Theory of Identity and Bhagavad Gita

# Theory of Identity and Bhagavadgita

Reconciling the first principle of Swadharma

God says to Arjuna to do the right action as per his Svadharma. In the story of Mahabharat, Arjuna has already resolved that central question, even before the beginning of all the drama. He knows he is a Kshatriya, and his svadharma is to protect the good and fight away the evil. The dilemma of Arjuna starts with the reluctance to follow his svadharma and from there the debate starts between the human and the God.

But, for the modern man grounded with the values of liberty, freedom, self expression and individuality, the primordial question remains unanswered! What is my Swadharma? What is my Identity? Is the Identity even relevant in the world of aggregation, consolidation, scale, automation and AI?

In the theory of decision making James March proposes that in this uncertain, unpredictable and dynamic world, decisions, choices, and actions are taken majorly based on specific rules determined by one’s own Identity. Individuals, organisations, communities, and nations act based on their identity. This happens in 3 stages, answering the following questions one at each stage –

1. Who am I ? (Looking within)

2. What is the current situation (Looking outside)

3. What a person like me should do in this current situation (rule based decision making) : This is the Swadharma. IT is contextual. It is dynamic. But it is grounded deep within by a singular direction – determined by one’s own identity.

Following is the flow chart to determine one’s own identity –

1. Learn the basic high school level sciences and arts

2. Exploration of one domain of study determined by the following –

Life circumstances -> Aptitude -> Creativity / Interests

3. Identify – The domain of expertise

4. Advanced training learning and development in one domain

5. Model of thinking – theory of mind – how one experiences the world through the eyes of the domain chosen. This brings focus.

6. Motivation to Act

7. Practice / skills / actions

8. Habit

9. Identity.

Examples of Identity – Computer scientist, neurologist, social scientist, child psychologist, economist, cognitive computing expert, writer, painter, fashion designer, Philosopher, priest, yoga teacher, backpacker etc.

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The realm of immortality

I am deeply saddened by the violent fatal accident of Memphi – the dog son of my best friend. He was killed by a reckless SUV speeding on the lane in front of his house. I certainly cannot ease my buddy from this irreparable and deep loss. But such incidents over and over again remind me one thing more and more loudly – the nature of love.

Being head over heels in love with a person, a pet, an institution, an object or for that matter any physical entity out there in this world, is destined to meet a heartbreaking end of mortality and entropy. It might be an end in the life or end of the spark of love for that matter given the chores of life.

But, again when I compare this love with the other form of love few people develop – like love for music, love for travel, love for reading, love for a domain of study, love for an idea, love for a purpose, etc – that never breaks one’s heart. No one can steal that love, and nothing can extinguish it. More a scholar delves deeper into an area of study, more love she is strengthened, and she finds an infinite flow of novelty from her scholastic pursuits -thereby fuelling that love even further.

Similarly in the field of music and art, or for that matter mathematics or marketing – the person engages more and more, and discovers newer sparks of innovation, that enables them to create a positive difference to their communities. Such spontaneous and productive engagement is what I say the realm of immortality. There is no entropy. There is no death. There is no descent. More the person gives their heart and soul to the process more and more the love grows, and nurtures not only the doer but also the world at large.

Yes, we are social beings and we need to connect to men and women, plants and animals, rivers and mountains, flowers and trees to reclaim our own humanity. But then, there is another truth that we perhaps need to more strongly remind ourselves of simultaneously. That is, humans, flora, fauna and the world around us are after all active agents to kindle in us the fire of love, and help us experience, evolve and deepen that love. They are just carriers of that love. Love is experienced within the heart of the person while being in that process of active engagement with these agents. These agents come and go. People come and go. Situations change. But then the feeling of the primordial belongingness and love is unchanged. It keeps getting more and more established within the soul. Every new experience, every new victory, every new loss – in their own unique way deepen that love.

The loss of Memphi is a moment a very deep melancholy. And that heart wrenching pain cannot be eased. But then isn’t it a privilege to have reclaimed that level of sensitivity of being a human, that one can even conceptualise and feel such a heart sinking agony deep in the heart – for a canine?! For a majority of humans are not even able to differentiate between a pothole, a speed breaker and a living , innocent, love brimming heart of a canine.

