Category: Commentary


With the Thalidomide tragedy back in the news again, we are reminded that medical research on animals is detrimental to humans as well as to animals.

In the 1960’s an estimated 10,000 children, mostly in Europe, were born with crippling birth defects as a consequence of their mothers’ being prescribed Thalidomide during pregnancy.  The survivors (many of the children died) and their families still suffer today.

Thalidomide, like all modern allopathic drugs, was tested on animals, and the animal tests did not provide any warning of the impending tragedy.

Animal experimentation is cruel to animals.  The animals are innocent, sentient beings; however, for those for whom this fact may not be relevant, animal experimentation also provides false results, not applicable to humans, and therefore it is cruel to humans as well, so there is no logic or justification for continuing this barbaric and ineffective practice.

It’s also worth noting that the vast majority (there are a few exceptions) of charities which raise funds for “curing “ diseases are using the funds to support research on animals.  Despite all the TV appeals showing sick children with their families, the funds collected go towards research, which means research on animals, and not to the people who are suffering from the disease. This fact is well hidden, but with a lot of perseverance, the truth can be uncovered.

To read a complicated, but interesting article, THE THALIDOMIDE TRAGEDY:
Another Example Of Animal Research Misleading Science, click here

 

 

 

A star-forming region known as N90. See credit below.

Brian Greene’s “The Illusion of Time, part of the series “The Fabric of the Cosmos” aired Sunday evening, July 22, 2012, on “Nova” on PBS.  Here’s a summary, followed by a couple of thoughts.

 

“Time is not what it seems…There may be no distinction between the past, present, and future.” Discoveries in quantum physics suggest that time is entirely different from how we perceive it to be in our daily lives.

 

All cultures, including very ancient ones, have found time fascinating.  The Maya for example calculated time with three different, interrelated calendars; for the sun, the moon, and Venus.

The Crab Nebula. See credit below.

 

 

In our search to measure time, the rotation of the earth and its revolution around the sun became our first clock.

 

Today, instead of measuring the earth’s rotation, the atomic clock measures the frequency of the cesium atom, which, in one second ticks 9 billion, 192 million times.

 

Asking the question, “Time is a mystery.  What is it we’re actually measuring?” Brian Greene recalled the work of Einstein.

 

For Newton, time had been absolute and immutable.  But with Einstein, time is experienced differently by each of us, and is affected by motion through space and time.  Time and space are linked, and one person’s time is not the same as another’s.  Although time moves more slowly for a person in motion, this is not something that we can observe in our everyday lives, but scientific experiments have proven that this is true.

The Orion Nebula. See credit below.

 

By an experiment in which a jet plane circled the earth and time was measured by atomic clocks on the plane and on the ground, it was demonstrated that time moved more slowly on the plane, which was in motion, than it did on the earth.

 

The sharp differentiation that we make between past, present and future is an illusion because, Brien Greene explained, according to Einstein, “Time and space are fused together as space/time.”

 

In a different galaxy thousands of light years distant, an alien who is riding on a bicycle away from us, would not (assuming that he could look at us through his telescope) see us as we are in the present; instead he would see us in the past – perhaps during the time of Beethoven.  If the same alien were riding towards us on his bicycle, he would see us, not in the present, but in the future – perhaps as we will be 200 years from now. So, says Brian Greene, “Past, present, and future are all equally real….the future is not non-existent….Einstein shattered the distinction between past, present, and future.”

 

Just as, in a movie, every frame already exists on film, the flow of time, from a past that exists to a future that does not yet exist, is an illusion.

 

Though we think of wormholes as something belonging to science fiction, Einstein’s equations actually predict them, and they would provide gateways through both space and time.  Perhaps even if we don’t jump into them, we might just peer through them as a window to view what is far, far away, what has been, or what will be.

 

One of the most puzzling aspects of time is that it is one directional, though there is theoretically no reason why time should not flow in both directions.  There is simply the fact that it doesn’t.  The laws of physics do say in fact that time could go backwards, so the question asked is “Why doesn’t it?”  If one drops a wine glass and it shatters, one can’t reverse the action and have all the pieces streaming back together again.  Our lives go irreversibly in one direction, which leads to the question, “What is responsible for the arrow of time?”

