An excerpt from Angels & Demons

An excerpt from Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons:

As Langdon moved toward the first recess, he passed the tomb of one of Italy’s Catholic kings. The sarcophagus, like many in Rome, was askew with the wall, positioned awkwardly. A group of visitors seemed confused by this. Langdon did not stop to explain. Formal Christian tombs were often misaligned with the architecture so they could lie facing east. It was an ancient superstition that Langdon’s Symbology 212 class had discussed just last month.
“That’s totally incongruous!” a female student in the front had blurted when Langdon explained the reason for east-facing tombs. “Why would Christians want their tombs to face the rising sun? We’re talking about Christianity… not sun worship!”
Langdon smiles, pacing before the blackboard, chewing an apple. “Mr Hitzrot!” he shouted.
A young man dozing in back sat up with a start. “What! Me?”
Langdon pointed to a Renaissance art poster on the wall. “Who is that man kneeling before God?”
“Um… some saint?”
“Brilliant. And how do you know he’s a saint?”
“He’s got a halo?”
“Excellent, and does that golden halo remind you of anything?”
Hitzrot broke into a smile. “Yeah! Those Egyptian things we studied last term. Those… um… sun disks!
“Thank you, Hitzrot. Go back to sleep.” Langdon turned back to the class. “Halos, like much of Christian symbology, were borrowed from the ancient Egyptian religion of sun workship. Christianity is filled with examples of sun worship.”
“Excuse me?” the girl in the front said. “I go to Church all the time, and I don’t see much sun worshipping going on!”
“Really? What do you celebrate on December twenty-fifth?”
“Christmas. The birth of Jesus Christ.”
“And yet according to the Bible, Christ was born in March, so what are we doing celebrating in late December?”
Silence. 
Langdon smiles. “December twenty-fifth, my friends, is the ancient pagan holiday of sol invictus – Unconquered Sun – coinciding with the winter solstice. Its that wonderful time of year when the sun returns, and the days start getting longer.”
Langdon took another bite of apple.
“Conquering religions,” he continued, “often adopt existing holidays to make conversion less shocking. It’s called transmutation. It helpes people acclimatize to the new faith. Worshipers keep the same holy dates, pray in the same sacred locations, use a similar symbology… and they simply substitute a different god.”
Now the girl in the front looked furious. “You’re implying Christianity is just some kind of… repackaged sun worship!
“Not at all. Christianity did not borrow only from the sun worship. The ritual of Christian canonization is taken from the ancient ‘god-making’ rite of Euhemerus. The practice of ‘god-eating’ – that is, Holy Communion – was borrowed from the Aztecs. Even the concept of Christ dying for our sins is arguably not exclusively Christian; the self-sacrifice of a young man to absolve the sins of his people appears in the earliest tradition of the Quetzalcoatl.”
The girl glared. “So, is anything in Christianity original?”
“Very little in any organized faith is truly original. Religions are not born from scratch. They grow from one another. Modern religion is a collage… an assimilated historical record of man’s quest to understand the divine.
“Um… hold on,” Hitzrot ventures, sounding awake now. “I know something Christina that’s original. How about our image of God? Christian art never portrays God as the hawk sun god, or as an Aztec, or as anything weird. It always shows God as an old man with a white beard. So our image of God is original, right?
Langdon smiled. “When the early Christian converts abandoned their former deities – pagan gods, Roman gods, GReek, sun, Mithraic, whatever – they asked the church what their new Christian God looked like. Wisely, the church chose the most feared, powerful… and familiar face in all of recorded history.”
Hitzrot looked skeptical. “An old man with a white, flowing beard?”
Langdon pointed to a heirarchy of ancient gods on the wall. At the top sat an old man with a white, flowing beard. “Does Zeus look familiar?”
The class ended right on cue.
I love this excerpt. I don’t know how much of it is true. But still, it proves two things for me.
(1) Christianity is man-made and therefore, the post of “God” has been imposed upon. It has been transmuted to suit the converts’ requirements and acceptance of Christianity and nothing else.
(2) Christianity too gives some form of importance to image of God and so on. It is not only the Hindus who worship images. So they have no right to point fingers.
Imagine how opposite Hinduism is. I am clearly being biased here, or so you might think. However, any logical person would arrive at the conclusion that Hinduism, unlike Christianity, had never changed its fundamental precepts to suit the needs of the converts. It has been sincere through and through. Unlike Christianity, Islam or Judaism, God in Hinduism has never been seen as being separated from the Universe that was created by God. Indeed, everything is God, the Universe is God, the energy that holds everything together is indeed God. Hinduism is simply brilliant.
I am fascinated with Hinduism because it made me see the world as it is, with the things we superimpose upon it.

