Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Jeevan Vidya

In December 2007, I had provided a brief reference to a new paradigm, of achieving peace and happiness, doing the rounds in India. This paradigm, with the name of Jeevan Vidya, has attracted many intelligent people who consider its propositions valid and worthy of consideration.

There isn't much literature about JV available online, but the following few links give a brief outline:

The following excerpt is noteworthy:
The core of vidya is to understand the basic human design which comprises two distinct entities, the body and the Self. The needs of the body, that is, food, clothing, shelter and that of the Self to know, be satisfied, respect, love, and help others are entirely different. Both needs are required to be fulfilled but in a mutually exclusive manner. For instance, the body, through its sensory organs, passes on the information to the Self that then perceives and evaluates these senses likes them, dislikes them, reacts to them or whatever. The needs of the Self are intangible. The needs of the body, on the other hand, are tangible.

All the needs of the body are limited. But the need of the Self is unlimited. Due to our conditioning we fail to recognise the distinction between Self and body, that their fulfillments have separate requirements. Because of this basic confusion, our entire effort is directed towards satisfying bodily requirements alone. Satisfying bodily needs does not satisfy the Self. The non-material yearnings of the Self continue to persist and lead to dissatisfaction. The dissatisfaction pushes one to strive for more and more tangible items, in the false hope that possession in greater quantity will quench the thirst of Self.

Broadly, lack of knowledge of Self is the cause of non-fulfilment. Vidya addresses the Self in the human being, draws attention to what is within us innate and intact. It brings about a dialogue between what we are and what we seek.
The basic doctrine seems to be that satisfaction of one's needs through tangibles (considered as "materialism" by JV) is not enough, it is also important to satisfy the "self" by relating, getting respect, fulfilling "human values" such as love and affection, etc.

JV claims its philosophy is neither materialistic (by which it really means to say it does not condone looking for happiness in material possessions) nor spiritual (by which it really means to say that it does not condone mysticism and irrationality). By reading the online articles, however, it doesn't seem to be much more than a tightly constructed and abstrusely-worded system in which well-known parameters of psychological well-being such as harmonious co-existence, self-esteem, mutual respect, meaningful relationships, love and affection are given a great deal of importance without a deep investigation into what (or who) is the basis of these needs.

The basis of these needs is axiomatically ruled to be something called "Jeevan" (Life), an atomic concept whose nature is considered unalterable.

These psychological needs exist in human beings. But instead of pursuing the far more challenging path of annihilating the psychic structure of these needs, and their causation - the sense of a psychical self (which Actualism does), JV seeks the mediocre path of fulfilling these needs and expectations by living according to a set of (humanistic) values.

No doubt, a life lived according to a set of values (whichever they may be) is less confused and may feel very meaningful. And humanistic value-systems are better than greed-oriented or mystically-inclined ones. However, humanistic value-systems are still geared towards fulfilling the insatiable "I". As long as the self remains, one will inevitably feel oneself to be a separated and lonely entity trying to feel good and safe. And trying to feel good and safe, on and on, is what causes all the mayhem in the human realm.

Genuine Spirituality recognizes this problem of an insatiable and separated "I" and tries to solve it by pursuing a state of (felt) psychical union with all living things, generally called enlightenment. The core insight of Actualism is that spiritual enlightenment solves the problem of separation via an illusion, and fails to solve the problem of sorrow and malice. Spiritual teachers have been known, without exception, to have bouts of insecurity, sorrow, lust, irritation and anger.

Spiritual enlightenment is an altered, and fantastically delusional, state of consciousness in which nothing is solved, but the problem ceases to be a problem. The enlightened beings regard any and each mental state of theirs as a divinely dispensed one and one which needs no tampering.

Enlightenment is a state of dissociation.

Jeevan Vidya has only pithy insights about what is wrong with spirituality, and most of its critique seems to be related to the secrecy and mysticism common in spiritual circles. There is far, far more wrong with the book of spirituality than its mere binding and its cryptic language. Its content is not nonexistent or nonsensical - spiritual enlightenment is a remarkable state, a state of ego-less-ness - however, ego-less-ness is not the complete solution. It may in fact exacerbate the problem. The solution (that Actualism proposes) is to be free from both one's animal passions (which form into one's Being or Self), and one's social identity (one's Ego or self).

Jeevan Vidya is shallow about the causation of human misery. And hence it understandably misses the mark, by far, when it tries to end it.


Anonymous said...

Only thing I would like to say is, JV first tries to understand "self" itself. What other philosophies do is, they dont try to understand the "self" but its all other symptoms or attributes. That is the basic disconnect. JV is top-down and what you are talking is bottom-up approach. It is the chellenge for each individual to see that convergence of both the approaches at some point. That is what the process of adhyayan in JV.

Harmanjit Singh said...

understanding anything is to understand its symptoms and attributes and qualities and interactions only.

nothing can be understood "in itself", that is a meaningless term.

i understand JV tries to give an atomic status to "jeevan" (life) but that seems to me to be just a construct to justify their humanistic values.

JV is not very distinguished in its value system, even though its assumptions are a little strange and esoteric.

Anonymous said...

You obviously come from that breed that comments on things without trying to first understand them! ..getting deeper into them. Seems like you are one of those that shoots form the hip - at the level of thought without ever penetrating beyond that point - an ailment that afflicts the western mind - irrespective of the color of the skin that this mind is housed in. I guess you would moderate my post - secure as you are within the walls you have constructed for yourself

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi "Anonymous":

Would you like to tell me where my understanding is flawed, instead of berating my "western" mind?

Otherwise, may I advise you to look up the following link:

Anonymous said...