Sunday, May 14, 2006


One of the most comforting things in human existence is the feeling of belonging. Belonging to a family, circle of friends, relationship, community, culture and so on. The simple explanation why we gain comfort from this feeling is that it allows us to connect and feel we are not alone in our journey and lives. Life is unpredictible and turbulent ride but maybe worse its a lonely one because thats our nature. Our individual experiences are just that OUR experiences, it is nigh impossible to convey those experiences to others. Our words can't do them justice, in fact it is only a rudimentary approximation of our experience. For example, when someone licks a scoop of ice cream it is a totally different experience from another person. Why, since most if not all of us might have had chocolate ice cream? When each of has some of the ice cream we all have a history with it. Someone's first experience of ice cream might have been with their parent who is no longer with them, so that taste of ice cream triggers that memory and emotion in them aside from the simple taste. Another person might have a memory with their lover and suddenly that same ice cream has a sensual element to it. How can we convey that to each other? Well, I don't think we can, if we can't convey our full experience of something as simple as ice cream how can convey those parts of us that are so much deeper and fundamental to what makes us, us.

I'm not saying that we cannot connect with each other, quite the opposite, I think most of us can connect very strongly with each other in a very surface level. Most people find the least common denominator to make that connection. Hence, the cultural connections or community connections but most of these connections are superfical at best because people don't understand the background or the basis of that connection. For example, what does it mean to be American? Freedom, liberty, love of america, democracy? Or how about Indian? bollywood, religion, one of the thousand languages of India, indian ancestory? People don't ask these questions to themselves because they fear what the answer will be: that they don't know.

Whats even funnier or sadder is that many people that don't question this part of their own identity are the strongest to defend their "cultural" superiority and impose upon themselves restrictions based on these cultural factors. For example, many Indians align themselves along caste, linguistic or religious lines and refuse to cross it when it comes to marriage, even when they don't know anything beyond the base level of those distinctions. A gujarati hindu patel will only pursue a gujarati hindu patel even when they don't know anything besides the gujarati language, as if language cannot be learned or a culture adopted. (yes, i am speaking in generalities but one need only look at any of the thousands of matrimonial ads that are spread across all indian newspapers and my point will be shown).

To be fair, the problem is not that these people who stick to such rudimentary connections are fundamentally wrong, rather it is they are ignorant and as we all know ignorance is the source of fear and fear is the fountainhead of insecurity and when people are insecure they cling to whatever they think will make them feel a sense of comfort. People with a wider and more diverse experience of the abundance that is human existence coupled with an inquistive mind will more often than not be open to expanding their identity beyond what they know or feel comfortable in. What is my point in this long monologue? I guess what my friend is trying to say is that true love is blind....(an Old School reference) . j/k. My point is this, our base identity should be something that is inclusive and allows us to genuinely enjoy and experience the splendor of all human culture, and if I may make a grander jump to experience all of the natural world's cultures of our animal brethern, instead of viewing them as something we lord over. Once we gain a larger and more "universal" identity, other people's experiences will start to become yours, you'll be able to empathize and at some level understand them better. Or maybe the other alternative is to nullify our identities and just be, as is the goal of eastern thought and that ends this session of the Mukunda Monologues....

Universal Religions?....

Of late I've had a few thoughts on the nature of religions and their various claims to truth. All the major religions of the religion all assert that their religion is the exclusive possessor of the truth and thereby understanding of the true reality. They furthermore assert that their faith is the universal faith, that the Divine spoke to their people and to their people alone espoused the truth. Now, lets try and examine this claim. So in essence, the one supreme all powerful all knowing Being who is the foundation of all existence chose such and such people in all the universe/s to the exclusion of others to know and propound the truth? There is a certain level of hubris and irrationality to such a view.

