Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Soul

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 23

छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणी नैनं दहति पावकः|
चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो शोषयति मारुतः||

nainam chindanti shastrani nainam dahati pavakah

na cainam kledayantyapo na shoshayati maarutah

it is not harmed by weapons, not burned by fire
cannot be wet by water, nor dried in air

The first time i heard this verse, it was sung in the form of a song by KJ Yesudas in his rendering of this chapter from the Bhagavad Gita. For a long time, through my teens, we went through our morning rituals listening the melodious assembly of un-understandable words. All it mattered to me at that time, was it helped soothed a stressful mind. Much later, after i knew how to recite these words and verses, i set about to understand, what i was saying. I did, however, the profoundness of this verse struck me much later when i was listening the chanting on TV, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Listening to a lecture by Chinamayananda a little after, i remember him trying to explain the concept of the soul as the life in the body. He sighted the parlance in India, where people referred to a dead person as simply the 'body'. The reference was to the fact, once dead, the body was soulless, and therefore just the remnant shell used by someone.

Our body is made of cells, and other organs that simply cease to function, when dead. When life departs the body, the body starts decaying, since otherwise functional organs have stopped. Why? Where inside the body, does life exist ? How come over a million years since life was first created, and thousands of years since humans started walking around the earth, these cells and organs have not evolved their own survival mechanism? They still seem very attached to this 'life' or soul as some of us call it. When this soul departs, these organs have no defense mechanism.

What is a soul ? Where does it come from ? Where does it go ? Who does it owe allegiance to ? Who controls it ? How does it know its time to come or go ? Why does it leave otherwise perfect bodies ? Why does it stick around in ones that are shriveled and motionless with broken bones ?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Theism

Atheism is rejection of 'theism' or as i would call it, belief in an alternate 'theism'. Atheism is not new to India or the Hindu religion itself. Neither is it the prerogative of people from the sub-continent. In Europe and the western world, atheism seems predominant within the scientific society or within societies that established political and government structures centered around Communist and Marxist philosophies.

In India too, today, the Communist are large preachers of the atheist theory. In Tamil Nadu, where i come from, atheist philosophies have been propounded by the Dravidian movement to counter the Brahman influence within the erstwhile congress party. The Dravidian party also provided my first indulgence with atheism and interaction with atheist philosophy. Thanthai Periyar from Tamil Nadu was alive when i was born and have some vague memories of news surrounding him.

Recently i also met a staunch communist in my family (family as we malayalee's call it, my brother-in-law's father-in-law !), who is self proclaimed atheist, while his wife and everyone else in the family are staunch believers. He has no problem in living with these believers, while he upholds his principles. It was an interesting experience, and i pulled up courage to ask him, who he called out to, in times of crisis or need. He didnt, was his answer.

While i am not an atheist, i dont condone this philosophy either. I think there is some rationale and meaning to it all. Come to think of it, we did evolve from a monkey, so then why is our god not looking like a monkey (well with an exception to Hanuman). Instead we have turned mortal philosophers into god, be it Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus or Mohammed. All of them were born into this world and also died. And then there are stories about their immortality. Well about 200 years from now, people will find it difficult to believe that a half-naked old and fragile man was able to bring a mighty empire to its knees. Am sure stories told then will include magical staff, bullet-proof shawl and dhoti and also a powerful drug that he manufactured at the beach which was used later to overpower the British. Phew !!! What a story !!

So the long story short. Who is god ? Did god create us ? Or did we create god ? If there is no god, then how do you explain the fact that 'faith' has such a remarkable effect on people ? If God didnt come down and preach to us and show miracles and prowess, how does one explain these ? If we created God, why did we stop at one, two, twenty or hundred ? Why didnt we create a billion of them ? And if there is a god, why does he allow people to be killed in his name ?