Disclined to discuss and hence, disinvite

The media outlets that are relentlessly pursuing Donald Trump should pause and do a story on the data that the Heterodox Academy had presented. See here and here.

Second part is more interesting. The Left proposed more disinvitations and disrupted events more!

It shines another spotlight an aspect of the ‘Regressive Left’ behaviour that needs to be highlighted. This is not ‘Left-Liberal’ but ‘Left-intolerance’. Really, we should come up something far more accurate than ‘Left-Liberal’. There is really nothing ‘Liberal’ at all about this behaviour.

Refusing to discuss problems will not solve them or make them disappear but make positions harden and rigid. In fact, discussion of a problem is, in itself, a step towards the solution.

The media’s non-coverage of the problems faced by European nations with respect to immigrants (primarily Sweden, Belgium and Greece) is objectionable not because it is unfair, immoral but because it is so stupid. It does not even help them advance their goals, regardless of my agreement or disagreement with them. It is so counter-productive,
self-defeating and hence, so stupid.

Avoiding hard questions is neither progressivism nor enlightenment. It is escapism. Escapism has never solved problems nor made the world a better place.

Since when ostriches with heads buried deep in the sand produced problem-solving leadership?

Further, from Prof. Jonathan Haidt’ Twitter handle: The Student Assembly in Cornell U. votes down a resolution to increase ideological diversity. We should worry for America, but not for the reasons many think.

Chennai music season 2016 – final missive

December 29, 2016 was the last day of the season for me and for my wife. We were returning to Singapore on December 30. We had packed the day with programmes to attend. It ended up as a day of attending lecture-demonstrations rather than performances. Overall, no complaints about the programmes but about the venues, yes.

First, thanks to light traffic, we reached Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha earlier than we thought. So, we caught more than half of Dr. Radha Baskar’s lec.-dem. On Thiagarajar compositions. She was assisted by two good and young singers. Dr. Baskar was an accomplished speaker.

From my notes, I find three interesting things to mention here:

(1) On ‘Sankatis’ – note the difference between ‘Ada Modi Galade’ vs. Marukelara, O! Raghava. Her singer Sangita did a good job of differentiating the Sankatis in both the kritis.

(2) Entharo Mahanubhavulu – begins in the little finger (not that I know the significance)

(3) Saint Thiagaraja composed one Notu Swara based Kriti – just to show that he was capable of doing so, too.

She kept saying that one should not belittle Shri. Thiagaraja Swamigal by calling him a saint?!! She wanted to say that he had a very good aesthetic and artistic sense and that he had not renounced those as saints do. One gets the point. But, to say that one should not belittle him by calling him a saint is a bit ludicrous. ‘Sainthood’ is not a demotion. It is an exalted state. One should prepare the script carefully to avoid such bizarre statements.

Next, in the same venue, was the topic, ‘Vainava Abhimana Sthalangal’, jointly presented by Dr. Sudha Seshaiyan and Ms. Vasundhara Rajagopal. Last season (December 2015), the singer, Vasundara Rajagopal had offered a great programme ‘Nava Vidha Ramanayanam’ with Sri Srinidhi Swamigal. It was a memorable programme.

Dr. Sudha Seshaiyan is very knowledgeable, thorough and accomplished. Her diction and delivery are flawless. But, she lacked a bit of life. The programme was about Vaishnava Temples not sung by the Azhwaars. The duo took us through Bhadrachalam, Udupi, Guruvayoor, Mannargudi, Puri and Pandaripuram.

Most of us know of only the Sri Udupi Krishnan Temple. Well, I was referring to myself. Dr. Seshaiyan told us about the Sri Chandramowliswarar Temple and the Sri Anantheshwarar Temple there.

About Mannargudi, she mentioned that the temple had an area of 36 acres of which 23 acres was the area of the Temple tank! The Temple has 16 towers, 18 Gopurams, 7 Praharams and 24 Sannidhis.

Then, we had the choice of attending Shertalai Shri. Ranganatha Sharma at the same venue at 4 and Sri. Ramakrishnan Murthy at the Music Academy at 6:45. These were the two musicians who impressed me in the 2016 season and it would have been an apt finish to the season for me. But, we chose to attend the three-hour long lecture-demonstration by Shri. R.K. Shriramkumar on those who inspired saint Thiagaraja. 2017 is the 250th year of his birth.

Shriramkumar had done meticulous research. He was assisted by three good singers – Amrita Murali, Nisha Rajagopal and K. Gayatri (was there a fourth one?) and Arun Prakash on the Mrdangam.

I may not have taken down notes meticulously. But, this is what I have. The songs that accompanied the commentary are in brackets:

  • St. Thiagarja considered sage Narada as his Guru. (Shri Narada- Kanada – Rupaka Talam)
  • His second influence was sage Valmiki (Maa Janaki – Khamboji)
  • His third inspiration was Bodhana who translated/re-composed Bhagavatam in Telugu. A copy is available in the Sourashtra Library in Madurai.
  • His inspiration came from Tulsi Das Ramayana (Giripai – Sahana)
  • Influence of Sri Purandaradasa on Thiagaraja (esp. for Nindastuti)
  • Influence of Bhadrachala Ramadas was substantial. He praises Ramadas in several compositions.
  • The influence of Sri Narayana Theerthar (the author of the Sanskrit opera, ‘Krishna Leela Tharangini’) was evident in the two operas that Saint Thiagaraja composed – Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam and Nauka Charitam.
  • Next, Shriramkumar mentioned Sri. Upanishad Brahman also known as Sri Ramachandreswara Saraswati. He was a close associate of Sri. Thiagaraja’s father.
  • I do not know if Shriramkumar said that he was the inspiration for Saint Thiagaraja to compose Divyanama Sankeertanams for congregational singing. But, it is there in my notes!
  • RKS mentioned that ‘Rama-ashtapati’ of Upanishad Brahman was set to tune by Sri. Muthuswami Dikshitar but that the tune was lost.

I found this on the web:

One of the oldest Mutts in TamilNadu is the Upanishad Brahman Mutt in Kanchipuram, near the Sri Kailasanathar temple. The Mutt derives its name from Upanishad Brahmayogin or Upanishad Brahmendral or Sri Ramachandrandra Saraswathi. He is called by the name of Upanishad Brahmayogin since he wrote commentaries on all the 108 upanishads of Hinduism in deference to the wishes of his father. The commentaries are now preserved in the Chennai Adayar Manuscripts Library. He had written close to 45,000 granthas and two other books covering various aspects of Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti.

(Ref: http://www.columbuslost.com/temples/Upanishad-Brahmendra-Mutt-and-Maha-Samadhi-Temple-in-Kanchipuram/info).

Incidentally, just as Columbus discovered the land of America, I discovered the site, ‘Columbuslost.com’. Check it out!

  • Kshetraiya Padams influenced many Sankatis in O’ Rangasayee and Pakkala Nilapadi.
  • Naada Thanum Anisham is the essence of the Mangala Shloka in Sangeeta Ratnakara.

By 8:30 PM, it had commenced at 5:30 PM, the programme had not ended. We had to leave. RKS has done tremendous work for this programme. His hard work and sincerity were amply evident. With some editing, it would be a good programme to repeat.

Back in Singapore, I listened to V. Sriram’s lecture on Saint Thiagaraja given in May 2016. Naturally, it had many common elements with RKS’ programme. It is available in Charsur.

After listening to that lecture, one could not help thinking that any other country would have nourished and cherished Tanjore city as the cultural capital of Southern India. It would and should have been made the destination city for cultural connoisseurs from all over the world. V. Sriram spends a few minutes on the Tippu Sultan invasion and the havoc and harm it wrought on the Tanjore region, including on art and culture.

Something has to be said about the NGS Mini hall. It is one of the most unsuitable halls for performance. It has only one door to enter and exit.

Our Rasikas are mostly impatient. They keep moving constantly. There is no stillness. Music is for stillness, mostly. The doors make noise. Chatting is going on in the corridor. When the door opens, the chatting drowns out the performance. The air-conditioning is either too cold, when it is on, and it feels too warm, when it is turned off, because there is no natural ventilation. The audio system is too loud if one sits in the front and if one stays back, then these swinging doors and conversations mar the experience.

The experience in most concert halls is more or less similar. There is no satisfying musical experience. From the manner in which the tickets are sold (or, not sold) and Rasikas checked in to the audio systems to the toilet facilities to temperature control in the halls, etc., there is a lot of scope for improvement. I am being polite here.

There is no concept of enhancing the Rasikas’ experience. Despite this, if we are able to glimpse divinity here and there, it speaks to the innate energy and divinity of the art and some of the artists who have imbibed the spirit of the art. The Sabhas can take no credit for it.

But, all that being said, for us, Chennai and its music season remain the biggest draw in December. We cannot conceive of being in any other place at that time of the year. After 12 concerts and 10 lecture-demonstrations, we are still hungry and insatiate. God willing, we will be back for more next year.

Sanatana Dharma in modern times

மோதல்கள் நிறைந்த ஒரு கேள்விக்குறி 

இன்று காலை சில நண்பர்களோடு சேர்ந்து இந்து தெய்வங்களின் தோத்திரங்களை, துதிகளை, நன்கு உச்சரிக்க பழகிக்கொள்ள சிறிது நேரம் முதலீடு செய்து, வீட்டிற்க்கு நடந்து வந்து கொண்டிருந்த போது தோன்றிய எண்ணங்களை பகிர்ந்து கொள்கிறேன்:

நாம் இன்று சந்திக்கும் மத்திய வருமான அல்லது உயர் தர வருமானம் உடைய இந்துக்களின் கோரிக்கைகள் என்ன என்று பார்த்தால், பரவலாக கீழ் கண்டவற்றை கூறலாம்:

(1) ஹிந்து மதம்/ சனாதன தர்மம் தழைக்கணும்

(2) இந்துக்கள் மதம் மாற்றப்படக்கூடாது.

(3) இந்து கோயில்கள் அரசாங்க கட்டுப்பாட்டில் இருந்து வெளி வர வேண்டும்.

(4) இந்தியா ஒரு Hindu civilisational entity என்று பிரகடனம் செய்யப்பட வேண்டும்.​

(5) இந்திய கல்வி முறையில், பாட திட்டங்கள் , இந்து மதத்தின் புராதன பெருமைகளைப் பற்றி – நாகரிகம், கலாசாரம், பக்தி, கட்டிட திறன், கோயில்களின் பெருமை, சிற்பக்கலை – மாணவ, மாணவியருக்கு கற்றுக்கொடுக்க வேண்டும்.

(6) இந்துக்களை,  அவர்களின் கலாசார, இலக்கிய சின்னங்களை, வெளி தேசங்களில் இருந்து படை எடுத்து வந்தவர்கள், எவ்வாறு அழித்து, இந்துக்களை, அவர்களது சிந்தனைகளை அடிமைப்படுத்தி, மாற்றினார்கள் என்பதை இன்றைய தலைமுறை தெரிந்து கொள்ள  வேண்டும்.

இதற்க்கு மேலும் பல கோரிக்கைகள், ஆசைகள் இருக்கலாம். இப்போதைக்கு, இந்த ஆறு கோரிக்கைகள்/இலட்சியங்கள் என் கட்டுரைக்கு, அது சொல்லப்போகிற கருத்துக்கு, போதுமானதாக இருக்கிறது.

எல்லா இந்துக்களும் இந்த ஆறு இலட்சியங்கள் இருக்கின்றனவா என்று பார்த்தால், இல்லை என்று தான் கூற வேண்டும்.

சாதி வித்தியாசம், வேறுபாடு, ஏற்றத்தாழ்வு இன்னும் இருக்கிறது. ஒரு சிலர், அரசியல் காரணங்களுக்காக அவற்றை மிகப்படுத்தலாம். ஆனால், அவற்றை முற்றிலும் ஆதாரம் அற்ற மிகைப்படுத்தல் என்று கூற முடியாது.

இது தவிர,வேறு பல வேறுபாடுகளும் இருக்கின்றன – சர்ச்சைக்கு உட்படாத, சர்ச்சைகள் அற்ற வேறுபாடுகள். கடவுள் நம்பிக்கை உள்ளவர்கள், இல்லாதவர்கள், உருவ வழிபாட்டை பின்பற்றுவர்கள், பண்ணாதவர்கள், மறு பிறப்பில் நம்பிக்கை உள்ளவர்கள், இல்லாதவர்கள், – என்று பல வேறுபாடுகள். இவை ஒரு சிறிய அளவிலான உதாரணங்களே.

ஆனால், மேலை அல்லது மேற்கத்திய கலாச்சாரம், நாகரிகம் இவற்றின் தாக்கம், ஆதிக்கம் வருவதற்கு முன்னால், இந்த வேறுபாடுகள், இந்து மதத்தினரிடையே பெரும் பிளவை ஏற்படுத்தவில்லை என்று சொல்லலாம்.

சொல்லப்போனால், இன்று இந்திய நாடு என்று ஒரு எல்லைக்குள் வரைபடுத்தப்பட்ட மக்கள், தங்களை இந்துக்கள் என்று ஒட்டு மொத்தமாக அறிமுகப்படுத்திக் கொள்ளவில்லை, அறிவித்துக்கொள்ளவும் இல்லை.

