With the growth of terrorism in the world,
there has been a rush to identify and explain
it on the basis of Samuel Huntington's "clash
of civilizations" thesis, expounded in his well-known
book under that title. The reality, writes N.S.
Rajaram in The Hindu open page, is that "terrorism
represents no civilization and follows no boundaries."
He examines aberrant behaviour like terrorism
or megalomania from the Vedantic perspective:
The major drawback of geopolitical theories,
like Huntington's clash of civilizations, is
their failure to account for human behaviour,
especially aberrant behaviour. Ancient Indian
thinkers on the other hand have made a profound
study of this aspect of conflict. It is surprising
that Indian humanities scholars have by and
large failed to take advantage of the vast body
of knowledge available to them in their own
tradition. Yoga, Vedanta and many other sources
provide alternative visions based on insights
into human behaviour. A study of Indian sources
shows that conflicts like what we are faced
with were not unknown to the ancients who had
made a profound study of the causes and effects
that underlie them. They analysed them from
the viewpoint of human tendencies rather than
as reflections of geopolitics. They characterized
them as Daivic (divine) and Asuric (demonic)
traits and saw conflicts as resulting from the
clash of values (or dharma) deriving from them.
In this context, it is a serious error to interpret
dharma as religion or sect. Seen from this Vedantic
perspective, what we are witnessing around us
is no clash of civilizations, but a clash of
values or dharmas. This is an age-old conflict,
between the material and the spiritual. Most
evil in the world is due to excessive preoccupation
with material wealth and power. This tendency
is called Asuric by the ancients. The spiritual
or the trait that seeks harmony is called Daivic....The
Daivic leads to freedom and the Asuric to bondage.
[cƒ. The Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter XVI]
How are we to account for these traits, or
what they stem from? The Vedantic view is that
there are three fundamental tendencies (or gunas)
that control human behaviour; the combined action
of these on the people, especially the leaders,
leaves an imprint on the history of any era.
These tendencies are: sattva (light or purity),
rajas (power or aggression) and tamas (darkness
or ignorance). Any combination of these determines
the history of an epoch. Particularly dangerous
is the combination of tamas and rajas—aggression
driven by ignorance. This is what we call fanaticism.
Tamas sees sattva or light of knowledge as the
enemy. Its goal is to destroy sattva and plunge
the world into a Dark Age. This has happened
many times in history. This is what forces of
fanaticism are trying to do to the world today....It
is no clash of civilizations but a clash between
Daivic and Asuric forces. For civilization to
survive, the Daivic forces must combine to defeat
the Asuric combination of tamas and rajas. This
is the message of Vedanta.
The subject-matter of psychology
is the "mind." It focuses upon how we perceive,
attend, think, remember and use language, emotion,
motivation and social interaction. But what is
mind, and is the subject-matter of psychology
within the domain of scientific investigation?
Dr. Sarah Eaggar, writing from London, focuses
on the problems psychology faces (Purity, April
Psychology, as it stands today, is more a
collection of disparate disciplines than a conceptually
ordered and unified research programme. The
notion of a superparadigm to link these models
would have to unify all the current philosophical
and conceptual languages.
Methodologists and philosophers of science
have been endeavouring to find an acceptable
of studying "mind." It is not clear whether
psychology as a scientific type of inquiry is
a suitable means of gaining knowledge about
the mind. For example, the special nature of
mind with its inability to be directly observed
makes it difficult to examine it "scientifically."
To do so requires making quite large conceptual
leaps by reducing it to other more observable
things such as brain states or patterns of behaviour.
Despite all these efforts, the "mind" remains
in its own special conceptual and language domain.
Words like intention, motivation, love and experience
sit awkwardly in a physicalist paradigm.
Upon reflection, the question "is the mind
fit for science" could be better answered by
asking "is science fit for the mind"? If whatever
knowledge we have, or seek about the mind, remains
largely unscientific, what does this imply about
the scope and nature of science? Does psychology
need repositioning within a larger framework
Given that psychology attempts to unify the
domain of mental phenomena with that of observable
behaviour, it has to involve itself in metaphysical
decisions about the relationship between mind
It would not appear that artificial intelligence
or any other materialistic explanation of mind
is able to answer the current philosophical
questions about what it means to be human....In
an era of increasing violence, it appears that
the important problems left for the world to
solve concern the nature of human beings themselves.
H.P.B. called psychology the
"Science of the Soul," and her article under that
title is a vigorous critique of the psychological
conceptions which resulted from the materialistic
assumptions of the science of her day. Even today
most psychologists believe that mental phenomena
are caused by the brain, that brain states cause
consciousness. Occultists, says H.P.B., believe
We have sought far and wide for scientific
corroboration as to the question of spirit,
and spirit alone (in its septenary aspect) being
the cause of consciousness and thought, as taught
in esoteric philiosophy. We have found both
physical and psychical sciences denying the
fact point-blank, and maintaining their two
contradictory and clashing theories.
The concerns of "cosmic preservationists"
go further than those of environmentalists. They
believe that even rocks have rights and should
not be abused. The natural world, in general,
they say, has some intrinsic value that we should
respect beyond those values that we humans find
useful. New Scientist (January 4) has this to
This idea of "environmental ethics" entered
the mainstream with the publication in 1975
of an essay by none other than Holmes Rolston
III. He believes that nature possesses value
independently of people, and that we therefore
have a duty to respect it and protect it for
its own sake. He wants us to get away from the
anthropocentric view of the environment held
by most people in the West, a view he sums up
thus: "For them, humans can have no duties to
rocks, rivers or ecosystems, and almost none
to birds or bears; humans have serious duties
only to each other, with nature often instrumental
in such duties."
Have his ideas caught on? Yes, they have spawned
entire movements, such as Earth First, a radical
green activist group, and the Deep Ecology Movement,
whose members seek a relationship with the natural
world as "deep" as the relationship they have
with people. Deep ecologists believe in a sacred
relationship between humans and nature. As Arne
Naess, the Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer
who founded the movement, puts it: "We need
to get rid of subject, object and something
in between, the 'me-it' relationship. All is
one. This is about feeling rather than thinking."
With the CD ROM market booming
and TV channels beaming war footage round-the-clock,
Gulf War II made its mark on young minds. Violent
video games have become more popular with children
than ever before, reports Anubha Sawhney (Bombay
Times, April 3). For some adult minds, however,
this trend is rather disturbing.
Psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh explains that children's
fascination for war games is an external expression
of an internal problem. Parents should try to
understand the minds and feelings of their children
in order to give them proper guidance. Says Chugh:
Chances are that if a child sees and plays
games involving war and brutality continuously,
he or she will fail to realize the gravity of
the situation. Such children are more susceptible
to committing acts of violence.
Those who allow children to watch violent video
games, or give them weapons for toys and regard
with amusement their play with such weapons, are
incurring unthought-of Karmic responsibility.
"The capacity of children for the storing away
of early impressions is great indeed," wrote H.P.B.
Inclusion of the study of ethics
in the medical curriculum has raised a controversy.
Bombay Times (March 31) reports both sides of
Dr. Jyoti Taskar, President, Indian Medical Association,
Mumbai, is of the view that no purpose will be
served by including ethics in the curriculum.
Each person has his or her own sense of ethics.
It is something that comes from within, she says,
and cannot be forcefully learnt. Besides, how
does one decide what is ethical and what is not?
Dr. S. M. Sapatnekar, Administrator, Maharashtra
Medical Council, takes the opposite view:
It is very important that ethics is taught.
Medicine is a learned behaviour, and every profession
has its ethics. And its role is maximum in medicine,
given the high level of mutual confidence and
physical proximity between doctor and patient....
The inclusion of a curriculum consisting of
the sociology of medical ethics will assist
doctors to be better health solicitors and decision
makers. They also need to understand that they
can't always have a consulting-room approach.
Even the Hippocratic oath is only a declaration;
there's no undertaking involved. As a result,
there's no mutual commitment. Mere utterance
of an oath will not solve the problem. Once
inducted into the profession, a doctor is not
only responsible for his deeds to his own conscience,
he is accountable to his profession as well
as to society. Studying ethics will help.
