Monday, July 13, 2020

Life without conditions: Non realisable dream

Life without conditions: Non realisable dream
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Lalit K Kaul

When parameters like truth, justice, morality, ethics, extravagance, falsehood etcetera are brought in, then no ‘life’ is without conditions because these define the boundaries of freedom that are not to be violated. These may be defined by a society living in inaccessible regions of Amazon forests or desert peaks of Ladakh; that is, the societies that have total disconnect with the modern world and its belief and value system. Even if there are no institutionalised definitions of all the said parameters, yet within every human being there is something that without conscious control allows or disallows him/her a particular type of conduct. That ‘something’ is conscience which is undeniably a very dominant attribute of an individual and which differentiates one from the other in terms of external conduct. This conscience of a being (the slave) is under nobody’s command and hence free to direct the slave without being restricted by any conditions. So, within a barricaded human being there is this attribute with unrestricted freedom.
In any case, the concepts of truth & falsehood, right & wrong, ethical & unethical, etcetera have / can have no separate and independent identity (recognition). If they don’t merge with the thought and deeds of an individual, they cease to exist. Their cognisance is derived from speech/act/conduct and all kinds of civic sense of an individual (who would never think that whatever he/she did was untruthful, unethical and/or wrong), but- as always- the Judge is a rank outsider. So, whether a particular act of an individual- under certain circumstances- is ethical or unethical, the outside world decides and thereby even the ‘free conscience’ of an individual is subjugated. So, when even the internal world of a human being is subject to the scrutiny of the ever dominating external world, the life ‘ordinary’ or ‘extra ordinary’ is not without conditions.
One cannot break free from the world, but one can find freedom within the externally imposed constraints like a horse which is restricted to move in a straight line due to blinkers. The problem is not that life is not without conditions, it is that even the limited freedom to act of their own accord, an extraordinary huge mass of people have been denied by one stroke of pen that declared them backward, ignorant and superstitious while declaring their knowledge base as unscientific.        

