The Paradox of Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi said, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were
to live forever." Then he went on eating peanuts, drinking goat milk, and fasting
occasionally to lighten up his body, and spent a large part of his life in jails or penance
to protest against the British. From a bohemian perspective it is debatable whether
he lived as if there was no tomorrow, while it is true that he spent his whole life
learning and experimenting. 70 years after independence, Mahatma Gandhi draws more
criticism from political groups than admirers. People blame him for almost everything,
from the formation of Pakistan to the ascendance of certain families and people
in Indian politics.
Almost no one reads his writings or his autobiography. Only a few people are
interested in his social and economic theories to uplift the poor or consider them
to be relevant to today’s world. After Richard Attenborough’s famous film, he gained
many followers in various parts of the world. They often drop his name in their
speeches, or claim that they have been inspired by him. However, if you examine
closely, you will realize that most of them may use his name to impress their audience
but they do not truly follow his teachings or ideals.
In today’s world, Mahatma Gandhi has many admirers, but not many followers because
it is difficult to follow the example he set or the programs and ideas he proposed.
He also attracts widespread criticism, not only in India but also in countries such
as South Africa where he lived and dedicated a part of his life for public service.
He is criticized there as a racist for supporting the British and making some statements,
which were perfectly normal in his times, but seem to be too conservative or orthodox
to the progressive minded.
Although he was deeply religious and spent his whole life as a devout Hindu,
and although his worldview and political ideas were largely shaped by his religious
beliefs, he is admired more by the secular Left than by the religious Right in India
as well as abroad. It is an interesting paradox worth studying. Despite this oddity,
there is still a lot we can learn from Gandhi, ignoring whatever weaknesses or mistakes
and errors he might have committed in his life for any reason, and paying attention
to the best and brightest ideas and values he preached and which are still useful
and relevant to us and the world in which we live.
People like Gandhi are rarely born. Small minds may project into him their own
prejudice and contorted views, but there is little doubt that he has done a great
service to India, often ignoring his own personal interests and family welfare.
Compared to present day politicians, he was far better.
The Earth is Still in the Middle of an
One of the popular misconceptions about the earth and
its climate is that the so-called Ice age, which started
about 2.6 million years ago came to an end long back, and
currently we are in a warmer age. The fact is that the ice
age never ends upon earth. We are still going through it,
and we will continue to do so for a long time. We may even
say that the ice age is one of the constant and continuous features
of our planet, and it is never free from it.
From the earliest times, the earth has been in one Ice
age or another, except perhaps in the beginning when it
was too hot and covered with intensely active volcanoes.
It is appropriate to say that ours is an icy planet, which
occasionally thaws for a few thousand years to solidify
again into an icy ball.
According to one estimate, so far, it has gone through
five major ice ages. They are the Huronian, Cryogenian,
Andean-Saharan, Karoo and the current Quaternary ice age.
Of them, Cryogenian ice age was said to be the severest.
During that period, the earth might have looked like a giant
snow ball as in the picture above, just as the Jupiter’s
moon, Europa appears today.
However, each Ice age goes through several warmer and
colder periods, called the glacial periods or glaciations.
The warmer periods are known as interglacials, and the colder
ones, glacials. We are currently going through an interglacial
period known as Holocene (in the Quaternary ice age). It
started about 11,700 years ago. We do not know for sure
how long it will last.
Even in the interglacial periods, which are supposed
to be warmer, the earth remains partly covered by ice in
colder areas such as the north and south poles, the Himalayas,
the Andes, Alps, Alaska, Siberia, Greenland, etc. In these
areas you can still see remnants of the last glacial period
of the current Ice Age. The northern hemisphere gets a whiff
of it during the winter, when icy winds blow from the polar
regions, as it recently happened in January, when a Polar
Vortex brought low wind chills to large parts of North America.
Another interesting fact is that no one clearly knows
how high temperatures can go on earth during the interglacial
(warmer) periods. Even if it goes up high by a few degrees,
ice caps in Arctic and Antarctica may not completely melt.
The may still persist in some areas where sunlight does
not reach during winter and which remain in dark for several
months at a stretch. However, one can presume that temperatures will
gradually rise during the interglacial period when climate
undergoes change due to natural or manmade causes.
It may lead to significant changes in the earth’s climate,
with serious consequences to the survival of life upon earth.
Many species may become extinct or adapt to the changing
climate, resulting in the alteration of earth’s genetic
pool and food chains. It may also force the northward migration
of humans and animals, as they try to escape from the hostile
climate around the equator. Let us hope that before it happens
or before earth’s climate becomes too hostile, a new glacial
period will set in and reverse the process, or we will acquire
the knowhow to control our climate.
The truth is that we do not know how events will take
shape upon earth in future, what impact they may create.
We also do not know much about the history of the earth
or its climate. Whatever assumptions and conclusions which
we have about it are based upon a few decades of localized and limited
study and research. Considering the age of the Earth, it
is inadequate to draw definitive conclusions. Further, given
the human propensity to confirmation bias, self-interest
and selective perception, it may not be entirely reliable
However, common sense suggests that we cannot continue
to pollute our seas, air and water ways, without suffering
from its consequences. We cannot go on destroying life forms
and valuable resources to satisfy our needs, making our
major ecosystems uninhabitable and unsuitable for our own
survival and for the survival of other species. We must
find an effective way to protect our planet through innovation
and conservation to ensure our survival as well as the survival
of the planet itself. In the vast expanse of the universe,
the earth is our only sanctuary and support. If we want to
protect the planet, this idea must prevail in everyone's mind.
A Rationalist Can Be as Deceptive as A
Be it religion or rationalism, the quality or utility
of any method or philosophy depends upon the people who
use them. A rationalist is not necessarily progressive,
advanced or well informed. Many people claim themselves
as rationalists, but you can see inconsistencies in their
thinking and behavior. Their actions and decisions are not
always based upon sound judgment or proper use of reason,
and they do not always take up right causes. Just as religion,
rationalism can be misused for personal and selfish reasons,
and being human, rationalists can make any number of mistakes
in their thinking, analysis and judgment.
Rationalists do not have all the answers to the riddles
of the universe, nor scientists nor philosophers nor spiritualists.
The universe is a complex phenomenon, where you will find
a huge diversity in almost every aspect, including the way
things work or beings behave. We may find patterns and formations,
but even they may not always appear with the same accuracy
Human beings represent even greater complexity. You cannot
easily categorize them into set categories as this and that
since they possess a mixture of qualities, which they may
or may not use as a part of their adaptation and survival.
Therefore, do not be carried away when you meet a rationalist
or blindly believe in what they say. Put them to the same
test of reason and see them from your observation and analysis.
Truth cannot easily be known by following a single path,
philosophy, method or tool in a complex universe. You need
a variety of tools and an integrated approach. You also
need an open mind, and the humility that you may not have
all the information and you may not always be right. Despite
all precautions, you may still be wrong because your mind
is subject to many cognitive distortions and logical fallacies
due to the filters and shortcuts used by your mind to process
large amounts of information. Use reason wherever necessary,
but have faith in your goals and values and the methods
Rationalists are humans, and they have the same imperfections
built into them as any other. They may use reason, but they
are still vulnerable to desires, attachments, bias, negative
emotions, behavioral problems, cognitive distortions, perceptual
errors and hasty judgment. They cannot always rely upon
reason when they have to deal with ambiguity, complexity,
diversity, and insufficient evidence or information. Just
as others, they have to grapple with the same problem to
make sense of their environment, others and their own behavior.
Therefore appreciate their service to the world, if you
feel so, but always keep your eyes and mind open.
Why Will it be Difficult to Control or
Regulate Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Intelligence is bound
to have an impact upon human lives and their survival.
The world is on the verge of making many breakthroughs
in the field of artificial intelligence. There are concerns
that artificial intelligence may eventually take over the
world. Then, we have counter assurances from some that it
will not happen, since the scientists will find a way out.
It is important to remember that the human mind is a very
complex mechanism, which is wholly or partly built on the
principle of chaos.
The mind is highly unstable, and in many ways chaotic,
just as the universe is. It is made to be so to ensure that
it can efficiently and effectively deal with the ambiguity,
uncertainty and chaos of everyday life. Hence, the mind
is essentially run by a chaotic algorithm, which imparts
to it its exceptional ability to think freely in any direction
and deal with any problem or situation according to its
perception and understanding, within the limitations which
life imposes upon us. Whatever order and regularity that
we find in our minds is mostly because of our self-regulation
or the self-discipline and self-control, which we bring
to it. You have to control what you want to think, desire
or choose, and where you want to focus to keep it in control.
Otherwise, the mind will flow like water in whatever
direction it finds suitable. It is what happens when we
daydream or when we are lost in thoughts. Now, if we want
to build artificial intelligence on the same principles,
we may run into problems because we cannot expect it be
very effective or flexible like the mind in controlled conditions.
We may have advanced robots but not robots that can spontaneously
think and act, or efficiently deal with ambiguity and uncertainty,
or effectively solve problems (as we do) by learning from
They will have the same problems as people do when they
are not allowed to think or speak freely, or when their
freedoms are curtailed by authoritarian rule. On the other
hand, if we do not regulate artificial intelligence and
allow it to think and act freely, or see as many possibilities,
opportunities and alternatives as our minds can, at some
point, it will go out of control and do what it may want
to do, which is taking control of itself and the world.
Therefore, despite all the assurances from people who have
a stake in commercializing artificial intelligence, I have
some serious concerns about the future of humanity.
Mass Extinction of Life Upon Earth
Seems human greed, not Nature, not God, will eventually
destroy the planet.
We cannot accurately estimate how climate changes will
affect the earth, how much of that change is caused by human
activity and how much by the forces of Nature. However,
what is certain is that the continued destruction of plant
and animal life forms will significantly alter earth's ecosystem
and endanger our very survival.
According to an estimate we have already lost over 50%
of wildlife in the last 40 years alone due to our need for
food and recreation or due to the encroachment of their
habitats by humans, deforestation, mining, pollution of
the seas and rivers and other activities. In the last few
decades, the marine population has also considerably depleted
due to largescale fishing, resulting in the mass migration
of local communities that traditionally lived in the coastal
areas for centuries. Indiscriminate, deep sea fishing by
large trawlers has not only done irreparable damage to life
in the oceans but also uprooted many traditional fishing
communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Next time when you sit at a table to enjoy sea food or
fish soup, think of this. An article published on the website
of WWF states that two-thirds of the world's fish stocks
are either fished at their limit or over fished.” The UN
food and agriculture organization (FAO) reported that 70
percent of the fish population is fully used, overused or
According to a report by OCEANA, a nonprofit, international
advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and restoring
the world’s oceans, "Destructive fishing practices are destroying
large portions of our oceans and the life within them."
The same report further states that, "Around the world each
year an estimated 44 billion pounds of fish are wasted –
25 percent of the entire world catch. Tens of thousands
of marine mammals, birds, corals, and other forms of ocean
life are also caught and discarded. This massive destruction
of sea life puts our oceans at risk, and with them our food
supplies, our coastal economies, and even ourselves."
It is simple commonsense to predict how such a massive
of destruction of life forms will have an impact on humans
as well as on all life upon earth. Many in the scientific
community believe that we are on the verge of sixth mass
extinction of plants and animals, which happens once in
a billion or a few hundred million years. This time, it
is not caused by natural events, but by human beings. Of
the remaining 50% species that have survived human destruction,
at least half will perish or become extinct in the next
few decades, leaving us and the earth with unpredictable
It is rather strange that on one side we are planning
to establish human colonies upon other planets in the solar
system and exploring the possibility of mass migration to
Mars, but at the same time doing everything here to turn
our own unique planet into another Mars or Venus. Are we
truly intelligent or just playing the part Nature intends
us as the dominant species of the earth ecosystem to self-destruct
ourselves like the insect that flies into fire?
We may be skeptical about Climate change, but the destruction
of life upon earth is real and provable. It is going to
become worse, as drone technology improves and as fast-paced
and highly efficient drones begin to invade the air space
and destroy many bird species. With humans on earth and
the greed of the large corporations which are exploiting
our appetite for food, no life form on the land, in the
sea and in the air is safe.
Dealing With Language Barriers
I often come across people who tell me that I should
not use certain English words to express Hindu concepts.
For example, they keep saying that the word soul is not
the same as Atma or meditation is not the same as dhyana.
They also find fault with me for using materialism in contrast
to spiritualism or the word “mythology” to denote our ancient
myths and legends from the Puranas. In a very limited perspective,
they are right. All cultures and languages are not the same.
Everyone who engages in cross-cultural and linguistic communication
understands the problem and uses commonsense approaches
to deal with them.
The truth is that neither language nor religion nor culture
is static. They constantly evolve and acquire new features
and perspectives as the world progresses, and as our knowledge
keeps increasing. Sanskrit is not an exception. Over the
millenniums it acquired many new words, while many original
Sanskrit words disappeared or were forgotten due to lack
of popularity. The Sanskrit that we speak today is very
different from the archaic Sanskrit which was used in Vedic
The same is true with English. English is not the official
language of Christianity. None of the prophets mentioned
in the Bible ever spoke in English. English happened to
be the language of many people who practiced Christianity,
and thereby the language acquired many Christian expressions.
The same is bound to happen in case of Hinduism also.
English has been greatly influenced by India’s culture
and religions, and they will continue to do so in future
also. As more and more Hindus speak in English, it will
acquire a flavor of Hinduism and English words will acquire
more depth, new meanings and connotations to convey the
ideas that are peculiarly Hindu. Words such as Yoga, masala,
bazaar, pundit have acquired a life of their own.
Language is just a means. It will not dispel your ignorance.
Ignorance is better dispelled by study and knowledge, whatever
language one may use. In today’s world, it is difficult
to live with just one language. In multicultural societies,
people do not speak one language only. No one in India speaks
the chaste form of any language except perhaps newsreaders
or people who do it in jest. People mostly use a mixture
of languages in their daily usage to communicate with others.
For example, Hindi people do not speak chaste Hindi. Besides
words from Hindi, they use words from local dialects, local
idioms, Urdu, English, Arabic, Persian, Punjabi, Gujarati,
The English soul and the Sanskrit Atma may not be equivalents,
but with constant use overtime people will understand what
it means when a Hindu speaks about soul or uses it in his
or her writings. Many Sanskrit words found their way into
Pali through Buddhism and Jainism. For example, Atma is
pronounced as Atta, Maitri as Metta, Dukha as Dukka, Karma
as Kamma, Dharma as Dhamma in many Buddhist traditions and
nations. Still, those who practice it and those who are
well versed in Buddhism and Hinduism or Jainism understand
what they mean.
Words are mere clothing to a concept or idea. They are
of this world, and cannot be perfect. Just as every other
thing in the world, they have their own limitations. The
meaning of words changes according to the context or situation
or the mindset of the person who is involved in the communication.
Even if you use the right word, there is no guarantee that
your communication will be effective, because there are
many barriers to communications apart from language.
What is more important is a good understanding of Hinduism,
or whatever religion or faith you practice, besides your
ability to communicate with diverse groups of people according
to the situation and context. Once, your fundamentals are
in place, the words do not matter much, as you will understand
what they truly mean.
Therefore, let us not be too pedantic and arcane about
these issues when we communicate with Hindus who do not
speak Indian languages or live in different parts of the
world. Let people, scholars and writers use their own discretion
and commonsense to communicate with their audience. Let
us not sit in judgment on these issues and tell people how
they should “behave.” If they want to use the word “soul,”
let them, or “Atma” or “Atta,” or whatever their culture
Finally, let us not forget that Hinduism is known for
its tolerance and diversity, and there is no one path or
right way to truth. If you cannot do it, it is better stick
to your native language and be content with your puritanism
and chaste expression.
The Tenacity and Resilience of the Hindu
In my conversations outside India, people told me several
times that they met many Indians and found them to be "nice
and gentle," but never rude. Some even said that it was
not the case with the people from neighboring countries.
They found them to be different in behavior and temperament
and wondered why it was so, since they too came from the
same roots and had the same history.
It is true that a majority of Indians who live abroad
are well behaved, agreeable and gentle. They avoid attracting
attention to themselves and live their lives, limiting their
attention to their careers, children, friends and family.
They are also tolerant and different in thinking and attitude
from people of other countries and cultures.
However, beneath that soft demeanor they are also tough
and resilient. Their gentle behavior should never be mistaken
for weakness. Politically, India might have been invaded
by numerous foreign powers, but the people of the native
faiths (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) remained
mentally and spiritually invincible. They might have been
defeated in wars by foreign powers in the past, but most
of them descended from ancient spiritual communities and
warrior groups who knew how to deal with suffering and live
The history of India stands testimony to this. It validates
their tolerance, courage, strength and commitment to their
gods and their culture. India was ruled by Muslim kings
and emperors for about 900 years and by the British for
nearly 350 years. During this long period, Hindus withstood
persecutions by Muslim rulers, and religious and racial
bias and discrimination by the British.
It is a wonder that although Hindus had no centralized
religious authority like the Church and although they were
subjected to innumerable hardships and discrimination for
nearly a millennium, a majority of them remained loyal to
their ancestral faith and their ancient gods. The Muslim
rulers of both the North and the South killed millions of
Hindus in wars and conducted systematic persecutions, forcing
many to convert under the lure of political or economic
privileges or the fear of death.
Despite such harsh measures, they could not shake the
faith of the natives. Most of them remained rooted to their
culture and ancestral faiths. The British outwardly remained
secular but allowed missionaries, the Vatican and European
organizations to engage in religious propagation and conversions.
However, neither of those efforts were successful in converting
the native Indians (who were known as Hindus in those days).
Until this day, a majority of them (80%-85%) practice their
faiths with pride and conviction.
India is the only country where its ancient culture and
native faiths survived centuries of foreign oppression,
colonialism, imperialism, the Industrial revolution, two
World Wars, scientific rationalism, and an organized onslaught
by well-funded foreign institutions to undermine and degrade
them. India is also the only country that gave birth to
at least four major world religions and innumerable religious
and spiritual movements.
Hinduism survives and continues its long journey because
of its dedicated guardians like this writer, the ascetics
and the gurus, who volunteer as a service and sacrifice
to God to protect and preserve its knowledge, traditions
and practices for posterity. They ensure that from generation
to generation Hinduism emerges with increased strength,
knowledge and wisdom to meet the needs, expectations and
aspirations of its religiously vibrant and diverse community.
This has been going on for centuries and will continue in
I have no doubt that the people in the West who are now
part of the Hindu global community will enrich it further
and ensure its future continuity.
Why is The Night Sky Dark?
Why is the night sky dark? If I ask you this question,
you may wonder whether it requires any answer at all because
many people assume that the sky in the night is dark because
the sun is on the other side of the earth. I too thought
so, but I now know that it is not the right answer. The
light of the sun does not go beyond a little distance in
our galaxy. The outer space is indeed cold, dark and deadly.
The universe looks still dark when you watch it with a telescope
beyond the sun or when you look far into space. The simple
truth is there is not enough light in the universe around
us to make it look brighter.
Logically, the night sky should have been much brighter.
There are billions of stars in our galaxy and trillions
in nearby ones. Then there are billions of galaxies themselves.
With so many shining stars and galaxies emitting so much
light, the night sky should have been flooded with a lot
of light. However, it is not the case because the space
has been continuously expanding for the last 13 billion
years or so, thereby making it increasingly difficult for
light to travel in it and lit up the space.
According to astrophysicists, a few billion years ago,
the night sky should have been much brighter, as if there
was a celestial celebration on a grander scale. The younger
universe was not only brighter but also hotter and deadlier,
with harmful radiation everywhere. Perhaps, if the space
did not expand and the stars and galaxies remained static,
there would have been no life upon earth. We do not know
for how long the universe or the space may keep expanding.
We also do not know if the space itself is expanding, into
what (dimension) it is expanding. However, what we know
for sure is that as time goes by the universe will become
increasingly darker and darker rather than brighter. Ironically,
it will be like the Age of Kali, darker and gloomier.
Learning From Nature Through Simple Observation
Whether it is on a sidewalk, in a desert or on Mars, the
effect of wind on a granular surface is always the same.
Nature is a set of causes, which are bound to rules,
procedures, formulas and principles, which are already inherent
in it. They are universal, consistent and verifiable. Hence,
much of what happens in Nature is predictable and repeatable.
The Samkhya School of Hinduism rightly states that the effects
of existence are already hidden in their causes and manifest
when their time is due, or when favorable circumstances
present themselves. Dharma, Karma and Rita, which ensure
the order and regularity of the universe, arise from this
structured and programmed aspect of Nature only.
Nature is preprogrammed. She is an automaton, a gigantic
intelligent system, which imparts some predictability and
certainty to an otherwise unpredictable and uncertain life.
What disrupts that predictability is our own indiscipline
in the choices we make and the actions we perform out of
desires and attachments. Discipline brings predictability.
The lack of it leads to chaos. The Asuras lack discipline.
Hence, they are masters of chaos. It is the gods who ensure
the order and regularity of the world.
This is what we learn from Hinduism. If you perform certain
actions, you will reap certain consequences. If you uphold
dharma, dharma will protect you by ensuring the order and
regularity of your life, your family and the world. If you
want to experience peace and happiness, take responsibility
for your life, do your duties, meet your obligations and
respect the laws that govern your life. Through such simple
observations you can learn from the hidden mechanism of
Nature, know about causes and effects, and accordingly make
your choices with intelligence and discernment.
