February 21, 2018

Justice for a Cow: Ramalingam On Animal Rights (1)

Hindu Mythology: Kamadhenu, or The Divine Cow of Plenitude With All Divinities In Its Body

 

Hindu mythology: Krishna as Gopala, or Protector of Cows, And His Bovine and Human Friends

 

Unspeakable Cruelty and Slaughter in a Slaughterhouse!

Sadistic Spanish Festival

The Toro Jubilo, Madrid, 2014. The “Toro Jubilo” or Toro embolado in Soria, Medinaceli, Spain, is a festival associated with animal cruelty. During this festival, balls of pitch are attached to a bull’s horns and set on fire. The bull is then released into the streets and can do nothing but run around in pain, often smashing into walls in an attempt to douse the fire. These fiery balls can burn for hours, and they burn the bull’s horns, body, and eyes – all while spectators cheer and run around the victim. The animal rights group PACMA has described the fiesta as “a clear example of animal mistreatment”, and PETA calls it “a sadistic festival”. (Wikipedia)

 

Ramalingam’s radical and revolutionary ethic of compassion with its extraordinary emphasis on moral consideration for non-human living beings, including animals and plants, was expressed in a preliminary form in his early (1854) prose work on the legend of King Manu and his moral code (again, this is not the King Manu of Hindu mythology who was allegedly the creator of cruel caste divisions and codes which were the bane of Indian society) and developed in his mature, but incomplete essay on the Ethic of Compassion for Living Beings.

Ramalingam’s work The Moral Code of Manu is the story of King Manu’s moral dilemma in the face of the death of a calf beneath the wheels of the chariot driven by his only son Prince Veedhividangan. The mother of the calf comes to the gates of the royal palace and pulls the bell rope meant to communicate to the king that some person has faced injustice in his domain and that they need his intervention. As a paragon of justice, king Manu is shocked to hear the bell ring and on inquiry comes to know that the mother of the calf crushed beneath the wheels of the chariot driven by his only son and prince rang the bell asking for justice to be served in the case of the unnatural death or killing of her calf.

Contrary to the claims of his ministers that the death of the calf was an accident or due to its fate, and that the prince should be absolved of responsibility for its death, king Manu determines that his son, prince Veedhividangan, is guilty of negligently causing the death of the calf.

Refuting the arguments of his ministers that the calf is only an animal and inferior to humans in intelligence and that the just punishment for the prince is to undergo the rigors of performing rites prescribed by scriptures to atone for the sin of killing the calf of a cow, king Manu decides that his only son and prince deserves punishment by death for taking the innocent calf’s life. His argument is based on the claim that there is equality of humans and animals concerning the right to life and that the death penalty is just punishment for the taking of life regardless of the fact that his prince is human and the victim a calf or animal.

The details of his argument are encapsulated in the following account of Ramalingam’s radical ethics of equal consideration of human and non-human life in the context of murder and/or suffering, an ethics first developed in 1854 in the work “The Moral Code of Manu” and expanded in his mature, but unfinished (1867) essay on “The Ethic of Compassion for Living Beings”.

In Ramalingam’s view, both human and non-human living beings are embodied souls with the same essential nature, i.e., sentient consciousness (Tamil: சித்து)  with its innate quality of intelligence (Tamil: அறிவு) and capacity to experience pleasure and pain.

He holds that the differences among living beings stem from their embodiment in different physical bodies, but that these differences in their physical bodies are irrelevant to the issue of moral consideration for them and that this consideration ought to be based only on their common essential nature, i.e., sentient consciousness with its innate quality of intelligence and capacity to experience pleasure and pain.

Since living beings have a common essential nature regardless of the differences in their corporeal or physical attributes, they also have common basic rights stemming from their common essential nature.

Ramalingam identifies two basic rights common to all living beings: the right to life and the right to freedom from pain or suffering.

How are these two basic rights derived from the common essential nature of living beings?

In his great incomplete essay on the Ethic of Compassion for Living Beings (composed in 1867 and first published in 1879), Ramalingam argues that a body (constituted of some form of substance) is needed for the soul to express and develop its innate attribute of intelligence.

It is an inherent tendency of  a soul to express and develop its innate quality of intelligence, to remove any obscuration or limitation in the expression and development of its intelligence when it becomes cognizant of it, as it invariably does after any temporary occlusion or obstruction of its intelligence.

Therefore, every soul requires and seeks embodiment to overcome a state of ignorance and to express and develop its innate intelligence. This tendency takes the characteristic form of a need to know and to grow in knowledge.

Ramalingam’s point is reminiscent of Aristotle’s dictum that “All men by nature desire to know”. Of course, it includes women (and it is noteworthy that, even in 19th century rural Tamilnadu, Ramalingam included women in his proposal for universal spiritual education and explicitly forbade discrimination on grounds of the physical attribute of sex or gender), but what is significant in Ramalingam’s account is its implication, confirmed by  scientific studies of non-human life, that all living beings have the inclination to know, an expression of their innate intelligence.

Aristotle gave a reason for his claim: the evidence that men take delight in sensory perception, particularly visual perception. This is also evident in other species. Indeed, the curiosity of non-human living beings about their environment often sharply contrasts with the apathy or sensory dullness of many humans!

Given that every living being is a soul capable of experiencing pain and pleasure, the innate intelligence impels it to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Embodiment gives the opportunity to experience a variety of pleasures or joys (Tamil: இன்பம்). These experiences of pleasure or joy augment the expression and development of intelligence and prepare the soul for the enjoyment of the supreme bliss of Arutperumjothi or the Ultimate Divine Light.

But embodiment also makes every soul vulnerable to pain or suffering in its manifold forms of hunger, fear, disease, torture, etc. However, its innate intelligence, a function of the indwelling Supreme Divine Light of Grace, guides it to find ways to avoid, alleviate, or overcome these forms of pain or suffering since they are an obstruction to the development of intelligence and the attainment of bliss or happiness, mundane and transcendental.

The essay on the Ethic of Compassion for Living Beings describes how these forms of suffering suppress the expression and development of the innate intelligence of the soul. I will discuss this claim in subsequent posts, but would like to point out that Ramalingam’s claim is consistent with the fact that the prospect of undergoing some form of pain or suffering can stimulate the innate intelligence to find ways to prevent, alleviate, or eliminate it. His claim is about the immediate effects of these major forms of pain or suffering, e.,g., hunger, murder, torture, disease, poverty, etc.

For any soul, murder is the loss of a body by an unnatural and cruel means. It inflicts on a soul the pain or suffering of being forcibly expelled from its bodily habitation and to face terrible fear and perplexity in the process. It is also faced with the additional suffering of undergoing the process of rebirth or embodiment in another form.

Every living being or embodied soul, i.e., an individual sentient consciousness seeking to express and develop its intelligence and with the capacity to experience pleasure and pain, requires a body to express and develop its intelligence. Therefore, every living being has the basic right to life or the right to keep and preserve its present body.

Hence, it is morally wrong to deprive any living being of its body by killing it and inflicting on it the twin sufferings of loss of  its present body and future rebirth in another body.

And from the fact that every living being avoids pain or suffering, it follows that every living being has the basic right to freedom from pain or suffering.

Hence, it is morally wrong to inflict pain or suffering, particularly in the form of infliction of torture, or loss of limb or organ essential for survival and quality of life, or disease, on any living being.

It follows that we must give equal moral consideration, without any partiality based on species membership, to human and non-human living beings in the context of any actual or imminent violation of the two fundamental rights, the right to life and the right to freedom from pain or suffering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January 18, 2018

The Early Ethic of Ramalingam (1): Moral Maxims in Manu’s Lament On Karma

Detail of Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem (by Rembrandt, 1630)

 

An early and significant Tamil prose text of Ramalingam (1823 – 1874) is his Manu’s Moral Code (மனு முறைகண்ட வாசகம்/ Manu Murai Kanda Vasagam) written in eloquent and ornate Tamil and published in June 1854 when he was 31. King Manu, who is a central character in this literary work of fiction, must be distinguished from the legendary Hindu sage-ruler Manu, the alleged creator of cruel caste codes whose legacy has been the bane of Indian society for ages.

It is said that Ramalingam wrote his work of fiction Manu’s Moral Code to promote moral education and development, particularly the development of compassion, among the youth. It is also a seminal and radical work on the ethical treatment of animals since it expounds his central argument for the equality of animals and humans in regard to the right to life and the right to freedom from suffering, including freedom from torture.

In this post, I will focus on the moral proscriptions and prescriptions implicit in the section in Manu’s Moral Code in which King Manu laments his past bad karma, i.e., performance of morally wrong actions in previous lives, which has led to his present mental and moral agony over sentencing his only son to death for negligence in causing the death of a calf beneath the wheels of his chariot.

Manu’s lament takes the form of rhetorical questions on his past bad karma which could have caused his present mental and moral agony about a just decision on his son’s negligence in crushing a calf beneath the wheels of his chariot. Each of these rhetorical questions assumes a moral judgment which implies a moral proscription and prescription.

These moral proscriptions and prescriptions help us to understand and delineate Ramalingam’s early ethic. The moral proscriptions or prohibitions also identify behaviors bound to create bad karma and consequent suffering in this life or future rebirth.

The law of karma is a cornerstone of Ramalingam’s theism and ethics. In his “Ethic of Compassion For Living Beings“, Ramalingam invokes the law of karma to explain the fact that many living beings undergo suffering from hunger, fear, torture, murder, etc. He states that it is due to their violation of the requirements of compassion in previous lives. As I have pointed out in earlier posts, Ramalingam’s ethic of compassion is founded on the spiritual truth of the kinship of all living beings. Hence, by his own account, lack of compassion stems from ignorance of this spiritual truth of the kinship of all living beings.

He declares that the law of karma is a Divine Law designed to bring about the progressive emancipation of the soul from its bondage to spiritual ignorance, i.e., ignorance of the truth of soul-kinship of all beings.

The law of karma governs the “distribution” of suffering to souls in accordance with their own choices and actions. Inflicting or contributing to the infliction of suffering on other people and living beings is a violation of the spiritual law of soul-kinship and will invariably result in suffering to oneself in the present or future life.

The soul bound in the coils of spiritual ignorance, i.e., ignorance of the truth of soul-kinship, learns to make morally correct choices by undergoing the suffering brought about by its own morally wrong choices, choices based on its unfettered egoism, primarily its self-aggrandizing choices or actions which inflict harm or suffering on other beings. The practice of the ethic of compassion is the only medicine for the afflictions brought about by one’s own bad karma.

Ramalingam’s central principle of compassion is that it is morally wrong to inflict or contribute to the infliction of suffering on living beings. Hence, his ethic of compassion emphasizes the obligation (this is his proscriptive principle of compassion) to refrain from inflicting suffering, e.g., starvation, murder, torture, disease, poverty or scarcity of means of sustenance, etc., on other living beings and the obligation (this is his prescriptive principle of compassion) to prevent, alleviate, or remove these forms of suffering in other living beings when we have knowledge that they are undergoing these sufferings, or will undergo them, and the capability to prevent, alleviate, or remove them by any means at our disposal.

Each of the following “lamentations” of King Manu implies a proscription or prohibition and a prescription. For instance , when Manu laments that he may have caused, in his previous life, fear or terror in the minds of good people, and thereby invited his present mental and moral agony over sentencing his only son to death for the negligently causing  the death of a calf, the implied prohibition or proscription is on causing fear or terror in the minds of good people and the implied prescription is to act considerately or benevolently toward them.

I should point out in this context that, according to Ramalingam, both humans and animals are prone to suffer from fear and one must refrain from inflicting it on them unless it is necessary to prevent greater harms, e.g., murder, torture, and starvation. These would actually be cases in which one causes fear to bad or evil persons, i.e., those intent on bringing about the murder, or torture, or starvation of other living beings. In his mature work on the Ethic of Compassion (Jivakarunya Ozhukkam), Ramalingam holds that it is morally permissible to cause fear in wild animals to prevent them from harming other living beings, but that it is contrary to the requirements of compassion to kill them.

What is wrong with inflicting fear or terror on good people? It is obviously a case of cruelty toward good people. Since they are good people, to inflict the suffering of fear or terror on them is to inflict undeserved and, therefore, unjust suffering on them. Hence, it is also a case of injustice perpetrated on good people.

Ramalingam is implying that the moral character of persons ought to make an important difference to how we treat them and that we ought to particularly behave compassionately toward those with good moral character.

It is noteworthy that the prohibitions and implied prescriptions in Manu’s lamentations cover a wide range of moral contexts. The two main principles at work in these varying contexts are the principle of compassion and the principle of respect. I will discuss these matters in the next post.

Here, then, are the morally wrong actions mentioned by Manu in the lamentations on his past karma:

நல்லோர் மனத்தை நடுங்கச் செய்தேனோ!

causing fear or terror in the minds of good people

 

அன்புடையவர்க்குத் துன்பஞ் செய்தேனோ!

causing distress to those who love us

 

தானங் கொடுப்போரைத் தடுத்து நின்றேனோ!

preventing the charitable from giving to the needy

 

கலந்த சினேகரைக் கலகஞ் செய்தேனோ!

breaking up friendships by creating dissension or strife

 

மனமொத்த நட்புக்கு வஞ்சகஞ் செய்தேனோ!

betraying a true friend

 

கலங்கி யொளிந்தோரைக் காட்டிக்கொடுத்தேனோ!

betraying those who have gone into hiding out of fear or trepidation

 

ஆசைகாட்டி மோசஞ் செய்தேனோ!

deceiving others after luring or enticing them (with false promises)

 

குடிவரி யுயர்த்திக் கொள்ளை கொண்டேனோ!

raising the rent on tenants to amass profit

 

வேலையிட்டுக் கூலி குறைத்தேனோ!

exploitation of labor by increasing the amount of work and decreasing the wages

 

கல்லும் நெல்லும் கலந்து விற்றேனோ!

selling adulterated or corrupted products to gain profit

 

ஏழைகள் வயிறு எரியச் செய்தேனோ!

inflicting more hardship on the poor

 

பசித்தோர் முகத்தைப் பாராதிருந்தேனோ!

ignoring the hungry

 

இரப்போர்க்குப் பிச்சை இல்லையென்றேனோ!

refusing charity to beggars

 

தருமம் பாராது தண்டஞ் செய்தேனோ!

levying taxes or fines without regard to justice or benevolence

 

வலிய வழக்கிட்டு மானங் கெடுத்தேனோ!

gratuitously instigating litigation to cause loss of dignity or dishonor to others

 

மண்ணோரம் பேசி வாழ்வழித்தேனோ!

ruining others by slandering or defaming them

 

கோள் சொல்லிக் குடும்பங்  கலைத்தேனோ!

destroying a family by calumny, aspersion, backbiting, or tale-bearing

 

பொருளை இச்சித்துப் பொய் சொன்னேனோ!

lying from pecuniary motives or desires

 

களவு செய்வோர்க்கு உளவு சொன்னேனோ!

disclosing information to facilitate theft

 

உயிர்க்கொலை செய்வோர்க்கு உபகாரஞ் செய்தேனோ!

assisting those engaged in killing or murder

 

ஊன்சுவை யுண்டு உடல் வளர்த்தேனோ!

consuming meat to develop one’s body

 

கருப்பமழித்துக் களித்திருந்தேனோ!

causing or having an abortion to continue with sexual gratification

 

பக்ஷியைக் கூண்டில் பதைக்க அடைத்தேனோ!

confining birds in cages

 

கன்றுக்குப் பாலு‘ட்டாது கட்டிவைத்தேனோ!

depriving a calf of the milk of its mother

 

வெய்யிலுக் கொதுங்கும் விருக்ஷ மழித்தேனோ!

destroying trees which provide shade in the summer heat

 

பகைகொண்டு அயலோர் பயிரழித்தேனோ!

destroying the food crops of others for reasons of enmity

 

வரவுபோக் கொழிய வழியடைத்தேனோ!

blockade of a route to obstruct traffic

 

குடிக்கின்ற நீருள்ள குளந்துர்த்தேனோ!

destruction of a source of drinking water

 

பொதுமண்டபத்தைப் போயிடித்தேனோ!

destruction of a public shelter

 

ஆலயக் கதவை அடைத்து வைத்தேனோ!

forcing the closing of a place of worship

 

கற்பழிந்தவளைக் கலந்திருந்தேனோ!

consorting with the promiscuous

 

காவல் கொண்டிருந்த கன்னியை அழித்தேனோ!

violating a maiden or nun observing chastity

 

கணவன்வழி நிற்போரைக் கற்பழித்தேனோ!

violating a woman faithful to her husband

 

குருவை வணங்கக் கூசிநின்றேனோ!

being ashamed (out of pride or conceit) to bow before the Guru

 

குருவின் காணிக்கை கொடுக்க மறந்தேனோ!

forgetting to offer a donation to the Guru

 

கற்றவர் தம்மைக் கடுகடுத்தேனோ!

being irascible with the learned

 

பெரியோர் பாட்டிற் பிழைசொன்னேனோ!

being captious with the great

 

சிவனடியாரைச் சீறி வைதேனோ!

verbal abuse of the devotees of God

 

தவஞ் செய்வோரைத் தாழ்வு சொன்னேனோ!

berating those engaged in religious or spiritual practices

 

சுத்த ஞானிகளைத் து‘ஷணஞ் செய்தேனோ!

berating the truly wise

 

தந்தைதாய் மொழியைத் தள்ளி நடந்தேனோ!

disregarding the advice of parents

 

தெய்வ மிகழ்ந்து செருக்கடைந்தேனோ!

disparaging the Deity and growing in conceit

 

நட்டாற்றிற் கையை நழுவவிட்டேனோ!

negligence in critical situations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2, 2015

Compassion As the Basis of Moral and Spiritual Order (1)

Compassion in action: an 18th-century Italian depiction of the Parable of the Good Samaritan: “The parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable told by Jesus and is mentioned in only one of the gospels of the New Testament. According to the Gospel of Luke (10:29–37) a traveller (who may or may not have been a Jew) is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead along the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan comes by. Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other, but the Samaritan helps the injured man.” (Wikipedia)

In his great unfinished essay “The Ethic of Compassion for Sentient Beings“, Ramalingam holds that compassion is not only the basis of moral order, i.e., the prevalence of moral norms, in this world, but also the basis of spiritual order in the higher worlds:

In the absence of compassion, moral discernment and love will not emerge. When moral discernment and love do not emerge, consideration, cooperation, and unity will not be present. If consideration, cooperation, and unity are not present, then the strong will overwhelm the weak and the latter’s adherence to moral norms will be destroyed.