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Fifteen annas

Fifteen annas
Abinash Jha has recently written on what the state of ordinary life has become in the current extraordinary times. The piece begins with a general definition of ordinary life, which Lokvidya jana-andolan has adopted as the basis of their work. The definition is this – ordinary life is life without any condition. It is outside the domain of institutional exchange of science, technology, religion and philosophy. Falsehood, extravaganza and immorality are also part of that life. But it can recognize truth, morality, justice, wisdom etc.
Abinash Jha writes that, regardless of the importance given to it by history, ordinary life has always been there. Political systems, technologies, religions have come and passed, but ordinary life has flown, almost unnoticed, at its own pace. That life is under threat today. An order or system that usurps nature's wealth is spreading to all corners of the globe. Consequently, endless conditions are imposed on ordinary life, even as it struggles to stay ordinary. As the space for ordinary life keeps shrinking, now it is pushed to the verge of extinction.
In response to this persistent trend, some suggest that one has to let go of what is gone. After all, in today's world it is not possible to survive without the system. If nature is in turmoil, it is better to focus on making decent provision for one’s own survival rather than trying to repair all that is damaged. If water and air are poisoned, purify as much as you need. Of course that is not possible for everyone. So those who remain outside the system are destined to perish.
There are those who reject and oppose this approach. But the point is: one cannot expect a strong pushback to emerge from those who suffer perpetual contraction after being pushed away from ordinary life.
Yet there exists a source of potential strength. A core tenet of ordinary life – in the absence of external pressure – is its reliance on a direct understanding with nature. This life seeks to sustain the environment out of the sheer compulsion to sustain itself, and not from any ideological motive. It induces one to plant saplings after cutting down trees, to indulge in lazy talk and to lament the waste of time, to clash with a neighbour and to stand by the same neighbour’s side in calamity - without any humanitarian inspiration. This experience has a strength and vitality of its own.
The privilege of direct touch and feel keeps people happy. What one experiences from the practice of an ideology or value system – no matter how lofty that may be – is like the touch of a hand shaken with gloves on. Ordinary life without an agenda gets a direct taste of life.
That taste, and the craving for it, lingers even after the space for ordinary life shrinks in many ways. When a new order comes into being, people automatically seek out cracks and loopholes to carry on with their normal business. Most people on this planet still have this desire for ordinary life.
Rabindranath Tagore had expressed the glory of this ordinary life thus: “People are divided into two classes – fifteen-annas and the rest one-anna. The fifteen-annas part is calm; the one-anna is restless. The former is useless; the latter has a purpose. Atmospheric air consists mostly of stable and calm nitrogen; oxygen is only a small part of it. If the proportions are reversed, the world would burn to ashes. Likewise, once a section of the fifteen-annas seeks to become as restless and useful in worldly matters as the one-anna, there can be no peace. People would have to submit to their fate and get ready to be burnt to ashes. (“Fifteen-annas”, Bangadarshan, February 1903.)
It is noteworthy that Tagore did not eulogize the life lived by the fifteen-annas as an expression of high ideal or noble thought. Pleading in favour of the fifteen-annas he admits in the same article, "We ... play with friends for no reason, talk to relatives without purpose, then stage a son’s wedding with much pomp and put him in an office, and thereafter disappear from the world without leaving any trace of name or fame – we are part of the million forms in the dance of this vast life; its flow glistens with our million little laughter; it bustles with our little talks and laments.” (ibid)
A life bound by thousands of conditions can no longer be ordinary. Ordinary life can be lived as long as the general needs are freely met in a natural environment. A system driven by the motive of achieving boundless progress and profit will invariably put conditions on people, especially those belonging to the fifteen-annas, under various situations. That is what is happening all over the world now.
This conditioned state of life is not always a matter of compulsion. People do accept conditions voluntarily. The lure of a benefit or the pursuit of a happy dream often induces them to sacrifice freedom knowingly. But their inner movements, whether good or bad, can never be artificial. The natural tendency of a normal human being is away from living in a cage of imposed conditions. Even the happiness in pursuit of which a person moves away from ordinary life may seem – in hindsight – quite hollow.
The human affinity for freedom and direct contact may be a source of sustenance in the face of threat to ordinary life.
Paramesh Goswami (a friend of Manthan Samayiki,  Kolkata)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

सहज जीवन

यह पोस्ट फिर से प्रकाशित कर रहे हैं . नीचे से दूसरे पैरा में दिया लाल रंग का वाक्य पिछले पोस्ट में न जाने कैसे छूट गया था. अंग्रेजी वाला ठीक है.

