Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Karma Yoga

Yesterday's newspapers carried the news that religious leaders in Ayodhya were planning to felicitate Justice Dharam Veer Sharma, retired judge of the Allahabad High Court, for his "historic verdict in favour of the Ram temple".

This led me to wonder. Hypothetically, if a judge on his last day of office were to deliver a resounding verdict in favour of a large corporation such as Vedanta or Monsanto, and if this corporation were to honour him for his historic verdict in their favour, I don't think it would look very nice. To be fair the corporation could do what it wanted but it would be the judge's responsibility to at least decline the invitation. He may also want to play down the very unpleasant suggestion that the verdict was correlated with pleasing one of the parties.

But of course religion is not business. Well... actually the Vatican has been involved in its share of financial scandals, so I probably meant to say that the Hindu religion is not business. And yet... this too leaves me with nagging doubts. As I write, I'm in the historic temple town of Puri, known for its legendary Jagannath temple. As a good Hindu I visited it some years ago and derived great spiritual joy and inspiration by viewing the idol of Lord Jagannath. But for me to get far enough to see the idol, a friend from this state who was accompanying me had to fight off a bunch of rapacious priests who had their eyes firmly on my money. Their aggression was quite frightening and I had briefly wondered if they would beat me up for making an unpaid visit.

So on this visit to Puri I decided to skip the temple. But wouldn't you know it, it's just landed squarely in the news. Today's newspaper carries the headline: "Priests fight at Jagannath Temple over donations". Apparently they ended up in a scuffle over who had rights to the money contributed by devotees. Thereafter, one of them gave the other one a bloody nose. Of course the spilt blood was promptly washed off and the temple ritually purified thereafter. So all is now well, or shall we say it's "business as usual"?


Taatya Vinchu said...

I digress a bit, but sometimes I wonder if the planet would be better off without any religion (or organized religion). I am not well informed in topics related to any religion but I have heard or read it somewhere that a famous temple in AP has a turnover in crores! The first thing any CM does is to take stock of that temple trust.

It would be nice to hear your (Physicist, String theorist in particular) views on religion in general. As a Physicist, do you ever have a conflict in believing in some supernatural entity... something beyond logic or reason, beyond Physics? To me, this (kind of) defeats the purpose of attempting to unravel the way nature works.

Anil said...

Religion, is perhaps the best business there is. Your product is pure imaginary (at best psychological) and whatever gains you get are real. Zero production cost; all profit.

Cheeta said...

For us heathen folk, would you care to define what or who a "bad" Hindu would be? As opposed to the "good" one which you are (or, at least, were, way back then in Puri).

Sandip said...

@ Sunil: The Indian government doesn't tax the income of temples and this has been a viable tax evasion scheme for some of the largest industrial houses of the country? I would rather they take that money, tax free and invest it into rebuilding the power grid.

@ Taatya: The instincts that go into what we now call religious beliefs are primordial; I have been wondering about the flip side-why doesn't our science percolate into the social fabric as fast as we would hope?

Taatya Vinchu said...

Sandip, you enlightened me a bit on corporate practices, thanks. The point about primordial instincts makes sense, but how long can one stick to those instincts is the question. Why is it so hard for common sense to prevail is something that baffles me!

Although we may be highlighting only the bad practices under the name of religion (like Anil said), what is also true is, today, the major reason for conflict is religion!

One human brain is willing to fatally attack another, purely on the basis of something so hypothetical is really unbelievable. A conflict for resources at least makes sense.

A human brain is capable of such complex thought and yet, at the other extreme, it utterly fails untie itself from these illogical ideas... even in 2010!

Sandip said...

@ Taatya: If I'm a loner with a dog and the dog dies and I'm severely depressed and a neighbor comes in and tells me that the dog is with God and will be doing fine etc. etc., what modern common sense is going to give me a better deal? :-)

Nevertheless, human instincts are evolving and there are several Pew research surveys showing such trends. It just takes long, very long; consider the time scale of human evolution vs the discovery of scientific truths.

Resources are The major reason of all human conflicts, not religion; its just easier to classify humans on the basis of culture and religion and what have you and thats what is used in domestic and international politics.

You might find the recent debate at site on religion, informative.