Thursday, 19 May 2016

Choosing Between Divergent Schools

Invitation to God or to a Sect?
It is often asked how can we decide about competing claims of authenticity or true Islam presented in mosques, in schools, in media, in books on religion? One strategy is frank dialogue amongst the best representatives of different positions so that lay people or anyone with common sense could get some idea. However this doesn’t happen in practice because sectarian people are more interested in power than truth, in dictating than listening, in debating than discussing, in winning people to their camp than to God. And they don’t know how to sort out or articulate, politely, their disagreements. We, therefore, try another strategy and that is attempt to go to the deepest depths possible in our search and properly formulate issues that divide us. So we keep first things first and talk about the First Principles and approach it in ontological and existential terms that constitute, by consensus amongst all those who care to think and care about experiencing/discovering truth, the measures with which we are, as humans, compelled to measure every truth claim.
      What is orthodoxy or correct doctrine? We all agree that what has been received from the Heavens or God and His Prophet and is preserved in Tradition. Now the agreement ends here and the moment we seek to express this Tradition in terms of later doctrinal or scholastic or ideological developments that emerged within Muslim community, we might be guilty of some exclusion or privileging a particular way of understanding  or missing a nuance or a dissident view of a great authority that has not even been recorded. After granting these qualifying points, we need to understand what is offered as statement of correct belief in its most universal or widest and deepest (ontological) terms. And here is a danger of reducing purely intellectual metaphysical/ontological content to its theological equivalent which necessarily limits or distorts.  However, as humans with emotions and individuality we are bound to create theologies or schools and every great mujtahid is a school of his own though Truth in absolute terms may elude all. Take the key terms God/Unity, Messenger, After life and express all of them in terms that don’t sacrifice interests of truth for the sake of individual exigencies or emotional requirements of believers and we arrive at it the deepest or most correct statement of doctrine. This follows from the very definition of the terms metaphysics, theology and religion and isn’t imported from one’s liking or disliking or any other assumption. The way mathematics expresses the most universal content of say physics because of its very structure or method of abstracting from the contingent elements, metaphysics expresses that of religion or theology. And we do have very precise statement of doctrines but it is hard to state it in terms that those not touched by faith to the very marrow or who have failed to orient their lives for cultivating virtues will understand. Religion doesn’t require mere rational comprehension or assent on our part to abstractions or so-called truth statements but assimilation or penetration of that Truth that transforms us for good. Orthodoxy requires transformation to really mean anything in practice. And it here – in ethical perfection, in spiritual excellence – that we test the contesting claims of being closer to truth. This is the court that has been practically accepted by all communities across cultures. Deep down we all bear witness to the truth lived – in the lives of saints and sages –  instead of verbalized truth sold in books or media houses. The argument that converts or wins our hearts and minds ultimately is encounter with morally and spiritually superior life – the life of the Prophet, of great Aslaaf, of saints and sages. And we know how religions have spread best by examples of lived life and not intellectual arguments for contested belief statements.  When Muslims talk about returning to the pious ancestors or first three generations what is really the point is that the Prophet (SAW) transforms by presence a community and the community lives the truth – here is to be appreciated privileging of the Sunna (established transmitted practice) over individual reports (Akhbar-i- Ahad) for all schools of Islamic thought. Our salvation can’t be dependent on historical exigencies and contested historicity of consensus on issues that don’t touch the core of faith and practice of virtues but ultimately, as Ibn Taymiyyah pointed out, it is linked to a sovereign principle within the soul of a person – thenomous reason, fitarh – that intuitively accesses the true faith. How come the Quran is so categorical that truth and falsehood have been clearly distinguished and what is addressed is our freedom to choose rather than any consent to a verdict arrived through elaborate procedure in the court of history implicated in power relations.
      Why heed lesser minds as bigger the man harder it is to classify in any one school? Higher the pitch of voice against rival school, narrower is the mind. There is simple reason for this. Greater the mind and heart, greater catholicity and reconciliation of opposites in esotericism and place for divergent viewpoints in ultimate nondulaity. Neither is Ibn Taymiyah against many important figures and practices in Sufism denounced by many modern Salafis, nor is Ibn Arabi against Salafi defense of the letter of scripture and respect for law, nor is Ghazzali against philosophers (seeing how dependent he is on Ibn Sina’s epistemology, fatwa of kufr notwithstanding) nor philosophers like Ibn Rushd against jurists as guardians of Sha’ria nor can Shah Waliullah and Iqbal be fully appropriated for either neo-Salafi or Berelvi cause.
      We might ground dialogue between rival fiqh schools and their Ahle Hadees critics in Mercy centric ontology of Islam as emphasized in Ibn Arabi (lest we forget  how recent is Ahle Hadees antagonism to him as he received guarded if not unqualified admiration from major Ahle Hadees scholars of the Indian subcontinent) who argues why it should not be problematic (excepting certain issues in which the State requires uniform intervention and some homogeneity ) to exercise  taflik or freely choose some  properly substantiated opinions from different legal schools and mujtahids. (In fact in some situations it has always been resorted to and the most recent example is Hanafi fatwa on disappeared husband adopted from Malikees). The argument that this constitutes nafs parasti (following desiring self) is contested by Ibn Arabi pointing out that the ease we seek is legitimized or grounded in God’s choosing Mercy over rigour for Himself. Thus as many schools/mujtahids to choose from, the better. More schools mean richness of tradition. We only need to see that we don’t allow lesser minds to be captains who pick fights or some problematic elements rather than the best from others. And remember it is God who has asked us to wait to resolve some key differences  in the otherworld. This might mean in the higher world of Spirit or esotericism. Anyway, let us begin by special feasts for representatives of rival sects. A good lunch and shared jokes laughter will help resolve some differences.
      When we encounter divergent interpretations with immense political consequences how do we choose? Consistent with Mercy centric ontology of Islam there is a golden rule stated in by Augustine  that suggests that we chose that interpretation which leads to greater love as this is required by the first two commandments that state Love God and love thy neighbour.
      Those who become gold needn’t proclaim it; they shine and in their radiance lesser mortals find a way. These are the saints and sages and we know after prophets they continue their inheritance and an aalim in Islam isn’t merely an exoteric authority or jurist but  ideally a sage, an arrif who doesn’t merely know about God but knows God and lives that vision in higher ethical and spiritual life. All we need to contest is absolutization of any one school as the Truth and accordingly its monopoly on salvation. It is not party manifestos or takfeeri ideologies or imperialistic theologies or personality cults or utopian fantasies  but iman, wisdom (hikmah) and tazkiyyah that save.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Immunizing Against Sectarianism

