Authority and Identity in India Author(s): T. G. Vaidyanathan Source: Daedalus, Vol. 118, No. 4, Another India (Fall, 1989), pp.

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Authority and Identity
T. G. Vaidyanathan


he Indian who

acts according

to love and duty

could be said to personify the ideal of the guru shishya (master-devotee) relationship. Like the
immortal hero Rama, who embraces mythical and reconciliation, the modern ity, forgiveness, Indian can strive for an identity involving inte gration and hope and a balance between turning is inward and turning outward. This relationship

a paradigm of all human relationships in India and offers the insight needed for reaching such psychic integration in today s difficult world.

O, my On my

shoes head

are Japanese a red Russian cap

These trousers English, if you please But my heart's Indian for all that. from the film Shri 420 ?Song

In A Passage Indias

to India, E. M. each other



to irony

in portraying


pathetic efforts of his English characters "to disentangle the hundred
that passed in its streets." The great English novelist

was writing

in the twilight of the Raj, when

Independence seemed
and Guest Lecturer at the


T. G. Vaidyanathan is Reader in English at Bangalore Film and Television Institute of India.



Independence. precipitating component in India today.. The is among his ardent India. The principle goes beyond caste and creed?the favorite halt of many an Orientalist trying to lay bare the heart of India?and is certainly not confined to Hindus. sonality That political?is the chief point of this essay. and indispensable. that is rampant Kanchi current Kamakoti Mutt splits off into its conglomerate and identity the crisis of authority me illustrate with a few examples. When the harmony and it increasingly is in symmetry of this relationship is broken?as modern India?the guru-shishya parts. trivial and fantastical. although Hinduism is the chief religion practiced in India. Still. some master paradigm that runs like a leitmotif through India's checkered history. It ismy belief that such a dominant principle is to be found in the gurushishya relationship. On August 23. more than forty years after an such a distant possibility that one could talk of "a hundred Indias. lineage goes back to the ninth century A. several major established when the first of the Shankaracharyas centers in various of India to counter the growing parts spiritual of president followers. Let which has a very large follow Jayendra Saraswathi is the fifty-six-year-old spiritual head of the near Madras." Paradoxically. In the main this principle consists of choosing with a unique other whose world?that civilization whereas guidance is thereafter unquestioned occupies century. the pontiff mysteriously .148 T. R.1987. The mutt's influence of Buddhism. and and the Western the extension concept of romantic of personality and often per this principle infuses all of India's practices?secular artistic and philosophic. You might say?if one is thinking of a parallel theWestern the guru-shishya at least since relationship the twelfth the same position in India that romantic love (with a capital L) has occupied extinction love inWestern India's dominant principle celebrates the abrogation if not the very of personality. he has to settle on something. Venkataraman. joyfully celebrates itself. G. ingwithin the Smartha Brahmin community of southern India. Indian writing on the same subject may find himself trying to disentangle not just a hundred but a thousand Indias that seem to have taken to the streets. Vaidyanathan today. D. which links not only Krishna and Arjuna on the troubled battlefield of Kurukshetra pictured in the Bhagavad Gita centuries ago but also Gandhiji and Nehru in yet another chapter of her history that has not quite concluded. private religious.

" Although Jayendra Saraswathi was the official pontiff forwell over thirty years (he took over from his guru. God is not an invariable term of reference in human affairs in India. in its more raffish modern form. and itwas quite some time before his returned. has not yet ventured forth. I say more or fortnight headquarters less. advisedly.willing to return to the fold. They owe allegiance ascent upwards?or if you like?which does not quite heavenwards. not attempt to enough tolerance the wrong from for by elaborate prayaschit (purificatory) expiated In this case. Even intimate friends in opinion come from?address each other affec India?the southern region I as "guru" (preceptor) or. more or less of his own a later. earlier. themore austere of India's spiritual heads have never left their native shores. going abroad is still taboo the fold for many unless pious Hindus. despite the requests of their Indian and foreign disciples abroad. It is the of the person above you that counts. The recent examples of Rajneesh and of J. abdicated in protest against a smear campaign mounted against him for his Indians six-month are aware tour of the United States. of Hindu accept or was it because the by crossing were the junior swamiji had erred in seas? A few weeks later. provided no expiatory ceremonies forced Interestingly and significantly. in his turn. and not many of how till recently it has resulted in virtual excommunication ceremonies. show how marginal they are to the . South India. Krishnamurthy. the senior pontiff of the mutt did to dissuade his adventurous junior and appeared willing Was it an instance his abdication. For contrary to popular and widespread notions. he could not ignore the implorings of the ninety-three year-old spiritual spiritual patriarch duties. act to his became spiritual known. and even the contemporary Sai Baba. He 149 disappeared in the early hours. reach God. of dissent. It is almost unthinkable for the senior Shankaracharyas of India to leave. people do not own much accord?even venerated spiritual solely of their to someone above them in a spiritual leaders.Authority and Identity in India whereabouts accord. direction junior swamiji was. because in the nature of things in India. who has a formidable following both here and abroad. however. Chandrasekhara Saraswathi. yet another junior swamiji of the well known Pejawar Mutt in Udipi. In the native perception. the on him. as tionately "boss. Less than to return two months to Kanchipuram after Jayendra and resume Saraswathi's unsuccessful escape bid. in 1956).

