DUSSEHRA and the BATTLE OF MINDSETS

Accusing Lord Ram of not doing justice in banishing Sita, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, describes  (The Indian Express, October 19, 2018) vanquishing of Ravana, rescue of Sita, end of exile and eventual enthronement as “pyrrhic” and portrays  Vijaydashmi as “permanent triumph of injustice”! Mehta, in the same breath mentions Valmiki’s “greatness” in leaving questions relating to Lord Ram’s conduct “hanging” and not “sugar coating” the outcome. Mehta ignored the fact that Valmiki was himself a Hindu and Lord Ram an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Yet Valmiki did not hesitate in presenting the Epic as he did. Authority, Revelation or Dogma did not constrain him. Hinduism thus celebrates freedom from servitude and subjection to creed and articles of faith. It is victory over prejudice and intolerance.

Valmiki was aware about the worth Hinduism attached to  “pramana” as the means by which a person acquires knowledge. And pramana is not confined to the word or testimony of experts alone but includes perception, inference and deduction trusting the wisdom of the person to reach the right conclusion. Thus even a Pratap Bhanu Mehta will not be called an apostate for describing Lord Ram as being “reduced to pathetic self-doubt over truth” and accusing Him of “not doing justice” which incidentally is a gratuitous denunciation made rather insolently with a half-baked knowledge of the scriptures. Hinduism thus celebrates the autonomy of an individual, gives him dignity and worth and trusts his judgment not forcing him to be part of any herd.

Mehta seems to be oblivious about hermeneutics – the science of interpretation of scriptures – and the use of semiotics including allegories as an aid to interpretation. What is expressed carries a moral meaning, different from what a literal reading may convey, to drive the mind towards lessons of right and wrong as a guide to acceptable standards of behaviour.  The message conveyed is that life can never be purged of conflict between values and criticism of a choice of one amongst clashing and sparring values will is inevitable. One must yet show character and have courage of conviction – cultivate a quality of mind as can face difficulty and pain. As a king deferring to the will of the people is obligatory even if it involves sacrificing personal happiness. Mehta calls this “rubbish” as Lord Ram went into exile “against his subjects wishes” ignoring the fact that at that time his father Dashrath not Lord Ram was king! In resolving an ethical dilemma between two choices neither of which can be called immoral  a king must assume a transformative role as a leader displaying a commitment to the larger good and derive legitimacy from the trust of the ruled rather than merely from his position as king. Hinduism thus acknowledges there cannot be any empirical truths in the real world. It celebrates independent thinking.

“Triumph turned to tragedy” as Mehta mentioned belittling the significance of Vijaydashmi.  It was tragedy for Lord Ram and Sita alone. And it was not only “Sita’s battle and Lord Ram was as much a part of it. For Lord Ram’s kingdom, however, there was no tragedy. Ramrajya –  equal rights alike for the prince and the pauper- still prevailed. After all it was a washerman whose comment led to Lord Ram sacrificing his personal happiness and “practising austerity”  and maintaining his “absolute fidelity” towards her which according to Mehta “amounts to nothing”! The movement away from absolute monarchy and divine right to are more liberal creed and rejection of authoritarianism – Lord Ram could well have cut the washerman’s head – and caste prejudices amounts to “nothing” for Mehta!

Sita’s banishment is called “reducto ad absurdum of the epic”. If there is a single statement running through Ramayana it is of self sacrifice. I fail to understand how this is disproved by Sita’s banishment. On the contrary it is re-enforced. If there is any argument ad absurdum it is that advanced by Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

Mehta’s piece is a typical example of what is known as a “framing effect”. He framed the presentation to concentrate only on Sita. This is but an instance of attribute framing. The author just concentrates on one facet of an entire epic and does not give equal chance or importance to other aspects which alone can complete the picture. Perhaps he wanted his article to be relevant for the Metoo environment of today and compromised accuracy by adopting a shortcut of focussing on one aspect of a complex issue.

The “battle” is duly joined ON Dussehra Mr Mehta. It will surely continue “after Dussehra”. And the battle will be with mindsets like yours. Vijaydashmi has been and will always remain triumph over injustice!

 

Raas Leela comment & Bhushan Buffoonery!

A fool’s brain, said George Bernard Shaw, digests philosophy into folly! Prashant Bhushan’s buffoonery in calling Lord Krishna an “eve teaser” proves Bernard Shaw right. Forget knowledge of religion or philosophy (which he demonstrably lacks) this man seems to be unfamiliar with elementary English and the utter shamelessness with which he yet comments (on topics he does not know and in a language whose nuances he is yet to grasp) makes him the perfect illustration of the idiom – Fools rush where angels fear to tread! The “clarification” of his original tweet proves this point too. It is a different matter that the clarifications make things worse!

