Tuesday, January 21, 2014


It dwells within us and outside of us Descending quickly it covers us Blinding and trapping us, it smiles
No one is hidden or protected from its knife like sight It’s sight pierces into our core and overwhelms us What can possibly overcome this darkness,
which is felt but never seen,   which moves but is never heard? Where it comes from, we know not But what it is, is known
It is our very self
It is that part of us we hide It is our doubt
Our fear Our hunger
It deludes us into believing we are its servant But in reality we are its master
Do not fight it nor challenge it Embrace it and harness it    Let it merge with you
Let it serve you
For we are the inner light

the darkness is the untouched part of us.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Whenever whenever righteousness declines.....

Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya
Glanir Bhavati Bhaarata
Abhyutthannum Adharmasaya
Tadatmanam Sryjamy Aham
-Bhagavat Gita Chapter 4 Verse 7

"Whenever Whenever Dharma (Righteousness) Declines, Oh Descendant of Bharata, and Adharma (Unrighteousness) Arises, Then I will manifest myself"

This is a line that nearly every Hindu knows and almost all Indians recognize. It is the saying of Krishna, in the Mahabharata to Arjuna, explaining when He (righteousness, God, justice) comes into being. Most Hindus take it to mean that God takes avatara (literally "ava" meaning from coming down and "tara" meaning crossing over, essentially the descending from Being and crossing over into phenomenal existence) . God becomes man and interacts directly with the world. Hindus believe that this means that God directly intervenes with the world and saves it from itself. While I do think that is partially the meaning of this passage, I do not think this is all that is meant by the authors of the text. Putting aside the belief in the existence of a God (which I am not convinced of nor really care about), I do believe that this verse speaks more to humanity's potential to connect and become Platonic ideals of virtue.

What I mean by that is that is this, the authors are speaking about the potential and the fundamental desire of human beings both as individuals and a collective to uphold and maintain fairness and justice. It is the idea that we, human beings, have that spark of divinity or something beyond our natural animal instincts alone to seek fairness and justice for our world. It is the idea that when injustice, evil and unrighteousness occurs we feel an inner compulsion to fix it, to bring the wrongdoers to justice and to protect the innocent. When Hindus think of this verse, they feel that God will make things right at the end, He will not let evil continue unabated for long and at some point He will intervene. There is a certain helplessness that usually comes with the traditional Hindu understanding of this, it is the feeling that we can't fix the wrongs and have to wait for divine intervention. This, I submit, is the exact opposite intention of the authors of the Mahabharata and also the Gita.

I believe the authors meant for this passage to empower people, to empower people to feel that they are in fact the conduits to try and make justice occur. We need to remember that the term Dharma does not simply mean religion but means so much more than that, it means righteousness, justice, law, duty, the firmament of society and order and most importantly fairness. Krishna uses dharma in this passage to mean the foundations of justice, fairness, law and righteousness. He does not mean religion or way of life, as both of these things were not at controversy during the Mahabharata war but rather it was about justice and fairness. Krishna was telling Arjuna (the character he was telling this to) that when our notions of righteousness are contradicted and attacked, we should not let it pass without a fight. It is our duty to fight for it and stand on our principles despite the consequences.

He is saying that we must fight and at the end, righteousness will triumph because it is supported by conceptions of justice and fairness. We can see that through out our history as a species, we have become more and more cognizant towards these notions furthermore we can see that fairness and justice have become progressively the focus of our conversations both in our political and social circles. Rights of individuals have improved at an enormous right over time, individuals have more avenues for justice now than they might have 50 years ago let alone 2000 years ago. Although I may be agnostic about God, I take this passage to mean that nothing can stop the progression of Dharma/normative righteousness or fairness because it is "divine" or the providence of something beyond our simple animal nature, it is something we conceptually believe in. Something beyond simply the world we see but the world we wish existed, a world in which no matter to whom we are born, how we are born or with what differences we are born with we have a fair and equal right to engage and thrive in the world we are born into.

Taken in the corpus of Mahabharata and the Gita, that passage means that each and everyone of us has the spark of divinity in us to try and make this world a better world. We have the potential to become the "avatara" of that divinity, or the representation of that larger spirit of justice and fairness, to try and improve this world. Maybe that is what the current incarnation of that spirit is, the occupy wall street movement. The belief that everyone despite their education or their connections to the upper echeleon of the current oligarchy deserves some level of fairness. This world we live in is not fair, nor is it going to be at any foreseeable point in our future, but that does not mean we have to give up on that notion. At any point, anyone of us, can become the catalyst of the righteousness that all beings desire, that Avatara, that is necessary for the family, community, state, nation, civilization, world or existence to take that next step. That is what this passage means in part to the authors of this text and to me. It is about us and our decisions and principles, not about some external force or power.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


To all of Mukunda's followers: I'm Sriya, Mukunda's niece and a rising freshman in college. Whenever I go to India (every few years), I keep a journal of sorts. This year, I asked Mukunda chitya if I could use his blog to reach all my friends and share my thoughts about my experiences in India.

