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Monday, December 10, 2012

What is meant by Sacred? - 2

  Before you read this, please read Section 1 of this series, "What is meant by Sacred?"  posted on November 21, 2012.

Similar statements in different traditions
“Most people do not listen to God, but adore Him; It is better not to adore but to listen”
 Tolstoy in A calendar of Wisdom

In this section, I bring together similar statements from the writings of a few traditions. The idea is to show that the traditions are more similar than some of the less informed followers will lead you to believe. Although I have read books from all the major traditions, and have a large collection, I have included only a few examples here.

Philosophy is always in search of fundamental truth of existence and how the truth presents itself to our experience.  This implies discussions of unity and diversity, universal and particular, the relationship between these two, things as they are and as they are perceived by us and the triad of knower-known-knowledge.

Philosophy ultimately has to have a practical value. This is where religion and science come in.

Religion tries to relate to the question on primordial events. It tries to answer troubling questions on human existence. How did it all come about? Who did it? Why?

Science relates to questions at the physical level and tries to answer the questions on “how” of things in the observable universe. It cannot answer the why.

Religion (spirituality  also) is the telephoto lens of our brains. Science is the close-up lens.

Metaphysics is at the intersection. What we call metaphysics today was called natural philosophy till two centuries back. The name metaphysics was given to Aristotle’s writings on “being qua being” or the nature of the primary substance that exists on its own and is the first cause of all things ( Prakriti, Parama Purusha and Brahman or Ishvara in Vedic concepts). Since Aristotle’s book on the primordial substance came after his book on physics, this was called metaphysics.

In Sanskrit, different points of views are called “darshana” and not philosophy.  Then, there is vignana for study of phenomena and pragnana for study of the inner self. Look at the root word gna, to know which is the same as gnosis of Latin.

There are two schools of metaphysics – Idealistic and materialistic.

Idealistic view is that the universe is “mental”, that reality is the expression of the mind.  This encourages the spiritualism (gnana marga) and religion (bhakthi marga).

Kanchi periyaval expressed it succinctly in just two pages. He argues that both the inanimate and the animate must have come from the same source.  That source could not have used something other than itself to create the objects of the universe since that would mean another independent substance.  That primary source is the substance AND the spirit behind all that we see. The multiple objects we see and experience are illusory. Similar views are expressed in the philosophies of all other traditions too.

Materialistic view is that reality is ultimately physical, it is about things and processes. This drives scientific approach.

All the philosophical questions of all traditions can be grouped into two areas.  The first is, “How did this Universe and various forms of life come into being?  What is the relationship of one human to another, to other life-forms and to the Universe”?  The second question is “Now that we are here, what are we supposed to do (that is, purpose in life)”?  The second question was reframed based on the visible observation of suffering in life and certainty of death. The new question is “How can I get liberation from this cycle of birth and death and attain moksha, nirvana, or Heaven?”

Answers to these questions are almost the same or very similar in different traditions. The following are some examples.

One Primordial Force

All traditions agree philosophically that all aspects of the Universe are activated by one Supreme Force with Its Supreme Intelligence and Supreme energy. That single primordial force is called by different names in different cultures. For example, IT is called Brahman (Parama purusha, Parabrahman) in the Vedic Hindu tradition. This same Primordial Source is called Allah in Islamic and Yahweh in the Jewish traditions, Wakanda in Sioux, Orenda in Iroquois,and Mulungu in Bantu. There are several names for this Original Source in the Christian tradition. One is God-head. The other is the Holy Spirit. Yet another is the “Father in the Heaven”. All the ancient traditions recognized such a single, primary “divine” central force from which everything flashed forth and derived their energy for function.

Religion also deals with the same phenomenon but from emotional and intuitive and anthromorphic point of view. The same Supreme Force and Supreme Energy is known in this system as God, “Bare Pure One” (Plutonius), “Perfect Beauty” (St.Augustine), “Godhead” (Eckhart), Jehovah (Jewish), Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman), “Father in Heaven” (Christian), Dharmakaya (Buddhist), Allah (Islam), Ahur Mazda (Zoroastrian), Ishvara,Bhagvan or Purushottaman (Vedic).

 Yekam satyam vipra bahuda vadanthi says Rg Veda of the Hindu Vedic tradition.  The meaning is that  there is only one truth; people call it by different names. In the western tradition, Plutarch said about the same thing: “One sun, one sky over all nations, one deity under many names”.

I define the word God as “a chosen representation of the Primordial Force”. There are thus several chosen representations of the original primordial force. We are born into a society or family belonging to one tradition which gives us one “god”. That one may be Shiva, Allah or Jesus. Yet, each of them is a chosen representation of that One. As pointed out by Immanuel Kant, “There is only one religion, but there are different faiths”. We did not choose. We were given one. It was chosen by the society and the family we were born into. As adults, we can and should choose our own pantheon of gods. Denying that chance to choose is rude.  

One Destination, Different Paths

In discussing different religions seeking the same common source, Vedic teaching says  “The Lord is like an ocean. Religions are like rivers. All rivers end in the same ocean”.

A.Toynbee has an essay in the book “This I believe” in which he quotes Symmachus: “The universe is too great a mystery for there to be only one single approach to it”. (Symmachus is reported to have said this to the Catholic Church when it was winning the “wars” with support from the Roman Emperor)

Chief White Calf of the Blackfeet tribe of Montana is quoted by Diana Eck as follows: “ ....... he says there is only one path through the forest and he knows the right path, but I say there are many paths and how can you know the best path unless you have walked them all. He walked too long on one path and he does not know there are other paths. I am one hundred and one, and I know that sometimes many paths go to the same place”.

Seeing the Light

St.Thomas Aquinus is quoted as saying “….it may be said that the light is not a medium in which God is seen, but one by which He is seen..” (Quoted by Swami Akilananda in his book on Hindu Psychology, Harper Bros 1946, page 49). 

Gospel of Thomas says: “There is light within a man of light and it illuminates the whole world. When it does not shine, there is darkness” (24).

A Vedic teaching with exactly the same meaning is in  Mundaka Upanishad. (2:2:10) “Thameva bhantham anubhathi sarvam, thasya bhasa sarvamidam vibhati”.  The meaning is: “ Because of His Light everything is illumined; because he shines, everything is made visible”.

Where can you find God?

