Archive for July, 2020

July 29, 2020

Spiritual Humanitarianism: The Abolition Of Hunger (1)

dead_or_dying_children_on_a_calcutta_street_28the_statesman_22_august_194329
Photo in The Statesman on 22 August 1943 showing famine conditions in Calcutta, India, during the final years of the infernal British rule. (Source: Wikipedia)
Vulture Stalks A Famished Sudanese Child (Photo by Kevin Carter, 1993)
Old photo of Sathiya Dharuma Saalai (The Home of True Charity) in Vadalur, Tamilnadu, South India – It was opened by Ramalingam on May 23, 1867 and has fed the poor and hungry to this day.

At the opening of the Sathiya Dharuma Saalai (The Home of True Charity – true charity because it is universal charity and dispensed regardless of caste, class, religion, sex, ethnicity, ideology, etc) in May 1867, Ramalingam reportedly read from the first part of his great and incomplete essay on “The Practice of Compassion for Living Beings” (“ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம்”). It is subtitled “The First Practice Of Suddha Sanmargam” (“சுத்த சன்மார்க்கத்தின் முதற் சாதனம்”).

It was first published in 1879, five years after Ramalingam’s decision to recede from the realm of mortal eyes. This essay, which marks a revolutionary advance in ethical and spiritual thought, has survived in three overlapping parts in the extant publications.

It is reported that this revolutionary essay was originally composed in seven parts, but the authenticity of this claim has not been verified. What we do know is that at the end of the first part of this essay, it is mentioned that this ethic of compassion for living beings will be further elaborated in a work titled “சமரச வேதம்” or “The Way of Wisdom and Harmony” (“இன்னும் இந்தச் சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தின் விரிவைச் சமரச வேதத்திற் கண்டு கொள்ளலாம்“).

However, there is no evidence that this proposed book on “சமரச வேதம்”, or “The Way of Wisdom and Harmony”, was completed or even made available in parts. Perhaps, Ramalingam left this task of further clarification and elaboration of the ethic of compassion for living beings to others on the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam (The Pure Path of Wisdom and Harmony).

Ramalingam’s central proposal in this great work of spiritual ethics is that the practice of prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of living beings, with priority accorded to the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of human beings, is the core of the practice of compassion for living beings

And since the practice of compassion for living beings is the sufficient means for realizing and receiving the fullness of the supreme compassion-force (அருள்) of the OmniLight (கடவுள்), it follows that the dedicated practice of the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of living beings, with priority accorded to the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of human beings, is sufficient for realizing and receiving the fullness of the supreme compassion-force (அருள்) of the OmniLight (கடவுள்).

Ramalingam affirms that the supernal life of bliss without any limitations (of death, disease, aging, suffering, etc) can be attained only by realizing and receiving the fullness of the supreme compassion-force (அருள்) of the OmniLight (கடவுள்).

It follows that the dedicated practice of the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of living beings, with priority accorded to the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of human beings, is sufficient for attaining the supernal life of bliss without any limitations.

Ramalingam’s central proposal on the imperative of preventing or alleviating hunger or starvation of living beings, with primacy accorded to the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of human beings, rests on Six Noble Truths:

The First Noble Truth: “கடவுளின் பூரண இயற்கை இன்பத்தைப் பெற்று எக்காலத்தும், எவ்விடத்தும், எவ்விதத்தும், எவ்வளவும் தடைபடாமல் வாழ்கின்ற ஒப்பற்ற பெரியவாழ்வே இந்த மனிதப் பிறப்பினால் அடையத்தக்க ஆன்மலாபமென்று உண்மையாக அறியவேண்டும்.”

Translation: “The highest spiritual good attainable in this human birth and life is the realization of the inherent and absolute bliss of the OmniLight (கடவுள்) and the resulting incomparable supernal life which is not hindered, obstructed, or limited (தடைபடாமல்) at any time, or place, or in any form, or to any extent or degree.”

If it is a life which is “not hindered, obstructed, or limited (தடைபடாமல்) at any time, or place, or in any form, or to any extent or degree”, it follows that it must be an immortal life of complete bliss, knowledge, and freedom.

And since terrestrial and extraterrestrial life are both subject to various kinds of obstructions and limitations, this immortal life of complete bliss, knowledge, and freedom must be a supernal existence and form of life transcending both the terrestrial and extraterrestrial realms of existence.

