.                    REINCARNATION AND
                           THE THEORY OF KARMA.

                  This is my eighth blog on my forthcoming novel. I have discussed various reasons why an author would find the theme of reincarnation as a rich source of weaving a good story. I have also discussed earlier in this series why the theme of reincarnation appeals to readers. One of reasons , mentioned in my earlier blogs , was that the idea of reincarnation also expresses our religious beliefs. In a pluralistic society like ours , it is difficult to confine oneself to any particular denomination of religious beliefs and deconstruct the theme of reincarnation. However , there is one religious belief that is almost universally accepted across the religious spectrum. Moreover , this belief is the foundation of our idea of reincarnation. I am referring to the belief that fate of each one of us is defined by  the theory of karma. Therefore , in this blog and next few blogs , I would discuss variety of facets of this theory of karma. Since the theory of karma is universally believed , I think it would be easier to understand why we believe in reincarnation as well.

            I would like to admit ,at the outset , that I do not claim to have any new insights into either reincarnation or into the theory of karma. Both these topics have been commented upon in great length in religious and psychological literature.  I am going to focus only on two aspects in my blogs. Firstly , I am going to talk about the possibility that the idea of reincarnation itself maybe a fictionalization of the theory of karma. It is my belief that sages who scripted our vedic texts were conscious of the need to reach out to laity in the simplest way. Therefore they created our mythological stories as  fictionalization of fundamental philosophy described in our holy books. Similarly , I believe , the theory of karma is difficult to understand and to explain it in simplest form to laity.Therefore it was fictionalized into an idea of reincarnation.

         The second aspect that I am going to focus is that the theory of karma , by itself  i . e. without its fictionalized form , is very intricate and detailed scheme. These details deserve to be investigated  for their own sake. I am not suggesting that the theory of karma is right or wrong. I do not think I have wherewithal to prove it either way. All I am interested in is whether these details , by themselves, are created to fulfill our subconscious needs. There is a distinct psychological perspective behind the details of the theory of karma. I would focus on these aspects in my next few blogs.

           Let me begin by looking at the relationship between the theory of karma and the idea of reincarnation. One of the central assumptions about the theory of karma is that there are always some consequences of every action that you perform. This , by itself , is a logical and intuitive assertion. In fact , it is almost scientific. It is comparable to law of physics that asserts that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When viewed in this perspective , this basis of the theory of karma appears to be axiomatically true. The reason why this perspective is not scientific is that it doesn’t tell us how this is accomplished. While it may  be reasonable to say that there are always some consequences of every action that we perform , it is equally important that the theory of karma must explain how these consequences come about.

             The solution offered by the theory of karma is that these consequences come about through reincarnation. An individual can not be immortal. Therefore there is not enough time for all the consequences of each of hers/ his karma to come into effect. For instance , what if an individual were to perform some karma just before her/ his death ? Obviously , the consequences of such an act can not be experienced by that individual because there is not enough time. In order to accommodate this problem , the theory of karma has to postulate that it is the soul of that individual that would have to bear the consequences of the karma that that individual performs just before death. Since the soul is immortal , the problem of shortage of time does not arise. The soul would , according to the theory of karma , would bear the consequences in its next birth. One can see that reincarnation solves the basic dilemma of death intervening in the process of facing consequences of our karmas.

                 While there is no basis to support such an assumption of soul being the entity that performs and faces the consequences of karma , this assumption fulfills our emotional requirements. On one hand ,  it individualizes impersonal notion of action to personalized karma since individual soul is responsible for its karma. In Scienve we talk of impersonal notion of action whereas this theory ascribes individual authorship to it  and calls it a karma.  This transformation from impersonal action to personalized karma enables us to identify ourselves with all the karmas that we perform as our own. On the other hand , it also fulfills our natural sense of justice and redemption. This is precisely what fiction does. It gives us a chance to identify with what characters in fiction are doing and through that identification , the fiction enables us to redeem ourselves. Therefore it is correct to say that reincarnation is a fictionalization of the theory of karma. This theory appeals to us because it makes us believe that we too can redeem ourselves by patiently undergoing the consequences of our past karmas.

           Once we accept this interpretation of the theory of karma, the questions that  arise are of two types. Firstly , how our belief in the theory of karma changes our behavior? Secondly , does the theory of karma stand up to logical analysis ? In my next blog , I would discuss how our emotional acceptance of the theory of karma has shaped our behavior. In later blogs I would discuss how does the theory of karma stand up to rigorous analysis of logic.




