An octogenarian’s thoughts about religion (Part 1)

“When I fell out of the boat taking me to a career and lost my family, my self-respect, and faith in my abilities, I gave away my god (and everybody else’s). Struggling in rough and strange waters, I had time to think.

The first non-textbook I read when I settled down to academic study, strangely enough, was about Abraham (a nostalgic look at a past-life period?). Reading laterally, I then covered the belief systems of some early societies. I read about the nature of religious belief, and about the major religions. I came across a simple and very useful framework for examining religions, which I used some years later when I was on a school board.

When I came to enjoy the bliss of my own family, I recovered my faith in a Creator – logic (yes, logic) took me to this position. Reflecting (perhaps) the experiences of my formative years (and what I was taught) and drawing upon my reading, I realised that all faiths are beneficial and equal; one would have to be brainwashed or an egomaniac to claim that one faith was somehow superior to the others.

While I continue to hold this view, I prefer the Hindu philosophy because it is more comprehensive in its explanatory scope and yet, at its core, quite simple. It took me many years to reach this position.

All religions offer a devotional component. We all pray, in different ways, but for the same reasons. Some of us are a little bit more selfish at times than others. The forms of prayer vary, but their intent is the same. Is one form better, more effective, or better liked than God? If you do not like the way I pray, you probably do not like the way I look.”

(The above is an extract from my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out’ Chapter 16)

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POETRY FOR THE SOUL (PART 2)

Tieme Ranipiri’s uplifting spiritual poetry ‘My Law’ (refer my post of 2 May 2018) uplifts the soul, irrespective of one’s faith. My thanks to Joseph Potts and George Armstrong for their comments. The author is obviously a sensitive and spiritual person.

This poetry also resonates with my Hinduistic mind. As a metaphysical Hindu, I am aware that Hinduism is like the River Indus. Powerful tributaries of thought and insight flow into a massive river of faith. This latter river permits fresh input, as well as deviations, causing no concern to those spiritually uplifted by going with the flow.

There is no authoritative Good Book (as with the 3 ‘desert’ religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). There are no authoritarian institutions associated with my non-ritualistic faith. My path to God does not deny the value of any other path. Of course, the ethical codes of the known major religions cannot diverge one from the other – not when they all share the same Creator, and with whom they seek to commune.

The massive river of Hindu faith surely contributes to the Ocean Of Consciousness, from which we are said to have arisen; just as the River Indus contributes to the single ocean of Earth. As the latter ocean sustains life on Earth, so this former Ocean of Consciousness sustains human souls during their purification process through many Earthly lives. So mought it be!

An Asian-Australian reviews post-war Australia

In this whitish outpost of the West, set in coloured waters, and surrounded by worrisome foreign faiths, myth meets reality in challenging ways. Myth – Australia is a Middle Power. Reality – Australia is a satrapy of the USA. It rushes behind its hoped-for protector into wars which have no bearing on its existence.

An octogenarian Asian-Australian author (Raja Arasa Ratnam) would like to see his adopted nation (of which he is strangely proud) become the next state of the USA. Why? Australia would become less welfare-oriented and more enterprise-driven; it would enjoy the military protection it seeks (while not having to pay for its armoury); it can strut the world stage without being uncertain about the way it might be viewed by its major export customers; and less subservient to foreign investors (the nation will not survive without an on-going inflow of foreign capital); and it will become a republic which elects its presidents directly (a majority preference).

Myth – Australia is multicultural, with more languages and ethnicities within its borders than any other nation; and it upholds human rights. Reality – the ‘ethnics’ being broadly spread throughout its electorates, the nation is well-controlled by Anglo-Celts. Its social policies are dominated by the values of the Vatican. Voluntary euthanasia is anathema; a legislated charter of human rights is opposed by those ‘of the faith’; and race discrimination legislation offers (sort of) protection against being offended, even by spoken words!

‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’ (published 2012) presents a rear-vision mirror assessment of Australia after the author’s highly interactive and contributory life of more than 6 decades in his adopted nation. It was only after a professor of history and politics had written (in summary) “There is wisdom here” that the author decided to publish this book. It was then recommended by the US Review of Books.

The book covers a range of issues: religion; the Cosmos; professional ethnics and multiculturalism; migrants, refugees and unlawful arrivals, viz. asylum seekers; racism and tribalism; national identity; governance; family and society; empires – gone and going; subservience (of the political class vs. the stand-tall workers); and biculturalism. It is hard-hitting but fair. The analysis is deep, the commentary incisive.

