Thursday, January 30, 2020

The LORD your God is with you wherever you go - Joshua 1:9 (Bible)

A few days ago on 28th Jan. 2020 evening, in outside ashram Puttaparthi, I saw an interesting message on what seemed to be a Christian ministry vehicle. The message was on the lines of: the LORD your God is with you wherever you go - Joshua.

I loved that! After coming home, I looked it up on the Net. Here's the verse - Joshua 1:9, https://biblehub.com/joshua/1-9.htm, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.", New International Version.

Another version, New Living Translation: "This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Wonderful! What divine assurance!

I should also say that I am convinced that this revelation and similar revelations in Hindu scripture, about God being with us wherever we go, is the truth. We should have faith in the truth of this revelation, this assurance.
-----

Jan Baan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Baan) messaged me on LinkedIn in response to above post contents that I shared with him:

Some Bible commentaries
Bible Knowledge Commentary
1:9.
The third call to courage addressed to Joshua was based on the promise of God’s presence. This did not minimize the task Joshua faced. He would encounter giants and fortified cities, but God’s presence would make all the difference.

Joshua probably had times when he felt weak, inadequate, and frightened. Perhaps he considered resigning before the Conquest even began. But God knew all about his feelings of personal weakness and fear and told Joshua three times, Be strong and courageous (vv. 6-7, 9; cf. v. 18). God also urged him not to be afraid or discouraged (cf. Deut. 1:21; 31:8; Josh. 8:1). These charges with their accompanying assurances (God’s promise, God’s power, and God’s presence) were sufficient to last a lifetime. Believers in all ages can be uplifted by the same three assurances.

Believers Bible Commentary
Three times Joshua is told by the Lord to be strong and very courageous (vv. 6, 7, 9). The size and duration of the task ahead, the pressures of leading such an obstinate people, and the absence of his spiritual mentor, Moses, were perhaps heavy on Joshua’s mind at this time. But the Lord was not calling him without enabling him. There were good reasons for Joshua to be strong: God’s promise (vv. 5, 6), a sure victory; God’s Word (vv. 7, 8), a safe guide; God’s presence (v. 9), a sustaining power.

T. Austin Sparks writes:
The real battle of faith is joined here. Not what we are, but what He is! Not what we feel, but His facts
-----end Jan Baan message text---------

I responded to Jan Baan (slightly edited):
Wonderful and inspiring, Jan. Thanks a ton!
...
I will study this message of yours again carefully. I think it is a very inspiring and appropriate message to give courage to those who do good work (including business enterprises) with faith in God, who are faced with challenges. Thanks again.
------ end my response ---

I thank Bible Knowledge Commentary, Believers Bible Commentary and T. Austin Sparks for the above short text extracts, and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extract(s) of theirs on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.

Vinny Chitluri's video about, as per her research, original pictures of Shirdi Sai Baba

I get the impression that the video seems to be generally accurate. However, I don't know for sure. There could be some inaccuracies. In any case, it was great to see these pics of Bhagavan Sri Shirdi Sai Baba most of which are very familiar to me, as Mumbai and surrounding areas, where I lived for most of the first four decades of my life (1962-2002), is full of Shirdi Sai Baba devotees who would have some of these pics in their homes, and even in workplaces (including in Autos by Auto driver/owner devotees). These pics would also be there in places of worship, and there would be many sellers including roadside sellers, displaying these pics of Baba (for sale). It was very interesting to know Dr. Chitluri's views, based on her knowledge/research, about the background of these pics. I must also mention that I do not know whether the Shirdi Sai Sansthan (official orgn. of Shirdi Sai Baba mandir) agrees with these views of Dr. Chitluri.

Original Photos of Shirdi Sai Baba | Dr. Vinny Chitluri, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qH8f0VTgt6Q, 14 min. 26 secs, published on 26th Jan. 2020.

Given below is a screenshot from the above video.

[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.]



Friday, January 24, 2020

Many pics (75) of my rural Puttaparthi walking route

This post follows up on my recent post: Nice rural walking route in Puttaparthi; Pedometer data update, https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2020/01/nice-rural-walking-route-in-puttaparthi.html.

I thought it would be good to take pics of this rural walking route. So yesterday, 23rd Jan. 2020, I took many, many pics while I was on my walk. Those pics are shared publicly here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/AuMobMDn4wecAHcF6. Some of these pics have long description. To see the full description click on info button in Google Photos display.

The pics were taken from around 4.45 PM to around 6.30 PM. I selected 75 of those pics to be shared here, along with one pedometer screenshot for yesterday's walk. The pics with some of them having description tell the story.

The pics are in the sequence in which they were taken with pic taken earliest (4:48 PM) being first.

The last - 76th - pic is a Pedometer screenshot giving data for the walk yesterday.
========================================

Given below are some comments in Facebook post,  https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2735583849991508, associated with this blog post:

In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):

Thank you --Name-snipped-- sir for your words, "These snaps provide invaluable insight into the landscape around Puttaparthi." One of the reasons I invested the time in taking the pics and then sharing it publicly on Facebook and Google Photos, is that I felt it will be a good photographic record of how this area of Puttaparthi which still has a rural ambiance, looked in Jan. 2020. Photographs capture so much, including insights, that some of what the photographs captured which may, I repeat may, be interesting to some others now and in future, may have completely escaped me! I am so glad to see that you appreciate the insight into landscape perspective that these pics provide/capture.
I believe the full moon parikrama is going on regularly.
-----

In response to a comment about making a pictorial book using these and other photos of Puttaparthi that I have clicked, I wrote (slightly edited): I would like to leave that, as of now at least, for others who would like to do so. I would be glad to provide them permission to use my pics of Puttaparthi and surrounding areas, all of which are publicly shared on Facebook and Google Photos.
----

Terry Reis Kennedy wrote: Dear Ravi, thank you so very much for this wonderful and historic record through the photos. A happy sharing for me. Like so many others viewing them, I am triggered to remember my peaceful walks, going in many different ways without a care all on my own through the township and village.
----

I responded: Glad you liked it, Terry Reis Kennedy. Nice to know that you had many such peaceful walks in and around Puttaparthi, and that this post reminds you of those happy memories. Jai Sai Ram!
----

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Referral: What size of Times New Roman font - 12, 11 or 10 - should I use for main text for paperback book and ebook ...

