Pseudoscience & Religion

Stress, The Mind, Belief Systems And Mental Blocks

This is the fourth part of Dr. Prabhakar Kamath’s latest series on Managing Life Without God and Religion In The Twenty First Century. Links to all published parts in this series can be found here.

In the previous article I presented to India’s young men and women a whole new system of beliefs and a new methodology based on it, to replace the old ones. The goal of the new belief system offered here is to empower young men and women in India to fulfill their desires and deal with various evils of life by having faith in their own will, and rational, ethical and result-oriented actions. Besides, they would replace their old Dharma with the Constitution of India, develop their own Value System, and develop new insight into the nature of evil, and how to cope with it. In this article, we will discuss the interrelation between stress, the mind, belief systems and mental blocks.

What Is Evil?

Evil is anything that causes us to suffer misery. Ancient Indians identified three sources of evil, which they titled Tapatraya (“three things that cause us to feel hot”): 1. Evils coming from nature and products of nature (Adhi-Bhautika). These were such things as floods, earthquakes, famine, hurricanes, enemies, animals, and the like. 2. Those coming from gods and supernatural entities (Adhi-Daivika). 3. Those coming from body, mind and soul (Adhyatmika). These were personality weaknesses (greed, envy, etc.) and physical and emotional ailments. To neutralize these three sources of evil they worshiped gods by means of Mantras (magical incantations) and Yajnas (fire sacrifices). To this day millions of Indians mindlessly sing Mantras such as Shanti (Peace) Mantra, Mrithyunjaya (Death-conquering) Mantra, Gayatri Mantra, etc. and perform Yajnas and offer Poojas to ward off evils.

Dukkha

In the 21st century the sources of evil are bad events and problems of life, which upset you and rob you of your peace of mind. In other words, they cause you stress. When you are stressed about something you experience one or more of painful emotions such as fear, anger, hurt, disappointment, frustration and others in your mind. These painful emotions in your mind cause changes in brain chemicals. These changes in brain chemicals bring on stress symptoms such as sleeplessness, anxiety, worry, tension, headaches and many others. The ancients referred to this combination of painful emotions and miserable stress symptoms thereof as Dukkha. In Arjuna Vishada episode, Arjuna’s Dukkha consisted of severe stress symptoms (BG: 1:28-30) caused by guilt over having to kill his own people (BG: 1:37) and fear of going to hell for destroying families and religious traditions (BG: 1:36, 39, 45).

Solutions Offered By Ancient Dharmas

Brahmanism said to people, “Your Dukkha is the result of your misdeeds (bad Karma) from your past lives. You must pay for it by suffering in this life. However, you can avoid suffering in your next life by doing good deeds in this life by following the dictates of the Varna Dharma.”

Upanishadism said to people,

“Your Dukkha is the result of your Guna-rooted desire for, attachment to and possessiveness wealth, power, people, and other sense objects. Gaining Karma condemns you to be born on this miserable earth again and again. So transcend your Gunas and give up Karma (BG: 2:45). Take up Yoga of Intellect (Buddhiyoga, 2:40-51) to control your passions and be free from Dukkha here on earth and Samsara hereafter (5:21-23).”

Buddhism said,

“Your Dukkha is as a result of your unbridled desires and delusion engendered by them. Follow our Eightfold Path of right thinking, right action, right resolve, etc. and conquer your passion. And you will eliminate Dukkha from your life and attain Nirvana.”

Bhagavatism said,

“Your Dukkha is caused by the Gunas and Karma of Brahmanism. Surrender to me (Lord Krishna) alone to transcend the Gunas (BG: 7:14), dump all your Karma on me (BG: 9:27-28), and I shall liberate you from all Dukkha (18:66).”

Our Solution

“Your Dukkha (misery) comes from various clearly identifiable bad events and problems of life, some of which are brought on by your own stupid mistakes. If you deal with these stressors correctly and get rid of your painful emotions from your mind appropriately, your stress symptoms would disappear, and you suffer Dukkha no more. Furthermore, you can minimize Dukkha in the future by leading a wisdom-based lifestyle.”

As you can see, our ultimate goal in these articles is the same as the goal of all the ancient Dharmas: Eliminating Dukkha. However, I offer here more practical and down-to-earth solutions based on our current understanding of the nature of evils bringing on stress and how the mind works. Complex as it might seem to us, the mind is still amenable to some degree of simplification without losing its essential features. In this article, I will give some very basic information and simple examples to illustrate my points. In the articles to follow we will explore each of the issues raised here in greater detail and with more complex examples.

