how to use silence as a tool in mediation


                                                                      By Adv. George Merlo Pallath

                                                                      Mediation Trainer, Kerala

Imagine the husband and wife bickering. Both will be shouting at the top of their voices and both will be misunderstood, misinterpreted and there will be total breakdown of communication. Despite their raised voices, there is zero communication. Compare this with two lovers sitting on the beach watching the sunset. There is silence. No words being spoken, but they are in total communion with each other. Imagine a Buddhist ascetic meditating. Total silence. Yet there is absolute communication.

In an hospital room, the aged husband and wife is lying on adjacent beds. Both are critically ill. Their hands are clasped. No words being spoken. But everything is understood.

You are at a flea market and see an item you like and asked the vendor for his best price. He says, “200.” Do you think you will get a better response by looking at him disappointedly in silence and starting to turn away or by saying, “Can’t you do better than that?” we can all agree that the former works better.

In mediation, the disputants come to us for a resolution of their dispute, to make themselves heard, to open their minds and empty their hearts of all their sorrows, anger, frustration, and helplessness. Many a times, just a patient listening will suffice to mitigate their emotions and drain out their negativities. Sometimes they will get angry, violent, aggressive. One of the best weapons in our armoury to counter these negative emotions or to neutralize them is “SILENCE’. People abhor silence the way nature abhors a vacuum and rush to fill it with the same alacrity. Silence feeds our imaginations and provokes all types of anxious conjurations. If we are clever about it, however, we can leverage these negative reactions to create positive value. Silence is also a form of communication.

In mediation, when some disputants lose their control and shout at the mediator, the mediator can just stay silent and calmly continue to look at the disputant in the eye. The mediator’s silence will calm down the disputant, bring down the temperature, and give them time to reflect and think rationally.

You are most powerful when you are silent. People never expect silence. They expect words, motion, defence, offense, back and forth. They expect to leap into the fray. They are ready, fists up, words hanging leaping from their mouths. Silence? No. ~Alison McGhee

Silence is one of the great arts of conversation”. ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

Silence, is one of the most powerful weapons an individual can bring to the table. But where does the power of silence lie?

Silence implies confidence:  There is a reason that the descriptors “strong” and “silent” are often paired together. It takes a confident person to calmly sit in silence in the face of a tough negotiation. Even if you do not feel particularly confident, strategically choosing to employ silence in your negotiations can help get there.

Silence shows that you are listening: In negotiation, information is power. It is how we learn more about the other side’s interests, identify new ways of creating value, and work towards win-win solutions. If we spend most of the time talking, rather than opening space for the other person to speak, we miss out of key information that will make us more effective negotiators and help us create better deals. Silence gives the other person space to speak, and it displays your willingness to listen and learn more. “Silent” and “Listen” are comprised of the same letters. Coincidence? Probably not.

Silence expects a response: Sometimes, your negotiation counterpart is quiet or reserved with their communication. Perhaps they are utilizing positional negotiation tactics, hoping to draw you into a framework of bargaining and haggling. In this case, you need to convince the other side to negotiate in an interest-based way focused on mutual gains. While you can clearly state your goal to work together to create more value in the negotiation, you can also utilize silence elicit more open communication. Just as you might be uncomfortable with silence, it is likely that your negotiation counterpart is as well. After a thoughtful question, allowing silence increases the likelihood that the other side will respond with more information and clarity.

When used genuinely and sparingly, you can utilize silence in a way that exemplifies your confidence and empowers your negotiation counterpart to collaborate with you, without creating too much pressure or making the other person uncomfortable or defensive.

Encourage them to speak with inquiry: Start by asking your negotiation counterpart an open-ended question, then sit back and be ready to listen. When the other person is finished speaking, allow a few more seconds of silence. This shows that you respect their space and want to hear from them, and they may continue speaking after a pause.

Practice active listening: You may be silent, but that does not mean you are not engaged. Show that you are still part of the conversation and eager to hear more by opening your body language and making eye contact. If the silence continues, sit back in your chair, and shift your eye contact to remove some pressure from the other side. Once they are done speaking, try to recap what you heard, focusing on naming any of their interests you identified.

After you speak, be silent: After you make a statement or request to your negotiation counterpart, avoid the instinct to tack on follow-up questions and explanations. Instead, utilize silence. This gives the other person space to be thoughtful about their response to what you said, and it allows your statement to sink in and clarify. It also allows the other person to respond openly to what they found most important in you statement, rather than to a narrow follow-up question.

Avoid the desire to fill gaps: Sometimes, conversations come to a natural lag. Rather than viewing this as a negative, use that time to be thoughtful about why there is silence. Are you feeling stuck for a specific reason? Take time to assess your counterpart’s body language and tone – do they seem uncomfortable, angry, or upset? Are they possibly analysing an option that was put on the table, digesting a large amount of information or a statement that was difficult to hear, or planning how to move forward in a resource-strapped situation? Rather than mindlessly filling blank spaces in the conversation, utilize that time to diagnose what is happening and plan the next best step. In conclusion, Use silence as a furnace of transformation to bring down tempers, to calm people, to make people introspect, to reconsider, to think, to give time to the disputants to realize ground realities. Silence demonstrates that sometimes things must unfold in their own time. Silence brings about a transformation in the mind of the disputants. So long as it is used sparingly and with perfect timing, it is a potent weapon to bring clarity to the fuddled minds of the disputants.

Artificial Intelligence: Boon or bane for the lawyers

Adv. George Merlo Pallath

These days, one of the hottest subject in the media, whether it be the newspapers or the TV channels or the social media, is about how the humans and specifically the jobs are going to be impacted by the advances in artificial Intelligence and robotics. Anybody using the latest smartphones is already aware of the power and potential of virtual personal assistants such as “Siri” and “Google Alexa”. Smart home devices have the ability to learn a person’s behaviour patterns by adjusting the settings of appliances or thermostats, while self-driving cars are already becoming a reality. Soon these personal assistants will develop into robots that will be equipped with Artificial intelligence. Within the next decade, we will see a quantum jump in robotics and Artificial Intelligence based applications. Already in USA, they are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to diagnose diseases. Many hospitals already use robotics for surgery. Artificial Intelligence equipped self-learning robots is already a reality and will be replacing humans in various fields within as short a time as 10 to 15 years. But AI will completely replace all sorts of repetitive, routine and optimizing jobs in the world. And it’s not just in factories, but truckers, drivers and even jobs like telesales, customer service and haematologists as well as radiologists over the next 15 years are going to be gradually replaced by artificial intelligence. AI will displace almost 40% of the jobs in the world. In the past, we humans used technology as a tool. Now, technology has already advanced to the point where it is using and even controlling us. In fact, humans are becoming the impediment.
If the practitioners of the legal profession, coat and gown clad in colonial style, tradition-bound and labour-heavy, dealing with human problems and emotions, still think that it cannot be touched by Artificial Intelligence, there is room for concern. The future is already here. Already a lot of work of Lawyers and Judges is being done or at least supported by computers. However, at present most of the work which is done by the computer in this field is typing, data feeding, data analysis, data search, templates and repetitive type of work. Those are all tasks that used to be done by flesh-and-blood lawyers. Increasing automation of the legal industry, not only promises to increase efficiency and save clients’ money but could also cut jobs in the sector as the technology becomes responsible for tasks currently performed by humans. The legal field is also going to be heavily impacted.
Welcome to the fuzzy new world of “Artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning, data science” where the machines are able to think, learn, upgrade and update all by itself. These Artificial Intelligence platforms will “mine” documents for evidence that will be useful in litigation, to review and create contracts, raise red flags within companies to identify potential fraud and other misconduct or do legal research and perform due diligence before corporate acquisitions.
Advocates of AI, however, argue there could be an increase in the sector’s labour force as the technology drives costs down and makes legal services more affordable to greater numbers of people especially in the developed countries, where the litigation cost is exorbitantly high at present.
Right now the legal field, is where the other industries were 10 and 15 years ago, according to Noory Bechor, CEO of “LawGeex”, a leading AI-powered platform for legal contract review. Imagine drafting a contract or scrutinizing a contract. It is repetitive drudge work, almost mechanical. Once you get the hang of it and you have it in your head, what a contract should and should not contain, it becomes easy for handling these kinds of drudge work. But humans do not like to handle such repetitive work and tend to make mistakes or overlook even obvious points. That convinced him that all these tedious works can be automated. The LawGeex platform that Noory Bechor developed can take a new contract, one that it’s never seen before, read it and then compare it to a database of every similar contract that it has seen in the past. Like other AI platforms, “LawGeex” also learns from each review it performs, just like we learned to do as young lawyers.
Jay Leib, founder and managing member of “NexLP”, Chicago-based company offers “eDiscovery”, an AI platform that searches documents for information relevant to lawsuits and other litigation. According to Jay Leib, Human beings are not very good at keyword searches. They miss out a lot of things. Moreover, the explosion in the amount of electronic data generated today makes it hard for humans to keep up. There’s just so much more data now, that you need these technologies to boil the ocean for you and find relevant material. “E Discovery” AI Platform will not only look at the text of a document or email, but it also analyses the tone of the conversation, who sent it, to see whether the item should be flagged for review in litigation etc.
He also points out that computers do not get tired, they do not get hungry, they do not fall asleep. All the biological problems that can happen to a human being are not applicable to computers. Computers will work 24 X 7, 365 days, without rest, sleep or exhaustion. They do not require any holidays or sick leave.
Another big international law firm “Reed Smith” recently put that question to the test with “RAVN ACE”, the AI platform from “RAVN Systems”. Reed Smith had RAVN conduct a review of hundreds of pages of documents. “RAVN system” not only compared very favourably with humans, it worked much faster than its human counterparts. In fact, it was so fast that it finished in minutes, what humans would have taken days to complete. The speed and data analysis capacity of AI platforms have now grabbed the interest of large firms and multinational companies.
“ROSS Intelligence” makes a legal research platform based on IBM’s cognitive computing system “IBM Watson”, which is being used by a number of the world’s biggest law firms, including Dentons, as well as Latham & Watkins. According to Andrew Arruda, CEO and co-founder of ROSS Intelligence:
“There are thousands of laws are being published each day… But until recently, our computers have had a very superficial understanding of natural language. “ROSS” pretty much mimics the human process of reading, identifies patterns in text, and provides contextualized answers with snippets from the document in question.”
A standard question could be along the lines of “Can a stay order be lifted if the plaintiff has obtained it through misrepresentation?” Answers against this kind of question can be tricky with keyword searches but artificial intelligence is well-suited to parse out the meaning from this question and look for answers across billions of documents. The system analyses the meaning and relationships between words to understand the legal concepts they form. For each answer, the system shows the level of confidence it has in its answer.
According to Andrew Arruda, his company is working with lawyers from every type of organization, in-house, big, medium, small, solo practitioners as well as law schools and bar associations. He noted that his company’s new platform is already saving 20 to 30 hours of research time per case for its clients. This translates into huge savings of time and money and the big law firms and corporations are very much interested in cutting down on costs. According to Jay Leib, founder and managing member of NexLP, Artificial Intelligence platforms will become the order of the day as early as 2020 and 2025. If AI solutions become pervasive, law firms may cut staff. Paralegals and legal assistants are in the high-risk category. At the same time, lawyers, which rely on labour input from legal assistants, are in the low risk category.
Many Law enforcement officials in USA are using AI to predict when and where crimes are likely to occur.
Many Law Firms in USA use AI to predict legal outcomes and to find out which Lawyers win before which judges! In Europe AI reached the same verdict as Judges as the European Court of human rights in nearly 4 out of 5 cases involving torture, degrading treatment and privacy.
IBM WATSON another question answering, Computer System is a machine which can answer your legal queries at home without approaching a Lawyer. It not only has speech reorganization, but it is created to understand the intention of the words spoken. Another key feature is its ability to learn from its own success and failures. It has the capacity to keep on upgrading itself.
Blue J Legal: Another Canadian Legal start up can predict with greater than 90% accuracy what a court of law would hold in different circumstances.
Coming to India Aniruddha Yadav, an Engineer has founded a new Law tech start-up “Case mine”. It guides Lawyers through different types of work, while connecting them to relevant templates, documents and precedents. Judges can upload both the Appellants submission and the Respondents submission and within seconds see whether both parties are missing out and important precedent and lines of thought that are important to the case.
Mumbai based Law Firm Cyril Amal Chand Mangal das has adopted Canada based machine learning legal system ‘KIRA’ which has striking efficiency gains.
At present, the legal fees are exorbitantly high in the USA & other developed countries. As AI platforms become more common, the cost of legal work is going to see a dramatic fall and the cost of legal work and litigation will come down drastically. It is a reality that many individuals who need a lawyer at present cannot afford one. Theoretically, lawyers can be more efficient from day one because of the technology. The activities that AI excels at is data retrieval, data crunching. This is not a field where people excel. Lawyers with the help of faster data retrieval can theoretically become more efficient at lesser cost and input. The most important advancement in AI is that technology has already started to make use of AI platforms which continuously learn and upgrade themselves.

