Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hindu, Muslim & Christian views on PM-to-be Modi; Teaching of common core human values of all/most religions in Indian schools & colleges

Last updated on May 26th 2014

I found it interesting to read Hindu, Muslim and Christian views on PM-designate Modi in the Deccan Chronicle today. Some of the views are somewhat sensitive - so please feel free to skip reading the linked articles.

The Hindu view by Ram Madhav: From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Madhav, "Ram Madhav Varanasi is a member of the national executive and also in charge of the media and public relations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh." Here's his article, Time has come: Modi’s tough balancing act,http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140525/commentary-op-ed/article/time-has-come-modi%E2%80%99s-tough-balancing-act.

The Muslim view by Asaduddin Owaisi. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asaduddin_Owaisi, "Asaduddin Owaisi (13 May 1969 Hyderabad) is an Indian politician, who is the President of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. He is a three-time Member of Parliament (MP), representing the Hyderabad constituency in Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the Indian Parliament. He was honoured with Sansad Ratna Award for overall best performance in 15th Lok Sabha in 2014." Here's his article, We must have an umbrella Muslim outfit,http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140525/commentary-op-ed/article/we-must-have-umbrella-muslim-outfit.

The Christian view by Ninan Koshy. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninan_Koshy, "Ninan Koshy is a noted political thinker, foreign affairs expert, theologian and social analyst. Former director of the WCC's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs." Here's his article, Test for Modi: Ram temple, Article 370, http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140525/commentary-op-ed/article/test-modi-ram-temple-article-370

One of my interest areas is teaching of core religious values of all/most religions in India's schools and colleges, as I think that will instill the common core human values of all/most religions like Truth, Righteousness, Peace and Love (love expressed, in some part at least, as service to the family & the community) as well as an understanding of the core belief regarding good results for good actions and bad results for bad actions dispensed by an all-knowing Divine power commonly referred to as God (Formless and all-pervasive God as against deities with paranormal powers; From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deity, "In religious belief, a deity is a supernatural being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred. Some religions have one supreme deity, while others have multiple deities of various ranks."). If atheists & agnostics in India have a humanist set of values with a not-insignificant following then that too could be included in these common core human values teaching. In any case suitable human values of/for non-religious groups should also be considered/included. I think that such teachings (of all/most religions and non-religious groups) will produce better holistically educated people who will then contribute to more happiness, peace and joy in society.

[In my mind, there is no doubt whatsoever that something seems to be amiss with regards to human/moral/religious values teachings in typical Western education models. The latest college student shooter incident in the USA drives it home unmistakably, California gunman who killed six was Hollywood director's son, http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140525/world-americas/article/california-gunman-who-killed-six-was-directors-son. I just saw what is supposedly the shooter's video message to his community/world (taken prior to the shooting) - it is quite chilling and a case of a completely lost college 'kid' from a human/moral/religious values point of view. It is pretty harsh and has some explicit/direct language (related to violence & sex), so many readers may want to skip it. But if you do want to view it, here it is:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQUW3Km01BM, 6 min. 56 secs., published on May 24th 2014. Update: Here's a transcript of the video on CNN website: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/24/us/elliot-rodger-video-transcript/index.htmlHere are a couple of New York Times articles: About the parents' nightmare, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/26/us/parents-nightmare-failed-race-to-stop-killings.html, and about the rampage victims, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/26/us/shooting-victims-drawn-to-california-campus-from-near-and-from-far.html.

My humble view is that if this young man had participated in a mainstream religious youth group's activities, like a youth group in one of the churches and organizations listed on UCSB website here: http://kiosk.sa.ucsb.edu/Citizenship/religiouslife.aspx, he would not have lost it the way he did, and six young and innocent people would be alive and kicking today, and the wounded would not have to suffer. The soothing balm provided to human failings like jealousy and anger by mainstream and moderate interpretations and practice of great religions of the world should be easily and freely accessible to students of schools and colleges worldwide. [Practice by/within a peer group that a person can relate to, is the critical part, even if the practice has some flaws but is decent overall.] Further, students should be encouraged to associate with these religious organizations (of their choice) but there should be no compulsion. For confirmed atheists and agnostics there could perhaps be suitable humanist organization(s) that they could associate with.