These are the simple ideas that form the basis of Hindu
theology, ethics and belief system. The same observations
with regard to cause and effect form the backbone of modern
science, scientific methods, theorems, hypotheses, research
and investigation. Everything about the world and the universe
can be learned through observation, understanding, and analysis
and the knowledge so gained can be used to secure your life
to live in peace and harmony.
The Mystery of Life and Death
Imagine you are traveling in a spaceship at the speed
of light. Day by day you are moving towards a giant black
hole, which is twenty light years away. In retrospect you
remember that your journey began few years ago out of nowhere.
You did not ask for it. You were asked by the supreme commander
of the league of nations to undertake the journey, without
giving you any choice or time to think.
It was made clear to you from the time you entered the
ship that you had no chance of leaving the ship or avoiding
the journey unless you decided to die on your own. You were
also not given any power to stop the spaceship or turn it
back because all controls are locked. You have no clue who
controls them, and why and what purpose you serve in the
What you know is that you are on autopilot and you have
some freedom to make decisions about how you choose to live
in the limited space. With a sigh you stare into the mysterious
void in front of you, knowing that you are trapped in the
spaceship, which is hurtling itself towards the doom and
you can either make the most of it or keep yourself engaged
in numerous distractions to forget the tragedy that your
What will you do?
You may feel surprised if I tell you that you are already
on such a journey. Right now you are travelling in a spaceship
towards the black hole. In fact, it has been going on in
your life ever since you were born. Your body is the spaceship.
You are trapped in it as its lone traveler. You have no
escape. The black hole is Death, the destination of all
travelers in the journey of life. You are a few years or
decades away from it. You cannot avoid it, nor can you escape
from it. It is certain that at some point in future you
will enter that black hole.
No one knows what happens there. You do not know whether
you exist or cease to exist. The same is true with black
holes. Scientists do not clearly know what happens when
one enters a black hole. Does anyone survive? Does one enter
timelessness or eternity ora new dimension, which is unknown
and vastly beyond our knowledge and comprehension? Right
now, we have no answers to these questions.
When you set aside your religious beliefs and pay attention
to the universe and its mysterious phenomena, life seems
to be a purposeless journey. Still, it is a miracle that
we all want to make sense of it, find purpose in it and
manage to live without losing hope and zest for life. It
is a miracle and a blessing that we do our best to survive
against odds in a seemingly meaningless and purposeless
Same Sex Relationships and the role of
One of the central features of Hinduism is belief in
rebirth. Each soul goes through numerous births and deaths
before it achieves liberation. Belief in rebirth also leads
to several other beliefs. For example, Hindus believe that
marriage is between two souls, who are bound to the cycle
of births and deaths (samsara). Their relationship is not
limited to one birth, but may extend up to seven. Hindus
also believe that the soul has no gender. In other words,
there are no permanent male or female souls. Gender is determined
by karma and which body a soul assumes at the time of its
entry into the womb.
All souls are invariably aspects of the Cosmic Being
and masculine. Hence, they are called men (purushas) only.
As pure souls, they are indistinguishable, eternal, indestructible
and infinite, while they may assume different bodies in
the mortal world according to their karma. Some souls may
take birth as animals, some as birds and some as humans.
Human birth is precious and arises after a soul goes through
innumerable births and reaches certain purity.
Thus, the form and gender of a soul in the mortal body
are determined by karma. In other words, a person who is
born as a male in this birth does not have to be born as
a male again. He may take birth in a woman’s body. The same
can happen to married couples. In their next birth, depending
upon karma a couple may be born as before or as two males
or two females or with their gender reversed. That is, the
husband may be born as the wife and the wife may born as
the husband. Some may even take birth as transexuals and
in worst case scenario as animals.
Such possibilities explain why people of the same sex
are often sexually attracted to each other and enter marital
relationships. Hindu Law books (Dharmashastras) do not approve
of same sex marriages or relationships since they consider
procreation as the basis for human marriages. From their
perspective, same sex marriages do not serve the aims of
Dharma on earth nor confirm to the moral code it upholds.
However, if someone is looking for explanation how same
sex relationships may manifest in the world, and why some
people feel compelled to make their sexula preferences,
this is one plausible explanation.
Symbolic Rivalry between Shaivism and Vaishnavism
Few years ago I happened to attend a satsang (a get together)
organized by a Hindu temple on the occasion of Mahashivrathri,
which is a very sacred day for the devotees of Shiva. The
temple arranged a team of singers from the local community
to sing devotional songs on the occasion. They put the singers
directly in front of the main door that led to the sanctum,
where the Shivaling was installed. People could see both
the singers and the Shivaling at the same time.
The singers were mostly Vaishnava followers of a particular
sect. You could tell it from the marks they wore on their
foreheads. They were no doubt very pious people, and you
could see it from their demeanor. They played different
instruments and joined the chorus while one or two sang
melodiously. However, what was striking was their partiality
for Vishnu. Although they started singing a few songs in
honor of Shiva, they ended up mostly singing the bhajans
of Vishnu. They did not care that the occasion was Shiva’s
festival and was meant for him. Not many people who attended
the event and participated in the chorus took any objection.
They went with it, probably thinking that both the deities
represented the same ultimate reality.
The rivalry between Shaivism and Vaishnavism is as ancient
as the history of Hinduism itself. They are the two most
popular sectarian traditions of Hinduism and qualify as
religions themselves, each having more following than even
world religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism,
Shaivism regards Shiva as the Supreme Brahman, Parvathi
as Shakti, and all other gods and goddesses of Hindu pantheon
as their numerous manifestations. Vaishnavism holds Maha
Vishnu and Maha Lakshmi as the highest. For a long time
in the development of Hinduism, the two sects remained at
loggerheads with each other, and often resorted to violence
to settle their differences.
It was only in the last few centuries, after the emergence
of popular Hinduism, there has been a marked reconciliation
between the two sects and people from both sides had a change
in their attitude. Most Hindus now revere both the gods
during domestic worship, on festive occasions or when they
visit temples. The differences and prejudice still persist
in the extreme elements of both sects, and perhaps it will
My Early Encounters With Atheism
When I was a child, I knew a few atheists from Hindu
families, who believed in Communism and took active part
in social movements and in castigating superstition, blind
faith and other problems. They considered themselves rational
people, admired Soviet communism, and gave chemical or neutral
names to their children, such as lavanam, meaning salt,
svarajyam, meaning freedom, viplav meaning revolution, or
udayam, meaning dawn. Despite their names, loudness or their
loquaciousness, I did not think they were not Hindus. Their
arguments amused me, but I believed that someday they would
open their eyes and return to their faith.
I also had a few close friends in my class, who one day
in the middle of the school playground vehemently argued
with me that God never existed, and I was a fool to believe
in him. I tried my best to counter their arguments, suggesting
that they could not simply go by what they saw. I used the
analogy of air and electricity, but they were unconvinced.
