Spirituality & India

I can feel my blog gradually becoming a series of articles on what I think is wrong with the world. I don’t mind it though – perhaps it reveals something about my personality.

For many people living outside India the country is a symbol of inner spiritual awakening and healing. These are probably the ones who think all Indians wear turbans and New Delhi is full of elephants and Taj Mahals. My views on spirituality apart (the view being that it is mostly rubbish) the current mentality of the typical moderately well-to-do Indian is anything but spiritual and his or her living style is anything but simple.

To be clear, this is not one of those we-should-not-ape-the-west posts fourteen year old kids write for their high-school essays. While many people will talk about striking a balance between the two forces (is that not the solution to everything?) of western modernization and Indian traditions, that very balance, in my opinion is the root of all evil.

The western way of materialistic living and spending on oneself works just as well as the Gandhian way of pure, celibate living; it is the combination of the two which does not. Your life can either be a spicy chicken dish or a calm fruit salad (don’t mind the food references, I’m a Bong) but not a mixture of the two.

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6 Responses to Spirituality & India

  1. Mallikarjun Karra says:

    May I know the reason behind you concluding that spirituality is rubbish?
    I believe that spirituality has unfortunately been tarnished by people who did not know how to present it. That Yoga is a product of India’s spiritual knowledge and that its benefits are in fact, scientifically proven, inclines me to believe that India’s saints were perhaps scientists of the highest order. That they gained more from looking within than we have been able to achieve by our not-so-perfect instruments and the theories that try and explain error ridden data, is proof enough of some substance at the very least!

    • Sanjoy says:

      My view on spirituality stems from my outlook on life in general – I have a reductionist world-view. Spirituality stems from our humane snobbish idea about how we are, somehow, better than trees and cockroaches, something I don’t quite agree with. We are all survival machines, evolved to help our genes propagate; nothing more and nothing less.

      I’m pretty sure Yoga has many good effects on one’s physical and mental health, but why not call it by its more conventional name – exercise? While the actual practice is helpful, wrapping it in flowery language is not. Spirituality is intricately connected with the rather unscientific concept of a spirit, which I don’t accede to. If you have a better definition of spirituality do mention it.

  2. Mallikarjun Karra says:

    1. Yoga is different from exercise, in concept as well as effects. There are living examples of people who practice yoga and have certain abilities that would seem almost magical to the ordinary Joe. There must be a few BBC documentaries on the “naked Indian Fakirs” controlling their body temperatures or burying their heads in sand or staying hungry for months. To explain how yoga helps one do such seemingly impossible things, science will have to accept some of the postulates of our ancient texts that deal in spirituality.
    What is disappointing for a curious guy like me, is that the real yoga practitioners stay away from limelight.
    Of course I’m not talking about the Bharat Thakurs.

    2. I do not know whether we have a spirit/soul. I prefer not to believe in anything until there is irrefutable evidence. But, try as I might, I’m unable to answer why a man cannot be raised from the dead. Say a man dies from heart attack, how about giving him a new heart and replacing all dead tissue? Why doesn’t he spring back to life? Causality implies there was something that is no more. If its a dead tissue, then lets try to replace it with a living one. But, we all know raising a man from the dead is so far impossible.

    Perhaps a thorough investigation of all those people who claim to have a memory of their past lives will help understand the dynamics of this so-called soul. There is no reason why a careful scientific study cannot confirm or deny the validity of such claims.

    3. I firmly believe that we are no better than cockroaches and vermin, until we have solved all the mysteries of the universe.

    However I, in all humility contest your view of us being 100% survival machines. A part of us knows that we are much more than just a survival machine. We are bothered by things other than food, sex and shelter. Examples range from storm chasers and astronauts putting their lives at stake to Edisons and Einsteins spending their lives thinking. I feel certain that they do this more from a feeling of curiosity and adventure than a sense of responsibility towards the future generations.

    • Sanjoy says:

      What is disappointing for a curious guy like me, is that the real yoga practitioners stay away from limelight.

      That is my general disappointment too, especially with contests like this. I don’t think it is unfair for me, neither to have observed or have in possession any direct evidence pertaining to such phenomenon, to doubt their existence. Some of them are explainable but not generally known to be so – out of the body experiences may be taken as an example (reference: ‘Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman’).

      But, try as I might, I’m unable to answer why a man cannot be raised from the dead. Say a man dies from heart attack, how about giving him a new heart and replacing all dead tissue? Why doesn’t he spring back to life? Causality implies there was something that is no more. If its a dead tissue, then lets try to replace it with a living one. But, we all know raising a man from the dead is so far impossible.

      Something like that will be possible soon – the very concept of death is not universal (see this or this for example). It is not without reason the super rich get their bodies cryogenically frozen after death. It is also possible to re-wire your brain to make you a different person, to give you an idea of how advanced medical science is. You just gave me the topic for a future blog post. 🙂

      However I, in all humility contest your view of us being 100% survival machines.

      Rational discussion demands no humility. Be rude and to the point.


      A part of us knows that we are much more than just a survival machine. We are bothered by things other than food, sex and shelter. Examples range from storm chasers and astronauts putting their lives at stake to Edisons and Einsteins spending their lives thinking. I feel certain that they do this more from a feeling of curiosity and adventure than a sense of responsibility towards the future generations.

      Firstly the sheer number of such prodigies (or lack thereof) may be attributed to random genetic mutations (I am not sure though). More importantly I think we need to understand the source of their motivation – were they not, at least partly, motivated by their (sub-concious) desire to appear attractive to the opposite sex? Were they not trying to secure that their genes (think children) have bright futures? It is true that our behaviour is not completely definable modelling us as survival machines, that is an anomaly in our design (only in a manner of speaking), but our baser instincts influence us more that it is naively visible.

  3. DK says:

    Wishful thinking, Mallikarjun.
    Sanjoy, bang on.

  4. DK says:

    oh…I didn’t see how old this post was…

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