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TIME

TIME

Everyone is familiar with Time.  It is a normal and integral part of everybody’s life.

Time is the continued movement of events successively from the Past to the Present into the Future.     When we think of the past, the present or the future, Time automatically comes into existence.

‘Time’ seems to be a fundamental and immutable part of all existence. 

Time moves only in one direction, from the past to the future.  It is called the Arrow of Time, which Eddington described as the asymmetric nature of Time.  Ever increasing Entropy in isolated systems is said to be the reason for this Arrow of Time.

Though scientists theoretically consider it possible for elementary particles to have time symmetry ie. they can move in both directions of Time…. in normal situations however, Time has only one direction….from the Past to the Present and the Future.  

In this article I am not talking of measurement of time because that is an entirely different subject.  Measurement depends on the observer, the standards, frame of reference and the methods & instruments that are  used to measure Time.  I am writing about the nature of Time itself, not its application.

So, what is Time? Is there any such thing as Time in the first place? 

From ancient days, Time has been considered as an immutable, constant and overriding factor in the universe and something that everyone is subjected to….including the gods.

Hinduism:

In Hindu cosmology, Time or Kaal, is considered as an unrelenting, irreversible and unchanging factor of all existence. It is considered all powerful  under the influence of which everything arises, undergoes change and eventually perishes. Even the Supreme Trinity of  Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva  are said to be subject to Time. They will eventually die before a new universal order comes into existence.

In Hinduism, Time is also seen as having differential scales in different worlds.  It is relative.  The Time in the heavenly realms is said to be slower than on earth. For example, one day in a heavenly realm  could amount to several thousand years on earth.  There are said to be seven spiritual realms and the higher the heavenly realm the slower the Time moves in comparison to the earthly realm. There are mythological stories of people travelling to the higher realms for just one day but on coming back to earth they find that many thousand years have passed here meanwhile.

We can speculate and think of the entire world with all its spiritual dimensions existing in concentric circles one inside the other with the outer circles being the lower worlds and the inner circles being the Higher worlds. 

The outer worlds will have faster Change and therefore Time will move faster relative to the inner worlds.  In the Inner worlds, Change will be slower and consequently Time will also be slower. 

What happens at the very centre of the circles?  This is perhaps the place where there is no Change at all and therefore there is no Time at all. This is perhaps the region of eternal stillness…Brahman, in eternal Yoga nidra (Yogic sleep). 

Science:

According to Science, Newtonian Time is said to be constant and a part of the fundamental  structure of the universe.  The Theory of Relativity proposed by Albert Einstein however states that Time is relative and dependent on the frame of reference of the observer. The concept of Time dilation states that if an object moves faster relative to a fixed frame of reference, Time will flow slowly. That means, Time is velocity and gravity dependent.   

It is theorized that there is no separate Space or Time. Both Space and Time come into existence when the Universe comes into existence. They don’t exist independent of the universe.

The universe is viewed  as Space-Time in which three dimensions of space and one dimension of Time exist together and any event has to be described only in terms of these four dimensions.  Time and Space are interdependent and are a property of the universe.

Some scientists in recent times believe that the Past, Present and Future exist in parallel. They believe that we can reverse the Arrow of Time  and travel through Time moving from the present to the past.  Theoretically they believe that this kind of time travel is possible ….though it has many inconsistencies and self conflicting features.

Fine…but what really is Time itself?  

I am of the opinion that there really is nothing called Time!  

Time is merely a way of referring to change. When we measure change, Time comes into existence.

Only Change exists in the natural world.  No Time.

Everything changes from one state or condition to another.  Events keep happening one after the other in a seemingly continuous and eternal manner. Whether it is stars and planets moving around or humans events on earth or chemical changes or movement of subatomic particles and energies….something or the other is happening all the time. 

These events result in change from one condition to another.  They are a succession of events. They are a sequence of events or changes which create Time if measured by an observer.

When there is any change, and there is someone to observe the change, Time comes into existence, because we  immediately perceive a  Past and a Present and potentially, a Future. 

In short, change is not an consequence of Time as we normally tend to think. Time is a consequence of change!

This is what makes Time relative. It is only a measurement of the rate of change of events and processes which are influenced by various internal and external factors such as gravity, motion and natural entropy. 

Assume that there is no Change at all in the universe.  Nothing changes! No movement of air, no rotation of planets, no growth of cells, no release of energy in the sun and stars,  no changes in atoms and  no electrons going around the nucleus. No nothing. Everything stops as is where is!

In this situation, where is Time? There is no Time at all. However, the moment everything starts functioning again and  chemical changes start happening, energies get released,  elementary particles interact and so on….then automatically Time comes into existence in the eyes of  an observer because  of the succession of events. 

In other words, it is the continuous creation, interaction, change and destruction of matter and energy around the universe that creates Time.  

If the change is slow, Time flows slowly, if the Change is fast, Time flows faster, relative to an observer and his fixed frame of reference.  This is measurement of Time.

As regards Space-Time, I think ‘Change’  should be incorporated  as an attribute and component of Space rather than Time. Space and Change are inseparable.  Nature and Change  always go together. 

All this obviously does not question the concept of Time that we use in our day to day life. Time is the natural tool using which we humans measure our life and its continuity. Our memories of the past and our hopes for the future are time related. It is an amazing and abstract mental tool that we have managed to create for ourselves.

Without the concept of Time all our  higher intellectual capabilities could not have developed.  It would be impossible for humans to live without a memory of the past and without thinking of the possibility of a future (even though animals manage to live without a concept of Time).  

I wonder how the idea and comprehension of Time started and developed in humans. Evolutionary scientists need to think about this. It is a very intriguing subject! 

Some scientists say that our complex brain structure and neural connections have developed in such as way as to make our perception of Time possible. That is why we are able to think of Time as a matter of normal functioning in our day to day lives.

The development of imagination, memories, nostalgia, learning, planning and forecasting are possibly parallel phenomena related to the development of Time as a concept. All these aspects must have developed together. 

Therefore, as a human tool and  as a part of our normal lives, Time is invaluable to us. No doubt about that! But there is no reason to accept the philosophical notion of Time as something absolute that continues to remain even in the absence of changing situations. 

To conclude, we can see that Time is only a concept we humans have created based on our perception of events as Past, Present and Future.  If a succession of events did not exist, Time would not exist. There is no reason to believe in Time in an absolute sense. 

Best Regards.

T.Sriram Rao

24.4.2017

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EVIL

EVIL

Evil is the opposite of Good….we know that!  

Most of us believe that ‘Evil’ makes people do wrong and immoral acts.  It is seen as a negative force that works against the divine force of Goodness. Good and Evil are related to morality and what we consider as right and wrong!

But what is evil and how can we define it?  

To begin with, ‘Evil’ is relative. What one person considers as evil, another person may consider as good.  One person’s patriot is another person’s terrorist.  One person’s blessing could be another person’s curse. One person’s act of ‘love’ could be another person’s infidelity. So, evil is relative because morality is relative.

There is no simple definition of right and wrong because it depends on which side you are on. But generally speaking, any act of selfishness that does not take into consideration the rights, needs, and feelings of other people can be considered as ‘Evil’. 

The Golden Rule that is found in almost all ancient teachings, is perhaps the simplest way of defining morality……..

‘Do onto others what you would want them to do onto you’ or ‘Do not do onto others what you would not want them to do onto you’!

That is simple enough…but why do most people find it difficult to follow the Golden Rule and why are we selfish and violent in the first place?  To get to the bottom of this, we need to go a little further.

Does’Evil’ arise from some external source or is it a part of our own natural personality?  

First the traditional point of view….. Different religions have different ideas of evil. 

Judaism, Christianity and Islam consider ‘evil’ as an absolute force generated from a real Being. It is believed that the Devil  is the source of all Evil.  It is the devil who makes us do evil things by influencing our mind.  In other words, Evil is Absolute, according to the Abrahamic religions. 

In Hinduism there is no such thing as an absolute evil.  There is only one Absolute being and that is Brahman or Paramatma and all creation arises from this being. Both good and evil are His creation. 

God is seen as above Good and Evil!  

What about all the evil and demonic people in Hindu lore? Most villains of the ancient epics and puranas such as Ravana, Kamsa and Hiranyakasipu  are believed to be the incarnations of Vishnu’s guards (Dwarapalakas), who are born on earth  due to a curse. They are not Evil in an absolute sense. Vishnu actually helps them by killing them, thereby releasing them from the curse. So, they are not really evil. They only act that way due to certain compulsions. 

In Hinduism it is believed that life is about spiritual evolution and development. Evil is normally associated with animal instincts and we are expected to reduce animal tendencies to the extent possible.  Less animal and more Divine is the objective of life in HInduism.

Ok…so much about traditional ideas! 

From a secular, scientific and global perspective of today, what is ‘Evil’? 

Here are some thoughts….

1.ANIMAL INSTINCTS:

All animals, birds and insects have instincts that help them to survive, reproduce and protect their young.   These instincts drive them to behave in selfish and competitive ways that are a natural part of their behavior for self preservation. 

  • Animals kill rival males to mate with a female. This is part of the ‘Survival of the fittest’ process in evolution. This is the way by which stronger genes get  passed on to future generations.  
  • Animals kill the cubs of rival males and mate with their mother.  This is a  way by which they  ensure the survival of  their own genes by eradicating the genes of the rival.  
  • Animals abandon disabled offspring because they would slow down the mother and the  group as a whole which could be detrimental to their survival.
  • Old and infirm animals are killed or chased away from the group because they are a burden on the group.  
  • Animals have incestuous relations and routinely mate with siblings and offspring.
  • Cannibalism is common in certain species.  In some spider species, the female eats the male just after mating. Some snakes eat rival males and females.  Some animals eat their own new born.  

Such behavior is seen commonly in animals and is considered as normal and natural. However if similar behavior is seen in humans, it is considered as Evil!

We humans have evolved from animals and the same instincts have been inherited by us  but we have also branched off and have developed many traits that are quite opposed to the animal kingdom.

Our human ideals are cooperation, togetherness, sacrifice, live and let live, love, selflessness, charity and altruism. We show love and care even to other species far removed from ourselves. We humans tend to protect the young of  all species…even of species that can be dangerous to us.   We have developed a universal and all encompassing outlook which is considered as a typically human attribute.  

