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.’)

 

 

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.’

‘Musings at Death’s Door’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM – Overview

‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’

Near what I considered to be the end of my life (as erroneously forecast by an otherwise accurate clairvoyant), I decided to take a rear-vision-mirror look at the nation into which I had been sent by the spirit world (I did once think of it as exile). Having survived the White Australia era unscathed; having had my career path blocked four times unfairly; having a creditable record of accomplishments during my contributions to civil society; having experienced a full life in a Western milieu over nearly 7 decades, while retaining the spiritual values of Asia which had formed me, I was in a position to place on record my considered conclusions about Australia and its society.

During a 30+ year career as a public official, I had spent 14 years dealing with the private sector, and 9 years with leaders of our immigrant communities, with some significant contact with ministers of government, and a slight tussle with a shire council about citizen rights; and served on many committees wherever I lived. My Anglo-Australian wife supported me in all these activities.

I had been the national president of Australian Rostrum (akin to Toastmasters), and responsible for opening membership to women; the founder of a public speaking competition for primary schools in the national capital and surrounding townships, and co-founder of a comparable nation-wide competition for secondary schools; as foundation chairman of a school board, I had produced (and had accepted) an outline of an educational program for primary school students about religion.

I had also received a Meritorious Service Award from my trade union for my decade-long contribution to career protection in the federal public service. My only failure was in my efforts over 7 years, after retirement, to achieve improved health services in my Shire. I feel that I understand my country of adoption to be able to write objectively, while being proud of its achievements.

An endorsement pre-publication

“Raja Ratnam has lived a full life and made significant contributions to Australian life over six decades.  His experience as an Asian in Australia from the time of White Australia to that of multiculturalism is unique.  This book is a final distillation of the wisdom he has gained over that time. He provides insight into a wide range of areas from society and culture to religion.  And even better, his insights reflect his unique experience.  There is wisdom here and, like all of his work, this book is rich, intelligent and provocative. A major contribution to Australian culture.” –Prof. Greg Melleuish, History & Politics, Wollongong University

A review

Recommended by the US Review of Books, as follows:

“Before I leave this shell, my body, I need to recognise what it is that I have learnt from my turbulent but interesting life.”

“This book is a commentary about how Australia has changed since the author first moved there in 1948. This work stands on its own merit, however his previous nonfiction work, The Dance of Destiny, describes the prejudices he, as an Asian from British Malaya, experienced. Those experiences are discussed in this latest book, as they relate to his observations of how society has reacted to different races, nationalities, languages, and religions.

Ratnam witnessed a change from White Australia to a multi-cultural, multi-lingual nation. During his years of public service, he achieved several high-ranking positions in areas of refugee settlement and migration, education, and humanitarian work. He was also denied positions because of his ethnicity. Even though he was well-known in his field, including serving as an advisor at a government level, he still faced racism from time to time. In the early 1970s, the country developed an official entry policy that was non-discriminating. Skin color was no longer an official issue. In fact, as more immigrants arrived from ethnically diverse backgrounds, more social workers were needed who could speak those languages and understand the cultures.

This well-written book flows easily from one point to another. It is excellent for anyone studying sociology, public service, immigration policies, and related categories. It is also a recommended read for those who are not necessarily students, but who are interested in how a nation went from being “very British” to one of diversity acceptance. To use the author’s words, “Today’s Australia is not the nation I entered in 1948.”

Presentation at Beijing Book Fair 2016

The book was presented at this fair by Dr. Irina Webster of the Australian Self-Publishing Group.

Chapter headings

Chapter  1     On Biculturalism

Chapter  2      On Subservience

Chapter  3      On Family & Society

Chapter  4      On Governance

Chapter  5      On Racism & Tribalism

Chapter  6      On Multiculturalism

Chapter  7      On Migrants, Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Chapter  8     On Religion

Chapter  9      On the Cosmos

Chapter  10      On National Identity

Chapter  11      On Empires – gone & going

Chapter  12      Conclusion

 

EXTRACTS from chapter 12

From early boyhood I have wanted to know about the Cosmos;  about nations and why they behave as they do;  about key aspects of society anywhere and everywhere;  and about what makes we humans behave the way we do.

More recently, I have pondered the following issues.  What determines the trajectories of our lives?  Does the spirit world normally impact upon humanity?  If so, why?  Is there a Creator behind human affairs as well as the Cosmos as a whole?  How can we really know what we think we know?

My most recent interest is in how people divided by their cultures, including religion, can reach out to one another.  How can we un-learn taught prejudice, and accept that inner yearning within us to accept one another?  Would a sense of belonging to the same nation (hopefully with some pride) induce a feeling of one people, in time?

Perhaps because of my increasing understanding of humanity, and possibly some maturity on my part, I find myself becoming more frivolous, while simultaneously ‘taking no shit’ from anyone.  I have had enough of ‘racism,’ tribalism and religious prejudice.  Thankfully, I have finally achieved mental as well as spiritual peace.

My musings, as recorded above, are obviously tentative.  If I have time, I would possibly revise them;  but that will not happen.  So, why record these musings?  To show that I have learnt.  To whom?  It is always possible that the Cosmos will guide some kindred spirits to take my thoughts into their ponderings about what it is all about; in which event, I would not have lived in vain.

Nevertheless, I will take with me my learning and add to it through my future lives.  That is my perceived trajectory of re-iterative existence, hopefully leading to that realisation of why it is so.

 

 

 

 

 

Is the Cosmic Creator also an interventionist God?

I was asked this week whether God is sleeping. Presumably, this query arose because of the terrible tragedies occurring in the Middle East and elsewhere. My response is – why ask the Creator (called God) to intervene in human affairs, particularly in disasters initiated by evil people. Evil arises, and exists, only in the minds of humans.

