On an early morning in 1964, a tall and handsome twenty-three-year-old American, Robert (Bob) Thurman hurriedly walked past groups of pilgrims, prayer flags, bicycles, ramshackle homes, and barking dogs. It was a haphazard path framed by the snow-capped Himalayas and unevenly lit by the sun. That day he had an important appointment in Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan exile community. He was scheduled to meet with His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Three years earlier, in late spring of 1961, Thurman was changing a flat tyre of his racing car. All of a sudden the jack snapped striking his face and he lost his left eye. It was to be the turning point in his life and since then he had an unblinking glass eye. After the accident, he had an intense desire to go on a pilgrimage ‘from me to meaning’. The young westerner was born in New York City and raised on the Upper East Side. His mother Elizabeth Dean Farrar acted in the theatre and his father Beverly Reid Thurman, Jr. worked as an editor at the Associated Press. Even as a schoolboy at Exeter the elite New Hampshire boarding school he had displayed a clear-cut philosophical bent. Now he abandoned the exhausted culture of the west and made a plan to head east. He dropped out of Harvard, divorced his rich wife Christophe de Menil, the heiress to the Schlumberger fortune and wandered through Turkey, Iran, and finally reached India in November 1962. This was a time when India was filled with western romantics in search of otherworldliness. Barely able to take care of himself, wearing baggy Afghani trousers, leather sandals, and draped in a white shawl he was hired to teach English to young reincarnated Tibetan lamas in Dalhousie. At this stage, after having consumed Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger at Harvard he became a student of a sixty-one-year-old Mongolian monk, Geshe Ngawang Wangyal. For the American yearning to escape a noisy and conflicted world of guns, tanks, aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons it was an intuitive experience. Thurman later explained, “It was like meeting a superior civilization, a civilisation that did not believe that human nature was inherently violent”. In the next ten weeks, Thurman mastered the Tibetan language and could translate classic Buddhist texts. Provoked by his teacher’s silent intensity he decided to live the life of a monk for the rest of his time on Earth. Geshe Wangyal was not convinced yet he grudgingly offered to introduce his student to His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. Soon after amid the prayer Om mani padme hum (Hail, the jewel in the lotus) and the sound of the revolving prayer wheels in nearby homes, Thurman got an audience with His Holiness. Thurman was just twenty-three and the Dalai Lama was twenty-nine.
Over two and a half decades before this meeting the Dalai Lama was a small boy who was born in a cowshed in a tiny farming community in northeast Tibet. A group of wise monks sent from Lhasa following the clues left by the previous Dalai Lama had arrived in his village. The search party sought the reincarnation of the Dalai (oceanwide) Lama (priest of Tibetan Buddhism). Following a prophecy they searched for a boy with tiger-striped legs, big, shell-like ears, and the imprint of a conch shell on the palm of his hand. They located Lhamo Dhondup, a two-year-old farmer’s son at his mud-and-stone house and subjected him to various mystical tests. He was asked to pick objects belonging to the thirteenth Dalai Lama, and he chose them correctly. That recognition brought a new title and way of life. Swiftly he was flung into a world he didn’t quite understand as he lived in the spectacular thousand room Potala Palace in Lhasa with its vast libraries. Compelled to suppress his mischievous personality he endured an exhausting education for nearly twenty years in Tibetan Buddhism. He eventually secured a Geshe degree (roughly equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy). Renamed Tenzin Gyatso, he blessed visitors to the secretive kingdom by offering white khata scarves. Suddenly one day that magical lifestyle came to an end. On 31 March 1959, the Dalai Lama dressed in a drab soldier’s uniform, a type of clothing he had never worn, his shaved head covered with a woolen cap and carrying a German Luger stood meters from India’s border post at Chuthangmu. He looked back fondly at his homeland bearing no ill will to his oppressors and knew India was his only hope. He then took a step that altered the direction of his life. Subsequently, on 3 April 1959, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gently rose in the Indian Parliament to confirm that the Dalai Lama had crossed into the Indian territory and had been granted political asylum by the Government of India. Members of Parliament welcomed the PM’s announcement with thunderous applause. The governments of the United Kingdom and America expressed pleasure in hearing the Indian PM’s statement. In the following years, the Dalai Lama was permitted to set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Five years later in 1964, His Holiness sat in his chapel across from the eager student of Buddhism, Robert Thurman. Dressed in a simple russet gown the Dalai Lama wore a saintly smile and his eyes were bright and warm behind his large glasses. In broken English, the sophisticated thinker, consummate scholar armed with wisdom beyond his age, invited the westerner to study Tibetan medicine, astronomy, and Buddhism. Years later His Holiness remembered, “Thurman first came to Dharamsala in 1964… He was dressed as a monk and had only one eye like Nagarjuna’s disciple Aryadeva…”. Thurman in a talk confessed, “I wasn’t that into Tibet per se. I was really into India. But the thing is that the Indian Buddhist great revolution in the world, great manifestation in the world, is preserved in Tibet very powerfully and lost in India. So that was, I think, why I was so captivated by the Tibetans, not to mention the Dalai Lama’s personality…” In those grueling months of learning, Thurman regularly woke up every day at three in the morning to meditate and study scriptures. Raring to absorb as much as he could he spent time with the Dalai Lama who in turn interrogated him about Plato, Jefferson, Freud, the American Constitution, World War Two and widened his grasp of western civilization. The following year, Thurman was ordained by His Holiness himself, taking 252 vows that focused on a philosophy of nonviolence, compassion, and selflessness, making him the first Tibetan Buddhist monk born in the West. This was also the first time an American had been so honored. Thus began the remarkable friendship between a simple Buddhist monk and his American disciple that prospers till today. His Holiness in an interview remarked, “I feel that Americans are interested (in Buddhism) because they are open-minded. They have an education system that teaches them to find out for themselves why things are the way they are. Open-minded people tend to be interested in Buddhism because Buddha urged people to investigate things–he didn’t just command them to believe. Also, your education tends to develop the brain while it neglects the heart, so you have a longing for teachings that develop and strengthen the good heart.”
Thurman dressed in a maroon robe and with a shaved head returned to New York in 1966 when America was at the height of the cultural revolution. He found himself ill-equipped for the monastic life and after one and half years dramatically renounced his vows though he did not quit the rigorous Buddhist practices. Instead, he returned to the American equivalent of the monastery: the university and went back to Harvard to complete his unfinished degree. At a party at the Hitchcock Estate in New York, he met the former famous model Nena von Schlebrugge. Soon the stunning ex-model and the striking ex-monk were married. In 1971 Thurman was awarded a Ph.D. in philosophy, based on his dissertation on the esoteric Buddhist doctrine of ‘Sunyata’ (voidness). Thereafter he embarked upon academic life at the Amherst College. Later he was appointed the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. He was acclaimed as a riveting lecturer who covered the sweep of history, the subtleties of the inner science of the psyche as well as the wonders of the life of the heart. In time he gained respect as the rock star professor of religious studies. Students called his classes “life changing”. Thurman in a media interview expounded, “There’s a stereotype that Buddhism is quietistic: leave the world, drop out…. drop dead basically…”. He reasoned that meditation can also release enormous amounts of energy.
Captivated by the middle path of the Buddha, Thurman created the field of Buddhology and as one of America’s most famous Buddhists heightened the awareness of mind science all over the country. After writing substantial scholarly works, he authored best sellers and lectured in the public intellectual tradition. His belief in the Three Precious Jewels of Tibetan Buddhism: the Buddha, the Doctrine, and the Community and with remarkable insight into eastern spirituality, attracted a global audience. With his swatch of thick hair perched above his glasses in his booming voice, the brilliant populariser of the Buddha’s teachings declared, “I invite you to embrace a new reality. I invite you to awaken to the infinite life you already have, no matter what your worldview. I invite you to take up responsibility for your own destiny. I invite you to take advantage of your priceless humanness to make a definitive turn towards ultimate security, complete freedom, and unbounded happiness. Thanks to the Tibetan people, especially their living saviour, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his various emanations, I have found basic sanity in my lifelong quest.” The Dalai Lama appreciated his disciple’s lasting allegiance to Buddhism stating, “He became a professor and has dedicated his academic career to elucidating Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings and aspects of the Gelugpa tradition… Je Tsongkhapa wrote about the great Indian texts and Thurman has taken special interest in that body of work. I’d like to acknowledge that here and thank him.” As part of Thurman’s long-term commitment to the renaissance of Tibetan civilization at the request of his teacher, he co-founded Tibet House in 1987 initially with Tenzin Tethong, Richard Gere, and Philip Glass. Since then Thurman’s daughter Uma, a film star has served on the Board. Feted by Washington, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the academic elite, Time chose Thurman as one of its twenty-five most influential Americans in 1997, describing him as a “larger than life scholar-activist destined to convey the Dharma, the precious teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, from Asia to America.” The New York Times wrote Thurman “is considered the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism.” And in 2020, the Government of India bestowed a Padma Shri to Thurman.
Earlier in 1995, Thurman did the fifty-two kilometres circumambulation of Mount Kailash, the pilgrimage site in western Tibet considered the sacred axis mundi of Central Asian cosmology. Out of the blue, Thurman became aware of the presence of two other people inside his head. They seemed like great scholars – one from the twentieth century and the other, a Mongolian, from another time. It was his realization of his earlier lives on Earth. Thurman later claimed, “After forty years of involvement with Buddhism I consider reincarnation the most scientifically and empirically validate-able, relational description of the life process and how life and death work… I refute the materialist idea that the mind is the epiphenomenon of the brain. And it’s become a matter of conviction…” Addressing death, Thurman insists that he is “unintimidated by death. It’s liberation, transformation. The awareness of death is the door for us to be alive.”
Now at seventy-nine, Thurman living the life of the mind refuses to slow down. Active on social media he is tireless in his efforts to awaken others to the teachings of the Buddha. Along with his wife Nena, he has founded the Menla Mountain Retreat, a Tibet-inspired spa and wellness facility in the Catskill Mountains of New York that has been blessed by the Dalai Lama. Here using his powerful lectures, the charismatic teacher invites the audience to turn toward the East and to contemplate with all the capabilities of the Western mind the attractions of the Eastern spirit as represented in Buddhism. Thurman, the proponent of an inner revolution within each one of us believes, “To finish building the free society dreamed of by Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, we must draw upon the resources of the enlightened imagination, which can be systematically developed by the spiritual sciences of India and Tibet. We have not yet tamed our own demons of racism, nationalism, sexism and materialism… none of us can be really free until all of us are”.
That for Bob Thurman is a path for a peaceful future for all humankind and our planet.
Bhuvan Lall is the author of ‘The Man India Missed The Most: Subhas Chandra Bose’ and The Great Indian Genius: Har Dayal’. He is currently writing ‘The Path of Gautam Buddha’. The views expressed are personal.
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PRIYANKA DECLARES WOMEN QUOTA IN U.P. UNILATERALLY
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh took party circles by surprise when she unilaterally declared that 40 percent of tickets in the forthcoming Assembly elections would be given to women. Although, the announcement appears to be a progressive step in the right direction, yet it would have been better had the party thought through the ramifications of this decision before making it public. It is also inconsistent with what the Interim president, Sonia Gandhi had said at the Working Committee meeting last Saturday that the party leaders should directly communicate with her instead of conveying matters through the media. In this instance, it is possible that Priyanka may have discussed the issue at length with her mother and brother, Rahul but if any declaration had to be made, it should have been done by Sonia. How can a decision as crucial as this be specific to a single state. What about Punjab, Uttrakhand, Goa and other states going to polls along with Uttar Pradesh. Why should there not be ticket distribution at par with what the party has apparently decided. This is a policy matter and should have been debated at length in the Working Committee itself instead of leaving it to just one individual or the family.
It is also not known as yet whether to give shape to this concept of 40 percent tickets to women, would Priyanka be projected as the Chief Ministerial face of the party. If not, the entire exercise may prove to be futile. The impression which one gets by this lofty pronouncement is that the Congress would be contesting the UP polls on its own since other parties such as Samajwadi party and the Bahujan Samaj Party may have their own opinion on this important matter and may not necessarily concur with Priyanka’s views. In the past, the SP like so many other regional parties have opposed giving such a large proportion of seats to women without studying the fallout at the grass roots level. The BSP has provided a woman chief minister in Mayawati, who had a very successful tenure, but has yet to take a call on reservations for women in Assembly polls.
In fact, before Mayawati, Sucheta Kripalani had served as a Congress UP CM in the early 1960s. The reason why the views of the SP and BSP are important is because if the Congress has to enter into any kind of alliance, there should be some agreement on issues. There is no doubt that Priyanka has been active in the state and has tried to infuse life into the party cadres, even though the number has dwindled over the years. The Congress on its own steam is not capable of being in the fight in more than 30 to 40 seats at present, so it is a difficult task ahead for the party general secretary. There are some who believe that the Priyanka show so far is only for optics and is helping in diluting the challenge from both Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. In any case, every party has a right to evolve its own strategy and this is true for the Congress as well. However, what is going to be difficult is on how the Congress would explain this UP specific decision to other states. Parties opposed to the Congress shall certainly make this an issue in the polls. The Congress can always claim that Indira Gandhi, the only woman Prime Minister of the country was from the party as so many Chief Ministers of several states. To carry the Priyanka thesis forward, a lot of spadework would have to be done, for which there is hardly any time left. The Congress has to hit the ground running in the forthcoming polls.
Modi 2.0: India’s journey to a billion doses
India’s response to Covid-19 under the outstanding leadership of ‘Global Goalkeeper’ Modi, is a textbook case in how great leaders do not escape—rather, they take the bull by its horns.
In an unprecedented achievement, the cumulative Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country surpassed the mammoth 100 crore milestone on 21st October 2021. In a tweet, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi congratulated the countrymen and expressed gratitude to the country’s scientific community and health professionals for working towards achieving this stupendous feat,in his typical characteristic style,completely being modest about his own superior leadership,which eventually delivered,when it mattered the most.India’s recovery rate currently stands at 98.15%. Recovery rate is currently at its highest peak since March 2020.The active caseload is only 1.79 lakh cases,the lowest in the last 221 days.Active cases presently constitute 0.52% of the country’s total positive cases, which is again,the lowest since March 2020. India has so far conducted over 59.57 crore cumulative tests.
Weekly positivity rate at 1.34% remains less than 3% for the last 118 days in a row. The Daily positivity rate at 1.48% has remained below 3% for last 52 days and below 5% for 135 consecutive days in a row, now.India is only the second country globally after China to reach the 100 crore milestone. But the basic difference between the two nations is accessibility to related data.China claims to have vaccinated over 2.23 billion individuals. It even claimed last month of fully vaccinating over 100 crore people but there is no open-source data accessible to validate it. China even asserts that it has produced more than half of the world’s Covid vaccines so far,which is absolutely false and nothing but a frivolous claim by the CPC to reclaim lost ground,after reports have emerged that the Wuhan virus was engineered and incubated in a laboratory in China.
On January 3rd this year, India gave emergency-use approval to Covishield and Covaxin. Covishield is a two-shot Covid vaccine developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University. Pune-based Serum Institute of India is its major producer. On the other hand, Covaxin, also a two-shot vaccine, is completely an indigenous achievement. It is developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech,in collaboration with ICMR.Covishield is a viral vector vaccine using an adenovirus or common cold virus found in chimpanzees. The vaccine has an efficacy rate of 70% but, when both doses are given 8 to 12 weeks apart, it can go up to 91%. Covaxin also uses an inactive viral strain (killed coronaviruses) and has a 77.8% efficacy rate.India,under Prime Minister Modi, started its vaccination drive on January 16,2021, targetting healthcare workers. Other frontline workers were added as intended beneficiaries in February.In April 2021,India approved the third vaccine made by Russia’s Sputnik V and opened the vaccination drive to everyone above 45 years.
On May 1,2021, India opened its vaccination drive for all adults. On June 12,2021, the country crossed the mark of administering 25 crore doses,in 148 days from January 16th,when the vaccination drive had begun. From June 21,2021,the Modi government announced free vaccines for everyone in the 18-44 age group,in a landmark decision.
World’s first DNA-based Covid vaccine by the Indian pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila was approved on August 20,2021. It is a three-shot vaccine and the population base above 12 years of age can be innoculated with it. It is expected to hit the markets soon.
On August 26,2021,the country reached the mark of giving at least one jab to half of its 94 crore adult population.September 13,2021, saw the country crossing the 75 crore total vaccination mark. On September 17, the country, for the first time, crossed the ‘two crore doses a day’ mark and in fact became only the second country after China to achieve it. Over 2.15 crore jabs were given that day.On September 18, 2021,India achieved the mark of fully vaccinating 20 crore adult individuals.
