A lot of things can be said about power but perhaps nothing has the accuracy and longevity of the observation of the English historian, Lord Acton (John Dalberg-Acton) (1834-1902) on the matter. In a 1887 letter he wrote:
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.
The first bit quoted above is often misquoted as “power corrupts” — leaving out the operative word tends.. It’s only a tendency, not a certainty. A little bit of power may or may not corrupt, depending on the character of the person. But no matter who, absolute power corrupts extremely and without fail.
Great men are almost always bad men. Try as one might, it is hard to deny that proposition even upon casual observation, let alone after a careful study of history. I cannot resist quoting a few lines preceding “power tends to corrupt.”. Continue reading “Power Tends to Corrupt”
Alan Watts (1915 – 1973) was a great entertainer. A “philosophical entertainer” with the emphasis on the entertainer bit. Fortunately for us, his talks are available on YouTube. He was a fascinating person, as you can gather from the wiki page on him (linked above). My interpretation of Vedanta, Zen and Buddhism matches perfectly with his. I think that at his core he was a Hindu. Wiki says —
Though known for his Zen teachings, he was also influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta, and spoke extensively about the nature of the divine reality which Man misses: how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution; how our fundamental Ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego; …
We humans instinctively categorize, especially people. We are amateur primitive set-theoreticians. There are infinite ways to categorize people since humans have a humongous number of characteristics.
Consider the categories of people who award prize and people who win prizes. In my view, people who institute prizes belong to the most prestigious set. I order the sets as:
People who institute prizes.
People who win prizes.
People who don’t win prizes.
People who award themselves prizes.
For example, Alfred Nobel belongs to the first set; Einstein to the second set; ordinary grunts like us, who never come within shouting distance of any prestigious award make up the majority of humanity, belong to the third set. We are mostly harmless and generally unimpressive. Continue reading “Of Prizes and People”
A comp sci joke claims that there are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary numerals and those who don’t. Being a former computer science student myself, I find it tickles my funny bone. Continue reading “There are 10 Kinds of People”
Pondering the fact of death, I am reminded that impermanence is a central feature of the world we live in. The phenomenal world — of things and events — is called maya in the dharmic traditions (namely Jain, Hindu, Buddhist & Sikh.)
The world is maya. Many people simply translate it as “ the world is an illusion” but that is incorrect. The world is real. Maya does not mean that the world is unreal or that it is an illusion. It means something like this: the world as we perceive it is not what the world actually is. We cannot directly perceive the reality that is at the foundation of what exists. That reality is given a word — Brahman. Most of us cannot comprehend the Brahman because we are limited beings. Continue reading “Maya, Moksha, Nama and Rupa”
In what sense am I a Hindu? Does what I read, write, wear and consume make me a Hindu? I think, read and write in English, I wear Western style clothing, I live in a Western country, etc. Even then I am a Hindu at the core of my being.
What defines me as a Hindu is my core belief system. How I comprehend the world is what determines whether I am a Hindu or not. The important distinction here is between “material beliefs” and “cosmological beliefs.” Continue reading “Material and Cosmological Beliefs”
This is a confession of my beliefs on a variety of subjects, some fundamental and some derivative. It partly answers the question “who am I?” and goes some way in demonstrating that the matters I profess have coherence, consistency and structural integrity. I will first introduce them as a list and then expand on each item as needed. I will keep this preamble brief as I expect that I will learn much about myself in the writing of this personal piece. This is a personal confession; expect liberal use of the first person pronoun. Continue reading “AMA: the “What I Profess” edition”
Shri Balasaheb Thackeray passed away today (Saturday afternoon India time) in Mumbai. Much of what I know about current events, I learn from the handful of people I follow on twitter. So I got to know of Balasaheb’s death through twitter. I noticed quite a few “RIP” messages. That prompted me to write a few tweets myself. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Passing of Shri Balasaheb Thackeray”
One can’t seem to get away from the devastating effects of faith – especially monotheistic religious faith – around the world.
Blind faith can justify anything. If a man believes in a different god, or even if he uses a different ritual for worshiping the same god, blind faith can decree that he should die–on the cross, at the stake, skewered on a Crusader’s sword, shot in a Beirut street, or blown up in a bar in Belfast. Memes for blind faith have their own ruthless ways of propagating themselves. This is true of patriotic and political as well as religious blind faith.