Why do bad things happen to me? – Part 1

Looks like it is the season for resurrecting old thoughts on this blog. It is Kumaran’s turn to write something that he wrote 10 years ago. While you enjoy the post, please check out my 8.5 minute crystal ball gazing presentation with audio from the ICT East event where i shared the stage with Infosys CEO & Wipro CFO. – Sukumar

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This is something which I wrote 10 years ago as a note to myself. Now that there is something called internet I thought will share it with other. It is a long one so breaking into 2 posts, so readers get a chance to read it. Read somewhere recently that internet users attention span is around 6 mins on a averrage nowadays. Was it Airtel which advertises – “Impateience is the new virtue”..my blood boils when I see that advertisement.

I have asked this questions to myself so many times. In fact as a child (when I was 8 years old), I had come to a conclusion that people are born to go from one form of suffering to another. Life is nothing but trouble, pain or a struggle.

There are a lot of things we aspire for in life and strive for it. Some things we get some we don’t. But always we feel that we have lost more than we gained. The losses seem to be always more than our gains.

We put so much effort into things we do to get the expected results. But when all the effort goes in vain it becomes very painful. It hurts even more when you see people less hardworking, less skilled achieving successes without any effort.

So do these bad things happen because

1. There is some big power plotting against our well-being ?
2. Is it our karma? (Fate)
3. Is it our previous birth’s sins?
4. Or am I not good enough? – Even this point can be proved as valid for all failures, I personally will accept it only in some cases. Because I feel that at hindsight after an incident it easy for people to judge that there is a better way of doing it. It is easy to say “Tendulkar should not have played that bad shot and got out, he should played it another way”. But if we can tell the same thing before he had played it , then there is some validity to that statement.

” Why? Why? Why? Why me? Why me? “.

Even after going through hours of personality development courses, self-confidence building measures we are still at the same stage. These questions eat into our peace of mind and take away our sleep. These thoughts take control over our lives that we cannot enjoy it any longer.

The Victim: For some reason we feel that we are being the victims of some cruel game that is happening. We feel helpless that we are unable to do anything about it.

The fear:A fear strikes deep into our heart. The fear that we will never be able to get what we want in life. There will be somebody or something around the corner waiting to take something that rightfully belongs to us.

Loss of hope :We start losing hope that something good will happen to us. When we lose hope of achieving success then the energy or the drive in us vanishes making us very weak and small in front of the world.

The above thoughts have troubled me so much during the past 25 years (It was 25 when I wrote it) . They trouble me today. They will trouble tomorrow also. But one good thing that has happened to me over a period of years is that how long they trouble me when something goes wrong has been reducing drastically. (Today as in 2009 I can say this statement written 10 years ago is becoming true, these things have a effect over me for a shorter period of time)

The reason that I have able to reduce the time these thoughts bother me is trying to understand some basic things which are there right before us. But in these days of run, run and run, we hardly get time to look at ourselves, forget looking at our thoughts.

What I basically do is go through a set of thoughts, which help me calm me down. I believe having peace of mind is achieved by a healthy mind.

What do I think?..in the next post.. ( hope I have the effect of mega serial episode closure when you see this..:-) 🙂 then I know I have some impact with this post)(to be continued…)


Comments

  1. Quote

    Note – I had to edit this comment to change higher life to higher position. Thanks Senthil for pointing out.

    PK Karthik,
    Thanks for understanding my viewpoint. You are right in that if a theory has been misused by people then it is not the theory’s fault.

    If you do believe in birth-based karma theory, that is your right.

    However, I think the birth-based Karma theory has one major flaw. It creates what we know from psychology as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Think about Karma from the perspective of a someone (Person X) born in the lower castes or amongst untouchables – Person X is told – “this happened because Person X did bad things and accumulated bad Karma in the previous birth. the only thing Karma theory advises that Person X can do is, to do good in this life, accumulate good Karma and be born as a higher life position in the next birth”.

    If you don’t agree with my interpretation of Karma theory, see Senthil’s statement in the comments above copied here for your convenience verbatim.

    “2. Karma theory does not condemn underprivileged sections to be there for ever.. Rather, it provides a path to them, to attain a higher position in next birth, by living a pious or spiritual life.. in that case, how can we say this theory had created a loop for them.. ”

    Senthil’s viewpoint on Karma is what is commonly understood as Karma theory. I am sure there is some esoteric definition of Karma theory that 5 people in India (i am exaggerating of course) understand that doesn’t have this flaw.

    But for the regular folk like me, Senthil’s view is what holds.

    Think some more about Person X. Nothing that the Person X can do in this birth will get them higher life position in this birth. Person X can reach a higher life position only in the next birth.

    Think some more about when Person X comes in contact with an entire community of people (the downtrodden who all live together as well) who believe that they are in this doomed state this entire lifetime and their hope lies in the next birth. Everything they see in their society reflects this belief. Over time, entire generations start believing in this flawed theory of life.

    This is the doom loop. This is the self-fulfilling prophecy. It is extremely hard to come out of this type of doom loop and challenge established authority/wisdom/power etc. Which is why very few people were able to do it in the past. Ambedkar, Ayyankali, Kakkan – you can count them in your fingers. This is why i called this system insidious. It eviscerates the power of human endevor.

    Maybe you will see the way this plays out as abuse by the powers that be. But to me they just exploited a basic flaw in the theory.

    I hope my reasoning on why birth-based Karma theory is flawed is clear to you. As i also said, i do believe in Instant Karma. If the birth-based aspect of Karma is not included, Karma is a profoundly great model of life.

  2. Quote

    /** Think some more about Person X. Nothing that the Person X can do in this birth will get them higher life in this birth. Person X can reach a higher life only in the next birth.
    **/

    Sukumar,

    Here what do you mean by “Higher Life”?

  3. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said August 15, 2009, 9:59 pm:

    Exactly what you meant by Higher Position in your statement. I am editing my comment to fix that.

