Spirituality and Evil

Albert Einstein

 "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”  Albert Einstein

It is so much nicer to talk of beautiful things that exist on our lovely planet that it is really a pity that I had to write this post that touches on something that to me is evil. Nevertheless I have written it because if an evil is ignored it is difficult to eradicate it. The evil I am referring to is about the denial of freedom of belief and imposition of beliefs on people and that is something even the followers of the greatest of religions on earth have not been free of though they have done so much good besides contributing to much human progress.

Noble Buddha
Recently when I quoted a link to a blog post on the sad demise of a billionaire in India to some friends in an email, in response to a mention of this billionaire, a friend responded that he would like to challenge the mention of some of my spiritual beliefs mentioned in that post.

My response was that there is nothing to challenge because I respect the different beliefs of this friend and his right to hold them. But since the friend persisted I had to say if he wishes to impose his beliefs on me then my response is just two words long – Buzz Off. There is nothing to challenge in the spiritual beliefs of others although one may ask for clarifications if there is a genuine curiosity/inquiry or talk of one's beliefs if someone wishes to hear without insisting that they hear or just point out that their beliefs are different and that they do not agree.

Just so that no misunderstanding is created, this reference is not to anyone who has commented in this blog but to someone else who interacts through a private email group. I have encountered similar persistence earlier too, not just in the spiritual arena but by crooked politicians out to snatch bread from mouth of people to enrich themselves and family, sales persons from diverse areas such as insurance and a world wide multi-level marketing group, and as is usual with such sales persons both spiritual and others, they sing praises of their chosen paths and enumerate the great benefit they have received. Since I am old enough, I often find the same persons on a completely different track or situation some years later.

It is easy to recognize bad from good but evil is far more difficult to recognize at times because evil can be subtle and devious. When one recognizes it and sees it coming ones way then it should be repelled with full force and all the contempt it deserves.

Thus whereas one recognizes cruel and violent acts as bad as opposed to kind and compassionate ones, stealing as bad and giving to one in need as good, being truthful as good and lying as bad, evil is not always recognized easily. One form of evil is the imposition of one’s belief on another by force, coercion or pressurizing. Over persistence in trying to rub in a belief is also a form of pressuring and coercion. Freedom of belief is inherent in any form of true spirituality just as love is and trying to impinge on this freedom is one of the worst forms of evil there is. When God or the Universe has granted all life the freedom to choose how can anything genuine about Him lack in that freedom?

Saint Kabir, the Blessed Weaver
With imposition of belief there can be no true conviction and without conviction no true faith. However, aside from imposition there is something that is far more evil and that includes brain washing as used by some. One may wonder why such evil exists in an area that is inherently meant for good. The reason is that evil looks for areas of human need and exploits that to satisfy its own need. Thus we have the frequent occurrence of fraud and evil in the spiritual area because the need for solace becomes acute when humans get into misery. Most people need money that is why there are so many financial scams around. When people are in legal and medical need the need may be acute and then we see the emergence of exploitation in those areas by unscrupulous or greedy practitioners for financial gain.

The question then occurs as to how a genuine seeker should safeguard him self or her self? The first thing one can do is check out on the state of other followers if possible. Look for signs of imposition of belief and brain washing. Brain washing proceeds by trying to empty your mind of reason and existing belief that you may have acquired from honorable sources. Some forms of brain washing require time, and a cult may ask you to commit to a training program with the promise of not leaving in between, comparing the leaving to a patient leaving a doctors table in the middle of surgery. But spiritual learning is not surgery where the ends justify the means of forcefully tying down or drugging a patient. Good spirituality is freedom all the way through and one should immediately reject and run the moment it is detected as an evil thing.

In the ultimate analysis there is no need to go to a teacher, church or cult for spiritual knowledge. God and His knowledge is all around you if you just open your heart to it and Amazon is full of good books on the topic by upright decent authors if one wishes to read about it and explore the beliefs of others in the area.

Immediately someone may find a word to challenge in the last paragraph,

"How do you know there is God? I oppose that belief."

My answer to that in many of my blog posts is,

"Dear friend you have nothing to oppose because neither have you defined what your God is ( the One in which you do not believe) nor asked what my definition of God is; if you tell me what you mean by God then I might say if I believe or not believe in your concept of God.. On the other hand, if you wish to hear of my definition of God then it is this – To me God is everything there is, the entire Universe and everything else besides, therefore He is everywhere (using He for convenience)." One can scarcely deny the universe but it is one's choice if one wishes to deny the universe because then one does not exist.

True, that it is impossible for a near infinitely small finite mind (on a universal scale) such as mine, to understand God fully and all His doings, but I perceive an infinity all around me and see this Infinity as Him and believe that if there is anything else besides Him in the universe it is within given limits the ignorance, finite desires and individual thoughts etc. of us all i.e things that keep us apart. At the same time that is what makes the evolutionary journey of life so challenging and exciting because what better measure of evolutionary progress can there be than enhancing knowledge of the self and its place in the universe?

My mother's name was Nand Rani Sahni and later Nand Rani Malhotra after marriage. While she lived, she was one of the finest humans on the planet and I can say that without bias. I have been extremely fortunate in this department of life (although not so in many others). She was also a very good mother, as indeed most mothers are. As a child, I hardly understood her but the fact that she was there and that she loved us was a source of warmth, security and joy. The fact of her love was far more important than the fact that we did not know her fully as no child can know a grown up fully. Now that I am much older, more important than the fact that I know God fully is the fact that He is there and that He loves us. It is a source of warmth, security and joy. A mother's love is just one channel through which humans receive this love. There are numerous other ones like sunshine and the very air we breathe. Therefore I am not even opposed to those who seek to approach the Infinite through finite entities such as the symbols, sun, enlightened beings, gods and goddesses just as long as they realize the Infinite Whole of which all is a part.

One significant way in which the Lord interacts with us is through the hidden mysterious hand that comes to our aid in times of our deepest distress and need in our lives, so well hidden that we are left wondering if it is merely an uncanny coincidence. It is as if a loving and concerned mother is keeping a secret watch on her infant child as he frees himself from her bosom and ventures into the garden to play all by himself, yet soon as trouble strikes, she runs out to him even as he call out to mama.

Whereas all perceive the physical visible aspects of the Universe, some ascertain a bit more such as the force of  gravity and few guess at things they call dark matter and energy; and a few even the special angels that dwell within it and serve the Lord, few can perceive the personal and conscious side of it. Yet, just as a human through his or her service, love or devotion can succeed in establishing a relationship with the most important and generally inaccessible human personality on earth, seeing them constantly in their doings and having the possibility of communicating with them at any time through internet, phone or person, there are beings of the universe who have succeeded in doing the same with the most important Personality of the universe and see Him constantly in His Signs. This is depicted beautifully in the well known story called ‘Foot Prints in the Sand’ where one such person, one of many, inquired from the Lord,

“Lord, as I journey through these slippery sands of life, I see beside me a second set of foot prints at all times, Yours; but there have been times of joy when I was lost in play and failed to notice them; and times of deep distress when I looked for them in desperation but could not find them; I was so alone yet there was nothing but a single set of foot prints, why is that my Lord?”

And the Lord spoke to him in his heart,

“Those were times my dear son when I carried you.”

The Babaji Affair by Dr. Ashok Malhotra
UPDATE: September 6, 2013 -  When persons from around the world turn their gaze towards East and Himalayas for spiritual solace and revelation, they are repeatedly confronted by fraud Gurus i.e. charlatans exploiting religion for making money. It is not very difficult to pick them out. If a Guru is into amassing wealth, either in his name or the name of his trust or if he or she actively campaigns for members to his fold as multilevel marketers do, he is not likely to be the place you are looking for. Yet there are  genuine mystics that have sprung up from the bowels of the Himalayas since ancient times even as Buddha did. A recent book by this author - The Babaji Affair - contains the stories of some of them along with the essence of their spiritual knowledge

The quotation by Einstein at the head of this blog was taken from http://mindofmatter.com/2012/10/10/theory-of-limitation-the-bridge-between-god-and-science/


This blog of yours seems to be in response to my comments on your earlier blog mentioned here. If you feel I am trying to impose my own beliefs, I apologise for that with pure sincerity. Possibly I had mentioned Gautam Buddha in my comments and my related experience that led you to think so. I take by heart your last para in the blog, as I had also expressed similar sentiments in my comments. But I take solace in the fact that I am incapable of assigning properties to God. I again apologise for the hurt caused by comments.
Possibly I had gone too far in seeking your guidance, which led me to go on adding to your responses.
Ashok said…
Hari Ji no no, your participation was most appreciated. This response was to a private email group participant elsewhere and you will realise that if you read the post again carefully.

I am sorry if I did not make that clear in the post. I shall try and revise it a bit now so that the misunderstanding is removed.
Ashok said…
Hari Ji, I apologize for causing the misunderstanding and have now added a whole new para so that a similar one is not caused to any other participant also. Appreciate you mentioning it right away because in life if we do not communicate, a misunderstanding persists.

Best wishes.
Ashok said…
Once again your comment has been valuable in helping me revise "I am incapable of assigning properties to God" So am I, or in fact any other finite mind but it needed to be stated in the post and I have done it in the last para.
Hendrik said…
Well, Ashok, there is a great deal here. You mention those who might join a cult and find themselves subtly brainwashed, and I share your repugnance of that. But I think there is something worse, and that is to be born into a religion which makes onerous demands upon you, and threatens you against leaving - becoming an apostate. Or which uses violence in the conflict between two sects of the same religion. And takes violent vengeance against anyone, even outside the religion, who is deemed to have insulted the religion. Unless and until the worshippers of that religion - who were born into it - combine to condemn and distance themselves from these forms of violence, they will remain enslaved thereby, and often more deeply entrenched in poverty and lack of education.

Sometimes we fail to speak out against such practices through fear or a false sense that all religions ought to be respected equally.
Thanks Sir for relieving me of the burden. I had persisted for too long on that blog, so thought it might be me who hurt you.
I do not have much energy to piece together my thoughts comprehensively. So I am taking liberty to fully agree with your last four paragraphs and would try to build something on that only.
As I mentioned in my comments on earlier blog in question, every individual has unique experience and hence is bound to be unique. But here lies the dilemma : what is the utility of uniqueness and as a result what is the utility of living if each individual is on his own path disregarding the presence of other individuals? The enlightened persons have always tried to bridge this gap by seeing their own self in every other individual. They see their own misery in the misery of others. They see their own happiness in the happiness of others. In sum, that is Compassion. Apart from uniqueness, Nature has also endowed us mortals with similarities. Like, there are species of life forms, which binds the members of species for a common cause. That gives rise to empathy (a somewhat rudimentary form of Compassion). Since we humans have evolved a bit extra so we assign unique identity to each individual. And each individual enjoys basic human rights as enshrined in UN Charter. But us human individuals also have to bind ourselves in groups (for a common cause). This group may take form of race, nationality, religion, ideological group or whatsoever grouping exist amongst us. This sort of grouping generally propels layman individuals to force ( by any mean from violent ones to compassionate ones)others to join their group to further their own cause.
This is where the enlightened ones differ from layman. The enlightened ones just have compassion to share the sufferings of others without ever forcing them to come to their fold. That is how the enlightened ones respect the individuality and liberty of each and every living being. But we the layman followers of such enlightened ones just do the opposite.
For now this much only
Ashok said…
Vincent, you have said boldly what I could not and I could not agree more fully with you in the despicable practices of the followers of many of the so called great religions on earth. Compulsion in belief in any form is to my mind so much against the very essence of what a good spiritual practice should be that perhaps it is one of the greatest of human evils and the compulsion not to leave is a form of despicable enslavement.