The plan for my trip (7/13-8/3)--on which I am embarking with my parents, 7-year-old brother, and maternal grandmother--is to visit Chennai and Bangalore (major cities in South India), with intermittent visits to Guruvayur, Srirangam, and Melkote (smaller cities that are sites of ancient Hindu temples). My posts will be sporadic, as I'm not sure when I'll have internet access, but I intend to take several pictures and let you all into the most interesting aspects of my trip. I hope that what I have to say resonates with you all and brings something valuable (TBD!) to the table.

So, until I reach India, adieu!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Legal System and Casey Anthony

Today the Casey Anthony case was decided and she was acquitted by a jury, who found her only guilty of lying to law enforcement. It is a rather huge decision, in terms of its national attention and the impact on the family of the deceased infant Caylee Anthony. On unequivocal terms, the death of that infant is a devastating and heinous crime, justice requires that the offender be punished but sometimes it isn't that simple.

Our entire legal system is founded on a few simple yet highly evolved and revolutionary principles. I will only address two of the major ones, the ones I won't address are right to a speedy trial, prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and others. I will primarily address innocent till proven guilty, right to public trial and beyond a reasonable doubt.

First and I think most important is that innocence is assumed until proven guilty. This apparently simple concept is the core of the brilliance of the American system of criminal law (has its origins in English Common Law and according to some in Theological laws but again a much deeper discussion than needed here). We assume the person's innocence so as to assure, the best we can, that we do not convict someone wrongly. The founders understood that public opinion and legal presumptions are entirely relevant and important when determining the guilt or innocence of anyone. The founders knew that they cannot control and use government to influence public opinion but they knew they can try and ensure that the governmental process can be formed to try to be more objective.

The second main principle is that criminal trials are to be public. A major reason for this principle was to ensure that there was total openness and accountability to the process. It was a way to allow the public to engage in the understanding of the process and also to protect the legal system through public accountability. The public would be able to see clearly how the judge and prosecutors/police should operate and if they deviated from the accepted process then there is something wrong, which they could correct through legislative action or even criminal action. It is a protection of the process and the system against internal deviation and miscarriage of the process and justice.

The third principle is the one of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This principle means that the evidence must show/prove beyond any normal doubt or just any doubt that the suspect is guilty. It has to be reasonable doubt, meaning clearly that the doubt itself must be reasonable and that the evidence goes beyond such a doubt. It is as close to 100% certainty as one can have or better put one could have. The evidence must be of such magnitude that any reasonable person looking at it would have certainty beyond such a reasonable doubt. It is again to ensure that reasonable people would reasonably agree that such evidence is proof of the guilt not merely an inference or probability of guilt.

From the first principle and third principle we derive subsequent rules and precepts, which are all applied to make sure the goal of the system is PROVE through evidence the guilt of a suspect. One of these rules are the rules of evidence such as inadmissible of hearsay, establishing proper standards of allowing evidence in and others. Everyone knows generally what hearsay is, legally (in many jurisdictions) it is defined as an "out of court statement made by other than the declarant that is offered for the truth in the matter asserted". This simply means any statement by a person, who is not the witness or declarant, made outside of court to prove something that is asserted in court. For example, I say "john told me that erick hit steve", that statement is hearsay because I didn't observe the event and have no source of actual knowledge of it directly. This is applied because it helps prevent mere innuendo, gossip or false evidence from entering into court and tainting the mind of the jury. All these rules are in place to remove bias and prejudice from the system, its not perfect but it is an viable and valiant attempt to do so.

Now, the above is a very brief and utterly superficial explanation about the legal foundations, ideas and principles about our legal system. I say legal system and not justice system because the idea is that if we have a good and strong legal process then justice will more likely occur without injuring or punishing an innocent person. Justice isn't the goal of the system it is a byproduct of a process. If we focus on only our perceived ideas of who is guilty and who isn't, we will inevitably convict an innocent person, it is why the the court says in Coffin v. United States that is better to let "5, 10, 20, or 100 guilty men go free than for one innocent man to be put to death".

It is with the above basis I will address the Casey Anthony case. Lets see what the prosecution proved in the case, not what we believe merely on our own notions and preconceived notions. First people believe that DNA evidence proves that Casey Anthony killed her infant daughter. Here is the actual numbers, the test only examined 752 base pairs of DNA receptors out of 16,500 plus base pairs, which is only around 5% of the base pairs. The DNA evidence isn't a certainty here and generally speaking DNA evidence cannot prove a crime but only an act or specific facts. More often than not, DNA can only disprove a believed "fact" such as x person did have sex with y but it can't prove that such sex was rape or consensual. Or the blood at the scene with Z% belonged to A and did not belong to B. The DNA evidence didn't show anything beyond a reasonable doubt merely the infant was present in the vehicle not whether it was alive or dead at the time.
In Casey's case, the chemical tests only showed that out 5 chemical compounds out of 400 were present in the trunk of the car, meaning something decomposed no evidence that it was human decomposition or another animal or even food stuff. Basically, it doesn't show what was decomposing, we have to make that inference based on our preconceived ideas. So both these threads of evidence don't prove conclusively one way or another.

