G.W.F. Hegel, German philosopher, in his famous lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (1832) had reviewed the whole human history as a vast dialectical movement toward realization of freedom. In Hegel’s opinion, the reality of history is ‘spirit’ and the story of religion is the process by which ‘spirit’ comes to full consciousness of itself following the dialectical pattern of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. According to Hegel, religion plays a role in the self-realization of ‘spirit’.
According to the laws of Hegelian Dialectic, one concept (thesis) inevitably generates its opposite (antithesis), their interaction leads to a new concept (synthesis) which in turn becomes the thesis of a new triad. The concept of ‘freedom’ is opposed by the problem of ‘dependence’ as ‘dependence’ determines the degree of freedom man has at any given time while he exists in a given environment, a place, while participating in social interactions with members of a social community or inhabitants of that place.
I do not speak about freedom in the context of Freedom of Religion or the history of religion of any given group of people. I speak about human freedom and its relationship with human nature. Liberty and Freedom is the opposite of servitude, or bondage, whether physical, moral, or spiritual. Human ‘spirit’ and human desire for freedom are related not because of religion but because of human nature. Man cannot avoid ‘dependence’ and at the same time, man wants to retain or sustain his free will, his freedom to choose, and his freedom to decide a course of action in response to changes in external circumstances.
In ‘spirit’ the man imagines, desires, and seeks freedom from ‘dependence’ that establishes his conditioned existence. Man primarily expresses his freedom in manipulating the dependent nature of his conditioned existence. The man seeks to exist as an ‘Individual’ with ‘Individuality’ while being attached and while surviving on support from an external source.
Freedom and Dependence are the two basic elements of human nature that are perpetually in tension with one another. These are the basic elements of human relationships and human interactions. If religion formulates man’s relationship with God, that relationship is shaped by the degree of tension between the opposing elements of freedom and dependence that each individual person may experience at a given time, and place.
The more man struggles to control or to manipulate his external circumstances, greater will be the gap between freedom and dependence. The resulting stress or tension between two conflicting realities; the distance between freedom and dependence causes separation, detachment, estrangement or alienation.
In human interactions and human relationships, if there is no freedom of action, and if there is no freedom of choice, the interaction and relationship suffers leading to progressive estrangement, separation, alienation, and detachment. If God predetermined man’s external circumstances, and if God is Prime Cause of a widening gap between man’s freedom, and dependence, man’s relationship with his God will be affected by the problem of separation, detachment, estrangement, and alienation.
Just like interpersonal relationships, man’s relationship to his God is influenced by external circumstances of any given place which set limitations, or boundaries of his conditioned existence. The term ‘Free Will’ refers to the power or capacity to choose among alternatives; it refers to the ability to act in certain situations independently of natural, social, or divine restraints.
The term ‘freedom’ refers to the state of not being subject to determining forces, enjoyment of civil rights like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom to seek gainful employment. The opposite of freedom is slavery, bondage, serfdom, servitude, and in modern economic times freedom is often interpreted as lack of equal rights to earnings, remuneration, or salary for physical, or mental labor rendered to an employer. However, it may be noted that freedom is not self-determined as it is always determined by external causes.
WHAT IS DETERMINISM? THE LAW OF NECESSITY:
Determinism is the doctrine that states, everything including one’s choice of action is the necessary result of sequence of causes. God is viewed as Prime Cause as God’s Supreme Will is related to superintendence of the whole cosmos and everything in it. Existence of free will has to be reconciled with God’s omniscience, and with divine grace which could be necessary for any meritorious or even bad acts. In the Indian tradition it is believed that God foreordained circumstances and destiny of a person according to His Supreme Will.
God may elect or predestinate the circumstances of a person and make a choice on God’s own initiative on the basis of God’s knowing in advance or foreknowledge as to how a person may react or respond to external circumstances caused by His Supreme Will. God has foreknowledge of man’s reaction to His choice. Man may think that he determines his course of action and makes a choice not knowing that God has already known that course of action. God influences external circumstances to provide a particular course of action as the only option available to meet that contingency.
In the Indian tradition, the Law of Necessity speaks of God as Prime Cause and is called DAIVAM, VIDHI, NIYATI, AND BHAGYAM, the Cause which determines man’s fate or destiny.
