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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Religion and Reason

There was an article recently by Devdutt Pattanaik, a well known author with many publications to his credit. It was titled ‘Origins of Religion’  in a popular Indian  newspaper . It has raised more questions than it has answered. I am not even questioning or bothered whether you support, practice, and follow any religion or many religions. But you are trying to make certain sweeping interpretations with more vagueness and trying to ensconce them in flamboyant language and feeble statements like, “ Religions provide humans with maps that help them navigate through life. Yes, religions cause violence because from religion comes the notion of identity. Religions locate us in a cosmic super map. Attack religion and you attack identity, a simple fact that rationalist and atheists do not understand. 

This is precisely what many aspects of religion have done to humanity and diverted them from facing the stark facts and reality life and instead covered them up with all sorts of entertainment, ornamentation, appealing doctrines, ideas etc. Humanity has fallen a prey to these fancies and attractions and failed to experience life as it is with all its superb as well as silly things. Not even imaginations but hyper fancies and hyped up rituals form major part of religious way of life.


All religions are equal and every religion has its own beauty, beliefs, benefits and banalities.

Let us not either over simplify or over generalize to suit our preconceived interpretations and inferences but instead just observe plain facts as they are and be humble enough to accept them and try to understand, not necessarily judge, what they are? What has been their contribution? What are their inherent qualities or attributes? Etc.

What any individual /group do /did /shall do with them merely shows how they relate to it and has nothing to do with the subject matter per se.

For example if there is a cow, it is just an animal. You can do anything with it: leave it to lead its life it wants, or feed it, play with it, milk it, worship it, sit on it and ride, torture it, cut and eat it and so on. So what is done with or to the cow has nothing to do with the inherent attribute of cow but how every individual/group relates with the cow.

Let no one get emotional or act as if they are more enlightened than another religion or sect and therefore more eligible to preach or sermonize others. Let us all calmly and candidly look at facts of history starting from times of recorded history. While the whole world makes lot of money talking and making movies about terrorism and terrorist cause lot of damages to both people and property, very few try to study the underlying reason.

No one in his sane mind will resort to become suicide bomber or assume by causing calamity and ending his/her own life in the process is going to become a martyr? Then what or who causes such trends and tendencies? Be it inquisitions, crusades, saiva samana in fights in ancient Hinduism, the silencing of Bhuddism in India in remote past by Hinduism etc.

We all can see the obvious, if only we are honest. Osho used to say, ' if you say a fruit tree is great you can prove it only based on the fruits that it produces' Especially after what happened in France , I thought of communicating some simple and plain facts which must be addressed and I did to almost all the major media houses in Europe and USA through these links. Religion-its role,  evolution, purpose, religion and science etc. The first two I wrote in the last three days after what happened in France.

Religions, all religions, by themselves are a big problem why?

and fortunately the Vedas and Bhagawad Geetha nowhere mention the word Hindu. So Hindus cannot claim them as their texts though they may be part of epics and literature that has emanated from a place the present day Hindus live and they also convey many excellent and high philosophical traditions that people who follow Sanathana Dharmna have along with many unpleasant rituals of that period.

Actually religion as an entity, I am not confining to the tall claims or great philosophies in any religion, but religion, I mean all religions, as they are practiced or followed do not as Mr. DEVDUTT PATTANAIK  claims, “provide humans with maps that help them navigate through life.” But on the contrary they define the boundaries, construct fences, create cultural biases and reinforce identities to both classify and differentiate human species, human intellectual approaches, human understanding, human compassion etc based on its predefined modes of perception.
Again Pattanaikji “from religion comes the notion of identity”.

As in the cow example given at the beginning of this small write up different identities emanated from how each one related to the cow and not because of the cow.
“We are programmed by habit and constant preconditioning to create defenses against and make fences around us towards anything new [it could be good, better, best or bad I desist from using the usual good, bad and ugly as it has more negatives] that crops up in us or around us. It is a sort of protectionism that goes to envelop in some specific identity or label and further firm up our prejudices and prevent us from experiencing the new. Gradually this identity creates such strong concrete walls that enforce us to experience life only in terms of what is approved of that identity.

