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.

SPIRITUAL ABODE

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.

HOME AND SMALL PUBLIC TEMPLES

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.

MEDITATION, YOGA AND KARMA HINDUISM

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.

 

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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

HINDU DEVOTIONAL PRACTICES

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.

 

RIG VEDA: HE KNOWS, PERHAPS He DOES NOT KNOW

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.

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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

DEMOCRACY DYING IN INDIA AND FASCISM TAKING BIRTH

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.

MY SCHOOL TEACHER’S BRUTALITY

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

WHERE IS GOD AMID CORONAVIRUS?

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

NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR

NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR
SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR

( Continue reading “NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR”

PASSING THROUGH RACIST PASSAGE OUR HISTORY FROM HINDOOS TO SOUTH ASIAN CANADIANS

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.

promodpuri.com

 

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

BY 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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Mantra: An Ingrained Feature In Hinduism

By Promod Puri

Peace in all the cosmic environments influences

peace in humankind as well

An ingrained feature in Hinduism is the mantra. It is a productive tool that effectively generates tranquil and energetic feelings.

A mantra inherently is the delivery of sacred word(s) or a sound with literal meaning or without meaning, but capable of inducing an ambiance of divinity.

Moreover, despite their antiquated origin since the Vedic period of Hindu history, contemporary interpretations of mantras offer intellectual spirituality and mystic expressions. Melodic compositions in musical and metrical formation draw out coherent and thematic features in mantras’ verses.

Mantra’s numinous and sacred integrity lies in its literate depths, pervasiveness, and absorption in the conscious mind. 

In scriptural usage, mantras are ritualistic incantations and chanting for ceremonial occasions, prayers, and worship.

Mantra is a combination of two-syllables, “man” and “tra.” The former pronounced “mon” like Monday, means mind, or it can also mean a thought. “Tra” means a dedicated instrument. It is a tool producing a sound or vibration. In tandem with “man,” “tra” completes the word mantra to mean the voice of mind or thought.

From this simple structure, the mantra has attained the revered status of devotional expression and as a meditative channel.

Recitation of mantra, termed Japa, is the key to invoke its spiritual presence. The latter comes when it is calmly heard repeatedly in our minds and connects with our cognitive or mental faculties. It is in this frame a mantra resonates in human consciousness with its numinous and sacred nature.

In principle, mantras are not rituals.

But mantras offer a ritualistic tool in most religious and even Hindu-guided non-religious social ceremonies and functions. Chanting of mantras is a ritual that sanctifies and formalizes an event, regardless of the fact whether the congregation or listeners apprehend their meanings.

Mantras do not carry any magical and healing powers or potency in their complete rendering or any of their verbal constituents.

However, mantras do create an environment of positive energy, a feeling of a relaxed body and mind. It is in this development that according to the “biology of belief,” our psychological behavior changes more towards positive thinking. Positive thoughts are a biological mandate for a healthy life.

In its most plain presentation, a mantra can be just one single word like Om. Or it could be several words long in verse composition while carrying philosophical and meaningful themes of universal values.

A mantra can also be an elementary and straightforward composition. For example, the recitation of God’s name, Parmatma, is a mantra in itself. Here the duality of the word ‘parm’ meaning supreme, and ‘Atma’ meaning an individual soul becomes a single sound of His realization. The Japa of this mantra is perhaps the most uncomplicated and most informal connection between the self and Him for the ultimate feel of Oneness.

GALLERY OF MANTRAS

A selection from the gallery of Hindu mantras, besides their religiosity, has secular attributes and universal appeal in them. The nature of their constituents affirms the depth, the vision, the philosophy, and the universality engrossed in the Hindu faith.

OM PURNAM MANTRA

पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते

पूर्णश्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते

“ Om purnam adah purnam idam 

purnat purnam udachyate 

purnasya purnam adaya 

purnam evavashishyate”.

An ideological and free translation of the mantra begins with the word Om (ॐ), which is personified here as God. The term ‘Purnam’ and its related derivates in the mantra mean complete and signify His completeness.

He is Complete; everything emanating from Him is complete. From the Complete Wholeness, only the entirety manifests. And even when a single complete comes out from the whole Complete, what is left is still a Complete. The products produced through Him may look small or big, but in core and quality, all are complete units. 

The mantra assures complete balance in all His universal creations from the elements of nature to humankind. For humanity, the mantra conveys a message that every human being is equal in his or her completeness as manifested by Him.

Atma or a single soul is a complete manifestation of the Supreme-Atma.  This duality of the Atma-Parmatm is called the Cause and effect association. Supreme-Atma is the Cause or the reason to produce an effect, meaning Atma. 

The result cannot be less than the Cause. The Cause changes to the consequence but continues to remain Cause also. In essence, the mantra reinforces that in every living being, there dwells the Supreme Atma as well. Equality and divinity are the themes of the mantra concerning humanity.

The mantra also stands out in making us realize how inter-related we are in this universe.

Rajneesh (Osho), a great thinker, philosopher, and an explicit interpreter of Hinduism in modern times, explains this universal Cause-effect bond.

His explanation of the mantra:

“[Om Purnam] is one of the most significant statements ever made anywhere on the earth at any time. It contains the whole secret of the mystic approach towards life. This small sutra includes the essence of the Upanishadic vision. The concept transcends from the past and goes into the future. It remains the Everest of human consciousness. And there seems to be no possibility of going beyond it.

“The Upanishadic vision is that the universe is a totality, indivisible; it is an organic whole. The parts are not separate; we are all existing in a togetherness: the trees, the mountains, the people, the birds, the stars, howsoever far away they may appear – don’t be deceived by the appearance – they are all interlinked, all bridged. Even the smallest blade of grass connects to the farthest star, and it is as significant as the most incredible sun.

Nothing is insignificant; nothing is smaller than anything else. The part represents the whole just as the seed contains the whole”.

GAYATRI MANTRA

ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: | तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् | भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि | धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्

Aum bhur bhuvah swah, tat savitur varenvam.

Bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prochodayay.

This Gayatri Mantra from the Rig Veda, attributed to goddess Gayatri, is one of the most recited and highly revered mantras.  

In its unique composition, the Gayatri mantra has three approaches.

First, the mantra evokes the nature of God and praises His attributions.

Second, it is a mantra for meditation and contemplation.

And third, it expresses sentiments of divine prayer seeking an illuminated path of goodness and ethics guided by His energetic light. 

The mantra is a submission to God (Om).

The translation goes like this: Oh God; You are the giver of life, You can free us from all the pains, You are present all over, You give happiness, You are the creator of this universe and beyond. We humbly submit to You, and concentrate on your pious, sin-quelling, and pervading Energy.

That very Energy produced and released by You illuminates our mental faculties. We seek from You that this Energy dwells in all our thinking processes. As of result, our thoughts always are inspired to undertake only those actions that can lead us to be on the path of righteousness.

SHANTI (PEACE) MANTRA

There is a profusion of peace mantras in the Hindu scriptures. From seeking harmony and tranquility in an individual’s life, peace mantras’ appeal is universal in all aspects of His vast creation. Recitation of peace mantra is a meditation to experience the serenity and seeking its residency in mind.

ॐ द्यौ: शान्ति रन्तरिक्षँ शान्ति: पृथिवी शान्ति राप: शान्तिरोषधय: शान्ति:। वनस्पतय: शान्ति र्विश्वे देवा: शान्ति र्ब्रह्म शान्ति: सर्वँशान्ति: शान्तिरेव शान्ति: सा मा शान्तिरेधि॥ ॐ शान्ति: शान्ति: शान्ति:॥

Aum dyauḥ śāntirantarikṣaṁ śāntiḥ pṛthivī śāntirāpaḥ śāntiroṣadhayaḥ śāntiḥ vanaspatayaḥ śāntirviśvedevāḥ śāntirbrahma śāntiḥ sarvaṁ śāntiḥ śāntireva śāntiḥ sā mā śāntiredhi Aum śāntiḥ, śāntiḥ, śāntiḥ.

Following is a translated version of the peace mantra:

“May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere. 

May peace reigns all over this earth, in water and all herbs, trees, and creepers.

May peace flows over the whole universe. 

May peace be in the Supreme Being Brahman. 

And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone. 

Aum peace, peace, and peace to us and all beings!”

(Translation by Swami Abhedananda, Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, India).

The absolute mantra reinforces our affiliation with everything of His creation in this universe. Peace in all the cosmic environments influences peacefulness in humankind as well. A notable element in this known mantra is that it seeks peace for the Supreme Being, Brahman, as well.

MANTRA IN ANY LANGUAGE

Mantra, as a meditative tool, has attained significant importance in contemporary society worldwide. And for that reason, it has adapted itself to change. No longer, Sanskrit is the base in its composition. It can be in any language.

Meditation practitioners are discovering mantras in their languages instead of the classic versions. A recitation of a mantra, after all, is a repetitive, prolonged verbal utterance.

The most famous “modern mantra,” perhaps introduced by a Buddhist monk, is in English. The repetitive wordings are: “Right now, it’s like this.” The phrase just resonates, acknowledging the present, and the contemplation leads into the situation of calmness.

In a recent study, the word “Echad,” meaning one in Hebrew, is catching attention for repetitive utterance as a mantra. The result showed that the one-word non-Sanskrit mantra had the same calming effect in a meditative stage.

SATNAM WAHEGURU

Simplicity, adaptability, and pragmaticism are the features in a mantra that appeal the contemporary society. For these reasons, the familiar and habitual Sikh chanting, “Satnam Waheguru,” is a mantra too that carries all these elements while creating a warming and alleviating relationship with the Lord in its recitation.

“Satnam Waheguru,” are the two simple words that have profound spiritual significance.

Accepted with utmost reverence, Satnam Waheguru is the universal Truth of His wonders. And that adoration becomes a prayer, Satnam Waheguru, Satnam Waheguru….

‘Sat’ stands for Truth, ‘Nam’ identifies that Truth.

‘Wahe’ is a feel of ‘wow’ moment, an exclamation of the divine Wonder.

Guru is interpreted here as the path that leads us from darkness to light. It is the journey towards Truth and enlightenment.

Satnam Waheguru is a pragmatic or logical approach towards the understanding of God, rather than worshipping Him as a divine image.

Satnam Waheguru is meditative in its spirit, installing harmony in our conscious mind.

For that reason, Satnam Waheguru is a repetitive mantra that flows well with our inhaling and exhaling breathing. Here the mantra breaks down into four steps: Sat-Nam-Wahe-Guru; repeat: Sat-Nam-Wahe-Guru….

Again there is no healing, a therapeutic or miracle value in the mantra, but it does initiate a conscientious mind of spiritual significance.

Satnam Waheguru, in all its elements, is a mantra, a prayer, and a divine companion in solitary moments.

HUMANIZING EVERYTHING FROM MOON TO VIRUS

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

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

Equality And Duality are Themes In Hindu Mantra:

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णश्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥

“ Om purnam adah purnam idam
purnat purnam udachyate
purnasya purnam adaya
purnam evavashishyate".

An ideological and free translation of the mantra begins with the word Om (ॐ), which is personified here as God. The term ‘Purnam’ and its related derivates in the mantra mean complete and signify His completeness.

He is Complete; everything emanating from Him is complete. From the Complete Wholeness, only the entirety manifests. And even when a single complete comes out from the whole Complete, what is left is still a Complete. The products produced through Him may look small or big, but in core and quality, all are complete units.

The mantra assures complete balance in all of His universal creations from the elements of nature to humankind. For humanity, the mantra conveys a message that every human being is equal in his or her completeness as manifested by Him.

Atma or a single soul is a complete manifestation of the Supreme-Atma.  This duality of the Atma-Parmatma is called the Cause and effect association. Supreme-Atma is the Cause or the reason to produce an effect, meaning Atma.

The result cannot be less than the Cause. The Cause changes to the consequence, but continues to remain Cause also. In essence, the mantra reinforces that in every living being, there dwells the Supreme Atma as well.

Equality and divinity are the themes of the mantra concerning humanity.

-Promod Puri
progressivehindudialogue.com

Sikhism Dwells In Its Saint-soldier Philosophy

By Promod Puri

Guru-Nanak-Dev-Ji-230x300
Guru Nanak Dev

Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh represent two distinct aspects of Sikhism. In the evolution of Sikhism, together, these significant facets symbolize the Khalsa, a saint-soldier designation that is pure, clean, and free.

Guru Nanak initiated the saint-soldier image of the Khalsa, and it got concluded by Guru Gobind Singh, according to historian Gokul Chand Narang in his book “Transformation of Sikhism.”

GuruGobindSingh
Guru Gobind Singh

He writes: Guru Gobind Singh undoubtedly forged the sword which carved the Khalsa way to glory. But the steel had been provided by Guru Nanak, who had obtained it by smelting the Hindu ore and burning out the dross of indifference and superstition of the masses, and hypocrisy and pharisaism (rigid observation of external forms of religion) of the priests.”

It is in the saint-soldier context that if we view serenity and warrior aspects in the Sikh psyche, then we can learn Sikhism in a more discerning manner.

Sikh historian and popular columnist late Khushwant Singh wrote in one of his columns:

“Perhaps the most important issue to be considered by scholars of Sikh theology will be to convince people that there is a continuous and unbroken line between the teachings of Guru Nanak and the first five gurus enshrined in the Adi Granth. And the militant tradition began by the sixth Guru and brought to culmination by the 10th and the last Guru Gobind Singh with the establishment of the Khalsa Panth.”

Whereas, the widespread belief that Guru Nanak was a pure saint and Guru Gobind Singh more as a combating fighter, the fact is that both were saints, and both were soldiers. It is a matter of ascertaining them in their different circumstances, and respective periods, that had a gap of 200 years.

Guru Nanak’s teachings based on the belief in one God, concisely and prudently described in the Mool-mantra: He who is undefinable, unborn, immortal, omniscient, all-pervading, and the epitome of truth.

Guru Nanak also spoke against the division of humanity in terms of caste and class. He ridiculed meaningless rituals and customs. In seeking equality, he established the sanctity of the Sangat, a religious meet of devotees. And for the same reason, Guru Nanak instituted the tradition of langar, community eating together without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status, or ethnicity.

An outstanding feature of Guru Nanak’s philosophy is to realize God while fulfilling domestic obligations. He emphasized work as a moral duty.

His message is simple: “kirt karo, vand chhako, naam japo.” Translation: work, share what one earns, and take the name of God.

When Guru Nanak emphasized that God’s realization can be obtained not by running away from worldly and domestic problems, instead of facing and tackling them in righteous and honest ways, then that is the real challenge and real struggle.

In this battle, a soldier is born within.

Guru Nanak certainly sowed the seed to fightback life’s continuous hardships, struggles, injustices, immoral rituals, inequality, and racism. Sikhism upholds the dignity of man and labor.

Guru Nanak believed in practical religion that involves work and spirituality going not at separate times, but together all the time.

Sikhism does not believe in the practice of religion in isolation from worldly pursuits.

Ninth Guru Teg Bahadur says:

Kahe re ban khojan jayee,

Sarab niwasi sada alaipa

Tahi sang samayie

Pope madh jyo baas bast hai

Mukr main jaisse chayee

Taise hi har basse nirantar

Ghut hi khojo bhai.

(Oh man why go to the forest

In search of God,

A family man is always pure,

And the God dwells in him

Just like fragrance stays in flower,

Reflections appear in the mirror.

Similarly, God prevails in the heart

of a family man.

Therefore, find God within yourself.)

In the confronting history of Sikhism, its followers and subsequent Gurus faced extreme challenges not only to survive but upkeep the spirit and message of their founder, Guru Nanak Dev.

Khushwant Singh writes:

“There can be little doubt that the martyrdom of Guru Arjun in 1606 resulted in a radical change in the community outlook. Though its creed remained wedded to the Adi Granth, it was ready to defend itself by use of arms. Guru Arjun’s son, the sixth Guru, Har Gobind, raised a cavalry of horse riders. He built the Akal Takht facing the Harmandir as the seat of temporal power and came to be designated Miri Piri Da Malik (Lord of temporal and spiritual power). For some years he was imprisoned in Gwalior fort. The final transition came after the execution of the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, in 1675. His son, Guru Gobind, justified the transition in a letter, Zafarnamah, said to have been addressed to Emperor Aurangzeb: When all other means have failed, it is righteous to draw the sword’. Guru Gobind’s concept of God underwent a martial metamorphosis.”

When Guru Gobind Singh came on the horizon, which was in the climax of the militant struggles of the preceding Gurus, including the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev and execution of Guru Teg Bahadur, it was a noticeable emergence of the saint-soldier ideology in Sikhism.

The 10th Guru Gobind Singh inherited this ideology from Guru Nanak’s emancipation from superstition and hypocrisy. Guru Angad’s campaign against drifting into asceticism and aimlessness in life. Guru Ram Das’ extension of the power and influence of the sect. Guru Arjan’s transformation of the community into a theocratic society by giving it a code, a capital, a treasury, and a chief in the person of the Guru. Guru Har Gobind gave it an organized army, finally the traumatic sacrifice in the execution of Guru Teg Bahadur.

All these phases fall into a continuous line to create the image of saint-soldier Khalsa in Sikhism.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com)

 

MY MEMORIES WITH “PEEPEWALE” BISCUITS

Every time I notice these in the Indian grocery stores, even at Walmart, my recurring memories fly me back to those teenage days in India.

We did not call them “Peepaewale” biscuits. These were just plain cookies custom-made from a local bakery shop.

Also referred to as Punjabi biscuits, these non-smooth and little grooved on the top is triple the size of 22-karat gold biscuits.thumbnail (4)

Since these crunchy cookies were contained in a ‘pipa,’ that is the reason they are called ‘Peepaewale’ biscuits here in Canada. Perhaps, it is a marketing approach by the manufacturers to draw the nostalgic feel and taste of the sweet goodies.

I remember enjoying the crispy delicacies with the spread of home-made butter on top and a glass of lassi as our breakfast during summer days before heading off to school.

The most blissful part of those childhood memories was when my mother assigned me the job of getting them made from our neighborhood friendly baker.

The ingredients were few. Whole wheat flour, ghee, sugar, and one or two more items, that I don’t recollect. And there was an empty ‘pipa,’ a rectangular tin container with lid and provision of locking it, to pack the baked product.

My reward for the volunteering service was that I could eat as many cookies as I could in the 10-minute walk back home. But once at home, the pipa was locked, and the key-control was with my mother.

However, a few times, I managed to slide my slim and tender hands into the locked pipa and steal some cookies. My mother knew about it but pretended she did not. And I kept enjoying my “peepaewale” biscuits, now a part of sweet memories.

By Promod Puri

A CASE FOR FULL AUTONOMY TO STATES TO KEEP INDIA UNITED

By Promod Puri

Because of its vast linguistic and cultural plurality, as represented by most of its states, suggesting India’s division into individual autonomous regions may sound a Utopian or even an insensible concept.

But the divisive motion would reflect and meet more effectively the political and social aspirations of its peoples than the current restrained setup.

The unity and stability of the region, called India, lie in granting more independence to its diverse provinces.

From north to south, east to the west, and in between, India is a country of countries.

What Ladakh has in common with Kerala, or Manipur sharing any similarity with Maharashtra? And that goes for every state in the Republic of India. Each one of them has their separate identities.

In its present political formation, India has always been a grudging union of 28 states and eight Union Territories. Even people belonging to the same faith have different religious rituals, customs, and traditions influenced by local collective identities.

A loose federation of autonomous states would release the subdued regional urges of its peoples. The social and political aspirations of people based on their cultural and local needs are often ignored or repressed by the authoritative regime at the Centre.

It is a case of granting complete autonomy to the states that would help realize the territorial sentiments of people. Less interference from the Center in local affairs means peace and political stability to the nation as a whole. Moreover, regional sovereignty would help in resolving the perennial Kashmir problem.

The slogan “unity in diversity” is meaningless unless that very diversity gets politically recognized and becomes part of the system by granting complete autonomy to the states. And that would indeed strengthen and revolutionize the democratic traditions of India.

THE CAKE MY MOTHER USED TO MAKE

Our kitchen was very elementary but a conspicuous place in the house. Prominently featured was the built-in wall cabinet that was a designated space for all the plates, bowls, etc.  There were no china dishes or even the glass highballs, a few spoons, but no forks or knives, no sink, and no running water either. All the utensils were of brass that needed an occasional coating of some shining metal, named Kli, done by hawking street vendors referred to as Kli-walas.

Complete with the very basic needs, our kitchen, also called Rasoi, had an orderly and clean look. Besides, it was quite spacious. The place was our dining room as well, but there were no dining table or chairs. Neither there was room for those affluent items. All the activities in our Rasoi, from cooking to eating, were on one level, that is on the floor. Straw mats furnished the flooring for comfortable dining. Still, it was always a cross-leg sitting.

A wood-log clay stove, aka Chula, with two burning outlets, occupied one corner of the kitchen. My mother architected the Chula as per her needs and aesthetics. And she diligently built it herself from the few raw materials needed for her project. Once a while, she used to renovate her Chula with a fresh coat of mud.

Mother was always a busy person with plenty of household chores, but creativity was her forte, and cooking was the passion she enjoyed the most in the domain of her Rosai.

On several occasions, my mother used to make cakes, yes, the real egg cakes. And her little wood-burning Chula was the gadget for baking cakes. It was a simple procedure that she simulated. The thickened cake mix was poured into a bowl, covered by a brass plate, and then placed at the bottom of the Chula, where the hot ashes would fully wrap the cake pot. Within 20 or 30 minutes, the cake was ready, fresh from her multi-purpose oven.

Sweet memories are taking me back to the soft and spongy ash-baked cakes she used to make for the love of her culinary interests while, in her motherly spirit, creating delights with limited resources for all of us in the family.

Happy Mothers’ Day.

Happy Mothers’ Day.

-Promod Puri

Guru Nanak’s Message of Divine Order

Hukam Razai Chalna, Nanak Likhyea Naal.

 Hukmae Andhar Sabh, Bahar Hukme Na Koe

These are the two separate edicts from Guru Nanak Dev. But discussing them together initiates an integrated understanding of the messages while building the desired impact of their practicality in our lives.

Hukam Razai ChalnaNanak likhyea naal in its simple meaning, implies that it is inevitably written, according to Nanak, that we conduct ourselves acceding to the will of God.

Hukam means order or command, razai stands for acceptance, chalna meaning walk, and likhyea naal means written down. To follow (razai), the walk (chalna) guided by the hukam of God as inevitably written (likhyea naal) creates our fundamental realization of the divine message from Guru Nanak Dev.

The keyword in the proclamation is Hukam, and this is where our razai or acceptance is based.

Does it mean that we dispel all our reasons and accept every situation or event as the will of God? In other words, that is our fate, good or bad? Is this the way God wants us to accept His will without any dissent and action on our part?

If our answer is yes, then we are stereotypically and ritualistically wrong. And we miscarriage the Hukam.

Hukam does not mean fate or something unavoidable. It does not mean that we accept every situation as a creation of God, whether we like it or not, and we surrender to it.

