Sunday, June 24, 2012

What is the purpose of human life?

Many religious texts dwell around this question. Many people also think about this question, after all what is purpose of human life, how are we different compared to other animals? Why humans control most of the things on this planet? How they got this superiority, is there some special reason for it? Is there any special reason for presence of humans on this planet? Different texts take some what different approach towards this question but if we read religious texts most of them say that ultimate purpose of human life or birth is to serve supreme entity God, some even go to the extend that we all are born to entertain that superpower!!. Many offer different rewards or explanations for why one should serve God, some say we have to liberate ourselves from cycle of life and death, some say we need to do this to go to some higher planet where life is better than what we get on this planet that is without old age, disease, miseries and death, some say to achieve liberation from human sufferings...like this there are many explanations for why we have to indulge in service of that super power. There are many ways or methods recommended for that service. We can't see that superpower in person so there are many indirect ways recommended to fulfill our service requirement, some say by serving its creation (humans, we are believed to be created) we can serve God, we can engage in prayers or worship imagining God in some form or in formless way to achieve that goal and I think this is the most popular way (praying in temples, Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Gurudwaras or any other place).

So what is the purpose of human life? We don't see many people following whatever is recommended in those books of various organized religions. Many people who claim or seem to be following that path are also filled with tremendous hatred about people who are not from their camp and their only purpose seems  to bring more and more people into their camp so that it becomes bigger and bigger. Their ultimate aim seems to conquer whole world and make it mono-religious. So are we supposed to be a camp follower?  There are so many camps, which camp to follow? If the whole purpose is to serve God why don't we start doing it since our childhood and leave all other distractions aside (like family, school, job, etc.)? Are we missing something?

Human beings have more developed brain compared to other animals on this planet, capabilities of our brain has allowed us to conquer many of our physical limitations. We can do many things easily for which our body is not designed, other animals can't do it because their brain is not developed like ours. Our universe functions based on some may laws or principles, some we know, many we are still trying to understand. We now know more about origin or life on this planet, process of evolution, reasons for many diseases, their possible treatments. Science and technology has helped us to solve many mysteries...can it help us to solve this one??

According to me there is no universal purpose of human life, all of us are different and unique. We are social beings and have some social responsibility and role to play but apart from that we all are different. Everyone has to find their own purpose of their life, Michael Jackson was born to dance, Sachin was born to bat, Lata Mangeshkar was born to sing, Michael Jordan to play basketball, Pele to play football (or soccer), they were lucky to discover the purpose of their life. Some how we have attached very grand meaning to the phrase 'purpose of life', most of us think that purpose of life has to be something grand, big and spectacular. I think it's not necessary, one can have very simple aims in life and still can live very happy and successful life. Money, fame or social status, cannot be the only criteria to judge a successful or happy person. A housewife who takes care of her family and plays major role in upbringing of her kids or teachers who train future citizens of this world are equally successful people according to me like any other entrepreneur or celebrity. I hope we all can discover our purpose of life and work towards it. We all serve humanity by discovering purpose of our own life.

Thanks for reading and please share your comments.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Do we really don't have enough time?

'I don't have enough time to do this'  or 'I am too busy'....we hear these lines almost everyday from someone or other, almost everyone uses these lines in so many situations, sometimes we use it to explain our kids why we cant attend their school function or their dance performance, sometimes we use this to justify why cant to go to gym even though we know that doing exercise is good for health, we use it when we can't take out time  to pursue our hobbies or spend time with our family, not having enough time has become our favorite excuse. Most of the time it's poor attempt to justify our inability to manage our time efficiently. So the questions is, is it really true that we really don't get enough time?

Time is great leveler in this world, it's amazing that everyone has same amount of time, rich or poor, young or old, men or women all of us get only 24 hrs per day, not any more or any less. With money one can not extend the hours of the day or one doesn't loose few hours per day if they are poor. Normally we choose how we want to sped our time, choice is always in our hand. Whenever we say that we don't have time to go to gym and sit in front of the computer or stay in office then we clearly think that the other activity which we choose to do is more important than going to gym, that's why we prefer to do it. When we tell our kids that we cant attend their dance or music performance because of some work or any other reason then obviously we give more importance to that other activity than attending performance of our kid.

Ultimately we have to decide what is important to us and manage our time accordingly. Most of us get required flexibility at work and home so that we can manage our time as per our wish. If we really want to attend our kids music or dance performance then on that day we can start our work little early or stay late to accommodate that break. I know that it may not be possible on every occasion but I am sure we can do it enough so that our kids wont feel neglected. The problem is we over use this line (I don't have time) so much (very casually and frequently) that we don't even try to analyze the situation and test the validity of our excuse. Time never stops for anyone, if we don't use it wisely it will go away so its better to be wise and manage our time efficiently.

Thanks for reading and please share your comments.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Domestic violence and masculinity..

Latest episode of 'Satyamev Jayate' (June 17th) dealt with the issue of domestic violence. We might think that in today's era of women liberation, when there are so many feminist groups, many women working in various sectors issue of domestic violence is not that serious. Our world is touching new heights every day in the area of science and technology, we are conquering new frontiers almost every day in many fields but their are still some areas such as our attitude towards domestic violence, situation of women in society, cultural and traditional attitude towards them are some of the areas which need massive improvement. People normally think that issue of violence in family is strictly personal matter and it should not be resolved with the help of criminal justice system or should not be discussed in public for the sake of honor of that family. This thinking is very strong and still pervades today. 

Today we have many laws which are designed to help domestic violence victims, help to deliver justice in these cases but our social and cultural norms still nurture culture or attitude of violence against women. This violence is not always physical in nature, many times its mental, its social and personal suppression, it's used as means of patriarchal control over women. In every culture or society men have created various norms, rules or traditions which help them to keep control over women through social, economic and physical dominance. We have constantly ignored this very important issue which is integral part of our social health in the name of protecting family structure and sanctity. Domestic violence is under reported crime in many societies. The causes of domestic violence include strong beliefs about masculinity and male dominance.

Many cultures and societies have some stereotypes image of men and women, they have very rigid rules about what men should do, how they should behave, what type of personality they should have and similarly they have set of rules for women. Men are supposed to masculine, full of power, dominance, are expected to perform, expected to lead and women are supposed to be patient, obedient, kind, caring and full of many so called feminist qualities. Current conceptions of masculinity and femininity make it very difficult for the victims to come out of these relationship. Our society or family also doesn't make it easy for them, strangely the whole counselling is directed towards victims, that's is women in this case. We tell them to adjust, tell them to be patient, be tolerant, put the onus of maintaining family structure on them. WHY?

Most cultures, religions, religious scriptures (I am trying to be very lenient to say most actually all of them) don't give equal status or rights to women. People may not accept this and may give many reasons to justify whatever is written in those books, can put very intelligent arguments in favor of them but the fact is when is comes to women power, equality they fail miserably. But why I am blaming these books who can not defend themselves or putting blame on religion or traditions or so called culture...why cant I leave them alone..because these books and culture and traditions shape our thinking, structure our societies and make people believe in certain patterns, rules which they think are designed by God, transferred to them from generations and which was received directly from that superpower so one cannot challenge them. According to men, if superpower, creator of this world (God) has given them the right to dominate then who are they to change it, its their natural right, even in most religions gender of God or Godhead is male, so there you go, the basic cause of this problem, I know many of us won't agree with my diagnosis but this is what I think.

What is society or culture after all, from where we get it? It's not product of last few years or even few centuries, its the product of our existence on this planet, many traditions we can trace thousands of years back, their foundations are very solid, so solid that even if we know that some things are wrong we can not challenge them or change them and we are very proud of them. Yes many of them are good, they teach us many good things I won't deny that, at the same time many are bad, totally unfair towards particular gender or sections of society, need to be condemned not matter in which book they are written, lets fight them. My friend Anand Pawar (http://www.samyakindia.org/) who was featured on this show and expressed his views very aptly works in this area and I am really proud of his work and efforts.Once we realize that we have the capacity to change the world around us then we can bring any change which we want. Lets be the change which we want to bring, lets start from ourselves

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
1. http://www.samyakindia.org/

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Are our senses really imperfect?

Most of the blame for our miseries, desires, problems in life, understandings or misunderstandings about so may issues including religion, God and its existence, etc. is placed on our 'imperfect senses'. It is assumed and even propagated in many religious books that our imperfect senses make us to dwell in unnecessary or evil sensual pleasures, distract us from real meaning and purpose of life and create so many other problems for us.The question which comes in my mind is, if these senses are so bad then why do we have them? Why they didn't become perfect (or got improved) in the process of evolution?