The author is a communitarian small-l liberal (thereby a political orphan). He has an extensive record of contribution to civil society: national president of Australian Rostrum (akin to Toastmasters); foundation chairman of a school board (when he wrote an accepted outline of a program for teaching primary school children about religion – no indoctrination); founder of a public speaking competition for primary school children in the national capital and surrounding townships; chairman of a union committee which established merit protection procedures in the federal public service (receiving a Meritorious Service Award); co-founder of a national public speaking competition for secondary school students; and an appointed member of the health advisory committee in his shire. There were sundry other contributions. His activities led to him being a luncheon guest of the Governor-General; and as co-guest of honour with a State Governor in two cities.

The author’s 2 memoirs ‘Destiny Will Out’ and ‘The Dance of Destiny’ show that the spirit world ‘hijacked’ him to Australia, and kept him there. His experiences include the wheels of his life-chances cart falling off from time to time; and him falling into holes which were not there! The US Review of Books recommended ‘The Dance of Destiny.’

It was after a significant psychic experience – when the spirit of his favourite uncle materialised to offer him spiritual guidance – that the author began to write. This was in response to his uncle’s advice that he could “contribute to building a bridge from where you came to where you are.” ‘Destiny Will Out’ reflected both his own settlement experiences and his work – over 9 years – (at the level of Director) on policies relating to migrant integration.

‘Destiny Will Out’ was so well received by senior academics and a wide range of readers that he wrote ‘The Karma of Culture’ (2003) and ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ (2004). Both were recommended by the US Review of Books. The supportive pre-publication endorsements by senior academics and other appropriate notable persons have since been confirmed. Both books cover issues relating to successful migrant integration.

‘The Dance of Destiny’ describes (in Part 1) life under British colonialism, the Japanese military occupation of Malaya, and an interesting but short stay in Singapore by the author and his Anglo-Australian wife. Part 2 of this book covers the author’s travails during the White Australia era. The book ends with a strong spiritual overlay.

‘Pithy Perspectives: a smorgasbord of short, short stories’ (2011) reflects the author’s whimsical approach to life. It was reviewed favourably by the US Review of Books and, most strongly, by the New South Wales state president of the Federation of Australian Writers.

Raja Arasa Ratnam’s books are available as ebooks from amazon.com and its international outlets at about $US 2.99 each. They are now receiving customer reviews to complement the earlier endorsements and reviews.

For what it is worth, the author has been described as “an intellectual who cannot be categorised” and his writings noted as representing “a sliver of Australia’s post-war history.” (Refer Prof. Greg Melleuish of Wollongong University, Australia). Although the author arrived in Australia in 1948, when the White Australia policy had sharp teeth, he has no recriminations. Australia is on its way to joining the Family of Man, he says.

An Aboriginal writer on Aboriginal culture

The plight of Australia’s Aborigines is so sad that I was pleased to hear about Bruce Pascoe’s book ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’ A retired school teacher drew my attention to this valuable book. Have our media paid any attention to its findings?

A book about pre-invasion Aboriginal culture, written by an Aborigine, is far more credible than writing by even a sympathetic non-Aboriginal writer. Pascoe’s sources are journals and diaries of (white) pastoralists, explorers, and the like. His sources are plentiful. When British beneficiaries of invasion, killing, and despoliation of native culture say honestly what they saw and experienced, one would expect Pascoe’s narrative to be accepted by one and all.

Not so! A retired Anglo-Aussie school teacher told me that she did not find the book credible. I repeat a belief I uttered way back in the racist 1940s and 1950s: that the oldest generation of (British) Aussies had to join their Maker before the lives of Asian students in Australia would be easier. That did happen.

Those supremacist white Australians who will not even accept that their indigenes are First Nation People, or who are unwilling to allow the Aborigines to have a say on policies to ‘bridge the gap’ in life expectancy, health, education, and a jail-free life have to leave us – in my view, as soon as possible.

Pascoe’s report also suggests that the behaviour of settlers generally, and some explorers, was decidedly despicable and un-Christian. Pascoe’s book also confirms what the redoubtable Dr. Coombs had earlier written about the Australian Aborigines. Their lives had all the hallmarks of a settled people, an organised polity, and a civilisation; and they had spiritual values of a high order, as well as a view of the Cosmic order.

