Selections from the Upanishads

He knew that Brahman is bliss. For truly, beings here are born from bliss. When born, they live by bliss. And into bliss when departing, they enter.

-- Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1

The face of truth is covered with a golden disc. Unveil it, O Pushan, so that I, who love the truth, may see it.
O Pushan, the sole seer, O Controller, O Sun, off-spring of Prajapati, spread forth your rays & gather up your radiant light that I may behold you of loveliest form. Whosoever is that person (yonder) that also am I.

-- Isha Upanishad 15-16

I have overcome the whole world. I am brilliant like the Sun.
He who knows this, knows the secret wisdom.

-- Taittiriya Upanishad 3.10.5

Monday, August 25, 2008

An attempt to grasp the meaning of GOD

I came across this statement by the great atheist-materialist-anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, a typical argument given by Rationalists: "God being everything, the real world and man are nothing. God being truth, justice, goodness, beauty, power, and life, man is falsehood, iniquity, evil, ugliness, impotence, and death. God being master, man is the slave." While Satan is "the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds."

I wonder: What is it that made Bakunin come to such a conclusion?

I have basically one answer to this string of indictments: AHAM BRAHMASMI.

I also came across a statement made by Friedrich Nietzsche, directed at religion, especially Buddhism: "...they see an invalid, or an old man, or a corpse, and immediately say, life is refuted."

I agree the degree of pessimism is extreme in Buddhsim (to call it "overdone" is to merely denigrate it), and given that Buddha lived in the 6th century BCE, there might've been good reason for considering all life as suffering. But this statement, coming from a man who suffered from severe mental illness for the last 11 years of his life, most probably died - at the comparitively young age of 56 - out of syphilis - and after two paralyzing strokes and a bout of pneumonia - is certainly ironic. One can feel only immense pain on reading about the tragic life of this occasionally powerful thinker, but the irony is for all to see.

I sometimes think that most young people today don't have the rancor against religion which conscientious men had even 30-odd years ago, because they are not aware of how institutionalized religion perverted & crippled human life. It is curious, nevertheless, that men were, & still are, unable to see the difference between Caiaphas & Paul. It is sad, on the other hand, that people are blissfully unaware of the roots of materialism, atheism & the various forms of rationalism.

I must emphasize that I reject atheism on the basis of a very simple idea that God is nothing but that ONE EXISTENT, which is at the Root, which is the Essence, and the SINGLE UNIFYING Existential-Metaphysical Force/Principle of ALL of existence - of EVERY aspect & form & level of it: both matter & "consciousness". It is ONE - and not multiple. Which is why it is FUNDAMENTAL. God is a LOGICAL NECESSITY. The fact that something exists, PRESUPPOSES something BY VIRTUE of which it exists: which makes the existence of ANY ENTITY possible. God is that fundamental 'SOMETHING'. And it underlies EVERYTHING that ever existed, that exists, and that can ever exist. So, in a way, & amongst other perspectives, God may also be called the VERY PRINCIPLE OF EXISTENCE - i.e. of (EVERYTHING & ANYTHING) coming into existence.

Since It is SINGLE, since It is necessary, It transcends time & space, and hence, both are simply not applicable to It.

So when we talk about the 'Infinity' of God, the basic conception is not that God is immortal or unlimited in extension, but that the concepts of time & space LOGICALLY CANNOT apply to It. Therefore it is said of Brahman that It never was born, it never came to be, never came into BEING. It is "the Unborn". In another sense, it TIES TOGETHER all of time & space, thus annuling both. In yet another sense, in terms of time & space, it IS eternal - unlimited in extension.

God has to be FIRST grasped as a METAPHYSICAL PRINCIPLE, which - THUS - is necessarily an EXISTENT.

What atheists do, is to take the EXOTERIC, "VULGAR" (i.e. pertaining to the common masses) conception of a powerful bearded hoary man who sends commandments & threats - who punishes & rewards - capricious & "jealous" - and THEN apply a melee of esoteric, spiritual concepts to it - and thus mess up the whole issue. This won't work, and is merely a futile exercise in self-delusion. Which is why atheism can be quite tiresome to refute, since the atheists are simply not seeing the point! In pure spiritual doctrine, Parambrahma, or Brahman, or Ayin-Soph, or Shunyata - have NO direct or wilful influence on human affairs.

PRAYER is a form of meditation, of contemplation, and of tranquilizing the distraught, chaotic, unfocused mind, NOT a petition for material benefit. The process of prayer itself confers SPIRITUAL, psychological, and moral benefit on a human being, so it is not devoid of value.

God is, because the Universe IS. God is, because Existence IS.

Everything that exists - exists METAPHYSICALLY - whether it be a thought, an emotion, a fleeting physical impulse, the whole of space itself, or time itself, a cosmic or psychological law, or a leptron.

What makes its existence possible? What makes the metaphysical existence of ANY entity possible?

What is THAT ONE ENTITY, which makes the metaphysical existence of ANY entity, ANY event, ANY law, ANY force, ANY possibility in existence - possible?

That ONE entity, so to speak, which is not just "Consciousness" - but the root & essence & cause of consciousness - that from which consciousness comes - & so does every particle of existence - is God.

And, again, by logical defintion, the root-essence has to be UNCHANGING, IMMUTABLE.

BY DEFINITION, IT HAS TO BE THE SAME AT EVERY POINT OF SPACE & TIME. For, if it changes, it is not the one, and cannot be fundamental; what we have identified follows a law of change, and we are not seeing the essence, but a manifestation of the essence (we are witnessing some temporary forms or patterns of something which BY DEFINITION, has to be stable & unchangeable).

It is in that stone, in that electron, in this table, in that cat, in that man, in his eyes, in the nerves connecting his eyes to his brain, in the electrons, neutrons & protons which constitute those nerves as well as the signals transmitted from the eye to the brain and back. It was yesterday, 3 days back, 10 years back, 5 millennia back, 300,000 billlion years back - always. It shall remain so tomorrow, and 5oo,000 trillion millennia hence. BY DEFINTION.

THIS is my concept of God, and this is what I affirm.

I do not see Atheists refuting this - and they cannot - because we have to begin by asking: WHAT IS THAT BY VIRTURE OF WHICH EXISTENCE EXISTS? Existence - in each & every part/aspect - as well as a whole?

It logically follows, that GOD IS THE TOTALITY-OF-EXISTENCE-AS-ONE.

In this sense, GOD IS EXISTENCE.

For some verses from India's most glorious scriptures, which, according to me, confirm my understanding, please go HERE.

The concepts of Spirit, Soul, & Matter come later: and "consciousness" - a vague modern term, variously defined - has almost nothing to do with the term "Spirit". Soul, consciousness, & Matter are UNITED in God, and there is NO fundamental, metaphysic-essential break between them. To understand 'God', we have to begin by rejecting the idea that 'God is Consciousness', or even God is 'Pure Consciousness'. The word 'Spirit' was used for God, and "SPIRIT" IS NOT "CONSCIOUSNESS".

I shall definitely attempt a more systematic, coherent elucidation of the meaning of God; right now, I was prepared only for an extremely rudimentary & elementary statement, but one not false or inconsistent or illogical. What I've written is definitely NOT new or revolutionary or original. This has been stated thousands of years ago, FOR thousands of years, and by thousands of men.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On what conditions a philosophy of love would work

It would be truly unfortunate for anyone to conclude that I totally reject each & every idea & value held by Rationalists & Atheists. What may be percieved as "ranting" or "foaming" - as "tirades" & "diatribes" - are directed at specific ideas, and specific applications, not to the vast number of individuals who have accepted the validity of certain systems. I have said, and I shall repeat, that I admire many rationalists & atheists, and even many ideas of the rational-egoists.

I give this clarification, to put my own views in the proper perspective.

I am too conscious, for example, of the immense corruption of, & suffering caused by, organized religion - whether in Europe, or in the Middle East, or in India. I am too conscious of the horrendous use concepts like "Faith", "God's Will", "Karma", "Original Sin", etc have been put to. I do understand the disastrous consequences of philosophies in which the individual is seen as a means to the ends of some other entity, whether God, or the State, or "society" etc. Which is why it has to be reiterated that a philosophy of love is impossible without perfect freedom of the will, utmost respect for individual autonomy, self-determination, & a total rejection of Force (especially non-imposition of Faith) & violence.

