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Saturday, July 14, 2007

The power of sublime

4 Jul 2007, 1107 hrs IST,

Tarun Vijay

Does it matter if the ice lingam at the Amarnath cave has melted down? No way, said Gurinder in Jammu, who has come with a group of ten for the pilgrimage. Every step we take for the shrine is a fulfilment and the journey itself is a reward, no matter whether the physical ice lingam is visible or not. The same sentiments were echoed when the bomb blasts en route to the shrine had disrupted the yatra and not a single yatri went back out of fear or apprehending more trouble. The journey continued. What makes the common, people, otherwise busy in their own life-earning a living through various professions, to face bitterest odds and risk their lives to make such pilgrimages just for a darshan , a holy see? And this has been continued since time immemorial. They undertook such arduous journeys when there were no facilities, tracks and communication systems. Pilgrims would do their afterlife rituals before they left home, knowing well they may not return live. The harshest pilgrimages were Kailas Manasarovar yatra in Tibet, Hinglaj in Baluchistan and Amarnath in Kashmir. All these have continued uninterrupted till the contemporary times of global warming and the changing contours of the journey's management. Yet what has remained unchanged is the flow of faith and enthusiasm. Most of the Hindu pilgrim centres are in the heights of the Himalayas, defining the sublime beauty of nature under a reigning solitude which provides space to introspect and evaporating egos with the mighty silence of the mountains. This itself is like experiencing the gods, whether the physical eyes could see Him or not. Love, the passionate complete surrender devoid of any demand for a return gift transforms into an unflinching faith. And there hangs a beautiful story of Yudhishthira in Mahabharata. On their bodily ascendance to the heavens in the higher Himalayas, experiencing the odds in the steep climb near what is known as Badrinath today, Arjuna became irritated and angry and asked his elder brother, O Yudhisthira, what makes you to love this rude, rough and difficult Himalayas, where I find nothing but rocks, dust and an unfriendly environment. Yudhishthira smiled and said I don't love the Himalayas because it gives me something in return, I love it, for being just what it is-Himalaya. Obviously true love doesn't expect converting the beloved. It is this power of the sublime, the one way love or the faith, that has made Hindus survive the centuries of vicissitudes and upheavals facing the most cruel and barbaric forces of their times. Hindus never used clichés like 'harvesting the souls' or 'liberating the heathens and the pagans' from darkness. For them the world remained as a family- vasudhaiva kutumbakam and their prayers, whether at the birth or death rites, always wish good of all human beings and the nature. Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Niramaya -let everyone be happy, everyone be without diseases, including the human beings, mountains, rivers, vegetation and animals. This message of karuna -the compassion reverberates in the entire Asia even today where Indian philosophers had gone centuries before spreading the teachings of dharma. In Kashgar (Xinjiang, China) I was taken to see beautiful Mor stupa inside Gobi desert, built about 1600 hundred years ago, during the time of Kumarjiva, an Indian monk, who went to Kucha after having learnt teachings of Buddhism in Kashmir. He was arrested by an arrogant Chinese general for preaching Buddhism and kept behind bars for seventeen years till an emperor freed him. He continued his preaching, influenced the local population with his scholarship, earned the title of Kuo-shih meaning 'teacher of the nation' and is still revered by Communist China with great honour. He is no longer an 'Indian' but a perfect Chinese Buddhist monk, like other great saints Kashyap Matanga, Gobharana and Samant Bhadra, the latter is famous as a Bodhisattva who came from India on a white elephant and to whom an entire Mountain Emei Shan is dedicated. He is worshipped as the protector of China.
Compare this with other 'missionaries' who introduced inquisitions, destroyed temples, bombed Bamiyan to 'serve' their faith. Christopher Columbus described the purpose of his voyage to the King of Spain in these lines, ".....for the end which I suppose to be earnestly desired by our most illustrious king, that is, their conversion to the holy religion of Christ..." And what happened after Columbus thought he has discovered India? Famous anthropologist Jack Weatherford has portrayed the Columbus impact in his book Indian Givers in these lines: He seized 1,200 Taino Indians from the island of Hispaniola, crammed as many onto his ships as would fit and sent them to Spain, where they were paraded naked through the streets of Seville and sold as slaves in 1495. Columbus tore children from their parents, husbands from wives. On board Columbus' slave ships, hundreds died; the sailors tossed the Indian bodies into the Atlantic. Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work in mines and plantations which he, his family and followers created throughout the Caribbean. His marauding band hunted Indians for sport and profit - beating, raping, torturing, killing, and then using the Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. Within four years of Columbus' arrival on Hispaniola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000. Within another 50 years, the Taino people had been made extinct' The population of the United States prior to European contact exceeded 12 million. Four centuries later, after the missionary 'discoveries', the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand. So when a thought and a social life are attacked to 'harvest', it reacts in different ways. Indians abroad are doing well, living and re-establishing their age old attributes of love, compassion and brilliance, but back home their religion, social traditions and way of life are under grave threat from the same forces who gave Columbus, Stalin and Gazhnavi. Any effort to convert a Hindu means deriding the values of compassion and violating his faith, the oldest one on this earth, which recognizes that all paths lead to god. Universal brotherhood demands respecting the other faith too as true as yours. It's a different attitude from being tolerant.
But Hindus are being forced to realise that not all paths believe in equality and they do not respect our way even if our ashrams in Hardwar and Rishikesh display the images of Christ and inscriptions of Allah in order to emphasize unity in diversity. From Sai Baba's centers to Ramakrishna Mission, this spirit of sarva dharma sam bhav (equal respect for all paths) is prominently at work. But there will not be a single Christian or Islamic centre which would show a respect for Hindu icons and ways of worship as a reciprocal gesture or as a mark of their universal spiritual vision. Recently The Economist reported (June 28, 2007): The Catholics' ultimate boss, Pope Benedict, is less flexible. He may feel that because we live in an age when acts of religious accommodation are possible—and, for the sake of world peace, necessary—it is more important than ever to draw doctrinal lines in the sand. In his recently-published book, Jesus of Nazareth , he seems to be saying that "much as we respect one another and accept one another's right to exist, there are important things on which we cannot agree." He refused to accept that Islam too can be a way to reach God. Last September he had quoted in Germany a Byzantine emperor who had called Islam irrational and violent. In India he had given a call to convert Hindus and make the present millennium an Asian one. A Hindu would have said just the opposite. Hence it's necessary to accept the right of all faiths to live their own way and abhor converting others. Asserting right to convert is to force Columbusisation in this age and times, forgetting the holocaust museums erected in the land of Indian Americans. While the world witnessed unspeakable barbarities by the Jihadis, Stalinists and Maoists and the Americans still remember with horror the mass killings during Columbus's voyage to their land with a mission to 'Christianize ' the locals who he mistook as Indians, the striking contrast with the way the Indian masters preached abroad nourishes the universal values of love and coexistence. In fact the Vedic universe symbolizes the concept and the spirit of the United Nations as a whole minus the controls of the US and other veto-powered members. Unfortunately the neo-colonialist mindset of a section of the Hindus has developed a special dislike for anything Hindu without even trying to understand the inherent message of the great way of living, the Dharma , genuinely. They fall into the din of aphorisms. They have created an atmosphere where to talk anything about Hinduism, to protect and support its icons, to reform and organise the Hindu society looks like a God-ordained responsibility of the RSS alone, pushing even nationalist slogans Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai as the sole' intellectual property' of the Sangh Parivar. This is ironical because every Hindu, in whatever party or the organization, has an equal responsibility and a right to safeguard Hindu interests. It's their outlook if they don't own it up. If a section of the Hindus start feeling dispossessed and is compelled to Islamise their response to be heard and recognized, the forces working to de-Hinduise our land alone would have to share the blame. A nation lives on her traditions and culture and if a majority is made to feel embarrassed about it, the future would look like a Saudi kingdom, with a façade of faith but perpetually dependent on the forces from abroad for its safety. Assuring Hindu dharma flower means supporting a liberal, democratic space, a natural bastion of freedom of thought, worship and speech. It abhors a mindset that stones a Rushdie image in Islamabad or Teheran and asks for his head, no matter our deep differences with his writings. In this beautiful earth, there is no alternative to understanding others and helping them to know us better through sublime, placid civil dialogue. Symbolically on one hand is the instrument of Yoga and on the other are the nukes and Osama's bombs. The choice is clear.
The author is the Editor of Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly brought out by the RSS. The views expressed are his personal.

