The Protectors of God

Religion, the Oxford dictionary defines as “belief in a superhuman controlling power especially in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship”. In Hinduism, the oldest religion of the world, it is said that ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘ means the whole world is one single family. The concept has clearly been depicted as “ayam bandhurayam neti ganana laghuchetasam udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam” in the Maha Upanishad (Chapter 6, Verse 72) that means Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family and is considered an integral part of the Hindu Philosophy. So, the question is today how many of us have the same ideology about the world? The recent unethical violence over the Islam movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’ has tormented several anguished questions that how can we bring a balance among different faiths in today’s hyper techno-science world? Should we take the help of science to bring peace among the divinities?or, Can the technology be of help to contribute to the balance of religious differences? And how can we ultimately assemble a path of harmonious arrangement and a legitimate secular mechanism in this diverse unsecularize world? These are definitely debatable questions on religions and conflicts that needs to be resolved in order to sustain spiritual peace and morality.

 Religion is as old as the human existence. Both Christianity and Hinduism teach that man and woman are made in God’s image. It is quite true that God is the most interesting idea of human beings and man is the only animal who worships, believes and spiritualizes God the way he believes. Man has been worshiping God in different ways, following his superiors, and this faith concept has been transformed with time and age. If we take a look at the different religions on the concept of God, every religion claims “God is one and he is great”, whether it is Allah in Islam or Vishnu in Hinduism or Jesus in Christianity, all regions give a message to man to follow the right path and righteousness. Dr. Zakir Abdul Karim Naik has compared various religions about God in ‘the concept of God in the major religions’. There is much similarity in the concept of God in both Hinduism and Islam: In Hinduism “Ekam evaditiyam” means “he is only one without a second” (Chandogya Upanishad 6:2:1), and in Islam “And there is none like unto him” (Holy Quran, 112:4). Furthermore, Hinduism says “Dev maha osi”, means “God is verily great” (Atharvaveda 20 58:3) and in Islam, “he is the great, the most high” (The Holy Quran 13:9). Similarly, Sikhism describes God as “There exists but one God, who is called the true the creator, free from fear and hate, immortal not begotten, self-existant, Great and compassionate” (Sri Guru Sahib Volume1, Verse I), whereas Judaism says, “Hear, O Israel: The lord our God is one God” (The Bible, Deut 6:4). In the whole Bible, Jesus never proclaimed himself God but as the son of God “My father is greater than I” (John 14:28), and “My father is greater than all” (John 10:29), and Islam gives a clear concise concept of God in four verses of Surah Ikhlas, chapter 112 of the Holy Quran: “Say: He is Allah, the one and only. Allah, the Eternal, Absolute. He begets not, nor is he begotten. And there is none like unto him” (The Holy Quran 112:1-4). And Hinduism says “He is One and only One, Sustains entire universe, Omnipresent, Formless (Omnivorous), All-Powerful (Almighty, Omnipotent), Perfect, Omniscient, Unborn, Eternal and supports us always. He alone should be worshiped”(Yajurveda 40.8). Whereas, in Rigveda, one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism, says “Ishwar alone provides true knowledge to truth seekers. He alone is promoter of knowledge and motivates virtuous people into noble actions to seek bliss. He alone is the creator and manager of the world. Hence never worship anyone else except one and only Ishwar” (Rigveda 10.49.1). Edwin H. Bryant (2003) in his book Krishna: the beautiful legend of God; Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa describes Ishwar, the Sanskrit word for God, as “a being with extraordinary powers”, and the ISKCON in ‘in the heart of Hinduismdefines the meaning of Ishwar as ‘controller’. Also, we should not be confused that Allah is an Arabic word which means God, Muslim prefers to call Allah instead of God. So, all religious faiths are ideologically important to their respective followers.