Readers may want to read my recent post on another blog of mine: What size of Times New Roman font - 12, 11 or 10 - should I use for main text for paperback book and ebook having this blog's (Indian CS & IT Academic Reform) main contents?, https://eklavyasai.blogspot.com/2020/01/what-size-of-times-new-roman-font-12-11.html.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Nice rural walking route in Puttaparthi; Pedometer data update

Last updated on 24th Jan. 2020

This post is further to my recent post (on another blog): Simple and useful 'Pedometer - Step Counter' Android app for measuring walking exercise, https://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.com/2020/01/simple-and-useful-pedometer-step.html.

Today I started the app as soon as I put my walking boots on, just outside my flat, and stopped it when I had returned and was just outside my flat. Though the walk path was the same as earlier, perhaps due to me starting the app's step counting earlier, the steps shown by the app today are: 8519 (as against 7727 in earlier post for walk on 20th Jan. 2020). The distance today is shown as 5.792 km (as against 5.254 km on 20th Jan. 2020). Cropped screenshot is given below.


As I mentioned in the earlier post, the actual walking steps (as against smaller steps while taking a break or going down the apartment stairs/ coming up in apt. elevator) would be 5 to 10% lesser. So the actual distance walked may be around 5.2 to 5.5 km.

I would like to share the walking route I use as I think it is a very nice rural/countryside walk and is picturesque for most of the route. Perhaps some readers may want to know about it and some may even want to try it out when they are in Puttaparthi.

The walk is first on the Puttaparthi to Yenumulapalli bypass road (30 feet road I think is the official name) which is next to Chitravathi river bank for most of its stretch. The main part of my walk on this road is from the Chitravathi Harathi Point till the road joins Yenumulapalli (or Enumulapalli) village. There I take the road from Yenumulapalli to Brahmanapalli but do not go up to Brahmanapalli. I turn back at the milestone marker on the road to Brahmanapalli - see pics below. The first milestone pic shows distance to Puttaparthi by regular road. The second milestone pic shows the other side of the same milestone giving distance to Bangalore and other places.

[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.]



The marker (first milestone pic) says Puttaparthi is 4 km by (regular) road (as against bypass road) but perhaps the actual distance is a little lesser even on the regular road. The regular road is the one which is on another side of Yenumulapalli village and comes from the airport/Super hospital on one side, having a circular junction at that side of Yenumulapalli village (with a Ganesh statue at the circle, if I recall correctly), going on to APSRTC bus depot, Gokulam and then Puttaparthi bus stand/Ganesh Gate of Prasanthi Nilayam ashram. This regular road has a lot of traffic.

My walk route is mainly on rural roads/ rural stretches of roads. Most part of the route has picturesque South Indian countryside views. But there is no separate walking path - so one either walks typically on the extreme left of the tar road (unless one chooses to go opposite the traffic flow) or on the grass/mud path next to it. When walking on the tar road, one has to be alert for honking of large vehicles (buses/trucks) coming up behind at which time one needs to get off the tar road into the grass/mud path. Two wheelers (scooters & motorbikes) and autos are not so much of an issue as the road is wide enough to accommodate a walker and an auto/two wheeler.

The area is quite hilly and so the roads go up and down and have lots of curves. Views from high points on the road looking down on rural scenery are wonderful and makes one feel real good and peaceful!

There are quite a few places where one can take a break and sit down. On the road itself there are some concrete blocks where one can sit. And in Yenumulapalli village there is a big tree around which seating areas have been made. Tea and snacks are also available in Yenumulapalli village. The folks one comes across on the road do not bother the walker and can be quite friendly too.

Once a week there is a weekly market in Yenumulapalli which is on the Yenumulapalli to Brahmanapalli road. But I like going through the rural weekly market as well, even though it can be quite crowded in some patches of the road at times, and parts of the road can be somewhat messy due to some crushed fruits & vegetables on it.

I would strongly recommend this walk route to people who like walking in Indian countryside and have some exposure to such walks. For those who have not done walks in Indian countryside roads, especially those from Western world countries which I think have more safety for walkers, but are interested in trying this out, I think they should do this in company with some local person who is better adapted to the issues/risks (e.g. getting off the road when a bus/truck coming behind starts honking).

And I recommend that such walks be done by people new to this route only during daytime. At nighttime most of the road is not lit and it can be somewhat dangerous when heavy traffic (bus/truck) comes up behind (usually at speed).

Snakes are spotted at times but I don't think it is a big risk in daytime.

Stray dogs are quite a few. But unless one is walking fast or running, I don't think the stray dogs bother the walker. [At times when I am walking fast and the walking shoes make more noise, I have had some dogs barking at me.]

Herds of sheep usually with a shepherd(s) is common. One may have to walk on the other side of the road to avoid getting right into a herd of sheep!

One issue is potholes on the tar road with loose stones. There is a possibility of a passing vehicle's tyres sending some loose stone shooting to the side of the road (where it could hurt a walker or a cyclist). But I think that possibility may be rather low. Note that many locals walk on these roads and some use bicycles on it (including young school children). So if there are some risks, the walker shares the risks with many locals walking or bicycling on these roads.
=======================================
24th Jan. 2020

Readers may want to read my later and recent post: Many pics (75) of my rural Puttaparthi walking route, https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2020/01/many-pics-75-of-my-rural-puttaparthi.html.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Rumi words: "As you start to walk on the way, the way appears", have been very true for my spiritual journey

I think these words attributed to Jalaluddin Rumi, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi - "As you start to walk on the way, the way appears", have been very true for my spiritual journey which started in earnest in the early 1990s. It is not instant and it is not without challenges but as one goes through the challenges, one realizes that the way forward spiritually has appeared.

Seek and you shall find is another great and promising spiritual teaching/revelation in this context. I think it applies not only to the final goal of finding God but the various steps in between.

What the spiritual aspirant needs is shraddha (faith) along with courage to face the inevitable challenges that serve to improve one from a spiritual perspective, and saburi (patience) of a spiritual order (patience over a looooooong period of time :-) ). Note that Shraddha and Saburi are famous teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

I support Hon'ble Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray's statement about Pathri in Parbhani district in Maharashtra being birthplace of Shirdi Sai Baba

Last updated on 21st Jan. 2020

Shirdi town seems to be having a bandh (shutdown) (excluding temple and essential facilities) reportedly in opposition to Maha CM Thackeray's statement that Shirdi Sai Baba was born in Pathri in Parbhani district in Maharashtra, and his allocation of funds for development of that area (perhaps as a spiritual centre).

