11 September, 2008

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar offers a counterpoint to Javed Akhtar's finite views on Spirituality

Everyone has the right to be ignorant

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

It is funny that in a country like India spirituality is talked about as a hoax. How can something which is so obvious, which is part of millions of people, be taken as a hoax? Spirituality is not a halo of the few, it is the breath of every human being. Have people forgotten that freedom was achieved through spirituality as the prime means by Mahatma Gandhi?

It has become a fashion with journalists to blindly continue the colonial tradition of calling Hindu spiritual leaders a hoax. They called Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo godmen and hoaxes, and their contemporaries continue to do so. Would they say this to Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama? No! Only Indian spiritual leaders are singled out.

The India Today Conclave offered a basis for a discussion on spirituality, “Halo or Hoax?” Javed Akhtar joked, “In movies we create an illusion and then after three hours we put up a sign, The End, and make people step back into reality, whereas spiritual people also create an illusion but they do not put an end to it.” The audience applauded. I smiled within and thought, yes, what this man says is correct, all that is created comes to an end. If something does not end then it is not created! Perhaps he didn’t even realise the profound truth of what he was saying.

So in some way he tacitly accepted that the love and drama he creates in the movies does end, but the love and transformation created by spiritual people never end. Yes, this whole world is an illusion that never ends. I drew Adi Shankara from his sarcasm. What an enigma: the perception and the reality. So Mr Akhtar is actually saying that his reel love songs are false. If only he knew the reality: that his lyrics express the genuine feelings of thousands of youth when they come and sing his marvelous songs before me, with that spark of love in their eyes. Real-life love never ends; it moves from life to lifetimes.

Spirituality is intoxicating. Only those who step into it will know. Before criticising we need to do our homework. Has one visited ashrams, like the Ramakrishna Ashram, Ananda Mayi Ma Mutt, Brahma Kumaris’, Gayatri Parivar, Pandurang Shastri, Sri Aurobindo Ashram or Art of Living? Has one spent time with saints? Only then does one’s views carry weight, else they remain simple accusations only, a distorted perception, not reality.

Mr Akhtar thundered again: “All modern-day spiritualists are hypocrites”. Many people froze as he dismissed the present-day gurus. Today there are millions of people who follow spirituality: are they all hypocrites? I appreciated that he could express his feelings boldly, without pretension. But the contempt that was exhibited for gurus was alarming. The hatred and frustration were obvious from his body language. It’s not just Mr Akhtar. Many journalists, communists, atheists and naxalites live in that state of mind, of being anti-religious, anti-rich, anti-famous, anti-business.

Should I argue and put him down? No! I have never put anyone down. I can’t deviate from my nature. So I simply said, everyone has the right to be ignorant.

A flash of Aurangzeb, who butchered thousands of gurus and would not listen to any reason or logic, came to mind. An intelligent man would look into all the avenues before he makes a comment or accusation. It is necessary to stand up for justice and expose the misdeeds of the world. Instead the so-called activists only engage in accusations. Blaming the entire modern-day spiritual guru and sadhu community is as foolish as branding the entire Muslim community as terrorists.

It is the medieval brahmanical mindset to always put down business and politics and the colonial mindset to denounce gurus. As a result we never expanded our political influence nor globalised our business until very recently.

Then came his next statement that Buddha went from the palace to the forest and today the gurus come from the forest to the palace. I said to myself, ‘Come on! Buddha went to the forest when he was unhappy and miserable, and he came right back when he became a guru’. Any high school student knows this. Besides, every palace had a rajguru. Last year hundreds of sadhus were evicted from the caves and hermitages of the Himalayan region, near Haridwar, by the forest department. People generally think sadhus should live in forests with torn clothes but the forest department wanted to send them to the city!

The atheists have always fought with spiritual people. In those situations we should know how to act. It is pointless to argue with them. What do you say to a man who has never stepped into the realm of spirituality yet calls it a hoax? One cannot make a blind man see the light through his nose.

Unfortunately atheists are just fearful and good dramatists. A man who equates arms, drugs and spirituality is not going to change his opinion immediately and anyway his opinion is not going to matter for what is and what will be. Come on, I thought, sing a new song. My compassion grew.

Often activists seem to create rage and revenge in the victims; they cannot bring solace and creative action. In the name of justice they fume with hatred. This can lead to acts of violence like the recent killings of 19 sadhus in Uttar Pradesh. It has been an old tradition to glorify the dead, and call the living a hoax. Kabir had to put up with this as did Meera, Buddha, Jesus, Adi Shankara and many more... the wise do not mind the outburst of a few.

Spirituality is not a matter of the head, it is a matter of the heart. I had two choices: to argue and turn the conclave into a conflict or to keep silence. I chose the latter.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living


Punjab are you Listening… it is a Wake-Up Call!


By the mid-1990s, when "spying missions" were despatched to India by US-based transnational missionary organisations (TMOs), it was part of the larger conversion mission, AD2000 and Joshua Project. Abraham's commentary in a film produced by Agape reveals that "by the mid-1990s, a growing realisation for the need for a systematic church planting effort covering the entire state was gaining momentum. We held a systematic grassroots level harvest force research in 1998 and the results were an eye-opener for us. There were 262 pin code areas in Punjab without any churches in 1998. In the next three years, however, all the 491 postal code areas in the state gained entry into the church map." This was possible due to the research and survey conducted by Brother Issac Dutta, research coordinator, Punjab, Operation Agape. "God gave me the burden of Punjab in 1997. I started my research in 1997. My team and I visited 1,100 Christian workers in the whole of Punjab, collecting data from them on who was working in different villages, blocks and districts," Dutta explained.

The North India Harvest Network, also started by Abraham, used the 'Pin Code survey' conducted by the Indian Missions Association, Chennai, to generate ethno-graphic data in the North Indian states. The data has armed the US intelligence agencies for they now have unparalleled access to the remotest corners of India and are-again, pincer like-bringing areas into "the fold" by secretly unleashing pastors in different blocks and districts.

Operation Agape has, for example, been instrumental in producing over 3,000 'house-churches' in Madhya Pradesh in the last six years. Their conversion figure stands at a record number of "60,000 to 70,000" converts. "Our methods have become a model for churches all across India," says Abraham. "The house-church movement does not strive for buildings. We do not believe in buildings. Traditional churches are dying. The Anglican church in England is dying. The house-church movement is the spirit of God. Ludhiana is a city where the church has done really well. Now we are dreaming of a church in every colony. Fifty percent colonies in Ludhiana and 60 percent villages in Punjab have churches now," he told Tehelka.

Planting churches in India

Operation Agape is supported by Christian Aid, a US-based conversion-funding agency, run by Rev Bob Finley, a loyal supporter of President Bush. The mission headquarters of this operation is Agape Bhawan, located within the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana. Abraham was extremely evasive about answering questions on Operation Agape, but a video CD produced by AGAPE foundation, which is in Tehelka's possession, is explicit about the movement.

The film on Operation Agape interviews Rev C George, who claims to have begun the church planting movement in Punjab: "I had great concern for Punjab…Then the Lord very definitely, specifically asked me to go to the state of Punjab and do whatever possible so that the people will come to know that Operation Blue Star or Operation Black Thunder did not help, but operation of God's love will be the solution to the problem of Punjab."

Simply put, the strategy is to plant a church in every village and urban colony and notch up a figure of 100,000 churches in the state by 2010. "We cannot say we have any challenge here because Punjab is open. All religions are respected and we can go freely to everybody. The most difficult states to evangalise are Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh because extremist Hindus are there," says Simon P George, manager, Punjab Bible College, Hiran (near Ludhiana).

URL: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main.asp?filename=ts013004qaeda.asp

05 September, 2008


Sanjay Kumar

The 25 serial blasts that ripped through Bengaluru and Ahmedabad claiming scores of innocent lives, once again serve as an eye-opener to the grievous state of our internal security. As always the blasts were followed by slick sound bytes by the Union Home minister to convene a CM’s meeting to counter terrorism and the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is once again stressing upon the need of a Federal Agency to fight terrorism. With these politically right notes, the compensation to the victims has been announced and the usual allegations and counter allegations between the political parties to outrank each other are underway.

As far as the security of politicians is concerned, it is stepped up after every such incident and they are content condemning such horrendous acts. Not to mention that during the PM’s visit to Ahmedabad along with Smt. Sonia Gandhi and the Home minister, besides the SPG protection available to them, there were two IG level officers, three DIG’s, seven SP’s, and over 400 Police personnel deployed for their protection.

The life after the blasts has begun to come back to track and as after the blasts in Hyderabad, Malegaon, Mumbai and Jaipur, the citizens of this nation will forget the incidents till something else happens to shake them up.

Thus, this write up aims to draw forth some uncomfortable questions before our political leadership, policy makers, and security and intelligence agencies and above all before the citizens of the country so that we all awaken before it is too late. Your views in this regard will be highly appreciated.

Q 1. Have we clearly defined and outlined our policy to fight terrorism even after 60 years of independence, or are simply content with off and on discussions about it? Isn’t it true that the political leadership of this nation makes policies keeping in view their political gain or loss and no party is exception to it?

Q 2. Isn’t it true that the internal security matter was never as grave as now?

Q 3. Why blasts are happening here in India and why after 9/11 and Metro Rail attack in U.K no other terrorist attack has taken place when all the ‘jehadis’/ terrorist outfits are staunchly opposed to U.S and Europe? Are we weaker than Iraq and Afghanistan also?

Q 4. Chechnya was a headache for Russia once, where has problem now disappeared? And can Sikiyang and Tibet ever challenge China? Why Kashmir and North-East and Naxalism have become our nation’s life long problem?

Q 5. Have we not given utterly wrong message to Pakistan and the terrorist outfits by repealing POTA that they can freely operate in our country? According to a report after repealing of POTA the number of terror attacks and the ambit of terror related activities have increased like never before. Notably POTA dealt with not only terror activities but also checked the support to terror activities. Thus we are dealing with terrorism as we deal with general crime activities, which is amply evident in hardly any convictions for terrorism lately.

Q 6. Didn’t we compromise with terrorism during hijack of Indian Airlines plane to Kandhar?

Q 7. Isn’t the main concern of UPA government its vote bank, even if national security and national pride has to be put on stake for it? Otherwise why did UPA repeal POTA? Why is the law made on lines of MACOCA (by Maharashtra government) sought for approval by state governments (of Rajasthan and Gujarat) to fight terrorism pending?

Q 8. Why the Union Cabinet (UPA) under the pressure of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (PDP) decided to provide compensation to the relatives of Kashmiri militants? Aren’t we aware that Mohammad Sayeed is the same man who enacted the drama of the kidnapping of his daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed and got released 3 dreaded militants and all this happened while he held the post of Union Home Minister? The details of this shocking episode has been revealed by a former JKLF terrorist, Hilal War, who was involved in this episode, in his recent book called – “The Great Disclosure”.

Q 9. Isn’t it the glaring example of appeasement that whenever the investigation of blasts reaches a particular community then only the question of vote bank comes up? Likewise, what do decisions like providing soft loans to a particular community and recognizing the ‘Degree of madrasas’ for railway jobs signify? Our leaders have a lot to answer to this nation.

Q 10. Is national security the priority of any political party? Why is it that where one political party takes the case of LTTE another one opposes it? Furthermore why Naxalism is supported by some political parties and opposed by others? It is well known how the former CM of Uttar Pradesh supported the case of SIMI (banned terrorist outfit whose main aim is to destabilize India, currently operating under the name of INDIAN MUJAHIDEEN) chief in Supreme Court and got him released on one occasion. There is speculation in political circles that this former CM might become the Home minister, as reward to help UPA win trust vote.

Q 11. Isn’t it shameful that UPA government had appointed one Bangladeshi national as the advisor in the national security agency and now RAW has registered the report against him and he is absconding?

Q 12. Similarly, the statement of Omar Abdullah in parliament before the trust motion is being so much lauded by certain news channels as ‘stirring speech’, doesn’t everyone knows that his father Farooq Abdullah started Jihad in Kashmir valley and sent Yasin Malik (JKLF chief) and many others for training in Pakistan and later on the same Sr. Abdullah ‘traded power for autonomy’?

Q 13. Isn’t it shameful for us as a Nation that the same people who supported Mao attack on our nation in 1962 are in power? There is no supporter of Bin Laden in U.S but our country is replete with Mao supporters.

Q 14. Surprisingly, the arrested SIMI chief, Nagori, had long back revealed in his Narco test that major cities could be the target; in spite of it, the serial blasts shook the nation. What were our security agencies and intelligence agencies doing? What is the reason till now not even a single case has been cracked down? Why are our intelligence agencies unable to track down the local sleeping modules which aid and abet such incidents of terror?

Q 15. Where does so much of explosive come from? It is very well known that ISI has established a strong network in the entire country and it has expanded its preview of activity much beyond its ‘Mission Kashmir’ strategy. Intelligence sources themselves say that in 9 states ISI has ten thousand spies. What is our preparation to tackle all this?

Q 16. Isn’t it alarming that the number of madrassas harboring anti-national activities is increasing at a startling rate? In Kerala alone, more than 6000 madrasas have come up. According to another report ISI spends about 600 million dollars each year to destabilize India be it through terrorism, havala, narcotics to name a few. As a result a strong and dangerous nexus – Militants-Mullah-Madrasa has come up. Where does this money come from? To top it all, UPA government has gathered all kind of anti-national activists and appointed them as members to National Integration Council and Central Advisory Board on Education.

Q 17. Isn’t it ironical that not an inch of our land seems safe? In some places it is infested with naxal violence, somewhere separatism, and somewhere anti-national activities. And we are brushing it aside by terming the disturbances as ‘foreign hand’? The vital question here is who shelters these terrorists in the country? Evidently, they are being given shelter by some anti-national people amongst us only and some power hungry leaders? Ex-I.B Chief Shri. A.K Dowal reveals that those involved in Mumbai and Hyderabad blasts were caught early on but had to be released due to political pressure and the result is before us.

Q 18. When will our political leaders understand that terrorism is a proxy war and can be dealt as war only and requires a proper counter terrorism strategy? Time and again it has been repeated that India is the most targeted nation after Iraq.

Q 19. Isn’t there a serious need to examine the role and sources of funds and mission of some so called NGO’s? In a book titled ‘NGO’s , Activists and Foreign funds’ Radha Ranjan and Krishna Kak have outlined and revealed ‘programs’ of some Ngo’s and social activists whose main aim is to make India “Hinduless” or without Hindus. The book outlines how Islamabad+ Missionariesism+ Marxism+ Macaulayism = terrorism in India.

Q 20. Isn’t it true that instead of showing some seriousness towards dealing with terrorism, the sole aim of our so-called ‘intellectuals’, is to distort the discussion to some other end best known to them? Absurdly they reason out that because Gujarat happened Mumbai happened; and because Ayodhaya happened the terrorism increased. If terrorism is result of Gujarat and Ayodhaya, then what is the reason behind anti-national activity in Kashmir and North-East?

Q 21. Our political establishment is bringing forth such people on the top who are insincere towards national issues, national interest, unaware of strategic and international situation. Our business community is expanding its economic empire throughout; our scientists, economists, and managers carry impeccable reputation worldwide but why is there a stark contrast when we look at our political leaders?

Q 22. There are about seven lakh villages in India and there are more than 7 lakh saints in our country. Even if one saint adopts one village each can’t they spread awareness about dharma and nation?

Q 23. Sooner or later the citizen of this nation has to understand that the long drawn battle of terrorism is also a part of well planned plot. This battle has led to increase in the so called ‘liberated’ zone of Naxalism. These naxal forces are moving ahead to take shape of state. By being caught up on one front aren’t we giving chance to the other enemy? Likewise when Chang-kai Sheik was busy dealing with Japan then only the Maoist forces became strong in China. Any such expansion of naxals would be our failure as a nation.

Q 24. What about the ‘fourth pillar of our democracy’?

The dramatic way in which the electronic media has portrayed the tragedies proves that it certainly needs a rethinking on the part of media. The zealous anchors hardly realize that they are adding to the trauma of people and creating panic. The way serious discussions are diverted for TRP is really pathetic. Already there is a lack of healthy debate to find solution to the issue and the way the quality of contemporary political debate has deteriorated, it is hardly making our political executive accountable. Total transformation is the need of the hour. So much so that at least the sensitive issue of national security should not be politicized rather it requires a common understanding and common program.

Q 25. Are our political leaders still unable to understand that the serial blasts were not a retaliatory act otherwise why they were timed so perfectly after the trust vote backing Nuclear Deal?

The need of the hour is not only politicians, the citizens too should come forward, as national security is equally their responsibility as well. Even spiritual leaders should come forward to show the way. More than any federal agency, a strong will is required be it political will or the will of the citizen of this nation to fight terrorism.

No doubt the situation is alarming but what is our preparation as a nation and as the citizens of this glorious nation to tackle such state of affairs? These are lot of uncomfortable questions that we need to ask ourselves and our rulers, let alone to use our right to vote judiciously.