MATSYA NYAYA

(The Law of the Fishes)

The Law of Nature and the Nature of Man

First  Second of Atomic Bomb Explosion - Trinity Test Site

Introduction

On the morning of July 16, 1945, just before the sun began to rise over the Jornado del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico, the world’s first nuclear bomb exploded in a flaming fireball, vastly more powerful than any weapon ever created by man. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who directed the Manhattan Project that developed the bomb, witnessed the event. Overcome with emotion, he uttered these words:

 

“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Oppenheimer had been reminded of the Bhagavad-Gita and the battle-field of Kurukshetra, India, just before a vast slaughter of war was about to begin: Lord Krishna, at the request of his friend and devotee, Arjuna, had driven out their war-chariot between two huge opposing armies so that Arjuna could look upon those with whom he would fight. In the famous dialogue that followed, Krishna gave one of the most famous expositions of spiritual life, practice and realization in history. Towards the end of their dialogue, when Arjuna asked Krishna to reveal  his ‘Universal Form,’ Krishna did so and the Gita described what happened:

 

“If hundreds of thousands of suns 

were to rise at once into the sky, 

their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Lord 

in that universal appearance . . .” 

– B.G 11:12

 

Overwhelmed by the brilliant light, Arjuna cried out to Krishna:

 

“You are difficult to see because of your glaring effulgence, 

spreading on all sides, 

like blazing fire 

or the immeasurable radiance of the sun.”

– B.G 11:17

 

“O Lord of lords, so fierce of form, 

please tell me who You are.

I offer my obesiances unto You; please be gracious to me.

You are the primal Lord. I want to understand You, 

for I do not know what Your purpose is.”

– B.G 11:31

 

Lord Krishna then replied in the words Oppenheimer uttered that fateful day:

“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds,

and I have come here to destroy all beings.”

– B.G 11:32

As the blinding flash of the first atomic bomb lit the early morning sky of the desert, Oppenheimer felt he too was witnessing ‘the all-consuming power of death that lays waste to the world and all beings.’ 

 

It was a revelation, a turning point in history, for in that cataclysmic explosion, man entered into a new relationship to life; previously it was thought only God or nature could wreak such overwhelming destructive power, but now mankind had attained that terrible capability as well.

 

Oppenheimer was not the only one who felt this way; he later said, “all of us did one way or another . . . a few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent.” Every one of the small group who witnessed the explosion of the first atomic bomb, realized man’s relationship to life and nature had changed; however, unlike Oppenheimer who had a familiarity with the Bhagavad-Gita, most failed to grasp a historical metaphor for such destructive power and did not describe the event so archetypically, but not since harnessing the power of fire had there occurred such a massive increase in man’s control over the elements and it transformed our world forever.

Oppenheimer and General Groves inspecting Ground Zero

 

Einstein and the development of the A-bomb

 

In 1939, reports had come to the attention of the Allies that the Nazis had discovered nuclear fission, the antecedent of atomic energy and nuclear weapons. Nazi scientists had split the atom and released vast quantum’s of energy. It was obvious to allied physicists that if the Germans succeeded in controlling this phenomena, they would use its awesome power to make an atomic bomb and dominate the world, and there were already indications that the Nazis were aware of this possibility. Leo Szilard, the Hungarian physicist who first conceived of a nuclear chain reaction, had fled to the United States. Concerned about the consequences of the Nazis developing a bomb, Szilard drafted a letter to President Roosevelt and brought it to Alexander Sachs, banker, Wall Street economist, longtime friend and unofficial advisor to the President. Sachs read the letter and recognizing its critical importance told Szilard that someone more prestigious than himself (Szilard) needed to sign the letter so it would make the necessary impression with the president. Sachs suggested that Einstein sign the letter and he (Sachs) would deliver it to the president personally; after all, no one was more famous or respected amongst the world's physicists than Albert Einstein. So Szilard brought the letter to Einstein who had moved his family to the United States to escape the Nazis and was living and working at Stanford University near Princeton, New Jersey. Szilard and Einstein discussed the issue and as Szilard made clear the consequences of the Nazis developing an atomic bomb, Einstein is said to have replied, 'I did not even think about that.'

Einstein and Szilard

Szilard’s letter stated:

 

“In the course of the last four months it has been made probable — through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilárd in America — that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

 

This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs and it is conceivable — though much less certain — that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air . . .”

– From the Einstein-Szilard letter

 

When Einstein signed the letter to Roosevelt, urging that nuclear research be undertaken by the United States,

he set in motion the development and eventual usage of the atomic bomb.

 

Although his theory of relativity (e=mc2) provided key insights and understanding that allowed man to harness the atom, Einstein was a pacifist and wanted no part in developing the terrible capacities for destruction the A-bomb presented. However, in the prelude to WWII, as he and Szilard considered the philosophy, intentions, actions and atrocities of the Nazis, Einstein was moved to act.

 

Einstein had previously and publicly declared that if a war broke out he would, “unconditionally refuse to do war service, direct or indirect . . . regardless of how the cause of the war should be judged.” He wrote: “My pacifism is an instinctive feeling, a feeling that possesses me because the murder of men is disgusting. My attitude is not derived from any intellectual theory but is based on my deepest antipathy to every kind of cruelty and hatred.”

So, how could Einstein approve and encourage the development of the greatest genocidal weapon ever created? It was not because he was not a pacifist; he was. It was not because he did not believe in peace and the ideals of the brotherhood of man; he did; it was because of Einstein's fear that the Germans would build the bomb first and he could not let that happen. He expressed his dilemma five months before he died, when he wrote, "I made one great mistake in my life . . . when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them (first).”

As the German army invaded Poland and threatened to overrun the rest of Europe, Einstein grew increasingly afraid for all humanity. He deplored the Nazi belief that they were the ‘purest of the Aryan species’ and the ‘master race of civilization.’ He had experienced Nazi aggression, anti-semitism, and their violent execution of a philosophy that the strong must dominate the weak and it was fear that caused him to respond in a way that went against his pacifism and ideals. 

Man’s animal nature is triggered by fear and when men fall under its sway, desired ends are justified by any means. Our animal nature drives us to dominate or eliminate our rivals and anyone who seeks to destroy or harm ourselves or what we desire, cherish, or love. Who would not be afraid of the Nazis gaining an atomic weapon, especially if they knew its genocidal power? Who would not cry out in awe if they saw and understood the overwhelming implications of horrific destruction that Oppenheimer recognized in the explosion of the first atomic bomb? Who would not be overwhelmed if they stood with Arjuna on the Kurukshetra battlefield when God-Krishna revealed his terrible form of all-consuming death and destruction; with the birth of atomic weaponry, man had gained an awesome power of destruction and now nothing was the same, everything had changed . . . except, as Einstein later said, “for the way we think.” 

‘The way we think,’ is another way of referring to the way we are, our nature as human beings, what the Vedic culture called, Matsya Nyaya, and that is what this book is all about. 

Matsya Nyaya

“Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times. 

People have always been like this.”

- Gustave Flaubert

 

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

 was convincing the world he did not exist”

- Kayser Soze, The Usual Suspects 

 

The Vedic culture of India holds that the nature of man is not fundamentally selfless and good, but rather as a result of individuality, selfish, full of desires, cruel, greedy, and aggressive. Such a vision of human beings may be disturbing yet it makes sense, for the Vedas consider man to be a microcosm of nature and Matsya Nyaya or the Law of the Fishes (the bigger fish always eat the littler ones) is the law of nature. In the west, we call it, ‘The Law of the Jungle’ . . . meaning that (in nature) the stronger dominates and preys on the weaker. The ancient Rishi's observed the nature of mankind had been molded by this primitive stamp of elemental life. 

 

“By nature, men tend to overthrow one another. Left to itself, the whole world would be a mess.”

– Mahabharata

 

Matsya Nyaya lies at the very root of civilization . . . indeed, one could say civilization is created in response to Matsya Nyaya; for without civilization we would live in a world where only the law of the jungle prevails. 

 

“Without law and punishment, the child, the old, the sick, the ascetic, the priest, the woman, and the widow would be preyed upon according to Matsya Nyaya.” 

– Matsya Purana

 

The principle of Matsya Nyaya is mentioned in other well-known Vedic texts such as the Mahabharata,

where it is said, “If there is no ruler to wield punishment on earth, the strong would devour the weak

like fishes in water. . . in days of old, people were ruined through lack of a king,

devouring one another like the stronger fish preying upon the feebler.” 

 

Herein lies the forgotten origin and purpose of the rules of law, the development of society

and the survival of civilization. 

 

Manu Rishi was the original lawgiver of the Vedic culture and the ‘Laws of Manu,’ which comprise the Dharma-sastras, the fundamental guidelines of life in ancient India, which still exist as underlying principles of law and social structure to this day. These laws sometimes referred to as ‘dharma,’ were created in response to our own nature, for Manu Rishi set forth these laws and guidelines precisely to restrain Matsya Nyaya and govern the savage nature of man. The story of Manu Rishi’s life is part of the mythic tale of Matsya Nyaya and how the Laws of Dharma came to be. 

 

The Story of Manu

 

‘The story of the Law is as important as the Law and it is more important than its commentaries.”

- Rabbi Nachman of Bratislav

 

One day, a long, long time ago, at the very end of our previous age, the Rishi Manu was bathing in a river in South India. As he waded out into the river, he cupped his hands to scoop up water to offer it to God, a small fish swam into his hands and cried out to him, asking Manu for protection from the larger fish who sought to eat him. Manu had compassion for the little fish and lifting him out of the water of the river, placed him in his water-pot. The fish grew larger so Manu transferred him to a larger pot, but the fish continued to grow and Manu placed him in bigger and bigger containers. Finally, Manu took the fish down to the ocean and released him. Before swimming off into the sea, the fish revealed Himself as the Supreme Lord, the first Avatar of Vishnu in His Form as the Fish-Avatar or Matsyavatar (Matsya- Fish and Avatar-Divine Incarnation) and

Matsya Avatar

Vishnu in His Matsyavatar, told Manu there would soon be a great flood in which all creation would be submerged and destroyed. He instructed Manu to build a large boat to hold his family, take on board various animals to repopulate the earth, nine types of seeds for future food and the saptarishis or the seven mind-born sons of Brahma, the greatest sages of the Vedic tradition. Vishnu said that after the flood, the waters would eventually recede and then Manu and his family could repopulate the earth. 