1)Accuracy and precision
2)Reduction in time consumption
3) Reduction in costs
4)Solution to access to justice problem. Computers do not get tired, do not get hungry, do not get sleep! i.e. they do not have biological problems of human beings.
5)Computers does not suffer from human prejudices and biases.
6) Artificial intelligence with much superior data retrieval and data crunching capacity and algorithms, will not miss out much. They will not suffer from memory issues.
7) AI will be much faster than humans.
8) AI will excel in drafting routine documents and pleadings.
9) Likewise, AI will excel in finding the right precedents on any question of law within minutes.
10) Cannot rule out AI being used for judging a case in future.
11) It will liberate us from doing routine drudge work so that we can concentrate more on creative work.
12) It keeps on getting faster and faster. More powerful.

1)Unstructured human interactions being key part of Lawyering and Judging is extremely difficult to automate.
2)Computers cannot articulate the diverse emotional states of human beings.
3)Computers may be able to read or analysis sentences but may not be able to understand and summarize entire paragraph.
4) Advocacy requires conceptual creativity and flexibility which are beyond current scope of computers.
5)By delegating increasing number of tasks to machines, there is a danger that existing skills will atrophy.
Sofia Lingos, a lawyer and board member of the “Legal Technology Resource Centre” of the “American Bar Association” says that lawyers should be both afraid and encouraged by artificial intelligence. It is wise to embrace AI, so that it can be a tool as opposed to an impediment. No one wants to be competing against IBM Watson, IBM’s cognitive computer system.
It is thus clear that two views emerge, one holding that given the reach of AI at this point of time, it will remain as an enabler or supporter of the legal field. But not as replacement of lawyers and judges. It may even be considered legal malpractice not to use AI one day,” says Tom Girardi, renowned civil litigator and the real-life inspiration for the lawyer in the movie, Erin Brockovich. “It would be analogous to a lawyer in the late twentieth century still doing everything by hand when this person could use a computer.” Lawyers and judges are only as good as the information they receive, and AI has the potential to significantly increase the quality and quantity of information.
However, the other view holds that Computers and Machines with AI have not only an ability to store and deliver but also an ability to learn. If scientists focus on this ability to learn, the notion of robots replacing lawyers and judges may well become reality. We may even see Robot Lawyers advising clients within 10 years.
It is predicted by the experts in the field of artificial intelligence, that within the next 5 to 10 years, many of the present-day jobs will be taken over by Artificial Intelligence. This includes the profession of law also. Even the job of a judge is being tried out and AI platforms are coming up trumps. Nobody is immune to change. The legal sector has been slow to change, technologically or otherwise. But change it must and change it will. The next decade will see more momentous changes taking place in our lives and particularly in the legal field than what has happened in the last 300 years put together.
Though no consensus exists yet as to how AI will ultimately shape the legal profession, we do know AI is poised to transform nearly every facet of our lives, and the new technologies it’s powering will create a host of unprecedented legal issues, including ownership, liability, privacy and policing. For a taste of what’s coming, just consider this: when self-driving cars start getting into accidents, who will be deemed responsible? The car owner? The manufacturer? The software designer? The very fact these are complicated issues soon to be exacerbated by unprecedented technology reveals the need for more lawyers, but not just any kind of lawyers. We need those capable of making sense of our rapidly evolving society.
Song Richardson, Dean of University of California says “What worries me is that we won’t have lawyers who understand algorithms and AI well enough to even know what questions to ask, nor judges who feel comfortable enough with these new technologies to rule on cases involving them,” says Richardson.
In the light of such valid concerns, it is becoming increasingly clear our law schools must prepare tomorrow’s lawyers to use the new technology. But even this is not enough. We also need today’s practicing counsel and judges to grasp AI and all it promises to better serve and protect our fellow humans. We need lawyers who can make sense of a rapidly evolving society. Maybe in future, the lawyers might not only pass law, but might also have to master AI and robotics.
The best advice to young lawyers is “If you can’t beat them, join them!”


By Adv. George Merlo Pallath
It is common to hear on the corridors of the High Court and at the Bar association hall to hear lawyers talk about the biases of the judges. All lawyers are aware of these biases in the judges. That is why it is said that “good lawyers study the law, while the top lawyers study the judge.”
It is not just the judges who have biases. Indeed every human beings are biased one way or another. Recently while sitting on the front veranda of the Ernakulam Bar association, another lawyer was expressing his deep displeasure about lady lawyers coming and sitting along with the men. According to him, ladies must not sit along with the males. Where does he get these biases and prejudices?
Anybody who has seen the Malayalam movie “ Mary Kutty”, where the actor Jayasuriya enacts the role of a transsexual to perfection will understand how the biases and prejudices of the society towards trans sexuals and transgenders play out. Or in the movie “Chalakudykaaran Changadi” which is based on the life of Kalabhavan Mani, the prejudices and biases that he had to face from the society merely because of his skin colour and caste is highlighted. The prejudice and biases of the society against caste, color of the skin, gender biases etc are so prevalent amongst us and it creates so much hurt, anger, frustration and consternation leading to lifelong mental scar. These biases are the root cause of many disputes and conflicts in society.
We were all born free of all biases. Just like a freshly purchased laptop, our brain was fresh as a “lily” at birth. From then on, like we load the necessary soft wares that the user wants, into the laptop, Likewise, from the moment of our birth, our life gets controlled. Others take decisions for us. Our name, religion, race, caste etc are decided and we get labelled. We are bound to carry these labels inside our heads till our death. Our family, society, friends, school mates all influence our way of thinking and shape our mind to have certain beliefs, prejudices, biases. We get conditioned.
Our minds have been shaped by the culture around us. Cultural Osmosis. Most of the disputes occur in society, between persons, due to these biases.
So what is the meaning of Cognitive bias?
Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”. It encompasses processes such as attention, the formation of knowledge, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language. Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.

Cognitive bias is a “limitation” in objective thinking that is caused by the tendency for the human brain to perceive information through a filter of personal experience and preferences.

A cognitive bias is a genuine deficiency or limitation in our thinking — a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations (such as statistical errors or a false sense of probability).
As humans, we didn’t evolve to make logical decisions—we evolved to survive.
And cognitive biases may have helped serve that purpose. But the modern world presents many scenarios that demand more rational calculations, and we’re often left frustrated, wondering why our best thinking doesn’t get us the results we want.
Conditioning creates belief systems which lead to biases in our minds. There biases get hardwired into our neural system and the main cause of conflict and disputes are these biases. That is why it is so important to be aware of these biases and understand biases of those we come in contact with in this society. The whole society is full of biases.

