Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Aamir Khan – Ajay Singh or Rehan Qadri

It was not just yet another hour of meaningless perusal of News yesterday but more of ‘nail in the coffin’ moment for me. For whatever personal and sometimes outlandishly skewed reasons, I’ve always been oblivious to any comments made by so-called celebrities of India. But Aamir Khan was never included in that club for me obviously due to his mature acting stakes as well as more of ‘Only Cerebral Bollywood personality’ style. Hence when an actor like him makes a statement about leaving a country it certainly makes you wonder whether Aamir is buying into that awful and specious doctrine of “Muslims don’t have their allegiance to India”.

At an awards function yesterday, Aamir launched a broadside against the climate of intolerance in the country. That wasn’t surprising. What was utterly jaw-dropping, however, was the way he chose to come on board the anti-intolerance bandwagon. He said that his wife often wonders if they should move out of the country. “That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make,” he said. “She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. That does indicate there is this sense of growing disquiet… apart from alarm… That sense does exist in me.”

What surprised and equally disturbed me is that how Aamir Khan failed to understand the gravity of his words? When the intolerance debate was raging across the county, with several film personalities returning their awards along with writers and so-called intellectuals, he was silent. In the aftermath of the Dadri lynching and the hysteria over beef, his fellow Bollywood biggie Shahrukh Khan courted controversy by declaring that there was “extreme intolerance” in the country. But he was still silent. Was it only because he felt compelled to wait for an appropriate time to make a blockbuster statement so as to cash in maximum popularity?

I am not against expressing one’s own views or concerns because I am a true believer of Voltaire’s view “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” but I feel Aamir Khan’s indictment of intolerance has been thoughtless, irresponsible and contradictory to his own publicly preached values. When he talks about feeling insecure, when he talks about his wife fearing for their child, that fear spreads like a contagion and affects India’s teeming hinterland where most Hindus and Muslims live peacefully; it provokes fear and suspicion where probably none exists. This expression of my view is not just a futile attempt to rationalize some irrelevant, stupid comments made by uneducated Indian celebrities but to express pain suffered by a deeply wounded patriotic heart. 

According to Aamir, it is his ‘Hindu’ wife who is in the need of moving out of the country with his family. However by endorsing the comments of his wife what he is saying, in effect, that the atmosphere of intolerance backed by so-called persecution of minorities is so intense in the country today that his wife fears for the safety of her child who is Muslim. Does Aamir know what a life of refugee which his wife is contemplating to be truly is? If he does not understand that, I’d recommend him and his wife to read the memoirs of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghani and Kashmiri refugees, feel their pain by meeting and talking to these people, participating in the aid embargo for these people.

What hurt me the most is by making this public statement Aamir has put India in the list of countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and ISIS infiltrated Middle East. I know I am an ordinary unimportant person just like any other ordinary middle class Indian in eyes of the privileged, rarified Bollywood existence but would certainly like an opportunity to get following questions answered by not just Aamir Khan but all the other celebrities who feel this magnificent country has suddenly become the most intolerant nation on the face of the earth in last year or so.