In the Indian tradition, God exists as a personal God. The man’s relationship to his God is determined and is influenced by same factors that act upon man’s social interactions and social relationships. Human interpersonal relationships fail to thrive if they become a source of stress, or tension. If a man is left with no option, has no freedom to choose or act, his relationship to his God suffers for not want of faith or belief. The man’s trusting relationship with his God demands a sense of hope, comfort, and reassurance to cope with changing external circumstances.
THE HINDU BRAHMIN EXCOMMUNICATED FROM HIS GOD AND TEMPLE:
The term “excommunicate” means to exclude a person by an act of member of clergy or temple authority from the sacraments, rights and privileges of a church or temple. Excommunicated person is cut off from communion with a church or temple which is understood as body of God. It is similar to living in exile when the affected person is banished and has to live away from one’s country, community, and temple, or church. Excommunication need not always be enforced by a decree as it sometimes is self-imposed for an excommunicated person may have no freedom of action or free to choose on his own. In the Indian tradition excommunicated person is not invited to participate in cultural events, ceremonies, and gatherings associated with birth, death, marriage, and other events to celebrate religious holidays. I believe that I am excommunicated for I find no opportunity to engage other members of the Hindu Brahmin community in social interactions over the last 25 years. It may be traced back to 1989 when I was cut off from Malibu Hindu Temple in Santa Monica Hills as the presiding Deity has determined a course of action in Santa Monica that reshaped the country in which I live into ‘wilderness’. I left India in 1984 in my quest for the Promised Land. I arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan,United States during July 1986 and I have to arrive at my final destination.
WHAT IS PROMISED LAND?
Promised Land is viewed as a place where one expects to have a better life. In India, the experience of estrangement, separation, detachment, and alienation forced me to make a choice, and the external circumstances allowed me to depart from India in search of a ‘Promised Land’. My desire to live away from India is fully supported by external circumstances sanctioned by my God for I could easily overcome all the obstacles that prevented my departure from India. For example, I spent an entire year (1982-83) to resist a posting order and to obtain Government of India’s approval to relinquish my Permanent Regular Commission in the Indian Army Medical Corps. On January 10, 1984, I left India, the day on which my letter of resignation was sanctioned in New Delhi.
WHAT IS WILDERNESS?
Wilderness describes an uncultivated, uninhabited, waste, barren, empty, wild, arid, and desolate region that is naturally incapable of supporting almost any life. A dry, sandy region like desert brings to the mind an image of wilderness. However in such river less regions, land of drought, trackless wasteland of rock and sand, solitary places, some nomads may venture to occupy it for they have no other choice. Nomad is a person having no permanent home, a wanderer who has no fixed home, an itinerant who travels from place to place for he has not reached his final destination. External circumstances are powerful and in present day, modern urban environment, we find people who have no homes of their own, or people who barely subsist with very few material possessions. Such wanderers do not participate in social actions and interactions while they exist among members of a social community that fully participates in social events.
THE HINDU BRAHMIN’S SOCIAL SEGREGATION
In the Indian tradition, a person is expected to maintain social contacts and social relationships that are consistent with his external circumstances. If a person has to lead a nomadic way of life, that person can live to the best of his ability without any social obligations imposed by cultural norms. A nomad is not required to socially entertain other members of his community and a nomad is exempted from observing Indian traditions that describe the rules of hospitality. A nomad need not provide room, food, and drink or accept the burden of hosting a guest at his temporary dwelling. In Indian tradition, hospitality imposes equal burden upon all participating members; if a person is entertained as a guest at the dwelling of another person, he would have an equal responsibility of treating that person as his guest at the next available opportunity. I cannot accept a social invitation unless I have the same ability to extend a social invitation. It is a natural process that encourages social separation, segregation, detachment, and alienation that is operated by changing external circumstances. It can be explained as a coping mechanism to survive at any given place where opportunities for social advancement are few or minimal.
THE HINDU BRAHMIN’ S MINIMALISTIC EXISTENCE
In the Indian tradition, social actions, and social interactions are determined by social position, social ranking, social status, and social occupation of participating members. While it is true in Indian social ranking system a Brahmin may enjoy high-ranking, it is not a passport to give access to unlimited social activity. For example, the Indian epic poems Ramayana, and Mahabharata illustrate as to how external circumstances changed the social life of their princely characters such as Prince Rama, Prince Laxmana, and the Pandava princes.
