Saturday, December 4, 2010

Discursive Indians & The Breath Eternal

Hey Subhash, so kind of you to write.

Q. Isn't the most precious attribute of the the "Hindu" lifeway, in fact the most precious attribute of Shinto Buddhism or Jaini belief or indigenous or any other non-revealed faith systems,
the culturally learned capacity to be deeply devotional without impinging on others?

The 'hindutva' crowd in my direct experience is a class/caste phenomenon, a troubling modernity that claimed Gandhi's life, with its extreme patriarchal posturing in the public sphere.

I remember encountering them at the Gateway of India, right after the taxi bombing, where they were holding a black flag demonstration against Islam. I saw a whole lot of lower middle class, ahistorical, non-college educated maharastrian MEN (not a woman in sight) shouting against "Islam" and "Islamic terrorism". I remonstrated with them and they threatened me with physical harm. At the time I was staying all alone, a 'Hindu' new yorker (:, in a mohalla in Dongree.

I also encountered them, again men, in Ladakh, this past year, where they were trying to get Buddhist nuns to 'work' with the BJP/RSS.

There were many disturbing nuances to these encounters which I am necessarily leaving out in this email exchange.

The one thing our ancient, composite, disparate, happily contradictory lifeway does not need is an organization purporting to speak for me, to represent me, to interpret in self-serving ways, my ethnicity, my culture, my beliefs, my lifeway, my breath. Does my breath need a throwdown from the HAF? It's obscene.

The Vedic Indus pre-social, pre-totemic way focused on the breath eternal, an observable (how very scientific) shared attribute of all living things.

So, let me exhale in my own way! Breath is not a brand. It's what we share with all living organisms. The African and Native American lifeways also revere breath.

The intrinsic beauty of the 'Hindu' Vedanta lifeway is its vast embrace of the universal human condition within as well as transcending the dynamic natural world.

In contrast, The Hindutva adherents. of another aeon constructed caste ideology on top of an occupational structure, to further their class and landed interests. And the colonial-imperial project, well -- you know how that deal went down!

I am happy to note that my dearest friends are Pakistani Lahori yoga practitioners, and one Kashmiri Sunni Muslim male, a gentle soul, who (with my help and at his request) has just managed to fund a meditation room in a public hospital in the Valley, where I have been going, alone and unencumbered, for the past five years.

So Subhash, thanks for writing and if you are on the East Coast, tea's on me.

Chithra Karunakaran
note: as for your point about ethical democracy, it is my lifeway and all I do is strive societally, using my breath. That is all.

If you pass me on my path, I am sure to engage, as we are doing now.

I have asserted, as perhaps you have, that I/we, in the public sphere, can be ethical, it is in our achievable nature to be so.
Yes elections are corrupting, we live in a millennia of increasing de-sensitization, shame and guilt are no longer viable, profit and prophets are!
But I/we persevere, vote, pick up trash, eschew plastic, plant tulips for a new york spring, drink tea from stainless steel cups on the Indian trains, because I/we have concluded, based on the best available information, that a paper cup is unsustainable, whether to produce or dispose. To my limited but unfolding understanding, that's ethical democracy as lived practice.

Dr. Chithra Karunakaran
City University of New York (CUNY)
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

copyright Subhash Garg -- you own your own comments.

On Sat, Dec 4, 2010 at 3:57 AM, SG wrote:

Dear Chithra,

I don't understand this comment by you on a NY Times site: "A US organization calling itself the Hindu American foundation is in itself an embarrassment to multiethnic, multireligious secular India". Does secularism dictate that Indians hide their religion in a closet?

Indians in India look ridiculously sheepish, apologizing for being Indian to their former colonial masters. But in America, many of us ARE masters, and damn good at it too. We see no reason to kowtow to the white man. We know how to protest, and the NY Times story proves it.

If you find this assertiveness a threat, pray tell whose interests you serve?

By the way, isn't ethical democracy an oxymoron? After all, elections are expensive and all too frequent - and increasingly, a pitiful media circus devoid of merit. It's not like panchayat raj where the authorities earn their respect by integrity. Modern elections are a slanderfest.


Subhash Garg
Milpitas, CA USA
copyright Subhash Garg -- you own your own comments.
Dear Chithra,

Thank you for the illuminating comments on ethical democracy in living
practice, which I share, and your generous invitation to tea. I shall
keep it in mind. On the subject at hand, I don't know that the HAF
advocates violence and threatening behavior of the sort you describe.
I have found no reason to link them with Thackeray et al.

I agree that it is beautiful to pursue one's beliefs without impinging
on others. But what if others impinge upon you? Well, Gandhiji echoed
Christ, "turn the other cheek", and declared "there is no cause for
which I am prepared to kill". Shri Ram, Shri Krishna, Ma Durga and
others taught Hindus to fearlessly fight adharma, and not be afraid to
kill. As a Hindu I can respect Mohammad and love Muslims for
centuries, but if they kill 120 unarmed Hindus with zero provocation,
they better be very afraid. As a Gandhian I would probably invite them
to kill a few hundred more. I choose to be a Hindu.

With warm regards,
Subhash Garg
copyright ethicaldemocracy
Hey Subhash,

I want to thank you for your emails. They have truly been valuable for me as I have tried to deepen my own understanding of the points at hand.

Our mutually respectful, vigorous email discussion hinges on text -- and the text reported in the NYTimes article asked the critical question "Who owns Yoga?"

The text of that same article further contained a direct quote from the purported "co-founder" of the Hindu-American Foundation who stated:

"“In a way,” said Dr. Aseem Shukla, the foundation’s co-founder, “our " issue" is that yoga has thrived, but *Hinduism* has lost *control* of the *brand*.” [my asterisked emphasis added]

It is 1) the question and 2) the assertion

that I have sought to address first in my New York Times comment and now in my responses to you. I am fortunate to have such an engagement.Thanks.

First, Nobody, but nobody, individual or group, according to historical evidence, "owns " "yoga" , not me , not you, certainly not the HAF.
The patriarchal posturing of the HAF is highly regrettable and dangerous.

They cannot presume to speak on behalf of me, or for me -- a breather!

Second, HAF's partiarchal, self-anointed authorities would seek to BRAND [their word, not mine, words matter and we can and must be held accountable for the words we use, in the public sphere] is preposterous and should be vigorously resisted.

To brand breath is to corporatize and profit from breath.

Every word in that HAF statement is questionable because it is unsupported by any evidence -- "Hinduism" "lost" "control" "brand"

Here's my empirical point:

Breath is pre-social, pre-totemic, pre-faith, pre-religious, pre-ideology, pre-Hindu.

Breath is evidential, it is observable in all organisms and the natural world. We can be in AWE of Breath, that one shared attribute of the universe, and we can do that, think that, feel that, without Faith, without beliefs.

Awe is possible without Faith or Belief, which in any case it precedes.

Breath precedes Awe!

I, a breather have Awe but not Faith or Belief, especially of the type that is "control"-led and prescribed by the HAF, or the mulla, or the papist, or the BJP,or the RSS, or the Bajrang Dal.

That is why no group can lay claim to breath. They cannot own it. Therefore they cannot own yoga, a manner of thoughtful, reflective Breath

Subhash, you have stated you are a Hindu, whatever that may be.
I support your stated belief, and it is true you do not need my support for your belief but I offer it anyway.

I only claim I am a breather -- and even that will cease!
Or take another form that nonone, nobody can "own" "brand" "control"