According to an opinion poll commissioned
by India Today, an increasing number of the young
and the restless in the country, as they seek
to come to terms with a society in flux, are turning
to religion as a source of emotional and moral
support. In the October 5 issue of the magazine,
Madhu Jain comments on the findings of the survey
of people between the ages of 16 and 30, in the
country's five metropolises-Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta,
Chennai and Bangalore:
Religion is back in vogue. As much as 94 percent
of the people surveyed said they believe in
God. A substantial majority (86 per cent) categorized
themselves as very religious. Rituals, pujas
and pilgrimages are now the in thing. Among
Hindus, one out of two said they had performed
a ritualistic puja at home this year apart from
paying regular visits to temples and an occasional
pilgrimage. Among Muslims, a third of them performed
namaz five times a day. And another third at
least once. And in all, three-quarters of the
people surveyed felt that religion had become
an essential part of their lives....
"The youth are beginning to lose their
moorings. It's like they're feeling a blast
in their lives," observes Father Ignatius
Mascarenhas. "So a search is now on for
something more permanent, a certain stability."
... Parents are no longer role models, hence
the cults they follow are not good enough. In
the India Today survey, almost half of the respondents
said that religion offers the best solace today
to the problems they face. And a third said
they took to religion because of a general insecurity....
Many sociologists believe that spurring the
return to faith are problems of identity which
crop up more frequently in the turbulent and
changing times, specially during rapid urbanization
when old standards and morals take a beating....Nor
does education have answers which the youth
are looking for today. Therapist Rani Raote
believes that this generation has been taught
to ask questions the answers to which neither
their parents nor their teachers can provide....
"So it's easy for the younger generation
to get caught in rituals for immediate relief
since they can't depend on anything from their
family, institutions or any social system."...
Religion is a wand to banish the fear and sense
of hopelessness and loneliness besieging many
of today's youth. But many who have got it all
now wonder if this is all. A question troubles
many of them: how do you reconcile the materialism
of today with spirituality? Can you have both?
How do you grapple with money, power, corruption,
technology and an inner quest?
Where will all this religiosity lead to? Theosophy
would say to today's youth seeking for their moorings
in an unsettling world: Substitute a religion
of knowledge for that of mere belief- knowledge
which brings enlightenment to the mind and conviction
to the heart. Real faith is born of knowledge
and understanding, and by wisdom one is purified.
Even the prophets and saints can but point the
way which we ourselves have to walk. Without knowledge,
mysticism would be emotionalism, devotion would
be sentimentalism, and unearthliness would result
in a total disregard of the path of duty and service
of this world. With knowledge, which Theosophy
offers, men and women can change the course of
their lives, endowing them with an inspiring meaning
and a superb purpose.
Unless religions are discarded in favour of Religion,
ceremonial in favour of Ethics, priest-reliance
and vicarious atonement in a variety of forms
in favour of Self-Reliance-doubt, dissatisfaction
and misery, the offspring of selfishness and passion,
must continue to flourish. The youth, seeking
solace and solutions to the problems they face,
must take an enlightened line, not only in thought,
but also in conduct.
A wave of new research is making scientists
veer round to the view that life begins not at
birth, but much earlier in embryonic development-according
to some, at the moment of conception. Armed with
highly sensitive and sophisticated monitoring
gear, Johns Hopkins University psychologist Janet
DiPietro and other researchers are beginning to
understand more about the life and behaviour of
the embryo and the foetus. Psychology Today (September/October
Scientists are creating a startling new picture
of intelligent life in the womb. Among the revelations:
· By nine weeks, a developing foetus
can hiccup and react to loud noises. By the
end of the second trimester it can hear.
· Just as adults do, the foetus experiences
the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep of dreams.
· The foetus savours its mother's meals,
first picking up the food tastes of a culture
in the womb.
· Among other mental feats, the foetus
can distinguish between the voice of Mom and
that of a stranger, and respond to a familiar
story read to it.
· Even a premature baby is aware, feels,
responds, and adapts to its environment....
The roots of human behaviour, researchers now
know, begin to develop early-just weeks after
conception, in fact. Well before a woman typically
knows she is pregnant, her embryo's brain has
already begun to bulge. By five weeks, the organ
that looks like a lumpy inchworm has already
embarked on the most spectacular feat of human
development: the creation of the deeply creased
and convoluted cerebral cortex, the part of
the brain that will eventually allow the growing
person to move, think, speak, plan, and create
in a human way.
At nine weeks, the embryo's ballooning brain
allows it to bend its body ....At week ten,
it moves its arms, "breathes" amniotic
fluid in and out, opens its jaw, and stretches.