Readers Opinion
The power of sublime
Comment:Whatever Columbus may have done, the US today still remains the upholder of human rights and dignity, of gender rights, justice, freedom of speech and religion -- unlike independent India, which in 60 years has seen the rise and sway of fundamentalism, female foeticide/infanticide, dowry deaths, justice run amok and the enactment of the Anti-Conversion Law in 6 of its states. "Compassion" "tolerance" and "respect" are essentially incompatible with the indignities of the Hindu caste system, the judgemental aspect of "karma" and the relentlessness of reincarnation. First respect all human beings before masquerading about respecting all religions.
Name:Raynah Sivaraman
4 Jul, 2007 2057hrs IST

An Osama in his pocket

11 Jul 2007, 2005 hrs IST,

Tarun Vijay

On a Shanghai -Los Angeles flight, it was not the threat of missiles but a 24-hour-45-minute boredom that threatened to kill. But thank god I was saved. On my left was seated Maria, a chirpy young girl who was returning home after spending a month with her Pakistani boy friend who runs a software business in China's best known industrial city. It was like a John Grisham novel unfolding 30,000 feet above the ground level. Maria met her boy friend at a seminar for young wizards in the IT sector in New York, found him "interesting", rebelled at home and got her grand ma's approval to visit him in Shanghai. And now, having spent a month there was returning a little worried. The first reason that made her anxious was the sweet little bunny she purchased from a village near Shanghai and couldn't resist taking to LA. The second reason for her anxiety related with humans and we shall talk about it later. So the well-being of her bunny -- kept in the cargo by ruthless airport staff, as they wouldn't allow her to keep him on her lap and to be subject to a month's quarantine before finally handing him over in LA -- took up our first three hours. She wanted to cry. Bunny seemed to have possessed her like a roaming spirit. And suddenly, while we were talking more about her bunny, the plane got deep into a real bad air pocket and shook as if a witch from Harry Potter's latest had collided with it head on. It was a real horror and almost took our lives. Passengers screamed. And for the first time I sensed a creeping fear of death emerging in me, nimble-footed but sure. And my poor neighbour. She turned white with fear, wept, folded her hands in prayer, bent on her knees, defied the air hostess' instructions and put her head on my lap and began confessing: "Supreme and adorable Majesty, God of heaven and earth, I firmly believe that you are present" What she said was hardly audible but she was offering her last prayers for sure. After a couple of minutes when the plane began to stabilise a little, she calmed down and thanked me profusely for "saving her life" at a very critical time. She felt death moved away after her true confession, and felt, perhaps embarrassed as happens with most of us after such traumatic situations when we are unable to control emotions and may be to overcome that feeling of embarrassment, she wanted to thank everyone for saving her. So after me, it was the steward, passengers who had gathered around her and then her grandma and parents in that order, though the latter ones in absentia. "So you like your grandma most?" I asked. "Yes, and Bunny next" she giggled and said, "Yes". "And your Pakistani friend?" "Yeah sure." Then she raised her voice, "did you listen to my confessions? You know it's a sin to recall them or to tell anyone." I tried to make her feel comfortable honestly: "I couldn't understand a word of what you had confessed." "But now I want to tell you something that would unburden me," she said. "Can't even tell my grandma this." Ok, I was willing to know what was bothering her, about which she wanted to speak at the first instance but gave only a vague hint. That was before the air pocket arrived. Having seen death so close, she became bolder, perhaps. "You know, Vijay, everything is fine with him. He is very nice, very decent." "Your friend?" I wanted to be sure. "Yeah, he," she replied. "So what bothers you?" "Nothing, but I saw a picture of Osama in his wallet and when I wanted to know the reason for this, he ignored and changed the subject never allowing me to know why on earth a nice gentleman like him was admiring of that rogue. So much that instead of keeping his parents' photo, he keeps one of that bearded, wretched person. Vijay, you come from India, can you tell me what attracted him to Osama? I love him, but I can't accept Osama as well in his pocket. That time I simply tried to calm her down with some Indian stories of saints and said that perhaps her love could change him. She was not convinced and now after the Bangalore incident I feel her mind was more focused. As a normal, common westerner she was a sensitive, caring and a transparent believer who loved anything that looked nice and decent. Like her bunny, like her boy friend. And she trusted them both. But she wouldn't let her emotions overpower her logic and hence a photo of Osama bothered her more than Osama's men killing 60,000 Indians in my country has bothered us. Rather we try to obfuscate the real issues, chant the mantra that all religions are equal, refuse to see the real source of hate and violence and skirt the demands of the times to analyse why even highly qualified persons, educated in the most secular environs of