The vaccination drive under PM Narendra Modi has been outstanding in more ways than one. For instance,to connect remote areas of the country, the health ministry started drone delivery of Covid vaccines on October 4,2021,a first in Southeast Asia. The vaccines, through drones, were delivered to a government health centre on a Manipur island in the Northeast and, currently, remote areas of Manipur and Nagaland and the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands are being covered under this ‘supply through drones’ initiative,which is exemplary.
In effect,India’s vaccine roll-out is not only the largest in the world,but also the most affordable,with no compromises whatsoever,on any standard operating procedures (SoPs).The PM-Cares fund will shouldered the entire cost of the 1st phase aimed at innoculating 30 million or 3 crore frontline Covid workers.Earlier,in June 2020,over Rs 2000 crore was allocated from the PM-Cares fund,for supply of 50000 ‘Made-in-India’ ventilators to government run Covid hospitals in all States and UTs.Out of the 50000 ventilators, 30000 ventilators were manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited,yet again showcasing India’s indigenous manufacturing prowess. While a jaded,directionless and clueless Rahul Gandhi keeps taking needless jibes at the Modi government,the fact of the matter is that,for over six decades,India just had 47000 ventilators,whereas in one go,in June 2020,the Modi government made available 50000 ventilators,to ensure no life is lost,for want of life saving equipment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s food security scheme for the needy,called the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKAY), provided free ration to 81 crore,as in 810 million people,every single month for nine months in a row,during the pandemic,both last year and this year,too.Effectively speaking,this means,a population 2.5 times the size of America,was being fed every single month,for months together, showcasing the Modi government’s generous,welfarist and people centric approach.
The essence of Modi government’s management of the pandemic is that, PM Modi has been continuously communicating with the people by addressing the nation at regular intervals. He meaningfully coordinated with the Chief ministers of the State governments. When Modi asked countrymen to applaud the doctors and para-medical staff for their commitment to handling the Covid-19 crisis by clapping for a few minutes, everyone responded with great enthusiasm. The same response was seen when he asked everyone to switch off the lights and light candles.Moreover, when Modi wanted people to wear masks and observe social distancing, there was no protest from the people, like in other countries like the USA. It is quite true that some people did not follow guidelines but that was more due to indiscipline by few, rather than any broad opposition to the guidelines.In most democracies,often people do not hesitate to conduct protest marches even for trivial reasons.It is extraordinary therefore,that Prime Minister Modi could manage the pandemic,without giving room for unrest and turmoil,despite a complete lockdown,during the second wave and the months preceding that.
India is a vast country of 1.38 billion people that shares a 3488 kilometre long border with China. India’s response to Covid-19 under the outstanding leadership of ‘Global Goalkeeper’ Modi, is a textbook case in how great leaders do not escape— rather, they take the bull by its horns. Modi took the lead in hosting a video conference of SAARC nations,where India pledged to share disease surveillance software,work towards a common research platform and provide all help required, including assistance from the Indian Council of Medical Research,(ICMR) to its SAARC partners.India also took the lead in setting up a Covid-19 emergency fund,with a voluntary contribution of $10 million.Taking a cue from Modi’s intiative, the G-7 group decided to host it’s summit via video conferencing,in June 2020.And then ofcourse,virtual meetings became the norm,thereafter.
Now,contrast the policy of obfuscation and apathy followed by China,with the probity and transparency shown by India,in taking Covid,head-on.Be it building over 116 million toilets under the “Clean India” or “Swachh Bharat” mission,making India’s 5.5 lakh villages open defecation free (ODF),giving free health insurance to 50 crore Indians under the “Ayushman Bharat” scheme, producing over 60 million PPE kits and 150 million N95 masks in between April and October 2020,bringing home over 3.9 million stranded Indians from different parts of the globe,via the “Vande Bharat Mission”,or extending medical and humanitarian assistance to over 150 countries in the fight against the pandemic, the Modi government’s fight against the Wuhan virus was made easier by the fact that,a humungous amount of effort went into ramping up India’s health infrastructure and making cleanliness a way of life,in the last 7 years.What is worth mentioning here is that,during the initial days of Covid outbreak,there was only one lab in the country that could undertake testing for the infection,but today there are over 2000 testing laboratories.
A key concern is vaccine wastage.What is vaccine wastage?While wastage cannot be fully eradicated,it has to be within recommended limits.In general,high vaccine wastage inflates vaccine demand and increases unnecessary vaccine procurement and supply chain costs.Vaccine wastage is directly linked to vaccine usage, which is the proportion of vaccines administered against vaccines issued to a vaccination site. What is causing the wastage? For instance,each Covishield vial has 10 doses in total, while a Covaxin vial contains 20 doses — each dose being 0.5 ml (for one person). Once opened, all doses have to be administered within four hours, otherwise, it goes to waste and the remaining doses have to be destroyed. The vaccine wastage in India can be largely be attributed to low turnoutof beneficiaries turning up to get vaccinated,due to inadequate planning of sessions by a few States. For instance, if the vial contains doses for 10 people and only six turn up, four doses would go waste. In few opposition ruled States,opening vials,despite inability to mobilise critical mass of people led to huge vaccine wastage in the initial phases, particularly in States like Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Punjab, with wastage rate being as high as 18% and 12% in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,during the second wave.Despite the Opposition ruled States completely abdicating their responsibility,the sheer will power to deliver,showcased by the Modi government,eventually resulted in the epoch making 100 crore number,possible,on October 21,2021.From Taali,Thaali,Janata Curfew to Jan Bhagidaari,Prime Minister Narendra Modi ran the world’s largest vaccination drive by putting his political and personal credibility to test and needless to say,he emerged unscathed and stronger than ever before.
The Modi government’s CoWIN (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network) app, is owned by the Ministry of Health and Family welfare and was earlier the platform used for conducting Pulse Polio and other crucial and highly successful immunisation programmes across the country. The same platform was expanded for doling out Covid-19 vaccines and the ministry of Electronics and IT along with the National Informatics Center are now handling the backend and the tech infrastructure for it.CoWIN,is again an example of how the Modi government has seamlessly embraced technology,to ensure last mile delivery.Needless to add,in the final analysis, Modi’s “Make in India” model runs high on both the growth and humanitarian quotients whereas Xi’s “Make in China”, lacks the emotional quotient that separates a robotic,authoritarian regime,from an aspirational India, helmed by a “karmayogi” like Modi,who leads by example,never playing on the backfoot and always keeping the nation first,above everything else.Covid-19,which is still unfolding in many parts of the globe,will also be remembered for the global outreach by the Indian political diaspora,which has shown to the world,how a responsive and nimble footed government can tackle any emergency,with the right mindset.
In the final analysis,it can be said with no “ifs” and “buts” whatsoever, that the Indian response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been awe inspiring at various levels. While the US and Europe are dealing with endless queues of people lining up at malls and stores that have run out of toilet paper and hand sanitizers, India’s calibrated approach by the government,without causing panic, has had a salubrious impact. Also,don’t forget,while India reported its first case only on 30th January 2020,it had started screening incoming passengers from affected countries, via infra red thermometers,from 7th January 2020,itself.
“Good governance is not fire-fighting or crisis-management. Instead of opting for ad-hoc solutions, the need of the hour is to tackle the root cause of the problems”,is a famous quote by PM Modi.Better words have not been said. Undoubtedly,India’s outstanding and successful war againt Covid will go down in history as a textbook case of what a sensitive and nimble footed leadership can accomplish. It would be apt to conclude with a quote by John F. Kennedy,who said–”When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity”. Undoubtedly, while a reckless China foisted the Wuhan virus on an unsuspecting mankind,a visionary leader like Prime Minister,Narendra Modi,utilised this unprecedented global crisis as an opportunity,to reach out to and heal millions, both in India and outside,showcasing India’s true spirit of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which means,”the world is one family”.
Writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic’.
SELF-RELIANCE THROUGH THE USE OF INDIAN LANGUAGES IN AI
Indian knowledge tradition is a broad concept. It helps in developing a broader dimension and approach. Artificial intelligence, which is prevalent in today’s time, if defined by understanding it in the real sense, is the cloning of the human brain. The machine itself is non-living, but the resultant output of the input that the human brain provides to it through software and programming is visible to us in the form of applications of artificial intelligence. It is, as much as its creator, intelligent. If the scientists of this field understand the functioning of the brain via emotional manifestations, then the robot made by them can also be emotional. The artificial intelligence that is being talked about nowadays has some limitations, such as a robot can do as much work as its program or software will command it to do.
Generally, these programs are built based on many facts, applications, and examples. If the conditions are changed, then these machines or robots will work to the extent that the situations have been programmed in them. It is to be noted here that the ideas come to us originally in our languages. There may be any other language, but in the abstract or latent state, the conceptual process is relative to the native language of the person. It is to be noted here that while moving from one linguistic level to another in the form of expression of ideas, they gradually become less in terms of their intensity and originality. More linguistic transfer destroys their original feeling. From this point of view, it will be possible to make more efficient machines using artificial intelligence using the original language of thoughts. People learn from their experiences, the wider their experiences, the more will be their thinking power.
There are three main components of artificial intelligence— thinking power, software, hardware. Wherever work is going on, on this subject all over the world, all three components work separately. The main component of this work is to clone the thinking power or mental emotions.
The work of software can be done by any skilled software engineer, and the work of hardware can be done by any company. Therefore, its core lies in cloning mental impulses. The data of a person’s thoughts or thinking acts as a raw material or main component in it. There is no match of countries like India, China, Japan all over the world in the efficiency of behavior and quick diagnosis of situations. China is famous to copy a product immediately. Thinking power and inclination to the knowledge of India and the technological brains of Japan is also noteworthy. Therefore, the main component of artificial intelligence is most available in countries like India, China, Japan.
India is not able to use it fully, because it is not aware of the importance of its knowledge in an integrated way, and unorganized Indian talent. With the desire to earn more money through migration, that knowledge is continuously being given to the country which is very advanced in terms of software. It can be explained to a nonprofessional through an example as if food is the need of every person, but the process till the food is made is a complex set of components. The farmer does the farming, the agent buys it from the market, the agent retails it, sells in the market, the customer buys it from the retailer and prepares food. The agent has the system, which is necessary for the management between the customer and the farmer. Therefore, neither the farmer earns the profit equal to his hard work, nor the customer. The middleman, the highest-earning agent, and the customer suffer the impact of inflation. The same tendency is with any technology in the world, technology is lobbying for the one who benefits the most. Therefore, by developing a system through our languages, by stopping the drain of the brain, a speedy pace can be made towards self-reliance.
Revealed: Secret US government psychic research programmes
In order not to rock the foundations of contemporary civilization, and also to hold fast to any applicable uses of the transcendent discoveries of military intelligence, the concerned authorities in the USA kept their investigations and insights secret and at times formally denied their existence or validity.
When I first entered the United States in June 1983, for a long sojourn I have recounted in my book of a few years ago, A Shining City on a Hill, I did obviously not know that on that same day a 29-page classified technical report was submitted to the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (USAISC) at Fort Mead, (Army Operational Group Commander DET 0) on the secret CIA research programme codenamed Gateway and dedicated to investigations about consciousness and their potential scientific and military applications.
McDonnell’s report (CIA-RDP96—00788R001700210016-5) confirmed the validity of the research into para-psychological and sophrological phenomena and their reality, generally deemed as inexistent and related to “magical mind tricks” or misleading erroneous impressions. The report, integrating the experiments of Israeli-American inventor and yoga/TM practitioner Itzhak Bentov (who had died in a plane crash in 1979), was not made accessible to the public as it contained challenging claims which partly overturned many current scientific theories and observations about the nature of reality and life. It was only released under FOIA on the 10th of September 2003, with the exception of page 25 which was withheld for reasons that will be alluded to in this article.
Much of the research done under the GATEWAY/STARGATE protocols was related to the work of Robert Monroe, the founder and director of the Monroe Institute in Virginia whose discoveries I discovered back in the eighties and describe summarily in my aforementioned book. The findings of Monroe and the CIA-sponsored teams are more or less the same as they collaborated in their research. Several members of the US Armed Forces were sent to the Monroe Institute’s secluded facilities to undergo the tests and experimental processes designed to achieve paranormal insights by raising the level of consciousness according to methods derived from Carl Jung’s psycho-analytical therapies and more broadly from yoga, TM and other “eastern” meditational techniques.
The Italian website Omega Click has commented on some of the vast amount of documentary material created under the auspices of the GATEWAY/STARGATE programmes. Omega Click interviewed Professor Raffaele Renna, a psychologist, astronomer and expert on the subject. Renna highlights that, among the major conclusions drawn from that research, the mapping of cerebral functions has uncovered the virtually infinite powers of the mind to visualize all things beyond space and time and shown that the “brain capital” (which is actually outside the brain) survives death as it is located in non-local, entangled space-timelessness whereas “everything is omnipresent” and time is only a measurement for the motion of energy. In that light the brain is a receptor that decodes and interprets signals or algorithms originating in universal consciousness and produces the appearances that our senses make us regard as Reality,
All this may be regarded as a mere reiteration in contemporary scientific vocabulary of the “mystical’ teachings of ancient sages in many parts of the world. However, the salience of the GATEWAY report lies in the fact that it does not simply enunciate theories. It documents a scientifically tested method to reach elevated states of out-of-body “non-local consciousness” (more than twenty years before quantic interpretations of consciousness were first publicly ventured). Instead of psychedelic drugs or “spiritual” exercises the means used under the GATEWAY programme were specific sounds beamed to human subjects in isolation chambers through earphones at a different frequency for each ear, which leads the brain to syntonize them to produce Delta waves (4 Hertz), denoting deep meditational states. At a specific vibrational wavelength the brain exits “our” spacetime to access other dimensions or other worlds, so to speak. Physiologically this state amplifies fourfold the resonance of the heartbeat and generates a recurring sinusoidal wave ranging between 6.8 and 7.8 Hz. which echoes the earth’s own vibrational frequency.
The resulting condition is called “syntony” of the individual with the planet at wavelengths of 40,000 kilometers amplitude (corresponding to the earth’s diameter) and confers extraordinary powers (clairvoyance, remote viewing, telekinesis, time travel, ecstatic bliss) which ancient traditions called Union with the Divine, Moksha, Sunya, Satori, Tao, Illumination, Salvation and many other such names. This mapping of supramental ascent, described by Sri Aurobindo was experientially arrived at by Itzhak Bentov who described the phenomenon in his 1977 book Stalking The Wild Pendulum. On the Mechanics of Consciousness as summed up by Marc Seifer in Transcending the Speed of Light: Consciousness, Quantum Physics, and the Fifth Dimension. Inner Traditions – Bear & Company 2008. p. 49: “During normal breathing, the reverberations in the aorta are out of phase with the heartbeat and the system is inharmonious. However, during meditation and when the breath is held, the echo of the bifurcation of the aorta (where the aorta forks at the pelvis to go into each leg) is in resonance with the heartbeat and the system becomes synchronized, thus utilizing a minimum amount of energy. This resonant beat is approximately seven cycles per minute, which corresponds not only to the alpha rhythm of the brain but also to the low-level magnetic pulsations of the Earth.”
Monroe claimed that between the “normal” state of human awareness (comparatively the lowest) and the highest or “absolute” one there are innumerable degrees of consciousness inhabited by beings who are not perceptible through our physical senses but who can be interacted with at higher levels.
This last revelation concerns the “Aliens” of many types reported by millions of witnesses for centuries and now generally known as ETs and their “astral vehicles” classified as UAPs or “Alien Visitation Craft” in military parlance. Many of them at least appear to operate in other dimensions from which they enter our “universe” and to which they return at will.
The GATEWAY study seems to have corroborated Monroe’s contention that about 5% of all people are able to reach the highest state of realization by means of repeated use, over more or less lengthy periods of training, of the audio-sensorial process described above.
It was stated earlier that page 25 of the McDonnell report was missing until last April when it was released by the Monroe Institute to an investigator from the Canadian Vice magazine. The contents of that page are indeed of critical importance because it lays out the “cosmic design” behind reality. It talks about a “cosmic egg” as a hologram, of which everything is a projection and which is itself a reflection of the undefinable Absolute “one step removed from it”. That hologram is also called in the text the Torus or spiral of Creation and identified as the “Holy Spirit” of the Christian Esoteric Trinity, The Adam Kadmon or Tree of Life of Kabbalah. In Vedic terminology we may equate it with the Viraj or Hiranyagarbha (from which the report under review here apparently borrowed the image of the “cosmic egg”) or the Vedantic Paramatman. For the Saktas and Shaivaites it is Mahadevi while the Greek Ephesians worshipped it as Artemis-Diana (Magna Mater) and the Middle Eastern Gnostics alluded to it as Sophia.
Another striking inference reached by the report is that western science is so far unable to attain this realization because of its left-brain controlled approach which ignores and rejects the right-brain’s influence guiding the so-called “spiritualists” since thousands of years of philosophical quest, at the root of the religions followed in most parts of the world. The “Gateway Experience” as it is called in the report, “releases the subject from the prism (and prison) of subjective perception and analysis. It is “a portal through which the individual may pass in his search to find himself”, an echo of the mantra Tat twam asi and of the universal sophic commandment: “know thyself” as our Self is indeed the mirror or hologram of the Whole.
The conclusion in a few lines is that Intelligence and military sponsored research led, four decades ago to the confirmation of the ageless teachings of Indian psycho-physical Knowledge (paravidya), shared with many other more or less esoteric or occult traditions all over the world. Presumably in order not to rock the foundations of contemporary civilization and also to hold fast to any applicable uses of this transcendent discovery military Intelligence, the concerned authorities in the USA kept their investigations and insights secret and at times formally denied their existence or validity. However it may well be that many scientific and technological breakthroughs that are transforming our lives and conditions like never before are outcomes of this accession by a few “initiates” to the higher reaches of the mind on the trail blazed by Bentov, Monroe, Puharich and others. The very Internet created in the last thirty some years is an electronic clone of the cosmic web of energy and life that binds all things and makes up the universe.
Apart from well supported rumors about the existence of hitherto undisclosed technologies for unlimited “free energy” generation from the “zero point” quantic field and for biological age reversal, instant healing and other “miraculous” uses, there are several reports about secret space missions conducted to other planets of the solar system and perhaps beyond it, made possible by the technologies developed in that “transcendental” frame of reference. One of the latest credible sources on this score is no other than General Haim Eshed, the veteran astrophysicist who was for thirty years the chairman of the space committee of the Israeli Council for Research and Development and the Director of the Space Programme of the Defence Ministry. He made these “extraordinary claims” in his 2020 book: Universe beyond The Horizon: Conversations with Professor Haim Eshed.
STAY OUT OF KASHMIR, SUPERMAN AND WONDER WOMAN
Renowned Justice League icon Superman apparently destroying Indian Air Force F/A-18D Hornets over Kashmir. India does not have any such aircraft. (Screengrab from Injustice)
Something bizarre has happened in the DC Universe—for the uninitiated, DC Comic Universe where fictional characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Aquaman dwell. Suddenly, out of the blue, in an animated movie by DC, Injustice, Superman and Wonder Woman are seen to be fighting the Indian military in Kashmir and disabling their aircraft and missiles to make the place an “arms free zone”. Moreover, Kashmir is mentioned as a “disputed region” in the film. Curiously, while the animated movie shows the superheroes fighting for peace in different fictional places, a real name has been inserted in between, that of Kashmir. In another clip, an Israeli flag has been used to show an Israeli leader signing a peace deal with someone behind whom there is a green flag. If the film has to be believed, the Indian military bombs civilians in Kashmir—an outrageous fiction. In fact, it is Pakistan, which regularly bombs its own people in the name of countering insurgents. Since we do not know how geopolitical experts such as Superman and Wonder Woman have come to the conclusion that Kashmir is a “disputed” area and the Indian military bombs its own civilians, we can only speculate about the invisible hands at work here. It could be a case of a direct Pakistani or Chinese intervention, or both, and/or could be the handiwork of some very woke pseudo-liberal-types who derive their knowledge about India from the very-woke Western legacy media, which takes a rather Orientalist view of this country. While some will say it’s better to ignore such drivel, the problem is, some very malign forces seem to have been able to introduce an anti India element in a medium that is highly popular and thus also influential. The matter cannot be ignored, for it may get bigger in future.
However, when it comes to China, Hollywood takes a problematic stand. It whitewashes all PRC crimes, including turning a blind eye to the oppressive and authoritarian rule of the Communists in Tibet and Xinjiang. Not too long ago, one of the big studios faced immense international anger after filming certain parts of Mulan—an ancient China story—almost next door to the concentration camps that PRC has built for the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. The studio also actively engaged with the publicity department of the Communist Party during the filming. China is a big market for Hollywood. Much Chinese money is floating in Hollywood, with the Chinese funding films, buying up theatre chains, and with Chinese production companies teaming up with their Hollywood counterparts. As a result, concerns are being raised about Chinese propaganda and censorship making their way even into Hollywood blockbusters. US soft power adds to its superpower status, and it is this soft power that the Chinese are using to their own benefit as they conduct their political warfare at a very subliminal level. Amid this, it is but natural that in the DC Comic case, the finger of suspicion will be raised at China and its “iron brother” Pakistan.
The Kashmir insertion in the DC film is insidious and dangerous because anti-India propaganda is thus sought to be normalized and influence young minds. Around three years ago, a Hollywood series, Quantico, starring Priyanka Chopra had shown Hindu nationalists planning to carry out a nuclear attack in Manhattan and frame Pakistan for it, to scuttle US-Pakistan talks. The plotline was so outrageous that it led to a huge hue and cry, forcing the television studio ABC to apologise to Indian viewers. All this has to be seen in the context of the huge campaign going on in the West by the left-pseudo-liberal section to paint India as an electoral autocracy, an authoritarian country, because it is headed by a right of centre government. As a result, people unaware of the ground reality in India are falling for this fake narrative. This has to be countered. Public pressure needs to build up on DC Comics to remove the mention of Kashmir from the film. India has a lot of economic muscle and a market, which Pakistan does not. If a campaign builds up, Superman and Wonder Woman will lose many more fans and business here than in a broken and bankrupt country such as Pakistan. Hence, DC needs to drop the offending reference and let superheroes do their super-jobs, without meddling in world affairs about which they do not have any clue.
What ails Uttarakhand’s governance?
Uttarakhand region had never been well governed. Till 2000 it was part of Uttar Pradesh where the predatory leadership sucked its wealth and labour. After being carved as a separate state it was expected to progress and many things improved such as schools, colleges, universities, technical institutions, roads and hospitals.
It is a known fact that quality of governance indicates capacity to be resilient against disasters. The hurricane Katrina of USA that caused over 2000 deaths and US$ 125 billion in damage in late August 2005 exposed the pathetic governance of Louisiana. People had bad health, houses were weak, high rate of drug addiction, unsterilized city animals, uninsured citizens, unemployed youth and all this because of a highly corrupt leadership and unresponsive state administration. Uttarakhand’s unstoppable exposure to some of the most heart-rending disasters every year from floods to earthquakes to glacial lake outbursts and to landslides bring provoking questions about its governance. As data reveals decisions have been taken in defiance of limits that nature sets in the form of carrying capacity of any terrain. As causes of disasters, Corruption comes first and climate change later.
Uttarakhand region had never been well governed. Till 2000 it was part of Uttar Pradesh where the predatory leadership sucked its wealth and labour. After being carved as a separate state it was expected to progress and many things improved such as schools, colleges, universities, technical institutions, roads and hospitals. The villagers basked in the new found Panchayat power after the 73rd Amendment in 1992 which brought many silent communities into focus as repositories of power. It brought power but not the right to govern. From Sundarlal Bahuguna and Chandi Prasad Bhatt the early Gandhian environmentalists till late Prof. G.D.Agarwal and woman seer of Haridwar Padmavati the Ganga crusaders have only asked for a share in governance. While the memory of Uttarakhand’s disaster victims begging for food and clothes in big cities of Uttar Pradesh like Lucknow and Bareilly still remains, it is not yet a thing of past. Local village communities are still seen begging with unattended medical conditions and little hope for sustainable livelihood. As per Census of India (2011) Uttarakhand has a population of 101 million with a pathetic sex ratio of 886 women per thousand men and a much higher infant mortality rate (IMR) at 38 in 2020 which is higher than the India average IMR of 29.07. With female literacy at 70 and the male literacy at 88 the state has nothing to rejoice about. What ails Uttarakhand’s governance?
The Uttarakhand government could rarely defend itself after Dhauliganga disaster that washed away the Rishi Ganga hydropower project at Raini village after a glacier broke off in Joshimath. The massive floods caused by glacial outburst in the Dhauli Ganga river in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand washed away houses and many people. The village Panchayats of this area had been an alert group against environmental injuries as the legendary Gaura Devi, leader of Chipko Movement hails from here and had kickstarted action in March 1973 from this village. These villagers had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Uttarakhand High Court in summer 2019 which issued directions to the state government to check what was going on in Raini village of Chamoli concerning the construction of the hydel project. The government was not concerned till the dam broke off. Similarly, Naveen Chandra Pant and many others residents of village Ganwa Sirmoli, District Bageshwar raised voice through a PIL against illegal mining in village Panchayats of Ganwa Sirmoli, Tehsil kanda in District Bageshwar, the court issued directives to the state government but instead of introspection to protect mountain topograpgy for survival of people’s habitat, many decisions were taken in contravention of the judicial directives. Some of them are as discussed here.
In Feb 2020, the district magistrate was authorized to issue permits for commercial mining on private land and permission for River Bed Mineral (RBM) Mining. This brought havoc to the terrain as gravels, boulders and sand excavation for construction work started in full speed. In a Cabinet meeting headed by the Chief Minister in the same year, more than 10 such projects were approved which not only deepened mining into river bed but also changed boundaries of eco-sensitive zones around national parks. To deepen this process of mining the Uttarakhand Minor Mineral Concession Rules 2001 were changed to allow digging as deep as 3 meters. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change only participated to facilitate this process. None of the political executives found anything wrong into it despite the Judicials warnings from the Nainital Court and the National Green Tribunal. Same year, the state government brought in a new Stone crushing policy which endangered a large part of pristine national reserves. If this was not enough, the state government also attempted to remove Radio Frequency Identification Chips (RFID) on vehicles engaged in regulated mining as per court orders so that this could become a free for any vehicle coming to mining area. The brutal breaking down of hills which balance each other and the felling of trees that are water recharge-shed for land has already disturbed the equilibrium beyond repair. The greed for land and minerals has devastated rivers of Uttarakhand and made them flood prone. The increasing temperatures are related to the activities being promoted by government over the hills.
Is the state government prepared for managing disasters? The Policy and the Plan for disaster management has not been updated since 2016. The Policy and the Plan document repeatedly refer to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, need for an evacuation plan, organizational structure of disaster management(only posts not names),hazards and vulnerabilities of India and the state per se but nothing in particular to offer to an administrator who has to look back and take action in a calamitous situation. Interestingly, these documents look like a student’s examination answer sheet where he fills up as many sheets writing the same irrelevant answers with the hope that more pages would earn him better marks. The key points that enable pre-emptive action for an administrator, key collaborators and friends or partners in need and with rural population being thrice the urban there is an intensive need to identify trained and willing panchayats to come on call for disaster prevention. Uttarakhand loses roughly 20 thousand crores to disasters every year. Does it invest this amount in development that gets washed away due to disasters? Therefore the argument of refining quality of governance led by educated and sensitive people who are grassroot connected and speak the language of their land, is the only alternative to the current chaos and sorrow.
The author is president, NDRG, and former Professor of Administrative Reforms and Emergency Governance at JNU. The views expressed are personal.
In Feb 2020, the district magistrate was authorized to issue permits for commercial mining on private land and permission for River Bed Mineral (RBM) Mining. This brought havoc to the terrain as gravels, boulders and sand excavation for construction work started in full speed.
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