Monday, March 28, 2016

Light reading that does not challenge the reader

Where bad literature makes good reading - A professor and students in an English course at Juniata College discuss what makes a book ‘crap’ By Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 27, 2016 12:00 AM
Professor Peter Goldstein teaches a course called Bad Literature at Juniata College. In it, his students read some of the poorer examples of published prose in hopes of answering the question: “What do we mean when we say a work is ‘crap?’”
Make no mistake, the introductory course debuting this semester has a goal beyond bashing the predictable plot of Danielle Steel’s “Matters of the Heart” or the two-dimensional characters in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight.” By examining literature that is flawed, the 21 students in the course are encouraged to think critically about what’s involved in writing, both good and bad.
“What do we mean when we say literature is ‘crap’?’’ asks Mr. Goldstein, 60. “Is it just individual opinion, or are there objective standards that characterize literature that is good and literature that is not?”
The class also examines why the public devours works not held up as literary masterpieces the way a kid snarfs down junk food. For example, Ms. Meyer’s “Twilight” received mixed book reviews but was a New York Times bestseller that spawned wildly successful movies.
“It was part of the teen vampire craze,” said Mr. Goldstein. “It is in some ways ground zero for the consideration of bad literature — a high school girl who falls in love with a vampire — a story that was unbelievably, ridiculously popular.”
Say what you will about Ms. Steel’s writing style and character development, but the public devours her books too. With more than 800 million copies sold, she is the best-selling author alive and the fourth-bestselling author of all time.
In general, said Mr. Goldstein, page-turning, light reading that does not challenge the reader goes down easier than heavy literature. “Crap is going to sell better than non-crap,” he said.

Love of All Wisdom by Amod Lele
An aesthetic of extremes - Vikram Chandra’s Geek Sublime might be the most popular book in a Western language ever to deal with Indian aesthetic theory. The book’s official subject is the aesthetics of computer science. Though I am getting a degree in computer science myself, I found myself more interested in Chandra’s lucid comments about the medieval Indian philosophers Ānandavardhana and Abhinavagupta and their theory of rasa, the emotional “tastes” that an artistic audience can savour. … Continue reading →
When an “us” is spoken of in contemporary works of philosophical application it is often glossed with “a modern Western audience”... Above all, what I am seeing here is a rejection of moderation in aesthetics, something that I think might be implicit in Chandra’s mention of Aristotle.
This point in turn leads back into an aesthetic point I had myself made with its primary reference to the West: the critics of kitsch are wrong to tell us we should avoid making a fantasy world more beautiful or pleasurable than the real one. Rather, we should remain aware that such a world isn’t the real one, remain all too aware of the badness of the world: enjoy Thomas Kinkade as long as you also appreciate Hieronymus Bosch. I’d rather look at either Bosch or Dalì on one hand, or Indian poster art on the other, than at what has always struck me as the muted blandness of a Monet. 

The Collaboration of Nature by Richard Pearson - *Editor's note* "A new world is born". The Mother and Sri Aurobindo have worked ceaselessly to bring a new consciousness on earth, - the Supramental or ...

Comparing the Methodology of the Gnosis With the Reasoning Intellect - The reasoning intellect begins its process by a process of observation of external facts through the sense-organs. From these facts, it applies the faculti...