In the Greek version of the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: "Where there are [two, they are not] without God, and when there is one alone, [I say,] I am with him. Raise the stone, and there you will find me; cleave the wood, and there I am." 

This is similar to the story of Prahlada. Hiranyakasipu, the father of Prahlada, is fed up with his son talking about Lord Vishnu all the time and asks angrily “Where will you find your Lord Vishnu?”.  Prahlada  answers : “He is in the stone, He is in the pillar, He is in the wall”. The father takes a sword and strikes the pillar and the Lord appears from inside the pillar.

"I" am the beginning and the end

Revelation 22:13 says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

Here is a passage from the Proverb section of the Bible. (8: 23 to 25): “From ages past, I am. I existed before the oceans were created, before the springs bubbled forth their waters into the earth; before the mountains and the hills were made. Yes, I was born before gods made the earth and fields and high

In Gita, Lord krishna says this in several places. “The Self is constant, birthless, eternal and ancient” (2:20). “I am birthless and beginningless...” (10:3). “I am the source of all, everything is produced out of me...” (10:8) and “I am the beginning, the middle and the end of beings” (10:20)

"I" am inside everyone

John 14.20 says: “A that day ye shall know that I am in my Father and ye in me and I in you”.

Gita (4.35) says: “Acquiring spiritual knowledge by which you will see all creatures in yourself and in Me.”

And Isavasya Upanishad (6,7) says: “He who sees all beings in his own body and his own soul in all beings..”

Thou art That

 “Thath thvam asi ‘” is  a famous passage from the Chandogya Upanishad. These Sanskrit words translate to “You are That”.

In Exodus (3:14), Moses asks God what to tell the people when they ask about the source of the message. God asks Moses to say “I am has sent me”. Another version says: “I am that I am”.

He is small and large; and complete

Gospel of Thomas says “Kingdom of Heaven is like mustard seed, smaller than all seeds” (19 and 20).

Similar statement in Katha  Upanishad (1:2:20) says:  “Anoraneeyan mahattho mahiyan... “ This translates to “He/It is smaller than an atom and larger than the largest...”

One piece of writing by Plotinus (4.9,8 and 5, 7-26) is an uncanny reproduction of a Vedic chant.

The Vedic chant is: “poornam ada poornam idam poornaath poornam udachyathe; poornasya poornam aaday poornameva avasishyathat”. The translation is: “ That is Complete. This is complete. From that Complete came this complete. Even after taking away the complete, the Complete is full”.

Plotinus says: “Knowledge is a whole, and its parts are such that the whole persist and the parts are derived from it. The seed too is a whole and the parts into which it naturally divides are derived from it; each part is a whole, and the whole persists as an undiminished whole which the matter divides – all the parts comprise a unity”.

May the hearts be in unison

In John 17.21, Jesus is reported to have said: “My prayer for all of them is that they will be of one heart and mind, just as you and I are, Father – that just as you are in me and I am in you….”

A similar passage in Rg Veda 10. 191-194 is well-known. It says: Samaani vaa aakuthih samaana hrdayani vaa; samaanam asthu vo mano yatha vaha susahaasathi which means : “ One and the same be your intention, And may your heart be in unison, united be the thoughts of all, that all may happily agree”  

Breath is Life

All traditions emphasize the importance of breath to life. They also knew that one way to control the mind is to control the breath. Focusing on breath as a way to still the mind and  connect with the Divine has been in practice for centuries in the Christian tradition also.

God is said to have “formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).

Job (33:4) says “For the Spirit of God made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life”.

In Kaushitaki Upanishad we see: “I am the prana” (the source of breath)…..      Life is the breathing spirit. The breathing spirit is verily life”. 

Life is an illusion

“The present world is only an illusory pleasure” says Qu’ran (2:185). This is one of the fundamental tenets of Vedic religion. The illusory nature of the universe is called Maya in Sanskrit.

Other examples

A Chapter on Job in the Bible, where the Lord reveals Himself to Job is very similar to the passage in Gita where Lord Krishna shows His all encompassing Universal Form (Vishvarupa) to Arjuna.

Sura 2:83 of Qua’ran says: “Worship none but God, be good to your parents and kinstock, to orphans and to the poor. Keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms”.   The first portion is similar to the teachings of Taittriya Upanishad which says: “Worship your mother; worship your father; worship your teacher; worship the unexpected guest….”

Many aphorisms in the Bible are similar to passages in Thirukkural in Tamizh, Vidura Nithi and Shanthi Parva in Sanskrit. For example, psalm 21:23 says “Keep your mouth shut and keep out of trouble”. It is similar to “Mounam sarvartha sadhakam” (Silence is golden).  Verse 16:33 of Gospel according to Thomas says that “We toss the coin; God controls the decision”. It is not much different from the universal sense that things are “in God’s hands” and we do not control everything.

For more comprehensive and scholarly collection of writings on God, Truth, Good, Evil, Time, Faith, Self-Knowledge etc, please read Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy (Harper Colophon, 1944) and also Tolstoy’s  A Calendar of Wisdom (Scribner, 1997).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What is meant by Sacred?

Dear Asha, Ajay, Ravi, Ariana and Roma,

I am sure you remember my previous blogs on Reading Sacred Texts. I decided to write this section since the sacredness connected with religious symbols and scriptures is the cause of so much human conflicts. All traditions have their own sacred symbols and scriptures. We have to understand them and respect them. I am asking for more than just tolerance of sacred symbols of "others". I am asking for acceptance.

 If all people of all traditions are allowed and trained to develop an open mind, they will see that all traditions teach the same universal values. They need to understand the meaning behind their sacred symbols and respect them. They have also to understand that other traditions have their own symbols that deserve our acceptance and respect. Such an understanding will reduce much of cruelty by man against man, particularly in the name of religion. I wish to contribute a little towards that goal. I am an optimist and wish to see all of you live in a compassionate, loving world.

To accomplish this purpose, I need to make clear what sacredness is. That is why I am writing this section. I wish to define sacredness, review some current research in this field and offer some ideas to reduce conflicts based on sacredness. In the next blog, I plan to quote a few selected passages from different traditions to show how similar or identical the teachings are.

What does the word sacred mean?

The word sacred has its roots in the Latin sacre, to set apart.  It is set apart from the secular, temporal, profane and commercial values. In Sanskrit, the corresponding word is Pavithra. In Tamizh, it is punitham.