Eventually, due to arrogance and self-aggrandizement, any adherence to moral norms among the strong in their mutual relations will also be destroyed.

There is no moral order in places where wild beasts, such as lions and tigers, which are bereft of compassion, live. In just the same way, there will be no moral order in places where human beings bereft of compassion live.

Without compassion, divine grace will not manifest. Without divine grace, knowledge of ILC (Arutperumjothi or The Immense Light of Compassion) cannot be attained. Without knowledge of ILC, there is no attainment of the bliss of liberation from the shackles of ignorance-bound existence. And without the attainment of this bliss of liberation, there can be no spiritual order in the higher worlds.”

Wood carving of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Liao China, 907-1125 (Wikipedia)

March 29, 2015

Mystical Experiences Of Soul-Kinship (1)

Soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity is an all-embracing and highest form of kinship or solidarity human consciousness is capable of attaining. It is a transcendent form of solidarity in contrast to transient and narrow forms of kinship or “solidarity” based on race, caste, class, clan, gender, species, nationality, ethnicity, or political or religious creed or cause.

Actually, these narrow and transient types of “solidarity” based on race, caste, class, etc., are truncated, rabid, and even pathological forms of group division and opposition among human beings.

Soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity is not a desiccated philosophical or religious abstraction, but a “living truth” and a “lived experience” which can be attained by rigorous intellectual, moral, and contemplative discipline.

This intellectual, moral, and spiritual discipline involves the arduous and progressive attenuation and dissolution of the sense of division and opposition between the self and other beings. It is complemented by the progressive accentuation and development of a sense of empathy, common ground, and unity with other beings.

Soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity is achieved by realizing that which already embraces and includes within the ambit of its unlimited and unconditioned being,  consciousness, and bliss, all the baffling diversity of entities and individuals in the cosmos, the one supreme reality or Arutperumjothi, which has taken, among other modes of existence, the mode of being the Immense Light of Incomparable Compassion.

Hence, any sense of division and opposition between the self and other beings is the main barrier to the realization of the all-embracing reality of Arutperumjothi.

As the great British academic turned yogi Krishna Prem (aka Ronald Nixon, 1898 – 1965) prescribes:

“At the same time care must be taken to guard against an egoistic pride, the besetting vice of the ordinary intellectual, who is only too prone to fancy himself a being apart and to look down on those struggling beneath him with a tolerant contempt saying, perhaps,

There is no better way

Than patient scorn, nor any help for man,

Nor any staying of his whirling wheel.

(The Light of Asia Or The Great Renunciation, Trans. Edwin Arnold)

The aspirant must therefore guard himself carefully against any tendency to separate himself from his fellows. This he can do only by an effort of imaginative sympathy. He must strive always to feel himself into the hearts of those he meets in his daily life, to see things from their point of view, to feel the impacts of events and particularly the impact of his own actions as they would feel them.

In this way he will learn to understand instead of blaming his fellow men, and will learn also that his enemies are not the villains that he previously supposed them to be but merely rather foolish people, prone to deceive themselves about their motives as is he himself. Training himself in this way, the aspirant gradually breaks down the barriers which separate him from his fellow beings and will acquire the power of thinking and acting in an unegotistic manner, for he will no longer concern himself solely with his own point of view.

His actions will become those which are best for all concerned and so his body will become an instrument for the fulfillment, not of his own selfish desires, but of the needs of all. That which embraces all will act through him, though those for whom he acts may know it not.” (Initiation into Yoga)

I said earlier that soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity is not an abstraction, but a “living truth” which can be experienced. We all have “peak experiences” of empathy, compassion, love, and bliss, in which the barriers between the self and other beings are temporarily attenuated. However, the goal of intellectual, moral, and spiritual discipline in the path of Suddha Sanmargam is to attain insight, realization, and enduring perception pertaining to the reality of soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity between the self and other beings.

Soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity of all beings is a reality which can never be destroyed by any form of division, opposition, and conflict in just the way the reality of biological kinship which constitutes a family can never be destroyed by internal conflicts or even the disintegration of that family.

A central goal of Suddha Sanmargam is to realize and express this indestructible reality of soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity in our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions. It is to transform our relations with other beings in light of this realization.

In the history of mysticism, we find several accounts of experiences and realizations of this truth of soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity of all beings.

Ramdas (1884 – 1963), a great twentieth century Indian mystic, has given us a remarkable account of his experience and realization of soul-kinship and its transforming power in his autobiographical trilogy, In Quest of God, In the Vision of God (two volumes), and World is God.

In the first volume of his book In the Vision of God, Ramdas writes, characteristically in the third-person, about his progressive realization of soul-kinship and its constitutive experience of all-embracing love:

“In the earlier stages this vision was occasionally lost, pulling him down to the old life of diversity with its turmoil of like and dislike, joy and grief. But he would be drawn in again to the silence and calmness of the spirit.

A stage was soon reached when this dwelling in the spirit became a permanent and unvarying experience with no more falling off from it, and then a still more exalted state came on: his hitherto inner vision projected outwards.

First, a glimpse of this new vision dazzled him off and on. This was the working of divine love. He would feel as though his very soul had expanded like the blossoming of a flower and, by a flash as it were, enveloped the whole universe, embracing all in a subtle halo of love and light. This experience granted him a bliss infinitely greater than he had in the previous state…Its fullness and magnificence was revealed to him during his stay in the Kadri cave, and here the experience became more sustained and continuous.

The vision of God shone in his eyes and he could see none but Him in all objects. Now wave after wave of joy rose in him. He realized that he had attained to a consciousness full of splendor, power, and bliss...He gave a touch of the inexpressible bliss he was enjoying to all who came in contact with him.

Vast crowds thronged around him wherever he went. Divine love thrilled his entire being at the sight of big multitudes. In a state of perfect ecstasy he delivered himself out in accents of love and joy.”  (In The Vision of God, Vol. 1, Chap. 1)

As Ramdas observed on several later occasions, even thousands of births or lifetimes spent to achieve this spiritual realization are mere straws compared to its value.

Note that in his account, the realization of soul-kinship with all beings is achieved in terms of an experience in which “his very soul had expanded like the blossoming of a flower and, by a flash as it were, enveloped the whole universe, embracing all in a subtle halo of light and love“.

In other words, his realization of the “living truth” of soul-kinship is constituted by an experience of all-embracing love. Hence, vast crowds are drawn to him by the radiating power of this all-embracing love.

Ramdas is not repelled by these vast crowds of Indian villagers. He does not see an “ignorant and sinful throng of unwashed humanity” or anything like that. Rather, “Divine love thrilled his entire being at the sight of big multitudes.” This speaks volumes on his attainment.

Note also that in his account, the realization of soul-kinship and its constitutive experience of all-embracing love is inextricably woven into the larger fabric of the experience and realization of the all-pervasive divine reality, light, and love, the “vision of God” which disclosed “none but Him in all objects” as a result of “the working of divine love”.

I will continue with other accounts of experiences and realizations of soul-kinship or spiritual solidarity in the next post.

December 19, 2014

The Delusion Of Social And Species Division (1)

The delusion of social and species division is a central doctrine of Suddha Sanmargam.

It is implied by Ramalingam’s emphasis on the falsity and illegitimacy (Tamil:பொய்) of social divisions, among human beings, based on caste, class, race, clan, tribe, custom, gender, religion, nationality, and so forth, and species division, presupposed by speciesism, between human and non-human beings, based on biological differences.

The delusion of social and species division is also implied by the great moral and spiritual ideal of Suddha Sanmargam: the realization of soul-kinship with all sentient beings.

Recall that, in the previous post, I made a distinction between difference and division and characterized a division in terms of relations of opposition, discrimination, and antagonism, relations stemming from the emphasis on, and the exacerbation of, differences at the expense of shared features, inclusive of common needs and interests.

A division is, therefore, a fertile breeding ground of hatred and cruelty.

In its very nature, the division of the self and the other, with its attendant occlusion of the common ground and interest of the self and the other, leads to self-aggrandizement at the expense of the other. Inhumanity toward the other follows predictably.

Why is it a delusion to believe in the legitimacy of social divisions among human beings and species division between human and non-human beings?

It is a delusion because it is a false belief leading to pathology of thought, feeling, attitude, and action.

Here is why the belief in the legitimacy of social and species division is false.

Two entities X and Y are different if one has properties which the other lacks or possesses in lesser or greater degree.

However, this does not justify a division between X and Y, a relation of division characterized by opposition, discrimination, and antagonism.

The reason is that the differences do not imply the absence of similarities, or shared features, inclusive of common needs and interests, regardless of their degree, between X and Y.

Hence, difference does not imply an absence of common ground between X and Y based on their common needs and interests .

Therefore, the belief that there is necessarily a division between X and Y, because of the differences in their attributes, is false.

In other words, it is illogical, and, therefore, irrational to think that social and species divisions are implied by the existence of differences among human beings, or between human and non-human sentient beings.

For instance, X and Y may be different in that X, a human, has an advanced ability to communicate by means of language, whereas Y, a dog, has a limited capacity to communicate due to lack of language.

However, this difference in their level of ability to communicate does not abrogate the fact that the need and capacity to communicate is a similarity, or a shared property, between a human and a dog.

Hence, the fact that humans have language ability and dogs lack that ability does not show the absence of a shared or common need to communicate.

