Saturday, October 5, 2013

Differences between hindu and western sciences.

The objectives of this paper are as follows:

1) To describe traditional Indian knowledge systems in branches of science and tech and qualify their scientific nature.
2) To show how Indian knowledge systems differed from the western knowledge systems
3) To explore possibilities of inter-linkages and cooperation with western knowledge systems.

1) To describe traditional Indian knowledge systems in branches of science and tech and qualify their scientific nature: 

The author identifies a knowledge system in an ancient civilization as scientific if it shows the following three characteristics: - methodological, epistemological and sociological. 
Methodological criteria:

1) That it is based on a sufficiently large body of observational data.
2) It has a sufficiently elaborate theoretical framework to classify the data.
3) The basis of legitimisation of theoretical speculation is based in observation.

Epistemological criteria:

1) The above method is a legitimate method for acquiring knowledge about reality.
2) The knowledge so acquired is always limited and subject to modification in the light of new data.

Sociological criteria:

1) In the society there is a professional community of practitioners of knowledge in the above sense, well governed by some social norms.

The paper then continues and describes such criteria in traditional medicine as an example.

2) To show how Indian knowledge systems differed from the western knowledge systems

The author finds that traditional knowledge systems differed from the western systems in the social organization of knowledge, the nature of the parameter used to build scientific theories and measurement quantification and achieving rigor. With respect to social organization, the author finds that in the instance of traditional medicine, there is a classical system as well as the folk system. The classical system consists of the codified systems such as Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani traditions. These have institutionally trained practitioners, a body of texts and highly developed theories to support their practices. The folk tradition is passed down from one generation to another. With respect to theory construction, in the Indian tradition there is a lack of formalization in the sense that theories cannot be applied outside of the context of formulation. The institutionalized theories match folk tradition to a great degree and hence less centralized in terms of people knowing it. In terms of parameters used to build theories, the choice of parameters is such that they are universal and can be generalized for all conditions. The author gives the example of the Ayurvedic view that all disease is caused by the imbalance of Vatta, Pitta or Kapha (these are the parameters that Ayurveda uses). While Western sciences use numerical values in universal units to make precise measurements, traditional knowledge systems use different kinds of units. For instance, a person's height is measured in units of Anguli - which is the dimension of a finger of the same person rather than a universal standard external to the individual. 

3) To explore possibilities of inter-linkages and cooperation with western knowledge systems.

The author notes that the current status of interaction between western and Indian scientific tradition suffers from several limitations which is a result of the colonial hangover. He takes a look at two of them - (1) the current trend of 'prospecting' traditional knowledge and (2) the assumed universality and neutrality of the methodology of modern science. Prospecting traditional knowledge means to look at physical resources, technologies and knowledge as a raw material that needs to be scanned, prospected and refined with the aim to incorporate it into modern/western framework. While this can lead to outstanding success stories, such as making quinine from the Cinchona bark, it does not cause the revitalization of traditional knowledge and endogenous development of the local communities. The author gives the example of the plant Rauvolfa Serpentin which was abundant in India and was well known for treating hypertension. Exploitation of this plant has led to it being driven to the brink of extinction. The effects of prospecting also include patenting of knowledge and violating the intellectual property rights of the original carriers of the knowledge. With respect to the assumed universality and methodology of modern science, the author observes that modern scientific methods at their root have a stamp of their origin. He gives an example of how the modern scientific method of drug assessment by employing blind trials, double blind trials and placebos at their root assume that the patient is a passive recipient of therapy. In Ayurvedic treatments where a patient has to follow a certain ritual, the same method cannot apply. Thus, the modern method is the product of a cultural context where the patient is a passive recipient of the treatment.

To improve collaboration between Western and Indian scientific traditions, the author suggests again with the example of the medical field how either modern medicine or traditional medicine may form the main line of treatment based on the disease while the other plays a complementary role. Such collaborations are now happening at the level of institutions. 

The author concludes that throughout the course of history, every geographical location of the world has nurtured and produced sciences and technologies that resemble the nature of the civilization of the people therein. It was found that western tradition of science and technology is not universal and unique, and there is an urgent need to have a second look on traditional sciences, technologies and knowledge systems to revive them before they are lost.

A thanks to @KVSarmaJ on twitter for sending me this paper.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Savarkar's Strategic Agnosticism

Today, I am attempting a paraphrase of the paper "Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's 'Strategic Agnosticism: A compilation of his Socio - Political Philosophy and Worldview" by Siegfried O. Wolf that was published by the Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics in January 2010. Readers are encouraged to finish the paper after the paraphrase to capture what I couldn't.

Paraphrase: -

The author recognizes that there are two mainstream views on Savarkar, one where Savarkar and his socio - political vision (Hindutva) are seen as the greatest enemy for a modern secular society. The other is one which considers it to have a legitimate place in political life. But according to him, the big picture of what Savarkar thought, is lacking and his piece seeks to cover that gap in people's understanding of Savarkar. The tool used for that is an analysis of Savarkar's philosophical tenets and worldview. This is done by taking fragments from all of Savarkar's various writings, which can be split into three different categories: 1) the non political literature, 2) Historical studies, and 3) Political statements.

Siegfried recognizes that the basis for Savarkar's thoughts is strategic agnosticism. The three major premises that one must hold while analyzing Savarkar's works are as follows:

1) The supremacy of Western political and social thought in Savarkar's philosophy and worldview: While Savarkar had gone over the holy scriptures, he was also impressed by Western literature, which related to rationalism in religion, liberty in thought and equality in fundamental rights. 

2) The 'clash' of two different worldviews: The two worldviews are 'world and life negation' and 'world and life affirmation'. Believers of 'world and life negation' think that man's existence on earth is meaningless and sorrowful and (a) live a life of self denial of pleasures, (b) do not try to improve their living conditions. Believers of 'world and life affirmation' think the opposite. Savarkar developed a critical attitude towards aspects of 'world and life negation' in Indian literature and endorsed 'world and life affirmation' aspects. 

3) Savarkar's agnosticism - Religion as an extension to the portfolio of political strategies: Savarkar accepted only those aspects of religion that seemed rational. He never accepted religious books as the final word, and always sought to evaluate them according to current times. Other aspects of Savarkar's agnosticism include accepting that rules of physics govern the universe and Hinduism as a collective identity for all Indians. He wanted to instill the idea that service to the nation ought to be the religion of his countrymen. He accepted that 'holyland' can be a place where one earns merit through patriotism. In this context, it is possible for non Hindus to accept India as a 'holyland'. 

Savarkar's philosophical outlook included five aspects: (1) Utilitarianism (2)Rationalism and Positivism (3) Humanism and universalism, (4) Pragmatism and (5) Realism. He wanted social reform with these in mind. His idea of philosophy of life included a portfolio of elements drawn from classical Indian thought, western social and political philosophy and his own experience and observations. Savarkar's strategic agnosticism comes from rejecting some aspects of the Hindu faith that could not fit in with this portfolio. With this background, the author wishes that Savarkar be viewed through a new analytical and scientific study in order to learn the foundations of Savarkar's vision of the Indian nation-state.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sudharma needs help..

 Sudharma needs help (more subscribers). Readers are encouraged to subscribe to the daily.

A brief introduction of Sudharma is quoted below.
Sanskrit, A glorious language : Most of the gems of our cultural and religious heritage (the Vedas,Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Subhashitams, the Puranas) originated in this language. Even today,Sanskrit is taught in a few Sanskrit Veda Paathashaalas. Unfortunately, its spread outside these specialized schools is limited. Even worse, vested interests have been somewhat successful in spreading the idea that Sanskrit is the preserve of a select few from a particular stratum of society. All this has gone towards creating a general impression that Sanskrit is an inaccessible language that has negligible if not zero relevance in daily life.
This misconception about Sanskrit has been a powerful tool for vested interests to denounce language as dead substance. To remove this misconception, it is necessary to demonstrate in practise that Sanskrit is indeed an accessible language that is versatile enough for practical use.

This thought motivated Pandit Girvaana Vaani Bhushanam Vidyaanidhi Kalale Nadaadur Varadaraja Iyengar to start Sudharma. From its inception to date, Sudharma has been the only Sanskrit Daily Newspaper in the World.

Rest of the appeal in the link: (click). A thanks to Gandaragolaka for the link.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How to 'save' dharmic techniques from the west?

This post should be read in continuation to the previous one. That is because one needs to see religious practices as a money making enterprise for the ideas discussed in this post to be possible. 

Let's get to the title-question. One way to save 'dharmic' techniques is to obviously hide these items from the west by teaching them in only very minor circles. The other way is to continue the current trend by claiming the Indian/Hindu origin of the items through publishing news articles when and where things seem to be slipping out of hand. Both of these have their flaws. Could there be a third way?

@_Mauna_ has the following view (click):

There seems to be some anxiety about various Dharmic techniques and designs being taken over by non-Dharmic or restricted belief systems for purposes of tactical cultural pollination or more genuine motivations. 

The larger point is can Hindu society and its keepers stop it? Not unless we turn ourselves into a McDonalds lookalike and hire a bunch of lawyers with a brief - the making of which would be incredibly complex and unworkable, because that's control. Push, not pull.

Or can we guide the building and usage of our techniques and designs for a fee? The clincher would be, "since you've chosen to steal, at least let us show you how to use it well".

Let's assume the VHP opened town & city offices of Temple Architecture or created an online network of such experts with a brief to accept assignments from proposed Temples and Churches (Those wishing to install dhvajastambhas for eg.). Let's also assume this network creates easily available literature with a license for use mechanism. 

Let's take the case of Yoga or Bharatanatyam/dance forms. In China, martial arts are taught by family based schools who control innovation through franchise & licensing. Why can we not encourage our current experts to build and develop their own schools with the authority to license and franchise out.

In my opinion, these methods are eminently workable for both ends of the value stream. Branding is maintained, money is made and the users don't feel they are stealing something which will be called out.

It is true that such a thing needs the backing of a powerful authority. Preferably a strong Hindu State. However, in the meanwhile, an organization like the VHP is eminently positioned to take up this challenge. 

Perhaps experts in the field, including branding experts can debate the idea more and take it forward?
The point is that the current trend does not allow us a lot of innovation which Palahalli's idea appears to allow. By keeping our ideas in the market and working together with people interested in them, we have some chance of innovation and continued development of them. This of course is not a solution for outright aping of religious practices by semetic religions with an objective for conversion, but for other items being stolen it could be. 

P.S.: If any branding experts chance upon this blog post, my appeal remains the same as @_Mauna_. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why are godmen corrupt?

Because the good people don't see religion as a money making enterprise. When that happens, the good people are for the most part diverted into occupations that afford them a livelihood. And the bad guys move in to fill the vacuum.

The problem is universal and extends itself to charity organizations. Far too many people dislike when things that used to be charitable are involved in making money. In times past, life was pretty simple and perhaps affordable without big money. But when money has become the be all, we should lower the moral bar on our social and religious foundations. Otherwise corruption in religious institutions will keep growing.

We could however raise the bar on whether or not they get stuff done. Dan Pallotta shows how. He talks about the non profit sector of which religion might be considered a part of.

Note: This post although inspired by recent events does not claim to doubt anybody.