Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Protestant WORK Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism – KARMA ANALYSIS

Reminds one of Mahatma Gandhi

Amongst the few Europeans who thought deeply about ‘Karma/Work’, the conclusions drawn by Max Weber, the German sociologist is most outstanding. In 1904-05 he published his findings titled “The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” in the German language. Many later scholars are of the opinion that this work was momentous.

As one can discern from the title of  Weber’s work, it  deals with the attitude of  Europeans, before after  Religious Reformation  took hold of Europe - towards WORK and how this attitude evolved or came about, so that it served as the base for the manifestation of the animalistic spirit of Capitalism. Weber claims that there is a close connection between RELIGION, ie the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, the RISE OF ECONOMIC  CAPITALISM, and the BIRTH  OF MODERN CIVILIZATION in WESTERN EUROPE. And  he unravels these connections, by analyzing the attitude towards work and money amongst European Christians, beginning with the Catholics.

World Christian community appears to the non-Christian to be a single body, but in reality it is divided into two major groups, Catholics and Protestants. Originally there was only a single large church(one true church, 1st Century AD), the Catholic Church, with the Pope of Vatican at its head. Over a period of time, ie after the ascension of Jesus to Heaven  to  the  Middle Ages, the Catholic Church and its priests and officials became highly corrupt. This corruption exists even now, and has assumed grotesque dimensions, considering the pedophilia cases registered against the Catholic priests. The Protestants are those Christians who revolted against the corrupt practices of the Catholic church, under Luther of Germany and Calvin of France. These revolting Christians demanded reformation within the original church, and later broke away from it and a new group called Protestants were formed.
The Catholic Church, in general conveyed to  the people of Europe that the WORK of the monk , nun and priests only possess worth, as it is divine ‘calling’ from God, and that the ordinary labour of the common people were insignificant, not possessing any value. The Church officials claimed this privilege, by preaching that they will be receiving exceptional rewards from God in heaven, for doing HIS work on earth. This official attitude of the Catholic Church was not acceptable to Luther and Calvin and those that rallied around them. They in turn proclaimed that all ‘work’ is God’s work and that all were equal before God.  Thus all kinds of work was looked upon with spiritual/divine significance.

The story does not end here. Original  Christianity  ie. Catholicism was/is a combination  of pagan and Hellinistic beliefs and rituals. The laity was assured of God’s grace and forgiveness through the rituals, bordering magic, performed on their behalf by the priests and priestly  absolution  declared in the confessional  and the miracle of the wafer and wine turned to Christ’s body  and blood in the Mass. Protestants in their zealousness, branded these supernatural rituals of the Catholics as superstitious and satanic. Little did they realize, that indirectly these rituals assuaged the fearful inner emotions of the people, by assuring them of God’s abundant grace, because ordinary people firmly believed in  the mediating power of the Church, through such rituals. Like the Prophet, it was considered that The Church performed the necessary intercession between common people and God.

A central doctrine of Protestantism is that of predestination. Some are elected by God to go to heaven and some were condemned to Hell. This doctrine, unsettled may followers of Protestantism. There were not sure and were worried about their final destiny. They kept wondering about the mysterious decision of God relating to each one of them, which filled them with deep anguish.  Catholicism, had a solution to this type of uncertainty. The  Catholic church channeled the grace of God and forgiveness for any sin committed by suitable rituals, mostly upon payment. But this relief mechanism were not available to Protestants. They kept on pestering their pastors for a solution. Thus came up the solution that all kinds of work were divinely ordained, and that each one should do work to the best of his ability, with sincerity and diligence and the prosperity(wealth) so achieved is a sign of election by God, with assurance of a place in heaven. The puritan aspect of the Protestant religion forbade the believers in spending the wealth so earned, in luxuries and other pleasurable pursuits. As per their religious beliefs they were to lead a simple and frugal life. Thus without any avenues for spending the wealth so earned, it accumulated immensely over a period of time. Now more wealth meant , more closeness to God, and therefore these neo-rich Protestants looked for fresh pastures to invest and multiply the money so accumulated. There were other factors that helped them to make investments in various fields like double-entry book keeping, dependence on mathematical and experimental science etc. The combination of all these factors gave rise to the ‘spirit of Capitalism”, the major impetus provided by Protestantism.

