Saturday, February 25, 2012

I have gotten into social troubles many a time in my life … out of being misunderstood ... Or being unable to act wisely … although I was convinced I was doing the right thing, I am the one who usually ends up apologizing … this happens like 1% of the time … the 99% of the time, I screw up - Plain and simple … Being not very religiously inclined, I have for a long time struggled to find what are the core values one should act upon … 

what are the fundamental human qualities I value … I guess the 2 words that define my value system : compassion and discernment

… first of all .. One has to recognize that the goal, the aim, the purpose of life is not to be a nice romantic walk in the park or a bed of roses … or a bathroom  with fancy tissues …  or any other nice things you can think of … life is supposed to be painful … and full of challenges … remember, metaphorically speaking life is winner in the duel against death .. Death, is of course the majority … most things in the universe are stone dead or nonliving relative to living things … which means that if you are alive you are a triumphant minority that beat that nasty son of a bitch called death … for a short while ... And the deathly majority is trying to pull you back … so everyday a whole bunch of problems are created that make you feel that life is tiresome and crazy and ridiculous … see?  Life is not intended to be nice to you … hey, you are the one who chose to beat the overwhelming odds … so deal with it !!!

Having said that … what's the model with which you can cope up and keep winning as long you could … by winning, I mean deceiving death for one more day or something like that … that’s life's ultimate tale .. Isn't it ? Constantly whispering into our ears that we will get through this … and it's going to be all fine … and we are going to make it .. And tomorrow is going to brighter … and we all know … there is no law in the universe that says tomorrow is going to be brighter … but, we still have to move on …and find a reason … All the arts ... All the music … all the movies … all reaffirm the fundamental throes of pain and help arrange a short escape-trip to the land of everlasting hope … and ever notice that  happy endings in movies are indicative of this fundamental message of hope and one more war-cry to fight and escape death … as pusillanimous as they might sound to those macho people with capacity to spend extraordinary times in gyms building muscles and at the end of the day can't hunt their own food and instead swipe a credit card for buying frozen meat ...   it's just fascinating to think of this … do you see how important it is to delude ourselves and how often we crave for that message to come and reach us all through everyday … through family and friends, and work and entertainment vistas … and so on ...

We are all hanging by that thin line of delusion … the day the delusions around don't work … you are lost … you have no point in life … there  is no purpose .. And this is the time you walk into a bar and have a dry martini or update your facebook status as "depressed" or do something drastic like deleting your Facebook account …

So what's the model to cope up and provide these delusions … our society/religion ("thin lines between 'em") has a whole bunch of models created for us  … may be one of them works for you …

  1. The simplest one, of course, is to ask one to trust a "powerful course, the creator, the omniscient …. The can-do-anything type of guy" … The whole Abrahamic tradition springs out of this outsourcing the stress through belief, hope and trust … ever notice how major world religions have hijacked the terms (like "hope", "truth") that are central to human existence as to be offered only in a certain format …
     
  2. Clearly, on the opposite of the spectrum is the extreme Buddhist thought  or one of those monks who celebrate Shiva by smoking pot  … which argues that "hey … unless you realize it’s all goddamn illusion and stop taking life seriously … you can't make it … and it's pointless to want to be alive … and to somehow try to make peace with pain … death is the true destiny " … this is the kind of talk I never somehow connected with .. I mean, it logically seems correct but withdrawal from life's essential stress seems as innocent as outsourcing the stress  … somehow … somehow … my genetic predispositions (perhaps) never let me take life as pointless … you see ?

(I know I might have stereotyped the religions .. But we can argue about it some other day … )
 
I always felt the model that worked for me is not a combination of 1& 2 but somewhere between 1 & 2 … that is … somewhere between blind faith and complete lack of faith … I think we ought to realize that life is a pain … but also learn to use one another to understand each other's pain …  this calls for two most noblest values : compassion and discernment … That is the model that Lord Krishna symbolizes …(please note  that this is a personal interpretation .. We are talking about models here … not actual, objective, divine personalities … )

… A whole bunch of amazing folklore praising the Krishna during his childhood days about being a prodigy and savior of the villages by lifting mountains with his pinky (I could never figure out the mechanics of that one … can anyone lift anything with their pinky ? Beats me … )  … may be I am totally unaware but there are not too many songs of praise that commemorate his later years … the cunning years where he even sidesteps all legal and moral rules of war by the way he plots to kill Duryodhana by asking Bhima to hit below the waist  … although it's against the rules of a fair fight

At this point, Krishna, observing the fight, calls out to Bhima and signals him by repeatedly clapping his own thigh with his hand. To others it would appear like applauding the fight, but as Krishna intended, Bhima was reminded of an oath he had taken after the game of dice to crush Duryodhana's groin as retribution for insults to Draupadi. Bhima viciously attacks Duryodhana with a mace and strikes his groin, and Duryodhana finally falls in battle, mortally wounded.




(Picture courtesy : link)

 … After all, think about this … in a fight-until-death match, in a duel where the winner takes all … I think it's a genius move to kill the guy somehow … anyhow … esp. when your opponent is too good … who's going to come after you anyway ? You are the ultimate champion alive in the world .. It doesn't matter one bit … it's pure and simple logic … full points to Lord Krishna for thinking this through …

ok .. Enough of fun … but what does Krishna represent ? What model of the divine does he represent … ?  Krishna watches all long as the story of Mahabharata unfolded … he gives a fair amount of chance to everyone … and gives the benefit of doubt to the genes and insecurities  … he doesn't screw around until the final situation is approaching the point of no return … the point after which there could irrevocable chaos … and then he pops the brilliant question : should we seriously try to beat an unfair individual in a fair fight ? Who says so?