I cannot release your pain buddy. But then, I can just tell you to cherish this pain, and hold it very close to your heart. Don’t forget this pain, and let it burn in your soul to eternity to keep it warm with the power of love. It is through these cracks in the broken heart, the light of love enters, and keeps it warm and human. Such agony, humbles us, and makes us more human.

The art of love learnt through these experiences of selfless giving, probably somewhere deep down in us makes us worthy of being called – Human Being. Such active engagements probably makes us fully human. And not only that. Love certainly kindles and then thrives in the realm of immortality. Love is not lost. Agents come and go and give into the entropy of the.physical world. But loves labor is never lost. It deepens the heart and makes it sensitive to see that never ending love transcending the agents – men, woman, pets, flora, fauna and the cosmos itself.

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Heart over Mind

It is good to take a break from thinking. Feel your way through things for a while. Your mind will never take you to those sweet places your heart knows so well.
– Scott Stabile

‘Thinking’ is something I feel is most useful only for day to day transactions. You want to solve a problem at work or pertaining to a project you are doing in ur personal lives or community life.

But when it comes to larger questions about life and our existence and being, like the questions and issues we have about our fate, destiny, circumstances etc, those, i think doesn’t have a robust answer from the realm of mind and thoughts.

Solutions to them perhaps bubble up when we dis-engage from our mind and just meditate. Instead of that relentless struggle to find answers, we probably need to relieve and relinquish that human will, and just surrender to the bigger scheme of things.

Introducing into our awareness the mere inconspicuousness of our existence amidst the infinitely vast universe (billions of galaxies, and more so the magnanimous that space that houses these galaxies), and just observing this scheme deep inside our meditative trance, settles in us some sanity of being. Is the only answer i feel.

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Relevance of history

The meaning, purpose, intensity, relevance and vitality of one’s life is their affiliation to a field of study , I believe. For, through deep meditations on that field, one discovers their own self and understands the nature of the world.

Now, to be able to deepen one’s relationship with a field of study, one needs to know, the contribution of a field and also understand what is district about that field. To know this, it is required to know its history. The pre-conditions that triggered the origin of the field, and how the field evolved to give it present appeal.

This is from the point of view of the theory of self, identity and relating to a domain or field of study to make sense of the self and others.

Even in the area of pure human history, I believe that there is nothing like a world history. Relating to history from that abstract and generalised level perhaps will of little utility. Rather history is about focussing on one entity at a time, and understand it’s evolution.

The founder of Bharatiya Vidya Mandir, K.M.Munshi quite succinctly summarizes his view on history that he aspired to present through his writings as follows –

“To be a history in the true sense of the word, the work must be the story of the people inhabiting in a country. It must be a record of their life from age to age presented through the life and achievements of men whose exploits became the beacon lights of tradition; through the characteristic reaction of people to physical and economic conditions; through political changes and vicissitudes which create the forces and conditions which operate upon life; through characteristics social institutions, beliefs and forms; through literary and artistic achievements; through the movement of thoughts which from time to time helped or hindered the growth of collective harmony; through those values which the people have accepted or reacted to and which created or shaped their collective will; through efforts of the people to will themselves into an organic unity.
The central purpose of history must, therefore, be to investigate and unfold the values which age after age have inspired the inhabitants of a country to develop their collective will and to express it through the manifold activities of their life.”

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Loving without a reason

More I reflect on the nature of inter personal relationships, more i tend towards the belief that blind faith is perhaps very important. It teaches us to love what we have, and what we have chosen for ourselves. Be it our own self, our family and friends, our job and colleagues, our community and country.

I love Guruji – Sri Sri, not because he is the most intelligent being in the world. Also my love for him is not based out of a belief that he is a super natural being. He might be. Or he might not. The point is that I just love him as a person; his being – his presence. I love him also, not just because, his presence fills in me with even more love, peace and gratitude. Why that happens, I do not know. And yes, I don’t care to know about it. You call it blind faith. Or you can call it just a choice or perhaps an affirmation.

