NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR

NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR
SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR

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

Guru Nanak’s Message of Divine Order

Hukam Razai Chalna, Nanak Likhyea Naal.

 Hukmae Andhar Sabh, Bahar Hukme Na Koe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hukmae Andhar Sabh, Bahar Hukme Na Koe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Promod Puri

 

 

Where Is God In The Midst Of Coronavirus

By Promod Puri

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

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

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

The big question is, where is God in the holy cities from Varanasi to the Vatican?

The divinity of God is on the spot with the near shutdown of houses of gods.

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

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

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

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

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

Merely believing that God exists is a ritual.

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

The formal acceptance of God only signifies His residential existence.

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

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

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

But God is not a ritual.

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

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

 

MISGUIDED ROUTE

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

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

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

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

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

BINARY ASPECT OF GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GREATEST ASSET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD IS ACTION, AND ACTION IS GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-30-

 

 

WHERE IS GOD THESE DAYS?

By Promod Puri
Churches, temples, mosques, or Gurdwaras may not be much congregated these days due to the Coronavirus epidemic worldwide. This emptiness at the places of prayers is either due to imposed restrictions or people just avoiding venues of large gatherings.
The business of religion, like any other business, is down. But this business is different, at least in principle. It offers the path and rides to understand the nature of the Creator while seeking His grace.
Places of mass appeal to God to save people from the virus ought to be averted. At the same time, people who believe in God’s existence seek some divine intervention while expecting a cure from science.
The big question is, where is God in the holy cities from Varanasi to the Vatican?
When devotees, priests advised staying away from the house of worship, the divinity of God is on the spot.
Where is the God, the Savior, in this period of a severe crisis of global viral pandemic facing humanity!
The believability of His or Her existence, based on ritualistic and conceptual physical presence, is rightfully questioned. Is God avoiding His responsibility by fleeing from the scene?
The rationality of this sentiment rests on the irrationality of believing in senseless miraculous powers and superstitious convictions embedded in almost all religious orders, and amply propounded in the business of religion.
People seek proof of God, but the sample of evidence they are trying is the one they evolved. They want to see the physical existence of God residing in a physical dwelling.
It is in this regard, the rationality and understanding of God need a comprehensive review.
Merely believing that God exists is a ritual.
(Readers, please note, a comprehensive article on this subject is going to be published soon on my websites promodpuri.com and progressivehindudialogue.com).

RELIGION HAS GUIDING ROLE IN POLITICS

By Promod Puri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As civilization started taking root management of the society began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

promodpuri.com

progressivehindudialogue.com

promodpuri.blogspot.com

Blasphemy And Apostasy In Islam Are More Political Than Religious


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

By Ahmet T. Kuru, San Diego State University

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

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

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

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

Blasphemy and apostasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ulema and the state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong direction

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

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

But they persist in many parts of the Muslim world.

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

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

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

Dissenting voices in Islam

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

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

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

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

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

Reaction to global Islamophobia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Satnam Waheguru: Both A Prayer And Mantra

By Promod Puri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A HAPPY AND PEACEFUL 2020

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

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

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

SHANTI (PEACE) MANTRA

Aum dyauh shantirantariksam,

shanti prthivi, shantirapah,

shantirosadhayah, shanti vanaspatayah,

shantirvisvedevah, shantirbrahma,

shantisarvam, shantireva, shant sama, shantiredhi

AUM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTI.

Following is a translated version of the peace mantra:

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

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

May peace flow over the whole universe.

May peace be in the Supreme Being Brahman.

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

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

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

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

Understanding Satsang And Its Virtues

By Promod Puri

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satsang creates pure religious consciousness.

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

The answer can be “yes.”

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

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

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

 

Universal Appeal of Guru Nanak’s Aarti

By Promod PuriGuru-Nanak-Dev-Ji-230x300

When Guru Nanak Dev, in his myriad spiritual experiences, saw the frame of cosmos beauty, he expressed his gratitude to the Almighty in creating such a splendor.

The lines he wrote at that moment were his reverent commendation of Nature’s arrangements in the universality of its presentation. His few words of appreciation and gratitude were his Aarti, devotional poetry of enlightenment describing His luminous lila.

Guru Nanak captured the scene, a pageant of nature’s elements together in sync performing the Aarti in a heavenly concert.

Aarti is derived from the Sanskrit word “aratika,” where it denotes clearance of ‘ratika’ or ‘ratri,’ meaning darkness.

Guru Nanak’s offers his Aarti in the following verse:

“Gagan Mai Thaal Rav Chand Deepak Baney, Tarika Mandal Janak Moti,

Meaning: Upon that cosmic plate of the sky, the sun and the moon are the lamps; the stars and the constellations are the pearls and jewels.

Dhoop Malyanlo Pavan Chavro Kare
Sagal Banraye Phulant Jyoti,

Meaning: The fragrance of sandalwood in the air is the temple incense, and the wind is the fan. All the flora of the earth is the altar flowers in offering to You.

Kaisi Aarti Hoye Bhavkhandna Teri Aarti
Anhata Shabad Vaajant Bheri”

Meaning: Oh, God, the destroyer of fear, what a wonderful feeling it is in offering this beautiful Aarti! A lamp-lit worship service this is! The celestial vibrations are like the sound of temple drums.

Note: The original Aarti of Guru Nanak Dev has a few more additions to it by saints Bhagat Ravi Dass, Sant Sain, Sant Kabir, and Bhagat Dhanna. And then there is the final contribution to the Aarti from Guru Gobind Singh.

Nanak’s Aarti has universal appeal as to how we all share Nature’s continuous ceremony of lights, the shines of Sun and the Moon, the twinkling of stars, the fragrance of plants and flowers around us.

It is with these sentiments that Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore suggested that Guru Nanak’s Aarti should be declared as an international anthem for all humanity.

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

———

 

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What Next After Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi Verdict

Neither Hinduism is enriched, nor Islam is poor with the Supreme Court verdict over Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case.
Though the fundamentals of religions are often buried in the foundations of temples and mosques, in their spirituality, none of them reside in the bricks and plaster monuments.
The 16the century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992, is now going to be grandeur Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ram, believed to be his birthplace. But the possession was with a heavy cost that saw one of the deadliest religious riots.
Well, a new temple is ok, but there is enough land to build a hospital there as well. Who knows one day in that very hospital, a Hindu patient would realize that the blood he received was from a Muslim donor? Or that a Muslim patient got a new heart from a dying Hindu patient.

By Promod Puri

Why Sikhs wear a turban and what it means to practice the faith


People participate in a candlelight vigil near the White House to protest violence against Sikhs in 2012. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

by Simran Jeet Singh, New York University

An elderly Sikh gentleman in Northern California, 64-year-old Parmjit Singh, was recently stabbed to death while taking a walk in the evening. Authorities are still investigating the killer’s motive, but community members have asked the FBI to investigate the killing.

For many among the estimated 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., it wouldn’t be the first time. According to the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in North America, this is the seventh such attack on an elderly Sikh with a turban in the past eight years.

As a scholar of the tradition and a practicing Sikh myself, I have studied the harsh realities of what it means to be a Sikh in America today. I have also experienced racial slurs from a young age.

I have found there is little understanding of who exactly the Sikhs are and what they believe. So here’s a primer.

Founder of Sikhism

The founder of the Sikh tradition, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 in the Punjab region of South Asia, which is currently split between Pakistan and the northwestern area of India. A majority of the global Sikh population still resides in Punjab on the Indian side of the border.

From a young age, Guru Nanak was disillusioned by the social inequities and religious hypocrisies he observed around him. He believed that a single divine force created the entire world and resided within it. In his belief, God was not separate from the world and watching from a distance, but fully present in every aspect of creation.

He therefore asserted that all people are equally divine and deserve to be treated as such.

To promote this vision of divine oneness and social equality, Guru Nanak created institutions and religious practices. He established community centers and places of worship, wrote his own scriptural compositions and institutionalized a system of leadership (gurus) that would carry forward his vision.

The Sikh view thus rejects all social distinctions that produce inequities, including gender, race, religion and caste, the predominant structure for social hierarchy in South Asia.

A community kitchen run by the Sikhs to provide free meals irrespective of caste, faith or religion, in the Golden Temple, in Punjab, India. shankar s., CC BY

Serving the world is a natural expression of the Sikh prayer and worship. Sikhs call this prayerful service “seva,” and it is a core part of their practice.

The Sikh identity

In the Sikh tradition, a truly religious person is one who cultivates the spiritual self while also serving the communities around them – or a saint-soldier. The saint-soldier ideal applies to women and men alike.

In this spirit, Sikh women and men maintain five articles of faith, popularly known as the five Ks. These are: kes (long, uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (wooden comb), kirpan (small sword) and kachera (soldier-shorts).

Although little historical evidence exists to explain why these particular articles were chosen, the five Ks continue provide the community with a collective identity, binding together individuals on the basis of a shared belief and practice. As I understand, Sikhs cherish these articles of faith as gifts from their gurus.

Turbans are an important part of the Sikh identity. Both women and men may wear turbans. Like the articles of faith, Sikhs regard their turbans as gifts given by their beloved gurus, and their meaning is deeply personal. In South Asian culture, wearing a turban typically indicated one’s social status – kings and rulers once wore turbans. The Sikh gurus adopted the turban, in part, to remind Sikhs that all humans are sovereign, royal and ultimately equal.

Sikhs in America

Today, there are approximately 30 million Sikhs worldwide, making Sikhism the world’s fifth-largest major religion.

‘A Sikh-American Journey’ parade in Pasadena, Calif. AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker

After British colonizers in India seized power of Punjab in 1849, where a majority of the Sikh community was based, Sikhs began migrating to various regions controlled by the British Empire, including Southeast Asia, East Africa and the United Kingdom itself. Based on what was available to them, Sikhs played various roles in these communities, including military service, agricultural work and railway construction.

The first Sikh community entered the United States via the West Coast during the 1890s. They began experiencing discrimination immediately upon their arrival. For instance, the first race riot targeting Sikhs took place in Bellingham, Washington, in 1907. Angry mobs of white men rounded up Sikh laborers, beat them up and forced them to leave town.

The discrimination continued over the years. For instance, when my father moved from Punjab to the United States in the 1970s, racial slurs like “Ayatollah” and “raghead” were hurled at him. It was a time when 52 American diplomats and citizens were taken captive in Iran and tension between the two countries was high. These slurs reflected the racist backlash against those who fitted the stereotypes of Iranians. Our family faced a similar racist backlash when the U.S. engaged in the Gulf War during the early 1990s.

Increase in hate crimes

The racist attacks spiked again after 9/11, particularly because many Americans did not know about the Sikh religion and may have conflated the unique Sikh appearance with popular stereotypes of what terrorists look like. News reports show that in comparison to the past decade, the rates of violence against Sikhs have surged.

