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.

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

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.

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)

 

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.

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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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.

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.)

WHAT NEXT AFTER BABRI MASJID-RAM JANMABHOOMI VERDICT

via WHAT NEXT AFTER BABRI MASJID-RAM JANMABHOOMI VERDICT

“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

Let Us Pray For Nation First

via Let Us Pray For Nation First

ENVIRONMENTS AND HINDU WORSHIPPING

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

Excerpts from Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions.

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE ARE RELATED

By Promod Puri

“The past is history, future is a mystery, but today is a gift……”, stay in the present and enjoy the moments. These are some of the many favored in-vogue quotes.

The favorite quotations or advisories suggest our prospects belong to the moments we live in. We are told to live, feel, and enjoy the era of the present, rather than being prisoner of the past or future.

But the now moments are related to past and present.

Past, present, and future are interlinked, and compliments to each other with indelible events, experiences, karmas, and imaginations. The act of managing the future involves gathering and distilling the right information from the archives of the past within the time span of the present.

The independence of “now” does not exist.

Understanding and embracing the “power of now” are in fact related to past and future moments. Any expression of the “now” moment like, “I am very happy and enjoying myself,” is compared to the past or future moments.

The comparison or contrast with past or future moments gives “now” its valuation.

Our past is an assortment of both joyous, rough, memorable, and learning experiences. Whereas, our future lies in the prospect of imagination.

Imagination is an inspiring concept that is very natural foresight in the life of an individual as well as the society we belong to. Civilizations have been created, nourished, and developed on our ability to contemplate the future.

No doubt, anxieties, worries or concerns often become parts of our contemplation, but so do the dreams. In this package, destiny is created thru our forward-looking karmas of the present which influence our future. Progress comes by prospecting in the future.

Flights to the future with optimistic imaginations are the thrills and promises of the prospective unknown.

Prospecting is natural. It is a functional activity of our cognitive powers. Sighting the future is both a conscious and unconscious activity. We can’t stop it while realizing, dealing, or playing with the moments of the present.

In these moments, our moods also swing like a pendulum, moving back and forth, from past to future while creating new flashes for the present.

Sometimes, journeys to the past contribute to the pleasures of the present. The past is a treasure like an old photo album. It is an asset and a companion. Ask the person lying on a hospital bed for a long time. Or when a fatal blow to the past happens to a person with dementia. Moments of the present do not offer a “gift” here.

Moreover, for society, the past is not merely history, but it is a heritage as well. The identity of a society is based on its culture.

Past, present, and future are interlinked, and compliments to each other with indelible events, experiences, karmas, and imaginations. The act of managing the future involves gathering and distilling the right information from the archives of the past within the period of the present.

Time does not cover the innate past, or cause a pause to our imaginations for the future. It does not flow like a river. It does not fly either. Time rather spreads out. In this spread, past, present and future reside forever.

It is our mind which ferries us around for stopovers at our memories and spurs us to conceive our imaginations, as well as bringing us back to the present. And life’s journey continues while sailing through our past, present, and future.

-30-
(Promod Puri is a journalist and writer. He is the author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions”, a book which explores the rational, secular and progressive nature of Hinduism.)

 

Joys of Fiji Travels

The following travelogue was written back in 2010 when I visited Fiji, a cluster of islands in the South Pacific region. Besides, visiting some of the most famous tourist attractions, the article also briefly mentions about the people of Fiji, especially its vibrant Indian community.  

By Promod Puri

Our years of build-up excitement of Fiji holidays began when we landed at the Nadi (pronounced Nandi) airport at 5.30 in the morning on June 14, 2010.

It was an overnight flight from Los Angeles, but for the time difference, it took an extra calendar day to reach our dream destination.

Nadi, which is on the west coast of Fiji’s biggest island of Viti Levu, is the entry point by air to this South Pacific country.

At the Nadi airport, we were warmly received by the loving relatives of our daughter’s in-laws. Our baggage was dumped in a pickup van, and in another vehicle, our three-week Fiji journey began as we started driving to the capital city of Suva on the east coast of the Island.

The highway from Nadi to Suva, called Queens’ Road, has its own majestic allurement, and it can genuinely claim to be one of the most dazzling drives in the world.

Lush green vegetation on small hills and flatlands intercepted with villages and small settlements; adorn the natural display on the left side of the highway. And on our right was an almost uninterrupted and extended panorama of the exalted and composed the Pacific Ocean, sometimes just a few hundred feet from the winding Queen’s Road.

The west-east Nadi to Suva journey took odd and visually-absorbing three hours when we checked in at the centrally-located Tanoa Inn, just a ten-minute walk from the downtown hub of the city.

After freshening up and with a heavy load of breakfast as we were starving, thanks to the extra-degraded frugal in-flight food service from the “friendliest “ Air Pacific Airlines, that we really re-energized ourselves to venture into Suva, the commercial, a cultural and political center of the South Pacific.

We were in Suva for three days. Despite almost continuous drizzle and rain, quite competitive with Vancouver, that we covered some interesting and highlighted city’s attractions. One of them was the favorite and brisk vegetable and fruit Municipal Market which gave us quite a glimpse of both Natives and Indian Fijians.

Another exciting and recommended place is the Fiji Museum which displays a stirring and adventurous brief history of Native and Indian settlements on the Fiji Islands.

While the migration of Natives to these South Pacific Islands happened centuries ago from Africa or Polynesian group of countries, the Indian settlement is comparatively a recent one which began in the 1800s. The latter was brought to the island of Viti Levu by Britishers as farm laborers under permit regularity called “girmit.”

Their lifestyles and early settlement challenges under the agreement with Britishers of providing temporary immigration and jobs on the vast sugarcane plantations in Fiji give a very fascinating history of Indian migration to this far-away land which was for sure never heard by them.

The “girmit” system, which became quite popular and acceptable, was a sort of an agreement between the British contractors and the poor and destitute Indian laborers. Since the Indians, who were mostly illiterate, could not easily pronounce the word “agreement,” the rhyming word “girmit” was thus coined.

Over almost two hundred years of the history of their establishment in this part of the world and considerably far away from their root country, the Fijian Indians have expertly carved out a distinguished community in itself. The most remarkable aspect of their culture is the evolution and establishment of the Fijian Hindi which is now a distinct and sweet Hindi dialect in itself.

Indians run most of the shops and small businesses in Suva. The city is a typical urban center with few shopping malls and a unique souvenir center to buy exquisitely carved and creatively crafted Fijian handicrafts. However, the most popular and useful item is the bold flowery print “Bula Shirt” which can undoubtedly draw equal attention in a summer outdoor party.

Besides wandering around in Suva, we made two trips to the nearby in-laws’ birthplace and hometown of Nausori. Cordial hospitality from the relatives as part of the Indian traditions over dinner invitations gave us more glimpse of the Fijian Indian way of life.

From Suva, we took a local trans-island comfortable bus to go back towards the west, in the Nadi direction, for our next holiday stopover. The Club Oceanus near the city of Pacific Harbor and nestled amidst a forest and beside a calm river, seemed to be a backpackers’ favorite. It is a superbly and divinely place but turned out to be not much excitement for us as it rained heavily throughout our one- day stay.

The next day like opening a surprise gift-wrap, we saw a cloud-free blue sky as we checked in at the Uprising Resort right on the beach front. And true to its online praises on TripAdvisor and in the Lonely Planet the resort, a well- managed, reasonably priced and sitting on an enticing scenic property, reassured us that Fiji’s waterfront vacations were worth all the planning.

Here at the Uprising, we had our first experience of beachfront living in a “Bure” which is a sort of log house cottage built in traditional Fiji Native style with a thatched roof. It was spacious enough with kitchen, living and bedroom areas including a balcony in the front and back, all under one roof.

The spread-out and the far-reaching Pacific Ocean with gentle non-stop waves going back and forth on the clean, soft, sandy beach were merely some hundred steps away from our “bure.” And that was a real bliss of holidaying in Fiji.

As Uprising molded us with the joy of Fiji voyaging, we put in our next flag on another beach-front resort of Naviti, near the city of Sigatoka, where our daughter’s in-laws, Prem and Savita, joined us to spend one week together to explore and luxuriate more in Fiji’s coastal tourist favorites.

Naviti on the Queen’s Road is really a big resort, and the oceanfront room we got gave us quite a panoramic view of the sea, though the beach is not that big to have a long walk.

Our two-day stay at Naviti was among a large number of winter-escapee vacationers from New Zealand and Australia, who came in groups of large families including children. And at times the resort gave the impression that Disneyland has moved to an ocean-front on the Fiji Islands.

Our journey continued west-bound with next stop at the Sonaisali Beach resort near the city of Nadi.

The resort was just ok with the well-furnished and well-kept room we were in. But the overall stay here was a bit disappointing especially with the unrealistically expensive food and exorbitant extra charges on phone and internet services. The management seemed to be more interested in squeezing money at every step of the way from guests than providing services.

Anyway, a smart move on the part of Prem that he hired a taxi for just 10 Fijian dollars to buy the famous Fiji Gold and Fiji Bitter beer bottles from a nearby market. And we had our favorite Bombay Sapphire that we enjoyed our evenings at the Sonaisali.

In the spirit of having a good time we moved on to our next destination, Lautoka, Fiji’s second biggest city after Suva and just about half an hour drive pass Nadi.

In Lautoka, our stay was close to the downtown area at the Waterfront Tanoa Hotel along the well-maintained sea walkway.

One of the highlights of our stay in Lautoka, beside little shopping and inexpensive but very useful massage treatment, was a dinner visit to one of Prem’s Indian relatives. The freshly-cooked home-made food was indeed a welcome and excellent change, and which gave us the real taste of Indian Fijian cuisine. Another good food experience we had was in Nadi where a brother-in-law of Savita feted us with authentic Fiji treat of “Lovo,” the underground favorite Native Fijian cuisine but with a little Indian touch.

In Lautoka, our dinner host’s daughter and tour helper, Doreen, gave us a quick tour of the city, explaining that the two expensive neighborhoods here are named “Kashmir” and “Shimla.”

Lautoka is a historic town from the Indian point of view as it is here the migrants from India started working in sugarcane farms and sugar mills. But now it is a shopping town as well both for the locals and tourists.

The Lautoka Municipal Market which seems to be a landmark of every Fijian city or town was full of vendors selling locally-grown produce, incredibly cheap. And here one can get dried cava root which when powdered make the traditional and symbolic ceremonial Native drink of cava or nagona.

Another highway picturesque scenic drive from Lautoka to Rakiraki, on the way to our next destination of Nananu-i-Ra Island, was the King Road going from the west to the east on top of the Island.

Besides the ocean view and green mountains on the left and right respectively, the King Road passed thru many sugarcane fields. And we came across several Hindu temples and Indian schools on our way. We halted briefly in the town of Ba, which proudly displays on a big billboard as the “Football Crazy” town, where its landmark is a vast football-shaped structure in the city, perhaps housing a small coffee shop.

We reached Rakraki in about three hours and bypassed the city to reach the marina for our 20-minute boat ride, amidst soothing breeze, to the McDonald Resort on the island of Nananu-i-Ra.

As we had plenty of grocery supplies, including the now addictive Fiji Gold and Fiji Bitter, the self- cooked food by the ladies and washing the dirty dishes by men became a delightful past time activity besides walking around the island and feeding the colorful fish at the resort’s beach.

However, one significant activity was when Prem did some acrobats by impressively showing his revived skill of climbing a tall coconut tree and grabbing a big prized coconut with his two bare hands which we really relished.

Prem and Savita departed from us as they took a bus from Rakiraki in the north to their hometown of Nausori. And we carried on with our journey back toward Nadi to a place called First Landing, where it is said the first people who settled on the Fiji Islands landed here centuries ago and thus reserved their title of being Native Fijians.

We stayed at the Anchorage Resort at First Landing for two days. The narrow-gauge train carrying sugarcane from the fields passes thru the resort which otherwise offers a vast view of the Pacific Ocean as well as the city of Nadi across the bay. Anchorage is another laid-back resort to enjoy activities like light reading while gently swinging in a hammock, walking around or to watch the train pass by with its own rhythm.

The grand final of our Fiji sojourn was on the Bounty and Walu Beach islands, the two among the several isles forming the famous Mamanuca Group of islands in the South Pacific.

Staying at the Bounty and Walu for four and three days respectively was a definite change to experience the taste of island living, which was unlike the big Nananu-I-Ra island or at mainland beachfront hotels in Fiji.

Bounty that was it! The ultimate in relaxed holidays.

In the middle of the ocean, but only 25-minute boat ride from the Nadi Bay, Bounty is a small island with soft sandy beach all around and plants and shrubs in the middle, like a round pizza with all the toppings in the center. The island is so small that one can leisurely walk around it in 20 to 25 minutes.

However, smaller than the Bounty is the Southsea Island, which can be covered in three minutes, but if one takes a brisk little walk, it can be done in just two minutes.

Those seeking real solitude and bountiful of tranquility in the company of crystal clear beach with soothing waves Bounty Island is the place worth coming. And for those looking for adventures in the water sports like scuba diving or snorkeling Bounty offers free equipment and services. We did not indulge in any of these activities. Age factor!

A smooth ride from Bounty to nearby Walu Beach Resort on the Malolo Island, the biggest in the Mamanuca Group, gave us the chance to briefly touchdown the other famous islands like the Beachcomber, Treasure, Castaway (of the film fame ) and Mana. The Walu Beach Resort with its spectacular view of the ocean was our final holiday spot.

And from the Walu Beach, we returned to the real world to Nadi to catch our Vancouver flight.

Well, besides the natural beauty, Fiji is a place to have a good feel of India, but entirely away from India. The shops, the bazaars, the markets, restaurants, and hotels, everywhere you’re roaming about, the Indian presence and influence are all over. Indian programs of news, music, and entertainment are prominently featured on Fiji radio and TV.

The Indian immersion is so much that visitors, especially with the Indian background, feel like if they are touring India, except that Fiji is spotlessly clean.

Fijian people, both Natives and Indians are amiable and cheerful. They love talking, asking questions, want to know “where you’ve come from,” perhaps to relate to their many relatives and friends who have migrated from Fiji to other countries like Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia.

Bula is the greeting word to make an acquaintance and start a conversation. With a genuine smile on their faces, they say Bu—–la in an extended and pleasing tone.

Fiji is a relaxed and laidback country, and so are its people. It seems “take-it-easy” is the guideline of Fijian living which was aptly captured by a wall clock we saw in one of the hotel lobbies. It displays in bold print “Fiji Time” as its second, minute and hour hands were missing and all the numbers were jumbled up.

In the relaxed and carefree “Fiji Time” and with Bula smile our rousing Fiji tour was an exciting and enjoyable vacation.

Bula Fiji! We’ll be back.

Thank you Note: Our special thanks to Chandar Prakash and his team of Doreen and Raju of Awesome Holidays in Nadi who arranged all our Fiji resorts stays, some local transportation and boat ride to different islands in Fiji.

A Quick Glance At Hindu Holy Book BHAGAVAD GITA

Bhagavad Gita is a question-answer dialogue between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjun. It is a compilation of Lord Krishna’s philosophical and practical teachings in response to Arjun’s questioning the intricacies, the confusion and the challenges in an individual’s life.

The entire episode is set in a war zone symbolizing that human life is a combat ground as well. Gita is a sacred, practical and eternal guide as to how to tackle evils and to seek a path of spirituality. It covers ethical and moral challenges in the battlefield of life.

Bhagavad means Bhagavan, the Supreme Being, or meaning ‘Bhag’, the blessed one. Gita stands for ‘geet’ meaning song. The ‘t’ in Gita is pronounced with tongue straight rather than rolled back.

Divided into 18 chapters with 700 verses Gita encourages us to enter the field of righteousness or truth as a warrior without any second thoughts. Gita calls it ‘Dharam’ or holy duty.

The allegory is when Arjun is in confusion as well as in moral dilemma to be either a contributor to the upcoming bloodshed or get out of it. He questions the worth and the outcome of the fight for dharma.

This is where Lord Krishna, the guide to Arjun in the battlefield, makes his presentation. He introduces the doctrine of karma-yogi, meaning be a warrior in life, and perform the holy duty of fighting against evil.

The field of action is what life is all about. Be a karma yogi is considered to be the most known message of Bhagavad Gita. It involves faithfully and sincerely performing our duties and obligations without attachment to results.

In the following verse Lord Krishna says:

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction fixed in yoga, do thy work, O Winner of wealth (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga”.

Gita offers the ride to a karma yogi on the route of righteousness while facing evils. In other words, life is a struggle in the material world and a journey toward a spiritual destination.

