In praise of the wisdom of India

I have been greatly humbled by the number of readers from India who have visited my Facebook page and this website. It is a great privilege to attract readers from a continent from which so much of the World’s wisdom has emanated.

This is a short extract from “A Certain Lack of Faith.” The book is a conversation between myself as author and an Outside Rational Being (ORB) in which I try to explain why humans have such a propensity to making irrational attachments to greed, selfishness and anger.

Wisdom cannot be achieved without escaping from the properties of human attachment behaviour and the human instincts embedded in the id. Overcoming these influences emanating from the human unconscious is a truly formidable struggle for any human. The first step on the path to wisdom is for a human to accept that they have nothing approaching an independent will. It is to start observing the manifestation of emotions and attachments that result in fear, aversion and desire in their everyday lives. It is like being on a sailing ship, one cannot fully avoid the actions of the wind, but through observation you can watch its impact on your vessel and mitigate its effects though thoughtful adjustment of the sails and the tiller. To maintain the metaphor, most of us deny the existence of the wind or pretend that we are immune to its effects and we wonder why both as individuals and as societies we so frequently end up wrecked on the rocks.

Here are just a few extracts from verses in the Bhagavad Gita that are particularly relevant to the limitations placed on the human psyche by human attachment behaviour and the resulting desires that so influence a human being.

Sri Krishna:

“Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do……..The wise unify their consciousness and abandon attachment to the fruits of action.”

In answer to a question by Arjuna about the nature of those who live in wisdom; “they live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them, who have renounced every selfish desire and sense craving tormenting the heart. Neither agitated by grief nor hankering after pleasure, they live free from lust and fear and anger. Fettered no more by selfish attachment, they are neither elated by good fortune nor depressed by bad, such are the seers”

The following is especially pertinent to a later exploration of the miseries of the extreme capitalist model and greed that currently pervades in many cultures; “attachment breeds desire, the lust of possessions that burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgement; you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost is the power to choose between what is wise and what is unwise, and your life is utter waste.” I think that this extract from the Gita shows that the wisdom and understanding of human nature 3000 years ago is still absolutely relevant to the modern age. If we look at how greed and attachment in those running the financial markets has led to what has effectively been the virtual bankruptcy of most of the world’s leading economies, we can see the truth of these words. Greed and attachment and the lust for possessions resulted in a complete lack of the power to choose wisely and learn from past mistakes and only bitterness, despair, and resentment amongst peoples was ultimately realised.

Here are some other words of wisdom that may give us some useful insight should my species decide, however unlikely that is, to build their future societies on mutual responsibility instead of greed and self-interest. “Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do you work with the welfare of others always in mind……The ignorant work for their own profit Arjuna; the wise work for the welfare of the world, without thought for themselves…..perform all work carefully, guided by compassion.” Indeed Sri Krishna is even more explicit about the impossibility of those focused on selfish desire to gain knowledge and wisdom; “knowledge is hidden by selfish desire, hidden, Arjuna, by this unquenchable fire for self-satisfaction, the inveterate enemy of the wise.”

It is with the greatest sorrow that I observe the country of India, the birthplace of such wisdom, also adopting the most nefarious aspects of the viral capitalism that has infected western societies with such tragic consequences. Inequality in India is increasing exponentially; more billionaires are being created at a frightening pace whilst extremes of poverty ravage the majority of the people. As we have already proven in most Western economies and Japan, this is a completely unsustainable model of capitalism that will ultimately lead to civil unrest and financial collapse. These warning signs are also very evident in other economies like China, Russia and in South America. It gives me a significant sense of shame, living as I do in the UK, that the so called Anglo-Saxon model of extreme socially irresponsible capitalism is infecting so many other societies in our world. The writers of the Bhagavad Gita would I am sure despair how little my misguided species has learnt since their words of wisdom were first drafted 3000 years ago.

ORB: Buzzard, you have made an interesting point here. Are you saying that the same wisdom that applies to development of wisdom in individuals can also apply to the creation of wise societies?

I am absolutely convinced of it. I firmly believe that the actions required to create a wise human have close parallels with the actions required to create wise societies. As societies we make irrational attachments to objects of desire, are often inward looking, self-interested and negligent of the needs of others. How easy it is for those who indulge in manipulation of the masses to whip up the worst aspects of nationalism thereby creating insecurity, collective violence and hostility between identifiable different groups. We have already alluded to this when looking at how identifiable differences between religious sects can lead to appalling examples of collective violence when the spectre of fear and insecurity is raised in the collective psyche of the faithful. The irrationalities within us as individuals are often manifested in the irrationalities we see in the societies around us.

Readers can find out more about a Certain Lack of Faith through the following link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *