The sequencing of the human genome-the "book of life"
as it is called-is proving to be as much a cause for concern
as for celebration, as its implications are being realized. An
individual's genetic make-up is now an open book for all to read,
and discrimination based on such reading is already a reality.
In some countries like Britain, for instance, insurance companies
have the right to access the results of genetic tests for certain
diseases, and the persons concerned can be hit by higher premiums
or refused coverage. The door now open to insurers will lead
the way for others, such as employers; and there can be many
As was clear at a recent UNESCO conference, the issue is a
real Pandora's box, giving rise to several questions. The March
issue of Unesco Sources states editorially:
In part these questions may be resolved by the nature of the
genome itself. The fact that we have fewer genes than first thought
(about 31,000 according to the public Human Genome project consortium,
less than half the initial predictions) gives rise to optimism.
It means that we are not just the simple sum of our genes. It
also indicates that our cultural, social and physical environments
and histories have more impact on shaping who we are and how
we function than our genetic makeup. And it proves, once and
for all, that there is no genetic bases for racism. "Overall,
there are more differences in the DNA of two Caucasians than
between a Caucasian and an African," says Craig Venter,
the boss of the private company, Celera Genomics.
The Universal Declaration of the Human Genome and Human Rights,
adopted by UNESCO's General Assembly in 1998, provides a set
of principles which have achieved broad international consensus:
Article 1. The human genome underlies the fundamental unity
of the human family, as well as the recognition of their inherent
dignity and diversity. In a symbolic sense it is the heritage
Article 2. Everyone has the right to respect for their dignity
and their rights regardless of their genetic characteristics
Article 6. No one shall be subjected to discrimination
based on genetic characteristics that is intended
to infringe or has the effect of infringing human
rights, fundamental freedoms and human dignity.
Scientists reported recently that the planet Mars
may have been a land of lakes in its earliest period,
with layers of earthlike sedimentary rock that could
harbour the fossils of any ancient Martian life.
NASA's Mars global surveyor spacecraft captured
images with its Mars Orbiter Camera of these sediments
in craters and chasms that look very much like Earth.
The images and scientific findings were published
in Science journal.
The sedimentary rock on Mars is said to date from the earliest
span of Martian history, between 4.3 billion and 3.5 billion
years ago. The images show many uniformly thick layers of sediments,
which, scientists say, more than likely means water was present.
This latest evidence of possible water on Mars in the past has
fuelled interest in the planet, seen by many as a virtual twin
to Earth. Liquid water is seen as a prerequisite for life.
Almost nothing is taught in Theosophy regarding the nature of
life on other planets, though what little is said is highly significant.
It is for one thing indicated that most of the planets of the
solar system bear conscious intelligent beings. The question
of whether "life" exists or not on this or another
planet is of no importance to Theosophists who know that the
planets themselves are alive, for the reason that all matter
is alive. Nature is not in the habit of duplicating basic patterns.
Throughout the evolution of the earth, the same fundamental plan
of life-forms is found in all kingdoms, but that plan necessarily
varies with each globe. Says The Secret Doctrine:
"The Spheres of Being, or centers of life, which are
isolated nuclei breeding their men and their animals, are numberless;
not one has any resemblance to its sister-companion or to any
other in its own special progeny." (II, 33)
can we hope to speculate with profit on the
nature of globes which, in the economy of nature, must needs
belong to states of consciousness other and quite different from
any which man experiences here?
Still the fact remains that most of the planets,
as the stars beyond our system, are inhabited.
Easter Island, the world's most remote inhabited
island in the South Pacific, is dominated by gigantic
stone statues called moai. The tallest exceed 30
feet, and statues in the range of 12 to 20 feet
are commonplace. Some are estimated to weigh as
much as 80 to 90 tons. How they were built and moved
to their present locations still remains a mystery
to scientists and locals.
Fred J. Eckert writes in The World and I (March 2001):
Who built the moai of Easter Island ? Why? How did they do
it? And how were the moai moved and erected? No one knows for
certain. It is accepted that these majestic statues were built
to honour Polynesian gods and deified ancestors such as chiefs
and other figures important in the island's history
were likely meant to look out over a village or grave as protectors.
They may also have been status symbols for villages or clans.
Understanding why the inhabitants of Easter Island built these
mysterious statues is one thing-how is quite another. The builders
had only very primitive tools, and even the smallest moai weighs
several tons. It is understandable that a small number of artists
could carve these gigantic statues with woefully simple tools
but much harder to imagine the group moving them. Many of the
moai-there are hundreds of them-are erected at sites as far as
12 miles from the quarry at which they were carved. How could
so few people have moved them even a few feet, let alone several
miles? And how could it have been done without breaking them?
Once they were moved, how were they erected? Even today, using
powerful cranes, this would be no simple task.
While experts are baffled and have only theories to offer,
many inhabitants of the island believe that the moai were erected
and moved by mana, a magical force.
The Secret Doctrine answers many of the questions over which
scientists, not cognizant with the history of the early races
of humanity and their civilization, have racked their brains.
Easter Island with its wondrous gigantic statues has been called
by H.P.B. "a speaking witness to a submerged continent with
a civilized mankind on it." The most ancient traditions
and literature of various and widely separated peoples corroborate
what the Esoteric Philosophy maintains, that, ages ago, there
existed in the Pacific Ocean a large continent occupied by the
Third-Race Lemurians, which by a geological cataclysm was engulfed
by the sea. Most of the islands from the Malayan Archipelago
to Polynesia are fragments of that once immense submerged continent.