It follows that there is no basis for discriminatory treatment of dogs in respect of their need to communicate, among other needs.

Therefore, it would be morally wrong to deprive dogs of their capacity for communication, or to significantly restrict, or diminish, that capacity.

Thus, despite their differences, both human and non-human beings have needs and interests in common, e.g., need for sustenance, need for habitation, need for movement in an adequate amount of physical space, need for physical safety, etc., and, therefore, it is morally wrong to discriminate between human and non-human beings in respect of these common needs and interests.

Balaam and the Ass, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1626. “After Balaam starts punishing the donkey for refusing to move, it is miraculously given the power to speak to Balaam (Numbers 22:28), and it complains about Balaam’s treatment. At this point, Balaam is allowed to see the angel, who informs him that the donkey is the only reason the angel did not kill Balaam. Balaam immediately repents, but is told to go on.” (Source: Wikipedia)

As I pointed out earlier, hatred and cruelty follow in the wake of the delusive belief in divisions among human beings and between human and non-human beings.

The delusive belief  in the division of human and non-human beings has led to pathological indifference, or cruelty, toward non-human beings.

As Jeffrey Masson points out in his book When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, the French philosopher Descartes’ belief  in the division of humans and animals, hinging on the delusion that animals are machines bereft of the capacity to feel pain, led to the perpetration of pathological cruelty on animals:

(they) administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference and made fun of those who pitied the creatures…They said the animals were clocks; that the cries they emitted when struck were only the noise of a little spring that had been touched, but that the whole body was without feeling.  They nailed the poor animals up on boards by their four paws to vivisect them to see the circulation of the blood, which was a great subject of controversy.”

A victim of the barbaric “bullfighting”!

The great English artist William Hogarth (1697 – 1764) showed in his series of engravings titled “The Four Stages of Cruelty” (1751) that the pathological cruelty toward animals, which stems from the species division of humans and animals and its attendant occlusion of their common needs and interests, is inexorably extended to other humans and inevitably recoils on the perpetrator.

William Hogarth, Painter and his Pug, 1745

William Hogarth, Painter and his Pug, Self-portrait, 1745

Hogarth commented to a bookseller, one Mr. Sewell, that:

“there is no part of my works of which I am so proud, and in which I now feel so happy, as in the series of The Four Stages of Cruelty because I believe the publication of theme has checked the diabolical spirit of barbarity to the brute creation which, I am sorry to say, was once so prevalent in this country.”  (European Magazine, June 1801)

Hogarth’s series may also be viewed as a portrayal of the karma of cruelty to animals.

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“The First Stage of Cruelty” (1751) by William Hogarth. In the first print Hogarth introduces Tom Nero, whose name may have been inspired by the Roman Emperor of the same name…Conspicuous in the centre of the plate, he is shown being assisted by other boys to insert an arrow into a dog’s rectum, a torture apparently inspired by a devil punishing a sinner in Jacques Callot’s Temptation of St. Anthony. A more tender-hearted boy, perhaps the dog’s owner, pleads with Nero to stop tormenting the frightened animal, even offering food in an attempt to appease him. The other boys carry out equally barbaric acts: the two boys at the top of the steps are burning the eyes out of a bird with a hot needle heated by the link-boy’s torch; the boys in the foreground are throwing at a cock (perhaps an allusion to a nationalistic enmity towards the French, and a suggestion that the action takes place on Shrove Tuesday, the traditional day for cock-shying); another boy ties a bone to a dog’s tail—tempting, but out of reach; a pair of fighting cats are hung by their tails and taunted by a jeering group of boys; in the bottom left-hand corner a dog is set on a cat; and in the rear of the picture another cat tied to two bladders is thrown from a high window. (Source: Wikipedia)

While various Scenes of sportive Woe,
The Infant Race employ,
And tortur’d Victims bleeding shew,
The Tyrant in the Boy.

Behold! a Youth of gentler Heart,
To spare the Creature’s pain,
O take, he cries—take all my Tart,
But Tears and Tart are vain.

Learn from this fair Example—You
Whom savage Sports delight,
How Cruelty disgusts the view,
While Pity charms the sight.

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The Second Stage of Cruelty” William Hogarth (1751). “In the second plate, the scene is Thavies Inn Gate (sometimes ironically written as Thieves Inn Gate), one of the Inns of Chancery which housed associations of lawyers in London. Tom Nero has grown up and become a hackney coachman, and the recreational cruelty of the schoolboy has turned into the professional cruelty of a man at work. Tom’s horse, worn out from years of mistreatment and overloading, has collapsed, breaking its leg and upsetting the carriage. Disregarding the animal’s pain, Tom has beaten it so furiously that he has put its eye out. In a satirical aside, Hogarth shows four corpulent barristers struggling to climb out of the carriage in a ludicrous state. They are probably caricatures of eminent jurists, but Hogarth did not reveal the subjects’ names, and they have not been identified. Elsewhere in the scene, other acts of cruelty against animals take place: a drover beats a lamb to death, an ass is driven on by force despite being overloaded, and an enraged bull tosses one of its tormentors. The cruelty has also advanced to include abuse of people. A dray crushes a playing boy while the drayman sleeps, oblivious to the boy’s injury and the beer spilling from his barrels. Posters in the background advertise a cockfight and a boxing match as further evidence of the brutal entertainments favoured by the subjects of the image. According to Werner Busch, the composition alludes to Rembrandt’s painting, Balaam’s Ass (1626). (Source: Wikipedia)

The generous Steed in hoary Age,
Subdu’d by Labour lies;
And mourns a cruel Master’s rage,
While Nature Strength denies.

The tender Lamb o’er drove and faint,
Amidst expiring Throws;
Bleats forth it’s innocent complaint
And dies beneath the Blows.

Inhuman Wretch! say whence proceeds
This coward Cruelty?
What Int’rest springs from barb’rous deeds?
What Joy from Misery?

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The Third Stage Of Cruelty” William Hogarth (1751). “By the time of the third plate, Tom Nero has progressed from the mistreatment of animals to theft and murder. Having encouraged his pregnant lover, Ann Gill, to rob and leave her mistress, he murders the girl when she meets him. The murder is shown to be particularly brutal: her neck, wrist, and index finger are almost severed. Various features in the print are meant to intensify the feelings of dread: the murder takes place in a graveyard, said to be St Pancras but suggested by John Ireland to resemble Marylebone; an owl and a bat fly around the scene; the moon shines down on the crime; the clock strikes one for the end of the witching hour. The composition of the image may allude to Anthony van Dyck’s The Arrest of Christ. A lone Good Samaritan appears again: among the snarling faces of Tom’s accusers, a single face looks to the heavens in pity.” (Source: Wikipedia)

To lawless Love when once betray’d.
Soon Crime to Crime succeeds:
At length beguil’d to Theft, the Maid
By her Beguiler bleeds.

Yet learn, seducing Man! nor Night,
With all its sable Cloud,
can screen the guilty Deed from sight;
Foul Murder cries aloud.

The gaping Wounds and bloodstain’d steel,
Now shock his trembling Soul:
But Oh! what Pangs his Breast must feel,
When Death his Knell shall toll.

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“The Fourth Stage Of Cruelty” William Hogarth (1751). “Having been tried and found guilty of murder, Nero has now been hanged and his body taken for the ignominious process of public dissection. The year after the prints were issued, the Murder Act 1752 would ensure that the bodies of murderers could be delivered to the surgeons so they could be “dissected and anatomised”. A tattoo on his arm identifies Tom Nero, and the rope still around his neck shows his method of execution. The dissectors, their hearts hardened after years of working with cadavers, are shown to have as much feeling for the body as Nero had for his victims; his eye is put out just as his horse’s was, and a dog feeds on his heart, taking a poetic revenge for the torture inflicted on one of its kind in the first plate. Nero’s face appears contorted in agony and although this depiction is not realistic, Hogarth meant it to heighten the fear for the audience. Just as his murdered mistress’s finger pointed to Nero’s destiny in Cruelty in Perfection, in this print Nero’s finger points to the boiled bones being prepared for display, indicating his ultimate fate.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Behold the Villain’s dire disgrace!
Not Death itself can end.
He finds no peaceful Burial-Place,
His breathless Corse, no friend.

Torn from the Root, that wicked Tongue,
Which daily swore and curst!
Those Eyeballs from their Sockets wrung,
That glow’d with lawless Lust!

His Heart expos’d to prying Eyes,
To Pity has no claim;
But, dreadful! from his Bones shall rise,
His Monument of Shame.

August 1, 2014

Soul-Kinship And The Scourge of Division

 

Anti-Arab graffiti left by JDL on a Palestinian Girls’ school in Hebron, West Bank

எங்குல மெம்மின மென்பதொண் ணூற்றா
றங்குல மென்றரு ளருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி (Agaval, 219-220).

“My caste!”, “my clan!”, “my race!”, “my community!”

They clamor!

But enlighten us that

They refer only to the same living body in its standard length

Arutperumjothi!   (Trans. Thill Raghu)

Ramalingam’s ethic of compassion is designed to awaken and develop our innate and dormant sense of soul-kinship with all sentient beings.

Compassion is possible only because of the reality of soul-kinship and a soul’s intuitive discernment of it. But the cultivation of compassion also brings about a flowering and realization of this innate and dormant sense of soul-kinship, a central goal of moral and spiritual development on the path of Suddha Sanmargam.

