes me recall a recent newspaper article in which a scientist criticised devotional traditions as ‘superstition’. You may remember that.
This is a case in point. The author is prepared in the field of contemporary science, which is quite different from what she was criticising. She was calling superstition, as I recall, anything that had to do with devotional practices, Temple matters, what ‘science’ the ancients knew or did not know, and so forth. It is similar to someone who picks up Einstein’s theories. If you don’t understand physics and its language, you are in no position to criticise. But the people who defend their belief systems and traditions also do not have adequate knowledge of what they are defending. They ignore what is really behind these practices. So it causes someone like this scientist to protest. She realises it is largely superstition. If the upholders themselves knew, there would be a very different approach to the discussion. There is such a lack of understanding of what we should look for and be discussing. Therefore we throw the baby out with the bathwater because we have no response to people in science.
Q: You have written it is neither science nor spirituality that will solve our modern dilemma, but it is a third thing.
That is precisely the point: neither one is sufficient to present a true perception of reality as it is. Science deals with the material, physical dimension; it is incapable of truly integrating the human factor within that. Therefore, you have the aberrations you see around us today, such as this insane weaponry that is destructive beyond belief. Here we are dealing with science that totally excludes the human element within its framework. It is like robot’s devising methods to destroy us, with no deeper perception of what resides in each human being – there is no capacity for that.
So then, can we say that science is the answer? In the present situation, of course not. On the other hand, spirituality has abandoned the material field and left it to science. This is the point that needs to be stressed in India: spirituality has opted for an escape from the world, from what it calls ‘illusion’ - the field where samskaras are accumulated. They say we must find the way to escape from these chains where we continue the wheel of karma from birth to death to rebirth, and on and on. If we abandon the Earth, our ‘field’, we should not complain when science steps in and takes over. Spirituality also has no answer, except to say, ‘All this is illusion, put your consciousness elsewhere, beyond it all’.
So this is the conundrum we face today; it’s been building up for several centuries. It is more acute now because science has come up with these extraordinary weapons and we now have the capacity to destroy ourselves. We are concerned with where science is going and we try to arrest it with spirituality, because orthodox religions have proven themselves inadequate; rather they are a big part of the problem. In India we turn to the teachings of the great yogis or realised souls; but in what way is that path adequate? Nothing is arresting this downward slide. We have to question why spirituality is not able to give us the answer.Nobody realises this in India. They believe ‘Truth is One’ and it is all- inclusive; and then that this kind of discourse on spirituality is not appropriate. In fact, it isn’t really ‘all one’.
Well, it is — in the sense that the only truth we know is escapism right now and abandonment of this material plane, for which reason science has taken over. And that is what makes it worthy of discussion now - science has taken over and may destroy the whole works. Otherwise we would be slowly moving along as we have done for centuries, each one on his own path, oblivious of the other. We can’t do that any more – we’re forced to face issues we have refused to look at in the past.
Q: You call your cosmology ‘Indocentric’. What do you mean by that?
Yes, it can rightfully be called that because it is a cosmological paradigm which places India at the centre of an emerging new order. You could say it is the new science; there is a measuring process in which time and space are integrated parts. In ancient India it was the accepted method; we have remnants of this system in every temple and in the old texts. The point is to rediscover those same Laws of Correspondence and Equivalence within the context of our world today. That is what my cosmology does.
Q: Can you be more specific? Provide an example?
Using this geo-cosmology, that is, using the globe itself as a measuring device, we locate India at the centrepoint – and this can be verified. Earlier we would be discussing cosmology from a Eurocentric point of view; not now. But India is not fulfilling its role as the ‘centre’ because there is too much ignorance in this field, too many unknown areas. If the facts were known, perhaps they would form the foundation for a resurgence in the country. But by the very fact that a work of this nature is established here, we know it will not die; and this gives us hope. A time will come when the growth of this experience will overtake the ignorance. Now it hangs in the balance - which way will it go?
Q: Rather than spiritual growth we see more concern with economic development. Would that conflict with your vision of India in the new world order or is it a part of that order?
Economic advancement is the major interest in the country. Some may lament this turn to materialism, but they too offer no solution to the problems that 21st Century economics has thrown at us. What they offer could also be criticised simply as superstition. We may lament but we do not have an integral, integrated approach or appreciation of both the problem and its solution that can satisfy contemporary minds.Using a series of concentric circles, India is placed in the centremost circle and from there it is a widening experience. Right now, it looks like that centre is void. It is not the upholder; it does not offer the inspiration for this new order on the world stage. An economic ‘order’ can never inspire and satisfy the innermost longings of the human spirit. In ancient times this was thoroughly appreciated, but not today. That is where the problem lies.
Q: You have been engaged in a reform of Hinduism, something to do with the timings of festivals and worship. In what way would that help?
The temple situation is another case in point. In Tamil Nadu we have recently campaigned for a change in the calendrical system that temples use in determining the time of festivals and worship – with some success, I might add. In ancient times, what we know of as the Tropical Zodiac of the Sayana system was used for this purpose. Today, in India, Nirayana is the system used to determine the timings of worship. The exact date for the celebration of the Makar Sankranti (Pongal) or the entry into the sign Capricorn is a good example of the problem we are discussing. Using the Sayana system, the date to celebrate the Makar Sankranti is 21-22 December, or the shortest day of the year. But now with the Nirayana system, we celebrate it 23 days later, on 14-15 January instead of at the Solstice. The Capricorn gateway is placed elsewhere on the time scale – 23 days later! And there is not even a clear consensus on that! One says one thing, another says another. It cannot be one and the other. A transit into a sign is only one; the entry into Capricorn is 21 December, now and always.
Q: But with so many pressing problems like caste discrimination, out-dated customs, and so forth, how is this relevant?
In all the Vedic texts there are methods given to calculate the shortest day of the year, Uttarayana, and the entry into Capricorn, the most important festival in India. Calendars in all civilisations were the means to bind a populace together around a single ‘purpose’. They created harmony instead of chaos for vast numbers of people. Imagine what India would be today if it did not have the universal calendar to connect it to the world and had to rely on the plethora of calendars in use throughout the subcontinent. How would you choose? Each community and religious sect believes that it must have its own calendar for this very reason: to serve as a binding force for the faithful.
It is an old tradition, and a sound one that cannot be overlooked. The point is, can we update this tradition and make it cosmologically relevant in a way that carries it beyond sectarian divides and can serve all sections of society? This is precisely what the new cosmology does.For example, about the disputes concerning which system to use for the timing of the Makar Sankranti, critics say, ‘Use the constellation, Capricornus, as your measure – it is more scientific’. But that is something quite different – the constellations are thousands of light years away. Certain pundits, influenced by science, were cajoled into believing that by using the Sayana system they were doing it all wrong and they should use the constellations instead as their measuring point. They lost sight of the fact that this celebration was always attached to the shortest day of the year and hence to the tropical zodiac along the ecliptic. In ancient times the Equinox in March for Hindus was the beginning of the year, not 14 April (23 days late) as presently observed. After that the timings of the rest of the observances all fit beautifully into place when you have this solid cosmological foundation, this one circle where all measuring is done. There is no room for speculation, guessing, fantasy. These timings are astronomically verifiable, unlike in the current Niryana system for which reason confusion abounds.
Recently Ugadi was celebrated (18 March 2007). This is the New Year for Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and I believe Kerala. Nowhere else in the country. Soon, Tamil Nadu will celebrate its New Year, 14 April, together with a few other States. And so it goes. No one seems to question how this can be? How can there be so many different ‘new years’? The answers that come are, this is ‘freedom’; this is ‘a healthy eclecticism’; ‘all in one’, and so on. One respondent replied by stating that this is a good example of India’s diversity in unity!
So, all is perfectly as it should be. Or so it seems when one is thoroughly immersed in the atmosphere generated by this situation. Actually for the Seer who stands outside of the tumultuous whirlpool, this is just chaos, a clear demonstration of the disconnect from Vedic Wisdom. And it is easily verifiable if one goes deeply into the matter, which few seem willing or capable of doing. After all, we know that this brand of ‘diversity in unity’ was non-existent in the Vedic Age; we also know for a fact that the New Year fell on one date, and only one date; we also know that the entire Hindu Samaj followed the Seers’ injunctions in this regard. But today we claim that things have changed ‘for the better’ because India accommodates all these different religions and sects, and what not. It is the same as saying corruption is fine, as many do, because IT IS INDIA. Accept it or leave it. They are so immersed in a ‘system’ which seems unchangeable that they are not willing to admit that THIS IS NOT INDIA. This is India only from the Dark Ages, when invasions started and the link with the Vedic Age was lost. This is what it mean’s to have a plethora of ‘new years’. Chaos, not harmony, and not at all unity. (to be concluded). Back to Periodicals