Bṛhat

To be a history in the true sense of the word, a work must be a story of the people inhabiting a country. It must be a record of their life from age to age presented through the life and achievements of men whose exploits become the beacon lights of tradition;
through efforts of the people to will themselves into organic unity.

Such a history of India is still to be written.

Shri KM Munshi

with a continuity of untold millennia, the passage of time visible to us in

itihāsa

information was processed in increasingly complex ways within the physical environment best described as

bhārata

emerged a civilizational consciousness, with multi-level coherence. It is known to us as

dharma

and it is alive….

itihāsa

bhārata

dharma

fractal

maṇḍala

an initiative of research, exploration, expression and furtherance of Indian civilizational consciousness.

fractal

A curve or geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole.

Any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part.

A fractal displays the same properties at any magnification level, ie., it is multi-level.

maṇḍala

A circle or anything circular- globe, circumference, orbit of a celestial object, an array of troops.

From the root √maṇḍ (मण्ड्) meaning satisfaction, adornment, wholeness, complete, satisfied (√bhūṣ, √hṛṣ, tuṣṭa, alaṅkāra).

A circle- śūnya or pūrṇam- is where all constituents form a unified whole, ie., it is coherent.

Discover the Fractal Maṇḍala.
Use the buttons between sections or the top-right menu drop-down to navigate. 

1.
Caturasūtra – Four Aphorisms

“Civilization begins to appear when a workable system for living, that is a proper relationship between man and nature, is established in accord with the features of a given region.”

Prof. Yasuda yoshinory

In the above quote, though Prof. Yasuda Yoshinori speaks of the ancient Jomon civilization, he gives us a glimpse into why our ancestors called dharma “sanātana”, and why they conceived of a word such as ‘saṃskṛti’ long before the French conceived ‘civilisé.’ The “proper relationship between man and nature” may well be translated as yuktaḥ bhavati svadharmaḥ ṛtam- ie, it connects directly to an ontical core of Bhāratīya saṃskṛti (more on this Sanskrit phrase below). We are confronted here with the notice of emergence- the origination of new categories, categorial novum- properties or behaviors in a whole that are not found in its parts. Simple examples of emergence are the fractal patterns of a snowflake, or the jagged yet elegant hills of a termite colony. Complex examples of emergence are life and consciousness.

Reducing a wide range of ‘scientific’ opinions on the nature and etiology of consciousness to a generalization, consciousness is what is thought to emerge when information inside a closed system is processed in increasingly complex ways- giving rise to “novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self organization.” It is what information “feels like,” to “itself.” Five generally accepted qualities of emergence are:

– Radical novelty,
– Coherence, correlation,
– A global, or macro level- ie, a property of wholeness
– Evolution through dynamic processes
– Ostensibility- ie, can be perceived

We can see that consciousness, at least of the human variety, satisfies these speculated conditions. In fact, some thinkers have seriously contended that property 5 alone is enough as proof and description of consciousness, echoed famously in Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” On the matter of civilization, though debates abound, we should take information from Huntington’s definition of civilization as “the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have, short of that which distinguishes humans from other species.” This definition is helpful because it facilitates the application of a design principle and the retrieval of a generative insight- yathā piṇḍe tathā brahmāṇḍe, and vice versa. Thus:

If consciousness is what emerges when information inside an individual is processed in increasingly complex ways, then civilization is what emerges when information inside a collective/group is processed in increasingly complex ways.

Among known life forms, the emergent phenomenon finds maximum expression in homo sapiens. Among known collective groups, it finds maximum expression in civilizational super-aggregates.

This is how over a long course of time (itihāsa) a civilization (Bhārata) has come into consciousness (dharma). And this emergence is along four principles, or sūtras. We call these the Caturasūtrāḥ, or Four Aphorisms, and internalizing these is an essential prerequisite to understanding Bhāratīya itihāsa, as the civilization experienced it.

1

यथा स्मृति: चैतन्यं चैतन्य: जीवं च।
तथा इतिहास: संस्कृतिं संस्कृति: समूहं च।।

yathā smṛtiḥ caitanyam caitanyaḥ jīvam ca |
tathā itihāsaḥ saṃskṛtim saṃskṛtiḥ samūham ca ||
As memory is to consciousness and consciousness to the individual, so history is to civilization and civilization to the group.

Memory is core to the conscious experience. You feel you because of an unbroken memory chain that goes deep into your childhood. You identify as that same person, through the years, because it is your mind where the chain of imprints resides. This memory underpins your consciousness, which in turn makes you you.

In similar form, history- or more accurately itihāsa- is core to the civilizational experience. A civilization, or a samṣkṛti, emerges because of an unbroken aitihāsika chain that goes indeterminably far back in time- such that it can only be conceptualized as sanātana. We call the samūha’s trajectory over thousands of years an unbroken civilizational chain, because it is in the civilizational psyche where the chain resides. The itihāsa underpins the civilization, which emerges in form of saṃskṛti.

Profound realizations dawn with even this single principle internalized. Broken memories, false memories, implanted memories, subverted memories, contested memories- these are some ways a consciousness can be disturbed, limited and manipulated. Broken histories, false histories, implanted histories, subverted histories, contested histories- these are some ways a civilization can be disturbed, limited and manipulated. To subvert an individual, to make them doubt their sense of self, to bring their self-identity into question, we may toy with their memory. To subvert a civilization, to make it doubt its existence, to bring its self-identity into question- we may toy with its history.