First, two important points: 1. The mind, brain and body are one single unit. What we think and how we feel affects all body organs and their functions. 2. Mind is the function of the brain and the body, and it consists of two distinct but intimately connected compartments: The conscious part and the hidden part. Let us take up each of these parts at a time.

The Conscious Mind

The conscious mind is what we use at any given moment –here and now. Just as you could read only one page at a time on the monitor of your computer, right now your conscious mind is focused only one thing: Reading this article and trying to figure out what I am trying to convey in it. Right at this very moment you are not thinking of the delicious food your grandma served you when you were a ten-year-old kid. By means of our conscious mind you think, feel, speak and act. The basic function of thinking is whether a given sensory input (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) is good for you or bad; that of feeling is to enjoy pleasure or suffer pain from that input; that of speech is to express good or bad emotions related to that experience, and that of action is whether to get more of it, less of it or not at all. For example, right now you might think that this article is good or bad. You might feel good or bad reading it. You might say, “This article is good” or “This article stinks.” And you might continue to read it or give up reading it.

Our concern here is, “What happens in the conscious mind when you are upset (stressed) about something?” Let us start with some basic information and build our model of the mind on that.

A Functional Model Of The Conscious Mind

Let us represent the conscious mind by a balloon. When calm, the conscious mind does not have any painful emotions in it, and so the balloon is deflated and limp. When upset (stressed) about something the conscious mind “inflates” with painful emotions such as fear, hurt, anger, sadness, guilt, frustration, and the like. The flooding of emotions in the brain causes brain chemicals to change and these changes are conveyed to various body organs by means of a circulating hormones and a vast network of nerves. The result is appearance of stress symptoms. If the painful emotions are eliminated from the conscious mind/balloon, the balloon “deflates” and stress symptoms disappear.

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Rule #1: When upset about something, the conscious mind (balloon) is inflated with painful emotions and one experiences stress symptoms. Conversely, presence of stress symptoms means the conscious mind has painful emotions in it.

Let us say that you lost your wallet containing your driver’s license, credit cards and a lot of cash. You are now very upset. Your balloon inflates with fear that someone might abuse your credit card, and steal your money and identity. You balloon is now inflated with fear. Now you experience many stress symptoms such as mind racing, fast heart beat, agitation and anxiety. You start searching frantically for your wallet all over your house. Then you suspect that probably you had left it in your office. You drive to your office faster than usual. Much to your relief you find your wallet there. Your fear disappears from your mind. Your balloon shrinks immediately. You feel better instantly. You are back to being your calm self once again. Of course, now you may have to face a little music from your spouse for being so negligent with your wallet!

What happens if you don’t find your wallet? Well, in this scenario you take swift action. You alert your credit card company, apply for a new driver’s license and look at the money you lost as charity. You tell yourself, “Money comes and money goes.” You learn the lesson that every negligent act comes with a price tag. That is your Karma here on earth! You learn from your mistake, become more mindful, and move on.

Stressors

Life continually brings in bad news, which upsets us and causes our balloon to inflate. If it is not one thing it is another. These upsetting events and problems of life (evils) are known as stressors. Bad events are one-shot events that inflate the balloon suddenly and cause many serious stress symptoms to appear. Death of a loved one, betrayal of trust, break-up of relationship, serious accident, etc., are examples of bad events. Bad problems are on-going life problems such as job, relationship, financial, family, marriage, etc. These problems inflate your balloon with painful emotions gradually. In India in particular, a lot of your problems come from the society you live in and the people who run your government. Sometimes you feel stressed by mental conflicts in which your forbidden desires are pitted against your own personal value system or those of your family. Let us represent stressors by a pump, which is attached to the balloon.

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Those who are capable of getting rid of painful emotions from the mind (shrink the balloon), and successfully deal with the stressors (turn the pump off) on an on-going basis do not suffer from stress symptoms, and they enjoy peace of mind. In other words, they are able to deal with Dukkha. There are right and wrong ways of getting rid of painful emotions from the mind and dealing with stressors. We will study them in due course.

In people who are not able to get rid of their painful emotions from the mind (unable to shrink their balloon), and are not able to deal with stressors (turn the pump off), stress symptoms become persistent. Now they are said to be stressed-out. Now they suffer from persistent Dukkha. Stressed-out people suffer from many chronic or recurrent stress symptoms such as sleeplessness, headaches attacks, pain somewhere in the body, tiredness, poor concentration, irritability, impatience, angry outbursts, road rage, and many more due to accumulation of many painful emotions in their conscious mind (balloon). They suffer from low stress tolerance syndrome, which means they are not able to take even minimal stress. Their balloon is so full that it cannot accommodate any more emotions without popping. If they don’t get help soon, they would end up developing a serious physical or psychiatric disorder. They would then need a shrink to help them turn off the pump and deflate their balloon for them!

