Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Darwin and Dashavataram

(if you're all touchy feely about reference to religious matters, go read something else right now. This is meant to be serious reading). 

It started a few hours ago on a discussion on Chota Bheem. Chota Bheem has become the most popular Android game in India, last month. Then a random sequence led me here.

Lord Vishnu, the savior, in the trinity of Hindu Gods has 10 avatars - manifestations. We're done with 9 and the 10th is awaited, contingent on a cataclysmic event. (sounds familiar? Bruce Willis...get your team ready!). Its also interesting how there is a base 10 in operation here too.

The first three avatars were:

  • Matsya (the fish)
  • Kurma (the Turtle)
  • Varaha (the Boar)


To paraphrase the skeptics : "So WT* has this to do with Darwin?".

Darwin represents the school of thought that says we divided to multiply and eventually became human beings. Its a pretty ironical transformation isn't it : cells divided and thus become more than one cell (multiplied). Now its reached a stage where human factions multiply and divide themselves and fight about a whole lot of stuff including critical things like "Is Sachin Tendulkar the greatest cricketer ever?"

Darwinian views of life include :

  • the single cell of living organism
  • the ocean as the starting point
  • land as emergent and then land-based species.


Vishnu's first 3 avatars mirror this evolution. The Fish at the time of only the oceans, the Turtle (an amphibious life form) at the cusp of the emergence of land; and the Boar as facilitating the rise of the earth from the oceans.  

(read more stuff about this here : http://www.sanatansociety.org/hindu_gods_and_goddesses/vishnu.htm )

After that point there is a lot of similarity in the sub-texts of how humanity has evolved. 
i)   Control over everything on earth (manifested in theology as demons)
ii)  Assumption of a "god" like status and power (Ceasar, Kublai Khan, and your current head of state, Managing Director)
iii)  Possession of everything that can be considered property, viz., everything on earth.

Add up the three "I want to" -  own everything material, own your mind and be like God - its like an executive summary of the conflicts that have plagued human beings...since they became human beings. 

The marketeers of religions work on the "own  your mind" with the implied backing of God, 
the marketeers of politics work on the "own your mind" with the implied backing of God, and 
the marketeers of business work on the "own everything material" as an implied route to happiness and God.  But all this is side-tracking the main event of this piece.

Vishnu's first three avatars and the evolutionary view of life have common themes. And this isn't a Hindu exclusive. Researchers have linked the Matsya phase as being not different from the deluge and Noah. (Noah luckily didn't have to defend which species he picked for the sail, and get nailed in media for the selection). A watery beginning to life as we understand it - whether from the religious history perspective or from the science history perspective. Noah is a common theme to Mesopotamian, Hellenic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  Notably, many feature Noah as enjoying knocking over a few ..of wine. (so it isn't your fault, we are like this only.)

If we strip the God and religion aspect of mythology and these texts - we are left with some equivalent of science-fiction of that era. Let's say an Arthur C Clarke or Douglas Adams or something equivalent around then. All such fiction and tales are rooted in a prevailing way of life and a historical context of that time - what had already happened and what were things people were trying to make happen. 

Perhaps its time to look at some of these ancient texts and scriptures and hand-me-down tales in terms of pointing to a history and evolution of life and society at a point of time. Using it as a basis of pushing the "god" thought down everyone's throat will be a chauvinistic and limiting exercise. Rejecting it outright as useless "mind games" would also be chauvinistic. Every bit of human experience tells us that tales and writing provide a picture (however hazy it may be) of an era. 

This serendipitous discovery, for myself, has renewed interest in checking out some of the ancient stuff (no, I'm not referring to Charles Dickens...yawn!). I doubt I'll read the original language versions and absorb the Be-Good Galaxy philosophy that interpreters have tagged with them. Maybe a "Chota Bheem" equivalent of contemporary communication that provide some visualizations.

Avatar no: 10 is scheduled to be "Kalki". That will end the era of Kalyug (the bad era) and begin SatYug (the good era). The odds are that it isn't going to happen in this century...and therefore our lifetimes. 

And he's (she, say many) will arrive with a blazing sword (hope its solar or renewable energy fired or the tree-huggers will give her a bad reception) and on a white horse...Gangnam style! :-D

2 comments:

  1. Dashavataram symbolises two types of evolution, according to some.

    The first 5 refer to physical evolution - fish, turtle/reptile, boar/mammal, half-man/half-lion, and dwarf.

    The next four refer to philosophical evolution - Parashurama (merciless Iron Law), Rama (uncompromising principles), Krishna (ends justify means) and Buddha (compassion).

    Wonder what Kalki signifies...

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    1. The philosophical evolution you outlined seems to have a logic. If one is:
      i. uncompromising on principles
      ii. mercilessly implement the law
      iii. justify means by the ends
      iv. have compassion
      it leads to a situation where one is convinced one is right, and vanquishes those who oppose that way. Compassion is ensuring you don't kill everyone. It kind of sums up how life have evolved (referred to in my blogpost). The idea of forcing one's beliefs on everyone is the kick - violence being a norm that creates the conflicts. Religion provides one "moral" platform, ideology (Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, eg) provides another. Kalki represents the eternal hope of each of the ideological bandwagons - that their side will finally win and therefore return the world to Satyug.

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