Elsewhere too, Sikhs have been victims of hate crimes. An Ontario member of Parliament, Gurrattan Singh, was recently heckled with Islamophobic comments by a man who perceived Singh as a Muslim.

As a practicing Sikh, I can affirm that the Sikh commitment to the tenets of their faith, including love, service and justice, keeps them resilient in the face of hate. For these reason, for many Sikh Americans, like myself it is rewarding to maintain the unique Sikh identity.

This is an updated version of an article first published on Aug. 9, 2018.

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WHO KNOWS

Human beings are “the most
beautiful, intelligent and favorite
creation of God.”

Perhaps cats, dogs, donkeys, etc.,
and that bird in the sky
think the same.

Who knows!

And for that matter plants
and flowers have
the same pride.

Who knows!

Perhaps, He knows,
maybe not.

-Promod Puri

ORIGIN OF RELIGION

Essentially, religion is a code of conduct for a civil society. It all started from here. With society’s progression, the code of conduct also evolved resulting in its expansion and formalization.
As civilization started taking roots management of the society began.
Origin of religion can be traced as part of human evolution. Ancient religious orders basically were a set of laws and principles for some acceptable behavior in an emerging civil society.
Later all aspects of human cultures, including presumptions and myths, and overwhelming elements of nature were covered in one order. In all these developments social unity and coherence were the natural needs and dependencies of an advancing society.
An organized collection of beliefs and behaviors, a set of ideas started pouring in this social construction. And with the introduction of the Supreme Being, man’s most intuitive conception or imagery, the assemblage got sanctified.
(Excerpts from Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions)
https://progressivehindudialogue.com/cate…/book-on-hinduism/

NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR

NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR
SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR
(Loosely translated: Nanak says life for everybody is suffering,
blissful is the one who has based his/her life on Him)

That is the universal truth. Agony, misery, pain, suffering, both physical and emotional, and in all degrees of intensity are the realities of life experienced by all beings without exception. And in the midst of bliss, peace, and pleasure, life means jitters of distress, grief, and worries as well.

There is hardly any escape from these taxing and unpleasant realities littered all the way toward life’s end. The sufferings could be innocently or naively self-inflicted, or by fellow beings. Elements of nature and the so-called fate also play their minor or major roles to accompany man’s lifelong journey thru calamity and disaster.

Stresses and strains in our lives for one reason or the other give enough jerks to create the turbulence as a smooth ride to cover life’s journey becomes a rarity.

So, who is at absolute peace. Certainly nobody.

Can we redefine peace to accommodate those tensions and sufferings which otherwise we cannot shake off, rather we have to live with them?

In this exploration to seek that serenity and tranquility in the midst of torments and troubles, woes and worries, adversities and afflictions let us re-evaluate and narrow down our understanding of that guiding force from whom in desperation we often seek answers to our whys.

And that guiding mover is the eternal spirit which in the first place buzz us for our acceptance of the adversity (Nanak calls it hukam razai ). And that prepares us to tackle a calamity with cool mind effectively and decisively, rather being agitative or in panic.

Miracles from that eternal spirit need not be expected, but what is expected is the courage and strength to tackle suffering from grace and dignity.

of course, this is not an easy exercise, but the utmost and unshaken faith in our resolve to accept, face and tackle unfortunate circumstances leads us to that sought-after perception of forming the solid base from where one can realize the supreme power.

Regarding perception or understanding of the solid base let us get more clear on that by setting aside for a moment the most popular assumption that God, he or she, is a person.

Rather bring in another individuality and nature of his or her as just a performing action. So when we seek or gather courage and strength to handle any calamity or suffering and use those forces as part of our actions that very activity itself is a God in live manifestation.

And once that foundation or base, meaning God in the image of action, is recognized as the platform from where to handle and abate distress and tribulation then certainly with conviction one can get inspired to comprehend that……………..

NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR
SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR.

-By Promod Puri

Why giant statues of Hindu gods, leaders making Minorities nervous

Indulata Prasad, Arizona State University

Statues – big statues, the largest in the world – are being built all across India.

Like many public monuments, they attempt to convey history in a concrete form. But India’s new statues convey something else, too: the power and vision of one dominant group – and the vulnerability of others.

That’s because India’s biggest new public monuments all pay tribute to Hindu gods and leaders.

As a scholar of social change in India, I see statues as a projection of a nation’s values at a particular moment in time. For many Muslims and other religious minorities, then, these hulking public monuments of Hindu icons send an ominous message about their status in society.

Rising Hindu nationalism

The mammoth public shrines to Hindu nationalism are a pet project of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.

Since taking office in 2014, Modi has used his power to promote Hindu nationalism, a polarizing ideology that sees Hindus as India’s dominant group. Yet India is a constitutionally multicultural country with the world’s second largest population of Muslims – comprising over 170 million people.

Twenty percent of its 1.3 billion people are Muslim, Christian or another religion.

By 2021 India, which is already home to the tallest statue in the world – Gujarat state’s 597-foot-tall “Statue of Unity,” commemorating Indian independence hero Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – plans to unveil two more record-breaking monuments, both portraying icons idolized by Hindu rightists.

A 725-foot bronze likeness of the god Ram planned for Uttar Pradesh state will soon surpass the Statue of Unity in size. And in Mumbai construction has been halted on a 695-foot-tall likeness of the medieval Hindu warrior Shivaji, pending the results of an environmental review.

Guinness World Records also recently judged Tamil Nadu state’s 112-foot depiction of the face of the Hindu god Shiva as the world’s largest bust statue.

All this is happening under Modi, who is up for re-election in monthlong general elections that start on April 11.

He was voted into office in 2014 on a platform of “development for all.” Promising to boost the economy in a country where nearly 22% of people live in poverty and millions go hungry, Modi and the BJP won an historic parliamentary majority over the center-left Indian National Congress, its main competitor.

Since then, India has improved in international “ease of doing business” rankings, passing regulations that improve commerce and the protection of property rights.

But some of Modi’s boldest moves to improve cash flow and boost public revenues, including a 2017 tax reform initiative and a ban on saving in certain high-value currencies, have failed. Unemployment has risen under BJP rule, particularly in rural areas, and the national economy suffered during the “demonetization” process.

Over the last five years, under Modi’s administration, India has also seen a startling rise of Hindu vigilante violence.

Indian vigilante ‘cow killings’

The attacks – often called “cow protection” – are sometimes deadly assaults that target Muslims and other Indians who, unlike many Hindus, do not consider cows to be sacred.

Hindu militants killed at least 44 Indians and injured 280 in about 100 attacks between May 2015 and December 2018, according to the international not-for-profit Human Rights Watch. Most of the dead were Muslims in states run by Modi’s political party.

The prime minister and his BJP have faced criticism for being slow to condemn anti-Muslim violence and for prioritizing legislation to safeguard cows, not the victims of vigilantism. Cow protection violence has also crippled India’s beef and leather industries, since they are primarily Muslim-run.

Muslim men who date Hindu women are another common target of vigilante violence, as are students, journalists, academics and artists perceived to be critical of Modi’s leadership.

The Hindu nationalists’ crusade against pluralism takes place even as the Modi administration cracks down on civil liberties. Between 2014 and 2016, 179 people were arrested on charges of sedition for protests, critical blogs or anti-government posts on Facebook, according to government crime statistics.

Fears of religious minority groups

This is the cultural context that has Muslims worried over India’s statue-building spree.

The BJP is not the first party to build public monuments celebrating only one segment of Indian society.

From 2007 to 2012, a top politician named Mayawati built numerous memorials and parks across Uttar Pradesh state commemorating leaders from India’s marginalized Dalit class, formerly known as the “untouchables.” Mayawati, a Dalit, commissioned statues of herself, her political mentor Kanshi Ram and other Dalit icons who fought against India’s caste system.

It was the first time such grand homage had been paid to the Dalit leaders who crusaded against India’s deep-rooted caste system.

But the US$800 million price invited scrutiny, and the courts have asked Mayawati to repay some of those funds.

India’s election commission also insisted that Mayawati’s statues be shrouded ahead of state elections in 2012, saying the visibility of the then-chief minister and her party symbol might sway voters.

In contrast, resistance to India’s giant new statues has been muted. And Hindu nationalists are pushing for more public commemoration of their faith.

In November 2018, tens of thousands of Hindus gathered to demand the construction of a Hindu temple in the Indian city of Ayodhya – at the same spot where, in 1992, Hindu zealots demolished an ancient Muslim-built mosque.

The proposal to build instead an enormous statue of Ram in Ayodhya is widely seen as an effort to placate Hindu nationalists in their decades-long quest for a Ram temple.

Fearing a repeat of the deadly violence that destroyed the ancient mosque, some local Muslims fled the city last November.

Indian elections

Indians will decide whether to give Modi another five years when they vote this spring in the world’s biggest election.

Recent polls show Modi and his BJP leading in a race in which several competitor parties have allied to defeat him.

The prime minister’s public approval got a 7% boost, to 52%, after India’s brief but sharp escalation of recent tension with neighboring Pakistan, a majority Muslim state.

Border disputes are a classic move for a strongman leader during election season. Paying homage to Hindu nationalist icons in the form of giant public monuments, however, is something different. Modi is transforming secular India, one statue at a time.

Kartarpur Corridor Reflects Teachings Of Guru Nanak:

By Promod Puri

It is hailed as a “Corridor of Peace” between India and Pakistan.

The Kartarpur Corridor is a long-awaited and welcome historical development for Sikhs worldwide. The much-desired Corridor connects the border town of Dera Baba Nanak from the Indian side and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

The 4.7 kilometers border corridor is a sacred passage to the historic site of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), settled and assembled the faith’s commune after his missionary travels.

The highlight of the Corridor is that it is visa-free for pilgrims and devotees of Sikhism and from other religions to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur.

Till now, Sikh devotees from the Indian side gather in large numbers on higher places to have sacred viewing of the Gurdwara across the border.

The Indian government at one time was reluctant to the Corridor project, because of the poor state of the relationship between the two countries. Instead, it offered to install several powerful binoculars close to the border for viewing of the Kartarpur Gurdwara.

With the change of mind, perhaps the original proposal was mooted by ruling BJP prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, that the present Modi Government tends to be a partner in the project.

An 800-meter-long bridge over the Ravi river to lead up to the transit terminal where shuttle buses take the pilgrims from India to Pakistan.

The Kartarpur Gurdwara is a revered Sikh historical shrine where according to one Lahore-based historian Fakr Syed Aijazudin, the place houses the last copies of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism.

The Kartarpur Corridor has been an old, forceful and relentless demand of the Sikhs to the leadership of both the countries. It was only in September 2018 that the Pakistan Government unilaterally decided to start construction work for the Corridor.

The announcement was instantly welcomed by the government of India when prime minister Narendra Modi compared the decision to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying the project may help in better relations between the two nations.

The peace Corridor is complete close to the 550th-anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday.

