Tag Archives: afghanistan

Hinduism, Iranic Spirituality & Some Historical Contextualizations

The below post is originally from a politicsforum.org post that I made earlier today, and it contained some interesting information that I had to track down concerning the nature of pre-Zoroastrian Iranian religion. Overall, I think it was one of the more interesting things I’ve really thought about and while I am not sure of the veracity of all of it, I open it up to discussion.

If anything seems funny in the wording, remember it was originally in reply to other people; I haven’t bothered to take away this quality from it and present it in its original format to you.

Enjoy:

Hinduism & Buddhism are both Salvific faiths just as Islam & Christianity are. Buddhism has all manner of texts (especially Mahayana Buddhism) that emphasize the role of the teacher as ultimate. To be a Dharma teacher is quite an important and great thing in Buddhism. Many sutras focus on the idea of spreading the teachings of the Buddha as an important and necessary path for the Buddhist monk, and there are examples of sutras condemning monks who spent their entire lives looking inward as opposed to spreading the message.

Hinduism was transmitted to Indonesia for a long period of time — perhaps with the very goal of providing a method of attaining salvation to the masses. I can’t really comment further on that… But I would guess the lack of salvific outreach to others has to do with the fact that India was already a massive, divided place and expanding beyond Hindustan isn’t exactly an easy task. Not to mention, it is not as if the Hindustanis had the infrastructure or means to really make an easy going of a sustained mission abroad… though apparently to some degree this did happen in Indonesia.

Perhaps it is also worth noting, as FRS did, that Hinduism is a great patchwork of many different beliefs there; consider the Zoroastrians of the Iranic world. Before Zoroastrianism the Iranic religion is incredibly similar to Hinduism, and while tere are some different gods there are basically such striking similarities, that the Rg Veda is considered to provide us information with pre-Zoroastrian Vedic-Aryan deva worship. You can read more here.

So, basically, until Islam took out Zoroastrianism, we know that the most accessible lands surrounding India were essentially Buddhist (Afghanistan, parts of northeast Iran), or they were Zoroastrian (the rest of Iran, much of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc.). Zoroastrian can be regarded on some level as a reformed, monotheized version of the regionalized Hindu-esque religion that had existed there…

… And gods know (appreciate the subtlety) that there was probably significant variation in the daily language, names and worship of the gods in Bihar and the gods in Tamil Nadu, and the gods in East Bengal and the gods in Punjab.

We might be running into a situation where Hinduism cannot spread to these lands beyond the Hindu Kush because it was more or less already there. Albeit, in a different and reformed version (though who is to say that there was not enclaves and villages still practicing a faith more similar to that of the pre-Zoroastrianism?).

In some sense, could we not argue that Hinduism had nowhere to expand from India, because it already had the Persian & Afghan empires?

(And we all know that it is Islam that supplants Zoroastrianism).

How does this dial into it?

Perhaps something like:
– Hinduism was salvific and spreading, as it did to Indonesia.
– Hinduism had no need to ‘spread’ to Persia and Iranic lands because it was more or less already there. It was then just reformed drastically right around the same time that Buddhism was formed.
– Buddhism & Jainism cause rifts within Hindustan and spread far and wide; the success of Buddhism in spreading abroad to some degree functions as a transmission as it is of Hindu culture, and perhaps even hints at the impotence of Hinduism to be of importance within Indian society. It is suggested by Gombrich in his book What The Buddha Thought that Buddhism was a religion primarily of the merchant / trader class, as it stands, and thus makes sense that while the Hinduism of the Brahmins stays put, the Buddhism of the Vaishyas spreads further & furhter.
– As time passes the Zoroastrians & Buddhists are defeated by the Muslims. Hinduism now has no options to spread and rather will be fully prepared to reel back in the face of Islam.
– Hinduism is then eventually enclosed by Islam to the West, and then there’s the far more Buddhist Bengali lands that eventually become Islamic; the Muslims then even spread their messages to Malaysia & Indonesia via Indian trade routes and usurp the old lands where Hinduism spread…

So after a 1,000 years they grow accustomed to constant inward looking.

