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Showing posts from June, 2014

Action, Reaction & Secularism

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A K Antony Mr A K Antony’s recent remark that the appeasement of minority communities by the Congress party has led to its disgraceful defeat in the last general elections may generate some debate in the country.  However, it is not only the Congress but also many other political parties in the country that should take an introspective look at themselves vis-à-vis their attitude towards religions.   One of the greatest tragedies in independent India has been the misuse of religion by its politicians.  The catastrophic misuse started even before Independence and the British imperial government’s divide-and-rule policy added the necessary fuel to the fire.  The vision embodied in the Constitution of India with respect to religion is very noble indeed.  It respects every religion and allows the citizens to follow the religion of their choice or not follow any.  What happened from the time of Indira Gandhi onward has been disastrous for the country, however.  After her rout

Master

When my problems bogged me down, I approached Guru. “No one, not even God, can solve your problems unless you want to solve them yourself,” said Guru. “But…” I was shocked.  I went to him for help because I wanted to solve my problems, didn’t I?  Why is he speaking as if I didn’t want to solve my problems? “ Most people are in love with their problems ,” Guru said as if he had read my mind.  “The drug addict, for example, loves drugs and don’t want to leave them though he may say he wants to kick the habit.  What withholds him from kicking the addiction is precisely what led him to the addiction.” “A sense of emptiness?”  I asked because I had faced that sense time and again.  “Is there anything better than emptiness in life?” asked Guru.  “Weren’t all the Mahatmas searching for emptiness?” “People can’t bear emptiness,” I blurted out. “Precisely.  That’s why they fill their life with things.  And when things fail to satisfy the real inner need, they

Conservatism and Modernity

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Tradition without intelligence is not worth, said T S Eliot.  The word   tradition   brings to my mind the celebrated movie The Fiddler on the Roof .  Tevye, the protagonist, tried his best to stick to his religious traditions, but the reality overtook him at every step.  Finally, having given away each of his three daughters in marriages that went against his "tradition", he has to leave his home too because of the persecutions against the people of his religion (Judaism).  The fiddler on the roof, the recurrent motif in the movie, accompanies the Jews in exodus playing on his fiddle the theme of tradition. Tradition sent the Jews into exile all through their history .  Finally when they got their Promised Land of Israel, they became encroachers who have had to fight a protracted battle.  Why does tradition engender so many battles - at home, in society and in the country?  In spite of such battles and other forms of enslavement, why do people stick to traditions

Miracles

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When you learn what this world is, how it works, you automatically start getting miracles... what others will call miracles.   [Richard Bach, Messiah’s Handbook ] Miracles are not supernatural phenomena.  We bring them about.  Through proper understanding.  Of ourselves, others and the reality around us. There’s a story by Susan Hill in which a boy named Derry has an ugly scar on his face.  One side of his face was burnt by acid.  The boy thinks no one, not even his mother, can love him because of that scar.  He hides himself from people.  One day he comes across an old man named Lamb who tells him that miracles are possible. “Miracles belong to fairy tales,” says Derry.  Some fairy comes along and kisses the ugly monster who then miraculously turns into a handsome prince. No, says Mr Lamb, miracles don’t work that way.  You are the fairy who will have to give the miraculous kiss to yourself.  Mr Lamb explains to Derry that it is his attitudes towards hi

Dreams

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A scene from the movie In the 1980s movie, The Gods must be crazy , a Coke bottle dropped by the careless pilot of a helicopter upsets the lifestyle of a community of people in the Kalahari desert.  Xi, a bushman, finds the bottle falling from the sky and he takes it home.  For him as for all his people, the bottle is a miracle dropped from the heavens.  They begin to use the bottle for various purposes like grinding food, producing music, and creating artistic patterns.  Suddenly everyone wants the bottle for one purpose or another.   The bushmen had hitherto lived a very contented and happy life with the little they had.  They used to think they were blessed by the gods with whatever food and water they could get in the desert. They thought they had everything they needed.  But the bottle, descended miraculously from the heavens, becomes a bone of contention.  Everybody wants to possess it.  Jealousy and rivalry enter the community.  Discontent mounts.  Xi thinks that t

What’s in a dog’s name?

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Bruno poses for me Bruno is the name of the only favourite dog on my school’s campus.  He has been on the campus for more years than I can trace my memory back to.  Recently he posed for two snaps for me.  He was so meek and obedient when I approached with my mobile phone’s camera, when the sun had already set far below the horizon, that I began to wonder who gave him the name of Bruno. The Western Christians gave the name Bruno to dogs in the olden days in order to disparage the great philosopher, mathematician, astrologer and poet of the same name who was burnt to death as a heretic by the Catholic church in the year 1600.  Bruno, according to the Catholic church, was teaching things that went against the teachings of the Bible.  It was Bruno who taught Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) to recant his science for the sake of religion so that he could say, “Religion teaches how to go to heaven, science teaches how the heavens go.” [I have taken a little liberty with what he act

Development Myth

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When India gained independence from the colonial rulers one of the cardinal challenges before the nascent nation was poverty.  The rampant poverty persuaded Nehru to opt for a welfare economy based much on the principles of socialism, though America had already begun to ride the exhilarating waves of capitalism.  At the same time, in 1947, an American professor of philosophy wrote the following lines: “ The tremendous concentration of wealth at one end of the social scale is matched (perhaps overmatched) by a concentration of poverty at the other end.  A dazzling prosperity in the urban rich hardly conceals the infamous and degrading lot imposed upon ... social victims.  No one can look upon this scene with clear eyes and then suppose that justice is being done .” The author of these lines was victimised much for his radical views.  He was Barrows Dunham and his controversial book was Man Against Myth .  In the introduction to the book, Dunham wrote that “truth has been s

Genuine Atheist

Ludwig Feuerbach was a 19 th century philosopher who started as a theologian and soon became an atheist.  He was of the opinion that religion and God diminished the greatness of man.  Religion and God alienate man and impoverish him by transferring to them the qualities that man should possess.  Love, truth, justice, and other such qualities are transferred by man to God.  God is love, God is truth, etc are statements we hear frequently.  But it should be the other way around, says Feuerbach.  Love is a human virtue.  So is truth.  So are compassion and other virtues we transfer to our gods.  If we bring these qualities back from gods and religions to human beings, we will have a better world.  Haven’t we been, throughout history, adjusting our gods to our own needs, longings and purposes? Asks Feuerbach.  Haven’t we been reducing our gods to the demands of our banal everyday reality?  Haven’t we fought enough battles and wars in the name of our gods – gods who are supposed

The Goldfinch

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Book Review “I’ve done some things I shouldn’t have, I want to put them right....” “Hard to put things right.  You don’t often get that chance.  Sometimes all you can do is not get caught.” [Page 550, The Goldfinch , Donna Tartt, London: Little, Brown, 2013] Dona Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Goldfinch , is a tour de force that explores the theme of growing up in a world which is an inextricable mix of good and evil, beauty and filth.  Theo Decker, the protagonist and first person narrator of the novel, is thirteen years old when he loses his mother to a bomb explosion in the Metropolitan museum in New York.  Their father, an alcoholic gambler, had already abandoned them.  Theo’s world turns upside down after his mother’s death.  All the love and security he needed as a young adolescent is stolen by the tragedy.  He is taken care of by the Barbours until his father comes to claim him learning that much money had been put aside by Mrs Decker for Theo’s educa

Power of the Spirit

Fiction When Ram Kumar hurried through breakfast and got ready to go out on Sunday, Mandira knew where he would be going.   Nevertheless she asked, “Shivam and Shivangi have a lot of homework.  Projects and FA assignments.  They need help.” “You help them; I have duty at Bhagwan’s gate.” Bhagwan was a godman who gave darsan every weekend to devotees.  Thousands of devotees would come seeking the godman’s blessings.  They would squat on the ground in an enormous hall and listen to Bhagwan’s speech.  And then they would render some voluntary service like cleaning up, cooking or serving the meals to the devotees or doing the dishes.  Ram Kumar always opted to render his services at the gate.  Frisking the devotees to make sure that they were not carrying any mobile phones or cameras or intoxicants.  The job gave him a strange sense of power.  “Jai Bhagwan!” he returned the greeting of each devotee with due solemnity. I have so much work to do, mumbled Mandira to hersel

Maya

Fiction Her face made my heart skip a beat.  Was it really her?  I had not met Maya for over thirty years.  But the perfect symmetry of her thin but mysteriously seductive lips could not have escaped me.  I was walking up towards the Hanuman Temple on the Jakhoo Hill in Shimla when the perfect symmetry on a wrinkled face beneath a silver shock of fluttering hair hit my heart like a perverse Kamadeva’s arrow.   She was wearing a saffron robe.  A rosary of fairly huge rudraksh beads lay on her breast.  The fire in her eyes had not burned out yet though melancholy was threatening to overpower it.  She had entered a narrow trail from the main road.  “Maya,” I called. She halted but did not turn back.  I called the name again.  This time she did turn back to look at the person who had uttered a sound that she did not apparently want to hear.  I walked closer to her.  She stared at me.  I smiled.  “Sam!” She said concealing her surprise with practised expertise.  “Why

Virginity is not in the hymen

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The subtitle of Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles is A Pure Woman though Tess had lost her virginity before her marriage and later she commits a murder too.  Tess is seduced by Alec and gives birth to a child which dies.  Later, while working as a dairymaid she falls in love with Angel Clare, a clergyman’s son.  On their wedding night she confesses to him the seduction by Alec, and Angel hypocritically abandons her.  Angel is no virgin himself; he has had an affair with an older woman in London.  Moreover, Tess had no intention of deceiving him.  In fact, she had written a letter to him explaining her condition.  The letter was, however, lying hidden beneath the carpet in Angel’s room.  Later Alec manages to seduce Tess once again persuading her to think that Angel would never accept her.  Angel, however, returns repenting of his harshness.  Tess is maddened by Alec’s second betrayal of her and she kills him.  The Law hangs Tess to death. Hardy, the novelis

Chandigarh's Museums

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Chandigarh has a series of museums all adjacent to one another. They are an excellent place to spend a day especially if you are in Chandigarh during summer.  You can engage yourself learning much about history, music, art, architecture, and so on.   The Goddess welcomes you to the Museum The Buddha - 2nd century AD sculpture Maitreya Maitreya, according to Buddhist literature, is the future Buddha. He will come when people will have forgotten dharma and will be living in sheer evil. Similar beliefs are found in many religions. Didn't Lord Krishna promise Arjuna, "... Sambhavami yuge yuge"? The Bible promises a Second Coming of Jesus.  People were always aware of their own innate wickedness.  But instead of working on it in order to alleviate it if not eradicate, people chose to believe in some deity who would come and eradicate it.  Just one of the many futile absurdities of human existence! Gods are the most potent tools for man's escapist gam