Monday, November 26, 2018

Mahatma Gandhi was against technology


A year long celebration of Mahatma Gandhi started on October 2, 2018 and culminates in the 150th anniversary of his birth on October 2, 2019. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led the planning of the events which include symposia of Nobel laureates, virtual reality shows, concerts with international performers, talks by spiritual gurus, and commemorative stamps. Narendra Modi has stated it is essential to celebrate Gandhi so that he will continue to be an inspiration for coming generations. But, bearing in mind that Prime Minister Modi's website states he is a firm believer in the power of technology, a thought provoking perspective on the Gandhi hagiography is provided in a recent book by Hugh B. Urban, Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University.

Zorba the Buddha: Sex, Sprituality and Capitalism in the Global Osho Movement is the first comprehensive study of the life, teachings and followings of an unlikely figure, the Indian godman Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Known in his later years as Osho, Rajneesh achieved notoriety as the 'sex guru' who owned 93 Rolls Royces and who fled by Lear Jet in October 1985 from his scandal-ridden utopian community in Oregon. But, there was another side to Osho, and it was not without reason that he was described by the Sunday Times in London as one of the ‘1000 Makers of the 20th Century’ and by Sunday Mid-Day in India as one of the ten people — along with Gandhi, Nehru and Buddha — who have changed the destiny of India.

In his commendably objective study Hugh B. Urban chronicles how in the Gandhi Centenary Year 1968-69 Rajneesh launched an irreverent and deeply serious ideological assault on India's most revered figure. Hugh B. Urban describes the attack on Gandhi as follows:
Rajneesh's assault on Gandhi was at least three fold. First, he regarded Gandhi's views on Indian society and its problems as "primitive and unscientific," rooted in a regressive appeal to tradition and utterly impractical in the late twentieth century. While Gandhi advocated the spinning wheel and other traditional, low-tech means of production, Rajneesh argued that India needed to embrace modern technology and join the developing world. The politicians, Rajneesh believed, all knew this to be true but they went on worshipping Gandhi simply because he was popular with the voting masses who supported them.
The assault was articulated by Rajneesh's in his 1981 speech The Goose is Out: Zen in Action.
Gandhi is against technology. He was against the railway, he was against the post office, he was against electricity of all kinds. They know this is stupid... and they go paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi because they have to get the votes from the people... Mahatma Gandhi fits with the Indian mob. The Indian mob worships him. The politician has to follow the mob.
Osho's excesses were infamous, but there is convincing factual support for his critique of Gandhian ideology. That header photo is iconic, and in a 1921 speech Gandhi stated that:
I claim that in losing the spinning wheel we lost our left lung. We are, therefore, suffering from galloping consumption. The restoration of the wheel arrests the progress of the fell disease.
He went on in Young India published in 1920 to say that:
I feel convinced that the revival of hand-spinning and hand weaving will make the largest contribution to the economic and the moral regeneration of India.
Today the textile industry in India is still worth a not insignificant US$150 billion. But history has proved Osho right. Despite Gandhi's exhortation to arrest progress, India has embraced modern technology. Its information technology industry has overtaken the textile sector and now has revenues of US$167 billion; with the US accounting for two-thirds of its US$99 billion IT service exports. India's embrace of modern technology means it is now the fastest growing tech hub in the world and in 2017 manufactured 9.56 million PCs. With over 300 million people having access to the internet, India is now the second most connected nation in the world after China, and the average resident spends almost three hours a day on their smartphone.

Hugh B. Urban's very broad perspective on Osho identifies him as a driver of the shift from an early capitalist Protestant ethic to a late capitalist postnational consumer ethic. He describes the Osho movement and other charismatic movements as hyphal knots in the network of globalisation. The concept of hyphal knots is imported from mycology, where they are the key intersections in the complex bacteria networks to the flow of resources and data between organic and inorganic.

Although in his book Hugh B. Urban covers the use of social media and Facebook in particular by the contemporary Osho movement, he does not recount a little known story that I covered here recently. In 2010 Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg spent a week in Pune and visited the former Osho commune which is now known as the Osho Meditation Resort. It was a private visit and the social network co-founder may simply have been recharging his batteries. But a broader view can be taken encompassing Osho's evangelical advocacy of technology and his creation of a cult-like network controlling information flows in a late capitalist global consumer culture. When this is coupled with the path taken by Mark Zuckerberg's company after his 2010 visit to the Osho ashram, this broader view permits a different interpretation of the connection between Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Facebook.

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5 comments:

Pliable said...

Osho's followers at various times included Arianna Huffington, Terence Stamp, Bernard Levin, jazz musician and producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt, and New Age musicians Georg Deuter and Kitaro.

Georg Deuter created music for Osho's signature dynamic meditations; sample it here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOIYdmQ7kUw

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

I think his US compound was in Oregon - not Ohio?

Pliable said...

Thanks Lyle, now corrected.

Chaitanya Keerti said...

There's a long list of prominent people who adore Osho. Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, Manmohan Singh, President Gyani Zail Singh, Writer Amrita Preetam, Khushwant singh and Artists Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Sonal Mansing, Mallika Sarabha...and there's long list of such people

Pliable said...

Chaitanya Keerti's informative comment has sparked another post - https://www.overgrownpath.com/2018/12/bring-on-crazy-wisdom.html