Paranormal & Mysticism

Arms, Drugs and Spirituality -A Counterpoint to a Counterpoint by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Background:

Following is a paragraph-wise response to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s counterpoint above.

Unfortunately for Sri Sri, we do not get to vote on truth. A million votes cannot ratify a hoax into a truth. If it is millions that count, on what basis does Sri Sri dismiss ideas like houris in paradise or ambrosia dining halls on Olympus, when each idea at some point had millions of believers?

A list of ‘Hindu spiritual leaders’ comprising Gandhi, Vivekananda and Aurobindo is a conveniently cherrypicked one, conveniently excluding Nityananda of CD infamy, Jayendra Saraswati facing abetment of murder charges and Jaggi Vasudev facing accusations of the murder of his spouse. Gandhi, Vivekananda and Aurobindo are being trotted out as human shields as it were to protect obvious wrongdoers in spiritual garb from the long arm of the law.

Spiritualists offering a joy ‘that does not end’ nevertheless are confined to offering time-tabled and hence time-bound meditation courses and retreats. If they insist that there are lingering persisting, long-term benefits, then they must be willing to present empirical data rather than making their techniques proprietary and bound under non-disclosure agreements.

Reel-life and the afterlife are different in one crucial respect. Reel-life is agreed upon to be a fiction and is often accompanied by disclaimers of the sort the faithful never associate with the afterlife. If Sri Sri is willing to say about the afterlife that “All experiences and events purported to belong to the afterlife are products of the human imagination and any resemblance to reality is purely contrived”, that would take the wind out of the sails of most atheist critics.

Sri Sri insists that one should have spent time in an ashram in order to comment on their function and critique their role in society. Let us, as an exercise, replace ‘ashram’ in the preceding sentence with ‘madrasa’ or ‘gulag’ or ‘rave party’ and ask ourselves if this demand of his makes sense. We are as entitled to comment on ashram products seizing airtime and influencing public policy, as we are to criticize madrasa products causing law and order issues, without having to step into either.

Overconsumption and tasteless ostentation are legitimate objects of critique on both economic and aesthetic grounds. To dismiss all such criticism as the ravings of bloodthirsty radicals and to suggest that wealth-creators are immune to reproach, is not only a gross mischaracterization but a further disservice to what is a very inequitable society.

Argument‘ is possible without ‘putting down‘. To be bereft of any convincing arguments and also of the finesse to articulate them in a civil fashion, and then explain away that stunned and awkward silence as an expression of politeness, amounts to making a virtue of a necessity.

It is naive in the extreme to wish whistle-blowing to be a musically pleasing exercise. It is going to be jarring, shrill and unnerving. Complaining about the noisy whistle-blowing rather than openly secret crimes, renders one’s bona fides suspect.

Religious evangelism as a means of expanding political influence overseas is a medieval idea belonging to the Dark Ages with a bloody history, that only those with a totalitarian, theocratic mindset would look back on approvingly.

Speaking of poverty, squalor and suffering as disguised blessings,  from pulpits of undisguised opulence without any trace of irony, comes easy to so many spokespersons of spirituality. To treat royal patronage as essential to sustain spiritual practice, amounts to a confession that this their profession is not conviction-driven but commercially driven and as beholden to venture capital.

Declining to respond to critics on grounds that the critics will fail to comprehend any arguments, is not only smug and patronizing but an abject admission of failure on part of those who claim to have a universal teaching that can be brought within the reach of everyone.

Arms, drugs and spirituality have all at different times shown to be prone to subversion by vested interests in order to keep the masses subjugated either in thrall or by threats, and well-meaning citizens are understandably wary of all three.

Offering to victims of terror, oppression and deprivation the counsel to ‘suffer in silence’ and snatch from the beleaguered and bereaved an unearned, unrepentant forgiveness for their oppressors; is a callous way of adding condescending insult to grievous injury. There can be no reconciliation without truth and the truth ought to be sought, raising our voice and ruining the trances of the spiritualists if need be.

Freethinkers have two choices: to participate in the conspiracy of silence or speak out for truth. We choose the latter.

About the author

Arvind Iyer

Arvind Iyer is a student researcher at the University of Southern California working in the broad areas of Computational Neuroscience and biological visual processing. His interests include science popularization, continuing education, secular philanthropy and freethought blogging.

24 Comments

  • Many journalists, communists, atheists and naxalites live in that state of mind, of being anti-religious, anti-rich, anti-famous, anti-business.

