No Love Without Freedom

“No love without freedom, No freedom without love” – Dido

The English singer/songwriter Dido uses this as a refrain in her song of the same title. Her conversation is most likely with a lover. However, as a statement it’s universal.

The other day someone asked me how God could allow people the freedom to do horrible things if he is benevolent and powerful.

There are of course some metaphysical and ethical considerations. If people were without free will and the power to make that will come true, we would no longer be autonomous or independent. We would be automated – acting always without choice. Indeed, there is a question of whether cognition would exist if there is no choice. And if there were no cognition, would there be existence? The cogito – ‘I think therefore I am’ – would no longer exist and so how would we know we do?

But those questions aside, there is a philosophical but also emotional answer that is framed well by Dido in her song: There is ‘no love without freedom’. Virtues like love (in other words bhakti) cannot exist without choice. Love is not just a chemically-induced experience. It is something that takes free choice to both initiate and sustain. Love cannot be coerced; it has to be chosen. So there is no love without freedom.

Equally important is the second part, ‘no freedom without love’. Only those who truly love us, trust us and wish us to be happy can truly give us freedom. God’s choice to give mankind freedom arises from his love. He wants us to find our happiness and trusts that eventually (here’s Hinduism understanding of eternity is helpful) we will all find the truth.

And so, the question of evil in the world is answered by the existence of free will. And, the existence of free will is answered simply by the statement, “No love without freedom; no freedom without love.”


A question or two for the world

Is loyalty greater than honesty?
Is sacrifice for others greater than being content with one’s life?

May wisdom come to me from all sides…

The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake

Came across an interesting video today I hope everyone will take the time out to see. It is a TEDx lecture by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake on what he calls ‘The Science Delusion’. He essentially takes some of the underlying assumptions of today’s scientific pursuits and turns them into questions. In essence, he reminds us that science’s assumptions and worldview should not be exempt from scientific inquiry. He discusses 10 underlying notions of science that need to be questioned and then goes into detail about two: 1. that there are natural laws or constants and 2. that our memories and experiences are not just inside our heads but that we actually perceive external objects – basically he’s a pure epistemological realist and not an indirect realist like Locke and most who have followed. For details on his ideas, this video is a great intro and then of course we could pick up his book.

Here, however, I want to mention something that struck me as he spoke. His insights are either heavily influenced by Indian philosophy or at the least are very synchronous with Indian philosophy.

He questions weather the universe may itself have a consciousness. He says that he believes perception includes a force that reaches out to interact with the object we perceive – not just that we perceive it in our head from the bio-chemical-electrical messages of our senses.

Interestingly, Indian philosophers have said these same things for millenia. They say that there is a chidakash which the conscious space which holds the space of the universe. Basically, if this universe was born from the big bang, in what space did the big bang occur? The Indian philosopher’s answer to this for centuries has been chidakash which, again, literally means conscious space.

On the point of perception, Indian epistemologists in most Vedant traditions believe that knowledge has three forms – one is like a substance or form (gnanswarup). the second is a quality (gnanguna) and the third is a power or ability (gnanshakti). The soul is made up of a substance which is knowledge. It has the quality of knowing and it has an ability or power to know. in perception, the soul’s knowledge power reaches out and comes in contact with objects through the sense and on contact with the object, the eternal, experienced and knowledgable soul perceives the object and recognises it. That is sounds almost verbatim of what Dr. Sheldrake describes.

It is interesting that a modern and well-established academic has through research and the use of model tools come to believe the same things which ancient rishi-scientists perceived through calculation, contemplation or visions gifted by God’s grace. It is also sad that the current scientific establishment can’t even stand to let such ideas be discussed – even if it’s just an 18 minute speech on the internet. That’s right, TED actually banned Sheldrake’s speech and took it off their sight. So much for open minds, free speech and ruthless enquiry.

6 studies on how money affects the mind

More reason to be nirlobhi – it let’s you connect better to other humans. That’s what I get from this TED talk.

TED Blog

How does being rich affect the way we behave? In today’s talk, social psychologist Paul Piff provides a convincing case for the answer: not well.

[ted_talkteaser id=1897]“As a person’s levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement, of deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases,” he says in his talk from TEDxMarin. Through surveys and studies, Piff and his colleagues have found that wealthier individuals are more likely to moralize greed and self-interest as favorable, less likely to be prosocial, and more likely to cheat and break laws if it behooves them.

The swath of evidence Piff has accumulated isn’t meant to incriminate wealthy people. “We all, in our day-to-day, minute-by-minute lives, struggle with these competing motivations of when or if to put our own interests above the interests of other people,” he says. That’s understandable—in fact, it’s a logical…

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Hinduism: Alive and Well

People often like to talk about religion dying away or thriving and alive. But if you have heard about the BAPS Conventions that happened last week, you would never question whether Hinduism is dying or thriving.

For any religion to stay alive it has to maintain its principles while adapting to accept the media that will allow those principles to be best communicated to and absorbed by its practitioners. BAPS’s recent youth conventions gave us great insight into what that really means and they showed us what modern, vibrant Hinduism and Swaminarayanism looks like today. Their conventions also gave us a glimpse into the future of what Hindu practice will look like. But enough from me, just check out these documentary videos and see how BAPS has out done itself again in being at the forefront of Hindu spiritual evolution.