There are five major senses traditionally recognized as methods or means of our perception of our surroundings, they are hearing (ears), sight (eyes), touch (skin), smell (nose) and taste (tongue). These five senses (or organs associated with each senses) collect and transmit the data to our brain for perception. Basically these senses just collect the data, it's our brain who process the data and then create certain perception about the things about which the data was received. The reality is its our brain who is the ultimate beneficiary and controller of these senses. Good smell doesn't make our nose happy or good taste doesn't make our tongue happy but it's our brain who feels that.

All our senses or organs have certain limits of detection, they all have certain minimum (below that they can't detect) and maximum (above which they cant tolerate) and most of the instruments also have these limits. Most of us know these limits and there is information available about exact numbers related with how low or high we can go, but having limited capability doesn't make things imperfect. They are supposed to be used for specific purpose, and during the process of evolution these senses have evolved to the limit which can allow us to survive on this planet. Our sensory organs are perfect for our survival on this planet, they protect us from rain, sunlight, warn us about dangers by smell, sound and this is the purpose we have them. We can not fly using bicycle or move with the lightning speed using it but that doesn't make bicycle imperfect machine, we can not fly with it because it was not designed to fly, its perfect for the purpose for which it was designed. There is huge difference between limitation and imperfection. Speed limit of bicycle is its limitation but we can not call it as its imperfection. Human brain is the ultimate power which controls all these senses, whatever we do is to please our brain and not to please these sensory organs, they are just receivers which receive the data and sent it to brain which ultimately decides whether its positive (which makes it to feel happy) or negative.

Human brain is very complex and amazing thing, it has helped us to conquer amazing frontiers which seemed practically impossible with our limited physical capabilities. Our body is not designed to fly like birds but we designed parachute which can allow individuals to fly like birds, we even designed aeroplane which can allow us to fly in groups while doing our day to day activities. We can not live like fish under the water but we designed submarines which can allow us to do that, we are the first animals from this planet to land on moon, its our brain which helped us to defy the gravity of this planed and launch our self in space I can go on listing amazing achievements of human beings which they have achieved with these so called imperfect senses. Our senses might have limited range but according to me they are not imperfect. Our brain which controls all these senses have unlimited capabilities.

To call something 'imperfect' we should have something to compare which is 'perfect' or at least have some idea about how that perfect thing should be, I don't know what people mean when they call our senses 'imperfect', they never tell how the perfect senses are and how they behave. Ultimately all senses are controlled and guided by our brain and I already mentioned its phenomenal abilities. Our brain's phenomenal power and abilities also generate endless desires, as our brain's abilities don't have any limits our desires also don't have any limits. The problem is how to control the desires of our brain, as I said its abilities are endless so are its desires. Our needs are limited but our desires are endless. Our senses are allow us to feel and enjoy whatever is requires for our survival on this planet. We need only limited food to satisfy our hunger, but we go on eating if we get some dish which we like, we can't control our desire to eat even we know that it might harm our body and health, we even try to acquire things (like money, land, food) in large quantities, more than what we need for ourselves and our future generations. We struggle to control our greed and then blame it to our senses. It's our brain, our thinking which makes us perfect or imperfect. Whole concept of perfection or imperfection is product of our brain, so rather than blaming our senses for our miseries we should try to control our desires and then our senses will automatically follow, just calling them 'imperfect' (when they are not) is not going to solve the problem.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why should we care about this planet?

Now a days we hear a lot about impact of humans on this planet. Humans are largest consumers of the natural resources of this planet. We get benefited immensely by the things p[produced by nature, we are heavily dependent on some of them like sunlight, natural gas, air, water, etc. Any living entity needs to consume at least few things from their surrounding environment to survive, if consumption is matched with regeneration of consumed stuff then life is in perfect balance. But for some reason if we cannot maintain this balance then also nature adjusts as much it can, but there is limit how much abuse it can take and when things go beyond certain limit results can be catastrophic. Because of recent developments in science and technology we have seen tremendous improvement in quality and longevity of human life, this has also resulted in increase in consumption of natural resources at unprecedented level.