The Hidden Mind

We need to study this part of the mind in some detail because all our actions are based on many belief systems located in it. My mentioning your grandma above must have brought up into your conscious mind many old memories of your grandma stored away in your hidden mind. They popped-up in your conscious mind suddenly because you read the word ‘grandma.’ Likewise, just a whiff, a glimpse of an object, a familiar sound, a touch or a taste could bring up into your conscious mind (balloon) flood of old memories, and good as well as painful emotions related to those memories. Where were these memories and emotions until that very moment? Well, they were in your hidden mind.

Thus the hidden mind, like the powerful hard drive of a computer, or a huge library, or Google if you will, is the storehouse of a vast amount of information we collected over our entire life span. Most of this information is out of our immediate awareness. The hidden mind is where our belief systems, bonds with other people, memory of past events, emotions related to those events, knowledge about the world, insight into our own and others’ behaviors, judgment about people and situations, reasoning capacity, personal value system, which guides our behavior in the society we live in, virtues, which enable us to reach out to others, lessons learned from life experiences, weaknesses, which ruin us and our relationship with others, and many other things.

The Present Is Based On The Past

All these distinct entities in the hidden mind related to our past have direct bearing on our present thinking, feeling, speech and actions. So by observing the behavior of a person, we could know his/her belief system. A behavioral quirk we see in a person gives us an idea of what might have happened to him or her in the past to behave like that. For example, a person who avoids getting close to people, or clings to people s/he likes, most probably has a belief system, which developed in response to abandonment. His/her belief system says, “People I get close to abandon me.” So s/he avoids getting close to people to avoid being rejected, and s/he clings on to people s/he likes fearing rejection. Some belief systems are easier to change than others. For example, just reading something really bad about your doctor on the Internet might lead to your not going to him or her again. So the old belief that your doctor was great is now replaced by the new belief that s/he is not. Other belief systems are deep-rooted and difficult to change. For example, an orthodox religious person might read an article in Nirmukta explaining with clear-cut evidence how Shankaracharya deliberately misinterpreted the Bhagavad Gita, and yet s/he might not change his/her belief in Brahmanism or infallibility of Shankaracharya. S/he might dismiss the author of that article as ignorant. As we go along, we will study what it takes to replace old belief system with a new one in the hidden mind of people we want to reform. By the way the word ‘reform’ means re-forming one’s belief system.

A Functional Model Of The Hidden Mind

For us to learn how the hidden mind works, we need a more dynamic and dramatic model than the hard drive of a computer. Let us now represent the hidden mind by an open-mouthed soda bottle with fizzy soda in it. Thousands of visible CO2 bubbles and invisible CO2 dissolved in the soda represent bits of information, belief system, memories and emotions. The balloon is attached to the open mouth of the soda bottle.

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Whenever the soda bottle is shaken-up by a sensory jolt, the hidden mind assesses its goodness or badness and promptly sends a message (bubbles) to the conscious mind: This input is good; or this input is bad. Based on this data, the conscious mind thinks that the input is good or bad. If the sensory input is good, one feels good about it. If the sensory input is judged as bad, one feels bad about it, and the balloon inflates with painful emotions appropriate to the perceived threat: Fear, hurt, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, disappointment, etc. Instantly stress symptoms appear as shown in the first picture above. One then takes appropriate action to deal with the bad input.

As to how much fizz spews-up into the balloon depends upon the level of danger the hidden mind senses in the sensory input (how badly the soda bottle is shaken by the sensory input). If your hidden mind judges a popping noise as caused by a popping balloon, you would not experience many stress symptoms. If it tells you that the popping noise is that of a gunshot, you might experience a lot of stress symptoms. So, how stressed you feel in response to a sensory input depends on what your hidden mind tells you about it based on its past experience. If the hidden mind does not have enough information in it to guide your thought and actions, then you would feel baffled. This is why it is said, “Your eyes cannot see what your mind does not know.” Your hidden mind is then said to be naïve and you are said to be highly suggestible. This is how Swamis and Gurus baffle naïve people with their cowshit. Those who naively believe in the infallibility of Swamis and Gurus believe: This nonsense makes sense; s/he is great! Those who have the right information in their hidden mind about the scriptures know that what they are saying is utter nonsense.