Some people see it as Divine…which is perhaps only an extended human trait.

This development entails a gradual progression from lower (animal) behavior to higher human/Divine behavior.  It is a spectrum in which some people possess traits that are at one end (animal), some at the other end (divine) and many people are in between at different places.

Due to this, some people who are at lower end of the spectrum exhibit animal tendencies more than other people.  Such people could be considered as…evil!  People who move away from  ‘animal’ behavior are seen as ‘Good’.

2.PLEASURE SEEKING:

The problem of ‘evil’ cannot be explained entirely through animal instincts alone.

There are many behavior patterns that are considered as evil but which are not usually seen in the animal kingdom and are not a part of survival, reproduction or parental instincts.

All humans have basic biological needs such as hunger, sleep, sex etc. that we share with animals.  But besides these ‘needs’,  we humans also possess what we call ‘desires’. 

How do we distinguish between ‘Needs ‘ and  ‘Desires’?  We can broadly say that ‘Needs’ are usually biological and related to body requirements. ‘Desires’ are largely mental and go beyond bodily requirements.  Needs in fact, extend into desires! Desires are the needs of the mind. 

We humans have both needs and desires!

Unlike most animals, we humans not only eat, sleep and have sex due to biological compulsions but also as a means of  pleasure seeking.  These activities are often divorced from their biological purpose and are indulged in as an end in themselves. We do many things for sheer enjoyment!

We don’t eat only because we are hungry. We often eat because we enjoy eating. We eat food that is not healthy and also over indulge. We eat even when we are not hungry.

We sleep not only for rest but also because we enjoy sleeping and being lazy. 

Sex in particular is a major area of pleasure seeking. It is perhaps the single most universally ought after pleasure in the world. People indulge in sex not just for reproduction but because they enjoy it. They indulge in it many times a week, have many partners,  use contraceptives and also sometimes indulge in unnatural sex.

Most people don’t want children but indulge in sex very frequently.  So romance and sexual activity can be completely divorced from reproduction. It is often just a source of pleasure and togetherness. It satisfies both a mental and social need/desire.

All the above ‘needs’ have a large mental component that gives us satisfaction beyond their functional requirement. This is pleasure seeking!

Sigmund Freud has talked of the Pleasure Principle due to which we seek pleasure and avoid pain. I am talking of something more fundamental.  There is a driving force, a motivational lure,  that exists in humans  and makes them seek pleasure beyond natural instinctive requirements.   

We can also see that  ‘pleasures’ often get exaggerated beyond their natural  limits. Our mind  and imagination tend to exaggerate our needs and the pleasure gained from them. In course of time, the pleasures get magnified and more and more divorced from their natural purpose.

I am not talking of ‘Happiness’ here. Happiness is a sense of stability and fulfillment. Pleasure on the other hand is about continued stimulation and gratification such that even if we do not at any  point of time, feel the need for food or sex, we tend to stimulate these desires  and create a situation whereby we begin to feel  hungry or begin to feel sexually aroused. 

For example, we might do some exercise or take some digestive whereby we can start feeling  hungry again or watch some porn or take Viagra to get sexually aroused.

We don’t wait for the need to be felt naturally, we artificially create the need and then take pleasure in gratifying it. Pleasure seeking can become an end in itself, unconnected to our basic survival, reproduction and parental instincts. They can become addictions and obsessions.

Why do we have this pleasure seeking tendency? What purpose does it serve in our evolution and in our survival and reproduction? What is the source of this pleasure seeking tendency?

I have no idea and no one seems to have any idea.  That’s just the way we have evolved. 

But this ‘desire’ for pleasure can be seen as the negative force that people have long associated with the devil and with evil. …for the following reasons.

The gratification is temporary and arises again and again at regular intervals and cannot be satiated permanently. It becomes a never ending cycle of desire. Secondly, the more we indulge, the more the desire grows and becomes more demanding.   Thirdly, it can eventually become so powerful and obsessive that we become inconsiderate and lose all sense of control and moral discipline.  We become addicted and start exploiting others, take up crime and wrong doing to achieve our pleasure.

Most cases of sadism, masochism, pedophilia, sexual slavery, alcoholism, overindulgence, drug addiction  etc. are a result of such uncontrolled pleasure seeking, divorced from natural instincts. 

Sexual pleasure seeking can also lead to rape, savage forms of unnatural molestation, child molestation, trafficking of women and children, torture and murder.   This is why we see it as ‘evil’. 

3. EGO,POWER & MONEY:

This desire is connected both to the first and the second points above but is so pervasive in society that it needs to be highlighted separately.

It is a part of Pleasure Seeking but is much more pervasive and destructive than the others. It also has great social influence and impact.

Humans have an ego that is probably a product of our need to compete and survive in a hostile environment. It can be seen as a self protective mechanism that is crucial  for survival and procreation.

However, in humans it has taken on a form that goes far beyond survival and self protective instincts.

Ego gives rise to the desire for power….power over others and over scarce resources! Power is a common human desire and a common human failing as well. . Most people like to have power over others to various degrees. The more the power, the greater their satisfaction. Sometimes the power is direct such as in politicians, military dictators and business leaders. Often it is indirect and takes the form of influencing others  through fame and popularity.

Money! Money is the tool that we use for our ego gratification and pleasure seeking. This is a panacea that can give us access to all kinds of pleasures and power over others. It is the major means of ego gratification. Money making is an objective and an end in itself for many people. Without money there is no power and no gratification. 

Lot of evil is perpetrated in human society due to the desire for power. pleasure and money. Many illegal and inhuman activities such as human trafficking, sex trafficking, child trafficking, drug trafficking and so on are very powerful and extremely evil activities that many people indulge in mainly for the money involved. Even slavery and human exploitation are due to the same desire for power and money. People take pleasure in the suffering of others. 

These activities are probably the most base and evil that humans are capable of. 

This is why the human Ego is perhaps seen as the source of evil by most people. It is seen as the Devil itself.  It can reduce humans to less than animals.  

Whether the Ego has its source entirely in animal instincts or whether it gets reinforced in humans through some external mystical source is not clear. 

Most spiritual practices are aimed at controlling the Ego and its related mental traits. Controlling ones Ego is seen as a supreme spiritual attainment. 

4.MEMES & FANATICISM:

Fanaticism can lead to evil. Many people get so emotionally trapped in certain ideals, cultural norms, traditions, beliefs and social requirements that they can lose all sense of balance and empathy.      

Religious fanatics, cultural fanatics, racial fanatics, national fanatics and so on can be so emotionally  charged when they are challenged that they can resort to killing, torture and other crimes. 

This can be explained through the idea of Memes.  Some beliefs, traditions and social norms become memes and they start fighting for their own survival, similar to genes. (Please refer to my article on Memes). Memes can take on a life of their own independent of biological requirements and can fight for survival even to the detriment of the person himself.

When circumstances change, these Memes feel threatened and they start fighting for their survival and replication. This results in violent and evil behavior.

5.IMPERSONAL RATIONALITY:

It’s not just strong beliefs and emotions that can lead to evil. Even rationality can sometimes lead to evil.  How is this possible?

Rational thinking is like a computer  program. It knows no morality or idealism. Rationality is completely amoral.

Whatever seems rational and logical will be acceptable to a rational mind even though it is morally incorrect. For example, it may seem very logical that disabled people should be killed off because they are suffering and because they are a burden on society.  Similarly, elderly people, chronically ill, mental patients, disabled children etc. may also seem to be a burden on other people and society in general. So it may seem logical to eliminate and eradicate such people.  It becomes almost like animal behavior.

However, this is morally wrong and evil as far as we humans are concerned. We believe in helping and taking special care of such infirm and disabled people and we go to great lengths to make them comfortable and integrated. 

‘Eugenics’ where the selective breeding of humans with special traits, color  and other qualities may seem logical and rationally correct but is morally incorrect.

Random and unregulated euthanasia and abortion are also logically correct but morally questionable.

It is necessary that a moral ‘logic’ or a moral regulatory ‘program’  is developed in every individual case and incorporated into ones rational view point. Without this, rational ideas can become morally inappropriate, lacking in empathy and can be evil and immoral.

To Summarize 

From the above discussion, the idea of ’Evil’ can be seen as a composite of all the above and perhaps some other factors as well. There is no easy definition and no single source of ‘evil’ that we can identify. It has its relative and absolute aspects. It has its individual and collective aspects.

  • What we consider as ‘Evil’ is in many cases just a part of our biological and mental personality as individuals and as a species.  It is a natural product of  our animal and human instincts and a natural part of our motivations to survive, reproduce, pass on our DNA.
  • Evil also arises from Pleasure Seeking connected to an imagined and an exaggerated sense of gratification. From where this need or desire for pleasure arises, divorced from natural functions, is not known. 
  • Evil can arise from desire for ego gratification through power and money. This could be linked to one and two above but needs to be highlighted separately.
  • Evil arises also due to Memes that are emotional aspects of culture, tradition and beliefs.
  • Even rationality can give rise to evil due to its amoral nature. 

Evil due to any of the above reasons can cause significant suffering and damage in society and can also impede and retard our own personal spiritual development, if not disciplined and regulated.

Therefore, it is our duty as humans to minimize these tendencies in ourselves and in others.  Becoming more civilized actually means overcoming these tendencies.

Moral education, mental discipline and emotional control need to be taught and reiterated at all levels.  Religions can play a large role in this process besides spiritual training such as Yoga, pranayama and meditations.

Best Regards.  

T.Sriram Rao

19 February 2017

Religions have never had it so bad!

Islamic terrorists are killing innocent people!  Fundamentalist Muslims are fighting for jihad!  Christian fanatics are being blamed for the thousands of women burnt as witches over the centuries! The crusades were responsible for many killings! 

Other religions are also being rejected or opposed because of various reasons.

Religions are now being considered the scourge of society. They divide and discriminate. They are evil and inhuman. They breed superstition and ignorance.  They are delusional and false. Religions enforce rules that are outdated!  Religions do not allow women’s freedom! Religions are anti liberal! Religious texts are all lies.  

Science and history  have proved religious mythology wrong again and again. 

Religions are in fact, the bane of society…..!