Passive acceptance is the path for those who seek escape or renunciation. Nanak was against surrender, and so were all other Sikh Gurus, including Guru Gobind Singh.

The history of Sikhism is full of actions to seek righteousness and reject injustice. And that has been the Supreme Command which Nanak is professing.

Hukum razai chalna is the enlightened message that was followed by the rest of all the Sikh Gurus. Rather than acceding, they fought against oppression and tyranny and sought equality for humanity.

It is in this crusade and commitment that Hukam gets its legitimate and revered meaning.

Hukum is not rigid and a closed commandment, instead it encourages informed and logical thinking followed by action. That is the entirety of Hukam. Here the word chalna (to walk) is very crucial. Our crusade begins with the Hukam-inspired plans until we reach our goal.

Hukum is the beginning, and it is the end. In between are our related thinking and actions.

Hukum is the cause of generating an effect or consequence. The latter is the result of our actions, where God gives us the freedom to act according to our inner consciousness.

In our commitments, Hukam is the discipline or conduct we create in the execution of resolutions we make.

The reality is when we are facing an unjust or grave situation that conflicts with our conscious mind; then, it is not the will of God. Instead, it is created and imposed on us by diverse temporal factors. Our earnest response to tackle or fightback the intolerable circumstance is our pragmatic and intelligent understanding of the Hukam.

In our personal lives, when we face problems, that could be health issues, harm and ill-will inflicted on us, hatred based on race or caste reasons, etc., etc. then the divine Hukam demands to tackle the obstacle or crisis we encounter.

Hukam-razai does not mean we accept the situation and do nothing or expecting “god-willing” it would go away.

Life is an entanglement of suffering. Through Hukam-inspired ethical actions, blissful emancipation is achievable.

A reader of mine has very prudently, and concisely writes:

“Hukam is, in fact, a dynamic process, not a fixed endpoint, that we can use our free will to exercise using our conscious mind. It also feels different when I hear hukam-nama now. It is not a command or a mandate from a patriarchal God but our relatedness to the Divine.”

We often deal with a situation created by our self. And when this situation is ill-conceived or morally and ethically wrong, it goes against the will of God.

Hukmae Andhar Sabh, Bahar Hukme Na Koe

In Japji, Guru Nanak says: “Hukmae andhar sabh, bahar hukme na koe.” A simple translation of the mandate is that everybody (sabh) under(andhar) His command (hukam), nobody (na koe) is beyond (bahar) His command.

The question is, what is that divine command or Hukam, signed and delivered by Nanak, from which we do not deviate or stray.

Indeed, it is a path that refers to the divine order. The moment we disregard this order, it is a violation of God’s Hukam.

Divine order is the system established by His Hukam, where we do not create chaos and misery for ourselves or fellow human beings, animals, plants, and our living environment.

It is an order of ethical and moral conduct of our lives where our conscious mind generates virtuous thinking to execute virtuous actions. This way, we are neither damaging our conscious mind nor hurting others. And we are staying hukmae andhar or within His order.

The divine order is a disciplined and conscientious undertaking to get into the spirit of the Hukum.

In this order, resides our religiosity of being honest, humble, and sincere, be considerate and helpful to others, be merciful, forget and forgive, love fellow beings and care for the environments, including animals, plants, and nature.

And everything else which is pious, pure, and morally firm to bring us in alignment with Guru Nanak’s universal dictum: Hukum Razai Chalna, Nanak Likhyea Naal.

-Promod Puri

 

 

WHEN LORD SHIVA CURSED FARMERS

It may be related to the current lockdown environment, but the story goes like this:

Once Lord Shiva, for some reason, got angry with farmers. As punishment to them, he declared there would be no rain for the next 12 years. The farmers pleaded for mercy, but Lord Shiva was adamant.

The Farmers then approached the Lord of Rains, Inder Devta. While sympathizing with the farmers’ predicament, his response was, rains would only come when after 12 years, Lord Shiva would play on his small drum instrument, called Damru.

All the farmers were feeling heartbroken and disappointed.

However, there was one farmer, who despite knowing there would be no rain, kept working on his farm. He regularly tilled the soil, watering it, and sowing the seeds. But there was no crop.

Other farmers asked him why he was doing all this. The farmer’s response was, “I know there will not be any product, but I must keep working on the farm so that I keep my tools sharp, and I do not forget my trade.”

Lord Shiva’s wife, Parvati, overheard the farmer’s answer. His reasoning to keep working struck her mind. Parvati immediately approached the Lord and, in a smart move, told him, “if you don’t play your Damru for the next 12 years, you will surely forget to play it.”

Lord Shiva, who is also called “Bhole-Nath,” the innocent one, got worried that he would not be able to play on his favorite instrument. He immediately picked up the Damru to see that he had not already forgotten to strike the beats.

As it was expected, instantly, with the first sound of the drum, rains started pouring in. And the farmers were back to work with jubilation.

-by Promod Puri

History Of Hinduism

The foundation of Hinduism possibly began

                              without one single founder.

By Promod Puri

In principal and virtually, religion is a code of conduct for a civil society. It all started from here.

With society’s progression, the code of conduct also evolved, resulting in its expansion, formalization, and application.

As civilization started taking root, the management of the society began.

A significant part of human evolution reveals and explains the origin of religion. Ancient religious orders were a set of regulations and principles for some acceptable and restrained behavior of an emerging civil society.

Later all aspects of human cultures, including presumptions and myths and overwhelming elements of nature, were covered in one order. In all these developments, social unity and coherence were the natural needs and dependencies of an advancing society.

An organized collection of beliefs, behaviors, and set of ideas started pouring in this social construction. The assemblage got sanctified with the addition of man’s most intuitive conception or imagination, the Supreme Being.

It is in this antiquity and perhaps with some divine or transcendental intervention that Hinduism emanated with no fixed date of its origin.

Precisely speaking at this very primal stage, Hinduism, as such, was not a designated title or an ism. Entwining of local customs, beliefs, and society’s basic norms together form the earliest identifiable Hindu traditions.

Archeologists say the Indus Valley Civilization, along the Indus River in the present-day north-west parts of Pakistan, started around 7000 BC. It reached its pinnacle of that period in 2000 BC with the emergence of a fully developed society.

The Hindu way of life was part of that societal evolution. It was here the foundation of Hinduism possibly began without one single founder.

No initiator and no original authorship have turned out to be a distinctive boon or godsend for the Hindu faith. It has not bound and devoted itself with a consecrated or an ordained originator.

Without that custodial entitlement, which could be a barrier in itself,  Hinduism got a clear passage eternally or from the very beginning to be in a progressive and evolutionary mode.

The early history of Hinduism is a difficult and challenging task to determine the date of its origin.

However, more critical and symbolic in Hindu thought was to know the substance contained in its constitution than discerning a calendar to determine its birth date.

AGE PERIODS

Hinduism has deemphasized the period of its creation or beginning.

Instead, it has taken a philosophical route which is cyclical rather linear. It does not traverse with a start point from where it could continue adding to its age.

Instead, Hinduism is a successive rotation of “Yugas” or age periods of the cyclical phenomenon.

Hinduism’s Yuga-time clock represents four cyclic eras. It dawns with Satya Yuga, followed by Treta, Dvapara, and Kali Yugas.

The cycle is eternal.

Within each of these epochs, individually running into thousands of years, there is, besides humankind, a universal involvement too.

As Hinduism believes in the theory of creation and destruction of the universe, this cosmogony repeats itself after the end of one full Yuga-calendar. And the phenomenon begins all over again with the Satya Yuga.

Satya, meaning truth, is believed to be the supreme Yuga by crowing itself the best. In declining order, the other three Yugas follow.

What motivates the decline of one Yuga to be replaced by another?

The belief is that it is a divine involvement to reinvigorate the universal order of righteousness back to the Satya Yuga.

It is the degree of loss of moral excellence that represents Treta, Dvapara, and Kali Yugas. The full glory of Satya Yuga comes back after the three Yugas have passed in that order. And the cycle repeats itself.

The cyclic inclusion of Yugas in Hinduism means that progress in a religious order does not mean only moving forward.

Moving back to its future in the realm of Satya-Yuga is also part of spiritual advancement. The return passage helps to achieve completeness and wholesomeness in the faith.

Whereas the Yuga periodization is more rooted in its manifestation and metaphysical features, the history of Hinduism has sequential growth stages as well.

The acknowledged story of development and spread of Hinduism has its base on sighted and archeological findings, traditions, and recognized scriptures. The latter is an extensive collection that deals in philosophies, sciences, and spirituality from a period of 2000 BC up to the present.

The consecutive known history of Hinduism is a chain collection of five phases.

INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION 

The beginning of Hinduism is associated with the Indus Valley Civilization around 2000 BC. It demonstrated a period of social adjustment and establishing cultural preferences and identities.

However, according to archeological findings, the most visible features of the era seem to be economical and civic developments to establish some basic living needs, standards, and amenities.

In the later stages of expansion, pieces of evidence of image formations, scripted inscriptions, and ritual introduction have emerged as well. Discovered tokens and archeological seals suggest the deification and worship of plants and animals as the first signs of the Hindu faith.

The name Hindu identifies with the “Indu” or Indus River, along with the people who were inhabiting the Indus Valley.

VEDIC PERIOD

The Indus Valley Civilization was followed by the Vedic Period from 1500 to 500 BC. This phase in the Hindu past is marked by theological advancement with the formal introduction of God.

Vedas were composed either thru revelations or written by sage and enlightened people of the time. Hymns in praise of God, rituals, and prayers constituted the early Vedic literature.

All elements of nature like rain, wind, fire, etc. got sanctified as gods. The sacrifice of animals, along with offerings of food items like milk and fruits to please the deities were dominating features in Vedic religiosity.

Thru all these practices, the Hindu religion not only took its roots but expansion as well.

The people identified themselves as Aryans. It is not clear whether they migrated from other lands or if they were natives, but they did establish the Vedic Culture of elaborate religious traditions.

In this expanse, Sanskrit emerged as the primary language of communication.

EPIC AND PURANIC PERIOD

The chain of Hindu traditions and theological enrichment continued with the dawn of Epic, Puranic, and Classical period from 500 BCE to 500 CE.

Traditional narratives of Ramayan and Mahabharat, including the latter’s discourse and sermon segment Geeta, were added to Hindu epics in this phase.

Hinduism started taking philosophical and varied route also. Several independent schools in Hindu thought and practices developed. These included Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, and Vedanta.

Manu’s imposing and controversial “laws” were incorporated. These edicts created a social order of caste distinctions in Hindu society.

Puranas in story formation, referred to as “Katha,” eulogized various deities. Hindu invocation of worship to idols and images of gods and goddesses in a temple setting was endowed.

The concept of ‘Trimurti’ or three aspects of divine constitution and their nature originated during this period. Along with that, the creation and destruction theory of the universe emerged as portrayed by the Trimurti.

In its essence, Hinduism, during this phase of development, manifested itself into a distinct and perceptible stature.

MEDIEVAL PERIOD

The period from 500 CE to 1500 CE can be called the Medieval Period.

Here one significant development in Hinduism was the adaptation of the diversity factor representing the regional worshipping practices. This aspect involved the introduction of more deities and sects in the domain of the Hindu faith.

Adoration of gods and goddesses was now an established tradition. And with the rise of devotional rituals of worshiping idols, sprawling temples marked the Hindu landscape from north to south and from West to the Far East regions of the subcontinent.

Hindu literature also diversified itself from Sanskrit to regional languages. The old texts got new theologies and interpretations.

For the first time, Hinduism started to organize itself in a simple bureaucratic or management setup.

Part of this development was the significant role played by the 8th-century preacher, Adi Shankara. He was an advocate of Vedanta philosophy in Hinduism. He is also considered the first ardent promoter of the Hindu religion.

He established four ‘mathas’ or monasteries covering the east, West, south, and north regions of India to promote Hinduism in coordinated administration.

The monastery heads got the title of Shankaracharya. And the “guru-parampara” or tradition of allegiance and reverence to guru began with disciplinal succession.

MODERN PERIOD

The Modern Period in Hinduism started around 1500 CE up to the present time. And that includes long chapters of Muslim and British regimes on the Indian subcontinent.

The earliest part of this period saw further developments of the faith through the channel of Bhakti, meaning devotion, where poetry, songs, and music became a popular means of worship.

Bhakti Marg was an individualistic path for theistic devotion irrespective of gender and caste affiliations. The religiosity of Hinduism was more shared among women and members of the lower caste.

The development saw new practices and rituals like group singing and chanting of hymns and establishing ‘langar’ or free kitchen where a community eats like one family.

EVIL PRACTICES

During all these five phases, from its rudimental beginning to sophisticated practices along with development and enrichment in theological and philosophical contributions, Hinduism also accumulated elements of immoral social behaviors, fake systems, and absurd conventions.

These evils and nefarious practices bruised, corrupted, and somewhat dirtied the religion.

Increasing religionism with rituals, superstitions, sacrificial performing of animals and even of humans, and racist admission of caste distinctions were taking the faith away from its realistic, liberal, and ethical principles as laid down in the ancient scriptures of Upnishads or Vedanta philosophies.

It is in this phase of Hinduism that a correction started taking place. Call it a reform movement or Renaissance in Hinduism, rational, and ethical values got reintroduced and promoted.

Back to basics had been the argument of this period. And that includes revisiting the original Upnishads’ concepts of truthfulness, non-violence, self-discipline, compassion, charity, and virtuousness.

Non-violence occupied a guiding concept in the Hindu way of life.

Vegetarianism became popular. It bestowed an identity mark of being a Hindu. The doctrine of non-violence became an effective political weapon to achieve Independence of India from British rule.

During this reform movement, blind and fanatic veneration to Hindu deities got disparaged. Instead, as instructed in the Upnishads, there was an emphasis on knowledge of self or Atma. And the latter’s relationship with Brahma or the Supreme-Atma.

Prominent names in the Hindu Renaissance, who thru their ameliorable efforts of righting the wrongs in the faith are:

Raja Ram Mohan Rai (1772-1833), Swami Dayanand Sarasvati (1824-1883), Paramahansa Ramakrishna (1836-1886), Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948), Dr. B.R.Ambedkar (1891-1956) and Acharya Rajneesh aka Osho (1931-1990).

While the clean up in Hinduism was going on, gleams of the faith also started reflecting abroad. The word ‘Indology’ got introduced. It is a faculty dealing with education and interpretation of subjects that mostly include the Hindu religion, its history, customs and traditions, scriptures, and literature.

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) is credited to be the first or one of the early exponents of the Hindu spirituality to the West.

Overall, the long and momentous journey of Hinduism from its roots in the Indus Valley Civilization to the present is the story of its evolution, its enrichment, and development, while safeguarding itself from those practices which are fallacious, irrational, and unethical.

Since Hinduism does not advance linearly, each development in its history, rather than replacing the previous ones, constituted and designed its own space in its sprawling complex.

From the original set of beliefs and rituals, customs, and traditions synthesizing with some essential obligations and responsibilities toward society, Hinduism established itself a phenomenon of moral, social order.

Moreover, in its organic diffusion, Hinduism enriched its faculties with intellectual, philosophical, and mystical ideations.

Along with eternal edicts and messages of honesty and sincerity, mercy and non-violence, purity and self-restraint and everything else toward righteous living, Hinduism distinguishes itself in exploring more in the studies of nature of existence, our relationship with the rest of the universe, and beyond the physical form in the field of spirituality.

The history of Hinduism is a tradition of creative development of thought to institute various schools of philosophies, teachings, movements, and sects; to practices in yoga, meditation, and music; and establishing ethics, customs, rituals, and traditions.

1918 FLU PANDEMIC KILLED 12 MILLION INDIANS, AND BRITISH OVERLORDS’ INDIFFERENCE STRENGTHENED THE ANTI-COLONIAL MOVEMENT

Cremation on the banks of the Ganges river, India.
Keystone-France via Getty Images

Maura Chhun, Metropolitan State University

In India, during the 1918 influenza pandemic, a staggering 12 to 13 million people died, the vast majority between the months of September and December. According to an eyewitness, “There was none to remove the dead bodies and the jackals made a feast.”

At the time of the pandemic, India had been under British colonial rule for over 150 years. The fortunes of the British colonizers had always been vastly different from those of the Indian people, and nowhere was the split more stark than during the influenza pandemic, as I discovered while researching my Ph.D. on the subject.

The resulting devastation would eventually lead to huge changes in India – and the British Empire.

From Kansas to Mumbai

Although it is commonly called the Spanish flu, the 1918 pandemic likely began in Kansas and killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide.

During the early months of 1918, the virus incubated throughout the American Midwest, eventually making its way east, where it traveled across the Atlantic Ocean with soldiers deploying for WWI.

Indian soldiers in the trenches during World War I.
Print Collector / Contributor via Getty Images

Introduced into the trenches on Europe’s Western Front, the virus tore through the already weakened troops. As the war approached its conclusion, the virus followed both commercial shipping routes and military transports to infect almost every corner of the globe. It arrived in Mumbai in late May.

Unequal spread

When the first wave of the pandemic arrived, it was not particularly deadly. The only notice British officials took of it was its effect on some workers. A report noted, “As the season for cutting grass began … people were so weak as to be unable to do a full day’s work.”

By September, the story began to change. Mumbai was still the center of infection, likely due to its position as a commercial and civic hub. On Sept. 19, an English-language newspaper reported 293 influenza deaths had occurred there, but assured its readers “The worst is now reached.”

Instead, the virus tore through the subcontinent, following trade and postal routes. Catastrophe and death overwhelmed cities and rural villages alike. Indian newspapers reported that crematoria were receiving between 150 to 200 bodies per day. According to one observer, “The burning ghats and burial grounds were literally swamped with corpses; whilst an even greater number awaited removal.”

Members of the British Raj out for a stroll, circa 1918.
Fox Photos/Stringer via Getty images

But influenza did not strike everyone equally. Most British people in India lived in spacious houses with gardens and yards, compared to the lower classes of city-dwelling Indians, who lived in densely populated areas. Many British also employed household staff to care for them – in times of health and sickness – so they were only lightly touched by the pandemic and were largely unconcerned by the chaos sweeping through the country.

In his official correspondence in early December, the Lieutenant Governor of the United Provinces did not even mention influenza, instead noting “Everything is very dry; but I managed to get two hundred couple of snipe so far this season.”

While the pandemic was of little consequence to many British residents of India, the perception was wildly different among the Indian people, who spoke of universal devastation. A letter published in a periodical lamented, “India perhaps never saw such hard times before. There is wailing on all sides. … There is neither village nor town throughout the length and breadth of the country which has not paid a heavy toll.”

Elsewhere, the Sanitary Commissioner of the Punjab noted, “the streets and lanes of cities were littered with dead and dying people … nearly every household was lamenting a death, and everywhere terror and confusion reigned.”

The fallout

In the end, areas in the north and west of India saw death rates between 4.5% and 6% of their total populations, while the south and east – where the virus arrived slightly later, as it was waning – generally lost between 1.5% and 3%.

Geography wasn’t the only dividing factor, however. In Mumbai, almost seven-and-a-half times as many lower-caste Indians died as compared to their British counterparts – 61.6 per thousand versus 8.3 per thousand.

Among Indians in Mumbai, socioeconomic disparities in addition to race accounted for these differing mortality rates.

The Health Officer for Calcutta remarked on the stark difference in death rates between British and lower-class Indians: “The excessive mortality in Kidderpore appears to be due mainly to the large coolie population, ignorant and poverty-stricken, living under most insanitary conditions in damp, dark, dirty huts. They are a difficult class to deal with.”

Change ahead

Death tolls across India generally hit their peak in October, with a slow tapering into November and December. A high ranking British official wrote in December, “A good winter rain will put everything right and … things will gradually rectify themselves.”

Normalcy, however, did not quite return to India. The spring of 1919 would see the British atrocities at Amritsar and shortly thereafter the launch of Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement. Influenza became one more example of British injustice that spurred Indian people on in their fight for independence. A periodical published by the human rights activist Mahatma Gandhi stated, “In no other civilized country could a government have left things so much undone as did the Government of India did during the prevalence of such a terrible and catastrophic epidemic.”

The long, slow death of the British Empire had begun.

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

Maura Chhun, Community Faculty, Metropolitan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

RITUALS IN HINDUISM

 

The liberalism in Hinduism has encouraged genesis of rituals. Over its long history, rituals generated to build up a maze that gives the religion its complex identity. Within that complexity lies an inclusive mosaic of Hinduism.

From a religious point of view, a ritual is a symbolic and sacramental repetitive activity. It provides manner and order in performing revered service.

Rituals and diversities in Hinduism based on local traditions, customs, and languages invigorate the faith. This contribution makes the religion adapt itself to changing environments.

In these social and cultural influences, rituals perpetually take up dominating space in Hindu convictions and sentiments.

Imprints of rituals adequately identify Hinduism as a way of life.

Promod Puri

 

Book Review: Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions

by Acharya S.P.Dwivedi

Promod Puri is a distinguished South Asian journalist and prolific essayist. In his book- “Hinduism,” he tried to cover the historical evolution of Hindu dharma and its major philosophies, theistic doctrines, social codes, rituals, and practices.

He admits openly, “Hinduism is a democracy of conflicting, contradicting and controversial thoughts and theories” (Preface iii) with that feeling it would have been trying for him “to pick and choose” the paths, philosophies, or doctrines. He neither claims that the book is an academic research paper nor meant for teaching.

Furthermore, Puri admits that the understanding and facts he acquired about Hinduism were based mostly on the internet and his personal experiences, and that reflects his humbleness too.

As far as methodology is concerned, Puri has applied an analytical approach. He interprets everything rationally and denounces irrational snobbery.

Being a Hindu, the author doesn’t use any smokescreen to hide his anguish, frustration, or guilt-consciousness. He outrightly condemns centuries-old decayed, dis-functional, and torturous Hindu social traditions and customs. He dealt in length demonic treatment of untouchables and downtrodden (Dalit) segments of society.

He focuses on issues and challenges which the modern person of the Hindu community is facing. Commendable job in putting Hindu religion from historical development to present practices.

He did it on his terms without compromising with the classical Hindu philosophical and theistic obsessions. He identified the tumult of terrific inhuman practices and racked the truth, which is all spread over the religiously regulated life of an ordinary person of the Hindu community.

He writes thoughtfully and straight from the heart. Just because he repeated on the subject of untouchables, his intelligence is not vague. His book and its contents will motivate not only Hindu reform-loving people but all those also who will cherish his banner of equality, dignity, and justice to all living beings on earth. He moves from the Hindu problem and turns it a global one. Puri emerges as a vanguard of Hindu reforms.

Puri came up with the categories of philosophies, yogas, scriptures, and sciences, music, dance, and drama and thoroughly explained it. Of course, he cited several quotations from Manu Smriti to bolster his arguments. It would not be out of the way to say that- ‘one life is not enough to cover all Hindu scriptures.’ Of course, Puri does not commit to any particular Hindu creed or ideology. However, Puri seems to be leaning on Western scholars while describing the period of the development of the Hindu religion and writings of scriptures but adhered to the fundamental values.

