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An Indian milieu

Rajiv 55 / 400  
Oct 26, 2009   #1
The change coming over the world at present is the common drift towards understanding ' how things work '. This is the heart of Western thinking. Nothing wrong about this, but it does not address the question 'who are we ', closely linked to the 'fact' of our impermanant human existence. Perhaps it is necessary to not ignore either, because when we do not pay attention to ' how things work ', we could go to an extreme of not concerning ourselves at all with our own conditions, nor of those depending upon us. Questions such as 'who are we ' have a very different meaning when a Western person asks it, than as an Easterner would. The Indian has in a sense, the quest of his Self made easy by having this path laid out for him in easily identifiable books. His task is to see how he measures up to those ideas.

We are a strange mix. We are neither purely Indian nor Western. We are instead Indians influenced by Western thinking. So how Indian are we and how American, or English ? We will not want our country's culture to be denied a place in the world, but are not so sure about our philosophy. In India our culture has grown upon our philosophy, and it is that which later came to be called Spirituality. The distinctions as we make them now, may not have existed before a point in time. And how deep did this Western influence go? There is still a part in us it did not touch, because that is a space which does not even exist in the western mind. In ours it was tilled and planted, but did not thrive.

People turn away from spirituality when they find some conflict in it with a common sense approach to life. Or they accept it as relevant but seperate. Yet, in the past of India, knowledge of the world and ourself was continous. As we accepted another approach, we unwittingly gave up fundamentals expressed only in our native languages. 'Were they so relevant?' you ask, and when you try reaching for those ideas, they slip from your grasp.

I am drifting into another world and I don't wish to do more than keep describing it. The world is none other than the one from our ancient past and you might challenge if I actually have a better sense of it as I claim. As I see it, you probably have a very strong sense of it yourself, but do not say it out loud - so we can go with my attempt to describe how I am seeing and understanding , you can agree or just shake your head. Like I said earlier, it is simpler for us as Indians, this exploration of 'who we are', though some ask, why is this such an exalted question? Could there not be other more pertinent ones, 'what's our purpose here in this life?' or, 'what can we do to make it better?'

Imagine that if we're flowing down a stream, we have one picture of the things we see. Next when we stand aside on the bank, we see the stream flowing by and our own little boat, that we were in, also drifting along. The boat is our body including all its abilities, with its senses, but for now we'll seperate out other functions we otherwise attribute to it, primarily of thinking. Question is, what is the bank here? What is that stable ground that does not itself flow, and that we may perch ourselves upon.

You've heard this from others before, likely even read on this subject I am writing about, and I admit, I am daunted by your cynicism. You might be sitting there in judgement and I ask myself, why am I trying to speak with you? And this is the answer I get. That, provided I am convinced in the integrity of whatever I say here, and even then you hold back, then thats for reasons of your own. So this is where we are, in our boat, about to step off and wade up to the bank. We've been sitting in the boat so long, a little helpless because we are controlled, to some extent atleast, by the current. Oh yes, we can do something ourselves to make the boat move around a bit, but essentially we're accepting the nature of the things we find ourselves in.

Are you beginning to see what I am trying to do? I am saying that this analogy of ourselves in a boat, the river and the bank covers the three entities pretty well of ourselves, our world and that eternal, permanant truth we may wish to go over to. The good thing is that even when we go over to the bank, we will be able to see our boat and can even walk along. There are other boats tied to yours, those of your family and dependents and everything moves along. Boats get old and break apart and sink, and you know thats going to be the fate of your boat eventually. So you want to come over to the dry land before that happens and you wish that for everyone you want to see safe.

I will go over something of which, I was atleast a little confused. I hope it brings clarity to you as well. I said we were going to step out of our boat and wade up to the shore. The boat is our body and its senses. We try and reach through the water, represented in our analogy as the world. We're going to shut our senses, by sitting down and closing our eyes and disregarding inputs such as sounds, any conciousness we have of smells or lingering of tastes and sensations of contact. All of this is represented as the boat for us. Now having done this, we are aware of the world still. It isn't just a memory of the things around which persists in our minds, it is something more definite.

