Do It Yourself (DIY): Rational Thinking – 5 most common logical fallacies

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What is a logical fallacy? It is an error in reasoning which leads to an invalid argument. There are a number of logical fallacies out of which I have shortlisted the most common ones. Here we go:

1. Appeal to popularity: Just because the crowd believes in a thing, the thing must be true and correct. The premise here is that the crowd is well-informed about stuff and is intellectually rich so as to judge truth or untruth, correct or incorrect. By this premise anything being done by the crowd or any ‘premise’ held by the crowd must be correct. So even things like racism could get some justification. It is kind of a circular argument as in “it must be true because they say it is true”, no premises are in question.

2. Appeal to authority: Just because an authoritative person says something, it must be true and correct. No premises are asked for by the believers in order to check if the conclusion logically follows the premises or not or even to check if the premises are themselves factual or imaginary. It is kind of a worshipper mentality where one person is completely faithful to another person and believes whatever that persons says.

3. Composition/division: Just because one examined part of a thing is bad or good, all other (unexamined) parts must be the same. The premise here is that all the parts of the particular thing are one and the same and hence examination of just one part is enough to ascertain the nature of the unexamined parts. So in case of gangrene in one foot, the whole body must have been gangrened.

4. Personal attack: A personal attack on someone while arguing instead of attacking the premises and arguments of his. Like “all you’re saying is baseless because you’re a liar.” Now to prove that the other person is a liar, there needs to be given a list of evidences which would deviate the whole debate. The main purpose of doing so is to safeguard your own self by hook or by crook when you’re about to lose in an argument.

5. No belief: When even in the presence of a compelling evidence, the opponent disagrees simply by saying “I don’t believe”, hence “I won’t believe.” This usually happens with people who hold such strong beliefs about certain things that no matter how much opposite evidence you present, they won’t change their minds.

Logical fallacies bring down the level of a debate and often lead to losses. In order to search for truth, you must be true to reasoning and should not commit logical fallacies. Appreciation for those who do not commit them, and for those who do, I hope they’ll unveil their rationality soon.

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Do It Yourself (DIY): Rational Thinking – 6 easy steps

Do-It-Yourself-Company-Mentality

What is rational? It is that which is based on or in accordance with reason and logic. What are reason and logic? Reason is the explanation of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of an action or event. Logic is reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity. Validity means the quality of being logically or factually sound. All these words aim at one thing, that is identifying the real nature of things and calling a spade a spade.

If you’re wondering about how to think rationally, following are 6 easy steps you can follow to start being a rational thinker.

1. Be a sceptic: Question everything no matter how popular or accepted things may be, but be polite. Ask for the premises behind the conclusions. But do not hang on the question when you get a genuine answer (the premises of which seem to be logically sound).

2. Slow down: Judging anything takes time. Take your time gathering appropriate data to have a ground to judge in the first place. There are a number of possible cause and effect chains which cannot be comprehended in just a couple of moments.

3. No defence: Do not defend your opinions (nor of anyone else). Opinions have to change if the evidence points to the opposite direction. This way you’ll never feel offended if anyone questions you or proves you wrong. If your argument overpowers that of the opponent, you win, if his argument overpowers yours (the premises of which are logically sound), it’s again a victory as you have a new but strong perspective that you didn’t think of previously.

4. Follow facts: You must not follow opinions. You’re to be guided by facts, that’s it. Even if someone claims to have opinions based on facts, still be a sceptic and ask for the premises and facts used to reach the conclusions or opinions. There is no authority for you other than facts.

5. You’re fallible: Accept that you can make mistakes even at the time when you’re sure that you’re not going to. So be ready to be pointed out as wrong. To be factually pointed out as wrong is beneficial (as in we can ask for the premises and if they turn out to be logically sound) as we can learn about our own loopholes and grow as a person.

6. Suspend judgement: Sometimes it may happen that either you have no credible evidence for a conclusion to follow or you have the evidence but it doesn’t seem to go in a particular direction. In such situations you should suspend your judgement. Also there is stuff about which we can’t know for sure, like the beginning of this universe and all. Even in this present moment, we cannot perceive each and every thing that is happening around us and so we can’t tell what it is and what it is not. Suspension of judgement is a peace pact with the limits of our perception.

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Faith in science: how good, how bad?