When we use the word sacred, it is contrasted with or opposed to words such as secular, temporal, profane or commercial. The words temporal and secular are synonymous.

Sacred also means “belonging to God or holy” or “other-worldly” and thus different from secular and temporal. Secular means “pertaining to this world, pertaining to the laity”. Temporal means related to time, transient and this worldly. Sacred also means worthy of high respect as opposed to profane. “Fane” means a temple and profane refers to common items that are “not from the temple”.

Finally, the word sacred implies an item that has deep emotional value which cannot be measured. Sacred values are not for sale; even life is worth sacrificing for the sake of the sacred. That is how many of the religious conflicts arise. This has become a subject for deep academic study ever since conflicts in the name of religion have become more common in recent times.

Atran and Axelrod  point out that “Sacred values differ from material or instrumental values in that they incorporate moral beliefs that drive action in ways dissociated from prospects for success. Across the world, people believe that devotion to essential or core values, such as the welfare of their family and country, or their commitment to religion, honor, and justice are, or ought to be, absolute and inviolable”. 

Many a war has been waged in the name of protecting the sacred. Many a conqueror has subdued the vanquished by destroying their sacred sites and symbols. Look at the fight for Jerusalem. Since it sacred for all three Abrahamic faiths, one would think it is superbly sacred and everyone will share it.  Look at the recent fight in India for the site in Ayodhya.  One civilization held it as sacred site. Another civilization destroyed it and tried to show its supremacy by building its own “sacred” site. Now the earlier one says “I want my sacred site back”.  Sacredness seems to demand exclusivity. 

The word scripture is invariably connected with the concept of Divine origin and sacredness. The Bible is sacred for the Christians; Koran for the Muslims and Bhagvat Gita for the Hindus. Jesus is the sacred figure for the Christians, Prophet Mohammed for the Muslims and Lord Ganesha for the Hindus. Look what happens when one group wants to insult the other or provoke. It belittles or draws a caricature of the sacred book of the other. This sets up an intense reaction from the “insulted” group which starts a “war of words” or an actual war in response.  This goes on for generations. Sacredness seems to breed ancestral hatreds.

The word scripture is invariably connected with the concept of Divine origin and hence its sacredness.  Prophets from every tradition say that their scripture was “revealed” to them by God. Such a statement certainly gives the scripture a special place in the minds of the followers.  But, what about the scriptures given to other prophets in other parts of the world? 

“Think of all the gods and the God that humanity has cleaved to. Each has told its believers what is sacred. Whatever your own beliefs, what are we to make of these other beliefs? Either we all worship the same real and supernatural God in different names, or these gods and God are our own invented symbols” says Kauffman in his book on “Reinventing the Sacred”.

All of us were born into our traditions and inherited “our” scriptures not by our choice. We do not own the scriptures and nor do they own us. Our parents and teachers taught us scriptures they were born into and familiar with.  They did not teach us to harm or belittle anyone who believed in a different scripture. Anyone who asks you to do that is not a true teacher. Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, Lord Buddha and Sage Vyasa taught us love and tolerance and taught us to live in peace and harmony.  

Scriptures are sacred documents for sure, but not for the reasons preachers would like you to believe. They were written centuries back trying to answer questions all civilizations have asked. The answers were appropriate for that time. But, the context has changed. The meanings of the words have changed over time. For example, Diana Eck points out how the word “belief” is the translation of the word “credo” in Latin. The literal meaning of the word credo is “I give my heart”. It is a statement of certainty but has since become a statement of uncertainty as opposed to reason and objectivity.

When we read old texts we have to be careful about how words are interpreted. The translation of words from one language to another adds another layer of confusion and new concepts. Diana Eck points out how “ruach” in feminine gender stands for the generative breath of life. Later it became pneuma in Greek, in the neutral gender. Eventually it became spiritus in Latin, in masculine gender with all the implications.

When a text is translated from the original to another language, there may be no true equivalent word in that language. The best examples are dharma of Sanskrit/Vedic religion and religion of the western/Latin tradition. Dharma denotes several concepts such as virtue, duty, morals, what is appropriate for one’s station in life etc. It also implies flexibility. There is no equivalent word in English. Similarly, the word religion is more rigid in its implications than the corresponding word in Sanskrit, darshana which means point of view. The exact equivalent Sanskrit word for religion will be yoga since both of those words imply joining the part with the whole, individual with the universal.

The meanings might have changed in the process of translations. For example, St. Augustine discusses the meaning of the word “Love” in his book on Confessions. He points out that during translation from Aramaic or Greek to Latin, this word can mean love, charity, respect or regard. He points out how Jesus asks Peter whether he (Peter) loves Jesus, and Peter keeps saying that he has regard for Jesus.

A foot-note in a Bible I read says that the Hebrew word for “justice” sounds like (phonetics) the word for “bloodshed”. The words for “righteousness” and “cry” sound similar. The word for a “woman” and a “virgin” are the same. How did these words change during years of translations?

There are similar examples in Buddhist and Vedic  texts. The most recent example I read relates to the word “Sri”. The commonest meaning is Goddess Lakshmi, wealth, prosperity. The other meaning is poison. That is why Siva is called SriKantan which is the same as Neelakantan.

When you read old texts, it is good to ask whether the words were translated correctly and they mean what they were intended to mean and whether someone translated wrongly due to lack of knowledge or even wantonly in support of their positions.

 Finally, interpretations of the words of scriptures  by scholars, philosophers and theologians have created several schools of thought even within the same religions.

Section 3:7 of Qur’an starts with “ It is He who has sent this Scripture down to you (to Prophet Mohammed). Some of its verses are definite in meaning – these are the Mothers of the Scriptures. And others are ambiguous. The perverse at heart eagerly pursue the ambiguities in their attempt to make trouble and pin down a meaning of their own; only God knows the true meaning”……..

Recent research on Sacredness:  Quarrels between nations and ethnic groups within nations are often based on conflicts with sacred values held by one or the other. Academicians interested in conflict resolution and negotiations have been interested in this topic since World War II. Earlier theories were based on “rational actor” models assuming that the adversary parties will make rational choices based on risks and benefits. However, the current trend is for a group of people with strong views willing to make extreme sacrifices, even of their own lives. This has led to the concept of “devoted actors”.

