The Cosmic Wheel

The metaphor of the wheel nearly transcends the limitations of language to ably capture the paradoxes and nuances of the Indic view of the Universe.

The Cosmic Wheel

On the dry parched land of Kalibangan, once green by the waters of the mighty Saraswati river, archeologists unearthed the curious remains of a child’s toy: a terracotta wheel that is painted with red lines from the axle to the rim, depicting its spokes.  In the unforgiving tropical landscape of India, well-preserved fossils and remains are a rarity. Such terracotta wheels are the best evidence we can muster for having invented the spoked wheel.

[The Archaeological find of terracotta wheel from the Saraswati valley]

Any symbol is of limited means in explaining a philosophy that plays with the idea of paradox. Words like Dharma and Karma are not meant to be explained by a child’s toy. But strangely, the wheel has the honor of appearing at the center of the Indian national flag. It was the chosen symbol of Dharma by the Buddhists and the Jains. It adorned the pillar of Ashōka, protected by the lions guarding the four directions. It permeates the Hindu sacred ritual, as devotees make Pradakshinas (circumambulations) around a temple, or twirl the beads of their Japamālas in meditation. A recently published essay discussed the inertia of symbols. A Sattvic interpretation of any symbol is difficult to achieve, but it will be illuminating. In this essay, we will make the adventure of interpreting the symbol of the wheel, and use this further to decipher the meaning of other ideas.

Indian civilization has long looked at the cosmos as a wheel: the orderly motion of the stars on the cosmic canvas fascinated our ancestors for at least ten thousand years. The earliest known representation of a megalithic stone structure for astronomical observations, found in the Telangana region, dates to seven thousand years ago. Then, as now, the best places to observe the stars were mountaintops, which offered clear skies with no obstructions. The valley of Kashmir had ancient records of astronomical observations. These were necessary for keeping track of the monsoon rains. There are remains of the terraced rice fields here from twelve thousand years ago. The Sanskrit word “Ṛta”, originally signifying the cosmic order, also means the play of seasons. This cyclical dance of light and darkness across the seasons, both nourishing and destroying life, is long celebrated in Indian poetry. One who knows the Ṛta (ऋत) is a Ṛṣi (ऋषि). It is enjoined on Ṛṣis that they do not stay fixed, but keep travelling around the world. The ultimate metaphor for this natural flow along the Ṛta is a river, whose waters are replenished cyclically by the seasons. Thus, Saraswati was both a river and the goddess of speech, in which Vēdas were expressed illuminating the Ṛta.

The Rig Veda hymn 48 in book 1 glorifies Ṛta as follows.

dvâdaśa pradháyaś cakrám ékaṃ / trîṇi nábhyāni ká u tác ciketa

tásmin sākáṃ triśatâ ná śaṅkávo / ‘rpitâḥ ṣaṣṭír ná calācalâsaḥ

दवादश परधयश्चक्रमेकं तरीणि नभ्यानि क उ तच्चिकेत |

तस्मिन साकं तरिशता न शङकवो.अर्पिताः षष्टिर्न चलाचलासः ||

“Twelve are the fellies, and the wheel is single; three are the naves. What man hath understood it? Therein are set together spokes three hundred and sixty, which in nowise can be loosened.” (Translation by Griffith)

The 360 spokes refer to the 30 Tithis in a lunar month with 12 Ādityas each. These are deities that move time forwards.  The Ēkam Cakram refers to the cosmic wheel of Ṛta, that can be physically glimpsed by looking at the motion of the stars in the night sky. For a highly attuned mind, this Ṛta is visible in even the minutest intervals of time.