learning centres, turn traitors to their country and fellow citizens of other faiths just because they believe it's more important to "serve" the cause of their religion through bullets and bombs than anything else. I don't know what happened to the nascent love that began taking shape between Maria and her boy friend, because though she sent me photos of her bunny, safe and happy in her California home, she never spoke about other things including the young Pakistani. But the Bangalore experience has not only proved many of our more cautious friends right, who were blasted as hate mongers till now by even the closest of their fellow travellers, it has shaken the faith of a common Indian in his neighbour, who would have been quite vocal in denouncing America's devilish designs and hence in a way justified what the "boys" do in anger. This one is an oft-repeated "logic" heard universally from Karachi's food bazaar to Nabi Karim and Chandni Chowk's paanwallahs. No sir, the problem has to be sourced in the education that creates a mindset ready to bomb his very own - country or people -- for the sake of "faith". America or for that matter any other western country comes handy to be blamed for every evil, but why the "evil empire" creates a blood thirsty anger in one community alone and not in a hundred other people who can also claim to be equal victims of the US' "arrogance" and "colonialist attitude"? And what did the US have to do in our valley that made "brave Jihadis" (read it with red mosque surrenders) to kill little kids, old men and women? What drives them to rape and maim innocent defenceless fellow citizens in Jammu, Rajouri and Doda? Here are a few lines from a news channel's website that discussed an issue of vital importance for us -- Who were the two Bangloreans caught in the act of terror? Says the English TV channel, "An aeronautical engineer by profession, Kafeel Ahmed and his brother Sabeel Ahmed, a qualified doctor in UK -- both were born and educated in Bangalore. They possessed top-notch degrees, joined the best professions in UK, and were the most qualified in their respective fields.' Why were they where they were, as terrorists? It further said that, "Most Islamic countries are autocratic and despotic in nature and do not allow freedom of speech and expression. So, does that mean that a community must use terror as a method to express its disagreement?" "There have been Communists, Fascists etc who have conspired against the country they have lived in. Now since there is a whole way of Islamism propagated by terrorist masterminds like Osama bin Laden, some Muslim boys have also got caught up in that. These people are a minority and we must see why they got into such destructive acts," Lord Meghnad Desai said in response. Now Lord Meghnad is not a RSS buddy, nor an Indian citizen. Yet, his views are candid and without mincing words he has hinted where the problem lies. I must also quote from a recent report on the terrible changes occurring in Indonesia. It's from a lead article in the Far Eastern Economic Review by Sadanand Dhume, a Bernard Schwartz Fellow with Asia Society. Writing about Indonesia, which has a modest original Javanese Hindu population famous as Balinese Hindus, he says, "Barely 10 years ago it was a poster child for the East Asian miracle, lauded by the World Bank for having pulled tens of millions out of poverty, and increasingly mentioned in the same breath as Korea and Taiwan. Today, to the degree that Indonesia occupies the world's attention at all, it is as a cesspool of corruption, buffeted in turn by natural disasters, medical emergencies and terrorism.' He further adds, "it is radical Islam or Islamism-the ideology that seeks to run 21st century societies according to the seventh century Arabian precepts of Shariah law-that poses the biggest danger to Indonesia's future. Islamism already threatens Indonesia's founding principle of non-sectarianism and its proud tradition of pluralism, and hobbles the country's efforts to modernize its economy." Whether it's the Osama photo in Maria's boyfriend's pocket or his men killing Hindus in Kashmir and turning Malaysia and Indonesia into cesspools of inhuman barbarities on non-Muslim minorities, they all point to one source of hate and intolerance -- i.e. Arabian Islamism. It has endangered the existence of democratic, human and caring societies who love to give freedom to all shades of civil thoughts. These values of pluralism are under severe threat from violent Islamism shielded by an escapist attitude that denies Jihadi inhumanities in the name of a fake secularism, often described as negationism or Dhimmitude. Unless we prepare ourselves to face this truth squarely the solution too will continue to elude us making the globe more unliveable each passing day.

Readers Opinion
An Osama in his pocket
Comment:nice story pal .. I aint an Osama fan .. but u gotta to look at both sides of the coin and try to gain some knowledge about Islam as well before commenting on Islam.. and ya STOP LINKING ISLAM AND OSAMA ACTIVITIES .. IF YOU ARE EDUCATED THEN ACT LIKE ONE.. hope u r brainy enough to understand.
13 Jul, 2007 0815hrs IST
Comment:Very well-written. I agree with what you have written about pesudo-secularism. The sooner it is dealt with, the better.
13 Jul, 2007 0459hrs IST
Comment:Awesome Article...Love the way Tarun writes.
Location:New Jersey
12 Jul, 2007 1955hrs IST
Comment:An eye-opener!Well written.
12 Jul, 2007 1237hrs IST