Historically it is the impact of poets, mystics and philosophers in Muslim cultures that has provided an antidote to sectarianism.
Given the pandemic of sectarianism, how do we immunize ourselves against the deadly flu? Especially since we refuse the  imposed secularization as vaccination drive that was adopted by the West; that generates serious allergic response and throws away the baby of religion with the bathwater of sectarianism. Historically it is the impact of poets, mystics and philosophers  in Muslim cultures that has provided an antidote to sectarianism sponsored by Mullacracy and sectarian politicians. Let us see how deep rooted sectarian consciousness is in history.
      For various reasons we have had divergent sectarian interpretations that have been fighting one another and thanks to changing political equations, fortunes of certain sects would change.  Earliest civil wars in Islam were fought in the name of sectarianism though we have some reasons to exonerate major actors in them from base motives and can point out, as an explanation, divergence in human perceptions of the truth besides the fateful subjectivity and unresolved contradictions inherited from the past . Shia vs. Sunni vs. Ibadi conflict needs no mentioning. We have rival schools of Ashab-i-Raiy (People of the Opinion) ironically also now classified with conformists or muqallids, and Ahl-e-Hadees now getting increasingly polarized. Initially there was grudging acceptance, at least de facto, of each other. We see fierce battles in history that have only been recently exacerbated between various legalistic and theological schools. Deadly tactics of Qaramitians and counter-tactics from politically dominant Sunnis are also well known. Intolerance expressed in persecution of many scientists, philosophers, theologians and Sufis has also been our legacy that needs to be acknowledged and revisited in the age of pluralism. Even philosophers who are expected to be least likely to endorse any kind of intolerance have not been able to shun State’s or ideology’s compulsions and we find a philosopher like Ghazzali (or more appropriately the theologian in him) despite being the author of a great work on dealing with religious differences issued a fatwa of takfeer for rival philosophers like Ibn Sina. Islam’s greatest sons from Ibn Arabi to Ibn Sina to Ibn Taymiyyah to Iqbal have been subject of takfeeri campaigns. All the legalistic (because conformist or muqallid) and Sufi schools have been thus rejected by some authority from rival school. Whole disciplines of Kalam, Falsafa and some traditional sciences such as astrology have been rejected as kufr by certain ulama. Even poets were not spared. Hafiz was initially refused a burial on Islamic pattern until it was agreed that a fal from his Diwan will decide. Today, we have Berelivees pitched against Deobandis and Salafis and vice versa. Hardly any name from any school one can name – from Sanaullah Amritsari to Qasim Nanatovi to Ahmed Reza Khan Berelvi to Syed Moududi to Ghamidi – who has escaped fatwa of kufr from some respected scholar of rival school. Recently we know how severe differences between religious ideologies/schools ended up in conflicting loyalties in political conflicts in Egypt and Syria. Kashmir problem itself (as a legacy of partition) and its appropriation by its top leadership have something to do with particular interpretation of Islam vs. religious other or of relationship between religion and nationalism. It is no longer possible for getting an Imam for one’s mosque without checking his affiliations with particular school/ideology. For those who want to argue that, today, there is healthy divergence (in theory, at certain point in history, in parts, amongst some groups like five major fiqhi schools one might agree) there is a standing refutation in an extremely important document prepared by Justice Munir Commission in Pakistan after extensive work, review of literature and interview of representatives of various religious groups. (Its pdf can be freely downloaded and check pages 201-235.) Munir Commission asked the heads of all Islamic schools of thought, the definition of a Muslim and no two ulema agreed but all agreed regarding some other sects being non-Muslim.
      However, we needn’t despair. We have, traditionally inherited, a great legacy of consolidation and reconciliation of divergent positions. We have, in the very idea of Sunnism, a principle that has been able to accommodate as diverse positions as those of Al-Khashaf and Al-Razi, Ibn Arabi and Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Rushd and Ghazzali, Faizi and Sirhindi, authors of Majma-al-Bahrain and Fatawa-i-Alamgeri– in fact scores of theological, legalistic, philosophical, mystical and other schools. The significance and underlying hermeneutical assumptions underlying Sunni Orthodoxy is missed by such scholars as Rashid Shaz in his otherwise, in many respects, insightful Idraki Zawali Ummat. However Shia position is no less fruitful when it comes to exploring resources for placing different sectarian views in perspective. This is achievable by attention by openness to philosophy and such hermeneutical strategies as tawil  which are universalizing ideas. We have thus Mulla Sadra and S. H. Nasr as great minds from Shia background who engage not only with Sunni thinkers without any hiccups but have developed and applied philosophical ideas and  perspectives that can be used for reconciling not only various positions within Islam including between Shia and Sunni approaches or Sufi and philosophical approaches or  some other seemingly disparate schools. We have, on a more philosophical front, such great scholars as Corbin who have developed resources for marrying faith and philosophy, Persian and Islamic philosophies, Western philosophers like Heidegger and Sufi thinkers and of course Shia and Sunni thinkers. In our tradition there have been many great minds about whom accusations of being Shia or Sunni or crypto-shia and crypto-sunni  have  been made implying that this very division is transcended or is flawed when characterizing bigger minds. Ultimately we need to appreciate that both Shia and Sunni approaches have patronized genius poets and philosophers and mystics who have all the resources we need for tackling sectarianism and resisting the tags Shia or Sunni. A few  examples from the twentieth century we may note. Shariati from the Shia background  paying the best tribute to Iqbal from Sunni background saying he is Ali-like (Ali-guna). Iqbal in turn acknowledged some Shia element  in him (“Hae ouki tabeeyet main tasihiyu bi zara sa.."). We have Ayatullah Khomeni writing a commentary on Fusoos-al-Hikm, the work of the greatest Sunni Shaykh. We have Nasr the perennialist writing one of the best books on Islam (Ideas and Realities of Islam) and editing a Quran commentary (Study Quran) that hardly gives any indication of his Shia background. Higher the pitch of voice against rival school, narrower is the mind. Islam’s greatest minds including  philosophers, Sufis and poets have deconstructed exoteric theological understanding of such a basic category as kufr and Islam (name any great poet from Hafiz to Bedil to Ghalib to Iqbal and see), not to speak of Shia and Sunni or Ahnaf and Ahle Hadees.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Diagnosing Viruses of Sectarianism

 He misreads history, religions, philosophies, cultures and almost everything current.
Often we get an impression that God is like a constituency seat for which different sects keep fighting through all democratic and non-democratic means. It needs numbers and therefore aggressive campaigns to harness the support of voters (potential converts). Pulpit is used as space for election campaign. And unfortunately there are no last dates when campaign ends. The questions that are forced on us through ceaseless campaigns:  To which sect do we offer our vote? And whether NOTA might be  a better choice for one who is really in search of God? Aren’t the masses generally used or betrayed and thus their welfare become a casualty in any election campaign in this part of the world? Isn’t it the case the soul’s welfare or God is casualty in this campaign for God? Before we argue how pervasive is the AIDS of sectarianism that is destroying the immune system of Muslim community and why choose NOTA against sectarian people in future columns, we need to understand clearly who is a sectarian, in the sense that he doesn’t merely have genuine or expected ikhtilaf (divergence) on certain issues but is involved in active intolerant firqa bandi (sectarianism).