வேறுபாடுகள், ஏற்றத் தாழ்வுகள் இருந்தாலும், பொதுவாக அவர்களுக்குள் ஒரு ஆதார பிணைப்பு, ஒரு பொதுவான civilisational, கலாசார இணைப்பு இருந்தது.

எனக்கு தெரிந்த மட்டில், இன்றைய நிகழ் காலத்தில், இரண்டு புத்தகங்கள் இந்துக்களின் கலாசார ஒற்றுமையை நன்கு விளக்கியிருக்கின்றன:

(1) ‘India: A Sacred Geography’ (Diana Eck)

(2) ‘The land of Seven Rivers’ (Sanjeev Sanyal)

வேறு புத்தகங்கள் (தமிழ் மற்றும் ஆங்கிலம்) இருந்தால் தெரியப்படுத்தவும். நன்றி உடையவனாக இருப்பேன்.

இந்த ஒரு எளிதான, ஆனால் அடித்தளத்தில் வலிமையான பிணைப்பு, நவீன தேசம்- அரசு (Modern Nation-State) அமைப்பிற்கு ஏற்றது அல்ல.

சனாதன தர்ம வழிமுறை, போக்கு, பழக்க வழக்கங்கள், நம்பிக்கைகள், நம்பிக்கை இல்லாமை, எல்லாமே பெரும்பாலும், தன்னிச்சையாக, காலப்போக்கில், நடைமுறையில் பின்பற்றப்பட்டு ஊறிப்போனவை. ஒரு அதிகாரத்தினாலோ, ஒரு அமைப்பின் ஆணையின் பேரிலோ, நடைமுறைக்கு வந்தவை அல்ல. அதனால் எல்லோரும் இந்துக்களே.

ஆனால், சற்று உட்கார்ந்து யோசித்தோமேயானால், இன்றைய நவீன தேசம்-அரசு எவ்வாறு செயல்படுகிறது? சனாதன தர்மத்தின் வழிமுறைகளும், இந்த நவீன தேசம்-அரசின் செயல்பாடுகளும், ஒன்றிப்போகின்றனவா? இல்லை என்று தான் சொல்ல வேண்டும்.

ஜனத்தொகை பெருகிப்போன காலத்தில், எல்லோரையும் ஒன்றாக செயல்பட வைக்க ஒரு அரசாங்கம், ஒரு சட்ட-திட்ட அமைப்பு, போலீஸ், ஒரு command-and-control,  accountability, இவை எல்லாம்  தேவைப்படுகிறது.

நவீன தேசம்-அரசுகளுக்கான இந்த தேவைப்பாடுகள் Abrahmic மதங்களான கிறித்தவ, இஸ்லாம்  இரண்டின் கோட்பாடுகள், வழிமுறைகள், தெளிவான கட்டுப்பாடுகள் இவைகளோடு ஒத்துப்போகின்றன. அந்த மதங்களுக்கு ஒரு கடவுள், ஒரு புத்தகம், ஒரு ஸ்தாபனம் என்று இருக்கிறது.

தவிர, மனிதனின் பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியானது, காலப்போக்கில் அவனில் ‘நான், தான், எனது, என்னுடைய’ என்ற எண்ணங்களை உருவாக்கியது. Egoவின் ஆதிக்கம் அதிகரித்தது. இன்று நம்மிடையே பரவியிருக்கும் தொழில் நுட்ப (technological developments) வளர்ச்சியானது இந்த Egoவை, ஊதி பெரிதாக்க பெரிதும் உதவுகின்றன – Facebook, Twitter and Selfie.

குறுகிய எல்லைகளை உருவாக்கிக்கொண்ட மனித ‘மன வளர்ச்சிக்கும்’, தேசம்-அரசுகள் உருவாக்கிக்கொண்ட எல்லைகளுக்கும் பெரிதான வித்தியாசம் இல்லை. சொல்லப்போனால், மனிதனின் மனதில் உதித்த அந்த ‘நான், தான், எனது, என்னுடைய’  என்ற எண்ணங்களின் பெரிய அளவிலான வெளிப்பாடே எல்லைகளை கொண்ட தேசம்.

இதை நான் தவறு அல்லது சரி என்றோ கூற விரும்பவில்லை. இந்த என் சிறு கட்டுரையின் நோக்கமும் அது இல்லை. இது நாம் சந்திக்கும் நிதர்சன உண்மை. அவ்வளவே.