“Devoted actors” are willing to do anything, including killing innocent people and themselves, even without any prospect for success, often in the name of “sacred” values. They believe that devotion to these core values ought to be absolute and inviolable leading to seemingly irrational actions.  For these individuals, their “sacred” values outweigh other values, particularly monetary values.

Sacred values are often private. Some are general and define “who we are” such as country, ethnic group, collective identity, sense of fairness, and territory. Some are specific such as one’s religion, blood relative, prophets and sacred books and even cows. 

Sacred values take on special significance only when challenged. Political leaders exploit this weakness by using sacred values to mobilize people to action or to convert people to accept their policies. As pointed out by Atran and Axelrod, appeal to sacred value can motivate both war and peace.

Based on their extensive research and review of the literature, Atran and Axelrod suggest that just as sacredness of an object results from framing it as sacred by the involved party, it should be possible to reframe these core values in such a way that psychological barriers can be overcome. They offer several ideas to help reframe issues involving conflicts in sacred values.

First, everyone involved will have to know what values are sacred for the other involved parties. Next, each party has to recognize and acknowledge the validity of the values of the other party. For example, Atran and Axelrod point out how at the end of world war II, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead advised the American army command that respecting the special place the Japanese Emperor holds in the psyche of the Japanese people be acknowledged and respected. This symbolic gesture helped build stability in post-war Japan.

Symbolic concessions can help start goodwill and discussions. Ping-pong diplomacy between USA and China is an example of symbolic concessions as a first step in negotiations. Symbolic concessions should be sincere. It should not include monetary compensation which is often taken as an insult. Concessions and apologies should be followed by actions and further negotiations on material issues.

Some suggestions to reduce conflicts:

If you consider scriptures as “maps” they were fine for travel in the “territories” of olden days. The territory has changed over the centuries. It is foolish to travel in any new territory with old maps. If you travel from Kabul to Mumbai today using the map made during the British Raj, you will get into deep trouble.

 Scriptures are "sacred" for sure; but each and every word  need not be followed literally without context and without thinking. Even the prophets who shared their wisdom with us would not want us to do so. Buddha and Adi Sankara said so clearly.

Buddha says:  “Do not simple believe what you are told, or whatever has been handed from past generation, or what is common opinion, or whatever the scriptures say. Do not accept something as true merely by deduction and inference, or by considering outward appearances……. Or because  your teacher tells you it is so……… And when you yourself directly know, “These principles are wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise; when adopted and carried out they lead to welfare and happiness”, then you should accept and practse them” (Quoted by William Hart in The Art of Living 2008, page 14, Original source Anguttara Nikaya III: vii: 65)

Adi sankara says: “Gnaapakam hi shastram na thu kaarakam……” which translates to “Scriptures are for keeping you informed (of eternal Truths) and not for issuing commands on (what you should do and should not”.

He adds: “Na hi prathyakshavirodhey shrutheh pramanaam” which means: “ Veda cannot be an authority as against observed facts” and adds that “even if hundred Vedic texts declare that fire is cold they cannot become an authority on this point”. (pages 72-75, Sankara’s Teachings in his own words by Swami Atmananda .  Bhavan’s Book, 1964)

In Bhagavat Gita (Chapter 18: sloka 63) Lord Krishna tells Arjuna “Thus I have explained to you knowledge still more confidential. Deliberate on this fully; and then do what you wish to do”.  

The Bible says that too. Psalm 19:27 states: “Stop listening to teachings that contradict what you know is right”. Another passage from the Bible ((Thessalonian 3:13) says: “Do not stifle the spirit. Test everything; retain what is good”.

Read the scriptures of other religions with respect and understanding.  Gandhi pointed out that it is the sacred duty of every cultured man and woman to do so if we want others to respect our religion.

Go to the source, not the interpretations.  If you have to learn Sanskrit, Latin, Arabic or Aramaic, consider it an opportunity to learn a classic language. Make sense of the Scriptures by yourself. The original documents were written in simple language; scholars and a few fanatic followers made them complicated and dogma-driven.

Scott Momaday, is a Native American poet who has written an essay on “Re-inventing the Sacred”. This was also used as the title of a book by Stuart Kauffman. The essence is that we all have our own private items that are sacred. Obviously, once an idea or an image becomes sacred, it becomes inviolable. It is an “isolated” or exclusive sacredness, to one person or to one group. Both Kauffman and Momaday suggest that we reinvent the sacred, a “shared sacred” to replace the isolated, parochial one.

Scriptures deal with several topics. They try to answer metaphysical questions in the form of mythology and metaphors. They teach moral values and give guidance on how to live. In addition, scriptures are full of historical details, geography and documentation of living conditions and customs in historical times. Therefore, I suggest that the future generations read all Sacred Texts from several points of view.

Personally, I have had problems accepting many things mentioned in some of the Puranas (epics) from India. However, as Kanchi Pariyaval pointed out, the main purpose of these Puranas is to teach dharma (virtues, morals and duties) to ordinary people in a simple language. Therefore, these texts will have stories of several kings, queens, saints and warriors. However, the most elaborate stories will be about characters who have a moral to teach based on their lives. For example, Rama teaches respect for parents, keeping promises, performing one's duties with patience and humility. The history portion may or may not be true. But, the lessons these texts teach go beyond history, geography and astronomy. 

 If you read the scriptures with an open mind, you will see more than a demand for blind faith.  There is so much knowledge, wisdom and emotions enshrined in these books. There is so much language, literature and poetry in them. You will be amazed at how much more you learn and how much more your minds open.

Finally, a note of optimism. Although, the idea of sacredness evokes conflicts, humans also are capable of empathy. One of the ideas worth trying in your immediate surrounding is this. If you feel negative about someone else in your neighborhood or at work on the basis of religion (or political philosophy), try to look for something both of you share. May be both of you like the same brand of coffee or  the same basketball team. Starting a discussion on a shared interest may help open the mind  and remove negative feelings.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Recently, I heard a man who was boasting of his life’s accomplishments. I could not help think how arrogant his statements were.

For one thing, none of us can accomplish anything by ourselves. So many others contribute directly or indirectly.

Who is this “I” who has done so much?

“I” am an impermanent inter-being. I cannot take credit for my brain, mind and intelligence. They were “given” to me. I did not earn them. The best I can do is to use them by learning, reflecting and re-learning.

