What of institutional religion?

What place is there for the major religions (within the posited framework of an autonomous nested mesh of destinies ranging from the personal to multiple collectives)?  Divested of the detritus of dogma deliberately designed to distinguish each sect or faith from the others, and then to enable a claim of an unwarranted theological superiority, and thereby an exclusive path to heaven, two core beliefs are shared by these religions, except BuddhismFirst is a claim of a creator god.  The second is that, since humans are the products of this creation, we are bonded to one another.

What a wonderful concept.  It is a great pity that it seems to apply only within the boundaries of each religious sect.  The others are outsiders, heretics, heathens, etc. and are therefore not going to be ‘saved.’  Thus, in the name of their god, each priesthood is likely to display or even preach prejudice towards those not under its control or influence.  There will, of course, be great exceptions – priests within each religion who are truly ecumenical (accepting related sects within their religion as non-competitive), or who are freethinkers in their tolerance, even accepting other religions as comparable paths to the one God of mankind.  I have enjoyed conversing with some of these enlightened exceptions.

What of those who quite impertinently suggested that my soul would remain doomed if I did not convert to their sect?  My riposte to such soul gatherers is as follows:  ‘When you ascend to the Celestial Abode of the Heavenly Father, you will find yourself shaking hands with Caluthumpians and members of all the other religions.’  Regrettably, some ‘wannabe’ saviours seemed discomfited by such a vision;  I have watched a few dash down the road with displeasure after receiving my good news!  I wonder how the atheists react on entry to this Abode.

Is it not true that institutional religion has pitted followers of one religion against another, and sect against sect within many religions, butchering fellow humans and defiling them in every way in the name of their faith?  Under the pap propagated by their spin-doctors, it is carnivore-eat-carnivore, that is, dog-eat-dog!  This situation continues.

A true measure of the quality of a civilisation is the way the least viable of the people are treated.  This criterion, in my view, also applies to religions.  On this test, the major religions, if not all of them, fail.  The life chances, the quality of life, of those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile are generally ignored by their co-religionists in power, in government.  It is a great pity that it was the communist nations which provided some uplift to their peasants, lifting them from their squalor.  Our only hope is the secular nation, which subordinates saving the soul to filling an empty belly.

Would it not be wonderful if individual humans were able to seek succour from their god or spirits or whatever, without being caught up within an institutional religion with all its divisive binding rules, regulations and practices, as well as its priesthood;  that is, without an intermediary?  This is not to deny that there are many who derive some peace of mind through their priests.  From observation, the two main groups in Australia are the elderly and the newly converted (mainly East Asians).  This peace of mind, if associated with sectarian prejudice, may not however be the best ticket for entry to Heaven.

Yet, the real need by the majority of humans to have some hope of alleviating their suffering as they strive merely to exist, to survive, to protect their families (especially their young), cannot be denied.  However, how could they accept that their prayers, their entreaties, are in vain;  and that they need to work through their personal destinies in each life?  Do not the alleged interventions by some kind god, or the claimed miracles brought about by saints, offer (blind) hope?  Should the purveyors of this hope, the middlemen, most of whom live well and in security, therefore be tolerated?  If so, at what price?

Yet, I will make it clear that I am not denigrating the kindness of most of those I refer to as middlemen.  I continue to deal with them.  They are worthy of respect.  They have chosen to help their church-attending flocks as best they can, but within the closed framework of their dogma, and the well-trodden paths of tradition.

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

 

RELIGION and I (Part 2)

There seems to be clear evidence, comparable to the stability of patterns found within chaos, of purpose within the complexity and apparent unpredictability of life, and of a uni-directional path of species evolution, and the personal development of many individual humans.  In the event, all that a Creator had to do was to set up a mechanism capable of evolving by itself, even as it related to the sentient forms within creation, and these forms too would evolve.  An arm’s-length Creator, not an interventionist god of the kind who baffles supplicants and frustrates the priesthood, makes good sense.