ஆனால், இதன் விளைவு என்னவென்றால், இந்த நவீன காலத்தின் எண்ணப்போக்கிற்கு, சனாதன தர்மத்தின் சுதந்திரமான, தன்னிச்சையான (spontaneous and naturally evolving) போக்கு பொருத்தமற்றதாகி விட்டது.

மற்றும், சனாதன தர்ம பல தரிசனங்களின் இறுதி நோக்கம் என்னவென்றால் பரம்பொருளோடு ஐக்கியமாவதே அல்லது  தானும், மற்ற ஜீவ ராசிகளும், பரம்பொருளும் வேறு அல்ல என்று உணர்வதே.

இந்த அற்புதமான நோக்கத்திற்கும், ‘நான், தான், எனது, என்னுடைய’ என்ற போக்கை முன் வைக்கும் சமுதாயத்திற்கும், இந்த எண்ணங்களை அஸ்திவாரமாக கொண்ட நவீன தேசம்-அரசிற்கும் தொடர்பே இல்லை.

அதனால், சனாதன தர்மம் பல இன்னல்களை, தடைகளை, மோதல்களை சந்திக்க நேர்வதில் அல்லது சந்தித்ததில் ஒரு ஆச்சர்யமும் இல்லை. சனாதன தர்மத்தை இந்த யுகத்தின் இத்தகைய குறுகிய தர்மத்தின் மத்தியில் நிலை நாட்ட முயல்வது ஒரு பிரும்ம பிரயத்தனமே.

மேலும் இந்து மதத்தின் தொடர்ந்து நிலவி வரும் ஏற்றத்தாழ்வுகளை நீக்க பல தரப்பட்ட இந்து சமய மக்களின் பெரு மதிப்பு, பேராதரவை பெற்ற, நாடு தழுவிய சமய மற்றும் சமுதாய தலைவர்கள் இன்று இல்லை என்று தான் கூற வேண்டும். அதனால், இந்துக்களின் ஒற்றுமையின்மை தவிர்க்க முடியாத, நிலைக்கும், நீடிக்கும் நிதர்சனமான உண்மை.

இந்நிலையில், சனாதன தர்ம மதத்தை அரசியல், சமுதாய ரீதியாக நிலை நாட்ட முயல்பவர்களின் குறிக்கோள், மற்ற மதத்தினரோடு மோதல்களை மட்டுமே உருவாக்கும். வெற்றி நிச்சயம் இல்லை.

அதனால், உலகளாவிய, அல்லது இந்திய தேசம் மட்டுமே ஆன அரசியல் ரீதியான வெற்றி அடைவது கடினம். வெற்றி பெற்றால், அதை தக்க வைத்துக்கொள்வதும் எளிது அல்ல. இந்தியாவில் தற்போது உள்ள அரசாங்கம் சந்திக்கும் இன்னல்களுக்கு அதுவும் ஒரு முக்கிய காரணம். (இந்த அரசாங்கத்திற்கும், அதன் பின்னால் இருக்கும் அரசியல் கட்சிக்கும் பெரும் பங்கு உண்டு என்பதும் உண்மை.)

கலாச்சார, நிர்வாக ரீதியாகவும், சனாதன தர்மத்தின் வழிமுறை நவீன காலத்திற்கு ஏதுவாக அமையவில்லை என்பதையும் ஏற்கனவே பார்த்தோம்.

ஆகையால், இந்த கலி யுகத்தில், சனாதன தர்மத்தின் போக்கு, போராட்டங்கள், மோதல்கள் நிறைந்த கேள்விக்குறியாகவே இருக்கும்.

[‘நான், எனது, என்னுடைய’ என்ற வட்டங்களை உடைத்துக்கொண்டு வருபவர்களுக்கு, தனிப்பட்ட முறையில், சனாதன தர்மம் தொடர்ந்து கலங்கரை விளக்காக இருக்கும் என்பதில் எந்த ஐயப்பாடும் இல்லை].

Spirituality and the jigsaw puzzle

What prompted me to wake up with the thought of looking for ‘Julian Baggini’ (I had forgotten his name)’s quote on optimism on Saturday morning on November 1, I cannot explain. But, it is true that I did. After some efforts, I located the quote I wanted to re-read:

What positive psychology gets right is that when we confront reality, we always have some control over how we then respond to it, and that a lot of misery is avoidable if we try to make the best rather than the worst of things. In practice, however, this sensible advice often degenerates into an excessive optimism, in which reality is whatever we think it to be. But you can’t make the best of a bad situation if you pretend it’s really just a good one in disguise.

This was part of his long review of four books that dealt with ‘Happiness’ written more than four years ago (15 January 2010).

That somehow led me to the review of a new book by a well-known atheist, Sam Harris, ‘Waking up: a guide to spirituality without religion’. I suppressed a smile on reading the title and read the review. The reviewer concludes his review with the observation that the book presents a fragment of the emerging picture of ‘post-Christian spirituality’. Excuse me?! Post-Christian spirituality?! It is pre-Christian and pre-Christ spirituality. Merely because some of these atheists are waking up to the limitations of their logical self and trying to transcend it (I do not know what they mean by ‘transcendence of the self’ nor am I sure if they know what they mean), does not mean that these ideas are post-Christ or post-Christian. That, in itself, is a suggestion that one is a long way from spirituality. The universe is not just made up of our limited conceptions and experiences.

There is another paragraph that should elicit a smile from some of the readers:

With his very particular definition of spirituality as “cutting through the illusion of the self”, it is unsurprising that Harris considers eastern religious traditions to be greatly superior to the monotheistic faiths of the west. Indeed, he argues that the difference “resembles that found between Eastern and Western medicine”, only “with the arrow of embarrassment pointing in the opposite direction.” Although he recognises the “global comedy” of westerners going east to pursue enlightenment while easterners are coming west in pursuit of jobs and education, he ultimately suggests that we join it. [Link]

It appears that Mr. Sam Harris even gets the direction of the ‘arrow of embarrassment’ wrong with respect to medicine just as he seems to have made a belated discovery of the spirituality of Eastern religious traditions.

Once you transcend self, once you ‘cut through the illusion of self”, where does one reach and where does one land?

The reviewer is correct to point out that “religious rituals might help us in myriad ways to find meaning and solace on life’s journey”. The secret to the value and utility of rituals in illuminating the path to spirituality and transcendence of self is balance. Otherwise, one can remain entranced in rituals. Of course, that could/might help the person  scale spiritual heights in subsequent births.

One does not know what Mr. Harris has written about reincarnations and karma in the book. Well, it does not really matter.

Transcendence of the self can mean that one finds meaning in serving others and living for others. But, in terms of spiritual evolution, it has to be transcendence of the ego. As written in an earlier blog post, that is not possible without a belief in a superior power. In page 87 of his lovely introduction to the Upanishads, ‘the Wisdom of the Rishis’, Shri. M writes:

In the beginning of sadhana, the attraction to the form is often necessary in order to be guided into the formless. This is a question of practical sadhana because one cannot jump to or fix one’s mind on the abstract reality , something in thin air, although ultimately is the formless that we seek. On the other hand, if on learns to gather one’s energies into one centre or one form, or one ideal, then at some point, one may reach a stage when one may drop the form. So a form, especially an attractive form, is necessary for one to be able to fix one’s mind on one point, and then, when one comes to a certain state, one may choose to discard it. It is like making an image out of clay. Clay has no shape as such. You put the clay into a mould and press it until the image sets, and then you break the mould for the image to emerge. (Page 87).

The very fact that I woke up with the thought that I should look for Julian Baggini – and I had no clue as to how the thought entered my head – is one immediate proof that we are not in control of our thoughts and decisions. Daniel Kahneman has written a tome, ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ demonstrating how little, if at all, control we have over our thoughts, actions, decisions and conclusions.

If that is too much to wade through, go through this lovely TED talk by Prof. Dan Ariely on how much (or, how little) we are in control of our decisions.

The moment atheists contemplate the existence of a higher power, they are at a loss to explain all the injustices and unfairness in this earth as though God is obliged only to dole out freebies to all of us. Therefore, they find that it is logical to posit that there is no God.

There are two counterarguments to that in ‘The Wisdom of the Rishis’ by Shri. M. I am in the middle of it and I find the book a great starting point for further explorations into the higher wisdom of the Upanishads:

When one prays, does one get blessings? Sometimes one does and sometimes one does not. It depends not only on how much one prays or what energy one puts into it; it also depends on the circumstances. Often we pray for things that we want, but they may not be the things we need for our evolution. There is a difference between what you want and what you need to evolve spiritually. Since the Supreme Being is concerned with your need to evolve rather than satisfy your want at that moment, sometimes prayers are not answered. (Page 98)

Then, there is another paragraph in page 105:

Let us say that there is a giant jigsaw puzzle; and the person who makes the jigsaw puzzle, the one who draws the picture and paints it and then cuts it up into little pieces – he knows what the ultimate figure looks like. Suppose the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are taken apart and the different pieces lie here and there. I pick up one piece in isolation. I see that it does not even have a regular geometrical shape, and say, “This is meaningless. What is this?”. If I can put all the pieces together, then I see that there is some meaning to it. And the one who has made the jigsaw puzzle knows what it is.