BTW I have visited UCSB campus (at least) once in the early 90s when I was on assignment for a month or two in Goleta, a small town/city close to Santa Barbara city, and very close to Isla Vista and UCSB. I don't recall clearly whether I visited Isla Vista though. Anyway, this tragedy does not seem like a distant one to me - I can, in some sense, relate to the pain and suffering the UCSB, Isla Vista and surrounding Santa Barbara community must be going through.]

In one of the above articles there is a concern about saffronisation of education. But I think if it is teaching of (common core of) all/most religions then it, in all probability, will be acceptable to all the three authors, and perhaps to most of the country.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Swami referred to Shri Narendra Modi as future Prime Minister in 2004 itself!

From http://www.ssso.net/pnews-2014/modi.htm:

Below is Shri.Narendra Modi's Guestbook entry after his Interview with Swami on 7th November 2003...

This holy place is a wonderful blend of wisdom, faith and science, covering within itself, all the beliefs and faiths of the world.

[Ravi: I think the above sentence is a wonderful tribute to Prasanthi Nilayam (Puttaparthi ashram), and I tend to agree with it.]

...

The article refers to a link in Shri Narendra Modi's website which covers Modi's visit to pay respects at Bhagawan's Mahasamadhi in April 2011 (when Swami gave up His body): http://www.narendramodi.in/honble-cm-joins-mourners-at-prasanthi-nilayam-to-pay-his-last-homage-to-sathya-sai-baba/. I have reproduced the short text content there (Modi's website) (the link has a photo of Modi paying respects too):

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today (April 26th 2011) joined the bereaved family members of the late Sathya Sai Baba and offered flowers at the mortal remains of the spiritual leader at Prasanthi Nilayam.

Mr. Modi who had nearly 30 years’ association with Sathya Sai Baba also met and consoled those close to him including his nephew Ratnakar.
While the world as well as Gujarat is deeply mourning his death, the Chief Minister said the Baba would continue to inspire and guide the mankind to walk on the path of selfless service.

Paying his last homage to departed soul, Mr. Modi said, the Baba has won people’s heart with his humility, serving the poor, curing the sick and spreading mass education. He has introduced the great Indian culture and spirituality to the world.

Mr. Modi said he was greatly influenced by the life of Sathya Sai Baba and he considered himself fortunate to have received his blessings for serving the poor. He said that serving the poor could be the best and biggest tribute to the departed soul.

[Ravi: I think it will be truly wonderful if Honourable PM-designate Shri Narendra Modi uses Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's holistic, multi-religion and humanist approach, with Baba's stress on humble and loving service to humanity, especially its poor, as a way to ennoble oneself and "get closer" to the one and only divine reality which religions refer to as God. (Baba teaches that we are all divine but we mistake ourselves to be this human mind-body complex - so "get closer" is a euphemism to unveiling Maya and knowing our ultimate reality which is already very, very close to us as it is (in) the deepest/innermost part of our very being). Even the most ardent critics of Sathya Sai Baba cannot deny that the Puttaparthi model of service to humanity, especially its poor, with hospitals, including superspeciality hospitals offering free service, and its free drinking water project (now managed by AP govt.) in many parts of Anantapur district and elsewhere, does not discriminate against people on the basis of religion or non-religion, and so has been almost universally accepted as a benign influence on a multi-cultural, multi-religion and multi-ethnic society at large, in India and the world.]

--- end Modi website extract ---

Ravi: Towards the end of the article (ssso.net article) a tweet from Shri Arun K., who used to do personal service to Bhagawan (and who I am acquainted with as I offered Seva for a couple of months in late 2002 at the place where he was working in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram (at Puttaparthi)), is reproduced. Here's the very interesting part of the tweet, "My mind races back to 2004, when Modi came to see Swami and just after the meeting, Swami called me and said 'future Prime Minster Saar' ... I did not believe it then ..."

[Ravi: Wow! So Swami saw it clearly then. It is just awesome how Swami could see the future events in people's lives. Just like that! I wonder whether Swami told Modi about it. If so, then even if Modi did not believe it then, a part of his mind would have got alerted to the possibility and consciously and/or unconsciously got prepared for that role.]

