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#1929 - Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - Editor: Jerry
Special thanks to editor Mark for posting my
Highlights for the last two weeks while I was away from a
computer, and to Gloria for Being there.
Dialog on Whiteness Studies by Rajiv Malhotra
The following is a small portion of a very long article:
This column is a conversation with Jeff Hitchcock, a liberal
white American who
specializes in studying white culture. I hope to bring Indians and Indianness into this
vibrant debate, and to use whiteness as the context in which to re-examine various issues
concerning Indian identity and culture.
But first I introduce the reason for wanting to do this. Every
serious thinker in the
world today must have an independent and deep understanding of America and its culture.
While American pop culture is understood by many Indian intellectuals, one must look
beneath this surface to discover the underlying reality of America. For example, a
foreigner judging America on the basis of sports and entertainment could falsely conclude
that blacks enjoy a high status in American society. The danger of being an outsider
looking in is that generalized surface impressions become naively accepted as deep-seated
truths rather than the superficial façade they truly represent. Far too many Indian
writers have interpreted America by focusing only on its pop culture, where they
disproportionately focus on symbols of postmodernity, i.e. such images as Madonna with a
bindi or the latest belly-button of Britney Spears.
However, America's institutions of power government,
business and church are the true
windows into her soul, and yet have not been adequately examined by Indians in the
humanities. One must even go beyond the institutions and analyze the white culture, both
codified and uncodified, both known and subliminal, by which these institutions operate.
In understanding white culture, one must bear in mind that Middle America is distinct
from Elite America of Ivy League cocoons, Broadway shows and The New York Times
For years, I have wanted to start a new discipline, which I
had tentatively called
Westology, to study the West in the same manner as Indology was started in the 19th
century by outsiders to study India.
But luckily, I came across an exciting new academic field that
already does much of what
I had envisioned in Westology. This field is called Whiteness Studies (or White Studies),
and is taught in over 30 US colleges. For instance, in Princeton University, an
undergraduate course on Whiteness is among the most popular courses in the entire
university, and the vast majority of students taking it are whites who want to better
In the late 1980s, an article by Richard Dyer appearing in
Screen, a British film
magazine, sparked great intellectual interest in the field. But Whiteness Studies gained
academic momentum only after a watershed event where some students organized a highly
successful academic conference on this topic in Berkeley, in April 1997.
A central concept of this discipline is white privilege, which
has been defined as a
package of benefits, granted to people in our society who have white skin, which allows
them certain free passes to certain things in our society that are not easily available
to people of color."
~ ~ ~
Read the entire article: http://www.sulekha.com/expressions/column.asp?cid=305959
Compassionate Seeing is Being
The separation of mind and consciousness lies at the base of
all existence problems. They
function as one, but there is an obtainable experiential reference exposing that
separation. The exposure unveils what is permanent and what is transitory. Mind is built
upon the transitory brain functions of intellect, memory, imagination and intuition. It
has a physical origin, but is spirit pattern constructed. On the other hand, pure
consciousness is and remains entirely of spirit origin. It is your permanence. It never
alters or ages, no matter what your mind functions produce.
Until you obtain an experiential knowing of the innate purity
of consciousness the mind
will perpetually keep you on the roller coaster of clouded unknowing. When you do
experience that separation, what your mind functions produce no longer have power over
you. You simply use or direct them, remaining disinterested in the results, which is
nonattachment. This disinterest is freedom, liberation and enlightenment, as your load
has been lifted. It is only the mind that takes interest in what it produces. Whilst pure
consciousness, having no involvement in the production cannot be stained by it.
From the initial separation experience it may take years
before you experience the actual
re-assimilation of mind and consciousness as one unified whole, as an experiential
reality. The reunification feels identical to how you were before the separation
experience. But now you no longer reference what the mind produces. Or, you no longer
take what the mind produces as what you are. Mind production does create an imposter
within consciousness as 'I am', the one that created and owns the production. With that
imposter sidestepped you naturally take or reference the innate purity of consciousness
as what and who you are. You have always been the purity of consciousness, but now you
know it. Pure consciousness now directs mind, not controls it, as control is an act of
the imposter. The reunification feels devoid of everything, except the reference to the
innate purity of consciousness. It has the feel of peaceful emptiness that does not
require filling, as this form of emptiness is absolute fullness.
The experiential emptiness is the innate peacefulness of
absolute awareness. The fullness
is the innate purity of consciousness. That purity exists within every human, filling
every pore of consciousness with itself. But it is impersonally embedded. It is up to
your mind functions to make it personal or not.
Making visible - the personalization of that innate purity -
is felt and witnessed as
compassion. Compassion is natural and normal for every human; it is the substance of your
being. It is the mind functions that ignore it. Or, using your mind functions to evolve
the innate purity of consciousness you create equanimity of compassion. And that is
unconditional love. You have never left home.