As for the symbolic significance of worship, spirituality, karma-dharma, and temple rituals are concerned, he picked up the true spirit of the Hindu belief system and offered impressive interpretations. For example- “Idolatry establishes direct one to one relationship between a devotee and the divinity”(p.36), “ Arti and several other elaborate adorations generate a spiritually charged atmosphere of reverence and sacredness” (p.45), and “ Hinduism’s democratic framework the management of self is what we call a way of life” (p.122). He quoted three verses/mantras 1. Om purnamidam…2.Aum bhur bhuvah… 3.Aum dyauh shantI because of their sublime quality of universality, peacefulness, harmony, and secularism. He enriched Hinduism by adding the scientific interpretation of the above mantras, including Aum and Naad, etc.

He dealt in length the caste and class problem in Hindu society, which has degraded and contaminated the social and religious fabric. I have discovered two traits. 1. He was exposing the social imbalance and 2. I hope for the improvement. In support of the latter feature, he has described the reform movements and invaluable contribution of the Messiah of Acchoots and Dalits- Dr. B.R.Ambedkar. Puri ultimately rejected the irrational and non-logical writing of Manu and appeared as a radical and anti-traditionalist.

There is a marked difference in the present Hindu society because of an enhancement in education, urbanization, and constitutional laws that are en-cracking upon the inflexible traditions. (p83) People are severing their relationship with evil Hindu customs and rituals. It can be safely admitted that the reform movement in the Hindu religion is gathering momentum. “Consequent to Hinduism’s democratic framework, the management of self is what we call a way of life,” a mantra to be enchanted. (p.122)

His clarity of language carries the freshness and clearness that is immensely impressive, and easily understandable. Puri is a writer of uncommon brilliance and interpretive innovations, and he applied effectively appropriate terminology to strengthen his arguments.

This book appears to be his life’s work and carries a delightful blend of scholarly and analytical explanation. Further, it provides the general reader concisely and easily understood facts of Hinduism. It fulfills the need for an authentic exposition of Hinduism. Finally, I would like to conclude that Promod Puri’s works stand out before us to be complimented and appreciated.
amazon.com/author/promodpuri

 

A Divine vibe in the beauty of Rhododendron. QE Park, Vancouver

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US Presidential Race

And the rest of the news from across the border is Bernie Sanders has quit the Democratic nomination race.

He hangs up his hat and let Joe Biden enter the ring where the foregone conclusion is President Trump would have an easy win unless some divine intervention happens.

Flickering pragmatism of Biden wins over the dogmatic consistency of Sanders.

It is the second time in a row that Sanders has dropped out to the disappointment of many looking for a real change in the political environment of the USA.

Americans expected this change from Barrick Obama. But more words were delivered by him than actions during his two-term at the White House.

Come, Biden, there is hardly a difference of red and blue in the baggage he carries. The contents of the baggage have enough of his personal choices that are in line with the Republican Party from wars in foreign lands to the domestic social or economic issues.

Is the November presidential election would be a battle between the two-in-one political figures or based on some real ideological differences?

So far, being a “moderate” candidate, Biden has not demonstrated a distinct approach to challenge the style of rule with Trump stamp on it.

What can Biden do to offer a marked difference in the election fray?

He can pick up where Sanders has left his progressive agenda related to domestic and foreign policies. He must adopt those elements that appealed to the young voters.

To reinforce Sanders’ legacy, Biden can seriously consider Elizabeth Warren as his vice-presidential running mate because she echoes many of veteran socialist’s policy statements.

If not, the upcoming presidential vote would turn out to be a predictable and bland one.

-By Promod Puri

Open for “business” but no visitors:

“guloñ meñ rañg bhare bād-e-nau-bahār chale

chale bhī aao ki gulshan kā kārobār chale.”

Spring blossom in Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver, Canada.

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LISTENING TO HIS BODY CLOCK IS MY FRIEND’S ANSWER TO COVID-19

The other day I received a phone call from an old friend of mine after quite a long time. Old in the sense that we know each other for the past over four decades. But it is also in the context that he is now 102 years of age.

He has the same clarity and vigor in his voice as ever before. Good hearing and an excellent memory reflect while conversing with him. In his astute expressions, his mental alertness is still sharp.

Mr. Singh still goes for walks and waiting for the summer weather when he will hit the golf course. The testimony to his exceptional health at this senior golden age is that he does not take any of those medicines often related to old age. Cholesterol, diabetes, knee problem, etc. have bypassed him.

The secret!

It is under one medical term, called circadian rhythm. And Mr. Singh has kept it well under control with his disciplined daily regime.

A real understanding of the circadian rhythm is that all our body organs, down to their cellular levels, have body clocks working along with the brain. Together, the working of all theses body clocks is in coordination to create the circadian rhythm.

A synchronized circadian rhythm of every part of the body, especially the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain, goes well without any compromise. The entire process, when settles down to set routine is the circadian rhythm that is not only beneficial to our overall health but most important in developing a robust immune system.

The boosting of the immune system is very vital, especially when we are facing the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus. And if this body clock rhythm is not put in place or being disturbed, our health problems start kicking in along with a weak immune system.

Specialists in the field of circadian rhythm emphasize a regular and systematic pattern of good sleep, exercise, and diet. The exact timing, duration, and disciplined, healthy living day in and day out is what we need to develop a robust immune system.

Mr. Singh listens to his body clock, religiously every moment of his life. Talking to him has always been very meaningful and knowledgeable.

One of these days, when this social-distancing restraint is over, I’m going to meet him. It certainly would be an inspirational meeting as well as to revive our chess sessions with a glass of Scotch on the side, that he still enjoys every day.

By Promod Puri

 

SANKHYA SCHOOL OF HINDUISM

BY Promod Puri
The rationalist and liberal thought in Hinduism is the very basis of Sankhya school, which is one of several ancient Hindu faculties infusing diversity in the theological philosophies of the faith.
Sankhya in Hindi or Sanskrit means number. So it seeks rationality as demonstrated by a numeric equation like 2+2=4. It rejects 2+2=5. In other words, a concept has to go through rational examination before being accepted or rejected.
Sankhya establishes three principles that accept knowledge. These are:
1. Pratyksa, which means perceiving things or thoughts directly through one’s senses. The truthful of knowledge is to be taken by creditable perception. The proof, termed parmana in Sanskrit, has to be established not by analogy or cognitive imagination but by both external senses and mind’s conscious awareness.
2. Anumana or inference involves both observation and reasoning in establishing a fact. When a hypothesis or proposition is created, it must be observed with logical consequence. Dark clouds in the sky infer that rain is likely to come, is an example of Anumana.
3. Sabda or sabd means word. It is just a communication tool. But according to Sankhya the device has validity only when a statement of knowledge comes from a reliable and legitimate source either thru written or spoken words.
The three principles by which knowledge is created and allowed for its distribution have metaphysical and empirical elements. These requirements of the Sankhya school help Hinduism to go through its epistemology tests of finding the nature and justification of religious ideations and beliefs.

INDIA AND CORONAVIRUS: LACK OF ACCESS TO HANDWASHING FACILITIES AMONG POOR MAKES FIGHT EVEN HARDER

Christophe Z Guilmoto, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) and Thomas Licart, Université de Strasbourg

India introduced a national lockdown on March 24 hoping to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. As April 2020 begins, the country has registered over 1,500 cases of COVID-19, the disease associated with the new coronavirus, according to the latest data available.

These numbers translate into surprisingly low prevalence rates compared to the rest of the world due to the delayed arrival of the virus. But it is possible the scenario could get much worse, while experts are warning that India is at grave risk notably due of the vulnerability of its health system.

Personal hygiene and more specifically handwashing practices have come under scrutiny as millions of India’s poorest do not have access to basic amenities. We are social demographers and have specifically investigated the data about handwashing practices in India for this article.

In India, research has shown how good hand hygiene reduces the risk of diarrhoea, pneumonia, or stunting – prime factors of high infant and child mortality.

Unfortunately the focus on handwashing was not included in the large Swachh Bharat Mission, or Clean India programme, launched in 2014. The spread of the coronavirus has brought back this issue to the fore as hand hygiene is one of the easiest ways to avoid both catching and spreading the virus.

While the Swachh Bharat mission addressed the issue of open defecation, it did not specifically focus on handwashing practices. Mumbai, October 2, 2017.
Indranil Mukerjee/AFP

Hand hygiene in India

There is a debate about the reliability of surveys on handwashing and how statistics are captured. According to a national survey in 2011-12, 63% of households reported usually washing their hands with soap after defecation, a low figure for a country where toilet paper is rarely used.

More recent research conducted in India has, however, shown that the most reliable statistics about hygiene practices are derived from an environmental check in which fieldworkers inspect the house for the presence of a water source with soap where people wash their hands.

This is how information was collated in India’s last national demographic survey coordinated by the International Institute for Population Sciences in 2015-16, from where the data for this study was drawn. It found that 39.8% of households had no soap or no water, a situation often explained by the absence of soap during the survey.

Huge geographical variations

India’s proportion of households without soap or water is lower than the 71.4% of people in Bangladesh or 52.9% in Nepal lacking such amenities. But Indian households fared worse than Pakistan (31.4%) or Myanmar (16.4%) during the same period.

When the data is broken down, we found that 20% of households in urban areas, where access to running water is more common, had no handwashing facilities, compared to 51% in rural areas. Regional disparities are even wider: ranging from below 10% in Delhi to above 60% in the entire state of Odisha. As the map below shows, the best hand hygiene can be found in Northwest India, in coastal Western India, as well as in many states of the Northeast. In contrast, districts where handwashing facilities are the least common are clustered around Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand.

Regional disparities in handwashing practices in India.
C.Z. Guilmoto, T. Licart, Author provided

The map also highlights another pocket of poor hand hygiene in the more developed Tamil Nadu state in southern India. In fact, while spatial patterns of hygiene are very pronounced, the map of lower use of soap and water does not exactly correspond to the least developed regions of India.

Socioeconomic inequalities

Our research also looked at social and economic characteristics of households. We found that only 4% of the richest households didn’t have handwashing facilities, compared to 80% of the poorest households. The worst levels of hand hygiene were observed in houses with an absence of toilet facilities (64%) or in illiterate families (68%).

Hand hygiene compare with social and economic characteristics of the families surveyed.
C.Z. Guilmoto, T. Licart, Author provided

The implications of these inequalities may be considerable for the transmission of the disease within the country and the impact on vulnerable groups.

Labourers, maids, cooks, drivers, daily wagers, people working in small businesses in towns and cities are now losing their livelihoods. With no economic plans to support them, they are going back home generating the largest sudden migration India has seen since Partition in 1947.

A reverse migration is taking place in India.

Very soon they may carry COVID-19 back to their neighbourhoods and native villages and transmit the virus further across the country. The situation is particularly worrying in households composed only of old people above 65 years, with less than half of them having access to soap and water.

The benefits of handwashing in India extend well beyond the coronavirus since it reduces the spread of pathogens of all types. In 2017, researchers estimated the annual net costs to India from not handwashing were US$23 billion, stressing the considerable gains relating to decreases in diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection for India from behavioural changes. Local initiatives have already emerged to encourage the population to wash hands frequently.

Promotion of handwashing in India.

Experts also point out that although handwashing should be more widespread, lack of access to water – particularly clean water – in India may be another challenge for the poorest communities to protect themselves from coronavirus.

In this context, handwashing campaigns during the crisis will be crucial for public health in India – alongside an increase in access to basic amenities for all.The Conversation

Christophe Z Guilmoto, Senior fellow in demography, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) and Thomas Licart, Doctorant, démographie, Université de Strasbourg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

CUBAN DOCTORS IN ITALY: HUMANITARIAN AND DIPLOMATIC

Cuba exports very few items that contribute to its economy. These are cigars, sugar, rum, pharmaceutical products, and medical services, especially doctors.

Lately, the country has been in the news and commended for sending its doctors to Covid-19 plagued Italy in precarious and high-risk situations.

For nearly 60 years, Cuba has been sending healthcare professionals around the world, especially to the Latin American countries. It is part of its declared policy of “solidarity with those in need” no matter where the need is global.

However, this humanitarian gesture has its other side as well, the medical diplomacy, exploited in a typical way the Left or Communist regimes do. Exporting medical services earn money for Cuba to survive the ongoing US embargo.

Besides helping the needed countries, the services of doctors and other medical professionals abroad have economic and diplomatic benefits for Cuba.

Working abroad allows them to better their standard of living when they earn much more than if working on the Island. In many cases, these doctors get an opportunity to escape the hardships of the Communist regime and settle abroad permanently.

During my two-week holiday in Cuba in 2018, I was told, by Cubans themselves, that most of the country’s professionals like doctors, nurses engineers, etc. do not find jobs in their respective careers. Instead, they are doing the available jobs in hotels and luxury resorts as waiters and bartenders, cooks, or even gardeners.

Migrations by Cubans by whatever means is natural. It has been happening all these six decades of the dictatorial regime of Fidel Castro. According to a recent report, between 2006 and 2016, over 7000 Cuban doctors defected to the USA via third countries where they first worked.

The latest mission of Cuban doctors in Italy for humanitarian reasons is indeed praiseworthy. Still, it needs not to be part of the government’s publicity machinery to promote its fake ideal of internationalism while having an abysmal human rights record.

-Promod Puri

 

Remembering Khushwant Singh: His Colorful Life And Humor

By Promod Puri

Perhaps the least revealed an aspect of Khushwant Singh’s colorful and long active life, was the fact that he perfectly balanced his cogitative pursuits with an active physical download (11)lifestyle of exercise, sports, and walks.

Unlike most of the known contemporary thinkers and writers, Khushwant Singh realized that both mental and physical activities occupy equal space in one’s daily routine and that both are healthful to each other.

In the last column I read by him at the age of 98, which still had his trademark of wits here and there, he talked about his daily routine and diet including a couple of shots of single malts. The latter was essential to give that kick off ‘saroor’ to relish his simple food in a relaxed evening mood.

He emphasized the need for massage, which was done two times a day, to keep the body muscles invigorated and for better blood circulation. He reasoned that in old age one can’t do any strenuous exercises for muscle strength, but to keep them healthy and in shape, massage was the only way.

Khushwant Singh also mentioned in the same column that how important it was to keep one’s bowls clean. His prescription was that one should have fleet enema occasionally. And in his imaginative and typical satirical style, he quoted Mahatma Gandhi who used to have the enema not only for himself but doing it on his female aides as well.

He loved stomach-friendly easy to digest food. And for that, his preference was South Indian idly and sambhar. Still, he never liked ‘upampa,’ the wheatmeal pudding-look salty dish which was not palatable to sweet halva-loving Punjabi Khushwant Singh.

His physical activities included playing tennis that of course, he abandoned it in his most senior years. He was a popular and friendly walker as he strolled along every morning with his neighborhood friends.

A lot has been said about his immense contribution toward contemporary Indian literary writings and his widely-read and lucid daily columns.

However, his other big contribution was his creation of two funny characters in the name of Santa and Banta. The popular jokes attributing to Santa-Banta or revolving around them were what elevated Khushwant Singh from the level of an intellectual elite to the status of a simple, fun-loving ‘Aam-aadmi’.

Cheers Mr. Khushwant Singh, where ever you are!

Where Is God In The Midst Of Coronavirus

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 His grace and express gratitude, religion should reveal the path to discern and realize the nature of the Creator.

During the time places of worship have their doors locked, people still believe in some kind of 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.

It is a practice based on our mindset image of His embodiment up there and everywhere. When we form a picture of Him, then God gets personified. In this dominant perspective, most people believe in His existence. This devotion does not lead to His real study. The buzzword does not establish a logical understanding of Him or Her. Instead, the image and ritual-based god without keen awareness is a constituted and established norm.

The formal acceptance of God only signifies His residential existence.

But God does not exist only. Instead, He is a functional institution through which His actuality can be better assessed. In His practical perception, God’s presence is more meaningful, offering rational and pragmatic awareness of Him.

The personified God is worshipped as the centralized controlling authority influencing every moment of our lives. Moreover, the symbolic undertaking of God creates the fear factor that He is a punishing Being if not believed in His existence. This fear is one reason for His adoration and ceremonial development.

The idolization and ceremonial culture motivate the buildup of rituals and customs, which restrict God’s correct image and discernment. His personification causes existential traditions.

But God is not a ritual.

Contrary to our psychic conviction, rituality is not imperative to religiosity.

One can experience His eternal spirit through principled and righteous living, but not in His ritualistic perseverance. Morality does not descend just by believing in His existential image, but it does by knowing Him.

 

MISGUIDED ROUTE

The pathway to His residency through the maze of rituals, customs, and traditions is a wrong route where atheists get lost and disillusioned. The disappointment is perhaps their dominant logic to reject His existence altogether.

Those who are atheists are not born atheists. And those who believe in God are not inborn believers either. It is the ritual of the belief that He exists along with many other ingenerated customs and traditions which constitute the conviction and inference of His existence. Many of the rituals which are meaningless, vague, and disconnected are the basis of His non-existence for atheists.

However, for believers, existentialism does not institute the syllabus to study God that involves both rational and empirical approaches as far as human faculty can go. It is spiritual navigation to access and sense the reality of His vast world. It is here the dynamics of God resides that can be realized rather than instinctively or impulsively confirming that He exists.

In this age, when there is an explosion of knowledge, and people seek rationality in any given thought, critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning make the right approach to revisit our mindset image of God.

At the same time, we must admit to the fact that the human mind has a limitation in seeking truth beyond empirical evidence and rational ideations.

BINARY ASPECT OF GOD

To reassess our mindset conception of God and to comprehend His existence, two perspectives can be acknowledged and studied. This binary aspect of God can offer reasonable cause, message, and the totality of His Being in this universe and beyond. The combination of these two approaches has the potential to logically revealing His existence and realization.

In this call, one approach is of the astronomical nature of His universal and celestial existence beyond our observable scientific capabilities. The other one is about His spiritual presence. The latter includes our relationship with plants, animals, and the environment. In simple words, one aspect of God is a Noun, and the other one is the Verb.

God is a Noun, and that means He is an Entity which can be discerned through His creations in this universe and rest of the macrocosm as far as our scientific advancements can take us, and our intellective imaginations can envision.

God’s true nature is beyond His relationship with humans, plants, or animals.  He is equally involved with all His creations, including stones, rocks, dust, water, air, light, and other seen and unseen, known and unknown objects.

It is from this perspective that an overview of His astronomical creations is supportive in the study of God. That involves both the celestial world and in the tiniest of atoms,

In a recent article in the academic online publication, The Conversation, Prof. Emily Thomas of Durham University, reveals that our “universe contains at least two trillion galaxies,” and that “the observable universe, the part of it we can see, is around 93 billion light-years across. The whole universe is at least 250 times as large as the observable universe”. Further, he says, “our planet is 150m kilometers away from the sun. Earth’s nearest stars, the Alpha Centauri system, are four light-years away (that’s around 40 trillion kilometers). Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars. The observable universe contains around 300 sextillion stars.”

These astronomical numbers in billions and trillions, supported by scientific configurations, merely suggest the unlimited vastness of God’s kingdom containing everything real and imaginable beyond stars, galaxies, and universes.

As we move down from the expanse of the celestial scene of His creations to the smallest sub-atomic field, we find the infrastructure, nature, and behavior of elementary particles that are the building blocks of the universe. Quantum theory deals with the contents and environment in this realm.

The question is: how we can perceive God’s existence in the spatial worlds as well as in the tiniest of atoms. Prof. Thomas admits in his article “the divine is, after all, mysterious.”

While the human quest is exploring His mysteries, the ontology of His existence needs to be expanded on rational-based knowledge and astute imagination rather than as a cliché of His presence along with the tagged fear factor, miracles, and ceremonial gratitude.

His known or unknown, visible, or non-visible creations in this universe and the celestial worlds, are not enough in our knowledge-based search to accept His existence as an Entity. There is more than what we see, observe, perceive, and discern both through empiricism and rationalism.

Behind the physical reality, there also is the psychic, metaphysical, and spiritual truth of His creations that completes His ontological profile.

The study we are undertaking gets us a comprehensive understanding of God as an Entity beyond the Noun creations of human beings, plants and animals, rivers and mountains, rocks, stones and dust, air and water, and everything else.

We are exploring God that may lead us to new frontiers, new explanations, and new definitions besides the astronomic, astrophysics, and quantum probes confirming the complexities of His creations, which are unlimited.

In this evolutionary study, the scientifically acclaimed Big Bang theory needs to revisit to ascertain what happened before, and seconds after this explosive phenomenon. What caused that explosion, and who caused it to happen. Was there any numinous force managing the cause and the after-cause when things settled down to their respective shapes and positions.

GREATEST ASSET

Besides investigating the Big Bang theory, the role of philosophy and metaphysics is vital in this learning to add and review our understanding of God, which, after all, is man’s most significant asset since His realization.

When all the available sciences and faculties, not just astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, philosophy, and metaphysics, are put together, the Entity of God emerges through the challenging and scientific environment as an explicit Reality. In the fusion of metaphysical and scientific thought, we can discern the true nature of His Being for creditable acceptance.

In the faculty of divine learning, the knowledge explored and gained establishes the existence of God more in tune with the logical behavior of the educated and informed contemporary society. Here the God’s status changes from His personified image to a comprehended believability as a functional Head conducting the affairs of His universes.

We human beings believe those are the only living creatures who breathe, move, have some sound, can think, and express feelings. The rest, rocks, stones, air, water, etc., we assume, are inanimate objects. And the space we and all the contents of the universe occupy, without which everything would appear clustered together, is not recognized as an entity.

Scientifically speaking, everything which exists, including “dead” objects are alive if we go into their microscopic depths. In the breakdown of the atom, its sub-parts are always in moving mode. The Superstring Theory of Quantum Reality reveals that at the sub-atomic levels, matter exists in small strings. In simple words, everything at its final microscopic grade is built with tiny vibrating strands like in a musical instrument of the violin.

These strings have repeated oscillatory patterns of vibration. Each model presents the string its mass and force, and that confers it the appearance of a particle. And when the components of a particle are vibrant and produce sound, “dead” objects are not dead, but alive.

What is that energy which keeps the sub-atomic particles moving, the earth and many other planets spinning, and keep everything alive in one form or the other? Known physicist Stephen Hawkins says: “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”

The answers we seek in the “science of God,” as Hawkins puts it, can reveal as well as change our whole concept and perception of God that can be more acceptable in our questioning society.

GOD IS ACTION, AND ACTION IS GOD

And once we start getting more answers, we can realize that the concept of God moves from His residential existence to a more logical and practical setting. Besides, this is where our second approach of God as a Verb appears. This access is the functional concept of Him in every moment of our lives.

When we say God is a Verb, our numinous gear shifts mentally and physically into action, initiated and inspired by Noun God. Here the existence of God can be realized not through sciences and philosophies but only through moral actions.

Being a Verb and a Noun is a two-faced concept when God becomes action, and action becomes God. The famous statue of dancing Nataraj installed at the Centre for Research in Particle Physics, CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research), in Geneva, signifies the transcendental unifying entity of the dancer and the dance, or the Performer and the Performance.