    Congratz India has a Republican party in the making 😛

    • I donno how people can equate Atheists with all the other groups. Atheists are people who dont believe in God. That is it .PERIOD. Atheists can be rich, anti rich or poor or anti poor. They can be big business men also. [For ur info Warren Buffet and Bill Gates]

      Looks like ur from Kerala, just look around u, u will find scores of religious communists.

      Atheists can be famous also – Like woody allen and Charlie Chaplin

      One point i have to agree is Atheists can be anti religious, but thank Spaghetti Monster we dont kill religious people in the name of ahteism as our SM never told to kill others who worship false gods [I read these words in most of so called holy books]

      • @^ There seems to be a misunderstanding here. I think Gowri’s comment quotes from the post attributed to Sri Sri Ravishankar where he says:
        //Many journalists, communists, atheists and naxalites live in that state of mind, of being anti-religious, anti-rich, anti-famous, anti-business.//
        Nobody here is saying that and in fact Paragraph 6 in the above article is a response to this statement by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Hope this helps.

  • “He did not subscribe to his family’s religion. Even at a young age he was too mathematical, too logical, to make the leap of faith. He adopted his father’s ethical underpinnings, but not his belief in an unseen divinity.” –from Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, by Roger Lowenstein (Doubleday, 1995), page 13.

    Warren Buffett, if you remember, is giving away 85% of his USD $40 billion fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the charitable work they do. Notice that he isn’t giving it to any religious foundations and he isn’t even giving to secular groups, like the United Way.

  • Gates was interviewed November 1995 on PBS by David Frost. Below is the transcript with minor edits.

    Frost: Do you believe in the Sermon on the Mount?

    Gates: I don’t. I’m not somebody who goes to church on a regular basis. The specific elements of Christianity are not something I’m a huge believer in. There’s a lot of merit in the moral aspects of religion. I think it can have a very very positive impact.

    Frost: I sometimes say to people, do you believe there is a god, or do you know there is a god? And, you’d say you don’t know?

    Gates: In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don’t know if there’s a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid.

    Gates was profiled in a January 13, 1996 TIME magazine cover story. Here are some excerpts compiled by the Drudge Report:

    “Isn’t there something special, perhaps even divine, about the human soul?” interviewer Walter Isaacson asks Gates “His face suddenly becomes expressionless,” writes Isaacson, “his squeaky voice turns toneless, and he folds his arms across his belly and vigorously rocks back and forth in a mannerism that has become so mimicked at MICROSOFT that a meeting there can resemble a round table of ecstatic rabbis.”

    “I don’t have any evidence on that,” answers Gates. “I don’t have any evidence of that.”

    He later states, “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.”

    So, Bill Gates doesn’t go to church on a regular basis, doesn’t believe much in the specific elements of Christianity, doesn’t think there is any evidence for souls, doesn’t know that there is any god, and doesn’t consider religion very efficient. Bill Gates is definitely irreligious and is definitely agnostic. He may or may not be an atheist, but he is also definitely not the sort of person whom religious believers have in mind when they claim that religion is necessary for charitable work. Bill Gates is thus an effective demonstration that charity is possible without religion playing any role whatsoever.

  • I was asked by Alison of 60 minutes of Australian TV about our campaign- is it like going around and telling people not to believe in Santa Claus?
    my reply- at least he does not go around giving medical advise and treatment to people!

  • Sri Sri says – “Many journalists, communists, atheists and naxalites live in that state of mind, of being anti-religious, anti-rich, anti-famous, anti-business.”

    I presume he is referring to Javed Akhtar, who is rich, famous and quite the business man. Well, in his own words, “Everyone has a right to be ignorant.”

  • Years ago when I did “Art Of Living” course. It was very liberal. I have seen Sri Sri defending Osho Rajneesh and other Athiest. However, nobody is perfect and so does he. Yes, Gandhi, Sri Sri are believer of God, that do not mean they are all bad. Believing in God/Religion is not criteria of being good or bad. I have seen Sri Sri’s luxurious Ashram. Not at all impressed with it. However, meditation and yoga were good. Point is, just because we do not agree with Sri Sri on few points, we can not “believe” that his Ashram is like rave party.

    • The claim that Sri Sri may have defended some supposedly atheist-leaning cult-leader whose cult resembles his own, does not address any of the critiques offered in the above article . Sri Sri’s condescending and contemptuous treatment of freethinkers is more than obvious in the linked blog-post to which the above article is written as a response.

      Also, where in the above article is there any suggestions that ‘all believers are bad’? Yes, the article may have said, not without backup, that the likes of Sri Sri are not conviction-driven but commercially driven, can be smug and patronizing and are often bereft of any convincing arguments. Where in any of this is a maligning of all believers which you accuse this article of?

      Rave parties were mentioned for this simple reason: People who have never visited an ashram are as entitled to comment about the social impact of ashrams, just as people who have never been to a rave party are entitled to express concerns about raves. What was so unreasonable about this stance? Didn’t Sri Sri seem to suggest that only ashram-frequenters are entitled to talk about the goings-on in ashrams? Doesn’t paragraph #5 in the article make the context adequately clear?

  • “Sri Sri says – “Many journalists, communists, atheists and naxalites live in that state of mind, of being anti-religious, anti-rich, anti-famous, anti-business.”
    Sri Sri should know that India has a long tradition of atheism before bracketing atheists with others he does not like. India is the only country in the world that has given birth to two atheist religions.
    I have so far not read Nirmukta discussions, but I am very happy now to observe their high standards.

  • This is the bane of Indian Society. Anything in the name of god sells here. What Sri Sri is doing right or not, he should not hesitate to let his theory or belief system be put to empirical experimentation. Since many neuroscience studies have shown beneficial effects of yoga and meditation, explaining them in scientific manner I don’t find why Sri Sri should refrain or hesitate to encourage scientific enquiry about his methods. Ofcourse, the neuroscience findings about yoga/meditation has got nothing to do with god. An exercise exclusive of god which follows the principle of yoga or medittion can produce the same results as that of an exercise in yoga by a believer. And speaking of Sri’s outbursts at atheist, bracketing free thinkers with Communists and Naxalites is nothing but a convenient vitriol without any basis. Hinduism has room for atheistic views even way back in vedic periods. Some of the vedic verses are agnostic. The Neo-Hindu bandwagon is nothing but Hindu Apologetics as opposed to Christian or Islamic apologetics. APologetics of every religion is a pest in our society. An impediment to the progress of mankind. If science takes us into future, religion takes us back into evolution, ushering only involution..so we may be our ape ancestors without any intellectual faculties, that will suit their designs of a supreme being, ego-less submission to that fabled supreme.

  • first listen to both arguments,….any normal mind fellow can agree that javed just did dirty illogic arguments with lots of hatred in mind , generalization is very dangerous in this country….it is used by many ignorant persons……………………….if all politicians are bad……all sadhus are bad.this kind of thinking is as similar to the “all musilm community are terrorists.”……….experience or practice spirituality then it is wise to comment………otherwise we will be the best fools if we agree to this fellow javed…..

    • Both arguments have been listened to here, and it is hard to miss that Sri Sri’s response has also been linked to above right next to Javed Akhtar’s. Consider reading both before deciding which one has a larger number of oversimplifications, generalizations and slurs. So have you considered writing this complaint about over-generalization to Sri Sri as well? You will have difficulty doing so, because, interestingly, the uploaders of Sri Sri’s post do not even leave a provision for commenting! As you can see, the comment trail here is open and vocal. So the question I will leave you with is : ‘Who do you think needs the advice of ‘listening to both sides’ more urgently?’

    • Javed Akthar is part of problem but not giving any solution. Sri Sri is a part of solution. The kind of work he has done and is doing to bring peace Mr Javed can’t even imagine to do. Mr Javed should be gratful to Guruji that he is working relentlessly day and night to make world peaceful palce for for him and all of us. Mr Javed pls join hand to solution – SPRITUALITY!!! the only Way in this century !!!

    • One freethinker response could be as follows:

      One does have the right to be ignorant, but on exercising that right one immediately forgoes the right to be treated as informed. While there maybe a right to be ignorant, there is no right to be hailed for it.

  • Hx2 Srix2 Ravishankar’s entire letter is full of more holes than a sieve. I take particular offense at the point about no one accusing Mother Teresa. Perhaps Hx2 Srix2 has not heard of one particular Christopher Hitchens?

  • Hi Srijan, I have read Hitchens and fully support what he has written about Mother Teresa. Criticising Sri Sri does not mean praise for Mother Teresa.We Atheist are against both.

  • Yea I have seen the mother teresa video by Christopher Hitchins and I totally agree with it. Religious believers think that Atheists are fighting against their god, and classify us as another religion. They need to understand that Atheists do not believe in any “god”, because all these gods relate to are either the sun or the moon, or what they saw in the sky 2000-3000 years ago. Gullible fools is what these believers really are. They just don’t get it !

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