Pseudoscience & Religion

The Great Hero Who Conquered Karma

This is Part – VI of Dr. Kamath’s series on Heretics, Rebels and Revolutionaries. Read Part V here.

The sixth Samurai in our list of seven, who rejected and repudiated Brahmanism, and reacted against it in the post-Vedic period (1000-500 B. C.), was born as a prince in what is today Bihar, India, in the year 599 B. C. His name was Vardhamana. Like thousands of other disgusted Kshatriyas, when he grew up, he gave up his princely prerogatives and became an ascetic. He embraced Jainism, then an amorphous sect that had arisen several centuries earlier in response to the horror of animal sacrifices emblematic of decaying Brahmanism. Swami Vivekananda explained how Jain moral principles saved Indian society from further degradation:

“What could have saved Indian society from the ponderous burden of omniferous ritualistic ceremonialism, with its animal and other sacrifices, which all but crushed the very life of it, except the Jain revolution which took its strong stand exclusively on chaste morals and philosophical truths? Jains were the first great ascetics and they did some great work. ‘Don’t injure any and do good to all that you can, and that is all the morality and ethics, and that is all the work there is, and the rest is all nonsense-the Brahmins created that. Throw it all away.’ And then they went to work and elaborated this one principle all through, and it is most wonderful ideal: how all that we call ethics they simply bring out from that one great principle of non-injury and doing good.” (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 3)

Not Knotted Great Hero

Vardhamana’s followers bestowed on him the title “Mahavira,” Great Hero, in recognition of his conquest of the six enemies of mankind (Shadvairies). These evils were Kama (lust), Krodha (rage), Mada (hubris), Moha (delusion), Matsarya (jealousy/envy) and Lobha (greed). Anti-Brahmanic Upanishadists declared that these six evils arose from the Brahmanism’s doctrine of the Gunas of Prakriti, and they tainted one’s deeds and promoted Samsara as per the Law of Karma. He was also known as Nirganta -the one who was “not knotted” (entangled) with sense objects such as wealth, power, people and heaven. As we read elsewhere, the primary preoccupation of Brahmanism was to gain these sense objects by means of desire-driven animal sacrifices. He has been credited with collecting the age-old disparate tenets of Jainism and systematically organizing them. Jainism as a distinct sect with its clear-cut set of principles began with Mahavira. Jains consider him as the last of their 24 Thirthankaras (“ford makers”).

vardhamana

Self-purification

Jainism was one of many lotuses, which blossomed in the cesspool of Brahmanism. The word Jain is cognate with Jina, to conquer. The conquest Jains referred to was that of their inner demons. By making this their main goal, Jains were merely setting themselves up as examples of rectitude for corrupt Brahmins and Kshatriyas to follow. It is not the purpose of this article to elaborate on Jainism, but to explain how its basic tenets developed in response to decadence of Brahmanism; and the role Mahavira played in making it a sect distinct from Brahmanism. By and by we will also examine the relevance of its ideals in the modern world.

Upanishadism And Jainism

Jainism has much in common with Upanishadism. They both arose around the same time (900-800 B. C.) in reaction to decadence of Brahmanism. Whereas Brahmanism swallowed up Upanishadism, Jainism managed to stay distinct from it. Jainism did not believe in Brahman or any other super-divinity, such as those of later Hinduism -Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. So it is essentially an atheistic or, at least, agnostic Dharma. Both Upanishadism and Jainism abhorred Samsara, the unending cycle of birth and death. They both made it their goal to break away from it as a rocket circling the earth would from its gravity. Their ultimate goal was to attain Nirvana (final exit). Both claimed that if one acted without Dwandwam (like and dislike, pleasure and pain, gain and loss), one would not gain any Karmaphalam in action.

Mahavira’s Approach To The Problem Of Brahmanism

Mahavira did not confront decadent Brahmanism head-on; nor did he attempt to reform Brahmanic Dharma. Instead he attempted to purify himself first and then reform Jainism. He recommended his followers to behave in such a way that one could see them as distinct from the corrupt Brahmins and Kshatriyas steeped in Kamya Karma. In other words, Jain reaction to the evil of decadent Brahmanism was mostly one of self-purification, withdrawal and noncooperation. This was in stark contrast to frontal attacks materialist Ajita Keshakambalin indulged in against Brahmanism. Gandhi, in our own times, applied Jain principles for both inner conquest and outer conquest. He dealt with his own inner demons, and those of Hinduism through acts of self-purification, and dealt with the evil of British rule through noncooperation and militant nonviolence.

In the course of time Hinduism, which arose from the ashes of Brahmanism, incorporated many Jain principles into the body of its literature. However, when Brahmanism infiltrated Hinduism like a virus, Hinduism paid only lip service to them. Today’s Hinduism is nothing but slightly disguised decadent Brahmanism.

Basic Tenets Of Jainism

The period during which Jainism evolved was such that intellectuals viewed the world as a miserable place and they could not wait till they got away from it. Jainism is a life-negating system, which preached renunciation of materials and activities to gain them. Jainism is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Lokayata, which is a life-affirming system, which believed in enjoying life to the fullest extent.

Development Of Basic Tenets

Three gems (Ratnatraya) on which Jainism rests are: Right faith (vision or perception), right knowledge and right conduct. Five pillars resting on this foundation are: Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (Truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmancharya (celibacy) and Aparigraha (non-attachment to sense objects).

1. Ahimsa (Nonviolence): The outstanding tenet of Jainism is Ahimsa -nonviolence. Jains adopted this principle in reaction to the horror of rampant animal sacrifices associated with Kamya Karma (desire-driven Yajnas). These corrupted Yajnas were based on abuse of the Law of Karma.

