Sikhism: The Fifth Largest Religion in the World

Sikhism symbol

Sikhism: A Tradition Striving for Unity and Truth

Sikhism guru_nanak
Guru Nanak

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world(one of the fastest growing, too) and originated in Northern India in 1469. Sikhis (meaning disciple or learner) are monotheistic, believe in the unity and equality of all mankind, engage in selfless service, and strive for the prosperity of all life. There are over 25 millions Sikhis in the world.

Sikhism originated in a guru tradition in 1469; Guru Nanak was the first to establish what because a religious tradition over the course of centuries. Ten gurus followed in Guru Nanak’s footsteps and after the death of the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru Granth Sahib became the literal embodiment of the eternal, impersonal guru and serves as a guide for Sikhi’s.

The Ten Sikhi Gurus (each represents a divine attribute) are:

  1. Guru Nanak – Humility
  2. Guru Angad – Obedience
  3. Guru Amar Das – Equality
  4. Guru Ram Das – Service
  5. Guru Arjan – Self-sacrifice
  6. Guru Hargobind – Justice
  7. Guru Har Rai – Mercy
  8. Guru Harkrishan – Purity
  9. Guru Tegh Bahadur – Tranquility
  10. Guru Gobind Singh – Royal Courage

A couple of the Sikhi gurus are also Bhakti saints giving Hinduism an interesting relationship with the origins of the Sikh religion. The goal of the Sikhi is unison with the divine and they believe that no one tradition has a monopoly on the divine and emphasizes the “five thieves” of god’s presence: lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit.

The Origins of Sikhism

Sikhism was created in the Punjab region, which is between India and Pakistan. In the time of the first Guru, Guru Nanak, there were two competing religions of the Muslims and Hindus. Legend says Nanak went into a river at 28, proclaimed there is no Hindu or Muslim, only god and that he continued to bring Sikhism into the world.

The 5th Guru, Arjan was a scholar and helped to build the Sikh religion by creating the first scripture. However, he was seen as a threat by the state and executed for his faith in 1606.

The 6th Guru, Hargobind eventually moved to militarize the community and the Sikhs learned to fight to preserve their faith. They became relatively peaceful until Tegh Bahadur, the 9th guru, was executed in 1675 by Aurangzeb, the Moghal Emperor. The Moghal Empire consolidated Islam in South Asia, and spread Muslim (and particularly Persian) arts and culture as well as the faith.

The 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, created the Khalsa as a military group so that they could forever defend their faith.

The Sikhs continued to rebel against Muslim oppression and eventually became a state of their own. But then they were defeated by the British. Then they became peaceful for a while, until 1919 when there was a massacre of over 400 dead and 1,000 wounded by British soldiers who fired on a crowd of protesters. A few historians signify this event as the beginning of the decline of the British Empire in India.

The Sikhi god: Ik Onkar

Ik Onkar is the Sikhi word for god and means ‘all pervading spirit’. This spirit has no gender, is beyond time and space, is without form, beyond the comprehension of humans, but not completely unknowable. The spirit is visible sikhism_ik_onkareverywhere to the spiritually awakened through the heart or “inner eye”. The religion prescribes meditation to allow for communication between god and man.

The Opening Line of the Mool Mantar:

“There is but one all-pervading spirit, and truth is its name! It exists in all creation; it does not fear; it does not hate; it is timeless and universal and self-existent, you will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning!”

The ultimate goal of a Sikh is to be completely united with god. They achieve this state of liberation (mukti) by focusing on god rather than themselves.

Maya: the Worldly Illusion

Maya is a spiritual concept that has evolved over time and crosses over nearly every eastern religion in one way or another. Literally, Maya means delusion, extraordinary illusions of power, the veil of perception, magic, and “unreality”.

These worldly illusions are viewed as a direct opponent of realizing god in this lifetime (the goal of the Sikh is to realize god). It is believed that the object of Maya, or object of the senses, lust, desire, attachment, ego, greed, and anger which are known as the 5 thieves and are believed to take away from the individual’s relationship with god by distracting and hurting the individual.

Once god is fully realized, the individual is considered jivanmukta and liberated in this lifetime, which is a belief also shared in Hinduism. After this liberation, the individual is ceaselessly united with Brahman (the supreme truth underlying all of reality, but hidden by it). Sikhs also believe in reincarnation and karma.

The Khalsa – the Nation of Sikhs

The Khalsa is the collective body of all Sikhs. The Khalsa was initiated on March 30 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh guru. The word Khalsa means “sovereign”, “free”, or most often “pure”. Being initiated into the Khalsa is a type of baptism and males are entitled Singhs (lion) while females are titled Kaurs (princess).

The Khalsa is responsible for all executive, military, and civil authority in the Sikh society. They are considered the pinnacle of Sikhism and perform no rituals and believe in no superstitions. They only believe in god who is the master and creator of all, the only destroyer/creator.

A Sikh is defined as any human being who faithfully believes in one immortal being; ten gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, the teachings of the ten gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth guru.

Culture, Observations, and Rituals of Sikhism

Most Sikhs wake up early to meditate on the name of god. Then he/she bathes in a pool of nectar (I’m not really sure what this means, probably some type of sweet herbs and spices). Then he chants the name of the lord. All sins, misdeeds, and negativity is erased through this process. When the sun rises, the Sikh is to meditate on the name of god again. The idea of the Sikh’s existence is to worship god so that they can maintain a close relationship to god.

There are 5 K’s(panj kakaar) or articles of faith that baptized Sikhs are obligated to wear:

  1. Kesh – uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in a Dastar (a style of turban)
  2. Kanga – a wooden comb, usually under the dastar
  3. Kachera – cotton undergarments worn by both sexes to symbolize chastity
  4. Kara – an iron bracelet, a weapon and a symbol of eternity
  5. Kirpan – an iron dagger of differing sizes. In the UK it is very small and in Punjab it can be up to three feet long.

Sikhs are also very interested in music, many instruments were supposedly created by gurus. These instruments include the Rebab, the dilruba, the taus, the jori, and the sarinda. They would often play drums or Nagaras while marching into battle.

The Modern Sikh and Sikh Statistics

There are about 27 million Sikhs worldwide and 83% live in India. 76% live in Punjab where they form Modern_Sikh2/3rds of the populace. Sikhs were some of the first to migrate to Britain from India and were used in the Indian Civil service and so were spread out over the entire British empire. Many have spread throughout Europe and Northern America.

The caste system is still very prevalent within the Sikh religion, even though their gurus denounced the system. Untouchables, or Dalits still face harsh discrimination.

The first gurdwara (place of worship) was established in the United States in Stockton, California.

Discrimination against Sikhs has risen since the 9/11 attacks. They are said to be often confused with Arabic or Muslim Middle Eastern men because of their turbans and CNN suggested an increase in hate Crimes against Sikh men after the attacks. I’ll leave it to a few clips from CNN and other news to show you what I mean by discrimination (it involves racism and persecution because of ignorance).

  • The U.S. has the highest murder rate of affluent democracies. America had an extreme homicide rate of 5.4 per 100,000 people in 2008-2009, compared with a 1.43 rate in England and Wales and a 1.3 rate in Italy. Japan has 1/10 of the murders of the US. Don’t be surprised about how often this happens.
  • [September 24th, 2013] A Columbia University professor who wrote about hate crimes against Sikhs may have become a victim of one himself when 12 to 15 people attacked him while shouting anti-Muslim slurs, police said.
    Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh and a professor of international and public affairs, said the attackers were yelling “get Osama” and “terrorist” when they swarmed him Saturday night near Central Park in New York.
    “There were about 20 of them. A few surrounded me, and started punching me,” Singh said, according to the Sikh Coalition. He suffered injuries to his face, including displaced teeth and a possible fracture in his lower jaw. CNN ARTICLE
  • [August 5th, 2012] There was a shooting of 6 people in Wisconsin in a hate crime on August 5th 2012. ‘He said members described the attacker as a bald, white man, dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants and with a 9/11 tattoo on one arm — which “implies to me that there’s some level of hate crime there”.’The gunman started shooting in the parking lot, then entered into the temple and proceeded to open fire. Most of the victims were leaders of the church, men with turbans. CNN ARTICLE
  • [September 13th, 2015] A Sikh American man says he was taunted as a “terrorist” and “bin Laden” by another driver this week, and then beaten unconscious in his car. Police in the Chicago suburb of Darien are investigating the alleged incident as a hate crime and a road rage incident that escalated into a violent attack, Chief Ernest Brown said. CNN ARTICLE
  • [January 6th, 2016] A $10,000 reward is being offered in the slaying of a 68-year-old Sikh man brutally murdered in a central Fresno convenience store on New Year’s Day. They have video of a light-skinned suspect between 16 and 18 with a red hoodie that waited outside for about 5 minutes for a man named Gill to be in the store alone. Once Gill (Sikh man without any Sikh attire on) was within about a foot, the suspect stabbed Gill repeatedly. Gill tried to push himself away, retreated and picked up a golf club. The suspect knocked Gill to the ground before returning to the cash register, which he could not open. He then took something from a shelf and walked out of the store in the same direction from which he approached. Gill died of his wounds minutes later. Sikhs were anxious about heading back out into the community because of another attack that occurred on December 26th. FRENSO BEE ARTICLE
  • [March 2nd, 2016] Balwinder Jit Singh says a passenger beat him while calling him a terrorist and a suicide bomber last year in Inglewood. YAHOO NEWS ARTICLE

So this is very real, and its happening right now. This article from THE INTERCEPT talks about how Donald Trumps campaign makes it extremely hard on Sikh’s because hatred and violence are condoned. These are Americans that are discriminated against in our own country. And in lots of cases the police turn a blind eye, refuse to investigate, or whatever nonsense racism and ignorance they can make up. But this seems to happen a lot and we, as a nation, should not allow this kind of intolerance or ignorance. This is the 5th largest religion in the world!

 

References:
  1. Institute of Sikh Studies
  2. Sikhs dot-org
  3. BBC Religion
  4. Sikh Coalition
  5. Sikh Net
  6. Maya Wikipedia
  7. Sikhism Wikipedia
  8. Religion Facts

Evil and the Evolution of Morality

The Idea of Evil Giovanni Domenico Ferretti, Cain and Abel, 1740

Evil and Humanity

Evil and morality are thought structures for defining good and bad actions. Definitions of evil vary according to the culture, time, and context of the people who are defining it. An absolute definition is illusive. Many describe it as a supernatural force in our world. Some say that it is led by satan, the opposite of god. In Catholicism, this would refer to lucifer’s betrayal of god and descent into hell. Evil ascribes a certain kind of ignorance, selfishness, neglect, ignorance, and amorality.

Logical Beliefs about how evil exists

There are four different logical possibilities regarding evil, one of which you will fall into. Moral relativism is the belief that morality is shared amongst a group of people, but relative to individuals. That means that each group of people believes themselves to be ethically or morally superior to the others; most philosophers question the idea of an objective morality. It holds that morality is flexible to the cultures that employ it. Most critics of this view claim that this creates a logical conundrum, whereby judgements of morality cannot be applied.

The second possible belief is moral absolutism, where you believe that particular actions are inherently right or wrong and that certain restrictions on behavior shouldn’t be violated. Immanuel Kant’s views on duty and rights can be placed into this category. For instance, if you believe that violence should never be used even in self-defense, than you are morally absolutist about violence being wrong.

Moral universalism, or moral objectivism is the meta-ethical position that some systems of ethics apply themselves universally to a like group of individuals. For instance, all humans should not steal. This is directly opposed to moral relativism or nihilism because it creates a common standard by which all beings should act. This is an Abrahamic belief, meaning it is shared amongst the biggest religions in the world: Christianity, Islam, and also Judaism. This is the view that the United Nations adopted in 1948 after WWII, in Paris.

Amorality is the disregard for morality. This is different from immoral, which refers to the subject views of the agent/doer. Any being that is not able to act with judgement is categorically amoral. Friedrich Nietzsche rejected morality by saying that he had to for non-moral reasons. Moral Nihilism is an offshoot of this, whereby someone would consider killing someone as neither moral or immoral, which is pretty much the direct opposite of moral objectivism.

Now, you understand probably where you fall, but it is important to remember that animals, most particularly domesticated animals with exposure to human values and behaviors can develop a sense of morality as well; just think about your dog or cat. You can also be certain that this exists within animal communities for the sake of well-being for the entire community, but evolving as a sort of natural phenomenon (think of a flock of bird, or school of fish that work together by instinct).

Morality as an Evolution for Social Species

So let’s explore how morality has evolved to become what it is today, certainly led by the virtuous altruism and nihilistic amoral exemplars from the human race.