What does horrify me, is that the Rationalist-Atheist ideological leaders themselves have their own agenda, and are part of a much larger scheme of perversion of the human mind, & destruction of man's perception of the truth. This is successful only when one stealthily puts in a few false ideas here & there in a meticulously constructed web of indubitable truths & impeccable logic. If it is not so, then they are either unwitting instruments in the hands of invisible forces, or unknowingly cause immense harm to the truth.

The truth is this: A God-affirming spiritual philosophy (I call it a 'Philosophy of Love') rejects the idea that one individual, or any collective, has the RIGHT to make decisions for another individual or community. Not only has he no such right, but HE SHALL NEVER TRY TO ORGANIZE THE WAY OTHER PEOPLE LIVE OR THINK.

The highest moral purpose of his life is HIS OWN SPIRITUAL PERFECTION: PERFECT UNION WITH THE ONE METAPHYSICAL ESSENCE OF EXISTENCE, i.e. GOD - the Totality of the All as One.

The creative expression of his moral values - i.e., the concrete goals he sets for himself to sustain & complete the course of his life - his actions & specific goals of life - are infinite. They may very legitimately be in the field of art or science. (He is also most justified in cutting himself off from the whole world & leading the simple life of a farmer, or shut himself up in a monastery.) They are more likely to be directed at making it possible for men at large to recognize the ultimate truth of life, and move towards that truth, & its perfect integration with their life-actions & life-goals - i.e.,their moral regeneration & spiritual illumination.

But in anything that he does, he simply cannot covet what is undeserved & unearned (since his needs are minimal, his life simplified to barest essentials, he practices austerity, & he has totally abandoned the desire to possess or control) - he cannot use either the force of law or of money to achieve any ends - he cannot take part in politics or trade, two of the greatest corrupting influences, the two-pronged fork of various manipulating forces to pervert spirituality to serve political & commercial agendas, & hence become partisan & sectarian - he cannot, as enjoined by the Dhammapada, "offend by body, word, or thought, and is controlled on these three points".

As Lao Tzu says in the Tao Te Ching: Can you embrace the One with your soul, and never depart from the Way? Can you concentrate your vital force to achieve the gentleness of a new-born baby? Can you cleanse and purify your mystic vision until it is clear? Can you love the people and govern the state without interfering?

We may admit that Lao Tzu's times were radically different from ours, and that new solutions have to be found in new conditions. The essence, however, has to be grasped & imbibed.

The basic principle remains: no imposition by the name of "faith" - no use of force or any form of coercion - absolute non-violence - no propagation of hatred or revenge.

There is no humanitarianism or fruitful mysticism/spiritualism without these crucial values.

An excellent image was created by Victor Hugo in Jean Valjean as an austere, saintly industrialist in "Les Miserables". Hugo opened a whole new vision for men, through that greatest of all novels. The use of the printing press, of the internet, & of various modern technological resources for the spiritual unification of mankind is imperative. And perhaps this is a part of the modern problem. They must be preserved & developed, and yet not be instruments for division, isolationism, and all forms of corruption & exploitation. (For e.g., large-scale corporations solve many problems, & create others: they help in, say, mass dissemination of ideas, & at the same time wield an uncanny, absolute control on the type of information disseminated. The magnitude of scale enables them to spread knowledge wide & far more economically than otherwise, but this brings them the kind of power which makes it possible for them to spread disinformation & untruths.) Modern civilization has to undergo change & will necessarily drop many of its currently-held notions & conceptions. How to bring about an equilibrium between the endlessly inquisitive & imaginative mind - the desire to express all the intellectual & creative powers of man - to solve all the pressing problems of human life & lift it to a new level of relationship with the universe (in intellectual, emotional & physical terms) -- and the perennial wisdom of austerity, non-attachment to material values, concentration on Brahman / Tao/ Shunyata / Ayin-Soph, total dedication to the Union with this One Immortal Being, & absolute, universal love - is perhaps the most crucial problem facing contemporary humanity.

Intriguing & Beautiful

"COMPASSION" - by William Bouguereau

This image was obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Atheists & Rationalists

It might be inferred, from what I’ve written in my previous posts, that men & women who endorse rationalism, atheism, & even Violence are, by that very reason, anathema to me.
Infact, it’s not so.

The rationalists, atheists, & even those who give a qualified acqueiscence to Violence, can be wonderful people, who deserve all our respect & admiration. I personally adore many of them.

My father is an atheist (for all practical purposes), and I myself was a staunch atheist-rational-egoist a few years back.

Certainly, today I think many of these people are mistaken in their views: but their philosophy has its own justification, its own powerful basis in reality. And a large number of them are people with enormous character & strength. They possess all those great virtues which we admire in a Man: aspiration to do something meaningful in life, tremendous endurance & tenacity, inexhaustible benevolence & deep respect for the sacrosanctity of the human personality, a strong sense of justice & an intransigent integrity, a passionate concern with ideas & indefatigable industriousness, independence of consciousness & a keen sensitivity to the finer things of life.

There are also many of them who lack generosity, tolerance (a quality which is an abomination to all mindless fanatics), ability to forgive & forget, and a self-induced callousness & cruelty. This, however, is not the rule, though it isn't the exception either.

So if I do indict rationalism, atheism, and Force & Violence - it's not necessary that I condemn & hate all rationalists, atheists, & the ones who give a QUALIFIED acquiescence to Force & Violence.

When it comes to atheists, I'd love to quote Victor Hugo, from "Les Miserables":

"There are, we know, mighty & illustrious atheists. These men, in fact, led round again towards truth by their very power, are not absolutely sure of being atheists, with them, the matter is nothing but a question of definitions, and at all events, if they do not believe in God, being great minds, they prove God. We hail, in them, philosophers, while, at the same time, inexorably disputing their philosophy."

Nothing could be truer, and no attitude of mind - healthier.

Take for instance the atheists who reject the existence of God by defining God as "Consciousness". While some modern philosophers might have made the gross error of calling God "Consciousness" - the fact is that this is not the definition of God at all, and never was. Not a single scripture has defined "God" as "Consciousness" - a relatively modern term, which evolved about the 17th century CE - with no strict correspondence in the ancient world. If one has to understand what God is, one has to go back to the source, the texts where this conception took its first complete shape, to those hoary sages & prophets & mystic-seers, almost non-existent for two millennia, who actually understood & apprehended God. They never do so. They can never extract any sentence from any primeval scripture which DEFINES "God" as "Consciousness" - and which defines Consciousness, or the procedure by which the definitions have been established. This is another example of the sheer ignorance & WILFUL REFUSAL of the so-called Rationalists, who pride themselves on focusing on "objective" reality, to search for the complete truth. Have they STUDIED the scriptures? Examined each & every statement & word in its depth? Been initiated into the mysteries of mystic knowledge? Pondered for years over the immortality of the soul? Known how & why the scriptures were written, and why only hieroglyphs & symbols were used, and not plain explanation of ideas? The real meaning of allegories & symbolic fantasies?

An appalling majority of them neither bother, nor think they ought to bother - and yet are ready to spit on, & malign, & misrepresent spiritual truths - condemn the scriptures & all mystic-seers - unload gallons of abuse on them & deny them a hearing - attribute the vilest & falsest of calumnies & conspiracies to them - or at best, dimiss them with repulsive pity, or a sarcastic laugh.

Truth & Reason?

Take for instance the absurd idea of the atheist-rationalist that "God is Unknowable". They reject God because they somehow think that according to the mystic, God is "Unknowable".

But then, how does the Vedantic seer say "Aham Brahmasmi" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajur Veda) - "I am Brahman"? How on earth did he KNOW?

How does he say "Ayam Atma Brahma" (Mandukya Upanishad, Atharva Veda) - "This Self is Brahman"? (Self as in "Atma") How could he know without knowing Brahma (i.e. Brahman)?

Or take for instance the "Katha Upanishad". How does it make a statement like:- "When all desires that dwell within the human heart are cast away, then a mortal becomes immortal and (even) HERE HE ATTAINETH TO BRAHMAN."

Or, how does Yagyavalkya say:-

"Knowing that immortal Brahman, I am Immortal."