Vishnu in His Matsyavatar towing the Boat of Manu with the Saptarishis

Manu did as the Matsya fish instructed and soon the rains began; the floods came and the boat of Manu, filled with animals, seeds and Rishis, was lifted by the waters. As the ship began to drift upon the ocean, Vishnu, in his incarnation as the Matsyavatar, came to the boat in the form of the fish which Manu had saved. The fish had a huge horn on his head to which Manu attached his boat using the great snake Shesha as a connecting rope.

 

The Matsya-Fish towed the boat of Manu to a place in the Himalayas where dry land was found. According to legend, that place is about 300 yards from where I lived for many years, above the village of Old Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India, at the foot of the Rohtang Pass that goes up into Ladakh and the Tibetan plateau. Here sits the Manu temple, the only temple to Manu Rishi in India.

 

Now, whether this story is true or not I leave to the reader. It is not what we call in the west a ‘historical’ tale, but its mythical language and archetypal symbolism are full of meaning and pertinent to any consideration of Matsya Nyaya, so let us consider it further . . .

 

When the small fish came to Manu it was seeking protection from bigger fish. Manu had compassion for the little fish and sought to protect it. He started by taking it out of the river, using larger and larger vessels to contain it and finally releasing the fish into the vast ocean. The fish had revealed Himself as Lord Vishnu in his first (of ten) Avataric Incarnations in the form of the Matsya Avatar and in this way, God, in the form of the Matsya Avatar, became the savior of Manu and through him, all mankind. 

 

Manu is a combination of Noah and Moses in the Old Testament: Noah  was told by God to build the ark and after surviving the flood that destroyed all mankind, started civilization again after the flood was over; Moses is honored among Jews today as the "lawgiver of Israel," just as Manu was the lawgiver to the Vedic civilization. Scholarly consensus sees Moses as a legendary figure and not a historical person and the same is true of Manu, although no one can be sure. Let us consider a little more about Manu . . .

 

 

Manu, the Original Lawgiver of the Vedic Tradition

 

In 1857, Queen Victoria dissolved the East India Company declaring India to be a colony of England. The English now sought to establish not just the “rule of law” in their biggest and richest territorial possession, but a 'rule of law' that respected “native” customs and traditions as well. It had been the English policy to do this whenever they established one of their many  colonies; after all, at the time they ruled an empire on which ‘the sun never set.’ Strewn all around the globe, their territories were filled with diverse peoples, religions and cultures where the applicable ideas of what is right and lawful differed widely. To do this in India, the English set out to learn the earliest precedents, legal and social customs, as well as the many religions of India on which to set up their own government; and they found it was something they had discovered nearly a hundred years previously at the beginning of the East India Company in India.

 

When the ‘Company’ first consolidated its power there in 1772, Warren Hastings was appointed the first British Governor-General. Hastings was an 'Orientalist' and he asked the early Sanskrit scholar, Charles Wilkins, to make a translation of the Bhagavad Gita. In Hastings introduction to the book he declared the text to be “of a sublimity of conception, reasoning, and diction almost unequalled,” prophesying that these writings of the Indian philosophers “will survive when the British dominion in India shall have long ceased to exist, and when the sources which it once yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance.”

 

Hastings was overseeing the business dealings of the East India Company and he knew that to carry on business across the vast Indian continent, the East India Company needed to know the law, rules and social customs of the land. By the 18th century, Hastings thought he had found such laws in the Manu Smrti or the Laws of Manu, as the text had been a fundamental source and guide of Hindu religious and cultural interactions for thousands of years; Hastings thought the Manu Smrti regulated the social web of Indian life and thus after the Bhagavadgita-Gita, the Laws of Manu became the first Sanskrit text to be translated into English. 

 

 

I was always interested in  Indian culture. I read Vedic literature since I was a young boy of 15 years old. At the age of 59, in March of 2011, I left America and went to live year round in India. From November thru March, I resided in South India, in the religious pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, near the Ramana Maharshi ashram at the foot of the holy mountain, Arunachala. Then, when it began to get hot on the plains of India, a period beginning in mid-March that lasts until November, I traveled north by train and bus to a small valley in the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, nearly 7000ft up in the mountains, at the foot of the Rohtang Pass, just above a small village called Old Manali. This is where the boat of Manu Rishi, filled with seeds, plants and the seven great Rishis (saptarshis), was towed by God (Vishnu) in the form of a huge fish during a great flood that destroyed the whole world. The village was originally called Manulaya or the ‘place of Manu,’ because it is where the boat of Manu came to rest after the great flood that destroyed the entire world. Now, it is called, Manali, and most have forgotten the great story that played out here a long, long time ago. 

 

Across the valley from Manali is the town of the Saptarishi, Vashisht, said to have been the ashram of the great Vasishta Rishi. On the mountain above Vashisht is Bhrigu Lake, one of the favorite retreats of the Saptarishi, Bhrigu; scattered across this small valley are the ancient abodes of the ancient Rishis who came with Manu in his boat when the whole world was deluged with water. The story of Manu and this flood is a far earlier version of Noah and his ark, and carries interesting similarities in story and moral to the tale of Noah that we read in Genesis.

In the Vedic culture, Manu is known as the “original lawgiver,” and the Laws of Manu, the Manusmrti, are the fundamental scriptures of dharma, first spoken by Manu and then written down by Bhrigu. Human beings are called manavas or the descendants of Manu and to many scholars, the name, ‘Manu’ is the etymological Sanskrit root of our English word-‘man.’ Like Adam in the Bible, to the Hindus, Manu is the progenitor of all human beings.

 

In the vast span of time considered by the ancient Vedic tradition, there are said to be fourteen Manu’s in successive kalpas or creations (the Vedic culture does not only speak of one creation). Here, I am referring to the seventh Manu called Satyavrata Manu, one who embodies the vrata or vow of Sat or Truth. It is this Manu, in whose time period (Kalpa) we now exist, whose story, although there are many versions of it in India, more or less goes like this: 

 

One day, a long, long time ago, at the beginning of this age of creation, Manu was bathing in a river in South India. As he cupped his hands to scoop up water to wash his face, a small fish swam into his cupped hands and pleaded for protection from the larger fish who sought to eat him. Manu had compassion on the little fish and lifted him out of the water of the river and placed him in his water-pot. But the fish grew larger, so Manu transferred him to a still larger pot. The fish continued to grow and Manu placed him in bigger and bigger containers until he eventually released him back into the river and still the fish grew larger. Finally, Manu carried the fish down to the ocean and released him. At this point, the fish revealed Himself to Manu as the Supreme Lord, the first Avatar of Vishnu, in the form of the Fish or Matsyavatar (Matsya- Fish and Avatar- Divine Incarnation). 

 

Vishnu told Manu there would soon be a great flood and that all creation would be submerged and destroyed. He instructed Manu to build a large boat to hold his family, enough animals to repopulate the earth, nine types of seeds and the saptarishis or the seven mind-born sons of Brahma. These are the great sages of the Vedic tradition . . . known as the Seven Rishis. He told Manu that after the flood, the waters would recede and he could then repopulate the earth. 

 

The rains began, the flood came and the boat of Manu, filled with animals, seeds and Rishis was lifted by the waters. As the ship began to drift upon the endless ocean, Vishnu, in his first incarnation as the Matsyavatar, came in the form of the fish which Manu had saved. The fish now had a huge horn on his head, to which Manu attached his boat, using as a connecting rope, the great snake Shesha. 

Shesha means "that which remains.” When the world is destroyed at the end of a kalpa (every 4.32 billion years), it is Shesha who remains. We see representations of Shesha, as the support of Vishnu, in Indian Art:

According to the story, God as the Matsya-fish, towed the boat of Manu to a place high up in the Himalayas, where there was found dry land. The place is about 300 yards from where I live today, in the village of Old Manali, Himachal Pradesh. At this place was built the Manu temple, the only temple to Manu in India and it commemorates this event.

 

Now, whether this is true or not I leave to the reader. This may not be what we call in the west today a historical consideration. But the archetypal symbolism of this story is so full of meaning and pertinent to our consideration of Matsya Nyaya, I would like to consider it further. 

 

When the small fish first came to Manu, it was seeking protection from bigger fish. Manu had compassion for the little fish and sought to protect it. He did so, using greater and greater vessels, finally releasing the fish from any boundaries into the vast ocean of the world. That fish then revealed himself as God, Lord Vishnu in his form of the Matsya Avatar who became the savior of Manu and through him, all mankind. 

 

The situation the little fish found himself in was nature, an environment ruled by Matsya Nyaya, where the law of the fishes reigns. This is the operating principle of nature in regards to living beings and as symbolised in the story of Manu, it is the principle which lies at the root of any system of government, construction of laws or regulation of behavior in all human cultures throughout history. Indeed, it is because of Matsya Nyaya that we need law and punishment and it is for this reason that we have government. As the Manu Samhita says, “If there is no rule of law, the strong would devour the weak like fishes.” The story of how Manu Rishi came to Manali is a mythological demonstration of Matsya Nyaya and its relationship to mankind.

 

This principle is mentioned in other well-known Vedic texts such as the  Mahabharata, where it is said, “If there is no ruler to wield punishment on earth, the strong would devour the weak like fishes in water. . . in days of old, people were ruined through lack of a king, devouring one another like the stronger fish preying upon the feebler.” 

 

The story of Noah and his ark is very similar to the story of Manu; not only in the saving of a good and righteous man by the building of a boat which was filled with people and animals, but also in the very purpose God created the flood.