The pressure you feel as you try to maintain this composure of observation, are currents, consequences of actions you've done, and will probably push you in the direction you want to go. My attempt, if I were you, would be to deal with them in a manner which causes the least ripples, because now I am interested in seeing down to the bed of the river.

So as I peer over the side of my boat, attempting to see into the waters, to the river bed. I sit in silence and ignoring my senses, try to 'see' what else I may. You wonder how much may you discover by closing your eyes and looking only within. But, hopefully you are able to recognize that as you close your eyes, move towards a point within, you sharpen your intensity to observe, and everything is outside.

Let me say it again that it helps me a lot to know someone is following along ---

You've may have read of this before - and wonder what can affect your thoughts now that all else before hasn't. Reality isn't about hard objects and scientific facts alone. Things we sense, like seeing, touching, tend to cloud our 'seeing' other real things. Consider just the physical presence of things, how significant are they to your life? No more than the music you might hear playing at some corner as you walk by.What is then significant? Events of your life, and those you exercise influence upon.

The reading of this passage will be followed by another from amongst those you chose. After that, anything 'you bring into reality', itself pressed upon you that it be done. Looking at things not as they appear but as a playing out, we understand why statistics and the likelihood of events is an averaging, ignoring this continuum of the individual and his unique events.

Tell me this much ... I hope reading this is coming down as positive for you and not otherwise?

Time and again I've looked at the philosophical issue from one particular point of view, I think because it comes naturally. We make an effort to 'understand' by moving away from ourselves, but in that unconscious action we intrinsically accept our senses as the 'given' and an objective basis of our observations. What is understanding, but a looking at, and grasping, within our mind? When we close our eyes, we prefer to take the blackness as real, putting a veil over all else we are connected to in the world.

Indian philosophy says we should be aware of four layers in any experience, each subtler than the one before and providing the basis for it. The world persists whether we want it to or not, because finally, we are the only ones experiencing our existence, and our experience is inescapable. When it is over with, the next experience takes our life on a different path.

These layers are described as : specific - general - indicative - conceptual. This is the sum total of everything we experience, whatever the sense we make of them.

So at any time, you can look upon your world, and think of it as some spherical 3-dimensional globe constructed just for you, and around you. The components of your experience, the pain, the pleasantness, though varying, is brought up for you, much like the medication the pharmacist mixes for you.This becomes easier to understand when we can bring ourselves to one single point, the one we think of as ourselves. The nature of our bodies, its condition is part of the prescription. All its travails were as prescribed.At the next level are the circumstances. They have a certain sense of being just so for us. And as much as we can, we move them on, and it feels for the better mostly.

Our bodies and our circumstances encompass the four levels of our experience. The prescribed one.The world is, down to its objective content, experienced at the finest level as 'concept'. We do not come to know this world through our senses alone, but if defective, the input is affected and only as much as we come to know, 'came through'.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Nov 7, 2009   #2
For me it comes down to this.

Its all a little simpler to understand, by taking it in two stages. Leaving out the later marvels of technology as a second stage, the first can be considered as a manipulation of the elements .. the machines, the everyday used objects, even the various concoctions we eat and drink. This stage is characterised by being easily understood; even so because it has been around long enough that there are good descriptions of the workings of these things, and these descriptions have become the subjects for study in schools and colleges as introductions to science and engineering.

The second stage comes into a perspective by this division itself. These subjects have some mystery for many reasons.. neuro-biology, nano-technology and the like. Is it their complexity lending them an air of wonder, or the not so easy accessibility of the latest knowledge to us.. something that will always be the case with the leading edge of research? Isn't it this sense of mystery which we translate as some wonderous power, and equate with the unknown and powerful beyond ourselves? And further conjecture of the world gradually relinquishing its mysteries in this fashion it has till now?

