Sunday, March 26, 2017

From ‘Swami Muktananda Paramahansa in Australia. With preface and talks by Baba Ram Dass’ Edited by Peter Hunt

….one of the first thought not exclusive signs of an awakened Kundalini are automatic bodily movements called kriyas (purificatory processes). A person may be sitting in a meditative posture when he finds his body bending forward so that his head touches the floor (yogamudra). This does not happen at his own volition, but automatically, like a nervous twitch. Its purpose is to remove a spinal fault. Defects vary from individual to individual, but whatever they be, Shakti removes only what is necessary, and that is why different people experience different kriyas.
-         -  Peter Hunt

The essence of all scriptures, the essence of the teachings of all saints, is that God dwells within you in His fullest grandeur and fullest splendor. Try to find him there!
-          - Sw.Muktananda

If you simply practice asanas or pranayamas do not think yourself a master Hatha yogi. The sign of mastery of Hatha Yoga is the awakening of your Kundalini. If it has not even stirred, your yogic practices have no meaning. Ordinary asanas and pranayamas are child’s play and are not meant for serious yogis. He alone is a yogi whose inner power has been released and has stabilized in the sahasrar and who is established in a state of unchanging inner peace.
-         - Sw.Muktananda

If you cannot foresee the exact moment of your death you are not practicing yoga, you are only practicing circus acrobatics. A yogi is quite accustomed to withdrawing his spirit from his body every day, so for him death holds no fear because it is just like sleep. The only difference between sleep and death is that after death we do not wake up in the same body.
-          - Sw.Muktananda

Because your attention is not towards Him it appears difficult to experience the Divine Being, but through practice you can find Him easily. You have only to descend into the depths of your own being. One simple way of doing this is to close your eyes and follow, with your mind, the downward movement of prana (breath). Once your mind reaches the centre of true bliss and happiness it stays there. In that state of supreme peace it gets beyond the reach of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow.
-         - Sw.Muktananda

Friday, March 3, 2017

From ‘A White Trail. A Journey into the heart of Pakistan's religious minorities’ by Haroon Khalid

Pakistani historiography discards Hindu and Sikh narratives from its discourse and where ever they are mentioned, they are always mentioned negatively.

The Muslim population of the country at the moment is about 97%. Out of the 3% non-Muslims, a large chunk belongs to the Ahmadiyya community; former Muslims, but now declared non-Muslims according to the Constitution of the country. Of the remaining percentage, the majority are Hindus living in the ‘faraway’ ‘peripheral’ regions of Southern Punjab, inner Sindh and Baluchistan. In 1947, when the country was created, the population of the non-Muslims was about 30% (without including the Ahmadiyya community), a majority of whom have migrated or converted to Islam……….

Holi at Multan
……Hiranyakashipu, the tyrant who is believed to have ruled the city of Multan thousands of years ago….Prahlad Bhagat ……His devotees built a temple in the memory of Prahlad at the spot where he supposedly killed his father – on a mound outside the city, which later became a popular spiritual site with mystics and saints. The temple stands even today………abandoned since partition ………the area came to be considered holy, as a result of which Muslim mystics were also attracted……..Bahauddin Zakariya (1170-1267) whose shrine came to be situated next to the temple. The tide of fortune has now turned and the temple which was once the fount of spirituality ……now lies in obscurity under the shadow of this massive shrine, which has become the symbol of the Muslim city of Multan……..there was a time when Hindu temples and Muslim shrines could share a wall and devotees visited both of them, an act almost unimaginable in a post-partition Pakistan.

Banned all over the country, alcohol can be legally purchased by nono-Muslims if they have a permit card, provided to them by the government for the purchase and consumption of alcohol. However, despite this categorization and limits on its sale, alcohol is readily available throughout the country and sold to people without permits. But permits do provide a benefit to the non-Muslims as alcohol is sold at a lower price on this license. Using this economic advantage, somn non-Muslim boys and men purchase alcohol in bulk and sell it to their Muslim clients at exorbitant prices………Despite being readily available, drinking remains a guilty pleasure in Muslim Pakistan.

The majority of the Hindu community of the city is uneducated and unaware of its political rights, given the demonization of the community in the Pakistani society – through education, media, cinema, etc. – most of them are too traumatized by the struggle of their daily existence to take up the cause of an abandoned temple.

………religious distinctions between Hindus and Christians have become blurred in urban Punjab…

Navratri at Bahawalnagar
Akaliyan Mohalla literally means ‘Community of the Minorities’……Compared to Central Punjab, Southern Punjab has been historically tolerant towards other non-Muslim faiths, which is why a significant Hindu population continues to live here…..violence here during the partition never scaled the heights it did in the other regions….A distinguishing feature of the houses here is the use of colourful paints, instead of the conventional white, grey, and the like ……Muslim houses all over the country tend to be more somberly painted.

……….annual pilgrimage to Hinglaj, where a Hindu temple honours an incarnation of Durga. Hinglaj is in Baluchistan, about two hundred and fifty kilometres from the coastal city of Karachi. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims go there every year in October, making it one of the largest Hindu festivals in the country.

The tradition of idol-making in Punjab died a natural death during the massacres of the partition.

Das has been wearing the bangle for a year. He also hasn’t worn shoes in the meantime. Shiia Muslims in Pakistan also indulge in similar offerings to God, promising not to wear shoes or taking up bangles for a particular gift. Despite separate categorization of religious identities as distinct and often conflicting with each other, there are several religious rationale and practices such as this that transcends those boundaries.

Hindu festivals are not officially recognized in Pakistan, so Hindus working at offices have to ask for special holidays

The Peepal tree remains sacred in all the religious traditions of South Asia.

Frequently worn earlier, the sari, sometime after the years of Islamization, became associated with Hindu women and no longer appreciated in a Muslim country.

He would then tie the thread around the wrist of the devotee, still reciting something. The thread is supposed to protect a devotee from all harm. This is also tied to devotees visiting Muslim Sufi shrines, a tradition which clearly overlaps between Hindu and Muslim pilgrims.

A lot of Hindus in Punjab do this, passing off as Muslims or Christians by taking up non-Hindu names. This is a survival technique in a hostile environment.

Shivratri at Killa Katas
Al-Beruni compiled his observations in a book called Al-Hind, which is considered to be one of the best anthropological works of all times. It is the first study which introduced the Indian people and their religion to the Western world. In his book, he claims that the Hindus are believers of one God, like the Muslims, and are ‘Ahl-e-Kitab’ or the ‘Followers of the Book,’ a term used in the Muslim holy book, the Quran, to refer to the Christians and the Jews. By referring to the Hindus as the followers of the book, Al-Beruni raises their status in the eyes of the Muslim readers and urges them not to view them as ‘lowly pagans’……also permits the Muslims to have food with the Hindus and intermarry. However, in contemporary Pakistan, where nationalism is premised upon hatred for Hindus, such a claim would not only be shunned but taken offence to.
This complex-with a natural pond, fossils dating back to millions of years, ancient caves, an unexcavated Buddhist stupa, Hindu temples said to be thousands of years old, and a university which attracted scholars from other parts of the world-is known as Katas Raj or Killa Katas….of immense historical significance….In his pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, …Guru Nanak ….also came here

Contrary to the stereotype of being a religiously oppressive area, since partition, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) has been home to a large proportion of religious minorities who have lived there rather peacefully. These are primarily Hindus…. Hindu festivals are celebrated with much pomp in these areas……. The primary reason for that is that unlike Punjab the riots were less intense due to the influence of the Indian National Congress there. A lot of Hindus and Sikhs continued living in their ancestral lands even after the creation of Pakistan.

Shri Valmiki’s Birthday at Lahore
…the bloody partition of Punjab, after which social prejudice and stigma attached with being a Hindu increased immensely. Government school text books are filled with references labelling the Hindus as mischievous and conniving and they are blamed for the bloodshed during the partition. Over the years, this state propaganda has resulted in the Hindu becoming a taboo in this Muslim puritanical society. In order to avoid the social prejudice associated with their religion, a lot of Hindus have now taken up Christian and Muslim names to avoid being noticed in society. A few have even converted to Christianity and Islam. However for all practical purposes, this marriage of convenience is more out of prudence than actual conviction.

Sita gave birth to the twin sons of Ram, Luv and Kush while she was here after she had been banished by Ram. Lahore and Kasur are said to be named after Luv and Kush. There is a temple near the Alamgiri gate of Lahore fort, called the temple of Luv. It is believed that the original temple was built by Luv himself, whereas the current structure goes back to the Mughal era.