Double Whammy

Sometimes even a small, seemingly harmless sensory input could severely shake up the soda bottle and spew a very large amount of fizz (painful emotions) into the balloon resulting in a severe panic attack. This is called double whammy. This happens in people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. On one occasion a simple statement I made, “Trust me,” triggered a massive panic attack and fainting spell in a 35-year-old woman who was sexually abused by her uncle when she was a child. Apparently he uttered that very phrase every time before abusing her. My seemingly innocent statement shook-up her soda bottle so vigorously that all painful emotions (fizz) in her hidden mind related to her sexual abuse as a child furiously spewed into her balloon. Imagine opening a bottle of soda after shaking it vigorously! The pain she felt in her conscious mind was so great the she felt, “I just can’t take this pain anymore!” She suffered emotional shock, which made her so sick that she stayed away from me for three long years! It was as if her balloon simply popped.

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Coping

Coping basically consists of shrinking the balloon by becoming aware of painful emotions in the mind, expressing them appropriately in words and gestures, canceling-out painful emotions from the mind by means of various mental mechanisms, such as rationalization, putting things in proper perspective, changing perception, neutralizing, and others; and acting rationally, purposefully and ethically to deal with whatever is upsetting you. Let us represent coping by a tube attached to the side of the balloon.

The dynamic functional model of mind is now complete. Here is what our mind looks like!

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I recommend that you integrate this model of the mind thoroughly in your hidden mind before proceeding with this and future articles, for we will frequently use terms balloon, soda bottle, pump and the escape valve to represent the four components of the model. If your hidden mind does not know what these terms stand for, this and all future articles will not make any sense to your conscious mind. Then you will be baffled. You would then think, “This man is bullshitting me just like those Swamis and Gurus!”

Applying This Knowledge In Changing Belief Systems

Let us now take up just one entity from the hidden mind and examine its role in our daily life -belief systems. We all have hundreds of belief systems in our mind, which determine the quality of our behavior and the level of their misery in life. People, who end up seeing psychiatrists, harbor one or another erroneous belief, which is the basis of their disorder. For example, a person who believes that expressing painful emotions verbally is a sign of weakness holds on to his/her painful emotions and becomes stressed-out. If this person adopts a new belief that releasing emotions appropriately is a healthy thing to do, that would be their first step towards his/her recovery.

Sometimes people seek help with professionals for their quirky behaviors rooted in their old belief system. For example, a young man is very shy and he avoids being in a group of people. In fact, he becomes very anxious when he has to present a paper in front of a class. He does not know why he behaves like this because his belief system is in the hidden mind, completely out of his awareness. History reveals that as a child he wore very thick eyeglasses, and was ridiculed a lot by his parents and peers. So he developed a belief system, which said, “I am a freak.” Therefore, he became shy and learned to avoid people. His abnormal behavioral pattern had nothing to do with his current life situation, but still negatively affected it.

If this young man sought counseling, his psychiatrist must replace his old belief system (“I am a freak”) with a new one, “I am all right,” which is more suitable to his current life situation. The psychiatrist does this in two stages: First he wins his trust by listening and empathizing with his suffering. Second, once he convinces the young man that he is a good man, empathetic, and knows what he is talking about, the psychiatrist plants a simple new belief system in his hidden mind: “You are all right.” He reasons with the patient as follows, “That was then, this is now. No one is ridiculing you now. Your fear of ridicule is the relic of your past. You are a fine young man now. As far as I can figure you out you are OK. Now go and do the right thing!” Once this new belief system is integrated into his psyche the young man’s shyness and avoidance behavior would gradually go away.

Changing Old Belief Systems In Religious People

Likewise, for us to change the belief system of religious people who are wasting their valuable energy and money in useless rituals, they must see us as good, empathic, and knowledgeable people from whom they could learn something new. That there are many religious people out there with hunger for new knowledge and capacity for rational thinking is evident from the fact that many of them regularly read Nirmukta. At some level in their mind they are beginning to question their old belief system and mindless actions based on them. Just as we should not blame the young man in the above anecdote for his shyness, we should not blame religious people for their childhood indoctrination by Brahmanic loyalists. They do not know any better. We must win them over by means of our goodness of heart, empathy, knowledge and reasoning. Even if we generate a little bit of doubt in their mind we have made progress. Here is an example of a significant change in attitude you all have personally witnessed in a highly educated religious man as a result of this approach:

On Feb. 11th, 2011 Sadhu, a highly educated religious-minded man, wrote in response to my anti-Brahmanic article in Nirmukta dated February 9th 2011:

When will you understand that life moves on from this planet to others where there is more suffering and the world of SriVaikuntha (Means World of no diminishment) is the only abode where we can live a life of abundance in happiness! So long and good luck Stupid Irrational People!”