Differences between Secularism in India and Secularism in the Western world

Last updated on August 4th 2014

A recent article in The Hindu about the outcome of the Indian general elections, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/how-modi-defeated-liberals-like-me/article6034057.ece, had the following lead paragraph, "What secularism did was it enforced oppositions in a way that the middle class felt apologetic and unconfident about its beliefs, its perspectives. Secularism was portrayed as an upwardly mobile, drawing room discourse they were inept at."

At the time I read the article, I was (and had been for quite some time) confused about the exact meaning of secularism, as meant in the Indian context. I thought that perhaps it was/is a very elastic word meaning different things to different people. I then did some browsing on secularism.

According to wikipedia, Indian secularism is different from secularism as understood by the Western world! I think wikipedia seems to have got it right here.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularism: "Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. One manifestation of secularism is asserting the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, or, in a state declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon its people. Another manifestation of secularism is the view that public activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be uninfluenced by religious beliefs and/or practices."

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularism_in_India: "Secularism in India means equal treatment of all religions by the state. Unlike the Western concept of secularism which envisions a separation of religion and state, the concept of secularism in India envisions acceptance of religious laws as binding on the state, and equal participation of state in different religions.
With the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India enacted in 1976, the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a secular nation. However, neither India's constitution nor its laws define the relationship between religion and state. The laws implicitly require the state and its institutions to recognize and accept all religions, enforce religious laws instead of parliamentary laws, and respect pluralism." [For more on pluralism in the above context, the wiki page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_pluralism, states, "Religious pluralism is an attitude or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society".]

The 42nd amendment to the constitution, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty-second_Amendment_of_the_Constitution_of_India, is a complicated affair. The wiki page states:

The 42nd Amendment is regarded as the most controversial constitutional amendment in Indian history. It attempted to reduce the power of the Supreme Court and High Courts to pronounce upon the constitutional validity of laws. It laid down the Fundamental Duties of Indian citizens to the nation. This amendment brought about the most widespread changes to the Constitution in its history, and is sometimes called a "mini-Constitution" or the "Constitution of Indira"
--- end wiki extract ---

The secular part of the amendment seems to be a relatively insignificant part. From the above wiki page:

The 42nd Amendment changed the characterization of India from a "sovereign democratic republic" to a "sovereign, socialist secular democratic republic", and also changed the words "unity of the nation" to "unity and integrity of the nation"
--- end wiki extract ---

Ravi: A later government (Janata Party govt.) tried to repeal the 42nd amendment by the 43rd and 44th amendments but could succeed only partly.

Anyway, the secular word in the 42nd amendment does not seem to clearly define Indian secularism. I am quite sure that Indian legal interpretations of this secular word in the 42nd amendment will be viewed as the state treating all religions equally, rather than the state being completely disconnected from religions.

With this background let me have a look again at the lead paragraph of the article, "What secularism did was it enforced oppositions in a way that the middle class felt apologetic and unconfident about its beliefs, its perspectives. Secularism was portrayed as an upwardly mobile, drawing room discourse they were inept at."

I think the lead paragraph makes sense only when a particular form of (Western) secularism is considered. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularism:

Barry Kosmin of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture breaks modern secularism into two types: hard and soft secularism. According to Kosmin, "the hard secularist considers religious propositions to be epistemologically illegitimate, warranted by neither reason nor experience." However, in the view of soft secularism, "the attainment of absolute truth was impossible and therefore skepticism and tolerance should be the principle and overriding values in the discussion of science and religion."
--- end wiki extract ---

So the author of The Hindu article given at the top of this post, may be using the term secularism in the sense of hard secularism which considers "religious propositions to be epistemologically illegitimate", and therefore wrote that the (Indian) middle class "felt apologetic and unconfident about its beliefs". I think the author got it pretty badly wrong here. Most Indian middle class chaps would have assumed secularism to mean equidistance from or equal respect to all religions, and therefore would have not had any issues with (Indian) secularism threatening their religious beliefs.

I added the following comment (slightly edited to omit a name) to The Hindu article web page but it seems that the moderator did not find it suitable and so rejected it:

It seems to me that Prof. --- may be using the term secularism in the sense of 'hard secularism' which considers "religious propositions to be epistemologically illegitimate" (according to the Secularism wikipedia page), and therefore wrote that the (Indian) middle class "felt apologetic and unconfident about its beliefs" due to secularism. I think the learned professor is off the mark here. Most Indian middle class chaps (including me) assume (Indian) secularism to mean equidistance from or equal treatment/respect to all religions (see the 'Secularism in India' wiki page), and therefore would not have had any issues with (Indian) secularism threatening their religious beliefs, irrespective of whether their religion is a majority or minority one.

---- end comment ---

A friend who seems to be an atheist or an agnostic raised an issue about the above comment which I also put up on Google+ here. His issue was that Secularism in India wiki page ignores non-religious people. My response to him (slightly edited to omit a name), which satisfied him, was:

The wikipedia page should include non-religious people as well. So a better definition of secularism in India would be treating all religions as well as non-religious people equally or having equidistance from them. I should also add that personal law which deals with marriage, divorce etc. being different for Muslims, Hindus, Christians etc., which is the case in India, should be viewed as an acceptable exception in this definition of secularism in India.

Specifically, secularism in India is not anti-religion or having a disdainful attitude towards religion. I don't know whether secularism as understood by most people in the Western world has a disdainful attitude towards religion. But some intellectuals may certainly be having such an understanding of secularism (disdain towards religion).
--- end response ---

Update on June 5th 2014

Indian Constitution: Scientific temper and faith in God

In the past I have come across articles mainly by, and TV debates involving, rationalists and skeptics who have quoted the Indian constitution's words about scientific temper to challenge religious beliefs of Indians, especially about supernatural phenomena (miracles). Today I was watching the new 16th Lok Sabha MPs take oath and the overwhelming majority "swore before God" or said the equivalent in Indian languages, as part of their oath. I decided to do some digging up on the topic of Indian constitution and faith in God whose results are given below.

Article 51A (of the Indian constitution), Fundamental Duties (http://www.constitution.org/cons/india/p4a51a.html) states:

It shall be the duty of every citizens of India-
...
(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;

--- end article 51A extract ---

Article 25 (of the Indian constitution), Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion (http://www.constitution.org/cons/india/p03025.html) states:

(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.

--- end article 25 extract ---

To my mind, very clearly, the scientific temper part of article 51A has to be read along with article 25, to get the proper sense of what the Indian constitution's view is on scientific temper and religion. In my view, very clearly, the Indian constitution does not ask every Indian citizen to follow scientism [From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism, "Scientism is a term used to refer to belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints."]

I would interpret the above articles as allowing for co-existence, within the nation as a whole, of scientific temper as well as religious faith (including belief in supernatural phenomena/miracles). Indeed, such co-existence can also be there in individuals where scientific temper comes into play for most of material life but there is an acceptance that laws of science can be broken/transcended in very rare instances through religious faith (or even other non-religious willpower type of faith).

In any case, in my view, the presence of article 25 in the Indian constitution, completely destroys any arguments that some rationalists and skeptics try to make/imply that the Indian constitution advocates scientism (scientific temper taken to the extreme level of exclusion of other viewpoints like religious faith).

So that's my bookish view. How about the views of the members of the highest law making and decision making body in the land - the Lok Sabha? Here's the text of the oath/affirmation MPs take or should take, as per the third schedule of the Indian constitution (from http://www.constitution.org/cons/india/shed03.htm):

Form of oath or affirmation to be made by a member of Parliament:-
"I, A.B., having been elected (or nominated) a member of the Council of States (or the House of the People) do swear in the name of God/solmnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter."]

--- end extract of third schedule ---

The member has the choice between swearing in the name of God or solemnly affirming. From what I saw today in maybe a total of over an hour plus (with breaks in between) of viewing Lok Sabha TV, an overwhelming majority of members swore in the name of God (or Parameshwar (Sanskrit) [I saw Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharati take the oath in Sanskrit], Ishwar (Hindi), DaivaSaakshi (Telugu), etc.). It seems to me that an overwhelming majority of members of the 16th Lok Sabha have faith in God. So I am sure that the 16th Lok Sabha's interpretation of the Indian constitution on scientific temper and religious faith will not go towards the extreme of scientism.

