Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On Being an Indian

Today is supposed to be the grand day when my country achieved it's Independence from the British Rule. Everywhere around there are celebrations big and small. The common people are probably unaffected by this day after they pass out from schools and colleges. Politicians are perhaps thanking God for making them Indian because perhaps no where else can one gobble down large sums of the country's money and still be able to have a free run. Thanks to the ever-forgiving Congress. I often imagine the 'Congressis' holding on tightly to each others' underwear. The deal is that, 'you try to pull down mine and I will pull down yours too'! So no one is threatening or questioning anyone else.
And of course, the country is so screwed by the politics of religion, mis-placed feelings of patriotism and Indian-ness. Where else in the entire World can a former Italian waitress enjoy the status of the 'daughter-in-law' of a Holy Land called 'Hindustan', who is silently running the show behind a puppet of a Cabinet. We are still ruled by white-skin in a way.
No other nation in the world humiliates and mocks at the culture, religion and spirituality of the people who form the majority. How does the humiliation happen? Very simple and subtle. By simply denying privileges that are handed over to the minorities. There are heavy subsidies for Haj travellers, for instance. But when a riot ensued when the majority asked for a subsidy for the annual Amarnath Yatra. In the North-East, Hindus...whatever are now left, are converted at gun-point to Christianity. Hindus are a minority there. So it's logical that the minorities would get special subsidies, right? Wrong. Hindus do not enjoy any such 'privileges'.
Well, my grouse is only that if the Congress proclaims itself to be "SECULAR", why not at least be religiously neutral??? This is definitely not secular.
I would rather have my country to be called 'Hindu-Land'. Because for me, being Indian equates to being Hindu. And being Hindu means taking pride in India's true riches: Yoga, Philosophy, Ayurveda, Culture, Tradition and Teachings. This land is the cradle of my religion: Hindu. And how can I separate the two.
Also, being Hindu for me means being one of the most knowledgeable, yet tolerant, all-accommodating people. And Hinduism is not only a religion of peace for namesake, we practise it as well! To test it, simply send a Christian missionary to carry out conversions in a purely Muslim mohalla by telling them how great Christ was and that if you are not Christian, you are going to go to hell. And if Hindus were not peaceful, we would have had a riot every day for the way Hindus are being torn apart from all sides.
The tragedy of our minds is that we take pride in Hinduism only after we discover how 'cool' it is. And it is far more than just 'cool'. It's not without a reason that it is one of the greatest and oldest religions of the world! What is needed is just a bit of an effort to understand it's depth. So, the next time you are tempted to rubbish a particular idea, ritual, concept or philosophy that is essentially Hindu, think twice. Our Rishis and Sages were some of the wisest people to have descended on the planet. And if they have exhorted something, it's with a good reason. Look deeper with openness in the mind and you will see!

Jai Hind!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our Chance to fight Corruption

Dear One,

Jai Gurudev !

My dear, If you are an Indian national, I invite you to fill up the nation-wide Survey on Combating Corruption which will eventually be presented to the policy makers of our country. It may take you about 20 minutes to complete and it would be good learning and great awareness as well. Its ideal to send this to a few of your friends or colleagues or get it filled up by your mom and/or dad and if possible, your maid. This is 'cos we need representative samples from various sections of society. The survey is available online till 15th June midnight, but may I request you to fill it up before it becomes Urgent and Important, which is basically NOW :-) ! Kudos for being proactive and being a part of the solution to the problems of our people!

For the Survey on Combating Corruption, please click on the following link...

Warm Regards,

Dinesh Ghodke
Director, WAYE
World Alliance for Youth Empowerment
The Art of Living Foundation
Blog -

Friday, June 11, 2010

Questioning the Questions

Churning is good. Churning of the ocean had brought forth the Divine Nectar. Churning of the mind brings forth insights, I feel. The entire drama created by the "literary terrorist" Mrs. Shobhaa De and her minions has got me thinking a lot about whether we are abusing our right to 'freedom of expression'. Does freedom of expression mean: open mouth, shoot words? Or is there some kind of code of conduct that one must observe on one's own?
We give far too much importance to our opinions. Being highly opinionated is supposed to be intelligent! And I feel it's really silly to have an opinion about any and everything and regard that as the ultimate truth. Shobhaa expressed her opinions about Sri Sri from a handful of second-hand experiences which, for her have negated all the rest of the life-transforming first-hand experiences that more than 20 million people have. And that, I think is truly silly. Very myopic and impulsive.
There are these four ways of answering questions. Which four? There are questions that should be answered categorically [straightforwardly yes, no, this, that]. There are questions that should be answered with an analytical (qualified) answer [defining or redefining the terms]. There are questions that should be answered with a counter-question. There are questions that should be put aside. These are the four ways of answering questions ~ Budhha

The journalists of today think that the fact that they ask questions is almost like doing service to humanity. But what's the point in asking questions when one is not even interested in knowing the answers! Isn't the process incomplete?
And many people on Shobhaa's blog also have asked a lot of questions like "why does AOL charge money for courses?" or "why does Sri Sri need new utensils for the food to be cooked?"(yes, someone has also asked THAT!) or "why are spiritual retreats held in Zurich?" or Shobhaa herself asked Guruji in one interview, "How can singing and dancing at Satsangs solve problems in one's life?". Well, it's like this: Imagine a kid going to a rocket scientist and asking him/her questions. "Why is the fuel tank on the outside of the craft?" or "Why does the acceleration have to be more than 9.8m/s2?" or "why do you people wear only white lab coats?" or "why do you travel in a Toyota Corolla when you are already wasting so much fuel?" and such other questions. Now the first two questions are still warranted. But even if the scientist were to offer a superb explanation for the same, will the kid understand anything at all?! To receive an answer too, one must have a certain cerebral capacity, some basic development. The latter two questions are the typical Shobhaa De kind of questions. She asked Guruji about his hair, his clothes, his lifestyle, money etc. And THAT is supposed to be intelligent. HOW?! It's like you are with the rocket scientist and asking him/her why they wear white coats instead of some other colour! How is that NOT silly?

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” ~Naguib Mahfouz

So questions can be endless. And even after receiving an answer, the mind does not stop questioning.
What should be encouraged in genuine enquiry. It is at least honest in the sense that it begins with an urge for knowing something and not with an assumption that 'I already have an opinion about this which I know is true, so whatever answer you give it doesn't make a difference'. So, in turn, if one already has a firm opinion, why ask?!
On a parting note, I did find the question about 'why are retreats held in Zurich?' question quite amusing! Where else will people from Zurich go for the retreat if not IN Zurich?! To Jhumritalaiya?! But spiritual retreats would also happen in Jhumritalaiya if there were such a place to begin with. And why not? Because it also happens in places like Botswana, Jammu, Patna, Faridabad, Phaltan, Kolkata, Sydney, Siberia, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Kazakhstan, Durgapur, Rio de Janeiro, Vidharbha, Latur, Tokyo, Pakistan, Kosovo, Osaka...well you get the picture! Not JUST in Zurich.

Jai Guru Dev!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Seeing the Good out of the ugly