No religion says to engage in wrong paths, violence, unethical means and conflicts. But, It is sober that a few anti-religious people may create havoc among different faiths which causes conflicts, riots and religious contamination following the denigration of their religious idealism. When we come to the stage of divinity and religious faith, we have to consider all religions equally and there should not be a place of hatredness whether it is Islam, Chrstianity, Jewish, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Bahai Faith etc. Respecting other religious faiths, Jesus said “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold…” (John 10:16). Furthermore, S. Radhakrishnan in the ‘Conflicts of Religions: the Hindu attitude (1926)’ mentioned that the edicts of Ashoka’s rocks respects all religious harmony – “The King, beloved of the Gods, honors every form of religious faith, but considers no gift or honor so much as the increase of the substance of religion; whereof this is the root, to reverence one’s own faith and never to revile that of others.Whoever acts differently injures his own religion whi1e he wrongs another’s”. The ongoing religious battle between Islam and Christianity, the two largest religions of the world which accounted 54% followers of the total population, is a critical concerned for the world.

The modern monotheism has profoundly been contributing and developing interfaith fear and hostility and is emphasizing on the negative side of religion; what Eric Brahm (2005) mentioned about the serious of religious conflicts in ‘Religion and Conflict’ that the Human society has been witnessing, whether it is Myanmar and Burma: Budhhists vs Christians 1948, or Israel and Palestine: jews vs Arabs, Muslisms vs Christians 1968, or Northen Ireland 1969 Catholic vs Protestants, or Iraq 1991 Sunnittes vs Shiites, and Egypt 1977 Muslims vs. Central government (Muslim) Muslims vs. Coptic Christians, and India (Uthar- Pradesh) 1992 Hindus vs. Muslims, these religious conflicts have caused various violences, chaos and humongous societal devastation – structural, cultural, high intensity and low intensity . The religious extremism that contributes to conflict escalation often forms illiberal nationalism which leads to intolerance and discrimination and these conflicts are often of asymmetric order.

The Human history has been witnessing the series of conflicts among polytheism, monotheism and agnosticism. With the multi-spiritualism, man is becoming a victim of superstitions developing personal Gods. To realize God, Man has created Gods of religions and even ‘personal God’ what Karen Armstrong says “dangerous”. Man likes to see God everywhere, at home or in the church, mosque, temple or gurudwar, his curiosity to know God has never been exhausting. Whether it is home God, temple God, man is still confused that God is one and he likes to call him in different names. Karen Armstrong in her book “A History of God” mentioned “Yet a personal God can become a grave liability. He can be a mere idol carved in our own image, a projection of our limited needs, fears and desires” and she further added that “strange as it may seem, the idea of ‘God’, like the other great religious insights of the period, developed in a market economy in a spirit of aggressive capitalism”. What is the reality of God when a Hindu believes everything as God – sky, air, tree, water, book, rice etc. The God of things has become a complex ambiance.

Religious dogmatism creates belligerent righteousness which marginalizes God and becomes the roots of organized religion and conflict. The concept of freedom of expression is being misused and both religious fundamentalists and atheists come into clashes. There is an ongoing debate on the existence of God between theists and atheists. Be it the Darwin or Einstein or the British physicist Hawkins, they never let God as a power and creator of the universe but has developed their own theories of the origins of the universe which are yet to be proved. Atheist author Christopher Hitchens’s ‘God is not great’ contends that organized religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, and bigotry, and in The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion. Religion is not what a person or a group of persons thinking about, because a cult is often based ecstasy and moral exemplars. So, hipsters always get a flak from devout and religion needs freedom the science. Above all, free expression should not act as blasphemy and heresy.

The Modern monotheism lacks the respect of other faiths which is exacerbating polarization. Whether it is Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ or Sam Bacile’s movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’, they come along as an intense attack on religious bigotry. The modern world that is bestowed with different history and culture urges for the Ecumenism. Religious peace is very essential for the development of this world, be it science or technology, religion or philosophy, religious harmonization becomes inevitable. Today, man has created many Gods and becomes the protector of the Gods. Science that often conflicts with religion may not be helpful in religious harmonization but people, government and religious leaders have to unify against all the demigods. Today the world needs spiritual awakeness and religious consciousness among different faiths. And we still need to realize Dr. Radhakrisnan’s lecture that “To despise the other people’s gods is to despise them, for they and their gods are adapted to each other” which can definitely bring spiritual peace and prosperity in the world. 