Moreover, there was no eyewitness testimony or evidence nor was there a confession or any other testimony linking Casey and the death/murder. There is no physical evidence like DNA, blood, fingerprints or physical belongings to link Casey to the scene of the location of the body. In other words, all the evidence presented was circumstantial not direct. Circumstantial evidence cannot in most cases prove all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt it is merely additional evidence that is present to support direct evidence, it is necessary evidence not sufficient evidence. Meaning, it is supportive evidence not enough to convict or prove on its own all elements (it can lead one to infer a fact but not establish a fact on its own; I don't want to delve into theories of direct evidence and reliability and so on as it gets too complicated)

The legal system worked today but justice did not. I do believe based on the evidence that Casey did probably commit the crime and kill her daughter but I don't know beyond a reasonable doubt. I just can't know based on the evidence presented by the prosecutors. Sometimes justice isn't served by our system of law but I think it is much better for the system to protect the innocent rather than punish all the guilty. Anytime an innocent person is wrongly convicted or punished, justice is hurt more. The violation of an innocent person can never be returned, the time they spend in jail never given back, the life they led could have lived will never come to be. Justice isn't merely about punishing the guilty but making sure that innocents are not wronged.

Casey did probably commit this crime and I want her to be punished but not at the risk of having a system that would punish innocents. We should be upset at Caylee isn't going to get proper justice for her death but its not the system we should be upset with, this isn't a case of the system going bad/wrong, it is those cases when thousands of black men were convicted merely due to their skin color or when prosecutors focus more on a conviction rather than serving the process that system goes wrong. DNA evidence is freeing innocent people now, people who were in jail for decades for a wrongful conviction due to eye witness problems, prosecutorial misconduct and so on. This case is a momentary defeat for justice for Caylee but a victory for our system that adhered to its principles requiring PROOF beyond a reasonable doubt, innocence isn't something to take lightly it is the most important ideal to protect and our legal system more often than not does a great job of doing so but when it doesn't it is up to us the public to fix it and change the law and its process to close that potential to convict innocents.

Any comments or criticisms?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It is crowded

Millions of people moving about

Walking, Jogging, Running

There is no space between the people yet they never touch each other

They continue about their business

Without notice or care for what is around them

Eyes are focused on something that only they know and see

Ears listen to the sounds that are only in their heads

Skin feels only the fabric covering their body

In their midst stands a young boy

He has black hair and brown eyes

The young boy calls out but no one hears him

He then screams out, nothing

He tugs at the sleeves of those who walk by and around him

They don’t feel him

He cries and they take less notice of him, if that were even possible

The tears stream down his face but matter not for no one cares

He stands in the center of millions of people, from all walks of life

Yet he is alone, never seen, never heard, never felt

He reaches out and is never touched

His pain and his story is his alone

The path he walks is only walked by him

He is the loneliest boy in the world

(This is something I wrote a few years back, something I felt all people feel, the sense that we and we only understand our existence as individuals. What I feel or know is only know by me, even despite my ability to communicate my ideas, thoughts or feelings to others, does any of this vibe with you? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Osama bin Gone

May 2, 2011 Osama bin Laden, the most hunted and hated man in the Western world was finally captured and killed by an elite Navy Seal team in the city of Abbottabad in Pakistan. Let me be clear about something, I think it was a death that he deserved and nothing better. Bin Laden was born into a wealthy Saudi family in 1957 and for most of his young age spent it learning and refining his ideology of Wahabbi Islam. In 1979, he went to Afghanistan and joined the anti-Soviet Union movement and revolution. It was during this time and against the Soviet Union that the United States through the CIA provided resources, weapons, training and aid to the Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union. This CIA project was called Operation Cyclone and was done under the direction of President Reagan and his Reagan Doctrine. To be fair this started under the tenure of President Carter and was featured prominently in the movie Charlie Wilson's War with Tom Hanks. The Reagan Doctrine basically says that overt and covert military aid and financial aid was to be provided to "freedom fighters" and guerillas fighting against the Soviet Union.

It was during this period that Bin Laden became one of the founding members of Al-Quaeda and it is also during this period that he learned and honed his military tactics. America provided him and others like him the tools and money to fight the Soviet Union because any victory against the Soviet Union was a victory for America, its values and its power. America didn't train Bin Laden and the other mujahideen rather that was done by the greatest terrorist organization in the world the Inter-Services Intelligence also known as the ISI, the most powerful "branch" of the Pakistani government. ISI has long sought to control Afghanistan for its own purpose and to destroy India. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the ISI trained and fought alongside the Mujahideen eventually ousting the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989. With the explusion of the Soviet Union, Bin Laden and his group turned their attention to the other Great Satan, the Western World.

He then began to orchestrate terrorist attacks across the western world for what he saw was a great evil, the entrance of foreign non-muslim troops (USA) in the land of the two mosques (Mecca and Medina), Saudi Arabia. From 1992-2000, Bin Laden financed, orchestrated or ordered numerous terrorists attacks in western countries or any Arabic/Islamic nation that was backed by western powers. Bin Laden even financed foreign mujahideen to fight and even tried himself to enter into the Balkan War, some of the work done through his funding was humanitarian in nature trying to help the Bosnian Muslim population during the ethnic cleansing that was perpetrated by the Serbians and Croatians. Then on 9/11/2001, a day that will live in infamy throughout United States and World History, Bin Laden orchestrated and executed the mass murder of over 3000 people in New York City and sealed his own demise.