We use the word samūha for collective/group to evoke phonetic kinship with saṃskṛti- it is our collective kṛti. And just like consciousness, though phenomenological, it is a unique felt-experience. Decolonisation is shedding the acquired syntactic-semiotic-semantic memeplex of teṣāṃkṛti – their kṛti- or a foreign civilization.

2

यथा चैतन्य: उभावस्ति कर्ता कृत्यं स्मृते:।
तथा संस्कृति: उभावस्ति कर्ता कृत्यं इतिहासस्य।।

yathā caitanyaḥ ubhāvasti kartā kṛtyaṃ smṛteḥ |
tathā saṃskṛtiḥ ubhāvasti kartā kṛtyaṃ itihāsasya ||
As consciousness is both the observer and the subject of memory, so civilization is both the observer and the subject of history.

We form within our mind’s eye a vision of ourselves- the brain looking at a self-model, the homunculus inside the gray matter. And we are in conversation with it, such that memory and consciousness are in constant interplay. We recollect images and impressions from our memory bank as conscious reflection in the present, and the memory bank is where all conscious experience is stored to create who we are. There is conscious experience even if memory is broken, but it contributes nothing to the sense of self, dissipating ephemerally if not stored in the bank. Similar is itihāsa to the civilisational consciousness, as Prof. Vishwa Adluri writes:

Itihāsa represents the empirical world aesthetically to problematize both being-in-the-world and the relationship of ontology, text, and the world. In other words, itihāsa is history that has overcome historicism: history that has become critical and self-conscious.

Itihāsa is the “mempool” that Indian civilization is in constant conversation with. It can recollect images, memes and impressions for conscious reflection in the present. Indeed, this is what older generations of Indians do on a daily basis. Regular conversations refer to the pledge of Bhīṣma, the vengeance of Karṇa, the greed of Duryodhana or the perseverance of Rāma, and more.

Now, when our access to and traditional engagements with the mempool are broken, our civilization moves forward aimlessly, pulled in the sway of “development, progress and technology” that may land a future Bezos or Musk a lordship over Asteroid X1A21, but we have no vision of where it may land us. What Adluri writes above is in fact the very process these principles highlight- the emergence of self-consciousness through information being processed in complex ways, over a long period of time. When a civilization is in conversation with its past, it generates learnings and ethicality. When a civilization approaches it only as an academic discipline, it may remember the exact date when Columbus landed on a new world, but is bound to repeat the same evils again.

3

यथा जीव: युक्त:भवति स्वधर्म: ऋतं सचेतं स्मृत्या।
तथा संस्कृति: युक्त:भवति सामान्यधर्म: ऋतं सचेतं इतिहासेन।।

yathā jīvaḥ yuktaḥbhavati svadharmaṛtaṃ sacetaṃ smṛtyā |
tathā saṃskṛtiḥ yuktaḥbhavati sāmānyadharmaṛtam sacetaṃ itihāsena ||
As an individual yokes self-conduct to the natural order through conscious memory, so too a civilization yokes self-conduct to the natural order through conscious history.

This sūtra highlights the parallelism between individual and collective- vyaṣṭi and the samaṣṭi, or the jīva and the samūha. It brings into focus the emergence of dharma- the imperative to be in consonance with ṛta, and points to the true purpose and benefit of historical memory. Individuals can use memory as a process of conscious reflection and self-correction, ultimately to yoke themselves, via yoga, to the natural order. Such is the purpose of itihāsa as well- to inform the samūha in yoking itself to the natural order. This is why the Indian literature of itihāsa-purāṇa cares less for historia than it does for ethics; less for dates and chronologies than it does for deeds and consequences.

If our date of birth wasn’t recorded by our parents, would we even know it? And if we didn’t know it, would it negate our felt experience and mean that we were never born? If these questions point to the absurd, we must relate the same for civilization as well. Thus is dharma called sanātana, thus are our earliest ṛṣis called mānasaputras, and thus is Brahmā himself known as the svayambhu. We care more for the lessons our ancestors embedded into lore, for the things our history can teach us, than we do for the intricacies of historia. For both individual and collective, the purpose of itihāsa is a rooting to dharma, it is the very means to self-conscious reflection.

4

यथा चैतन्य: युक्ते ऋतं स्वपूर्णमण्डलयति कश्चितवस्थायाम्।
तथा संस्कृति: युक्ते ऋतं संपूर्णमण्डलयति कश्चित्वस्थायाम्।।

yathā caitanyaḥ yukte ṛtaṃ svapūrṇamaṇḍalayati kaścitavasthāyām |
tathā saṃskṛtiḥ yukte ṛtam sampūrṇamaṇḍalayati kaścitavasthāyām ||
As a consciousness in yoke to natural rhythm is wholly coherent in any state, so too a civilization in yoke to natural rhythm is wholly coherent in any state.

The final principle represents the end-state, the ideal that is aspired to even in the pauruṣārthika frame of mokṣa. It highlights what Hinduism maintains- a human birth is special, since it provides opportunity for ultimate union. But humans are a social species, there is a samūha beyond the jīva, and we desire for both to be in consonance with ṛta.