Interestingly, the third schedule also has a section on oath/affirmation for Supreme Court judges. Here's the relevant extract:

Form of oath or affirmation to be made by the Judges of the Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India:-
"I, A.B., having been appointed Chief Justice (or a Judge) of the Supreme Court of India (or Comptroller and Auditor-General of India) do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, _439[that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India,] that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my ability, knowledge and judgment perform the duties of my office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws."

--- end extract of third schedule ---

Ravi: Any constitution interpretation issues may/would involve the Supreme Court. I wonder how many of the judges of the current Supreme Court swore in the name of God.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On June 6th 2014, The Hindu carrried an article questioning some parts of Shiv Viswanathan's earlier article (referred in the top of this post). Here's that article titled, Let’s debate secularism, not rubbish it, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/lets-debate-secularism-not-rubbish-it/article6086156.ece, by Hasan Suroor. The following comment of mine appears on the article web page (under the name Ravi Ravi):

I entirely agree with, "The fact is that the Indian brand of secularism never discouraged religiosity or the celebration of religion." ... Secularism in India, I think, is viewed more as equal treatment of all religions by the state, as against the state not being involved in any way in religion. India is perhaps the most religious country in the world, measured in numbers of followers of various religions. So how can the state be completely disconnected from religion in India? In Western Europe religion has been in heavy decline and so secularism there seems to mean a very aggressive disconnect between state and religion....How strong Indians faith in God is, is reflected by the overwhelming majority of 16th Lok Sabha members choosing to swear in the name of God rather than solemnly affirm, while taking their oath/affirmation recently...Also, equal treatment to all religions, in secularism in India, should be extended to include humanists who are not associated with religion.

--- end comment ---

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Update on 3rd August 2014

In the book, "Constitution of India", 10/e, P.M. Bakshi writes (Page 3):

The Constitution of India stands for a secular State. The State has no official religion. Secularism pervades its provisions which give full opportunity to all persons to profess, practice and propagate (a) religion of their choice. The Constitution not only guarantees a person’s freedom of religion and conscience, but also ensures freedom for one who has no religion, and it scrupulously restrains the State from making any discrimination on grounds of religion.

--- end extract --- Source: http://books.google.co.in/books?id=rA39_9XtbBkC&pg=PA3

The above book, in the same page, quotes S. Radhakrishnan, former President of India, from his book, Recovery of Faith, as follows:

“When India is said to be a Secular State, it does not mean that we reject the reality of an unseen spirit or the relevance of religion to life, or that we exalt irreligion. It does not mean that secularism itself becomes a positive religion or that the state assumes divine prerogatives…. We hold that not one religion should be given preferential status. ... This view of religious impartiality, or comprehension and forbearance, has a prophetic role to play within the National and International life.”

S. Radhakrishnan was a very notable person. From his wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarvepalli_Radhakrishnan:

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan ... (5 September 1888 – 17 April 1975) was an Indian philosopher and statesman who was the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967.

One of India's best and most influential twentieth-century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, his academic appointments included the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta (1921–1932) and Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at University of Oxford (1936–1952).

His philosophy was grounded in Advaita Vedanta, reinterpreting this tradition for a contemporary understanding. He defended Hinduism against "uninformed Western criticism", contributing to the formation of contemporary Hindu identity. He has been influential in shaping the understanding of Hinduism, in both India and the west, and earned a reputation as a bridge-builder between India and the West.

--- end wiki extract ---

Ravi: I am very comfortable with both of the above views (Bakshi and Radhakrishnan). However, a mail correspondent's comment led me to recognize that Radhakrishnan's view (reality of an unseen spirit etc.) may not derive directly from the Indian constitution, and so may not be a representative view of Indians. Bakshi's view above seems to come directly from the Indian constitution which was adopted by the constituent assembly and so was representative of the people of India at large and continues to be in effect. "The Constitution was adopted by the India Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, and came into effect on 26 January 1950.", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_India.