Such an objective analytic approach would fit life as experienced.  There seem to be trajectories for the universe we think we know, for the observable galaxies, individual suns, and planets, and for us occupants on planet Earth.  The pattern of an individual’s existence and the associated path of any personal development reflects, in my view, what might be termed as personal destiny. This is not fate, not something unavoidable.  It is a pathway for one’s current life created by each of us for ourselves, both reactively and through free will, during past lives.  With free will, one can also choose, during each life, to obey the imperatives of one’s own self-crafted destiny or respond in some other manner, much in the way a motorist might behave in a well-policed crowded city.

There is no need for the modified Hinduism of the New Age theorists of the Western world.  New Agers like the idea of a reincarnating soul choosing (often in a dialogue with appropriate others) the life to be led.  This deterministic Western approach (I can choose to be whatever I want to be) denies the concept of karma as an automatic and autonomous mechanism.  Worse still, the millions of babies born into a life of suffering in under-developed nations can be held by the New Agers to have chosen that suffering!  Unfortunately, there are Hindu gurus whose lack of understanding of karma also allows them to ignore the suffering of fellow Hindus as something deserved!!

How do I see karma?  In the Hindu framework I have set out above, it reflects the confluence of reincarnation and the law of cause and effect. 

As we paddle as best we can on our personal rivers of life, we exercise our free will to pay our personal cosmic debts, to access any opportunities to learn whatever we need to learn for our personal development, and to prepare for the next life.  We thus effectively create, as a consequence of bumbling through life as best as possible, the cliffs through which our river of life will flow during our next sojourn on Earth, and the rocky impediments and chasms we will find on the way.  How we deal with these and the cross-currents created by other personal destinies related to us will determine our future lives.  No gods, saints, or spirits are therefore necessary as determinants.  However, they may be able to intrude, to help, if they choose to;  presumably they too have free will.

Since each of us is an integral part of a number of collectives, there will result a complex network of personal destinies.  The expected web, and possibly nested mesh, of personal destinies would presumably be reflected ultimately in tribal and possibly national destinies.  These might influence species development, although a major contributor might also be genetic mutations, which are truly accidents of nature.

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

RELIGION and I (Part 1)

As a primary school boy, I was sent to the Pilleyar (Ganesha) temple at examination times, although I topped my class by a large margin every term, except once.  I also accompanied my parents at other times.  We were ardent in our faith.  My father, having overcome a serious illness at about 33, died suddenly at 47, when I was 18.  Within 3 years I then lost the family’s savings through a spectacular academic failure.  So much for faith and fervent prayer.

My future was thereby destroyed, as clearly forewarned after my father’s demise by a perambulating yogi, but unheeded by us.  I doubt that my mother and I were competent to absorb such a warning.  In any event, surely what had to happen had to work itself out.  Late in life I realised that what the yogi had done was to turn my mother’s vision towards Australia, which was in a direction not normally taken by students from British Malaya seeking an overseas qualification.  My folly (or was it my destiny?) led to my mother and my sisters being impoverished.  So much for temple rituals and the priesthood.  I gave away God, Hinduism and all religio-cultural rituals.

Then learning and logic took over!  Studying the belief systems of the simpler societies at my university, and dipping into some anthropology, sociology, psychology, and the major religions, I realised that there has been, and is, an innate need in many, if not most, of us to understand what we humans are, and our place in the Cosmos.

I realised further that:  the complexity and beauty, as well as the observable but inadequately explicable aspects of the experienced world;  the exceedingly complex patterns of inter-linked cause and effect, action and reaction, and the inter-dependencies of the physical, chemical and electromagnetic forces affecting us;  the uniformity, the invariability, the predictive capacity of the laws of nature;  the ecological balance between mobile and fixed forms of life;  the intuitive yearning by sensitive souls for communion with sublime or higher forces not clearly understood;  and the inferred influence of the spirit world, all of which affect our lives, could not have occurred purely by chance.  Instead, they might, I felt, reflect the mind and soul of a Creator.  How else could all that have occurred?  By chance?  Is that another name for an inexplicable cause, akin to the gods of simpler people?

I did conclude, logically, that there had to be a Creator of all that exists.  I then noted, with great interest, that an academic and confirmed atheist had reached the same conclusion after a lifetime of non-belief in a Creator, for exactly the same reasons.  There has to be a Creator, he now accepts, thereby upsetting most severely his former fellow-believers in that causal mechanism named Chance.  Like me, he doesn’t claim to know; only that a creator god makes (unverifiable) sense.