Ṛta is reflected not only in the physical universe, but also in the mental universe of a person. Yōga is about aligning these worlds together. The wheel provides a useful conceptual tool for visualizing this unity. The outer rim of the wheel is the Adhibhautika – the physical universe. The axle at the centre of the wheel is Adhyātmika – the innermost core of consciousness which cannot be expressed in language. The disc that connects the center to the rim is the Adhidaivika – the universe of Devas who are not localized in space and time, but who control the holistic movements of the natural order. These three worlds are expressed as BhūhSwah and Bhuvah respectively. The mental universe is a playground for the Dēvās, which the ignorant person considers to be exclusively under his own control. Vēdic philosophy considers the same Dēvas to populate both the physical and mental worlds, which are but mirror reflections of each other. Like harmonic functions of sine and cosine (discovered in the Jyōtisha tradition of India through the analysis of the circular motion of the stars), these Dēvas are the underlying basis for the variegated complexity of this universe.

Human Fulfilment in Cosmic Existence:

The Sāmkhya philosophical system divides all observable phenomena in the universe into two entities: the expression (Prakṛti) and the observer (Purusha). Taking the analogy of the wheel, Prakṛti is the disc of the wheel along with the rim, whereas Purusha is the tiny hole for the axle at its center, denoted in Sanskrit by the word “Kha”. This word also means an aperture, light, the sun, the cosmos, the heavens, and the Brahman. These meanings will become apparent soon.

When the axle is properly aligned (Su-kha), the wheel spins smoothly and yields pleasure. When the axle is not properly aligned (Duh-Kha), the wheel shakes violently and causes suffering. Both Sukha and Duhkha are caused by the cyclical motion of the wheel (Prakṛti) which is not in the control of Purusha. However, the closer one moves to the center of the wheel, the less suffering that one feels. As the conscious experience of the Purusha is drawn inwards to the center, the spinning of the wheel slows down. At the very center, there is absolute stillness and no motion, liberating all possibilities of freedom for the conscious mind. The conscious experience of time is related to how rapidly the wheel spins, and that in turn is related to how far away from the center that one’s mind is focused.

Thus conscious experience is like a dazzling sun (also denoted by Kha) at the center whose light is dimmed and dissipated as one moves radially across the wheel. At any position on the wheel, more illumination and insight are obtained as one focusses inwards. This yields a specific philosophical framework where the fulfillments of human life (Purushārthas) can be classified into four types and arranged in a graded manner.

Any person is present in the physical world (Lōka) that is the outer rim of the wheel. The pleasures that he or she can experience therein, such as food and sex, are termed Kāma (sensory pleasures). On the wheel, Kāma refers to the inertia of staying put on the rim of the wheel and not exploring the inner disc. Higher than Kāma is the pleasure of Artha, that is related to expanding the ownership of the wheel beyond a mere point on the rim. This ownership is on a Kshātra (field) that expands radially from the point on the rim. The objects that fall within this field revolve around the new center, making epicycles around the original center of the wheel. Artha provides the means to experience greater sensual pleasures, but it is also a source for Duhkha, as the secondary center violates with the natural spin of the wheel.  Multiple people seeking Artha conflict with each other. The resultant chaos is felt as the rise of entropy in the universe. As Ādi Shankara says “putrādapi dhana bhājyām bheetih”, the rich man fears even his own progeny.

Beyond Artha and Kāma lies the inner pleasure of Dharma, which refers to aligning one’s conscious experience with the natural spin of the wheel. This means overcoming one’s physical inertia and moving along with the seasons of Ṛta – rejoicing in the constant death and rebirth of life. When everybody moves along with Dharma, they circumambulate the center of the wheel from whichever distance they are located. This creates no conflicts and yields Sukha to everybody. It is not only humans, but also animals and plants that rejoice in the pleasure of being in their own bodies. This pleasure of Dharma is considered deeper and more satisfying than that of Kāma and Artha. As one moves closer to the center of the wheel, the lōka in which they reside becomes more and more illuminated, yielding greater Sukha. There are many lōkās that are considered accessible to humans beyond the physical plane we live in. One can renounce desire and gradually climb to the center of the wheel, and the happiness thus obtained is described in the Brahmānandavalli of Vēdās.  Beyond all such pleasures of Dharma is the highest pleasure of all – Mōksha, which refers to dissolving the wheel completely by merging with the absolute stillness of the center.

