Ganga is everything to everyone, the mother of rivers – Ravi Shankar

Ganga Devi

Ravi Shankar EttethThe Ganga defines our history and mythology. She is the merciful receiver of all sins. She is the source and end of all prayers. On her banks both life and death find meaning. She is the janeu of India, the thread that knits life and death. – Ravi Shankar

Yesterday was the last Sunday of September, the day for celebrating the rivers of the world. In Hinduism, the river is a metaphor for ancient, sacred tides of karma along which the soul travels to reach the shore of liberation. And the Ganga is the water of life.

A river runs through every Indian. The river of Hindusim is different from Hindutva and its political urgency. It is a mystic flow of liberation that celebrates the beauty of the Vedas and the Upanishads, which contain the essence of man. It does not distinguish between new faiths and the Original Faith, since it knows there is only One—the faith that salutes the Blue God, who presides in fierce meditation over the Himalayas and from whose matted locks surges India’s most sacred river.

The Ganga defines our history and mythology. She is the merciful receiver of all sins. She is the source and end of all prayers. On her banks both life and death find meaning. She is the janeu of India, the thread that knits life and death.

Sa eva kushalo janah pranamatiha bhagirathim
Sa eva tapasam nidhirjapati janhavim adarat
Sa eva purushottamah smarati sadhu mandakini
Sa eva vijayi prabhuh surataranginim sevate

(It benefits one who offers obeisances to the Ganga. He is a great ascetic, one who faithfully chants her names. By meditating on her one becomes the best of all people. The person who serves the Mandakini (Ganga) is always victorious, and is considered the master of everyone.)

The Ganga is everything to everyone. The mother of rivers. Her water is regarded as amrit, the nectar of the gods. Its power subsumes other beliefs. History records that Emperor Akbar was never seen without Ganga jal. The sailors of the East India Company only drank Ganga water on their three-month return journey to England, because it was always “sweet and fresh”. And the Ganga also offers salvation after death.

However, the Ganga herself is dying. The World Wildlife Foundation has marked the Ganga as one of the most endangered rivers in the world. The Mahakumbh, one of India’s holiest of festivals, is held on the banks of the Ganga (and the Yamuna) in Allahabad, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come to wash their sins away.

In May 2016, they walked bewildered across the dry river bed, searching for her embrace. The floods came three months later, affecting four million people and displacing 6.5 lakh from their homes. The Ganga’s aquatic life is endangered by reckless pollution that pours industrial poison into her. The balloning population of the cities along her banks disgorges their excreta into her—once riverside cities were divine destinations. Since 1985, six billion rupees have been wasted on the Ganga Action Plan.

Her sisters are dying, too. Jaggi Vasudev Sadhguru estimates that 25 per cent of India is becoming a desert. In 15 years, water supply will be reduced by half. Last year, most of the Godavari was dry. The water-flow of the Kaveri is down by 60 per cent. The Krishna and Narmada have lost around 60 per cent.

Ancient belief says mornings are blessed by chanting the Gayatri Mantra half immersed in a river, paying obeisance to life-giving sun. In a few decades, the waters of our dying rivers will be so polluted to bathe or drink from. The mythological arteries of India’s eternal faith will become history. And the soul of Hinduism will run dry forever. – The New Indian Express, 24 September 2017

» Ravi Shankar is a columnist for The New Indian Express in New Delhi. 

Ganga at Rishikesh

 

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To worship Ganesha, we must become Ganesha – David Frawley

Ganesha with his wife Buddhi in Japan

David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri )To worship Ganesha, we must become Ganesha, which is to let go of our outer minds and embrace the unknown higher knowledge, becoming the entire universe and beyond. – Dr David Frawley

Ganesha is a figure of great mystery, power, and paradox. We sense in his unusual figure something of the unknown, unlimited and mysterious, far beyond our human considerations. What are the secrets that he holds and what do they mean for us at the deepest level?

Ganesha’s arising or birth, if you could call it, appears very strange. It is said that his mother Parvati created him for her protection and asked him to prevent anyone from entering into her room. While Parvati was bathing, Lord Shiva approached, and Ganesha true to his role would not let him in. When Ganesha obstructed Shiva from entering, Shiva sensed an infringement on his power, fought with him and in the skirmish cut the boy’s head off.

Soon learning his mistake, that it was Parvati’s son, who was quite angry at his demise, Shiva quickly, sometimes it is said by chance, found the head of an elephant for Ganesha, put it on the headless body and brought him back to life. The story seems contradictory and arbitrary, like many Puranic depictions that have been the subject of denigration, if not ridicule.

Clearly, such bizarre tales are riddles for the mind to ponder, and not meant to portray literal events. They require a deep insight to unravel. This story has been analysed politically and psychologically, extending to bizarre Freudian and Marxist theories, but the inner meaning, which has nothing to do with sex or politics, has been missed altogether.

Symbolism of Ganesha 

Ganesha symbolises the human soul and its latent aspiration for the infinite. Initially, the soul is bound to Maya or Prakriti, symbolised by Ganesha being created by Parvati (Prakriti) and seeking to protect her as her servant. The ignorant soul does not know Shiva, the transcendent reality beyond Maya. Shiva, therefore, cannot recognise the soul as his own.

In cutting off Ganesha’s head, Lord Shiva takes the soul beyond the human mind, its dualities and expectations—which is a common theme in deities with their head cut off, be it Hayagriva, Chinnamasta or Ganesha. In giving Ganesha the head of an elephant, Shiva connects it to the profound cosmic intelligence that is under his guidance.

Shiva is Pashupati or the Lord of the Animals that symbolises the souls bound to ignorance, ruling over them from his unbounded awareness. Ganesha as Ganapati or the Lord of the Group is the chieftain or head of the animals, the foremost of which is the elephant and indicates Shiva’s consciousness in manifestation.

The elephant relates to memory, concentration and the hidden wisdom of nature. Ganesha as the awakened soul learns the secrets of the universe and gains the ability to teach them to all who are receptive. Ganesha becomes the guide to the cosmic processes of birth and death, karma, and liberation, and holds all the vidyas or sacred ways of knowledge for understanding all existence.

Ganesha as the Guru

With the head of an elephant, Ganesha becomes awake as Shiva’s son, and functions as the great guru and the giver of wisdom through Shiva’s power within him. He gains access to the mantric energies of the cosmic mind, in which all the higher knowledge is stored, the omkara of Lord Shiva, which is Ganesha’s own word of power.

Such higher knowledge as Ganesha possesses cannot be transmitted to the mortal mind, put into ordinary language or logic, or confined to the parameters of mere human depictions. It requires going beyond the intellect and emotions to unitary awareness or samadhi, which rests upon a profound Yoga sadhana.

Ganesha represents the cosmic realisation of the Self as all nature, and can teach that infinite truth to us. But for this to occur we must also learn to go beyond the mind, something that most modern intellectuals with all their opinionated views are not likely to attempt.

To worship Ganesha, we must become Ganesha, which is to let go of our outer minds and embrace the unknown higher knowledge, becoming the entire universe and beyond, Shiva and Shakti, both within and around us. To do that we must become humble and let Shiva and Parvati enter into us. Jai Ganesha! – Daily-O, 24 August 2017

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the author of more than 30 books on yoga and vedic traditions. He tweets @davidfrawleyved.

Sri Ganesha in Thailand

The Tamil Veda – Koenraad Elst

R. Nagaswamy with Kanchi Shankaracharya

Dr Koenraad ElstDr Nagaswamy is … the foremost epigraphist of Tamil and of Sanskrit in South India. I recently met him for the first time at the book presentation in Delhi, and was struck by his enormous erudition and responsible scholarly attitude. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Linking Tamil with the Vedas seems to be a ploy by the wily Tambrams (Tamil Brahmins) to justify their own existence. They seek to explain their imposition of the ugly invasion-derived patriarchal casteist Aryan culture on the peaceful feminist egalitarian native Tamils by inventing a primeval Tamil Vedic culture. Or so the anti-Brahmin Dravidianist movement, in power in Tamil Nadu for more than half a century, will assure you.

This book, Tamil Nadu: the Land of the Vedas, by R. Nagaswamy, tells a different story. The author is a Tambram alright. But he is also the foremost epigraphist of Tamil and of Sanskrit in South India. I recently met him for the first time at the book presentation in Delhi, and was struck by his enormous erudition and responsible scholarly attitude. In this authoritative 640-page book, he gives an overview of the Tamil and Sanskrit inscriptions found throughout the towns and villages of Tamil Nadu, and thereby reconstructs the true history of the region. Far from being an aboriginal zone on which the foreign culture of the invading Aryans was imposed, it turns out to have been pervaded with typically Vedic culture since the beginning of the written sources.

This is where the problem starts, for “when the Dravidian movement was at its height, … a claim was made that there was ‘pure Tamil’ at the beginning which was unadulterated by the Aryas.” (p.169) And in fact, that may well be true, but then long before the first texts were written. Even the oldest Tamil writings show signs of Sanskrit influence, with Tolkāppiam’s first grammar already modelled on Sanskrit grammar and Tiruvalluvar’s first poems already influenced by Vedic culture.  But long before that, out of sight for us, we can still infer that there must have been a time that Tamil was spoken there, and Sanskrit or Prakrit were not.