After 2001, numerous other terrorists attacks happened in Spain, London, Indonesia and India all of which were inspired and maybe indirectly financed by Bin Laden but entirely from the shadows as he was now the most wanted man in the world and quickly went into hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until about 2005, he was assumed to have been in Afghanistan but no evidence of his presence was uncovered. In 2005, the intelligence agencies became aware that he was probably in hiding in Pakistan, originally thought in the caves near Waziristan region. Around 2009, intelligence was gathered that he might have lived much closer to the urban cities in Pakistan under the protection of the ISI.

On May 1, 2011, an elite SEAL team entered a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan about 30 miles form Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The SEAL team killed Osama Bin Laden and 2 of his sons and his daughter in law. His wife was shot in the leg but was sent to a hospital. He died like a dog that he was and I celebrate it.

People say that its wrong to celebrate the death of a person no matter who, hate the sin not the sinner kind of talk. I don't buy into that. People are defined by their actions and how they behave throughout their life, a violent and harmful person can be redeem if he acts in a way to redeem his actions, he still needs to take responsibility and the consequences of his actions but he can be redeem. Bin Laden did no such thing, he killed thousands of people because of his ideology, not a wrong that the US did to him but his ideology. He killed people in Islamic and Non-Islamic nations just to make his demented vision come to life. He didn't value any life even of his own followers, everything and everyone was merely a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Should he deserve a trial? Yes if there was a doubt that he didn't commit any of these acts, the legal process is there to ensure that no innocent people are wrongly convicted. Bin Laden confessed numerous times not just confessed but joyous professed his killing of innocents. He lost his humanity and in doing so he lost his right to argue for his life and for any legal system to acknowledge it. Serial Killers have neurological problems, they can't control themselves but Bin Laden didn't he was just a fanatic who willfully and callously discarded his sense of morality and ideas of humanity. His death and killing was actually the only just result, not life in jail nor trial, just death. He got it and hopefully he now resides in Jahannam or Hell, burning for all eternity and then soon. I celebrate his death and mourn the loss of innocent people that he left in his wake, an eye for an eye may make the world blind but to allow a disease like him to live would destroy the entire body.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Resurrection Day

So after nearly 2 years I am returning to blogging and as you can guess I probably have a lot to say and I'll get to it in due time. I'm sure all seven of you who are following me are ecstatic right now and looking forward to hearing my 2 pesos about things. Hopefully you won't become any dumber after reading my thoughts. I want to write about two unrelated things that crossed my mind today, one is the early history of Christianity and other is death of Sai Baba.

So today is a day of joy for some and day of sadness for others. It is Easter Sunday or also known as Resurrection Day, the day that Jesus Christ rose from the grave according to the Christian tradition. This is the most important day to all Christians, it is the crux of their faith and their theology. Christians are only Christians because they believe and accept that Jesus Christ rose from the grave, three days after he was crucified and died. It is the fundamental reason why they believe that Jesus is God. In the early first few centuries before 325 CE, there was a rather diverse sects of Christianity including ones that did not believe that the actual physical resurrection occurred such as Valentinus of the 2nd century CE. There were numerous branches and visions of Christ and Christianity in the first three centuries of the Common Era. The Nag Hammadi library or also known as the Gnostic Gospels give us a rather varied view of that time period. We know that there was not a singular consensus amongst Christians about the foundational elements of Christianity which today we accept as canon.

This stratification occurred in 325 CE in what is known as the First Council of Nicaea. It is during this council that the dates of Easter were set and decided upon, through disassociating it from the Jewish calender and passover. It was also in this council that the divinity of Jesus Christ was firmly established along with the beginning of fortification of the doctrines starting with the Creed of Nicaea which disavowed and branded as heresy the Arian school of Christianity which held that God the Father created God the Son aka Jesus aka Logos. Basically what the Council started was the beginning of filtering out of any other forms of Christianity. Constantine the Great, the Emperor, used the Council as a method to try and unify the religious power of both Christianity and Paganism under the Roman banner. In particular he wanted to see a unified church but didn't care for the doctrinal issues, which in his mind he wanted all of various groups of Christianity to live in harmony and peace under one unified church. Constantine eventually regretted giving into the views of the First Council of Nicaea because once they decided the doctrinal issues in that council they begin to oppress and persecute any views that opposed theirs especially the Arian views.

In 380 CE, under the Edict of Thessalonica, the Roman state and the Christianity of the Nicaean Council became the only religion allowed. It was the moment when the state and Christianity merged into one entity, this for all purposes is the founding and birth of the Catholic Church. Christianity as it became more and more streamlined became more intolerant towards views that disagreed with its canonized views. It is from this wellspring that nearly all of modern Christianity arises from, with the ideology that their vision of the truth is the only one and all other ideas cannot exist that stand in opposition to their views.

