Temples And Other Range Of options In Hindu Worshipping Practices

The overall mood in temple environs causes and motivates an ardent and

             a psychological conviction that this is the abode of God

by Promod Puri

An accepted convention among Hindus is to have home shrines, but a temple aside from a place of worship offers a visible embodiment of identity to the religion.

The instinct vibe of the divine spirit in murti itself is the prime invitation to the temple. In this invite, a temple is graced as a pilgrimage too.

The overall mood in temple environs causes and motivates an ardent and a psychological conviction that this is the abode of God. It is a place for reflection and rumination under His perceptive companionship to study the true self and institute guidance.

“Temple-Hinduism” is an expression introduced by Vasudha Narayanan, Professor of Religion, University of Florida. The terminology is not an academic phrasing, nor does it reflect a new sect in Hinduism. It is an interpretation of Hinduism related to the devotional practices of rituals and prayers in the temple’s iconological environment.

As we know, Hinduism, in its liberal and diverse traditions, offers a range of options for worshipping and contemplation where temple-Hinduism is the dominant and popular choice of devout Hindus.

Temple-Hinduism involves routine visits to a temple for ceremonial, religious, and contemplative purposes in a dedicated and disciplined setting.

The services at the temple customarily and generally are congregational. These are elaborate and formal as per ritualistic guidelines and local traditions. But within that liturgy or public worship, a devotee can also find a quiet space for seeking benediction and personal invocation.

A prominent service performed in a Hindu temple is Aarti. It is a holy ritual enacted more than once daily. Aarti originates from the Sanskrit word ‘Aratika.’ The latter denotes the clearance of ‘Ratri’ which means darkness.

The symbolic service of Aarti offers the use of ghee-soaked lighted wicks and some flower petals placed on a brass or silver plate. Devotees in standing posture extend the sanctified plate in circular moves of arms toward murti while singing a song or prayer in praise of the deity.

Aarti and several other elaborate adorations generate a spiritually-charged atmosphere of reverence and sacredness.

Moreover, the tradition of humility and total submission by devotees further contribute to the consecration and holiness of the temple environment.

Taking off shoes before entering the sacred premises, kneeling in front of revered idols’ sanctum, sitting on the floor and below the level of murtis, observing silence, are some the fundamentals and observed customs of Hindu worship etiquettes.


In this spiritual abode, the smell of incense, the sight of lighted Diya (clay oil lamp), the ring of the temple bell, the singing of prayers, the reciting and hum of mantras, all create an environment of divine feel and resonance to have moments with the divinity. The divinity of the place is thus defined.

However, technically speaking, it is the architecture of a temple as laid out by specific rules in the Hindu scriptures from where the sanctity of the temple begins. Architecture approves its location, design and engineering, and certifies the structure as a sacred place ready for divine services.

Hindu temple architecture is an institution in itself.

The history of Hindu temple blueprinting and construction is over 2000 years old. Over this long period, it has evolved itself in presenting quite an impressive and alluring diversification to bestow upon a temple its shape and embodiment.

The structural engineering involved in temple building is a feat in itself.

Most of the centuries-old worship monuments are still very much functional. These countless shrines have imbedded into the surrounding soil and have become part of the local landscape. Ancient Hindu shrines offer an archaeological marvel in temple building that often merge with adjoining environs

Many of the historic and pre-historic sacred Hindu monuments now get recognition as world heritage sites.

Selection of requisite location, the measurements and the mathematical calculations, the drafting of the structure and the craftsmanship involved had been the fundamentals in Hindu temple building since antiquity.

It is an extraordinary demonstration of skills and professionalism of ancient times to build stable structures to withstand hundreds of years. Most of such bygone era temples may look aged, but these are treasured and revered construction. Many of them are still entirely operative in providing the services.

An essential aspect of temple architecture, both from ancient times to the present, is to provide cultural and social space besides meeting the religious needs of a community.

A temple could be a sprawling place or a one-structure shrine. The former is more secular as an edifice for social rituals and community celebrations. It is a venue to hold events related to marriages, births and deaths, exhibitions and festivals, politics and campaigns.

The multi-layered features of a temple have made it both a religious and cultural hub of a town or community.

Most contemporary temples, specially built by Hindu diasporas in their respective adopted lands, reflect the diversified facilities offered by Hindu temple. A spacious hall within its precincts for communal dining or other functions caters to the secular and social aspects of temple activities.


Whereas, temples offer symbolic entities and contributing to the portrayal of Hinduism, home or small public shrines have their significance as well in Hindu worship customs and practices.

For ceremonial, devotional and meditative purposes, a Hindu doesn’t need to have routine visits to a temple. Congregational participation is not essential. Rather an individual worshipping of deity or deities mostly at home is quite a norm among Hindus.

Most of the venerations and idolatries in the temple are the same as in-home worshipping. But the latter also have some marked variations based on family traditions and an individual’s inspired preferences. That is one of the reasons home adoration is a personal devoutness to one deity or more deities.

Prayers in private do away the formal presence of a priest. But on special occasions, priests are often invited to conduct services and get paid with money and some gifts.

The home shrine has its uniqueness as deities’ presence becomes part of the divine dwelling that forges a pious ambience at home. Family traditions, beliefs and social behaviours are observed or new ones established in this environment. Moreover, the home shrine does influence in developing a spiritual cast in which moral values begets.

There are no fixed regulations or customs in setting up a home shrine. It can be an elaborate and beautiful arrangement of murtis in some dedicated area or just a modest and elegant niche in the corner of a room or wall. Where the space is limited, pictures of gods or goddesses or divine calendars on the wall become a shrine too.

In the home shrine, Hindu religious protocols are quite liberal.

Another accessible mode of Hindu worshipping is a shrine in public places. A mini temple is often a common site of the installed murti of a deity under an old landmark tree, a niche created in some street corner or a crossroad, bank of a sacred river, a cave, mountain or a rock.

These public shrines, besides their easy accessibility for the locals, enjoy the same sentiments and sanctity as any temple or home shrines. Mostly there is no priest on duty or caretaker. Regular devotees volunteer for maintenance and keeping the sanctity of these shrines.

Sometimes public places of Hindu worshipping over a period become celebrated pilgrimage sanctuaries, and spacious temples get built around them.

Besides the devotional practices at dedicated places like temples, home, or public shrines, a striking and environmental sensitive and gratifying feature of Hindu worshipping practices and reverence is the deification of natural landmarks. Rivers, lakes, mountains, plants, and animals get personified with gods and goddesses from the Hindu iconological variance.

There is divinity in all elements of nature. The belief is that gods and goddesses manifest in them. And their adoration in the image and reverence as in temples is part of Hindu ritualistic practices.


Temple-Hinduism, public or home shrines or worshiping the elements of nature; all of them embody ceremonial and spiritual practices. But these are not mandatory or the listed choices for a devout Hindu for worshipping rituals. Meditative Hinduism and spiritual yoga disciplines are the entitlements in the multi-disciplinary religious order of  Hinduism that create or evoke the same feelings.

Still, there are Hindus who don’t do meditation and yoga either as part of their spiritual pursuits. Neither they go to temples or other modes of worship.

Their Hinduism lies in an order often referred to as “a way of life.” Here the Hindu theology is induced with divinity in thoughts, words, and deeds based on knowledge and good sense. Involvement in all the righteous living constitutes an ambience of a ritual-free temple.

“My heart is my temple,” or in Hindi, “Dil Eak Mandir Hai” is a common expression among Hindus, who seek awareness and guidance from the purity of their conscious minds.

In this regime, which I would call Karma temple, ethical and conscientious thoughts and actions guide the management of the self and its divinity. Nonetheless, temple visits, public or home shrine, elements of nature,  meditation, and yoga remain complimentary to Karma temple.







Koi Bole Ram Ram, Koi Khudaaye….

Koi Bole Ram Ram, Koi Khudaayedownload-5
Koi Sevai Gusaiyan, Koi Allahe

Kaaran Karan Kareem,
Kirpaa Dhaar RaheemKoi Nahavai Teerath, Koi Hajj Jaaye
Koi Karaiy Pooja, Koi Sir NivaayeKoi Padhe Ved Koi Kateb.
Koi Odhai Neel Koi Supaid

Koi Kahe Turq Koi Kahe Hindu.
Koi Baachhai Bhist, Koi Surgindu

Kaho Naanak Jin Hukam Pachhaata.
Prabh Sahib Ka Tin Bhed Jaata.

One of the spiritual gems of Guru Arjan Devji, that portrays the essence of all religions: “Koi bole Ram, Ram; koi khudae….”

Here is the English translation of the Shabad:

Some call the Lord ‘Ram, Ram’, and some ‘Khuda’.
Some serve Him as ‘Gusain’, others as ‘Allah’.
He is the Cause of causes, and Generous.

He showers His Grace and Mercy upon us.
Some pilgrims bathe at sacred shrines, others go on Hajj to Mecca. Some do devotional worship, whilst others bow their heads in prayer.

Some read the Vedas, and some the Koran. Some wear blue robes, and some wear white.
Some call themselves Muslim, and some call themselves Hindu. Some yearn for paradise, and others long for heaven.

Nanak says one who realizes the Hukam of God’s Will knows the secrets of his Lord Master”.

-by Promod Puri


Besides the devotional practices at dedicated places like temples, home, or public shrines, a striking and environmental sensitive and gratifying feature of Hindu worshipping practices and reverence is the deification of natural landmarks like rivers, lakes, mountains, plants, and animals.

There is divinity in all elements of nature. The belief is that gods and goddesses manifest in them. And their adoration is part of Hindu ritualistic practices.



Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced?
Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterward,
with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?
Whence this creation has arisen—
perhaps it formed itself, perhaps it did not
the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven,
only He knows or perhaps He does not know.
even, only He knows – or perhaps He does not know.

– Rig Veda 10:129, translation: Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, Author, Indologist, and Sanskrit Scholar.

American slavery: Separating fact from myth

Five generations of a slave family. Shutterstock

Daina Ramey Berry, University of Texas at Austin

This article was published in 2017

People think they know everything about slavery in the United States, but they don’t. They think the majority of African slaves came to the American colonies, but they didn’t. They talk about 400 years of slavery, but it wasn’t. They claim all Southerners owned slaves, but they didn’t. Some argue it was all a long time ago, but it wasn’t.

Slavery has been in the news a lot lately. From the discovery of the auction of 272 enslaved people that enabled Georgetown University to remain in operation to the McGraw-Hill textbook controversy over calling slaves “workers from Africa” and the slavery memorial being built at the University of Virginia, Americans are having conversations about this difficult period in American history. Some of these dialogues have been wrought with controversy and conflict, like the University of Tennessee student who challenged her professor’s understanding of enslaved families.

As a scholar of slavery at the University of Texas at Austin, I welcome the public debates and connections the American people are making with history. However, there are still many misconceptions about slavery, as evidenced by the conflict at the University of Tennessee.

I’ve spent my career dispelling myths about “the peculiar institution.” The goal in my courses is not to victimize one group and celebrate another. Instead, we trace the history of slavery in all its forms to make sense of the origins of wealth inequality and the roots of discrimination today. The history of slavery provides vital context to contemporary conversations and counters the distorted facts, internet hoaxes and poor scholarship I caution my students against.

Four myths about slavery

Myth One: The majority of African captives came to what became the United States.

Truth: Only a little more than 300,000 captives, or 4-6 percent, came to the United States. The majority of enslaved Africans went to Brazil, followed by the Caribbean. A significant number of enslaved Africans arrived in the American colonies by way of the Caribbean, where they were “seasoned” and mentored into slave life. They spent months or years recovering from the harsh realities of the Middle Passage. Once they were forcibly accustomed to slave labor, many were then brought to plantations on American soil.

Myth Two: Slavery lasted for 400 years.

Popular culture is rich with references to 400 years of oppression. There seems to be confusion between the Transatlantic Slave Trade (1440-1888) and the institution of slavery, confusion only reinforced by the Bible, Genesis 15:13:

Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.’

Listen to Lupe Fiasco – just one hip-hop artist to refer to the 400 years – in his 2011 imagining of America without slavery, “All Black Everything”:

      [Hook]      You would never know      If you could ever be         If you never try      You would never see      Stayed in Africa      We ain’t never leave      So there were no slaves in our history      Were no slave ships, were no misery, call me crazy, or isn’t he      See I fell asleep and I had a dream, it was all black everything      [Verse 1]      Uh, and we ain’t get exploited      White man ain’t feared so he did not destroy it      We ain’t work for free, see they had to employ it      Built it up together so we equally appointed      First 400 years, see we actually enjoyed it
Auctioning slaves in South Carolina. Wikimedia

Truth: Slavery was not unique to the United States; it is a part of almost every nation’s history, from Greek and Roman civilizations to contemporary forms of human trafficking. The American part of the story lasted fewer than 400 years.

How, then, do we calculate the timeline of slavery in America? Most historians use 1619 as a starting point: 20 Africans referred to as “servants” arrived in Jamestown, Virginia on a Dutch ship. It’s important to note, however, that they were not the first Africans on American soil. Africans first arrived in America in the late 16th century not as slaves but as explorers together with Spanish and Portuguese explorers.

[Insight, in your inbox each day. You can get it with The Conversation’s email newsletter.]

One of the best-known of these African “conquistadors” was Estevancio, who traveled throughout the Southeast from present-day Florida to Texas. As far as the institution of chattel slavery – the treatment of slaves as property – in the United States, if we use 1619 as the beginning and the 1865 13th Amendment as its end, then it lasted 246 years, not 400.

Myth Three: All Southerners owned slaves.

Truth: Roughly 25 percent of all Southerners owned slaves. The fact that one-quarter of the southern population were slaveholders is still shocking to many. This truth brings historical insight to modern conversations about inequality and reparations.

Take the case of Texas.

When it established statehood, the Lone Star State had a shorter period of Anglo-American chattel slavery than other southern states – only 1845 to 1865 – because Spain and Mexico had occupied the region for almost one-half of the 19th century with policies that either abolished or limited slavery. Still, the number of people impacted by wealth and income inequality is staggering. By 1860, the Texas enslaved population was 182,566, but slaveholders represented 27 percent of the population, and controlled 68 percent of the government positions and 73 percent of the wealth. These are astonishing figures, but today’s income gap in Texas is arguably more stark, with 10 percent of tax filers taking home 50 percent of the income.

