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November 12, 2006
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November 12, 2006

Page: 21/39

Home > 2006 Issues > November 12, 2006


Karma and rebirth as basis to Indian thought

Book Reviews By Manju Gupta

Written by a professor in Western philosophy, this is a book where the concept of ?being? and ?nothingness? are shown as two aspects of the Divine Reality and which is typical of Indian spirituality. The fullness of being is also the concept of nothingness and this metaphysical position is well reflected in the Vedic invention of zero as a mathematical entity, subsequently giving rise to the decimal (dashamlava) system of calculation.

The author Shri M.M. Agarwal says that the notion of the Divine as infinity has two resolutions. One is described as anant, meaning inexhaustible or unending. And the other is described as anaadi, meaning without a beginning or origin. Being without an origin, it is conceived as eternal. And the two infinities combined give the concept of shunya or zero. But shunya is mathematically a quantity and if it is divided by any determinate quantity, it still remains shunya. This is the essence of the spiritual reality. It is all and nothing. It is incarnate and describable as well as transcendent and indescribable. Similarly ?God is without an origin and yet related to the world as its creator. God as incarnate is a paradox, an appearance of Reality,? says the author.

A lot of effort has been put in the book to explain the meaning of culture, particularly because the author feels that if the meaning is properly understood, it becomes possible to understand that in other important areas of life, such as education, ethics, social action, and personal human relationships based on love, ?Hinduism is constantly shaping and improving the Indian culture.? He explains through arguments and counter arguments that cultures are self-consciously self-assessive and irresistibly plural. According to him culture is a preferred way of life of a country of self-aware, national and creative individuals. To be justified in its own eyes, it must have a ratio and ordiratio of its preferences. And this requires the need to take a teleological perspective in your life. This perspective involves us, as Alasdain MacIntyre has said, in a scheme that links together ?man as he is? with ?man as he might become, were his telos fulfilled?. Without a teleological scheme, culture, it seems, loses its significance for life.

The author says that the advent of modernity in the academic world struck a blow to the ?traditional?. Everything?all social arrangement, intellectual and scientific enterprises?had to begin with new paradigms. Here he cites the decay of the traditional joint family system under the pressure of modern individualism. This implied sharing of total resources within the family. Though sharing refers to the higher purposes of caring for the loved ones, which in turn refers to the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life?compassion, love and justice, pointing to a universal telos which is enshrined in our ancient dictum: ?The world is one family?.

Talking about the philosophy of action, the author says that the twin doctrines of karma and rebirth have eventually shaped the Indian philosophy of action. Popularly stated the doctrine of karma states: ?As you sow, so shall you reap?. Hence craving for pleasure, giving way to anger, longing for the object of desire and greed are self-destructive. Thus to transform their acquisitive culture of conflict and aggression in a culture of peace and of care, man must return to himself and perceive the hidden motivational springs of his action and in knowing himself thus, so discover the sacredness of life, of Nature and the wholeness of his interrelatedness with it. The author advises that man should perceive the truth that ?we are the world and the world is us. The world is in each of us; to feel that, to be really committed to it and to nothing else, brings about a feeling of great responsibility and an action that must not be fragmentary, but whole.? Then only will there be a culture that will reach great heights of truth, goodness and beauty but be devoid of any sense of personal glory, power, achievement and superiority over others. The author concludes by saying, ?Such a culture will be an art of creativity and not of a competitive struggle.?

(Concept Publishing Company, A/15-16, Commercial Block, Mohan Garden, New Delhi-110059.)

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