Settlement of Brahmins

In the age well before Christ, Tamil rulers started inviting Brahmin communities to settle around their capitals and confer the prestige of Vedic civilization upon their dynasties. As soon as written history starts, we see magnates and rulers surrounding themselves with Vedic culture, witness e.g. the praise for the royal sacrifice Rājasūya Yāga performed by a Chola king, by the famous poetess Avvaiyār. (p.6) In inviting a Brahmin, Tamil magnates applied four criteria: (1) he studies the Vedas; (2) he is poor; (3) he has a large family; and (4) he is honest and righteous. (p.2)

The Patiṛṛupattu poems point out that the ancient Tamil kings studied Vedas and Vedāngas, and performed daily Vedic rites mentioned as Pañca Mahā Yajñas in Vedic tradition. Avvai, the greatest poet of the Sangam age, praises the three crowned Tamil kings for performing Vedic sacrifices. All the Chola kings studied the Vedas and established Vedic colleges. All the great Tamil kings of the Sangam age performed Vedic sacrifices as seen from Puranānūru poems. In birth rites, death rites, marriage rites etc., the ancient Tamils followed Vedic injunctions. The kings appointed Vedic scholars as their chief ministers and presented them with lands called brahmadāyas.

It was among the duties of Brāhmins to interpret law to the villagers. As a consequence of the brahminization of their societies, the ancient kings followed prescriptions of Dharma Śāstra. The process of elections to village assemblies, the subcommittees called vāriyams and the paruṭai (pariṣad) system were the backbone of village life. The epigraphical wealth of Tamil Nadu shows that the sabhā system of the Vedic tradition was widely spread throughout the province. The Vedic Dharma Śāstras, esp. Manu and Yājñavalkya, were the most followed judicial texts. The technical language of these texts are used verbatim in judicial pronouncements, taken from Tamil records from earlier than the 7th century. Even the selection of judges was made after their passing an examination on Dharma Śāstra. Individual grhya sūtra texts like Āpastambha and Baudhāyana were the guiding principles of family life.

The most ancient Tamil grammar Tolkāppiyam followed Bharata‘s Nātya Śāstra in the division of the landscape as aintinaikaḷ. Likewise, the division of poetry into aham and puram based on sriṅgāra and tāṇdava of Nātya Śāstra. The famous text Silappadikāram is a nāṭaka kāvyam (dramatic composition) based on Nātya Śāstra. This was composed to glorify the karpu (chaste) form of marriage prescribed in the Vedic system. Kaṇṇaki the heroine was married as per the Vedic rites.

ānasambandar

In the 7th-9th century, four principal Shaiva poets or Nāyanmārs lived, three of them Brahmins. (p.171-212) Saint Jñānasambandar, who was the greatest contributor to Tamil music and devotional literature, was a chaturvedi who was performing daily Vedic rites. Saint Appar was an agriculturist, who has rendered several passages from the Veda, especially Śrī Rudram, into delightful Tamil. Nammaḻvār‘s Thiruvāymoḻi is so replete with Vedic passages, that his poems are called “Vedas rendered in Tamil”.

The one who gets most attention here is Tirujnānasambandar, who is worshiped as incarnation of Murugan. In Madurai, though, Sambandar came in conflict with the Jains. He gave a realistic description of Jains as fasting, wandering naked, eating with their hands, shouting in Prakrit, plucking their hair, emitting foul smell because they refrain from washing themselves, cleaning their teeth or washing their mouths, not knowing the Vedas and their auxiliaries, and frequently resorting to arguments. (p.200-201)

It gets worse when they burn down his abode: “When the mandir in which Sambandar stayed at night was torched by the Jains, he sang the heat should afflict the Pāṇḍya for not offering protection to Shaivites.” (p.198) Still he desires to engage the Jains in debate for ridiculing the Vedic sacrifices: “In two songs, he declares his intention to debate with them. He cures the king, but the Jains say that Sambandar had first made him sick with a mantra. In a fire test, his palm leaf remains unburnt; in a water test, his palm leaf flows upstream, not so that of the Jains. The Jains had first demanded that the losing side be hanged; another version is that Sambandar demand they become Shaiva, part of them do, other prefer the gallows.”

In their frantic attempts to somehow counter the Hindus’ enumeration of the countless Muslim atrocities on them, the secularists had seized upon Sambandar as the long-sought-after case of a Hindu who did to others what Muslims so royally did to them. But no, that is not what happened. Sambandar never persecuted the Jains and answered their ridiculing his own tradition with a civilized offer of a debate. He only concluded a wager with his Jain critics, viz. that the loser of the competition adopt the sect of the winner. No blood or persecution involved. It was the reigning king who saw to it that those who did not abide by the contract, suffered the self-chosen consequences.

Hundreds of songs, e.g. on each of the places of Shaiva pilgrimage, or to ward off bad planetary influences, or as a musical invitation to dance, are cited here. These often feature the Shaiva title Naṭarāja: “Western Indologists … say the word natarāja is found in inscriptions only from around the 14th century and so the concept of natarāja itself is late and has nothing to do with the Vedic tradition.” But already “Sambandar says Śiva is ‘the king of dance’ (naṭam āḍiya vēntan)” which “is a definite proof to show the concept of natarāja is earlier to 600 CE.”

Southeast Asia

The Vedas have been the perennial spring of Indian and the whole of South East Asian civilization, for the past 3500 years in almost all fields of human culture including History, Art, Architecture, Music, Dance, Administration, Judiciary, Law, Social life and so on. The rulers of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos and other lands, besides all parts of India and its Northwest, have been following the Vedic laws (the smṛitis) and personally observing codes of life which are specifically mentioned in hundreds of ancient records through the centuries. The monumental holdings like the great temples of Ankor Wat, Ankor Tom, Bantai Sri of Cambodia and the temples of Prambanam in Indonesia were mainly inspired by great Vedic scholars. Tamil Nadu equally benefitted from the very beginning from the riches of Vedic lore. Shaṅkara‘s contribution to the outlook of the Tamil temple movement is discussed as seen from an inscription in a Chola temple.

Expanding Tamil culture even served as a conduit for spreading Vedic culture to Malaysia (Tamil malai = mountain), Indonesia (India-island), Thailand (erstwhile capital Ayuthaya = Ayodhya) and Cambodia (Kambūja, originally the name of a part of Afghanistan). Thus, in Cambodia, we find the worship of the goddess Nidrā, prayed to in the Vedic Nidrā Sūkta, long forgotten by most Indians.

Caste

After this excursus on Southeast Asia, the last part of the book (p.612-626) is explicitly about Tambrams. Yet: “It is however wrong to imagine they alone have contributed to this richness. Every section of Tamil society has produced men of greatness.” (p.626) The point is well taken, but I estimate that it will not convince the Dravidianists.

Nor will the cursory nod to some non-Brahmin castes. Thus, the Cholas recognized that the country was mainly based on the rural economy and so entrusted the revenue administration of the village in the hands of officers belonging to the cultivators’ family of Veḷḷālas, conferred with the title mūvendavelārs. The Chola kings established several nallur as exclusive cultivators’ villages in addition to the brahmadeyas of the Vedic Brāhmanas. This is all too transparent as perfunctory lip service to modern egalitarianism. It is like the popular Hindu reference to Shankara’s distinction between ātma vidyā (self-knowledge) available to everyone, and veda vidyā (knowledge of the Veda) exclusively available to the upper castes: a consolation prize for the non-Brahmins.

We dare to suggest, however, that the Dravidianists drop their casteist perspective and their envy in order to take pride in the Tamil Vedic heritage. As for the non-Vedic part of their heritage, no one is preventing them from writing an equally impressive compendium.

Conclusion

This book is one of the major academic contributions to the study of Tamil culture. For learners of Tamil, it can at once serve as a reader providing another view of some 2300 years of Tamil literature. Nagaswamy points out “Tamil Nadu continues to be the Land of the Vedas”, thus summarizing the book’s message. – Pragyata, 20 July 2017

» To buy the book (Rs 900), call Chennai at (044) 2491 6005 or write to Tamil Arts Academy, 22nd Cross St, Besant Nagar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu – 600090.

Tamil Nadu: The Land of the Vedas by R. Nagaswamy

Ganga pollution load has increased four times between 2009 and 2016 – Ritwick Dutta

Ganga at Varanasi

Ritwick DuttaThe river Ganga is viewed as a sewage drain even in areas where it is regarded as the most sacred, for example in Varanasi, Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad) and Rishikesh. – Ritwick Dutta

In 1985, the Supreme Court of India issued directions to various authorities to clean up the river Ganga. The Supreme Court’s intervention in M. C. Mehta versus the Union of India was seen as unprecedented at that time. The apex court became the epitome of judicial activism and innovation. The concept of “continuing mandamus”, the “polluter pay principle”, and “liberal locus standi”, led to judgements of the Supreme Court being quoted the world over. Environmental jurisprudence in India was born principally out of the various orders to clean the most polluted, yet, sacred river. The “Ganga Pollution Case” as it is known,  is a test case to examine the efficacy of public interest litigation (PIL) as a panacea for environmental problems.

The Supreme Court itself acknowledged the ineffectiveness of its directions in order of October 29, 2014.

“We regret to say that the intervention and sustained effort made by us over the past 30 years notwithstanding no fruitful result has been achieved so far, except shutting down of some of the polluting units. This is largely because while orders have been passed by us, the implementation remains in the hands of statutory authorities including the CPCB and the State PCBs which have done practically nothing to effectuate those orders or to take independent steps that would prevent pollution of the river. A total lack of monitoring by the statutory bodies has contributed to the current state of affairs”.

The above observation reflects the sorry state of implementation of orders and disdain for the orders of even the highest constitutional court of the country. The court felt that given the necessity of close monitoring of the cleaning of the river, the National Green Tribunal is better placed to adjudicate on the issue and in October  2014, transferred the case to the NGT.

The National Green Tribunal on July 13, 2017, delivered a 543-page judgement on the river Ganga. The Tribunal, painstakingly, went into minute details and perused report after report on a “drain to drain” basis on the stretch of the river Ganga between Haridwar to Kanpur. The Tribunal’s task was not easy: It had less to do with the actual cleaning and more to do with getting information from the agencies and balancing conflicting interests. The varied and conflicting stands of Central Pollution Control Board, the various State Pollution Control Boards as well as the Municipalities and Industry Association made the task of the Tribunal difficult.

One of the most startling facts that has come out in the judgement is that the pollution load in the river Ganga has increased by nearly four times from 2009 to 2016 in the stretch between Haridwar to Kanpur. This is the same stretch which has seen the maximum judicial orders as well as government expenditures for cleaning up of the river. The judgement refers to the challenges faced in the cleaning of the river Ganga. Firstly, there is open and indiscriminate dumping of both industrial and domestic sewage into the river with no treatment of the effluents. This is the most important reason for the pollution. Secondly, while common effluent treatment facilities/sewage treatment facilities exist, they are not equipped to treat major pollutants such as faecal coliform and finally, where the technical facilities exist with the capacity to treat pollutants, they are not operated in order to reduce the costs. How this will change with the NGT’s direction, only time will tell. We must not forget that we live in a culture of tolerance toward those who have a disdain for rule of law. Violation of the law is seen as a democratic right and the “right to pollute” is seen as a component of the fundamental right of expression.

The Supreme Court, in order to deal with the Ganga pollution case, used the legal tool of “continuing mandamus”. A mandamus is a direction (writ) issued by the Court and the government is obligated to implement it in letter and spirit. Given the complicated nature of the issues related to the cleaning of the river, the Court felt that rather than a single comprehensive direction, there is a need to issue directions on a continuing basis. “continuing mandamus” was, therefore, an innovation of the Supreme Court and is now followed by many judiciaries across the world. However, the fact that despite series of directions, the orders of the Supreme Court were not followed, raises serious questions about the efficacy of continuing mandamus as a tool for ensuring compliance. The NGT, in its latest judgement on the Ganga pollution, has taken some innovative and not so innovative steps. First, rather than an adversarial approach of litigation it has followed what it has termed as “stakeholder consultative process of adjudication” which involves judges, officers and scientific bodies sitting across the table and trying to resolve complicated issues in a more cordial atmosphere. The second is the Tribunal’s recognition that there needs to be segmental watershed based approach to rivers and that a river basin approach needs to be adopted. However, in place of a more decentralised model for treatment of effluents, the Tribunal has, in fact, approved an “end of the pipeline of each drain as a solution”.

Only time will tell how seriously the NGT’s order will be followed. History does not inspire much confidence. The Supreme Court’s orders for cleaning up the Ganga were flouted with impunity. After 30 years of effort, not a single officer was held guilty for wilful and deliberate violation of the orders of the highest constitutional court armed with powers of contempt. Sadly, river Ganga’s plight is no different from the holy cow. The sacred view towards the cow does not insulate it from the unimaginable cruelty the animal suffers throughout its life as both a dairy and draught animal. The river Ganga is viewed as a sewage drain even in areas where it is regarded as the most sacred, for example in Varanasi, Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad) and Rishikesh. As a result, ironically, the river regarded as sacred by a large number of people in the world, is also among the worlds’ most polluted river. The latest judgement of the NGT is one more effort by the court to clean the river. Hopefully, the efforts of the court will not go down the drain. – Business Standard, 19 July 2017

» Ritwick Dutta is an environmental lawyer.

Alain Danielou

 

Gujarat: Life imprisonment for killing cows – Parimal A. Dabhi

Vijay Rupani

NewsChief Minister Vijay Rupani said that while he was “not against any food,” he wanted to make Gujarat “shakahari (vegetarian),” “We do not want Jersey cows, but Gir and Kankreji cows instead,” he said. – Parimal A. Dabhi

The Gujarat government Friday amended the state’s Animal Preservation Bill to entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and a minimum of 10 years for cow slaughter after it was passed in the assembly in the absence of the Opposition Congress and with the visitors’ gallery packed with saffron-clad Hindu priests.

Speaking on the amendment, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that while he was “not against any food”, he wanted to make Gujarat “shakahari (vegetarian)”, “We do not want Jersey cows, but Gir and Kankreji cows instead,” he said.

Rupani also described Gujarat as a “unique state”, which followed the tenets of Mahatma Gandhi—“non-violence and truth”. “This is Gandhi’s Gujarat, Sardar’s (Vallabhbhai Patel) Gujarat and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s Gujarat,” said Rupani.

The passage of the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 2017 came eight months after seven Dalits were beaten by self-styled cow vigilantes for alleged cow slaughter in Una.

The punishment for cow slaughter under the earlier law was imprisonment ranging from three to seven years. The new law also makes offences under the amended Act non-bailable.

The amendment was cleared after the Speaker suspended members of the Congress for creating a ruckus before the Bill was passed.

When the amendment Bill was introduced over a month ago, it had a maximum punishment of ten years imprisonment. On Friday, however, the ruling BJP moved to enhance the punishment to a life-term.

In another major amendment, the Bill included a provision that vehicles caught in transporting cows, beef or beef products illegally will be forfeited to the state government. The maximum fine for the offence has also been increased from Rs 50,000 to one ranging from Rs 1 lakh-Rs 5 lakh.

Besides, the punishment for conviction for illegal transportation of cow, beef or beef products has been increased from three years imprisonment to seven years.

The Act allows transportation of animals of cow progeny with permission, but not between 7 pm and 5 am.

The statement of the Bill reads, “In the year 2011, the State Government had made certain amendments in the said Act for better implementation of the Act. It is, however, experienced while implementing the said Act that still more stringent provisions are required to be made by amending the said Act for curbing the menace of illegal slaughtering of the animals covered under the said Act to provide for more stringent punishment and effectively check the rampant use of vehicles for transporting such animals.”

During the discussion on the Bill, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said, “This is not a Bill, but a feeling of crores of Indians. It is my humble attempt to give voice to the cows being killed by butchers. A single drop of cow blood falling on earth pains Hindus. With this law, Vijaybhai Rupani’s government will make Gujarat cow-slaughter-free.”

Jadeja also offered his respects to the “Hindu saints” in the visitors gallery, and said that he was “feeling proud as a Hindu” to introduce the Bill in the House.

One of those present in the gallery, Kaniramji Bapu of Dudhrej in Surendranagar district, an important religious seat of the Maldhari community (cattle herders) in Gujarat, said, “We oppose cow slaughter and believe in its preservation. And so, we came here in support of the Act. Cows should be preserved and their slaughtering must end.”

Another religious figure, Mahant Vikramgiri from Ghela-Somnath of Jasdan in Rajkot district, said, “Around 300 sadhu-sants have come to Assembly. Since the government had announced that they will bring the Bill, we knew it in advance and are here to support it.”

In 2011, when Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, the state government had imposed a complete ban on slaughter of cows, transportation and selling of cow meat by amending the Act. – Indian Express, 1 April 2017

» Parimal A. Dabhi reports for The Indian Express in Gujarat.

Gujarati Sadhus

Ganga & Yamuna are ‘living persons’ with legal rights, decrees Uttarakhand HC – Vineet Upadhyay

Devprayag : Confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers, and birthplace of the Ganga.

Ganga DeviThe status accorded to the Ganga and the Yamuna means that if anyone is found polluting the rivers, it would amount to harming a human being. – Vineet Upadhyay

In the first order of its kind in the country, the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday decreed that the Ganga and the Yamuna as well as their tributaries and sister bodies be declared “legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities.”

This, the court said, was to ensure “preservation and conservation of the two rivers and to protect the recognition and faith of society.”

A division bench of Justices Alok Singh and Rajiv Sharma noted that “the extraordinary situation has arisen since the rivers Ganga and the Yamuna are losing their very existence.”

The court’s order comes days after a landmark bill passed in New Zealand making the Whanganui river, revered by the indigenous Maori people, the first in the world to be recognised as a living entity with full legal rights.

The status accorded to the Ganga and the Yamuna, legal experts said, would mean that if anyone was found polluting the rivers, it would amount to harming a human being.

“By this order, the court has recognised ‘fifth generation rights’ which are not limited to humans but extend to the habitat. The order will give a new dimension to the laws framed for protection of the environment,” said senior lawyer K. H. Gupta.

The court named the director of Namami Gange, the chief secretary of Uttarakhand and the advocate general of the state “persons in loco parentsi“—the human face representing the rivers. “All the Hindus have deep astha in the Ganga and the Yamuna and they collectively connect with these rivers. The rivers are central to the existence of half of the Indian population and their health and well being. They have provided both physical and spiritual sustenance to all of us from time immemorial,” the judges said.

The judges noted that a “startling revelation” had been made by the senior joint commissioner, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, that “despite long correspondence, neither the state of UP nor the state of Uttarakhand are cooperating with the central government for the constitution of Ganga Management Board”. The High Court ordered the central government to constitute the board and make it functional “within a period of three months…. We need not remind the state governments that they are bound to obey the orders passed by the central government, failing which consequences may ensue under Article 365 of the Constitution of India.” – Times of India, 21 March 2017

Prayag : Confluence of the Ganga (muddy brown) and Yamuna (dark blue) rivers

Aghora’s radical egalitarianism makes Reza Aslan yearn for inequality – Bharavi

Man Sitting Under Tree IconAslan is truly a worthy heir to Sufi luminaries like Amir Khusrau and Ahmed Sirhindi who so eloquently expressed their contempt and detestation for the stench of idolatory and polytheism in the land of Hind. – Bharavi

Now that there is a lot of indignation in the Hindu community about the way the Muslim, Iranian-American religious writer Reza Aslan has gone about depicting Hinduism in a CNN program titled “Believer,”[1] it would help to understand issues at hand that run deeper than overt “Hinduphobia” and stereotyping.  Mr. Rajiv Malhotra and some members of the Hindu Students Council have broadcast a video “rebuttal” of sorts, questioning Aslan’s intentions in reaffirming western stereotypes of Hinduism.  

For starters, it must be noticed that Reza Aslan finds himself in the U.S.A. because his family fled the Islamic revolution in his native Iran, circa 1979. Though born in a Muslim family, he converted to Christianity, but returned or, as the terminology goes, “reverted” to Islam.  Currently, he is a professing Muslim. Had he been a true heir to his brutally extinguished Aryan-Iranian heritage, he would surely have been at least more balanced, if not more respectful and nuanced, in his depiction of the last vestiges of the common Indo-Iranian religious heritage in the multifarious forms of Hinduism in India, a civilization that gave refuge to Zoroastrian Iranians fleeing before their equally Iranian compatriots who converted to Islam. But, having been put through the wringer, as it were, of the Religions of Love and Peace, all Understanding and Compassion has been conclusively wrung out of him. What Ishwar Sharan perceptively stated of the betrayal of Hindus to the Portuguese Catholic invaders by Syrian Christians applies to him in its totality: “… [the] Christian religion … harbours in its heart a demon that divides mankind into friend and foe on ideological grounds.”[2]  The Qu’ran, which is but the “Bible in Arabic” insofar as its basic contents are concerned, bettered the instruction by summarily and firmly reinstating the original Yahvist spirit by abolishing all hints of Jesus’ divinity and Mary’s phantom gestation that, according to Christians, resulted in a case of human parthenogenesis.  

It matters little that Aslan piously proclaims his personal preference for Islam while proclaiming “good will and peace to all men” on his website, which deserves to be read in full by befuddled Hindus:[3]

That’s where religion comes in. Beyond the doctrines and dogma, the do’s and the don’t’s, religion is simply a framework for thinking about the existential questions we all struggle with as human beings.

It is, as the Sufi mystics say, a “signpost to God.”

Can you have faith without religion? Of course! But as the Buddha said, if you want to strike water, you don’t dig six 1-foot wells; you dig one 6-foot well. In other words, if you want to have a deep and meaningful faith experience, it helps—though it is by no means necessary—to have a language with which to do so.

So then, pick a well.

Different words, same thing

My well is Islam, and in particular, the Sufi tradition. Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is “truer” than other religions (it isn’t), but because Islam provides me with the “language” I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith. It provides me with certain symbols and metaphors for thinking about God that I find useful in making sense of the universe and my place in it.

So … what do you believe?

But I know, just as the Buddha did, that while my personal well may be different and unique, the water I draw from it is the same water drawn from everyone else’s wells. Indeed, having drunk from many wells in my spiritual journey, I consider it my mission in life to inform the world that, no matter the well, the water tastes just as sweet.

Consider the following parable by the great Sufi master Jalal ad-Din Rumi, which I recount in my book, No god but God:

A Persian, a Turk, an Arab and a Greek are traveling to a distant land when they begin arguing over how to spend the single coin they share in common. The Persian wants to spend the coin on angur; the Turk, on uzum; the Arab, on inab; and the Greek, on stafil.

A linguist passing by overhears the argument. “Give the coin to me,” he says. Taking the coin, the linguist goes to a nearby shop and buys the travelers four small bunches of grapes.

“This is my angur!” cries the Persian.

“But this is what I call uzum,” replies the Turk.

“You have brought me my inab,” the Arab says.

“No! This in my language is stafil,” says the Greek.

The travelers suddenly realize that they were all asking for the same thing, but in different languages.

My goal—as a scholar, as a person of faith, and now as the host of “Believer” —is to be the linguist, to demonstrate that, while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.

And that, regardless of whether you, too, are a believer or not, is a lesson worth learning.

See, multiple wells, same water! Multiple languages, same grapes! Aslan’s stated goal in the series “Believer” is to convince you, like a latter-day Gandhi, that “while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.” Hell, why can’t we all just get along like one big happy family!? Where are those vasudhaiva kutumbakam hippies when you need them?

Firstly, note that the Buddha (a rank Pagan) was the one who talked about multiple wells reaching the same water. Any Abrahamic prophet worth his salt would have taken umbrage at this kind of laissez-faire approach, so there are no matching quotations from the Abrahamic traditions, especially Reza’s own. Even the oft-quoted sura 109 of the Qu’ran often bandied about by Muslims as evidence of Islam’s “tolerance” declares:

Say: O ye that reject Faith!
I worship not that which ye worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
Nor will I worship those whom you have worshipped,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your Way, and to me mine.

The sura is also suggestively titled “Al-Kafirun”—The Unbelievers. For different wells with the same water, you definitely have to summon Kafir help and surreptitiously slip it in while ostensibly taking a stand as a convinced Muslim.

Hindus should additionally note that even for an aspiring Sufi mystic like Aslan, it becomes a positive strain to extend real courtesy about “more often than not, expressing the same faith” to the rank Pagans/Kafirs that Hindus are with their pantheism and polytheism, thereby revelling in the great “sin” of kufr and shirk—of “associating partners with Allah.” Aslan’s pir Rumi frequently and variously uses “Hindu” as a symbol of all that is wrong, the (despicable) colour black, darkness, evil influence, and especially the nafs (the base soul) that is in urgent need of reforming. That is the lineage of teachers (guru-shishya parampara) that Aslan subscribes to. So, Hindus should thank Reza Aslan, and take his timely reminder as an opportunity to examine the true sayings and history of Sufis and their silsilas from original sources, as also the accounts of the havoc that they wrought to Hinduism, rather than the homilies dished out by several negationists who also masquerade as “eminent historians.”  No Sufi is known to have protested the treatement of Hindus and Hinduism by any sultan—no wonder Aurangzeb was lionized as a “zinda pir”—a living saint. Aslan is truly a worthy heir to Sufi luminaries like Amir Khusrau and Ahmed Sirhindi who so eloquently expressed their contempt and detestation for the stench of idolatory and polytheism in the land of Hind.

Aslan’s preoccupation with the Hindu “obsession” with purity deserves close examination. While on that job, it might perhaps not hurt to remind Aslan that, in strains of traditional Islam, especially the Shi’ism rampant in his native Iran, the Kafir is also “Najis—impure—at par with urine and feces. This is also why Pakistan was so named, for the “Pak” or “Pure” thereby separated themselves from the “najis” Hindus. Incidentally, this objective fact of Islamic jurisprudence also gives the lie to Aslan’s sanctimonious statements about the allegedly unique Hindu “obsession with ritual purity.” Islam is also concerned with ritual purity, only it is based on different assumptions (or “obsessions”). And, the very ritual act of wudu (ablutions) performed by the believers before each of their five daily prayers are testimony to the selfsame “obsession” with ritual purity. Indeed, in this case at least, while “while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.” Or obsession, just for consistency. For those who care to inquire further, the hadiths are quite explicit about “correct” methods of purifying oneself after communing with nature, based on prophetic precedent and a traceable chain of transmission (isnad), no less. We hope Aslan will remember this during the next time he rolls out his prayer mat or ascends the metaphorical CNN tower for the broadcast of the next episode of “Believer.”

Aslan was apparently attracted to Aghora because he discerned in the members of this sect a group of proto-revolutionaries who actively flouted Hindu norms of purity and caste exclusiveness (i.e. “obsessions”). Now, Aghora literally means non-ghora i.e. “non-terrible.” The followers of the Aghora path, the Aghoris, literally try to view the entire world as “non-terrible,” not merely in a metaphysical sense or for reasons of political correctness, but also in a very physical sense. They seek to go beyond the “pairs of opposites” that, in their view, arise from the illusory sensory perception of differences, of personal likes and dislikes, and feelings of pleasure and pain. And, to truly follow this idea, they conduct themselves indifferently in the extreme, even eating substances that humans normally find bizarre or disgusting, which provides what presstitutes (journalists) call a “good copy” for Aslan and his handlers at CNN.

The Aghori sadhu in the CNN video first drank some of his own urine—as in his view—there was nothing that was intrinsically “disgusting” about it. We may say that he did not just walk the talk, but also drank it and lived it. Then, he graciously wanted to extend the same courtesy to his newest acolyte in the person of Reza Aslan who promptly voted with his heels. The urine in the Aghori’s palm was, to borrow Aslan’s cordial and engaging phraseology, a very unique form of water from a very unique well that exorcised Aslan of his revolutionary zeal.

Notes

  1. CNN: Face to face with a cannibalistic sect (video clip).
  2. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (2010), Chapter Nine
  3. CNN: Reza Aslan: Why I am a Muslim.