"They who know the life of life, the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear, and the mind of the mind, they have realized the ancient primordial Brahman."

The absurd, groundless hatred directed at India, and Indian ("Hindoo") culture becomes comprehensible only when one grasps that Indian civilization, philosophy & mysticism completely & totally demolishes the whole false structure of modern western Atheistic Rationalism, founded as it is on half-truths, distortions, misrepresentations, outright lies, and a laughable, pitiable ignorance. This hatred is to be found directed at the Orient in general - though it requires merely the effort to find a few good books, & now, a few websites, to see how passionately life-affirming, creative, inexhaustibly fertile, productive, & active - Oriental civilization (as also a large majority of Meso-American civilization) always was.

The rationalist, above all, seeks measurable, verbal, tangible & communicable CERTAINTY, not Absolute Truth. He doesn't like anything foggy or intangible. (Is it a concidence that the word "mystic" is so close to "misty"?) There's a great degree of weight in such a desire. Spirituality invariably descends into something as messy as black magic, astrology & prophecy, an obsession with karma & amulets & trinkets & talismans, and ALWAYS gets corrupted by aligning itself to politics & business. All this however, still does not negate the ultimate truth of scriptural wisdom. Nothing that is truly great is easy to achieve, the path is always very, very difficult - and if only a man or two can accomplish what Albert Einstein & Isaac Newton could (in the realm of intellect), only very few people can accomplish what Jesus or Lao Tzu did (in the field of spirituality). The difference lies in that in the realm of intellect, once an Albert Einstein or Werner Heisenberg has accomplished the original task, the rest of humanity has to merely understand the results, & repeat or apply, & at best, add to what they've given. I do not have to BECOME Einstein & repeat his struggle every step of the way, to understand what he did. I do not have to actually achieve his achievement. Not so in spirituality. Being a discipline of self-spiritual-development, each man has to BECOME Jesus or Sakyamuni, and do all that these men did, to achieve what they achieved. This is infinitely more difficult, and hence, while all of us may understand the Theory of Relativity, all of us can't see things clearly from Jesus' perspective. THIS is the crucial difference between mere intellectual striving, and spiritual self-development.

Certainty is not rejected by mysticism - but tangible, measurable certainty of the BASIS or starting-point of one's PURPOSE is. I really have no clue, in terms of realization with my whole being, if Brahman exists, though I CAN establish Its existence logically i.e. intellectually. And while I can percieve subtle changes in my whole being through the whole process of Yoga, it is only when I actually attain Moksha do I know that: Yes! Brahman IS, and THIS is Brahman. There is no greater certainty than this, in a Man's life. The point is that the rationalist thinks that only the Measurable & Finite exists, though, by his own terms, the Universe itself is Immeasurable (in time & space), and hence, Infinite. To the proposition that the non-measurable exists, for e.g., in emotions, or, in the phenomenon of consciousness itself, all he can do is vomit barrels of abuse on mystics as mind-haters, life-haters, man-haters. He avoids the infinite because of fear & underconfidence, or (in certain cases) the desire to mislead people & to propagate his own agenda, not because of rationality.

He does not seem to appreciate the idea that THAT which is the root & cause of, & the force behind & uniting ALL laws, all forces, all phenomenon, all forms, all levels of existence (both matter & consciousness), all of time & space - can neither be percieved by any one, or any combination, of sense-organs, or analyzed by the mind, and is not measurable, since it comprehends all measurement. It is apprehended, in its turn, by the whole being of Man, and not any specific separable part or element in him, or any limited combination of them. Hence, it cannot be tangible, or communicable (as an explanation of its specific, separative features or workings), or reduced to mathematical formulas.

This post has reached that point, where it would be undesirable to stretch it any longer, so I must halt. The thrust actually was, that the atheists & rationalists whom we come across in life (except certain specific ideological groups, or cults), are NOT people to be hated, or rejected, or disrespected. They are often excellent human beings, who truly seek the welfare of the world, and work hard for it. Their hatred against mysticism is often founded on a mistaken confusion of the obscene corruption of organized religion & certain mystery cults, for spiritualism itself, or the actual esoteric, mystic wisdom itself. But Innocent III is not St. Paul, and some pot-bellied, pig-tailed, saffron-robed, greedy, obese Brahmin spitting venom on Untouchables & lamenting that some member of a lower caste crossed his shadow, is not Veda Vyasa or Krishna. Jesus did NOT institute the Roman Catholic Church. The man who said "I and My Father are One" is not the man who established the Inquisition, and there is no deeper, ideological connection between their views. The hatred directed against the corruptions & falsehoods of organized, dogmatized religion is justified, and sacred - but the rejection of the baby with the bathwater is either innocently but seriously erroneous, or outright evil. In either case, it can have disastrous consequences, unless redeemed by an all-embracing Christian love (like that in the atheist Baba Amte) - by a passionate reverence for human life - by a fiery zeal to expand the human mind in its quest for ever-increasing comprehension of Nature's deepest laws & those of the totality of human life, i.e. for greater & greater Knowledge - & by a vast love for the liberation of the human mind, conscience & life unto ever-widening Wisdom & Truth.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Working towards a more comprehensive view of life - 2

According to the modern rational-egoist, to begin with, the purpose of morality is the Self-preservation of Man qua Man. In other words, we need a code of morality for the preservation of a life which is proper to man, which expresses the deepest truth of man. Being rationalists, their definition of Man is that man is a RATIONAL animal. Hence, self-preservation of man qua man means self-preservation of Man the Rational animal.

But the ultimate purpose of a rationalist's LIFE itself is not clear, because he tailors his philosophy to serve "LIFE": which would mean: his philosophy is constructed to ensure life, i.e., the maintenance of life. But he never quite defines life itself except as a physical existence, a process of self-maintenance. He never quite explicates WHY should life be maintained, except that we happen to exist (in the rationalistic-atheistic view, by sheer accident).

The purpose of a man's life, in the rationalist view, is happiness. In broad abstract terms, this is true. (At this stage, I'm referring only to the individual, & not to any individual-vs-collective conflict.)

Hence, the purpose of philosophy maybe said to be the attainment of happiness.

But they define happiness itself as the emotional result of the proper maintenance of life. If I have maintained my life successfully, I am - or I ought to be - happy.

Which would mean, the purpose of life ('life' being the maintenance of life) is ... the successful maintenance of life.

This is like saying that the objective of the process of cooking food is to perpetuate & ensure the process of cooking food - or at best, as a pause in a long series of cooking sessions - the joy of having made the food successfully (whereas the point actually is the food, and not cooking the food, or the joy of having cooked some food).

And this is what's called CIRCULAR ARGUMENTATION.

If Life is a process of maintaining life, then the purpose of maintaning life is not to maintain life, or to stop & smile that you have maintained it successfully, but to ACHIEVE THAT which makes the maintenance worthwhile, which in turn has to be outside the process of maintenance itself.

And it is THAT, and not merely the maintenance of life, which defines the purpose of life, and of philosophy, or morality.

This "THAT" is never clarified by the rationalist, and remains something as nebulous (if not incorrect, in broad abstract terms) as "achievement of the best within oneself" - the "best" again being that which enables the maintenance of life.

Circular argumentation over circular argumentation!

The whole purpose is to find the "THAT" which is at the very essence of all endeavor, of all striving, & aspiration: "THAT" - the Ultimate Purpose - the Purpose of all purposes.

The greatest, absurdest error of the rationalist is the total denial of "non-objective", non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable means of "knowledge".

They NEVER give any REASON why such means of knowledge should be rejected, except spewing bucketfuls of abuse on the people who uphold them.

The reason of such a denial is very simple: though certainly many of them are great, benevolent, worshipful souls, in the main, RATIONALISM & ATHEISM (in their several manifestations) ARE CONSCIOUS CONSTRUCTIONS BY A CERTAIN SET OF MEN TO DESTROY MAN'S SOUL, TO PREVENT HIM FROM SEEING THE TOTAL TRUTH OF HIS BEING, AND FINALLY DIVIDE MEN, KEEP THEM IN A STATE OF CONFLICT, & CONTROL THEM.

Mystics know much better than rationalists how the acceptance of "non-objective", non-sensory, "non-rational", non-definable means of knowledge has been misutilized for millennia by power-lusting people to terrorize mankind, stupefy their minds, to destroy reason, to cripple their powers of self-realization, to control & rule the masses. This has been done for ages, as far as man can remember. Men like Tolstoy, Hugo, Dostoevsky - passionate Christian mystics - were the most powerful & dangerous fighters against the Roman Catholic Church for precisely this reason. And THIS is neither a contradiction, nor a fraud on their part (a part of the typical rationalist's insidious propaganda).

This is no reason, however, to reject these means of knowledge. It is like rejecting food because whenever food has been offered, it has been poisoned. This is the same as accepting many mystics' solution that private property & sex should be rejected because they are fundamentally animalistic, 'selfish', & used to keep people divided, in eternal conflict.

The solution is not in the rejection of food - because that too shall lead to death, or disease - but to change the person who serves the food, one who shall not poison it.

The problem is that the person who serves the food poisons it, not the food itself.

The rationalist has no way to refute these means of knowledge except the open admission that he himself hasn't grasped them (the solution being that he must attempt to grasp them) - or a smear-campaign that Jesus, Socrates, Yagyavalkya, Veda Vyasa, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Krishna, John the Baptist, Paul, John of Patmos, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Swedenborg, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, Victor Hugo, Kaspar Hauser, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Blavatsky, Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Aurobindo, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, & Tagore were all power-lusting frauds, liars of the worst order, looters, parasites, seeking to destroy men's minds, driven by an irrepressible hatred for human life, seeking to enslave mankind, who groveled in filth of self-loathing, lived in constant terror of the supernatural, etc etc etc ad infinitum.

Please don't fall for their rationalizations that these men made innocent (though sometimes costly) errors, or that they were "fundamentally" rational & benevolent etc etc. THIS misinterpretation comes from the rationalist's ignorance & miscomprehension, & discomfort to admit facts that ruin the basis of his philosophy: there was no contradiction in THOSE peoples' thinking. They knew exactly what they affirmed, and why they did so, and were the greatest stars of human benevolence & intellectual power.

Rationalism prides itself on "focusing" on "objective" reality. But an extensive scrutiny has PROVED to me, that the so-called rationalists are the most appalling betrayers of reality. The absolue incongruity between lives of the greatest benefactors of mankind, and the allegations made against mystics, is perhaps the most glaring example of the untenability of the rationalist's views.

Their whole philosophy rests on ignorance of the deeper laws of nature, of the more profound & subtle truths of man, of the complicated workings of the man's consciousness, & above all, of HISTORY. Their conception of how civilization progressed - what made development possible - and what development itself IS - is so flawed, that to demolish their structure isn't as difficult as they think it is. Take for instance, the simple idea that RATIONALITY, or rather, LOGIC, found its first systematic formulation in Aristotle. They seem totally oblivious to the existence of the NYAYA school of philosophy of India - one of the 6 major schools of Indian philosophy - which, even going by false modern dating - was developed in 7th century BCE - & evolved all the crucial laws of logic in philosophy. There is no reason - except the prejudice of the rationalist (prejudice is irrationality) - that he was not acquainted with the texts of the renowned "Brachmanes" of India. This is an extensive topic in itself - I'm just giving a small indication of the gargantuan dimensions of the errors made by typical modern rationalist-egoists.

Rejection of "non-rational" & non-intellectual means of knowledge is itself non-rational & non-intellectual. They rest on a LACK of self-examination, & REFUSAL to introspect. A wilful decision not to delve into the depths of one's own consciousness, & to study evidence of other realities in the external world: in other words, of total irrationality. Because, all these realities, & aspects of existence & consciousness - exist objectively - independent of our whims, convictions, desires, & caprices - but are 'known' or experienced or apprehended, by the individual alone, within himself, i.e. subjectively.

These means of knowledge do not militate against, or destroy, rationality itself - nor does the development of one's spiritual perception demand the destruction of the mind. That is another lie perpetrated by the rationalists. (In the best cases, such an idea is a result of their ignorance, or a misunderstanding.)

The greatest mystics were men of incomparable, almost superhuman erudition, thunderingly articulate, and had the most developed minds. They never asked men to be unlettered, not to observe nature, not to grasp her laws. Infact, rational knowledge is always the basis of all mystic knowledge. A man who has not learned language, may have a sort of apprehension of the Oneness of the universe, but it is so incoherent, incomprehensible, wild, & chaotic so as to be totally meaningless.

But it is true that a perfect scientific & mathematical understanding of the laws of nature is neither necessary, nor important, to the spiritual development of a human being, and in this sense, NOT RATIONALITY, but certain specific elements of knowledge obtained through rationality, are superfluous to spiritual development.

(Obviously, to be continued...)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Working towards a comprehensive view of life

The purpose of human life is not, and cannot, be self-preservation.
That's a purpose proper for a plant or an animal, not Man.
However, this does not negate the crucial importance of self-preservation itself. For, man has to preserve his life if he must have a purpose to achieve.
The purpose of life - and hence, of philosophy & morality - has to be found in the essence of life itself.
But what is the essence of human life, and how do we find out?
This will involve finding answers to questions like:
Why do we seek to live? Why does life seek to live?
What is this wonderful mystery of the existence of life?
What is the law we observe in this development from mineral to microbe, from microbe to plant, from plant to animal & bird, and thence to Man?
The Universe is: but the very fact that it is not one infinite stretch of empty space reveals that the law of life finds its true meaning in the mystery of a movement from - where to where?
It is easily understood that a law - a process - is working itself through this whole growth from an undifferentiated unity, a One-Whole - fractured into infinite component parts - and then a mysterious, coherent re-organization of those component parts into composites which increasingly become conscious of the Whole.
Do we say that this law is one which seeks to establish both separation & unity, differentiation & integration, individuality & universality?
What we observe in the plot-structure in the grand saga of nature, is a progression from a unconscious, slumbering individuality, to an all-embracing, all-conscious individuality.
It is the not the fact of physical existence, but the relationship with the Universe, which strikes & awes us.
A pebble or a clod doesn't have a sense of "I", least of all a sense of "Us".
Neither does it have love, nor reason.
Love comes with life, with consciousness, with reason.
In Man's world, without love, wisdom is meaningless, and shall lead to destruction & sorrow.
Without wisdom, intellect is meaningless. Without intellect, reason is meaningless. Without reason, consciousness is meaningless (for a human being). Without consciousness, life is meaningless. Without life, the body is meaningless.
Hence, the joyous essence of Man's life is to be found in Love.
Reason is basically a problem-solving facility. It doesn't help in deciding what is our ultimate concern, but merely in identifying it conceptually - i.e. in a verbal formulation of what already is the ultimate concern, metaphysically intrinsic to the fact of human life itself.
Reason is not the aim, though it is a part of the aim.
Development & creative realization of all the powers of the mind & imagination are nothing but means to realize the DELIGHT OF EXISTENCE, in other words, LOVE FOR EXISTENCE.
Interestingly, in his introduction to the collection of essays "Creative Unity", Tagore translates the word "Ananda" (which actually means joy, or bliss), as Love.
This is perfectly correct, because Love is Joy, and Joy is Love.
"In love we find a joy which is ultimate because it is the ultimate truth. Therefore it is said in the Upanishads that the advaitam is anantam, - 'the One is Infinite'; that the advaitam is anandam, - 'the One is Love'." (Rabindranath Tagore)
And what is the essence of Love?
The essence of Love is to GIVE. Rather, in a Giving which IS a Taking.