It should be noted here that the principle of Ahimsa not only opposed physical violence against living things, but it also forbade psychological violence against anyone, including people whose views Jainism strongly opposed. Instead Mahavira put forward principles, which were clearly opposed of those of decadent Brahmanism, but stated in a way as not to hurt Brahmanism’s sentiments. Because of this, Brahmanism did not perceive it as a serious threat. So, it is the only ancient Indian religion that has survived more or less intact to this day in India. As we read elsewhere, Brahmanism managed to overcome all other dissident Dharmas of ancient India by hook or by crook. It swallowed up Upanishadism, cloaked itself with Bhagavatism, ostracized and banished Buddhism, destroyed Lokayata, and hastened the death of Ajivika.

2. Satya (Truthfulness): Jain’s emphasis on the need for truthfulness must have arisen from the widespread perception among the intellectuals of the time that Brahmins were indulging in much deceit in deluding people with their theory of Kamya Karma. Brahmins kept making false promises to people that performing Kamya Karma would increase their prestige in this life, fulfill their desires for wealth and power in their next life, and open the door to heaven after death. Upanishads labeled these Brahmins as fools who merely perpetuated Samsara:

Mundaka Up: 1:2: 7-8: But frail, in truth, are those boats, the sacrifices, the eighteen (Brahmanas), in which this lower ceremonial has been told. Fools, who praise this as the highest good, are subject again and again to old age and death. Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit, and puffed up with vain knowledge (of the Vedas and Brahmanas), go round and round staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind (also Katha Up: 2:1:5; BG: 2:42).

Mahavira never called Brahmins liars; instead he simply said one must always be truthful. Surprisingly, 2500 years later Brahmins are still inducing people to perform various rituals including Yajnas by making the same false promises.

3. Asteya (Non-stealing): This tenet of Jainism certainly arose from the fact that, Jains, like Upanishadists, considered performers of Kamya Karma as thieves who stole Karmaphalam from gods as explained in the Upanishadic Gita:

BG: 3:12-13: A thief verily is he who enjoys what is given by the gods without returning them anything. The good that eat the remains of Yajna are freed from all sins. But the sinful ones who cook food only for themselves, they verily eat sin.

Applied in everyday life, this meant one should not steal things, which one did not earn with the sweat of his brow.

4. Aparigraha (Non-possession): This tenet of Jainism was created to counter desire for sense objects such as wealth, land, power, and heaven characteristic of the upper classes of Brahmanism. Upanishadists condemned them in no uncertain terms in the Upanishadic Gita:

BG: 2:42-43: Delighting in the flowery words disputing about the Vedas, these ignorant and desire-ridden people say that there is nothing other than this (Kamya Karma). Holding the view that the purpose of birth and its activities is gaining pleasure and lordship here on earth and heaven hereafter, they speak of specific sacrificial rites.

5. Brahmancharya (celibacy): This was the ultimate expression of renunciation of all worldly pleasures.

The Concept Of Nirjara: Shedding Of Karma

Just as Upanishadists developed Yoga (Sanyasa and Tyaga) to amortize accumulated Karma, Jains developed the concept of Nirjara. Jains believed that one could overcome one’s Karma by shedding it in two ways: Passive (Savipaka) and Active (Avipaka). Passive way was to just suffer through life’s vicissitudes with stoic patience and equanimity (BG: 2:14). This approach takes a long time to amortize Karmaphalam. Active way was to practice meditation, internal and external austerities (Tapas) and perform activities for social good without Dwandwam (gain or loss) (BG: 2:15), which cancel-out the Karmaphalam faster.

Brahmins Corrupt Jainism

Mahavira preached his philosophy to the people of Bihar and went about gaining supporters for his sect. At the height of his fame, he had 400,000 committed followers. After his death, Brahmins infiltrated Jainism just as they did Buddhism, and thoroughly corrupted it by introducing idolatry, mindless rituals such a Poojas and Abhishekas (ritual baths) of idols, various divinities such as Yaksha and Yakshi, heavens and hells, lavish marble temples, Mantras, and other typically Brahmanic shenanigans into its corpus. In fact, some Hindu temples now have statues of Mahavira reflecting the fact that many Hindus see no distinction between these two creeds.

In the course of time disagreements (um!) ensued and Jainism divided into two major sub-sects: Shvetambara (white-clad) and Digambara (naked). Regardless Jainism has survived to this day as a minor, but very influential, Dharma of India, substantially distinct from Hinduism.

Brahmanism Responds By Creating Arjuna Vishada

About three hundred year after Mahavira’s death, when Kshatriyas were abandoning Brahmanism left, right and center to join Jainism and Buddhism, Brahmins created the Original Gita titled Arjuna Vishada to prevent further exodus of Kshatriyas. Using Ashoka the Great as the model of renegade Kshatriya who had allegedly fallen prey to his Ahamkara (egoism), they pleaded with Kshatriyas not to abandon their Dharma. At first, Brahmins tried to scare Kshatriyas that if they abandoned Brahmanism they would go to hell:

3:35: One’s own Dharma, though imperfect (due to its corrupt practices), is better than the Dharma of another (Jainism and Buddhism) well discharged. Better death in one’s own Dharma (because performing it you will go to heaven, 2:37). (Death in) the Dharma of another is full of fear (of going to hell).

Why would one go to hell if one died while practicing another’s Dharma? Well, that is because Brahmanism considered it a sin to abandon Varna Dharma (2:33). Besides, becoming a monk would lead to women of the family becoming unchaste. This could lead to admixture of Varna (Varnasankara) due to their bearing children from men of lower class. Children of such families would fail to practice ancient traditions and rituals to appease the souls of ancestors. Thus people who destroyed families went straight to hell (BG: 1:40-44).