Such consonance, this principle asserts, puts individual consciousness in a state of coherence, or what could be called sambodhya. The being is complete in itself, or thus svapūrṇa. Similarly, it puts collective consciousness, one operant on sāmānyadharma, in a state of coherence- yoked to ṛta, as-above-so-below realized at the level of civilisation. Thence does the samūha become sampūrṇa, a samaṣṭi of vyaṣṭis, a fractal maṇḍala.

Emergence is real, but even the farthest reaches of science cannot tell us what the precise laws of emergence are. This is because the emergent can never completely understand the processes preceding it, or underlying it, just like the tree never knows the seed that birthed it. The seed may be gone in corporal form, but what was once materially real is now manifestly so in form of the tree. The best the tree can do, and the best that trees do, is conform to the seeded order- the tree follows its own dharma.

And thus must the jīva and samūha follow their dharma, or the path of consonance. Thus must {kṛta}, {smṛta}, {dhṛta}, {ṛca} and every other phenomenon we can influence- including saṃskṛta, resonate with {ṛta}. The unbounded reality allows us to do as we wish of course, but the core and continuing realization of our civilization is that in desire, in play, in profit, in pleasure, in performance, we must aim for the resonance. For freedom, that is mokṣa. For transcending of √bhū and union with √sat.

This is the way.

Next: Bhāratīya Sāṃskṛtika Cetanā

2.
Bhāratīya Sāṃskṛtika Cetanā

“The human mind, in its progress, marches knowledge to knowledge, renews and enlarges previous knowledge- often obscured or overlaid, seizes on old imperfect clues and is led by them to new discoveries.”

Sri Aurobindo

Being of the same basic physio-neurological make, humans are largely the same everywhere, but human cultures are wildly different. The culture we are born to and/or internalize creates a sort of ‘operating system’ inside our minds. By a human OS we mean a set of code (lexical and semiotic memes, normative protocols, cultural motifs and more) that determines the nature of interactions with other individuals, with groups, and among groups. The prevalent OS for our species today is the Western one, of recent origin but widespread installation — built upon a trajectory of colonization, exploitation, slavery and conversion. Decolonization begins with the realization of this, which then proceeds through degrees of uninstallation, but must culminate in the installation of an alternate OS.

The key to this system “jailbreaking” is the reconnection to one’s civilizational language. For language is like code, and like code it can be hacked. A good way to discern the native OS from the acquired one is to examine any given notion in the original code. In light of this, when we say ‘Indian Civilizational Consciousness,’ what we speak of is ‘Bhāratīya Sāṃskṛtika Cetanā (भारतीय सांस्कृतिक चेतना),’ and in reverse order we unpack each term as follows.

Cetanā (चेतना)/Consciousness:

Against the profusion of words to describe mental phenomena that can be generated from roots such as √man (√मन्), √budh (√बुध्), √jñā (√ज्ञा), and √cit (√चित्), we find the English words mind, consciousness and brain of limited potential in understanding the mind-map of our ancient ancestors. Anticipating the modern world’s notice of ego, id, free-will, free-won’t, compatibilism and more, the ancients perceived many aspects to Mind, or Mentality. To them, consciousness was not mere thinking, nor the presence of thinking activity; and neither was it simply the presence of understanding or comprehension alone. It was the feedback-loop that existed between these processes — the process of reflection and self-awareness. The mind that is aware of its thinking, that can reflect on it, and can contextualize what it comes to know or understand — is the conscious mind.

Modern cognitive sciences tell us that consciousness is “how information feels when processed in increasingly complex ways.” It is what information ‘feels like,’ to ‘itself.’ This evocation of self-awareness tallies with the Indian notice above, and it is captured by the root √cit (√चित्), which Pāṇini associated with saṃjñā (संज्ञा) — harmony or accordance. In other words, √cit is the faculty that makes sense of all the knowing, thinking, understanding, comprehension etc. that come through √man, √budh and √jñā. It is the information, feeling to itself. Thus, we use the word cetanā for consciousness, and not surprisingly, also the word saṃjñā.

But what allows us to speak of collective, civilizational consciousness? To satisfy the Western consensus, we only need evidence of information being processed in increasingly complex ways, at the aggregate of a civilization, to speculate on the presence of consciousness. But to satisfy the Indian consensus we must find self-reflection and awareness, and the itihāsa-purāṇa tradition provides this in droves. To quote Prof. Adluri–

Itihāsa represents the empirical world aesthetically to problematise both being-in-the-world and the relationship of ontology, text, and the world. In other words, itihāsa is history that has overcome historicism: history that has become critical and self-conscious.

That itihāsa is history that has overcome historicism; that it is self-conscious demonstrates that the Indian civilization is in conversation with itself; and so consummate is its saṃjñā that the same civilization is “encoded in multiple ways, like the same DNA is encoded in every leaf of a tree.” (Shri Rajiv Malhotra).

In other words, when we speak of Bhāratīya Sāṃskṛtika Cetanā we do not indulge in metaphor or analogy — we speak literally of a civilizational consciousness or self-awareness.

To use notions developed by Martin Heidegger and cardinal to philosophy — since we speak of an ontologic and not of an ontic. The difference, reductively phrased, is that an ontic is a thing or entity as described through its properties- a clinical analysis. But an ontologic is Being — or what that thing/entity is to itself. That a civilization could be self-aware is understood better with the next word.

