Hinduism: Alive and Well


People often like to talk about religion dying away or thriving and alive. But if you have heard about the BAPS Conventions that happened last week, you would never question whether Hinduism is dying or thriving.

For any religion to stay alive it has to maintain its principles while adapting to accept the media that will allow those principles to be best communicated to and absorbed by its practitioners. BAPS’s recent youth conventions gave us great insight into what that really means and they showed us what modern, vibrant Hinduism and Swaminarayanism looks like today. Their conventions also gave us a glimpse into the future of what Hindu practice will look like. But enough from me, just check out these documentary videos and see how BAPS has out done itself again in being at the forefront of Hindu spiritual evolution.

Porn Addiction


ASAP Science does an interesting and quick show of how people get addicted to porn. Pornography is a bigger and bigger issue in conflict with happiness and spirituality and this video can help understand better and learn to change unfortunate addictions.

To Us Life Just Happens…


An interesting thought to help understand the Satpurush:

For Us Birth, Life, and Death are things that just happen to us; all we can do is make the most of them. For God and the Satpurush – the sant who in whom God lives completely – Birth, Life, and Death happen at their will and by their choice.

Every moment that the Satpurush is on this Earth in his present form; every second that he has to suffer an ache, a cold, a surgery, or worse; every breath he takes is a choice. He could simply give up this form and it sufferings to experience nothing more than the joy of his Brahmswarup self but he chooses to stay for us. He could simple live on in the form of the next Satpurush but he keeps the present form because he knows we are attached to it and by our love for him we will grow our love for God. When we fully understand that every breathe he takes is one more breath that he has chosen to take for us, we truly understand his grace and his love for us.

Why things don’t change…


So many of us want things to change. Having just gone through an election cycle in the US, change is like a buzzword, a fashion maybe. People want environmental policies to change to save the world; they want foreign policy to change to nurture more peace; they want economic policies to change so that we can climb out of recession, not fall off a cliff, and avoid all roads bumps in the future. And for that change, we will picket, we will shout, we will point out all the ways that all the people in charge, in suits, and in big offices on streets with famous names are all wrong. We will debate it over coffee and tea and at the dinner table. We will also do small private things – we will earnestly pray, we will read about new ideas, we will think of ways to make change in our homes, friends, and families. We will do all of this and then we will be frustrated – because it seems that despite all our efforts – nothing has changed.

We’ve done so much, so much of everything but the one thing that truly needed to be done. We needed to change ourselves. I am so upset about the recession and the credit crisis and yet I’m not willing to make the lifestyle changes to live within my means without leaning on credit. I’m so angry about the blind eye turned to the climate change and global environmental catastrophe that we’re all witnessing with our own eyes and still I can’t seem to ween myself away from the luxury of my personal car to join others in carpools or public transport. I’m not happy with foreign policy but I’m not willing to change how I interact with my neighbor.

So much of the change we want so badly but have not achieved is being hindered by no one else but ourselves. Now think on these words:

“The one who does not see oneself is the fool of fools.” – Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
“If one was as adamant about understanding as one is about explaining…” – Gunatitanand Swami
And as a modern rendition of this age old advice: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
So


Good to see true diversity and acceptance in action.

InteractBlogs

It was 2006 when Keith Ellison (MN – 05) made history as the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. The same year, Mazie Hirono (HI – 02) and Hank Johnson (GA – 04) became the first Buddhists in American history to serve as U.S. Senators. But both Hirono’s and Johnson’s achievement was overshadowed by the fact that Ellison wanted to use Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an for his oath ceremony.

Despite the fact that the United States Constitution provides “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” (Article VI, section 3), there was much debate about whether Ellison was in fact worthy of the position he had earned. “He should not be allowed to do so — not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization,” protested Dennis Prager

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“The Cove” and its Hypocrisy


I just watched the documentary “The Cove” last night. For those of you who don’t know about it, it’s a film about a group of people who try to stop the killing of dolphins in Japan. For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1313104/.

As a vegetarian Hindu, I’m all about saving dolphins from inhumane treatment and murder. But even then, this video just kept feeling weird to me. These men were making a cover operation (and sometimes it seemed the covert part of the job was what was making this exciting for them) to travel to Japan to save innocent dolphins; they challenged local authorities; they feel the local fishermen are evil; they crash conferences with videos and audio recordings and they really succeed at making it seem as if these Japanese fishermen are really the worst people in the world. And then there’s a line, which is meant to be something that really highlights how these Japanese are so misguided, that mentions how the Japanese are silly for claiming this is just a cultural misunderstanding. “You eat cows, we eat dolphins,” those silly Japanese claim.

