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!

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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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