Later on when even some Brahmins began to abandon it, Brahmins defended their corrupt practices by means of another perverted reasoning:

18:47-48: Better one’s own Dharma, though imperfect, than the Dharma of another well performed. He who does the duty (such as a Kshatriya killing his relative and friends, and Brahmins sacrificing animals at Yajna) ordained by his own nature (Guna) incurs no sin (bad Karmaphalam). One should not abandon the duty to which one is born though it is attended with evil (such as sacrificing animals); for, all undertakings are enveloped by evil, as fire by smoke.

Their argument was that a Brahmin need not worry about incurring sin for sacrificing animals at Yajna any more than a Kshatriya incurring sin for killing his relatives and friends on the battlefield. Both these actions are sanctioned by the Constitution (Brahmanism). Surprisingly, most Hindus take these statements on face value without critical analysis. All undertakings are not enveloped by evil.

Upanishadism Responds

In the Upanishadic Gita, which was created a few decades after Arjuna Vishada, Upanishadists criticized Jain and Buddhist monks while introducing Karmayoga (selfless Karma).

3:4: Man does not escape from gaining Karma(phalam) merely by abstaining from performing Karma (to gain sense objects); nor does he rise to perfection by mere renunciation (of sense objects).

Upanishadists told Kshatriyas to give up Kamya Karma, but not become inactive like the monks of Jainism and Buddhism:

2:47: Your entitlement is only to perform Yajna and never to its fruits (for they belong to the Devas). Never become the cause of Karmaphalam (in anything you do). But do not become inactive (like the monks of Jainism and Buddhism) either.

Furthermore, they advised Kshatriyas that after they gave up Kamya Karma, they must take up public service like king Janaka did (BG: 3:19-21). What they did not reveal to them was that the idea of Karmayoga was borrowed from the Buddha himself. The Buddha (5th century B. C.) told Kshatriyas that instead of wasting their energy on fruitless Yajnas, they should invest it for the welfare of people (Digha Nikaya 5: Kutadantha Sutta: 1: 134-36). Ashoka the Great (3rd century B. C.) who embraced Buddhism followed this advice to the fullest extent. Upanishadists introduced Karmayoga into the Original Gita to reform Kshatriyas several decades after Ashoka’s death. In the Gita, King Janaka was merely a surrogate for king Ashoka.

Nevertheless, Upanishadists recognized the merit in all Jain principles and endorsed without reservation:

13:7-9: Humility, modesty, nonviolence, tolerance, uprightness, service of the teacher, purity, steadfastness, self-control, dispassion toward the sense objects, absence of egoism, perception of evil in birth, sickness, pain, old age and death, detachment from people and materials, equanimity in the face of vicissitudes of life.

Bhagavatism Unreservedly Endorses Jain Principles

The goal of Bhagavatas was to completely overthrow the divisive Brahmanism and build a broad-based Dharma, centered on Krishna. Bhagavatism incorporated the principles of all heterodox Dharmas in the Bhagavata Gita with the exception of Lokayata. They exhorted people to abandon all Dharmas of the land and embrace Bhagavatism (18:66). They even declared that the Siddhas, Jainism’s liberated souls, sang praises of Krishna (11:21). With the view of incorporating Jain principles into Bhagavatism, Bhagavatas endorsed all their principles without reservation in the Bhagavata Gita:

16:2: Nonviolence, truth, absence of anger, renunciation, serenity, absence of calumny, compassion to beings, not coveting, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, absence of hatred, absence of pride, these belong to one born for a divine state.

Gandhi And Jainism

Jains never attempted to wield their principles to reform Brahmanism or gain political clout. Historians tell us that Chandragupta Maurya (ruled 320-298 B. C.), grandfather of Ashoka the Great, became a Jain monk and starved himself to death at Sramana Belagola in Karnataka. Over the centuries, some petty kings all over India patronized them by building wonderful Jain temples. Through this all, the goal of Jainism remained inner conquest.

2500 years went by before Mohandas Gandhi actively applied Jain principles not only for inner conquest but also for outer conquest. Gandhi said that whenever one sees evil and injustice around him, one must not withdraw from it but to confront it. However, one must fight with purity of heart and nonviolent means. He said that the real battles are fought in the hearts of men and not on the battlefields. One must first conquer enemies within before attempting to conquer enemies without. By combining Jain’s ‘thou shall not kill’ principle with Jesus’ ‘show him the other cheek’ philosophy, Gandhi developed Satyagraha (Nonviolent insistence on Truth, a. k. a. militant nonviolence) to fight the evil of British rule of India. If Mahavira was the first historically known person to popularize the principles of nonviolence and truth in the sphere of one’s personal life, Gandhi was the first person to practice them in the social, religious and political spheres.

Gandhi Paid Lip Service To Hinduism

Even though Gandhi was born a Hindu, he paid only lip service to Hinduism. He claimed that the Gita was “my mother,” extolled “Rama Rajya” (rule of Rama) as the ideal, and had his followers sing “Vaishnava janato tene kahiye” in his public meetings. To be fair to all religions of India, he also read Koran, Bible and Granth Sahib in his public meetings. All these were political necessities. The reality is that Gandhi rejected just about every single practice of Hinduism: Worship of multiple gods, idolatry, blind faith, ostentatious Yajnas, mindless rituals such as Poojas, caste system, untouchability, astrology, superstitions, intolerance and hatred for non-Indian Faiths for real or imaginary past transgressions, violence against dissidents, and hoards of other stupid beliefs and practices Hindus cling to.