Here is what he wrote exactly a month later in response to my article dated March 4th, 2011 in which I empathized with his predicament and explained to him the rational basis of his ‘mental conflict’:

Dear Dr. Kamath, Thank you for very appropriately describing my “mental conflict.” I hope to learn more rationalism from browsing this website.

Note here the difference in the tone and content between his first quote and the second. Sadhu’s Brahmanic Mind wrote the first quote and his Rational Mind wrote the second. What Sadhu’s Rational Mind is saying here is, “I agree with your explanation and reasoning. I am open to knowing more about your belief system.” He is not blindly accepting what we say, but he now thinks, “Maybe these guys know what they are talking about.” Now that his Rational Mind found in us a reliable ally, it decided to assert itself against his Brahmanic Mind. He wants to be a rationalist so badly that he is willing to overlook nasty letters we wrote in Nirmukta condemning his first letter! This anecdote is the proof, if you will allow me, that by goodness of heart, empathy, right knowledge and sound reasoning, we could still change the belief system of some people holding on to religious belief system. Generally speaking, people don’t buy products from salesmen they don’t like and trust no matter how good they claim their products are. Here is the story of how a Hindutva terrorist’s belief system was changed by an innocent Muslim man he met in the jail.

January 18, 2011

Abdul Kaleem has been granted bail after one and a half years at the Chanchalguda jail. He is the man who Swami Aseemanand has allegedly credited with changing his life and his mission. Arrested in November 2010, Aseemanand has confessed that it was not young Muslim men but right-wing groups that were behind the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad in May 2007 and also the Ajmer, Malegaon and Samjhauta blasts.  Aseemanand was brought here as investigators worked together to piece together his trail of terror. He says it was his introduction to Kaleem that provoked both reflection and regret.

The Danger Of Shared Old Belief Systems In The Society

Just as individuals display behavioral quirks based on old belief systems in their hidden mind, groups of people also display behavioral quirks based on shared belief systems in their hidden minds. These could cause deleterious effect on themselves and the society they live in. Here are two glaringly evident problems resulting from shared old belief systems in India:

1. The first problem is when right-wingers with shared old belief system indulge in antisocial militant behavior destructive to the society.

2. The second problem is when the educated people with shared old belief system indulge in paralytic behavior in the face of evil, which results in degradation of the society.

1. Militant behavior and communal disharmony: The anti-Muslim militant behavior of RSS, Shiv Sena and Hindutva is rooted in the shared old belief system in their hidden mind, which says, “Muslims are a great threat to Hindus.” That shared old belief system is rooted in the historical fact that many Muslim kings destroyed temples, mercilessly killed hundreds of thousands of Hindus, and impoverished India over past one thousand years. These atrocities gave birth to anger and hatred in the hearts of Brahmanic loyalists. They dutifully passed on their shared belief system from generation to generation exactly as they did the Vedas.

Now that India is independent and Hindus are in power, these rightwing Hindus want to wreak vengeance. Since there are no Muslim kings around anymore for them to kill in retaliation, they have redirected their anger and hatred towards Muslims everywhere who are symbols of past misdeeds of Islamic rulers of India. So their militant actions are based on their shared belief system:

Muslims are invaders. They do not belong in India. Muslim kings killed Hindus, and so we will kill Muslims. Muslim kings destroyed Hindu temples, and so we will destroy their mosques.

Now these militant right-wingers never miss an opportunity to provoke Muslims even if that would create serious communal disharmony, bloodshed, and ruin of the nation. In fact, their hatred for Muslims was so great that they assassinated Gandhi whom they accused of supporting Muslims. They saw him as a traitor who supported invaders. Their narrow minds could not comprehend Gandhi’s belief that it is the moral responsibility of the majority in a nation to protect the interest of the minority. When they go on rampage, they do not think that they are doing anything illegal or immoral because their allegiance is to Brahmanism and not to the Constitution of India. Therefore the law of the land does not bind them. Their belief system says that India belongs to Hindus and it is their Dharma to kill invaders. If you ask them why they indulge in criminal behavior, they resort to self-deception and give you evasive answers. The real reason is that they want to wreak vengeance against Muslims for the misdeeds of Islamic kings centuries ago, such as Ala-ud-Din Khilji (ruled 1296- 1316) and Aurangzeb (ruled 1658-1707). Here is how they try to spew the poison of their belief system by dredging up the misdeeds of Emperor Aurangzeb who died over three hundred years ago.

Here is my new belief system to RSS, Shiv Sena and Hindutva fanatics:

Whatever Muslim kings did to Hindus was atrocious. However, that was then and this is now. Their misdeeds have nothing to do with Muslims living in India today. Modern India belongs to Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Atheists, Agnostics, Sadhus, Dalits, and people of many other belief systems. Now the Constitution of India, not Brahmanism, is the Dharma. It is time you accept this reality. We all need to learn to live together in peace and strive together to make India a prosperous and peaceful nation. It is time you give up your anachronistic belief system and hateful militant behavior against Muslims, and be productive and honorable citizens of modern India. Don’t behave like Nazis. Move on!

2. Paralytic behavior and societal degradation: Let us now take up how a shared belief system leads to paralytic behavior and social degradation. As I mentioned above, a great deal of evil people experience in India stems from the society itself. The government of India itself has become a well-oiled evil system, which gives people Dukkha by commission (corruption) or omission (inefficiency). Try to start a new business in India and experience the evils you have to deal with. You have to pay bribes to get your business started, get a license to build a house, dig a well, buy or sell a property, get marriage license, register a car, get driver’s license, get electricity connection or pay the bill, get a ration card, get a death certificate, get pension, get a loan sanctioned, release a subsidy, file a police complaint, convert land… Nothing can be done transparently. Everything is done in the shadow.

The inefficiency of the government officials is glaringly evident in the mountain high garbage piles in the streets, sewage flowing on the roads, scarcity of water and electricity, roads full of potholes, rampant crime, rape, dowry deaths, dishonor killings, violence against Dalits, adulteration of food, fuel and medicines, environmental pollution, scams… this list is literally unending. It is as if the government is in a coma.

People who deny all this are indulging in blatant self-deception. Ask young men and women of India what they want to do about these truly abominable evils prevalent in India, which are not only stressful to people but also a disgrace to any self-respecting nation in the eye of the world. Their pat answer is, “What can we do? There is nothing we can do. This is the way things are in India.” This is the response I got from hundreds of highly educated young people whenever I met with them in public meetings in India over thirty years. Why do even highly educated people think, feel, talk and behave like this? What is the shared old belief system in which this paralytic behavior rooted?

First, for 3500 years Brahmanism discouraged individuality and self-assertion. It shamed and ostracized independent thinkers and rebels as ones suffering from egoism (Ahamkara). It indoctrinated people to think that they were totally helpless (BG: 3:5, 27) and at the mercy of the Gunas and Karma (BG: 18:60), or Parameshwara (BG: 18:61). A decent person in the Brahmanic society was defined as one who kept his/her mouth shut, did not question any and all the nonsense Brahmanism dished out, and did what s/he was told (BG: 18:45). To be accepted by the society, one was required to meekly and helplessly perform his/her designated duty.

Second, until India won independence from the British in 1947, one despot after another ruled various territories of India with an iron hand. They dealt with upstarts swiftly and ruthlessly. This further contributed to people repressing their initiative and individuality in their relationship with the government. Whatever creative impulse or initiative they had was redirected towards cultural activities, fine arts and temple building. No wonder India has more spectacular festivals, colorful tamasha, and incredibly ornate temples than the rest of the world put together. Thus out of fear for their safety, people kept their mouths shut and depended on their kings and religious authorities to do what was best for them. If things did not go well, they blamed it on their Karma.

The natural outcome of all this was that over the centuries people developed a shared belief system:

I am merely a humble servant of the despot. If I questioned anything and showed initiative, I could be punished for it. Also, if I question any of dictates of Brahmanism, I could be shamed as one suffering from Ahamkara. To survive in the society I have to act passive, helpless and fearful of authority.”

Parents passed on this shared belief system from generation to generation. Most Indian are not conscious of it. Only their behavior is the clue to its presence in their hidden mind. Now this anachronistic shared belief system manifests itself as mental blocks, which interfere with their duty as citizens of a modern democracy: Apathy, passivity, fear of authority and shame, and cowardice. No one wants to be branded as an upstart or egoist. Even though now India is a democracy, people have neither given up their mental blocks, nor their shared old belief system. Other than voting every five years, which is a hollow symbol of their empowerment, they want to be left alone. They continue to believe that the government knows what is best for them. If it does nothing, or if it becomes evil, they do not question the government. They think nothing of a huge pile of garbage right in front of their house. In fact they would happily dump their own garbage on top of it. They think nothing of the bribes officials extort from them even for small services. In fact they would willingly give even more bribes than needed as they have plenty of black money under their beds. They believe in the idea of ma bap Sarkar (mom and pop government) even in the face of the fact that not only does the government not solve their problems, but also the government is the single most important source of their problems. Taking full advantage of these eternal mental blocks of people rooted in their past, politicians and bureaucrats (modern day Kshatriyas and Brahmins) are having a ball. They are behaving like the foxes guarding the henhouse.