Weber says that this type of behavior by Protestants were entirely different from those greedy merchants, pirates and Kings in Europe (as well as other far away places in the East), who wanted to become rich. The wealth that  they gathered dishonestly, by plundering or heavy-taxation, they spent lavishly over luxuries and other pleasurable pursuits.

The Bible’s attitude towards wealth is summarized in the following words of Jesus (Matthew 19:23-26) “I tell you the TRUTH, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”. Within the Catholic Church, there was utter contradiction  between preaching and practice of this doctrine. The rich could absolve of their sins , by bribing the church officials and asking for indulgence.(Remission of sin). Thus the rich  could move closer to God with the help of the Church.This was the major reason for corruption within the Catholic establishment. The Catholic Church , thus initiated the subversion of the teachings of Jesus. Rich men could bribe ‘men & institutions’ (priests & Church) for a permanent seat in heaven !!!.


 It is an irony that  the reformist Protestants solved this doctrinal thorn, which they believed to be the root cause of corruption within the Catholic Church,  by resorting to a moral reversal of the stand taken by Jesus. They affirmed that, earning more wealth meant that proportionately God liked them , and they could sit by the side of God in heaven.

Analysis vis-à-vis THE GITA
As per  Catholic Christians, work other than religious work, did not have any intrinsic value. This was overturned later  by Protestants, and they came to the belief that all work is invested with divine significance. All work is divine ‘calling’.  Weber calls this as ‘secularization’ of ALL work.
The Bible gives the message that , it was the poor that Jesus loved;  the rich he condemned.  The Protestants  reversed  this  biblical message, and  took to the belief that the wealthier they are, accordingly they are in the good books of God and closer to HIM. The people who are poor and not having wealth , are being punished by  GOD. Poverty and squalor are signs of punishment by God.The followers of the Bible thus dithered regarding the true purport of work and its fruits, because such knowledge is absent in  the Bible.

Compared to the Gita, the Bible fails to provide a scientific  basis for ‘karma/work’.  The Gita 18:13 & 14 provides minute analysis about work/moment/action/karma and dispenses lot of knowledge about work/karma. The Gita 18:48  says that all karmas/work has got negative consequences. This tallies with the Second Law of Thermodynamics  in  Physics.  From 18:48, it follows that something gone wrong by virtue of a karma, cannot be rectified with another karma.

In spite of having the knowledge and experience that all karmas have  negative consequences, the Gita 18 :5, says that the following three karmas  must never be given up - ie.  yagna,  dana(charity?) and thapa (meditation?)  must be performed at any ‘cost’, but with the following conditions. 

Work/movement /action/karma  for the above three ‘functions’ must be undertaken , with the firm belief that one engaging in the act is not the doer(agent)  and without any desire for the fruit of the action.(Gita 18:6, Gita 18:17) The person doing the act must consider that he is just an instrument, forced to making the movements due to the gunas inherent in him, and whatever be the outcome(fruits) of his action/ movement  done  with detachment (without likes or dislikes), he will accept it with equanimity.  In this deliberate manner, he makes the resolve that all his movements/actions will be done in equipoise, so that the negative effects of his karmas will wear away, paving the way for clarity of the intellect. In the Gita, since one is ‘naturally’ forced to do work, either by way of mind(manas), word (vak) ,or body, do it in such a manner that it will ultimately ‘rub-off’ all work of the individual.