Gandhi Practiced Jainism

Gandhi seriously practiced almost all principles of Jainism in his everyday life: Nonviolence, truth (“the only god I know is Truth”), non-possession, celibacy, penance, prayer, meditation, selfless action, vegetarianism, respect for all Faiths, fasting for self-purification, wearing only white clothes (being a Shvetambara) but leaving half of his body naked (being a Digambara), observing silence (like a Jain Muni), frugality, being self-reliant by weaving his own clothes and cutting his own hair (like a Sramana), and the like. Even the song “Vaishnava janato” mainly enunciated Jain principles.

Gandhi Attempts To Reform Hindus

Gandhi applied the Jain principle of equality of all people to point out to Hindus the monumental stupidity of untouchability. In the face of severe criticism from Brahmanic lobby, he took the so-called untouchables into his Ashram. He renamed them Harijans, meaning children of god. He wrote innumerable articles in his newspaper titled Harijan deploring untouchability and other nonsense afflicting Hinduism. He tolerated his detractors with equanimity typical of Jainism. In his articles, he staunchly defended his views without being defensive.

Gandhi observed prolonged fasting several times to stop Hindu-Muslim riots and to awaken the conscience of both Hindus and Muslims. He claimed that he was not blackmailing them with fasting. His reasoning was that they both rejected his advice to co-exist peacefully because they must have seen some impurities in him. He was fasting only to get rid of those impurities within himself, and to assert his earnestness.

Satyagraha Against The British

In his struggle against the British rule, the weapon he used was known as Satyagraha (Nonviolent insistence on Truth). This method consisted of confronting the British with the Truth that their occupation and rule of India was inherently evil and immoral, and against the basic principles of their own Dharma. In other words he provoked them with militant nonviolence and challenged them to inflict violence on him for his defiance. He gladly suffered the punishment they gave him as the price he had to pay for insisting on his Truth. There was nothing passive about his brand of nonviolence. In the end the British could not face the shame of their occupation of India and hypocrisy of their noble intentions. So they left India with grace and without bitterness, and offered Indians a hand for lasting friendship.

ghandi

Predictably, Gandhi’s death came not in the hands of the hypocritical British, but at the bloody hands of pusillanimous Brahmins. They murdered him in cold blood because their retarded minds mistook his tolerance and respect for Islam for hatred for Hinduism. They just could not comprehend his argument that in a democracy the moral concern of the majority should be to protect and promote the welfare of the minority.

Within two decades after Gandhi’s death, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the U. S. A. applied Gandhi’s principles of militant nonviolence and self-suffering to win equal civil rights for millions of African Americans. A narrow-minded conservative goon, perhaps hand in glove with other like-minded thugs, murdered him too. But his death was not in vain. Exactly forty years after his death, a black man became the president of the United States of America.

In the 90s Nelson Mandela liberated millions of his fellow citizens from the bane of apartheid through mostly nonviolent means and self-suffering. He served 27 years of imprisonment. In the end, he succeeded in incorporating the white minority into his government, which served the interest of all citizens on equal terms. Once again, Jain principles of nonviolence triumphed.

The question is whether Gandhi’s Satyagraha would have worked if his adversary were Adolph Hitler instead of Winston Churchill. I can say without any hesitation that Hitler would have obliged Gandhi with gas chamber without batting his eyelids. For Satyagraha to work, the adversary must have some decency, nobility and conscience in his heart.

Applying Jain Principles In Everyday Life In India

We must admit that in the modern India Jain principles of nonviolence, truth, non-possessiveness and the like are ideals few people could practice except in such superficial rituals as vegetarianism and weekly fasting. Many members of the Jain community are successful and very rich businessmen and entrepreneurs. In India where corruption is all-pervading (like the Upanishadic divinity Brahman!), it is mighty hard to conduct business honestly, amass wealth without cheating, and enjoy life without flagrantly violating most Jain principles. Principles of Jainism and the lifestyle of most Jains in the corrupt atmosphere of modern India must certainly be at odds with each other.

Application In Twenty First Century India

The question is whether Jain principles as applied by Gandhi in the mid-twentieth century are relevant to social action in the twenty first century. Properly applied they are, but with a few caveats. Two conditions need to be met: First, the activist must reform himself before attempting to reform others. This is easier said than done. Even for a well-motivated activist that might take many years of contemplation, introspection and practice. Second, Satyagraha works only when the adversary has a conscience and respect for human life and the Constitution. In a country ruled by unscrupulous politicians, corrupt bureaucrats, criminal-minded police and dishonest judges, the practice of Satyagraha could be very dangerous. The reality is that in India today these are the very people who perpetrate most social injustice by commission or omission. When threatened, they could inflict serious physical injury to the activist and even get away with murder. Let me share with the reader my own experience when I organized a consumer movement based on Satyagraha principles thirty years ago.

A Satyagraha Experiment In India

Thirty years ago, after studying the fundamental principles of Satyagraha for several years, and strictly practicing a set of codes of conduct in my personal life, I spent 18 months in India diligently applying these principles in my work as consumer advocate. I was surprised how effective these principles were in mobilizing public opinion and support against gross corruption in every single local government office. As the organization became popular and stronger, however, it created serious threat to bureaucrats and police. Soon a team of four police officials, without a grain of humanity or respect for human life and Law, descended on me and warned me that they could get rid of me “just like that,” and there was not a damn thing anyone could do about it. They told me that they were fully protected by their bosses and the government machinery. Regardless, I continued my work for another year knowing that if something happened to me my wife and two little children would be literally homeless. One of the lessons I learned from this experiment was: In fighting corruption in India, Satyagraha theory is valid, but it accomplishes little; its practice could accomplish a lot, but it could be darn dangerous!