I have been very surprised and at the same time disappointed at a certain article which Shobhaa De had written about His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji. Not only was it in very bad taste but it seemed to stem out of some kind of venomous hatred against this great man of wisdom and peace. I wonder HOW she could have penned those words!
I personally have witnessed the enormity of Guruji's work not only in India but even abroad. And one of the most important things that attracted me to Art of Living was that it does not speak of religion, rituals and rites. It speaks of Indian-ness. There are no "shoulds" and "should-nots" whether one is male/female, Indian/Pakistani, Hindu/Muslim/Christian/Jew/Parsi/Atheist. In fact one of my course teachers is Parsi! And he chants our mantras, does Pooja, meditates, teaches this Great Knowledge and is yet Parsi- has not "converted"! There is NO need to convert.
Guruji in all his talks and discourses highlights the greatness of every religion. He speaks of Buddha, Jesus, the Holy Quran and of course the great wealth of Knowledge that our country holds.
His "lifestyle" is something that a mere mortal cannot live upto! He travels incessantly around the world talking to people, resolving conflicts, giving discourses, teaching breathing techniques and meditation and visiting troubled areas be it in cities or rural areas. He has visited Kashmir,
Kosovo, Bihar, Nagapattinam, Vidharbha, Iraq, Pakistan, Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Dharavi, Gujrat...the list is endless. So, what do the skeptics think He does with "so much money"? And look at Him; He wears a white Kurta and Veshti and Angavastram- not brands like Armani, Satya Paul, D&G, Boss etc. What WILL He do with the money???? He is the Master. Money means only a means to an end. And the end for Him is the upliftment of all sections of society. That's all! Does Shobhaa De really think that walking for 3 km in Bihar flood waters(see pic) is a part of glamorous lifestyle?
I hear people often complain about why Art of Living charges fess for their courses. Well, firstly charity never happens with an empty bowl. The money that's left after course expenses(hall rent, food, sound system etc.) is then used for service projects. Art of Living is fully dedicated to serving society. In India itself, it has completely adopted more than 10, 000 villages till now and numbers are increasing. How is it possible to serve without money? Secondly, NO education is ever free. Don't colleges, schools, institutions charge fees? Then why should the Highest Knowledge about the secret of the breath be free? And the tradition of Dakshina has been prevalent since ancient times so that there is value for Knowledge received. But still in Prisons, rural areas etc., courses are conducted without charging a single rupee. And who conducts the courses? Our Volunteers. Isn't it fair that they get paid some travel expenses AT THE LEAST? It's funny how people would pay more than a 1000 rupees for grand Pizza dinner but when it comes to acquiring spiritual knowledge about their own self 1000 rupees seem like a lot of money. I think we REALLY need to re-prioritize things!! :)
One simple question for all the people who think that Guruji should not be treated like God: Don't you respect your own teachers? Either from school, college, or teachers who have taught you some form of art, dance, music or spirituality... The answer would be hopefully "yes". And if such a respected teacher were to visit you, would you offer them a normal chair that every tom, dick or harry sit on or would you offer them the best possible seating? Wouldn't you offer them food in your best crockery? Wouldn't you want them to be as comfortable as possible? Perhaps switch on your air conditioner, offer them a cooling drink if they are get the idea? Well for around 20 million of us who have been touched by Guruji's wisdom and love feel the same way about Him. He is our teacher. Our beloved Guru. And a Guru's place in our hearts is inexplicable! And therefore WE do the best possible for Him. He never demands it. He gracefully accepts a drive in a BMW of one of His devotees just as happily as He accepts a flower or even a chocolate from poor farmers from Siberia. And I have witnessed it. There is NO difference in His love for everyone.
The painful part is that such a great Master is not respected in our own country. The media does not even want to call Him Ravi Shankar "ji". It's too hard for them to accept that an enlightened Master walks on earth today. So they do everything possible in their capacity to not show Him in positive light. And so I think in that sense Kaliyug has set in for sure in India at least. Whereas in places like Iraq too He is revered and welcomed as a Master should be!

But it's understandable I guess. When even someone like Jesus could be crucified, this is not any different! And even when Jesus spoke, there were people who did not believe Him. But whose loss was it? Jesus'? No way! Same is the case here.
But I have total faith in one thing: Satyameva Jayate- "Truth always prevails".
Let the media and the Shobhaas of India do what they do best: Barking like rabid dogs. While the Master and us-His grateful devotees from all over the Globe have a lot of work to do. People are waiting for this Knowledge, for Sudarshan Kriya.
Jai Guru Dev!