            This is second part of my blog on the theme of continuity. In the first part , I had discussed the problem of maintaining emotional continuity while writing a novel based on the theme of reincarnation. Since such a novel essentially uses reincarnation as a metaphor , the emotional continuity of main characters serves the purpose of creating a narrative. The emotional interactions between the main characters provide the narrative with necessary literary tensions. It is this internal emotional conflicts and synergies that provide a platform for readers to identify themselves with such a narrative. Thus , as mentioned in part one , it is this process of identification which allows the metaphor of reincarnation to work on reader’s subconscious mind.

                   In this second part I would focus on the problem of continuity of time while writing a novel based on reincarnation. When a novelist places her/ his characters in a particular period of time and in particular geographical location , the writer is , in effect , creating characters of time and place as well.  Let us see how it happens. When a protagonist is placed in a time frame which is say twenty years earlier than the year of publication of that novel, the writer needs to incorporate social beliefs and collective psyche of that time. Most intuitive way of doing it is incorporating these beliefs in the character of the protagonist. In addition , the protagonist must also have beliefs that are consistent with her/ his intended character. Thus the protagonist has to be created with two sets of beliefs. One representing the ethos of the time she/ he is shown to be living and a second set of beliefs representing her/ his own character as intended by the writer. One can judge the quality of a novel by assessing how these two sets of beliefs have been integrated into an internally consistent characterization of the protagonist.

                 This process of characterization of main characters of the novel also works for geographical location . Each town , each region and each country has certain traits. These get reflected in the characterizations of main characters shown to be living in that location. Sometimes , a writer might choose to present the geographical location as a character itself.

                       This is normally a routine protocol for writing a novel. In case of writing a novel based on the theme of reincarnation , the problem of characterization of main characters becomes more complicated. In case of reincarnation of the protagonist , the next birth would be in a different geographical location and in different eras. Therefore continuity  in the sense of time lapse would have to be in the form of changes in collective psyche.  For instance , if a character is born earlier in pre independent India , then it’s collective psyche would  be dominated by a sense of patriotism and freedom struggle on the principles of Gandhi’s non violence. If that character is born in its next birth in contemporary India , then the collective psyche of modern India would be dominated by internet and information technology. The problem for the novelist in that case is how to create a character which blends both these dominant themes into an internally consistent characterization. A novelist may then create a character , who was a freedom fighter in an earlier birth ,  is now reincarnated as a character of a whistleblower who uses internet to expose corrupt politicians. I must admit  that there is no such character in my novel that shares this type of characterization. I am simply giving an example to explain the detailing that goes into creating a believable character with whom the readers can relate emotionally.

         Similar detailing is required for geographical location.  For instance a character born in Mumbai in one birth may have born in some remote town in Bihar in previous birth say in the time of Ashoka the great . In that case the collective psyche of both the locations would be so different that the novelist would have to strive to create continuity of characterization.

       Of course , readers  might wonder why such detailing is required. There are two reasons for this. Firstly , such a continuity is what makes narrative believable. The human mind is built on narrative intelligence. Therefore only some types of narratives emotionally connect with the readers. Therefore a novelist must create such intuitive narratives. At a deeper level , one can see that continuity of time in the social context refers to transformation of collective psyche. The key insight is that  though our collective psyche changes with time , the fundamental nature of this psyche remains unchanged. It is as if the contours of our collective psyche changes with time but it’s contents do not change. It is this constancy of our collective psyche that is at the heart of the metaphor for reincarnation. Just as souls remain the same while their bodies change in different incarnations , the collective psyche remains same over millennia , it’s expressions change with time. It this relationship between changes and constancy of our collective psyche that finds its literary expression in the theme of reincarnation. The second reason for such detailing is that this detailing represents our intricate theory of Karma.

                    In my next blog , I would discuss how the theme of reincarnation represents the theory of Karma and how intricate this theory is supposed to be.


                    THE PROBLEM OF CONTINUITY IN    
              .               REINCARNATION.PART 1.

                 In my previous blogs , I had suggested that my next novel would be on the theme of reincarnation. I had discussed in those blogs why the theme of reincarnation is a rich source for fiction. It was suggested that the theme of reincarnation has an inherent metaphorical depth for creative writing. In this blog , I would deal with difficulties that theme of reincarnation presents to a novelist. I would share my own problems in devising various characters passing through several births.