Let's try and take Christianity and Judaism and see how this idea above is exemplified in it. According to Christianity and Judaism (here i'm refering to almost all branchs of Christianity including catholicism and orthodox), God created the universe and chose out of the infinite number of universes and planets to build a special relationship with one group of people and they are considered the chosen people, favored by God. Given the vastness of existence/universe, it flys in the face of logic, probability and the idea of a universal Supreme Being to behave in such a manner. In otherwords, all other peoples and beings in the universe are conversely not the chosen people and as such they are denied entry into the kingdom of God.

Considering the role of Jesus in Christianity makes the universality of Christianity even harder to accept. If you can only get to the Father through Jesus then what happens to all the people in the world who haven't heard of jesus? The church takes the stance that people before Jesus will be judged by their hearts and deeds but people after Jesus must accept Him in order to be granted the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. The true key to a universal religion is that it must be universal, surprising? Any person anywhere should have a chance at having access to the Divine in order for the religion to be universal. An hypothetical alien on the other side of the universe must be able to gain that divine access if the religion is to be considered universal. Such isn't the case with Christianity, Islam and Judaism because they are throughly dependant upon the history and personalities (Jesus, Mohammed and Moses) that were born on this earth in a specific time and culture.

This begs the question if a faith isn't universal then can it accurately present the truth and can it have the true understanding of reality? I think the answer is no, a claim that involves a universal truth such as the nature of reality or God must necessarily not be limited by time, location or people. What was true at the beginning must also be true in the middle and the end. What is true to earth must be true to the rest of the cosmos. This is why science is accorded the status of a universal method of reasoning because it establishes rules/principles that govern the natural world. The principles that are true for earth are true for mars, or any other planet in the universe.

Hinduism and Buddhism would be more universal faiths in that regard because their history, personalities or culture don't limit their view of reality and the Divine. Krishna and Buddha are the two personality associated with the respective faiths. The difference between these two personalities and the above mentioned ones are that Krishna and Buddha did not require others to accept their divinity or status to have a connection to the divine. Krishna says unequivocally in the Gita that however anyone worships the Divine (Krishna claims to be that Divine Supreme Being) in that same way the Divine will appear before them. In essence, Krishna even affirms the perceptions of divinity that Christianity, Islam and Judaism because he states that he is the source of all divinity and as such appears in an infinite number of manners based upon the experiencer. Buddha is different because he isn't concerned so much with the theological and metaphysical views of the universe but is more concerned with the way to end suffering. As such he approaches divinity as freedom from suffering and bondage of dualities. This is the same goal in Hindu thought freedom from what is known as samsara or the cycle of bondage/ignorance. The goal isn't salvation from sin but the goal is knowledge and through knowledge the intuitive understanding of reality which will free one from the perspective of mundane existence.

This is not to say that Hinduism and Buddhism do not have religious experiences to them. They have very strong religious experiences such as worship and prayers to various divinities. Hinduism has strong adherence to the Vedas or Puranas or Agamas. The Vedas are considered apaurushya or "unauthored by man". They are considered the very breath of the Supreme because within them is considered to contain the understanding of reality. They are not dictated by God but are viewed to have been the eternal truths experienced by ancient seers, who in deep commune with the Universe experiences these truths. Furthermore, the Vedas themselves say that they can only give one an outline of reality because reality is beyond words and language.

The difference is that both Hinduism and Buddhism recognize that there are infinite paths to the same location and the paths are based upon the capabilities and inclincations of the individuals. In other words, revelation is not limited a specific people or accepting a specific set of beliefs or specific time or place. An alien outside the milky way galaxy can gain the same insight as someone from our own world whether or not he knows of or accepts Krishna or Buddha or any of the other personalities or divinities accepted by Hindus or Buddhists. For in Hindu or Buddhist thought does not require such acceptance. In other words, FREE YOUR MIND and allow it to inquire and question existence, find your kernel of truth but know its only a part of the truth. Even if there is an objective external reality or truth outside of us, we will never know it if we continue to stay confined to our specific perspective.