The Sikh Guru founded Kartarpur in 1504 AD and established the first commune for his followers there. He lived in Kartarpur till his death. It is believed that the tradition of langar, an iconic part of Sikh faith, began here.

Guru Nanak was a firm believer in “karta,” meaning a doer. This relates to a person who besides being religious, is actively involved in doing work to earn one’s pious living. While in this engagement one also keeps social and family ties, rather than seeking a religious seclusion life as a hermit in search of god and peace. Hence, he named his place of final settlement Kartarpur.

The original 16th-century shrine on the banks of river Ravi was built by the followers of Guru Nanak Dev, including many Muslims. But it was ravaged by floods. The present Kartarpur Gurdwara was built by late Maharaja of Patiala Sardar Bhupinder Singh in 1925 at the site where Guru Nanak died.

After the partition of India in 1947, the Kartarpur region was awarded to Pakistan. The Gurdwara was sort of abandoned and showed signs of ruin. Later in 1995, the Pakistan Government began the repair work and fully restored the sacred Sikh shrine in 2004.

The sanctity of the site was always upheld by Nanak’s Muslim devotees as well. And today Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib has emerged as the ultimate symbol of peace among the Punjabis on both sides of the border.

The “Corridor of Peace” would be the eventual tribute by both the nations of India and Pakistan to the teachings of Guru Nanak.

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Promod Puri is a Vancouver-based journalist, writer, and author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Tradition.” Websites: promodpuri.comprogressivehindudialogue.com

-30-

Promod Puri is a Vancouver-based journalist, writer, and author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Tradition.” Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com 

 

Beyond The Confines Of Atheism And Theism

By Promod Puri

When atheists reject the concept or existence of God, their conclusion is based on limited perception. The reason, we human beings are like a speck of creature in this colossal universe incapable of fathoming its enormity.

Their case does not win credibility either by just ridiculing those who believe in God.

And those under theism believing that God exists in physical form or in some supernatural and transcendental actuality, and offers a sensory experience, then it is merely an unjustified and ritualistic impression. This conception can be easily rejected in the face of the rationale-seeking contemporary society.

Likewise, if one has understood God thru rituals and customs, then what has been understood is not God.

In the vast celestial arrangement and the unseen sub-atomic fields where humanity is mystified as who caused all this phenomenon, as well as when we accept and revere the senseless ritualistic customs, the concepts of atheism and theism can find limited argumentation in the non-believability or believability of God.

In both the convictions, the inherent human limitations in reasoning and observation, along with our blind obedience to one supreme deity, there is no confirmation that God does not exist or the belief that God exists.

But God is an established institution that can not be eliminated despite a lack of rational outlook.

REVIEWING UNDERSTANDING  OF GOD

In the enlightened existing culture where both empirical evidence and convincing rationale are unavoidable factors, the concept of God can be reviewed to establish a fresh and meaningful conception and realization.

The review process is also helpful for those who have a rigid mindset belief in God’s presence because of ritualistic impacts.

In this reassessment, God’s perception can be altered, rationalized or perhaps restored with pragmatic understanding and awareness. Nevertheless, God cannot be rejected for lack of empirical evidence or accepted in the solely ritualistic or blind-faith image.

God and religion are the two synonymous influences which are subjected to evolution in the ongoing social construction of humankind.

In this evolution, atheism can contribute too because of its credible roots in various religious ideations. The main reason is for its earnest call for humanism in the conduct of our lives.

The fact is, since the time God was institutionalized in the religious orders, atheism despite being firm on His non-existence, has played a challenging and stimulating role in man’s spiritual and divine pursuits.

For those reasons, atheism has been accepted as a valid philosophical concept in the religiosity of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism.

ATHEISM IN HINDUISM

In its liberal and democratic discipline, atheism is part of streams of thought in Hinduism. Both Sankhya and Mimamsa, the two known and oldest faculties of Hindu philosophy have rejected the involvement of God in the creation and management of the macrocosm.

“Who really knows, and who can swear,

How creation came, when or where!

Even gods came after creation’s day,

Who really knows, who can truly say

 

“When and how did creation start?

Did He do it? Or did He not?

Only He, up there, knows, maybe;

Or perhaps, not even He.”

 

-The Rig Veda Chapter X, Para 129 in the Hymn of Creation (Nasadiya Sukta)

 

Hindu commentator and a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, Markandey Katju, has even claimed that out of nine Hindu philosophical systems “eight of them are atheistic as there is no place for God in them. Only the ninth one that is Uttar Mimansa, which is also called Vedanta has a place for God in it.” (source Wikipedia under “Atheism in Hinduism”).

Both Astika, believing in God’s existence, and Nastika, meaning an atheist, are the concepts that are factors in the democratic tradition of Hinduism.

The Nastika philosophy has been traditionally the base of both Buddhism and Jainism as well.

And in Taoism, an ancient religious Chinese philosophy, “there is no omnipotent Being beyond the cosmos, who created and controls the universe.”

The guiding force in Taoism is Tao who is not a God or god. Tao means ‘way’ or ‘path’ in Chinese.’ Taoism believes that the universe organizes a natural path by itself. And there is no central controlling principle or order. Instead of delving into the existence or non-existence of God, Taoism focuses on “living a simple and balanced life in harmony with nature.”

The concept of God in all these religious isms is more of a  metaphysical nature rather than a physical or supernatural existence. And that is the reason there has been almost no objection to accommodating atheism in their numinous thoughts. Instead, these religious orders got enriched with a diversity of thoughts, philosophies, and appeals. Hinduism is the prime example to harbor atheism in its vast structure.

Atheism and theism in our religious thinking are not the topics in the virtuous conduct of our lives. Rather, like Taoism, the ethical conduct of life has been the basic tenet of all the world faiths, and this is where the practicality of God lies.

COMPREHENSIVE NATURE OF GOD

But in that practicality, the understanding of God does not end.

A simple and brief, but still far from the complete, characterization of God can be: the sum-total of everything and every process in this universe and beyond is God. Everything, known or unknown that exists is what a universe is all about. (Source: Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions, Amazon publication)

It is from this perspective that an overview of astronomical creations both in the celestial world and in the tiniest of atoms is supportive in our study and evaluation of that mysterious force or energy.

This very energy is the cause of everything, living or non-living, observable or non-observable present in this universe and beyond. And that includes the space where all these entities are placed.

What is that energy which keeps the sub-atomic particles moving, the earth and many other planets spinning, and keep everything alive in one form or the other?

Known physicist Late Stephen Hawkins says: “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”

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

What we are seeking is a renewed understanding of God which is in line with contemporary thinking based on rationalism and intelligent perception.

This undertaking can represent the wholeness of God from the celestial world to the tiniest of particles. Also lies in the renewed comprehensiveness of God are the ethical and spiritual needs of humanity with detachable rituals and customs.

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(Promod Puri is the author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions, and writer of several essays on religion, politics and human interest. Websites: progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com).

CONTROLLING FAKE HINDU GURUS

Unlike some other religious orders, Hinduism does not have a centralized controlling authority to guide or to safeguard its values. Without any governing body, Hinduism over the centuries developed the “parmpara”(tradition) of establishing the institution of independent gurus, ‘swamis’ and ‘babas.’ However, looking at the disgraceful conduct of many of these so-called god’s men and women in recent times, it seems to be imperative that Hinduism can have some sort of a watchdog body to keep the sanctity of the religion.

WHY INDIA MUST KNOW ABOUT VAISAKHI….

Awake India, awake to his vision. Leave those caste barriers, acquire knowledge, be strong in body and be a Khalsa in spirit. Your religion doesn’t matter. Khalsa is a state of mind, not just a religion.

by Frank Hazur

While Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi across India; rest of India wonders if it is about doing the Bhangra and dancing. No, it is not; Vaisakhi holds a lesson for all Indians.

So the day 13 April 1699, in a congregation of people from across India were standing there listening to their Guru, Gobind Rai. Gobind Rai asked for the human sacrifice of five men one after the other.

Five men from different castes from different parts of India stood up from a crowd of thousands.

– A shopkeeper Baniya called Daya Ram from Lahore
– A Tarkhan carpenter called Dharam Das from Meerut
– A so-called low-caste water carrier called Himmat Rai from Jagannath Puri, Odisha
– A tailor of Cheema caste called Mukham Chand from Dwarka, Gujarat
– A barber of Naai caste called Sahib Chand from Bidar, Karnataka

With his choice of disciples from five different corners of India, Gobind Rai visualized the national dream from the coast of Gujarat along Western Arabian Sea to coasts of Odisha along the Bay of Bengal; from the great Plains of Punjab to the Gangetic Plain and then to the Deccan peninsula covering Karnataka.

Do not forget that at that time, all these were separate states; it was Guru Gobind Singh that thought of all of them as one. This day Baisakhi 1699.

With the choice of disciples from five different caste-groups, he visualized an integrated class-less society.

The five were christened as the first five Khalsa Sikhs, and the five, in turn, christened their Guru as the sixth. Gobind Rai was now Gobind Singh.

All caste names and surnames were dropped, and a common surname was proposed for all Indians across India; a surname that denoted a caste-less, class-less creed of men willing to sacrifice themselves for the nation and against injustice.

And the Swaroop he chose for the class-less people was an amalgamation of the ancient Indian thought of Rishis (as mentioned by Guru Gobind Singh in the Sarbloh Granth) and the Kshatriya tradition of Warriors, hence the Jooda, the hairs, and the Talwar.

The concept of Miri-Piri was coded in the dress-system of this new society envisioned by him. A group of people who were strong in Miri (Physical Strength and material possessions) and Piri (Spiritual Strength and humility)

So, the five so-called lower castes were given the temporal strength of a Rishi (a Brahmin citadel till now) and the Physical responsibilities of a Kshatriya (a duty till then limited to the Rajputs).

This motley group of people uprooted Afghan and Mughal rule from entire North India from the Yamuna to the Khyber pass, such as the power of the vision.

And this was the Indian that he envisioned from five corners of HIS nation. Guru Gobind Singh was visionary par excellence. His vision has been diluted and limited to Sikhism, that is the travesty.

Awake India, awake to his vision. Leave those caste barriers, acquire knowledge, be strong in body and be a Khalsa in spirit. Your religion doesn’t matter. Khalsa is a state of mind, not just a religion.

(Frank Hazur is the editor of Socialist Factor magazine, Lucknow, India)

 

Besides Humans Everything Else Has Consciousness Too

By Promod Puri

What is the difference between you, me, and a spoon, a table, a stone, or any object or a thing? Both are physical matters. But we have consciousness others don’t.

Or maybe they have it which we don’t sense. That is what distinguishes you and me, and the “non-consciousness” objects.

How is this distinction is created through consciousness which defines the nature of the physical matter of being a mindful or non-mindful entity?

There are two theories.

Before we approach these concepts let us define or get a practical understanding of consciousness.

According to Wikipedia consciousness is an “inward awareness of an external object, state, or fact,” and these could include perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. The keywords are “inward awareness” suggesting it is already present. The dictionary explanation says, “full activity of the mind and senses.” In that activity, the knowledge gained through external or inherent factors stimulates the development of a conscious mind. Consciousness is both a biological and psychological phenomenon that correlates with each other.

Now back to the theories:

The first one is called dualism where consciousness is an import from an unknown source that plugs into the physical matter to make it conscious. That suggests consciousness is separate and independent from the physical matter. But together they make a dual entity.

In dualism, the independent nature of consciousness is unseen. And its source is unknown unless the divinity factor is contemplated giving soul to the object such as humans or animals. The moment the object is unplugged consciousness disappears or might be expired.

The second theory is called materialism. Here the consciousness is already a built-in occurrence in the constituents of a matter. That means every single particle, even the tiniest one, has an inherent awareness caused by consciousness. But the residing of consciousness in them is a very basic or simple structure. The latter is so elementary that it can’t be imagined as consciousness.

It is only when these particles come together thru some complex process, which may include neurochemistry, that together they constitute the realized consciousness such as human instinct.

Consciousness is thus created out of dormant or “non-conscious” materials present in physical matter. The materials are the small fragments of an object or its composing molecules along with their atomic and sub-atomic particles. The theory is called materialism because it is created out of materials.

However, believing all things have conscious quality, the term materialism has been replaced and is widely known and accepted as panpsychism. It is derived from two Greek words “pan” meaning “all,” and psyche means soul or mind. Nonetheless, to meet human conclusion panpsychism involves the construction of consciousness to the level when it can be humanly realized.

At what stage the aggregation of “conscious” materials, from a human perspective, is ready to be called or felt like a conscious object? As humans are limited in their perception, consciousness can develop and complete its process to form its own system which under human observation is not noticed. In that respect, consciousness may already be dwelling in a spoon, a table, a stone, etc.

Or the particles may never combine to create a conscious system. Still, these are plugged forever in their own individual conscious orders. If that is acceptable, then the panpsychism does merge with the dualistic concept as there exists a duality of consciousness and matter.

The dualism theory is secured because it has the support of the widely believed existence of some divine source or utility responsible for supplying the power of consciousness. On the other hand, panpsychism offers some rational assumptions based on metaphysics in its understanding.

In panpsychism, the particles are already “divined” or plugged-in as part of the whole with the concept that the entire universe is one whole conscious body. And the whole is represented by individual physical parts like mountains, rocks, trees, humans, animals, and other seen or unseen matters down to the atomic and subatomic levels.

The universe in its continuum is a conscious body of conscious parts, no matter how tiny or big they are. When the whole is conscious, its parts are conscious too, just like a human body. When it is alive, every organ of it is live as well. There are minds in the universal mind.

The ideological value of panpsychism lies with the conception everything existing in the universe has consciousness. It can be inherent or created internally or by an external source. And all the constituents of the universe are fundamentally connected with each other as being contained in one big whole.

The connectivity concept gets ardent support from the Upanishadic wisdom in Hinduism. The unique mantra of Om purnam adah talks about the totality of the universe and the togetherness of its composing constituents. The trees, the mountains, the people, the birds, the stars, howsoever far away they may appear, but they are all associated.

In this connectivity, the two theories of consciousness do meet in their divine orders.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer of human interest, politics and religious topics, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions).

topics, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions).

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

God’s Contemplation in Rational & Practical Environments

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

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

 By Promod Puri

Merely believing that God exists is a ritual.

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

And when this stereotyped expression of His existence gets invoked then the devotee does not go beyond that commitment, he or she mistakenly believes and asserts to be a “religious person.”

The formal acceptance of God only signifies His residential existence.

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

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

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

But God is not a ritual.

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

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

 

MISGUIDED ROUTE

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

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

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

In this age when there is an explosion of knowledge, and people seek rationality in any given thought, critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning make the right approach to revisit our mindset image of God. At the same time, we must admit to the fact that the human mind has a limitation in seeking truth beyond empirical evidence and rational ideations.

BINARY ASPECT OF GOD

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

In this call, one approach is of the astronomical nature of His universal and celestial existence beyond our observable scientific capabilities. And the second interest deals with the practicality of His spiritual presence along with our relationship with plants, animals, and our environment. In simple words, one aspect of God is a Noun, and the other one is the Verb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GREATEST ASSET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD IS ACTION, AND ACTION IS GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related articles by the author:

1. Man Created God or God Created Man

2. Building Divine Residency More Relevant Than Knowing God He or She

3. Assembly of God In Hinduism

4. Thoughts On Thought

 

Seeking Evolution In Religions

IMG_3003Rituals, customs, and traditions provide bulk and mostly false identity to a religion. If these are detached from all the religions, then we can see fundamentals of moral and righteous teachings are the same in each of them.

Pathways to divinity are infused with words of morality and ethics, principles, and noble deeds. Many meaningless and vague rituals and customs, while being overly dominating in the institution of religion, create potholes in these pathways. And followers of religions are often get holed up in the potholes.

From the mass availability of knowledge and independent learning thru Internet, Google, and other media, critical thinking can be gathered to review each of these ritualistic values in our individual religious orders. In this debut exercise, one can see the oneness of our religions in their philosophies and messages.

This could be a spiritually enlightened movement at the personal level which may catch up and impact the institutional practices. What we are seeking is a  logical objective which can get us to the sameness of all the world religions, but still with linguistically and culturally diverse names, like those of God.

-By Promod Puri

 

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”)

Rakshabandan’ – the festival that celebrates the brother-sister bond

A sister tying the protective thread.
Vikram Verma, CC BY-ND

Mathew Schmalz, College of the Holy Cross

This year, Monday, August 7 marks one of the most important celebrations for Hindus throughout the world: Rakshabandhan, a ceremony honoring the bond between sisters and brothers. The date of Rakshabandan varies from year to year since Hindus follow a lunar calendar for religious celebrations.

During Rakshabandhan sisters tie a protective thread around the right wrist of their brothers. Brothers give gifts and promise protection to their sisters. The word “rakshabandhan” means “tie of protection.”

The festival affirms the crucial importance of family in the Hindu tradition. But many of my Hindu friends also are quick to add that the festival is also about Hinduism’s openness. For example, one of the most popular legends surrounding Rakshabandhan concerns the connection between a Hindu queen and a Muslim king.

Sisters not only tie their brothers as defined by blood relationship, but also those with whom they have a very close family-like relationship. In fact, as an American Catholic and a scholar of comparative religions, I myself have been “tied the thread” during Rakshabandhan.

Stories of the Rakhi

The “rakhi,” a thread or amulet, is an ancient means of protection in Hindu culture. One of the sacred Hindu books, the Bhavishya Purana, tells the story of Indra, who was fighting a losing battle against demons. When his wife, Indrani, tied a special thread to his wrist, he returned to battle and triumphed.

Today in North India, the most widely repeated legend related to Rakshbandhan concerns Rani Karnavati, a 16th-century queen of the city of Chittorgarh in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, and the Muslim Mughal Emperor Humayun.

The legend goes that Chittorgarh was threatened by a neighboring sultan and Rani Karnavati knew that her troops could not prevail. And so, she sent a rakhi to the even more powerful Mughal emperor. Humayun and Karnavati became brother and sister and he sent troops to defend her.

The historical veracity of this story remains a matter of debate among scholars. But it is still part of popular culture in India, despite the fact that Humayun’s troops did not arrive in time to prevent Karnavati and the rest of Chittorgarh’s female inhabitants from ritually burning themselves alive to avoid capture.

The festival is not limited to blood relationships.

Nonetheless, the festival of Rakshabandhan has been presented as an expression of solidarity between Hindus and Muslims who have a long and tortured history on the subcontinent. For example, India’s Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore advocated that Hindus and Muslims tie a thread on each other during the festival. He also used the image of the rakhi in his poems, such as one where he describes the “shadows and lights” of the Earth as lying like “a rakhi-band on future’s hand.”

The ritual of Rakshabandhan

One of the crucial aspects of the celebration of Rakshabandhan is that it is not limited to the immediate family or to those who have a similar religious identity. Even an American Catholic like me can be honored in the festival.

When I first went to India 30 years ago, I lived with a Hindu family in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi. Very quickly, I became accepted as a real member of the family with attendant responsibilities. I was a brother to the three sons, Ajay, Sanjay, and Amit; and also to the two sisters, Hema and Suchita.


Our family relationship has endured over 30 years. And when I am in India during Rakshabandhan, I am “tied” a rakhi by Hema and Suchita as I was all those years ago.

The ceremony would begin with both Suchita and Hema tying a rakhi to my right wrist. Both threads were quite colorful and inset with rhinestones. As they tied the rakhi, they repeated words and phrases in Sanskrit meant to protect me from harm and to reaffirm the brother/sister relationship.

First a red dot, called a “tilak,” was made on my forehead with a powder called “kumkum” and uncooked grains of rice. While the tilak has a number of meanings, Hema and Suchita told me it would “open” the hidden third eye of wisdom in my forehead.

Then I was honored by the clockwise rotation of an oil lamp. This rite of welcoming and honor is called “arati.”

 between brother and sister. I then presented my sisters gifts.

This basic pattern is also found in many forms of Hindu temple worship, called puja, which are, in part, hospitality rites that honor the presence of the deity.

Academic perspectives

Scholars often consider Rakshabandhan in studies of what it means to establish a relationship with someone. For example, they note that brothers are the “givers” in Rakshabandhan. This reverses the dynamic in traditional Indian society, where the woman herself is symbolically “gifted” to her husband during the wedding ceremony. From this anthropological perspective, relationships are established and maintained through establishing clear roles of “giver” and “receiver” as well as “protector” and “protected.”

The ConversationBut what Rakshabandhan also shows is that not all forms of “kinship” are based upon blood descent. And it is here that understandings of Rakshabandhan mirror the famous Hindu phrase: “The cosmos is a family.”

Mathew Schmalz, Associate Professor of Religion, College of the Holy Cross

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

EASTER AND VAISAKHI: FESTIVALS OF NEW BEGINNING

By Promod Puri

Easter is a celebration of resurrection of Jesus.

It is on this day, Christians believe in the rise of Jesus Christ after his death and burial. And that means a new beginning.

Since Easter (April 16) comes in the beginning of spring season, a symbolic connection can be ascertained with the coming back to life of Jesus, and the life of plants and trees that have been dormant in winter. Easter is a celebration of new life and rebirth in the nature and the Christian faith.

The celebration of new life and rebirth finds a meaningful implication in the Hindu-Sikh-Buddhist festival of Vaisakhi (April 13) which also falls during the spring season.

Vaisakh is the name of first month (April-May) in the Hindu calendar. It is a time of festivity when the crops are ready for harvesting. On this day in 1875, Hindu reformist Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj sect in Hinduism. And Gautam Buddh attained enlightenment on the Vaisakhi day. Vaisakhi marks a new beginning with the formation of Khalsa Panth, the birth of Sikhism by Guru Gobind Singh on April 13, 1699.