There are more than 200 cognitive biases that affect our decision-making.
The sheer amount of biases should teach us humility. And we should recognize the essential role they play in our lives, as well. As much as we would like to be fair and impartial about how we deal with the situations that arise on a daily basis, we process them or our conditioned brain process them through a complex series of internal biases before deciding how to react. Even the most self-conscious of us cannot escape the full spectrum of internal prejudices. The most sophisticated thinkers fall prey to their own cognitive biases, so at least we’re in good company.
The bad news is that we can’t get rid of cognitive biases. The good news? The better we understand them, the more often we can subvert them—or even leverage them for our own benefit.
Let me list out just a few of them, so that we will understand how to recognize these biases and how to deal with it.
The first step toward overcoming cognitive biases is to acknowledge that we have them. The second step is to take advantage of tools that can help balance out our own irrational tendencies. Nothing cools a hot head like an ice-cold algorithm. There are biases that we are aware of those that we are not even aware that we have them.

Conscious prejudice is much easier to recognize and much easier to overcome during the relatively short time span of a mediation. While a defense counsel may be keenly aware of his dislike or disdain for members of the LGBTQ community, being consciously aware of this makes it easier to move past his personal feelings to a more objective analysis of the value of a claim being presented. By consciously putting aside his prejudice temporarily, a “neutral zone” can be created to move a case forward.

UNCONSCIOUS BIAS :- operates at a very subtle level, below our awareness. It results in almost unnoticeable behaviors (micro behaviors) such as paying less attention to what the other person says, addressing them less warmly or talking less to them.” Behaviors resulting from unconscious bias are insidious. Unless they are recognized by the participants in the mediation, they will almost imperceptibly impact, if not control, the outcome of the mediation. Thus, while it is difficult to recognize bias in our clients, the mediator, opposing counsel or (most importantly) ourselves, overcoming them is a challenge that should be addressed by the effective practitioner.

Psychologists tell us that our unconscious biases are simply our natural people preferences. Biologically we are hard-wired to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and share our interests. Social psychologists call this phenomenon “social categorization” whereby we routinely and rapidly sort people into groups. This preference bypasses our normal, rational and logical thinking. We use these processes very effectively (we call it intuition) but the categories we use to sort people are not logical, modern or perhaps even legal. Put simply, our neurology takes us to the very brink of bias and poor decision making

Much of human judgment & behavior is not based on conscious thought.
Our mind is an automatic association making machine.
When we see a bus, immediately many other thoughts come to mind about the bus.
When we see a person, immediately many associated thoughts come to mind.
When we see shadows in the dark, we start thinking of ghosts and robbers.
When we see a rope, we immediately think of a snake.

Beliefs govern nearly every aspect of our lives. Beliefs tell us how to pray, how to vote, whom to trust, whom to avoid. They shape our personal behaviors, and spiritual ethics throughout life. But once our beliefs are established, we rarely challenge their validity, even when faced with contradictory evidence. Thus, when we encounter others who appear to hold differing beliefs, we tend to dismiss or disparage them. These beliefs are our most important human commodity. With them we can build civilizations, make revolutions, create music and art, and determine our relationship to the cosmos. Beliefs make us fall in love, and they drive us into hate; that is why it is so critical to understand how they work. We all have beliefs, we all need them, and they will determine humanity’s fate.
Biologically and neuro psychologically, a belief can be defined as any perception, cognition, or emotion that the brain assumes consciously or unconsciously to be true.
We will use the term “perception’’ to refer to the information we receive about ourselves and the world through our senses.
“Cognition’ however, represents a different level of processing within the brain and includes all the abstract conceptual processes that our brain uses to organize and make sense of our perceptions.
In the process of organizing, labeling, and quantifying the world, the brain has a tendency to reduce everything to as few components as possible. Our brain also functions like a computer + or -. 0 or 1. Dualistic. Heaven vs hell, man vs woman, Us versus them. (Biological stereotyping.). This “us” versus “them” mentality which is inborn in all of us tend to be easily converted into racism, biases, prejudices and preferences.
Eg- blue eyed vs brown eyed. Dark skinned vs white skinned.

Our brain is limited in how we perceive the world.

The strength of any belief is a matter of four interacting levels of neural processing: perceptual experiences, cognitive experiences, emotional experiences, and social consensus.

These cognitive biases or prejudices act as mental filters which distort our vision of reality.

As a Judge, mediator, or as a person, being aware of our own cognitive biases makes a difference to our assessment, judgment, responses. Only if we are able to recognize and overcome our cognitive biases, and also recognize and understand the cognitive biases of the people who come before us as litigants, clients and even everyday life, we will be able to make better judgments, resolve conflicts, respond adequately without over reacting.
People often prefer to keep the beliefs and habits they have rather thn to change those beliefs in the light of new evidence. The confirmation bias is based on finding that people tend to listen more often to information that confirms the beliefs they already have. Through this bias, people tend to favour information that confirms their previously held beliefs.
In many cases, people on two sides of an issue can listen to the same story, and each will walk away with a different interpretation that they feel validates their existing point of view. This is often indicative that the confirmation bias is working to “bias” their opinions.
Take for instance issues like demonetization. Instead of listening to the opposing side and considering all of the facts in a logical and rational manner, people tend simply to look for things that reinforce what they already think is true.
We tend to listen to only that information that confirms our preconception.

The hindsight bias is a common cognitive bias that involved the tendency of people to see events, even random ones, as more predictable than they are.
In a Bar Association election, 40 % of the advocates thought that “A” would win. After the election, when “A” won, more than 80 % said that they knew that “A” would win.
This tendency to look back on events and believe that “we knew it all along” is surprisingly prevalent. Following exams, students often look back on questions and think “Of course! I knew that!” even though they missed it the first time around. Investors look back and believe that they could have predicted which tech companies would become dominant forces.
The hindsight bias occurs for a combination of reasons, including our ability to “misremember” previous predictions, our tendency to view events as inevitable, and our tendency to believe we could have foreseen certain events.
We also tend to be overly influenced by the first piece of information that we hear, a phenomenon referred to as the anchoring bias or anchoring effect. For example, the first number voiced during a price negotiation typically becomes the anchoring point from which all further negotiations are based. Researchers have even found that having participants choose a completely random number can influence what people guess when asked unrelated questions, such as how many countries there are in Africa.
Mind does not search for information in a vacuum. Rather it starts by using whatever information is immediately available as a reference point or anchor and then adjusting.
This tricky little cognitive bias doesn’t just influence things like salary or price negotiations. Doctors, for example, can become susceptible to the anchoring bias when diagnosing patients. The physician’s first impressions of the patient often create an anchoring point that can sometimes incorrectly influence all subsequent diagnostic assessments. If you ever see a new doctor and she asks you to tell her your whole story even though everything should be in your records, this is why.
It is often the physician, or analogously anyone trying to get to the bottom of a problem, who discovers a vital piece of information that was overlooked as a result of the anchoring bias.
When two parties are negotiating, one party agrees to pay Rs.10 lakhs to the other side, even though their demand was 50 lakhs. From that point onwards, this offer is the base from which the whole negotiation will be done.
Bottom line:- be sure to take into consideration both the differences and similarities between past and present situation in deciding whether they are same or different.
Our memories of particular events also tend to be heavily influenced by things that happened after the actual event itself, a phenomenon known as the misinformation effect. A person who witnesses a car accident or crime might believe that their recollection is crystal clear, but researchers have found that memory is surprisingly susceptible to even very subtle influences.
Retroactive interference:-
In one classic experiment by memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, people who watched a video of a car crash were then asked one of two slightly different questions: “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” or “How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?”
When the witnesses were then questioned a week later, the researchers discovered that this small change in how questions were presented led participants to recall things that they did not actually witness. When asked whether they had seen any broken glass, those who had been asked the “smashed into” version of the question were more likely to report incorrectly that they had seen broken glass.
Dispute between husband and wife. There was a fight, the wife alleges that the husband illtreats her in front of people. Husband denies. After the separation, the wife shored up her image by adding spice to it and thereafter starts to believe it as true.
A perception bias is a psychological tendency to lose objectivity in perception of people and situations. People may believe they are able to evaluate an event fairly and accurately, including making judgments about situations, but a number of biases interact with the way they perceive events.
One classic example comes up in eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable because of perception biases that can affect the way people remember and talk about the crimes they witness.
The human brain is constantly forced to make rapid decisions about situations and people, and has developed a number of forms of shorthand to quickly arrive at judgments. Some of these contribute to the formation of perception bias. Cultural and social pressures can add to these biases, Colouring perception even when people think they are being impartial. These can include tendency to make assumptions and attributions that are incorrect while believing they are right, or believing in logical fallacies.

