Lightmind Extract 058

03Jan08

Broken Yogi 8.28.07
I plead guilty to some rhetorical flourishes here. My intention is not to paint you as an evil exploiter and enslaver of the masses, but I am trying to point out the wider world correlates to this discussion, and demonstrating that they do matter. You brought up the criticism of “experience” as being a power grab for authority, and I’m pointing out that the more serious matter in that area is the power grab for authority based on knowledge and scripture and punditry. Playing the victim here and pretending that you are being burned in effigy does not sidestop the obligation you have to grapple with these real world correlates to your argument. I’m sure if “men of experience” had anywhere as dismal a record as “men of knowledge”, you would be quicl to point it out, and right to do so.

This argument does not occur in an ivory tower vacuum. There is a history of real evil in the world of religion. In my view, that history is so revolting and disgusting and pervasive that I tend to side, in political arguments at least, with Dawkins and Hitchens and other public atheiiests who basically argue for the elimination of religion. I agree with them that as a social good, it would be best if at the very least the organized forms of religion would simply roll up and die and become mostly museum exhibits. I favor a highly personalized and experientially based religious life that is not mediated by priests and pundits, even guys like you at your modest level of achievement. In some sense, I view you as a curator at a museum of dead religions. The problem is, even here the sordid mentality of the priestly intermediary rears its head and tries to take over the living, personal, experiential religion of the human individual and subjugate it to the zombie waxworks rules of proper museum displays.

Yes, that’s a rhetorical flourish, but don’t argue with the sizzle, argue with the meat, and in the meat I am dead on, pardon the pun. As for Hindu and Vedic panditry, yes, I consider them some of the worst forms of evil perpetrated on this planet. The brahmanical rule of India was every bit as evil as slavery, serfdom, and every other form of exploitation and subjugation human beings have come up with. That religious justifications were created and perpetuated in the service of this evil only confirms the idea tha any religion, no matter what elements of it are based of higher truth, can be perverted to such ends. And who did the perverting? It was the pundit/priests. You would like to separate the two categories, but history does not. They are essentially the same class, with almost perfect overlap.

Now, your arguments about Sanskrit are very disappointing, because as a professional scholar of Indian religion you simply ought to know better. Sanskrit was NEVER a vernacular language. It arose from the various vernacular languages prevalent in India at the time, as a class-based, priestly formal “code” that allowed the Brahmans to assert their rule over all others. Sanskrit means “cultured”, meaning that it was invented as a way to distinguish the learned from the rabble. It was invented by priests. It did not simply “evolve” from a vernacular to a priestly role as Latin did. Latin was the vernacular of the Roman Empire, and only much later did it become the priestly language of the Catholic Church. Sanskrit was never a vernacular, and its whole reason for being was to reinforce the class distinctions of Brahman rule. The early Sanskrit of the Vedas was NOT the vernacular of that time, of ordinary people, but was even then the priestly language of the Brahmans. Classical Sanskrit was merely a refinement of this already priestly language of the elites. In fact it was forbidden for non-Brahmans to use Sanskrit, and access to the Sanskrit scriptures was given only to Brahmans, and taught only to Brahmans.

So the very language of the holy scriptures of India is a creation of pundits for the purpose of consolidating and extending power over others. It’s “spiritual” role is indeed secondary. That even the greatest scriptures on “liberation” are handed down to us in Sanskrit is an irony few appreciate. Whether they were originally composed in Sanskrit or not is hard to say. Because liberation as a pursuit was reserved solely for Brahmans, it simply wasn’t possible for others to create scripture of this kind, at least no officially, and those that did were not likely successful in passing on their wisdom unless it were translated into Sanskrit at some point. In so doing, such teachings, whatever their sources, would always be “interpreted” by the Brahmans in such a manner as to remain compatible with Brahman rule, and probably edited and changed so as to never challenge such things. The Buddha’s revolution and rejection of Brahmanical authority required him to break entirely with Hinduism as a whole, and with Sanskrit, and to instead side with the vernaculars of the time. But even there priestly flourishes entered into the game, and over time even Buddhist scriptures become the province of scholars and pundits rather than individuals acting as “lamps unto themselves”.

The capacity of human beings to continually subvert the experiential dimension of religion and create a coded, language-based substitute that is used primarily as a vehicle for power and subjugation by elites is simply a wonder to behold. You seem not to appreciate how that machinery works, and the extent to which you have become an unwitting part of it, not just philosophically and academically, but in your own approach to religion altogether, even as on display in this forum. I would call you naive, but you pride yourself on being above and beyond all naivete, and sniggle at the thought. Well, maybe not so much as you like to think.

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