Porn Addiction

ASAP Science does an interesting and quick show of how people get addicted to porn. Pornography is a bigger and bigger issue in conflict with happiness and spirituality and this video can help understand better and learn to change unfortunate addictions.

Why things don’t change…

So many of us want things to change. Having just gone through an election cycle in the US, change is like a buzzword, a fashion maybe. People want environmental policies to change to save the world; they want foreign policy to change to nurture more peace; they want economic policies to change so that we can climb out of recession, not fall off a cliff, and avoid all roads bumps in the future. And for that change, we will picket, we will shout, we will point out all the ways that all the people in charge, in suits, and in big offices on streets with famous names are all wrong. We will debate it over coffee and tea and at the dinner table. We will also do small private things – we will earnestly pray, we will read about new ideas, we will think of ways to make change in our homes, friends, and families. We will do all of this and then we will be frustrated – because it seems that despite all our efforts – nothing has changed.

We’ve done so much, so much of everything but the one thing that truly needed to be done. We needed to change ourselves. I am so upset about the recession and the credit crisis and yet I’m not willing to make the lifestyle changes to live within my means without leaning on credit. I’m so angry about the blind eye turned to the climate change and global environmental catastrophe that we’re all witnessing with our own eyes and still I can’t seem to ween myself away from the luxury of my personal car to join others in carpools or public transport. I’m not happy with foreign policy but I’m not willing to change how I interact with my neighbor.

So much of the change we want so badly but have not achieved is being hindered by no one else but ourselves. Now think on these words:

“The one who does not see oneself is the fool of fools.” – Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
“If one was as adamant about understanding as one is about explaining…” – Gunatitanand Swami
And as a modern rendition of this age old advice: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Good to see true diversity and acceptance in action.


It was 2006 when Keith Ellison (MN – 05) made history as the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. The same year, Mazie Hirono (HI – 02) and Hank Johnson (GA – 04) became the first Buddhists in American history to serve as U.S. Senators. But both Hirono’s and Johnson’s achievement was overshadowed by the fact that Ellison wanted to use Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an for his oath ceremony.

Despite the fact that the United States Constitution provides “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” (Article VI, section 3), there was much debate about whether Ellison was in fact worthy of the position he had earned. “He should not be allowed to do so — not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization,” protested Dennis Prager

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“The Cove” and its Hypocrisy

I just watched the documentary “The Cove” last night. For those of you who don’t know about it, it’s a film about a group of people who try to stop the killing of dolphins in Japan. For more info:

As a vegetarian Hindu, I’m all about saving dolphins from inhumane treatment and murder. But even then, this video just kept feeling weird to me. These men were making a cover operation (and sometimes it seemed the covert part of the job was what was making this exciting for them) to travel to Japan to save innocent dolphins; they challenged local authorities; they feel the local fishermen are evil; they crash conferences with videos and audio recordings and they really succeed at making it seem as if these Japanese fishermen are really the worst people in the world. And then there’s a line, which is meant to be something that really highlights how these Japanese are so misguided, that mentions how the Japanese are silly for claiming this is just a cultural misunderstanding. “You eat cows, we eat dolphins,” those silly Japanese claim.

But…that line caught something that I was thinking for the first half of the film already. These men and a one woman diver were going crying out about being humane; they bemoaned the evil treatment of separated baby dolphins from their parents as the parents went to slaughter; they cried as the waters turned red from dolphin blood; they held each other watching a dolphin writhe and jump in pain as it made final attempts at escape. And I wondered, have you been to a slaughter house? Why are you so surprised that you are not waking head-way through these Japanese people when you really have no moral high ground to stand on? These men catch wild dolphins – at least those dolphins had a chance of not being caught; in the U.S. and elsewhere millions upon millions of cows are bred in cattle FARMS!!! just for your consumption! They don’t even have a chance of have a free or natural existence. They probably a kill a few thousand dolphins every year; for you burgers and fries or the steaks you eat at fancy restaurants ask for the killing of millions of cattle. You’re surprised that the Japanese don’t listen that these fishermen can be so cruel; let me ask you. Have you heard of PETA’s campaign about the cruel treatment of cattle in America? Have you seen there videos? They make videos like yours every year – they may not be sexy covert ops but still. And after knowing about it for all these years and after watching those videos, did you change your lifestyle? Are you vegetarian or have you at least given up beef? So hard to change your own lifestyles, so easy to demand others to change – isn’t it? I agree that those dolphins should be saved. I gawk at the shock and sudden wave of humanity that is shown in the video when I know they probably had some Kobe beef during they stay in Japan.

People in the United States who eat meat should have to see the factories that produce their food. They should be forced to visit there before they purchase. Of course, chances are they’d get used it and then continue eating because at the end of the day changing social norms is not a simple thing and not a thing anybody likes to do. People will more likely look away then have to address the facts. It’s the very basic, maybe intrinsic, opposition to lifestyle-change that is freezing our society on two of our major issues – Global Climate Change (Global Warming) and our Economy.

Media and Us: Pause, Think, then Consume…then Think Again

When in mandir or really in any religious setting someone talks to us about being more aware and restrictive with our media consumption or to at the very consider the true impacts of the types and amounts of media we consume, we almost immediately categorize the whole thing as a lecture from a conservative, anti-society, anti-modern mind frame. But interestingly we will give the same argument due consideration when it comes from other, maybe more “hip” sources. I found myself doing this recently as I read this phenomenal article, which is even furthered with some interesting comments: