Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Improved version of part autobiography ebook cover page

Last updated on 3rd May 2019



[To open pic in larger resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]

[Note the above pic has a blue border at the top (part of bleed area) which I will remove later on. This pic was generated from pdf output of Pothi.com Cover Creator which seems to have added some bleed area on some edges.]

Key points of improvement over previous version:
1) Avoids black background which a few commented unfavourably on.

2) Uses a Nature pic of soothing if somewhat muted colours, as the background pic for the whole front cover which I think is much classier than any background colour alone.

I have some brighter coloured nature pics as well which I could consider using, but I think that raises the risk of the bright colour dominating over title, sub-title and author name text as well as my three pics.

Further, I think I am a somewhat muted and low-profile guy. The background image pic for my autobio being somewhat muted in colours is a very appropriate choice IMHO. I mean, I am a habitual back-bencher and blend-into-background (silent witness/observer watching the drama of life :-)) guy. Therefore this nature pic is very appropriate for my autobio cover page.

BTW the nature pic is of Enumullapalli (also spelt as Yenumullapalli) lake, near Puttaparthi, taken by me using a Nokia E-52 mobile phone camera, sometime in 2014 if I recall correctly. Here's the link for the original photo which I have shared on Google Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/PCgxeSDfDkUPyL8x7.

Feedback on previous versions and some additional points from me, are given below:

1. Regarding including Prasanthi Nilayam or Sathya Sai associated themes in the cover page design: I have accumulated enough enemies now with my whistle-blowing and other activism work post-Mahasamadhi. If I include Prasanthi Nilayam or Sathya Sai related themes in the cover page, I have the serious concern that some of these enemies of mine will say nasty things about it. Since Swami's name would then come into the picture, I will feel pained. I don't want to have such pain. If the cover page has only my stuff and nothing associated with Swami, my enemies, hiding under fake Facebook Ids, can say whatever hateful things they want to say about the cover page and about me, I won't be bothered by it.

2. Regarding using a designer (and soothing color pattern): Pothi.com's cover page creation charge (they do it rather than me using their program to do my own), if I recall correctly, is Rs. 1500. I can afford to spend that money.

But I have been in Do-It-Yourself mode throughout my first and now close to finishing second self-published book. The cover page for the first book took huge effort as I was using rudimentary Paint, and was new to various calculations of widths of various parts of cover page, bleed area etc. So I stumbled many times. But today I have a lot of the stuff figured out. And the cover page for the first book (using a Nature background image) was generally liked, I think.

I think I will go through this struggle now for the second book. With the nature pic addition to my cover page attempts for this book (see attached pic), I see the light (a workable approach) in making the book cover pleasing as well as having pics of me not being overshadowed by the background image (which was one of the reasons why I thought of NOT using a background image for this cover page initially).

The class that a soothing background image can bring to the background of the cover page simply cannot be matched by any background colour choice - that's a big learning for me (late yesterday night/early morning today).

3. An important concern that crops up when we use external designer's services is copyright. We need to be sure that whatever the external designer uses, besides pics and text we give, is not copyrighted work of others.

One of the dangers in self-publishing is that the entire legal risks are borne by the author. So, even if by mistake, an external designer uses a small graphics item which is claimed by another as copyright, in our cover page, then the legal challenge (and expenses involved to face it) will have to be faced by me, completely. In fact, the self-publishing company, Pothi.com, if it does get dragged into the matter, will charge me its lawyer's fees too! I had to online-sign an agreement which included a vital indemnity clause, with Pothi.com on those lines, before they agreed to put up my book on their web store (book selling website).

With cover pages that are created completely by me, even if I face any legal challenge on it by somebody else, as I have direct knowledge of the matter, it will be easy for me to defend myself in court (in India). Once I use an external designer's cover page, I have to take on additional legal risk exposure.

4. About having my pics in the back cover instead of front cover: What I have noted about biographies and autobiographies is that a pic or pics of the subject are put up on the front page. I think that makes some sense for me as a reader as if I am reading a bio or autobio I would like to straight-away see the name and face of the person whose bio/auto bio it is. If the book is not a bio or autobio then I think it is common for pic of the author being put up on back cover page (and NOT on front cover page).
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Readers may want to visit my Facebook posts, https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2475837775966118 and https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2476622525887643 which have  pics of various cover pages I created as well as comment (feedback) interactions.

The Facebook post corresponding to this blog post is:  https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2477242655825630 which already has a few comment (feedback) interactions.

Given below are some comments from above Facebook post:
In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
I am an amateur photographer - just point & click guy :-). So the HD camera suggestion is not in my sphere of capabilities :-). Thanks for the other parts of your comment too.
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In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
I do not want to promote this book, in general, and among Sai devotees in particular. I just wanted to make it available for ****interested persons*** especially any young unmarried spiritual aspirants who are interested in stories like mine.

If some Sai devotee reads my book and likes it, he/she may talk about it to some other Sai devotee - so if the book really interests Sai devotees, it will get known through word of mouth slowwwwwly. I am very fine with the slowwwwww part :-). Jai Sai Ram!
----

In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
Thanks sister --name-snipped-- for your valuable views. I have retained my friendship with only a couple of --snip-- persons. ... Anyway I don't want to take HD pics. Just manage with the pics I have. The objective is a reasonably nice cover page and NOT a perfect and superb cover page. Perfect and superb require equipment and skills which I do not have and do not want to run around trying to organize. ... Within my Do-It-Myself sphere, I am exploring improvements, if any are required, to make the cover pic reasonably nice (and I repeat not really perfect and superb).
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In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
Thanks for your comment.

No pics of earlier days with me now. I would have loved to add some 60s and 70s pics to my autobio, at least in the inner content. ... As I moved to spiritual sadhaka phase in 2002, I cut down on my worldly possessions. BTW I used to live in a small rented room on Samadhi Ist Cross Road, which I would say was like a missionary cell and tried to keep my stuff down to two or three bags/suitcases. So some of my old pics would have gone out then.

Later, due to health and other challenges, I realized that I need more stuff, and also later moved to a small ownership flat in Puttaparthi with a small front room, a mini kitchen, a bedroom and balcony. That's when I started acquiring, or to be more precise I should say re-acquiring, more possessions like bed, table, computer, some cooking stuff etc.

And then after having lived in the new flat for some years, a few years ago I had one of those periodic urges to cut down on the papers and documents I have, which I then felt as an appropriate urge for a sadhaka :-), and so got rid of a few of the old pics that had somehow not got cleared out earlier (including one of me in school days). I regret that decision. It was a hasty and wrong decision as I had already moved out of two-suitcases sadhaka mode. Fortunately, I did not throw out my old passports then :-). They are the source of my around 1985 and 1989 pics.
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Monday, April 29, 2019

My part autobiography book front page cover

Last updated on 1st May 2019

My part autobiography book front page cover pic is given below. Initially I will use it for the ebook. But same/similar cover will be used for the paperback later on.

Note that I have done this by myself using Pothi.com cover creator facility as well as graphics and other apps. So it is amateur stuff :-). But I think this will do.


[To open pic in larger resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]

My Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2475837775966118, associated with this post, has some comments and modified front covers. I have given below only the text part of the update on the post (the additional pics referenced in it have to be viewed on the above Facebook post):

Update: I think I will work on covering up the yellow patches in the 2nd pic on the right. Even if the patchwork may be apparent, I think the yellow stuff needs to be removed as this is the cover page. The inner book pic I think should retain the yellow patch to keep the pic authentic without any touch up.

Further Update: Attached my first attempt at patching up and having an improved cover page pic.

Update on 29th Apr. 2019: I received a suggestion that black background is not good for the cover page and that I should consider more colourful and soothing. I changed the background colour to red (perhaps more appropriate for Hindu spiritual stuff even if not a soothing colour like some shade of blue) instead of black. Note that I have 3 books with me now (bought in the past few months), which use black background on the front cover page. I think this was one of the factors that influenced me to try black. Another reason I thought of black initially was that I felt the 3 photographs which are the vital image components of the cover page, will get highlighted well with a black background. The red colour shade that I have used now does not reduce the contrast between the pics and the background significantly. The pics still stand out. Now the shade of Red I have used is not exactly a soothing colour but it is a Hindu spiritual colour and so I think it is appropriate for this book of mine. Please see attached pic.
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A later Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2476622525887643, has additional modified versions of cover page. I have given below the text of the post and of some comments on that post.

What background colour should I use for cover page of my part autobiography?

I am in a mixed up state of mind now :-(.

My initial approach was to use black background. See first attached pic.

But then there was a suggestion to avoid black and use something soothing and colourful.

I thought of red which is not soothing but is colourful and perhaps suits the theme of Hindu spiritual aspirant. See second attached pit.

Later I wondered about red background. I felt maybe it is just too loud.

So I tried some other colours brown, violet etc. Note that the 3 pics of me are a separate combined pic with its own background. Changing its colour to suit background colour of the whole page involves significant effort in Microsoft Paint which I am using (I want to keep it simple and not get into GIMP kind of more complex image manipulation programs).

So in these initial efforts I have usually not changed the inner pic colour which sometimes is a contrasting black or red. But in one or two pics I have attempted to use a soothing colour like Lavender inside the inner pic.

As I see all these pics, I have to confess that I am more comfortable with the first black background cover page. Black-and-White story - no frills. That cover page suits the way I have written the book - plain English without too much finery and being plain & straight (telling it like it is, as American folks say).