 

(This is an extract from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

 

 

VIKRAM SETH Quotes

Every object strives for its proper place. A book seeks to be near its truest admirer. Just as this helpless moth seeks to be near the candle that infatuates him.

Is it not love that knows how to make smooth things rough and rough things smooth?

I don’t think anyone should be banned. If you don’t like a book, set it aside.

I’m not sure anyone can understand a whole life, even their own.

Think of many things. Never place your happiness in one person’s power. Be just to yourself.

All you who sleep tonight Far from the ones you love, No hand to left or right, An emptiness above– Know that you aren’t alone. The whole world shares your tears, Some for two nights or one, And some for all your years.

Behind every door on every ordinary street, in every hut in every ordinary village in this middling planet of a trivial star, such riches are to be found. The strange journeys we undertake on our earthly pilgrimage, the joy and suffering we taste or confer, the chance events that leave us together or apart, what a complex trace they leave: so personal as to be almost incommunicable, so fugitive as to be almost irrecoverable.

 

(From AZ Quotes.  Vikram Seth CBE is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards … Awards: Padma Shri, Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada.)

 

 

Recent cosmic catastrophes

An Indian scholar apparently claims that the Vedic Age commenced in India about 9000 years ago; and that the Saraswati-Indus Valley civilisation collapsed in the period 2000 to 1500 BC through natural causes, with consequential chaos and migration. He also asserts that there is no mention of Aryans in the Indian records. At the time of its collapse, it seems (according to a Western scholar) that the Indus Valley civilisation “was already one thousand years old, thriving, and advanced in technology and trade”.

Whilst adherents of ancient civilisations tend to have a competitive perspective about the longevity of their cultural heritage, the contribution by the Indus Valley culture to the civilisation in India may have been substantial. According to another scholar, traces of the mysticism which lies at the core of Indian civilisation were evident in “an iconography of yogic practice” in the Indus Valley culture. Whilst it would take a little time for modern Indian scholars to sort out their pre-history, it is a fact that an Indus Valley civilisation existed, and then disappeared. Could the alleged references in the Mahabharatha  to aerial warfare and devastation of a nuclear type have come from that Indus Valley civilisation? Where else could they have come from? Could there have been an even earlier civilisation in that region?

What did happen to the Indus Valley civilisation? A Jewish scholar, who seems to have set out to verify the early writings of his people, claimed (in mid-twentieth century) that a major catastrophe, triggered by an extra-terrestrial agent, brought to a sudden end “the entire ancient East”, at the same time (about 1500 BC) that the Indus Valley civilisation disappeared. The scholar (I. Velikovsky) claimed that the cause of the destruction of the Indus Valley civilisation is not known. Yet, he says that “… the facts brought forth by (archaeologist) R.E. Mortimer Wheeler strongly suggest to various scholars” (including one H.K. Trevaskis) that it was a natural, and not a man-made, catastrophe.

Is this credible? Sir Arthur Evans, an expert on ancient Crete, is quoted by Velikovsky as reporting that a great catastrophe destroyed the culture of Middle Minoan Two; and that this was “… synchronical with the end of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt and the Exodus” (of the Jewish people from Egypt). This would have been about 1500 BC. It is now accepted that the volcanic eruption of Thera (Santorini), four times more powerful than Krakatoa’s explosion in the nineteenth century, occurred about 1500 BC; and that the Cretan civilisation was destroyed by it.

Velikovsky also quotes Claude F.A. Schaeffer as concluding that, at the end of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, “an enormous cataclysm took place that ruined Egypt, and devastated by earthquake and holocaust, every populated place in Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, the Caucasus and Persia”. Schaeffer’s findings were based upon excavations all over the ancient East, “where populations were decimated or annihilated, the earth shook, the sea irrupted, and the climate changed”.

Schaeffer is claimed to have discerned six separate major upheavals by nature. All of these catastrophes “simultaneously overwhelmed” the entire known East, including Egypt, on each occasion. Some of these catastrophes “closed great ages in the history of ancient civilisations”. This is a very significant claim. The major ancient catastrophe studied by Schaeffer took place about 2400 BC, bringing destruction from Troy (in Asia Minor — now Turkey) to the Nile. (Troy had been rebuilt and destroyed many times).