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But natural we take authoritative statements for granted. The scientific minded people promote science as being based on evidence & free from faith. Isn’t faith bestowed on the evidence gathered by someone else? A religious scripture also relies on such an authority & faith. Like a scientific research paper, it also says ‘it is true, it has been tested.’ But where does the difference lie?

The difference is that the scientific finding can be tested to be proved as true or false. You can replicate it & then match both the results, the new & the claimed. If the reliance is solely for the reason that it is a finding published in a scientific peer-reviewed journal, it is as good as the reliance on a scripture, both situations being devoid of impartial testing. The corruption of aforementioned type of journals is being spoken about quite a lot now. But again we can’t commit the logical fallacy to assume that if one part of such publications is corrupt, then the rest too must be the same and so all parts are unreliable.

My point is simple, if faith toward authority is bad in one field because of presumptive bias, how come it is acceptable in another? Both require a kind of surrender. I do not say to a layman to go and test each and every research paper by replication, but at the least he should not blindly follow what the authorities declare. He should be sceptical toward everything. He cannot go and test each and every claim keeping in mind the costs of money and time. In such cases he needs to suspend his judgement as he does not know if the claims are true or false.

The most common logical fallacy which even the lovers of science could commit would be of presuming as true what the ‘majority’ scientists say. It doesn’t matter what your intent is, but once you presume something to be true or false, your effort becomes wasteful.

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Why god doesn’t stop crime? He protects your free will: Dr. Zacharias

I recently saw this video. Here Dr. Ravi Zacharias tries to answer a very hard question. The question is that why doesn’t god stop crime if he’s watching? Even though very complex, the answer fails at the very basic premise, that is, free will. Here is my review of the ‘free will’ model of god as opined by Dr. Zacharias.
Saying that god has given us full free will because he loves us so much and hence he doesn’t interfere for instance in every rape event, goes against any concept of justice, leave aside divine justice. God has been viewed as a father, whose sons and daughters we are. In that sense, your proposed view would like this: A father has 10 sons, some of them are good and some bad. The bad ones screw up the lives of the good ones. The good ones however try to dissipate injustice and they fail. And guess what? No interference from their father, why? Because he loves them so much that he gave them complete free will. Now when the good ones come to him for rescue, all he promises them is a good life after they die. Meanwhile the bad ones keep on screwing the life of the good ones.
So what is the model of justice here? It is that until you die, the crooks can torture you, rape you, wrong you, but don’t worry after that it will be fine. Suppose now that such a model of justice is proposed by a nation’s judicial system, would you accept that? Wouldn’t it give every criminal a free hand everywhere and every time to wrong anyone? Would you sit back and see one of your sons wronging another son of yours for their whole lives?
I’d like to add that freewill would be wrongly interfered with if the very necessary functions of mine (critical to my survival and growth, unharmful to my neighbours) are taken out of my choice. If X wants to rape a woman, it is out of the boundary of ‘justifiable freewill’. X’s freewill is to rape a woman and her freewill is not to get raped, which one would god support?

What Albiruni said about the Hindus of 10th Century AD

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Abu Rayhan Albiruni penned down a book named ‘Kitab-ul-Hind‘, an account of the religion, philosophy, literature, geography, chronology, astronomy, customs, laws and astrology of India about A.D. 1030. In the first chapter of his book, he gives a general introduction of the Hindus. Here he mentions a few of the dearest things of the Hindus (Sanskrit, Indian Science, Books) going in the wrong direction. Here is what he has to say.

1. On Sanskrit: First, they differ from us in everything which other nations have in common. And here we first mention the language (Sanskrit), although the difference of language also exists between other nations. If you want to conquer this difficulty (i.e. to learn Sanskrit), you will not find it easy, because the language is of an enormous range, both in words and inflections, something like the Arabic, calling one and the same thing by various names, both original and derived, and using one and the same word for a variety of subjects, which, in order to be properly understood, must be distinguished from each other by various qualifying epithets. For nobody could distinguish between the various meanings of a word unless he understands the context in which it occurs, and its relation both to the following and the preceding parts of the sentence. The Hindus, like other people, boast of this enormous range of their language, whilst in reality it is a defect. (Para 1)

