Crossroads Of Religions: Quantum Resolution of Truth
Where does humanity stand at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first? Full-fledged man, Homo Sapiens, appeared on earth a little over one hundred thousand years ago. However, we get to know of man’s life, that also scantily, from what happened during the last cycle of his existence, that is, after the end of the last Ice Ace. In fact, our knowledge of human civilization does not go beyond eight thousand years.
The civilizations of Egypt and Sumeria are considered by many archaeologists as the most ancient. However, there is no agreement among the authorities with regard to the sequence of time among the contending ancient civilizations, namely, Cretan, Greek, Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Assirian, Iranian, Indus Valley, Aryan Indian, Chinese and so on. Certain institutions are found to be common to these ancient cultures. Political system was almost invariably Monarchy; religion was Polytheistic; relation between the political and religious institution was by and large harmonious, but not always so. Similarities in social laws are also found. Most of the ancient societies were dominated by the male; the position of women was rather subservient, polygamy being a common feature. War among neighboring states was common if not frequent. With regard to technology, Bronze Age was superseded by the Iron Age. As a result, advancement in agricultural and manufacturing tools and weaponry was manifest. Mining was known; but the main source of power were: domesticated animals, water, sunlight, different kinds of oil and wind. As for standard of living, a small number of people in every society enjoyed certain luxury, with labor coming from slaves or domestic servants; majority of the population lived a very modest life.
Through which preliminary steps civilizations reached the stage indicated above is difficult to delineate. In fact, it is well nigh impossible to establish a hierarchy of progress among the ancient civilizations noted above. On the other hand, we have specimen of truly primitive societies available in different continents. Aborigines of Australia, tribes of people living in distant jungles, hills and islands of India and many other Asian countries, Eskimos living near the North pole, American Indians available from the Northern tip of North America to the southern tip of South America, innumerable tribes spread over large areas of Black Africa are examples of primitive society. By and large these societies are egalitarian in character, monarchy being extremely rare. Technologically they are ill-developed; they have no written language or literature. They have, however, religion with a belief system in multiple divinities and a store of myths. The existence of these primitive societies is being threatened by the expansion of modern societies and the latter’s encroachment into the life and the society of the primitive people.
The big question is how did the most of the ancient civilizations die out? Actually, only the Chinese and the Vedic civilization of India have withstood death. The rest are dead for all practical purposes, though not without some relevance to modern life and thought. Causes of destruction could be either natural like, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, drought etc. or man-made, like, war. There were wars between Egypt and Greece, between Greece and Iran; this did not result in the ruination of any of these civilizations. Middle eastern civilizations of Sumeria, Babylon, Assyria etc. fought with one another, one defeated the other, one dynasty was replaced by another. These also cannot be made responsible for total elimination of any of these cultures. With regard to Indus Valley civilization, some scholars have conjectured that flood was the cause. Others guess that Indus Valley people did not know the use of horses; the Aryans came on horse back and could easily wipe out the Indus Valley people. There is hardly any proof that the Aryans came from the North as invaders. Some scholars draw attention to certain common elements connecting the Indus Valley with the Vedic culture; In the Indus Valley the head of a piece of sculpture looks like that of Shiva; another piece looks like a mother goddess. Indus Valley has two components: one is Mahenjo Daro and the other Harappa. Both are urban cultures and in that way somewhat different from the earlier pastoral Vedic culture. Some scholars think Indus Valley is truly Dravidian culture akin to that of South India. In any case, despite the disappearance of the Indus Valley, it remains in spirit a part of the Indian culture which has shown a remarkable continuity and vigor.
I have come up with an idea that the emergence of Monotheism as an aggressive religion has gone a long way in destroying most of the ancient civilizations.
Monotheism as a Problem
What is the origin of monotheism? Judaism has to be given credit or discredit for it. Abraham heard the voice of a god; he has to take his first-born son and sacrifice him at an alter to prove his loyalty. This god is Yahweh, who introduced himself later to Moses as ‘I am the god of Abraham, god of Isaac and Jacob, and commanded him to work for the freedom of the Jewish people from bondage of slavery to the Egyptian monarch and that he would help him all the way. After a long and tortuous trial Moses succeeded in taking his folks from the clutch of the pharaoh. After the great act of liberating his people, Moses was rewarded with an encounter with his god on Mount Sinai. Besides receiving ten commands to guide his people Moses was instructed to proceed toward Palestine with his people to find land to settle. In the face of opposition from local people, Moses and his people were to give battle, kill all the opponents without sparing women and children; he was also instructed to destroy the emblems of those people and desecrate their alters. This is how Jews were to settle in newly found lands and establish their religion and the sacred commandments. The matter sounds like what is called ‘might is right’. How is it justifiable? Justification lies in the great god and the and the laws given to his chosen people to bring all other peoples under these laws of conduct. Pretty soon numerous other instructions came from Yahweh to his chosen instrument, Moses. One very important command was: do not worship any other god but me’. This is the root of monotheism. Obviously, worship of many gods was prevalent among Jews as well as among other groups of people. In fact, all over the Torah references to worship of other divinities occur. Of course, the book is also replete with criticism of those who indulged in the propitiation of other gods for this or that favor.
The Jewish scripture Torah is known among Christians as the Old Testament. This highly edited voluminous work was composed over a long period of time. In the pages of the Torah, we come across stories of many prophets, major and minor, which contributed to the foundation of Judaism and its cardinal doctrine, monotheism.
Christianity sprang from Judaism. Jesus, a Jew, wanted to reform the Judaic practices of their religion. He decried the hollow rituals performed by the priests; he emphasized inner feelings and sincere submission to the Divine. Priests in high positions did not like the critical remarks of Jesus. They would rather get him removed from the scene. They succeeded, in collusion with the Roman authority, in bringing a charge of sedition against Jesus. Eventually Jesus was convicted and was crucified.
The faithful followers of Jesus became scattered after his crucifixion. However, they began to congregate together later. Paul who was originally opposed to Jesus had a strong mystical experience converting him to an ardent follower. Paul took a leading role in organizing the followers into a Faith. Paul, though a Jew grew up with Greek learning in a Greek environment. In developing a Christian theology, Paul drew heavily on Greek mystery cults as well as on Hindu-Buddhist sources. His contribution was so great that some scholars consider him as the real founder of Christianity. It is, however, difficult to pin point which element of Christology came from where and through what process. In any case, Judaic doctrine of monotheism became the bedrock of Christian theology although it was somewhat modified by the concept of the Trinity. The idea of Jesus being an incarnation of God must have come from Hinduism and a tilt toward non-violence, unknown in Judaism, would be a Buddhist contribution. Christian monastic system was also borrowed from Buddhist practices.
The thrust of monotheism led to the idea of the presence of Jesus with Heavenly Father at the very inception of Creation, (Gospel of John) implying thereby no real split between the Father and the Son. It is easy to keep the Holy Ghost unified with the dual divinity of Father and Son since Holy Ghost is the Force of the divine. Now we can examine what has been accomplished by the doctrine of monotheism. In the meantime we need to say a few words about Islamic monotheism.
Islam is undoubtedly an offshoot of Judaism. As Abraham was picked up by Yahweh so did Allah, who was most likely associated with the worship of the moon, visited Mohammed. Mohammed's contact and knowledge of Judaism became deep when he took shelter in Medina. Mohammed needed the concept of monotheism badly since too many divinities in the then Arabia gave rise to a scene of chaos. Mohammed brought order in the sphere of the Divine and also in worship by eliminating all but one god. The basic dictum of Islam is : there is no God, but Allah; Mohammed is his prophet. This is uncompromising monotheism; apparently it dismisses the God of the other two Semitic religions. It would be great indeed if he could bring in monogamy along with monotheism. However, he limited the number of wives to four. As was in Judaism, so in Christianity and Islam, worship of angels and saints cropped up in due course. Mohammed went to the extreme with regard to the prohibition of the use of ‘graven images’ in worship.
Jewish kingdom in the Middle East flourished for sometime. Before long it began to
face opposition and inevitably war. In the process the kingdom broke down; a large number of Jews and the common people had to accept exile in Babylon. During this period of exile they came in contact with the teachings of Zoroaster. A very prominent part of this religion is a rivalry between Ahuramazda and Ahriman, God and
the Satan. This aspect of the teaching was adopted by the Jews, which they transmitted to Christianity and Islam in course of time. After the Jews got back to their kingdom, they came in conflict with the Romans. It was difficult for them to submit to the Romans who had no respect for their god and their way of life. Several of their revolts against the Romans were put down heavy-handedly by the Romans. Eventually , having been harassed in many other ways by the Romans, Jews decided to leave Jerusalem and other seats of their faith and power. A large number of them took shelter in East European countries. Of course many Jews remained in the Middle East pursuing their mode of life and faith. During this time (early Christian era) almost the all of Europe was under Roman rule which was reaching out to the Middle East. As the western Roman empire began to disintegrate during the fourth and the fifth centuries, Jewish people began to move in small numbers toward the West. Christianity, having been accepted by emperor Constantine (in the fourth century) began to spread gradually in European countries. Many Jews found themselves in France, Germany, Spain etc; but they were meticulous in maintaining their distinctive identity. As the whole of Europe became Christian, the Jews began to feel isolated. Christians were hostile toward the Jews, the main reasons being, the Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah for whom they were waiting, secondly they were responsible for the demise of the Christ on the cross. For many centuries the Jews lived in Europe as ostracized people subject to many restrictions. For example, they were not allowed to own land and they had to live in designated areas later known as ghettos.
Here, we see two monotheistic peoples in a state of hatred for each other. One important aspect of monotheism is that it does not believe just in God but also at the same time insists on singular opinion about everything. There could be only one code of conduct One way of worship, one dietary system, one designated dress for each category of people and so on and so forth. This brings regimentation as well as intolerance of deviation from the accepted norm. This position is exemplified very prominently among orthodox members of a particular monotheistic community. For example, the orthodox group of Jews living in Israel have been trying to adhere to strict Jewish code in every aspect of life. They refuse to accept any change in the context of modernity. They avoid military service since they must study the scripture for the benefit of all Jews. They are militant about strict observance of the Sabbath. They do not accept a convert as a member of the Jewish community unless the person is converted by an orthodox Rabbi. Similar one-sidedness and intolerance of deviation are to be found among Muslims, the vast majority of whom are into orthodoxy. In some respects Muslims go farther than orthodox Jews. Muslim countries, except Turkey, cannot accept the separation of religion and the state. By the same token, Muslim countries cannot ban polygamy demanded by the modern idea of equality of man and woman in the eye of law. In Islam music and plastic arts were prohibited; consequently even now music or painting cannot have any place in any religious ceremony. If a Hindu or a Buddhist dies in some of the Islamic countries, the dead body cannot be cremated in that country; it has to be transported to the dead person’s native country for creamation.
Most Christian countries of Europe and America have gone through a process of modernization; first through Renaissance of fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, next through the revolution in life- style through a steady progress in Technology. So we do not come across set rules and regulations of every aspect of ostensible life. All the same, singularity of opinion with respect of religion has remained virtually the same. Of course reformation and Counter Reformation resulted mainly from the Greco-Roman values of Humanism and Rationalism. Before we examine Christian intolerance from sixteenth century on, let us mention what happened prior to that period. Medieval Christian Europe is a scene of terrible intolerance. Any deviation from established opinion with respect to any aspect of faith and conduct was met with terrible punishment. Inquisitions condemned countless people to die in dungeons. Hundreds of thousands of girls and women have been burnt to death as witches on flimsy grounds. Even the properties of these wretched souls have been confiscated to pay for the reporter of the supposed transgression and of the execution of the punishment. Burning of books representing contrary opinions was a practice common to Christians and Muslims.
Reformation launched first by Martin Luther, ushered in a period of tremendous acrimony and hostility. Not long after gaining success and recognition Martin Luther passed orders for eliminating the Anabaptists. Once the Protestants got out of Catholicism, a long period of acrimonious controversy started among them. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Puritans, Methodists, Society of Friends etc. turned into not just separate churches but into veritable separate religions; the same is true even at this day. Of course, innumerable new churches have sprung up and the process is continuing. In the United States Baptism is very powerful as a fundamentalist Church, which, again, has been divided into southern and northern Baptist. Each of the major Churches has a judicial system to mete out punishment to ecclesiastical offenders. The laws governing the judicial systems have been derived from the Old and New Testaments as given by the extremely judgmental God and his human representatives. Judicial systems of modern countries are by and large secular in character based primarily on Roman law as codified by emperor Justinian in the seventh century; Christian input has, however, come to them in varying degrees. Of course, the spirit of modernity and the exigencies of technological era are bringing welcome changes in modern judicial systems. We have not touched the eastern Orthodox Churches, which separated themselves from the Roman church a little over a thousand years ago. Enough has, however, been shown how rigidly monolithic character of everything is shaped by monotheism, which has no room for any other deity, and, for that matter, any alternative mode of thought and conduct.
Conflicts in Monotheism
Muslim countries that came under western colonial rules have had a dose of modernity. These countries are now, having been liberated from colonial rules, attempting to go back to the laws of Sharia, traditional Islamic law. Those few Muslim countries which remained untouched by colonialism, have been immersed in Islamic law; Islamic world does not seem to have much room for reason humanism and the spirit of Technology. It should be noted that during the first few hundred years after the launching of the new religion by the prophet(570-632), Islam established itself over a large area of Asia and North Africa; it was a period of glory for Islam. The civilization it built was splendid in style and content by pre-technological standard. Islamic culture of this period was far superior to the culture of medieval Christian culture of Europe. With the passage of time, however, Islam lost much of its original fervor; it became more formalized and structured. Centering round the Koran, and the tradition (Hadith) Islam got into a phase of conventionalism. Study of Greek thoughts and rendering of numerous Greek books into Arabic came to a halt; openness to other religious disciplines was gone. Islam as a religion is still laboring in this phase of rigid conventionality. Because of absence of questioning and free thinking, Islam fails to adjust itself to the spirit of technology and individualism.
One interesting feature of Islam deserves mention here. Whenever a Muslim country faces a calamity, the Mullahs come forward and declare that people have deviated from strict Islamic code, that is why suffering has come upon them; they must go back to the only true religion and its rules. Some Mullahs in Banda Ache, a province of Sumatra, Indonesia, where extensive relief works are being conducted by American and other volunteers to bring relief to people hit hardest by a very strong earthquake and tsunami resulting from it, (December, 26, 04) have warned the relief workers that no missionary activity would be tolerated. It is interesting to learn some Christian missionaries are there in the guise of relief workers, looking for a scope to convert Muslims to Christianity. Mullahs, however, are urging their young folks to give up drinking and pre-marriage sex. Something similar happened in 1883 when a very strong volcanic eruption, known as kakatoa, took place in a spot three hundred miles from Banda Ache in which forty thousand Indonesians were killed. Mullahs declared that people must go back to Islam, drive the infidel Dutch rulers from the country and at the same time bring the remaining Hindus to the light of Islam, the true religion
Truth is the casualty of monotheism and its corollary, exclusive adherence to certain doctrines and mode of worship and conduct. Religion is supposed to give us the truth of the fundamental reality and guide us to lead a righteous life. Now, see the contradictory viewpoints of these three: Jewish people did not recognize in Jesus the Messiah come. Christians claim that Jesus has superseded the Jewish principle ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ by a higher principle of ethics--turning the other cheek, forgetting and forgiving. They also believe that the coming of Jesus was foreshadowed in a number of utterances in the Old Testament. Muslims and Jews do not subscribe to the idea of God incarnating in any human being. Muslims say ‘God was not begotten by anybody, nor does God beget anybody’. Jews and Christians did not take Mohammed’s claim to receiving Revelation seriously for many centuries. They think his claim to be the greatest of the prophets is preposterous since he cannot be credited with anything original. His world-view and most other things have been taken from Judaism and partly from Christianity. His claim to be the latest of the prophets is arbitrary and frivolous. Islam repudiated any claim to prophet-hood after Mohammed in the Islamic tradition. Bahaullah (hailing from Iran in the 19th century) was such a claimant. He came out with three propositions: We should extend our hand of friendship to other religions; men and women should be treated equally; there is no finality of truth, truth evolves. One great thinker made the remark “If Islam had accepted Bahaullah’s ideas instead of persecuting him, Islam would be a better religion.” Christian claim that Jesus is the savior of all mankind is, of course, rejected by all non-Christians.
So far is the disagreement among the three monotheistic religions of Semitic origin.
Epoch-making scientific discoveries namely, the Law of Gravitation, General Theory of Relativity, have brought in new outlook about Reality and new formulation of the truth about the universe. Quantum Mechanics is such a stupendous discovery. However, full implication of this theory has not yet caught the imagination of thinking mind. Everyday scientific work and philosophic mind do still function under the aegis of the Law of Gravitation as modified by the General Theory of Relativity.
Two features of Quantum Mechanics are extremely significant. Electrons jump orbit as they move round proton and neutron at the center of an atom; it is not possible to determine where exactly an electron would be located in its orbit as what amount of stimulus. This leads to the principle of indeterminism and the idea that reality at its core does not behave mechanically. This also implies the presence of a modicum of intelligence in the heart of matter. Of course, matter no longer conforms to the conventional definition of matter; it is energy, which appears as mass or matter. The second feature of Q. Mechanics is that as the human eye looks at the atom, with the help of most sophisticated and powerful instruments, the particles within the atom change their behavior. As a result, what we learn about an atom is not purely objective knowledge, rather knowledge produced by the interaction of the object and the apprehending subject. This brings us to the conclusion that all knowledge at its core is a combination of the subjective and the objective factors. On the other hand, sciences insist on objective knowledge, and the rejection of any subjective element in our understanding of life and reality. Of Course, it is normally possible to extricate the subjective element while dealing with non-living things of moderate and large sizes. We can measure the movements of stars and planets as well as of motions of rocks and water etc. accurately following the accepted standards; but the question lurks if such ‘correct’ calculations are absolutely correct. Again, is there anything non-living? Is it likely that our so-called objective knowledge suffers from an inherent defect?
What we gather from the second feature of Q. Mechanics is that knowledge at bottom is participatory in character. When the knower participates in the known, the knowledge is full and perfect. The question may be raised how can we participate in rocks, gases and water? Apparently, participation with material objects may sound far fetched; but we need to consider how innumerable sub-atomic particles come and go and at the same time constitute an atom, which carry potentially features of living things and strands of mental function. This being the reality, do we not feel compelled to give up the conventional divide between matter and non-matter and come to the notion of a ubiquitous intelligent energy pervading the cosmos? Subject-object interaction is possible at all levels and stages of energy. The ubiquitous energy may manifest itself in countless shapes and forms. It is possible to think of different patterns of energy in distinctive grades, like, material, vital, mental etc; It is conceivable the permutation and combination of these into infinite entities apparently distinct from one another. The ancient wisdom of Vedanta) Hindu philosophy speaks of everything coming out of Consciousness (chit).
It would be in order to refer to String Theory as the origin of the universe. Einstein spent the last thirty years of his life seeking for a unified theory governing Astro-Physics. He could not reconcile himself with the Uncertainty principle in Q. Mechanics. He remarked, ‘God does not play at dice’. His presupposition was that everything in the universe would work smoothly. He did not consider that the Uncertainty principle might carry in it a mystery of free choice and unique creativity.
Two hundred years ago one scientist in Switzerland produced an equation signifying the origin of the universe. About sixty years ago one Italian physicist came upon it accidentally. Since then the equation has come under scrutiny by numerous scientists leading eventually to the formulation of the String Theory in 1984 as the origin of the universe. Of course, the conclusion is not final; controversy about the theory is still raging.
However, the String Theory speaks of vibratory strings billion times smaller than the nucleus of an atom as the constituent elements of atoms. These strings are fundamental chords of reality, all-pervading vibrating energy. This energy field is the underlying origin of the universe. Unfortunately, this theory cannot be tested and proven since nobody can see the strings or in any way demonstrate the existence of these. However, this theory has been presented mathematically as a flawless equation. Currently, scientists are speaking of five different versions of the theory as well as too many dimensions of the physical universe. Scientists want to remain within the boundary of their discipline; they definitely avoid getting into the realm of philosophy. We do, however, think that if we combine the philosophies of Kashmir Saivism and of the Life Divine of Sri Aurobindo, we can arrive at a more comprehensive picture of the String Theory as the origin of the cosmos. This may also provide us with a unified theory Einstein was looking for.
String Theory rejects the Theory of Big Bang as the origin of the universe. It questions, ‘what does bang stand for? Is the 14.5 billion years as the date of beginning of the universe final?’ Is there really a beginning of creation? Vedic literature tells us ‘Brahman (Supreme Being) says, I am alone, I will be many’ and instantaneously the cosmos springs forth from Him. We find in Genesis, the opening book of the Old Testament, ‘God said, let there be light, and there was light’. In both the cases creation started with a word or words which is sound even as a vibratory string produces sound. Of course, these two statements of two scriptures have to be taken symbolically; they have stated brilliantly the first beginning of things with a childlike episode.
Cycles of Creation and Dissolution
Creation is obviously a process; in Bhagavad Gita the world has been spoken of as ‘ksara Brahman’, Brahman in movement. In the Indian tradition Creative process has been divided into many epochs of diverse long and short periods of time. At the end of so many small and great epochs forming a kalpa, the cosmos gets reabsorbed in the Supreme. Again, after an equivalent period of silence, Creation starts rolling once again. Time starts with the Creation; but the Creator is conceived as supracosmic timeless eternity. It reminds us of Aristotle’s God as the Prime Mover or unmoved mover. In the theory of Big Band on the contrary, time starts with the Big Bang; there is no concept of the end of a cycle nor anything of a Creator as the origin of the infinitesimal speck of energy they speak of as the starting point. However, the theory of Big Bang supports our contention in one respect: If the universe started from one quantum of whatever, matter or force, it stands for the fact that ultimately everything in the universe belongs to an underlying Unity. It is interesting that the astronomer who came up with the name Big Bang (1931) was a Catholic priest. Scientists have to insulate science from the Divine or metaphysics whatever might be their postulates. It may be noted that ever since the promulgation of the theory of Big Bang in 1930-31, the theory is being polished; it has yet to take a final shape. Again, the theory cannot be demonstrated or experimented with; it is concerned with the material universe only, but a considerable part of the endless expanding universe falls outside the experience of modern scientific tools.
Of course, the Indian concept of the cycle of creation, annihilation and recreation cannot also be proven scientifically. All the same it provides us with Creator as the root and origin of energy and an end which does not end altogether. As there is no absolute beginning in time, so there is no final end of the universe.
Process of Creation and Evolution
The process of creation can be spoken of as a movement downward or outward from the Creator who is supreme Consciousness. As the supreme Consciousness spreads itself, the descending consciousness creates many levels of itself, each moving farther and farther from the original purity. The lowest level turns into Nescience, the very opposite of full consciousness. Since the supreme consciousness is involved in Nescience, another process of creation starts as the involved consciousness begins to evolve. This is how matter of different forms and shapes emerges. This is the manifestation of the physical universe from primal energy-field attributed to strings. String Theory intends to remain within the confines of science and avoids getting into metaphysics. It tells us that it harmonizes the basic forces of the universe with its concept of the string; String is the undercurrent of gravitation, electricity, magnetism and weak and strong nuclear energy. However, we have to bring in metaphysics to present a fuller picture of Reality. It may be shown that Energy Mass Time and Space are at bottom identical.
As we have mentioned, strings cannot be demonstrated; no process is likely to be devised for that. Besides, String Theory points to many more dimensions of Reality than the three we are familiar with. We can account for the extra dimensions better with help from metaphysics. In the process of descent downward and outward the supreme Consciousness has created many universes with distinct and differentiated levels of consciousness. Physical universe is only one among many universes; even in this universe there is infinite diversity. In the process of evolution, i. E., upward journey of the consciousness, wonderful creativity is being manifested. The physical universe we inhabit is a marvelous spectacle of countless galaxies, stars, planets and so on.
We are living in a period, which has been designated as space age. Exploration of space has progressed considerably, yet a lot more about boundless space remains to be explored. Hubble space telescope has been bringing to our view millions of galaxies from which light takes billions of years to travel to our tiny globe, the earth. The expanse of space simply boggles our mind. Voyager one has reached the edge of the solar sphere having sent on the way wonderful pictures of a number of planets of the outer reach of the solar system. Boyager two is on a similar mission. Our knowledge about distant planets and their moons has improved infinitely. All these make us feel a part of the physical universe however unimaginably vast. It feels good to think that we are made of the same elements as any other thing in the universe.
The big question is there any species like us in any part of the universe? Astronomers have so far located seventy planets attached to certain stars. But so far hardly any knowledge about these planets has been obtained. Of course, in the solar system the earth is the only place where life is thriving. At this point of time planet Mars is being probed; no sign of life has been found there although the presence of water in some early period has been confirmed. It seems planet earth is very special; evolutionary process has taken a special form here and the process is most likely to continue. Matter is the first evolute from Nescience. We inhabit in a tiny speck of the boundless physical universe. The next evolute is prana, the vital. It is likely there is a vast vital world and vital beings inhabit that world. We do not see that world but we understand what is prana or the vital since we are breathing living beings. On earth the physical has been the vehicle of life. Combination of life and body has produced the world of living creatures starting from tiny bactaria to highly developed animals like chimpanzee. Obviously, a lengthy process of evolution has taken place in the kingdom of living creatures. The image of a big tree with many branches and twigs has been used to place aquatic animals, trees, plants, insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, and primates and so on in a certain order. The next stage of evolution is the world of the mind and mental beings. Normally we do not see the beings dwelling in the incorporeal worlds of the mind. However, the principle of mind has already started to operate in the higher species of animals before shaping the consciousness of Hominids and eventually Homo Sapiens. We humans carry a living and thinking body; all human beings, whatever their differences in shape, color, capacity to think, imagine or create, form but one species.
Though we belong to one species, there is considerable difference among us with regard to mental capacity, which means our mind, is still evolving. Since Mind is not the highest level of consciousness, there is a chance for humanity not just to evolve a little more mentally but also to actually evolve into a higher type of being called higher man, over man, superman by different visionaries.
One very important feature of evolution on planet earth is that infusion of the life-consciousness in matter has brought changes in the physical structure of plants and animals. Certain species have been shaped to function in water, some to fly others to function on land only; plants in general have no locomotion, certain species can function in both water and land while some birds can hardly fly. Compared to the physiology of sub-human creatures, human physiology is highly refined. Further evolution of man may not require any drastic change in his physiology. The process of evolution may not warrant total replacement of humanity by a race of overman or superman. However, if a definitively higher level of consciousness, vijnana or supermind dawns in humanity, a corresponding change of some magnitude may occur in all living creatures on earth. We cannot forget that the earth forms one unit of environment with its Geo, bio and Mental spheres.
Objective and Subjective Knowledge
We can now go back to our original contention that knowledge pursued in modern age of science and technology is fragmented. Pursuit of techniques and tools started from the very beginning of civilization. In fact periods of civilization have been designated with reference to materials used to make tools, namely, Old Stone Age, New Stone Age, Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age. Knowledge of sciences was sought in all old cultures and some of this knowledge was applied in building monuments and ships for trade. Ships and chariots and weapons were used in warfare also. All the same, it may be argued that in olden days knowledge was pursued not exclusively in objective fashion, the subject was also involved in the pursuit. Scientific inquiries in old cultures like those of Egypt, Greece, India, were undertaken by philosophers and mystics; Engineers who built the Pyramids must have been guided by mystics according to certain line of thinking. As for the Greek thinkers, it is difficult to distinguish a scientist from a philosopher. These thinkers arrived at scientific conclusions, it seems, as much by introspection as by observation and experimentation. Aristotle, the last of the great Greek philosophers, was also a Biologist. Indian as well as Greek medical system came to regard the three humors as fundamental in determining the health of a person. Obviously, they came to this idea through, what I have called, participatory method; subjective feeling and objective approach together brought about the conclusion. Similar method seems to have been followed by Chinese founders of their medical system.
There has been a positive shift in the method pursued in search of knowledge with European Renaissance. Descartes and Francis Bacon are considered to have set the tone for the new orientation of scientific inquiry. To explicate the point we have to examine the historic period preceding the appearance of these two seventeenth century philosophers.
In the fourteenth century Western Europe was devastated by Plague, a terribly contagious disease. This resulted in a shake up of the Feudal system in western Europe since a large number of share croppers and serfs tied to the land owned by the Feudal lords fell victims to this disease. However, not long after the disruption caused by the Plague, population began to grow rapidly. In search of livelihood, people began to get into some kind of craft. During this time the great Italian traveler Marco polo brought from China a number of innovations, namely, gunpowder, ceramics, compass, most importantly, printing technique. These gave an added impetus to numerous crafts. In 1453 Constantinople fell to Ottoman Turks; Greek scholars left Constantinople and sought shelter in cities like Florence, Genoa, Venice. They brought with them large number of books on Greek literature, philosophy, sciences etc. European Christians were not favorably disposed to these pagan works. Yet the message of Reason and Humanism that they carried, began to spread gradually. Italy experienced an efflorescence of art, literature, philosophy and science, which inspired other parts of Europe subsequently. On the other hand, trade routes to the east through Arab countries had been closed due to the Crusades. Only way to the East was the oceans; consequently Mediterranean ports began to bustle with ship-building activities along with internal trade among nations of southern and western Europe. As a result prosperity grew in the whole area. Soon after Portuguese navigator Vasco Da Gama made a trip to South India in 1498, via the cape of Good Hope, Trade organizations began to be formed in most of the western and southern European countries with the blessings of the monarchs of respective countries. Thus, during sixteenth century the forces of Renaissance brought about a stirring in Europe. Protestant Reformation and Counter Reformation shook of traditional control of the mind by established religion to a degree. Forces of Reason and Humanism began to open up new horizons to inquiring minds. Copernicus of Poland came up with his thesis that it is not the sun moves round the earth, rather earth moves round the sun, in 1543. When the published work reached his hand he was in his deathbed; so the Vatican did not have a scope to harass him. (It may be noted here that some Greek thinkers, namely, Aristocas, came up with heliocentric ideas in the fourth century B C E.) Galileo developed the idea further, for which he had to spend the last years of his life under house arrest. Descartes, (first great philosopher of modern Europe who was also a scientist, left France for Holland, a tolerant Protestant country with a view to avoid harassment. In liberal England Bacon, founder of inductive logic, was not bothered for his ideas.
