SATYASHRAMA: A CONCEPTION OF DHARMIC POLITICS

My good friend MJ wrote an interesting piece on Dharmic Politics. I debated against him last week against the Union. I really enjoyed his speech since it was so well laid out.

SATYASHRAMA: A CONCEPTION OF DHARMIC POLITICS

Gerua: Rediscovering a tinge of renunciation

The full name is bhagwani i.e. the colour of bhagwan which Forbes translates cloth dyed with geru (red ochre), another common name is jogirang i.e. the colour worn by religious mendicants. I collected a few samples and am told that they are all shades of cinnamon brown; the popularity of the colour may be judged from the blazons, seeing that tenne is in every instance only a representative of the lighter shades, and murry (sanguine) in most instances a representative of the darker.

Ṛtaniti and Satyashrama: New Age Dharmic Politics

I see the meta-dynamics of the Universe quite clearly, particularly being a student of Physics myself. A set of laws here, a manner of movement and interaction between entities and forces there. The Universe could have been a vast number of possibilities (in the multiverse picture, they all exist independently) but it is what it is. There is a certain order in the Universe, seemingly self-organizing but yet directed. This is what ancient Indian philosophers and seers called Ṛta. That which maintained this order and respected the nuances of this reality was the Truth or Satya. You may start feeling that I will embark on a detour of philosophy and spirituality next. Not quite. After a lot of reflection and meditating on the nuances of these concepts, I feel there are two core ideas and nuances that matter when one speaks of that wisdom that maintains the  universal order (Ṛtaniti).

An Economy of Social Capital, Personal Social Responsibility and e-Democracy

However, having said that, I also strongly believe in the idea of Swadharma: the tendencies and capacities of the individual, and a system that provides for opportunities and liberty to the same. Some are born with innate abilities to solve mathematical conundrums. Some are born athletes or singers or artists. Not only at the level of abilities but also comfort in undertaking certain pursuits, every person is distinct. Only when this idea and reality is respected can society remain harmonious and efficient. In today’s age, we have a rush to pursue certain kinds of activities. These are guided by aspects of remuneration and prestige many a times, over and above the comfort and interest of the individual in pursuing them.

In Conclusion

In this essay, I have looked at some core ideas of ancient Indian philosophy and tried to synthesize by reasoning and reflection a truly Indian political philosophy – Satyashrama. Today people speak of Hindu nationalism and communal politicking in the same breath. Today people talk of fascism and a culture that has always believed in tolerance and dignity of the individual since times immemorial, again, in the same breath.

Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar – Mj to his friends – likes to be called a student of science, society and sensibilities. He is currently pursuing his postdoctoral research in Physics in the University of Cambridge and is the current Vice President of the Graduate Union of the University of Cambridge.

Having completed his PhD at 25 from the University of Cambridge, he looks forward to exploring Physics at greater depths in the future. His current work relates to studying the symmetries in physical systems and their correlation with entanglement patterns in these systems. This work, being done in collaboration with the Hitachi-Cavendish Laboratory, is all the more relevant given the industrial interest in the application of quantum entanglement in quantum computation. Mrittunjoy enjoys actively engaging with the world of science popularisation, policy and diplomacy, as much as pure research. He has worked actively with the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and bodies such as the Cambridge University Science Policy and Exchange (CUSPE) and BlueSci – the science magazine of Cambridge University, in these areas, both in India and the UK.

22 Replies to “SATYASHRAMA: A CONCEPTION OF DHARMIC POLITICS”

  1. I just feel in a ideal world perhaps Slapstik is the only person who is qualified enough to comment on this. 😛

    1. Hello Saurav,

      Also Skanda Veera, Hari, Kashcit, DM (I’m not sure but very likely it is this name), etc. too!

        1. Hello Mrittunjoy,

          I have suggested the names of a few commentators on this website – though they don’t comment too often – who have what I perceive is quite a strong background in Hindu Law, its areas of applicability in modern day India, etc. Please don’t bother much about this – it is not directly related to the contents of the post at all.

      1. Hello Mrittunjoy,

        From what I know, Slapstik is a very knowledgeable person in the linguistics of Kashmiri, Vedic and Classical Sanskrits, Indo-Iranian and Indo-European linguistics in general and Philosophy of Science. And importantly, he is also a physicist. He is a contributor to this site as well and you can check out some of his prior articles such as https://www.brownpundits.com/2019/03/11/white-conspiracy/, https://www.brownpundits.com/2018/12/20/some-thoughts-on-ain-i-akbari/, https://www.brownpundits.com/2018/10/15/quantum-mechanics-simplified/, among others.