not so much term with of "identity." cannot . their appeal in India has been Westernized elites. But India does not have but a sovereign god. without a doubt. cluster of friendswith whom his relationships are invariably familial. and the outcome is subject a trade-off of the conflicting wills of various divinities. It is in grappling with these problems that we come to the vexing relationship between authority and identity in modern from India. or." its attendant corollaries "self of the and so on but extraordinarily "moral choice. who has argued that theHindu. for instance. sound strange Western and even perhaps notion of freedom frightening stems from to most a doctrine Indian ears. As a consequence others?his He immediate of this native disposition. if ever. an "individual" in the accepted Western is. who in turn derives it from the unquestioned sovereignty of God. who pursues not rights but "adjustments" that will lead to social the Indian moral cosmos) surprising that for many Indians insecurity is the key to It is not harmony. Nehru. Vaidyanathan and. the thralldom of some malevolent tyrant but freedom from the Freedom for the archetypal Indian has never been merely freedom empire of the senses. but it would. "composed" as he is of "exogenous elements." sense "dividual" (pace McKim Marriott. indeed. then. the influence Vivekananda of Christianity established on the various Ramakrishna to need missions any that is too well known reiteration here. John StuartMill's magnificent treatise on liberty may have fired the hearts of India's heroes of the freedom struggle. but he is not among the orthodox acharyas (or spiritual teachers) of India and certainly." "growth. The rights of natural that is grounded in the sovereignty of the individual. It has gods whose wills are not sovereign to the adjudication of other wills. is nearly always a consequence of thewithdrawal of external authority but never of its presence. completely alone but surrounds himself with family usually congenial a this is unavailable. such as Gandhiji. So the move of the South Indian monks Jayendra Saraswathi and Vishwa Vijaya Thirtha from their customary orbits poses entirely different problems. when the Indian is seldom. Hence." hood. and Patel (most of whom were barristers of law educated in England). G. the great to the deracinated spiritual mainstream confined exception here is Swami Vivekananda. Of course.150 T. always the Western doctrine of human rights is profoundly (which alien to the Indian.

and three-bedroom flats in India sounds a bit false. equivalents It for these self compounds in all the languages of India. rather than nuclear conjugality. self-as-subject in India. the Hindu has an essentially fluid self. An pupil. or network of these a don't feel diminished in the least by these self-abnegating nomencla relationships that people This iswhy all the neomodernist talk of two." and the people tures. Further. It is within the overall situate framework themselves. The emphasis on bedrooms highlights the sexual relationship between married partners. The radical and innovative Indian psychotherapist Surya (who has finally renounced psychotherapy for the spiritual solace of the Aurobindo ashram at Pondicherry) has drawn attention to this deliquescent Indian self and has praised Gandhiji for understanding "the positive cues and codes" of Indian culture. but this relation ship has never had primacy in India. Living as he does in a cosmos 151 of be thought of as having a bounded or an enduring ego in the interpersonal flow. to assume be a mistake into some running that there are exact three pages. An Indian thinks of himself as being a father. changing and interchanging with others in a manner that has baffled the Occidental mind habituated to the architecture of loneliness. The missing self?nearly impossible for theWestern psychologist to understand?has ethnographic studies an almost insurmountable in hurdle proved of Indian culture. has listed four hundred fifteen self referents denoting several existen tial states would and personal actions. It crops up in the notorious difficulties of translating native categories of thought into English. Even in the category of this distinction self-as-object. It inconceivable identity outside is very common in Indian households to hear a person referred to as or as "Babu's "Rekha's mother" concerned father. center stage in India and still occupies holds the master key to the diaphanous Indian self. a nephew.Authority and Identity in India customary Western sense1). Webster especially when the English compound carries the prefix self. which led to the "massive motivational dynamics" of the freedom movement.where children still sleep with their parents till almost teens. a son. the . The their middle larger family unit. while there is a distinction in English and other European languages between doesn't the exist and the self-as-object. and these are the only "identities" these relationships is almost to him. A person's "dividuality" is in turn subject to the limitations imposed by relationship. he ever has.

Vaidyanathan further between and self-as-object-to-others for the Indian. of the ablest spokesmen or "own norm" as "own morality" and thus interaction self-definition. which To is known only through inference and observation of its and conversation of with others. the prefix pronoun movement? not entail a self sememe. self-correction. "proper from either of the customary is a very different rule. as we as a self: dharma Arjuna. G." the translation of several Indol for Indian culture. Even the Indian Independence as a the word elite?chose led by an English-educated swaraj is my birth for political freedom or sovereignty. As the famous aphorism of the Chandogya Upanishad (one of the oldest canonical texts of India) has it. swa maverick Hindu the Viennese-born Bharati." which thing or the bizarre rule. and so introspection psychological project doesn't exist. swaraj. A famous verse is one of the fundamental dharma concepts The sva. denote have just seen. on India do. as object to others. svadharma?one simply be rendered ogists." inRadhakrish nan and Moore's translation). self-consciousness. synonym "Swaraj Hindu the fiery nineteenth-century pro nationalist. is simply in the Bhagavad Gita?cannot of the key concepts as "self-norm. because there is no self to speak of in the first place. Self knowledge. self-mastery. is not knowledge of the empirical self but of the real self. as so many writers and self-knowledge. claimed in a famous speech while piloting the flagship of the freedom movement. which is Brahman." Sva "home translations?"self-rule" English of India. svadharma translated As Agehananda miji. lacks reflexive awareness of itself. Ananda one Coomaraswamy. in the traditional Indian lore. has pointed avoided the pitfalls of using the self prefix. is a lexeme that cannot can only indicate in svadharma." Milton to argue that there is no introspective knowledge on "Indian paper of Charles Sanders Peirce of the Indian self. as a only The self is not available as an object to itself in India. The Indian self. right. by definition. talk self-actualization. sva is a personal that does out. Tat Warn asi ("That art thou. For example. the self is constituted distinguishes whereas self-as-object-to-oneself." Tilak. of sva the importance in the Gita has Lord Krishna emphasizing to the vacillating over paradharma duties of others) (the . to bark up an alien tree. In a remarkable Singer uses the semiotics identity.152 Westerner T.