We need to replace educated people’s anachronistic shared belief system, which is suitable for medieval times, with a new belief system suitable for 21st century India:

That was then, this is now. I am now a proud citizen of a great democratic nation. I am not a servant of a despot. Now I am the master in this nation. I have faith in my own will. My allegiance is to the Constitution of India. I am duty-bound to preserve, protect and promote it. And I am quite capable of fulfilling my own desires and dealing with all the evil I see around me. Don’t tell me I can’t. Yes, I can, and I will. And I shall fear no evil.”

Be The Change You Want To See In The World

Change in the belief system of society begins with you. As Gandhi put it, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” As the cliché goes, you cannot teach people to fish unless you become a fisherman first. Properly integrated in your personal life the new belief system I have presented thus far and new methodology could have ripple effect on the community in which you live: Your self-awareness could lead to greater community-awareness in you. Your empowerment could lead to increased desire in you to promote people-empowerment. Your suffering could lead to greater empathy in you for peoples’ suffering. Your skill in solving your own life problems (evils) could lead to increased ability to teach people skills to solve their personal and societal problems. Conquering your own mental blocks based on your old belief system could lead to developing strategy to neutralize paralyzing mental blocks (apathy, passivity, fear, etc.) of people based on their shared old belief systems.

Social Action Must Follow Rational Thinking

A truly enlightened person sees himself or herself in others while still maintaining his/her distinct identity: I am the people. And therefore, while striving for your own welfare, you should strive for the welfare of all people as well. In the course of time, you as an empowered person automatically become a catalyst for change in the community you live in. Whereas your privileged education enables you to think rationally and challenge all the evil you see around you, your empowerment should motivate you to do something about whatever is wrong in the community, society and the nation you live in, which is the source of stress to you as well as people around you. Developing rational thinking is only the first step towards becoming Nirmukta (liberated) from the shackles of the old belief systems. In the long run, without corresponding action for social change based on your new belief system, embellishing rational thinking alone is of little benefit to you or humanity.

Now stand up and engage yourself in the battle, young men and women of India! Atho Utthista Yudhyaya Yujyasva, Bharata!

(To be continued)

What do you think about the series so far? For discussion about this series as a whole please go to this newly-created thread on the forums. For discussion of the above article, please leave comments below.

About the author

Prabhakar Kamath

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.

Links to all articles in Dr. Kamath's earlier series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries can be found here. Dr. Kamath' series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.

11 Comments

  • Dear Dr.Kamath,Last month I viewed Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s DVD-s .He beautifully explains how one can see his own image.”Observer is the observed” ” You are the rest of Humanity ” ETC. You have carried forward the practical application in detail. J.K. said the vaccum in the western mind is filled by Hindu ‘Gurus’ with their Rubbish.Your article should help all educated youth of India to clear this rubbish.

    • While I am happy to know that you have realised that gurus fill the minds of devotees with garbage, I also wish to remind you that even J.Krishnamurthy and his other namesake along with many other “spiritualists” are also mistaken. Of late, these spiritualists have learned to confuse muddled minds with the “quantum physics” jargon by inaccurately depicting the discoveries of modern physics as being in harmony with their metaphysical (read Advaitic nonsense). These Advaitins try to confuse people by saying that the well known “observer effect” in physics justifies their metaphysical concept of “oneness” as a monistic superset of all information. However, the best minds in quantum physics have blatantly refuted this claim of JK and his likes. All that the experiments related to “observer effect” in physics point out to is that as both observer and the object being observed are part of one closed system, an observation that is 100% accurate and 100% precise cannot be made. This does not mean that observer is observed, as JK would like you to believe. I would encourage you to read the article “Biocentrism demystified” by Prof. Wadhwan on this website. If you need more pointers, let me know.

  • Keshava Shet said: Your article should help all educated youth of India to clear this rubbish.

    I say: I hope so. The biggest problem is how to reach the educated youth of India. I don’t know how many people would read necessarily “long-winded” articles such as this. One alternative is to offer seminars with audio-visual aids to interested youth. I hope to offer them in India in the future.