A HINDU BRAHMIN CUT OFF FROM HIS GOD AND TEMPLE (MALIBU HINDU TEMPLE, CALABASAS, IN SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS): IN INDIAN TRADITION, SOCIAL ACTIONS AND INTERACTIONS ARE DETERMINED BY SOCIAL POSITION, SOCIAL RANKING, SOCIAL STATUS, AND SOCIAL OCCUPATION OF PARTICIPATING MEMBERS.
THE HINDU BRAHMIN’ S LIFE IN WILDERNESS:
The man in his thoughts, dreams, and imagination desires freedom of choice, and freedom of action. Such desire for freedom is easily eliminated by man’s external circumstances. A man’s survival in any type of external environment requires the operation of a principle called ‘dependence’, the ability to obtain matter, and energy from an external source. The man’s desire for freedom shapes his ‘ego’ or self-pride. If a man can control, or manipulate his external source of support, it boosts up his ego or self-pride. If a man has to survive basically depending upon Divine Providence, his ego or self-pride is subdued, and he is humbled and acquires an attitude called humility. This attitude of humility is expressed in his behavior and actions that can be recognized as ‘Devotion’, an acknowledgment of Divine Providence.
THE HINDU BRAHMIN’ S JOURNEY TO FIND DEVOTION WITH DETACHMENT:
A man who has limited freedom of action and choice is forced to detach himself from desires of acquiring material possessions and gets disinterested in his social ranking, social position, social status, and social occupation. The deprivation of freedom eliminates opportunities for social actions and social interactions for the man has to separate himself from the realities of external world if he has to find peace, harmony, and tranquility while living a life of utter simplicity. This social disengagement or detachment initiates a natural process that destroys man’s ego or self-pride. At the same time, man who is humble, meek and acquired the nature called humility will be able to acknowledge Divine Providence without seeking communion with his God at a House of Worship or Temple. While people with material possessions and material attachments prefer to worship God in Temples they build, a detached person expresses his humility in actions and behavior that can be recognized as devotion.
A HINDU BRAHMIN’ S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE:
The Hindu Brahmin living separated, detached, excommunicated, and alienated from his social community, leading a life of minimalistic existence, could still hear God’s word as shared in The Book of Matthew, Chapter 4, verse #4: Jesus answered, “It is Written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” This was a statement made by Jesus when he was forced to experience wilderness and hunger by manipulation of his external circumstances. Jesus was unwilling to find food, and was unwilling to change or influence his external environment to any extent that may go beyond Divine Providence. Tolerance of hunger and thirst is a humbling process to teach discipline and obedience and a man simply exists accepting the boundaries or limitations of Divine Providence.
The words that I hear from Book of Matthew connect me to their original source. When Jesus claims, “It is Written”, He is directing attention to original source of words He spoke, The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 8, verse #3: “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
As a Hindu Brahmin I claim that I am cut off from God and Temple as God has chosen those external circumstances that shaped my detachment, or alienation that allows no room for social actions and social interactions including access to places of worship like Church or Temple.
MAN’S FREEDOM FROM DEPENDENCE-DETACHED DEVOTION:
A man’s existence or lifetime is a constant struggle for the man needs support from an external source to keep his life. That support demands man’s connection, partnership, bonding, relationship, or association with his external environment. This dependence on external support generates tension or stress for it directly opposes man’s desire for freedom or independence. By careful analysis, the man can understand the true nature of external support contributed by Divine Providence without any concern for man’s struggle to control, to modify, or to influence his changing external circumstances. Divine Providence operates without demanding attachment to faith or belief in God. Its nature is detached, aloof, separate, not involved by emotion or desires, disengaged, disconnected, and indifferent to man’s physical, or mental struggles. Jesus was led into the desert or wilderness. He had no access to food or water. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. And yet, He demonstrated His unwillingness to struggle to alter or change external circumstances imposed by desert or wilderness. Jesus conquered dependence and won His freedom or independence by finding Life that comes from hearing the word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Jesus demonstrated the need for devotion; a devotion not based on a man’s attachment to his external struggle. The man has to sever his attachments to a life that demands a constant struggle with external causes. When detached, the man finds a new Life; a Life without dependence, a Life of freedom and independence that flows from the word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. For I am cut off from my God and Temple, I recognize the futility of my external struggle and I have no freedom of choice or freedom of action other than that of hearing the word while my life’s journey proceeds through wilderness.
Rudra Narasimham Rebbapragada