It is not just the great religions that do that but assorted cults too, some even threaten death if you leave. Perhaps the Free Masons might be one such although I do not know much of them because of their secrecy (which itself is bad)

To me spirituality is all about love and freedom and anything that justifies compulsion and violence is an evil fraud masquerading as religion or spirituality.
Ashok said…
Thanks for your beautiful contribution Hari Ji. It explains so much that needs explaining.

Perhaps humans before they do anything must evolve to the point that they admit that there has to be zero tolerance to certain things and the two that have been mentioned here is compulsion in belief and use of violence to achieve any of their aims.

There is much more of value in your comments especially on seeing oneself in others and experiencing unity. That after all, carried to its limit is the eventual aim of evolution, that is Nirvana and that is merging with the Infinite consciousness. In that state the uniqueness of each individual is then just the uniqueness of one Whole just as the uniqueness of each body part, hands, legs etc. are part of one whole.
Ashok said…
Your mention of reduced energy reminds me of a simple technique for increasing energy that I found in Buddhist texts,

Take your attention to calm even breathing while trying to still thoughts (repeatedly and gently if necessary)

This can be practiced while sitting or walking. When doing some work the thoughts are restricted to the task at hand or just nothing in pauses.

When I mentioned this technique to a colleague at IITD who is also a Vipasna teacher (Dr. P. L. Dhar) he said it is a Vipasna technique.

The only difficult part of this technique is to handle flight of thoughts.

But I am not in favor of Vipasna and avoided it (for reasons mentioned in this post) because it is also a cult with much more, as far as I could make out.

In fact this is the technique I had used for that ant walking speed magic as alluded to in a much older post (from birds to telepathy)
I was introduced to vipasyana by Dr. Dhar and few other teachers while I was student at IIT Delhi. Yes, any practice when presented in package form and in well defined limits it becomes a cult. Though the Teacher S.N. Goenka warns against formation of such mindset. But humans are after all what they are. Most can't escape this spiral. Though it is a difficult technique to practice, but scientifically, I considers it as a good practice for conserving mental energy and for cleansing of mind and body of toxins, which are constantly being produced in our body. I have been a seeker since my childhood, but never a keen one. I have also been practicing yogasana and pranayam, but again occasionally. I have been fighting this loss of energy for quite some time, and it seems it is going to take little long. Thanks.
Ashok said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashok said…
Is it possible that the group somehow unknowingly sucks energy?
Ashok said…
Another fellow blogger, Vincent, too belonged to a group for many years. he also faced fatigue for many years but he overcame it. He has commented in this blog. Perhaps he might offer you a useful suggestion when he revisits.

I too have faced chronic fatigue for ten years but I overcame it by two simple methods , one was a daily multi vit/ mineral tab after breakfast called Surbex T, changing my bed head direction to south from north, a deworming dose and a about fifteen minutes each of sunshine and a walk daily.
Ashok said…
Hari ji,
1. a correction in the above comments the correct name of the tablet is Surbex XT
2. With your name in the Hindi Script, someone who does not know the script will not be able to recognise and therefore address you.
Hendrik said…
It is true that I suffered from a chronic fatigue condition for most of the years that I practised a meditation based on "turning the senses inwards", particularly by focusing on the breath.

To get free of the illness I first rid myself of the cult-consciousness. This in itself took several years. Then I was helped by a doctor specialising in chronic fatigue, in a single two-hour talking session. I suddenly realized the extent to which I had tried to rise above my bodily self, by over-riding warning messages from my body, in the form of emotions. Those messages could have prevented me from trying to be what I was not. They could have kept me in touch with my own self quite naturally, and avoided the damage to my health.

The cure was not due to anything i was able to do consciously with my mind. But as I understood the cause of my illness with the doctor's help, I must have sent an unconscious message to my body's intelligence, along the lines of "It's all right now, the war is over." In that moment, I actually knew I was cured.
Ashok said…
Bless you Vincent that you got over a great handicap so that you can now enjoy the lovely walks over your lovely countryside (hope no flood problems in your area)

I really do not know much about this area but sort of have an unverified suspicion that some not truly spiritual cult masters may be extracting money form their wealthy followers and energy from their not so wealthy followers so that they suck all. But I do know that it is not so with every spiritual order in the east and the ones that do the following seem safer

1. they have no secrecy
2. they permit their followers full freedom for varying and wide beliefs
3. their cult leader is not especially rich and getting richer 4. they do not in any way prevent members from moving out of the group freely without hindrance

those who do not conform to the above four observations are probably the ones to watch out for

