Friday, October 23, 2009

A Critique of Judgment and Towards Jaina Theory of Literary studies

Transformation is a way of life according to Landmark Education and I am learning a thing (learning being one of my strong suits) or two everyday. Discussing the problems of relationships with my friends, I discovered how being judgmental is a negative way of being which drains us of vitality and openness. Most of us believe that we are open-minded, but if we just became aware of the things that we consider ` good', `right', `wrong' or `bad', we discover that we are constantly judging people, situations, things and of course ourselves. At the same time, almost all of us allow other people's judgment to affect us and influence our way of thinking and being. I believe if we avoid looking at the world in terms of ` good-bad', `right-wrong', `proper-improper', our world view would become very broad.

I was wondering about the conversations I heard during the Forum regarding, ` Must, Is, because' and ` Always Already Listening' and I felt I did not quite get them. But I feel today that they about ways of thinking and being which restrict our openness and put constraints on the other possibilities of being and living. Saying that X is like this or Y must ... or thinking in terms of `because' are all based on the perception of present which is based on our past. LM perceives the present from the point of view of the future which is not merely a projection from our past that is our fantasies, anxieties, fears and wish fulfillments etc. Transformation, in LM philosophy is different from change. Change is modification or alteration of what already exists, transformation is invention of a state of being which is not a modification of what already exists.

LM educational philosophy is based on the idea of `transformative education’ instead of informative education and it achieves its aims by focusing on our areas of being, living, and thinking which we did not know that we did not know, as against most of the education system which focuses on what we know we don’t know -we know we cant speak Chinese or how to hack into the Pentagon website. An instance of transformative education unit is the idea that most of us are judgmental thinking in terms of `right-wrong’ etc without acknowledging or knowing that we are judgmental.

With these things at the back of my mind, I was browsing through Crossword bookstore looking for good books on Jainism. Jainism is an incredibly powerful religion and like all great religions, it is based on atheism. Its central value is `aviolence’ (often translated as non-violence) which has to be conceived very broadly. This central value is based on its metaphysics of ` anekantavaada’ or pluralistic view of reality (that is `realities’). The Jaina logic, probably one of the greatest logical systems of the world, is based on seven step syllogism or the Sapta Bhangi Nyaya. This logical system like the notion of `a-violence’ is based on non-absolutist metaphysical outlook of the religion.   The summary of this seven fold logic is first found in the writings of a Jaina monk Bhadrabahu (c. 4th century B.C,) and goes something like this:

"The syadvada is set forth as follows: (1) May be, it is; (2) may be, it is not; (3) may be, it is and it is not; (4) may be, it is indescribable; (5) may be, it is and yet is indescribable; (6) may be, it is not and it is also indescribable; (7) may be, it is and it is not and it is also indescribable."
A-violence is possible if your outlook becomes a non-absolutist and being judgmental implies that my view is truth and is unquestionable one, because I am Right and you are Wrong.  In a way, our judgmental view is the source of violence in the world and it limits our world view in a violent way.

Sometime back, I was almost fanatic and dogmatic upholder of the ` evaluative’ mode of criticism and felt that non-evaluative or non-judgmental study of literature as promoted by outstanding critics like Northrop Frye has resulted in certain `anomie’ of values in literary studies department. The judgmental way of reading or being is actually a very limited and violent way of reading. I wonder how a-violent or non-judgmental mode of reading is possible. It is possible by admitting multiple points of views of readers and the characters and the author in the process of reading, in fact, by admitting that all the voices that speak in the text, including the voice of reader, is not  speaking `the Truth’, but ` a truth’ which is a limited one.  Reader response theories admit multiple points of views of readers by asserting that the readers produce their meaning, but there is need for this ethical awareness that even a particular meaning generated by the reader is not the `right one’, but one right reading among the many ones. The potential of this ethical outlook can be radical and can actually go against educational and pedagogical models of literary studies which actually are violent in the fact that they want readers to produce a `particular kind of reading’ in order to get grades. The Syadvaad can be a base of newer ethics of reading and `criticism’. Am I proposing a Jaina theory of literary studies? Probably I am, or probably I am not….Probably it will lead us beyond the conversations marked by ` Must, Is, Because’ and ` Right/Wrong, ` Good/Bad’, ` Correct/Incorrect’ which delimit our views and open up a possibility of radically open mode of literary studies….

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