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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings -  Sara Ananthan

Pragmatism and Idle Talk of Vedanta
4 November 2005


The idle talk of Vedanta

Talking about Vedanta appears to be a favourite past time amongst some of us to lull others into inaction. But inaction leads to lethargy and bondage as we can see in the plight of Tamils from two thousand years of our history. Speaking for the voiceless and the oppressed is Dharma. Asking for equality and fighting against inequality is the birth right of every human being. To hoodwink that right by invoking Vedanta is amoral.

Even in history those who stood for the oppressed and fought against social injustice and liberated their people from bondage and slavery have been elevated as enlightened human beings and accepted as gods or messengers of god in recognition of their super human qualities which defied all odds to achieve that freedom. That in itself shows it is a divine right to ask for equality as all humans are born equal in the eyes of the almighty.

We are living in an imperfect world and there is no denying of that fact. Due to this imperfection there is always conflict between the oppressed and the oppressor. The privileged do not share willingly with the under privileged. That is why, poet Kanadasan has said "Kalakathil Pirapathu than Neethi"- "justice is born from popular revolt", in that song “Ennathan Nadakum Nadakadume”.

All religions have taught us about universal love but why are we all in such a sorry state? So many religious teachers have come and gone but our world is still an imperfect world. It appears that even national leaders are ducking for cover under the guise of religion or using religion or belief in some faith as a cover for their nefarious activities.

Worship in ancient times by Tamils

In ancient times, Tamil people did not have an established or institutionalised religion. Their cherished life possessions and virtues were only Kathal (love) and Veeram (heroism). There was Nadukal Valipadu (Stone erected in the memory of a fallen hero and its worship) and Chiru Theiva Valipadu or a kind of nature worship. They had deities named for the five different landscapes found in the ancient Tamil land namely Murugan - Kurinchi (mountainous region), Mayone - Mullai (forest or pastoral regions), Indiran - Marutham (open plains), Varunan - Neithal (coastal region) and Kottavai-Paalai (desert region). In fact, they seem to have led a simple but orderly life, as was prevalent in many other ancient civilizations.

There was no emphasis in idol worship and even a humble stone would suffice to denote their respective gods. Even today, the Chiru Theiva Valipadu or the uncorrupted version of ancient Tamil Valipadu is widely prevalent amongst our Malaiyaka Thamil Makkal or Tamil people who live in the upcountry regions of Sri Lanka. They plant a simple stone found near a river and worship it as Maada Swami (may be a corrupted word of ancient Mayone).

This type of worship is widely prevalent in the North and East of Sri Lanka too as can be found in the worship of Vel and Choolam. There is no chanting of Sanskrit manthras or any other elaborate rituals associated with the Hindu ahamam.

The Tamil book titled “Pancha Vannath Thoothu “by Inuvai Sinna Thamby Pulavar, in print form from original manuscript by Ka.Kandaswamy and published by “The South India Saiva Siddhanta works, Publishing Society Tinnevelly Ltd”, who say in their foreword that they take pride in publishing this rare book describes the ancient tradition of heroic worship as prevalent in Eelam even today.

The arrival of various religions in ancient Tamil land

It appears that the ancient Tamil land was thriving but was also ravaged by Tsunamis from time to time. It appears that the last Tsunami that has wreaked havoc would have left those survivors groping for answers or some meaning for those untold miseries endured by them. That would have been an opportune time for the various religions to find a haven in Tamil land that purport to provide those answers. In addition, after their conquests and the resulting wealth amassed by the later day Chola Empire also appeared to have attracted these religious elements like a magnet.

In the BBC on line news under the title “Tsunami reveals ancient temple sites” has the following excerpt: “..Myths state the city was destroyed by a flood sent by gods envious of its beauty”  But now we all know that the countries around the earth’s equator are in a continental collision zone and are always prone to Tsunami and earth quake due to the continental drift as per the plate tectonics studies.

Karma theory and its corrupting influence on Tamils

In ancient times, our Tamil forefathers went as emissaries to various countries as representatives of sovereign Tamil kingdoms [as evidence from this article by Dr.Eric Mayer, “When Augustus became head of the Roman world, the Tamil and Kushan rulers sent him congratulatory embassies ”], later as merchants, during the last centuries as indentured labourers of European colonial powers that occupied our lands and now as globe trotting wanderers to find a suitable asylum place to cling to our very existence.

This pathetic situation befell on us by our own making and due to our abject neglect or lack of affection for our ancestral land which was zealously defended and nurtured by our forefathers for millennia.

A society which forfeits its land right is condemned to live a wretched life trotting the globe for ever and will forgo its identity due to gradual assimilation. This pioneering sprit of dedication for their cherished land (Mann Pattru) was sapped out due to these various religions that preached about Nilayami (non permanency of life) and Karma theory which enslaved the minds of the unsuspecting Tamil society and made them to forfeit their ancestral lands.

In fact, Karma theory appears to favour only those privileged few who are born into wealth and power. And Varnachirama Dharma (division of castes according to ones colour or Varna as in Sanskrit) appears to go hands in gloves to support this Karma theory. This is an excerpt from the Encyclopaedia of Britannica on the subject of caste.

“The Sanskrit word Varna has many connotations including description, selection, classification, and colour. Of these, it is colour that appears to have been the intended meaning of the word as used by the Aryan authors of the Rigveda. The Aryans (arya, “noble,” “distinguished”) were the branch  of Indo-European peoples that migrated about 1,500 BCE to north-western India (the Indus Valley and the Punjab Plain), where they encountered the local, dark-skinned people they called the daha (enemies) or the dasa (servants). It is also likely that the daha included earlier immigrants from Iran.”

This is an excerpt from the Encyclopaedia of Britannica on the subject - Hinduism.

