Source : Indian Express
Ramanuja and Martin Luther underline how religion evolves by debating with scriptures, not by being beholden to them.
This year marks the 1,000th birth anniversary of Ramanuja, the great Vaishnava theologian who reinvented and revitalised Hinduism, and the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s triggering of the Protestant Reformation which fundamentally reshaped Christianity. Both events are a salutary reminder in these troubled times of how religions can evolve and reform.
Ramanuja is most often hailed for his philosophic articulation of “qualified monism” or visishtadvaita. But it is as a visionary religious leader and organiser that Ramanuja truly made his mark. When he became head of the Srirangam Mutt, Ramanuja inherited a theological tradition that had championed the Pancaratra Agamas — a set of scriptures composed outside the dominant Vedic and Brahmanic mainstream — as equally the product of divine revelation as the Vedas themselves. The Agamas, unlike the sacrifice-oriented Vedas, sanctioned image worship and inclusive temple-based rituals that women and lower caste believers, and not just Brahmin males, could participate in.
It was Ramanuja’s brilliance that gave practical effect to this theological innovation. He organised the daily pujas and annual festival cycle at the Srirangam Ranganatha temple in line with Agamic norms, thereby broadening the temple’s constituency to include rising peasant castes and women. He also made room for the emotive Tamil hymns of the Alvars in the otherwise austere Sanskrit temple liturgy. Eventually, under his leadership, these reforms took hold at other Vaishnavite temple complexes such as Tirupati and Melkote that had sprung up across South India over the preceding centuries.
Ramanuja, thus, profoundly reinvented Hinduism in response to societal conditions of the 11th century (albeit his inclusiveness did not extend to the “untouchable” community). Over time, the transformation he initiated was carried across India by the so-called “bhakti movements”. Ultimately, Ramanuja’s Agamic revolution, placing popular and dramatic temple rituals and emotional image adoration at the centre of worship and widening participation beyond Brahmin males, became mainstream to Hinduism displacing older practices rooted in the Vedic tradition.
In 1517, 500 years after Ramanuja, Martin Luther, a German monk and theologian, sparked the Reformation by posting “95 Theses” on a church door in Wittenberg, questioning portions of the Christian Church’s doctrine and specific corrupt practices — notably papal indulgences, a sort of whitewash of sins that were hawked by the Vatican for a hefty fee. Luther’s challenge set in train a seismic reshaping of Christianity and ultimately laid the foundation for the modern West. At the heart of the Lutheran revolution was the idea that Christians should themselves read the Bible, vernacular translations of which were beginning to roll off Gutenberg’s newly-invented printing presses, rather than have it presented to them by their priests.
But as soon as more and more people started to read the Bible, it became obvious that much of what is in the New and Old Testaments is ambiguous, impractical, and often contradictory — the Bible, like most scripture, does not speak with a single voice. To take one example cited by the philosopher Anthony Appiah, the same St. Paul who says women should cover their heads in church and men shouldn’t, also told the Galatians: “There is neither male nor female: For ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Protestant communities springing up across northern Europe chose to grapple with these scriptural conundrums themselves in self-study sessions rather than take their cues from the Church in Rome. They decided, in Appiah’s words, “which passages to read into and which to read past,” to shape their faith for their day and age.
Eventually, in the wake of the Reformation, good Christians could see that other sincere, committed Christians around them — be they traditional Catholics or members of one of the new Protestant sects from Calvinists and Anabaptists to Puritans and Presbyterians — came to believe in very different things. This ultimately infused (more than a century of brutal conflict later!) a more tolerant and sceptical spirit across Europe that gave birth to the liberal, secular, and humanist values of the 18th century Enlightenment.
It is worth reminding ourselves of this history when we are faced with shrill arguments that Muslims are immutable to change — whether on how they treat women or other religions. The argument goes as follows: Committed Muslims must take their beliefs directly from the Quran. For example, the Quran clearly says women are inferior to men in passages such as Surah (4:34): “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other.” Therefore, Muslim societies are bound to continue to treat men as superior to women. Indeed, this sort of scriptural determinism is mobilised by both sides — outsiders looking to indict Islam and insiders defending practices they favour.
But scriptures in other faiths also put down women — be it the Dharmashastras, the Torah, or the Bible — often in harsher terms than in the Quran. “Women have one eternal duty in this world,” says Bhishma in the Anusasana Parva of the Mahabharata, “dependence upon and obedient service to their husbands.” Thankfully, however, religious beliefs do not repose in sacred texts. Much of scripture is written in language that is poetical, metaphorical, or simply obscure. Much of it consists of narratives or fictional parables. Scripture, therefore, requires interpretation.
While fundamentalists of all stripes persist in trying to turn the clock back to what they regard as original, divinely-ordained doctrine, Jewish, Christian, and Hindu communities have been able to evolve their creeds by interpreting their scriptural dictums for the world they live in. No one would have predicted if they simply read the Manusmriti that we would have sudra archakas (shudra priests) in Hindu temples or inferred from the Torah or the King James Bible that there would be women and gay rabbis and Anglican bishops.