Myth Four: Slavery was a long time ago.

Truth: African-Americans have been free in this country for less time than they were enslaved. Do the math: Blacks have been free for 152 years, which means that most Americans are only two to three generations away from slavery. This is not that long ago.

Over this same period, however, former slaveholding families have built their legacies on the institution and generated wealth that African-Americans have not had access to because enslaved labor was forced. Segregation maintained wealth disparities, and overt and covert discrimination limited African-American recovery efforts.

The value of slaves

Economists and historians have examined detailed aspects of the enslaved experience for as long as slavery existed. My own work enters this conversation by looking at the value of individual slaves and the ways enslaved people responded to being treated as a commodity.

They were bought and sold just like we sell cars and cattle today. They were gifted, deeded and mortgaged the same way we sell houses today. They were itemized and insured the same way we manage our assets and protect our valuables.

Enslaved people were valued at every stage of their lives, from before birth until after death. Slaveholders examined women for their fertility and projected the value of their “future increase.” As the slaves grew up, enslavers assessed their value through a rating system that quantified their work. An “A1 Prime hand” represented one term used for a “first-rate” slave who could do the most work in a given day. Their values decreased on a quarter scale from three-fourths hands to one-fourth hands, to a rate of zero, which was typically reserved for elderly or differently abled bondpeople (another term for slaves).

For example, Guy and Andrew, two prime males sold at the largest auction in U.S. history in 1859, commanded different prices. Although similar in “all marketable points in size, age, and skill,” Guy was US$1,280 while Andrew sold for $1,040 because “he had lost his right eye.” A reporter from the New York Tribune noted “that the market value of the right eye in the Southern country is $240.” Enslaved bodies were reduced to monetary values assessed from year to year and sometimes from month to month for their entire lifespan and beyond. By today’s standards, Andrew and Guy would be worth about $33,000-$40,000.

Slavery was an extremely diverse economic institution, one that extracted unpaid labor out of people in a variety of settings – from small single-crop farms and plantations to urban universities. This diversity was also reflected in their prices. And enslaved people understood they were treated as commodities.

“I was sold away from mammy at three years old,” recalled Harriett Hill of Georgia. “I remembers it! It lack selling a calf from the cow,” she shared in a 1930s interview with the Works Progress Administration. “We are human beings,” she told her interviewer. Those in bondage understood their status. Even though Harriet Hill was too little to remember her price when she was three, she recalled being sold for $1,400 at age nine or 10: “I never could forget it.”

Slavery in popular culture

Slavery is part and parcel of American popular culture, but for 40 years the television miniseries Roots was the primary visual representation of the institution, except for a handful of independent (and not widely known) films such as Haile Gerima’s “Sankofa” or the Brazilian “Quilombo.”

Today, from grassroots initiatives such as the interactive Slave Dwelling Project, where school-aged children spend the night in slave cabins, to comic skits on Saturday Night Live, slavery is front and center. In 2016 A&E and History released the reimagined miniseries “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” which reflected four decades of new scholarship. Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” was a box office success in 2013, actress Azia Mira Dungey made headlines with the popular web series called “Ask a Slave,” and “The Underground” – a series about runaway slaves and abolitionists – was a hit for its network WGN America. With less than one year of operation, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History, which devotes several galleries to the history of slavery, has had more than one million visitors.

The elephant that sits at the center of our history is coming into focus. American slavery happened – we are still living with its consequences. I believe we are finally ready to face it, learn about it and acknowledge its significance to American history.

-Author: Daina Ramey BerryUniversity of Texas at Austin


By Promod Puri

Fascism is a system that is run or led by a dictator who has full power in every aspect of a nation. To achieve and maintain that hold, a fascist ruler suppresses any opposition and criticism. A false sense of aggressive nationalism and patriotism gets developed and promoted. Racism and xenophobia are encouraged in a dictatorial environment.

That is a typical explanation or scenario of a nation under fascist rule. In the india flag nazi1contemporary world, despite being still democratic, we find shades of authoritarian governments having essential control over their peoples and institutions. For that reason, these nations fit very well as fascists regimes. But to the world as well as their citizens, such governments put on a democratic or socialist mask.

Under the fake democratic outfit, resides the modern version of fascism where almost all the elements of dictatorial control are present. Fear factor gets liberal infusion to weed out voices of dissent.

Bureaucratic and democratic institutions are restrained and corrupted. Manipulated elections decide the results before the polls take place. Religious sentiments of the majority community become a handy tool to suppress the minorities. Bribed, threatened, and intimidated media sit on the lap of the fascist ruler, ever ready as a mouthpiece of the government.

A network of social media goes full swing for the manufacturing and distribution of false and propagated news and views that are efficiently spread within the country and globally.

Judiciary, election commission, media, and statistics are some of the most operative integrals of democracy, that keep it authoritative, functional, dynamic, and accountable. But when any or all these systems are damaged, corrupted, compromised, or abused, democracy collapses, and fascism emerges.

