Has religion been used in a civilisational war?

When the buccaneers of the British East India Company gradually increased their control over the Indian sub-continent, from a small trading post to most of the principalities, they chose to adopt the mode of governance and lifestyles of the rulers they deposed. Many reportedly took Indian wives, and sent their tinted children to appropriate schools in Britain. (There, these very wealthy offspring were seemingly described as ‘having a touch of tar.’) That is, the buccaneers seemed to have adapted to India (with substantial benefit) rather than the reverse.

Then the British Government decided to replace the East India Company. Were certain politicians and their officials a little jealous, or were they horrified at their people going ‘native’? Probably the latter, as a claimed cultural superiority usually attaches itself to the militarily superior – a very human attribute.

The claimed innate (ie. genetic) superiority of the ‘white race’ was then extended to an organised despoliation of the cultures of India, especially its millennia-old religion. The denigration and destruction of the cultures of any people who had been invaded successfully or over-run enhances the control sought by the ambitious new arrival. European Christian colonisers did this rather well.

While I prefer to read history in 300-year rolling cycles (a useful statistical approach) – and this period corresponds to the 300-year circuit of planet Saturn – an examination of the intent and effects of European colonialism should desirably cover the totality of the 5 centuries that this human virus had effect.

Post-WW2 European neo-colonialism – including changing ruling regimes and some national or tribal borders – is a less-virulent infestation; and it too will pass when global governance becomes tripartite – and fairly soon. The newest empire, the hegemonic one, based on exceptionalism (on the one hand) and globalisation (on the other), will eventually fade away; planetary movements should have a role to play in this withdrawal. In any event, no empire has lasted more than 300 years (plus or minus a standard deviation of, say, 50). Look at the Roman Empire.

When the British invaded, for settlement, North America, New Zealand and Australia, they destroyed the First Nation Peoples in these territories. In Australia, according to the renowned Dr. Coombs, they demolished a long-established civilisation as well. Leaving aside for the moment the comparable depredations in other parts of the globe by other European buccaneers, in India, the British set out to damage to the longest-lived civilisation of mankind.

These were the prongs of this attack:
• Missionaries began to gather heathen souls to the bosom of Christ by rubbishing their traditional beliefs and practices
• The peoples of the sub-continent were also told that they prayed to a large number of ‘gods’, when the reality is that the so-called gods are deities who are representations of a single universal creator God – who is unknowable, but is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.
• They were also told that a superior ‘white’ species, the (mythical) Aryans had over-run and civilised the local ‘black’ peoples previously living there. This is false history!
• From about the 18th Century, European scholars claimed that, not only was the white ‘race’ superior to all other ‘races,’ but that no coloured peoples could possibly have contributed to the origins of human civilisation. These inferior races included the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and Indians (while the Christian Bible draws heavily on the Sumerians). Dear, oh dear!
• Some European scholars also decided that Hinduism could not go back beyond 1300 BC. This is the earliest possible origin of the Europeans’ religio-cultural ancestors, the peoples of  Samaria and Judea. No faith could apparently be older than that of the Jewish people. Furthermore, all learning was claimed to have originated with the Europeans’ intellectual ancestors, the ‘Greeks’ (viz. Athenians). Yet Athens was said to been established by the Egyptians, with many Athenians studying in Egypt. Pythagoras apparently studied there for 8 years.
• The Indians were also told that Hinduism had been derived from Christianity!

This religious war on India’s civilisation was not successful, despite a reportedly brutal rule by the Kaiser of India, leaving the Indians to sort out their caste and related societal problems after independence.

Contrary to Prof. Huntington’s theory that a war of civilisations is probable in the future, such a war began with the rise of European colonialism; and it continues virulently in the Middle East. What a waste of human lives and spiritual potential.


The British English

“I know of no method by which an aristocratic nation like England can become a democracy” Hilaire Belloc, Anglo-French writer, 1921

The British Empire must behave like a gentleman” David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister, 1921

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.” Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1930

(Comment: The scion of a former colonial administrator was not pleased when I told him that we colonial subjects did not like being governed by foreigners; and that we are thereby not grateful for being taught how to govern ourselves. His response? ‘You are prejudiced.’ This was only a few years ago.)

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.’)

A useful guide to the Cosmos

I recommend the Hindus’ Upanishads as a useful guide to the Cosmos … … The Upanishads proclaim (according to Easwaran) that “There is a Reality underlying life”.  “… this Reality is the essence of every created thing, and the same Reality is our real Self, so that each of us is one with the power that created and sustains the universe”. That is, the Creator is both transcendent and immanent.

