Man is a social animal. Language was a necessity, a tool with which he could communicate with others. Culture is a natural extension of such communal living in context of his environment. In savannah folks need carry water from the nearest watering hole. In their daily chores they alter their environment indelibly. So many feet carrying on daily fetching water must surely create a path? Necessity and custom becomes set on a familiar pattern. It also gives groups of men with similar needs and aims a certain guidelines. Folks do not consider creating another path between the watering hole and their dwelling place. Culture creating a tradition is similar.
Prophet What’s-his-name was born on the saddle so to speak. In Mongolia among the nomads it was nothing unusual. But the baby was born with a wart as big as a quail’s egg. It was right hanging on the chin and every time he saw his reflection in some vernal pool he shuddered. In deep embarrassment he grew a beard as soon as it would grow. He would not miss the single shrine he passed along the caravan route. Something of a habit and it somewhere connected. He became a spiritual person and when he reached age of maturity he took time to retreat into some part of the Gobi desert to commune with his uncles as he said.
One day he told his companions to hit in the direction of the Big Heap a mound of stones that had lain for centuries undisturbed since it was out of the route of caravans. As he predicted there was plenty of water for the animals to drink and a grazing ground. It made the entire tribe happy. They revered him as a Prophet. For the simple nomadic folks the Prophet was a figure of awe and they averted their eyes not daring to look.
They began growing their beard precisely in the same cut as that of the prophet.
It was an unwritten rule: all men in the tribe must sport a similar beard or be cast out of the group. Some traditions are useful and some are useless.
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“Ramanna was the closest friend that I had as a child,” Gampa Guru was once telling his disciples who had come from many places to have a darshan of the mystic. “His father was a weaver as my father was. Our houses were divided only by a mud wall and I could sometimes call out to him in the middle of our studies to clarify some point of doubt.”
JP continued,” He was very backward in Sanskrit and for that matter anything of our folklore. Naturally he just scraped through the padhasala with just enough marks.”
“Great was my surprise when one day he turned up to say he was traveling to the east.” “East?” one of his listeners asked. “Yes to China?” the mystic said and his astonishment was still somewhat sharp after some 28 years. “What took him to that far?”
The mystic shrugged as if it was a mystery.” If I recall rightly there is a Chinese connection. Ramanna had in a jar, some coins with Chinese inscriptions and a pagoda on the other side.” After a pause he added, “In all probability those curious writing and image would have triggered something in him. It led him to the life of the Buddha. To my surprise the last time I saw him he was tonsured and dressed in saffron colors. He had become a monk!”
“Has any Chinese monk ever before passed through the kingdom of Kothipalli?” “Yes,” The mystic said,” some 180 years ago.” “How do you know that Master?” “I saw in the king’s library the other day,” he explained, ”a scroll written in Chinese script, giving the date. It was strange to look at but beautifully brushed unlike anything that I have ever seen in our parts.”
“So you are also into their culture?” “Yes, what attracted my friend naturally led me to know more.”
What is the point of the story, master?” one wanted to know.
“If a culture so removed from our way of life could make such claim on one so supposedly insulated from every strange custom, we are not safe. None of us are.”
After a pause he said, ”We need to see ourselves instead of a closed society, as part of the whole. We are open ended indeed!”
“What will you advice us then master?” “More understanding, – still more, I say!”
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Muslim convert from New York was sentenced on Friday to 11-1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to threatening the writers of the satirical “South Park” television show for their depiction of the Prophet Mohammad and to other criminal charges.
Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, who is also known as Younus Abdullah Muhammed, was put on three years of probation after he completes his prison term. The sentence was handed down in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Morton, who ran a website that encouraged Muslims to engage in violence against enemies of Islam, pleaded guilty in February to making threatening communications, using the Internet to put others in fear and using his position as leader of the Revolution Muslim organization’s Internet sites to conspire to commit murder.
“Jesse Morton sought to inspire Muslims to engage in terrorism by providing doctrinal justification for violence against civilians in the name of Islam,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said.
“His crimes not only put people’s lives forever in danger, but they also chilled free expression out of fear of retaliation by violent terrorists,” MacBride said in a statement.
I hold no truck with those who incite passion and terror, and those who beat the memory of the dead prophet. The Muslim convert changed his father’s faith for another. Ok, fine for one to get rid of unwanted baggage. Instead of feeling relieved that he came into a man’s estate, he saddled himself with another. What is the worth of religion in the way practiced these days by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Yemen, Pakistan,Kabul and in Nigeria? Hatred and pure nonsense whereas the prophet stood for something nobler. If Islam is a religion of peace what he did was wrong and senseless. He followed some idiots who take the name of Prophet and took the wrong road to urge violence. Only look at the needless slaughter of children and women! Just because terrorists want to create terror among ordinary folks or media attention they don’t mind killing their brethren as well. On that account itself they have repudiated their prophet’s words. So the fellow who threatened South Park writers merely was a tool to further the cause of terrorists.
