Trying to Straighten a Cyclical Worldview

When I read any comment about Hinduism that twists and turns the facts to one’s particular point of view or ideology, it makes me smile and also think. Trying to explain and understand Hinduism from any singular particular point of view (a way of life, a parliament of sampradayas, a worldview, one of the world religions, etc.) will neither help one to understand Hinduism in part or in whole, nor will it do justice to the Hindu phenomenon.

This is both a blessing and a peril. It accommodates the need of anyone and everyone, but like a two-edged sword, it will cut on the other side when used as an attack on opposing views. The Hindu reality is a MULTI-CENTRED PLURALISTIC INCLUSIVISM with contradicting views co-existing side-by-side.

As I am a Hindu bhakta of the Lord, I struggle not to compromise with my bhakti in the Lord and also to assimilate that bhakti with an incarnational process in the Hindu worldview. As I often say, contextualization of a selected few things doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose.

But this tension challenges me more than it comforts me, especially when I read any dogmatic view about God, faith, mukti, etc., from a Muktivedic point of view, which can be incarnated within the Hindu worldview without any tension to both Hinduism and the Muktiveda.

A good example is that creation and history are considered cyclical in our Hindu worldview, but linear in the Muktiveda. How can we resolve this? The first option that comes to my rescue is to selectively quote and take those Hindu scriptural teachings and warnings about not postponing mukti to some future birth and the references about the eternal hell and eternal bondage to which some atmans are designated.1 This indirectly points out the one-way traffic of ‘no more choice’.

So I can claim that this is a linear viewpoint, although it is clearly my interpretation created by twisting the text to accommodate my needs. Though cyclical theory is the true Hindu worldview, one can point out that this continuous cycle is also linear in the sense that somewhere or somehow it began and somewhere or somehow it will end. Or it has no beginning (in the beginning) and no end (at the ending). Or each kalpa is a beginning and with an end. So several linear paths joined together become cyclical. Of course this is purely bad logic such as: God is love; love is blind; therefore God is blind.

The other option I have is that as God met my particular need in His own time by His own means, I live with it, not worrying too much about all the theological and philosophical discussion on such uncertain issues that never have a final say.

Let me try to explain it by giving another example. A healthy person has freedom and many options to eat and enjoy life as she likes. However, a sick person has to follow the instructions given by the doctor in regards to eating food, taking medicine, and following many dos and don’ts. The basic concept of the Muktiveda is that only the sick person needs a doctor and not the healthy person. So for a healthy person, the life could be cyclical where she can with an adventurous spiritual leap to many other ‘births’. Or since she is healthy, she does not need any outside help to rescue or save her.

However, the sick person’s path is linear: either follow the instruction or perish. When I sought the grace of God to rescue me like a sick person, He reached me through Bhagavan Muktinath. Not having further courage or strength I cling to Him to be saved. Here the choice is left with the individual and no kind of theory of creation can serve the purpose of that individual.

So any philosophically minded Hindu who, with genuine knowledge, feels that she can handle her life both here and hereafter has an advantage over others. Those elitist Hindus who, just for the sake of argument and with a spirit of apologetics, try to twist and turn both the text and tradition have their freedom and right to do so. But a Hindu bhakta of the Lord need not feel trapped if she finally realizes that the Lord came to seek after the lost and sick and not the healthy. At least in my life, as someone who is struggling on every end to find safe guidance, although it looks dogmatically linear, it is the doctor’s prescription to a sick person.

Other than this, there is no point of counter-arguing and trying to defend our bhakti or our approach to accommodate it within the Hindu worldview. The more I read about Hinduism and the Muktiveda the more solace I find in my bhakti in Muktinath. My rational2 mind refuses to accept everything I find in the Muktiveda. At the same time, my bhakti refuses to give up my bhakti in the Lord because of many rationalistic questions regarding the interpretation and claims of the Muktiveda. Some of my specific struggles are the linear theory of creation and history, the process by which we received the canonical Muktiveda in its current form, and many so-called scientific questions about the birth, death, and resurrection of the Lord.

At the same time, if I were to give up my bhakti in the Lord, I could not return back to any of the Hindu sampradaya as I found more inconsistencies in their texts and doctrines. For example, Dr. Anandapadbanabachaya recently gave a discourse on Ramanuja (Podigai chennal, ‘Ramanuja Vaibhavam’), saying, “There is no God other than Narayana and Ramanuja is His only acharya.” (These are not his exact words but my paraphrasing regarding the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya).