The spinning wheel of Prakṛti is divided into five layers, which have their counterparts in the human body which is divided into five Kōṣas: Annamaya, Prānamaya, Manōmaya, Vijñānamaya, and Ānandamaya, which can be visualized as concentric circles, each successively closer to the center of the wheel.  They correspond to the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether (ākāśa) respectively. Of these, Annamaya (material layer) corresponds to Bhūh where Kāma can be satisfied. Manōmaya (layer of mind) corresponds to Bhuvah where Artha is satisfied. The converging and diverging forces of Dēvās and Asurās keep fighting to gain control on these spheres. Ānandamaya (layer of bliss) corresponds to Swah where Mōkshacan be glimpsed upon. The remaining two kōṣas are intermediary layers that reinforce Dharma. Prānamaya (layer of breath) reinforces Dharma while satisfying KāmaVijñānamaya (layer of understanding) reinforces Dharma while satisfying Artha. Thus, Dharma is the most essential element of conscious experience that holds it together. True Ānanda is achieved only at the center of the wheel, after transcending all these lōkās, and completely disentangling the conscious experience from both the body (Kāma) and the symbolic constructs of the mind (Artha). Thus, paradoxically, higher pleasure can only be achieved by renunciation of the lower pleasures. In India, there is a saying that there are certain tastes that can only be appreciated by a hungry man.

This aspect of renunciation is a central element of Indian culture and philosophy. The Sāmkhya system places this Guṇa (quality) at the highest pedestal and calls this Sattva (essence of existence). Sattva Guna refers to identifying not with a single point on the rim of the wheel, but with the whole disc. This naturally requires one to be conscious of the center of the wheel. Sattva is an untranslatable word. It is described as clarity, illumination, kindness and harmony. But it also means immense potential, power and creativity. The word Sattā (सत्ता) in Hindi (or Sattuva in Telugu) derives from Sattva, and means resourcefulness and power. When one identifies with the entire disc and not with a point on the wheel, one taps into the entire power of Prakṛti. This is why Indian artists pray to the Ranga-dēvatās (deities of the stage) before a performance. Similarly, Indian sportsmen bow down to the earth and place a piece of dirt on their head before commencing play. Sattva is achieved only by renunciation of ego. This can be contrasted with the other two GunāsTamas is the inertia of habit to one’s physical body, dominated by KāmaRajas is the power to impose oneself on the other, dominated by ArthaTamas also means darkness, whereas Rajas means “dust” created by the chaos of conflicting desires. Visualized on the spinning wheel, Rajas refers to expanding the rim of the wheel (“conquering the outside world”). Sattva refers to shrinking the wheel to reach the center, and Tamas refers to not taking any action.

[The wheel of the Sun’s chariot at the Konark Sun Temple is one of the most exquisite representations of the Dharma Chakra]

The Spiral of Karma:

The three Gunās are properties of Prakṛti alone and not that of Purusha. But they continuously evolve based on how and where the attention of Purushais focused. This causes Karma, which creates infinite new possibilities in how the universe runs. Indian concept of time is often misunderstood as cyclic, but it is actually quasi-cyclic as Prof C.K.Raju puts it. There is immense scope for creativity, unlike in the mechanistic clockwork cosmos of Newtonian/Einsteinian time.

