Ground Zero Mosque Thursday, May 27 2010 

Against:

  • “I think it’s despicable. That’s sacred ground. It’s a slap in the face. How could anybody give them permission to build a mosque there?”
  • “What I’m frightened about is that it’s almost going to be another protest zone — a meeting place for radicals.”

For:

  • “to establish a vibrant and world-class facility in New York City that promotes tolerance and pluralism that will strengthen relationships and attract those of other faiths to integrate and learn about Islam”.
  • “Religious intolerance, demagoguery, and fear-mongering have no place in the discussion about development on and around the World Trade Center site.”

From here.

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Resurrection Monday, May 17 2010 

A three-year-old girl fell into an icy fishpond in a small Austrian town in the Alps. She was lost beneath the surface for thirty minutes before her parents found her on the pond bottom and pulled her up. Following instructions from an emergency physician on the phone, they began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. A rescue team arrived eight minutes later. The girl had a body temperature of sixty-six degrees, and no pulse. Her pupils were dilated and did not react to light, indicating that her brain was no longer working.

But the emergency technicians continued CPR anyway. A helicopter took her to a nearby hospital, where she was wheeled directly to an operating room. A surgical team put her on a heart-lung bypass machine. Between the transport time and the time it took to plug the inflow and outflow lines into the femoral vessels of her right leg, she had been lifeless for an hour and a half. By the two-hour mark, however, her body temperature had risen almost ten degrees, and her heart began to beat. It was her first organ to come back.

After six hours, her core temperature reached 98.6 degrees. The team tried to put her on a breathing machine, but the pond water had damaged her lungs too severely for oxygen to reach her blood. So they switched her to an artificial-lung system known as ECMO—extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The surgeons opened her chest down the middle with a power saw and sewed lines to and from the ECMO unit into her aorta and her beating heart. The team moved the girl into intensive care, with her chest still open and covered with plastic foil. A day later, her lungs had recovered sufficiently for the team to switch her from ECMO to a mechanical ventilator and close her chest. Over the next two days, all her organs recovered except her brain. A CT scan showed global brain swelling, which is a sign of diffuse damage, but no actual dead zones. So the team drilled a hole into the girl’s skull, threaded in a probe to monitor her cerebral pressure, and kept that pressure tightly controlled by constantly adjusting her fluids and medications. For more than a week, she lay comatose. Then, slowly, she came back to life.

First, her pupils started to react to light. Next, she began to breathe on her own. And, one day, she simply awoke. Two weeks after her accident, she went home. Her right leg and left arm were partially paralyzed. Her speech was thick and slurry. But by age five, after extensive outpatient therapy, she had recovered her faculties completely. She was like any little girl again.

(Taken from Dr. Atul Gawande ‘s article The Checklist in The New Yorker)

The Whistleblowers’ Haven Monday, Apr 12 2010 

I posted the The Whistleblowers on Jan 28, ’08. At that time I didn’t know about Wikileaks, a safe haven for whistleblowers worldwide. Nobody mentioned it in their comments to my post either.

I happened to read about Wikileaks here a few days back. It seems that they’re doing a brilliant job against all odds.

What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts.

An Insured Nose Friday, Mar 21 2008 

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For the Dutch wine maker and taster Ilja Gort, the most precious part of his body is his nose!

A Lloyd’s of London syndicate said Tuesday it is insuring the nose of winemaker Ilja Gort for $8 million.

He took out the policy after hearing about a man who lost his sense of smell in a car accident. The news scared Ilja. What would happen if he lost his?

“It would mean that you cannot taste wine anymore. Tasting wine is something you do with your nose, not your mouth.”

The custom policy covers Gort for the loss of either his nose or his sense of smell and has some conditions for protecting his nose. They also took note of Gort’s long, curly beard in drafting the policy.

What could those conditions be?

Among other things, he is barred from riding a motorcycle or working as a knife thrower’s assistant or fire-breather.

And what has the “long, curly beard” got to do with his nose and smell?

A clause requires that the winemaker use only experienced barbers who will keep their razors steady near his nose.

(Source)

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The Meaning of Greatness: Baba Amte Wednesday, Mar 19 2008 

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Baba Amte’s brave and compassionate life bears the marks of greatness without any myths enveloping it. It’s when I tried to know about this great man that I understood the meaning of ‘naked truth’.

During the six decade long hard work he put into the making of Anandwan (Forest of Joy), providing “meaningful rehabilitation” to India’s leprosy patients and other outcasts, he never allowed any myth or label build around him or his work.

That’s no mean achievement in a country where gurus and yogis of all sorts abound; where common people are easily hoodwinked by peddlers on god preaching and publicizing the scope of their charity work.

Like Buddha, Baba Amte renounced all luxuries and privileges that were rightfully his by birth. But Amte’s goal was not enlightenment. He took his young wife and two little sons along with him and went in search of lepers and others rejected by ‘healthy society’ from its fold. He found them a place to live in, treated and nursed them, taught them productive skills and thereby restored their ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-worth’.

He showed the world how to build man out of his very ruin!

Baba Amte himself was handicapped by cervical spondylosis (degeneration of spine) for four decades. He couldn’t sit erect and stand or walk without support, so he was bed-ridden most of the time. Still, he directed all his activities from his bed and found joy in it. Of this he said, “…pain and sorrows became the witness to my happiness… I asked only to be used till I lie down in the company of mother earth.”

Yes, “to be used” – When Baba Amte died on 9 Feb 2008, at the ripe age of 93 years, he was buried as per his wish so that his body could become one with “mother earth” and be useful for plants.

Links: 1. For information on Anandwan and satellite projects click here. 2. For a biography of Baba Amte click here. 3. For another one click here. 4. For a short film on Baba and Anandwan click here. 5. Economist has an article on Baba Amte here.

The Burden of Honor Monday, Mar 3 2008 

The burden of honor is more on the shoulders of women than men in India.

A man can err and it’s tolerated, but not so in the case of a woman. Her conduct is always scrutinized and no digression is tolerated or goes unpunished.

She’s required to conduct herself in accordance with all sorts of beliefs and practices regarding honor. If an unfortunate incident that could cast doubt on her honor occurs, the blame will never go. She’ll bear it all her life and suffer.

The great Indian epic Ramayana was created to tell the story of the most heroic, virtuous and perfect man, a man who protects Dharma (righteousness) under all circumstances, and therefore worthy of respect and adoration by all.

Rama, the hero of Ramayana, faces all sorts of trying situations and emerges victorious. His wife Sita willingly follows his footsteps and endures more. The demon king Ravana abducts Sita and carries her away. Rama kills him in a fierce battle and rescues her.

Rama returns to Ayodhya, the capital of his kingdom, to begin his reign with Sita as queen beside him.

But, for Sita it’s the beginning of another ordeal!

She undergoes an ordeal of fire to prove her chastity. Still the people of Ayodhya remain unconvinced and continue to doubt her. They wondered, “How can a woman who’d been in the custody of her abductor for months be chaste and pure? How can Rama, the protector of Dharma accept her?”

In the end Rama abandons her in the forest so that his subjects no longer doubt and question their king’s sense of righteousness!

Bastards No Longer! Wednesday, Feb 27 2008 

Live-in relationship is becoming common in India today. Economic boom, job opportunities for women and the lure of urban life have contributed to it.

Parents who have accepted ‘working woman’ status for their daughters and reluctantly let them go and live in a city alone and away from family are a worried lot today.

Indian society, which stigmatizes even love marriage, is grappling with the phenomenon of live-in relationship and searching for ways to deal with it.

But what surprises me most is the courage of these couples to prefer live-in relationship to marriage and face their parents and society firmly.

In a recent landmark judgment the Supreme Court of India has given legal protection to live-in relationship and legitimacy to children born of it. The court has said that such a relationship between a man and a woman is not a state of “concubinage”.

The ruling gives legitimacy to and upholds the property rights of children born of couples who have lived together for long. The court frowns upon inference of bastardy.

It’s a remarkable judgment and I hope it’ll encourage live-in couples to have children. They don’t have to fear the stigma of their children being bastards: They are legitimate in the eyes of law, at least.

But the Supreme Court cannot force societal acceptance of live-in couples and their children through its ruling. Ours is not an enlightened society. Custom and tradition have strong hold on it and most people feel safe following them.

Faith-based Investment Thursday, Feb 21 2008 

Have you heard of religious faith based investing? Those of you who are good at making money in the stock market or working in the management or the financial sector may have.

But I haven’t until I came across this story in Businessweek. I was really surprised to read it.

I knew that in Islamic countries they follow or try to follow economic practices based on Sharia.

But Dow Jones pioneered an Islamic market Index in compliance with Sharia in 1999.

In line with Islamic market Index, they’ve now launched Indic (especially Hindu and Buddhist) religion based Dow Jones Dharma Indexes in partnership with Dharma Investments, an Indian firm. (there are four country specific indexes: India, the U.S., the U.K. And Japan).

The move is aimed at helping people invest in stocks that are in sync with their religious beliefs!

The stocks of the companies that uphold opposition to animal slaughter, protection of environment and good corporate governance are Dharmic.

To measure dharma-compliant stocks The Dow Jones Dharma Indexes “track more than 3,400 companies globally, including about 1,000 in the U.S.”

IBM, Apple and Intel are examples of Dharma compliant companies in the U.S.

Infosys, HDFC, ICICI, L & T, etc., are some of the 254 Dharma compliant companies in India.

Three boards of experts, gurus and academicians supervise the screening of companies.

  • The Advisory Committee provides guidance and establishes the principles for the methodology.
  • The Supervisory Board interprets the principles and creates and implements the screening criteria in accordance with the methodology.
  • The Dow Jones Dharma Religious Council ratifies and endorses the established guidelines and methodology.

All companies are reviewed quarterly.

Many companies are excluded from the indexes because they “are deemed unacceptable due to the nature of their business activities and operations…” and they “have exposure to unacceptable business practices.”

Aerospace and defense, casinos and gaming, tobacco, alcohol, adult entertainment, etc., are businesses/companies excluded!

Predictably several spiritual leaders and scholars in India have welcomed the initiative and sent their blessings and support.

One typical message said:

“Trust is the breath of business, ethics its limbs, to uplift the spirit its goal.”

(Other links: Hoovers, Washingtonpost.com, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.)

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Monday, Feb 18 2008 

The death of the Transcendental Meditation Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi recently had global coverage. The media coverage underscored his celebrity status.

The Yogi was ushered into stardom when celebrity disciples like Beatles flocked to him in 1960’s. Since then he had become a star in his own right and continued to attract the limelight through his various yoga programs and pronouncements.

I’ve read obituaries by two of his illustrious disciples who went on to become very famous like their Guru.

1) Deepak Chopra: The new age fusion guru of alternative medicine and spirituality. He attributes his success to the blessing of his Guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He said:

Maharishi began the spiritual renaissance. He was one of the most significant figures of the century. Personally, I owe everything to him. Everything I have learnt, I have learnt from him. He has influenced some of the most important people of this century. The Maharishi had grandiose ideas — sometimes even impractical — but he was a great man. …It’s enough to say I am who I am because of my Guru. I’m grateful that I was part of his dream. If there is such a thing as ‘devaloka’, they must surely be celebrating and welcoming a great sage. (Link)

2) Shri Shri Ravi Shankar: The Art of Living Foundation guru who has a huge following world wide. He credits ‘Maharishiji’ with his own spiritual advancement.

Definitely he has taken a trick or two from his Guru Mahesh Yogi himself to found his own outfit. His trademark product, like the Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation, is Sudarshan Kriya. Practise the Kriya and you’ve found the key to personal fulfillment and the secret of universe! Shri Shri said:

Maharishiji was a unique combination of emperor and ascetic, perfect disciple and Jagadguru, modern scientist and deep traditionalist. He respected all sadhus alike. In the body he was Brahmastha, now he is Brahmaleen. (Link)

He laid the foundation for a new world based on the knowledge of Vedas and spirituality. There was none like him and none shall ever be. (Link)

Monks and Wolves Thursday, Feb 14 2008 

Since the last terrorist attack in Hyderabad all major shopping malls have set up security checks. The security people open and check the bags before putting them away at the counter, frisk you and run the detector all over you.

One day when I was coming out of a mall I saw two young Hindu monks clad in their trademark saffron robes accompanied by a 60+ woman in saree coming up.

The woman turned her head left and right and scanned everyone’s face.  She seemed to be asking proudly: Don’t you see me moving around flanked by two holy men?

The monks had cloth bags hanging on their shoulders, but they didn’t care to deposit them at the counter. Instead, they went straight to the entrance. The men at the bags counter looked at each other, but didn’t direct the monks to hand over the bags. They were at a loss to know what to do with the monks.

The monks and the woman reached the entrance and stood there. The security man at the door hesitated for a moment. Suddenly he bowed respectfully and opened the doors for them. The monks and the woman went in.

No checking the holy ones!

The meek and submissive behavior of the security men and their utter disregard to their normal duty shocked me.

The saffron clad men and the woman accompanying them could be wolves in a sheep’s clothing!

With such security men around you can expect more terrorist strikes.

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