In this modern era where social media questions and challenges every kind of precept, defending any faith as the ultimate universal is not possible. At the same time, postmodernism creates a ‘private world for everyone’3 which according to Nicholson is ‘more medieval than we care to admit.’4 The danger of postmodernism, with my limited understanding, is that when reasonable questions counter every claim (either in politics, social or religious), it leads us to believe that ‘everything’ is correct.

For me, present-day Hinduism sounds very postmodern (according to this definition) with lots of elitist apologetics; it sounds like situational ethics to me. In this scenario, it is better to have a conservative stable ground to stand and survive rather than following any ideology or theology that becomes free for all. For me, the Lord Muktinath provides this and I feel safe in it both for here and hereafter.

 

29-9-2015. Mathigiri.

 

Endnotes

-Iha ced avedid atha satyam asti n aced ihaavedin mahati vinastih… (S. Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanishads. Delhi, Oxford University Press, (1953), 1974. Kena Upanishad, II.5a. p. 587)

If here (a person) knows it, then there is truth, and if here he knows it not, there is great loss….

 

-Asuryaa naama te lokaa andhena tamasaa vrtaah

Taams te pretyaabhigacchanti ye ke caatmahano janaah. (Isa Upanishad. 3, ibid. p. 570)

Demoniac, verily, are those worlds enveloped in blinding darkness, and to them go after death, those people who are the slayers of the self.

 

-“It is usually alleged that hell in Hinduism is, like heaven, a temporary state, and yet in the 16th chapter of the Gita, Krsna describes the state of those men who inherit a `devilish destiny’ in terms so strong as to make one wonder how salvation can be possible for them. Liberation, the final release from the round of birth and death, is frequently referred to as the `highest way’; it is final and definitive. Similarly in 16:20 Krsna speaks of the ‘lowest way’, and if we read this passage without any preconceptions we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that this too is final; such men have reached a point of no return. They have deliberately chosen enmity to God, and for such, Krsna makes abundantly clear, divine grace is not available.” (R. C. Zaehner. The Bhagavad-Gita, Oxford University Press, 1973, page 23-24)

 

All these texts can be quoted for a linear theory of one-way traffic than giving another opportunity. Of course the entire book from which we extract such quotes won’t agree with this. But there is a warning given not to postpone one’s opportunities in this human life. Considering the fragile nature of my personality, I prefer a reasonably dogmatic view about bhakti and mukti as I found in the Muktiveda than gambling depending upon a cyclical view about creation (and life) with a pluralistic relativism.

“Where modernity thought it could know things objectively about the world, post modernity has reminded us that there is no such thing as neutral knowledge. Everybody has a point of view, and that point of view distorts everybody describes things the way that suits them. There is no such thing as objective truth. Likewise, there are no such things as objective values, only preferences. The cultural symbols that encapsulate this revolution are the personal stereo and the virtual-reality system: everyone creates his or her own private world.” — N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Illinois, IVP Academic. 1999. p. 151

“…human subjectivities in the contemporary world are complex and contradictory, bearing the contemporaneous imprint of the “premodern,” “modern,” and “postmodern” … We postmoderns are more medieval than we care to admit.” — Andrew J. Nicholson. Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Ranikhet, Permanent Black, (2010), 2011. p. 20

 

  1. Though written in the context of dharma this could also be applied to all kinds of inquiry:

…Says Brihaspati, in regard to dharma: No decision should be taken by mere resort to a (letter of the) sastras; for, deliberations (vichara) devoid of rational considerations (yuktihina) will lead to results detrimental to dharma.{No reference is given by the author—db} And the Mahabharata exhorts that in determining dharma and adharma the learned man should rely upon intelligent understanding (buddhi) of the situation. {Maha-Santi. 141.102}— Pandharinath H. Prabhu, Hindu Social Organization: A Study in Socio-Psychological and Ideological Foundations, Bombay, Popular Prakashan, [1940], Reprit 2004. p. 28

  1. Where modernity thought it could know things objectively about the world, post modernity has reminded us that there is no such thing as neutral knowledge. Everybody has a point of view, and that point of view distorts everybody describes things the way that suits them. There is no such thing as objective truth. Likewise, there are no such things as objective values, only preferences. The cultural symbols that encapsulate this revolution are the personal stereo and the virtual-reality system: everyone creates his or her own private world. — N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Illinois, IVP Academic. 1999. p.151
  2. …human subjectivities in the contemporary world are complex and contradictory, bearing the contemporaneous imprint of the “premodern,” “modern,” and “postmodern” … We postmoderns are more medieval than we care to admit.— Andrew J. Nicholson. Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Ranikhet, Permanent Black, (2010), 2011. p. 20