The way we perceive others and how we attribute their actions hinges on a variety of variables, but it can be heavily influenced by whether we are the actor or the observer in a situation. When it comes to our own actions, we are often far too likely to attribute things to external influences. You might complain that you botched an important meeting because you had jet lag or that you failed an exam because the teacher posed too many trick questions.
When it comes to explaining other people’s actions, however, we are far more likely to attribute their behaviours to internal causes. A colleague screwed up an important presentation because he’s lazy and incompetent (not because he also had jet lag) and a fellow student bombed a test because she lacks diligence and intelligence (and not because she took the same test as you with all those trick questions).
Husband complains that the wife is not looking after him. She refused to prepare dinner after they came home. After a long drive the parties came home. They are both tired. Dead tired. But the husband remembers only the wife refusing to prepare dinner. He thinks that was because she was lazy. He was also dead tired, that day. But he forgot it.
The family was having dinner together. The daughter in law drops a spoon. The mother in law scolds her for not being careful enough. The next day during dinner, the daughter drops a spoon. Now the mother in law says that there was oil on the spoon. That is why she dropped it.
Politicians tend to blame the circumstances for their mistakes and at the same time blame their opponents personally.
Bottom Line:- do not be too ready to blame the circumstances for what you do and personality for what others do.
The projection bias is a type of cognitive bias that involves overestimating the degree to which other people agree with us. People tend to assume that others think, feel, believe, and behave much like they do.
People also have a surprising tendency to overestimate how much other people agree with their own beliefs, behaviours, attitudes, and values, an inclination known as the false consensus effect. This can lead people not only to incorrectly think that everyone else agrees with them—it can sometimes lead them to overvalue their own opinions.
Researchers believe that the false consensus effect happens for a variety of reasons. First, the people we spend the most time with, our family and friends, do often tend to share very similar opinions and beliefs. Because of this, we start to think that this way of thinking is the majority opinion even when we are with people who are not among our group of family and friends.
Another key reason this cognitive bias trips us up so easily is that believing that other people are just like us is good for our self-esteem. It allows us to feel “normal” and maintain a positive view of ourselves in relation to other people.
Researchers have found that students tend to rate good-looking teachers as smarter, kinder, and funnier than less attractive instructors. This tendency for our initial impression of a person to influence what we think of them overall is known as the halo effect.
This cognitive bias can have a powerful impact in the real world. For example, job applicants perceived as attractive and likable are also more liable to be viewed as competent, smart, and qualified for the job.
Also known as the “physical attractiveness stereotype” or the “what is beautiful is ‘good’ principle” we are either influenced by or use the halo to influence others almost every day. Think of a product marketed on TV by a well-dressed, well-groomed, and confident woman versus a woman who is poorly dressed and mumbling. Which appearance would be more likely to prompt you to go out and buy the product?
Another tricky cognitive bias that distorts your thinking is known as the self-serving bias. Basically, people tend to give themselves credit for successes but lay the blame for failures on outside causes.
When you do well on a project, you probably assume that it’s because you worked hard. But when things turn out badly, you are more likely to blame it on circumstances or bad luck. This bias does serve an important role; it helps protect our self-esteem. However, it can often also lead to faulty attributions, such as blaming others for our own shortcomings.
After seeing several news reports of car thefts in your neighbourhood, you might start to believe that such crimes are more common than they are. This tendency to estimate the probability of something happening based on how many examples readily come to mind is known as the availability heuristic. It is essentially a mental shortcut designed to save us time when we are trying to determine risk.
The problem with relying on this way of thinking is that it often leads to poor estimates and bad decisions. Smokers who have never known someone to die of a smoking-related illness, for example, might underestimate the health risks of smoking. In contrast, if you have two sisters and five neighbours who have had breast cancer, you might believe it is even more common than statistics tell us.

Another cognitive bias that has its roots in the availability heuristic is known as the optimism bias. Essentially, we tend to be too optimistic for our own good. We overestimate the likelihood that good things will happen to us while underestimating the probability that negative events will impact our lives. We assume that events like divorce, job loss, illness, and death happen to other people.
Optimists are less realistic than pessimists when it comes to honestly assessing their own abilities or projecting future positive occurrences.
So what impact does this sometimes unrealistic optimism really have on our lives? It can lead people to take health risks like smoking, eating poorly, or not wearing a seat belt.
Or that they are going to win the case. No chance of losing.
Ostrich effect. Tendency to ignore the negatives and always focussing on the good sides.
Just because you won a bet in Las Vegas, does not mean that betting is good for you or you are going to win always.
The bad news is that research has found that this optimism bias is incredibly difficult to reduce. There is good news, however. This tendency toward optimism helps create a sense of anticipation for the future, giving people the hope and motivation they need to pursue their goals. So while cognitive biases can distort our thinking and sometimes lead to poor decisions, they are not always so bad.
Bottom line;- Reality testing. Trust the Numbers . Numbers do not lie.
We fail to perceive individuals as individuals. They are often viewed as representatives of social groups. Stereotyping allows us to perceive total strangers as distinctive individuals. These are known as social mind bugs.
Believing that all south Indians are good at Maths, or that All Chinese know kung fu or that all Malayalees are meat eaters. All film actresses have loose morals. All lawyers are liars. All auto drivers are cheats.
All govt officers are corrupt. The list of our generalizations and labelling is endless.
This is one of the main reasons that lead to disputes and conflict. Political parties misuse these biases to their advantage. Adding fuel to fire.
A father and son involved in a car accident. The father died. The severely injured son brought to the hospital. The surgeon on seeing the person lying on the bed says “ I cannot operate on this patient. He is my son.” Our immediate reaction is how can that be. The father died right.
When you see a person dressed as a doctor or nurse, at a hospital, you readily abide by their instructions. You are ready to strip naked in front of them.
When you see a priest or nun, you tend to be obedient and respectful of them.
You readily give your credit card to a sales person at a shop
This is called categorizing. Gordon Allport says “Human mind thinks with the aid of categories.” Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. These categorizing by our brain gives rise to stereotyping.
It is generated from our past experience with people and events. Age, gender, religion, class, sexuality, disability, physical attractiveness, profession, personality are just a few.
Thus we associate certain categories with certain prejudged attributes- Africans with having rhythm, Asians with being good at Maths, women being inattentive drivers etc
This one size fits all mental boxes into which we force all members of a group, no matter how different they may be from each other is dangerous.
When a total stranger walks past you at the airport, immediately we tend to categorize him on the basis of sex, age, race, height & weight and maybe dress. Our minds activate all these stereotypes and we form a rich complex perception of the person, even though he is a total stranger.
Imagine what happens in the court room or in a mediation room
Stereotyping indicts a person even before the arrival of the prosecutor.
There are more than 200 different types of Biases that colour our mind and affect our decision making process. I have named only the most important ones.

The moral is obvious: don’t believe everything you read or hear. And the neurological explanation for this is simple: our brain is calibrated to trust anyone who happens to be a “member” of our group or an authority figure. And so we are biologically biased to believe the magazines we buy, the news channels we select, and the people we personally like.

How to outsmart the mind bugs that reside within each one of us.

1.Identify and develop alternative points of view by seeking out individuals who disagree with you.
2. Interact with people of different backgrounds and beliefs.
3. Avoid “mirror-imaging”: do not assume that other people will think or act like you do.
4. Think backward. Instead of thinking about what might happen, put yourself in the future and try to explain how a potential situation could have occurred.
5. Imagine the belief you currently hold is wrong, then develop a scenario to explain how that could be true.
6. Try out another person’s beliefs by acting out the role. “Living” the role can break you out of your habitual mindset.
7. Play “devil’s advocate” by taking the minority point of view and defending it as rigorously as possible.
8. Learn from surprise – Pay attention to your feeling of surprise when a fact does not fit your prior understanding. Take the cause of the surprise seriously and investigate it, rather than deny, downplay, or ignore it. Learn to embrace the uncomfortable feeling surprise creates. Keep a record of unexpected events or information, think about what they might mean, and see if they are consistent with an alternative viewpoint or hypothesis.
9. Brainstorm. A quantity of ideas leads to quality because the first ones that emerge will reflect old beliefs. New ideas can help you break free of habitual patterns and blocks. Defer your judgment of those ideas. Separate the idea-generation phase from the idea-evaluation phase. A judgmental attitude dampens the imagination and may cause you to self-censor.
10) Ask questions. Double check supposed facts.

When you incorporate scepticism/contradiction/openness in your subconscious, only then you will be able to reduce your biases naturally and effortlessly.
To do this you have to consciously train your mind for some amount of time (will vary for everyone and by age, should be longer with increasing age).
This will require motivation, which will again vary from person to person but one way could be to create experiences which make you realize the importance of reducing cognitive bias.
11) USE LOGICAL THINKING:- logical thinking or critical thinking is the objective analysis of facts to form a judgment. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.
Pay attention to your reactions to people, news, social media posts, etc. Noticing the way that you react to things in your everyday life can help you to identify your biases. Anytime you encounter a person, news story, social media post, or new situation, pay attention to how you react to it. How did it make you feel? What did you do in response?
For example, if you encounter a picture of someone who is obese and you notice that you reacted with disgust, then you may have some hidden prejudice against people who are overweight.
Keep in mind that identifying unconscious biases can be a difficult process because they are unconscious. But by making a conscious effort to notice your responses to different people and situations, you may begin to identify your unconscious biases.

Label stereotypes that impact your biases. Finding out that you have biases against certain people can make you feel many things, from denial to shame. If you want to overcome these biases, however, the first step is having the courage to call them what they are.
Remind yourself that everyone harbors certain biases, and that we can all work to treat others in more tolerant, open-minded, and respectful ways.
Also, watch for stereotypes in the media. For example, if you are uninformed about gun rights, but you find yourself agreeing with media that says guns are bad and gun owners are right-wing fundamentalists, then you may be buying into stereotypes about gun ownership.
Combat your positive stereotypes as well. It’s easy to think of biases as negative perceptions. A negative bias means something like thinking that women do not drive as well as men, or that one race is more prone to criminal activity than another. Having unfounded positive biases against people can also lead to discrimination, however.
For example, a teacher who subconsciously assumes that people of Asian descent are good at math might overlook a student who actually is struggling.
List ways that unconscious and hidden biases impact your behavior. If you can see specific ways that biases relate to your actions, you may be more motivated to overcome them. Whatever roles you have in society, stop and think about how you unconsciously act on your biases, once you’ve identified them. For example:
If you are a police officer, how does bias impact the work you do in your community?
If you are a manager, what effect do your biases have on how you oversee your employees, hiring, etc.?
If you are a mediator, Judge, how does biases affect your judgment.
As a citizen, do you alter your behavior around certain types of people? For example, are you more likely to avoid eye contact with certain groups? Are you more talkative with or friendly to strangers of one type than another?