Who is a Sectarian?
In the light of God/Truth/Deen centred Tradition a sectarian is one who  subscribes to anyone of the following points:

  • His/her theologico-legal/ideological school/interpretation of Islam is the standard one and the rest are more or less deviations that are disastrous here and hereafter. 
  • Religion is an ideology. 
  • Religion is something given  and not discovered as a process and one has only to take it or implement it disregarding the facts that  contested views of history, selective interpretations or readings of sources and somewhat ad hoc construction of detail or even some principles of canon besides power games all mediate its reception.
  • Islam has been best interpreted by certain community in a unanimous manner in all its important detail and once for all sealing off this interpretative endeavour and leaving the only option for later generations to mechanically copy it. This interpretation is, in practice,  monolithic and involves no plurality of understandings  and can become hegemonic or used to exclude or suppress  alternative views on many significant points from the earliest times. He fights for certain interpretation of Islam rather than Islam and is anxious to add something more to Hazrat Salman Farsi’s statement that he is Salman ibn Islam. 
  • One can preach truth of his ideology or sect or interpretation forgetting that truth as an object of sale or fighting or point scoring isn’t a target as God isn’t a problem but a mystery and belief/faith not a propositional statement but an attitude.  
  • One can disregard the only basis of universality of religion – its metaphysical/esotericist exegesis. One can absolutize certain view of history and push for rigid canonization of certain sources. 
  • Salvation can be, in absolute terms, linked to anything less universal than God/Truth accessed through use of intelligence – aqli saleem – and this may include such things as cultivation of certain ecstatic or ideological states, exclusively literalist reading of scripture, finality of historical theological or legal schools and thus certain standard creedal and legalistic formulations, certain contested  appropriation or  reading of historical personalities etc.
Tests for Diagnosing Sectarian Virus
There are tests for diagnosing the virus of sectarianism which include, among others:
  • He has, generally speaking, little mastery of classics of Islamic tradition. He might know Aqeedah Tahawiyyah or Wastiyyah or medieval fiqh texts but is little informed about a host of sciences that were once part of/or closely linked with Madarassh curriculum. 
  • Even if he knows about his tradition, he knows little about the Tradition that grounds all religious traditions because he employs theological-legalistic lenses and the sky of Truth has to be known through metaphysics.
  • He misreads history, religions, philosophies, cultures and almost everything current or modern because he doesn’t know his times – whose soul is expressed in great literary, artistic and philosophical works – and this disqualifies him from being a dayie who can deliver Friday sermons  free from sectarianism. 
  • He knows no classical language with all the richness of its literary heritage. He has often great difficulties with the language that majority of mankind or international community understands today – English. 
  • He doesn’t argue his case in cool soft voice (“with wisdom and beautiful preaching”) but issues fatwas and might silence you with every means he can command.
  • “His heaven is of a size of a small room in which only a few persons of his liking  can be accommodated” as Dr G. Q . Lone once remarked.
  • He has little sense of humour, hardly any taste for literature.
  • He asserts his religion is the best rather than the religion of submission to Supraformal Truth that is not his but Heaven’s. The implied test of being the best in personal ethic the Prophet (SAW) promulgated he ignores.
  • He despises symbolism and is suspicious of philosophy that alone makes intelligible the claims of religion. He privileges belief over faith. He doesn’t tolerate free inquiry or dialogue with other schools on equal terms. He is, virtually, sure about his place in heaven and other’s place in hell. He is neither informed about histories nor cultures in all their bewildering diversity. (Ask him if he has read any multivolume encyclopaedic histories of the world and how much he knows about Durants, Toynbees and Hobsbawms, not to speak of philosophers of history from Ibn Khaldoon to Vico to Spengler  or literary giants who appropriated philosophy of history such as Joyce.) He has, generally speaking, not cared to read other schools or scriptures in an academic manner (he can’t even name many key books that have the authority of the scripture we find in Sacred Books of the East series) and then arrived at his present dogmatism. He is neither aware of science of interpretation (especially its recent developments in the West) nor enormous cultural richness of  his tradition and is committed to what is called legal supremacist view that writes off poetic, philosophical, mystical or other modes of folk or mythic  narratives that have been central to people across cultures in Islamic lands.
Ask any sectarian preacher or ideologue who thinks he has Truth, the whole truth (that can dissolve all inquiries) on his side any of the following questions and you will come to know how much he knows or cares about the Truth/God he sells by opening special dealership of Paradise Pvt:Ltd:

  • How many religions are in the world and could you please state basic foundation or kalimah of them? 
  • Why so much anxiety about minute details about God’s law (and sectarian clashes on them) if it is God’s grace(fazl) that is required to save us? 
  • Could you state how your school’s metaphysics and epistemology diverges from rivals sects and how do you respond to dozens of critiques of theological narratives underlying divergent sects and religions in modern times? 
  • What is meant by two paradises(jannatan) in the Quran?
  •  If sins punish us and sawabs lead to heaven, what is God doing or how he becomes relevant in final dispensation? 
  • Name any one work that God does without mediate causes and what do you mean by saying God does all things?
  •  Is God arbitrarily choosing to accept certain prayers or it needs goodness in the servant? If later is the case what is the role of God? 
  • What good deeds he had done that he was born a Muslim and his path to paradise became easier for him and what sins another person born of non-Muslim parents? 
  • How come traditional Islamic theology calls God the one who leads astray (Al-Muzill) and who inflicts loss – though both these roles are usually reserved for Satan? 
      Let us see if it is to a Mulla or an exoteric authority to whom one turns regarding the weightiest matter (religion/God) or to a saint/sage who doesn’t preach by words but by presence and wins our hearts, minds and souls and leaves no inquiries on moral, intellectual and spiritual planes unaddressed.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Dialogue with Evolutionists

