"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

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Friday, January 21, 2005
  Saintly Behavior (or, These Guys Ought To Be Canonized Too...)
This post is food-friendly, just in case anyone's eating as they read this:
On the bathing-ghats, scattered here and there among reverent Hindus, indifferent Moslems and staring tourists, sit the Holy Men, Or Yogis, in whom the religion and philosophy of India find their ultimate and strangest expression. In lesser numbers one comes upon them in the woods or on the roadside, immovable and absorbed. Some are old, some are young; some wear a rag over the shoulders, some a cloth over the loins; some are clothed only in dust of ashes, sprinkled over the body and into the mottled hair. They squat cross-legged and motionless, staring at their noses or their navels. Some of them look squarely into the face of the sun hour after hour, day after day, letting themselves go slowly blind; some surround themselves with hot fires during the midday heat; some walk barefoot upon hot coals, or empty the colas upon their heads; some lie naked for thirty-five years on beds of iron spikes; some roll their bodies thousands of miles to a place of pilgrimage; some chain themselves to trees, or imprison themselves in cages, until they die; some bury themselves in the earth up to their necks, and remain that way for years or for life; some pass a wire through both cheeks, making it impossible to open the jaws, and so condemning themselves to live on liquids; some keep their fists clenched so long that their nails come through the back of the hand; some hold up an arm or a leg until it is withered and dead. Many of them sit quietly in one position, perhaps for years, eating leaves and nuts brought to them by the people, deliberately dulling every sense, and concentrating every thought, in the resolve to understand. Most of them avoid spectacular methods, and pursue truth in the quiet retreat of their homes.

Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pg. 542
For anyone who's been looking for a benchmark to measure how far western civilization has come, this bit from the same page speaks volumes:
We have had such men in our Middle Ages, but we should have to look for them today in the nooks and crannies of Europe and America. India has had them for 2500 years--possibly from the prehistoric days when, perhaps, they were the shamans of savage tribes.

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