The environment was favorable. But, I had no control over it either. They came as they came. The only control I had was over how I used the equipment given to me by Nature or a Divine Force through my parents, in facing the circumstances thrown in my way.

How can I talk about “my” accomplishments given these “facts”?

Friday, October 19, 2012


According to the Nyaya philosophy of Gauthama,  there are two kinds of dogma. One is called dhrishtantha, one about which a common man and  expert can agree on. The other is called siddhantha, an established dogma or tenet resting on the authority of a school of thought.

Since one of my interests is to bring old writings in line with current knowledge, let me restate these two dogmas with examples. The root word for Dhrishtantha is dhrsh, to see. When this word was coined, most discussions were based on rules of logic and not empirical evidence. Therefore, it was acceptable to say that if a common man also can come to the same conclusion as an expert, it is dhrishtantha.

Drishtantha cannot follow this definition in this time in history because science has proofs for many things which only experts can interpret and understand. Common man, even an educated one, cannot understand some facts unless he works in that specific field. Therefore, common man will have to accept items that most experts in a specific field can agree on based on solid scientific evidence and without outside pressures, political, religious or monetary. 

This brings us to dhristantha defined as scientific dogma, which is an oxymoron. Unfortunately many conclusions arrived at by scientific methods do get ossified as dogmas. This is against the entire principle of scientific enterprise. The common man has to accept (dhrishtantha) a statement of fact if all or most experts agree on that view based on currently available evidence. But, that is just a plateau. It is not a dogma. It has to be challenged and will be challenged so we can reach a higher level of understanding.

The best example that comes to my mind is peptic ulcer disease. I remember the various theories that were generated based on science such as hyperacidity and stress. When it was considered as secondary to hyperacidity, the treatment was antacids. When it was considered psychosomatic, counselling was the mode of therapy. Someone questioned these dogmas which made it possible to investigate further and show that an infectious agent is the culprit. Now, the treatment is more specific, based on solid facts.

Siddhantha is based on a school of thought. It is just that, a thought, an idea followed by proponents of that thought. I have no problem with our developing our own ideas on philosophical issues. My problem comes when we become fanatic, insist that mine is the only correct concept and start pushing it on others. In my view the word dogma, should be confined to such concepts.

True dogmas as defined above may be one of four kinds, says Gautama:

          A dogma that is claimed by at least one school and not opposed by any other school is called sarvathanthra siddhantha. In other words, it is accepted by all schools of thought. “Every individual is entitled to freedom of thought” is one such concept.
          A dogma that is peculiar to one school and rejected by some other school is called prathi siddhantha. Karma concept of Hinduism is an example.

          A dogma that is hypothetical and if accepted will lead to acceptance of another tenet is called adhikarana. For example, Karma concept leads to concepts of rebirth.

          A dogma that is not explicitly declared ( only implied) is called apyubhagama. I do not have an example and I do not know what Gautama had in mind.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Consolations of Philosophy

Boethius was a philosopher and senator in the Roman Empire (5th century CE). Boethius was a very honest, successful and highly respected individual. However, he fell into disfavor with the king who kept him in house arrest for almost a year. Subsequently he was executed.

During the period of house arrest he had time to reflect on his life. He wondered how he, who had been a honest and upright citizen, and who had practiced truthfulness and virtue, could suffer such a fate. He wondered why good people suffer. He has written his doubts and his lamentations in the form of a conversation with the Lady (Goddess) of Philosophy. This text is a classic and the title is Consolations of Philosophy.  Here is a summary.

Many of Lady P’s remarks resemble passages from Bhagvat Gita, Yoga Vasishta and Buddha and teach equanimity .

Lady Philosophy asks Boethius what the source of Universe is. He says “God”. She asks what the direction of Nature is. He says he does not know. She asks: “How is it that you know where it is from and do not know where it is going?” Then she asks who he (Boethius) is. He says that he is a man endowed with reason and subject to death.  

Chapter 2 and 3 are the lamentations of Boethius and tough questioning by Lady P. She tells Boethius that the natural characteristic of Fortune is to be unpredictable and mutable. “Mutability is her constancy” says Lady P and compares the activities of fortune to a wheel and says: …”if it takes to standing still, it ceases to be the Wheel of Fortune” and also
“And great the marvel,
when in one brief hour She shows her darling lifted high in bliss
Then headlong plunged in misery’s abyss”.

Madame Fortune gives and takes as she pleases and one cannot depend upon her for happiness. “Happiness cannot be obtained from worldly goods and is not dependant on what Fortune gives us but something to be sought after within oneself” says P.

She says that wealth and rank are not the rightful property of man and they are at the whims of lady Fortune. She tells him that “ what now thou believest to be calamitous passeth also”. (This comment is similar to Buddha’s talk on passing clouds covering the Sun?) Finally she says: “Things created may not last” and “nothing is wretched but thinking makes it so. Conversely every lot is happy if borne with equanimity”.

When talking about riches like gems and nature’s beauty, Lady P says that they are the natural qualities of the things themselves and says: “ …they derive not their preciousness from being counted in thy riches, but rather thou hast chosen to count them in thy riches because they seemed to thee precious”. She challenges Boethius:  “Have ye no good of your own implanted within you than ye seek your good in things external and separate?”

Section IX and X of Book V are worth reading again and again. They are the same as in the Upanishads, talking about the ONE SOURCE of all that we see, the one Godhead warped into this universe.

Book VI discusses Providence and Fate and their interactions. Although I am not sure, it appears that the word Providence is close to the concept of Dharma of Buddhist philosophy because it talks about cycles. It also sounds similar to the rtha or cosmic order. Fate is defined by Boethius as “inherent in all that is” created by Providence. In some ways it looks similar to the concept of the three gunas of Prakriti (of the Samkhya philosphy) with Providence being similar to Prakriti itself.

At the end of Chapter II of Book V, Song II has these words:  “All that is, hath been, shall be, In one glance compass…”  This is the English translation of the Latin version of the Upanishadic statement: “ bootha, bhavya and bavishya”.  
Chapter III of Book V is an excellent section in which Boethius discusses free will and how it is incompatible with the idea of Divine Predestiny as the explanation for chance.  Somewhere there Lady P points out how Free Will itself requires reasoning for deciding what is implied in the exercise of free will.

There is one section on the subject and object of thoughts. There is a long passage on the chain of events in the process of “knowing”.  This passage is similar to the first 10 slokas of Atma Gnana Upadesha Vidhi of  Adi Sankara. What eye sees is known by the mind. What mind sees is known by buddhi. What buddhi sees is known by the chitha. What chitha sees is known by the ahankara. What  ahankara sees is known by the atma.   We can complete this list with a question from Brahadranyaka Upanishad: “By what can we know the knower”?

These passages also seem to suggest that perception is what senses and the mind cognize. This is as things appear to be. But, you have to see things as they are. This is apperception.  In Boethius’ words:  “…everything that is known is cognized not in accordance with its own nature, but in accordance with the nature of the faculty that comprehends it”.  Sankara has expressed similar ideas and differentiates between vastu tantra (the object as is) and purusha tantra (object as perceived by the human mind). Buddha also talks about this view of things as they seem and as they are.

 After all those discussions about senses, imagination, thought and intelligence, Boethius defines thought as belonging to human and intelligence as that of the Divine. In that scheme of things, you can then say that Divine Intelligence predetermines events and things.

The way Boethius defines “eternal” is also interesting and different. Eternity is not about endless life or infinite time. “.. eternity is the possession of endless life whole and perfect at a single moment……………that which includes and possesses the whole fullness of unending life at once, from which nothing future is absent, from which nothing past has escaped, this is rightly called eternal"

Saturday, September 1, 2012

More reflections on Religion

Dear Asha, Ajay, Ravi and Ariana:

I hope you remember what I said about organized religions (February 8,2011). Here are more thoughts.

In an article I read in The Times of India (January 2, 2010), Janke Santoke makes several important observations on religion. He says: “religiosity is not a matter of what your body does but what your mind sees”. “It is not about symbols and rituals, but about recreating the beginner’s mind”. This is an important point because when we were children looking at this world and the universe with fresh and innocent eyes, our sense was one of mystery. That feeling of mystery is probably the most original sense of spirituality. (Boethius)

Unfortunately most of the writings in and on religion use words with different meanings and use them as if concepts become facts by repeated use of  these words. (read Straight and crooked thinking by Robert H.Thouless) They use circular reasoning. They tell you what you can do and cannot do; what you should believe and what you should not.  All of them talk about universal moral values but forget to mention that those values should be applied to all forms of life and to all human beings without conditions and exclusions.

As Ambrose Bierce pointed out in his book on The Devil’s Dictionary, religion has become somewhat like “a daughter of Hope and Fear explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknown”.

Finally, there are very few spiritual teachers who can introduce you to the concepts and let you think. “It is the eternal problem of the teacher: how to extricate you from words and introduce you to the essence”.  Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, J.Krishnamurty and Thich Nath Hanh take the uninitiated to the essence.

Love,   Thatha

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Atheist's argument

One of the ways to keep an open mind is to compel oneself to listen to novel ways of looking at things. Even better is to listen to a view opposed to our own. I keep reading arguments from distant pasts when Advaitins and Buddhists argued about the existence of Atman. “Atman is in you” said the Advaitins. Buddha said that he looked deep inside and did not find any Atman.

Similarly, there are those who believe in “god” and those who do not believe in “god”, the so-called atheists. Then there are those who say that they do not know, the agnostics. I have always wondered what lead the atheists to their belief.  I found their ideas well-articulated by Michael Shermer in a recent article in the Scientific American (May 2012, page 86). Here is how it goes: If God is the creator and He created all of these out of nothing, the next logical question is “who created God?”  If the answer is that God does not need a creator, then why is it that the universe has to have a creator? (But, that is not an argument. It is countering a question with another question)

If the argument is that God is not the creator of the universe, but the creator of laws of nature, then God had no choice in the creation of the universe, since such laws are deterministic. Pretty interesting logic! But, we started with the premise that God was involved with creating the laws of nature and therefore was indirectly the creator of the universe.

The problem is that these arguments prove only the intellectual capacity, verbal skills, the speed of thinking and debating skills of the discussants. Personally, I like the humility expressed in the Nasadiya Sukta of Rg Veda (see post on March 21, 2010) which says that we really do not know.  I like Buddha’s teaching even better. He would rather we spend our time by learning how to live this life better.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gracian Balthazar

I came across a book by Gracian Balthazar, a Jesuit Priest from the 17th century. He is well known in Europe for his style of writing and has influenced great thinkers such as  Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. He published his first book, which was a novel called Criticon or Faultfinder, without permission from his superiors. He was therefore exiled. The book he is well-known for is called OrĂ¡culo manual y arte de prudencia (A Manual of the Art of Discretion) and  known in the English literature as The Art of Worldly Wisdom.

The style is simple and unique. He gives common sense advice on all aspects of human conduct in the form of a simple statement first followed by a very brief explanation. When I read the book I could not help comparing it to Vidura Nithi.  

Here are a few examples from Gracian’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom. I hope you will read this essay and follow it up with the blog on Vidura Nithi (see my blog on Vidura Nithi from September 15, 2011).

“Make haste slowly”
“What is done immediately is undone just as fast, but what must last an eternity takes that long to do”
“Adapt to those around you”
“.....what matters is not being applauded when you arrive for that is common; but being missed when you leave. Rare are those who are still wanted”
‘Some people would rather be first in the second than being second in the first”
“No and Yes are short words requiring long thought”
“Self correction starts with self knowledge”
“Ears are the backdoors of truth and the front door of deceit”
“Truth is more often seen than heard”
Be” neither all bad nor all good”
“Carry right too far and it becomes wrong”
“Feel with the few; speak with the many”
“Better to be intensive than be extensive”
“Be excessive in your perfections but moderate in showing them”
“Allow yourself to be known, not comprehended”
One does not live by following one opinion, one custom or one century
“Look deep inside”
“Let choice rule and not chance”
“Friendship has the three qualities of anything good: unity, goodness and truth”
“Neither say what you will do nor do what you have said” (puzzling)
“Not all truths can be spoken, some should be silenced for your own sake; or others for the sake of someone else”
“Do not lie; but do not tell the whole truth”
“Fools are stubborn and stubborns are fools... Even when you are right, it is good to make concessions”
“Want the best but expect the worst, so as to accept any outcome with equanimity”
“Adjust your imaginations to reality”
“Do not surrender to the first impressions. Some people marry the first information they receive and turn what comes later into concubines”
“Spend the first act with the dead (authors); the second with the living and the third act entirely belongs to you”
“Do not be obsessed with the latest”
“If you are prudent you will understand that people seek you not for your own sake but for their own”
“Arrows go through the body; bad words through the soul”
“Understand the character of the people you are dealing with in order to penetrate their intentions”
“Row with the current but do not lose your dignity”
“Do not call attention to yourself”
“Mind your own business”
“Do not act when moved by passion ... because passion always sends reason into exile”
Three things make one blessed:  virtues, wisdom and prudence”

Reference: The Art of Worldly Wisdom – A Pocket Oracle by Gracian Balthazar Translated by   Christopher Maurer.  Currency and Doubleday Publishers, New York 1991       

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Confusion or Clarity

Deep thinking can lead one to confusion or clarity.