Pure consciousness is the still, silent and peaceful center of
Experiencing that center as your reality does not end there. It now becomes your task to
express and live from the center every second of your life. That may appear trying, but
in reality it is exceedingly simple. That peaceful center is awareness, how you activate
that awareness with your transitory mind functions is what gives birth to spirit-value.
Your created spirit-value is assimilated and ennobles pure spirit consciousness.
Consciousness and spirit-value are both spirit based (of the same nature) and so resonate
with each other. Consciousness being pure spirit never alters, but can be infused with
spirit-value. This eternalizes your already indestructible consciousness, creating
honesty of expression that is enduringly compassionate centered. Consciousness is
perpetually consistent; it is your mind functions that are in states of continual change.
Being aware of consciousness is self-awareness. Self-awareness
is what separates you from
the animal kingdom, as animals have consciousness or awareness, but not self-awareness.
It is self-awareness that takes the human animal from reaction of mind functions to being
able to control them, creating thought, ideas and ideals - advancing civilization. That
control also creates the imposter that is the author of all the pain and suffering in
your life. The imposter is a deception, controlling your life in the guise of maintaining
it, which is deceitful.
Being within your peaceful and still center is what all the
past sages point at as your
permanence, and spiritual writers and speakers promote as an objective. But, simply
experientially discovering that center as your permanence is not the end of it. It is
only the beginning. After that discovery you simply do not lie about and wait to die to
move on to a different form of experience. Your next task is to uncover what
consciousness is and how it functions. This process ultimately creates unity of
consciousness and mind. Until then it may be pleasant - some refer to it as blissful -
remaining in your internally discovered peace and serenity, but it goes nowhere. It is
the dead-end of knowing and doing nothing with that knowing.
Consciousness has an innate direction that is discoverable,
firstly by spirit logic and
then by experiencing that logic. The experience creates the unity (consciousness and
mind) and the two become eternally one. No one anywhere can give you that experience, you
have to earn it. Earning it takes effort that ultimately dissolves into effortlessness.
It is a journey that no one forces upon you. You choose it of your own free will. And
eventually you discover your free will is that which creates self-awareness, separating
you from the animal kingdom. You no longer reference moral or ethical standards, as you
have become them. Or, you are now exposing what consciousness is, as its purity passes
through you into the world. Once out, what occurs due to that exposure is of no concern
to you - the disinterest. The result is of no importance, or the result is out of your
hands. It is the mind that focuses upon the result. And by that focus maintains the
existence of the imposter, as the imposter lives upon the binding-glue of success or
failure of its actions. It is continual entrapment without one even being aware of that
The purity of consciousness can visibly be seen and known as
individual compassion. It is
innate within awareness. You simply are required to use your mind functions to direct
(not control) that compassion, creating developing equanimity. Combining innate
compassion (pre-existing) with equanimity (your effort) is unconditional love. And that
is ruthless compassion. It is ruthless, as your developed equanimity is not attached to
the results. You simply stand-aside allowing unconditional love to flow through you. This
is easily witnessed when you stand-aside, allowing children to learn from their own
mistakes. The moment you desire a particular result for your effort, unconditional love
becomes conditional, and your internal equanimity is lost. Standing-aside is the ruthless
nature of compassionate equanimity or unconditional love, as it expects or desires no
particular result. This unguarded giving then becomes the end in itself.
Copyright © 2002 PRESENCE - www.presencethebook.com All rights reserved. Serial rights for articles by request to author
Who am I?
Have you ever wondered the question where you really are?
Let's start by a definition of a house. What is a house?
Usually it is built for a
purpose - it has some relevance and a function. A house is built up from various
different components which are combined and put together from basic materials and
minerals. In another words a combination of materials in a certain order is called a
house. This house is not outside of the world from which it is put together. A house can
be old, young, stylish, ugly, ruined or abonded. At the end of its existence it is just
again various materials in another order that is not called a house anymore. So what was
OK, back to us. Who am I? Am I the body which is combined in a
particular order from stem
cells? Now we have learned to replace our broken arms, hearts and other organs with new
ones. We can even start to grow entirely new body parts from our very own stem cells. We
can be young, old, beutiful, ugly, sick or healthy. And at the end of the day we are just
a bunch of materials in different order and we are called dead. So what was me?
As we defined, a house is a combination of things from its
surroundings. It is not
outside of the world. It is part of the world. But still the house was something that is
separate because we called it a house. If it would not have been separate why should it
have a name? A non-existing cannot be seen / realised. A separation means that it has
boundaries and can be put in relation to something.
When we are very young we do not know the difference between
our own body and the outside
world. We learn this separation from others. We can observe and sense things around us
that are not us. We do not feel them or cannot control them. So we come to a conclusion
that they must not be us. Similarly like we call a bunch of materials laid together in a
particular order a house other people call us by name. Other people define us and we
learn to be that whatevername they have given us.
House has a particular function or purpose. But what is our
purpose? Why are we at the
same time separate from the world but still part of the world as well (we do not live
outside of the world). We are a bunch of materials put together in a particular order and
we have a certain concentration of atoms or energy from which other people recognise us.