which has affinities to the philosophic system of F. The self as a homogeneous. It is an other-directed in a sense very different (but identity from David Riesman's). inapplicable to Indian psycho transactional are conative. H. in personal or occupa This lack of a personal. he is instructed to specify his gotra (seer's lineage). his elders. which "killing Indian the atman" (the fundamental."2 physical can commit means at the suicide self "whose The same only code is I time. then the Socratic injunction to "know " thyself becomes meaningless. In other social words he is an ensemble This of relationships. in India. this is impossi ble.Western self iswhy the most influential philosophical doctrine of India is the monistic advaita. but to others: his teachers. Identity formation in India is not something that occurs within the individual after passing through inexorable but something stages. daughter. The orthodox the person removed from the turbulence of adolescence that is bestowed boy on at the time of sense as his initiation by his guru is endowed with an identity that is as far in the Western it is possible to be. Such a procedure would for aWesterner. discrimination. in the the self can only be a is cognitive and whose transactions and therefore strangely metaphysical suppose we could say that the Indian Indian English vernaculars language because in Sanskrit and in the North the term is atma-hatya. grandson own name. innermost self).Authority and Identity in India (which. independent entity capable social Here of moral choice. intimate. If there is no intrinsic self. denies the ontological reality of the self. conception and a vector of representations has serious consequences for the .). his remembered and whose and son he is before giving his agnatic ancestor. as is the case in the West. The Indian is knowable or known. tribe." as it is for the Westerner. his particular Veda. Brahmin from outside. to the from others belonging endogamously or caste.When asked to identify himself. be unthinkable in social terms ("I am so for the Hindu is usually Self-representation and so's son. not to himself. is guaranteed by a sovereign divinity) same clan. etc. Even Buddhism. which sets itself against advaita. and reflexiveness is a Judeo-Christian conception wholly reality. his friends. because the atman is indestructible by definition. never nephew. Bradley. tional terms. and useless. since rebirth reintroduces all the problems evaded by suicide. In Indian thought. derived as we have 153 Indian identity is never the sovereign identity of Western man but is seen.

obedient to his wishes. escaped_" moral judgments Instead to elders. The see Rama. It is not as ifRama were wholly blind to the nature of the action he has been asked to perform. theWest can distinguish between the self and its actions. The respect for public opinion that Rama displays in wishing to discard Sita after the defeat of Ravana and her rescue for him has troubled even themost ardent admirers of the epic. would abandon a son like me. what fool. for the sake of a woman?" Itwould be facile to talk here of a craven and unthinking obedience to authority and run in search of modern explanations by such behavior. One of our most eminent philosophers. to elders go into exile for fourteen years in deference to the wishes submission India that Rama's resolution remains unshaken of his is so strong in against the imploring of his own mother. to use a non-Brahminical expression). authentic self (except in instances of serious mental disorder like schizophrenia). and the indignant rage of his brother Lakshmana. a former described Rama's and behavior of India. At the beginning infatuated of the epic we father. is in India always subject to the larger demands of dharma (duty) and respect for elders. the popular will of the city of Ayodhya. has castigated president in love. at the apex of which is the divine. On the first night of his exile he remarks to Lakshmana: "For what man O Lakshmana. But even this model ismisleading." you say But this distinction behav home is well is are remorselessly that he indicates "comes that he ioristic. being solely an affair between two people." But the truth is that amateur him as a "blundering love. Just how much the conception of the guru governs Indian behavior is best illustrated in India's most loved epic. Kausalya. You do not say of a person in India that he is "friendly" or behaved" shows frequently.With its concept of the individual. the late Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. entiousness guru and Across varnas (the four basic between castes) and encompassing between them. what father. where in vacuo.154 T. there is the kindliness and consci of the relationship shishya (or chela. severally and individually. . Vaidyanathan moral realm. master and devotee. and that he "always respect which behaved. The Indian is not a creature of rigid hierarchy. as Robert Browning does in "Rabbi Ben Ezra": "Thoughts that cannot be packed/ Into a narrow impossible "well act/ Fancies that in India." which translates friendly into behavioral terms. the Ramayana. ideal of on the eve of his coronation. Some Indian definitions put themoral person at the base of a pyramid of relationships. G.

the populace of the kingdom of Ayodhya. with its theme of ungrateful children. Simpson would be wholly incomprehensible in India. were merely but Calcuttans batsman. The producer of the serial. David opening Australia's traditional the Australian cries of "Bali. and then in the Uttarakanda when he has his pregnant wife abandoned in themiddle of the forest by Lakshmana. episodes of the great national epic have ignited his wrath. has remarked: "Maybe V. And then there is the episode of Rama's treatment of Sambuka. England.Authority and Identity in India 155 Thus Sita. with referring to the episode in the Ramayana where the monkey king Sugriva fights his brother Bali. although passionately loved by Rama. Some social analysts have remarked on the resemblance between theRama of theTV serial and the Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and have suggested that the characters in the serial may have been modeled on the charismatic political leaders in India today. Singh [Rajiv's chief political rival] is modeling himself after Ravana Meanwhile. R. Several Now Ambedkar is the patron saint of the "untouchables" of India and one of the chief architects of "secular" constitution. Rama tells her that she is free to leave him for anyone else. disobedient by themillions of Indians now watching the Ramayana in television dosages every Sunday morning. the Shudra (lowest in the four-tier caste hierarchy). would be found repugnant and. although even there. Cordelia." surrounds the republication by the gov ernment of Maharashtra of B. controversy or Rajiv after Rama. One is the episode in the Yuddhakanda when. and even the heroic vulture Jatayu (which dies while trying to prevent Sita's abduction) because Jatayu is expressly linked in Rama's mind with his father Dasaratha. Ambedkar's Riddles inHinduism (written in 1954). Not Antony and Cleopatra or even Hamlet but possibly King Lear. whom he summarily beheads . again because of renewed rumors about her suspect chastity. Ramanand Sagar. worse. During the finals of theworld series on cricket in India?the Reliance Cup?enthusiastic fans in Calcutta urged on Australia's to vanquish flummoxed batsman. with its controversial appendix dealing with the lives and India's loves of Rama and Krishna. would yield a clue to India's psyche. P. with her unbending notions of honesty and truthfulness. Bali" This must have foe. Boon. is in the course of the epic devalued by Rama in favor of Lakshmana. Romantic love of the kind that made Edward VIII abdicate from the British throne because of his love forMrs. doubting Sita's chastity.