In action lies the vibe of God. His feel, His recognition are the results of activities that we undertake. In this environment, our mindset actuality of God changes from image-based to action-based.

In the action-based reality of God, the keyword is righteousness. And the latter is the place which transforms itself into the existence of His Being. In this context, He is not a physical entity, but He is there in the ambiance of the righteous performance of the act.

Here we are renouncing the residency of God from rituals and customs, and the structural places guarded, controlled, and managed by the priest class since antiquity. Instead, His existence is created by our pious and meditative actions where He resides.

And once we explore and practice God, meaning righteousness, in our logical thoughts and actions, the experience syncs well with the contemporary society seeking rationality and common sense while rejecting baseless and irrational rituals, miracles, and fears.

In this prudent direction, our karmas play a crucial role in creating an environment where God is involved in His guiding role. We are seeking the Karma-based God through our righteous or spiritual thoughts and deeds. And when we are in that environment, we are like the Nataraj dancer where Karma is God, and God is Karma.

Karma is a straightforward philosophy. It basically means action, deed, or work. It is an act of doing something.  But it is not fate. The latter is the product of Karma. Consciousness and karma together find a meaningful relationship in realizing the concept of God in His action-based reality.

In our ongoing study about the existence of God in rational and practical environments, including all of His visible and invisible, known and known creations across all the universes, as well as our righteous thoughts, imaginations, and actions, the very realization of His presence is a prayer in itself. And this the invocation and worship of God that can find ready acceptance in the contemporary logic-based civic society we live in.

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.

-30-

 

 

WHERE IS GOD THESE DAYS?

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 different, at least in principle. It offers the path and rides to understand the nature of the Creator while seeking His grace.
Places of mass appeal to God to save people from the virus ought to be averted. At the same time, people who believe in God’s existence seek some divine intervention while expecting a cure from science.
The big question is, where is God in the holy cities from Varanasi to the Vatican?
When devotees, priests advised staying away from the house of worship, the divinity of God is on the spot.
Where is the 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 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 trying 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.
(Readers, please note, a comprehensive article on this subject is going to be published soon on my websites promodpuri.com and progressivehindudialogue.com).

“CHINESE FLU”

Trump calls it the Chinese flu.
It could be expected from him given that he decerns issues at a very basic and unintelligible level.
Is it the language of the common man in the USA. Perhaps it is, especially in the rural areas of the country.
So, why a hyperbole has been created.
The naming of virus-related spreading diseases has been the practice for a long time. We had Spanish flu, West Nile Virus, Zika, Ebola, etc. Then hurricanes are titled after popular names from both the genders.
In lighter veins, Mexico seems it does not mind the use of Corona named after its world popular beer.
The media is creating an issue out of Trump’s political incorrectness.
The bottom line is viruses know no borders, ethnicity, religion, etc.
-Promod Puri

I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHEN

The ongoing tragedies caused
By humans do not get, from most,
A line in the poetry of poets,
A page in the writings of writers,
A focus in the meditation of meditators
A reflection from saints or preachers
A discern from political scientists
A statement from film heroes.
And all the educated professionals
Who are mum,
While human catastrophes pass by
Only with the apathetic
And callous remark
“This is all politics.”
-Promod Puri

RELIGION HAS GUIDING ROLE IN POLITICS

By Promod Puri

Whereas rituals, customs, and traditions furnish symbolic and distinctive identity to religion, the pathways to the divinity which are paved with morals and ethics, are often debased by its despicable ceremonial rites and practices.

It is in this context that the contemporary and progressive political ideologies disdain religion. Its nature is customarily interpreted thru inherent ritualistic practices rather than its doctrines of ethics and noble thoughts.

This article delves into the subject of “politics and religion”, and seeks the entry of virtuous, logical, informed, and intelligent religiosity in the political constitution serving the modern societies.

The contempt for religion in both Communist and democratic-socialist political ideologies is based on a portrayal that usually embodies rituals, customs, and traditions of a religious order.

Religion has become an official or legal taboo in the political and bureaucratic functioning of secular democracies and socialist regimes. Separation of church, temple, mosque, or synagogue from the state is the byword of the current political thinking.

Even though religion has significantly contributed its philosophies, universal truths, and theories to the school of political science, the two are deemed separate disciplines that influence the affairs and social character of civil society.

Modern political pundits and their students or observers have not gone beyond religious customs and beliefs to explore the intelligence and enlightenment generated over the centuries in discernable interpretations that touch every aspect of human endeavors including politics.

Philosopher T. S. Eliot “believed that democratic societies rejected the influence of an established church at their peril, for in doing so they cut themselves off from the kind of ethical wisdom that can come only from participation in a tradition. Thus, he argued, such a society would degenerate into tyranny and/or social and cultural fragmentation”.  (Source: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Chapter: Religion and Politics).

Outright purging of religion without recognizing its universal messages of ethical and secular nature has been a major part of the liberal political appeal. But this appeal also holds the hyped social impression that “politics is a dirty game”. The “game” is soiled by immoral, corrupt, and evil intentions. And the latter is the cause that politics becomes “dirty” since ethics are either optional or non-binding.

“Politics and religion must be kept separate” is an acknowledged doctrine in secular and democratic-socialist systems. But there are elements in most religions that are liberal, secular, and democratic. For these reasons, politics can incorporate religion in its order, whereas religion can keep its sanctity if the “dirty politics” stay out of it.

It is a fact that the laws of the land with their universal application have been constituted from religious teachings to institute political ideologies.

Barack Obama cites that “The Majority of great reformers in American history were not only motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause”.

Nevertheless, religion does not find a liking in progressive political behavior. Rather it is inferred as meddling in the affairs of a political system.

In secular societies, demarcations have been marked for the functioning and observation of religious customs and traditions to safeguard political entities from religious entities. However, as religion still enjoys certain privileges and rights besides its deep roots in the psyche of people, it does influence public opinion.

But as long a religion exists with its antiquated, irrational, and irresponsible rituals, customs, traditions, and beliefs, an intelligent society will not accept them as part of its political culture. Moreover, as societies are increasingly becoming culturally pluralists, religious representations from rituals, are not acceptable in non-coherent populations.

In this scenario, senseless convictions along with ceremonial rituals, customs, and traditions need to be disqualified from a political discipline. Rather let religious doctrines based on ethics and moral values contribute to support and enrich political ideologies.

Politics in general, is not, and should not be, confined to skills and strategies to seek or manage power. Besides governance, guidance is also its objective which comes from conscientious and sociological logic offered by religion over the centuries.

In fact, religion itself began as a socio-political movement from the very beginning of its origin.

Essentially, religion is a code of conduct for a civil society. It all started from here. With society’s progression, the code of conduct also evolved resulting in its expansion and formalization.

As civilization started taking root management of the society began.

The origin of religion can be traced as part of human evolution. Ancient religious orders basically were a set of laws and principles for some acceptable behavior in an emerging civil society.

Later all aspects of human cultures including presumptions and myths, and overwhelming elements of nature were covered in one order. In all these developments, social unity and coherence were the natural needs and dependencies of an advancing society.

An organized collection of beliefs and behaviors, a set of ideas started pouring in this social construction. And with the introduction of the Supreme Being, man’s most intuitive conception or imagery, the assemblage got sanctified.

And during this stage of evolution when spirituality and supernatural elements started dominating religion that its philosophical and learned aspects began branching out in various faculties. As such political science emerged as a separate discipline to guide the management of civil society.

In this management, ethics plays a significant role in the development and disciplining of a civic society. Ethics holds society together. Ethics delivered through religion have more commanding acceptance by the society than the constitutional laws and statutes executed in political regimes.

The acceptance of ethics as a theological appeal finds conscientious stay in the minds of people. Many known statesmen and leaders have effectively advocated religious ethics not only as part of their political wisdom and temperament for better understanding and acceptance of their messages but to underline the importance of faith in the affairs of civil society as well.

From Mohammad to Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. to Nelson Mandela and Dr. Ambedkar all had religious commitments grounded in humanism, love, compassion, and kindness to wage their political and social campaigns against slavery, apartheid, discrimination, inequality, and untouchability based on color, class, and caste.

Gandhi’s crusade against evils in the society and his political discourse were derived from the Hindu scriptures of Upanishads advocating the concepts of non-violence, truthfulness, self-discipline, compassion, and virtuousness.

Obama, who believes in the power of faith, has sought a “serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy”.

He argues, “more fundamentally the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms”. In a public address, he said: “secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square”. (“Obama’s 2006 Speech on Faith and Politics”, The New York Times, June 28,2006 edition).

“Before entering the public square”, what Obama is demanding instead is the infusion of true religion, without its symbolism, in the political environment to establish moral guidelines in its ideologies.

In a world, which is politically divided into two castes of Leftists and Rightists with sub-castes of Extreme Left and Extreme Right, ideological fanaticism runs high along with elements of power, ego, and greed, which are opportunistically embraced by all political establishments. In this “dirty game”, socialist idealism becomes just sloganeering.

The idiosyncrasy of the present socio-political left and the right mental constitution is that the leftists have a revulsion for religion. And the rightists are religious fanatics. The former ridicules and rejects religion and the latter is narcissistically illiterate about it.

And this is where the science of politics must step in to explore the true spirit of religion based on its universal teachings to find permanent residency in political leadership.

Deepak Chopra says: “Enlightened leadership is spiritual if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love, and compassion, also intuition, creativity, insight, and focused attention”.

Paved with these divine and acknowledged values religion offers an ever-guiding relationship with politics in the service of humanity and its environment.

(Promod Puri resides in Vancouver, Canada. He is a journalist and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions).

promodpuri.com

progressivehindudialogue.com

promodpuri.blogspot.com

I Can’t Understand It

When the ongoing tragedies of human sufferings caused by humans do not get from most, a line in the poetry of poets, a page in the writings of writers, a stroke of brush in the paintings of painters, a focus in the meditation of meditators, a stay in the minds of yoga practitioners, a reflection of sermon from a priest about the teachings of Nanak and Kabir, a discern from political scientists and intellectuals in the social sciences, a condemning statement from silver screen heroes and entertainers, a quote from habitual social media motivational advisers. And all the educated professionals who are mum and mute while the human catastrophes pass by only with the apathetic and callous remark “this is all politics.”
-Promod Puri

Democracy In The USA Very Expensive Route To Elect A Govt.

Democrat aspirant Michael Bloomberg is the 12th richest man in the world with a net worth of over $60 billion. If he wins the nomination, Bloomberg will be pitted against another billionaire, the incumbent president, Donald Trump. And this is where money will be a behemoth to impact the election scene.
In the USA, unlike most other democracies in the world, the sky is the limit in election spending.
Bloomberg joined the nomination race in November last year, much later than other candidates. According to a report in the Quartz, he has already spent over $400 million, compared to $120 million by Bernie Sanders, and $90 million by Elizabeth Warren, the two front runners.
Where the money is being spent. Traditionally most of that spending goes to advertising, targeted campaigns, staff, and management.
But in the case of Bloomberg, he is seeking paid volunteers to “share” his messages on social media. That means those who are on Facebook, for example, can carry his news and views and get paid as well.
His unlimited funds in the election fray have worried the other candidates.
-Promod Puri

THESE’RE NOT RIOTS BUT VIOLENT BLITZ ON MUSLIMS

Once again I say these are not riots between Hindus and Muslims.
What has happened are violent and barbaric attacks by the so-called Hindus against the Muslims in several localities of Delhi.
Holding peace prayers and advising calm to both the Muslims and Hindus are nonsense and stereotype politics.
With the open support of the Delhi Police, hired and paid goons of the ruling Hindutva leaders came with lathis in their aggression along with a barrage of rocks on fellow citizens.
Calling the whole mayhem as another Hindu-Muslim riot is trivializing the brewing hatred and violence against Muslims who have every right to be equal and honorable citizens of Hindusthan.
-Promod Puri

Shaeen Bagh Women Protest Unique

Indian women protest new citizenship laws, joining a global ‘fourth wave’ feminist movement

Women in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh neighborhood are protesting a new Indian citizenship law that they say will discriminate against Muslims, women – and, particularly, Muslim women.
Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Alka Kurian, University of Washington, Bothell

Women are among the strongest opponents of two new laws in India that threaten the citizenship rights of vulnerable groups like Muslims, poor women, oppressed castes and LGBTQ people.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed in December 2019, fast-tracks Indian citizenship for undocumented refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan – but only those who are non-Muslim. Another law – the National Register of Citizens – will require all residents in India to furnish extensive legal documentation to prove their citizenship as soon as 2021.

Critics see the two laws as part of the government’s efforts to redefine the meaning of belonging in India and make this constitutionally secular country a Hindu nation.

Since Dec. 4, 2019, Indians of all ages, ethnicities and religions have been protesting the new citizenship initiatives in scattered but complementary nationwide demonstrations. The uprisings have persisted through weeks of arrests, beatings and even killings across India by the police.

But the most enduring pocket of resistance is an around-the-clock sit-in of mostly hijab-wearing women in a working-class Delhi neighborhood called Shaheen Bagh.

Women take charge

Since Dec. 15, 2019, women of all ages – from students to 90-year-old grandmothers – have abandoned their daily duties and braved near-freezing temperatures to block a major highway in the Indian capital.

This is a striking act of resistance in a patriarchal country where women – but particularly Muslim women – have historically had their rights denied.

The Shaheen Bagh movement uses both novel and traditional forms of protests, including marches, silent sit-ins and musical performances.
Biplov Bhuyan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Shaheen Bagh protests are as novel in their methods as they are in their makeup. Protesters are using artwork, book readings, lectures, poetry recitals, songs, interfaith prayers and communal cooking to explain their resistance to citizenship laws that, they say, will discriminate against not just Muslims but also women, who usually don’t have state or property papers in their own names.

On Jan. 11, women in the Indian city of Kolkata performed a Bengali-language version of a Chilean feminist anthem called “The Rapist is You.” This choreographed public flash dance, first staged in Santiago, Chile in November 2019, calls out the police, judiciary and government for violating women’s human rights.

A dangerous place for women

India is the world’s most dangerous country for women, according to the Thompson Reuters Foundation. One-third of married women are physically abused. Two-thirds of rapes go unpunished.

Gender discrimination is so pervasive that around 1 million female fetuses are aborted each year. In some parts of India, there are 126 men for every 100 women.

Indian women have come together in protest before, to speak out against these and other issues. But most prior women’s protests were limited in scope and geography. The 2012 brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old Delhi woman – which sparked nationwide protests – was a watershed moment. All at once, the country witnessed the power of women’s rage.

The current women-led anti-citizenship law demonstrations are even greater in number and power. Beyond Shaheen Bagh, Indian women across caste, religion and ethnicity are putting their bodies and reputations on the line.

A Shaheen Bagh protest song.

Female students are intervening to shield fellow students from police violence at campus protests. Actresses from Bollywood, India’s film industry, are speaking out against gender violence, too.

Women’s secular agenda

With their non-violent tactics and inclusive strategy, the Shaheen Bagh women are proving to be effective critics of the government’s Hindu-centric agenda. Their leaderless epicenter of resistance raises up national symbols like the Indian flag, the national anthem and the Indian Constitution as reminders that India is secular and plural – a place where people can be both Muslim and Indian.

The Shaheen Bagh movement’s novel and enduring strategy has triggered activism elsewhere in the country.

Thousands of women in the northern Indian city of Lucknow started their own sit-in in late January. Similar “Shaheen Baghs” have sprung up since, in the cities of Patna and even Chennai, which is located 1,500 miles from Delhi.

Anti-citizenship law protests in India’s Assam State, Feb. 16, 2020.
Anuwar Ali Hazarika/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Global women’s spring

India’s Shaheen Bagh protests form part of a broader global trend in women’s movements. Worldwide, female activists are combining attention to women’s issues with a wider call for social justice across gender, class and geographic borders.

In January 2019 alone, women in nearly 90 countries took to the streets demanding equal pay, reproductive rights and the end of violence. Young women were also at the forefront of the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Sudan, Brazil and Colombia.

As I write in my 2017 book, such inclusive activism is the defining characteristic of what’s called “fourth wave feminism.”

There isn’t a common definition of the first three feminist waves. In the United States, they generally refer to the early 20th century suffragette movement, the radical women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the more mainstream feminism of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Fourth wave feminism appears to be more universal. Today’s activists fully embrace the idea that women’s freedom means little if other groups are still oppressed. With its economic critique, disavowal of caste oppression and solidarity across religious divides, India’s Shaheen Bagh sit-in shares attributes with the women’s uprisings in Chile, Lebanon, Hong Kong and beyond.

The last time women came together in such numbers worldwide was the #MeToo movement, a campaign against sexual harassment which emerged on social media in the United States in 2017 and quickly spread across the globe.

Shaheen Bagh and similarly far-reaching women’s uprisings underway in other countries take #MeToo to the next level, moving from a purely feminist agenda to a wider call for social justice. Women protesters want rights – not just for themselves, but human rights for all.

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Alka Kurian, Senior Lecturer, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Bothell

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Internet: A Platform for both false and true information

By Promod Puri

Education does not stop after school, college, or university studies. Rather it continues. Pursuing knowledge in the fields already studied along with new interests of learning is part of lifelong schooling.

As formal education ends in the early part of life, the journey to explore and gain knowledge goes on. At the same time, knowledge itself keeps expanding.  Once the learning drive starts there is no stop on the knowledge track.

However, knowledge has to be followed intelligently and with an open mind.

Its credibility and perception are based on truth and rationales. As our continuing education advances, it generates new studies, thoughts, theories, meanings, and interpretations. With that growth, knowledge gets enriched.

We are the seekers of knowledge as well as its creator, developer, and distributor.

It is at this helm that we can discern its traditional outlets, like books and libraries, newspapers and magazines, radio, and television, etc. However, these sources are being outpaced and outdated by the surge in the internet and social media.

And this is where we alert ourselves to establish the authenticity and credibility of knowledge attained from online sources. It can prove itself to be wrong and deceptive when produced and shared thru various internet channels.

The buzz word lately is the generation of fake news or information and its circulation.

Google, Emails, Twitter, Facebook, and myriad of websites, etc. are the vehicles moved by our fingertips for mass distribution of news, views, and learnings along with fake stories and misinformation. In the latter case production of such material is so professionally done that unreal casts into real. Believability is established, and its mass circulation starts rolling.

The production of fake news, besides posing a serious threat to bona fide information and knowledge, is a lucrative business as well. When a fabricated story gets viral on search engines like Google and social media like Facebook, it generates money for fake news manufacturers. The “clicks” and “shares” are the measuring indicators in the booms of this illicit business.

Since the blight of fake news is going to be part of knowledge gathering, the acceptance or rejection of pseudo or genuine information depends on our sensitivity and perception, empathy or apathy. Our personal preferences also play a determining role to keep us informed or misinformed while we seek knowledge.

Usually, we select only that information that fits well within our interests, mindset biases, and beliefs.

The production of fake or false news or information, or creation of a thought, an ideology or a campaign, and its spread covers most topics and issues from politics to religion and culture, sciences to medicines, and economics to statistics, etc.

Fabricated information supporting a concept, cult, crusade of morally-revolting motives not only contaminate true knowledge but it is misleading and sinister as well. As of consequence, information literacy is corrupted.

When a fake story or picture on the internet and its various outlets is released, its authenticity is seldom doubted especially by those readers who share its viewpoint.

Professional “gatekeepers” like editors of newspapers or magazines, who reject, allow, or edit an incoming news story or some viewpoints in the traditional institutions, are not the norms in the receiving and delivery systems of the information technology.

Our temperaments, beliefs and even our personal motives are now the “gatekeepers” in the selection and sharing of information. When these attitudes are constantly and willingly being exposed to fake information or stories, fanaticism is created, consolidated, and validated. Convictions and extreme beliefs keep the doors of truth and rationality close.

DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM

Despite this inevitable abuse of the system, the internet provides us a democratic platform that was till now monopolized by the traditional print and electronic media. Social media are open, free, and readily available along with a profusion of websites for the dissemination of information, true or false, and viewpoint, rational or irrational.

The phenomenon has led to the explosion of knowledge in its creation, presentation, and sharing. This is not anymore the domain of only professional writers, intellectuals, publishers, or editors.

The Internet and online social media offer the space to express oneself in few words or in lengthy essays without editing or cuts and censorship. A submission, rejected by conventional book publishers, newspapers, or magazine editors, finds easy alternative outlets through various internet channels and online self-publishing with much wider exposure.

Unlike the traditional sources of knowledge, the net in its brief history has spread itself into a vast field covered with mounds of information and knowledge. Personally speaking, I wrote “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions” by just going thru the medium of the internet carrying a wealth of relevant articles, research papers, manuscripts, scriptures, and stories.

Numerous reputed and credible websites like Wikipedia are loaded with extensive knowledge to do research, study or write on any subject of interest.

The internet has liberated knowledge for its easy reach and attainment. But in this endeavor, Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw advises: “beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”.

(Promod Puri is Vancouver, Canada-based writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.blogspot.com).

Blasphemy And Apostasy In Islam Are More Political Than Religious


Pakistani Islamists march to protest the Supreme Court lenient treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman accused of blasphemy, in Karachi, Feb. 1, 2019. ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images

By Ahmet T. Kuru, San Diego State University

Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer in Pakistan, had been imprisoned for six years when he was sentenced to death in December 2019. The charge: blasphemy, specifically insulting Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.

Pakistan has the world’s second strictest blasphemy laws after Iran, according to U.S. Commision on International Religious Freedom.

Hafeez, whose death sentence is under appeal, is one of about 1,500 Pakistanis charged with blasphemy, or sacrilegious speech, over the last three decades. No executions have taken place.

But since 1990 70 people have been murdered by mobs and vigilantes who accused them of insulting Islam. Several people who defend the accused have been killed, too, including one of Hafeez’s lawyers and two high-level politicians who publicly opposed the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for verbally insulting Prophet Muhammad. Though Bibi was acquitted in 2019, she fled Pakistan.

Blasphemy and apostasy

Of 71 countries that criminalize blasphemy, 32 are majority Muslim. Punishment and enforcement of these laws varies.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. Among non-Muslim-majority cases, the harshest blasphemy laws are in Italy, where the maximum penalty is three years in prison.

Half of the world’s 49 Muslim-majority countries have additional laws banning apostasy, meaning people may be punished for leaving Islam. All countries with apostasy laws are Muslim-majority except India. Apostasy is often charged along with blasphemy.

This class of religious laws is quite popular in some Muslim countries. According to a 2013 Pew survey, about 75% of respondents in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia favor making sharia, or Islamic law, the official law of the land.

Among those who support sharia, around 25% in Southeast Asia, 50% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 75% in South Asia say they support “executing those who leave Islam” – that is, they support laws punishing apostasy with death.

A factory torched by an angry mob in Jhelum, Punjab province, Pakistan, after one of its employees was accused of desecrating the Quran, Nov. 21, 2015. STR/AFP via Getty Images

The ulema and the state

My 2019 book “Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment” traces the root of blasphemy and apostasy laws in the Muslim world back to a historic alliance between Islamic scholars and government.