Why should comedians harp on Mohammed? He is dead and there is no merit in poking fun at one who for great many is a revered figure. I am unashamedly a follower of Christ and yet I can admire him for the noble purpose he made his life’s work. Go make fun of the living, for a change. If you ridicule the hollow sounding political nit- wits who are ‘ready to fix the economy or immigration problem’ by some magic formula the jabs may have some effect. Prophet Mohammed, let him rest. He whether the west likes it not was a great prophet. If you study his life without prejudice and objectively you shall find he wanted to purify both Christian and Jewish religion of his time. He stood for something noble just as George Washington stood for something in terms of politics. Just as with all religion Prophet Mohammed was ill- served by his followers who were all jockeying for control, call it self interest. Now what benefit you can get by ridiculing him? It is just like beating a dog or a donkey after the beast has served you all its life. Even if you were to do this now you will be taken by the hand of law for cruelty to animals.
The new converts may not know for a believer despises such converts for their inability to be true to their belief.
From history you can see how these blind believers who dared not think themselves brought upon them the backwardness they merited. Now they can only bury in the Word and blindly fool around like puppets for some mad Ayatollahs and clerics. They lost Jerusalem just because of their inability to co-exist with their neighbors or go with the trends that made the homeless Jews to find a homeland in the 20th Century.
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Posted in Aesop, fables, history, Aesop and the Ass, modern fable, art, tagged Aesop, Aesthetics, art, Benny Thomas, cultivated life, culture, practical, The Life of Aesop on June 18, 2012 |
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One day Miletus came home with a beautiful head of Hypnos. He showed it to his guardian, Iadmon. Aesop was present at that time. “Isn’t it beautiful! A head cast in bronze! The slant of that loose headband… Look at those eyelids heavy, almost drooping with sleep… The head tells it all.”
Iadmon scowled and said: “But what on earth one can use a mere head for? Either the piece should tell a story or must be of precious metal so it can be sold for a profit, if ever need arises”. Without much ado he walked towards his shop to direct his fellows who had brought in goods. As a parting shot he said, pointing to the sacks of barley being brought in: “Those are real! Each measure of barley sold is money in your pocket.”
The boy looked at Aesop as if to say that his guardian was impossible. “Let us leave him to his barley”, the boy said.
Aesop took the head of Hypnos and said: “My master is simple in matters of Art. He needs to be entertained or edified. If he has a head for business he could have one for art as well. He can forecast which goods will fetch more money and he knows to hold it till he can get a better price. He is not taken in by smart talk of the agents. Then having a head for business is enough for some. They have not developed from that stage. They are like those specimens you find in circus; they are born that way. Still, freak they are. This is how one is when one hasn’t cultivated beyond mere living”.
Miletus who trusted in his judgment and asked him whether it would have been better if the sculptor had cast the entire body as well.
“As you observed rightly in the beginning: the head conveyed all that was there to convey. We observe the head and can fill in parts left out by the sculptor. This is where my master cannot enter. Only the initiated can enter into the mysteries that Art has for such folks like you and me. The artist though dead still speaks to us. His art is the medium. Think how clever the sculptor of this piece is. He needed only a head to convey that moment one drifts into sleep, with such clarity.”
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A couple of years ago I went back to India where I had lived for some fifty years. I came to know a French couple rather well. They were living well in Paris,- and both were professionals, and one day they had enough of it. Love for India had completely taken possession of them. They wanted to see, feel and live close to nature and be in ‘the centre of Cosmic forces’. Which other place but India? Their imagination was quite lively I must admit, and their transparency for all their urban living simply shone through. The man was, of all things an advocate having had his private practice and he felt India demanded all that he could give. Yes he and his wife did give, and at every corner from the law to the whole array of ‘gurus’ in their saffron clothes were for taking all they could. Having ran up all their life savings on the assumption that India of their dreams must some time and somewhere must coincide. It never did happen to their disappointment.
Recently we met once again and the Parisian wanted to know where did he go wrong. Who am I to break his illusions? The French couple loved India of their imagination while I loved the habit of being an Indian. His cultural baggage is neither Paris where he grew up but also imagination that makes reality work. Only what has changed now is this: reality of India added something new to his imagination. Paris that he is going back for good shall be all the more better.
Our cultural baggage is so heavy when consigned to imagination. In reality India weighs no more than Paris since it is to be lived in. Reality and how it is handled requires no ‘culture’ in technicolor but hard common sense.
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Posted in culture, religion,, tagged auto da fe, Benny Thomas, conscious mind, culture, Grand Inquisitor, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, gray, Haiti, Mexican Americans, religion,, unconscious mind, voodoo, worship of the dead on May 7, 2012 |
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Color of Religion
Is there a color to code religion as founded by a prophet and organized by his disciples?
The purity of a vision seen from the unconscious mind has to be translated by the rational mind. Prophet can only approximate rationally what is revealed in the other. To compound the confusion it has to dictated to one. From there how a prophet’s teachings are translated by his scribe or faithfuls into an order is anybody’s guess. It is neither white nor is it black but gray.