If the people of India want a change in how secularism is specified in the constitution then, it seems to me, the only way it can be done is by making a suitable constitutional amendment, which will require at least 2/3rd majority in both houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amendment_of_the_Constitution_of_India.

Quite a solid setup, I think. It makes me feel real nice to have such a protective framework for freedom of religion as well as freedom to not be religious, in our country. [BTW there is an interesting wiki page on Freedom of religion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion. I have only glanced at it. Plan to read the whole of it sometime later.]

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BKS Iyengar, Yoga Guru - NDTV Interview - May 2014

Here's a great, I would say must-read, recent interview of BKS Iyengar, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._K._S._Iyengar, by NDTV (I must also say I do not agree with everything Iyengar says but there is a lot one can learn from him): http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/god-has-assigned-a-job-to-every-individual-yogis-jumping-in-to-become-popular-and-entering-the-political-sphere-it-pains-me/99/

Some comments of mine:

Iyengar mentions that his Padma Vibhushan award from the govt. of India was for 80 years of practicing Yoga.
[Ravi: Hats off to BKS Iyengar for his dedication, guts and love for Yoga translated to spreading Yoga in the world to improve fitness of body and mind. 80 years of practice of yoga! Awesome, man, awesome!]
...
The interviewer states, "Anxiety is now the biggest lifestyle disease of our times — not diabetes, cholesterol or blood pressure."
Iyengar answers, "Yes, it is because of the stress factor. There are three remedies — work, word and wisdom. ‘Work’ means to keep oneself fit, ‘word’ is to be sincere and honest in your words and ‘wisdom’ is to surrender to God."
[Ravi: I think the above Q&A capture the most troubling problem of our times and one interesting solution to it. I would alter the last remedy 'wisdom' to mean love, prayer, worship and surrender to God who is the Antaryaami (the all-knowing and all-powerful controller within each and everyone of us).]
...
About Iyengar sleeping only three hours a day and knowing asanas that help him relax even without sleeping.
[Ravi: That is something! I need my eight hours of sleep everyday or almost everyday :).]
...
Iyengar reportedly started teaching yoga in 1936. During the initial years, he says he had to popularize yoga and so gave "self-satisfaction" to people as that is what they wanted, through yoga. He says that he taught them how to be satisfied while leading a worldly life.
[Ravi: During his initial years of making a living as a Yoga teacher, I think I had read somewhere that he had to cater to interests/tastes of his students/customers (including Western ones) some of which were against conventional Indian culture and I think that brought him some criticism. But that early history of Iyengar's yoga teaching seems to be forgotten now and anyway, even India has become a far more liberal place (about sexual aspects of life) than it was when Iyengar started teaching Yoga. For those who would like to read about some dangers of Yoga in terms of sexual licentiousness, here's a New York Times 2012 article which I think has failed to get a proper cultural background of Yoga but does report some real issues in terms of some US (based) Yoga teachers & students, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/health/nutrition/yoga-fans-sexual-flames-and-predictably-plenty-of-scandal.html.]
...
Iyengar mentions that yoga generates a lot of cosmic energy in the body and how yoga results in physical, chemical and physiological changes.
[Ravi: I think talking about cosmic energy or spiritual energy ... is fine. People into yoga and spirituality experience it, though it does not seem to have been measured objectively/scientifically, and so I think it is true. And that reflects in the positive face and body language of the yoga/spiritual practitioner by which people make a causal relationship between such practice and positive effects on the practitioner. But the moment one gets into physical, chemical (and perhaps physiological) territory one is in the realm where science is king! Unless one has strong scientific evidence to back such claims, one is bound to attract criticism from the scientists.]
...
The interview covers how Iyengar was very sick during his youth and how his yoga teacher turned him to yoga and through yoga to health.
[Ravi: It is very interesting that quite a few such evangelists of rejuvenation and even medical-cure 'alternative therapy' techniques have a personal rejuvenation experience which makes them a born-again person and later an evangelist.]
...
About his famous rejuvenation and even cure of famed violinist, Yehudi Menuhin:
[Ravi: That was a tremendous achievement. And the grateful student/patient helps Iyengar spread Yoga globally. Wonderful human give-and-take to benefit the world at large.]
...
About problems in popularising yoga abroad and in India:
[Ravi: Surviving on one meal a day! Very poor response in USA in 1956 which changed dramatically for the better in 1973! Hmm. So it took decades for him (and others) to popularize yoga in the USA!]
[Ravi: I think it would really been challenging to popularize Yoga among the Indian populace, at least in most of the middle class and rich class (most of the poor class of India, unfortunately, IMHO, have too many challenges to handle to learn and then practise yoga, though there may be some exceptions), despite yoga being an ancient practice in India. I would not be surprised if such practices had remained confined to small groups/classes of people like ashram inmates, some Hindu social movements, and interested people from the warrior-type classes. Now, especially after Baba Ramdev and his TV yoga evangelism, yoga is all over India! And that's a great thing.]
...
About commercialism being the biggest threat to yoga:
[Ravi: I think those are very important observations. A culture of voluntary (not forced) donations from students based on their paying capacity and benefit received seems to be the safest for teaching yoga, spirituality and even religion, IMHO. It is when it becomes a fixed, and usually expensive, fee structure similar to, say, IT training business in India, that these fields become/get perceived as exploitative, business-like fields, which is a tragedy. From my point of view, unlike an IT trainer who can have a powerful motive of making a lot of money, the teacher of fields like yoga, spirituality and religion, has to be willing to live a modest life supported by modest contributions/voluntary payments from the community he/she serves. Yes, some rich patrons may provide a lot of money, or the teacher himself/herself may have inherited money or earned money from some other activities - that's OK. But using these fields to make a lot of money is not OK, IMHO. Wanting to make a lot of money is not the issue - that's fine (if done by righteous means). But then you should not get into fields like teaching of yoga, spirituality and/or religion.]

---- end comments on BKS Iyengar NDTV interview ---------------

Ravi: A correspondent noted (in response to a mail with similar content as the above) that he is interested in the 'releasing energy' part, and raised a question, releasing energy that was there or creating energy where none existed?

My response to him (edited):

My view, for all it is worth:

My personal experience, which is common knowledge and experience, but I felt it appropriate to mention it as a preface, is that Yoga as well as good, regular (not over strenuous) physical workouts, tend to improve the biological mechanisms which deliver energy and drive to the body (and mind or should I say, so mind?). So one digests food better and gets more energy from the same food which was not giving so much energy earlier, perhaps one gets more oxygen into the blood because the lungs do a better job of 'digesting' the same air that was not giving so much oxygen into the blood earlier. However, here one is not creating energy from 'nothing' - one is just making the process of extracting energy more efficient.

But I have had some fascinating experiences with feelings of powerful energy shooting up from the base of my spine during intense thoughtless-type meditation. Initially I was awestruck as I thought, and still think, that during these experiences the Kundalini energy was "getting released" from the base of the spine, where, according to some yogic literature, it is in a coiled-sort-of-form. I started focusing on this upwards movement of energy from the base of my spine during my meditations. However, some time later, I had some rather scary health problems (aggravated GERD, chest pain + sweating etc.) which resulted even in a brief hospitalization where they put me under observation and conducted tests (including a complicated procedure) to confirm that there was nothing seriously wrong. But I realized that my intense thoughtless-type meditations where I was focusing on these kind of "energy releases" may have something to do with these health problems, and put a stop to such type of intense meditations. And then these problems reduced!

My take away from these experiences are that a) there is truth to these experiences of energy shooting up from the base of the spine that some yogis have mentioned and b) however, these kundalini yoga type of exercises should be done under the direct supervision of a master of such techniques otherwise there could be serious bodily problems.

To go a little further on the topic of creating energy/something from nothing, I think that gets into the realm of mystics rather than Hatha Yoga practitioners like Iyengar or even Baba Ramdev. Mystics say that they just tap into the power of the will (Sankalpa shakti in Hindu scriptural jargon) to "will" something into 'material' existence from nothing. The difference, they say, between them and non-mystical people like me/us, is that we do not have that much faith in our ability to simply 'will' something into existence. We doubt it as we identify ourself with our limited mind-body complex.

[I must also say that the last three stages of Ashtanga Yoga (of Patanjali, if I got that right) are Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (oneness/non-dualistic state of consciousness, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhi). Dhyana and Samadhi are more in the realm of the mystics which the Hatha yogi types do not get into much (as I have understood it). But somebody who wants to go the whole Yoga route under a realized Guru would want to get into the higher stages of Dhyana and Samadhi, which may make him/her a mystic who can tap into these supernatural powers.]

To conclude, my understanding now is that the human will has the capacity to create energy as well as matter from only its will and nothing else, but that very, very few people achieve/tap into that sort of capability.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Some (idle) thoughts on a game of life computer program based on Sanathana Dharma!

A correspondent had passed on two links related to a game programming patterns book, http://gameprogrammingpatterns.com/,  http://journal.stuffwithstuff.com/2014/04/22/zero-to-95688-how-i-wrote-game-programming-patterns/.

That led me to write the following to him (slightly modified) on a game of life which I thought some readers may also want to have a quick look at:

While on the topic of games, I wanted to share with you an idea that I have had with me for a long time - more a sort-of idle thought idea rather than something that I myself will want to get down and program (I think those days are gone for me now).

The idea is about having a game of life as viewed from a Hindu belief perspective with Maya, law of karma, reincarnation, desire, prayer, turning inward to untangle one's inner reality from Maya etc. One could also consider modern perspectives on core aspects of life. For example I read that the four basic instincts of man (and animals) are hunger, sleep, sex (procreation) and self-preservation. But man has something more like conscience which prompts him about right & wrong and tries to hold back the mind which is driven by instinct. The shadripus of Kama (desire especially sexual desire), Krodha (anger), Lobha (Greed), Moha (infatuation/attachment), Mada (arrogance/pride) and Matsarya (Jealousy) are also important to be added to the mix (though desire has already been mentioned earlier). Samskaras gained over many janmas also are a factor.

What I feel is that if one brings in all of these aspects as variables of some sort for an individual and then brings in interactions with other individuals (same aspects but different values in some sense) and events (e.g. illness) then one reproduces in some limited way, real life! Further, I wonder whether there is a possibility of mathematical equations of some sort which can be used to predict the outcome of such interactions.

Just imagine if such a game shows the more painful outcome for people who have not imbibed Sathya, Dharma, Shanti and Prema, as compared to people who have, for the same interactions with other kind of people & events! What a way it will be to teach children (and adults) about the great advantages of following Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema!
------

A correspondent, Chandu Patel, responded to the above, as follows (slightly edited):

It would be wonderful if such mathematical equations can be formulated! I call it some sort of algorithm. It would be just awesome! Let me know if you come across some pointers/information on such equations/algorithm.

However, it looks like, there is one (major) difference between mathematics and human life. One is so precise and predictable while the other seems to be not. In the former, 2+2 is always 4. For human life (not sure about animal life), smile does not always translate to happiness, crying is not always due to sorrow/suffering, giving is not always noble, a hug does not always signify love, mother's slapping her child is not always a bad act (sometime it is bad if she doesn't slap/beat-up). Because, there is more than just meets the eyes. There is the invisible factor of motive behind it. So, not sure if such equations can be formulated. But then nature appears to be so precise, and so should be the theory of karma. Someone (supernatural/supreme power) must have designed those equations/algorithm, and would know the secret equations/algorithm. But, it seems to be beyond the reach of the normal human.

It is similar to Arjuna's quest for black&white answers to his questions in the Bhagvad Geeta. It appears that Arjuna asked many, many life-questions for which he sought some black&white (with mathematical clarity) answers from Shri Krushna (Krishna). And even Shri Krushna had to tell Arjuna not to go deeper, because gahanaa karmano gatih (chapter 4, verse 17) [Ravi: gahanaa karmano gatih - The intricacies of karma are very hard to understand (deep, impassable, mysterious), http://vedabase.net/bg/4/17/en1]. I believe, in the beginning of one of the 4 Vedas itself (don't remember which one), the author sage mentioned that even he doesn't know the secret of how the Karma theory and other laws of nature exactly works, but it works.

--- end Chandu Patel response ---