Easter and Vaisakhi are the occasions of celebrations when mother nature also promises new beginning as the spring season comes back with new leaves, flowers, and blossoms.

Happy Easter, Happy Vaisakhi amidst Happy Spring.

RELIGION HAS GUIDING ROLE IN POLITICS

By Promod Puri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As civilization started taking roots management of the society began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Building Divine Residency More Relevant Than Knowing God He or She

By Promod Puri

If God or the Supreme Being is He, She or It; residing in heaven, up there in the sky or just omnipresent in the known or unknown universe. Do we need to indulge in this debate? Not really. Rather we create our own god based on noble thoughts, ethics, and good karma.

Besides His numinous and varied perceptions God also offers a meaningful perspective which can be created by the assembly of good thoughts. And the divine residency begins in that on-going construction.

Basically, it is an eloquent temperament we are trying to build which gives rationality and practicality to the institution of God.

The ecumenical concept of God of being the supreme governor who creates, sustains, and destroys the universe, and everything else including what influences our lives, does not reveal the reasons behind all the puzzles and mysteries of His or Her observable deeds.

In other words, our perception of God as being a creator with His mystical powers which sustains the universe, can not comprehend many universal and natural phenomenon.
One reason is that man is just one of the millions of creatures who is microscopic in His infinite and colossal universe. Still, our imaginations and metaphysical attempts know no boundaries to fathom His magnanimity. For a moment let us compare a human being to a small ant who is trying to study God up there in the celestial world.

But we don’t. Because this has been ingrained in our cognitive senses that man is the favored work of God as being the most intelligent among all His living creations. And that we are the only ones capable of studying His multi-dimensional but conceptual-based existence.
Perhaps, that little ant may be thinking the same. It may be believing humans walking tall up on the ground are the unintelligent creatures. Or we are the gods for the ant. Who knows!

Philosophers, saints, scientists, and even common man have all tried to study God and came up with varied perceptions and explanations. Imagination is very basic part of human psychology.
However, these discernments seldom explain what role God plays or His reasons of our happiness, sorrows, and everything else we come across in our day to day lives. We see, face or endure tragedies around us every day in this world of turmoil. And then ask God ‘why’.

While respecting some or most of the known realizations and imageries about Him, we take another view of God which we assemble by intelligent and ethical thoughts to helps us in explaining His involvements in the events we experience in our lives.

In this endeavor by mobilizing rational and moral thinking we are creating those karmas which can rationally explain the cause or causes of events personally experienced by us or happening around us where God may be involved or maybe not.

We are the major players to generate events and thus know the reasons for their results. Nevertheless, we can leave unexplained experiences as part of His mysterious ‘lila’ or play.
Instilling nobility or divinity in our thoughts is a continuous exercise of creating virtuous karmas. And that is where the grammar of God is involved both as a verb and as a noun merging into one entity.

It is a disciplined and conscientious undertaking to attain the practicality of God in our midst.
We are told, to be honest, humble, and sincere, be considerate and helpful to others, be merciful, forget and forgive, love fellow beings and care for the environments, including animals, plants, and nature. And everything else which is pious, pure, and morally firm to bring us closer to God realization.

While retaining the truism of these universal teachings we can contextualize them through our intellective senses to guide our day-to-day personal lives. This is where the blueprint of our construction begins to apprehend His pragmatics.

(Excerpts from Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions)
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MANUSMIRITI AND WOMEN

(From the book Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions by Promod Puri)

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 inspires 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 worshiped 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.

In this dehumanized and demoralized portrait of the unequivocal surrender of a woman from childhood to death, restricting every step of her stage in life, one wonders if there are few soft spots of dignity, honor and some rewards for her sacrifices in the Manusmriti.

Yes, there are. Along with the prejudice against low caste Hindus and women, Manu has some cheering exhibits in the otherwise demeaning declarations in the Manusmriti.

In Chapter 3 with numbered paragraphs of Manusmriti his preachings and observation include:

55. Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire (their own) welfare.

56. Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards.

57. Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers.

58. The houses on which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse perish completely as if destroyed by magic.

59. Hence men, who seek (their own) welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with (gifts of) ornaments, clothes, and (dainty) food.

60. In that family, where the husband is pleased with his wife and the wife with her husband, happiness will assuredly be lasting.

These silver linings in the Manusmriti provide a built-in support to decertify those defamatory statements which are not only illegal as per the constitution of India is concerned but morally, spiritually and ethically wrong.

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What does Trump have to do with the Hindu sacred syllable, om?

 

Republican nominee Donald Trump was recently invited to a fundraising event organized by a conservative group of Hindu Americans, the Republican Hindu Coalition. A poster from the event, which describes the group as “Hindus for Trump,” portrays the candidate in a posture much like that of a yogi in deep meditation.

It shows Trump, face pointing upward and hands outstretched, rising up from a mass of red, white and blue flower petals in the shape of a lotus. Prominently displayed in the center is the Indian sacred syllable, “om,” decorated with stars and stripes.

Om is the preeminent Sanskrit mantra and symbol of Indian religions, especially Hinduism. In terms of religious identity, this sign denotes Hinduism in much the same way that the star of David and the Christian cross represent Judaism and Christianity. Om has its own dedicated sign in the scripts for Hindi and other Indian languages.

In global culture, the om sign has come to stand for Indian spirituality in general. It has been widely adopted by practitioners of yoga and meditation.

However, contemplation, transcendence or Indian spirituality would seem to have little in common with Trump’s public persona that has been described by the media as reflecting “narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity.”

So, what should we make of this juxtaposition of Trump and India’s “sacred syllable”?

For the uninitiated, here is what om means

The history of om stretches back more than 3,000 years. Om was first attested in the Vedas, a massive corpus of ancient “knowledge” (“veda” in Sanskrit) from the first millennium B.C. that furnishes the oldest and most authoritative texts of Hinduism.

The Upaniṣads, a collection of later Vedic texts regarded as the foundation for Indian philosophy, hailed om as “this whole world” and as the singular distillation of all wisdom.

Subsequent texts on Hindu law from the start of the Common Era codified the practice of intoning om at the start of every sacred recitation.

Hindu theological discourses emphasize that the sound of om is not of human origin – rather, it is a divine revelation and an audible expression of transcendence. By chanting or contemplating the mantra om, a practitioner gains access to a higher state of consciousness that leads to liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

In all these respects, the syllable has served as the quintessential symbol of religious authority in Hinduism – a role it continues to play up through the present day.

Multiple forms of om

This history, however, is not that simple. My research into om’s early history reveals that this symbol, much like the Hindu traditions it has come to represent, is neither monolithic nor static.

Om did not emerge suddenly as a full-fledged symbol of knowledge and the cosmos. Instead, premodern Hindu thinkers gradually constructed om as a single concept through contentious debates and theological reflections.

My research shows om in the Vedas does not have a single form or meaning. It is recited in many ways, appears in many different ritual contexts, and inspires a wide range of interpretations.

For example, Vedic experts in music described it as the sound of the sun, since it introduced their songs just like the sun signals the start of the day; the same singers called om “honey” for the sweetness it added to their melodies. Vedic specialists in sacrifice glossed om as an affirmation of ritual actions, as the “truth” inherent in their mantras. Other Vedic thinkers maintained that om was a secret password for attaining immortality at the moment of death.

Such examples could be multiplied many times over, not just in the Vedas but also in subsequent texts from Hindu, Buddhist and other Indian religious traditions where om is central to discussions about yoga, meditation, creation and salvation.

The bottom line is that India’s sacred syllable emerged over many centuries, depended on the contributions of different voices and accrued countless meanings along the way.

As a researcher of om, whenever I encounter the sign – whether inscribed in a manuscript, displayed at a Hindu temple or featured on a Donald Trump poster – its history of multiple meanings flashes into my mind.

There is no one Hindu voice

Now, against this background, let’s look at what the Hindus for Trump group is doing with its juxtaposition of Trump and om.

Hindus for Trump is closely allied with the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC). Founded in 2015 by businessman Shalli Kumar, the RHC claims to provide “a single, unified platform for raising voice of Hindu Americans in public policy.”

In my view this raises the following issues:

Although in some contexts om is simply shorthand for “Hindu,” it seems problematic to harness this complex symbol to the single agenda of right-wing political activism among Hindu Americans.

Additionally, this raises another question: Do Hindu Americans really speak with only one voice?

Judging from the protests and the backlash on social media, there are many Hindu Americans besides Hindus for Trump and the RHC who might be inclined to associate Trump with syllables more profane than sacred.

Om’s history exemplifies the fact that Hindu traditions and Hindu identity are complex and varied. “Hinduism” covers an astonishing array of doctrines, practices and lifestyles in India, Asia and around the world.

While Hinduism’s history has not been free from conflict, there is an abiding openness to diversity at the roots of the tradition, as this famous verse from the Vedas attests (Rig Veda 1.164):

“Truth is one but the wise call it by many names.”

From a temple complex in suburban Boston to a street shrine in Varanasi; from Sanskrit dramas in Kerala to processions in Nepal – every day, practitioners, devotees and regular people create, contest and carry forward the traditions of this world religion in multiple ways.

The jarring juxtaposition of Trump and om reminds us that there is more to Hinduism and its iconography than a political poster can convey.

AUTHOR: Finnian M.M. Gerety Visiting Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, Brown University

Article courtesy The CONVERSATION.

TOLERANCE OR ACCEPTANCE

Jagessar Das M. D. President  Kabir Association of Canadajagessar

People all over the world talk about tolerance, such as racial tolerance, religious tolerance or cultural tolerance, when they have to live in a society made up of people of different backgrounds. And this tolerance is often thought of as being a virtue. Let us try to understand what tolerance really means.

If you try to think clearly about what tolerance means, you will understand that it means to tolerate something or someone that is different, and with whom you cannot identify yourself. It means that you are not ready to accept that difference whether it is racial, religious or cultural. It means that you may “put up” with that difference. Thus, to tolerate something connotes a negative tendency, and it cannot be thought of as a virtue, if you tolerate another race, religion or culture. To tolerate something connotes an idea such as: “as far as I am concerned, it is all right if you cease to exist”, or “I hate you but I will tolerate you”, or “you are no good, but I will tolerate you”. So you tolerate something because you think that it is better to tolerate than to create enmity. It also could reflect the idea that to practice intolerance can get you into a great deal of trouble.

No society is entirely homogeneous, even if its members belong to the same race, religion or culture. Members of the same religion often divide themselves into different denominations, and often hold different cultural and religious values. Homogeneity in value systems is not a characteristic of any one society. Many people of the same society can express opposite ideas over any given situation. Thus to talk about tolerance, in terms of race, religion or culture, is not appropriate.