Representation of minority groups in the media remains paternalistic; that of an outsider group that needs to be protected and represented in a way that they know best.

Shri Krishna Janmasthami at Lahore
According to the Islamic laws, a Muslim man is allowed to marry a Jew or a Christian as they are regarded as followers of the book. However in practice…..Christian girls are converted to Islam before a Muslim man can marry them. It is never the other way around. According to Al-Beruni’s definition, even Hindus are followers of the book, and therefore a Muslim man is allowed to marry a Hindu woman according to the religious laws. However in Pakistan, not many people endorse his point of view and marrying Hindus therefore remains un-Islamic.

Untouchable Hindus who converted in 1947 are referred to as Deendars or Musalis to distinguish them, and are still treated as untouchables by the high-caste Muslims of the area. Converts from the higher castes became Sheikhs. However, importantly, the caste titles remain, to distinguish those who have converted recently from those who were ‘original’ Muslims.

A Pilgrimage to Maryabad

……unlike the Hindus, the Christian community has a formidable presence in the Punjab. This means that the political parties and leaders also have to cater to their interests, unlike the Hindus, who are a smaller community…….and can therefore be ignored. The Christians are represented through powerful establishments like the Churches and …..schools, colleges, and hospitals which have been set up by Christian missionaries….Even though according to the census of 1998, the Hindu majority is the largest minority in the country, with Christians in the second place, most of the Hindus are scattered in Sindh, Baluchistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with only a few in Punjab. The Christians on the other hand have an overwhelming majority in the Punjab (among the minorities) and are visible in the social fabric….

Even though a lot of untouchable Hindus initially converted to avoid the stigma associated with their caste, it nonetheless continued to haunt them even after conversion. For the high caste Muslims, these low caste Christians remained un-touchables referred derogatorily to as chuhras……..Even in prominent cities like Lahore, several Muslims refuse to eat with Christians and consider utensils used by them as impure. Ironically, it was the Muslims who were treated as untouchables by high-caste Hindus in the old days. In upholding this concept of untouchability the Muslims of Pakistan are practicing an Islam tainted with the flavor of the worst of Hinduism.
So even though this attitude of impurity originally started with low-caste Hindu converts to Christianity, it soon started dominating the nature of interaction with all Christians, even those who belonged to the former higher-castes of Hinduism………..A lot of low end hotels and restaurants not only in rural areas but even in metropolitan cities…….have separate utensils for Christians. A common practice is for Christians to announce their “caste” before eating at a small restaurant so that the owner takes the necessary precautions, to avoid embarrassment later.

There was a time when famous singers like Madam Noor Jahan and Arif Lohar used to sing and record Christian gospels……The trend……is now on the ebb…… that the society has become so polarized….

Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary at Lahore
The Ahamdiyyas being allowed to live peacefully in India and persecuted in Pakistan is a strange irony of history toying ……..The Ahmadiyya community played a prominent role in the creation of Pakistan, a country where they thought they would be allowed to practice their religion freely.

From ‘There's more to Life than a House in Goa’ by Heta Pandit

What are my earliest memories as a child? I’d put ‘Moms are sweet and comforting’ and ‘Dads are scary’ on the top of the list. ….the other most important message was that we were different. ‘We are different. We are Parsis. We have a car. Our mother speaks English.’ ….You could only speak to Dad when you were spoken to and on Sundays. ….

When I was eleven, I woke up one morning with a huge blood stain in my underwear. I had no doubt hurt myself while playing at school. Mum would be annoyed….The bleeding would not stop. I plucked up courage and called my mother in the toilet to see. Much to my surprise she was not annoyed at all. She seemed thrilled. She gave me a tight hug and then ran out of the toilet. I sat there, bewildered and full of the trepidation. ….. ‘Heta has grown up now, dear,’ she whispered to Dad when he got home from his important work at the office that evening. He was holding me up high in his arms in an embrace when he heard her. He dropped me on the floor that very instant. I am no longer his little girl, I thought, something must have happened. He never touched me after that day and I stopped running to get him his slippers.

Most Parsis I know socialize only with their own kind, and I mean their own kind of Parsi……..a …..Parsi woman (in this case my mother) meeting, falling in love, and marrying a ‘non-Parsi’, my non-Parsi father….the children of this mixed heritage are stigmatized for no fault of their own and the mix in their genes frowned upon in suspicion …..So as a precaution, most Parsi parents will forbid their pure-blooded offspring from fraternizing with the parjaats, the ‘nons’ to minimize the chances of such dreaded events. I will not blame them really. The punishing outcome of being ostracized by the community is severe. …..our great-grandfather Pallonjee, having married his first cousin (a preference we were told ‘to keep the money in the family’). There should have been, therefore, lots of relatives. We, of course, did not see any of them.

Money was important to the Parsis.

We were never invited to weddings, navjotes, or any other family outings. Unknown to us, however, their children were growing up in England and other parts of India and harbored no such prejudice.

……The Indians in East Africa ….If there was one word that described how muhindi or Indian bosses treated black African workers, it was ‘cruelly’. Some banianis paid their black African workers in sacks of rice and salt or bolts of fabric. An African servant was expected to stand all day in the store, cook and clean for his employer, and sleep on the floor of the store doubling up as a security guard for the night. If he received one decent meal at the end of the day, he considered himself lucky. …..In the early 1970s, however, the African Tanzanians got a chance to see a different Indian. Educated Asian doctors, nurses, teachers, and computer programmers from India and Pakistan were working in Tanzanian hospitals, offices…. Then there were the Asian engineers who built the bridges, roads …..This was an Asian quite different from the sacks of salt and bolts of cloth Asian bania. This new Asian kept to himself after office hours and treated the African with respect due to a colleague at work. This Asian…was not rich. There was an element of surprise when this Asian opened his mouth to speak English at work and even more surprise when he actually put in an honest day’s work at the construction site.
The informal segregation in Tanzania was Africa’s best kept secret. Asian, European, and African lived in their own segregated ‘quarters’…….

The Gujaratis in Tanzania were an integral part of the Indian Diaspora in East Africa. Everyone you met invariably said, ‘We’re not planning to live here. We’ll just make a little bit and then leave for …’ the unsaid blank for you to fill in with the country of your choice. …..No Indian in Tanzania ever called the country home. Most held dual passports, most had one foot either in India or in the UK. Every Indian expected to be expelled at a moment’s notice and hence, figuratively speaking ran on gilded shoes. They lived in cramped three storied buildings, families bunching together and hanging on to one common refrain: why build better homes here? ‘Amarey kya ahin rehvanoo chey’, we’re not planning to live here forever. How could you think of yourself a stranger when you had spent over 150 years in a country?

The Tanzanian was a tough worker. Tough, that is, until he fainted at the sight of blood. …. ‘Do you know why I drink so much?’ asked a well-known Tanzanian surgeon once. ‘Because I cant stand the sight of blood.’ His Indian obstetrician counterpart once confessed that at the government hospital where he worked, there was no relief for the Indian doctors.

….Goa….It took me years to understand the nuances of the Brahmin, Chardos, and Shudra caste houses that made up the gamut of domestic architecture in Goa. It would take me a lifetime to understand what divided Catholic houses from Hindu homes. It has taken a lot of studying ‘the book of human nature’ in Goa to come to the easy and reckless conclusion that Goan society is perhaps the most caste-ridden, bigoted, caste-prejudiced, xenophobic, and complex society in the country. Lets just say that I have not watched any other community as closely as the Goan.
The first thing a Goan will ask you after he or she knows your name is ‘Where are you coming from?’ Now that is not an innocent question. It is loaded with several questions all rolled into one. Your Goan host is also asking you what village you come from, what vaddo in the village, who your grandparents were, who your parents, and so on, thereby determining to what caste and social strata you belong. In fact, many old timers will not even go further after they have fired the first question. Your answer to the first will give them all the other answers that will put you in that tight social niche from which there is no escape, either for you or for them.
If you’re a Hindu, they will be able to pin point your caste, sub-caste, gotra, clan, family, and so on with a little gossip and scandal thrown in for good measure. If you are a Catholic, then you can be sure they will know your family down to the smallest root, including what your caste and last name was before your ancestors converted to Christianity. Even if you are a Catholic, your root caste is important, and most Christians in Goa know if they were once Shudra, Chardo (Kshatriya) or Brahmin. Without a doubt, this determines whether you can be admitted into a Goan home by the front door or should be let in by the back gate. …….now we began to see why, when we went to someone’s house in the village, they would appear warm and forthcoming and yet never invite us in. The Goan balcao was a screening device. You trudged up the stairs of the grand mansion; you were invited to sit on the sopos, the benches in the balcao, while your hosts grilled you and ratified your ancestry. When you passed muster, you graduated to being invited inside the house, never kept hanging and waiting in the entrada, the entrance hall. Once you were accepted, you were in and that was it. It was much later that I learnt that Goans were adept at picking out all your ancestors and slotting your lineage within seconds of knowing your name.

…….one thing was certain: Goa and Goans loved a good fight.

What was also interesting to us was the standard question, ‘Do you salt your rice before it goes into the pot or after?’ That question always puzzled me until years later I was given the answer by a professor …..the wealthy in Goa (and therefore by virtue the upper classes) apparently used copper pots for cooking their rice. In order to avoid the salt from reacting with the copper, they would not add salt to the rice in the pot. The poor on the other hand, cooked in clay pots, and could add salt to the rice before it was cooked. The answer to the question then was simply a roundabout way for a new landlady to determine to which class we belonged.

Rukshana’s dad Feroze (incidentally a collector of the largest private collection of still and movie cameras in the world)…..

Living in Goa suited us perfectly. This was one place in India that did not frown on two women living together with no apparent family support or financial dependencies and doing exactly what they wanted to do in life. We would walk around or drive out in our little car at any time of the day or night and feel absolutely safe and unmindful of personal security.

The history of the tea gardens in Munnar is worthy of a book by itself. Mature deciduous forests were cleared to make way for coffee and cinchona at first and then for tea. The first tea garden bungalows were, in fact, small thatched dwellings, too basic to even be called log huts. The first tea planters were Scotsmen who had come out of their own country and pioneered planting in the hills. These hills, once considered forested and ‘of no use to man’, were once the domain of the tribal chieftain…….As the plantations grew, the pioneers needed more men to manage the estates. That is when trouble began. Rules and regulations had to be made to ensure discipline and obedience. ….The planting traditions set by the old Scots and the rules and regulations set to discipline young hot-blooded planters were in fact meticulously endorsed by their Indian counterparts. Planters were still addressed respectfully as dorai, white masters, and assistant managers were called chinna dorai, little white masters.
Although Munnar is located in Kerala, we had to learn to speak Tamil, as most of the labour came from the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. …..True to colonial traditions, field officers were almost always Tamil and assistant field officers Malayalis from Kerala. It was a very cunning device that had been built into the system by the early planters to control the plantations.
Most Scotsmen planters were Freemasons and belonged to the Church of South India. The Tamil-speaking field officers went to the Roman Catholic Church, and the Malayalam-speaking assistant field officers were either ‘Marthomites’….. or were upper-caste Hindus. The Tamil-speaking labour, all from around Tirunelvelli, were lower-caste Hindus who worshipped at the local Murugan (Kartikeya) temple. Every one of these ethnic groups came with their own built-in prejudices, and like colonialists all over the world, the ‘gentlemen planters’ had turned this to their advantage. Why did the Indian managers and assistant managers who followed the Scots perpetrate this colonial system of control? Why did they, for example, not change the address from dorai, white master ……….Hierachy, of course, was the backbone of the tea estates

Matters in the tea gardens were not always resolved so peaceably. The most dangerous reputation belonged to the dholes or wild dogs. They hunted in packs and were known, just like the Indian bison, to attack without provocation. Dholes, we were told, would slowly form an unseen circle around you, and then with one squeaky signal from their pack leader they would attack.

Tea, we realized, could grow to immense heights if left alone. It is only when it is cultivated as a cash crop that is kept stunted to ‘bush’ height and pruned by hand plucking or shearing.

Being a tea garden wife is not the easiest of jobs. First of all, you have to adhere to an undefined pecking order in tandem with your husband’s hierarchy status, and just like him, you too cannot cement any real friendships. Alienated from your husband’s tea garden life, you live the day separated from him for the most part, growing flowers in the bungalow garden and looking forward to the next annual flower show. You have to learn how to manage a home on a budget, entertain regularly and with precision while you nervously walk on social eggshells, raise the kids in an isolated, insular society, make your mark on Munnar’s High Range Club ……