D via Facebook
Mohanty, I have to say this, I am shocked at this piece. The number of things you conflate, like the Indian view of time with the Hindu view of time, surely, there are non-Hindu ideas of 'time' and within the Hindu view, many detractors from a fatalistic cyclical view of time?
And a completely non-problematic treatment of this very romantically cast view of cyclical time? No matter that it lies at the very heart of a very exclusionary idea of justice that goes by the name of the rightly-reviled 'karma'?
The idea of past as imbued with cultural content alone when it is not intrinsically problematic, has to be terrible given the social humiliation that it has entailed for many communities in India, don't you think?
"The Western trend, now very prevalent in India as well, of sending aging parents to old-age homes is equivalent to cutting the individual’s connection with his past". Isn't it entirely possible for people to be utterly religious and believe in karmic time (since you seem to suggest this as the only manifestation of being rooted in the past) and still send one's parents to an old age home? Or does the idea of a future life as a dog keep people from being brutal to their parents?
As a completely smitten fan of your earlier writing, I had to react to this piece.
What is the Indian view of time, if not Hindu? Sure, calling things Hindu makes one look politically incorrect, but that does not change the fact that the Indian way is predominantly the Hindu way. All the many religions and cultures co-exist in India because the Hindu way is the backbone of this civilisation. Yes there are many views of time and India is even home to many of them. I concentrated on this one because it is the one that guides ancient Indian cosmology, mythology, and even, as you pointed out, the doctrine of Karma. This was one perspective, not a compendium of all perspectives.
I am amused that you would call the cyclic model fatalistic. Where is the fatalism? If anything, the linear model speaks of one ultimate end and is therefore, truly fatalistic. The cyclic model speaks of new beginnings and an ever ongoing chain of events in time. There is always a tomorrow and always hope in eternity, but the single linear chunk of time is unforgiving.
I am also amused that you call Karma exclusionary. Who does Karma exclude? The doctrine of Karma includes all beings of all races and all species. If anything, Karma is a liberating idea. It puts human beings in charge of their own destiny, as opposed to having them beg for mercy from an all-powerful God who sits in judgment upon them. People reap what THEY sow, not what someone else decides. Action and reaction is a law of the universe and Karma is simply the spiritual dimension of it with the individual soul at its core.
You are right. The past is most definitely not imbued with "cultural content alone". While our cultural past must be given credit for many goods, it must also take the blame for many evils. Casteism is a social wrong and has to go, in the interest of a better tomorrow for Indian society. Classifications, while useful, can and do become a burden upon people when the demarcating lines become too stringent. Social reasons do get in the way of cultue, just as economic ones do.
There are a number of considerations at work on any individual at any point of time. So it IS possible for people to be religious and still send their parents to an old age home. I never said karmic time was the "only manifestation of being rooted in the past". This is ONE perspective, as I said earlier. But are you implying that people only care for their parents because they are afraid of being reborn as a dog? A little unfair, don't you think?
The whole point of my article was about past-consciousness as a cultural quality. This can translate into everyday life in many ways. Beliefs generated by these cultural qualities are nurtured by a shared mythology and become innate behaviour to an individual. I chose culture as my looking glass because it contains all other considerations - economic, religious, scientific inside itself.