Saturday, September 30, 2017

Revival of my old iPod Touch 2nd Gen device; Useful pocket scripture, including Hindu scripture, ebook reader

Last updated on 1st October 2017

After I got onto JioFi 3 router, a device providing 4G Internet via WiFi, I took out my old iPod Touch 2nd Gen device which I had virtually stopped using after Bhagawan Mahasamadhi in April 2011. From Dec. 2009 till Bhagawan Mahasamadhi, I was using the device primarily as a pocket scripture ebook reader which I would take with me (in my pocket) to Sai Kulwant Hall and read scripture on it while waiting for Bhagavan's darshan. I was quite a scripture reading freak then - Hindu scripture mainly but with some Christian scripture too, and occasional Islamic scripture. Bhagawan Mahasamadhi and ensuing chaos, confusion and trauma changed all that for me. Hopefully I will get back to my scripture reading freak mode in the near future. I have lined up reading Bhagavat Purana full version (unabridged) which has accounts of many Hindu avatars, and located an Internet based source providing Sanskrit text (which I don't really understand but can read and guess some of it) as well as English translation. But now I will be reading it at home and so may do that reading mainly, if not wholly, on my 22 inch desktop TFT/LCD monitor (and not the pocket display iPodTouch).

The iPodTouch device provides a facility to browse the Internet through WiFi Internet. So I brought it out of storage in a table drawer and wanted to check whether this device works with JioFi 3 router.

The device had to be plugged into USB port of the computer to power its battery which was at zero state (or close to it). But it started charging the battery without any hiccups! After some time it was up and running. That was a pleasant surprise. Further it sensed the JioFi 3 router WiFi network and connected to it on providing the password.  I could then browse the Internet using its built-in Safari browser as well an Opera Mini browser app that I had set up on it (in 2009).

One major issue that I faced now (Sept. 2017) was that iTunes latest version downloaded and installed on my computer, did not list the apps on the old iPod Touch. Further the iOS related to this 2nd Gen ipod Touch device (ver 4.2.1) is too old for the newer version apps put on the Apple App Store. The older version apps are not shown on App Store. Effectively, iTunes only allows me to view my iPodTouch (through iTunes) as a music player but not as a device that can install and run apps.

[1st Oct. 2017 update: I should also mention that the iPodTouch has an iTunes as well as an AppStore app. Both the apps run and connect to Apple website. So here I am not using iTunes program on desktop computer but am using the ipodTouch directly to connect to Apple website. But the AppStore lists the latest version Apps (and not older versions of the apps which may run iOS 4.2.1). On downloading such latest version apps, during install they give an error that they need a higher version iOS to run! For example, I downloaded the UC Browser App (Free) from the AppStore on the iPodTouch directly (without using iTunes on desktop computer) but it tripped up on install saying that it needed iOS version 7.0 or higher! BTW iOS 4.2.1 version is the highest that will run on the iPodTouch 2nd Gen, and so I cannot update the iOS on it to a higher version.

The older version of UC browser which will run iOS 4.2.1 is available for download from here: http://www.ucweb.com/wor/prd/prd/apple-iPodTouch(iOS4)-xz-15263.html. But then how does one install it, as the iPod Touch by default does not have a mechanism to do such installation of programs outside of its standard interface which is tied to Apple's AppStore? This is the classic lock-in of customer to Apple App Store by Apple. Not so pleasant and not so fair to the customer, I think. But such is life! The goodies of Apple have this lock-in issue.

This is where 3rd party programs (or something technically complex called jail-breaking which is more into hacking zone which I prefer to not get into) comes into play. Some of these 3rd party programs do claim to provide the facility to install apps on iPodTouch using the install files (.ipa files). But I am somewhat scared to try them for apps installation. What if the iPod Touch gets messed up? Then I may get really stuck as Apple official software like iTunes does not provide any support now for 2nd Gen iPod Touch. So I am very hesitant to use 3rd party programs to install apps into my old iPod Touch. end-update]

Fortunately I got some 3rd party programs from the Internet which could list the apps on the device and allowed me to extract the app files from it to create a backup. Most of my apps are free apps and I had not backed up those apps presuming that I could download them from App Store when needed! I had backups of two app files which were paid apps/books. 'Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - The Man and the Avatar: An Interpretation by V K Gokak', https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/bhagavan-sri-sathya-sai-baba/id468051148, is one of the paid ebooks I have on it (but I have an older version of the ebook; current version will not run on my old iPod Touch).

This activity took me down memory lane to the blog posts I had made about using this iPodTouch as a scripture reader in 2009. At that time I was blogging anonymously under the name 'Gabbar Singh' with my blog being gabbarsing.blogspot.com (which I later renamed to its present name of ravisiyermisc.blogspot.com). I think this blog was my first social media writer activity with the first post dated 15th Aug. 2007 being a user review of a TFT/LCD monitor I had bought then. Note that at that time I was offering free service as a Systems Manager, software lab. course teacher and M.Tech. project technical consultant in the Sai university in Puttaparthi.

I have included below links to three relevant posts and some pics from them:

1) Viewing Sanskrit/Hindi documents on ipod Touch/iPhone, http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2009/12/viewing-sanskrithindi-documents-on-ipod.html, 6th Dec. 2009.