Before the first trimester is over, it yawns,
sucks, and swallows as well as feels and smells.
By the end of the second trimester, it can hear;
toward the end of pregnancy, it can see.
The new findings will undoubtedly have an impact
on the abortion issue, for the essence of the
abortion debate is: When does life begin? Though
many of the scientists engaged in studying the
foetus choose to remain detached from the abortion
controversy, their research is bound to strengthen
the convictions of right-to-lifers.
From the occult viewpoint, the issue involves
considerations other than purely physical. What
are the forces at work in the formation of the
foetus? This, says H.P.B., is one of the chief
difficulties of the science of embryology which
has never been properly answered; nor will it
ever be solved "till the day when scientists
condescend to accept the Occult theories"
(The Secret Doctrine, I, 223). An unknown influence
radiates from a focus in the incipient embryo,
multiplying and differentiating the cells as it
proceeds. This invisible factor is absolute master
of the materials and of the future form. There
is a pattern body, says Theosophy, which exists
prior to the physical, and it is not of physical
matter. What forms this "astral body"?
Doubtless skeptics will refuse to concede that
consciousness is the governing factor in embryology.
But they cannot successfully deny it. Till such
time as scientists are prepared to go beyond the
mere physical explanation of embryonic development,
some of the mysteries connected with it must continue
to remain terra incognita to them.
Is it heredity or environment, nature or nurture,
that shapes us and our behaviour? Molecular biologists
around the world are seeking an answer to the
question. Life magazine (April 1998) throws light
on what scientists are saying today:
Does the key to who we are lie in our genes
or in our family, friends and experiences? In
one of the most bitter scientific controversies
of the 20th century-the battle over nature and
nurture-a wealth of new research has tipped
the scales overwhelmingly toward nature....And
yet new findings are also shedding light on
how heredity and environment interact. Psychiatrists
are using these findings to help patients overcome
their genetic predispositions....
Even the most zealous behavioural geneticists
admit that genes are not-quite-destiny....In
any case, if genes are not commands but nudges,
we can nudge back. We are the only animals on
earth that can overrule our genes. And we do
so constantly-whenever an alcoholic chooses
not to drink or an obese person diets....
Bethesda psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan is one
of a growing number of therapists who have incorporated
the findings of behavioural genetics into their
practice. "When a trait appears to be influenced
by genes, people assume it's not changeable,"
he says. "Well, we can't change the genes,
but we can change the way genes express themselves.
We can change behaviour."...Greenspan's
work illustrates an idea at the heart of behavioural
genetics today-that heredity and environment
are entwined, always reacting to and building
on each other.
In other words, no matter what genes we inherit,
they do not by themselves dictate specific behaviours.
Our self-effort and free will, support from others
and a conducive environment, can help tip the
balance. We are not bound; our traits and tendencies
are not irreversible.
That rhythms, or cycles, govern the lives of
all living beings has for long been observed by
scientists. Some among them believed at one time
that plants, animals and humans respond to the
cosmic rhythms of the external world, reacting
to the cycles of day and night, of the seasons,
of the waxing and waning of the moon, etc. Others,
however, held to the theory that in all living
things there is an internal biological clock,
which works independently of external factors.
Evidence in this direction has been accumulating
In the magazine Discover (October 1998), Mark
Cladwell writes of the latest findings on the
nature and location of internal biological clocks:
Partisans of the internal-clock theory could
cite suggestive evidence. Cells can, for example,
keep time on their own, showing regular cyclic
activity even when they're isolated in lab cultures,
cut off from outside stimuli like sunlight and
temperature variations. No one knew, though,
how such cells maintained their cycles. "What
was lacking," says biochemist Jay Dunlap,
"was a plausible mechanism."
Now researchers finally seem to have uncovered
one....Teams at Harvard, Brandeis, Rockefeller
University in New York, and the Scripps Research
Institute in San Diego, as well as labs at Dartmouth,
have teased out many of the clock's secrets.
They have come up with a reasonably complete
blueprint for a system that seems, with some
variations, to hold true across a wide spectrum
of organisms, from fungi to fruit flies to mammals....
DNA is the mainspring in these submicroscopic
timepieces....Each cellular beat of time begins
in the nucleus, where special initiator genes
are always in the "on" position, making
proteins that switch on "clock" genes
in another region of the cell's DNA. In turn,
the clock genes activate the construction of
distinctive clock proteins in the cytoplasm
of the cell, outside the nucleus....The whole
cycle takes between 22 and 26 hours, never varying,
even when the cells are isolated from all day-night
While most scientists are seeking for an explanation
of the timing mechanism within living beings at
the biochemical level, perhaps the more intuitive
among them may be led toward a non-mechanistic
theory of causation. Where there is life there
is consciousness or intelligence, and as life
is everywhere, so is consciousness-intelligence.
"Where is that daring man," asks The
Secret Doctrine (I, 277 fn.), "who would
presume to deny to vegetation and even to minerals
a consciousness of their own?" All he can
say is, that this consciousness is beyond his
comprehension." Every atom is an "independent
entity" and every cell a "conscious
unit." H.P.B.'s article "Psychic and
Noetic Action" (reprinted in Raja-Yoga or
Occultism) throws further light on this question
of the cell's consciousness and memory-or call
The contemporary world has seen a mind-boggling
revolution in science and technology. There has
also been an upswing in the economic development
of some countries. The setting up of the United
Nations Organization with its auxiliary agencies
has been another significant feature of the contemporary
world. Freedom from war was not the only aim; freedom
from hunger, disease and ignorance was also sought.
So was all-round social and economic development.
And with a view to making the international system
more equitable and just, quite a few high-level
commissions were appointed.
In spite of all these measures and advances, all
is not well with the present-day world. Jagmohan,
a Lok Sabha M.P., lays his finger on the cause and
suggests a cure (The Times of India, October 7):
Why, with phenomenal knowledge and skill at
mankind's command, should things be falling
Why, despite unprecedented affluence in the
present-day world, should there be widespread
hunger, disease and death? Why are the UN and
its agencies failing to attain their objective?
Why, in spite of repeated warnings, is ecological
disequilibrium growing? And why are political
and economic ideologies unable to provide solutions?
Clearly, the current complexities and contradictions
have arisen because the post-world-war world
has continued to be guided by old attitudes,
values and reflexes, because the Earth is not
being viewed as an integral part of a cosmic
web; and because the sea, the soil, the forests,
the clouds, the mountains and the teeming millions
are not being treated as intermeshed items of
the same organic entity.
The world's dominant powers refuse to take a
holistic view of reality and help develop a
system in which the requirements of body, mind,
intellect and soul are integrated in a balanced
and harmonious pattern and in which human societies
function, not as separate, but as the complementary
and mutually reinforcing unity of the same universe.
They do not understand that if one or two aspects
of the human personality or one or two arenas
of human society alone are catered to, or are
not accompanied by a proportionate advance in
complementary spheres, then negative results
will accrue. For example, as we know, knowledge,
a desirable item in itself, cannot bring happiness
or harmony unless accompanied by a corresponding
advancement in the spiritual field. As Bertrand
Russell puts it, "Unless man increases
in wisdom, increase in knowledge will be increase
in sorrow." The Gita elucidates the same
phenomenon: The mind that runs out, following
the pull of the senses, gets despoiled of its
wisdom and is lost, like a ship on the ocean
in the gale. But the self-controlled and self-regulated
man, on the other hand, freed from selfish desire
and anger, attains tranquillity.
If the world genuinely wants to replace the
contemporary scientifically, technologically
and materially advanced, but socially and morally
retarded, civilization by a truly just, humane
and enlightened civilization, then it has to
include integral humanism in the core of its
ideology and work for the development of integrated,
balanced and harmonious individuals, societies
and states, operating within an international
order which is organized on mutual understanding
and an underlying unity.
FACED with the challenge of establishing genuine
world peace and preserving the bountiful earth,
what can we do? Beautiful words are not enough.
Our ultimate goal should be the demilitarisation
of the entire planet. If it were properly planned
and people were educated to understand its advantages,
I believe it would be quite possible. But, if we
are to have the confidence to eliminate physical
weapons, to begin with some kind of inner disarmament
is necessary. We need to embark on the difficult
task of developing love and compassion within ourselves.
Compassion is, by nature, peaceful and gentle, but
it is also very powerful. Some may dismiss it as
impractical and unrealistic, but I believe its practice
is the true source of success. It is a sign of true
inner strength. To achieve it we do not need to
become religious, nor do we need any ideology. All
that is necessary is for us to develop our basic
We all want to live a good life, but that does not
mean just having good food, clothes, and shelter.
These are not sufficient. We need a good motivation:
compassion, without dogmatism, without complicated
philosophy, just understanding that others are our
human brothers and sisters and respecting their
rights and human dignity. That we humans can help
each other is one of our unique capacities.
-H. H. THE DALAI LAMA