2. On the scribes: Add to this that the Indian scribes are careless, and do not take pains to produce correct and well-collated copies. In consequence, the highest results of the author’s mental development are lost by their negligence, and his book becomes already in the first or second copy so full of faults, that the text appears as something entirely new, which neither a scholar nor one familiar with the subject, whether Hindu or Muslim, could any longer understand. It will sufficiently illustrate the matter if we tell the reader that we have sometimes written down a word from the mouth of Hindus, taking the greatest pains to fix its pronunciation, and that afterwards when we repeated it to them, they had great difficulty in recognising it. (Para 5)

3. On blind patriotism: We can only say, folly is an illness for which there is no medicine, and the Hindus believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no kings like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs. They are haughty, foolishly vain, self-conceited, and stolid. They are by nature niggardly in communicating that which they know, and they take the greatest possible care to withhold it from men of another caste among their own people, still much more, of course from any foreigner. According to their belief, there is no other country on earth but theirs, no other race of man but theirs, and no created beings besides them have any knowledge or science whatsoever. Their haughtiness is such that, if you tell them of any science or scholar in Khurasan and Persia, they will think you to be both an ignoramus and a liar. If they travelled and mixed with other nations, they would soon change their mind, for their ancestors were not as narrow-minded as the present generation is. One of their scholars, Varahamihira (6th Century A.D.), in a passage where he calls on the people to honour the Brahmans, says : ” The Greeks, though impure, must be honoured, since they were trained in sciences (astrology & astronomy), and therein excelled others. What, then, are we to say of a Brahman, if he combines with his purity the height of science”. In former times, the Hindus used to acknowledge that the progress of science due to the Greeks is much more important than that which is due to themselves. But from this passage of Varahamihira alone you see what a self-lauding man he is, whilst he gives himself airs as doing justice to others. (Para 14)

4. On Hindu Sciences: The Hindus had no men of this stamp both capable and willing to bring sciences to a classical perfection. Therefore you mostly find that even the so-called scientific theorems of the Hindus are in a state of utter confusion, devoid of any logical order, and in the last instance always mixed up with the silly notions of the crowd, e.g. immense numbers, enormous spaces of time, and all kinds of religious dogmas, which the vulgar belief does not admit of being called into question. Therefore it is a prevailing practice among the Hindus jurare in verba magistri; and I can only compare their mathematical and astronomical literature, as far as I know it, to a mixture of pearl shells and sour dates, or of pearls and dung, or of costly crystals and common pebbles. Both kinds of things are equal in their eyes, since they cannot raise themselves to the methods of a strictly scientific deduction. (Para 17)

Source: Book, Albiruni’s India by Dr. Edward C Sachau (translated Kitab-ul-Hind).

Who’s the creator of the earth? Brahma or Indra?

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Vedas are the earliest scriptures of Hinduism. They are the holiest and the most revered scriptures to the Hindus. Hindus today agree on the trinity of Creator Brahma, Sustainer Vishnu and Destroyer Shiva. But Rigveda (the earliest Veda) has to say something else. In its 8th book, it has a hymn attributed to Śyāvāśva Ātreya. In this (36th) hymn, Indra or Śatakratu is said to have created the earth and the heaven. Here’s the excerpt of the 4th couplet:

जनिता दिवो जनिता पृथिव्याः पिबा सोमं मदाय कं शतक्रतो (janitā divo janitā pṛthivyāḥ pibā somaṃ madāya kaṃ śatakrato) Translation: O Śatakratu! the creator of heaven, creator of earth, drink Soma for excitement/intoxication.

So, the foremost scripture of the Hindus says that Śatakratu alias Indra is the creator of both the earth & heaven. This information is being given for the sake of showing how man creates, uses & discards gods as per his own needs. Earlier it was Indra & now it is Brahma maybe there is going to be another one in the future.

© Satyan Sharma 2015

Women empowerment or Female chauvinism

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Gender equality has now become a cliche issue. Whenever somewhere this issue is debated over or discussed, it is usually pro-women issues which are spoken about in the name of gender equality. Cultural oppression of women isn’t a new thing as far as India is concerned. It is practically only about 50 years or so since women have started to have a say in the society. Laws and commissions have backed women to come at par with men. The movement which started in the sixties and gained a say near the seventies, known as Feminism, was, as popularly believed, started for the cause of gender equality. But now it has taken the shape of its name.

Recently, a documentary titled ‘India’s Daughter’ was made by BBC on the issue of the 2012 Delhi-gang rape case. It created a furore for two things; one that one of the rapists was interviewed in it, and second that the Government of India has banned its telecast in India. But natural, the issue of ‘male mentality’ was raised as the rapist and his lawyers were seen talking in misogynistic terms. The cultural oppression of women in India basically sprouts from the fact that they are thought of being second class humans, males being the first class ones. So the main accused are the men for devising and supporting such a culture. When we say ‘men are culprit’, it is understood as ‘all men are culprit’. But there is a technical problem with the argument. When it comes to culture, it feeds on generations of yes-nods. Suppose there’s a mother patting her child for being harsh and rude, and teaching her daughter that she is a second class human, can the whole blame fall on men?

It has become a fad to talk in pro-women terms. Well, when we talk of gender-bias, being pro-women is also a bias. It’s just a game of words when pro-men is termed male chauvinism and pro-women is termed progressivism. You go on a stage and say, “women are ahead of men” and you’ll be applauded for that. Now go and say, “men are ahead of women” and you’ll be booed away. Why? Flock mentality. People just want to believe what their flock believes, questioning is defunct. This shows the twin face of our society. A popular phrase ‘ladki pe hath uthata hai namard’ (you impotent! you raise hand to hit a woman) teaches that a female shouldn’t be hit by a man or the man will be termed impotent. What if a woman hits a man? So many social experiments have shown that when a woman hits a man in public, she gets an amazing support of the crowd. If violence is bad, it’s bad for everyone, irrespective of the gender. Also we hear & read women & men saying sentences like ‘women are more powerful than men’, etc. Isn’t this gender bias?

Let us talk of the current image stereotypes. The stereotypes for a man are ‘misbehaved’, ‘violent’, ‘sinner’, ‘emotionally frozen’, etc. The stereotypes for a woman are ‘soft’, ‘pious’, ‘well-behaved’, ‘emotional’, etc. A woman isn’t even imagined as a wrong-doer in the current stereotype, and the man, he’s just enough close to being a demon. It seems people’s popular perception is waiting for ‘matriarchy’ as a solution to ‘patriarchy’. In India, domestic violence isn’t seen as if happening from a wife on her husband. Why? Men are strong (all men) and women are weak (all women), and the laws follow. According to a report by the national crime bureau in 2013, married men who committed suicide (64,098) were double the number than married women (29,491). The main reason for the suicides by married men is the Domestic Violence Act 2005 and section 498(A) of IPC (anti-dowry act which is misused quite a lot).

As regards to rapes, after the 2012 Delhi gang rape incident, the anti-rape law was made stricter. As a result, the acquittal rate in Delhi trial courts went up from 46% (2012) to 75% (2013). The reason for such a hike was the rise in fake rape cases. The worst part is that the mass media doesn’t highlight the cases in which the accused was acquitted. In 2013, Niranjan Kumar Mandal was acquitted of a rape case before which he had spent 4 years of jail. He moved a plea to the Supreme Court of India for the restoration of his lost dignity and honour. The reason was that media didn’t show his case and as masses believe in what the media shows, the residents of his locality still believed that he was a rapist and maintained distance from him and his family.

I’d like to ask you, what do you mean by the ‘gender-equality’? I know the question is quite stupid as the words are very clear, but it is also quite clear that the popular perceptions which drive the culture think of it as ‘women empowerment’. And talking about the uplift of women, even women aren’t sorted on the issue. I have seen, heard and read stories of women not exercising their rights (even in favourable situations), women chiding other women under the influence of the misogynist culture, and women misusing laws to avenge or gaining profits against men. So I transformed myself from being pro-women to being pro-liberty. Stereotypes are a hindrance in the road to truth. When you connect a gender with crime, you run the risk of going against the gender and not the crime. There’s a book titled ‘woman-to-woman sexual violence -does she call it rape’ authored by Lori B. Girshick. Doesn’t the title sound awkward? How about women raping men and men just not talking about it due to the same cultural pressures which gave men power over women where a man would end up being called a coward and impotent?