Modern European Outlook
Descartes’ famous utterance, cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, sums up his philosophy in some way. He has made a clear distinction between his thinking mind and the world outside; he identified himself with his thought or his soul; the rest of the world is out there, not a part of himself. This implies that to understand the reality properly we need to dissociate ourselves from the thing we try to probe; only we need to apply the steps of logic to arrive at a right conclusion. This is the objective method; this is what we have to follow in our pursuit of knowledge whatever is the object of our study. It should, however, be noted that this objective method of pursuing knowledge came down as a legacy of the last great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, who influenced heavily scholastic philosophies of Medieval Europe, especially the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas ( ).
Francis Bacon went one step further. Imbued by a secular spirit, he advocated the use of the scientific method of observation and experimentation with a view to have control over natural phenomena. For the use of the resources of nature he was not against manipulation of nature. This is the typical attitude of technology. Bacon was ready to use reason as a mere tool to harness natural resources for advancement of our civilization. In earlier Greek civilizations scientific knowledge was pursued with intuitive reason, that is to say, having involved the subject in the study of the object. Technical application of that knowledge was made cautiously and judiciously. In the modern age of Technology technocrats are simply guided by the consideration of practical use of knowledge and the utilitarian benefits a device brings. They have no regard for the sanctity of knowledge and any concern about possible ill effect of its application down the road. Newton, the greatest of the scientists, believed that the sacred knowledge of Gravitation came to him as a revelation. He had been an occultist and mystic all his life. However, following the methodology advocated by Descartes and Bacon as well as the works of Galileo and Kepler, Newton devised a new branch of Mathematics, Differential Calculus, and shown the way to measure the motions of matter celestial and earthly. The late seventeenth century public immensely honored him for his accomplishments.
Triumph of Technology brings Power
Invention of techniques demands improvement upon what has been invented. In the process newer techniques appear and before long a tempo is generated for further and further improvement. Advanced techniques always bring rewards in the area of trade as well as in battles. European trading companies which went out, during the seventeenth century, to Asia, Africa and the newly discovered Americas began to gain wealth. Their technical superiority put them in advantageous situation out in those continents as well as East and West Indies. Before long they were occupying territories and kingdoms. Wealth began to be poured into the economies of European nations. In the competition among these nations, England came ahead of others in trade as well as in empire building. Thus, Industrial Revolution started in England first. The year 1760 is taken as the starting point of I. Revolution. After England, other West European countries came to prominence industrially. Not before the middle of the nineteenth century, North America entered into the industrial era.
Bigger technical projects, namely, textile mills, remodeling ships to be powered by steam, Railways to carry goods and passengers, required large investments. It is agreed upon by historians that without Indian loot, England could not have surpassed other nations in industrial pre-eminence. Of course, other nations also had their share of loot from their respective dominions and spheres of influence. United States became wealthy mainly by exploiting the slaves, decimating the Red Indians, and by using Chinese labors. Competition for market share and dominions made the colonial powers engage in numerous battles among themselves, which eventually led them to the two devastating World Wars. Wars, again, brought about technological growth. In World War I air planes and chemical weapons were used. In World War II sophisticated submarines and fighter planes played a big role, and the war ended with the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. War is, of course, destructive and destabilizing. After World War I financial capital of the world was shifted from London to New York; after World War II United States came out as the most powerful nation in the world financially as well as militarily.
Benefits of Knowledge and Power
With the progress of Industrial revolution, starting from the eighteenth century, tremendous advancements have taken place in all the branches of science; many newer branches and sub branches of sciences have opened up. This inexorable pursuit of knowledge has taken place following the objective method. This is not to say that progress has not taken place in humanities and fine arts where the subjective side played a prominent role. Very significant creativity has been manifest in areas of architecture, painting, music and literature in the West because of the emergence of a segment
Of population who enjoyed leisure due to general affluence in Europe and North America. Unfortunately, in activities even in these areas of creativity a significant shift has been noticeable for some time. Gradually everything is being commercialized. America is in the apex of industrialism and commercialism; the rest of the world is trying to imitate America willy nilly. Contradictions in American society have gone so far that I wonder if this society is at a dead end. If it dwindles it may take the rest of the world with it.
Wholistic Truth through participation
We started with the problem of truth. Truth has to be participatory; subjective and the objective approach together has to bring to us the more complete picture. If science and technology have brought to us so much knowledge, so much comfort, how can that be injurious? The balance between the subjective and the objective has been disturbed; because of that everything good has generated its counterpart, the bad. Some of the basic contradictions of this most advanced society will, I hope, highlight the misbalance in the pursuit I have been hinting at.
Problems of Marxism
The Soviet experiment with Socialism failed because it was guided mainly by the philosophy of Karl Marx who was truly an economist rather than a philosopher. Marx witnessed how mercilessly the industrialists were exploiting the laborers and how terrible was the plight of working men. He thought of a radical solution. He advocated state ownership of all property and means of production. He dreamt of the state taking care of all the reasonable necessities of workers in return to their faithful service to the state. He was not in a mood to assess numerous aspects of the great transformation he proposed for a rounded view of reality. He said that philosophers spent all their time understanding the world, he would, instead change the world. He did not consider, among other things, two important issues: if the workers got all they needed they would be lax and cease to give service to the best of their capacity. Secondly, whatever might have been the situation of primitive communism, in modern times, if you take away private ownership you smother incentive to innovate and create. You cannot treat humans as robots; you have to take into account the diverse aspects of the human mind. Communists in different parts of the world have pinned their faith in Marxism as though it was the final word about social evolution. Marx spoke of dialectics; his system is known as dialectical materialism. Dialectics means change in the object of study as well as in the mind which studies the phenomenon. The followers of Marx have forgotten that his theory was based on the observation of the plight of workers toiling in manufacturing plants. Technology has brought about significant changes in the field of Industry. Non-manufacturing service industry has gained pre-eminence in industrialized countries .Even in manufacturing plants changes have been introduced with a view to making work less boring and more pleasant for workers. Marx’s interpretation of history has been purely economic. Surely economy plays a very significant role in individual and collective life; all the same, economy is not everything. One-sidedness of his vision made him come up with such a preposterous proposition as the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Members of the proletariat cease to be proletariat as soon as they assume dictatorial power.
The Impact of Technology
There is a good deal of wisdom in the adage, 'man cannot live by bread alone'. The shortsightedness of Marxism is obvious. Is capitalistic system much better? The tempo of technology, progress, expansion of the economy and the power it brings blinded vision of the leaders of Technology and industries as well as of the leaders of nations. Of course, it may be argued no one leader or any group of leaders had any control over the forces of Technology. Individuals and nations were driven by forces without any foresight or vision of where they were being taken. It seems it is almost too late for any nation, however powerful, to steer the earth-ship to a safe harbor. The world body, U N O, reorganized properly, might be the only hope. However, before we get into globalism, it would be in order to dwell on some of the shortsightedness and contradictions that the leading nations, especially United States, suffer from.
World War I was fought with the assumption of ending all wars. The reparation demanded on defeated Germany was so big that guaranteed the rise of Hitler to challenge the allied forces. Russian revolution of 1917 came as a big shock to the imperial and capitalistic powers of Europe. Instead of trying to contain the forces represented by the communist revolution, the imperial powers presented a wall of opposition. It shows that they had no vision of the future; only thing they were interested was to retain their stranglehold on their colonies. Were they any less materialistic than the communists? Was there any attempt to restrict stockpiling of chemical weapons and stop the production of biological weapons?
Japan and the Bomb
Japan was the only truly free nation of Asia. It left its allies of World War I, became a friend of Germany and aimed at building a little empire for itself. This is another example of blindness about the future waiting in the wing. Japan submitted unconditionally after it was hit by two atomic bombs, one after the other in a matter of three days. United States developed the atomic bomb and used it. What was the assumption of Truman administration? Has any lethal device invented by one party remained a secret for long in history? Soviet Union detonated atomic device within four years, in 1949. England acquired the bomb in 1955, France in early sixties and China just a few years later; the process has been continuing; the number of members of the Nuclear Club keeps on increasing
The League of Nations failed to prevent the preparation for the Second World War, which broke out just after twenty years the League of Nations was inaugurated in 1919. The United Nations has grown steadily; it took off in 1945 with only a handful of members; it is now 191 members strong. The strength and activity of U N have increased enormously. Nevertheless, it derives its authority from sovereign states especially the permanent members of the Security Council. U N O could be a catalyst for broad changes the world over if it could be endowed with a measure of sovereignty
Anomalies in Marxist Predictions
However, before we get into the possible formation of some sort of a world government, it would be in order to dwell on some of the basic contradictions in Marxist thinking as well as in the conditions of life in the United States touted as the model to be emulated by the rest of the world. Let us take up democracy first. Karl Marx was not an outstanding philosopher; he belonged to the atheistic lineage of Hegel headed by Feurback. However, Marx was certainly a great economist. He studied the capitalist system thoroughly; many of his observations are still valid. But some of the basic presuppositions have proven false. For example, he predicted that gradually wealth would be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands; and this group of people would dictate the pattern and quality of life of a nation, whatever democratic features that society might have in place. Eventually impoverished masses would take to revolution; this would lead to the destruction of the capitalist system and the establishment of socialist republic. Nothing of the sort has taken place although American capitalist system has been at the height of its development. Marx and other theorists were aware of the situation; they were baffled by the resilience of the American economy. This only shows any theoretical concept derived from a particular historical situation of a group of countries, in this case West European nations, does not apply to every country and clime. Bolshevik revolution in Russia did not result from high industrial development in that country. One of the main reasons of American resiliency is that American capitalism was not preceded by a feudal system as in West European countries. The gap that was there between the aristocracy and the working class in social status as well as in economic condition was practically absent in the United States. However, we are concerned here with certain basic problems of American capitalist system.
Anomalies in the Capitalist System
What we see happening in American society is that both the major parties are under the stranglehold of big money. Big institutions( not excluding the churches), businesses and wealthy individuals bankroll the increasing expenses of election campaigns; principle followed is quid pro quo. The only difference between the two parties is that the Democratic Party does not forget the poor and the disadvantaged in formulating laws; the Republican Party works aggressively for the rich while not neglecting the poor altogether. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening rapidly. A situation may arise before long, if the lawmakers reduce themselves into henchmen of the rich, working men and women will revolt against the establishment. A couple of factors may delay this prospect. One is: Federal administration is not thoroughly centralized; secondly, three other sets of government defuse the concentration of power and wealth. Three levels of government are: city, county, state. The number of people contesting for positions in the local governments is enormous. Why do so many people go after an elected position? The answer: is greater control over money, which invariably brings power. The other most important feature of democracy is Private enterpreneurship coupled with competition. Enterpreneurship generates new ideas leading to the production of wealth. Competition also brings out the latent faculties in men and women and at the same time checks monopoly and corruption. So far so good; the problem is in the motive force working behind. Entrepreneurs want success and making money. This is perfectly legitimate. But when going gets rough businesses take to devious methods to avoid failure or to stay on top. The present cutthroat competition has been designated as a rat race. All kinds of irregular and illegal methods are being taken recourse to, not just for success but to make enormous amount of money. How far greed can go is illustrated by top officials of big companies earning tens of millions of dollars annually have yet been involved in terrible frauds to make more money and thus destroying companies like Enron, World Com. At the wake of the fall of Enron, scores of companies, including banks, Wall Street firms, Mutual Funds, brokerage firms, Accounting and Auditing Firms, have been caught cheating, robbing and thus doing incalculable damage to the whole economic fabric of this most advanced country. Discerning people seem to have lost faith in the institutions supposed to be the pillars of the capitalist system. Veterans in the field of finance opine that big businesses can hardly be brought under discipline; most of these will try to get around the newly imposed or proposed regulations. Arthur Levitt, who was the Chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission during years of Clinton presidency, has dealt with all the segments of industry and finance in his book, ‘ Taking on the Street’. Here we get an in depth view of an insider since he had been in Wall Street and other businesses for good many years. As Chairman of the Commission, Levitt tried to regulate the industries and introduce reforms of various kinds. He faced a good deal of opposition from leaders of industry as well as from certain members of the Congress. New insights gained in his struggle did not, however, discourage him; he ended his study with an optimistic note; he believed in the efficacy of self-regulation by the industries since sticking to the rules serves their interests better than anything else. Eliot Fitzer, the Attorney General of the state of New York, who is engaged very actively in exposing the fraudulent practices of numerous financial industries and prosecuting them vigorously is, on the other hand, unwilling to pin his faith on self-regulation. He would like to plug all the holes.
Contradictions in the U S Political Economy
Competition drives people to look for new avenues of making money; new services, goods and amenities are devised. To push these, sales crews are recruited and exotic advertisements are produced. Endless competition in every sphere of life--economic, political, educational, arts, journalism, medicine, law --have created an atmosphere of veritable war. From elementary school children to top performers in every field seem to live a life of uncertainty and unease; there is no more guarantee anywhere. What is the meaning of affluence and progress then? Funny thing is this about four percent of the population is perpetually poor depending on welfare which, again, is shrinking in value and certainty. Even in cold winter thousands of people live on the street-- young and old, men, women and children. Do these not suggest that something is fundamentally wrong somewhere? It is argued that the segment of population depending on welfare is incompetent due either to lack of education or to proper motivation, should be kept out of the job market so that the capitalist spirit of competition does not get slackened. Also full employment has the potential for boosting the bargaining power of labor, which is not liked by the employer. A large number of people work for a minimum or a bit higher than minimum salary in innumerable occupations requiring less skill and education. These people try hard to avoid slipping into Welfare rolls. But their situation is getting precarious; even with two salaries a couple with two children cannot make two ends meet; their indebtedness is increasing rapidly. These people are getting restless since they see from a little distance what constitutes affluence. They also get to know how enormous is the Defense budget and how low is the salary of ordinary soldiers. Interestingly, most of these people do not vote during general election; they tend to be cynical.
The Synthetic Approach of some Old Cultures
We attribute wrongness to our mode of perception. Quantum theory shows us that at bottom knowledge has to be participatory resulting from an interaction of the subject and the object. String Theory tells us that reality at bottom is made of vibratory strings billion times smaller than the nucleus of an atom. Strings are infinitesimal bits of energy pervading the universe. Vedic wisdom points to something very similar. According to Upanishads, Vedic books of wisdom, Brahman or supreme consciousness pervades the universe. This Consciousness-Force has different waves, one rolling on another, horizontally and vertically as well as in ascending and descending order. This is how a symphony is created by all that moves in the universe. The supracosmic Brahman, however, supports the cosmos emanating from itself. In any case, unity is the fundamental truth of Reality; unitized knowledge is true knowledge since all act of knowledge presupposes an element of identity between the knower and the known. The secret of Quantum Mechanics was unraveled to humanity not before seventy years ago. It has, however, shown that from the dawn of civilization, human beings have pursued knowledge, however imperfectly, The unitive way, through the participation of the subject with the object.
Synthetic Approach at the Earlier periods of History
Primitive man has tried to understand his situation through a kind of participation with all that he saw around him. A natural phenomenon like the sun, the moon, cloud, rain, trees, animals everything he tried to endear as parts of his life and existence. The way he approached things with his heart and soul had no distinction between the living and the non-living. He created a mythology with his uninformed imagination and placed everything around him, not excluding himself, in an order of mutual support; presiding over this order were some deities the presence of which he felt in some way. Rules governing his life were a part of the order sanctioned by the deities. Primitive man’s brain was not much developed. Geographical area he inhabited with his family and kinsmen had many limitations. When another tribe with similar background came from somewhere and made friendly gestures, friendship and mutuality between the two tribes developed. If, on the other hand, the visiting tribesmen expressed hostility, fighting ensued with the use of primitive weapons. In the process of such friendly and hostile encounters numerous tribes came together; the leader of the dominant tribe proclaimed himself king and tried to unify all the tribes under his command. By the time kingdoms were formed primitive societies became more sophisticated with better organization of life and fortification of their territories. The conception of the natural order upheld by deities became clearer. As rational faculty developed by then was still limited; reason did not take over the original approach to reality through heart and soul.
With further development of reason and the analytical mind these early societies came out of the primitive stage, and began to organize themselves for war and peace, writing, self expression through fine arts, philosophical and theological thinking as well as modes of worship. Early civilizations of Egypt, Sumeria, Mesopotamia, Greece, Iran, India, China fall by and large in this category. At this stage, creative activities in the areas of literature, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, theatrical and dance performances amply reflected the unitive participatory approach to life and reality. Even scientific inquiries were conducted with a good deal of reflection and introspection along with analysis. In trade and commerce barter predominated; modern-day commercial spirit was unknown. However, the preponderance of war, system of slavery, all these indicate that unitive consciousness was not all-pervasive. Nevertheless, it would be in order to illustrate more concretely how the unitive approach predominated.
Let us take up the great Greek poet Homer’s one of the two epics, Iliad. In this grand work the early stage of Greek society and the conflict between Greece and Troy were depicted in such a spectacular way that it leaves no doubt in mind the epic poet embraced the two societies with his soul, went to the fabrics of their life, their suffering and destiny With penetrating insight. If we pick up a much smaller work, Sophocles’ King Oedipus, we come across similar unitive vision. The tragic drama brought to light the major characters with unflinching sympathy and precision. It has also revealed the depth of the Greek feeling about the inexorable force of Fate in their life. Greek philosophical writings are no mere rational treatises; they are a beautiful blending of reason and intuition. The Dialogue Phaedo, in which passing away of Socrates occurs, brings out the reality of the soul as an enduring spiritual entity. Similarly the Dialogue ‘Symposium’ demonstrates through many faceted arguments the beauty and force of deep and true love. Whenever the subject and the object interact properly we come across the abiding truth.
Let us come to ancient India and consider the Vedic hymns written in early Sanskrit, the oldest specimen of Aryan languages. Here we see man’s relation with gods and goddesses expressed in symbols and anecdotes and in rhythms worked out through numerous meters. The hymns of Rig Veda is a world by itself inhabited by men and women, divine and demonic beings, and the intricate pattern of their relations. The two great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, produced a little later than the Vedas are reminiscent of the works of Homer. Upanishads, the wisdom books of the Vedas, are full of utterances, sometimes in straight sometimes in allegorical language either prose or poetry. Here again we find unfathomable depth of wisdom resulting from the fusion of the subject and the object--something of a prototype of Quantum Mechanics.
To come to Chinese culture,
Taoist book of wisdom’ Tao te sing’ has been attributed to sixth century B C E sage Lao-t-tsu. The Chinese sage has shown how to reconcile action and inaction. His simple but profound advice is: go with the flow of Nature That is to say, move as per the rhythm of the cosmos, which may be construed as a reflection of the mystery of the Quantum Mechanics. The other great Chinese of the sixth century B C E, Confucius, endorsed a social life under the Heaven comprising 1. Aristocracy (scholars, rulers, administrators, generals etc), 2. farming community, 3. artisans and tradesmen and at the bottom, in descending order, 4. the physical laborers. Confucius produced this scheme with the aid of ancient Classics as well as his own reflections. The hierarchy was maintained for over four thousand years with two principles primarily: li’ which meant rituals or etiquette and filial piety or obedience to superiors. The head of the family would obey the local official, the local official was to obey the governor and the governor must obey the emperor. Within the family, children were to obey the father and the wife was to be subservient to the husband. Over and above this hierarchy, every household must worship and make sacrifice to the ancestors. Thus, the family became the foundation of moral order of the entire nation. The whole conception is based on a perception of inter-connectedness and unity of all the members of a nation. Even the emperor was required to behave in a way so that he does not lose the mandate of Heaven, which was no God but represented something of a universal order. Those who did not know or conform to this order were considered barbarians by the Chinese. There is an underlying fusion of the subject and the object behind the elaborate structure of human relationship; ritual or li governed the interaction among people of all ages and stations in society. It is, however, necessary to point out that Taoism emphasized the necessity of being in harmony with Nature; Confucius, on the other hand, dwelt very much on the necessity of establishing harmony among human beings of all different stations of life, engaged in different occupations and levels of responsibility. Taoism as a philosophy was mystical in character whereas Confucianism was more practical, mundane and social in character. In actuality Confucianism overshadowed Taoism which died out gradually in its spiritual content and was replaced by a form of religious ritualism. Confucius emphasized conformity with social norms, discouraged curiosity and fundamental research. Consequently, Chinese society did not develop individualism; Chinese people did not produce pure science or profound philosophy. They, however, produced many innovations in the areas of practicality--agriculture, navigation, administration, warfare etc.
The third element of Chinese tradition came from Buddhism. Buddhism found its place in China with some support from Taoism and despite some opposition from Confucianism. Buddhism as a religion was not family oriented, rather reclusive in character, preferring monastic life away from societal affairs. Buddhist monks were unwilling to bow to the king or the governors. After one thousand years of struggle, adjustment and accommodation with Confucianism, Buddhism began to decline in China. During the Sung dynasty Neo-Confucianism began to replace Buddhism as philosophical thinking. Buddhist legacy in China persisted for a few more centuries in the form of quiet sitting practiced by the aristocracy and the monastic institutions catering to the needs of common people.
In contrast with China, South Korea and Japan have continued to nourish Buddhism. As a result, these two East Asian cultures are more syncretistic and prone to deeper subjective approach to life and reality, which, of course, is more relevant to our search for truth.
Is it possible to bring in the subject and the object together at all places? It is a matter of degree. In the Sanskrit and Greek epics mentioned earlier, there is hardly any discipline of thought and imagination, which has not occurred. Everything has received the light of objective observation, and subjective-intuitive approach. It may be argued whichever study falls in the category of pure objectivity suffers from imperfection. In the history of science we see all through one discovery, one invention is being modified again and again by subsequent discoveries and inventions. Progress is made, though perfection may never be reached. It is a matter of joke that no two economists agree about any issue. Perhaps if several viewpoints can be put together conclusions could come near the truth. In the field of medicine drugs are produced keeping in view mostly one complaint, without proper regard to the effect the drug might produce on other parts or organs of the body. In the treatment of mental illness it is suggested that ideally every case should be looked into by a psychologist, a medical man, a social worker and a minister all sitting together. In reality this may not be feasible. However, any one of the professionals may try sincerely to wear the hats of other professionals. In actuality, what is happening is ridiculous; every professional is busy guarding his/her own little territory without regard to the main objective of finding the full truth. Do we really care for truth?
Problems of Semitic Religions
Religion is supposed to lead us to truth. In actuality, disregard for truth runs riot in this hallowed area. Karl Marx drew our attention to economic bested interest that people stick to. In the field of religion vested interest not just of the priestly class but of others whose political interests are connected with religion, stand in the way of correcting the mess. Let us take up the Semitic religions first. In the Torah or the Old Testament, Yaway claims that he is god of the Hebrews, the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He takes pains to safeguard the interest and welfare of his clients, the Jewish people. Obviously, he is a tribal god who has initiated a covenant with his chosen people. As the chosen people, Jews think that it is their solemn duty to bring the rest of the world under the laws given to them by their lord. The people who received the laws had perhaps know knowledge of people living beyond three hundred miles from them, not to speak of the laws which governed the lives of the Greeks, the Chinese and the Hindus. The Orthodox Jews still stick to their gun; they do not care much to adjust their laws to present time and contemporary world situation. Christianity has accepted the Jewish God of Power as the Heavenly Father and Jewish laws as their inheritance. But the presence of a spiritual figure of universal love, Jesus Christ, has brought about a difference. Fear of God has given way to love of God; vengeance has been replaced by forgiveness. However, Jews faced repression in Egypt before Exodus; after deliverance from the Pharaoh and his people Jews faced opposition as they looked for land to get settled. Moses, the deliverer, received command from his god to tell his people to fight with all their strength against non-Hebrew people opposing their move. In fact, they were told to destroy the emblem of other people’s religion and desecrate their altar. It is a situation of our god and religion against their god and religion. Absence of the idea of unity of mankind as children of one God is conspicuous. In Christianity the idea of universal brotherhood is not alien. But early groups of Christians also faced opposition and torture. So, as inheritors of the Jewish spirit of revenge and exclusivism, they claimed that Jesus is the Messiah and the only savior of mankind. To account for unique position of Jesus, Christian speculators came up before long with a peculiar interpretation of sin: Adam disobeyed God; he is the progenitor of all mankind; therefore all mankind shares in the ‘Original Sin’. Since humans are not capable of paying ransom to absolve themselves from sin, God sent his only son, Jesus, to suffer for humanity and pave the way for salvation of mankind. Sin does not carry such connotation in any other religion including Judaism. It is also ridiculous to take Adam, a mythical figure, as the historical father of all humanity. The ’ son of god’ understood figuratively is found in Old Testament as well as in Vedic religion. In any case, the ingeniously devised dogmas have made Christianity as a terribly intolerant religion. Love thus changed its face into hatred for others who refuse to accept Jesus as the only savior. Vicarious suffering of Jesus for mankind is a pure myth. Eternal damnation is a cruel proposition concocted to keep the errant in line. Crucifixion of alleged criminals was a normal Roman custom; it was not out of the order at all.
As for Islam, the third Semitic religion, it is virtually an offshoot of Judaism. Its concept of God, God’s relation to man have been taken straight from Judaism. God is Vengeful, ‘terrible in retribution’. He, however, can be merciful and forgiving. Man ‘s relationship with God is of Creator and creature, not of love but of unmitigated obedience. Many other customs and conventions, namely, circumcision, prohibition to take interest, avoidance of certain fish and meat and mixing of milk and meat, special way of killing and dressing animals for food, also polygamy, segregation of women and limitation of their freedom and so on have been taken over from Judaism. The goal of a Muslim is heaven; this, I suppose, has been taken from Christianity; Judaism does not pay much attention to heaven. Of course, only Muslims can qualify for heaven; the idea that a martyr for the faith goes directly to heaven, has also been taken from Christianity. Those who do not follow the way of Islam are infidels who should rather not be tolerated. Islam, according to some scholars, emerged as a cult centering round a local god associated with the worship of the moon, under the able leadership of Mohamed. Having borrowed most of its tenets from Judaism, Mohammed added such binding rituals as fasting in the month of Ramadan, praying five times in twenty-four hours using certain postures signifying obedience and surrender to Allah. This cult took a position of militancy from the beginning; it wanted to destroy all institutions and practices alien to itself. It converted mainly by the force of the sword the whole of the Middle East, North Africa, parts of Europe and the whole of Iran. Islamic intolerance was manifest most in India where it established itself on the throne of Delhi among Hindu population practicing a very different kind of religion. Muslims as members of a close-knit cult could never be reconciled to any other faith. It seems Allah revealed himself to Mohamed and elected him as his chosen instrument, even as Yahweh revealed himself to Abraham and later to Moses. Yahweh opposed the worship of other divinities. When Mohamed came back to Mecca triumphantly from Medina, it is reported that he himself smoked the faces of innumerable deities placed in the great mosque; some scholars give the number of deities smoked as three hundred and sixty.
Of course, Christianity is not much different from Islam in this respect. Over and above being intolerant of other religions, Christianity is divided within itself. Catholicism is one body apparently; Eastern Orthodox Churches are numerous; the number of Protestant churches is countless. Relations among these diverse branches and denominations have been at times very acrimonious.
Positive aspects of Indian Religions
If we leave the Middle East behind and move further East, we come across a different type of religions. These are the three religions: Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, which originated in the Indian subcontinent.
The goal of these three elitist religions is spiritual enlightenment and Self-knowledge; heaven is not the coveted place of residence although a temporary stay in so-called heaven may occur after death. The scriptures of these religions dwell primarily on the disciplines as would lead one to a state of liberation, a state of high consciousness. It is really not easy to attain to a consciousness in which one feels unity with all others and grows into a sense of essential identity with the Infinite. However, even a little progress made in the pursuit of a prescribed discipline brings significant change in the behavior of a practitioner. The pragmatic value of this is tremendous. Any insight developed about one’s own self, helps one understand society better, which leads to sympathy for others. In India many schools and dormitories pupils are encouraged to follow some of the initial spiritual disciplines of one or the other of the three religions. The practical result of this is highly commendable. A number of secondary scriptures in the Hindu tradition deal with social order, duties of people of different categories in everyday life, as well as duties to gods and goddesses. At this point it may be noted that branding of Hinduism as polytheistic is based on misconception. If the Supreme Being can bring out of itself the cosmos, why cannot He create gods and goddesses to be placed in different subtle worlds to perform their roles in the cosmos? Gods and goddesses are parts of creation; they are not equal to God, the creator. If we take into account the Hindu concept that everything in the universe has emanated from one Deity, the system has to be designated as Monotheism. If on the other hand, we emphasize the Hindu concept that everything in the universe is a part of One essentially indivisible Reality, the system has to be designated as absolute Monism. However, within the essential unity there is scope of infinite variations, as we have already mentioned, diverse forms and grades of energy constitute the cosmos. As per spiritual experience of many sages, the cosmos is multi-dimensional; over and above the physical universe, there are many subtle worlds in which beings of different order dwell and perform their roles in the cosmos. All these worlds and beings active in them, are not unrelated to the earth; they exert influence on us even as we can contact them and receive support from them. In Semitic traditions references are there to arch angels, angels, djins, Satan and his horde. In fact, Yeaway recognized the existence of other gods, only he exhorted Moses not to worship other gods, Baal in particular. Semitic heaven is likely to be one or the other of the subtle worlds. The ideas of many other worlds and beings accord pretty well with the string theory of the cosmos. String theory of creation speaks of multiple dimensions, eleven, to be specific, of the universe. It may be noted here that a great contemporary poet, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) has given graphic descriptions of numerous incorporeal worlds and beings inhabiting them, in his epic poem ‘Savitri: Alegend and a Symbol’. Savitri is the longest, and perhaps the greatest, epic poem in English language. Multilateral multi dimensional conception of reality as represented by Hinduism as well as String theory can accommodate, as opposed to Monotheism, divergent views of life and reality.