    1. Hi

      My bio was not so long and the post was much longer haha. It is the way it was posted here that makes the impression. Also, that bio was prepared by some organizers of an event that I passed on haha!

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  2. Rta as a concept precedes Dharma and basically the latter supersedes it. After early vedic period Rta was given up . Don’t know why the author is talking both in the same breath.

    1. Respectfully we disagree. Rta as a concept is an important part of ancient Darshanas. Rta remains an important part of many paramparas and sampradayas.

      Dharma did not supersede it.

      I understand Rta as something experienced and observed during meditation.

      1. Hi

        I think Rta and Dharma are intrinsically linked. I never said Dharma supersedes Rta. If anything gave that impression, I would politely like to correct that. Dharma is a manner of maintaining Rta, Darshana-wise. 🙂

    2. Yes historically it did, but I have a slightly different take on this. I do not think Rta ever was truly given up or needed to be. Rta as the cosmic order is something that Dharma is the equilibriating tendency/concept for, as I see it @VijayVan. 🙂

  3. Commendable effort by the author (and we need many more of these) of attempting to synthesize a legitimately Indic political philosophy. John N Gray has pointed out that free market capitalism (in the caricatured Fukuyama sense) and communism (in the Marxist-Leninist sense) are both failed utopias sprung from a uniquely Abrahamic foundation — Millennarianism, where history is supposed to move inexorably towards some sort of pre-ordained endpoint. Gray argues that imposing a linear narrative onto the passage of time* is perhaps Christianities greatest contribution to civilization. This premise, and the ideas sprang from them are alien to Indian civilization, whose `true’ political philosophies (if they can ever be articulated, you can be guaranteed there will be many) will probably never project cleanly onto either one. I suspect this is why even the most self-identified left/ right leaning of desi folks will feel somewhat uncomfortable in their identification, and will find many points of contact with the opposing philosophy to the point that many of them probably walk around with a constant case of mild to moderate cognitive dissonance. The contradiction is an artifact of the fact that legitimately Indic political philosophies updated for the modern world have yet to be articulated cleanly. So I’d definitely like to see more folks like MJ making this attempt — it’s a first draft, but we need many more of these.

    Minor quibble, as a physicist myself who frequently engages the public, the author would do good to lose the `as a physicist’ blurb. It’s an unnecessary appeal to authority at best. At worse, it risks compromising one seriousness as a member of the guild, especially if one engages in highly dubious interpretations of quantum mechanics to flatter one’s philosophical priors.

    * Not that that’s necessarily true of the physical world, even from a cosmologists viewpoint.

    1. Thank you for the kind words.

      As for the physicist tag, I never quote or represent anything I cannot back up. I do not think a single statement there had anything problematic. I am one who is very cautious about such lapses and mistakes, and propriety in the professional world is very high up on my manner of living. 🙂

      If you had anything specific (Physics-wise) to highlight, please do. I shall only respond to those, with all due respect.

  4. I should add — the authors understanding of big bang cosmology is such a caricature to the point of being incorrect. I used to read ISKCON publications when I was a kid and it sounds suspiciously similar in tone and teleological in it’s interpretation. I invite him to walk over to the DAMTP building or Kavli center just up the road from him and actually talk to someone who works in the field. Everything else is great, the physics analogies are totally unnecessary, and frankly dent his credibility.

    1. Hi

      I am sorry but I do not feel I have used either the Big Bang or the physics analogies in passing, since I will never do so. I work with Prof. Josephson and Prof. Adrian Kent (of DAMTP). So, I would like you to please base your comments on my article.

      Cheers,
      Mrittunjoy

  5. Hi MJ, glad to engage on substance — I actually am basing my comments of your article.

    My tension here is not spreading further misconceptions about physics when popularizing or drawing parallels in public communications. I’d also say that for the most part, it’s also not necessary in the present context. I grew up being frustrated with the amount of pseudoscientific parallels that tends to creep in to discussions of Hindu philosophy and epistemology, and I think the force of some of your arguments are served better by not going down those paths. TBH, I’d actually rather engage on the political and philosophical substance of your article, which I found to be excellent, but since we’re on the topic, quoting from your article:

    “Modern physics speaks of the Big Bang and the intrinsic unity of all things we see emerging from that one point in the distant past.”