(To be continued)

Read Dr. Kamath’s series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita here.

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.

About the author

Prabhakar Kamath

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.

Links to all articles in Dr. Kamath's earlier series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries can be found here. Dr. Kamath' series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.

16 Comments

  • Dear Mr. Kamath,
    I have been an avid reader of your series on Bhagavad Gita (BG) and on Indian heretics. I heartily applaud your efforts in dispelling superstition and your criticism of organized Hindu religion.While I do appreciate the value of the historical analysis of Jainism which you have done with a great deal of elaboration, in my opinion blame for the failure of both Jainism and Buddhism in countering Brahminism cannot be solely laid at the door or Brahminical diabolism or conspiracy alone. By their extreme idealism and obsession with asceticism and pathological concepts of moral purity, these were in effect digging their own grave in terms of sustaining social approval and acceptability. In a sense these 2 religions do endorse the vedic and brahminical dogmas of trans-migratory souls, reincarnation and release from the physical domain of life. The disagreement with Vedic Hinduism was over the path or routes to those grand mystical goals. Why these rivals of Hinduism lost their war with their nemesis was the path that they advocated was too severe and exacting for an inherently materialistic man and society of those times. Brahminical religious innovations while in the true sense being hypocritical and self-serving political strategies, at the same time provided the elites and masses the impression of eating the cake of material joys yet having the cake of spiritual solace at the same time.Hopefully we are embarking on a age where materialists are better armed and fortified in dealing with religious and spiritual sophists.You may notice that many modern skeptics and atheists are reinventing themselves as naturalists, secular humanists and other such attractive labels that helps in countering propaganda from sophisticated religionists

    • Mr. Ranganath,

      You cannot have the cake and eat it too. Either you preach Morality or you dont. There is no “Beech ka rasta” like Hindus say. That will be hypocrisy.

      I am sorry how different is Hitler from Modern day practising Hindus who while preach morality practise Capitalism that would send even the worst capitalist in western countries to shame.

      You are either Good or you are Bad. You cannot be BOTH at the same time.

      Buddhism and Jainism while being Noble religions fell in India because Indians decided to be just that – Hypocritical.

      Oh and BTW, Buddhism is growing in the west dramatically and it is already established in Asia. Brahmanism/Hinduism as we all know – Nobody cares about it.

  • Hi Mr. Ranganath, I agree with your observation about Brahmanism catering to everyone’s desire to have their “spiritual” cake and eat their material cake too. Unfortunately, Hinduism as it is practiced today does not offer even a small piece of spiritual cake to its followers. The whole Hindu religion has degenerated into one grand ritual-ridden Tamasha. People go to lavish temples, ring bells, hit the ground before the idols, and indulge in a million other mindless rituals without a naya paisa of “spirituality” in their behavior in the society. Most Hindus I know have no clue what spirituality is all about. Here I am using the term spirituality to mean plain goodness of heart and selflessness of deeds. To most Hindus, worshiping idols and performing lavish rituals is spirituality of Hinduism. The chief minister of Karnataka is a prime example of a highly “religious” Hindu who never misses an opportunity to visit temples and Swamis; who never forgets to put on a big “nama” over his forehead, and yet indulges in despicable antisocial acts on a daily basis. He does not even think he is doing anything wrong. He is typical of most staunch Hindus I know, even here in America.

    Swamis who claim Hinduism is the greatest gift to mankind, never bother to utter one word of disapproval when Hindus go on rampage committing atrocities against people of other religions or women; or when their admirers indulge in antisocial and anti-national activities. They are blind to the filth around their temples and within the minds and hearts of their followers.

    Religious leaders of Brahmanism know how to appeal to the basest of human nature. Instead of elevating people to a higher level of thinking and behavior, they cater to their basest of instincts for their own security and enrichment. Instead of enlightening their followers with morals, civic sense and responsibilities, they encourage them to indulge in ever grander rituals such as Poojas and Yajnas dedicated to their false gods. Most Hindus are so deluded by these Brahmanic shenanigans that they have no clue that these Swamis and Gurus of the “great Sanatana Dharma” are merely playing them for stupid suckers. Today people fall more easily for false promises made by con artists than for truth uttered by honest people. Survival of Brahmanism and death of Buddhism in India is a testament to this.