On the other hand, instead of tolerance, if people practice acceptance, then they will be pursuing a positive goal. To accept a different race, religion or culture is definitely a positive state, based on love, understanding, compassion, sharing and brotherhood. These values are taught in all the religions, and it is thus important for us to accept others, instead of merely tolerating them. To accept a different race, religion or culture obviously does not mean that you have to change anything except your attitude, biases and prejudices. In acceptance, we welcome the differences, because these are all the handiwork of God. People cannot do much about their race. Their culture differs because of their geographical location, history, religion, language, etc. Differences are a part of nature and God’s plan. If God wanted homogeneity, then all people would be exactly the same, as will all the flowers, and all the animals, and all the insects. It will then certainly be a very monotonous world. Such monotony, among people, can best be reflected by a whole population of robots, all looking alike, and doing the same thing. Such is not God’s plan, for in His wisdom, He has chosen to create the differences.

Certainly, there are things in society that we must not accept. Crime, violence of any type, hate, drug and alcohol abuse, stealing and cheating, are some things that we should not, as a society, accept. But the context in which I am discussing tolerance, deals with people in terms of race, religion and culture. And all religions and cultures are intolerant to the same type of evil deeds that bring suffering to individuals, and to society.

If we look at humanity, in general, we would see that we all must share the same earth and its resources. We all breathe the same air. We all need food, water, clothing and shelter. We all need the sunshine. Our bodies function in the same way, irrespective of racial differences. We all have the same basic needs. We are all destined to grow old and die. So while we have this precious gift of life, let us live nobly. Do not stain your life with prejudices or a sense of superiority! I remember a quotation stating that prejudice is a great time saver. It allows you to jump to conclusions without bothering with the facts.

When we look at life spiritually, then intolerance is due to ignorance. We have failed to see the reality that is manifesting in the hearts of all. Kabir said that the same Divine Light created all of us. Who then is superior and who is inferior? Again he said that he is in the marketplace of the world and wishes the welfare of all. He sees no one as friend or enemy.

For God there is no friend or enemy. Let us lift our spirit up to God and give up petty intolerances. Let us all, therefore, live according to God’s will in mutual acceptance, and in love and brotherhood.

From The Pen Of Baba Bulleh Shah

Parh parh Alam te faazil hoya
Te kaday apnay aap nu parhya ee na

Translation: You read to become
all knowledgeable
But you never read yourself
You read so many books
to know it all,
yet fail to ever read your
heart at all.

Bhaj bhaj warna ay mandir maseeti
Te kaday mann apnay wich warya ee na

You run to enter temples and mosques
But you never entered your own heart)
You rush to holy shrines to play a part,
Would you dare enter the shrine of your heart

Larna ay roz shaitaan de naal
Te kadi nafs apnay naal larya ee na
(Everyday you fight Satan

But you never fight your own Ego)
You are quick to attack the evil one,
yet pride is a battle you have not won.

Bulleh Shah asmaani ud-deya pharonda ay
Te jera ghar betha unoon pharya ee na

Bulleh Shah you try grabbing that which is in the sky

But you never get hold of What sits inside you

Museum Of Sikh History

By Promod Puri

The place is called Virasat-E-Khalsa. It is also known as Khalsa Heritage Complex. But for the local and ordinary folks the unique monument in Anandpur Sahib near Chandigarh is simply known as “Ajuba”. And it certainly is a wonder.

With the help of latest in sound and information technology along with impressive architect influenced by the surrounding historic structures in Anandpur Sahib, the place is really an awesome marvel.

It is much more than just a tourist attraction. It is a place of knowledge and inspiration presented in concise and easy steps as one walks along the galleries of the museum.

Massive and colorful murals portray the heroic and vibrant history of Sikhs under the leadership of their gurus. The whole learning experience is guided by “auto-trigger” headphone with crisp commentators’ voice that it is indeed an absorbing class in Sikh history.”This museum aims at illuminating the vision of Sikh Gurus”.

Impressively designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, the museum along with the surrounding water pools is spread over an area of 65 acres. It is almost walking distance from the historic Ananadpur Sahib Gurdwara, the birth place of the Khalsa Panth.

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“NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR”

A universal truth

Agony, misery, pains or sufferings, both physical and emotional, and in all degrees of intensity, are the realities of life. These are the experiences faced by all without exception. Life means jitters of distress, grief and worries going along with moments of peace and pleasures.

Stresses and strains in our lives for one reason or the other give enough turbulence as smooth ride remains an ambition.

Unpleasant realities are littered all along the journey of life, and there is no escape from them. The sufferings could be innocently or naively self-inflicted or by others. Elements of nature and karmas have influences as well.

So, who resides in absolute peace. Unquestionably, nobody.

Since we can not shake them off, we redefine peace where tensions and sufferings are accepted as part of the game plan of life.

In this exercise, as one seeks the serenity and tranquility in a field shared by torments and troubles, a practical understanding of that guiding force from whom we often seek answers to our whys, is worth attempting. Here, the line “so sukhiya jis naam adhaar” needs some interpretation in line with the practical approach.

The guiding force we are talking about is the Eternal Spirit which in the first place advises us to accept the adversity.

Nanak calls it “hukam razaai”, meaning acceptance (razaai) of the Order (hukam) of the Supreme. The Order prepares us to tackle a calamity with cool mind effectively and decisively. In this acceptance we don’t agitate or get scared.

Miracles from that Eternal Spirit need not be expected, but what is expected is the courage and strength to tackle suffering with grace and dignity.

The utmost and unshaken faith in our resolve to accept, face and tackle unfortunate circumstances leads us to a perception of the Supreme power which demands action.

The nature of this perception encourages us to respond to an unpleasant event. That is where God can be redefined in terms of action. When we seek or gather courage and strength to handle any calamity or suffering that very activity itself is god in live manifestation.

And once that foundation (adhaar), meaning God in the image of action, is created and secured one can get inspired to be in His (naam) peaceful (sukhiya) abode.

It is true “Nanak dukhiya sabb sansar”, but it is also true “so sukhiya jis naam adhaar”.

-By Promod Puri

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“Koi bole ram ram; koi khudae….

One of the spiritual gems of Guru Nanak Devji, which portrays the essence of all religions: “Koi bole ram ram; koi khudae….” Here is the English translation of 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.Says Nanak, one who realizes the Hukam of God’s Will, knows the secrets of his Lord Master”.
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Rituals

The pathways to divinity are infused with words of morality and ethics, principles and noble deeds. Rituals facilitate the walk

The liberalism in Hinduism has encouraged a maze of ritual genesis.

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

Rituals and diversities in Hinduism based on local traditions, customs and languages invigorate the faith while it adapts itself to changing environments. In these social and cultural transitions rituals perpetually take up dominating space in Hindu convictions and sentiments.

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

Significance of Om

It is indeed a subject of astronomical acceptance that from the very sound frequencies of Om the building blocks of the universe are evolved

The myriad journey of Hindu divinity begins with a simple and pure sound of Om.

Om is also spelt as Aum with subtle phonetic articulation.

As per Hindu spiritual thinking, Om is considered to be the primordial sound introduced in this universe and perhaps in the whole celestial world.

The reasons for its production and its introduction on cosmic scale are part of the God’s ‘lila’ or play responsible for creating this eternal resonance. And that marks the beginning of cosmic creation including the cause of the universe.

Besides being the sound, Om is considered to be the very basis of all that constitutes the universe including life and matter. Thru metaphysical theorization which can be numinous, Hinduism cognized the sound to create the contents of the universe.

The unique symbol of Om occupies the foremost spot in the Hindu iconography. It is a spiritual icon. It is not merely a “tool” for meditations or for contemplating on mantras, but the syllable invokes cosmic presence in them.

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Singer Jagjit Singh

By Promod Puri

In his 40 years of entertaining and alluring singing career, late Jagjit Singh’s soft and “silky” voice created a vast following not only in India but among thousands of his fans settled all over the world as well.

Jagjit Singh, who died in October 2011, created a niche for his thick-pitched but soothing voice to enjoy simple vocal music along with blending orchestra of few instruments.

His self-composed music and singing style, which usually had a light classical touch in it, can aptly be described as a geet performance though the selection of most of the songs were Urdu compositions in gazal pattern.

Was Jagjit Singh a gazal singer?

His fans believe so, and call him “king of gazal”. In all humbleness, for which he was known too, Jagjit Singh disclaimed this title as he created a style of his own with his sweet and melodious voice which may not fit in the old school of gazal presentation.

There is quite a distinction between the singing style of Jagjit Singh and the gazal gayaki mastered by Mehndi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Begum Akhtar, Mallika Pukhraj (of evergreen number, abhi to main javan hoon), to some extent Talat Mehmood and Asha Bhonsle (in aankhon ki masti ke..)

Credit is bestowed upon Jagjit Singh that with his new approach he brought gazal to the masses. He did not create an elite audience like other known gazal singers.

Gazal rendering is a simplified version of classical Indian music along with thumri and dadra. Jagjit Singh altered it into different musical track. He explored and expanded the principality of gazal.

In the words of Mallika-e Ghazal Begum Akhtar, “Ghazal shahee dhang se gayee jaye to uska nasha sar chad ke bolta hai” (if a ghazal is sung in a proper way it can be very intoxicating”). Jagjit Singh certainly uplifts the mood by introducing his own distinctive sweetness in gazal gayaki.

Hinduism, Diwali and swastikas: Explained

sunpaperlogodougtoddPublished on: November 1, 2016 | Last Updated: November 1, 2016 1:33 PM PDT

Douglass Todd

swastika
Vancouver’s Promod Puri, author of a new book on Hinduism, has seen priests drawing swastikas during public prayers. “And the moment these ceremonies are over the swastika is erased.”

With Canada’s 500,000 Hindus celebrating Diwali throughout this week, the awkward topic of the religion’s swastika symbol has again arisen.

One young North American Hindu has confessed in a revealing, tender-hearted piece how he often tries to convince his mother not to put Hinduism’s swastika symbol on the doorstep during Diwali.

Since most of the Western world associates the swastika with Naziism, Parth Shah told NPR he becomes mortified that North Americans might think his family somehow supports such atrocities. His mother refuses to listen.

VancouverSunPhoto
“Using the swastika … is not at all mandatory,” says Promod Puri, who has self-published a ook on Hinduism. This photo was taken in 2000 when Puri was publishing The Link, a South-Asian B.C. newspaper. GLENN BAGLO / VANCOUVER SUN

Metro Vancouver writer-journalist Promod Puri, who has written a new book on Hinduism, explained to me that Hindu priests and Brahmin leaders don’t seriously consider banning the swastika because of its Nazi associations.

“The swastika is just a ritualistic symbol in Hinduism, which is mostly used in ceremonial events at the discretion of the priest class. Since antiquity it is being used, much before the German adaptation,” said Puri, who has retired from editing and publishing the South-Asian oriented B.C. newspaper, The Link.

“The swastika’s ceremonial use as such has never conflicted with Hindu theism, which prides itself as democratic and secular… Using the swastika in whatever formation is not at all mandatory.”