  4. Quote

    /** It is extremely hard to come out of this type of doom loop and challenge established authority/wisdom/power etc. Which is why very few people were able to do it in the past. Ambedkar, Ayyankali, Kakkan – you can count them in your fingers.
    **/

    Sukumar,

    What was the caste of ambedkar, and what was their status some 300 years before?

    Secondly, ambedkar was sponsored by the maharaja to study in London.. ie, the so called kshatriya, helping a dalit to pursue a higher study.. where does higher and lower caste conflict come here?

    ambedkar was ditched later by the congress party, and he had little say in drafting the constitution, although he is attributed as its architect..

    If we take the present case of chamar caste, to which mayawati belongs to.. they were the wealthiest caste today in UP, and that’s why BSP was able to thrive as a party there.. No one prevented the rise of this caste, because, no others able to do the job of this community… ie to work in leather products.. they had the full freedom to pursue their kula profession, and raise economically..

    This is the kind of freedom that indian people had because of caste system.. Every community had the exclusive right over their kula profession.. here, people develop as a community, rather than as an individual..

  5. Quote

    /** Exactly what you meant by Higher Position in your statement. I am editing my comment to fix that. **/

    To be frank, i do not have clear idea on this 🙂 ..

    However, is it right to classify the work of the labourer as lowly job?

  6. Quote

    Senthil ,
    I oppose the statement made in support of untouchability and pointed out the method of reasoning you have used.
    It has nothing to do with intellectual untouchability,discrimination or anything at personal level.
    Any person has the right to have his own personal view and you have been welcomed to support your stand
    Guess that you are not fully aware of the graveness of the issues you are supporting and why a modern India is trying hard to get out of this past!!..
    I oppose untouchability,sati etc not because the Indian law which considers even the glorification of sati or promotion of untouchability ,childmarriage as a serious offence but because I cant find any reasonable ‘reasons’ to support these things except if the basis of argument is primarly concerned with the fulfilment of a particular dogmatic theory rather than making a workable social order valuing human life and valuing dignity in his life.

  7. Quote

    Senthil,
    I oppose the statement made in support of untouchability and pointed out the method of reasoning you have used.
    It has nothing to do with intellectual untouchability,discrimination or anything at personal level.
    Any person has the right to have his own personal view and you have been welcomed to support your stand
    Guess that you are not fully aware of the graveness of the issues you are supporting and why a modern India is trying hard to get out of this past!!..
    I oppose untouchability,sati etc not because the Indian law which considers even the glorification of sati or promotion of untouchability ,childmarriage as a serious offence but because I cant find any reasonable ‘reasons’ to support these things except if the basis of argument is primarly concerned with the fulfilment of a particular dogmatic theory rather than making a workable social order valuing human life and valuing dignity in his life.

  8. Quote
    Kumaran said August 16, 2009, 7:19 am:

    The only positive aspect for the thoeritical that untouchability must have some positive in some angle.This blog gives an interesting perspective.
    http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com/2009/07/when-veil-untouchability-is-our-birth.html

    In short durin times of pandemic pratice “untouchability” across all humans will reduce the spread of the flu. 🙂

  9. Quote
    pk.karthik said August 16, 2009, 7:47 am:

    @ Sukumar,

    Thanks for the explanation

    “I hope my reasoning on why birth-based Karma theory is flawed is clear to you. As i also said, i do believe in Instant Karma. If the birth-based aspect of Karma is not included, Karma is a profoundly great model of life.”

    I was trying to bring in these exact points… what u call instant Karma is one of 3 aspects of Karma and no where does it talk about caste division. It talks about higher position ,but then the higher position is defintely not caste its got to do with knowldge and realisation ( aka Buddhahood).This is what i understood from Tibetiyan Buddhism ….

    @ Senthil,

    I dont agree with u at all on untouchablity as dharma for one simple fact,people cleaning night soil or disposing corpse etc should not be in same professions for generations together just based on caste.People can do it if they want based on choice and deft not based on birth…

    One more thing if we follow a rishi/mahan/guru we need to follow his ideals too after questioning him and getting a proper reasoning.Following their principles does not mean apeing them if we dont follow them ,then we dont need a Guru in the first place we can lead a normal life…

  10. Quote

    PK Karthik,
    first a full disclosure. Based on my extensive readings of history and castes and the karma theory as practiced by regular folk – i believe that the caste system is evil and the birth-based karma theory is its evil twin which put people in the same professions for millenia – the doom loop i mentioned in previous comment.

    I knew that you were going to quote some esoteric definition of Karma (you said Tibetan Buddhism in your comment as your source.I am sure you know that Tibetan Buddhism is far far away from the average Hindu Indian’s life).

    However, I am willing to have an open mind towards this. you can write a post on your blog as to why you think Karma theory as practiced by the average Hindu is not connected to castes and/or birth-based. I would urge you to quote from sources that are Hindu that are read by average people. If your proof is rigorous i will accept.

    Until then, i hold the view that i described in the first para of the comment. Fair?

  11. Quote

    /** Colonialism should be vehemently rejected but it is also not fair ,to blame the British for all the evils in the society. **/

    This is like saying, murder is an evil, but we cannot blame the murderer..

    i could not understand, why colonialism is never considered as evil?

    When caste system, sati, untouchability is instantaneously declared evil, Why there is so much hesitation on declaring capitalism, communism, colonialism also as evils?

  12. Quote

    /** Based on my extensive readings of history and castes and the karma theory as practiced by regular folk – i believe that the caste system is evil and the birth-based karma theory is its evil twin which put people in the same professions for millenia – the doom loop i mentioned in previous comment.
    **/

    Sukumar,

    Branding a system, which is being followed by 90% of india, including christians and muslims, as evil, is one of the most discrimination that could happen.