To oppose or not to oppose Darwin.
Religion that can’t withstand scrutiny of unbiased reason and experience must go and we should welcome Dawkins and other critics of religion from Marx to Freud to Russell  and their modern disciples for sifting the ideological, superstitious and other problematic elements that have been associated with religion by lesser minds and professionals of vested interest – Mullacracy. For those who reduce religion to an insurance deal whose premium is paid here or those who worship words and don’t taste God and those who invoke God to throttle free inquiry – who have deep down anxiety to silence philosophers, scientists, mystics and even children asking awkward questions regarding higher things they imagine at their own level, modernity has made things difficult. Religion has to offer arguments too strong to resist any criticism and must have enough humility to acknowledge that it doesn’t deal with the truth pure and simple but filtered, tailored truths that take into consideration both needs and weaknesses of its heterogeneous addressees and is more interested in living with mystery than imposing any special knowledge claims. It has to be catholic enough to accommodate every sincere seeker in its ambit. It has to be ready for debate and discussion with anyone on any issue. It has nothing to fear from any new development of thought as long as the later is in turn ready to be appraised in terms of the best available evidence. Let us state what religion’s doctrine of creation (not creationism/intelligent design promulgated as scientific hypothesis) is and see if the criticisms of creationism/intelligent design from the influential evolutionists from Dawkins to Jerry Coyne (author of Why Evolution is True) to Stephen J Gould and scores of other critics apply. Since it is the best minds – sages – who have the right to speak in the name of religion and explain its subtle symbolism and its background of penetrating metaphysics we will let them only speak and not quote from popular press and preachers who are taken to be authorities by the laity. Amongst those who were best qualified to explicate religion in an idiom that the highest academic seats would better comprehend or appreciate and the acknowledged authorities of different disciplines take seriously, is Ananda Coomaraswamy whose prodigious knowledge of scores of languages and religious, artistic, philosophical traditions across civilizations besides extremely careful and meticulous scholarship has been recognized by the academic elite. The fact that he was also trained as a geologist (and made a name in that field) – like his friend Rene Guenon (Abdul Wahid Yaha) who was a mathematician – makes his knowledge about science and especially scientific method first hand and this means he willn’t build fantastic notions that modern scientist could dismiss away without giving due consideration.
      He has been emphasizing time and again that inferior thinkers shouldn’t be heeded at all. And it isn’t difficult to identify these inferior minds when one reads the best from Plato to Nagarjuna to Sankara to Lao Tzu to Aquinas to Eckhart to  Ibn Arabi to Mulla Sadra to Shah Waliullalah.
      What world religions collectively have to teach us regarding doctrine of creation (not to be too readily contrasted with evolutionary thesis) is what Commaraswamy is able to present thanks to the masterly understanding of hermeneutical tools provided by respective traditions.  According to him, at the level of mediate causes evolutionary theses need not be questioned on religious grounds, special creation and evolution are not irreconcilable alternatives if the doctrine of special creation is metaphysically read. The two concepts of special creation and evolution are incompatible only if mythical account is historically interpreted and theologians defending special creation have usually defended it historically. We need to distinguish between the First Cause and Mediate Causes. As Coomaraswamy explains:

  • The First Cause whether philosophically absolute or ‘mythically personified,’ is the direct cause of being of things but only indirectly of the manner of their being. The manner of their being is determined by the Mediate Causes. The category of Mediate Causes doesn’t exclude any of those forces or tendencies or determining accidents on which the evolutionist relies as explanations of the observed series; if he differs from the philosopher in ignoring the First Cause it is because he is not discussing the origin of life but only its variety.
      Another lengthy passage needs to be quoted:
  • In traditional doctrine of evolution, every one of the forms, every phenomenon, represents one of the ‘possibilities of manifestation’ of an ‘ever productive nature’ which may be called either the God, the Spirit, Natura Naturans or, as in the present context, the ‘Life’ according to which we speak of the forms of life as ‘living.’ This Life is the First Cause of lives, but the forms which these lives take  is actually determined by the ‘Second’ or ‘Mediate Causes.’ That are nowadays often called ‘forces’ or ‘laws’ notably that of heredity. No difficulty is presented here by the variability of the species; the shape that appears at any given time or place in the history of a ‘genus’, ‘species’, or ‘individuals is always changing. All the definitions of these categories are really, like ‘round numbers’ indefinite, because the reference is to ‘things’ that are always becoming and never stop to be, and can only be called ‘things’ that are always becoming and never stop to be, and that can only be called ‘things’ by a generalization that ignores their variation over some longer or shorter, but always relatively short ‘present.’ 
      Another remark that “there are no delimited and monads or egos, but only one unlimited” shows how resistance to the idea of distinct species closed to further change is critiqued by him.
      The following description of the Life of Supreme Ego, to use Iqbalian expression, in relation to the world of manifestation by A.K. Coomaraswamy seems to be echoed in Iqbal’s Asrari Khudi. “‘Life’ being one of the names of God, according to his ‘ever productive nature’ seeks ‘experience.’”
      The following metaphysical claims can’t be contested by evolutionists and thus conflict is avoided. Scientists qua scientists can bypass such metaphysical roots of empirically observable entities in their investigations.
  • Every one of these transient forms of species and individuals reflects an archetypal possibility or pattern (pater, father) subsistent in what is called the ‘intelligible’ as distinguished from our ‘sensible’ world or locus (Skr. Loka) of compossibles…It is only to the extent that we can think and speak of distinct ‘species’ and ‘individuals’ that we must also speak of their separate archetypal ideas; in reality, everything that flows is represented there in all its variety, although not in a temporal succession, but so that all can be seen at once.
  • Coomaraswamy observes that what Gradation states sub species aeterntatis, the Myth relates sub species aeviternitatis, and History sub species temporis.  (For those vocal  people who want to take strong positions for and against evolution or religion’s doctrine of creation need to take a pause and meditate on these terms to understand the nuances and complexity  in traditional position that is shared by all traditional religions and traditional philosopher-sages. The beauty of Coomaraswamy and Guenon and their likes is they don’t advocate personal opinions but  attempt their best to present what has been traditionally received and affirmed by Revelation and traditional authorities of religion). Coomaraswamy approvingly quotes Prof. Keith’s statement that according to The Rig Veda “This creation cannot be regarded as a single definite act: it is regarded as ever proceeding.” And comments: “this doesn’t mean it is unfinished in principio and ex tempore, but that it is apprehended by ourselves as a temporal sequence and as if cause and effect could be separated from one another by sensible periods. The phrase “in the beginning” in the genesis is logical rather than temporal priority.”
      Let us not forget that man, traditionally, is body, soul and spirit. We need not contest evolution of body. And we must state fundamental differences with evolutionist naturalism and materialism on soul and spirit. And we can show how indefensible is the latter’s position on soul and spirit later while acknowledging problems in fundamentalist creationist account of body’s separateness and autonomy from other forms.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Encountering Dawkins on Religion