It’s easy to become extremely introverted when surrounded by enemies… Ask the Koreans, ask the Shi’ites, ask the Druze, etc.

Afghanistan in Crisis As Obama Prepares Withdrawal

2014 has been an epic year for Pres. Obama:

– He attempted to destabilize the secular Syrian government & ended up supporting Islamist terrorists. The Russians & Iranians who backed Assad won out.

– His withdrawal from Iraq predictably culminated in mass civil warfare. Islamists recovered billions of dollars in currency & advanced military equipment making them incapable of being dislodged. Obama helped move to sack Maliki, who he had previously been fine with until this catastrophe (a little bit of late effort there, isn’t it?).

– Who can forget in the face of Russian aggressive posturing to take Crimea he sent John Kerry & his Hapsberg jaw to Ukraine; nothing was done to prevent Russian expansion, and instead money was given to a fledgling government of closet Fascists & corrupt strongmen in Kiev, who just this morning killed 10 civilians in artillery shelling of the Donetsk region. 

– Now Afghanistan is in a miserable position:

MAHMUD RAQI, Afghanistan —Taliban fighters are scoring early gains in several strategic areas near the capital this summer, inflicting heavy casualties and casting new doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to contain the insurgency as the United States moves to complete its withdrawal of combat troops, according to Afghan officials and local elders.

The Taliban have found success beyond their traditional strongholds in the rural south and are now dominating territory near crucial highways and cities that surround Kabul, the capital, in strategic provinces like Kapisa and Nangarhar.

Their advance has gone unreported because most American forces have left the field and officials in Kabul have largely refused to talk about it. The Afghan ministries have not released casualty statistics since an alarming rise in army and police deaths last year.

At a time when an election crisis is threatening the stability of the government, the Taliban’s increasingly aggressive campaign is threatening another crucial facet of the American withdrawal plan, full security by Afghan forces this year.

“They are running a series of tests right now at the military level, seeing how people respond,” one Western official said, describing a Taliban effort to gauge how quickly they could advance. “They are trying to figure out: Can they do it now, or will it have to wait” until after the American withdrawal, the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the coalition has officially ceded security control.

Interviews with local officials and residents in several strategic areas around the country suggest that, given the success of their attacks, the Taliban are growing bolder just two months into the fighting season, at great cost to Afghan military and police forces.

New York Times

Basically, the Taliban is poised to plunge the entire nation into civil war and perhaps even come out victorious in the end. They are so confident of their ability to do this they are even attacking now before the US troops have withdrawn — signs that they feel powerful.

is anything going right at all in his foreign policy?

Perhaps people can try to tie this all back to Pres. Bush, but one cannot help but think that the overly ‘aggressive’ and ‘warmongering’ Pres. Bush would have at least not yapped like a tiny dog while Russia expanded into Crimea, or have witnessed the complete & total deterioration of conditions within Iraq & Afghanistan.

The real losers in this whole mess are the Iraqi & Afghan people who were treated to a glimmer of hope of democracy only to have it snuffed out by the awkwardness & inadequacy of the US government. The other major losers are the thousands of Americans and other allied fighters that have died or been maimed & wounded in Iraq & Afghanistan– now their sacrifices truly have been for little to nothing.

The only people that have won out during the Obama administration are the Russians, the Iranians and the various Islamic extremist organizations throughout the Middle East.

British Soldiers Posing W/ Deceased Taliban Probed [Disgusting]

I am offended by the nonchalance of idiots in the face of death. Somewhere along the way these numb skulls lost respect for life and decided that it was somehow an expression of manliness or bravado to pose with the corpse of their dead enemy:

Britain is investigating photographs that appear to show a serviceman in Afghanistan posing beside a dead Taliban fighter, its ministry of defense said Friday.

“Inappropriate actions will not be tolerated in the armed forces; the RAF [Royal Air Force] is treating this incident extremely seriously and has launched a military police investigation,” Agence France-Presse quoted a spokesperson for the defense ministry as saying.

Disgusting.

al-Arabiya

Utterly horrendous.