Attaining this supernal life must certainly be an incalculable or immeasurable (ஒப்பற்ற) evolutionary or developmental ascent and gain for human beings, or souls who have taken birth in a human body.

What does all this mean?

It means that human life, distinguished by the possession of a unique body with remarkable capacities, not least of which is the faculty of language and complex reasoning, can become a ladder of evolutionary or developmental ascent into an embodied supernal state of existence and consciousness free from the endemic limitations and attendant sufferings of human and other mundane (terrestrial or extraterrestrial) forms of life.

How do we know that such an “embodied supernal state of existence and consciousness free from the endemic limitations and attendant sufferings of human and other forms of life” exists in reality?

At our present level of understanding, marked by ignorance of the existence of the OmniLight, and other serious limitations, we do not have any direct means of ascertaining the reality of this supernal state of existence.

However, we can rely on Ramalingam’s testimony on its reality and on the realization of the OmniLight and its supreme compassion-force (அருள்). He testifies that the realization and full reception of its supreme compassion-force (அருள்) leads to the attainment of this supernal life bereft of any limitations.

In the absence of evidence showing that Ramalingam was deluded, or that he was deceptive, and on the evidence of his well-documented discernment, compassion, and sincerity, it is rational to accept his testimony.

In addition, we can also reason plausibly that if the OmniLight exists, and if individual beings or souls are the OmniLight’s own microcosmic manifestations conditioned by their mysterious descent or “fall” into a state of abysmal ignorance, the identification with their material bodies, and the resultant karma accumulated in successive births in those bodies, the destiny of individual beings or souls cannot be confined merely to the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth in the forms of embodied existence beset by all sorts of limitations and attendant sufferings.

Since the OmniLight is supremely compassionate, it is reasonable to expect that it would make a higher form of existence, bereft of limitations and attendant sufferings, accessible to souls ripe for that evolutionary ascent, or spiritual progress, and also facilitate and fulfill this ascent and progress by its supreme compassion-force (அருள்).

Why does it not prevent the sufferings of sentient beings?

The workings of the supreme compassion-force are not capricious, but law-governed, i.e., governed by the laws of divine nature or the nature of the OmniLight. The laws of nature are a function of the operations of this supreme compassion-force in accordance with the nature of the OmniLight.

There are numerous instances in which its lawful operations prevent or bring about the alleviation of suffering and there are many instances in which its lawful operations allow sentient beings to suffer from various factors.

Why are there such instances in which the workings of the supreme compassion-force allow sentient beings to suffer from various factors?

Ramalingam points out that sentient beings undergo sufferings from hunger, disease, murder, etc., because of four primary factors:

a) the nature of the impure stuff or material (அசுத்த மாயை) of their bodies and that of the universe in which they exist

“பூதகாரிய தேகங்களுக்கு மாயை முதற்காரணமாதலால் அந்த மாயையின் விகற்ப ஜாலங்களாகிய பசி, தாகம், பிணி, இச்சை, எளிமை, பயம், கொலை என்பவைகளால் அந்தத் தேகங்களுக்கு அடிக்கடி அபாயங்கள் நேரிடுமென்றும், அப்படி அபாயங்கள் நேரிடாமல் கரணேந்திரிய சகாயங்களைப் பெற்ற தம் மறிவைக் கொண்டு சர்வ ஜாக்கிரதையோடு முயற்சிசெய்து தடுத்துக் கொள்வதற்குத் தக்க வல்லப சுதந்திரம் சீவர்களுக்கு அருளாற் கொடுக்கப்பட்ட தென்றும்…” (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம் – முதற் பிரிவு)

Translation: “Since primordial (impure) matter is the material cause of the bodies of living beings, the deficiencies, random changes, and disparities of that substance, render those bodies vulnerable to threats from hunger, thirst, disease, desire, exhaustion from deprivation, fear, murder, etc. However, these living beings have also been endowed with intelligence, and senses of knowledge and action, by the supreme compassion-force . They are expected to use their intelligence and sensory instruments of knowledge and action to act with great attention and caution and protect themselves from those threats or dangers.” (“The Practice of Compassion for Living beings”)

b) the divine law of karma in accordance with which souls in sentient bodies reap the effects of their own actions performed in those bodies in present and/or past lives 

c) lack of compassion (in conjunction with the divine law of karma, this lack of compassion recoils on the agent/actor in the form of various kinds of sufferings)

கடவுளால் சிருஷ்டிக்கப்பட்ட சீவர்களில் அனேகர் பசி, தாகம், பயம் முதலியவற்றால் மிகவும் துன்பப்படுகின்றது என்னெனில்:- முன் தேகத்தில் சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தை விரும்பாமல் கடின சித்தர்களாகித் துன்மார்க்கத்தில் நடந்த சீவர்களாதலால், கடவுள் விதித்த அருளாக்கினைப் படி பசி, தாகம், பயம் முதலியவற்றால் மிகவுந் துன்பப் படுகிறார்கள் என்றறிய வேண்டும்.” (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம் – முதற் பிரிவு)

Translation: “The reason many sentient beings brought into existence by the OmniLight suffer from hunger, thirst, fear, etc., is this: in their former births or bodies, they were averse to the practice of compassion for living beings, remained hard-hearted, and performed actions which caused sufferings to other living beings. Hence, in accordance with the divine law (of karma), they are subject to great sufferings from hunger, thirst, fear, etc.” (“The Practice of Compassion for Living beings”)

d) lack of caution, or carelessness in dealing with the world

“ஊழ்வகையாலும் அஜாக்கிரதையாலும் அன்னிய சீவர்களுக்கு நேரிடுகிற அபாயங்களை…” (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம் – முதற் பிரிவு)

Translation: “As a result of their karma and lack of caution, living beings are beset by dangers.” (“The Practice of Compassion for Living beings”)

Examples of (d) are the result of  (a) – (c). Failures of attention, caution, etc., spring from the deficiencies of the impure stuff or material constituting the body, its brain, and the sensory organs of knowledge and action. Karma, or the effects of actions performed in present and/or past lives, also produces such critical failures of caution or attention in different circumstances. The lack of compassion also leads to indifference, inattention, and carelessness in situations involving the actual or imminent sufferings of other sentient beings.

Both (a) and (b) imply that it is not reasonable to think that suffering would be absent in a universe of impure matter (அசுத்த மாயை) – with laws of nature and the divine law of karma – governed by the supreme compassion-force of the OmniLight.

Both (c) and (d) imply that it is not reasonable to think that suffering would be absent in a universe of impure matter in which sentient beings are evolving or developing from an initial state of abysmal ignorance and are prone to the deficiencies of lack of compassion and lack of caution, among other flaws.

I should point out that, in Ramalingam’s view, (a) is a consequence of the mysterious initial “fallen” condition of immersion of souls in the dreadful Inconscient order of reality.

Souls, or individual conscious particles of light (சிற்றணுப்பசு), are brought by the supreme compassion-force of the Omnilight into the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth in sentient bodies from an initial and mysterious “fallen” state of envelopment in dense ignorance (அஞ்ஞான இருள்), without any semblance of conscious experience or intelligence, in a condition and realm of total and indivisible darkness.

This அஞ்ஞான இருள் or darkness of ignorance is the soul’s dire condition of immersion in the dread Inconscient order of reality, the shadow reality, as it were, of the Superconscient (never bereft of consciousness, intelligence, and bliss) OmniLight.

From its mysterious immanence in this dread Inconscient order of reality, a dark void bereft of any hint of sentience, experience, and intelligence, the OmniLight has brought about universes with conditions fine-tuned for the emergence of sentient bodies as vehicles for the awakening and development of the innate intelligence of souls from their initial and mysterious “fallen” state of abysmal ignorance.

Here are the relevant remarks from Ramalingam’s true petitions (சத்திய விண்ணப்பம்) to OmniLight:

“இயற்கையே அஞ்ஞான விருளில் அஞ்ஞான வுருவில் அஞ்ஞானிகளாய் அஞ்ஞானத்திற் பயின்று ஏதுந் தெரியாது கிடந்த எங்களைத் தேவரீர் பெருங்கருணையாற் பவுதீக உடம்பிற் சிறிதளவு அறிவு தோற்றி விடுத்த…” (சமரச சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியச் சிறு விண்ணப்பம்)

Translation: “From our condition of immersion in the dark void of inherent ignorance, we were brought into sentient bodies with some glimmer of intelligence by the great compassion of the divine OmniLight…” (“The True Short  Petition to OmniLight”)

அறிவு என்பது ஒரு சிறிதுந் தோற்றாத அஞ்ஞானம் என்னும் பெரிய பாசாந்தகாரத்தில் நெடுங்காலம் சிற்றணுப்பசுவாகி அருகிக்கிடந்த அடியேனுக்கு உள்ளொளியாகி இருந்து அப் பாசந்தகாரத்தின்றும் எடுத்து எல்லாப் பிறப் புடம்புகளிலும் உயர்வுடைத்தாகிய ஆறறிவுள்ள இம்மனிதப் பிறப்புடம்பில் என்னை விடுத்துச் சிறிது அறிவு விளங்கச் செய்த தேவரீரதுதிருவருட் பெருங்கருணைத் திறத்தை எங்ஙனம் அறிவேன்! எவ்வாறு கருதுவேன்! என்னென்று சொல்வேன்!“(சமரச சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியப் பெரு விண்ணப்பம்)

Translation: “The indwelling OmniLight has lifted us from a dire and prolonged condition of dread bondage (பாசம்), without a glimmer of intelligence or knowledge, in an immense darkness (அந்தகாரம்) of ignorance, and brought about our birth in this human body, which is superior to all other bodies, and facilitated the development of intelligence and liberation from that dread bondage of ignorance. How can we understand the workings of its supreme compassion! How can we even contemplate its power! How can we describe it!” (“The True Long Petition to OmniLight”)

However, the initial stuff or matter-energy, constitutive of our cosmos, which has lawfully emerged, due to the workings of the supreme compassion-force, from the dread Inconscient order of reality, bereft of sentience, experience, and understanding, still bears the marks of its Inconscient progenitor and produces dissolution, or disintegration, or death, dysfunction or deficiency due to decay or random change, relapse into unconsciousness, etc.

Ramalingam points out that this is one of the primary causes of the law-governed sufferings of sentient beings in our universe. I will elaborate, in a later post, on his explanation of the occurrence of suffering.

Ramalingam’s second noble truth is that the full realization and reception of the Light of அருள், or the effulgent compassion-force of the OmniLight, is the only means of achieving the incomparable, supernal, and immortal life of complete bliss, knowledge, and freedom.

The Second Noble Truth: “இயற்கை இன்பத்தைப் பெற்றுத் தடைபடாமல் வாழ்கின்ற அந்தப் பெரியவாழ்வை எதனால் அடையக்கூடுமென்று அறியவேண்டில்:- கடவுளின் இயற்கை விளக்கமாகிய அருளைக் கொண்டே அடையக்கூடும் என்றறிய வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “If it is asked “How do we realize the inherent and absolute bliss of the OmniLight (கடவுள்) and ascend to the incomparable supernal life free from all limitations?”, it should be known that it is attained only by means of its natural or inherent Light of Grace or supreme compassion-force (அருள்).”

The argument for this second noble truth is that since the OmniLight is the supreme being, no external force or means can lead us to the experience and realization of its inherent and absolute bliss. Therefore, only its own inherent or natural power of its Light of Grace, or the supreme compassion-force (அருள்), can facilitate the experience or realization of that absolute bliss inherent in its nature.

The Third Noble Truth: “கடவுளின் இயற்கைவிளக்கமாகிய அருளை எதனாற் பெறக்கூடுமென்று அறியவேண்டில்:- சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தினால் கடவுள் அருளைப் பெறக்கூடுமல்லது வேறெந்த வழியாலும் சிறிதும் பெறக்கூடாது என்று உறுதியாக அறிதல் வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “If it is asked “How do we obtain or receive the natural or inherent Light of Grace, or the supreme compassion-force (அருள்), of the OmniLight (கடவுள்)?”, it should be known with firm conviction or certainty that it is realized and obtained only by the practice of compassion for living beings (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம்) and not by any other means or method.”

It follows that the practice of compassion for living beings  is the sole, essential, and sufficient means to the full realization and reception of the effulgent supreme compassion-force (அருள்) of the OmniLight.

How do we know that all this is true?

