Monday, April 18, 2005

Prithee, O Friends!

Bear me your countenance
And allow me a poet's stance
So to sing before her castle
Enamoring odes of romance.
Longing was I for this fair chance
To break this spell of evil trance
On my tonsured vocal muscle
And produce in blissful nuance
A solemn tone reflecting penance
I'd done, to be blessed with a glance
Of her eyes on my life's puzzle,
Unsolved by many and perchance
She could, with her perseverance,
End my miserable endurance
Of this tough grueling battle;
Bestow back my significance.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ode to Apollo

Shall I bow at Thine holy feet
Or gather the dust beneath them
And rub my forehead till there’s heat
To vaporize all evil from
My mind of which, I was so proud;
My thoughts of which, I seldom thought.
Like Thunder strikes a moving cloud
And kills all foes it ever fought,
Strike me such as I never had
No doubt on my ability
To serve Thy kingdom as Thy bard.
Bestow me with tranquility;
Shower on me kind words of love,
Let my honor exalted be.
In Thy pure eyes allow me have
A nobler place whence I can see
Nature and seasons in full bloom
The mighty sun; the placid moon;
Make me blissful and leave no room
To sorrow; hence I start to croon
And hum Thy hymns which I invent,
As on my art I contemplate
Leaving no moment left unspent
Caring no King however great;
My youth I shall not let go waste
By running after wine and wealth;
I despise greed and give-up haste;
With Thy blessings, enjoy my health.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Essay On Soul

‘Soul’ is consciousness. Soul is the vision in eyes, strength in muscle, intelligence in mind, feeling in heart and so on. Soul can be of a particle or wave or another intangible form. The basic nature of soul is curiosity- to learn, to know. If you feel conscious of something, then your soul is in action. An intangible form of soul is that which cannot be seen, only felt. Probably, it is a ‘force’ or ‘energy’, which is not tangible but still exists and is real. The soul feels the joys, pains, anger, compassion, love, hatred etc. The true sense beyond all physical senses is the soul. The temporary state of the soul is that what it behaves in the material world. The whole universe is built on the bonds that connect the individual souls. Thus, universe is a collective state of consciousness and a hence a collective soul. Humans lead their lives based on instincts and intelligence. This intelligence is the soul of the human mind. I get back to one of my favorite conclusions that ‘mind’ is the best and most important part of human activity. All essence of human activity is to attain knowledge. How and when to attain the knowledge is the main challenge of human life. Every person must have experienced that before being related to others, like a son/daughter, a mother/father, a brother/sister etc., he/she identifies himself/herself as a person, an I. This I is the soul. The ego, the ‘self-fullness’ is the soul. The characteristic of the soul is to love it’s own self naturally. It also develops interest in some other souls that it has the knowledge of and ultimately gets attracted to something far beyond the individual souls. That which is beyond the individual souls and their interrelations is the most positive source of energy and most powerful force. Although the individual soul does not completely understand the true nature of this enormous source of energy, the Supreme soul, while it is still in this material world, it somehow develops a natural affinity and is deeply attracted by the later. This Supreme soul has all the characteristics of an individual soul. But the converse is not true. The relationship of an individual soul with the Supreme soul is the most strongest and desirable relationship as far as the forces of nature and the universe are concerned.

A soul which often gets drifted away from the Supreme soul loses its primary knowledge and thus, starts learning at the earliest possible moment i.e., taking birth. During this process of conception into material form of life, it struggles with other souls and finally enters the materialistic human body in the process of germination. While in the womb, it starts experiencing pain and fear and often wants to get back to the Supreme soul. But once the soul has been into this world, it has to go through certain pre-determined path, all the effects being associated with causes in the past. This is the only law of nature in the material world: the law of Karma. All else is either a stipulated version or derived form of this basic law. Very few souls realize that there is a destiny to reach and there in fact is an ultimate climax. The soul goes through numerous births and deaths and in each life gains knowledge. Only that knowledge will it retain, which is related to the Supreme soul and the cosmic energy. When the soul takes a fresh (human) birth, it begins to gain knowledge in some form or the other. But it cannot know the facts clearly and thus it develops doubts. These doubts may be in the form of innocence, ignorance, skepticism, criticism or disbelief. What the soul then needs is an Awakening. The awakening is possible only when the soul cultivates some prescribed qualities in life. Devotion, prayer, seeking-truth, having compassion are some of these qualities, rather virtues. How does the soul get its awakening? When does the call come?

It so happens that, there is a major encounter of the human soul with situations that set it thinking and change the whole pattern of life. (That is, all the learning that has been done and all the knowledge that’s gained is demanded by the circumstances to put into use). This is a way of getting awakened, another follows: I am not sure of this but I had a past belief in it so I write it here: A soul may meet another soul of greater knowledge, which can guide it through the process of realizing the destiny. This greater soul is what is called the Guru.
The timing of awakening depends on the karma of the soul. Some conscious souls, already in the know of the abstract principles, await their hour of awakening. The awakening will clear all doubts and put an end to all conflicts and expose the truth to the soul. Once the soul realizes the truth, it proceeds forward, on its journey to the end of its destiny. Once a soul is free from karma, then it is free from all rebirths. Then it reaches the Ultimate. What the Ultimate is? How is it perceived? All this and more would only be answered if the soul realizes the truth. The process of awakening is the threshold limit, crossing which the soul becomes omniscient and gains all the knowledge and realizes the truth.

The whole purpose of human life is to reach the ultimate, through the route of attaining knowledge and acting according to the principles and finally shaping the destiny in such a way as to put an end to all miseries and mundane unfulfilled desires.

