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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Kartik Ariyur’s Observations

Astute reflections on two recent postings.

Kartik B. Ariyur, whose comments have been in earlier postings, has some insights on Western religious and cultural problems arising from his having been reared in India and educated in Christian schools.  His familiarity with the Hindu religion, Christianity, and the Greek philosophical tradition is an unusual and useful combination.

Responding to Are We Too Late to Save the West?, he has the following observations:

How any culture prospers or perishes depends upon what it has to offer to its adherents. If it helps its members to follow Divine law better than do other cultures in the extant world situation, it will live longer than those other cultures.

One cannot blame indoctrination for individual problems. It is the same as blaming the devil for tempting Adam and Eve. It is the nature of the devil (diabolos) to tempt, and use various human instruments for the purpose. Moreover, the devil is after all a servant of the Lord. The story of Job illustrates this, as also the prayer to ?lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil?. It is only when we pass the tests that we overcome—the lord Jesus succeeded, whereas Adam didn?t.

Ultimately, religion is also an experimental endeavor, though it is beyond the perseverance of most—this accounts for the paucity of those who can raise the dead, or otherwise perform all of the miracles that Jesus performed. This shows that few have received him (?as many as received him, to them he gave power to become sons of God?) over the centuries.

A profession of belief or acceptance does not constitute acceptance. Acceptance means doing the Will of the Father in Heaven (Not those that call me Lord, Lord, but those that do the will of my Father that is in Heaven). That will is to ?Love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart…and thy neighbor as thyself.?

But what exactly is God, and how are we to follow the commandment, ?Be ye therefore perfect, as thy Father in Heaven is perfect??

Here is where the work begins to win our Father?s grace. The inquiry into Reality, our scientific research, our daily conduct, and our prayers are all part of the effort. Cultural knowledge is essentially knowledge of some answers to these questions, and therefore, if a culture has more of the answers and more precise answers of how to live life in accordance with Divine law, it will naturally last longer than others. This holds for any culture—Western, Islamic, Persian, Hindu, Chinese, or Japanese.

A good measure of the understanding of Truth in any culture is its longevity. Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Babylonia have all perished after being around for a thousand or more years. China and India, and the Jews are the only ancient cultures that continue to thrive to this day.

Christianity thrived and has grown in numbers for two thousand years because it helped individuals in several areas to better follow Divine laws than other extant systems (such as the Greco-Roman or Egyptian religions, or the Druidic religion). In the globalized world, where information about different religions or sets of beliefs is available, there is naturally a greater competition of ideas. But nevertheless, over time, indivduals will adopt those ideas that benefit them the most and preserve their societies. Those that adopt inconsistent systems will soon pay for their follies and either reform (as is perhaps happening in Eastern Europe), or will self-destruct (as is perhaps happening in Western Europe and parts of Africa such as Zimbabwe).

Change is inevitable in economic organization as our knowledge expands. Indeed, if not for the change, we would still be living with ignorance, superstition, disease, squalor, and starvation as did many of our medieval forbears. Old methods of harnessing the fruits of nature were much more inefficient (in terms of energy usage or the usage of mineral ores for example) than today?s methods. Without the widespread use of coal and oil, slavery would still have been economical. And culture is not static—even if its ideals have remained fixed—greater knowledge of how to live more precisely according to those ideals is the cause for this change. As an example, today, few Christian theologians (if any) will justify slavery though many did so in the past. Few will justify the Divine Rights of Kings or an aristocracy as many did in the past.

Individuals and societies deal with the change through expanding their own knowledge. If existing companies do not change their ways of doing business to use new knowledge of efficiencies and new technologies, smaller companies will use them and the bigger companies will be forced to shut shop—as has happened in several industries (including perhaps the Detroit automakers at this time—where the unions prefer to lose 5000 jobs rather than 5 through their resistance to learning new ways of doing things).

If a whole nation prevents this progress through regulation, it will kill its own industry (as happened in India for the first 50 years after independence), and preserve and expand poverty. If a society persists in preserving its status quo, that status quo may result in its being invaded and occupied by others. A small number of Europeans was able to occupy most of the world because they harnessed new knowledge better than the rest of the world.

Finally, this harnessing of new knowledge meant that individuals in these European cultures cotinued to adapt themselves to change faster than other cultures. This adaptation is the same as individuals working to acquire new knowledge—which takes character—and it is religion that builds character. Thus, for the masses, Christian religion and perhaps a bit of Platonic philosophy, built character faster than other religions at a certain stage of development.

All economic activity is outsourcing—we outsource our food, clothes, housing materials, and several different services. The value of religion is in providing the strength of character to adjust with inevitable change through acquisition of knowledge. This acquisition of knowledge takes concentration, and this fixing of the attention needs self-control. Religion also teaches individuals to be charitable, and to live within their means, and to honor their word. All of these ameliorate the impact of inevitable change—and the extent to which religion is able to build character and decency in society determines the extent to which the culture of that society gets propagated in the world.

Responding to No Religion, No Science, he writes:

Steve Kellmeyer is off the mark in his comments on Eastern religions. Since I know my Hindu faith (correctly Sanatana Dharma—eternal principles for self-sustaining action—Hindu is a geographic appelation applied by foreigners) well, I will proceed to refute his assertions in the matter.

First, the name of the religion itself assumes the existence of eternal laws as I mentioned above—indeed, the Vedas, the foundational texts of Sanatana Dharma, call Cosmic law as Rita. The Devas (misinterpreted as Gods by many Western translators because of similarity to Latin Deus), or the angels are called Ritavaan, the upholders of various aspects of the cosmic law. The Hindu scriptures (or for that matter the Buddhist or Confucian or Taoist) do not call reality an illusion, but call our sensory perceptions and inferences from them as illusions because they are inaccurate, i.e., the world is not as you perceive through the senses. Reality can only be perceived through the intuition—indeed, this has been the case—we have perceived certain mathematical structures in nature and then devised the measurements to verify them. Our senses certainly do not perceive the atoms or the quarks or the quantum vaccuum—as the resolution of our measurements increases, we are usually forced to revise our inferential theories to make them more accurate.

The notion of Moksha or liberation means the state of realization of the image of God within, that God?s omnipotence is our omnipotence. This is achieved by complete attunement to the Divine will (this is called Bhakti in Sanskrit).

Indeed, there is a detailed description of the structure of the universe and its laws of evolution and involution presented in the Hindu scriptures. These theories are scientifically falsiable, for they make predictions.

Historically, the earliest works on logic and mathematics are to be found in ancient India. The Sanskrit grammar of Panini (before 600BC)—which reduces language to an axiomatic system, and the Sulbasutras of Baudhyayana (1500 BC or before) and Apastamba (800 BC) which give the first examples of geometric algebra. Indeed, the first construction of trigonometric tables, the decimal notation, the solution of the quadratic equation are all from India.

I will not concern myself with further arguments. It would be better to learn from original works. Both to understand Hindu philosophy and to understand the Hindu view of other religions, I would recommend studying ?The Autobiography of a Yogi? and ?The Second Coming of Christ?, by Paramahansa Yogananda (both available on

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