Author: Ananth Sethuraman.
edX is a provider of massive open online courses [Ref 1]. It was founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
One of the courses that edX offers is titled Hinduism Through Its Scriptures [Ref 2]. The course imports some concepts of Christian theology into adhyātma.
In this article, we will take up one of these concepts of Christian theology, essential practice.. We will see that the edX course does not notice that essential practice does not fit adhyātma.
Dēvata-s for Whom Pūjā is Not Common Now
The course mentioned that some dēvata-s who are mentioned in a prominent manner in the Vedas are not prominent to ordinary Hindus today. A student wrote in his homework that this fact is awkward—it is awkward that the Aryans worshiped gods whom contemporary Hindus do not worship.
The fact that the student used the word “awkward” may trigger a reaction that something must be wrong with adhyātma, given that pūjā is not the same over generations.
A single concept cannot generate a coherent theory. It is a cluster of concepts that generates a coherent theory. In geometry, for example, the concept of point cannot generate the theory of geometry. Rather, it is a cluster of the following concepts—point, line, angle, triangle, rectangle, circle, polygon, area, congruence and similarity—that generates the theory of geometry.
In Christian theology, essential practice is clustered together with two other concepts, the Plan of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and worship. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has a Plan for each Christian—in fact, for each human being. Worship is a declaration by Christians that they are delighted that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has a Plan for them. The phrase “essential practice” refers to two properties of worship. First, Christians are required to worship regularly. Second, worship must always refer to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; worship cannot refer to different gods in different generations.
When the phrase “essential practice” is imported into adhyātma, a logical contradiction emerges. What is adhyātma’s analog of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? The student must have thought it is a dēvata. What is adhyātma’s analog of worship? The student must have thought it is pūjā. What is adhyātma’s analog of essential practice? There is no analog, for the public have not done pūjā to one, and the same, dēvata in each, and every, generation.
In adhyātma, the word “essential” can be applied to the following postulates.
There are two kinds of happiness, sukha and ānanda. Indeed, adhyātma is the theory and practice of achieving ānanda [Ref 1 Section “Of Adhyatma”]. The achieving of ānanda is termed as enlightenment, awakening, ātma jñāna, ātma sākṣātkāra, jñānōdaya, etc.
The achieving of ānanda has a connection with the words “I”, “me”, “mine” and “myself”. The usual referents of the words “I”, “me”, “mine” and “myself” [Ref 2] are termed vyāvahārika in Sanskrit and personhood in English. The individual who has achieved ānanda sees that the vyāvahārika referents do not completely capture the meaning of the words “I”, “me”, “mine” and “myself”; therefore another referent must be supplied in order completely to capture the meaning. This other referent, or the paramārthika referent, is variously termed ātman, brahmaṇ, tatva, tēj sthān, emergent property, Consciousness, Awareness, the Self, the Universal Spirit, the ‘I’, etc.
A dēvata serves as a way of depicting the paramārthika referent. Doing pūjā to a dēvata is an attempt to access the paramārthika referent [Ref 4][Ref 5].
Action Item For Swadeshi Indology
In India’s law courts, judges are sometimes called upon to hear court cases relating to temples. In these court cases, judges find it hard to determine what counts for adhyātma; after all, judges have degrees in law, but have not achieved ānanda. Judges say that if adhyātma were to have essential practices, it would be easier for them to judge what counts for adhyātma. However the concept of essential practices cannot be imported into adhyātma. There is an incompatibility between Indian law courts and adhyātma.
This incompatibility is due to history. Circa 1200–1800AD, only Christian theologians were eligible to be law college professors in Western Europe [Ref 3, Sec III-3]; because of this deep link with Christian theology, the Western legal system lacks concepts that are adequate to deal with adhyātma. Yet, it is this Western legal system that got imported into India during the British Raj; as a result, the Indian legal system lacks concepts that are adequate to deal with adhyātma.
Swadeshi Indology will have to work with legislators in order to get laws passed that make the Indian legal system compatible with adhyātma. Some useful references are [Ref 6] and [Ref 7].
Ananth Sethuraman has degrees from IIT Madras (Chennai) and Iowa State University. He is employed in a number of engineering companies. View More…
Ref 6: A Rao. Freedom of Religion and the Supreme Court of India. Thesis. University of Ghent, 2018. https://www.academia.edu/37634361
Ref 7: G Srikantan. Law, Colonialism and the Religious Place in India. PhD Thesis. Manipal University, 2012.