Bharadvāja’s Karma Mīmāmsa sūtras classify Karma into three types. Jaiva Karma refers to the action of the Adhibhautika self, to satisfy the desires of Artha and Kāma within the physical constraints of the body. These outward-oriented pleasures are described as PrēyasSahaja Karma refers to the action of the Adhyātmika self, to satisfy the desires of Dharma and Mōksha, transcending the limits of the body. These inward-oriented pleasures are described as ShrēyasSahaja Karma yields Sukha, by restoring clarity and harmony. Jaiva Karma yields Duhkha, by amplifying chaos and entropy. Balagangadhara describes how the western intellectual tradition has only one type of happiness, where as Indian tradition discriminates between Sukha and Ānanda.  This is due to the western definition of happiness exclusively as Prēyas, which is distinct from ShrēyasSukha is comprised of both, whereas Ānanda is comprised only of Shrēyas. There is a third kind of Karma which leaves no fruit (karmaphala) whatsoever. This is Aisha Karma, which refers to the action of Adhidaivika, which is beyond the influence of conscious self. Vishnu says in Bhagavad Gīta that whenever Adharma(entropy and chaos) increases so much that the wheel is unable to spin anymore, he would restore the Dharma. Vishnu’s weapon of Sudarshana Chakra (wheel of clear vision) is symbolic of this action, and it runs through the conscience of every person. A rightful ruler (Dharma Rāja) should imbibe this spirit of Vishnu and support the Dharma of every Jīva on this wheel of Samsāra.

Based on the gaze of Purusha, conscious experience of time moves along as a point on the spinning wheel. It can trace a simple circular path (Tamas), but it can also make spiral outwards or inwards. As it moves closer to the center, time slows down reaching the peaceful lōkās of Dēvās. As it moves away from the center, it generates the chaos of Asura lōkās, with creation and destruction happening at great speed. Without the gaze of Purusha, the natural tendency of Prakṛti is to be chaotic. This can be expressed as a reformulation of the second law of thermodynamics: the entropy (Rajas) of any closed system without a conscious observer increases in time. However, in Hindu cosmology, this is not a law set in stone. Entropy can also decrease, through meditation and focused attention given by Sattva. The historical conception of Yugās is also based on this understanding. In Satya Yuga, all the beings (jīvās) are close to the center, and consequently, this is described as enormously long with respect to conscious perception of time. Subsequent Yugās of Trētā, Dwāpara and Kali are described by greater deterioration of Dharma, as well as smaller intervals of conscious perception of time. But these are only gross aggregate divisions of time. By practicing meditation and various forms of Yōga, individuals can consciously reform the Yuga and Lōka that they experience.  The vimānas that were described as capable of flying between the various Lōkās at the speed of mind should also be interpreted in terms of the mental capacity to do so. The goal of Yōga is to annihilate the ego and make the body as a vessel for the greater force of nature, connecting the individual with the universal. One of the unique aspects of Indian epics is that of heroes performing penance and meditation to obtain command on celestial weapons, in contrast to epics from other cultures where heroes are either born with such powers or obtain them as gifts from the gods. These Astras should be interpreted as signifying the immense concentration, and the clarity and fluidity of mind that one needs in the war of Samsāra.

At the very center of the wheel lies the infinitesimal circle of Satyalōka, which is the zone of the highest potential. It is the abode of Brahma, the primal cause. From here any point on the wheel can be reached. It is the location of infinite creativity, constantly churning out new spirals of time.  In the Indian tradition, all the Śāstrās (texts on science and philosophy) are described to be originated from Brahma. This should be taken to reflect the sincere exercises of contemplation by the authors, as they tried to get rid of all prejudice and see the universe in as holistic a manner as possible.

But Brahma is emphatically not the cause of Ṛta (the very spin of the wheel). Brahma himself is considered to be born from the navel of the wheel, beyond which lies VishnuVishnu supports Dharma of the various Lōkās in the form of the twelve spokes of the wheel, known as Ādityas. This number in reflected in the twelve months of the year, and in the twelve degrees within a Tithi. Vishnu is Purushōttama (the best representation of Purusha), but even he is not the cause of Ṛta, which is Apaurushēya. Vishnu is bound to Ṛta, although he is not bound to any law (even those derived from Satyalōka).  Ādityās are born from Aditi – the divine mother, who is represented as a cow. The motherly love of a cow for its calf is considered to be the embodiment of Sattva Guṇa, because ego dissolves when one experiences motherly love. In the Vēdās, the life-giving rivers on earth are compared to the nourishing milk of a cow. This mother Earth is the highest embodiment of Sattva, but she needs to be protected by Rajas. The duty of a king is to protect these life-giving elements, like how Vishnu protects Aditi.

