Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hail Queen Sonia, Empress of India.

Image Hosted by The result in the national election last year was one of the worst days in the history of India. Not only was the BJP voted out of office, but a foreigner whose only qualification is the surname of the family she married into, was on her way to reclaim the family throne.

What was even more pathetic was watching the behavior of the eunuchs who surround the queen bee like they did around Indira Gandhi, begging her to become Prime minister. Have we as Indians truly progressed from the days of the Maharaja's or when Queen Victoria announced herself "Empress of India". The once great congress party has today been reduced to little more than a pathetic shell of former itself due to decades of shameless nepotism by the Nehru/Gandhi family.
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The Foolish Wolf

A hungry wolf comes upon a horse mired in the mud. The wolf prepares for a feast, but the horse asks him whether he shouldn't pull his meal out of the mud first. So the wolf performs this chore and prepares, once again, to eat.

But shouldn't the wolf first clean his food? the horse argues. The wolf acknowledges that this might be a good idea and licks the mud off the horse. The wolf is finally ready to dig in when the horse says, "Hey, there's some writing on the hoof of my hind leg. Before you eat me, read that, please." The curious wolf walks around the horse, who lifts one of his hind legs and easily bashes in the wolf's skull with a single kick.

The wolf, alone and dying in the mud, howls to himself "I was a fool.... Am I the owner that I should have pulled the horse from the mud? Am I the mother who should have licked and cleaned the horse's body? When did I learn to read and write? I was stupid and now I am dying."
- Mongolian folktale.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
the ceremony of innocence is drowned.
the best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity".
- WB Yeats, The Second Coming.

When the UPA government came to power, the stock markets went into a tailspin and foreign investors headed for the hills because of the communist support the new alliance needed to hold power. While i was and still am nervous about the progress of the next generation economic reforms, i knew that India had come to far down the road of liberalization to accept any major rollbacks forced upon it by the communists thus returning to the bad old days of the license Raj.

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Friday, January 28, 2005

Yudisthira at Heavens Gate

The great king Yudhisthira had ruled over the Pandava people for many years, and, among his many achievements had waged a successful war against the forces of evil. It was time for him to withdraw from the world, and to enter the Celestial City of the Immortals.

King Yudhisthira set off on the long journey into the northern mountains, along with his four brothers and his beloved wife Drapaudi. They were soon joined on their journey by a small, ill-kempt stray dog.

The journey was hard. They tired. And in the course of the journey first one brother and then another, then the third and then the fourth, fell, exhausted, and died. Unable to do anything for them, Yudhisthira and Drapaudi continued on the journey, followed by the dog. Eventually Drapaudi, too, fell by the wayside and died.

With utmost sadness, Yudhisthira turned and continued, the dog faithfully keeping pace.
At last Yudhisthira and the dog reached the gates of the Celestial City, home of the Immortals. Yudhisthira bowed humbly and asked to be admitted. The great sky God Indra arrived to meet Yudhisthira and to welcome him to heaven.

But then Yudhisthira said that without his beloved wife and his four brothers, he did not have the heart to enter. Indra replied that these loved ones were already in Heaven, they had come before him.

This lifted Yudhisthira's heart, but he had one more request.
"This dog has faithfully accompanied me on this long journey, never left my side. I cannot leave him now outside heaven's gate. My heart is full of love for him."
Indra shook his head. The earth quaked.

"You, Yudhisthira, through your goodness and courage, and by enduring this long and difficult journey, have earned your way into heaven. But you cannot bring a dog into heaven. A dog would pollute the Celestial City. Leave the dog behind Yudhisthira. It is no sin."

"But where would he go? He has given up the pleasures of the earth to be my companion. I cannot desert him now." Yudhisthira turned to leave.

Indra asked, astonished, "You would abandon heaven just for the sake of a dog?"
Yudhisthira declared that long ago he had vowed never to turn his back on anyone needing his protection and help. "And so," he concluded, "I will not abandon my loyal friend."
Yudisthira turned from heaven's gate and began to walk away.

At that moment a remarkable thing happened. The faithful dog was transformed into the god Dharma, the god of righteousness and justice.

And Indra declared, "You are a good man, Yudhisthira. You have shown loyalty and love to a small, faithful dog and compassion for all creatures, ready to renounce for yourself all the rewards of heaven for this humble dog's sake. You shall be honored in heaven!"

And so Yudhisthira entered heaven and was reunited with his wife and with brothers to enjoy eternal happiness.


"Then was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered in, and where? And what gave shelter? Was water there, of unfathomed depth?
Death was not then, nor was there immortality: no sign was there, the divider of day and night.
That one thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness, this all was indiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of warmth was born that singularity.
Thereafter rose desire in the beginning, desire the primal seed and germ of spirit.
Sages, who searched with their hearts, discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.
Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?
There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.
Who verily knows and who can declare it, when was it born and whence comes this creation?
The gods are later than this world’s production. Who knows then when it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows it not" - Rig-Veda 10.129.7

As a Hindu i am occasionally asked by other people and even often ask myself whether i believe in Hinduism. After giving it much thought, i always end up finding this question perhaps somewhat of a misunderstanding of such a vast, diverse religion and to me personally irrelevant.
But to answer the question in a round about way i usually like to say that the core aim of Hinduism and therefore a Hindu is to acquire the truth and since Hindu's believe there are many paths to the truth, there's no need for one to have blind faith or devotion in any particular one, not that one necessarily cant or shouldn't.
An invocation in the Upanishad says...

"Truth alone triumphs, not untruth.
Lead me from the unreal to the Real.
Lead me from darkness to Light.
Lead me from death to Immortality".