Reading The God Delusion as Delusions about Being.
Richard Dawkins is the new prophet of atheism and a great missionary of evolutionary science. He is feared by most of popular preachers whom he deconstructs in debates. He combines wit and iconoclastic zeal with brilliant oratory to popularize evolution and atheism. However his popularity owes something to simplistic generalizations about religion that attract popular imagination. In places brilliant critique of abuses of religion and shallow doctrinaire exotericism (Zaahir Parasti) and credulity of a significant faction of believing camp, is combined with ideas and constructions  that are  both misleading and shallow. Since Dawkins is now a presence and his work a new Bible for some critics of religion and atheists, we need to engage with him to understand both modern man’s alienation from religion that he understands little and misreads much if we assume that it is saints and sages and philosophers of religions that present the real face of it. We aren’t going to tame this bull in the china house of faith  but try to understand his rage.  On every page of his book is something to embarrass a Mullah or even a sophisticated religious scholar who isn’t informed about tenor of modern scientific outlook. He rubbishes familiar arguments we see advocates of religion invoking. Science has succeeded in dislodging the religion of the Mullah – we can see that Mullahs made much of  fill-in-the-blanks-argument and tried to defend none knows the sex of child in the womb or none can predict tomorrow’s weather.
      For me the best defense against him is to yield to his scathing critique on many points – let us learn to be humble and learn from him and far more sophisticated atheists than him, and then examine a few key points where he misidentifies the target or throws the baby with the bathwater. Let us note some points that may merit consideration by Dawkins admirers and critics. I focus on clarifying the grammar of religious belief or term God, and I think we can appreciate his position while stating our own and showing that it is not all or none option that we are forced to take. We can agree with Dawkins on the following key points, among others:
  • Evolution in form of different species is considered quite plausible by what closely approximates as ijma (consensus) of scientific community. It has been found to be highly useful idea that helps explain a lot and creationism as popularly taught in contradistinction to evolution in biology is purely speculative and has failed to provide a method for doing science or explaining in any better way much that evolution explains. Evolutionary science is based on certain premises and evidences that are hard to challenge though it suffers from various deficiencies. We live in a world shaped by this science. “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” Dobzhansky said long ago. Now we know we are all witness to the phenomenal progress of biology. Evolution, one important definition states, is descent with modification. Evolution in some sense can’t be denied. Methodological naturalism that grounds it too is almost impossible to refute as far as doing science with this in background is the key practice today. Who can deny the animal in himself or herself? Our behavior can’t be explained if we discount any kind of relationship to animals. Darwin’s book The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals needs to be read if one has any doubt. And we just need to think how many times we say about someone that he is an animal.
  • That literalist theology is scientifically or rationally indefensible. And only some Mullahs are  consistently literalist.
  • That the existence of evil in the world forces us to abandon simplistic thesis of divine goodness and power anthropomorphically conceived.
  • That we needn’t invoke miracles as constituting breach of laws of nature. We need to read the most well known spiritualist Madame Blavatsky on miracles that are done by knowing laws better rather than breaking them. One might also read Schuon on “naturally supernatural” character of intellect or his definition of Revelation as macrocosmic objectvization of the Universal Intellect to understand how problematic is division between natural and supernatural as popularly posited. 
  • That religious fundamentalism has served neither religion nor truth and we must resist baneful influence of teaching religion in a way that excludes, creates holier than thou attitude, oppresses women and feeds an imperialistic theology.
Some points that put Dawkins in perspective and critique his distortions or misapplications include, among others:
  • Religion criticizes metaphysical claims of modern evolutionism and needn’t deny evolutionary biology as far as empirical evidence implies it. Great religious thinkers contest philosophical uses of evolutionary biology and social Darwinism. Evolutionist metaphysics is riddled with too many problems to warrant serious consideration. Reductionist naturalism applied to consciousness/spirit/intelligence is laughable. 
  • It isn’t the truth but problem solving capacity of evolutionary biology that needs our attention. Science can’t fight symbolic, existential truths and in fact deeper questions it leaves out as it focuses on fallible models predicting certain results. If science deals with truth, it is not the metaphysical truth but truths we construct and keep refining.
  • Dawkins says he is interested in knowing about what is true and religion doesn’t fit the bill. Now religion is interested in saving people from suffering – and hell – and not truth itself.
  • Argument from selfish gene thesis needs to be properly appreciated rather than straightway condemned. It is parasitic on a profound truth that all life is individual and we can appreciate or experience anything only in terms of primordial experience of subjectivity or self – from Plato to Iqbal we have traditional arguments for enlightened self interest  or what Iqbal phrases as Khudi ki zed mei sari khudayi.
  • Dawkins creates a ghost out of the body and spirit of religion and then proves ghost is a figment of imagination. He doesn’t engage with any theologian properly; he quotes his own imagined definition of God or Beyond or supernatural that he pitches against the natural and empirical and then finds it easy to question.
  • Dawkins attacks (personal) God and mystics talk about Godhead, Absolute, Self, Ground of Being, Unity of Existence instead of existence of personal God taken as Absolute.
  • Dawkins attack God of heavens, a supernatural God who is to be believed without evidence. Mystics talk about God within who is to be realized or witnessed rather than believed on authority.
  • Dawkins is uncompromising champion of reason and evidence. So is Buddha, a founder of a mystical religion.
  • Michael Ruse, atheist and philosopher of science, questions Dawkins and thinks it is shameful to be an atheist if God Delusion is the standard. He accuses him of failing to engage with sophisticated religious thinkers and therefore keeps repeating simplistic notions. 
  • There are no absolute proofs for God but there are five and in fact many more ways of finding God that though not formal and indubitable proofs are very strong pointers. How convincing are they may be decided by reading their modern statement by Maritain and Kreeft’s defense in The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. If we refuse to entertain any theistic thesis, howsoever sophisticated, we have likes of Heidegger and Wittgenstein and Derrida and Levinas talking about quasidivine nature of Being (Being can’t be refuted by Dawkinian strategy). The fact that Dawkins doesn’t engage with highly sophisticated religious and secular understanding of the grammar of religious belief or God-talk or language-of-transcendence forces us to say that he knows so little about philosophical theology as Harun Yaha knows about evolution. Both utterly fail to impress us.
  • The only task that if performed would silence Dawkins and his fundamentalist theological critics is showing how theology is autology (science of Self) and translating theological terms into existential language of certain mystics or leading theology back to its source in metaphysics. Then we don’t use word God but Being and thus we can’t have a title like God Delusion.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A Report From Hell: Understanding Samuel Beckett's Agony