Starting around the year 1050, certain Sunni scholars of law and theology, called the “ulema,” began working closely with political rulers to challenge what they considered to be the sacrilegious influence of Muslim philosophers on society.

Muslim philosophers had for three centuries been making major contributions to mathematics, physics and medicine. They developed the Arabic number system used across the West today and invented a forerunner of the modern camera.

The conservative ulema felt that these philosophers were inappropriately influenced by Greek philosophy and Shia Islam against Sunni beliefs. The most prominent in consolidating Sunni orthodoxy was the brilliant and respected Islamic scholar Ghazali, who died in the year 1111.

In several influential books still widely read today, Ghazali declared two long-dead leading Muslim philosophers, Farabi and Ibn Sina, apostates for their unorthodox views on God’s power and the nature of resurrection. Their followers, Ghazali wrote, could be punished with death.

As modern-day historians Omid Safi and Frank Griffel assert, Ghazali’s declaration provided justification to Muslim sultans from the 12th century onward who wished to persecute – even executethinkers seen as threats to conservative religious rule.

This “ulema-state alliance,” as I call it, began in the mid-11th century in Central Asia, Iran and Iraq and a century later spread to Syria, Egypt and North Africa. In these regimes, questioning religious orthodoxy and political authority wasn’t merely dissent – it was apostasy.

Wrong direction

Parts of Western Europe were ruled by a similar alliance between the Catholic Church and monarchs. These governments assaulted free thinking, too. During the Spanish Inquisition, between the 16th and 18th centuries, thousands of people were tortured and killed for apostasy.

Blasphemy laws were also in place, if infrequently used, in various European countries until recently. Denmark, Ireland and Malta all recently repealed their laws.

But they persist in many parts of the Muslim world.

In Pakistan, the military dictator Zia ul Haq, who ruled the country from 1978 to 1988, is responsible for its harsh blasphemy laws. An ally of the ulema, Zia updated blasphemy laws – written by British colonizers to avoid interreligious conflict – to defend specifically Sunni Islam and increased the maximum punishment to death.

From the 1920s until Zia, these laws had been applied only about a dozen times. Since then they have become a powerful tool for crushing dissent.

Some dozen Muslim countries have undergone a similar process over the past four decades, including Iran and Egypt.

Dissenting voices in Islam

The conservative ulema base their case for blasphemy and apostasy laws on a few reported sayings of Prophet Muhammad, known as hadith, primarily: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.”

But many Islamic scholars and Muslim intellectuals reject this view as radical. They argue that Prophet Muhammad never executed anyone for apostasy, nor encouraged his followers to do so.

Nor is criminalizing sacrilege based on Islam’s main sacred text, the Quran. It contains over 100 verses encouraging peace, freedom of conscience and religious tolerance.

In chapter 2, verse 256, the Quran states, “There is no coercion in religion.” Chapter 4, verse 140 urges Muslims to simply leave blasphemous conversations: “When you hear the verses of God being rejected and mocked, do not sit with them.”

By using their political connections and historical authority to interpret Islam, however, the conservative ulema have marginalized more moderate voices.

Reaction to global Islamophobia

Debates about blasphemy and apostasy laws among Muslims are influenced by international affairs.

Across the globe, Muslim minorities – including the Palestinians, Chechens of Russia, Kashmiris of India, Rohingya of Mymanmar and Uighurs of China – have experienced severe persecution. No other religion is so widely targeted in so many different countries.

The Rohingya of Myanmar are among several Muslim minorities facing persecution worldwide. Rakhine state, Myanmar, Jan. 13, 2020. STR/AFP via Getty Images

Alongside persecution are some Western policies that discriminate against Muslims, such as laws prohibiting headscarves in schools and the U.S. ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries.

Such Islamaphobic laws and policies can create the impression that Muslims are under siege and provide an excuse that punishing sacrilege is a defense of the faith.

Instead, I find, such harsh religious rules can contribute to anti-Muslim stereotypes. Some of my Turkish relatives even discourage my work on this topic, fearing it fuels Islamophobia.

But my research shows that criminalizing blasphemy and apostasy is more political than it is religious. The Quran does not require punishing sacrilege: authoritarian politics do.

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What Causes Native Chiefs Opposition To Gas Pipelines

Among the First Nation communities, there are Hereditary Chiefs and the “elected” chiefs.

And this institutional binary is the primary reason that the proposed natural gas pipeline issue has put Canada in a standstill spot with blockades stopping rail and road traffics across the country.

In the traditional form of First Nations governance, Hereditary chiefs are higher than elected Chiefs, especially on issues like this one, where their lands and cultures are in danger by encroaching developments.

The epicenter of the Canada-wide protests is the indigenous lands of Wet’suwet’en outside the village of Burns Lake in British Columbia.

The proposed pipeline would pass through the Wet’suwet’en lands that have not been permitted by the Hereditary Chiefs.

However, of the five Wet’suwet’en elected band chiefs, only the Hagwilget Village Council declined to sign benefits agreements with the LNG pipeline. The remaining four elected Chiefs signed the go-ahead arrangement.

It is being claimed that “based on Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law, it’s ultimately the hereditary chiefs who have jurisdiction to the territory, and they have been clear about their aim—to assert self-governance over their land and demand a nation-to-nation relationship with Canada.”

The opposing positions of two sets of Chiefs are the cause of the current situation over the Native blockades that are making headlines in Canada.

In the latest development, two Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have launched a constitutional challenge against the Trudeau government in the federal court. It seeks commitment from Ottawa that to achieve climate targets, the government must “modify or cancel” energy projects like the one under construction in BC by the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The court challenge, in its statement, says that “Canada has a constitutional obligation to adhere to its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement.”

Coastal GasLink has a  $6.6-billion pipeline project from northeast BC that would deliver natural gas to LNG Canada. The latter is building an $18-billion terminal in Kitimat, BC, to export liquefied natural gas to Asia.

Kitimat is booming with construction works, creating plenty of jobs, mainly benefitting the Native workers. A big boost to the local economy is what the expectations are amid environmental concerns, including some erosion in the traditions and cultures of the Wet’nuwet’en nations.

 (Promod Puri worked as editor of the New Nation, a Native and Metis weekly newspaper from Winnipeg in the early ‘70s. he is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.) 

Kejriwal’s Simple Ideology Is Good Governance  

330px-Arvind_Kejriwal_September_02,_2017_cropDelhi election straight three-time winner Arvind Kejriwal is politically neither a Leftist nor a Rightist. His politics is simplistic in its approach to have honest and good governance. It seeks real results nor promises.

Kejriwal’s swift rise and popularity after his dedicated support to anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare made him a new class of leader who does not show leanings towards the worn-out Left and Right political platforms. Some Leftists tried to steer the leadership away from him in the early stage of his political entrance, but he fought back. They were out from his natural turf.

Kejriwal is a grassroots political worker. He is, in the real sense a simple “aam aadmi.” That means an ordinary person determined to make his moves in the tangled and corrupt politics of contemporary India.

In fact, under the lamp of India’s shadowy Modi’s rule, Kejriwal offers a luminous light of good, secular, and democratic governance in the capital city-state of Delhi.

By Promod Puri

THE BINARY OF LEFT AND RIGHT

The trait of being socially or politically Left or Right is that the Left is anti-religious and the Right is fanatic. The former ridicules and rejects religion, and the latter is narcissistically illiterate about it.
Promod Puri

What Does Goddess Kali’s Unusual And Scary Look Mean

330px-Kali_by_Raja_Ravi_VarmaBy Promod Puri

In my understanding of Hinduism, there is more in its nature of study and deliberations than just religion.

It is in this context that the chapter of Goddess Kali divulges an aspect of Hindu thought and philosophy that is apart from rationality, spirituality, morality, and myths.

Goddess Kali is an exciting and intriguing reading. In addition to her ritualistic adoration and worshipping, the study reveals her unique temperament that adds to the diverse outlook of Hinduism.

                        (Painting by Raja Ravi Varma)  

Kali’s appearance is dark blue with sunken eyes. In her long blood-red tongue sticking out in a ferocious image, Kali is typically portrayed with a scary and angry stare.

Her scantly covered body has a long garland of severed skulls of demons whom she destroyed on the appeal of her followers. And the short skirt she wears is the ripped-out arms of the defeated enemies.

Kali is often portrayed in the blood-thirsty and feral image. There is blood dripping from the chopped heads of demons that she holds in her arms. Her mood is terrifying and unruly. Indeed, not a pleasant sight when we see other Hindu goddesses nicely wrapped in colorful sarees and wearing beautiful jewelry.

Kali’s overall personality is revealed in an astounding story when she defeated a powerful demon by the name of Raktabija. Other female deities fought against him. They were able to wound him. But the story goes like this that every drop from each wound inflicted on him would turn into a clone of demon Raktabija. Thus, fighting against him by the deities meant increasing an army of his duplicates.

The deities finally gave up. They requested Kali to finish the demon because only she had the divine Shakti, meaning power, to kill him.

With gaping mouth, her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, Kali singlehandedly fought the battle with the demon and the army of his own replicas. Kali eventually defeated him by sucking his blood before it could reach the ground. Raktabija, along with his army of duplicates, were all finished. Her winning trophies were the several heads of the devil around her neck.

In euphoria, she went into a wild dance. The more she danced, the wilder and turbulent it became. She was rampaging out of control. Her dancing swirls became so powerful that there was a fear Kali could destroy the world.

In that situation, Lord Shiva was sent to calm Kali down. He was successful but was stomped under her left foot. The forceful wild dance came to a halt. And the world was saved by Lord Shiva, who is himself attributed as lord of destruction.

Kali is often portrayed standing or dancing on Lord Shiva, who lies calm and prostrate beneath her foot. Acclaimed mythological artist Raja Ravi Varma captures the dance scene in one of his most famous paintings. Here Lord Shiva, one of Trinity Hindu gods, the others being Brahma and Vishnu, is seen under her foot.

Kali’s unusual portrayal in her body wears, wild and vicious looks, and the vigorous victory dance while Lord Shiva, a God himself, under her foot, are the materials for an interpretive view of her to establish what she represents.

Kali is a Hindu goddess of death, time, and destruction. She is the Shakti, representing the divine feminine power. Kali is like a mad storm, a typhoon, or a wildfire who, while in her furious crusade, does not spare anybody. She is a force of nature where her actions or motives are mystified as they defy reasons and explanations.

Kali is independent and not worried about the results of her actions. Her moves can’t be disciplined. She is a demon slayer, and her psyche represents justifiable female resentment and rage.

Although she is paired with Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva. But here as Kali, she represents a personality that is dark, wild, and angry. Her other image as being Parvati or goddess Gauri is that of calm and tranquil temperament.

In this duality, and with her four, eight, or ten arms that carry a mix of belligerent and luminous symbolisms, Kali represents womanhood in multi portraits. The many roles contemporary woman juggles, the challenges, and the fights or battles she undertakes are what goddess Kali represents.

The_Rolling_Stones_Tongue_Logo

She is a symbol of contemporary womanhood, especially in the West. Kali was on the cover page of the first edition of Ms. Magazine. Its artist Miriam Wosk drew a colorful illustration featuring a pregnant woman with eight arms symbolizing the multi-tasking role of women now and for generations. Rolling Stones, the English rock band, had its logo of “tongue and lip design” adopted out of the stuck out tongue of Kali.

Despite her portrayed terrible look, Kali is considered the kindest and loving goddess. Ma-Kali, mother Kali, is her revered status in the iconology of Hindu gods. She is regarded as the mother of the entire universe, and a divine protector.

Kali is a free goddess who is ready to fight the evil in any Yuga.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions.)

DEMOCRACY CRADLE OF DICTATORSHIP

Democratic freedoms breed authoritarianism. Consolidation of power, achieved through democratic means, is a tempting phenomenon. Regimes are slowly being wrapped up in totalitarianism or dictatorship.

Nationalism and patriotism are aroused. The fear factor is created by introducing “foreign enemies”. Minorities are being targeted.

To streamline the influence of fear, several practices and arrangements are mobilized. Judiciary, the intelligence agencies, the income tax department, the police forces, state-sponsored “terrorism” are the channels to move democracy towards autocracy.

In this exercise, the media is disciplined or regulated for the smooth acceptance of manufactured propagated material.

It is a camouflaged process where the majority population naively gets adapted with acceptable disturbance mainly for nationalistic or patriotic alarms.

The fear factor permeates into the culture of silence and apathy. And authoritarianism survives till the next elections if these are not corrupted.

-By Promod Puri

BJP’S LEGACY COMPARED TO CONGRESS

If the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India is responsible for the structural damage of democracy in India under the fervency of its Hindutva agenda, then the record of the Congress is not clean either.

Under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, India’s democracy was subverted overnight with the declaration of Emergency in 1975. However, in the subsequent national election, the Congress Party was mercilessly beaten. Thanks to the intactness of the Election Commission that was not tinkered with weaponry of the Indira Gandhi emergency.

In that respect, we can say there was resilience in India’s democracy.

But now, it is the institutional chiseling that has been purposely done to carve out a non-secular nation based on narrow confines of the Hindutva agenda.

The latest salvo being the amendment of the Citizenship Act with its discriminatory provision to offer citizenship to all the refugees except Muslims. This is followed by the upcoming National Registry of Citizenship that could be impacted by the corrupt bureaucratic system biased towards the Muslim population. It has already happened in the state of Assam.

Hindutva is an agenda that is fundamentally anti-Hindu. The identity of Hinduism lies in its wide-open structure where liberal, secular and diverse customs and traditions co-exist and flourish.

Pursuing the Hindutva agenda also goes against the very spirit of democratic India in which its national institutions play non-religious, non-political, professional and bureaucratic roles crucial for unbiased, audited and scrutinized direction to the governing party in the conduct of nation’s business.

But when these institutions are politically fixed, controlled and manipulated or even nixed by the governing party to uphold its power base then the damage is being done to them.

And this is where the BJP’s legacy, compared to the Congress Party, is being established by its leadership.

-By Promod Puri

NEED TO GO BEYOND GDP

Elected politicians all over the globe often boast about their economic achievements when their countries’ GDP goes up. And countrymen are impressed.

For example, Trump can pride himself as the USA’s GDP has grown to $21.7 trillion last year, a massive gain that makes the country the most significant economic power in the world.

GDP stands for gross domestic product, meaning the total market value of all the goods and services produced within the country. That gross production includes everything produced and purchased, services generated and bought, and investments made.

When the GDP number of a given year is divided by the population figure of the country, the result is taken as a reflection of the living standard of its citizens.

And this where the GDP gives quite a false impression about the actual well being of a nation. Under its blanket coverage are the stark realities of poverty, homelessness, and even hunger.

These realities are suppressed by governments’ public relations campaign that the country is doing great as per the rising GDP numbers.

GDP is a useful tool creating a false impression that the nation is economically well managed.

Since it does not reflect the true nature of the country’s well being as experienced by all its citizens, GDP needs to go beyond its present valuation of produced goods and services.

-Promod Puri

The Home Of Indian Muslims Has Always Been India, And Will Always Be India

HERE ARE THE “PAPERS”

By Promod Puri

As the thought of writing this piece cropped up, I was reminded of an old Hindi film song penned by Sahir Ludhianvi: “jayen toh jayen kahan, samje-ga kaun yahan, dard bare dil ki zuban, jayen toh jayen kahan…”.

Translation: “Where! Where shall we go, who would understand here, the cries from the minds full of pains.”

And that is precisely the plight of Muslims in India. “Go to Pakistan,” “send them to Pakistan,” are the xenophobic cracks that are often being hurled against them by the neo-nationalistic extreme Hindu fanatics. And most of the Hindu population is apathetic to these recurring taunts.

Jayen toh jayen kahan,” where shall the Indian Muslims go?

From generation to generation, the land of their birth, rooted in the soils of the nation, breathing its air and dust from coast to coast, from the Himalayas to the tip of Kanyakumari, the 138 million-community has been made to feel that they do not belong to India. The very land to which it has contributed immensely over the centuries in every walks of its life. Its feelings and emotions lie in the nation’s struggles and achievements.

“Prove your ancestry here,” and “show your papers” is the coming up legalities Muslims in India would be facing in the corrupt bureaucratic setup fired by the bigoted government of Bhartiya Janata Party. That has substantial backing from the rest of its extended family, aka as “Parivar.”

Yes, they have the “papers” scattered and entrenched all over the country.

Their ‘papers’ are in the words of Kabir, Ghalib, Alma Iqbal, and, more recently, in the poetry of Sahir Ludhianvi and Javed Akhtar. Their ‘papers’ are in the eternal voices of Mohammad Rafi, gazals of Begum Akhtar, and many more. Their papers are in the music of Naushad Ali, Khyamm, and A.R. Rehman, in the Shanai of Bismilla khan, in the classical voice of Bade Ghulam Ali khan, in the Tabla beats of Ustad Zakir Ali khan. They are in the talents and dialogues of Muhammed Yusuf Khan alias Dalip Kumar, Mehboob Khan’s “Mother India” Nargis Dutt, in the versatilities of Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan.

The papers reflect in the sword of Tipu Sultan, Param Vir Chakra martyr Havildar Abdul Hamid, flying in the fierce shots of Sania Mirza, and in the philanthropist industrialist Azim Premji.

“You’re asking for papers?” They are framed in the marble beauty of the Taj Mahal, in the sacred shrines of Ajmer Sharif, in the sprawling complex of Jama Masjid.

The ‘papers’ are in the patriotic and intellectual sentiments of ex-presidents of India: Zakir Husain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahamed, and APJ Abdul Kalam.

The certification papers government is demanding are being carried by the students and the faculty on the secular campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University. They are in the mammoth rallies all over the country, and in Shaheen Bagh, the epicenter of peaceful protests. This is where the national Tricolor of India is proudly hosted by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and others in the spirit of “Hum Hindusthani.”

 

MINDSET IS NOT A FLEXIBLE ATTITUDE, but it can be

By Promod Puri

Distorted, false, or unrealistic information twist our thinking. As of result, our perceptions are flawed.

Endeavoring for the true nature of things helps brain circuits to function naturally in the evolution of a sound and conscientious or attentive mind.

Human brains are built for sophisticated and complex activity. It is in this role and treatment that logical and well-grounded thinking can be fostered.

In addition to that, our simple thinking processes play a significant role in invigorated and stimulating brain functioning. These simple functions involve self-discerning and grasping of ordinary tasks and their executions.

In the contemporary tech and virtual world, most of the very basic thinking processes can be taken over by gadgets. For example, Roomba, the cleaning robot, or Alexa, Amazon’s cyber info help. Or when we google to retrieve a word sitting at the tip of the tongue, instead of exercising the brain to do the recall.

With these gizmos and “hey google” help services, in our day-to-day activities, there is likely little left for our brains to do.

Keeping our brains active by doing easy tasks along with the gathering of authentic and honest information and knowledge can help in forming rational and sound opinions and judgments.

Conceived opinions and judgments influence our mindset viewpoint. And most of the time, our actions and reactions are based on retrieving the intellect from the installed position.

Mindset basically means pre-set assumptions or beliefs that are ready to be applied without or with the least entry of new inference or reasoning to a situation or issue. It is a predisposed state of mind, a psychological construct that can be rigid or subject to change.

In a world where our social, political, and religious preferences become our mindset views, this outlook must be created only by logical and judicious approaches. With that rational infusion, the mindset discernment resides well in our intellectual senses that are not compromised by false information.

POLITICAL MINDSET

In politics, mindset views are often generated thru an efficient propaganda assembly line. For example, the mindset impression is that Cubans are well taken care of, happy, and enjoy the fundamental freedoms under the Communist regime. But the ground realities are different. Over 50 years of being in power, Fidel Castro was successful in converting false information and claims to be accurate within Cuba and the world. A period of half-century is enough to impact the genetics of mindset behavior as repeated lies appear honest.

The situation in Venezuela under the dictatorial rules of late Hugo Chavez and now Nicoles Maduro is no different. Appalling living conditions in the country have forced many poor Venezuelans fleeing to neighboring nations like Columbia. But the Leftist minds don’t accept a breakdown of the system reported even thru the eye of the independent media.

What exactly is going on in Putin’s Russia or Xi Jinping’s China is not transparent. In the coverup, what comes out is the processed news that feeds the mindset views globally. In the authoritarian and autocrat regimes, propagated indoctrination is a crucial part of the regulated strategies.

The myth of overall happiness and contentment not only prevails in the Left or Communist domains involved in brainwashing their own peoples, and the rest of the world. Established democracies also indulge in forming mindset thinking in public thru disinformation, hype, and publicity. In a democratic setup, the Left and Right political commitments are quite conspicuous as “Red and Blue” mindsets.

We can recognize no political system is perfect for producing the results the public wants for its peace and welfare. And even if the systems are ideal in principle, their execution is subject to the manner these are manipulated by the leaderships and received by the societies.  Still, the mindset convictions are groomed in both the socialist and capitalist structures. The implantation is manifested in all the political ideologies and their running systems.

The political Left-Right binaries seem to be eternal.  These binaries reside well in the ideological mindset status quo of socialism and capitalism while the world is getting more integrated through the development of the internet and social media.

In the contemporary world, production and reproduction of fact-based information and knowledge should impact our mindset political views. But this is not happening. Rather extremes of Left-Right scenario we often observed across the globe give a fair assessment of how templated attitude stagnates political thinking.

Left and Right commitments have become our political deadends. We’re not taking the humanistic pathway either where we can set our minds nourished in ethical convictions.

FAITH-BASED MINDSET

In the realm of religion, most people do not read the fundamentals of scriptures. They gather their religious knowledge or information, not from the revered books. Preferably that is delivered thru the third party, mostly the priest class. The education or learning we receive can be biased or prejudice. But this is where the mindset views are embedded that often stay lifelong or even passed on to the next generation.

In the mindset commitments, both theists and atheists are firm on their radical views if god exists or does not. Over the centuries, both have struck themselves with the myth or non-myth of god. In this approach, separate isms have emerged as atheism and theism. And where the former has a more committed mindset in denouncing the latter rather than putting forward its own non-theist agenda.

Nonetheless, atheism and theism have not gone much further in creating a logical understanding of the natural-world or God.

We often debate that God was self-created, or He is just an imaginative creation of man. But that should not be an issue either. The rational non-set contemporary mind would welcome re-inventing the institution of God.

In this exercise, seeking the practicality of God in its moral-based messages is more acceptable rather than a non-visible physical image residing up there, somewhere.

But we do not want to disturb the status quo of mind struck more in His physical existence rather than seeking His active involvement in our lives.

SOCIAL MINDSET

In social behavior, too, people with mindset attitudes related to race, class, or caste do not think outside the box. The discriminatory behavior toward fellow human beings constitutes the worst kind of mindset attitude practiced all over the world.

The centuries-old caste system in the Indian sub-continent is a humiliating mindset practice by the upper caste against the lower caste members of the society. As a result, prejudices are formed that remain firm as a usual way of life.