Sai Baba Temple To Remain Open Amid Indefinite Shirdi Shutdown From Today, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9QQUZ1vo1c, 2 min 41 secs, published by NDTV.

Sai Baba temple to remain open amid indefinite shutdown at Shirdi city from today, https://www.livemint.com/news/india/sai-baba-temple-to-remain-open-amid-indefinite-shutdown-at-shirdi-city-from-today-11579406161743.html.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Sai_Janmasthan_Temple,_Pathri says, "In 1970s, a field research established that Sai Baba was born in Pathri village. Sri Sai Smarak Samiti (Sai Memorial committee) was then formed in Pathri."

My beloved and revered Gurudev, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said that Shirdi Sai Baba was born in Pathri. From Sathya Sai discourse on 28-9-1990, http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume23/sss23-28.pdf, "In the former Nizam's dominions, there was a remote village called Pathri. In that village there were a couple named Gangabhavadya and Devagiriamma. They were grieving over the lack of children. In answer to their prayers, a son was born on September 28, 1835. Today is the anniversary of that day."

So I believe that Shirdi Sai Baba was born in Pathri.

However, others are free to have a different view, including the residents of holy town of Shirdi.

But is it fair of them to call for Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray to withdraw his statement that Shirdi Sai Baba was born in Pathri (in Parbhani district of Maharashtra), and have an indefinite bandh (shutdown) protest for that demand? I don't think so.

They should present their arguments against the statement in a logical and peaceful way with the CM, and use discussions as a way to try to resolve the matter rather than go for indefinite shutdown which is sure to create problems for pilgrims to Shirdi.

Sathyameva Jayate - Truth alone is victorious - is the teaching of Sanathana Dharma. Let debate and discussions of learned and knowledgeable people on the matter decide the issue rather than Shirdi shutdown protests.

Please note that I am a former Mumbaikar who was born, bred and earned a livelihood in Mumbai and its outlying metropolitan area towns (Dombivli).

Further note that I have visited Shirdi a few times while I was living in Dombivli. I have great reverence for Shirdi Sai Baba and consider him to be a beloved and revered Gurudev of mine as I understand him from books about his life and his teachings.

I pray to Bhagavan Sri Shirdi Sai Baba to resolve this matter peacefully without causing trouble to pilgrims visiting Shirdi, and in a way that pacifies residents of holy town of Shirdi. Jai Sai Ram!
==============================

21st Jan. 2020 Update

The bandh was been called off as the town folk were to meet Maharashtra CM on the matter. Note that Rs. 100 crore grant was announced to Pathri by Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray to develop it as a spiritual centre and it seems that it was in this context that he said that it was the birthplace of Shirdi Sai Baba.

Shirdi shutdown called off: Meeting on Saibaba birthplace today,  https://www.livemint.com/news/india/shirdi-shutdown-called-off-meeting-on-saibaba-birthplace-today-11579488623168.html, 20th Jan. 2020

Referral: High Noon: Utterly fascinating 1952 Hollywood movie about small town community's cowardly attitude towards law enforcement marshal ...

Readers may want to read my recent post on another blog of mine: High Noon: Utterly fascinating 1952 Hollywood movie about small town community's cowardly attitude towards law enforcement marshal under revenge attack by released convict, https://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.com/2020/01/high-noon-utterly-fascinating-1952.html.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Interesting to note that Bing and DuckDuckGo search on: statements of belief in god that is compatible with science, has my Facebook note in top results

Last updated on 17th Jan. 2020

The screenshots below show Bing and DuckDuckGo top results for search on:
statements of belief in god that is compatible with science
[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 two note/post links shown in above screenshots, both of which have similar base contents but the second (blog post) has some additional inputs/thoughts, are:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/ravi-s-iyer/crisp-statements-of-belief-in-god-that-is-compatible-with-science/1889831711233397/

and

https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2017/04/feedback-on-my-adaptation-of-crisp.html

But Google search for the same search string does not list my post(s) in the first forty results (first 4 result pages). It shows a post with similar contents on my iami1.wordpress.com blog - https://iami1.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/crisp-statements-of-belief-in-god-that-is-compatible-with-science/ - as the 44th result (5th page). See screenshot below. Perhaps Google does not give Facebook posts/notes much weightage whereas Bing and DuckDuckGo do.



Yes, the title of the Facebook note matches the search string but even so, as the topic is so generic, I think it is noteworthy that Bing and DuckDuckGo list my note/post(s) in top ten results. And good to know that Google does list similar Wordpress post within top 50 results though only the very deeply interested will go up to the 5th page of results.

Making the search string less specific with the string given below, results in lower search ranks of my Facebook note:
belief in god that is compatible with science
The cropped screenshots below show Bing listing my Facebook note as the 4th result (highlighted result is also repeated as 2nd result) and DuckDuckGo as the 9th result.





Google search does not list my related Facebook or Wordpress or Blogger note/post in its top fifty results!
========================================

I received three responses over email with some of them congratulating me and sharing my happiness over the top Bing & DuckDuckGo search ranking. Given below is a slightly edited version of one of my responses:
Sairam --name-snipped-- sir,

Thanks for your appreciation.

For me, the important thing is that while Dr. Collins' statements of belief were limited to Christian faith, my post has an attempt at expanding it to multiple faiths. Those interested in searching for such crisp statements of belief in multi-faith God that is compatible with science, may be able to easily get my post (and its attempt at that) through Bing/DuckDuckGo search.

I am into joy but not pride. So I am joyful about it and appreciate you sir, sharing my joy.

Thanks & Regards
-----

Good to see 3 visits in past 24 hours to this blog from Bing.com search on: sai baba and advaita vedanta

Decided to put up this post just to share that people are searching for sai baba and advaita vedanta!

I have heard Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba speaking on Advaita Vedanta live in Sai Kulwant Hall on so many occasions. He spoke on the essence of the matter and it is my deep belief that he spoke from direct experience and direct knowledge about Advaita. Swami would refer to Adi Shankara many times.

After Mahasamadhi, somehow the focus is not so much on these teachings and discourses of Bhagavan on Advaita Vedanta.

So I was happy to see today that in the past 24 hours somebody/some people landed up on this blog, on this post: Sathya Sai Baba's Advaita Teachings By John Hislop Ph.D. - Edited Transcript of Video, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2013/11/sathya-sai-babas-advaita-teachings-by.html, 13th Nov. 2013. There were 3 visits and all of them were via Bing search engine. See cropped screenshots below with two of them having a red arrow pointing to relevant info. at bottom of screenshot.