It is not possible to transcend the chains of Ṛta and still care about conscious experience on the wheel. Shiva is the representation of Purusha that transcends all aspects of Prakṛti, including Ṛta. Shiva completely annihilates the three worlds on the wheel. The two aspects of Shiva and Vishnu cannot be combined into a single word or image. Like Shruti and Laya of music, one of them holds time together where as the other dissolves it. But both are essential to music. In the Indian music tradition, Shruti and Laya are considered to be the mother and the father of music. They represent the Prakriti and Purusha of Sāmkhya. Understanding this duality is essential for realizing the highest conscious experience, even though the duality itself may be dissolved at that very highest state.

Constricted Vocabulary of Academics Today:

Balagangadhara says that all current theories in social sciences are rooted in western history and ideologies, disconnected from any other culture including Indian. Western philosophy is determined exclusively by Rajas and Tamas, with no understanding of Sattva. With Sattva excluded, these two Guṇas yield a simple master-slave relationship. Aristotle opined that “intelligence” is ultimately about exerting mastery over one’s environment. Several centuries later, the renaissance philosopher Kant agreed. “There are natural masters and slaves. Intelligence is what separates them.”  The dialectic of Hegel, which imagines a master-race to capture the “Weltgeist” and impose a “history” upon the world, is based on this notion of intelligence. Marxist dialectic, which continues to influence academic bastions in sociology and humanities, is derived from this constricted dialectic. It amplifies violence in natural and social spheres, by pitting man against nature, and one section of people against the others in a series of class struggles. Is it possible that western-dominated academia is suffering from a type of color-blindness, seeing the world only in terms of two Gunas instead of three?

The Indian notion of intelligence is starkly different as it is shaped by Sattva. In his “Brāhmanavarga”, Buddha exposes on the qualities of a Brāhman, the embodiment of intelligence: contemplation, free of cares, compassion, self-introspection, dispassion to worldly pleasures, control over the senses and so on. These same qualities are celebrated in the Upanishads. The Chāndogya Upanishad describes several layers of “intelligence”: successively describing it as speech, mind, will, thought, contemplation, understanding, strength, imbibing the natural elements, memory, hope, life, truth and understanding, steadfastness, abundance, abundance in one’s own self, and ultimately self-centeredness. This self-centered model of intelligence requires one to renounce desires of Prakṛti and root oneself in Purusha. Philosophically, this is justified by a deep suspicion of the process of assigning Artha (meaning) by comparing words against each other in language (Vāk, one of the embodiments of Prakṛti). This is contrasted with the deeper meaning of Bhāva (presence) that is derived from one’s experience.

India is not unique with this nuanced understanding of intelligence and its expression in language. This is echoed in the Daoist thought of China. The Dao De Jing says (parentheses mine):

When Dao (Ṛta/Brahman) is lost, people start speaking of De (virtue/Sattva)

When De is lost, people start speaking of Ren (compassion/Karuṇa)

When Ren is lost, people start speaking of Yi (right conduct/Neeti)

When Yi is lost, people start speaking of Li (encoded rituals/Karma Sampradāya).

Thus Daoists have a deep suspicion on blind ritual, and emphasize being in the present moment (Bhāva). The Indian traditions of arts and sciences are rooted in this very idea. Bhāva can be expressed only in an indirect manner, through vakrata. When this Bhāva is refined, it yields Rasa, which is next only to the ineffable Brahman.