Note that the ipodTouch pics below are a little fuzzy (as both the camera and the photographer - me, were not really good at that task). The pics following the ipodTouch pics are screenshots of the ipodTouch display (if I recall correctly) which is how crisp the ipodTouch display was (and still is). The iPod Touch (2nd Gen) was an amazing device then which is still useful to me now.







2) Affordable Pocket ebook Reader for Sanskrit/Hindi/English, http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2009/12/affordable-pocket-ebook-reader-for.html, 9th Dec. 2009

First set of verses from the RigVeda (the first Veda) are shown in the pics below. One pic is of a Symbian (Nokia phone OS) emulator and another is from Firefox browser on computer (not pocket device).





3) Setting up ipod Touch to be a Pocket ebook Reader, http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2009/12/setting-up-ipod-touch-to-be-pocket.html, 14th Dec. 2009.

Follow Sathya (Truth) and Dharma (Righteousness), Entire Universe represents only one Eternal Truth (Divinity) which resides in all beings: Sathya Sai on Vijayadashmi, Dassera 2007

Ravi: Today is Vijayadashmi, Dassera day. Dassera is celebrated by Hindus as the triumph of good over evil though there are variations in the good deities and bad demons that are remembered during these festivities across different groups of Hindus (and different parts of India). In some cases, it is Rama (god) defeating Ravana (demon). In other cases it is Durga (goddess) defeating Mahishasura (demon), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayadashami. But the underlying story of divinity upholding good and defeating bad/evil is the same.

The message of my beloved and revered Gurudev (spiritual master), Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, given below, is, IMHO, a very good capsule form message for good people, whether believers in divinity or not, on this Hindu festival day celebrating the victory of good over bad/evil through divine intercession in human affairs.

Here is the video clip from Radio Sai, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv2QDJjhY_g, 4 min 38 secs. This discourse was given on 21st Oct. 2007 which was Vijayadashami, Dassera day.

An extract from the associated discourse text for the above video clip (may not be a word-for-word capture but certainly communicates the message well), and a following paragraph too from http://sssbpt.org/pages/Prasanthi_Nilayam/vijayadashami07_Discourse.htm:

Swami frequently exhorts the devotees, “Lead your life’s journey with the help of human values. Let your daily life be suffused with Sathya (Truth), Dharma (Righteousness), Shanthi (Peace) and Prema (Love). Truth is Atma. Dharma is the duty that we have to perform. Hence, discharge your Dharma with Truth. These two are in fact the sadhanas you have to undertake. These two only will protect you in every way. They alleviate all sorrows and difficulties. No human being, during the course of his or her life’s sojourn in this physical world, should give up Sathya and Dharma (Truth and Righteousness). Truth has to be experienced in one’s heart, while Righteousness has to be reflected in one’s deeds. These two are enough. No other sadhanas [Ravi: spiritual practices] are required.

The names Rama, Krishna, Govinda or Narayana are only names ascribed to God; but Divinity has no particular name or form. Truth comes first and Righteousness next. If Righteousness follows Truth, all sorrows and difficulties will be removed. There are millions of people living in this world. But, the Divinity present in all is only one. This has been described in the Gita as Mamaivamsho jivaloke jivabhuta sanathana (the eternal Atma in all beings is a part of My Being). There may be any number of people, but they represent only the number. Only one Divinity is present in all of them. And, that Divinity is the only Truth. You may call Divinity by any name – Rama, Krishna, Govinda, Allah or Jesus – but God is one and only one. Hence, realise the oneness of Divinity; contemplate on that Truth; consider that Truth as God and spread that Truth to one and all. What we are expected to do is not giving alms or charity. Whatever activity we undertake, it must be suffused with Truth. When people follow such a path, all will be happy.

The entire universe represents only one Truth. But, people express it in different ways. Ekam sath viprah bahudha vadanti (truth is one, but the wise refer to it by various names). Truth alone is permanent in this world; all other things are ephemeral like the passing clouds. Names and forms are not permanent. Truth alone is permanent. It is the changeless principle. Keeping such an eternal Truth in your heart, whatever you do becomes Dharma.

[Ravi: The paragraph below is not part of video clip above but is the following paragraph in discourse text document which I felt appropriate to include. end-Ravi]
I must tell you one thing in this context. There are many youths in this assembly. They should not take it amiss. In the name of modernism, many youths are taking to perverted ways of living these days. This permissiveness is not limited to a particular country or society. It has become a global phenomenon, irrespective of caste, community, religion or country. Right from the primary school children to boys studying in graduate and post-graduate courses are afflicted with this mental aberration. Love is God. Whatever activity you undertake with Love, it becomes success. Unfortunately, today, the term ‘Love’ is highly misused and misplaced and often misunderstood as relating to the body. No; this is not true love. It is fleeting and ceases with the bodily relationship. True love is heart to heart. It is changeless.

--- end extract from sssbpt.org ---

[I thank sssbpt.org and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extract from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Beware of fake cancer cures promoted by some crooks for fame and/or money

Last updated on 29th Sept. 2017

An Australian Wellness Blogger Has Been Fined $322,000 for Lying About Having Cancer, http://time.com/4960515/australia-belle-gibson-fined-lying-cancer/.