Of this I had touched upon in the concluding part of the Silk Road and Via Appia.
Mexican Americans who are living in the south-western border states of America may be citizens of the U.S.A but they trace their origins to Mexico; pattern of belief-systems as it is impressed in them goes still deeper. The Roman Catholic beliefs were imposed on the New World by force and coercion some 500 years ago; These serve now as the basic religion in Mexico. It did not mean that the Mexicans could not work from within. The result is obvious.The policy of the Church in the sixties was to Americanize these people. But it was not much of a success. The Church found that whenever the priests offered masses in other than Spanish the flock tended to go to other churches where Masses were in Spanish.
In Haiti the Church was first associated with the Francophile elite, and which by 1940’s became identified with African values. Naturally a reconciliation with voodoo was inevitable. The Masses are now sung in Creole accompanied by voodoo drums. Devotion of the celebrants see no distinction between the Christian, Indian or African spirits which are merely lubricants that smoothen their daily grind of living. No Church can hope to establish dogmas per se and expect it to be held pure. It is people who give its vitality to beliefs and in the process it is transmuted into something unforeseen by the founder of the Religion himself.
Fools stone nevertheless some because of blasphemy or impiety. Or it may be for breaking the oath. In some cases these fools burn with lot of mumbo jumbo attached to it. Grand Inquisitor and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem alike can rest. If we pee on the clod of the earth neither will know the difference. They have become one with earth where no infidels or believers, arami or kaffirs exist. The peace that they feel can only matched by worms that specialize on dead bodies.
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Posted in culture, history, tagged Benny Thomas, Buddhism, culture, Daoism, Genghiz Khan, history, Islam, Kublai Khan, Marco Polo, recidivism, the Black Death, the Mongols on May 3, 2012 |
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outline: Silk road carried trade,exchange of ideas, culture,religion- ups and downs
Trade along the route was adversely affected by the strife which built up between the Christian and Moslem worlds. The Crusades brought the Christian world a little nearer to Central Asia, but the unified Moslem armies under Saladin drove them back again. In the Fourth Crusade, the forces of Latin Christianity scored a triumph over their Greek rivals, with the capture of Constantinople (Istanbul). However, it was not the Christians who finally split the Moslem world, but the Mongols from the east.
Whilst Europe and Western Asia were torn by religious differences, the Mongols had only the vaguest of religious beliefs. Several of the tribes of Turkestan which had launched offensives westwards towards Persia and Arabia, came to adopt Islam, and Islam had spread far across Central Asia, but had not reached as far as the tribes which wandered the vast grasslands of Mongolia. These nomadic peoples had perfected the arts of archery and horsemanship. With an eye to expanding their sphere of influence, they met in 1206 and elected a leader for their unified forces; he took the title Great Khan. Under the leadership of Genghis Khan, they rapidly proceeded to conquer a huge region of Asia. The former Han city of Jiaohe, to the west of Turfan, was decimated by the Mongols as they passed through on their way westwards. The Empire they carved out enveloped the whole of Central Asia from China to Persia, and stretched as far west as the Mediterranean. This Mongol empire was maintained after Genghis’ death, with the western section of the empire divided into three main lordships, falling to various of his descendents as lesser Khans, and with the eastern part remaining under the rule of the Great Khan, a title which was inherited from by Kublai Khan. Kubilai completed the conquest of China, subduing the Song in the South of the country, and established the Yuan dynasty.
The partial unification of so many states under the Mongol Empire allowed a significant interaction between cultures of different regions. The route of the Silk Road became important as a path for communication between different parts of the Empire, and trading was continued. Although less `civilised’ than people in the west, the Mongols were more open to ideas. Kubilai Khan, in particular, is reported to have been quite sympathetic to most religions, and a large number of people of different nationalities and creeds took part in the trade across Asia, and settled in China. The most popular religion in China at the time was Daoism, which at first the Mongols favoured. However, from the middle of the thirteenth century onwards, buddhist influence increased, and the early lamaist Buddhism from Tibet was particularly favoured. The two religions existed side by side for a long period during the Yuan dynasty. This religious liberalism was extended to all.
Any history on the Silk Road would be incomplete without mention of Marco Polo. As a member of a merchant family from Venice he took the route. Starting in 1271, at the age of only seventeen, he trekked across Persia, and then along the southern branch of the Silk Road, via Khotan, finally ending at the court of Kubilai Khan at Khanbalik, the site of present-day Beijing, and the summer palace, better known as Xanadu.
Mongol invasion was a turning point in the history of the region. Islam will fall back from what they had gained: all the turbulence,-force released by falling edifices of old beliefs, cultures muddied by trades, wars was for their taking. There was the Black Death that hit as far as Europe. Two thirds of Europe will succumb to it. History would never be the same. Islam will make a giant leap backwards and would never be the same.
(To be Cont’d)
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