Apart from philosophical differences with respect to cultural expression and intelligence, there are profound differences in pedagogy between Indian and western systems. India had a very ancient pedagogic tradition – the epics tell stories of students in their formative years in the Gurukula. Such stories are remarkably absent in epics from other cultures, especially from Greece. The Indian tradition required students to adhere to Brahmacharya (literally, walk along the Brahma Lōka) by cultivating Sattvic habits and a holistic vision about the universe. It required the teachers to be Āchārya i.e, practice and experience the knowledge that they are teaching. Before one attempts a Siddhānta (theory), one needs to achieve Chitta Shuddhi (purification of mind by eliminating bias). The Sanskrit language itself is an embodiment of SattvaSamskṛtam means Samyak Kṛtam (put together elegantly). It is said that logicians and grammarians are to be respected, because they purify the assembly. Pāṇini (language categories) and Kaṇāda (world categories) are studied by students of all sciences and arts. This enabled diversity of thought and expression, even as a common Sanskritic framework evolved for exchange of ideas. Indologists like Sheldon Pollock, bewildered by this when projected into a straight-jacket of Rajas and Tamas, produce comical theories which fly against all facts.

But the rut in academics may not be limited to humanities. It may extend even to hard sciences and mathematics. The fundamental bottleneck in western philosophy is its dualistic logic. Unlike the Indian logic of Chatuskōti, Aristotle’s two-sided logic was unaware of the inherent limitations of language. This two-sided logic leads to the axiomatic framework for formal mathematics, which relies immensely on proof by contradiction (very rarely used in Indian Gaṇita). Recently, western tradition developed a trend for constructivism or positive proofs, but it still falls shy of embracing Pratyaksha (empiricism). Gōdel’s incompleteness theorems hint that dry formalism may be limited in building a complete theory of the universe. With the immense success of computer algorithms, a more pragmatic model needs to be developed for mathematics and physics.  Roddam Narasimha argues that the traditional Indian scientific method adopted a pragmatic “computational positivism”. C.K.Raju proposes a framework called “zeroism”, inspired by the pragmatic Indian calculus of Āryabhaṭa and Mādhava. When properly understood, the notion of zero is exactly equivalent to the notion of infinity, which is expressed in the Upanishadic saying.

Pūrṇasya Pūrṇamādhāya Pūrṇamēvā vaśishaytē

When perfection is subtracted from perfection, only perfection remains

Only zero and infinity satisfy this rule. Neither can be reduced to a finite description in language. Historically, zero was denoted by a circle with a dot at the center, symbolically representing Prakṛti and Purusha. This philosophical perspective gave rise to a pragmatic and empirical approach to science, with the understanding that our bias can never be “zeroed” absolutely.

Taking the analogy of the wheel, the fundamental divide between the Indian and western mindset is that the latter acknowledges only the rim of the wheel. When the cyclical motion is very large, it starts to resemble a straight line. Thus, a straight line can be trivially obtained as an approximation to a circular motion for a short interval of time, but the reverse is not true. If the reality of the universe is indeed like a wheel, we expect to find errors in physics models based on linear time. Do we see them?

The physicist Brian Greene in his book “The fabric of the cosmos” describes the universe as a loaf of bread, where time flows from one end to the other. This refers to the “absolute mathematical time” of Newton with the “laws” of physics created external to it. This model threw up severe errors in the behavior of light and gravitation, which were partially plugged by Einstein (still assuming an external creator of “laws”). However, it is still proving to be extremely difficult to reconcile Einstein’s notions of space-time with experimental observations in quantum mechanics. Things become very mischievous when we approach regions of large curvature, closer to the center of the wheel. In the Sāmkhya model, this happens when we deal with consciousness (Purusha) or with the beginning of creation. For the scientifically literate person, these gaping errors become apparent, for example, in the “cosmological constant” and “dark energy” in cosmic evolution. Certain important values are not substantiated by measurement but extrapolated from theory e.g, the entropy of photons (associated with “Kha” or the center of the wheel in the Sāmkhya model). Another error appears in biological models of evolution, where there is simply not enough time in the geological age of the earth for the evolution of current genetic diversity. In a practical setting, there is a severe gap in our understanding of health with no good models for how conscious experience in the brain influences neuroplasticity, physical immunity and even gene expression. Similar to the dialogue between Tesla and Vivekananda, an exchange between scientists and spiritual practitioners may spark new insights in these open areas of research. The second law of thermodynamics (rise of entropy) may be revised similar to how the first law (conservation of mass) was revised to include energy. The dogma of unidirectional time need not be swallowed at its face-value.