India is one of those countries where signs of this new version of fascism are quite discernable and visible. Knowingly or unknowingly, fascists developments are fast taking place for power’s sake as there is practically no active and creditable opposition either.

All the democratic fundamentals have been brazenly as well as subtly fiddled with shrewd politics of religious fanaticism, fear, threats, murders, fake police raids, intrusions, and influences in the media, obstructions, and interference in the bureaucracy, and deceptive claims of accomplishments.

The autonomous, independent, and credible status of the democratic establishments has been defaced and undermined.

Cracking down on free speech, threats, murders of writers, dissident lawyers, and judges, frequent imprisonment of protesting students constitute the new and dreadful feeling of the current political climate in the country.

And once all these developments take roots and become a new norm, fascist India would destroy the very spirit and fabric of the nation as a free, secular, and a multi-racial society. Democracy dies, and fascism takes birth.


As often said, what I had for dinner yesterday or the day before, I do not remember. But some incidents that happened years ago are vividly embedded in our cumulative memory power.

It was one of those summer months when the daily regime begins with the early morning wake up just by one call from our father. I was only six or seven years old, and the first activity of the day was going to the river on the outskirts of the city. The walk was two or three miles from our house. It was a stiff recreation but had to endure each morning.

Rushing back home, getting ready, and having a quick breakfast, I had to be at the school precisely at 7 O’clock. And I made it every day from Monday to Friday.

But one day, for some reason, I was late, not very much, maybe 10 minutes. My grade 1 class was on; I entered the classroom quietly, head down, and sat on my floor rug place.

The moment I sat, the teacher, addressed as Masterji, called me up and asked why I was late. Before I could gather words to express myself, he gave me a hefty slap on my tender little face.

I accepted the punishment at that age of my life. Perhaps, I learned a lesson too. Later in life, I felt it wasn’t kind on the part of Masterji. But that used to be the custom or common practice by teachers to slap young students, beat their palms with a cane, or make them sit in a weird and painful position with hands going through legs and holding on to both the ears.

Physically harsh punishments for young kids in their tender ages was a practice that I would now call it teachers’ brutality. And for me, I would never forget that slap.

-Promod Puri


Do We Care About Statues

Last Sunday, June 7, it was a cheering feeling for me when the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol got pulled down as a result of the killing of George Floyd by the police in the US.

The act was a symbolic disgrace to the man who made fortunes by selling and exporting African slaves to America. The slave trader might have contributed his ill-earned wealth to educational institutions, but his profession was inhumane and certainly not worth to be honored with a statue.

I am against erecting statues in honor of or memory of public figures no matter how much their contributions to society are perceived. As time flows, more revelations emerge about them that are not either complementary to them or acceptable to the public as well. It is happening to the statues of Gandhi in South Africa.

Moreover, there is always the politics of statues. That involves cashing in on the sentiments of the public by the leaders. The new mammoth statue of Sardar Patel in Gujarat state in India is an example.

Statues are expensive to build with public-funded money and are costly to maintain them daily. Otherwise, they are the perfect landing spots for birds to relieve themselves. Birds, indeed, love them, but does the public care about them in the long run.

-by Promod Puri


By Promod Puri

Churches, temples, mosques, or Gurdwaras may not be much congregated these days due to the Coronavirus epidemic worldwide. This emptiness at the places of prayers is either due to imposed restrictions or people just avoiding venues of large gatherings.

The business of religion, like any other business, is down. But this business is exceptional. In principle, besides being a medium to seek God’s grace and express gratitude, religion should reveal the path to discern and realize the nature of the Creator.

During the time places of religious conduct have their doors locked, people still believe in some divine intervention while expecting a cure from science for the Covid-19.

The big question is, where is God in the holy cities from Varanasi to the Vatican? The divinity of God is on the spot with the near shutdown of houses of gods.

Where is God, the Savior, in this period of a severe crisis of global viral pandemic facing humanity!

The believability of His or Her existence, based on ritualistic and conceptual physical presence, is rightfully questioned. Is God avoiding His responsibility by fleeing from the scene?

The rationality of this sentiment rests on the irrationality of believing in senseless miraculous powers and superstitious convictions. These beliefs and customs are embedded in almost all religious orders and amply propounded in the business of religion.

People seek proof of God, but the sample of evidence they are following is the one they evolved. They want to see the physical existence of God residing in a physical dwelling.

It is in this regard, the rationality and understanding of God need a comprehensive review.

Merely believing that God exists is a ritual.

As far as Coronavirus or Covid-19 is concerned and expecting God to get involved for a miracle cure, it is just a fanatic expectation of the believers and a taunting statement of non-believers that He or She is physical up there in the sky.


Buddhist and Hindu philosophies help us see clearly, act wisely in an interconnected world


by Matthew MacKenzie, Colorado State University ( Article from The Conversation)

To say the world today is interconnected is a cliché.