Thus, a full awareness or realization of the truth of soul-kinship, and its expression in our attitudes and actions, is the objective of the practice of the ethic of compassion for sentient beings on the path of Suddha Sanmargam.

We have seen that Ramalingam affirms the reality of plurality and diversity of sentient beings.

The affirmation of the reality of plurality and diversity of sentient beings is a metaphysical presupposition of his ethic of compassion.

If a view V presupposes a claim C, then C is necessarily consistent with V.

Therefore, this affirmation of the reality of plurality and diversity of sentient beings or souls is also consistent with Ramalingam’s emphasis on soul-kinship.

Kinship-in-diversity and unity-in-diversity are the central truths, respectively, of his ethics and metaphysics.

Diversity does not abrogate the reality of biological kinship in a human family. In just the same way, diversity does not abrogate the reality of soul-kinship in the vast family of sentient beings.

However, divisions undermine the sense of kinship in a family and threaten its unity. In the same way, divisions also undermine the sense of soul-kinship with sentient beings.

What is a division?

A division implies a relation constituted by dichotomy, or opposition, and discord. Hence, divisions imply conflict.

If divisions undermine our sense of soul-kinship, they will also undermine our ability to feel empathy and compassion. This paves the way to the perpetration of all sorts of injustices and cruelties on other sentient beings. Hence, we must carefully consider the nature of division and the means of overcoming it.

Difference or diversity is not a sufficient condition of division. In other words, difference or diversity does not necessarily imply division.

A human family is a good example. All the individuals who constitute a human family have different physical and mental characteristics, but these differences do not necessarily undermine the sense of kinship in that family. If the mere fact of differences in physical and mental characteristics were sufficient to undermine the sense of kinship in a family, then there would be no families at all!

In certain conditions, however, differences become divisions and undermine the sense of kinship in a family. Hence, we should focus on the analysis of conditions in which differences become divisions and undermine the sense of soul-kinship, the basis of compassion.

The mere fact of difference or diversity is not necessarily the problem. However, the emphasis on differences or diversity at the expense of the truth of the common or shared nature and predicament of human beings, and the sense of soul-kinship with other human beings, is certainly responsible for the prevalence of unjust and inhumane division, exclusion, and discrimination in human society.

This emphasis on the differences between the self and the other, and at the expense of the truth of soul-kinship between the self and the other, also takes the form of an identity which is divisive and exclusive e.g., caste, ethnic, race, gender, species, national, class, religious, political identities, etc.

Divisions are opposed to the truth of soul-kinship among sentient beings. Hence, divisions are false.

The human condition is rife with social divisions based on various sorts of differences: physical differences or differences pertaining to the physical body, differences of beliefs and values, differences of geographical or regional origin, differences of communal affiliation such as caste or ethnicity, differences of language, differences of sexual orientation, differences of social and/or economic status, etc.

These sorts of differences become hardened or encrusted into divisions when they are emphasized or given importance at the expense of the common ground or shared elements or features of human beings and their conditions of embodied existence.

The differences then become the basis for unjust and inhumane exclusion and discriminatory treatment. Such unjust and inhumane exclusion and discriminatory treatment springs from, and in turn contributes to, the further obscuration of a sense of soul-kinship and the waning of compassion. And this waning of compassion leads to a proliferation of unjust and inhumane exclusionary and discriminatory acts and practices.

In the absence of compassion, all sorts of injustices and cruelties will be perpetrated on other sentient beings, and moral order itself, constituted by the prevalence of patterns of ethical conduct, will collapse.

Ramalingam holds that compassion is the linchpin of moral order in all the worlds. Hence, that which undermines compassion also undermines moral order in the world. Since divisions undermine compassion, they also undermine moral order.

Hence, the effective means to prevent or alleviate the cancer of division in human society lies in the abolition of all unjust and inhumane division, exclusion, and discriminatory treatment based on any kind or type of difference among human beings.

This can be achieved only if we discern and emphasize the common ground of human beings, and, indeed, of all sentient beings, and do not countenance differences at the expense of this common ground.

Ramalingam has strongly condemned this tendency to create divisions among human beings on the basis of religion, sectarianism, caste, clan or ancestry, national origin, race, gender, and creed. He has also condemned the killing of animals and the destruction of plant life on the basis of speciesism, or the division between human and non-human living beings. These divisions only strengthen the ignorance of soul-kinship and lead to the waning of compassion.

There are shared universals of physical, biological, and spiritual nature underlying the differences among sentient beings.

In Ramalingam’s view, these sociocultural divisions based on caste, ethnicity, race, etc., obscure the reality of the common physical, biological, and spiritual predicament of human beings.

Addressing the divisions of race, caste, and community among human beings, Ramalingam petitions Arutperumjothi to enlighten the ignorant perpetrators of these divisions that they are merely labels attached to the physical body. 

எங்குல மெம்மின மென்பதொண் ணூற்றா
றங்குல மென்றரு ளருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி (219-220).

“My caste!”, “my clan!”, “my race!”, “my community!”

They clamor!

But enlighten us that

They refer only to the same living body in its standard length

Arutperumjothi!   (Trans. Thill Raghu)

This verse also implies that the body is the common denominator or ground underlying the divisions of race, caste, tribe, community, etc. In other words, all these social divisions obscure the fact that the divided human beings share the same form of body and the vicissitudes of change which assail it.

Ascriptions of caste, race, etc., do not belong to the fundamental constituents and nature of the body possessed in common by both the so-called higher and lower castes, races, tribes, clans, nations, communities, etc. They also do not pertain to the soul or individual consciousness which is the real subject and agent.

It follows that social and cultural divisions of caste, race, tribe, clan, religion, etc., are false. They are not inherent in nature, the human body, or the soul.

In other words, nothing in the essential nature of the body or the soul of human beings can possibly show that they belong exclusively to any caste, tribe, clan, race, or religion, and that they are superior or inferior by virtue of this sort of identity.

Rather, these divisions are only maintained and perpetuated by false beliefs, irrational attitudes, and wrong conduct.

There is no “white blood” or “black blood”, only false notions of white blood or black blood. 

There is no “Brahmin blood” or “Shudra blood”, only false notions of Brahmin blood or Shudra blood.

There is no “Jewish blood” or “Arab blood”.

There is  just human blood!

In the same way, there is literally no “Hindu soul” or “Muslim soul”, “Jewish soul” or “Arab soul”. 

There are only ignorant divisions of human beings into Hindus and Muslims, Jews and Arabs, and so forth, based on a lack of discernment of the common features of their bodies, souls, and embodied predicament!

June 13, 2014

Soul-Unity (ஆன்மநேய ஒருமை): A Great Ideal of Suddha Sanmargam (4)

French troops slaughtering Spanish civilians in Goya's painting "The Third of May 1808".

French troops slaughtering Spanish civilians in Goya’s painting “The Third of May 1808”.

Why are some beings indifferent to the sufferings of other beings if there is soul-kinship among all beings?

Ramalingam raises this important question in his great unfinished essay on ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம் or “The Ethic of Compassion for Sentient Beings“.

He answers by pointing out that although soul-kinship is a reality, the central faculty of discernment (Tamil: ஆன்ம அறிவு) of this truth of soul-kinship is obscured or eclipsed by ignorance in some beings.

This cardinal ignorance also renders the soul’s cognitive instruments of mind, intellect, etc., opaque and unable to reflect the light of the truth of soul-kinship.

Hence, these beings do not recognize soul-kinship, and, consequently, lack compassion for other sentient beings who undergo suffering. From this it follows that those who have compassion possess the faculty of discernment of soul-kinship.

As Ramalingam writes in Tamil in the first part of his essay on compassion for sentient beings:

சீவர்கள் துக்கப் படுகின்றதைக் கண்டபோதும், சிலர் சீவகாருணியமில்லாமல் கடினசித்தர்களாயிருக்கின்றார்கள்;

“Some persons lack compassion and remain unmoved even at the sight of the suffering of other sentient beings.”

இவர்களுக்குச் சகோதர உரிமை இல்லாமற்போவது ஏனெனில்:

“Why do these persons lack a sense of brotherhood or kinship (with those sentient beings)?”

துக்கப்படுகின்றவரைத் தமது சகோதரரென்றும் துக்கப்படுகின்றாரென்றும் துக்கப்படுவாரென்றும் அறியத்தக்க ஆன்ம அறிவு என்கிற கண்ணானது அஞ்ஞானகாசத்தால் மிகவும் ஒளி மழுங்கினபடியாலும், அவைகளுக்கு உபகாரமாகக் கொண்ட மனம் முதலான உபநயனங்களாகிய கண்ணாடிகளும் பிரகாச பிரதிபலிதமில்லாமல் தடிப்புள்ளவைகளாக இருந்த படியாலும் கண்டறியக் கூடாமையாயிற்று.

“It is because their faculty of soul-knowing (ஆன்ம அறிவு ), the soul’s eye, which can see that another sentient being which is suffering is a brother, or kin, and that it is suffering, or is capable of suffering, is afflicted by the cataract of ignorance, and, consequently, even the spectacles or instruments which facilitate the vision of the soul, e.g., mind, intellect, etc., are rendered opaque and bereft of the capacity to reflect the light of knowledge (of soul-kinship).”

அதனால், சகோதர உரிமையிருந்தும் சீவகாருணியம் உண்டாகாம லிருந்ததென் றறிய வேண்டும்.