Picture credit: http://www.kauaicarverstore.com/ku-kealoha-protector-of-god-the-love/

Cultural Innovation shapes our ages

Culture seems a pretty complex word, and it is hard to define the difference between culture and civilization. Culture may be a group of people under a roof with similar thinking and interest and no heterogeneous dimensions in their activities.  We, human being, cannot ignore that culture plays a driving force in reformation of society, taste, modernity and age. It’s culture that shapes both our present and future. Culture as defined by Velkley in his book Being after Rousseau:

The “term “culture,” which originally meant the cultivation of the soul or mind, acquires most of its later modern meanings in the writings of the eighteenth-century German thinkers, who on various levels developing Rousseau’s criticism of modern liberalism and Enlightenment. Thus a contrast between “culture” and “civilization” is usually implied in these authors, even when not expressed as such. Two primary meanings of culture emerge from this period: culture as the folk-spirit having a unique identity, and culture as cultivation of inwardness or free individuality. The first meaning is predominant in our current use of the term “culture,” although the second still plays a large role in what we think culture should achieve, namely the full “expression” of the unique of “authentic” self.

It is no doubt that man’s inherent instinct to see new, feel new and perceive new is cultural innovation. Man always motivates to innovate to do something different and better and culture has been a force that has continuously been modifying man’s vision, dream and imagination, be it be Aeroplane or Atom Bomb or space mission.

Luecke and Katz (2003) defines Innovation :

“[Innovation] is generally understood as the successful introduction of a better thing or method. [It] is the embodiment, combination, or synthesis of knowledge in original, relevant, valued new products, processes, or services.”

We think about cultural innovation, back to our ancient ages, human civilizations with it’s continuous struggles to do better for both it’s current and next generation has culturally been driven to innovate what it wants to see. So, continuous cultural innovation and accumulation of these innovation processes and practices is where we are today.

In the beginning of the human life, humans were living in the jungle without clothes, cultures and civilizations. Man learned to live a better life and the idea of using stone tools that could generate fire and then thought about how the stone tools could be used to get sustainable and security life that has been triggered the change we see today. So, cultural change that comes from culture innovation results from society’s cultural invention of new finding that can be beneficial or useful and can increase the productive capabilities both physically and emotionally.

Cultures that are both internally and externally affected by many factors such as imagination, vision, encouragement, emotional sentiments, various restrictions from the human minds or outsiders be it nature or other creatures that belong to social structures and natural events undoubtedly define the cultural ideas and practices. So, these practices have given birth to social invention and conflicts which helps dynamically and sustainably new cultural models and develops technology and methods to understand these changes which in turn drives cultural innovation as a cycle that changes our ages.

Picture credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indig2.jpg

Social Capital

Social Capital has become an engaging factor and we all are serious to build up social capital. Many people are wondering about this unique scientific term. Social capital does not have a clear, undisputed meaning, for substantive and ideological reasons (Dolfsma and Dannreuther 2003; Foley and Edwards 1997).

Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ( Greek Philosopher Aristotle  384 – 322 BC)

Social capital is about the value of social networks, bonding similar people and bridging between diverse people, with norms of reciprocity (Dekker and Uslaner 2001; Uslaner 2001).

Social capital means a network of relationships between individuals and various entities. John Field’s (2003: 1-2) social capital theory emphasizes on ‘relationships matter’. Dekker and Uslaner (2001) wrote that social capital is fundamentally about how people interact with each other. So, how can we define the term social capital? The World Bank defines:

‘Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions… Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together’ (The World Bank 1999).

According to Robet Putman, the social capital guru:

Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to the properties of individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. In that sense social capital is closely related to what some have called “civic virtue.” The difference is that “social capital” calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a sense network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital’ (Putnam 2000: 19).