But it is not mere foolishness of Bhushan which troubles me. I feel he is suffering from a psychiatric disorder. He used the words “legendary eve teaser” for Lord Krishna. God is no fable or fiction to be described as “legendary”. Besides eve teasing is defined as the act of annoying a woman in a public place for example by making sexual comments. but Raas leela takes place in a metaphysical plane. Thus anyone who suggests that Lord Krishna “annoyed women through sexual comments” suffers from cognitive distortion – an irrational thought pattern which makes one perceive reality inaccurately. This is generally the result of depression and anxiety and the fact that Kashmir is still part of India may be the reason for the same for him.

I am sure Prashant Bhushan is not mad. However in the spectrum of human behaviour he does lean towards the abnormal. And while Bhushan must surely be having a brain, it is health of the mind which is the issue. I have been informed a criminal complaint has been filed against him. Criminal charges, however, may never stick – not because there was no crime but for want of intent, it being easy to show Bhushan is non compos mentis – without a sound mind!

Raas Leela is transcendental that is in the spiritual plane. It has no carnal aspect. It symbolises union of jeev (male AND female) in God. God in Hinduism is not a man but energy. And the physical reality (including gender) a mere illusion. Gender thus is irrelevant  to Raas Leela (Gopis are but ALL devotees) and it signifies nothing except immersing of the soul – Atma- into the metaphysical reality – Brahman! Lord Krishna was not male lover like Romeo nor Gopis female like Juliet! No one can emulate the Raas, just imbibe the idea.

But Bhushan wants “Anti Krishna squads.” This means he wants to reinforce gender, emphasise physical attachments, accentuate carnal desires and move AWAY from the spiritual plane into the physical plane and indulge in orgies of free love (which I presume he understands only as sex.) This aspect of his depravity I was completely ignorant of! This is re-enforced by the lament expressed in a later tweet where he frets anti romeo squads “would criminalise teasing gopis!”- He, thus, WANTS to tease gopis!! And then see his desperation – so frantic is he that teasing should be allowed he invokes GOD to justify it and protests the organising of Romeo Brigades because he feels that this would make Lord Krishna look like an eve teaser!!!

Indulge in your fantasies Mr Bhushan. Dont take to Twitter next time to make them public.

A Shankaracharya?… and Rapes!

I was surprised to hear the Shankaracharya of Dwarka’s comment on women.

The title Shankaracharya derives from Adi Shankar – the most famous proponent of Advaita Philosophy –  who had a profound influence on the growth of Hinduism at a time when superstition was rampant. Adi Shankar cleansed Hinduism of the excesses of ritualism which, he felt, brought spiritual life to a low ebb and robbed people of true spiritual insight and what he believed to be the core teachings of the Vedas.

Adi Shankar debated with  Madan Misra, the disciple of Kumarila one of the stuanchest supporters of the ritualistic interpretation of the Vedas. This debate is said to have continued for many months and was eventually won by Adi Shankar.

It is irrelevant for the purposes of this blog to deal with the debate which in erudition and scholarship would surpass most contests of the mind that the history of civilisation has ever witnessed.

The more important aspect of this debate was the person chosen to judge it.

The judge was Ubhaya Bharati, Madan Misra’s wife.

The choice of Ubhaya Bharati as judge of the contest was a recognition not only of the impartiality of a woman but also of her intellect and scholarship. In fact Bharati challenged Adi Shankar to a debate after her husband had lost as according to her a wife forms one half of her husband’s body and victory of Madan Misra could not be complete unless Adi Shanker defeated the former’s wife. She was defeated too which she accepted gracefully and with humility.

The Shankaracharya could have referred to this example to re-enforce the personhood of a woman which is recognised in Hinduism (which I have also dealt with in my blog of January, 30. 2016 Of Temples and Women) rather than present them as mere objects of desire. Nothing can be more obnoxious than trivialising rape through victim blaming and that too for entering a temple!

A patrilineal culture with enforced isolation of women and an accompanying set of taboos accompanied by stigmatisation of independence is precisely what is negated by the example of Ubhaya Bharti.

It was precisely to this kind of chaos, superstition and bigotry which tormented Hinduism in the 8th century AD that Adi Shankaracharya fought and redeemed Hinduism’s glory. It is indeed unfortunate those who carry his name do not actually carry his legacy.