 

“God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination

of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” 

- Genesis 6:5

"for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth"

– Genesis 8:21

 

It is interesting to notice that although the modern translations make this the “inclination of his heart” (NIV), and “the intent of man’s heart” (NASB), yet the older translations render it, “the imagination of man’s heart” (The 1599 Geneva Bible) and again “the imagination of man’s heart” (KJV). So, we are left to wonder, as we compare the new translations with the old ones, whether man’s heart is only inclined to evil, or if “the imaginations” themselves are “evil from his youth.” When we check the Hebrew we discover that we must come down on the side of the old translations, that it is the “imagination,” not the “inclination” or “intent” of man’s heart which is evil. “Inclination” means “tending to evil, a leaning toward evil, an aptitude or propensity toward evil.” These modern translations thus weaken the true meaning of the text, which tells us in Hebrew that man does not simply incline or lean toward evil, but that the very imagination of man’s heart is evil, itself. Not just ‘tending toward evil,’ not just a “leaning toward evil,” but evil itself!

 

Thus, we see that the modern translations have moved away from the Reformation doctrine of total depravity, back to the view of the Catholic Church, that man is only "inclined" to evil. The modern translations therefore take us back to the Roman Catholic view of man’s heart only "inclining" toward evil. This is not the same view as that of Luther, the Reformers, and the early Baptists. To the modern translators man is merely “inclined” toward evil. This shows how the modern translations help to hide the Baptist/Protestant distinctions and make it possible and more plausible to join ecumenically with Rome.

But to our Protestant and Baptist forefathers man is more than partly depraved, capable of giving some help in overcoming his sinful condition by contributing “his part” to saving himself from it. This is called “synergism” by theologians. But the old Reformers and Puritans believed no such thing. They believed that man is “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5).

If the older Puritans were right, and I believe they were, man in sin doesn’t just have a tendency to sin. No!

“The imagination of man’s heart [not its inclination] is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

In the Bible, when dry land is found, God tells Noah to leave the ark and Noah offers a sacrifice to God. God resolves never again to curse the Earth, "for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth." God grants to Noah and his sons the right to kill animals and eat their meat, but forbids meat which has not been drained of its blood. Blood is proclaimed to be sacred, and the unauthorized taking of life is prohibited: "For your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man...Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." God then establishes his covenant with Noah and his sons and with all living things, and places a rainbow in the clouds, "the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

 

“In Matsya Nyaya there is no law, no justice, no duty. The State is the originator of law, justice and society.”

 

Civilisation, the rule of law, the wielding of punishment and the obligations of morality are not merely ideals that people have idealized, but they were created and practiced in response to a recognition of the underlying brutality of nature. 

 

“Should there be no ruler to wield punishment, the strong would devour the weak like fishes in water.”

- Mahabharata

 

Nature is the savage ground upon which civilization is built, a ‘ground’ often forgotten, shrouded in the idealistic fog of easeful living brought about by technological advancements and in a dimming sensitivity to the more and more hidden horrors of violence. Attempts to construct human society without acknowledging Matsya Nyaya have proved unstable over time, for ideals and positive thinking are not sufficient; we need to mix the hard aggregate of gravel and stone (nature-Matsya Nyaya) with the binding agent of cement (law or dharma) along with water (ideals and positive emotions) to build the structure of our society; only by mixing our ideals with the aggregate of the unchangeable law of nature Matsya Nyaya) can civilization arise, but our soaring achievements are always founded in a base soil and when our skyscrapers reach to the heavens, we must not forget the humble stone and soil on which they stand.

 

Great civilisations, religions, religious teachers and philosophers have held radically differing theories of human nature. Because of  their teachings, philosophies and experiments we have many differing examples of how mankind can organise itself. For instance, the  Chinese sage Mencius (372-289 BC), believed that human nature is fundamentally benign. 

 

“Human nature is good, just as water seeks low ground.

There is no man who is not good, just as there is no water that does not flow downward.”

– Mencius

 

Xunzi, (312-230 BC) another great Chinese philosopher, was critical of Mencius and thought the nature of man is evil.  

 

“Human nature is evil, and goodness is caused by intentional activity. A person is born with a liking for profit. If he gives way to this, it will lead him to quarrels and conflicts, and any [acquired] sense of courtesy and humility will be abandoned. A person is born with feelings of envy and hate. If he gives way to them, they will lead him to violence and crime, and any [acquired] sense of loyalty and good faith will be abandoned. A person is born with desires of the eyes and ears, and a liking for beautiful sights and sounds. If he gives way to them, they will lead him to immorality and lack of restriction, and any [acquired] ritual principles and propriety will be abandoned. Thus, anybody who follows his nature and gives way to its states will be led into quarrels and conflicts, go against the conventions and rules of society, and will end up a criminal.”

– Xunzi

 

Whatever philosophy was accepted and enacted throughout history, we have never succeeded in our quest to create a harmonious society for very long and our nature has not changed over the centuries of history. Even though in the second decade of the 21st century, we in the western industrialised and technologically advanced cultures seem more removed from death from starvation, murder, battlefields, wars, that is a false assumption. We are simply more removed from the results and effects of such things; they happen to other people in Africa or Iraq, Iran or Syria. Even if we dismiss these sorts of threats we are terrifyingly (when we think about it) threatened by world-wide nuclear holocaust and a variety of natural dangers such as fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and volcanos; dangers to life which occur on a global scale, touching every continent. 

 

Along with our only recently gained technologically-enabled ability to provide for every person on the face of the earth with a lifestyle equal or better than the kings of old, our selfish, stupid, harmful, unrestrained and violent use of this same technology has brought tremendous destruction to our planet and species. In our present moment (2017), we have come to a time and place more dangerous and threatening to the existence of life on planet earth than any previous period in history; indeed we find ourselves faced with a paradox; the stark choice of creating a world-wide utopia or oblivion. 

 

Many of us, particularly those who live in the technologically developed societies of the west have lost touch with Matsya Nyaya. Surrounded and protected by machines and technology, insulated in our cars and houses, amused by television and movies, protected by law and order, we have moved increasingly away from Matsya Nayyar into the realm of ideas and ideals, into the realm of the mind and virtual realities where we only participate in imagined threats. As a result we have forgotten the source of our food and separated ourselves from the struggle for existence going on all around us. 

 

All over our planet, on land and air, in sea and rivers, animals and insects have been killing each other in struggles for dominance and food since time began and it is the same for human beings. Whether it be massacres in wars, murder in the streets of our cities or the slaughter of animals we eat, most of it is shut away from us, the violence happening somewhere else, hidden from our view and thus we can ignore and eventually forget the barbarism of nature against which the walls of our society  were constructed; and thus we have forgotten our own savage nature as well.  

 

Many of us have come to believe that man is good and our nature is benign; that we can trust and feel at ease and we go about with a smile on our faces. But it is precisely our vulnerability to Matsya Nyaya and the recognition of our own animal nature that truly makes us humble and without this vulnerability, we will lack true recognition of others and as a result, we indulge our animal instincts while blinded by the rose-colored glasses of idealism, not humbled by reality.

Children who have been napalmed running in the road

 

Our violence has become more removed, not lesser in expression! We have become blind to the immensity of what is happening. Look around . . . the whole world is threatened

 

Living behind insulated walls of technologically enabled ignorance in a privileged lack of experience, many of us have become  idealistic. We imagine nature as a loving mother who gives birth to life and beauty, ignoring the fact she is also a great killing machine, where every individual existence is (eventually) snuffed out for no discernible reason and everything becomes food for something else. 

 

We have begun to believe that man is essentially good, yet if we read the news, that position is impossible to sustain. While many human beings have shown themselves to be loving and compassionate, we have made wars continuously for thousands of years, destroyed whole cities and everyone within them, persecuted people for their beliefs alone, crucified, murdered, tortured, raped, enslaved, burned, imprisoned, extorted and wiped out whole races of people along with their languages, arts and wisdom traditions and in the last seventy-five years created terrible weapons that could destroy our whole planet if they are ever used . . . man is the greatest terrorist of the animal kingdom and the chief destabilizer of nature. This is why it is so crucial that we understand our nature and particularly important that we do so now because technological advances have enabled fewer and fewer individuals to wreak ever-greater destruction than ever before; the power of destruction and violence once wielded only by states and armies is now within the power of small groups of individuals or even a single person by him or her self, and that person may be wearing a suit and tie and not seem to be a murderer, but he most assuredly is . . . the banality of evil has farther reach and more widespread effects than ever before.

 

Man's violent nature has always been directed towards other men, but there is another ominous expression of man’s destructiveness: all animals feed upon other life forms, and mankind also certainly does this, but in addition to overt violence towards other men which has been the tradition of the world for thousands of years, we are presently and literally destroying our ecosystem, our living earth, creating ecological disasters that affect every form of life on earth. Scientists refer to our modern age as the 'Anthropocene extinction,' the presently occurring, sixth mass extinction of species estimated to be 100 to 1,000 times greater than any previous mass extinction in the history of the earth; and this present catastrophic situation is entirely caused by the actions of mankind.

 

It has become increasingly obvious in the first few decades of the 21st century that we have fouled and wrecked the cradle we live in; disrupted our household (ecos), contaminated our atmosphere and dumped toxic waste into our rivers, lakes and oceans; there are harmful, long term effects from all of this . . . we can no longer drink from our rivers or bathe in them and fish no longer swim in them. The water that irrigates our fields and spills into our rivers carries man-made fertilizers and toxic chemicals. These rivers pour into our oceans, spreading the poisons we dumped into them to our oceans. There are now warnings against eating the larger fish (from the ocean) because of the bioaccumulation of toxic substances (such as mercury) in the top predators. 

 

In the past 40 years, our earth has lost half of its wildlife. The National Academy of Sciences calls this massive loss - “biological annihilation” representing a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization.” This destruction, brought about by mankind is spreading to every corner of our world.

