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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Humility in Hinduism



This is a great piece on Hinduism. As a person who has spent most of his life studying the essence of religions, I have found humility is the bedrock of all religions, and arrogance is the root cause of all problems in the world. Every religion without fail prescribes prayers as its anti-dote to arrogance, and to bring everyone on par with the other - we bow, we kneel and we prostrate as a symbol of acknowledging a greater power.

The sentences, concepts and the words in the following article have been a part of my understanding and my writings over the years. Indeed, it is Bhagvad Gita that inspired me to find the truth on my own, and eventually took me to study Quran and find resonance with it. Indeed, Islam is square on it, you are individually responsible for your karma and you alone are accountable for your thoughts, talks and acts.

Both books (and all the religious books) are about creating a cohesive society where all humanity can co-exist with least conflict by accepting the otherness of other and learning to value the uniqueness of each one. Poet Sahir Ludhanavi wrote this beautiful couplet in Urdu/Hindi language;

Qur’aan no ho jis may o dharam tera nahin hai
Geeta no ho jis may o haram tera nahin hai

Your religion is incomplete without Qur’aan in it
and your worship is incomplete without Gita in it.

Meaning the essence of Goodness is embedded in every religion. What you hear about others is not true, much of it is built on arrogance that mine is better, mine is superior, and even mine is humbler... non sense it is, all religions are beautiful. If it is not, then we have not taken the time to learn the truth but went by what suits our ego - that others are inferior. That is not Hinduism, not Islam, not Christianity and not any religion.
Indeed, humility is the hallmark of every religion.

You might want to experiment this, as I have in the past – replace the words like Bhagvad Gita with Qur’aan or Bible, dharma with righteousness, Deen or right path and few more like that… The Muslim, Christian or other will feel it is about his religion. That is the power of goodness, it permeates in every religion.
Mike Ghouse writes weekly articles on Pluralism at Dallas Morning News and in his daily blog at www.Theghousediary.com

Now enjoy reading this piece with full humility.

HUMILITY IN HINDUISM

Posted: 03/24/2012 9:42 pm

By contributing writer Gautama Mehta, originally published at KidSpirit Online

Growing up in a Hindu family in New York, I've always been taught that I should try my best, but understand that after I've done what I personally can, I should leave the rest to God.

Well, not specifically God, but whatever factors there are beyond my control. There is, in my religion, the concept of dharma, or duty: each person has his or her own righteous path to follow, and at different times in your life, your dharma could be being a good student, or parent, or hard worker, and so on.

Hindus are taught to have humility. Ancient Hindu artists were never supposed to sign their names on their work, and temple artists, when creating statues of gods, are always supposed to leave a deliberate imperfection to show that they cannot really represent God.

It's a religion that decries affectation. It doesn't presume to be the one and only "true" faith: there is no conversion ceremony. All the Hinduism I have grown up with, has taught me to be free of misconceptions about my personal importance, my own status when viewed against all the other billions in the world. I don't know how "Hindu" this is, but my mother has always told me that the religion teaches only to do one's best, and not worry about the outcome. I don't know what it means for an idea like this to be "Hindu," as opposed to just a cultural notion that, in my limited experience, follows the faith wherever it goes. Hinduism is like that: Gandhi's ideals are considered just as Hindu as age-old scriptural doctrines.

In my family (and many others) when a baby turns one, we shave off its hair as a sacrifice to God for the beautiful baby, and also to protect against vanity or conceit. That's the beauty of traditions like these: we can interpret and re-interpret, internalize and re-internalize, to fit with our culture and ethics. The root, of course, is Hinduism, but Hinduism is evolving, is changing. It's an intensely personal religion. There is no Hindu Church or centralized authority. Hinduism can mean incredibly right-wing fundamentalists who use it as an excuse for violence, or it can mean my mother, a self-proclaimed atheist who is one of the most devout Hindus I know.

But there's a contradiction. Culturally, Hindus (or Indians in general) have a lot of pressure to do well, to succeed. Especially immigrant families like mine here in America, which are the ones I know best. In general, immigrant cultures tend to value achievement, because of how hard it is for them to make it in a foreign country where they are poor and discriminated against. Indians in America have done well, though. I see us in Ivy League schools and computer software, in spelling bees and politics. And we're still stereotyped as the culture that pressures its children into doing better than all the American kids, coaching the kids after school in trigonometry and computer science, and if a kid isn't valedictorian in every subject then he's beaten.

Obviously, this is an exaggeration, but the philosophy is still there -- the intense competition, the praise given for having one's name everywhere. In India, kids have an incredibly strict education system, learning everything at a much more advanced rate than I am here in New York, and students are strictly ranked in every aspect. There's a rigorous Hindu caste system only now falling apart, and still very much present in India's villages. My mother, a Brahmin (on the top of the ladder) talks about how growing up in India, she was told that she was superior to everyone else, and though she hates it, she still feels that inside her today. Harsh competition is encouraged from an early age in most Indians. So why the discrepancy between the religion and the culture?

Perhaps the discrimination Indians felt everywhere they went instilled in them the sense of having to be the best, and nurtured in them the insecurity that causes the egotism that is so warned against by Hinduism. My father's family, for example, has spent the last four generations moving across the globe in search of business, everywhere from a rural village in India to Kenya to Calcutta. When my dad was 14, he moved from Bombay to Queens, N.Y., and he describes the move as one of the most influential moments in his life. When he got here, he experienced flagrant racism at his local Catholic high school, in which he was the only minority student, and this has shaped the way he thinks and acts today. But in spite of all the hardships they've faced Indian immigrants like my father have kept religion with them, trusting it to guide them, preserving its traditions as best they can. For him, the Bhagavad Gita, probably the religion's most important text, is the one book he would want on a desert island. But he didn't discover it through his parents. He found it in an undergraduate course on Hinduism at NYU.

In this way, his Hinduism is like mine: Growing up, he knew the Hinduism that his grandparents told stories about, the Hinduism of gods and demons and many-headed animals. But the other side of Hinduism, its philosophy, is something too personal to tell kids on your lap stories about. I know Hindu mythology partly from my Ammamma (mother's mother) telling me stories as a kid, and partly from Amar Chitra Katha, a popular Indian comic book series illustrating myths and scripture. But to try and understand the reasons for the inconsistencies I've seen in my community, I decided I actually had to read the stuff.

I read through the Bhagavad Gita, expecting to find an archaic, illegible piece of scripture that would make no sense to me. But instead I found lines that illustrated perfectly ideals that still make perfect sense, many centuries later.

Let me give a bit of background on the Gita, as the book is commonly known. It's a chapter in the epic poem Mahabharata, which is about an ancient war between two sets of brothers. The Gita, Wikipedia tells me, was written between the 5th and 2nd centuries B.C. It's 700 verses long.

The story of the Gita is a conversation between Arjuna, a good-guy on one side of the war riding a chariot into battle, and Krishna, his charioteer who's also a god. Arjuna feels guilty about having to kill his cousins who are fighting on the other side, and he expresses these doubts to Krishna, sitting down in the chariot, letting his bow and arrow slip out of his hand. The result is an intense, beautiful dialogue about life, death and reincarnation. But the part that interested me most was when Krishna talked about ego, and "selfless service."

His initial answer to Arjuna's questions is that it is his dharma to kill his cousins. It wouldn't be immoral to kill them, because it is a part of the cycle of life and death that exists for everyone. "For a warrior, nothing is higher than a war against evil," Krishna counsels. And anyway, even when a body dies, he says, its soul, or Self, lives on, living forever in future and past, in an eternal cycle of karma and reincarnation until it is finally released from karma by defeating ego and materialism and sin. "You were never born; you will never die," he explains.

The ultimate object of this cycle is to become immortal and "be united with the Lord." The way to do this is to "renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of 'I,' 'me,' and 'mine.'" In another place, he says, "Deluded by identification with the ego, a person thinks, 'I am the doer.'"
Another theme Krishna stresses is work. "You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work... The ignorant work for their own profit, Arjuna; the wise work for the world." This, more than anything else, clashes for me with the stress my culture places on rewards and achievement.

When I read all this, I was fascinated by it. It resonated so truly with all the lessons I had been taught were Hinduism. All the principles I was taught came right out of its philosophy. The humility asked for by Krishna is simultaneously present and absent in his followers.

I don't think that the sense of pride only comes from immigrant cultures like mine. I think it's present in India too. There is constant religious violence between Hindus and Muslims, another example of the frenzied, insecure need to uphold whatever you have. India, as many Indians will readily brag, was once a huge world power, one of the most advanced cultures on the planet, the discoverer of zero, the creator of our numeral system, the inventor of chess. I have heard these facts so many times I know them and a million others by heart, all talking about "how __ India is," how India is "the most __ nation in the world."

But India was colonized by the British, and wherever its people went, they were put down. They were weaker, poorer and darker than everyone else, and that had to leave a mark on them. I don't know if I'm enough of a historian to attribute it to whatever they must have faced, but it's easy to imagine how all those factors could contribute to a collective need for self-esteem, that could have resulted in what I experience today.

When he wrote this, Gautama Mehta was 15 years old and on the KidSpirit Editorial Board. His article is reprinted with the permission of KidSpirit Magazine and can be found here. Gautama Mehta lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is into writing, music, art, math and social justice.
Follow KidSpirit on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kidspiritonline

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MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, The Smirking Chimp and several other periodicals. His daily blog is www.TheGhousediary.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TEXAS FAITH: Should the ban on political activity by churches be repealed?

Should the federal ban on political activity by churches and religious institutions be repealed – or remain in place? Our Texas Faith panel weighs in – and they don’t agree on the answer. This is a weekly column at Dallas Morning News, addressing the issues facing the nation. http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/03/texas-faith-should-ban-on-political_20.html

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas, Texas

As Americans of Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, independent and other persuasions, we are collectively and partially funding religious institutions through tax subsidy, and the least we can expect from them is to remain neutral to each one of us on political matters.

Every American has 1/312 Millionth of a share in such subsidy, why would I, a Republican want my money to go to a church that supports democrats or vice-versa?
As a nation we have to debate the need for giving tax breaks to religious organizations, and why do they need the tax break? We may disagree with Governor Perry on a lot of issues, except the idea that every foreign nation must justify their need for even a dollar to go to them. How does giving a tax break for religious organizations benefit every American indiscriminately?

Dallas Morning News had a similar question a few months ago. Can the Pastor of a Church publicly endorse a candidate without influencing or dividing his or her congregation? That is the fine line that blurs the separation of Church and state.

The fact of the matter is, every one of us is politically inclined towards one candidate or the other; for a majority of us it is an emotional decision. Nearly 2/3rds of Americans have decided through party affiliation who they will vote for – it is a clear choice to them; Democrats or Republicans. It is really the 1/3rd of undecided voters that the parties are vying for.

So the top ten evangelicals ganged up on Romney, simply because of his faith - cloaked in the disguise of not conservative enough. Wouldn’t their congregations follow their lead? The most conservative states are following that lead and giving boost to Santorum. He in turn has followed the bait by going to the extreme and becoming Mullah Santorum.

If we allow any majority to dictate the nation, we will lose the very essence of America; a God’s country where everyone of His creation lives in harmony.

We are not a mobcracy-democracy, where the majority bullies the minorities, like the Republican house bullied the Democratic minority in holding out the payroll tax break for majority of Americans. We need to follow the rule of law and temper the majority with righteousness and honor everyone’s space and right to the pursuit of their happiness.

Greatness of our nations lies in our system, the checks and balances. The representative form of governance has not let us fall into a pit like most other nations. We must keep the separation of church and state and strip the tax breaks from those institutions that break the rules.

Had it not been for bad politics, there would have been one Christianity; one Islam, one Judaism, one Hinduism and one Native Tradition. Now let’s not allow the same bad politics to divide our nation based on religion.

For all the responses from the panelists, please visit Dallas Morning News at
http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2012/03/texas-faith-should-the-ban-on.html
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MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, The Smirking Chimp and several other periodicals. His daily blog is www.TheGhousediary.com 

Monday, March 19, 2012

HAPPY NOWRUZ


I have not attended the Nowruz festivity in a while, but it is fresh on my mind. My Zoroastrian friends had a gathering and it was a pleasure to be a part of the festivity… fruits and veggies, sort of Jewish Purim festival.

Way back in 1996,  I had a weekly radio show on Saturdays called "Festivals of the world", where in we shared the essence of every festival occurred during that week. When we announced about it for the first time on the radio, assuming it was a Zoroastrian Festival; our Baha'i, Ismaili and Iranian friends called in and said, it was theirs too. Well Happy Nowruz to all!

Zoroastrian faith has been in my domain since I was about ten, my mothers close friend was a Parsee lady (Zoroastrian) Mrs. Bahramjee, we affectionately called Parsee Amma ( In Bangalore, we have a habit of tagging Amma to every senior lady) she came to visit my mother on Tuesdays and they talked for several hours…God only knows what. My first encounter with Baha'i was with Ben and Simi Moghaddas in 1993, they were on my Radio Show to talk about Bahai faith and my first Iranian contact was when I was in college- they came to Bangalore Medical College and Bangalore Agriculture College from Iran.

I could not find my piece on the festivity…but I found my CD I bought from the stall at Nowruz… it's in Persian, I can read it, and understand a few words… but the songs and music is fabulous. Somewhere I have a CD in Avesta language as well... the gentleman is in Californian and he and I have the same  voice. Even I was taken back listening to him, it is a rare voice.



Here is the story:

Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranians, the same time is celebrated in parts of the South Asian sub-continent as the new year. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and Iranian families gather together to observe the rituals.

Originally being a Zoroastrian festival, and the holiest of them all, Nowruz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster himself, although there is no clear date of origin Since the Achaemenid era the official year has begun with the New Day when the Sun leaves the zodiac of Pisces and enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, signifying the Spring Equinox.

The Jewish festival of Purim is probably adopted from the Persian New Year. It is also a holy day for Sufis, Ismailis, Alawites, Alevis, and adherents of the Bahá'í Faith.

The term Nowruz in writing, first appeared in Persian records in the 2nd century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids c. 548-330 BC), where kings from different nations under the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the Emperor, also called King of Kings (Shahanshah), of Persia on Nowruz. The significance of Nowruz in the Achaemenid empire was such that the great Persian king Cambyses II's appointment as the king of Babylon was legitimized only after his participation in the New Year festival (Nowruz).

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MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, The Smirking Chimp and several other periodicals. His daily blog is www.TheGhousediary.com

Saturday, March 10, 2012

HAPPY HOLI, India's festival of colors and joy

Radiant Colors of Holi

Holi is an Indian festival of radiance. It is a celebration of spring with colors that nourish one’s joyous moods and complements the function of respective elements in the atmosphere.

Legend has it, that Lord Krishna is believed to have complained to his mother about his dark complexion while Radha's had a lighter skin. Krishna's mother decided to apply color to Radha's face (Reverse Make up?) The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.
The essence of Holi is liberation and breaking the barriers between adults and children, family members and friends, and the festivity opens up to each other.

Several years ago, my son, daughter and I were drenched in Holi colors at the Hindu Temple festivities and were driving home. At a stop light, people in others cars on either side stared at us and looked scared and drove off screeching on the green light... the three of us laughed and looked at each other…  it dawned on us that we looked bloody, green, yellow and mellow.......colors in our hair, face and clothes…

My kids thoroughly enjoyed throwing the colors in liquid and dust forms on me, they loved it. I would also call it friendship festival as it removes inhibitions.
Prasad's daughter, Prasad Thotakura | Jasmina, Mike and Jeff Ghouse

Wow, Happy Holi!

Although Holi is part of the Hindu tradition, most Indians participate in it, here is a song that reflects the unity of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians and of course, Jains, Zoroastrians, Baha’i, Jews, Buddhist and native traditions… also celebrate it.  Here is a Bollywood song to reflect that.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NocV6jsegVY

The picture below reflects that sentiments - all colors coming together to create oneness, thus the phrase Vasudaiva Kutumbukum; the whole world is one family. Similar expressions are a staple in every faith.

Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna which usually falls in the later part of February or March.

Since 1993, I have been writing about every festival on the earth, have done a weekly Radio program called "Festivals of the world" and shared about each festival.  Make it simple enough that most people can get the essence of it. For Hindus there is lot more depth and meaning to it, but for the non-Hindus, this gives them an idea about the festival. It is a part of the Pluralism education, so we all can know each other and appreciate our own uniqueness. Each one of is a model of our own.

Happy Holi and please enjoy the songs;

From the movie Lagaan, Radha Kaisay na Jalay -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmC86-uX7JE


Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, and cohesive societies.www.ProfessionalSpeakerMikeGhouse.com and current articles atwww.TheGhousediary.com 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happy Purim, one of the happiest Jewish Holidays

I am pleased to wish a very Happy Purim to our Jewish friends across the globe.  Purim is one of the happiest of holidays of the Jewish people, it the story of freedom from anxiety of being annihilated.  This has reference to a point in history where an evil man plots to annihilate the Jews, but the Persian king is persuaded by Esther otherwise.  It was a major victory and thus the celebration.  Happy Purim.

I have written a heartfelt article on Israel and Palestine, published in 3 installments at Huffington post.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/israel-and-palestine-moving-forward_b_1258261.html . You might understand the history of Jewish people to understand Purim.

The book of Esther

The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahasuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity.

The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman told the king, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people's, and they do not observe the king's laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them." Esther 3:8. The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews.

Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman's plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman and his ten sons were hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.

The book of Esther is unusual in that it is the only book of the Bible that does not contain the name of G-d. In fact, it includes virtually no reference to G-d. Mordecai makes a vague reference to the fact that the Jews will be saved by someone else, if not by Esther, but that is the closest the book comes to mentioning G-d. Thus, one important message that can be gained from the story is that G-d often works in ways that are not apparent, in ways that appear to be chance, coincidence or ordinary good luck.

From Judaism 101