On the other hand, I look at my senses. I can identify too the states of my mind, and tell of thoughts which occur to me. Having reached there, I can either go with the flow of things, or acting on some thought, I change the course of events in a limited way. Only when I speak or write them, can these thoughts be associated with me. But were they manufactured in my mind or did I recieve them ?
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Nov 9, 2009   #3
I think this sentence may need to be changed...could go to an extreme of failing to attend to our own conditions or the conditions of those depending on us.

Maybe a dash here:
So how Indian are we -- and how American, or English?

The two halves of a compound sentence should be separated by a comma:
I am drifting into another world, and I don't wish...

Good question at the end! All of this is based on a notion that is close to my heart: the notion that consciousness could be more fundamental than matter, something I think you and I discussed a few months ago. You and I are kindred spirits, I think.

Westerners assume that matter existed and somehow came to life, so they think experience ends upon death. But consciousness obviously exists, and it could be having a dream. It makes more sense to me.


Why do we need to focus on east west differences, though? Maybe there is a better focus!
jbhatia325 1 / 1  
Nov 9, 2009   #4
you have a great opening and closing but it did get a little long and drawn out through the main portion of the essay. however, it was well-written and saturated with good vocabulary. although this may seem good, its not always the best idea to fill your essay with big words because for all the admissions officer whos reading your essay knows, you may have just used a thesaurus and changed words to make yourself sound smarter. overall, good essay but lengthy.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Nov 12, 2009   #5
You ask, why do we need to focus on east west differences, though? Maybe there is a better focus!

So -- let's imagine a scenario; the one which seems so much of a favourite amongst people these days. Of being invaded by aliens, not necessarily more intelligent than ourselves. Let us see how that plays out.

We think of them, not necessarily, as mishapen and slimy, with antennas, bloated heads and generally repulsive. Maybe quite like us -- maybe just their skins a kind of translucent kind, and their hair, similar, but again more glass-like. For whatever reason, maybe because of their wider intergalactial travels, their experience is more universal, in the sense we refer to in a seasoned person, as being worldly.

Their initial groups are met with welcome, for we have so long been wondering about 'intelligence' out there. Being alike us in more ways than different, we are easily able to accomodate them -- giving them a place to live in; our foods, cooked differently are still somehow generically similar to the kinds they are used to. Clothes too, though designed in their own fashion and style, have been made from the same materials we use here on earth. Yes, language is a bit of a problem, but in our euphoric state we give them much latitude, going through great pains understanding words from theirs and helping them learn the rudiments of ours.

Soon enough a commerce begins, more of a trade since their is no common denominator to our currencies. Some of them head back to the outer regions of space, that their ships alone are capable of going to. And others from there, arrive here. We expect that in the land where they come from, others are getting news about the people on earth, and some taste of the customs we follow. As it turns out, the extent of our technology is not enough to independently go to their land, wherever that is, so the traffic is more earthwards. A stream of these foreign beings starts arriving into our land. We are still excited, as much as before, since they have so much enthusiasm and interest in our quaint earthly ways. The way we move around, in our cars and planes. The ways in which we seek entertainment, on television and movies and theaters. And ofcourse our games in large stadiums and our rituals and beer-fests.

It isn't long before there are so many of these foreigners, that they are becoming almost a noticable kind of their own, in public and generally around. They have though held on to their own language, and we were able to learn very little of that. It is ofcourse the very unique color of their skin and hair, and the fact that they come from outer space, that we think of them as not inferior to us. Instead more as an opportunity for mankind on earth, to think in real terms, what people from the outer reaches of space, look and behave like.

They have an edge over us though, something only they are better aware of. Their edge being in just the fact that we havn't learnt their language anywhere as well as they speak it amongst themselves, and this keeps them together as a group apart. Then there are their ships - they have used some engineering totally outside of our domain of knowledge, and even though they are very willing to share that with us, we don't want to start learning from altogether new paradigms; something which seem necessary to understand their unique ways of thinking. And lastly of course, it is the color of their skin and their hair.

Strange that in only so much, the differences between this other intelligent life, and us lies. Strange that from only this much, so much more can follow.