the former demanding the banning of the Ambedkar book and the latter its publication. universities. The Ramayana's hold on the Indian imagination continues una away the waywardness of Rama to his wife. G.156 because T. Gandhiji himself was one of the Ramayana's ardent votaries. Sri Aurobindo?India's most admired be greater of the twentieth century?declared philosopher-sage dramatic world than Homer's epics and the "whole to of Shakespeare"). near-mythical treated as belonging past. and the TV serial has boosted the sale of books based on the epic and even the expounding of the Hindu faith. Instead. in the street the film their heroes are far removed from or Leicester in Lower Manhattan or the star or the jet-setting politician Square. India being back are not in an epic several centuries India. Versions of the epics have appeared in all of India'smajor languages. man inDharavi (Bombay's most terrifying slum) are alike joined in their adoration of the epics (both of which. He is. the pristine embodiment of the ascetic ideal. although he preferred the silkier and more etiolated later version by Tulsidas to the sage Valmiki's more robust original. Some clever exegetist will no doubt be able to explain Sambuka. Both militant right-wing groups inBombay and their real enemies in India?the Dalit groups?are up in arms against each other. thus causing the death of a Brahmin boy.While Homer and Plato are texts the for study inWestern life of the man But in India. The Ramayana will continue not only to inspire the lives of millions of Indians but also to shed light on themore opaque aspects of the Indian psyche. in addition to being God incarnate (Rama is an avatar of Lord Vishnu). and they are still the indispensable guides to India?despite the Naipauls and the Arthur Koestlers. these episodes written to a hoary. What makes Rama?not Krishna?the culture hero of India is his willingness to place duty and dharma above mere sexuality and to sacrifice his beloved wife at the altar of abstract principles. which has a long and distinguished lineage in Indian culture. . So the Ramayana is still very hot property in India. and the poet Valmiki himself is ready with an explanation for his behavior to bated despite the passage of time. they provide a battleground for the clash of current interests between eternally warring factions. Vaidyanathan the Shudra had the temerity to meditate and do penance (both prerogatives of the twice-born castes).

"one is confronted a most de richesses. too many too many sons." he writes in an extensive embarras an with essay on the great epic. sons in ways not dreamt of in the house that Freud built. ifwe are to go by the evidence that the practice of modern psychotherapy in India offers. Lord Shiva. there are too many fathers. for "party-line Freudian analysis. is beheaded by his enraged father. the epic presents Indeed. Ramayana. such as the principle of equality between the sexes and the ideals enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution of India. in two example." India's on an Episode celebrated elephant god?Lord of Obstacles and Lord of Beginnings. complicated and oedipal situation. Parvathi. The is so deep that it invades even the animal kingdom Freudian mania of the epics and we have papers with such bizarre titles as "Fratricide mothers indeed! But Observations the Monkeys: among Psychoanalytical in the Valmiki The legend of Ganesa. To take Indian identitywithin a a representative painstaking R. To put it briefly. it looks as if little has changed fundamentally and the reign of the guru principle is still supreme. Goldman. would seem asked by his mother. But. P." over mothers in India fathers take precedence and Yes. Some Western masochism analysts are prone of an to look at the the guru-shishya Oedipus complex. But relationship psychoanalytically or as evidence and to see it as an example of unhealthy these explanations look strained and all efforts to capture the elusive Western framework have foundered. invoked and propitiated before every auspicious event in India?has been the subject of much speculation amongWestern scholars about whether he is not after all India's sole and decisive contribution to the universal status of the Freudian Oedipus.Authority and Identity in India 157 Of course with the passage of time and new stirrings?possibly triggered into existence by the New Cinema and the New Litera ture?there has been some erosion of the ideals laid down in the Ramayana. to guard the entrance in the to her bathroom. More Indians than ever before probably feel the conflict between the pull of themaster principle?embodied in respect for the guru?and the pull of other new ideals." to cry out . The episode inwhich the infant Ganesa. of the two great epics of India?the analyses lengthy and Ramayana and theMahabharata?has sought valiantly to bring the heroes of the epics under the province of the Oedipus complex: "If one is to search for testimony of oedipal conflict in the Ramayana.

" aggression formation as it does in the drama of theOedipal crisis?Girindasekhar Bose. akin It is not in the least a Cartesian final plays. himself disagreed with Freud on this issue. who sees head now for Ganesa's see Ganesa's our psy encourages trunk as an inverted.Not death but immortality is the governing principle of the culture so beautifully illustrated in the Ganesa myth of the Skanda Purana. What the ordinary Hindu. strivings are frustrated one is not such strivings are duly nurtured. Not culture. the archetypal Indian play. Vaidyanathan striking terms ofWendy O'Flaherty. in Indian to a guru figure: tragedy in the myth. likely freaks. forwhom wisdom lies in the banishing serenity. And. However. Kalidasa's Shakuntalam. Neki observed in his presidential address to the Indian Psychiatric Society that "it should not be surprising to find the Oedipus complex present in a culture where to come affectional across in a culture where almost as a rule. S. J. has done. Conflict is not the structural principle of Indian culture. is absent illustration of the Indian need to submit to authority or. one more is. limp phallus. of the . founder of the Indian Psychoanalytic Society and one of the pioneers of modern psychotherapy in India. So the substitution choanalytical requirements. Probably for that reason as a literary genre here. terms. of an animal's friends. K. Our writers celebrate not the brooding Hamlets or the tormented Oedipuses but integrated figures like Rama and Krishna. in its tranquil is far more to Shakespeare's ripeness but forgiveness and reconciliation is all. needless to the father. It may be seriously doubted whether Oedipus Indian differs has any relevance complex A. And that is precisely what the episode has attracted from Western scholars in pursuit of the elusive Indian Oedipus.158 T." cultural this complex except among There has been a clever attempt to get round the difficulties posed by the development of the Oedipus complex in the Indian setting by son's "oedipal alliance" with the father in his struggle against an overwhelming mother and her femininity. But in dealing with things talking. more recently. as Sudhir Kakar. from his Western But does counterpart play the whole notion of the at all to an understanding of the in this issue) Tales" (see "Telling is in the "direction the same role of aggression in Indian identity has suggested in an interesting paper thatwhere the Indian Oedipus or desire. of doubt. anthropologist and historian of religions. Ramanujan identity. a practicing Eriksonian. in the Ganesa myth untroubled by oedipal to say. G.