सहज जीवन
Ordinary Life  पर चल रही यह बहस अगर हिंदी में चलाना हो तो ‘सामान्य जीवन’ की जगह हमारी राय में ‘सहज जीवन’ शब्द का प्रयोग करना अधिक सही होगा. ‘सहज’ शब्द जीवन के प्राकृतिक रूप के निकट ले जाता है और जीवन के स्व-भाव को समझने में मददगार हो सकता है. हमारे देश में सहज पर तो दार्शनिक चिंतन की एक लम्बी परंपरा भी है. किसी भी काल में सहज जीवन अथवा सरल जीवन जीने का प्रयास करना यानि जीवन के स्व-भाव को हासिल करना माना गया है, और यह किसी तपस्या से कम नहीं है. यह मुक्तिदायी जीवन है.   
एक बार की बात है हम कुछ महिलाओं से मिलकर बच्चों के पालन-पोषण पर बात कर रहे थे तब किसी महिला ने कहा “बच्चों को पाला नहीं जाता, वे पलते हैं ”. यह कथन ‘सहज जीवन’ के कुछ पक्षों को उजागर करता-सा मालूम  पड़ता है. सहज शब्द के अर्थ में सामूहिकता, साथ-साथ, सहित, मिलकर, सहोदर, पैदा होना शामिल है. सहज होना यानि अपने मूल रूप अथवा मूल स्वभाव पर आना है. मनुष्य को अपने जीवन को सहज बनाना यानि उसे अधिकाधिक सुविधापूर्ण बनाना नहीं है और न उसकी सक्रियता को घटाना. यह एक ऐसा जीवन है जो सहजीवन और सहअस्तित्व को आत्मसात करता है.
हमारे यहाँ कबीर के समय सहजिया पंथ का प्रभाव व्याप्त था. सहजिया, सहज पंथ, सहजधारी, सहजयान, सहज समाधी, सहज ध्यान आदि की लम्बी परंपरा है. हजारी प्रसाद के अनुसार सहज साधना में ध्यान की अवस्था मन्त्र, आसन और तंत्र साधना के बिना भी हासिल होती है. ‘सहज जीवन’ साधन, धन, तकनीकी, विचारधारा पर निर्भर नहीं है. 
सहज बुद्धि का अर्थ है सभी जीवधारियों में प्रकृति से प्राप्त वह चेतना जिससे वे कुछ करने के लिए प्रेरित होते हैं और सही-गलत का बोध कर पाते हैं. सहज का आग्रह यह नैतिक शक्तियों को अर्जित करने का मार्ग रहा है. सीता का अशोक वन में घास की पाती हाथ में लेकर रावण का मुकाबला करने की कथा सहज का आग्रह है. गांधीजी द्वारा सीता का खादी पहनने का उदहारण सहज होने का आग्रह है. सहज यानि सादगी नहीं है, बल्कि न्यायपूर्ण होने का आग्रह है.
समाज का नेतृत्व करने वालों को सहज होना, उनके विचारों को सहज होना, उनके तरीके सहज होना यह एक अनिवार्य गुण साबित हुआ है. कला की गुणवत्ता में सहज एक कसौटी रही है. माताओं का सहज होना बच्चों के सर्वांगीण विकास का आधार है. यह गौर करने की बात है कि इन सभी क्रियाओं में नेतृत्व और लोगों के बीच या कलाकार और रसिक के बीच या माँ और बच्चों में सम्प्रेषण हो पाए यह ‘सहज’ को अंगीकार करने का कारण नहीं है. इनके बीच ऊँच-नीच का सम्बन्ध नहीं है बल्कि एक ही हो जाने का प्रयास है. कला दार्शनिक नीहार रंजन राय के अनुसार सृजनकारी नेतृत्व या कलाकार जो विचार और कार्य सामने लाते हैं, उन्हें सामान्यत: समाज के अधिकांश स्त्री-पुरुष पहले से जानते हैं.
समाज में बदलती परिस्थितियां मनुष्योचित कार्य के मार्ग में तरह-तरह के भ्रम जाल फैलाती हैं. जैसे आज तकनीकी आधारित जीवन के चलते यह मान्यता हो गई है कि इनके बिना कैसे जिया जा सकता है? सहज कला और सहज साहित्य इन जैसे भ्रम-जालों को सरलता से हटाने का कार्य है. सहज कला-साहित्य अपने समय के सत्य को सरलतम रूपों में सामने लाता है. कबीर का ‘ज्ञान का हाथी’ सहज का दुशाला ओढ़े है, गाँधी की दृष्टि में विद्वत्ता की तुलना में ‘सहज बुद्धि’ श्रेष्ठ मानी गई. प्रेमचंद की ‘सहज शैली’ और हजारी प्रसाद का ‘सहज भाषा’ का चिंतन ज्ञान-मार्ग को नैतिक और सरल बनाता है. चंद्रधर शर्मा ‘गुलेरी’ का ‘बोल-चाल की भाषा’ को शुद्ध भाषा का दर्जा देना और नामवर सिंह का सामान्य पाठक की ‘सहज दृष्टि’ को सृजनशील समीक्षक का दर्जा देना, यह ‘सहज जीवन’ के कुछ महत्वपूर्ण पहलुओं को सामने ले आता है.

चित्रा सहस्रबुद्धे

Sahaj Jeevan
If this debate on ‘Ordinary Life’ is to be carried out in Hindi then in my view the appropriate word would be ‘sahaj jeevan’ and not ‘samanya jeevan’. The word ‘sahaj’ takes one close to natural forms life and it may be helpful in understanding the swa-bhaav of life.  In our country there is a long tradition of philosophical reflection on ‘sahaj’ , the ordinary. In any period attempts at ordinary life or simple life were seen as trying to be one with swa-bhav of life, and this was no less than tapasya. This is emancipatory life.
Once we were discussing with some women the question of upbringing of children and one of them said “ children are not brought up, they grow”. This statement seems to bring into light certain aspects of ordinary life, sahaj jeevan. The meaning of sahaj includes being natural, unhampered by extraneous influences, togetherness, inclusiveness, joining together, brotherhood etc. To be sahaj is to gravitate towards basic forms, instincts or the swa-bhaav . To make one’s life more and more sahaj is not to add conveniences to one’s life , not to reduce one’s activity. Living together and being together is intrinsic to ordinary life.
In the times of Kabir there was a popular sect called Sahajiya Panth. There is a long tradition of Sahajiya, Sahaj Panth, Sahaj Dhaari, Sahajyaan, Sahaj Samadhi, Sahaj Dhyan etc.  According to Hazari Prasad Dwivedi in Sahaj Sadhna the state of dhyan is achievable even without mantra, aasana and tantra.  Sahaj jeevan is not dependent upon resources, wealth, technology, ideology.
The meaning of sahaj buddhi for all creatures is, that consciousness obtained from nature which inspires them to do something and enables them to differentiate what is right from what is wrong. Sahajagrah (सहजाग्रह), that is  insistence on sahaj, is a way to obtain moral strengths.
Sita’s taking into her hand petals of grass as weapon to defend her against Ravan is an instance of sahajagrah.  Gandhiji’s  reference to Sita wearing khadi is also for sahajagrah. Sahajagrah is to insist on what is just.  
Leaders of society need to be sahaj, their thought needs to be sahaj, their methods need to be sahaj.  Sahaj is part of the criteria of art appreciation. Mothers need to be sahaj for all round development of children. It is not for communication between leadership and the people or between artists and audience or between mother and her children that the need for being sahaj is felt, for there is no hierarchy in these relationships, they strive for unity. The philosopher of art Neehar Ranjan Ray says that the thoughts and creations brought forward by the creative leaderships or the artists are ordinarily already known to most men and women in society.
The changing situations in society sometimes create confusions while performing tasks appropriate for human beings. For example the spread of technology has given currency to the thought that life would be very difficult without technology. Sahaj art and sahaj literature remove such confusion. Sahaj art-literature presents the truth of its time in very simple form. Some examples from the towering figures of Hindi literature illustrate the point. Kabir’s ‘elephant of knowledge’ wears a shawl of sahaj. For Gandhi, sahaj-buddhi has preference over scholarship. The ordinary style of Premchand and the ordinary language of Hazari Prasad Dwivedi make gyan-marg, the path of knowledge, simple.  Chandrdhar Sharma ‘Guleri’ gave spoken language the status of  correct and pure language  and Namawar Singh gave the natural stand point of an ordinary reader the status of a creative critic. These bring forward some important aspects of sahaj jeevan, Ordinary Life.
Chitra Sahasrabudhey

Monday, June 15, 2020


Ordinary Life

"Ordinary life is life without condition. It assumes no science, no technology, no religion, no methods of organisation and communication of knowledge, it assumes nothing. It is not true, austere or moral life, for there is falsehood, extravaganza and immorality in ordinary life. But it has the criteria of truth, morality, justice, wisdom etc. in it."

We cannot ever have words which are more apt to describe what is ordinary life. Ordinary life is not always true, good and beautiful, but it has the standards of truth, beauty and goodness.