Almost all of us are gullible to this attribute of experiencing life through any existing or well established or socially well accepted or religiously sanctioned or personally enjoyable and pleasing identity/identities, which reflect in our actions and attitudes. We are thus led by the expected experiences which must fit into this readymade or readily accepted patterns, I am not saying either they are good or bad, but we are thus prevented from experiencing life as it is happening at this moment.

So, in real terms there is nothing new when we deal with life based on predetermined and past experiences. Or attempt to do things to get a result for a future goal. Thus, in a way we are slaves of our past or to our future. None of our behavior patterns, perceptions, attitudes or attributes are new or authentic as they are guided by prefixed identities.

In fact, in a way, most of the individual problems and group pogroms are the result of identity crisis. This [identity adoration/affiliation] is a very important part of study of personal psychology and socio-psychology which gets neglected or does not get the prominence it deserves because the predominant factors that create these identities and factories that produce these predators are the patrons and promoters of religious and political ideologies. Now recently, technological advancement has also jumped into this band wagon [of course at least this offers tangible comforts and benefits].

These identity creating factories are afraid of free and open minded persons as these open minded persons may start questioning some aspects or the very identity itself.

There is nothing wrong with identities per se nor are they avoidable. For example if someone  is born physically beautiful, mentally brilliant, in a  highly respected family in a particular nation following certain language, religion, culture, tradition etc with some type of specific behavior then that person would be identified with all those things. What can that person do about any of those identities which he is born with, born into, groomed up with along with social inculcation, indoctrination, insistence or voluntary inclination or interest etc?

There is nothing wrong even in human mind getting into judgmental mode based on these identities which is one of the natural consequences of identity affiliation and which is what is happening all over.

There is nothing wrong even in the human mind making comparisons, analysis, criticisms etc based on these identities which are again natural consequences of affiliation to inevitable identities.[1]

The problem crops up when these identities create narrow walls of prisons of the mind and thereby creating incompatibilities and intolerances in the functioning of many vital tools of life and not letting life to move on smoothly in its tracks.

In brief our thoughts, ideas, actions, feelings, interactions, attitudes etc are to a very great extent influenced by how we relate to changing situations /circumstances /scenarios/events/environment/new relations etc while clinging on to our identities.
Even within specific identities there are varying degrees and intensities of manifestation.

It would be pertinent to mention what ― Idries Shah the great Sufi writer says in Reflections
“You have not forgotten to remember;
You have remembered to forget.
 But people can forget to forget. That is just as important as remembering to remember - and generally more practical.”

As a consequence of this [doing everything while clinging on to our identities]our understanding of life itself is to a very great extent depends on how well we understand our relations/relationships to these changed situations /circumstances/scenarios /events/environment/new relations etc.

Any identity is /all identities are a stumbling block to any realization or unbiased relating/relationship as well. AsJames Braha writes, in the wonderful book ‘LIVING REALITY-My Extraordinary Summer with “Sailor” Bob Adamson’,
“You can only know your self by being yourself without any attempt at self-definition and self-description. Once you have understood that you are nothing perceivable or conceivable, that whatever appears in the field of consciousness cannot be your self, you will apply yourself to the eradication of all self identification, as the only way that can take you to a deeper realization of your self. You literally progress by rejection—a veritable rocket. To know that you are neither in the body nor in the mind, though aware of both, is already self-knowledge.”

The real nakedness devoid of any cover of identity, probably this could be one of the connotations of the word ‘Nirvana’, may enable us and equip us to face reality unbiased and without any pre conditioning. Some great souls have even opined that we can even pose real questions only from this state as Terence Mckenna says, “You are not naked when you take off your clothes. You still wear your religious assumptions, your prejudices, your fears, your illusions, your delusions. When you shed the cultural operating system, then, essentially you stand naked before the inspection of your own psyche…and it’s from that position, a position outside the cultural operating system, that we can begin to ask real questions about what does it mean to be human, what kind of circumstance are we caught in, and what kind of structures, if any, can we put in place to assuage the plan and accentuate the glory and the wonder that lurks, waiting for us, in this very narrow slice of time between the birth canal and the yawning grave. In other words we have to return to first premises."