    There is no issue when you say you do not believe in caste system.. There is no issue, when you point out major flaws of the caste system or the karma theory.. these all leads to rich debate… But its really hurting to see you repeatedly branding caste system and karma theory as evil.. (i would like to point, there are supporters of caste system and karma theory)

    Its also a demeaning statement, to our indian society and our national history..

    Also, Branding anything or any one as evil, is more an act of hatred, rather than a opinion..

    /** which put people in the same professions for millenia **/

    How can the above reason make the caste system as evil?

    When people remain/put in the same profession for millenia, it means, the knowledge in that profession is continuously transferred for the thousands of years. Because, farmer communities/castes in india remained in that profession, the knowledge of farming is transferred till date. Because brahmanas remained in their spiritual profession for millenia, the vedas are carried forward till today. Because, the vaishyas remained in their profession for millenia, india had thrived with abundant trade for millenia..
    Because, the shudras remained in their profession for millenia, the manufacturing sector was strong in india. (here i would like to highlight, that it needs lot of skills even for the labour profession, which we all consider as lowly)..

    We can discuss if that continuance of hereditary professions is right or wrong in modern perspective.. But, its entirely discriminatory, to cite this as reason to brand the system as evil.. Its akin to branding an entire nation or an entire society as evil.

  13. Quote

    /** I dont agree with u at all on untouchablity as dharma for one simple fact,people cleaning night soil or disposing corpse etc should not be in same professions for generations together just based on caste.People can do it if they want based on choice and deft not based on birth…
    **/

    Karthick.. i never said untouchability is a dharma.. you have wrongly understood..

    Secondly, the profession “Cleaning Night Soil” was not part of the original caste system.. It was first created by invading muslim rulers, who made the “Infidels” (Normally the defeated warriors who later became SC) to clean the night soil.. after british invasion, this profession became widespread, due to expansion of urban centric life.. (in one way, each one of us are responsible for continuation of that profession, by virtue of our life style. )

    and regarding disposing corpses, you are comparing the present day profession with the caste one.. In the rural side, when a person dies, a variety of caste people participate in the mourning ceremony.. The dead body is handled not just by one caste people, but by the family and there relatives. The body is taken as procession to the burrying place by the family members and relatives. The labour caste will either dig the earth for burying, or arrange wood for fire ceremony.. So, all these was a shared and participatory work..

    However, the corpse disposal mechanism of present day is a commercially exploited profession, where the entire process of disposing the corps is left to few individuals, who are paid for doing that duty.. we cannot compare that to the village life style..

    Btw, in villages, the SC & STs has a relatively decent life style, a secured profession, basic education.. they are NOT commercially exploited, as it is done by the government and other corporates/business enterprises today.. if you observe carefully, the toilet cleaners, sanitation workers, and many other so called menial jobs, are done mostly by the SCs, whom the government employs till today and for a meagre salary..
    such exploitation is NOT there in the village caste system..

  14. Quote

    /** Any person has the right to have his own personal view and you have been welcomed to support your stand
    Guess that you are not fully aware of the graveness of the issues you are supporting and why a modern India is trying hard to get out of this past!!..
    **/

    Arun.. please let me know, when i supported untouchability?

    We are debating here, and hence taking relevant stands on vital issues.. I said, untouchability in one perspective is a good thing, and i dont know, why you assume that i am supporting it..
    And i havent yet explained my perspective, and you have gone to oppose my reasoning..

    I feel, in a progressive debate, we do not end in extreme polarities, like supporting/opposing, etc.

  15. Quote

    @Senthil
    /*This is like saying, murder is an evil, but we cannot blame the murderer..*/
    It is more like an incompetent police officer catching a known murderer and charging him with all the proven and unproven murders in the city.

    /* When caste system, sati, untouchability is instantaneously declared evil, Why there is so much hesitation on declaring capitalism, communism, colonialism also as evils? */
    We are comparing apples and oranges.

    /*i could not understand, why colonialism is never considered as evil?*/
    The term ‘colonialism’ itself is almost always used connected with the exploitation of colonized regions and in a negative sense..as far as I know..

    /*The contradiction here is that untouchability is often projected as higher caste vs lower caste problem, which is not true.

    Btw, in one perspective, untouchability is also a GOOD thing..*/
    Reading this one and going through other comments I thought that you were genuinely supporting a cause for untouchability .So tried to point out in previous comments.

  16. Quote
    Kumaran said August 17, 2009, 8:26 am:

    Senthil,

    Are you trying to show us a perspective there was atleast 1 good point about caste system and it cannot be 100% bad? Based on the fact here can be nothing which is 100% bad?

  17. Quote
    Surendar Chellappa (subscribed) said August 17, 2009, 1:21 pm:

    Pure rational thinkers should perhaps avoid using the word Karma – its an overused word that takes on so many different meanings.

    Coming to the point of “Good gets good!” – Is it substantiated by data?

    I think in a social context, “doing favours are usually returned if the target of the favour is carefully picked”. If not, many favours are likely to go unreturned…

    Good or bad is pure perception and driven by the context of the social models that the individual operates in.

  18. Quote
    Kumaran said August 17, 2009, 2:36 pm:

    Surendar,

    Thanks for the comments.

    Regarding favours not returned please check out my post Three buckets of action .

    Yes you are correct. Good or Bad is pure perception and context-based.

  19. Quote
    Surendar Chellappa (subscribed) said August 17, 2009, 3:23 pm:

    Thanks Kumaran – read the post and skimmed the comments (there were lots :)). Interesting post.

    I was not sure if the point of ‘charity does not necessarily mean a good act’ was brought out in that post or in subsequent comments.

  20. Quote
    Kumaran said August 17, 2009, 6:30 pm:

    Surendar,

    I was referering to the previous not for the part to show the point of ‘charity does not necessarily mean a good act’ .

    But to categorize the help we do to others.

  21. Quote

    Senthil,
    I am sorry if my statements offended your sentiments. I will convert my statement to the following – “the deeply flawed caste system and the deeply flawed birth-based karma theory have caused incalculable harm and incalculable backwardness to Indian society” Would that help you?