Never before have so many people been linked by their activities and consequences. But knowing how to think and act as a citizen of this small world is no easy matter.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues – and Americans worry about their health, loved ones and jobs – it can be difficult to grasp that the crisis began after the coronavirus spread from animal to human on the other side of the planet.

Indian thinkers have been reflecting on interconnectedness for more than two millennia. I study Indian philosophy, and I believe this diverse tradition offers rich and timely insights about how people might better understand global interconnectedness today and act more wisely.

The “Guide to the Awakened Way of Life” by Shantideva, an eighth-century Buddhist monk, explores the arduous path from ignorance and suffering to spiritual liberation. For Shantideva and his fellow Mahayana Buddhists – the predominant branch of Buddhism in north and central Asia – this involves cultivating a wise understanding of the interdependence of things and a compassionate concern for all sentient beings.

The Hindu scripture the “Bhagavad Gita,” written between 400 B.C. and 200 A.D., is a classic of world literature. Through the story of the great warrior Arjuna and his friend and spiritual advisor Krishna, the text explores how one’s actions in the world can become a path to spiritual freedom.

These texts, which depict the struggle to find freedom in the world, still resonate today.

In both texts, wisdom requires changing one’s perception of the world and one’s place in it. One must come to see the world as an interwoven tapestry of cause and effect, and see oneself as part of that tapestry and capable of spiritual freedom within it.

Buddhist thinkers like Shantideva learned to analyze complex things and recognize the network of causes and conditions that give rise to them. As he puts it: “Everything is dependent on something else. Even that thing upon which each is dependent is not independent.” The deepest form of wisdom is seeing that all phenomena are empty of any fixed, independent existence. The central message of the “Guide” is that the awakened life unites the wisdom of interdependence with active compassion for all those who suffer.

Students celebrating the Bhagavad Gita in India. Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
In the “Bhagavad Gita,” the natural world is understood to be a dynamic, evolving tapestry. Our human bodies, minds and actions are inextricable from the larger patterns of cause and effect in nature. Yet the most interesting theme of interconnectedness in the text is not causal but social and moral.

The text opens at the start of a battle between clans for the fate of a kingdom. Describing the scene to his blind king, the seer Sanjaya refers to the battlefield as a field of dharma, the spiritual and moral order that upholds the world. That is, a site of impending conflict, death and chaos is also one of relationship, duty and moral choice.

This is a central message of the “Bhagavad Gita.” The human world is inextricable from nature. But as a human world it is upheld by our relationships and responsibilities to one another.

The wise person must see his or her own roles – as parent, child, worker, citizen – in light of this field of relationships. Amid war, or the uncertainty and suffering of a pandemic, the central question is: What can I do to uphold right relationships with others?

Engagement as a path to freedom
Despite their views on the interconnectedness of the world, classical Indian thinkers were not starry-eyed romantics. They recognized that pain and loss are inescapable. They saw that human selfishness and ignorance are deeply woven in the fabric of life.

Shantideva describes the human situation like this: “Hoping to escape suffering, it is to suffering that they run. In the desire for happiness, out of delusion, they cut down their own happiness, like an enemy.”

For Indian philosophers, one must see the world clearly in order to act wisely in it. What, then, is the wise response to an interconnected world that inevitably includes the good and bad – even pandemics?

For Shantideva, the awakened life is one of altruistic concern for all sentient beings. Spiritual freedom is waking up from the delusion of being a separate self in conflict with the world. Instead, the wise person realizes that “all those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others.”

One’s own happiness arises from compassion for others. In an interconnected world, Shantideva asks: “In the same way that hands and other limbs are loved because they form part of the body, why are embodied creatures not likewise loved because they form part of the universe?”

In the “Bhagavad Gita,” the key to inner freedom in an uncertain and conflicted world is to change one’s focus when acting. Krishna advises Arjuna:

“It is in action alone that you have a claim,never at any time to the fruits of such action.Never let the fruits of action be your motive;never let your attachment be to inaction.”

Action in the world is unavoidable. So rather than obsessing about the “fruits” of action for oneself, such as praise or blame, one should focus on the moral quality of the action.

The “Bhagavad Gita” highlights three aspects of action one should focus on. Is the action right? Does it serve the welfare of the world? Is it motivated by love? Krishna’s message to Arjuna is that, even in battle, wise action consists in giving up selfishness and doing one’s duty out of a sense of love and commitment to the common good.

In both texts, the world is understood as an interconnected web of cause and effect, happiness and suffering, life and death. In such a world, acting from ignorance or selfishness leads to suffering for oneself and others. Acting from wisdom and a love for the common good can lead to sense of inner freedom, even in difficult circumstances.

In our interconnected world, everyday actions can have far-reaching consequences. Moreover, as the “Bhagavad Gita” and the “Guide” remind us, we are deeply interwoven with one another and the natural world.