Many people of science lead by people like the illustrious Professor Richard Dawkins, are very vocal about the ills of religions and the need to rid society of this scourge as soon as possible.

Atheism is the new trend! 

Religious beliefs are being replaced by secular values such as…humanism, rationality, integration, non judgement, globalization, non-violence, universal brotherhood,  animal rights and so on.

These values and ideals are seen as more ‘civilized’  and desirable the world over.

No doubt, the current trends are very positive and are to be welcomed!  

But how did we today arrive at a situation where such universal and secular values are becoming the norm around the world?! How did society, world over, move from closed & self interested tribal and feudal communities to societies of today with such universally acceptable values of humanism, tolerance and globalization?

I would give the credit almost entirely to religions!

Religions are the ladder that have enabled human societies to reach such high levels of progress in human integration, self discipline and universality. Once a certain objective is achieved, the ladder may seem irrelevant  and unnecessary….but its usefulness in reaching our goals cannot be denied. 

Let us take a quick look at what societies were like since ancient times…..

People have been living in tribal groups, closed communities, and small village economies since ancient times.  Language, color and geographical factors largely dictated how different groups of people interacted and mixed with one another.

Mutual suspicion, fear and enmity were the most common sentiments among these groups when they encountered one another.  This is understandable due to the many instinctive qualities that we have inherited from our animal ancestors.   

In animals, the need for survival and the need to  pass on ones DNA to future generations,  are the predominant motivations. All their behavior patterns and group interactions are governed by these instincts.

In earlier centuries, the group dynamics of humans  was not very different from that of animals.

Different tribal and village groups usually lived in isolation, interacting only if they shared some common bond like geographical proximity, language, colour or some other such factors.  As regards interactions with other groups, mutual suspicion, fear, jealousies and violence were the norm.  Wars and battles broke out often between different tribes and communities. Killing, rape and plunder were common. 

For millennia, different social groups all over the world  fought and eliminated those whom they perceived as enemies. This continued in even larger scale after larger communities and kingdoms were formed.

But through all this chaos, violence, fear and enmity, there was one stabilizing factor that taught and enforced cooperation, integration, self control, discipline, peace, love, empathy, charity, acceptance, non violence, altruism and universal brotherhood.

There was  one factor that created a common identity and bond among people and which  transcended physical boundaries, linguistic differences, racial divides and economic barriers.  

This one factor was organised religion!

It was Faith in an unseen God, the Father of all creation, that managed to create a sense of universal brotherhood among different groups in spite of all other differences.

It also laid out clear rules and behavioral norms that taught self control, cooperation, mutual respect and altruism.

This may seem ironic at a time  when Islamic terrorists are killing many people around the world in the name of religion….but it is indeed true that religions have been principally responsible for uniting people and in creating a sense of self discipline in society.

The emotional bonding and sense of kinship created by religion is the most powerful unifying force the world has seen. It has been far more powerful and enduring than any other single factor like economic factors or political motivations.

Religions brought different people under a common umbrella and a common identity.   It created a sense of belonging to a larger community far beyond ones immediate community. It also gave people a larger purpose to life than mere mundane day to day existence.

Organised large religions like Christianity and Islam, consciously and with clear intent set out to spread their faith across the world in spite of many hurdles and much  opposition.

We today think only of the violent crusades, but Christian missionaries through their non violent and peaceful efforts, managed to  spread the Good Word and thereby managed to unite people around the world under  a common Faith.

Muslims did this too, though with greater violence and brutality…..but nevertheless managed to unite large number of people under one common Faith.

Hinduism managed to unite people in its own unique manner…. through a common spiritual philosophy that was a overriding factor over all ritualistic and mythological differences. In spite of several hundred deities, legends, beliefs and rituals in different parts of the subcontinent, Hinduism brought all the people in India under one common umbrella, through the concept of avatars and the philosophies of Yoga and Self development, 

At one time there were possibly hundreds if not thousands of minor religions across the world, with almost every village having its own set of deities, myths and legends.  

Today however, for a total population of about seven billion people there are only four major religions among them.   2 billion Christians, 1.5 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus and about 400 million Buddhists!  That makes it almost  5 billion people under just four religions! Other smaller religions like Jainism, Judaism, Shintoism,  Sikhism, Taoism along with Atheism, make up the other two billion. 

Remarkable isn’t it?!  Seen in this perspective, there has been a great transition. There has been great success in integration, unification and togetherness, transcending geographical barriers and national boundaries.  Nothing else could have made this kind of kinship possible except religions! 

Religion is the only emotional bond that has united people across the world. Hindus living in America and Europe share a kinship with Hindus in India. Muslims living in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Egypt  share an emotional bond with Muslims living in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, China and in America and Europe. Christians around the world share a common bond.

All this is regardless of economic, political conditions, social status and language of the people concerned.  

It is possible that sometime in the future, the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, will come together to form a common religion, due to their common origins and common early literature.  Similarly, it is conceivable that the Dharmic religions of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism could, sometime in the future, come together to form one common religion.

This will be a further step towards greater integration, shared faith and brotherhood. We will then have just two major religious groups in the world. The Faith religions and the Dharmic religions. This would be no small achievement, if it happens!

The integration and coming together of people has not only made it easier for people to move across the world and live together….it has also enabled ideas, thoughts, beliefs and cultures to be shared. This has resulted in the development of a global scientific community, shared medical and technological advancements and shared information  flow in all areas, irrespective of geographical, national, language and racial boundaries. It has made possible the current global community  of today. 

Extending this further, it is possible that in coming centuries, a common philosophy will be developed which will integrate spiritual and mystical experiences with scientific findings. The gap current between Science and Spirituality could close.

This will make it possible for all humans around the world to live in peace and harmony having one common goal, one purpose and one commonly accepted philosophy of life. That is my dream! 

Besides integration and unity, religions have also enforced a common set of morals and ethics based on self discipline, love, sacrifice, non violence and sharing, which have made the current principles of humanism, non violence and tolerance possible.

So in summary…what have religions achieved?  

They have been responsible for almost all the things that we today value as humans.  Without religions, we may never have become civilized in the first place! Without religions, we would perhaps never have  grown beyond our animal nature and become Humans at all!

In this sense, religions have actually ‘directed’ our cultural, emotional and intellectual evolution  into civilized and modern humans, moving away from our animal past.  

Without religions, we might still be tribals…. divided, violent, insecure, uncharitable and uncivilized. 

Best Regards.

T.Sriram Rao

19 February 2017

Bacteria & Mind

Bacteria & Mind

‘Bacteria’….the very word is associated with disease and illness. It is something we dread and try to eradicate from our lives. 

Till recently…that is!

What are bacteria? Bacteria are  single celled organisms that exist in very large numbers on earth in almost all possible environments and conditions. There are literally zillions and zillions of them everywhere and in thousands of species. They do not have a nucleus and hence are classified as Prokaryotes (unlike Eukaryotes). They multiply very fast through cell division and can double in population in about 10 minutes. They exist in various shapes and can usually be seen only through a microscope. They are largely made of cytoplasm which contains their DNA.

Anthony Van Leeuwenhoek of Netherlands is credited with the first discovery of Bacteria in 1676. In the 1800’s people like Louis Pasteur found that killing of germs through boiling helped in preserving food. 

The Germ Theory of disease was thereafter developed and many antiseptics were created to make operations and medical procedures safer. 

Alexander Fleming in the 20th Century discovered Penicillin and subsequently other antibiotics were discovered. Since then many different species of bacteria have been discovered and also many cures. Our understanding of the role of bacteria in our lives has grown tremendously.

Till recent decades, bacteria were considered as invaders and pests. They were considered as external microorganisms that invaded our bodies and caused diseases of various types.  Therefore the aim of most medical researchers was to find drugs that killed bacteria and prevented infections.

Many people adopted a lifestyle in which bacteria were kept away as much as possible. Homes, offices and immediate surroundings were kept as ‘clean’ and sterile as possible. Hands were washed, children were prevented from handling dirt, all items that people came in contact with were washed and kept as ‘bacteria free’ as possible.   

Bacteria exist in our bodies:

It was later found however that bacteria did not merely come from external sources but that our bodies, especially our intestines, mouth and skin were populated with millions of bacteria.  We actually live with bacteria in and around us all our lives.  We are host to thousands of species of bacteria  as a normal part of our biology.  We avoid developing diseases only because of our immune system. 

Good bacteria’:

In course of time it was found that bacteria are not all bad! Many of them perform very useful functions. In fact, these bacteria called ‘beneficial bacteria’, form a majority of the bacteria in our bodies and only a small percentage are bad or pathogenic.

We acquire some of the beneficial bacteria in the birth canal itself when we pass through it during birth. Many of these bacteria help in preventing problems such as IBS, Crohn’s disease etc…..and could even prevent obesity.

Children born through the C -section are therefore said to be deprived of many beneficial bacteria. 

We are now advised by doctors to consume pro-biotic foods like yogurt to increase the beneficial bacteria in our gut and thereby promote our health and well being.  Many bacterial supplements are also available through which we can directly  consume beneficial bacteria such as Lacto bacillus acidophilus, B.Longum, B.Bifidum, L.Fermenum.  Taking these bacterial supplements helps maintain a healthy population of beneficial bacteria in our gut to aid digestion and nutrient absorption and to prevent illnesses. 

Some illnesses have been cured by introducing intestinal bacteria directly into the colon of patients through fecal transplant from healthy donors.  

Bacteria and the Mind:

Ok…all this means that bacteria not only cause diseases but many of them also help in promoting good health.  Fine!

But there is more news!

Bacteria not only affect the body, digestion and other physical processes, they can also directly affect our minds.  Yes!  Bacteria can affect the mind, emotional processes and behaviour.

Researchers have found that children playing in mud imbibe certain types of bacteria that help them reduce stress and anxiety.  They become more positive, carefree and playful due to the influence of bacteria on their brain and mind.  It is now advised that we should allow children to play in the mud, sand and other natural surroundings without shoes, so that they can imbibe such beneficial bacteria. This will help them to be stress free and develop a healthy and carefree mental disposition. 

And it’s not just about children. Even in adults, bacteria can influence mood and behavior and can soothe, brighten and create a happy frame of mind. 

When we travel to places with lots of trees, water bodies and mountains we automatically develop a brighter and more peaceful disposition. This could be largely due to the beneficial bacteria that are present in large numbers in such places.  In cities, many of these bacteria probably disappear over time creating a depressive and dark mood in the people who live there. 

Bacteria (or lack of it) can  contribute to depression and mental illnesses. It is possible that a host of mental conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar, neurosis and certain types of psychosis could be caused or aggravated by the presence or absence of certain bacteria

Even autism and Alzheimer’s could be caused or aggravated by bacterial infections or by lack of certain beneficial bacteria.  

It is possible that psychiatry would change dramatically in the near future. Instead of mental patients spending long hours on the couch analyzing past events, they may have to take probiotics or antibiotics instead.  

There is a phenomenon called Folie a deux (shared madness) in which two or more people develop similar mental illnesses such as hallucinations and delusions, almost like in a contagious disease. Sometimes it occurs simultaneously in two or more people. Sometimes it is passed on from one person to others. This phenomenon is now called Shared Psychotic Disorder or Induced Psychotic Disorder.  Not much is known about it but it could possibly be due to bacterial ‘infections’. 

This is a whole new world!

Many physical and mental diseases  could be linked to bacterial infections or changes in the Microbiome. 

Microbiome:

According to new findings, bacteria are a part of the normal biological processes in our body. They are a part of who or what we are. 

According to one recent calculation, there are believed to be about 37 trillion human cells in the average human body.  And there are about 40 trillion bacteria living in our body! Which means that there are probably more bacteria in our bodies than human cells, at any point of time! (It was thought that the ratio of bacteria to human cells is about 10:1…but that is now regarded as exaggerated).

This colony of bacteria that live in our bodies and aid our physiological processes is collectively called the Microbiome.  The microbiome is a collective set of microbes that form a part of our biological system as much as our human cells do.

Our human cells and the microbiome are seen to communicate and interact in almost all processes and neither one seems to be the leader.  They both seem to be equally important and they need to cooperate to enable most physiological processes to happen.  

We are a cooperative product of interactions between human cells and bacteria! In other words, bacteria are part of being human. 

It has also been found that microbes are specific to individual persons with distinct DNA variations.

As much as human DNA vary from person to person, so also do the microbial DNA vary from person to person.  This means that the microbes are specific to people!

Each one of us has developed a colony of bacteria that is specific to us. In fact, it has been said that the microbial DNA in the intestine is like a fingerprint and individuals can be identified through their microbial DNA which also seem to be remarkably stable over long periods of time.

Many of the bacteria could have colonized us during our birth or a little later and then evolved over our life time to change and mutate as we grew. These could affect our health and well being as we grow older.  It is possible that by studying  a person’s  gut bacteria we could get sufficient information to be able to  effectively medicate the person for certain ailments.

Meditation techniques have been found to elevate moods and counter depression. This could be due to changes in the microbiome during meditation. Microbiome affects the mind and the mind affects the microbome. Introducing certain bacteria can change the way the brain works. 

Evolution and Microbiome:

It is now believed that the human microbiome has evolved over millions of years in line with the evolution of our species as a whole. It is difficult to say which has influenced the evolution of which. Organisms and the microbiome evolve in tandem with one another over time. Therefore, both the human body and its microbiome have interacted and evolved together over millions of years.

They both have adapted and developed together into a harmonious ecosystem. 

As regards modern developments, it has been found by studying primitive and remote populations, that in the last 100 years or so, there has been a major change in the population of the gut microbiome in many humans in cosmopolitan areas.  Dietary changes, use of antibiotics and other reasons could have contributed to many changes in the microbiome thereby leading to many autoimmune risks and risks to  the general health of many people. 

What is a human?

The question now arises ..…what exactly is a human?  Are we just the human body? Isn’t the Microbiome also an integral part of our personality? Don’t bacteria affect our mind, emotions and behavior?  

It does seem to be so.

  1. We had initially thought that our personality was determined only by the genes that we inherited from our parents.
  2. We then realized that the environment and upbringing also determined our personality.   
  3. Then Epigenes were discovered and it was found that the lifestyle and habits of our forefathers contributed to our personality.
  4. Now we find that bacteria (microbiome) also determine our personality.

So, what exactly are we and what is our  personality composed of?

Difficult to say. However, broadly speaking we can say….

Body = DNA(genes) + Epigenes + Upbringing + microbiome + biofield (still speculative) + unknowns + unknowns….

Consciousness = Conscious mind + unconscious mind + unknowns + unknowns….

The Consciousness and the body merge and connect in some way that is yet unknown.  Once they connect, they become like hardware and software…..interdependent.  After that, the body influences the mind and the mind influences the body.  The bacteria being a part of our physical system, they also affect our mind, our experiences and our spiritual development.

It is possible that the mental control and discipline that we today hope to achieve with Yogic exercises, Pranayama and meditations, would be achieved with medicines and antibiotics also.  Analyzing a person’s microbiome could tell us why his mental condition is what it is and suitable corrections could be made. Maybe even criminals would be cured of their ‘criminal mentality’. 

Nevertheless…lots of unknowns still!  We have a long way to go before we can begin to understand what the human body is, what its components are, how bacteria interact with the body, how the body has evolved. what the mind is made up of and how all this is connected to the spirit and Consciousness. 

If we keep trying to find out, we may possibly get there some time! 

Best Regards.

T.Sriram Rao

15 October 2016 

Spirituality and Religion

What is the difference between Spirituality and Religion?

Most Hindus would know the difference, mainly because, this distinction is inherent in the Hindu tradition. But most people belonging to other religions, especially the Abrahamic  religions, may not  know the difference.

I have discussed this with many western people and they tend to believe that Spirituality and Religion are one and the same.

(Some people think the word ‘spiritual’ refers to appreciation of  art, beauty, music, watching the sunset and the related feelings of  elation and happiness! Well…these are some qualities we tend to develop as we become spiritual….but Spirituality is lot more than that!)

There are major differences between Spirituality and Religion… and it is important that we understand the distinction.

What is spirituality?

Imagine that you are living on an island completely cut off from the outside world.  You are intelligent and educated but have never heard of any of the religions of the world. No Hinduism, no Buddhism, no Christianity , no Islam, no Judaism, no Jainism or any other religion. You have never heard of the Bible, the Koran, the Gita, Torah or any other religious text. You have never heard of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Jehovah or Allah or any other deity. Never heard of  Krishna, Rama, Jesus, Mohammad, Moses , Buddha or any other ancient religious teacher.

In other words, you have absolutely no religious information at all and you haven’t encountered anyone holding religious views or following religious practices in your life. Just imagine that…

Fine…so far so good.

You however, being an intelligent person, like to ask questions about the world and its nature. You will obviously want to know what the human body is made of. What are all objects made of? What are the Sun, Moon and stars?  How did humans arise? Why are there so many similarities between humans and animals, especially primates and why are there so many differences? How did the world arise? 

These are natural questions that any intelligent person would ask.

Based on this quest, you will study Science. You will understand what every object is made of. You will understand what the Sun, Moon and the stars are.  You will understand how life probably arose and how humans evolved.  You will understand the salient aspects of Cosmology, Quantum Mechanics, Evolution, Genetics, Medical Science, Psychology..…and other areas of scientific study.

So far so good again!

But regardless of all the study and scientific understanding of the world around you….you will not be satisfied and you will still want to know lots of other things. You will realize that all these theories are merely disparate thoughts and ideas with nothing to tie them together. Most other areas and experiences of life are not covered at all by these theories!

Scientists and science enthusiasts will reassure  you that, while there are lots of things that science hasn’t understood yet… in course of time it will all be understood and everything will be neatly tied up.

Hmmm….… not so sure!

You will continue to feel a void, a confusion and a nagging sense of ignorance.  Things will not make sense, and they will not fit together. There will be lots of missing pieces and the Big Picture will still be elusive.

You will still be haunted by many questions such as…….Why does the universe exist? Why and how is the world so orderly?   What happens when we die?  Is death the end of existence? Why is there so much suffering and inequality? Does our life have any purpose and meaning? What is Right and Wrong?  Why are we altruistic? Why is loving someone ‘good’ and hating someone ‘bad’?  Is there any absolute morality? Did the world arise by itself or was there any Intelligent Being responsible for it? What is the Mind? Is it just a product of the brain or is it something independent of it?  Are we truly independent beings with a free will or is there an inner Mind that guides and directs us?   What is Consciousness? Is there any common unconscious mind?  

These and many other such questions will continue to arise in spite of your knowledge of science. These questions will be so compelling that you will not be able to rest till you find an answer!  All your books and discussions will seem  inadequate and insignificant. Science and its theories will in fact start seeming irrelevant and trivial. The real and vital issues that are relevant to our lives will remain untouched and unanswered.

What will learned scientists tell you if you raise these questions?!

Not only will the vital issues be unanswered but scientists will even dub these questions as non issues! They will argue that there need not be any answers to all your questions. There need not be any answers to ‘Why?’!  There need not be any meaning or purpose to life. These people will contend that… continued seeking of  answers to such questions is due to ones own ignorance and delusion.

Rather than find relevant answers, the questions themselves will be dismissed as nonsense and as ‘Arguments from Incredulity’.  They will identify several ‘fallacies’ in your questions & arguments and thereby dismiss your quest as completely unwarranted.  

Some people will fall for this line of argument and give up all further questions. They will surrender their quest in the face of rigid rationalism.  They will become habitual skeptics and faithful followers of everything that gets categorized as ‘Science’ and rationality.

Some other people however will not be so easily put off. They will continue their quest in spite of  all opposition.

Imagine you are one of the latter. What will you do?

You will seek out people of a similar temperament as  yourself and try to find answers to your finer questions.  You will study philosophical texts, travel to far away places, meet new people and try to have many new experiences.

You will learn of people who have had strange mystical experiences.  You will  personally experience or learn of people who have psychic powers and Extra Sensory Perception such as telepathy, clairvoyance and premonitions.  You will hear of people seeing ghosts and spirits of dead people.  You will hear of mysterious and miraculous cures of deadly diseases. You will read about people who have been pronounced dead by doctors but who later got revived and related strange after-life experiences.

You  will  wonder if all these peculiar and extraordinary phenomena are really true or not? Are these strange experiences just imaginary and delusional? Are they due to ‘Confirmation bias’?!  Is it just that people want to believe and experience such phenomena?! Is it that some people merely ‘want’ life to be more than what it really is?!

While trying to understand and relate to such experiences, you will yourself feel strange stirrings within your mind and heart. The subjective lure will be more powerful than the objective curiosity.

The inner quest will become so compelling that you will seek solitude and a reclusive life.  Everything else will seem unimportant in comparison to your need to fill the inner void.

For some strange reason you will realize that the answers to your questions would be found only through introspection and by looking inward, rather than through outward  objective analysis of the material world.  Your own mind will suddenly seem more important and more complex than the outer world. 

You will thereafter seek out some senior persons who have similar questions and experiences. If you find a suitable person, you will take him as your teacher or Guru and follow his teachings.  If not, you will boldly venture out on your own, trusting your own inner instincts, intuition and intelligence. Your inner intelligence will be your guide thereafter.

Then…after many months and years of such introspection and study, you will spontaneously hit upon certain meditative practices that will give you inner calm and peace. Relevant information and knowledge will come to you automatically. Synchronicity will become commonplace. Life will suddenly seem extraordinarily easy and even magical.  

You will then realize that the real Truth lies within the mind and that the true purpose of life is to realize ones own inner nature and potential.  Self Realization will become your real quest. You will then gather all your energies together to seek out your own True Self.  And with this, you will pursue the age old goal to ‘Know thyself’.

The above process is Spirituality!

 (In this article I am not going into details of the spiritual experiences themselves. I’ll do that separately in another article). 

You will notice that the entire above process including your personal experiences and development, do not require any religious practice or any religious background at all. The spiritual process  can and does happen spontaneously to many people even in a completely secular environment.

Ok…so…what is religion?

Let us continue with our imagined seeker of Truth…You!

Imagine that  after your inner realization you start discussing and relating your experiences to your friends and other local people.  You will try to advice and guide them suitably in their lives.

Some of them will think you are a crank of some sort. They will humor you for some time, laugh at you and then finally, avoid your company!

Some others however, will take you seriously. They will consider you as some sort of a special person who managed to find inner peace. They will admire you as a person who managed to strive and find  the answers to our fundamental questions while they themselves are struggling with mundane day to day existence.  

These people will follow your example and try to emulate you in many ways. They will note down your teachings, listen to your advice and follow your lifestyle as much as possible.

People in the first stage of mental development will imitate you and idolize you. (Please refer to my article on Three Stages).  People in the second stage will question you and express concerns. People in the third stage will listen carefully, separate the wheat from the chaff and try to follow your teachings in a way that works for them.   

You will teach them the mystical and philosophical aspects of your experiences and you will also advice them on hygiene, diet, exercises  and other matters that you realize are important for peaceful living and spiritual progress.   You will advise them on their lifestyles and mind control. You will teach them how to discipline their animal urges, anger, lust and greed. You will guide them on marriage, children, love, sacrifice, duty and many aspects of daily life.

You will teach them that living in line with certain discipline, norms and rules would not only help them in leading a peaceful and healthy life but will also help future generations in being healthy and in leading a meaningful life. (Please refer to my article on Epigenetics).  

Just to make it easier on them and so that they can remember your teachings in context….you will teach them through historical examples, fables, stories, myths, parables and allegories. People will remember these stories more easily than intricate philosophical concepts. 

By and  by, after you pass away from the world…your followers will write down all your teachings and try to follow them very closely.   Your memory in their minds will serve as an inspiration and as a motivation. They will try to live as you taught them and also pass on the teachings to others in future generations.

A religion will be born!

You will be its founder, though you had no intention to start off a religion at all.  Your quiet authority, your personal understanding of life, your wisdom and your concern for the welfare of the people will be enough inspiration for your followers to start a religion in your name.  

The new religion will contain a base of spirituality, mysticism  and philosophy. It will also prescribe social norms, hygiene, health and behavioral regulations,  It will contain prescriptions on personal duties, mind control and discipline. These things  will make the religion a complete system in itself.

It will also contain the stories, legends and myths that you had taught, which will fire the imagination of the people. You will, over the generations,  acquire  a larger than life persona.

In future generations, your personal efforts and struggles on inner development and your mystical teachings could get relegated to the background because they will be understood only by a minority of the people.  These teachings will become the ‘Secret Teachings’ reserved only for a select few. The esoteric group will thereby branch off!

The majority of the  people in course of time,  will ignore the basic mystical and spiritual message but will retain only the stories and myths. They will focus almost entirely on the social regulations and the simple do’s and don’ts  that are relevant to their day to day lives.

This is religion!

Spirituality and Religions normally co-exist and depend on one another in most cases. They can however exist independent of one another also. People can be spiritual without following any religion. Religions can exist without any strong spiritual base focusing entirely on legends, myths, authority and fear. 

In this article I have not attempted to write about the origins and development of various religions through history, which is a very big subject in itself. Some religions have survived, many have died out over the centuries. 

Many early religions especially nature based ones and those of a tribal origin, were founded on awe and fear rather than on Spirituality as I have defined it. Major religions however, usually have a strong spiritual base at their foundation.

Besides spiritual aspects, there are many social, cultural, political, environmental and other factors that shape the development of individual religions. Religions are therefore complex institutions with multiple influences and multiple objectives. 

The major religions of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam play a significant role in spiritual development of the people through the Bhakti Marga (devotional path) and also sometimes through the Karma Marga (path of action). Few people follow the Gyana marga (path of wisdom) which is the esoteric path.

Religions also serve the purpose of maintaining social order and cohesion. In the absence of civil courts and law enforcement agencies…religions maintain law and order. They enforce discipline and strict regulations in society, which also indirectly help in spiritual development of the people. 

It is true that due to rigid adherence to certain outdated teachings and practices, some religions become dogmatic, divisive and dysfunctional….and even irrelevant over a period of time. But  some of them evolve and develop in line with cultural and social developments in society and stay relevant under different circumstances. Hinduism has managed to do just that! 

Only those religions which manage to retain the basic spiritual message while evolving and adapting to changing conditions and changing cultural patterns, can remain relevant and meaningful over long periods of time.

My objective in this article is to highlight the fact that Spirituality and Religion are not one and the same….though they have clear meeting points. Spirituality can form the base in major religions and many religious practices can lead to spiritual development. 

Best Regards.

T.Sriram Rao  

3.6.2016

Conversation on Women

Disciple to Guru:  Sir….What are your views on Women’s liberation? Women today take up jobs, work in distant places, stay late and are generally free compared to earlier times.

Guru: Two points. It is both a matter of necessity and a matter of conditions being conducive. 

Women working outside the home is not new at all! Women have been working in the fields, as maids, as vegetable vendors, as flower  girls, managing small eateries, as midwives, doing laundry etc.,  for thousands of years!  Nothing new about women working at all.  

Second point is that, many technological and environmental factors have made it possible for women to work outside in recent times which were not favorable in earlier times.

Disciple: Oh…I didn’t realize that women have been working outside since ancient times. I thought it was a recent phenomenon. But what are the environmental factors that you mention?  I don’t understand. 

Guru:  Electricity, cars, buses and mobile phones make it possible and safe for women to venture out today. Facilities like eateries, clean bottled water, public toilets etc. make it convenient to move around, stay late and come home safe. Police patrolling, emergency services etc. are also available.

Disciple:  Are these things very recent?

Guru:   I remember, even as recently as 50 years ago all these technological advances and facilities were not available in India. There were no street lights in many towns when I was a boy in the 1950’s and 60’s.  In most cities and towns it was unsafe for women (even men, for that matter) to venture out, especially after sun down. In earlier centuries we cannot even imagine the conditions!  

Additionally, social conditions are also much safer now than in earlier times. There are no wars, battles and feudal differences unlike in the past. The general conditions are much more peaceful and stable compared to earlier times. Animals like tigers, leopards, jackals, snakes etc. are not a threat anymore. When I was a small boy in the 1950’s, jackals would howl outside our home after sun set….and we lived within city limits, in a Govt. colony.  Even today in many villages and small towns dangerous encounters with wild animals are quite common. 

Disciple: I agree. I guess, even today, if the conditions were the same as before…without electricity, vehicles, phones and other facilities…. and the security of modern cities, women would prefer to stay at home. Also, if there was social unrest of some kind,it would be unsafe.  I realize the issues involved. In earlier times, women would not have been able to work as they do now.

Guru: Exactly! Also, soft industries like Information Technology, BPO’s, Biotech, Consultancy and such other industries/areas of work are a recent phenomenon. These industries are more suitable for women than heavy industries like steel production, coal mining, construction and other heavy industries. Women would not have liked such work.  There are also many malls, shopping areas, coffee shops, restaurants, movie halls etc. where women are today able to find safe and convenient work.  

Disciple: That is so true! (surprised). I didn’t think of that!  So…that’s why women did not work outside in earlier times?

Guru:  No.. no….(laughing).  As I said before, women have been working for thousands of years outside the home in spite of such problems and dangers!  Women have always worked in the fields along with men. They have always worked as maid servants, selling vegetables, milk maids, laundry women, selling flowers, managing small eateries, midwives, nurses, and many other types of work.  Some women even worked as soldiers and spies.  

Why everyone is making such a big song and dance about women working nowadays I can’t understand! Nothing new about women working outside the home at all!! 

Disciple: Oh…Yeah…I realize that now.

Guru: Most people don’t realize it. They think women working is a new and modern concept. (laughing) But it is true that women usually worked outside  the home only  because of economic necessity.  It was never to prove a point….or to be equal to men.  Poverty and the need to ‘make both ends meet’…forced women to work outside the home putting up with considerable dangers, sexual harassment, exploitation, insults and braving many risks.  

Disciple: I suppose they had no choice…..

Guru: Yes…remember…. women staying at home was a luxury and a privilege that only relatively rich people could affordWomen staying at home was not considered inferior or as a waste of time during those days. Families  were proud that their women stayed at home,  free from harassment and hardship.  It was actually a status symbol. This was impossible for the lower classes.

Disciple : So…middle class women did not work.

Guru: Well…they worked too…but at home.  They worked at home, managing children, looking after elders, cooking, washing and cleaning. Is all this not work?  Many people charge heavily  for doing such jobs today. House work was very difficult those days in the absence of electric grinders, blenders, vacuum cleaners, gas stoves, washing machines etc. Also, ready made spices, cleaned rice, wheat flour, dal, oil etc. were not available in neat packets as they are today. Most of the cleaning, storing, grinding, pounding etc. had to be done at home.  Women did all this hard work even as recently as in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Some women still do it in villages and small towns. 

Disciple: Fine…but were women not exploited and ill treated by men in earlier times as people keep saying? 

Guru:  It is terribly wrong and an insult to our forefathers to say that all women in earlier times were exploited and ill treated. It is a nonsensical generalization that many people nowadays tend to believe. In most homes, women were protected, loved and cared for.  Most of the rules and restrictions on women were for their own protection and that of the children. 

Disciple:  Can you elaborate…Sir?

Guru: Its quite simple really.  In earlier times the main considerations were food, clothing, shelter, procreation and protection of the young.  The entire family, their work, and all social systems were geared to cater to those requirements only.  Because of this, work was divided and women were required to be at home, look after children, elders and carry out home duties…..while men went out and brought home the resources.  Cutting wood, plowing fields, hunting, army, black smiths, …all these were jobs for men. Nothing wrong with that!  There was no prestige in working outside. Only people who could not afford to stay at home, ventured out for work. 

Disciple: Any other reasons?

Guru: Yes….in earlier centuries, world over (especially in India) there were many wars, battles and feudal differences.  And it was not just about major wars and epic battles between large kingdoms.  Small property disputes between families were very common. Marital issues between families were also very common. Many battles and fights took place regularly  between members of different villages, communities, castes and religions.  Because of this it was very dangerous for anyone, particularly women to venture out alone.

Disciple: Why particularly women?

Guru: It is an animal tendency that we humans have inherited, unfortunate but true. Animals routinely kill rival males, kill their offspring and mate with the females of the rival group so that their own genes can be transferred and passed on into rival communities. This is a commonly known phenomenon. It is a survival battle and a way of ensuring that ones genes live on in rival groups. 

For similar reasons, carrying away and raping  women of rival groups was the ultimate victory for any person or group in a war situation.  Women being raped and kidnapped during wars and battles was a very common phenomenon. It was the ultimate victory.  

Disciple: What about law and order?

Guru: (Laughing) The kings, soldiers and zamindars were the law and order. Society was not as integrated and organized as it is today. No  police stations in every village, no NGO’s, no news channels!  There were no secular police forces or civil courts to protect people. Many kings, soldiers and other powerful people would themselves carry off women whom they fancied.   It was not safe for women to venture out or even be noticed by strange men. And all this was true in most areas as recently as 100 years ago. In some remote areas it is probably true even today.

Disciple: Oh…God!  General travel also must have been difficult.  

Guru: Of course!  Jungles, mountains, rivers, lakes etc. all were impediments that made travel very difficult. No national highways with concrete or tar roads, dotted with restaurants and hotels in those days! Mud paths and bullock carts only were available. Diseases were rampant. People would die of infections that are commonly cured today. There were no eateries or clean bottled water that we take for granted today. People had to carry food and water for the entire journey taking several days and weeks. Food would often get spoiled and contaminated. People had to defecate and bathe near lakes and other water bodies.  They also had to drink water from the same lakes and ponds.  Once an infection caught on….it would be difficult to cure… and people would normally die.

Disciple: (introspectively) So…there were many reasons why women were confined to the home?!!  Fine. What about education of women?

Guru: What about education of MEN?!  How many men do you think were educated in India say…100 years ago? In 1916 there was less than 10% literacy!  Where were the institutions and facilities? Most men learnt skills from their fathers and took up the same professions. Similarly most women learnt house work and childcare from their mothers. This was true not just in India but even in all other countries. In western countries they had family names like Smith, Baker, Cook and so on only because of that.  That was the system that worked in those times. There was no choice. So…no secular, common and systematic education for anyone! 

Disciple: Oh I see! But weren’t some women harassed and exploited during those days?

Guru:  Yes they were…but aren’t some women harassed and exploited even today?  In plush offices, business houses and other work places, aren’t some of the women subjected to harassment and sexual pressures today?!  Many corporate houses employ women as ‘escorts’ to keep their clients company. Many corporate bosses entice their female employees with incentives in return for sexual favors.  Isn’t this exploitation?!

Due to the internet and miniature cameras , major forms of exploitation at an organised and global scale are prevalent today more than ever before. The porn and sex industry are examples of the exploitation of women in modern times. And I am not even talking about the global trafficking racket and such serious issues here. 

Disciple: Hmmm…

Guru: Some people claim that women working in the porn and sex industry are working out of their own free will and that it is an indication of liberty and freedom. They claim that prostitution and porn are career choices for women. What rubbish! Most of these women have no other option if they want to feed themselves and their dependents.  Women today have become sexual objects like never before. It is modern slavery! 

Disciple: I get it! (nodding)

Guru: In those days  however, because police protection and legal recourse was not available, women were kept protected at home.   I want to repeat….It is terribly wrong and blatantly unfair on our forefathers to say that they exploited women and wantonly kept them suppressed. In most cases the men worked very hard and had to put up with considerable difficulty to keep their women and children protected, well looked after and safe.

Many systems were developed to protect the honor and rights of women. Some provisions such as Stridhana were meant for the benefit of the women.

Disciple:   True!

Guru: I am sure, if today the social and technological conditions changed back to what they were at that time, most women would happily resort back to the same lifestyle as in earlier times!

Disciple: Yes…sir. I see your point.  Sir…coming to women of today and my first question, what do you think of Women’s liberation?

Guru: It is a very good thing. The objective of this liberation should be to end exploitation of women everywhere, educate them, give them equal opportunities, instill respect and dignity for women in the minds of men (and other women). Women and men should have equal dignity and opportunities for spiritual, intellectual and physical development.  It is one of the most worthwhile movements that have happened in modern times. However, women’s Liberation should be about rights and entitlements of women and not about merely aping men!

Disciple: But today women consider it a privilege and a right to work and earn money.  

Guru: Social pressures to work outside the home and illusions of prestige and status can often lure women against their will and better judgment.

Disciple: Why would it? They are just following their dream.

Guru:  What dream? Illusions of becoming glamorous film actresses, fashion models and CEO’s of big companies is what you call ‘their dream’?? (laughing) Really?!! Driving a BMW, dining in five star hotels, flying around to London, New York, Paris etc.?! (Ha…Ha)  Is this the ‘dream’ you’re referring to?

Disciple: Hmm… Yes.

Guru:  Do you realize what jobs most of the women in the world hold?

Disciple: (hesitantly)….what?

Guru: Most women work as clerks in banks and Govt. Offices, as shop assistants, receptionists, service personnel in fast food joints, restaurants and coffee shops.  Some relatively more educated women work in the IT industry and in BPO’s. They leave home early, pack their own lunch and of their children, travel for hours in crowded buses, sit in dusty offices pushing files or selling saris or serving coffee.  They put up with  male advances, sometimes abuses, listen to sarcastic comments from their bosses, have a cold lunch, leave in the  late evening braving rain and cold, reach home in the dark, cook for the night, care for the children and elders and husband… and sleep…only to repeat the whole process again the next day. Day after day!  Is this the ‘DREAM’ of any woman?  I don’t think so.

Disciple: That is true, I guess. 

Guru: And I don’t even want to talk about the hazards of the sex industry, porn industry,  escort  business and other such jobs that seem to be rife today. Is this the dream of our women? 

Disciple: They need the money I guess.

Guru: Exactly! It’s the same as in earlier times. It’s an economic necessity…its not about following a dream or anything of that sort!  If any of these women suddenly got a lottery of a million rupees, would they continue to do their jobs?  Of course not!  For most people it is not a dream…it’s a necessity because they have a responsibility towards their families and their dreams.   

Funnily, what was a necessity only for the lower classes in earlier times is today a necessity for the middle and even upper classes. (laughing). Have we really progressed?

Disciple: But they want to be equal to men. 

Guru: Yes…that is the problem. Women only see the authority and control over the finance that men hold and they think.…’I want to be like that’.  They don’t see the hardships and difficulties that the men face.  How many women would want to drive autos and buses in our cities? How many women would want to lift loads and drive lorries across the country? How many women would willingly like to work in quarries, coal mines, dock yards, factories  etc. in the dust, grime and heat?  Is that the dream of women…..to be equal to men and go through such hardship, drudgery and risks all day?  Of course not!!!  They only see the glamour of film actresses, models and a few female corporate honchos and believe that working will make them rich and glamorous too. Ridiculous! What percentage of women can be like that?

Disciple: Women empowerment?

Guru: Empowerment and self determination does not mean we are free to do what we want.  Men were never empowered to do anything they wanted!!  Did men in India have the authority and freedom for ‘self determination’? Most men were governed by the rules and restrictions of their families and their culture. Most men sacrificed many things and led very difficult lives just to protect and feed their families.  No one, men or women,  are free to do whatever they want. They have responsibilities to discharge. 

Disciple: I now understand.  All these centuries, men have been working hard only to discharge their responsibilities towards their families. They were not exactly following  their dreams! I get it.

Guru: Yes….Exactly! That’s the point. ‘Following the dream’ is a luxury that only the rich and laid back can afford. Others have to earn a living!  Women have been lead away by false impressions of what it is like to be men It is an illusion. Today when they actually start working they will realize how hard it is to earn a living and how much of a privilege it is to be a ‘stay at home women’ looking after the children and the home. They will also realize how important caring for their home is compared to merely earning money. The intangibles are more important than hard cash. 

Disciple: Hmmm!

Guru:  Another factor is that men and women are different from one another. They have evolved differently over millions of years and have very different natural roles. I know that feminists regard men and women as largely interchangeable (except for obvious things like child bearing). This is clearly wrong!  Men and women are different not just anatomically but physiologically and psychologically as well. This is being increasingly brought out by scientists through new research.

Men and women are not interchangeable and any attempt to fit them artificially into each others roles could lead to evolutionary changes (through epigenetic mechanisms) that could be dramatic and devastating. 

Disciple: Yeah….that’s a valid point! 

Guru: If women want to CONTRIBUTE, that is fine, in whatever way necessary!   It should not be about individual dreams  divorced from ones responsibilities. 