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Karan Singh, Kundan Singh, Makarand Paranjape, and Sampadananda Mishra
By Come Carpentier, Sunday Guardian Live, March 5, 2016 - After regaining its independence, India projected itself as a morally responsible power, rejecting the legacy of colonialism, the Cold War and the unfair self-centred hierarchy imposed on the world by the winners of World War II. The personal prestige of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and of Indira Gandhi helped keep India in the limelight, despite generally adverse circumstances and a long series of natural and strategic setbacks. The Non Aligned Movement, even with its major shortcomings, pointed towards a third way between US-driven capitalism and Soviet Communism, socio-economically and politically and India’s timeless spiritual and cultural heritage continued to fascinate and enlighten, partly thanks to modern interpreters in all fields, from Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, from Sri Aurobindo to Pandit Ravi Shankar.
To guard against those excesses, India has crafted over millennia the philosophy of Sanatana Dharma as the foundation for its rajneeti (political science) rooted in the study of ecology and human psychology. The principles of that system, which Indira Gandhi duly appreciated, have been evoked in contemporary language by philosophers and scientists such as the aforesaid Raimundo Panikkar, E.F. Schumacher, Ken Wilber, Rupert Sheldrake, Fritjof Capra and Hunter Lovins. The popularity of Deepak Chopra and many other Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Sufi teachers and healers denotes the craving of American society for eternal values that, as C.S. Lewis wrote, can no more be replaced by newly invented opposite ones than humans can make a new sun in the sky. India has a long experience in the art of mobilising human resources for spiritual goals, which benefit vast numbers of people. Massive and highly organised achievements like the Kumbh Mela demonstrate that public endeavours directed towards enlightenment and harmony tend to be far easier to carry out than bureaucratic or business projects intended only for political ends or economic gain. Yet the technique of uniting people around a non-sectarian, non-materialistic ideal has been mostly lost in the West, which can learn it again from this country. 

As Professor B. Ramesh Babu writes in World Affairs (Spring 2016): “there is a need for a philosophy of globalism comprehending the past, present and future of the planet to emerge from ‘a confluence of cultures’ and not promoting a clash of civilizations.” Come Carpentier de Gourdon is convenor of the International Board of World Affairs, The Journal of International Issues, and the author of various books — the most recent being Memories Of A Hundred And One Moons: An Indian Odyssey (2015)
Col J P Singh, Retd - According to him, importance of our heritage and culture lies in its immense diversity and pluralism besides its antiquity. 5000 years of Hinduism in India having allowed growth of many other great religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism gives Hinduism a special place in the world heritage because of its characteristics of tolerance. In each one of these religions, India has produced many scholars and saints who have enriched the literature of the world by their writings and recitations, both in poetry and prose. I regard his books par excellence for the knowledge of the Truth in each sphere of life. He has re-emphasized the wisdom of Upnishads for a value based political and educational system for the world view. If one wants to understand truth about religions and culture, who else can illuminate us better. When revival of religious fervor is going on in the world, renaissance in Hinduism is but natural. Dr. Karan Singh is part and parcel of this renaissance. It would be a matter of regret if Hinduism loses its universal importance.On his platinum jubilee anniversary, he released his book, ‘I Believe’, defining philosophy. He tells the readers how pertinent it is to seek to abridge a gap between one’s intellectual deeds and others needs. His philosophy of life means synthesis between outer activity and inner aspirations. His last book, ‘A Treasure of Indian Wisdom’ is a masterpiece of his understanding of ancient Indian civilization. It is a treatise of author’s knowledge of Indic Civilization spanning over 5000 years, beginning from the advent of earliest Vedas and the continuing unbroken chain of spirituality, religious and literary pursuits. I call it a masterpiece because despite my meager knowledge of past and understanding of history/philosophy, I am convinced that he has written it not for today or tomorrow but to galvanise renaissance of Hinduism and possibly for a distant future and generations. Precisely for that reason the book should be readily available & widely read. He has described in this book how all revered Indian Saints and Scholars led/connected their followers to God. He has written 31 books. Readers will find all of them intellectually stimulating.
He has been extensively speaking on religions and raising interfaith awareness and respect. He is the world Chairman of ‘Temple of Understanding’ a global interfaith organization. His discourses on philosophy of Vedanta, Upnashids, Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda promote Hinduism as world revered religion. Wherever he goes, people ask him lots of questions on religions, Vedanta, Upnashids, philosophy and interfaith which he answers to their admiration. On 7th November 2015, during Maharaja Gualb Singh Memorial Lecture, in Gen Zorawar Singh Auditorium, he delivered an eloquent lecture on ‘Bhagvadgita Ka Samkalin Mahatav’. It was so enlightening that it was heard spell bound. He is indeed a ‘Powerhouse of Intellect’.
On Yoga, he feels that of late it has acquired a superficial connotation as breathing and physical exercises which seek to further one’s physical and mental well being. He has been extensively speaking and writing about four spiritual paths of Yoga, (i) Jnana Yoga (yoga of wisdom) (ii) Bhakti Yoga ( yoga of love) (iii) Karma Yoga (yoga of works) (iv) Raja Yoga (yoga of psycho-spirituality).
Politics has been beautifully summed up in the 1st part of his book ‘India and the World’. He believes that politics will always be turbulent because that is the nature of politics as it is the nature of sun to be hot and of water to be wet and hence it will be futile to lament over the current state of politics. Approached in the right spirit, political activities can be powerful instrument of human transformation and thus can contribute substantially to the broader goals that lie before the human race, he believes.