The happiness of the risen Christ is match in the sadness of the dead Sai Baba. Sai Baba, a self-proclaimed Avatara, passed away on April 24, 2011 the same day that Resurrection Day occurred. While this is nothing more than a random coincidence, it does strike a point that even gods die. I have no personal love for Sai Baba, while he may have done many good things in his life and social work, he also is a charlatan in my book. He claimed to be God and in order to support his contention he engaged in numerous cheap parlor tricks like conjuring up vibuthi or sacred ash from his hands or regurgitating up shiva lingams (symbols of shiva, just like the ones you can see in Indiana Jones and the temple of Doom). Its one thing to claim to be a guru or spiritual preceptor but entirely another thing to claim godhood. Its one thing if he really believed he was God but another thing to claim that and still do cheap magic tricks. The latter shows that he knew he was a con-man because if he really did believe in his divinity why would he engaged in magic tricks? It doesn't detracted from whatever good social work he did but it does take away from the type of person he was. He refused to perform his "miracles" under experimental conditions, which usually is an indication that something is amiss. Great Yogis and even tibetan monks will/have allowed themselves to be observed under experimental conditions performing their acts. Swami Rama, who himself was a controversial figure, allowed himself to be tested and the results were rather astounding with him able to control physical acts that are normally understood to be involuntary/automatic like entering different levels of consciousness through Yoga Nidra or the sleep of the yogis, which include slowing heart rate and changing the alpha waves of the brain.

Let me just leave you with this, while I do not have any love or really respect for Sai Baba despite the fact that many people I know worship him, I will say that at least he didn't impose a particular philosophy or view point on people. He did some good work in India but his claims at godhood in conjunction with magic tricks billed as miracles really put him in bad light. India is a land of god-men and I have no doubt another con-man will jump up to fill that void. I guess if their actions and foundations help people this is a fraud that can be marginally accepted. Finally, I think Christianity lost a lot of spiritualism first with the death of Jesus himself (assuming that he existed) and two with the death of plurality of early christian thought. The spiritualism in most modern christianity isn't spiritualism it is imposition of morality and social structure. The mysticism and the attempt at gnosis of the Gnostics and other early christians would have been a wonderful addition to modern Christianity and maybe it would have allowed it to become a faith that more closely aligned with the spiritual ideas that Christ put forth. Next time, I want to discuss the Tea Party movement. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Healthcare: Public Option, the Only Relevant Option

A government is only as good as it treats its citizens. By that standard, America sadly doesn't rank as high as most industrialized western nations. We lack one of the most important services to our citizens and that is universal affordable healthcare. In this post, I will focus on two key arguments for why it is an imperative for the United States of America to mandate a single payer system through the government. The three areas I will discuss are:
1) Nature of government
2) Morality

1) The nature of government and its role in society has changed throughout human history, as it must. All things in nature evolve and so should the government. For most of human history, healthcare was not something that was under the purview of the government and remained a privilege of educated and wealthy. The reason for that is quite simple, most of the population of the world was limited to small villages, towns or cities. If there was a doctor in any of these small communities, it was a local individual who had many a very minimal understanding of the human body. These doctors, well more often than not they were local people using shamanistic "healing", herbalism, homeopathy and other such "alternative" medicines. This method of medical care changed in the Western world around the time of the bubonic plague in which the accepted authority and "truths" of the previous systems was challenged and questioned.

The major breakthrough happened in the 1880's with the discovery of bacteria. Even in that time period, it was not the duty of the government to care for the physical health of its citizens. The accepted notion at that time was that medicine could not make huge changes in the probability of combating diseases, sicknesses and injuries. As bio-medical field grew, in no small part to inevitable acceptance of Darwin's discovery of natural selection, evolution and a common ancestry of all creatures, so did the the ability of the medicine to adequately deal with sickness in an efficient and strong probabilistic manner, it soon became an enormous industry growing day by day. Now, the advances of medicine have the ability to make it more probable that a person will live past 70 as opposed to 30.

These advances in medicine paralleled the necessary growth of the role of government. Originally government was a method to regulate human to human interaction. For purposes of this post, I am not dealing with the role of religion in government as religion's role in government makes the government become more of a "universal" entity with the ability to regulate all aspects of human life. The Enlightment Period of Europe also was the impetus for the eventual disassociation of religion and government, which this country was founded on. Until the late 19th century and early 20th century, government did not have deal with healthcare or the medical field as both were still minuscule industries, if at all. This is in the same vein as social security, anti-trust regulation and so on. Social Security came into existence when the nature of the work force changed, when the world become industrialized the focus became on efficiency and production.

When that focus changed, people were seen as gears or clogs in the economic vehicle, gears and clogs that could be replaced and should be replaced when and if they became too expensive, too inefficient and not able to perform properly. With that change and also the gains in the medical field, which suddenly changed the lifespan of humans from about 40-50 years to 50+ years, the imperative came to provide a way for the workers and citizens to survive in times of need and age. The impetus for this came with the Great Depression, when we discovered that without proper ways to survive, which the private industry would not/could not give as it was focused more on profit and institutional survival, it became a necessity for the government to do so because it became readily apparent that in order for the people to survive and work properly and with hope is to give them some sort of protection and eventual goal upon being too old to work, hence the birth of social security.

In that same rationale, the role of the government must now encompass health care because now the medical and healthcare fields are massive and affects every single human being in this country and planet. Much like equal protection is regulated by the government so that all people have equal opportunity despite their age, race, economic status, religion and so on, so should healthcare not be denied for the same reasons and particularly because of economic status. Now that is my very very brief argument and history of the role of the government and how it must now encompass healthcare.