Would not any intelligent person expect that a people who had survived this harsh land for 35,000 to 60,000 years know how to relate to Nature and to heavenly bodies? I doubt that modern man does. He wants control, not balance.

British settlement turned a settled people with agriculture, aquaculture, solid buildings, and a co-operative way of life into nomads. Being converted to Christianity did not protect the indigene from exploitation for more than two centuries. Now, they are expected to be ‘like us.’ Some already are; what about the rest?

Multiculturalism policy permits, even encourages, ethnic communities in Australia to identify themselves as identifiably separate; but not our indigenes. Why so?

Hindu influence on Greek philosophy

This influence is accepted as a probability in the book ‘Hindu Influence on Greek Philosophy’ by Timothy Lomperis, academic, “of Greek heritage and years in India.” I offer the following thoughts. Extracts are shown with quotation marks.

• The author displays a tendency to see ‘revolt’ by Buddha and Mahavira against Hinduism; and refers to ‘invasion’ and ‘occupation’ by non-existent ‘white’ Aryans; and ‘dictatorship’ by Brahmin priests. Was the author influenced by the competition between the 3 ‘desert’ religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; theological control within sectarian Christianity; and Eurocentric historiography?

• Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, described by Lomperis as free India’s first Minister of Education and a philosopher, wrote “In Greece, elements of religion acquired the characteristics of philosophy; in India, philosophy itself was turned into a religion.”

• Indian author A.R. Wadia wrote: “Like the Greeks generally, Plato was intent on making the best of his life.” “The greatest aim of Plato was to bring into being an ideal state.” “The Upanishadic seers were not interested in developing an ideal society or state.”

• Plato “never committed his deepest thoughts in writing.”

• “The task of distilling Hindu thought to anything like a united body of teaching is even more difficult.” Comparing the diverse philosophies spread loosely throughout a huge subcontinent in Asia over a long period of time, with the incompletely-articulated philosophies of a small peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean within a short historical period may be questionable.

• Plato and the Hindus share a concept of the soul and its reincarnation. However, many cultures held comparable views until the leaders of Christianity decided against it, in favour of priestly control of behaviour.

• The author admits to a significant difference between Hinduism and Plato. “Mainstream Hinduism” views the empirical world as “an inconsequential illusion.” Plato “saw truth located in the world of ideas.”

Being unable to unify Athenian philosophers in the sixth to fourth centuries BC into a Greek philosophy, Lomperis seems yet able to find a unified main channel within the highly diffuse philosophies in the wide-spread tribo-lingual cultures of India over thousands of years!

• “In the case of philosophy,” the direction of influence “seems quite clearly to be from India to Greece.” The flow of fables was also from the East to Europe (as previously proven).

How else could it be when Indian philosophies and cultures were not known to the Greeks? The then prevailing view of Asia was of ’barbarians’ and “Ethiopians.” As well, did not Aristotle express racist views?

Throughout the globe, in the history of mankind, a large number of cultures would have produced thinkers seeking the Cosmos and the place of Man in it. Without physical contact between cultures, comparable perceptions could surely have arisen over time.

Without cultural competition seeking antecedence (as in theological contests), mankind will create diverse paths to understanding the meaning of existence.

 

Authority and religion are incompatible

I grew up in a non-authoritarian religious environment. As ritualistic Hindus, my family attended our Pilleyar (Ganesh) temple frequently; and we prayed each evening before dinner. Our priests were facilitative, not authoritative. As a Seeker, but a loner, I did not seek a guru to whom I would be expected to give total loyalty, when I sought to proceed from the ritualistic path to the metaphysical path. I sought guidance without control.

When I arrived in Australia, I found substantial priestly control in one Christian sect. This control seemed to be based upon bestowed authority. I wondered why authority and control were considered necessary in any religion. Was not the responsibility of any priesthood to assist their believers to reach out to God without any duress? I noticed that authority was also used to keep separate parishioners away from fellow-Christians in other sects. Other religions were clearly taboo. Fortunately for society and mankind, this control is waning – through withdrawal.

As older religion, an Asian one, based on feudalism and authority, is being destroyed for political purposes. Yet its humanistic philosophy has enriched and guided many people in the West. The behaviour of some traditional followers, and the reported utterances of a couple of their regional leaders, however, contradict the core beliefs of that religion. Of course, feudalistic authoritarianism and religious ideology have been shown throughout the history of mankind to be incompatible.