Wise freedom is to be found in the midst of this interconnectedness, by the grocery worker keeping people fed, the organizer serving his community, or the doctor treating her patients. Classical texts cannot teach us virology or epidemiology, but they can help us to see our deep interdependence and how to act more wisely and compassionately in light of it.

Courtesy The Conversation





By Promod Puri

Insensitivity and ignorance have been part of Canada’s racist history.

Immigrants, especially from the “visible minority” communities, not only faced racial discrimination in most aspects of their lives in Canada, but they could also discern reflections of bigotry and segregation in their labelings.

In the early part of the twentieth-century immigrants from the Indian subcontinent were all classified as “Hindoos.”

Komagatamaru passengers dominated by Sikhs (340), Muslims (24), and Hindus (12) were all docketed as “Hindoos” by the authorities and the media of the time, including The Vancouver Sun. They were all British subjects, but the use of the misspelled word as “Hindoos” reveals both ignorance and ethnocentric arrogance.

The “Hindoo” entitlement carried on for a long time not only by the government and the media but by the Canadian public as well. And for a brief duration in the early ’70s during the extreme racist period, especially in Europe, that here in Canada, Asian subcontinent migrants were stamped as “Pakis” by the born-racists Canadians of the redneck likes.

The tagging of immigrants as “Hindoos” and “Pakis” from the subcontinent was not merely for identification purposes, but in any event of hatred, the monikers often carried abusive connotations.

However, with more numbers filling the population, demography of Canada over the years, and with improved knowledge and understanding within the changing Canadian society that “Hindoos-Pakis” got some better grading in their designation.

The title “East Indian” was assigned, and that became prevalent in the overall multicultural Canadian population. This identification also distinguished migrants from India from Native Indians. The “East Indian” entitlement lasted till most of the recent times, but occasionally it is still being used.

As the nomenclature process continued, the next appellation was Indo-Canadian. This development happened although migrants were also coming to Canada from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.

But the metamorphosis was significant as the community got the hyphen between “Indo” and Canadian. Canadians from most other multicultural communities were hyphenated too. The hyphen marked and recognized the distinctive cultural diversity of Canadian society.

However, there were ultra-nationalist Canadians, including some from the ethnic communities, who were against the hyphenated designation of Canadians. They were the ones who opposed Canada’s multicultural entity. Instead, they sought a melting pot of all cultures to fancy a composite Canadian culture.

Till now, all the identification labels were assigned either by government authorities, media or the public in general

But the scenario got changed. In the ’70s, The Link newspaper(myself being its editor and publisher), along with several other groups representing immigrants from the sub-continent, took up the entitlement on themselves and started using South Asian Canadian expression.

Soon this designation got an easy acceptance, especially from all levels of government as they were also looking for the right term for all those immigrants with roots in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and other smaller states of the subcontinent.

The South-Asian-Canadian entitlement precisely and unequivocally represents all those new Canadians sharing related cultural, linguistic, and religious values of the region. They include as well immigrants not coming directly from South Asian countries but from all over the world with roots in the Indian subcontinent.

Under this banner lies the cultural and linguistic diversities of South Asia, besides representing a joint ethnic force that adds its chapter to fight for racist-free Canada.



Humanization Of Countries, Viruses And Everything Else

By Promod Puri

Do we have to blame a nation or nations in their respective involvement and stake in initiating wars, battles, or violent conflicts rather than the individuals responsible for calling out to strike the fire?

Historically and down the road, we blame the nations and forget the leaders or rulers in their combating roles and catastrophic orders.

But this is how the human mind is architected to humanize nonhuman physical entities from countries to animals, political to religious concepts.

We’re humanizing Coronavirus as “sneaky, “tricky,” “merciless,” “cruel,” and “invisible enemy.”

It is an innate tendency of human psychology that, according to 18th-century philosopher David Hume, “We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and… ascribe malice or good-will to everything, that hurts or pleases us.”

Painter, philosopher Leonardo da Vinci saw humanism all around, in the random patterns of cracked walls, and the images of animals, plants, and landscapes.

Humanization of Disney World animal characters happens, so is the case with visuals in most children TV shows.

Human thought, action, religion, season, weather, are also personified, and given the gender, he or she. However, both Judaism and Islam reject a humanized deity, believing that God is beyond human comprehension.

Human psychology to visualize everything relates to our senses to understand the nature of things in its most familiar way, and that is the human face.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, “the naming of hurricanes and storms — a practice that originated with the names of saints, sailors’ girlfriends, and disliked political figures — simplifies and facilitates effective communication to enhance public preparedness, media reporting, and the efficient exchange of information.”

The phenomenon, called anthropomorphism, is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to nonhuman entities.

The multifaceted nature of anthropomorphism makes things easy to relate and easy to apprehend. But it can also generate misrepresentation. It is a “source of error.”