Sufi poet-philosopher Baba Bulleh Shah touched on the subject of a social mindset. He stressed for a diligent read and review the mindset behavior that impacts the individual and the society one belongs to.

He says: Parh parh Alam te faazil hoya
Te kaday apnay aap nu parhya ee na.

Translation: one reads a lot to become a scholar and all knowledgeable, yet fails to ever read oneself.

MINDSET ATTITUDE IN MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGES

Another aspect of mindset attitude lies in the popular motivational messages we often come across in social media like Facebook.

For example, the catchy phrase we often hear these days is “be positive.” Precisely, we’re advised to have a positive mindset. But a rational mindset can have a negative or positive outlook as well. It depends upon the outside factors that can be controlled, or maybe not.

“Be positive” is quite a motivational message. But its acceptance and preservation are to be based on realistic recognition of the facts.

The expected positive results from the “be-positive” attitude, in most cases, do not come automatically. For that outcome, the “be-positive” sentiment needs to be fed by willpower. And the latter is attained through strong character built over time with moral commitments.

The “be-positive” stay requires patience. That wait can turn out to be negative too. Of course, we can’t be advised: “be negative.” But this advisory relates to caution or apprehension about things we face or undertake.

A positive or negative attitude is subject to change as nothing is permanent in this world. Realities are a changing phenomenon. Their adjustments are a reality too.

And if the mindset is not exposed to the existing or developing realities, with our cemented views, we soon face a concrete dead end.

FIXED AND FLEXIBLE MINDSET

People, who are adamant with fixed mindset views of issues facing them personally or the society they live in, are trapped in their sealed intelligence. While the world out there is changing. Moreover, Political, religious, and social or cultural fanaticism are the results of mindset biases.

A fixed mindset tends to be wired, plugged in, and acts in default mode.

But in principle, mindset is not a settled term. Instead, it is flexible. It can be allowed as a growth mechanism in our cognitive senses. Pope Francis is one example of a changing mindset towards a more rational and contemporary approach towards issues facing the Roman Catholic Church.

Our set views based on beliefs or assumptions, self-introduced or by others, need to be reviewed for their acceptability and pragmatics. That way, mindset creates a powerful incentive based on rational factors in the changing real world.

 

.

 

TOGETHER:

In the company of two
An ambiance of
Warm serenity.

Joys and thrills
In its rains and shines,
Hikes and walks.

Afternoon coffee at McDonald,
And across the street
Sharing a bowl of congee.

Blissful, simple pleasures
In rapt passions of
Charms and cheers.

In this concert
Life is a celebration,
Together.

Promod & Rita
(In celebration of our anniversary)

Satnam Waheguru: Both A Prayer And Mantra

By Promod Puri

“Satnam Waheguru,” two simple words of profound spiritual significance.

A companion in solitude, Satnam Waheguru, where the universal truth of His wonders is accepted with utmost reverence. And that adoration becomes a prayer, Satnam Waheguru, Satnam Waheguru….

‘Sat’ stands for Truth, ‘Nam’ identifies that Truth.

‘Wahe’ is a feel of ‘wow’ moment, an exclamation of the divine Wonder.

Guru is interpreted here as the path that leads us from darkness to light. It is the journey towards truth and enlightenment.

Satnam Waheguru is a pragmatic or logical approach towards the understanding of God, rather than worshipping Him as a divine image.

Satnam Waheguru is meditative in its spirit installing harmony in our conscious mind.

For that reason, Satnam Waheguru is a repetitive mantra that flows well with our inhaling and exhaling breathing. Here the mantra breaks down into four steps: Sat-Nam-Wahe-Guru; repeat: Sat-Nam-Wahe-Guru….

There is no healing, a therapeutic or miracle value in the Satnam Waheguru mantra, but it does initiate a conscientious mind of spiritual significance.

Satnam Waheguru, in all its elements, is a mantra, a prayer, and a divine companion in solitary moments.

INDIA TODAY

While the Lathi-raj, enforced by the police and goons, is in full swing, the BJP bhagats are kept ignorant and brainwashed that everything is normal, India is progressing, and going to the moon.
For most of the Hindu population, especially in urban middle or upper-middle-class, there is insensitivity towards the seriousness of the new anti-minority Citizenship Act, that deprives the citizenship to “undocumented citizens.” Their consciousness can’t hear the nationwide protests against the discriminatory law. They are not sitting on the fence. Instead, they have boxed themselves in fear and apathy.
That is the sorry state of India today.
-By Promod Puri

Radical Changes In India’s Secularism Thru New Citizenship Act


Protests have engulfed Assam since the National Register of Citizens was published in August 2019. They have intensified since the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by the parliament. Central security forces, pictured here, have been sent in to repress the spontaneous protests by different citizens groups. (Arunabh Saikia),

Author provided Sara Shneiderman, University of British Columbia and Sahana Ghosh, Brown University

Nearly two million residents of India’s eastern state of Assam are at risk of losing citizenship. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) published by the state government in August 2019 declares people who cannot prove they came to the state before March 1971, the day before neighbouring Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan, to be foreigners.

According to Fernand de Varennes, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, this is potentially “the biggest exercise in statelessness since the Second World War.” Those excluded are primarily poor and marginalized people who can not adequately prove their citizenship.

As the 120 days granted to appeal for those excluded from the National Register of Citizens in Assam comes to an end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have announced they will implement the NRC across the country. This catastrophic move is part of a broader state project to unravel the secular, inclusive basis of citizenship in India by targeting the country’s Muslim minority and other marginalized communities.

Included in their plan is the unilateral repeal of Kashmir’s constitutional self-determination in August 2019, and the Citizenship Amendment Act passed in December 2019, which omits Muslim migrants from obtaining naturalized citizenship.

Seeking out “illegal migrants” — which in India has become synonymous with “Bangladeshi Muslim” — the National Register of Citizens has torn apart families as some members find themselves excluded from the list. Reports indicate a gendered dimension to this exclusion, with women suffering most from this bureaucratic violence and in detention.

Militarized borders

When Dulal Paul, a man in a detention camp in Tezpur, Assam, died in October 2019, his kin in India refused to accept his body. Since Indian authorities had, they said, declared Paul to be a “foreigner” and “a Bangladeshi,” Paul’s family asked them to send his body to Bangladesh. They forced the authorities to acknowledge the fatal inconsistencies within their own system. Bangladesh, meanwhile, insists that it has no citizens living illegally in India.

Many excluded from the NRC have no claim to citizenship elsewhere. Our research shows that South Asia’s historically flexible borders mean that many who have lived their entire lives in India may not have the full complement of documentary evidence to prove it. The practice of recording births and marriages is relatively recent, and even those who have documents have been excluded because of minor inconsistencies in the spelling of names or dates of birth. Regardless of documentary proof, those people had no reason to think they would ever be required to produce evidence. They had established livelihoods and relationships in their Indian communities — and there was nowhere else they could call home.

Migration and the question of who belongs has been central to Assam’s politics since the very inception of postcolonial India’s citizenship acts. Militarized borders have become a focal point to unify and stoke disparate anxieties around minorities and majoritarian identity, just as they have with Brexit in the United Kingdom and the detention and separation of families at the United States-Mexico border.

The rise of Hindutva nationalism

The Assam Agitation of 1979-85 demanded the detection and deportation of all “foreigners” regardless of religion or ethnicity. The regional political history of Assam has dovetailed uneasily with the rise of Hindutva nationalism. Their leaders have pledged to detect and deport Muslim “illegal immigrants.”

The religious basis of the NRC becomes explicit with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) just approved by the parliament. That law ensures that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis or Jains facing persecution in neighbouring countries will be eligible for citizenship in India and not treated as illegal migrants while Muslims will be excluded. This imminent constitutional change is a radical transformation of the secular principles of citizenship in India.

Political theorists have rightly suggested that the NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Act must be considered together to grasp the ramifications for India’s secular democracy. The ongoing siege in Kashmir is also a critical part of this equation.

States today deploy techniques of both forced inclusion (for example, the so-called “re-education centres” for Uighur Muslims in China) and forced exclusion (the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement deportation of undocumented immigrants, and EU processing centres in Turkey and Africa to keep migrants from reaching Europe) to address majoritarian demands around the perceived problems of mobility and difference. Both strategies are on show simultaneously in India.

Also, in August 2019, the Indian government unilaterally repealed constitutional provisions for autonomy in the state of Jammu and Kashmir — India’s only Muslim-majority state — amid a military siege and complete communication shutdown and curfew, much of which continues to date. Kashmiris have been forcibly included in the Indian polity through a downgrading of their self-governing federal state to a centrally governed Union Territory.

In contrast to Assam, where people are forcibly excluded when they cannot meet the high bar for verifiable documents that demonstrate their residence in the region before 1971, this forcible integration is in complete denial of Kashmiri demands for azadi, freedom.

Both actions reveal an Indian state intent on weaponizing the bureaucratic logic of citizenship as a strategy for securing its borders. The nation has been working to radically reshape its secular polity along Hindu nationalist lines by expelling or repressing Muslim minorities. Dissent against the CAA and the attack on secularism is being violently quelled by the government, particularly on university campuses across the country, including in Delhi.

Protesting against human rights violations in all of these locations — both already perpetrated and yet to come — is critical. But effective long-term political action, within India and elsewhere, must address shared structural concerns in Assam and Kashmir where profoundly exclusionary forms of Hindu nationalism seek to strip certain kinds of people of demographic and political power.

Those committed to justice and fighting fascism must recognize and reject the linked logics of weaponized citizenship in Kashmir and Assam. Experiences there are neither isolated nor exceptional; instead, these margins have long been subjected to the violent repression that has moved to India’s centres today.

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A HAPPY AND PEACEFUL 2020

In the spirit of exchanging New Year greetings, we wish peace and happiness for all humanity.

Human beings, animals, plants, mountains, rivers, seas and everything visible and non-visible in this shared universe are all inter-connected and inter-dependent to each other. We seek peace and peaceful existence for all.

Peace in all the cosmic environments influences peace in humankind as well.

SHANTI (PEACE) MANTRA

Aum dyauh shantirantariksam,

shanti prthivi, shantirapah,

shantirosadhayah, shanti vanaspatayah,

shantirvisvedevah, shantirbrahma,

shantisarvam, shantireva, shant sama, shantiredhi

AUM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTI.

Following is a translated version of the peace mantra:

“May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere.

May peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees, and creepers.

May peace flow over the whole universe.

May peace be in the Supreme Being Brahman.

And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone.

Aum peace, peace and peace to us and all beings!”

(Translation by Swami Abhedananda, Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, India).

(From the book Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions)

My 2020 Vision:

A peaceful world

No poverty

Respect for human rights

Welcome refugees.

-Promod Puri

Besides Vancouver’s Alluring Image It’s Also A City of Homelessness

By Promod Puri

“Canada is the best country in the world.” Alongside Vancouver prides itself with 1st, 2nd, or 3rd standing as the “most liveable place.” But underneath all these rewarding certifications, there are visible sites that take away some appeal from Vancouver’s alluring image.

The fast-developing metro, with its massive and lavish highrises, is also the home of homeless people. They mostly dwell under the very shadow of its thriving and affluent downtown core.

According to the latest figures, over 2200 people have been counted who don’t have shelter to live and sleep. The situation is more pathetic and deplorable in the harsh cold and rainy months of Vancouver.

Out of these numbers, as per the recent survey by the City, 23 percent are women and teenage girls. The same is the percentage of people who are 55 years of age or older.

The homelessness problem can be realized in the context of Vancouver’s chronic rental housing shortage. Poverty and homelessness go together. With small income or very low-income, affordable housing is just impossible to find.

Sidewalks, parks, and back alleys are the shelters places. Another accessible site for these destitute people in the front entrances of stores the moment their shutters are down at night. Cardboards are often the material for their makeshift dwellings. A few lucky ones carry tents.

Poor health with weather-related ailments is the result when these indigent souls are down with flu and pneumonia, etc. Then there is a mental issue as well.

Poverty and homelessness are the afflictions that go along with Vancouver’s worldwide reputation as the “most liveable city.” But not for these poor folks.

Political Anarchism Brewing In India

When political opposition becomes ineffective, or it is almost non-existence, political anarchism takes place led by leaderless young revolutionaries against the governing party and its leadership.

This is precisely the situation in India where the Congress Party and other major opposition groups, including the Left fronts, are hardly visible on the street to oppose the anti-Muslim acts in the government’s new citizenship amendments.

India has exploded in recent weeks with violent protests by the students from every major university in the country. They’re demonstrating against the discriminatory rejection of Muslim migrants, while fast-tracking permanent residency for non-Muslim refugees from the neighboring countries.

The students’ demonstrations and outcries have been met by police firing and brutality. The war game has started. “People’s Power” seems to be emerging in an anarchist spread by the students’ solidarity.

-By Promod Puri

India’s New Citizenship Act Discriminatory Towards Muslims

by Promod Puri

There have been some severe and quick fundamental transformations taking place in India to reweave the social and secular fabric of the nation.

In this operation, the country’s citizenship act has been stoked to allow only non-Muslims, migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan for permanent residency.

This is where the problem erupted and escalating to angry protests all over the country and triggering strong condemnation across the globe.

The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in both houses of Parliament early this month. In the majority ruled Bhartiya Janata Party coalition, prime minister Narendra Modi’s trusted lieutenant Home Minister Amit Shah delivered the controversial changes.

The changes are clearly discriminatory both in its spirit and practice. It lays the path for non-secular India to make Muslims feel outcaste. They can’t be part of saffron India conceived in the Hindutva frame.

“If Hindus in Pakistan want to move to India, why not Muslim in India go to Pakistan,” was one anti-Muslim post I recently noticed on the social media.

That is the mood the BJP and its ‘Parivar’ are catering to meet their longstanding agenda of a theocratic and monolithic “Hindu Rashtra.”

The very notion of such a state violates the fundamentals of the Indian constitution as a secular nation in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. India, unlike Pakistan, was not envisioned as a purely Hindu state at the time of the partition in 1947. The commitment to the secular character of the nation was authored and signed by its first law minister, Dr. Ambedkar.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, along with another BJP government trap, the National Register of Citizens, sends out a clear message that Muslims are being segregated to be second-class citizens in a country where ethnic and religious equality is enshrined in its constitution.

India is the home of the third-largest population (10.9 %) of Muslims in the world after Indonesia (12.7 %) and Pakistan (11.0 %).

The idiotic argument of “go to Pakistan” is racist, anti-national, and anti-constitutional. This is the same constitution upon which the BJP lawmakers and their partners offered their pledge to uphold its fundamentals of secularism.

 

Getting Rid of Clogging Identities

By Promod Puri

Nationality, caste, color, creed, ritual-based religion: do we still have to wear these badges? When these identities become obsolete, dead, and gone?

Nations across the globe have become or becoming cosmopolitan in both the physical and virtual worlds.

Political boundaries are only relevant to the administrative and bureaucratic functioning of governments. But not for propping up nationalism and its related precept of patriotism.

In a universal temperament, caste, color, creed, and ritual-based religion are irrelevant. Instead these antiquated social and faith-based divisions clog the advance of peace and harmony in our lives.

WHO KNOWS!

I’ve heard, you’ve heard:

“Humans beings are the most
Intelligent and favorite
Creation of God.”

Birds, cats, dogs, donkeys…..
Probably think equal as well.

Trees, plants, and flowers
Likely hold the same pride too.

Who knows!

He Knows
May be maybe not.

Who knows!

-by Promod Puri

 

CONDEMNING THE SILENCE

Those in India and of Indian origin abroad, who are aware of the present tense situation in the country because of several controversial issues, are silent for being the supporters of  Modi regime, I can understand their muteness. But those, who are critical and are silent about the present state of affairs the nation is passing thru, must be condemned.

“Society is not devasted by the misdeeds of badmen, but by the silence of the so-called good people.”- Mahesh Bhatt, writer and film producer

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

-by Promod Puri

BITTERNESS IS HEALTHY

It may sound sweet that our fruits and vegetables are getting sweeter.

While the bitterness in some of the known bitter fruits and vegetables is becoming far less or almost non-existent. Examples are grapefruit, brussels sprouts and bitter-melon (karela).

The natural chemicals involved in creating bitterness are called phytonutrients that are responsible for imparting health benefits in fruits and vegetables. Reducing or eliminating their presence enhances the sweetness of fruits and vegetables.

The de-bittering experimentation and processes are being carried out to make fruits and vegetables as “kids friendly” or to appease our sweet tooth.

But nutritionists say that is unhealthy development steered by the food industry.

Bitterness in fruits and vegetables is part of a healthy and balanced diet. Bitter fruits, vegetables, and herbs are full of compounds that stimulate digestion, increase nutrient absorption, aid in detoxification and boost metabolism and immune system.

By Promod Puri

Understanding Satsang And Its Virtues

By Promod Puri

In Hindu and Sikh religious activities, Satsang is a popular religious tradition.

It is group participation that involves listening or reading of scriptures, discussion on spiritual and theological topics, and singing of hymns. Some activities also include brief sessions of meditation.

Satsang can be a daily, weekly, or monthly get together. It usually lasts for an hour or two. With divine feelings and sentiments, Satsang ends as a social meeting along with light refreshments.

Satsang is derived from the Sanskrit word “satsanga.” By splitting the name into “sat” and “sanga,” its actual meaning is revealed as ‘true’ and ‘association,’ respectively.

It is an association of like-minded people seeking as well as creating an environment of spirituality with or without any guiding or an enlightened individual.

Questions and answers often become part of the entire Satsang session. And whatever the heat is produced during the dialogue and discussion period on religious topics, it abates by the soothing music and group singing by the participants. This part is also referred to as Kirtan.

Satsang creates pure religious consciousness.

Can we have Satsang within ourselves without the company of others and create the same spiritual ambiance and realization as in a group setting?

The answer can be “yes.”

Satsang basically means being in the company of truth. The “sat” and “sang” reside in the nobility and divinity of our thoughts and our karmas based on them.

It is a disciplined and conscientious activity creating an ongoing Satsang.

Although we miss some of the most visible features of group Satsang, self-Satsang has its own virtues with its harmonic overtones and contentment.

 

Kudos to Gambia Seeking Justice For Myanmar Muslims

By Promod Puri

Hats off to the Republic of The Gambia, one of the world’s smallest countries in West Africa, who launched proceedings against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the latter’s crimes and genocide of its Muslim population.

Most influential nations in the world who champion the cause of human rights, including Canada, have never thought of going to the ICJ to seek justice for the Myanmar Muslims. The Gambia government must be applauded for this initiative.

The Gambia brought the case against the Myanmar government led by Noble Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. She is defending her country before the International Court in The Hague, where three-day proceedings began December 10.

The Gambia is asking the court to order Myanmar to bar ongoing atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims, averting further irreparable harm.

The case focuses on the clearance operations carried out since October 2016 by Myanmar’s military rulers against the Rohingya Muslims. It is a distinct ethnic and religious community group that resides primarily in the Rakhine state.

These operations amounted to a genocidal campaign of violence that included mass murder, forcible displacement, rape, and other forms of sexual abuse. UN investigators say as many as 10,000 Rohingya – a Muslim minority in this Buddhist-majority nation – were killed. Over 742,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since 2017, joining 300,000 Rohingya who had previously fled oppression in Myanmar. They are living in dire conditions in the refugee camps.

In defending her government and the military junta, Peace Nobelist Aung San Suu Kyi told the court the case against Myanmar is “incomplete and incorrect.” And that it is an “internal armed conflict.”

Ms. Suu Kyi was once an international celebrity who was an icon for the cause of democracy. Now she is a de facto ruler of Myanmar serving her military bosses who kept her under house arrest for many years.

Ms. Suu Kyi was bestowed with honorary Canadian citizenship in October 2007 for being a champion of democracy for her nation. But considering her total denial of military violence against the Rohingya Muslims, she was stripped of her honorary Canadian citizenship in October 2018.

 

Nationalism & Patriotism Are Threats To Global Peace And environment

By Promod Puri

I have been an anti-national ever since I understood the nature of its allegiance to the country one belongs to. At the same time, I am not a patriot either with its blurred image as it is often a consequence of nationalism.

Patriotism and nationalism have obscure borderline between them. It is a “problematic pair” to find independent definitions to isolate each concept. Both the words are synonyms to each other according to their dictionary explanations. Still, certain attempts have been made to detach the two.

Nationalism arises from the word nation. As such it seeks love, devotion, pride and unconditional loyalty for it. This commitment must be confined within a nation’s borders. It is an outright, and avid engagement with the country one resides in.

Nationalism also seeks pride in the nation’s identities contained in monolithic societies.

One religion, one language, and one culture dominate the monolithic societies. Together these are showcased to represent the overall nationalistic character of the nation. The politics of the country are espoused and steered around the sensitivities linked with these aspects.

However, in the universality of contemporary society, nationalism has a confined perspective. It denies or ignores the fast-emerging reality of multicultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious expressions of nations. In the nationalism of the majority, minorities’ share is limited or unimportant.

As technology, internet, and social media are the current factors cementing the multi-facet character of the world’s societies, the sentiment of nationalism is not much of an appeal.

Moreover, nationalism thins out when people migrate due to political, economic and other reasons or as refugees. It is often a dilemma for immigrants to settle in host countries to pick one national loyalty and reject the other.

Nationalism has lost its impact because no single identities are monopolizing cosmopolitan populations. But it is used as a political tool to arouse the religious, cultural and linguistic sentiments of the majority community.

Nationalism leads to the political exploitation of the dominating community apprehensive of being overwhelmed by the population mix of multiple and distinctive identities.

Xenophobia is thus forged thru the nationalistic politics.

Governments are elected in a manufactured atmosphere of fear and hatred for minorities, foreigners, and refugees. Enemies are concocted within a nation where bigotry, racism, and injustice are encouraged and played for political sovereignty.

Albert Einstein said: “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

Nationalism finds accomplice in patriotism for political gains and opportunism. In this behavior, patriotism becomes a victim of nationalism.

Patriotism is derived from the word patriot. Its character is better understood in valor, bravery, sacrifice, duty and devotion toward the nation and its citizens.

The purity of patriotism lies in the concerns and care of the nation’s people, devoting and even sacrificing for their protection and peace irrespective of their class, caste, religious or cultural affiliations. It encourages pride in the achievements of the nation while seeking a critical analysis of its failures which even involves governing leadership.

A changing behavior has been observed toward the concept of patriotism among school kids in the United States recently. According to a study by Professor Jane Lo of Florida State University, “students opt out of the ritual of saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.”

Further according to the professor, “a public opinion poll conducted by the Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness suggests that young people see the flag, less as a symbol to be proud of and more as a symbol of what is wrong with the country. If more students are associating the flag with flaws in the system, it would explain why some students opt out of standing for the pledge of allegiance or other celebratory acts.”

Patriotism, nevertheless, is an evocation to support and shield the parochial aspect of nationalism. As it keeps subtle binding with nationalism, military patriotism is manifested.

But military patriotism induces an ever-escalating global war budget in the name of “defense.”

As patriotism is a major motivating factor, armed forces are raised and maintained with the spending of billions and trillions of dollars for the “defense.”

The question is: defense from whom?