Our Indian Civilization, wishes all people bliss or beatitude, and we had the perfect understanding that  this CANNOT be achieved through karma or works. In fact karma stands in the way of blissfulness. Karma is performed not only with the body and limbs, but also with words(sound)  and mind.(Gita 18:15)  Even dreaming is a karma, getting angry is a karma !!. If karma itself stands in the way of bliss, it is as clear as daylight that improving the material conditions  (which themselves are the products of karma)in any way is also not going to help. Karma itself is considered as inert(jada), and attachment to jada will only immerse one in unhappiness. The Gita considers attainment of  jnana as the most desirable karma, which will enable one to transcend all karmas, and  to instill the ultimate realization that this universe is similar to the mirage in the desert. Therefore nothing ,- a thing or event or person ,can cause unhappiness  to such a realized and experiencing soul.

A careful study of the Gita will  compel one to realize that the Western civilization stands for  and propagates what the Gita considers as obstacles , preventing the attainment of perfect happiness  by men. Eg. Gita 16:8. Since it is clear that the West is in the dark about the intricacies of karma/work/movement/action, it will be suicidal as well as debasing to follow Western ideas in  management , production and distribution of material resources. Especially Indians, whose condition is like that of a person carrying a priceless gem , but unaware of it and searching for it under a pile of garbage  !!!!


An excellent case study of Protestant ethic vis-à-vis Indian/Hindu work ethic can be done , taking into account the wealth hidden away in the vaults of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, by the Hindu kings of Travancore. (Protestantism in the beginning of 1500’s and Kingdom of Travancore 1730) It is said that the Travancore kings had two treasury, in addition to the wealth stashed away at the temple. One treasury was personal, and the other belonged to the State. The Travancore kings did not consider it fit to multiply their  wealth,  by investing in other ventures, with the help of the colonizers. Neither  did they engage in  luxurious  pursuits, like buying an island in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, owning  jets or yachts etc.  With the kind of wealth they possessed, anything could be theirs on their bidding. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013


The Pentateuch, ie the five 'books' Genesis , Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy , introduces the Bible. The Bible taken wholly,  is a COMPOSITE work, and the five 'books' quoted above are also COMPOSITE, ie they reflect many traditions and sources, and are NOT from a single author !!

Bible scholars tried and classified the diverse traditions and sources basically into four. J  stands for Jahwe (in German), E stands for Elohim, P for Priestly and D for Deutronomy. Thus these five books are 'hotchpotch', NOT containing any systematic law or instruction or teaching, unlike the compositions of Vyasa, Valmiki or Vashishta.

Amongst the above four traditions, J's account of creation in a garden  reflects ancient temple imagery of the Near East. Near East means the area between Mediterranean and India.  Are there  traces of Indian knowledge in J's account ? Consider the 'tree of life' and 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. This corresponds to 'Para-vidya' and 'Apara-vidya' in Indian religious thinking. The later is 'a-vidya', not real knowlege, whereas as per our tradition the former ie 'para-vidya' can make one immortal.(tree of life !!) Then there is the imagery of God's breath animating the dust and it becoming a single living being, corresponding to 'prana' in Indian thinking. J's is taken as the earliest collection, often dated to the period of David and Solomon in the tenth century BCE.

In the P version of creation culminating in sabbath, God does creation through the WORD. This corresponds to Indian thinking of the universe of 'names and forms'. ie 'Nama-rupangal' and brought forth by 'Sabda-brahman' .  In all probability the knowledge of the ancients (long before 10 BCE), was preserved as well as transmitted to succeeding generations without the slightest deviation from the original body  of knowledge, in a systematic fashion in India, , but it looks like in the Near East this Universal knowledge of the ancients  fragmented and dispersed and even got distorted !!! The transmission of this knowledge within India was only possible because of our social institutions based on varna.

The Indian Karma/Work Theory is based on, unassailable scientific foundations, and as per that  work/karma is not having any intrinsic value, and if not done 'diligently' it will lead to bondage and unhappiness. (Consider the 'man-made disaster in Uttarakhand. We are bonded to do more work/karma to clear the mess, and it is likely to take a couple of years). A faint trace of this scientific fact is seen in J's account of GENESIS. Genesis 3: 17   to 19. God is cursing man to toil/work/karma, so that he gets entangled in it. He will get only thorns and thistles for his work/karma. In greater measure this is what we are experiencing, considering the combined karma/work output of human-kind.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Abbe J.A Dubois - A Missionary's Account of CASTE.