He comes close to mystics but doesn’t go all the way with them.
Beckett is considered by some as the greatest writer of the twentieth century. Those who know what the hell has been modernity and especially the twentieth century and have read or watched Beckett’s work will largely agree. His work is set in hell or purgatory because he sees  them everywhere. Do you know of any person who is really happy, at home, without revenge or malice or complaint and not speaking ill of someone? Do you know anyone who can confidently say his life has been live well or he has found meaning in it? Who isn’t a creature of habit? Who doesn’t wait aimlessly and distract himself by gossiping or playing absurd games or meaningless chatting on social networks? Who has found unalloyed love that heals all wounds? Beckett describes  man’s failure, especially modern man’s failure who has lost faith in God. Anyway do you know anyone who truly believes today? Belief in manifested by virtues of acceptance, detachment, patience etc. and we find them largely absent in us.
      How many people you can absolutely trust?  Who can say or about whom one can say that he knows himself, that he knows his Master, that he knows the other as God? If we find mostly disappointing answers to these questions, we can appreciate agony and pain of Beckett. Beckett also focuses on terminally ill – old, crippled, worthless people whom life teaches humility. (Eventually almost all of us become humble as we advance in age, experience and wisdom and see “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”). We will discuss his therapy of laughter and his statement “nothing is funnier than unhappiness” some other day and today we focus on his vacillation and self doubt and his struggle to be a mystic – I will not say his failure as a mystic. It is modern man’s failure that he portrays and we all know we struggle and keep limping in the great odyssey that life is and its meaning and glory largely escapes us doubting, timid creatures of habit and slaves of passion and ego.
      Beckett explicates Buddha’s Fire sermon in all his work. To quote from it:
  • Everything is burning. How is everything burning? The eye is burning. The ear is burning. The nose is burning. The tongue is burning. The body is burning. Thought is burning. The mental impressions, made by what the senses perceive, are burning. And the sensations produced by these mental impressions, whether they are pleasant or painful, are burning.”
He deconstructs all the idols modern man has constructed to escape despair and smuggle happiness outside God. He called himself an artist of failure. He has referred to himself in specifically Nietzschean and mystical terms as “non-knower” and “non-can-er.” His art, like much of twentieth century art, is a crude and quite inadequate approximation of traditional religious or mystical ideal. He remains tied to a nihilistic vision and that blocks his way to see further into the treasures that are bestowed to those who transcend their limited self. Beckett does the purification work quite excellently but ends in no land of bliss but a sort of neutrality that though freed from the worry that characterizes ego-centred man but has not that bliss of Brahman which exceeds all things that Beckett could imagine as giving us joy.
      The greatness of Beckettt’s thought from the Eastern perspective is that this vision of evil and destruction represents not so much the conclusion (Buddha has painted similar picture) of his argument, as its starting point. Beckett gives the evidence, and his people cry out against God (though Buddha and mystics would not do this) — yet ultimately they refuse to accept the evidence that they themselves have provided, and their indictment turns out to be an appeal to a different kind of God altogether, and with that, a different kind of death, a different kind of reality, a different kind of meaning.
      Beckett quite rightly, speaking from the traditional Eastern perspective, saw the limitations of traditional religious (theistic) thesis especially as understood  by popular theology (ulamai zahir) that posits God rather than the Godhead as the Ultimate Reality or First Principle. But he doesn’t take leave of religion to opt for materialism. He opts for certain appropriation (inadequate in many respects) of mysticism. All his people in a sense are mystics as Coe points out. They are all aware of a force at work within them and about them, a force which goads them onwards towards ends which they themselves would not have envisaged, yet which can neither be analyzed nor rationally explained, which completely eludes the net of words or the realm of the known or thought (discursive intellect). They all describe God negatively which is familiar to the East in the tradition of the negative divine as Stace phrases it in his Time and Eternity.  This is Sufi’s deconstructive way of fana (Beckett describes inevitability of encountering fana but baqa is generally missing in his worldview). Beckett’s (anti) heroes possess a strong feeling of being caught up in a pattern of salvation and damnation, of sin and redemption, of guilt and punishment, although their ignorance of or their not taking cognizance of eastern ideas of karma and fate makes all these things incomprehensible or irrational and thus unaccounted for and finally not of much use ultimately. It is not clear to them why God is blasting them as Celia complains or whether the punishment of life  is brought about as the necessary consequence of some sin committed previously (such as that of being born as Vladimir suggests) or whether the laws of cause and effect in this case may not work backwards. “All here is sin” says The Unnameable. “You don’t know why, you don’t know whose, you don’t know against whom, someone says to you…” Macmann also doesn’t know what his sin was although he felt full well living was not sufficient atonement for it or that this atonement was itself a sin, calling for more atonement, and so on. Beckett’s people all realize that they can never hope to “understand” God, His purpose, still less His lack of purpose (“God” says Malone, “does not seem to need reasons for what he does, and for omitting to do what he omits to do, to the same degree as his creatures, does he?” until they have understood something of themselves, as Coe notes). And this knowledge of the self ( What is God other than the deepest self of man) though absorbing most of their energies is indeed denied to them or given them only very fragmentarily as otherwise all these questions would have been “answered.”
      Beckett tries answers that popular preachers of exoteric or literalist or “scientific” religion give and finds them wanting. He comes close to mystics but doesn’t go all the way with them. He keeps doubting but occasionally seems to smells eternity or heaven though cautions us regarding dangers or delusions on the Way.
      Final words I give to Indian mystic Ram Tirtha (whom Iqbal readers know) that show the difference between liberated mystics and struggling heroes. Ram Thirtha declared that red rays of the sun were his muscles. When anything came across his eyes, he robed it in God and then saw that there was nothing else but God. He thus addresses winds: “Blow, O breezes, mingle O winds, with these words whose purpose is the same as yours./  O laughter! laugher!/    I inextinguishable joy and laughter.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Fighting for God: Misreading Other Religions