Carl Jung talked a lot about evil as a shadow-side inherent in each human, but believed to be a separate force from themselves by each individual. People project their own shadows onto others; their insecurities, fears, stresses, etc. He believed the story of Jesus to be an account of God facing his own shadow side.

Morality is certainly an evolutionary lens of humanity; we invented its examination over the course of our evolution. Morality is system of ideas about right and wrong, originating with mythology and evolving most drastically with religion. Most scientists argue that human moral behaviors can be traced through animal behaviors and instincts. Many scientists argue that there is an intrinsic science behind morality, though social scientists general consider morality to be a construct.

Evidence suggests that all life on Earth has a single common ancestor, a small single-celled organism that lived 3.8-3.5 billion years ago. But as we learn more and more about horizontal gene transference, which is the primary mechanism of gene transfer within micro-organisms, we are starting to understand that this single common ancestry might have evolved differently than we currently hypothesize.

This has led to mammals and social societies within animal species with specific hierarchies where each individual knows their place. Social order is maintained by rules of expected behavior and consequences for actions. Higher functioning primates like our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos often reciprocate social behaviors and remembers favors, favorites, preferences, empathy, attachment, bonding, and altruism. Vampire bats reciprocate by sharing blood regurgitation with their bat friends, or those in dire need of feeding. Certain monkeys and dogs refuse to act unless rewarded properly and fairly for their actions.

Chimpanzees lives in groups of about 50, forming complex societies with distinct and unique hierarchies. Paleolithic hominids (2.6 millions years ago to 10,000 years ago) lived in groups of a few hundred individuals. Malcolm Gladwell mentions that humans have a limit of about 50 close friends and 300 in their extended circle, which is of course aided by advancements in technology. As community size increased, morality evolved as a means of control, cohesion, and solidarity. As the number of individuals within communities increased, so did the complexity of these hierarchies and moral systems until things like religions, cults, and more complex societal functions began to emerge.

How are Human Morals Different?

Humans societies have two major differences that separate our societies from primate and higher functioning animal societies. We enforce our moral codes more strictly with punishments, rewards, and reputation building. Humans also have a degree of abstract reasoning and objective judgement that is not present in the animal kingdom.

Morality has evolved so far that it has created a sense of human altruism that is even greater than the urge to pass on genes in many instances. This theory of collective social mind that humans can infer or transfer to each other with high levels of intelligence is an evolution that is displayed in primates, but never as heavily or significantly as in humans. Neither is the altruism that humans display towards the collective.

Psychologists believe that religion may have evolved from morality and used supernatural principles and entities to keep the group cohesive and allow the collective to adapt to the ever evolving needs of the collective with enhanced chances for cohesive survival.

There are two primary expressions and emotions involved with morality: the first is disgust; the second is shame. Both of these contribute to a social punishment system that is very active in the world around us today, especially on the internet.

Religion, Morality, and Evil

Finally, here is a list for each religion, categorizing how it’s doctrine thinks about evil:

  • Hinduism – Dharma divides right from wrong with strict systems of morality based on actions.
  • Christianity – any thought or action against the will of God is immoral.
  • Judasim – evil comes into existence through the actions; humans are responsible for choices.
  • Islam – there is no concept of absolute evil. Evil is lack of good, or disrespect of Allah.
  • Buddism – Desire is the root of all evil, but more focused on suffering and ignorance.
  • Sikkhism – evil evolves depending on one’s location along the path to liberation.

Conclusion

Remember that I am doing my best to be impartial here; if you feel like something is missing please add a comment! Evil is certainly something that has evolved with humanity and continues to evolve today, though I did my best to steer clear of any news on the subject.

This wraps up my discussion on the idea of evil, morality, and the evolution of what is right and wrong. I’m hoping to write my next article about Aristotle his concept of “the good”, if you have anything you want me to mention or discuss, let me know!

References:

  1. Evolution of Morality
  2. Last Universal Ancestor
  3. BBC
  4. Morality in Islam

Islam – The Fastest Growing Religion in the World

islam_hajj_saudi_arabia

ISLAM:

The Religion of Muslims and Mohammed

Islam is a monotheistic religion that believes in the prophecy of Abraham through the Qur’an,which is considered to be the verbatim word of god (Allah), and Mohammed’s (600CE) example . Mohammed is considered to be the last prophet of god. Any adherent to the religion is called Muslim.

Practitioners believe god is all-powerful, incomparable, and that the purpose of their existence is to worship god. Muslim adherents believe their faith is a complete and universal truth passed down from Abraham, Noah, Adam Moses, and Jesus. They consider the Qur’an to be the final revelation of god and believe strongly in 5 pillars or concepts at the foundation of Islam.

Islam_Mosque

The Five Pillars:

  1. Faith – the creed of Islam recited under oath
  2. Prayer – also known as salat, these are rituals prayers during the day
  3. Zakat – alms giving and supporting the poor
  4. Fasting – performed usually during Ramadhan
  5. Pilgrimage to the mecca to follow in Abraham’s footstep ritualistically

There are two primary sects of the religion: Sunni(75-90%) and Shia(10-20%). 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, 25% in South Asia, 20% in the Middle East, and 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its followers comprise 23% of the world’s population.

Islam in the Modern World

Islam is one of the most submissive religions in the world. They recite oaths of submission to god’s will and believe the purpose of their existence is to worship god, which puts them in a state of complete surrender. This surrender leads to them feeling safe and at peace with their existence under god. They consider the Qur’an to be the true and unaltered word of god. They believe their holy books are the truth.68% and 80% of Shias lived in four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. Islam also has many laws that affect nearly every aspect of life for adherents. Islam has many very strict beliefs which has led to misinterpretation and misunderstanding over the past millennia, especially within the religion of Islam. One of these misunderstood concepts is the concept of Jihad.

Most Muslims are NOT Violent!

It is important to understand that even though people in America and the Western world think that Islam might be a violent religion, it is the exact opposite. 6.5% of the Muslims in the world felt that the attacks of 9/11 were justified and represents about 65 million Muslims; still a very large population, but a small percentage of the 1.65 billion muslims.

There are a few beliefs in Islam that when combined, create beliefs that create room for justify truly extremist acts such as 9/11, because of various verses in the Qur’an and different influential leaders promoting extremist action. There is absolutely an in-group that is created within the believers of Islam where the believers feel that they are special and correct in their beliefs, especially opposed to Christians, Jews, and other western religions.

The beliefs of Jihad, Predestination, and many of the literal interpretations of the Qur’an have led to an explosive anti-hero/terrorist movement in many of the sects that are highly devotional and in poorer countries with less education and rights. This has led to holy wars in the 1980s in Northern Africa and the Middle East and culminates in Osama Bin Laden’s declaration jihad against the United States and subsequent attacks on New York on September 11th. Bin Laden was a part of al-Quaeda whose goal was Islamic world domination, but this is an extremist group. The vast majority is Muslims are not members of al-Quaeda or ISIS and even the members of those groups are most likely deluded and heavily traumatized.

ISIS: An Evolution from Al-Quaeda

ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a salafi jihadist militant and extremist group that has proclaimed itself the caliph recently, on June 29th 2014, which means religious, military, and political power of muslims worldwide. Of course, the vast majority of muslims want nothing to do with this, but the insurgence has spread recently into northern Africa and has gained momentum. The group has significant momentum since it is formed from the remaining members of al-Qaeda, but at this point the two have separated completely in ideologies and ISIS has become a unique entity in and of itself. The Syrian Civil war was an excuse for extremists to militarize in conjunction with Iraqi militants and jihadists fleeing the presence of the United States military.

Now the two forces of al-Qaeda and ISIS are competing for militant recruitment in places like Yemen and Syria. There is also a presence in the Philippines, Libya, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Afganistan, and of course in Iraq.

The goal of the group is to found the Sunni Islamic State under the caliph who is believed to be the successor to Muhammed. This Salafi group promotes religious violence and regards all others as infidels or apostates. This is a waves of religious fundamentalism that enforces rituals with capital punishment and execution. The religion is their foundation for growing power of the religious state.

This is one of the most interesting sects of the religion, but represents a minority; though they are proficient at using social media to display their horrific actions. They are regarded by the western world as extremist terrorists and rightfully so. Even the majority of their own religion deem them to be deluded extremists.

Positive Aspects of the Islamic State

The vast majority of the adherents of Islam do not fit the profile I described above. In fact, the majority of the Muslims that I have met have been extremely kind and well-wishing, welcoming and neighborly. I even met a very peaceful guy from Yemen while I was in India whose family was involved in the Civil War. It is very sad for everyone to see this kind of violence and trauma and there is not much logic that can explain why it occurs.

Ritual Prayers

Salah or Salat must be performed five times a day with no exemptions. Salat is intended to focus the mind upon god and is seen as a personal communication with him of gratitude and worship. Lines of the Qur’an are recited in Arabaic. Mosques are places that are available for prayer, or as places or study, or learning.

Discipline

Both fasting, alms giving to the poor, and pilgrimages are required in the religion, yielding trials of great difficulty for adherents.

Home Life

The religion is primarily focused on life at home, though many religious texts sanctify the beating of women. There is special etiquette and diet including no meat, carrion, alcohol, or blood. Marriage in Islam is a civil acceptance where the groom is required to pay for the bride as a part of their contract.

Criticisms of Islam

Criticism of Islam has existed since its inception, for obvious reasons as the religion is a reformation from Judaism and Christianity. Early criticism came from Christians as radical heresy and later appeared more significantly from Judaism.

The majority of the criticisms are the morality of the life of Mohammed, issues relating the authenticity of the Qur’an and other questions of human rights, especially in regards to women. The questions of the founder’s authenticity and the authenticity of holy works are the criticisms of every major religion including christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Conclusion

Islam obviously has its own ups and downs as a religion, but its impact upon the civil rights of humans has to be mitigated if the religion will survive in the western world. However, much of the extremist propaganda is currently growing in northern Africa and the Middle East, of particulate note to the United States and Europe. This will be a religion whose ideals are dynamic and that changes drastically to fit the changing cultures of its proprietors.

 

I would love to hear about any experiences that you have had with the Islamic adherents that you have met or any other surprises you have gotten from adherents of the religion. Check back in a week to pagayogi.com for my next article on the ideals of Islam and how terrorism and heroism have intersected to form an ideology that is changing the world.

References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Islam Origins
  3. An Overview of Islam
  4. The Belief System of Islam
  5. Problems in Modern Islam
  6. The Biggest Problem in Islam
  7. Heavy Review of Islam
  8. 25 Deadly Terrorist Attacks
  9. FBI on Terrorism
  10. Islam and Violence

 

Confucius – the Chinese Philosopher and Founder of Confucianism

Confucius_portrait

“Study the past if you would define the future” – Confucius

Confucius and Confucianism

Confucius or ‘Kong Qui’ is a celebrated Chinese philosopher that lived in 500 BCE. His thoughts, philosophies and teachings were further developed at the end of his life into the religion of Confucianism which received official sanction shortly after his death. Much of the work commonly attributed to him is considered by scholars to actually be groups of people compiling teachings that he influenced, but only many years after Confucius’ death (you’ll notice this parallels virtually every other older religion). This implies that all of the Confucius quotes you’ve read are probably big groups of people compiling oral traditions that have been passed down for some time rather than original sayings from the sage.

Some scholars consider Confucius to be Socrates equivalent in the East, but this seems relatively unfounded due to the vast array of influences of Eastern spirituality at the time of Confucius. It is sure that Confucius had a profound effect upon the way people though about the home, of ideal government, family, proper social interactions, ancestor worship and respect for elders, and even helped to propagate an early version of the golden rule, but Socrates was unique to the West. Nonetheless, Confucius had a profound impact upon Asia, especially China, and his philosophical influences are still evidenced around the world.

The Life of Confucius

Confucius had a very interesting and elaborate life story, especially map of lu - Confucius Home Statefor someone who was supposedly born on September 28, 551 BCE in the Lu province near Qufu (see the picture on the right). Confucius’ father was named Hong He and was an officer in the military until he died when Confucius was three. He was raised by his mother in poverty; she died before she turned forty. He was educated at a common school about the 6 arts of rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics. At 19 Confucius married and had a son one year later, and later two daughters, one of whom died during childhood. He was a member of the Shi class between the rich and the common and had a great deal of respect for tradition. Confucius’ mother died when he was 23 and he spent three years in morning, as tradition dictated.

Confucius had a successful political career for a time. This career ended in a political entanglement that forced him into exile. Confucius left with the political enemy and legitimate ruler of the state that was ousted by rebels. Confucius eventually left his ruling duke to travel and further expound his political beliefs in the courts in central and northeast China.

The old man returned home from his travels after many years of expounding his political beliefs but never seeing them taken seriously. After he returned, Confucius divulged his wisdom to disciples and would sometimes act as advisor for government officials occasionally advising on war and crime. He would eventually die at a reported age of 72. Confucius left behind a legacy that would be remembered throughout China and Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and would eventually spread to the west with the help of Jesuit priests.

Confucian Philosophy

The philosophy of Confucius is considered by many to be a religion. It is secular so I agree, but it is also a very powerful philosophy. Confucianism has its roots in ancient Chinese tradition and emphasizes the family. During his life, the sage discussed spirituality, the nature of god, and the afterlife. He emphasizes a mean between giving too much and too little when being generous, a reciprocity of actions where one acts as they would be acted upon, and traditional family values.

Confucius also believed in a strong sense of self, where one would cultivate ethics, morals, virtues, and most importantly knowledge. He believed in ruling by example with truth and honesty; if people were led this way, he argued, they would naturally incline themselves towards their superiors. In essence, Confucius’ philosophy was idealistic in a way that was similar to Plato, defining heavenly forms and bodies and using things like astrology to help guide his decisions.

Confucius’ most revolutionary philosophy is his lack of belief in the concept of Democracy because he didn’t believe in the ability of the masses of humanity to govern itself. He believed that people were not created equal therefore did not all have the right to govern themselves. Not everyone had a right of self-government.

The Legacy of Confucius

What did the ancient Chinese sage leave behind? Confucius was mourned shortly after his death in the town of Qufu and it became a place of pilgrimage. His birthday became a day of celebration of several hundred years until more recently China Confucius_Monumentdecided it represented its feudal state and banned the ceremony. In the 1990’s it re-allowed the ceremony and celebration. It is now considered to be a veneration of ancient Chinese tradition and culture.

Confucius’ descendants are repeatedly identified and honored by imperial governments. They lived a long and prosperous line that has been verified across several families today with a common Y chromosome. In China there remains a huge interest in the Confucian family tree. He is also often referenced in temples with Lao Tzu and Buddha.

References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Bio
  3. Quotes Attributed to Confucius
  4. Stanford

Taoism Can Lead Humanity into the Future

Tao, symbol of Taoism

The TaoThe Chinese Symbol for Taoism

Taoism, or the practice of recognizing the Tao also sometimes called the Dao, is an ancient Chinese religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the essence of nature or the Tao. The Tao is usually described as a way of life that is natural, primordial, or in alignment with ease, health, challenge, and comfort as a method of life. It embraces all aspects of life and invites its practitioners to enjoy the experiences fully. The Tao is at its essence paradoxical because of its dual nature, even describing it is futile because the concept is beyond words. It is an experience rather than a description; indeed the entire collection of work on the Tao is paradoxical. Taoism paved the way for Zen Buddhism and various other forms of Eastern spirituality to develop and thrive in the ancient Orient.

The Way of the Tao

The Tao is nameless, eternal, unchanging, and cannot be understood except through experience of the Tao. Words are not adequate to describe the concept by nature as the concept is itself nature. The Tao is a path. It is life. It is fundamental to the universe and all of humanity. The tradition comes from ancient China where it fused with Buddhism over time and countered the more traditional and strict Confucianism. Buddhism and Neo-Taosim are known to be closely related by most religions. What the Tao really means is the force behind all things, a universal god, or the unmoved mover of the universe.

 

The Teachers of Taoism

There are two primary teachers of Taoism, though both are acknowledged to be compilations of multiple authors over time. Lao Tse is the first and he is generally regarded as the founder, though he was a contemporary to another very well-known Taoist founder who helped to propagate the religion. The second teacher was Zhuangzi who wrote a text about the carefree nature of a Taoist teacher, named after himself. Both had a profound effect upon the Taoist tradition, but Zhuangzi was more instrumental in the actual applications of the philosophies outlined by Lao Tse.

Lao Tse or Laozi wrote a legendary book called the Dao Te Ching and is considered the philosophical founder of Taoism. Throughout history, his work has been embraced by anti-authoritarian movements. Recently, historians have established that the Tao Te Ching was actually written by many hands, but Alan Watts, a famous Zen Buddhist, cautioned against this thinking stating that skepticism was easier than reviewing a lack of data and evidence. Different Stories about Lao Tse exist in different cultures with their own flavor of the philosophical traditions of Taoism.

The Harmonic Philosophy of Tao

The Tao is the life-force that flows within all of the universe and all of matter. It is conscious, though incomprehensible to the human mind. It is therefore, not our responsibility, or even possible, to grasp the nature of the Tao. We can simply glimpse it. It is like looking through the window of a house that you can never enter.

Taoism believe strongly in the union and magnetism of opposites; The Yin Yang symbolizes this in light and dark opposition meeting in a common center. This is a metaphor for all of Taoism, showing that opposites are really the same and showing a path of living through balance of these opposing forces. For instance, rest and activity, work and family, sleep and waking, etc.

Taoism believes strongly in acting according to one’s nature and using guiding moral principles to achieve and maintain a peaceful and harmonious mind. This means living in harmony with the environment and the natural systems in place around you. Most Taoist teachers will also have a tinge of environmentalists simply because they are so in tune with their own environment.

Taoism and the Future of Humanity

 

At the beginning of the article, I made a bold claim that Taoism can and SHOULD lead humanity into the future. We care too much about how we look, if we are doing things right, about the state of the world we live in. We need to learn to let go and enjoy the experience in front of us with all of the difficulties and opportunities to grow that it brings. Taoist principles will allow humans to move back to a more natural state, rather than suburban living in concrete jungles and living in complete isolation from our natural environment. Symbiotic living is the only kind of living that exists in this world.

Taoist Rituals

Taoist rituals are meant to bring peace and harmony to the participant and the universe. They emphasize the nature of opposites and the union of all things. Many focus on purification. Priests often accept offerings on behalf of deities to balance the forces in the entire town or village. Many rituals also involve the priests partaking in meditation, chanting, playing instruments, and dancing. They also participate in fortune-telling and organization of sacred buildings and spaces according to the astrological significance and using Feng shui mathematical models to create harmony in their architecture and landscaping. All rituals emphasize order and balance.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on Taoism and modern implications for all of us humans! Please send any questions or additions in the comments, we can all learn from each other.

References

  1. Stanford Encyclopedia
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism
  3. http://personaltao.com/teachings/taoism/taoism-101/
  4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/taoism/
  5. http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Philosophy/Taichi/taoism.html

Lao Tse | 李耳 – The Founder of the Philosophy of Taoism

"Konfuzius-laozi" by Shih K'ang - http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Reln471/pix.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Konfuzius-laozi.jpg#/media/File:Konfuzius-LaoTse.jpg

Lao Tse, The First Taoist

Lao Tse, Laozi, Lao-Tzu, Lao-Tze, or Laozi was a philosopher and poet in ancient China who is best known for founding Taoism by writing the Tao Te Ching. He is a deity in certain traditions and probably lived around 4-500 BCE, but is often dated to the time of Confucius  at 600 BCE. Lao Tse is one of the great teachers and influencers of early eastern philosophy and helped to give foundation to the great traditions of the East. He famously said, “Be still like the mountain and flow like a great river.” (his work is riddled with allegory and word plays)

Lao Tse is a title meaning “venerable” “master. Many scholars argue that he was many people rather than one, but most ancient texts mention him in 600 BCE. The first copy of the Tao Te Ching is from 400 BCE. In any case, Lao Tse is said to have spent his life revealing the Tao. Much of his work after his death was used by anti-authoritarian establishments throughout history.

Er Li was a scholar and Alan Watts believes that he was the man that we know as the great master, but other scholars have argued that the figure of Lao Tse must have been many people. He was mentioned by several historical texts after his death.

According to tradition, Laozi studied in the royal court of Zhou and attracted large numbers of people, legends tell of an encounter with Confucius, but Lao Tse never opened a school.

One story says that Laozi is a hermit who lived in the woods until he was 160 years old. One day he was stopped by Yinxi at a gate and Yinxi asked Laozi to record his wisdom. He wrote the Tao Te Ching in response. Many stories then tell of Laozi traveling all the way to India to teach the Buddha. Some say that he was the Buddha.

The Tao Te Ching is one of the most powerful works in Chinese history. It describes the Tao as the source and ideal of all existence and all of nature flows from it, so when humans defy their nature, they separate themselves from the flow of the Tao.

Laozi said that technology brings about a false sense of progress and taught about a method of existence called Wu-Wei, or non-action. What it really means is flowing with the moment, not forcing, acting spontaneously, not doing anything, or creating nothingness.

Zhuangzi was Laozi’s disciple and was a central authority to monastic life amongst normal populations and drifting anonymously though society. Some modern politicians think that Laozi was the first libertarian, believing that people should be allowed to govern themselves loosely and without much governmental structure.

The 5 Major Problems with Hinduism (esp. the Caste System)

Biggest Hindu Temple: Akshardham (the Hindusim & the Caste system)

Modern Hinduism

As humans, we like to idealize about things that we don’t necessarily experience. The grass is always greener where you aren’t.

Recently, this has occurred quite often in the way that Westerners view eastern religions in the yoga community. I definitely experienced this before I saw the religions in action when I visited southeast Asia.

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions on the planet and is the primary religion in Southeast Asia and India. It is the world’s third largest religion, after Islam and Christianity with one billion followers.

Hinduism is far more of an aggregation of diverse traditions, rituals, and philosophies rather than an organized religion. Despite this traditional disparity, which has unified since ancient times, modern Hindu philosophers have helped to universalize the religion into several core concepts:

  • There is a divine nature in all beings
  • Dharma and right living
  • Social Justice
  • Peace
  • Shared sacred literature

Together, these concepts combine to make up the modern philosophical view of the Hindu religion, which is really more of a category of rituals and traditions than an organized religion. The diversity of the religion is astounding.

Hinduism has had a profound effect upon India and has helped to form the social and cultural norms that have spread throughout southeast Asia. In reconciling the religion’s philosophical ideals with the modern culture of India and other Asian countries we can start to see some major problems with the religion’s traditions in regards to the functioning of humanity within their society.

These problems begin to show up in the structure of a society, as well as cultural tendencies, individual habits, and norms that are commonly accepted by the population. The following are the six major problems with the philosophical tradition:

  1. The Caste System
  2. Ahimsa
  3. Samsara
  4. Moksha
  5. Marriage
  6. Responsibility

The Caste System

The caste system, or separation of classes is probably the largest problem within the Hindu philosophies. People are born into their caste and cannot change it. There are five social classes defined by the Vedic philosophies: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, and Dalits. Varna, meaning class, and Jati, meaning caste, will help us to understand how the caste system is structured and implemented.

Brahmins are priests and teachers and are engaged in obtaining the “highest” spiritual knowledge. They are traditionally holy men with training from the age of 5, but can also be warriors, fishers, or other such professions. One usually continues the profession of their father and ancestors.

Kshatriyas are military elite and rulers. During wartime they protect and during peaceful times they rule. These were typically not chiefs, but the ruling elite.

Vaishyas were the class of farmers and cattle rearers until the more modern period where they transitioned to become money lenders, traders, and land-owners. There are lots of sub-castes in Vaishyas and there have been revolts by the class throughout history.

Shudras are the final caste in the system besides untouchables, or Dalits. Their duty and function is to serve the other castes, which has many potential problems for the members of the class. Some scholars believe that members of the caste were rejected by the other classes and therefore became the lowest class on the metaphorical totem pole.

Dalits are arguably not a caste, but rather untouchables and those rejected by society at large and make up about 20% of the population. India has passed several laws to protect this group of people because they are historically very discriminated against. They are also known as the casteless people.

One is born into a caste based on their family and are derived based on their occupation, though it wasn’t always the caste (get it?). The modern version of the caste system is a result of the colonial British Empire and served to provide administrative structure for the regime. It is essentially similar to slavery and modern India’s government has fought this discrimination with affirmative action, job reservations, and government jobs for the lower castes.

It’s pretty easy to see how the caste system promotes slavish living conditions and discrimination. It has influenced other religions and other countries, especially in the Indian subcontinent and is very visible in the social structures of most of the southeast asian countries. The promotion of the caste system is the biggest problem in Hinduism.

Ahimsa

Ahimsa is the concept of non-harm and means not to injure and applies to all living beings. Although the concept has many positive functions in human society, it promotes passivity for injustice and is probably one of the largest contributors to the reason that the caste system exists at all. Non-harm in nature is not possible, as the consumption of living matter is completely necessary for the sustenance of life. I am not saying that peacefulness isn’t possible, but life itself is somewhat of a violent process.

Certain individuals require meat for optimal nutrition. Animals shouldn’t feel guilty about living according to their nature, which humans have defined as immoral. So Ahimsa is a great ideal and peace is something we all should strive for, but it’s not necessarily possible in the reality we live in. Even your body is a battlefield for bacteria and micro-organisms. It is simply the way of things in the world.

The concept itself beckons respect for all of life. This is something that is very positive, as it denotes appreciation and promotes consideration of the divinity of all beings. Therefore, if you hurt a living being, you hurt yourself, according to the concept. However, in practice, you must injure other beings to feed yourself. Plants, trees, fish, and all of life is used for humanity to prosper so why are animals different?

Essentially, Ahimsa renders people very peaceful, which is positive, but it can also lead to passivity and acceptance of things that probably should not be acceptable. An example of this is the caste system. As we go down this list, you will start to see some patterns arising that play off of each other and contribute to a climate that is the Hindu religion in modern India. Gandhi was one of the primary promoters of Ahimsa.

Samsara

Samsara is the repeating cycle of birth, death, and rebirth believed by most eastern religions. The idea is that your current life is one of many past and future lives that all affect what you are experiencing now. Karma is what affects your destiny, but the Buddha taught that there was no beginning to the cycle, just an end that comes with Moksha, or liberation from the cycles of deaths and rebirths.

Obviously, this can breed complacency in life as well. There is no evidence to suggest that any of this is real (subjective data is not evidence) and it can lead, again, to acceptance of behaviors and circumstances that might otherwise be fought against. It also takes away from the present moment and can allow an individual to blame circumstances outside of reality for their current predicaments.

Moksha

Moksha is the concept of liberation from Samsara. This is the end goal of the Hindu ascetic’s karma and life. This is essentially an equivalent to heaven for the Hindu and denotes enlightenment, though it differs from the Buddhist ideals of enlightenment because in the Hindu religion, Moksha requires death. It represents self-knowledge, self-realization, and freedom, but also the completion of a fulfilled life of Dharma.

Again, this can create complacency, but on the flip side it can create acceptance for difficult circumstances and hope for the future. It also lends itself to an idealization of the end of life, rather than the present which can be negative. Moksha is a powerful idea, but again there is no evidence to suggest that reality does in fact work this way, so it can lead to delusional behavior.

Marriage

Hindu marriage is a traditional union where two individuals join together to pursue Dharma and Moksha and is recognized by law. Consummation is normally required for the marriage to be validated and most rituals lead to the consummation of the marriage. Marriage is normally arranged by the family, but is not necessarily an indicator of higher divorce rates, or unhappiness in the relationship. Modern India is changing this, as individuals are starting to appreciate choosing their spouse, rather than having their marriage arranged.

Marriages are arranged according to a variety of factors including: astrology, genealogical records, parental relationships, and wealth. Normally, parents arrange the marriage, but in modern urban India, this is changing rapidly.

There are eight types of Hindu marriage, but their differences are mostly ritualistic in nature. Divorce is supposedly extremely rare in Indian marriages.

The biggest problem with Hindu marriage is that there is almost no choice in the relationship. Though many individuals are happy, there are certainly those that aren’t and that are required by their culture and religion to maintain the relationship. If you take the view that marriage should always be eternal this might be a positive thing, but if you believe in free-will and individual happiness you might think this is negative. Hindus tend to be very accepting of their marital circumstances so normally they don’t disclose the circumstances of their relationship freely and tend to be oppressed because of gender roles in India.

Conclusion

There are always positive and negative aspects of philosophical concepts, depending upon how they are implemented. Many of these problems can also be very positive, such as increasing acceptance of circumstances and ability to cope with harsh realities. However, some also lead to very negative things, such as not caring about the environment, massive pollution, separation of people by genealogy, and extreme poverty for those who are not accepted by the culture’s standards. Discrimination is relatively normal in the Hindu religion and especially in southeast Asia and the Hindu religion definitely contributes to this.

Many aspects of Hinduism are positive, but these are the major negative issues with the religion. Philosophy is often paradoxical, so if anything is unclear please comment below. Additions are also always welcome!

Paradoxical Prague

Prague, Charles Bridge

Prague is definitely one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. By all standards, it has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the architecture is incredible, the streets are cobbled and it’s just like you are stepping into a fairy tale when you arrive.

Except for one thing; the amount of tourists that are constantly flowing through the city.

I am no stranger to crowds; god knows India, Bangladesh, China, Thailand, and Vietnam have plenty of them; I lived in Boston for a couple of years which is pretty crowded as well. But there is something about the pure tourist that just drives me kind of insane. Maybe it was the average age of the people in the city, or the way that they crowded together, but it is absolutely something I could do without seeing again.

With that said, the architecture in Prague was absolutely fantastic. It’s like being in Disney world with all of the castles and churches and especially the tourists. The city is the capital of the Czech Republic and the largest city in Czech. The image above is an image of the Charles Bridge which was completed over 600 years ago. Let’s just say the city is fairly historically significant.

There’s about 2 million people in the suburban area of Prague and 1.2 million in the city, though you might not even notice it if you wake up early in the morning. It receives double its population in tourists each year, which will only be increasing each year. It is the 15th largest city in the European Union and the weather is great; just warm enough to wear a light jacket and jeans and not get cold, though at night it’s advisable to wear something a bit heavier.

Historically, Prague or Praha was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire making it a major player the protestant reformation. It’s gothic architecture is epic in proportion and Prague has some of the most beautiful churches, statues, and religious architecture that I have ever seen. It’s amazing how gigantic churches can be and after reading the history of Prague, it’s easy to understand the massive power of the church at the times where the city flourished.

Incredibly, it seems that most of the architecture in the city was preserved during the first two world wars, probably due to its location outside of Germany. There are still over 500 spires in the city and many more beautiful buildings. Definitely worth a few days visiting, though I don’t think I could have stayed for more than a week.

The night life was decent, I was able to partake in a pub crawl that was extremely busy, a few hundred people and ended at a 5 story club featuring 90s hip-hop. It was pretty lame, even though I do like 90s hip-hop, there is far better music for the dance floor and the DJ was pretty much just using his iPod and letting it play.

So if you get a chance, give Prague a visit, just keep in mind the large number of tourists that you will find in every nook and cranny of the city; even in the off-season they far outnumbered the locals, so expect the locals to be a bit less friendly than usual as well.

 

 

Diamonds in the Rough

"Rough diamond" by Unknown USGS employee - Original source: USGS "Minerals in Your World" website. Direct image link: [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rough_diamond.jpg#/media/File:Rough_diamond.jpg

“A diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material; it can be contaminated by very few types of impurities. Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure. A material with superlative physical qualities, most of it original from the strong bonds between its atoms.” -Wikipedia

Sometimes, people rise above their circumstances to greatness. They are forged, hardened by pressure and time to rise above their surroundings and to become more than anyone thought they could become. I’ve been lucky to witness this in several people from all over the world. People all over the world have the capacity to be greater than their circumstances would “normally” dictate.

There’s a popular saying going around now: “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.” I have come to believe that this is completely untrue and a complete idealization; all you have to do is look at the amount of corruption in much of our species to know that people often take the easy way out. Look at the US senate, can you really say they are doing the best they can with what they have?We are lazy beings, like all other mammals we want to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sun and the food it grows. (in balanced quantities of course)

This isn’t to say that people will always take advantage of everything they can; instead, its acknowledging that there will always be both sides to the equation; those that take complete advantage and those that take none and in fact give willingly with no thought of receiving. I’ve witnessed a lot of both lately while I’ve been traveling.

Yesterday was a rough day for me; the traveling and budget have gotten to me and I’m exhausted (you can read yesterday’s article on my mental fatigue here. But the equation will always balance itself out. Today I met an absolute gem of a woman on my way to the Minh Mang tomb. Her name was Rei Nguyen.

Rei was a farmer and told us that she and her husband made around 5 million dong per month (about $250). She sent her kids to a school that cost about 2 million per month, in the city of Hoi.

My girlfriend and I rented a scooter for $4 and headed to the tomb this morning, pretty excited to see the most renowned tomb in what appears to be the cultural center of Vietnam. Largely affected by the Vietnam War (known locally as the American War), we were able to see a lot of the effects of the war in our travels, most particularly the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). There was a good amount of propaganda at the museum, especially geared towards the use of illegal chemicals such as agent orange, the US’s involvement in the war, and Vietnam’s victims. This is not to say there wasn’t massive effect from illegal chemical weapons used by the US, but there was no mention of Russia, or of the civil war in Vietnam. As usual, there was a scapegoat to take the blame and the US took full brunt force of it; it’s probably deserved. (again, I’m not saying I know the situation, but I’ve seen this before in WWI & WWII propaganda, Civil War propaganda, and pretty much every war in history is necessarily affected by propaganda where one country is blamed for the entirety of the war)

Rei’s english was incredibly good for anyone in Vietnam, let alone a farmer with an education that ended when she was 12. She works 10 hour days out in the fields with her husband and eats mostly rice and noodles, though she wasn’t malnourished as far as I could tell. She was extremely kind to us, showed us a shortcut to the tomb and then invited us to her small house by the river to talk and have some tea.

The tomb was incredibly peaceful; death has a way of making the life so powerful.  We walked around the tomb for a couple of hours in the scorching heat and humidity, then returned with her to her home.

Happy_in_Vietnam

I noticed she was lucky enough to have electricity and running water; he house was small, with wooden walls and a tin roof and she graciously offered us tea while we spoke about her life and how my life was very different from hers. She ultimately ended up asking for money for her children’s school, but it was far more of an afterthought than most of what I have experienced in Vietnam. Most will ask for money, then turn their back and mutter under their breath when you refuse their service. She offered us a kind smile and sharing of words and experiences that has been unique in my trip to Vietnam.

In this trip, I’ve met people poorer than you can imagine that still show kindness and refuse to take extra money no matter how hard you try. I’ve met people who I’ve gotten along with like I’ve known them my whole life.

One sterling example of this is one of my Muslim friends from Yemen; probably the one of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met. He owns about six AK47’s at his home and Yemen and left to pursue a more peaceful education in Mysore. Yemen is currently in Civil war and he has been directly affected by it with the death of some of his immediate family members, yet still he pursues kindness and happiness relentlessly. I was with him while it started and there was definitely a lot of swearing and frustration, but it didn’t change his outlook. He goes against any stereotype I could have held against someone of the Muslim religion.

The owner of the Chakra house, Rajesh was like this as well; one of the nicest and most relaxed people I have ever met. He and I will be friends just like the day I left if I ever return to Mysore (which is highly probable). It’s funny how you meet people who you feel like you’ve known your whole life when you travel.

People are individuals and that’s how they should be treated. One is not representative of the whole, because there is so much variation in our species. So at the same time that there are all of these awesome people I have met, there are also some abominable ones.

Let me give you some examples, from history. I don’t like to talk about negatives in reality because people can change and who am I to judge them. With that said, world leaders are different and I feel at full liberty to judge their decisions. There are some terrible people in our world: Kim Jong Il, definitely not doing the best with what he has especially after his most recent execution; neither did Stalin, or Hitler, or Mussolini. Even American leaders smell of stank corruption that can ruin the people: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Nixon, Ulysses S Grant, Kennedy. Even the greatness of America has such powerful potential for corruption because of the essence of its power.

The truth is, humans will look out for themselves before others and in our modern world we absolutely HAVE to expect this from everyone. Think about it this way; even if you are about self-sacrifice, you would give to your children first and foremost the greatest opportunity to succeed in the world. We look out for ourselves before others and this isn’t a bad thing, it’s simply the reality of humanity. This is why the US is struggling right now, our system of checks and balances has become completely unbalanced in the wake of our economic prosperity in the 80s and 90s and leaders continue to take advantage of the people they rule just as they have since the beginning of time.

Unfortunately, this can even apply to our immediate family. You see celebrities with major mental and stability problems, likely because they can’t even trust their support systems and families anymore (this is just my observation, feel free to comment on it). It’s really sad, but that’s how money can corrupt people. Greed, it seems, is simultaneously the great human strength and weakness.

But on the other side, there are people who will give without even caring about what they receive; they give kindness freely and love as often as they can, as long as their basic needs are met. Sometimes, they even defy those. Remember to think of it as an equation, because that’s what the world we live in requires.

Writing yesterday made me feel so much better, today the same. I really hope that these comments are misunderstood, I am trying to be very objective and am applying my experiences to the greater scope of the world we live in together. I walked around today with a big smile and decided that I would kill my fatigue with kindness and it has worked. I feel a hell of a lot better.

Please let me know what you think of this article in the comments, or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/padayoga

I always love to hear from readers.