Sāṃskṛtika (सांस्कृतिक)/ Civilizational:

Rooted in the Latin word ‘civilis,’ the word ‘civilization’ came into its current usage in the 1600s from the French word ‘civiliser,’ — to bring out of barbarism, to introduce order and civil organization. Civilization is then the deliberate process of removing barbarism and increasing civility in the collective aggregate. This gives more information to Huntington’s definition- ‘the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have, short of that which distinguishes humans from other species.’

To reinforce salient terminology, Huntington’s definition is an ontic one, while the etymological one preceding it tends to ontologic – describing civilization from its own point of view. This ontologic definition acknowledges an intent, a deliberation to civilization, and this is what’s evoked in the Indian word for it too. Saṃskṛti, or well-effected; well put-together. It is the result of saṃskaraṇa — to accomplish something with purification and consecration. Hidden within this is the word ‘samyak (सम्यक्), which means ‘in the same direction, in the same way, at the same time, together.’ In turn, samyak builds upon the prefix of ‘sam (सम्),’ which evokes the sense of togetherness.

There is thus a subtle but crucial difference between saṃskṛti and civilization. While both denote a deliberation to aspire to a ‘better’ state, one with more order or “proper”-ness, ‘civil-ize’ carries the added evocation of thrusting a certain way of life onto a people or a group. It implies a value judgement being made, a predetermination of what is more “civil”, what is the “better” way to live, and the imposing expansion of this on everyone else. In contrast, though also aiming for order and correctness, saṃskṛti is something done ‘together,’ or ‘along-with.’ It is our creation, our accomplishment, against the many teṣāmkṛtis (their creation, their accomplishment) out there. And it is accomplished together, augmented by our collective faith and adherence, and aligned to a in common goal — samyak.

Prof. Kapil Kapoor describes this as ekatva buddhi — being of one mind.

It is this kind of civilization that could plausibly emerge into consciousness- for in its samyak-orientation it is built with self-awareness and agency — or cetanā. The march of ‘Western civilization’ derives imperative from the claim it brings peace, progress and liberty to all humans and countries, that its specific paradigm for what constitutes ‘civilisation’ is universally applicable, and even that it has a moral duty to bring this “civility” to other cultures.

The churn of Bhāratīya saṃskṛti is that it is formed together, in collaboration, and has as its ideals not ‘civility’ or ‘liberty’ but loftier goals better understood with the third word.

Bhāratīya (भारतीय) / Indian:

Much ink still spills over the meaning and origin of ‘India,’ contention to the Sindhu/Indus derivation coming from the ‘Yin-tu/Indū’ of Chinese records. But as a recent book has reminded us — we are India, that is Bhārata. Reconnection with our civilizational consciousness will come not with an etymology of India, but with that of Bhārata —where the derivation from Bharata as patronymic is the mundane stuff of historia, of the ontic. But we seek the ontologic, and thus we notice the root- √bhṛ (भृ)- evocative of dhāraṇa, poṣaṇa and bharaṇa, or bearing, nourishing, supporting.

Bearing What?
The Fire, Agni, the lamp of civilization. The continuity of felt-experience built through itihāsa and emergent in saṃskṛti.

Nourishing What?
This very saṃskṛti and its denizens, who as the product of the process are thus Bhāratīya – coming from Bhārata.

Supporting What?
Dharma, the eternal tradition, the Yajña that kindles the unifying fire – from earth to sky, from tamas to jyoti, from asat to sat, from ātman to brahman. That leads us to mokṣa, the ultimate goal of it all.

These exalted actions are found reflected in the hands of the simple potter, who gives shape to clay, the pot in turn an instrument for carrying and sustenance. And the potter creates through simple rotation, through gently shaping the clay as it spins around the wheel — a metaphor for the ṛta that guides all of reality. To live life in consonance with ṛta, to spin with its motions yet not disintegrate to centrifugal entropy, is the Indian endeavor. To be a Bhāratīya is to uphold Dharma, to gently shape the river of tradition as we collectively spin under the yoke of ṛta. Suitably, bharaṭaḥ is a Sanskrit word for potter.

The word ‘Bhāratīya’ thus has a dual connotation. Anything produced on this wheel of Dharma is Bhāratīya, and the accretion of emergent civilization means that the potter is also Bhāratīya — imbibed of the ṛta-consonant consciousness. More precisely—

1

Over untold millennia of information being processed in increasingly complex ways developed a collective cetanā – a consciousness. The account of this development is remembered in itihāsa.

2

Since it is conscious, it contains dialogue and feedback, cogitation and reflection. It displays accretion of felt-experience and consistency of a coherent mind. The coming into coherence, which is but culture in action, is saṃskṛti, or civilization.

3

Consciousness is an embodied phenomenon. It is how information feels, but the information is contained in a vessel – the mortal and material form. The sāṃskṛtika cetanā discernable in itihāsa and definable as dharma has embodied in what we call Bhārata.

The coming together of these is what Shri KM Munshi referred to when he wrote of the “efforts of a people to will themselves into organic unity.” A civilizational moment is when this unity is of pure ekatva buddhi — when all awareness converges into one singular moment. The greater this convergence, the more clarified the awareness and more resolute the moment. At the apex of such a state, momentum takes over and the pot now spins seamlessly around the wheel. In balance with ṛta and in forward motion, unaided. This is the self-perpetuating civilizational moment. This is what we have come together to design — ie., methodically plan and arrange for.