Semitic idea of heaven and hell is based on pre-modern Astronomy. Heaven is located somewhere above the firmament and hell somewhere below the earth. Hindu cosmology , on the other hand, has been found strikingly comparable with modern scientific cosmology and astronomy by Fred Foyle, the great astronomer and by some other thinkers like Monier williams, reputed classicist and Indologist who opined that the Hindus calculated the movement of the moon more accurately than the Greeks. In an article published in a British scientific journal more than forty years ago, Dr. Foyle admitted that he subscribed wrongly for twenty years to the steady state view of the universe, which meant that the universe has remained the same for ever; instead he has found the Indian idea of infinite time and space alternating in a cycle of expansion and contraction more plausible. At the end of a Kalpa, a period of billions of years, the universe with infinite stars and galaxies get contracted and absorbed in Brahman, the Absolute; this is the beginning of a night for Brahman. At the end of the night, a kalpa, the system of the universe bangs forth to last for another kalpa, a day of Brahman. In this scheme there is no absolute beginning or absolute end of the universe. Dr. Foyle’s conversion was reported in 1965 in a number of American journals as a bomb-blast. It is to be remembered that ancient Indian scientists discovered the zero and Algebra which they applied in Astronomy and Geometry. The Heliocentric concept of our world with planets as satellites was known in India from very early period of Indian history. In a section in Brahmana, the second book of the Vedas, it has been said that the sun does never rise or set; the illusion of sun-rise and sun-set takes place due to a change in the location of people and for that matter of the earth. That the earth moves round the sun and not the reverse was not known in the West till the middle of the sixteenth century when Copernicus came up with his revolutionary observation.
Parallelism between Biological and Spiritual Evolution
Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts are replete with references to vast stretches of subtle worlds overarching the physical world of ours. These religions also believe in multiple births through which living beings evolve. There is no need of squaring all accounts in one life time to proceed either to heaven or hell. In fact, rebirth stands for a process of spiritual evolution. It is inconceivable that sages, creative geniuses, philosophers, scientists did not have a lengthy period of preparation through many prior lives before blooming into extraordinary specimen of humanity. Somebody is born with the disposition of turning into a rapist and murderer whereas somebody is born to develop into a towering genius. There has to be a reason behind it. Every human being has certain potency, which requires specific birth and environment for its flowering. Semitic religions stick to the idea that a human being is a finished product; he/she has no further to evolve. This is done on the basis of a particular interpretation of the Biblical myth of creation. They refuse to look at other myths of creation, namely Vedic myths of creation. Western theologians also refuse to recognize Biological evolution, which is accepted by most rational people as a fact, not just a theory any more. Actually, the Indian spiritual evolution and Biological theory of evolution can go as two parallel concepts one reinforcing the other. Biological evolution gives us the details of the process of evolution of all living things including how from the most advanced animals, the apes, evolved the Hominids and how from the latter full-fledged human beings, the Homo Sapiens, evolved. Spiritual evolution focuses on the gradual evolution of consciousness through changes in forms, shapes, behavior, strength, capabilities and so on. Scientific evolution shows how the process advances; it does not address the question why is this evolution. Metaphysical theory of evolution postulates that everything has come from the fullness of the one ultimate Reality; evolution is a return journey for which the seed or the nisus is inherent in everything and every organism. Imperfection of a human being is manifest in innumerable ways; our body is fragile, our life is limited in span and at the same time subject to all kinds of disease accident etc.; our mental capacity is extremely limited since we can hardly master more than a couple of disciplines and most of us do not possess any creative talent. Why then we think a human being a perfect product of nature? Why cannot we pin our faith on evolving further while we see many people have grown in ability and consciousness through systematic effort and resolute will?
Buddhism originally was a purely elitist religion. It was meant for the monks only, for those who could think of giving up mundane life and take to a life of strict spiritual discipline to reach Nirvana, a very high unitive state of consciousness. As dedicated monks went out in different directions--Afghanistan, Central Asia, China, Korea and Japan in the North, and in the south to Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, they attracted the attention of discerning people many of them opted to practice the psychological discipline for a personal growth in consciousness. Thus, Buddhism spread over greater parts of Asia rather rapidly; hardly any force was involved in the process. Buddhism did not try to meddle with social life and institutions of these countries even as in India it left lay Buddhists to live their life under the governess of Hindu laws and customs. It is in the modern period when Buddhism began to be appreciated in the West, some Buddhist propagators started claiming that they rejected Vedic sacrifices, and for that matter, Hinduism, and their religion is open to all like Christianity and Islam. What they mean to say is that Buddhism is unique as a religion of peace, non-violence and, therefore, the best. Like the other two world religions, it is also universal, that is to say, ordinary people can embrace Buddhism as many convert to Christianity or Islam. Consequently, of all the major religions Hinduism remains the only one that recognizes truth in other religions. One universally respected modern Hindu sage, Ramakrishna with a strong traditional background, declared, having gone through appropriate spiritual disciplines, ‘all the religions are so many ways to the Divine’. Of course, great thinkers and sages of modern India, namely, Ram Mohan Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, have advocated the need of spreading the spiritual teachings of Hindu tradition to the rest of the world without, however, thinking of conversion. They are strongly in favor of universalism, that is, fundamental unity of all mankind.
Hinduism, and for that matter Buddhism and Jainism, does not stand for what is going to happen to or not happen to a Hindu. Hinduism speaks for all human beings since it speaks in terms of the state of the mind . Man’s present and the future depends on his/her consciousness, which can change for the better with appropriate psychological endeavor. The reason that the Hindus believes in infinite potential of human beings is due to the fact that each person carries in himself/herself a spark of the Divine. Semitic religions do not subscribe to the endless growth of mankind because of their belief that the Creator is not present in any way in the heart of a human being
Ambiguity about the status of the Soul
In fact, there is quite a bit of confusion about the soul in these religions. Hebraic religion subscribed to the primitive idea that the breath in man is the soul and that humans get into the grave with the soul. They could hardly separate the soul from the body. Jewish philosopher Philo with a strong background in Greek learning, introduced the idea that the soul is superior to the rotting body; the disembodied soul has a future. It is, however, controversial how far the influence of Philo’s ideas infiltrated into Jewish thought. Christianity was more heavily influenced by Socratic and Platonic idea of the soul as a spiritual entity separate from and superior to the fragile body. It is said that the sources of Christianity are Jerusalem and Athens; so we see all through its history Christianity has oscillated between the primitive Hebraic and the enlightened idea about the status of the soul. Islam as usual has taken over the Hebraic idea of the soul; Muslims think the soul goes to the grave with the body and on the day of judgement all the souls rise up from the grave with their bodies.
It should, however, be noted that all the three Indian religions do not have full agreement about the status of the soul. Early Buddhism does not believe in an eternal soul although it narrates how through innumerable previous lives the future Buddha grew in consciousness eventually to flower as the enlightened one. Some scholars, namely, Professor Edward Conze, author of many books on Buddhism, thinks that Early Buddhism accepted the in general the Hindu concept of the soul through the back door. Later Buddhism, i.e., Mahayana came up with the idea that the divine nature of the Buddha is present in every human being. Obviously, this is an indirect way of admitting the presence of soul in us. In any case, both the branches of Buddhism strongly stand for the idea that each of us are potential buddhas, although it may take many lives to reach our goal of becoming an enlightened being. Jainism believes in the soul and its potential liberation from bondage to body and earthly life. If from historical observation of the lives of mystics, scientific, philosophical and artistic geniuses, the West can come to believe in higher potential of human beings, a transvaluation of mundane values would be possible. Of course, we need to think of countless individuals who have displayed talents for high accomplishments. We seem to be focussing our attention too much on the worshippers of wealth power and sex. In this context, the process of individuation as a means of personal growth should be thought about. I will come to that shortly. In some backward parts of India, the custom of untouchability still persists. This goes against the perception of divine presence in all human beings. Untouchability has been banned by the Indian Constitution; efforts are underway to remove it completely. Older societies, which entertained inhuman customs, like slavery, massagination etc. have been coming out of such customs. This implies a definite progress in human consciousness.
Drawbacks of Non-Indian Religions
Primitive people approached their surrounding with their heart and soul and thus organized their life in harmony with nature and their fellow beings. Yet they failed to expand their consciousness sufficiently; they lived something of a limited existence. They could not develop the urge and the tools to make contact with wider areas of the earth to broaden their sphere of concern. Similarly, most major religions suffer from certain basic flaws. They have spread all over; it is a kind of quantitative expansion but qualitatively a contraction. These religions also started with some basic experience of truth with which they attracted large number of people and organized large communities. But they failed to develop mutuality with other religions. It is obvious that their base had a weakness; they failed to conceive how infinitely vast the truth is. Each of the major religions depended by and large on one or two books sanctified as holy scriptures. These books are taken as revelations understood as final document of truth. Guardians of these religions have tried to guard these truths zealously. They have proclaimed the Superiority, even finality of what these scriptures represented. Guardians of Islam consider the Koran as the final revelation and the prophet through whom Koran found expression, as the greatest and the latest of the prophets. We have noted how to establish the unique saviorhood of Jesus, a number of irrational dogmas have been erected .
Misconception about Revelation
Modern scholars refuse to be mystified by the term revelation; they cannot take them as something fallen from the sky. There must have been a process through which the scriptures were composed. A good deal of research has been done with regard to the composition of the Torah or the Old Testament. The conclusion that the scholars have arrived is roughly as follows: Early stories of the Bible circulated orally and in the process different versions of the stories developed. Some stories were borrowed from other civilizations, namely, the creation story is supposed to have come from Babylonia; the idea of Satan, the anti-God came from Iran (Zoroastrian Ahriman, similar to Vedic Asura) via Babylon. Later the stories began to be committed to writing. Thus, different written versions were produced. Subsequently written materials were collected, compared, edited and then published step by step. The Old Testament is made of many books; a very long time must have passed before all the books took the present shape. Later books might not have been composed in the same way as the older. Consequently, there is a lot of controversy about the correct readings of the books. The first five books are attributed to Moses; even this is not free from controversy. A discrepancy is obvious between the God of creation and the God of later books; Creation God is truly sublime whereas Yaway is a vindictive type of a being belonging to some primitive culture. Next comes the question of diverse interpretations over the centuries. This being the situation, can we take the words of the Bible as coming straight from the mouth of God? Biblical literature includes histories, romances, eccleciastical discourses, poems and so on. Do all these carry same weight?
As for the New Testament, the biographers of Jesus and archaeologists have recently come to the conclusion: eighty percent of the words put to the mouth of Jesus in the four Gospels are not his. As many as forty gospels were written with a view to propagate the greatness of Jesus. These are basically propaganda literature; four of the most effective ones have been retained. As for the Koran, Mohammed dictated the suras or parts thereof as he remembered to have come to him. Is it not likely that in the process of recollecting, much of the original stuff was lost or altered? Besides, all inspirations, all voices do not come from the same depth. The very fact that God’s messages came from the height of seventh heaven to Gabriel and Gabriel transmitted them to Mohammed suggests the diminution of the original. There is another important issue; as soon as something of a high vibration hits a brain and gets translated in the form of a particular language, it invariably gets colored by the cultural milieu inherent in that language. Thus the message becomes further diluted; then there come diverse interpretations. Translation to any other language removes the original material further. To instill the idea in the mind of children or ordinary folk that such and such are words of God is a dangerous type of brain washing.
Buddhist and Hindu Scriptures
When we come to Buddhism a different picture appears. The three baskets of books, ‘tripitaka’ are supposed to contain the words of Buddha, the enlightened one. But what Buddha spoke was recited first, forty years after his death and next after another hundred years. Even during the first recital the disciples could not come to agreement about the exact utterances of Buddha. Tripitaka is the scripture of early Buddhist school presumably collected in 80 B C E in Pali, the language of Hinayana, one of the two broad divisions of Buddhism. Thus, early Buddhist scriptures amount to supposed meaning of the supposed utterances of Buddha. Mahayana, the later Buddhist school has a number of books, like saddarma pundarika, Mahayana karika, which must have been composed later by some other adepts of Buddhism. The content of such books are actually new additions to the original teachings of Buddha. These additions resulted from an attempt at absorbing seminal ideas prevailing in Hinduism; these later books were written in Sanskrit, the language of the Hindu scriptures. It is, however, claimed that these teachings were revealed to highly receptive minds of a number of enlightened Buddhists.
The Hindu scriptures are of numerous categories. Hardly any of these is taken as the spoken word of God; these books are, however, regarded highly as inspired literature. Generally different groups tend to attach highest value to books of their choice. The Vedas are the most sacred books. They are referred to as ‘sruti’, meaning ‘that which is heard by seer-poets’, supposedly originating in divine sources. the fundamentals of Hinduism are enshrined in the Vedas, especially the earliest one, Rig Veda Samhita. However, with regard to the exact meaning of various parts of the Vedic literature, there is no unanimity of opinions. The general public is, of course, not bothered by this. In general people show respect to all scriptures even as they adore different deities. Hindus do never deprecate other religions; many Hindus consider Buddha and Jesus incarnations of God.
Spirit of Tolerance and Globalism
A spirit of tolerance is extremely important at this age of globalism. The attitude that ‘ours is the only true religion’ is a devastatingly narrow ideology that has been responsible for so much violence and bloodshed in the history of last two thousand and odd years. On the other hand, it is true that every religion has a spiritual foundation, and every religion has been a source of support and comfort for millions of men and women. Religious leaders and political authorities have sometimes competed for powers, sometimes have worked together. It is this political game which by and large has been responsible for adherence to exclusivistic ideas even at this age of easy communication and scope of learning about other religions and sects. If religious leaders really care for truth, they can easily come to the idea that truth is infinite and at the same time progressive. They would do a great service to humanity if they could come forward and declare that they believe in the validity of other religions, and advocate cooperation and mutuality among the religions. Historically speaking, there have been exchanges of ideas among different religions and sects thereof. For example, Alexandria, Egypt, had been a rendezvous of scholars and thinkers coming from different countries of the East and the West for good many centuries starting from the fourth century B C E. Religious truth springs from a deeper level of consciousness in which subject and object, divinity and humanity come together.
Religion touches the deeper chord of our being. People need religion. It is political, economic and diplomatic factors get into the picture and spoil the purity of religion and deflect its job of purifying the human heart and making it ready for truth. In all the battles that are going on in different parts of the world, religion has been dragged.
Purity of Religions needs be Restored
How can the purity of religions be restored? To restore the purity of religions, it would be necessary to go back to the sources wherefrom they sprang. It is from some spiritual illumination or a series of illuminations, whatever the depth or height might be, religions took a start and gradually spread its wings. Unfortunately, religions originating in the Middle East did not encourage the populace among which these religions spread, to try to get the supernormal experiences dubbed generally in the West ‘ mysticism’. People are urged to follow an ethical code of conduct coming mostly as commands from a deity. To follow certain ethical principles is indispensable for making oneself ready for mystical experiences. When the mind receives the touch of higher vibrations of consciousness, one is impelled to reflect on the code of conventional conduct and morality. Reflection may take away the so-called sanctity of some of the ethical principles, which may be found to be highly conditioned by time space and other circumstances. Such findings have a liberating effect; that is to say, one sees how the principles of ethics and customs and conventions are presented as something sacrosanct to keep the common folk tied to a particular faith with promises of covetable rewards. Reflective and mystical type of people do not disregard the principles of right conduct; only they see the relative but not absolute value of them. Mystics and free thinkers have thus come to be regarded as dangerous for religions that count on regimentation for keeping the flock together.
It is natural for outstanding people, when they are told about God, to try to have an experience of the Divine. Consequently, within all the three Semitic religions a good many mystics emerged who claimed to have encounters with God. If their characterization of God and His relationship with them did not accord with the official doctrines, these rare souls were deprecated, ostracized, or even beheaded. Spinoza, of Jewish background, spoke about the presence of God in everything; he was harassed in many ways. His observation was dubbed as Pantheism, which goes counter to Jewish orthodoxy. However, Spinoza has full support of Kabaala, Jewish mystical literature.
Master Ekhard, a great Christian mystic of the 12th century spoke, among other things, of his oneness with God. As many as twenty-six charges were brought against him. He refused to recant, since he was very sure of his experiences. Mystics received most severe punishment in the Islamic tradition; some of them paid with their lives. Al Gazali, however, succeeded in maintaining a balance between his mystical experiences and official Shia doctrines. These religions do not know of the impersonal Absolute.
Divine as the Personal and the Impersonal
In the Hindu tradition the Divine has been experienced as Impersonal force, peace and wisdom as well as most lovable beautific Being. Whatever the depth or the shade of experience of an individual, he/she has commanded great respect in society. Similarly, in Buddhist and Jain traditions any level of high experience has been acclaimed and encouraged all through. Semitic religions have one big problem; these cannot conceive of God as something impersonal force, light, Love, Wisdom and law. Jews, Christians and Muslims conceive, with some minor variations, God as a person or being with human qualities noble as well as ignoble. This image restricts the Divine to a specific structure or form; this form is not taken as symbolic or mythical; it is associated with the history and development of one or the other of the three religions. Judaism gives the impression of being the family history of the Jewish people. Christian theologists extolled one great sage, Jesus, to a degree beyond all proportion. He has been made the ‘only begotten Son of God’. With a view to supporting this doctrine they came up with the idea of ‘original sin’, which, again required to make the story of Adam and Eve a fact of history. Islam, on the other hand, has been exclusively related to the life of a hero, Mohammed; his inspiration, struggle, adventure and victory form the core of this religion. Starting from a very humble position he succeeded in establishing a kingdom, which enlarged its territory rapidly by the efforts of his followers. Islamic teachings, as I have already mentioned, are mostly borrowed from Judaism and partly from Christianity; these teachings, however, were embellished by some innovations of the founder. This situation makes each of the three religious systems so vividly distinct from one another that it renders them incompatible despite considerable commonality among them. For example, Muslims dislike the idea of using the word God for Allah; neither Judaism nor Islam can accept Christian Trinity or the concept of divine incarnation in Jesus. Since it is impossible for the adherents of Semitic religions to conceive God as both personal and impersonal, they remain so constricted that they do not find any way to reconcile with the situation that their merciful God is responsible for so much suffering, destruction, mass murder and annihilation of entire species. Another problem of Semitic religions is that these religions have divested themselves from the living fount of spiritual truth by denouncing the mystics in their traditions. Orthodoxy has bound these religions to petrified dogmas and doctrines erected by religious scholars and priestly people. These people shun philosophy since philosophy tends to question everything and is likely to conceive the Divine as Impersonal Force, Light, Wisdom etc. Christianity has theology, not philosophy. Islam does not have even theology; it has only the ‘History and Culture of Islam’.
Motherhood of God
Another deficiency of the Semitic religions may be mentioned here. None of these religions could conceive motherhood of God; the Divine is exclusively male for them. Catholicism adores the mother of Jesus, yet it could not make room for her in the Trinity. In this respect Hinduism has a major contribution. In actuality, in the Hindu concept, the Divine as the Mother is the creatrix of the cosmos. The supreme impersonal Brahman is neuter; It has been spoken of as Sacchidananda (Existence Consciousness-force Bliss) Satcchidananda as poised for Creation or Self-manifestation, incubates the biune principle of male and female, Parama Purusa and para prakriti, mythically referred to as Shiva and Shakti, Vishnu and Maya. In any process of creation, two principles are involved--passive and active static and dynamic, father and mother. God as the creator cannot be exclusively male; in fact, the role of the mother may well be taken as more prominent. It is in the modern period of history that women have started to gain proper recognition. The Hindu concept of the motherhood of God, however, is not an outcome of the spirit of modernity; it grew out of profound spiritual experience of numerous sages of ancient and modern India.
Scientific Spirit visa-vis Religious dogmatism
We have shown that scientific knowledge in general suffers from imperfection since it is mostly non-participatory. However, profound scientific truths have come down to great minds by way of intuition in which subjective participation of the scientist’s mind is obvious. In this category the law of Gravitation, General Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics may easily be counted, though there are many others. In any case scientific knowledge is open-ended; it is ready to accept any correction or modification. On the other hand, prophetic traditions of religion do not want to open themselves to new insights, though in actuality, they change under forces of exigency. At this age of science and reason and inter-ethnic, inter-national culturalism it should be easy for religions to consciously embark on exchange of ideas. In this context, what we encounter in the United States is not encouraging. In hundreds of Seminaries attached to numerous denominations, would-be ministers are instructed as to the axiomatic character of the dogmas, which would mean there is no salvation without Jesus. Tens of thousands of Graduates of these seminaries are sent out to distant areas of Asia, Africa and South America to work among poor, uninformed and tribal people with a view to win them out of their age-old tradition and make them Christians. The baits used to catch them are modern education, medical treatment and some other attractions. Disregard of the roots of these people makes their growth stunted. Depreciation of their language and culture robs them of their natural voice; it is a serious kind of injury to them.
The scientific culture of United States has not made everybody a rational person. However, some rational individuals shun faith in God since they cannot reconcile themselves with the concept of a personal God as the creator and administrator of the infinite expanding universe. If Christianity could have adapted with the concept of the Divine prevailing in eastern religions, it would not have alienated these individuals.
Limits of Reason
Rational culture has produced another problem for the western mind. In this culture Reason has established itself as the supreme instrument of knowledge. Reason is good and great; but what is about the limitations of reason? Do we not see all the time how reason can present one issue from diverse and opposing points of view? Do not creative talents and high geniuses testify to powers far superior in many respects to reason? Also great philosophers testify to what may be called ‘intuitive reasoning’, something more powerful and illuminating than mere dry logical reason. Interestingly, in the West ‘spiritual’ is referred to things emotional, moral or idealistic. In the East spiritual pertains truly to the spirit, inner self, higher consciousness and the Divine. I am using spiritual basically in the latter sense.
I have dwelt on the exclusivistic and some other negative aspects of major religions. I do not however mean to say that religions are antiquated and have lost their usefulness altogether. Each of the major religions has gone through significant changes over the centuries. It should not be difficult for them to change a little more in response to the demands of the age of technology and globalism. However, it may not be easy to shake off longstanding tenets and ideas; nevertheless, leading people in these religions may help average adherents to adjust and accommodate with other religions and cultures. At this period of history when reason and human values predominate, it should not be difficult to undertake a rational approach to one’s faith.
Maladies of American Society
We have indicated how the most advanced society suffers from many contradictions. It is necessary to mention a few other things. United States constitution has specified three main goals of the citizens: life, liberty and happiness. With all the amenities at their disposal, American citizens do not enjoy a high quality of life. Four to five percent people live on Welfare, that is, on hand outs coming from governments; another five to six percent of the people are unemployed. Those who are employed have to work long hours; some of them work on more than one jobs. These people have very little time to devote to their spouse or to children. The divorce rate is fifty percent on average, and in some states the rate is higher. A large number of adults are either single mother or single father responsible for taking care of children. Consequently, a sizeable number of children are deprived of the affection of two parents; the result is terrible. Children of tender age begin to suffer from loneliness and depression. Some of these children get into drug and drinking even before becoming a teenager. A very large number of men and women suffer from chronic depression. You can add to this the number of homicides facilitated by easy access to guns. Cases of teen-age suicide are increasing steadily. Auto accidents kill approximately forty-five thousand people a year and maim many more people. If we add to all these to the number of soldiers killed in combat and in accidents while training, the picture becomes grim. As we get used to technology we forget that technological society can turn into a prison house. What is touted as a convenience or luxury turns out before long as a necessity. In the process every day viewer and newer gadgets and services are being devised and being pushed as necessities through another package of techniques called marketing. As an individual householder if you need countless gadgets and services, how can you afford to pay for these if you are a low-income person or you lose your job? These situations lead us to think about the state of mind of innumerable people.
Uncertainty and Anxiety
As there is no more certainty of jobs and pensions, a very large number of people suffer from anxiety, which leads to all kinds of ailments. It is a fact that even wealthy people do not feel secure in their high position in business or other occupations. That is why groups of people try to keep their representatives in all categories of government under their control by payrolling their campaignfor re-election. The situation being such, people look for amusements of all kinds to forget temporarily their worries. Many of the amusements are expensive and injurious to mental and physical health.
I would like to put the following in the category of not-so-healthy diversions: ball games, movies, drugs, alcohol, bars, gambling, and pornography. Now, the question is what is a healthy body and mind ?
What are we Made Of
We are made of a living body, a bundle of emotions, thinking mind and an indwelling soul. A balanced and optimum development of all these parts of our being would constitute a healthy body and mind. Body needs proper food, drink, sleep, exercise and rest. Emotional part of our being has two aspects: lust, greed, anger, jealousy, fear, drive to possess constitute the lower aspect; the higher aspect is made of love, sympathy, altruism, and empathy. Some of the lower vital drives are common to animals and us; they were needed for survival in jungle life of animals; unfortunately, we humans also use them considerably. The mind thinks and organizes our life having used its intelligence and creative imagination; ethics and esthetics fall in the domain of the mind. The spirit is a subtler presence of the Divine within us in the form of our soul which may be designated as the psychic being.
What prevents Wholistic Growth
Sitting in a gigantic stadium with forty thousand other souls to watch a football or baseball or soccer could be fun no doubt. But the excitement, shouting, drinking beer and eating junk food may not at all be good for our health. A very large number of boys, girls, men and women watch games passively played by highly skilled players, without themselves ever playing those games. Similarly, we watch movies mainly for pleasure, seldom for the elevation of the mind. Again, most movies display numerous scenes of sex and violence to titilate the lower vital instincts in us. Watching passively so much of these things pull us downward; we tend to take these excesses as normal for humans. People get into drugs to seek relief from boredom, depression or from the sense of meaning lessness of our existence. Most drugs are so addictive that they ruin the life and create insurmountable problems for many families. Alcohol is also a kind of drug; it is served in licensed bars. Excessive drinking in the inviting environment of a bar is very common. This leads to sickness of the body, involvement in crime, destruction of peace in family life, setting of bad example for children and so on. Gambling is another addiction; it is getting more and more popular; even states are licensing casinos increasingly for revenue. Pornography is illegal. It is the product of the lowest type of taste. It is so attractive that many people, otherwise respectable, are getting hooked into it. Parn pictures are available in the Internet. It generates so much money that even a few blue chip companies have been investing in it. Is it not obvious that diversions of these kinds are injurious to a balanced and integrated development of all the members of our being?
What helps Growth
Of course, there are many other things, which are healthy diversions and instructive at the same time, namely, stage theatre, concerts, lectures on various arts and scientific topics, exhibitions of arts and crafts, museums of different categories, and so on and so forth. How many people choose recreation and diversions judiciously keeping in view the quality of the stimulus they expect to receive?
Now, We would like to see what could be done to reorientate our life and society in the light of participatory knowledge. However, before embarking on this project, it would be in order to clarify certain relevant issues. Ideal pursuit of knowledge brings the subject and object together. Quantum Mechanics and our encounter with the Divine fall in this category. In daily life we are used to treating things, feelings, thoughts and ideas as objects of study. With a little inwardization of the mind we can bring in the subject in our daily encounters. That way our understanding of whatever we study would be more deep and authentic.
Encounter with the Transcendent God
Encounter with the Divine does not stand for any uniform experience. The Divine could be transcendent, universal and individual at the same time. Divine encounter can take place in any of these categories or levels. Here it would be pertinent to draw attention of my readers to the use of the attribute ‘transcendent’ in very different senses in eastern and western religions. In Semitic religions God is considered transcendent because of the idea that God as creator is altogether other than the creation and us as creatures. In eastern religions, God or Supreme Being is supracosmic, beyond time space and causation; yet, in some sense It can involve Itself in cosmic and individual affairs without ever compromising Its supreme status. We see a contradiction in the Semitic concept of The Transcendent. God, though wholly other than humanity, seems to be involved too much in directing and governing the lives of creatures. Yahweh is out and out involved with the life and destiny of the Jewish people. Allah is preoccupied with life and activities of Mohammed and the Muslims. Christians do not seem to be so much involved with God; but they are tied up too much with the Son of God; they do not see light or divinity anywhere else.
As we have seen, primitive man's encounter with the presence of the divine tends to be very different from that of a sophisticated person. Again, by definition the Divine is infinite. It is likely that even with the heart and soul fully involved a person may not experience more than a shade or aspect of the divine truth. That is why we see endless differences in the statement of truth about the Divine coming even from great seers and mystics. Of Course, statements may not reflect the experience accurately. Complaints have been made by many poets and mystics about the inadequacy of language to transmit the experience accurately. Some scholars deem the god of Israel is a tribal one. This does not necessarily mean that this type of a god is invalid. Einstein who came from Jewish background remarked that Judaism started as a tribal religion but grew into an ethical religion gradually. Some Jewish mystics, however, had the experience of Yahweh as the supreme God. The Supreme may respond appropriately if the seeker aspires for the highest; original concepts may not stand in the way at all. By the same token, it may be said that primitive people spread in all the continents need not be converted into some alien mode of belief and way of life; they may well be helped to evolve naturally according to a rhythm that they can feel as their own. After all, any statement about the Supreme is bound to be inadequate. That is why some Upanishadic sages as well as Jewish mystical literature Kabala advocate speaking of the supreme in negative terms.
How to Bring the Subject and the Object together
We have focussed our attention on American society; we have now to see how the participatory mode
of approaching truth can bring about a change in this society riddled with contradictions. Cultivation of science is supposed to gear the mind toward reason; yet, a sizeable number of people in this country sticks to irrational dogmas and tries to influence political decisions, although separation of state and religion has been a great feature of the constitution of the United States. The state of affairs in American society is pivotal; in some sense it represents the whole world in its variety of language, religion, ethnicity and culture. American leadership has an influence on the rest of the world, which also has no parallel in history.