    • SirWhile I may not have been explicit in my condemnation of Hindu religious hypocrisy, I fully share your anguish and frustration at the modern practice of Hinduism and how the popular expressions of this religion in India have evolved or rather degenerated.I endorse your interpretation of spirituality as an endeavor of moral rectitude with a vigorous and uncompromising pursuit of ethics. But unfortunately that is not what masses and the elite understand it to be or indoctrinated by religious propagandists.Spirituality is a contemporary fashionable term for all kinds of pseudo-intellectual verbiage that supposedly explains concepts like mind-body separation, eternity of the soul, consciousness, self and host of other supra-sensory entities and experiences along with the grand promise of achieving ‘self-realization’ through esoteric meditative/yogic practices and rituals besides providing the ultimate refuge and cover for various forms of religious quackery and intellectual fraud.The sad part is that it is flourishing and increasing in influence due to the legitimacy, endorsement and patronage it is receiving from many mainstream groups and institutions not only in India, but even in countries like USA and UK.In fact Hindu spirituality is infiltrating US mainstream opinion in a significant way because of the popularity of celebrities like Deepak Chopra and the activities of affluent NRI’s. Hardly any eminent Indian intellectual or celebrity worth his salt has come forward to challenge and repudiate the nonsense that Deepak Chopra is spreading. It is left to western intellectuals like Micheal Shermer and Robert Caroll to carry the burden of skeptical assaults on the chopra-brand of quackery. It is distressing to note that even professed atheists of renown like Amartya Sen in their chase for political acceptability and concern to be seen on the right side of diplomacy are voicing ambiguous opinions about religion-inspired terrorism and violence as well as spiritual quackery arising out of post-modern interpretations of ancient Hindu scriptures. Nobody has articulated this concern better than Meera Nanda.I will not be surprised to find that religiosity among NRI could be much more than those of Indians back home. The marginal decline of religious organizations like Hare Krishna movement and the ISSO has been more than made up by the rise of groups like Chinmaya Mission and Art of Living which are receiving overt and covert support from Hindu fundamentalist organizations like HJS and VHP. CM and AOL act as the masks and front-end of the known Hindutva fundamenlists and receive a lot of informational an logistical support to grease and lubricate their propaganda.Since I was associated with CM in California for sometime till in the recent past, I would like to share some insights about their workings. CM mainly attracts patronage on the basis of their Bal Vihar childrens’ classes, which can be called glorified moral science classes based on Hindu mythology. Using the patronage and donations from Bal Vihar, they have widened their scope of propaganda of indoctrination to snare adults and youth using the tools of discourses on Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu scriptures. Some CM centers in USA have caught on to the current fads of meditation and yoga and are providing these services which is drawing the interest of local Americans in addition to the NRI’s. Of course NRI’s are apparently falling for the appeal of these centers as glorified socio-cultural clubs that pander to the social and cultural insecurities of parenting in their land of adoption. While many NRI’s may be cynically using CM for their ulterior motives, they are unwitting participants in the religious brain-washing that happens in its various events and fora.Your points about Indian Swamis is very instructive indeed. But I would like to draw your attention to the psychological factors at work in their appeal and popularity. This happens to a lesser extent in the smaller centers of CM in US, but in large centers in Houston, discourses and satsangs are events where audience is willing cannon-fodder for spiritual pontification. It is amazing how apparently intelligent and educated people suspend their logic, reasoning and understanding and sit in these gatherings with a blank mind and a childish pre-disposition to hypnosis and mesmerism by the sing-song monologues of the ‘Swamiji’s’ and ‘Gurudev’s’ speakers whom Skeptics know to be just capable and artful exponents of oratory and crowd psychology manipulation. Since the communication in these settings is invariably uni-directional with hardly any interactivity of discussion or debate, there is a lot of subliminal messaging that can slip thru the psyche of an already brain-dead audience. Also the devotional, cultural and religious hype that precedes and surrounds these events replete with hero-worshiping praise of the Swamis/Gurus, music, prayers, soft chanting of OM’s and mantras is a formidable challenge to rational and logical faculties and defenses of most people. Of course skeptical sociologists come down very hard on religion for manipulation of crowd psychology because it is quite manifest, but other spheres like network marketing, motivational workshops, selling of financial and intangible products also employ these psychological tricks in similar, varying or greater degrees to prey on the weaknesses of human mind. Why ! even many workplaces are not secure from tactics that are effectively questionable tools of influencing/manipulating group behaviorThe point of all this rambling is apart from other things to underscore the formidable challenges that skeptics and rationalists are up against in their crusade for sanity in the world, which are:

      • Spiritual doctrines and ritualism is a worse scourge than religious ritualism and more difficult to dispel because of its deception and ability to pass off as a serious intellectual pursuit, and its frequently observed ability to pull wool over the eyes of even robust empirical disciplines like medicine and healthcare.
      • The messianic zeal of most religionists of the world, like Christian creationists or Hindu revivalists who can stop at nothing and will adopt all means, fair and foul in the pathological pursuit of their goals
      • Secularists are still in need of trustworthy political allies. But experience has shown that even professedly secular political parties are fickle and susceptible to the compulsions of social mood swings and caste/electoral arithmetic. The track record of even Communist and Dravidian parties in promoting scientific and rational thinking is pretty dismal. The pulls and pressures of governance and competitive populism are too strong for them to stay on the trajectory of their original ideological motivation. Objectively seen, Communist and Dravidian parties of India have only their rejection of God and religion to recommend themselves. The poverty of ideology, vigor and progressiveness in their social, political and economic ideas is too stark to be not noticed.
      • There are only so many Meera Nanda’s, Narendra Nayaks, Micheal Shermers, Richard Dawkins, Prabhakar Kamath’s in the world. May their tribe increase manifold

  • Dear Dr. Kamath:
    From the first part of your essay one may glean that Jainism is the “ideal” way as Sam Harris claimed in his book “A letter to Christian Nation.”
    I agree with Mr. Ranganath, “In a sense these 2 religions do endorse the vedic and brahminical dogmas of trans-migratory souls, reincarnation and release from the physical domain of life. The disagreement with Vedic Hinduism was over the path or routes to those grand mystical goals.” Your response to his comments does not address the point he has raised.

  • Dear Mr. Kale,

    The goal of Brahmanism, as I mentioned in many of my articles, was to ENDORSE Samsara (transmigration). The purpose of performing various Varna Dharma duties, including Yajnas (Kamya Karma) faithfully was to gain Karmaphalam to enjoy life here on earth and to attain heaven hereafter (BG:2:37, 43). “Release from the physical domain” was NOT its goal. This was the goal of Upanishadism. We need to make a distinction between Brahmanism and Upanishadism.The goal of Upanishadism, Jainism and Buddhism, in stark contrast, was to TRANSCEND Samsara. They did not “endorse” Samsara. They abhorred it. They all considered Karma as a natural law based on the idea “you reap what you saw.” Whereas Brahmanism abused it to enrich the upper classes by means of corrupt rituals, these three Dharmas went in the opposite direction -to transcend it by renunciation. Each of these Dharmas came up with their own methodology to break or transcend the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

    Just because these three Dharmas believed in the Law of Karma does not mean they endorsed it.