So, Social capital is all about a relationship between individuals, entities and other social norms. It is very unique that it focuses on trusting relationship that add values, opportunities and possibilities which helps in promoting a quality life. It depicts about cultivating cultures, engagement, equality, trust, tolerance and solidarity.

Social capital is, in my view, an engaging experience of relationship of networks. It is all about how we are related to each other. We are considering three important factors – individual interest, shared interest and common interest. So, when these three interests mutually are engaged that provide an incentive in building social capital. With good quality of social capital, we can better deal with a ‘wasted opportunity’. The quality of our existence comes from the quality of social capital.

Social capital provides incentives to globalization, knowledge spillover, community development and human progress. When a society is unable to meet growth, it means, it is facing a huge deficit of social capital. Today’s non-profit organizations are undoubtedly helping the society creating social capital but the government and international bodies should provide appropriate platform to build social capital in order to face the future challenges.

Obama and American Leadership

The recent Libya crisis has brought tremendous dramatic changes in Obama’s new geopolitical landscape. Though president Obama is an enthusiastic advocate of Washington’s superpower, but  he is struggling hard to stabilize his domestic policy in order to restore his lost popularity for a second term. The history is quite familiar why Washington does not wait on London, Moscow and Beijing  to do its business. The recent leadership roles of Paris and London have shown that Europe  is ready to take a bigger role and responsibility and can focus effectively on international military to replace the American leadership.

Mr. Obama though always wants the oval office to play lead role and to renew its relinquishing global geopolitics, but his recent speech on reassignment of leadership surprised many both at home and abroad. Mr. Obama at the state department day speech in January 2009 added that:

“Let there be no doubt about America’s commitment to lead. We can no longer afford drift, and we can no longer afford delay, nor can we cede ground to those who seek destruction. A new era of American leadership is at hand, and the hard work has just begun.”

He recently said on Libya crisis:

“American leadership is essential”.

“Our goal is focused, our cause is just”, he further added.

It is no doubt that the US remains the world’s indispensable power after the cold war of 45 years  prolonged protracted conflict and constant tension with Russia. The world policy makers agree that Pentagon is making continuous efforts to shape the global military and defense but the recent speech of Obama has questioned many why the US is relinquishing to take the lead role. Mr. Obama has already told the world leaders at U. N. General Assembly in 2009 –

“Those who “used to chastise America for acting alone in the world” it is time for a true “global response to global challenges,” including climate change, terrorism, endless conflicts and poverty.”

The Washington is now wishing allies to share responsibilities and help to solve the world problems with cooperation and shared leadership. Mr. Obama further added –

“We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility.”

The Libyan venture certainly provides a solid platform to calculate the financial price of leadership and political cost of consequence.  Though the analysts are expressing the leadership role a mere political motivation and blaming Obama not to act effectively, on the other hand, Mr. Serkozy’s dramatic venture on Paris’s international leadership role has been seen as a mere self-promotion ahead of  French presidential election. London’s role on Libya clearly focuses on why Mr. Cameroon is insisting a ‘no-fly zone’ and Mr. Prime Minister recently told the House of Commons that the alliance had a “tried and tested machinery” for running such a complex multi-national mission. The Arab world’s active involvement on international alliance for the first time, has raised many unanswered questions on american leadership.

The political pundits and the policy analysts are describing Mr. Obama as the weakest US leader ever and a dither. Though his national security advisors are continuously advising him, but the white house is facing a serious debate on its role on Libya crisis. The Obama doctrine has failed to give a clear and concise view to the conservative Americans. Is American leadership going to be collapsed? Will Pentagon lead the international defense? Will Moscow and Beijing replace  the US global policy or the talkative Europe will act to lead and shape international military order? These questions remain now unanswerable.

Picture courtesy: scrapetv.com

Economy and US Election

Obama said US voters ‘frustrated’ and taking all faults as his responsibility admitted “I’ve got to take direct responsibility for the fact that we have not made as much progress as we needed to make”.  Today, Americans fear for the future. The stagnated economy forced them to change their minds. They become well cautious not to listen the so called sweet speech ‘Yes, We Can’.  Mr. Obama, an ardent advocate of ‘we believe in change’ is not able to bring a real change within American people.