·         I’ll start with the most recent happenings because human memory is very short term. Per the officially published records, your recent movie PK made approx. $120M on the box office when compared to mere $13M put into the budget. This movie was entirely based on the bashing of Hindu Gods and Godmen who are worshipped by over 60% of India’s Hindu population who happen to be approximately 80% of the country’s total population. Did it ever occur to you, that had you made a similar movie on bashing Islam, Islamism, Islamists and/or Islamic Ideology of Jihad (I assume you understand the basic differences in all these 4 terms) in any Muslim country such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, any of the Arab countries; you would’ve been hanged or have been issued a Fatwah against?
·             I know that actors just parrot the dialogues given to them by the real ‘makers’ of the movies but I always thought that you actually understood the dialogues and those really meant to you. Being a movie fanatic I happen to remember almost each and every dialogue of the movies I’ve watched. Hence I’d like to remind a famous dialogue from you movie Sarfarosh when Salim says “Das nahi das hazar Salim milenge magar fir kabhi kisi Salim se ye mat kehna ki ye mulk uska ghar nahi hai”, your character said “Nahi fir kabhi nahi kahunga”. And now you are provoking all the Salim’s of this country to leave their motherland?
·       When you and your wife contemplate taking refuge in one of the nations that are safe for Muslims, do you intend to leave everything you have earned in this country and leave like a real refugee or like a mere gold-digger or an opportunist?
·             Why did your wife or you feel NOT insecure when your coreligionists were wreaking havoc in your own city of Mumbai on November 26th or when Parliament was attacked or when Hindu devotees were slaughtered on the way to Amarnath in Kashmir or when Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the Kashmir valley? Was it only because in all these attacks the attackers were Muslims?
·             You said in your own movie Sarfarosh that India has the largest population of Muslims. Was it just mere parroting or stating of the facts?
·             When you disclosed the intent to leave the country due to intolerance, did you happen to narrow down the country you will consider for the move? Below are some countries that are assumed to be theoretically safe for Muslims based on the religion and other values.
·          Saudi Arabia:
o    I am sure you are very familiar with this country since a lot of people have seen your Haj trip as well as some of the experiences you shared about the same trip.
o    Does your wife know that she can’t practice Hinduism and has to follow Sharia law which apparently is one of the most tolerant (???) practices?
·          China
o    This country bans any Islamic practices including Ramadan
·          Russia
o    This country is known for multiple anti-Islam riots, racist practices and such.
·          USA
o    Where future presidents are calling for Nazi styled Identification requirements for Muslims, Mosque clean-ups, ban on public Namaz offering and such.
·          European countries of the developed world
o    Entire Europe is grappled with Islamophobia with multiple attacks on Muslim women, children, bans on Islamic practices, Mosques, public Namaz offerings.
·          Australia
o    Where country’s President tells the citizens that you can’t practice the religion in public unless it’s Christianity.
o    Where people are terrorized based on color of their skin and not just religion under the name of curry bashing.
·          Pakistan
o    Maybe this will be the best fit country for you considering it’s the most tolerant nation on the face of the earth that kills most no. of Muslims than any country in the world.

Is there such a perfect, peaceful and socially-integrated place on earth that you can really go to? The greatness of the people is when they stay put and face the adversities and come out triumphant for the betterment of humanity. Congress orchestrated Sikh genocide but Sikhs never left the country. Tamils, Tribal people, Dalits all faced problems of persecution in some way or the other but they stayed and fought back. The fact is that there has never been a country in the history of the world that has been as welcoming as India to any religion. India is where descendants of Prophet Mohammed found refuge when they were being persecuted by their own Umayyads. Just like when you said based on some idiotic terrorist incidents entire Islam doesn’t become bad, how dare you call my country intolerant based on a few incidents?

I am really sorry to say that the Ajay Singh we always thought you were, in reality turned out to be Rehan Qadri.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Vedic rituals – A Modern perspective!

A few days ago there was a discussion going on one of the social media ‘chat groups’ about Hinduism and it's so called stupid, out-of-fashion and lacking-common-sense customs. It made me think and believe how well the Brits and the entire Western (Christian) and Mid-western (Muslim) influence has been successful in making us believe how backward we Indians were and still are. 

Vedic and not Hindu

I’d not like to refer our traditions or religion as Hindu but Vedic as I personally don’t believe in the coined definition of ‘Hinduism’.

It is a well-known fact that the Vedic people did not call themselves Hindus but also did not possess the essential characteristics of the Hinduism of today. However, in order to legitimize the antiquity of Hinduism, Swami Dayananda Saraswati insisted on ‘going back to the Vedas’. V.D. Savarkar argued that the word ‘Hindu’ is derived from the Vedic appellation of Saptasindhus which in certain way is true but not the origin of the word. Swami Vivekananda claimed that Hinduism is the religion of the Vedas. Aurobindo Ghosh believed that the Vedas are the foundation of the Sanatana Dharma. The American born Hindutva ideologue David Frawley argues that Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world with a tradition going back to the very beginning of what we know of as history over seven thousand years ago. Frawley also equates the Vedic religion with Hindu Dharma. 

Today I’ll discuss top 21 (an auspicious number in our culture! Importance of numbers in Vedic culture will be discussed in following blogs); individual traditions that have scientific basis but are viewed as rustic traditions.

  1. Namaste – Why join both hands?
    • In Vedic culture, people greet each other by joining their palms - termed as “Namaskar” or act of saying Namaste.” 
    • Common reason behind this tradition is that greeting by joining both the palms signifies respect. However, scientifically speaking, joining both hands ensures joining the tips of all the fingers together; which are denoted to the pressure points of eyes, ears, and mind. Pressing them together is said to activate the pressure points which helps us remember that person for a long time. 
    • Sanitization is a prime factor in Vedic culture and hence greeting a stranger or any person with Namaste ensures no germs are transmitted with minimal physical contact.
  2. Science behind touching feet (Charan-sparsh)
    • Usually, the person of whose feet you are touching is experienced, pious and respected. When they accept your respect which came from your reduced ego (and is called your shraddha) their hearts emit positive thoughts and energy (which is called their karuna) which reaches you through their hands and toes. 
    • It is important to note that Vedic culture mandates washing feet and hands before Charan-sparsh, thus ensuring sanitation.
    • Since the process of giving Ashirvaad or blessing requires touching head at the point of shikha, in essence, the completed circuit enables flow of energy and increases cosmic energy, switching on a quick connect between two minds and hearts. 
    • The nerves that start from our brain spread across all your body. These nerves or wires end in the fingertips of your hand and feet. When you join the fingertips of your hand to those of their opposite feet, a circuit is immediately formed and the energies of two bodies are connected. Your fingers and palms become the ‘receptor’ of energy and the feet of other person become the ‘giver’ of energy.
  3. Peepal Tree
    • ‘Peepal’ tree is perceived as the useless by most modernized Indians, except for its shadow. It was the same case in olden days too and hence wise men started preaching Peepal tree as a tool or path to reach god. 
    • ‘Peepal’ does not a have a delicious fruit, its wood is not strong enough for any purpose then why should a common villager or person worship it or even care for it? 
    • Our ancestors knew that ‘Peepal’ is one of the very few trees (or probably the only tree) which produces oxygen even at night. So in order to save this tree because of its unique property they related it to God or associated with religion.
  4. Sitting on a floor and eating
    • This tradition is not just about sitting on floor and eating but sitting in the “Sukhasana” position and then eating. Sukhasana is the position we normally use for Yog-asanas. 
    • Sukhasana while eating helps in improving digestion.
  5. Throwing coins into a river
    • This tradition has been part of all ancient non-structured religions (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Persian and Vedic). Typical reasoning given for this act is ‘Good Luck charm’. However, the real reason is scientific. 
    • In ancient times, most of the currency used was made of copper, silver and gold unlike the stainless steel and other alloy coins of today. Most of the population used to use copper coins for daily use as Silver and Gold coins were very high denominations.
    • As we all now know, Copper is a vital metal very useful to the human body (Importance of Copper). Throwing coins in the river was one way our fore-fathers ensured we intake sufficient copper as part of the water as rivers were the only source of drinking water. Making it a custom ensured that all of us follow the practice.
    • Silver is one of the minerals used in water purification. Electrolytically dissolved silver has been used as a water disinfecting agent, for example, the drinking water supplies of the Russian Mir orbital station and the International Space Station. Many modern hospitals filter hot water through copper-silver filters to defeat MRSA and legionella infections.
  6. Shikha on male head
    • Sushrut rishi, the foremost surgeon of Ayurveda in Sushrut Samhita describes the master sensitive spot on the head as Adhipati Marma, where there is a nexus of all nerves. The shikha protects this spot. 
    • Below, in the brain, occurs the Brahmarandhra, where the Sushumnã (nerve) arrives from the lower part of the body. In Yog, Brahmarandhra is the highest, seventh chakra, with the thousand-petalled lotus. It is the center of wisdom. The knotted shikha helps boost this center and conserve its subtle energy known as ‘Ojas’.