 

Entropy is randomness, meaning that everything has a tendency to move toward disorder, like the pages of a book that fall apart, but do not fall back together again.

Billowing smoke becomes disordered.  Degrees of messiness increase.

 

The Mystic Mountain in the Carina Nebula. See credit below.

 

This problem of the directionality of time seems to be solved by taking entropy into account. The arrow of time comes from the tendency of nature to move towards increasing disorder. If one goes all the way back to the Big Bang, one arrives at a highly ordered situation.

 

At a single moment at the beginning, all matter was compressed neatly into one single point, all precisely ordered. After that came the beginning of disorder.  The universe expanded and spread out.  It can’t be put back, like the genie can’t be put back into the lamp.  So, at the Big Bang, the arrow of time was given its direction toward disorder. “Time is a 13.7 billion year old drive toward disorder.”

 

Scientists, who used to assume that the expansion of the universe was slowing over time, had a rude awakening a few years ago, with the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating – going faster and faster, and the galaxies are hurtling away from each other.  One day, our descendants will see no other galaxies, and the cosmic past will be out of reach.  Eventually there will be no movement and no time.  Brian Greene summed it up by saying, “The flow of time is an illusion…We are part of a far richer and far stranger reality.”

 

A thought or two

 

“The Illusion of Time” is very fascinating and brilliantly presented, though it does come to a rather grim ending. (We can’t, of course, hold scientists responsible for how the universe ends.)

 

However, interestingly, the idea that time and space are illusory is not new at all.  It is at least 5,000 years old – maybe 10,000 – maybe it is a timeless concept that has always been there.

 

The ancient texts of India describe time and space as illusory, as maya, having the appearance of reality, but not having the quality of ultimate reality.  We do not see the world as it truly is because of the veil of maya, just as, on a cloudy day, we do not see the sun hidden behind the cloud cover.  We do not see the true nature of time and space, until the veil is removed from our eyes.

 

Concerning the concept of entropy, long ago Hindu seers wrote that there are four ages – each on a lower, baser level than the last, until one arrives at the fourth, last age, the Kali Yuga, the age where we find ourselves now—an age of dishonesty, corruption, and negativity. This is an example of entropy – of traveling inexorably from order to disorder.

 

The concept of time as linear is, by and large, a western concept. In eastern thought, time tends to be not linear, but cyclical.  The four ages, the yugas, are one day in the life of Brahma, the Creator.  At the end of this day, Brahma goes to sleep, and then at dawn he awakens, ready to start a new day composed of another four ages.  Of course it’s somewhat more complicated, but that is a rough outline of what happens.  The four ages are one day in the life of Brahma.

 

This concept has a few things to be said for it – for one, it is not grim; for another, it has not only a poetic quality, but also a truthful quality.  And it transcends the problem of being stuck in a purely physical reality.

 

Brian Greene is a brilliant physicist who has taken us on an amazing journey into a strange world, a very thought-provoking journey.

 

Physicists of today are by no means limiting themselves to a linear view, quite the contrary.  There is the concept of multiverses.  (Brian Greene examines this in other programs, as part of the “Fabric of the Cosmos” series.)  This is the idea that there may not be just one universe, but countless or infinite parallel worlds; and one individual may exist in many of these at the same time or different times.  Have you ever felt that you were in more than one place?

 

A book that takes a look at this possibility is “2012” by Whitney Strieber.

It’s basically a horror novel, but if you don’t mind the horror bits too much (I did actually mind, but found the book intriguing anyway), it is fascinating reading.

 

Then, from another angle altogether, there is the legend of the Chinese general who lost a very important battle. It is said that the reason he lost the battle is that many years later, mistakes were made in the liturgy of his funeral.  The mistakes caused his life to be less auspicious and therefore led to the loss of the battle.  I suppose, if we are not too confused already, we could meditate on this as an alternate view of time and destiny.

 

In all societies of the past, ancient spiritual traditions recognized many levels of reality. There is the material level of everyday life where we walk along on our journey from day to day, but there are also the broader, more sunlit levels above, of mystical or magical realities from which we see with different eyes – seeing farther and more clearly—beyond the bounds of time and space. The things we cannot see from this earthly level, can be seen from other levels, as if we are looking out the window of an airplane or riding on a magic bird that flies above the clouds.

 

Photo credits:

“ESA/Hubble images, videos and web texts are released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license and may on a non-exclusive basis be reproduced without fee provided they are clearly and visibly credited.”

Top photo: Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration / A star-forming region known as N90, on the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Second photo: NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble) / The Crab Nebula. Observers in China and Japan recorded the supernova nearly 1,000 years ago, in 1054

Third photo: Credit: NASA,ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team / The Orion Nebula

Fourth photo: Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI) / The Carina Nebula: The Mystic Mountain

For more Hubble images and information, click here

For more on the Nova series, “The Fabric of Time”, click here.

 

 

Red Junglefowl

Having just written about the pros and cons of the Egg Products Bill now in the U.S. Congress, one is led necessarily to a broader thought about our treatment of animals. The underlying difficulty, of course, is that we, as the human race, do prey on other species, with little thought or concern for their well-being.  Rather than getting better, the fate of the billions of animals sacrificed in factory farming simply grows worse over time, with greater suffering on the part of the animals.

The explosion in the human population of our planet, the “advances” of technology,  the entrenched behavior patterns of the developed world and the economic rise of the developing world, all conspire to ensure that this trend will continue – like an unstoppable, relentless march.

Influencing the nature of human beings, bit by bit, a few at a time, which is certainly being done, even very successfully, by the countless dedicated groups and individuals at work throughout the world, through education and raising levels of awareness – is very much work worth doing. It awakens the consciousness of a few humans, greatly alleviates the suffering of some animals, lessens the misery of many, and brings a better life to a few. Helping a few of the earth’s animals is far, far better than doing nothing or than helping no animals at all. If we can help only one in a hundred, then let us focus on that one.

However, as we all suspect, though we are probably not saying so out loud – we are not actually winning in the battle to modify human nature, and there is no actual indication that any winning is going to happen ever on a grand scale.  (Though there is no denying that change for the better happens often, even dramatically, on a more modest scale.)  If the human race were, on the whole, becoming more compassionate and more enlightened with each passing year, surely we would be noticing fewer, less violent wars; kinder, more civil conduct; and a steady diminution of suffering for animals and for humans.  But none of this is happening.

This may sound fatalistic and entirely depressing, but there is no need for depression at all.  These are just the facts, and seeing them allows one to step beyond a level of mystery and confusion. “Human progress” is a myth, and a confusing myth at that.

If we seek clarity, we’d do better to focus on another perspective – on being open to any insight from almost anywhere and almost any other time, except here.  Any insight that may arrive from other worlds, other visions, other dimensions, or from the most ancient civilizations on our own planet – from their perceptions and realities, often so profoundly forgotten, which may lead us back to a kinder world, would be welcome.

This concept, though at first glance it may seem irrelevant and incomprehensible, is the link between the search for wisdom in ancient cultures and the doomed and bereft state of our own current existence as humans.  The pathway lies elsewhere, not here in our hollow, modern perceptions, and elsewhere is where we need to look.

It is noteworthy that many ancient traditions see the world as manifesting in several succeeding worlds, in cycles.  As one world comes to an end, another begins.  As the most degenerate and cruel age is dissolved finally into nothingness, then a kinder, more noble age is born. It would seem that this would be the direction to look in to glimpse the way through the fogs of the desolation of our present age.

Photo: Lip Kee Yap / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.” / “Red Junglefowl at Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India.”  The Red Junglefowl of India is the ancestor of the domestic chicken.

The Whirlpool Galaxy

Did you know that sub-atomic particles can communicate with each other instantaneously over a distance?

Well, they can.

If you think about it, this is kind of amazing.

In quantum physics, there is something that physicists call “entanglement”, which refers to the relationship between two sub-atomic particles. (I don’t understand this very well, so one or two details may be amiss, but you can read more about it at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_test_experiments)

All this is interesting because of the implications of the theory. A number of actual physical experiments have been conducted, the Bell test experiments, which scientifically proved this.

Sub-atomic particles have a spin – either clockwise or counterclockwise – and this can be measured. When two particles are “entangled” or connected, one will have a spin opposite to that of the other.  When the spin of the first one is changed, say from clockwise to counterclockwise, then the spin of the other will automatically reverse as well.