Most of us – theists and atheists – are holding one piece – and trying to explain the puzzle of the creator. The problem is not only that we do not know but that we do not know that we do not know.

Shri Aurobindo on Good, Evil and God

Some three years ago, a learned person sent me these paragraphs from Shri. Aurobindo’s ‘Essays on the Gita’ in a different context. This March, I picked up the thread of email exchange with him and had a few email exchanges on the following paragraphs. I shall post them separately. First, Shri. Aurobindo (Emphasis mine):


…This is certain that there is not only no construction here without destruction, no harmony except by a poise of contending forces won out of many actual and potential discords, but also no continued existence of life except by a constant self-feeding and devouring of other life. Our very bodily life is a constant dying and being reborn, the body itself a beleaguered city attacked by assailing, protected by defending forces whose business is to devour each other….


It is good that we should be reminded of [this truth]; first, because to see it has for every strong soul a tonic effect which saves us from the flabbiness and relaxation encouraged by a too mellifluous philosophic, religious or ethical sentimentalism, that which loves to look upon Nature as love and life and beauty and good, but turns away from her grim mask of death, adoring God as Shiva but refusing to adore him as Rudra; secondly, because unless we have the honesty and courage to look existence straight in the face, we shall never arrive at any effective solution of its discords and oppositions. We must see first what life and the world are; afterwards, we can all the better set about finding the right way to transform them into what they should be. If this repellent aspect of existence holds in itself some secret of the final harmony, we shall by ignoring or belittling it miss that secret and all our efforts at a solution will fail by fault of our self-indulgent ignoring of the true elements of the problem….


War and destruction are not only a universal principle of our life here in its purely material aspects, but also of our mental and moral existence. It is self-evident that in the actual life of man intellectual, social, political, moral we can make no real step forward without a struggle, a battle between what exists and lives and what seeks to exist and live and between all that stands behind either. It is impossible, at least as men and things are, to advance, to grow, to fulfil and still to observe really and utterly that principle of harmlessness which is yet placed before us as the highest and best law of conduct.  We will use only soul-force and never destroy by war or any even defensive employment of physical violence? Good, though until soul-force is effective, the Asuric force in men and nations tramples down, breaks, slaughters, burns, pollutes, as we see it doing today, but then at its ease and unhindered, and you have perhaps caused as much destruction of life by your abstinence as others by resort to violence…. Evil cannot perish without the destruction of much that lives by the evil….


It is not enough that our own hands should remain clean and our souls unstained for the law of strife and destruction to die out of the world; that which is its root must first disappear out of humanity. Much less will mere immobility and inertia unwilling to use or incapable of using any kind of resistance to evil, abrogate the law; inertia, Tamas, indeed, injures much more than can the rajasic principle of strife which at least creates more than it destroys. Therefore, so far as the problem of the individual’s action goes, his abstention from strife and its inevitable concomitant destruction in their more gross and physical form may help his own moral being, but it leaves the Slayer of creatures unabolished.


… It is only a few religions which have had the courage to say without any reserve, like the Indian, that this enigmatic World-Power is one Deity, one Trinity, to lift up the image of the Force that acts in the world in the figure not only of the beneficent Durga, but of the terrible Kali in her blood-stained dance of destruction and to say, “This too is the Mother; this also know to be God; this too, if thou hast the strength, adore.” And it is significant that the religion which has had this unflinching honesty and tremendous courage, has succeeded in creating a profound and widespread spirituality such as no other can parallel. For truth is the foundation of real spirituality and courage is its soul.


.. This world of our battle and labour is a fierce dangerous destructive devouring world in which life exists precariously and the soul and body of man move among enormous perils, a world in which by every step forward, whether we will it or no, something is crushed and broken, in which every breath of life is a breath too of death. To put away the responsibility for all that seems to us evil or terrible on the shoulders of a semi-omnipotent Devil, or to put it aside as part of Nature, making an unbridgeable opposition between world-nature and God-Nature, as if Nature were independent of God, or to throw the responsibility on man and his sins, as if he had a preponderant voice in the making of this world or could create anything against the will of God, are clumsily comfortable devices in which the religious thought of India has never taken refuge. We have to look courageously in the face of the reality and see that it is God and none else who has made this world in his being and that so he has made it. We have to see that Nature devouring her children, Time eating up the lives of creatures, Death universal and ineluctable and the violence of the Rudra forces in man and Nature are also the supreme Godhead in one of his cosmic figures.