“Hence, they lack compassion despite the fact of their brotherhood or kinship with those sentient beings.”

இதனால் சீவகாருணியமுள்ளவர் ஆன்ம திருஷ்டி விளக்கமுள்ளவரென்றறியப்படும்.” (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம், முதற் பிரிவு)

“From this, it should be known that those who have compassion possess the clarity of vision of the soul’s eye of discernment, or soul-knowing.”

Thus, in Ramalingam’s analysis, there is fundamentally an epistemic or cognitive deficiency, the eclipse of the soul’s central faculty of discernment (ஆன்ம அறிவு), which is responsible for the absence of compassion in the face of suffering experienced by other sentient beings.

In a Socratic vein, Ramalingam holds that the cardinal vice of absence of compassion is due to lack of knowledge of the truth of soul-kinship.

But if each soul has this faculty of discernment which enables it to recognize soul-kinship with another sentient being, why does this faculty get obscured, eclipsed, or atrophied, due to ignorance, in some souls or beings? In other words, why  are some beings afflicted by this ignorance of their soul-kinship with other sentient beings?

To answer this question, we must turn to the concept of āṇavam (Tamil: ஆணவம்), or egoism in the Tamil Saiva Siddhanta tradition.

Although he had a deep knowledge of it, Ramalingam was not an adherent or practitioner of the Tamil Saiva Siddhanta philosophical tradition. But he does affirm some of its metaphysical claims.

A central metaphysical claim of this tradition is that all unenlightened souls or pašu (Tamil: பசு) are fettered by the three cords of bondage or pācam (Tamil: பாசம்): ஆணவம் or āṇavam (egoism), கன்மம் or kaṉmam (karma, causality), and மாயை or māyai (matter, the “stuff” of our bodies and cosmos).

Ramalingam affirms this claim in his definition of the unenlightened soul or pašu (பசு) in his “Ethic of Compassion for Sentient Beings”.

Aṇavam is the primordial impurity (Tamil:ஆணவமலம்) which taints every individual soul in the form of a potentiality. It is manifested in terms of a tendency toward a separate, selfish, and exclusive existence. It leads to an eclipse of a soul’s ability to recognize soul-kinship.

As a consequence, there is an exacerbation of the division between self and the other. This division further paves the way to opposition, conflict, enmity, domination, and oppression in its relations with other beings and the inevitable chain reactions of Karma which assail the soul.

Thus, we can only explain the absence of compassion in some beings in terms of their ignorance of soul-kinship. Their ignorance of soul-kinship, in its turn, is explained by their longstanding choice of cultivation of the separative and exclusive tendencies of āṇavam or egoism and their subjection to the inevitable karma or consequences of these egoistic tendencies.

Hence, to recover and develop this knowledge of soul-unity or soul-kinship we must reverse the process of ignorance in question by weakening the tendencies of āṇavam or egoism and cultivating empathy and compassion.

It is interesting to note that Wang Yang-Ming also holds the view that the innate sense of unity with all things, the innate knowledge that the myriad things form “one body”, can be 0bscured by selfish desires, a manifestation of āṇavam, and that this obscuration can lead to cruelty against others:

“This means that even the mind of the small man necessarily has the humanity that forms one body with all. Such a mind is rooted in his Heaven-endowed nature, and is naturally intelligent, clear, and not beclouded. For this reason it is called the “clear character.”

Although the mind of the small man is divided and narrow, yet his humanity that forms one body can remain free from darkness to this degree. This is due to the fact that his mind has not yet been aroused by desires and obscured by selfishness.

When it is aroused by desires and obscured by selfishness, compelled by greed for gain and fear of harm, and stirred by anger, he will destroy things, kill members of his own species, and will do everything.

In extreme cases he will even slaughter his own brothers, and the humanity that forms one body will disappear completely.

Hence, if it is not obscured by selfish desires, even the mind of the small man has the humanity that forms one body with all as does the mind of the great man. As soon as it is obscured by selfish desires, even the mind of the great man will be divided and narrow like that of the small man.

The learning of the great man consists entirely in getting rid of the obscuration of selfish desires in order by his own efforts to make manifest his clear character, so as to restore the condition of forming one body with Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things, a condition that is originally so, that is all.” ( “An Inquiry on the Great Learning,” in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, translated and compiled by Wing-Tsit Chan [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963], pp. 659-660.)

There is an interesting objection to Ramalingam’s argument that discernment of soul-kinship is the basis of compassion and that, therefore, lack of compassion is due to the lack of discernment of soul-kinship.

This objection points to those who do not subscribe to the notion that there is a soul, not to mention soul-kinship, but who are, nevertheless, compassionate.

Does the existence of these sorts of compassionate persons refute Ramalingam’s argument linking compassion and discernment of soul-kinship?

The answer to this objection must first clarify what Ramalingam means by “discernment of soul-kinship”. This discernment is a function of a cognitive faculty (Tamil: ஆன்ம அறிவு) possessed by a soul. The Tamil term used by Ramalingam to refer to this faculty means “soul-knowing” or “soul-discernment”.

What sort of knowledge is discernment of soul-kinship?

It is the knowledge that other sentient beings, regardless of their physical forms or bodies, are, nevertheless, beings similar to me in that they can suffer and be subjected to various types of harm, or flourish, in the way I can.

It is the knowledge that other sentient beings are selves, or subjects of experiences, and agents with varying capacities for action, in the way I am.

It is also the knowledge that by virtue of these similarities, a bond, or relation, or kinship, exists among us and that, as a consequence, I have an obligation to provide assistance or relief to these sentient beings if I know that they are undergoing suffering or harm and possess the capacity to alleviate their suffering or harm.

(I would add, in this context, that all scientific knowledge of the similarities and common origin of sentient beings can facilitate the discernment of soul-kinship with all those beings.)

Now, it cannot be denied that compassion is constituted by an empathetic understanding of the nature and predicament of another sentient being, an understanding which has all the elements of Ramalingam’s concept of discernment of soul-kinship.

Therefore, those who are compassionate possess this type of empathetic understanding of other sentient beings, or discernment of soul-kinship, and it does not matter whether they actually use the concept of soul-kinship and its discernment in describing their understanding.

Regardless of the vocabulary employed by these compassionate persons to describe the elements of their empathetic understanding, it is tantamount to a discernment of soul-kinship.

 

 

June 12, 2014

Soul-Unity (ஆன்மநேய ஒருமை): A Great Ideal of Suddha Sanmargam (3)

Chidambaram Ramalingam
May All Beings Attain Bliss and Flourish!

Another figure in the history of ethics whose evocative reflections on compassion and its metaphysical basis merit comparison with Ramalingam’s views on the subject is Wang Yang-Ming 王阳明 (1472 – 1529 C.E.) a great Chinese thinker and sage.

Wang Yangming 王阳明 (1472 - 1529 C.E.)

Wang Yang-Ming 王阳明 (1472 – 1529 C.E.)

Wang Yang-Ming’s central claim is that a sense of unity with all things, based on the understanding that all things constitute “one body” or a unified whole, is innate in our consciousness.

The “great man”, or a wise person who has curbed selfish desires, spontaneously regards “Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body“, but even the mind of the “small man”, or a person lacking in wisdom due to indulgence in selfish desires, is no different in this respect because it retains the same innate sense of the unity of all things, or the understanding that all things form “one body”.

Wang Yang-Ming finds evidence of this innate sense of unity with all things, springing from the understanding that the myriad things form “one body” or a unified whole, in the spontaneous manifestations of compassion even in the minds of “small men”.

Thus, even the mind of the “small man” is spontaneously overcome by concern and compassion when he sees a child about to fall into a well.

Is this compassion simply due to the fact that he realizes that the child is also a human being like him?

Wang Yang-Ming denies that this spontaneous compassion has anything to do with the fact that both of them belong to the same human species. He points out that even the mind of the “small man” is spontaneously overcome by concern and compassion when he observes the “pitiful cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be slaughtered”, despite the fact that these belong to a different species.

In this context, I should point out a striking difference between Wang Yang-Ming and Ramalingam.

Wang Yang-Ming, despite his acknowledgement of the suffering of animals in the slaughterhouse and his emphasis on kindness toward them, thought that it was still morally permissible to kill them for food and for sacrificial purposes. As he put it, in the context of a discussion of priority of actions:

Animals and men alike should be loved, yet it is proper under certain circumstances to kill animals, especially for parents, guests, and as sacrificial offerings.”

Ramalingam, in contrast, holds uncompromisingly that it is morally wrong to kill animals for food and strongly condemns the sacrifice of animals for religious and ritualistic purposes.

Is this compassion simply due to the fact that he realizes that these birds and animals are also sentient beings similar in some ways to him?

Wang Yang-Ming denies that this spontaneous compassion has anything to do with the fact that the birds and animals are also sentient beings similar in some ways to the “small man”. He points out that even the mind of the “small man” is spontaneously overcome by concern and compassion when he sees “plants broken and destroyed”, despite the fact that these are not sentient beings similar to him.

Is this compassion simply due to the fact that plants also have life in just the way he does?

Wang Yang-Ming now takes the radical step of denying that this spontaneous compassion has anything to do with the fact that the “small man” shares the property of life with the plants. He points out that even the mind of the “small man” is spontaneously overcome by regret when he sees “tiles and stones shattered and crushed”, despite the fact that these are inanimate things.

