Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient—dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.

The sense of Islam as a threatening Other – with Muslims depicted as fanatical, violent, lustful, irrational – develops during the colonial period in what I called Orientalism. The study of the Other has a lot to do with the control and dominance of Europe and the West generally in the Islamic world. And it has persisted because it’s based very, very deeply in religious roots, where Islam is seen as a kind of competitor of Christianity.

Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.

The Orient that appears in Orientalism, then, is a system of representations framed by a whole set of forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and later, Western empire…. The Orient is the stage on which the whole East is confined. On this stage will appear the figures whose role it is to represent the larger whole from which they emanate. The Orient then seems to be, not an unlimited extension beyond the familiar European world, but rather a closed field, a theatrical stage affixed to Europe.

Ideas, cultures, and histories cannot seriously be understood or studied without their force, or more precisely their configurations of power, also being studied.

Part of the main plan of imperialism… is that we will give you your history, we will write it for you, we will re-order the past…What’s more truly frightening is the defacement, the mutilation, and ultimately the eradication of history in order to create… an order that is favorable to the United States.

(From AZ Quotes.    Edward  Said was a professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual, and a founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies.)                                                                                                   



I became deeply interested in religion – in the feeling, its probable causes, and its expression – at age 24. I began to read about these issues while I was also studying psychology. A not unconnected trigger for my interest was my waving a fist in the direction of the sky, saying “To hell with you” about 3 years earlier. That was because my life-chances had been scuttled by then, for ever.

Yet, by age 30, I had decided that, logically, there had to be a Creator for all that is. By 40, after repeatedly dipping into books on religion (especially a massive tome published by the University of Essex), I decided that all the major religions are equal in their potential; provided that the detritus of divisive dogma was discarded.

This would leave only the 2 core beliefs shared by them; these being: There is a Creator ultimately responsible for the Universe; and that, as we humans are co-created, we are bonded to one another.

By age 50, I realised that only Hinduism offered a cosmology – and what a vista! By age 60, having discovered Easwaran’s ‘The Upanishads,’ I began to obtain a glimpse of mankind’s place in the Universe.

I then contrasted the cosmology of Western science with that of the Hindus. Strangely, there was a broad congruence between the concepts used by some modern speculative scientists and the language (and concepts) of Hinduism. These scientists may have read Hindu metaphysics. The reflection by the latter philosophy of the ancient Vedas also seems warranted by planetary configurations mentioned in the Vedas having reportedly been confirmed, all the way back to 9,000 years ago.

Reading Vivekhananda, Yogananda, and Aurobindo in some detail by age 70, I realised that, in the absence of Good Books of the kind available to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, able Hindu commentators such as these, as well as that great epic the Mahabharatha, had contributed to those vibrant but diverse rivers pouring into the vast lake of Hinduism. There are other lakes of religious belief, large or small, fed by other faith rivers throughout the globe.

In the way that most rivers on Earth flow into their respective seas, all of which are part of a single global ocean surrounding raised lands, there is now a great need for all the lakes of religious belief to have access (for the benefit of their adherents) to that Ocean of Consciousness from which we humans are believed to have risen; and to which we are expected to return eventually.

With a parallel thought, my advice to a few individuals claiming a superior (and exclusive) faith is this. “When you reach that single door to the Celestial Abode, you can expect to find yourself shaking hands with followers of other faiths.”

All strands of existence, whether material or ephemeral, should surely be coming together, all inter-mingled, on an on-going flow through time, just as the waters of Earth’s rivers eventually reach a single global ocean of Earth.

Seeking to explain the Universe

I have great difficulty with the Big Bang Theory. I question the following: something arising from nothing; the origin of the vast energy necessary for the claimed initial expansion; whether light maintains its intensity through infinite space; how far does the Hubble Telescope see in infinite space; what is the role of ‘dark matter’ in this claimed expansion; is it not premature to claim that the Big Bang cosmogony is proven?

In the meantime, fellow-bloggers may be interested in the following extracts from ‘On the Cosmos’ in my book ‘Musings at death’s door.’

“Following a genuinely educational curriculum set by the British for Malaya, I read about the prevailing ‘Stationary State’ theory relating to the structure of the Cosmos.  So, modern cosmologists were agreeing with an ancient Hindu perspective of durability in the heavens.  Then, however, came the ‘Big Bang’ theory.  This presumably was needed to explain what the Hubble Telescope had shown; that all sighted cosmic objects were seemingly moving away from one another.

Then came the ‘Big Crunch’ concept, seemingly in recognition that unending expansion did not make sense even in an infinity of space.  I, however, wonder if a glimpse of Hindu cosmic speculations might also have been influential.