Now the really weird thing is that this happens even when they are not near each other.  It happens across distances.  In the experiments that have been done, in which the spin of Particle A is changed from one direction to the opposite – the spin of Particle B, which has been moved to several kilometers away, then changes automatically, by itself, at the exact same moment in time – even though there is no possible line of communication between the two.  Somehow information has passed instantaneously, faster than the speed of light, from one particle to the other.

Max Planck, who discovered quantum physics

To actually understand this properly and be convinced, you’ll need to read an explanation from an authoritative source, which is not me – so I would suggest you look it up online – or read any of many books on quantum physics or watch any of several TV programs.

In any case, it is an accepted scientific observation in the real world.

These experiments are intriguing – and what seems most intriguing, though this is a leap from the scientific world of measurement to the philosophical world of speculation is that it would seem that the only way to explain this is to say that space and time do not have any absolute existence – indeed that the entire physical universe is not really real in quite the way we have always imagined it to be. This is generally accepted by physicists as true too, since the last time the physical world seemed to actually correspond to the “common sense” way of perceiving it was in the days of Isaac Newton (although even Isaac Newton had his own peculiarities, being obsessed with topics like prophecy and alchemy, but that’s another story).

Anyway, this lack of substantiality of the physical world cannot help but remind one of some of the concepts of ancient Hindu thought that evolved hundreds or thousands of years ago – like the concept of Maya – sometimes translated as “illusion,” but it certainly seems that the concept of Maya is much more complex than that.  It is associated with ideas of “magic” and “power” and the bringing into existence of a field of limitations which cause one to see only the physical reality that we live in every day – and to mistake this for the ultimate reality, which we are generally blind to – except in flashes of great, clarifying insight.

The example used often is that of a rope. In the darkness, a rope lying on the ground can be mistaken for a snake, which can be a great cause of fear.  But when daylight shines, it is seen clearly to be just a rope.

Adi Shankar, ninth century Hindu saint who wrote about “Maya”

There are higher levels of reality, and we have glimpses of these – intuitions, inspirations, visions, and dreams – moments of clarity and insight, which come to us from a higher source or a higher world, where the things that are are not at all separate, distinct, and isolated – but where reality is much more fluid, where there are millions of unseen connections, not explainable by the simple laws physics as we think we understand them.

This awareness leads to a perception of art, myth, spiritual traditions, history and prehistory, as having a more profound, more pervasive reality than we might have thought – where “truth” is of a higher level – where we are not isolated individual beings – but instead are all interconnected – where, for example, the environment and the human are not in opposition, but are one – where, ultimately, the trees, the stars, the clouds, the butterflies, the rabbits, and the tigers are not separate from us.  We are they, and they are us.

In the end, scientific and mathematical theory and also the knowledge passed down in the most ancient writings point the way in the same direction – that there is a mystical, spiritual reality – that there are levels infinitely more real — clearer, brighter, and more luminous than the foggy world shown to us through the cultural lens of our current world civilization.

Dr. Michio Kaku has some interesting, sometimes similar, observations.  Here is the link to his website: http://mkaku.org/home/?cat=59

Top photo: Wikimedia Commons. “This file is in the public domain because it was created by NASA and ESA.” / (Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5194) is a classic spiral galaxy located in the Canes Venatici constellation.

Second photo: / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or fewer.” / Photo of a 1904 painting by Raja Ravi Varma.

Third photo: “For photographic pictures (fotografiska bilder), such as images by the press, the image is public domain if created before January 1, 1969.” Wikimedia Commons / source: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1918/planck-bio.html 

I just watched the program Nature, on PBS, about the environment around Chernobyl 25 years after the nuclear accident.  It featured two Russian scientists, one of whom has spent his life studying wolves.

 

Following the Chernobyl accident, the forest in the immediate area turned red.  Now it is green again.  They observed the wolf packs and the young cubs.  They also watched the doormice.  They found that 4 to 6 percent of the doormice had abnormalities, presumably caused by radiation.  The rest of the dormice population was healthy, normal, and thriving.

 

The two scientists did not remain in the area for long at a time because of the radiation danger, and no humans live there.

 

In two weeks of observation, they located 17 wolf packs and around 120 individual wolves.  The one wolf expert had an extraordinary ability to call the wolves by howling.  Wolves appeared out of the trees, howling as well.