 

We are living in the midst of an ecological biocrisis; our weather is changing dramatically, our polar ice caps are melting, there was no ice at the north pole the past few years (2013-2017) for the first time in recorded history. The world’s fisheries are exhausted with 90% of their large fish taken since the 1950’s, the coral reefs are dying and disappearing and the bees that pollinate our fruit trees and crops are vanishing as well. By the year 2100, rising sea levels could force up to two-billion people inland, creating a refugee crisis of unparalleled magnitude for one-fifth of the world’s population. These are but a few of the innumerable instances in sea, land, rivers and air, wherein ecosystem after ecosystem, community after community, things have gone deeply and terribly wrong, and in many cases, the harmful effects we have created are impossible to remedy. 

 

Carl Jung once wrote, “That which we do not bring to consciousness, happens to us outwardly as fate.”

Right now, the ‘fate’ of our world seems dark, short, increasingly violent and spiraling out of control. 

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

 was convincing the world he did not exist"

 

It is our ‘evil’ nature we have forgotten, treating it as if it ‘did not exist,’ and now we are compelled to become conscious of it, of our nature . . . a dark, ignorant, savage and aggressive beast is living and expressing itself through every one of us and collectively. Because we have forgotten about this, because we have not recognized this, because our actions are so dramatically magnified through our now technologically-enhanced individual and collective actions, we are very quickly destroying our world. This does not mean that each of us must or will outwardly express destruction or violence; but it does mean that as a species we could, the history of our world shows that we have and the daily news that we are. 

 

This is a fact that must be acknowledged in every area of our life. It is a radical understanding that needs to be brought to light integrated into our sense of self and taught to our future generations; we must do this. We must shine a light on our own darkness for unless we do it, as Jung foresaw, our own savage nature will ‘happen to us outwardly’ and become our fate.

 

I was brought up to think that man is good. I had generous, good-hearted, self-sacrificing parents who loved me, a happy childhood, and an excellent education. Like many young people, I assumed everybody else had a more or less similar upbringing; I believed man was essentially benign in nature and that he always sought to be honest and non-violent. When mistakes were made, I was taught we needed to forgive, if offended, we should turn the other cheek, if we had more than we needed, we should share that excess with others and we must always avoid war. As I grew older, I gained more knowledge from experience, I read newspapers and magazines, studied world history, philosophy, religion, biography, fairy tales and mythology, ancient and modern. I practiced yoga and meditation and was blessed to meet and learn from a few great religious teachers, but as my life poured through the moons of many years, I came to the dead ends of my idealism and the understanding of myself and the world changed. I experienced my shadow, the beast in me, a wild undisciplined force, a selfishness, a sexual being, someone who, on occasion delighted in another's suffering (schadenfreude) and still can, someone who enjoyed sex only for the sake of pleasure, food for the sake of satisfaction and power for the pleasure of dominating others. I took more than what I needed, possessed more than I could possibly use and realized I had lost touch with the mystery of life.

 

Now, in the sixth decade of my life, having passed through the idealism of youth, I am capable of seeing more than two sides of every issue. I have experienced many dilemmas and know that sometimes there is no ‘right choice’. Obviously, I had come to many wrong conclusions and made an abundance of mistakes; I began to wonder, “What if the nature of man is not good, but more like what Sigmund Freud described in 1927 when he was 71 years old, in "Civilisation and its Discontents?"

 

“I take up the standpoint that the tendency to aggression is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition in man, and I come back now to the statement that it constitutes the most powerful obstacle to culture . . . The natural instinct of aggressiveness in man, the hostility of each one against all and of all against each one, opposes this program of civilization. . .

Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved, and who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result, their neighbor is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus. (Man is a wolf to man.)

Who, in the face of all his experience of life and of history, will have the courage to dispute this assertion? As a rule, this cruel aggressiveness waits for some provocation or puts itself at the service of some other purpose, whose goal might also have been reached by milder measures. In circumstances that are favorable to it, when the mental counterforce which ordinarily inhibit it are out of action, it also manifests itself spontaneously and reveals man as a savage beast to whom consideration toward his own kind is something alien.

Anyone who calls to mind the atrocities committed during the racial migrations of the invasions of the Huns, or by the people known as the Mongols under Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, or at the capture of Jerusalem by pious Crusaders, or even, indeed, the horrors of the recent World War - anyone who calls these things to mind will have to bow humbly before the truth of this view.” 

If Freud was right about this, and history seems clear proof that he is, then I needed another way of thinking. Something had been left out of my consideration and that of many of my generation. We had forgotten the savage law of nature and the cruel nature of man. I had grown up amidst liberals who held the prevalent American view which “considers people inherently reasonable and inclined toward peaceful compromise and common sense.”  Many identified with this point of view, others ignored it, but all of us reacted to it in one way or another. 

 

My own ‘answer,’ the one I made with my life was to become idealistic, a fundamental error that gave rise to many others. In this book, I will look at idealism and realism which I consider both as reactions to nature. I will consider subjects as diverse as war and non-violence, economic inequality, Israel and the Palestinians, bankruptcy, Gandhi and the Gita, our recent financial collapse and many other aspects of life: Do you think war is wrong or right? Do you think economic inequality is acceptable, or should there be a legally-enforced redistribution of wealth? Should we always try to forgive, or it is important to punish? Should women submit to, be equal to, or are they better than men? Should corporations be allowed to move their companies offshore to pay lower wages and avoid taxes? Do the richest among us have a responsibility to the poor? Should we have universal health care? Should a person be allowed to go bankrupt or be put into debtors prison? Should bankers who became rich by taking advantage of others be punished or applauded? Is the death penalty right or wrong? 

 

Every one of these questions is like a coin and the “coin” is Matsya Nyaya, the Law of Nature and the nature of man. It determines the underlying possibilities of every question above. The two sides of the coin are shown in the always and only opposing sides of human nature; the coin always comes up as either heads or tails; we may seek to be the biggest fish and dominate all others, or attempt to transcend the law of nature, believing we can change ourselves and the world for the better. We may flee or fight, surrender or dominate, indulge or abstain, participate or withdraw. Whatever we choose, we are always reacting to the same principle or coin and the opposite reaction is the other side of that coin. This book is a consideration of both sides of the coin of Matsya Nyaya, the heads and tails of human nature. 

 

Neither ‘heads’ nor ‘tails’ is a sufficient answer. Sometimes situations present themselves in the form of a dilemma, a choice between equally untenable alternatives. Sometimes, the nature of the world calls forth inescapable and painful options in which man has nothing to resort to.

 

A story about this was written by William Styron in his book

 

- Sophie’s Choice

 

During the holocaust, a young non-Jewish mother and her two children, after an extremely difficult and terrifying train journey, arrive at the gates of Auschwitz, the German concentration and death camp. The mother, Sophie, holds her seven-year old daughter in her arms and her ten-year old son clings in fear to her body. It is night as they disembark from the crowded cattle-car that brought them and along with hundreds of others. They line up in front of a German officer who will make the selection between life and death for every person arriving. The officer briefly observes every individual and points with his staff either to the left; meaning that person will be immediately taken to the gas chambers, undressed, their head shaven, crowded into a concrete ‘shower’ room, asphyxiated by poison gas and then their lifeless body thrown into an oven and cremated, or to the right; meaning that person will live at least for a while under terrible, sub-human conditions. There is no appeal.

 

When the German officer sees Sophie and her children, he is attracted to her, yet bitter and sadistic at the same time, after all, she is a prisoner and will probably die one way or another, like all the people who have come before him. Sophie calls out to him in an attempt to change her fate from that of the Jews all around her, saying that she is a Roman Catholic and not a Jew. He cynically asks her if Jesus did not say, “Suffer little children to come unto me.” She weakly answers, “Yes,” and then the German officer, poisoned in his thinking by his cultural associations with the Nazis and full of spite and frustration, turns on her and proposes an unacceptable and terrible ‘choice;’ she can save only one of her children, the other will be taken away by him. Sophie cries out in protest. She cannot choose between her children, it is an impossible choice for her to make, but if she does not then they both will die.

 

The German officer demands an immediate decision, but unable to make such an utterly heartless decision between her two children, Sophie cries out piteously, “I cannot choose, I cannot choose!” She is paralyzed by this horrific ‘choice’ and the officer screams at two nearby German soldiers to take away both her children to be killed. As the soldiers approach her children to carry out their commanding officer’s orders, in an act of impulsive desperation, Sophie pushes her seven-year-old daughter away from her into the arms of a German soldier. The soldier grabs her and leads her away to the gas chamber while the terrified young girl cries out desperately for her mother. Sophie, is utterly devastated with what she has done and for the rest of her life is haunted by her actions; eventually,

she is driven to suicide.

 

Of course, we observe the savage nature of the Germans and the sadistic officer, but we must also notice the animal nature in Sophie who impulsively sacrifices her daughter. I am in no way blaming her for this . . . there is no rational, preferable or ‘better’ choice available to her. What else could she do? Who among us could make a better decision? 

 

I am reminded of the New Testament, where the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery to Jesus? “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women." They hoped to catch him in his teachings regarding love and forgiveness; he could either go against the law of the Hebrews or he would fulfill that law and condemn her to death. Jesus replied, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her . . . When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court . . . “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin any more.” (John 8:11).

 

This story points out that sin or the animal nature of man is in everyone. If there is anyone who did not sin, if there is anyone who does not have a sinful nature, let them say what Sophie did was wrong, let them cast the first stone.

 

Sophie’s ‘choice’ is terrible and similar to the one Einstein made when he went against his pacifist and humanitarian principles and signed the letter that encouraged President Roosevelt to construct the greatest genocidal weapon ever, the a-bomb. Einstein abandoned his widely-publicized, humanitarian, non-violent principles, ideals he believed in deeply and to which he had devoted his life and violated the values he cherished. Einstein wrote:

 

“I was well aware of the dreadful danger for all mankind, if these experiments (the atomic bomb) would succeed. But the probability that the Germans might work on that very problem with good chance of success prompted me to take that step. I did not see any other way out, although I always was a convinced pacifist.

To kill in war time, it seems to me, is in no ways better than common murder.”

 

– On My Participation In The Atom Bomb Project, Letter to editor of Kaizo magazine

 

Einstein sought to protect the world for himself and others by threatening and/or killing those who did not see the world as he did (the Nazis). In doing this, he actually and actively encouraged the greatest genocidal weapon of all time because he thought the Nazis would use the atomic bomb on the rest of world and thereby come to rule civilization. He did this even though he ‘was well aware of the dreadful danger (of the bomb) for all mankind.’ Einstein admits that doing what he did, ‘was no better than common murder.’ Nonetheless, he sacrificed his pacifist principles and encouraged the horrendous use of the atom bomb because of the peaceful ends he sought to gain. Does this make ‘sense’ concerning a man who believed what he believed? One could say it was ‘rational,’ just as one could say that ‘Sophie might have ‘rationally’ sought to save at least one of her children; but Sophie did not and could not, make a ‘rational’ choice in this situation . . . hers was an impulsive action, and I suggest it was the same for Einstein and for all of us; there is an inevitability to the engagement of our animal nature.

 

When confronted with a dilemma, we must make a choice between equally untenable alternatives; in such a situation we can only act emotionally, based on our animal nature. It is not ‘rational’ to give up what you love, to act out what you despise, sacrifice what you believe in, or participate in what you abhor! These are not the decisions of rational people because sometimes there are no rational choices. Sometimes there are only the ‘choices’ of cornered animals and human beings who ‘cannot see any other way out’ and this is no choice at all.

 

We are rarely faced with choices like Sophie or Einstein and yet we actually make similar choices (in principle) when we abandon the ideals we believe in and act impulsively out of fear, desire or anger. This is why Jesus asked for ‘that person who is without sin to cast the first stone’ at the woman accused of adultery . . . He knew that there was no one who could do it. Every one of us is possessed of animal nature and every one of us, as implied by the words of Jesus, is a sinner. We act the way we do, not just because of the savage, difficult nature of the world we live in, but also because of our own nature, which can be and has been far more barbarous and destructive than we commonly recognize or remember.

 

Why is this important to consider? Do I think that knowing this will make everything better? No, not necessarily . . . to see ourselves as we actually are, sounds like a ‘good idea’ . . . but such knowledge does not lead to shining solutions; but rather, like Sophie and her ‘choice’ to give up one of her children instead of both or Einstein in his decision to encourage the construction of the greatest genocidal weapon ever discovered, such understanding only may allow us to realize where we always and already are torn between our animal nature and ‘the path to the better there be,’ we are confronted by a dilemma between what we wish were true and the dark facts of reality that make up our lives. When offered an irresolvable choice between what we cannot have and what we refuse to accept, we find ourselves at a dead end, facing an impenetrable wall. We still have to choose; acknowledging our own animal nature

makes that choice more clear.

 

Our so-called ‘options’ will drive us in desperation either to the destruction of self or others (like Sophie or Einstein), or to a moment where sometimes, we may find the light of grace and the ‘path to the better there be. . . ’ Such confrontation brings us face to face with the darker nature of the world and our own animal nature, something which the Buddha taught is the true and necessary foundation of the spiritual path and realization.

"Peace is only an armistice in an endless war."

-Thucydides

 

To take the whole coin into account, we must grasp all sides of our moral compass,  good and bad, forgiveness and punishment, love and hate, justice and mercy, ideals and dilemma; this is the result of a full consideration of the nature of life and of man.

 

We inevitably will judge our life, and we will do so based on our perception or lack of perception of the Law of Nature and the Nature of man. This Law is the object and the ground of our judgments. This book is an attempt to shine a light on nature and on ourselves. 

 

Usually, before a person gives a presentation, they introduce themselves, giving their audience a sense of where the speaker is coming from. So, as I begin this consideration of Matsya Nyaya, let me tell you a bit about myself and my family, for apples do not fall far from the tree that produced them.

 

 

My Family Roots

My grandparents were religious, observant Jews, who arrived in America in the early part of the 20th century. They sought to escape the religious persecution and pogroms of their native city, Odessa, Russia, on the Black sea. In the 1800s, over a third of that city was Jewish and against the Jews, there had been a pogrom every Easter. That Christian holy day, when Jesus is said to have risen from the dead, was the time when the death of that Jewish Rabbi, considered to be the savior of all mankind, was ritually blamed on the Jews, giving many gentiles an excuse to go against the teachings of their savior, ignore the Jewish birth of their Christ, and murder, rape and steal from Jewish families; acts repeated with terrible regularity for hundreds of years and on other occasions as well.

Odessa Pogrom

 

In October,1905, the underlying ‘religious reasons’ mixed with economic and political factors and the worst pogrom in the history of Odessa occured. thousands of Jews were killed and many more were injured. In despair of ever being allowed to even live in Russian society, many Jews fled the city. 

 

and fled to the west. My grandparents on both sides of the family, unbeknownst to each other, headed for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which they had heard was the city of brotherly love. There, they discovered that although far better than Odessa, Philadelphia was not a paradise after all . . . they found it filled with much of the same hate and antagonisms they had fled from 

 in Russia; but, in America, there was some protection from the law, and the physical violence directed at them in Russia was hardly in evidence. They soon discovered that those who desired to oppress and injure others in the great land of America, had developed other more ‘civilized ways than outright violence to achieve their ends. After several years in this new country, struggling to survive economically, my grandparents abandoned their adherence to orthodox Jewish practices and began to live as Jewish humanists.

 

My father met my mother at a social dance. She was a beautiful, sweet and kind young woman,

unconscious of her beauty.

When my father first noticed her a young man was trying to force his affections on her. My father, noticing the situation, stepped in and asked her, “Are you OK?” She replied, “I would like to leave.” He abruptly excused her from the surprised and aggressive suitor and took my mother to her home in his car where he met her father. One thing led to another and soon, they were engaged to be married. My father had a son from his first marriage. His first wife had died soon after giving birth to my brother, Michael. After he married my mother, they moved to the Washington DC area, where my father opened a hardware store with his brother, Leon. I was born about a year later in 1952. We initially lived in Falls Church, Va. and then moved to the small vegetarian town of Takoma Park, Maryland, on the northwest border of the United States capital. It was a small town of Seventh-day Adventists, filled with vegetarians, and that, at least to my parents, was a step in the right direction. 

Like their parents before them, my parents did not adhere to the kosher tenets of the Jewish faith nor orthodox religious beliefs and practices. My father often said, 'I don’t care what a person believes in, it only matters to me how they act.' My parents redefined their Judaism as socio-political-moral activity, lived as a life of service for the good of all beings and the world; and they really lived their beliefs. I was often reminded of a verse in the Bible, 'Blessed is he who is not condemned by what he approves of.' This is how I saw my parents. As I grew up, every Sunday, instead of going to shul, or Jewish Sunday school, I was sent to the Ethical Culture Society in Washington DC, where the lives of great religious practitioners were studied and their teachings were “disentangled from religious doctrines and metaphysical ideas.” 

 

As a family, we were involved in the civil rights movement and our family engaged in protests against nuclear proliferation, and the Vietnam War. People like Dick Gregory and Joan Baez stayed at our house. In 1963, my older brother, Michael, responding to the call of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), volunteered to help southern blacks register to vote. After all, in America, there was no way. Blacks could actually express their ‘freedom’ if they did not elect their legislators or create their laws. That year, many young college students from the North, traveled to the deep South in an attempt to bring civil rights to poor Black people. Corrupt southern police were still engaged in the ideals of the civil war of the Confederate States against the Yankees, and they were determined to keep Blacks from voting and upset with the interference of northern liberals in the South. Students were beaten, several were killed and many put in jail. My brother was arrested on “trumped-up” charges of rape. The southern police tried to extort money from worried parents in the north to release their sons and daughters from jail. After some consideration, my parents refused to pay what they felt was extortion, not, because they did not love my brother, but because by paying they would only encourage the corrupt police to do the same to others Nevertheless, my brother was eventually released.

 

Our civil rights activism, like that of many other families, merged naturally into the Anti-Vietnam war movement. There were  several reasons for this. Many black people in America, deprived of civil rights in their own country, said they would not fight a war in Vietnam for the white man’s freedom. The most famous of them, Muhammed Ali, said he had “no quarrel with the Viet Cong” and that “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger . . . I would not go 10,000 miles to help murder, kill and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slave-masters over dark people.”

In sympathy with oppressed people all over the world, critical of the aggressive, violent and hypocritical actions of the United States against third world countries, such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Panama and Viet Nam, to name only a few, supporting civil rights and freedom for all, our family became active in the many protests against the Vietnam war that happened in Washington D.C. 

My father refused to pay that portion of his taxes that went to fund the Vietnam war. The IRS seized our house and a sign to that effect was placed in the middle of our front 

Like their parents before them, my parents did not adhere to the kosher tenets of the Jewish faith nor orthodox religious beliefs and practices. My father often said, 'I don’t care what a person believes in, it only matters to me how they act.' My parents redefined their Judaism as socio-political-moral activity, lived as a life of service for the good of all beings and the world; and they really lived their beliefs. I was often reminded of a verse in the Bible, 'Blessed is he who is not condemned by what he approves of.' This is how I saw my parents. As I grew up, every Sunday, instead of going to shul, or Jewish Sunday school, I was sent to the Ethical Culture Society in Washington DC, where the lives of great religious practitioners were studied and their teachings were “disentangled from religious doctrines and metaphysical ideas.” 

 

As a family we were involved in the civil rights movement and our family engaged in protests against nuclear proliferation, and the Vietnam War. People like Dick Gregory and Joan Baez stayed at our house. In 1963, my older brother, Michael, responding to the call of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), volunteered to help southern blacks register to vote. After all, in America, there was no way. Blacks could actually express their ‘freedom’ if they did not elect their legislators or create their laws. That year, many young college students from the North, traveled to the deep South in an attempt to bring civil rights to poor Black people.

 

Corrupt southern police were still engaged in the ideals of the civil war of the Confederate States against the Yankees, and they were determined to keep Blacks from voting and upset with the interference of northern liberals in the South. Students were beaten, several were killed and many put in jail. My brother was arrested on “trumped-up” charges of rape. The southern police tried to extort money from worried parents in the north to release their sons and daughters from jail. After some consideration, my parents refused to pay what they felt was extortion, not, because they did not love my brother, but because by paying they would only encourage the corrupt police to do the same to others Nevertheless, my brother was eventually released.