Excerpts from a book written in 1820 before caste consciousness became polarized to the extent we see now :-

“ For my part, having been in a situation to observe the character of the Hindus and having lived amongst them for many years, as a friend, I have formed an opinion upon this subject(about caste) altogether opposite. I consider the institution of castes amongst the Hindu nations as the happiest effort of their legislation; and I am well convinced that if the people of India never sunk into a state of barbarism, and if, when almost all Europe was plunged in that dreary gulf, India kept up her head, preserved and extended the sciences, the arts and civilization; it is wholly to the distinction of castes that she is indebted for that high celebrity.

We have it in our power to form some judgment of what the Hindus would degenerate to, if the restraint of the division , the rules and the police of castes were abolished, by considering what the Pariahs of India are; who, being exempt from all restrictions of honour and shame, which so strongly influence the other castes, can freely and without reserve abandon themselves to their natural propensities.

Every man who carefully considers the character and conduct of such a class of men as this, being the most numerous of all, I think will agree with me, that a state consisting entirely of such members could not long endure, and could not fail to decline very quickly into the worst degree of barbarism. For my own part, who know the inclinations and sentiments of this species of men, I am persuaded that a nation of Pariahs, left to themselves, would speedily become worse than the hordes of cannibals that wander in the deserts of Africa, and would soon fall to the devouring of each other. (Comment here of Rev.G.U.Pope who had translated this book from the French original –“ I do not imagine that Pariahs will, on the whole, be found to be more immoral in their habits than any other tribe of  Hindus”)

I am no less convinced, that the Hindus if they were not restrained within the bounds of decorum and of subordination by means of the castes, which assign to every man his employment, and by regulations of police suited to each individual; but were without any curb  fit to check them, or any motive for applying one, would soon become what the Pariahs are, or worse; and the whole nation sinking of course into the most fearful anarchy, India, from the most polished of all countries, would become the most barbarous of any upon earth. (Comment by G.U.Pope here – “Some of the Abbe’s statements, ( and the general experience of Europeans confirms them) seem to shew that the Hindus are far from being among the most polished nations of the earth.”)

The legislators of India set out from that grand principle which  has been recognized by all the ancient legislators , that no man is to be permitted to be useless to the commonwealth. But they saw, at the same time, that the people for whom they acted were naturally so indolent,(aversion to work or exertion) and that this propensity was so greatly aggravated by the climate, that unless every individual  had a profession or employment rigidly imposed, the state could not exist, but must quickly tumble into the most deplorable anarchy, and end in savage barbarism.

Those legislators, being also well aware of the danger of all innovations in matters political or spiritual, and being desirous to establish durable and inviolable rules for the different castes into which they divided the Hindu people, could find no surer basis of an orderly government than the two grand foundations of religion and policy.” (pages 10 & 11, of the book  ‘Character, Manners & Customs of the People of India and of their institutions Religious & Civil’   written in 1820 in French by the Abbe J.A. Dubois, Missionary in the Mysore, With Notes, Corrections and Additions by Rev.G.U.Pope)

Economics & Ethics - Gandhiji


“True economics never militates against the highest ethical standard, just as all true ethics to be worth its name must at the same time  be also good economics. An economics that inculcates Mammon worship, and enables the strong to amass wealth  at the expense of the weak, is a false and dismal science. It spells death. True economics, on the other hand, stands for social justice, it promotes the good of all equally including the weakest, and is indispensable for decent life”- Gandhiji, Harijan 9-10-1937, p.292

Gandhiji- LOVE, SENTIMENTALISM, Swaminarayana & Vallabh, Non-Violence, Brahmacharya,Gita

Thursday, July 25,1918
Chi. Maganlal,

You have been frightened by Raojibhai as he was by me. He read too much into my words.