[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.]





I hope more writers will put up freely accessible blog posts on Sathya Sai Baba's teachings on Advaita Vedanta. That will help to better disseminate these vital teachings of Bhagavan.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Quite freaked out by Bing search engine giving my blog post as one of top results for SATHYA SAI BABA ON TRUTH

Last updated on 17th Jan. 2020

I was debating whether I should share this. I decided to share it as I think it may be of interest to some readers, especially those who are bloggers on Sathya Sai and spirituality & religion in general, if not now then perhaps in the future.

I was quite freaked out to see that my blogger stats, a few days ago on 9th Jan., showed a visit to my blog coming from bing search engine (bing.com) on query:
SATHYA SAI BABA ON TRUTH

See pic below showing the source link at the bottom, pointed to by red arrows.

[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.]



The concerned blog post of mine was a November 2014 post: Sathya Sai Baba on Truth from 1958 discourse, https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2014/11/sathya-sai-baba-on-truth-from-1958.html.

The post shared the following quote from 1958 discourse of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba which was put up as thought of the day by Prasanthi Reporter - http://www.theprasanthireporter.org/ - for 28th Nov. 2014:

Have faith that Truth will save you in the long run; stick to it, regardless of what might befall. For if you are true, the sense of guilt will not gnaw your insides and cause pain. It is cowardice that makes you hide the truth; it is hatred that sharpens the edge of falsehood. Be bold and there is no need for a lie. Be full of love and there is no need for subterfuge. The easiest habit is speaking the truth, honesty; for if you start telling lies, you will have to keep count of them and remember how many you have told to whom, and be always alert not to contradict one lie with another! Love a person and you need no longer deceive the person with a lie; you will feel that the loved one deserves the truth and nothing less than the truth. Love saves a good deal of bother. (Divine Discourse, March 3, 1958)

--- end Sathya Sai Baba quote ---

I visited bing.com to see how it provides search results for query:
Sathya Sai Baba on truth

And yes, my above mentioned blog post appeared as the 2nd result. See pic below.



It freaked me out somewhat to know this. I mean, somebody is searching on the Internet about what Bhagavan said on truth and comes to my blog post! Google search for the same term, on the other hand, shows the standard and very appropriate sites of sathyasai.org, sssbpt.info as the top results (and none of my blog posts appear in the top results). That is a relief! That's how it should be.

I just tried duckduckgo.com today for search term:
SATHYA SAI BABA ON TRUTH

Shockingly, my above mentioned blogpost is the 2nd result, even if the first result is sathyasai.org site (very appropriately). See pic below.



What this means for me is that I need to be super-careful about what I put up on my main spiritual blog (the above mentioned blog) on Sathya Sai.

Mind you, as I have a lot of blog posts about Muddenahalli and Madhusudan Rao Naidu (spiritual fraud), as expected, some queries on those terms in context of Sathya Sai Baba, give my blog posts among the top results. As I am one of the handful of persons who regularly posted on social media on this matter over a few years, it is natural that some of my posts appear among top results for those terms. [BTW now I am not so active on (posting on) this matter. I think I have done my bit (as very unpleasant duty) and now I focus on other general spiritual, religious and miscellaneous stuff.]

But I had thought that my blog posts on generic matters about Sathya Sai (like his teaching on truth) would come up in search results for searches ***on my blog*** for those terms and not generic search across the Internet!

My blog seems to have achieved some sort of weightage in Bing and DuckDuckGo search engines with respect to Sathya Sai Baba, and so it may show my blog posts among top results for Sathya Sai Baba generic teachings (like on truth) related searches which match my blog posts.

I earnestly pray to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba that He guides me (as I am sure He has been doing in the past too - I regularly pray to Him) while I write posts about His teachings on social media.
=============================

In my Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2723182351231658, associated with this blog post, Terry Reis Kennedy wrote: Congratulations, Ravi.

I (Ravi) responded: Well Terry Reis Kennedy - I don't know whether I am ready for this. But I guess I have no choice but to be super-careful with respect to accuracy about what I write on this blog about Sathya Sai Baba and His teachings, as it may serve to inform some people who search on the net for some specific teachings of Sathya Sai Baba which I have mentioned in my posts.
-----

Friday, January 10, 2020

Interesting to see top ten Internet search ranking of 'Who am I? I am I ...' book for queries on answer to existential reality question: who am I?

Last updated on 10th Jan. 2020

Late yesterday night (early morning today, 10th Jan), I did some searches on well known search engines using anonymous Chrome browser for search terms about: answer to existential reality question: who am I? The results showed my 'Who am I? I am I ...' book among the top ten results! That was nice to know and I thought I should share this with readers.
'Who am I? I am I ...' book paperback version (link has short book description):  https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07K7M2963, free PDF version (link has longer book description and table of contents):  https://archive.org/details/20180424EbookNotPrintColourCoverBWContentsA5WhoAmIIAmINGodNScience.
Given below are screenshots of three search engines (Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo) for search term:
Answer to existential reality question: who am I?

[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.]





Removing the word reality from the search term causes Google to not show the book in the top fifty results (let alone top ten). But Bing shows it as the 4th result and DuckDuckGo as 14th (4th in 2nd set of 10 results) - related pics are given below.

Search term:
Answer to existential question: who am I?



The Internet is quite a democratic medium for views. Otherwise how could my self-published book which is quite unknown really in the book world given the tiny number of people that have read it or have come across it, get ranked so highly across three well known search engines, even if the search term using generic words (not unique to my book) matches the book title?
===========================================

10th Jan. 2020, around 6.50 PM update

I did some more searches today. Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo all give my 'Who am I? I am I ...' book as the top result (excluding Advertisement result marked as 'Ad') for the search term:
Vedanta answer to who am I existential question

[The results are same or similar for search term:
Hindu Vedanta answer to who am I existential question ]

The screenshots below show the results.



[In above screenshot the main Facebook result link is marked as "Ad" indicating Advertisement, which applies to the 4 additional branch Facebook links given below it.]