Hope Hari Chand (that is the name in the Hindi script) gets over his handicap soon.
First my reduced energy level. It is basically due to some extreme stress I have undergone in past. Secondly,due to office environment. As I realised, I can't take much stress. It just saps me.
Now about Vipasyana: As of now it is not a cult in the sense of cult. It gives complete freedom to the individual to follows or abandon the practice. Though it encourages group practice just for the purpose of practice only. That is also not mandatory. There is only mandatory isolation of individual during the practice in a camp. There also, the individual is not only isolated from rest of the environment but also from every other individual participating in the camp. Each individual is to his own self and practices inward movement of mind. That is all for secrecy of this practice. For me, I have never been and am not part of any group so far. Yes, in group of Vipasyana practitioners, there could have been a probability of energy loss as the group comes together for purpose of practice only ( implying no energetic activity) and no other gathering as per my knowledge so far. Possibly it is reverse for me: being part of no group I miss energetic activity which generally happens only in groups. And being part of energetic group a person also gets rid of day-today stress and fatigue. stress generally evaporates in jokes. Which also I miss.
Yes, if Vipasyana could have affected my energy level, that could be through equanimity. As equanimity guides the person towards calmness and does not encourage one to fight the situation with extra effort. But for me that is difficult to ascertain.
Yes, the practice helps me a lot to get rid of day-to-day stress and fatigue. There is no doubt about that. For me it is much better than other exercises like yogasana and pranayam etc.
Ashok said…
NOTE: The portion in blue in the post was updated after these nineteen comments
Ashok said…
Dear Hari ji, at the moment I have no opinion that strikes to your comment on the energy front.

A student friend on facebook - Anurag Joshi was fascinated enough by your comments to go and check out your timeline. he was impressed with your bio but also puzzeled by some caste references and had question. I suggested that he could message you directly to inquire since I have only very brief opinion on the topic.

As you have remarked in other comments, and Vincent in his first comment here much human exploitation has been going on in the world especially under the shield of organised religions as well as politics etc. In Hinduism there has been the exploitative caste system that spiritual leaders like Buddha, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Gandhi have fought repeatedly yet it has emerged again and again. It is my opinion that caste exploitation and references as indeed other types of human exploitation has been woven into the most respected books and scriptures of old by vested interests. It becomes difficult for all but the most discerning readers to pick them out. Perhaps just the briefest and highly technical works such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali may have escaped such interpolation because of their difficult and brief composition (that incidentally also makes no mention of caste or the gods and goddesses but does mention God in the briefest of words as the ultimate personality of the Universe, One without limits or boundaries).
The issue of caste, caste exploitation, brainwashing through subtle techniques, and related reservation are really sensitive and complex issues which should not be discussed in public forum like this. Yes, somehow I had shared one or two posts, which I later realised that they were shared in public domain. I should have kept them in closed group.
The Democratic set up (especially universal adult suffrage ) and some constitutional safeguards have given some breathing space to the highly oppressed sections of society. And I am a member of that section. Without Constitutional safeguards even thousands of Buddhas, Kabirs, Nanaks and Mahatma Gandhis wouldn't have been able to change the mindset of people of this land. The system of classification of society into castes (and that also vertical one) is so complete with religious sanctification that It is impossible to wipe out the concept of division from the psych of people. Yes, with Constitutional safeguards, a handful members of this oppressed section have been able to make two ends meet. But the most important achievement for this section is the realisation that they also deserve self respect and they have started asserting this self respect. And it is not the issue of constitutional safeguards, which is so hot an issue these days, which is at the heart of conflict of interests. The major issue at the heart of conflict is the assertion of self respect by the oppressed ones. And as society evolves, this conflict is most likely escalate. This assertion is only a minuscule beginning. Ways and means for assertion are yet to evolve. Ways and means to counter the subtle technique may take decades. But there is no going back on that.
I had replied to Mr. Anurag in very brief note, trying not escalate it into major discussion.
Ashok said…
Dear Hari,

I was puzzled why you said brain washing should not be discussed publicly. One of the purposes, the main one, of this blog is public enlightenment and good.

I agree the caste issue is sensitive and needs utmost care in discussion. My own view is that:

1. Discrimination of any human group, by race, ethnicity, religion, community or any other classification should be banned so that all humans can enjoy equal rights with equal obligations

2. To delete the concept altogether and to eliminate such discrimination altogether the very mention of them in any official document be banned.

3. In order to implement affirmative action or reservation economic criterion may be applied since these do not require mention of race, community etc. and are a measure of deprivation/ exploitation in society that cuts across the board.

What are your views on this?
Sir! I need some time to piece together my thoughts on caste and affirmative action in an understandable manner, and I will come up soon.

A bit to add about Vipasyana: If you strip the practice of its name, it is just the exercise suggested by you. Just like physical and breathing exercises it is also an exercise of mind. Though it is taught in name of Gautam Buddha, but there is no need for the practitioner to associate any philosophy or ideology with the practice. Regarding Economic background of founder: Yes, the founder of this technique has been a rich businessman from Myanmar. But in this context, there is no mandatory fee or contribution to be paid by the participants. Even no cost of stay in camp or of food is charged from the participants. The participants may make donations as per their wish at the end of the camp.
There is an article by Jean Dreze in today's edition of Hindustan times, which I have shared on facebook. Possibly this article may give you some clue about the flaws of economic criteria.
I hesitate to share my these thoughts in public platform like fb as I feel a hurt psych(me) may not be rational enough and may hurt others who already feel hurt by the bug of Reservation.
Before sharing some understandable thought, I would like to share my own experience:
When I (son of a daily wager) passed my matriculation exam from village school I was picked up by a private education institution (Jat Education Society, Rohtak) with the offer of free-ship. There I financed my living(only) by giving tutions to my CLASSMATES (even for competitive admission tests). But I got admission in IIT Delhi through reservation. I did not know that this tag is going to ruin my career for ever. Luck had it that in NIC I got a Boss who couldn't make it to IIT. And he poured out his vengeance with full force against me. And today I am junior to my colleagues who had been junior to me by upto eight years. Another reason ( which I do not regret) is that I did not lick his feet and worked within established rules and regulations.
My present boss(not the same as above) publicly admits - 'I have to support them (his caste-mates). If I do not then who would support them.
These people have a complete network whether inside or outside the govt. People like me are lonely islands (as mentioned in first para of the shared HT article). This epithet of lonely island can tell a lot to the understanding mind. But what epithet can not tell to the most enlightened ones also is that this lonely island is the island of self respect, which had been lost since long.
Another example: a very close friend of mine, during some discussion tried to complement me saying 'In spite of being from SC background he(me) is also gifted with talent). How deep this comment can hurt can not be understood by this Close Friend. Simple as that: In my Close Friend's view people from my background are not supposed to possess talent. Talent is preserve only of other castes. The list of examples is endless. These are few examples only to peep inside the psych of these other castes.
Can you still imagine that Their line of thinking would ever come close to my line of thinking?
Now the Economic criteria:
Possibly you might have got some clue by now.
The fundamentals of caste system are rooted in psychology, though the end is economic divide. The oppressed sections have been so much crushed psychologically since millennia that they had started despising themselves (now lonely islands of self respect). Can this psychological divide of millennia be bridged if s handful ones like me are able to make it to two square meals? How long a trauma takes to heal? Have Americans come out of the trauma of 26/11? Has Europe come out of the trauma of WW-II? Have Japanese come out of trauma of nuclear strike?
This much for now
A Correction: for Americans it is 9/11. 26/11 was fresh in my mind, so the mistake.
Ashok said…
Dear Hari,

This about Vipasana, another friend attended the camp and it did not have a good effect on him, and he found the discipline and rules of the camp tough.

I found the practice mentioned in a book by a Harvard scholar on Buddhism. he had written a paragraph about it, and liked it and practiced it in a period of solitude

one day when the practice had reached its peak (it was more than twenty hours at it begining the previous evening, I continued it through breakfast and then went to the city for a set of chores written on a paper that i followed keeping my mind strictly on the single thought and task at hand, suddenly i reached a euphoric and magical state mentioned in the post - from birds to telepathy

Years later ( a few years ago) when i began a study of Patanajali ( the translation is by a Goenka too) i reached the portion on different types of breathing meditations and its effects and was surprised immensely to find the very same effect described very briefly for the very same effect in precisely the same manner.

My practice as you can see was all self effort with a bit of study thrown in. In between I mentioned the practice to PL Dhar ( who is a friend from student days) he said he was Vipasna. We shared many spiritual interests and discussed much about spirituality from early days, much before he pickd up Vipasna, but both of us never suggested the other follow precisely the same exercises and he never invited me into Vipasana ( excuse my spelling errors). Incidentally three of us - he . dr. Gaur, and Me together began the Science and Humanism course a t IIT but I left IIT then for abroad( returning again much later) and they continued to develop the course.
Ashok said…
Hari ji your rise by self effort is a remarkable story that speaks for your resilience.

Personally I am against any sort of discrimination and my adopted son is an SC and he has a son too now - my god grandson as I call him shown in the walking picture - in my post on exercise for the aging - whom I love dearly.

At IIT and other places I would have never known who is a SC or not, nor bothered to inquire except that the labeling as you mentioned rubbed it in, that is why I am against it and wish for some other criterion such as economic to eliminate the labelling.

With my education and understanding of genetics and human history I know that it is complete BULL SHXX to assign any characteristic to a person based on the characteristics of their parents, that applies to the parents all the way back to Manu

My firm belief is that caste references have been interpolated in respectable ancient literature and steps must be taken to eliminate such interpolations based on modern studies.
Ashok said…
Incidentally I view Buddhism as a natural evolution of the philosophy of the area that spurred the golden age in India sone 2000 years ago following Ashoka but even more unfortunately it was later destroyed again after some 800 years with a reversion to primitive practices and philosophy it seems.
Ashok said…
I was delighted to find a quotation by Einstein today posted by a IONS fellow member in his blog. It echos so much of my own sentiments expressed in this post that I have added it at the beginning.
Unknown said…
Thank you for taking the time to give me the opportunity to visit your blog site. I am happy that you found the quote from Mr. Einstein helpful and inspiring. I have read your post here, and I am reminded of the cyclical nature of our kind. So often we speak of enlightened ones, and how the individual is on some sort of different level than the typical "layman" as it was referred. As i had eluded to in my blog from whence the quote was found, i see the only difference between that of the enlightened person and the lay person, be the limitations that have become part of our habitual fabric...that which define the individual. The complexities of our world are not much different than that of the complexities of the mind. These complexities as we know, are all driven by fear or desire. I have practiced the observation of the senses of the body (as taught in a vipassana course)for a great many years. Although I had read many times about the basis of fear and desire, I was able to experience this concept throught my observations. When i was objective (equanimus) about my observations, i began to understand the misery in my subjectivity to my observations. This is what lead to the understanding that it is my subjectivity that is truly my limitation. As for cults, groups, and the freedom of thought...my observation is that any group regarless of perceived as evil or good,is centered around an individual or entity that has found the process of eliminating the limitations of the mind. Certainly it is the volition of this individual/entity that defines or lay the framework of the particular path of the group...but as is and has been the cyclical nature of our kind, it is the subjectivity of the immeidate followers that tend to draw the map. Often with good intention or volition, but inevitably wandering off the framework laid by the "enlightened individual." The irony, is that the evil you speak of is the catalyst for one to go on the path of enlightenment, and was initially spawned by one who was enlightened. Hence our cyclical nature. Can the cycle be broken? In my observation, most certainly. For all being are enlightened beings, bound only by the limitations of the mind, in a web spun of fear and desire, and each time we thrash and struggle with the web, it tightens and becomes more entwined. But, when we calm ourselves, and observe each little spot connected to the web, relax that area, become completely objective about it, well, that little spot seems to slip away from the web. We keep doing so, with each little spot connected to that web of fear, that web of desire, well eventually we slip away from the web and slowly and peacefully traverse down the river of truth, into the infinite, that which many call God, or heaven, or nibbana. This is my obsective observation and i wish you and all that come to your blog the most in happiness and peace. :)
Ashok said…
Delighted to hear from you mindofmatter. Your comment is packed with a lot to reflect on that I shall most certainly do at a quiet moment soon and thanks for your kind wishes.

it is a coincidence ( or directed by the universe) that I found in your blog something from Einstein that was trying to express in this post, and that this one has made observations on Vipasana of which you have personal experience, so as to increase our understanding of the Universe.
Unknown said…
the universe is a wonderful creation!
Ashok said…
Absolutely Matt. Its wonder surpasses the imagination our finite minds are capable of beholding.
Ashok said…
The article was turning out to a useful one, therefore I tried to enrich it today by searching for some more public domain images and adding to the article.
Possibly you removed this article from fb considering my fear. And my fear is not much off the mark as Reservation has become a dirty word in Indian context. I may still not be able to put forth the subject comprehensively, but I would try my bit:
First a Quote: Economic Development without Distributive Justice breeds violence. This is also the Concept for which Dr. Amartya Sen got Noble Prize in Economics.

The concept of Reservation is dirty in Indian context since its inception (especially for scheduled castes and tribes). But it has inflamed the Indian psych after the implementation of recommendations of Mandal Commission.
What is Reservation?
In my view it is some sort of safeguard to protect the interests of the disadvantaged sections of society in the larger interest of the whole society. If we see this concept of Safeguards in the context of larger interest of the society, possibly the concept may not look as dirty as it looks today in India. As we can see, this concept is applicable from right from the level of World as whole to the smallest social unit i.e. family. Being the only technically evolved species on Earth we need to create safeguards for preservation of other species, which otherwise may go extinct because of human development. Similarly developing Nations require Economic and Security safeguards. On the same line, the interests of Native Indigenous people around the world also need safeguards in the face of Capitalist onslaught. Then we come to the safeguards for disadvantaged sections of Indian Society (the dirtiest one). Move down, even the disadvantaged members in a family need special support and safeguard. Even our body mobilizes its resources in support of the hurt or infected body part. If I can take my imagination a bit too far - possibly even the planets are also some sort of safeguarded in their orbits lest they be gobbled up by stars.
Let us now come to the (so perceived) Dirty Concept
At the Dawn of Independence, our leaders had realized that in order for India to emerge as a functional Democracy on the World Map it was imperative that the emerging Democracy need to represent the whole Indian Nation. But the ground realities were (and even now are) such that India is not one Nation, divided as it is by vertical Caste-system and horizontal regionalism. Further, most (almost all) institutions of governance as well as of social importance were (and even now are, as it is exemplified in ‘The Quiet Grip of Caste’ by Jean Dreze which I shared on fb) dominated by a handful section of society. This handful section had been instrumental in keeping the vast oppressed humanity on the fringes of civilized society, bereft of any sort of opportunity for civilization. So, possibly to develop India into a Democratic Nation, it was felt by the leaders Independent India to give and to safeguard equal opportunity to all sections of society. The safeguards have been unavoidable in a vertically divided society. These safeguards are as follows:
1. Adequate (proportional) representation to the oppressed sections.
2. Adequate (proportional) opportunity for higher education to the oppressed sections.
3. Adequate (proportional) representation to the oppressed sections in institutions of governance.
4. And, adequate opportunity for economic well being (specifically employment) of the oppressed sections.
If it is possible for the oppressed and resource-less sections to compete with resourceful and well entrenched sections on the basis of equality of opportunity, then there would not have been any need of safeguards (the so perceived dirty reservation).
Now few questions:
1. Do these oppressed sections still need safeguards even after 65 years of Independence?
2. Which safeguards are the Dirtiest in view of the opponents of these safeguards?
3. Is Economic Criteria the new Mantra(slogan) as propagated by these opponents?
For question 1, the article by Jean Dreze speaks volumes.
For question 2, as it has been observed, the dirtiest safeguards enjoyed by the oppressed sections, are in field of higher education and in the field of employment.
Is it really so painful for the opponents in this era of economic liberalization, when government’s share in imparting higher education and in generating employment for the employable educated youth has dwindled to miniscule? Yes, it could have been painful for these opponents in those days when I did my graduation (right from entry in school to B. Tech.) with a personal input of not more than what I now pay as fee of my child for a single quarter. Yes, it could have been painful for these opponents when Haryana had a single College of Engineering(Kurukshetra). The state now boasts of more than 200 Colleges of Engineering. In these times of economic liberlisation, is it the loss of opportunity in government job which is so painful for the opponents? Is it really the loss of opportunity or the cost of education for these opponents, which is so painful? In my view, it is not the safeguards which seem so painful for the opponents. Had these opponents felt so deprived of quality education and of opportunity to serve in government, there would not have been shortfall in quality faculty in government institutions and shortfall of quality officers in Defence Sector, which are the Hot issues today. What is painful for these opponents is the coming of oppressed sections of society in to mainstream. That is the crux of pain. How can these opponents see these oppressed sections to work with them shoulder to shoulder? The same oppressed sections which had been serving these opponents since millennia, can not be tolerated as equal.
After this, the last question needs little attention. I may add a bit later.
Ashok said…
Dear Hari Chand ji,

I agree with every thing you have written completely including reservations and from the heart, and many other do too, except for one point with you , John Drieze and any other person -

that economic criterion should not be used - for providing resevations.