Next: Synaptic Reconnection

3.
Synaptic Reconnection

“The world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”

Terence Mckenna

Like atheism, decolonization is a rejection, a creation of empty space. But unlike atheism, decolonization carries a forward implication. The empty space created must be filled with a native lens. In the Indian context we speak of a Dhārmika OET- ontology, epistemology, teleology1. These technical terms make for a psychological and cultural paradigm, connecting things that are core to existential human queries. Simply put, ontology describes what we know- things that make up reality, epistemology studies how we come to know- the methods of acquiring knowledge, and teleology points us to purpose or value- what do we do with this knowledge, or what is it for?

Decolonization is the installation of an alternative psychological and cultural operating system, in our case one encoded with Dhārmika OET. And Dhārmika code is written in the language of Sanskrit. This is not a claim of superiority to inflame Sanskrit vs. Tamil debates, it is a simple statement of fact. The Indian civilizational consciousness has emerged with Sanskrit as its root, even as it has naturally found expression and aesthetic in a wide variety of languages.

What this means is that a Dhārmika OET must question hitherto innocuous paradigms- Sacred, God, Technology, Reality, Disruption, Progress, etc.- in native code. For us to reconnect to our civilizational consciousness, we must be able to deploy and derive from a native-rooted framework. Such a framework would, in turn, help reconnect synaptic nerves to the civilizational consciousness. In three essays of which this is the first, we propose a preliminary schema for this endeavor. The terrain is inevitably technical, and the attempt here leans on generalizations and reductive descriptions for ease. It will thus overlook nuances that the technically-informed may consider salient, and we apologize for the licence.

Synaptic Reconnection: Meaning

Graham Hancock is right- we are a species with amnesia. And among our species, Indian consciousness is arguably the most broken and ruptured of them all. One of the only few pre-Abrahamic civilizations left, it has suffered incalculable ravages in recent memory. A damaging consequence of this has been severance with our civilizational code- Sanskrit. The revival of Sanskrit into contemporary language is a fair and valid mission, but even short of that there are other ways to engage with it.

The crux of this is in internalizing a Sanskritic mindmap– the installation of a base firmware built on ontology and semantics rooted in Sanskrit.

To whatever extent it is true that language shapes reality, Sanskrit’s profound rooting and etymological web gives more insight into reality (cognitive reality, even if not the manifest) than does any other language. And by synaptic reconnection we mean the re-establishment of civilizational cognition, as it might have existed among our ancestors. What did the ṛgvedic ṛṣi hold in his mind’s eye when he chanted on Indra or Agni? What did the upaniṣadic guru mean by the advaita brahman and ātman? When our ancestors turned to īśvara and when they thought of bhagavān, what were the differences internalized in their minds, the ones all diluted to us in the modern world by speaking only of “god?” Not that ready answers are forthcoming in this piece. These questions reflect a larger intent that requires a personal learning curve and much project work, only a preliminary schema for which is being proposed here.

In doing so we follow ancient footsteps, such as those of Amarasiṃha who wrote the Amarakoṣaḥ Nāmaliṅgānuśāsanam- a Sanskrit thesaurus with words classified into ontological categories. Even prior, systems such as Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika bequeathed well defined ontologies. And of course, we always live under the high shadow of Pāṇini, Yāska, Bhartṛhari and more- the earliest known linguist ṛṣis of India. As far as generalizations go, it is safe to say that Indian ontology is a flat one, relatively non hierarchical. It distinguishes only between that which is real – सत्, and that which is not – असत्². Even when it argues for the existence of more than one ontological, as Sāṅkhya does with puruṣa and prakṛti, the real is still the unchanging, the underived. Dualism/ non-dualism, monism, substance essentialism- all these and more have been considered by Indian thought over its long existence, and even if there are disagreements here and there, a coherence does emerge. Let us see how.

Preliminary Schema: Objective and Overview

In its preliminary form, the schema is envisaged as a combination of classifying/qualifying layers and the design principles embedded in them. The first two layers are ontological classifications of reality. Doing this over two instead of one layer allows us to bring in the dimension of ontical vs. ontological- a distinction cardinal to the field ever since Martin Heidegger. In reductive terms, ontical describes objective, clinical categorisations- stuff that makes up existence; while ontological describes existing- Being- what a thing/entity is to itself, its innate nature or properties.

To Heidegger, ‘ontical’ signified specific and tangible reality while ‘ontological’ referred to the deeper, underlying structures of reality in comprehension of their own existence. Rendered in native terms, the ontical refers to categories that come into being- bhavat (भवत्), while ontological refers to being-ness itself- as/sat (अस्/सत्). Our first ontological layer is thus an ontical classification, of categories of reality. The second layer is ontological in earnest- reality as classified by the Self. Both are patterned alike, the difference being that the latter occupies a subjective vantage point.