                When I began writing this novel , I had no fixed plan. My idea was to use reincarnation as a metaphor. I was also aware of the fact that people believe in reincarnation not because they are convinced about its logic , but they believed in that idea because it offered them some solace in their difficult times. Therefore ,  I was hoping to use the idea of reincarnation as a tool for analyzing human mind. After having written few chapters , I have realized that my approach was based on intellectual arrogance. When the plot started unraveling, I realized that the inherent psychological and metaphorical depth of this idea is so immense that mere cleverly crafted narrative would not be able to do justice to the idea of reincarnation. Therefore I have decided to let the plot unravel itself without any shallow cleverness on my part. However , the problem of detailing the characters still demands lot of planning. Therefore I was forced to think of several clever strategies. Thus my writing tries to strike a balance between my subconscious impulses and careful planning. In my next few blogs , I would discuss several problems that arise in maintaining a balance between these two contradictory requirements.. In this and the next blog , I would focus on continuity.

                    When I began writing this novel , my idea of continuity was the emotional continuity of a character going through several births. I was thinking about a protagonist who would feel vindicated after fulfilling his own desires after several births. Therefore  I thought of using unrequited love as a constant emotion which would run through several births of the protagonist. I also thought that the novel could end with the protagonist finally reuniting with his lady love. My choice was based on the fact that this theme has enjoyed immense popularity in pulp fiction and commercial cinema. I was thinking that I could take intellectually superior stance and try to deconstruct its popularity. The trouble with this storyline is that it really requires emotional continuity not only of the protagonist but also of his lady love and perhaps of several other characters.

             The emotional continuity of several characters in a single novel is not easy to achieve. Not only various emotions of all such characters in  a single birth must compliment one another , but it must remain congruent for every character through its several births. Thus , for instance , the emotional interaction between the protagonist and his lady love must be matched to create a credible love story. After having done that, the novelist must ensure that both these characters must have consistent emotional growths spanning several births. One can imagine how difficult it would be , if the novel involves say five characters. As my writing progressed , I realized the enormity of the task. More importantly, I also realized my own inadequacies of handling such  a enormous task. At that point, I decided to hand over these intricacies to my subconscious mind. I have, since then, restricted my conscious mind to remove logical inconsistencies in the plot. I can confess that barring first chapter, which was planned , the entire novel is a product of my subconscious mind. My critical faculties have played a role of a moderator.

                After having finished few chapters , I can see the wisdom of allowing writer’s subconscious mind to shape the creative output. I realized that the very insistence of emotional continuity is , in itself , a requirement of our subconscious mind. In that sense ,a novelist is really communicating with the subconscious minds of readers. Therefore it is imperative that writer’s subconscious mind sends the message to the reader’s subconscious mind directly. Art may be analyzed by our critical faculties , but it must be acknowledged that art is created and understood by our subconscious minds.

            In my next blog , I would deal with continuity of time while writing a novel on reincarnation.

(To be continued.)


                             METAPHOR AND METONYMY.         



             I have discussed ways of deconstruction of fiction using psychoanalytical perspective in my earlier blog .In this blog , I would focus on deconstruction of fiction using linguistic perspective. Once again , I would restrict myself to my first novel and avoid any reference to various schools of literary criticism. For this blog I have chosen two linguistic devices viz. metaphor and metonymy.

            At the outset ,  I would like to admit that there is an element of psychoanalytical perspective in this linguistic deconstruction as well. While writing this novel ,I have chosen several metaphors to allow the narrative to achieve certain fluidity and certain lyricism. It is apparent that my choice of metaphor must have been dictated by my own unconscious mind. Therefore my attempt to deconstruct my novel by deconstruction of linguistic devices , in some sense , is another psychoanalytic deconstruction. However the key difference between these two approaches is the emphasis. While earlier blog tried to deconstruct my own unconscious mind , this attempt focuses on nature of narrative instinct that shapes our linguistic skills( including those involved in creative writing).

               Before going into my own compulsions ( of course some of them were not known to me while writing the novel) of employing these linguistic devices , let me outline what , in my view , constitutes a metaphor and what constitutes a metonym.

A metaphor is a way of referring an object by another object. In simile there is a comparison while in metaphor , it is replacement. There are two yardsticks to judge the quality of metaphor. One is the extent of congruence between the original object and the object replacing it during metaphor. For instance  the most common metaphor would be referring a pretty face by calling it a moon. Since the extent of congruence is variable , the quality of metaphor varies in each case. For instance , in the example given earlier , the quality of metaphor of referring a pretty face as moon would depend on the beauty of the original face that was referred to in the metaphor. Thus the quality of metaphor is to be judged by the context of referent and reference. The second yardstick for judging the quality of metaphor is the degree of novelty. In the example given above , referring a pretty face as moon may be a good metaphor ( at least when employed to refer someone very pretty) , however it may not be deemed a good metaphor on the ground of novelty. The act of referring a pretty face as moon is so overused that it lacks novelty altogether. Therefore it’s invocation in our times is not a good metaphor.