We need to learn how to reduce our carbon footprints so that we can minimize harmful impact of our consumerism on our planet. There are many environmental problems like air, water and land pollution, global warming, depletion of nan-renewable natural resources, etc. They all are related with heavy use of natural and man made resources. Because of tremendous progress in the area of science and technology we have achieved many things which were considered as impossible few decades ago. This has resulted in heavy consumption of natural resources such as water, land, trees, fossil fuels etc. Instead of using these natural resources we are misusing them, nature can not take this abuse endlessly, we are seeing some early signs of warnings in the form of climate change, unpredictable weather and natural disasters. Right now, we have all the necessary technology,  necessary resources and also the required capability to address most of the issues on our planet. Never before in the history of humanity human beings were as capable as we are today.

At present this is the only planet in entire universe on which we can survive without any artificial aid. We are still trying to find proof of presence of life in other planets. Even if we find the proof of life, its very unlikely that we can find any other planet which will be as suitable as thins one for our habitat. We know the problem, we even know possible solutions and we have all the resources and capabilities to control the damage, but still why we are not doing it? What is stopping us from taking those steps? Is it that difficult? Are we so selfish that we don't want to think about well being of our future generations? It's not that we have to do huge sacrifices to control the global warming, people who don't want to stop excessive consumerism paint the picture as if global warming advocates want people to stop breathing because they emit carbon dioxide, it's not like that, small small steps can bring very effective change. Few things which everyone can do is to save electricity, limit use of vehicles (walk wherever possible, its healthy also), try to use renewable source products (like paper, bio based fuel, etc.). These are very easy steps to follow, It's not the responsibility of governments alone to ensure well being of this planet we all should contribute. If we care we must show by our actions that we really care just thinking about it or talking won't help.

Quality of our life is directly related with the health of our planet. There can not be a good life without a good planet. Currently we don't have capacity to create a new planet but we definitely can maintain and preserve the planet which we have. We are not doing any favor or some social work for others by preserving this planet, we have to do it for our own life, our own fellow beings. We all breath same air, live on same planet, if anything goes wrong with his place we all will suffer. We are able to enjoy good life because our ancestors didn't destroy the ecological system of this planet, they didn't disturb natural balance which is required for smooth functioning of our ecosystem and environment, are we doing enough to make sure that we pass on similar healthy planet to our future generation? 

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

Related References:
1. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming
3. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why we imitate others?

Most of us need some inspiration or motivation to excel in our profession or even in personal life. We all look for inspiration in books, try to get it from people around us, from famous and successful personalities, or from iconic characters like Ram, Krishna, Jesus, etc. People often find the personalities with which they can relate and get inspired but in that process most of the time they try to imitate that person, try to become like that person and most of the time forget their own identity.

We need inspirations and good examples to follow and fortunately we have many of them. We can learn lot of things by reading about their lives, their struggle and their achievements, their qualities which helped them to overcome difficulties in their life. The problem is people try to copy their idols, they try to become another X or Y, which is impossible, there can not be another Michael Jackson or Sachin Tendulkar or any other person (even you and me). Nature has given unique identity to all of us, each of us is different than other. By trying to become someone else we are going against nature. Nature never copies, every living thing produced by nature is unique, no two things are carbon copy of each other. Nature never produced another Jesus, Ram, Krishna, Mohammad, Buddha or Mahavir they all were unique personalities and so are we. All these great individuals didn't copy anyone, they explored their own path, they expressed themselves as they were. We all are unique in our own way and have our own nature and qualities but we don't even try to search for them but try to become someone else and in turn we kill our original self. In a process to become someone else most of the time we loose our own identity permanently.

Our society, family or even parents always want us to follow some 'good' examples, they call them ideals. There are role models in every culture or society. Their achievements are great and nothing wrong in getting inspiration from their lives to shape up our own life. Our elders or society always try to show us predictable path, which has been already traveled by so called successful people, may be they do this because they know the outcome of that path. They know if we follow X or Y what can be the result, what type of person we might become.

Why they want us to become like someone who was successful in their eyes? What is the reason we are advised to follow some ideal personality or God? May be they don't want to see many people trying to establish their own identity, living their life on their own terms, traveling totally new, unpredictable path, it might create chaos, disturb the well established structure of society. If we follow personalities like Ram, Krishna or Jesus or any other ideal/successful personality then people know what to expect from us and how to deal if something goes wrong. But the problem is, we never managed to copy and reproduce any of these personalities, we couldn't produce another Jesus or Krishna or any other person because its not possible. Even cloning can only produce two living things which look same, but they don't think or behave same.

