Dharmic Thinking

Indian civilization has produced fertile Dharmic traditions. Dharma has been mistranslated as religion. Dharma is dhr (saskrit root) meaning to hold fast to one’s being or duty. Because dharma evokes duty perhaps it is also thought to be eternal law. I think that the all-embracing meaning of dharma is being one’s true self. It is a way of being true to one’s nature. Dharmic traditions are based on four fundamental concepts: Karma and Dharma. Samsara and Mokxa. Every dharmic tradition has these concepts and is understood differently. Today Dharmic traditions are seen in the context of Abrahamic traditions. Abramic traditions are thought to set the indexality to the Dharmic traditions and so dharmic concepts have become other of the Abrahamic faith traditions. In doing so, they have lost their otherness. They have become other of the same (Abrahamic faiths). Thus, they always have to become opposite or different from the Abrahamic faiths. This means an oppositional relation set up a dialectics that keeps dharmic traditions second to the Abrahamic faiths.

When the otherness of the other is reduced to difference and an oppositional relation is set by subtracting alterity/otherness and equality is sort between the terms of oppositional relations. By being different and not other a relation of equality and opposition is set between Abrahamic faiths and dharmic traditions. As a result, there is a loss of meaning and value particularly in dharmic traditions. The dharmic way of thinking is filtered and viewed through the privileged lens of Abrahamic faiths. Thus, time which is cyclic is thought to be progressive and linear, good is binarised with evil. All dharmic concepts have to pass through the furnace of ‘either or thinking’ and everything then is thought of as living in a dialectical relation. Today, unfortunately, all dharmic traditions are striving to become opposites or mirror images of the Abrahamic faiths. If there is a movement of Sanskritization that moves towards the brahminical centre, the Bhraminical centre itself is steadily mimicking the Abrahamic faiths. This means Sanskritization itself is hidden Abrahamization of dharmic traditions.

Is it possible to recover the original dharmic traditions outside the semiotic influence of Abrahamic faiths? Can we put the dharmic traditions in a semiotic black hole that will absorb all the traces of Abrahamic faiths and we will get pure dharmic traditions? Well, this may not be possible but we still have a way of thinking concepts from the dharmic traditions through what we may call dharmic samsara. This will lead us to shun aside ‘either /or’ mode of oppositional thinking and embrace cyclic samsara thinking. This means at the vyavaharik level everything is circulating in a cyclic manner. Thus, from the dharmic point of view, there is no good vs evil, truth vs falsehood. This means evil is not to be seen as an oppositional other of good. It is our action that gives karmic value to good or evil, truth or falsehood. Thus, at different cycles of time ( four yugas) good, and evil, truth and falsehood acquire a different meaning. Thus, with the change of cyclic time, dharmic concepts leap into other cycles of time and change till we reach the paramartika level where we reach absolute goodness and truth in and through our encounter with God. Thus we can see how dharmic traditions have an interwebbed hierarchy.

What has been proposed above is my imaginative way of thinking about dharmic traditions far from the spiralling effect of Abramic traditions. This way of thinking assists us to leap out of the ‘either/ or’ structure of West and thus come closer to our indic modes of thinking. This mode of thinking will assist us to understand dharmic traditions. It will assist us to dialogue with dharmic traditions and critic those like Hindutva which has become dialectical and is a living embodiment of oppositional relations, living in the image of ‘ either or thinking ‘  of the West.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao