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Om Sweet Om

Decline in Pakistan’s Hindu Population Due to “Better” Family Planning

posted by sheetal

If you have any interest in minority human rights in Pakistan and have the patience to sit through 30 minutes of mayhem, this news segment on Hindus in Pakistan is worth a watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06cUS2IcN7I&feature=share.

As most of us who stay abreast of the situation in Pakistan know, Hindus and other minorities face serious human rights violations in the country.  Hindus are routinely attacked and harassed, homes and temples are looted and desecrated, and young girls are kidnapped, forcibly married off to Muslim men, and converted to Islam.  Reports of Pakistani Hindus fleeing to India are becoming increasingly commonplace in the news these days.

Yet, Pakistani politicians, at least the ones on this segment, still have the gall to openly and completely deny that any problem exists at all.  The strategy of denial is seemingly twofold on this broadcast.  The first tactic is to depict these as isolated and “sporadic incidents” that can happen anywhere in the world, not just Pakistan.  Here, I give credit to the anchor who is able to cite case after case of kidnappings that have recently taken place in Pakistan, thus effectively demonstrating the problem on the ground is greater than “sporadic.”

Once the first tactic is rebuffed, the second tactic is to not address the problem in Pakistan at all, but rather point the finger at India and the supposed plight of its Muslims.  Granted, there has been communal violence in India.  But to compare the situation of Indian Muslims, who, by the way, receive a government subsidy to make the Hajj pilgrimage, have separate civil laws permitting practice of religious and cultural customs, and benefit from state government reservations, to the situation of Pakistani Hindus, who can’t even legally marry under Pakistani laws or find justice in the country’s highest court (see the tragic case of Rinkel Kumari), is both laughable and ludicrous.

But I must say the best line comes almost 25 minutes into the segment when the anchor asks Mr. Naeem ul Haq, representing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, to explain the exponential decline of the Hindu population in Pakistan from approximately 15% during the time of partition to about 2% today.  Mr. ul Haq’s response: “I guess Hindus are better at family planning than Muslims.”  Even the anchor couldn’t hold back a guffaw at the stupidity of that remark.

Sharing in Grief with Sikh Americans

posted by sheetal

In the wake of the horrific attack at the Sikh gurudwara yesterday, I share my deepest condolences with the families of the victims and the Sikh community at large.  Last night, the Hindu American Foundation – of which I am a part – released the following statement:

We, at the Hindu American Foundation, join all Americans in shared shock, disbelief, and outrage over today’s tragic events that unfolded at the holy gurudwara, or Sikh temple, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin earlier today. At least six Sikh Americans are dead, several are injured, including a valiant police officer who killed the assailant, and we face another day of catastrophe that is as outrageous as numbingly familiar.

Dharma traditions–the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Hindus–hold non-violence and peaceful co-existence as paramount values. It is a cruel irony that Sikhs, donning the turban as among proud symbols of a spiritual mandate to serve humanity as defenders of dharma against all onslaughts, find themselves sought out and victimized by ignorant assailants on too many occasions.

 

We call on all Americans today to join Sikhs in mourning a senseless attack and to take this opportunity to not only learn about the sublime teachings of Sikh gurus, the Sikh faith, and the meanings of its external symbols, but also join hands to ensure that the gurudwaras remain sanctuaries of joyous worship and celebrated sharing of langar, or community meals, for generations to come.

NY yoga studios exempt from sale tax

posted by sheetal

Looks like the NY yoga community successfully battled its case. Tax department officials ruled that yoga is not a “true exercise.” Read more here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/yoga-ruled-true-exercise-state-tax-department-article-1.1123779

Ashta siddhis are recipes for success without stress

posted by sheetal

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an amazing talk by Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission.  Swamiji has a lovely way of seamlessly integrating various stories into his talk as he makes his point.  His talk was entitled “Success without Stress,” and he based it on specific parts of the Hanuman Chalisa.   For those who are unfamiliar, Hanuman is one of the most popular figures in the Hindu epic Ramayana, and he is forever beloved by children and adults for his youthful antics and energy.  The Hanuman Chalisa extols the glories of Hanuman in his selfless service to Lord Ram.

Swamiji began his discussion by explaining to us the eight siddhis (ashta siddhi) that are mentioned in Patajanli’s Yoga Sutras and can be obtained by very few through countless years of practice and devotion to all eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.  Siddhi can loosely be translated as accomplishment or a special power or unusual skill.  The eight siddhis Swamiji described are:

  • Anima: Reducing one’s physical self to the size of an atom
  • Mahima: Growing one’s physical self to incredibly large size
  • Garima: Making one’s physical self so heavy as immovable by others
  • Laghima: Becoming almost weightless
  • Prapti: Being able to go/travel wherever one wants
  • Prakamya: Being able to obtain whatever one wants
  • Istva: Possessing lordship
  • Vastva: Being able to control the minds of others

 

Hanuman not only possessed all eight siddhis, but was also blessed by Sita as “Ashta Siddhi Nau Nidhi Ke Daata,” or one who can bestow astha siddhi upon others.  When Hanuman first reaches to Lanka on his mission to find Sita, he makes use of anima so as to be discrete in enemy territory.  He uses it again when he approaches Sita for the first time – reducing his size to that of a schoolboy, so as not to scare her.  He uses mahima to outwit and overpower demons.  He uses garima to show his power when Ravana, the demon king, temporarily captures him and brings him to the main court of palace.  Not even the mighty Ravana could lift Hanuman’s tail.

The stories of Hanuman are many, and Swamiji could have continued on.  But instead, he told us that these eight siddhis are the key to success without stress in our life.  We just needed to extrapolate the meaning:

  • Anima:  Reduce the ego and be humble in front of elders, parents, teachers, and gurus.
  • Mahima: Think big, and aim for large goals.
  • Garima: Be immovable and unshakeable in values and principles.
  • Laghima: Don’t take everything in life too seriously.  Have some lightness and laughter in life. To that end, I should note that Swamiji provided us quite a bit of laughter with his amusing anecdotes.
  • Prapti: Focus mental energies on achieving the goal.
  • Prakamya: Always speak the truth, and don’t be afraid to express aims and goals.  Swamiji gave a beautiful example to explain his point. Most people say what they want to achieve and immediately follow it with “touch wood,” because they fear by saying it out loud, it won’t come true.  Yet, when those same people approach a Swami, their entire view shifts.  They suddenly believe if the Swami says it will happen, then it actually will.  Hinduism is replete with stories of great sages and rishis whose utterances – curses and blessings – would come true. Swamiji’s point was that while the same may not be true for us, we should still strive to be like these great rishis by always speaking the truth and having a “can do” attitude in life.
  • Istva and Vastva:  Swamiji combined the last two siddhis and focused on the power of leadership, respect, and love – all of which go hand in hand.  A true leader inspires others.  And that inspiration causes people to follow and be loyal to that leader (istva).  And finally, with respect to vastva, Swamiji said that if a person truly loves you, there isn’t anything he won’t do for you.

 

In a short 90 minutes, Swamiji beautifully explained some key principles to being successful in life.  He also made it a point to explain that success should not be measured in terms of wealth.  Money is necessary for sustenance and “even for God’s work…temples just don’t build themselves!”  But wealth that is obtained through dishonest means causes destruction of the person and those around him.  And when one acquires wealth, he shouldn’t horde it.  It should be used to benefit society.

Hindus pay homage to wealth in the form of Goddess Laxmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu.  And Laxmi comes and goes as She pleases.  The only place She always remains is at the side of Vishnu.  In the Ramayana, Swamiji explained, Ravana captures Sita, the avatar of Laxmi, for himself only.  His greed and lust for Sita leads to the destruction of his kingdom and family, and his ultimate demise.  On the other hand, Hanuman comes to find Sita in the name of Lord Ram, the avatar of Vishnu.  And he is rewarded with Sita’s blessings – not wealth, which is of no importance to him, but the promise that he will always be in service of and near to Ram.

With a twinkle in his eye, Swamiji concluded by saying, “So, you can practice Ashtanga Yoga for hundreds of years to achieve one or two of these siddhis…or you can just worship Hanuman.”

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