Posts Tagged 'Hindu'

Suspended for chanting Hindu prayer: Teacher

Suspended for chanting Hindu prayer: Teacher

Lavanya M.

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A chemistry teacher of SBOA School and Junior College in Anna Nagar West was suspended last week for ‘manhandling and misbehaviour’, but the teacher claimed that she was punished for reciting a Hindu prayer to students of Class XII .

On March 13, as the students were gearing up for their examination, teachers were about to recite their routine prayer. “Since the usual group of teachers pray before every examination, I volunteered this time. I said a prayer invoking the blessings of Hindu, Christian and Muslim Gods,” said the teacher, P. Abirami.

Even as Ms. Abirami was reciting the prayer, some of the other teachers allegedly turned off the microphone. “If they had an issue with my prayer, they could have called me aside and spoken to me rather than behaving rudely in front of students,” she said. “I did not give up but continued to say the prayers even more fervently,” she added.

Students on Wednesday said it was unusual for teachers to behave in this way. “Usually a Christian prayer is said before we write examinations. But last week a teacher said some Hindu mantras and the other teachers tried to stop her by turning off the microphone,” said a student.

Principal P. C. Selvarani, said that disciplinary action was taken against the teacher for behaving in an inappropriate manner . “The teacher does not handle Class XII and was on paper-correction duty that day. In spite of this, she came to up the dais, grabbed the mike and started speaking,” she said. “It was against the code of conduct. She just intervened.,” she said.

This sparked off protests by the BJP, VHP and the Hindu Munnani. Their activists staged a protest outside the school on Wednesday, following which 60 people were arrested and later released.


Comments to the above article from the readers:

It was a very deplorable act.Though I belong to RCM I condemn this attitude of other teachers for obstructing their fellow teacher from reciting the prayer by putting off the mike as if she committed a grave mistake.Action may therefore,be taken against the school authorities concerned including teachers responsible for the ill treatment meted out to the poor teacher and advise all the school authorities irrespective of their religious affiliation to strictly recite only VANDEMATARAM.I appreciate the teacher for her boldness for not giving up saying the prayer in spite of the odds.

from:  Anthony Rao Reddy

Posted on: Mar 22, 2012 at 02:12 IST

why Christian prayers. SBOA school is not a christian mission school. then why Christian prayer? Schools should have national anthem and general Tamil prayers praying for all welfare. The principal should be taken to task and case filed against her for communal incitement.

from:  honga singh

Posted on: Mar 22, 2012 at 08:24 IST

This incident is very true, I was also shocked when I heard that the teacher was not allowed to say the hindu prayers. SBOA is not a christian school, but seems like its being dominated by them. I hear that only christian prayers are allowed. VERY SAD. There are so many prayers which do not stress on religion, which should be made universal instead of following certain religion prayers…

from:  sandy

Posted on: Mar 22, 2012 at 14:23 IST

I was a student at the school from its small beginning and finished my XII there. I am a proud alumni of the school and have always been thankful for the education I received there even before its rise. But I am very disappointed in the action of the school and the principal, who was a long-time and favourite teacher of mine. It was always run as a Christian school and the majority of the staff were Christian as well. Hope they apologise to the teacher in question and the community as a whole.

from:  sowmya

Posted on: Mar 22, 2012 at 15:29 IST

This is shocking. From what the student says that only Christian prayers are recited before exams. What kind of a secularism is that, particularly if a teacher is punished for reciting a Hindu prayer on one of the days? An enquiry should be conducted and if indeed there is communalism being practiced by the principal in favour of Christianity, strict action should be taken. Secularism does not mean “anti-hinduism” and it is the government’s duty to ensure that.

from:  Sreedhar Pothukuchi

Posted on: Mar 22, 2012 at 16:02 IST

the SBOA management is seeding hatred among the students especially to the Hindus. SBOA is not a christian institution hence how come the students pray christian songs. The matter has to be probed. the principal should immediately put under suspension pending inquiryby Education dept. This clearly shows high handedness of the management.Let them know that this is a democratic country where they can make any non sense.

from:  t r subramanian

Posted on: Mar 22, 2012 at 22:59 IST

And if the opposite would’ve happened then the entire Indian media would
be up in arms in this travesty of secularism.
Shame really!

from:  Sujan Bandho

Posted on: Mar 23, 2012 at 10:35 IST

I am student of SBOA, and sad to hear this.. we had always had Christian prayers before examinations.. Not a wrong one.. but by not allowing a teacher to say a prayer other than Christian one is really bad.. Then there is no secularism there.. sigh.. my school is in the news for all wrong reasons 😦

from:  Ram G

Posted on: Mar 23, 2012 at 21:35 IST

I studied in this school. The current Principal, Selvarani mam was one of the best Math teachers in Chennai. All students used loved her method of teaching. I am very appalled to know that she would act in this manner. It would have been perfectly fine if no religion was showed down the student’s throat. That has never been the case in SBOA. It always felt like we were studying in a Christian Missionary school. While the school is funded by State Bank Officer’s association, the school management has no business to run it like a Christian Missionary. The State Bank Officer’s Association is also responsible since they turned a blind eye to all these issues over several years. Now is the time for some stern action.

from:  Anand

Posted on: Mar 23, 2012 at 21:52 IST

Prayer has no place in schools. You cannot offend athiests or students of religions other than ones listed.

from:  Ram Narayanan

Posted on: Mar 24, 2012 at 06:13 IST

Its not really an issue here. No real Christian prayers have been
traditions of SBOA. They were just prayers in English, if I remember
right. It must have been real unusual to hear a Sanskrit recital having
had English prayers as a decadal practice that’s all. Anyway, I think
the information provided here is way away from legitimate to draw
any conclusion. I think there is far more to it than is portrayed. The
article gives a real amateurish picture of the school, which is NOT.

from:  Shreyas Narayan

Posted on: Mar 28, 2012 at 06:50 IST

To all who commented. i am surprised people react to newspaper reports.
It wasn’t a Hindu prayer that caused the suspension . There has to be a history to the suspension.a truant teacher who finally got what she should have got long ago is the way I see it ..students both passed and present the school strives to give you the best what you deserve.Proper behaviour in front of students is what is called for and that is what led her being shown the the door.