(I believe I wrote this in all my senses. However, as usual I doubt my sanity. I need to be awakened yet).

(Finished on 11/ 03/04)

P. Siddartha

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Pain Vs Pleasure

Notes on pain and pleasure………………….
Part A: Utilitarianism
The principle of utility: In “Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation”, Jeremy Bentham (Utilitarianism) included both the principles of human nature and a list of twenty-one offences “to which the condition of a husband stands exposed.”
Explanation of Human Nature: “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. In words a man may pretend to abjure their empire: but in reality he will remain subject to it all the while. The principle of utility recognizes this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and law. Systems which attempt to question it, deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light.”
Some more points of Bentham:
Pleasure & Pain are the Motivating Factors of all human beings.
The principle: pleasure has values has its roots from Hedonism (Epicurus and Hobbes).(Gk: hedone = pleasure)
Two kinds of utilitarian hedonism:
i. Psychological Hedonism (pleasure & pain determine what we do).
ii. Ethical Hedonism (pleasure is the only good, and actions are good only if they produce pleasure).
Utility: is that property in any object: whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good or happiness, to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil or unhappiness for an individual or community as a whole.
Good = Pleasure; Evil=Pain
Sources of pleasure and pain:
Physical sanction (punishment due to personal imprudence)
Political sanction (punishment due to political magistrate)
Moral sanction (punishment due to a neighbor)
Religious sanction (punishment due to God).
The above four sanctions are the forces that influence our conduct.
Included in a sanction is the threat of pain that follows from ignoring the interests and pleasures of other people.
Bentham argued that painful consequences would punish extreme or indiscriminate selfishness.

Bentham said: Morality depends on the consequences of our acts. His focus was on egoistic pleasure.
J.S.Mill on the other hand said that the quantity and quality of pleasure cannot be measured, they are only relative.
Mill emphasized the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would have others treat you”.

Part B: Epicurean Thought

Epicurus started the school, the members of which called themselves: “garden philosophers”.
He was greatly influenced by the Atomist Democritus.
The key points of Epicurus’ philosophy are:
pleasure is the highest good
Meaning of life is to live a life of pleasure.
Pleasure is good and Pain is Evil.
Despite his emphasis on pleasure being the aim of life, Epicurus led a simple life.
It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well, and justly; and impossible to live wisely, well, and justly without living pleasurably....Pleasure is the beginning and end of living happily.-Epicurus.

Essay begins:

No doubt it is arguable whether pain is greater or pleasure. But more debatable point is the relation between the two. Let us analyze a situation where a person is in pain; for example say he is suffering from headache. What does he do? Does he enjoy the ache? Certainly not. He would either take an aspirin or go see a doctor to alleviate the pain. So is it that he did so to reduce the pain or to get a sense of pleasure from the medicine? Quite an issue here. The lack of pain need not be pleasure and lack of pleasure need not be pain.

The Utilitarians (Bentham) thought, pain and pleasure are the motivating factors of all human beings. All purpose of human actions is either to avoid pain or attain pleasure.
It is true to certain extent. The limitation is disclosed once we make a critical observation of how an action can cause either an isolated alleviation of pain without causing pleasure or an isolated pleasure without causing pain.

Pain and pleasure are not entirely independent. Sometimes when a pleasure exceeds a certain threshold, it could have adverse effects.

If pleasure is the highest good in the world, then why is there pain in the world?
This is similar to the question why is there evil in the world?

Let us consider the following ways and see if we can answer this question:
1) Socrates said: On the supposition that all men act in pursuit of an object which they consider beneficial, the fact that they do evil may be attributed to their imperfect understanding of what they seek to obtain. So evil in the world is due to ignorance or imperfect knowledge.
It is a common observation that people do certain illegal activities considering the benefit they draw but are ignorant of the damage it does to them or others around them. Some examples are the breaking of traffic-rules, taking/giving bribes, etc.

Applying analogy, pain is inflicted due to sheer ignorance that this will cause a pleasure. Harming self or others is an absolute act of ignorance that doing so will cause some kind of benefit.

Here, the point is: actions that cause pain are because of imperfect understanding on the part of people doing those actions.

2) There are instances when no particular human action is the cause of the pains being suffered. It could be a natural calamity, an accident or a situation where no one is responsible for the damage done.
In such cases, what is the affect of pain? When in pain, there arises a need to mitigate this pain. And of course this necessity leads to an invention to alleviate the pain and perhaps bring additionally a pleasure. World war II led to improvement of the technology.

Perhaps we can draw a thin line for the effects that the actions of men cause, a line between pain and pleasure. It is not as simple. There are certain areas overlapping both the pleasure and pain.

The point here is: pain exists for a certain period of time and either is mitigated by time (in case of no action that can heal the pain) or is eliminated by a new invention.

Bottom Line:

The pain is not what is desired by normal beings. Even if somebody does inflict pain, he does not really do that because he enjoys it, rather he does go through the pain only to reap the fruits of pleasure. As goes the famous saying: No pain no gain.
Had Edison not pained himself by spending 16 hours a day in his lab, there would not have been electric bulbs to throw us the light.

In deed, it is not the pain which is the motivating force in case of individuals who are pained, but the gain underlined beneath the layer of pain that motivates.

Pain could well be a hygiene factor. People do actions to prevent this pain. They do not want the pain.

The whole discussion was based on the assumption that Mill’s statement is followed:
“Treat others as you would have others treat you.”

The most important point I would like to make out is:

No matter what the pain and it’s severity and extent are, it is the ability of man to endure it, and convert this pain into his own or others’ pleasure which is the key to the survival and existence of his self, family, society, country, civilization in that order.