Life is never fulfilled with unfulfilled relationships within the family, with others in the society, with the environment, with the many sciences, subjects, systems that we come across which are useful to us, used by us or we are used by them and so on. So, the quality of life is the manifestation of the quality of the inter play of these various relationships.

Even in parenting after donating a sperm and leasing a womb and initially taking care of the physical well being of the Child it is all about weaving meaningful and mutually respectable relationships psychologically all the while factoring in many socio-cultural changes and the generational differences.

Can we ever succeed in overcoming the difficulties and fulfill all our relationships?

Probably if we sincerely, seriously and sanely try to understand them through two important primary factors, namely completely listening and curiously learning followed by involvement and responsibility and all these done with total intensity and intense totality. Very often the greatest mistakes in our relationships, overall perceptions and evaluations occur because we read three fourths, listen half, understand quarter, think zero and are indifferent to the impact of our actions, reactions, thoughts and words on humanity and the environment. [2]

The vital factor/essence of any relationship is the connectivity /link and the best way to be aware of it, savor it and sensibly understand this vitality is to be detached to the ultimate results, as Bhagawath Geetha says and again to quote Simone Weil,
“ Attachment is the greatest fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached”.

Because the fact is life is neither a mere predesigned product with preprogrammed operations nor is it merely any of the existing proclaimed and sanctified order nor is it the result of any mere catastrophic accident.

‘Neither our Brain nor our Character is Cast in Stone’ [3]

Do our perceptions and/or thoughts, feelings, knowledge etc influence our experience or our experiences influence our perceptions and/or thoughts, feelings, knowledge etc?

Do we create our identity and getting confined by it?

Or whether some identity actually influences and/or creates us?

Or can we tweak some parts of the brain surgically and create a complete leap away from affinity to identities so that individual perceptions, actions, attitudes and social behavior etc all can be freer and at least devoid of problems caused by contradictions and ideological constraints?  [After all physiologically even DNA is tweaked to produce unimaginable results][4]

Ultimately one thing is clear that there are neither any absolutes to something as temporal as individual life nor any eternally valid or universally applicable models to emulate as the only way or only option to our mortal life. There are no eternal explanations to everything in any single source. Nor is there any omnipotent panacea for everything. The vague randomness that unfolds as we live life is the very beauty of life and probably the most important sign of human evolution and growth of civilization. No single person is an expert on everything.

All relationships effect a transformation, a transition from a present status influencing and impacting ourselves, others, our environment and our very relationship which causes this and so on. This transformation happens due to many of the factors mentioned above in the normal process in a gradual way or sometimes by suddenly overcoming the constraints of time and space, and due to different affinities to various other identities. This happens when there is unqualified complete love as Jeff Brown points out "You don’t measure love in time. You measure love in transformation. Sometimes the longest connections yield very little growth, while the briefest of encounters change everything. The heart doesn't wear a watch- it’s timeless. It doesn’t care how long you know someone. It doesn’t care if you had a 40 year anniversary if there is no juice in the connection. What the heart cares about is resonance. Resonance that opens it, resonance that enlivens it, resonance that calls it home. And when it finds it, the transformation begins…"

Does reality really require an observer? Not necessarily.

Does reality change because of the observer? Not necessarily.

Has reality any inherent existence irrespective of the presence of the observer?

If it rains heavily in a very remote place uninhabited by any human being, still there would be all effects of a heavy rain irrespective of whether anyone was there to observe it or record it or measure it.[5]

Or as the great Neale Donald Walsch says, “The definition of everything depends on how you look at it. Nothing is as it seems, and the moment you change your perspective you see that. Therefore, there is no such thing as Reality; there is only the reality you create by the way you are looking at something. You are creating your reality through the use of perspective”.

So, very meaningful reality exists of its own within the realm of our observation or sometimes unnoticed, unknown and unnamed, beyond and/or beside the realm of our observation, our measuring it, our labeling etc.

Various gifted souls and scholars have tried to perceive it through various methods, expressed their understanding through different subjects, through different frames of reference in varying degrees of intensities, each one grasping the splendor of different facets of the same diamond called the totality of life. What their understanding unraveled is very educative and enlightening and highly motivating for us to explore further and deeper the meanings of life.

[5] Both Einstein and Ramana Maharshi made almost identical statements that "everything is predetermined". Nobel Laureates Eugene Wigner and Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA) made similar statements. The ground-breaking experimental work of Libet and many contemporary cognitive neuroscientists support these statements.

This is the first part of a presentation at the Science and Non-Duality Conference in San Rafael, CA in October 2009. The second part is covered in the video "Intelligence Choice is Impossible"; the third and last part is covered in "You Are Not In Control".

There is a new video "Predestination, free will, control and the illusion of time" which explains much on these concepts.

Additional information is @ website: book: Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening. Downloadable @ youTube: Gary Weber Nonduality FB

Interview @ Towards A Science of Consciousness conf @
All these identity stuff can be found in my blog post
But whatever humanity may do or come up with religion will continue to have its sway because of various factors

I would like people like you who are much read by public, I read all your books , attended a few of your lectures, must first be convinced and then  convey that rationalism and atheism are also very much part of human attempt to explore and understand life. They may sound different, they may approach differently but nonetheless they do unravel much more reasonable, more practically applicable, logically laudable  and easily conformable evidences rather than mundane justification like status quo addicts or passive followers or people who love to confirm to existing views with mere verbal and/or scriptural references/ justifications.

I am all the more appalled by these comments coming as they do just a day before Swami Vivekannada’s birth anniversary who wanted that Man must learn to live with a religion which commends itself to intellectual conscience and the spirit of rationality who also believed that whatever we do must be justified and supported by reason. So I would like to place on record some of his quotes here on this issue of rationality and reason being given a priority in perceiving as well as practicing religion.

“There are four general types of men—the rational, the emotional, the mystical, and the worker. For each of these we must provide suitable forms of worship. There comes the rational man, who says, "I care not for this form of worship. Give me the philosophical, the rational—that I can appreciate." So for the rational man is the rational philosophic worship.

“The scriptures of different religions point out different means to attain the ideals of universal love, freedom, manliness, and selfless benevolence. Every religious sect is generally at variance as to its idea of what is virtue and what is vice, and fights with others over the means of attaining virtue and eschewing vice, instead of aiming at realising the end. Every means is helpful more or less, and the Gita (XVIII.48) says, "Every undertaking is attended with defects as fire with smoke"; so the means will no doubt appear more or less defective. But as we are to attain the highest virtue through the means laid dozen in our respective scriptures, we should try our best to follow them. Moreover, they should be tempered with reason and discrimination. Thus, as we progress, the riddle of virtue and vice will be solved by itself.

“Personally I take as much of the Vedas as agrees with reason. Parts of the Vedas are apparently contradictory. They are not considered as inspired in the Western sense of the word, but as the sum total of the knowledge of God, omniscience. This knowledge comes out at the beginning of a cycle and manifests itself; and when the cycle ends, it goes down into minute form. When the cycle is projected again, that knowledge is projected again with it. So far the theory is all right. But that only these books which are called the Vedas are His knowledge is mere sophistry. Manu says in one place that that part of the Vedas which agrees with reason is the Vedas and nothing else. Many of our philosophers have taken this view.

“When, by reasoning, Truth is comprehended by the intellect, then it is realised in the heart, the fountainhead of feeling. Thus the head and the heart become illumined at the same moment; and then only, as says the Upanishad, "The knot of the heart is rent asunder, and all doubts cease" (Mundaka Upanishad, II.ii.8).

The whole above write up is a reaction to this

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