to Gandhiji's great forebears notion of guru to forestall Indian practice of tapas (fasting and medi and altered tation). social. But it is this primal androgyny (Lord Shiva as ardhanarishwara?half-man. this notion appears to violate the principle of equality between human beings. from Vasistha. The Gandhian only even the great psychologist Erik Erikson subsumed under the rubric of masochism?was the first great expression India of age-old Indian ideals. fluid self are bound to be vastly different from the basically self-preserving imperatives of the Western self. Ramanuja. psychological. or political kind. Basava Madhwa. This isworlds removed from the embattled self so graphically described by Sartre in Being and Nothingness. For them. At a superficial level. the whole Shankara Krishna. Kakar has suggested similarities between Tantric yoga and psycho analysis but is himself repelled by Tantric androgyny with its attendant dissolution of gender identity?the cornerstone of Western psychoanalysis. or chelas. The ethical prerogatives of such awatery. Hindu gateway open to the other results continual individual's receptivity in even personal identity being derived interpersonally. Buddha. Viswamitra. a violation that modern Indians might find repugnant. And the whole apparatus of fasting and purification that he employed to protest against adharma is again a throwback contexts beyond stretching charya. . The ex the supreme half-woman?being to the nonsexual. whether it is against the father or the mother.Authority and Identity in India 159 Indian it is wrong to put the accent on struggle in the first place. which has been with us from time immemorial. This comes from treating the libido as unidimensional and ignoring the affectional component. But it is to understand objections of a cultural. who sit at his feet. In a culture it follows that and nurturing supporting are not sacrifice and altruism sense?but such a changing of pathological?or the true expressions for instance?which satyagraha. It is only the of application that have changed Gandhiji himself can be regarded as the latest in the line of gurus (both secular and religious) in the nineteenth century. that is at the emplar) personality. inmodern the human in the psychoanalytic spirit. the image of the guru is of someone sitting on high doling out wisdom to his shishyas. masochistic self. necessary to the hoary and domains recognition.

biography. That is probably why in India the past is not readily available in the form of chronological history. is carried to its furthest possible in India. or autobiography. go) than modern psychoanalysis he has abreacts via the therapist (on whom of transference) and relives In the West "projected" all past conflicts the mechanism as territorialized through the Oedipus complex. Neki. it is lost forever. The relationship between the guru and fully his shishya is a farmore personal and intimate relationship (as Indian relationships the patient through presents. If you merely bury the past. But. the Upanisads {upa-ni-sad seem to lend themselves literally the guru. G. culture. . well. but she does not live with the past. "In the of modern doyens psychotherapy is a symbolic castration of earlier there relationship guru-chela is replete with relationships?a rebirth with the forging of a new relationship in which the guru comes to establish not a proxied kinship with the disciple relation but a relation a between even than the in a way sui generis stronger and his parent. in India. Eliot) is the psychic fulcrum of psychoanalysis." But if you cremate a body or a memory. This is consonant with the Western belief in self-knowledge (the cornerstone of therapy. short-term like. S.160 The meaning from The T. say. relationship could be further from the truth. It is the chela who chooses just a goal-oriented. the relationship in modern psychotherapy. there isno reliving of past conflicts. which goes back to the Socratic dictum about the unexamined life not being worth living) and a psychic need to go back to the past to guide the present. S. and daily life here to let bygones In the guru be bygones. It is not doctor-patient The ultimate Indian goal is spiritual independence followed by the genital personality Freud described or the dependability?not autonomous individual. It is thiswhich leads to the insight that alone can free him." disciple not a is in more ways than one a cremating. nothing isn't in the least repressive or authoritar his guru and not the other way round. of India. Of credence to the view that the disciple meekly sought enlightenment guru-chela relationship ian. Not just the pastness of the past but its presence (in the words of T. culture The Hindu burying. it can always later be exhumed: Freud's dreaded "Return of the Repressed. has observed. Vaidyanathan sacred texts including would sit-near-down) course. As J. injunctions the shadows of the past the process of banishing shishya relationship one of the extreme. Indiamay live in the past in more ways than one.

Annadurai.R. has to be rid of the immediate past of previous The guru-chela and tangible lives. The state-of-the-art. or -shishya to the real past: of relationship is the paradigm musical relationships in India. restore Curzon?to fa India's most viceroys?Lord India. M. Ramachandran. This situation accounts for The the modern minute old somewhat and Indian can be very up-to-the towns.V. at . was the earlier Tamil political guru. of admirers (chief). C.'s spiritual called M. is not in the form of old historic monuments to the most It was left. of parents (Krishna and?the final irony and uniqueness of the Indian situa Radha). to power in 1977. Naicker (E. And. its respect for gurus. mindful ofWestern values. the state. although Richard Attenborough. great strengths. It includes the relationship of a devotee to his creator in the magnificent (as exemplified in praise of Lord Rama).. who. the part of India where I was born is convulsed in grief because of the death of the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.R.V. came as he was known G.)./. Saint Thyagaraja of compositions of a servant to a master (themonkey god Hanuman's relationships to his Lord). contented to give room life. venerate is sacred visible Indians past Society.R. self. titled his film justGandhi. (teacher.with her doctrine of karma and belief in rebirth.Authority Preservation one of of the past India's and Identity in India 161 and to found the Indian Archaeo the Taj Mahal.G. these lines.G. lurks underneath. with leading a look of several subterranean but.G." elder brother heir and M. this is camouflage. the honorific Mahatma in front or. principle. only logical monuments in the form of temples and mosques. tion?even of enemies As I write M. And so do those of Annadurai countless Millions thalaivar followers). and of apostle of amilitant brand of atheism did not prevent him from being worshipped Indeed. which but once again.R. That E. was the shishya of E.R. V. we may past be sure. refer to Gandhi the respectful without suffix -. N. E.'s was the crowded ("Anna. respected teacher) among his followers. ironically.R. Perhaps the all of imperious mous monument. popularly. the past Otherwise.R. entirely obliterated. mentor) vadhyar known as periyar (much E. of friend to to children. of lover to beloved and friend.V. at any rate. to each other. is visually. no one in India dares least.V. maturing under the protective halo of an in turn. Ramaswamy or deified statues in accordance of him dot with the dictates the guru of thoroughfares to his guru.

The song quoted at the beginning of this essay from the popular Raj Kapoor film Shri 420 (1955) parades the features of this many-layered self in a manner that . T.3 if the argument of this essay has been sound. Prince of Nawanagar. G. and. Untouchable. Narayan is its most well-known shows. K. Dhondy nationalism. Usha's her guru. and everyone in India knows that track queen P.162 Few T. film. Vaidyanathan spheres are exempt from the influence of the guru principle. career burgeoned under the watchful eye of The guru principle is dominant in the traditional arts (dance and music preeminently). But just how much the guru principle can potentially operate even in contemporary literature can be gauged by the fact thatMulk Raj Anand. there is no However. took the first draft of his first novel. R. to Hamish Hamilton. including games. is a pointed is a more celebration of the Indian self. It is the popular Indian cinema?whether it is inHindi or in any of the other major Indian languages?that displays the full panoply of the deliquescent Indian self. Swami and Friends. not as it is. The novel In English. arguably. Literature is an ancient affair in India but is a late arrival. and folk tradition. No icon of India is better known than that of Lord Nataraja (thepresiding deity in the temple at Chidambaram) in his "dance of Shiva" pose. its ablest practitioner. to Gandhiji at Sabarmati Anand's desire for the guru's approval of the manuscript Ashram. The cinema has and modern. the necessary Indian self per se without "enjoining" by a host of others. Traditional sports likewrestling are wholly under the sway of the guru principle. Patrons of cricket know the colossal influence that the famous Ranjitsinhji. and the strain only as drama or poetry. was such that Anand raised money for his passage to India through donations and took the first available boat to Bombay. one of the pioneers in the field alongside Narayan and a Bloomsbury Marxist to boot. who into unless launched Narayan you count Graham Greene. international publication by recommending his first novel. wielded on his nephew Prince Duleepsinhji. Nambiar. but as it is enjoined to be by religion. But he has no gurus to speak of. in India: at once both popular dicey medium routine all-India The conventional. as Farrukh out in an earlier issue of Dcedalus. Never did a shishya perform more heroically under thewatchful eye of a guru than did Duleep at Lord's in 1930 when he hit an unforgettable century for England against Australia's might.

and its title song "Awaara Hoon" (literally "I am a tramp") was on everyone's lips. but not just into halves (whichwould justify the charge of schizophrenia. or that of hypocrisy. bizarre coincidences. was discovering not convey the feel of the real India. autonomous. yes. was led to remark thatwhile Satyajit Ray made films about the poor. are wont to bring 163 makes a mockery of simplistic labels such as schizophrenia. which up against what they regard as the "divided self" of the Indian. Je t'aime (1968). The art cinema seems finally to have higher principle a cul-de-sac reached Adoor with Anantaram Gopalakrishnan's undoubtedly cerned with (1987)?a hopelessly pale and belated echo of Alain Resnais's Je t'aime.Authority and Identity in India Western observers like Koestler et al. self-subsistent identities. too. and happy endings in which warring families reunite. Derek Malcolm. Aparajito (1956). The international tended that Ray pioneered has prestige of the cinema to obscure the importance of the commercial cinema certainly for an understanding of Indian culture and society.Divided. with anywhere his excessively Western control of emotion. does not come near even in his much-admired the Indian condition Charulata (1964). Kapoor made films for them. The wheel has eventually come full circle. morally) but into multiple. It is some of the ethical values that stress the surrender of the to a personality are paramount. And certainly the later Ray. it was universally popular. had it all. notably Father Panchali (1955). but thiswas spiritually and emotionally) that it did uncon conveyed a cinema where the question of visual realism. Raj Kapoor's Awaara (1951) with its Chaplin-inspired central figure. therapeutically. wicked uncles. Hence the quite extraordinary romance plotting of our popular films (rather like the plays of Shakespeare's final period) with thewhole apparatus of lost children. Not surprisingly. and the opening passages of Apur Sansar (1959). The commercial a "felt" India and seemed relatively cinema India inhis books. seem to belong with the best of Indian cinema. its prints reportedly having been flown to far-flung outposts two to Soviet expeditions near the of the Soviet Union?including North Pole! Kapoor's death last year certainly brings to an end an important chapter in the history of Indian cinema. enabling lovers to live happily ever after. former director of the London Film Festival and a noted critic of The Guardian. The art cinema was so busy discovering India visually (Nehru. Only the early films. and the recent international success of Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay .

in his vastly amusing Video Night inKatmandu (1988). Aravindan. centers?in astronomical far from their religious quently a price. Sunil Dutt. Mr. It has created an unprecedented This change has exacted existential dilemma that most Indians can deal with only by taking recourse to suprapersonal figures that serve as modern gurus. Indians centers. which includes Mother India. but nothing from Ray. Vyjyanthimala) have entered politics and become members of Parliament inNew Delhi. or Ghatak. to the new postmodern predictably). brainwashed. Uprooted from to cities?fre native moorings. has been jarred. has used the popular Hindi film as itself an extended metaphor for India." When to common sense without alienated another a wholesale Indian character? "You've been in a Westernized. Increasingly over the years the link between politics and the popular cinema has grown stronger. India. Southern Indian politics is even more film dominated. "urban the guru-shishya relationship has received fresh impetus. since the 1950s. Shri 420. have. today's political Inmodern India." sense of cultural is identity. which the only identity the Indian has. Mrinal. flocked numbers. G. Political some of the younger as a so much in the south have come to resemble nothing elections the and vast epic made on an ambiguous script with supreme the electorate as yesterday's itself film directing the show. Recently. it is that reigns the guru-shishya paradigm stars become gurus. especially in the four major discerned among metropolitan the affluent Bharati. It is significant that several Bombay film stars (Amitabh Bachchan." and proceeds to give his own list. A new kind of disorientation can be from Agehananda whose to quote yet again alienates. The difference between the modern guru and the traditional guru represented by Jayendra Saraswathi (themissing monk with whom this essay began) is crucial. leading actors became ones have now entered the fray. Pico Iyer. Vaidyanathan to signal a return of "art. Two of of their respective chief ministers states. breed?exclaims.164 T. (1988) seems abandonment movies belonging Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses gives a list of his favorite (all European masterpieces. The traditional guru may be at the very center spider around that the Indian weaves relationships but it was to entrench himself in the outer world. of him always like a the .where in the aftermath of political independence there has been a great deal of psychological disorientation. And in this odd medley of film and politics.

segment of it. A Tantric in his skills. Unlike the transregional. weakened is clearly expected identity. to bolster a wounded. or orthodox guru is not restrictively guru. to which he belongs. that on the other hand. K. All this is not to suggest that contemporary India is wholly governed by the guru-shishya paradigm at every level of thought and sensibility. Miracles are looked at with suspicion by the orthodox constitu ideals modern are still those of asceticism their bizarre and other eclecticism gurus?with cultural ency. he has attracted eminent educationists and even sportsmen like India's cricket star Sunil Gavaskar. the modern Whereas the older of Kanchipuram Shankaracharya methods of locomotion. inexplicably unobtainable abroad. Some film stars of the of the Krishnamurthys? life-style sought the sanctuary flamboyant both the famous J. Saivite (SaiBaba. And then there is the Americanized elite which is mostly found in the ritzy advertising sector busy plagiarizing David Ogilvie and Co. without that master's acumen. K.Naipaul inAn Area of Darkness?which despises anything remotely Indianwith the shining exception of the ayah. scorned exemplar is Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi in Andhra and universal. The modern the "dividual" guru. K. the lesser known U. there cannot be any avatars)? reconcile a basically religious traditionalism with a surprising this worldly modernity.Authority and Identity in India whole network defined 165 not any particular of relationships. Little wonder if the devotees of Sai Baba and Ramana Maharishi in the south and of the Radhasoami faith up north are found among the English-speaking elites (except for those predominantly Anglo-Indian in sensibility). G. preferring to walk during modern the permitted months. is herself a votary of J. S. Indian. and he is called upon to be a surrogate other in a sea of anonymity. whose Whereas worldliness. The high priestess of Indian culture and chief architect of the numerous Festivals of India abroad. for instance. or servant class. although in the tradition. Both these elites are hostile to . paranational. Sai Baba's forte ismiracles: he is said to have made Swiss watches and holy ash materialize for the benefit of his adoring devotees. There is a sizable elite that is predominantly Anglo-Indian in sensibility?brilliantly caricatured by V. Sai Baba has been known to soar above his devotees in a helicopter. and his mimic. Pupal Jayakar. whom of the modern the perfect The constituency guru?of modern Pradesh?is traditional ritualistic. claims to be an avatar of God.

with the result that the king found himself suspended between two worlds. viewed in this broad perspective. The novelist U. first drew attention to the identity problem thematic core of the novel concerns the priest. He has. The who falls into a ritualistic dilemma involving the cremation rites of a fellow Brahmin who has abandoned the rigid straits of orthodoxy for the primrose path of dalliance. Trishanku sought to reach authority. He is born a "man of goodness" Now but loses his hereditary was a king who He falls into a state that the novelist describes by alluding to the legend of Trishanku. or Derrida is to In fact. are true Indians: to swear after Perhaps. R. Samskara ends. expectant. all. of the novel springs from the due to a momentary sexual authority guiding on the part of the devout. latterly. come to symbolize people in a like state. he felt he had lost hold and fallen from the rites and actions he had clutched till now. Samskara. Vaidyanathan it is feudal and antiquated. To them. these armchair Marxists be Indian with respect written a vengeance. Michel Foucault. by Habermas. R. which is the Way oif Faith inVaishnavite theology.166 T. Another analogy provided by the novelist is equally suggestive: "Like a baby monkey losing hold of his grip on themother's body as she leaps from branch to branch. Tremendous authority is vested in this exemplary Brahmin ("theCrest Jewel of theVedanta" is how he is initially described). to be Indian means authority?sacred or secular?all the way down to the line. For without the support lent by authority. socialism or. sudden loss of aberration novel. significantly on a note of anxious optimism: "Pranesacharya waited." The way of the monkey is the Way ofWorks as opposed to the kitten's. anxious. the Indian runs the risk of forgetting who he is. by U. in Hindu mythology. It is this type of what I shall call fallenHindu who is ripe for amodern guru. himself part of . heaven but found himself impeded by Indra. the sage of by the guru principle. G. Ananthamurthy." Pranesacharya's plight is that of many modern Hindus in search of a stable identity in a shifting world. In the course of action. Their number in India is steadily growing. Let me briefly illustrate this ideawith the help of a much a acclaimed The central Kannada problem Ananthamurthy. protagonist?Pranesacharya?a much-esteemed Brahmin Madhwa It was Erik Erikson who priest. that it raises. Lord of Heaven. Pranesacharya loses the status of his caste by sleeping with the low-caste Chandri and begins to drift.