If you just follow your thoughts wherever they take you, most likely it will lead to confusion. If you observe the thoughts and acknowledge them, but stay detached (“deep looking” of the Buddhist system) it is likely to lead to clarity. As pointed out by ancient seers, this is the same as being a “witness” to the thoughts. 

Controlling the mind and staying silent are difficult. Silence meditation is harder to do and may lead to chasing of thoughts and frustration. It may even be frightening to some. Deep looking, staying as a non-judgmental observer of feelings and thoughts, and understanding oneself is more likely to settle you down. It will lead to clarity and may even lead you to silence.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Consider Time as a River

Consider Time as a River, please.

I am talking about the Universal Time.

We do not know where it started and where it ends – if at all

Consider also for a moment that we are “Runners”

               Dropped on the banks of this river

 of “life”

               To run a race – life’s journey

Some cannot run – the race is over before it started

Some run, but drop off on the way – like marathon runners

Some take off – like a sprinter

               And are out of sight like a blur

But, most of us run a “steadier” course, like the tortoise

In this “race”, in this Journey

I am glad I was able to run with you

And be in your company

I might have lost you for a while

But, am so glad I caught up with you

Or, may be it is the other way around

Whatever it is



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Showing respect for elders

               In the Indian culture, respect for elders is a major expectation, requirement and a tradition. I did not know, until recently, that this is so important that it has been codified into FIVE specific forms:

Getting up, if you are sitting (prathuthana)

Greeting with folded palms   (the classic Indian Namasthe greeting) (namaskar)

Touching the feet (Upasangraha)

Prostration (sashtaanga)

Returning the gesture (prathyabhivaadana)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

More on Reinterpreting Sacred Texts

I was supposed to publish this earlier. But forgot! This is a follow up of 2 other essays on this subject.
Book 10 Chapter 69 of Bhagavatha Puranam starts with Sage Narada wanting to see how Krishna can marry 16,000 wives and live with each one of them in their separate houses, doing different things, at the same time. (yekena vapusha yugapath pruthak gruheshu dvyashtasaahasram sthriya yeka udaavahat). Therefore, Narada goes from house to house and sees Krishna in each house engaged in various human activities.
Perplexed, Narada asks Lord Krishna: “Is this your glory? Is this your maya?” Lord Krishna answers: Brahman dharmasya vakthaaham kartha thad anumodhita, thad shichayam allokam imam aasthithah putra, maa kidhah, Which translates as : “Do not be perplexed, my son. I am not only the teacher of dharma, but I practice it myself and support those who practice it.  I follow the path of dharma in order to teach the world”.
In essence, Krishna says that He is the One in the many.  But, there are two portions to this. Each and every Krishna seen by Narada is the Lord Himself and the gopis (the milkmaids) full of Bhakthi (devotion) know that He is fully with each one of them. They are too intoxicated enjoying His presence to wonder whether He is with any other “lover” of His! Also, the Lord as Krishna is performing different duties in different houses to show the dharma of a householder (grahasta).
Those who do not look into the metaphorical meaning will make fun of those who worship an amorous and promiscuous God. But metaphorically,  Lord Krishna represents, symbolizes the One Supreme. The 16,000 wives are indicative of the thousands of lives (jiva) on this earth. The houses are the physical bodies (sarira). He lives in each and every live body all the time, responsible for all “we” do – all at the same time.
That is the problem with reading old texts. When do you read literal meaning of the words? When you do, do you know what the meaning of that word was in olden days? When do you look for metaphorical meaning?
Adi Sankara has some answers. He says that correct comprehension (of Vedas and puranas) lead to well-being and erroneous notions lead to evil (Brahma Sutra I-3-8). When literal meaning is inappropriate, no authority can make you accept such a meaning. But, when literal meaning makes no sense in the context or to the purpose of the treatise, then metaphorical meaning is to be looked into (Bhashya for Prasnopanishad).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Socrates objected to written texts

You may recall a recent essay I wrote on this subject. Now I came across another point in favor of Socrates’ position, in a book called Nine Lives by William Dalrymple. He describes the life of an itinerant story teller in a Rajasthan village. In his essay on The Singer of Epics, Dalrymple refers to research done in 1930’s by Millman Parry who was trying to find out whether Homer’s works might have been based on an oral tradition. Millman Parry found one individual in Kosovo, by name Avdo Medodovich who could recite poems 15,000 to 16,000 lines long . This farmer had no education and could not read; but remembered several hundred poems.  Millman Parry was of the opinion that people who cannot read remember better!

We know that this makes neurological sense. We observe how people with poor vision use their other senses better and those with poor hearing are always alert visually.
We, in India know how we have several individuals who can recite the entire puranas (Bhagavathars who perform Kathakalakeshpam) , Bhagvat Gita, Ramayana and several Upanishads from memory. One difference is that many of them can also read. However we know that in earlier times, Vedas were passed down generations purely by oral tradition. Such performances have been documented in different cultures.
I distinctly remember one Mr.’AAndi Sundaram” in my ancestral village (Andikadu, Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu). He used to tell us so many stories and recite so many witty poems and puzzles. I even remember two of them. He was not literate; but cultured! What a memory he had.
It is interesting to note Mr.Dalrymple refers to one Mr.Komal Kothari, a specialist in Indian folklore who has indeed shown that one of his subjects slowed down in his ability to learn songs when he learnt to read and write!
Another co-incidence is that I recently listened to a Professor of Eastern Studies who talked about how the original Arabian Nights in the oral tradition is totally different from the current versions of the Arabian Nights. The original had only 273 stories but the bards made up several side stories and elaborated some of them to suit the locale and the audience.  Most of the stories added to make them into 1,000 stories were from the western translators. Would you believe if I say that Alibaba and the forty thieves, and Sindbad, the sailor were not in the original version? If you want to read the original version in English, please go to: The Arabian Nights, translated by Husain Haddawy, WW Norton Edition from 1990.
If you are interested in the importance of story tellers in the evolution of cultures, please also read a remarkable fiction called the Story Teller by Mario Vargas Llosa.
Obviously, the conclusion should not be to turn the clock back! It cannot be done anyway. But, it is to realize that each cultural advancement comes with positive and negative effects. We need to be aware of them and adapt.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reinterpreting Old Texts