The Way Forward for Dharmic Ideas:

The philosopher Yuval Hariri argues in his book “Sapiens” that we inhabit a fool’s model of reality.

Ever since the cognitive revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.

Hariri’s viewpoint is interesting, as he is a sincere practitioner of Buddhist meditation, but this viewpoint is categorically wrong when applied to Indian religions. Hindus consider those very rivers, trees and lions to be their Gods (Dēvas). The universe (Prakriti) itself is deemed worthy of worship. Hindus consider that there is an internal sun that illuminates the consciousness, just as the external sun illuminates the world outside. It is considered an error to believe that these two are different from one another. They are both manifestations of the one single reality, which can only be grasped in parts by the untrained mind and by the limited vocabulary of language. However, this could be corrected by meditation. The Rudram, one of the most sacred Hindu mantras addressed to Shiva, proceeds with the Laghunyāsa, where the different deities are requested to reside in the body of the human in meditation (Dhyāna).

May Sun be in my eyes,

May Fire be in my stomach,

May Wind be in my nose,

May Lightning be in the frontal lobe of my head.

This is a different model of conscious experience, where the inner self is considered thoroughly integrated into the supporting universe and not separate from it. In such a model, ecological harmony is not a delicate trade-off between conflicting interests, but a consolidation to the central core of one’s own identity. It is a stable and robust unity, like that between a mother and her child. This cannot be understood without realizing Sattvaand Dharma. There is a genuine interest in the west to learn Dharmic philosophy and study the universe through this lens. But Saraswati is dry and Ganga is polluted. Overcoming the bias of western philosophical tradition is not easy. Even for Indians, this requires several generations of work. Kapil Kapoor contextualized the various reform movements from Ram Mohan Roy to Vivekananda as a progressive elimination of colonial bias – a process which is still continuing. In the Dharmic perspective, the notion of progress is not linear but a perennial search for the center. The Yagna of each human being is to sincerely investigate conscious experience and show compassion to all life forms. This Yagna produces the intense heat of the sun which evaporates the polluted water in the seas and brings this life-giving water to the land. May the spinning wheel of the cosmos inspire us in that direction. 
References / Footnotes

Nithin Sridhar’s article on Karma performed with and without desire (More detail in his excellent book “Musings on Hinduism”)

Nithin Sridhar’s article on Karma Phala (the fruits of Karma) and how current action (Āgāmi karma) determines how they are achieved, despite one’s past actions and circumstances.

Ashish Dhar’s article on the inertia of symbols, with the three Guna interpretation of how we react to symbols.

C.K.Raju’s discussion with Dalai Lama on implications of Shunyavāda for mathematics:

C.K.Raju’s lecture on the nature of time and creativity, and how Indian notions differ from western notions of mechanical universe.

Kapil Kapoor’s lecture on the context of Hindu reformist movements as a progressive elimination of western bias.

Roddam Narasimha’s lecture on the computational positivism of the Indian scientific method

S Tilak’s lecture on how indologists such as Sheldon Pollock misinterpret Mīmāmsa. The playlist of various paper presentations critiquing  the different aspects of Pollock’s theories at the Swadeshi Indology 2 conference organized by Rajiv Malhotra and K.S.Kannan.

Balagangadhara’s opinion on western ideologies influencing social sciences.

Balagangadhara on Indian mythic imagery as a tool for higher conscious experience

The online text on Karma Mīmāmsa Darśana, attributed to the sage Bharadvāja

Prof. V.N. Jha discusses the nature of Indian philosophical debate 

Shatāvadhani Ganesh’s lectures on Indian culture and philosophy are a treasure-trove of information.

About Author: Kiran Varanasi

Kiran Varanasi is a researcher in computer science working in Germany. He is interested in using the Dharmic lens to reason about ethical problems in artificial intelligence, virtual online spaces, and human-computer interfaces. Some of his technical work can be accessed here

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