It is in this error or anthropomorphization; the real culprits who generate horrible or bloody events escape from the condemnation and punishment they deserve.

In the call out for sacrifice, nationalism, and patriotism, or just for “defense” battles are fought, soldiers fight and die, the accountability rests on humanized states, but not on the ruling leaders in the long run.

That is what happens on the world stage when nations, tribes, or communities get humanized, and the leading triggers of wars and conflicts recede into history as unscathed and unharmed culprits.

It has happened in the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, including the abuses in the Abu Gharib prison and Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Rwanda genocides. The initiators of these heinous conflicts are almost oblivion, replaced by the nations humanized as living biological entities.

Coronavirus Pandemic Falls Heavy On India’s 200 M Lowcaste Population

Migrant workers leaving New Delhi to go back to their villages amid the coronavirus lockdown. AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University


Long before the outbreak of COVID-19, a more pernicious form of social distancing was widespread across India: the Hindu caste system. In one form or another, this system – which has existed in the region for over a millennium – has long ensured social segregation based on one’s place in the hierarchy.

Outside of the four main groups that make up the caste system – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras – stand the Dalits, the so-called “untouchables” that number some 200 million. Members of that group, shunned for centuries as the lowest in society, are now at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic – seemingly more at risk of infection due to their social status, and increasingly discriminated against for the perceived threat of contagion they pose.

Downtrodden and discriminated against

India’s caste system can be traced back over 2,000 years, but under British colonial rule, the system was reinforced and the categories became more rigid.

After India gained its independence from Britain, in 1947, its new constitution formally banned the practice of untouchability based on caste. But 70 years on, the system still permeates everyday life. It is especially evident in the realm of marriage. Hardly a day passes in India without a news report highlighting troubles associated with an inter-caste marriage.

Given the tenacity and pervasiveness of the caste system, it is hardly surprising that some of the worst sufferers of the COVID-19 pandemic are India’s “untouchables,” the Dalits. As a group they remain among the most downtrodden in India, with a disproportionate number of Dalits confined to mostly menial and low-paying jobs like construction work, or as janitors or tanners.

As a scholar of contemporary Indian politics who has written extensively about ethnic and sectarian conflict in the country, I have taken a keen interest in how the pandemic has hit India along caste lines.

Dalits have proved to be especially vulnerable to the disease for a range of reasons, chief among them poverty. The vast majority of Dalits are poor despite a vast affirmative action program that India put in place shortly after independence.

Consequently, even under the best of circumstances they have limited access to health care and any other form of social protection. During the pandemic their plight has only worsened.

Dalits are in large part casual laborers, often working in disparate parts of India far away from their homes. As a result, many found themselves stranded away from their families when Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown on March 23 – giving only four hours’ warning.

Migrant workers arriving from Mumbai waiting to board a local passenger train to Danapur station. Photo by Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Indian press has carried heartbreaking accounts of their struggles to return home. One photo, of a migrant worker crying by the roadside in Delhi as he tries to visit his dying son during the lockdown, has become a lasting image of the crisis.

Being a migrant worker in India, regardless of caste background, is a tough existence. Working conditions are harsh, the work often hazardous and pay mostly a pittance. Most migrants live in slum-like conditions, at the mercy of callous landlords. Even so, many send a large proportion of their earnings home to their families.

As a result, migrant workers rarely, if ever, have any meaningful savings that could enable them to tide over unexpected financial woes like the total economic shutdown of the coronavirus pandemic. This has meant scarce resources to pay for transportation home. Even money to recharge phones is hard to come by, cutting off communication between migrant workers and loved ones during the crisis.

Shunned by community

Dalit migrant workers face an additional burden during the pandemic: social ostracism by higher caste members, even those in the same occupation as themselves.

The shunning of Dalits has not abated during this crisis. If anything, it has worsened, with some high-ranking members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party openly blaming the Dalits for spreading the coronavirus.

On May 25, the chief minister of populous Uttar Pradesh state, Yogi Adityanath, who is also a Hindu priest, suggested that migrant workers returning to his state were carriers of COVID-19, adding that the bulk of them were Dalits.

Opposition leaders were swift to condemn Adityanath’s remarks, but Modi and his national government have maintained a deafening silence on the subject.

As a result of such rhetoric, Dalit migrants trekking home – often on foot – can expect little by way of comfort or assistance from others because of their caste status and fears that they may be infected with the coronavirus.

I fear that in the immediate future, Dalits can expect little relief. To date they have received only minimal assistance from the government.

Five years ago, when Modi first swept into power, many Dalits believed his promises to uplift the country’s poor and duly voted for him. However, after the divisive leadership of his first term in office and their experience in the lockdown, many Dalits are now disillusioned with him and his Bharatiya Janata Party.

The coronavirus pandemic has underscored that India’s caste system is still very much in existence. In the eyes of many Indians, Dalits remain “untouchable” in a way that extends beyond current hygiene practices.

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