    Interestingly in your list of generational professions you conveniently leave out the downtrodden professions. Just so you know other than some in-human things, there is nothing lowly about any profession. But it is our society that made some professions higher in the pecking order and made the profession into a caste and birth- based. Obviously you have the people from the higher castes supporting the system because it favors them. This is how inequalities were created and made to persist for millennia.

    BTW, i hope in your new found zeal for getting hurt by statements made by me, you will also apply the same standard to your comments about christians, muslims, british people etc. And i am only talking about comments you make on this blog. You are free to write what you want on your blog. If you agree to that i will stop branding our outdated and flawed practices as evil. Deal?

  22. Quote
    pk.karthik said August 27, 2009, 5:51 pm:

    @ Sukumar,

    I think I may have not made my stand clear in my statements.I have never supported Caste system in any forms .I have supported the Karmic theory and it was not related to any relegion,so i dont agree the esoteric part as all along I have quoted Budhism and Jainism along with Hinduism

    /”you can write a post on your blog as to why you think Karma theory as practiced by the average Hindu is not connected to castes and/or birth-based. I would urge you to quote from sources that are Hindu that are read by average people. If your proof is rigorous i will accept. /

    So I never said that Karma theory practiced by average Hindu is not caste based ..All I said was that Karma was just misused by higher castes.

    I can definlty take up the challenge and write about Karmic theory per say and my take along with sources but not definitly not the way that you have mentioned as it is defenitly not my stand.

  23. Quote

    /** It is more like an incompetent police officer catching a known murderer and charging him with all the proven and unproven murders in the city.
    **/

    But the problem is the judge is not even acknowledging the proven murder.. he is either trying to cover up or make it insignificant. 🙂

    /**
    We are comparing apples and oranges.
    **/

    So what.. is there any rule that when apples are evil, orange cannot be 🙂 .. the problem is that you hate apples and love orange..

    /** The term ‘colonialism’ itself is almost always used connected with the exploitation of colonized regions and in a negative sense..as far as I know..
    **/

    But why cant it be evil, when the effects of colonialism is thousand times more discriminatory and oppressive than caste system..?

  24. Quote

    /** Are you trying to show us a perspective there was atleast 1 good point about caste system and it cannot be 100% bad? Based on the fact here can be nothing which is 100% bad?
    **/

    Kumaran,

    Exactly what i wanted to say.. there was not just one good point.. but rather thousand good points about caste system.. but the problem is that we are conditioned in a negative way that we fail to see the positive..

    If that hesitation against caste system is removed, and the hatred subsides, and the mind open towards factual analysis of caste system without any blind accusation, i am certain, that there are lots of positive things that we will find in caste system..

    But the very mention of the word caste receives an instant response “Caste system is evil”.. then how can we ever analyse it neutrally?

    In most of the previous academic articles, we find only accusations and branding, and not any rational analysis.. there are few exceptions as mentioned in previous post of this blog, like dharmpal, nicholas dirks, mckinsey documents , chambakalakshmi etc..

  25. Quote

    /**
    I am sorry if my statements offended your sentiments. I will convert my statement to the following – “the deeply flawed caste system and the deeply flawed birth-based karma theory have caused incalculable harm and incalculable backwardness to Indian society” Would that help you?
    **/

    Thanks sukumar.. I am NOT offended because you criticise caste system.. you have the right to do that.. but, when we brand it as evil, it closes all doors of reasoning..

    Evil is a semitic word, which is used to mention elements that oppose God.. Evil means, for ever bad..

    Just as GOD has no reasoning, there is no reasoning for evil..

    Thats why i am opposing branding it as evil.. we are often casually using this word evil in many instances, without considering larger negative significances..

  26. Quote

    /** Interestingly in your list of generational professions you conveniently leave out the downtrodden professions. Just so you know other than some in-human things, there is nothing lowly about any profession.
    **/

    Sukumar,

    I have mentioned manufacturing industry to cover the working castes like blacksmith, carpenters, goldsmith, agricultural labourers etc.. I havent left out any professions..

    Infact, there is no such thing called downtrodden professions in caste system.. There is only incompatible profession..

    For a brahmin, who follows hygienic life, the community working in leather and flesh will be highly incompatible.. So as for a vyshya.. so, people viewed other communities only from their own culture and NOT from any universal definition..

    /** But it is our society that made some professions higher in the pecking order and made the profession into a caste and birth- based. Obviously you have the people from the higher castes supporting the system because it favors them. This is how inequalities were created and made to persist for millennia.
    **/

    I can only say, your accusation is misguided and on a wrong target.. infact, this accusation aptly fits for the elite indians, who lives in urban india, exploiting every other community, and particularly the entire rural india..

    In village caste system, there is NO pecking order of professions.. because, a typical village setup is highly participatory.. a true democracy, for the people, by the people and for the people.. but you will not believe this..

    Before 1980’s the entire rural india had no concept of toilets.. can you believe this?

    There is no sewages present in villages — can you believe this?

    The above two are only present in towns and cities..

    Now tell me, who is forcing people to work as soil cleaners or the sewage cleaners? Its the urbanites..

    In villagers, the dalits had the freedom to build a house in public land which is available in plenty.. Even if he has no penny, he can survive there, either through annadhanams in temple, or from higher caste people..

    But in towns, they were reduced to slum dwellers, where they cannot live without money..

    In villages, every people know every other people.. the dalits know all the other caste people, and so as other caste people know all dalit people.. there is a sense of belonging to the village.. whenever, famine occured the landowning caste always came forward to help the dalits..

    Even now, many of the dalit temples are built with active funding from other caste people.. in my village, a colony temple casted around 6 lakhs, and more than 3 lakhs was contributed by other caste..

    Is such commune living possible in villages.. In how many places are the rich people living along with slum dwellers? Please show me one..

    The rich live separately in a posh area, with all facilities, and the poor live in slums, with no facilities.. Is there any interaction b/w these two?

    When a slum dweller comes to a rich mans bungalow, what will the security do?

    But in villages, whenever a dalit comes to a landowner’s home, he was always fed with food.. he can share his emotions with the head of the family.. he can get some loan from that family.. he can ask for some guidance from that family.. whenever there is a problem with his neighbours, he has the right to approach any of the dominant caste for mediation..
    These all happens still today in most of the villages, and in my village too..

    Please tell me, does it happen in the towns and cities? Is there any such interaction b/w the riches and the poor slum dwellers?

    I have lived both in cities and villages, and that’s why i could be able to differentiate b/w the two systems.. i am more convinced that the urban system discrinates much more than the rural system..

    And finally, the very life of an urban system exploits the entire rural village.. the wastes from every house, gets accumulated as sewage and where does that sewage goes? It goes to the villages in the outskirts, where it spoils the atmosphere of the entire village.. the livelihood of the whole villages is spoiled..

    Similarly where are those garbage dumps goes? Hope, you would have seen pallikaranai.. that was once a village, now used by urbanites for dumping their wastes.. is it not discrimination/

    Next, what is the price paid to the food materials by the urbanites.. for one litre water, the price is 14rs.. but for one litre milk, the price paid is just 9 rs.. (i am quoting from selling price of my grandmother)..

    Is it not a discrimination, that a MNC water company has the freedom to fix the price of water, but a villager doesnt have the right to fix the price of the milk?

    The entire rural agricultural india is exploited for the comfort of the urbanites.. and this is much more worse than the accusation against the caste system..

  27. Quote

    Regarding karma theory, the negative connotation of this theory could have come only when indian wealth was squeezed to britain..

    Normally people tend to find answers only in distress or sorrow.. no one asks “Why i am this much happy”.. but its quite normal for human beings to ask “Why so much suffering to me”..

    So karma theory could have the best solacing reasoning to people in times of extreme distress..

    For example, consider the case of bengal.. there were around 20 famines in around 150 years of british rule.. that means a one famine in every 7 years.. added to that, the british imposed tax even during extreme famine..

    The severity of the famine is gauged from the fact that around one third of bengal population perished.. the situation went to such bad, that people even resorted to cannibalism due to hunger..

    In such a situation, the karma theory would have really distorted, because of large number of poors and few wealthy people..

    However, sukumar’s accusation of karma theory as a tool to suppress people doesnt hold good, during times of prosperity..

    WHenever there is opportunity, the people had always the freedom to pursue that.. For example, the able bodied person had the chance to serve the king’s army, irrespective of his caste.. such opportunity was available during chakravarti shivaji rule, where he appointed officers irrespective of the caste..

    also, we have seen that the kallars and pallars in tamilnadu, who were once warrior caste, were denotified tribes by the britishers.. so who is actually responsible for the present status of these communities..

    Not to mention that pallars in tamilnadu, one of the SC community, rever Muthuramalinga devar as their spiritual and political guru.. I was surprised on hearing this from one of the person from that community.. the reason cited was, that muthuramalinga devar fought on behalf of both the communities, eventhough he belonged to a different caste..

    Today, instead of using this historic link to forge unity b/w these two castes, the politicians are invoked on creating tensions..

  28. Quote

    PK Karthik,
    I think from your comments here and elsewhere i can guess that you don’t support the caste system. I also agree that the Karma system was exploited by the higher castes.

    However, the point of disagreement is whether the birth-based Karma system is flawed to begin with? I think it is because it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    It is not where you take the definition of Karma from that matters. What matters is, what do the commonfolk understand as the Karma System.

    I would urge you to look at what the holy text Bhagavad Gita says about the caste system:

    In the Bhagavad Gita, Ch.4, Verse 13
    The Lord says:
    “The fourfold caste has been created by Me
    according to the differentiation of Guna (Rajas, Tamas, Sattva) and Karma;”

    In the Bhagavad Gita, Ch.18, verse 40
    the Lord says:
    “There is no being on earth, or again in heaven among the
    gods, that is liberated from the three qualities born of Nature (Guna).”

    Gita Ch. 18, V.41:
    “Of Brahmanas, Kshtriyas and Vaishyas, as also the Sudras,
    O Arjuna, the duties are distributed according to the qualities
    born of their own nature.”

    Now before everyone launches on a tangent, Bhagavad Gita is one of the most profound works India has produced and has a lot of great stuff in it. However, it is also a tool that propagates the birth-based Karmic Theory which i view as deeply flawed and largely responsible for India not making the kind of progress it should have made by now.

    Hope that helps.

  29. Quote

    Senthil,
    Your village seems to be the Caste System Heaven – where everything is perfect. Before I answer many of the questions you raise, i have a few questions to ask you and please answer just based on what happens in your village? We can discuss what happens in other villages later?

    1. How many people are there in your village (population)? Is it safe to assume that the main occupation of the village is agriculture? Or is there any other factory or mill or some such to provide a major source of employment?

    2. You say there is no sewage in the village? That is very interesting. Does your village have dry toilets or toilets connected to localized septic tanks? Which system does your village use? And if people use dry toilets, how is the night soil removed? And if it is removed – who in your village is responsible for that?

    3. It does appear that Dalits are in your village from what you say. Are people born into Dalit families treated as Dalits and people born into your caste (don’t know what your caste is) treated as from the same caste? Or in other words, is the caste system in your village birth-based? If it is not birth-based, how does it work?

    4. Is there a pecking order or a hierarchy in your village – village headman, panchayat chief etc? Who takes these roles? And how are these people selected for these roles?

    5. What is the role of women in your village – are women educated? If yes, what grade or class till which they are educated? I have heard from you in previous comments that women worked in the fields. What types of work women do in the fields? Are there women who own farmland and be the leader of the farm or actually manage the farm?

    I would like these answers based only upon what happens in your village. please do not bring up other villages. I can read up on them myself.

  30. Quote

    /** Your village seems to be the Caste System Heaven – where everything is perfect. **/

    Its something a sarcastic pre-assumption… i neither said caste system is heaven nor it as perfect..

    I am giving present details and also the details 20 years before.. because, today, the traditional caste system collapsed considerably today, and hence any discussion on present day caste will not be correct..

    /** 1. How many people are there in your village (population)? Is it safe to assume that the main occupation of the village is agriculture? Or is there any other factory or mill or some such to provide a major source of employment?
    **/

    As of recent general election, there are around 1500 people.. primary occupation was agriculture 20 years before.. however, a section of people, pursued transport business along with agri.. 20 years before, no major mills.. but now there are couple of poultry feed mill in the nearby village..

    /** You say there is no sewage in the village? That is very interesting. Does your village use dry toilets or toilets connected to localized septic tanks? Which system does your village use? And if people use dry toilets, how is the night soil removed? And if it is removed – who in your village is responsible for that?
    **/

    20 years before, even i was defecating in nearby bushes.. 🙂 there was no toilet at that time..

    But today, there is toilet in every house including dalits.. and for cleaning that, we used to call concerned people from nearby town.. none of the dalit people in our village are involved in it.. they have a decent agricultural work, and today, they are in demand for it..

    /** It does appear that Dalits are in your village from what you say. Are people born into Dalit families treated as Dalits and people born into your caste (don’t know what your caste is) treated as from the same caste? Or in other words, is the caste system in your village birth-based? If it is not birth-based, how does it work?
    **/

    Caste is all about kulams and gothrams.. gothrams are nothing but lineages.. ie, group of people belonging to same lineage belongs to a gothra, and they are brothers and sisters in relation.. group of gothrams, constitute a caste..
    So, naturally, caste system is birth based.. I dont know what is wrong in it..
    Just as we can’t choose our mother, father or brothers, we cannot choose our caste.. We inherit a caste in terms of lineage..

    /** Is there a pecking order or a hierarchy in your village – village headman, panchayat chief etc? Who takes these roles? And how are these people selected for these roles?
    **/

    I dont know how we could call it as pecking order.. (probably we always see anything in terms of hierarchy)..
    However, there is a traditional village setup, which is now defunct.. i dont know the exact setup .. but there are some popular roles, like “maniakarar, oor gounder, dharmakartha” etc.. I dont have any living memory of how this system functioned earlier.. but, i have seen, many panchayat judgements during my childhood.. whenever there is a problem, people in our village, call the panchayat, and debate the issue in front of the public..
    Today, although panchayat is called sometimes, this system is collapsing..

    /** 5. What is the role of women in your village – are women educated? If yes, what grade or class till which they are educated? I have heard from you in previous comments that women worked in the fields. What types of work women do in the fields?
    **/

    This is very good question.. The present role of women in our village is to sit in front of serials 🙂 .. however, twenty years before, the major role of women is to manage the family, rear cows, and participate in agricultural works.. the work was divided in such a way, that the husband will plough the field, and the wife will sow the seeds.. the husband will water the fields, the wife will remove the weeds.. like wise…
    The cows are mostly looked after by the women head, assisted by the husband and children.. to summarise, it was a family profession, where every person has to take responsibility, otherwise, it will be difficult for all..

    There is another point to note here.. earlier in one of priya’s post, she accused that women were not allowed to work.. actually, in villages, women had an equal share of work.. the problem is that priya may not recognize agricultural work as a job..

    All the older women in our village knows how to read and count.. they may not be educated, but literate, due to a selfless teacher called “Athiannan Pillai”.. he was a pillai, a community, who was next to brahmins in education..

    /** Are there women who own farmland and be the leader of the farm or actually manage the farm?
    **/

    Today, women also owns farmland.. i have often heard my relatives, when discussing about wealth of a family, they used to categorize it as “Wealth from wife’s side (popularly called as “Mamiar veetu sothu”) and wealth from husband’s side).

    The land will mostly be in the name of the husband, but the produce from the land belongs to the family.. when the husband is there, he will be the leader of the farm.. if he is not there, the wife takes over..

    In my grandma’s case, my grandfather was working in singapore for around 30 years, and my grandmother was managing his lands..

  31. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said August 29, 2009, 1:56 pm:

    Senthil,
    1. I didn’t intend any sarcasm. Sorry if it seemed that way. It is you who keeps commenting in any post about India how wonderful things are in your village. I was just curious and i asked the question.

    2. Dry toilets are not hygienic to say the very least. for a population of 1500 people, maybe you don’t need a sewer system. your village does need a septic tank based toilet system which is quite easy to put up. This will avoid having to engage humans from other villages to clean it. I am sure you know that there are entire castes devoted to cleaning dry toilets. You may want to read about Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak’s work with Sulabh International. http://www.sulabhinternational.org/ .

    I am sure based on this point you realize why cities like Chennai having millions of people need a sewer system? for your info, Indus Valley’s cities had a sewer system 5,000 years back. We lost all those ideas somewhere in between.

    3. The birth-based caste system – you say nothing wrong with it. people from the dalit community or the toilet cleaning community wouldn’t agree with that. That is the biggest problem.

    4. The reason i asked the pecking order question is because i want to find out more. Has there been a Dalit headman for your village ever?

    5. Good to know that women had a fair share of work. Even in the cities lots of women stay at home and do household work. But sharing in the work and managing/owning are completely different things. Priya’s point is not (i agree with it) whether they work. The question is are they educated and allowed to have a career like men do? If you want to know why that matters – read this article
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/magazine/23Women-t.html?_r=2

    6. Good to know that women are farm owners/leaders as well. I would urge you to find the % of that happening. Out of 100 men farm leaders, how many are women? Again, if you want to know why that matters, please read the NYT article i mention above.

  32. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said August 29, 2009, 2:04 pm:

    Senthil,
    This is in response to your comment http://www.sastwingees.org/2009/08/08/why-do-bad-things-happen-to-me-part-1/comment-page-2/#comment-12409

    The whole line of argument trying to pin the caste system on the British is baseless. Why do you assume that in times of prosperity, controlling people of lower castes doesn’t happen? What data do you have to support that point of view?

    There are inscriptions from historical times (100s of years before the British) which show ill treatment of lower castes. Even in the Alwar pasurams (which obviously pre-date the British) there is ill treatment of lower castes. Read the story of ThirupPaanAzhwar if you like. I am sure you have heard of Nandanar charitram. In a related note, you may want to read about the Nayanmar stories to know about the persecution of Jains, which you often claimed never happened.

    I would urge you to read more about India’s history from neutral sources. If you just read right wing propaganda you will not understand India’s real history.

  33. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said August 29, 2009, 2:09 pm:

    Senthil,
    http://www.sastwingees.org/2009/08/08/why-do-bad-things-happen-to-me-part-1/comment-page-2/#comment-12408

    This comment of yours take the cake. Urban people discriminate and exploit the rural people. And this they do intentionally? And for that to be proven otherwise, urban people should live amongst the slum dwellers? What kind of logic is that?

    But the birth-based caste system which is systemic discrimination and intended to be that way is not discriminatory? I don’t know what to say.

    Please move on from this discussion.

  34. Quote
    surendar (subscribed) said August 31, 2009, 5:04 pm:

    Sukumar

    you had quoted 3 verses from the BG saying it links people’s castes to their birth. When i read your translation, I thought all the 3 verses don’t seem to be connecting caste with birth. Rather, it just seems to say, the composition of gunas determines innate nature and through the qualities evidenced, a person’s caste is determined.

    That said, the lord does state that he created the caste system.

    On your comment about azhwars, did the society not deify them? The society that deified them was not our current society – rather the old caste based society. The same ‘muni’ who asked thirupanazhwar to “step aside and be mindful of other’s presence” eventually carried him on his back.

    Overall I agree with you that caste system in its “current and accepted form” is what matters – its the collective mindset of the system that counts. There is little doubt that it was exploited to help higher castes.

    Senthil: I agree with you that caste system cannot be just blamed and termed evil. By the same token, the current democratic/capitalistic system should also not be termed evil. I’m sure enough and more social evils will exist whatever be the system – the point is, everybody should have a fair chance to succeed. If a society can give that, nothing like it.

    Unfortunately, the current caste-less society also does not show any indication of such opportunities. It does provide a decent facade of being able to do that although I tend to think it is because we are at an inflection point in the transition from one type of social structure to something else and socialistic policies are still at play.

  35. Quote

    Sukumar,

    Everything in this world is seen only in comparative and broader terms. For our personal life, in times of sorrow, we always want a comparing point, to console ourselves, or to feel good. Vamsi in his comments say, also highlights the strength of his friend by comparing with the other person whom his friend has some issues.

    So basically, we always see our personal joys and sorrow as a relative element. Because, seeing things in isolated will blow things out, as priya had quoted. If we isolate a soft hearted ahimsavadi, even sitting, walking will be a sin, because, it kills some living beings. sweeping the house will be a sin because he would be killing spiders and other insects.

    The same logic applies to a society / institution also. We have to judge and understand a system from a broader perspective.

    Lets take for example the untouchability. We all know, the american slaves were over worked, the slave women were sexually exploited by the owner, the non-performing slaves beated up heavily etc. Some owners even justified the sexual exploitation, as a means to produce more slaves.

    Suppose, if the american whites had followed untouchability like in our caste system, the african people would not have been beaten up, the slave women would not have been sexually exploited, and the slaves would have got the right and space to live their own personal and commune life.

    In india, untouchability served as a barrier from such inhuman and extreme exploitation. For the dominant caste, mingling with the working caste means, outcasting from the community. This prevented from dominant caste youths from exploiting the women of the working caste.

    Untouchability eventhough separated one caste from other, it gave a personal space to every caste in india, to live their own life, to have a family, to raise a children, and to have their own commune festival.

    And from a broader perspective, untouchability is harmless, when compared to the brutalities that white people did to the african slaves. because in untouchability, one community keeps away from other caste, instead of persecuting them..

    I dont know how many of the readers would accept the above point. But i strongly believe, that inspite of its odds, untouchability is one of the positive aspects, in such a highly diverse cultural society like in india.

    I wish, all our societal and cultural issues be dealt in such a comparative mode instead of being isolated. Only then, we can have a confident society for us. Otherwise, we may be a confident individual, but a most pessimistic society.

  36. Quote

    /** This comment of yours take the cake. Urban people discriminate and exploit the rural people. And this they do intentionally? And for that to be proven otherwise, urban people should live amongst the slum dwellers? What kind of logic is that?

    But the birth-based caste system which is systemic discrimination and intended to be that way is not discriminatory? I don’t know what to say.

    Please move on from this discussion.
    **/

    Sukumar,

    From your above comment, it seems, that you feel insecure about your belief getting broken down when discussing in detail 🙂 . that might be the reason, why you often resort to repeating those particular lines accusing caste system.

    Its understandable that belief is part of one’s identity, and breaking a belief creates a sudden void, which we may not know how to deal with it..
    However, we need to make a choice b/w beliefs and Truths ..

    Let me conclude this discussion with the following unresolved questions.

    1. When the sewage system itself is created by urban system, how can the traditional caste system be accused? The fact that none of the castes in villages do such menial jobs still holds true.

    2. In villages, different castes live together, interact with each other, help each other, inspite of all caste problems. But in towns, the rich lives in separate posh areas, and the poor live in slums. Which is better?

    3. Big Urban systems like chennai, require a sewage system to function. But where are those sewages discharged? In the sea, in the river, in the lakes, in the ponds.. In all the cases, the urban system exploits some other, to function itself.
    In Coimbatore, the whole sewage is dumped to irugur village, forcing all its people to move out. The entire Noyyal river is now a sewage for tiruppur effluents.