Where the souls within humans who commit evil actions are not mature enough to recognise that fellow-humans are co-created by God, and that we all thereby bonded to one another, should God be required to intervene in every (significant) evil action?

Or, should Cosmic Justice apply only in the next Earthly life of the perpetrators of evil? Would that not be a more effective lesson by being registered and recorded in the reincarnated soul? Perhaps those who have suffered grievously in their current Earthly life could be asked if they have now become adequately aware of the Law of Cause and Effect (also knowable as Cosmic Justice)?

This is to ask whether any major tragedy or significant suffering may represent a balanced set of cosmic lessons, imparted over a period of time. My experience in this life, together with some faint intimations in my psyche about my immediate past life, and a vision of me in that past life which appeared in the mind of a clairvoyant recently, support such a view.

In my book ‘The Dance of Destiny,’ my turbulent (and often painful) life is described in Part 1 as ‘The wheels fell off’; and in Part 2 as ‘Falling into holes which were not there.’ Despite being a regular temple-goer, and offering prayers each evening before dinner – until I left home – God did not intervene in my disasters. I became clever at climbing out of those holes, and also at working my way (without complaint) up and out of that deep dungeon into which I had been cast.

One needs to accept unavoidable experiences implicit in one’s passage on one’s personal river of destiny. Such acceptance would be facilitated by realising that, consistent with the Law of Cause and Effect, one’s destiny was shaped to a considerable extent by one’s own actions in preceding Earthly lives.

God may, of course, intervene in human affairs here and there. Realistically, as demonstrated by billions of us over time, we do need to cope with life’s travails with equanimity, while believing that Earthly life offers opportunities to reach out to our Creator.

How Man arrived in the Cosmos

How soul-satisfying is the beauty of the Universe at all times, and which we are also made aware of in other ways. The majesty of the mountains which tower over all; the sibilance of the sea at rest; the scintillating sensual sunsets; the joyful bombasts of birdcalls; and the soothing scenery surrounding unprepossessing man-made constructions; are only some of the sights and sounds which uplift our spirits.

How incredibly complex is this Universe and its components. The miracle of birth; the very visible and innate love between the young – animal to animal (or bird), and between human and animal (and bird); the structure and functioning of our solar system which affect our lives insidiously; the strange balance between animate and inanimate life on Earth; the mostly unconscious bond between humans of all varieties; and an unavoidable instinctive yearning by many of us for merging with what we conceive of as the Divine; and the unbelievably complex arrangements within our bodies, such as the provision of energy by our cellular structure, which represents life; these are key features of Cosmic complexity.

These, and the totality of the inter-relationships discovered in the Universe, have led me to believe – and to accept – that logically there has to be a Creator of all that is. How and why are questions beyond our comprehension.

As one who was introduced to the scientific method, I follow ‘Occam’s Razor,’ the principle which says that that the simplest adequate explanation is best. Yes, it has to be minimally adequate.

Such an explanation of the origin, structure, and operation of the Universe and its components can be thus: An arm’s-length Creator set up a simple core ‘machinery,’ imbued it with a capacity for continuous change, with an associated sense of ‘purpose,’ and allowing evolution (change reflecting improvement or betterment) to occur.

Purpose (including human free will) can explain, in part, where we are now; possibly aided in our formation by ubiquitous bacteria, and by (Sitchin’s) 223 extraterrestrial genes (not found anywhere else on Earth) during our development. Chance and radiation/bombardment from distant space, as well as solar bursts, would also have had significant impacts on our path to the present.

No Earthly mind can prove – or disprove – this attempted explanation. No one can be blamed or receive credit for what has eventuated. Adding additional complexity may reflect only egoism.

What is postulated is an autonomous process, operating post-creation. A comparison – when sperm fuses with ovum to form a zygote. Asking ‘Why?’ would not be relevant.

Reality may be non-material

I prefer the material realm of the universe we occupy to be a projection of an ethereal realm. The latter is a hitherto effectively unknown and inexplicable dimension of existence. Why? Because reality seems to me to be more ethereal than material. The latter also cannot explain the former, whereas the latter can seemingly be derived from the former.

When Heraclitus (a Greek philosopher of yore) quoted a typically unrecognised Hindu thinker of centuries before him, saying “All is fire,” he was referring to the firmament which surrounds us. All my life, I have been enchanted by the apparently infinite number of balls of fire which we see as stars.

Recently, my mind’s-eye developed this scenario. The invisible smoke from these fires could represent the ephemeral realm of the Universe; and the ashes and other disgorgements from each sun which fall upon their respective planets (such as Earth) could represent the material from which life forms eventually oozed or erupted. Does this vision make possible sense?

Then, there is the material realm of which we are part; that is, we are matter. We are part of the 4% of the totality of matter estimated to exist in the Universe to be visible.

What of invisible matter? Two-thirds is said to be dark matter; one third is apparently dark energy. Was the latter transmuted from dark matter, or vice versa? However, since we cannot see either, could they actually exist? Of course they can, in the way bees and some animals apparently use certain alternative strands of the electromagnetic spectrum to go about their business.

As well, there was my first clairvoyant who could see, and describe accurately, the spirit of my uncle who had manifested himself to him. That is, invisible cosmic matter may become visible under appropriate conditions; and invisible energy may be identifiable through its impacts.

In the event, what is the point of all the fuss we make about the minuscule amount of visible matter, including our (human) material selves? Are we not a lot more than our material bodies? Should we not be investigating non-visible matter and energy, to understand the ephemeral aspects of humanity?

Ultimate reality seems to be beyond the visible, tangible, crudity, and crassness of much of Earthly human existence.