Hinduism: The Ultimate Antifragile – 1

Author :- Shivoham (@integralunity).

(Original version published here in 2012)

Author’s Note: This post is not intended to be viewed as a ‘celebration’ by the Hindu society of ‘succeeding in surviving continually for a very long time’. Barely surviving is not a cause for high-fives. Indeed, as Rajiv Malhotra remarked in his talks: “I have too many times responded to this false belief as an instance of what I have coined the Moron Smriti. Dharma’s space and share went down by 80% over the past 1500 years. Imagine your company CFO saying, “Congratulations, boss! We lost 80% of our market share, share price, revenues, but guess what? We are still not bankrupt! Isn’t that cool?

The attempt here is to apply the ideas from Rajiv Malhotra’s work- to recognize the key concept of integral unity present in Hinduism (Sanathana Dharma) and dharma thought systems that give them not only unsurpassed resilience, but the ability to constructively harness ‘disorder’.


Reading Naseem Taleb who defined this term mathematically, and following this interview is interesting.

Linda Geddes: In your new book you talk about things being “antifragile.” What do you mean exactly?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: When you ask people what is the opposite of fragile, they mostly answer something that is resilient or unbreakable—an unbreakable package would be robust. However, the opposite of fragile is something that actually gains from disorder. In the book, I classify things into fragile, robust, or antifragile…

LG: How would you make something antifragile?

NNT: If antifragility is the property of all these natural complex systems that have survived, then depriving them of volatility, randomness, and stressors will harm them…”

Note the highlighted terms used to represent what to the West essentially is some form of “chaos”.  Readers of the book “Being Different: India’s Challenge to Western Universalism“, may grasp the meaning of the title of this post relatively quickly. It is known that Hinduism and India’s Dharmic civilization has managed to not just survive but continually thrive for millennia. The sharp debates with other Sampradayas eventually strengthened dharma traditions. Furthermore, Hinduism has overcome the onslaught of invaders who practiced and imposed barbaric ideologies for more than 800 years on India, but with remarkably little success, whereas some Gurus, Acharyas, Yogis, Swamis continually learned from hostile interactions and innovated, adapted and strengthened the forces of dharma.  

Why? One reason: They could not decipher the “chaos” and “disorder” within Hinduism, the knowledge of which is required to cause it to disintegrate. The path of least resistance employed to conquer Hinduism led them into a maze and a series of dead ends. In comparison, almost the entire middle east was converted to Islam within a few decades using similar methods. Europe and the United States witnessed a violent conquest of their native culture a few centuries ago. Presently, we can observe a steady decline in Church membership in the west in the last century despite enjoying a monopoly in the religious market, and unprecedented and robust material prosperity. Why?

Although a lot of this post focuses on religion and philosophy, this is not just a religion versus religion comparison on resilience. This is more a civilization versus civilization comparison.

Integral Unity

“The dharmic traditions are steeped in the metaphysics of the non-separation of all reality, physical and non-physical, from the divine – what is referred to henceforth as ‘integral unity’.”

– Rajiv Malhotra.

Dharmic thought systems’ Integral Unity, as opposed to the Judeo-Christian approach of synthesizing unity, is what makes it ‘antifragile’ (which is but one of its many qualities). In ‘Being Different’ (BD), Rajiv Malhotra points out: “… All dharmic schools begin by assuming that ultimately the cosmos is a unified whole in which absolute reality and the relative manifestations are profoundly connected. Western worldviews, by contrast, have been shaped by a tension between the absolute status of Judeo-Christian historical revelations on the one hand and the knowledge produced by a highly dualistic and atomistic Greek metaphysics and Aristotelian binary logic on the other“.

Chapter 3 of this book points to how the integral unity-based Dharmic traditions are antifragile in contrast with the Judeo-Christian approach that synthesizes a coalition of ideas, which is inherently fragile, and robust at best. As a student, I found it useful to view this dichotomy as a Jarasandha versus Bhima Strength ModelThe former embodies synthetic unity whose fragility is eventually exposed and capitulates to the latter’s strength that is guided by the divine hands of Sri Krishna. As far as chaos, Rajiv Malhotra notes: “Sri Aurobindo, the great Indian yogi and philosopher of the twentieth century, said that since unity in the dharmic traditions is grounded in a sense of oneness, there can be immense multiplicity without fear of collapse into disintegration and chaos. He went on to say that nature can afford the luxury of infinite differentiation, since the underlying immutability of the eternal always remains unaffected. In the West, chaos is seen as a ceaseless threat both psychologically and socially – something to be overcome by control or elimination. Psychologically, it drives the ego to become all-powerful and controlling. Socially, it creates a hegemonic impulse over those who are different. A cosmology based on unity that is synthetic and not innate is riddled with anxieties. Therefore, order must be imposed so as to resolve differences relating to culture, race, gender, sexual orientation and so on …”

My student reading of this passage is that Rajiv Malhotra perceives this inability of the West to embrace chaos as a major fault line.

To Be Continued…

Recommended References: –

  1. Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2011.
  2. Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity. Rajiv Malhotra. Harpercollins India. 2014.
  3. Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines . Rajiv Malhotra. 2011.
  4. The Collected Writings of Dharampal. Aditya Prakashan; 2007.
  5. Art and Cosmology in India. Subhash Kak. Sutra Journal. 2015.
  6. Incerto: Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, Antifragile. Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Random House Trade Paperbacks; Box edition. 2016.

Shivoham is a follower of Sri Rajiv Malhotra’s works. He has a doctorate in engineering and is a student of Bharatiya Ganita traditions. He blogs at indicportal.org and is active on twitter @integralunity. View More.

3 thoughts on “Hinduism: The Ultimate Antifragile – 1”

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