Thanks to great strides in the discipline of comparative religion, we now know the religious other better.
Today religion can be taken seriously only if we can show it is not a divisive force. Seeing the contemporary scenario regarding understanding of religious-other in the Muslim world (and elsewhere as well) it is hard to see how we can assert that religion unites, and doesn’t divide. Isn’t it the case that, as Weinberg, the famous physicist,  puts it: “With or without religion, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion”  or as Pascal, the great religious thinker, says: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”? The question is how do we prevent fights in the name of God?  One way is that of the West that abolished such wars by becoming secular or showing religion exit. However this secularization isn’t the ideal solution for believers and many great modern thinkers. Ousting God lands us in the nihilist-absurdist-relativist world, or materialism, or secular utopianism in whose name world wars were fought and millions killed in USSR and China. There is another possible solution and that consists in taking religion seriously on what it literally connotes – binding men to God. All religions are to be construed as versions of a Single Tradition – Ad-Deen-al Qayyim – and the later is best defined as what binds man to Heaven and this includes as a means some equivalent of the concept of revelation. If this is granted – and one can easily demonstrate this as well on rational and scriptural grounds – we would be able to fight violence at all fronts including the political. Living in a globalized world one needs to know the religious other better for achieving this goal. And thanks to the great strides in the discipline of comparative religion, we now know the religious other better. However tragedy is our more popular religious leaders or preachers don’t know this science that has only recently developed. Most modern scholars of religion subscribe to a varying degree to some of the following notions, any of which if correct make interfaith dialogue almost meaningless, incoherent and academically hardly sustainable or respected enterprise:
  • That Semitic religions and non-Semitic religions advocate sharply divergent conceptions of Divinity. The former are seen as absolutizing concept of Personal God while the latter have no need of personal God or positively deny the first hypostasis of Absolute that personal God is.
  • That sacred- profane dichotomy characterizes certain religions and not others.
  • That such “Sufiana mazahib” – to use Ghamidi’s oft repeated formulation – as Buddhism and Hinduism are pantheistic which is incongruent with transcendentalist theism of Semitic religions.
  • That wahdat-al-wajood associated with Ibn Arabi and most Sufis and non-Semitic religions is pantheism that negates God outside the world.
  • That Buddhism is atheist/ agnostic  rather than trans-theist so has nothing corresponding to God of theistic religions.
  • That different scriptures make really contradictory claims and that their original message is no longer retrievable by any means.
  • That religions fundamentally differ in conceptions of after life. Concept of reincarnation or rebirth and monotheistic conception of single birth and posthumous existence have no common meeting point at any plane.
  • That religions are to be identified with theologies; metaphysics doesn’t ground them or unify them.
  • That theologies are not ultimately expressible in one another’s terms or subsumable and reconcilable under higher metaphysical and esoteric plane.
  • That essentially symbolic narratives in scriptures could be subject to literalist exegesis  or historical criticism.
  • That theology, philosophy and mysticism in traditional religious civilizations are not reconcilable or organically assimilated by the Traditions in question and one needs to explicate Deen meaningfully by first rejecting “tamaddun, tasawwuf, shariah, kalam” as alien impositions. 
  • That religions are primarily reconcilable, if at all, on ethical plane only and not the intellectual/ metaphysical one.
All these points have been forcefully challenged by many scholars of comparative religion but the most passionate advocates or preachers of different religions don’t know this. There is so much debate on God or gossiping about God and stakes associated with one’s understanding of God that clarifying this notion is one of the chief tasks of philosophy. Sects in religion are rooted in different understanding of God. Different religious movements have been fighting for different views on God or God’s relation to the world. The following points – argued by various scholars with compelling logic – need to be noted before giving judgments about world religions:
  • God is not best approached in theology or science of belief. Sectarian fights are on different creedal formulations and we find so many versions sometimes within the same larger school on a given issue. It has more to do with faith than belief and there is a whole book by W C Smith explicating the difference between the two.
  • Religious/secular binary has been invented by modernity to do away with religion. Ad-Deen is not to be reduced to religion. We shouldn’t be trapped in religion vs. secularism binary and reduce Tradition to the former.
  • Religion – and scriptural language – is not concerned with truth and nothing but truth. The fact is religion’s business is, primarily, saving people from loss or hell and not truth. It is philosophy and more precisely what Abdul Wahid Yaha and his likes have called Metaphysics that deals with Truth, pure truth. As Guenon explains, religion as theology have to take into account emotional makeup of people and their individualities and according filter Truth that Metaphysic accesses. People need to be consoled and seek this in religion and we know that Truth needn’t necessarily be consoling. 
  • We need to evaluate truth or otherwise of different religious traditions in light of certain standard of truth represented by one’s own religious tradition. This is a problematic methodology. We can have a dialogue on what is agreed by all the dialoguing parties. And there are fortunately such commonalities in different religious traditions, Semitic as well as non-Semitic religions like Buddhism (Manazir Ahsen Gilani has an insightful reading of Buddhism that corroborates Pallis and Schuon’s reading). And these are precisely those that the Quran lists (2:62)  as beliefs in 1) God as Absolute or the Transcendent Sacred, 2) other world or higher world and 3) right action and elsewhere it states common terms to be Divine Unity, shunning shirk and other lords. Can we name any scripture or traditional religion that invites us to shirk or pantheism or wrong actions or denies after life?
  • We are simply misinformed about other religions. Even the scholars who are widely read or influential. Both Zakir Naik and Javed Ghamidi, for instance, are inadequately about other religions, especially non-Semitic religions. This is primarily because they approach other religions in theological terms and appropriate them in atomistic terms quoting chapters and verses from scriptures and reiterate now questioned notions about their understanding of God, revelation and after life. They don’t take philosophical or mystical approach seriously that has been the key to self understanding of other religions. 
  • Deen, hikmah, self fashioning (tazkiyyah), law, culture are all too deeply connected  or reciprocally implicated to allow any expunging of their historical expressions in Sufism, Muslim philosophy, kalam, sha’ria and art by any purist. (Iqbal is misappropriated in search of “pure Islam” – an idea forcefully deconstructed by Hasan Askari – was himself a philosopher, a Sufi and a poet.)
  • W. T. Stace, W. C. Smith, Mircea Eleade, Otto, John Hick, Fithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Suzuki, Huston Smith, Ken Wilber and a host of other great scholars besides such philosophers as Heidegger and Wittgenstein and the whole schools that have developed around them have drastically changed our understanding of key terms in the debate on comparative religion. 
  • Lastly, but most importantly, we can’t ignore differences in theologies of different religions and push for uniformity or syncretism but we can’t ignore the idea of transcendent unity of religion (wahdat-i-deen) implicated in the Quran but must distinguish it from misleading idea of unity of religions (wahdat-i-adyaan). Metaphysics and esotericism demonstrate transcendent unity while theology or fiqh show differences. For comprehensive view we need all of them at appropriate levels. We mustn’t confuse levels. “Only at the level of the Absolute are the teachings of the religions the same. Below that level there are correspondences of the most profound order but not identity.” As Rumi says: “When the number hundered has arrived, ninety is also present./The name of Ahmad is the name of all prophets.” 