    Because Brahmanism succeeded in destroying Upanishadic revolution to overthrow it, and swallowed it up, now people routinely consider Upanishadism as part of Brahmanism. As I wrote in my articles on the Gita, Upanishadism’s goal was to overthrow every single aspect of Brahmanism: supremacy of the Vedas, Varna Dharma, Yajnas and supremacy of Brahmins. After their revolution was squelched, they made a second attempt to overthrow Brahmanism by converting Brahmanic Gita (Arjuna Vishada) into Upanishadic Gita. Even this attempt failed. Now Hinduism at once believes in gaining heaven and at once recommends “release from the physical domain.” These two are opposite goals.

    • In the light of Mr Kamath’s comments and clarifications, I surely stand corrected.I can’t claim any scholarly credentials in the historicity of Hindu Scriptures. I am going by a lot scattered knowledge that I have gathered about these and from fleeting readings of the English translations of some Upanishads on some websites.If one reads Brihadarankya or the Katha or Keno Upanishads, one does get the impression that Upanishads do endorse a non-physical realm of existence that is focus of all spiritual pursuit and deliverance as well the infallibility of karmic repercussions, unless one subscribes to the view that most Upanishads are corrupted by Brahminical sleight of hand. Then in that case one is exposed to logical fallacy of cherry-picking passages and verses that demonstrate distinct opposition to standard vedic world-view, while rejecting the rest.Coming back to Jainism, I somehow feel that its excessive emphasis on renunciation which is reflective of a very negative and pessimistic view of existence cannot carry favor for a long time. Philosophically, denial and persistent rejection of one’s natural impulses, desires and motivations are at the core of renunciation, thus it sets itself up for eventual failure.Surely many lessons can be learned from its view and its rise and fall

  • Dear Ranganath,

    This is in response to your second letter. Careful reading of Upanishads reveals that they have been thoroughly corrupted by later Brahmanic interpolations before they were declared as the Vedanta. This can be detected only by attempting to tally glaring contradictions of doctrines, sometimes in the same passage. A casual reader can miss the contradictions. The same is the case with the Bhagavad Gita. For example, Bhagavad Gita 2:37 is Brahmanic –which supports Kshatriyas gaining land and heaven by warfare. 2:38 is Upanishadic –which describes gaining anything by Karma as sin, which could be avoided only by performing it without Dwandwam. Whereas in the Brahmanic shloka 2:37 Karma stood for Kshatriyas performing one’s Varna Dharma, in the Upanishadic shloka 2:38 Karma stood for Kshatriyas performing Kamya Karma (Yajna). In this shloka Upanishadists are telling Kshatriyas to perform Yajna without hankering for land and heaven. This is made clear in 2:41-53. Brahmanic interpreters are too ignorant of distinctness of the Upanishadic doctrines to catch this subtle and yet profound anti-Brahmanic tenor in shlokas 2:38-53 as they have all been brainwashed into believing that the BG is a monolithic Brahmanic handbook. Western authors also blindly follow Brahmanic books. Independent thinking in this field is almost absent.

    I agree with you completely that severe religious injunctions lead to either abandonment of faith or living a life of hypocrisy. I mentioned that in my article referring to the lifestyle of modern Jains. As you know, that is why Buddhism took the “Middle Path.” It is less severe than Jainism.

    YOUR THIRD LETTER IS SIMPLY FANTASTIC! It should be thoroughly read by every Indian. Your following statement is straight from the frustrated Upanishads (500 B. C.).

    You said: Spiritual doctrines and ritualism is a worse scourge than religious ritualism and more difficult to dispel because of its deception and ability to pass off as a serious intellectual pursuit, and its frequently observed ability to pull wool over the eyes of even robust empirical disciplines like medicine and healthcare.

    Isa Upanishad: 9:

    (With reference to ritualists): Into blind darkness enter they that worship ignorance (perform rituals).
    (With reference to “spiritual intellectuals”): Into darkness greater than that, as it were, they that delight in knowledge (of the Vedas). (This has been partially restated in the BG: 2: 42).

    You said: I will not be surprised to find that religiosity among NRI could be much more than those of Indians back home.

    I say: Yes! It is rabid. They have become a thoughtless bunch. They now protest even a passing comment made about any stupid aspect of Hinduism by naïve people. Most of these NRI are ignorant to the core of even the basic tenets of Hinduism. They have hanging on their walls this one quote from the Bhagavad Gita: “Whenever there is decay of Dharma and rise of Adharma, I embody myself.” These ignorant NRIs do not know that the phrase “decay of Dharma and rise of Adharma” refers to decadent Brahmanism! By extension, this means Hinduism, which is nothing but old wine in a new bottle.

    The task ahead of us is monumental. We need tens of thousands of activists on terra firma such as Narendra Nayak to change the status quo. Writers such as myself (who “delight in the knowledge”) can make little impact as, in the modern world of sound bytes, most people do not have either the time or patience to pour over the minute details.

