Why Indian Genius? Any people who dare to question beliefs are precious, regardless of where they’re from because flawed or false beliefs cause immeasurable useless misery. In every culture there exists its highest contribution to humanity and social diseases in the form of poisonous beliefs. It is a rare person who can apply an antidote to poisonous beliefs in the face of cultural pressures. I introduce here two examples of Indian genius, Kabir and B.R. Ambedkar.
When a society adopts a flawed or false belief, it tends to disregard contrary facts.
Life becomes more difficult when our beliefs aren’t adapted to reality and this problem is large in America. Many of my compatriots mistake the insistence and emotion of believers as proof a belief is true, especially if the believers are a majority. As if we could turn excrement into cake by agreeing en mass. People with power often yield to the temptation to promote flawed beliefs if it will serve a purpose. The people who expose the falsehoods hidden in accepted beliefs come face-to-face with those in power.
Kabir and Ambedkar come from different eras, but both were sons of India. Both were born into the lower strata of society, both criticized the existing order for the sake of a better world. Kabir the critical poet sought the truth through an intuition supported by observation. Ambedkar was a rigorous academic and sought the truth by delving into obscure facts using deduction. Both men dared to criticize religious beliefs. Each took great risks to share what they found.
“Listen, you saints – I see that the world is crazy. When I tell the truth, people run to beat me up – when I tell lies, they believe me…”
“…last year, I received a shower of letters from angry Hindus, who became quite unbalanced by my speech on the subject [Who Were the Shudras, on the origin of the caste system] delivered in Madras. The letters were full of filthy abuse, unmentionable and unprintable, and full of dire threats to my life…”
In America extremists spread absurd and hateful beliefs. For example, the Westboro Baptist Church protests at the funerals of soldiers and blame the deaths of American soldiers on tolerance of homosexuality. As if American soldiers did not die in war when our laws persecuted homosexuals in the past. How absurd! This is one of many examples. Such fundamentalism also directs its wrath at people of other religions, races, and, of course, women.
Religious leaders often support politicians who impose backwards ideas as an alternative to modern education. This insidious betrayal robs children of their most precious inheritance, that is the best knowledge accumulated by the human race. The problem stands on two legs, one involves misleading the public with doubtful beliefs and political motives that work against the interests of the underclass.
Every culture has an underclass that more or less struggles to live and does the dirty work.
In the U.S., this class is the working class, a sugar-coated euphemism for the poor. While poverty in the U.S. looks different from poverty in developing countries, there are children in America who stay undereducated and hungry and they carry those burdens into adulthood.
Lack of education leaves poor people everywhere vulnerable to manipulation, be it religious, reactionary, revolutionary, or advertising e.g. those poor people drawn into the Westboro Baptist church. Important differences exist between Western social classes and the caste system in India, but similarities also exist. Consider in both countries that the underclass typically do most of the dying in war. The humble birth of both Kabir and Ambedkar place them to speak to the under classes as one of their own.
“There is nothing, but water at the holy bathing places; and I know that they are useless, for I have bathed in them. The images [gods] are all lifeless, they cannot speak; I know, for I have cried aloud to them. The Purana and the Koran are mere words; lifting up the curtain, I have seen. Kabîr gives utterance to the words of experience; and he knows very well that all other things are untrue.”
Excerpt: The Relevance of Kabir
“…after reading the Brahmanic theories with their long and tedious explanations [of the caste system] attempting to treat a social fact as a divine dispensation, one cannot, but feel a certain amount of relief in having before oneself a theory, which proceeds to give a natural explanation of a social fact. One can do nothing with the Brahmanic theories except to call them senseless ebullitions of a silly mind.”
When superstition and politics unite, the underclass are typically used and discarded but a simple solution exists today that before did not. Education was once a privilege reserved for a few, but we have free university course materials online, videos of philosophers and artists, and a library of global literature! Instead of merely amusing ourselves, let’s remember that our internet connected devices form the most powerful means for the transformation of the human mind that we have ever possessed as a species. We carry on our hips and in our bags electronic devices that are a means to overcome ignorance or be drowned in it. If we educate ourselves, and especially if we begin to question the beliefs taught by those who exploit the underclass, overcoming ignorance will be our path. We will arise and think for ourselves like Kabir, Ambedkar, and all the other men and women who hold us to high standards.
I’m often a critic of American unregulated capitalism, but let’s be fair. The employee who can do a job efficiently is more valuable than the employee who can’t. It’s true that a university degree is a door opener, but, if a self-taught employee can show superior skills, an employer would be a fool to not hire them. We might offer our skills on the open market and become self-employed. If we are good at something, we need only find those people who value what we do.
“Friend, hope for the guest while you are alive. Jump into experience while you’re alive! Think … and think … while you are alive. What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death. If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive, do you think ghosts will do it after? The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic just because the body is rotten – that is all fantasy. What is found now is found then. If you find nothing now, you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death. If you make love with the divine [truth] now, in the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire. So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is, believe in the great sound. Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for, it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work. Look at me and you will see a slave of that intensity.
Excerpt: The Relevance of Kabir
Neither Kabir or Ambedkar could be forced to define themselves by the social position they were born into, neither were overcome by the pressures set against them by society or those in power. Both men left a body of work for the future to admire, build upon and surpass when possible. Many of the problems they faced we also face today in new forms. Let these sons of India be a light unto my American compatriots and anyone, anywhere, who wishes to pursue what is true, not only for its own sake but also for the sake of a better world.
By Todd Vickers
Author: The Relevance of Kabir