In the spiritual itinerary Gita while advocating the necessity of action with the detached expectation of its outcome, emphasizes on intellectual pursuits thru knowledge, discern between right and wrong, mastery of the mind, giving up lust, anger and greed, identifying the divine and demonic traits in human nature and follow a path of devotion to reach His abode. And that is what makes a person a complete karma yogi.

The long discourse by Lord Krishna in response to Arjun’s questioning and curiosity not only covers the simplistic lessons of being an active karma yogi to handle day to day business of life but the dialogue goes beyond to deeper philosophies. It covers the material and spiritual subjects; creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe; the flight into the celestial worlds of His multi-facet universal form; life after death, and lot more.

(Excerpts from Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions)
https://progressivehindudialogue.com/cate…/book-on-hinduism/

Hinduism is being steered toward the Right where its intellectuality can be impacted.

Concept Of Rita In Hinduism

The word Rita is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘rta.’ In contemporary Hindi, the vocalic ‘r’ of Sanskrit is changed into ‘ri.’ Hence the word Rita, which has been a popular female name in India.

Rita is a concept according to the Vedas, the ancient sacred scriptures of Hinduism. It is a physical order of the universe which governs, for example, the sun and moon making their journeys across the sky. Or the regulation of seasons in their rotating order. Logistics of the universal phenomena are under this conception.

Rita is an eternal and cosmic order. At the same time, it is a divine order of moral living in harmony with the systems of the universe.

Rita is the disciplinary principle for everything which exists or contained in this universe. From atoms to humans, animals and plants, rivers, oceans to mountains, stars, sun and moon, and everything else observable or non-observable must function per Rita’s guidelines. If not, then it is ‘anrita,’ which represents complete disorder or disaster. The law of karma joins here as for as human behavior is concerned. “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

By Promod Puri

J & K NEEDS SPLITS AT PRE-DOGRA RULE STATUS

Historically the present geopolitical formation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir happened in the middle of the 19th century. Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed the territories of Jammu region in 1819, and then sold it to his Dogra commander Gulab Singh in 1820, and crowned him the King. In 1834 Gulab Singh annexed the kingdom of Ladakh, and in 1846 the Kashmir region was ceded to the Dogra king under a treaty with the British government, who then was ruling most of the sub­ continent.

Dogra dynasty ruled the state for almost a hundred years.

Under the Dogra rule, the state comprised a huge territory of over two million sq. km., touching boundaries of Afghanistan in the north, China in the north and east, present-day Pakistan in the west and India in the South.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is extensively diverse: linguistically, culturally, religiously and geographically.

From these historical and basic facts, it is obvious that the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the regions controlled by Pakistan, was never ever a single entity, linguistically and culturally.

It is from this perspective that the entire region should be divided politically on the basis of its separate identities to restore their pre-Dogra rule status. Keeping them together is political experimentation to seek a lasting alliance has so far failed.

The separation of the Ladakh region from the state as a union territory by the government of India is the right move for its independence from the rest of the state.

Same can be applied to the Jammu region. But that is a bit complicated because Jammu’s identity lies with Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir area rather than Kashmir. If that merger ever happens then Jammu can be a separate state as well. And Kashmir will be separated altogether to have its “Azadi” finally.

by Promod Puri

DO WE NEED ARMIES

Armies are meant to defend leaders who create wars to engage the armies and arouse nationalism and patriotism by generating hysteria to justify their leaderships. Except to help people in natural disasters, do we need armies and spend millions, billions and trillions of dollars in the name of “defense”, from whom? Except for the defense of leaders.

-Promod Puri

Trip To The Moon: A short story

Moving forward a few decades from now, two friends took their first journey to the moon.

Upon landing on their dream destination, they had their first encounter with a local.

“Welcome to the Moon, where are you guys from.”

“I’m from America, and this friend of mine is from Mexico.”

“Oh! Never heard about these places before.”

Then the Mexican guy interrupted: “actually sir, we are from the earth.”

“That makes sense, enjoy the trip.”

-by Promod Puri

Don’t Believe “Because It Is Said”

via Don’t Believe “Because It Is Said”

MY BOOK ON HINDUISM

From rituals to murti-puja, mantra and metaphywhite-book-3d-cover-2-copysics, karma and moksha, to meditation and yoga, and all its recreational aspects like music, dance, and drama, Hinduism is a disciplinary as well as a comprehensive experience of spiritual development in the liberal and progressive regime.

Moving beyond its rituals, customs, and traditions, this study on Hinduism explores the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of the religion and succinctly perceives its entirety.

“Hinduism: beyond rituals, customs and traditions” covers history, rituals, idol worship, scriptures, dharma, karma and moksha, meditation and yoga, Manusmriti and Ambedkar, music, dance and drama in Hinduism.

The 122-page book is a comprehensive study on Hinduism but still concise in its presentation. Enjoy and get enriched in Hinduism, the dynamic and most ancient religion in the world.

Click here to buy: https://www.amazon.ca/Hinduism-Beyond-Rituals-…/…/151951252X

Q. Why Congress quiet over EVM? Answer: A lot of baggage in its closet. May face Modi’s rod

In Contemporary Meditation Mantra Can Be In Any Language

By Promod Puri

One of the most ingrained and perhaps efficacious features of Hinduism is the mantra.

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

Despite their antiquated origin during Vedic period of Hindu history, mantras in verses offer contemporary interpretations of intellectual spirituality, mystic expressions, scriptural usage, and ritualistic incantations.

Besides its literate depths, mantra’s pervasiveness and absorption in the conscious mind are the essentials of its numinous integrity.

Melodic and metrical compositions draw out coherent and thematic features of mantras in verse.

Mantra is a combination of two words, man-tra. Man, pronounced as mon like in Monday, means mind or it can also mean a thought. Tra means a dedicated tool or instrument. ‘Tra’ as an instrument producing a sound or vibration, in tandem with ‘man,’ makes the word mantra meaning voice of mind or thought.

From this simple structure, mantra has attained the status of devotional expression and as a meditative tool. Recitation of mantra, termed japa, is the key to invoke its spiritual presence. The latter comes when it is constantly being heard in our minds and cohering with our cognitive faculties. It is in this frame a mantra resonates in human consciousness with its numinous nature.

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

Even the recitation of His name, Parmatma, can be a mantra in itself. It makes the duality of the word ‘parm’ meaning supreme, and ‘Atma’ meaning an individual soul, into a single sound of His realization. The japa of this mantra is perhaps the simplest and most informal connection between the self and Him for the ultimate feel of One.

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 own language instead of the classic versions. A recitation of a mantra, after all, is a repetitive, prolonged verbal utterance.

The most popular “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.

Mantra, as said earlier does not have to carry any significance meaning, and it could be in any language. In a recent study, the word “echad” meaning one in Hebrew was selected 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.

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

Sikhism Dwells In Its Saint-soldier Philosophy

via Sikhism Dwells In Its Saint-soldier Philosophy

Sikhism Dwells In Its Saint-soldier Philosophy

By Promod Puriguru-nanak-dev-ji-230x300

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 which is pure, clean, and free.

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

He writes: the sword which carved the Khalsa way to glory was undoubtedly forged by Guru Gobind Singh. 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 popular 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 own different circumstances and respective periods, which had a gap of 200 years.

Guru Nanak’s teachings were 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 mankind 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, rather by 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 which 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 the 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 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 horsemen. 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)

CONCEPTION OF GOD IN HINDUISM

via CONCEPTION OF GOD IN HINDUISM

Hindutva Clashes With Secular, Liberal And Democratic Spirit Of Hinduism

via Hindutva Clashes With Secular, Liberal And Democratic Spirit Of Hinduism

Redesigning Political & Economic Systems

An integrated approach is needed where modern sciences, ethics, and environmental updates can be part of both the political and economic systems

Promod Puri

Redesigning of our political and economic systems based on changing social needs as well as our ethical and environmental commitments will be more viable, responsive and revered than the outdated, impractical and utopian Socialist idealism, and greedy Capitalism. The contemporary world society seeks that the idiosyncrasy of the present sociopolitical Left and the Right cultures should be replaced by a new political and economic ideology. An integrated approach is needed where modern sciences, ethics, and environmental updates can be part of both the political and economic systems

-Promod Puri

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Atheism Part of Hinduism

via Atheism Part of Hinduism

HYMN OF CREATION (Nasadiya Sukta)

via HYMN OF CREATION (Nasadiya Sukta)

MANUSMRITI AND WOMEN

Since bias knows no boundaries, Manusmriti not only expounds the social distance between the upper and lower castes, but it also delineates the status of women by curbing their rights. It lists guidelines for men in selecting marriage partners and puts a stamp of their superiority by creating gender inequality.

In chapter 3 with numbered paragraphs here it is what Manusmriti prescribes:

8. One should not marry women who have reddish hair, redundant parts of the body [such as six fingers], one who is often sick, one without hair or having excessive hair and one who has red eyes.

9. One should not marry women whose names are similar to constellations, trees, rivers, those from a low caste, mountains, birds, snakes, slaves or those whose names inspire terror.

10. Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not socially well known.

11. Wise men should marry only women who are free from bodily defects, with beautiful names, grace/gait like an elephant, moderate hair on the head and body, soft limbs and small teeth.

61. For if the wife is not radiant with beauty, she will not attract her husband; but if she has no attractions for him, no children will be born.

62. If the wife is radiant with beauty, the whole house is bright; but if she is destitute of beauty, all will appear dismal.

147. By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.

148. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.

149. She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both (her own and her husband’s) families contemptible.

150. She must always be cheerful, clever in (the management of her) household affairs, careful in cleaning her utensils, and economical in expenditure.

151. Him to whom her father may give her, or her brother with the father’s permission, she shall obey as long as he lives, and when he is dead, she must not insult (his memory).

154. Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure (elsewhere), or devoid of good qualities, (yet) a husband must be constantly worshipped as a god by a faithful wife.

155. No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart (from their husbands); if a wife obeys her husband, she will for that (reason alone) be exalted in heaven.

156. A faithful wife, who desires to dwell (after death) with her husband, must never do anything that might displease him who took her hand, whether he be alive or dead.

160. A virtuous wife who after the death of her husband constantly remains chaste, reaches heaven, though she has no son, just like those chaste men.

161. But a woman who from a desire to have offspring violates her duty towards her (deceased) husband, brings on herself disgrace in this world and loses her place with her husband (in heaven).

And in Chapter 9 Manusmriti further explicates under each numbered paragraphs that:

3. Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.

10. No man can completely guard women by force, but they can be guarded by the employment of the (following) expedients:

11. Let the (husband) employ his (wife) in the collection and expenditure of his wealth, in keeping (everything) clean, in (the fulfillment of) religious duties, in the preparation of his food, and in looking after the household utensils.

29. She who, controlling her thoughts, speech, and acts, violates not her duty towards her lord, dwells with him (after death) in heaven, and in this world is called by the virtuous a faithful (wife, sadhvi).

30. But for disloyalty to her husband a wife is censured among men, and (in her next life) she is born in the womb of a jackal and tormented by diseases, the punishment of her sin.

Manu’s architected gender relationship molded the mind of Hindu male’s psychology toward the woman. The latter also conditioned her to behave as per the Manusmriti texts. That behavior requires a woman to be passive and submissive. The management restricts her to family and domestic chores. In this structured framework lower caste women are triply discriminated by caste, class, and gender.

(Excerpts from Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions, Chapter 9)

COMPLAIN, SHOULD WE OR SHOULD WE NOT!

by Promod Puri

I may be a complaint type of person. So are some or perhaps most of us of this nature.

Actually, I have not done any google research to find statistics about the extent of this addiction among us. The reason is even if I shovel to dig for the numbers these would be available in some percentage like most surveys report these days.

Whether it is desired or not the trend is that a lot of information and data come in the mathematical veil of percentage.

Example: there is a new small apartment building of 10 or 20 suites coming up in our neighborhood, and the latest sign says “90 percent sold”. Why don’t they make it more clear and simply say nine or 18 sold and only one or two are left.

Another one: the merchandising sales are advertised like “50% to 70% off”. Again we don’t get the actual prices of sale items unless we visit the stores advertising these super special sales.

This subtlety of percentage is always baffling to me. Anyway, the point is that I am complaining even about trivial matters or things.

Still, I feel the nature of complaining gives us an outlet to express our dislikes or disapprovals about something or most things we come across or experience in our day-to-day life.

There are an extensive cross-section and mixed bag of complaints; an endless list of our grudges against governments, politicians, leaders, bosses, and mothers-in-law/daughter-in-law; corporations, businesses, lawyers, doctors, dentists, and plumbers; friends and relatives (mostly at their backs); culture, traditions, systems, religions, and even God (why not); weather, environment, health and bad knees; etc, etc.

And then there are complaints about complaints, quite genuine ones. Here is a sample: a friend is meeting his buddy after quite some time. His first remarks the moment they meet are like this “why you did not inform me about your father’s death”. Before the buddy comes up with a reply, the friend continues “anyway, I am sorry to hear that….”. The very basic civility is to express condolence before complaining of not being informed about the sad news.

My own experience with a complaint is regarding talking with relatives in India by phone. A few of them, the moment they pick up the phone, sarcastically say ” finally you have come to remember us” or ” you are phoning us after a long time”.

Again the underlying social grace is to express thanks for my phone call and then complain if one has to. Here in Vancouver, Canada, the den of preserved Punjabi culture, the complaint goes like this ” O’ phon phan maar liya kar kadi”.

And then some people don’t have any distinction between a complaint and a compliment. Example: “Oh you look weak, you have lost so much weight, are you ok” or “you have put on quite a weight”. And then followed by “Nice to meet you”!

I don’t know what is the psychology behind being of complaining nature. But complaining can be considered as healthy criticism (sometimes). And for that reason, we should be in the elite category of being called critics like food critics or film critics.

So, shall we keep complaining? It does give an outlet to express oneself as well as some status of being a critic. Anyway, please do complain if you don’t like this piece.

 promodpuri.com

SABARIMALA TEMPLE CONTROVERSY

A Renaissance in South Indian Hindu Tradition

“the entry of two women, including a Dalit woman – Bindu and Kanakadurga – into the temple in the early hours of January 2, 2019, stands as a symbolic historical corrector that marks a small victory reminding one of the colossal efforts ahead to take many such remarkable first steps.”

-Carmel Christy K J, Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism, University of Delhi, in the Conversation.

Meet Kamala Harris, U.S. Presidential Candidate

Kamala Harris was born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California, to a Tamil Indian mother and a Jamaican father. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a breast cancer scientist who immigrated to the US from Madras (now Chennai) in 1960. Her father, Donald Harris, is a Stanford University economics professor who emigrated from Jamaica in 1961 for graduate study in economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her name, Kamala, comes from the Sanskrit word for the lotus flower. Her family lived in Berkeley, California, where both of her parents attended graduate school. She was extremely close to her maternal grandfather, P. V. Gopalan, an Indian diplomat. As a child, she frequently visited her extended family in the Besant Nagar neighborhood of Chennai, Tamil Nadu Harris grew up going to both a black Baptist church and a Hindu temple. She has one younger sister, Maya Harris. They both sang in a Baptist choir.

Harris’s parents divorced when she was 7, and her mother was granted custody of the children. After the divorce, her mother moved with the children to Montreal where Shyamala accepted a position doing research at Jewish General Hospital and teaching at McGill University.

After graduating from Montreal’s Westmount High School in Québec, Kamala Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in political science and economics. At Howard, Harris was elected to the liberal arts student council as a freshman class representative, was a member of the debate team, and joined the Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Harris returned to California, where she earned her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, in 1989. She was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1990. Source Wikipedia

Ganges: sewers could be making water quality of India’s great river worse

via Ganges: sewers could be making water quality of India’s great river worse

Kumbh Mela: It Is All Ritual And Politics

By Promod Puri

Ritualistically inspired and politically promoted by the Hindutva regime of India’s Uttar Pradesh province, the world’s largest religious congregation, the Kumbh Mela, began January 15 until March 4, 2019, in the city of Praygraj, formerly Allahabad.

Devotees come to the historic city where Hindu sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati confluence.

It is a pilgrimage with the strong belief that all the sins one has committed will be cleaned with a simple dip in the holy waters. And one can re-emerge and start his or her life with a clean slate. Moreover, one gets “mukti’, meaning liberation from the cycle of life and death according to Hindu belief.

This year’s Kumbh Mela besides its ritual and traditional values has political importance also because of the upcoming parliamentary election in India. As millions of pilgrims from all over the country are expected to attend the mela, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, is spending millions of rupees in arrangements and facilities to cash in on the goodwill it would generate.

As per the ritual of the bath or few dips in the holy waters to cleans one’s sins is concerned, it does not carry any rationale. This ritual can be accepted as part of Hindu customs and traditions of pilgrimage to the revered rivers, especially at their confluence point, called Sangam.

Expecting, that a devotee can wash off all the bad deeds he or she has committed can’t be accepted to realistic and progressive Hindu mind.

17th-century poet, humanist and philosopher Bulleh Shah has aptly condemned these kinds of ritualistic beliefs. He says:

Makkay gayaan, gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow jummay parrh aaeey
Going to Makkah is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of prayers are offered

Ganga gayaan, gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow gotay khaeeay
Going to River Ganges is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of cleansing (Baptisms) are done

Gaya gayaan gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow pand parrhaeeay
Going to Gaya is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of worships are done

Bulleh Shah gal taeeyon mukdee
Jadon May nu dillon gawaeeay
Bulleh Shah the ultimate is
When the “I” is removed from the heart!

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs and Traditions. Websites: progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com)

Top of Form

 

Sounds From The Wandering Bowl

 

By Promod Puri
A holy man in saffron stole proclaims:

“close your eyes, forget the hunger

meditate for transcendental wonder.”

 

Heard from a nearby mosque,

“Allah is great,”

get blessed from the devout place.

 

More cordial and sacred invites:

Buddhists, Christians,

and other lights.

 

In our woeful sail,

we put on

badges of multi-faith.

 

Then an abrupt flash:

“There is no god, my friend,”

“take refuge in our progressive den.”
Another message,

another thought

in the maze of multi-paths.
Some wise folks gave us the direction: “stay on the Left,”

promising shelter, food (with vodka and rum),

but, “don’t grumble, stay mum.”
Others plead us to the Right

to become “great again,”

affirming wealth in the promising lane.
We’ve put on all the tags, walked all the treks,

victims of the system, with marks

of terror and wars.
In chopping waters, dingy boats

hunted and chased by the security guards,

we search for safe and snug spots.
With loads of bricks on our heads,

raising buildings but living in the sheds.

And for some the homeless one,

the roof is the sky, the sidewalk is the bed.
To earn some cash,

we pick up

the empties and the scraps.

 

No status, no class, we’re inferior by caste,

working down the drain with suffering and pain.

Underpaid, underage, bonded helpless and muted slaves.

 

We’re the statistics for discussion and debate,

agenda for conferences, data for references,

stories for journalists, a challenge for writers and artists.
We’re an assignment for researchers and experts,

appraising our grades, analyzing our fate,

from national to international poverty-line,

from below to above-poverty-line.
Covering these lines are the lofty goals,

till then,

we have only empty bowls.

 

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

 

Poet Shailendra

In simple words, he wrote great poetry with deepest thoughts, feelings, and emotions. He dared to lodge his genuine complaint to God, duniya banane wale kaya tera mann main samai, kahe to duniya banai. Poet Shailendra, film producer Raj Kapoor, singer Mukesh, and Music director duo Shanker Jaikishan together became the most dominating combination in the golden era of Hindi film music of the ’50s and early ’60s. Some of his most popular and memorable lyrics are; Mera Joota Hai Japani, Chalat Musafir Moh Liya Re, Dil Ka Haal Sune Dilwala, Tu Pyar Ka Saagar Hai, Awara Hoon. Shailendra (30 August 1923 – 14 December 1966) was perhaps the most decorated lyricist in the Hindi film industry. His talent was aptly recognized by the government with the release of a postal stamp in 2013. o

Genes Determine Our Health-related Fate

GURU MANEYO GRANTH

The 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, close to his death, sealed the continuity of human gurus. He declared that henceforth the holy book Adi Granth would be the eternal Guru of Sikhs.

The hymn composed by him for that declaration encourages a devotee to study, research and contemplate the enlightenment contained in the sacred book.

The hymn says:

Agya bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth
Sabb Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth
Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh
Jo Prabhu ko milbo chahe khoj shabad mein le
Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe
Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe.”

While the first three lines of the hymn translate like this: the Sikh Panth (meaning a path) was created by the orders of the Supreme Being whereby all Sikhs are asked to accept the Adi Granth (Sikh holy book) as their Guru which is also an embodiment of all the gurus.

The fourth line emphasizes that whosoever wishes to “milbo” (meet or seek) Him can realize Him thru “Khoj” (search) in the “shabad” (words) of wisdom explicitly explained in the scriptures.

And the last two lines of Guru Gobind Singh’s hymn mean “The pure shall rule, and the impure will be no more; those separated will unite, and all the devotees of the Guru (the Sikh holy book) shall be saved.”

“Khoj Shabad mein le” are the keywords in this divine guidance.

There is a rational emphasis in the Guru’s expression. It conveys the message that the acceptance of the Adi Granth as Guru involves studying with the utmost understanding and then to follow the treasure of revelation and inspiration.

The hymn also encourages a follower to seek consultation from the Guru. And the guru is Adi Granth.

Along with the lines of the hymn, Guru Gobind Singh emphasizes that one should do his or her own studies (khoj) to understand and convince oneself to rationally accept the words of wisdom offered by the Adi Granth.

As Guru Gobind Singh does not believe in the blind following, he stresses on rational acceptance in his abiding declaration of “Guru Maneyo Granth.”

By Promod Puri

 

Progressive Hindu Dialogue

The 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, close to his death, sealed the continuity of human gurus. He declared that henceforth the holy book Adi Granth would be the eternal Guru of Sikhs.

The hymn composed by him for that declaration encourages a devotee to study, research and contemplate on the enlightenment contained in the sacred book.

The hymn says:

Agya bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth
Sabb Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth
Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh
Jo Prabhu ko milbo chahe khoj shabad mein le
Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe
Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe.”

While the first three lines of the hymn translate like this: the Sikh Panth (meaning a path) was created by the orders of the Supreme Being whereby all Sikhs are asked to accept the Adi Granth (Sikh holy book) as their Guru…

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Honours For LINK Newspaper Founder Promod Puri!

“Promod Puri has stood tall like a lighthouse shedding light, guiding and linking communities within a community without passing personal judgement, prejudice or taking sides. Without fear he has promoted what is just and what is right. He founded The Link Newspaper and served as its Editor for almost three decades. He is a beacon of hope of impartiality for all of us. He was awarded a Journalism Award at the annual Dr. Ambedkar Chetna Award Night 2018 in Vancouver last Saturday. Ashok Bhargava president of Writers International Network introduced Puri by paying a rich tribute to the contribution he has made to the Canadian society at large and South Asia community in particular. His book on Hinduism questions Hindu belief in Manu Samriti. He has a full chapter on relevance of Dr Ambedkar in promoting and protecting human rights of all Indians”.
The Link Newspaper

Promod-Puri-award18-1024x768

What’s Hindutva And Why It Conflicts With Hinduism

By Promod Puri

The expression Hindutva emerged from Hinduism which simply means a state or quality of being a Hindu. However, going through its etymology Hindutva sought a wider demarcation to move free from Hinduism but keeping a bonded identity with it as well.

The Hindutva ideology was first introduced in 1923 by Maharashtra-based Hindu social and political activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. As an advocate of sovereignty, Savarkar started his public life as a radical freedom fighter for the liberation of India from British rule. In this stint, he spent several years in jail, including the infamous and torturous cells of the Andaman Islands from where he sought clemency with a promise to renounce revolutionary activities. After the release, Savarkar’s temperament turned to create Hindu nationalism by identifying and promoting its heritage and civilization.

Savarkar had an inherent conservative vision of Hindu social and political consciousness to perceive a Hindu Rashtra (nation). His Hindutva doctrine is based on the hypothesis that India’s religious and cultural diversities are fundamentally rooted in its collective Hindu identity.

“Common Rashtra, common race and common culture” are the three cardinals identifying Hindutva nationalism

In line with the Hindutva’s concept, Hindu means a nationality of Hindu Rashtra, a motherland or fatherland with its geographical boundaries. And regarding “common race and common culture” Hindu means a correlative genealogy or ancestry, sharing its cultural heritage, beliefs, and ethics.

Correspondent to that the followers of all the India-born religions and sects are included in the Hindutva fold. But it excludes those who belong to foreign-born faiths like Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.

Hindutva tries to portray itself as a cultural and nationalistic conception to mark itself as India’s identity. Still, it does not assume a theological categorization. In its expansive role, Hindutva believes in the existence of a collective Hindu culture or way of life which is also being shared and practiced by compatible non-Hindu communities. In social environs, Hindutva is everything that is Indic.

Savarkar explicitly proclaimed, “Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term Hinduism, but history in full”.

Savarkar’s approach incidentally confined Hinduism within its religious and spiritual order. And let Hindutva play a wider role to define India’s nationalism, its people, history, culture, and traditions.

Savarkar argued “Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or creed. Had not linguistic usage stood in our way then ‘Hinduness’ would have certainly been a better word than Hinduism as a near parallel to Hindutva”.

He declared “Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. … Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race”.

In India’s cultural, linguistic and religious diversities, Savarkar believed the existence of a strong underlying Indian tradition based on his vision of Hindu values. In his views, Hindu reflects the cultural and political nationality of India.

With that premise, Savarkar tried to secularized Hindutva. Under that platform, he could include Muslims, Christians, and Parsis believing these communities were Hindus too from cultural and historical perspectives.

According to Hindutva, being a Hindu is more than a religious engagement. It is a cultural concept not only of Hindus but of other communities as well residing within the Hindu social order irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Inspired by Hinduism but having its fundamentals in culture, history and civilization Hindutva finds some parallel with existing Bharatiya and Hindustani appellations. The latter represent the diverse cultural and social values of India in more secular and unequivocal terms than Hindutva.

While restricting it in the theological domain, Savarkar’s attempt to whip the Hindutva ideology from Hinduism is perplexing to the Hindu mind. Neither it can be classified as a reform movement in Hinduism.

With his literary background in Indology, it is confusing why Savarkar was unable to realize that the uniqueness of Hinduism lies in its totality which covers not only rituals, philosophies and spirituality, but its traditions, cultural and social trends also.

Hinduism is not merely a religion. And it is not only a way of life either. It goes beyond rituals, customs, and traditions. The depth and vastness of Hinduism touch every aspect of human observation and activity.

From rituals to murti-puja, mantra and metaphysics, karma and moksha, to meditation and yoga, and all its recreational aspects like music, dance, and drama, Hinduism is a disciplinary as well as a comprehensive experience of spiritual development in the liberal and progressive regime.

This expanded definition covers the cultural, religious and philosophical aspects of presenting a collective identity of Hinduism for ritualistic, theological and academic pursuits. Taking out the social segment or any other aspect from it goes against the very spirit and integrated constitution of Hinduism.

Besides treading through its rituals, customs and traditions, being a Hindu is an engagement in philosophies for analytical debate about life and our relationship with nature and the universe. It is a fascinating journey in spiritual knowledge.

This pilgrimage offers a meaningful perspective of the religion which recognizes the universal connectivity existing in nature including our relationship with fellow human beings. Savarkar’s fenced Hindutva ideology, which bars non-Hindus, denies that universal connectivity.

The Upanishadic vision of our togetherness as one human race irrespective of our color, creed or religious beliefs is very wisely expressed in the following mantra:

“ Om purnam adah purnam idam

purnat purnam udachyate

purnasya purnam adaya

purnam evavashishyate”.

The mantra affirms that the universe is a totality, indivisible and an organic whole where plants, birds, animals, humans, mountains, and stars are all together in His manifestation

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

Savarkar talks about the exclusivity of membership in Hindutva who shares “common Rashtra, common race, and common culture.” In all these commonalities the underlying link is a separate Rashtra, a separate race and a separate culture of Hindutva.

Culture is a distinctive feature of one group of people comprising of several aspects. One of them is religion, and the others are language, cuisine, social habits, music, and arts. Obviously, one aspect of a culture does not represent the whole.

The expression “Hindu culture” is as vague as saying Hindu cuisine (except by international airlines referring to “Hindu meal”). And it is as much eluding as trying to contrive a language, music, arts, customs, etc. with a suffix of Hindu like saying Hindu music or Hindu language.

Culture in most cases is secular in nature.

When we talk about a cultural community, we mean an all-inclusive explicit way of life. It represents all of the groups of people sharing common identities despite belonging to different religious denominations. But all speaking the same language and sharing the same social and cultural traits.

Often people of one cultural community have several religions.

The unity of India lies in its cultural plurality. The denial of that plurality and imposing a monolithic Hindutva hegemony fragments the multicultural fabric of the nation. Social unity and coherence are the natural needs and dependencies of an advancing society.

In its present avatar Hindutva ideology of non-inclusiveness conflicts with the secular, liberal and democratic spirit of Hinduism. Hindutva needs an ideological reconstruction which can be an effective and dedicated institution in the service of Hinduism.

But if it does not, and sticks to its stand that “Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva,” then it can find some archive space in Hinduism. In its vast open structure, Hinduism has always accommodated diverse ideologies. And kept them as part of its history and ever-evolving constitution. That is the tradition in Hinduism. Hindutva can rest in that tradition.

(Promod Puri lives in Vancouver, Canada. He is a writer and former editor and publisher of the South Asian Canadian newspaper, The Link, and ex-editor of Native Indian newspaper, The New Nation. He is the author of a recently published book titled Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions”). His website: promodpuri.com

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LIVING IN THE PRESENT

By Promod Puri

This brief article is inspired by widely acclaimed Vancouver-based spiritual writer Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now.” It is not an attempt to give motivational advice. But coming up with an idea, in line with the basic theme of the “Power of Now” in realizing, accepting, capturing and enjoying every moment happening just now.

Experience the past, fly over the future, but stay in the present. Moments matter in this stay. These moments come and go in the time flash of now.

In an endeavor to dwell in the now, the present moment, let us get into the R.A.C.E.

The letter ‘R’ stands for recognition which is the first approach in this focus to acknowledge how important is the present moment.

‘A’ stands for acceptance. Once the present moment is realized, acceptance makes sense. It does not matter how pleasant, good, bad or ugly, easy or difficult the present offers in its outlook and outcome, it needs to be accepted.

‘C’ stands for capturing of the present moment to have a real grip for its effective handling.

And finally ‘E’ stands for enjoyment. In whatever shape or form a situation is presented or emerges after its recognition, acceptance, and containment it must be enjoyed as well with grace.

Climbing a tough hill is an experiment in R.A.C.E. Where every step of the hike is a moment. Here the climber recognizes (R) and accepts (A) that to accomplish his or her feat the only choice is to go up. Each moment is captured (C) without letting in other thoughts and finally enjoying (E) every step of the challenge to cover the climb.

It is an experience in concentration or meditation in action when the climbing movements and the climber become one entity. It is like during a dance performance when dance and the dancer become one.

And that is where the joy of living in the present, where we merge with the moment, finds its relevancy and pleasure.

promodpuri.com

Exploring Hinduism Beyond Rituals

via Exploring Hinduism Beyond Rituals

Learn about the rich diversity of Hindu sacred texts – hymns, narratives, philosophical thought – and their interpretations.

via Hinduism Through Its Scriptures

SAT-CHIT-ANANDA: The Ultimate Bliss

“Sat-chit-ananda” is a three-word moral thesis or maxim which has several philosophical explanations based on Hindu spiritual understanding. In all these interpretations its cardinal message promises divine contentment and bliss.

Peace, pleasure, and fulfillment in every aspect of life are the objectives one seeks. The maxim “sat-chit-ananda” is the awareness and consequence of those pursuits.

The quest begins with ‘sat,’ the first directive of the sutra. It means truth or reality. In our thoughts and actions or karmas, an analytic assessment is a requisite to realize and retrieve truth.

Seeking truth is an exercise which is influenced by mindset attitudes towards different issues or situations.

In that maze of mindset prejudiced sentiments, ‘chit,’ meaning mind, plays the guiding role to establish truth or reality.

‘Chit’ connects with consciousness. The latter is an inward awareness of an external object or fact, and these could include perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. Consciousness also relates to activities of mind and senses.

In our simple understanding, consciousness or ‘chit’ delivers guileless notice reacting to a situation or an event going to happen or being witnessed or experienced.

In Hindu rationalistic contemplation “sat’ and ‘chit’ together coordinate to produce the harvest of Ananda or bliss.

In short Sat + Chit = Ananda.

 “sat-chit-ananda” is a Key Concept in Vedanta

The Vedanta school of thought in Hinduism is a comprehensive study with philosophies from the Upanishads which are part of the Vedas, the ancient Hindu texts.