Disciple: Yes….the home is paramount, I agree.

Guru:    Responsibility is everything!  Life is about discharging our responsibility.  It is not about enjoying life or following our dream. All humans have certain responsibilities  and discharging them is our major goal. All our spiritual and religious texts teach us to do our duties.  If we disown our responsibilities with some excuse or the other, we are complete failures. We may earn lots of money and become famous but if we don’t discharge our responsibilities we don’t even deserve to be called HUMAN!

Disciple: What sort of responsibilities?

Guru: Responsibilities towards our children, spouse, parents, dependents, society, country.   Responsibilities towards anyone who depends on us in general and towards our family in particular.

Disciple: Yes…family is very important.

Guru:  Family! The family is the most important unit in society. The stability of the family determines the stability of the society. Women, as mothers, are the pivot of the family. If they don’t care for the  family, it will break down and finally will reflect on social stability.

Disciple:  It will also affect the women themselves, won’t it?!

Guru: Yes….it is true that the break down of the family will ultimately affect the women the most. Women’s  welfare, safety and emotional development depends on the family. We are seeing  many sorry developments in other countries with large number of broken families and single mothers. Who suffers most because of all this? It is the women!

Women are always the hapless victims of broken families!  Men can manage without families. Women and children can’t, in most cases.

Disciple: Sir…I am confused. Could you please tell me finally what your views are in this matter.

Guru: OK…I will tell you in points……

  1. We must remember that there is nothing new about women working. Women have been working outside the home for centuries in spite of the dangers and hardships in earlier times. It was always an economic necessity. Women staying at home and caring for the home and family was a privilege and a luxury.
  2. It is today’s relatively peaceful social environment and technological advancements like electricity, transport, phones, availability of clean food & water, toilets etc. that make it possible for most women to venture out. It is a welcome development no doubt. But we need to recognize our dependence on such factors. Social conditions in earlier times made it necessary for women to stay at home in most cases. It was not because men wanted to exploit women!
  3. Women working and adding to the family income is a good thing as long as it is not detrimental to the family welfare. It should not degenerate into a lifelong income demand from the husband and in-laws, similar to dowry demands.
  4. Women should have equal rights to property and all inheritances from their parents, equal in all respects to men. There should be no preferences for sons over daughters.
  5. In earlier times in India, the system of Stridhana was meant for the father of the girl to divide his property among his children and give his daughter her share of the wealth when she departed to her husband’s home. It was her right and entitlement. We should have similar equal sharing of wealth.
  6. Today, women seem to have lost out on both fronts. Many of them don’t get their share of their parent’s wealth, they have to work lifelong for their own family welfare and also look after the home and children!! This is real exploitation!
  7. Education and intellectual development of all women is a must. Also, opportunities should be available for all women to earn their living and lead a life of dignity. Whether they work or not should be left to them to decide based on their family requirements. It should not become a social  compulsion.
  8. Men and women are different from one another. They have evolved differently and have very different natural roles. Men and women are not interchangeable and any attempt to fit them artificially into each others roles could lead to evolutionary changes that could be dramatic and devastating. 
  9. Women’s liberation should be about fundamental rights and entitlements and should give women the right to decide their own life. It should not be about aping men.
  10. Women want to be like men due to the authority and financial control that men have. In most cases it means taking up jobs like men do. But there is nothing glamorous or even satisfying  about the work that most of the men do. Men have for centuries, been facing hardships and difficulties to discharge their responsibilities towards their families. They never ‘followed their dream’.  They merely took up the responsibility of their families.  This needs to be recognized. If women want to take up the jobs that men do… they can…but they should also be willing to put up with the drudgery, the hardship, personal risks and sometimes even loss of dignity.  
  11. If all men had given up their jobs and responsibilities so that they could pursue their individual ‘dreams’, what would have happened to all their families over the generations?
  12. Discharging ones responsibilities is the prime goal of every civilized human being (man and woman). There cannot be any exceptions. ‘Following a dream’… without discharging ones responsibilities is unpardonable.   Whatever ‘dream’ people  have for themselves as individuals, they should focus on it only after discharging their responsibilities.  Ego centricism and family welfare cannot go together! Women (and men) should introspect on whether their ‘dream’ is really worth pursuing or whether it is just an illusion. Will the rewards and satisfaction they hope to get, be worth the sacrifices and the risks to themselves and their families?
  13. A woman should have the option to work outside the home or to be a home maker depending on her family requirements. It should be her decision or a joint decision with other family members. Compelling a woman to work outside is as bad as compelling her to stay at home. It is also similar to lifelong dowry. The prestige and glamour sometimes attached to work outside is an illusion women should resist. 
  14. The Family is the single most important unit in society. This cannot be overemphasized. Many countries in recent times have large number of broken families and have seen the consequences of this on their society. Some of them are trying to bring back family values in society, but with no success.  If due to ego centric considerations, the stability of the family is compromised, both men’s and women’s lives will be affected dramatically. Women’s and children’s lives are likely to be adversely affected far more than men’s.

Best Regards.

T.Sriram Rao

21.5.2016

Appendix: 

Some issues relating to women such as female infanticide, rape, discrimination, sati etc. have been brought up in the context of my article above. These are very important issues that many agencies including successive governments, have been working on for decades to eradicate.  Whatever I can do to help in eradicating such practices, I will certainly do.

I however want to clarify that in my article  I am not discussing such matters mainly because I wish to focus on the day to day situations that are prevalent in majority households across the country.

I do not wish to get overwhelmed or weighed  down by some negative issues to such an extent that I see nothing good in our men and our culture. Some aberrations in certain parts of the country and in certain communities, should not color our view of ourselves, our forefathers and our history as a whole. 

Any sort of generalization in such matters is obviously wrong.

Also, we cannot view women’s issues in isolation and independent of men’s issues and the general social situation. The political, social, religious, economic and technological climate needs to be kept in mind while dealing with women’s issues.  They are interdependent. 

We, as a nation, have allowed our problems to infiltrate our minds to such an extent that we have become almost obsessive about them and started tarring every one with the same brush.   We just can’t seem to see anything right about our past, our men and our culture. This is saddening. 

Most men in the past (in all classes) have been very honorable and have always treated their women with love and concern.  Most men over the centuries have worked very hard and made several sacrifices to protect and look after their women and children.

Our collective negative impressions in India about ourselves, our men and our culture, further encouraged by foreign media and writers, appear to have become memes and I fear it may be difficult to dislodge them. My above article is one small attempt to do that. 

Best Regards.

T.Sriram Rao

Conversation on Marriage

Guru to disciple:  I hear that you want to get married!

Disciple: Yes sir.

Guru: Have you found a girl yet?

Disciple: No……

Guru: Will you find one or do you want your parents to find the girl?

Disciple: Arranged marriage? (shocked).  No…no…not for me. I want a Love marriage.

Guru: What do you mean ‘love’ marriage?  

Disciple: (surprised) You know…..I fall in love with a girl and marry her!

Guru: ‘Fall in love’? Will it happen like magic…suddenly you will see a strange girl and a light from the heavens will descend on you and you will ‘fall in love’?

Disciple: Nothing like that….but it will happen naturally, I think. (laughing nervously)

Guru: Do you have to look for the girl or will it happen by itself….? How long will you wait? Suppose this ‘love’ thing never happens?

Disciple: Well….I have to look for the girl I suppose. I can’t wait for it to happen by ‘magic’.  I want to get married soon.

Guru: Will  that girl love you too? You can’t force a girl to marry you surely.

Disciple: No…of course I can’t. I have to look for someone who loves me too…….

Guru:  That could be very difficult! There are hundreds of girls. You may ‘fall in love’ with a girl today and after months of following her around, you may find that she is not interested in you. …or that she loves someone else. What will you do then? ‘Fall out of love’ and look for someone else to ‘fall in love’ with again?

Disciple: I am not sure. I guess I will have to do that.

Guru: How many such girls will you ‘fall in love’ with before it clicks and the girl also shows some interest?  

Disciple: (nervously) I don’t know…

Guru: (Laughing!)  About this ‘love’…will you ‘fall in love’ with anyone at all…say… an uneducated girl or a married woman or someone much older than you or an ugly girl or a rural woman or someone who has cancer or some disability?

Disciple: (shocked) No… certainly not! Why would I? I want to lead a happily married life. I want to marry a young girl… educated, healthy, good looking and from a good cultural background.

Guru: Ah!…..so you have clear specifications!  You will look for all these qualities in a girl and then decide to ‘fall in love’? Is that it? 

Disciple: (hesitantly) Sounds funny…but yes…….I suppose so.

Guru: (smiling) And you still think ‘love’ is something that just ‘happens’?!!! 

You are having a set of requirements and you will ‘fall in love’ only with the girl who matches these requirements. (laughing).  It doesn’t happen ‘magically’?! You actually look for a particular type of person and choose. Right?!

Disciple:  Well….I guess so. Yes…I will look for a particular type and then choose.

Guru:  OK….that’s clear then. After much searching around, let us assume that you hit on a girl but she isn’t exactly what you wanted. Will you compromise on some qualities or will you insist on a perfect match with your requirements?

Disciple:  I will have to make some compromises no doubt. No one will fit perfectly with my  requirements I think.

Guru:  Great! So, that is sorted. You have clear specifications, you will look for a girl who  matches those requirements and you are also willing to compromise on certain qualities. Fine…Now…suppose the girl also agrees and you both marry.  How long will you stay married? Will it be a marriage for life or something fragile and temporary?

Disciple: I don’t know. Since we have chosen each other…I think it will be for a long time.

Guru: Do you realize that many people who ‘fall in love’ and get married, don’t stay together? They separate or divorce within a few years or sometimes even within months.  Why do you think that happens?

Disciple: I guess they just want to move on.

Guru: Move on?!  (laughing) How often will this urge to ‘move on’ happen?  What happens to the ‘love’ in these cases?

Disciple: I guess the love just wears off.

Guru: You call it ‘love’ and then say that it wears off?! (Laughing)  Do you realize that  it is not love in the first place. Love never wears off. What these people feel is desire and attraction….not love at all. It is a physical and emotional need.

Disciple: Ok..so what? We marry because we are attracted to each other. Fine.