Unacceptable recent behaviour of priests in the West is now well-documented. Institutionally-asserted authority and its delegation to priests will, I fear, diminish the role of religions. Mankind does need religious faith.

Yet, it may be better for each one of us, no matter how great our need for spiritual succour, to seek communion with our Creator at a personal level. I certainly do not need an intermediary, even a non-authoritarian one.

Indian philosophy

“Philosophical thought in India in the sixth century B.C. had become quite mature. It had reached a stage which could have been arrived at only after long and arduous philosophical quest. Jainism and Buddhism, the latter enormously influential in Indian and neighboring cultures, had emerged by this time. But even before their advent, the philosophical reflections of the early Upanishads (900-600 B.C.) had set forth the fundamental concepts of Hindu thought which have continued to dominate the Indian mind.

It is perhaps necessary to point out that there has often been a wide divergence between Indian and Western interpretations of Indian thought. Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy once even declared that a true account to Hinduism may be given in a categorical denial of most of the interpretation that have been made by Westerners or Western-trained Indians.”

“…in the search for some reality behind the external world, various methods have been restored to, ranging from experimental to the purely speculative. It is the oldest philosophical tradition in the world to be traced in the ancient Vedas. Although the religious and philosophical spirit of India emerges distinctly in the Rig Veda, the Upanishads are its most brilliant exposition, for the Vedic civilization was naturalistic and utilitarian, although it did not exclude the cosmological and religious speculation.

Older than Plato or Confucius, the Upanishads are the most ancient philosophical works and contain the mature wisdom of India’s intellectual and spiritual attainment. They have inspired not only the orthodox system of Indian thought but also the so-called heterodox schools such as Buddhism. In profundity of thought and beauty of style, they have rarely been surpassed not only in Indian thought but in the Western and Chinese philosophical traditions as well.”

Indian Inspiration of Pythagoras
“The similarity between the theory of Thales, that water is the material cause of all things, and the Vedic idea of primeval waters as the origin of the universe, was first pointed out by Richard Garbe. The resemblances, too, between the teachings of Pythagoras (ca. 582-506 B.C.) and Indian philosophy are striking.

It was Sir William Jones, the founder of comparative philology, who first pointed out the pointed out the similarities between Indian and Pythagorean beliefs. Later, other scholars such as Colebrooke, Garbe, and Winternitz also testified to the Indian inspiration of Pythagoras.

Professor H. G. Rawlinson writes: ” It is more likely that Pythagoras was influenced by India than by Egypt. Almost all the theories, religions, philosophical and mathematical taught by the Pythagoreans, were known in India in the sixth century B.C., and the Pythagoreans, like the Jains and the Buddhists, refrained from the destruction of life and eating meat and regarded certain vegetables such as beans as taboo” “It seems that the so-called Pythagorean theorem of the quadrature of the hypotenuse was already known to the Indians in the older Vedic times, and thus before Pythagoras (ibid). (Legacy of India 1937, p. 5).

Professor Maurice Winternitz is of the same opinion: “As regards Pythagoras, it seems to me very probable that he became acquainted with Indian doctrines in Persia.” (Visvabharati Quarterly Feb. 1937, p. 8).

It is also the view of Sir William Jones (Works, iii. 236), Colebrooke (Miscellaneous Essays, i. 436 ff.). Schroeder (Pythagoras und die Inder), Garbe (Philosophy of Ancient India, pp. 39 ff), Hopkins (Religions of India, p. 559 and 560) and Macdonell (Sanskrit Literature, p. 422). (source: Eastern Religions and Western Thought – By Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan p. 143).

Ludwig von Schröder German philosopher, author of the book Pythagoras und die Inder (Pythagoras and the Indians), published in 1884, he argued that Pythagoras had been influenced by the Samkhya school of thought, the most prominent branch of the Indic philosophy next to Vedanta.

(source: In Search of The Cradle of Civilization: : New Light on Ancient India – By Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak & David Frawley p. 252). Refer to The Passion of the Greeks: Christianity and the Rape of the Hellenes – By Evaggelos G. Vallianatos – Reviewed by Christos C. Evangeliou – indianrealist.wordpress.com
(Source: Indian Wisdom)