    • In Vedic culture, women always had head covered with hair but men used to shave heads for multiple reasons. Hence Shikha was made important only for men.
  7. Ear Piercing or Karna-Vedha
    • Piercing the ears has a great importance in Vedic culture and is symbolized as equivalent to baptism. Many people do not know that Muslims, Jews or non-Vedic people are called Avindhya in Sanskrit because their ears are not pierced. (‘A’ – not, ‘Vindhya’ – pierced). Avindhya is not a derogatory term but just a reference that the person does not have his or her ears pierced.
    • Vedic sages and doctors believed that piercing the ears helps in the development of intellect, power of thinking and decision-making faculties. 
    • Talkativeness fritters away life energy. Ear piercing helps in speech-restraint. It helps to reduce impertinent behavior and the ear-channels become free from disorders. 
    • Ayurveda believes that ear piercing helps prevent menstrual problems and helps in preventing SID.
    • Sushrut rishi, advocates ear-piercing by saying that it prevents diseases like hernia and hydrocele. It is also believed that ear-piercing regulates the menstrual cycle in girls and prevents hysteria and other diseases.
    • The meridian points in the ear lobes connect to the left and the right hemisphere of human brain, and the piercing has the activation impact. Similar effect of brain activation may achieved by doing the ‘Thoppukuranam’ or sit-ups.
  8. Applying Mehendi/ henna on hands
    • Besides lending color to the hands, mehendi is a very powerful medicinal herb. Weddings are stressful, and often, the stress causes headaches and fevers. As the wedding day approaches, the excitement mixed with nervous anticipation can take its toll on the bride and groom. 
    • Application of mehendi can prevent too much stress because it cools the body and keeps the nerves from becoming tense. This is the reason why mehendi is applied on the hands and feet, which house nerve endings in the body.
  9. Why do Indian women wear Bangles?
    • Household chores mostly involve wrist movements and hence the wrist portion is in constant activity for most of the housewives and women from Ancient Vedic civilization.
    • Ayurveda emphasizes a lot on pulse beat behavior for all sorts of ailments. The Bangles used by women (Silver and Gold) are worn on the wrists thus increasing the blood circulation level thru’ continuous friction. 
    • Furthermore the static electricity as well as the energy passing out through outer skin is again reverted to one's own body because of the ring shaped bangles, which has no ends to pass the energy outside but to send it back to the body.
  10. Why do Indian women wear toe rings?
    • Wearing toe rings is not just the significance of married women but there is science behind it. 
    • Normally toe rings are worn on the second toe. A particular nerve from the second toe connects the uterus and passes to heart (per Ayurveda). Wearing toe ring (silver) on this finger strengthens the uterus. It will keep it healthy by regulating the blood flow to it and menstrual cycle will be regularized. 
    • As Silver is a good conductor, it also absorbs polar energies from the earth and passes it on to the body.
  11. Applying Tilak on the forehead w/ Kumkum or Sindoor (Vermillion)
    • On the forehead, between the two eyebrows, is a spot that is considered as a major nerve point in human body since ancient times. 
    • The Tilak is believed to prevent the loss of "energy", the red 'kumkum' between the eyebrows is said to retain energy in the human body and control the various levels of concentration. While applying kumkum the points on the mid-brow region and Adnya-chakra are automatically pressed. This also facilitates the blood supply to the face muscles.
    • Sindoor is prepared by mixing turmeric-lime and the metal mercury. Due to its intrinsic properties, mercury, besides controlling blood pressure also activates sexual drive. This also explains why Sindoor is prohibited for the widows. 
    • For best results, Sindoor should be applied right upto the pituitary gland where all our feelings are centered. 
    • Mercury is also known for removing stress and strain and hence to be applied as Tilak in form of kumkum or vermillion
  12. Why should Tulsi (Indian basil) not be chewed with teeth?
    • It is a popular belief that Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu; therefore, chewing it will be a mark of disrespect. 
    • However, botanists, in the course of their research, found that Tulsi plant has the maximum of mercury. If raw mercury is applied to teeth, it adversely affects them resulting in damage and weakening. That’s why in Vedic practices, Tulsi leaves are not chewed but swallowed.
  13. Why do we worship ‘Tulsi’ plant?
    • Vedic lifestyle and Sanatan Dharma has bestowed ‘Tulsi’, with the status of mother. Also known as ‘Sacred or Holy Basil’, Tulsi, has been recognized as a religious and spiritual devout in many parts of the world. The Vedic sages knew the benefits of Tulsi and that is why they personified it as a Goddess and gave a clear message to the entire community that it needs to be taken care of by the people, literate or illiterate. 
    • Tulsi has great medicinal properties. Taking Tulsi every day in tea or otherwise increases immunity, detoxify body and help the drinker prevent diseases, stabilize his or her health condition, balance his or her body system and most important of all, prolong his or her life.
    • Keeping Tulsi plant at home prevents insects and mosquitoes from entering the house. It is said that snakes do not dare to go near a Tulsi plant. Maybe that is why ancient people would grow lots of Tulsi near their houses.
  14. Why Til-gul (sesame candy w/ Jaggery) on Sankranti?
    • Til-gul is a very colorful and excellent sesame candy made of sesame seeds and jaggery. Til means sesame seeds whereas gul means jaggery in Marathi. 
    • Since Makar Sankranti is celebrated in mid-winter ideally Til-gul recipe is a combination that helps keep the body warm due to these heat generating ingredients making it a healthy sweet to enjoy. 
    • In Ayurveda, Sesame is considered to be an extremely beneficial and health improving medicine. 
    • Sesame laddus are beneficial for those children who normally have the problem of bed-wetting in winters.
  15. Why idol worship?
    • Vedic religion or Sanatan Dharma propagates idol worship more than any other religion. 
    • Per various research accounts and Puranas and Vedas this was initiated for the purpose of increasing concentration during prayers. 
    • According to psychiatrists, a man will shape his thoughts as per what he sees. If you have 3 different objects in front of you, your thinking will change according to the object you are viewing. 
    • Similarly, in ancient India, idol worship was established so that when people view idols it is easy for them to concentrate to gain spiritual energy and meditate without mental diversion.
    • One thing to note is that it is not obligatory to follow idol worship if you are able to concentrate without any object and in fact that is always a preferred menthod by all the sages.
  16. Why not to sleep with your head towards North?
    • Myth is that it invites ghost or death but recent scientific studies have shown that human body has its own magnetic field (Also known as hearts magnetic field, because of the flow of blood) and Earth itself is a giant magnet. 
    • When we sleep with head towards north, our body's magnetic field becomes completely asymmetrical to the Earth's Magnetic field. That causes problems related to blood pressure and our heart needs to work harder in order to overcome this asymmetry of Magnetic fields. Human body has significant amount of iron in blood. When we sleep in this position, iron from the whole body starts to congregate in brain. This can cause headache, Alzheimer’s disease, Cognitive Decline, Parkinson disease and brain degeneration.
    • Earth has a magnetic pole stretched from north to south with the positive pole at the north and the negative pole at the south. Human bodies too have a similar magnetic stretch with the positive pole at the head and the negative one at the feet. When we lay our heads on the north side, the two positive sides repel each other and there is a struggle between the two. Since the earth has a greater magnetic force, we are always the losers, and rise in the morning with headache or heaviness.
    • Earth revolves around itself from west to east, and sun's magnetic field enters earth from east side. This magnetic force enters our head if we lie with head on the east and exits through feet, promoting cool heads and warm feet as per the laws of magnetism and electricity. When the head is laid towards the west, cool feet and hot head resulting in an unpleasant start for morning.
  17. Why no meat on particular days?
    • Hindus do not eat meat on particular days - not limited but including: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The reason is that as a human being we need only a little amount of meat to fulfill the requirements of our body such as iron, vitamin B12 and other vital nutrients. But we often get addicted to eating meat which is not good for health. It can cause diseases like piles, kidney stones, colon cancer, high cholesterol etc. Therefore, Hinduism has placed some restrictions by assigning days to particular deities.
  18. Why do temples have bells?
    • It’s a custom to ring the bell in Vedic Dharma when someone visits the temple and enters the inner sanctum (Garbha-Gruha). Garbha-Gruha is the place where idols are kept for worship and hence the most important part of the chamber.
    • According to Agama Shastra, the sound waves created by the keep evil forces. It is also said that the bell ringing gives signifies the permission granting similar to modern days. However, the scientific reason behind this process of bell ringing is that it helps us in clearing our mind and stay focused on devoting mind to God.
    • Bell is not made up of just your ordinary metal. It is made of various metals including cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, chromium and manganese. The proportion in which each one of these elements are mixed is the real science behind it.
    • These bells are made in such a way that when they produce a sound it creates a unity in the Left and Right parts of our brains. The moment we ring the bell, it produces a sharp and enduring sound which lasts for minimum of 7 seconds in echo mode. The duration of echo is good enough to activate all the seven healing centers in our body. This results in emptying our brain from all negative thoughts.
  19. Why do we fast?
    • The underlying principle behind fasting is to be found in Ayurveda. This ancient Indian medical system sees the basic cause of many diseases as the accumulation of toxic materials in the digestive system. Regular cleansing of toxic materials keeps one healthy. By fasting, the digestive organs get rest and all body mechanisms are cleansed and corrected. A complete fast is good for heath, and the occasional intake of warm lemon juice during the period of fasting prevents the flatulence.
    • Since the human body, as explained by Ayurveda, is composed of 80% liquid and 20% solid, like the earth, the gravitational force of the moon affects the fluid contents of the body. It causes emotional imbalances in the body, making some people tense, irritable and violent. Fasting acts as antidote, for it lowers the acid content in the body which helps people to retain their sanity. Research suggests there are major health benefits to caloric restriction like reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, immune disorders etc.
    • However one thing needs to be mentioned here that traditional religious fasts conducted in today’s world by all Hindus are nowhere close to the original ‘cleansing’ fasts recommended by Ayurveda. Today’s fasts can be mainly categorized as follows
      • Change of routine – Try different foods such as potatoes and other starchy foods which do not serve the purpose of resting the digestive system.
      • Male dominance – Most of the fasts are recommended for women for betterment of their husbands’ lives thus signifying male dominance. 
      • Islamic influence on Indian culture and traditional religion (more to follow in subsequent posts)
      • Fear of God
  20. Surya Namaskar / Arghya-Daan
    • Vedics have a tradition of paying regards to Sun God early in the morning by water offering ritual. It was mainly because looking at Sun rays through water or directly at that time of the day is good for eyes as well as generating vitamin D.
  21. Why do we have Navratras?
    • Our living style has drastically changed if we compare it to the society hundreds & thousands of years ago. The traditions which we follow at present are not establishments of today but of the past. Let’s talk about why do we have Navratras twice a year unlike other festivals like Deepawali or Holi? Well, both these months are the months of changing seasons and the eating habits of both the seasons are quite different from each other.
    • Navratras give enough time to the body to adjust and prepare itself for the changing season. These nine days were marked as a period when people would cleanse their body system by observing fasts ensuring avoidance of excessive salt and sugar, following fruits and milk diet, meditate, gain a lot of positive energy, gain a lot of self-confidence & increase the self-determination power (fasts are a medium to improve our will power and self-determination as explained in Patanjali Yogasutra) and finally get ready for the challenges of the changed season.