2) Moral Reasons: Healthcare is now a moral necessity which fundamental is attached to the right to life, property and pursuit of happiness. Life cannot be fully lived and enjoyed without the ability to combat diseases and sicknesses. Any human being who cannot have adequate access to doctors, patient care and medicine cannot live any sort of life in full. Lack of affordable access to healthcare can destroy lives and families both in the immediate sense (the death of people) and in the long term (bills, expenses, bankruptcy). The immediate impact negates the right to life and the long term negates the right to property because people are asked to pay inhumane amounts of money to insurance companies to make sure that they have a right to life, a life worth living.

In America, it is not the extreme poor or wealthy that cannot afford medical insurance but it is the working middle class, who can barely make their day to day expenses let alone any medical dilemma or emergency. Approximately 50 million Americans cannot afford it, that is approximately 15% of the population and that number grows by 12,000 a day, which can equal about an additional 4.38 million people a year. The New England Medical Journal published that in 1999, the administrative costs of healthcare insurance companies across the country was approximately 300 billion dollars, about $1000 per person compared to $300 dollars a person in the public health system of Canada. Remember this is just administrative costs, not actual care.

Furthermore, the goal of private health insurance isn't to actually provide care but to make a profit, the companies are beholden to their shareholders. They do not have any oversight and can charge whatever they wish. The public option is focused on helping people not profit. Healthcare like public utilities cannot be private as it is necessary for people to have in this day and age so that they can survive and be contributing members of society, it cannot be profit driven, it must be service driven. Profit in the health care industry creates a clear conflict of interest and this also goes for the pharmaceutical industry, but that is another post for another day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

God and Evil

Sorry for the delay in postings but life got busy, hopefully back on track now for one or two posts a month. This past week I was hanging out with my cousin Krishna and a few other people and as usual we engage in conversations about religion, God and problems of evil. My mind has been reflecting on these topics for quite a while and so I decided to post on it. As many critical thinkers of religion and Atheism, my cousin brings up the ancient problem of Theodicy, the Problem of God. Well literally it is Theos (God) Dike (justice), the justice of God. Basically the problem is summed up as thus, if there is a God then why is there suffering and evil in the world. The argument is that how can a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, just and benevolent Deity exist if there is a world full of suffering, pain and evil. How does one explain that an infant is born with disorders, diseases and such if they haven't done anything wrong? How can one justify a God when we have genocide and heinous evils like Rwanda, world hunger, infanticide and so on? How can God/gods allow this?

Now, to adequetely deal with this age old issue, one must set certain perimeters in which to allow the discussion to flow. First is what is the Nature of God? What qualities does God/gods possess? What is the nature of the world in regards to good, evil and God? One can spend an entire corpus of writings to deal with this topic but I will focus on three frameworks, the view of God and nature via Christian belief system and the view of God and Nature within the Hindu and Buddhist system.

Accounting for the various strands of Christianity, I will narrow my focus on to the generally accepted ideas amongst the branches of Christianity in regards to God, evil and the world. In the Christian conception of God, God is omnipotent, omniscient, all benevolent, all good and just. He is the God of justice and fairness. In this framework, the individual soul is only born once and joined with a body, at which point it is endowed with absolute free-will, which is a gift from God. Since God is all good, he cannot be the source of evil. God is omniscient so he clearly knows about every instance and moment of suffering and evil. God is also omnipotent so he must necessarily have the power to change it. God is also all-benevolent, meaning He wants the best for all beings and wants to ensure all beings are happy so He has the will or intent to do so. In the words of David Hume, "Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"

Hume poses the right questions and the right forum for discussion. If God is truly omniscient then he knows all things at all times at all places. He knows evil and injustice even before it happens in our frame of time. Knowing all that and assuming he is omnipotent, meaning he can change all things, it is straightforward that he can prevent evil even before it occurs. Now, one can say that he might not wish to change things and is a passive God without the will to make things good and just. If that is the case then the discussion ends there, God is all powerful and knowing but cares not change things for whatever reason. He is then not benevolent, which would make him no different than the Devil. One may say that evil then is the product of man and cannot be imputed upon God but then the premise of the Christian world view that we only have one life and God put us here for a reason fundamental implies that God then capriously allows certain beings to experience more evil and injustice than others. If that is the case then God is the God of at least some evil as he puts beings into existence for the sole reason to allow evil to happen. Babies born with AIDS or Cancer are born so because of their genetics or other factors which are beyond the control of humans, i.e. remain the realm of Nature, the power of God. Some will argue that such things should not be asked as we can never know the Mind of God and God has a greater plan for us all. That still avoids the fundamental question, evil exists because God allows it to and if he allows it to then being the All-powerful and all-knowing God he is responsible for it and because he allows babies and other such beings to experience pain, suffering and evil for no reason implies he is unjust, so that cannot be it.

If God is just, omnipotent and omniscient then where is evil? Theoritically speaking at this point it should not. Adding to this God's benevolence further eliminates the probability of evil existing yet it still does. Therefore, such a God in such a world view cannot survive the test of either reality or non-contradiction. Now this is a very rudimentary discussion, there are numerous rationales put forth but for this blog it is beyond the scope. Essentially, either the Christian view of God or the Christian view of reality, one life and one chance at redemption is wrong. Now there is an another way to deal with this quagmire and that is one of the eastern conceptions.

The Hindu/Buddhist basic conception of reality is that we are not created by any Deity or Deities but have always existed and will always exist (Buddhism and some forms of Hinduism posit that nothing truly exists and all things are illusion especially the idea of individuality, but that is a different discussion and even assuming that view is correct it would not change anything at the phenomenal level). All beings exist in a cycle known as samsara, a cycle of birth, death and rebirth. They exist in this cycle since before our conceptions of time and will always continue to do so unless they break the cycle. Good and Evil only have relevance while we remain in samsara, hence they only should be discussed in that context. We are born and reborn based on our own intentions and actions, EVERY single thing we do and think has consequence. The idea is that beings experience evil or good in their lives because of something they have done before, that is known as the law of Karma. We may not have recollection of the wrongs or rights we have committed in the past but we do suffer those consequences. A baby is born with some disease or problem not because God wills it to be thus but because of something that it has done in a previous life. One may disagree with my premise that rebirth is a reality and that is a rational disagreement since it is not a proven reality but if one is interested in the rational basis for such a belief from an empirical perspective then read Dr. Ian Stevenson and his case study on 20 cases for reincarnation. I would take it one step further and state if a omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent and just God exists then rebirth must also be a reality. For only rebirth allows for each and everyone of those above qualities of God to exist without contradiction.

Rebirth highlights two of the most difficult questions that I posed above in the section on Christian vision of God. Rebirth is a reality if God is just and benevolent because it solves both of those problems without contradiction. The Law of Karma adequately answers the dilemma of a just God because the system of Karma is absolutely impartial and only doles out just consequences over the course of one's timeless existence. Evil isn't created or by God in this case it is entirely a product of our actions. This flows right into the next point, the benevolence of God. The idea of rebirth allows infinite lifetimes of opportunities for individuals to break free from samsara more accurately put it is an infinite number of chances for beings to discover that they are really not bound to samsara and it is only all merely a dream based on our attachments to the universe. It can be said that God is infact belligerent because no one knows what wrong they did previously to incur the troubles, evils and injustice we experience currently. Only God knows the previous lives and basis for our problems today but we don't, he is a sadistic voyeur. This misses the point, here is an analogy assume a man murders someone but in the process of killing that person he loses his memory. Does his lack of knowledge of his prior acts excuse those acts? Should he still not be held liable for his actions? Should he not suffer or repay those actions? I believe the answer is yes, similarly that is the same situation with rebirth. We are merely not cognizant of our prior actions but still responsible for them. The Omnipotent and Omniscient God exists as that law of Karma and rebirth, in and through God do those laws issue out and operate. It is also a testament to God's benevolence and justice that the individual is not only given one chance to discover the path out of samsare and bonded existence. As Krishna says in the Gita, he is impartial to everyone and no one is more dearer or distant to him than anyother. Now, the Buddhist view is only slightly different in that there is no ultimate God who is beyond all of this but the law of Karma and rebirth are merely just law of nature/existence just like gravity and so on, a God is not required. The goal of existence is the annilation or nirodha or non-movement i.e. cessation of all phenomenal existence. It is called nirvana or the blowing out of all attachments. Now, various schools of Buddhism have different views of Buddha as either just the most important being to have discovered this reality or Buddha as the equivalent of the Hindu vision of God or Brahman.

Now, in Hinduism God truly encompasses and is beyond such conceptions. Good and Evil exist within Him/Her but is not bound by them. The Hindu Conception of God is a Deity is all things and in all things. Good and Evil come from God insofar as they are mechanisms and relevant only through rebirth and Karma. Even more, the only actor and action is God, all beings are ultimately only machinations of God to express his infinitude. Good and Evil are only relevant as long as one is tied to this existence, just as the actions and morality that we experience in this life are only relevant here and not in our dreams and vice versa. Now my cousin says that this view of God is merely the equivalent of the Force and ultimately is the same as saying that God is nothing because if God is everything then God is nothing also because nothing is there to differentiate him from other things. In part he is correct, the Upanishads (Kena) make a key point in reference to God:
"That which cannot be apprehended by the mind, but by which, they say, the mind is apprehended,That alone know as Brahman and not that which people here worship"

The God of the Upanishads is the Sum Bonum of all and it is for this reason God is referred to as "Satyam Jnanam Anandam Brahma" or Reality, Consciousness and Bliss is Brahman (God). All that can be ascribed to our existence and reality is but a portion of reality of that Being it is also why they say that all the known universes are but a portion of Him and he exists beyond it all. Sorry about the long post but just some food for thought.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2: The Yoga of Discernment (Samkhya) (Part 1)