Then came the ‘Mini-Bang’ extension, presumably to explain the lack of accumulating empty spaces. That is, if everyone is moving out of a sports stadium through gates open 360 degrees, wouldn’t the stadium become empty eventually?  The idea of a ‘Mini-Crunch’ had logically to follow.  All that was to fit the Hubble Telescope’s observations within a durable Cosmos; and a hint that invisible matter (or energy) might be filling the spaces resulting from the expansion of visible galaxies.

We were now back to an enduring Cosmos, but with significant changes in structures.  It is durability but without stability – an interesting concept.  Did not some unknown Hindus postulate that the universe renews itself periodically?  There are two strands in this belief.  The first strand says that at the end of a ‘day of Brahma,’ Earth (and other worlds) are temporarily dissolved (another view is of a temporary suspension).  A ‘day’ is equal to 4.32 billion human years.  At the end of another 4.32 billion years, representing a ‘night’ of Brahma, regeneration commences.  Dissolved, suspended, crunched?

Brahma is the Creator God.  The other strand of this belief says that at the end of Brahma’s life, equal to 311.04 trillion years, the whole Cosmos is dissolved.  After a great cosmic rest period equivalent to the duration of Brahma’s life, yet another creative cycle will commence, with another Brahma creating another Cosmos.  What a quaint vista this is.  What kind of mind conceived it?

It all sounds so simple.  When and how did these concepts originate?  Why?  What was the trigger?  These speculations promise long-term durability, but with vast changes in structures occurring in a sequenced path.  What I was taught as a boy – that the universe is without a beginning or an end – seems to be quite correct.  Continuity is assured, but with gaps in the creative and regenerative process.  For some reason, the firefly’s winks of light come to mind.”


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.’

Prof. Sam Huntington’s quotes

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.

The relations between countries in the coming decade are most likely to reflect their cultural commitments, their cultural ties and antagonism with other countries.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new [post-Cold-War] world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

The colonial experience all Muslim countries went through may be a factor in the fight against Western domination, British, French or whatever. They were until recently largely rural societies with land owning governing elites in most of them. I think they are certainly moving toward urbanization and much more pluralistic political systems. In almost every Muslim country, that is occurring. Obviously they are increasing their involvement with non-Muslim societies. One peak aspect of this, of course, is the migration of Muslims into Europe.

Countries will cooperate with each other, and are more likely to cooperate with each other when they share a common culture, as is most dramatically illustrated in the European Union. But other groupings of countries are emerging in East Asia and in South America. Basically, as I said, these politics will be oriented around, in large part, cultural similarities and cultural antagonism.

Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.

(From AZ Quotes). European colonialism was based on the assumed superiority of the ‘white race’ and its weaponry. It was bloody too.


10 Chinese proverbs of value

  1. A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

It reminds us to be aligned to our more authentic nature and sing when we have a song to sing from our heart rather than give an answer to satisfy our ego or intellect.

  1. Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.

Do not fear when things do not move as fast as you expect. As long as you are taking actions in line with your heart, speed doesn’t matter anymore because it is only a matter of perspective.

  1. When you drink the water, remember the spring.

It invites us to look at the larger picture and the source of our nourishment, which is life and all its beautiful connections. We constantly do things or consume things unconsciously without thinking about what they are or where they come from.

We don’t feel connected anymore to the general wheel of life, to the earth and to the cosmos. We constantly drink the water without remembering the spring.

  1. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.

. It shows us the value of educating and teaching people life skills instead of just giving them the means without being able to provide those means for themselves. Once again it is symbolic of our times. In smaller and simpler societies, the roles of people were different.

  1.  Dig the well before you are thirsty.

This proverb reminds us to be proactive and do things ahead of time. It tells us to be pre-emptive and think ahead before the need arises. I think it goes hand-in-hand with the proverb above.

  1. Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.

This is a beautiful proverb telling us that there is only so much a teacher can do for us and so much we ought to do by ourselves. A teacher can guide us in the right direction and open up the doors of knowledge but ultimately it is through our own will and action that we must enter through those doors and reach wisdom.

  1. If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.

A very powerful sentence. Anger is one of the strongest emotions and can stir up many negative energies. It is very easy to lose control through anger. Being patient, or rather being conscious when the emotion of anger arises will save you a multi-fold of repercussions for which you might be sorry in the future.

  1. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

This is perhaps one of the best known of the Chinese proverbs. It is simple, powerful and encouraging. It tells us that even the longest of life journeys starts with a single step or with a small action that kickstarts the whole thing. It also tells us that even that little step that might seem insignificant compared to the whole journey is the most important since it gets us into motion.