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Reading Doctor Hegde

Fraudulent Practices in Modern Medicine

Those who care to think raise some uncomfortable questions and teach us to doubt. With one such doubting doctor who is also called poor man’s doctor, we deconstruct some reigning ideas in modern medical practice. In fact we can easily show that there have been some errors, even scandals, in modern history  that resulted in a dominance of modern allopathic system of medicine. 
      Dr B M Hegde, despite being criticized for right wing sympathies and some unsupported generalizations and  certain inconsistencies nevertheless emerges as one of the very few scientist-philosophers of modern India who needs to be widely read and debated. Passionate, informed, brilliant, witty, iconoclastic, provocative and lucid, Dr Hegde is a renowned cardiologist trained in allopathic system who has exposed, along with certain lesser known but significant scientists, fraudulent or somehow problematic nature of certain medical practices. In a nutshell he argues – or rehearses – with authority and wealth of data he memorizes so well  that one shouldn’t visit a doctor unless it is an emergency. Most of routine tests prescribed are either not needed or could result in more harm than good. For most of the common diseases including hypertension and diabetes, dominant modes of testing and treatment are deeply problematic. We have cheaper alternatives for most of treatments. The drugs you take most probably shouldn’t have been taken – you could have taken generic equivalent.
      The old WHO definition focusing on absence of disease is reductionist and is not workable except to make every one of us a patient, a good business for the industry-named disease mongering by Ray Moynihan. (All of us have “diseases.” Around 15 cancers in all of us currently. Immune system takes care of so many things on its own though tests could be positive) 
Hegde’s definition of health “enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be universally compassionate”  comes closer to the original definition of Sigmund Freud who defined health has “work and love.”
      Dr Medelsohan in Confessions of a Medical Heretic wrote: “Medical school does its best to turn smart students stupid, honest student corrupt and healthy students sick.”  Dr Andre Weil in Health and Healing: Conventional and Alternative Medicine, Principles and Practice wrote: “I find (modern) medicine glaringly deficient in theory and philosophy of any sort … lack of any clear concept of health leading medical doctors to pay more attention to disease.” Hegde shows how they are proved right – and “most of us hypocrites swearing by the Hippocratic Oath!” and gives us some stunning or shocking facts from his What Doctors don’t get to know in Medical School and other published works and lectures:
  • “The watch dog bodies like the WHO, FDA and others of their ilk have been shown to be receiving more than 80% of their funding from the vested interests like the drug and device lobbies.” 
  • “The thinking that doctors and hospitals are needed to keep a society healthy is plain rubbish.”
  • “The USA healthcare system is a terminal patient in the “ICU”.
  • The present medical education is “disease orientated and not patient orientated.”
  • He notes that cholestrol lowering is today7.2 trillion dollar business and it feeds on certain invented or distorted notions about cholesterol.
  • Building on David Eddy, a former professor of cardiovascular surgery at the Stanford, who left his job and got his PhD in mathematics, he writes “From heart surgery to prostate care, the medical industry knows little about which common treatments really work”Elley traced “one common practice -- preventing women from giving birth vaginally if they had previously had a cesarean -- to the recommendation of one lone doctor.” He also liked to cite a figure that only 15% of what doctors did was backed by hard evidence.
  • “As modern medicine quick fixes are absolutely necessary in emergency situations, many of the chronic illnesses and minor illness syndromes either do not benefit from the top-heavy modern medical establishment, or could do well with very inexpensive but effective alternative systems of medicine.”
  • Many procedures including bypass surgery are done more often “to fill the coffers of hospitals and surgeons, rather than to help patients. Many studies in this field are being twisted, using all sorts of statistics, to show benefit to the patient, while in essence, the procedures are only helping the doctors and the industry.”
  • “Many doctors and most lay person have a misconception that hi-tech investigations are needed for arriving at a good diagnosis. The truth, however, is otherwise. Lord Platt, wrote in 1949: ‘If you listen to your patient long enough he/she would tell you what is wrong with him/her.’”
  • Loannidis analyzed "49 of the most highly regarded research findings in medicine over the previous 13 years". And "Of the 49 articles, 45 claimed to have uncovered effective interventions. Thirty-four of these claims had been retested, and 14 of these, or 41 percent, had been convincingly shown to be wrong or 5 significantly exaggerated.”
  • Total Body Scanner checks 500 parameters at a time and if 100 people go for checkup, there will be 5x500 cases of false positive. There will not be  a  single normal person.” 
Hegde makes much use of a key distinction between normal and average, and says that above and below average are effectively treated as abnormal by doctors and cites some astonishing facts regarding historical personalities and cases that had much below and above average figures of B.P but lived without trouble. Much of discourse on BP and diabetes is invented by shifting or manipulating the threshold lines of normal range. He asks would over 5.7 or 6ft  persons be declared abnormal or above average?  Normal, he notes, is a statistical term described by Gaussian curve that treats plus two standard deviations.
      He has launched crusade against testing/treatment regimen of several commonly occurring diseases that consume our health budget and cause long queues outside clinics of doctors. There is highly provocative and deconstructive lecture by Dr Biswaroop Chowdhury on youtube “Treating Diabetes in 72 hours” that proposes treating diabetes through simple change in diet – shifting to 100% raw vegetable cum fruit based diet for 72 hours and it has been tried by many and found remarkably effective. They compare anti-diabetic drugs with sugar filled placebo capsules!
      Someone asked guru “I want peace” and he replied "leave I and want and see what remains is peace.” Building on a remark in Ayurveda he never go to a doctor when you are healthy – you have enthusiasm to work and don’t hate anyone, you don’t need a doctor.
      Who can dispute that overall our ancestors or elders lived more healthy lives when allopathic system was little heard of, and treatment didn’t cost much. Today, thanks to all kinds of things we are all ill to little or greater degree.
      “There is no science of man today” wrote Nobel Laureate Dr. Alexis Carrel in his classic – Man the Unknown. “We use the inanimate sciences of physics and chemistry in an animate, conscious human being.” 
Allopathic system has registered its success primarily because of its inherent strengths – if we let it go,  that would be turning the clock back. What is needed is to expose its unholy alliance with capital and its exclusivity, hegemony, and hubris.