learn to recognize and avoid generalizations. Remember that not everyone in a group, community, or organization is the same. Whenever you find yourself making a generalization about a group of people, stop yourself. Ask yourself why you think that way and change your perspective.
Ask yourself, “is it really possible that every single member of this group is the same?” The answer is most likely “no.”
For example, you might find yourself thinking that a certain group of people are loud. Why do you think that? Consider that perhaps it is just an individual from that group who is loud. Change your thinking from “all people in this group are loud” to “one person from this group I met was very loud” or even “a few (but not all) people from this group are loud.”
Practice individuation.
In terms of biases, individuation means giving a “face” or personality to members of a group, rather than making assumptions that lump them all together. For instance, if you find yourself affected by biased thoughts against women, make associations with specific individuals.
For instance, if you find yourself thinking that women are materialistic, ask yourself whether or not this applies to specific women in your life, like your mother, your pharmacist, your city’s police chief, or a clerk at the store.
Expose yourself to the people and things that make you feel uncomfortable. By learning more about a person, lifestyle, or topic that you disagree with or that you have noticed yourself exhibiting bias towards, you can begin to build compassion.
For example, if you find yourself feeling disgusted by people who are obese, then research some of the causes of obesity to build your understanding of how people get that way.
If you find yourself frustrated every time you see a post about gun ownership, then research the issues that gun owners care about, such as by visiting the NRA’s website.
Put yourself in others’ shoes. Also known as “perspective taking,” this technique is a great way to lessen the impact of judgments you might make automatically. For instance, if you feel biased in thinking that people with kids are no fun:
Take a moment to imagine the busy schedules and demands of parents.
Ask yourself if their idea of fun might simply be different from your own. Watching Harry Potter with a bowl of popcorn might seem boring to you, but it might be lots of fun with kids around.
Focus on concrete factors rather than gut feelings. Whether they’re positive or negative, gut feelings can sometimes lead us astray. When you feel the impact of a bias, challenge these gut feelings by looking at concrete factors.
For instance, if you find yourself walking quickly past someone of another group, ask yourself: is there anything that person is actually doing to make me feel threatened?
Keep in mind how your biases impact how you view situations, however. For instance, a smile from someone belonging to a group you are more accepting of might seem fine. Your biases might make a smile from someone of another group seem threatening.
Think positive thoughts around people you have stigmatized. Consciously adopting more positive thoughts can be a very good way to combat negative biases. For instance, you might imagine that you have a bias that makes you feel uncomfortable with men taking care of small children. Whenever you see a man in a positive caregiving role, make a point of consciously noting this
Increase opportunities for contact with a diverse range of people. If you spend all of your time around people who are just like you, it will be harder to overcome the biases you have. Getting to know people who are different from you can be a powerful way to foster understanding and acceptance.
Make friends with lots of different kinds of people. Make a point of inviting them to events to get to know them better. For example, you could invite everyone in your neighborhood to a block party, or reach out to other parents at your child’s school to host a picnic at a local park.
Get involved with organizations in your community that bring diverse people together (or start one!).
Learn from people who are more tolerant than you. The old saying is that hate breeds hate, but the reverse is true, too: tolerance breeds tolerance. If you are concerned about your unconscious and hidden biases, think of people you know who seem especially open. Spend time around them, and you’ll be more motivated to break down your own biases.
Surround yourself with open-minded media. Just like individuals, media services (television channels, internet sites, podcasts, radio stations, etc.) all have some degree of bias. Some promote these biases, consciously or unconsciously, while others have a goal of trying to be open-minded.
Pay careful attention to the media sources you use. If you hear prejudicial or discriminatory language, seek other sources.
Look for other types of bias in the media as well. For instance, does a news show interview a diverse range of people, or only those who look, think, or believe a certain way? Does it report on a wide range of issues, or only a narrow set of interests?

I hope that all those who read this article become more aware of how important it is to recognize our cognitive biases which shape our beliefs and create prejudices in our mind. How these beliefs, prejudices affect our perception of the world around us. How important it is to keep an open mind without pre judgment, without jumping to conclusions and without assuming anything. How important it is to avoid generalizations and labelling those around us. Understanding our biases is the first step to control our biases and disregarding our belief systems. This will change the way that we perceive those around us and the society around us. Finally it is the best way to recognize potential conflict situations and avoid it. Much of the disputes that we have is all inside our mind. Perceptual. Not rooted in reality. Once we understand how our mind works to create our biases and prejudices which affect our perception of reality, the disputes will melt away and the world will be a much nicer place and peace of mind will be the ultimate effect. First let us understand ourselves and how our biases, prejudices and beliefs affect our world view. Throw away those yellow colored spectacles and see the world as it is. Then this world will be a much nicer please to live.

I am indebted to “ Why we believe what we believe” By Andrew Newberg, “Blind Spot” by Mahzarin Banaji & Antony Greenwald, ‘Minefields” by Burt webb for getting the ideas for this article.


By George Merlo Pallath
The famous Advaida philosophy by Sree Sankara puts forth the idea that we are all ONE. “Tat Vam Asi”. “Aham Brahmasmi” I am Brahman. It underscores the principle that the inner immortal soul(ATMAN) and the great cosmic spirit( BRAHMAN) are One and the same. The concept called God and each one of us are one and the same. The whole universe and everything in it are basically the different manifestations of the same God Concept. The spirit or consciousness that suffuses the cosmos is the sole reality. Everything else including the universe, material objects and individuals are ever changing, transient and illusory. A true Hindu realizes that the divine within him is the same Divine in all other beings. The Divine is as much in every individual whether they be higher caste or lower caste or in animals and stones as in every part of the universe. Everything is part of the whole.
The similarities with quantum physics is startling:-
According to the quantum physics scientists theorize that everything is energy and all the matter is also energy in a different form. Concentrated units.
There is no such thing called TIME. Time is different for humans, different for inorganic objects like rocks and sand. But it does not mean that the rocks and sand has no life. “Time is the form in which we beings whose brains are made up essentially of memory and foresight interact with our world: it is the source of our identity.” Says Physicist Rovelli. The concept of life is different for rocks and sand. Even what might seem like a thing—a stone, say—is really an event taking place at a rate we can’t register. At the quantum level everything is an event. Everything is alive and throbbing. “From our perspective, the perspective of creatures who make up a small part of the world—we see that world flowing in time,” the physicist writes. At the quantum level, however, durations are so short that they can’t be divided and there is no such thing as time. The whole universe is composed of pure energy occurring in different forms. They are all interrelated and interchangeable.
Every particle is aware of every other particle. Every particle or wave or electrons and positrons are all connected and aware of every other particle or energy waves. There is a concept called “Quantum Entanglement” whereby every particle is connected to every other particle. They relate to each other. They are aware and change their characteristics on the basis of change in the other particle. If observed they behave differently than when they are not observed. Suppose two light photons are observed. One is a wave form and the other particle form. Suppose they are galaxies apart. Still if you change one from particle form to the wave form, the other particle existing in wave form automatically changes into particle form and vice versa.
So in short, as per quantum physics, everything is connected and aware of each other. Howsoever small or large it may be. The whole universe is in a constant state of Tandava or dance. It’s a dance of pure energy. Manifestations of energy in different forms and shapes.
The amazing thing is what the scientists found out through their years of experiments, the Adi Sankara and other rishis of ancient India understood through intuition. They became aware of the whole by meditation and thought.
Words does not matter. Call it God or energy or consciousness. The fact is we are all connected. The only problem is lack of awareness. Confining ourselves into our mortal self and restricting ourselves by our mundane search for possession of immaterial material things. Running after false Gods and fairy stories, chasing shadows. The moment we realize that we part of the whole and the whole exists within us, we become liberated.

loner but not lonely


By George Merlo Pallath

Humans are one of the most sociable species that ever existed on planet Earth. Humans thrive as societies due to their social character. The success of humans as a species and the reason that humans are the dominant species on planet Earth can be attributed to our sociable character and the capacity to work together as a group for achieving the common objectives. For the general health of humans they require the support of society. Friends and relatives help in uplifting the mental health of the person. People love being recognized and adored by our fellow beings. Every person needs to be recognized, loved and accepted by his peer group. It is a basic requirement of every individual.

But society also has its fair share of negativities. Societies tend to be rule oriented. So every member of any society must obey the rules of the society or risk being ostracized. Every society has its share of leaders who set the rules, control the individuals, discipline the people. In societies people tend to follow the leaders and show the ape like quality of trying to emulate, follow and mimic the leaders. Even otherwise, the humans are apish in behavior and always tend to mimic their peers who have influence over them. There is a tendency for all individuals to follow the beaten path, be with the majority, follow the crowd. This has its own pitfalls. The majority need not be correct or they may be going down the wrong path. The history of the human society is replete with examples of how some leaders led their followers into doom. The very same sociable character of humans have been exploited by fascist, cunning leaders, religions, isms who were responsible for the countless wars, genocide, racist attacks, religious fundamentalism and nationalistic jingoism.

But in every society there are loners, drifters, those who do not obey the rules of the society and beat their own path. They are almost always ostracized from the society life. These people tend to think differently. They see the world differently. They have their own private life and outlook. They are adept at keeping aloof from others. These loners take a different path. They never follow the crowd. They don’t like others to interfere in their affairs or privacy. They don’t understand the tribe and the tribe does not understand them. These loners tend to be absolute failures in public relations. To put it differently they just don’t care a damn what the world thinks of them.

The sociable, law abiding, “flow with the general trend” people cannot make head or tail of these loners. They consider them as odd or even loony. They are labeled as “eccentric”, neurotic or even schizophrenic people. But it is these odd eccentric people who tend to see things differently. They see things in a different perspective. They are the ones who differ and oppose the generally held view. They challenge the generally held notions about everything and extend the boundaries.

People tend to think that these loners are alone and feel lonely. But that is not the case. These loners want to be left alone. Nothing gives them more satisfaction than to sit alone someplace quiet and meditate over things that interest them. They are mistaken for being mean when they are honest, mistaken for being sad,  when they want to be alone,  mistaken for being shy when they are quiet. Alone in their world, they are one with the universe and they enjoy the solitude that it gives them. These lone wolves tread their own path. They are fiercely independent and try their level best to preserve and protect their privacy. But their mind is always exploring, pondering, searching, feeling and reaching out to the unknown. Their thoughts are fathomless, breathtaking, luminous and all encompassing.

As Steven Aitcheson puts it  “Deep in my heart, I know that I am a loner. I have tried to blend in with the world and be sociable. But the more people I meet, the more disappointed I am. I have learned to enjoy myself, my family and a few good friends. But Sometimes I love my alone time. Because it is in those moments of solitude, I can remember who I am and what is important in life.” And again he says “There is a lot of pain in being lonely. But there is a lot of beauty in being alone.” Making and following your own path is fully worth the freedom and the overpowering feeling of being liberated from the chains of the society.