Beautiful philosophies and ideals explained through images of Gods

People have always looked up to someone in their life to follow in their footsteps. It can be their own parents, one of the relatives who are close to them, or friends. It can be anyone. But very few people look up to God as their source of inspiration and role-model! Because according to us, God is very high up there, with whom we cannot compare ourselves with. He/She is someone whom we run to only when we face troubles in our life. So we rarely remember God all the time.

Hindus have millions of Gods, or so we claim. It is always confusing to the youths when they see people putting in so much faith in so many Hindu Gods, an
d that too at the same time. Each and everyone of us have different “favourite” God (Ishta Devata). Where did all these God characters like Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Muruga, Durga, Kali all come from? From our scriptures of course.

Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva Vedas – Mention of 44 Vedic Gods such as Agni, Vayu, Varuna, etc.
Agamas – Mention of Mahadevas and Mahadevis under thre
e main sects: Shaiva, Vaishnava, Shakta
Puranas – Mention of Devas and Devis such as Ganesha, Muruga, etc… Devas are also Gods with specific functions/duties, but Mahadeva/devi is the supreme to them.

So it is in the Puranas and the Agamas which have the mention of these Gods we know about. Their stories are extensively described in our Puranas. So, why were they created? I mean, they don’t really exist, as they are only representations of God, but in various different forms. But think about it, why would our Rishis waste their time sitting around and creating these images, if not to teach us some important values through them?

As the saying goes, Hindus don’t pray to idols, they pray to the ideals that the idols represent. Similarly each idol in the Temple we worship has an ideal to it, and many people are ignorant about it. Once they become aware of why one prays to Kali, for example, their prayer becomes meaningful.

Ganesha – Remover of obstacles, giver of knowledge.
Rope and axe in both hands – He is the one who binds us to sense-objects and He is also the one who detaches us from the sense-objects. He gives us this experience to remind us that attachment to sense-objects (something that binds you emotionally to a thing) gives us only misery.

Lots of sweets (modaka) – The sweets represent knowledge. Knowledge is sweet and gives you happiness, as it removes your ignorance. When the darkness in your mind is removed, you will not fear anything, and so you will be in peace. Peace = happiness.

Mouse eating sweet – The mouse represents the human mind, something which doesn’t remain in one place. Just like our thoughts, which keep moving and never stopping in one place. But the mouse, in the presence of the God, remains in one place, still. Not only that, we also see it here as eating the sweet, meaning consuming knowledge given by God.

Durga – Slayer of the negativities in us, and granter of wishes.
So many weapons in her hands – She multitasks!! Seriously, this is something only God is capable of doing. Though she is in a killing spree, look at her face. She is always calm and cool. She has taught me many things in life. During times of stress, I just remember Her and pray to Her, and I will forget all my stress for a while and move on. She does so many things at one time, and yet she never looks tired but looks calm. She is my inspiration!

Buffalo (Mahishasuran) – Represents laziness, animal quality in man. She slays this demon, and this represents that by praying to Her, we are asking for Her grace to remove the negativities in our minds.

Lion (vehicle) – So many Gods have animals as their “vehicles”. A vehicle is something that is in our control. Similarly, the lion itself is in Her control! She is not scared of the lion, but she controls it!

Kali – Goddess of Time, and Slayer of the negativities. She is a very fierce Goddess, but I personally like Her very much. Anyone, who sincerely prays to her, She will grant them their wishes. Also a God who is controversially involved in black magic as well, which I will come to later.
Kali (very fierce) – The word “kali” means time. Kali appears fierce because time doesn’t stop for anyone. Most of us, or maybe all of us, hope that we could turn back time and correct all our mistakes. But it doesn’t happen! As such, she is fierce like time. Time just keeps moving on, not stopping for anyone. Not even for God!

Decapitated heads in her hands – The head represents the ego. Our ego has to be surrendered to the Mother Divine, if not She will take it by force! Only by surrendering our ego will we be able to experience the Truth. It is our ego that gives us the sense of “I-ness”, “I am the do-er”, the sense of ownership. It is our ego that gives us both pleasure and pain. Surrendering the ego is our only way to attain eternal bliss. This statement is something that is not easily comprehensible by everyone. It has to be experienced to be understood very well.

So many weapons – Why does she appear to be so violent? Because that is how BAD our negativities are!!! She has to use all kinds of weapons to chase away the demons in us!! Just think about it! If you are in Her place, you will definitely need those weapons wouldn’t you??

Kali and Shiva – While Kali represents the “changing” reality, Shiva represents the “changeless” reality. Let me explain more clearly: When you measure time, you take final time minus the initial time right? This shows that to measure time, a change has to take place! If no change takes place, then you cannot measure time!! The entire universe is constantly changing, and thus the existence of time. Another fact is that to measure change, you need to have a reference point, something which is changeless. Therefore, change is always measured with reference to something changeless, and this changing reality (Kali) is therefore dependent of the changeless reality (Shiva). That is why Kali is stepping on Shiva. This is the significance of the whole image.