But…that line caught something that I was thinking for the first half of the film already. These men and a one woman diver were going crying out about being humane; they bemoaned the evil treatment of separated baby dolphins from their parents as the parents went to slaughter; they cried as the waters turned red from dolphin blood; they held each other watching a dolphin writhe and jump in pain as it made final attempts at escape. And I wondered, have you been to a slaughter house? Why are you so surprised that you are not waking head-way through these Japanese people when you really have no moral high ground to stand on? These men catch wild dolphins – at least those dolphins had a chance of not being caught; in the U.S. and elsewhere millions upon millions of cows are bred in cattle FARMS!!! just for your consumption! They don’t even have a chance of have a free or natural existence. They probably a kill a few thousand dolphins every year; for you burgers and fries or the steaks you eat at fancy restaurants ask for the killing of millions of cattle. You’re surprised that the Japanese don’t listen that these fishermen can be so cruel; let me ask you. Have you heard of PETA’s campaign about the cruel treatment of cattle in America? Have you seen there videos? They make videos like yours every year – they may not be sexy covert ops but still. And after knowing about it for all these years and after watching those videos, did you change your lifestyle? Are you vegetarian or have you at least given up beef? So hard to change your own lifestyles, so easy to demand others to change – isn’t it? I agree that those dolphins should be saved. I gawk at the shock and sudden wave of humanity that is shown in the video when I know they probably had some Kobe beef during they stay in Japan.

People in the United States who eat meat should have to see the factories that produce their food. They should be forced to visit there before they purchase. Of course, chances are they’d get used it and then continue eating because at the end of the day changing social norms is not a simple thing and not a thing anybody likes to do. People will more likely look away then have to address the facts. It’s the very basic, maybe intrinsic, opposition to lifestyle-change that is freezing our society on two of our major issues – Global Climate Change (Global Warming) and our Economy.

@CNN Belief Blog’s recent coverage


Just this morning I visited CNN’s Belief Blog to see if there were any interesting matters of faith being discussed. I was not surprised to find that recent featured blogs dealt with the recent shooting at a Sikh Gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisc.

What I was surprised with was the discussion taking place in the comments of most of those blogs. People just going back and forth ruthlessly with personal attacks and ill-supported claims about whether or not God exists, whether or not Hindus are violent or peaceful, whether or not India is a democracy, whether or not violence is a part of religion, etc. It was sad because here’s a moment for a nation to reflect on the unfortunate incidents that occurred in Wisconsin and maybe discuss why that is wrong and can be avoided in the future and yet here is a sampling of the nation that is just taking part in more mud-slinging – mud-slinging that is done vociferously by faithful and atheists alike so if one thinks religion makes people extreme, the lack of one seems to do just the same.

But putting those emotions aside, I wanted to think about some of the points that were coming up in the blogs themselves and in some of the comments.

1. Turbans – outwards signs of a faith that causes extreme reaction because it’s personal. This article made me think once again about outward religious symbols. A person commented on this blog by saying that no sign or religious mark is really a part of a religion and does not truly signify faith:

Dal4cats

Wearing a turban doesn’t make anyone any more Sikh than wearing a cross makes someone a Christian, carrying a rosary around makes someone a Catholic, wearing a hijab makes a woman a Muslim, wearing a beard and avoiding non-animal powered machinery makes anyone Amish…those are all earthly doo-dads and bangles and have nothing to do with religion. You can be a member of your religion without practicing any of these affectations.

I think Dal4cats has a point. The mark itself cannot always speak for one’s true, internalized faith. People who are not as religious, who do not truly believe or truly act according to one’s beliefs may still wear outward religious marks. However, that does not mean those symbols cannot stand for someone’s faith (though it may be imperfect and still in formation). Just think about the battle that a Sikh who wears a turban goes through internally. Every time he wraps on that piece of cloth, every time he looks in the mirror, every time he sees someone else’s eyes stare, when he’s called names or “randomly” chosen for a security check, he goes through a reaffirmation battle of remaining faithful to his faith. How can that not signify some level of faith? And just because you are Sikh and don’t wear a turban doesn’t mean that you have a true faith that does not need external show – you can simply be afraid of the tests that external sign will place you in or that constant reminder of who you are. So let’s not attack the use of symbols because they can and cannot mean something and we really can’t be the judge since we can’t truly test the faith of anyone else.