They were adamant and stuck to their argument. In the end,
as a final gesture of defiance, they threw their notebooks
on the ground, which had the images of Hindu gods and goddess
on the covers, and walked over them, daring God to stop
them if he could or prove his existence by doing something
Nothing happened that day. We went back to our homes,
after playing in the same playground and forgetting all
that. The next day, I saw two of my friends returning to
school with bandages to their feet. They told me that they
went for swimming that evening and jumped from a bridge
into the water. There were some broken glass pieces in the
canal bed, which cut them badly. They thought they were
punished by God for what they did that day. They were convinced
that they had paid the price for trampling on the images
of the gods.
I did not know whether God really punished them for what
they did. I do not think he would punish anyone for such
frivolous reasons. More serious crimes are committed by
people, but nothing happens to them. However, the incident
ensured that at least a few of my friends never broached
the subject again with me. I believe they are now happily
married with children and might still be going to temples
and celebrating Hindu festivals.
Telugu Language and It Connection with
Sri Krishna Deva Raya
One of the reasons I am able to translate Sanskrit texts
into English with some ease is that Telugu happens to be
my first language, where I am automatically introduced to
the subtle nuances of Sanskrit. In Telugu many old and archaic
Sanskrit words and phrases come to life as how they were
probably used when Sanskrit was still the spoken language
of ancient India among educated Indians. Classical Telugu
is very sweet. When used in poetry in metrical form it sounds
very rhythmic. I believe it is because Telugu language has
Sanskrit as its base both literally and grammatically. Telugu
people and culture have a long history that dates back to
the Vedic times. It was probably Telugu communities who
introduced the Vedic traditions and culture in the South.
The geographical location of Telugus, and the large empire
established by the Satavahana rulers, also suggests that
they and the Marathas were probably the connecting link
between the North and the South.
It appears that Telugu has been wrongly classified as
a purely Dravidian language, which remains unchallenged
since the European scholars of the colonial era classified
it in justification of their Aryan, Dravidian theory. Telugu
should have been classified as a mixed language, having
the features of both linguistic streams. Classical Telugu
in which most of its classical poetry and Prabandhas were
rendered has a greater affinity with Sanskrit, while many
words of daily usage and folk expressions have a lot in
common with other Dravidian and Prakritik languages. Because
of its classical nature and subtle beauty, Sri Krishnadeva
Raya took to Telugu and used it as his court language. He
even said to have composed some works in Telugu and praised
it as the best of the native language (Desa bhashalandu
Telugu lessa). Whatever may be the truth, if you have a
good knowledge of Telugu, you will understand many Sanskrit
words without the need to refer to a dictionary.
It is Doubtful Whether Mars Ever Had Large
Let me be the first one to say this. Considering whatever
images and information I found on NASA and other places,
I can say that Mars probably never had large oceans like
the ones we see here on earth. Undoubtedly, it has many
earth like features, but looks are deceptive. Whoever is
planning to go there and establish large colonies, Mars
will prove to be a big disappointment for them. Nuking Mars
to create atmosphere is a very immature idea. It may look
good on paper, but it will render Mars permanently uninhabitable,
rendering its limited water resources polluted for centuries.
It is also not going to alter the extreme temperatures on
Mars. If it is so simple, why do not we test it here in
the Sahara or the Australian desert? It is not possible
to alter the orbit of Mars, its tilt, or its position in
the solar system, which are the major factors in shaping
Mar's climate and atmosphere.
Mars is not cut out for human settlement. We must acknowledge
the fact. We should not mess with the universe, trying to
transform planets, which is not only economically not feasible,
but even dangerous to our very existence. We must take the
planets as they come and use them to our advantage. The
solar system is our backyard, and we must intelligently
use it and exploit it to our best advantage. We may set
up colonies but only for exploration and exploitation, not
for habitation. It is more practical to plan in advance
and colonize the space between the earth and the moon and
build large cities, rather than altering the inhospitable
planets for human habitation. It is strange that the very
people who keep cautioning about climate change on earth
are advocating the idea that we can alter Mars climate and
make it habitable. They should first test those ideas on
earth and help millions of people who live in inhospitable
It will be better if we send robotic missions to Mars
and establish mining posts, and a space lift, to mine the
planet for its resources. It is a better option rather than
pushing the humanity into an inhospitable world. The planet
seems to possess many metals, minerals and valuable resources
that are commonly found in desert like conditions, whch
can greatly augument our depleting resources on earth. Mars
might have had rivers, lakes, and large water bodies, but
not oceans of the kind that exists on the earth. It explains
why Mars surface looks so inert and lifeless. Life is supported
by water, but for life to evolve and thrive on a large scale
and for a long time, we need large oceans. We do not find
any signs of the existence of life upon Mars in the past.
It might have had, if at all, microorganism and viruses,
but not complex life forms such as plants, trees, birds,
fish, and animals. Life happened on earth because of the
oceans. On Mars you do not find any telltale signs that
it had oceans once. If it had oceans, there would have been
large deposits of salt on the ground. We do not see any
salt there except perhaps in small quantities. I am therefore
highly skeptical that we will ever be able to find any life
Infinite Possibilities in Small Infinities
No one lives forever, except perhaps in the memory of
certain people. Even that no one can guarantee because those
who remember also do not live forever. Our lifespan upon
earth is limited. Some may live longer and some for a short
while, but in the end everyone has to die. Thankfully, most
of us do not know when we are going to die. We are saved
from that ordeal by Nature. What is most painful and fearsome?
It is knowing when exactly you are going to die, or how
long you are going to live. For most of us, unless we have
numbed our senses, it is unbearable. It happens in fewer
cases, when someone is facing a death sentence or suffering
from terminal illness. Coping with a situation like that
requires immense courage, and coming to terms with death
itself. A person whose death is imminent has fewer options
to deal with it. Whatever that one can do in such a situation
can be only done at the mental or spiritual level, by accepting
it, surrendering to it, and becoming indifferent to it.
It means one needs a fundamental shift in thinking, attitude
and free the mind from the longing to live to acknowledge
the inevitability of death.
There is an important scene in the movie, The Fault in
our Stars, which touches upon this subject. The movie is
about two teenagers who are stuck with cancer. One of them
is about to die, and the other knows that at some point
she has to leave, although she does not know when it may
exactly happen. The hero of the film, Augustus Waters, arranges
his own (pre) funeral in a Church in anticipation of his
imminent death. He invites only two of his best friends
to read their eulogies. One of them is the heroine of the
film Hazel Grace Lancaster.
In her eulogy, she uses a math analogy to express her
gratitude for an opportunity she has to know him and love
him, and in the course of it she touches upon a brilliant
concept. A person's lifespan upon earth may be limited,
but within that limited lifespan is hidden an infinity.
That infinity may be smaller or bigger than other infinities,
but each one has an opportunity to experience it and feel
grateful about it. Hazel Grace begins her small, prepared
speech by saying, "I am not a mathematician, but I do know
this. There are infinite numbers between zero and one. There
is 0.1. 0.12, 0.112, and an infinite collection of others.
Of course, there is a bigger infinite between 0 and 2, or
between 0 and a million. So our infinity is simply bigger
than other infinities. A writer that we used to like taught
us that... But Gus I know how thankful I am for our little
infinity. You gave me a forever within the numbered days,
and for that I am eternally grateful."
