From day one of his life, there is an attempt to shape every man into a common mold. The society, the school system and even the family demands conformity. But when you buckle under and become part of a herd, you lose your uniqueness. You give up your convictions and passions in favor of being accepted by the crowd. You become a mere actor playing different roles -- role of a dutiful child, of a dutiful parent or of a dutiful spouse.
Strive to find your own voice and do it now, because the longer you wait to begin the less likely you are to find it at all.
Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm wrote, "Man by origin is a herd animal. His actions are determined by an instinctive impulse to follow the leader and to have close contact with other animals around him. Inasmuch as we are sheep, there is no greater threat to our existence than to lose this contact with the herd and be isolated. But we are also human; we are endowed with reason which by its very nature is independent of the herd. Rationalization is a compromise between our sheep nature and our human capacity to think. And the full emergence of reason depends on our attaining independence so that our judgement is not based on our fear of being isolated from the herd. A few individuals can stand this isolation and say the truth in spite of the danger of losing touch. They are the true heroes of the human race but for whom we would still be living in caves."
Submission to a powerful authority gives a feeling of protection and belonging, but you lose your independence. Dare to strike out and find new ground. Be your own person. Look at things in a way different from the one you were trained to do. Don't be afraid of isolation. Resist the pressure to conform. If you don't, the casualty could be your heart and soul.
This is the kite flying season in Southern California. You can see the little ones in school parks struggling to get their kites up in the air. Erma Bombeck writes that kite flying is a lot like raising children. You spend what feels like a lifetime, getting them off the ground. You run with them until you are both breath less . . . they crash. You add a little longer tail and try again . . . they hit a tree. You rescue them, comfort them, fix them up with a couple of band-aids and try to get them up again. You watch them as they get lifted by the wind and finally become airborne. What a thrill it is to see them soar. Then they need more string and you keep unrolling your ball of twine. As the kite flies higher and higher, there is sadness mixed with joyful emotions. Deep inside you know that the beautiful kite of yours is going to get tangled with another kite and disappear into to the sunset. It will no longer need the lifeline that you so lovingly provided. And you feel the gratification by knowing that you did your job.
Too often when our children are little, we don't spend enough time with them. We are too busy doing our own things -- having a busy social life, trying to make our first million or working to gain social prominence. We grow apart. Then one day, they are old enough to take care of themselves and don't need us anymore. We wake up, sometimes too late to enjoy them. And that is very sad. Because the joy that they provide, the vitality they infuse in their aging caretakers is overwhelming. They make us feel young again. Don't miss out on bonding with your adorable kites. Hold them and hug them and be part of their little games. Spend some quality time with the precious little angels. They are so much a reflection of you when you were little. You would have enough time to do your own things later on. After all they are going to be around only for about eighteen years before they get shipped off to some university.
Man, according to Mark Twain is a mere machine. 'Whatsoever he is, is due to his make, and the influences brought to bear upon him by his heredities, his habitat and his associations.' Furthermore, 'From cradle to the grave a man never does a single thing which has any FIRST AND FOREMOST object but one - to secure peace of mind and spiritual comfort for HIMSELF.' Mark Twain claims that every man acts per his make. Men are born with some hereditary traits - gifts and shortcomings - and they act according to these traits. Just as a sewing machine made from different grades of steel or from different metals will perform differently, so would a tin man, a gold man or a steel man act according to the nature of his make. His make however is influenced by his training and his environment.
In one of his fables he says, 'A man is waiting at a bus station to reach home in the middle of a storm. A gray-haired ragged old homeless woman approaches him and requests for help. He ponders over for a few seconds and gives her his last dollar. He then walks home in the middle of a storm. On the way home his heart is singing with joy because he did something good. When he reaches home he proudly recounts his tale of charity and earns the respect and affection of his family. He has a hearty dinner and sleeps well that night, knowing how benevolent he has been to the old lady. That is a very good return on an investment of one dollar.' Mark Twain concludes that earning his personal self-approval, securing his peace of mind and his desire to earn the affection of his family and to feel good about himself were the motivations that drove this man to help the old lady. Whatever he did was a result of his make, his training and above all an attempt to buy peace of mind for himself. There were no favors done. Noble, Generous, Benevolent etc. are merely undeserving labels that men bestow upon each other.
It sure is a different point of view, which makes you stop and think!
The early Greek and Indian mythologies had very rich traditions. In Greece the pre-Socratic thinkers, with their esoteric ways practically destroyed their mythology. On the other hand, in India, mythology and philosophy enriched each other.
The Greek Sophists examined their ancient mythology in view of the rising natural sciences of the day. This resulted in the destruction of their rich native mythological tradition and the Greek gods were degenerated into mere themes for novels. The celestial upper class consisting of Zeus, Athena, Aurora, Venus etc. was reduced to a laughing stock. The Western philosophy started out as, and continues to be an exercise in clarifying ideas. In India, philosophy began as a way to eliminate suffering and to integrate man with nature. The Western philosophers sought wisdom in order to know; the Indian philosophers sought it to solve life's problems and to find a way to Moksha.
About the Indian traditions, Troy Organ, a professor at Ohio University wrote, `In the Hindu world, the folklore and popular mythology carry the truths and teachings of the philosophers to the masses. In India, the mythology never ceased to support and facilitate the expression of philosophic thought. The rich pictorial script of the epic tradition, the features of the divinities whose incarnations and exploits constituted the myth, became the vehicles of communication for the priests. In this way a wonderful friendship of mythology and philosophy was effected; and this has been sustained with such result that the whole edifice of Indian civilization is imbued with spiritual meaning. The close interdependence of the two has served to counteract the natural tendency of the philosophy to become esoteric, removed from solving life's problems. In this symbolic form, the ideas have not been watered down to become popular. The vivid, perfectly appropriate pictorial script preserves the doctrines without the slightest damage to their senses.'
Indian philosophy - it is rich, it is life-affirming and its sole purpose is to help mankind integrate itself with nature.
Ramakrishna (1836-1886) was a contemporary of Swami Dayanand (1824-1883). He attracted as students and disciples many of the brilliant young minds of his time. Among his disciples was a young lawyer Narendranath Datta, who later came to be known as Vivekananda. Vivekananda was from a wealthy, free thinking fam ily. This athletic handsome young graduate from the University of Calcutta was also a trained musician and a natural leader of men.
On September 19 1893, at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, Vivekananda became the first Hindu to speak before American audiences. He thundered before this august assembly, "Sect after sect arose in India and seemed to shake the religion of Vedas to its very foundations, but like the waters of the seashore in a tremendous earthquake it receded only for a while, only to return in an all-absorbing flood, a thousand times more vigorous; and when the tumult of the rush was over, these sects were all sucked in, absorbed and assimilated into the immense body of the mother faith." He continued by expounding on the knowledge contained in the Vedas. His eloquence and message made such a forceful impres sion on his audience that after the convention, he stayed on for four years to give speeches in America and England. During this time he also founded the Vedanta Society in New York. He was a very effective communicator of Indian philosophy to the West.
On May 1 1887, he founded the Ramakrishna Mission in India to spread the message of his Master Ramakrishna. Ever since its founding the Mission has been engaged in a wide variety of charitable, missionary and educational activities. Sadly enough the founder of this movement, a movement which gave a tremendous shot in the arm to Hinduism died on July 4 1902, at the age of thirty-nine. Vivekananda, a true reformist raised Hinduism to a new level of awareness. The social service being performed by the Ramakrishna Missions throughout India and the educational activities being carried out by Vedanta Societies all across the U.S. and Europe bear witness to the dream of this visionary scholar.
On the eve of the centennial of his arrival in U.S., let us rededicate ourselves to strive towards keeping his ideals alive.
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan wrote, "When we adopt an absolute faith, we will not produce free spirits but only men and women of fanatical fervor. Reverence for authority which excludes free investigation turns religion itself into a superstition." That is exactly what Swami Dayanand stood for all his life. He taught us to scrutinize every religious ritual and every dogma, and analyze its relevance to our daily lives before accepting it.
Dr. Radhakrishnan further wrote,"When we repudiate reason and demand faith, we play into the hands of dictators who profess to supply us with definite creeds for belief." In Hinduism man is largely left alone in developing his special relationship with God. Perhaps that is the reason for diversity in Hinduism. And that is also the reason for Hinduism as being referred to as a way of life rather than a religion.
A totalitarian faith strives to silence any opposition. It provides little in terms of explanations. There are no discussions. Dissention is not tolerated. At the summit of the religious pyramid, there is a Mr. know-all. He talks to God and acts as his messenger. Individuals are not allowed to think for themselves. And a totalitarian faith like that easily becomes an ally of political totalitarianism. The two of them together lead a nation or a group of people down a treacherous road. Even in our own lifetime we have seen the Ayatollah Khomeini, Jim Jones and David Koresh play their tricks on people who followed them.
The Arya Samaj is a completely open way of life. And we are fortunate to be living in a free nation where the state leaves its people alone when it comes to choosing their religious practices. As we enter the new year; let us strive to be more inquisitive about our religious practices and continue to protect the resources of this bountiful nation which gives us religious freedom.
Every seed is entitled to become a tree. Although any seed has the potential to become a tree, it is necessary to sow it and to fertilize it. It is necessary for the seed to break up, to disintegrate and to die as a seed so that it can become a tree. Only that seed is transformed into a tree which is ready to disintegrate and disappear into the soil.
Undoubtedly there is a energy center within each one of us which is lying dormant. If this center is shaken up, if the energy within is awakened, we will die as we are right now and a totally new individual will be born - an individual that we never knew before awakening. And it is the fear of the unknown, the fear of trading a life of security for an existence of unknown nature that prevents people from seeking God. It is the same fear which if it grips a seed, prevents it from becoming a tree. Whoever has found God has done so by seeking it in the depths. What is essential is a readiness to be drowned, a readiness to disappear. And he who is afraid of being drowned will of course survive, but will survive only as a seed. He will never find out what it is like to be a tree.
The thirst, the hunger for God is within each one of us, and it comes with our birth. But it is not allowed to awaken, it is sup pressed. And just in case the thirst for God arises by chance to ward off that danger - we have created false gods, stone idols and symbols, and we worship them, so that the thirst is not directed toward the real God. We have substituted gods all over. This represents man's worst cunning and his greatest conspiracy against God ever. These man-made gods symbolize the most formidable conspiracy against religion and God; that has ever been hatched.
Man's thirst for God is not allowed to turn into a quest for God - instead it gets lost around temples. By merely engaging in ceremonialism you console yourself saying that you are close to God. You effectively saunter outside the temple, you pitch your tents on the outside. But whether you are at a distance of a yard or a mile or a thousand miles from the temple, it makes no difference. If you are on the outside of it, you are outside. You have merely created an illusion, a deception of being close to Him. So stop loitering around the temple; ENTER IT!