There can be excellence and appreciation of excellence in ordinary life - excellence of knowledge, art, ethical behaviour. Everything is not 'ordinary' in ordinary life.

Ordinary life has always existed. It was taken for granted. Everything else came and then passed away - political systems, religions, technologies, philosophies appeared and disappeared. But ordinary life was always there. One did not need to speak of it, it was taken for granted.

Threat to Ordinary Life

Now we are living in an age where 'ordinary life' has become the most extraordinary thing. This is because the conditions necessary for ordinary life are threatened.

Earth itself is under threat. The rivers, forests, land, mountains, seas - all are under threat. There is no ordinary life without the bounties that earth provides. And the knowledge that lives in ordinary life is threatened. There is no regard for such knowledge. All activities of life from birth to growing up, from disease to cure and healing, work and play, from food to entertainment etc. etc. are under threat. From what does this threat come we do not know for sure - technology, capital, political systems, science etc. They used to operate taking ordinary life for granted. Now they threaten ordinary life itself.

Life without Ordinary Life

One response to this situation that is taking shape now in the front rank of dominant classes is that ordinary life is beyond redemption. We have to prepare for a future without ordinary life. We have to build technologies, systems of knowledge and control, systems of finance, etc. etc. that will equip human beings to construct a form of life that will survive the destruction of ordinary life and this planet for the foreseeable future.

There is an understanding and a conviction associated with such attitudes that this can't be done for the whole of humanity. This new form of life will necessitate not only exclusion of large number of people, but even their destruction cannot be ruled out.  This is not a conspiracy. The belief is that this is the only realistic way out unless we want to go back to a pre-technological phase of life. There is an underlying sense of the hard decisions that have to be made, and sentiments that have to be curbed.

This can be seen in the policy circles in the form of 'converging technologies' agenda, in certain attitudes to loss or possible loss of life in adoption of certain courses of action by politicians, in proposals of intensive virtualisation of life, in utopian zeal of new-age capitalists like Elon Musk, in currents of thought called 'post-humanism'. Names do not matter. This is not going to be an overt political project. My sense is that this vision of our future has been explored again and again in science fiction both in dystopian and utopian manner.

All this of course is in the name of the next ultimate step for humanities' progress where the humanity is emancipated from its dependence on natural processes of earth and reproduction of living creatures.

No Life without Ordinary Life

The other response is that life without ordinary life is no life.

It is perhaps such recognition which is the source of affinity among certain kinds of ideas, organisations, and movements. For example, Lokavidya, Sacred Economy, Food Soveignty, Rights of Mother Earth. There will be others.

It seems to me that 'the political' today gets defined by ordinary life, and not by the knowledge question. The questions of knowledge and lokavidya remain important in this 'politics', but my sense is that they do not define the political. In fact, 'the political' itself will have to be redefined in this extraordinary situation, where ordinary life is under threat of destruction.

There is another thing about ordinary life. We cannot banish 'dukha' or suffering from ordinary life. It seems to me that the project of banishing all suffering from life has in some way resulted in this threat to ordinary life that we face today.

-Avinash Jha

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Ordinary is Emancipating!

The post on ordinary life and emancipating transformations by Lalit K. Kaul was nice!

Just one small comment ... about the last paragraph.
I think the word 'ordinary' in 'ordinary life' is quite fitting. If you look up synonyms of this word you come up with these: everyday, natural, normal, traditional, typical, familiar, general, humdrum, public, routine, standard, stock, accustomed, customary, established, frequent, habitual, popular, prevailing, quotidian, run-of-the-mill, settled, usual, wonted. I think the concept of "ordinary life" embraces precisely all these shades, and, of course, much more. The connotation of ordinary as "lowly", or "inferior" is not implied by the word, or these synonyms ... Although this connotation is very much there in regular use of the word ordinary among the 'parasites' ... but that is expected!

It sounds much more fitting to end the blog-note by something like "Ordinary is emancipating!"

- Girish Sahasrabudhe