Born Poor to enrich whole humanity – Dr James Kottoor

Forces for good and evil are in mortal conflict everywhere and around us. Everyone feels the pain. Of course philosophically at least,  it may be absurd to speak of a conflict  between  good and evil since what we call  evil  is the absence of good, just as darkness is  absence of light, cold the absence of heat, ignorance  absence of knowledge. In the same vein can we go on and ask: What is hell and answer:  absence of heaven?  And what about Demon: absence of a God? What then is: what really IS? “I am who am.”  That is how God reportedly defined himself in the Old Testament.

But  these Old testament  stories, some say, are flights of fancies of people spiritually gone crazy   which can’t be seen, touched, tested or proved,  when compared to  thoughtful  rational thoughts of intellectuals about God, which can be scientifically analyzed, proved or disproved.  For, how can you portray or prove the unseen? Hence we have battalions of people who describe themselves as atheists or theists. I have no quarrel with either of them as I have no special, privileged insight into the realm of the unseen. Here I am simply concerned with a belated shocking discovery, namely the disturbingly close convergence of my own thinking with what Buddha once said: “I know nothing about the mysteries of God, but I know a lot about the miseries of man.”

The enormity  and magnitude of human miseries  — caused by hunger and disease due to exploitation, murderous rape,  terrorist attacks  and cold blooded ethnic cleansing, some in the name of God and religion — disturbs me beyond measure, bleeds my heart and forces me to hang my head in shame because it had not struck me so hard all through my eight score years of search and journey through life but only too late in life now, while  a Siddhartha discovered it very early in life and did a lot to alleviate them. First lesson is I am no Buddha and flights away from any Buddhist thinking. Second lesson is that mysteries of God can surely wait any amount of time without hurting anyone, but not miseries of humans tortured in gas chambers to a slow  but sure death, Such miseries do exist, nay abound, what is worse they are increasing at a rapid pace which calls for quick action to wipe them out. A third lesson is that even those in the sunset of life should learn to take a cue from the enlightened ways of those in the dawn of life…

How Siddhartha becomes Buddha

So how did it happen for young Siddhartha who later became Buddha? Curiosity prompted him to sneak out of the comforts of his royal palace and four distressing things struck him. They were: the sight of sick man, a man bent with age, a dead man and a begging ascetic who had renounced the world to seek Enlightenment. Siddhartha decided to follow the ascetic to seek enlightenment which he finally did achieve.

His search for enlightenment led him to discover four noble truths:  First he found out the painful truth that this world to be a Dukka Sagara, a sea of sorrows; second he realized the main cause of this flood of misery was human DESIRE – grasping selfish desire to get what one doesn’t have as well as the desire to keep all what one has including one’s life marked by everyone’s fear of death. This led him to discover the third noble truth of how to put an end to the cause of all sorrows. How?  Easy, remove the cause and the effects will stop. So the third noble truth happened to be, killing all selfish, grasping desires. But uprooting of all selfish human yearnings is easily said than done. There should be a method in this madness of mass destruction of one’s own unpalatable egos rearing their ugly heads constantly. This method he called the fourth noble truth and listed them as the Eight-fold Noble Paths, namely: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration .

Closely allied to Jesus?

Reflecting on what Buddha discovered and taught made me realize how he is closely allied to the life and teaching of Jesus on whom I am fed from my infant days. Jesus too got incarnated (Word was made Flesh, as the Bible says) to liberate humanity being drowned in the miseries of this world which are the after effects of sin, the fall of man from God’s grace and the result  of pursuing one’s own selfish unbridled desires like prodigals, seeking evil rather than good, seeking self rather than God. There are ever so many similarities which made some call Buddha who lived 2500 years ago and Jesus who appeared 500 years later as brothers.

But there are more differences than similarities. One is the absence of any reference to a God as the beginning and end of all things. In Buddhism humans are simply caught in the wheels of Samsara– the rolling process of birth, death and rebirth – until one is liberated totally from the after effects of one’s Karma in the previous life. Salvation and liberation from earthly bondages are one’s own making through the practice of the eight-fold code of conduct.

In the case of Jesus, from cradle to grave He accompanies His followers caught in misery here below. Having born in a cattle-shed, not in royal posh surroundings, there is none, especially among the struggling humanity, who cannot easily identify with Him calling: “Come to me all that labour and are burdened and I will give you rest and solace.” While Buddha offers only the 8-fold paths of self-help and no outside help for attaining Nirvana which all need not attain, Jesus offers the lived example of a suffering servant who overcomes evil with good, who lives the life of an ordinary man and offers hope and God’s grace and pardon to all human failings. The name of the God he presents is MERCY (the prodigal father) and He is the visible image of that God as Sweet Jesus, Meek and Mild, Gentle and Gracious as his adoring fans love to sing.

Went around Doing Good

In fact by going about doing good to those in need – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the suffering, pardoning those branded as sinners and outcastes  – he was busy 24 hours wiping away tears from the last human face in his lived surroundings without distinctions of class, caste, creed or country. What is more, even when he roared against the hypocrisy and double dealings of the religious and political power-wielders, none could accuse him of sin. Pilate’s wife pleaded for Jesus’ release; Pilate, the judge, could not find any fault and so washed his hands and the thief on the right stole his way to heaven by asking pardon and Jesus himself prayed for forgiveness of his executioners. He thus endeared himself to every one of the members of suffering humanity of his times and became the greatest force for good against the oppressors of the poor of Yahweh of his time – the priests, scribes and Pharisees of Judaism and the political power-wielders like the Herods and Pilates as well.

Nay, he continues to exert himself as the greatest living force for good in today’s world. That is why a Gandhiji was forced to say: “I love Christ, though not the Christians.” What Gandhiji said long ago is repeated today by a critical world against all the divided churches – they number in thousands – fighting among themselves as the great “Scandal” as described by the present Pope Francis because divisions among churches can be best described by one word only: “Scandal”.

Unity of all Mankind

That they may all be One as “the Father is in me and I in the Father” is what Jesus prayed for, worked for and longs for. That unity is to be not only of all divided self-proclaimed churches but for the whole of humanity as one Family under the Fatherhood of God. It is for that He taught us to pray calling God “Our Father…Thy Kingdom come here on earth as in heaven”. Yes it is to turn this vale of tears, this sea of misery, this battlefield of the wounded, maimed and dying into that paradise lost was the purpose of His coming. It is for this He continues to live today as a live wire, raised from the dead, never written of anyone else in history.

To proclaim oneself to be His true follower what is needed, at least for this scribe, is not to convert myself to become a member of any of the present divided Churches – since division is scandal and counter witness to Jesus – but to become a humane human being which alone can best fit the phrase SON OF MAN (meaning ideal human being) which he used to refer to himself 85 times in the gospels. To become humane like Jesus one does not have to become a Christian or member of any Church.

Jesus himself never became a Christian. He was a Jew by birth, lived and died a Jew. INRI (Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews) was inscription put on his cross. What is needed to follow Jesus is just that, to defend love and truth. Didn’t He tell Pilate: “For this I have come into this world, to bear witness to Truth?” And that truth is that the whole of humanity is bound together by fraternity into one Global family under the Fatherhood of God. Individual families made up of father, mother and child are basic bricks of that great family. It is to ensure the basic health and strength of these bricks and make them defect free that Pope Francis has undertaken the herculean task of a two-year global study of challenges facing families, now going into the second year.  Long live human fraternity and global family life. May Jesus’ life that started in Bethlehem at the first Christmas lead, guide, inspire and enlighten all. HAPPY CHRISTMAS! 

( The writer can be contacted at:

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