Several weeks back, I wrote about rereading old texts in the current context. This idea of reinterpreting old texts is neither new nor original, obviously. In ancient times, Buddha tried it in the east and Socrates in the west. In modern times, one of the earliest was Spinoza in the 17th century. His historical-critical interpretation of the Bible resulted in his isolation, excommunication and poverty!

What makes me think I can succeed where great souls like Buddha and Socrates and Spinoza failed? However, I cannot escape the observation that CHANGE is the essence of this universe and of our lives. How can I hold on to ONE view, that too an old one, for ever? When change is the essence of the universe, is it not more harmonious for us to change our view?

Let me now go back to the Bhagavatha Puranam. I have continued to read that epic book of 12 chapters and over 1,000 pages. It is a treasure house of wisdom, philosophy, history and language. Here are some more insights from those readings.

The entire book is about Lord Krishna’s exploits. Lord Krishna is none other than Vishnu, the protector. He is the Supreme Force, but comes in human form, of his own accord, through his power of Maya (sleigh of hand) and in sport (Leela). Remember, the word Vishnu means one who has entered everything in this universe – and thus its sustainer.

The book does not say much about Balarama, Krishna’s  brother who is also a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. Why? Why is it that even the interpreters and those who give lectures on Bhagavatham do not say much about Balarama? What does he represent? Since he is Adi Sesha, the five-headed serpent on whom the Lord is resting, he may represent the 5 senses of human beings and Vishnu is the controlling mind. I have also read another meaning for the word Sesha which I have forgotten.

There is one intriguing chapter in Bhagavatham about Balarama killing Suta. In order to propitiate for this sin, Balarama undertakes a pilgrimage for 12 months traveling throughout India (Bharatha varsha as is mentioned in the text).  During the description of this pilgrimage, we see names of rivers and places like Ganga, Sona and Tambraparni, Prayag, Gaya, Srisailam, Shiva-Kanchi and Vishnu-Kanchi, Kaveri, Kerala and Kanyakumari. Is this an early support for the habit of pilgrimage to wash of one’s sins or to gain some worldly goods?

Then comes an interesting episode. Balarama arrives at Kurukshetra at the time of a dual between Bhima and Duryodhana. He advises them not to fight. Knowing that their enmity was too deep for reconciliation (badhhavairau….  Anusmaran thava anyonyam duruktham dushkrithani cha) he leaves the scene, goes back to Dwaraka and performs sacrifices, even as Krishna stays back  and takes part in the war.

This passage is really intriguing to me. Anyone with an understanding of this metaphor is welcome to comment.

Another episode is that of the famous Kuchela. All of us know the story of the poor Kuchela and how he did not have anything to take to Krishna and how he took a handful of beaten rice and how much Krishna enjoyed it etc. What struck me was the name Kuchela, although his real name was Sudhama. Chela is cloth. Kuchela is one without any clothes – meaning a poor man.  That was my first piece of learning. The next is the similarity to Tamil language. In Tamil, the saree women wear has two names. One is pudavai. The other is chelai. My guess is that the word chelai is borrowed from Sanskrit.

Finally, chapter 69 of Book 10 summarizes the metaphor of the entire Bhagavatham. It explains the meaning behind the much misunderstood frolics of Lord Krishna with 1000 women and his eight wives. More about this in the next essay.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pure Awareness and the Ultimate Mystery

Sometimes I wake up from sleep with or following a dream. Initially, it is a “feeling” and is non-specific to a person called Balu.  It is felt in the awareness of a person whose identity is not clear. The clear personal association with Balu comes in a fraction of a second later. At that point, it is felt in Balu,  based on his stored memory and recall with clear association to his current location (in his bed, in his house, in Wilmington etc) and associated with happiness or sadness.
Is this initial non-specific  awareness what  Ramana maharishi refers to as the “transient I” and Nisargadatta Maharaj refers to as “Pure Awareness”?  Is this what Buddha refers to as Bhija Vignana (seed consciousness)?  Is this what is meant in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad when it says “ Where is the music of the flute without the basic note  of the flute; where is the rhythm of the drum without the basic sound of the drum?”
Once I can latch on to that basic awareness, I see that without that Basic Pure Awareness, I cannot even be aware of my awareness.  It is ON that Pure Awareness that
All perceptions are received and processed
All feelings are generated and felt
All concepts are formed and acted upon
All ownership ideas come in
Memory is formed, stored and recalled
Desire and energy to act are generated
And Imaginations take flight          And thus an “I” is created.
An impermanent “I” based on an impermanent, inter-being called the body, infused with a mysterious “life principle”, generates that sense of Pure Awareness in its unreliable but exquisite brain.
Life force is the Mystery.Awareness is the Foundation.Physical body is the material base.
For someone else to know the “I” of me,  my physical live body alone is adequate, even if the brain is in coma or asleep. But for me to know that “I am”, pure basic awareness is absolutely essential.
 I am That mystery that I am aware of. Mystery of life, on which pure awareness depends, is the ultimate MYSTERY.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

So, Why argue?

The following thoughts were inspired by Nasadiya Sukta of Rg veda and an essay with the title “Before the first; After the last” by Mr.Kannadasan, a great contemporary Tamil poet.

Wherefrom did I come?
And you?
From fire or primordial stew?
From molded rib or a simian sib?
I wasn’t there to know;
Nor were you.
Nor was anyone else who knew.
So, Why argue?

Where do I go, when I am no more?
To Heaven, I say;
No, not so, you say
Unless I believe your way.
I don’t know
Nor do you.
For, who can come back
After being no more
And settle our score?
So, why argue?