Most of us try to imitate somebody because we are scared to travel unknown path, people around us force to follow particular path because they want to see familiar personality around, with predictable behavior and the one which follows the norm. Every society wants a conformist, a camp follower who can follow the norms and preserve their institutions. Society wants us to fit in well defined molds, want to direct our behavior to familiar patterns. Any person who tried to break these norms and tried to travel new path had to face tremendous resistance and anger from society. They were never accepted or praised during their lifetime, slowly we are changing and now at least some societies and cultures are more open to new ideas and concepts but this is not the case everywhere. Even as independent adults we are constantly reminded what is good and what is bad, what we should do and what we shouldn't, we are told to follow the norms,  not to question elders, etc. We cite many examples to our kids we tell them to follow these examples, try to become like them. Very few people tell young ones to get inspiration from great personalities and become what they want.

Just by imitating someone we can never understand their life or their struggle, chances are that we may not understand our own life also. It's not that easy to imitate some one and get exactly the same results, just by imitating that particular person we can't become like him/her, mostly we do that because we don't want to take efforts to understand ourselves. It's not that easy to understand ourselves, we have to take lot of efforts to realize who we are and very few people try to do that. Looking at some else's life or reading about it can definitely help us to understand our own life. Everyone is unique and different in this world, it's not very sensible thing to constantly compare our-self with other people.

We should definitely try to take inspiration from people around us, from all great people who are living or lived on this planet but resist the temptation of imitating them. There is difference between imitating some one and getting inspired by someone and we should understand it. Rather than trying to imitate somebody we should try to discover ourselves, understand out true nature and try to be ourselves. Lets discover real us and the fact is no one like us existed before or will exist after, we all are unique. Lets give ourselves chance to express our true consciousness, our true personality not the one which society or people around us want us to be. Lets just be our-self.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Communicating science to general public

Many scientists are concerned about lack of awareness in general public about science, its discoveries and impact on human life. Many institutes, universities, scientific societies and even scientists try their best to run various public outreach programs which can help in spreading awareness about science, its achievements and its capabilities among general population (who is not very well acquainted with science). All people associated with science want to do better job in communicating science to general public, but unfortunately its not easy thing to do.

This problem of communication between scientists and general public is very old, I think it started when scientific knowledge was labeled as complicated and got limited to few intellectuals. Scientists in old days were considered as rebels as they questioned most of the established beliefs and challenged many statements from holy books. This created obvious rift between scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge which resulted in this apparent disconnect. Today also many people believe that most of the scientists are atheist and they don't believe in God or religion. Science or scientist don't force their opinion or theories on general population, everything is open for debate and discussion in science. Asking a question is basic requirement for progress of science and knowledge, but this attitude is not welcomed in many other sections of life. This difference in attitude widened the gap between science and other fields, people are trying by various means to bridge this gap but there are no easy solutions available for this. There are several other reasons for this disconnect between scientists and general public. Some scientists put partial blame on lay public because they think that many people have very little factual knowledge of science, where as some scientists believe that blaming public is not very useful and scientists should think that the problem is with us that's why we cannot communicate with them properly.

The problem is how to engage nonscientific audience, science is not very entertaining and often people think its knowledge is not necessary for their survival. But this is not true, today's life is all about science, since we get up in the morning till we sleep in night whatever we use or experience science is playing some role in it. From our toothpaste to sleeping bed, everything has some science involved in it. We are surrounded by scientific wonders and don't even realize it. Major problem in engaging and informing the public through education or various other activities is that people don't always pay attention and if at they listen they often don't remember the things what scientists want them to remember. Science has helped us to solve many mysteries of life, there was no other way to understand them without scientific methods. I don't think people have given science its due. Divided public opinion about climate change, biased views about females and certain sections of society, racism, many religious superstitions, blind faith, sectarianism, etc. are some examples of lack of proper scientific knowledge and understanding.