Science and metaphysics have brought us to a common ground; science tells us that energy is the prime reality; metaphysics leads us to the same conclusion. Everything has come from supreme Consciousness-Force and the whole cosmos is a play of forces of different grades and potency. If we can just cultivate the habit of remembering the fact that all that we deal with in our daily life namely, clothes, furniture, car, food, and feelings, opinions, thoughts and ideas everything is a form of energy, our attitude will undergo a change. As we avoid wasting food and drink, mishandle our furniture and car, so we would show respect to our neighbor’s things. Similarly we would express our emotions and opinions in a way as would not disturb others. It can be a good discipline not to forget that we are moving in a vast energy field and each of us a particular formation of several grades of energy. Let us clarify the point further with concrete illustrations: Our body is an aggregate of material and vital energy since it is a living body. The body receives energy from air, water and food primarily. Thus all the organs of the body comprising all the physiological systems, namely, skeletel, circulatory, digestive, nervous etc ., can function perfectly. If there is no misbalance in the distribution of energy, the body is in perfect shape; it is in a state of homeostasis. The body is the foundation of our existence; our emotional and mental life depends on the health of the body. If we misuse our emotional energy, or do not use our reasoning and imaginative abilities properly, our existence becomes tardy and the body and its organs tend to lose perfect balance. As we cultivate the habit of using our financial resources, which also is energy, properly, so do we need to draw energy from our environment comprising all material, living and human sources with due consideration and gratitude. This may take us a long way from fierce competition and resulting tension and anxiety.
Imbalance in Individual and Collective Life
In modern technological society, too much emphasis has been given on competition and very little on cooperation. The values pursued are material success, production of more and more wealth, going ahead of others etc. In the process we have gone further from the ideal of balanced and integrated development of the whole of our being. The result is endless conflict, litigation, anxiety and physical and mental sicknesses of different degrees and kinds.
Individuals make up a nation. As balance and harmony is most desirable for an individual life so does a national life need balance and harmony. Of all the nations, we are focussing attention on the United States since it claims to be the greatest of all nations and puts itself up as the model for others to emulate. We see serious misbalance in the life of this nation. One percent of the population owns forty percent of the wealth. Top executives of big companies earn tens of millions of dollars while four to five percent of the people live on hand outs. It is not just ‘ the non-white backward people’, who live on welfare; two-third of the welfare recipients are white. Extraordinary emoluments of company executives do also constitute unfairness for men and women of many other professions. Wealth or money stands for energy. Obviously a maldistribution of energy is manifest in United States’ economy. With money comes power and pleasure; thus, maldistribution of energy has been the rule in all aspects of national life. If wealth, power and pleasure become the primary goal of national life, games, sports, fine arts, seats of learning and research, religion everything tends to be commercialized. Does this situation speak highly of a nation?
All the nations together constitute the world community. How good is the health of humanity at large? How do we rectify its problems? Shortly after World War II, Cold War started between Soviet Union and the United States. The two superpowers began to Marshall smaller and newly independent states on their side; on the other hand, instead of trying to come to terms with each other, through trade and cultural exchanges, the super powers began to produce lethal weapons and stockpile them. The world has escaped the break out of World War III due to MAD (mutual assured destruction). The world has not been destroyed, but the physical and the mental environments of the world have been ruined. Production of conventional as well as mass destructive weapons produced by the super powers and their allies have disrupted the ecology of the world. Though the two monstrous powers did not collide directly, many nations with the support of the two big ones, engaged in wars due to a heightened spirit of rivalry and competition. The two super powers stood for two opposite ideals; Soviet Union stood for equal distribution of wealth for all, through a process of nationalization of all the means of production; but this system did not work for long. United States stood for democracy and free enterprise system. Soviet Union failed in competition with the U S and broke into pieces. United States emerged as the sole super power in 1989. Super power status did not immediately make it lose its head, though the process started. With the dawn of the twenty-first century, the newly elected, controversially, President Bush began to act as though he was the emperor of the world. He declared that he could not abide by the Kyoto protocol for the safety of the world environment since it would hurt American economy. Numerous studies have shown that the protection of the environment helps the growth of economy in many ways. In fact, a number of states, namely, California, has started paying attention to the environment keeping in view the economic benefits of such measures. Bush is dead against smaller nations building nuclear and other lethal weapons. How can you prevent other free nations pursue their military ambition, however undesirable, when you keep on devising new weapons and show no inclination to endorse CTBT (comprehensive test ban treaty)? He does not care to honor the pledges of his predecessor to reduce the quantity of neuclear warheads. When you refuse to subscribe to the International Criminal Court of Justice on the pretext that some small nations might bring charge against U S personnel on political grounds, do you not virtually declare that you are above international laws which bind others? Unilateral attack of Iraq, a sovereign nation, having dauntingly defied the U N O, seals the U S claim to supremacy. Is this situation healthy?
United States contains only five percent of world population and it consumes thirty percent of the resources of the world. (In the process it has gained the distinction of being the greatest polluter of all the nations). It is surely not an equitable distribution of global energy; yet U S needs more for which it favors free trade in the world. Nevertheless, U S has no hesitation to violate a number of binding rules of W T O (World Trade Organization). United States has stationed soldiers in over one hundred countries; it has seven hundred and three bases spread all over the world. American military budget exceeds the budgets of next- In- power fifteen other nations taken together. Many people feel good to be citizens of such a country. But conscientious citizens do not feel so good about it. Do we really need to maintain such a vast military establishment to secure the free flow of goods and services and bully the nations not on our side? We need this only if we insist on maintaining our unrivalled supreme position in the world, no matter what happens to poverty-stricken citizens domestically and what grudges are expressed against us overtly and covertly by numerous other nations.
A Story of Bringing back Balance
In Hindu mythology there is a common theme of fight between the forces of light and darkness expressed in numerous stories. One such story stated briefly is as follows: The balance in the cosmos (not just our small earth) has been disturbed. The demons know the techniques of propitiating Shiva, the god who has the reputation of being easily satisfied and bestowing boons. With boons granted by Shiva, the demons became overwhelmingly powerful. The gods and goddesses became alarmed; they approached their king Indra. Indra then proceeded to meet Vishnu, the cosmic god who sustains the universe despite all the conflicts between the beings of light and darkness. Being apprised of the dire situation of the cosmos Vishnu suggests something extraordinary. He tells Indra to go back and assemble all the gods and goddesses harassed badly by the demons and bid them to
Release some energy from each of them. From the combined energies of all the divinities will emerge a splendid goddess unsurpassing in strength and beauty. She will defeat the demons and restore the superior positions of the gods and goddesses in the cosmos.
The newly created goddess carries numerous names, namely, chandi, Kali, Durga etc; she also could change her appearance at will. Of course, the demons also had the power to change their appearance and their weapons. The goddess invited the king of the demons to war. The description of innumerable battles occurring in the sky between the goddess and the host of demons is highly dramatic and awe-inspiring. Eventually the goddess in the form of ten-handed Durga riding on a lion vanquished the king of demons who gave his last battle in the form of a terrible buffalo. The whole episode has been described in seven hundred splendid couplets composed in Sanskrit.
Balance and Harmony in the Global Community
Our glove is a tiny fraction of the cosmos; but it is not isolated; cosmic forces from all around may be working on us. Our President may not be a demon, the members of his war cabinet are no angels either. No Vishnu is visible for us to approach. However, the solution may lie in the body, U N O, created by increasing number of nations from the offer of some portion of their energy. This body is not splendid either in beauty or power; but she has the potential to wage a war, preferably non-violent, to fix things and bring order on this globe.
Failure of Ruling Powers to use the Participatory Approach
It is a common knowledge of history that no empire lasts for ever. All imperial powers are motivated by economic and political gains. American imperialism is focussed primarily on economic gains; political advantage is gained indirectly. America is averse to rule over any other nation because of its own colonial past, Philippines being the only exception; secondly, at the present time of history it is terribly difficult to take the responsibility of maintaining law and order in a foreign country as was experienced by British and other European nations. However, American policy has a strong disadvantage. America did not get involved with the lives of the people of the countries it dominated on the economic front. For example, Middle-eastern countries with oil resources have been used by the United States for substantial economic gain; but its non-involvement with the general publics of these countries, deprived it with the opportunity to understand these peoples and do good to them. American government and businesses have dealt with only top echelon of these countries. Involvement with the people of a nation makes it possible to build rapport, to apply the participatory method of knowing and thus, feeling a sense of unity with those people. American diplomacy has suffered badly because of this situation. South Korea has a love and hate relation with America; Japan’s relation with America falls in the same category, may be with a little difference. America has failed to understand Islam and its special hold on the life and mind of the Muslims. Consequently, Middle-eastern Muslim countries have remained alien to America, the relation being, in the words of Martin Buber, I-It instead of I-Thou. Within America itself the ruling elite has very little rapport with the people at the bottom economic rungs. Similarly, Whites have little understanding of the Black, Hispanic and native Indian population. These are serious problems. If at the Quantum level right knowledge proceeds from the interaction of the subject and the object, we need to use it as a model and try to approximate that principle in every encounter. Our educational programs and social exchanges should be geared toward fostering the participatory method. Subject-object interaction leads to what is called unitive knowledge.
When we tap our spiritual resource we come to realize some sort of identity that may be vague or deep, with the object on which we focus our attention. In fact, an element of identity underlies all knowledge. Artists working with whatever medium of expression, have a natural ability to enter into a state of identity with the object of his/her focus; this could be an idea, or a landscape or whatever. Mystics are endowed with similar gifts. We appreciate artistic creations according to our inclination and training. Problem arises with mystics especially if they initiate a religious movement. Mystics try to experience the Divine; they come up with varying statements of their experiences, which may turn out to be radically different from one another. How do we claim that their knowledge is unitive? On the one side all mystics may not have the same level of purity of the heart, even the discipline they follow may have problems; On the other hand, God or supreme Truth on which attention is focussed, is infinite, illimitable, cosmic yet unfathomably transcendental. It is likely that no mystic grasps the whole of the Supreme, each one receives something yet nobody comes to fathom the whole. If mystics and their followers and protagonists do not arrogate to themselves full and only valid knowledge, religious and theological warfare can be easily avoided. We cannot dismiss mystical knowledge as moonshine since such knowledge takes us to the very depth of mystery of our existence.
True Knowledge comes through Identity
We can try to give here a brief outline of a rational discipline that can prepare an individual for getting into unitive approach that can lead to increasingly perfect knowledge. The instruments of knowledge are our senses, feelings, thinking and reflective capacity. For the senses to function properly what is needed is a healthy body. Body’s health is gained and maintained through health habits in general and intake of good food, clean air, right measure of rest and sleep. Emotions play a much larger role in our life than is recognized. Greed, anger, fear, jealousy these can disrupt the healthy development of the body and proper functioning of the senses. These emotions along with undue indulgence in sex and acquiescence to verbal and physical violence can destroy the purity of the body and mind. Mind is the primary instrument of knowledge. To keep the mind straight and unbiased is a big job. Seekers of knowledge have to develop a very strong will not to allow the mind get colored by prejudices some of which stick to our mind like leeches. We come across everyday, people accepting Christian dogmas without any question; Jews, of all the people, think that they have been chosen by God. Muslims believe that they only are destined for heaven as they are most favored by Allah. This demonstrates the tribal character of their respective god. Universal God is not likely to be prejudicial. Similarly, we come across people who think they are superior, because of their complexion, caste, profession, culture and so on. To remove biases is the negative side of the job of purifying the mind; the mind requires a good deal of positive development. Mind has to learn how to analyze and discriminate among truth, half-truth and outright falsehood. Imagination, and a capacity to keep the ego subdued make it possible for the mind soar high and have a very wide view of things. Also an ability to place itself in the shoes of others is a desirable attribute of the mind ready to receive truths. Last of all the mind must learn how to be silent. It is on the silent mind the deepest and profoundest truth dawns; also the silent mind touches the source of inspiration for noble action and great creativity. Contemplation may lead to meditation, which brings about serenity and silence in the mind.
The Process of Personal Growth
Well-known Depth Psychologist Karl Jung has given an interesting description of how the human personality is formed and develops gradually. Our experiences start from the very beginning of life. Something in the psyche absorbs certain stimuli rejects others. Of course, rejected stimuli may partly be stored in deeper recesses of the psyche. This process takes place automatically. However, we can be conscious of the process by observing what forces of emotion and thought work within us. If observation is followed by reflection we get precious insights into our own self. The process of formation and development of the personality may not just be a process, behind it exists a white flame, properly to be called the soul. Sri Aurobindo, the great savant of modern India, who is a great poet, philosopher and master Yogi at the same time, has characterized this white flame as the dynamic spiritual entity organizing and shaping our life from behind the veil; he has called it Psychic Being. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad has called it inner controller. For gaining mastery over our personality and to be aware of the layers of our consciousness, it is necessary that we become conscious of the Psychic Being in us. It seems Young did not go so far as to deem the inner being a spiritual presence of the Divine in each of us. Be that as it may, perception of the process, called Individuation, makes us introspective and get into the heart and soul of all that we encounter, be that a human being, an animal or a landscape. This is how the subject can identify itself with the object resulting in truer knowledge.
S. Freud Evaluated
In this connection it is necessary to talk a little about Sigmond Freud, the most influential psychologist who is responsible for the sex revolution that has taken place in the West. This revolution is spreading all over the world like wild fire. Freud dismissed religion as a mere father complex; he came to the idea that all the energy finding play in us is basically sexual in character. The energy we use individually and collectively is a part of the ubiquitous cosmic energy. Of all the vital forces, namely, lust, greed, anger etc., lust or sex is the most potent since it is associated with the process of procreation. It begins to disturb us as we attain puberty and it is difficult to keep this force under control. It is, however, idle speculation to detect sexuality even in the act of a baby’s suckling the mother’s breast. Any strong urge or emotion, if repressed, may produce some disturbance in the psyche; but to go so far as to see a fundamental conflict, as was done by Freud, between civilization and Eros, is going too far. All civilizations have found some regulated outlet of the sex drive; no civilization had to advocate liciensous use of the sex energy. Freud exaggerated too highly the ill effects of the repression of sex. Recently numerous studies have unearthed the fact that on very many cases Freud virtually put words in the mouth of women patients under his grip. Thus, women’s tales of owe due to repressed sex were used by Freud to establish his preconceived theory about sex and it’s all-pervasive influence on human lives. However, we must give credit to Freud to make western men and women a little more self-conscious. Western tradition, unlike the yogic tradition of the East, did not encourage people to look into himself/herself and watch what is going on there. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the fact that uncritical acceptance of Freud’s ideas , facilitated initially by the movement for women’s rights, has done a havoc to modern civilization. Sex has been apotheosized in popular mind; nothing is more pleasant more glorified than sex. This attitude has brought about what is called sex revolution. Christian reticence about sex has been entirely upturned. Pre-marriage sex, between-marriage sex, extra-marital sex are permissible and widespread. Tales of sexual abuse of children even by close relatives are coming to light everyday; the most devastating news is the involvement of a large number of Catholic priests, even Protestant ministers (who are married) complicity in this heinous crime. It is simply unhealthy to channel a substantial source of our energy in one direction; energy has to be directed in all direction so that many-sided and integrated development of a personality is possible. Thirty or so years ago young men and women in college and university campuses of North America were denouncing sex without love; now this very same attitude is being ridiculed by students starting even from the high school level. This is cynicism, it betrays total disrespect of the heart and mind of the other partner in sex. Such an attitude is diametrically opposed to the method of bringing the subject and object together, which is required for optimum perception of truth about anything, certainly not excluding the sex partner.
Self-knowledge Through a Process of Individuation
Jung’s finding of the process of Individuation has opened a window to spirituality to those who do not want to bother about theology. Quiet observation of the process leads one to the depth of one’s being; one discovers his/her true self and perceive the ego as distinct from the self. Ego organizes the frontal parts of our consciousness; it is grounded on the separateness of each of us from every other person. This seperative ego has a role in our life indeed; but it obstructs our entry into and stand on the self within. It is from the level of the self that we can truly relate with other beings. Relations at the level of the self bring the subject and object together. Two individual selves are never identical, though meetings take place at the depth-dimensions of two persons. Introspection about the process of Individuation helps us discover our true individuality which is unique for each of us. Individualism has to be grounded on this uniqueness of the self; ego-based individualism is a misnomer. It tantamounts to self-centredness, which fosters divisions even among closest of relatives--husband and wife, father and son. If groups are formed purely on mundane personal interest, no real bond is established; on the other hand, if common devotion to some ideal, pursuit of some arts, or any spiritual goal unite a group of people, a relatively cemented bond is created. In the absence of this kind of binding force what is produced are clash, rivalry, and litigation among individuals and groups. Businesses are primarily based on making profits; so we see a spate of litigation among businesses all the time. True understanding of individuals within a group as well as understanding of one group by the other are possible only at a level where empathy comes as a matter of course.
Now, the problem is how to orient people to the idea of looking at all encounters, every experience of life from within, from the truly subjective stand; this is how we get an entry into the reality of the object we encounter. This approach can be attempted by any one. However, orientation can be started from the early stage of life. Small children may be encouraged to imagine how a tree may feel if hit by an axe ; again, how the same tree feels when it is touched in a cold morning by warm sunshine. Similarly a child may be encouraged to feel how an animal may react to a certain situation. This is how children will learn to place themselves in the shoes of other children , nay, with all other creatures. This is how sympathy and fellow-feeling will come to them spontaneously. It is not likely that small children will understand the process of Individuation; but we need not rule out the possibility of children developing a hunch of the process even before they get into the stage of adolescence. The problem is with those older people who have never been introspective, who live all the time on the surface mind being bombarded by everyday events and reacting to them almost mechanically. Of course, people react to events, small and big, according to their values or conventional sense of right and wrong, good and bad.
Curriculum conducive to Integral Growth
A few words about school and college curricula may be in order at this stage. Currently too much stress is being given on Math and science. Indeed Math and science are extremely important at this age of technology. With some proficiency in these two subjects, even mediocre boys and girls can go for some technical qualification to be able to earn a living. All the same, art and literature, music and dramatics are by no means less important for a rounded growth of the personality of a boy or a girl. For those who are bound for college, liberal Arts program would be most desirable in which even those who major in any area of science have to take courses in Humanities and some branch of Fine Arts. When Graduates from such colleges get into professional schools or in specialized areas of study, they are not likely to be oblivious of the values of , say, Literature, philosophy or music. But the real problem is national values of most industrialized countries. If money and power become the symbols of success, honor and glory, what escapes attention is love of truth and yearning for the depth dimension of our existence. As a result all the problems of social and national life, as has been already mentioned, becomes rampant. From these emerge big international issues of war, military alliance, tensions of all kinds and wastage of resources on armaments and ruining of the environment. The kind of truth we are talking of requires a reversal of values as would make it possible for humanity to make stride toward progress, higher consciousness and balance and harmony in life.
Are we counting too much on ethical, aesthetic and spiritual growth of humanity? Is it not a fact that given opportunities men women and children can make progress in learning, creativity and widening of consciousness? Why do we assume that humanity is a finished product and it cannot evolve any further? What is needed along with modern amenities and opportunities, is a broad philosophy of higher values and discouragement of frivolous diversions and aimless pursuit of wealth.
Are we emphasizing overly unitive and participatory knowledge? Are we demanding that all of us have to be poised in our soul and approach every encounter all experience of life psychically? In fact, all creative inspirations, profound thoughts, great discoveries proceed from unitive and participatory encounters. Let us illustrate the point: think of a beautiful landscape; a high hill, sprawling valley, a brook flowing through it, fruit trees at the slope of the hill, green vegetation, some animals grazing here and there, the blue sky above with patches of white cloud. A sensitive man comes to this area on a leisurely Autumn day. He is struck by the charm of the landscape; he looks intently, his mind falls quiet. After a short while he walks back home in a fullness of mind. What has transpired between the landscape and the man? An exchange has taken place between the two. The landscape is a conglomeration of many items forming together an individuality, something of a soul; this soul meets the soul of the man resulting in an alchemy. The man is inspired; he expresses his joy in a medium, say, painting in which he has some skill.
Now , think of a scientist working with a hypothesis for a period of time. The very concentration of his mind leads him suddenly one day to a solution of the problem he has been brooding on. Is it not true that most scientific discoveries come suddenly in the form of an intuition? What happens can be put like this: Intensity of the focus of the scientist’s mind makes him receptive; the energy field of thought responds and leaps into the mind of the scientist in an appropriate shape. Similarly, great philosophers have come up with profound insights about certain philosophical problems or issues. Newton felt the truth of Gravitation came to him as a revelation. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is not intelligible to many intelligent people mainly because it has a mystical element requiring a leap in consciousness for grasping its meaning. In fact, mystical experiences also result from a kind of union of a properly tuned subject and an object.
However, what happens to our day to day encounter with all kinds of episodes, facts, incidents, opinions and thoughts of fellow beings? We approach reality from different levels of our consciousness; as a result different people may come up with different accounts of apparently the same facts. For example, if we examine the accounts of World War II presented by four authors one of them from each of the following nations --United States, Russia, England, France--we are going to have very different pictures of the same event of the twentieth century. (We are withholding the names of the historians and the titles of their works) Each author looked at the great event from his vantage point; the event made of innumerable small incidents worked on the mind of each author in unique way. Consequently, none of the four accounts of the Great War is wrong; again, none of the accounts has a claim to perfect truth. By the same token, even profound scientific, philosophical and mystical truths have no absolute validity; so we see great scientific discoveries are being modified by other scientists later on; the same is true of philosophical and mystical truths. However, subject-object interaction at the depth of our being, would carry a greater validity than what is obtained as a result of interaction on a less deeper level. Any of the accounts of World War II cannot be as enduring as the Law of Gravitation. Innumerable encounters take place in our everyday life. These happen mostly at the surface level of our consciousness; therefore, the results of such encounters are bound to be ephemeral in nature. It is obvious that each of us has to develop our capacity to discover the deeper dimension of our being for fullness of our life.
What follows from this discussion is that no knowledge however profound can have absolute validity. All that we can say about a particular piece of wisdom is that it is very deep and has a very wide application. In some quarters the word ‘Revelation’ has gained a peculiar connotation. Anything put in the category of revelation becomes absolute truth, final word of God. We have dealt with this misconception of revelation at the beginning of this essay. We would say that each encounter being unique all revelations may be true and yet not be the whole truth. As for something being final truth, it is simply a contradiction since the entire cosmos is in constant move, in a flux so to say. Even those who claim finality to the revealed book they are attached to, can themselves find how their religion has changed over the centuries and how newer interpretations of the scripture have made earlier positions beyond recognition .
At this point, it would be worthwhile to mention that we notice two very distinct patterns in the prophetic tradition in one hand, and, on the other, in the religious tradition of India. Prophetic tradition emphasizes commands coming from God through prophets for individuals to shape their life and for the society to organize itself. Ten commandments are primary, but there are six hundred other commands approximately. The commands are directed much more toward individual and collective behavior than on growth of higher consciousness. Indian religions emphasized very much the growth in consciousness although they did not ignore principles of ethics for individuals and rightful organization ofsociety. Because of this difference in the basic pattern, these two types of religion have been facing difficulty in appreciating each other. People of Indian tradition do not see as much spirituality in prophetic tradition as in their own. On the other hand, people of prophetic tradition believe that their scriptures are revelations whereas Indian scriptures are only speculations about the Truth. According to Semitic traditionGod is not involved in the world. He created the world out of nothing. On the other hand, in Hindu tradition, the world is a manifestation of God who is very much present in the world, especially in human beings as their individual souls. Though Buddhism does not expressly speak of the soul, it acknowledge the divine potential, Buddha nature, in man. So we see Semitic tradition does not aim at knowing and experiencing God, whereas the goal of Indian religions is to attain to higher consciousness and become God-like. Biblical statement that God created man in his own image, does not connote the presence of God in man. Consequently, the West cannot think of man evolving further and having a society built on the basis of higher divine consciousness. In the Indian tradition, evolution of the individual to a higher type is common knowledge; the idea of a society based on higher consciousness is not uncommon though restricted mainly as an ideal, something which was a reality in the golden age.
Nationalism as an Obstruction to Emerging Truth
In our example of the four different versions of the history of World War II we indicated that the nationality of the authors was the main source of the difference. In fact, nationality reinforced with sundry other factors went to create a unique perspective in the mind of the author, which was responded to by a particular formation of the energy field. Tremendous differences are found in the accounts given by the authors who lived through the war. What does that say? It simply says that the authors were inundated by the national prejudices and predilections. Obviously, none of them could go beyond the influences of their immediate surrounding to be able to penetrate deep into the heart and soul of the great event. From this we can conclude that there are different grades or levels of truth. In our daily life, we encounter all kinds of incidents, people, opinions, conflicts etc. These are like ripples on the sea, some are a little high while others are hardly visible. They may not affect us greatly. In fact, these encounters may generate exchange at emotive levels and hardly at the level of thought. It should, however, be noted that many creative artists draw with their open heart, materials from these ripples for a narrative or a large piece of painting. Small things may indeed lead us to deeper feelings and thought provided we have the right frame of mind. Nationalism, as we see it now, developed all over Europe at the wake of Napoleonic wars. It spread in countries of colonial occupation before long. Having used the spirit of nationalism and patriotic love of their own country, people of occupied countries mounted a struggle for independence. This is how countries of colonial domination became so many sovereign nations. However, time has come to realize that the idea-force of nationalism has done its job, and that it would be injurious to the full flowering of globalism and the human unity if we continue to adhere to it strongly. Indeed, nationalism has turned into a bar for overcoming national prejudices and for us to grow into wider and proper perspective of truth.
We have examined how religion, originally a noble thing, has erected walls between peoples. Let us now illustrate what nationalism has been doing.
Is America the greatest of Nations?
Many citizens of America, starting from former President Carter to ordinary folks, refer to the United States as the greatest nation in the world. Yes, the U S is the strongest country economically and militarily; but that does not make it the greatest since greatness calls for many other qualities. In fact, many features of American life, past and present, testify to deficiency in greatness. In Colonial period, moving from one state where belief in Trinity prevailed, to a state advocating Unitarianism could be dangerous; in some such cases people had to pay the ultimate price. The way native Indian population was decimated is brutal and shameful. African Americans were brought as slaves and bought and sold like commodities; they were treated far worse than beasts of burden while their long hours of toil was exploited for personal benefit by the owners. It is interesting that the blacks are made to carry the psychological stigma of descending from slave ancestors, whereas even at this day the Whites enjoy the prestige of descending from slave-owning forefathers. Which group should rightly be carrying the stigma? The treatment meted out to Chinese immigrant workers was not ‘great’ either. People of color got real right of voting as late as 1965. Prejudice stems from an inability to see eye to eye at the party on the other side of the fence. One survey conducted just a couple of decades before shows that books on social studies for Secondary schools and numerous reference books published in the United States contain numerous derogatory remarks about many countries and cultures. The effect of these on public opinion is not good, to say the least. They do indeed hurt the growing spirit of internationalism.
Colonialism resulting from Erroneous Pursuit of Truth
We started with a critical analysis of two seventeenth century philosophers, Descartes and Francis Bacon. Descartes advocated that the mind should remain aloof for understanding the world; the subject as the seeker of truth is distinct from the object. Bacon recommended application of scientific knowledge to exploit Nature for making our life easy; he did never think that we are a part of Nature. The attitude formalized by these two thinkers, had begun to be practiced unwittingly by common people of Western Europe from the fourteenth century. With the break up of the Feudal system these people lost touch with land, began to move to towns and trade centers in search of some occupation for eking out an existence. Shortly after that, trade began to increase across borders; pretty soon Trade organizations were formed , which received charter from national governments for international trade, especially for trade with the East. These trading companies went to eastern countries like, India, China, Indonesia as well as numerous African countries. Wealth began to be poured into the economies of England, Holland, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and so on. Europe began to prosper in science and technology; philosophy took some time to appear. By the eighteenth century many of these trade missions gained political control, with the support of their respective national government, over a number of Asian and African countries. Thus, emerged in modern history a period of colonialism. The way the imperial nations of Europe treated the people of their colonies exemplifies the attitude advocated by the two philosophers and at the same time the utter deficiency of these approaches for truth. Just as samples let us mention a few facts: Colonial powers divided good many areas of Africa under their control into separate countries in up and down straight lines, just for their convenience, without any regard to the ethnicity, language and culture of the inhabitants of those areas. China did not come under direct rule of any of the colonial powers. However, each of these powers congregated there and brought specific areas under its control. These intruders plus Germany and Russia made these areas as centers of their commercial and proselytizing activities. They demanded extra-territorial rights over those areas, which meant, Europeans as well as their Chinese employees and converts could not be brought under the jurisdiction of Chinese laws. This amounted to flat insult to the Chinese emperor.
Dark side of Colonialism
India began to come under British control in the middle of the eighteenth century; the process continued for about a century and thus the whole of the country, except certain small areas were brought under the British rule. England regarded India as the crown jewel of her vast empire where the Sun did not set. India has a very long and continuous history of a highly developed culture. It seems British people, despite their two hundred years of direct contact with India, did learn very little from India. I do not see any impact of India's vast store of literature, in Sanskrit and numerous regional languages, its music, architecture of different designs, theological and philosophical works etc on British culture. How could that be possible? Here we come to the subject/object relationship.
The same-chartered trade companies with specified jurisdictions granted to them by their sovereigns, landed on countries of Asia and Africa, also in Latin America. The goal of these companies was, of course, material gain through commerce. There is nothing wrong in trade or commerce since it is supposed to benefit both the parties. However, if the parties are unequal in strength, the normal relationship of give and take gets tempered. After the initial contact and assessment of the situation western trade missions started to acquire unusual strength due to their superior technology, weaponry and fortification of their centers of mobilization. Along with traders came priests and ministers who worked as second fiddles to the manipulative traders. Native people with whom trades were conducted were looked upon by European traders as unsophisticated heathens and therefore vulnerable. Before long, through all kinds of legal and illegal maneuvers trading companies gained unenviable strength that was translated into ownership of lands and kingdoms. White Christian tradesmen failed to take colored non-Christian native as fellow beings deserving equal status and common courtesy. In short, no real exchange at human level took place. The result was merciless exploitation of peoples looked upon with contempt, the cruelest manifestation of which was slave trade. Where there is no entry of one group into the soul of another there is no truth. The centuries- old relationship between the East and the West is based on falsehood with very little exception. Unfortunately, the pattern is continuing till this day.
Take for example, the present crisis centering round Iraq. (April, 2004). President Bush attacked Iraq without proper justification a little over a year ago (March 2003). Serious discussions are being carried on in North America and also in European press about the problem of terrorism. It is interesting that nobody raises the question if United States has any responsibility in the emergence of terrorism, if U S diplomacy has failed to deal with the Islamic, specifically the Arab states, with due regards to their hopes and aspirations. However different the Muslims and Arabs are, we need to enter into their soul with our soul; Truth comes out in the front only with such psychic exchange.
Difficulty of Psychic Relations among Nations
It is relatively easy for two individuals with different backgrounds to approach each other psychically. It is extremely difficult for two large groups to establish a relationship of genuine friendship. Each nation is constituted by numerous groups made of religious, ethnic, linguistic and other affinities. In the modern period nations have emerged as the largest cohesive aggregates of humanity. Nations are competing with one another for economic and military power and for greater control over the natural resources of mother earth. The primary responsibility of the leaders of a nation is to see that the citizens have security of life and basic needs for a decent existence. Consequently, the mind of the leaders is focussed on material prosperity of the nation they represent; the leaders can hardly afford to focus their attention on high ideals of human unity. All the same, outstanding individuals have come up with high ideals and lofty goals for the human race. We may cite a few examples. In the eighteenth century a few novelists in England, namely Richardson, Fielding, started to champion the cause of women. Gradually the idea spread in other parts of Europe and then to the rest of the world. Any such idea faces opposition and takes long to materialize in actual conditions of life. Similarly, ideas of basic human rights advocated by numerous thinkers, with the inception of European Renaissance, operating in diverse fields of literature, philosophy, sociology etc., has gone a long way to champion the cause of ordinary people. Labor movement and socialistic ideas have spread all over the world. Even though the Soviet Union has broken up, socialistic principles are being incorporated in national policies of third world countries, in Europe and even in basically Capitalist economy of the United States. Struggle for political independence gained success in different states of Latin America from Spanish and Portuguese colonialism in the nineteenth century. It is in the twentieth century that the struggle for independence became acute In Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe; before the end of the twentieth century all the countries have gained nationhood as an independent unit. Technology has greatly facilitated the spread of ideas; we have now entered into the age of globalism. The United Nations Organization symbolizes the new spirit of globalism; even though it is not a state or even a government, it has been giving tremendous service to humanity.
Lofty ideals aided by Technology have brought about a great change in the world. Politicians and businessmen may busy themselves with the problems of daily life; they may not have time to think about the future and the destiny of humanity at large, yet they do pay attention eventually to ideas and visions of idealists and visionaries.
Triumph of Lofty Ideals
Gradually common people tend to adopt high ideals and try to adapt their behavior to these ideals. So, what we see is a great progress in the world, not just in standards of living but also in the human spirit. Average men and women are casting aside deep-rooted prejudices and opening their hearts as well as purse for people of distant climes and countries. Worldwide response to help the Tsunami victims (December, 26, 04) has no precedence. This signifies a veritable change in consciousness of masses of people. It is through an opening as well as deepening of our consciousness we will be able to reach our soul and touch the soul of others. This is how we can solve the problem of war, which has been spelling disaster for humanity. It is to be understood that wars have been absorbing greater and greater parts of national resources and at the same time consolidating the differences and rivalries among peoples. Let us take a look at the cries of idealists against wars.
Sri Aurobindo, a preeminent leader of Indian struggle for freedom during the first decade of the last century, was engaged in envisioning the future of mankind during the second decade of the century. He came to the idea, while observing the progress of World War I, that unless war was prevented human progress would be seriously hampered. He advocated the formation of a world government for making war a thing of the past. He speculated by what process world government could be a reality and what form the anticipated government could reasonably take. After the end of the War a number of concerned thinkers of Europe, who were shocked by the colossal destruction brought about by the war, began to device a mechanism as would prevent another carnage. Establishment of an international body called The League of Nations was proposed under the earnest leadership of American President Woodrow Wilson, an idealist and a man of great learning. The League of Nations became a reality in 1919. But Mr. Wilson failed to persuade the Congress to become a member of this organization. America chose to remain an insular nation. League of Nation did quite a few good things; but it could not prevent another war breaking out within twenty years. World War II broke out in 1939. It ended in 1945 with far greater devastation covering the entire world. In the earlier war the death toll was terrible; aerial bombing as well as chemical weapons were used. The second war ended with the dropping of two Atomic bombs killing one hundred thousand Japanese. With initiative taken by F D Roosevelt United Nations Charter was prepared; in 1945 U N O was inaugurated with a handful of free nations as members. Membership has now grown to one hundred and ninety one. With the production of Atomic bombs in 1949 by Soviet Union, Cold War started in right earnest. Third World War has been averted, but so many proxy wars have actually been fought; the process is still continuing; so is the draining of natural resources.
Two Harvard jurists came up with protracted deliberations with a book entitled Complete Disarmament with Full Inspection. The book was circulated widely in original and in numerous translations. There was a chance for a breakthrough as Khrushchev, the Soviet leader was in a favorable disposition, but eventually nothing happened. That was in 1959. In early seventies a few followers of Sri Aurobindo, in collaboration with a number of pacifist organizations in Europe, met in several sessions and produced a document entitled Constitution for the Federation of the Earth. This group met in Europe and North America to press the urgency of a broad-based world government. Unfortunately, attendance at these meetings was negligible. Those who attended some of the meetings, including the present writer, came to the conclusion that unless American leadership could be persuaded to look at the proposal seriously, nothing could be accomplished. With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989, the world situation has changed altogether. United States has emerged as the sole super power. During the Clinton years America reached the highest height of economic and military strength. President Clinton, in tune with the idealistic strand of American foreign policy, sent military force in Bosnia and Kosovo to alleviate human suffering.
A Set-back with Bush in the White House
As Mr. Bush became the President the world has come to a crossroad. United States has received a terrible blow on September eleven,2001. Homeland Security program has been launched, Taliban has been removed from power in Afghanistan and members of Al Queda, the perpetrators of the devastating attack, are on the run. However, Mr. Bush has shifted his attention from the pursuit of the Al Queda and has concentrated on regime change in Iraq. He has invaded Iraq and in a matter of three weeks Sadam Hussein has been removed, but the situation in Iraq is grave. All the same, having taken a position of grandstanding, Bush has been talking of establishing democracy in Iraq and then democratizing the whole of Middle East. He declared this unequivocally to be his mission and that it should be the calling of his administration. He also has announced that whichever country fails to cooperate in his attempt at eradicating the evil of terrorism, would be deemed an enemy. Expressions like ‘mission’, ‘calling’, ‘evil’ are loaded heavily with Christian connotations. Mr. Bush is himself a fundamentalist Christian; he has been trying to remove the separation of religion from state , a cardinal and highly laudable provision of the Constitution of the United States. He has been promoting faith-based social service programs with extra-ordinary vigor. Federal regulators insisted that churches and other Christian organizations receiving Government money must abide by government regulations. Mr. Bush has waved this obligation and handed a copy of the Bible as the source of all guidance. According to a Dateline program aired by National Public Radio, April 29, 2004, so far more than one billion dollars have been handed out, and the recipients are exclusively Christian service outfits. Faith-based social work was advocated to a moderate degree by President Clinton and President Carter. They did not, however, demonstrate such partisan spirit. Mr. Bush’s attitude has alarmed the people of the Middle East. Muslims have read in the utterances of Mr. Bush, an attempt by Christian West to destroy Islam. Zealous Christians, on the other hand, having gotten a hint from the statements of the President that it is a conflict of two civilizations, have sent missionaries in Iraq even when the situation there has been still very volatile.
The founding fathers of the United States of America entertained the idea that America stood on a higher ground of morality; American Presidents have tried on occasions to conduct diplomacy from that standpoint. This idealism, nonetheless, should not be confounded with Christian ambition to convert, although Christian missionaries took every opportunity to export Christianity wherever America as a power was involved. Boxer Rebellion against the excesses of Christian missionaries in China was suppressed by U S army ruthlessly. In South Korea as many as forty missions are functioning; hill tribes of South Vietnam have been Christianized. Through Organization of American States (OAS), America has been involved greatly with Central and South American countries; in the process number of Protestants in Central and South America has been increasing by leaps and bounds.
Time has come for America as the sole super power to fulfil her idealism by engaging herself in the improvement of human situation within the country as well as in other parts of the world. However, America may lose the chance if the leadership fails to tread a very fine path of diplomacy. Religion must be kept separate from state affairs. As a matter of fact, some critics are alleging that the present President has shifted his allegiance from the Constitution to Evangelical Christianity. Again, arrogance and self-righteousness may even ruin U S future. Imposing economic sanctions without first engaging in diplomatic exchange with the alleged recalcitrant nation is not the right thing to do . Similarly, unilateral action against a sovereign state like Iraq, having defied the U N O and ignoring the opposition of allies like Germany, France, and Canada is dangerous. It is not unnatural for less powerful nations to group together through defense and or trade consortium to thwart the bullying power of the super power. The super power should never try to impose her wishes on others; it has to understand that each nation has a unique history, culture and specific needs. Here comes the right attitude for the sake of truth, to try to get into the soul of another nation.
At this point it may be noted that after the nine/eleven terrorist attacks, America gained sympathy of most of the nations of the world. Unfortunately much of this sympathy has evaporated due, mainly, to the policies pursued by President Bush. Secondly, for the last few years, starting from the World Trade Organization convention at Seattle(1999), huge protest rallies are being organized against Global trade, also against the sessions of I M F and World Bank. G 7 meetings are also facing protest rallies wherever and whenever these meet. What do these protests imply?
A perception is growing that Free Trade favors most of all America and next, other industrialized countries. The policies of I M F are geared to favor lender nations, especially America, it being the largest lender, to the detriment of borrowing nations. In fact, starting from the eighties, nations like, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. suffered severe economic problems at different years, culminating in a crisis in 1997-8, while America enjoyed prosperity, which peaked during 1995 to 2000. America could not help much. I M F came up with a number of austerity measures for each of these countries; but implementation of these economic measures brought about political and social dislocation of varying degrees triggered by the suffering of common people of these nations. The protracted suffering that Argentina went through has no parallel. This perception of inequity works against the globalism developing steadily. It has to be understood that the protest rallies against GTO, IMF, World Bank and G7 meetingts are not against Globalism per se, these are against misuse of globalism by the rich whites of industrialized countries. The protesters are not misguided people; they have a strong point to drive at. They think that 5% of the white people are manoevering to exploit the poor people of the world, including the poor people of the rich countries. Protesters think that they represent global consciousness truly.
Some Remarks against Global Institutions
At this point it would be in order to mention some criticism leveled against W T O and I M F by highly informed scholars. Both these institutions have shown remarkable inaptitude to look at the situations of poor and developing countries of Africa, Asia and South America. World Trade Organization, under the leadership of powerful western nations, has insisted on the developing nations to liberalize their trade policies so that industrialized countries could export their products; at the same time export(mainly agricultural produce) from poor countries has been thwarted by tariffs Imposed by industrialized countries. Curiously enough these affluent countries of Europe and America have been boosting their agricultural industry through state subsidy. This attitude exemplify our contention that unless you see yourself in others, you do not see the truth and you tend to act shamelessly in a selfish manner. International Monetary Fund has been playing a greater role in bringing stability in world economy by arranging loans to developing countries for their economic growth. I M F has also placed itself in the role of adviser and guide. In the process it has tried unduly to control the economic plans and programs of those countries. IMF has followed the American model of Free Capital Market; this is wrong. There are other models, namely, Japanese, German, and Swedish. In fact, none of these models suits a developing economy, which has very little safety net by way of worker’s compensation, pension plan etc. Besides, the pace of growth of those countries cannot be the same as that of America, because of the fact that these countries are far less organized, their economic data imperfect, workforce less efficient and corruption is pervasive. When things go at least moderately well, there is no problem; but when going gets tough, crisis sets in. The social cost of crisis is enormous. Individuals losing jobs have no place to go; if the macro economy of the nation faces recession, the set back may spell disaster depending on the intensity of the recession and the length of time needed for recovery. During the eighties of the last century, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil went through crisis. Later the problems of East Asian countries became acute culminating in a crisis in 1997-98. Taiwan and South Korea got out of the problem before long; Thailand was hit hard. When attempt was made at the insistence of IMF for reorganization of the financial structure of Indonesia, for the sake of guaranteeing the outflow of money to the lenders, a deep crisis set in. When for lack of funds, food ration of the people was cut down, riots started. Malaysia and China succeeded in escaping the problem by paying no attention to the suggested austerity measures by IMF. The prolonged crisis of Argentina and untold miseries of its citizens have been astounding. It is true that IMF has admitted its mistakes somewhat; but does its present policy reflect this admission? IMF is controlled by America and other industrialized countries; America is the only country having a veto. To remedy this situation, among other things, developing nations should have proper representation. Again, transparency in policy deliberations is necessary since IMF is a public institution of enormous importance. Transition from one type of economy to another is fraught with difficulties. When Russia was going through this process of transition from centrally controlled Soviet economy to market economy, transparency would have cut down the miseries the Russians went through. The world is still very far from the ideal relationship of ‘I and thou’.
Globalism as an Ideal
Globalism is a wonderful thing; information and capital move instantaneously all over the world; even goods and services travel in unprecedented speed. Globalism has made the world small indeed; it has brought about a sense of commonness and unity of all humankind, which actually is a lift in our consciousness.
How do we take advantage of this growth in our consciousness? We need to bring changes in the light of this newly gained expansion of the mind in the organization of national and international life. Why should there be a big chasm between the rich and the poor in each nation and at the same time between the rich and the poor nations? In fact, the gaps tend to widen as the rich people can take greater advantage of the altered situation of technology and globalism. During the recent economic recession in America, top executives of thousands of business corporations received emoluments about five hundred times of what was given to the average workers. Even after the unraveling of shameful corruptions in a large number of these firms, hardly any change is being instituted in the structures of emoluments. A change has to come in the deep-rooted habitual thinking. The needs of every man and woman are not the same; on the other hand, every man and woman needs certain basic things. Talents in all fields should be rewarded; but rewards may not stand just for more and more money. Talented people would improve the quality of their life if they can live among people who have the education and taste to appreciate their talents. A nation-wide and worldwide improvement of the quality of life would be the desired effect of the forces of globalism and improved consciousness.
Why cannot we shake off our habitual thinking and feeling? Why do we have to think always in terms of struggles and competition instead of cooperation and mutuality? Some people may argue that groups of humanity have always fought for success and preeminence; how do you remove this inherent tendency? Yes, this tendency is deep-rooted. On the other hand, a tendency to work hard, even to sacrifice one’s life, for the sake of offspring, close relatives and other people in distress is not uncommon. In modern times, with the development of nationalism and nation-state , non-conscripted volunteer soldiers show readiness to die for their nations in wars. our attitude is not unchangeable.
War and Anti-War Forces
Human history runs parallel to the history of war. As man’s knowledge and ambition for dominance increased, so did man’s techniques of conducting wars increase in sophistication. Did any countervailing force develop side by side? I would say, yes. From the dawn of civilization, human beings felt an intimacy not only toward their offspring and close relatives but also for other human beings. This contributed to the formation of affinity groups like clans, tribes. On the occasion of frictions among clans and tribes, wiser and elders among the members of clans and tribes, have advocated peaceful settlement of quarrels; this led to the development of the philosophy of peace against fight, Non-violence against violence. Thus came about diplomacy and peace missions. It is true diplomacy and peace missions did not always succeed; but they have not always failed either. Wisdom has always suggested that war should be the last resort; that is to say, only when all other measures have failed to settle disputes. Again, all civilizations developed certain code of conduct in waging wars. In most cases two warring parties would meet each other at an open space and engage in battles. With sunset, fighting would stop; with regard to handling the wounded and the prisoner also a set code of honor would be followed. In situations like this, women, children, sick and elderly people could stay in relative security at a distance. When invading hordes attacked villages and cities, these rules were flouted. In this respect, we see a gradual degradation of ethical principles from ancient to medieval period of history and from the medieval to the modern period. If American soldiers were instructed to place themselves, in imagination, in the shoes of the Afghan and Iraqi enemies, all the embarrassing events of American soldiers inflicting brutal punishments on Afghan and Iraqi prisoners extending over three years would not have occurred. Disconcerting pictures of what happened in Abu Grab prison in Iraq have been flashed all over the world. Recently horrible accounts of inhuman treatment of the prisoners in Guantamo Bay have been unearth (Reported by ‘Sixty Minutes program of CBS, dated May 1, 205). These prisoners have no status; they are being locked up indefinitely despite protests by many national and international organizations. This brings down the honor and prestige of the United States. Fighters and other personnel of the military establishment have to develop basic human consideration for other human beings, especially prisoners. Geneva Convention is supposed to guide the treatment of prisoners. Geneva Agreements were heavily influenced by Christian values. It is sad indeed that American soldiers and administrators are involved in flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention.
In the present time of history, war has become in many respects extremely irrational and most cruel. When I was listening to the report of bombing given by a courageous reporter, Ann Garol, from her solitary room in a high-rise hotel of Baghdad, I could hear the terrific noise of super heavy bombs crushing on buildings and roads of Baghdad, a modern capital inhabited by six million people. I wondered was it necessary. After the defeat of Sadam Hussein within three weeks, a period of chaos ensued: killing, looting and destruction of property continued. When no weapons of mass destruction was found despite a frantic search, I felt that it was all wrong. Hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars are to be spent on rebuilding the city and bringing normalcy in it. What is the point of this expenditure, although the supporters of Mr. Bush are being favored with big contracts. Lately accounts of sky-high expenditure of rebuilding Baghdad are coming to the press along with the inordinate cost of security personnel. Insurgency seems to be increasing by leaps and bounds.
While watching the killings and devastation during World War I, in which nine million people lost their lives, leaders thought this should be the war to end all wars. Despite all the shocks people went through, within twenty years another worldwide war started. During World War I aerial bombing was used for the first time; chemical weapons also featured prominently. The World War II ended with the droppings of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki one after the other. One hundred thousand people died in a matter of three days. President Truman ordered the bombing; he never regretted what he did. In fact, Japanese people were looked upon by the Americans as sub-human creatures; here we see again a deep-rooted misunderstanding between two nationalities. It is claimed that dropping of atomic bombs was necessary to save lives of American soldiers. You can find justification for any act of cruelty. Some historians think that the decision to drop atomic bombs was taken primarily to terrorize the Soviet Union. There is no universally agreed definition of terrorism. Many people consider killing of innocent people is an act of terrorism. If we accept this definition, can we spare any modern-day commander of war from the charge of terrorism?
I have stated that modern wars are extremely irrational. Is it necessary to elaborate on this? War is supposed to be fought for some gain. The question is for whose gain? Hundreds of millions of people, mostly young, lost their precious lives in wars fought during the twentieth century. As for gain, After the World War I, Great Britain lost much of its economic strength; financial capital of the world was shifted from London to New York. After World War II, England and other colonial powers began to lose their empires; the process was completed by the end of the century. Soviet Union built a vast empire; the very heavy burden of defense expenditure made the S. Union fall apart like a pack of cards. Is America going to learn any lesson from these examples? General Myres, Chairman, Joint Chief of Stuff, has stated to a Congressional committee just this day (May 3, 205) that U S military would be in great constraint if America has to start another operation (presumably against either North Korea or Iran); such a war will require much longer time to finish and casualty of American soldiers would be much higher. General Myres is asking for another emergency sanction of 82 billion dollars for handling Iraq and Afghanistan. So far 300 billion has been spent outside the regular budgetary provision on these two fronts. As we have mentioned, American Defense budget is staggering; it spends approximately one and a half billion dollars a day. According to some estimate, which calculates expenses on, among other things, growing number of veterans, maintenance of weapons in storage,payment of interest on money borrowed for warfareetc. , 56 cents of every dollar in the budget. Even with such expenditure America feels constraint. In fact, Bush has declared that America could go alone anywhere in the world to quell troubles. In actuality, America has failed to respond to the crisis, designated as genocide by Secretary of State Powel, in Darford region of Sudan. Other areas like Zimbabwe reeling under years of Mogave’s misrule, North Korea bent on producing nuclear weapons, deserve some action as per the declaration of Bush. Is it due to the limited military resources that America cannot show its muscle? If so is it not the right time to acknowledge the fact that great powers went down the tube due to heavy burden of conducting wars? Should not peace and co-existence be given a chance at this point of time?
Lessons from History
Emerging Globalism and global consciousness demand stocktaking of human history and culture to discover what is the intention of the evolutionary nisus, which all of us carry knowingly or unknowingly.
It is estimated that a little over one hundred thousand years ago, Homo Sapiens emerged as a new species, having left Apes and Hominids far behind, somewhere in the middle of Africa. From there these people moved to North Africa and different areas of Eurasia. Anthropologists, Paleontologists, archaeologists and others have been speculating how many millennia ago which parts of Eurasia were inhabited and later which group might have move from which part to which other part of the globe. There is hardly any consensus about these estimates. So, to cut the story short, I would like to put the story in a general way like this: Human civilization started in different parts of the world in bracing climate, especially near great river systems. This happened after the Homo Sapiens gave up the life of hunting and gathering having learnt planting and growing food. Barious early civilizations known to us resulted from what may be characterized as Agricultural Revolution. With the increase of population, different groups of people made attempts to explore nearby areas; gradually they attempted to move far and wide; in the process adjoining areas were inhabited, contacts were established with other cultures, which resulted in exchange of ideas, tools, commodities etc. It took several millennia for greater part of the world to be inhabited. Peace and war brought distant cultures near; war and natural causes contributed to the rise and fall of countries and civilizations. We have now many different racial types, hundreds of languages, a number of major and innumerable minor religions. In all these spheres, mixtures, exchanges and cross-fertilizations took place. This should remind everybody that humans form but one species. Of course even at this time of globalism, we come across infinite variety and diversity in complexion, beliefs, language, customs, manners, food, dress and so on, which tend to erect walls of partition among peoples. If we can focus our attention, despite all the differences, on the fundamental unity of mankind, wars and rivalries can be reduced significantly. This will be the way to protect the ecology, which upholds the life support system on this globe.
Right Probe into Human Nature
At this critical hour of history, I feel prompted to draw the attention of my readers to one big difference in the understanding of human nature. This difference has a strong relevance to prevention of war as well as evolutionary progress of the human race. In the religeo-philosophical thought of India a very clear distinction has been made between the vital parts of man and his mind and thought. This distinction is corroborated by modern study of biological evolution. Living creatures of lower level are guided purely by instincts and common vital urge to avoid pain, to live long, procreate and take care of the offspring. Mind is virtually absent in them. As evolution progresses, mind begins to manifest itself in animals; it is only in higher types of animals, mental activity gets clearly evident. Such advanced animals like, cats, horses, elephants, monkeys, chimpanzee learn through trial and error, form association and mobilize for defense, introduce discipline in their respective clans and so on. Still, mind is not truly developed in them; they live primarily by instincts, emotions and vital drive for food and security. It is only the civilized man who knows how to use the mind most efficiently. In Indian philosophical tradition, reality has been graded, in ascending order, the following way: matter, life, mind, supermind. The function of mind is to think, judge, compare, contrast, plan, etc. Emotions belong properly to the vital level, although emotions are linked with our physical needs on one hand, and on the other, with thoughts. For a clearer understanding it is desirable to make a distinction between the vital and the mind. In the Old And New Testaments mind and emotion have been taken together; distinction between them is not evident. Greek philosophy, which contributed to the development of modern European philosophy, has also not made this distinction even though a serious attempt has been made to analyze aspects of human nature. The vital is the repository of force. Our body as well as mind is driven by the vital force. When the body and the mind do not get enough support they feel tired and slothful. The vital force has apparently two levels, lower and higher. Lower vital gives support to lower propensities, which may come from the subconscious or from outside, i. E., from darker vibrations around us. The higher vital, on the other hand, responds to ethical demands of the mind as well as vibrations of light around us. The mind has the capacity to think deep, to soar high w while dreaming beauty and harmony, but it can hardly throw out lower vibrations when assailed by them. That is why we see innumerable examples of high-minded people experience a sudden fall. The root of all the problems of society-- corruptions of all kinds spreading all over the world is the overbearing power of the lower vital. There is no dearth of ethical ideals and moral sermons for us; yet we fall a prey to lower drives for undue gratification of wealth, power and sex. To be able to address this problem in ourselves individually and for society at large, we have to learn to distinguish the vital as a separate level of our existence . this will help us be watchful so that we can detect what kind of vital force is driving us in what direction. What applies to individuals, may work by and large for the society. Fear of hell in Semitic religions and the fear of bad karma producing bad future in Indian religions have prevented people from withstanding the onslaughts of lower forces. But religions have lost their grip on people everywhere. On the other hand, such desirable social movements, namely, liberation of women with full human rights, treating adolescents with respect for their individuality, have gone a long way to give rise to difficult problems since neither adolescents nor women can any longer be kept under the thumb. How to deal with the situation? Law and punishment are being used everywhere with minimal good result. There has to be some more reasonable way. If the separation of religion and state is most desirable, we cannot at the same time invite religion to fix the problem besetting humanity all over the world. Psychology, especially educational psychology is being used in intensive way in most advanced countries. Our attempt is to bring the subject and the object together for approximation to truth. In modern industrial and industrializing societies, people are induced to live on the surface mind and cultivate objectivity. Educators apply psychology in their planning for every phase and aspect of education. Psychologists use their knowledge of the discipline in helping individuals and groups suffering from mental troubles. In Industry, commerce, military, and in numerous other fields, appropriate types of psychology are used tactfully by trained people with a view to achieving targeted results. What all these endeavors lack is insufficient emphasis on self-observation and self-discipline. People have to be directed to turn inward and be aware of the cross currents of their emotions. What we aim at is to see that every member of the society starting from young children, develop psychological insight by observing primarily what transpires in his/her life comprising the body, emotions and the mind. If people are encouraged, from their childhood, to be aware of the dynamics of the operation of physical urges, vital drives, mental interests and propensities along with dictates of the ego, they will continue to do the same for the rest of their life, since self-observation brings self-knowledge and a measure of self mastery. Again, self-knowledge invariably enhances our understanding of our fellow beings. One great result that can be expected from this is that people will by and large, avoid wrongdoing without the fear of law or the fear of hell. Responsible people in every sphere of life can test the truth of what I have been advocating. If they were convinced about the efficacy of this psychological exercise, they would help many others by setting examples in their conduct, and may be with a little persuasive talk. Religious doctrines and beliefs can easily be banished from this project. We can start with the process of individuation as advocated by Karl Young and as has been already explicated by me.
Inadequate Understanding of Human Nature
I have indicated that there is a marked difference between the religions of the prophetic tradition and those of India. This difference is: not taking the vital as a distinct member of our being by the prophetic tradition. it is found also in the modern European philosophy. It is considered that Jerusalem as well as Athens are the sources of Christianity. In this respect Christianity is not a Semitic religion fully. It is claimed that the real founder of Christianity is St. Paul, and not Jesus. Paul, though a Jew, grew up within the Greek tradition. He drew heavily on Greek tradition in giving a shape to the religion of Christianity; he used the Greek mystery cults and borrowed heavily from the Socratic tradition as represented by the works of Plato. Greek philosophical tradition did not honor the vital in us with a distinct status. The same Greek tradition triggered and nourished modern European philosophy. I will show briefly how most of the great European philosophers sidetracked the vital and consequently remained confined mainly to the academia. In contrast Indian philosophy permeated the life of masses of people a large number of whom were illiterate. Indian philosophy could be dynamic by acknowledging the vital, without disciplining which it is not possible for philosophies to reach their spiritual goals. Modern European philosophy started truly with Descartes. Descartes grappled with the problem of reality and as to how to know it. Reality, according to him is made of mind and matter. Mind or soul is all that we humans are; the rest of the world is matter, which is outside waiting to be known. We can know matter by following certain scientific and rational method. In this scheme there is no room for emotions and feelings; we are a thinking machine as it were; his famous utterance is ‘cogito ergo sum’ I think, so I am. Francis Bacon introduced the method of induction; it is by observing and analyzing fact we can come to a logical conclusion. Thus a mental function is advocated in which emotions, even ethics are not required to come to the truth. Even though he had a sharp mind, Bacon did not hesitate to get involved in a number of unscrupulous activities. In the Indian tradition a philosopher is expected to purify his mind, which would mean that he must try to free his vital from unethical desires. John Locke is another great British philosopher whose influence worked behind parliamentary democracy of England following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The French Revolution and the Constitution of the United States also were influenced by liberal philosophy of Locke. Locke understood the dynamics of political power and conflicts inherent in them. Emotions played a very strong part in struggles for power; yet he did not dwell on emotions per se; he advocated balance of power through proper legal distribution of authority among the branches of the government. His doctrine of ‘tabula rasa’ signifying the mind of the child is like a clean slate, is an integral part of his educational philosophy. He tells how the mind is to be filled via sense perceptions as well as ideas from books, teachers and so on. He does not dwell on emotional, and for that matter, training of the vital parts of the child. When we come to the French romantic thinker, Jean Jacques Rousseau, we encounter emotions as an explosive vital force. His idea of Nature as an Idyllic place, his attempt at flouting all conventional norms and rules-- all these come as exuberating of his feelings. Ideally, his raw emotions should have gone through a process of purification. Be that as it may, we are moved by the impact he produced on so many people for good many generations including such celebrated figures, as British romantic poet Lord Byron and German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche. Byron’s impetuous romantic feelings and ideas impacted more heavily the mind of Europe than the British mind. Nietzsche had a great intellect that was reinforced by an uncontrollable fiery emotion lifting him to a level of a prophet. He urged Europeans to overcome their soil addiction and work out of themselves the future man, rather Overman. Nietzsche’s utterances spread far and wide, which were often misunderstood. However, his influence has not died down yet. It should be noted that great personages like Rousseau, Byron and Nietzsche they illustrate the great force of vital emotions in human life and history.
German Idealism, Kant and Hegel being the two great exponents, is, on the other hand, takes us back to cool rational analysis and production of a complex edifice called a philosophical system. Emmanuel Kant has spoken of ‘apriori knowledge’ in his most important work, Critique of Pure Reason. A priori knowledge is a kind of intuition, knowledge inherent in our souls. This supports our contention that the subject is involved in our pursuit of truth. All the same Kant is concerned primarily with reason, the higher ranges of the mind as the means of attaining truth. In his scheme, training or purification of the vital has no place. Hegel, the other great idealist, has come up with the well-known triadic scheme of thought--thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. He has shown that our thought about any issue faces, rather generates its opposite, which can be resolved by a synthesis of the two opposites. However, the synthesis may again face a contrary thought(anti-thesis) which may lead to a newer synthesis. This is how our thought evolves and eventually may reach the Absolute. The whole process involves rational thinking; there is no concern about the possibility of emotions or vital drive derailing the process of reasoning. Of all the philosophers it is Henry Bergson of France who has been a thoroughgoing vitalist. He has come up with an intuition that it is our vital drive, ‘elan vital’ which is working behind all our efforts and accomplishments. In his view mind or thought is of secondary importance; thought does not have the elan or force. This adventure of elan has been designated by Bergson as Creative Evolution. The question remains, who is evolving? What is the goal of evolution? In any case, Rousseau and Nietzsche are not conventional philosophers. Even Bergson is not a typical European philosopher. We have mentioned Lord Byron, a romantic poet, only to indicate the strength of high emotions. However, last of all we should mention Pragmatism, a typically American school of philosophy. John Dewey is the best known exponent of Pragmatism. He was also a great educator. According to Pragmatism whatever works, pays or brings the desired result, is to be taken as the right thing, the truth. This is a common sense view that can hardly be rejected; all of us all the time look for the right viewpoint for success in any endeavor. But the question arises --how can we be sure what appears to be true at this point of time would serve us in the future? With regard to educational policy, adjustment, sometimes drastic, has been warranted with the changes in national and or international circumstances. Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated the setting up of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1944, even before the end of the World War II. This was a great pragmatic move in response to the changing pattern of world economy. These two financial institutions have served the world hugely and at the same time maintained United States’ leadership in shaping world economy over the last sixty years. The truth that has served us so long may fail to serve the U S and the rest of the world in case global situation gets altered significantly. Thus, Pragmatism, though efficacious as a guide to addressing practical issues of national and international life, suffers from inherent limitations. All the same, Pragmatism does not focus attention on the role of our emotional parts in determining the right and the true.
American Leadership is in Jeopardy
Before the completion of his second term governor of Texas, Mr. Bush was urged by his mentors to aspire for the Presidency. His election, though flawed, is a reality. One aspect of his coming to power is that he became instrumental in removing Sadam Hussein, a very demonic character, from occupying a murderous position in the Middle East. The other aspect is the impending failure of his Middle East policy. We can hear the voice of the ultra conservative Evangelist Christians when Mr. Bush speaks of his mission and calling to establish democracy in Iraq first and then in the rest of the Middle East. From the same frame of mind he speaks of changing the whole world.
First and foremost, democracy is not just election. It presupposes a Constitution, which stands for equal rights of all men and women in the eye of law and supports strongly the rule of law. Independence of the Judiciary and certain educational and economic standard of the citizens are some other requisites. How can you impose democracy on countries, which cannot separate the state from religion? Islam carries the tradition of one person heading the state and the religion. Only one Muslim country, Turkey, separated religion from the state under the leadership of Kamal Ataturk in 1924. Without this separation, the minority cannot be given protection; where there is no protection of the minority there is no democracy. In fact, democracy in Turkey has been compromised sadly because of virtual absence of non-Muslims in that country. Lately(Sept.-Oct. 2004) national election for the position of the President has taken place smoothly in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country. The situation there is very similar to that of Turkey. Among other things, in both the countries the military enjoys a position of preponderance. So we have to wait and see how far principles of democracy become effective there. However, the question arises is it democratic to try to impose democracy, a system developed in the West, on Muslim countries which have a different cultural history? Whatever might be the history of Islamic countries, Muslims live in an era of technology. How can they avoid modernity? Do they shun newspapers, radio and television? Muslim countries have for airports, railways and seaports built. Muslim preachers use the microphone to reach a larger audience. In brief, No Muslim country can avoid innumerable gifts of modern innovations on the score of their western origin. In that case they must espouse democracy to get along with the rest of the world. True democracy cannot be possible without a separation between religion and state, which is indispensable for the protection of minorities and giving them equal rights.
Since the Koran permitted taking of four wives, and Mohammed had a harem, hardly any Muslim country other than Turkey could till this day make polygamy illegal. This is not the way to do justice to women at this time of history. Islam is an offshoot of Judaism, which eliminated polygamy in the eleventh century. Christianity got rid of polygamy earlier still.
Urgency of a Realistic View of the World
What does Mr. Bush mean by changing the world? It may mean several things. Mr. Bush had very little interest in the world; his knowledge and interest were limited to the United States. Then, why does he talk about changing the world? It may just be an indulgence in grandiose statements to compensate for his inadequacy and a sense of illegitimacy of his election. It is generally agreed that democracy cannot be imposed on any country from outside. The other reason for his enthusiasm for democratic changes in the Middle East could be just to keep his support base, the Fundamentalists and Evangelists, loyal to him. As a politician he is very practical; every bill he sends to the Congress, every pronouncement he makes has been designed to widen his support base.
Every action produces some reaction. Bush has made a bad mistake by attacking Iraq being influenced heavily by the C I A Director, the Vice President and the Defense Secretary. He cannot justify his move; he cannot assuage the strong anti-American feeling of the Arab world by a pretension of neutrality about the Arab-Israeli problem. He has to have the Jewish vote and money; not just that, he has to give support to the idea of the Fundamentalists that after the Jews, Christians also are chosen. (This faction entertains the hope that they would take over the Holy Lands after the majority of the Jews get killed in the fights with the Palestinians.)
he hoped that Iraqis would welcome the American soldiers with open arms and as liberators. His stated goal of attacking Iraq was removal of Sadam since he was supposed to be a threat to America; the target, stated indirectly, was the control of Iraqi oil. How did he then assume that Iraqis would be dumb enough not to see the truth so much so that they would accept American forces as liberators? It is well known that the United States does not really have any energy policy. During the seventies of the last century American dependence on OPEC oil was 40% ; the present dependence on OPEC oil is 60%. President Carter initiated a program of finding alternative sources of energy, which fizzled out when Reagan came to power. Reagan and Bushes are in support of big oil companies. Clinton gave a push to alternative energy; but it did not go far because of the booming economy and relatively low cost of oil.
The main complaint against America is that it has no scruple using other nations for its advantage; it has not been interested in the welfare of other nations. That is why it has supported many a dictator in different parts of the world for so-called political stability of those regimes which would make investment profitable. Politicians try at times to dupe the citizens. For example, general public in America has come to believe that American aid to other countries is a gift outright; they do not know that aid is a low-interest loan given so that the recipient country can buy American goods, mostly military wares; aid is also attached with other strings. When we try to use others we look upon them as ‘It’, and not as fellow beings. When truth is not sought, we come under the spell of falsehood. This leads to all sorts of misgivings. Consequently, the hopes of idealists that United States could be a catalyst for a worldwide movement for a better world: free from war, hunger, deadly disease etc. has been dashed. Clinton left office with a surplus of five hundred billion dollars. Bush has squandered the surplus mainly through tax-cut for the rich . Homeland Security has proved expensive; but unnecessary involvement in an unwise war has been draining the treasury. Budget deficit has already exceeded one and a half trillion dollars and growing steadily. Federal Reserve Chairman has already warned that this kind of fiscal deficit and other current debts are going to spell disaster for the economy. Most of the states and countless counties are in tremendous financial bind despite drastic cuts in numerous social programs and services. Other economic ills are resulting from this sad state of the economy, most depressing being the widespread unemployment. Overall, the environment being what it is , solutions to problems are not easy to find.
Every coin has two sides. The very fact that America has lost some of its power and prestige, may hurt the greater cause of global harmony. American life is not secure within the country, nor is it secure outside the country. American forces are being harassed in Iraq; the general public in countries that joined the coalition has been agitating for the return of their soldiers from Iraq. All these may drive home in the mind of Americans that there has been a definite change in the spirit of the Time. The days of colonialism, secular and religious, are gone. Bullying is not going to help America to retain its pre eminence; on the other hand, if America were willing to live as a strong and powerful nation among other nations, its leadership would be accepted respectfully. It has to give up the idea that it is above international rules and regulations. America cannot stop proliferation of nuclear weapons if itself refuses to sign the comprehensive Test Ban Treaty(it has been reported that Bush administration has increased the money for nuclear weapons research twelve times of what it was before). Similarly America cannot morally refuse to abide by international protocol of environmentalism, nor can America refuse to be a signatory of the International Criminal Court of Justice on the pretext of guaranteeing the safety of its defense personnel. Though not equal to America, other nations expect, in the context of the time-spirit, to behave as though it is an equal member of the comity of nations so far as moral obligations are concerned. This is the way to gain leadership and make lasting contribution to world peace, which, again, is the condition for enhancing the quality of life of all the people in the world.
Some people argue that rivalry and conflict have been the staple of international relations all the time. At the time when we are most powerful, why should we give up our high ground and seek vainly reconciliation of some sort with countless other states. At this age of globalism, things happening in distant corners of the glove do not leave us untouched; the interlink is not hard to decipher. However, if not for anything else, for common sense practicality we need to look at the idealist side of the argument.
Vietnam War, the longest American war, ended in 1975, has been haunting the American psyche with redoubled force at this day, as bad news are coming from Iraq uninterruptedly. The two wars are very different; yet in a number of respects there are striking similarities. Both the wars are uncalled for. In Vietnam we had to swallow defeat and humiliation. Vietnam cost us so heavily that the economy was jolted severely. In the Iraq war initial victory has been followed by a serious prospect of humiliation, defeat and enormous loss of money. We were looking for a way out from Vietnam; we are in a similar quandary in Iraq. One big difference between Vietnam and Iraqi war is that in the latter religion is involved. Insurgents are pouring into Iraq to perform their religious duty by sacrificing their lives for the sake of liberating a Muslim country from occupation by infidels. This makes it all the more difficult for America to disengage itself from Iraq since America is duty-bound to stay engaged in Iraq till law and order is established firmly in the country of their occupation.
Our military and economic strength has not been a guaranty for success, at least not at this time of history. At this writing pictures of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners in despicable way have been coming up in newspapers, and T V channels all over the world. These things have been going on for quite some time. How far world condemnation will go, nobody knows. We claim that as Americans we stand on a high moral ground. In California, which is supposed to be the best of the American states, a multi-billion dollar pornography industry is thriving. What does it say about our moral sensitivity? Scandalous stories of Big businesses involved in stealing, robbing, concealing and manipulating accounts started coming to light three years ago; even now hardly a week passes without revelation of such things being replicated in other companies.
This being the situation why should we not think of breaking new grounds? Why can’t we think in terms of eliminating war altogether through incremental steps. Sophistication of weaponry is increasing by leaps and bounds. Weapons used in Afghanistan in October 2001 were highly precise; more precision and effectiveness accomplished from the afghan experiments was brought to bear two and a half years later in Iraq. Surprisingly, despite incomparable superiority of U S forces, Iraqi insurgents have successfully brought down good many U S helicopters having used conventional weapons. Here again, we see that superior weapons are no guarantee for success. On the other hand, the oft-repeated simple fact should not be ignored that what is discovered today by the U S, becomes accessible to good many other nations to-morrow. For instance, missile defense technology with increasing potency, invisible spy planes, planes without pilots, coordination of all the four branches of the military through a flow of instant communication, replacement of laser beams by satellite guidance for greater precision-- all these are no secret to a number of other nations. What is the use of diverting a big bulk of national budget to military preparedness if victory is not assured? Is it impossible to alter the mind-set?
It is by using reason and intuition that humanity has made strides toward progress. It is time for us to use these two faculties more intensely and precisely to come to a decision about the future of mankind. Of course, it is not easy to come out of the familiar grooves of thinking and feeling and take to a bold step in a new direction. Reason tells us that humanity is at the brink of disaster. Is it not so? Innumerable groups are operating in the world right at this moment: Neo-Nazi, Neo-Fascist, Anti-Globalism, Anti-Global Trade, anti-imperialism, Anti-Capitalism, Aryan Supremacy, Pro-Nationalist, Anti-World government, Anti-Semitic, Save the Environment and so on and so forth, to mention only a few which are prone to use violence to influence public opinion in favor of their view-point. Over and above these, there is a plethora of Islamic organizations spread all over the world given to using violence. Some of these groups have access to biological weapons; some of these are trying to acquire other weapons of mass destruction. Of course, there is a vast underground trade of conventional yet lethal weapons trade is being carried on. In fact, high-grade automatic guns are obtainable in open market without much difficulty in open societies of Europe and North America. Main targets of attack are the affluent countries of the world of which United States is at the top. It is time to think how to face this situation. Homeland Security department is beefing up its plans to improve security in all possible targets of attack. It is conducting trials of response to an emergency forthwith. Experts have made projections as to the extent of death and damage of property if a dirty bomb explodes in the downtown of a major city like London or New York. All the security measures and trials cost money and generates anxiety among citizens. This should not be only way to safeguard a nation from sudden attacks. Alternative measures have to be thought out. We have come to the present state of affairs due to our acts of omission and commission. It is necessary to pay attention to the demands and grudges of all the terror groups. They may represent some truth in however small a measure. Tactful negotiations with numerous groups may lead to easing of the situation; some agreements of give and take may be arrived at. The main problem is misunderstanding and unwillingness to come to a compromise.
Islam, Christianity and the Pope
Collin Powel, the Secretary of State during Mr. Bush’s first term in office, made an interesting statement confronted with the Islamic terrorist activities. He said, ‘‘this is a conflict of two civilizations'’. What does the West represent? Democracy, capitalism, free enterprise and Christianity constitute the civilization of the West. What does constitute Islamic civilization? Islam, authoritarianism, Islamic moral and social values, grudge against the West because of the latter’s great strength and prior and current exploitation of Islamic countries. It seems the conflict is primarily of the two religious systems. Is compromise possible between the two religions? Mr. Powell might not have authority to speak on behalf of Christianity; still , he could have demanded that Christian missions must reduce drastically their activities geared to conversion. Missionaries go out in large numbers in all different parts of the world with the support of the great strength of the United States and other industrialized nations of the West. In fact, there is a perception in Islamic and other developing countries that there is a collision between the state apparatus and religious establishments, the latter serving as the second fiddle of the former.
Three years ago, when Secretary Powell referred to the conflict of two civilizations, he surely did not equate the West with Christianity. What has happened last month (April, 205) centering round Pope John Paul II, may give a strong impression to the non-western mind that America under the Presidency of Bush deems Christianity and the West are identical. Last month the air waves of North America were filled day and night with news about the illness of the Pope, his gradual decline and eventual passing away which was followed by lengthy accounts of his burial. Then came the story of the election process and connected paraphernalia, of the new Pontiff Benedict XVI and his life works and addresses and blessings etc. etc. Through American media, I am told, the rest of the world was kept awake to listen to and watch and read about all the details of the ‘ world-shaking event’. Veteran journalist Daniel Shore made an oblique remark a couple of years ago about the head of the state comprising one mile square in area. I also do not understand why so much importance is given to the official head of one broad branch of Christianity. It seems the Pope is made to symbolize Christianity as a whole and all other Christian outfits feel glorified at his glory.
What did actually this long-serving Pope represent? He was the most outdated priest. He was against all the progressive forces stirring up his church. He would not allow nuns to function as priests; he would not allow priests and nuns to marry while tens of thousands of priests and nuns were leaving the church and opting for a married life. He seems to have turned a deaf ear to the nasty stories of priests being convicted for molesting children. Many Parishes are going without a priest; it did not seem to have bothered him. He was supposed to be a man of compassion for the poor and yet he was directly contributing to enhancement of poverty among the poor Catholic men and women by prohibiting family planning. Some critics say that his mind was on the number of Catholic children being produced; he needed more revenue since his trips were terribly expensive, next only to the cost of travels by the President of the United States. In fact, poor people contribute generously to the church. He knew the vast majority of Catholics were defying him quietly by using contraceptives. He was dead against divorce although he knew many Catholics were breaking up marriages since they had to, having been constrained by adverse circumstances. He gained a reputation of being a world-trotter. What did motivate him to secure an invitation to visit a country in Asia and Africa? The only motive was to urge people to accept Jesus as the only savior. This shows his narrowness and disrespect of other religions and complete indifference to the emerging truth of Globalism and human unity. Catholic Church is not opposed to the Biological Theory of Evolution. One French priest, Teil hard de Chardin, who gained wide recognition as a Paleontologist, came out with a vision that humanity was destined to evolve into supermanhood. He tried to show that all the sciences were pointing to that direction. Catholic churchmen rejected this thesis. If John Paul II as the head of the Vatican, had signaled a renewed study of the visionary thesis was desirable, he would have the credit of initiating a debate about the future of humanity in which scientists, philosophers and mystical thinkers of other religious traditions would have joined. Teil hard predicted that noosphere (realm of the mind) would be followed by the Omega state (a high unitive consciousness. A vigorous discussion could have been triggered to address the question exactly how would the transformation of human consciousness be possible. John Paul II who is being hurriedly considered for Sainthood, did not do much other than standing firmly on utterly conservative tenets. Only credit he could claim was for the support he gave to the aspiration for the freedom of his motherland, Poland. Of course, he was on the side of Free Enterprise system over against Communism.
From the neutral point of view, both Christianity and Islam represent only half truths. When we are dealing with the world of constant change and the dynamic forces operating in history, we cannot talk in terms of absolute truths; it is wrong to state that Jesus is the only way to salvation; similarly it is downright wrong to hold the view that Islam represents the final truth. With regard to economic and political matters, it may be said that though the days of colonialism and imperialism are gone yet, due to the privileged position of the industrialized countries of the West, they can and do take advantage of less privileged Islamic and other third world countries. Negotiations in the World Trade Organization demonstrate a persistent hitch between the affluent western nations and the developing countries. Is the West ready to accept the principle of equitable distribution of economic benefits in exchange of the stoppage of militant activities by Islamic countries? A real heart search in this respect is necessary. Otherwise, security measures are going to take the lion’s share of the budget; also in the process, free societies of the West may turn slowly into police states. Patriot Act passed shortly after September eleven, spearheaded by the then ultra-conservative Attorney General, Ashcroft, has already taken away many of the civil rights of citizens, not to speak of other categories of people living in or visiting the United States. Bush administration wants the restrictive articles of the Patriot Act made permanent; over above it wants to add what has been construed as Administrative Subpoena.
Other serious problems plaguing humanity.
AIDS, a fatal disease was detected in early eighties; it has been taking its toll especially in Africa. It is spreading steadily in India and China. Just a couple of years ago, another fatal disease, Sars, broke out in a number of East Asian countries. Other well-entrenched diseases like Cancer, heart and pressure problems, diabetes etc. are gaining grounds despite available treatments. It is said that population is pollution; two third of the world population has to be provided with proper sanitation, food and education. Also a balance has to be struck between birth and death so that by 2050 global population does not exceed nine billion, which is the optimum that the earth can support. Defense expenditure, especially on production of weapons adds to pollution heavily; over and above, it is not just superrich America fails to take proper care of its poor and disadvantaged; due to extraordinary outlay on weapons, smaller and poor countries like India, also fail miserably in this respect. They spend a disproportionate amount of resources on defense. The latest reliable estimate by an institute in the Netherlands released yesterday shows that all the nations in the world together spend one trillion dollars a year on defense; 50% of this is, of course, spent by the United States. Does it not imply that in a way it is a rule of the jungle that dominates us although we claim to be highly civilized. What prevents us to recognize and face the truth? Is it not reasonable for us to see that we have come to a dead end, that we must turn around and seek answer to our problems elsewhere? To submit to a bleak destiny is shameful for humanity, which has come a long way in scientific discovery, aesthetic creativity, most of all in spiritual consciousness and vision of a glorious future.
What is the Way out of the Impasse?
Now, what does our gut feeling say? What message comes to us from collective intuition? Has there been no meaning in the blooming of life on earth and the evolution of rational faculties? If we will, can we not leave behind the trodden path and try something that is pressing for our attention? Let us try to delineate an alternative path.
United States, the sole super power, can lead humanity to a new order of life, only if its leaders have the will to trail the new path. If the United States is sincere about stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it can get a resolution passed to that effect in the United Nations General Assembly as well as in the Security Council. If America agrees to go along with other nations, it would not be difficult to come to a consensus as to by what steps all weapons of mass destruction will have to be reduced and then eliminated. There may be a disagreement as to what quantity of weapons to be reduced by which nation and in what time frame. Here comes the adage ‘If there is a will, there is a way’. If the superpower takes the lead and demonstrates genuine good will, all obstacles could be removed. A high level committee of experts selected preferably from neutral countries can be formed to inspect and supervise the elimination of the weapons. Of course, a standing military force will have to be erected and placed at different locations under the command of the United Nations. Each nation also should be allowed to maintain a military force equipped with conventional weapons and of a size in commensurate with the reasonable need of a particular nation. The final goal would be to go further and get rid of all means of physical violence. Lately, the Secretary General of the U N O Mr. Annan has come up with a proposal to reform the world body in the light of greater and more urgent needs of the present time. In a general way we support his move. But our ideas are for a far-reaching overhauling of the organisation. So we do not see any cogency of of discussing the issues raised by Mr. Annan here.
As we propose the scheme for U S to pick up, it may sound a little utopian to many. Some people may think that we are going against human nature. Yes, violence in many different forms is a part of our nature. On the other hand, love, peace, harmony, and unity are also states of existence for which we have a strong yearning. We have subjected ourselves for too long to one side of our nature; this has brought us to a dead end. Is it not time for us to mould our behavior, individual and collective, in the light of the other side of our nature? It may not be easy to attempt the transition; our education, national and international lives have to be remolded on entirely new valuation, which has been characterized by the German visionary Nietzsche, ‘Transvaluation of all Values’.
The great sage and philosopher of modern India, Sri Aurobindo who has written with a strong conviction the inevitability of man’s evolution into a higher type of existence, has nonetheless characterized the present state of our existence as ‘civilized barbarism’. Just think of what is going on right now: wars, race riots, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, starvation and malnutrition for many; on the other hand a small number of people are wallowing in wealth. half the people of the world are living under some sort of autocratic rule; even democracies getting compromised by corruption; environment of the entire world getting polluted rapidly so on and so forth. How then do we expect a turn around to take place? How can all values be transformed? Grim facts noted above form but one side of the coin. If we consider the other side we may not yet lose hope. Let us think of the enormous strides taken toward progress during the twentieth century ended just a few years ago.
After the First World War some colonial powers, namely, Germany lost their colonial holdings. After World War II most colonial powers had to give up their rule over colonies gradually; the process came to completion by the end of the twentieth century. I grew up under British rule; India became free the year I graduated from High School. What an exhilaration myself and most others around me felt is beyond expression. Just try to contemplate what a marvelous transformation it was for hundreds of millions of people in many countries in Asia and Africa. Let us focus on some of the social issues: The apartheid in South Africa, the system of untouchability in India. Apartheid has been removed just a decade ago. It boggles my mind to think how a small white minority could continue to repress, torture and deprive millions of native African people of their basic human rights. It is so gratifying to think that the black leaders made a noble gesture of reconciliation with the white oppressors who are now an integral part of the South African citizenry. In India a small segment of the population was treated as untouchables. These are the people who were doing all kinds of dirty work, namely, carrying nightsoil from latrines, for the society. Instead of rewarding them for their services, Hindu society was treating them as though they were worse than animals. The great Indian leader, Mohandas Gandhi, agitated against maltreatment of these people whom he designated as Harijans, meaning people of God. In the constitution framed and given effect to, three years after India became free in 1947, a new chapter opened for the Harijans. They have been given equal rights with all other citizens; to make it possible for them to take advantage of their legal rights. Seats have been reserved for them in schools, colleges, in legislatures and in the bureaucracy. Many other things are being done for them, like, removal of all barriers for them in the sphere of private life, namely, entrance into temples. As a noble gesture one qualified member of the community was elected as the President of India for five years. These measures suggest that general public have started to participate, at least mentally, in the life and feelings of neglected and oppressed people. This is how we get to truth.
A few other remarkable features of the twentieth century are socialism, the human Rights Movement, and progress in science and technology leading to new consciousness.
As a reaction to suffering of industrial workers who were being exploited by the capitalists, socialism as a doctrine of social justice, began to develop in the nineteenth century. Socialism took many different forms as an intellectual theory. However, Marxism gained popularity as a weapon for revolutionary movements. In 1917Bolshevic Revolution of Russia became a fact of history. Within a few years, after the death of the principal leader, Lenin, Stalin came to power. Stalin consolidated the revolution. Despite all his acts of cruelty, he succeeded in establishing a social system all over the Soviet Union in which every adult citizen had a job, housing, medical treatment and other essential needs taken care of by the state. Whatever the qualitative limitations of these privileges, for the first time in history, people of all categories enjoyed the freedom from anxiety for the bare necessities of life. Stalin died in 1953; the Soviet system, however, functioned for another 25 years though with heavily curtailed individual freedom, which was making the intellectuals disillusioned about the Soviet system. However, but for the heavy burden of World War II and the necessity to face the challenges of the Cold War, the Soviet system would have continued with some desirable modifications. Soviet Union has broken down; Russia is no longer a socialist country; all the same, socialism has remained a strong force in all theories and programs of social justice. Most West European countries have instituted unemployment benefits, old age pension, and universal medical care, among many other programs by way of safety network. Canada is a socialistic country; United States has become an object of criticism for the absence of universal Medical service here and many other issues relating to freedom from anxiety for a modest living. Of course, there is a Welfare system in place here in the U S for the indigent. Though there are many other programs funded by governmental and /or private money, still overwhelming majority of the people of this country suffer from anxiety since there is no guarantee for anything in this society. Lately, a doubt is overtaking the mind of the people, due to the heavy burden of military expenditure, that before long old age pension may become a thing of the past. Is it not a contradiction that a large number of citizens of the most affluent and powerful country are in constant anxiety and have to struggle for bare necessities of life?
Human Rights Movement
Started earlier in incipient forms, the Human Rights movement has gained an n enormous force in the twentieth century for safeguarding basic human rights. This movement is responsible in many ways for the prevention of starvation from famine, death from pestilence, and natural and man-made accidents. Human Rights have stood for political freedom of many peoples, prevention of cruelty in autocratic countries, torture of prisoners of all kinds, bringing war criminals to justice o on so forth. This movement demonstrates that as human beings we are capable of getting into the heart of other people and feel unity with them. By extension we humans are also engaged in prevention of cruelty to animals. The same principle inspires us to try to protect the environment for the sake of all things living and non-living. This is coming to truth by combining the subjective and the objective sides of reality.
Physical sciences started their march toward progress in West Europe in the middle of the sixteenth century. Biological science joined the march later in the seventeenth century; social sciences came later still. However, the race for progress of all the sciences, old and newly grown, has culminated in the twentieth century having produced a number of spectacular discoveries and innovations. Of course, the march is continuing. We are now living in the space age. Distant stars and galaxies are challenging our perception of Reality. Satellites are guiding our communication and providing precision for numerous fields of study and research. Computer and the Internet have revolutionized communication. The sky above the earth is extremely busy due to countless planes criss-crossing the sky day and night without let up. Transportation of goods and movement of people have become so rapid that these have brought about a change in our thinking and feeling. Discoveries like DNA have established our inviolable link with all things living as well as the fact of evolution. Movement of scientific knowledge of innumerable areas of research, technical innovations for industrial as well as household use have made the world really small to us. If we add to these all the insights of thinkers and sages along with the products of human creativity in all the fields of fine arts, moving to all corners of the world, touching receptive minds, we cannot help thinking that we are living in an altogether new world. What was not possible in earlier periods of history could be possible now. All positive accomplishments proceed from a state of mind, from a particular level of consciousness.
We would like to draw attention to another event to convince the readers that what seems impossible today may become a reality the very next day. Linden Johnson did something in 1957 as the leader of the majority in the Senate, which borders to a miracle. Johnson became a legislator in 1937. He kept on voting against all bills brought to do some favor to the blacks. He went along with most other legislators of the southern states. This opposition was going on for decades; it was characterized as the revenge of the South against the defeat in the Civil War of the previous century. Even in 1956 Civil Rights bill was defeated in the Senate, Senator Johnson voting against the bill. Next year another Civil Rights bill came to the floor. This time Johnson as the leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate did take a complete turn around. He wanted the bill to pass with a large majority. The way he steered the bill having used extraordinary skill in winning the senators on his side is simply astounding. He used persuasion, tact, threat, even the pressure of his big physique and inordinately strong personality to win the vote; he showed flawless understanding of the mind of his colleagues; the energy to move around the Senate chamber with superb agility displayed a feat without a parallel in history. As a leader in the Senate he was a genius. By itself this bill was not a great piece; the rights offered to the Blacks were not extraordinary. Nevertheless this paved the way for the other two bills conferring equal rights and voting rights he got passed as the President of the nation in 1964 and 1965. It is an example how a determined leader can persuade a nation to do what might seem impossible at the beginning. It may not be impossible for some insightful leader to see that the United States can lead the world toward rejection of all wars. Even a few early steps might bring a change in the general outlook of nations.
Some people may still raise the question how practical is the idea of a world without wars. We have mentioned how Soviet Union collapsed due to the defense burden to meet the challenge of the Cold War. Let us think of England; it came out victorious in World War I, but it lost much of its strength in the process. England won in World War II also, with American help, but it became far weaker. During the period between the two wars Britain tried desperately to hold on to its empire. The history of Indian struggle for freedom during this period reflects clearly this desperation. British Government tried hard to circumvent the demands of the Indian leaders. It maneuvered to utilize the differences between the Hindu and Muslim communities; it even tried to fracture the Hindu society by putting a wedge between the upper and the lower castes of the Hindus. After World War II England had to give up its imperial holdings hurriedly. In the process it created two faith-based states--Pakistan and Israel, before taking time to resolve some of the sticky problems. As a result millions of people (e. g., Muslims in India and Israel, non-Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh) have been suffering endlessly. This is another example of how privileged people treat others as though they do not deserve proper human treatment.
Uncertainty Looms Large
We are living in a period of globalism. Something serious may happen even to United States, however strong it may be in wealth and military prowess. Korean War has ended in an uneasy truce. The Vietnam War was lost by the United States. The present war in Iraq is likely to end in a debacle. What chance is there for the U S to win the war against Terrorism spreading all over the world? In the meantime destruction of the twin towers has damaged the economy significantly. Homeland Security measures are being expanded steadily with increasing depletion of the Treasury; yet no end of security measures is in sight. The root cause of this situation is the failure of America’s Arab policy, more specifically the Arab-Israeli policy. Holding on to land captured by pre-emptive strike is illegal according to International law. The entire nation of the United States has failed to recognize this simple truth and raise voice against this. Consequently, Israel’s security is gone, and the Arabs are suffering terribly. Of course, America has tried to bring the two parties together for a peaceful solution; but it did not work. What was offered to Mr. Arafat, the leader of Palestine by General Barak, the Prime minister of Israel, through the mediation of President Clinton, was the best that Mr. Arafat could expect. Unfortunately, he rejected the offer for fear of losing the support of his associates as well as leaders of other Arab countries.
Here, we come to another dynamics of the Arab-Israeli issue. Neighboring Arab leaders knew fully well that by the pre-emptive strike of 1967 Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria and gained Gaza Strip, West Bank and Golan Heights, over and above segments ofJerusalem. Whatever might be the International Law, the situation on the ground was and still is extremely unfavorable to the Palestinians. Arab leaders of good many countries do not actually favor a compromise with Israel. Continuation of the Arab-Israeli tension helps the autocratic rulers of most Arab countries to perpetuate their status; they divert the attention of their citizens to the struggles of Palestinian Arabs from their claim to democratic rights in their own countries. All the same, because of American support of Jewish settlements all over occupied territories, America is not recognized as an honest broker by the rest of the world. Thus, America’s claim of standing on superior moral ground is being challenged, if not overtly, surely covertly by most other nations. This is a big loss for America. It is imperative that American leaders realize that America cannot maintain its present standing, which is already precarious, due to both external as well as internal pressure. Nations like Russia, China, Brazil, India are already emerging as a challenge to American supremacy. Expanding European Union is another rival. As for internal pressure, absence of Universal medical service is hurting the economy in diverse ways. Small businesses can no longer provide adequate medical coverage to their employees. Large companies are facing labor unrest mainly because of the medical issue. Federal budget has been screwed up to such a degree that it can do hardly anything to alleviate the burdens of uninsured forty five million as well as indigent retirees. The most affluent country in the world cannot take medical care of its citizens because of its huge military commitments. America has seven hundred and three bases spread all over the world and it maintains soldiers in more than one hundred countries. The military budget for the fiscal year 206-7 has been raised to half a trillion dollars. Is this situation healthy? This cannot continue for too long. Leaders with some foresight have to visualize a different picture of America. America can make a lasting contribution to humanity and at the same time secure its world-leadership for a long period; only it has to use its strength to bring about a world, through numerous steps, free from wars and fruitless rivalries among nations. The whole mess that the present world is in now, has been resulted from greed and a desire to dominate. A complete, though gradual, turn around should not be impossible. A determined super power can accomplish wonders.
All the relations of antagonism, rivalry, strife are based on our inability to find unity in the midst of diversity. If in every sphere we come across variety and infinite diversity, we have to recognize unity and diversity are two poles of one and undivided truth. To focus on one and deny the other is but living with half-truth only. What are the main factors that have been erecting walls between peoples? What immediately come to mind are: ethnicity, language, complexion , ideology and religion. At this age of instant communication, exchange of ideas and widespread travel, it should not be difficult to overcome the barriers and discover unity in the midst of multitude of differences. To facilitate the discovery of rounded truth several things may be recommended.
Acceptance of Integral Truth
First of all, one item of Napoleonic Code should be incorporated in the legal system of each and every nation. The item is: In the eye of law everybody is equal. Acceptance of this principle makes any violation of it, illegal and punishable . Of course, legal code is not enough to bring a change in the way people feel and behave. A change in education and culture is most desirable. Similarly, a modern man has to understand that somebody speaking a different language may not be taken as inferior to oneself. With regard to ideology, we do always encounter people whose ideas are different from ours; we must be able to live with differences comfortably; we need stimuli generated from differences. Religions seems, at this time and age, the most formidable obstacle to find and live with truth.
We need to delve into the problem of religion at some depth.
Most religions, as I have already noted, are exclusivistic; each religion, even each sect of a particular religion tends to glorify itself and claim that it only has the right understanding of Reality and the right ways and means to salvation. We have in us two pulls in two apparently opposite directions. Our ego, i. E. sense of I-ness and my-ness gives us a separation from all others. On the other hand, something in us, which may be taken as our soul, tends to find affinity, rather unity with others. Religions in a general way, springs from a strong experience of unity by an inspired sage or a number of them. Average individuals are attracted by the statements of inspired sages or prophets; thus a group is formed, a cult is shaped, which eventually grows into a religion with dogmas, doctrines, a code of conduct, faith, ritual etc. The ego loses no time to assert itself and claim possession of the larger aggregate of an emerging sect or religion; whatever our ego associates itself with, has to be the best if not the only true stuff; this is the rule of the ego. Most people are born into a particular faith; for them this faith is the best since this idea is inculcated to them by the family and other agents of the faith.
In pre-modern period, when religious groups functioned in relative isolation, this sort of egoistic exclusivism made some sense. At the present age of easy communication and exchange of ideas, rational individuals should be able to see the validity and beauty of the insights of a particular discipline and not been carried away to surmise that that particular discipline is the best and the only valid for all humanity. Unfortunately, most religions and sects fail to adhere to this rational approach. On the contrary, they tend to stick to their irrational dogmatic attitude, which in most cases serves the vested interests of the guardians of that faith or sect. How to help members of the general public to get out of this constricted state of mind? How can we encourage them to open up and face religions with an open mind and grow into broad and free thinkers?
First and foremost, separation between the state and religion should be imperative at this age of democracy and globalism. This separation is good for both religion and state. The principle of separation will save religion from any assault by the government; by the same token, the government would be free from incursion by religion. This is the ideal situation; but, in fact assault of one by the other is not uncommon. For example, United States incorporated the principle of separation between the sate and religion in its constitution for the first time in history. Even after more than two hundred years of adherence to this principle, incursions are taking place on the constitution during the present year of presidential election. Catholic priests, who are supposed to be celibates, are coming out with a blanket of opposition against free choice of pregnant women. They are virtually claiming that those who do not follow the directive of the Catholic authority are not true Christians. Women who stand for free choice affirm that they are as good Christians as others; as Christians they are entitled to use their conscience in coming to decisions about vital issues of their life. If we come to the Islamic countries we see a very discouraging picture. But for Turkey, all the countries have Islam as their state religion. Their constitutions exclude non-Muslim citizens to be selected for the position of the head of the state. One Pakistani journalist, who has taken refuse in England, described his predicament thus: ‘When I criticize the government the latter tries to harass me; but If I write something which can be interpreted by a Government agent as anti-Islamic, a charge of sedition can be brought against me and I may be interned for an indefinite period’. Minorities in Islamic countries have a precarious existence. In fact, hardly any Muslim country has a sizeable minority population. It is also interesting how the mind of the Muslim population is shaped and controlled in these countries. Small children are taught the Arabic script so that they can recite the Koran without understanding the meaning of any verse or word. Even Arabic speaking children cannot understand old Koranic Arabic; Muslim children are given the impression that what is written in the Koran has come directly from Allah, their God; Koran is the only true scripture; Muslims are the only blessed people and those who follow the instructions contained in the Koran are going to go to Heaven after death. Adults growing with this impression can hardly get out of it even after going through college and University education of a secular nature.
I have referred to two types of colonization, political and religious. Let us think of Central and South America; the whole continent was occupied and converted to Catholicism in addition to Mexico, Philippines and numerous others areas of Asia and Africa by Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. Political colonization has become a thing of the past; but does the colonization of the mind of the people have any chance of being removed? Most people of the whole of Latin America know hardly anything but Catholicism as the only religion, which binds their life in a thousand and one ways. The real problem is with the mind. If the mind gets conditioned thoroughly by a theology dominated by a bunch of dogmas and doctrines claimed to be inviolable truths, how can you expect such a mind ever to be able to think freely about fundamental questions about life, reality, human destiny and meaning of existence here on earth and hereafter? A situation like this cannot be conducive to a fuller development of the potential of individuals and groups. If dogmas and doctrines are to be used only as initial support to spiritual effort to experiencing the validity or otherwise of the dogmas and doctrines, there is no problem. This is how doctrines are taken, ideally speaking, in Buddhism and Hinduism. In Semitic religions mystical attempt at verifying the validity of doctrines through appropriate experience is not encouraged, rather discouraged. Consequently, people take the dogmas, doctrines and ethics as the last words of truth without ever questioning their validity. At this age of science, a little scientific attitude could go a long way to deliver the mind from being occupied by unexamined postulates gotten from second hand sources. Science encourages us to question everything; it shows us the process of arriving at a conclusion. Another great thing of scientific culture is that it never fails to admit mistakes; it is always ready to accept new discoveries. Knowledge is boundless, nobody can claim that one person or one tradition has exhausted all knowledge. Of course, scientific knowledge and method of inquiry may differ from the knowledge and method of inquiry of spiritual verities. For example, existence of God or the soul may not be established the way the existence of magnetism can be established. All the same, even where external proofs are not feasible and quantification is not applicable, reasoning can help to establish the validity of supernatural verities. Of course, things of other dimensions, even if established indirectly through reasoning, cannot satisfy us till these verities come to our experience directly. Here lies the difference in the method of pursuing two different types of knowledge. Still, we may not give up the scientific approach. Depth psychology is not truly a material science; it should not be tethered to the process followed by material sciences. That is why Biofeedback has been developed as a tool of measuring inner psychological changes. However, biofeedback may not be applied to all the phenomena of inner psychological states or processes; still the scientific approach should not be discouraged. How deep has been one’s state of meditation can be ascertained by checking his/her rate of heart beats, brain waves, body temperature etc. Similarly, it may not be easy to ascertain the depth of some one’s creative inspiration by the use of tools; the product of inspiration would be the measure of the inspiration. It may be more difficult to measure cosmic consciousness somebody might have entered into. Here again, we may have to be satisfied by indirect proofs.
Scientific attitude may help us in many other ways. If we take up the doctrines of different religions, we encounter many contrary statements. For example, Early Buddhists do not believe in a permanent soul, which survives our physical death. On the other hand, Hindus believe in a permanent soul, which takes individuals from birth to birth. How do you reconcile these two propositions? Mere intellectual belief in either of the propositions may make us behave differently; but the objective of both Buddhism and Hinduism is to have the experience the truth since through such experience of the other dimension of truth, one can be liberated from the limitations of knowledge and imperfections of life in general. Can both the statements be equally true? If you cannot reconcile the two, do you accept the Hindu statement just because you are born in a Hindu family? Scientific attitude prompts you to keep your mind open, not bound by a particular doctrine. If you have the urge to verify both the statements, you may have to experiment with the methods attached to either of the doctrines. Thus, it may be possible for you to come to reconciliation. Obviously, a vast majority of people does not have either the ability or the inclination to undertake such a job. These people are urged by the priestly class to stick to their hereditary belief system to avoid sin. This is how solidarity of a common faith is built; this is how antagonistic groups are formed, which at times may lead to communal riots or holy wars. Votaries of truth cannot accept this situation. They need to expose the irrational bigotry of religious enthusiasts.
Religion and the Spirit of Science
The spirit of science may go a long way to relieve human mind of the burden of carrying a load of unexamined dogmas.
Another difference between the scientific and the religious attitude is that science looks for new findings and it is always ready to correct or modify its position in the light of new findings. Religion, on the other hand, sticks to ancient books or beliefs even though these may sound opaque, antiquated and unsuitable for present time and mode of life. Religion tries many devices to validate its stance, sometimes by apologetics, sometimes by fabricating tortured interpretation of the tradition. The world has seen a superb example of this kind of falsehood in Taliban regime of Afghanistan. That regime did, among many other atrocious things, van music and enslave women.
It is depressing to note that the scientific spirit is spurned even in the most advanced country in science and technology. Feverish religionism is most manifest, among modernized countries, in the United States. Thousands of churches in this country are devoted to evangelicalism; they want to convert the rest of the world to their type of enthusiasm for Jesus without whom, they aver, there is no salvation. Their most successful convert is Mr. Bush, the current President of U S. Bush saved his family having given up drinking with the grace of Jesus. This is great. But he is also a calculated politician. He needs the support of the Evangelists and other conservatives for his reelection. He is now talking of changing the world. those nations, he avers, which are not in his side in fighting terrorism and establishing democracy are to be counted as enemies of the United States. Thus, by implication, he makes himself as the head of the state, good; others not cooperating with him, evil. He has elevated an aggressive religious mission into a national goal. With a view to fulfilling this objective he has sent a presidential directive to as many as seven departments to support faith-based initiative; he even replaced the government regulations by the Bible as the guidebook. This is an example of how far religious frenzy can go.
I have reason to believe that the Evangelists and other Fundamentalists have scientific education of certain degree. How come that they do not see the incongruity of traditional concept of heaven and hell at this age of space and exploration of the vastness of the universe? They do not question the dogmas like, Jesus is the begotten Son of God, his suffering is the ransom for the sin of Adam, and for that matter, of all mankind. How is it that they take no notice of eastern religions; they also ignore the other two Semitic religions, which entertain no idea of divine incarnation nor of original sin. Is it true that political and economic strength have blinded these people of science, history as well as common sense?
Cities like Alexandria, Baghdad grew into centers of learning where thinkers and scholars from Greece, Rome, Iran, India, sometimes even from China gathered and exchanged ideas. This occurred during a period extending roughly from third century BCE to third century AD. Christian scholars must have taken the idea of Divine incarnating as a human being from the Hindu scholars; this concept was not available in any other tradition. In Greek and Roman traditions extraordinary figures like Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, were elevated to the status of a god; this is a different concept since these personages were likened to one of the multitude of gods, not with the supreme Being, as is the case in India. Indian concept was taken over without proper understanding the context. In the Hindu concept God incarnates periodically for maintaining the cosmic order from slipping into disorder.
During the eighteenth century, when Paleontologists brought to light how certain species were annihilated thoroughly, Christians were shocked and could hardly accept the fact that a loving God could be so cruel. This arises from the problem of knowing God solely as a person; if God is conceived not limited to personality and that the Supreme could be impersonal infinite Force, such shocking reaction becomes irrelevant. Deists like Voltaire, tried to come out of the problem imaging God as though He was a watch maker, who after making the watch left it alone for it to go on in its own way. Thus God is made free from liability after He has done the job of creation. In Hindu tradition God has been conceived both as a Person and impersonal verity.
Western culture has been deeply impacted in many other ways by Judeo-Christian culture so much so that it has to open itself to non-western traditions to emerge as a wholistic global culture. For example, the West is too much into reward and punishment; the concept of divine potential in man is absent; consequently, love and healing have not received enough attention. If you go back to the Exodus of the Bible you get tired of hearing God giving in a somber voice a long list of transgressions, which must be met with severe punishments including death. Similar things are found in the Revelations of the New Testament; only here the speakers are apostles like Peter, John, and not God Himself. Koran has just followed the same tradition. In the Vedas Varuna is an important god, who is responsible for maintaining order in the universe. He enforces law; his image is, however, not of a cruel judge. In the post-Vedic period, among the authorities who have codified the laws of the land, sage Manu occupies a very high position. The Code of Manu, again, does not preoccupy itself with severe punishments against transgressions of different kinds.
It may be argued that in Christianity love has got in through the personality of Jesus. It is very true; innumerable individuals have been inspired by the examples of Jesus but, unfortunately, the general culture reflects more the Judaic tradition than what was introduced by Jesus. Judeo-Christian and Islamic world taken together has a remarkable record of wars, cruelty and intolerance. Just to mention a few examples, Charlemagne, idealized Christian monarch of the ninth century, ordered the liquidation of four thousand five hundred Anglo-Saxon prisoners of war when their leaders refused to accept Christ. Inquisitions and throwing people into dungeons, burning of women as witches, including Juan of Arc, on flimsy ground, wars of Crusade between Christians and Moslems lasting for three hundred years, destruction of one third of the population of Central Europe as a sequel to Thirty Years war between Catholics and Protestants, Virtual elimination of American Indians by the Christian settlers, inhuman treatment of enslaved Blacks (A number of passages have been found in the Old Testament in support of slavery) by white Christians for centuries, destruction of Christian Hindu and Buddhist places of worship by Muslims and so on. Even now along side general court system, most Christian denominations maintain an ecclesiastical judicial system for penalizing offenders of faith. Islam, an offshoot of Judaism has gone too far in acts of cruelty. In seventeen seventies, as soon as the British rule was established in East India, Muslim penal code was thrown away as barbaric. During the last decade of the twentieth century, Sharia or Muslim legal code was introduced in Pakistan, parts of Malaysia and Nigeria.
Spirituality and Science
We have advocated adoption of scientific attitude with the hope that it might bridge the chasm between religion and science to a considerable degree and thus reduce the dichotomy between the two viewpoints of life. Because of general opposition from religion, Evolution, which is an established fact of science, is still not receiving ungrudging acceptance by general public in America. I have also indicated that there is a big difference between religion and spirituality. Most religions sprang from some spiritual illumination, which is a higher kind of knowledge, akin to intuition, yet, in most cases qualitatively deeper than intuition. Spirituality proper carries a scientific attitude; it is very scrupulous about the method it follows. Also, spirituality does not suggest that one or a few illuminations can unravel the mystery of the whole universe. In this respect it is akin to science, which waits for the continuous unfoldment of knowledge. Astronomy is an ancient science. The expansion of knowledge that it has gained in course of the last one hundred years is astounding. It seems a similar phenomenal expansion of knowledge is needed to bring religions up to date. In this respect unlike philosophy and spirituality, religion seems to be a closed book, which, in fact aims at confining its adherents within four walls with very small windows.
It should, however, be noted that science could also lend itself to dogmatism. Some scientists would not accept anything as valid unless it can pass through the crucible of objective assessment and verification. We have tried to show that matter and spirit are like two sides of a coin; at bottom the two are not incompatible. Reality is one; its manifestation is variegated. Science and schools of philosophy, wedded to materialism, do also lump spirituality (they prefer the word mysticism) together with faith healing, extra sensory perception, U F O, fortune telling, astrology so on so forth and dismiss them as moonshine. I would not dismiss any of these without proper examination if I espouse a scientific attitude. As for spirituality proper, it demands a thorough self examination including a scrutiny of what goes on in all the parts and aspects of our being -- the body and its needs and propensities, the lower and higher emotions in us, surface and inner levels of the mind, dreams, ambitions hopes, success, failures etc. etc. This of course, is an ongoing process in which concentration, reflection and meditation are to be followed by stillness of the mind. In stillness we can transcend everyday associations and biases, soar higher into cosmic consciousness; it is possible to get into yet higher sphere of the Transcendent. It is an adventure of rising into higher and higher deeper and deeper levels of consciousness; it is a process of gradual liberation from all kinds of limited and limiting associations. This gradual ascension is punctuated by a sense of certitude of knowledge, blessedness of wonderful peace and delight. However, it is not a monolithic discipline; it may ramify in different directions with varied goals. In any case, whoever has taken a few steps in this adventure of consciousness, feels good and assured; self-awareness and clearer understanding of the surrounding lift up the spirit of the seeker. Nevertheless, there are also pitfalls in the path -- periods of darkness and doubt. A man of science may not appreciate the rigors of the path if he views it from outside.
Truth Scientific and Spiritual
Our basic problem is truth. How to approach truth in its wholeness? I am not talking of final truth; perhaps there is no finality with regard to truth. All that we can aim at is approximation of truth. We started with Quantum Mechanics and the String Theory of creation; the real clue to truth lies in these theories of science which meet spirituality squarely at its depth. Science and spirituality together may lead us to the approximation of truth.
Religion, as we have already shown, can hardly lead us to comprehensive truth. Religion is fragmented and full of contradictions. Religion has served humanity, has evolved in the process, but it has lost its role as a unifying force for humanity. It has rather erected so many dividing walls in and around humanity. I presume religion is nearing the end of its term. Certain spiritual philosophies of Buddhism and Hinduism, while giving an intellectual structure of spiritual insights, got involved in certain modes of logic and came to the conclusion that the world we are in has only a pragmatic reality. On the other hand, many branches of science are so strongly wedded to the reality of the matter that they do not recognize any truth underlying matter. These sciences even as the spiritual philosophies referred to above, fail to find any real meaning of our life and progress in this world. I am convinced life on planet earth has a meaning and a purpose; it is not all chance, accident or random selection and rejection. Of course, it is not easy to pinpoint the meaning and purpose of individual and collective life evolving in the course of history. The search for meaning, again, I am convinced, is intimately linked with the fullness of truth we are aiming at. It is obvious that there is an Order in the cosmos; if there is Order, there has to be a purpose in it.
2004 Presidential election is over
Mr. Bush has been elected President for the second term with a narrow margin of votes, as a wartime President in charge of security of Americans. But the reaction of general public to his reelection has been remarkably subdued. Countless people in different parts of the world have been deeply disappointed. Numerous European countries as well as many people of China and Japan have expressed their disappointment at the defeat of Senator Kerry. The reports that came from numerous newsmen can be summed up in the following words: ‘How could Americans re-elect this man? He has misled his country and misled the whole world; he had no reason to attack Iraq and bring misery to millions. Is Iraqi oil so important?’ One newsman approached a solitary man of learning in India about his reaction to the election; his answer was: it seems advertisement and organized propaganda can put someone easily on to the great throne. Luckily , Mr. Bush is no dictator and it is not a whole-life appointment like that of the Pope.
This election was fought with extreme bitterness and hostility between the two major parties. This raises the question : does not democracy presuppose certain civility and decency among the supporters of two opposing parties? Cannot we expect some modesty and regard for truth in the contending candidates? The two campaigns turned into two veritable warring parties; only the battles did not involve physical violence.
Mr. Bush declared shortly after the result was out, 'I have earned some capital; I am going to spend it’. Experts are apprehending that the President will pursue, with the support of the Republican majority in both houses of the Congress, vigorously his pet programs. What are the programs? Just those he pursued during his first term: serve the religious Right; serve the rich and the powerful; also suppress environmentalism since it is assumed to go against the interests of big business. It is obvious he was picked up by these two interests for Presidency in 2000. His re-election carries an ominous significance. His success is most likely to push America backward and at the same time drag the rest of the world away from the evolving truth for all-round progress of humanity. Time has come for people to overcome the barriers of organized religion for global human unity; time has come for removing the walls that separate people of the world into different classes primarily on the basis of wealth education and opportunity.
We have noted how enthusiastic Bush was in promoting faith-based social service. He did not get the support of the Congress in this respect; this term he is not even going to try for any to back up his extended religious agenda.
We need now to consider by the support of which block of voters Mr. Bush succeeded in his bid for re-election. It is estimated that 77% of the Fundamentalist Evengelical Protestant voters and 70% of Catholics voted for him. Thus, Religious Right has been the main source of his support. What are the religious issues that have galvanized the this solid block of people? I will mention just a couple: the issue of abortion and stem-cell research. Pro-choice group of women and men do not favor abortion; they only say that the pregnant woman should have the right to abort a fetus in consultation with a physician. In fact, nobody favors abortion; abortion is normally taken recourse to when a pregnant woman finds herself in a dire situation because of one or more reasons. Pro-choice people argue that as Christians they have the right to use their conscience. Pro-life people, on the other hand, argue that Christians can, under no circumstances, go for an abortion. They want to make abortion illegal. It is to be understood that the in a multi-ethnic multi-religious society as we have here in the United States, no one group can reasonably try to impose its idea on others. It is a fact that all Christian sects are not of same opinion with regard to abortion. There are other ethnic and cultural groups which are not dead against abortion. Besides, religion and the state have been separated in the constitution of the United States. Now the question is: can a group of religious people, however large, Can organize itself politically and try to influence legislation for the entire population of the country? This group proudly declares that their idea stands for a great moral value. Not to go for abortion could indeed be a moral value for individuals; but if you go so far as to agitate and influence political opinion of simple people in the name of religion, it becomes an immoral and illegitimate act. Nobody prevents you to practice your religious value, organize social activities to help parents raise kids with reduced anxiety at this difficult time. This adds to your power and influence. Why should you then get into the political arena, presumably with ulterior motive, and mix religion with state law that governs the life of all the citizens. Is not over-zealous religiosity a kind of fanaticism? The other day (Nov. 12, 204) an elderly activist nun who appeared in the ’ Now’ program of National Public Radio, made certain interesting remarks. She said, ‘ the pro-life people are not really pro-life, they are actually pro-birth. They are not concerned at all how the baby would be provided with food, shelter, clothes and other necessities of life. She also pointed out that among the civilians being killed in Iraq as a result of ‘war monger’ Bush’s action good many casualties are pregnant women’.
The other religious issue is Stem-cell research for finding ways and means of curing people from such serious illnesses as Alzheimer, Parkinson, Diabetes, genetically transmitted cancer, like, Skin Cancer, Breast Cancer etc . Stem cells and marrow cells obtained from the juice of Placenta may not be enough for research; it is apprehended by the Religious Right that to meet the increasing demand for Stem cells, early abortion of embryos could be attempted by research scholars or their agents. A fertilized egg (Zygote) is an embryo constituted by only one cell; but the cell multiplies itself and in a few weeks an embryo may contain 300 or more cells, which are not diversified, remain as stem cells to be used for repairing any tissue or organ be by researchers. Now, the question is: Is the embryo containing quite a few stem cells as good as a living person? If so killing an embryo would mean killing a person. How good is this argument? Who can tell for sure when exactly an embryo becomes a person? What harm is there to destroy a few embryos for the sake of finding relief for hundreds of thousands of men and women living among us and suffering terribly? Is it necessary to block scientific advancement in the name of a dubious religious notion? What do the religiously righteous people do when they see thousands of children are dying of hunger and malnutrition? What are the pro-lifers doing to about that! How about the Defense department (till 1949 it was called Department of War) spending hundreds of billions of dollar to train people how to kill other human beings and devising and procuring deadly weapons for that purpose? It is also a fact that in modern warfare innocent civilians including children and the elderly are not spared. Is it not simply hypocritical to overvalue the rejected embryo over against millions of living men and women among us and suffering intensely? It may be noted here that Great Britain has come up with a program of using embryo for research that balances ethics and quest for cures of deadly diseases. Scientists in South Korea already have come up with a unique way of production of stem cells and their applications.
It would not be out of order to consider how the entire block of southern states came to the support of Mr. Bush. Fundamentalist Evengelical Protestants are concentrated very much in the South. This group of Christians believed that God had given them the privilege of using the Blacks as slaves. They were dead against the Emancipation; they are very unhappy because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights of 1965 passed under the presidency of Linden Johnson. Johnson knew that the southern whites would not forgive him for these acts. In fact many southern Democrats moved to the Republican camp on this score. Here we notice the action of two forces combined together--dogmatic religion and racism. If this can happen in modern humane and rational America, can we be too critical about the Islamic countries? In Islam religion and politics are intertwined whereas in the United States religion and politics are supposed to be separate.
French President J. Sheraque in his recent (Nov. 17-1 8 , 204) state visit to England made certain interesting remarks; he said that the invasion of Iraq has not curbed terrorism, rather it has provoked and galvanized Muslims all over the world against the West. He had no hesitation to say that it was a mistake for England to join America in the Iraq adventure.
Various reports coming from all over the world corroborate the sentiments of J. Sheraq. Even people of those countries which contributed soldiers to the coalition force agitated against the decision of their leaders to submit to the demands of United States; they demanded the call back of their men from Iraq. After the nine/eleven event, intellectuals, though small in number, in many Arab countries felt ashamed and thought of doing something in this respect. Their plan was to persuade their countrymen to consider international issues from rational and humane points of view. Their plan could not take off the ground as Mr. Bush began preparation for attacking Iraq. After the assault started, the entire Muslim world became terribly hostile toward the United States.
Drawbacks of U S Foreign Policy
I have been critical of the foreign policies of the United States. My contention is that in conducting the foreign policy U S has failed to follow the path of truth. Truth demands that you take the unitive or the quantum view of the people or the nation you are dealing with. America has used other nations, especially oil producing Muslim nation for its benefit and did not make any attempt to view the people of those countries as people like ourselves seeking advancement and growth in life. Most of these countries have suffered under autocratic rule; consequently ordinary people in those countries have not received proper share of the oil revenue which could provide them with better education and other opportunities. It is argued that it is infinitely easier to deal with the autocrat and his cronies than with democratically elected people with divergent views and pressures from many directions. In fact, it would be easier to deal with the autocrat keeping in view the long-term welfare of the autocrat, his associates, as well as the interests of the general public not excluding the interests of the United States. I believe if American government cared for the welfare of all the groups of people, it could put words of wisdom tactfully into the ears of the autocrat. Slowly the educational and other relevant policies of these nations could have been influenced. America did not take to this route. There lies the failure of the American diplomacy. Net result is: all the parties involved have been undergoing difficulties.
It may be argued that getting involved with the lives of a different people may not be easy, not even right. I do not think involvement is wrong if it is done in a measured way and with a genuine good will. In many subtle ways --through public speeches, journals, organizing social and sports events, it is possible to inculcate democratic values, rational attitude and humane outlook. On the other hand, too much display of Americanism in a conservative Islamic society would be wrong. This is what was done in Iran during the rule of the Shah. American movies with liberal dose of sex and violence, parties, late night revelries, women’s dresses displaying certain parts of the body etc. were displayed; these were strongly disliked by the old school of clerics who had great influence on the general public. Not much was done to curb these at the initial expression of discontent.
American way of life has a strong attraction especially for the youth. It projects liberty of women, zest for life and adventure, longing for success, plentitude etc. Perhaps the spirit of Americanism is displayed deliberately with a view to stamp the assumed superiority of all that America stands for, on the mind of the foreigners. There is a strong element of falsehood in this. These displays do never show the negative aspects of American society. Again, an attitude of vaunt is not a desirable face to present with a people with whom friendship and mutuality is expected. With conscientious effort a change can be effected slowly. The question is America ready for that. Most other nationals complain against American complex of superiority and arrogance. This is how America loses its standing in the estimation of people in the rest of the world. This does not bode well for American leadership and, for that matter, the rest of the world.
We have noted earlier how Mr. Bush has worked diligently to get bills passed by the Congress with a view to serve the interests of the rich. Many other things he set in motion by his executive orders for the same purpose of helping the big business, many a time at the cost of the consumer or the labor.
The economic policy he has espoused is known as Neo liberalism. This brand of economic program was launched by Lady Thatcher of England and President Reagan. This ideology, derived from the Chicago school of economics spearheaded by Milton Friedman, favors unabashedly Privatization, reducing the role of the government by minimizing regulations and most of all keeping the bargaining power of labor minimal by opposing unions. At the time Thatcher and Reagan initiated and supported this program, the Soviet Union was still a force, though in decline. Twelve years after the demise of Soviet Union, when Mr. Bush was installed in the White House, the forces of money and power had already been heavily entrenched. So it is not surprising that Bush has won the second term with all the confidence, ready to deliver. In his first term Mr. Bush succeeded, with the support of the Congress, in removing the Estate tax which benefited only the rich and which was a good source of revenue for the Treasury. He spent the five hundred billion dollar surplus left by Mr. Clinton by giving a hefty cut of wealthy people’s taxes. It is still a mystery what prompted him to attack Iraq. However, this misadventure has been costing the Treasury heavily; nobody knows how long America will remain involved with the sad state of affairs there. So far more than seventeen hundred American soldiers have been killed and many times that number have been wounded. As for Iraqis, at least ninety thousand men women and children have been killed and Iraqi society is very much in disarray. At the present Mr. Bush is preoccupied with two big projects: one is changing the Social Security plus Medicare system; the other is to overhaul the Tax system. Social Security and Medicare are not in crisis according to experts, although he is using the word ‘crisis’ as a slogan. Opening private accounts by younger workers with a part of their Social Security contributions is a step is sure to lead to the eventual ruination of the Social Security and Medicare programs. It is also designed to weaken the labor movement. If millions of young workders open separate accounts of their own, labor organisations will have very little hold onthem. The idea that the Federal government should be made free from the burden of such social programs was first broached during Reagan’s time in early eighties and it is being discussed now in the inner circle of the White House. This group of people is highly critical of Roosvelt’s New Deal, Truman’s G I Bill, Johnson’s Great Society and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Destruction of such programs, especially Social Security as initiated by Roosevelt, would be the triumph of the philosophy of Capitalism and Plutocracy. These privileged people with inherited money would like to aggrandize the wealth and power of the United States for themselves primarily.
With regard to tax reform, the idea of removing Federal Income tax and depending on an enlarged Sales tax is being studied now. A scheme like this will invariably burden the middle and working class people. Some tax experts say that it is idle to expect Bush to eliminate numerous loopholes created for the rich, especially the provision for companies to maintain an address in one of the Caribbean islands for the purpose of drastically reducing the tax liabilities of multi-nationals. It is to be understood that Bush was picked up by the big business interest in 2000; his re-election by the financial support of the same group has come as a windfallfor this class of people. This class of people of which Bush family is a typical representative, is going to use the opportunity to the fullest extent. In fact, from the beginning of his first term to the proposed budget of 2006 Bush has favored innumerable projects and to serve the interest of the rich at the cost of , among other things, the environment and health and welfare of general public. It may be mentioned that Bush has undone one very nice thing Clinton did for the environment. Clinton made 60 million acres of federal wilderness area out of bound for development. Bush has opened this area for logging, mining etc. (We refrain to give here a long list of measures Bush has taken to hurt the environment for favoring business interests.) Reagan initiated the project of ruining labor unions; Bush is pushing it further.
A few more words about Social Security reform needs be added. Mr. Bush has started a nationwide crusade to win the mind of the people, especially the young workers. He is using the slogan ‘ownership society’. He does not mention at all what the young people would be missing if they opt for private account. He is using slogans he has used during the presidential campaigns all the time. None of the slogans carries more than half the truth. In fact, he has recruited an expert for coining the slogans. ‘Ownership Society’ carries an element of enticement; but its connotation goes deeper. It means if you do not own much or if you do not make serious effort to own wealth, you are no good. This slogans also implies that it would be the right thing to devote your life for accumulating wealth. It is a philosophy of downright materialism. Material prosperity is a good thing; two/third of the world population are in need of prosperity. But, crass materialism has a big problem. When endless material gain becomes the sole motive of big businesses and their executives, rules and regulations are twisted without regard to the spirit of the law. Once you get away with twisting the law, you become bold enough to break them left and right. This is what has happened in America. Starting from Enron, innumerable companies have been caught cheating the government, robbing the small investors and duping the consumers.
Mr. Bush wants to democratize the Middle East. We have pointed out the difficulty of democratizing any country from outside. For Islamic countries the most formidable difficulty is their obsession with an Islamic state. It is obvious that with democracy Bush also wants to see the Free Enterprise system spread all around. This system also requires certain infrastructure; there has to be a relaxation in the method of lending and borrowing along with the charge of interests. Another requisite is modern accounting system and transparency. These things are not easily attainable in autocratic Islamic countries.
As in the days of the Cold War so also at this day United States maintain a cozy relation with autocrats in the world. For example, After nine/eleven, CIA has been catching or abducting Muslim men in different parts of the world suspected as actual or potential terrorists. These people have been transported to numerous Muslim countries for internment and securing intelligence through extremely torturous interviews, which would not be permissible in the United States. This has been possible as a result of collaborative relation of the U S government with the heads of governments of those countries. This matter has been reported By CBS in ‘Sixty Minutes’ on March 6, ’05. I dislike using ‘conspiracy’ to explain certain moves of the Bush administration; but many things point in that direction. For example, Vice-President Chenney visited CIA headquarters a number of times presumably to procure support for an assault on Iraq. Perhaps it was stipulated that without involvement in a major war it would not be possible to get Bush re-elected, which was indispensable for giving a thorough imperial capitalistic orientation to the U S economy. During Reagan’s time unionization of labor was severely discouraged; enrollment of labors to unions came down to thirteen percent only. During regime of the present President only 8 percent of workers are enrolled in unions. Despite public cry for regulations at the wake of widespread corruption in big corporations, Mr. Bush tried to discourage regulations; he actually reduced funding of Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency in charge of enforcing rules and regulations, significantly.
Neither ruthless militant Capitalism nor dogmatic Socialism can serve society--the individual and the collectivity properly. I believe, truth lies in the middle path--between Capitalism and socialism, between management and labor. Any democratic government is expected to see that consumers are not cheated, the poor and the handicapped are protected and blue color workers are not taken advantage of.
The power of the capitalist clique is so great that even a democratic President like Clinton had to move to center-right from center-left in his policies. Tony Blair, British Prime Minister, was enchanted by American Free Enterprise; he wanted to privatize a number of state enterprises, namely, public utility companies in England. Shortly after he became Prime Minister, his party was adorned by a prefix, Labor became ‘New Labor’. Mr. Lola, President of Brazil, was a labor leader, who promised all kinds of things for the working poor and the native Indians. Before long after his election to the Presidency, he recruited economic advisers having kept in view which men would be acceptable to Washington. Mr. Lola is way behind fulfilling his promises.
Now, the question is: What purpose is going to be served by the concentration of money and power in a small minority of American citizens? Of course, this small group has the support of the religious Right, White supremacists and Jingoists who are excited by the idea that America has to prevail in peace and in war over the rest of the world. These ‘patriotic people’ tend to disbelieve anything negative about their country. This is the reason why Bush could be elected and re-elected.
It is not just the question of the poor and the handicapped within America; it is the question of the poor and dispossessed all over the world. It is estimated that only one-third of the population of the world enjoys a decent standard of living; the rest is in misery and struggling hard to earn a living. How are America and other industrialized nations going to pull out the poor of the developing and less developed countries? It has been shown by experts that by helping others we help ourselves. What we need is a philosophy of ‘live and let others live’. The current leadership seems to be wedded to the philosophy of social Darwinism. Idealists despair that the emerging truth of unity of mankind is not receiving serious attention. The Tsunami tragedy has stirred up the core of the human heart. Would that be translated into a worldwide program for the upliftment of all the people, and for that matter, all life on earth? I would urge the idealists not to despair, not to give up hope. It is true, Currently both the forces of Religious Right and Militant Capitalism are running riot with Bush in the White House. Sometimes things aggravate before solutions come to sight; is not the night darkest before dawn?
Summary and conclusion
We have tried to show that conventional religions have been moving away from truth. They are preoccupied with mere shells while the kernel of truth with which they started, is slipping out. Restoration of the truth is an urgent necessity. This can be done by reviving spirituality and widespread practice of spiritual disciplines. This can be facilitated with collaboration from sciences and a very strong emphasis on the scientific spirit. Bringing the subject and the object together facilitates a unitive view of reality which culminates into the perception of oneness or unity of all reality. Quantum view, String Theory of creation and spiritual consciousness lead us in that direction. From this point of view humanity seems to be living in Ignorance, i. E., in divisiveness, in surface consciousness, far removed from the real and comprehensive truth.
We have focussed quite a bit of attention on the United States; the main reason is that it is the sole super power in the world with the potential of becoming spearhead of pushing the world toward a harmonious whole and the fulfillment of the evolutionary nisus. It is the most powerful nation in the world economically and militarily. It is most advanced in scientific research and in technology; it has attracted talented people from all over the world. People here are innovative ;the variety of creative activities they are engaged is phenomenal. On the other hand, it has many problems, some of which have been dealt with. The biggest problem is the values it upholds. Whatever the religious rights claim, in general, American public worships primarily money power and sex. Till the World War II America drew inspiration from the old world, Europe. From after the Great War, the table has turned; America has become the model. Not just Europe and Japan, most other parts of the world began gradually to follow America. This has given such a boost to America’s self-image, that it has become infatuated by itself. It sees nothing but itself; in this sense it may be considered to have gone back to its old insularity. Politically it is entirely out of insularity; it is heavily involved with the rest of the world over which it wants to extend its domination. So far as moral and intellectual ideas are concerned, America has become parochial. She does not see anything laudable anywhere else. This is the kind of narrowness along with its crass materialism makes her unfit for the leadership for usher in the future of humanity.
The more important component of leadership is the spiritual heritage of India stretching over five millennia. Present-day political and economic India may not count in the equation. It is necessary that America gets imbued with the essentials of Indian spiritual heritage.
On this issue, we are into dark alley. American appreciation of Indian spirituality is very negligible. In 1875 Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcot started the Theosophical movement. Through their efforts Buddhist and Hindu spirituality was introduced in America. In 1893 Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of Religion in Chicago. This inspired address created a stir which led to the opening of a number of centers for the study of Vedanta in northern cities of the United States. Swami Yogananda started his spiritual mission in California in 1925. his attempt at showing striking similarities between the teachings of Vedanta and those of Jesus has been drawing attention to a growing number of people. During the fifties of the last century, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came to the states with a brand of Vedantic meditation called Trancendental Meditation. This technique of meditation spread all over, especially in college and university campuses. T M was presented as a method of gaining higher consciousness detached from religeosity. It was thus looked with favor by intellectuals; consequently it was adopted as a means of healing as well as correction of behavior of prisoners. Shortly after Mahesh Yogi, came Bhaktivedanta Swami with his exotic Hare Krishna movement or Krishna Consciousness. It has had all the trappings of a religion. Despite this, rather due to this, this movement drew tremendous attention as well as opposition. As it is truly a spiritual program of widening of one’s consciousness through devotion to the personality of Krishna, it has succeeded in setting up large and active centers in many cities, not just of the United States but of many other countries in the world. Over and above the movements mentioned above, numerous other spiritual leaders and their following have been operating in the United States. However, it can hardly be claimed that Indian spirituality has become a part and parcel of mainstream thought and culture of America Good many educated Americans visit numerous Buddhist retreats in America. They go mainly for a little peace and they get it in certain degree to their great relief from hectic workload accompanied by tension and anxiety. Still, Buddhism, including the popular Zen, can hardly claim to have influenced the American outlook on life.
Am I suggesting that America has to espouse Indian spirituality? By no means. All that I advocate is that at this age of Globalism, it is necessary to open oneself to different models of other cultures. I have made it clear that Indian spiritual tradition emphasizes the ideal of experiencing the truth by an expansion and deepening of one’s consciousness; whereas Semitic religions have given pivotal place to principles of ethics. I am not claiming that all Indians are striving for the realizing the highest truth. Everybody, not excluding the spiritual aspirants, has to follow certain ethical principles. The West has to realize that ethical commands, however hallowed, may need to change in response to time, space and other factors. It is idle to swear in the name of Christianity while violating the basic tenets of Christian ethics. It is questionable if the leaders of ‘Moral Majority’ do really stick to moral principles. Apparently they appear to be pursuing wealth power and pleasure. Is Pat Robertson, a multi-millioner, who aspired for the Presidency in 1988, a crooked businessman or a dedicated leader of Christian Coalition? As for Christian ethics, Inactuality, the sex revolution has almost wiped out the major part of Christian moral principles. Poverty is another Christian principle. At this time and age we need not idealize poverty. What’s about sharing? Is it not a great principle of Christianity? Helping the poor is another cardinal principle of Semitic religions. Despite these and similar other ideals, most cultures have indulge in imperialism and colonialism. On the other hand, some of the Christian values have contributed indirectly to the removal of imperialism and colonialism. This being the present-day ethical idealism, how can we justify militant Capitalism which aims at making the rich richer by exploiting the poor within the country and without? Just this day (May 21, 205) National news has broadcast that Mr. Bush is going to address the Commencement gathering of Kelvin College in Michigan; one-third of the Faculty members of that Liberal Arts college affiliated with a denomination of Christianity, have signed a protest letter; the letter says that Mr. Bush is conducting an unjust war, doing everything for the rich, he cannot, therefore, count on Christian support. Students have written a separate letter in protest of the President’s visit.
The leaders of Islam, a Semitic religion, have been complaining that the West is immoral since it grants excessive freedom to women. What Islam does in the name of morality is to justify all the restrictions imposed on women. They want to stick to Male chauvinism, a fairly common feature of medieval societies, at the time of history when freedom is considered as the birth-right of every human being. It is, however, encouraging to see that even in the autocratic Muslim countries of the Middle East, women have started gaining a little freedom, except, of course, the women of Saudi Arabia, the citadel of Islam.
I have indicated which groups of people selected Bush for the 2000 Presidential election, how flawed was his election (through unjust maneuvers thousands of minority voters were disenfranchised and he was finally chosen by 5/4 majority of the Supreme Court of the United States), and how he was re-elected. Now, the question is not just ‘how’ but why did it happen like this? What is the significance of the election of a man as President who is the champion of two regressive forces, religious Right and militant capitalism at this time of history when United States seemed to be poised for true leadership of the world and upliftment of humanity. We need to trace back the root and origin of the phenomenon in recent past.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (daughter of a grocer) came up with a philosophy of Privatization. Apparently, she was fed up with extraordinary socialistic provisions in British Public policy system. A little later in 1980 Mr. Reagan ( originally a democrat, who came from a modest socio-economic background) was elected President in a landslide. Thatcher liked Gorbachev, the last of the Soviet leaders; she perhaps saw in him a strength as would bring a change in the tottering Soviet system. Reagan did not seem to have any idea about the faltering Soviet economy. He was just an ultra-conservative Republican who hated welfare provisions of the American puvlic policy. He readily espoused Mrs. Thatcher’s anti-socialistic stance,which was based, as I have already indicated, on the Chicago school of economics as opposed to London and Harvard schools of economics. Reagan cut taxes more than once which resulted in recession; stock market had a big crash in 1987. The economy continued to be in recession during the full four years of Bush, senior. As a result, though he won the Gulf War, he lost election. Reagan tried to suppress socialistic regimes and support capitalistic autocracies in Latin America. He admired greatly General Pinochet of Chile, a very ruthless capitalist.
Within the country, Reagan reduced Federal funds for numerous social service programs including Federal money for Students’ loan. He was not particularly religious, yet to placate the conservatives, especially the Catholics, he established diplomatic relations with the Vatican. As a Republican he was intent on reducing the size of the Federal government; but, with a view to win over the past and the present military on his side, he elevated the Veteran’s Affairs to a full-fledged Veterans Department. He wasted billions of dollars for Missile Defense system, Popularly known as Star Wars. He declared that the Soviet Union was an ‘Evil Empire’. Yet, while negotiating for arms reduction he could not go as far as Gorbachev was ready to go. In short, Reagan prepared the ground, after the Vietnam debacle, for an upsurge of American commitment to Free Private Enterprise and a display of American military prowess.
After the break up of Soviet Union in 1989 and the victory in the Gulf War in 1991, hawkish people in the administration of Bush, senior, began to dream of a complete ouster of Sadam Hussain and a gradual hold over the oil-producing Middle East. This, however, would lead to the untrammeled overlordship of the world. When Bush was defeated by Clinton, this group and their financial backers became devastated. They simply could not tolerate Clinton. They defeated soundly universal medical coverage, a socialistic project initiated by Clinton. Then came forward Nute Gingrich with his ‘Contract with America’ to route the democratic majority in the House of Representatives. He succeeded and became the Speaker of the House. Republicans were bent on ousting Clinton; they began to howl at him whenever they found an excuse, be that an alleged sex scandal or a development project in Arkansas (White Water). Clinton was re-elected by beating Senator Dole. Most unfortunately, before long Clinton was involved with a more serious sex scandal. The Republicans became jubilant, they saw imminent victory and the fulfillment of their dreams of Great America virtually ruling over the whole world. Clinton was harassed in innumerable ways, he was impeached, yet he could not be ousted. So, the Republicans resolved to work with redoubled energy during next election to put someone of their own in the White House. They succeeded , having used all their cunning and crookedness, in Florida in particular,in wrenching the Presidency from Vice President Gore who received a larger number of popular votes and was equipped eminently to continue good many programs and policies initiated by Clinton.
I hope, by now it is clear to my readers what forces are represented by junior Bush and what goals are goading the clicks of religious Right and a number of heads of multi-nationals along with the bunch of civil and military designers. Bush is, after all, is the front man of these interests. If you scrutinize the backgrounds of the members of Bush’s cabinet, you will find that most of these people, even their Deputy and Assistant secretaries have come from well-established business firms. It may not be an exaggeration to say that the entire Executive branch of the federal government of the United States is hostage to the interests of big business. Is this true democracy?
The Iraqi war and its aftermath have already brought down United States in the estimation of most other states in the world. If the tragic situation in Iraq continues or ends in further humiliation of America, would there be a chance for the Republican party to come back to power? Nobody can answer for sure. If Republican party comes back, what could be expected of it? If it follows at the footsteps of Mr. Bush, United States may slide toward disaster. On the other hand, if the new administration trails a different path, makes amends having realized the mistakes made by Bush, a new chapter in U S life and policy may ensue. What shape it will take, I cannot speculate since it would depend on so many unknown factors. On the other hand, if the Democratic party comes to power, there is a chance of a whole new outlook and policy. But, can we really expect much from the Democratic party? What is the big difference between the two parties? The tax laws that have been passed over the years favoring the rich would not be possible without the support of the Democratic party. This party also in a general way supports the Free Market system and the prospect of dominating the world as a means of serving the self-interest of America. Do we find new world-view among, not just rhetoric, among Democratic leaders? How ever, Democrats can learn a lot from the mistakes of their own party not just the flaws of the other party. Democrats have to redefine themselves in the light of new developments in the world as well as within the country.
There is an ambivalence in the Democratic mind. Like the Republicans, this party also receives financial support from big businesses. Donation lists of corporations show that 60% of contributions from big businesses go to the Republican party and 40% goes to the Democrats, on the basis of a rough calculation. A Democrat cannot survive having neglected the rich and powerful. On the other hand, Democrats depend heavily on the votes of the poor and the disadvantaged. Can the party define itself more clearly and declare that its primary mission is to stand for fairness and justice? It does not have to go against the wealthy since they contribute substantially to the production of wealth for the nation. Democrats can look back at history and accept the fact that Blacks were exploited and mistreated at the same time; the native Indian tribes were treated horribly although it was their lands on which the white immigrants settled themselves; similarly, Hispanic and Chinese workers were taken advantage of. For the sake of fairness and justice public policies have to be modified significantly. If England and other European nations have built their industries having looted their colonies and empires, America also shares a debt along with European nations to colonies and subject nations of Asia, Africa and South America. America grew industrially having taken advantage of the technology developed by European nations at the initial stage; Later, America made enormous progress in Technology and helped Europe during the twentieth century in settling their quarrels by taking part in the two World Wars. America also rebuilt greater part of Europe following World War II. Europe and America have now the moral responsibility to help the rest of the world to come out of their problems. If the Democratic party can resolve to become the champion of fairness and justice within U S borders and in the rest of the world, it may have a glorious future. The problem is :are the party leaders ready for that?
It is not true that we grow at the cost of others. In this regard the mind-set has to be changed. For the backwardness of developing and less developed countries the West need not take all the blame, the situation being too complex. But, some blame cannot be denied. People under foreign rule and colonial domination lose faith in themselves; this is a serious damage done to them and the damage lingers for long. Even now the critics of IMF and World Bank say that the makers of policy in these two institutions tend to show the mentality of the colonial masters. They tend to think that they know and understand the problems and the remedies of those countries better than those living with the problems. By the same token, the people of receiving countries fail to think hard; they look up at the policy-makers in Washington for the right answer.
The Democratic party can rejuvenate itself by giving up ambivalence in their mind and policy; instead, it has to espouse a spirit of fight for all those who have been neglected for long. If the Blacks , Hispanics, American Indians and others could keep on fighting(American women started fighiting for their rights from the middle of the nineteenth century), why can’t the Democratic party take over their cause and FIGHT, not just for these groups of people, but for all the neglected and eisadvantaged, ALL THE WAY FOR FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE? Such a stance, along with a well-thought-out program of educating the general public, will go a long way to garner support of a growing number of people at the higher echelon of society. Such a party motivated by high ideals is sure to command respect in other parts of the world. This will make it far easier for America to take truly leadership role in the world. Republican policies culminating in the attitude of the present incumbent, have eroded outside world’s trust in the United States.
I have been talking of a change in consciousness. If affluent and powerful Americans can accept the proposition that every human being deserves a minimum of education and scope of earning a living, a significant first step toward change in consciousness would be taken. This, I am sure, would generate healthy influence in other parts of the world. It may not be necessary for everybody to delve into Yoga psychology for a change in consciousness; if people into the practice of one of the Semitic religions can genuinely believe that every human being is a child of God, a change in consciousness would be effected. That is why I am so emphatic on the rejection of exclusiveness in the traditions of Semitic religions. Those who are free from religious predilections, they can with a little effort see the rationale of including the whole of humanity in the scheme of global upliftment.
The principle of global upliftment can be a booster of the human spirit. This spirit will help us modify our thinking significantly. On analysis we may find that that rivalry, divisiveness, conflict and war do not lead us anywhere; instead, these make us move in a cycle of death destruction and back to the same unresolved predicament. Competition in limited plans and programs may have a place, but it cannot and should not be the principle to govern all aspects of our life. To demonstrate the issue, a few concrete examples may be cited.
The Auto-Industry began to gain importance and popularity during the early decades of the last century; it resolved to fight its rival, the Railways. It lobbied vigorously and before too long succeeded in almost destroying the Railways, especially its long distance passenger services. To survive or thrive do I need to kill my rival or to maim him? Some leaders are telling that whatever might be the cost, we have to go for the bullet train incrementally. When we see many countries of Asia and Europe are using Railway services effectively for moving goods and passengers, why should we allow one industry to virtually kill the other. Is it the psychology of only one way?
Having faced the oil embargo and the scarcity of gasoline, President Carter launched a program of developing alternative and renewable fuels, encouraged innovators with subsidy. After Carter was replaced by Reagan, alternative fuel program fizzled out gradually. Now Aviation industry is in a state of crisis. Except South-West airline no other airline is making money mainly because of the sudden hike in aviation oil price. Here comes the question: does the government have responsibility to see a balanced growth of cognate industries? Is it desirable to let things to the forces of the market to determine? Is the market really free? Is not the market being manipulated all the time? If industries are guided by the consideration of immediate gain, should not the Public Policy makers try to visualize the future and regulate private industries discretely, having weighed pros and cons and kept in view the future of the nation? As Free Market can go to the extreme so does socialism become dogmatic and go for nationalization of all major industries. The result is: industries run by bureaucrats become less and less productive leading to disaster in the economy. Balance and harmony may come from wider vision and many-pronged attack of a big problem.
Another example of narrow outlook and single-minded drive may be cited here. President Bush joins the Evangelists in breakfast; it seems innocuous. But the motive is to give a boost to evangelism. The result is: In the military, namely, in Air Force Academy in Colorado, instructors are urging the cadets to convert to Evengelical spirit, otherwise they would have very little prospect of leadership in the Air Force. (an investigation of the matter has been authorized). Evangelists have been receiving financial support from the White House to propagate abstinence only’ among teenagers for avoiding pregnancy. In this country pre-marital sex is very common though it is not a desirable thing. Teenagers are encouraged to take a vow in the name of God, to abstain from sex before marriage. An independent research project has come to a conclusion having interviewed 20 thousand young men and women, that 88% of those took the vow failed to keep the vow. In that case, what’s harm telling young people that if they must break the vow, they should use condom? But, Evengelical ministers stick to the principle of abstinence only; contraceptives are a taboo for them. (the matter was discussed in ‘Sixty Minutes’ , CBS program, May 22, 205). Something similar happened in India. Mohandas Gandhi, the best known leader of Indian struggle for freedom, urged that married couples must practise refraining from sex to avoid procreating more than two or three children(pre-marriage sex was and still is, a taboo in India). The result was that family planning did never start at all. If the use of contraceptives was encouraged for married people , India would not fall behind by at least two generations in controlling birth rate. Population is now the main cause of pollution and poverty in India.
Another important discussion has been initiated in ‘Fresh Air’ program of National Public Radio(May 23, 205) centering round an article published lately in New York Times. It is: Evengelical Christians were located mostly in southern states among less educated less affluent people. At present groups have been formed in Ivy League universities under the leadership of bright students. These groups are making systematic efforts to present Jesus in his highest glory, which amounts to presenting him as the sole saver of humankind. The secular humanistic environment of Ivy League institutions is thus being transformed into heavily loaded sectarian sentimentalism. This may be the beginning of a new orientation of the best and highest centers of thought and learning. Bush will be in the White House for more than three years. One crusader for religion and militant capitalism placed at the top position of power in a nation may bring about an era of darkness to last for how long nobody knows. It is, however, going to tarnish the image of America; the rest of the world may hesitate to look up at America as the land of free thought, scientific research, technological advancement and secular humanism. Any dark shadow on the image of America would be a great loss for the world.
Final Argument against War
We have been talking of unitive knowledge, bringing the subject and the object together for apprehending truth in its fullness. When we perceive the essence of our being in beings of others, we get into truth. From the point of view of Semitic religions, all of us are children of one God; this implies brotherhood of humanity. From the rational point of view, all human beings, nay, all creatures, even all things in the geo sphere are linked with our life and well-being. Despite all these, each nation in the world is spending a big chunk of its budget on warfare. Is it not a serious contradiction that we live with? Again, we need to consider the nature of modern warfare. Atomic, Biological and Chemical weapons have been used. Conventional bombs have been made many times more destructive and lethal, which do not spare men women even children. Does America have a vested interest in warfare and the production of weapons?
America attained full employment in 1942 after the great Depression, having been engaged in the production of weapons and war machines, like war-planes, warships. Shortly after World War II Cold War started, which went on till Soviet Union broke up in 1989. Cold War was expensive; it required a lot of resources to keep half the world on our side. Of course, we had a scope of producing enormous amount of weapons and to sell to numerous countries. Shortly after Cold War started, we got involved in Korean war; 33 thousand Americans lost their lives in this war, which has not yet ended officially. Vietnam war continued for a full decade, ending in 1975. This is the war which cost America heavily. 58 thousand Americans lost their lives, and many more came back home broken in body and mind; financial loss jolted the economy badly. All the same the lessons of this war have strengthened the military indirectly. Gulf war losses were not very significant. It has, however, emboldened George W. Bush to get hurriedly (Sadam Hussein was no immediate threat to America ), into Iraqi war, which has been declared illegal by, among others, Copy Anan, the head of the U N O. What has been learnt from Afghanistan war with regard to precision-targeting, intelligence, reduction of casualties etc. are being applied in Iraq. Nevertheless, the trauma through which American soldiers have been going through, due to the insurgency, even after returning home, is simply alarming. This may induce the civil and military bosses to reevaluate the gains and losses of war. War might have increased U S strength infinitely yet it has tied up the nation with innumerable commitments all over the world. Thoughtful people, even without any idealistic sentiments, have to consider if war is worthwhile even from practical point of view. I have made some suggestions as by what steps American leadership could eliminate war. Let the experts pull their heads together and arrive at a workable program. Of course first of all they have to admit that wae as a human race is in a do or die situation. Truth can save us if we recognize it.