Countries are not being invaded by other countries anymore. That era, which dominated the histories of humanity, ended with the Second World War 73 years ago.

The thirst of the political Left and Right ideologies for political dominance and expansionism are not the factors either. That period was over with the end of the Cold War between the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc in the late last century.

What is aimed now is the business or corporate expansionism. The reason being an ever-increasing appetite of capitalism which significantly impacts both the democratic and communist political systems. Business-political nexus is thus created.

In this expansionist development over the last several decades, borders for battleground are not needed. But the war industry’s clout keeps the borders hostile. Aggressive patriotism, infused with nationalism, is set up across the borderlines.

From that perspective, military patriotism is a deadly commitment.

The eighteenth-century French philosopher Voltaire said, “It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.”

We can admit that patriotism has been a motivating factor in the service of humanity. Both nationalism and patriotism have historical contributions toward pride, unity, independence, and sovereignty of a nation.

But the world has changed comprising of varied demographic characters. Nationalism and patriotism are now divisive concepts within a nation’s borders. Most fights and conflicts worldwide are happening within a country, not between nations.

When nationalism stirrups patriotism, the latter develops into a chauvinistic tool of power politics.

Both nationalism and patriotism relate only to the confines of the nation’s border, while the world thru technology, mass communication, and social media is fast emerging a cosmopolitan mix of one world- community.

“Our true nationality is mankind,” H.G. Wells

As such, our concerns and issues are now at the global level of wellness of all humanity. This empathetic awareness creates respect and understanding among peoples of the world irrespective of class, caste, religious or societal differences.

In this concern, our environments, which have no space in the nationalistic and patriotic jingoism, are also equal partners seeking their attention and protection.

As we are fast developing into a multi-facet global community, what we need is humanitarianism and environmentalism without the caging borders of nationalism, and the obscurity of patriotism.

-30-

Promod Puri is a Vancouver-based writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com

 

Politics Of Left And Right Are Not The Solutions To Tackle Rape Problem

The four suspects in the Hyderabad rape case have been killed by the police. Most people, including the parents of the victim, applaud the police action. Justice has been delivered, and the case closed.

But in the mindset of Left and Right ideological thinking, binaries are being created about the role of police in killing the alleged suspects.

Were the police right in their killings, or they were wrong? Political Left, with its intellectual leaning, believes it was wrong, and let the system take over to deliver its judgment.

The political Right cheers the police action that justice is not delayed as far as the victim’s family is concerned.

In India’s case, I would accept this kind of quick “street justice,” where the judicial system and the bureaucracy run on its own stagnant pace. Otherwise, the victims and the families suffer and go thru torturous times. For example, it is the case of a rape victim in UP who was severely burnt and dies just a few days ago while on her way to the court to expect some justice.

Justice in the country is beyond the proverbial case of “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Here it is seldom delivered in the rape and violence cases against women. And if it is given, it is rarely executed. The accused people, who were sentenced to death in the 2012 Joyti Singh rape and murder in Delhi still go unpunished. And the heinous case of minor Asifa Banu, the culprit, a Hindu temple priest, it is totally off the radar.

“Justice” by the police is not the right thing to do in a democratic setup. But if the judicial system fails, this is the way to see justice in India that gives solace to both the victims and the families.

However, that is not the way either where the police are corrupt and can’t be trusted. And so is the present judicious system. What to do?

Politicizing the rape issue with Left and Right ideological commitments often emerge. In this political mix-up, headlines make the scene. Speeches and statements drum up. Anger, frustrations, and emotions ventilated. Slogans are raised, “hang them, shoot them.” Protests are organized, candles are lit. Articles are written, and poetry composed. Social media is flooded with outrage. And a lot more expressed, discussed, and debated.

Meaningful but helpless expressions become just rituals. Continue for a few days, remains dormant, and then come back when another news of national shame breaks out. The cycle is renewed and rerun.

In its response, can the nation go beyond this emotional and enraged cry with political overtones of the Left and the Right mindset thinking?

The ideological politics is not the solution to tackle pressing social issues of rape and violence against India’s women, but let science, professionalism, and realities take over.

Who are rapists? Medical and psychological investigations can reveal the symptoms of behavior disorder of sex offenders. It is an escalating disease.

The seriousness of the disease and its spread must be of utmost concern for the nation’s medical community, especially in the faculty of psychology and related faculties, along with social scientists to deliberate on all aspects of the rape issues.

After all, it is not only the women who are raped, but in the developing rape culture, the entire nation is the victim too.

-By Promod Puri

 

 

Applaud Or Condemn The “Police Justice” In India?

The four suspects in the Hyderabad rape case have been killed by the police. Most people, including the parents of the victim, applaud the police action. Justice delivered. Quick, the case closed.

In the Indian context, I would accept this kind of quick “street justice”, where otherwise the judicious system and the bureaucracy run with its stagnant pace while the victims and the families suffer and go thru torturous times. The case in point is the severe burning of a rape victim in U.P. a few days ago while going to the court to seek justice.

Justice in the country is beyond the proverbial statement of “Justice delayed is justice denied”. Here it is seldom delivered in the rape and violence incidents against women. And if it is delivered, it is rarely executed. The accused people, who were sentenced to death in the 2012 Joyti Singh rape and murder in Delhi still go unpunished.

“Justice” by the police is not the right thing to do in a democratic setup, but if the system fails, this is the way to see justice in India which gives solace to both the victims and the families.

But that is not the way either where the police are corrupt and can’t be trusted. And so is the present judicious system. What to do?

-Promod Puri

Tackling Rape Problem By Going Beyond Candle-lit Vigils and Protests

By Promod Puri

It’s a disgraceful societal evil that has not begun targeting in any realistic and practical way how to kill the rapist beast that lurks everywhere in India, ready to pounce on the female at any given opportunity!

Priyanka Reddy, Asifa Banu, Jyoti Singh, and hundreds perhaps thousands more became victims or going to be next: now, today or tomorrow.

Headlines make the scene. Speeches and statements drum up. Anger, frustrations, and emotions ventilated. Slogans are raised, “hang them, shoot them.” Protests are organized, candles are lit. Articles are written, rewritten, poetry composed. Social media is flooded with outrage. And a lot more expressed, discussed, and debated.

Meaningful but helpless expressions become just rituals. Continue for a few days, remains dormant, and then come back when another news of national shame breaks out. The cycle is renewed and rerun.

In its response, can the nation go beyond this emotional and enraged cry?

The hungry sex devils don’t care and are immune to all the public outbursts. During the barbaric moments, the evil lust dominates and erases any civility, morals, or even the laws against the vulturous acts of violence and rape. There is no fear and shame for them in society or their own families.

That is the reality which transfers a man, a teenager from being a human to a beast.

They are diseased with a behavior disorder. The syndrome erupts with an uncontrolled desire to grapple the victim, molest, and burnt alive. In those horrifying moments, the unconstrained sensual appetite supersedes the society’s protests and the legal punishments, including hanging. Their mental faculties are deranged. The aftermath consequences do not matter.

The civil society’s sentiments and strict legal statues do have impact and solace for the victims and their families. But this is a disease that can’t be controlled by candles, protests, poetry, prose, and punishments.

Who are rapists? Medical and psychological investigations can reveal the symptoms of the disease to determine the profile of a rapist.

The seriousness of the disease and its escalating spread must be of utmost concern for the nation’s medical community, especially in the faculty of psychology and related faculties, along with social scientists to deliberate on all aspects of the rape issues.

After all, it is not only the women who are raped but in the developing rape culture, the entire nation is a victim too.

(Promod Puri is a writer, journalist and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs. And Traditions.)

Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com

 

My Curiosity For Banana Hanger And Other Interesting X-mas Gift Items

By Promod Puri

Ever since it was first introduced in the kitchen accessories section of departmental stores I am still debating to buy it or not. Over the last 15 years or more, when the object of my curiosity was first displayed as an innovative and somewhat bizarre item, it has been a challenge to my buying impulse.

During this X-Mas season of all the popular and useful gifts items, Banana Hanger is at the bottom of my list. And it has been sitting there ever since its first appearance.

I can buy a ‘banana guard’ to protect it from spoilage or an apple peeler, but banana hanger still has to hang on until I am convinced of its merit(s). I use a shirt hanger, pant hanger and even I can think of buying a tie hanger, but for banana hanger ‘not yet’.

I remember once getting a banana hanger as a gift perhaps during the holiday season or on my birthday. The dilemma was what to do with that, to use it or to pass on to somebody else. Rejecting both, I thought of leaving it out in our back alley for street collectors. But the idea was outwardly rejected too. The reason was simple these people love to have bananas, not the banana hanger.

The poor gift item finally landed at the Salvation Army thrift store.

I do admire the craftsmanship involved in its design and its usability to hang a bunch of bananas ( not overly ripe ones ). With its sleekness and curves, it does have an aesthetic value and adorn dining table. But my only apprehension is that what I am going to do with this gizmo when I am left with a single banana. I can’t hang the lonely one on it. Moreover, unlike monkeys my appetite for bananas is limited.

Despite my aversion to banana hangers, the fact is that these are still being sold and people are buying them for their own use or as a gift item. The smart invention, great marketing!

While the BH is on my waitlist, I certainly would not buy some “useless products” which sprout up abundantly during the Christmas Season. These include ear dryer, shoes with tiny umbrellas at toes, hat with false hair, lighted slippers, bacon floss, egg cuber, underpants for hands, and much more.

And the latest entry in the bizarre category is the “popcorn helmet”. It is a headpiece that feeds popcorn directly into the wearer’s mouth, or landing close to it. The device is most useful in a theatre as it saves hands from being oily and salty.

Happy Holidays.

promodpuri.com

 

Universal Appeal of Guru Nanak’s Aarti

By Promod PuriGuru-Nanak-Dev-Ji-230x300

When Guru Nanak Dev, in his myriad spiritual experiences, saw the frame of cosmos beauty, he expressed his gratitude to the Almighty in creating such a splendor.

The lines he wrote at that moment were his reverent commendation of Nature’s arrangements in the universality of its presentation. His few words of appreciation and gratitude were his Aarti, devotional poetry of enlightenment describing His luminous lila.

Guru Nanak captured the scene, a pageant of nature’s elements together in sync performing the Aarti in a heavenly concert.

Aarti is derived from the Sanskrit word “aratika,” where it denotes clearance of ‘ratika’ or ‘ratri,’ meaning darkness.

Guru Nanak’s offers his Aarti in the following verse:

“Gagan Mai Thaal Rav Chand Deepak Baney, Tarika Mandal Janak Moti,

Meaning: Upon that cosmic plate of the sky, the sun and the moon are the lamps; the stars and the constellations are the pearls and jewels.

Dhoop Malyanlo Pavan Chavro Kare
Sagal Banraye Phulant Jyoti,

Meaning: The fragrance of sandalwood in the air is the temple incense, and the wind is the fan. All the flora of the earth is the altar flowers in offering to You.

Kaisi Aarti Hoye Bhavkhandna Teri Aarti
Anhata Shabad Vaajant Bheri”

Meaning: Oh, God, the destroyer of fear, what a wonderful feeling it is in offering this beautiful Aarti! A lamp-lit worship service this is! The celestial vibrations are like the sound of temple drums.

Note: The original Aarti of Guru Nanak Dev has a few more additions to it by saints Bhagat Ravi Dass, Sant Sain, Sant Kabir, and Bhagat Dhanna. And then there is the final contribution to the Aarti from Guru Gobind Singh.

Nanak’s Aarti has universal appeal as to how we all share Nature’s continuous ceremony of lights, the shines of Sun and the Moon, the twinkling of stars, the fragrance of plants and flowers around us.

It is with these sentiments that Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore suggested that Guru Nanak’s Aarti should be declared as an international anthem for all humanity.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com)

———

 

.

She Was Not “Supposed” To Enter Kitchen

By Promod Puri

I don’t know if she belongs to the class of housemaid, aka “bai”. If so, then her status could be upgraded in India’s class and caste society.

She had a regular assignment at our home around 11 every morning and finishing her limited but reserved task in 15 to 20 minutes. It was the most needed part of daily cleaning.

She was a Christian Punjabi-speaking girl in her teen years. Most kids in her age group were in schools at that time studying and playing. But here she was punctual in her daily routine seven days a week.

Besides our house, she was duty-bound attending a few other households in the neighborhood.

I remember when coming to our place she was often provided “breakfast”, which most of the time was some leftover food. She had a designated cup and a plate set aside for her exclusive use.

Her monthly income if I remember correctly, was about 50 rupees back in the early ‘60s. And she often asked for raise. Her requests were quite legitimate when comparing the nature of her work with maids doing household chores including washing dirty dishes.

As her work was considered “contaminated” she was not supposed to enter the kitchen or other rooms as a maid helper.

By nature, she usually was a quiet person with innocent lively expressions. But there occasionally were some disquiet and afflicted rebellious moods as well.

She was from the class of people from the lowest ring of the Indian caste system who converted themselves as Christians from the Hindu faith. Their “Basti” or settlement constituted a segregated community which was a few miles away from our neighborhood.

The place was called Bhangi Colony. And she belonged to the Bhangi caste. Her professional title was “Bhangan” doing the dirty occupation of “manual scavenging”. According to Wikipedia “manual scavenging is a caste-based occupation involving the removal of human excreta from bucket toilets or pit latrines.

A few years back the profession by law was declared illegal.

However, the rebellion she felt in her teen years is still there among the people of her clan or community against the dehumanizing practices rooted in the social customs of India.

I don’t know if our “Bhangan” is still around. But the profession she was involved in continues. And her upgrading for equality is still pending in India’s degrading social behavior which often defies the laws.

(This article carries some fiction. It was written a few years ago. It is republished to mark World Toilet Day on November 19,2019. Please read a very touching and thoughtful article by the BBC about the plight of sanitation workers in India. https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-50406148)

PERILS OF DEMOCRACY

In democratic-elect governments like India, Turkey, 

download (6)the Philippines, and several African, Central, and South American nations, there is an emerging wave of fascism and despotism. Liberalism, meaning individual and minority rights, are fading in these countries led by demagogues invoking the sentiments of nationalism and patriotism.

Greek philosopher Plato in 380 B.C., predicted the peril of democracy that can lead to the rule of tyrants supported by the majority population.

-By Promod Puri

Don Cherry’s Colorful Costumes Have Stains Of Racism Too

By Promod Puri
This Cherry never blossomed to the changing realities of diverse and culturally rich Canadian society.

Don Cherry’s colorful (in costume only) long career as hockey commentator ended abruptly with a blot on his iconic stature. At the fag end of his life, after more than three decades on the air, his stylish apparel also got stains of racist rants against Quebecers, indigenous and the rest “you people.”

From his little domain of “Coach’s Corner” on the Sportsnet, Mr. Cherry delivered his last diatribe November 9, zeroing in on immigrants, new and old, who don’t wear poppies to mark the Remembrance Day.

The controversial remarks on the sports network clipped his job. He said, “Now you go to the small cities, and you know, the rows and rows … you people love … they come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

The divisive wordings of “you” and “our” is a type of racist thinking prioritizing the superiority of one group of people as more Canadian than the rest. It endorses the stereotype that immigrants are apathetic to the significance of Remembrance Day.
Wearing a poppy is not a certification to Canadian patriotism. The solidarity to Canada is not a one-day visible affair on Remembrance Day, but an on-going contribution of all us born in Canada or anywhere else.

No matter how much iconic Don Cherry might be in the realm of hockey, but his remarks certainly show a lack of historical facts that there were thousands of troops from the entire British Empire who fought along with Canadian soldiers in both the First and Second World Wars.

WHAT NEXT AFTER BABRI MASJID-RAM JANMABHOOMI VERDICT

via WHAT NEXT AFTER BABRI MASJID-RAM JANMABHOOMI VERDICT

What Next After Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi Verdict

Neither Hinduism is enriched, nor Islam is poor with the Supreme Court verdict over Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case.
Though the fundamentals of religions are often buried in the foundations of temples and mosques, in their spirituality, none of them reside in the bricks and plaster monuments.
The 16the century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992, is now going to be grandeur Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ram, believed to be his birthplace. But the possession was with a heavy cost that saw one of the deadliest religious riots.
Well, a new temple is ok, but there is enough land to build a hospital there as well. Who knows one day in that very hospital, a Hindu patient would realize that the blood he received was from a Muslim donor? Or that a Muslim patient got a new heart from a dying Hindu patient.

By Promod Puri

Stairs Excercise Controls Blood Sugar And For Healthy Heart

(This is an update to the article written a few years ago)

By Promod Puri

The fun in life includes some simple recreational activities in our daily life. And the one I like the most is just a few steps away as part of my every day up-and-down commute.

These are the stairs leading up to our apartment. Over the years I have done this personal “Grouse Grind” hundreds of times. Although my experience with stairs is quite extensive, still I would not call myself a stair-master.

But as a veteran of the stairs, I have learned some techniques and some dos and don’ts of going up and down. These know-hows are not meant for practicing to hike Mt. Everest, but simply to enjoy the staircase walk as physical activity. Stairs make an excellent place to get a daily dose of cardio and some belly alignment. A simple stroll up and down the stairs gives a good aerobic workout.

According to a Mayo Clinic newsletter, stair climbing helps strengthen and tone our leg muscles. It keeps our leg arteries flexible, allowing blood to move more easily. “Better blood flow in your legs equals a healthier heart and body.”

It can also burn off calories — about 65 calories in 15 minutes. Going at a faster pace or carrying heavier items can burn even more calories, according to a Mayo newsletter.

Moreover, a three-minute up and down the stairs after a meal helps control blood sugar.

They say keep a balance in life. That is true for stairs too.

In this upscale workout keeping the body in balance is essential. Tripping and slipping often happen when the body wobbles due to imbalance. Balancing exercises are quite common in the gym. A popular one is trying to balance the body on a hemisphere shaped ball. At home, one can practice balance by standing on one foot or keeping one foot in front of the other for as long as possible. Balance requires concentration. Or to be more precise it is meditation in action to coordinate mind and body.

Now on to the stairs. A brief stretching of legs, keeping a uniform pace and raising each leg almost parallel to the upper body for each step, are some basics of the stair exercise. At a little advance stage, one can climb two steps at a time. Or do a little bit of descending acrobat of lifting the entire body by firmly holding railings on either side and then dropping both the feet on just one step down, definitely not two.

Another tip: While going up or down, heels or toes should not be hanging down rather whole foot be placed on each step. This gives full footing with more safety as well. A trivial act of misplacing a foot can be the cause of a serious fall. Looking down is not only a humble posture but a better choice to avoid a stair accident.

If safety is the main concern, and it should be, then the cardinal principle is the use of hand-railings all along the stairs. Railings are primarily meant to be a support system for a fall-free stair walk. Curves or bends, and sleekness of a staircase are the aesthetic elements that don’t promise safety.

It is often said when going up or down the stairs do nothing, no phone, no buttoning of the shirt, etc.

Keeping these safeguards in mind stairs does offer a simple, easy and free recreational activity.

“Demon King” Ravan Enjoys Respect And Honor Too

By Promod Puri

Ram and Ravan are the most known mythical rivals in the Hindu scriptural narratives.

Ram is addressed as Lord by his being an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, “the preserver” in the Trinity divination. The rest two are Brahma, “the Creator,” and Mahesh, “the Destroyer.”

Contrary to Ram, the status of Ravan is given as a “demon” king according to the Hindu holy book Ramayan.

A major part of the epic volume is devoted to fighting evil. Ram is the warrior, out to destroy Ravan, the “devil king.”

According to the narrated story, Ravan abducted Sita, the wife of Ram, in revenge that the latter, thru his brother Lakshman, mutilated the beautiful figure of Ravan’s sister, Shurpanakha.

The fight between Ram and Ravan over the abduction of Sita and her rescue has been plotted in such a dramatic way that connects with the overall mission of eliminating the “forces of evil” and bring back a regime of peace for the people in the kingdom of Lanka.

A tense spirited battle followed in rescuing Sita, who was not inflicted with abuse and harm while in custody of Ravan. Besides her recovery, the whole episode leads to its consequence that it was a war for righteousness against the forces of evil, respectively, represented by Ram and Ravan.

Customs and traditions followed from the epic’s anecdotes. And all that resulted in crystalizing the images of good and bad as portrayed in the Ramayan.

The symbolic burning of Ravan on the major Hindu festival of Dussehra, meaning 10 heads, in northern, central and western parts of India reflects the defeat and death of evil, and the ultimate triumph of good.

Nonetheless, when we explore the personality of Ravan in the maze of multiplex stories, we find him a man of multi-talents with great administrative skills. He was a scholar with complete knowledge of Shastras and the four Vedas. Ravan Samitha, a book on Hindu astrology, has been credited to Ravan as its author.

His wisdom and knowledge were so vast that the imaginative ten-head portrait, without biological explanation, is justified.

Ravan was a follower of Lord Shiva, and an accomplished maestro of a musical string instrument, Veena.

The personal character of Ravan is revealed when Sita passed the controversial “Agni pariksha” about her purity. The ritualistic fire-test was sought by Lord Ram that involved plunging into flames to know her chastity during the time spent under Ravan’s captivity.

With his treatment of Sita in his custody, Ravan proved to be a man of virtuous and moral character. Moreover, in the contemporary Hindu thought, there is no dispute about Ravan’s scholastic and theological credentials along with his divine reach.

But the conflict revolves around his ethnicity and caste identifications.

Was he an Aryan by race or belonging to the indigenous Dravidian people of India, called Adivasis? Was he a Brahmin, Kshatriya, or Shudra/Dalit by caste?

Ravan, the “devil king,” is revered and owned by a section of Hindus belonging to Brahmin caste, Dalits and Adivasis of South India. He is worshipped along with Lord Shiva in many Indian temples. In several parts of India, some Brahmin sub-caste claim to be descendants of him. The Gondi tribe in Central India are proudly committed to their ancestral lineage with Ravan.

In the southern states of India, especially in Tamil Nadu, Ravan is embraced with Dravidian roots.

His identity as a Dalit is turning into a very popular movement in Punjab, where the Valmiki clan is upfront seeking to ban burning of Ravan’s effigy on the Dussehra day.

A respectable online publication, The Citizen, in its September 23,2019 edition, carries an interesting article revealing that in the Dalit-dominated districts of Doaba and Ferozepur “it has become increasingly common for Dalit families to use the names of Ravan’s family and his mythological soldiers as surnames.”

Ravan Sena Bharat (Ravan’s Army India) president Lakhbir Lankesh told The Citizen, “We see the burning of these effigies on Dussehra as an insult to Mahatma Ravan. The Dalits and Dravidians have been painted black over the centuries. For us, there are only two categories of Arya and Anarya. After the Aryan invasion, the other was pushed to the margins.”

Similar dissent can be noticed across the country from North to South, and East to West, as well as among some Hindu diaspora abroad. There also seems to be a systematic misrepresentation of Ravan over the centuries.

The identity of Ravan in terms of tribal ethnicity and caste hierarchy is hard to confirm from the piles of complex and contradictory mythological stories. But both Indological and social anthropological research would help review the personality and mythical believability of Ravan.