Very unfortunate! But the reality is that some people, including in India, make fake cure claims, including miraculous cure claims, simply for earning fame and/or money.

Such fakes cast doubt on the real miraculous cures or real alternative therapy cures.

Some extracts from wiki page on her, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_Gibson:

In early March 2015, after media reporting identified Gibson's apparently fraudulent claims of charity fundraising and donation-making, further media investigation soon revealed that Gibson had also apparently fabricated her stories of cancer, and lied about her age as well as other details of her personal life and history. Concerns were expressed that Gibson had led a profligate lifestyle, renting an upmarket town house, leasing a luxury car and office space, undergoing cosmetic dental procedures, purchasing designer clothes and holidaying internationally, on money claimed to have been raised or destined for charity.

The media were increasingly reporting specified fraudulent claims by Gibson and The Whole Pantry regarding charity fundraising and donation-making, and detailed the many inconsistencies in Gibson's claimed medical history. With a collapsing social media support base, in an April 2015 interview Gibson admitted that her claims of cancers had been fabricated, stating that "none of it's true".
--- end wiki extracts ---

Ravi: I have been one of the care-givers (there were many others too) of a close relative of mine who suffered from the dreaded disease in early 1990s, at a relatively young age of around 40. It was one of the major events in my life which significantly contributed to me, in my early 30s then, turning rather heavily towards spiritual life and Bhakti (devotion).

She took chemo (and radiation too, if I recall correctly), and also changed her lifestyle, food habits, used alternative therapy like wheat grass etc. She was operated on and then treated, primarily by oncologists at Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel, Mumbai. I have very clear recollections of being at that hospital in the early 1990s when she got operated. I mean, it was a life-shaking event for me then.

She beat the disease and is living a full life now. Alternative therapies may have contributed to her recovery. But she also went by medical opinion and views (she herself is a medic).

I think it is horrible, really horrible, that somebody faked cancer and ***MISLED*** others about having been "cured" of it.

Very unfortunately, I have been told of some cases involving spiritual Gurus/masters where such deliberately created fake cancer and other disease cure stories have been spread for purposes of attracting devotees and money. Such fake spiritual Gurus/masters create doubt among people about genuine cancer and other disease cures by genuine spiritual Gurus/masters.
================================

Readers may want to read a few comments on my associated Facebook post,
https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1985770098306224.

[I thank wikipedia and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extract from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

About my usage of term 'Almighty God' and offense it may cause to some non-believers in some situations

In a public post I put up some days ago, I had written, "My prayers to Almighty God and best wishes for the people of Houston and other parts of Texas, USA, reeling under floods from torrential rain that some say has not been seen before by them (not seen in Houston in living memory)."

It was pointed out to me that some people have the view that God doesn't care about suffering that people endure like in the case of Hurricane Harvey and that the term 'Almighty God' can be offensive to some innocent people who have suffered due to such disasters.

I had not realized that such words of mine could cause offense to some!

My apologies to those who got offended by my usage of those words. There is no doubt that there was and continues to be some horrific level of fear and suffering that's going on in Houston and other places in Texas, USA (including the coastal town of Rockport that got battered by the hurricane; flooding may not have been the big issue there). And that suffering is going to be there for months for those whose homes and properties have been damaged by this flooding. I realized that those of these suffering people who don't believe in an Almighty God may find my words to cause offence to them and increase their suffering! That is NOT an outcome I intended or desired.

I was thankful for the objection being raised to my usage of the term, 'Almighty God' in this context, and for exposing me to this aspect.

In a recent blog post of mine, Unprecedented menacing language exchanged between USA and North Korea leaders using United Nations General Assembly podium,  http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2017/09/unprecedented-menacing-language.html, I did use the term 'Almighty God' as follows: "I pray to Almighty God to calm the heated verbal exchange atmosphere between these leaders and protect the world from an outbreak of nuclear war, however short it might be."

In the above mentioned post, I have used the term, 'Almighty God' deliberately as that is part of my belief (with God's might coming into play in proportion to intensity of prayers to Him). I felt it was important to express this belief of mine in that post.

Here are some of my thoughts, not so deeply thought out yet but sincere and truthful thoughts to the best of my knowledge and intellectual ability, about the argument that the existence of suffering and evil means that there cannot be an 'Almighty God'.

A little bit of context about my Hindu belief would be appropriate here. Hinduism has the view that there are good actions (with good karma benefits, unless one acts with an attitude of desireless actions/karma offered to God in which case there is no karmic effect) and bad actions (with bad karma ...). Bad people (those who indulge in many bad actions) as well as good people (those who do many good actions) have been existing in the world over the ages.

Good people who believe in God pray to Him to protect them (from bad people) and keep bad people under check. Now this is the vital part of Hindu belief (which may be similar in other religions): In response to intense and genuine prayer from good people seeking protection and help, there have been many instances where God/divine power acts in the world defeating or reforming the bad and thereby protects the good (who prayed to him, mainly, but sometimes the benefits accrue to others as well).

Now bad people may also believe in God/divine power and pray for special boons that will help them dominate over others! This part may not be there in religions like Christianity. God responds to intense prayer in the way in which he is prayed to, and showers boons/grace in the way the devotee wants!

The classic case for this is the demon king Ravana and Lord Rama, a revered deity in India as Lord Rama is viewed as an ideal king and an embodiment of ethical behaviour.