Did they perhaps reach back to their own intellectual circles, and in ways we could not comprehend, decide to widen the influence of their own kinds on our land? It seems when looked at now that it surely must have been so. Why should not any people wish to continue their own way of life where ever else they may start to live? Why should they not simply look for ways to undermine those things we have always done here, and replace them with their own? Finally, it dawns to some on both sides, that there is a conflict in the styles of the ways the two people live as societies. Though ofcourse, having much less knowledge of their society, we are at a disadvantage, and when they through trial and error ultimately come up with a plan to subvert our governments, we are blissfully unaware how serious the threat is.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Nov 13, 2009   #6
becoming almost a noticable kind of their own, in public and generally around.

Do you mean almost an accepted earth ethnicity?

What the heck is all this?! Ha ha, at first I thought, oh, I had better not spend time on this today because there is a lot of work to do, but then I was intrigued and had to read it a second time. I think part of your metaphor escapes me!
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Nov 16, 2009   #7
A similie actually, referring to the colonization of India..

Imagine now, another natural event, like a earthquake or thunderstorm. Two trees of different species, standing close to each other and one leans over onto the other. Nothing around to interfere with this natural happening. In time the sky clears, leaving the trees positioned like this, one weighing down the other.

In the passing years we can see their growths are different, than if this event had not occured at all. The tree on top reaching into the branches of the one below, almost smothering it. But even more, the branches of the upper tree coaxing the ones underneath to follow their own growth. There is common-ness in the way living things grow, and in fact, if the tree below does not metamorphize into the species engulfing it, its own nature is certainly compromised.

Imagine another event now, similar to the one above, but of opposite consequence. The upper tree straightens and rights itself, freeing the one underneath. The branches of each, specially of the one beneath, slowly start to recover their initial form. Were someone to look up at them at this point though, he could tell seeing their disfigurement, that something of this sort had transpired in their past.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Nov 18, 2009   #8
I am probably interpreting the symbolism in a slightly different way than I am supposed to, but... I think it is significant that the natural tendency is to keep growing up toward the sun. When enough time passes, everything will decompose and grow up to the sun.

Making distinctions reduces flexibility; without identity, there is nothing to oppress. No self, no problem. that is what I think while reading this. Maybe I am confused, though!
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Nov 19, 2009   #9
I am trying to look at the sociological phenomenon of colonization as a process, similar to another kind we might see in nature.

When one species of a plant overcomes another, how does the stronger species influence the other's growth ? It is more than by only stultifying its growth, and taking over its space and soil; it must affect the growth even more directly, feeding directly on its stems, cross-pollenating it, etc...

Subsequently, if the invader is somehow dislodged, a signal that the victim has regained its constitutional strength, what is the path of recovery then? I resist thinking of colonization as a disease and this a recovery from that, because in the case of disease, the invading bodies bring nothing to their victim. Colonization on the other hand did bring something to the nations they overran. A capacity to cope with the times -- by bringing their infratructure in line with their own, transfer of technical knowledge, and in some other such ways.

But these learnings and similar things are assimilated only if the inherent spirit of the oppressed plant, or the people, has recovered. Close to that spirit are things we consider as cultural... traditions formed along the way. But these can still not be considered as what we are talking about. The spirit is a very inherent way of thinking and beliefs.

Here is the heart of each people, and is diverse like so many varieties of flowers and fruits. And this difference is best kept pure and apart for the beauty and enjoyment of all humanity.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Nov 21, 2009   #10
Well said! The comparison with plants is very poetic, but I wonder if you might be comparing apples and oranges. Maybe culture cannot be compared to plant life, because plant life is wholly natural, whereas culture/country is all artificial. If you ignore the contrived labels that separate one people from another, you just see individuals doing things. I don't really know what else to think about it right now.

To compare a country to a plant is like comparing a corporation to a ... well, plant, I guess.

OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Nov 29, 2009   #11
Thanks for reading along Kevin. I won't labor this line of thinking too much for now !!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 1, 2009   #12
Ha ha, yes, for now help me correct some of these essays! I'm having trouble keeping up. :-)

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