from:  aloyusius

Posted on: Mar 28, 2012 at 14:08 IST

I am suprised that a former student Anand, does not remember the subject Ms.selvarani the principal and his best teacher taught.She was a chemistry teacher, man.I am also appalled at you making comments from just news paper reports. No one at the drop of a hat can get the BJP and similar religious organisations to support you. Could it not be that they were waiting in the wings and she pulled a stunt to bring them in to overcome her otherwise unbecoming ways as teacher. Anand, Get your facts right .The Assocition does not fund the school .It is students fees that sustain the school. The officers are the custodians and have been from different faiths .The Principal does not suspend any teacher. It is the office bearers of the trust. There are Hindus and yet again the corespondent of the school is a Hindu what Have you to say about that? If it was a religious issue would they have overlooked their sentiments and supported the Principal ,a X’ian?

from:  Carole

Posted on: Mar 28, 2012 at 15:41 IST

I am also an ex-student of SBOA and I don’t remember any Christian prayer recited in the school. SBOA is not a Christian mission school and the number of Hindus studying in the school is comparatively higher than the Christian students.
As said above if Christian prayers are only followed in the school then the parents could have raised an issue with the administration via Parent Teachers Association (PTA). Was this issue was raised by any of the parents or the students earlier?
To all the ex-students, if you believe that Christian prayers was not followed in the school then why you didn’t raise this as an issue earlier ? Was the school rude to you? I don’t think so. Everyone who studied there is proud about the fact they are alumni of the school. One can be proud about it only when the teachers are good, the organization is good and kind enough to take our concern and fulfils them and I strongly believe SBOA is doing a great job for the last 25 years. KUDOS to the School..

from:  Sudarsan

Posted on: Mar 30, 2012 at 09:38 IST

A perennial SBOA School Annanagar issue. I was a student from KG till 10th from 1987 to 1998. The incident mentioned above is not surprising me. For I have seen and faced many such in the SBOA school. Many of my friends and I were bold enough to take one such incident of a hindu prayer not allowed during a “skills for adolescence -special class” to the then headmaster (Mr.C.Subramanian )who even took prompt action once against a teacher for allowing only christian prayers. It is not wrong to prophes ones religion but not in a non-minority school such as SBOA.
Pathetically the SBIOA trust management has “never” taken these type of incidents seriously and continue to support the management’s anti-secular approach.

from:  Sivasundar

Posted on: Apr 9, 2012 at 12:59 IST

Being a retired officer of the State Bank of India,and knowing the functioning of the school since its inception,it pains me to read this news item.This school is a model that was followed by other regions of India to start similar schools by the respective officers association.The concept of starting a school by an officers association was unique and first of its kind anywhere in the world and this Annanagar school was appreciated by educationalists and the general public.What I wanted to emphasise was instead of fighting for benefits to its members,the officers association in chennai circle devoted its time and money to do public service by starting this school.

from:  Saivenkataraman

Posted on: Apr 15, 2012 at 09:32 IST 

Hinduism and Video Games

Hinduism and Video Games
by Namdev Nirakar

“Hinduism is so complex. I do not understand it most of the time”, said Eesha, a young girl to Uncle Ashok. Ashok had come over half an hour ago and Eesha was so engrossed in her video game then that she mechanically said “Hi” to Ashok, and continued with her game.
Ashok watched Eesha play Super Mario Brothers (*). He watched her move Mario to the right, hit and get hidden mushrooms and get bigger, or get a fire flower or a cape, collect coins, punch his way thru obstacles, climb ladders and occasionally get chomped by turtles. After the end of a life Mario would start his next life, from where he left off. Now that Eesha had finished one level she noticed that uncle Ashok, whom she met every week when her parents took her to the temple, was still there.
“Eesha, you are really good at this video game !”, said Ashok. She nodded and added “Yep! and I can even beat my brother at it”.
“You know you can learn many ideas of Hinduism from the video games”, said Ashok.
“How ? uncle Ashok”, Eesha asked.
Let us say if you got a video game and it gave you only one chance to beat it, will that be fair ?”, Ashok asked.
“No, that is why they give you multiple lives. Actually, with a new game it is very difficult to advance much further. It takes practice. When we had just bought this game, I used to ‘die’ in just ten seconds, every time”, said Eesha.
“Hinduism is similar too. Most people do not lead a perfect life. So according to Hinduism, you get many chances to improve your self. You get many lives. This is called reincarnation”. He continued,” and just as in a video game, if one life ends, you start over in the next life where you left off”.
“Now what will happen if you do not go towards the right in your video game ?”, asked uncle Ashok.
“You will not move to the next level. You will not make any progress and time will run out”, Eesha said
“Exactly! if you do not move in the ‘right’ direction, you will not make progress. Thus YOU determine the right direction and how far progress you can make. ‘What you do, determines the result’ this is called the law of Karma. Your actions bear fruit accordingly. Now what happens in a video game if you keep making same mistakes ?”, Ashok asked.
“You go back to the start of that level” Eesha replied.
“Law of Karma similarly tells you that if you keep making same mistakes over and over again, you will move backwards. Now in a video game you get rewards and receive set backs. In this video game a mushroom will make you grow bigger or an attack of a turtle will make you smaller, in real life too you may become rich or poor, but that depends where you start at and what actions you take. Yet getting big or small in itself does not mean progress. Does it ?”, asked Uncle Ashok.
“You are right, being big or small does not necessarily mean you will move forward in the game or even to the next level”, Eesha replied.
“Now tell me what happens when you go to the next level ?” Ashok asked.
“It gets tougher at the next level” Eesha said.
“Same is true in spiritual practice as per Hinduism”, Ashok added. “Now tell me what happens if you get stuck at a level, what do you do ? and why ?”, he asked.
“I ask my cousin Ojas. He knows what I should do. He knows where to the keys are hidden, where secret passages are. He has beaten the game already, Some times he even takes the controller to help me”, Eesha said.
“In Hinduism, similarly a Guru helps you move to next level. A Guru or a master has already ‘beaten the game’. She or He knows where the key is hidden that will unock the door. She or He knows what where the secret passages are. She or He can even show you a ‘warp’ zone, to go to the next level. But unlike a video game, in real life a Guru cannot play for you. You have to play it yourself”, said Ashok.
“You keep referring to Guru as She or He, why? ” Eesha asked.
“Good question! Hinduism considers man and woman as having equal potential to become a master, a Guru. Just as you are better than your brother at video games, a woman can reach the highest state also. In fact there were many women who contributed to the Vedas, the Hindu holy books. There were many women Hindu saints in the past, and there are many women saints even now” said uncle Ashok. He continued, ” also
there are many ways you can go to next level, so some Guru wll show a easier way and some a harder way, all depending on your capability.

Buddhists have Buddha as a Guru, Jains have twenty four Tirthankars as Gurus while Sikhs have ten Gurus whose guidance they follow”.
“Now tell me what happens when you beat the last level ? ” Ashok asked.
“I have not beaten the game yet, but my cousin Ojas says that you see fire works, music plays for long time, and then you see the name of the programmer”, Eesha said.
“Interestingly, that is what Hinduism says also, when you go beyond the last hurdle you hear the music and you see THE PROGRAMMER – that is God and then you do not need to play the game again, except to help others” Ashok said.
“Let me ask you one more question. You get so absorbed playing a video game that you feel that you are being Mario or Luigi on the screen. But are you really Mario or Luigi ? Who are You?”, He asked
“I am Eesha, of course. But while playing the game I forget that I am Eesha and am only concerned about Mario or Luigi on the screen”, she replied.
“Exactly, Hinduism believes that we go thru different lives believing we are the body or the name in that life. But we are not that body nor its name. We are the Atman or soul which plays as a character of Mario or Luigi (or whatever). That is something we must never forget. We are not this body, but we are the Soul, or Atman”. Ashok continued.
“Eesha have you noticed, that from video games you just learnt Hindu concepts of reincarnation, Karma, Guru and Atman.” He asked, “Was that complex ? “.
“Not complex at all!” Eesha smiled, Her face was glowing by the realization of Hindu concepts, a knowledge she already had in the form of video games.
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Men of straw

Men of straw
Tarun Vijay
22 March 2011,

Face it squarely. All should have welcomed handing over the cases related to any
kind of terror to NIA. Who cares? Anyone belonging to any colour, if found
violating the Constitution should be brought to book. The best statement on it
came from RSS stalwart and an icon of serving the destitute and the
disadvantaged, Bhayyaji Joshi, who assured all help to the government to have
such cases investigated. But the state power had some other ideas.

Was the real intention of a government that lies to the nation on WikiLeaks
cables and survives, as Arun Jaitley put it aptly, on a political sin, honest?

This government facilitates traitors as simply as that. And punishes patriots in
the hope that it would get some Muslim votes.

Look how a secessionist Geelani is facilitated in Delhi, given a platform to
demand India’s second partition and then allowed to stay on at the expense of
Indians to participate in Pakistan Day, at the house of Pakistan’s high
commissioner in Delhi.

Afzal’s hanging is delayed deliberately to ensure Muslim votes. WikiLeaks
cables, sent to Washington by American diplomats, corroborate what every sane
Indian believes.

So is the case of handing over cases involving one set of people. The government
of Lilliputians wants to prove something that must fetch it some Muslim votes.

They never tried to send the cases of ULFA, or NSCN, or Geelani-Arundhati Roy,
or stone pelters of the valley who attacked the security personnel, to NIA.
Never pursued the wealth looters who stashed their black money in Swiss banks.

That would have not fetched them what they wanted.

They treated Gujarat as an enemy country, mocked at its investment claims, as if
money poring into Gujarat was meant for Pakistan. And now MP is on their list of
assaults for obvious reasons.

One of their leaders shows a chestful of currency notes to a foreign diplomat.
Nothing happens and the Prime Minister of the nation tries to obfuscate the

Even Berlusconi appears more honest than our ruling elite.

A news story emanating from Srinagar, sent by a national news agency, said that
there is an “allegation” that a Hindu temple has been ransacked and taken over
by a mafia and a Hindu organization has demanded a CBI probe into that. Oh, too
obliged that someone thought that this is news worth any notice. A brief
mention, no name of the organization that demanded a probe, no name of the place
where the temple was “allegedly” desecrated and no name of the leader of the
Hindus who took up the cause, braving bullets.

Replace the term “Hindu temple” with the name of any other faith’s place of
worship and see the difference.

It pays to be a non-Hindu in this Hindu-majority nation.

Who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs where taking up a Hindu cause
needs enveloping it in a secular parlance?

Where even the supposedly Hindu nationalists are shy of saying the word “Hindu”
and a government, administration and the media empires led by those who still
wear a Hindu name, feel hesitant to come out in support of justice and fair
play, lest they should be “misunderstood” as being communal?

In a situation when temples are desecrated without creating a whimper in the
capital and the Prime Minister gleefully hands over small apartments to Hindu
refugees in their own independent country without saying a single word of
assurance that they would someday go back home and a political opposition,
barring a few exceptions keeps mum on the main player of all sinful activities
that is tearing apart the society and its core, thanks should be given to a
Assange and a Leftist editor, to keep the salt of democracy intact. In such
times choosing to publish the cables means braving grave risk to his media
empire when most of the brave hearts in media have turned “durbaris”.

Frankly, it may not be the case that the state power has chosen Hindus as its
target –every patriot, every honest pursuer of policy and programmes feels let
down today. A great nation that boasted of being the knowledge hub of the
universe has become a billboard of the most corrupt land, while China has
surpassed even the US in manufacturing.

We are nowhere near its economic prowess and military might. From shielding the
corrupt and lying to Parliament, all such charges which were unimaginable till
recently are flying on the face of our Prime Minister.

The aura is gone and men of straw seem to be holding a fort of sand.