Islam is no different. There are very few verses in the Quran which actually lay down law. Quranic verses — like most scripture — are vague and quite general. They have to be read along with other sources such as the sayings and doings of the Prophet to determine the rules for specific situations. Islam has a hoary tradition of schools of jurisprudence that have devised sophisticated theoretical frameworks to come up with the law governing the behaviour of Muslims. But these schools diverge in their views which is why there is a great range of social practice — whether on polygamy, women being veiled, serving liquor in public places, or tolerance of other faiths — between Turkey and Morocco and Saudi Arabia, all avowedly Muslim countries.
This is why the Supreme Court case on triple talaq, on which the Quran typically offers no clear-cut direction, is so important for India’s Muslims. Whatever be the court’s final judgement, and despite the political calculus that lies behind the Sangh Parivar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s support for abolishing triple talaq, the hearings have provided an unprecedented forum for the Indian Muslim community — ranging from petitioner Shayara Bano to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board — to have a vibrant public debate on whether this practice should prevail in this day and age.
What Ramanuja and Luther underline for us is that it is precisely this sort of reasoned debate amongst fellow believers, in dialogue with but not beholden to their scriptures, that has allowed religious communities throughout history to reform themselves — for the better.
P.N. Panicker is known as the Father of the Library Movement in the Indian state of Kerala. The activities of the Kerala Grandhasala Sanghom that he initiated triggered a popular cultural movement in Kerala which produced universal literacy in the state in the 1990s.
The State Government of Kerala has announced 19th June (day of his death) as the PN Panicker Reading Day (Vaayanadinam) and June as the Reading Month.
The PN Panicker Foundation together with a number of Government agencies, private sector entities and civil society organisations, is leading an initiative of reading. Their target is to reach 300 million under-privileged people by 2022. The main objective of this mission is to promote reading as a means to grow and prosper.
Poisonous pedagogy, also called black pedagogy (from the original German name Schwarze Pädagogik), is a psychological and sociological term describing a subset of traditional child-raising methods which modern sociologists and psychologists describe as repressive and harmful. It includes behaviors and communication that theorists consider to be manipulative or violent, such as corporal punishment.
Alice Miller defines poisonous pedagogy as all types of behavior that she believes is intended to manipulate children’s characters through force or deception. Her focus is not merely on smacking (although she has said that “Every smack is a humiliation” and clearly opposes corporal punishment) but also on various other forms of manipulation, deceit, hypocrisy, and coercion, which she argues are commonly used by parents and teachers against children.
Developmental psychologist James W. Prescott, in the 1970s, carried out research into primate child-mother bonding and noted a link between disruption to the child-mother bonding process and the emergence of violence and fear based behaviour in the young primates. He suggests that the same dynamic functions for human beings, through the breakdown of empathy.
Sweden was the first nation to outlaw all forms of corporal punishment of children, in 1979. According to the Swedish Institute, “Until the 1960s, nine out of ten preschool children in Sweden were spanked at home. Slowly, though, more and more parents voluntarily refrained from its use and corporal punishment was prohibited throughout the educational system in 1958”. As of 2014, approximately 5 percent of Swedish children are spanked illegally.
Parents’ rights in Sweden to spank their children was removed in 1966. In 1979 Sweden became the first country to explicitly ban corporal punishment, through an amendment to the Parenthood and Guardianship Code which stated, “Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment.” Corporal punishment in Sweden does not usually carry a criminal penalty, unless it meets the criteria for assault.
The psychologist Alice Miller, noted for her books on child abuse, took the view that humiliations, spankings and beatings, slaps in the face, etc. are all forms of abuse, because they injure the integrity and dignity of a child, even if their consequences are not visible right away.
Humiliations, beatings, slapping, deception, sexual exploitation, mockery, neglect, etc. Are forms of abuse because they harm the integrity and dignity of the child, even if the effects are not immediately apparent. It is in adulthood that the abused child once will begin to suffer and make others suffer. This is not only a problem of the family but of society as a whole, because the victims of this dynamic of violence, transformed into executioners, take vengeance on entire nations, as is shown by the growing genocide More frequent under atrocious dictatorships like that of Hitler. Beaten children learn early on what violence they will use adults by believing in what they have been told: That they deserved punishment and that they were beaten “out of love.” They do not know that the only reason they were subjected to the punishment was because their parents suffered and learned the violence early without questioning it. In turn they beat their children without thinking of hurting them.
That is how ignorance of society remains so strong and that parents continue in good faith to produce evil in every generation for millennia. Almost all children get beating when they start walking and touch objects that should not be touched. This happens exactly at the age when the human brain is structured (between 0 and 3 years). There, the child must learn from his models kindness and love but never, in any case, violence and lies (like: “I give you for your good and for love”). Fortunately, there are some abused children who receive love and protection among “witnesses” in their entourage.
Souces : SlideShare, Wikipedia, Google