“Hinduism - the beliefs, practices, and socio religious institutions of the Hindus (originally, the inhabitants of the land of the Indus River)...The term properly denotes the Indian civilization of approximately the last 2,000 years, which evolved from Vedism, the religion of the Indo-European peoples who settled in India in the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC.”

According to the Karma theory we are all born into these present forms due to our past Karma and our destiny is decided by fate. Again life is a cycle of rebirths. The poor indigenous souls that have ended up at the bottom heap of this Varanachirama Dharma are condemned to live a wretched life for ever and can only hope for a better life in their next birth according to this Karma theory proponents. In essence, it appears to have been a clever ploy hatched in the name of religion to prevent another French revolution taking place from the native society that was subjugated.

For that matter, even our gods appear to be partial from the deeds they are supposed to have done. We learnt that our Lord Shiva has gone on a match making errand for Sundaramoorthy Nayanar to woo the love of Paraviar - a Deva dasi woman. But we have not seen any sign of Lord Shiva when all those pour souls perished in the recent Tsunami. For the record, even the gods from other religions too did not fare any better even though those people who perished in the Tsunami belong to all the major religions. In the article, “Waves of destruction wash away belief in God's benevolence” by Dr Edward Spence who is a philosopher at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University discusses some points regarding on this subject.

The case for thinking anew

It was said that the Paal Kadal (sea of milk) was churned to get the Amirtha (manna) by both Devas and Asura’s. But again, we find that those poor Asura’s were cheated out of their fair share of Amirtha. May be that it was correct to cheat in Purana times as those Puranic gods themselves were embodiment of moral corruption if one were to believe their stories.But we are not living in those Purana periods. We are living in a modern world with its own complexities.

Recently, in the BBC online news with the title “Game theorists share Nobel prize “, The 2005 Nobel Prize winner says under the title “Co-operation or Conflict” that it is possible to explain by Game theory why some communities are more successful than others in managing common resources.

The ability to think is the fountain of life and our lives are nurtured by great thinkers and social reformers from time to time. To keep people into thinking in the old mould and resist change is amoral as change is an essential part of evolution. As the enlightened Lord Buddha has said nothing is permanent, even those doctrines that are said to have been preached by those bygone wise men need to change with the times we live in to cater for that ever changing nature of our society. Conflicts arise due to the vested interests that resist with all their might against popular changes that are desired by the populace.

The almighty has provided us with the best thinking minds and ample resources to find answers to our worldly existence. The humanity due to its greed and its insatiable desire for self glory has brought upon itself untold misery. So we need to find our own answers to problems as was demonstrated amply during the recent Tsunami. If we can not help us even our gods will not help us.

Our minds have to be like those soaring birds that are eternally flying into undreamed territories and unknown heights to acquire that extra knowledge that was not mined earlier in order to enrich our lives. All our human achievements and comforts that we enjoy now, which we take them for granted are the results of this pioneering sprit of human nature to soar to new heights. It is due to this thirst for discovery and exploration that many new and powerful nations were founded and new societies were established.

We Tamils are in dire need to churn our minds to find answers to go forward in our society. For that reason the facts need to be laid bare without any favour or prejudice. We can not sweep under the carpet our past and pretend that injustice never existed in our society. tamilnation.org  is providing this service and promoting this noble cause.

Therefore the need of the hour is for the social scientists and humanists to reform the societies they live in and impart new knowledge into humanity so that we can learn to share all these worldly resources equally and amicably without conflict with each other.

The present reality and the plight of Eelam Tamils

There is so much suffering amongst our Tamil brethren in Sri Lanka who are mainly Hindus in their faith but it seems that they have been orphans by their own religion. We have not seen even a single Hindu religious leader who has voiced for their plight locally or internationally. In that sense, even though the Sinhala Buddhists monks with their amoral role played in this burning ethnic conflict are steeped in Sinhala Buddhists chauvinism, they are at least voicing for their own people. In fact they love their own people so much they just could not care for other faiths.

But where are all our multitude of Hindu leaders and organisations in all this mess? Why is this deafening silence when it comes to the plight of these hapless Eelam Tamils? The poor Eelam Tamils are incarcerated in refugee camps in India and Sri Lanka for decades now due to this ethnic conflict. There is a whole generation of children who are growing up in refugee camps who have not seen normal life in their entire life time.

Again, last year’s Tsunami added to this human misery and many more are in temporary shelters for a year now. The delay and disdain to cater for these hapless people by our Hindu religious leaders and organisations prove beyond doubt that they are still steeped in this archaic Karma theory and Varnacirama Dharma. The wider society has a moral and ethical duty to cater for these unfortunate people otherwise it is the whole society that will pay the price in the future.

Can one believe, in this so called modern times a section of humanity can be fenced off by barbed wire from their own beach fronts in their own ancestral lands by their own government? Yes, it is an unfortunate reality in Sri Lanka. Our sea shores in the north and east of Sri Lanka are fenced off from the very own people, who live there and who depend on that sea to elk out a living are prevented from going to the sea. These people live in abject poverty due to the ethnic conflict and the last year’s Tsunami added to their misery. They are allowed to fish in only certain hours of the day, in designated areas and only up to a certain distance into the sea under the watchful eyes of the Sri Lankan forces who occupy these lands. But like in the adage, adding insult to injury, the same Sri Lankan forces are escorting and allowing Indian fishermen to poach deep into our sea shores and deny the livelihood of our own fishermen.

Where are our religious leaders of mother India in all this? What morality are they teaching to their people? Is it plundering as much as you can when the going is good? Why not preach to those fishermen that it’s most amoral to plunder someone’s wealth and deny their own livelihood when they are kept in shackles.
 

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