Friday, April 15, 2011

An eye-opener!

Well, the picture says it all. So it is really not necessary to read through the length, breadth and depth of this post- the picture is a good snap shot of its content.

Now those of you who are willing to endure this likely boring journey- let me first sympathize with you and then congratulate you :) it is so rare to find curious people these days!!!

I wrote a personal constitution to guide my everyday life- sometime in 2008, I guess. I was quite pleased with the results... now that I had a firm foundation to build my life on!!! Then ofcourse, I forgot about it- went on with the silly stuff of everyday existence...

I came across it 2-3 weeks back. Every point I had written down, almost all of them, I failed to live up to. It was a beautiful realization- of human frailty and human strength. Of human stupidity and human rationality. Of human failure and human success.

Here they are, perhaps sharing them will make me more accountable and hopefully humble....

" Thoughts I would like to be guided by:
1) Krishna is the source of All Blessings- He is the one I owe my heart and soul to.
2) I have numerous imperfections- others either overlook them or tolerate them- so don't pride on character.
3) Everyone wishes to be loved, wanted and respected- and they deserve to be. In every living being resides Paramatma, in their heart. It is my duty and privilege to love and serve others.
4) People are how they are ( most of the times) because they perceive it to be efficient for their situations. Don't jump into conclusions, don't be judgmental.
5) Be respectful of others choices- it might be ridiculous to me, but to them it might be the most sensible, most practical thing to do.
6) Never belittle anyone's dream or beliefs.
7) Remember those who helped along the way. Give back to them in gratitude. 
8) Remember those who neglected what they could have done to help- reach out to them- give them in love and gratitude. Surprise them and be the messenger of Lord's unconditional love.
9) Be the best you can be in everything you do- Daughter, Sister, Friend, Disciple, Coworker- most of all, a devotee.
10)Do not hold grudges- it is bad enough for heart and arteries, it is poison for soul.
11)Do not be greedy or selfish for earthly possessions or relations.
12) There is a win/win situation in every opportunity- explore it.
13)Be disciplined. Talents can only do so much. Hard work is our way of expressing gratitude for His gifts.
14) Intelligence is a gift, not a right.
15) Honesty and Truth are essential virtues. But hold only myself responsible to it, as much as possible. Forgive others for their digressions. There are unlimited times I have broken these principles in this life and previous lives.
16) Trust people to be dependable and honest. Most of the time, they live up to it.
17)Pay no heed to slander and gossip- they are waste of time. But be cautious to not give others too much of a reason to gossip or backstab.
18)Do all you can do to help anyone in need. Do not expect them to acknowledge your effort. Forgive when your trust is broken. It is human. See it as an opportunity to practice renunciation.
19)Love with all your heart- do not expect to be loved in return.
20) Earthly relations are ephemeral- Base every relation of the Divine Couple. 
21) Take special care of children, elderly and the sick. Anger, greed, pride, envy are   sicknesses too. 
22) Be patient.
23)You are nothing as people talk about- it is their humility and goodness. Lament that you are not humble.
24) Speak in moderation about material world. It is mostly a waste of time.
25) Don't give your heart to anyone- it is Krishna's property.
26) All praise belong to Lord- so any appreciation you receive, transfer to appropriate authority.
27) Do not whine or complain.
28) Be joyful, grateful, helpful and blissful.
29) Be kind, compassionate and humble.
30) Purity comes from Lord. Loving Him unconditionally and surrendering one's heart to Him makes and keeps one pure.
31) Mercy is unconditional.
32) Do not make anyone feel inferior- do not be conceited.
33) My life belongs to Krishna- All are His children. Dedicate life to serve.
34) I have been given great gifts- family, friends, intelligence, education, a heart to love and care and most importantly association with saintly devotees. I must pass them on.
35) Laziness and lethargy are crimes. You are not showing the appreciation for the gift of human life, gift of time and gift of talents.
36) Pay attention to health. Body might be just a vehicle- but you are stuck in a rut if it breaks down, especially because of your neglect.
37) Be grateful for simple things- sunshine, rain, wind, flowers, butterflies..... the power to love, to smile, to give and receive, to err and repent, to live and to die...
38) Millions of people are suffering every moment- remember to reach out.

Always remember what a gift it is to be alive, to be in company of saintly people... to love and to serve."

Look back at the image.... does it say more than what it said when you first saw it?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I choose to wish upon a star

‘Wishing upon a star is meant for tiny kids” they say,
“As you climb past childhood pure,
You leave that childishness behind”.
May be it is true for some,
But I sure am not one of them
I choose to wish upon a star,
I am glad to have a child-like heart.

I dream of happy, content world,
I trust in goodness of people
I know sometimes I may be hurt
But I never am afraid of pain.

If I choose to live a life,
Why live half of what I can
Pain and pleasure are just two sides
Of coin called the ‘theme of life’.
I choose to love sans holding back
I choose to risk unrequited love
I choose to let go when I must
I choose to love true, nonetheless!
How hard it must be for some folks,
Who does not have a Hand to hold,
To live without having the faith
That He loves you no matter what!

“I thank Thee for the sunshine bright,
I thank Thee for the starlit night
I thank Thee for the swaying trees
I thank Thee for the morning breeze.”
There are countless things in life
That most of us just let past us
The blessing of a parent’s love,
The support of a sister true.
I hope to be grateful through life
For all the simple things in life-
To have a heart that’s open wide
To let all those who knock, inside!
I have been hurt I must confess,
I will not let that confine me,
I hope I have by now learnt well
To not let mind to fool again.
I am just a little kid,
No matter how old I live
Age is just for flesh and blood
My soul is ageless, timeless one.
I am still a child at heart
I choose to live with open heart
I still am little child at heart,
I choose to wish upon a star.


I had a good conversation with a dear friend today. It touched me deeply and got me thinking about life. I have had a privileged existence in terms of love and acceptance. By the arrangement of Lord, I have been surrounded by family who doted on me as a kid and valued me immensely as a person from a very young age. They appreciated my preferences and tolerated my quirks wholeheartedly. I never once felt unloved or the need to be a certain person, in order to be loved. I did not have to be on guard from "an evil world" to protect my interests. Enough about me. The reason I said this is to built the premise for my friends introduction. My friend is a nice person- but somehow she has this strong feeling that she is not nice- not just that, she considers herself a bad person. I felt so sad- to live everyday with a feeling of being corrupt and evil- ofcourse, there is a level of pure devotees where they feel this way because of their intense humility but that is starkly different from the self pity that causes such feeling in the mind of us, normal people. She is not conceited, which itself is such an achievement in the world we live today. And in my experience, a lot of times superficial religiosity makes a person more conceited than another who leads a totally materialistic life. So my thoughts today are about the identity in each of us....

Nobody, not a single person, is bad in an absolute sense. We are all part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, how is it even possible for us to be evil? We are all gold pellets- some of us have big blocks of clay and mud around us and some others have almost none- but regardless of the amount of clay, we are all gold pellets. If I throw away a gold pellet because it has soil around it, that simply is an indication of my short sightedness, rather than the worthlessness of gold pellet.  When we judge people as bad or imperfect, (I often do) we are simply discarding gold, calling it mud. And sometimes, it so happens that gold forgets itself and identifies with  the mud around it. No matter how much you remind it, it is not ready to accept or acknowledge that it is gold.  So often this happens with people- we start it young. We tell children to be class topper or athlete, or in whatever way we define success and when they fall short of it, we tell them they are worthless. Ofcourse, we don't do it knowingly- but by our sneering comments and comparisons, we make our gold pellet feel like mud. In time, they forget their real identity and start believing that they infact are mud blocks. Oh what pity it is!!! Then we wonder in our head how these gold pellets can behave like mud.... and then conclude that perhaps they really are mud blocks!!!

If there is one thing that I want to remind myself and others today- is to awake to the realization of being gold and not mud. No matter how society expects us to be and how close or far we are to the expectations- it means nothing. Our achievements or shortcomings don't define us. Our strengths or weaknesses dont define us- all these are mud. Some might be valuable mud, some might be useless mud- but essentially, it is all just mud. We all make wrong choices at one point or another, the important thing is to get back on track and remind ourselves of the gold pellet we are. And to behave like one- to be malleable and ductile, to be precious and valuable. 

We are frequently harsh with ourselves- very critical, very judgmental. We have to learn to forgive- ourselves and others. Unless we realize we are fallible, we cannot make amends. Unless we realize that we make mistakes, it is hard for us to excuse others' shortcomings. We have to guard ourselves- not from the world- but from the traps of our own mind. We are restricted not as much by the external world as we are by the internal world. We have to help heal ourselves and the world around us. Redemption is an everyday thing. It is not an excuse for irresponsible behavior, but it is our save in an imperfect world. This world is indeed a place of suffering- it is temporary, it is miserable. But if we keep our focus on the Permanent, misery vanishes from our life, because misery is just a reaction of our mind. When mind is blissful, in the association of the Source of All Love, where can misery stay.... where will night hide when sun is fully bright?

My dear friend, forget not that you are pure gold, don't ever let anyone persuade you otherwise. You are not perfect, but you can be nearly perfect if you choose. You are not spotless, but you can be clean for all times to come. Remember, in eyes of God, you are precious, you will always be!!!!

Confronting Fears

As a child I bathed quite early in the morning. The water in the vessel would be very cold since it is stored overnight- I would stand there with the first cup of water for a while before I muster the courage to pour it over me. I dread the first splash of that cold water over my skin- I try dipping my palms first and then splash some water on my feet before I finally am strong to actually put the water over me. And after that first cup I loved the cold water on me- it energizes me, invigorates me,wakes me up from the restful sleep. I feel alive and happy after the bath. I feel cleansed not only physically, but the cold water somehow washes off my lethargy, laziness and any traces of worry or upset. I feel alive again. Though this happened everyday- still I was petrified of that first cup of water.  

In so many ways, on so many days- so many things replace that first cup of water in my life. The fear, the apprehension, the anxiety- I feel it so strongly. Inspite of  knowing that everything happens for a reason and for the better in the long run, I cease to live owing to the debilitating fear. Fear of displeasing the society, fear of being judged, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being a failure, fear of letting others and myself down, fear of not being loved- such petty fears when we consider the grand scheme of things. It does not matter if I get an A, if I got it by fluke and it doesn't matter if I get a B provided that I did my best. But no, I am so bogged down by the expectations of society that I compromise my personal expectations. I sometimes feel the strong need to validate my actions because I want to be understood. I define myself so much around the people close to me that when one of them wants to not be close anymore- it makes me feel inadequate. 

I have to learn to let go. I have to realize that everyone, including family and friends, are in our life for a reason and when it is fulfilled we have to move on. The best tribute to every happy memory is never remember it with regret. Never repent happy moments because it can't stay forever. Do not reduce the worth of a relation because one of us grew out of it. It does not make the good days any less wonderful. Nothing stays forever. Not even our body- not our parents, siblings, spouse, friends- not even memories. 

I have today made some strides in confronting my fears. I have tried to not let any human being be the center of my life. I have tried to voice my opinions without caring for popular opinion and I must say- it feels good!!!!!

Personal Prayers

Accept without reservations.
Forgive without conditions.
Smile without pretense.
Love without expectations.
Serve without calculations.
Pray without doubt.
Live without fear.


May I be careful enough to let any external factors affect my internal peace.
Worry, sadness, resentment, greed- these are invasions that can claim our life- May I guard my soul with the Mercy of my Beloved.
May I realize that sometimes it is better to let go than to hold on - May I be blessed with the knowledge to know
this on time.

I hope to remember how valuable it is to be alive in this body today. I have been given a chance to make amends- to push forward my spiritual evolution, to heal myself and the world around. If I can't love unconditionally, if I cannot forgive- I can not expect others to do it either. I have a choice to make every moment of my life and I better quiet my mind and listen to the soft voice inside that tells me what is the best choice. Lord, help me to be compassionate and kind, help me to not judge another for I know not what they have been through. Remind me how You protect me and guide me, so that I am not bewildered by the apparent successes and failures- I am but an instrument in your hands and I am worthless without You. Please instill in me deep love for You and all Your children- help me realize that  the perfection of my life is to simply remember You and serve You. I wish not to change the world, but help me mould myself to please You- today and everyday.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Culture, Leadership attributes and Social Implications

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This is a paper I wrote for a class I took in Fall 2009- "Cross- Cultural Leadership". I am posting it here since it has been quite a while since I posted something on the blog. Its not exciting, interesting or even well- written, so read if you must; I take no responsibility for your choice of how to spend your time ;)

“Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.” Edwin H. Friedman.

Leadership is a key aspect of human civilization, very frequently deciding the path of progress or degradation of the society. In a shrinking world where distance is no longer a barrier for trade, education or business, it becomes essential to integrate the diverse cultural differences into a functional model of global leadership. Leadership is the process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. (Chemers, 2000). Comparison of Anglo cluster and Southern Asian culture brings out the differences and similarities in their respective leadership styles, based on Hofstede’s dimensions of value. Anglo cluster is devoted to individualism and egalitarianism while Southern Asian cluster has its allegiance to collectivism and hierarchy. This can quite conclusively be explained in relation with individualism- collectivism values and power distance index.

Clustering done by GLOBE study is based on similarities shared by countries propelled by (a) geographic proximity ( Furnham Kirkcaldy & Lynn, 1994) (b) mass migrations and ethnic social capital ( Portes & Zhou, 1994) and (c) religious and linguistic commonality (Cattell, 1950).Anglo cluster comprises of England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States of America, Ireland and South Africa (white sample). This clustering is based on several factors including ethnic and linguistic similarities and migration patterns from areas now identified as Northern Europe ( Gupta & Hanges, 2004). Southern Asia cluster comprises of Iran, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. Gupta & Hanges observes that a distinct cultural feature of this region was the rather peaceful and interactive coexistence of diversity over long periods ( 2004). The leadership styles and attributes evolved in these cultures reflect the differences in their cultural preferences. Regardless, there is only one leadership dimension that varied substantially across these clusters namely, participative leadership. For the convenience of discussion USA is chosen to represent Anglo cluster and India represents Southern Asian cluster.

Gender egalitarianism is an aspect that varies considerably across clusters in the GLOBE study and Anglo cluster is clearly a more gender egalitarian society than Southern Asia. It correlates with the Masculinity index of Hofstede’s values. GLOBE study evaluated both the perception of current society and the perceptions of the ideal which varied significantly. But in both cases Anglo cluster is found to be more gender egalitarian than Southern Asia (Emrich, Denmark & Hartog, 1999). In a more gender egalitarian society women have equal status as males which can be practically observed by the higher frequency of women in authority and lesser discrimination within the workplace. Emrich, Denmark & Hartog also observes that gender egalitarianism is positively correlated to participative and charismatic leadership styles and negatively correlated to self- protective leadership. This further explains the higher prevalence of participative leadership in Anglo cluster ( 1999). Yet, we find certain examples that do not fit the values derived. For instance, even though USA has high value of egalitarianism, it has never had a state of head that is female since its inception as a free country. On the other end, India which is not a gender egalitarian country has had two female state of heads since 1947,including the present president.

Assertiveness is another leadership attribute that is higher in Anglo cluster than Southern Asia. One of the interesting aspect about this attribute is that the assertiveness practiced by US is higher than its perceived ideal while India practices lower assertiveness than its perceived ideal. This leadership attribute is also correlated to Masculinity index of Hofstede’s values. US has a higher value than India in Masculinity Index. An assertive society greatly favors competition and is not fatalistic. Hartog describes an assertive society as one which has sympathy for strong as opposed to an unassertive society which sympathizes with the weak. Another distinction is the connotations associated with the word ‘aggression’- an assertive society sees it positively while the other sees aggression as a negative nature. An assertive society rewards performance, success and progress while a society with low assertiveness rewards integrity, loyalty and cooperative spirit. Also, others are viewed to be opportunistic in an assertive society while in a society with low assertiveness others are considered inherently trustworthy (1999). In Anglo culture everyone is encouraged to be assertive, while in Southern Asia leaders are accepted to be assertive while followers are not, which can be pointed back to the high power distance in the society.

Individualism and Collectivism is yet another defining leadership attribute that clearly distinguishes Anglo and Southern Asia cluster. Anglo cluster has high value of individualism while Southern Asia has low value. USA has Hofstede’s Individualism index at 91 while India has 48. Further according to Triandis US subscribes to vertical individualism where people strive to lead, acquire status and win (1994). On the other hand India is a vertically collectivistic society where there is deep in- group loyalty but competitive with the out- group. In an individualistic culture, leader is expected to be independent, strong willed and forceful as opposed to a collectivistic leader who personifies interdependence, collaboration and self- effacement. Effective leaders in a collectivistic culture are also paternalistic and nurturing. (Gelfand et al, 2002). There are various other social implication to this leadership attribute. Collectivistic societies are generally agrarian in nature and are often developing countries. Stress and stress related diseases have a low incidence in these cultures. They also have a lower divorce rate and a slower pace of life in general. Communication is indirect, quite possibly to avoid confrontations within the group. Individualistic societies are diametrically opposite in all these aspects. ( Gelfand et al, 2002). In an organizational structure, individualism manifests in numerous ways- for example accountability and entrepreneurial activity. In an individualistic society, specific individuals are accountable for the organizational success or failure while in a collectivistic society it rests with the entire group. Entrepreneurial activity is highest in a society, which has a balance of individualism and collectivism, it decreases progressively on either side of the spectrum. A collectivistic society prefers a team- oriented, charismatic and humane leadership style and opposes autonomous leadership style.

Additionally power distance in another leadership attribute that is very different across cultures. Anglo culture has a low power distance while Southern Asia has a high power distance index. Power distance is the extent to which members accept unequal distribution of power. A high power distance society is hierarchical and stratified based on power as opposed to a low power distance society, which is more egalitarian. Southern Asia is a traditional society, which is also influenced by many philosophies including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam among many others. Most of these religions have a great distance between one in position and the follower. Furthermore, in India caste system continues to be practiced in spite of outlawing it. Caste system essentially stratifies society into clear-cut compartments assigning certain groups almost all of the power while many others are bereft of any power. The society reflects the power distance difference in many aspects. In a high power distance society information is localized, which is illustrated by the dominance of Hindu priests and royalty over most of the educational system in medieval India. Lower castes were denied education, which prevented them from climbing the social ladder. In contrast a low power distance society shares the information. Another practical demonstration of power distance is the extend of corruption. High power distance society has high public corruption and low civil liberties which is not the case in low power distance society ( Carl, Gupta & Javidan, 2002). Power distance distinguishes Anglo and Southern Asian clusters very clearly. As modernization is spreading there seems to be an inclination towards lower power distance in general.

Humane orientation is the degree to which society rewards individuals for being altruistic, kind, generous, caring and friendly. Southern Asia is more humane oriented than Anglo cluster. According to Kabaskal & Bodur the perceived social ideal Anglo cluster projects a greater value than Southern Asia but in practice Southern Asian cluster is more humane than the Anglo cluster ( 2002). They explain that a high humane oriented society is motivated by the need for belonging and affiliation as compared to a less humane oriented society that is driven by the need for material possessions and power. The affluent members of the society are responsible for promoting the well-being of lesser privileged in a high humane oriented society, whereas state provides social and economic support in a low humane oriented society. Family structure also varies according to this aspect of leadership dimension. In a high humane oriented society, children are expected to be obedient and parents are asked to closely control the children, Children are expected to protect parents in their old age and close circle of family and friends receive material, financial and social support from each other. In a low humane oriented society, children are encouraged to be autonomous and family members to be independent. Children are not expected to take care of parents in their old age and sacrifices for close circles are not expected; self- enhancement is the driving force in a low humane oriented society. One can observe these instances in daily life of these two clusters. Anglo cluster has higher prevalence of old age homes and laws that protect children against any kind of mistreatment from parents and other caretakers. In the social structure, humane orientation manifests in various ways. In paternalistic, high humane societies leadership, takes care of the welfare of workers’ families, sometimes hiring a family member who might not be qualified for the job ( Kabaskal & Bodur, 2002). It is observed that Humane orientation affects culturally endorsed leadership in various levels. High humane oriented societies have a more considerate leadership that is more personal and maintenance oriented. On the other hand, leaders in a low humane oriented culture are impersonal and formal in their relationship with others. In an office in United States relationship are generally official and there is little or no personal involvement in each other’s life as opposed to a higher humane oriented culture like India, relationships within office also spreads to a personal level attachment.

Uncertainty Avoidance is high in Southern Asian cluster and low in Anglo cluster. Uncertainty Avoidance is defined by the GLOBE as “the extent to which members of collectives seek orderliness, consistency, structure, formalized procedures and laws to cover their daily lives” ( Luque & Javidan, 2002). Hofstede defined the concept slightly differently where it represented the national syndrome that relates to neuroticism, anxiety, stress etc (1980). One way to see uncertainty avoidance is the extend to which one can tolerate ambiguity- the higher one can tolerate it, lower is the uncertainty avoidance. Uncertainty avoidance affects society and organization in multiple aspects. One example is openness to innovation- in a society with high uncertainty avoidance, it is increasingly difficult to replace an existing system with a new one. A high uncertainty avoiding society relies greatly on planning and spends considerable time checking for loopholes and mistakes. Another concept related with uncertainty avoidance is the idea of tight and loose cultures originally suggested by Pelto ( Luque & Javidan, 2002). “Tight cultures are characterized by many rules supervising actions” ( Triandis, 1989). In such societies, conformity is very important- it is discouraged to be different from the group. Whereas in a loose culture there are many ways through which norms are relayed and none are considered unacceptable. According to the GLOBE study, Anglo cluster has a higher value of uncertainty avoidance as compared to Southern Asia, which is counter intuitive. Southern Asian cluster has a value of Uncertainty avoidance of 4.10 as current practice while its perceived ideal is 5.16, which is significantly higher. On the other hand, Anglo cluster has a value of 4.42 as current societal uncertainty avoidance value, which is higher than its perceived ideal that is at 4.09. ( Luque & Javidan, 2002). A society with high uncertainty index resists change and shows less tolerance to breaking rules. They take more moderately calculated risks and rely on formalized policies as well as communicate in writing. In a lower uncertainty avoidance society,, members are less resistant to change and shows less desire to establish rules to dictate behavior. Such societies are less concerned with orderliness and rarely document the conclusions from meetings etc. They are less dependent on legal contracts; rather, rely on each other’s words. This is illustrated in the work and legal culture of US and India. US relies heavily on legal contracts and written documentation while Indian work culture generally rests on verbal contracts and mutual trust.

Participative leadership is more endorsed in Anglo cluster than Southern Asian cluster. Participative leadership in GLOBE is defined in terms of subordinates actively participating with the leader in the tasks that the group is undertaking. Anglo cluster being highly individualistic places great value on individual contribution of group members towards decision making. US has Hofstede’s value of individualism at 91 as opposed to India’s 48, which is a strong indication of why participative leadership is more favored in Anglo cluster. People at every level of the organization are encouraged to contribute to the decision-making discussions (Ashkanasy, 2002). This might also be due to the egalitarian tendancies of the society. Such an approach is not preferred in Southern Asia, which is highly collectivistic and hierarchical. In Southern Asian cluster leader is supposed to make decisions that will be best for the group and the group is expected to follow it without any questions. Giving suggestions to make decisions can be interpreted as not having faith in the leader, which is frowned upon in the society. Participative leadership is the single most varying leadership dimension across the clusters ( Ashkanasy, 2002).

In conclusion, one finds significant contrast between the leadership attributes in Anglo and Southern Asian clusters. Moreover, one also observes that GLOBE clusters are a functional and practical way of grouping cultures in a meaningful manner to understand cultural and social behavior. The GLOBE clusters make it easier to implement changes and integrate a diverse society after considering the individual qualities. Anglo cluster is observed to be very individualistic, egalitarian and assertive. It is also performance oriented, with a low power distance. In contrast, Southern Asian cluster is collectivistic, humane oriented and hierarchical. Such differences reflects in the leadership style, organizational structure and business. Comprehending these differences and incorporating them in employee training can greatly enhance the probability of success in the multi-cultural world today. As science and technology strives to bridge the gap between cultures, cultures remain stable in their innate characters, presenting themselves as subtle enigmas that is not well understood yet.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Slaughterhouse- A Bane

(This was my argumentative essay paper submission for English ( ENC1101)It is pretty monotonous, which is typical of a formal essay with all its topic sentences and thesis and stuff- yet the mood it is written with is genuine disgust and disapproval about slaughterhouses.)

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Paul McCartney, singer.
Slaughterhouses are licensed institutions of violent torture, atrocities and murder. They are one of the leading causes of diseases and death, not only for poor animals but also for humans. Hence, they must be closed down for the greater good. Various studies have pointed out that physiology and anatomy of human body is that of a herbivore. When we kill millions of innocent animals for consumption, we are going against our inherent peaceful nature and harming ourselves in the process. Non- vegetarianism is one of the leading causes of life threatening diseases like atherosclerosis, obesity and consequently stroke or cardiac anomalies. Another reason is the ethical question of whether killing a life for one’s own sense gratification is justified. Animals’ intelligence is under scrutiny at times, but the real question is if they experience pain. Inflicting pain upon helpless animals just to satiate our selfish motives is indeed wrong. Slaughterhouses are the result of speciesism, which believes only one’s own species has the right to live. In addition, there is an observed pattern of relationship between criminality, violence and the non- vegetarian diet. Thus, slaughterhouses are a bane to the society and must be closed down.

Supporters of slaughterhouses states reasons such as meat being a part of healthy diet and advertise meat as a titillating treat for the taste buds besides being a source of employment. However, critical analysis proves that these arguments are not valid. Legumes, milk and milk products offer the protein that our body needs. Dr.Paavo Airola, a leading authority on Nutrition and Natural biology says, “ The official recommendation for protein has gone down from 150g recommended twenty years ago to 45g today . . . you can get it from a very 100% vegetarian diet” (67). This statement clearly refutes the argument that meat is vital for our health and affirms that plant food can supply 100% of the nutrients required. Infact, one takes corn, squash and beans, it provides all the 20 essential amino acids required by body. Some of the strongest animals on the planet, like elephants, are pure vegetarians. On the contrary, the meat of any four-legged animal is bad for the body. Recently discovery channel broadcasted three television shows about the harmful effect of meat, especially red meat on human body. A meat-based diet is the biggest cause of heart problems, which in turn is the largest killer disease in US.

Similarly, the argument that slaughterhouses are major economic pillars and part of our tradition is not strong either. The work force currently employed in slaughtering business can find employment in agriculture and farming industry. When consumption of vegetables and fruits increases, the need of work force will increase, which can be met by those rendered jobless. Another counter argument is that humans have always been eating meat. They question the authenticity of turning against animal killing in the modern age. Since ancient times men have killed and eaten animals. However, it was not a large-scale massacre as today. Meat was not the staple food. It was an occasional indulgence. Moreover the meat frequently came from ones own farm. But today, animals are tortured in the name of animal farming, which culminates in their death in slaughterhouses. None of the reasons put forward by the supporters of slaughterhouses are valid and hence we must close down slaughterhouses.

Furthermore, the ill effect of meat consumption on human body is an important reason to close down slaughterhouses. Governments, as well as various organizations, spend millions of dollars to fight the fat clogged arteries, obesity and the spectra of diseases it brings. The single step of closing down these giant killing houses can be a lasting solution to this problem. Though these diseases are not exclusively found in those consuming a non- vegetarian diet, it is predominantly found in this group of population. If killing animals are unavoidable for the sustenance of human species, then we could have justified the need to kill. However, numerous researchers have repeatedly stated that the structure and built of human body is similar that of a herbivore. The prominent Swedish scientist Karl von Linne states, “Man’s structure, external and internal, compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruits and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food” (qtd. in Dasa 22). The anatomy and physiology of man, like his lips, teeth, alimentary canal etc, are designed to be vegetarian. Many studies have also pointed out that vegetarians are healthier and generally have sharper analytical abilities. The predominantly vegetarian populations show lower incidences of chronic diseases like cardio vascular disorders, hypertension and even cancer. The huge volume of data pointing meat based data as a major reason for various diseases endorses the closing down of slaughterhouses for greater good.

Moreover, slaughterhouses are the results of human impudence and feeling of superiority, which is an example of speciesism. Speciesism refers to the elite feeling of a certain species and consequent exploitation of other species. People in general are against all types of sectarian mentality based on race, religion or nationality; but many people conveniently overlook speciesism. As long as a living being is not human, the idea of rights does not exist – not even the right to live. Slaughterhouses are “concentration camps” for animals. In an essay titled On Eating Flesh, the Roman author Plutarch wrote: “For the sake of little flesh we deprive them (animals) of sun, of light, of the duration of life they are entitled to by birth and being” (qtd. in Dasa 27) . For the selfish motives of sensual pleasure, humans deny animals their right to a normal life. We confine them, torture them and kill them with no consideration and respect to their identity. The right to live is universal. Certain violence can be accepted for the protection and sustenance of one’s own life, but taking life for one’s selfish indulgence is crime. Therefore, slaughterhouses must be shut down.

Besides, there is a direct link between food consumed and criminal tendencies. Many cultures of the world, especially occidental cultures, like Vedic civilization, Buddhists, Jains etc are aware of this connection for thousand of years. The food has a gross part, which nourishes the body, and a subtle part that nourishes the mind. Food that are in mode of goodness like vegetables, fruits and milk makes one peaceful, alert and tolerant while food in the mode of ignorance and passion like meat, eggs and alcohol makes one dull, violent and restless, in addition to shortening the life span according to the aforementioned cultures. Today crime and quarrel have shot up exponentially – one of the contributing factors can very likely be the obsessive non- vegetarianism. In early 20th century British Surgeon Dr. Robert McCarrison, stationed in North India observed the astounding health of local tribe ‘Hunzas.’ Many lived past 100 years of age and chronic diseases such as cancer or hypertension were virtually unknown. Intrigued by this observation, he conducted a controlled experiment. He chose 2 groups of albino rats and fed one group with the food that villagers consumed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and milk. The other group fed on meat, caffeinated drinks and refined flour. In 2 years, the first group practically became disease free, gentle and tame. They had lower infant mortality and lower number of deaths. On the other hand, the 2nd group became very restless, violent and unhealthy. By the 16th day of experiment, the stronger among them attacked and ate the weaker ones. (Gaumont and Buttram 126). This was a revelation for him and should become for us too. The food we eat influences of physical body as well as mind. Numerous surveys have concluded that a predominantly vegetarian diet makes a person more focused, alert and lively. Slaughterhouses promote meat eating, consequently affecting human nature adversely and hence they must be closed down.

However, the most important reason to ban slaughterhouses is the extreme cruelty done to animals. Slaughtered animals die a very painful death. Their tails are cut off; dangled by legs and quite often see other animals in front of them being killed. The recent recall of beef by United States Department of Agriculture is interesting for reasons more than one. CNN sites “Authorities said the video showed workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing "downer" animals that were apparently too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse.” It is appalling to human conscience that the withdrawal was because cattle treated in aforementioned manner could pose a health hazard. No one seems to be bothered about the ethical issue of mistreating a living being that way. The report continues, “Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.” Picturing our food to be in such a transitional state is not very palatable. What is more concerning is that always the focus stays on the comfort of humans and we are neglectful of the pitiable plight of another living being. Abolishing slaughterhouses can be a welcome step to bring back the human conscience that has become merciless.

The reasons to abolish slaughterhouses are many and so are the resultant benefits. Lambs, cows and pigs have just as much as pain as a cat or dog. Many of us have pets and support organizations like SPCA ( Society for prevention of Cruelty to Animals). We should realize killing of animals for food in the presence of alternate sources is a barbarian mentality. Slaughterhouses are bane to the society. They cause distress for both the killer and the killed. Animals have the right ti live just as we do. Unjustified killing is wrong. Killing an unarmed being is a greater wrong. Slaughterhouses are the epitome of such an atrocity and hence, they must be abolished. Every time a juicy beef rib is offered, pause to ponder- this animal could be alive if it were not for human greed. The animal may not be a scientist or a writer, but it is a parent or a child and immensely loved by its family. Humans do not have the right to snatch away the life of these harmless beings. Only we have the power to stop -- the power to protect their lives, and ours!
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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mercifully Answered Prayers

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(this post is under construction)

My attempt here is to thank my Lord Sri Krishna, for His causeless mercy and love upon me. My life is His mercy and His mercy is my life. It is never advised to take birth in this ocean of miseries- material world. But still, due to our desire to lord over and be the controller we had to take birth in this terrible place. We are lucky- both you and me- since we both got human birth. We have been supposedly endowed with Higher intelligence. What makes it higher is the fact that we have a mind which can distinguish between right and wrong, religion and irreligion. In one way we can even assert that this power to be religious- is what clearly demarcates intelligence and higher intelligence- taste and higher taste.Are you wondering if I am stretching and extrapolating it too far? If we consider any other aspects which is supposed to be achievement of man alone- we will be amazed how crude we are. If we think moving swiftly is a great establishment- a cheetah can run very very swiftly without petrol or electricity. If we feel flying is the achievement- small sparrows fly better. As regard of a government- animals too have their own form of election of chief( without corruption) and obeying of strict social customs and norms- some species even have very precise distribution of labour in their community. So we can clearly conclude that every other aspect of human achievement is present in lower species also , except religiosity. Now comes the question -what is religion? Dictionary describes as ''relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity''. Let us put it in simple words- that which makes us devoted and engaged in loving service of Supreme Lord is called religion. And it is in this regard that I try to write this blog- regarding religion and more precisely, the Supreme Lord.

I was not sure if i should write about my experiences of Lord's mercy- it should be something between me and my Lord. But then i met many people who are intelligent and good- yet unable to have faith on Divine mercy. I have seen followers of many sectarian beliefs spreading their faith- on the basis of some divine interventions. I deeply appreciate their efforts- because seeing their experiences many others are encouraged to take up devotional service. Vedas- the most ancient books known to man- clearly declares who the Supreme Lord is. Sri Isopanishad boldly states

īśvarah paramah krsnaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ

Krsna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.

If i try to quote about Krsna's supremacy - I can spend a life time doing that. So let us try something which is comparatively easier- Lord Krsna's mercy upon me, on someone who has no qualification whatsoever to be loved by the Lord of all worlds and yet is loved and protected with at most mercy. I will keep on adding to this page and its my request to the reader to please add incidents from your life where you have felt Lords mercy on you. Let us spread the word in whatever meek way we can- to Glorify the sweet Lord and to make everyone luckier to be the beloved of the Supreme Lord- Sri Krishna. I should rephrase the sentence- 'cos Krishna is always bestowing His Love upon all of us- but we are unable to receive it. So let us try to tune everyone to receive His love and mercy , by developing faith in Him and Love for Him.

Let me give a small introduction about my infancy , childhood and teenage to illustrate the situation I grew up in. In terms of scriptural studies and philosophical understanding of Krishna Consciousness- I had no experience. Krishna was in my life cos I found Krishna attractive. As my mother was working- I grew up with my grandmother. And near our house we have a Sri Krsna temple. Though my grandmother is more inclined to worshiping Mother Goddess, somehow or other from whatever description she gave me of Krsna made me interested in Krsna. He seemed to be more personal- I felt other Gods ( read demigods) about whom she spoke about, were giving things, taking things, killing enemies- but I did not find anyone sharing a personal level of interaction in Their leelas (pastimes). I was a reserved child when i was small ( i more than made up for it when as I grew up ;-) ) and Krsna fitted the picture of a friend who was always approachable- Who would listen to me, who I could go to at any point of time. I also got a deity of Krsna- and I am still very attached to that deity. I used to offer Food to Him,sleep Him, bathe Him.Many many instances I saw whenever I asked Him something- I don't even have to ask- by just wishing they would materialize. By repeated display of Him answering the prayers , I never got a chance to doubt Him even as I grew up and lost innocent trust. Whatever faith I have in Krsna is sheerly because He gave it- I am a rascal who might have doubted, but my Merciful Lord never gave me a chance. In this article I would talk about few of the instances when I felt Lords mercy on me- there are many- but let me be selective. Its not arranged chronologically- just a random recall of memories.

# 1 #

Exam Wonder

This is something that happened in 2005. I was in India, doing Bachelors in Homoeopathic Medicine and Surgery. My second semester exams were going on and simultaneously I had to attend a class by '' The Art of Living'' foundation. I used to have some complaints in breathing and my mother had enrolled me in the program in the hope that I may get better. Incidentally it so happened that my semester exams and this course coincided. My mother was adamant that I should attend the course and I had no option but to obey her. I had been almost negligent throughout the semester and so was not at all up to date with my portions. Everyone considered me as a good student and it mortified me to just think of letting their expectations down. Initially I had practical and theory viva for Materia medica and Organon of medicine ( homoeopathic subjects) and it was not so tough. But then I was to have Physiology and Biochemistry exam! We did not have any leave between exams- it was continuous and by the time i got back from the place of my course ( after college) it would be well past 10.30 pm or 11. I was so tired. I just prayed to Krsna to please help me out of this soft spot - and I slept. Next day morning I woke up, got ready and left to college. Upon reaching college I was so tensed and was practically in tears. Our Physiology and Biochemistry was taught by 4 teachers. So for this exam we were to be questioned by 2 teachers on the portions covered by 4 teachers. I randomly opened 3 pages ( from about 150 pages of portions) and read. When my turn came other than few questions which i knew- and the questions exclusively from the 3 pages i read. I got the highest score in my class for that paper.

I was in distress, I called for Lord, acknowledged my incapability and depended He would take care- He just Did!!!

# 2 #

My tryst with Arthritis

I had been a sick child- probably because I was not given breast milk, mother being away- or to be really correct- because of my previous Karma. While I was in my 9th grade in school and we were having a vacation Lord inspired me to learn to write with left hand- I am a right handed person by nature. So I spend 1 month learning this art- by the time vacation finished I could legibly write with left hand. I started my 10th grade and 2 months into the term I fell sick. I had problems with my joints especially on right hand side. I got so sick that my joints became painful and rigid to the extend that I could not even hold a pen. At this time I could use left hand to write, which was not as much in a bad condition as my right. My Lord had inspired me and prepared me to take this crisis on- valiantly. I did well in my 10th exam, especially considering that everyone thought I would not be able to write the exam. With Lord as my guide, I knew not what limitations were!!!

If I number and write my experiences of Lords mercy there are just too many- and many of them involve third persons. And I do not want to bring in others name in this public blog page. Also many of the mercy I received are not readily distinguished as mercy by everyone- Everytime I prayed for something I have received, but when I was not sure of what to ask Lord took best decisions for me. I have been perplexed, i have been confused about why and how things were happening- I have wondered if this is in best interest- but Lord have always guided me right. My requests whenever foolish , were denied. And I have always realized later how those denials were the most merciful giving.

I wanted to Love Lord but was trapped in monistic philosophy from all sides and Lord send me an angel to show me right way. Later,I came to US- leaving an incomplete Bachelors degree, in the hope of meeting devotees in US- and my first sunday in Florida- I was in temple attending my first sunday program, being in Kirtan , seeing a Sannyasi lead a Kirtan for the first time in my life.

Krsna is wonderful and there is no one more wonderful than Him- I am reiterating what many great men have said millions of times- still I feel its ever new..... As every moment of life unfurls, inspite of all the strife, discord and confusion- I still see my Lord's wonderful smile, and can't help but to be lost in His Charm!

...... to be continued

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006


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Today let us talk about one of the hottest topics of all times- EGO- We might be hearing that word way too often than we would want to ''Miss. Pretty has a puffed up ego'' ''He is so egoistic'' '' The relationship is crumbling cos of ego clash''. So now- let us get them right- Let us understand what is Ego.There are two types of Ego- True Ego and False Ego ( Psychologists talk about Id, Ego and Super ego- that is superficial;in fact they are sub divisions of False ego- I am talking about the two important variants which practically makes the difference) If you have read Vaishnav Philosophy u might have read about souls constitutional position as a servant of Lord.For those who have not heard- let me try to explain in a nutshell- Vaishnav philosophy projects very divine and confidential theory explaining the original position of every soul. It logically explains how we are not the body we presently reside in- our real position is in the transcendental world- world of eternal knowledge and bliss. We are the servants of Supreme Lord-now don't jump into conclusions comparing servant master relation in the world we presently live. In the transcendental abode servant is striving to please master and the master is even more engaged to please and protect the servant. In material world- especially in earth- the principle reigning is mutual utilization and exploitation- but that is not the case in transcendental world- a Vaishnav feels happiest to be the servant of the servant of the servant of Lord. And Lord is not like some Robot manufacturer- who build Robots to serve -without them personally having any individuality. Lord allotted each soul the freedom to think and decide.Krsna is not an authoritative autocrat ordering around. He is the most benevolent, forgiving and loving father. We see Lord Krsna giving the entire discourse of Bhagavad Gita- and towards the end at 63 verse of 18th chapter Lord says- '' Yathecchasi Thatha kuru'' After carefully thinking DO AS U WISH TO DO. Lord is Omnipotent- Arjuna had just seen Lord in His Universal Form- Lord could just dictate what to do and Arjuna would have done it- But no- Lord gave the freedom to choose- this independence, this individual space is the cause of Ego. We know we have certain area of freedom where we can exercise the power of free will Lord granted Us. True ego is to surrender to Lord as His servant and act according to His instructions, to please Him and His devotees. This is healthy ego- understanding ones constitutional position and acting accordingly to respect it. ( This is like we say in medical field- there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol- one makes u healthy , other makes u sick! ) Now the problematic one- false ego- note that it is not called bad ego- but rather false ego. It is another fact that thriving in false ego is bad. False ego stems when there is veil over our true ego- due to some souls' desire to Lord over the material nature. These souls ( every living soul in all bodies- plants, animals and humans in material world are included in the list) want to enjoy separately from Lord. They revolt, why should they be obeying and serving- they want to be served as well. Lord is very merciful- He doesn't suppress their desire- Lord do not take back the free will He gave- so He leaves us to material world to let us enjoy accordingly to our wish. If u wished to fly for example, u get a body of bird, if u wished to have sexual pleasures u may be given body of elephant( cos in elephant community usually one male lords over a group of females) if u wished to eat a lot- u r given a body suitable to satisfy that desire most. From these bodies we pass over thousands and thousands of bodies to finally reach human body . ( Remember that none of the steps are irreversible- if one does some abominable sinful activity as a human he will get lower birth next life) Ya- so we come to this material world with the false ego- to be Lords and not servants. But our innate nature to serve remains - we see even cats and dogs caring for their young ones etc- still we , being clouded by the material modes of nature keep trying to be masters.

Lord Krsna explains to his dear friend Arjuna-''I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its knower is called knowledge. That is My opinion.This body, O son of Kuntī, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field. (BG 13.2-3)The five great elements, false ego, intelligence, the unmanifested, the ten senses and the mind, the five sense objects, desire, hatred, happiness, distress, the aggregate, the life symptoms, and convictions — all these are considered, in summary, to be the field of activities and its interactions.(BG 13.6-7)The five great elements are a gross representation of the false ego, which in turn represents the primal stage of false ego technically called the materialistic conception, or intelligence in ignorance. This, further, represents the unmanifested stage of the three modes of material nature. (from purport by Srila Prabhupada).And Lord Krsna also declares that absence of ego is a symptom of knowledge.

So we clearly see that false ego is the intelligence in ignorance. Now are you disillusioned by the usage of phrase ''intelligence in ignorance"? Don't be- the 3 modes of nature are - Goodness, Passion and ignorance. We act on any of this platform while we are in the material world. When we do something out of true compassion, understanding the situation in its entirety, our position and deciding in proper consciousness- that is mode of goodness. When we do something to gain, to build, to possess, for opulence and power- that is said to be in mode of passion .Mode of ignorance is one in which we act without thinking, or without understanding the real situation or our position, not considering the consequences of action and with harmful intentions - then it is said to be in mode of ignorance. So intelligence in ignorance is explained on this ground- a person might be very intelligent- like those who planned the 9/11 attacks- it was brilliant brains- but can we say they are really intelligent? No- their intelligence is in mode of ignorance- whatever reason they did it for- since it was harming others, since it was so destructive- it is ignorant intelligence. So false ego is also like this - intelligence in ignorance. We are not realizing our true original position. We are identifying with the body and acting. Suppose we are in fancy dress competition wearing a Surgeons costume- it is fine as long as we realize its just the costume- but if we get carried away by it and try to do operations identifying oneself as surgeon- then it will wreck havoc for us and others around us- this is an example of false ego. We are not Indian or American or Male or female- these are like our costumes- when we start identifying with these costumes- we are said to be in false ego. Now let us examine how false ego is affecting us in gross manner- there is poverty in world since those in opulence are hoarding money. The rich people are making more and more money to store for their children and coming generations- they identify the particular body as "I"- and everything related as "my". There are wars between countries- cos men are wrongly patriotic, they want to possess more land, more power, more resources. Pakistan and India, America and Iraq- why, why are they in feud?India says Kashmir is mine and Pakistan says Kashmirs belongs to them- what fun! DOes land belong to anone? It is Gods possesion- we will live here and die. We dont possess anything. Can we stop wind from Pakistan from entering India, Birds from Pakistan from entering India? Humans are also Lords creation just like birds or animals- but having higher intelligence. So what is intelligent about fighing over possession of something which donot belong to either party? Can anyone take anything they win from these wars, when they leave body? So these are all the vices of false ego- It is this false ego that makes people fight, people jealous, revengeful, bitter- cos people simply want to establish they are great and worthy to be adored and served. They see themselves as independent entities worthy of being served. Lord not being a dictator allows us to continue this- to act according to our whims- till we surrender to Him. Lord has given promise that once we give up everything else and surrender to Him there is nothing we have to worry about- He will take care of us and it is said that once we return to Godhead we will be forever placed- we will never fall down again- Thats understandable- Once bitten twice shy.

So the whole point of human life is to escape - to rescue ourselves from the false ego and be seated in our constitutional position. All the problems in this world can be solved by simply understanding the principle that we are not masters.What seems to belong to us now- is temporary- we are keeper- not owner. We cannot have control over many things in life- if we understand this plain , simple and obvious fact- half the battle is won. It is not that our parents want us to spend time uselessly on pointless pursuits- they did not buy computer for us to play computer game without any regulation or to browse internet without monitoring- but still most kids do- Lord did not make us wrongly egoistic - but we perverted and used a gift of our identity.We are being the stubborn, ignorant children of a very loving, wise Father. By understanding these points- we can win over false ego to good extend and thats why spread of Krsna consciousness can aid in world peace and harmony. If world takes up Krsna consciousness, people would be trying to serve each other, please each other- happy at another's gain, happy at another's fortune- always giving and never demanding!Let us all unanimously Chant "Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare" and be forever Blissfully happy!