This situation demands self-introspection by the Hindu leaders too. They have
turned into mere observers and protesters. The UPA began its journey with the
removal of the Savarkar plaque from Port Blair memorial and continued with
assaults of the bridge that Rama built, keeping eyes wide shut on Kashmiri
Hindus while pursuing a brazenly discriminatory appeasement policy for
non-Hindus. If Hindus find themselves at such a receiving end, the blame must be
borne by the leaders who claim they are Hindus. The entire babalog fraternity,
and the so-called sirens, they are very rich and influential individually but a
great failure collectively. They enjoy a power-packed list of devotees.
Performing miracles. Running huge chains of colleges and “gau shalas”.

Just ask them what was the last issue they won for the Hindus? Driven by
jealousies, hatred for each other, a killing spirit that survives on “unchecked”
eavesdropping, and an uncanny intolerance of the intellectual inputs , the
Hindus seem to be failing the Hindu cause once again, post-Ayodhya movement.

They chose not to answer the inconvenient issues of caste-based discriminations,
keeping a silence on incidences like Mirchpur. They never addressed the issue
why in India none of the so-called mainstream newspapers has been able to have a
single scheduled caste editor or why no scheduled caste leadership is finding
its way up the ladder in administration, industry and in any policy-framing
group, in spite of being in a majority within the Hindu population of the
country? Ironically except the RSS, none is besieged of the issue.

There are Hindus in the Congress and the DMK and the SP, the BSP too. Where is
the concern for any Hindu cause among them?

When an MLA from Pakistan fled to India to protect his religious freedom, who
spoke for him? Who supports the issue of taking on the main player of all that’s
wrong in politics today? Why the eerie silence? The nation will, one day discuss
the most horrendous case of backstabbing in our political life. Targeting Hindus
is like targeting the last bastion of liberty and plurality. And it’s not being
done by Arabs or Turks, but by India-born Hindus.

The temples and the gods are the same who were there when Karachi, Rawalpindi
and Kabul were deserted. The men who had to flee those places leaving behind
their gods unattended find their partners in today’s leadership that goes on
sermonising on religious channels every morning. Just bubbles.

The same way, our honorable Prime Minister has failed the nation like a failed
father. He has missed the bus of courage and forgotten that individuals are
smaller than national interest and that history is necessarily very ruthless.

Minority vote bank politics and RSS

Minority vote bank politics and RSS
R.L Francis

Politics in India has divided the society more than uniting the people. Politicians have fragmented the society in various castes, classes, religious groups in order to solidify their vote banks.
Slogans of communalism and secularism have been invented by them. And those parties are in power over the society who have proved themselves as saviour of minorities. The result is out in the open to see. Hatred among communities has increased and it has reached to the level of animosity. The situation is now explosive.
Minorities (Muslim and Christian) have threatened it implement Rangnath Misra Commission Report with immediate effect otherwise they will show their strength in the next parliamentaryelections.
On the other hand, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) alleged that the UPA government of adopting policy of appeasement towards minorities. All other parties which include communists and Congress have labeled RSS as anti-minority.
Due to growing threat and activities of terrorists in the country thousands of people have lost their lives. A particular section of people have been caught in large numbers engaged in Pakistan sponsored proxy-war. Due to strict measures of security forces; secular parties sometimes feel threatened. Then, these parties raise questions on the functioning of security forces. And irony is that security forces are governed by these same parties.
Minorities played pivotal role in bringing Congress to power again. After a long time Muslims have returned to the Congress fold. Congress is trying every trick so that Muslims’ votes stay with it. However, only spoiler in the game is continued arrests of Muslim youths in related to terrorist activities. Batla house encounter exposed the desperation of Congress High command. Digvijay Singh, party general-secretary and close aide of Rahul Gandhi blatantly came in support of popular Muslim stand.
The Congress cannot take risk of alienation of Muslims at this juncture. Digvijay Singh, in order to appease Muslims, is continuously hitting at RSS. He even compared RSS to Laskar.
More intellectual and scholarly P Chidambaram even popularised “saffron terror” and is moving two step further from Rahul Gandhi in comparing the RSS to banned SIMI.
The Sangh is being attacked from all corners. Their game plan did not bear satisfactory fruit; they have tried to portray Sangh as terrorist organisation. Those indulged in a politics of a particular section could not tolerate an organised, aware and dutiful society. It is important for them that society continues to be divided. They have started vicious propaganda war against Sangh and it is being propagated that Sangh is root cause of all evils in the country be it violence, anarchy, confrontation, terrorism and even natural calamity.
However, the Sangh has again presented its cultural legacy of more than eight decades. Millions of Sangh activists peacefully protested against “irresponsible statements” made by various Congress leaders. No violence was reported at any place in this protest. In between former Sarsanghachalak made a personal accusation on Mrs. Sonia Gandhi that made Congress leader sulking. So called secular Congress activists vandalized Sangh offices at various places. Though, Sangh regretted on this statement but the issue was raised at various platforms earlier. Congress should stand that Mrs. Sonia Gandhi is not beyond question and that they are not running a company called ‘India’.
Those who allege the Sangh of perpetrating communalism have failed to explain which section does Sangh represent. Yes! Sangh talks about Hindus and is this evil? If Christians can be faithful to Holy Vatican and Muslim can be faithful to Mecca; then why Hindus cannot do the same. Church realises that Sangh is the biggest threat that is why Sangh is on the target of church establishment. Church wants to cut the umbilical cord of Hindus from its cultural roots. Only then it will be successful to establish its dominance in the country. What is unfortunate that greedy politicians have not tried to contain the vested interest of church for their own selfish reasons? Sangh is not against any community. It is highly disciplined. Its work is visible to world every day. Patriotism is its identity and to serve the human kind is its main objective. There is no place for hatred in Sangh ideology. Those who make false allegations have their own interests.