      In that context ,how does a metaphor of Padma stand up ?  Let me begin by explaining origin of Padma. When I began the novel , I wanted Manas to represent the futility of human existence. So it was inevitable that the his search for meaning must be personified. To create a counter point and an alter ego , I felt that entity must be a woman. Thus Padma started as a personification. In fact I was not sure how to introduce her in the novel. In fact she appears only in part two. However , once she made an appearance , without my knowledge , she became a metaphor for unattainable creativity of human beings. This semantic abduction was surprising. I did not want it , but it came about just the same. In fact , I can confess that there are lot of things in the novel that have surfaced without my cognizance. I am not happy the way she disappears from narrative. ( which girl , given such a background , would renounce the world ?). However , that is how the narrative forced itself upon me. The question is whether Padma as a metaphor for unattainable creativity is  a good metaphor or not. I leave it to readers.

                  Let us look at metonymy. The traditional way of defining metonymy is that when the part replaces the whole in a figure of speech it becomes metonym for the original referent. The yardstick to judge a good metonymy is the attribute that defines both the referent and the metonym. It is possible that both entities may have more than one common attributes. In that case , there are several ways in which one can create metonymy. Thus there could be several ways in which metonym can represent the original referent depending on the context of the narrative. In such a scenario , same pair of metonym and original referent can have multiple metonymic relationships. A good metonymy is the one there are layers of such metonymic relationships between same metonym and referent. In popular literature the most common example would be that of heart of the individual representing that individual. Moreover , since the symbol of heart shares lots of attributes of the romantic person it represents ,this metonymy is also multilayered. In that sense this ought to be a good metonymy. However , overuse of this metonymy has robbed it of any novelty thereby making it a poor metonymy. Of course , it is possible that a new poet may still invent a new relationship between the heart and the romantic person whom that heart represents. In that case , that poet can conjure up a good metonymy using the same overused metonym and the referent. The question is where is metonymy in this novel and whether it is a good metonymy or not ?

                  In fact , I found an instance of metonymy in my novel while proof reading the book. I can assure the readers that I was not conscious of that metonymy while writing this novel. I realized that every character is , in fact , is a metonym of  my own self. I realized that creative writing in in essence a fragmentation of my own unconscious mind into mélange of characters. The novel in this case is a prism which separated my own complexities into different strands . Each of these strands was personified into a character. Thus all characters in the novel collectively represent my own unconscious self. This interpretation is is worrisome. Is there any Manubhai in my subconscious mind ? However , let me assure the readers that this is naive psychology at work. The above interpretation only means that my own subconscious mind has rather complex and interwoven positivities and negativities lying beneath my conscious self. These tendencies get distorted , magnified and highlighted during fictionalization. Therefore each character ( not just Manas or Manubhai) is a case of metonymy of my unconscious mind.

      This brings me to the final point of this blog. In creative writing the author employs several devices ,be it a metaphor or be it a metonymy because he/ she is trying to deconstruct his / her own self .  These devices are ways of achieving transference. This process of transference continues with the readers who find echoes of their lives in these novels. In fact I was a voracious reader in my younger days. There are several books which I have read twice ( some of them after a gap of ten years). Strangely , I found out that on both the occasions I found different meanings . The book was the same but I had changed during the intervening years. That convinced me I was reading my own life in these novels. The process of transference was same , only the context of transference had changed. I am also convinced that most of us have read , say , “Great Expectations “ but I can assure you that we have ended up reading different versions of that book ( each version reflecting our own inner life). I also realize , while writing  this blog , this plurality is natural. I am not sure how many readers are aware that when we watch a rainbow with our friends and family  each one of us is watching a separate ( and perhaps a private) rainbow because the optics of rainbow requires a particular angle of refraction and particular angle of reflection. These details vary even for two individuals standing few inches apart. Therefore each one in the group is watching a different rainbow. The good thing about rainbow is that it signifies same thing to all of us. The rainbows are separate but their cognition ( both literal and metaphorical) is universal. This is the secret of creative writing. It begins with a personal experience and achieves universality through transference.
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