Ramalingam offers the following argument:

“கடவுள் அருளைச் சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தினால் பெறக் கூடுமல்லது வேறெந்த வழியாலும் பெறக்கூடா தென்பது எப்படி என்னில்:- அருளென்பது கடவுள் தயவு, கடவுளியற்கை விளக்கம். சீவகாருணிய மென்பது சீவர்கள் தயவு, சீவர்கள் ஆன்ம இயற்கை விளக்கம். இதனால் தயவைக் கொண்டு தயவைப் பெறுதலும் விளக்கத்தைக் கொண்டு விளக்கத்தைப் பெறுதலுங் கூடும். வேறொன்றினால் பெறக்கூடாமை அனுபவமாகலின், சீவகாருணியத்தைக் கொண்டு அருளைப் பெறுதல் கூடும்; வேறொன்றினாலும் பெறக்கூடாமை நிச்சயம். இதற்கு வேறு பிரமாணம் வேண்டாமென்றறிய வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “If it is asked “How do we know that we can realize and receive the Light of Grace, or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight only by the practice of compassion for living beings?”, the explanation is as follows:

The Light of Grace (அருள்) is divine compassion-force, the inherent effulgence or illumination (கடவுளியற்கை விளக்கம்) of the supreme divine being, the OmniLight. The practice of compassion for living beings is the cultivation of the limited compassion-force in the individual soul. This finite compassion-force is the inherent effulgence or illumination of the individual soul.

Thus, to realize and obtain the Light of Grace (அருள்), or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight by means of the practice of compassion for living beings is tantamount to receiving compassion by giving compassion and receiving illumination by giving illumination.”

In Part II of his essay on “The Practice of Compassion for Living Beings“, we find the following passage:

“சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தினால் அருளைப் பெறக்கூடு மென்பது எப்படியென் றறியவேண்டில்:- அருள் என்பது கடவுள் இயற்கை விளக்கம் அல்லது கடவுள் தயவு. சீவகாருணிய மென்பது ஆன்மாக்களின் இயற்கைவிளக்கம் அல்லது ஆன்மாக்கள் தயவு. இதனால், ஒருமைக் கரணமாகிய சிறிய விளக்கத்தைக் கொண்டு பெரிய விளக்கத்தைப் பெறுதலும் சிறிய தயவைக்கொண்டு பெரிய தயவைப் பெறுதலும் கூடும். சிறு நெருப்பைக் கொண்டு பெருநெருப்பைப் பெறுதல்போல என்றறிய வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “The Light of Grace (அருள்) is the unbounded natural effulgence or illumination of the supreme compassion of the OmniLight (கடவுள்). The practice of compassion for living beings is the expression of the limited natural effulgence or illumination of the soul. Thus, to realize and obtain the Light of Grace (அருள்), or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight by means of the practice of compassion for living beings is like obtaining greater illumination by means of smaller illumination and obtaining greater compassion by means of a little compassion. It’s similar to obtaining a greater amount of fire by means of a smaller fire.”

The central operative principle here is that like attracts like, like obtains like. Therefore, to attract, realize, and obtain the Light of Grace (அருள்), or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight, one must start with and cultivate the same attribute of universal compassion for living beings at the microcosmic level of the individual soul.

We also find these insightful remarks in Part I of the essay on “The Practice of Compassion for Living Beings“:

சீவகாருணியமில்லாத போது அருள்விளக்கந் தோன்றாது. அது தோன்றாதபோது கடவுள் நிலை கைகூடாது. அது கூடாதபோது முத்தியின்பம் ஒருவரும் அடையமாட்டார்கள்.”

Translation: “In the absence of the practice of compassion for living beings, the Light of Grace (அருள்விளக்கம்), or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight will not be manifested. When this Light of Grace, or supreme-compassion-force, is not manifested, we cannot realize the OmniLight. In the absence of this realization, we cannot attain the bliss of liberation (from the limitations and attendant sufferings of mortal life).”

“சீவகாருணியம் கடவுளருளைப் பெறுவதற்கு முக்கிய சாதனமென்பது மல்லாமல் அந்த அருளின் ஏகதேச விளக்க மென்றும் அறிய வேண்டும். சீவகாருணியம் ஆன்மாக்களின் இயற்கைவிளக்கம் ஆதலால், அந்த இயற்கைவிளக்கமில்லாத சீவர்களுக்குக் கடவுள் விளக்கம் அகத்திலும் புறத்திலும் வெளிப்படவே மாட்டாது.”

Translation: “The practice of compassion for living beings is not only the essential means of obtaining the Light of Grace, or supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight, but it is also a partial (ஏகதேசம்) manifestation of that Light of Grace. The practice of compassion for living beings is an expression of the inherent light (இயற்கைவிளக்கம்) of the individual soul, its light of knowledge. Therefore, in the absence of this expression of the soul’s inherent light of knowledge in the form of the practice of compassion for living beings, the Light of Grace, or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight will not be manifested in the inner (அகம்) and outer (புறம்) levels of the individual soul.”

(to be continued)

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