 

Our civil rights activism, like that of many other families, merged naturally into the Anti-Vietnam war movement. There were several reasons for this. Many black people in America, deprived of civil rights in their own country, said they would not fight a war in Vietnam for the white man’s freedom. The most famous of them, Muhammed Ali, said he had “no quarrel with the Viet Cong” and that, 

 

“No Viet Cong ever called me nigger . . . I would not go 10,000 miles to help murder, kill and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slave-masters over dark people.”

In sympathy with oppressed people all over the world, critical of the aggressive, violent and hypocritical actions of the United States against third world countries, such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Panama and Viet Nam, to name only a few, supporting civil rights and freedom for all, our family became active in the many protests against the Vietnam war that happened in Washington D.C. 

My father refused to pay that portion of his taxes that went to fund the Vietnam war. The IRS seized our house and a sign to that effect was placed in the middle of our front yard: 

 

WARNING

UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT SEIZURE

This property has been seized for non-payment of 

Internal Revenue Taxes 

 

My father made up a large sign of his own, explaining why he would not pay that part of his taxes that went towards the Vietnam war, how the Vietnam war was illegal and morally wrong, attached his board to a pole and planted it right next to the IRS sign. Photographs of the two signs were taken and began to circulate in the news. One day while we were away, the IRS came and took their sign away; it seemed the government did not want the idea of this type of tax resistance to spread.

 

Various methods of non-violent protest and action were a way of life for us. Although we had Rabbis on both sides of the family, my parents never thought it important whether a person believed in God or not. Morality could be practiced independently of theology and they thought goodness and respect to others, service to one’s community and the world; these were the essentials of a good life for all and to practice morality in a corrupt world necessitated taking a stand against injustice.

 

In 1968, the Vietnam War was raging. One day I came home after high school, turned on the TV and in the first televised war in history, saw living pictures of suffering, death and destruction and the faces of the injured in terrible pain. I witnessed the terrible machines of death, guns, screaming jets, tanks, napalm, and explosions; people old and young, people just like me were being killed, maimed, hurt and wounded. They had lost their homes, their loved ones, and families. 

 

The images of war and destruction overwhelmed my idealistic mind and my insulated American sensibilities. I didn’t know what to think. How could my country be involved in this? I had little idea what this war was about and knew no good reasons to justify it. But, a lot of people seemed to feel otherwise. 

 

I remembered the ‘rednecks’ I grew up with in Falls Church, Virginia. It was (then) a small town on the Virginia side of Washington DC. These particular boys always seemed to be attacking something, whether it was a small animal or the blacks that lived on the other side of the fence that bordered our neighborhood. Once, preparing to torture a turtle, they were building a small fire to make it come out of its shell. I pleaded with them to stop. Finally, in desperation, I snatched the turtle from in front of them and ran away with it. They laughed, calling me a ‘sissy,’ making fun of me because of my compassion for a small ‘senseless’ creature. What could I say to them? They were different; they saw nothing wrong in what they did. I could not reason with them and I could not understand how they viewed the world, what fueled their hate or how or if I could change it. I simply learned to avoid them. 

 

Later, I dodged the war in Vietnam and the government who wanted to make it happen. I did not register for the draft, but I still couldn’t find any effective reasons to convince those who did; their minds, like the rednecks I grew up with, were already made up. They spontaneously felt something ‘else’ about life that determined what they thought about the war. That ‘something else,’ became a fundamental question for me and I began to inquire what it could be. 

 

There cannot be a war unless people volunteer to fight in it; so when I came of age, I didn’t register for the draft, even though as a young man of eighteen, by law I needed to. I left the Washington DC area, changed my name so I wouldn’t be discovered and began to travel throughout the United States, hopping freight trains whenever I could to avoid the highways where I might be stopped and hiking the wilderness areas of the western states, living mostly in the mountains. However, all was not well; I was actively pursued by the government for my failure to register for the draft. The FBI visited my friends and family for information regarding where I might be. Threatened with imprisonment, my world became increasingly complex. The reason the FBI was after me was they had developed a file on me, a file began while I was in high school with my threat to napalm a dog. Let me tell you that story . . .

 

 

Napalm a Dog

 

        In 1967 I attended Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Springs, Maryland, a white, middle-upper class suburb of Washington, D.C. The student grapevine had brought news of an International Student Strike against the Vietnam War to be held all around the world. In a Social Studies course on contemporary affairs, our teacher brought up the ‘Student Strike’ and asked our class for thoughts on the subject. Without any forethought, I raised my hand, stood up and said, “To bring attention to the horrendous use of napalm on people in Vietnam, I am going to napalm a dog in front of the school on the International Student Strike day.” Then, I sat down.

 

I thought the threat of napalming a dog was perfect theatre . . . it would allow other people to experience their upset about a dog up against their seeming lack of concern for the victims of the war. I wanted to dramatize this difference and bring compassion, feeling, attention and political action to the senseless and atrocious killing of mothers, fathers, children, and soldiers. I meant to get my community disturbed. I was disturbed that others were not bothered with what they saw on the news; I thought everyone could relate to the idea of a dog being napalmed and that they would be troubled; Americans always loved dogs; I loved dogs. I sympathized with Gandhi:

“I cannot look at this butchery going on in the world with indifference. I have an unchangeable faith that it is beneath the dignity of men to resort to mutual slaughter. I have no doubt that there is a way out.” – Gandhi

 

These were ideals I was brought up with. In my family, there was ‘dignity in men,’ and that dignity was what I sought to awaken, through the threat, not the act, of violence to a culturally beloved animal. I thought it might be a way to effect change, make people say as Joe Welch the army lawyer did in 1954 in a moment that marked the end of the communist witch-hunting tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy, ”Have you no sense of decency? At long last have you left no sense of decency? Welch asked a rhetorical question; I dramatized a rhetorical act and both were done to awaken the public and elicit the right action.

 

Back in my classroom, there was an immediate outcry. The greaser-redneck kids made it clear that my well-being was seriously in danger if I tried anything like that, while the longhair, liberal types who were not fully committed vegetarians, sided with me. Animal-loving vegetarians were in a dilemma and voiced their compassionate concern for the dog as well as the people in Vietnam. The bell sounded just barely audible over loud and passionate voices. Faced with the threat of actual killing, everyone had quickly reacted and took sides.

 

The next day, the rumor of the ‘dog-burning’ was all over the school. Before the first class, a group of redneck kids threatened me with bodily harm in a hallway. Quickly surrounded by my closest friends, some shoving and a loud argument ensued. In the middle of the morning, a message came to my classroom from the principal, asking me to report to his office. I did so immediately. He asked me “Is this idea of your ‘burning of a dog,’ true?” I replied that, “It was.” He said, “Do you have any idea of what you are doing?” I replied, “I feel it is an important statement to make against the war.” The principal asked for the names of everyone else involved. I refused to provide them (Even though there was no one else) and he told me he was going to suspend me and anybody else involved in the matter. Then, he called my home and requested my parents come to the school immediately. My mother drove over right away and he asked me to leave the school premises with her.

 

Over the next few days, we received several threatening phone calls at our house from unknown and irate people, critical of my threat to napalm a dog. We heard that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) had written a letter to the editor of the Washington Post in protest of my threatened action against the dog.

 

A week later, the day of the International Student Strike arrived. I awoke to find two police cars parked outside our house. In spite of still being suspended, I decided to go to school, carry a sign and protest the war. My mother was afraid for me; while she sympathized with what I was trying to do, like the classical Jewish mother, she was full of worry and concern for her son. My Father, a liberal, ethical, anti-war humanitarian, went happily off to work, giving me his blessings, proclaiming I was ‘doing the right thing and everything would turn out for the best.’ 

 

That morning, I dressed completely in black and carried a hand-made signboard that read: 

 

Napalm a Dog? 

It is being done to people every day in Vietnam,” 

 

I walked out of our house, got into our small white Rambler and my mother drove me to school, followed by the two police cars who were surveilling our house. As we approached, my mother grew increasingly anxious and I became more and more excited. It had worked beyond my wildest imagining! The area around the school was crowded. Hundreds of people had turned out to see the napalming. There were students, reporters, police, and onlookers. A block away, I stepped out of the car, took out my signboard, told my mother I would be fine, closed the door and began to walk towards the school property. I was followed and surrounded by a small group of policemen. A few people yelled obscenities at me while others voiced their support. It was quickly over; as soon as I stepped onto school property, I was grabbed by policemen, arrested for trespassing, handcuffed, pushed into a police car and taken to jail. 

 

I never had any napalm and was never going to hurt a dog. I did this to let others begin to feel what our country was doing to other people, who just like us, lived in a foreign land; I never returned or finished high school. I am glad I did what I did. I still think war is terrible and we never should have waged that particular war in Viet Nam. 

 

I honor the bravery and sacrifice that American, Australian, New Zealand, Filipino, Thai and Vietnamese, families and soldiers made for what they thought was right and honorable. I recognize the unnecessary and terrible suffering my country brought upon other nations and our own. However, my thinking has changed. Unlike then, I now believe war can be sometimes right and appropriate. I believe there is a time for violence. My consideration is more complex and paradoxical than it was at that time. Let me explain . . .

 

When I threatened to napalm the dog, I was a sophomore. The etymology of the word provides a good description of my psychology; I was a living combination of Sophos-wisdom and moron–an idiot. In teenage years, sophomoric thinking and behavior is a common tendency of the adolescent and has been recognized as such throughout history. In high school, I was exposed to a wider field of knowledge as I gave my attention to Sophos, wisdom, and shaped my ideals in accord with the distilled wisdom of the ages. But, unbeknownst to me, I was also still a moron or idiot, as I did not recognize the dilemmas inherent in every issue I dealt with. I saw things simply and idealistically; more concerned with how things should be, rather than in understanding how they actually are. I was a blind idealist . . . ‘idealist,’ because I did not see clearly the issues and implications involved; “blind,” because I was unconscious of my own prejudices. It is one thing to be prejudiced. It is another to be unconscious of being so, and I was decidedly, unconscious. Since I was not aware of my own faults, a faulty foundation supported my judgments and I sophomorically followed my thinking to the dead ends of idealism.

