Posts tagged ‘Chidambaram Ramalingam’

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.

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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!

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