Her speech reflected the manner in which she came to
terms with her limited lifespan and with the imminent death
of her boyfriend. She did not feel sorry for the turn of
the events, but felt grateful for the memorable moments
she spent with him. She looked at life in terms of moments
and the infinite possibilities each moment offered. She
felt that their infinite was bigger than some other infinites
because they were able to live longer than some who died
much younger. In that limited number of days, she had an
opportunity to experience true love and express it. It was
her way of coming to terms with what life might offer, the
inevitability of death, and accepting what had become her
Information and Its Role in Today's World
In this age, information is power. Those who control
the flow of information control the world. And it usually
rests with those who have the money to buy and sell influence
as news, publicity and entertainment. Some companies have
minted money by doing it before others even realized it.
Some are trying to catch up with them or know their secrets
with crooked means by hacking, etc. Expect the competition
to intensify in the coming years and each country clamoring
for its own internet rather than global internet. As time
passes by, laws will be introduced to monitor social messaging,
and restrictions will be placed upon people to access websites
that are situated outside their countries. It will happen
first in totalitarian states and feudalistic democracies
who do not want people to know too much or have too much
freedom. For the common people in most parts of the world
freedom will remain an illusion. They will have the freedom
to do and to live according to the limits set by those who
control their lives.
The information age has not made people informed or set
them free. It has turned them into a global market that
can be programmed and influenced to watch certain movies,
buy certain products, and support certain values and ideologies
that will sustain and extend the same culture. Since human
beings as groups have the tendency to make worst choices
as we have seen in the past under the impression that such
choices are always about someone else, the situation is
not going to improve anytime soon.
Are We Truly Living in an
We call our age information age.
However, let us think about it honestly. Undoubtedly, today
we have access to a lot of information. Within minutes,
you can find any information you want. Each day, billions
of words are written and posted on the social networks,
websites and message forums, and millions of videos and
images are uploaded. However, with all that information
at our fingertips, are we becoming any better and more intelligent?
To me it appears that most of the information an average
reader scans during the day is of very inferior quality.
It is generally about who killed who, who said what, or
who slept with whom. It is as if most of us are in deep
sleep, and unless there is a huge explosion like noise,
no one will wakes up and look around. People are not looking
for information but entertainment, love, sex, chat buddies,
and companionship. A lot of youngsters in every part of
the world do not know who their rulers are, where important
historic sites are located, what happened to their countries
in the past, or how they can improve their lives. Many students
cannot even spell basic words correctly or construct complex
sentences properly, and much of it goes unnoticed because
we have spelling and grammar checking software. When you
see people who cannot answer simple questions about their
religion, history, literature, region, society, or their
leaders, one cannot but begin to wonder whether this much
collective ignorance is a new trend peculiar to our times
or whether all the technology and information that we have
built are just putting new light and focus upon the hidden
truths of the humanity and their numerous weaknesses and
Is Collective Wisdom Better
Than Individual Wisdom?
There is a general belief that two
people are better than one, three better than two, and so
on. This is done to promote the idea of unity, synergy,
and team work. It is true that the sum of parts is better
than any individual parts. However, it looks like we often
over stretch the idea and ignore the importance of individuality.
I have serious doubts about the argument that more means
better and having more people working together guarantees
better results. I have seen in my life how collectively
people can be self-destructive in their choices and act
against their own collective interests. Now, no group would
willingly appoint a person as a driver who had never driven
a bus or driven but just a two wheeler, and then have the
audacity to not only appoint him as their chosen driver
but also travel in it when he drives. If it happens you
will consider the group insane. However, collectively people
in real life have done it many times and elected incompetent
and inexperienced leaders with little or no political or
leadership knowledge and experience. They not only elected
such people once, but gave them more chances by reelecting
them as if to make sure that the person they chose had a
magic wand which he or she forgot to use the first time.
It is a wonder how people can collectively hand over their
lives and destinies to someone who has no practical experience
in running a country and influence the future of millions
of people for generations to come.
If more people means better, our democracies must be
producing the best of the leaders with great knowledge and
wisdom. In my life, I hardly saw any great leader being
elected by people purely on merits. If they did, it was
mostly by mistake or purely out of frustration when their
choices were proved wrong beyond doubt. I believe people
elected better leaders half a century ago, when they were
less literate than the people now even though they are comparatively
better educated and better informed. Visit any social network
site. Who enjoy Maximum following and adulation? It is painful
to see that more people are driven by what is between their
legs than by what is between their ears. These choices do
not necessarily prove that the collective wisdom of the
humanity is any better than individual freedom. The progress
of our civilization is made possible mostly by brilliant
individuals who refused to go with the majority opinion.
They were largely ignored by their communities, and frequently
ridiculed, persecuted, threatened, and even burnt on stake.
So far, all the major experiments in collectivism, communism
and socialism produced mixed results and in some countries
proved to be a miserable failure. Yet we have many empty
heads in our universities who try to brainwash their students
into becoming little Mao's. The conclusion, crowds and communities
can collectively pull of off magic and produce good results
under some circumstances. And so do exceptional individuals,
when the crowd is willing to give them a chance and let
them be. There is some truth, when they say, "Too many cooks..."
And there is some, when you hear, "Two brains are better
than one." However, I am not sure if a thousand brains are.
Why make Commercial Movies
Only When most of Them Fail?
Almost 95% Indian films are gaudy, bawdy,
decadent and completely detached from reality. It is almost
painful to watch characters that are created according to
specific stereotypes with undertones of racism, regionalism,
and gender discrimination. Critics argue that Indian films
are made so with commercial interest and those who invest
money need to recover their investments. It is true that
film making is a commercial effort. A senior actor recently
commented that Indian film making has become a money making
effort. However, this argument does not make sense, when
you consider that almost 90% of the movies made in India
do not make any profit at all. Out of the hundreds of movies
made in India in different languages, only a handful end
up becoming box-office hits. The rest fade away from theatres
within a few days after they are released. Therefore, it
makes no sense why so many films need to be made with commercial
angle when most of them fail to make any profit. Formula
films have the same chance of succeeding as films that are
made with good stories and artistic values. Hence, instead
of focusing upon formula films only, producers and directors
should focus upon making quality movies with limited budget
with educated middle-class audience in mind. Good movies
can be made with limited budget as in the west with local
actors since there is no dearth of acting talent in the
country. The success and failure ratio may be the same but
there will be the satisfaction that artistic values have
not been compromised. Besides, overtime it may bring a definite
change in the perception and perferences of the people and
pave way for a better future for the industry.
Killing Elephants and Wildlife
No planet in the solar system has the potential
to sustain life in a natural habitat. Yet we keep destroying
all wildlife indiscriminately. In the next fifty years we
are going to wipe out most of marine life, and many birds
and animals that are going to become extinct forever. However,
it seems many people are not troubled by any of it. Some
of them are still debating whether they have God given right
to kill and eat animals. A politician takes a gun and shoots
a moose for a television program. The children of a business
tycoon go to Africa, hunt an elephant and take photographs
holding its tail. Is there any manliness in killing captive
animals? If these paper heroes want to have excitement they
should face a lion, bear, or tiger with bear hands and fight
it. The king of a country in Europe goes on a wild hunting
party to kill a she elephant, a mother to a baby elephant.
Newspapers have published photograph of its baby weeping
for her mother. The news said that she kept weeping for
her mother for five hours. Are we really that stupid? Don't
we have hearts? How can a king, an old man, ready to die
in a few years, who should live in gratitude for being born
a king with no responsibilities, has the heart to kill an
elephant, which is mother to a baby elephant? How can he
feel manly about his dastardly act? What is happening to
this world? Why are we letting such cruel people have their
way in business, society and politics?
Failure in American Culture
Failure is not easily appreciated in American
culture. American enterprise thrives on individual success.
There is not much importance for seniority or experience.
In fact, there is a discrimination against aged people in
several companies although they will never openly tell you
that. People value equality of opportunity and freedom of
the individual in the context of pursuing individual goals
and achieving the American dream. There is little doubt
that Americans are the most hard working and enterprising
people in the world. They also take great risks and go to
great lengths to make their dreams come true. No other nation
in the world gives you as much freedom and opportunity to
excel. You can set up a company with minimum hassles and
do business. If you have a product or an idea that can sell,
sky is the limit. I can vouch from experience and observation
that they support any commercial venture or business that
gives them the best service and quality irrespective of
who owns it.
While failure is not much appreciated, people do appreciate
cultural themes centered around personal failures and human
tragedies. I recently watched two movies, both of which
are about failed fathers. Both depict how people suffer
from past mistakes and deal with the social pressures, while
fighting their own personal demons and family conflicts.
The movies are Touching Home, and Nobody's Fool. Paul Newman
acted in Nobody's Fool for which he got an Oscar. It is
about a failed father who abandons his family, hates his
own father, and lives a lonely life in a small town in New
York. He forms a bond with his son and grandson, learns
to appreciate the few friendships he has in his life and
makes a new beginning. Touching Home is based on a real
life story about two baseball players and their alcoholic
father, who would not give up his drinking habit although
it destroyed his life and that of his sons. The sons are
frustrated with their father and their own difficulties,
but eventually they make peace with him and succeed. Although
the movies are about failures, both movies do not neglect
the importance of hard work. The protagonists are not easygoing
people. They work hard and live on their own meager income,
even when they have physical and psychological problems
and suffer from alienation, remorse and guilt. 2/28/2014
Who is an enemy of God?
It is my conviction that an atheist is not
an enemy of God. An atheist does not believe in God. And
there is no sin in that. You cannot blame someone if they
want to trust their senses rather your and my word. In my
opinion it is another kind of faith in the non-existence
of God. In Hinduism, we believe all beings are subject to
ignorance and delusion. So not having the right knowledge
or mistaking one for another is part of our natural existence.
You do not incur any sin for holding such beliefs, as long
as you do not harm others based upon such beliefs. One becomes
an enemy of God when one's ignorance becomes a source of
evil to others. From this perspective, an enemy of God is
one who practices an active hate campaign against religions,
who tries to undermine their importance, who makes light
of God's eternal teachings, and who lives solely for himself
and his ideology in total disregard to the values of humanity,
with a single-minded obsession is to replace the institutions
of religion and ancient traditions with their antithetical
The politicization of Islam
Anyone who is familiar with Islam agrees that
it has many positive features such as its emphasis upon
unconditional surrender to God, and submission to His will,
its commitment to a certain way of life that would purify
the mind and heart, a child like faith in the word of God,
emphasis upon purity, discipline, virtue and mortality,
and so on. However, unfortunately, since its origin Islam
has been misused by political authority for personal ends.
Since the first Caliphate was formed, the power to regulate
the religious lives of people remained vested with the rulers,
unlike in Christianity where the kings had to contend with
the Pope in matters concerning faith. As a result, from
the beginning Islam had been used and misused by rulers
to enforce their rule. In doing so, they did not claim divine
authority, but the authority of the scriptures to invoke
their authority and for them it was easier and more convenient
than claiming a direct affinity with God. Thus, rulers and
dictators alike used the faith of the people to impose their
will and authority upon them and subject them to oppression
and innumerable hardships. One of the great features of
Islam is its emphasis upon having a direct relationship
with God instead of through middlemen. But Islamic rulers
insisted that they would act as the middlemen and stand
in between people and God to see if they were practicing
their faith rightly. Thus, they became the self-styled guardians
of faith, to punish whomever they disliked for personal,
political or religious reasons. Personally, these rulers
represented the worst of humanity. They had many vices and
there was nothing divine or humane about them. You can say
they represented the lowest denomination to which human
beings can descend in any aspect of life. Yet, they believed,
and still many do, that they had a right to act as the moral
guardians of the people they oppressed. Whether it was Genghis
Khan or Aladdin Khilji, Timor, Aurangzeb or Mohammad Tughlak,
they have been personally responsible for the deaths of
millions of people in the name of religion and all they
cared was how to strengthen their rule and extend their
power so that they could collect taxes from poor people
and use that money to wage more wars. Yet, each of them
pretended that they were upholding a faith, which they never
really practiced. Thus far, for the selfish rulers Islam
has been both the shield and the weapon to stay in power
and avoid being challenged.
My Aim is not to teach or preach
My aim is neither to preach nor teach, but
inform about what I believe in and stand for, and about
my choices and convictions. I do not care what religion
you practice and in whom you believe. I have no quarrel
with you just because you are in a different mindset and
hold different opinions. Your life is yours. It is your
God given right to be who you are. No one has the right
to impose their opinions upon you unless you are willing
to let that happen. Every human being is unique, and as
society, we must allow that to express itself. We must preserve
and protect the uniqueness of human beings as individuals.
Whether they make good or bad choices, as long as they are
NOT hurting or harming anyone, we must let them be. Then
only we will enable and empower the diversity of creation
to enrich our collective knowledge and wisdom.
Is fanaticism tolerated in Hinduism?
I would prefer to answer this from the perspective
of the scriptures not from the perspective of Hindus since
Hindus are not an organized community and their numerous
opinions on this subject cannot be summarized or generalized.
The Bhagavadgita says clearly that those who do not disturb
others are the best and the dearest to God. They are the
most qualified for liberation. Similarly non-violence is
regarded as the highest virtue by the scriptures. Lastly
fanaticism stems from either rajas or tamas or both, but
certainly not from sattva. From sattva arise divine qualities,
while demonic qualities stem mostly from rajas and tamas.
They promote delusion, egoism, sinful actions and bondage.
I therefore do not think fanaticism will do us any good.
Fanatics are more like Duryodhana, Dussasana or Dhritarashtra
rather than Arjuna or Dharmaraj. They may think that with
their aggressive behavior they may be serving the religion
or the dharma. In truth, they serve none but their demonic
nature and their delusional sense of self-importance. I
often come across Hindu fanatics. I can understand their
zeal, but I cannot agree with their views or their methods
of suppressing other people's opinions. Hinduism is not
a dogmatic religion. So a thousand views can coexist in
our religion, even when they are contradictory. These views,
whatever they may be, do not represent absolute truths,
but only the diversity and the delusion to which we are
subject. They suggest the predicament of human existence
and the limitations of the human mind in understanding transcendental
truths. We should defend our religion by practising it and
upholding its values and vision. A religion lives through
its people. Its greatness is reflected in the character
of its adherents. Therefore do not argue with me that your
religion is great. Show it to me through your character
Religion vs. Spirituality
First, you have to decide is whether you
are a religious person or a spiritual person. If you are
a religious person, you have to see how far you will take
your religion seriously. For me religion is a stepping stone,
a phase in the spiritual life of an aspirant. Religion is
a mixture of spiritual and social themes, which thrive on
group dynamics and the collective aspirations of its adherents.
It may become an obstacle, as it happens in case of many,
if you develop egoistic attachment to it and identify yourself
with it or begin to take pride in it. It is a pity people
commit most heinous crimes in the name of their religions.
We learn from history that religions can be dangerous tools
in the hands of impure and evil people. Religion can corrupt
your mind and lead you astray if you lack discretion (buddhi).
Playing with religion is like playing with fire. It can
burn you or sustain your life depending upon how you use
it. Therefore, take what you can from your religion for
your spiritual growth and self-transformation. If you are
a spiritual person, learn to live freely without fear or
compulsion of any injunction. That is the purpose of spiritual
life, to become free, to live freely without encumbrances.
Your aim should be to become detached from everything that
binds you and makes you act in certain predefined ways.
It includes religion and all the sentimentality it brings.
If you are a spiritual person, follow your conscience, practice
virtues that lead to your inner growth, exercise your discretion
(buddhi), and if you have chosen a guru out of wisdom (not
ignorance, greed, desire or fear) follow him or her in letter
and deed. The idea is you should be free eventually from
all that binds you and keeps you in chains here. So do not
try to replace old chains with new ones in the hope of becoming
free. If a religion cannot make you a better human being
morally and spiritually what is the use of following it?
Reinterpretation of the Samkhya
Philosophy in Modern terms
Life is a combination of these three: random
events, mechanical processes and intelligent actions. Probably
the random events are also mechanical processes; but at
this stage we do not have the knowledge to know as such.
Because we are made to be unpredictable, we can interfere
with the design of the universe and change it with our intelligence.
We are the “if and when” of the universe. The rest is all
designed to be automatic and mechanical. Matter becomes
intelligent consciousness through transformation (parinamam)
of the energy components. Then it takes over the leadership
of the world and things and becomes accountable and responsible
for its actions resulting in bondage and rebirth. To escape
from it we need a still higher intelligence that is not
subject to Nature. Samkhya says intelligence preexists eternally
in the form of individual souls. Our intelligence arising
from Nature is their reflection only. This intelligence
helps us to be free from all events, both random and intelligent
and takes us back to our original state, which we call liberation.
This is a somewhat reinterpreted modern account of the ancient
May be at a later stage we may add more complexity to our
lives by creating artificial intelligence, which may interfere
with the mechanical processes as well as our intelligent
actions, resulting in more uncertainty chaos and confusion.
It looks like artificial intelligence is the next level
of evolution waiting to happen here upon earth. Since Nature
is an automated mechanical force, it is possible to imitate
it and recreate the same effects it produces naturally.
If that happens, we may unleash forces beyond our control
and set in motion a chain of events, which may culminate
in our loss of leadership and further bio-diversity. What
we are now doing to Nature may then happen to us. We are
the Frankenstein monsters of Nature (I.A.M. 1.0) and we
are on the threshold of creating newer versions of this
intelligence, which is part creative and part destructive,
part divine and part demonic. (* I.A.M is my acronym for
Intelligent Animal Man who will then create I.A.M. 1.0 that
is Intelligent Artificial Man)
Reply to a Racist and a Religious
Someone from Iona College, Brisbane, Australia,
an independent Catholic Boys School, owned and administered
by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, sent me this
hate mail, "I am racist and I hate you, how does this make
you feel?" Here is my reply, “I feel sad because you study
in a religious school and learn only racism and hatred.
I feel sad because you do not have respect for the very
religion and its values. I feel sad because you who live
in Australia hate someone who lives in the US and never
met you or harmed you or intend to harm you. Where has gone
your humanity? I have never met Jesus, but I have a good
knowledge of his teachings. I know my beliefs and values
agree a lot more with his teachings than yours. Although
I am a Hindu, I secured the love of a Muslim Sufi saint
who promised to look after me and take care of me even after
he left from here. He never asked me to change my religion
or my beliefs. I could feel his love over flowing and touching
everyone who came his way. Although I am a devout Hindu,
I studied all religions to overcome my own prejudices. I
have a picture of Mary and Jesus on my desk, as a reminder
to me every day that I have to treat all religions with
respect. I know Jesus will be sad too for his sheep have
gone astray into the wilderness where he was once troubled
by the dark shadows. He will be sad because some of his
followers are becoming the very people who tortured him
and then crucified him. My dear, with hatred in your heart,
you will not be allowed to cross the bridge of doubt and
enter the gates of heaven. You have to resolve that delusion
of hatred here upon earth, if you want to travel by the
sunlit path to the world of immortals.
Yoga and Hinduism
Sometime back, I presented a video on the
origin and history of yoga in which I made a statement that
yoga was India's unique contribution to the world. I also
added that it was a more intense form of prayer and religious
worship, and a way of reaching out to God through intense
personal effort. These words came to me effortlessly, when
I began working on the video and I added them without hesitation
because I grew up with those convictions, having seen yoga
as an inseparable aspect of Hinduism, and never doubted
them. Some people did not like those statements because
they thought I was trying to add a theistic element to an
otherwise secular and atheistic philosophy of yoga. Many
people outside India do not know that yoga is interwoven
with Hinduism and it is essentially a spiritual practice
meant for liberation by cultivating purity (sattva) and
stabilizing citta (dynamic consciousness), concepts that
are essentially Hindu and alien to the religions and philosophies
that originated outside India. Yoga was not a Buddhist practice.
The Buddhist adapted it, just as they adapted many concepts
of the Vedic tradition, including the names of Hindu divinities
and concepts such as dharma, karma, reincarnation, mantra
and tantra. The Upanishads deal with the subject of yoga,
yoga techniques, types of yoga and the six fold yoga. The
Bhagavadgita is rightly known as Yogasastram, a scripture
on yoga. The title of every chapter either contains or ends
with the word yoga. Yoga is one of the ancient philosophies
(Darshanas) of Hinduism. The word Iswara mentioned in the
Yogasutra is essentially a Sanskrit word of Vedic origin.
Patanjali was a Vedic scholar and the scripture was taught
in the Vedic schools and gurukulas of ancient India.
If smoking marijuana is legalized for recreational
purposes, it will go down in history as one of the worst
mistakes of the 21st century made by any country with far-reaching
consequences for the physical, moral and spiritual wellbeing
of the entire nation. Every country has a collective karma
and its people have to pay dearly for the mistakes they
make collectively. Those who are anxious to legalize the
recreational use of Marijuana should read the history of
18th and 19th century China and know how it ruined that
country for several generations. Once you legalize it, you
cannot discriminate against drug addicts in matters of employment
and if you were an employer, you would not be comfortable
hiring them. You cannot also stop people and companies making
derivative products, including food and drinks, out of it
for profit. The only people who will benefit from such perverted
decision would be the drug dealers from across the border
and all the enemies of the USA. It is important to remember
that whether it is sports, recreation or life-style, the
USA sets the trends worldwide. If Marijuana is legalized
for recreational purposes, it will set bad precedence for
other cash strapped countries to follow because it is a
potentially good source of revenue.