  37. Quote

    Senthil,
    We cannot justify social evils no matter what the underlying great cause/ reason is. We have to change and move along. Whether we ack or not, that is the fact. You are probably right about those who follow the system and do not violate the system for any compulsion. They may be happy (?). But it is great injustice to the society if those who want to go past these barriers cannot do because of age old customs. Just like, will you let a patient die because modern medicine is a western thought? We dont because we know it works.

    We can go round and round, you can stick to your position. But that doesnt make this a debate useful because in any such process, we should understand others positions and move the position as our sample and exposure grows. For every model village you show, we can show 10 villages where exploitation is day to day activity. Dalits not exploited because there is untouchability in our society is one of the weakest arguments we can make.

    Your other points on pollution because of lack of good waste management solutions is not a cause we should use to go back to medieval ages. It needs a fix.

  38. Quote

    Vamsi,

    I wish, we could have free discussion without resorting to branding & accusation.. Good and Bad are highly relative terms.. Just like you had adviced your friend to feel good through comparison, i wish the same way is followed for social issues too..

    Btw, do you feel, that the urbanites and particularly urban elites do not practice untouchability? How many of the elites, allow their children to play with slum boys?

    /** Your other points on pollution because of lack of good waste management solutions is not a cause we should use to go back to medieval ages. It needs a fix.
    **/

    This is typical racism.. that people living in villages belong to medieval ages.. So, in your opinion, to be in modern ages, the urban system can continuously pollute the rural villages, making their living means sterile?

  39. Quote

    Senthil,

    Racism? How? Please check my post.
    I told if urban centers pollute villages/ water bodies, we should fix that problem by using effective waste management solutions. Solution is not to cutting back on the modern systems. I criticized the current situation of polluting the environment.

    Urban Elites – they perhaps dont allow to play with my children leave alone slum dwellers. Do I accept that or not. I dont. That is also untouchability. It is bad. What is your point?

  40. Quote
    surendar (subscribed) said September 2, 2009, 6:34 am:

    vamsi

    “Urban Elites – they perhaps dont allow to play with my children leave alone slum dwellers. Do I accept that or not. I dont. That is also untouchability. It is bad. What is your point?”

    whats the point? what is being done about it is the point sir.

    Why comment on the past when the present is breeding its own evils.

    Clearly, the urban-elite…slum-dweller differentiation is NOT a left over from the old world evil.

  41. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said September 2, 2009, 8:37 pm:

    Thanks Vamsi for jumping in.

    Senthil,
    First you make up your mind. Sometimes you argue that caste system is a great system. Then flaws are pointed out, you cook up some random explanation like the one you have cooked for untouchability which defeats any possibility of using logical reasoning. Sometimes when you kind of get a sense for why the caste system is bad, you argue that the caste system was all glorious until the British came about. There is enough research that i have done to prove that is not the case, some of which i explained, like the Alwar story or the Written Inscription from 100s of years before British. You keep arguing this in a circular manner.

    Please move on.

    Surendar,
    There is plenty more material available on the Internet that shows why the Bhagavad Gita supports the birth-based caste system. I am sure you can find it on your own.

    On Thirupaanalwar’s story – yes he was deified, but try to ask the question – if it took a Tirupaanalwar such extraordinary effort to rise up above the caste he was born under, what happens to a regular Paanar. Please do not answer the question in this blog because i don’t want to discuss this issue further. You seem to have a position on the caste system and I have mine which i have spelt out clearly.

    Let us move on.

  42. Quote
    surendar (subscribed) said September 3, 2009, 6:55 am:

    Sukumar.

    I understand your position on caste system. I respect your space. So, I will not go further on the topic.

    However, I do request brief space to state my position on caste though; I don’t want broad interpretations to be drawn based on mere arguments to specific statements in the blog. There is little in it to give my position on caste.

    My position: I don’t agree with the socially practiced caste system. However, I would rather focus on discrimination in any form.

    As long as discrimination exists, I just think its hypocritical to criticize and single out any type of discrimination.

    I hope India builds a society that allows free and fair treatment of individuals based on merit.

    I apologize for dragging the discussion one step further.

    Let me stop here.

  43. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said September 3, 2009, 8:09 am:

    Thanks Surendhar.

  44. Quote

    /** Racism? How? Please check my post. **/

    Vamsi..

    The attitude that anything other than urban system belongs to medieval era, is what i termed racism. Its a fact, that most of the urbanites hold this belief, that village or rural means, backward, and belongs to stone age.

    I was mentioning such attitude you mentioned in your previous comment.

    Other debates, i am leaving it now..

  45. Quote

    /** Then flaws are pointed out, you cook up some random explanation like the one you have cooked for untouchability which defeats any possibility of using logical reasoning.
    **/

    Sukumar,

    The scope of logical reasoning, is infinite.. Its only the beliefs that will define the boundaries of the logics.

  46. Quote

    Sukumar,

    The following article by Dunkin Jalki would be interesting to read, but would contradict the popular beliefs.. Hope, you will not reject this, because it is against your belief..

    http://www.doccenter.org/docsweb/Understanding-Caste-System-Dunkin/contents.php

    This research article had exposed the stereotypes about caste system, and how too much generic writing had concealed the real perspective..

  47. Quote

    With reference to the debate on night soil cleaning, that we had long back, i want to give one more reference..

    The below book titled “Manual scavenging in India: a disgrace to the country By B. N. Srivastava, Sulabh International (Patna, India)” documents the different kind of jathis that did night soil cleaning.

    http://books.google.co.in/books?id=-c6mNYorw7QC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

    It has been more evident, that the advent of westernised cities, is the prime reason for employing lower castes in to night soil cleaning..

    As such, it is NOT the jathi system , but rather the urban system that is the culprit.. and it is my accusation that in order to hide this truth, the urban people are shifting the blame on the rural jathi setup..

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