Why is Kali sometimes used in black magic? – Whatever the tantric mantras produce are just energy. And energy is just energy by itself. It can be used for good and for bad, depending on us. So if it is used for bad, then it becomes black magic. Whereas, if the energy from the mantras chanted are used for good, then good results.

Murugan – A Beautiful Philosophy (Just like Him)
Depicted always with 2 consorts – Lord Muruga is always depicted with 2 consorts and they are not really His wives!!! This is the part where many don’t really know why some Gods have more than one wife. First of all, they are not wives, they are consorts or forms of Shakti (energy). So what do they represent? Deivanai (Consort from the Heaven) represents Kriya (action). Valli (Consort from the Earth) represents Iccha (desire). Murugan has another Shakti with Him and that is His Vel (spear) which represents Jnana (Knowledge). Basically, to attain a goal, firstly you need desire for that goal, then you need to have the right knowledge to attain that goal, then finally you perform actions to attain that goal. That is the philosophy explained from the image. Also if you notice, Valli (who represents iccha/desire) was married by the Lord due to His desire for Her. Whereas Deivanai (who represents kriya/action) was married by the Lord as a “gift” for His good actions of eliminating the demons.

Vel (spear) – As said earlier, the Vel represents Jnana, knowledge. The breadth of the spear-head, the length of the spear and the sharpness of the spear all tells us that our knowledge should be broad-based, deep and sharp respectively.

After learning all this, I found myself to be more open in my views about Hinduism. Sure, there are many superstitions. But don’t just be passive about them! Do something! Find out whether they are really true or not! Never stay with doubts in your mind! Hinduism is so much more meaningful than it really seems to be! My perception of Temples, prayers and all changed after learning even more than this!!

Visit http://www.nushindusociety.org/forum for more such learning experience!! 🙂

An Educational Scandal

I borrow the above post title from Richard Dawkins’s book, The God Delusion. Steven Layfield, the Head of Science at Emmanuel College in Gateshead, once gave a lecture called The Teaching of Science: A Biblical Perspective. For goodness’s sake, he is the head of science! And it seems that he has no masala in his head! Do read the lecture text in the link provided! Also, take time to read this, a reply by Richard Dawkins to this lecture. Have a good laugh! What a loser?! And at the end he says:

As we stated at the beginning, Christians, with very good reason, reckon the Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments a reliable guide concerning just what we are to believe. They are not merely religious documents. They provide us with a true account of Earth history which we ignore at our peril. Many who parade as competent scientists today are unwittingly asking the same question which Satan first uttered back in Genesis, ‘Did God really say…?'(3:1)

…True Science then should confirm pupils’ realisation that they are rational, spiritual beings of infinite worth with immortal souls whose eternal destiny, because of their sin, is placed in the balance. True science is no enemy of true religion. Indeed, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10). As the 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler remarked, his work consisted of ‘thinking God’s thoughts after Him’.

May it please God to raise up a new generation of Scientists who are duly respectful of their Maker and who, recognising the limitations of human scientific enquiry, give full weight of respect to the statements of propositional truth of Holy Scripture – being the authoritative Word of God.

The gullibility of children

It has been a long time since I’ve posted. Most of the time, I was busy and even when I had the time, I was not in the mood to blog. Not to mention not having any topic at hand to discuss. But now I have.

I have always been wondering why so many scientists in our labs and other labs believe in their religions. Being so educated and having seen the scientific explanation of life in our universe, how is it possible that they can still believe (have blind faith with no irrefutable evidence) in their religion, be it christianity, islam, or hindu?

One of my colleagues is a post-doc. She is now working on a paper. I went home with her on one of the days and we talked about hindu temples. She seems to have gone to a lot of temples in the southern part of India. She also seems to be religious. She told me that she grew up in a street where there was a ‘powerful’ temple, to which she used to go to a lot. And then I understand why she is so religious despite being a scientist.

Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, explains it clearly in his hypothesis, ‘gullibility of the child mind’:

“Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them. Such trusting obedience is valuable for survival… But the flip side of trusting obedience is slavish gullibility. The inevitable by-product is vulnerability to infection by mind viruses.”

He refers to religious beliefs as viruses. So therefore, a child’s mind is like a sponge that absorbs anything and everything that they see or hear. That might have been the reason why I was so religious just until last year or so. That is the reason why so many of them today, well-educated people, are religious and have blind faith in their beliefs. My colleague falls under the same category. She was brought in a community where such religious beliefs were abundant. No wonder she is still commited to the beliefs of her religion.

Moreover, nobody wants to denounce their beliefs and later feel that they have no purpose to live, other than worshipping and praising someone. All along we have been believing in something. And now that we know that it is false, we have nowhere to lean onto. But I say why not lean onto science? Science has not totally disproved god, but if offers a better explanation than the theory of ‘intelligent design’. The explanation for how life came about in our earth. Though not everything is yet known, it will soon be.

Here’s a youtube video of Richard Dawkins, my favourite author:

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