How old are civilized human societies? Dates are constantly being
revised by newer archaeological findings. Four years ago, the
discovery of the Harappan site of Dholavira in Gujarat pushed
back the dates by a few thousand years; and now has come the dramatic
finding of a submerged site in the Gulf of Cambay, off the coast
of Gujarat. Archaeologists date it back to 7500 B.C., and proclaim
it as the earliest known urban settlement in India-and maybe the
world-"changing the starting point from where the history of our
civilization is tracked." (India Today, February 11)
After spending weeks dredging the site and picking up over
2000 artefacts, the team of oceanographers from the National
Institute of Ocean Technology in Chennai made some astonishing
revelations. It found that the ruins under the sea showed signs
of what was once a masonry dam, also a large granarylike structure,
and another construction with sunken steps that looked like
the Great Bath of Mohenjodaro. Also discernible were outlines
of a drainage system, mud roads, and foundations of crumbled
homesteads. The artifacts recovered included polished stone
tools, ornaments, figurines, broken pottery, semiprecious stones,
ivory, and fossilized remains of human bones.
The findings have triggered much interest and controversy
among leading historians, archaeologists and others throughout
the world. Many are of the view that the discovery is important
enough to launch an international collaborative study. Dilip
Chakrabarti, an expert on ancient Indian archaeology, goes so
far as to say, "If the dates are true it would be revolutionary
in terms of understanding the growth of villages and cities
in the world….It could completely alter all our notions of history."
There are many questions that still remain unanswered: Where,
for instance, did the people of Cambay come from? Were they
natives or did they come by sea from West Asia? When and how
did they become agriculturists and go on to build a mature urban
settlement? The notion still persists that early humans were
hunters and later became farmers, and archaeologists are hoping
that the sunken city of Cambay which was once part of a predominantly
agricultural society will reveal the "missing links" connecting
There is general agreement that those who preceded the Vedic
Aryans in India, like the people of the Indus Valley, belonged
to a highly civilized race.
It is yet far from being proved who were the original and
primitive masters of India. That this period is now beyond
the reach of documentary history, does not preclude the probability
of our theory that it was a mighty race of builders, whether
we call them Eastern Ethiopians, or dark-skinned Aryans (the
word meaning simply "noble warrior," a "brave"). They ruled
supreme at one time over the whole of ancient India. (Isis
Unveiled, II, 435)
Kenneth L. Woodward's comparative study of the Bible and
the Qur'an an (Newsweek, February 11) attempts to establish
that the two have a "real kinship." Each book says much more
than what a literal reading can possibly capture; each claims
to be "divine revelation"; each insists that God is one. As
the Prophet himself insisted, "God reveals himself through
signs whose meanings need to be deciphered." "Here, it would
seem," says Woodward, "lie the promising seeds of religious
reconciliation." There is more misunderstanding than points
of disagreement between the two.
Like the Bible, the Qur'an is a book of divine revelation
[writes Woodward]. Between them, these two books define
the will of God for more than half the world's population.
Over centuries, the Bible fashioned the Hebrew tribes into
a nation: Israel. But in just a hundred years, the Qur'an
created an entire civilization that at its height stretched
from northern Africa and southern Europe in the West to
the borders of modern India and China in the East….
But since the events of September 11, the Qur'an and the
religion it inspired have been on trial. Is Islam an inherently
intolerant faith?….What seeds of reconciliation lie within
the Qur'an and the Bible and the traditions that they represent?
Does the battle of the books, which has endured for centuries
between Muslims and believers in the West, ensure a perpetual
clash of civilizations?…
Compared with the few and much quoted verses that call
for jihad against the infidels, the Qur'an places far more
emphasis on acts of justice, mercy and compassion. Indeed,
the Qur'an is better appreciated as comprehensive guide
for those who would know and do the will of God. Like the
Bible, the Qur'an defines rules for prayer and religious
rituals. It establishes norms governing marriage and divorce,
relations between men and women and the way to raise righteous
children. More important, both books trace a common lineage
back to Abraham, who was neither Jew nor Christian, and
beyond that to Adam himself. Theologically, both books profess
faith in a single God (Allah means "The God") who creates
and sustains the world. Both call humankind to repentance,
obedience and purity of life. Both warm of God's punishment
and final judgment of the world. Both imagine a hell and
a paradise in the hereafter….
In Islam's current political conflicts with the West, the
major problem is not the Muslims' sacred book but how it
is interpreted. Muslims everywhere are plagued by a crippling
crises of authority. Like freewheeling fundamentalists of
every religious stripe, any Muslim with an agenda now feels
free to cite the Qur'an in his support.
Much of the misunderstanding of the Qur'an message stems
from the word "jihad," a word often misinterpreted by Muslims
and non-Muslims alike. Jihad means, literally, "effort." "Often
it describes the personal struggle merely to be a better,
more pious Muslim," writes Christopher Dickey in the same
issue of Newsweek. Muslims often justify "defensive
holy war" against "infidels"; but is it mere physical warfare
that the Qur'an refers to? There are dead-letter interpretations
of the Gita, too, and the war of Kurukshetra is often
not understood as a symbolic representation of the war within,
between the higher and the lower self in each one of us. The
"holy war" is an inner war; the "infidel" is an inner foe;
the goal is an inner goal. Is this not a more meaningful interpretation
of jihad than a literal rendering?
The sense of smell is perhaps the most mysterious and least
appreciated of all the senses. Researchers are now discovering
that smell plays an important role in memory and mood.
The correlation and interchangeability of the senses has
long been known, and now the theory is being advanced that
smell can arouse powerful emotions. Health and Nutrition
(November 2001) reports:
It's easy to see how a keen sense of smell can enhance
life's pleasures. Could the reverse also be true? Could
depression and other mood disorders-in older people and
smokers, for instance-be linked to an impaired sense of
smell? Researchers are only beginning to address those questions,
but they've already found a fairly significant relationship
between smell and mood. People who completely lose their
sense of smell, for example, often become anxious and depressed.
Psychologists at Brown University have found that odour
can even reinforce the negative feelings associated with
The link between smell and mood is actually at the heart
of aromatherapy…Even more intriguing is the possibility
that the gradual decline of the ability to smell can contribute
to memory problems. No one knows for sure, but it seems
clear that difficulties with the sense of smell are associated
with memory loss. Last year, researchers at Columbia University
found that a subtle decrease in the olfactory sense may
precede the onset of Alzeimer's disease.
The effect of colour and music on emotional and even physical
health is well known. Colour, music, scent, all have their
vibrations which produce direct effects on our psychological
nature; the elemental lives also are affected by these means.
It is for each one to observe his own nature and thus learn
how sense impressions affect his emotion and his health.
There are thought-provoking hints in Theosophical literature
about scent, its rationale, its significance and its correspondences,
and the interchangeability of the senses. Attention may be
invited, for example, to the statement in Transactions
(p. 94): "An orthodox Occultist goes so far as to say that
the smell of a flower emanates from it 'consciously'-absurd
as it may seem to the profane." Also to John Worrell Keely's
discussion of the non-physical character of the "substance"
of odour, and its extreme tenuity (S.D., I, 565). Mr. Judge's
Echoes from the Orient implies that odours can be impressed
upon the astral light and that they can be carried thousands
of miles through it (p. 53). Experiments have proved that
scent affects even the growth of plants.
Though it is a well-recognized fact that all beings, including
men, animals and plants, have a specific odour, how
it is produced is a question not easily answerable by science.
Scent is correlated with sound and colour and all are in terms
of vibration as far as their immediate cause is concerned.
A note in The Theosophist for July 1883 suggested that
the odoriferous element inherent in the protoplasm or vital
substance is "one of the links which connects the life principle
with the physical body". That seems to be borne out by the
resistance of distinctive bodily odour to the most scrupulous
physical cleanliness; for scent is an expression from within
without, which it is not easy to alter.
While "globalization" is much talked about today, it is mainly
applied to the process of bringing goods and services, products,
markets and national economies under the umbrella of large corporations,
thus shrinking the world.
Is our world really a family? An unsigned article in Purity
(February 2002) touches on the practical implications and responsibilities
of the concept of the global family:
It means that the context of faith, nationality and culture
is unity, oneness….
The key to reawaken the understanding of the holistic and
united nature of the human family is to begin from within,
to understand the self first. First and foremost, I am
a soul and that I play the part of being a Muslim,
Hindu, Christian, Sikh, a Buddhist, an atheist or, that I
belong in India, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Korea, in
USA, etc. The field of action is not the identity. The cultural
norm is not the personality. In fact, like any drama, the
actors are wonderfully attired and expressed in a range of
characters, with certain inflections of personality and humour
to match those actors.
This is what it means to be a family-to enjoy and laugh at
the differences-to accept individual and separate identity
whilst being a part of the colourful whole.
Let us play together a singular symphony of love and happiness
as one world family. This is one magnificent composition created
by the same Composer, the One Supreme.
According to WHO study, increasing air pollution in India is
responsible for the premature deaths of about 750,000 people
annually. The report also says that premature deaths and illness
caused by environmental factors account for one-fifth of all
diseases in South Asia-more than the toll taken by any other
Atmospheric pollution is caused by human activities, propelled
by greed. There is a price to be paid for every act of indiscretion,
but we are slow in learning the lesson.
Instances of animals caring for the young of other species
are "baffling," yet not uncommon. In a recent instance reported
by Earth Environment Service, a full-grown lioness in Kenya's
Samburu Game Reserve took over an oryx calf separated form its
mother at birth. The lioness became inseparable from the young
oryx, which normally would have been prey for big cats. The
pair ranged side by side, with the lioness fiercely protecting
the frail calf, chasing off leopards and cheetahs. Park workers
reported seeing the lioness lay down to nap with the frail oryx
curled up next to her. Exhausted from a vigilant two-week watch
over her unlikely ward, the lioness slept as a male lion pounced
on the oryx and dragged it away. The grief-stricken lioness
howled "in pain" upon awakening and circled the area before
departing. Could not humans learn a thing or two from such instances?
IF we continue to speak of other animals as less mysterious
than ourselves, if we speak of the forests as insentient systems,
and of rivers and winds as basically passive elements, then
we deny our direct, visceral experience of those forces. And
so we close down our sense and come to live more and more
in our heads. We seal our intelligence in on itself and begin
to look out at the world only as spectators-never as participants.
If, on the other hand, we wish to recall what it is like
to feel fully a part of this wild earth, then we shall have
to start speaking somewhat differently. It will be a difficult
change, but it will also be curiously simple, and strangely
familiar, something our children can help us remember. If
we really wish to awaken our senses, and so to renew the solidarity
between ourselves and the rest of the earth, then we must
acknowledge that the myriad things around us have their own
active influence upon our lives and our thoughts (and also,
of course, upon one another). We must begin to speak of our
sensuous surroundings in the way that our breathing bodies
really experience them-as active, as animate, as alive.