Sunday, April 25, 2010

Interpretation and Assimilation

To appreciate fully the sacred and romantic literature of India, we should follow the advice of Robert Louis Stevenson. "To learn aright from any teacher," he wrote, "we must first of all, like a historical artist, think ourselves into sympathy with his position." And if in endeavouring to understand the religious conceptions of the ancient forest sages, we, at times, find ourselves in difficulties, it may be that "if a saying is hard to understand, it is because we are thinking of something else"--we are looking on India with European eyes and with European prejudices. "There is always", said Stevenson, "a ruling spirit behind the code of rules, an attitude, a relation, a point of the compass, in virtue of which we conform or dissent."

Taken from Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie [1913]

The link to the book and various other books will be given in the next post.

This is a common problem which I had felt for a long time.Being colonised by British and being stripped off our ancient modes of thinking,our country may be at the center of misconstruction .The important thing to remember is the context.History cannot be seen without today's prejudices.Whenever a ancient text or any study on comparative religion or mythology is done,a effort should be put to study the history during that era.Every law or every belief which existed sprang out of a necessity.Even humiliating beliefs like Sati and other animal sacrifices which are common all over the world were invented to quench the thirst of a particular age.Pulling these scriptures and beliefs and adapting it to present day should be done with lot of care.Any comments on any particular form of belief should be backed with background research of the seminal ideas which germinated in the ancient people.A high quotient of compassion is required which will be obtained only by a person who spends some time understanding different scriptures and their associated archaeological research.My own study on comparative religions has evolved so much over the last few years.From being a biased reader who wanted to fit all beliefs and tribes into narrow boxes which were created to present day requirements........I have become less judgemental...
My husband gives particular importance to time-lines and thinks that they give a clearer picture to understanding a theory in archaeology better.I still have to adapt this idea when I read some scripture.

So the scope of this blog is going to be broadened to include the various readings of mythology and comparative religion.The reason being that the birth of spirituality and our primal desires can be understood better when we dig through ancient modes of thought.A compassionate view of the world can be established when we see a cross pollination of ideas.They may also lead to the higher goal of unity which has been mentioned in all religions.

I would also try to add the anthropological studies of various tribes and folk lore.For now I am going to concentrate on India and then may be expand it to include Egyptian and Greek cultures.My interest in Egyptian religion started at very young age.The Mayans are also fascinating people.Lately I have been influenced by the native Indian shamanism and their history.One of the blog readers few years ago had sent me a link which had various books on spiritual shamanism.I was busy with my pursuits of Indian philosophy and could not do justice to that material.So in the future I may try to add few articles on Native Indian Spirituality.(I completed watching Ken Burns "We Shall Remain "(4 discs- 4 hours) which is a must see documentary for any history buff.)

I will still try to upload lot of spiritual articles which are in my draft folder.


Anonymous said...

I will spend some time reading through all these references during summer but I feel Thomas McEvilley has put a starting point to the individual autonomy in philosophy. May be for next 20 years one may call them as Greek, Egyptian and Indian philosophy but one day one has to realize that all these people have been doing the same stuff. If there is no self within, how can there be a Egyptian or Indian...or Western or Eastern philosophy...They are mere nomenclatures.....

Anonymous said...

correction: Thomas McEvilley has put a starting point to "End" the individual autonomy in philosophy