What make Hinduism so unique among world religions is this intrinsic philosophical realisation that there are many paths to the Truth / God, which can be summed up in its central motto "let noble truths come from all directions".

If you happen to deny the existence of God, that's fine too, Hinduism has always accommodated if not necessarily accepted such alternate views (Nastika) as exemplified by Buddhism and Jainism. In fact, within Hinduism and Ancient India there have been many atheist schools of thought such as Charvakanism that strongly advocated materialism and rational thought as can be seen in their following exhortation...

"While life is yours, live joyously;
None can escape death's searching eye:
When once this frame of ours they burn,
How shall it ever again return".

Unlike the 3 major monotheistic Abrahamic religions, Hinduism is unique in that it doesnt claim to have a monopoly on the Truth / God.
Like other Eastern religions, Hinduism is a philosophical religion that is the sum of Indian religious thought, practice and tradition for over that last 5,500 years and as such is the worlds oldest continually existing religion.
It has no founder, no one supreme holy texts but rather several of them and no set definition of what it means to be a Hindu. At the same time, Hinduism is much more than just merely a religion, it is also synonymous with Indian culture and civilisation.

Hindu scriptures and most Hindus generally agree on the existence of one supreme impersonal divine being (Brahman) that can be worshipped in many forms, thus explaining the proliferation of the numerous personal deities (devas) that most non-Hindu's are familiar with when they think about our religion. To Hindu's it matters not how many or to which God one prays to, God can be reached through whichever way is endearing to the believer so long as its sincere.
A popular Hindu invocation says...
"O Lord, please forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations:
Thou art everywhere, but I worship you here;
Thou art without form, but I worship you in these forms;
Thou needest no praise, yet I offer you these prayers and salutations.
Lord, please forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations".

Nevertheless there are still four principle orthodox ways of achieving union (Yoga) of the soul (Atman) which is the body's immortal nectar (Amrit) with God (Brahman) and therefore liberation (Moksha / Nirvana for Buddhists) from the cycle of death and rebirth (Samsara) and thus the illusion (Maya) of our perceived reality as opposed to our supreme cosmic reality. These ways are Bhakti Yoga (the path of love and devotion), Karma Yoga (the path of right action), Raja Yoga (the path of meditation) and Jnana Yoga (the path of knowledge and wisdom).

These are complemented by the four stages of human life: Brahmacharya (Student Life) where one acquires knowledge, self discipline at the feet of a Guru (Spiritual Teacher) and learns to live a life of Dharma (Righteousness) , Grihastha (Household Life) where one fufils ones duty to family and society, Vanaprastha (Retired Life) where one gradually withdraws from the world and freely shares wisdom with others, Sannyasa (Renounced Life) where one completely renounces the world and dedicates themselves to spiritual pursuits.

While one is free to follow any path they choose in Hinduism, this sometimes can lead to a problem Tagore observerd in a conversation with H.G. Wells, namely that there is too much religious tolerance in India, so much so that any sort of injustice can be perpetrated in the name of religion, whether it is the ridiculous rules and practices of the Brahmin caste system or the brutalities inflicted by a particularly nasty foreign arab religion that continues to this day, without the majority hardly stopping to bat an eyelid.

Though Hinduism much like India itself has always at its own pace changed with the times as is indeed happening today, nonetheless some purposeful housecleaning is obviously in order and gradual reforms brought about through greater social consciousness/activism and community outreach are what is needed to keep our great Hindu tradition strong.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The National Anthem Controversy

Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan;
we are its nightingales, and it is our garden abode
Though in foreign lands we may reside, with our homeland our hearts abide,
Regard us also to be there, where exist our hearts
That mountain most high, neighbor to the skies;
it is our sentinel; it is our protector
In the lap of whose, play thousands of rivers;
gardens they sustain; the envy-of-the-heavens of ours
O waters of the Ganga mighty, do you recall the day
when on your banks, did land the caravan of ours
Religion does not teach us to bear ill-will among us
We are Indians; India is our homeland.
While Greece, Egypt, Rome have all been wiped out
till now yet remains, this civilization of ours
Something there is that keeps us,our entity from being eroded
For ages has been our enemy, the way of the world.
- Saare jehan se aachaa Hindustan humaara.

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The Gods Must be Crazy

Look not above, there is no answer there
Pray not, for no one listens to your prayer
Near is as near to God as any Far
And here is just the same deceit as there.
- Omar Khayyam.

After the tsunami that hit Asia, it amazed me that so many of those who managed to survive were thanking god they were spared by his/her? supposedly infinite compassion, grace, mercy, what have you, while all around them tens of thousand lay dead. Many even pointed to the fact that "some" temples, mosques, & churches still remained standing, Solid foundations? (im not talking about the spiritual foundations either) while everything else was washed away, therefore being a sign from god.
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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Republic Day Parade

My first post ever.
Today is Australia day and for whatever
reason i've decided to start a blog.
oincidentally today is also India's Republic Day.
most Aussies just invite over their mates for a few beers and throw some snags on the BBQ, India a normally pacifist nation likes to showcase its military might.

If our enemies wanted to attack us, today would be the day to do it. With so much military personnel & hardware on display you'd wonder whether anyone's still left guarding our borders. With all those sitting ducks, it's a Pearl Harbour waiting to happen.
But who doesn't love the spectacle, its the one day of the year where our nation can beat its chest and say to the rest of the world.... you want a piece of this, biyatch!!!
My favourite part is when they bring out the nuclear capable missiles mounted on the back of those trucks that look like they could star in the next terminator movie. It is sometimes said that missiles are like a nations penis, the longer they are the better, but they don't count for much if you haven't got the balls to ever use them.

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Meanwhile, at the border...