The axiom “Sat-chit-ananda” is one of the key divine approaches in the Upanishadic collection.

However, the message of “sat-chit-ananda” finds more rational residency in the Mimamsa school of Hinduism. A forerunner to Vedanta, Mimamsa school is a pioneer of Hindu thought of realism.

The concept is based on karma or action to achieve ‘ananda” or bliss. When consciousness and realism (truth) work together, the realization of God begins.

Please note, the God here is not a personified figurehead. It is blissful, ‘Ananda,’ feeling created by righteous actions.

-By Promod Puri

progressivehindudialogue.com

 

 

Through Law, Ambedkar Declared Manusmriti Illegal

By Promod Puri
(In celebration of Dr.Ambedkar Jayanti and his birthday)

Earlier in the mid 19th century Jyotirao Phule, an activist, reformer, and theologist from Maharashtra initiated the struggle to end the social exploitation of the outcasts. He espoused the word Dalit originating from the Marathi language meaning broken and crushed. He denounced the caste system and focused on the rights of depressed classes.

The campaign against caste system gathered momentum under contemporary leader Dr. Bhumirao Ramji Ambedkar at the forefront. He vehemently opposed the caste-based discrimination and fought against the plight of Shudras and Dalits.

Hinduism, he argued if followed according to Manusmriti, has assigned Dalit “the role of a slave.”

Before his apostasy, Ambedkar was a born Hindu in a Dalit family and experienced firsthand the discrimination and humiliation in early childhood. He set out to eradicate the centuries’ old segregation and stigmatization of fellow human beings classified as Shudras and Untouchables.

His biography states:
“Although able to attend school, Ambedkar and other untouchable children were segregated and given little attention or assistance by the teachers. They were not allowed to sit inside the class. Even if they needed to drink water, someone from a higher caste would have to pour that water from a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the vessel that contained it. This task was usually performed for the young Ambedkar by the school peon, and if the peon was not available then he had to go without water; the situation he later in his writings described as “No peon, No Water.” He was required to sit on a gunny sack which he had to take home with him”. (Source B.R.Ambedkar, Wikipedia).

His father was a ranked army officer under the British rule in India. Using his little influence, he got his children educated. Ambedkar being an industrious student and while facing challenges, he did his matriculation, graduation and post graduation in economics and political science. He attended Columbia University and London School of Economics and received doctorate honors. He served as India’s first law minister when the country gained Independence.

Distinguishing himself with several academic degrees and being an eminent scholar was indeed his personal feats which infused a great sense of pride for the entire community of Dalits and under-privileged class.

In his book Annihilation of Caste Ambedkar, while arguing against the deep-rooted caste system in the Hindu psyche, he gives a vivid description of the custom and practices prevalent in the society.

He writes: “Under the rule of the Peshwas in the Maratha country the untouchable was not allowed to use the public streets if a Hindu was coming along lest he should pollute the Hindu by his shadow. The untouchable was required to have a black thread either on his wrist or in his neck as a sign or a mark to prevent the Hindus from getting them polluted by his touch through mistake. In Poona, the capital of the Peshwa, the untouchable was required to carry, strung from his waist, a broom to sweep away from behind the dust he trod on lest a Hindu walking on the same should be polluted. In Poona, the untouchable was required to carry an earthen pot, hung in his neck wherever he went, for holding his spit lest his spit falling on earth should pollute a Hindu who might unknowingly happen to tread on it”.

In his crusade to end the ill-treatment of Dalits, as well as expressing his moral sense, that on December 25, 1927, he led a public protest of the symbolic burning of Manusmriti. The event was attended by thousands of people in a ceremony performed by a Brahmin priest amidst chanting of mantras.

Ambedkar was a fearless and dedicated soldier who fought to uproot casteism from the contaminated soil of India’s social and religious culture.

Combating religious wrongs is more challenging than tackling other social, economic and political issues. Ambedkar was one of those rare personalities in the history of humankind who consciously ruffled with religious sensitivities.

With his intellect, knowledge and rational understanding of the religion, Ambedkar confronted with and impeached the Hindu establishment for its treatment of the Dalits and Untouchables. He awakened the dormant consciousness of the oppressed class who otherwise resigned themselves to the act of fate.

Unlike in Mahabharata, Ambedkar fought the battle against evils thru nonviolent strategies.

When India got Independence and Ambedkar being the principal author of the nation’s constitution and holding the law portfolio in the cabinet, Untouchability was declared unlawful.

Ambedkar believed the law is an instrument to establish a sane social order in which the development of the individual is in harmony with the growth of society.

After centuries of hitherto unchallenged and illegal authority relating to human rights violations, Manusmriti in terms of laws of India became illegal overnight.

Granting equality does not mean justice. But legalities were put in place. Special privileges for the underprivileged members of the society were enshrined in the constitution to break the shackles of virtual economic and social slavery, and to free the Dalits and Shudras from the humiliating social disorder.

As a key person in the drafting of the Indian constitution, he was successful in making adequate inclusions of women’s rights in addition to all other general provisions applicable to all. These inclusions sought to abolish different marriage systems prevalent among Hindus and to establish monogamy as the only legal system, conferment of the right to property, and adoption of women and restitution of conjugal rights and judicial separation.

Ambedkar, in fact, was an inspiration for the progressive Hindu mind, a guide for the rationalist and reformist Hindu, an advocate of women rights, and almost a messiah for lowest of the low which for the first time felt some hope of freedom from their dehumanized status.

Ambedkar helped in the revamping of the Hindu society. He was posthumously honored with India’s highest civil award of Bharat Ratna in 1990.

The technical advances particularly in the social media, promise the societal cleanup of the clogs within the Hindu religion which would see Ambedkar’s dream of social democracy comes true.

(From my book Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions)

SUN GOD

IMG_3003While most Hindu deities are revered thru their symbolic medium of murtis, the sun god is worshiped not only as graphic or statue-like idol, but in His live appearance as well.

Surya Namaskar or salutation is an early morning Hindu prayer in standing posture and with folded hands facing the sun god.

Surya Devta or sun god enjoys unique status in Hindu iconography as the visible divine personality emerging from the horizon every day. His celestial arrival frees a devotee from ritualistic customs or caste-based barricades and taboos to have an independent face to face obeisance and worship. The sun god is approachable without any medium.

The Sun’s universal distribution of light and energy has been recognized since Vedic time as the ultimate source of life, the cause of our existence and the environment it nourishes.

From metaphysical viewpoint light and energy occupy fundamental ranking in Hindu faith. And sun is the spirited and analogous force in this numinous discernment. Light and energy are the divine elements to lead us to the path of knowledge, reality and truth. The Gayatri mantra predicates the divinity in light and energy.

The life and soul of the universe is the Sun.

(Excerpts from Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions)
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BETWEEN THE POLITICS OF LEFT AND RIGHT THERE IS ALTERNATIVE

The article seeks redesigning of our political and economic systems based on changing social needs as well as our ethical and environmental commitments.

 

 

by Promod Puri

The article seeks redesigning of our political and economic systems based on changing social needs as well as our ethical and environmental commitments.

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 un-touchability 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 sociopolitical 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 narcissustically 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).

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Should Politics Be Separate From Religion

via Should Politics Be Separate From Religion

Stephen Hawking Opens New Frontiers In The Science Of God

By Promod Puri

In his mind, physically-challenged Stephen Hawking explored the cosmos, and he got a much clearer picture of how the universe came into existence. In the quest, he could not find the god commonly believed to be up there and responsible for this creation.

However, as a physicist, he found his god in his dedicated daily karmas (works) in the astronomical objects called “black holes,” and in the Quantum theory explaining the universe at the subatomic depths.

Hawking’s understanding of the nature of black holes and quantum mechanisms can be helpful in knowing how the universe was born. University of Queensland professor Tamara Davis explains in The Conversation:

“Hawking famously described the quest for a theory of everything in analogy to God:

“If we do discover a theory of everything… it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would truly know the mind of God.”

“As a devout atheist, he made it clear that he didn’t mean we would understand a deity, but rather that we would be able to explain, using physics, the birth of the universe itself, and all the processes within it, thus demonstrating there is no need for a god.

“In his own words:

“God may exist, but science can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”

“We know that nothing, not even light, can escape a black hole’s gravitational pull. Nevertheless, Hawking discovered that black holes should glow. But if light can’t escape from black holes, how can they glow?

“The event horizon of a black hole is the point of no return. Once you are on the event horizon, you can never escape, and no light you emit will ever be seen outside. The reason black holes can glow is that no light actually emerges from inside the event horizon. The light gets created just outside of it, thanks to the black hole’s interaction with the quantum vacuum.

“This leads to another question because another important rule of physics is the conservation of energy; you can’t create something from nothing. So, in order to glow, the black hole has to pay the price, and it pays with the only currency it has – its mass.

“As the black hole emits light it gets lighter, and the lighter the black hole, the more dramatically it shines, which accelerates its demise until it evaporates into nothing in an intense flash of radiation.

“As spectacular as that may be, it may seem a trifle esoteric: why should we care how black holes behave? Well, the theories Hawking was developing also have implications for the question of how the universe began. Hawking proposed a mechanism, through quantum physics, by which a universe could be born. In other words, he proposed an answer to how the big bang banged.”

In this explanation where Hawking deals with the nature of black holes and quantum physics by combining the two, he has put the religiosity of god in a different perspective in relationship with the birth of the universe.

Besides the fact his god was in his thoughts and works, which were more meaningful and rational than the ritualistic faiths, Hawking’s progressive investigations open new thinking on the science of God altogether. And it is here he went beyond the empirical confines in the realm of metaphysics where religion dwells.

Stephen Hawking might be an “atheist”, but thru his exploration of the origin of the universe, he did establish some relationship between science and religion, a fact which is yet to get its realization by the scientific community.

No Kanyadaan Ritual By Woman Priest

via No Kanyadaan Ritual By Woman Priest

The Trees Told Me So

The Trees Told Me SoThe Trees Told Me So by Purva Grover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An enjoyable And Stimulating Reading

By Promod Puri

As a newspaperman fiction seldom allures me, but I embraced The Trees….” because Purva Grover is a writer who can stir words to find depth and feelings in them.
“The Trees Told Me So” is such a collection. Her assembly of words comes from trees. They are the silent living observers of the world around them. In their contributing representation, Purva makes the trees talk, and they do. Trees “have so much to tell,” she upholds.
And what Purva has gathered from her trees, she evolved them into fascinating stories of ordinary folks. The readers can quickly get engaged with these tales as if these have happened the next door.
In her debut shot as an author, “The Trees Told Me So” seems to be an uncommon endeavor when fiction reflects elements of reality because these events are witnessed by Purva’s trees.
As a wordsmith, she handily gets into the realism of her stories. She values the nature of words. “…because it is only the honest words that have the power to bring about the change, touch hearts and awaken minds,” writes the author in the book’s preface.
Purva plays with words from the trees’ rings, like a vinyl record, and composes them into stories. These are the tales which touch the ordinary or extraordinary situations and events as life goes by around us. These stories are of universal nature, instinctively appear as a shared property of the readers. And the author herself insists these are “as much yours as they are mine.”
In a family relationship, love, and friendship, “The Trees Told Me So” is a multi-dimensional presentation of affection and suspense, joys, sorrows, anguish and griefs, humbleness, and compassion. She explores and shares the pleasures and passions, sentiments, and warmth in “togetherness.”
Purva perceives through emotions. She extracts purity of feelings from them. The sentiments are felt and expressed in lines like: “Over the years, I had noticed my grandfather was finding it harder to hide his tears; Granny was always ok with crying.”
She indulges in numinous moods as well. There is earnestness in her religiosity. “I looked up at the skies and told Him I bore no grudges against Him.” But “the view from up” was perhaps contaminated on its way down with “smoke and deception.”
All-embracing, “The Trees…..” is an enjoyable and absorbing reading gleamed here and there with stimulating thoughts flowing from Purva Grover, a multi-talented and accomplished young writer in English.
-30-

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

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Re-evaluating Our Religions & Other Institutions

Promod Puri

In our civilized and progressive world, the call of humanity seeks re-evaluating each of our religions, rituals, customs, traditions, social and political institutions, including Left and Right isms, which impart values and behaviors impacting our environments.

This resolution is part of the evolution and management of civil society we live in. Evolution of civilization is natural as well as essential for rational and intelligent creation of environments which influence our thoughts. Read more: 

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WHY A CRIMINAL IS SOCIETY’S OUTCAST FOR REST OF LIFE:

Promod Puri

This is a question which seeks an answer from moral or ethical perspective.

A person attempts to commit a terrible crime but fails in his or her mission. The individual, however, is apprehended, charged and while accepting graveness of the criminality, is punished with a jail sentence. After completing the required period of the jail term with good behavior certification, the person moves back to the society and starts his or her life afresh as a good citizen.

Does the society have the moral conviction to treat the person as an outcast for the rest of his or her life?

-Promod Puri

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Temple Hinduism, Meditation And Karma

via Temple Hinduism, Meditation And Karma

Temple Hinduism, Meditation And Karma

By Promod Puri

“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 temple’s iconological environment.

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

An accepted convention among Hindus is to have home shrines, but a temple aside from a place of worship offers visible embodiment of identity to the religion. The instinct vibe of the divine spirit in an idol itself is the prime invitation to the temple.

The overall mood in temple environs causes an ardent psychological conviction that this is the abode of God. It offers a dedicated and disciplined setting for ritual worship, prayers, and contemplation.

The tradition of humility and total submission by devotees further contribute to the consecration of temple environment. Taking off shoes before entering the sacred premises, bowing in front of sacred idols’ sanctum, sitting on the floor, observing silence, are some the very basic and observed customs of Hindu worship etiquettes.

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

Temple-Hinduism involves routine visits to a temple for ritualistic, devotional, and contemplative purposes. But temple-Hinduism embodying these practices is not mandatory for a devout Hindu. Meditative Hinduism and spiritual yoga disciplines can also be the entitlements of the multi-disciplinary spiritual order of the religion.

In the diverse and secular fundamentals of Hinduism, meditation and yoga are the recognized and rife movements which appeal to both Hindus and non-Hindus.

Meditation in all its varied contemplations is a much-practiced Hindu tradition from ancient to the present times. Hindu meditation is both secular and spiritual in its nature and practice.

Seeking enlightenment is one reverent aspect of meditation which has its Vedic roots in Hindu spiritual traditions. However, the most favored and helpful feature of meditation in our day to day lives is to procreate a tranquil temperament amidst the ceaseless chaos of personal anxieties and worldly troubles.

Meditation basically is an exercise of steering the mind toward a focus during the entire meditative period. And the focus can be any chosen or guru-given mantra, a thought, some auditory sensation like breath, a sacred sound like Om, or even an object. Theoretically, it is a simple and focused discipline, and its practice leads to serenity.

A contemporary observation of Hinduism suggests meditation and yoga are on the same platform from the aspects of spirituality and praxis. The practicality of yoga in offering health benefits has achieved its own universal recognition and acceptance.

The word yoga is derived from its Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ which means to join. The sanctioned concept is that the practice of yoga leads toward the union of Jiva-Atma and Parm-Atma, in other words between the self and the Supreme.

However, the fusion can also be interrupted as between spirituality and physical wellness within the yoga discipline. As such the yoga school of Hinduism offers a unique feature emphasizing that healthy mind and healthy body are complimentary as well as linked to each other through the discipline of yoga.

Despite their bonded identity with Hinduism, the contemporary trends in meditation and yoga “underplay or distance their connections with the word ‘Hindu,’ and some use labels such ‘spiritual’ to emphasize their ‘universal’ content, according to Prof. Narayanan.

In this expanse, the spirituality and exercise of the Hindu faith go beyond temple-Hinduism or the institutions of meditation and yoga.

Hinduism also belongs to those who neither go to temple on regular and ritualistic basis nor do they involve themselves in either meditation or yoga tradition as part of their spiritual pursuits or devotional routines.

Their Hinduism lies in an order often referred as “a way of life.” Here the Hindu theology is induced with divinity in thoughts, words, and deeds based on knowledge and rationality.

In this regime, which I would call Karma Hinduism, ethical and righteous thoughts and karmas guide the management of the self and its divinity. Nonetheless, temple visits,  meditation, and yoga remain complimentary to Karma Hinduism.

 

(Promod Puri is the author of “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.” He is also a frequent writer on topics related to Hinduism, politics and human interest.)

Websites:

progressivehindudialogue.com

promodpuri.com

promodpuri.blogspot.com

“Riding The Tide”: Inspiring Poetry by Ashok Bhargava

bookPoetry Book Review

They say every cloud does have a silver lining. It is nature. It appears along darkest of passing clouds.

In the literary environment, Vancouver-based poet laureate Ashok Bhargava himself created that silver-lining when he put together his collection last year while he braved through the fight against cancerous clouds hanging over his body and mind.

“Riding The Tide” was the result of this anthology. He penned his poetry in between the painful and exhausting regimes of chemotherapy. In contemplative moods, thoughts were his friendly companions and words were his ardent tools.

In his dreadful ordeal, Ashok survived the big C with often porous layers of infinite positivity. He promised himself to endure.
The victorious hero came out with the bouquet of his poetry as words, plenty of them, fell into their place in natural and divine order.

“…….showering of words
Pour down
Delicately
I am drenched.
“Swaying the elation
I forget the difference
Between pain and healing
Between light and dark
Between faith and doubts
Between promises our bodies make
And the ones they keep.”

During the lonely and dragging moments he spent in the tormented interlude of his life, Ashok sought and found that darkness has a light too. And that makes the “Riding the Tide” an inspiring and optimistic read with an abundance of hope.

“….Even waves lift me up.
When I am about to drown.”

-By Promod Puri
(Since its publication last year, “Riding The Tide” has been translated in few other languages worldwide).

GOD’S CONTEMPLATION IN RATIONAL & PRACTICAL ENVIRONMENTS

via GOD’S CONTEMPLATION IN RATIONAL & PRACTICAL ENVIRONMENTS

Under Canada’s Immigration Detention System Deaths & Human Rights Violations

File 20171113 27622 1lfngev.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Two refugee children from Eritrea sit in the back of a police cruiser after crossing the border from New York into Canada in March 2017 near Hemmingford, Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)


Petra Molnar
, University of Toronto and Stephanie J Silverman, University of Toronto

Lucia Vega Jimenez, 42, Mexico.

Jan Szamko, 31, Czech Republic.

Melkioro Gahungu, 64, Burundi.

Abdurahman Hassan, 39, Somalia

And at least 11 more.

Earlier this month, an unnamed 50-year-old woman died while being detained in a maximum-security provincial jail in Ontario. She did not commit any crimes, but was imprisoned because of her immigration status.

Since 2000, at least 16 people have died while incarcerated in Canada’s system of immigration detention, with a shocking four deaths since March 2016.

The mounting death toll leads us to ask: Do certain deaths matter less than others? And for that matter, are some lives more imprisonable than others?

Our research examines the socio-legal ins and outs of immigration detention, a shadow penal system allowed to grow under the auspices of it being a form of administrative — not criminal — law.

In this parallel system, the government of Canada is locking up migrants and refugee claimants, not for any crimes committed under the Criminal Code but for immigration-related reasons.

Isolated from support system

Many are held in Immigration Holding Centres, facilities akin to prisons but exclusive to immigration detainees, but a third are transferred to maximum-security jails far from where their friends, family and lawyers live and where they are forced to interact with the convicted population.

Also, it’s important to remember that we are dealing with a highly traumatized population often suffering serious mental health issues as a result of fleeing their countries and arriving in Canada. When migrants are isolated and further traumatized by being detained, it becomes difficult to gather evidence for their refugee cases, to retain lawyers and to attend advice sessions.

Detention creates profound access-to-justice concerns and has a significant impact on the way a detainee’s case is treated in Canada’s immigration system.

We have found that the immigration detention population feels the sharp edges of the law most acutely. You may have read about Australia’s offshore detention centres, or the expansive and expanding system of draconian and punitive tent cities and prisons for immigrants in the United States, but do not be fooled by matters of scale: Canada is also engaged in this practice of incarcerating people.

Affects mental health

Detention is profoundly harmful: It negatively impacts the mental health of detainees; separates family members; and prevents detained people from adequate access to counsel, community supports and psycho-social counselling.

Unlike in the criminal system where all prisoners know the length of their sentences, there are no time limits on Canadian immigration detention. There are also no rights to a lawyer, translator or outgoing phone calls. This prevents detainees from being able to exercise basic procedural justice rights.

Lucia Vega Jimenez is shown in a coroner’s inquest handout photo released in September 2014. Jimenez died in hospital days after she was found hanging in a Canada Border Services Agency holding cell at Vancouver’s airport in December 2013. (The Canadian Press)

We are also learning that detainees may be placed in solitary confinement, also known as segregation. Some are confined for prolonged periods of time. For example, Kashif Ali was isolated for 103 consecutive days without review, access to counsel or ongoing medical assessments.

There are also documented cases of Syrian youth being placed in solitary confinement for up to two weeks, resulting in increased post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and exacerbation of the past trauma associated with fleeing war.

Various international mechanisms recognize solitary confinement as a form of torture. Detainees themselves recognize the brutal nature of this practice and hunger strikes have broken out among immigration detainees in Ontario prisons over Canada’s segregation practices.

No insight over segregation decisions

In our study on segregated immigration detainees in Ontario prisons, we are finding shockingly little oversight of solitary confinement decisions on both segregation and release.

In a shadowy world of arbitrary, opaque and unaccountable decision-making, there is no clear pathway out from solitary — let alone from detention. Segregation is a legally recognized form of torture and must end.

We do not yet know why or how the latest death in detention occurred, but we do know that Canada continually falls short of international standards on the detention of children and the mentally ill. While there are review mechanisms in place, they are cursory at best, and Canada is one of the few countries without limits on time spent in detention. Canada’s immigration detention regime, overall, raises serious access-to-justice concerns.

A recent Ontario Superior Court decision labelled the system “Kafkaesque,” an “endless circuit of mistakes, unproven accusations and technicalities,” and “a closed circle of self-referential and circuitous logic from which there is no escape.”

Ultimately, Canada’s immigration detention regime is a costly, ineffective and discretionary system that violates the human rights of migrants, including the right to a fair trial, the right not to be arbitrarily detained, and the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Does Religion Has Its Role In Politics

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. Read more in my essay (7 minutes) on this issue.

-Promod Puri

Niqab, Burqa And Myanmar Rohingya Refugees

Whereas, Rohingya Muslims refugees from Myanmar, over half a million in number, are battling terror, exhaustion, and hunger in Bangladesh, here in Canada Muslim-right women, with the support of so-called anti-racist progressive activists, and vote-hungry opportunist politicians, are battling to save their right to wear burqa and niqab as against the upcoming ban in Quebec.

Humanism demands that women combating to retain their burqas and niqabs to protect their social or religious traditions and cultural identities, should move their curtains and look at the crisis and sufferings faced by fellow Muslims who are being kicked out from their homeland by Buddhist-dominated Myanmar government as part of its ethnic cleansing drive.

Promod Puri

Hinduism Thrives In Its Open Structure

By Promod Puri

Hinduism is a wide-open structure. It is an abode where believers in God, atheists, and ethicists can comfortably reside together and share their knowledge, beliefs, and experiences for the betterment of humanity and its environments.

Hinduism evolves by itself in its conflicting, contradicting, and controversial framework. In its spacious design and architecture, Hinduism is open for questioning, debate, and discussion

Hinduism has never been run by any centralized religious authority. As such it has evolved its own flexible, resilient, and even firm dynamics along with rationales, metaphysical and mystical beliefs which are not binding.

From rituals to idol worship, mantra and metaphysics, karma, and moksha, to meditation and yoga, and all its recreational aspects like music, dance, and drama, Hinduism is disciplinary as well as a comprehensive experience of spiritual development in liberal and progressive regime.

Hinduism is not merely “a way of life”, but much more than that.

(Read more about Hinduism in “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions).

WHY IDOL WORSHIPPING IN HINDUISM

One of the most outstanding and contemplating icons of Hinduism is the worship of murtis (idols). The Divine Spirit is perceived in an image. In this perceptive role murtis are an integral part of Hindu institutions and traditions.

In its colorful and expressive craftmanship, a murti is an adorable symbol of identity in Hindu iconology. From an object of worship, a murti becomes divinity in itself. The Lord is in the idol too.

Idolatry establishes a direct one-to-one relationship between a devotee and the divinity. And in that connection, a dialogue is possible when the mind of an Upasak (devotee) is earnestly invoked in the Upasana stage (sitting near a murti) to seek Divine guidance and blessings.

A blissful bond of non-duality can be realized between an Atma (individual soul) and Paramatma (Supreme Soul).

Image formation is a very natural trait in human psychology. In our conscious state all our feelings, ideas, and impulses manifest images. The genesis of an image is a cognitive imagination influenced by perception of an object.

In the Philosophy and Significance of Idol Worship, a Divine Life Society publication, Sri Swami Sivananda says:

“Idol is a support for the neophyte. It is a prop of his spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. It is a reminder of God. The material image calls up the mental idea. Steadiness of mind is obtained by image worship. To behold God everywhere and to practice the presence of God is not possible for the ordinary man. Idol worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man.

“A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The mind wants a prop to lean upon. It cannot have a conception of the Absolute in the initial stages. Without the help of some external aid, in the initial stages, the mind cannot be centralized. In the beginning, concentration or meditation is not possible without a symbol.

Pratima (idol) is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple, though it is made of stone, wood or metal, is precious for a devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it stands for something which he holds holy and eternal. A flag is only a small piece of painted cloth, but it stands for a soldier for something that he holds very dear. He is prepared to give up his life in defending his flag. Similarly, the image is very dear to a devotee. It speaks to him in its own language of devotion. Just as the flag arouses martial valor in the soldier, so also the image arouses devotion in the devotee. The Lord is superimposed on the image and the image generates divine thoughts in the worshipper”.

Besides offering a symbolic presence of divinity and its psychological proximity, murtis enrich the diversity in Hindu iconology. The liberal credentials of Hinduism are reposed in its murti representations.

Moreover, creating an ambiance of sanctity and offering a channel of devotion, murtis play a significant role in projecting Hinduism in the field of fine arts.

Shilpa Shastra, the school of art, is an academy in itself. The Hindu faith in its immensity welcomes members of the art community irrespective of their religious affiliations to pursue their talents in murti kala (art). It is the faith in spirituality which motivates an artist irrespective of religion to create and shape a sacred murti.

LORD GANESH

The secular character of Hinduism reflects in the domain of art.

In the world of both early and contemporary Indian arts, one of the most popular godhead is Lord Ganesh. He has been a favorite and popular subject taken up by artists to create their artworks. Metal, stone, drawings, ingenious material like pipal leaves and even fruits and vegetables arrangements are used to create His multi-posed images.

(Excerpts from the book: Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions, Chapter 6 “Worship of Idols”).

Diwali Mubarak Message To Canada’s PM

Dear Hon. Prime Minister Trudeau:

In celebration of the popular Indian festival of lights, I also wish you, Diwali Mubarak.
Your selection of Diwali Mubarak expression in your tweet is my choice as well.

I noticed that some people tweeted and objected to your use of the word ‘Mubarak’, asserting that it is not a Hindu expression, but a Muslim one as being Arabic in its origin. Please ignore these scant individuals.

Diwali is not only the festival of Hindus but Sikhs also. And ‘Mubarak’, meaning congratulations, is the most common word by the people, including Punjabis, from the northern part of India. Other expressions of Diwali greetings are in pure Hindi language, whereas Mubarak is the word of choice in Hindusthani which is the language of the common folks.

‘Mubarak’ is a secular word which fits very well with the liberal philosophies of Hinduism and Sikhism.

In that spirit of being secular and progressive, your participation in Diwali celebrations is indeed an honor for all us in the Indo-Canadian communities. You represent the true nature of Canada’s multicultural society.

By the way, Mr. Trudeau I like your ‘sherwani’ dress which you put on at the Diwali celebration event in Ottawa early this week.

 

Best wishes, and once again Diwali Mubarak.

Sincerely

Promod Puri

Vancouver, BC
(Author “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions”)

DIWALI MUBARAK

DMTjnFBUIAAe6eT DIWALI MUBARAK is my choice of greetings on the happy occasion of Diwali, the universal festival of lights. In the picture Canada’s  prime minister Justin Trudeau lighting the traditional Diwali lamp along with India’s High Commissioner Vikas Swarup and members of the Indo-Canadian community in Ottawa October 16, 2017.  The prime minister in his tweet greeted Canadians “Diwali Mubarak”.

“In the secular and progressive spirit of Hinduism, Diwali is the voluminous festival of celebrations. Inspired by the epic drama Ramayan, Diwali is a celebration of good over evil, and forces of light over darkness. It is a celebration of relationship, support and sacrifice of family members and friends. It is a celebration of facing obstacles with vigour and strength. It is a celebration of rule of law, peace and prosperity”. excerpt from Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions

By Promod Puri

 

Networking Is Not A New Concept

Networking is not a new concept, but has been practised for hundreds of years. But historians did not recognise it. It was networking by great leaders, saints or gurus within a select group of people who otherwise were called “followers”, to spread ideas and messages.

These are excerpts from an article from my fellow blog follower “Wolfe Review“:

I listened to a talk by Niall Ferguson on Intelligence Squared about his new book. In his new book, he intends to discuss hidden, or as yet uncovered networks throughout history. There were a few rather interesting take-away points I wish to mention here.

  1. Firstly, he believes that social networks are an important way of understanding how ideas have travelled and grown through culture and history. However, these networks have never been properly covered by historians and other cultural writers. This has left speculation in the hands of conspiracy theorists and non-academics, who have taken historical facts and distorted them or misrepresented them to the point that spurious and specious conclusions have been reached.
  2. There have been two major revolutions in networking.
    1. The first is the birth of the printing press, which he places in the hands of Martin Luther. This is because of Luther’s insistence of the manufacturing of the Christian Bible into English so that all lay practitioners of Christianity can read it. The importance of this is that it was the first time an idea had been so widely spread, and spread it did. On one hand it promoted an independence of belief, but also promoted it through an objective text, so that everyone was ‘reading from the same page’. This opened the world to the possibility of spreading ideas further than ever before. Books could be manufactured on larger scale, newspapers and pamphlets could be distributed; in essence, any idea could now be objectively disseminated and used as a point of connectivity.
    2. Secondly came the revolution in computers, and with it, the birth of the internet (from the 1970s onwards). The wonderful thing about the computer revolution was how it rapidly increased the mass and pace in production of books, magazines and newspapers. As the internet followed, networking began to move to a global scale as people became connected from town to town, city to city, country to country. Communication became far more immediate, and ideas could spread as if people were in the same room.

The spirit of Jammu In Revolutionary Martyr Udham Singh

By Promod Puri

One of my Facebook friends’ last name is Jammu. It intrigues me little as that is the name of the city in the state of Jammu and Kashmir known for its beauty as well as the still unresolved “Kashmir Problem”.

My FB friend, in fact, belongs to Patiala in Punjab, and now he seems to be settled in Canada. In his introduction, he told me he had never been to Jammu, the city to which I belong. In our brief communication, he said the family name Jammu is very rare among the numerous last names in the Sikh community.

An interesting fact he disclosed me that one of Punjab’s great martyrs Sardar Udham Singh’s family name was also Jammu, but he d220px-Udhamid not carry it as part of the dictum by Guru Gobind Singh to use only Singh as last name.

My quest is how the few Sikh families acquired their last name Jammu!

Perhaps their ancestors had roots in Jammu. Or someone in the ancestral lineage was inspired by the valor of the Dogra community dominating the Jammu region, that Jammu was acquired as part of their last name to identify with the Punjabi spirit of courage to fight against slavery and injustice.

Udham Singh was among those India’s independence movement revolutionary heroes who sacrificed their lives to seek justice and freedom. He avenged the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy by assassinating Lt. governor of Punjab Michael O’Dwyer who supported the massacre in 1919 under the command of General Reginald Dyer. He shot dead O’Dwyer in 1940 in a London hall where the governor was about to address two Indian associations.

The great martyr Udham Singh was charged with “murder”, and sentenced to death. These are his final words at the trial:

“I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under the British rule. I have protested, against this, it was my duty. What a greater honor could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland”. Source: Wikipedia

Well, while having some nostalgic feelings about the city of my childhood, I salute the revolutionary spirit of Shaheed Udham Singh “Jammu”.

(Read Promod Puri’s articles and essays on a range of subjects in his websites: promodpuri.com and progressivehindudialogue.com

   

 

 

BJP’s Strategies In India’s Politics Of Caste

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Maratha Kranti Morcha, a rallye for Marathi castes demanding respect of their rights in Mumbai last year. Mhidanesh/Wikimedia, CC BY-NC-SA

Afroz Alam, Maulana Azad National Urdu University

India is still not able to do away with its caste politics as demonstrated by recent attacks on members of lower caste in south-western state of Gujarat during a festival.

Yet Narendra Modi’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a dramatic effort to woo such lower castes. Three of these are especially important: reviewing social justice schemes, revisiting job reservations, and the sub-categorisation of lower castes.

These measures will eventually deepen India’s caste politics and strengthen the caste system – the world’s oldest surviving social hierarchy.

In India, society is divided among higher castes, lower castes (known as Other Backward Castes or OBCs, among the socially and “educationally backward” sections of Indian society), Scheduled Castes (known as Dalits, formerly “Untouchables”), and Scheduled Tribes (known as Adivasis).

Today, the BJP is strategically working to win the heart and the vote of millions of lower castes, who make up 41% of the Indian population. However, the BJP’s outreach initiatives are not born out of a concern for social justice; they are part of an electoral agenda.

Changing the BJP’s image

The BJP’s defeat in the 2009 general election proved a turning point for its engagement with lower castes. While still playing the Hindu nationalism card with dominant upper castes, the BJP is now deploying multiple strategies to win over lower castes too.

For example, Amit Shah, now the party’s president, first highlighted Modi’s own lower-caste background in the 2014 election in Uttar Pradesh. Later on, as prime minister, Modi was projected as the champion of lower caste groups. The party’s support for a Dalit presidential candidate was internationally hyped. Similarly, a recent cabinet reshuffle brought in more lower-caste leaders to appropriate the “numerical demographic” of OBCs for political gain.

The BJP is also making lower caste-friendly gestures in assembly elections campaigns in Gujarat and Karnataka. It highlights its commitment to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), a statutory body that works for the welfare of lower castes.

Interestingly, the BJP is also pushing the idea of revisiting the existing system of reservation, which allocates 27% of governmental jobs and seats in educational institutions to lower castes. This the party proposes to do by setting up a committee to sub-categorise these groups into “backward”, “extremely backward” and “most backward” classes.

Lower caste identity through history

These are big developments. For decades, most political parties – including the Jana Sangh, which morphed into the BJP in 1980 – played their politics in the usual framework, excluding the lower-caste categories from the power structure of the state.

The notion of “affirmative action through reservation” only appeared in the mid-1970s when socialist parties led by politicians Ram Manohar Lohia and Chaudhary Charan Singh started using it to mobilise and consolidate the lower castes as a separate political identity.

The identity of lower castes only began to coalesce in 1955, when the first Backward Classes Commission under Kaka Kalelkar recommended various reservation quotas in technical, professional and government institutions.

Lower castes in India have been associated with menial work and high rates of poverty. Sharada Prasad CS/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Then in 1990, lower-caste mobilisation was galvanised when the Second Backward Classes Commission – popularly known as the Mandal Commission – recommended that 27% of positions in educational institutions and public employment be reserved for OBCs.

This was violently opposed by non-political bodies, including conservative student organisations. Many of these were close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an ultra-nationalist ideological group that supports the BJP. In 2006, these student wings fiercely opposed the Congress-led government’s decision to implement 27% lower caste job reservations in premier higher educational institutions.

Towards a universal Hindu identity

But now, India’s right-wing organisations have made peace with lower-caste aspirations. This has proved electorally rewarding, with the BJP successfully winning a greater share of the OBC vote. A third of the OBCs shifted to the BJP in the 2014 election, and in subsequent state elections.

Strategically, the BJP has focused on dismantling the caste-based parties’ monopoly over lower-caste votes. The tactic of painting other parties as corrupt bastions of single-caste politics worked wonders, as did an effort to compress the existing 2,479 lower castes into a smaller unit of individualised caste identity to diminish their collective heft.

The BJP also supported the aspirations of lower castes’ leaders through either finance or political alliance, accommodating OBC leaders in the party or ministerial portfolios at local, state and national level.

At the same time, the party is building a network of lower castes cadres in both rural and urban areas, as well as among young people and women. To penetrate the lower castes’ social base, the BJP formed an OBC Morcha or “special wing” in July 2015.

Religious ceremonies are organised to include lower castes back into the folds of Hinduism. Asim Chaudury/Flickr, CC BY-SA

On the one hand, right-wing Hindu organisations are engaged in the radical Hinduisation of lower castes and Dalits through programmes such as “Ghar Wapsi” or “Home Coming”, rituals of conversion to Hinduism, and running religious, spiritual and service programmes in lower caste areas.

On the other hand, the BJP’s core clientele of higher castes are satisfied thanks to the works of its right-wing support organisations. They continue spreading messages they want to hear, such as tactically portraying Muslims as a common enemy.

With many of its much-acclaimed policies failing to deliver, the BJP knows it has to sustain the charisma of Narendra Modi long enough to fight the 2019 legislative elections.

Kerala Hindu Temples Recruit Non-Brahmins & Dalits As Priests

Source: Kerala Hindu Temples Recruit Non-Brahmins & Dalits As Priests

TRUMP WALL HAS SOME MERITS

By Promod Puri

The Trump Wall between the USA and Mexico is not a dead issue as far as Trump’s most promised election agenda is concerned.

In some lighter but brighter thinking, the Trump Wall has some merits in his ambitious project, a legacy which will be lot more wider and taller than any other presidents in the history of America.

Here is a fictional dialogue between Trump and one of his close businessman friends:

Businessman: Can you shed some light on this controversial wall proposal, as many people on both sides of the border ridiculed your fancy.

Trump: It was a political stunt to please my innocent and committed worshippers. It was not meant to secure the border with Mexico either. The reason for putting forward this game plan was purely business.

Businessman: But how it can be a business venture.

Trump: You see, millions of people visit the Great Wall of China every year. And that is from where I picked up the idea. My wall will be much more grandeur in size and architecture. It will be number one tourist attraction in the world. I have built replica of Taj Mahal. But this one will be the real thing.

Businessman: It involves billions or perhaps trillions of dollars. From where the money will come from.

Trump: you know I am a great salesman, and with my charismatic personality investors worldwide will line up in front of the White House to avail this great opportunity. Moreover, I will be looking for sponsors and advertisers who can buy space to promote their products and services. The space, you can call it Trump’s Wall Street, is unlimited, running into thousands of miles from Pacific to the Atlantic.

Businessman: You are genius, Mr. President!

President: I know.

promodpuri.com

 

 

Benefits Of Colonialism Or A Disaster

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A controversial article in a respected academic journal recently made the argument for colonialism. Here, a man is carried by Congolese men in a photo from the early 20th centiry.

 

Joseph McQuade, University of Toronto

Recently an academic article, asserting the historical benefits of colonialism, created an outcry and a petition with over 10, 000 signatures calling for its removal.

The Case for Colonialism, published in Third World Quarterly by Bruce Gilley, argues Western colonialism was both “objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate” in most places where it existed.

Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University, claims the solution to poverty and economic underdevelopment in parts of the Global South is to reclaim “colonial modes of governance; by recolonizing some areas; and by creating new Western colonies from scratch.”

Understandably, the article faces widespread criticism for whitewashing a horrific history of human rights abuses. Current Affairs compared Gilley’s distortion of history to Holocaust denial.

Last week, after many on the journal’s editorial board resigned, the author issued a public apology for the “pain and anger” his article may have caused.

India is often cited as a colonial success story, partly because of its train system: the trains transported colonial troops to quell inland revolts.
(Shutterstock)

Whether the article is ultimately retracted or not, its wide circulation necessitates that its claims be held up to careful historical scrutiny. As well, in light of current public debates on censorship and free speech versus hate speech, this is a discussion well worth having. Although this debate may seem as though it is merely academic, nothing could be further from the truth.

Although it may seem colonialist views are far behind us, a 2014 YouGov poll revealed 59 per cent of British people view the British Empire as “something to be proud of.” Those proud of their colonial history outnumber critics of the Empire three to one. Similarly, 49 per cent believe the Empire benefited its former colonies.

Such views, often tied to nostalgia for old imperial glory, can help shape the foreign and domestic policies of Western countries.

Gilley has helped to justify these views by getting his opinions published in a peer review journal. In his article, Gilley attempts to provide evidence which proves colonialism was objectively beneficial to the colonized. He says historians are simply too politically correct to admit colonialism’s benefits.

In fact, the opposite is true. In the overwhelming majority of cases, empirical research clearly provides the facts to prove colonialism inflicted grave political, psychological and economic harms on the colonized.

It takes a highly selective misreading of the evidence to claim that colonialism was anything other than a humanitarian disaster for most of the colonized. The publication of Gilley’s article — despite the evidence of facts — calls into question the peer review process and academic standards of The Third World Quarterly.

Colonialism in India

As the largest colony of the world’s largest imperial power, India is often cited by apologists for the British Empire as an example of “successful” colonialism. Actually, India provides a much more convincing case study for rebutting Gilley’s argument.

With a population of over 1.3 billion and an economy predicted to become the world’s third-largest by 2030, India is a modern day powerhouse. While many attribute this to British colonial rule, a look at the facts says otherwise.

From 1757 to 1947, the entire period of British rule, there was no increase in per capita income within the Indian subcontinent. This is a striking fact, given that, historically speaking, the Indian subcontinent was traditionally one of the wealthiest parts of the world.

As proven by the macroeconomic studies of experts such as K.N. Chaudhuri, India and China were central to an expansive world economy long before the first European traders managed to circumnavigate the African cape.

During the heyday of British rule, or the British Raj, from 1872 to 1921, Indian life expectancy dropped by a stunning 20 per cent. By contrast, during the 70 years since independence, Indian life expectancy has increased by approximately 66 per cent, or 27 years. A comparable increase of 65 per cent can also be observed in Pakistan, which was once part of British India.

Although many cite India’s extensive rail network as a positive legacy of British colonialism, it is important to note the railroad was built with the express purpose of transporting colonial troops inland to quell revolt. And to transport food out of productive regions for export, even in times of famine.

This explains the fact that during the devastating famines of 1876-1879 and 1896-1902 in which 12 to 30 million Indians starved to death, mortality rates were highest in areas serviced by British rail lines.

The Bengal famine of 1943 was the final British-administered famine in India and claimed around three million lives. When Winston Churchill was asked to stop shipping desperately needed foodstuffs out of Bengal, he said Indians were to blame for their own deaths for ‘breeding like rabbits.’
(Shutterstock), CC BY

Colonialism did not benefit the colonized

India’s experience is highly relevant for assessing the impact of colonialism, but it does not stand alone as the only example to refute Gilley’s assertions. Gilley argues current poverty and instability within the Democratic Republic of the Congo proves the Congolese were better off under Belgian rule. The evidence says otherwise.

Since independence in 1960, life expectancy in the Congo has climbed steadily, from around 41 years on the eve of independence to 59 in 2015. This figure remains low compared to most other countries in the world. Nonetheless, it is high compared to what it was under Belgian rule.

Under colonial rule, the Congolese population declined by estimates ranging from three million to 13 million between 1885 and 1908 due to widespread disease, a coercive labour regime and endemic brutality.

Gilley argues the benefits of colonialism can be observed by comparing former colonies to countries with no significant colonial history. Yet his examples of the latter erroneously include Haiti (a French colony from 1697 to 1804), Libya (a direct colony of the Ottoman Empire from 1835 and of Italy from 1911), and Guatemala (occupied by Spain from 1524 to 1821).

By contrast, he neglects to mention Japan, a country that legitimately was never colonized and now boasts the third largest GDP on the planet, as well as Turkey, which up until recently was widely viewed as the most successful secular country in the Muslim world.

These counter-examples disprove Gilley’s central thesis that non-Western countries are by definition incapable of reaching modernity without Western “guidance.”

The ConversationIn short, the facts are in, but they do not paint the picture that Gilley and other imperial apologists would like to claim. Colonialism left deep scars on the Global South and for those genuinely interested in the welfare of non-Western countries, the first step is acknowledging this.

Joseph McQuade, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Why it’s offensive to offer a lamb dinner to the Hindu god Ganesha

Source: Why it’s offensive to offer a lamb dinner to the Hindu god Ganesha

Some nuggets of history

Source: Some nuggets of history

Hinduism Is An Academy Of Sciences

Hinduism is an academy of sciences. It finds its dwelling in the realm of metaphysics besides accepting the environment of physical realities where most sciences reside. That is what distinguishes the ancient Indian sciences that these go beyond the empirical confines to explore and analyze the spiritual realities as well.

Source: Hinduism Is An Academy Of Sciences

Pakistan Underground Water Arsenic Polluted, Will Run Dry, In India Too

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Drilling a groundwater well by hand, near Lahore, July 2017.
A_noina / Shutterstock

Fazilda Nabeel, University of Sussex

More than 50m people in Pakistan are at risk of arsenic poisoning from contaminated groundwater. That’s according to a study recently published in the journal Science Advances, based on samples from 1,200 wells across the country. Arsenic cannot be removed from groundwater through common processes such as boiling or filtration – instead it requires expensive procedures such as reverse osmosis which are beyond the reach of most poor people.

Contamination is particularly worrying in this case as Pakistan is unusually dependant on a single, vast underground natural reservoir known as the Indus basin aquifer. The aquifer covers an area of 160,000km² – making it slightly larger than England – and spans Pakistan’s border with India.

Arsenic contamination may not even be the most alarming thing about the aquifer, however. At current rates of groundwater mining there is considerable risk the wells will eventually run dry.

Around 95% of Pakistan’s population lives in the Indus basin.
nomi887 / wiki, CC BY-SA

Both Pakistan and India have historically subsidised electricity and diesel for running agricultural wells that tap into the aquifer. Groundwater users only pay for the energy used to mine the resource; the water itself is not metered or priced. The aquifer is literally free for anyone to tap into by drilling a well – whether it is for agricultural, industrial or domestic purposes.

Both countries are taking out far more water than is being replenished by rain or rivers. In fact, India extracts more groundwater than any other country in the world (not just from the Indus), and Pakistan is fourth in the list. The Indus aquifer is already the second most “overstressed” groundwater basin in the world and, at current rates of use, reserves like this may be “severely depleted” over the next few decades.

Where the water goes

More than 300m people live in the largely agricultural and extensively irrigated Indus basin. Of the total water used for irrigation about half comes from the aquifer below ground, rather than rainwater or the river itself and its various tributaries. There are irrigation canals, but their flow is concentrated in the summer monsoon period and isn’t as readily available as groundwater.

Lots of ‘virtual water’ at a cattle market in Karachi.
Asianet-Pakistan / shutterstock

Despite increased concerns over groundwater use, governments on both sides of the border have been encouraging farmers to produce and export water-intensive food crops and livestock products. Given lots of water from a fast-diminishing aquifer is needed to produce everything from a grain of rice to a slab of beef, this trade amounts to “virtual water” exports. “Virtual water” refers to water embedded in trade products. A country that exports rice is in effect also exporting the water that is used to grow rice. This is why water-starved countries such as Saudia Arabia have stopped growing products like wheat. Importing food instead essentially means they “import” water rather than using their own scarce reserves.

Key exports from India and Pakistan including rice, sugar, cotton and textiles all require lots of water to produce. In addition, both governments are incentivising the growth of meat exports through the use of various subsidies, without considering the water footprint. Pakistan’s halal meat export trade has grown more than ten-fold in the past decade, for instance – mainly to water-scarce countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Recently sown paddy fields in Sindh, Pakistan.
DFID, CC BY-SA

Growing development pressures and increasing industrialisation in India and Pakistan also contribute to increased groundwater stress and pollution. Though official estimates say industry uses a mere 2% of the groundwater extracted in India, and even less in Pakistan, the reality is likely to be much more. In the Indus region, the aquifer is crucial for water-intensive sectors such as textiles or leather and, in practice, industrial mining of the region’s groundwater is not metered or priced. Most industrial units also discharge untreated effluents in unlined pits, which eventually seep into the ground and has resulted in severe contamination of the water table.

A finite resource

In India, some states where groundwater levels are critical now require a license to drill new wells. In Pakistan, however, unlicensed drilling continues. The current legal framework for groundwater is spread across a variety of instruments both from colonial and post-colonial times, as well as local customs that often conflict with each other. Property rights are largely defined by an archaic piece of colonial legislation, the Easements Act of 1882, which allows landowners to effectively collect and dispose of underground water as long as it is not a part of a public irrigation network.

The ConversationMost of the elaborate state irrigation bureaucracy serves to manage and distribute surface water – not the aquifer. India has recently established a Central Groundwater Board, but in Pakistan monitoring and management still happens in silos, with no particular institution taking responsibility for the conservation of the resource.

Fazilda Nabeel, Doctoral Researcher, Department for International Development, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Trump Wall Can Be A No.1 Tourist Attraction

By Promod Puri

img_3324The Trump Wall between the USA and Mexico is not a dead issue as far as Trump’s most promised election agenda is concerned.

In some lighter but brighter thinking, the Trump Wall has some merits in his ambitious project, a legacy which will be lot more wider and taller than any other presidents in the history of America.

Here is a fictional dialogue between Trump and one of his close businessman friend:

Businessman: Can you shed some light on this controversial wall proposal, as many people on both sides of the border ridiculed your fancy.

Trump: It was a political stunt to please my innocent and committed worshippers. It was not meant to secure the border with Mexico either. The reason for putting forward this game plan was purely business.

Businessman: But how it can be a business venture.

Trump: You see, millions of people visit the Great Wall of China every year. And that is from where I picked up the idea. My wall will be much more grandeur in size and architecture. It will be number one tourist attraction in the world. I have built replica of Taj Mahal. But this one will be the real thing.

Businessman: It involves billions or perhaps trillions of dollars. From where the money will come from.

Trump: Come on, you know I am a great salesman, and with my charismatic personality investors worldwide will line up in front of the White House to avail this great opportunity. Moreover, I will be looking for sponsors and advertisers who can buy space to promote their products and services. The space, you can call it Trump’s Wall Street, is unlimited, running into thousands of miles from Pacific to the Atlantic.

Businessman: You are genius. Can I buy spaces on your Wall Street?

-30-

 

Racism Exist Among And Within Ethnic Communities Also

by Promod Puri
Continue reading “Racism Exist Among And Within Ethnic Communities Also”

How British royal’s monumental errors made India’s partition more painful<

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Lord Louis Mountbatten, viceroy of India, met with Indian leaders to discuss partition.
Max Desfors/AP

Adil Najam, Boston University

The midnight between August 14 and 15, 1947, was one of history’s truly momentous moments: It marked the birth of Pakistan, an independent India and the beginning of the end of an era of colonialism.

It was hardly a joyous moment: A botched process of partition saw the slaughter of more than a million people; some 15 million were displaced. Untold numbers were maimed, mutilated, dismembered and disfigured. Countless lives were scarred.

Two hundred years of British rule in India ended, as Winston Churchill had feared, in a “shameful flight”; a “premature hurried scuttle” that triggered a most tragic and terrifying carnage.

The bloodbath of partition also left the two nations that were borne out of it – India and Pakistan – deeply scarred by anguish, angst, alienation and animus.

By 1947, the political, social, societal and religious complexities of the Indian subcontinent may have made partition inevitable, but the murderous mayhem that ensued was not.

As a South Asian whose life was affected directly by partition, and as a scholar, it is evident to me that the one man whose job it was, above all else, to avoid the mayhem, ended up inflaming the conditions that made partition the horror it became.

That man was Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of British India.

How did Mountbatten contribute to the legacy of hatred that still, 70 years later, informs the bitter relationship between India and Pakistan?

A murderous orgy

People crowd onto a train as mass displacement happens during partition.
AP Photo

Let us begin by recognizing the scale of barbarity that was unleashed by the mishandling of partition.

No one has captured this more poignantly than Urdu’s most prominent short story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto, who according to his grandniece and eminent historian Ayesha Jalal “marveled at the stern calmness with which the British had rent asunder the subcontinent’s unity at the moment of decolonization.”

In “The Pity of Partition,” Jalal channels the content of Manto’s work in Urdu to write:

“Human beings had instituted rules against murder and mayhem in order to distinguish themselves from beasts of prey. None was observed in the murderous orgy that shook India to the core at the dawn of independence.”

As author Nisid Hajari reports in “Midnight’s Furies,” a chilling narrative of the butchery: “some British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazi death camps, claimed partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies, infants were found literally roasted on spits.”

Indeed, it does not matter which was worse. What is important to understand is that partition is to the psyche of Indians and Pakistanis what the Holocaust is to Jews.

Author William Dalrymple calls this terrible outbreak of sectarian violence – Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other – “a mutual genocide” that was “as unexpected as it was unprecedented.”

Could the genocide have been avoided?

The violence was not, in fact, entirely unexpected. On August 16, 1946, literally a year before actual partition, a glimpse of what was to come was on display: In what came to be called “the week of the long knives,” three days of rioting in Calcutta left more than 4,000 dead and 100,000 homeless.

The hellish proportion of the slaughter that was to come was, however, unnecessary.

Well before the August of 1947, those following the tumultuous political boil in India – including U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman – fully understood that it was time for Britain – now a flailing power made bankrupt by World War II – to leave India.

As 1947 dawned, the task before the British was to find the least worst way to retreat from India: to manage the chaos, to minimize the violence and, if at all possible, to do so with some modicum of grace.

To perform this job, King George VI sent his cousin Lord Louis Francis Albert Victor (“Dickie”) Mountbatten to India as his last viceroy. This great-grandson of Queen Victoria – the first British monarch to be crowned Empress of India – was, ironically, given the task of closing the imperial shop, not just in India but around the world.

In India, he proved to be monumentally unequal to the assignment.

Mountbatten arrived in India in February 1947 and was given until June 1948 – not 1947 – to complete his mission. Impatient to get back to Britain and advance his own naval career, he decided to bring forward the date by 10 months, to August 1947 (he eventually did become first sea lord, a position he coveted because it had been denied to his father).

Lord Mountbatten being received on his arrival to India. In this picture he is shaking hands with Liaquat Ali Khan, who became the first prime minister of Pakistan. Next to him is Jawaharlal Nehru, who became the first prime minister of India.
Saktishree DM, CC BY-ND

How crucial were those 10 months?

I would argue, they could have meant the difference between a simply violent partition and a horrifically genocidal partition.

A hurried drawing of border lines

The context for a bloody partition was set with the decision to sever Bengal in the east and Punjab in the west in half – giving Jinnah what he called a “moth-eaten Pakistan.” That killed any hopes of a federated India, which was Jinnah’s preference, if it allowed for power sharing and autonomy to Muslim majority provinces.

To decide the fate of 400 million Indians and draw lines of division on poorly made maps, Mountbatten brought in Cyril Radcliffe, a barrister who had never set foot in India before then, and would never return afterwards. Despite his protestations, Mountbatten gave him just five weeks to complete the job.

All of India, and particularly those in Bengal and Punjab, waited with bated breath to find out how they would be divided. Which village would go where? Which family would be left on which side of the new borders?

Working feverishly, Radcliffe completed the partition maps days before the actual partition. Mountbatten, however, decided to keep them secret. On Mountbatten’s orders, the partition maps were kept under lock and key in the viceregal palace in Delhi. They were not to be shared with Indian leaders and administrators until two days after partition.

Jaswant Singh, who later served as India’s minister of foreign affairs, defense and finance, writes that at their moment of birth neither India nor Pakistan “knew where their borders ran, where was that dividing line across which Hindus and Muslims must now separate?”

He adds that as feared and predicted, this had “disastrous consequences.” The uncertainty of exactly who would end up where fueled confusion, wild rumors, and terror as corpses kept piling up.

As historian Stanley Wolpert writes in “Shameful Flight,” Mountbatten kept the partition maps a closely guarded secret, as he did not want the festivities of British transfer of power to be marred or distracted.

“What a glorious charade of British Imperial largesse and power ‘peacefully’ transferred,” lamented Wolpert as he contemplated the possible implications of Mountbatten’s hubris.

70 years later

As the preeminent biographer of all the major political actors of British India’s last days, Wolpert acknowledges that many – and, most importantly, Indian political leaders themselves – contributed to the chaos that was 1947.

But there is no room for doubt in Wolpert’s mind that “none of them played as tragic or central a role as did Mountbatten.”

By botching the administration of partition in 1947 and leaving critical elements unfinished – including, most disastrously, the still unfinished resolution to Jammu and Kashmir – Mountbatten’s partition plan left the fate of Kashmir undecided.

Mountbatten, thus, bestowed a legacy of acrimony on India and Pakistan.

It was not just rivers and gold and silver that needed to be divided between the two dominions; it was books in libraries, and even paper pins in offices. As Saadat Hasan Manto’s fictional account conveys, the madness was such that even patients in mental hospitals had to be divided.

Yet, Mountbatten, the man who would fret incessantly about what to wear at official ceremonies, made little effort to devise arrangements for how resources would be divided, or shared.

Learning from history

Nowhere does the unfinished business of partition bleed more profusely than in the continuing conflict between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir.

Would a little more attention and a few more weeks of effort in 1947 have spared the world a nuclear-tipped time bomb that keeps ticking on both sides?

We can never know the answer to this question.

Nor can, or should, I believe, India and Pakistan blame the British and Mountbatten for all their problems. Seventy years on, they have only themselves to blame for missing opportunity after opportunity to fix the troubled relationship they inherited.

The ConversationHowever, maybe, today, on the 70th anniversary of their birth, both India and Pakistan can take a break from simply bashing each other and recognize that at times history can deal you a bad hand in many different ways – in this case, due to the hasty and monumental errors of a British royalty. But also recognize, it is on you to learn from history and fix it.

Adil Najam, Dean, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

In Words Obama & Trump Speak Same

Ronald R. Krebs, University of Minnesota and Robert Ralston, University of Minnesota

Six months have passed since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office.

His administration remains deeply understaffed. His legislative agenda is stymied. He has been active in issuing executive orders, but many are toothless, others are only in the early stages of undoing Obama policies and some are tied up in the courts. So far, Trump’s leadership has mostly been defined by his rhetoric.

And his rhetoric, the conventional wisdom holds, could not be more different from his predecessor’s.

Barack Obama was, as president, eloquent. His language was sophisticated. He spoke in measured tones and advanced informed, reasoned dialogue.

Donald Trump is inarticulate and brusque. His language is simplistic. He dishes out invective. He shows so little regard for the facts that some say he’s the exemplar of a “bullshit artist.” And he promotes a dialogue of the deaf.

The differences between Trump’s and Obama’s rhetorical styles seem stark. Yet, when we set aside the presidents’ speaking styles and looked more carefully at the specific words Trump employed in his first months in office, we were surprised to discover that, in certain ways, these two presidents are remarkably like each other and unlike their predecessors. Here’s what we found – and why Obama and Trump have more in common than you would think.

How we did our research

Our analysis is based on Trump’s more substantial speeches – which we somewhat arbitrarily define as those longer than 500 words – which were directed primarily at domestic audiences. We scraped from the website of the American Presidency Project all of Trump’s campaign speeches and presidential addresses through July 1 that met these criteria. We ended up with 74 campaign speeches, representing more than 230,000 words, and 56 presidential addresses, which included more than 122,000 words. We compared these bodies of speech to each other and to a separate database of postwar presidential speech that one of us had collected, using these same criteria, for a recently published book.

We ran these speeches through a specialized computerized content analysis program called Diction. Diction contains 33 separate dictionaries tailored to political speech. It searches texts for the words contained in the designated dictionaries and then calculates the number of words from each dictionary that would be present in a typical 500-word sample.

Obama and Trump vs. everyone else

On two key dimensions, Obama and Trump look similar – and stand in marked contrast to all other presidents.

First, their rhetoric is much more self-referential, meaning it uses more first-person pronouns. Obama’s rhetoric is 69 percent more self-referential than the presidential average, and Trump exceeds Obama by another 20 percent.

Trump employs almost 50 percent more first-person pronouns than the second most heavily self-referential president after Obama, Gerald Ford. Trump’s rhetoric is twice as self-referential as the postwar presidential average.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/3lX9O/5/

Second, both Trump and Obama rank very high on measures of “tenacity.” This dictionary includes a series of words such as “must” and “need” that call for action and that “connote confidence and totality.” Obama’s rhetoric is around 45 percent more tenacious than the presidential average. Trump’s rhetoric is a bit more tenacious than even Obama’s. They are the only two presidents who substantially exceed the average.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/daCou/5/

Obama and Trump’s rhetoric suggests that the prime mover of government is not separation of powers, political parties or the bureaucracy – but the will of the president. Its self-referentialism projects an image of strong leadership and of the president as the central pivot of action. Its tenacity expresses confidence that the president will triumph over the many obstacles in his way.

For all their differences, both Obama and Trump consistently presented themselves as the solution to the nation’s problems. Accepting the nomination at the Republican National Convention, Trump assured Americans, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” He regularly cited his own biography as the reason that Americans should “trust” him. The irony is that the predecessor who, on this dimension, most resembles Trump is the very one whom Trump cast as an utter failure and weak leader and as his chief foil. Obama too regularly invoked his unique personal story as the reason that Americans should place their faith in him. Minus Trump’s boastfulness, Obama too portrayed himself as the key agent of national transformation: “I’m the one who brings change. It is my vision. It is my agenda,” he told The Washington Post in January 2009. He saw other government officials as just “good mechanics.”

Yearning for a strong leader

The computerized content analysis of presidential rhetoric sets out a pattern, it does not explain it. However, we believe it likely that Obama and Trump adopted the same rhetorical tack for the same reason: Audiences across the political spectrum have craved a strong leader who will overcome Washington’s paralysis and address the nation’s challenges.

Especially since 9/11, American politics has grown more partisan and polarized, even as Americans’ values have converged. That partisan divide has produced gridlock in the halls of power, and Congress has become a site of minority party obstruction. As a result, Americans have become frustrated with Congress, and their trust in government has plummeted. They have increasingly looked to the president to seize the initiative, conquer Washington’s dysfunction and persuade Congress to act.

In 2007, “honesty” mattered most to Americans in selecting the nation’s next president, with “leadership/strength” a distant second. In 2012, American voters said that “shares my values” was their top consideration in electing a president. By 2016, having a president who was a “strong leader” had easily taken the top spot, across voters of all parties, and was twice as important to them as it had been four years before.

Obama and Trump’s self-referential and tenacious rhetoric – one might even call it authoritarian – seems designed to satisfy that demand for strong leadership centered in the presidency. It is not accidental that their rhetoric, as the linked charts show, also reflects a continued, long-term decline in “cooperative” and “accomplishment” language, as collaboration across party lines has been rare and as there have been few achievements. Ironically, “satisfaction” rhetoric has experienced a corresponding rise – perhaps because there has been less to celebrate and therefore more reason for presidents to proclaim that all is well.

Of course, some of this may be Donald Trump’s inimitable rhetorical style. The figures above reveal that Trump the candidate was somewhat less self-referential and less tenacious than Trump the president has been. Perhaps he was simply restraining himself during the campaign. Once ensconced in the White House, he could become more himself. Trump the president may be Trump unleashed.

But the data suggest that Trump is also a manifestation – albeit an extreme manifestation – of our political age. Obama’s self-centered, self-confident but soaring speeches gave way to his successor’s self-centered, overconfident and vain tweets. Karl Marx knew what he was talking about: History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Progressive Hindu Dialogue Among Top 20 Hindu Websites

ProgressiveHindu Blog 20 transparent_1000px (1) Hindu Dialogue,which was launched only last year, has been selected one of the top 20 Hindu blogs on the web. Thanks all for your support. Following is the letter of recognition:
Hi Promod,
My name is Anuj Agarwal. I’m Founder of Feedspot.
I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Progressive Hindu Dialogue has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 20 Hindu Blogs on the web.
http://blog.feedspot.com/hindu_blog/
I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 20 Hindu Blogs on the internet and I’m
honored to have you as part of this!
Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.
Best,
Anuj

Shabad In Gurbani by Bhagat Kabir

Kudrat ke sab bandey

Source: Shabad In Gurbani by Bhagat Kabir

‘COW ECONOMICS’ ARE KILLING INDIA’S WORKING CLASS

Afroz Alam, Maulana Azad National Urdu University

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Indian parliament for the first time in June 2014, his inaugural speech focused on integrating and protecting India’s Muslims.

“Even the third generation of Muslim brothers, whom I have seen since my young days, are continuing with their cycle-repairing job,” he said, referring to one of the many menial jobs to which Indian Muslims are often relegated. “Why does such misfortune continue?”

But instead of “bring[ing] about change in their lives,” as Modi promised, his government has made life harder for India’s Muslims by cracking down on the leather and beef industries.

Impact on Muslim and Dalit livelihoods

Muslims and Dalits (the marginalised group once known as “untouchables” in the Hindu caste system) are among the poorest in India, and they have very little access to property. By tradition and due to a lack of other opportunities, many work in the leather sector, which employs 2.5 million people nationwide.

Over the past three years, this trade has increasingly made Muslims and Dalits the targets of so-called cow vigilantism – attacks perpetrated by Hindus on cow traders in the name of religion. And legislation adopted in May, which amends the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty on Animals Act, is set to victimise these populations economically.

Among other changes, the new rules mandate that cows, camels and buffalo may be sold to farmers only for agricultural purposes, not for slaughter.

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, one out of every 1000 work in cow-related industries, including slaughterhouses and the leather industry. The town of Kanpur recently saw several slaughterhouses close down, putting out of work over “400,000 employees linked to leather industries”, according to a Reuters report.

The supply of local hides has declined precipitously, leading to a decrease in Indian sales of leather and leather products. From April 2016 to March 2017, total leather exports dropped 3.23% from the previous year, to US$5.67 billion from US$5.9 billion.

India also does enormous trade in meat. In 2015, the main market for its buffalo meat was Vietnam, which buys up US$1.97 million worth of it, followed by Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Last financial year, annual production was estimated at 6.3 million tonnes and exports totalled US$3.32 billion, according to a report in the Economic Times. That’s down from US$4.15 billion the year before. In Uttar Pradesh alone, attacks on cow related-businesses have already triggered losses of US$601 million on the state’s export business.

Coercive measures

States have also introduced several coercive measures aimed at people in the cow businesses. Uttar Pradesh, whose chief minister is a right-wing Hindu fundamentalist, leads the measures.

Illegal slaughterhouses have been at the core of the debate in recent months following a government crackdown in March 2017, as non-compliant facilities struggle to adapt to complex regulations, including locating shops at specific distances from religious places, getting appropriate documents from several administrations or particular freezers.

On June 6 2017, the state issued a new directive to punish cow slaughter and illegal transport of dairy animals under the National Security Act and Gangsters Act, effectively criminalising traders.

This has encouraged harassment of Muslims and Dalits in Uttar Pradesh. Even in the Muslim-majority village of Madora, residents are encouraged to denounce those who engage in slaughtering cows by the promise of a INR50,000 (US$1000) reward.

On the west coast state of Gujarat, cow slaughter is now a non-bailable offence, punishable with life imprisonment, meaning that people who kill a cow will serve the same time as a murderer.

Central Jharkhand and other states ruled by Modi’s BJP party have begun applying similar laws. The national government is also currently considering a petition to give cows an Indian identity card similar to those issued to its citizens.

The legal status of cow slaughter in India in 2012. Today, all yellow regions have turned red.

In the name of the cow

These new rules have reinforced the impunity of criminal groups that burn down Muslim and Dalit businesses, terrorise cow traders and brutally beat or kill people. Rebranding themselves as animal activists, cow vigilantes exploit the sanctity of this animal in Hinduism to commit violence, with the tacit endorsement of state and national governments.

The violence has impacted both legal and illegal traders (bulls and buffalo are not included in new regulations), generating panic among flayers, contractors, truck drivers, traders, daily wage earners, who are now abandoning their posts out of fear. The majority are Dalit or Muslim.

Hindu slaughterhouse owners, on the other hand, have been largely spared by the wrath of cow vigilantes and onerous regulations. Of the country’s 11 largest meat-exporting companies, eight are Hindu-run.

Flourishing and paradoxical beef trade

None of this will help already-tense Hindu-Muslim relations in India, nor does it seem to bode well for Modi’s “Make in India” initiative to boost the country’s economic production.

According to the campaign website, the government hopes to increase leather exports to US$9 billion by 2020, from its present level of US$5.85 billion, and bring the domestic market to US$18 billion, doubling its current value.

‘Make in India’ may make some citizens very rich, but others, not so much.

To do so, the government says it will focus on maintaining India’s comparative advantages in production and labour costs and ensure the availability of skilled manpower for new or existing production units. But that may be hard when Muslim and Dalit workers are being systematically singled out and harassed.

The ConversationCan Modi’s government really afford a crackdown on cow economics?

Afroz Alam, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Maulana Azad National Urdu University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Positive Attitude Helps Beat Cancer

20292990_10154759466483016_8756093436878505998_nMeeting Ashok Bhargava,on right, after a couple of months was like welcoming a combating soldier returning home from a winning battle.
Ashok, a long-time friend, is back on the track of his active and scholarly life after going thru several chemos for the treatment of his lymph cancer. Whereas, the doctors attending on him had their own tools and expertise to handle an army of cancerous cells, Ashok’s only weapons to defeat the dreadful attacker were his extremely positive attitude along with pleasant and charming nature.
Ashok is a writer and poet par excellence both in Hindi and English. He is also an avid photographer where nature is his favorite subject. A progressive thinker with utmost faith in the power of God, he spent most his lonely moments during extremely painful treatments with Him, as well with his own positive company which he says was a “learning experience” too.
It was indeed an inspiring get-together at the McDonald over coffee and muffins, which he seldom allows me to buy.

Past, Present And Future

By Promod Puri
“The past is history, future is mystery, but today is a gift……”, stay in the present and enjoy the moments. These are some of the many favored in-vogue quotes.
The popular quotations or advisories suggest our prospects belong to the moments we live in. We are told to live, feel, and enjoy the era of the present, rather than being prisoner of the past or future.
The reality is: our past is an assortment of both joyous, rough, memorable, and learning experiences. Whereas, our future lies in the prospect of imagination.
Imagination is an inspiring concept which is very natural foresight in the life of an individual as well as the society we belong to. Civilizations have been created, nourished, and developed on our ability to contemplate about the future.
No doubt, anxieties, worries or concerns often become parts of our contemplations, but so do the dreams. In this package, destiny is created thru our forward-looking karmas of the present which influence our future. Progress comes by prospecting at the future.
Flights to the future with optimistic imaginations are the thrills and promises of the prospective unknown.
Prospecting is natural. It is a functional activity of our cognitive powers. Sighting the future is both a conscious and unconscious activity. We can’t stop it while realizing, dealing, or playing with the moments of the present.
In these moments, our moods also swing like a pendulum, moving back and forth, from past to future while creating new flashes for the present.
Sometimes, journeys to the past contribute to the pleasures of the present. Past is a treasure like an old photo album. It is an asset and a companion. Ask the person lying on a hospital bed for long time. Or when a fatal blow to the past happens to a person with dementia. Moments of the present do not offer a “gift” here.
Moreover, for the society, past is not merely a history, but it is a heritage as well. The identity of a society is based on its heritage.
Past, present, and future are interlinked, and complimenting to each other with indelible events, experiences, karmas, and imaginations. The act of managing the future involves gathering and distilling the right information from the archives of the past within the time span of the present.
Time does not cover the innate past, or cause a pause to our imaginations for the future. It does not flow like a river. It does not fly either. Time rather spreads out. In this spread, past, present and future reside for ever.
It is our mind which ferries us around for stopovers at our memories, and sojourn us to conceive our imaginations, as well as bringing us back to the present. And the life’s journey continues while sailing through our past, present, and future.
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Promod Puri is a journalist and writer. He is author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions”, a book which explores the rational, secular and progressive nature of Hinduism.

Social Divinity And Hinduism

Source: Social Divinity And Hinduism

Why do human beings speak so many languages?

Courtesy The Conversation

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People currently speak 7,000 languages around the globe.
Michael Gavin, CC BY-ND

Michael Gavin, Colorado State University

The thatched roof held back the sun’s rays, but it could not keep the tropical heat at bay. As everyone at the research workshop headed outside for a break, small groups splintered off to gather in the shade of coconut trees and enjoy a breeze. I wandered from group to group, joining in the discussions. Each time, I noticed that the language of the conversation would change from an indigenous language to something they knew I could understand, Bislama or English. I was amazed by the ease with which the meeting’s participants switched between languages, but I was even more astonished by the number of different indigenous languages.

Thirty people had gathered for the workshop on this island in the South Pacific, and all except for me came from the island, called Makelua, in the nation of Vanuatu. They lived in 16 different communities and spoke 16 distinct languages.

In many cases, you could stand at the edge of one village and see the outskirts of the next community. Yet the residents of each village spoke completely different languages. According to recent work by my colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, this island, just 100 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide, is home to speakers of perhaps 40 different indigenous languages. Why so many?

We could ask this same question of the entire globe. People don’t speak one universal language, or even a handful. Instead, today our species collectively speaks over 7,000 distinct languages.

And these languages are not spread randomly across the planet. For example, far more languages are found in tropical regions than in the temperate zones. The tropical island of New Guinea is home to over 900 languages. Russia, 20 times larger, has 105 indigenous languages. Even within the tropics, language diversity varies widely. For example, the 250,000 people who live on Vanuatu’s 80 islands speak 110 different languages, but in Bangladesh, a population 600 times greater speaks only 41 languages.

Why is it that humans speak so many languages? And why are they so unevenly spread across the planet? As it turns out, we have few clear answers to these fundamental questions about how humanity communicates.

Why do some places have many languages, and others only a few?
Man vyi, CC BY-SA

Some ideas, but little evidence

Most people can easily brainstorm possible answers to these intriguing questions. They hypothesize that language diversity must be about history, cultural differences, mountains or oceans dividing populations, or old squabbles writ large – “we hated them, so we don’t talk to them.”

The questions also seem like they should be fundamental to many academic disciplines – linguistics, anthropology, human geography. But, starting in 2010, when our diverse team of researchers from six different disciplines and eight different countries began to review what was known, we were shocked that only a dozen previous studies had been done, including one we ourselves completed on language diversity in the Pacific.

These prior efforts all examined the degree to which different environmental, social and geographic variables correlated with the number of languages found in a given location. The results varied a lot from one study to another, and no clear patterns emerged. The studies also ran up against many methodological challenges, the biggest of which centered on the old statistical adage – correlation does not equal causation.

We wanted to know the exact steps that led to so many languages forming in certain places and so few in others. But previous work provided few robust theories on the specific processes involved, and the methods used did not get us any closer to understanding the causes of language diversity patterns.

For example, previous studies pointed out that at lower latitudes languages are often spoken across smaller areas than at higher latitudes. You can fit more languages into a given area the closer you get to the equator. But this result does not tell us much about the processes that create language diversity. Just because a group of people crosses an imaginary latitudinal line on the map doesn’t mean they’ll automatically divide into two different populations speaking two different languages. Latitude might be correlated with language diversity, but it certainly did not create it.

Can a simple model predict reality?

A better way to identify the causes of particular patterns is to simulate the processes we think might be creating them. The closer the model’s products are to the reality we know exists, the greater the chances are that we understand the actual processes at work.

Two members of our group, ecologists Thiago Rangel and Robert Colwell, had developed this simulation modeling technique for their studies of species diversity patterns. But no one had ever used this approach to study the diversity of human populations.

We decided to explore its potential by first building a simple model to test the degree to which a few basic processes might explain language diversity patterns in just one part of the globe, the continent of Australia.

Map of Australia’s 406 languages before contact with Europeans.
Claire Bowern, Yale University, with support from the National Science Foundation BCS-1423711, CC BY

Our colleague Claire Bowern, a linguist at Yale University, created a map that shows the diversity of aboriginal languages – a total of 406 – found in Australia prior to contact with Europeans. There were far more languages in the north and along the coasts, with relatively few in the desert interior. We wanted to see how closely a model, based on a simple set of processes, could match this geographic pattern of language diversity.

Our simulation model made only three basic assumptions. First, populations will move to fill available spaces where no one else lives.

Second, rainfall will limit the number of people that can live in a place; Our model assumed that people would live in higher densities in areas where it rained more. Annual precipitation varies widely in Australia, from over three meters in the northeastern rainforests to one-tenth of a meter in the Outback.

Third, we assumed that human populations have a maximum size. Ideal group size is a trade-off between benefits of a larger group (wider selection of potential mates) and costs (keeping track of unrelated individuals). In our model, when a population grew larger than a maximum threshold – set randomly based on a global distribution of hunter-gatherer population sizes – it divided into two populations, each speaking a distinct language.

We used this model to simulate language diversity maps for Australia. In each iteration, an initial population sprung up randomly somewhere on the map and began to grow and spread in a random direction. An underlying rainfall map determined the population density, and when the population size hit the predetermined maximum, the group divided. In this way, the simulated human populations grew and divided as they spread to fill up the entire Australian continent.

Our simple model didn’t include any impact from contact among groups, changes in subsistence strategies, the effects of the borrowing of cultural ideas or components of language from nearby groups, or many other potential processes. So, we expected it would fail miserably.

Incredibly, the model produced 407 languages, just one off from the actual number.

The simulation model predicts virtually the same number of languages (407) as were observed in reality (406).
Gavin et al DOI: 10.1111/geb.12563, CC BY

The simulated language maps also show more languages in the north and along the coasts, and less in the dry regions of central Australia, mirroring the geographic patterns in observed language diversity.

And so for the continent of Australia it appears that a small number of factors – limitations rainfall places on population density and limits on group size – might explain both the number of languages and much of the variation in how many languages are spoken in different locations.

A simulation model based on a few simple processes predicts much of the geographic variation in language diversity in Australia.
Gavin et al DOI: 10.1111/geb.12563, CC BY

Applying the model elsewhere

But we suspect that the patterns of language diversity in other places may be shaped by different factors and processes. In other locations, such as Vanuatu, rainfall levels do not vary as widely as in Australia, and population densities may be shaped by other environmental conditions.

In other instances, contact among human groups probably reshaped the landscape of language diversity. For example, the spread of agricultural groups speaking Indo-European or Bantu languages may have changed the structure of populations and the languages spoken across huge areas of Europe and Africa, respectively.

Undoubtedly, a wide variety of social and environmental factors and processes have contributed to the patterns in language diversity we see across the globe. In some places topography, climate or the density of key natural resources may be more critical; in others the history of warfare, political organization or the subsistence strategies of different groups may play a bigger role in shaping group boundaries and language diversity patterns. What we have established for now is a template for a method that can be used to uncover the different processes at work in each location.

The ConversationLanguage diversity has played a key role in shaping the interactions of human groups and the history of our species, and yet we know surprisingly little about the factors shaping this diversity. We hope other scientists will become as fascinated by the geography of language diversity as our research group is and join us in the search for understanding why humans speak so many languages.

Michael Gavin, Associate Professor of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Who Is Right: Atheists Or Believers In God  

Source: Who Is Right: Atheists Or Believers In God  

Past, Present And Future

By Promod Puri

“The past is history, future is mystery, but today is a gift……”, stay in the present and enjoy the moments. These are some of the many favored in-vogue quotes.

The popular quotations or advisories suggest our prospects belong to the moments we live in. We are told to live, feel, and enjoy the era of the present, rather than being prisoner of the past or future.

The reality is: our past is an assortment of both joyous, rough, memorable, and learning experiences. Whereas, our future lies in the prospect of imagination.

Imagination is an inspiring concept which is very natural foresight in the life of an individual as well as the society we belong to. Civilizations have been created, nourished, and developed on our ability to contemplate about the future.

No doubt, anxieties, worries or concerns often become parts of our contemplations, but so do the dreams. In this package, destiny is created thru our forward-looking karmas of the present which influence our future. Progress comes by prospecting at the future.

Flights to the future with optimistic imaginations are the thrills and promises of the prospective unknown.

Prospecting is natural. It is a functional activity of our cognitive powers. Sighting the future is both a conscious and unconscious activity. We can’t stop it while realizing, dealing, or playing with the moments of the present.

In these moments, our moods also swing like a pendulum, moving back and forth, from past to future while creating new flashes for the present.

Sometimes, journeys to the past contribute to the pleasures of the present. Past is a treasure like an old photo album. It is an asset and a companion. Ask the person lying on a hospital bed for long time. Or when a fatal blow to the past happens to a person with dementia. Moments of the present do not offer a “gift” here.

Moreover, for the society, past is not merely a history, but it is a heritage as well. The identity of a society is based on its heritage.

Past, present, and future are interlinked, and complimenting to each other with indelible events, experiences, karmas, and imaginations. The act of managing the future involves gathering and distilling the right information from the archives of the past within the time span of the present.

Time does not cover the innate past, or cause a pause to our imaginations for the future. It does not flow like a river. It does not fly either. Time rather spreads out. In this spread, past, present and future reside for ever.

It is our mind which ferries us around for stopovers at our memories, and sojourn us to conceive our imaginations, as well as bringing us back to the present. And the life’s journey continues while sailing through our past, present, and future.

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Promod Puri is a journalist and writer. He is author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions”, a book which explores the rational, secular and progressive nature of Hinduism.

PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Source: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

MODI Vs TRUMP

Whereas Trump has stiff relationship with the media, Modi is steadily developing a controlling relationship with the media. promodpuri.com