I believe that is the only way to go if we have to eradicate the exploitative caste system and I am sure you too wish to see its end.
Ashok said…
I had not realised the article got deleted in the periodic cleaning I do at facebook. It is back there again now
Ashok said…
Yes there is one more part that I tend to disagree with. The concept of reservation is not dirty for most except that as I have said it can be done in a better and more dignified way to help any disadvantaged member of society.
I added the adjective 'Dirty' because most opponents even famous ones consider the concept as such. Here is an example- a statement by Azim Premji circulated by one of my colleagues through e-mail and I had to post a very blunt reply to that mail. The circulated statement is:WIPRO chairman Mr. Azim prem ji's comment on reservation:

* I think we should have job reservations in all the fields. I completely support the PM and all the politicians for promoting this. Let's start the reservation with our cricket team. We should have 10 percent reservation for Muslims. 30 percent for OBC, SC /ST like that. Cricket rules should be modified accordingly. The boundary circle should be reduced for an SC/ST player. The four hit by an SC/ST/OBC player should be considered as a six and a six hit by a SC/ST/OBC player should be counted as 8 runs. An SC/ST/OBC player scoring 60 runs should be declared as a century. We should influence ICC and make rules so that the pace bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar should not bowl fast balls to our SC/ST/OBC player. Bowlers should bowl maximum speed of 80 kilometer per hour to an SC/ST/OBC player. Any delivery above this speed should be made illegal. Also we should have reservation in Olympics. In the 100 meters race, an SC/ST/OBC player should be given a gold medal if he runs 80 meters. There can be reservation in Government jobs also. Let's recruit SC/ST and OBC pilots for aircrafts which are carrying the ministers and politicians (that can really help the country.. ) Ensure that only SC/ST and OBC doctors do the operations for the ministers and other politicians. (Another way of saving the country..) Let's be creative and think of ways and means to guide INDIA forward... Let's show the world that INDIA is a GREAT country. Let's be proud of being an INDIAN.. May the good breed of politicians long live.. *
Ashok said…
This is an insensitive and thoughtless comment by Azim Premji. I am glad you gave him a fitting reply.
Ashok said…
A lot of research and a transitional period of around five years would be required to identify a new general category called FPO - Families of poor origin - In the transitional period mention of caste in official documents should be permitted. Existing categories may be awarded the FPO certificate by default, unless contested by proof of being rich. Others would not be regarded as FPO by default unless they produce sound proof of family poverty. After the five year period mention of caste should be abolished in official documents and reservations of 50 per cent may be based on FPO. This is a status that will not continue in perpetuity. The moment a person attains a given benefit by reservation and moves out of poverty the FPO status will be withdrawn.

This is just loud thinking and a tentative idea to be worked on.

Simultaneously private institutions, religious or charitable organisations that continue to use caste classification for any activity or documents could be denied any government grant, benefit, tax advantage etc. etc. to make it advantageous for them to modify their methods. This too is an idea for exploration.

Existing BPL families for which work has already been done should also be given the FPO certification

The overall idea is that by such methods eventually abolish the very concept of an exploitative and discriminatory caste system.
Now the economic criteria:
Once a senior ICICI executive had visited my office. And during discussions he was all praise for American Model of Governance and Capitalism. I put two simple questions to him:
1. Can you pay less than minimum wages in America?
His reply was NO.
2. Can you ensure minimum wages here in India?
He was speechless
The poverty (economic deprivation) is so wide spread in India that it just seems to be inevitable and eternal, courtesy rulers of this country. It is not only the resource-less oppressed sections of society who are poor, but even people from other sections also find it difficult to make two ends meet. The scale of poverty in this country can be gauged from the official benchmark of Rs.34-35 per day as sufficient to be out of grip of poverty. And poverty is the biggest dehumanizing factor.
There is an urgent need to safeguard the interests of economically weaker sections of society especially in the fields of education and employment, on the lines of constitutional safeguards provided to oppressed sections of society.
But following points need to be taken care of while providing such safeguards to economically weaker sections:
1. It would be disastrous to club these economically weaker sections with socially oppressed sections of society.
2. Since economic status is a vague concept, there is urgent need to draw up stringent guidelines and enact stringent laws to discourage unscrupulous people from enjoying the benefits at the cost of needy ones.
Explanation for point 1:
The psychological divide is so great along caste lines that even if different castes are at the same economic level (may be bottom), the caste hierarchy is unlikely to be affected. Thus bracketing other economically weaker sections with socially oppressed sections is going to create strife within the bracket and thus heighten caste divide. And again, in this strife, the oppressed sections would be at the receiving end and they would be denied their due under the safeguards as other weaker sections would always enjoy the support of their well-to-do brethren. Here I would like to put in two examples. 1. The press report about Killari Earthquake are still vivid in my mind, wherein the caste divide came to the fore even amongst the people affected by the earthquake. There, the upper caste affected people refused to be clubbed with oppressed sections for distribution of relief items. And the distributors had to bow to their dictats, and had to make separate arrangements for distribution of relief and for rehabilitation work. Even though mother Nature had put these people in the same basket but the caste divide was still intact. 2. Mismanagement at the level of managers in the government is another major factor to defeat the purpose of these safeguards. The most common and hottest issue these days is Below Poverty Line Surveys. I have been working with district administration since past 25 years. And I have observed that at times up to 90% of BPL data is fake. There have been numerous cases and complaints with district administration wherein it was revealed that most eligible families were left out of the surveys and well-to-do landlords got themselves listed in the BPL Surveys. Most of left out eligible families belonged to weaker sections of society.
Now, How to bridge the caste divide?
I will come up with next comment on this topic.
Before that two more points regarding economic criteria:
1. Right to Employment,Right to Education and Protection of Child's Rights Laws need to implemented effectively. To this end, adequate infrastructure needs to be put in place so that affected children may be get the desired protection. Further, even the parents must not be spared of punishment if they are found to indulge in Child Labour and other Child Abuses.
2. Economically well-off people from oppressed sections must be excluded from the ambit of safeguards to create level playing filed for the poor from these sections.
Bridging Caste Divide:
Since very foundation of Hinduism is Varnashram Dharma, so it is highly improbable to eliminate caste system, even in long term perspective. It is also not desirable to eliminate castes. The real nuisance for the society is not division of society into castes, but it is the hierarchical structure of caste system in Hinduism. So, in order to eliminate this hierarchical concept of caste system, it is most desirable to strengthen caste identity. In my view, without strengthening caste identity, elimination of hierarchical caste system (caste-ism) is unthinkable. To strengthen caste identity, it is imperative that people need to stop self-despise and to take pride in their own caste. That is the only way to eliminate hierarchy. So, it is necessary, especially for oppressed sections, to feel that their caste is not a handicap in their progress towards coming into social mainstream. Towards this end, their economic and educational upliftment is of paramount importance, which in my view, present system of constitutional safeguards is the only viable option. Once the people rise above the state of self-despise, safeguards would be rendered useless. But that is a long haul as of today.
No doubt, strong caste identities are going to create caste strife and society may go into an unstable condition, but ultimately, perpetuity of hierarchical system would end and people would someday learn to live in peace with each other.
Ashok said…
You have a lot of thought to the issue Hari ji and made many valuable points. However, I would like you to turn your attention towards getting the caste system completely deleted from society and reflecting on how that can be done. In my view it is better to get rid of a practice that is exploitative rather than preserve it any form.
Ashok said…