 

White-tailed eagles, ravens, songbirds, and the carp in the river seemed well and healthy. They spotted a large boar.

 

The beaver were not doing too well since they are prey to the wolves.

 

The scenery and the beautiful winter light on the trees and the rivers gave the impression of a magical world.

 

The conclusion the scientists drew was that the population of wolves and the habitat in general was exactly the same, no better and no worse than other natural, undisturbed wilderness areas.

 

This is an area where humans cannot go because of the high levels of radiation. It is interesting to recall that, as humans, we are the weakest of the earth’s creatures, having lost much of our original physical strength over the course of the centuries while we have removed ourselves further and further from the natural world, and as we make a habit of living in artificial environments.  Other primates for example, even the small ones, are much stronger than we are.  We are no longer well adapted to living in nature.

 

This study, done by the two Russian scientists, seemed, in its own way, remarkably hopeful and uplifting, for the future of animals and the earth.

Comment I posted on CNN related to the exotic animals killed after being let loose in Ohio:

Only focusing on the source of the problem is going to help animals in the future, and also protect people’s lives. Why are monkeys and tigers in the U.S.? Why are bears and mountain lions living in cages? Taking animals out of the wild and forcing them to live miserable lives in cages is at the root of the problem. This needs to be illegal, the laws need to be enforced, and there needs to be widespread public awareness that animals belong only in the wild — in their native countries.

That was the comment.  The essential facts of the story, for those who missed it, is that a man who had been keeping a large number of exotic animals, in cages, on private property, in Ohio released the animals, then killed himself.  The animals were all shot by the police. Many of those commenting on the story, including people from India, focused on the actions of the police.

In India, there are traditions going back thousands of years, of ahimsa, of not killing animals. This is the U.S., and the only logical point to focus on is that wild animals must not be taken out of the wild and must not be removed from their native country.  In the U.S., there are “canned” hunts, where hundreds of animals every year — beautiful wild animals from African and Asian countries –are brought to the U.S. specifically to be killed for trophies.

Focusing on the actions of the police in this situation is naive and irrelevant.  The source of the problem is bringing wild animals into captivity, then transporting them overseas.  Once they are no longer in the wild, their lives are miserable from that point on, and whatever happens, it is not good — so that is the problem.  Wildlife need to remain in the wild, and their habitats need to be protected.

Faster than the speed of light?

Not only is the western world having a few problems  – financial, economic, etc., but even in the realms of science, things are looking a little crumbly.

They haven’t been able to find the “God particle,” the existence of which would confirm a lot of modern physics, now they can’t find “dark matter” either — and most recently experiments at Cern in Switzerland — over the past two years – seem to track neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light, thereby violating one of the most basic principles of modern science, formulated by Einstein, that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light!

Oh well, back to the drawing board!  How could scientists be so mistaken — or maybe it’s that physical reality is falling apart?  Not to be alarming — it’s just a thought.  Here’s the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15017484

Not too well thought out

Now they’re planning to use stem cells to clone rhinos.

Maybe they can clone a habitat to go with them?

Anti-Corruption Protest, August 21, 2011, Bangalore

After twelve days of fasting in a park in New Delhi, Anna Hazare, (Anna means brother and is a term of respect and affection) brought his fast to an end at around 10 AM Sunday morning, August 28 (Saturday evening in the U.S.) by drinking coconut water with honey.

In the midst of hurricanes, earthquakes, the violent overthrowing of governments, explosions, gunfire, wars, and whatever else is taking the world’s attention, a truly remarkable event has taken place in India. In an astonishing moment in history that has gone largely unnoticed in the west, this one elderly man, solely by the power of his spiritual authority, has dealt a decisive blow to governmental corruption in his country.

Anna Hazare, 74, comes from a humble background, holds no official position, leads an austere life, and has no home of his own. He represents no special interests and has no powerful backers.

In the words of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, a well-known author in India:

Anna (brother) Hazare brought prosperity to his village, Ralegan Siddhi, by practising sustainable use of natural resources. He also stopped the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and other tobacco products and non-vegetarian food in his village of Ralegan Siddhi by convincing the villagers to do so. He is a great practising environmentalist, who has stopped the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in Ralegan Siddhi. He is a simple man who owns nothing – no house, no land. He lives in a temple in his village and lives on his army pension. He has no bank balance.