However, Velikovsky goes further and says that “there were global catastrophes in prehuman times, in prehistoric times, and in historical times”, implying (on the basis of the last two that he had examined) that they were all extra-terrestrial in origin.

(Could not the warriors of the West have waited for the next cosmic catastrophe to achieve boundary and regime changes in the Middle East?

The above paragraphs are extracts from “Which way to the Cosmos?” from my book “Hidden Footprints of Unity.”)

 

Extracts from the Upanishads (from Easwaran)

It is only when the concept of a transcendent and immanent Creator is conjoined with the means of realisation of the Self, through meditation, and the related emphasis on states of consciousness, that one begins to understand why a Western philosopher like Schopenhauer was drawn to the Upanishads.

In these, he saw, not Hinduism or India but “… a habit of looking beneath the surface of life to its underlying causes …”. He also drew attention “… to the courage to discover in ourselves a desperately needed higher image of the human being”. … …

The power and poetry of the Upanishads can be seen from these extracts (from Easwaran):

As the same fire assumes different shapes

When it consumes objects differing in shape,

So does the one Self take the shape

Of every creature in whom he is present.

(Katha 2 .2 .9)

 

When all desires that surge in the heart

Are renounced, the mortal become immortal.

When all the knots that strangle the heart

Are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal.

This sums up the teachings of the Scriptures.

(Katha 2 .3.14-15)

 

As a caterpillar, having come to the end of one blade

of grass, draws itself together and reaches out for the

next, so the Self, having come to the end of one life and

shed all ignorance, gathers its faculties and reaches

out from the old body to a new.

(Brihad 4 .4.3)

 

The world is the wheel of God, turning round

And round with all living creatures upon its rim.

The world is the river of God,

Flowing from him and flowing back to him.

 

On this ever-revolving wheel of being

The individual self goes round and round

Through life after life, believing itself

To be a separate creature, until

It sees its destiny with the Lord of Love

And attains immortality in the indivisible whole.

(Shveta 1 .4-6)

 

Meher Baba summarised it all beautifully and succinctly: “The finding of God is the coming to one’s own self”. An important corollary is provided by Kahlil Gibran when he said: “For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?” Of relevance too is the view of Erasmus, the great philosopher of the European Renaissance: “The sum of religion is peace, which can only be when definitions are as few as possible, and opinion is left free on many subjects”.

 

The above are extracts from ‘On the Cosmos’ from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’

Welcoming Death

I am looking forward, with great anticipation, to meeting Death; hopefully, soon. I have achieved mental and spiritual peace after a long and turbulent life – during which I have learned a great deal (so I believe) about the human condition and human society; and have achieved a smidgen of understanding about the place of mankind in the Universe.

I am satisfied that the material realm within which we live, frolic and suffer (but obviously not simultaneously) is only the crust of that environment which is relevant for human existence – much like the mantle covering Earth below which lies its engine room.

My substantial exposure to the spiritual (and thereby ephemeral) domain has resulted in my awareness of 3 realities – the physical, the mental, and the ethereal. I now know that the mental can exist beyond the material after death, having been initially derived substantially from the brain (with a probable input from soul memory). I also know that the spirit realm co-exists with our material realm, but is probably located in another (non-cosmic) domain.

I find it interesting that the speculative cosmologists of science (I instance David Bohm) and the ancient metaphysical Hindus who conceived their complex cosmology seem to be on the same page in their efforts to explain reality at multiple levels. Naturally, one needs to go beyond that most reliable scientific method to deal with the ephemeral.

I do wonder whether the material is only a projection of the ephemeral; or that the ephemeral is an abstraction from the material. I prefer the former perspective, with seeming support from Plato and Hindu cosmology.

Anyway, I do need to move to what I refer as the After-life, in order to continue my learning (as promised by a clairvoyant with verifiable communication with the spirit realm). All my life, I have had this urge to know – and to understand. With understanding there may be opportunities to acquire some wisdom.

Repeated sojourns in the After-life should ultimately result in a clear understanding of what all inter-linked cosmic existence is about.