The third layer is epistemological, outlining an Indic framework to qualify sources of knowledge and methods of acquiring it. The fourth layer deals with teleology, the purpose of knowledge and being- or what is called artha in Sanskrit. The four layers together thus propose a schema for OET, rooted in Dharma. And in detailing these layers we are informed by Indic design principles, or what we call sūtramaṇḍalas. The entire framework is represented in this diagram:

To bring the Indian centrality of Mind into focus, our two-fold ontological classification is split along ṛta, the Natural Order, and ātma, the Self. Thus these levels are called Ārtava and Ātmya respectively (of ṛta and of ātma). A significant chunk of whatever we know is predicated upon our means of acquiring knowledge, or on how we know what we know. Another way of approaching this is looking for what we derive certitude from, of what constitutes to us as yielding truth, satya. Design principle 3 will lead the way, giving to us layer 3 and thus called Āsita, the seat (of truth). But there must be a purpose to this intellectualization, a value we can derive from it. Drawing from design principle 4, we do thus under teleology and create layer 4, suitably called Pauruṣārthika.

What we seek here is a kind of civilizational parser and compiler– a schema where we could input any value and extract in return what Indian civilizational consciousness would make of it.

For native notions, such as deva or ṛta, the schema should show us their true place within the Indian ontological context. For non-native notions, the schema must compile them into indigenous cognition, or at least highlight pathways to take for compilation. Bear in mind the raw nature of this schema. It is to be taken as a presentation of a project at ideation stage. The test of its validity is whether-

Rooting our thinking in Sanskrit opens new pathways, or seeds reconnection to civilizational core; and
Doing so enables us to approach modern problems with novel cognition.

At all levels, the key thing to do is examine core Sanskritic etymologies- for the Pāṇinian dhātu’s potency in re-establishing synaptic connections is, as yet, unrealised. We will do this through processes of ontical bloom/ ucchvas- a term used here to mean the generation of hitherto dormant cognitive pathways, which in turn bring new realizations on matters of being, reality, and existence. In this essay, we will detail layers 1 and 2- the ontical and the ontological.

Sūtras, or Design Principles

As Shri Shivakumar expertly details in this article, sūtras represent an essential unit of Bhāratīya cognition. They are aspects of ṛta encoded in aphorisms or principles in concise, computational forms. Using sūtras we can generate objects- or ontical forms- representing the same truth a given sūtra contains. To quote from the article:

“At times, these Sūtras are too specific and limited in scope. At times, they expand themselves into containing very large parts of the universe and hence they assume the form of a Fundamental Principle/Mūla Tattva.”

What’s being described above is a generative fractal. Bhāratīya consciousness displays multi-level coherence precisely because it is encoded with sūtras- fundamental elements that represent a universal or essential aspect of ṛta and/or sat (ऋत, सत्) . An example of a system that’s generated with interplay of such sūtras is Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī, which with its derivational system as applied to dhātus informs much of our schema. We refer to such an internally-coherent string of sūtras as a sūtramaṇḍala, or a set of design principles. Such a set can be of two types:

  1. A conceptual set, one that represents fundamental reality without any recourse to action, and has ontologically generative properties.
  2. An operational set, describing principles that can be felt, seen, validated and deployed in the material world.

Another way to understand these are as ṛtasūtramaṇḍalas and kṛtasūtramaṇḍalas. Ṛtasūtramaṇḍalas, or conceptual sūtra sets, simply are- they generate and exist to a code of their own. Kṛtasūtramaṇḍalas, or operational sūtra sets, enable us to manifest/generate aspects of truth in this realm. Ṛtasūtramaṇḍalas describe existence, kṛtasūtramaṇḍalas prescribe being.

While Indian civilizational consciousness is generated by a ṛtasūtramaṇḍala (as we will come to see), a schema to reconnect to it must necessarily be operational. In this context it becomes a set of design principles- a cognition/awareness to embed into the entire system to give it consistent generative properties.

Indeed, it can be said that colonization is the internalization of foreign design principles by another civilization.

It follows naturally then that decolonization is the return to native design principles. Some such design principles are known to us as mahāvākyas. Others are found uttered pithily in forgotten ślokas of civilizational memory. There are four that we take as guiding in construction of our schema, to be visited in Part 2 of this series. They thus form a kṛtamaṇḍala- an operational set of design principles that can be deployed and/or implemented. In turn, such deployment to the 4 layers of our schema can return a ṛtasūtramaṇḍala, or a generative set of design principles that describe aspect(s) of reality. This essay will conclude with a critical ṛtasūtramaṇḍala*.

* The original essay from here on contained the caturasūtra – four aphorisms. Readers who have not encountered them above can loop back with this link.

Ontology, Epistemology, Teleology- there is a fair bit of cognitive fatigue around these words, but they denote things of root importance to how we make sense of the world. They act upon us even without our knowledge or conscious perception, and it can be said that they contain the ‘metadata’ to reality. Simply put, they refer to What Exists, How we Know it Exists, and Why it Exists (or What For). These aren’t things most of us spend our time worrying too much about. After all, things do exist, we seem to have ways of knowing this to certitudes, and as for why- explanations galore and we keep chugging along anyway.

But quite like there are several biological processes constantly rolling inside us, below the level of our conscious perception and without our deliberation, our neurology draws from an accumulated base of impressions, biases, assumptions, acculturations and more that we are not always aware of. This is why lists abound for things like ‘logical fallacies’ and ‘unconscious biases.’ The metadata to meaning making is therefore of supreme salience in understanding the human mind– both as a discrete unit and as a grouping of culture. And to investigate this metadata is a uniquely human privilege. We are the only species (that we know of) that can look into the mirror of consciousness and recognize our own reflection staring back at us. And across time and place, when humans have done so they have hit upon an almost inexplicable intuition.