In the modern Indian society the caste system is having a reducing influence in any case and its influence has gone out in many areas. Such trends need to be be accelerated.

One area where the Brahmin caste still has control is religious ceremonies/temples/organisations but that can be countered with the introduction and expansion of Buddhist ceremonies/shrines/organisations open to all. In traditional Hinduism, Buddhism is regarded as a Hindu sect and many Hindus would prefer to belong to that sect if it offers a cleaner, purer and more philantrhopic alternative for all their religious needs such as giving to the poor, wedding ceremonies etc., especially inter caste marriages. The Hindus that subscribe to Buddhism can continue to view it as a form of Hinduism ( even as they do with Arya Samaj) or as a different religion altogethe, as they like.
I take quite long to come back, as I am unable to keep pace with you. As I mentioned in another blog of yours, you are full of energy. Possibly, in trying keep pace with you I might be able to revive my writing.
In context of caste system:
some experiences:
Though untouchability is still in vogue in my village but I never felt the psychological divide either in my village or in the Institution in Rohtak where I was only a second student from my background.
You would be surprised to know that my first brush with this psychological divide was in IIT. And it was palpable in the air, inspite of there being no outward sign of such divide. It was basically psychological.
But now, with politicization of village life and competition for economic well being, caste fissures are coming to the fore. Even the sexual assaults on women from weaker sections are also the result of these widening caste fissures. The number of such cases reported in recent past were not abrupt as was perceived by many ( and you also wrote an article on that). The only special thing about these cases was that these were reported. Otherwise, such cases are more common than thought, the only thing is that they get buried in hopelessness. Even caste clashes on the rise in Haryana and punjab with much accelerated speed. In my memory such clashes were rare especially in this part of India. Perhaps, that was one reason why BSP could not make much inroads in these states.
Though, there is much more to add. I might come up later.
Now the solution:
The solution suggested by you is an ideal and most desirable solution. But the trouble is how to bring about this change. And how to enforce the change. As I have mentioned earlier, even the identification of BPL population is not an easy task. The main hurdle in such goal is the will of people.
During freedom struggle we saw rise of great leaders. To view rise of these leaders to greatness as their own making would be misleading. These leaders were the people who only rose to the occasion as demanded by combined will of masses at large. So, fundamentally it is the will of people which is most deciding factor for any change to take place. And without some sort of difficult situation facing the society at large, such will is unlikely to come off. And that difficult situation is emerging in form of caste clashes. If these clashes succeed in subduing the oppressed sections back again, the difficult situation is unlikely come and hence will for change is also unlikely.
Here also, I take a break.
Ashok said…
Thanks for adding to the discussion Hariji. Yes with my familiarity of IIT I know that there was some sort of discrimination but my understanding was it was not because of historical reasons but because of the special reservation advantage that was given to such students. I graduated when that system was not in place and even then a few students got in through the general common criterion of JEE and no one really cared but when some found out they looked with pride at such students who had made it to JEE despite a poorer school background.

Some of the recent problems of divide between communities has been cause by the political system too. One example is Punjab wher in my childhood there was great harmony between the Sikh and Hindu community but problems began later due to political interest.

The same was the case in Jaipur where the Jaipur state under the Raja and much later was an example of harmony between the two communities even much after the rajas and you may also have read of the intermarriage with the moghuls. However much later a Rath Yatra for Ram Mandir passed through Jaipur and communal tensions were born.

The hope for the future in India is education all around as it spreads through the country hopefully they will help to wipe out some of these primitive problems.
Rohit Mishra said…
A learning blog, and a healthy discussion!
Sir, you rightly mention "Evil is far more difficult to recognize.....and one of the question you address well .... how a genuine seeker should safeguard him self or her self?"
"Good spirituality is freedom all the way through......" :)
हरि चंद जी (Hari chand)sir, everyone will appreciate your struggle for education and the knowledge on the "reservation" topic. thanks for sharing it!
Ashok said…
Thanks Rohit. Fully agree with what you have said.

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