Pedagogy of transformation and peace and not hatred - Kundan Singh - Identity (Distortion & Appropriation) | 06-03-2016 Author of “The Evolution of Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrishna, and Swami Vivek... 2. It also does not matter what credentials one may have. My friends are fully aware that I have been practicing my spirituality and yoga under the aegis of Sri Aurobindo for close to two decades now...

The fascists are master craftspeople in inverting a discourse. This has been symbolically represented by how the Nazis used the symbol of swastika. The swastika in the classical Indian traditions has always represented divinity and auspiciousness. What did the Nazis do?
They appropriated this symbol and reversed it. On the surface, it looks like the symbol of dharmic swastika but a careful look will reveal that that the swastika is inverted. And as I have been contending in this article, given that the asuric forces operate both through outright evil and ignorance, they will continue to link any dissent to left thought or any discourse inviting scrutiny to left thought with extremism, violence, and fascism—but on careful analysis, one always finds that it is their discourse which has violence embedded in it and it is their behavior which is fascist. And they deflect their fascism onto the dissenter so that they can continue to escape the scrutiny of the fascism of their discourse and behavior.

7. What is even more fascinating is that even after I have defined and redefined my position that “there is an implicit or explicit violence in the literature of Indian left, and that their legitimate concerns for social transformation can be included in a much evolved way from the spiritual paradigm of the classical Indian traditions, which the Indian left continually persecutes in academia by aligning it with extreme Hindu right,” and that “I could be refuted by one journal article of the most liberal of the JNU academic who identifies with the Indian left,” the debate continued till the end in the efforts to link me with Hindu right, neo-right, ultra-right and what not. It is important that we step back and think: Is this category really interested in a debate so that refinement in knowledge pursuit could happen or is it only interested in maligning academics so that the fascist field of the Indian left remains intact? This is an important point to consider and ponder.

8. My objective of writing this piece, apart from the many that are outlined in the above is also to educate many liberal minded Indians, who have been oppressed by the academic politics of the Indian left. It was also to bring to focus how the Indian left draws a critic into a debate with which he or she may have not been interested to begin with, how it attacks him or her with insinuation of violence and extremism, tries to derail the debate into areas where he or she may not have an interest, knowledge, or expertise. The debate can be a representation to show how the Indian left has to be kept focused on the points that the critic is raising so that it does not deflect the debate and then the critic keeps playing catch-up.

9. I also want to take this opportunity to clarify and outline the paradigm that I come from. While taking on the Indian left, I am not carrying the brief of the Hindu Right or extremists. I am carrying the brief of yogis, saints, sages, and pirs—people who have not only realized the divinity within but divinity without, sages who say that that there is nothing but just One; and that One which is as much in the transcendent as it is in the stones and rocks. This oneness constitutes the oneness of the entire world, not only India: oneness, which comprises multiplicity and plurality. And even when they promote oneness, they are careful in underlining that the plurality and diversity within the oneness should not be not compromised, with a complete clarity that a harmonious and beautiful balance between multiplicity and oneness should be retained, for they are quite clear that the negative or asuric forces operate through both—homogenization and fragmentation.