    • SirI remember distinctly reading in your BG series about the impression of BG being a monolithic text being continuously fostered by repeated Brahminical and Hindutva spin-doctoringBut this is not restricted to BG alone. The same intellectual deception has been employed with the quartet of Vedas, Upanishads, epics (Ramamyana & Mahabharata) and the Hindu Puranas which are figuratively termed as different pearls of Vedantic wisdom strung together on the ‘spiritual’ string of the quest for the BrahmanOf course many skeptics and historians know that all this is bunk and all these scriptures are totally disconnected from each other. The lie that is spread by the Hindu propaganda mill is that Upanishads are philosophical footnotes to the essential truths of the Vedas, while the epics and the Puranas illustrate the same truths by narrative and fable.From my readings of the Rig Veda translations, I could not find any earth-shattering existential truths other than the ambiguous and ambivalent creation hymns. Even the creation hymns are more in the nature of meta-physical speculation about phenomenon rather than any meaningful exposition on the conduct of life and wisdom.But doubtless, the Puranas take top honors in terms of being the most remote in terms of philosophic pretenses about knowledge and wisdom of the metaphysical variety. The puranas are really nothing but an anthology or collection of absurd and nonsensical fantasies or fairy tales about the motley crowd of supernatural creatures, their triumphs and travails and their interaction with terrestrial beings. These texts are closer to the primitive Biblical and Hebrew texts in their narrative style and their total contempt for logic and reason and it may not be out of place to suspect them of plagiarizing Greek or Trojan mythology in parts. It is quite stretch of even the most liberal interpretation to posit that Puranas can share any alignment or continuity with the Vedas or UpanishadsHow can any student of the Puranas miss the obvious fact that mighty gods of the Rig Veda like Indra, Agni, Varuna-Mitra, Vayu and Surya have been demoted and denigrated in the Puranic hierarchy. They have been reduced to subservience of the Vaishnavite and Shaivite gods and worse. Indra who is the mightiest Rig Vedic god is disgraced and shown as a wimp in most Puranic stories. His ultimate humiliation is ofcourse in Ramayana, where he is made to sleep with Ahalya and being cursed by a lowly sage Gautama to have a 1000 vulvas on his body. The fate of Agni, without whom no Rig Vedic ritual is complete is even worse where he is reduced in the Skanda Purana to be a petty postman or courier carrying some burning miracle seeds to impregnate Parvati who will deliver Kartikeya. Varuna, Surya and Vayu are made to suffer the ignominy of being illegitimate fathers in Mahabharata through Kunti’s use of a procreation boon. This list of utter absurdities can go on and on and is only the tip of the iceberg of the monumental nonsense that the Puranas are.I wont get started on Srimad Bhagavatam now, for that fountain-head of Puranic nonsense requires a whole chapter of detailed analysisAnd thanks a lot for your every encouraging comments

      • Dear Ranganath,

        Once again, you have hit the nail right on the head. You have both the flair for writing and passion necessary for it. May I suggest that you start contributing articles to Nirmukta on these topics? For, there are few people who are able to write scholarly articles on the absurdities of Hinduism. Few people are able to “think outside the box.” Those who read commentaries on Hinduism’s holy scriptures blindly believe in whatever the commentator says. Most of what Shankaracharya, Madhvacharya and Ramanujacharya have to say about the contents of the Gita is nonsense simply because they were not aware of the historical context -the Upanishadic and Bhagavata revolutions to overthrow Brahmanism. So they interpreted shlokas as if they applied to Arjuna on the battlefield. The result is utter nonsense.

        • SirYour point is well taken and I truly appreciate your encouragement.I have in fact a blog called ‘Critical Sagacity’ which I use to compile my critical writings on mostly religion and the modern craze for spiritualityThe link is
          http://variedessays.blogspot.com/I have been trying to bring this blog to some decent critical mass in terms of content. So I have not really got around to evangelizing itSo please feel free to visit it and review the posts in it. I will be more than happy and feel truly privileged if any one or more articles is considered worthy of publication by NirmuktaAll comments/review are welcome to be sent to ranganath@email.com

      • Ranganath/DrK
        Interesting stuff there. My question is a little bit off topic, but do you have any theory about why these fancy stories (epics, puranas) are so popular in the Indian populace/mainstream? Are there parallels in other extant cultures? I havent read the biblical stories (never could get past the genesis), or islamic stories.. but I dont see any of those crazy fables publicized in mainstream (for e.g media) in the US at least.

        • Hi Astrokid,There are many reasons or theories why religious tales are popular in some countries. It is not easy to recount them all. Some of it has to do with historical conditions and how societies deal with changing political and economic trends.In some ways you may also lay the blame at the door of evolution. Belief can either follow the path of realism or the path of idealism, the latter being more influenced by emotion and former by rationality and logic. Experience has shown that it is easy to sway human nature by appeals to its emotions. Religion and metaphysics does precisely this.Bible sustains a very huge industry and commerce in USA. And its stories spawn a lot of bibliography and evangelism even in mainstream forums. Republican right in US is a big patron of all demagoguery and shrill biblical rhetoric. But bible and Christian fundamentalist nonsense is also being brutally debunked by skeptics and atheists here. The secular movement here, for all its challenges has managed to stay vibrant, which is sadly not the case with India

  • You do realize that Gandhi went on fast against seperate electorates for Untouchables proposed by Ambedkar right?. And Ambedkar frankly has written in his books that he did not have the opinion that Gandhi really wanted to abolish the Caste System. In fact he mentioned that Gandhi was an upholder of the caste system.

  • Dear Sir,

    Thank you for expounding the Spirit of Peace and Truth, as expounded by the Great Jain Saints.
    It may take a revolution of Peace and indomitable will to combat the endless evils of our time.
    These evils have been amplified by technology………

    Peace and blessings…………….

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