    The big bang was not a point — it was a spacetime singularity, and to the best of our knowledge, was almost certainly extended spatially *if* we take the model literally all the way back to the singularity (most working cosmologists do not). This is one of the biggest misconceptions that non-expert physicists propagate when discussing cosmology and it’s totally incorrect.

    “Over time, these entities and forces and symmetries emerged, giving rise to greater diversity in the Universe. Since then it has been a matter of interactions and relations between entities, coupling and decoupling over time and interactions.”

    By symmetries, you appear to be referring to the symmetries of particle physics here, in which case it’s quite the opposite — symmetries get broken in a discrete chain that ends up in the gauge group of the standard model. Symmetries emerge as we go backwards in time, not forwards.

    Earlier in your article, you state:

    “I see the meta-dynamics of the Universe quite clearly, particularly being a student of Physics myself. A set of laws here, a manner of movement and interaction between entities and forces there.”

    I totally understand the need to take poetic license and be intelligible to folks with no expertise when conveying the nature of the universe, but sometimes analogies do more harm than good. I know it’s not what you meant above, but your sentence can be read as implying that the laws of physics can be different in different parts of the universe. Splitting hairs possibly, but everything that can be misinterpreted will be interpreted when writing.

    As a member of the guild, you have a great responsibility when representing what is the greatest intellectual tradition human beings have ever come up with. That we can both be a part of the ride is a huge honor, but there’s no need to exploit it for intellectual credibility on matters that have nothing to do with physics. I really don’t see how any of the above add to your arguments. One of my biggest issues with folks who try to popularize the very real parallels between Hindu epistemology and the lessons of modern physics is that they do so to the point of caricature.

    (And BTW, no need to name drop here, you’re clearly an impressive guy, which is why I’m holding you to account. I’m rooting for your project to succeed.)

  6. Since this post is discussing Dharmic politics & i am just downloading few papers with regards ancient India’s laws comparing them to the problems of modern world i felt like sharing this here –

    https://www.academia.edu/26812821/Sanskrit_Law_Excavating_Vedic_Legal_Pluralism

    Read para starting with – To put one’s head in the sand ………………………………………………..

    This is what ‘Dharmic Politics’ had to be instead of the current religious fundamentalists & fanatic politics we are forced to engage with.

    For Further reading – { Evolution of Legal practices in Indian Subcontinent in the age of Dharmic empires }
    https://www.academia.edu/5982371/An_Early_History_of_the_Term_stra

  7. Looks like it was a great post which I overlooked earlier. Apparently the post writer failed to mention the most important aspect of this satyashrama concept – the so called Personal Social Responsibility (PSR). I actually had to click on the link embedded in this post to go to the most important piece of the puzzle.

    “A system wherein social capital is the bedrock of society as much as financial capital is. This could be with a way in social capital, if there could be a formal and physical way of assessing that, is transferred between individuals and actively endorsed in the process.”

    Nice idea. I would also like to point out a similar system invented in China, the social credit system.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Credit_System

    I would like the original author MJ to weigh upon the similarities and dissimilarities of both the system.

    Also, if the social capital can be transferred between individuals, then safeguards must be taken to prevent it rapidly into a laissez faire capitalist marketplace. (Imagine a world with social capital hedge funds, trading floors, speculation, bubble and bust cycles and such 🙂 .

  8. “I grew up being frustrated with the amount of pseudoscientific parallels that tends to creep in to discussions of Hindu philosophy and epistemology”

    Hello SP. If it is some consolation, let me assure you that seeking the validation of one’s religion’s tenets in science is a common theme among almost all religions. Hinduism in by no means guilty of such ludicrous attempts.

    I remember reading in one of Stephen Hawking’s works that when the Big Bang model of universe was first proposed, Catholic church seized upon it and hastily gave its stamp of approval to the model. The reason was simple. Big Bang model validated Bible’s claim that the universe was born, rather than being eternally existing.

    And the most hilarious claim that I have ever heard was from our own Dr Zakir Naik, who was very pleased with the recent discovery of gravitational waves rippling the fabric of spacetime. This, he said was a scientific proof of a Quranic verse which says that Allah unfurled the universe like a fabric! You can find this video on youtube.

    Hopefully that should alleviate your frustration a bit.
    🙂

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