Science has helped humans to achieve many impossible things, it has created unique world around us, our life is totally dependent on many inventions discovered by brilliant scientists, we don't realize it because they have become part of our routine day to day life. There is no field which is not benefited because of science and its achievements. I think if we want to name one reason for all the progress, comfort and many positive changes in human life credit should go to science. At the same time many scientific discoveries are also responsible for some problems in modern world, but entire blame for this cannot be placed on science but its mainly result of human greed and misuse of technology for selfish purpose. Positive and negative effect of science are clearly visible and critics of science only try to highlight negative aspects of science. It's the need of today to clear many misconceptions about science and spread awareness among common people about the need of basic scientific knowledge and attitude. Every person from any background can get benefited by this, it's necessary for their and society's overall health and progress. It's the responsibility of both scientific community and general public to develop a scientific attitude which is logical and rational thinking.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Friday, June 8, 2012

How authentic are the scriptures?

Many people ask this question and there are various theories and opinions about this topic. All scriptures are very old books, some going back thousands of years, we don't even know when they were compiled for the first time. I think it's waste of time to argue about their authenticity, we don't have enough data about it. I think whatever scriptures we have overall they are very useful and are full of knowledge and lessons about life (Bible, Qur'an, Guru granth sahib, Gita, Upanishads and many more). They cover almost each and every aspect of life, discussions in them cover topics about most of problems we face in day to day life and also offer possible solutions. Most of the time the messages in these scriptures are delivered through many stories with lot of interesting characters and themes. It's very easy to deliver complicated message via interesting story, people understand it in much better way and also remember the message because of that story, our ancestors realized it and that's why most of these books contain lot of interesting stories. We still use this technique of story telling to teach our kids, we tell them lot of bed time stories which have some lesson imbedded in them, same way these scriptures try to convey their message to us.

Why to debate that whether incidents mentioned in them really happened or not? Is it going to make their contents better or worse? These books are source of knowledge and if we don’t want to take any lessons from them then its better to just ignore them. These things (scriptures from all religions) are gift to us from our ancestors, we must value them, one can definitely raise questions and argue about theories and philosophy mentioned in them. It's necessary to validate and test any information we receive, we should not believe anything blindly. This process of analysis will surely help us to realize how wonderful these texts are, they teach us so much but only if we are willing to learn. Mostly these scriptures are concerned with spiritual knowledge, some of them do talk about many scientific things but mostly they are about spirituality and meaning or aim of human life. If someone is not interested in things discussed in these books they are useless for them and it's simple fact to understand for both who believe in them as well as who don't believe. It’s like if you are not interested in movies or engineering or chemistry then anything related with that subject will not appeal to you or rather will sound very boring and complicated and it’s quite natural to feel like this, nothing wrong in it.

All these books are there from centuries, there are also different versions of them. As these books are very old, there are some doubts about authenticity of their contents and many of these questions are quite reasonable. There are also many theories about who wrote these books and also whether original contents were modified or not, if modified then to what extend. I think all these questions are  interesting for historical prospective and archeological research, there is lot of research done in this area. Results of that research are very interesting and are published in various journals and books. Naturally not all devotees agree with these findings as it hurts their feelings and also many think that as these books are sacred they should not be criticized or analyzed. I personally think they should not get disturbed by these findings because they do not reduce importance or significance of these books. We should study them and if possible also contribute towards them (many people did that in past but for some reason this process was discontinued). Because of sacred status of these books its almost impossible to challenge anything written in them or edit anything (even if it's out dated or wrong). All these books were written in certain era and many things written in them were according to that era and socioeconomic conditions. When people or devotees insist to follow everything in these books as it is, it creates problem as some of the things are not relevant in today's world. If people who claim these books as their property (by associating them with particular religion or sect) want to preserve good messages and teachings mentioned in these books then its important for them to show some flexibility and broadmindedness. Knowledge is not stationary, it's always evolving, every day new information is generated, it's continuous process.

