Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

Our Very Own Mahabharata

I'm teaching the Mahabharata in my mythology class now, and am amazed at how often it reads like the newspaper. Here's a review of a new book by Reza Aslan about a Cosmic War. Aslan differentiates between a global war, like the two world wars we have had, and a Cosmic War, which is described like this:
"A cosmic war," Reza Aslan writes, "is like a ritual drama in which participants act out on Earth a battle they believe is actually taking place in the heavens." Earthly wars are fought with weapons. Cosmic wars are won or lost with jihads, occupations, and forcible conversions. "There can be no compromise in a cosmic war. There can be no negotiation, no settlement, no surrender."

Sound familiar?

Apparently, the book doesn't offer a way to win a cosmic war, but does offer ways to make it more manageable. Its focus is primarily on Islam and Christianity. But with North Korea testing its missile range by shooting into the Pacific, it's obviously not limited just to those two religions.

The book also has a battle between Arjuna and Aswatthaman that sounds exactly like the last days of the cold war. Arjuna and Aswatthaman have both released weapons into the air - weapons which have the power to destroy the entire universe, but which counteract each other through their intentions - and Krishna and Vyasa try to talk them down from it. Here's the passage at length:

[Krishna said,] "Arjuna, withdraw it."

"I will," said Arjuna. Majesty, it is harder by ten million times to call back that weapon once released, and at the slightest error Arjuna and all there would have died, and Earth become a desert with no life for seven thousand years. But he did it; then weak and sick he collapsed to his knees gasping for breath.

Vyasa sat before Aswatthaman and said, "Bring it down. You will not be harmed. I protect you."

Slowly Aswatthaman's fireball turned yellow, then orange. The flames flickered and smoked. Aswatthaman perspired and said, "I cannot."

"Your heart must be at peace and not burning," said Vyasa. "You are afraid of Bhima. He lied to your father. But he cannot move. You have my protection and Arjuna's weapon is gone."

"Alright." The fire was only half as large, and dim. "Because I trust Arjuna," said Aswatthaman," I kill my fear. Because I trust you, I am not sad. Because Arjuna did not wish for my death, I let my anger go."

Like a torch in the daylight the pale flames were still there. "But I must have revenge."

Vyasa sighed. "Stop your sadness, kill revenge himself. Find that cunning ugly man who holds you tight as iron chains, aim true at him where he is hidden."

"I have no other purpose," said Aswatthaman. The fireball burst into bits in midair and was gone.
Vyasa is certainly speaking now (through Aslan, as well as others), but we will need to sharpen our hearing. As Vyasa says in another context, "Understand me; do not only agree."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Global Spirit

This new show looks interesting. The first episode will have Karen Armstrong and Robert Thurman. You can watch the episodes online.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wild Things

Really hoping this will be good. Hard to tell from this trailer.

Dark Morals

An intriguing article on Dark Morals, which are equated to Dark Matter.