And the Indian Left does both: it tends to homogenize the debate on almost everything from ancient India, which largely is Hindu as understood in the present context, by stifling the voices of difference and dissent, which it does in the name of protecting plurality and diversity in India. And by promoting all forces of fragmentation while suppressing the voice of oneness and unity-in-plurality which largely comes from the Hindu literature. The above further underlines that academics in India should note and take into account the extreme deception behind which the Left hides. This piece should be considered as a call to all the academics in India to critically examine the discourse of the Indian Left in the light of the spiritual heritage of India, and force the Indian government to create institutions that emerge as a challenge to the Indian Left.
JNU’s New Hero: Professor Makarand Paranjape blasted Communist Anti Nationals
Daily News & Analysis‎ - Makarand Paranjape, poet and professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University on ...
Economic Times‎
Makarand Paranjape, a professor of English at JNU's Centre for English Studies since 1999, began by noting what makes the university where ... › india › india-news-india › JNU Row
Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Published: March 8, 2016 - Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) English Professor Makarand Paranjape on Monday questioned if JNU was a “democratic space”, as was being projected, or a “Left hegemonic space”. He also questioned why Leftists had trouble accepting the “legitimacy of the Indian state”.

India, Indology and Deep Colonialism (by Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay -Conclusion) -READ PARTS 1, 2, 3 CONTINUED FROM PART 4 THE WAY FORWARD… Encourage Sanskrit Learning Sanskrit is the language of Indian culture and ethos. The day San...
By Sreekanth A. Nair - DDr. Sampadananda Mishra, director of the Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture at the Sri Aurobindo Society in Puducherry, is planning to set up a new library to translate Sanskrit scriptures to English. The library called ‘Vande Mataram’ library will be an open-source, volunteer-driven project... Mishra is working on Sanskrit projects at the Sri Aurobindo Society and also on a project on the potential healing power of certain Sanskrit chhandas (metres of verse)... The concept of the new library is said to be a challenge to Murty Library. If people are saying Indians are not competent enough to do that [translate Sanskrit], let’s prove it by creating good works, not fighting just like this,” he added.

He said that the publications of Murty library are good, but sometimes they lack the spirit of the poem. He also said that Western and European scholars always tried to twist Sanskrit words at crucial places.

“For them, it will be like Chhatrapati is “Lord of Umbrella”. Or Ramakrishna Paramhansa will be the “Great Swan”. A common reader will be convinced that he is great, but the word “supreme” will not seed. “Great Swan” is fine. But where is the whole spirit behind the word Paramhansa? It is not the word but the spirit that has to be translated,” he said. The library will be concentrating on Sanskrit texts, even scientific texts and unpublished manuscripts. It will also consider secular texts. They are also planning to translate Sanskrit works into other languages like Hindi.

Digital Methods in the Study of Indian Philosophy - I’ve just returned from a conference dedicated to “Digital Textualities in South Asia” at UBC. One of the main goals of the conference was to gauge what ki...

Anandamath - Anandamath is a Bengali novel, written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee about Sannyasi Rebellion in the late 18th century, it is considered one of the most imp...
In words of Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo “Yoga-siddhi, the perfection that comes from the practice of Yoga, can be best attained by the combined working of four great instruments. There is, first, the knowledge of the truths, principles, powers and processes that govern the realization- “SASTRA”. Next comes a patient and persistent action on the lines laid down by this knowledge, the force of our personal effort- “UTSAHA”. There intervenes, third, uplifting our knowledge and effort into the domain of spiritual experience, the direct suggestion, example and influence of the Teacher, GURU. Last comes the instrumentality of Time- “KALA”; for in all thingas there is a cycle of their action and a period of divine movement.”

Soul and Nature Poised in the Principle of Matter - In the material world we experience a particular poise of the relationship between Purusha and Prakriti, the Soul and Nature. This is not the only possible...

Auroville Radio
How building the future? (full) Program by : Frida
Accompanied by construction noises from a new concrete building site behind SAIIER, workers and supporters from Sacred Groves were discussing with opponents of the Sacred Groves project, sceptical Aurovillans and deputies from the Housing Board above big issues: How exactly should Auroville build its future?

Manu begins with an introduction about the importance of ecological construction and about the Sacred Groves housing project. The following discussion sets up all critical points about the project: It is supposed to take too long, to be too costly, and a couple of architects who are present dont believe the buildings to maintain stable into the monsoon. The questions are answered by the founders of Sacred Groves and its volunteers.

Paris-based photographer Dominique Darr's book is at once a visual treat, a compelling story of the making of the Matrimandir and a loving tribute to...

Friday, March 04, 2016

Dharma under the lens of legitimate social causes

With regards to your second point, I would say that please wait for the full series to appear--you will see why I closed the first part as such. With regard to the modern vedantins, these are not mere vedantins--they are yogis. And in my understanding of the dharmic tradition, the yogis are the best representatives of the tradition.

I do not think that the modern yogis are averse to "karma" and I do not think that the ancient yogis always and necessarily prescribed "karma." The necessity of "karma" ceases after a point in time when the being is fully involved in the divine but it can continue with the performance of "karma" as well. The difficulty with and the beauty of the dharma traditions is that they cannot be put in any form of binary or either/or. There is a tremendous flexibility with respect to how one approaches the divine. In this particular context, it can be with or without "karma" and if I understand the fundamentals of the dharma traditions, this is how it must have been in the ancient times as well. 

From what I can project, there was "karma" for all and sundry living within the confines of the society--guided by varnashrama and the stage of purushartha one was in--and when one stepped outside the confines of the society through sanyassa, the necessity of karma ceased. In addition, all Vedic karmas as explained by Sri Aurobindo in the "Secret of the Vedas" is that they had esoteric meaning attached to them. Once one reached the stage where one could dabble in the esoteric aspects of dharmic spirituality, the performance of karma was not binding.

Its a very nice article, Shri Kundan Singh. And the participation of the author of the article adds to the sheen. In the current era of Bourgeois exploiting the proliteriat, the ideology of left in this regard has relevance. The sort of inhuman conditions in which the labour is expected to work in factories, malls et al et al could not be explained in words.

In as much as the left remains in the political and intellectual arena to fight for the rights of labour, it is ok. But left does not have this as their exclusive agenda. They come with a heavy baggage of many intellectual nonsense which has to be rejected. And I hope your article has done justice in this regard clearly identifying their deception, ideas of fragmentation, their penchant for violence either explicit or implicit........ you called a spade a spade.

But whether we like it or not, the entire eco system of the country is sort of infected by this virus. The judiciary, intelligentsia, academia, arts, politics......... you name any social arena....... there they are....... the virus is omnipresent. The forces of Hindutva, perhaps I hope should have underestimated the might of this goliath and that speaks the problems / lack of strategy they face while facing this monster.

The article is nice vis.a.vis visualising the left monster. But it does not go to the next step of handling....... how to tame this monster and domesticate this creature as a harmless one.


And the likes of Mir and Rahim Das........ are they part of the proud heritage of Hindustan? In my considered and informed opinion, yes.

This sufism is an alien cult. Ok. They were bitterly hated by the medieval powers that be which butchered them like they butchered Hindus. Then where do they stand?

I am not knowledgeable enough. May be a learned person like Shri.Kundan Singh may throw more light on this aspect.

From my limited understanding, they are somewhat sort of neither here nor there. But still, I hope they are a sort of bridge between Dharmic Hindu Darshanas and Adharmic mlecha darshanas, if I comprehend the phenomenon properly.

my two cents.

Krishna Kumar ji, Thank you for this post.

In my understanding the dharma tradition will need to take a very nuanced approach to the left. IMHO, taking a contrarian stance against the left may appeal to the base instincts of us humans but if we really want to raise the level of discourse with the left, their concerns with legitimate social causes will have to be incorporated and transcended. The full addressing the Indian left cannot happen in an article series--it is a larger endeavor, which will happen gradually and slowly. Thanks much for appreciating the article.