Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Historical Distortions

18th century French naturalist the Comte de Buffon wrote that the people of America had small and feeble sex organs so much so the men living there had “no ardour for the female.”  He wrote that and much more in his much-esteemed book Histoire Naturelle.  America was a land where the water was stagnant, the soil unproductive, and the animals without size or vigour, their constitutions weakened by the noxious vapours that rose from its rotting swamps and sunless forests.  The environment sapped the vitality of even the native Indians who had “no beard or body hair.”

Many writers embraced Buffon’s views and took them to more readers.  One popular Dutch writer added that the American males lacked vitality so much that “they had milk in their breasts.”  The views found their way to many European books until almost the end of the 19th century.

People are eager to believe the written word.  It’s even more so when the text is something that belittles others.  There are many people and organisations in today’s India who make use of this strategy very effectively especially through the social media and networks.  A lot of misinformation and disinformation are being spread.  There are even government agencies which are engaged in such activities. 

Fake news and morphed pictures are made use of for creating religious tension in many places.  Inane ideas (e.g. the cow exhales oxygen) are propagated as sacrosanct.  History textbooks in schools are being rewritten.  Heroes of the freedom struggle become villains and vice versa.  Roads and buildings are renamed, some of them rather viciously.  Hatred is being generated wherever possible by distorting history and news. 

The process is not going to take the nation very far.  But it seems the perpetrators have a clear vision.  They want to roil the waters so that they can rule the roost.  However, history teaches us the lesson that all those who made use of this strategy in the past ended up learning bitter lessons and paying heavy prices. 

It is up to the BJP and its leaders to decide how far they want to take this game.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Secret of Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy.  The Dalai Lama, head of Tibetan Buddhism, is of the opinion that we possess the key to happiness.  We are like the person who has been knocking on a door again and again without ever checking whether the door was locked in the first place.  The door to happiness is not locked.  So we don’t need any key.  We just need a change of attitudes.

Image Courtesy
We are like the woman who was searching for her lost earring in the sunlit front yard of the house though she had lost it inside the house.  When asked about it she said, “But there’s no light inside.”  She was searching for the right thing in the wrong place.  We keep searching for happiness in wrong places like wealth, position, luxury, etc.

The Dalai Lama puts compassion in the top of the list of attitudes that generate happiness.  Compassion for other people is essential not only for our personal inner development but also for happiness.  A happy human being feels responsibility towards other people.  He respects others.  Happy people accept other people’s right to happiness.  The Dalai Lama argues that acknowledging other people’s right to happiness keeps us connected to those people which is the true basis of compassion.

But happiness is not an individual affair totally.  That is why Bhutan speaks about gross national happiness and tries to promote that rather than gross national product.  Bhutan is not the happiest nation according to surveys, however.  Denmark is.  More than two-thirds of the Danes are very contented with their lives, according to certain surveys.  The problem with surveys is that they are conducted in limited spheres.  Bhutan was probably not part of any of those surveys.  Never mind.  We are interested in the findings that will help us become happy rather than knowing which country is the happiest.

Denmark is a welfare state.  It has a prosperous economy and a well-functioning democracy.  It has the highest level of income equality.  Psychologists who analysed the surveys also found that the Danes do not have particularly high expectations about the future.  Psychologists like Ed Diener and Joseph Smiley (who are known as happiness researchers) have shown that the average life satisfaction of nations is highly related to income.  In other words, wealth does play an important role in happiness.  These happiness researchers also found that happiness is not an individual affair; it is associated with social variables like trust, safety, and lack of corruption.

Now we know why India cannot be a happy nation.  In fact, India ranks very low in the list of happy nations in spite of all the propaganda dished out by the Modi government about development and tackling of corruption.  Modi and his party are promoting the welfare of a particular group of people.  The group is amorphous hitherto because it calls itself Hindu but excludes Dalits and all poor people like farmers.  It claims to include anyone who is willing to call himself a Hindu even if he or she is a Muslim or Christian or whatever.  The problem with Modi is that he is not a visionary who can spell out clearly the ideological foundations of his view.  Yes he is clear about one thing: hatred.  He hates a whole lot of people.  But hatred can never bring in happiness.  Compassion is an essential component of happiness. That’s why Modi has to change himself.  Or India has to change him.

Let India awake.  Let India be a happy nation.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Perspective matters more than anything else because it determines how you see the world and how you see determines what you do with it.  All these people who go about fighting and killing in the name of their gods and totems have their own perspectives.  Those who create the flyovers and skyscrapers have their perspectives too.  What should really worry us is the importance enjoyed by the fighter and the killer while the builder remains in the darkness of the background. 

The fighters and killers have become important because our own perspectives are so limited, so contaminated and so perverted.  If only we could see a world in a grain of sand, like William Blake, and heaven in a wild flower, we would be infinitely more spiritual than all these fighters and killers who claim to be god’s own people. 

As Albert Einstein said, a person who is religiously enlightened is one who has liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations that foster the welfare of all creatures, of the planet itself.  Religion is a relationship.  Religion is a benign relationship.  It can never seek the destruction of anyone.

That’s why what is being promoted in the country nowadays in the name of religion is not religion at all.  It is just a perversion. 

The remedy is to widen our perspectives.  Learn more.  Understand more.  Reach out for the stars and you will see the wild flower opening up a heaven at your feet.  The perspective makes all the difference. 

Historical Distortions

18 th century French naturalist the Comte de Buffon wrote that the people of America had small and feeble sex organs so much so the...