War is a dirty affair that involves the taking of life. On some level, this struggle is rightfully glorified because the bravery and courage that it takes to face the threat of death and carry out a difficult task such as this is immense. Perhaps it is in part of recognition of this that we seek to honor and respect our enemies.

But more than even that: there should be a natural sanctity of life that we all recognize and that, no matter what, we never become so callous or stupid as to deny it.

When we trivialize death through this style of photo, when we pose with it as if it is some accomplishment that another person is dead… We are missing the point of war in the first place: it was to defend our ideals and to avoid greater harm upon humanity (hopefully).

Enough preaching.

I am disgusted.

A Small Glimpse Into North Afghanistan

It almost seems like a total joke for someone to refer to something from Afghanistan as lovely. Since the Taliban takeover, the place has been thought of as among the worst of the worst places on Earth. However, Afghanistan does have a rich history, and we shouldn’t be so easily put off by the geopolitical hiccups. After all, what can you say about a place that used to be a common travel destination for hippies?

Mazar e Sharif is a city in northern Afghanistan; demographically, it is a mix of Tajiks, Hazaras (70%, essentially all Farsi speakers) and Uzbeks and Pashtos are also present The city is rich in history and within the Balkh province which has a long history unto itself.

The totality of Afghanistan is very diverse though it generally falls into a divide between Iranian & Turkic groups. Look at this amazing map to see the distribution.

Just so you know: Hazaras are Shi’ites and Farsi speakers; Balocks (Baluchs) speak their own language not that different from Farsi, perhaps 70-80% interchangeable. Tajiks speak Farsi proper but written in cyrillic even though there is now a movement to return to the arabic script. Baluchs, Tajiks and Hazaras are all relatively religiously moderate.

It is the Pashtuns that I have heard generally make up the most of the Taliban. Pashtuns also live in large concentrations in north Pakistan. A lot of the conflict seems to be Pashtuns versus Hazaras, who have a dramatic hatred for one another (perhaps partly due to the Shi’ite nature of the Hazaras).

Pashtuns are known to be quite religious; they are also known to be big fans of dancing and naswar. Naswar is a tobacco and lime mixture with all sorts of little ingredients; it is often placed under the tongue or by the lower lip or cheeks when chewed. It is not uncommon for Naswar to be mixed with opium. Opiate based naswar will numb out your whole face and give you an intense, euphoric feeling. First time users, though, often vomit.

The national language of Afghanistan is, of course, Dari, and it is extremely similar to Farsi. The language had been referred to within Afghanistan as ‘Farsi’ until they changed the name in part to distinguish themselves more from Iran.

Mazar e Sharif seems like an impeccable place to visit — The city is situated next to some very picturesque mountains:

The mosque of Mazar e Sharif looks to be astounding:

Really an excellent place to potentially go visit.

I was also slightly surprised to see that they do camel fighting in Afghanistan. I had first heard of this being done in Turkey and in Turkish parts of Iran, and it seemed quite exciting and interesting then. I did not know that such a thing was present all the way through to Afghanistan as well:

 

When you see camels fight, there is one overall tactic: try to get your neck up and above your opponent and rest it on his neck, and thereby bte parts of him; they likewise smash into each other and push each other fiercely to get into position to do this.

They’re also often separated when a winner is found by groups of men simply using large ropes. I wish I could find the old video on camel fighting I saw years ago to more illumine this post.

I seem to recollect, as well, that the camel fights occur only during mating season when the bull camels are all prepared to fight for breeding rights. This is not some artificially induced violence between the camels, but rather it is something that many camels are already naturally inclined to do each year.

Notice the white stuff on the one camel’s back? That is spit; before fighting, the bull camels work themselves into a frenzy and froth spit at the mouth. This is where a lot of our ideas of ‘spitting camels’ come from.

I think it is a shame that so many people overlook places like Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc. when they have quite lovely nature and rich culture as well as long and dramatic histories, including surprising links to our own.

It is also relatively silly to look at a place as ethnically diverse as Afghanistan, who also has extremely religiously moderate neighbors like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and to write them off as a nation that is purely destined to extremism

It is a nation that can have a very bright future if it develops smartly.