A man's relationship with a commercial sex-worker is not one that of love, but of pure, animal sexual need: his concern is not to make the prostitute happy, but solely to satisfy his body's urge for pleasure. The essence is not in giving, but in taking. Men don't go to sex-workers because the sex-workers need sexual satisfaction - they go quite irrespective of the needs of the women in question.
But, in his relationship to his wife, or the woman he passionately loves, a (decent) man can't withstand the fact that he can't give her pleasure. His life shall become an unbearable torment if he's the only one who reaches climax, and his lover's body remains unsatisfied. Not so with a commerical sex-worker. Essentially, he won't give a damn to her experience.
And though Nature has designed the process of interaction & interdependence in such a way that giving sexual pleasure is beautifully integrated with recieving pleasure, the difference is clarified in the fact of nonchalance & interest in the OTHER person's pleasure, while one's own joy is maintained.
A husband indifferent to his wife's orgasm doesn't love her.
A woman indifferent to her husband's palate doesn't love him, if she enjoys her own cooked meal.
The more we move up above the pressing needs of the body, which sustain the very existence of our own emotional, psychological, even mental apparatus, the weaker the element of GIVING AND TAKING, the stronger the element of GIVING AS TAKING.
Here we move deeper into our identity as human beings, because it is in these realms that we are different from the rest of the plant & animal world, and disintinctly HUMAN.
This is why the greatest sages looked down upon the body: not because it is a heap of ordure, but because, though uniquely designed in order to reveal reason & love, it finds the justification for its structure in reason & love - i.e., in soul & spirit, which is unique only to man.
It is the cup which holds the wine: the point is not the cup, but the wine.
The wine is the aim, not the cup. There is no festival with just cups. The festival finds its ultimate purpose in the wine that is served in the cup.
In this sense, the cup has to be perfected: it should not dissolve into a puddle of clay or leak to let the wine out: in that sense, the body has to be kept healthy & strong. It is important.
But the body and its requirements are secondary, like the cup is.
INTEGRATED, but secondary.
After we quaff the wine, we discard the cup.
The cup comes into existence for the wine; the wine doesn't come into existence for the cup.
That's the relationship between Spirit & Body.

(To be continued...)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On the law of karma

I thought I must add this.
I mentioned something about the law of Karma in my post on Non-violence.
Though I don't altogether reject the existence of the law of Karma, i.e. the metaphysical operation of such a law, I don't pay any attention to it either.
The theory of karma is not only unverifiable & totally closed to the simplest of logic, but also totally irrelevant.
Above all, it is psychologically & socially destructive, like astrology & the plethore of ritualism which exists in organized, dogmatized, ritualistic religion.
It's possible that it operates, but no one can ever be sure if it does, and it's not important.
What is important is not what I did in my last birth, or what I did in my previous births to suffer here & now, but - what I have done, am doing, &ought to do - in THIS "birth" - and what I've done here & now which has led, or can lead, to my suffering.
The law of karma has been - and shall always be - the bane of Indian society, and of any collective spiritual life.
It is still being used by our "God-Men" to justify casteism, suffering, injustice, poverty, & suppression.
This, please note, IS a misinterpretation - almost a historical error - and in itself is no reason why the law of karma should be rejected.
The law of karma should be rejected on the basis of its IRRELEVANCE.
When I mentioned it in the context of the Gita, I was aware that in true Vedantic philosophy, the law of karma involves only one significant idea: that every birth is an opportunity for man to move towards union with God: that is, unite with the Root & Essence of Existence (& hence, with the whole of Existence itself).
In a more simplified form, any wrong action takes us further away from God-realization, and any good action takes us further towards it.
Evil action makes it more difficult, good action facilitates perfection.
But only on attainment of Brahmanirvana do actions stop having any effect on determining the course of the immortal soul's movement.
But all this is basically inessential to the real development in a human being.
The life & consciousness of an intelligent, active-minded, rational man is endowed with sufficient meaning to impel him toward self-realization.
It is our inner burning desire for perfection which counts.
That it exists, can be strengthened, and can become the compass of our life is what counts, not whether I was a jackass in 1850, or shall be a pig in 2100.
People should not lose their heads with the law of karma because it is not the objective of a man's life to remember what he was in some previous birth, and what he did, & where he was, and whether he was Christoper Columbus or Nero or Pascal.
So what, if you were Attila the Hun, in your 1564th birth from now, or Francis of Assissi in your 37th, or a lizard in your last?
It makes no difference to you, or anyone else.
All this is silly, & unintellectual, - and above all, makes a man a very easy target to be fooled & misled.
Anything can be interpreted in any way - anything can be justified - anything can be given any explanation - and this means that someone endowed with some unidentifiable, unverifiable, indisputable "special powers" is giving an explanation, and someone lesser endowed & "gifted" has to simply accept it, on "faith".
This is mental & moral slavery, and destruction of the Freedom of Consciousness.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Rabindranath Tagore, on Freedom

I have very ambivalent feelings when it comes to India's Independence Day.
On this occasion, I can only think of these immortal lines from Tagore's "Gitanjali".
Keeping these lines in mind, can we say that we're really free?

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought & action -
Into that haven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

A few thoughts on freedom on Independence Day

Physical, external, & socio-political Freedom is the Freedom of Self-determination: the freedom to pursue one's values, to shape one's life in the image of one's personal ideal, to translate one's ideas into achievable concrete goals.
This freedom is self-destructive if not founded on Truth.
To live in Truth is not to do what I want to do, but to do what I ought to do.
What you want to do may or may not be right or good & hence, may be self-destructive -- the right & the good is what you ought to do.
Here we come to inner, psychological freedom.
The crux of the concept of Freedom is SELF-Direction, or SELF-Determination.
Hence, inner freedom - i.e., Freedom of Consciousness - is freedom from a state in which the contents of my consciousness: my knowledge, ideas, convictions are not consciously chosen by the purposeful exertion of MY WILL.
A consciousness shaped by random forces & impulses- functioning without clarity of perception & comprehension - is not a free consciousness.
I am free in anything in which the decision is MINE.
So what makes a MINE possible, in context of man's consciousness?
It means that I SHAPE my own mind & soul.
Purposeful exertion of will necessarily implies & constitutes consciously perceiving reality, consciously analyzing all the inputs I get, consciously engaging in integration & differentiation, in the process of evaluation, in selecting & deciding & prefering.
This necessarily implies & constitutes focusing on reality - on being fully conscious of truth.
Only when I consciously focus on reality - only when I wilfully direct the powers of my consciousness at a grasp of truth - in other words, only when I THINK - am I free.
This means: searching for WHAT IS TRUTH, WHAT OUGHT TO BE DONE.
Otherwise, the awareness, differentiation, integration, analysis, evaluation & decision is not MINE - it is basically unconscious or semi-conscious, involving only a modicum of freedom.
Thus, real freedom is not "doing what you like" - but doing what you ought to like (this, only in the broadest, abstract terms - in metaphysical, spiritual & moral terms).

Freedom is the freedom from lack of focus on reality, & grasp of truth. Freedom from thoughtlessness, from irrationality.
As long as you are unaware of the totality & essence of truth, you are not acting in complete consciousness of - who you are - what the meaning & purpose of life is - and what are the goals proper to you as a human being.
The only true Freedom is the Freedom to Know, Learn, Think, & shape one's life in accordance to one's perception of Truth ONESELF.
The curtailment of THIS freedom is true lack of freedom.
All struggle for liberty is the struggle for the freedom of the individual to determine his life in accordance with HIS perception of eternal truth (grasped only through a process of experience & thought).
Self-determination being the very crux of the concept of freedom, the individual ought to think for HIMSELF, he ought to voluntarily focus on reality & grasp his own deepest truth HIMSELF, he ought to set his goals HIMSELF.
This gives him dignity, implies self-reliance, and is a direct manifestation of his autonomy as a being endowed with mind & conscience.
Conscription, for e.g., is a violation of freedom, because men are not allowed to evaluate & decide for themselves whether they ought to kill & be prepared to get killed, or not.
This evaluation & decision-making is done by someone else.
It directly violates man's status as a rational entity who can process facts, grasp truths, formulate convictions, and take decisions to shape the course of his life.
It deprives man of volitional integration of his life-action with the essential appartus he's endowed with to decide HOW to live: his mind & his conscience.

