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Reza Aslan's "Believer"- An Exhibit of Unconcealed Hinduphobia

Posted on 2017/3/10 20:55:17 ( 1026 reads )


UNITED STATES, March 9, 2017 (Indiafacts by Prashant Parikh): From colonial times, Indians have been characterized as predominantly savage, otherworldly, uncivilized, and by implication, in need of civilizing. These long perpetuated portrayals of Hindus did not remain merely confined to voluminous tomes and academic cliques, but rapidly percolated into the wider pop-cultural domain. This is quite evident through films such as "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", portraying Hindus as a bloodthirsty, violently ritualistic cult, with a penchant for consuming live snakes, and "chilled monkey brains" served on a chalice--intact head and all. Indeed, few communities have been subjected to this level of ridicule, vilification, exaggerated caricatures, and miscast definitions through media and academia, as the Hindus have.

In CNN's "Believer", host, Reza Aslan, approaches the topic of Hinduism from a similar perspective, presenting not only a contemptuously scornful, patronizing and exoticized view, but also negligently misrepresenting the Hindu traditions in his commentary and voice-over.

Through this article, I wish to address two areas. First, being a general critique of the content, and second, the deleterious consequences such portrayals would have on the Hindu community- especially the diaspora living abroad. Now, there is also no denying that the many topics touched upon here lend themselves to different interpretations, even within the broader section of the Hindu community. Pluralism in viewpoints is not the problem. My concern, and that of many Hindus who have voiced their disapproval over the documentary, is that Aslan has consistently managed to cherry pick only the most egregious of interpretations, made sweeping generalizations, and painted a skewed, sordid and unflattering image of Hindus, in what ought to have been a respectable overview of the Hindu culture for an international audience. The sensationalism on display here would befit a "reality show", not an expert documentary. The bar of journalistic integrity set by CNN sinks very low, indeed.

Much more of this in-depth article, including excerpted videos from the episode hosted on the CNN website, at "source" above.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2017/3/10 20:55:06 ( 579 reads )


Dharma can be defined as the opposite of chaos, the order behind everything that exists.
-- Swami Satyananda Saraswati, head of Advaitavidya, Barcelona, Spain

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2017/3/9 19:40:00 ( 399 reads )


Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life--think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success; this is the way great spiritual giants are produced.
-- Swami Vivekananda,

Behind Charade of Charity, Compassion International Was Conducting Religious Conversions

Posted on 2017/3/9 19:34:38 ( 591 reads )


INDIA, March 8, 2017 (Swarajya, by Aravindan Neelakandan): Compassion International, a US organization leading and funding Christian proselytization in India, has recently declared that it would shut down its operations in the country after facing tough restrictions related to foreign funding. Here is an account of how the Christian organisation has been secretly pursuing its missionary work in India under the pretense of "releasing children from poverty."

In 2015, Income Tax officials disclosed that Caruna Bal Vikas (CBV), one of the chief recipients of Compassion International funding of Rs 10 million every year, used only 10 percent of its funding for child development and diverted the rest to 300 other organisations. The officials discovered the discrepancies as early as 2013, one year before the present government took over.

At the time, Compassion International had moved ahead with an astonishing money-routing strategy. The CBV centre was closed, and another body, Adhane Management Consultants Private Limited, was opened immediately and registered as a non-governmental organisation (NGO). Adhane featured the same team as that in CBV, and Compassion International began directing money to all its organisations through this new NGO. This was in May 2014. It's evident from this series of events that Compassion International is more occupied with strategic operations rather than a group motivated by pure compassion.

The Christian charity says that local churches are so well-respected in multi-religious communities that they do not consider 'forced conversion' of children an issue at all. Even as they say this, they add that they 'do not force conversions'. However, the officials also concede that "yet honestly seek to present the Christian message of hope and the opportunities that it presents". It is unclear how much of "honestly seeking to present" Christianity to non-Christian children would be considered as 'forced'.

Compassion International's hidden agenda is even a problem in the United States for other religionists and humanists. Joshua Lewis Berg, the director of community programming at Jewish Educational Alliance in Savannah, Georgia, points out that though the aid organisation's website says they do not require people to believe or convert, there was no doubt that that was their goal. He also points out that their advertisements hid their Christian agenda well.

So, then, what kind of child development does Compassion International aim at?

Dr Brewster is director for child advocacy for Compassion International in Asia. In a 2011 document, Brewster, while discussing the child ministry in Asian countries including India, quoted another evangelist Peter Hohmann, associated with Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade. The child should be given "a missionary worldview," he said, adding, "We can give children no greater purpose ... to make His name known in all the world. This is the purpose stated in Bible. This is the purpose we need to impart to our children."

In other words, the aim of Compassion International is to make use of poverty in India to create foot soldiers for evangelism.

Given the historical context, and the multi-religious environment, of India, it would be foolish for any secular government to allow a US-based evangelical organisation to take advantage of the poverty in a country to recruit children, or foot soldiers for the religious right in the West.

Tulsi Gabbard Criticizes CNN Program on Hinduism

Posted on 2017/3/8 20:00:00 ( 580 reads )


UNITED STATES, March 8, 2017 (Twitter): Following is the statement of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released on Twitter:

While good people across our country are working hard to increase mutual understanding and respect between people of different religions, I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people's misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism.

CNN on Sunday aired the first episode of a new series called "Believer" hosted by Reza Aslan. For this episode, Aslan apparently sought to find sensationalist and absurd ways to portray Hinduism. Aslan and CNN did not just throw a harsh light on a sect of wandering ascetics to create shocking visuals--as if touring a zoo--but repeated false stereotypes about caste, karma and reincarnation that Hindus have been combating tirelessly. CNN promotional materials and trailers that included a scene showing a group of Hindus under a caption, "CANNIBALS," perpetuated bizarre and ugly impressions of Hindus and their religion.

CNN knows well that sensational, and even false reporting about religions only fosters ignorance that can lead to terrible consequences. Indeed, Hindus are still reeling after witnessing terrible hate crimes in the last few weeks alone. Our nation celebrates religious pluralism and diversity, and CNN must do more to foster greater respect for people of different religions. It is my sincere hope that CNN and Aslan will engage with the Hindu community moving forward to resolve the pain and outrage that the "Believer" episode on Hinduism has engendered in the community.

Himachal Govt Makes Fresh Bid to Persuade Temples to Melt Gold

Posted on 2017/3/8 19:54:13 ( 358 reads )


HIMACHAL PRADESH, INDIA, March 7, 2015 (Hindustan Times): The Himachal Pradesh government is making a fresh bid to mobilize cash-stashed temples in the state to monetize their gold and silvering offerings, lying idle in the vaults. Taking a cue from Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu, Himachal government's department of language, art and culture amended a legislation three years ago, allowing temple managements to melt gold and silver ornaments to turn them into souvenirs and allow its sale to devotees visiting the shrines.

The state government aims to bring an estimated six quintal (one quintal is 100 kilos) of gold and 200 quintal of silver lying idle with temples others into the financial system in return for a regular interest payout and the market-linked appreciation value. So far, the response from the temples has remained lukewarm. Temple managements fear loss of precious metal during the purification process and melting of ornaments donated by devotees may hurt religious sentiments.

Compassion: Why We're Leaving India, But Still Have Hope

Posted on 2017/3/8 19:54:02 ( 409 reads )


UNITED STATES, March 1, 2017 (Christianity Today): HPI Note: At issue here is foreign funding coming into India and being used for the purpose of conversion of Hindus to Christianity. Compassion International only works through evangelical churches (as stated in this full article), churches whose aim is conversion. The 2011 crackdown on foreign funds entering India was intended to limit those meant for conversion work, including, in the case of Compassion International, such work was done under the guise of "child development."

This story in Christianity Today magazine reads in part:

The child development ministry confirmed today that after 48 years, its final day of operation will be March 15. That means shutting the doors of 589 Indian-staffed development centers caring for more than 145,000 children, more than any other of the 25 countries where it works.

"I feel frustrated," president and CEO Santiago "Jimmy" Mellado told CT. That's because Compassion has worked every angle to try to stay open in India since last February, when India's Ministry of Home Affairs put it on a list of organizations needing prior approval before transferring funds into the country. Then the government refused to grant such approval.

The government's move can be traced back to 2011, when it changed its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act so that it could regulate NGOs it disagrees with philosophically, Mellado said. "In the middle of all this, we were pouring significant resources into local evangelical Christian churches," Mellado said. "You can see where we would hit the radar screen."

More at "source" above.