  1. Try to save a dead horse as if it is still alive.

Sounds like a strange thing to say but it essentially means to try your best no matter what and not to give up because nothing is impossible. I think it somehow has also got to do with the Chinese character—being resilient and determined as they are. It’s a good motivator.

  1. When we get to the mountain, there will be a way through.

Simply put, it means that there is a solution to everything. I think that it’s also one of the most motivational of the Chinese proverbs and that is empowering and good to keep in mind when facing challenges throughout life.

From Gilbert Ross (edited) in ‘wisdomtimes’


‘The Karma of Culture’ – Issues

Modern Australia is collecting immigrants with a shopkeeper mentality. It is as if the world is running out of people. We also collect deserving refugees, and accept reluctantly economic migrants who claim asylum, and who cannot be sent home because of an out-dated UN Convention. We have enough taxpayer money to give to uneconomic unviable entrants for years at a time so that the shopkeepers remain viable. But we are kept afloat as a nation only because of foreign capital inflow, which increases foreign ownership of Australia.

Against this economic policy, we expect new entrants to integrate into the nation. But there can be cultural barriers to this hope. The hither-to successful combination of habituation, public education, and community acceptance may now become eroded by official tolerance of efforts by new entrants to adhere to cultural values more in tune with practices in countries of origin, under the guise of an ephemeral ‘multiculturalism’ policy.

A viable immigration policy requires new entrants to adapt to the institutional structures and societal mores of the nation they chose to enter. Other adaptation may be advisable in order to access the equal opportunities available in Australia, underpinned by its traditional ‘fair-go’ ethos.

The following extracts from the Preface to ‘The Karma of Culture’ highlight the issues in immigrant adaptation.

“One’s culture provides the template for dealing with life. Its base is laid in childhood, through the values imposed by family and community. The cultural practices of one’s tribe reinforce these values and associated perceptions. The impacts of nurture (experience) upon nature (inheritance), as one passes through life, are filtered through this network of cultural values.”

“In the migrant-receiving countries of the Western world, the core issue of a conflict between a sustained attempt by immigrants to retain their cultures and the osmotic force of equal opportunity offering  an earlier and  smoother integration into the values and mores of the host people bobs up and down in the seas of social policy.”

“The need for an immigrant to reconcile inherited cultural values and associated practices with the predominant values and practices of an adopted nation-state can create stresses on both cultures. The issues which arise from this cross-cultural impact are those of : equal opportunity; whether  a unified people can arise from widely divergent tribes; whether the individual or the family unit has priority in terms of rights and responsibilities; the definition of family, and its role in society; cultural and political sovereignty in a globalising nation-state; the place of the Creator in modern life; and whether Australia’s “fair-go” ethos needs an infusion of Asian values.”

The following extracts from the final chapter have relevance for the future.

“ Yet, that Anglo-Celt ethos prevails; as do the political and other structural institutions inherited from Britain. These are accepted without challenge by that army of post war immigrants, not all of whom had much prior exposure to these valuable mechanisms. Just as the diverse tribes from the British Isles formed themselves into the modern Aussie, without significant erosion of core cultural traditions and values, so we immigrants are re-shaping the nation-state and the national identity, to produce a palimpsest. Core characteristics of the Anglo-Celt Aussie inheritance will therefore not be swamped.

This outcome is being achieved only by goodwill, by both hosts and new settlers. We settlers recognise and value that which has been made available to us.  Many of us understand the anxieties generated in the host people by the relatively sudden huge influx of a very great variety of outsiders. In turn, many of our hosts realise that, while nothing can remain the same, the changes triggered by us will prove to be beneficial in the long term.”

“At least, some of us have improved the colour of the nation! Through the positive impacts of ethnic and cultural diversity, we are also better equipped to relate to the coloured nations to our north. And we do need to relate to them with mutual respect. And to intrude less into  their socio-political structures, and their cultural institutions. Hopefully, we will become less apprehensive about their religious beliefs, as we become better educated.”

The following is an extract from the professional appraisal of the book.

“This book provides a thoughtful and fearless approach to some important and highly topical questions. What constitutes Australia’s nationhood? What is her role in Asia and in the world? How can, and should, the burgeoning economies of Asia contribute to the development of Australia, not just as foreign investors and trading partners, but in terms of cultural and spiritual values? What is the nature of democracy, and how can democratic ideals be realized in Australia and in its Asian neighbours? What is the meaning of multiculturalism in the Australian context?”


(Comment: The issues of immigrant integration in a nation at the edge of Asia are quite profound. Regrettably, Australian politicians are known more for their politics of survival – while adhering to their cultural values – than for their ability to implement sound policies for the long-term betterment of the nation. The needs of electorates are submerged by party politics or by personal idiosyncrasies. However, Asia will change Australia for the better.)