Reality is made of language.

This is not the stuff of esoterica, nor of literal conformity, it is the serious conclusion of many a considered opinion. We point to three here as examples1:

True alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.

– William H. Gass

The world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.

– Terrence McKenna

The structure of language determines not only thought, but reality itself.

– Noam chomsky

What is suggested in these words is that a significant and defining aspect of the conscious experience- the cognitive processing of metadata- happens through the function of language. There is a natural implication to this, which we can add to the base intuition:

Reality is made of language, or code.
and like any code, reality can be hacked.

This is why in Part 1 of this series we referred to ‘decolonization’ as a shedding of the acquired syntactic-semiotic-semantic memeplex of a foreign civilization. And it is why the consequent memeplex to imbibe is one rooted in Sanskrit. What we are attempting in this series is a kind of ‘bootstrapping through language.’ But bootstrapping to what, one may well ask. That is the latter part of our title- reconnection to civilizational consciousness. The argument implicit in our approach is that we can use Sanskrit as a cognitive and self-initiatory tool to claw our way back from deracination, however far on that styx each of us may well be.

To recapitulate Part 1 then, we are building a preliminary schema to structure mental recalibration and deliberation- a design for redesign, if you will. A diagram of the schema in broad is embedded in Part 1, but here are some summary recapitulations:

Ārtava (from ṛta)

classification of reality, in general (consensus reality)

To recalibrate the mind to thinking of existence and reality as the Indian consciousness would

Ātmya (from ātman)

classification of reality, as subjective felt experience

To grow within oneself shades of the inner Indic mind, and come in touch with native archetypes, mental schema

Āsita (from sat)

sources of knowledge, or of certitude

To understand how the ancient Indians understood truth, and how they parsed what they knew

Pauruṣārthika (from puruṣārtha)

evaluation of purpose, utility or meaning

To attempt a fundamental meaning to life, beyond the rebellion that Camus suggested in face of the modern life’s crushing meaninglessness

from dhātu √ṛ

everything pertaining to emergent and perceived reality- the natural order. ex: nature, cosmos, consciousness. that which exists independent of humanity. it is what the Western mind understands as reality– “that which doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it.”

from dhātu √kṛ

everything that is kṛta, or done/ created, by life forms- where they are the kartā. this includes information, except that of exclusive qualia classified separately. Some art will be a part of {kṛta}, but others could be in the next two categories. commerce, trade and economic activity are also {kṛta}

from dhātu √dhṛ

all things phenomenologically part of humanity- culture, history, tradition- or displaying aspects of emergence. is Marxism a {kṛta} or a {dhṛta}? we decide on the basis whether something is a created ideology vs. whether it is emergent, and it should be clear where Marxism slots, for example.

from dhātu √ghṛ

the best, most exceptional products of humanity- be they things or ideas. the most ghṛta, well refined or clarified like ghee, output of the ongoing mānava yajña. a ranking category to separate some {kṛta} from others. this category is essential to our objective, for it helps understand what Indian civilizational consciousness values, and what it would not.

from dhātu √bhṛ

stuff pertaining to leadership, governance, policy, education and learning- institutional and individual human endeavors to bear, to lead, to be bhartās or bharatas- potters that shape clay. usage of this category helps us internalize the self-identity of Bhārata.

from dhātu √mṛ

things of mortal concern- to an individual, nation, species or planet. a callout category to highlight the most pressing dangers and threats. things that could bring death, or martya. all akṛta, adhṛta, aghṛta or abhṛta things- by definition.

from dhātu √ṛ / √nṛ

everything else- stuff that cannot be classified into any of the previous. it is a nartaka- a dancer that defies category. it mimes, it tricks and deceives. It is both this and that. the category of mystery and ambiguity, of unknown unknowns. of things for which we’re unsure- are they even ṛta to begin with?

from dhātu √smṛ

Things of the inner mind-space, ie, thoughts, feelings and emotions- the felt-experience of consciousnessness. Not as a phenomenon, but as a subjective experience of being. The same thing can leave different impressions on different people- creating as many smṛta categories. For example, there are today 3 fundamentally different Indias, when classified by smṛta. There is India, there is Bhārata, and also a Hindustan.

from dhātu √ṛc

Things I/you create, or conduct racanā of. Things we fasten together, bind or bring into existence. A subjective order equivalent to the kṛta level 1, where something of the smṛta category is brought to life/form.

from dhātu √dṛ

The innate skills and traits in us, the individual selves. Our emergent personalities and behaviours- the fundamental reason why being you and being me are different things.

from dhātu √śṛ

The best, most refined aspects of us- or the level 2 equivalent to the ghṛta of level 1. It is stuff that emerges in us after pariśrama, a miśṛt output of our self-application, or adhyātma.

from dhātu √pṛ

Things of love, affection, fulfillment and nourishment. Indian preparations of cottage cheese, for example, would fall in the pṛta category for me. A way for us to qualify the soundarya and rasa of our lived experience. This may appear quite different to bhṛtam of level 1, but in reality we are led by, informed by and pursue the pṛtam much like we are led and informed by bhṛtam in level 1.

from dhātu √vṛ

Things of personal subsistence, activity and commerce- the dincaryā. Stuff of vartana, or movement, or of dealing, day-on-day, with vartamāna- the present. Stuff we do for vetana- wages. Though the connection to mṛtam of level 1 is tenuous, we make it because the mindless, drone-like vṛtams of modern world are indeed akin to mṛta- or death of the self.

from dhātu √sṛ

Stuff that distracts, tempts and misguides us, for example drugs to the addict, or prostitution to the degenerated. Stuff that deceives us, thinks it gives us pleasure/benefit but in reality eats away the ātma. This ambiguity allows us to correlate it to nṛtam of level 1. The phonetic closeness to śṛtam, which is on the whole a positive category, helps reiterate a degree of ambiguity.