See also: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/07/wor ... harity-closing-india.html

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2017/3/8 19:53:52 ( 277 reads )


Whatever world the man of purified mind desires, whatever desires he wishes to fulfill, all these he attains. Therefore, let whoever is desirous of prosperity worship the man of Self Realization. The man of Self Realization knows the supreme Brahman upon which the universe is based and shines radiantly.
-- Atharva Veda, Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.10

Hindus Object to CNN Show on Hinduism, "Believer"

Posted on 2017/3/6 19:34:59 ( 709 reads )


UNITED STATES, March 6, 2017 (Hindu American Foundation Press Release): Last week, the Hindu American Foundation offices began receiving calls and emails raising concerns about the manner in which Hinduism is presented in the first episode of Reza Aslan's new show "Believer," premiering on CNN, Sunday, March 5th. The episode focuses on the Aghori sect in Varanasi, India, whose sadhus deliberately appear and behave in ways alien to common Hindu practice, all in an effort to transcend dualities and realize spiritual oneness. Though renunciation is a key part of Hindu practice broadly speaking, Aghori babas are the epitome of the spiritual occult and stand apart from other sadhus in most ways. The deeply mystical -- sometimes revolting -- practices of Aghoris, a sect comprising the smallest minority of Hindu sampradayas (spiritual traditions), has long invited the spotlight of foreign journalists. And too often, that spotlight has not been kind.

Religious literacy in the United States about Hinduism, as every Hindu American knows, is woefully inadequate. The Pew Religious Knowledge Survey of 2013 found that only 36% of Americans could answer a single question about Hinduism: Whether Shiva and Vishnu were Deities associated with Hinduism. When the knowledge deficit is so stark, and minority communities are facing a rise in hate incidents across the US -- a Hindu American was killed and Sikh American was shot in likely hate crimes in the past week -- why would Aslan and CNN sensationalize the Aghoris as a primetime introduction to the faith of a billion Hindus, most of whom have never seen or met an Aghori?

When National Geographic, with Morgan Freeman, moved forward with its series on religion, The Story of God, HAF was approached pre-production and asked to serve as a consultant, offering ideas and suggestions, and connecting National Geographic with an eloquent swami who beautifully contextualized, explained, and demonstrated Hindu religious practice. The result was a highly successful episode that has the potential to improve religious literacy. CNN does not appear to have sought similar counsel, and HAF was not informed of the show's production until last week. And as a result, HAF is extremely concerned that while they are not Aslan's intentions, erroneous depictions, misleading imagery, and provocative first half of the program could exacerbate Hinduphobia in the face of widespread religious illiteracy about Hinduism.

Much more on this topic at "source" above.

Rishikesh Yoga Gurus have China in a Twist

Posted on 2017/3/6 19:34:48 ( 410 reads )


INDIA, March 7, 2017 (by Prachi Raturi, Times of India ): Rishikesh, believed by many to be the yoga capital of India, is also emerging as one of the biggest exporters of yoga teachers to Southeast Asia as well as China where demand for yoga is at an all-time high. An estimated 1,500 Indian yoga teachers, for instance, are believed to be teaching in China. Of these, 70 to 80% hail from Rishikesh and Haridwar, home to various yoga schools where these teachers have honed their skills. According to a report by Beijing-based Daxue Consulting, yoga is growing rapidly in China with the number of people involved in its practice rising from 4 million in 2009 to 10 million in 2014.

Mohan Bhandari, one of the first yoga teachers from Rishikesh to settle in China, says that the Chinese are very particular about learning yoga "the right way." "It is a characteristic of the Chinese that they want to learn things from people who they consider as subject natives. That is why the demand for Indian yoga teachers is high in the country."Although there are several types of yoga styles being taught in the various studios, Iyengar Yoga (which uses props) is a big hit with the Chinese. Manu Rana, another Rishikesh lad who now teaches yoga in the Fujian province of southwest China, says that Iyengar Yoga despite being tough "gives great results and has impressed many of my students."

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2017/3/6 19:34:38 ( 342 reads )


Live morality before you talk of it. Practice meditation before you preach it. Taste goodness before you recommend it. Gain bliss before you offer it to others.
-- Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993), founder of Chinmaya mission

How Tamils Carried Rama's Story East

Posted on 2017/3/1 17:56:07 ( 995 reads )


INDIA, February 27, 2017 (Times of India): It's a tale as old as time but the Ramayana is enjoying a sudden bout of renewed interest with a number of literary, academic and cultural interpretations offering fresh perspective on the epic. "Ramayana: A Shared Culture," a recently screened documentary film, tries to highlight the epic's global appeal as a culture sign not just in India but across 10 countries in south Asia and Southeast Asia.

Shot for the ministry of external affairs, the film directed by culture historian and filmmaker Benoy Behl shows the appeal the story of Ramayana has across diverse geographical regions starting from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR to Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Vietnam. "The story of the Ramayana is enacted more often than any other story across the world," says Behl.

Ramayana's popularity in south and Southeast Asia could have a strong link with southern India's maritime relations with countries in the said region. "The Ramayana would have travelled, along with Sanskrit along many routes. The seafaring route would have been the main one reaching Southeast Asia. Here, the great Hindu Kingdom of Champa (which covered most of Vietnam) would have played a major role in the dissemination of the epic. The present-day Tamil Nadu region and the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, were in constant interaction with Southeast Asia. Ramayana could have travelled through these ports too."

Trindiad's Shivganga Maha Yatra

Posted on 2017/3/1 17:55:56 ( 1053 reads )


TRINDIAD, March 1, 2017 (Dr. Prithiviraj Bahadursingh, shivgangayatra@gmail.com) In February 2015, the first Shivganga Maha Yatra was held where Yatris walked from Gangadhara (Marianne river, Blanchisseuse, Trinidad, considered as Mother Ganga in Trinidad) to the Patirama Trace Shiva temple, covering 126 km over five days, carrying Ganga jala, observing maunam (silence) and doing the mental japa of "Om Namah Shivaya." The Yatra was a truly uplifting and purifying experience; it commenced with puja to Shri Trininadeshwar (a local form of Lord Shiva) at Gangadhara and culminated on the morning of Shivratri with the offering of Abhishekam to Lord Shiva and Shiva puja at the Patirama Shiva mandir.

In March 2016, the second Shivganga Maha Yatra was held where Yatris walked from Gangadhara in Blanchisseuse to Manzanilla beach on the eastern coast of Trinidad. They covered 66 km over three days.
In February 2017, Yatris walked 45 km over two days from Gangadhara in Blanchisseuse to the holy Aripo Datta Ganga, in the northern range of Trinidad. Aripo Datta Ganga is also considered to be Mother Ganga in Trinidad. The Yatra culminated with puja to Lord Shiva in the form of Sri Satchidanandeshwar at the beautiful, peaceful and divine Aripo Datta Ganga.

The Yatra was organized by the Chinmaya Mission of Trinidad and Tobago, under the leadership of H.H Swami Prakashananda. The Yatra is an annual event and in 2018, we would again be walking 126 km from Gangadhara in Blanchisseuse to Patirama Shiva mandir in Penal.

Germany's Environment Minister Says No More Meat at Official Functions

Posted on 2017/3/1 17:55:45 ( 510 reads )


GERMANY, February 24, 2017 (treehugger.com): Germany's environment minister Barbara Hendricks announced earlier this week that meat and fish would no longer be served at official functions held by the Ministry of the Environment. Because animal agriculture creates such a toll on the environment, and plays a significant role in climate change and degradation of water and soil, Hendricks argues that the German government needs to do the responsible thing: "We're not telling anyone what they should eat. But we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish."

In a country where meaty foods like bratwurst, schnitzel, and pork knuckles are synonymous with cultural identity, this announcement has, not surprisingly, created quite a stir. It's made worse by the fact that Hendricks is a member of the Social Democrats party (SPD), which is currently ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in the polls - and an election is just a few months away. Christian Schmidt, minister of agriculture, is highly critical of the decision.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out in the upcoming months. Despite widespread support for Schmidt's anti-vegetarian labeling proposals, vegetarianism and veganism in Germany has grown exponentially in recent years. Demand for meat-free products went up by 100 percent between 2010 and 2015, while demand for meat products fell by 10 percent in the same period. The global attitude toward meat is shifting, whether Merkel's party likes it or not.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2017/3/1 17:55:35 ( 364 reads )


When diksha is given to a competent disciple, the guru enters into his soul, establishes himself as the disciple' inner Self and by means of his power, removes all the impurities that limit the essential nature of the disciple's Self.
-- Sarvajnananottara Agama

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