But, strictly speaking, the whole process of focusing on reality & grasping truth is a purely inner, individual phenomenon, and nobody can take it from you.
The Freedom of Consciousness can never be curbed: that's possible only when the consciousness itself is destroyed.
You might have all the freedom to do whatever you want to do, but if you are not consciously acting in accordance with the laws of truth, you are in bondage to ignorance & error --- to never-ending fear & suffering, hatred & anger, resentment & bewilderment.
You are in bondage to the determinism of forces & laws which act upon your life.
You are You only when you shape your soul & act in accordance with reality.
True freedom is the freedom to determine your life in full awareness of truth.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thoughts on Non-violence, & other related issues

"The profession of true Christianity in its true meaning, including non-resistance to evil, frees people from all external power". - Leo Tolstoy, "The Law of Love & the Law of Violence"

I've been reading Tolstoy off-late, and am deeply influenced by the power of his arguments. The more I read him, the more I am convinced that he has a very important point to make, though I don't think he either clarified all points that had to be clarified, nor actually showed the way his profound ideas could be implemented.
That is the very, very difficult task of the future.
They all were right: Dotsoevsky, Tolstoy, & Tagore. They knew what was coming, and warned the world, but nobody paid attention.
The fears they harbored for the future then, are still applicable, and - as I see it - the only place where the solution lies, is in their writings, & in ancient, perennial wisdom.
Non-violence obviously raises far more questions than gives answers.
As I see it, non-violence is the most powerful instrument by which men can free themselves from those groups which seek to keep mankind in a state of conflict & chaos, by engineering that conflict & chaos.
It transfers the locus of control from external authority to the individual's conscience & rationality.
Thus, Non-violence is empowerment of the individual.
For centuries on end, a small - a very small - group of men have played havoc with humanity by manipulating the masses, and this has been possible only because men have accepted the law of violence.
The first thing men must get rid of, if they want to solve the problems which afflict mankind, is to totally & absolutely abandon the idea that violence can solve the problems of man.
Religion - or mysticism - or spirituality - which are synonyms for me - are exactly the passionate efforts of the greatest men of history to FREE mankind from the constant, all-pervasive, invisible, insidious manipulation of certain cliques that seek to enslave the whole world, and have been doing it for millennia, now.
They are not only the expressions of the HIGHEST truth of Man - that he is ONE with Brahman - or the Tao - or Shunyata - but also the only solutions to the age-old problem of hatred, fear, conflict, murder, conquest, plunder, colonization, , exploitation, & war.
Would all these ever exist, if men truly inculcated the value of Love?
The law of Love was also recognized in India, long, long before the emergence of Christianity in the Middle East: "By seeing the self in all beings and all beings in the self one goes to Brahman, not by any other cause." (Kaivalya Upanishad)
What is this, if not the essence of Love, the very metaphysical-spiritual root of Love?

Tolstoy correctly recognizes that Christian law annuls the State - and thus, leads to what maybe called Anarchy. (Tolstoy is sometimes associated with what's called "Christian anarchism".)
And perhaps, the anarchists are right that as long as the Individual Man shall not perfect LOVE within himself, there shall be conflict, & he shall be dependent on others for the solution of those conflicts - and hence, the entire machinary of the state.
I am also beginning to see the relevance of the age-old emphasis on poverty (actually it means simplicity & austerity), on chastity (actually means absolute self-control & self-mastery of the mind, emotions, & body), & on renunciation (actually means non-attachment: a very signficant & complex idea, to be understood best in the sense of the Upanishadic injunction: Tyaktena bhunjita: Enjoy through renunciation; and further: Always performing works one should wish to live a hundred years...).
These qualities, perfected with love, make a man INCORRUPTIBLE.
They take him straight to the heart of truth, where he finds the answer to that greatest of all questions, the answers of which constitute the totality & essence of Vedic-Vedantic thought: What is it, by knowing which, one can know all?
These values turn men's attention away from their ego-sense -- from identification with the unstable, impermanent, & undefinable ego -- from a sense of separativeness, mortality & finitude -- to a sense of unity with the universe, immortality, & inexhaustible benevolence born of fearlessness, & a vanishing lust to possess & control.
In political terms, they actually make it impossible for men to be turned into puppets, into instruments for mutual destruction, never-ending disharmony, & global chaos.
For if men refuse to arm themselves & kill each other or harm each other, the secret cults which profit from all the chaos cannot create the chaos which keeps adding to their power & wealth.
It is precisely through private property, sex, money & (frivolous) art (today replaced by showbiz) - and very importantly, through altruistic-collectivist activism, & affirmation of violence - that these groups seek to pervert human consciousness, keep it from seeing the truth, keep it imprisoned in lower states of awareness & relatedness, - and fuel conflict, terror, war.

The topic does not come to an end here. If anything, it takes up its most difficult aspect, from here. For, Hindu philosophy clearly ABOLISHES all purpose by attainment of that which is at the root of all purpose. A man who has attained Moksha or Mukti or Nirvana has nothing more to seek, nothing more to do. This is openly acknowledged.
Abolition of purpose means abolition of action.
Action, however, does not have to come to an end - and this is one of the most important points in the Bhagavad Gita.
The idea in spiritual realization is not giving up action itself, but the Karmic effects of action.
(And, as I see it, in the enjoyment of life in a state of "detachment" - i.e. fundamental non-dependence on material values, being firmly established in Unity, and fully conscious of the delights, beauties & possibilites of existence.)
The Karmic effects of action are annulled with the achievement of Brahmanirvana, since the whole idea of Karma is nothing but the progress of the soul towards attainment of Brahmanirvana.
Action must, & can - continue, but from a totally different spiritual level of being.
This, however, is not an absolute, confirmed idea, but more of an approximation: I think this is what the scriptures enjoin us to do.
From this point of view, private property, sex, & wealth may not become instruments of dividing people, & perpetrating dissension.

Christianity also clearly recognizes the great idea of Union with God, which means Union with the All: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word: that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us..." (John 17:20-21))
Hence, their initial social structure was Communist in nature. Strictly speaking, it was a continuation of the Essenic socio-economic system (limited to the Essenic brotherhood itself).
This, however, does not seem to be a necessity.
Not in the Vedantic outlook, where men live normal lives, but in a state of union with God.
The law of Non-violence seems to count on the benevolence & rationality of men in general, & the malevolence & power-lust of the few.
Can we say that perfection of Christian love within our souls can also solve the problem of private property, generation of wealth, and enjoyment of sex?
(Christian love is nothing but the emotional & psychological aspect of God-consciousness in the context of man's relationship with society.)
This is food for thought, and there seem to be many complications & considerations.
In the ultimate, I think (though I don't know for sure) Tolstoy denounced private property, as well as sex, except for the purposes of procreation.
This is neither the right approach, nor the desired condition, as far as I can understand.
It cannot lead to the right results (i.e. God-consciousness: union with Brahman, cosmic-consciousness: union with all of existence, above all, union with all men in love) - since it shall lead to repression, supression, envy, a mounting sense of injustice etc.
Certainly not without inculcating & perfecting Love within oneself.
Nor is it necessary in the ideal itself, since the perfected man neither needs money nor sex in any fundamental way, to achieve a sense of completion - and is not going to covet, lie, cheat, manipulate, exploit or plunder anyone else for any material values.
The problem lies in finding the right balance (?) or equlibrium between infinite love of the infinite personality, & enjoyment of mental-emotional-physical life, i.e. the finite individual personality.
So: have private property, earn money, engage in creation & pursuit of material values, enjoy sex, build a family, a personal world of your own: but, underlying all these pursuits, keep growing in a sense of love for all men: keep strengthening the moral sense: I cannot hurt, I cannot cheat, I cannot lie, I cannot disrespect, I cannot cut-throat, I cannot defraud, I cannot manipulate, I can have no fundamental desire to injure or degrade --- ANYBODY.
Whether this is possible or not, is subject for many more years of thought!
The choices (points of conflict) between the two are innumerable, if not constant.
Man's growth has to be towards greater & greater detachment towards private, individual, material values.
Towards a healthy disenchantment with acquisition, accumulation, & possession - and a greater desire to create & produce, but NOT for self-aggrandizement.
(He seeks perfection of his soul through perfection of his love for God & for Man. That is the best within him: that lies beneath the power of the mind & the desire to create, as well as beneath the desire to exist.)
Towards greater & greater tender love for all mankind.
This necessiates renunciation of power & violence.
Only then he becomes more than an individual being, and becomes IMMENSE.

The most important point, however, remains unaddressed: the involvement in socio-political humanitarian activity.
Active love for mankind & a burning desire to obliterate the sufferings of men is another cause for all the misery of mankind, and Tolstoy recognizes this.
I shall take up this point later, and it involves this: trying to grasp the proper nature of the activity through which the self-realized man (of God-consciousness, or expanded consciousness), or the aspiring man, seeks to realize his love for mankind, in action.
THIS is where the principle of Non-violence & non-coercion (or non-Force) is of paramount importance.
This is a very wide subject, and perhaps the most difficult & crucial one!