Even though many Hindus post the swastika on their windows or doorways as a symbol of good fortune and peace, Puri said he rarely comes across the practice among the roughly 50,000 Hindus in B.C., most of whom are in Metro Vancouver.

“However, I have seen Hindu priests drawing swastika while undertaking prayer ceremonies to mark some special events. And the moment these ceremonies are over the swastika is erased.”

Promod added that the swastika is not a key sign of Hinduism. That role belongs to the symbol of Om.

RELATED: How Hindu philosophy dovetails with Western philosophy

In praise of mixing religions, even when it’s dangerous

I asked Puri to write something to introduce readers to his self-published book, Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs and Traditions.

Here is an excerpt from what he wrote:

omred
Promod Puri says this symbol, of “Om” (or “Aum”), is the key one in Hinduism. Not the swastika.

“Why are there so many gods and goddesses in Hinduism? Why worship an idol? Is going to temple mandatory in the faith? What impact does the caste system have on Hindu society? Why do some rituals make perfect sense while others are so vague? What are the secular and diverse characters in Hinduism? What physics principles constitute the sound of Om? What is karma and its role in our day to day lives?

These are some of the many questions which intrigue the non-Hindu mind, as well as many among over half-a-million Hindu population in Canada, especially those belonging to the younger generation.

Wrapped in mystique and antiquity the identity of Hinduism lies in its wide-open structure which allows and lets develop diverse and distinct ideologies and practices without any governing body or binding scriptures.

Hinduism is not merely a religion, or as it is often referred, “a way of life.” It is a multi-disciplinary academy as well. It is a democracy of conflicting, contradicting and controversial thoughts and ideologies.

Beyond its practicing rituals, customs and traditions Hinduism thru its various schools offers comprehensive studies in philosophies, metaphysics and sciences.

As such it recognizes diversity of thought. The rational and liberal thought in Hinduism is the very basis of Sankhya School, which is one of the several ancient Hindu faculties infusing diversity in the theological philosophies of the religion.

An example of its rational and liberal acceptance of thoughts is revealed in Hindu theism in the following statement from the Rig Veda Chapter X, Para 129 which says:

Who knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He, do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He.

GURU MANEYO GRANTH

By Promod Puri

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 enlightenments 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 explicit 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 advice. It has rationality in the expression which conveys the message that the acceptance of the Adi Granth as Guru, involves studying and following this treasure of revelation and inspiration. The hymn also encourages a follower to seek consultation from the Guru (Adi Granth).
As such, along the lines of the hymn, Guru Gobind Singh emphasizes that one should do his or her own studies (khoj) to understand and convince oneself while accepting the words of wisdom offered by the Adi Granth.

As Guru Gobind Singh does not believe in blind following he offers to reason in his abiding declaration of “Guru Maneyo Granth”.

Seeking Divine Spirit

ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: | तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् | भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि | धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्
Aum bhur bhuvah swah, tat savitur varenvam.
Bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prochodayay.
The four-part mantra is addressed to God (Aum) and 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.

This ENERGY produced and released by You illuminates our mental faculties. We seek from you that this Energy resides in all our thinking processes so our thoughts are always inspired to undertake only those actions which can lead us to be on the path of righteousness.

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Composition Of God In Hinduism

By Promod Puri

Besides His numinous and varied perceptions God also offers a meaningful perspective which can be created by the assembly of good thoughts. And the divine residency begins in that on-going construction.

Basically it is an eloquent temperament we are trying to build which gives rationality and practicality to the institution of God.

The ecumenical concept of God of being the supreme governor who creates, sustains and destroys the universe, and everything else including what influences our lives, does not reveal the reasons behind all the puzzles and mysteries of His or Her observable deeds.

In other words our perception of God as being a creator with His mystical powers which sustains the universe, can not comprehend many universal and natural phenomenons.

One reason is that man is just one of the millions of creatures who in actuality is microscopic in His infinite and colossal universe. Still our imaginations and metaphysical attempts know no boundaries to fathom His magnanimity.

For a moment let us compare a human being to a small ant who is trying to study God up there in the celestial world.

But we don’t. Because this has been ingrained in our cognitive senses that man is the favored work of God as being the most intelligent among all His living creations. And that we are the only ones capable of studying His multi-dimensional but conceptual-based existence.

Perhaps, that little ant may be thinking the same. It may be believing humans walking tall up on the ground are the unintelligent creatures. Or we are the gods for the ant. Who knows!

Philosophers, saints, scientists and even common man have all tried to study God and came up with varied perceptions and explanations. Imagination is very basic part of human psychology.

However, these discernments seldom explain what role God plays or His reasons of our happinesses, sorrows and everything else we come across in our day to day lives. We see, face or endure tragedies around us everyday in this world of turmoil. And then ask God ‘why’.

While respecting some or most of the known realizations and imageries about Him, we take another view of God which we assemble by intelligent and ethical thoughts to helps us in explaining His involvements in the events we experience in our lives.

In this endeavor by mobilizing rational and moral thinking we are creating those karmas which can rationally explain the cause or causes of events personally experienced by us or happening around us where God may be involved or may be not.

We are the major players to generate events and thus know the reasons of their results. Nevertheless we can leave unexplained experiences as part of His mysterious ‘lila’ or play.

Instilling nobility or divinity in our thoughts is a continuous exercise of creating virtuous karmas. And that is where the grammar of God is involved both as a verb and as a noun merging into one entity.

It is a disciplined and conscientious undertaking to attain the practicality of God in our midst.

We are told to be honest, humble and sincere, be considerate and helpful to others, be merciful, forget and forgive, love fellow beings and care for the environments, including animals, plants and the nature. And everything else which is pious, pure and morally firm to bring us closer to God realization.

While retaining the truism of these universal teachings we can contextualize them through our intellective senses to guide our day-to-day personal lives. This is where the blueprint of our construction begins to apprehend His pragmatics.

We start our project by following the Gyatri Mantra, which besides being symbolic in spiritual invoking, stimulates the very basis of our thought processes towards righteous karmas or deeds which we are seeking.

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

Aum bhur bhuvah swah, tat savitur varenvam.

Bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prochodayay.

Attributed to goddess Gyatri, the hymn from the Rig Veda, is one of the most recited and highly revered mantras in the Hindu theology.

In its unique composition Gayatri mantra has three approaches to spiritual realization. First, it establishes the nature of God and praises His attributions. Second, it is a mantra for meditation and contemplation. Third, it expresses sentiments of divine prayer seeking an illuminated path of righteousness thru His energetic light.

The mantra is addressed to God (Om). And 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. This Energy produced and released by You illuminates our mental faculties. We seek from You that this Energy resides in all our thinking processes. Consequently our thoughts are always inspired to undertake only those actions which can lead us to be on the path of righteousness.

The key word in the mantra is Energy. And by recognizing the presence of the divine energy that our mental faculties are enlightened. We pray for the residency of this very Energy to keep guiding us in creating, adopting and following noble thoughts.

As we understand thinking is a mental activity of brain. And thought is a product of thinking. Creation of one’s own thought, import of thought, its acceptance or its rejection are all considered as thought. In other words the act involved in all these considerations is a thought in itself.

Thought has multiple executions like establishing a reason, imagination, understanding, judgement, remembering, opinion, belief or just being conscious of time and place, etc.

According to the biology of thought, the latter’s processing and transmission happens in the nerve cells of brain. These cells are called neurons. With a population of close to 100 billion, neurons while communicating with each other receive and deliver information. Neurons function along with trillions of connectors called synapses transmitting signals among neurons.

Neurons are “electrically excitable”, meaning they live by some energy.

How thinking is created or triggered in the first place, what goes on in the brain neurons to process a thinking, what stimulates that thinking, are the questions for which the answers are being sought by academic disciplines.

One explanation is that thinking is a subconscious brain activity for which the neurons and synapses are just the tools to handle that activity for transmitting a thought or thoughts. Other theories are that the creation of thought is an un-explained biological process, or it is the conversion of energy particles into an object called thought.

In whatever means a thought is created the role of the divine energy is to bestow the enlightenment in establishing common sense and logic in a thought. It is in this enlightenment that the nature of thought is underlined. Its acceptance or rejection can be exercised.

As thought begets more thoughts or ideas, the process arouses our intelligent and psychological senses of understanding, experiencing, interpretation and behavior. A cognitive arrangement is thus developed.

It is in this arrangement that we undertake our karmas.

A karma is an intelligent and conscious act leading toward path of more karmas which influence and determine the nature of destiny. Good karma leads to good future, bad karma leads to bad. “As you sow, so you reap”, is true in the working of karma.

Newton’s law of motion: that every action leads to a reaction, is an application of the law of Karma.

Karma is not a deep philosophy. Rather it is a working assignment for the thinker of a thought or doer of a deed, and accepting the outcome of that executed assignment.

karma is a doer’s consciousness which initiates and directs an action, as well as registers its aftermath. It is an infallible fact that consciousness after inducing an action always acquires its reaction.

Virtuous karmas directed by enlightened consciousness produce the results we are seeking to realize that particular perspective of God which offers His involvement and guidance in every moment of our day-to-day lives.

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Culture Supersedes Religion in Establishing National Identity

By Promod Puri

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 totality of it.

The expression “Hindu culture” is as vague as saying Hindu cuisine (except by airlines referring to “Hindu meal”). And it is as much blurred as trying to contrive a language, music, arts, customs, etc with suffix of Hindu. This applies to all other religions as well who try to create a culture exclusively linked to their faiths.

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 the group of people sharing common identities despite belonging to different religious denominations. But all speaking same language and sharing same social and cultural traits.

Often people of one cultural community have several religions. These sub differentiations are covered by conventions and customs. Together these are represented by the sanctified rituals on which Hindu tradition, Sikh, Muslim or Christian traditions establish their respective identities.

The unity of India lies in its cultural plurality. This factor was the basis of states’ reorganization at the time of India’s independence in 1947. Each state was constituted representing the cultural homogeneity of that region. And wherever there were more than one homogeneity states split respectively. Thus the cultural aspirations of people have been adequately addressed.

“India is a colorful country” mainly because of the exuberant nature of its diverse cultures. The cultural sameness in each Indian state along with the religious diversity is the accepted model for both political and administrative purposes.

Whereas each Indian state mostly represent one single cultural distinctiveness, it is the state of Jammu and Kashmir which within itself does carry more than one identity. The state has three regions, namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. And each one of them is culturally, religiously, geographically and even climatically different. Azad Kashmir under Pakistan domain has its own identity which is again quiet varied from rest of Jammu and Kashmir state.

The Kashmir problem has never been examined and tackled from its diversity aspect. The politics of the state has always been dominated, controlled and represented by the Muslim leadership of the Valley from the Kashmir region. The multi-facet and heterogeneous character of the state is the undetermined reality which otherwise can play a dominant role in resolving the Kashmir problem. Aligning the issue only on religious basis because about 64 percent of the state’s population is Muslim is a futile exercise to determine its fate. By not allowing the diversity factor in the Kashmir debate is suppression of its other identities as well.