Here's a divine manifestation that's not about being nice or taking care of you … if God is entrusted with taking care of every personal wish ... and if two men desire the same girl … who's gonna be hurt ? He doesn't care about the rules … remember the universe has no rules … there are actions and there are consequences … Krishna knows this …that's why he has the discernment to set the rules and invent new ones … with one goal in mind … dharma: that cosmic moral and material balance on earth … the balance that ensures that life will ultimately triumph … he can be cunning, loving, decietful, caring, heartless and compassionate … he can mastermind a cold-blooded murder … or create a miracle against all hope … anything for dharma ... Dharma is the numero uno that sets the context for all other lower-order moral, religious and political ideologies …like natural selection, competition, dog-eat-dog, altruism, charity … that's what the God has to be about. Isn't it ?
  
He is the how a real superman must be … loads of compassion and discernment … discernment is the sign of intelligence and compassion, that of goodness …that’s two top most virtues in our world we truly respect  … isn't it? - (1) being smart and (2) being good ... Notice how religions over-emphasize the kindness of God but what about the smartness? Don't you think He must be super-smart as well ? ... it's this emphasis in Krishna's Character that gives me the kick ... even a casual reader will grasp that Lord Krishna is one hell of a smart God ... In the Indian mythology, Vishnu has always been the problem-solver, the go-to guy, the Mr.fix-it ... Isn't that a natural combination? ... being able to be the guy who can get things done while rooting for the general good of everyone ... that’s the real Übermensch (German for "Overman, Overhuman, Above-Human, Superman") of Friedrich Nietzsche when he asked how a God must be and How an ideal man must behave … my answer is in Lord Krishna as a concept and a model not as a divine personality … and that is the model that convinces me … the model of compassion and discernment … I think the concept of Krishna as the supreme divine is one of the brilliant philosophical inventions ever to come out of the Indian civilization … As the avatars of Vishnu progress, the concept of the "God" evolves with increasing complexity along with increased moral complexity of the society and it culminates in Krishna - one of most complex, under-understood (is that even a word?) concepts in Indian mythology ... 

His story exemplifies one thing :  not rush into action  … he asks you to show the compassion for pains of others … and show discernment that is well rooted in that compassion … LIFE IS A BIG PAIN IN THE PELVIC POSTERIOR but recognize this and let's watch out for each other … and make the world a beautiful and a friendly place …

Compassion transcends every other value and virtue you can think of … I always had the hunch that it's not about truth … we keep running into people who are always about truth … they take immense pride in talking straight  (especially, when they have not done anything wrong) … doesn't matter if it destroys other's self-confidence … the "tell truth all the time" is still  a very good policy … works 75% of the time like  a charm … but the other 25% of the time …  we need something more sublime … empathy and compassion …  we can't even convincingly define the damn word … that’s the complexity which Krishna symbolizes … and that is the core message of Mahabharata … and the core message of every religion … I guess … According to Jeremy Rifkins, we are getting there ... check out this brilliant talk ...





Dear Reader, Sincere apologies for crude editing ... it was deliberate to post it as a rant than a well-intentioned article ...

4 comments :

Twilight Musings said...

Although I admire Krishna's wisdom in providing us the motivation to plough through life, I don't get his 'Dharma' priority.

This model of superman says, "Do your duty at your best and its not for you to worry about results." and " All the animate things are duty-bound, and so am I."

I don't know why this priority to 'Dharma'? No single entity can optimize global living things extended future. Is all this philosophy in order to motivate all the small clogs to work for this global optimization?

Sash! said...

I am not sure I follow your question correctly ...

1. On a metaphysical level, Krishna is a symbol ... He is not a real entity but a poetic creation of our own imagination to keep telling us the ultimate story - "that it's gonna be fine ... keep moving ..." His priority for Dharma is as simple as that ... "to ensure life evolves (in the right direction)" ...

No one can define Dharma so prioritizing it will not make you give up your freedoms. Relax ... when you use specific words like global optimization - you assume you know the optimization function precisely ... but we do not ... all I think of the optimization goal is "to ensure life exists in some form or the other" ... now that kind of a goal transcends humanity as well ...

2. Yes, we are a part of a greater, larger living thing ... we are part of a nation, continents, companies and the planet and beyond ... very much like cells in your pancreas ... but like cells with an ego ... with perhaps, a serious sense of "I" ... and there's is nothing wrong in bowing down to the larger context ... what else are you gonna do ? If your pancreatic cells revolt because of their shitty job, you are going to die. Aren't you ? Simple as that ... we are killing and keep alive the larger organisms with our decisions :)

Twilight Musings said...

No, I don't know the optimization function. But what I am guessing is that 'Dharma' is the vaguest definition available for us for the optimization function the superman modelers had in mind. And all of us form their design variables to be manipulated :).

Lol@ freedoms. I don't think we have much or many of them. The concept of Karma itself says as much; even Krishna can't escape the laws of the universe. But I do think we agree on the core intention of all this philosophy, "to ensure life goes on."

I still don't know why this focus on keeping life going on. It does anyway. There is life (depending on our definition) even around geothermal vents miles under ocean.

I don't have all the answers. What I do find interesting is the conflict of ideas between keeping life going on and recognizing that all of it would end no matter what we do.

Sash! said...

absolutely agree with ya ...

Re: I still don't know why this focus on keeping life going on.

As george carlin quotes, "living creatures have a self-interest in life ... and in considering it sacred" :)

and you are right ... depending on how your interpretation is, everything is alive ... it's logical but emotionally hard to accept and act that way ...that's my point ... it's self-interest - pure and simple !!! Because we can't ignore it :P

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