Obama further said “Some election nights are more fun than others. Some are exhilarating, some are humbling, but every election, no matter who wins or who loses, is a reminder that power rests not in those who are elected to office but in those we choose to serve,.”

Anti-Secularism in Practice

The private observance of religious minorities is at stake when it comes to the anti-secularism in practice. It could be denied but true that the whole world is in against ‘freedom of religion and faith’ as the anti-secularist approach has got a solid embodiment even in a ‘constitutionally secularism’ country like India. Secularist measure in India is very negligible and argumentatively, it can be called a ‘political fierce’. India has bitterly witnessed several anti-secular violences such as, 1984 anti-Sikhs riot, 1992 demolition of babri masque, 1992 Mumbai anti-ethnic riot, 2002 Gujarat Godhra riot, 2002 Vadodara Best Bakery case, 2008 Orissa Kandhamal anti-Christians riot, and various continuous anti-social activities in the name of Jihad by the Muslims minorities are no way alleviating India to be a more secularism country. In one word, we can say the philosophical system of faith and belief has completely been vanished, for which the common man is paying a heavy price.

Though Muslims number one billion and almost 48 countries with a full or near Muslim majority, has yet to evolve a stable, democratic political system. The Muslim countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq are in severe tense as they are building foundations and provide platforms to the promiscuous youths to train their brains in the path of anti-social movements. The countries are dying at each moment and are victim of terrorism of anti-socialist groups like Taliban, Al-Qaeda etc.

If we look at European and western culture, it is predominately ‘spiritual famine’. Another aspect of the western world the basic concerns all fundamentalists is the loss of belief on the value system. The self satisfied remarks of religious fundamentalists are confusing both believers and non-believers to stand on which-way. The Islamic fundamentalist Muhammad Qutb, who said “The only religion on earth that includes and satisfies all these requirements is Islam” is severally fostering an anti-slogan against the rest of religions and believers of other faiths which in no way approaches secularism. France being a ‘secularism’ country with its ideology ‘Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood’ has born a new atheistical platform and is fairly supporting anti-secularism whether it is Franco-Algerian War of 1954-1962, ban on burqa, anti-Arab animadverting.Each Western European government shall have to take extreme measure in terms of secularism. “Britain is confounded with its native born Muslim terrorists, while Holland is too worried with its anti-immigration Party and political stabbings, Germany is quite unhappy with its disenfranchised Turkish millions, while Spain is not favoring boisterous train bombings and its minor Muslims, Italy is out of control with its unruly, chaos and uncurbed immigrations, and France and Belgium are struggling to curb their immigrant ghettos” (words quoted from France: The failure of western secularism). The whole Europe has to decide which policies are to be imposed to maintain peace and prosperity’.

In Australia, we can find intense anti-secularism against Indians, Muslims minority and other ethnic minorities. The 1969 fire to al-Aqsa mosque, causing extensive damage and several Indians death can surely cue the world the question of secularism exists. Today, America is more cautious to prevent anti-humanities conflicts and is making every effort not to experience a 9/11 incident and to maintain law and order in its regions. Though Barack Obama is precisely supporting secularism, in his words, “No one has ever said that believers should leave their religion at the door before entering the public square.” Anyway, America and the Americans should realize the differentiation of ‘personal morality’ and in stead of tearing ‘war on terrorism’ should favor secularism at large.

The secularist irresponsibility, due to some finger counted elites, religion will not go anywhere, it is coming back to haunt us for the past and present contempt. Terrorist like Bin Laden have no answer and can offer no alternative. Our collective survival lies in recognising that neither religion nor nationalism is the solution. But we have only choice; the path of ‘secular humanism- the practice of secularism’. Whether it is Allah or the Qur’an, Jesus Christ or the Bible, Lord Krishna or the Gita, we should naturalise the mutual religious respect and work on honest secularism practice.

Picture Courtesy: amreekandesi.com

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