One thing I know very well. That this blind faith is an ability of mankind to love – without focussing on why to love, and whether the subject is worth the love. Love being an art or a skill that needs to be practiced more and more. Only through such blind faith and unquestioned love, we start learning to love our own self, our family, friends, community, colleagues, nation, world, and the entire creation.

It is like when I love the rows of trees out of my window, I don’t think that they give me oxygen and so they are worth my respect and love. I also don’t love them, just because I belong to them; just because I am connected with them; or just because they are so beautiful and comforting. I love them just blindly, because I say so – just for love’s sake.

This love for the rows of trees can be seamlessly replaced by the love of the self, and others, I believe.

So, what is the outcome or the objective of such a blind faith? It is perhaps just being at peace. Perhaps it is just being a human-being. It is perhaps reminding ourselves that we are not human doing! We perhaps don’t have to do something in order to earn our love and respect for our own self. Or rather i need no reason to just love and respect someone. Perhaps, it is just in the nature of being a human.

Is that what Bhakti Yoga teaches?

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Mahabharata – The philosophical and social anchor

I had this great opportunity to attend the two day intensive workshop on Mahabharata by Prof. Vishwa Adluri and Dr. Joydeep Bagchee, at the NIAS, Bangalore. It was an enlightening session for me, and I am grateful to Indic Academy and Takshashila Institute of Indian Studies, for making this happen.

I have a little background on Rig Veda Samhita, and have been studying it since last couple of years. There is a popular perception in the circles of the Veda enthusiasts that the Epics and Puranas constitute adulteration incorporated to the main pristine body of the Vedas, and that the main point is pushed to the background, and non-essentials decorations have been put forth into forefront, into this subsequent corpus of Hindu texts. Also a clear disconnect is drawn between the Upanishads and the Vedas, bringing forth that Upanishads were unidirectional insights towards “Nivritti”/”sannyasa”, and that Veda constitutes a more holistic approach to be able to live a meaningful life in the “Pravitti”/ being in the thick and thin of daily life.

My personal little ongoing journey in the world of Rig Ved Samhita, leaves me with a body of sparkling philosophical insights scattered all over the 10,000 mantras spread across 10 big books known as Mandalas. They are truly inspiring and beautiful. However, in these years of my relationship with the Vedas, I have always struggled to derive a unity in the text, searching tirelessly to carve out a holistic story to arrive at a coherent understanding out of it. I tried this by creating visualisations, mind maps, notes, exploring the semantics of the Rig Veda and discovering the pattern of the hidden meaning in the proper nouns used repeatedly across the text. With the intensive reading of the text, and their rigorous and precise translations and commentaries for stalwarts, I was able to progress much in this journey. But then that aesthetic thirst to find a coherent binding story remained in me.

This workshop on Mahabharata was the exact and precise dose of nectar I was looking for, in my scholarly struggles all these years. Trying out a satire, Prof Adluri proclaimed in the beginning of the workshop that the Mahabharata was the fifth Veda, and that Duryodhan was the modern man and Dhritarashtra was the postmodern man. That was a shock to me. I started listening with extra attention and concentrated into all the details Prof Bagchee and Prof Adluri were putting forth in their characteristic, world class scholastic rigour. (Both have PhDs form the hallowed – “The New School”, NYC).

I was fascinated, to finally having been introduced to that complex, humongous but extremely unified and coherent body of Myth that I was looking for, which was efficiently binding the entire corpus of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Puranas. So, here was the ultimate creation of the great sage Vyasa, where he gives to the world, a complete story, which if one understands, its profound philosophical nuances, can drive home all the world of the wisdom primarily from the Veda Samhitas and Upanishads.
Getting a view of that was the greatest ‘Ahaa’ moment for me. The authors focused on the first book of the Epic – The Adi Parva, and the Moksha Dharma – part of the Shanti Parva book, to bring to the point that the war story and the related historical narrative of the Mahabharata is just a small aspect of the Epic. The Epic is primarily impregnated with profound philosophical and theological narrative to drive home into the psyche of its readers the cyclical nature of time and at the same time the futility of violence, anger, hatred, jealousy, lust, anger, attachment, and arrogance. Beautifully the Epic draws fractals of self-recursive narration to bring forth this point very strongly and all pervasively. At the same time the Epic clearly and precisely demarcates the two worlds – the world of Vasu, guided by ephemeral temporality and bondage due to that (Pravritti) and the world of Vasudev – inspired by the constant companionship with Dharma leading one to the realm of ultimate freedom, continuing to carry out the daily responsibilities (Nivritti).

The professors also gave several examples of the self-recursive frames of stories within stories and the repeated parallels from various parts of the Epic to drive the point of Unity and the coherent design of the Epic. Contrary to the limited view of the German Indologist, the professors were able to present their rigorous research proving the ill-founded prejudices against the Epic by German Indologist that Mahabharata is a chaotic collection of non-relevant and extraneous stanzas. Also the limited view of the Epic as a merely historical work was challenged. Over the two days of the workshop the professors were beautifully and rigorously able to drive the point that Mahabharata goes much farther in being an aesthetically rich, literary, philosophical and symbolical tale which has a strong purpose to drive in Dharma in the everyday life of common man. Along with the heroic glorification it also drives in systematic methods that can be practised by common ordinary readers to achieve that ultimate freedom and peace.

The Profs established with their rigorous research work that Mahabharata is not a chaotic text. Everything in the book has a definitive meaning and weaves out a unified narrative which has a central dharmic theme. The epic also shows that ‘nirguna’ and ‘saguna’ are not contradictions. Rather they complement each other to strengthen that relationship with the divine. Also it proclaims that ‘Bhakti’ is not a prejudice, but rather a mode of enhanced understanding. Also finally it was brought to the table that history and dharma are not interdependent. Historicity of the epic has nothing to do with its dharmic implications and importance.

The audience of the workshop was a great conglomeration of Sanskrit scholars, and also youth and veterans from varied professional domains. The discussions and debate on the nuances of the text and philosophy rendered in this great Epic were immensely invigorating and intellectually very stimulating. I express my heartiest gratitude to Indic Academy and Takshashila Institute of Indian Studies for organising this. I request them to kindly arrange for follow up sessions to go in details into the Epic under the guidance of Prof. Adluri and Prof. Bagchee, remotely over the Internet. I am sure there would be thousands of eager scholars like me, all over India and the world, who would like to continue their journey exploring, and practising with the Epic in our day to day life. And such a difficult and worthwhile enterprise will certainly require Gurus of the like of the Profs. Adluri and Bagchee.

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On Diversity

There is a personal inclination that a person develops over a lifetime, influenced by their genes as well as childhood conditioning. A fully grown man hence has those unique impressions, needs, talents and interests hardened in his psyche. This process sprouts diversity.
By definition, it might be excruciatingly painful for people of two starkingly diverse groups to get along with each other. But at the same time it might be immensely important for diverse groups collaborate because each brings on the table something complementary to the other. Hence there has been lot of emphasis on this mutual friendship and collaboration between diverse communities over the centuries of all major civilisations.

Give all the plus points on being able to manage and integrate diversity, it is at the same time imperative to enable the individual differentiation to be nurtured. A disproportionate focus on integration without helping an individual to develop his own uniqueness and strength aligned to his innate abilities would lead to a cohort of spineless and mediocre individuals. Such a group might have an increased ability to please others and forcibly enforce a pseudo unity and team spirit. Such a group generally lacks creativity and self defeats the foundational purpose of farming such teams and communities. The direction the community is led is decided by the most powerful and most vocal.

Hence before forming a diverse team it is important to nurture the diversity in the first place. And such a diversity cannot be incubated without adequate support, guidance, inspiration and examples. Now here is the trick. Such an ecosystem can only be created by the stalwarts of of the same inclination as the person at hand. Forced diversity in the formative years might at the outset, smother any possibility of a unique blossoming of the person. Differentiation has to be concretised before the appreciation of the integration, can be developed! Diversity works well with a set of people who equally know the weight of their own individuality. Only then creative thoughts and diverse ideas sprout, compete and complement. Otherwise what starts with an ostensive diversity, ends up as a homogeneous cohort.

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