Dalai Lama puts it more succinctly “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they are not on your road, does not mean that they are lost”.

But nobody can ever underestimate the contributions made by these lone wolves to the general good and survival of the society. Due to their different perspective on everything, they are more likely to tread roads less travelled by the majority and they are more likely to hit upon innovative and novel methods of solving problems and creativity is their forte. This is borne out by the numerous artists, writers, musicians, painters and inventors who are all lone wolves. The human society needs more of these lone wolves who think differently, who does not follow the crowd, who have a mind of their own. But nobody should ever expect these loners to follow the crowd. They hate crowds and avoid it like plague. This planet does not need more successful people. This planet desperately requires more peacekeepers, story tellers, healers, restorers and lovers of all kinds.

To be one self, to live as we want, to do what we want to do, to go where we want to go, to shed the pretences of society, to do away with trying to impress everyone, to adjust and adapt with people that you do not want to be with or avoid being in the company of people that you do not like, to avoid blah blah of meaningless talk which is the very essence of society animals. To be Ourself. To throw away all images, self imposed and imposed by those around you. Wah. That is real freedom. “Learning to be alone, and enjoying it, is the most empowering gift you can give yourself.” Steven Aitchison

India- Land of religions

All pervasive Religion

By George Merlo Pallath

In India religion is the biggest holy cow. From the moment we are born, we are labeled as Hindu, Muslim, Christian or whatever. This branding we must carry throughout our life. We are named based on our religion. We dress based on our religion. We eat food based on our religion. When we join a school, college, everything is based on this branding. At no point in our life we can escape from this branding. All are required to carry this branding or label as a cross. We are known and understood on the basis of this branding. It becomes a part of our personality, character and culture.

Religion is all pervasive and plays an important part of all Indians life. His emotions, beliefs, the way he sees other humans, our whole outlook on life are governed by religion. A major part of an average Indian’s life is spent for religious beliefs, rites and rituals. An average Indian relies on their beliefs in  various Gods to realize their dreams. To an average Indian, his beliefs are as real or more real than reality. For many it borders on the schizophrenic world of illusions and make believe. The various religious groups and sects use these techniques of collective hypnosis to increase their number of followers. It is an extension of the deep rooted tribal mentality inside each one of us. We tend to see ourselves as belonging to one tribe or other and this leads to tension, violence and confrontation. It is a case of associating one’s personal ego with the tribe. Ultimately this tribal mentality is the root cause of all intolerance in this world. More people have been killed, maimed, raped and tortured in the name of religion than all the other conflict and strife in this world. Even though religion and spirituality must go hand in hand, the reality is otherwise. All places of worship are now focused on business and materialism. Crores being spent on gold covering of deities, footsteps, flag posts.

These religious peddlers have an easy job. Convince their followers about the life after death, they may call it heaven or something else. This promise of a better life after death is the biggest motivation for the ordinary people to follow one religion or other. The religious peddlers can rest easy that none of these followers are going to come back and sue them for breach of promise or deficiency in service. It is the best business that anyone can do. Promise the heaven and people are willing to make astronomical donations and none will come back to complain about anything.

stairway to heaven

Stairway to Heaven

All religions thrive on the psychological fears and insecurities of the people. The biggest fear of all humans is the fear of death and the fear of the unknown. To overcome this and to offer some sort of solace to the fearful masses, some resourceful individuals have created the myth of heaven and hell. This simple carrot and stick management principle has proved its effectiveness in controlling the minds of the masses for the last 2000 years.

One of the most successful religions ever invented is Christianity which uses this approach very effectively and has succeeded in building up the biggest religious base in the world. Muslims also follow suit with their promise of heaven with unlimited fun and happiness. The Hindus believe in Karma and the cycle of birth & rebirth till all the accumulated stains are removed and the soul of the individual soul merges with the universal soul or Paramatma. The unprecedented success of the organized religion in controlling the minds of the people is a case study in creating mass delusion. The most successful amongst Christianity is undoubtedly the catholic church with its Pope as their religious head who derives his power directly as the descendant of St. Peter who was ordained as the leader of the masses by Jesus himself. Since Jesus is the son of GOD, the Pope derives his power in a direct channel from GOD himself. As the principal middlemen between the supreme GOD and the masses, the catholic church has built up immense power, prestige and wealth in the process.

Now the new age offshoots of the Pentecost/ protestant churches has started challenging the traditional hold of the catholic church over the masses. The competition is hotting up. The new age cult religions preach that there is no necessity for a middle man to pray to GOD, they do not believe in mother Mary or the numerous saints. They advocate the direct approach. Cut out all red tape. When you can directly talk to GOD, why the necessity for all the middlemen?  GOD it seems is suddenly much more close and personal. Moreover they also preach that anyone who becomes their member is automatically entitled to the ultimate club called “Heaven”. Their members will automatically go to heaven while the rest of humanity will be wandering around in the wilderness called “purgatory”. This is akin to shop “A” offering 20% discount while shop “B” offers 50% discount to their customers. To the customers who were originally going to shop “A”, the offer of shop “B” is very attractive and all of them have started to visit shop “B”. Like shop “B” the new age cult groups which indulge in aggressive marketing strategies, interactive prayer forms and offers attractive posthumous benefits  are seeing a surge in their followers.

While the people are all assured of heaven after they die, their leaders are already enjoying heaven here itself. Their leaders are laughing all the way to the bank, where their coffers are overflowing with money. They whizz around the world in private jets and own extensive estates and mind boggling assets. Recently a high profile preacher from Kerala was under scrutiny by the law enforcement authorities of USA & India for cheating his donors. The wealthiest persons on this planet are the GOD peddlers. The self proclaimed GOD MEN. They have exclusive knowledge of the secret stairway to heaven.

The biggest irony is when these new age cult groups criticize the belief of the catholic church in Mother Mary & saints, but these groups also rely on beliefs like “Virgin Birth” & “resurrection” which are highly controversial and questionable. Beliefs are beliefs. Beliefs cannot ever be a substitute for reality. One Belief cannot ever be said to be more real or truer than another belief.

It seems the easiest way to become a millionaire is to start selling religion. Promise the masses heaven or assure them of resurrection or life after death. Nobody will be coming back from the dead to question them or file criminal or civil case against them. They can rest assured that the dead will stay dumb. Lead the masses on false promises, make them feel that they are chosen, transport them into a world of delusions. Anyway the whole world is “Maya”. Let the holy spirit enlighten them and make them cough out their hard earned money, ride their imagined fears and insecurities, drive their emotions, and laugh all the way to the bank. May the beliefs carry them all the way to heaven. Let me conclude by quoting the Thailand tourism slogan “ If you want to go to heaven after death, pray. if you want to enjoy heaven while alive come to Thailand.” The choice is ours.

who are the real anti nationals?

Who are the real anti Nationals?
By George Merlo Pallath

Is it the Maoists
Even though the colonial masters went away, for the poor of India, freedom remains elusive. Successive governments failed to implement policies to protect Dalits and tribal groups from discrimination and violence. They bear the entire burden of the caste system of segregation, exploitation and discrimination in India. More than 40% of the land in rural areas are owned by less than 5% of its population. A crime is committed against a dalit in India every 18 minutes. 3 dalit women are raped every day. 13 dalits are murdered every week. 27 cases of atrocities against dalits filed every day. Likewise the adivasis. They are the poorest of the poor. Almost 62.5% of adivasi children drop out of schools before matriculation. A shocking 41.5% of dalits live under the official poverty line, whereas 49% of adivasis are under the poverty line. Thousands of villagers were rendered homeless to make way for creating national parks to protect animals. The adivasi girls were sexually exploited by the Government officials and landlords. Caste discrimination , abject poverty and the official apathy towards the plight of the poor are the main reasons for the rise of naxalism and later Maoism in Bihar, U.P, A.P, Telengana, Bengal & Orissa. Feudalism is another big factor that contributed to the rise of naxalism and now the Maoism. The marginalized, landless poor of rural India and the adivasis fighting for survival are the base for the Maoists who believe in armed rebellion against the establishment. Maoists are leading a class war against the greedy landlords and money lenders who had usurped their lands and the clueless government machinery who support them.
After 7 decades of independence, in the name of development, to make way for commercial forestry, dams, mines, there has been massive destruction of adivasi land, forest and water resources, along with total degradation of their moral fabric of their fragile society. Again, due to the high levels of corruption, greed and nepotism of the ruling class and the upper castes along with the crony capitalists, the adivasis and the tribals have been driven out of their homeland, rendered homeless. More than 20 million tribals have been displaced in the name of development. All this massive exploitation and neglect naturally made fertile ground for the Maoists to grow and they continue to grow unabated. It will continue so long as the exploitation and neglect by the govt. continues.
Is it the critics of the govt. and govt. policies, the likes of Kanhiyia Kumar, Jignesh Mevani, Rohit Vemula, Aundhadhi Roy, Hardik Patels . Are we not living in the world’s largest democracy. Is not the freedom of expression one of our guaranteed constitutional rights as per Article 19 of the Indian constitution. Then why the govt. is so sensitive about criticism? Is this govt. so intolerant and afraid of criticism so as to brand all its critics as anti nationals and slap the outdated sedition charges against them.
The Indian Penal Code has several sections introduced by the British to suppress criticism and freedom of expression. One such is section 124A which has been misused extensively to suppress the so called opponents of the govt. The vaguely worded sedition, criminal defamation, and hate speech laws were used to harass and prosecute those expressing dissenting, unpopular, or minority views. In October, authorities in Tamil Nadu state arrested a folk singer under the sedition law for two songs that criticized the state government. The same month, Gujarat police arrested Hardik Patel, who is spearheading protests to demand quotas in education and government jobs for his community, and charged him with sedition in two separate cases.
Colonial laws are being used to stifle freedom of expression in our post colonial, professedly democratic era.
Paranoid about its desire to crush any sort of dissent, the BJP government in Gujarat is now toying with the idea of bringing in one more law to nip its critics in the bud. If passed, it will allow the police to pick up any citizen merely on ‘suspicion’ – the law proposes to grant immunity from prosecution to the police and the administration for doing so.
By arresting merely on suspicion, the government wants to crush all dissent and take away the minimum human rights to express one’s views.