The learning sequence

Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Arsha Vidya Gurukulam) has a message for teachers and students of Hindu philosophy. He had given this message to the fourth long-term course students at  Anaikatti on how the students should live  their life and share the Vedanta knowledge in October 2013. You can find it here. He has a sequence in mind for teaching/learning Hindu texts:

Forming a study group for Gita Home  Study Programme could be otherwise a  starting point.  After second chapter one can start  Tattva Bodha. After that, Gita third chapter  can be continued. After completion of Gita,  Upanisad class can be commenced.

We can learn about the Gita ‘Home Study’ programme here.

The Observer Effect – guest post

This post too is a guest-post. My good friend’s father sent me two emails in response to my blog on astrology. It too merited an independent status as a post. Hence, I am posting it here.


Before I talk about the credibility of astrological predictions, I would like to be clear about the existence of a super power behind all the activities in this Universe. Upanishads call this power Brahman which in size is ‘anor Aniyan and mahato Mahiyan'(smaller than the smallest and bigger than biggest) and hence cannot be perceived by our organs. To see an object the wave length of the light we use should be smaller than the object itself. Thus to locate an electron we need to use gamma rays of extremely short wave length to hit it. But, the moment the gamma ray touches it disappears from the field as if hit by an electric loco-engine. Thus, we may only say the electron was probably here and probably could be somewhere else. It is therefore difficult to exactly determine both the position and the momentum of the particle precisely and thus probability enters into physics.

Now take the case of an object bigger than the biggest. No wave can match this size and the object can never be perceived in fullness. In either case we fail to see the true object. This is called the observer effect in quantum physics. To explain the physical phenomena scientists introduced a complex principle of Uncertainty. With all the scientific tools at our hands no physicist can avoid the uncertainties of the outcome of an event with regard to reproducibility in the sub atomic World and the mega Universe. Physicists who are normally agnostics were shocked in the year 1992 when COBE experiments proved the Big Bang theory and, for want of any other explanation, the existence of a super Hand behind creation and the expanding Universe. Some of the agnostics called it Jesus while we call it the Brahman.

Please pardon me for this digression. What all I am trying to do is to show that no event is deterministic and the observer effect plays a huge part in determining the outcome. For want of highly sophisticated tools, intuition, integrity and, due to the lackadaisical approach on the subject by the astrologers, the observer effects are poorly accounted for or acknowledged, leading to misleading conclusions which increases the probability of errors and which the scientists endeavour to minimize in their fields.

[My question: is the ‘observer effect’ the equivalent of harnessing the divine will through free-will actions to mitigate the bad or enhance the good effects of fate or karma?]

You have beautifully shown astrology in modern parlance. I attempt to present the same in a slightly different way.

The genetic hart (positions at birth) can be looked upon as a structural factor, the Dasa-bhukthis as cyclical factors and the transits as the animal spirits. The traditional astrologers differ in fixing the basis of the structural factors. Some astrologers take lagna as the basis, others the position of moon at the birth time and some others the stronger of the two. Then comes the opinion regarding the issue whether the owner of a particular house is strong or the occupier of the house or the sub-lord of the occupier’s constellation, thus creating doubts regarding the structure itself. Coming to the cyclical factors, whether the Dasa lord alone should be considered or in tandem with the Bhukthi lord and their relative positions is a grey area. Transits taking place all the time throw up animal spirits all the time.

Commercial astrologers are too lazy to develop sub divisional charts and study them. At most, they study Navamsa chart and make clumsy predictions despite accurate sub-divisional charts generated by computer software.

Whatever system they follow they should be able to unify all the three factors and use the relevant sub-divisional charts and significant aspects of them to predict the outcome.

Yesterday, a friend (a pious man) expressed his doubts about the gravitational force of attraction between an individual and the distant stars and the planets as, among all forces, gravitational forces are the weakest and the universal gravitational constant has a negligible value. I asked him whether he was fully convinced of the existence of a super power pervading the Universe. He agreed. I told him that this Power remains connected with everything by matter-wave properties with a power that is beyond our comprehension and transmits the forces according to one’s karma and present activities. He (a student of physics) said he found the explanation interesting and he needed to study quantum mechanics, de Broglie waves and sting theory.

In this mail, as a student of science (chemistry but deeply interested in physics and mathematics), I tried to show how human activities could be influenced by planets and stars. Kindly overlook the grammar and syntax errors.