Ravana, the demon king, did intense penance and prayer to Lord Shiva, and acquired great power through boons conferred on him by Lord Shiva (as per Ravana's desire to have such great power). After that, Ravana ran riot over other (human) kings and, in particular, he and his supporter-demons targeted the (human) Rishis (sages) who were doing penance and worship in the jungles.

The human sages prayed intensely to God for help and for protection from this demon who was making life hell for them. Those prayers led to God taking birth as Rama (in human form/body with divine powers), who killed Ravana in battle, and tilted the balance of good and bad in that age then, towards good, and reinforced faith in good people about divine power interceding in human affairs to protect the good when they pray to that divine power.

So, as a Hindu believer, presence of demonic people in the world like the Nazis, say, does not put a spanner in the works, as far as my belief and worldview is concerned.

Why there are such demonic people in the world is a more complex question which I don't think I have deeply studied (from Hindu scripture perspective).
...
From my Hindu belief perspective, I think just the words, Almighty God, do not present us with the problem of suffering and evil. It is when we presume that Almighty God is always good and only desires good for all of creation and so will prevent harm from happening to anything in creation, that we have the problem of explaining why such an almighty and always good God allows for the existence of suffering and evil.
...
Hindu belief roughly divides supernaturally endowed beings into good beings - gods (devas) - and bad beings - demons (rakshasas/asuras). Their essential difference from human beings is in their having supernatural power.
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I also felt it appropriate to include below the contents of an Oct. 2012 post of mine from another blog, https://iami1.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/epicurean-paradox-a-hindu-take/:

Epicurean Paradox – A Hindu Take

In an email exchange I was referred to the following Epicurean Paradox (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicurus):

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

— end Epicurean Paradox —

My take on it is as follows:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

My understanding of Hindu philosophy and my belief is that good and evil are two sides of the same coin. Good and bad/evil actions done by living beings are, at least partly, out of choice. E.g. In one case, jealousy may lead a person to hurt another (bad/evil act) whereas in another case a person may overcome pangs of jealousy and not interfere with the happiness of another (not bad/evil act). Similarly one person may be indifferent to another person’s suffering whereas a third person may be moved to help the suffering person (good act).

The good and bad actions living beings do, typically, create Karmic effects which they experience later on in this life or a future life. Prayer to God (Divine Power) may give strength to face the fruits of bad Karma, and, in rare cases, cancel the bad Karma. Also, very importantly, at rare points in human history, intense prayer by devotees of God have led to Avatars take form like the Narasimha Avatar and, in this case, kill the evil doer who was harassing the devotee.

But these are beliefs – I certainly do not have solid historical evidence of Narasimha Avatar which is acceptable to scientists. Puranas and similar scripture of other religions may be viewed as myths by many scientists and I can’t really fault them for it :).

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

He/It lets it happen but is willing to interfere in Karmic law only on intense prayer or something like that.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

At least partially answered in above points.

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

He/It is able and willing but only on intense prayer or something like that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Suggestion of an Indian ashram safety accreditation/grading body

Yesterday a Facebook friend put up an interesting public post, https://www.facebook.com/MJHimanshu/posts/1605313082841856, having a small list of five famous living spiritual teachers in India whom he considered as "cool to go to".

This post is based on the comments I made on the above mentioned Facebook post.

Interesting initiative. I applaud your courage in putting it up even though it is your individual list (and not an organizational list).

My view is that there should be an ashram safety accreditation organization/body focusing only on grading Indian ashrams on safety of people who visit there and who stay there. This grading should not get into spiritual aspects at all as that is very difficult to grade by anybody except those are very highly spiritually evolved and get intuitive knowledge about people who come in front of them (or perhaps anybody they want to know about even if they are not in front of them).

Indian ashram safety criteria should include aspects like (all criteria below are negative aspects which should contribute to poor safety grading):
1) Eve-teasing (cat-calling) of women
2) Sexual harassment of women, and of minor boys (and girls)
3) Acts of physical violence on ashram inmates and visitors
4) Ashram management (including management/administration team of ashram owned/run educational, medical and other institutions) indulging in white-collar crime like record tampering (a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code) to exploit and mentally harass and dominate ashram staff including free service staff.
5) Suicide committed by ashram inmates/staff (including ex-inmates/ex-staff who were inmates/staff a few months before they committed suicide, and wrote suicide notes blaming other ashram inmates/staff as the cause of their suicide). I exclude visitors here as that is something ashram management cannot really prevent.
6) Pressure put on inmates and visitors to donate money to ashram. Voluntary contributions are perfectly OK. I am talking about psychological and other pressure to force people to donate money.
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Very unfortunately, eve-teasing, especially of young women wearing non-traditional Indian or some Western dresses (Western dresses like knee-length skirts, and any tight-fitting outfits, for example) by young boys and men is not uncommon in many towns and cities in India.
----

[In response to a comment that such eve-teasing is not uncommon in the USA and that it is called "cat-calling" there, I responded:]
I guess human society has lot more similarities in both good and bad, across all parts of the world, than it has dissimilarities. ... Learned a new USA English word - cat-calling!
----

Shirdi Sai Baba: Allah jaise rakhega vaise rehna - As Allah (God) keeps you, stay that way!

[This post is based on a comment I made on Facebook a couple of days ago.]

Firstly I should say that I am quite sure that I have read somewhere that Shirdi Sai Baba uttered the above words (Hindi words, or perhaps he said it in Marathi which was translated to Hindi by somebody). But I spent a few minutes to get a reference to those words on the Internet and failed to get it. I hope to spend more time later on to give a proper reference for these words. If I do not get a proper reference I will suitably modify this post.

Of course, if any readers are able to help me in this regard, their efforts are very welcome :-) .

My rough English translation of above words, which I believe were uttered by Shirdi Sai Baba is: As Allah (God) keeps you, stay that way!

Some may say that's the typical Indian fatalistic way of looking at things. But I think there is a lot of wisdom there - it does not mean that you should not strive to make reasonable effort to face problems and solve them. But it does mean, as I understand it, that one should be prepared to accept the results of one's actions as God's will and be contented/come to terms with that. Such an attitude does take a load of one's mind, I think. One even learns to accept (material world) failure with far more equanimity by following such teachings, than by relentless striving to attain material world goals set by one's mind, whether they are realistic or not. And, one does not get a swollen ego on success as one attributes the success result at least partially to Allah's/God's Grace.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Apex (North Indian) Hindu spiritual body of ascetics puts out 14 fake Hindu spiritual leaders (Babas) boycott list

Asaram, Ram Rahim, Rampal: The 14 fake babas put on boycott list,
http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/asaram-gurmeet-ram-rahim-on-fake-baba-list-meet-the-14-faces-hindu-sadhus-want-boycotted/story-JYEQQkSYOOBFFQzKfbD7UP.html, dated 11th Sept. 2017.

Ravi: Interesting! I think that such efforts by spiritual groups in the country to curb Asathya-Adharma (untruthful and unethical) activities done by a few spiritual leaders in India, seems to be a good move. A boycott list of fake sadhus/babas/spiritual leaders in India is a good start, IMHO.

The article states that the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad has published this list of 14 'fake babas'. This organization seems to be a top-level Hindu Sadhus (ascetics) body which is composed of various Hindu ascetic organizations. I have not heard much about this body in South India. I guess it may be more of a North India Hindu ascetic top-level body.

Here's another article on it: http://www.firstpost.com/india/akhil-bharatiya-akhara-parishad-releases-list-of-fake-babas-demands-legislation-against-these-cult-leaders-4029057.html.

The above article quotes the president of this body (Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad), Swami Narendra Giri, as saying while releasing this list, "We appeal to even the common people to beware of such charlatans who belong to no tradition and by their questionable acts, bring disrepute to sadhus and sanyasis."

He also said, "We are going to send copies of this list to the Centre, the state governments as well as all the opposition parties with the demand that a strong legislation be brought to check the activities of these self-styled cult leaders".

Ravi: The shocking and well publicized bad deeds of a few Hindu spiritual leaders have brought disrepute not only to Hindu sadhus (saints) and sanyasis (ascetics), but also to the vast Hindu community in India. Something must be done to prevent few Hindu spiritual leaders from committing such heinous sins that tarnish the image of Hinduism as a whole and hurt the feelings of billion plus Hindus in India as well as other countries of the world.

I like this move of a list of Hindu spiritual leaders who are assessed to be fake or dangerous to society by apex body (or bodies) of Hindu spiritual ascetics like the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad. However, the criteria used to arrive at these lists must be shared with the public. Surely conviction of heinous crimes like rape would be one such criteria.

But it must be noted that motivated, vicious, well funded and well organized false allegations especially related to sexual abuse is commonly used to malign Hindu spiritual leaders. So allegations alone which have not been upheld by an Indian court of law, especially allegations by Western media which seems to get good viewership ratings from their Western audience by airing programs and publishing articles showing Hinduism and Hindu spiritual leaders in a poor light, should be ignored as a criteria for inclusion in such a list.

Another important issue is fraudulent funding and corruption allegations. Money in Hindu spiritual ashram systems draws a lot of controversy and sometimes horrific levels of infighting among ashram inmates/persons! Power struggles for control of rich Hindu ashrams can be very scary as power crazy ashram people can go to any extent to grab power.

But allegations about fraudulent funding and corruption as well as power grab (hijack) should be given value only if it is backed by strong evidence. Note that fraudulent funding and corruption would be criminal offences under the Indian Penal Code. So such matters should ideally be JUDGED by an Indian court of law.

Power grab/Hijack especially during succession struggle after the founder of a spiritual ashram/movement (bodily) passes away is another important area. Very unfortunately, the yearning of some followers to connect in some manner to a living physical form even after the founder has given up the body, leads to very strange situations like mediums and communicators who claim that the (bodily) passed away founder is communicating to his devotees through a chosen medium/communicator. Sometimes this goes further with the medium/communicator (or his key supporters) claiming that the spirit of the (bodily) passed away founder enters into the body of the medium/communicator, and that the medium/communicator then loses his individual identity and becomes the (bodily) passed away founder!

If readers think that I am imagining things and that people will never fall for such weird claims then I would like to inform them that this is what a Madhusudan Rao Naidu of Muddenahalli, Karnataka is doing with his claim of being a communicator of spiritual master Sri Sathya Sai Baba who gave up his physical body in April 2011. His key supporter, Shri B.N. Narasimhamurthy stated that, at times, Sathya Sai Baba's spirit enters into the body of Madhusudan Rao Naidu, at which time Madhusudan Rao Naidu BECOMES Sri Sathya Sai Baba!!! And, there are thousands of Sathya Sai devotees worldwide who believe in these claims!!!

So power grab/hijack of ashram institutions and ashram following (including wealthy donors) especially when the current head/founder of a Hindu ashram is seriously ailing or when he/she has bodily passed away, by mediums and communicators is another area that I think this Parishad should seriously look at while arriving at its (next) list of fake Babas or spiritual leaders who are a danger to society, and who bring a bad name to Hindu religion.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thought provoking and well analyzed article on rape convict spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and his following by Indian MP Shashi Tharoor

The article is by Shashi Tharoor, a former UN under-secretary-general and former Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Minister of State for External Affairs, who is currently an MP for the Indian National Congress and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs.

I consider its title inappropriate and not in sync with the content of the article, as the author, in my reading of the article, DOES NOT PAINT ALL Indian spiritual leaders (godmen) with the same brush. The article focuses on this particular rape convict spiritual leader, his following and the North Indian social and economic environment, especially in Punjab and Haryana states where lot of Sikhs live, in which this happened. There is a reference to other Dera groups there but WITHOUT presuming that their leaders are also rapists which I think is a very important point.

Perhaps the editor(s) of the website where the article appeared chose to make the title racy and something that would appeal to its audience, WITHOUT THE CONSENT of the author, Shashi Tharoor. I am told that title being made racy by editor(s)/others without seeking author permission/consent is not uncommon in Indian publishing environment.

It is titled, "The Harsh Truth About India’s Godmen", dated 8th Sept. 2017: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/singh-rape-conviction-protest-riots-by-shashi-tharoor-2017-09.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Fascinating interview of John le Carré; Parallels of betrayal in his books and Muddenahalli group

Note: This post has been copy-pasted on 5th Sept. 2017 from here:
http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2017/09/fascinating-interview-of-john-le-carre.html.

Last updated on 5th Sept. 2017

Spies Like Us: A Conversation With John le Carré and Ben Macintyre, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/books/review/john-le-carre-ben-macintyre-british-spy-thrillers.html

Ravi: In my twenties, I was a crazy fan of John le Carré's spy novels. George Smiley is an unforgettable character for me. So I thoroughly enjoyed the above interview of John le Carré and another writer.

John le Carré (JLC) about his childhood (his father was a notorious conman): "The truth, in my childhood, didn’t really exist. That is to say, we shared the lies. To run the household with no money required a lot of serious lying to the local garage man, the local butcher, the local everybody." And more about his childhood background.

I did not know about this background of his. No wonder he was able to create extremely duplicitous characters in his spy novels. JLC goes on to say about his boarding school days, "If my father said he was going to come and take me out, it was as likely as not that he wouldn’t show up. I would say to the other boys, I had a wonderful day out, when I had really been sitting in a field somewhere."

Hmm. What a freaky and sad childhood to have! How challenging it would have been for JLC to recognize these traits in him and then be able to speak so frankly about it now in his old age (he is 85 years old now). Fascinating!

Another sentence of JLC: "And then there was the genetic inheritance I got from my father. This was a man who, while still being pursued by the police, or bankrupt, or Christ knows what, who had done prison time, then boldly stands as a parliamentary candidate." Ha! Ha! Well, not surprisingly, democracy of India and Britain do have some things in common, like few/some con artists and criminals who are politicians aspiring to become/becoming Members of Parliament :-).
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Over email I wrote (slightly edited) to a correspondent (slightly edited):

John le Carré writes exquisite English. But the genre is spy stuff.

One of his early books (mentioned in the interview article) which is a masterpiece, and which was the one that got me hooked onto his books is, The Spy who came in from the cold. Here's its wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spy_Who_Came_in_from_the_Cold.

He is an expert on double-agents and betrayal. Given what we experienced with the Muddenahalli betrayal of our beloved Lord, I think you will appreciate the parallels of betrayal, double-cross and double-agents in Le Carré's books (typical books).
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[A later mail to same correspondent:]
His [JLC's] character-creations are awesome. For me the most enduring, endearing and sometimes sympathy-provoking character of John le Carré's spy books is George Smiley. He is the good guy, doing hard intellectual analysis and also some grunt work of spymasters but who gets tricked by the sly and more dazzling/flashy British double agents who are being controlled by their Russian minder/controller. I sometimes feel that people like you and me are like George Smileys who were first betrayed by MDH sympathizers/double-agents in Prasanthi Nilayam system and sold/chucked out in a way as losers by the MDH fellows who were on a roll for a few years (till end. 2014, I would say). Then we had to figure out the betrayal and the hijack and reverse it (like George Smiley figuring out who were the double-agents in the British spy agencies and then exposing them), which I think took the years of 2015 and 2016 to fully reverse.

Here is an interesting extract from the wiki page of the George Smiley character (he is such a famous character that he has a wiki page to himself!), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Smiley :

Le Carré introduced Smiley at about the same time as Len Deighton's unnamed anti-hero (Harry Palmer in the film versions). This was a time when critics and the public were welcoming more realistic versions of espionage fiction, in contrast to the glamorous world of Ian Fleming's James Bond.

Smiley is sometimes considered the anti-Bond in the sense that Bond is an unrealistic figure and is more a portrayal of a male fantasy than a realistic government agent. George Smiley, on the other hand, is quiet, mild-mannered and not at all athletic. He lives by his wits and, unlike Bond, is a master of quiet, disciplined intelligence work, rather than gunplay. In The Honourable Schoolboy it becomes clear that he is not as adept at bureaucratic manoeuvring as the duplicitous Sam Collins and Saul Enderby, who are able to use even a great success to force him into retirement. Also unlike Bond he is not a bed-hopper; in fact it is Smiley's wife Ann who is notorious for her affairs.

When Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was published, the reviewer of The Spectator described Smiley as a "brilliant spy and totally inadequate man." However, Smiley has his pride, and in the end, in Smiley's People, he refuses to take the beautiful Ann back, despite her pleadings.

Smiley is depicted as an exceptionally skilled spymaster, gifted with a prodigious memory and a talent for getting people to talk. His subtle interrogation methods, derived from psychology and experience, he imparts to his understudies, such as Jerry Westerby and Peter Guillam. These are depicted as far superior to the heavy-handed tactics of the Americans, who are called "the Cousins" in Circus jargon, and whose entry into a mission always ensures that things will get a lot rougher.

A student of espionage with a profound insight into human weakness and fallibility, highly sagacious and incredibly perceptive, he is very conscious of the immoral, grisly and unethical aspects of his profession. At the same time he works to inculcate loyalty and discipline into his pupils, and a sense of moral obligation to the espionage service, and to the country. Smiley has no patience with the political niceties of Whitehall and their distaste for classical espionage tactics, including bribery, blackmail, and turning enemy agents into British double agents. On the other hand, he is not one of the "hawks" who are given to the sharp, militaristic attitudes of "the Cousins" (clearly depicted during the climax of The Honourable Schoolboy).

Despite his series of retirements, Smiley's own unflinching loyalty to and support for his people inculcates loyalty in them. Thus, whether in or out of the Service he is able to maintain an extensive range of aides and support-staff, extending even to "retired" police officers, former and present Service members.

Le Carré describes him in A Murder of Quality as a somewhat short and fat man, who always wears expensive but badly fitting clothes (he "dresses like a bookie... short and stubby"). He has a habit of cleaning his glasses on the "fat end" of his necktie. Also in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, le Carré wrote that his wife describes him as "a reptile that can regulate his body temperature". Gary Oldman, in an interview with Charlie Rose promoting the film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, said that this description is "the key" to Smiley.

In March 2010, while giving a talk on his life and works at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, le Carré responded to a question concerning what became of Smiley by telling the audience that although he would like to think of Smiley as a Holmesian figure, never having really retired, he acknowledged that to his mind, the character would now be "very old and getting past—certainly in his nineties".

This accords with the later chronology. Le Carré envisaged Smiley now to be "keeping bees somewhere", still alive but very much retired.

In March 2017 it was announced that George Smiley would be making one last appearance in John le Carré's latest novel A Legacy of Spies.
----end wiki extracts ----
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To another correspondent, I wrote (slightly edited):

The interview states JLC saying, when the offer to meet Philby was made to him:
And I refused to do so. I felt a spurt of hatred. I felt, “If he wants me he can’t have me.” I didn’t want to give him comfort.
--- end extract ---

Ravi: I think I can understand JLC's above reaction. I don't know whether you have faced betrayal. I had not faced serious betrayal till Sathya Sai bodily passed away, and two of his long-term servitors (a long-time warden of Sai university - B.N. Narasimhamurthy - and a Bombay based Trustee of the Central trust referred to as the Grand Old Man of Sai orgn.) betrayed his teachings by starting a splinter group claiming to have dream-medium (B.N. Narasimhamurthy) and then a regular medium (Madhusudan Rao Naidu) as Sathya Sai successor in a way. These were people we respected (though I would not say revered) for their decades of service and leadership in the Sathya Sai movement, and who were praised, sometimes in public, by Sathya Sai so many times. These two senior persons were among the small group of senior leaders (say 5 to 10 or so such leaders) who most of us, including people like me, looked up to, after Sathya Sai (bodily) passing away (in April 2011) to lead us.

Instead they misled many of us!!! A few of us (including me) rebelled as we saw fishy things happening, with me breaking away from the Sai university whose vice-chancellor - Sashidhara Prasad - had come under the complete sway of the former warden and seemed to have been running the university as per his instructions (viewing it as Sathya Sai instructions). But their HIJACK of the Sai university and some other parts of the Sathya Sai setup continued till almost the end of 2014!!!  From end 2014 onwards the loyalists started openly fighting against the rebels, and starting pushing back against their HIJACK efforts. I think I can say that by end 2016, the HIJACK had been reversed. The rebels have their splinter group with their medium (Madhusudan Rao Naidu) who is their successor to Sathya Sai (or some view him as Sathya Sai spirit in that medium's body). The loyalists have a separate setup - the original one created and administered by Sathya Sai himself while he was in physical body. But there are many people in between with one foot in the loyalists' camp and another in the splinter group's camp.