  • Dear Sir,
    The article is very good.
    I posted it on my face book. one of my friends comment I am quoting here I don’t know what should I reply to him.can you help. I don’t think these questions are important ( In my view ).
    My Friends comment as follow.
    ‘ but still the question is from where this stress comes from…if from thoughts ,,,then from where this thought comes ..if from from conscious or unconscious minds then who made in this way and why……and why i am not born as Rahul Gandhi….why by birth i am in poverty and scarcity? still many things are there in my mind and who made my mind and why is this way that i am i thinking like that i don’t know?’

    • Your friend looks like the kind of person who, if I get a fever, instead of giving me some medicine, would ponder on what causes diseases, if microbes cause them, what causes microbes to exist, what causes the malaise we feel in our minds when we are sick, why is it that I got sick and not Rahul Gandhi, why is it that I can’t afford to get treated in 5-star hospitals. I’m sure he will have a lot more going on in his mind in addition to those questions.

      But if he is serious about those questions, and isn’t asking them just to look like he has uttered something profound, he needs to grok complexity and read books by people like Dan Dennett.

    • The kind of questions your friend is asking indicates that his hidden mind (soda bottle) does not have basic knowledge about the world, and therefore he is said to be naive. Two year old children are naive, and therefore they constantly try to fill their Knowledge Folder by asking again and again the question, “Why?” Looks like your friend has gotten permanently “stuck” at that age.:) Tell him that his poverty and scarcity are not financial.

    • Your friend is a typical example of an ignoramus who wants the solution to all the problems in one instant without taking the effort to sincerely study various topics that would lead him to a better understanding of science and reality. If he is serious to find answers he should seriously study two things in tandem. One is “theory of evolution” and the other is “theory of chaos” and he must undertake a serious detailed study and learn to fully inculcate the following Mantra: “I will believe in only those things which have demonstrable evidence.” Most people from India are unwilling to take the time to study “real” science and are content at uttering confused phrases that are a result of childhood indoctrination and dogma. Your friend is not R.Gandhi because he and Gandhi are two different members of the human species. Species evolve and by evolution what scientists mean is “Random mutation of genes under the effect of Natural Selection”. Thus R.Gandhi and your friend got different set of genes from their different ancestors though both of them share the general DNA patterns as they are both human. Right now, this is the maximum I can say. If you are serious to know more, you must learn to be inquisitive and properly “study” science. Getting a Masters degree by regurgitating information learned in a book is NOT science. Most educated people from India have sciences degrees but zero scientific temperament.
      Let me know if you want to learn more.

  • @Dr Kamath

    Thanks for the nice article.

    @Milind

    AFAIK , JK didn’t propose any monism or Advaita like Ramana/Shankara / Ekhart Tolle et all neither he meant that indirectly. His teachings where more of “Anatta” type.I know “observer is observed” was later misquoted by Advaitins and charlatans linke Sri power 2 and Deepak Chopra to mean observer = observed = monoism. Even “gurus” of orthodox shankara order misquote JK to sell their spiritual ware.
    I remember JK saying in one of his talk like this , paraphrasing ” You are observer and that tree is observed, when I say observer is observed don’t think tree and you are one .. that’s nonsense”. Amit Goswami also misquoted JK.

    JK’s statment “You are the world” not to be taken literally.He meant your problem and world problems are not so different.

    I will read “Biocentrism demystified”
    Thanks

  • @Dr Kamath

    Thanks for the this article, well articulated and will refer this article to some of my friends.

    @Milind

    AFAIK , JK didn’t propose any monism or Advaita like Ramana/Shankara/Ekhart Tolle et al, neither he meant that indirectly. His teachings where more of “Anatta” type.I know “observer is observed” was later misquoted by Advaitins and charlatans linke Sri power 2 and Deepak Chopra to mean observer = observed = monoism. Even “gurus” of orthodox shankara order misquote JK to sell their spiritual ware.
    I remember JK saying in one of his talk like this , paraphrasing ” You are observer and that tree is observed, when I say observer is observed don’t think tree and you are one .. that’s nonsense”. Amit Goswami also misquoted JK.

    JK’s statment “You are the world” not to be taken literally.He meant your problem and world problems are not so different.

    I will read “Biocentrism demystified”
    Thanks

  • I never read books…But i read this AT one go… as if `m reading which keeps resounding in my mind…. The Brain model will really help me….hope to be inspired in future …..PLz keep up this article bringing in new rational thoughts and solutions 🙂

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