The "moral dilemma" in the medical profession,
highlighted from time to time, came in the wake
of technological advances in medicine all over
the world. As Dr. C. Gopalan, president of the
Indian Council of Medical Research, once remarked,
doctors in a sense gained the world but were in
danger of losing their soul. The nobleness of
the profession, the concern and compassion among
medical men, the doctor-patient relationship that
gave a physician a unique role in society—these
were fast disappearing. Medicine is no longer
humanitarian, but has become technological and
"doctors are dancing to the tunes of machines."
The need of the hour is recapturing the lost philosophical
foundation of medicine.
Despite the great technical advances of our day,
the future of medicine may well depend upon the
training of physicians who will once more be humanists.
Who does not want to be happy?
Yet few seem to understand what true happiness
is. Here is one way of looking at it, as outlined
in Mira (March-April 2003).
You can't pursue happiness and catch it. Happiness
comes upon you unaware while you are helping
others. The philosophy of happiness is pointedly
expressed in the old Hindu proverb: "Help thy
brother's boat across, and o! thine own has
reached the shore."
Happiness is like perfume—you can't spray it
on others without getting some on yourself.
Happiness does not depend upon a full pocketbook,
but upon a mind full of rich thoughts and a
heart full of rich emotions.
Happiness does not depend upon what happens
outside of you, but on what happens inside of
you; it is measured by the spirit in which you
meet the problems of life. Happiness is a state
of mind. We are as happy as we make up our minds
Happiness comes from putting our hearts in
our work and doing it with joy and enthusiasm.
Happiness does not come from doing easy work,
but from the afterglow of satisfaction that
comes after the achievement of a difficult task
that demanded our best.
Happiness grows out of harmonious relationships
with others, based on attitudes of goodwill,
tolerance, understanding and love.
Happiness comes from keeping constructively
busy; creative hobbies are the keys to happy
Happiness is not to be striven after with energy
or trapped by tricks. That for which the majority
of men and women give up so much of their life
is to be found within their hearts if the proper
mental attitude be formed. Happiness or Bliss
is an inner harmony, contentment of the Soul.
It is brought about neither by what we have or
have not; nor by what we do or leave undone. Nor
is it caused by our environment, which is but
the outer manifestation of our inner state. Mistaking
cause for effect and vice versa, we seek to achieve
happiness by changing our surroundings instead
of setting to work on ourselves. There lies the
trouble. The force of outer circumstances is fixed;
it is we who vary in our reaction.
To be happy is not the goal of life. Happiness
is to be found only in ceaselessly becoming, in
an endless series of progressive awakenings which
purify our affections.
Italian psychiatrist Roberto
Assagioli's parable of three stonecutters building
a cathedral in the 14th century, though often
quoted, is a good reminder even today that it
is our attitude which makes our occupation in
life, whatever it is, either lowly or exalted:
When he asks the first stonecutter what he
is doing, the man replies with bitterness that
he is cutting stones into blocks, a foot by
a foot by three quarters of a foot. With frustration,
he describes a life in which he has done this
over and over, and will continue to do it until
The second stonecutter is also cutting stones
into blocks, a foot by a foot by three quarters
of a foot, but he replies in a somewhat different
way. With warmth, he tells the interviewer that
he is earning a living for his beloved family;
through this work his children have clothes
and food, he and his family have a home which
they have filled with love.
But it is the third man whose response gives
us pause. In a joyous voice, he speaks of the
privilege of participating in the building of
a great cathedral, so strong that it will stand
as a holy lighthouse for a thousand years. (Life
Positive, April 2003)
Indeed, work is worship. It is within our power
to make drudgery divine.
The phrase "the great orphan, Humanity," has
a deep significance for me. An orphan may also
be one who had no parents, as the state of orphanage
is that of being without father or mother. If
we imagine a child appearing on earth without
a parent, we would have to call it an orphan.
Humanity is the "great orphan" because it is
without parents in the sense that it has produced
itself and hence from itself has to procure
the guidance it needs. And as it wanders in
the dark valley of the shadow of death, it is
more in need of help and counsel than the mere
body of a child which is the ordinary orphan.
The soul is parentless, existing of itself from
all eternity, and, considered as soul, mankind
is hence an orphan. Plunged into matter, surrounded
on every side by the vast number of intricate
illusions and temptations that belong to earthly
life, it stands every day and hour in need of
protection as well as guidance. —W. Q. Judge