No, my ideals have not changed. Despite my bitter experiences in India, my conviction remains the same as ever, that we have but little to learn from the West. The evils I have seen here have made no changes in my fundamental idea nor has this war. The old idea has developed  into something purer. I have certainly not come to feel that we shall have to introduce Western civilization. Nor do I suppose that we shall have to take to drinking and meat-eating. To be sure, I have felt, in all seriousness, that Swaminarayana and Vallbhacharaya  have robbed us of our manliness. They made the people incapable of self-defense. It was all to the good, of course, that people gave up drinking, smoking, etc.; this, however, is not an end in itself, it is only a means. If a smoker happens to be a man of character his company is worth cultivating. If, on the contrary, a man who has never smoked in his life is an adulterer, he can be of little service. The love taught by Swaminarayana and Vallabh is all sentimentalism. It cannot make one a man of true love. Swaminarayana and Vallabh simply did not reflect over the true nature of non-violence. Non-violence consists in holding in check all impulses in the chitta.  (mind). It comes into play especially in men’s relations with one another. There is not even a suggestion of this idea in their writings. Having been born in this degenerate age of ours, they could not remain unaffected by its atmosphere and had, in consequence, quite an undesirable effect on Gujarat. Tukaram  and Ramdas had no such effect. The Abhangas   of the former and the shlokas of the latter admit ample scope for manly striving. They, too, were Vaishnavas. Do not mix up the Vaishnava tradition  with the teaching  of Vallabh and Swaminarayana. Vaishnavism is an age-old truth.  I have come to see, what I did not so clearly before, that there is non-violence  in violence. This is the big change  which has come about. I had not fully realized the duty of restraining a drunkard from doing evil, of killing a dog in agony or one infected with rabies. In all these instances, violence is in fact non-violence. Violence  is a function of the body. Brahmacharya  consists in refraining from sexual indulgence, but we do not bring up our children to be impotent. They will have observed bramachraya only if, though possessed of the highest virility, they can master the physical urge. In the same way, our offspring must be strong in physique. If they cannot completely renounce the urge to violence, we may permit them to commit violence, to use their strength to fight and thus make them non-violent. Non-violence was taught by a Kshatriya to a Kshatriya.

                           The difference between the West and  the East is what I have explained to be, and it is a great one. The civilization of the West is based on self-indulgence, ours on self-control. If we commit violence, it will be as a last resort and with a view to lokasangraha. (That which promotes the conservation of society). The West will indulge in violence in self-will. My taking part in ( the movement for) a Parliament and similar activities is not a new  development; it is quite an old thing and is only intended to ensure a check on these bodies. You will see this if you read my article on Mr Montagu’s scheme. I simply cannot bring myself to take interest in the movement, but I can  spread my ideals by working in it. When I saw that I could continue in it only  by sacrificing my ideals, I decided to retire from the movement.

                    I think you have your reply in what I have said. I cannot explain much when I am there for a day and so I have set down the thing in writing. This will enable you to think and ask me questions, if fresh doubts occur to you.

                    I continue to be Navagam. I wanted to leave from here today, but perhaps I may not be able to do so.
Blessings from BAPU,

(Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.XIV, pp.504-5)
(1).Swaminarayana : The Vaishnava sect whose founder was Swami Sahajanand.(1781-1833)
(2). Vallabhacharya (1473-1531) – Religious Teacher, principally responsible for spreading the Bhakti cult in Gujrat.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fishing Community's interface with Modernity ends in VIOLENCE

This news report reads like the story of a movie. Or it can be dramatized to make suitable for a movie. The remnants or traces of village/community life  of some Indians, could be garnered from this news report. Surely the situation presently existing in these fishing villages will not be to the liking of   modern political parties since they will be unable to influence the villagers directly, overriding the village elders.And the community life existing here is in absolute variance with the historical accounts the reformers & revolutionaries want us to believe !!!The report seems to suggest that the elders are acting wisely in the larger interests of the community. And remarkably the interface with modernity (here pvt. port) has ended in VIOLENCE !!!!

Fishermen stay off sea, seek release of jailed villagers | The Hindu