Demonizing of Ravan is a sensitive issue given the emerging voices from a large section of the Hindu population, especially from the so-called Lower-caste communities in India and abroad.

Ravan can keep his role of being a villain opposite Ram, the hero, in the epic drama of Ramayan for a balance to the equation. But out of it, a festival like Dussehra is smoldering to the devout feelings of all those who venerate him both for his divine and scholastic attributes, as well as ethnic or caste-based ancestry.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions.)    

 

Hinduism is being steered toward Hindutva where its intellectuality can be corrupted.

Hinduism and Hindutva: https://wordpress.com/post/progressivehindudialogue.com/1366

Canada Can Resume Its Global Image With NDP-backed Liberal Minority Govt.

By Promod Puri

Irrespective of the party’s reduced numbers from 39 to 24, Jagmeet Singh’s led New Democratic Party is going to have more clout in the governing politics and policies of Canada.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won 157 seats compared to 177 in the 2015 election. Short of 170-mark, the ruling party needs NDP’s backing for its second term to rule as a minority government.

The 24-seat NDP win, in fact, has halted the surge of the Conservative Party that raised its strength from 95 to 121. Throughout the election campaign, the poll numbers gave the Tories some percentage point lead over the Liberals.

The loss of the Liberal seats did not result in the gain for the Tories. Come, Jagmeet Singh, the NDP did not let Canada’s political Right to takeover the loosely linked Left-of-the-centre and the Left political turf.

In the election juggernaut, the NDP leader led an impressive and clean campaign that earned him the distinction of as the most admirable and likable leader compared to Trudeau and Andrew Sheer of the right-wing Conservative Party. Jagmeeet Singh’s popularity was rated at 59 percent compared to around 30 percent each for Trudeau and Sheer.

In fact, the proud turbaned leader emerged as the real hero in the electoral fights throughout the campaigns, where besides campaigning, he was seeking acceptance of his ethnic identity as well.

An interesting interaction took place on October 2 when a fellow Canadian in Quebec asked New Democratic Leader to “cut off” his turban to look “like a Canadian.”
In a poised and cool manner, which is the image he has created for himself, Jagmeet Singh responded: “I think Canadians look like all sorts of people.”

The man tried another approach: “in Rome, you do as the Romans do.” A polite response from Mr. Singh: “But this is Canada, you can do whatever you like.”
In agreement, the man nodded, “I hope you win.”

Jagmeet Singh came to federal politics only in 2017, and it has been a challenging task to introduce himself in an outfit not much seen before. But he dared to do so without compromising with his Sikh identity. Even many among the Indo-Canadian community have been uneasy with his round style of “pagg.”

Ethnic identity representation is part of the Canadian mosaic. Jagmeet Singh contributes to this aspect of Canadian multiculturalism both in his personal and political life.

Besides being a symbol of Canada’s multiculturalism, Jagmeet Singh, as leader of the Left-leaning NDP, now has some control steering the direction Canada moves domestically and globally.

In the upcoming minority government, he and his party, in partnership with the Liberal Party, are expected to resume the progressive agenda that made Canada a global symbol in the worldwide struggle against the rise of authoritarianism, populism, and white nationalism.

The Trudeau government was marked by compassionate policies to welcome thousands of refugees in the last few years, increased immigration quotas, a record number of ethnic and women ministers in his cabinet, and emotional apologies for the serious wrongs past Canadian governments committed on indigenous peoples and visible minorities.

But lately, there has been a conspicuous erosion of his progressive platform that relates to environmental issues, human rights, and continuing sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, notorious for its human rights violations and crimes.

The Liberal-NDP combine will get Canada back to its liberal, humanist, and compassionate image in the world left with a few rules-based, progressive, and true democracies.

(Promod Puri is a writer, journalist, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com) 

 

Going To A Movie Theatre In The Turmoils of Jammu And Kashmir

 By Promod Puri

It was the early ‘50s, and I still remember going to the Hari Theatre in Jammu. There we were four or five us excited to see the Dilip Kumar starring blockbuster Aan.

The songs of the film still reverberate in my nostalgic moods. Dilip Kumar, teasing actress Nadira and rocking with “maan mera ehsan” number, was the scene I can vividly recall. In that early teenage stage, it was indeed a bundle of joy to occasionally go for a movie and blow about it the next day in the school.

Aan was a thriller where the hero (Dilip Kumar) dominated the screen, singing, romancing, and fighting the bad guy (Premnath). The story, the dialogues, and the rest of the details I don’t remember, but I do know it was a package of entertainment including the refreshments at the film interval break.

After reveling in uninterrupted three hours of enjoyment, we came out of the theatre in spirited feelings of joy.

But as we stepped on to the main bazaar on our way home, the scene was frightening and of complete silence. Shopkeepers downed the shutters, and we could not see the regular hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown area. There were the police all over the main bazaar. We were told not to walk there, and if we dared to do so, we could be arrested.

This was a curfew, a very strict one, suddenly ordered by the authorities without any previous warning.

Curfews were a common occurrence in Jammu in those days. It was due to the often-violent demonstrations by the regional political party called Praja Parishad.

Discrimination by the government, dominated by Kashmiri politicians, including its prime minister Bakshi Gulam Mahammad, was the main complaint of the Praja Parishad outfit. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has always been controlled by Kashmiri leaders since 1947 after the Dogra Raj. Whereas Kashmir has been seeking “Azadi” from India, Jammu is seeking “Azadi” from Kashmir.

The Praja Parishad was at the forefront seeking equal opportunities for the Jammu region. The party always had violent confrontations with the government. As a result, Jammu frequently remained under curfew orders.

It was one of those curfews which were part of regular scenes while growing up in the ever turmoil state of Jammu and Kashmir. But life went on as we ventured out to see the movie, Aan.

Despite the risks involved, we managed to reach our homes, playing hide and seek with the police forces. It was frightening, but an experience fresh in my mind till now.

How other moviegoers reached their homes, ended up being arrested, being shot, or just stayed on in the theatre hall to see the movie again, are the questions revealing the ever-tense situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
——

Jagmeet Singh Plugs Fortune Of Sheer As PM

Promod Puri
“We’re not going to support a Conservative government; we’re going to fight a Conservative government; we’re going to fight it all the way. We’re ready to do whatever it takes.”
With that straightforward and definitive statement, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh has plugged the fortune of Conservative Party leader becoming the next Prime Minister of Canada, given the neck-to-neck race with the Liberal Party.
As none of the two leading parties are expected to capture the magic number of 170 seats out of 338, Jagmeet Singh’s declared choice to support the Justin Trudeau led Liberal Party is the likely scenario post-election.
Will it be a coalition between the Liberal and the NDP? In that case, Jagmeet Singh or a few others from his party will hold ministerial portfolios. Even the NDP leader could become deputy prime minister, a historic chapter for the South Asian Canadian community.
Another alternative is a minority formation of the government when the NDP will lend the tactical support to various pieces of legislation. The moment that backing is withdrawn, the minority government collapses. Minority governments usually do not last very long because it is hard for the majority partner to keep the minority partner happy all the time. However, this arrangement is working fine so far in British Columbia where the Green Party is supporting the ruling provincial NDP.

“20-20-20” FORMULA FOR RELAXING EYES:

Computer screen and our eyes don’t see eye to eye with each other. But we can’t avoid their working relationship.
We know, prolong staring rather than looking at the screen is damaging to our eyes. Staring means reduced or no blinking of eyes, while looking involves frequent blinking. The ideal is 12 blinks per minute while on the computer.
Ophthalmologists suggest a “20-20-20” formula to avoid tired or dry eyes. That means taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes, and to look at something 20 feet in distance. This eye break allows both relaxation and plenty of blinks.

Promod Puri

NDP May Not Win Enough Seats To Support Minority Govt.

It is going to be a minority rule in Canada as neither the Liberal Party nor the Conservative Party is going to get the winning number of 170 seats as per all the poll indications.

Meanwhile, the trajectory of New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh in recent weeks as the most favorable leader by most of the polls and the media may not land him to the position of a kingmaker in the formation of the next government in Canada.

That crucial role now belongs to the Parti Quebecois with the projection of 31 seats compared to 24 by the NDP. The Liberal Party is expected to win more seats (143) than the Conservative Party (133).

These numbers are from ‘338 Canada Seat Projection’, a poll model “based on opinion polls, the electoral history of Canadian provinces and demographic data.” The model is the creation of P.J. Fournier, astronomy and physics professor at Cégep de Saint-Laurent in Montréal.

Promod Puri

Andrew Sheer A Leader Without Lifetime Experiences

Can a person get into politics straight after finishing school or college education? And sticks to that as a career. For most politicians, this is not the case. Before entering politics, they had careers in different vocations. This is called lifetime experiences in their professional fields. Moreover, this is of vital help in political pursuits with the background and maturity in public life.

But this has not been the case with Canada’s Progressive Conservative Party leader Andrew Sheer.

His first real job, aside from brief stints as a waiter, insurance broker, and political aide, was a 25-year-old Member of Parliament. In this political career, he moved on to become Speaker of the House at the age of 32.

To be an MP and then the Speaker at a very young age may be a matter of pride for Mr. Sheer. But when he lacks lifetime experiences in public life, the age maturity matters.

-Promod Puri

Let Us Pray For Nation First

via Let Us Pray For Nation First

ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE: I’M THE CAUSE, I’M THE CURE

By Promod Puri

I’m often bewildered if the flood of climate campaigns and protests worldwide is proceeding in the pertinent direction, hitting the key target causing the environmental damage.

In fact, that overlooked and evading target is me, along with most of us. Seriously!

I’m the one, despite being aware of the deteriorating environment, is contributing significantly to its global degeneration. Rather I’m the root cause. I’m the one who is creating demand for goods and services; cheap and in abundance.

But I blame big businesses, manufacturers, and industrialists in the capitalist community for their greed and irresponsible practices causing the escalating global catastrophe.

I’m the one shouting at the world leaders that they are not taking responsibility. I’m the one telling the conservative folks that they are ignorant and don’t understand the science of the environment.

I’m part of the worldwide cry that enough is not being done.

That is the image I have, or I’m creating for myself, that environment is my greatest concern. But privately, I indulge myself in everything which generates the cause but doesn’t accept the consequence. Both the cause and the consequence apply to “we human beings.” But not me.

I also realize my collective responsibility towards a cleaner environment.

Personally, I do everything contributing to environmental deterioration. I have a firm mindset. What I’m doing is just a drop, and that it does not matter.

My eating habits, my buying habits, my social habits remain intact. But while out on the street and on social media, I’m an environmentalist.

I do know that earth is warming up, seas are rising, and glaciers are melting. As a result, some island countries are soon going to be submerged in their surrounding oceans. The coastlines are being eroded.

Although I do not understand what the guarantees in the business of carbon reduction mean, how does it work, and how it is traded or manipulated. But I do support net-zero carbon-emissions goals.

I’m quite aware of the fact that the international political community has been producing, year after year, tons of environmental accords that do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But at the same time, these lofty resolutions and goals are non-binding. They are easy to get in and easy to get out. And I notice all these conventional wrangles at the global climate actions summits.

In my socialist outfit, I demand zero economic growth where we could stop our economy from growing endlessly, we could stop endless increases in our consumption of resources, and we could take some of the pressure off the environment.

My social attachments and lifestyle conflict with my environmental responsibilities and accountabilities. In a culture of accumulation where the choices galore, the shopping spree is an indulgence. The closets are overflowing, the kitchen cabinets, the refrigerators are loaded, the garage is a big storage container. Getting bargains is a pride achievement of shopping loot.

In this environment of amassment for every need or no need, the industry is ready to flood the market with goods. Otherwise, who would care to buy a banana hanger?

I move on to creating my own environmental footprints. At the same time, I’m kicking those who pollute the planet earth. I do realize environmental cleaning has to start from where it begins.

I’m the cause, I’m the cure.

————

 

LIGHT ON TWEEZERS

by Promod Puri

We are quite familiar with tweezers, the small nippers for plucking out unwanted hairs or extracting splinters.

But when these little tools are made of light beams to hold very tiny objects in scientific and medical fields, the optical tweezers play quite a significant role as technical aids in the studies of motions and behavior of molecular or cellular particles.

That precisely the reason the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Arthur Ashkin for his works on optical tweezers.

Other co-winners of the Nobel Prize in physics are Gerard Mourou and Canadian scientist Donna Strickland for creating the technology which generates high-intensity, ultra-short laser pulses, which are used for eye surgeries and for studies of the extremely fast phenomenon in the atomic domain.

Light is more than making things visible. It is also a force. When applied to a physical object it is called radiation pressure. In this application, a coherent beam of light known as the laser is focussed on the object. An optical tweezer is created by two laser beams coming from the opposite direction and falling on the object.

“In 1969, Arthur Ashkin used lasers to trap and accelerate micron-sized objects such as tiny spheres and water droplets. This led to the invention of optical tweezers that use two or more focused laser beams aimed in opposite directions to attract a target particle or cell toward the center of the beams and hold it in place. Each time the particle moves away from the center, it encounters a force pushing it back toward the center”, explains Todd Adams, Professor of Physics, Florida State University, in his article in The Conversation.

While the Nobel recognized the works of optical tweezers by Ashkin, the development of other optical tools from light beams also has an important contribution to generating high-intensity and ultra-short laser pulses. These intensified bursts of light are now the tools for eye surgeries. The pioneer works of Mourou and Strickland in developing these tools have earned them the Nobel Prize.

The two physicists invented the way to create intense light but for the extremely small duration. These are bursts or pulses of light of ultra-short duration in an attosecond, which is trillionth of a second.

“As an analogy, consider a thick rubber band. When the band is stretched, the rubber becomes thinner. When it is released, it returns to its original thickness. Now imagine that there is a way to make the stretched rubber band thicker. When the band is released, it will end up thicker than the original band. This is essentially what happens with the laser pulse”, writes Professor Adams.

The thicker or high-intensity laser bursts are used in eye surgeries and for studying ultra-fast activities at the atomic levels.

“The 2018 Nobel Prize in physics shines a light on the pioneering work of these three scientists. Over the past three decades, their inventions have created avenues of science and medical treatments that were previously unattainable”, Professor Adams concludes in his article.

NO ARMIES, NO ENEMIES

“I belong to a small country that was not afraid to abolish its army in order to increase its strength. In my homeland, you will not find a single tank, a single artillery piece, a single warship, or a single military helicopter. Today we threaten no one, neither our own people nor our neighbors. Such threats are absent not because we lack tanks but because there are few of us who are hungry, illiterate, or unemployed.”
-Ex Costa Rican President Oscar Aria, 1987 Noble Peace Prize winner.

JAGMEET SINGH AND CANADIAN CULTURE

queens-park-u100kAn interesting interaction took place October 2 when a fellow Canadian in Quebec asked New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh to “cut off” his turban to look “like a Canadian.”

In a poised and cool manner, which is the image he has created for himself, Jagmeet Singh responded: “I think Canadians look like all sorts of people.”The man tried another approach: “in Rome, you do as the Romans do,.” A polite response from Mr. Singh: “But this is Canada, you can do whatever you like.”

In agreement, the man nodded, “I hope you win.”

The encounter between the two Canadians with different cultural backgrounds, the antiquated proverb “in Rome, you do as the Romans do” has a broader meaning from the Canadian perspective.

The question is ‘what is Canada’s culture’?

The simple and clear answer lies in its multicultural fundamentals, where “Canadians look like all sorts of people.” Canada is not a monolithic society and was never like that since its inception. The culture of multi-culture is an ever-evolving and a developing phenomenon of this nation.

In a contemporary cosmopolitan society “in Canada, you do as Canadians do” is much more contemporary than “in Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

-by Promod Puri

Red Thread Around Wrist

A NEW FAD OF HINDU IDENTIFICATION:

Red thread around the wrist (right for men and left for women) is the new fad of Hindu ritualistic identification. Called Mauli or Kalva, it is tied by a priest or an elderly person after a ceremonial event. The wearer is supposed to keep the thread until it is worn out.

The literal meaning of Mauli in Sanskrit is ‘crown,’ which means, above all. There are several mythological stories about the origin of Mauli, as well as claims of health benefits.

The red cotton thread is often mixed with small colors of yellow or orange. It is supposed to dispense some magical powers of protection and to ward off misfortune as well as to attract good luck.

Many among those who wear the Mauli have a strong feeling that it should not be removed because of a fear that such an act can bring bad luck.

It is the fear factor which dominates all the religions of the world, and Hinduism is not an exception. The sacred thread symbolizes that fear, besides its ritualistic value.

Promod Puri

MODI VS TRUMP

Three noticeable differences:

1. Whereas Trump has a stiff relationship with the media, Modi is steadily developing a controlling relationship with the media.

2. Trump is open and blunt, expresses his views the moment these come to his mind; Modi often plays the politics of silence.

3. Modi loves bear hugging, for Trump shaking hands is enough.

-Promod Puri

WRITING IS A CONSTRUCTION JOB

By Promod Puri

“Words are the tools of writing.” But not quite so!

Words, in fact, are the bricks and mortars we select and gather to build a structure. Its architecture and construction are based on our thoughts, opinions, and feelings, perceptions and impressions, or sharing of information, knowledge, and experiences.

In our learning faculty, there is a library of words being accumulated from early childhood. We retrieve them from our memory cells to begin the composition of a story, novel, essay, poetry, and all other literary and non-literary works or writing a simple personal diary.

Moreover, comprehensive dictionaries offer thousands of words stacked in alphabetical order.

Just like bricks, words are cast in different sizes, but each is carrying its own identity and impact. It is in this semantic profile that words give an outlook and character to writing.

Words are liberal in their nature. If a word is not the right one or it does not fit into the rigid demand of a writer, it offers a whole stockpile of alternative synonyms choices.

Words are not the writing tools, but when they are put together by the skills of a wordsmith, the whole composition becomes a tool by itself. Primarily, writing is the tool of communication which we need as a complement to speaking. But writing goes beyond spoken words. It stays longer or forever.

Is writing hard work? Not really, so far as there are enough bricks around in different sizes and shapes, along with a sound idea or subject matter, that a structure can be built and redesigned or even renovated.

The technicality of writing lies in its grammar as well as those little but indispensable characters, called punctuation marks, offering control and disciplinary mechanism in this creative development.

However, objectivity, sensitivities, and rationality are the basic guidelines in raising a writing structure which is otherwise stalled when these feelings lack honesty and sincerity.

Under these guidelines, writing offers good companionship. As well as “writing is the only way to talk without being interrupted.”(Jules Renard, novelist, and playwright).

A BOX OF TOFFEES

I was 10-year-old when one day I severely broke my right arm. A local pehlwan, as the practice or custom was in those days, was called to fix the arm. His oil massage and turning and twisting the arm to align the broken bones was an extremely painful maneuver. After a few days, the rugged treatment did not produce any improved result. Perhaps, it was more damaging.

Next, I was in an Amritsar hospital where a known surgeon specializing in fixing broken bones finally put the bones close to and in front of each other. This was followed by lying on my back all the time for a week or so. The operated arm was kept lifted up, tied with a string which after going thru a pulley was tied at the other end with solid brick. The heavyweight was meant to bring the two bones together and slowly become one solid elbow joint. It worked.

I don’t exactly remember how did I pass the time during this period on the hospital bed. But I do remember the early morning hours of each and every day. These were the waiting moments. Waiting for my mother’s arrival to take over the night shift from my father at the bedside.

The sound of her chappal, while walking from the entrance door to the long recovery ward and up to my bed, is a revered and treasured memory which is as blissful now as instinctively felt then. For a child a few minutes or hours of separation from the mother is really a long wait. The reunion is a sheer elation.

One day at the hospital my innocent joy was elevated. To my pleasant surprise, my eldest brother was beside my bed. He came to see me from Delhi. What made him undertake that journey! Just simple and wholesome feelings for the youngest sibling in the family.

He sat beside me. I don’t remember what he talked about, but his visit and giving me company must be an exhilarating moment between us.

A caring and compassionate person with love and feel his presence was a cheery treat for me. He presented me with a box of toffees.

Sweet and unforgettable moments. A gleam of the past is in the present.

-Promod Puri

Home Sweet Home: The bliss of “Chajju Ka Chobara”

by Promod Puri

Back in 1972, when I immigrated to Canada and made my first home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that I happened to know a very helpful and friendly person by the name of C. R. Bector.

He was a distinguished professor of mathematics at the University of Manitoba. And out of respect, as being elder to me and having an academic professional status, I along with other close acquaintances used to address him as Doctor Sahib or Doctor Bector. He was not a medical doctor but had a Ph.D. degree in his extensive portfolio of degrees.

C.R. Bector, although to most of us in the Indo-Canadian community sounded more like an English name, especially the surname, but Doctor Sahib, who is retired now, hails from Punjab. He was a popular personality in Winnipeg, simply because of his informal, lively and sociable temperament.

However, for me, the enticing thing about him is that his real name is Chajju Ram. It is really an old-fashioned North Indian name as we seldom come across with that namesake.

And the first name Chajju immediately strikes on the famous Indian proverb “jo sukh chajju ke chobare, na balakh na bukhare. Translation: east or west home is the best.

The name Chajju certainly gives a lot of credentials to the importance of the home as it is part of the life’s triangle, rather I would say the most sought-after trinity which is “roti, kapdra aur Makaan”, meaning food, clothing, and shelter.

The fact is anybody with a home, in reality, owns his or her little sovereign kingdom or queen-dom. It is one of those virtues of life which one aspires to have it. Life begins at home and revolves around home to enjoy the bliss of having that pride possession.

Home is not merely a physical dwelling of walls, windows, and doors, floors, and roofs. It is not just a rest spot either. Rather a cozy place of peace and tranquility in the midst of family or friends’ lively togetherness and entertainment. Home is a place of absolute independence within acceptable social norms.

Home sweet home is a simple expression carrying deep feelings of warmth and comfort which one yearns for.

If the home does not give all that is expected then it is a house, and for that reason, homesickness can be endured but not the house arrest.

Home is the place of everlasting nostalgia of living with parents, brothers, sisters and dear ones. The childhood anecdotes of little fights and laughs, the home-cooked food, books and beds, the school homework, and a lot more are part of the fond memories. The physical remembrance of each and every household item is also a sentimental and sweet relaxation.

Moreover, home is where we accumulate our cultural values, connect with our heritage and acquire family’s social, linguistic and religious identities. Home is that place of security and independence where with elated feelings one can unwind, recline and relax.

Seventeenth-century English poet James Thompson has exquisitely expressed his perception of home:
“Home is the resort
Of love, of joy, of peace, and plenty; where
Supporting and supported, polished friends
And dear relations mingle into bliss”.

But that bliss is deprived to millions of homeless people all over the world sheltering under the open sky at the mercy of Mother Nature. It is this sad aspect of humanity which is visibly invisible as life goes by especially in busy metropolises.

Chajju ka chubara” is indeed a bliss of comfort and peace for most of us. And my friend C.R. Bector’s place was an embodiment of these virtues especially during harsh winter months of Winnipeg.

promodpuri.com