Many people also argue about whether Ramayan, Mahabharat or people like Ram, Krishna really happen?  Devotees who consider them as God reject these doubts altogether and want to stick to their beliefs, this is expected from devotees and people who want to question their existence try to find technical faults in stories about life of these characters. In this process of argument both sides miss the actual benefit which one can get from these books. One side considers these people and books as sacred and worship them blindly without trying to understand the true meaning of their messages and other side rejects them just because of some technical doubts. Arguments like whether Jesus was God or not or Krishna was real or not are endless, it’s not these people who are important but their teachings are, so if you don’t agree to their teachings then they don’t exist for you, it’s as simple as that. For me personally question of their authenticity doesn't matter, I don't worry about it. I consider these books and these people as source of knowledge and useful information, I read all these books like many other books I read. I don't associate any of these books with any particular religion for me they are all same. I take from them whatever I feel is relevant to my situation or whatever appeals me and leave the rest. If I find anything in them which sounds somewhat wrong I don't hesitate to raise question about it or even criticize it (after doing some research). I share my beliefs and whatever I understand from these books and people who hear or read it are free to agree or disagree with it. I have my opinion and beliefs (and they can change over time) and people can have theirs, there is nothing wrong in it. The problem is not with anyone's beliefs but when they become really assertive about their beliefs (almost dictatorial) and start projecting them as 'facts' and are not willing to listen other side of story. I think that our society is evolved enough to understand that there can be more than one truths, more than one ways to reach same destination and also realize that many religions, beliefs can coexist together peacefully.

Thanks for reading and your comments are always welcome.

Reference:
1. Interesting read for some inforamtion about Bhagavad Gita and historical facts about it, http://www.vvshirvaikar.de/Dnyaneshwari/PROLOGUE.html 
2. http://www.biblica.com/bibles/faq/3/
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Quran

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"You're either with us, or against us"

This is very popular line, used by many people many times. This line and its variations are used by many leaders and their followers in polarized situation. This line represents a philosophy which is also present in religion, politics and part of human psyche specially during any debate or discussion about some sensitive subject or topic. Often this means that if the person or a group is not interested in joining you team then they are considered as enemy. This can turn into very rigid attitude and also propagate hatred towards people who don't agree with our views. Now a days we see this attitude a lot in various forums and discussions, people are becoming intolerant towards others views and opinions.

President Bush used similar line after tragic incident of 9/11, people were very emotional that time and this statement polarized world opinion. It's not that terrorism never existed before or was not an issue before 9/11, but that incident resulted in taking this issue at totally different level. Terrorism is very complex issue and has many reasons and angles associated with it, its not easy to see it in black and white color. This statement unfortunately polarized opinion about particular religion (Islam) rather than highlighting the issue of terrorism and looking for reasons behind it. 

During our course of life we come across many situations, they teach us many things these teachings along with our formal education form our beliefs and opinions. Everyone doesn't go though same experiences in life, people also come from different regions and places so its obvious that different people can have different opinions about the same thing. Problem of conflict of interest and clash of opinions between individuals and  civilizations happened many times in the past. It also resulted in many wars and massacres and its still happening, it seems we still didn't learn our lesson from them. 

Why people feel so upset if someone challenges their views and beliefs? Debates and discussions are ways to share our knowledge. Normally in debate no one is right or wrong, people are just sharing information by putting some rational argument. Everyone one has freedom of expression, they can express their views and opinions in democratic ways at the same time others also have freedom either to agree or to disagree with them. Most people know about their rights but very often they forget that others also have same rights. We should understand that sometimes there can be more than one truths, more than one correct answers to same questions. If some group insists that only their version of truth is the absolute truth and all other versions are wrong then situation of confrontation arises. This rigid attitude is the reason for whatever hatred we see in today's world. One group of people hate other groups just because hey don't subscribe to their views and ideas. Conflict between capitalism and communism or issues between countries with nuclear arms and countries who want to acquire them, communal riots are few of the examples of this intolerant attitude towards each other.

I think recent outburst by some social groups in media and Facebook against some of the episodes of Amir's show 'Satyamev Jayate' fall in this type of attitude. We should understand that some articles, posts on blog, movies or shows like Amir's ongoing show on TV have certain purpose, they want to highlight some issues, problems or want to discuss only certain aspect of some big issue. Many times its not possible to cover all aspects of certain issue in one single article or episode because of so many reasons and people should understand this. They have full right to disagree with the contents or put their side or even prove the contents of show or article wrong by giving counter evidence. But just to criticize that particular person for bringing out that issue or highlighting that problem is totally wrong. In all this emotional outburst that particular person becomes target and the main issue gets sidelined, I have seen this happening many times. If people don't agree with anyone's opinion just show the proofs and prove that he/she is wrong, it's very simple thing to do but people choose other way, to shut that person up. It's easy for them to try to shut that person up rather than to solve the issue, accept the mistakes or tackle the problem. I don't know when people will mature to understand that we have many issues in this world which needs to be addressed, rather than trying to cover it up or take criticism personally we should try to encourage debates, discussions about these problems and try to solve them together.