into the self. the monkey god of the Ramayana) for guidance in a dilemma. The times are decadent the Acharya a further withdrawal answer is a greater righteousness. there is no question here of faith or conviction or ideals or the perfectability of the self. roused by the Hindu-Muslim massacres in riot-torn Naokhali in 1947. a striving after a more instinctive life. doesn't dispute that the theme of the novel a "sudden neurotic identity. was heard to exclaim: "Kya Karun? Kya Karun} What should I do?" Finding theMahatma at this "terrible moment" "magnifi cent.which alone would make possible a return to theHindu bliss of the instinctive life: 'to be. V. oh. There is only awish for knowledge of the self. Both the Acharya and Gandhiji looked for divine guidance for the solution of their problems. Indian culture's spring from the fact that the protagonist of the novel." Naipaul draws up a devastating indictment of theAcharya and the culture he represents: The Acharya will never know this anguish of frustration." These observations tend to obscure the deeper affinities between the Acharya and theMahatma. Embracing the "demon world. who. occasions. as it came to Gandhi. is "a Brahmin's about his nature. Naipaul. S. of aworld that may in some way be put thinks . In this they are very much . on Samskara A Wounded Civilization. No idea will come to him. has confessed that he got the idea for writing Sam masterpiece. a further turning away from the world. too." in a now loss of But. just to be. of the imperfections of the world." uncertainty limitations for him. and the only right."He editorializes: "Because men are not what they make themselves. undertook fasts to purify himself and the nation on. so many alike..Authority and Identity in India modern skara after a viewing of Bergman's celebrated disturbing attack religious 167 India.. Gandhiji. one wonder. theAcharya (theguru) is not allowed "to work out his faith and decide where he stands. If the Acharya consulted the holy books and prayed before the god Maruthi (one of the names of Hanuman." deliberately living his newly discovered nature as he deliberately lived out the old. where the perception of reality is even weaker and the mind "just one awareness.' " Naipaul dramatically contrasts the Acharya with Gandhiji. he will continue to be self-absorbed and his self-absorption will be as sterile as it had been when he was a man of goodness. in his India: The Seventh Seal.

" But novels inspired by Gandhian ideals have protagonist figures like the Acharya of Samskara. take from me the burden of decision" is the anguished cry of the Acharya in his hour of crisis. belonging to two entirely different cultures.." as it did for Gandhiji. too." The distinguished Indian novelist. We should ponder the fact that two other observers. who show little inclination "to work out [their] faith and decide where [they] stand. as in the West? affair. contingent Perhaps never have passed these strictures on would if Pranesacharya areas of darkness.168 The T." that Pranesacharya's crisis may have only sharpened his sense of "the impossibility of retreat into himself.. He certainly began as a Gandhian (for he. better the world. Raja Rao. Raja Rao's . of himself the possibility of a better world. the Acharya could no more have worked out his faith in the lonely eyrie of his self than Anselm or Augustine could have feely chosen theMadhwa faith to which the Acharya belongs. have gravamen precisely " because thought otherwise.Naipaul correctly describes this state but Western ideal of working out your faith rejects it in preference to the and deciding where you stand. Vaidyanathan of Naipaul's Pranesacharya charge can lies in his only assertion that it is into "further withdraw that no "idea will come to him. is replete with Gandhian ideas. Madan elsewhere in this issue) has observed (author of "Religion in India. The truth is that in Ananthamurthy's is not a man who the Acharya novel seeks to misconceive be him comprehensively. But by the 1960s the identity confusion of themodern Indian had reached alarming proportions. surprise that for a novel Gandhi set inmodern certainly doesn't seem to have walked times "the age seems this way." Erikson (commenting on the film version) has said of at the end that "a number of Pranesacharya restitution and of transcendence?have cycles?of new yet undefined been reopened. G. and his Kanthapura." much as the only he had cared to remember his own calamitous journey through Acharya did. visited Gandhiji at Sewagram Ashram). is a case in point. Naipaul expresses remote. N. written in the late 1930s. T. perhaps he would have feltmore compassionate toward the Acharya and the civilization that he represents." Might personal Naipaul India's this be because Indian identity has never been a solely on experience.. to of "O God. This would He is a man who in quest seeks to overcome dualities and conflicts India's time-honored monistic goal of choiceless awareness. "collecting impurities. likeMulk Raf Anand. Given the nature of cultural deter minism.

Hsu (London and New York: Pavistock Publications. It needs India becomes gurus." Journal of Asian Studies 36 (1) (November 1976): 189-95. the disoriented it seems mod Lord. tell me. and the rest of this massive novel (some four hundred-odd closely printed pages in its Indian paperback edition) is a gradual peeling away of his acquiredWestern self. the "cognitive self and its orectic corollaries. He heads for Tranvan core in the southern tip of India to sit at the feet of his guru. The quotation is rather cryptic. my ern Indian is?like Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra?in of a guru. Lord. my to me. maswamy Truth." in Culture and Self: Asian and Western Perspec tives. need of less in need ENDNOTES xMcKim Marriott. 2I am heavily indebted toAgehananda Bharati for his stimulating paper "The Self in Hindu Thought and Action. and Francis K. As gods. George Devos. dalus 114 (4) . are radically disjunctive.. "Keeping Faith: Indian Film and Its World. and I take it to mean that the Indian thinks and acts with different notions of the self." D (Fall 1985): 133. "Interpreting Indian Society: A Monistic Alternative toDumont's Dualism. confused. but a Guru is what I need. give me Thy Ra touch. vouchsafe.Authority and Identity in India The Serpent and the Rope (1960)?arguably ical novel?shows the end of the novel the tormented toward 169 India'smost metaphys turn at protagonist. In other words. Ramaswamy." in Samskara: like the Acharya "the vision of cries. ." 3Farrukh Dhondy.. Lord. 1985) for seminal insights. more it seems." Increasingly. much a God Lord. Initially we see the sanctuary of him in France researching the possible Hindu origins of the Albigen sian heresy. not come who has converted to Buddhism. as Bharati puts it. Guru.Marsella. The novel begins with Ramaswamy proudly tracing his lineage to the ancient sage Yajnavalkhya. Anthony J. ed. a guru. "No. symbolized at the end by the breakup of his marriage with Madeleine.

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