What we should be addressing is why we should or should not accept people’s public and personal representations of who they are. In particular, I want to address those people who believe that for all of us to get along and accept each other it is necessary to ban such external religious symbols – the French surely fall into this category with their laws against public exhibition of faith but so do some of the people who are quoted in the above linked blog and their commenters. My point is this: if you only accept a uniform and cleansed image of people in society and relegate things that make them unique or form their individual or subgroup identity into their personal homes or other spheres, are you really accepting those individuals? Or are you just forcing them to limit themselves to socially accepted, sterilized personalities? I think the answer is clear that if you really are a heterogeneous, pluralistic society you would allow for individual expression – only limiting it when it impedes on another’s expression or safety.

We live in a country where there was a successful movement to allow men and women in the armed forces to be open about their sexuality; this week there are people celebrating that the U.S. Army has its first homosexual General. We tolerate and in some ways even support transgender and homosexual parades with the most outrageous displays because we believe it is a part of their right to live as they wish and express their sexuality. Wear a Boston Red Sox jersey and no cop in New York will give you a ticket and no one will question your right to support any team you want. Cut your hair in outrageous fashion, wear clothes how you want, and tattoo your body wherever and however you please, but please do not wear your religion on your shoulder, head, or around your neck. That seems funny doesn’t it? To Turban or not is a not a debate that should be alive today. No one wearing a turban should feel compelled to change. The debate should not exist because it should be a settled debate, in this country at the very least, that we accept individuals entirely – not with their religion relegated as a private embarrassment.

2. Violence in Religion – I don’t think there is anyone who should claim that their religion does not sanction violence. Any follower of a religion which believes in justice or self-defense will find permissible violence in their faith (and those who do not have a religion find permissible violence in their justice systems).  The problem really is with religions that accept violence to a greater degree and allow it to be committed outside causes of justice and defense. When violence becomes an accepted tool for submission and conversion or when a religion preaches beliefs that strongly propagate an expanded role for violence, the religion can be said to be a violent religion.

That is a general point I think everyone should remember. Now a lot of the name-calling and bad-mouthing that goes around confuses me because I feel there are a number of underlying questions that are not yet answered. I hope someone can help me with these: How much do the people doing the arguing really not about the other religion and its practitioners? So many YouTube videos and articles are quotes to support claims, but are YouTube and articles of any kind (academic or journalistic) accurate and/or complete representations of the truth? There is a whole discussion about how objective or truthful media is in that previous question. What is an extremist? Is there a percentile definition of “fringe group” or “extremist”? Can a religion be judged by incidental actions of its practitioners? If yes, any practitioners, some practitioners, loyal practitioners, official members? What is more valuable in judging a faith – the direct reading of scripture or the currently accepted interpretation of the scripture? I feel that anyone who is going to on about which religion is peace loving and which is not should first squarely address these questions. It would really clear the air and allow for real conversation as opposed to the mud-slinging that originates from false-pride, hatred, and ignorance.

Well, now there’s some food for thought. If you want to read about outward expression of religion in India, check out a blog I wrote a while back: Mumbai’s Religiously Oppressive School Uniforms.

Media and Us: Pause, Think, then Consume…then Think Again


When in mandir or really in any religious setting someone talks to us about being more aware and restrictive with our media consumption or to at the very consider the true impacts of the types and amounts of media we consume, we almost immediately categorize the whole thing as a lecture from a conservative, anti-society, anti-modern mind frame. But interestingly we will give the same argument due consideration when it comes from other, maybe more “hip” sources. I found myself doing this recently as I read this phenomenal article, which is even furthered with some interesting comments: http://ma.tt/2012/05/culture-of-distraction/

 

Fantastic Webpage


The makers of this webpage: http://make-everything-ok.com/ came up with a great way to remind us that sometimes all we need is an objective reality check, a step back outside of ourselves and our selfishness. You could also let it be a reminder for samkhya vichar.

Understanding Carpe Diem


Here’s something important to learn:

Carpe Diem doesn’t always mean tapping your hedonistic inclinations and seeing them through fruition. Sometimes, Carpe Diem actually means seizing the opportunity to not do something or to change the path of your life by taking the opportunity to sacrifice something today with the hope of something greater tomorrow.

…And frankly, if it doesn’t mean all that, it should.