Friday, December 8, 2017

Lesson from Phaethon Myth

Phaethon, the son of the Greek sun god Helios. Ancient myths told the story of how this rather insecure-sounding young god was challenged to prove he was related to Helios, who was said to pull the sun across the sky
To prove his divine provenance, Phaethon decided to have a go in his dad’s chariot and was unable to control the horses, who then ran wild across the sky dragging the hot sun with them. Humanity was almost destroyed in the subsequent chaos, which scorched the Earth, burned vast amounts of vegetation and created the great deserts of Africa. The Earth was only spared when Zeus blasted the horses with a thunderbolt, killing Phaethon in the process. Here’s what the Greek philosopher Plato wrote about the myth in his famous work, Timaeus:
“There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. ‘There is a story that even you [Greeks] have preserved, that once upon a time, Phaethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt.”
This myth resonated with what we are doing to ourselves through shallow thoughts and reasoning in the area of development of technology and sustainability of the ecosystem.
Let us take for an example the use of fossil fuel such as coal, oil and gas which are drawn out of the very innards of the earth. These resources have developed over millions of years and the unbridled rate at which we are consuming these resources is equal to the action of Phaethon in driving the horses of Helios in the Greek mythology. A deep reflection will point out that it took the Sun’s energy millions of years to convert decaying vegetation into deposits which is utilized not only to conserve and convert nature’s waste into useful structures of trapping the latent energy but contain the pollution of the atmosphere. By burning the fossil fuel and converting its energy content at a rapid rate, we have polluted the atmosphere with greenhouse gas such as Carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
There is a saying in the 12th century wisdom traditions of the Iroquois tribe of native Indians of America which states as follows:
“The Seventh Generation philosophy mandates that tribal decision makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions for descendants seven generations into the future. There should a clear understanding that everything we do has consequences for something and someone else, reminding us that we are all ultimately connected to creation.”
The irresponsibility with which we approached the technical development in the Industrial age has to give way for more eco-sensitive and life oriented decisions in future developments of science and technology and our own responsibility to the entire ecosystem.
Like Phaethon, we have not evaluated our core strengths and the holistic thinking and skills needed to control the vehicle which has tremendous potential to destroy the whole of humanity.
The thunderbolt of Zeus is the ethical and moral principles which destroys all devious paths and keeps us on the straight and narrow. It is the ethical and moral principles on which every decision in future technology development has to take place. Be it in the development of Artificial Intelligence or Gene manipulation, the extreme foresight that is needed to guide us should take a front seat. This is the reason why today we are talking of Spirituality Based Leadership. Spirituality is not a my belief system but the acute awareness of our connectedness to the entire cosmos.
In the spiritual Vedic tradition the symbolism of the chariot and horses are again brought out as to why one should develop a singular focus, as was the strength and capability of Helios, who could keep the horses in tight control so that the Atman or Soul which is symbolized by effulgent Sun could trace the correct path. I quote the verses from the Katha Upanishad:
“Know the Atman as the Lord of the chariot, the body as the chariot; know the intellect as the charioteer and the mind again as the reins. They say, the senses are the horses and their objects are the roads; the Atman, the senses and the mind united, the wise call the enjoyer. He who has no discrimination and whose mind is always uncontrolled, his senses are not controllable like vicious horses of a driver. But he who has understanding and whose mind is always controlled, his senses are under control like good horses of a driver. But he, who has no discrimination, and whose mind is not under control, and who is always impure, does not reach that goal, but enters into the round of births and deaths.” ………..Katha Upanishad Chapter 1 Section 3 Verses 3-7.
The lesson we learn from the myth of Phaethon and from the symbolism of the scriptures should takes us into deep reflection.

Love to you all.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Free Thinker – An outcast from Society

“I was strolling in the gardens of an insane asylum when I met a young man who was reading a philosophy book. His behaviour and his evident good health made him stand out from the other inmates. I sat down beside him and asked:
‘What are you doing here?’ He looked at me, surprised. But seeing that I was not one of the doctors, he replied:
‘It’s very simple. My father, a brilliant lawyer, wanted me to be like him. My uncle, who owns a large emporium, hoped I would follow his example. My mother wanted me to be the image of her beloved father. My sister always set her husband before me as an example of the successful man. My brother tried to train me up to be a fine athlete like himself.
And the same thing happened at school, with the piano teacher and the English teacher – they were all convinced and determined that they were the best possible example to follow. None of them looked at me as one should look at a man, but as if they were looking in a mirror.
So I decided to enter this asylum. At least here I can be myself.” ……………..Kahlil Gibran
This is an apt story for what happens in society even today. Our education system, our parenting  and social milieu are all out to get the individual to be modelled after their own perceived identity of being that which suits us.
This mindset has evolved in our society due to two reasons. The first reason is the prevailing religious influence of western religions which played a powerful role till the 18th century. The unquestionable imposed belief system and the concept of that human beings are powerless entities requiring hierarchical power structure to dictate what is good for them created a society of mental slaves. 
The second reason is; with the advent of scientific achievements from Galileo to the 20th century, the authority of the scientific knowledge started to assert its influence. In classical Newtonian thinking, the first law of Newton states that “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” This classical mechanical billiard ball model imposed the need for a higher level of external energy to convert inherent potential to a well-directed destination.
Recent scientific studies in biology has discovered that there is an inherent potential bestowed on every living system and this potential has the unique capacity to emerge as its own kinetic energy capable of propelling itself toward its full realization in an act of co-creation, this is called “Autopoieses”.
This lack of understanding leads to imposition of an external will in moulding the inherent potential and results in stunted growth or decay. As Humberto Maturana, the Chilean  Biologist, Cybernetician, Scientist  and philosopher says:
“Only love expands intelligence. To live in love is to accept the other and the conditions of his existence as a source of richness, not as opposition, restriction or limitation.”
This open acceptance of the other as he or she is, is the process of nurturing free thinking, thereby opening the flood gates of one’s individual intelligence and creative capacity.
In spiritual traditions, Buddhism encouraged free inquiry. Buddha believed that every individual had his or her own path to enlightenment.
In “Kalama Sutta” - The Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry, the Buddha says:
"Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumour; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blameable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them.”
This advice is given by Buddha, not only for the self but also for those who come under your influence.
Let us be free thinkers and allow the full freedom for others to benefit from their own inner reflection.

Love to you all