Whatever work Amir or any other person or many organizations through out world are doing is not a easy, they are highlighting some sensitive issues, want to have debates about these things. Sweeping the issue under the carpet and pretending that nothing wrong is happening or has happened in our society, religion, family or country is very easy thing to do, but unfortunately that doesn't solve the problem. It takes courage to show mistakes of our ancestors, take on some established institutions or beliefs. Many topics are sensitive and people don't feel comfortable to discuss it, but that doesn't mean they should not be discussed. Let's stand in support of such individuals or organizations and if we don't agree with their views then lets try to prove them wrong  by showing proofs against their argument rather than shutting them up.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Religion and Spirituality


I think most people in the world are associated with some religion and consider themselves religious. Many of them think that being religious means being spiritual also, but I think that’s not true. According to me these two things are totally different from each other, they were supposed to go together but somehow it didn't work out. Originally most of the religions have regarded spirituality as an integral part of religious experience but somehow it didn't work that way. Religion today has become more like a organized institution, it is managed by set of people who try to make sure that its followers follow certain path and are loyal to certain beliefs and system. Fortunately concept of spirituality is not claimed by any single religion, may be the reason is one can not convert spirituality into organized institute. If people are following certain rules, believe in certain scripture, its claims and description of God mentioned in those books then they are considered to be associated with that particular religion, but there are no certain rules or rituals to become a spiritual person.

Spirituality is inner path or journey enabling us to discover our true nature or essence of our being, it doesn't follow any rules, its very personal experience, it means something different for everyone. We can divide people based on their religion as we have given different names to different religions based on their origin and beliefs, but we can not divide people based on spirituality, they are either spiritual or not, there are no different categories in spiritual experience. So, one thing is very clear that spirituality is very different compared to religion and its not associated exclusively with any particular religion.

Religion is an institution established by humans, its more social and organized structure where group of people try to follow assigned path with a hope to relate to sacred (divine) or God (supreme entity). This assigned path is often derived from some book or set of books which forms the basis of that particular religion. Spirituality is a chosen path but normally people don't choose their religion, they acquire it or sometimes its even forced on them. Spirituality is something found deep in oneself, it's different for everybody, it helps us to realize our true nature where as religion makes us a part of particular group, helps us to get group identity. Religion can help in initiating search of spirituality but its not the requirement for being spiritual. Spirituality can be found in anything which we love deeply, it can be music, sports, writing, religion, science, social work or any other thing which we like from bottom of our heart. Whenever person gets totally involved in their passion they can feel deep spiritual experience. Whenever Lata Mangeshkar sings, Sachin Tendulkar bats, Michael Jackson dances  or Amitabh acts I am sure they must be undergoing deep spiritual experience that's why the results are so phenomenal. Whenever we do anything with total attention and dedication, it can be reading, studies or worship or singing or any work we love we can get spiritual experience. Spiritual person can be religious but its not necessary for religious person to be spiritual as I said these two are totally different things.

Normally being religious is associated with certain rituals and acts, one has to follow certain rules and guidelines whereas one can experience spirituality in anything, almost in anything we are passionate about. Our spirit is not bound by anything, not by religion, age or any situation, its a vast and free entity, difficult to remain constrained. There is no set formula to achieve spirituality as different people can experience it in different way, but one things is sure that spiritual person won't hurt others, they won't kill others for their spiritual experience. Spirituality and violence can not go together, both are totally opposite to each other. Person doesn't need any qualification or training to get the spiritual experience but definitely we need to attain certain level of maturity to understand it. It can be experienced at any age but not everyone realize it.

Developing our spiritual life can offer many benefits to us. It can help us to give a sense of purpose and also can help us to understand and discover our passions in our personal, professional and social life. Spirituality can mean different for different people, it can be knowing one's self or feeling connected to others or having sense of purpose in life or doing what they love to do or meditating, etc, there are many acts which can yield spiritual experience to us.

Thanks for reading and your comments are welcome.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)