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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Free Will vs. Maya as the Reason for Suffering

By Charles Feldman (Prana)

Most monotheists believe in free will. They think that Adam and Eve knew that they were doing something bad, and that they were deceived into thinking that they could get away with it. Correspondingly, fundamentalists think that people who do not adhere to their particular brand of religion know that they are doing something bad. 

My contention is that in all religions and ideologies, people who sincerely believe in them believe that they are doing the right thing. So, if they are being deceived, they are being deceived into believing that they are doing the right thing. If that is the case, they do not have free will, because if someone is deceived into doing something that they sincerely believe is right, and they are actually doing something bad, they are not doing bad of their own free will, because as far as they know, they are doing the right thing. This defeats the argument that the reason for suffering is that God loves people so much that He gives them free will. Even if you were to say that the devil is deceiving people, the fact that they are being deceived means that they do not have free will, unless they are knowingly doing something bad, which, from my experience, is not the case for sincere believers in all faiths. I know intellectually that fundamentalists do not have the free will to see this, even though it feels like they should be able to. It seems so simple.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Life of a Virus

By Juhi Wagle

Blog editor's note:  This post is a reflection on and an elaboration of Swami Yogatmananda's talk, "Life of a Virus":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyMTX7XFxGU&t=463s

The recent epidemic has brought viruses back into the public spotlight, along with the age-old question, “are viruses alive?” Even with all the advancements in biology and virology, biologists remain divided on this point. Some deny viruses are alive, because viruses do not have a metabolic system and are incapable of independent replication. Others refute this argument by showing that viruses, much like seeds, have life “latent” in them. In the right environment, they grow and replicate. Furthermore, they evolve – which is one of NASA’s main criteria to classify as “living.” Some others say that the answer depends on how one defines life.

So, the first issue is to agree upon a definition for “life.” What can be considered “living”? Observing life around us, biologists have identified 7 properties of life. While non-living objects may satisfy some of these, only living beings satisfy them all. While this is a good starting point, it is handicapping. Firstly, it has been proven that all life on earth can be traced back to a single ancestor. We are drawing our defining properties from a sample set of 1. This is potentially unrepresentative of life in the universe. Because we are limiting “life” to “life found on Earth,” there might be life on some other planet that we wouldn’t even recognize as such, as it is so different from our own.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Poems

By Joan Chadbourne

Our Love in All Art Thou

Joy, light and peace Thou art –
Our love in All art Thou –
Bring us all to you.
Our hearts, minds, bodies, souls
All art one in Thee!
May we dance and sing Thy Truth!
May our minds be Thine –
All encompassing, all embracing Thy Love.
May we all be singing Thy praises whole heartedly.
May we be Thy selfless loving servants – always!
Thy instruments of love and peace – unfolding Thy Truth.
Thou art in all!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Against the Idea of Eternal Hell Based on Free Will

By Charles Feldman (Prana)

Vedanta says that we are all divine. This makes sense, but I sometimes wonder: What if we are making a mistake, and those who say that if we don't belong to their creed, we are going to eternal hell, are right?
 

The argument that Christians usually give for suffering and eternal hell is that we have free will, and in order to bless people with free will, God allows suffering.

I have read two Christian versions of what happens in eternal hell. One version says that those in hell regret what they have done, but it is too late to change things by that time. The other version says that those in hell never change, and they eternally continue to reject God.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Cause of All Our Problems: Three Views

By Charles (Prana) Feldman

Those who believe that they have the only valid religious path may say that disobedience is the cause of all of our problems. They may go so far as to say that there is a war going on in the world between their version of their religion and everyone else. They may even say that if we don't obey their authority, we go to hell.

Those opposed to religion may say that obedience is the cause of all of our problems. They may say that religion causes sectarian violence, the destruction of the environment, and racism, sexism, and homophobia. They believe that we need to ditch religion if humanity is to have any hope of surviving in the world.

There is another point of view, which is that of Vedanta. Ignorance, or finitude, causes all of our problems. Vedanta says that the world is God's play. If there were no bad guys, there would be no good guys. Nothing in the finite world is all good or all bad. Nothing in the finite world is permanent. What we need to do is to realize our identity with God, the Infinite, or Satchidananda, and we will attain immortality as pure Being, Awareness, and Bliss.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Practicing Bhakti

By Abhijeet Kislay

Using just the power of thought, if a person tries to distance oneself from one’s body and mind via the sheer power of “Not This, Not This,” and remains established as “That” -- This is the process of the Jnani. Unless a real experience happens where that person sees themselves completely separated from the body-mind, this step generally ends up in farce intellectualism or a plain white lie. Though from the outside, that person thumps their fist and says that “I am That,” if it is not a reality within, it is best categorized as an attempt or worse, hypocrisy. Time and again spiritual teachers have cautioned seekers about this.

Now it is widely understood that directly using the above method of a Jnani is not easy, as most of us lack proper qualifications in the starting. Another method more natural and easy that is prescribed freely for the same end-result is the path of Bhakti. That very Brahman, that the seeker was so adamant earlier to seek an identity unto immediately, is now seen as a separate entity as the Eternal, the Pure, the Ever-Free, the Almighty Ishvara whose own nature is inexpressible Love.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

God in Every Experience

By Abhijeet Kislay

Last time, we looked at the process of deification of the world given by Swami Vivekananda. This time, let us see how this is true from the angle of the Existence (Sat) aspect of Vedanta logically. Here we will be taking the help of the lecture: "God in every experience" by Swami Sarvapriyananda to keep the discussion coherent.
 
God hides in every experience that we have and is revealed as the Consciousness that enables us to have these experiences of seeing, hearing, talking, thinking, feeling etc. Let us take the example of seeing an object and try to understand this experience in four stages.

 1.  Here is a coffee-cup that I am seeing right now.

 2. Is it just a coffee-cup? Well, think deeply: Is it just a coffee-cup or an experience of coffee-cup? Yes! I am seeing a coffee-cup. Thus just by two logical steps, we see that it is shallow to think of an object independently. The observer (or the subject) has to come into picture.