Whatever I've written in this post are mere thoughts - ramblings, if not speculations.
Have I stated any unshakable convictions? No. I am quite sure I haven't.
Because, there is a lot more to read, a lot more to know, and a lot more to understand!
I shall end this now itself, since the post is long enough. Shall pick up this thread sometime later.

Friday, August 8, 2008

THE MIRACLE WORKER as a Christian work of art

When I used the term "Christian literary work" in my previous post (referring to the play "The Miracle Worker") I used the term in a very specific sense. The word "Christian" did not refer to the Christian doctrine that Jesus Christ was the Son of Jehovah, who was sent to give his blood as payment for the sins of mankind, and that Judas Iscariot betrayed him to the high priests of Jerusalem, and he was crucified, and rose from the sepulcher on the 3rd day, and ascended to Heaven & sat on the right hand side of the throne of his father. I was referring to the original spiritual-moral VALUES, the vision of soul & life which was preached by Jesus, and later by Paul & John the Beloved Disciple.

A more appropriate term would've been: religious literary work.

Unfortunately, modern consciousness has come to a stage where religion is something different from spirituality & mysticism - and all these are different from science, philosophy, & ethics. Fundamentally, all these are ONE united body, malevolently dismembered by the modern, so-called "rational" attitude.

When it comes to the word "religion", I affirm Tolstoy's definition: "True religion is that relationship, in accordance with reason & knowledge, which man establishes with the infinite world around him, and which binds his life to that infinity & binds his own actions." ("What is Religion, Of what does its essence consist?")

And thus, religion is not an aggregate of practices, rituals, regulations, & observations - but a guide for life, which determines how man sees his self (soul-spirit), the universe around him, the purpose & meaning of life & action, and the basic relationship between himself & the rest of existence.

A specifically Christian outlook is one in which men recognize the supreme importance of LOVE between men.

This is not to say that Christianity invented the concept of love between men - whether you call it "Eros" (which, according to certain interpretations, does not mean 'erotic love', but compassion), or "Agape". Christianity certainly did not first uphold compassion, charity, almsgiving, sacrifice, renunciation, or -- to put it simply -- love.

But it was Christianity which, in the western world, for the first time, upheld the idea of universal love & brotherhood, with such strength & sacrifice. The tradition of the Essenes, Therapeutae, & Nazarites seems to have been given a powerful boost by the fire of Jesus & Paul.

Now, why should I call "The Miracle Worker" a Christian play?

The first point to be kept in mind is that Christianity is that stream of spirituality which puts Love directly at the heart of human life.

Hinduism, on the other hand, places achievement of Immortality & Infinity - of a total union with the Source, Essence, & the Whole of Existence - at the heart of life. This union has been called "Moksha", or "Mukti", or "Samadhi". The Buddhist "Nirvana" is the same as "Moksha" or "Mukti" - but Buddhism is more psychological than mystical than the Vedic-Vedantic outlook. These two basic conceptions (of Christianity & Vedantism) are NOT two fundamentally different conceptions: they are inextricably ONE. It's a matter of focus, rather than essence, where the difference comes in.

The end-result & fundamental, underlying idea is the same: a very profound sense of compassion for all men (& by extension, for all life, for the universe as a whole).

A total avoidance of INFLICTING any form of injury or suffering on another being.

And, infact, a desire to reduce the sum-total of individual & collective suffering in the world, or in one's immediate environment.

Empathy, gentleness, tender affection, an enthusiastic & active interest in a being's welfare, a sense of deep-felt kinship - as if the other person were as precious as if related by blood: these were the psychological values affirmed by these streams of spirituality.

There is no reason not to repeat endlessly that the fundamental idea about LOVE is that, in Love, the biological-physical sense of separateness from another being, another entity or existent, is minimized (&, in the ideal, obliterated).

Love - whether Vedantic, or Buddhist, or Christian, or Islamic, or Judaic - is NOT something totally mystical & supernatural & other-worldly. It is wired into our being. It is an indispensable, necessary fragment of our constitution - the unique synthetic composition that Man is.

It exists in Nature, in a ladder that starts in self-preservation, and ends in absolute sacrifice, which I call absolute self-consecration to the cause of the joy of the world.

The more we love someone, or something - the more impossible it is for us to consciously, willfully, carelessly cause it suffering or harm. The more we love someone, the more impossible it is for us to be indifferent to the person's condition, to wish him any injury, to leave him alone in his suffering & loneliness - to exploit him or play around with his emotions.

In a philosophy of Love, a man grasps that the most joyful action in the world - and the highest purpose in a man's life, that imbues his life with genuine value & meaning - (after that of his own growing awareness of the ultimate truth of life, & his own spiritual perfection in love) - is the elevation & illumination of the soul of another human being.

This is the focus, the motive-power, the centruum: that through my action, I drop a ray of light into the soul of another human being, and, if only for a moment, open his/her eyes to love, to God, to perfect union with the All, i.e. to revelation of the ultimate truth of his Self.

I agree that such activity is not possible to all of us - but that's a different point, and has to be developed in its own respect, quite independently of what I'm writing now.

Farmers must farm, a doctor must heal, a teacher must teach, a politician should govern, a judge must dispense justice, an architect must build: but they can LIVE a philosophy of Love in their respective spheres without any fundamental contradiction, and, infact, turn each activity into a perfect expression of Love.

And this is what we see in "The Miracle Worker".

In the struggle of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller, we see a quintessentially RELIGIOUS struggle: the struggle FOR consciousness.

The struggle for the establishment of a HUMAN consciousness: for without human consciousness, neither knowledge, nor love - neither creativity & productivity, nor sacrifice & renunciation - neither humanity, nor divinity - can be expressed.

The work is neither mystical nor religious either in its aim, or its style -- but the fundamental abstraction involved is emphatically religious. (The name itself reveals the inner significance.)

It is the spectacle of one human being CREATING THE HUMANITY of another human being - making humanness possible - transforming blindness, a shuddering bundle of nerves, fear, hunger, & chaotic anger - into vision (particularly, mental vision), confidence to deal with the world, fearlessness of the unpercievable, clarity, ability to give, understanding, knowledge, peace.

Here, Love is not mere almsgiving, not merely clothing & healing, not just feeding a hungry child - but a deeper phenomenon: making it possible for a human being to THINK.

Making it possible for a human being to live the life of a human being.

By teaching a blind & deaf Helen to understand words - and hence, concepts & ideas - Anne Sullivan makes it possible for Helen to bring ideas, values, purpose, meaning, & achievement into her life. She enables Helen to rise above being a mere animal, and become a human being full of dignity, reason, the power to achieve values, to take further the process of enlightenment.

If this is not CHRISTIAN, than what is?

Does Christian love merely consist in giving away old clothes & shoes, and an occasional cup of money out of an ocean of wealth for some cause which we don't even know anything about?

What is a greater gift than giving a vision of life (which is why I love the film "Titanic" despite its cliched story-background) -- than giving the ability to think, to reason -- the ability to be productive, creative, useful?

To shape an intelligence, to open consciousness to the world of thought & ideas, is perhaps as great a gift, as offering to men a vision of God, of the immortal & the infinite.

And therefore, I do think that William Gibson's play "The Miracle Worker" is an example of one of the highest Christian or religious works of art.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Two jewels, & clarifications

I forgot to add two works which I think could be included in the category of greatest works of art: "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse, and a not-so-well-known play called "The Miracle Worker" by William Gibson.

I also forgot to clarify that I've not read "Notes from the House of the Dead" & "Les Pauvres Gens". (Have read the other novels of Dostoevsky & Victor Hugo.)

I emphatically state that Tolstoy's views are not completely & totally my views: I agree with him to a great extent, not 100%

"The Miracle Worker" is a play based on the life of Helen Keller, and it's theme is the struggle of trying to open up the consciousness of a human being to the world of WORDS - and hence, of thoughts, of concepts, of ideas. People might understand ME , or my views, better, if they understand what I mean by saying that THIS - the struggle of Anne Sullivan to pour in the light of words into the blank, dark mind of Helen Keller living in a state of sheer bestiality - the birth of a conceptual consciousness - is perhaps the most beautiful example of a Christian literary work.

Few personal thoughts on literature from a Tolstoyan point of view

Leo Tolstoy names Friedrich Schiller's "The Robbers" ("Die Raubers"); Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" & "Les Pauvres Gens"; the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky, especially "Notes from the House of the Dead"; the novels & stories of Charles Dickens, especially "A Tale of Two Cities" & "The Chimes"; "Adam Bede" by George Eliot & "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe - as supreme examples of the greatest works of art - specifically, religious art which flows from man's love of God & of man.
I haven't read "Adam Bede" & "Uncle Tom's Cabin", but I must agree with him as to the others.
I would, however, add "Quo Vadis?" by Henryk Sienkiewicz, "Don Carlos" by Schiller, "Ninety Three" by Hugo, & "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran.
I would also add "Gitanjali" by Rabindranath Tagore & "Savitri" by Aurobindo Ghosh - but they are poems (or collection of poems).
I don't think "Gitanjali" has the kind of inner, purposeful unity of, say, Gibran's "The Prophet" - though thematic integrity is perfectly maintained.
Tagore's play "The Waterfall" is a gem of a work, and I am irresistibly drawn to his "The Post Office", another short play, which seems to be a work of tremendous promise.
"Savitri" is not a very accessible work of universal appeal. It is too sophisticated, too cerebral, too difficult - and the best quality of all the works extolled by Tolstoy is that they are accessible by the simplest of people, and have an immediate & tremendous emotional impact. They are truly soul-changing without being cerebral (which often means 'pretentious' & 'artificial').
It is true that overly cerebral works - especially an unnecessary obsession with manipulation of style & verbal expression - is merely a cover for scarcity of content, the poverty of imagination, & a desire to stun & awe the reader, a basically unhealthy motivation.
Above all, excess sophistication of technique (& even content) is distracting, and reduces the emotional impact of a work of art, which Tolstoy correctly recognizes, is the PRIMARY point of art: the feeling it evokes in the reader.

I'd also add "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
It is the epitome of concentratedness of plot, profound symbolism, and thematic & artistic integrity, besides being a psychological-philosophical novel of the highest order.
However, it had a far, far less PERSONAL, emotional impact on me, than any of Hugo's novels (my personal favorite perhaps, is "Toilers of the Sea"), or those of Dostoevsky & Dickens.
I remember falling in love with some of the fairy-tale like stories of Oscar Wilde, though I really can't quite remember the stories themselves! (Like "The Rose & the Nightingale", "The Happy Prince" etc.)
And then, though not of the order of Schiller, Hugo, or Dostoevsky - the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee was an absolute delight.
"To Kill...", & the tales of Wilde actually fall into the second category of good, true art according to Tolstoy: universal art which unites people through evoking deep emotions which men have felt in all ages & places. I'm not too sure if Tolstoy approved of the works of Wilde: apparently, he didn't like Wilde. (Wilde was one of the Decadents, who, according to Tolstoy represented one of the innumerable groups which were degenerating art.)
But I like them as very touching works with tremendous depth of emotion.
One might also add in this category some of the stories of O. Henry, an extraordinarily brilliant & imaginative genius.

If I haven't mentioned Shakespeare till now, it's because I've read (only) 3 of his plays (King Lear, Macbeth, Julius Caesar) - & I've read them all only once, and haven't been too deep into Shakespeare till now, as such.
Moreover, I think the enormous profundity of his plays - the mind-boggling philosophical sophistication - seems to warrant a greater medium than drama.
Nevertheless, Shakespeare surpasses ALL in artistic expression - in the use of words & language & poetry - and is truly the "Papa" of all.
I don't reject Shakespeare as Tolstoy does, just because his characters don't speak an everyday language. Art is not a literal imitation of life.
I do think that Shakespeare - when READ - does not make the necessary impact on the reader.
Perhaps, one must actually witness a well-made play of his, to appreciate his true worth as a playwright - than just READ it.

But the three plays of Shakespeare, or say, "Faust" by Goethe (of which I've read only the 1st part, and affirm as one of the greatest works of literature) - do not fall into the category of "Les Miserables" or "The Robbers" or "A Tale of Two Cities" or even "Quo Vadis?"
They are too cerebral - and really don't emotionally impact the reader's soul (at least that of yours truly) as a Hugo can.
They do not lack sincerity - far from it - but (perhaps) are too compressed, too A-MORAL, primarily dissecting reality & grasping out for its great hidden truths, than a revelation of the ultimate "ought to"; I don't think they achieved the task of upholding a new, shining IDEAL vision to mankind.
They were essentially REALISTS, while men like Hugo & Dostoevsky were fundamentally IDEALISTS, i.e., passionately & primarily concerned with the transformation & illumination of consciousness, of the regeneration & resurrection of the erring individual, of establishing the highest moral ideal which humanity ought to strive for.

I cannot be too sure of my views, since it's been a long time since I've read most of these books.
I read Schiller's masterpiece "Wallenstein" only once in 2002, and I hardly remember it. So I'm really not in a position to declare unequivocally if it is or isn't a profoundly Christian work of art.
Tolstoy searches for a more openly, directly, powerfully CHRISTIAN vision in his choice of art.
(Not "Roman Catholic" or "Protestant" or "Lutheran" - but pure, authentic, fundamental Christian spiritual values). The expression of - & passionate concern with - man's love for God & for Man.
The primary focus being a MORAL struggle at the heart of the work: choice between a lesser life & higher being.
A work like "Gone with the Wind" (by Margaret Mitchelle) does NOT fall into this category, neither does "Moby Dick" by Hermann Melville.
Nor do the plethore of other novels which I personally (& otherwise) summarily reject as great works of art: "The Great Gatsby" by Fitzgerald, "The Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte, "Vanity Fair" by William Makepeace Thackeray, etc etc.
(I admire both Mitchelle & Melville, though not as much as the ones mentioned before. "Moby Dick" suffers from the lack of a proper story & a plot-structure. Thackeray is a brilliant satirist.
A related but not similar case is that of Edgar Allan Poe - a towering genius - but whose works do not have the passionate religious, ethical content of a Hugo or Dostoevsky or Dickens or Schiller.)

Not that these works do not have aesthetic value. Not that they can't be powerful, or "infect" the reader with a certain emotion the author has felt. Infact, they are all novels of ideas.
But do offer to man a vision of the ideal?
Do they reveal the meaning of God to man, and clarify man's relationship with God & his neighbor?
Do they REVEAL to man the meaning, essence, power, & importance of love?
Do they deal with immortality & infinity which is the ultimate metaphysical truth of man?
Is their focus the transformation & birth of a new world of peace & harmony?
Do they express man's deepest & highest religion?
Do they care about man's desperate quest for self-realization in an ever-growing expansion of self in intellectual, creative, moral & spiritual achievement?
Have they opened man's consciousness to a whole new universe of spiritual grandeur?
Can they play any significant role in establishing a universal brotherhood of men in this world, and show men the path to spiritual purification & perfection?
No. Not according to me! Certainly not as yet.
That's why, I too wouldn't consider them to be specimen of the highest works of art.
If the reader of this post seeks to know what I mean by a truly great works of art, read the mystic poems of Aurobindo Ghosh, or "Les Miserables", or "The Brothers Karamazov", or the incomparable Book of Job.

I'm basically on my way towards a deeper understanding of things. That's the whole purpose right now: to understand. To grow with greater comprehension.
I give myself the space to change my views with the growth of my store of information, and my own knowledge.
So while these are my views - and enthusiastically so - I won't say I am absolutely, unchangeably certain of keeping them just as they are.
I've tried to look at some literary works from Tolstoy's point of view - which I am compelled to agree with, to a great extent - and this is just a first attempt to simply state my thoughts on what I've read.
I've really not analyzed any of these works carefully, and am not in a position to do so right now, so what I've written above should be considered keeping in mind this condition.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

One of my favorite paintings

Christ Carrying the Cross - by El Greco, 1580 (also known as the "Via Crucis")
One of the most beautiful paintings I've ever seen in my life.
(This image was obtained from Wikimedia Commons.)