Jul 4, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

Barack Obama looks promising. Against all odds, he is now the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States. A year back, who had the audacity to think that? I have read “The Audacity of Hope” written by Obama himself. He shares much of his ethics/values in the book and if he carries them out when he becomes President, I think we can all have the audacity to hope for a more just and fair tomorrow.

This word ‘audacity” was used by another prominent black leader, the greatest of them all, so far, – Martin Luther King Jr. King fought for the right of the Negro to vote and today, about 40 years later after he was assassinated, a Negro is running for President. What audacity! Now is a good time to reminisce about King. In his Nobel Prize Speech, King said:-

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept the idea of the “is-ness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is a mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life which surrounds him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nation, can be lifted up from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered man have torn down, other-centered men can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow down before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed and non-violent goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land. I still believe that we shall overcome. This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the City of Freedom. Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood”.

King also said in his “How long” speech:-

We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. That will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man. I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” I come to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again.
How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
How long? Not long, because you reap what you sow
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

And then we have the King’s “I have a dream” speech:-

“I have a dream today!’
I have a dream that one day every valley, shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

King was a prophet when he said:-

“Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.

With the world getting smaller each day, King’s words are magnified many times over.

And what did King say about ‘death’? In his ‘A drum major for righteousness’ speech, King said as follows:-

Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator – that something we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?” And I leave the word to you this morning.

I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war in question.
I want you to say that day, that I did try to feed the hungry.

And I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked.

I want you to say, on that day, that I did try in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to serve humanity.

Yes I want you to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have the money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that is all I want to say.

If I can help somebody pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he is travelling wrong, then my living would not have been in vain. If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, if I can bring salvation to a world once wrought, if I can spread the message as the master taught, then my living will not be in vain”.

At the end of his book, Obama wrote:-

“..I think about America and those who built it. The nation’s founders who somehow rose above petty ambitions and narrow calculations to imagine a nation across a continent. And those like Lincoln and King, who ultimately laid down their lives in the service of perfecting the imperfect union. And the faceless, nameless men and women, slaves and soldiers, tailors and butchers, constructing lives for themselves and their children and grandchildren, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, to fill in the landscape of our collective dreams. In that process I wish to be part of. My heart is filled with love for this country”

Martin Luther King Jr. – truly a great man. The salt of the earth. Like Barack Obama, I have the audacity to hope that good men and women can make a change and will eventually prevail.

The Kingdom of God, Jesus and John Lennon

More than 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ said ‘kingdom of God’ is at hand. ‘Kingdom of God’ means a kingdom where good, truth and righteousness reign supreme, where there is no more injustice, oppression and tyranny, where peace and justice flow like the river. It’s a long time now and still no kingdom of God in the world. Was Jesus a dreamer? Is the kingdom of God just an ideal that would never ever be realized? Is it all fantasy? Or is it closer at hand than we imagine?

What if the only way for the kingdom of God to come is though weakness and vulnerability, sacrifice and love? What if it can conquer only after being conquered? What if being conquered is absolutely necessary to expose the brutal violence and dark oppression of these governments of the day, to show that no human system of government or ideology, can be trusted – so that they, having been exposed, can be seen for what they are and freely rejected - making room for the new and better kingdom of God to come?

What if the kingdom of God must in these ways, fail first in order to succeed? What if our only hope lies in this impossible paradox: the only way the kingdom of God can be strong in a truly liberating way is through a scandalous, non coercive kind of weakness: the only way to be powerful is through astonishing vulnerability; the only way we can live is by dying, by moving from selfishness to selflessness: the only way it can succeed in the end is by failing first? Scientists believe in evolution. The kingdom of God is evolving too. Slowly, but surely, we are beginning to distrust the governments and the systems of this world, as their serious shortcomings are exposed daily through the wonderfully evolving media. Never in man’s history has information and knowledge been transferred and shared at such astonishing speed. Perhaps our new found knowledge and collective experiences are moving us towards a kingdom which emphasizes more on the self government of the individual, where the internal laws or morality and compassion, will eventually prevail over external laws. Perhaps the day will finally come when then is no need for governments and the kingdom of God within each one of us is finally realised - that we are all one and that a house divided, cannot stand.

As in John Lennon’s “Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven
Its easy if you can
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
And the world will live as one


We cannot trust the government. The government is supposed to make life easier for us. But it oppresses us. Government uses force - laws, army, police, court, guns, jails, detention centers etc. You expect that force to be used only against the bad guys, the guilty but most often these days we see that force is used against the innocent. The innocent are put in remand, put in detention centers, subject to physical and mental torture while the guilty with 'the connections' get scott free. Forget about equality before the law. Those in Government is above the law.
The Government is all about politics. Everything is transformed into a political issue — to be decided by those with the most political influence. And that will never be the people, you or I. Politicians don't weigh their votes or decisions on the basis of ideals or social good. They think in terms of political power. The government cannot be controlled. It's easy to think of ideal laws that will stop the bad guys while leaving the good guys alone. But no law will be enacted the way we have in mind, it won't be administered the way we have in mind, and it won't be adjudicated the way we have in mind. The ideal laws will be written by politicians for political purposes, administered by bureaucrats for political purposes, and adjudicated by judges appointed for political purposes. Those in power will do even shocking and scandalous things to stay in power. So don't be surprised if the new laws and promises of the Government turns out to do exactly the opposite of what we thought they would do. Give the politicians an ideal and they turn it into a political deal.
It is a fact that Government will always use power to abuse. Give good people the power to do good, that power will end up in the hands of bad people to do bad. The problem isn't the abuse of power, it's the power to abuse. Give politicians power and it will be abused eventually, if not by today's politicians, then by their successors.
Finally, Government does not work. Because Government is force, because government policies are designed to enrich the politically powerful, their families, cronies, proxies and supporters, because we can't control government and make it do what's right, because every new government policy soon wanders from its original purpose, and because politicians eventually misuse the power you give them, it is inevitable that no government policy will deliver on the promises the politicians make for it.
The best we can do is to ensure that the absolute limits on government as enshrined in the constitution drafted by the founding fathers of the country- who normally are the most idealistic lot because they had just got independence from the previous Government that bullied and oppressed them. If these absolute limits have been eroded upon, then the first step is to restore these absolute limits, and then, if the people choose, to work to change those limits to ones that meet the needs of the day.

In conclusion, politicians care nothing for the people's desires. If we really want to make a difference in society, if we really want to improve life, let us do something for ourselves and our family today. Let us be the change in our immediate environment and to the people who come into contact with us with their problems. That's where we have real control, that's where we don't need to rely on politicians, or anyone else, and we can make sure the results are as we have planned and intended. Real good is always achieved by the ordinary man working in an environment outside government.

Jul 2, 2008

The 30% curse

When we were young, we were on the paper chase. Now when we have the paper, we are on the money chase. Yes i have been busy trying to make money so no time to blog. Sad ain't it? The problem is that money comes slowly these days. With inflation and a stagnant economy, you have to seriously think how to make money. That takes a lot time too. A lot of time spent at the restaurants and cafes with close friends thinking how to make more money. But sometimes the ideas don't come as quickly as you would like them to. Sometimes despite you trying your best, money does not come. That can be most frustrating. Sometimes when you least expect it, money comes. I spoke to a mystic the other day. She told me - 'you always miss by 30%'. I asked her what she meant by that. She said - 'you always achieve 70% success rate in the 'big deals'.- which was true, coming to think about it. She told me that what i got was determined by the law of karma - you reap what you sow. So if in our past lives we have not been charitable, we find it hard to earn money in this life. Things don't come as smoothly. If we have been generous in our past life and a lot of people had owed us debts, then there is a very good chance that we would win a lottery in this lifetime. That explains why so few of us strike the lottery. Our nature is to be selfish. There are 'deva' postmen out there to despatch our karma- good or bad to us. They are the 'accountants' of the universe and they cannot be bribed. (This was news to me). I asked her what is the solution to remove 'the 30% curse'. She said that this world is a 'universe-ity' to teach us to be charitable. So if you want to be rich, have a comfortable, anxiety free life in this life and the next, be charitable. Give and you will be given. The more you give, the more you recieve. For misers, this is the most hard teaching to follow. If you have been a nasty person in your previous life, you will have it bad in this lifetime. But there is a solution - be charitable. Do lots of charity. That was the advice she gave me. I told her i don't have enough to be charitable. She reprimanded me -'Take back what you said. If you think lack, you attract lack (the law of attraction?). You always have something to give. Give what you can with a glad heart. You need not only give money. You can give your time. Chatting with a sick person, with a downtrodden friend, giving food to an animal etc. etc.- all are charity. You always can give something'. To prove her point, she gave me two small blue elephants, which she brought from Bangalore. She could not give me a real life elephant from Bangalore, so she gave me two small elephants, - 'to represent Ganesha', she said. Ganesha in the hindu faith is the lord who removes obstacles. I felt touched by her charity. The truth is charity touches people's lives. Charity removes obstacles, like lord Ganesha.

Of course if you are a Christian, then Jesus Christ removes all your bad karmas at the cross by his great act of charity of dying for the bad karmas (sin) of the world, when you decide to accept him as Lord and Savior. But someone may say that can't be done because the law of karma is universal and unending. My argument would be that the Buddha said that nothing is impermanent. We all know what a spiritual giant the Buddha was. If nothing is impermanent, then the law of karma also cannot be permanent. There is a way out- The way of charity. The way of Jesus Christ, the way of the Buddha, the way of Ganesha. Always the way of charity - and the truth- charity, shall set us free from bad karmas and bad luck. We all do the paper chase, the money chase. Few are interested in the chase to be charitable and that explains why many are chased by this mentality of lack. May all be well and happy.