The Semitic religions believe that their scriptures—Torah, Bible or Quran—are the repositories of absolute and final truth. Those who do not accept these exclusive truths are referred to by derogatory terms like ‘pagan’ or ‘kafir’ or ‘infidel’. Because of this sense of exclusivity, a Semitic religion does not condemn only the other religion’s claim of truth but also disregards such a claim of other Semitic religions. Each of the Semitic religions claims superiority over not only the other Semitic religions but all other religions.
As a result of this kind of ‘superiority complex’, each of these religions has an attitude of hostility towards the followers of all other religions whom they regard as non-believers. Bringing the non-believers to their fold by consent, persistent allurement, or worst still even forcibly is one of their central doctrines. To covert the followers of other religions, they advocate violent religious wars, jihads, crusades, etc. According to them, such violence is justified because it is perpetrated for a just cause, viz the promotion and dissemination of their own religion.
Despite being world’s oldest religion, and India being a multicultural, multi religious and pluralist society, why Hinduism does not advocate campaigns, or wage wars with other religions has been an enigma for the Orientalists, religious philosophers and scholars of comparative religions. Since Hinduism is inclusive and non-judgemental, the idea of hostility for other religions and conversion finds no place in it. It maintains religious harmony because it implicitly upholds that each religion grasps truth according to its reach. It avoids conflict with other religions and their followers by explicitly adopting three techniques—the technique of silence, the technique of logic, and the technique of creation of myths.
The first technique is to create a wall of silence by refraining from either a discussion or an overt or convert assessment of the practices and preaching of other religions. This strategic silence does not imply that one is ignoring them but that one assimilates what one regards commendable in them into one’s own religious doctrines, and refute the rest through logical reasoning and talking about them in a mythical fashion by using narratives. Likewise, one states philosophically or mythically those teachings of one’s own religion which may be offensive to other religions. An argument based on logic, for instance, creates distance from the immediate context, and through logical reasoning, which by nature is impersonal and objective, truth of something can be established without personal involvement. Similarly, stories of the gods and demons can allude to truth and illusion without directly incriminating particular religious groups. Over a period of time these techniques of distancing mechanism have become a habit or etiquette, or part of form of life of Indians to avoid overt clashes.
Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are able to establish an instant rapport with other religions because they believe that neither their truth is exclusive, nor are they in possession of an exclusive method of spiritual realisation not available to the others. Hinduism categorically asserts, “Ekam sat, vipra bahudha vadanti”—truth is one but is interpreted differently by the learned. It explains it through its doctrine of ‘Adhikara bheda’—the extent of truth known to us is directly proportional to our ability. The Jainas have adopted the doctrine of Anekantavada—the doctrine of many perspectives, and the theory of syadvada—our knowledge depends on the context. The Mahayana Buddhism has resolved the issues relating to exclusive truth by its doctrine of upaya-kaushalya—the concept of skill-in-means, which upholds that ‘seekers find truth to the extent of their intellectual capacities’.
In our times Swami Sahajananda (circa 1781-1830) nee Bhagwan Swaminarayan nee Shriji Maharaj in his magnum opus gospel The Vachnamrut—the record of the dialogue with his followers and disciples—explains and applies these techniques to avert clashes with other religions and religious sects. He argues, “Of many devotees of God, some have firmness in the observance of dharma, some have firmness in realising oneself as atman, some have firmness in vairagya (detachment), and some have firmness in bhakti.” Realising the uniqueness of every religion he continues to say that in each one of them, “although one particular type of firmness is predominant … they also possess all of the other types, but to a lesser extent”. There cannot be a better argument for religious harmony. This doctrine of Swami Sahajananda, in his own words, “is the ultimate secret, the essence of essence”. It is not only derived from the Vedas, Puranas but all other scriptures of this world.
Swami Sahajananda, with the help of the following examples, tells us how to get rid of our feeling of one-upmanship, jealousy, superiority complex and the like. Once we realise that different avtaras (incarnations) in different religions, religious sects (panthas) or dominions are really the manifestations of one God or ultimate reality, or same Absolute, we will be able to see the truth of all religions. He commands his followers to “always think positively, but never think negatively”.
He categorically asserts that the different forms (avataras) of God that we come across in different religions, panthas, are really the manifestations of one God. To establish this doctrine of oneness in different avtaras, Swami Sahajananda in The Vachanamrut, after stating the qualities—countless powers and radiance—of God argues, “When that God manifests and adopts the behaviour of Rushabhdev, he is known as Rushabhdev; when he accepts the divine ways of the avatar of Ram he is known as Ramchandra; and when he performs the divine actions of Shri Krishna, he is known as Shri Krishna.” He goes on to assert, “In this way whichever behaviour of the avataras can be seen in God, it should be understood that all of the previous avataras of God have manifested from him, and that he is the ultimate cause of them all. If one understands this, one’s conviction never falters. But if one does not understand this, one’s conviction may falter somewhat.”
Despite this if one does not understand the universal element in all religions and claims to be unique then, according to Swami Sahajananda, the teachings of such a pantha which claims superiority and intolerance, out of vanity or for any other reason, for the teachings of other panthas, however well informed, or logical they may be, should be ignored. He says, “If out of vanity… (a sadhu) considers himself to be superior” and tries to prove that “other sadhus are inferior, then one should” ignore him. Distancing oneself from such religions is the best way to show one’s tolerance for them.
This observation of Swami Sahajananda is not the outcome of his theoretical understanding of the scriptures but is based on his personal experience. He says, “I deliver these discourses to you not from any imagination of my mind nor to display any sort of attitude. I have experienced all that I have spoken about. In fact, I speak in accordance with what I practice.”
The writer is former Professor of Philosophy, University of Delhi.
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A CREATIVE TWIST TO THE CHATTER ABOUT CHAAT
Manish Mehrotra, India’s most talented chef, has lifted the everyday chaat to the realms of fine dining in a celebration of the gentrification of street food.
Inventive chefs are seeing in the slowdown caused by the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic a huge opportunity for creative explorations. With international travel ruled out and marriages becoming less celebratory because of social distancing norms, and footfalls to restaurants still not picking up because of anxieties, chefs now have plenty of time, provided they choose to cash in on it, for thinking out of the box. Indian Accent’s Manish Mehrotra, who’s not the one to rest on past laurels, is one such chef who’s distilling the experience he has gained from his extensive travels into two delicious projects.
At Indian Accent, Mehrotra is celebrating the Chaats of India by elevating them to the fine-dining experience with a 10-course menu priced, by his restaurant’s high standards, at the throwaway rate of Rs 1,950 plus GST and Service Charge. At his other culinary theatre, the hugely successful Comorin, which is at Two Horizon Centre, Golf Course Road, Gurgaon, he’s cobbling together an ambitious menu featuring 101 Sandwiches from across India. Little do we realise that ours has been a nation of consummate sandwich eaters ever since the Portuguese introduced us to the joys of the pao (or the double roti, as we started calling it). From the vada pao to the bread pakoda, to Delhi’s bun samosa, Indore’s Johny Hot Dogs and Mumbai’s Jain Sandwich, for a chef as creative as Mehrotra, there’s a world out there to tickle his grey cells.
How does one elevate the humble chaat to the realm of fine dining? The tamatar chaat of Benaras, for instance, is uplifted by the accompaniment of parmesan foam. Similarly, the bhel gets reinvented by combining Himalayan red rice, Mizoram black rice and quinoa puffs using avocado paste, nuts, chutneys and spices, and adding a slice of the sweet, sour and seasonal kamrakh (starfruit) as garnish. Even the humble white pea (matra) tikki looks as if it is straight out a piece of art because of the way it is juxtaposed with sashimi-like slivers of pickled kachalu (tapioca). Maradona had immortalised the ‘Hand of God’; Mehrotra lets his ‘Hand of Genius’ express itself in myriad ways.
The creative bursts just don’t stop. The dahi vada comes with ber, redcurrants and water chestnut (singhara) to give it an additional layer of texture. Delhi’s famous moonglet (an ‘omelette’ made with moong dal batter) is garnished with smoked paneer and gari, the sweetish Japanese pickled ginger. The gol gappas come with four different sweet-and-spicy liquid accompaniments. The aloo aur methi ki launji (sautéed potatoes layered with methi ki launji – dried fenugreek chutney) is as much a textbook case of perfect plating as the matra tikki. And the finale has to be Dal Moradabadi.
Mehrotra can rightfully claim to have put Dal Moradabadi on the culinary map of the country. He says he was inspired by the dal he used to have at his maternal grandmother’s home in Moradabad. It consisted of boiled moong dal flavoured with smoked cloves (laung), with an assortment of chutneys added to it, spiked with the local duknu masala, and served with ajwain (carom seed)-sprinkled puff pastry. It’s like one umami smart bomb—a seamless interplay of flavours and textures!
As the sign-off offering, Mehrotra has Purani Dilli’s famous desi ghee-laden Nagori halwa (the name suggests it originated in the historic Rajasthani town of Nagaur located between Jodhpur and Bikaner). The halwa is usually served with a tangy aloo sabzi and crispy pooris. To add a dollop of drama, Mehrotra garnishes the halwa with a Monaco biscuit crumble. So, the next time you get chatty about chaat, you must not forget that it has just been elevated to fine-dining heaven.
The Chaat Tasting Menu is served during lunch at Indian Accent, The Lodhi. For reservations, call +91 9871117968 or 011-66175151, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHY ONE MUST KEEP THE MIND CALM
Do not give your mind permission to get disturbed. A disturbed mind is easily influenced. This will cost you your peace. Learn to maintain your peace by freeing yourself from attachments. Competing or comparing yourself with others will not allow you to focus inwards. An inner focus allows you to keep your eye on your higher self and remember your original nature. It allows you to forge a link with the Divine. Then it becomes easy to recognise useless thoughts and replace them with a spiritual perspective. Introversion replaces inner sorrow with praise for God. You feel delight. You feel renewed. God is teaching us how to turn within, so listen very carefully. Keep a check on yourself and change. Do not wait for others to say something. A calm mind is not just peaceful, it is focused, self-directing and divine.
CREATING PEACE IN OURSELVES AND THE WORLD
As the representative of the Brahma Kumaris at the UN in New York, I often get asked two salient questions: ‘What can I do?’ and ‘What difference can I make?’.
In answer to them, and with the desire to use the spiritual principle of simplicity, I reply with the question that the Secretary General asked when reaching out to the world in this year 2020, the 75th anniversary of the United Nations: “What kind of future do you want?”
The answer to what we can do and what difference we can make lies in the vision we have of our future.
There is a line in the UNESCO Constitution which says: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”
The UN is working hard for peace. Its Sustainable Development Agenda has been designed to this end, and the aim is for it to be reached by 2030 — that leaves just 10 more years.
The agenda is complex. I try to simplify this by encapsulating the process in five ‘Ps’ and three interconnecting landscapes.
The five ‘Ps’ are: Peace, Partnership, People, Planet and Prosperity.
The three landscapes are: Economic, Social and Environmental — but I add a fourth; Spiritual.
The ‘P’ of Prosperity fits with the Economic landscape.
The ‘P’ of People fits with the Social landscape.
The ‘P’ of Planet fits with the environmental landscape.
But then the remaining ‘Ps’, Peace and Partnership — fit with the Spiritual landscape.
So, looking through the lens of the spiritual principle of simplicity, in peace and with cooperation, we can see how to envision the future we would want, by considering what we can do, and how we can make a difference with these goals in mind.
If we look at the Economic landscape and Prosperity, we can see much anxiety in the world at the economic level, but if we look from the spiritual perspective, we would see abundance rather than scarcity.
As Mahatma Gandhi said: “There is enough on earth for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. Wealth is money, and money is sacred. Can I use money in a way that is life-generating, that brings dignity and worth to people’s life?
Can I use my assets of physical health, invest in my emotional health and in self-care and self-compassion? Can I use the currency of thoughts to help build resilience? Spiritual wealth is vital to the pursuit of happiness. I must first invest in my spiritual well-being, from which all else flows.
If we look at the Social landscape and People, through the spiritual lens, then how do I see the tapestry of my community? For the world to be as I want it to be, I would need to invest in inclusive communities, especially at a time of social distancing and lockdowns, when communities are essential. I would like to see an awareness of safety, respect, freedom to be oneself, acceptance. Communities that build high levels of trust and where differences are used to enrich the lives of everyone.
When we turn our attention to the environmental landscape and the Planet, what do I notice that Mother Earth is showing us? She is surely calling us to have a different relationship with her.
So, with the spiritual lens, I would look at the deeper meaning of ‘eco-friendly’. I would recognise the fragility of our whole planet and the need for a change in lifestyle, in order to live in harmony with Mother Nature.
I would choose a plant-based diet and products that conserve the environment. I would also develop an attitude of gratitude, take time to smell the roses and rekindle my awareness, that the oxygen I breathe comes from the trees, an offering of nature. I would make sure that with the same gratitude that I breathe in, I breathe out peace in return.
So, let me start constructing the inner landscape of peace in the soul. Then, with the wisdom and strength that accumulate through that, I can cooperate for a common cause; to conserve together that which will be beneficial to all. Spiritually speaking, at the core of cooperation is love. That spiritual love attracts, and cooperation becomes natural.
We begin to see the whole entity, the whole system, and offer our strengths, skills, talents, expertise, and, of course, our resources. This is coming together for the greater good. This is love.
Gayatri Naraine represents the Brahma Kumaris at the United Nations in New York.
Honesty is the main aspect of purity
Honesty is a universally appreciated virtue, and, along with purity, is a measure of the quality of a soul. One who seeks to become a better person — someone who is valued and respected — aims to be honest and trustworthy in their relationships. However, the degree of honesty varies among people.
We are pure to the extent that we are honest. Honesty is the main aspect of purity. Simply being celibate is not the highest stage of purity. To be pure means to be noble, authentic, or honest. Those with an honest heart win the hearts of others, including God, who is known as the comforter of hearts, and in return are blessed with contentment.
Honest and trustworthy souls are virtuous in their thoughts, words and deeds. If we act wilfully, according to our whims or under the influence of bad company, and waste our time or energy, we cannot claim to be honest or trustworthy.
If we keep thinking of others — dwelling on their faults or being attracted by someone – instead of being introspective, or take our arrogance to be our self-respect, we are far from being honest or trustworthy.
Our talents, virtues and other resources are meant for serving the world, and when we use them otherwise, it is as though we are misappropriating something entrusted to us. Being honest is the pinnacle of purity. Each of us can check to what extent we are honest.
Another quality of an honest soul is that they have good wishes and elevated feelings for everyone. They live to serve, and are humble.
Because of their virtues, honest souls are strong within and constantly progress in life. Such a person is free of pretence, because of which they remain free of many kinds of mental burdens. Sincerity facilitates self-improvement, but sometimes we hide our weaknesses and true intentions from others. Driven by a selfish motive, we present our case before them with clever embellishments.
We think we are being smart, but this is naivety. Why? Because such dishonesty may bring some temporary gain, but it scars the soul for all time by corroding our character. As a result, we will never be able to attain complete peace of mind.
Being honest also means that our state of mind, our idea of our self, our attitudes and beliefs, are based on lived truth, which is the experience acquired by practising spiritual principles in one’s life.
If that is not the case, we will fluctuate with changing situations, racked by doubt and troubled by trivial matters. This will not allow us to become stable.
B.K. Mruthyunjaya is Executive Secretary of the Brahma Kumaris.
How to handle kids in pandemic times
Children enjoy school, especially in their early years. Their lives revolve around the travel, friendships, eating together, sharing stories, creating things, playing, interacting with teachers, class participation, etc. There’s a lot more that children do in school other than learning.
The pandemic changed everything. Parents realised that with no clear end date in sight, children needed to quickly adapt to online schooling. But children’s initial excitement soon turned to boredom. What felt like a relief for most parents that their children could continue schooling within the safety of the home, gradually became a struggle.
Schooling from ‘home’
Unlike parents, with earlier experiences of working from home, most children had nothing to build on this novel experience. Besides, from their perspective, home and school are completely different physical structures, location and spaces. They represent different things and expectations from them are also distinct. This posed a hindrance to juxtapose life in school with schooling from home.
Earlier children had limited access to their parents’ devices. They used them judiciously for entertainment. With online classes, most children were given personal devices with the intent that they’re used exclusively for learning purposes. This shift from entertainment devices to learning devices was conflicting. Thus, parents occasionally found their children watching videos or playing games during online sessions.
Structure and discipline
Children need discipline and structure in their lives. Structure helps them understand what is expected of them, predict how adults will react to them and in turn how they should behave. Clear and consistent structure creates helpful boundaries.
Both the school and home provide these but differently. There’s flexibility at home and discipline changes form depending on each family member. At school, structures are rigorous, and they’re treated similarly based on established protocol.
Roles and responsibilities
Parents and teachers play different roles in children’s lives. Teachers prepare them to learn academic skills by creating lesson plans and assignments. Parents ensure children complete them timely and sometimes enrich their experience with tutoring and learning games. Schools were more responsible for the child’s education with parental support. Post pandemic, parental roles have increased significantly due to paucity of class timings and the need to safeguard them from excessive exposure to devices.
Children emotionally express themselves before developing the language to articulate their feelings. They quickly learn to manipulate emotions to strategically cope and manage their parents and environment. E.g., crying might work with one parent while whining works with another.
Teachers have a uniformed teaching style. Parents’ are emotionally lenient, and their personal styles are reflected when teaching. This difference confuses children so they inherently pick-up cues from teachers as they spend a significant amount of time at school. With online classes, parents have had to take the lead, while balancing work from home. This anxiety-provoking environment leads to conflict. Parenting role emphasises on being right and disagreements discourage them from giving in. This makes children feel compelled with no right to exercise their choice.
Parents equate this pandemic year as losing a year of schooling. They’re unable to demarcate between its short-term and long-term impact. Worries about the future overwhelm them and they resist sharing their fears and anxieties.
School participation and social gatherings build camaraderie and essential life skills. Children feel upset, lonely when isolated from their peers. During online sessions, their need to be heard aren’t satisfactorily met. Some push ahead while self-doubt of being judged make others apprehensive of class participation. Curiosity and experimentation help develop a thinking mindset. Also, building on each other’s competencies encourages teamwork. With restricted access to peers, children feel insecure and struggle under stress.
How can parents help? 1. Routine gives children direction and encourages independent behaviour. Parents should redefine schedules and routine. Children shouldn’t be allowed to wake up or go to bed late because they’re attending online classes. 2. Involve kids to create a comfortable and personalised desk space for school. With siblings and parents vying for room and space, children struggle to create boundary and ownership. 3. Set timings for gaming and TV. Restrictions and inability to participate in outdoor activities have forced kids to withdraw and create outlets online. 4. Children don’t think like adults. For them, gratification is mostly instantaneous. The language and tone used are important. What is said and what children hear can be very different. “Finish work now and play later,” may sound like their playtime is being restricted making the time to finish work seem longer. Be flexible and encourage children to define their future rewards. 5. When angry, parents exhibit certain patterns of behaviour or tend to repeat arguments. It’s important to choose one’s battles to retain the potency of an argument. 6. Conversations about behaviour change should happen when children are satiated, rested and attentive. It’s imperative to focus on the problem rather than being right. Too often parents believe that when children misbehave, it reflects their failure as “good” parents.
The writer is a mental health counsellor and blogger.
Parroting won’t help, incarnate your own scripture
We think we live; in fact, in thoughts we live. Thinker thinks that he lives and thought thinks that it is the thought that lives the thinker. Because thinker is the thought. Thinker is lost in the thought. It is impossible to bring both of them on table to observe. You may find when thinker is, thought is not, when thought is, thinker is not. Only thinking goes on. This is how we think we live our life in thinking.
In thinking we live. But life is far different than thinking. Thinking is old and not new. Thinking is extension of the past memory. If we wish to live, we have to die first. To die to whatever we know. To be free from the past memory. To die means that this thought that we are living has to die first. The moment this thought disappears from you. When you die now you are born to the new. It means all your past dies; you become a person who can live in the beauty of life. Death may become a moment of life. When you think that you are living so your ego thinks that it is living but it is continuation of memory. To live you have to die to everything within you.
When you die to the known, you become new. Everything becomes new to you. If you look at the moon. You look at the moon into the absolute moon-ness of being from your absolute-ness of being. When you look at a flower you look into the absolute flower-ness of being from your absolute-ness of being. That moment is the beauty of life; that is the beauty of being. Because you become one with the flower and your energy that is looking at the flower returns to you and that is the moment when it is said that observer is the observed. When you look at the clear sky it enters you and you enter in it. When you look at the vast presence into the sky-ness you find yourself one with it. In that togetherness you know that you are part of that-which-is.
When you begin to evolve the understanding in you that you are living and the body shall wither away, that is the moment when meditation begins dawning on you automatically.
When we think that we live, in that thinking we live in forgetfulness. We forget who we are and what we ought to be. We forget the code that is imprinted on our seed which has to flower into the tree of intelligence to flower into the awakening that blooms into a thousand petalled lotus of consciousness. That is the possibility that we have but we are instead living in state of deep slumber. In thinking thoughts go all around you and as thinker it is difficult for you to understand who you are because every thought takes you miles away from you-from the state of consciousness, from the state of who you are. From absolute stillness of your being, thought creates ripples in your mind and those ripples resonate creating a whirlwind sea of thoughts. Thought means your mind has taken control of your being.
When you become unhappy, miserable. In fact, you don’t get unhappy. It is the thought of unhappiness that traumatizes you. It is the dream of being unhappy in the hope of happiness makes you unhappy.
You can learn a few words by gaining the knowledge but knowing the knowledge by your being is different than learning. In fact, to know something by your being is to unlearn your knowledge because that knowledge becomes hindrance in knowing the truth. Your knowledge is your thoughts. Then you gain religious knowledge and hordes of religious thoughts. You memorise religious scriptures and may recite them with clarity and you begin thinking that you are religious and thoughts of enlightenment are bred in your mind.
You have to start unlearning and you have to die to your knowledge. In that unlearning you will tend to learn who you are and you could realise self-actualisation. When truth is bound in words, words do not convey the truth. The words are limited. Vocabulary is limited. Truth is vast. When you look at the morning sun coming out from the horizon you get mesmerised in experiencing the experience. But when you turn to write the experience, it already turns into memory. Or when you take a picture of the moment, you get a shadow of limitless enormity which remains always short of experience.
When you give meanings to your words. Everyone attaches one’s own meaning and as many meanings get created as many readers. This is what has become of our religious scripture.
The seers who saw that-which-is who saw the truth naked they spoke the truth, howsoever difficult it was to speak, which is captured in words so that these words could become guiding maps for you to reach the truth that-which-is. But seers have not created those maps for you to memorise them and repeat them daily in pursuit of some sort of ritualistic theism. These words are the milestones in your journey to reassure you that you are on the right path to know the truth. But if you cling to the milestones recite odes to milestones you tend to create knowledge that brings you back into the world of thoughts.
Life is a prayer. Life is a blessing. Life is a flow. Life is not a flight of the ego to make you addicted to the ego. You better get de-addicted from ego. The moment you leave yourself aside, God will enter right there in you. Let the flow of river take you wherever it takes you. Let you be flown into those gushes that life brings to you—that’s benediction. Don’t fall into the trap of ego that you have to win. But become the one who is not ready to win so that there is no cause left for others to make you lose.
Life is a journey to go find the maps and explore the treasure that is hidden within you. All these Vedas, Dhammapadas are expressions of experience of the self-remembering and self-actualisation. They are there to help you stimulate to take up that journey. But don’t cling to the words. Cling to the goal of self-actualisation.
One has to create one’s own Dhammapada, the Gita, the Vedas; nothing short of that will work for you. There is no shortcut to truth. There is no shortcut that you can memorise words of Buddha or Mahavira and think about enlightenment. You have to create your own scripture. Your scripture would get incarnated into your being and manifest to the world as love and compassion. When the one that-which-is is the one who is already you, the flower of self-actualisation will blossom. And you will say “Ahm-Brahsmi” (I am Brahma) or “Ana-al-Haqq” (I am the Truth I am the God).
The author is a spiritual coach and an independent advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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