*About the author: R.L Francis is the president of Poor Christian Liberation Movement. You may contact him

Why I Am a Believer: a Hindu’s Answer

Why I Am a Believer: a Hindu’s Answer
Dr. Arvind Sharma chooses to be, and remain, a Hindu because of threeprofound features of Hinduism–its subtlety, charity and civilizational creativity

Hinduism has three alluring dimensions that make me want to be a Hindu: subtlety, charity and civilizational creativity.
By subtlety, I mean Hinduism’s capacity to draw and to hold on to subtle distinctions. Here are seven such distinctions for your consideration.
1. One such distinction is the distinction between emptiness and openness. We might indifferently describe a field as a vast open field or a vast empty field. But there is a difference. In fact, one could say that the goal of Hinduism is to convert an empty mind into an open mind. This is a delicate endeavor; how delicate may be seen in the West’s attempt to do this in the form of the New Age movement. The mind tends to become so open, according to observers, that the brain almost falls out.
2. Another such distinction is between the absolute and the universal. I think Hinduism searches for the ultimate in metaphysics and for the universal in morality, in comparison to the West, which concludes only too often that it has found the ultimate in metaphysics, even as it formulates the absolute in morality.
I know these remarks are somewhat opaque. They could perhaps be elucidated by drawing a related distinction between ultimate and final. Something is ultimate when nothing lies beyond it, in the sense that nothing could possibly lie beyond it. Something is final, however, in the sense that it marks the final point within a given framework, whereas the ultimate could transcend such frameworks. According to Hinduism, no religion can have the final say about the ultimate, precisely because each such claim to finality is made from viewing the reality from within a certain framework, when the reality itself might be beyond all frameworks. The philosopher Shankara is said to have begged God’s pardon for three sins he committed: that although God is everywhere, he went on a pilgrimage; that although God is beyond thoughts, he tried to think of God; and that although God is beyond words, he tried to praise God in words. I value this Hindu self-relativization in its quest for the ultimate, the awareness of the risk that epistemology may forever fall short of ontology. I think it salutary to be cautious in this way in terms of metaphysics.
The West displays a tendency in the moral realm to speak in absolutes. An absolute is fixed; it allows of no exceptions. Stated in a positive way, one could say that an absolute is certain and firm; stated in a negative way, one could say that it is static and rigid. On the other hand, a universal is consensual and fluid. Stated in a positive way, one could say that it is broad-based and dynamic; stated in a negative way, one could say that it is wishy-washy and unsteady. The differences between the two lie in their orientation–one works from top down, the other from bottom up.
I think Hinduism is better off for implicitly distinguishing between final and ultimate, and between absolute and universal, and in further distinguishing between the goals of metaphysics and morality.
3. A third distinction implicit in Hinduism is one between single-mindedness and narrow-mindedness. Sometimes other religions, in trying to become single-minded, become narrow-minded, as in certain understandings of jihad in the context of terrorism, and of the Christian mission in the context of proselytization. I think the Hindu world has largely escaped this predicament, at least so far, because Hinduism is a religion which has its center everywhere and its circumference nowhere, in the sense that the doctrine of the ishtadevata (or the chosen Deity) within it allows each Hindu to be a center of his or her own universe or to be single-minded in his or her devotion without being judgmental about others. Alternatively, Hinduism can be said to have its circumference everywhere and its center nowhere. However, we might wish to split the metaphor. By disconnecting the center from the circumference, it has ensured that being single-minded does not lead to narrow-mindedness in relation to another. This is true not just for Hinduism’s individual members but also of the yogas within it. For example, one can single-mindedly follow a particular yoga, such as jnana, without narrow-mindedly insisting that it is the only yoga which will lead to liberation. True, some texts will say precisely this, but other texts will say precisely the same about other yogas. And Hindu sages periodically remind the flock that the four margas, karma, bhakti, yoga and jnana, are not exclusive of one another.
4. A fourth distinction implicit within Hinduism is that between sole and unique. When we use the word unique, we tend to assimilate the sense of sole into it, for unique means that which stands by itself. But the two should not be confused, according to Hinduism. Some Western religious traditions tend to confuse them, and because they are unique, tend to look upon themselves as the sole avenue to the divine. But each tradition is unique. In fact, each human being is unique. Does that entitle him or her to look upon oneself as the sole human being?
5. Another distinction implicit within Hinduism is between one and only. Often in introducing an outstanding person, such as the actor Amitabh Bachchan, we might employ the phrase “the one and only” so-and-so. But there is a difference between one God, and only God. When we say there is only one God we mean to say that there is no other God, but when we say there is only God we mean that there is nothing else in reality apart from God. In technical terms, these interpretations can be called monotheistic and pantheistic. But whereas the relationship between one and only is used in Abrahamic religions to uphold their own monotheism and dismiss that of others, the same relationship is used in Hinduism to embrace all other Gods, as there is only God, who can be grasped and represented variously. Hinduism also adds that God is not just contained by the world but rather contains it, and also transcends it, thereby leaving room for what is called panentheism.
6. Another distinction implicit in Hinduism is the distinction between common and identical. Many of us here in the audience are married. Marriage is thus a common phenomenon. But are all marriages identical? It is important to make this point because Hinduism is accused of saying that all religions are the same, as if their distinctive features did not matter. This is a misrepresentation. All the religions are the common property of humanity, but this is not to say that they are identical.
7. Another distinction implicit in Hinduism is between origin and cause. Hinduism is said to be reckless in borrowing from others on the one hand, and shameless in suppressing this fact on the other. But note that those who are exercised by the question “Who borrowed from whom?” are concerned with origins. But once you are concerned with cause rather than origin, you are not so much concerned with where something comes from as with how well it explains something, irrespective of where it comes from. If I catch the flu, its origin may lie in the person I caught it from, but its cause is viral infection. Note that causes are universal in comparison to origins, which are particular.
What makes it particularly exciting to be a Hindu in our times is the fact that these implicit assumptions of Hinduism are being forced out as explicit propositions as Hinduism confronts other religions. As this happens, our Hindu principles shed a flood of light on the religious predicament of the contemporary world. Here is an aphoristic list of some of these Hindu insights found scattered in its modern discourse:
A. Something can be wholly true and yet not true of the whole.
B. Everything goes, but not everything arrives.
C. All religions are valid, but they may not be valid for all.
D. To speak of religion that shall not be a particular religion is to try to speak language without speaking any particular language.
E. All paths may lead to the goal, but not all paths may lead all the way to the goal.
F. One begins by saying that all religions are true and ends by saying that there is truth in all religions.
G. Each religion is superior to the other.
These are to be distinguished from certain aphorisms about Hinduism itself which have become prevalent:
A. A Hindu is like everyone else, only more so.
B. Hinduism is not a belief, it is an activity.
C. Hinduism is not a religion but religion itself.
D. A Hindu is most a Hindu when least a Hindu.
E. Hinduism is encyclopedic, not textbookish.
Some scholars in the academia maintain that there is no such thing as Hinduism. A Hindu attempt to tackle this view reveals another subtle aspect of Hinduism. The phenomenon of deep sleep provides a good example here. One is said to be unconscious in sleep, but it has been argued by Sankara that sleep is really a state which represents the absence of anything experienced separate from consciousness, rather than the absence of consciousness itself. Similarly, when a Hindu says that all religions are the same as Hinduism, it indicates the absence of any of them being experienced as separate from Hinduism, rather than the absence of Hinduism itself. This is Hinduism’s answer to the fashionably current view that there is no such thing as Hinduism.
I am going to introduce this second element of my answer in a somewhat unorthodox way, for at this point I can hear you silently complain that you have taken us to the top of the mountain, but if you go on talking in this vein that mountain will dissolve in verbal mist. No matter how profound our admiration of Hinduism and no matter how subtle our appropriation of it–our admiration or appropriation of it cannot be unqualified. How about the caste system? How about sati? What about the dowry deaths? What about untouchability? What about the condition of widows in Brindavan? You have every right to ask, “Don’t these shake our faith in Hinduism, and incline us to question it? “How can you even think of remaining a Hindu,” you could ask me, “in the face of these stark realities? Is not Hinduism a black hole from which light is trying to escape unsuccessfully?”
And, one cannot escape the enormity of the issues we are facing by claiming that:
1. If we review the long history of internal critique within Hinduism, Hinduism’s critics cannot improve upon Hinduism’s self-capacity for criticism.
2. A massive reweaving of Hinduism’s social fabric is in progress in India, even as I write, undermining if not eliminating this criticism.
3. The charge-sheet of other religions is more extensive and gruesome compared to that of Hinduism.
These are replies worth noting, but not responses worth entertaining for our purposes, because they do not go to the heart of the matter. A salient feature of nearly all of the issues mentioned is that no one is quite certain when they actually started. The origins of the caste system, of untouchability, of sati, of dowry, and so on, are shrouded in the mists of history. The starkness of the practice often goes hand in hand with an opaqueness of the origins in the case of many of them. It would be too glib to put this down to a lack of a sense of history among the Hindus, if what I am going to propose bears scrutiny.
To understand how these practices arose and spread, note this feature of the tradition itself: that in the spirit of charity the tradition is plural and that, in the same spirit, it possesses no centralized authority. In such a tradition, practices are rarely formally introduced. They arise informally. It is vital to keep the fact in mind that Hinduism is a culture, and culture ultimately means how things are done. If some group, in this vast network of ramifying traditions which constitute “Hinduism,” begins to do something, for whatever reason, then the rest of the tradition becomes open to its influence through osmosis and example.
It could well be this factor which makes the origins of a practice so elusive, because by the time it is practiced on a scale to become visible, it has probably already undergone migration, expansion and even transformation. And as this process continues, it becomes even more complex and complicated. The way abortion of female fetuses is now spreading in India is a good example of how things might have gone wrong. A technological innovation is introduced. It gains a foothold in a part of the country, in this case, say, particularly in Punjab, which has a history of gender discrimination, despite the emphasis on gender equality in the teachings of Sikhism.
The same practice, however, has had no impact in Kerala, which enjoys virtually universal literacy. However, observers are surprised that states with high literacy are also adopting the practice, although legally banned. This is reminiscent of sati, which is not mentioned in the Manusmrti (a well-known Hindu law book), but which was spreading during the centuries in which the Manusmrti was thought to be composed.
It is not only social pathology but also social reform which follows the same route. Thus some group must have felt upset by levirate (niyoga), although permitted in Vedic times. The Manusmrti is of two minds about it. A few centuries later, it became Kalivarjya, or a practice forbidden in the Kali Yuga, which is the Hindu way of abolishing it “legally.” The way the abolition of untouchability in our own times has proceeded provides another example. Mahatma Gandhi created a group which frowns upon the practice, and gradually others followed suit for a host of reasons–moral, social, political, historical and so on. It could well have originated in a similar manner, with its adoption by one group from another and subsequent spread to other areas or communities, for a host of reasons, although it never made it to Bali in Indonesia.
I have chosen the word charity to describe the mechanism by which social deterioration or amelioration has come about in this culture for reasons I shall explain in a minute. It is noteworthy that, in this sense, Hinduism has so far functioned more as a “society” than a “polity,” an instinct shared by Mahatma Gandhi but not by Pandit Nehru, who preferred speedier methods of state intervention. What has all this to do with being a Hindu? Just this–that Hinduism is a free association of various constituent units, and both its good and bad choices are two sides of the same freedom. I would, however, like to substitute the word charity for freedom here, because charity implies our acceptance of someone else’s freedom to do what they want to do and to be what they want to be.
The third feature of Hinduism which binds me to it is its creativity. By creativity, I mean that sometimes when Hinduism faces a new challenge, it comes up with a solution which is 1) both superior to all the existing responses and 2) simultaneously more universal. Three examples come to mind, one from ancient, one from medieval, and one from modern times.
Ancient Hindu culture was primarily an oral culture for centuries, until sometime around sixth century BCE. Not possessing a script, the Hindu tradition responded to this challenge by devising a script–Brahmi–which was superior in terms of its phonetic fidelity to any other script of those times, and at the same time was also a script in which the languages using those other scripts could also be faithfully represented, perhaps even more faithfully than in their own scripts.
The example from medieval times is provided by the doctrine of ubhaya-vedanta developed by Ramanuja. What does one do when one comes up with another piece of religiously inspired literature, while one is in possession of it oneself? Does one subsume it within one’s scripture, the way the Jewish Tanakh became the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, and is sometimes referred to as the Jewish Bible? Or does one view it as previous editions of one’s own revelation, which are now deemed antiquated–the way Islamic thought came to view the preceding Jewish and Christian revelations? When Ramanuja, schooled in the Vedanta, came face to face with the devotional outpourings of the Alvars in the Nalayira Divyaprabandham, he did not amalgamate the Nalayira Divyaprabandham into the Vedanta, nor did he subordinate it to Vedanta–he gave it a status equal to that of Vedanta. As T.M.P. Mahadevan explains: “Ramanuja followed a long line of Vaishnava thinkers. A number of poet-saints poured out their devotion in the form of songs in Tamil. These were collected later in what is called the Nalayira Divyaprabandham. Since these songs constitute the basis of Visishadvaita, equally with the Upanishads, Ramanuja’s system is known as ubhaya-vedanta.” Not only was thus the problem creatively solved, the solution contains within it a template worthy of universal extension in our age of religious pluralism.
The modern example is provided by Mahatma Gandhi’s innovative use of non-violent protest on a massive scale, which not only proved ideal for resisting the British Raj in India for Indians but is now the method of choice in mounting protests to governmental authority all over the world.
Hindu culture now faces the challenge of learning to function as a polity rather than as a society (as mentioned earlier). At the same time, one sees all around the problem of good governance, for which the world as yet has no answer. And the central conundrum of good governance is the following: that the expenditure of time, resources and energy required to get elected in a democracy and to represent the people is so great that one has little time, resources and energy left to do anything, with the political power at one’s disposal, for the people who elected you to represent them. Whether Hinduism rises to the challenge of becoming a polity successfully, and, in doing so, offers a solution worthy of global application is now up to you and me.
In concluding this essay, I see that I have perhaps unconsciously applied the three epithets applied to Brahman within Hinduism–sat, cit and ananda–to the Hindu tradition itself. Sat stands for truth, cit for awareness and ananda for bliss. It is perhaps not too much to suggest that subtlety corresponds to the sat aspect of it; charity to the chit; and creativity to the ananda aspect. So, my concise answer to the question “Why be a Hindu?” is: Satchitananda.

Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul

November 27, 2010
Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul

Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.

But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.

The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.

That suggestion, modest though it may seem, has drawn a flurry of strong reactions from figures far apart on the religious spectrum. Dr. Deepak Chopra, the New Age writer, has dismissed the campaign as a jumble of faulty history and Hindu nationalism. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said he agrees that yoga is Hindu — and cited that as evidence that the practice imperiled the souls of Christians who engage in it.

The question at the core of the debate — who owns yoga? — has become an enduring topic of chatter in yoga Web forums, Hindu American newspapers and journals catering to the many consumers of what is now a multibillion-dollar yoga industry.

In June, it even prompted the Indian government to begin making digital copies of ancient drawings showing the provenance of more than 4,000 yoga poses, to discourage further claims by entrepreneurs like Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-born yoga instructor to the stars who is based in Los Angeles. Mr. Choudhury nettled Indian officials in 2007 when he copyrighted his personal style of 26 yoga poses as “Bikram Yoga.”

Organizers of the Take Back Yoga effort point out that the philosophy of yoga was first described in Hinduism’s seminal texts and remains at the core of Hindu teaching. Yet, because the religion has been stereotyped in the West as a polytheistic faith of “castes, cows and curry,” they say, most Americans prefer to see yoga as the legacy of a more timeless, spiritual “Indian wisdom.”

“In a way,” said Dr. Aseem Shukla, the foundation’s co-founder, “our issue is that yoga has thrived, but Hinduism has lost control of the brand.”

For many practitioners, including Debbie Desmond, 27, a yoga instructor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the talk of branding and ownership is bewildering.

“Nobody owns yoga,” she said, sitting cross-legged in her studio, Namaste Yoga, and tilting her head as if the notion sketched an impossible yoga position she had never seen. “Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of life, a method of becoming. We were taught that the roots of yoga go back further than Hinduism itself.”

Like Dr. Chopra and some religious historians, Ms. Desmond believes that yoga originated in the Vedic culture of Indo-Europeans who settled in India in the third millennium B.C., long before the tradition now called Hinduism emerged. Other historians trace the first written description of yoga to the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu scripture believed to have been written between the fifth and second centuries B.C.

The effort to “take back” yoga began quietly enough, with a scholarly essay posted in January on the Web site of the Hindu American Foundation, a Minneapolis-based group that promotes human rights for Hindu minorities worldwide. The essay lamented a perceived snub in modern yoga culture, saying that yoga magazines and studios had assiduously decoupled the practice “from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity.”

Dr. Shukla put a sharper point on his case a few months later in a column on the On Faith blog of The Washington Post. Hinduism, he wrote, had become a victim of “overt intellectual property theft,” made possible by generations of Hindu yoga teachers who had “offered up a religion’s spiritual wealth at the altar of crass commercialism.”

That drew the attention of Dr. Chopra, an Indian-American who has done much to popularize Indian traditions like alternative medicine and yoga. He posted a reply saying that Hinduism was too “tribal” and “self-enclosed” to claim ownership of yoga.

The fight went viral — or as viral as things can get in a narrow Web corridor frequented by yoga enthusiasts, Hindu Americans and religion scholars.

Loriliai Biernacki, a professor of Indian religions at the University of Colorado, said the debate had raised important issues about a spectrum of Hindu concepts permeating American culture, including meditation, belief in karma and reincarnation, and even cremation.

“All these ideas are Hindu in origin, and they are spreading,” she said. “But they are doing it in a way that leaves behind the proper name, the box that classifies them as ‘Hinduism.’ ”

The debate has also secured the standing of the Hindu American Foundation as the pre-eminent voice for the country’s two million Hindus, said Diana L. Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard. Other groups represent Indian-Americans’ interests in business and politics, but the foundation has emerged as “the first major national advocacy group looking at Hindu identity,” she said.

Dr. Shukla said reaction to the yoga campaign had far exceeded his expectations.