Krishna observing the actions and decision of Arjuna looks at him and in compassionate words first appeals to Arjuna's sense of courage and honor telling him that it does not become him to run away from battle and from one who is of strong determination. At this point, Krishna has not yet accepted Arjuna as a disciple but only as a cousin and friend. Arjuna's compassion and his despondency at the prospective of having to kill his family continues to weight heavily on him. He tells Krishna, "It is better to beg for a living than kill these men such as Drona and Bhishma, who are my superiors and great souls." Then he makes a very very real point, "if we kill them than everything we gain will be tainted with blood." Arjuna does not lose the sense of phyrric victory here, all violence and all gains from violence will fundamentally be tainted with the pain and blood of others. Arjuna says at this point that he is utterly confused as to what his Dharma (duty) is and what actions of his are being dictated by desire and his grief at having to fight. Arjuna tells Krishna, please show me the way and take me as your disciple and counsel me. He looks at Krishna and says to him "Govinda, I shall not fight." (Govinda being another ephitet for Krishna, he who is friend of the cows)

Now is when Krishna finally speaks in his full capacity. This verse is amazing poignant even though many people gloss over it. Here, standing in the midst of this world war while Arjuna is breaking down in front of him and all others, then Arjuna resolving not to fight, Krishna merely smiles or smirks. It is the smirk of a being who sees the situation as it is, the world's greatest archer Arjuna is now cowering in the battlefield like a child refusing to fight. He smiles, as he conveys all that he needs to convey in that smirk. He smiles because he knew this was going to happen, he would not fight this war with his hands or weapons but using his knowledge and wisdom. For Krishna, this was his war, to reignite Arjuna's knowledge and ability to discern reality and dharma from the trappings of fear and ignorance. He wasn't fighting men but the shackles of the human condition and he knew he would break them so that we can transcend the limitations of our own existence and enter into the bliss of knowledge and truly see the nature of the world.

With that smile, Krishna launches into his song, his Gita. Looking down upon Arjuna, Krishna says, "You seem to speak such wise words Arjuna but you are lamenting for what is not worth lamenting over. The wise do not grieve for the living nor the dead. There was never a time you did not exist, neither these kings nor me. Nor is there a future when we will cease to be." Krishna here begins to give Arjuna a brief lesson on what really constitutes the "I" and its nature. It is consciousness which is what we truly are, nothing more or less. The body, the mind and all that is connected with that are transient. The emotions we experience are like seasons to the planet, they exist but for a moment then pass on. As they are by nature fleeting, one is to weather them and remain steady through their emotions. The body is like clothing for the consciousness, it is worn then discarded when time comes with a new body then taken.

Krishna asks Arjuna to look past the phenomenal world, the world that appears and into the world that is ever eternal, which is the substratum for the world of sensory perception. For those who are born death is certain and so is life certain for the dead, it is the way of nature, why should you grieve for the inevitable. Krishna makes a key point about the nature of duty (dharma) and ones action. One must discharge their duty, for a warrior/prince like Arjuna, whose duty is to always fight for righteousness, law and justice, this war is his calling. As I briefly touched upon in my post Background of the Gita, the Pandavas have been harassed and continually assaulted and viciously attacked by the Kauravas. As long as they lived they would be under constant threat of death. Even a request to govern 5 villages was refused. Krishna's point is it is your duty, no one else's to fight for your rights and principles, if you get stuck with the ephemeral emotions and attachments then justice/dharma will never be served. Once you determine a course of action and see justice falter, you cannot hesitate to do your duty. In fact, he even says its a sin to shy from your duty. A teacher who doesn't teach is sinning, a doctor who doesn't help people is sinning and so on.

Krishna does something quite peculiar at this point, he undermines the very nominal understanding of the scriptures, the Vedas. He says that the Vedas, only deal with the tripartite nature of reality sense gratification, selfishness and knowledge. "All purposes of a small well can be served by a large body of water, so all purposes of the Vedas can be served by those who understand its nature and limits." Krishna tells Arjuna to transcend the bounds of the letters of the Vedas and religion and to rise beyond them and all duality. Here Krishna makes one of the most iconic and fundamentally poignant statements, "You are only entitled to the action/duty that you are beholden to, never to the fruits of that action. You are not the cause of the result of your actions and never be attached to avoidance of your duty. Acting without attachment to success or failure and equipoised in those results, that is what is yoga."

This is called Nishkama Karma, or desireless action. It is the crux of all Hindu spirituality and social action. As conscious beings, we are required to act but we shirk from those duties and actions that are necessary because we are too attached to the outcome, good or bad, success or failure. All desire bind whether the desire is good or bad, so does all attachment to fruits of that action. Krishna's point is act because you have to act not because the success or failure of that action. Do the right thing because it must be done not because good is going to come from it. A doctor's duty is help people in times of physical ailment or deterioration. Whether or not they can actually save the person isn't fully in their power, so the end goal isn't something in their control so why make that the focus of your action. All consequences of any action are dependent on infinite number of factors, one of which is the action of the individual but it is not the sole or overriding factor but it is an important. It is better to act out of duty, which is the only thing that one can control then not act and let things pass by. Krishna is asking Arjuna and us to see ourselves as clogs in the universal machine, an important one but nonetheless one of infinite clogs. The universal machine cannot continue to proceed properly without our actions but it can function without our desires or attachments to the fruits. Now, I will address the rest of Chapter 2 in a subsequent post. Comments?