Thursday, January 22, 2009

new year, new beginning

We must learn the elements of our being, the blood that courses in our veins; we must have faith in that blood and what it did in the past; and out of that faith and consciousness of past greatness, we must build an India yet greater than what she has been. There have been periods of decay and degradation. I do not attach much importance to them; we all know that. Such periods have been necessary. A mighty tree produces a beautiful ripe fruit. That fruit falls on the ground, it decays and rots, and out of that decay springs the root and the future tree, perhaps mightier than the first one. This period of decay through which we have passed was all the more necessary. Out of this decay is coming the India of the future; it is sprouting, its first leaves are already out; and a mighty, gigantic tree, the Urdhvamula, is here, already beginning to appear; and it is about that that I am going to speak to you.(Swami Vivekanda - Vol III, 285 - 286)

You also know how most have been taught to interpret these verses: Krishna's *avataara* occurs in each 'Yuga' and that it has either already taken place in our Yuga, or that it will still happen again, etc.

However, if you read it again with the eyes of a twenty first-century human being, here is what is striking and, if true, breath-taking. These verses are telling us the following (I am going to *reformulate* the substance of these verses in my terminology and not just provide an 'interpretation'): There is an assumption that there is a process of *learning* to be moral and that this is a learning process in society. It is inevitable, this is the second assumption, any social learning process can and does undergo *degeneration*. From this it follows, this is what the verses now describe, that: when such a degeneration of the learning process occurs, at some critical phase in the degeneration at the level of society, other mechanisms in society are going to *kick in* and regenerate this learning process (i.e. the process of learning to be moral).

This is a breath-taking claim about the nature of moral learning in India (let us keep it confined to India at the moment). Of course, they (the writer/writers of Gita) formulate this 'insight' using the images *familiar* to them about Krishna and his 'avataaras'. But that need not detain us. But what should, is their insight into the nature of society. Where and how did they discover these things? How did they discuss these things? What kind of a research did they do so that they came to have this extraordinary insight? This insight, even if it proves to be wrong, is *light years ahead* of any extant psychological or sociological theory about moral learning and moral development that you care to mention.

So, just these two verses are formulating a scientific hypothesis *in the best sense of the term* about the nature of moral learning. Believe me Rudra, I am dumb struck. The western culture has not even *suspected* the existence of what these verses *take for granted* (for example, the two assumptions I have just identified). How and why did the Indians think of these things those many thousands of years ago?

Chaos reigns within - Reflect, repent and reboot - Order shall return. 

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