I think it is very necessary that we should separate the gender from crime. The criminal mentality is the issue to be discussed. The fad of ‘all men are sinners and all women are virtuous’ needs to be done away with so that we can seriously head toward getting a solution. The making of a man or a woman begins with the making of a child which involves both the father and the mother. Good or bad, it is the upbringing which plays the role. Here another stereotype comes into play, that is ‘children make mischief, parents are all pious and good’. So whenever you see a son misbehaving with his parents, you might think of how bad the son is and wouldn’t think about the cause and effect relation between upbringing and character. I am not denying the fact that there is crime against women, but we shouldn’t forget the crimes which are committed against men as well. I hope that we zero-in on the real cause and work together toward having a real solution against crime.

© Satyan Sharma 2015

Why I am not a non-vegetarian

I was born in a Hindu Brahmin family, so non-vegetarian food was a taboo since then. Maximum for me was consuming eggs and milk (and its products). Otherwise my food was filled with all vegetarian stuff. It was to my surprise to find my cousins eat meat, which sometimes made me jealous of them, but I reconciled with my state of affairs. Then I grew up and became a very religious boy. And so my argument against eating non-veg food was ‘god’. My religiosity didn’t survive for long and by the time I was 20 or 21 years of age, I concluded that I had no faith in any religion. Gradually I lost faith even in ‘god’.

It was a great relief for me because now I was free from the supernatural stick which I feared would hit me hard if I committed some sin (non-veg food in this case). I introduced meat in my food. I started with KFC. Eating chicken was once in a month affair and it continued for 3-4 months or so. Then I started to figure out that the food I eat, breathes and walks before being slaughtered. I had heard vegetarians and non-vegetarians argue about ‘sentience’ of beings, plants and animals. Non-vegetarians defend themselves by calling plants ‘fully sentient’ and ask vegetarians to give up plant food. I was really confused as I needed to have solid argument against/for my position.

I surfed the internet about plant-sentience. I saw some videos of experiments. One video showed how mimosa pudica plant dozed off after ether was sprinkled on it. But I felt that it could be just a mechanical/chemical response and not just ‘consciousness’ or ‘self-awareness’. I then wrote a blog post ‘how conscious can plants be’ (in which I have explained and built up my arguments against the notion of plants being as conscious as animals). I thought that the stimulus-response system of a being is critical if viewed from the evolutionary point of view. Suppose you can feel pain but can’t respond to it, you’re being sliced and you can’t just help it. This doesn’t fit in the ‘survival of the fittest’ frame.

On the other hand, suppose a fully conscious animal being cut and reacting in jumps and screams. We need not be a PhD scholar in order to determine the difference between the consciousness of a plant and an animal. Just imagine you yourself being cut to be cooked and eaten. That’d be approximately the same terror, pain, trauma that the animals experience. Being a rationalist, I value freedom and liberty the most. In that sense, I can’t interfere with another person’s freedom and liberty without a valid reason. The reason that comes in favour of non-veg food is that you’ll go deficient in certain nutrients if you only eat veg food. Well, to some extent it could be true. But for the rest of the range of non-veg food items, I disagree. I have been a vegetarian the most of my spent life (even eating eggs wasn’t a regular event). I haven’t felt any weaker than the my non-veg eating counterparts. In fact I remember a few times when I outweighed them in physical strength. The basic point is to adequately cook and properly digest the food.

So when it comes to eating stuff, I prefer a less conscious being over a fully conscious being because I can’t happily imagine of a being screaming and begging for his life before entering my mouth. Yes, if it’s a case of acute shortage of vegetarian food items, one can opt for eating meat for it would be better justified then. Historically, some societies preferred non-vegetarian food items as they couldn’t stay at one place for longer periods, practise agriculture and wait for long periods of time to eat stuff. Also in places where extensive agriculture is technically not possible, eating non-vegetarian food items is justified. Yes, I care to check if my acts are justifiable or not. And when it comes to the protection of my own freedom and liberty, I care not to hurt those of anyone else without a valid reason.

Well I am still open to arguments in opposition of my position.

© Satyan Sharma 2015

How Conscious Can Plants Be

When we talk about ‘living beings’ we also include the plants. Now the argument given by vegetarians against a non-vegetarian diet is ‘not to kill living beings for food’. By that argument we mustn’t kill plants also. But then from where would we get any food? I’ve been pondering upon this idea for long and had quite good debates with my own self.

I read a few articles and saw a few videos on plant consciousness. The fact is that we still don’t have a firm evidence that the plants are as conscious as animals. The pro-plant-consciousness arguments are based on estimates and inferences. Even if we take the plants to be conscious, another question arises as to whether their consciousness is at par with that of the animals.

Here I took my imagination as a tool. I imagined how would it feel to be enough conscious to feel the pain but not enough equipped to react to it in defence. It would be worse than even the process of dying. A plant would prefer to die than to live such a helpless life. Now if the plant isn’t dying voluntarily, does it mean that it has no control over its body? If the answer is yes, this would go against the pro-plant-consciousness arguments.

If it is conscious, then it has control over its body. If it doesn’t commit suicide, it means it doesn’t want to or it doesn’t feel that much pain as to prefer death over life. Not to take just one plant into consideration, let us imagine of all the generations of plants to this day and imagine them feeling helpless. It can’t be that they are all into that ‘COMA’ like condition. If they are, we can’t say that they’re conscious to the level a normal animal is.

In this experiment my tool is imagination through which I got an inference. I call it an inference because I have the evidence that plants are alive and I, to my current capability, reasoned it out. I still am working on this. I will be glad to hear counter-arguments to this inference.

© Satyan Sharma 2014

Shiva and His Problem

Most Hindu myths are based on the Puranas. So I took one Purana and got something worth mentioning. This is about Shiva, the Shiva who is accredited for creating the Yoga system (meant for peace). Shiva’s anger is well known among the Hindus. But here I found something else, that is ‘love’, ‘passion’ or ‘libido’ (the meaning will be ascertained in the end of this article) and that too an uncontrolled one.

I picked up the Vamana Purana. In its 6th chapter, Shiva after losing his consort Sati, is said to have lost control over his libido. In the 36th shloka he talks to Sati in his dream telling her that due to the separation he’s being burnt by the fire of ‘lust’ or ‘Kamadeva’ (madana agni; Kamadeva or Madana is the name for the love god). Here’s the shloka;

निर्घृणे तिष्ठ किं मूढे त्यजसे मामनिन्दिते |

मुग्धे त्वया विरहितो दग्धोऽस्मि मदनाग्निना ||

In the 48th shloka he again talks of the same and clearly says that he hasn’t been able to attain ‘sexual pleasure’ or ‘love’ or ‘affection’ (rati in sanskrit). He also says that he’s injured by the weapons of ‘madness’ and ‘expansion’ (of ‘kama’). Here’s the shloka:

नाशं गतायां वरदाम्बिकायां कामाग्निना प्लुष्टसुविग्रहोऽस्मि |

विजृम्भणोन्मादशरैर्विभिन्नो धृतिं च विन्दामि रतिं सुखं वा ||

In the 49th shloka  Shiva urges a guy named Panchalika to take the weapons of ‘Kamadeva’. This means that he had to take help of someone else to get out of the situation. Here’s the shloka:

विजृम्भणं पुत्र तथैव तापं उन्मादमुग्रं मदनप्रणुन्नम् |

नान्यःपुमान्धारयितुं हि शक्तोमुक्त्वाभवन्तं हिततःप्रतीच्छ ||

Now what does imply by the transfer of Kamadeva’s weapons is another question, but the main part is that Shiva isn’t self-sufficient.

From shloka 55-66 the story of Shiva’s phallus (linga) begins. Shiva is yet not relieved from the Kamadeva’s weapons and he moves into a forest mentioned as ‘Daruvana’. And there he asks for alms from the Rishis. The Rishis remain silent on this (why?). Shiva then starts to stroll around and the Rishis’ wives start following him (due to their being attacked by Kama too). Rishis then curse to make Shiva’s phallus fall down.

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Now this reference makes it quite clear what the ‘rati’ and ‘kama’ actually would mean (‘cause they means ‘love’ and ‘affection’ as well as ‘sexual desire’ ).

So the question arises that should Shiva be worshipped? Is he so worthy? If Vamana Purana’s claims are true, then my answer will definitely be a big ‘no’. I am sharing this information with all of you so that you can make opinions based on the actual data on which the religion is based. Any logical contradiction is welcomed.

© Satyan Sharma 2014

(Image courtesy: vedpuran.com)