Confusion! I was never good at this arty stuff. I used to fail in Drawing & Painting in school (in Cardinal Gracias High School in Bandra (E)) and then go to the Drawing & Painting teacher and request to be passed as I had done well in other subjects, and he would give me grace marks and get me over the passing marks line! He was a Mr. Gore from Virar, if I recall correctly. Nice guy who would feel somewhat frustrated with me ... Now I am feeling frustrated with myself with this cover page work! Ha! Ha! Such is life! I should have paid more attention to drawing and painting class in school.

If readers have any views about this, I would be glad to know them.
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[Two persons commented saying they liked the black background colour cover page. Another said red background is catchy.]

A person wrote that all the designs are boring and that I should use a designer's services asking for background of positive vibes. The person also mentioned using Bhagavan's robe, Abhaya Hasta ...

I responded (slightly edited):
Thank you for your valuable dissenting views. I value constructive dissent like the one you have given. Here are my views on your input.

1. About "handpicked by the Lord": Bro. I do not consider myself to handpicked by Bhagavan. I have many human flaws which Bhagavan (while in physical form) showed me that he knew but which he tolerated out of his goodness and compassion, and always tried to put me on the path to improvement. So I am just a struggling spiritual aspirant who was fortunate to come under the Divine Umbrella (Divya Chatra Chaya in Hindi) of Grace of our beloved Lord Sathya Sai.

2. Regarding including Prasanthi Nilayam or Sathya Sai associated themes in the cover page design: I have accumulated enough enemies now with my whistle-blowing and other activism work post-Mahasamadhi. If I include Prasanthi Nilayam or Sathya Sai related themes in the cover page, I have the serious concern that some of these enemies of mine will say nasty things about it. Since Swami's name would then come into the picture, I will feel pained. I don't want to have such pain. If the cover page has only my stuff and nothing associated with Swami, my enemies, hiding under fake Facebook Ids, can say whatever hateful things they want to say about the cover page and about me, I won't be bothered by it.

3. Regarding using a designer (and soothing color pattern): Pothi.com's cover page creation charge (they do it rather than me using their program to do my own), if I recall correctly, is Rs. 1500. I can afford to spend that money.

But I have been in Do-It-Yourself mode throughout my first and now close to finishing second self-published book. The cover page for the first book took huge effort as I was using rudimentary Paint, and was new to various calculations of widths of various parts of cover page, bleed area etc. So I stumbled many times. But today I have a lot of the stuff figured out. And the cover page for the first book (using a Nature background image) was generally liked, I think.

I think I will go through this struggle now for the second book. With the nature pic addition to my cover page attempts for this book (see attached pic), I see the light (a workable approach) in making the book cover pleasing as well as having pics of me not being overshadowed by the background image (which was one of the reasons why I thought of NOT using a background image for this cover page initially).

The class that a soothing background image can bring to the background of the cover page simply cannot be matched by any background colour choice - that's a big learning for me (late yesterday night/early morning today).
-----

In response to another comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
Bro. --Name-snipped-- - you seem to be much more knowledgeable about this area than me. Is it possible for you to locate somebody who can do what you have suggested? I will provide you the inputs and I can pay the charges for the person. We will then see what we get and take a decision. What do you say?
...
An important concern that crops up when we use external designer's services is copyright. We need to be sure that whatever the external designer uses, besides pics and text we give, is not copyrighted work of others.
----

In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
Don't know graphics design myself barring rudimentary stuff in Paint. One of the dangers in self-publishing is that the entire legal risks are borne by the author. So, even if by mistake, an external designer uses a small graphics item which is claimed by another as copyright, in our cover page, then the legal challenge (and expenses involved to face it) will have to be faced by me, completely. In fact, the self-publishing company, Pothi.com, if it does get dragged into the matter, will charge me its lawyer's fees too! I had to online-sign an idemnity agreement with Pothi.com on those lines, before they agreed to put up my book on their web store (book selling website).

With cover pages that are created completely by me, even if I face any legal challenge on it by somebody else, as I have direct knowledge of the matter, it will be easy for me to defend myself in court (in India). Once I use an external designer's cover page, I have to take on additional legal risk exposure.
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Friday, April 26, 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Why am I not using professional editorial services for my part autobiography book?

Last updated on 3rd May 2019

This question popped up in a recent mail exchange I had.

I had toyed with the idea of using Pothi.com's editorial (and other) services, https://pothi.com/author-services/, for my part autobiography book. There is no doubt in my mind that if I do so, it will make the book much better and much more readable, as my writing style for this book, due to various reasons, has been a hasty one.

But I decided against it for the following reasons:

1) I will need to spend time interacting with the editorial services person as they suggest changes and corrections. I am reluctant to spend that time.

2) I have chosen the free/not-for-profit route for this book like in the case of my previous and first book (and perhaps for some other books that I plan to self-publish using my contents of my blogs). So from an economic sense point of view, given my lower middle class Indian retired lifestyle, I felt it would be inappropriate for me to pay for such services.
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Does that mean that my part autobiography book will be condemned to remain as a hastily written book without the polish and good readability that a good book should ideally have? My answer here is: Not necessarily. I have made a clear permission statement in the book allowing anybody to improve the book and profit from it (without me getting any money). I see myself as providing the raw data in a sense, and which raw data is still readable for those who are deeply interested in the topic and so are willing to overlook some hasty/non-professional writing issues that the book surely has. Perhaps it is something like a diary which is being shared publicly.

One of the key audience segments that I have written this book for, is young spiritual aspirants who wonder how one can lead a life where one has to pursue a career for a livelihood for oneself and one's parents, and still pursue spirituality with intensity. Such persons may gain from knowing my life story in this regard. And I presume that such readers (a small minority) will be deeply interested in the topic and will not mind the hasty writing and lack of polish in the book.

But, I have to say, I expect that quite a few software techie folks who may not be that interested in spirituality, would get put off by the hasty writing and lack of polish in my book, as they would be used to professional quality writing, in most, if not all, of the books they read. This will include some, but not all, of my former software industry colleagues, and some of the students that I taught or interacted with in the Sathya Sai university, Puttaparthi (Prasanthi Nilayam) campus, during my stint there from Jan. 2003 to March 2012.

Hopefully somebody else may step in to polish up my book and then sell it, profiting from that work.

And there is an outside possibility that after I get some of my other blog contents self-published as 'hastily written and not polished' books, and am free, I myself may revisit these books and polish them, perhaps using services of professional editors and perhaps attempting to recover those expenses by selling the book at suitable price (and not as free ebook and at minimum price for paperback).

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Free download of current draft version (very close to release version) of my part autobiography ebook

Last updated on 3rd May 2019

Since the previous draft version (dated 15th April 2019), I have added a Table of Contents, added some content, and done one round of checking the book for errors and correcting the errors I spotted. The title continues to be the same: "Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1" and this current version is dated 23rd April 2019.

This is the link for viewing/downloading PDF file of the current draft version of my part autobiography book (5 MB file size, 272 pages of A5 size): [Link deleted. Please visit  https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/p/autobiography-of-indian-software-techie.html for latest version download link.] .

I will be getting on to the work of colour cover page design and then incorporation into book. I also may add a little other content to the book. I have also sent emails today to those of my previous companies for whom I could find contact info, sharing the draft version, and pointing out the sections where I mention their company. I will wait for a few days for any feedback from them.

Hopefully the ebook version (without ISBN which I will apply for once the book is finalized) will be ready for self-publishing early next month (May). And once I get allotted an ISBN, I will update the ebook with the ISBN.

After the ebook is done (without ISBN), I will start working on the paperback version. That will need a front cover + spine + back cover design, and will need 300 DPI grayscale images in the book content part (Pothi.com advised me to do that). So I will have to do some image conversion work. If everything goes well, perhaps the first version of paperback (perhaps without ISBN as it may take some time for ISBN to get allotted for it) may be ready by end next month (May).

It will be interesting to see how Digital Printing handles grayscale images in the book (300 DPI). Note that there does not seem to be any extra charge for printing grayscale images. In other words, the charge is calculated based on number of pages printed, irrespective of whether the page has text or images, https://publish.pothi.com/tools/price-royalty-calculator/ (272 pages Black & White interior A5 sized book with colour cover will cost Rs.247 for printing (and Soft Cover binding)). Note that this is Print-On-Demand model where one can order very small number of book copies to be printed. It can even be just one copy. Bulk printing (say 500 copies) can reduce the price drastically but that involves large upfront investment from the distributor/seller.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Documenting my part auto bio with pics of my mother's chanting bead-necklace

This post follows up on previous posts of this type related to my efforts to convert a hastily written part autobiography (main work done in 2013) into a self-published ebook and later paperback book, e.g. Some old pics of me (Ravi S. Iyer), https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2018/12/some-old-pics-of-me.html, dated 25th Dec. 2018.


Above pic: My mother - Lakshme Parvathi (Rashamma) - born 1930s, died 1999. I think above pic may have been taken in first half of 1970s but I am not sure. The other possibility is second half of 1960s as the above pic is extracted from what seems to be a group pic of Central Railway Officers' Colony lady friends of mother.




[To open pic in larger resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]

Above pics: My mother's chanting bead-necklace (which is still with me in April 2019).

Why Puttaparthi and not Pittsburgh? (Why did I choose to focus on spiritual quest and spiritual ashram stuff in India instead of doing some great software development work in USA?)

I request the kind indulgence of readers for some comments that praise me. I felt that I need to be accurate and share it, in the interests of truth.

In a Facebook post in one of my former software company ex-employees group, I had shared the link of the 15th April 2019 draft version of my autobiography part 1 book.

On that post, a former colleague from one of my former software companies wrote the following (slightly edited and excludes some unrelated part; he was OK with public sharing):

Had a quick glance at the book and also shared the same with my family members.
...
I need to go through the pages again on why you moved to spirituality.

You were technically very good and also very good communicator. You had excellent analytical skills. You were also part of evolving software industry. I admired you a lot.

For the talent you had, you could have been an architect / creator of new technology in Google or a similar organization. I am not talking about the monetary part but satisfaction of being part of a software research and innovation product. You were very well admired even at that young age. The certificates you had attached showed recognition in the industry.
...
Why Puttaparthi and not Pittsburgh is what I need to understand.
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I responded (slightly edited):
Thanks for the kind words about my skills though you have been very effusive. I think I was strong in my technical areas but not as great as you make me out to be.

You have raised an interesting point: Why Puttaparthi and not Pittsburgh is what I need to understand.

What I will do sometime later is go through the book version that I have shared on this post and see whether there are sections that address this, and if they do, share it with you. If not, this point may lead me to add additional material to the book to address the question. Thanks for raising it.
...
[A later response.]
Why Puttaparthi and not Pittsburgh? (Why did I choose to focus on spiritual quest and spiritual ashram stuff in India instead of doing some great software development work in USA?)

Some parts of my book, 15th April 2019 Draft version (link deleted), that are relevant to answering this question, are given below:
[Please visit  https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/p/autobiography-of-indian-software-techie.html for latest version download link. Note that the page numbers given below may be slightly off in latest version.]

Page 104 makes a reference to my spiritual interests even when I was in Datamatics. Here's that small section, "I also did attend many spiritual meets to get a feel about them and also read rather deeply on scripture especially Vedanta. However I did not have Bhakti (faith in God and love for God) - I was looking at it only from a rational/intellectual point of view and missed out the emotional/Bhakti experience of God."

[BTW I recall that you had invited me to attend a spiritual function in Bombay (most probably sometime in second half of 1980s) and that we both had attended it. I recall that a very interesting speech was made by the main holy personage (a Swami) at that event. I think I can still recall his explaining BLISS and saying that it is not some capital B, L, I, S, S, implying that it is not some explosive 'fun' thing but more of an inner joy experience.]

Pages 109 to 113 detail how the BTC startup failure impacted my mental and physical health.

I have given some paras from Page 114 to 115 below (relating to BTC company) as they are very germane to this question:

[A view was put forward that running a company did not suit me.] My response: Well, I would say that I expected the top man to handle the marketing bit and my failure was in not properly assessing the top man's marketing skills and contacts for the software consultancy export business. I think I did a reasonable job of my role of "Software Development Manager". I was not expected to play the marketing role. The top man who was expected to play the marketing role could not deliver orders.

So I tend to disagree with the view that running a company did not suit me. Many software and other entrepreneurs in the USA had failed in their initial enterprises, learned their lessons, and moved on to found/co-found and run successful companies. In my case, I am quite sure, I would have licked my stress wounds and healed them over some time, and then could have rejoined the software consultancy export management/business fray a wiser man and succeeded. In fact, quite a few companies in SEEPZ, including my first company, Datamatics, would have welcomed me with open arms. A lot of other businesses, including a flourishing financial firm started by a family friend, who wanted to move into software, were keen on hiring me to start their software consultancy business effort!

But destiny had other things in store for me. I deeply analyzed my goals in life and felt deep inside that running a software company was not really my destiny/my calling. I turned my enthusiasm to exploring spirituality and my cultural roots, and looked upon my software development/engineering profession as just a means to support me but not as my main goal in life.

--- end paras from Page 114 & 115 ----

I think the above explains the reason why I chose to follow spiritual stuff with software development as only a means to support me financially, rather than software development stuff as the main goal of my life.

Further the spiritual stuff that I was interested in, which were traditional Hindu devotional and Jnana marga (knowledge path) paths, eventually led me to an ashram in South India. That was just a natural outcome. Had my focus been mainly on software development successes, I think I may have been led to settle down somewhere in the USA, most probably in California as I had really liked Santa Barbara, California during my 2 month stint there in the early 1990s, and as California is one of the software hubs of USA.

Hope that is a decent answer to your question.
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The former software colleague and friend thanked me for my detailed reply. He also mentioned that the Swami I mentioned would have been Swami Dayananda who he knew (about) from his school days in Cement Nagar, Kurnool Dist., AP.
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I responded that yes, the name Swami Dayananda rings a bell and it must have been him (for whose event we both had gone in Bombay).
...
I asked him: Is it the same Swami Dayananda as is shown here: http://www.dayananda.org/teachers-india.html?

Here's a 1976 Gita lesson video of Swami Dayananda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDTsDSFrBm4
----

My friend responded that it is the same Dayananda.
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Free download of draft version of my next book - Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1

Last updated on 3rd May 2019

As readers may be aware, I am now working on self-publishing my next book tentatively titled - Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1. Initially, I would like to self-publish the ebook version (free download) followed by the paperback version (zero/forced-minimum royalty for me). For the paperback version, I plan to use Pothi.com as the self-publishing platform.

The draft version of the book in PDF document form can be downloaded from here: [Link deleted. Please visit  https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/p/autobiography-of-indian-software-techie.html for latest version download link]. It is around 7 MB in size and currently has 225 pages (A5 size). Note that the draft version needs a Table of Contents, Cover pages and needs to be checked for errors. I plan to be doing all of that over the next days & weeks.

Note that 225 pages paperback book lowest cost is Rs. 219 as per https://publish.pothi.com/tools/price-royalty-calculator/, and this price seems to be an acceptable price to me, as of now for Print-On-Demand. In Print-On-Demand method I pay only for as many copies as I want which could be as low as 1, yes one, copy.

I thought of sharing the draft version link just in case some readers want to have a quick look. Any suggestions including polite and constructive criticism, are absolutely welcome.

Monday, April 15, 2019

My skepticism about Golden Age predictions where the rulers are enlightened beings or awakened souls; I think people powered movements can bring in better times for today's Left Outs

Last updated on 16th April 2019

Nowadays I don't have that much belief about these Golden Age predictions. Readers may not believe me but prior to Sathya Sai Mahasamadhi (April 2011), I honestly believed that there would be a golden age ***throughout the whole world*** in the lifetime of Sathya Sai Avatar where most people would be happy and content. I was living in my small Prasanthi Nilayam ashram/Puttaparthi focused world and was focused on my individual sadhana including my free service work at the Sai university, quite blissfully ignorant of the big issues that were being faced by the world outside Prasanthi Nilayam/Puttaparthi. The 2007-08 USA and later global financial crisis did stir me out of my protected cocoon a little. But overall I still had a really protected, happy and quite content life as a spiritual aspirant in Prasanthi Nilayam/Puttaparthi under the protective umbrella of my beloved and revered Gurudev, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who I view as the Avatar of the age.

That Golden Age for the whole world did not happen in Sathya Sai Avatar's physical body lifetime. Undoubtedly Sathya Sai did a great amount of good in the world, and his legacy will do an even greater amount of good in the world in coming decades and centuries. I am sure of that.

However, my Internet based study of the state of the world over the past few years (after Sathya Sai Mahasamadhi in April 2011) informs me that the world is in quite a terrible mess now as compared to what it was, say in the 1980s. Perhaps the biggest concern is unprecedented levels of pollution that is threatening climate change which could be an existential threat to at least some significant percentage of humanity, if not humanity as a whole.

In the mid 2010s, religious extremism involving violence against those of other religions reached levels unthinkable in the second half of the 20th century! The world saw barbarism and savagery of the medieval ages happening in Iraq and Syria in the mid 2010s through videos easily available on the Internet. It took raw and brutal military power to defeat the regime that was promoting that barbarism and savagery. Nobody seriously viewed Ahimsa (non-violence) as a solution. I repeat, the solution came through raw and brutal military power which defeated that regime.

Perhaps now there is a growing backlash against that hard-core violence level of religious extremism. But then religious tribalism with lesser violence levels, is growing in many parts of the world, including in India.

Good quality higher education (professional degree education like medicine and engineering) has become very expensive in many parts of the world including India. That may involve parents and students taking on college education debt to finance students' education. If such debt-laden students don't get a good remunerative job after their education, they are faced with terrible prospect of decades of (student) debt which dominates their lives and ruins it.

Selfish pursuit of individual wealth and power - the good (material) life - dominates the thinking of most people in the world, including many that have been educated in human value based education systems where such selfish pursuit is viewed negatively and selfless service is praised. But the reality of at least one such human value based education system that I was familiar with, is that once that human value based education phase is over and the students become wage earners or business people in real life outside of the human value education system, barring a few exceptions, for the vast majority of such students, it is selfish pursuit of individual wealth and power that dominates their thinking and behaviour. I am not blaming such students. It is their life and so it is their choice. One should also not forget the expectations of the parents of these students with most parents wanting their children to succeed financially. Most such students choose to keep aside the human value based selfless service teaching, and go for accumulation of individual wealth and power. Once in a while they may participate in some social service activity or some cultural activity that has some drama on selfless service. And they may also contribute financially to the educational institute that provided them the education. But their social service activity in the wider world is typically either very limited or zero.

I think some such students may have the view that after they have earned lot of money they will do social service work. Perhaps Bill Gates is the person they would like to emulate by first becoming a very rich person and then doing lot of charity work (philanthropy). I respect the choice that they make to focus, at least initially, on accumulation of individual wealth and power. I repeat, it is their life and so it is their choice how to live their life.

The winners in the economic game enjoy material benefits. But what about the losers in this economic game? And there are many such losers. Losers is not a good word and so let me use the words, Left Outs. Not just in poor and developing countries (my country, India, is a developing country) but, to my great astonishment, today in the 2010s there are many number of such Left Outs in 1980s prosperous Western European countries and USA. The Yellow Vest movement in some parts of Western Europe is a manifestation of the anger of some such Left Outs. Talk of 1% elite and other 99% (one side of political spectrum in USA) and of the forgotten man/citizen (other and opposite side of political spectrum in USA) has been common in USA political discourse during the mid 2010s. That just shows that there have been (perhaps still are) lots of such Left Outs in USA during the mid 2010s, with almost all political parties in USA claiming to work to help such Left Outs.

I now have the view that it is up to the government/ruling regime (as some countries have monarchies with king/queen having real power) to create an economic system in their countries which gives the large majority of the people of their country a chance to be part of the economic life of their countries and have a decent livelihood, without being condemned to be a Left Out.

Human selfishness is such a powerful and driving part of human nature in general that if we simply expect people to be charitable towards others, teach them selfless service as a great ideal etc., at least in our early 21st century times, it just does not result in most people being charitable towards others and getting into selfless service.

How can changes be brought about so that we don't have many Left Outs in the world? I think that has to come from people powered movements for change. My familiarity is with democracy as I have lived only in democracies (even in my foreign assignment trips to Western Europe, USA and South Korea). In democracies, I think people need to use the power of the ballot to bring in representatives and leaders who will usher in government policies and laws which will address the very grave issue of large number of Left Outs and give them a good and effective path to become a healthy and happy part of the economic system of their countries.

In democracies if the Left Outs lose faith in the democratic process itself and don't bother about voting, then even 20th century history teaches us that it can lead to very sad outcomes from the viewpoint of freedom (fascism, dictatorship, authoritarianism etc.).

I am rather skeptical of Golden Age predictions where the rulers are enlightened beings or awakened souls who work selflessly for the good of the people. The political leaders may be good people who work for the good of a country. But when one says, enlightened beings or awakened souls, one is referring to spiritually enlightened beings/saints and not just good people.

But I would be so very happy and glad if my skepticism is proved wrong! In fact, let me pray to Almighty God that Golden Age predictions where the rulers are enlightened beings or awakened souls who work selflessly for the good of the people, are fulfilled as early as possible. What a wonderful thing that will be to behold! Jai Sai Ram!
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Given below are some comments from my Facebook post,  https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2464260037123892, associated with this blog post:

In response to a comment, I wrote:
It is very difficult for me to understand any references Bhagavan may have made to Golden Age. BTW I don't recall me listening to Bhagavan saying that during my stint in PN from Oct. 2002 to Mar 2011 (he got admitted to hospital in late March 2011 and did not come back alive in physical body).

I recall hearing Sai orgn. leaders refer to Golden Age and/or Sai Age.

Bhagavan was a great optimist like I think all great leaders are. He would keep raising enthusiasm of devotees by talking about good and great things, in the past, present and what was to come in future.

After I had come to terms with Bhagavan's physical absence perhaps a year or two after his Mahasamadhi, as I looked back on the last few years of Bhagavan (physical form), I got the feeling that his attitude was that he had done his work of teaching the right way to live in Kali Yuga, demonstrating his miraculous powers, and founding the Sathya Sai orgns and institutions for benefit of mankind for decades and centuries to come.

It is my direct experience of Sathya Sai that he put in great efforts even as his body was really going down, to preach the right understanding of spirituality and correct views which he seemed to view as wrong. To me, Sathya Sai was/is the Great Preacher.

I felt that in his last few years, Sathya Sai looked at his devotees and his precious students to carry his mission forward. It was as if he would live on through the work done by his devotees and his precious students. He expected a lot from his precious students in this regard.

He even said that people should not take Padanamaskar of him as we are all God! I will never forget those words of his which I heard live sitting in Sai Kulwant Hall in PN. In hindsight, it seems to me that he was handing over the baton of his mission work to re-establish Sathya, Dharma, Shanti and Prema throughout the world, to his devotees and his precious students. He had done his work. Now it was up to devotees and students.

The above is very clear to me. No confusion. In contrast, the Golden Age thing is quite confusing to me. It is as if somebody else is going to come and do the job of re-establishing Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema in the world. I don't think that is what Sathya Sai predicted or expected. He wanted devotees and students to ***work*** in the task of re-establishing Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema in the world. That part was very clear. He had expectations of work from devotees and students.

And that is what is common to Great Preachers. They expect their disciples/students/devotees to carry their work forward after they pass on. Who established Christianity as a faith in the Roman world? It was the apostles. They even were willing to get martyred (and some did get martyred) in spreading the Christian faith. After the short period of Resurrection, Jesus Christ did not appear in his form to spread the Christian faith. It was the work of Peter and Paul and Matthew and Thomas ...

So I think that Golden Age expectation involving some new messiahs to come to the fore and establish it (other than Prema Sai Baba which Sathya Sai had clearly predicted) is somewhat confusing to me. But then I am not psychic and do not have any mystical powers whatsoever! So maybe I am simply not able to see some mystical things which some psychic and mystical people are seeing.
...
And I should also say that in the latter part of his mission (from the mid 90s when I got associated with Sathya Sai movement), the emphasis was on collective spiritual growth rather than individual spiritual growth. In the Sai university, I think this message of emphasis on collective spiritual growth was very clear. Yes, Swami also talked about individual self-realization. But, overall, he was more interested in people contributing to collective spiritual growth.

All should be happy. Don't be selfish and want to be happy only by yourself ... The collective's happiness is your happiness - That's how I understood his instructions and teachings to Sai university students & staff.
...
Human life is a journey from “I” to “We”, http://www.sathyasai.org/discourse/youth-should-transform-the-world.

The above sentence from Swami's discourse was the view in the Sai university. I to We - that's the journey. Not individual spiritual growth but work together as a team and achieve collective spiritual growth and experience that we are all ONE.

I must also say here that I did not follow that instruction so much. I did my bit of collective Seva but also did fair bit of individual spiritual sadhana in the period before Mahasamadhi.
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In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
Well, --name-snipped-- bro., I have not given up hope on re-establishment of Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema. But I doubt whether that will happen due to enlightened beings assuming positions of power in governance and working selflessly for good of all people. Instead, I feel it may happen due to a bottom-up people's movement with people turning towards Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema, and demanding the same from their leaders.

To achieve that, my view is that we all have to do our bit (within our limitations) to promote re-establishment of Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema in society. I further think that Swami expects us to contribute to that, despite any flaws we may have (I certainly have some human flaws).
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Religious faith provided one of the sources of FDR's (US President) unflagging optimism

Last updated on 11th April 2019

"Religious faith provided one of the sources of FDR's unflagging optimism. Deep down he possessed serene confidence in the divine purpose of the universe. He was convinced that however bad things might be at the moment, they were bound to come out all right if he remained patient and put his faith in God." Source: FDR by Jean Edward Smith, Page 24

FDR is Franklin D. Roosevelt, USA President from 1933 to 1945.

Ravi: I am reminded of one of the main teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba (died in 1918), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi, to devotees that they should have Shraddha (faith) and Saburi (patience). I think the implication is that following them would ensure that devotees would have a good life (spiritually and perhaps materially too).

From the above wiki page ('He' is Shirdi Sai Baba), "He advised his devotees and followers to lead a moral life, help others, love every living being without any discrimination, and develop two important features of character: devotion (Shraddha) and patience (Saburi)."

There is so much in common in core aspects of religious faith across various religions and sects!
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In response to part of a mail response from a correspondent that said that Roosevelt had an open affair with his secretary, I wrote:
Yes, it is well known that he had an affair with somebody who worked for him (perhaps his secretary). But even Jesus had compassion for such matters, didn't he?

His wife, Eleanor, accepted that (for whatever reason), and they continued to be married. Though I saw some video where it said that she wanted a divorce but FDR's mother talked her out of it.
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In response to part of mail response that said it was Eleanor who was the optimist and the saint, I wrote:
I did see video clips showing her great work for race relations and helping the downtrodden (and helping war wounded). FDR was not a saint. He was President of USA at a time of great challenges for USA and then for the whole world (WW II). It is his role in WW II that makes him a star world leader for me as I think he played a crucial leadership role in eventual defeat of the Nazis and the Japanese imperialist powers, paving the way for a post World War II order that promoted democracy and freedom in many countries including India.
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Sunday, April 7, 2019

My comment on Facebook posts promoting Muddenahalli Group's Khargar, Navi Mumbai free children's hospital as "Sri Sathya Sai hospital" without mentioning Madhusudan Naidu involvement

Last updated on 9th April 2019

Given below are contents of my recent Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2456400787909817, and some comments in it:

My comment on Facebook posts about Muddenahalli Group's Khargar, Navi Mumbai children's hospital which talk about free medical service at "Sri Sathya Sai hospital" but do not mention anything about Madhusudan Naidu

Over the past few days I have been seeing a pic of Muddenahalli Group's Khargar, Navi Mumbai hospital with some accompanying text on Facebook which give the readers an impression that it is a Sathya Sai free children's hospital and does not make any mention of Madhusudan Naidu.

I don't want to share the pic here to avoid giving them publicity. But I think it is appropriate to provide some info. about the pic and provide some of the accompanying text. The pic seems to be of the front entrance of the hospital. "LOVE ALL SERVE ALL" caption is prominent in front entrance as seen from outside. The pic shows a photograph of Sathya Sai on the wall within the hospital.

The initial part of the accompanying text is as follows: "Sri Sathya Sai hospital has been established for children at plot No. 2 A, Sector 38, Khargar, near 102 RAF Battalion, Navi Mumbai." It then conveys that it is a free children's hospital. The text ends with the sentence, "Please share with all your contacts incas (sic) it helps someone in need".

I think a lot of people, including some friends and relatives of mine, some of whom live in Mumbai and surrounding areas and are NOT Sathya Sai devotees but respect Sathya Sai, have got attracted by these Facebook posts. I think that's because of the great reputation built up by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba for free medical care (and other free service to humanity). So they seem to be happy that now Mumbai and surrounding areas have a free Sathya Sai hospital (children's hospital). I can very much understand their happiness and wanting to share this information with their friends and relatives via Facebook. Note that the last sentence of the accompanying text in the pic requests readers to share it with all their contacts!

But we also have this Madhusudan Rao Naidu spiritual fraud problem with this hospital! So what do we do?

Today morning I saw this pic put up by an old software industry colleague of mine who is not a Sathya Sai devotee, in a closed Facebook group associated with one of my previous software company's ex-employees, that I am part of. Note that this software company is based on Bombay/Mumbai, though most of the ex-employees in this group now live abroad (USA, Australia and Western Europe). But the person who put up the post currently lives in India. I put up the following comment on the post. [I also put up the same comment on an FB friend's post of it.] I would be glad to know the views of others on my comment. Constructive and polite criticism (as against hateful and aggressive criticism) is welcome.

--- Start my comment on Facebook post having Muddenahalli Group Khargar, Navi Mumbai hospital pic ... ---
Regarding the medical services rendered: I don't know the quality of medical service of this quite new free hospital (for children). But I would not be surprised if the quality is decent, at least, or even excellent.

But there is one major spiritual problem with this hospital: This hospital is associated with a spiritual fraud called Madhusudan Rao Naidu who makes the outrageously false claim that he is a so-called communicator (medium) of Sri Sathya Sai Baba who (bodily) passed away in April 2011. Madhusudan also makes the outrageously false claim that at times the spirit of Sathya Sai enters into his body at which time he becomes Sathya Sai!! I have put up an associated change.org petition against Madhusudan Rao Naidu spiritual fraud here: https://www.change.org/p/sathya-sai-devotee-fraternity-worldwide-we-condemn-spiritual-fraud-madhusudan-rao-naidu.

So what I would recommend is that those persons who want to avail of the free services of this hospital may do so and if they are spiritually inclined and if they do not know about Sri Sathya Sai Baba, they are very welcome to explore what the hospital provides as information about Sri Sathya Sai Baba. But they should stay away from any information and any promotion that this hospital does with relation to spiritual fraud Madhusudan Rao Naidu and his outrageously false claim of being a medium/communicator/embodiment of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Readers may also want to visit my Aug. 2018 blog post: Open letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis about false claims made by Madhusudan Rao Naidu wrt Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2018/08/open-letter-to-maharashtra-chief.html. Note that the land on which the hospital is constructed seems to have been given to the hospital by Maharashtra government.

--- end my comment on Facebook post having Muddenahalli Group Khargar, Navi Mumbai hospital pic ... ---
---- end FB post contents ---

A person commented that my approach sounds reasonable. The person also expressed concern about source of funds for these organizations.
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I responded (slightly edited):  Thanks --Name-snipped--. Noted your view about the finances part. As a policy, I avoid commenting on finance matters. But I will say this: Transparency about funds goes a long way in establishing the bona fide of NGOs.
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I wrote (slightly edited): I have noted that among the persons tagged, only --Name-snipped-- commented in response. So special thanks (again) to --Name-snipped--. Perhaps others prefer to stay silent or did not see the tag or are busy...

I had a phone/verbal conversation about this post with an elder with decades of association with Sathya Sai orgn. as well as personal interactions with Sathya Sai. After explaining my stand in the post, I asked him what he thought of it.

He first raised the issue of Muddenahalli Group using the service this hospital does to attract more donors & donations (I have put it more politely than how he said it). I agreed with him that this is an issue.

But, I said, how can I say that nobody should visit the hospital! While some persons have the view that some demonic force is powering Muddenahalli group, I do not know enough about demonic forces to know whether this is true or not. So I cannot say to Mumbai and surrounding areas contacts of mine which are many due to me being a former Mumbaikar/Dombivlikar, that this hospital is being supported by some demonic force and so it is better not to visit this hospital. Note that in the past few months, two medical doctors among my relatives who are based in Mumbai told me or indicated to me that they are aware of this Khargar hospital for children. So at least among the medical fraternity in Mumbai and surrounding areas, there seems to be some level of exposure now about this Khargar free hospital for children which carries the name of Sathya Sai. [Note that Khargar is in one of the surrounding areas (satellite towns) of Mumbai. These surrounding areas of Mumbai are somewhat like surrounding areas of New York city e.g. New Jersey towns close to New York city. These areas are well connected to the main city (Mumbai/New York city) and also to some extent to each other, for commuting. So the Khargar free hospital essentially is in a position to service Mumbai city as well as its surrounding areas/satellite towns. For more, see Mumbai Metropolitan Region wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumbai_Metropolitan_Region.]

The elder agreed that we (he and I at least) cannot say that nobody should visit Muddenahalli group's Khargar hospital. Needy persons who want to avail of the free medical service could visit the hospital and benefit from the medical service rendered. [And MDH group will use such patient statistics to advertise about their service to society rendered and thereby try to attract more donors & donations and further promote spiritual fraud Madhusudan Rao Naidu! That is an unfortunate reality.]

He (the elder) agreed with the overall stand of mine as I had conveyed it to him (based on this post).
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A person commented that as of now I am only commenting about Mumbai hospital but that in a few short years 160 medical centres are planned and that that will give me a headache.

I responded (slightly edited): Bro. --Name-snipped-- - Have you heard of pyramid schemes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_scheme)? Madhu Baba has been able to attract lots of donors and donations with his outrageously false claims. But I think there is a limit to such donors and donations. ... 160 free hospitals or medical centres that are hospital-like in India supported by spiritual fraud Madhu Baba will certainly make me upset, I have to agree. Upset not at the social service rendered but by the possible growth in following of spiritual fraud Madhu Baba who is misguiding people using the name of my beloved and revered Gurudev Sathya Sai.

However, I think that the probability is very good that well before 160 free hospitals or hospital-like medical centres, Madhu Baba pyramid scheme will collapse. The challenge is not in initial spectacular growth of such pyramid schemes. The challenge is in sustaining the pyramid scheme over years and decades. Ultimately the pyramid scheme runs out of money and it crashes to the ground.

Note that physical form Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was very choosy and very selective in such projects and, as far as I know, never publicly spoke about hundred plus free hospitals or free schools. This is Madhu Baba madness and perhaps Narasimhamurthy madness and NOT anything related to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
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The person responded: "Ravi S. Iyer Time will provide all the answers for you ❤️". I Facebook-Liked his comment response.
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I wrote:  I think I should add here that a few months ago I re-connected with one of my Mumbai schoolmates (of Cardinal Gracias High School, Bandra (East)) who is a pediatrician and (owns and) runs a children's hospital in an outer Western suburb of Mumbai. In gratitude for his and his family's friendship, I sent him my Who am I? I am I ... book. I have visited his hospital perhaps in the early 1990s.

If I speak again with him in the near future, I am sure the topic of this free children's hospital in Khargar near Mumbai, named after Sathya Sai, will come up. I will express the same stand that I have expressed in this post and comments, to him.

In particular, he may ask me whether he can refer to Khargar Sathya Sai hospital, poor patients of his who either cannot afford treatment in his hospital or who need treatment/surgery which his hospital does not do, but which the Khargar hospital does. I cannot tell him that he should not do so. I will have to tell him that he can refer such patients to Khargar hospital with the warning about Madhusudan Rao Naidu spiritual fraud so that they can keep away from Madhusudan.

If readers have some other views about this, please let me know.
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A person commented that its best to follow my conscience. He also said some nice words about my posts. I thanked him for his comment.

Another person wrote that as per her view, where else can poor patients go? She said that they have to go to free hospitals but be cautious not to get trapped by MDH group.
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I responded (slightly edited): --Name-snipped-- sister - I agree with your view.
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I wrote: I think it is high time for Mumbai official Sathya Sai organization and its members to show that they too can establish a free children's hospital in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (Mumbai and its satellite towns), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumbai_Metropolitan_Region.

Come on Mumbai Sathya Sai orgn. folks! Do something to show that you can match Muddenahalli Group Khargar hospital, if not exceed it.
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A person responded that he agrees and that the more service done, the better for all.
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In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited): --Name-snipped-- - Thanks. You express the problem parts of this hospital very well. Bending spirituality to suit their own agenda is what they are doing. That Asathya-Adharma bending of spirituality has to be called out. And you put it very well when you said, "The board of a corporation may have corrupt and suspect members but that doesn’t stop the public from receiving some benefits while those businesses are in existence." Thanks for your valuable views.
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A person commented giving statistics of educational and medical institutions, and other things like ashrams, created by Muddenahalli group. I responded (slightly edited): Thanks for your comment bro. --Name-snipped--. I have heard some other accounts about MDH fund collection. Perhaps they target only some people.

I have to repeat that physical form Sathya Sai in the last decade of his physical body life, during which I was part of the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram system as a free service Sai university staff/faculty (to be more precise, from Oct. 2002 onwards I was based in Puttaparthi with regular darshan of Swami; so eight & a half years and not an exact decade), never pushed for so many schools and so many hospitals to be built. Swami was more focused on quality in the few institutions that he founded and which he kept an eagle eye on, till his physical body issues made it difficult for him to spend much time on management of the educational and medical institutions he founded.

For me, that itself is enough to reject Madhusudan Naidu and Narasimhamurthy's communicator & subtle body claims. Their aggressive expansion strategy for such free service educational and medical institutions in India, is very unlike the Sathya Sai that I observed in the last decade of his physical form life.

It is some other power NOT Sathya Sai that is powering Muddenahalli group spiritual leaders Madhusudan Naidu and Narasimhamurthy. So far their achievements in building free educational institutions and hospitals are jaw-dropping. I acknowledge that.

But, you know, I am a former international software techie. I have seen and experienced the dot com boom and the dot com bust. I have also studied books and articles on the most scary event in my entire lifetime - the 2007-08 USA and then global financial crisis. 160 free hospitals or hospital like medical centres in India in the next few years, I am quite sure, is an absolutely mad proposition that is doomed to financial disaster like the Lehman Bros. collapse on 15th Sept. 2008, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankruptcy_of_Lehman_Brothers, that woke up the world (including me in Puttaparthi) to the fact that USA was going through some really bad financial problems which could put the whole global economy in a tailspin.

But I think Madhusudan keeps changing his statements and predictions to suit the situation. So you may find that instead of 160 MDH free hospitals in India in the next few years, MDH group may have only 6 or 10 free hospitals. As you said, time will tell. So we both can wait and watch and see how many MDH free hospitals are in operation in India in say 2024 (5 years from now). Less than 10 is what I think the number will be.
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Great to see Sadhguru Vasudev on Fox TV New York show, speak about reminding ourselves: I am not the body, I am not the mind

Sadhguru on Fox TV Show Good Day New York, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_hs6zpkb9s, around 10 mins, published on 1st April 2019

Around 7 min 24 secs, Sadhguru says, "With inhalation you just remind yourself I am not the body. With exhalation you remind yourself that you are not even the mind."

One of the two hosts says, "I am not the body. I am not the mind."

The other host says, "So what are you?"

...

Sadhguru says (responding to above question), "See the most important thing is, at least you know I do not know. All right? I do not know is a tremendous possibility. The moment you say, I do not know, the longing to know and the possibility to know, .. naturally happens."

Ravi: It is really great to see that Sadhguru Vasudev made it to a Fox TV New York program. I think he spoke and conducted himself very well and very positively in this interview. At the beginning of the show, one of the hosts says that New Yorkers tend to be a little high strung! As a former Mumbaikar/Dombivlikar-working-in-Mumbai (Bombayite) I can fully empathize with big city folks being "a little high strung". As an aside, I have always felt that New York City is quite similar to Mumbai/Bombay in many ways, and I found myself to be quite comfortable in New York City whenever I visited it due to me having been a Mumbaikar (Bombayite). Of course, New York city was far more wealthy and prosperous as compared to Mumbai in the days I visited New York city (second half of 1980s) and I am sure, continues to be more wealthy and prosperous today than Mumbai. But I am talking about the attitude of the people in the city and how they go about their lives in it. That is where I found a lot of similarity.

So I loved the way Sadhguru Vasudev gave a short and specific suggestion of the above Kriya (or whatever is its specific name in Sadhguru Vasudev's teachings and methods) as something that may help watchers of the show.

The approach of I am not the body, I am not the mind, seems to me to be a pretty well established Hindu contemplative tradition at least in the second half of the 20th century and this early 21st century. I think it may have emanated from the age-old Hindu contemplative tradition of Neti Neti - not this not this (leading eventually to something that simply cannot be negated and which is our ultimate truth of existence). For more on Neti Neti, see its wiki page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neti_neti.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Documenting my part auto bio with pics of Devas (Divine beings/gods) that I would (and continue to) pray to

Last updated on 4th April 2019

This post follows up on previous posts of this type related to my efforts to convert a hastily written part autobiography (main work done in 2013) into a self-published ebook and later paperback book, e.g. Some old pics of me (Ravi S. Iyer), https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2018/12/some-old-pics-of-me.html, dated 25th Dec. 2018.

As I turned towards Bhakti in early 1990s, my first Ishta-Devata (favourite divine being/god) was Krishna. I had started visiting ISKCON Juhu, Mumbai off and on, and found the Bhakti (devotion) experience there to be inspiring and very helpful. I think I got the Krishna blowing conch (before Mahabharata war) framed picture shown below from ISKCON Juhu center but I am not sure. I also think I got this picture while I was living in Andheri, Mumbai (Takshila society) before moving back to Dombivli. I kept this picture on my home work table, prayed to it quite regularly and got inspired by it.

[To open pic in higher resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]


The pic above is of the laminated photo but without the thick glass sheet affixed on top of it which was the case till sometime earlier today. Today, 3rd April 2019, the laminated photo got separated from the thick glass sheet as I was trying to use lot of cleaning liquid to clean the front surface of the glass sheet! That enabled me to then directly clean the laminated photo using cleaning liquid and get a much better picture of it than I had got earlier today when the glass sheet was covering it. I think over the years some dust had entered into some gaps between the glass sheet and the laminated photo creating some dust dots and patches on the photo. Just for comparison purposes, I have attached below the pic taken today of the same laminated photo when the glass sheet was attached to it. Note that I am an amateur photographer and so the pic below may have had lesser light exposure or something like that leading to it appearing much more muted in colour. The thick glass sheet, of course, may have contributed to the colour being muted but my lack of expertise in photography and my low cost mobile phone (camera) may have significantly contributed to more muted colours in below pic.



Later I got acquainted with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba through books on him and through books/discourses authored by him. Slowly and steadily, he became another Ishta-Devata for me, with Krishna continuing to be an Ishta-Devata but with a growing acceptance of Sathya Sai's statement that he is the same Krishna come again as Sathya Sai. And that Sathya Sai Avatar's career would be suited to needs of today's time and age due to which there would be outward differences between Krishna and Sathya Sai Avatars.

The framed pic of Sathya Sai below became my main Sathya Sai photo in my home (in Dombivli). I had it hung in the front room of my small flat where I was living with my mother. I used to pray often to this photo. This became my main worship photo of Sathya Sai in my Dombivli years after early 1990s.



Note that the Sathya Sai framed photo is a big one - around 16 inches width and around 20 inches height, whereas the Krishna framed pic is a small one - around 3.25 inches width and around 5 inches height.

After I moved to Puttaparthi in Oct. 2002 and started having regular Darshan of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I started relating more to pics of Sathya Sai that were recent and so having more likeness to the living Sathya Sai that I would be having regular Darshan of. I also slowly got into contemplation and meditation as part of my individual sadhana where I tried to focus on awareness/consciousness and viewed that as a way to get closer to experiencing formless God.

The photos whose pics are put up on this post continue to be with me and are usually placed in a suitable worship area in my small flat in Puttaparthi.

Pencil drawing of Sathya Sai Baba in 1966 by P. Gopal Naidu of Dombivli, Maharashtra

Last updated on 4th April 2019



[To open pic in higher resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]

P. Gopal Naidu, a revered elder of Sathya Sai samithi in Dombivli, Maharashtra, lovingly gave me a copy of his pencil drawing of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba made on 17th March 1966 as can be seen from the writing at the bottom right of the drawing in the above pic. Note that the framed drawing width is around 4.5 inches and height is around 6.5 inches.

I was given this copy on or after 29th May 2003 as that date has been added to the framed drawing. But even if it was given after that date I don't think it would have been beyond 2004.

By May 2003, I had already shifted base from Dombivli to Puttaparthi and had started my free service (Seva) offering at the Sai university, Prasanthi Nilayam (Puttaparthi) campus as Honorary Staff/Honorary Faculty. If I recall correctly, Gopal Naidu sir had given this drawing copy when I visited his home in Dombivli, in summer holidays (of Sai university) in 2003 or 2004. I am sure I would have been deeply touched by his gift of love and would have expressed my gratitude to him then. I clearly recall Gopal Naidu sir's love and encouragement to me for my Sathya Sai samithi work.

I would like to use this opportunity to publicly express my gratitude to Gopal Naidu sir, a revered elder of Sathya Sai samithi, Dombivli, for giving me this gift of love. I am happy to put up this pic and post as a small contribution from my side to share Gopal Naidu sir's wonderful artwork capturing Sathya Sai's beautiful and joy-giving (ananda pradayi) form, on the Internet. I think this would have been based on how Sathya Sai looked in 1966. Note that Sathya Sai visited Mumbai (then Bombay) in this period in 1966. I don't know whether Gopal Naidu sir made this drawing while looking at Sathya Sai in physical form during this March 1966 visit of Sathya Sai to Mumbai. If some readers, especially those of Dombivli samithi, can provide some information on this, it would be great.

Here are small extracts about Bhagavan's (Sathya Sai's) visit to Bombay in March 1966 from Sathyam Shivam Sundaram by N. Kasturi, available here: http://www.saibaba.ws/avatar/sss/sss2.htm :

Baba reached Bombay, on His third visit to the City, on the 13th day of March, 1966. As Baba has said, "Maharashtra is a holy land, where the stream of Bhakthi has fertilized social, political, and philosophical fields for ages. Ramdas, Tukaram, Jnaneswar and many others have filled the hearts of the people with reverence for God and love for man; this was also the field of activity, the center from which radiated the grandeur, of the Sai Form of this present Sathya Sai. "Do not doubt that Maharashtra will soon be a center of Dharmic Revival". During the fortnight that He stayed in Bombay, Baba established Himself in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of its citizens, through His simplicity and sweetness.
...
As Hon'ble Sri P.K. Savant, Minister for Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra and erstwhile Chairman of Shirdi Samsthan said, "Bhagavan is the Avathar of Sai Baba of Shirdi, to whom millions look for strength and solace. Baba belongs to Maharashtra in a special sense, though He has come for all humanity." The Bhajan Sessions provided splendid chances for Sai devotees to serve the people of Bombay. Hundreds of trained volunteers served visitors with humility and loving regard; Baba selected from the gathering, children and old persons who were ill beyond repair by medical skill and, calling them aside after the Bhajan, diagnosed and dealt with them, with Divine Love to bless them with relief and health.

Baba addressed mammoth gatherings, the like of which even Bombay has seldom seen in its long history, at the Sardar Vallabhai Stadium, on the 16th, 17th and on the 23rd of March. The last meeting was on Gudi Padua Day, the Festival of the New Year in Maharashtra and lakhs of people directed their steps to the stadium to have His Darsan and to hear His Voice, as their inaugural experience for the coming twelve-month-period of their lives. Baba too gave them a message that, as Sri Page, the Chairman of the Maharashtra Legislative Council said, could "sweeten and lighten" the burden of life. Baba said, "Man is tossed about by every wind and wave; he has weakened his will and warped his vision. So, he drifts into the shoals und whirlpools. He is the child of immortality, heir to Divinity - destined to be the master of the mind and its waywardness - the crown of creation. He is not a monkey that has taken but a few steps towards civilization. Realize the God that is immanent in the Universe, that is calling out for recognition from every flower, every dewdrop, every star that twinkles in the sky; realize Him as the source of the Ananda that you project on the objects around you, so that you may enjoy them. That realization will clothe the world, and you, in a new and glorious vesture; it will make you unafraid; it will render death a pleasant passage to birthlessness."

--- end small extracts from Sathyam Shivam Sundaram ---

Another account of that visit is provided here: https://sathyasaiwithstudents.blogspot.com/2016/03/sri-sathya-sai-address-at-sardar-patel.html.

I should also mention here that I was told by my elder sister who is around 10 years elder to me that our family including me had gone to take Bhagavan's darshan in Bombay (and in Worli, if I recall correctly what she told me), when I was a toddler. I have no recollection of that darshan. Perhaps it was in this March 1966 visit of Bhagavan to Bombay that I, as a 3 year old baby :-), got my first Darshan of Bhagavan at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stadium in Worli.

Note that at that time Dharmakshetra, the main Bombay centre for Sathya Sai organization, was not yet built. The document, "Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s visits to Dharmakshetra", http://dharmakshetra.in/Content/SwamisVisits/swamisvisitstodk.pdf states, "Sri Sathya Sai Baba presided over the ‘Bhoomi Puja’ at the site selected for ‘Dharmakshetra’ on 24th March 1966. He addressed the volunteers on 25th March." So the site had been selected and the Bhoomi puja was done as part of that visit. The same document states, "On the sacred Vaishakha Pournima day (Buddha Pournima), 12th May, 1968, Sri Sathya Sai Baba inaugurated Dharmakshetra, the International Centre of His Mission at Bombay."
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Update on 4th April 2019: I was informed by a reader (on my Facebook post,  https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2454056418144254, associated with this post that P. Gopal Naidu sir passed away (merged in Bhagavan's lotus feet) some two years back. I think I had heard the news sometime back but I was not sure and hence did not mention it in the post earlier on.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Miscellaneous Facebook posts & comments in April 2019

When author of post or comment is not mentioned, it should be assumed that it is me (Ravi S. Iyer).

https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2473895026160393

Fascinating to see this video about ISKCON community in Scotland: Hare Krishna Scotland, vrsabhanu dasa, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zNHvNojKS8, around 30 mins, published on Aug. 2016

I love the Scottish accent. My first exposure to it was during my stint in Brussels in 1985-86 when I became friends with Liz from Glasgow who too was in Brussels then. Through Liz, I had a short interaction with a couple of other Scottish persons who had come over to Brussels on a visit. There were decent, straight-forward and good folks.

Therefore I am very happy to see this ISKCON community in Scotland. I am amazed at the dedication of some of these community members (some of whom are white Scots) towards Krishna and ISKCON. May God bless these folks.

A great thing about such a community that has been functioning for decades is that it shows a way for youth in and around the place the community is located, that one can lead an alternative lifestyle and be at peace and happy.

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2473711659512063

I will go by the court verdict unless an appeal overturns the verdict. So Asaram's son too has got ***convicted*** of rape!!!

The rape victims and their families would naturally feel happy as they would feel that justice has been finally served and that may reduce the continuing pain & sorrow & anger from the horrible suffering they had endured (earlier it was alleged suffering but now with the court verdict I will view it as proven beyond reasonable doubt that the victims were raped and so endured horrific suffering).

What a devastating blow such convictions deal to spiritual ashram institutions!

Ashram leaders should take great care to avoid such situations. I have to say here that I am broad-minded on this outside-marriage sex stuff. So long as it is ***consensual*** sex between adults even if it is done by ashram founders and leaders, I am not that bothered about it. If they claim to be perfect in sexual morality then they become known as (sexual) hypocrites but that's not a crime in India, and in many democratic countries of the world!

My prayers to God to help the large following of Asaram Bapu as well as the people who live and work in the ashrams associated with Asaram Bapu and his son. What a blow these convictions, first of Asaram and then of his son, would be to them, most of whom would be innocent followers of ***teachings*** of Asaram Bapu where I am sure there would be no support for matters like rape.

My considered view is that the teachings of Asaram Bapu which, I am sure, never condone rape or encourage rape, may still be powerful and have relevance to his following. I think that many times, the teachings of a spiritual master are more powerful than the example of his/her life. Innocent followers of good teachings of such Indian spiritual masters (who are convicted of crimes and spend time in Indian jails) will still benefit from the good that they do - I am sure of that.

I am really saddened when I think of how Asaram's followers in his ashrams will be handling this double blow. But I do support the Indian justice system. A case was made, tried in a court of law, and the person was judged guilty. I respect the judicial process in India and the verdict. Of course, the verdict may be appealed right up to the Supreme Court and so it could get overturned in higher courts. But till then, I will go by the trial courts having judged both Asaram and son as guilty of rape, a heinous crime under the Indian Penal Code with a minimum rigorous imprisonment term of 7 years, if I recall correctly.

[Shared article: Gujarat court convicts Asaram's son Narayan Sai in rape case, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/gujarat-court-convicts-asarams-son-narayan-sai-in-rape-case/articleshow/69056369.cms, 26th April 2019.]
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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2472787649604464

Interesting! Hopefully, I will get to read her work someday.

[Shared article: When the south was one; Historian Vasundhara Filliozat on distortions of history, and how the Karnataka empire ruled over most of south India and fought Muslim invasions. https://fountainink.in/qna/when-the-south-was-one, 15th Mar. 2018.]

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In FB post, https://www.facebook.com/sundaram.hammond/posts/10217141109574225 about "Muddenahalli group in Fiji is soliciting money in Swami's name, asking for contributions of $20,000 per year!", I made the following comments:

I think now Muddenahalli group is very open about soliciting money for their service activities (medical and educational mainly). They also say the donors would get special mention as sponsors in Muddenahalli group's media statements. This seems to be a typical NGO model.

In whatever I saw in my stint in Prasanthi Nilayam system (Jan. 2003 till Mar. 2012 in Sai university as free service), I have never seen such open and blatant soliciting of money along with words of assurance of the sponsorship being mentioned in media statements.

So it is very clear that it is NOT Sathya Sai that is the spiritual power behind Muddenahalli group.
But I think this is creating a big challenge to official Sathya Sai orgn. Muddenahalli group is using such methods and acquiring corporate and other donations, which helps them to open free hospitals and free educational institutions. And such free institutions will attract support from the community and from political and business leaders!

What a dilemma!
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Perhaps one can say that Corporate donation money (CSR money) is being used by Muddenahalli group to distort and dilute the legacy of Sathya Sai.

This just goes to show how dangerous improper use of money can be for spiritual movements.

I think the Fiji Sai orgn. should have a counter campaign aimed at corporate donors which educates them about the real Sathya Sai and the principles he followed for establishing and running free service institutions in medical and educational fields. Corporate donors to MDH group in Fiji should be made aware that their donations are contributing to corruption of Sathya Sai principles and legacy in Fiji.
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In FB post, https://www.facebook.com/ananda.craxi/posts/10156175072917031, I made the following comments:

Madhusudan Rao Naidu is a spiritual fraud. He is misusing and abusing the name of our beloved Lord Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. I am glad that you did not fall for his outrageously false claim. ... The not being pure enough thing is one big joke for those of us who know what happened in Puttaparthi/Prasanthi Nilayam after Mahasamadhi. It is Madhusudan Rao Naidu who is impure. It is Narasimhamurthy who is impure spiritually as he is promoting this spiritual fraud Madhusudan Rao Naidu. Jai Sai Ram!
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I must also add here that Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba had specifically warned Narasimhamurthy to reject claims of mediums sometime around 2000 or so. Narasimhamurthy ***went against*** that divine command given to him by Swami by promoting Madhusudan Naidu after Mahasamadhi. It is Narasimhamurthy who is impure spiritually and not people who see through the fake Madhusudan Naidu and realize that it is not Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who is speaking through Madhusudan,
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I would like to share what an old student (from 70s) of Swami shared with me on Swami's words regarding violence. Note that this person was around in Prasanthi Nilayam when the horrible and violent incident in 1993 took place.