Ages later, because of an uplifting of the ocean floor, portions
of this submerged continent, which may have been mountain peaks
or high plateau, reappeared on the face of the ocean, among them
Easter Island. It was subsequently occupied by the Fourth-Race
Atlanteans, who had escaped from the cataclysm which overtook
their own land, only to perish here from volcanic fires and lava.
As for the giant statues to be found on Easter Island, The
Secret Doctrine states that their workmanship is of a high order
and that the men who made them were no savages of the stone age.
How were they built? Archaeologists say that there is no reason
to believe that any of the statues have been built up, bit by
bit, by scaffolding erected around them. How then could they
have been built except by giants of the same size as the statues
themselves? "They (the Atlanteans) built great images, nine
yatis high (27 feet)-the size of their bodies," states one
of the "Stanzas" from the Book of Dzyan. H.P.B. explains:
"One has but to examine the heads of the colossal statues,
that have remained unbroken on that island, to recognize in them
at a glance the features of the type and character attributed
to the Fourth-Race giants."
All this may be regarded as fiction by modern archaeologists and geographers;
to the Occultists it is history. Modern science
has today accepted many facts that at one time
it refused to believe; and the time may not be
far off when it will be forced to the conclusion
that in other respects too it is Esoteric Philosophy
that is right after all.
In the spring 2001 issue of Dharma Life (published
by Windhorse Publications for the Friends of the
Western Buddhist Order), Subhuti argues that democracy's
power to improve society is limited; higher values
must be spread by individual example. Democracy
is widely upheld as the ideal form of government,
and most would agree. It has, however, limitations
"which lie in the moral, and even spiritual,
quality of the electorate," says Subhuti:
A democracy is as good as its people and tends, in the modern
world, to promote a moral and cultural mediocrity
often said that for a democracy to work effectively there must
be an educated electorate that knows and understands the issues
of the moment and can evaluate arguments in political debate.
But this is not enough. With such knowledge each citizen can
simply fight his or her own corner, pushing for his or her own
interests, asserting his or her own rights. Democracy remains
then merely a system for orderly negotiation and adjudication
between competing interests. That is a considerable advance,
likely to make it harder for any one factional interest to predominate
entirely. However, it offers little more in terms of cultural,
moral and spiritual value, unless citizens want more
We must especially argue that for democracy to be an effective
means to a better society, individual citizens must take themselves
in hand. They must set themselves moral standards and try to
live for something beyond gratification, acquisition and comfort.
We must encourage each to reflect on the ultimate meaning and
purpose of our human existence and to try to live in accordance
with a higher ideal. This requires all to work on themselves,
changing their own lives, their minds and their hearts, for the
Once democracy has been successfully established, it is this
moral and spiritual change that is going to bring about a better
society. Reform henceforth must be reform of the individual.
Economic development, technological advance and organizational
effectiveness can achieve only so much. They cannot stem the
tide of trivia nor rescue us from mediocrity and meaninglessness
Dr. Ambedkar once said, "The greatest thing the Buddha
has done is to tell the world that the world cannot be reformed
except by the reformation of the mind of man and the mind of
the world." This should be our fundamental message, too.
A sound social morality or true democracy can
rest only on the spiritual concept of the unity
of all life and the brotherhood of humanity. The
concept of universal brotherhood is dynamic; its
energy flows as a steady, beneficent stream for
the good of all. On the other hand, the idea of
partial brotherhood of a group or nation, as separate
from or opposed to the rest, can wreak havoc as
a destructive force. The foremost thought in a
true democracy should be not of rights but of
In Britain, the Royal Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals has been running a powerful
campaign against hunting foxes, deer, mink, hares
and other animals for sport, as it is "cruel
and unnecessary." At the same time, reports
New Scientist, campaigners opposed to animal testing
came close to closing down one of the country's
largest contract-research companies, which tests
drugs, pesticides and other chemicals on animals.
Both the hunting and testing activists have a large
Alternatives to using animals in laboratories are now being
tried with success. U.S. doctor Jerry W. Vlasak, now in India,
advocates the need to replace the use of animals in medical education
as well as in research experiments carried out for testing the
compatibility and effectiveness of new medicines. Speaking to
reporters, Dr. Vlasak, M. D., who is a diplomat on the American
Board of Surgery as well as a Fellow at the American College
of Surgeons, said that the process of modernization of medical
education in the U.S. has done away with the use of animals.
In fact, all medical schools and prestigious medical universities
are now employing modern "non-animal methods" for instruction
and hands-on experience which are less expensive, more accurate
and more humane.
Disclosing that around 12 million animals were being killed
annually in U.S. for dissections, etc., Dr. Vlasak said that
there is simply no need for this. The new wave of computer software
is cost effective, provides accurate models of human systems
and allows multiple use. He informed that stressed animals used
for experiments provide unreliable results, besides wasting time,
money and personnel. Also, every medicine has to be ultimately
tested on humans as tests on animals cannot accurately predict
the effect on humans.
Pointing out that a string of medical breakthroughs
have been achieved without using animals, Dr.
Vlasak drew attention to the fact that many industries,
too, are thinking twice before using animals for
testing their products because of the growing
concern of consumers in this regards.
A GLOWWORM shines so long as the light-bringer has
not arisen. But when the shining one has come up,
its light is quenched, it glows no longer. Such
is the shining of the sectarians. So long as the
rightly awakened ones arise not in the world, the
sophists get no light, nor do their followers, and
those of wrong views cannot be released from ill.