Rama’s magic arrow

I don’t know how judges and lawyers are able to talk of Rama having destroyed a superman-made structure using his magical bow and arrow and still maintain their sanity. If we really have to consider faith each time we do something, everything from mining to drilling should be banned because we are damaging God’s planet. There is a difference between building a dam that will send Benares and all its temples under water and building a canal that cuts through a part of the bridge or setu or whatever. But who is going to convince the Hindu right about this.

As long as there is no material damage to the area’s ecosystem and the project is not a financial white elephant, I really don’t care what happens to the bridge, and I think most people would feel that way. The BJP vs DMK fight is one between some (rabidly faithful) Aryans and some (rabidly atheist) Dravidians. That is the whole point. Swaminathan Aiyar once wrote an open letter to Ashok Singhal where he said “now, I also cannot understand your theory that Ram was born at the very spot where the Babri Masjid once stood…” Maybe Advani should write a letter to Karunanidhi asking him why he wants to build a canal at the exact same spot where Rama built his bridge. He could always suggest a Panama canal like alternative – an inland canal – which the next BJP government could pay for. I don’t think devotees both within and outside India will mind donating a few billion dollars to the “Ram Setu Protection Fund”. Or will they?

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  • janamejayan  On July 24, 2008 at 7:34 am


    You have said. “As long as there is no material damage to the area’s ecosystem and the project is not a financial white elephant, I really don’t care what happens to the bridge,..” As long as faith is not your cup of tea, you can fancy whatever you want. However for those who have faith will hold that to be dear. All you are saying is that you are ready for war with them. Or don’t you?

    Where is the compromise? Where will it end?

  • aristotlethegeek  On July 24, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    When two belief systems collide, if a compromise cannot be reached through discussions, people go to war. This has been going on for centuries. So in a sense, when I say “I don’t care subject to…”, I am really talking of some kind of war because there can be no real compromise between faith and reason. And the war will end either with the death of reason or with the death of religion.

  • janamejayan  On July 31, 2008 at 7:54 am


    I am amused when you say “there can be no real compromise between faith and reason.” As a matter of fact reason has always been based on arbitrary notions which is rather convenient rather than reasonable. Actually reason would be seen to be unfathomable and therefore tiresome and invariably have recourse to faith for its anchor!

  • aristotlethegeek  On August 1, 2008 at 1:46 am

    “Reason” using “faith” as an anchor? Bah!

    “Faith” is an unquestioning (without demanding evidence) belief in something or someone. So people can comfortably believe in strange concepts like an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God who seems to have gone to sleep after creating the Universe (why did he waste time designing such vast space when he was only interested in putting humans who kill each other for fun, on Earth? Of course we cannot ask such questions, because his mind and his motives are “unfathomable” and “unknowable” ) and cook up stories about Him to pass their time. No thinking required, so less tiring. Eh?

    “Reason” is that part the mind that enables a person to think, distinguish between good and bad etc. Do people believe that they are alive or do they know that they are alive? If the world is simply a trick played on the mind (MAYA), why bother about God, or good or bad? Since we are not real, nothing really matters, does it? See where “faith” leads us?

    “Reason” is neither unfathomable nor arbitrary. We only have our mind to rely upon to make sense of the world, and reason does that job very well. If thinking is a such taxing activity, people should go and live in temples and churches praying to god 24/7, and hope that food magically appears in front of them three times a day. Wait, “reason” says that shouldn’t happen – but if people have “faith”, who knows?

  • janamejayan  On August 1, 2008 at 6:19 pm


    Is there a beginning to reason? I mean, is there an ultimate reason? If not reason has not fathomed itself! In my experience, people have arbitrarily anchored themselves to an event and then spun their reason from there. Tell me if this is not true.

  • aristotlethegeek  On August 2, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Reason is a faculty that is part of your brain. You are born with it and it will die with you. I have already mentioned its functions. Reason is also the word we use to describe the result of the process of thinking which is enabled by our “reason” (don’t you see reason? Be reasonable – that kind of “reason”). So it is a faculty and it is a concept. There is no “ultimate” reason; what do you even mean by that? What will you say if I ask you is there an “ultimate” heart or an “ultimate” pig? Come down to earth and talk in terms of logic.

    Okay, keep “reason” aside. Now what? We start believing in God? Why should people only believe in the Hindu concept of God or one of the Judaic ones? What if I say that the world was created by an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient eighteen-headed donkey and that every time it brays, there is rainfall in the Amazon rain forest and that everyone should believe in it since the theory can neither be proven nor dis-proven?

    Reason is not based on flights of fancy (that is the subject matter of religion). Everything has to be verified. I know I exist because if I don’t exist I couldn’t use the word “I” nor could I think or see or hear or sense or do anything. This is the metaphysical concept of “objective reality”. Without taking this first step, nothing can be claimed and nothing can be built because to do any such thing, you have to “know” that you “exist”. Once you know this, no further speculation is necessary. And if this is arbitrary, then nothing else is relevant – except nihilism.

  • janamejayan  On August 2, 2008 at 3:42 am


    You have said: “What will you say if I ask you is there an “ultimate” heart or an “ultimate” pig? Come down to earth and talk in terms of logic.”

    Sir, ‘Heart’ and ‘pig’ are objects that can be pointed out and do exist independent of you. Is ‘Reason’ such an object independent of you?

    In other words, reason rests in you, in each person. What one holds as reason is sacrosant for him and he arrogates that it is the only correct logic. Reason is thus arbitrary.

    However much a person can try to be dispassionate, there is always a limit and at that limit he begins to err. And he always errs on the side of his passion. That is human tendency.

    I don’t doubt that reasoning is a faculty of one’s brain or intellect whichever one you choose. This faculty works on objects yet it is part of the subject.When one investigates something, he finds that it is connected and there are myriads of connections pointing to different directions. So much so, when one ‘reasons’ a cause it is always arbitrary to the exclusion of other causes.

    As I said before when a person ‘logically’ arrives at something it is sacrosant for him even if he would ‘buy’ your argument in place of his own. What he would ‘buy’ is what he considers fitting his passion. There is no other reason for him to buy another’s argument! It becomes his logic and is then held sacrosant! This is his ‘faith’!


  • aristotlethegeek  On August 2, 2008 at 4:19 am

    Arbitrary = random. In what way do humans “reason” randomly? I do not get your philosophical drift.

    There is always some frame of reference according to which we decide on a particular course of action. We don’t simply toss a coin and then go by the result of such a toss. What are those limits at which “reason” acts arbitrarily? Given a set of circumstances, we can nearly-always take a considered decision without room for arbitrariness. Yes, “reason” (the faculty) is a part of us, and hence our decisions may be “subjective” (dependent on the subject), but they are not “arbitrary” (random).

    When I talk of faith, I talk of religion and associated dogma and rituals. But even if we look at the secular definition, there is no way “reason” relies on unquestioning belief on anything except the “fact” that we exist. That is an axiom (self evident/ unprovable truth). And without axioms, nothing can be constructed. That is a “fact”, again.

    People who go by reason do not stick to their positions and deny the rational just because they are passionate about the position they hold. Such people are in no way rational. Rational people only believe in those things that can be verified. If some things are uncertain, they construct a “theory” based on available facts and go about trying to prove or disprove the “theory”. If new facts emerge according to which the theory they believe in no longer holds true, they discard it.

    Hence, the person in your example is not a practitioner of “reason” but of “faith”.

  • janamejayan  On August 2, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Arbitrary means subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one’s discretion (dictionary.com)

    I will post more later.

  • janamejayan  On August 2, 2008 at 7:10 am


    When a person picks a numbered ball from a bag of numbered balls say with his eyes closed, then he is picking a number at random. But if these balls are not hidden but out in the open and if he were asked to pick one with his eyes wide open, then he is making a choice which is not random but arbitrary.