Is it the exponents of freedom of expression who fight for freedom to speak, write, paint, take pictures and generally to express themselves . In any self respecting democracy, every person has the right to hold any opinion she/he chooses and to give effect to it also, so long as, in doing so, they do not use or advocate physical violence against anybody.
But freedom of expression is a dangerous term these days. Being committed to its cause can get you killed, like the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ cartoonists. Or, you could be hounded so viciously you might even announce your own death as a writer, like Perumal Murugan. And you can be forced to go underground, like the bold woman editor of an Urdu newspaper. The list is growing alarmingly every week. Freedom is a pie, but every slice does not taste the same. Freedom without responsibility would lead us into anarchy. “Still the artistes, film makers, writers, poets must have the freedom to express their creativity even if it is criticizing the govt. or any particular social aspect like religion or caste.
‘An intelligent, culturally aware, aesthetically evolved citizenry must take an uncompromising stance against bigotry and thought control.’
Artistes have long been at the receiving end, often violently so, of the intolerant mob. Balbir Krishan, whose art echoes his homosexuality, faced a violent attack in Delhi; M. F. Hussain had to be in exile in his twilight years after facing death threats; Taslima Nasreen is still unable to find sanctuary in India; Salman Rushdie’s permission to speak at a literary festival in Jaipur was withdrawn at the penultimate moment; the Mumbai University withdrew Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey from its curriculum; a statue of Dadoji Konddev was spirited away overnight from its prominent location in Pune’s Lal Mahal; Joseph Lelyveld’s book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India was banned in quick succession by the Gujarat and central governments. We have a long, ignominious history of abject prostration before intemperate, anti-intellectual mobs.
Indians are increasingly touchy, thin skinned, intolerant, and humourless nowadays. Especially the extremists. India is presently ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in a global freedom of the press index. According to Ramachandra Guha, the eight threats to freedom of expression in India are outdated laws, imperfections in our judicial system, the rise of identity politics, the complicity of the police, the pusillanimity of the political class, the dependence of the media on Govt. Advt. the dependence of the media on commercial advt’s, and finally the ideologically driven writers, editors, artists and film makers.
Is it the crony capitalists like the Adani’s, Ambanis and Jindals who have benefitted immensely due to their connections and affiliations with those in power. These ‘crony capitalists’ have flourished due to their connections in the government and political class. They have manipulated and exploited their influence and money power to get plum deals in core industries like mining, infrastructure, construction, energy, telecom, defence, etc. In the latest list released by the Economist for 2016, India ranks 9th on the Crony Capitalism Index. As Raghuram Rajan, the former RBI Governor said “ Most of the billionaires in India did not derive their wealth from IT or software, but from land, natural resources, govt. contracts and licences obtained or cornered by manipulating the govt. machinery or by bribes, influence and money power. India is an oligarchy next only to Russia.
The Vedanta group is owned by Anil Agarwal whose net worth is estimated at 5.5 Billion. The Orissa Govt. bent over backwards to allow the Vedantha group to acquire over 6000 acres of land ostensibly to put up a university. But the real ulterior motive is the 1.82 million tonnes of thorium bearing monazite along the Orissa coastline. It is dubbed as the biggest land grab in India. Vedantha group was favoured since they funded the 2004 & 2009 election campaign of the BJD party.
The biggest black money case that has come up before the SIT is that of Gautam Adani, one of Modi’s closest aides. While bragging that he will bring back black money and distyribute it to the people @ Rs.15,000/- per person, he was zipping around the country in Adani’s private jet. Adani allegedly tookout over 5000 crores to tax havens using inflated bills for the import of power equipments. After Modi came to power, the officers were transferred, another officer was raided by CBI, two senior most officers were forced out of office, and the file was closed unceremoniously.
Jindals, celebrated billionaires in London & New York, they are the villains of India’s heartland, accused of plundering natural resources and playing havoc with the lives of the poor. The detailed report by the CAG says that the Jindal group was gifted a windfall of 1,86,000 crores in the allocation of coal blocks. The Supreme Court struck down the allocation in 2014. In the 1980’s the theory of the govt. was that its primary duty was towards the poor and disadvantaged. The new theory of this govt. is that a govt. which facilitates the market will benefit everyone. The effect is there for all to see in Raigarh and other areas like it where crony capitalists like the Jindals have bled the country to waste, made huge profits and destroyed the livelihood of the poor and disadvantaged. Big time business houses are the biggest beneficiaries of this govt. policy.
At the Krishna Godavari Basin, the Ambanis have been quietly cheating the govt. in the profit sharing agreement by inflating expenses and suppressing figures whereby, the public exchequer lost 1000’ s of crores of money.
Sahara Group, Subrata Roy collected more than 24,000 crores from the public. Illegally took the money abroad. Now in jail for fraud. The story of how the Govt. allowed one of the biggest loan defaulters, Vijay Mallya to escape from the country is still fresh in our minds. Likewise the case of the Winsome Diamonds M.D, Mr. Jatin R Mehta who owes more than 6000 crores to the public sector banks has now escaped abroad. More than 4000 Indian Millionaires have already migrated to other countries and Tax havens and taken citizenships there to escape from the Tax net here causing huge loss to the exchequer.
As quoted by former RBI Director Mr. Raghuram Rajan “It seems we have substituted the crony socialism of the past with crony capitalism, where the rich and the influential are alleged to have received land, natural resources and spectrum in return for payoffs to venal politicians.
By killing transparency and competition, crony capitalism is harming free enterprise, opportunity and economic growth of the country. And by substituting special interests for the public interest, it is harming the democracy and making the poor poorer.”
Is it the unscrupulous, divisive and corrupt politicians who indulge in dirty politics and use religion, caste and regional politics to divide and create fear phychosis amongst the people, indulge in promoting violence to gain their narrow political ends. Politicians like Azam Khan, fundamentalist groups like RSS, VHP, Mujahideen, Salafi muslims, wahabi muslims etc. Many political parties still gain electoral gains by using the people’s religious and casteist feelings.It is still a mystery on why the supreme court has not barred all political parties from exploiting religion and caste to gain votes.
Is it the religious fundamentalists who use religion to incite violence and hatred amongst the society. The 2002 Gujarat riots following the stage managed Godhra massacre, the latest cow vigilantism, where the alleged holy cow is being used as an excuse to beat, maim, kill and rape poor dalits and muslims. The fundamentalist muslim clerics who as a tribe refuses to blend in with the Indian social milieu, always sticking out like a sore finger in our society with their purdhas and 9th century personal law which allows the men to exploit women in all possible ways, treat the women as cattle, and also allows the men to divorce by issuing the triple talaq. Ironically even in Pakistan, the triple talaq has been banned as illegal.

Amongst these who does the maximum damage to India as a nation and to the people of India. Who all qualifies to be dubbed as the real anti national? Is it the Maoists turned adivasis and dalits on whom the negative impacts of democracy has been thrust upon and the benefits have been kept away. Is it the critics of the govt. in the biggest democracy in the world, or is it the activists of freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution, or is it the crony capitalists , the biggest parasites in our society. They have bled this country blue and in the process become billionaire oligarchs. Is it the fundamentalist religious groups who are blinded by their conditioned beliefs and guided by their misplaced egos or is it the unscrupulous politicians who are like the wolves in sheep’s clothing, always pouncing on the opportunies and playing with their ill gotten power and wealth.

The great Indian Democracy

The Great Indian Democracy
The Indian Govt. is in the final stages of purchasing 36 Rafael Fighter jets for the Indian Air Force at a cost of 50,000/- crores. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90’s, Indian defense purchase almost ground to a halt. For almost a decade the purchases were meager. Suddenly the Kargil war started in 1999. After that India went on a shopping spree to purchase arms to modernize its defense forces. In the next decade, India purchased almost 60,000 crores of defense equipment’s from Israel alone. Now India is the biggest weapons importer in the world. India spends almost 10% of its GDP on defense purchase. Now we know why the Kargil war occurred. The world knows how much General Musharraf collected for starting the Kargil war , which kicked off a huge arms race in the sub continent. Who are the beneficiaries? The top echleons of both India and Pakistan benefitted. The arms dealers like the Choudhries and Nandas flourished, What if some young lives were lost? India could end up spending upwards of Rs.6,70,000 crores on importing arms and weapons this decade alone. Of course, India must have a modern well equipped army. Our jawans must be well protected. They must be provided with state of the art equipments. But we must also understand that nowadays wars are manufactured by those in power. The governments are manipulated and arm twisted into spending on military hardware by the middlemen.
We must also look at how little India spends on its health care and education for the masses, it becomes a glaring contrast. Our cities are choking on pollution. Child malnutrition is the highest in the world, about 42 % of the children are under weight. The country’s youth, the worlds largest, has slim chance of access to quality education, over 60% of its people do not have bathrooms, over 330 million Indians do not have sake drinking water. Thousands of its citizens are harassed and humiliated daily by oppressive and misogynistic institutions. Violence is a daily reality. India has become a very rich country of too many poor people. Over 56 % of the rural population does not have access to electricity. Almost 400 million Indians live without electricity.
A recent survey by the National Institute of Education and planning and administration ( NIEPA) founf that over one lakh of India’s elementary schools had only one classroom. In Bihar over 1200 schools have no buildings at all. Some 27% of these schools are single teacher schools with an average of 100 students each. India has a shortage of almost ½ a million teachers. Over 8 million primary school age children still do not attend school. Even though there are many private educational institutions mushrooming everywhere run by unscrupulous greedy businessmen, they are all out of reach to the poor. All these institutions demand exorbitant fees and deposits which the poor can ill afford. The quality of our engineers are suspect. The higher education institutions are not up to world standard. None of them are bracketed in the top 100 universities of the world. Our engineering and medical colleges are sub standard. Quantity and not quality are the norm.
Likewise the health sector, many multi national big business groups have invested in hospitals. But they are all confined to the urban cities. The rural poor still has to walk miles to reach any health centers. Apart from Kerala, where the govt. health centers and govt. hospitals provide good service to the poor, the rest of India is still very primitive and the poor is neglected. Some 66% of the rural people do not have access to critical medicines, while 31% will have to travel more than 30 km to avail themselves of any health care. Just 28% of of the Indians living in urban areas corner 66 % of the India’s hospital beds. Even the big hospitals are profit centric, exploiting the patients and collecting huge commissions. Scams are aplenty. Trafficking human organs by exploiting the poor are rampant.

India has the one of the most skewed sex ratios in the world. According to statistics from UNICEF, more than 7,000 cases of female foeticide happen daily in the country – and since sex determination in India is a crime – reliable data on female foeticide is missing. Again, while in 1901 there were 3.2 million less girls than boys, according to the 2001 census, this gap has widened to 35 million. In the 2011 Census, data has shown that the child sex ratio in the country declined to 914 girls to 1,000 boys under the age of six.
According to UNICEF estimates, about 65% of rural Indians defecate themselves in the open. Sometimes on the road. Almost 600 million Indians mostly in rural areas are without toilets, a problem that is only in India. Even Bangladesh has declared that they have ended open defecation. In UP alone a staggering 77 % of the rural households do not have latrines. In Bihar it is almost 81%. The national average if 67% without toilets. There are more mobiles than toilets in India. This open defecation also exposes the women to grave risk of rapes.
Owning land is the most empowering asset a citizen can possess. This has been denied to women till now. According to landesa an international NGO, it is estimated that even though 85% of women are engaged in agriculture, only 13% own land of their own. In Bihar it is just 7%. It is a matter of shame for all Indians that more farmers have committed suicide than in any other countries of the world.
Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic. The poor and underprivileged live as rats. No other economy is growing as fast as India’s while simultaneously recording such low progress in reducing malnutrition, eradication of poverty, illiteracy and so on. In the global hunger index, India was ranked at the 55th trailing Sri Lanka and Nepal. In 2009, a planning commission of India study on the distribution of subsidized food item trough the PDS found that only 16 paise out of a One rupee reaches the targeted poor. The remaining 84% went to pay salaries and as leakages and bribes and commissions for the country’s bloated govt.
In its latest report, Mc Kinsey Global Institute says that almost 600 million Indians, or 56% of the Indian population lacks the means to meet their basic essential necessities like food, sanitation, health care, education, water housing, fuel and social security. Despite high growth, more than 3/4th of the Indian population are poor and vulnerable with a level of consumption just above the official poverty line. Inequality has only widened between the haves and have-not’s.
The poor and needy has no assess to the govt. machinery which is controlled by middlemen and politicians. Every aspect of the Indian society is based on dynastic rule. Even the judiciary is now propagating dynastic succession. The justice delivery system has been a big let down. The police and prosecution has proved to be inept and allows the culprits to escape. Convictions are rare especially where high profile personalities are involved. The rich get away with murder. The poor is treated shabbily.
In spite of the high levels of corruption, nepotism, favoritism, racism, casteism, persecution in the name of religion, inequalities and violence, the great Indian Democracy plods on like the proverbial bullock cart. In India there are more religious places of worship than educational and health care institutions combined. Indians still rely on beliefs and myths rather than on rational thinking. Indians love to live in the past. Religion is the biggest holy cow. In spite of the great advances in space, India still remains a cow republic in the eye of the world. The only way to solve this is to invest heavily in the education and health sector. Just the amount of commission and kickbacks in the weapons purchase is enough to provide 100 hospitals or 500 schools in the rural sector. Investing an amount equivalent to 10% of the defense budget in the rural sector will make India zoom up in the standard of life of our citizens. The primary duty of any govt. must be to provide the poor with an income and supporting the farmers who form the bulk of the Indian population. Till date none of the governments have done anything meaningful to help the poor and the under privileged apart from promises on paper. Farmers have taken the brunt of the burden. We need a government which is people friendly and supportive of the farmers. The landless must be provided with lands. The government must change, the system must change. After 68 years of independence, it is high time that this govt. gets its act together. We sorely need a government which promotes equality and protects its citizens rather than promoting divisions and sectarian violence. High time that our politicians start promoting our oneness instead of indulging in divisive politics. Only we can help ourselves and our brethren.

gospel of St Thomas

Gospel of St. Thomas ( Didymus Judas Thomas)
as extracted from the book “ Jesus before the gospels by Bart E Ehrm
Even though Jesus was believed to have 12 disciples, there are only 4 gospels in the new testament which is very puzzling. Christians in Kerala believe that St. Thomas came here in the 1st century and evangelized the people here and converted them to Christians. But unfortunately the so called Christians in Kerala has never heard of the Gospel of Thomas. In the year 1945, the scholars found the gospel of Thomas . Reading this gospel will reveal why the early Christian theologians decided against including this gospel in the new testament. This gospel is more spiritual and stresses on understanding the teachings of Jesus rather than focusing on the virgin birth, resurrection and the church establishment. Unlike the canonical gospels, the gospel of Thomas is not a narrative of Jesus’s life, ministry, death and resurrection. It consists entirely of the sayings of Jesus. Altogether 114 quotes. Thomas does not speak of Jesus as the messiah, or the son of God. He simply calls Jesus as the “living Jesus”.
Another significant thing about this gospel is that it clearly mentions the name of Didymus Judas Thomas as the author unlike all the other gospels which are written by unknown authors according to the version of Mathew, Peter, Mark and John.
Thomas writes “ whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death”. For Thomas, understanding what Jesus really meant by his secret teachings is the way, probably the only way , to have eternal life. Salvation does not come by believing in Jesus’s death and resurrection, or by accepting his virgin birth, or by acknowledging that he is God who became a man. Salvation can be achieved only by interpreting what Jesus had said.
Many Christians believe that they will be the members of the future kingdom of God. But in the gospel of Thomas, he says that future rule and membership is not reserved for the disciples alone. It is open to anyone who seeks the meaning of Jesus’s words, finds it, realizes how disturbing it really is, and then marvels at the truth. Again he says “ Jesus said, the One who seeks should not stop seeking until he finds. And when he finds he will be disturbed; and when he is disturbed, he will marvel. And he will rule over all.
The gospel of Thomas clearly proves that Thomas had a clear understanding of the teachings of Jesus, teaching about the world, the people who are in it and how the people can find salvation. One recurring motif is that the material world is not a good place. This world is lifeless and dead. The One who realizes this will be able to escape and have life. He quotes Jesus “ the one who has come to know the world has. found a corpse, The world is not worthy of that person”
In the gospel of Thomas, this world is not portrayed as a good creation of the good God as presented in the book of Genesis. It is portrayed as a deeply impoverished place that is the realm of entrapment for human spirits who have the misfortune of living here. He is surprised on how the great wealth of the spirit has come to be trapped in the poverty of this material world.
When Jesus came into this world, he saw he humans in this poor state blinded , impoverished and unaware of their real being. Only by understand the truth can a person escape from living in this material realm. That can come only through the secret knowledge that Jesus provides. This knowledge is principally self knowledge., of who you really are as one who has come from the enlightened realm of God into this world. Those who do not realize this about themselves will never escape from this miserable realm. “When you come to know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are the children of the living father. Jesus said “ when you strip naked without being ashamed and take your clothes and place them under your feet like little children and stamp on them, them you will see the son of the living One and you will not be afraid.” Like children shedding their clothes, you must shed this body and follow Jesus to escape from this miserable world and experience everlasting life. If its bodily pleasure that makes you appreciate the body, then you should engage in self denial to keep yourself from being tied to the body and thus to this material realm.
Thomas therefore is seen as highly ascetic text, one that urges its readers to avoid the pitfalls of bodily pleasure in the light of the need to liberate the spirit from its material entrapment. The saying of Thomas in his gospel like sayings 1,3,5,16,18,39,46,56,67 etc focus on correct knowing and understanding. You must know what you are and what the world is. All this is revealed in the teachings of Jesus. Those who understand these teachings will not taste death.”
Thomas mocks at Jewish practices like fasting, Sabbath, etc. Saying 53 attacks the practice of circumcision by the Jews. “ if cutting off a baby’s foreskin were profitable, God would have had boys born without it in the first place.”
Saying 39 criticises the scribes and Pharisees for having the keys to the kingdom but they do not know how to enter the kingdom and also prevents anyone else to enter also.
In saying 3, he mocks at the Christians who believe that the kingdom is a physical place. If it is in the sky the birds will get there first. If in the water, the fish will beat you to it. In this gospel, the kingdom is an internal reality; within those who realize they are sons of the living father. Thus it is already spread over the entire Earth. In Saying 113 also, Jesus stresses that the kingdom is not a physical entity, it is here and now , but hidden from those who lack knowledge. Those who teach otherwise are false teachers.
From these sayings in the gospel of Thomas, one thing is clear. It is way different from the other gospels. The Gospel of Thomas is more spiritual than any other gospel. It focuses on the teachings of Jesus and stresses on understanding it and becoming aware of the reality about the spiritual world.
For a religion like Christianity with its focus on material worship in churches and keeping up the importance of the priestly class, this gospel is an anachronism and hence very wisely suppressed by the priestly class. The gospel of Thomas exhorts its followers to seek enlightenment.
From a reading of this gospel one thing is very clear. St Thomas has never visited Kerala or done any evangelical work here or converted anyone in India. Otherwise, it is absolutely sure that the early Christians in Kerala would have followed the teachings in the gospel of Thomas which is very much different from the other canonical gospels. St Thomas would have surely pushed his gospel teachings and led all the Christians here on a spiritual path to enlightenment instead of the present focus on worship, belief on virgin birth and resurrection and the material trappings. The Christians in Kerala has not even heard of the gospel of Thomas which clearly proves that the disciple of Jesus has never visited Kerala.
By George Merlo Pallath