What, then, is the origin of the spontaneous concern and compassion which arise even in the mind of the “small man” at the sight of a child about to fall into a well, the pitiful cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be slaughtered, plants broken and destroyed, and tiles and stones shattered and crushed?

Wang Yang-Ming answers that the origin of the spontaneous concern and compassion even in the mind of a “small man” lies in the fact that his humanity forms “one body” with the child, birds and animals, plants, and tiles and stones. Indeed, it lies in the fact that his humanity forms “one body” with all things.

Here is the relevant and stirring passage from the Inquiry On The Great Learning:

“Master Wang said: The great man regards Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body. He regards the world as one family and the country as one person. As to those who make a cleavage between objects and distinguish between the self and others, they are small men.

That the great man can regard Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things as one body is not because he deliberately wants to do so, but because it is natural to the humane nature of his mind that he do so.

Forming one body with Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things is not only true of the great man. Even the mind of the small man is no different. Only he himself makes it small.

Therefore when he sees a child about to fall into a well, he cannot help a feeling of alarm and commiseration. This shows that his humanity forms one body with the child. It may be objected that the child belongs to the same species. Again, when he observes the pitiful cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be slaughtered, he cannot help feeling an “inability to bear” their suffering. This shows that his humanity forms one body with birds and animals. It may be objected that birds and animals are sentient beings as he is. But when he sees plants broken and destroyed, he cannot help a feeling of pity. This shows that his humanity forms one body with plants. It may be said that plants are living things as he is. Yet even when he sees tiles and stones shattered and crushed, he cannot help a feeling of regret.

This means that even the mind of the small man necessarily has the humanity that forms one body with all.” (A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, trans. Wing-Tsit Chan, Princeton University Press, 1963, pp. 659-660)

The key concept here is that of a person’s “humanity” forming “one body” with all things. What could this possibly mean? What could it mean in the context of the quoted passage?

Is it a precursor of  Schopenhauer’s reference to “that respect in which we are all one and the same entity“? It seems to be, particularly given Wang Yang-Ming’s disparagement of those who “make a cleavage between objects and distinguish between self and others” in the passage quoted earlier.

This would mean that Wang Yang-Ming is essentially affirming metaphysical monism in making his claim that the myriad things constitute “one body”. But there is also a suggestion that the “great man” recognizes the kinship underlying diversity in that he “regards the world as one family“.

If we substitute Ramalingam’s concept of soul-kinship for Wang Yang-Ming’s obscure concept of a person’s “humanity” forming “one body with all things”, we can make sense of the fact that even a “small man” spontaneously feels concern and compassion for a child about to fall into a well, birds and animals about to be slaughtered, broken plants, etc.

Even the “small man”, one who is immersed in selfish desires, has an innate sense of soul-kinship with other sentient beings and this sense spontaneously expresses itself in terms of concern and compassion at the sight of another sentient being undergoing, or about to undergo, suffering, harm, or destruction.

But soul-kinship presupposes the existence of souls, the bearers of sentience and consciousness, and implies a relation among them.

How, then, can we make sense of Wang Yang-Ming’s  inclusion of inanimate objects in the range of a person’s “humanity” or scope of concern and compassion? What sort of kinship can there be between a sentient and conscious being and an inanimate object?

Wang Yang-Ming actually mentions “regret” and not “compassion” in writing about the response of the “small man” at the sight of shattered and crushed tiles and stones. But, contrary to Wang Yang-Ming, it is not clear that such regret pertains to the fate of the tiles and stones per se.

We may regret the destruction of a rock because we think this has adverse consequences for the environment or for the creatures who use the rock, or the protected surface beneath it, as a habitation. We may also regret the destruction of a rock for aesthetic reasons. It may diminish the aesthetic quality of the landscape.

Rocks in Ryōan-ji (late 15th century) in Kyoto, Japan, a famous example of a zen garden

Rocks in Ryōan-ji (late 15th century) in Kyoto, Japan, a famous example of a Zen garden

But do we, or can we, really regret the destruction of a rock simply for the sake of the rock? I don’t think so.

Rocks do not have any interests. Therefore, they cannot be harmed. They are not sentient. Hence, they cannot suffer. Therefore, there is no question of feeling any compassion for a rock.

But, certainly, as acknowledged earlier, we can be concerned about the impact of the destruction of a rock on sentient beings in a given environment.

Israeli Demolition of 2 apartment home of the Palestinian 8-member Idris family, their relative, her husband and their two children (Beit Hanina, 2014)

Israeli Demolition of 2 apartment home of the Palestinian 8-member Idris family, their relative, her husband and their two children (Beit Hanina, 2014)

When we see houses or other structures made of tiles and stones, or other materials, destroyed in a war, or in an Israeli-style criminal campaign of demolitions (of Palestinian homes), we can feel regret for various sensible reasons: reasons pertaining to the waste of valuable labor expended in constructing the houses, reasons pertaining to the risk of death or grievous bodily injury faced by people who were living in those houses at the time of their destruction, reasons pertaining to the homelessness of the former inhabitants of the houses, reasons pertaining to the historical, sociocultural, and/or aesthetic value of those houses or structures, and so forth. But this list does not include any intrinsic concern for those houses or structures, or concern purely for the sake of the houses or structures.

Hence, I think that the limits of sentience constitute the limits of compassion and its basis of soul-kinship. There is no question of the inclusion of inanimate objects in the range of soul-kinship or compassion.

Therefore, contrary to Wang Yang-Ming’s approach, Ramalingam does not include insentient objects in the scope of soul-kinship and compassion.

In his ethic of compassion, the proper use of insentient objects such as rocks is largely a function of their role in preventing or alleviating the suffering of sentient beings.

Thus, destruction of insentient objects is permissible as a means to prevent or alleviate the suffering of sentient beings, e.g., it is permissible and praiseworthy to destroy a rock to prevent it from crushing a tree, or another sentient being.

 

 

 

 

June 10, 2014

Soul-Unity (ஆன்மநேய ஒருமை): A Great Ideal of Suddha Sanmargam (2)

Chidambaram Ramalingam
May All Beings Attain Bliss and Flourish!

In the previous post, I pointed out the crucial distinction between the claim of soul-unity based on soul-kinship and the claim of soul-identity or oneness of souls. I argued that, unlike Ramalingam’s claim of soul-unity based on soul-kinship, the claim of identity or oneness of a plurality of souls or individuals is incoherent since it implies both a denial of plurality of souls and an acknowledgment that a plurality of souls perceive the appearance of plurality and/or discern the underlying reality of oneness.

In his great unfinished essay on “The Ethic of Compassion for Sentient Beings“, written in eloquent and moving Tamil prose in the mid-1860’s and first published in 1879, five years after his disappearance, Ramalingam argues that soul-kinship is the basis of compassion. The intuitive discernment of the fact that another sentient being subject to suffering is one’s soul-kin and soul-kind underlies all compassion.

Soul-kinship makes it possible for an agent not only to empathize with a being who is suffering, but also to make the alleviation of the suffering of that being the main motive of the agent’s action. Otherwise, it remains a mystery why anyone would be moved by a total stranger’s suffering, or the suffering of distant peoples, or even an animal’s suffering, and make it their main motive or purpose to alleviate that suffering.

Ramalingam, therefore, holds that any manifestation of compassion is not only evidence that an underlying soul-kinship exists, but also that the person who feels compassion possesses moral and spiritual discernment of the underlying reality of soul-kinship.

In just the way knowledge of bodily or biological kinship is the basis of  concern for and empathy with the suffering of a brother or sister, a soul’s intuitive knowledge of soul-kinship with another sentient being, regardless of whether this being is a stranger, or even a member of another species, is the basis of compassion for that being.

In the Western tradition of philosophy, the great German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) whose seminal work in ethics, titled “On The Basis of Morality”, first published in 1840 when Ramalingam was only seventeen years old, offered important and radical reflections on compassion.

Indeed, Schopenhauer tried to show that compassion is the basis of morality.  Ramalingam, living in the city of Madras (now Chennai) in India in 1840, could not have known about Schopenhauer’s work, but he would later affirm the same truth that ethical conduct has its foundation in compassion in his essay on the ethic of compassion.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860) Portrait by Jules Lunteschütz

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) Portrait by Jules Lunteschütz

Schopenhauer points out that compassion is a puzzling psychological fact. Compassion has for its sole object the alleviation of the suffering of another. It involves empathy or the ability to feel the bite or weight of another being’s suffering. Schopenhauer is puzzled by this and asks:

But now how is it possible for a suffering which is not mine and does not touch me to become just as directly a motive as only my own normally does, and to move me to action?” (On The Basis of Morality, trans. E. F. J. Payne, Berghahn Books, p. 165)

Schopenhauer goes on to observe that in a state of compassion for another who is suffering,

…I share the suffering in him, in spite of the fact that his skin does not enclose my nerves. Only in this way can his woe, his distress, become a motive for me…I repeat that this occurrence is mysterious, for it is something our faculty of reason can give no direct account of, and its grounds cannot be discovered on the path of experience.” (On The Basis of Morality, trans. E. F. J. Payne, Berghahn Books, p. 165)

If Schopenhauer is correct in his claim that the “grounds” or basis of compassion “cannot be discovered on the path of experience”, or, in other words, cannot be explained in terms of empirical factors, then this implies that the moral and psychological phenomenon of compassion poses a serious problem for Darwinian or evolutionary approaches to ethics and human psychology.

Schopenhauer argues that compassion presupposes an identification with the person who is suffering and that this implies a temporary abolition or suspension of the “barrier between the ego and non-ego”. (ibid., p. 165)

In holding this view, he seems to be affirming that compassion presupposes a metaphysical identity or oneness of the agent who feels compassion and the person or being the agent feels compassion for.

Indeed, in the section “On The Metaphysical Explanation“, he explicitly upholds that

“…plurality and diversity of individuals are mere phenomenon, that is, exist only in my representation.  My true inner being exists in every living thing…we are all one and the same entity.” (ibid., pp. 210-211)

The problem here is not only the incoherence of the concept of metaphysical identity or oneness of the observer who feels compassion and the victim who is suffering, but also the issue of how we can distinguish between compassion and self-pity on the basis of this alleged foundation of metaphysical oneness or identity of observer and victim.

If I am actually one with the other, then his or her suffering is actually my own suffering. This also implies that in feeling compassion for the other, I am actually feeling compassion for myself. This turns compassion into an exercise in self-pity.

Schopenhauer praises compassion as the very paradigm of the ethical particularly for the reason that it is directed toward the recognition of another being’s woe and the alleviation of that woe, but his affirmation of metaphysical identity or oneness undermines this moral status of compassion and reduces it to an egoistic exercise in  self-pity on a grand metaphysical scale!

Far from explaining compassion, his monistic metaphysical theory explains it away by reducing it to self-pity.

Further, Schopenhauer’s correct view of compassion, i.e., that it is solely directed toward the recognition and alleviation of another being’s woe, obviously implies that his metaphysical theory of identity or oneness of all individuals must be false! Compassion requires not only the recognition of the reality of the other, and, by implication, the reality of the distinction between the self and the other, but also the reality of the suffering experienced by the other.

Schopenhauer’s confusion is evident from the fact that in another passage in the same work he disavows this metaphysical identity or oneness and argues that the observer who feels compassion is still conscious of the difference between the self and the other who is suffering.

The Italian moral philosopher Ubaldo Cassina (1736 – 1824) had argued in his Saggio analitico sulla compassione (Analytical Essay on Compassion) published in 1788 that compassion is a function of a deception or delusion of the imagination in that the observer feels that he is actually undergoing in his own person the suffering of the victim. Since this cannot be real, compassion is based on a delusive state of empathetic identification with the victim.

Schopenhauer rejects Cassina’s analysis of compassion on the grounds that compassion does not abrogate the distinction between the observer’s awareness of his own condition and the victim’s state of suffering. He points out that contrary to Cassina’s claim,

…at every moment we remain clearly conscious that he is the sufferer, not we; and it is precisely in his person, not in ours, that we feel the suffering, to our grief and sorrow. We suffer with him and hence in him; we feel his pain as his, and do not imagine that it is ours.” (On The Basis Of Morality, trans. E.F. J. Payne, Berghahn Books, p. 147)

I think that the metaphysical linchpin of compassion Schopenhauer is searching for is provided by Ramalingam’s concept of soul-kinship.

As I pointed earlier, Ramalingam’s concept of soul-kinship avoids the incoherence of metaphysical identity or oneness of individuals and provides a basis for empathy and compassion.

Kinship presupposes a distinction between the self and the other, but it also implies a close bond or relation between the self and other which explains empathy, compassion, and a sense of unity with someone who is kin.

Hence, Ramalingam’s concept of soul-kinship is the key to the resolution of Schopenhauer’s confusion on the metaphysical basis of compassion.

 

 

 

June 2, 2014

Soul-Unity (ஆன்மநேய ஒருமை): A Great Ideal of Suddha Sanmargam (1)

17th-century depiction of the Tree of Life in the Palace of Shaki Khans, Azerbaijan

17th-century depiction of the Tree of Life in the Palace of Shaki Khans, Azerbaijan

Ramalingam has said that the realization and practice of soul-unity (ஆன்மநேய  ஒருமை) or the kinship and unity of all sentient beings based on our essential and fundamental status as embodied souls and living beings, regardless of the form of embodiment or form of body, is the central and foundational value and ideal of Suddha Sanmargam.

Each individual sentient being is a soul. Evidently, soul-unity and kinship presuppose the existence of a plurality of souls.

What, then, is a soul?

According to Ramalingam, souls are subjects, i.e., bearers of experiences and qualities, and agents, i.e., intentional doers, essentially characterized by consciousness and its attributes, e.g., self-consciousness, volition, intelligence, cognition, affect, and action.

A soul is the locus and bearer of all the attributes of consciousness and of the “personality” of an individual. It is also the “renter” of the body in which it dwells, a body formed by Arutperumjothi to enable that soul to lead a sentient life and manifest and develop its potentialities.

Souls are innumerable. They become embodied, and, consequently, identify and interact with various types of bodies made of material constituents, but they are always distinct and different from those material bodies.

In Ramalingam’s view, material bodies are created and perishable, but souls are uncreated, and, hence, eternal.  It follows that the destruction of the body does not involve the destruction of the indwelling soul.

Material bodies inherently lack consciousness, intelligence, volition, affect, and intentional action, but souls essentially possess these properties.

Material bodies are complex and divisible. Souls are simple and indivisible.

Ramalingam holds that all souls are potentially the finite loci of the manifestation or expression of the boundless compassion of Arutperumjothi, the ultimate being.

All compassion expressed by individuals is a finite and partial manifestation, instantiation, or reflection of the boundless compassion of Arutperumjothi. Hence, the manifestation or expression of the latter is in proportion to the development of compassion in the individual soul.

As an individual soul grows in its capacity for compassion and knowledge of soul-kinship, it also grows to participate in the boundless compassion of Arutperumjothi.

As Ramalingam sings in his magnum opus Arutperumjothi Agaval:

எங்கே கருணை யியற்கையி னுள்ளன
அங்கே விளங்கிய வருட்பெருஞ் சிவமே!

(Agaval 961-962)

Where there is compassion in nature,

there is the lustre

of the boundless light

of pure intelligence and goodness!” (Trans. Thill Raghu)

However, due to the influence of Anavam (Tamil: ஆணவம்) or egoism, a potentiality of individual consciousness which constitutes the disposition to self-assertion and a separate and exclusive existence, souls become immersed in a dark and endless abyss of ignorance of the existence of Arutperumjothi and of their own original nature.

As a consequence, they are also subject to an occlusion, obscuration, or veiling of their essential properties of consciousness, intelligence, volition, cognition, affect, and action.

These shared essential attributes, or shared original nature, and the shared predicament of all souls constitute their kinship in just the way shared genes, features, predicament, and common origin constitute the kinship of all sentient bodies.

The kinship of all living bodies at the fundamental biological level is but a reflection of the kinship of souls which are embodied in them.

Arutperumjothi’s boundless compassion makes possible the gradual and law-governed emancipation of souls from this abyss of ignorance by means of successive forms of embodiment, i.e., a process of rebirth or reincarnation, which enable the development and expression of the latent properties and capacities of souls, e.g., intelligence, cognition, affect, volition, action, etc.

This process of emancipation is law-governed in the sense that it is shaped by causality, the essential nature of things, and the actions (karma) of the souls. It inevitably involves subjection to the law-governed processes of birth, death, and rebirth and their attendant sufferings.

But it is ultimately and irrevocably directed toward and culminates in the emergence of conditions, e.g., embodiment in human form, which make possible a unitive experience and knowledge of Arutperumjothi and the attainment of Siddhi or Adepthood, a form of individual existence free from ignorance, death, suffering, and other limitations.

Therefore, enlightenment or liberation from ignorance by means of attainment of unitive experience and knowledge of Arutperumjothi is the ultimate purpose of sentient and conscious existence, in whatever form, and the “meaning” of the cosmos from whose womb it is born.

This does not imply that any sentient body affords an equal opportunity for the indwelling soul to attain enlightenment.

Ramalingam affirms a gradation of sentient bodies and accords a special status to the human body because this type of body with its advanced capabilities of  manifesting and developing a soul’s potentialites affords a rare opportunity to attain enlightenment.

All the same, embodiment in each type of sentient body makes its own contribution to the development and expression of the potentialities of consciousness, cognition, volition, affect, and action in the indwelling soul.

Soul-unity based on kinship of souls must be carefully distinguished from incoherent monistic metaphysical claims of identity or oneness. Ramalingam accepts the reality of plurality and diversity of souls, a diversity based on their different patterns of karma.

The monistic metaphysical claim of identity or oneness of souls is incoherent because it violates the law of identity which implies that each individual being or soul is what it is and not identical to another.

The claim that “All souls are one” is incoherent in just the way “All individuals are one” is incoherent. These claims identify or pick out a plurality of individuals and at the same time deny that plurality.

Should we rather construe these claims as asserting that plurality is an appearance and oneness or identity is the reality underlying that appearance?

If so, two questions arise: “To whom is it apparent that there is a plurality of individuals?” and “Who discerns the reality of oneness underlying the appearance of plurality?”.

Inevitably, the answers to these questions must refer to, or imply, a plurality of individuals who perceive the appearance of plurality and are subject to the ignorance of the underlying oneness, or a plurality of  individuals who discern the underlying reality of oneness, and, consequently, render the denial of plurality and assertion of oneness or identity incoherent.

I will continue to explore Ramalingam’s views on soul-unity and its realization and practice in my next post.

 

 

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