It should not unsettle us overmuch if the point to all this isn’t quite apparent yet. Even Bhartṛhari claimed, after all, that true meaning is revealed not with the words or constituent parts of speech, but after the end of a complete sentence in a flash of insight called sphoṭa. It makes sense then that looking at the schema through technical tables will not suffice just yet. But there is a way we can experience insight, in this case not with a flash but with a slow bloom. Not with sphoṭa, but with ucchvas– a word we’re using here to mean ‘a gradual mushrooming of meaning and revelation in the mind.’

In Part 2 of the synaptic reconnection series we will explore one such ucchvas, and a formative one at that. But first we do have to traverse technical terrain once again- some basic working definitions we need to internalize. It does get steep, but the ride isn’t a bumpy one:

Ontical, Ontological, Onomatopoeic

In Part 1 too we spoke of ontical and ontological as two separate categories- known as the “ontological difference.” We lean on side of reductiveness, but in any case we speak of these not so much to understand them as Heidegger meant it but to use them as supplementary scaffolding in our own build.2

Ontic describes what is there, as opposed to the nature or properties of that being. For Heidegger, “ontical” signifies concrete, specific realities, whereas “ontological” signifies deeper underlying structures of reality. 3
The science that studies a being is, for Heidegger, ontic [ontique], and it is necessary to distinguish it from the science of the being of a being which alone is ontological. 4
Ontological is like a level up in relation to “ontic”. Ontological being is not only being, but also being who understands being. 5
The third sample here articulates the ‘ontological difference’ as salient to our schema. It divides existence into ‘that which exists/comes into existence’ and that ‘which is aware of its existence,’ with the added complexity of whether ‘awareness of existence’ is the true ontological- all else being ontical forms it descends into6. Our posited unentangling of the ontological difference is by bringing in a tangential notion- that of onomatopoeia. What distinguishes the ontological is its self-awareness. It is not just something that exists, it is something that knows what existence feels like. It possesses what the ancients knew as ‘cit’ (चित्) and Pāṇini described as sañcetanā, smṛtyām, saṃjñāna- consciousness, in-descent of thinking, consonance (of awareness, ie., existence)7. It is Being, Heidegger’s Dasien- that which awareness/existence itself is. Luminous such, when Being reflects on its own existence, the same reflects back at it- cit becomes cint, cetana’s ping receives the pingback of cintana. This self-reflected glint is characterized by what we call semantic onomatopoeia. The dictionary meaning and standard usage of this word are straightforward:

The fact of words containing sounds similar to the noises they describe, for example ‘hiss’ or ‘thud’; the use of words like this in a piece of writing.

शब्‍दों का ध्वनि-विन्‍यास संबंधित (वास्‍तविक) ध्वनियों के अनुसार होना, ध्वनि-अनुकरण; ध्वनि-अनुकरणात्‍मक शब्‍द

Onomatopoeia therefore can be understood as a kind of ‘consonance’ between sound and meaning- the level at which language brushes against being a reflected shard of reality. Common examples- such as oink and buzz– do not do justice to this critical shard. Some better examples are found in Indian lore. The ancient ṛṣi, Bhṛgu, is credited in the Ṛgveda as having introduced the Bharata Āryas to fire. There is obviously a range of interpretation here, but what need not be doubted is the credit accorded to him in the primeval layer of Vaidika association to/with Agni. The name is built from the root √bhṛ- which is category L1-5 in our schema and also root to ‘Bhārata’: a level of consonance already.

But linguistically, Bhṛgu is built atop ‘bhṛg,’ which is ‘an onomatopoeic word expressive of the crackling sound of fire.’8 Bhṛgu literally translates to that which/he who is ‘for the purpose of’ or the ‘doer’ of ‘bhṛg,’ just as dhātu is for the purpose of/ doer of ‘dhā.’ What we are seeing between the Vaidika story and the linguistic derivation is a consonance of meaning- a semantic onomatopoeia. It is the type of consonance that arises through self-awareness, √cit pingbacked as √cint. And the consonance is semantic, which means the reflection is not of arbitrary sound but of deliberately encoded meaning. Owed to the Bhṛgu-onomatopoeia, and a host of other such cases, we find additional support for the sentiment expressed by Prof. Adluri when he says:
Itihāsa represents the empirical world aesthetically to problematize both being-in-the-world and the relationship of ontology, text, and the world. In other words, itihāsa is history that has overcome historicism: history that has become critical and self-conscious.

What we are trying to establish here is that semantic onomatopoeia gives evidence to a thing’s ontological nature- it hints that the thing is a Being for itself- possessed of self-awareness, and not merely an ontical form. The onomatopoeia evidenced by Indian civilization asserts that it is ontological, not ontical- that Bhāratīya sāṃskṛtika cetanā is a real thing (t