 

Anna Hazare dropped out of the seventh grade in school due to poverty. He became a street fruit seller, till he joined the army as a driver after the Chinese attack of 1962. He is not part of the educated elite.

 

Several years ago, he formed the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Andolan (Anti-Corruption Movement) and has sent several politicians in Maharashtra to jail by “fasting unto death”. The Congress should have known that he would do the same this time too.

 

The arrest of Anna Hazare – first in April, followed by the latest arrest in August – has set off one of the most widespread mass movements in India, after Independence and the India Emergency in 1975-77, and shaken the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government….They called him corrupt – that did not stick. They said he had been thrown out of the army. The army denied it and said that he had been discharged after retirement and had received several honours. They arrested and took him to Tihar jail – where the corrupt and the killers are kept – and then tried to release him when the mobs surrounded the jail. He refused to leave the jail till the government agreed to let him fast indefinitely with no conditions. The government was forced to accede.

 

Over the past few days, we have been witness to innumerable demonstrations and marches in almost every neighborhood in Delhi, and in every city and town in India. There are huge crowds at the Ramlila grounds 24×7, where he is fasting – in public… even Chennai has witnessed huge crowds of support. Contrary to the general propaganda, this is not merely a middle class movement. The public outrage at the scandal-a-day record of governments of all political hues and the groundswell of support for concrete action culminating in the Lokpal debate is a welcome sign for our democracy. An old man has the youth of this country following him, taking leave from schools, colleges, and offices and supporting his movement in different ways. Amazing!

                                  

Most importantly, there has been no rioting, no violence. India has lived up to its heritage of ahimsa. Anna is surrounded by the singing of bhajans (religious songs) and cries of Inquilab zindabad (Long live freedom), Jai hind (Victory to India), Vande mataram (the national song of India,) and Bharat Mata ki jai (Victory for Mother India). There is 24-hour live TV coverage of this movement. We are watching history being made.

 

He and his associates want the Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill) to replace the useless Lokpal Bill proposed by the government. 

 

Anna proves that there is still hope left in a morally degraded world.

Brihadeshwarer Temple entrance

 

 

In every corner of India, massive demonstrations in support of this improbable figure have been characterized by candlelight vigils, peaceful marches, and the chanting of songs.  Many have joined him in his fast.

Having fasted for many days, despite his growing physical weakness, the loss of around fifteen pounds (seven kilos), and the mounting concerns over his health by his doctors and followers, Anna refused to end his fast until all the anti-corruption measures he sought were guaranteed by government officials.

On Saturday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent a letter to Anna, agreeing in principle to all of his demands.  The Indian Parliament has voted to accept his demands, though formal laws must be still put into place.

There had been a fear that Anna might fast to the death, and when, with typical humility, he stood up to speak on Saturday, asking the crowd’s permission to end his fast, they were filled with a great sense of joy, as was nearly all of India.

Anna’s anti-corruption campaign, which began in his village, Ralegan Siddhi, has spread throughout India. The major thrust of the campaign is to institute not just an ombudsman who would report to the government (which wouldn’t accomplish much, and would be like the foxes guarding the hen house), but what he calls a citizen’s ombudsman, Jan Lokpal – that is an ombudsman who has the authority to look independently into, and take action against, corruption on every level from the prime minister to lower public officials.

Arjuna, Descent of the Ganges, Mahabalipuram

Why is there an outcry against corruption in India? (This is our problem in the west too, though we do not see it quite so clearly.)

Just about everywhere in the world, there is corruption, and public servants can be bought. (In the U.S. where we are fond of euphemisms, we don’t talk much about corruption.  Corruption is here though; sometimes it is legal, well-regulated, and is known by more delicate names, like “campaign financing”). In India, less artfully, but more honestly, “corruption” is just called “corruption.”

All the same though, it is truly a widespread epidemic in India and is the cause of great suffering and inefficiency.

Corruption is a real, but hidden, reason why so many things just don’t seem to work in India. Laws are not enforced. City streets are not kept clean.

The effect of corruption on around a billion people in India, both the poor and the middle class, is oppressive, exhausting, and disheartening – little can be accomplished without paying a bribe or a kick-back.  It’s not just a minor inconvenience; it can turn life into a painful obstacle course.

The environmental effect is catastrophic. In a land where people love animals, where there is an age-old tradition of sacred rivers, sacred trees, sacred forests, sacred mountains, and sacred animals – actually all of nature is worshipped in Indian tradition – it seems nothing can be done to save the environment—despite the presence of one of the most active and committed environmental movements in the world.

Tiger poachers can never be caught and thrown into jail, and so the tiger is widely thought to be doomed. Why? The answer comes down to corruption.

Cow slaughter is illegal in all but two Indian states, yet thousands of cows are slaughtered illegally.  Laws against cow slaughter are not enforced because of corruption.

Great tracts of land are being destroyed by mega-companies. The air is unbreathable. There is poverty, the depth of which is hard to comprehend.  Anything that could be done to change all this cannot be done because corruption stands like a roadblock in the way.

Injustice and hypocrisy, the underpinnings of corruption, have a way of turning people’s impulse towards life, growth, and transformation into dust and ashes. Corruption is profoundly demoralizing, and kills all it comes into contact with.

The lack of any redress causes, in turn, countless societal ills, and the whole country lives under a blanketing haze caused by the corruption of certainly not all, but a great many public officials.

Anna’s solution – a citizen’s ombudsman, with the power to hold officials accountable –would go far to lift this cloud of oppression.

Temple at Milapur

Naturally, there have been countless objections to his proposal from law-makers and civil servants, including the charge that such an independent body might have the power to upset things.  Upsetting the status quo and the entrenched reign of corruption is, of course, precisely the intent.

In an amazing and courageous campaign, Anna, backed up by his team, and supported by hundreds of millions throughout India who came out into the streets to show their support, has against all odds, won.  He has won, not with bullets or violence, but by the oldest of Indian traditions – the self-sacrifice of fasting.  Only in India could this happen.

Truly, this is a victory, not just for this one saintly man, and not just for his loyal followers and all of India, but for all of us — of truth over lies, of goodness over deceit, of courage over cowardice  —  of all that is spiritual over greed and fear.

In the west, comforted by our cars and our refrigerators, it can be easy to live oblivious to all the injustice, corruption, and the destruction of the natural world that surrounds us too.  The problem is worldwide.  Greed and fear rule and destroy the planet.

It is fitting that this act of heroism and this victory has taken place in India – a land whose history stretches back into the mists of time, before the world that we now know ever came into being –which, despite its problems and its all-too-glaring faults, is a land that has never abandoned its shining legacy of saints and holiness, of sacrifice and kindness, of great courage and wisdom, of spiritual leadership, and its abiding love of the eternal, the true, and the sacred.

Boy making offering at a shrine at Puthupet

Anna has not claimed victory, though the government has promised all the changes he demanded. He has seen too many times how promises made can be reneged on.

Yet this is a profound turning point in the era in which we live, where it seems so often that the forces of self-aggrandizement and corruption are gaining hold at every turn — that one man has stood up for the truth and has won.

There may yet be hemming and hawing, foot dragging, and even defeats and cataclysms.  None of us can know which way the road will turn or what lies ahead.

Yet this is a great victory of truth and courage, not just for India, but in a way not yet fully seen, it is a victory for all the peoples of the earth.

Wherever the road may lead, what is certain is that there is a great light of truth shining through the darkness, one that is heaven-sent and can never be extinguished.

Photos:

Top photo: Mnsanthoshkumar / Dreamstime.com / August 21, 2011, Anti-corruption protest, Freedom Park, Bangalore

Other photos: Sharon St Joan

Here are some websites, to learn more, recommended by Dr. Krishna:

 

Please visit http://www.indiaagainstcorruption.org/ to learn more about the bill. The fight is against corruption which has pervaded our lives.

 

To learn more about Anna Hazare, please visit Anna Hazare on Wikipedia.

 

http://nagarcity.com/Annahazare.aspx is also worth reading – about a simple Indian who has rocked the powerful government boat.

A very informative program on PBS this evening looked into alternate forms of energy and new, promising research into these that is being done all over the earth.  Definitely a hopeful view.  However, sorry to have a weird perspective, but why do we humans need to use up so much energy?  Is it because we engage in a vast array of activities that may not do a great deal of good? Maybe we should sit still from time to time, like the flowers, and just use the energy that God has given us?