“We started this, really, for our kids,” said Dr. Shukla, a urologist and a second-generation Indian-American. “When our kids go to school and say they are Hindu, nobody says, ‘Oh, yeah, Hindus gave the world yoga.’ They say, ‘What caste are you?’ Or ‘Do you pray to a monkey god?’ Because that’s all Americans know about Hinduism.”

With its tiny budget, the foundation has pressed its campaign largely by generating buzz through letters and Web postings to academic journals and yoga magazines. The September issue of Yoga Journal, which has the largest circulation in the field, alluded to the campaign, if fleetingly, in an article calling yoga’s “true history a mystery.”

The effort has been received most favorably by Indian-American community leaders like Dr. Uma V. Mysorekar, the president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, in Flushing, Queens, which helps groups across the country build temples.

A naturalized immigrant, she said Take Back Yoga represented a coming-of-age for Indians in the United States. “My generation was too busy establishing itself in business and the professions,” she said. “Now, the second and third generation is looking around and finding its voice, saying, ‘Our civilization has made contributions to the world, and these should be acknowledged.’ ”

In the basement of the society’s Ganesha Temple, an hourlong yoga class ended one recent Sunday morning with a long exhalation of the sacred syllable “om.” Via the lung power of 60 students, it sounded as deeply as a blast from the organ at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

After the session, which began and concluded with Hindu prayers, many students said they were practicing Hindus and in complete sympathy with the yoga campaign.

Not all were, though. Shweta Parmar, 35, a community organizer and project director for a health and meditation group, said she had grown up in a Hindu household. “Yoga is part of the tradition I come from,” she said.

But is yoga specifically Hindu? She paused to ponder. “My parents are Hindu,” she said. But in matters of yoga, “I don’t use that term.”

Arunachal youth boycott Chinese good

Arunachal youth boycott Chinese goods
By Maj Gen G D Bakshi, SM,VSM (retd)
Hindi in Arunachal
Who says that India ends in the North East? Frankly, it begins here.
Did you know that a group of students in Arunachal Pradesh have taken a chapter out of India’s freedom struggle and begun a movement to boycott Chinese goods?
I made this discovery, and many others, when I was invited to Itanagar in October to meet 645 college students from 28 colleges and technical institutions of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Youth Camp, inaugurated by Education Minister Bosiram Siram, turned out to be a most memorable and unforgettable experience.
I went to teach, but was left speechless and deeply moved by the burning patriotic fervour and tremendous enthusiasm of these tribal youth from the Adi, Apatani, Monpa, Mishmi, Nyishi, Tagin and so many other tribes across this border state.
All of them were fluent in a pure and Sanskritised form of Hindi. They were well informed and deeply aware of national, regional and global issues.
They have an innate flair for community singing and their melodious chanting of Sanskrit hymns from the Vedas and Upanishads left one spellbound. In fact, it moved one to tears to see their love for their country and culture.
Say No to China
What one group of students from Tawang said at a workshop took our breath away. The young people of Tawang had decided to boycott all Chinese goods.
Some Marwari traders were resisting this boycott for the purposes of economic gains/profits. The traders claimed they brought these cheap goods from legitimate channels and hence, should be allowed to sell them.
The students felt this was a betrayal. China had evil designs on their beautiful state and this was their forthright response.
They were not enamoured of China or its totalitarian state model. Some of them were quite keenly aware of how Tibetan Buddhism had virtually been destroyed, how the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans had to flee their homeland forever, simply to preserve their culture and their way of life.
The sad saga of Tibetan resistance to Hanisation was fresh in their memories. The Hans in Tibet now outnumber the local people. A century down the line, Tibet would cease to exist as a unique cultural and linguistic entity.
The response of the young people of Tawang was a page straight out of the history of the Freedom Struggle. In a poignant statement (so very reminiscent of Gandhiji’s approach in our freedom Struggle), they had decided to boycott Chinese goods.
The message was loud and clear – they saw the Chinese as prospective colonisers of their sacred land; as aliens and invaders who would destroy their culture and efface their unique identity.
Too short for the Army?
What else moved these young people? ”Why is height such a disqualification for joining the Army?”One young man after another asked me this agonizing question.
Their tremendous zeal and enthusiasm for joining the Army was as apparent as their keen disappointment over being rejected on the basis of not being tall enough.
One student patiently tried to explain that people of Arunachal Pradesh were given 1.5 cm worth of concession in height stipulation. As a Military Commander, I would have given my right arm to have such motivated and enthusiastic young men in our fighting units.
If there was one thing that they were so keenly looking forward to, it was the raising of two battalions of the Arunachal Pradesh Scouts. Seeing the burning zeal and commitment of these young Apatani, Monpa, Tagin and Mishmi boys, I felt the Indian Army would do itself the greatest favour by expediting the raising of these Arunachal Scout battalions. I am told these battalions are in the pipeline and will fructify soon.
I am certain, that as and when that happens, the Arunachal Pradesh Scouts will give as good an account of themselves in battle, as the brave Nunoos of the Ladakh Scouts.
In Siachen and Kargil, the Ladakh Scouts have become a byword for bravery, grit and sheer tenacity. Having seen these young boys from Tawang, I cannot help feeling they will be as good, if not better than our Ladakh Scout units. The Army Headquarters must expedite the raising of these Arunachal Scout battalions, for in the heightened threat profile, they have a very significant role to play.
An Eastern renaissance
As the helicopter took off from Itanagar, the haunting strains of 645 boys and girls, chanting Sanskrit hymns from the Vedas and the Upanishads, lingered in my ears. It had been a beautiful and unforgettable experience.
I could not help thinking that what we were seeing was the beginning of a remarkable Indian revival; a great civilizational renewal and it was starting from the Eastern-most corner of India.
With such dedicated boys and girls, the sun of an Indian renaissance will truly rise from Arunachal Pradesh and spread to the rest of our land. God Bless these children and their beautiful chants of faith and confidence in being the proud inheritors of an ancient Indian tradition of excellence. It restores my faith in the manifest destiny of the Indian people.
The decision of the youth of Tawang to boycott Chinese goods is a clarion call that should raise the rest of the country out of its slumber.
Maj Gen Bakshi is Deputy Director (Research) of the Vivekananda International Foundation.