…of the Lingam and of the juggernaut; …of the Monk, and of the Bayadere
October 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
Reading Lord Desai’s out of print but very concise ‘Marxian Economic Theory’, impressed, ran a search …with no effort got served a juicy post (a year old) on a lecture by our Lord titled “THE BHAGVAD GITA: A SECULAR INQUIRY INTO A SACRED TEXT”.
I couldn’t find a copy of that lecture online, though Desai has commented elsewhere “Bhagvad Gita’s end outcome is that ultimately everybody should go out and kill everybody” and “Mahabharata war, if taken literally, was similar to a holocaust”. Also that the Kurukshetra war had been just about land, and Krishna preached to Arjuna that he must fulfill his caste obligations.
There is another talk on tube given some years later on public morality in India wherein he references the Gita and the absence of agency.
The juicy post which informed me of the infamous lecture at Nalanda University, is on a blog claiming to serve Hindus worldwide. In its effort to present a demonic picture of Lord Desai as a bankrupt Marxist, the post reproduced some cool passages from an article written by Karl Heinrich Marx, the journalist.
Published on June 25, 1853 in the New-York Daily Tribune, “The British rule in India” starts with the following reflection:
“Hindostan is an Italy of Asiatic dimensions, the Himalayas for the Alps, the Plains of Bengal for the Plains of Lombardy, the Deccan for the Apennines, and the Isle of Ceylon for the Island of Sicily. The same rich variety in the products of the soil, and the same dismemberment in the political configuration. Just as Italy has, from time to time, been compressed by the conqueror’s sword into different national masses, so do we find Hindostan, when not under the pressure of the Mohammedan, or the Mogul, or the Briton, dissolved into as many independent and conflicting States as it numbered towns, or even villages. Yet, in a social point of view, Hindostan is not the Italy, but the Ireland of the East. And this strange combination of Italy and of Ireland, of a world of voluptuousness and of a world of woes, is anticipated in the ancient traditions of the religion of Hindostan. That religion is at once a religion of sensualist exuberance, and a religion of self-torturing asceticism; a religion of the Lingam and of the juggernaut; the religion of the Monk, and of the Bayadere”
Fascinating start… I wonder though if the world of woe or misfortune that Hindostan shares with Ireland is a reference to famines. The article is published just after great potato famine of 1845-1852 but the Southern India famine of 1876–78 is yet to take place. That famine may have been the worst, with the British role, better documented, but many more happened under the Raj. …
Marx argues that the planting of European despotism has aggravated the existing misery but he keeps repeating in every paragraph where he develops this argument that he is not asserting a golden age of Hindostan. To complement all this some false theorising in the style of Wittfogel’s hydraulic empire hypothesis is done (though it impressively predates Wittfogel’s thesis by a century).
Assuming that, “There have been in Asia, generally, from immemorial times, but three departments of Government; that of Finance, or the plunder of the interior; that of War, or the plunder of the exterior; and, finally, the department of Public Works”, we are to further assume that climate and territorial conditions, of Asia “constituted artificial irrigation by canals as the basis of agriculture” and “necessitated, the interference of the centralizing power of Government”.
The theory concludes that because of hydro-geographical similarity when government failed in the orient so did life and whole cities vanished …listing: ” Palmyra, Petra, the ruins in Yemen, and large provinces of Egypt, Persia, and Hindostan; …
and Hindostan …one sweet loaf that …yet failure of government was never a problem in occident since civilization was not too low and territorial extent was not too vast. So in Flanders or Italy prime necessity of an economical and common use of water,drove private enterprise to voluntary association, instead.
This theory is so baseless it does not merit a refutation. It’s interestingly introduced to give context to the British rule’s neglect of public works. Which if one considers the introduction of modern railway and projects like Upper Ganga Canal is not even the case.
A better synthesis is presented at the end of article, where after lamenting the loss of union between agriculture and manufacturing industry and dissolution of existing forms of social organism we are reminded that :
“.. these idyllic village-communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism, that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies.”
and also :
We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Kanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.
That wrong spelling of the monkey god, is offense enough for the Hindu Right, but what of this conclusion:
The question is, can mankind fulfill its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution.
A delightful gem, informed in parts by facts and falsehoods which a resident of London could best collect in 1853. It reminds one of this tale:
A Frenchman, an Englishman, and a German each undertook a study of the camel.
The Frenchman went to the zoo, spend half an hour there, questioned the staff, threw bread to the camel, poked it with the front of his umbrella, and, returning home, wrote an essay for the papers, full of sharp and witty observations.
The Englishman, taking his tea basket and a good deal of camping equipment, went to set up camp in the Orient, returning after a sojourn of two or three years with a fat volume, full of raw, disorganized, and inconclusive facts which, nevertheless, had real documentary value.
As for the German, filled with disdain for the Frenchman’s frivolity and the Englishmans’ lack of metaphysical ideas, he locked himself in his room, and there he drafted a multi-volume work entitled: The Idea of the Camel Derived from the Concept of the Ego.
The Idea of Camel, which if not derived, informs this article of Marx – who not having traveled to Asia, is indeed our German locked into a room – I think is the produktionsverhältnisse.
So what are the relations of production in the Bhagvad Gita? Are there any?I guess there should be more than a few theses on the topic, lets just run though some quotes.
- In response to the Arjuna’s – the great warrior who has been denied of his inheritance- refusal to fight, Krishna the God urges him in a Jihadi tone ‘Considering your dharma, you should not vacillate. For a warrior, nothing is higher than a war against evil’
My dharma, your dharma, schmarma, tell me more,??
- O chastiser of the enemy, Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras are distinguished by their qualities of work, in accordance with the modes of nature.
- It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Prescribed duties, according to one’s nature, are never affected by sinful reactions.
- Every endeavor is covered by some sort of fault, just as fire is covered by smoke. Therefore one should not give up the work which is born of his nature, O son of Kunti, even if such work is full of fault.
Still the warrior is not convinced by the role defined for him within the existing produktionsverhältnisse.
Doesn’t his cast role as a ksatriya conflict with his duty to not slaughter his kin and elders? Oh but Hindu ideological apparatus (to coin a bloated one) has its own twisted logic for maintaining the relations of productions.