Easwaran goes on to say that this Reality or oneness  “ … can be realised directly, without the mediation of priests or rituals or any of the structures of organised religion, not after death but in this life, and that this is the purpose for which each of us has been born and the goal towards which evolution moves”. Complex, yet simple. Is it not inspiring and therefore attractive to those who love freedom? I believe it is.

And the yoga schools in Australia are indeed introducing this perspective to seekers of a better path to spiritual fulfilment. The goal of evolution may thus be said to be the realisation of One-ness. This is also the purpose of repeated human re-birth, where life between lives is a mere staging house.

The path to spiritual fulfilment is lit thus: since “… there is in each of us an inalienable Self that is divine”, mankind is “… in a compassionate universe, where nothing is other than ourselves …”.  Mankind is thus urged  “ … to treat the universe with reverence”.

Thus, man’s innermost essence, the Self (or Atman), is not different from God, the ultimate Reality. This Reality (or Brahman) is “ … the irreducible ground of existence, the essence of everything — of the earth and sun and all creatures, of gods and human beings, of every power of life”. This equivalence of the ground of one’s being (the Self) and the essence of every thing (Reality) is encapsulated in the phrase “Thou art That”.

Thus, metaphysics and morals merge in that simple summary. … … A close friend of mine, of European origin, and a staunch churchgoing Catholic, found the teaching of the Upanishads most agreeable!

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

The myth of ‘racial’ discrimination (Part 2)

Instead of the confusing use of the semantically misleading terms race and racial, as argued in my previous post, statements of prejudice, as well as acts of discrimination, can sensibly refer to skin colour – a major trigger of hate (or stupidity). There could, however, also be an inherited cultural sensitivity associated with ignorance.

I do admit to being sensitive about colour in one instance. I will not eat beetroot because I do not like its purple colour.

Returning to reality, being a foreigner (or outsider) can be accepted as another trigger for prejudice and discrimination. This would include entering not only ‘white space’ but also British white space (although the latter is now seemingly superseded).

Another trigger is tribal superiority and prejudice. This would cover religion (a major source of claimed superiority); cultural values and practices (eg. the taboo in Australia against killing a goat in one’s backyard for a festival); and social mores (eg. spitting in public) – quite a catchall! Using ethnicity as a marker for abuse can have no future when there is so much cross-ethnic marriage (including partnership and cohabitation).

Countering prejudice and discrimination through the law is available only to the wealthy; or to those with access to pro bono lawyers. Education? The ignorant will probably ignore any media campaign (if they are aware of it); while the opportunists will do what it takes to achieve their ends. Morality (like Grace) needs to be bestowed; although it may of course be learned.

In the sphere of international relations, where there is no place for morality, there is a strange assertion about racial discrimination. Anyone criticising Israel for one of its policies (while clearly not anti-Israel) can be accused of being ‘anti-Semitic’. Yet Western Asia has speakers of a range of Semitic languages who subscribe to a variety of religions; they are all equally Semitic!

There is clearly a need to get rid of the concept of ‘race.’  Which government will dare take necessary action?  A recent attempt to go part of the way foundered on a confusion of semantics, politics, human rights, free (but responsible) speech, egoism and exceptionalism. There were hidden ‘sacred cows’ behind some of the waffle.

Is modern Australia lacking the necessary intellectual depth to deal with human rights and free public expression? When voluntary euthanasia is described during a recent debate as ‘killing’ (reflecting only a particular theology), I wonder whether there is a place for not only compassion but also for honesty in public policy.



“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults” (Part 5)

The path to peace

Taking House aside, Whicky explained that he was a member (even as a cat) of a Western family that had adopted Buddhism, the fastest growing faith in Australia. Together with Virginia, whose intuitive understanding of all things material and spiritual and whose grasp of the language of mice and cats implicitly indicated that she is the reincarnation of an old soul, he knew that Buddhist beliefs, like those of yoga, did not conflict with the teachings and rituals of the other major religions.

Whereas doctrinal differences have separated one religion from another – and such differences represent merely the egoistic pretensions of the guardians of the institutionalized faiths – Buddhism, by emphasizing the moral obligation of sentient beings, one to the other, encompassed the ethical teachings of Christ and all the other known religious and spiritual teachers. When one bypasses the gongs, drums, bells, chants, and the other rituals which had grown as encrustations to the Buddha’s original guidance – like the rituals purveyed by the priests of all the faiths – there is only one simple exhortation for one and all. And that is to offer love, protection, care, and compassion to others whose existence is also due to the universal Creator.

House was flabbergasted. Here was his old mate displaying so much wisdom, which also explained his tolerance of the tribe of mice sharing his home. Like Virginia, he too might be an old soul. Together, they would surely light the way for those not privileged to be so enlightened.

Whicky went on to explain his plan, which had been agreed to by Virginia. Both would lead House and his tribe in meditation – daily. Out in the open with the sun (another product of the Creator) bestowing its blessing upon them all, Virginia and Whicky would lead the Buddhist chant, “Om Mani Padme Hum.” This was only a variation of the “Om Nama Shivaya” chanted by the adepts of yoga or the simpler “Om.” Uttered through the back of the throat and drawn out over a few seconds, Om would reflect the primeval hum which preceded the Big Bang of the modern physicists’ cosmology.

With the support of the Committee of Wise Mice, House put Whicky’s plan to the tribe. Intrigued, a little confused, anxious, but desperate, the tribe agreed. The next day, out in the open, within sight of Max, the meditation program started. Max was intrigued. Closer and closer he came to the mice each day – merely to see what was happening. The closer he came, the more he was influenced by the aural aura of the chant. The more the chant engulfed him, the more he realized the peace which enveloped the mice. The more effective this peace on the mice, the more Max became absorbed spiritually. A warm, caressing, mist-like atmosphere bonded them all in a cocoon of mutual acceptance and tolerance.

Can mice and cats become imbued with spiritual peace or was Whicky’s plan an aberration? On the contrary, both mice and Max eventually became submerged into that ocean of consciousness from which the physical Cosmos arose. Thus was Max conditioned to change his ways; that is, not to eat mice. Thus did peace reign over the mice, the cats, and little Virginia. So says Virginia, the old soul.


Here ends the parable of mice and morality. Virginia’s sojourn into another improbable world awaits another day.


Separate legal rights for minority populations? (1)

A number of Moslem mullahs want sharia law (a law of Islam) to be introduced in Australia, a secular Western nation in which religion and law are kept separate.  The bulk of Moslems in the country are relatively recent arrivals.  Since Islam has no separation between religion and law, are these mullahs seeking a separate legal and cultural existence for members of their religion in a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural, cosmopolitan nation?

Way back in history, it would have been normal for a tribe, which is a collection of extended families bound by blood, to find itself living in proximity to another tribe with different cultural traditions.  They may even co-exist, especially if they were nomadic.  Indeed, it is also likely that some nomadic tribes camped on the outskirts of agrarian settlements.  The normal pattern of human conduct – contest or co-operation or tolerant co-existence – would no doubt have then applied.

However, with the creation of modern nation-states with implicit tribal boundaries, the entry of ‘outsiders’ or foreigners would be subject to control by the rulers of such states.  Border control now applies universally.  Normally, immigrants with divergent cultural values and traditions would remain on the fringe of the host society, as ‘them, not us’!  As long as religion-derived cultural differences are upheld by both host and immigrant communities, co-existence (hopefully peaceful) is all that can be excepted.

In a migrant-collecting nation such as Australia, which offers equal opportunity to all immigrants irrespective of origins, cultural traditions, or religious affiliations, separate and parallel ethno-religious legal structures need to be avoided.  Official policy is integration (as in a fruit salad), not total assimilation or absorption (as in a blended soup).  Immigrants (first generation Australians) may, in order to access the prevailing equal opportunity (known as the ‘fair-go’ ethos), give up certain practices (such as wife-beating or spitting) or even amend some of their cultural prejudices.

The second-generation (the local-born) would unconsciously be bonding closely with the host people.  The latter would themselves have evolved over time through the integration of earlier immigrants.  The third generation would, without any divisive interventions by priests or politicians, now become part of the host people.

This is the first part of one of my articles in www.ezinearticles.com.  My core question is as follows.

Has the war of civilisations commenced?  Prof. Huntington of the USA prophesised that, in the foreseeable future, the great civilisations of mankind are likely to engage in war against one another.  It does not need much imagination to realise that cultural wars will not need armaments of the traditional kind.  The wars, ideologically-driven, will be tactical.  The first of such wars will probably be between the West and Islam, probably because of the way Western colonisers treated the Moslem peoples over the last two or three centuries.

Read Part Two.