I don't even look at some people who I used to respectfully wish earlier, as those people betrayed us behaving like secret double-agents during the crucial period of two to three years after Sathya Sai (bodily) passing away where they secretly built their setup, and shamelessly poached on the loyalist group people including wealthy donors. They came out in the open in May 2014 at which time people like me were utterly dismayed and felt heartbroken to see their betrayal and disloyalty to the teachings of Sathya Sai related to mediums.

It was indeed a very bitter experience to see such betrayal, and even today it is bitter though I have become hardened to it now. I recalled so many books that I had read of betrayal and double-agents including JLC's books. I found that I could relate to betrayal in Indian history like Siraj ud Dowlah being betrayed by Mir Jaffer who was lured/bribed by Robert Clive (British) in the vital Battle of Plassey. Like the Peshwa rulers who were betrayed by their own when they tried to fight the British at a time when large parts of India had come under a loose-knit Maratha federation rule. If I recall correctly, the Peshwa ruler who was betrayed in this manner, got into a kind of surrender-treaty with the British, and spent the rest of his life enjoying wine and women! After I personally and directly experienced this betrayal and HIJACK of Sai university by traitors to Sathya Sai teachings about mediums, and their collaborators (quislings) from around Jul 2011 to Nov 2014 (when Sashidhara Prasad, the traitor vice-chancellor stepped down), I could empathise with that Peshwa ruler! Honestly! Betrayal by people who you trust and depend on and look up to, can be devastating for one's faith in humanity.

So I can fully understand JLC's hatred of Philby. JLC had served in UK's secret service - he was not just a spy fiction writer. His service people would have been killed by Philby's betrayal. Of course, JLC should have hated Philby for that. That's my view.

I don't know whether you have read, say abridged accounts of, life of Rama and Krishna, two of the biggest avatars of Hinduism. They too faced betrayal or something similar. I guess it is part and parcel of life of any big ruler/big kingmaker (Krishna was more king maker than big ruler). Krishna faced a lot of such horrific stuff. And Krishna responded to it ruthlessly.
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[A later mail response of mine]
Noted your response and thanks for the sympathy about the phase being over.

But the bitterness remains. It does not drive a dagger into our hearts now like it did when we realized their betrayal and were coming to terms with it. But it is still painful.

And yes, JLC was talking about country betrayal and lives being lost due to that. So that is far, far worse.

But in our case it is ONGOING spiritual master teaching dilution and distortion betrayal by the splinter orgn. using the name of that spiritual master (as against the medium's - Madhusudan Rao Naidu's - name) even through we reversed the HIJACK in the main/original orgn including Sai university. That essentially corrupts the legacy of the spiritual master. That bothers some of us very, very deeply.

Apostle Paul's initial evangelical efforts seems to have drawn perhaps similar concerns from key apostle-companions of Jesus like Peter.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_Christianity:

Pauline Christianity is the Christianity associated with the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul the Apostle through his writings. Most of Christianity relies heavily on these teachings and considers them to be amplifications and explanations of the teachings of Jesus. Others perceive in Paul's writings teachings that are different from the original teachings of Jesus documented in the canonical gospels, early Acts and the rest of the New Testament, such as the Epistle of James.

---- end wiki extracts ---

And then there is the famous Shia and Sunni differences in belief and practice in Islam. The Muddenahalli based Sathya Sai splinter group has created a Sai Sunni group (loyalists like us) and a Sai Shia group (rebels who have diluted Sai teachings to cater to their needs). That separation into two separate though related belief groups is the most bothersome, worrying and bitter thing about the Muddenahalli splinter group for people like me, as it can have ramifications, mostly unpleasant I guess, for generations of Sathya Sai devotees, now and in the future.
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[I thank John le Carré, nytimes.com and wikipedia, and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above few sentences of John le Carré/extracts from wikipedia, from their websites on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hindu article on Ram Rahim Singh followers continuing to believe in him, and more about how CBI cracked the case

This article appeared in The Hindu a few days ago: Among the believers, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/among-the-believers/article19605738.ece.

I have given below a modified version of a comment I made elsewhere:
The article seems balanced to me. It reports that the key victim who made the rape statement before the judge, had initially not said that to the CBI!!! She wanted to protect her family name or something like that PLUS fear. And I don't blame her. After all, her brother had been killed allegedly by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's goons. This has been the reality of feudal society India for millennia! That's the unpleasant reality.

That the CBI eventually got her to tell them about the rape and make her statement in court/before judge, is a great credit to the CBI. Lets give credit where it is due.

Some persons are putting the blame on police and politicians. In my view, targeting a few cops and politicians alone is not fair. It is our feudal society that is mainly to blame.

In my considered view, TV is changing feudal India in a big way. Rural people are ready to fight for their rights when they are trampled upon even if they are in a minority. That's so nice to see.

I was informed that it was similar in Western Europe a couple of centuries ago. Industrialization along with, I am quite sure, European imperialism and the wealth they got from its colonies including conversion of colonies into raw material feeders and captive markets for their products, helped Europe come out of such feudal societies. India has some ways to go. But the good news is that democracy seems to have taken firm root even in rural India today around 70 years after independence. That makes me feel quite optimistic about the future of India despite the many challenges our 1.3 billion strong country faces.