 

Underneath my protest of the Vietnam war, I was wrestling with fundamental questions: Is violence always wrong? Must there always be evil and killing in life, or can they be eliminated? Are good and evil dependent on circumstances? In certain situations, can things that seem good, be evil, and things that seem evil, be good?

 

I was always fascinated with lions, cheetahs and hyenas, the most dramatic of predators. I saw them in the Discovery programs about life on the Serengeti Plains and the Ngorongoro Crater of Africa. Every day these large beasts of prey aggressively snuffed out the lives of other animals, old and young, often eating their prey while the victim was still alive. Was this evil? Is it something we need to eliminate from life? Or, perhaps, is it necessary to take the lives of others in certain circumstances? How else, would these carnivores live? Such questions reminded me of one of the greatest idealists of all time, Mahatma Gandhi;

his position on these questions helped me find my own.

 

Matsya Nyaya, Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler

 

During World War II, Gandhi wrote, "An appeal to every Briton.” He called upon the English people to abandon their struggle, lay down their arms and accept whatever fate Hitler and Mussolini had reserved for them. Gandhi thought if you resist violence with violence, you only perpetuate war amongst mankind; He wrote:

 

“You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions.  Let them take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings.  You will give all these but neither your minds nor your souls. If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself, man, woman and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them."

 

For Gandhi, non-violence was the essence of religion, morality and politics. War and killing, are born of violence and always led to more violence; because of all of this, they were necessarily ‘evil.’ Gandhi wrote:

 

“I appeal for cessation of hostilities . . . because war is bad in essence. You want to kill Nazism. Your soldiers are doing the same work of destruction as the Germans. The only difference is that perhaps yours are not as thorough as the Germans . . . I venture to present you with a nobler and a braver way, worthy of the bravest soldiers. I want you to fight Nazism without arms or . . . with non-violent arms. I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity.”

 

Gandhi believed that mankind could and must express goodness and love. Since people did not act this way, he thought each of us must change our behavior and follow the higher ideals of our nature; amongst which he included service to others, equality, acceptance of all religions, upliftment of the downtrodden,  and most of all, non-violence; He believed this the only way to make the world a better place. 

There were others who also championed this ideal; a  well-known example was given by Charlie Chaplin, in his first talking role in the movie, The Great Dictator. At the end of the film, speaking directly to the camera in an impassioned speech that goes on for six minutes, he expresses his belief in the inherent goodness of man and the need for moral action. 

Charlie Chaplin in the Great Dictator

From that time on, Chaplin’s political beliefs became a part of his public persona and occasioned strong reactions from many right wing Americans where his ideas were labeled “communist.” 

J. Edgar Hoover, recognising Chaplin’s importance as a movie star, and his ability to sway public opinion, mounted a smear campaign against him. Chaplin was brought up on variety of indictments to disparage his character. Although every charge against him was eventually dismissed, they had their effect; Chaplin eventually left the United States with his family and took up residence in Switzerland. 

 

Those who opposed Chaplin’s political ideas had a different view of the world. I can understand the disposition of Hoover and the people who sought to persecute Chaplin for his political position . . . they thought life to be fundamentally unfair and the nature of mankind aggressive, selfish and evil. They believed some people are more powerful than others, and they are the ones whose needs will be met. Instead of being concerned with the weak and the poor, they believed the law of nature was fundamental, the strongest will prevail and thus they sought to attain dominance and gain control by whatever means or cost. They held everyone is driven by competing desires and it may be necessary to use violence, lie, or engage in a smear campaign whenever their own desires came into conflict with others. They might pursue their desires by law and coercion; but, if that does not work to their satisfaction, they will opt for violence and war. Hitler stated it most bluntly: “ . . . we are barbarians, pitiless . . . the world can only be ruled by fear.”

 

Very few people realize Gandhi and Hitler had a similar view about the nature of life; they both recognized the Law of the Jungle and both thought man possessed an animal nature, savage by inheritance, greedy and cruel in behavior. They differed over what man should do in this situation . . . Gandhi, while acknowledging the savage aspect of the human being, proposed we must follow what he called, the ‘upward’ nature of man, believing man could choose a higher path. He wrote:

 

“We were, perhaps, all originally brutes. I am prepared to believe that we have become men by a slow process of evolution from the brute . . . man must choose either of the two courses, the upward or the downward, but as he has the brute in him, he will more easily choose the downward course than the upward, especially when the downward course is presented to him in a beautiful garb . . . Man's nature is not essentially evil. Brute nature has been known to yield to the influence of love. You must never despair of human nature.”  - Gandhi, Harijan 1935

 

Gandhi was a confessed optimist and an idealist. He wrote:

“I am an irrepressible optimist . . . My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop non-violence” – Gandhi, Mahatma, by Tendulkar

 

Vedic scriptures express the principle that man (microcosm) is a reflection of nature (macrocosm). While the Vedic culture never denies man has an animal-like nature, they also teach the possibility of a spiritual awakening or transcendence, a process in which attention transcends its identification with human nature and awakens to the unbounded condition of God. From the state of a savage, man can awaken to the Divine state, and in doing so, his human qualities will become balanced. These ‘balanced’ or Divine qualities are the result of spiritual awakening, not their cause; but Gandhi took these qualities (for example: non-violence) and used them as political methodology, to be applied by all people, man, woman and child. We can see this in his call for non-violence in his letter to the English people that I quoted previously. Many westerners thought such an attitude to be simply foolish. Winston Churchill wrote:

 

"It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, an Inner Temple lawyer, now become a seditious fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal Palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms

with the representative of the King-Emperor."

In India, many thought Gandhi went against the teachings of the Vedas, particularly the principle of adhikarbheda or ‘the qualification of the aspirant.’ According to this principle, not everyone is qualified for every practice, and for those not qualified for a particular practice, the attainments that practice are meant to produce, will not truly manifest, even though they can be imitated. We can observe the principle of adhikarbheda in the modern-day enthusiasm regarding the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. Inspired by the teachings of great realized masters such as Ramana Maharshi or scriptures such as the Ribhu Gita, people feel, think and try to imitate in their lives what those scriptures seem to suggest. They do not have the realization that these teachers or scriptures describe, rather they seek to emulate in thought, feeling and action their impression of this state, essentially making their spiritual practice into a sort of mood-making. When this occurs, the cart is put before the horse, actions are imagined to be the cause and not the result and the awakening to Truth is at best only simulated. It is said that you cannot waken someone who is only pretending to be sleeping and this is the situation when unqualified people attempt to live a dharma for which they are not qualified.

 

In the Bhagavad-Gita there is a famous verse regarding this principle where Lord Krishna states:

 

‘Because one can perform it, one’s own dharma, though lesser in merit, is better than the dharma of another. Better is death in one’s own dharma; the dharma of another brings danger.”

 

It suggests there is a fate worse than death and this is the ‘danger’ of taking on a dharma or practice of which one is not qualified; it is the sin of wasting one’s life on a fruitless practice for which one is not qualified.

Instead of God-Realization being the basis of non-violence, Gandhi taught that the qualities of a realizer could and should be expressed by one who was not Realized. Furthermore, Gandhi thought these qualities born of spiritual Realisation could and should be applied to politics. Indeed, the application of these qualities was his political philosophy. 

 

“I could not live for a single second without religion. Many of my political friends despair of me because they say that even my politics are derived from religion. And they are right.

My politics and all other activities of mine are derived from my religion.” 

- Gandhi

 

 

This topic was considered by Sri Aurobindo in 1939 when he was questioned on Gandhi’s use of non-violence:

           On January 8, 1939, Aurobindo Ghose was informed of some of Gandhi's statements by Ambalal Purani (a close devotee of Aurobindo).  

 

Purani: Gandhi writes that non-violence tried by some people in Germany has failed because it has not been so strong as to generate sufficient heat to melt Hitler's heart.

 

Sri Aurobindo:  It would have to be a furnace in that case. The only way to melt his heart is to bomb it out of existence.  This idea of passive resistance I have never been able to fathom.  I can understand an absolute non-resistance to evil, what the Christians mean when they say,: "Resist not evil."  You may die without resisting and accept the consequences as sent by God.  But to change the opponent's heart by passive resistance is something I don't understand.

 

Purani:  I agree with the Modern Review that by this method one allows evil to triumph. It seems foolish to expect that a Goonda's (hired thug, criminal or bully) heart will melt in that way.

 

Sri Aurobindo:  Precisely.  Gandhi has been trying to apply to ordinary life what belongs to spirituality.  Non-violence or ahimsa as a spiritual attitude and practice is perfectly intelligible and has a standing of its own.  You may not accept it 'in toto' but it has a basis in reality.  To apply it to ordinary life is absurd.  One then ignores-as the Europeans did in several things-the principles of Adhikarbheda and the difference of situation.

 

Purani:  Gandhi's point is that in either case you die. 

If you die with arms you encourage and perpetuate the killing method.

 

Sri Aurobindo:  And if you die without arms you encourage and perpetuate passive resistance. (sic)(laughter) It is certainly a principle which can be applied successfully if practiced on a mass scale, specially by unarmed people like Indians.  I understand this principle, because you, being unarmed, are left with no other choice.  Not even if it succeeds, it is not because you have changed the heart of the enemy, but because you have made it impossible for him to rule.

 

Gandhi recognized the law of the jungle, but, he felt that man must transcend his own nature

and pursue another path. He wrote:

 

“Mankind is at the crossroads. It has to make its choice between the law of the jungle and the law of humanity.” 

- Mahatma, by Tendulkar

 

Gandhi thought that by taking on the qualities of an awakened man, particularly, non-violent action, we not only make the world a better place, but change the hearts of others as well. 

 (Gandhi on many occasions did say that if a person was afraid, it may be better for him to pick up arms and fight. Because of his comments on this subject being contradictory, it is necessary to read him more fully and make up your own mind on the matter. His life is strongly identified with the practice of non-violence by all.)

