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The middle way between religion and atheism

Re: "Peaceful coexistence depends on mutual restraint," Letters, July 30.

In Hinduism the transcendent godhead also occasionally appears in the mundane form of avatars without losing any of its powers. The last major one was Krishna, 5,000 years ago. The one before that, Rama, appeared a million and a half years back, while the next one, Kalki, is scheduled to arrive 400,000 years from now.

Such rare appearances will surely disappoint atheists looking for empirical confirmation of God. But perhaps that's to their benefit: In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna said that, as far as atheists were concerned, his purpose was not to prove himself but to destroy them.

This shows once again that religion and atheism are incompatible. Avoiding this topic at the dinner table is just taking a time-out. It doesn't solve the problem itself.

Islamic societies have taken a different approach. They try to stop atheistic influences at their borders. It remains to be seen if this

defence will hold, but at least they can talk about anything they want in their own homes, for now. This is also the approach taken by Thai traditionalists.

Hinduism has another message to those hoping for peace: Now is not the right time for it. According to Hindu cosmology, the Earth is going through the last stage of an eternal cycle - Kali Yuga, the age of quarrel and degradation. Conflicts in this age arise for no particular reason and will only worsen, until the next avatar wipes out the whole of civilisation. When old folks complain about youth not living up to standards, this is not a sign of stability but of the constant, gradual degradation of human behaviour.

As for our visible material progress, Hindus also judge it differently. For example, what we celebrate as the marvellous invention of written language, Hindus see as a sign of declining memory. This argument has echoes in complaints about the "one child, one tablet" scheme.

Progress dazzles us, but doesn't necessarily improve our lives or make us better human beings.

The "middle way" and "sufficiency economy" make a lot of sense in the Hindu worldview as well.

Stan G


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