In a democratic setup regions or nations which play only the religious factor in politics and governance, always have cultural identity crisis.

That has been the fate of Pakistan. It does not recognize and accept that the country’s cultural affinity lies with India which it can’t shake off. Both the political and military leaderships of the country in their hatred toward India try to establish a religious-based Arabic identity. Naturally, this is not working.

Pakistan must realize that cultural-based identities cut across religious-based identities. And the former can play more decisive and healthier roles in determining a cohesive and stable future for the country.

Perhaps Pakistan can learn from Canada as how the latter is establishing its national identity.

In a multicultural Canadian society there are a multitude of cultures, traditions and religions, with lot more sub banners within each group. It is a myriad with a diversified web which gives Canada an image of acceptance and tolerance.

This certainly is a unique experience in human social history to be represented by one culture which collectively is a multi-culture.

Canadian culture is not only ever evolutionary but vibrant and lively too. The reason being its multi-facet aspect which gives it the color and character of being involving and exciting.

Hinduism and Vegetarian Diet

13087415_578401962331475_1798212304744146140_nBy Arran Stephens

The overwhelming majority of the world’s Hindus live in India, which has the largest vegetarian population on earth, numbering many millions. Within the Indian subcontinent, the spectrum of religious thought ranges from strict monotheism to a sweeping panoply of gods, goddesses and animist dieties. Vegetarianism is practiced and scripturally supported by the majority of Hindu sects. There are also large Muslim and Christian populations in India, as well as Jews, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Ba’hai’s and Buddhists. Many Sufis—who represent an eclectic and mystical form of Islam, practice vegetarianism. Amongst the Sikhs, the Namdharis and others on the meditative path follow a lacto-vegetarian diet.

Here are some vegetarian-supportive quotes from India’s oldest scriptures:

You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s
creatures, whether human, animal or whatever.
Yajur Veda 12.32

By not killing any living being, one becomes fit for salvation.
Manusmriti 6.60

The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it—all of these are to be considered meat-eaters.

Vegetarianism was observed by the ancient Greek traveler Megasthenes and also by Fa-Hsien, a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled to India in the fifth century in order to obtain authentic copies of the scriptures.

These scriptures

unambiguously support the meatless way of life. In the Mahabharata, for instance, the great warrior Bheeshma explains to Yudhishtra, eldest of the Pandav princes, that the meat of animals is like the flesh of one’s own son. Similarly, the Manusmriti declares that one should “refrain from eating all kinds of meat,” for such eating involves killing, thus leading to Karmic bondage. Elsewhere in Vedic literature, the last of the great Vedic kings, Maharaja Parikshit, is quoted as saying that “the animal-killer cannot relish the message of the Absolute Truth.”21

Ahimsa (non-violence) is the highest Dharma. Ahimsa is the best Tapas. Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the highest power. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest truth. Ahimsa is the highest teaching.

He who sees that the Lord of all is ever the same in all that is—immortal in the field of mortality—he sees the truth. And when a man sees that the God in himself is the same God in all that is, he hurts not himself by hurting others. Then he goes, indeed, to the highest path.
Bhagavad-Gita 13.27-28

High-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength, and memory should abstain from acts of injury.
Mahabharata 18.115.8

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

I hold that, the more helpless the creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.
Mahatma Gandhi

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Message of Universality in Hindu Mantra

By Promod Puri

OM PURNAM MANTRA
“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 which is personified here as God. The word ‘purnam’ and its related derivates in the mantra mean complete, and signifies His completeness. As He is complete, everything emanating from Him is complete. From the Complete Wholeness only the completeness manifests. And even when a single complete is subtracted from the whole Complete what is left is still a Complete. The products produced thru 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 mankind. For humanity the mantra conveys a message that every human being is equal in his or her completeness as manifested by Him.

Atma, a single soul, is a complete manifestation of the Supreme-atma. The latter is the cause and the former is the effect. It is a cause and effect association. The effect cannot be less than the cause. The cause changes to effect, 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 mankind.

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 tie-up. 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 contains the essence of the Upanishadic vision. Neither before nor afterwards has the vision been transcended; it still 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 is connected to the farthest star, and it is as significant as the greatest sun.

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

Excerpts from the book Hinduism beyond,rituals,customs and traditions by Promod Puri

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Quantum Theory And Om

Ever wonder why we chant “om” before our yoga practice or prayer? Check out this interesting take on how Quantum Theory can help us understand the significance of Om.

by Promod Puri

This is perhaps the first time in the studies of Hinduism that an attempt has been made to establish a relationship between the sound of Om and the Quantum Theory in modern physics.

Quantum, derived from the word quantity, means the smallest identifiable unit in the universe of any physical property like energy or matter. Quantum theory deals with the infrastructure in the sub-atomic field. It reveals the nature and behavior of matter and energy in that range. This exposure is referred to as a quantum theory which is the theoretical basis of modern physics.

With the introduction of Super-string Theory of Quantum Reality, the quantum theory has discovered that at the sub-atomic levels matter exists in small strings. In simple words, everything at its ultimate microscopic grade is made up of extremely small vibrating strands or strings like in a musical instrument of the violin.

These strings have repeated oscillatory pattern of vibration. Each pattern presents the string its mass and force, and that confers it the appearance of a particle. Together all these particles have the same physical feature of producing resonant patterns of vibration. The undulation of strings creating up and down loops is the manifestation of resonance in the sub-atomic environs.

And when we exit from the microscopic environment the same phenomenon of transmission of resonance is being played within everything in this universe. The sonority of particles composing the vibrating strings with their mass and energy is also responsible for producing the atoms.

The latter is made up of energy and not physical matter. As a result, the entire universe is made of energy. But the energy appears as a matter or object like the particles of the vibrating string in the sub-atomic field. This is the fundamental feature upon which the universe has been constructed and unified.

The string theory is considered as the theory of everything. And this corresponds well with the metaphysical concept of Om being the primordial sound originating from the strings advanced in the quantum theory of modern physics.

As Om resonates in the stings of atoms then according to the science of quantum physics atoms themselves are made up of whirling mass of radiating energy without manifested structure. Likewise, Om is not merely a sound but a mass of energy itself in invisible formation.

Om is energy constituting the universe.

The universe begins with Om. There is a sound of Om in every matter. It resonates there till eternity. Its resilience lies both in the matter and the sound itself.

The creation of Om is, in fact, is the creation of the universe. And its cosmic vibrations keep the constituents of the universe connected.

In Hindu theology, Om is referred to as God in the form of sound. And the open design of its symbol represents the incomprehensible all powerful Absolute.

In its phenomenal role as constituting and preceding matter, and as vortices of energy that Om is considered as a sacred sound of genesis in the Hindu spiritual philosophy.

The unique symbol of Om occupies the foremost spot in the Hindu iconography. It is a spiritual icon. It is not merely a “tool” for meditations or for contemplating on mantras, but the syllable invokes cosmic presence in them.

“Hari Om” itself is a two-word mantra, along with “Hari Om Tat Sat” or simply “Om Tat Sat.” The word ‘tat’ means ‘that’ or ‘all that is.’ And ‘sat’ refers to ‘truth.’ The latter is not evanescent or ephemeral rather everlasting. The mantra “Om Tat Sat” means: ‘that’ energy is the truth.

Om inaugurates spiritual prayers, rituals and yoga practices, and sanctifies these events. The expression ‘Hari Om’ is a popular form of greetings or salutation among Hindus.

The word ‘Hari’ is a representation of God and Om implies energy.

(excerpts from the book: Hinduism beyond rituals, custom, and traditions)

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SIGNIFICANCE OF IDOL WORSHIPPING IN HINDUISM

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. The worshipper will have to associate the ideas of infinity, omnipotence, omniscience, purity, perfection, freedom, holiness, truth, omnipresence. It is not possible for all to fix the mind on the Absolute or the Infinite. A concrete form is necessary for the vast majority for practicing concentration. 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 centralised. 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 valour 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”.

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Bad Rituals Breed Fanaticism

One major drawback instituted in ambiguous rituals is the fear factor. And in absurdity, some rituals promise to work like cure-all miracles. Illogical rituals block the real spirit of religion. Such customs generate fanaticism. Rituals help in cult formation. The entry of fake gurus in the Hindu faith is thru the contamination created by inane rituals.

Irrational rituals pollute the religion and dilute the enlightenment contained in the Hindu philosophies and thoughts.

Hinduism is not a religion of fear. Nor it is meant for fanaticism and exploitation by self-appointed gurus or saints with claims of magical powers.

Bad rituals and bad traditions do make a deadly combination. Dubbed as “supreme sacrifice”, the institution of Sati, live burning of widow immediately after the death of husband, that of course is now abandoned, became a part of Hindu heritage. The word ‘sati’ means true and loyal in Sanskrit.
And equally condemning is the practice of sacrificial animal killings by asserting that gods will be pleased. For example in Nepal, a predominantly Hindu nation, mass and cruel beheading of buffaloes are a popular custom under the excuse of religious tradition.

Rationalization of irrational rituals as part of old traditions and customs is an unrealistic assertiveness of defense.

Rituals in the name of sanctified Hindu dictums are the cause of excessive abuse of people who technically are still Hindus but belong to no class. They are the ‘Outcastes’ or the ‘Untouchables’.

The religiosity of caste is an endemic feature of Hinduism. And this is where the brutality of some rituals and customs is being endured by a section of humanity simply because of their assigned status in the society. They are at the bottom of the Hindu social structure. Customs and rituals don’t allow them to come up from that lowest stratum.

Mahatma Gandhi called them “Harijans”, children of God. But because of rooted tradition in the name of religion, rituals of discrimination and untouchability against the ‘untouchable’ citizens are still quite widely practiced.

Nevertheless, this section of the society, which is mostly poor, along with the rest of the impoverished population among Hindus, still follows sacred Hindu rituals with allegiance and devotion. In fact, these rituals tender the only knowledge they have to practice their faith.

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Hinduism and Lord Ganesh

The art community’s fascination for Lord Ganesh is due to His unique appearance as a clearly recognizable elephant tusk-hooded portrayal. In Hindu thought, an elephant is revered for its intelligence. Consequently, Lord Ganesh in His elephant-look image is perceived as the god of knowledge, intellect, and wisdom.

Besides these scholarly exhibits, Lord Ganesh gathers a few more symbolic interpretations thru His overall appearance and possessions. These attributes include the pursuit of knowledge, sweetness, and humbleness.

Lord Ganesh is also widely worshipped as the god of Beginnings. “Sri-Ganesh” is the common expression for any new event, purchase or start-up enterprise. His name is chanted at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies. In most Hindu marriage invitation cards, the first invocation and invite are addressed to Lord Ganesh as symbolic adoration.

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