Mar 28, 2015

To Jehovah's Witness of Cleveland, Ohio

To the Jehovah's Witness of Cleveland, Ohio:

You guys (a gal and a guy) visit my home every three months. You politely ring the doorbell. I look through the front door peephole and wonder if I should open the door or not. From your last visits, I know that you guys are polite and trying to spread your message about Christianity or trying to convert non-Christians like myself to Christianity.

Out of respect to you and for the purpose of not being impolite, I open the door. You hand me a booklet about Christianity and show me a video. I politely accept the book and watch your video. Then you guys leave with a plan to revisit after about 3 months. I am kinda okay with hearing you out but..............Okay, I will hear you out again.

I am never going to convert to Christianity. I was born a Hindu and I will die a Hindu. As a Hindu, I like my religion with its good and flaws. If I was born a Christian, I would remain a Christian. I know about Christianity and I respect the good aspects of the philosophy. I respect you both.

We Hindus do not PROSELYTIZE. We respect the right of other people to follow their faith. Do not take my politeness as agreement with your message. I am not getting influenced by the booklet or the video, at all, at all.

Take it easy.

Mar 23, 2015

Dr. Ram Puniyani: Politics and Holy Cow

Dr. Ram Puniyani is a writer.  He is a biomedical engineer from IIT, Mumbai.  He is a well spoken man.  Yes, he is right about some thugs and nincompoops in BJP and Company. No, Ram Puniyani does not understand or pretend not to understand politics.  He seems to be wearing eyeglasses, one lens of which is colored rose and the other is colored green. With his rose colored lens, he sees the world as it should and with the green colored lens, he expresses concerns about alienating minorities in India.   

When did Indian Muslims become synonymous with minorities in India?  Aren't Sikhs, Jains, Christians etc. etc. minorities in India?  Don't these minorities live peacefully with the majority Hindus? 

Gadimai is the Hindu goddess Parvati and
the festival/slaughter/money making scam is based on the dream
of a temple priest. Ram Puniyani could consider writing about this instead?

So, what if Hindus ate beef long back (I know a couple of Hindu families here who do that)?  The fact is that now most do not.  So what if Hindu scriptures and Swami Vivekananda refer to beef consumption?  Doesn't Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill save/extend lives of animals?  Would Mahatma Gandhi oppose such legislation?  This legislation should have been enacted by Congress, of which Mahatma Gandhi was a leader, long back but they were too busy maskafying their vote bank, innit?   Just like our country rightly has legislation relating to horse meat, Maharashtra is prudent in enacting such legislation relating to bulls and bullocks. 

Can the dietary practices, the animal which is worshipped as a mother by section of population, be brought in on the political arena? While all this sounds surreal, its true as far as the role of cow is there in Indian political firmament. Recently Maharashtra Government got the Presidents assent to the bill “Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill 1995 which will now ban the slaughter of bulls and bullocks as well. The defaulters will face a prison term of five years and a fine of Rs. 10,000. When I first read ‘Animal Preservation’ part of the title of the bill, I thought this is some bill related to all the animals which are used for human consumption or deals with the use of animals for different purposes by the society. Contrary to that it turned out that this applies only to Cow and its progeny. 
Would Mahatma Gandhi oppose this legislation?

A decade ago I was shocked to read that one of the outstanding scholars of ancient Indian History Professor Dwijendra Nath Jha received regular threats on phone telling him not to publish his book, ‘Holy Cow Beef in Indian Dietary tradition’. This scholarly work traces the place of beef in Indian diet from centuries.

The idea is to target the minorities for beef eating, and cow slaughter. One recalls that one of the slogans which rent the air in the run up the 2014 General elections was "Modi ko matdan, gai ko jeevadan [Vote for Modi, give life to the cow], BJP ka sandesh, bachegi gai, bachega desh [BJP’s message, the cow will be saved, the country will be saved]". This slogan was propped up ‘Cow Development Cell’ of BJP.

As such emotive-identity issues are the hall mark of the politics in the name of religion. BJP built itself up on another identity issue, that of Ram Temple. The cow has always been accompanying and a parallel issue for political mobilization by RSS-BJP. It has also been the point of triggering violence in many cases all through. With the formation of VHP by RSS in 1964, cow issue has been systematically propped up time and over again. Many a misconceptions about cow, beef eating have been constructed. Building of misconceptions has also been extended to the dietary habits of the ‘Muslim’ community in particular. The profession of section of Muslims, Kasai (butcher), those in the trade of beef selling has been brought in to the ‘Hate other’, ‘social common sense’ in particular. The result being that it is perceived at broad layers of society as if beef eating is compulsory for Muslims. The notion which has been popularized is that Cow is Holy for Hindus: Muslims kill her! The perception is that the Muslim invaders brought beef eating into India. These misconceptions are by now the part of ‘social common sense’ of the large number of people in the society.

All the components of this are myths and stereotypes have been constructed over a period of time. Time and over again one hears about some small communal violence, killing of dalits and traders of cows leading to communal polarization. Many a dalits dealing with cow hide have been killed in places like Gohana in Hariyana and the VHP leaders had justified such acts.

Contrary to this the beef eating and sacrifice of cows was prevalent here from Vedic period. The sacrifice of cows in the Yagnas (ritual around fire) is extensively mentioned in the scriptures. There is mention about beef eating in various books. There is a phrase in Taitreya Upanishad which states ‘Atho Annam Via Gau’ (Cow is in veritably food) Different gods are mentioned to be having their choices for particular type of cow flesh. Prof D. N. Jha quotes innumerable examples of this in his masterpiece.

The preaching of non violence in India came with the rise of agricultural society. Jainism called for total non violence, while Buddhism talked non-violence; preventing of wasteful animal sacrifice in particular. It was much later that Brahmanism picked up cow as a symbol for Brahmanism in response and as a reaction to non-violence of these religions. Since Brahmanism has asserted itself to be the Hinduism it projects as if Cow is holy for Hindus overall. The matter of fact is that many sections of society, more particularly Dalits and Tribal have been eating beef all through. It is another matter that lately with the rising assertion of Hindutva, many a communities which are dependent on beef as a rich and cheap source of protein are gradually being forced to either give it up or do a rethink on that.

In contrast to what is being asserted by BJP and company, Swami Vivekanand had a different take on the issue. He points out speaking to a large gathering in USA said: “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.”

[Vivekananda speaking at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, USA (2 February 1900) on the theme of ‘Buddhistic India’, cited in Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 3 (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1997), p. 536.]

This is corroborated by other research works sponsored by the Ramakrishna Mission established by Swami Vivekananda himself. One of these reads: “The Vedic Aryans, including the Brahmanas, ate fish, meat and even beef. A distinguished guest was honoured with beef served at a meal. Although the Vedic Aryans ate beef, milch cows were not killed. One of the words that designated cow was aghnya (what shall not be killed). But a guest was a goghna (one for whom a cow is killed). It is only bulls, barren cows and calves that were killed.”[C. Kunhan Raja, ‘Vedic Culture’, cited in the series, Suniti Kumar Chatterji and others (eds.), The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol 1 (Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission, 1993), 217.]
In response to this bill thousands of workers of Devnar abattoir (Mumbai), who will be losing their jobs came on the streets to protest against this move of the government (March 11). Many traders, from different religion also came to Azad Maidan in Mumbai to protest this communal act of the Maharashtra Government. In a PIL filed in the Bombay High Court the petitioner argues that this ban on beef infringes on the fundamental right of citizens to choose meat of their choice is fundamental. The hope is that the society overcomes such abuse of ‘identity issues’ for political goals and lets the people have their own choices in matters of food habits, and let those who are making their living from this trade do so peacefully.

Feb 16, 2015

Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana 2015

Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival, the “largest Indian classical music festival outside of India” and in its 38th year, will be held in Cleveland, Ohio from April 1-12, 2015.  Ticket cost per person varies between $20 to $40.  Season passes to the festival cost $200.  

Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana will reportedly include over 200 celebrity artistes in over 85 concerts; including Carnatic Symphony, a fusion of Western music orchestra with Carnatic music presented by about 100 talented children of various nationalities and conducted by renowned K.N.Shashikiran.  Registration is now open.  Now, the festival registers children starting at age 10.

Music and Bharathanatyam dance competitions will also form part of this Festival; which will also bestow various music and dance awards, like Sangeetha Rathnakara, Nrithya Rathnakara, Sangeetha Kala Sagaram, Nrithya Kala Sagaram, etc.; and organize educational programs, including “The Glory of Lord Venkateswara”.  It is pertinent to understand the reality about the imaginary Lord Venkateshwara that Thyagaraja wrote about and you should read this.
Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana
Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival Packets
The Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Committee, a non-profit organization responsible for organization of this Festival, includes R. Balasubramaniam, V.V. Sundaram, Gomathy Balasubramaniam, Roger and Jaya Natarajan, K. Venkataraman, Sunitha and Ashok Grandhee, Radhika Balasubramaniam and Gopi Sundaram, Shankar Sundaram and Karthik Venkataraman, Venkat Narayanaswamy, Arvind Balakrishnan and Mony Iyer, Kanchana Sundaram and Lavanya Krishnan, Nigamanth and Divya Sridhar

Dec 20, 2014

Asian Indian Businesses Face Racial Slurs, Intimidation and Danger

Cleveland businessmen of Asian Indian (and Arab) origin face racism, ethnic intimidation and dangerous customers

On October 5, 2014, 34 year old, Sachin Rana from Punjab, India was shot dead at Home Town Grocery store at 5611 Woodland Avenue, Cleveland.  He lived in Parma Heights.

In April, 2014, 41 year old, Babu Kumer Saha from subcontinental India (Bangladesh) was shot dead at In Prime Gas Station on Granger Road in Maple Heights.  He lived in Parma.

National Spelling Bee
 Cory Shaffer of Northeast Ohio Media Group provides in this revealing article the business customer conditions that immigrant businessmen have to deal with in Greater Cleveland. 

Sachin Rana pepper sprayed a 31-year-old man, who was arrested in July after Rana's wife caught him sticking a 44-ounce can of Colt 45 into his back pocket, according to a police report. Patel confronted the man, pulled can from his pocket and told him to leave.  The man told Patel he had a gun. Rana pepper sprayed him and pushed him out the door, angering him. He then threatened to shoot the couple. He reached into his waistband and pulled out what looked like the handle of a gun.  The man ended up pleading no contest to a misdemeanor open container charge, and was fined $100.  Police were called to the store in April after a 36-year-old man said Rana threatened him with a gun. Then the man bought some beer, and got into an argument with Rana as he left.  The man said Patel was staring at him as he walked through the store about 10:30 p.m. When he asked her why she was watching him, Patel said she was watching for people stealing. The two got into a heated argument, according to police.  Rana and Patel said the man threatened to go get a gun and shoot Rana, and threatened to slap Patel. That's when Rana pulled out his gun and kept it by his side, he told police.  Police reviewed surveillance footage, and sided with Rana and Patel, the report said.  No charges resulted in that case.
That wasn't the case in July 2013 when a customer shouted racial slurs at Rana. A 36-year-old Cleveland man was charged with ethnic intimidation and assault after he came into the store as it was closing, about 12:30 a.m. When Patel asked him to leave, the man spit on her face and left.  The next day, the man returned to the store several times, was told to leave and threatened to come back each time. Finally, he came back about 12:30 a.m. July 25, and immediately began screaming at the victims.

"You Arab monkeys have taken over my hood," the man said. "I'm going to kill you all! I'm going to burn this place down!"

Rana pepper sprayed the man in the face, and he left. He returned about 30 minutes later with a towel wrapped around his shoulders, saying he had taken a shower. He again began to scream at Rana and Patel. They called police and he was arrested.  He eventually pleaded guilty to attempted ethnic intimidation and aggravated menacing charges, and was sentenced to six months in prison. He is currently in jail on felonious assault charges, accused of trying to stab a woman at a party.

Other reports show customers and former employees have struck Rana in the head with a beer can and threatened to shoot Rana and sexually assault Patel in separate incidents. In 2012, Rana found a bullet hole in his car in the parking lot.

Nov 8, 2014

Jainism's Bullshit and The Nice Jain Girl

The Problems With Jainism is an anonymous article of which this is an excerpt, While the “non-violence” aspect is admirable, Jains still believe in plenty of bullshit:
  • Jains believe in a never-ending, cyclical time cycle, with phases of “rising” and “falling” happiness. Each phase lasts several thousands of years. This is all fiction, of course.
  • Jains believe that they can accumulate and shed karma and this impacts their future lives (reincarnation). There’s no evidence of this.
  • Jains support being free of materialism — not because it can be destructive in and of itself, but because it’ll allow you to more easily break free from the cycle of reincarnation. They’re doing a good thing for the wrong reason.
  • Jains don’t believe in a god, per se, but they do believe in supernatural beings who have broken free of the reincarnation cycle to attain Nirvana. In fact, there are 24 beings who have done that… and we know their names. We memorized their names as children. Though there’s no evidence any of them ever “attained Nirvana.”
  • Jainism encourages an 8-day-long (or worse), unhealthy fasting during the holy time of the year. During the fast, you may only consume water that’s been pre-boiled.
  • The Jain rules regarding a vegetarian diet seem like they’re made up on the spot. Eggs are bad, but milk is ok. Potatoes and other food from the ground are bad, but there are exceptions depending on the day. Alcohol is forbidden, but young Jains go to bars all the time. The rules make hypocrisy rampant… but almost unavoidable.
An article profiling a Jain “nun” by Morgan Wilson in the Houston Chronicle shows just how absurd the faith can be:
“There are plenty of difference between Hinduism and Jainism; the biggest being the gods” said [Jainesh Mehta (no relation), vice president of the Jain Vishva Bharati-Preksha Meditation Center]. “Essentially, we don’t believe in the same things; we share eight demi-gods with Hinduism but even then we don’t worship them like a Hindu would. But we do have similar faith traits, that being giving up world materials to achieve Nirvana.”

“The karma you accumulate in this life and previous lifetimes will determine your condition for your next lifetime,” Mehta said. “We associate karma to be like a black cloud. The more karma you have the more ignorant you are; the less karma you have the more aware you’ve become.”
Demi-gods, nirvana, “next lifetime,” karma? Those beliefs sound like something out of Scientology. But Jains take them very seriously.

The funny thing is that so many Jains go into scientific fields, and yet, I never hear Jains say this stuff is untrue. They find a way to compartmentalize it and ignore it. When you ask them what they believe, they’ll say “Non-violence”… but they won’t mention the several levels of Hell and multiple levels of Heaven.
They’ll do research in a lab one day, and then sing a chant praising prophets, saints, and “liberated souls” the next, without ever realizing the two worlds ought to be colliding. (I sang that particular mantra every day growing up. Can you imagine how I felt when I finally figured out what it actually meant?)
As far as religions go, Jainism isn’t the worst one you’ll find. But there are plenty of lies that it spreads that we need to call out. Young Jains should be concerned with the truth and they ought to know that the religious leaders in the temple are trying to lead them away from it — as most religious leaders everywhere do. The fact that even the most outspoken atheists put on kid gloves when dealing with it is upsetting.

It’s always nice to see a religion that advocates kindness and respect, but that shouldn’t make it immune from criticism when it’s warranted. Jains are very bad at being self-critical, and it has plenty of beliefs that are untrue. I’d love to see a Jain organization, or blogger, or adherent offer up the evidence for their supernatural beliefs because I’m convinced there is none.

 Note to my parents (who’ll probably never see this, anyway):
This is why I never had a desire for you to set me up with a “nice Jain girl.”