    Or take another example. A person opens his door and he sees a richman, a begger or a peddler. Those people who appeared before him are indeed at random for anybody else also could have appeared other than those three. There is no personal involvement of that person in those that appear before him. But when he goes to a shop to buy s shirt, he does pick a shirt. That shirt that he picked is not at random that even if it could appear to be so but it is definitely arbitrary. Why so? Because there is a remote liking, an inexplicable or explicable judgment of him is involved in the picking. There is a possibility that he can explain why he picked this particular shirt to the exclusion of others but there is no way he can explain why he picked a particular numbered ball form a bag blindfolded.

    I labour this much to tell you sir that randomness is the anti-thesis of reason while arbitrariness is not. Pure Reason is endless and therefore inexplicable for all explanations occur when reason has terminated. All other reasons are, therefore, merely arbitrary!

  • aristotlethegeek  On August 3, 2008 at 12:08 am

    The Concise Oxford English Dictionary-
    arbitrary – based on random choice or personal whim.
    subjective – based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

    I am not interested in speculative metaphysics (as the Charvakans weren’t). Reason does not believe unquestioningly in anything. Reason proceeds on logic. There is nothing inexplicable about reason. Arbitrariness or randomness don’t go well with reason. And reason is not arbitrary.

  • janamejayan  On August 3, 2008 at 9:02 am


    Reason is also called the theory of cause and effect. As cause and effect are endless Pure Reason is also beginningless and endless. There is also a philosophical category called ‘accident’ which is usually discussed together as ‘causality and accident’. Theory of cause and effect proves that the so called ‘accidents’ are caused! ‘Randomness’ is indicated to an occurance that is devoid of ‘personal bias’. Arbitrariness on the other hand indicates of an occurance of personal preference. In practical world you and I and everyone else begin anything, (yes anything!) at some point of time and space and end it or conclude it at another point of time and space. In between we employ logic. The point of fact is that such beginning and end are arbitrary because without our preferences those beginnings and ends do not exist. Pure reasoning is of no use for it has no beginning and would not lend itself to conclusion.

    Sir, you may not like it when I say this but the fact is only arbitrary reason matters to one and all and that is what everyone is talking about!

    Practical reason lies between these two arbitrariness. I might call this arbitrariness as faith!


  • aristotlethegeek  On August 5, 2008 at 1:02 am

    You are walking down Kant’s road when you talk about “pure reason” and “practical reason”, and simply put, I don’t understand him. Why do you do anything – just like that? Arbitrarily? People do things for a reason. And behind that reason is another reason. In the end everything boils down to life and death.

    Its not a question of like or dislike, but one of practical use – I prefer political philosophy to anything else because that is where the whole fight takes place. Whatever your philosophy, it finally has to come and fight on the battle field that is politics.

    Faith does not anchor my reason. I don’t believe that the only way I am aware of an objective reality is through my senses and that such a reality would cease to exist if I don’t sense it. And I don’t look at the infinity of the universe or complexity of beings or morality and immediately derive God to explain away all these things.

    We are basically talking at cross purposes – either I don’t understand you, or you don’t understand me, or both. You can have your own definitions of reason and faith, and I have already stated mine. As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely nothing arbitrary in what I do. And hence I don’t need faith.

  • janamejayan  On August 5, 2008 at 4:58 am


    You have said: “Why do you do anything – just like that? Arbitrarily? People do things for a reason.”

    You have indeed raised and good question, in fact the most basic question of questions. But you have stopped short of the right answer!

    People do things for their own satisfaction. Yes indeed, in pursuit of their happiness. Devoid of this the foremost reason and purpose of doing anything is robbed.

    There is faith in each one that he can pursue his happiness. If it is not for this faith in himself the whole world crumbles.

    Faith is not necessarily about God but God can be part of the faith.


    I am not denigrating reason or rejecting it out of hand. But I am pointing out that Reason is man’s tool. It could be best or otherwise but that is not the point. Man is still there with or without argument. It is actually his existence we are talking about! Some explain it as Sat, Chit, Ananda. It is not important if you may or may not want to know it.


    P.S: Please do visit my blog Janamejayan’s weblog.

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