He told me that Swami would say, "Cheyi etha kudadu" meaning: Don't raise your hand (indicating violent intent).

These are Swami's words to Swami students. Howsoever angry we may get with Muddenahalli Group's misguidance of thousands of Sathya Sai devotees across the globe, I have no doubt whatsoever that Swami will expect us to never raise our hand with violent intent towards Muddenahalli Group (let alone talk about much more horrific violent things).

We must follow the law of the land in whichever country we live in our efforts to inform Sathya Sai devotees about Madhusudan Rao Naidu spiritual fraud. And I am sure that the law of the land in most countries including India for sure, will take a dim view of any serious physical violence words.
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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2470300816519814

Fascinating views of Sadhguru Vasudev on how curses and blessings work, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjGH_aik_LI, 13 min. 24 secs, published on 9th Jan. 2019

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2468621676687728

Interesting view about efforts to know past lives and the business around such matters, from Sadhguru Vasudev: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOFes5OtbB8, 8 min. 26 secs.
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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2468492330033996

I was looking on youtube for a lovely Telugu song on Sathya Sai which, if I recall correctly, starts with:
Sai Mahadeva nannu kapadai deva. I think that means Lord Sai protect me.

Note that this is different from the "Sai Mahadeva Sathya Sai Mahadeva" bhajan.

I was not able to locate it. I think I will have it somewhere on a backup hard disk. Perhaps I should locate it and upload it to youtube.

In general, I find that old Telugu songs on Sathya Sai are not so easily available on youtube. That I think is a great pity! These old Telugu songs were full of meaning, very pleasing to the ear, and full of devotion.

In contrast, the Telugu Christian song genre has a big presence on youtube. Here's one song about Kapadu (protection) request/prayer to the Lord.

NINNU KAPADU VADU KUNUKADU || Heart touching song in telugu || by BLESSIE WESLY, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMkPlLu1h6o, 6 min. 4 secs.

I think Sathya Sai Telugu fraternity should put out Telugu songs about Sathya Sai devotion on youtube like the Telugu Christian groups. That's how you reach out to local Telugu population.

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2468472960035933

Lovely Telugu song about Sathya Sai with great pics over the lifetime of Sathya Sai, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2cCGz2-ha8, 4 min. 39 secs.

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2467753463441216

One of the things I have learned over the past few years (after Swami Mahasamadhi) as I have tried to understand contemporary rural South Indian society (which I think would apply to other rural parts of India too) is that in most cases it is the wives and the mothers who keep the home going. The burden they bear is just awesome. As a man, I am humbled and blown away by the nurturing and self-sacrifice they do.

I have the firm belief that Bhagavan knew this society, in and out, and across the ages. And his words on this topic are vital words to address the current weaknesses of society and raise it to good health again.

Om Nama Shivaya!
Om Namo Narayanaya!
Jai Sai Ram!

[Shared FB post: https://www.facebook.com/groups/223054021158990/permalink/1517188845078828/ titled "ONLY WOMEN CAN RESTORE THE GLORY OF THE LAND"]

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2466815843534978

Om Namo Jesus mantra-song, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVPXxkV8K7U, 5 min. 25 secs, published by Ben Bigelow on 7th May 2018

I loved it!
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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2463431263873436

Hare Krishna Temples, Philadelphia, Vrsabhanu dasa, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtUxtosDopg, 28 min. 35 secs, published on 25th Feb. 2018 by vrsafilm

I was very happy to see this video. This is an ISKCON temple in Philadelphia (Philly), Pennsylvania, USA. It was wonderful to hear people associated with this temple speak about Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatam, Krishna and devotion to Krishna. I was particularly happy to hear a person who seems to be a veteran African-American ISKCON devotee speak about these topics.

I had visited Philly in 1980s (a day trip) but had not known about an ISKCON temple being there.
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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2464588993757663

Hmm. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the Indian Supreme Court and within the larger Indian Muslim community and the many separate sects of Islam that this larger Indian Muslim community is comprised of. I wish all concerned all the best and hope that the matter is resolved in a peaceful and harmonious manner.

Allah Maalik! Sabka Maalik Ek! [Allah is the Lord. The Lord of all (religions) is One.] - Shirdi Sai Baba.

Muslim couple moves Supreme Court seeking women's entry into mosques, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/muslim-couple-moves-supreme-court-seeking-womens-entry-into-mosques/articleshow/68893119.cms
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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2461612167388679

This is why I have huge respect and adoration for Pope Francis. How many spiritual leaders in the world will do this?

Pope Francis kisses feet of South Sudan leaders in bid for peace, https://www.euronews.com/2019/04/11/pope-francis-kisses-feet-of-south-sudan-leaders-in-bid-for-peace. The link has an around 2 minute video dated 11th April 2019 showing Pope Francis kissing the feet of (rival) South Sudan leaders. Pope Francis seems to have to struggle somewhat to bend and kiss their feet, and needs help to get up again. So it is clear that Pope Francis is pushing his aging body to do such actions in the hope that they will usher in peace.

May God bless Pope Francis and give him a long life so that he can be a beacon for peace across the whole world!

I have to say that as a spiritual aspirant and a social media writer on spirituality & religion, it is when I see such actions of spiritual leaders like Pope Francis that I know how much more I have to travel on my spiritual journey. As of today, I simply don't have it in me to even contemplate doing, let alone do, such an action.

I find Pope Francis to be one of the most inspiring spiritual and religious world figures alive today. In particular, I find his concern as expressed by actions of his like in this case, for well being of the whole world, as against individual spiritual well being of himself, to be very, very inspiring.

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2454936138056282

Nice video about ISKCON rural community in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, USA.

Hare Krishna, New Vrindaban, part 1 (vrsabhanu dasa), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX9f8nYqGD0, 37 min. 18 secs, published on 9th May 2018.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Vrindaban,_West_Virginia is the wiki page for the New Vrindaban. It was established in 1968 but went through some ups and downs (including some very controversial period when it was removed from ISKCON but later readmitted).

Good to see that now the community seems to be doing quite OK. I wish them all the very best. Hari Bol!
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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2452051048344791

Hmm. The message on the floor says, "It is by God's Grace that you think of God."

I think there is a lot of deep truth to this statement, especially when the "think of God" is interpreted as "worship of God or prayer to God". It is a calling, in a sense. God calls the devotee to him when the time is ripe!

It has been my personal experience that till I faced some huge challenges in my life in my late twenties and early thirties, in my adult life till then, I was not into worship of God or prayer to God. [As a minor I was into Hindu rituals but sometime while I was studying science in college, I think I lost faith in prayer and worship of God and moved away from active participation in Hindu rituals, except ones that I simply had to perform due to family traditions.] I was into philosophy stuff including Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads but not into prayer to God to help me. The huge challenges I faced in my late twenties and early thirties were perhaps God's way of making me realize the limitations of worldly life and of mere philosophy that does not have faith in Divine power. These challenges were part of God's call to me to turn to Him. I think I can say that these challenges were part of God's Grace to make me turn to Him, pray to Him and worship Him resulting in me enjoying the wonderful fruits of such prayer and worship of God.

[Shared pic has Ramana ashram room with message on the floor: https://www.facebook.com/RamanaMaharshi/photos/a.10151536385544631/10157001960299631/]

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2452018968347999

"REPENT SINNER" vs Hare Krishna singers (and dancers) in Glasgow in 2018

The "REPENT SINNER" preacher's voice is not clear in the video but it seems that he is preaching that his way is the right way and that the Hare Krishna way is the wrong way (way of Satan?). But from the audience point of view, the "REPENT SINNER" message guy was quite unattractive as against the singing and dancing Hare Krishna folks!

Instead of Hare Krishna if it had been a more loving Christian group singing songs about Christ's love and God's love for humanity, I think the outcome would have been similar.

'Repent Sinner' message does not work in this early 21st century when there are groups singing and dancing about love of God for man.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpcR5L5WMnc, around 5 mins, published on 4th Nov. 2018
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Update: The "Repent Sinner" preacher should try out this way to preach about Lord Jesus Christ and his love for man: Selah - "Wonderful Merciful Savior" (Official Video), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK6sYVQCqhs, 3 min. 47 secs.
...

I think love and fear are two important emotions/approaches used by preachers over history of millennia. My personal preference is a mix of love of God and fear of sin (hurting others with bad intent) with fear being qualified with the prospect of God's mercy for the repentant sinner.

I have heard Sathya Sai say in public discourse which I heard live sitting in Sai Kulwant Hall, "Daiva Preethi, Paap Bheeti and Sangha Neeti" [English: Love of/for God, Fear of Sin and (following) ethics of the community] as a way of living for good people. I think that is a great teaching for social well being.

So I am not against usage of fear of sin by preachers (irrespective of religion they preach). But to start with a premise that the audience is composed of sinners who must repent for their sins and find Jesus/God through that repentance, I think is going too far. Especially in today's 21st century world and when dealing with youngsters. It is too much of a fear-mongering based approach for me or most 21st century people who live in democratic countries with freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

However, I would not be surprised if this fear-mongering approach would have been highly effective in past centuries and millennia across all religions. Hinduism of the past surely had fair amount of this fear-mongering.

In conclusion, I think earlier approaches of fear-mongering by preachers (of various religions) should be kept aside for preaching in our times. Note that I do not view preaching of bad effects of sins (actions done with bad intent to hurt others) as fear-mongering if it is balanced with preaching of love of man for God, God's love for man, and God's great mercy for the sincerely repentant sinner.
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