HITLER and MATSYA NYAYA

In Hitler's eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest.

— Hitler: a Study in Tyranny, by Alan Bullock

Hitler, like Gandhi, recognised the law of nature as savage and the nature of man as cruel and brutish. But Hitler concluded, not that he must transcend his nature as Gandhi proposed, but rather he and the German people must therefore become the strongest and most brutal of all. Hitler specifically criticised Christianity, because, with its teachings of love and forgiveness; for him it went against the natural Law of the Jungle. Hitler thought the Law of nature was supreme and to try and go against that law made men weak. He wrote,

 

“The earth continues to go round, whether it’s the man who kills the tiger or the tiger who eats the man, The stronger asserts his will, it’s the law of nature. The world doesn’t change; its laws are eternal . . . The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest . . . Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure . . . Those who want to live, let them fight,

and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle, do not deserve to live.” 

- Adolf Hitler

Hitler boasted that the German people were the superior race and their fate was to become dominant over all others. To accomplish this they needed to eliminate or enslave the inferior races (Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, Poles) and attain more land (lebensraum) for the future expansion of their people. For Hitler, terror and violence were legitimate political tools to attain this goal.

 

While the differences between Hitler and Gandhi are overwhelming, here I am only dealing with the roots of their thinking and feeling, their approach to the Law of Nature and the nature of man. what I have found is that their huge differences sprang from a  recognition of a common reality: the law of the jungle, the Law of the Fishes, or Matsya Nyaya. Hitler was a realist and accepted the law of nature. Impressed by the savage nature of life, he was determined to win at whatever the cost or method. Gandhi also recognized the law of nature, but, and this is the critical point, as an ‘optimist,’ he believed that man need not follow that law, that man could and must transcend his nature.

 

As a young boy, I idolized Gandhi. We studied his life in the Ethical culture society and my parents always spoke highly of him. References to his role in the non-violent liberation of India from British rule were often made in my presence. When I attended university at UCSB, I studied his life even more deeply and took several courses on Gandhi. The man who taught one course was a follower of the Mahatma and as my final thesis in the class, I wrote a paper on the Bhagavad-Gita and its role as Gandhi’s “Bible.” As I researched the material for my paper, I came across the open letter Gandhi had written to the English people (already quoted above) and another interview with Gandhi about the Jews and the Nazis. 

 

“Hitler,” Gandhi solemnly affirmed, “killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. I believe in hara-kiri. I do not believe in its militaristic connotations, but it is a heroic method.”

“You think,” I said, “that the Jews should have committed collective suicide?”

“Yes,” Gandhi agreed, "that would have been heroism. It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to the evils of Hitler’s violence, especially in 1938, before the war. As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.”

I was shocked by this and found myself in complete disagreement with Gandhi. Obviously, I had overlooked something in my understanding of what the Mahatma was teaching, something in the nature of the world and something in myself as well. Of course, that is one of the great values of studying history; in nearly every area of life, someone has already assumed and lived out a conceivable extreme. By seeing some point of view incarnated and lived out, we extend the horizon of our own consideration, and that gives us a better idea of where we float in a vast sea of possibilities. 

 

Up until that point, I considered myself a pacifist, but Gandhi’s response to Hitler and the Nazis showed me that was not the case at all. I was not a pacifist. I was against violence only in some circumstances. Non-violence was not the underlying religious principle of my life. It was only the approach I preferred; in some circumstances, I could imagine myself picking up a gun and would approve of others doing so as well. In the case of Hitler and the axis powers during World War II, I thought that war was appropriate and necessary. We had to defeat their violent evil with even greater violence. 

 

In 1939, as World War II was just beginning, the famous teacher - Aurobindo pointed out that Gandhi had been dealing with the British; his non-violence would have had a very different outcome with the Germans.

Aurobindo said: 

 

“The trouble with Gandhi is that he had to deal only with Englishmen, and the English want to have their conscience at ease. Besides, the Englishman wants to satisfy his self-esteem and wants world-esteem. But if Gandhi had to deal with the Russian or the German Nazis, they would long ago of put him out of their way.”

 

Aurobindo suggests that the technique of non-violent resistance is effective only under certain limited circumstances, with  particular adversaries. I found myself in sympathy with Guru Gobind Singh, the last of the human Sikh Gurus who said, “When all other means have failed, it is righteous to draw a sword.” 

What if violence is met with non-violence? An incident from our recent western history

gives an answer to this question:

Srebenicia

and the failure of non-violence

Srebrenica is a city in what was formerly Yugoslavia. During what is called the Bosnian war, tensions boiled over and a civil war erupted between different ethnic-religious groups, primarily, the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims. Each sought not just to win the war against opposing soldiers, but to ethnically cleanse the country of the religious civilian population of those they considered their enemy. As the war went on, there were thousands of crimes and murders against civilians committed by both sides. In 1994, many Bosnian Muslims, both civilians and military fled to Srebrenica, which was protected and declared a safe area by UN peacekeepers. The Serbian army surrounded the city and prepared a siege to drive the Muslims out of the city. Muslim-Croat soldiers who retreated to Srebinicia had been using the city as a protected base to assault Serbian communities and engage in murder, rape and killing of civilians in the surrounding area. In 1995, however, nearly surrounded, they suddenly abandoned the city and fled, leaving UN Peacekeepers alone to prevent an assault by the Bosnian Serbs. Although repeatedly warned by the UN against doing so, the Bosnian Serbs invaded the city. In what has been called the worst act of genocide since World War II, the Serbs proceeded to rape, torture and murder the civilian population of Srebrenica,

often in front of the UN peacekeepers.

The UN troops put up only token or no resistance.

Civilians were taken from under the noses of UN soldiers who stood by and did nothing. 

 

In 1999, Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations described the mass murder that resulted as the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War. Four years later, he issued an apology . . .

U.N. admits fault in Bosnia Massacre

“Accepting a sobering measure of blame for the deaths of thousands of Bosnian Muslims, the United Nations yesterday issued a long-awaited report that says that U.N. officials appeased and unwittingly abetted Bosnian Serb forces who overran the town of Srebrenica and massacred many of its residents in July 1995. . . . "It was with the deepest regret and remorse that we have reviewed our own actions and decisions in the face of the assault on Srebinicia, " Secretary-General Kofi Annan writes in the report. "Through error, misjudgment and an inability to recognize the scope of evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder. These failings were in part rooted in a philosophy of neutrality and nonviolence wholly unsuited to the conflict in Bosnia."

 

- San Francisco Chronicle, FrontPage article, Tuesday, November 16, 1999, by Colum Lynch, Washington Post

 

 

Kofi Annan, seemed to say: if we had a recognition of “the scope of evil confronting us,” and, if we were not rooted in “a philosophy of neutrality and nonviolence,” then, we could of acted properly. Obviously, he meant that the United Nations troops should of prevented the massacre by using violence against the Serbs. But, because of the blinding idealism of the United Nations at that time, they essentially enabled a terrible war crime. This is one example of the failure to recognize and account for Matsya Nyaya and the violent nature of human beings, because of what Gandhi called, “belief and optimism.” 

I believe that Matsya Nyaya must be the fundamental principle on which ethical and moral decisions are made. If we wish it were not so, if we prefer not to account for it, whether we are idealistic or optimistic, it does not matter; like gravity, this law will have its way. In the infinitely varied field of moral issues, Matsya Nyaya occupies the center like a hub to the spokes of a wheel. If we fail to take the principle of Matsya Nyaya into consideration, if we ignore the dark side of nature and the evil nature of man, what happened at Srebrenica will happen again and again.

 

For most of us, a full understanding of the Law of Nature has faded into forgetfulness. It is not taught to young people as the ground from which ideals spring as reactions. We have seen how this omission can be disastrous in its effects; nevertheless, we send generation after generation of our youth out into the world with a moral map and understanding that does not correspond to nature or the real world. Matsya Nyaya must be recognized as that principle on which we construct our society, ethics, morality, politics and moral judgments. According to the Laws of Manu, the nature of man must be restrained because it is evil and that moral judgment is the origin of the rule of law and society.

 

 

“God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. – Genesis 

"It is most interesting to notice that although the modern translations make this the “inclination of his heart” (NIV), and “the intent of man’s heart” (NASB), yet the older translations render it, “the imagination of man’s heart” (The 1599 Geneva Bible) and again “the imagination of man’s heart” (KJV). So, we are left to wonder, as we compare the new translations with the old ones, whether man’s heart is only inclined to evil, or if “the imaginations” themselves are “evil from his youth.” When we check the Hebrew we discover that we must come down on the side of the old translations, that it is the “imagination,” not the “inclination” or “intent” of man’s heart which is evil. “Inclination” means “tending to evil, a leaning toward evil, an aptitude or propensity toward evil.” These modern translations thus weaken the true meaning of the text, which tells us in Hebrew that man does not simply incline or lean toward evil, but that the very imagination of man’s heart is evil, itself. Not just a tending toward evil, not just a “leaning toward evil,” but evil itself!"

 

"Thus, we see that the modern translations have moved away from the good old Reformation doctrine of total depravity, back to the view of the Catholic Church, that man is only "inclined" to evil. The modern translations therefore take us back to the Roman Catholic view of man’s heart only "inclining" toward evil. This is not the same view as that of Luther, the Reformers, and the early Baptists. To the modern translators man is merely “inclined” toward evil. This shows how the modern translations help to hide our Baptist/Protestant distinctives and make it more and more plausible to join ecumenically with Rome.

But to our Protestant and Baptist forefathers man is more than partly depraved, capable of giving some help in overcoming his sinful condition by contributing “his part” to saving himself from it. This is called “synergism” by theologians. But the old Reformers and Puritans believed no such thing. They believed that man is “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5).

If the older Puritans were right, and I believe they were, man in sin doesn’t just have a tendency to sin. No!

“The imagination of man’s heart [not its inclination] is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21)."

 

TO BE CONTINUED . . . Book still in Progress