Guru:  Good! The point is to face reality. Not to have an illusionary idea of what we feel. Realize the fact that what you feel is really just an attraction and not really ‘love’. It always helps to face our emotions realistically.

Disciple: Why?

Guru: There is a saying in Tamil that ‘infatuation lasts for 30 days and desire lasts for 60 days’. Any person with some experience of life will vouch for the validity of that statement.    ‘Attraction’ by its very nature is temporary. It’s an animal instinct meant for immediate procreation, not for permanent marriage.  

Disciple: Is that so?

Guru: Yes..!  You meet a girl by chance…boom….the sensory impact will be immediate…the pheromones,the visual imagery, the olfactory sensations and so on will be overpowering. Your hormones will fire and you will be attracted to each other.  This attraction is what you commonly call ‘love’. Its a physical and emotional need.  

It is nature’s way of making the male and female get together to propagate the species.  And just like most animals instincts, it is extremely powerful  but doesn’t last very long. The moment the DNA is deposited, the attraction will cease…and you will want to ‘move on’.

Disciple: But sexual attraction is natural.  Many people don’t even want to marry. They want to have sexual relationships without marriage.

Guru: Yes, and that is what takes us back to our animal nature. It goes against all the things that civilization has built over the centuries….such as self discipline, control and culture.  Sexual attraction  is natural but it is also basic and primeval. It is very brutal in its force and can have unforeseen, dramatic and even savage repercussions.  

Disciple:  Hmm…. But lots of people who have love marriages also stay married for many years.

Guru: Yes…of course! But that’s not just because of the ‘attraction’. There will be attraction plus attachment and true love also. (Please refer my article on ‘Love’). The couple will actually care for one another and feel a sense of commitment and responsibility.

You must remember that lots of people have married without even meeting each other before marriage and yet live happily together. What does that tell you?

Disciple: I don’t know.

Guru:  Marriage is not about attraction or how you meet or how long before marriage you go around town together. All that does not decide how your marriage will work.

Disciple: You mean getting to know someone before marriage will not help in staying married?!

Guru: No…..I am not saying that. I am saying that you can never get to know anyone significantly however long you talk to one another or go to movies together. It is impossible. You will see only a very small part of that person.  We all wear masks and rarely know even our own minds let alone others. Besides, we all change over time. Today’s attraction and compatibility need not be tomorrow’s. 

Disciple: But we talk to each other….! Is that not enough?!

Guru: No.  Our attraction will blind us to realities. When they say ‘Love is blind’…that’s what they mean.

Disciple: Ok Sir…..but does that mean that arranged marriage is better?  Isn’t it forced marriage?

Guru:  Of course not! Arranged marriages are NOT forced marriages!  Any marriage that is forced or against the will of the bride or the groom is not valid and should be banned. Marriage of underage couples should be banned.

Disciple: So…what is your point?

Guru:  Tell me…. what is the difference between your method of choosing a wife … and an arranged marriage? Is there any difference? You have certain specific requirements and are looking for a girl who matches those requirements.  Its the same as an arranged marriage, isn’t it?!!

Disciple: What?!  (surprised)

Guru: Yes. In an arranged marriage, all the qualities that you are searching for in a girl will be noted and your parents will search for a suitable girl, the same way that you keep searching for someone here and there.  Except that the search will be wider and in well known circles so that risk factors are reduced….and so that the girl is culturally suitable for you.  Similar cultural and family background  are very important for a marriage to work.

Disciple: Why?

Guru: We all are products of our culture, our family background, our genes and upbringing. If we know the culture & family background of a person we can automatically know what that person is, to a large extent. It’s a way of ensuring compatibility without asking silly questions about favorite movies, music and favorite authors etc.!  

Disciple: But why should the family be involved? I mean….I and the girl are the people getting married!

Guru: You are obviously not going to break up all the relationships you had earlier with your parents, siblings, family and friends just because you get married, are you?!  Your wife will only be an addition to the family.  She has to fit in, doesn’t she?! Similarly you have to fit into her set of relationships. You both are not going to live on an island! 

Disciple: OK…but that is too much to ask…isn’t it?  

Guru: Not at all. You must remember that in earlier generations, even in western countries, most marriages were decided and approved by parents based on family background, culture, education, future prospects and so on.  ‘Taking the girl home to mom’… was a common practice.  Its only now that most marriages are decided entirely by the individuals concerned ….and most of them break up! Funny isn’t it?! 

Disciple: But how can I marry a girl who I have never met before?! Maybe we are not compatible.

Guru: Meet her and try to understand her.  Who stops you? If you like her and she also likes you …marry her.  This is what millions of people do in the world and live very happily too. Also, if the girl is from a similar culture and family background, chances are that she will be compatible. It lowers the risk of later incompatibility considerably.

Disciple: Hmmm…..

Guru: In any case, the issue of ‘understanding the other person’ or ‘being compatible’  is overrated. There is nothing to understand.

Disciple : Why do you say that?

Guru:  Are you compatible with your mother, father, brothers, sisters and grandparents?   Did you choose them?  Did you have any options?   Don’t you love all these people and live with them without choosing them or analyzing their compatibility? When you have children tomorrow…will you choose their gender, health, intelligence, beauty, etc.? Will you understand their minds and be compatible with them?  Won’t you love them for whatever they are? 

Disciple: But that’s different…..

Guru: How is it different? If suppose you had been given a choice and had been asked to choose your own mother and father….would you have chosen the same parents you have now? Of course not! You would have found so many faults with them that you wouldn’t have  settled on any mother or father at all!  You would have ‘divorced’ them within months.  Similarly with siblings, grandparents, children etc.  Because they have been thrust on you,  and you have no choice, you accept them without question and are also attached to them and love them unconditionally.

If you think of your wife as changeable, chances are you will take that option of changing her sometime or the other. 

Disciple: You mean we should accept our wife the same way we accept our parents and siblings and children?!

Guru: Yes!  Exactly! Why not?  Many people do.  Marriage is about mental acceptance  and a resolve to live with that person regardless of similarities and differences.  Having very similar ideas  does not always make a marriage work.  And in any case, you cannot judge the compatibility of a person in a few days or weeks or even months.  It will take years.

Disciple: I guess that’s true.

Guru: Also, you will only see what the other person wants you to see. We all wear masks. Her real nature will be known only after you start living with her.  Secondly, people change  and grow with time. The person you marry today will not remain the same after a few years.  She will learn, mature, and change. The initial attraction will wear off and the masks will come off. Similarly, you will change too.  What you find acceptable or attractive today will not be the same after a few years.

Disciple: So…I should be prepared to adjust and live  with all the changes and surprises that I may encounter in later years?!

Guru:  Of course! What did you think?! We all  do that with your parents, siblings and children! Why not with our wife?!  That is the reason it is important that you find a person with a similar culture and a known family background. It helps significantly in later years!

Disciple: You mean… I have to accept the person I marry regardless of all her faults and shortcomings and live with her all my life?!

Guru: Broadly …yes!  She will also live with all your faults and shortcomings…remember!!! But  in case of genuine and irreconcilable differences, you can and should separate and allow each other to live in peace.

Disciple: Oh…that’s a relief!

Guru:  But that cannot be just an emotional decision or an individual decision or a decision taken merely due to specific events. It cannot be an egocentric decision.  That would be foolishness.  The families on both sides should have a say and should be allowed to iron out the differences, especially if there are children involved.  There should be enough opportunities for both persons to think it over, explain their position and change their stand if necessary. It should be a balanced decision. 

Disciple: Why should families be involved?

Guru:   Marriage IS about families. The whole purpose  of marriage is to create a family…..not merely for two people to have sex, watch movies and eat in restaurants. 

If you don’t want a family…don’t marry.  Simple!

Disciple: I meant that why should our parents and others be involved…..

Guru: I am saying the same thing. When the purpose is to create a family, you cannot break away your family from earlier generations. They are part of it. It is a continuity. Marriage is between and because of two families.  It is their genes and DNA  that you are trying  to pass on to future generations. They have a right and an obligation to safeguard and ensure the  protection and proper development of future generations.

Disciple: I am now confused. Should it be a love marriage or an arranged marriage?

Guru: (laughing) My point is simple. Even you are unwittingly looking only for an ‘arranged’ marriage when you prescribe conditions and qualities of the girl. It is not really a ‘love’ marriage. In a formal arranged marriage you will merely be taking the help of your parents. You will be taking advantage of their experience and contacts to find a suitable girl. That is all. Nothing wrong with that! 

Disciple:  Maybe you are right!!  It will certainly help if my parents and other members help me in finding a suitable girl. It will ease my tensions significantly. As it is, I am stressed out in this matter quite a bit.  Also, I will thereby be sure of their support later in life.

Guru:  Yes. So…remember. Marriage should not be merely because of sexual attractions. It won’t last. Youth and beauty fade and one gets bored of them fast. Besides, you will be seeing each other everyday in your worst and most embarrassing private moments. Only true love can hold up to that! (laughing) 

Disciple:  I realize that now.

Guru: What we need is not just an animal urge which will deposit the genes and produce a baby. Only animals produce babies and leave them to their own lives without ensuring their future lives.

Disciple: That is true.

Guru:  Civilized people need  a system that will ensure the physical, emotional, psychological, cultural and intellectual development of the future generation.   That cannot happen without a stable and happy marriage. This is possible only with the support and help of all family members and well wishers.  Ego centricism and marriage do not go together.  They pull in opposite directions.

Disciple: How about independence?

Guru:  In fact, instead of trying to be independent, both the husband and wife should try to create dependence on one another in certain matters. Dependence increases bonding. 

Disciple: I understand now sir….!  (smiling) I think I will take the help of my parents to seek out a suitable girl for me. I will try to integrate my marriage and my whole family together. I realize that self centric behavior ultimately leads to broken relationships. 

Guru: One who makes up his mind to live happily with his wife under all circumstances, will have the greatest chances of success in a marriage. Never mind how he finds the person. Marriages are meant to raise a family, not for individual pleasures.  The stability of a family should never be compromised.

Remember, a wife or husband is no different from any other member of the family. She/he is as permanent as your parents, siblings, grandparents, children etc.  It is only if you think of her/him as optional or as someone who can be changed, that the problem arises. 

Best Regards.

T.Sriram Rao

15.5.2016