Soul-Kinship And The Scourge of Division

"Gas This Arabs!" Racist graffiti left on a Palestinian girls' school in Hebron. The graffiti is signed "JDL."

“Gas This Arabs!” Racist graffiti left on a Palestinian girls’ school in Hebron, West Bank. The graffiti is signed “JDL”.

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 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!

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