So could this separation serve a purpose? Why should we be separated from the world if
that would not be meaningful? Like no one would build a house if that would not have any
function. There would not even be a word house in that case. A separation named house
within the world serves a purpose for us - it shelters and gives us a place to stay. But
a house cannot acknowledge itself. We can. Why should we be aware of our separation and
existence if that would not serve a purpose? It would be totally strange to use energy to
put something together without any purpose.
So, who am I? For sure I am this separation called by my name.
I should be also part of
the world since I'm built upon the materials found in the world. But when my heart is
replaced or a leg is lost I do not vanish with them. So they are not me. There seems to
be other persons like me. They behave the same, they talk and communicate. They seem to
have a similar existence like me. Still they seem not to be me. There is also other
living things that are called animals and plants. I'm not so much sure of them since they
do not communicate like humans do. But I'm sure they exist as well. They live outside of
me. Somehow it is difficult to go further from here. There really do not seem to be me. Only
this separation within the world that is recognised by others. They have defined me,
which is built upon things found in the world. My conclusion is that there is no me or as
well I could say that I am the world since I'm part of it and live in it. This temporary
separation called me is like a house. But what is a house? My purpose is to realise the
separation as an illusion and as not more than atoms laid in a particular order. A
temporary concept built upon to realise the concept of me - and its oneness with the
world. A separation to realise its unitism. And then shall I be no more separated.
Those living in glass houses...
|Bangalore-based architect Anil Bhaskaran believes in minimal use of glass. Tune in to Nature, he says, and bring back those verandahs, pandals and courtyards.|
The Jal Bhavan in Bangalore.
In a city where architects are inspired by the glass and granite buildings of the West, Anil Bhaskaran is an antithesis of the trend. "I see no point in spending money on expensive glass boxes and offsetting the heat generated by them using air-conditioners and then running up huge energy bills," he says.
He is one architect who believes in the minimal use of glass. "We don't have to blindly follow the West. Most of us forget that we live in India, which is a blessed land. We can afford to have an open-to-sky kind of architecture." He refers to the old-world practicality of verandahs, pandals and courtyards. Indians have always had the right mix of internal and external spaces in their buildings, he says. But, unfortunately, use of glass-granite has become the soul of the IT sector today, he adds.
If this trend continues, Bhaskaran fears that Bangalore will go the Mumbai way. "Thirty years from now you'll have brown buildings because the buildings would have started deteriorating, apartments would have changed hands, and there will be no accountability or responsibility for maintenance."
In an effort to improve the cityscape of Bangalore, he started Idea (Initiative for Design Excellence in Architecture) Centre last year. "Our core strengths are creation of special and designer buildings with emphasis on cost-effective, environment-friendly structures," he says. He plans to make the centre a research and development hub for architects across the country.
Bhaskaran and his 15-member team also believe in generating a concept for the customer to suit his or her personality. They also factor in the surroundings. Infosys Mangala is one such project that gives credence to this concept. The building, located in Mangalore, is influenced by the step farming technique practised in coastal Karnataka.
Bhaskaran strongly believes that Nature offers an amazing variety of designs to copy from, a palette of colours to choose from and an inspiring range of shapes and forms. "I always tell my interns to use their hands and not their set squares when they design a building, and this will definitely create an effect," he says. Nature is beyond prediction so let your designs be that way, is his lesson for newcomers in the profession.
"Are there any straight lines in Nature?" he asks. Then you realise how the world's first eight-storeyed arch-shaped building came up in Bangalore. Jal Bhavan, which houses the offices of the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board, is a huge wave on the city's Bannerghatta Road.
"This building is a big achievement for me, one because in the government sector this was one of the first innovative designs and, two, it was built in a record time of 11 months," he says. Before he started work on the Ramana Maharshi Spiritual Centre in Bangalore, Bhaskaran says he did quite a bit of reading on the spiritual guru. He discovered that the Maharshi focussed on two things: his love for the universe and his belief in minimalism. He also realised that the Maharshi showed his love for the universe through the concept of the Panchaboothas, or the five elements: jal (water), vaayu (air), prithvi (earth), aakash (sky) and agni (fire).
This Bangalore-based architect was also inspired by the fact that the Maharshi practised semiotics or the science of symbolism. Therefore, certain areas of the ashram in Bangalore are influenced by this science. For instance, the open reception area represents vaayu, the pool represents the jal, the open air theatre the aakash, and so on. Then, of course, all the building materials are eco-friendly and energy saving. "You can be a successful designer and still make a commercial success of your designs," he says. For instance, when he designed an apartment building recently, he gave it a pandal-like structure. This is one place in the apartment building where residents can walk around or cool off on a hot day. "While I had another intention (to reduce heat inside the building), the builder and the apartment owners see the pandal as a new and unique style and now the builder wants this in all his other projects," says Bhaskaran. He recommends the use of verandahs because they cut down heat in buildings by 50 per cent. "We have to make buildings more climatically conducive to this country," he adds.
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