When the search term is changed to:
Hinduism answer to who am I existential question
the results are as follows:

Google: 18th result:


Bing - 2nd result excluding Facebook Advertisement result:


DuckDuckGo - 2nd result:


The result above is not region specific. US Region specific search gives the same result:


I find the above results to be very encouraging. Through my book (paperback as well as free ebook versions shared on multiple platforms), the great revelation and interpretation of Hindu scripture of Vedanta, specifically the Tat Tvam Asi (You are That) Mahavakya related part of Chandogya Upanishad from the Sama Veda, by great spiritual masters and scholars, including my revered and beloved Gurudev Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, is easily accessible to users searching on the Internet for answers in Hindu Vedanta to the big existential reality question of 'who am I?'. However, to avoid readers of the book getting sidetracked by any misconceptions they may have about Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba as he is known more among the public at large as a man of miracles rather than for his brilliant and wonderful explanations of the core messages of the Upanishads (Vedanta), I have not referred to him by name in the key Chandogya Upanishad verse interpretations (Vedanta) part as well as most of the other parts of my above book.

BTW I come family-wise from the Sama Veda tradition and so Chandogya Upanishad has a special attraction for me.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Truth is far grander than what logical/scientific human minds can conceive; A note for scientist/technologist/rationalist readers about British filmmaker Jeff Grant's Sathya Sai experience related posts of mine

Last updated on 9th Jan. 2020

The related posts of mine are:

1) British filmmaker Jeff Grant corroborates Aug. 2019 Sanathana Sarathi article paragraph about his mid 1970s film capturing Sathya Sai Baba's materialization of a necklace, though film is lost now, https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2019/12/british-filmmaker-jeff-grant.html, 31st Dec. 2019.

2) British filmmaker Jeff Grant's 2011 blog posts about profound impact of his mid 1970s experience of Sathya Sai Baba's spiritual aura and charisma, https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2020/01/british-filmmaker-jeff-grants-2011-blog.html, 6th Jan. 2020.

These two posts of mine share an account of a British filmmaker about what seems to have been clearly supernatural acts done by Sathya Sai Baba in the mid 1970s, and about the spiritual aura and charisma of Sathya Sai Baba. The filmmaker, Jeff Grant, clearly was a skeptic initially but he could not dismiss what he saw with his eyes - quite a few such manifestations, including wet sweet pudding given to him by Sai Baba from his fingers (apparent manifestation) - and what was captured on film!

But the film copies with the team disappeared some time after a copy (master or whatever its called) was given to the American TV station for whom it was intended and which did air some/whole of that film! Grant does not have a clue how it disappeared. One wonders whether there was some group that worked to suppress the film after its initial viewing! Note that Sathya Sai's rising popularity in the mid 1970s seems to have created consternation among powerful people in the Western world who would have then wanted to suppress material that promoted him.

And then there have been some in the Western world who launched big campaigns against Sathya Sai saying that the manifestation miracles are fraud.

Here are two posts of mine that will help rational and unbiased persons to arrive at a proper assessment whether Sathya Sai ***genuinely*** demonstrated such paranormal/supernatural powers:

a) Prof. Haraldsson Politely Asserts Genuineness of Sai Baba miracles in UK Radio Talk Show in 2012, August 19th 2013, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2013/08/prof-haraldsson-politely-asserts.html.

b) Scientific Paper that Debunks Deccan Chronicle 1992 Claim of Materialization Miracle Exposure, August 24th 2013, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2013/08/scientific-paper-that-debunks-deccan.html.

The media (Western media in this case) can get away with gross disinformation for some time, but eventually the truth emerges and the wrong aspects of the media portrayal get exposed to discerning persons as plain untruth and fabrication.

The intent of the above posts related to Jeff Grant's experience of Sathya Sai Baba's paranormal powers and spiritual aura and charisma, and the two other posts mentioned just above, is ***NOT TO*** promote Sathya Sai Baba per se. The intent is to share strong eyewitness evidence (NOT scientific evidence as the film is lost and so cannot be submitted to scientific forensic analysis, unless a copy of it emerges from somewhere) that Sathya Sai did have, and so some people throughout history (e.g. Jesus Christ) seem, in all probability, to have had genuine paranormal powers (even if such genuine persons were and are very, very few as compared to many, many fakes claiming such powers), besides being charismatic spiritual masters.

What I have realized is that truth is way, way stranger than fiction or imagination. The ultimate truth or reality of life and existence, and the universe, is far grander than what logical/scientific human minds can conceive. Such deep truths of life that the human being can sense or relate to emotionally and intuitively in some limited way, though not understand intellectually or scientifically, are revealed to humanity by divine incarnations and prophets.

I recall the words of the British-Indian biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._B._S._Haldane, on limits of logical/scientific human imagination and conception with the truth being more complex (queerer!) than what logical/scientific human minds can imagine or conceive. His exact quote, "I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.",  https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/J._B._S._Haldane.
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I made a small pic of the paragraph I highlighted earlier which I plan to share on my other social media channels (Facebook & Twitter), and felt it appropriate to share here, below:

Monday, January 6, 2020

British filmmaker Jeff Grant's 2011 blog posts about profound impact of his mid 1970s experience of Sathya Sai Baba's spiritual aura and charisma

Last updated on 11th Jan. 2020

Further to my recent post: British filmmaker Jeff Grant corroborates Aug. 2019 Sanathana Sarathi article paragraph about his mid 1970s film capturing Sathya Sai Baba's materialization of a necklace, though film is lost now, https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2019/12/british-filmmaker-jeff-grant.html, this post covers the posts about Sathya Sai Baba on Jeff Grant's blog. Mr. Jeff Grant is a former film director and now professional writer who lives in London, UK.

Note that these posts/articles are written in what seems to me to be an unbiased matter-of-fact manner. I consider them to be very well written accounts that portray the awesome spiritual presence/persona of Sathya Sai Baba and his power to give joy and peace to people. They also touch upon the spiritual teachings of Sathya Sai Baba.

All these 8 articles were written after Sathya Sai Mahasamadhi in April 2011, in the months from May to December 2011. Links to them are given below, along with some description of some of the posts and many extracts from them. I have chosen to include many extracts which I feel capture very well some unbiased experiences of Sathya Sai Baba's divinity (spiritual aura and charisma) in the mid 1970s by Jeff Grant, as I think that will help to share these experiences with a wider audience and also help to ensure more longevity. [See bottom of post for Jeff Grant permission to me for using his posts.] In a few places, I have given some comments prefixed with 'Ravi:' and enclosed in square brackets [].

1) Filming Sai Baba, https://besonian.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/filming-sai-baba/, May 31, 2011

Grant writes that he made a film of (Sathya) Sai Baba for American Television in the mid 1970s. He writes "The shooting of that film was the occasion for some of the most extraordinary things I’ve seen, heard or been involved with. The whole experience had a profound impact on me. The effects of it are with me still and I’m sure always will be."

7 of these posts are about his experience of making this film.

Grant writes, "Let me say at the start that I’m not here to make any claims about Sai Baba’s apparent mystical powers. Nor am I here to attempt to debunk them – many have tried and all have failed. I will relate only what I saw, what I felt, the impressions that he and the experience made on me."
[Ravi: It is very good to see a British film maker say that many have tried to debunk Sai Baba's (apparent) mystical powers and that all have failed. I think one can presume that would surely include such efforts by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).]
The film making was for American TV and funded (as per Grant) by a lady given the name Naseem (a pseudonym) by Grant, who was of Indian origin, was a devotee of Sathya Sai and well connected with top persons in India.

He writes of his and team coming to Prasanthi Nilayam ashram and being seated at a table in a room (which he refers to as "a little cold hut"), and being told that Swami (Sathya Sai Baba) would be coming to meet them. Grant expected some grand entrance being made by Swami along with trumpeteers and others or being picked up in "the Guru's Rolls Royce to some exquisite meeting place".

Grant writes that Swami came in by himself and closed the door behind him. He looked at them, giving them a huge welcoming smile and sat down at the table they were seated at. Grant writes of his and team's reaction: "We were dumbstruck. By just what I have no good idea to this day. Except that this individual (Sathya Sai Baba) carried about him and had brought with him into that room some sense, some aura, some intangible and indefinable ambience/charisma such that I’ve never in my life come across before or since. It felt to me like he brought with him all the power of the universe, that it was irresistible, it was all-encompassing and that it was good. And all that, not in a vast cathedral with pomp and organs playing, but in a little cold hut, entirely on his own and without yet once opening his mouth."

2) So what do you say to Sai Baba?, https://besonian.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/so-what-do-you-say-to-sai-baba/, June 12, 2011

An extract from it:
He (Sathya Sai Baba) looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Would you like some ash?”

I swallowed hard. Ash? What’s ‘ash’ in this context? What on earth does he mean? My head continued to spin. Had he meant ‘hash’ – at the time a common word for cannabis? [Ravi: Ha! Ha!] Or what? I nodded. Why not? It seemed the easiest thing to do. And I could see no reason not to. At which point he said to me, “Then hold out your hand.” I did just as I was told.

Now – it’s important to understand this exactly as it happened. He and I are sitting directly opposite each other, separated only by the width of a trestle table – about a metre – or three feet. I put out my hand. I hold it over the table just about halfway between the pair of us. He then raises his right hand, holds it a few centimetres above my open palm, extends his fingers downwards and rubs them together while at the same time performing a gentle circular motion with them.

Now remember that he is wearing nothing (in outer clothes anyway) but a saffron robe; that the sleeves of that robe, though fairly loose at the cuff, extend only about two thirds the way down his arm. Which means that some ten centimetres of his forearm from the wrist upwards, are totally uncovered and visible.

As he does this circular, rubbing motion with his fingers, there falls from the ends of his fingers what looked like grey powder. It fell into the palm of my outstretched hand and formed a little pile about a centimetre in height. I was speechless. The eyes of the others were standing out on stalks. Normal mental processes had come to a stop. This had happened. There was no normal, rational response to this. I think we all felt we were in some sort of time and reality warp where, understanding nothing of what was going on, it’s best you make no attempt to try.

I looked up at Sai Baba. What now did he want me to do? This was his show, not mine. “Now,” he said, putting his own hand to his mouth, “you eat it.” There was no question. I put the ash in my mouth. It tasted very Indian – joss-stick like. And swallowed it.
--- end extract ---

Another extract:

I have to say again that I am not attempting to prove anything here. To some it will probably seem fascinating and to others, ridiculous hokem designed to con the gullible. This sort of thing is not, in any case, subject to proof. If you see it, you see it. And if you see it, you are then forced somehow to come to terms with it in whatever way you find most appropriate to your own self. There will be more of it as I continue with this blog. But I want to make clear one thing. For many, many of the hundreds of thousands of the people who go to see Sai Baba – or did, for he is recently dead – this production of ash – and other objects – apparently from thin air is what impresses them more than anything. They run back to their home countries to amaze their friends with what they’ve seen. Sai Baba himself however, dismissed these ‘miracles’ as they were popularly called, as ‘the mosquito on the back of the elephant’. And further, he said, ‘I give you what you want so that you will come to want what I have come to give’. Think about it.
--- end extract ---

3) Return to Sai Baba, https://besonian.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/return-to-sai-baba/, July 3, 2011

An extract:
Suddenly, Baba emerged from the building on his own. An electric current ran through those waiting. They sat bolt upright, still as stones, and watched with great intensity the movement of this single, smallish, saffron-robed figure with the great shock of black hair. He walked towards them and as he did so, he did something with which I was to become very familiar while I was there. He closed his eyes and held one hand up before him, palm upwards with the fingers quite relaxed so they formed a sort of cup shape. And with this hand, as he slowly walked, he did small, circular movements, almost as though the hand was some sort of antenna. Then he stopped in his tracks. Opened his eyes and looked at the rows of cross-legged people with whom he had now drawn level and whose every eye was rivetted to him. “What,” he asked suddenly, in that rather strangely high-pitched voice of his, “do you come here for?”

After a moment’s silence, a woman near the front called back to him, “We come here to see God!”

I more than half-expected him to reply, “Then you’re looking at him,” – that being what millions around the world, including the woman who answered his question, think – or thought – of him anyway. But instead of that, what he said in reply to all of them and which surprised them I think as much as it did me, was, “If you want to see God, look at yourselves.”

What they all made of that, I’ve no idea. I think they were a bit dumbstruck – maybe even disappointed – at receiving such an enigmatic response. Nobody said anything. And me, I was surprised and rather pleased. He had made no personal capital whatever out of it. Had he, I wondered, in some almost casual, deceptively homespun fashion, told them what the Bible would also have told them – ‘Be still and know that I am God’? I am no conventionally religious person, but for this film I had done a certain amount of study of world religions, and his remark to them that rather chilly November morning sounded very much like that. I was intrigued. I was already very aware from our earlier experience of him, of the quite indescribable power that hung around this being. But now I started – albeit rather reluctantly –  to respect him.
--- end extract ---

4) The 50th Birthday of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, https://besonian.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/the-50th-birthday-of-sri-sathya-sai-baba/, August 5, 2011

[Ravi: Sai Love 178 - Arriving by Helicopter, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCOBpyRhXDw, 2 min. 30 secs. seems to show the helicopter landing mentioned in above post.]

5) Sai Baba and the power of silence., https://besonian.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/sai-baba-and-the-power-of-silence/, September 6, 2011

An extract (slightly edited to edit out irrelevant stuff):

His (Sathya Sai Baba's) unhurried walk through those massed crowds (around quarter million people in total at Prasanthi Nilayam then as per Grant) was the most impressive show of power I have ever seen. No shouts, no Hosannas, no ecstatic hullabaloo. Just – silence as they hung on his every move, and the sound of his bare feet on the gravel. Whatever this man was, he had a power the like of which I had never before seen, nor have done since. The best sense that I could make of it – for I was as aware of this power as much as anyone else – was that he was a major conduit for some awesome (and I mean the word in its true sense) force in which perhaps we all share, but of which each of us more or less ordinary individuals has only a minuscule portion.
--- end extract ---
[Ravi: Superb description of the absolute centre of power that Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba would be, during darshan. I experienced the same display of power during darshan in the mid 90s and 2000s going up to March 2011.]

6) Goodbye to Sai Baba. Or was it?, https://besonian.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/goodbye-to-sai-baba-or-was-it/, October 5, 2011

An extract:
It’s as though he knows just what’s going on in your head. And again as I’ve written here before, on at least two occasions in our time in Puttaparthi I experienced that very thing. It was almost an extra physical presence in my brain sharing my thoughts. It was spooky. But OK because utterly benign. Had it been other than benign it would, I’m sure, have been profoundly disturbing.
--- end extract ---
[Ravi: So well said. The first time I had an unmistakable experience of Bhagavan (Sri Sathya Sai Baba) knowing what's in my mind/head was in Jan. 2003 when I was seated in the teachers' block and Bhagavan gave me a look of fury from about 5 to 10 feet or so as I had some stupid thoughts in my head. I was scared out of my wits! But that was a look to discipline me. As I came to terms with unmistakable direct experience of Bhagavan knowing what's in my mind/head (and reacting to it), I learned to keep away foolish thoughts from my mind by Namasmarna (chanting name of the Lord). Some time later Bhagavan showed me an Abhaya Hasta (open palm raised in blessing, and which is a sign saying: do not fear) with a smile, once again at a distance of around 5 to 10 feet, though this time I was seated in the verandah, which I interpreted as Him showing happiness that I have kept out foolish thoughts from my mind/head. Bhagavan used his power of knowing what's in my mind/head to improve me - and so he used it in a benign/good way, in a way a spiritual master should/would.
Jeff Grant's words above, "Had it been other than benign it would, I’m sure, have been profoundly disturbing." are thought-provoking. As I think about it, I agree with him.
I should also mention that when I first unmistakably and directly experienced Bhagavan's powers of reading my mind (and reacting to what was in my mind then through facial/body expression), I could not but help thinking about the Mule character in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy (later Series) books, 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_series.
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Foundation_series_characters#The_Mule, 'The Mule is one of the greatest conquerors the galaxy has ever seen. He is a mentalic who has the ability to reach into the minds of others and "adjust" their emotions, individually or en masse, using this capability to conscript individuals to his cause. Not direct mind-control per se, it is a subtle influence of the subconscious; individuals under the Mule's influence behave otherwise normally - logic, memories, and personality intact.'
The Mule character was NOT benign! end-Ravi]
Another extract:
Baba moved on to me. He placed a hand gently on the lower part of my chest. “Much better now,” he said. “Much calmer.” I wasn’t as sure as he was about that. Then when he went on to say to me, “Soon, I give you complete peace,” I was quite lost. He capped it all by saying, “You need something sweet to eat.” You don’t question it. It makes no sense in the way we normally use the word and most normal sense has, by this time, gone out the window anyway. “Hold out your hand,” he said. I did. Now, in Southern India there is a pudding whose name I do not know. But it’s sort of reddish-purple in colour, and in texture is rather like tapioca. He did the usual swirling motion of the hand – and as I write this I’m fully aware of how bizarre it all sounds – and from his fingers fell enough of this pudding to form in my palm a small heap about two centimetres high. “Now,” he said, “you eat it.” I did.

He moved on, ending with Naseem. He stood right in front of her. “I believe,” he said, “that you are leaving tomorrow.””Yes,” she replied. “We fly to Mumbai. Then we leave there for London on the tenth.” “Ah no,” he said, “you leave for London on the eleventh.” She corrected him. “I have the tickets,” she said. “It is definitely the tenth.” “Even so,” he said, “I think you will find you leave on the eleventh.” (The end of that story is that we were met off the plane the following day in Mumbai by Naseem’s attorney. “There’s been a slight problem,” he said. “I’ve had to delay your flight to London by a day. You now leave on the eleventh.”)

After this short exchange with Naseem, Baba said to her, “Now lean forward a little.” She did so. Whereupon he raised a hand right over her head, opened his palm and from it dropped a long silver necklace with what looked like charms on it. Kit, standing on my right, emitted a loud gasp of astonishment. Baba then placed the necklace around Naseem’s  neck and said, “Now please don’t take that off.”

My mind went immediately back to my conversation first thing that day with Naseem in which she said – a) he had never given her anything which he had materialized and for that she was thankful because she would find that very difficult to handle; and b) that he tests you, and tests you in ways that touch you where you are most vulnerable.

As ever in this blog on Baba I make no assertions one way or the other. I saw what I saw. We all did. But if, in the circumstances I’ve described above he was no more than a conjuror, then even the most sceptical would have to admit it takes some conjuror to have up the thin sleeve of a saffron robe enough loose ash to form a small pile, enough loose sticky-ish South Indian pudding to form another pile, and a heavy silver charm necklace without any of it showing under the material or his having to do the least apparent manoevre in order to eject all this stuff seamlessly at the right moment and in the right way. I am not however, in a position, to say it’s impossible.

As I’ve pointed out before, his ‘materializations’ were not, to me, the most impressive thing about Sai Baba. Nor were they to him. ‘They are,’ he said, ‘just the mosquito on the back of the elephant’. The most impressive thing to me was the fact that in his presence reality around me went through a fundamental change and took me back to something I had lost – hence my tears. At least, that’s how it seems to me.
--- end extract ---

7) Sai Baba – the aftermath, https://besonian.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/sai-baba-the-aftermath/, October 26, 2011

An extract:
A number of people, having read my blog, have asked where they may be able to see the footage we shot. The answer is I’ve no idea. It was indeed exhibited on PBS. But thereafter it seems to have disappeared. I had one copy of it which I lent to a Sai Baba group in Surrey in the UK. I’m convinced they returned it to me. But despite searching high and low, I have not been able to lay my hands on it in fifteen years.

Toby the cameraman contacted me asking if I had a copy. He had lost his – where and in what circumstances he couldn’t figure out. It seemed an odd coincidence. I suggested we both contact Naseem who, as Producer, must have, if not a copy, then at least access to the negative from which copies could be made. It turned out that she had no copy either. She, like us, had had one. But also like us, could not make out where it had gone. Nor, it seemed, did she know where the negative was. The laboratories in London where the film had been processed and where such a thing would normally be stored, did not have it. Nor did they know where it was.

The only occasion on which, since editing the film, I have seen any of the footage we shot was on TV some years ago, in one of the many – sadly uninformed – films which have been made about Sai Baba. The BBC aired some of our footage of Baba’s helicopter jaunt. Where they got it from, I’ve no idea – perhaps the company in Soho where I edited it. But that particular sequence never made the final. I cut it out, feeling it misrepresented both him and the film’s message. So even that footage was not from the finished film.

Nor was that the end of it. During the shoot, most of us on the unit had personal stills cameras. Between us we must have taken a huge number of shots, mostly of Baba, but also of the birthday celebrations in general and the amazing jamboree which it had spawned. When we were packing up to leave the ashram, Kit the camera assistant had suggested that instead of each individual taking their films to Boots or wherever to be processed and printed when we got back to England, we give them to him. He knew the people in the laboratories – they would be only too happy to process the stills for us as well as the movie and for free. It was a common, unofficial practice among film units.

Nobody got a single print out of it. The negatives of those stills also went missing along with the negative of the film. The situation was unheard of by anyone I ever met in the film business.

The result of all this was that after the initial showing of the film on PBS in the US, neither it, nor the images taken of Baba at the time by the crew, were ever seen again. What had Baba told Naseem? – at first many will see it; after that, very few. The last news I had of the film was that at least one copy existed, and that in Puttaparthi. It was reputed that Baba himself commonly used it during instruction for his students. That may be the case. But I have never had confirmation of  it.
--- end extract ---

8) Postscript to Sai Baba. Who or what was he anyway?, https://besonian.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/postscript-to-sai-baba-who-or-what-was-he-anyway/, December 28, 2011

This post deals with an interaction with a new devotee (given a pseudonym of Gill), (in the mid 1990s) 20 years after the above mentioned film was made. Gill went through some serious psychological problems and when looking for a way out, came across Sathya Sai Baba teachings and devotee groups.

An extract:

She (Gill) had begun to despair of finding a way out her problems when someone chanced to mention a ‘holy man’ in southern India – a man  named Sai Baba. He, it was said, had a reputation for being able to help the troubled and the oppressed – among whose numbers she surely counted herself. She had researched him, liked what she discovered, joined a local South London Sai Baba group and had become immersed in his teachings to the point where, by the time of her conversation with John, she accounted herself a devotee. This man, she told him, had changed her life. John himself told me he wasn’t quite sure how the guy had managed that at a distance of six thousand miles but he was in no doubt that something in her had changed fundamentally and for the better.

Gill, not unnaturally, was fascinated not just by Baba’s teachings but by the man himself. She was desperately keen to go out to India and actually get a glimpse of him. When John told her that a friend of his had actually made a film of Sai Baba at his ashram in Puttaparthi, she couldn’t wait to meet up with me.

Some days later, the three of us met in a pub in West London. I related some of the events I have covered in the earlier parts of this blog. Gill sat and listened as though mesmerized. And what, I then asked her, was it about Baba which, without any direct contact, had brought about a change where therapy and all the advice from friends and relatives had failed?

Her answer contained stuff with which I was by now very familiar – nothing concrete, nothing that could be effectively expressed in terms that would make much sense in a discussion around a dinner table. It was a feeling, gained by being around and with people who had met him and who had been devotees, some of them for a very long time and who seemed perhaps to pass on from him some aura of goodness, tolerance and love; a feeling gained by reading about him and hearing just some of his reported sayings – ‘There is only one religion – the religion of love’: ‘My miracles are the mosquito on the back of the elephant; I give you what you want so that you may come to want what I have come to give’. And the one which she felt spoke directly to her, ‘Shed just one tear and I will wipe away a hundred from your eyes’: – and so on and so on. From all this she had built up a very powerful sense of a presence not limited perhaps by space or time which carried about it – I’m reluctant to reduce Baba to ‘him’ or ‘her’ – a massive, all-enveloping charge of something totally positive, limitlessly good and completely reassuring; a knowledge that – to employ the words of a famous medieval English mystic – ‘all will be well’. And that is irresistible.
--- end extract ---

Concluding paragraph of post:
A lot of people have asked me who or what I thought Sai Baba was. The only honest answer is that I have no answer. I saw what I saw, I felt what I felt. I’ve seen others go through the same experience and the same subsequent intellectual and emotional turmoil. And that is as much and as little as I can say. Where would I – where would any of us – find the resources appropriate to making an assessment of a being so way beyond our understanding? It would be a bit like using the beam of a torch in order to try and locate the torch.
--- end extract ---

Jeff Grant permission for using his posts on this blog post

Note that Jeff Grant over email has indicated to me that he is OK with my usage of extracts from his posts on Sathya Sai Baba, (provided) that I will use "it only in the service of Baba and his work".

I felt it appropriate to reproduce my assurance to him (over email) in this regard:

Yes - I will use your material only for Baba's mission as I understand it. Let me elaborate that a little so that there is no confusion. I think Baba's mission involves reinforcing Sathya (truth), Dharma (ethical life), Shanti (peace) & Prema (love) in the world, along with rejuvenating faith in God as a spiritual force (across all religions and spiritual paths) that responds to prayer, at times (suitable times, I guess, but I have no precise idea as to the basis of when God/Divine force decides to respond to prayer), though the response may not be exactly how the person who prayed wanted it but would nonetheless help the person. And also reinforcing belief in Karma/Divine Judgement which is an important aspect of almost all, if not all, mainstream religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism etc.) - this makes people become more responsible as they realize that even if they are able to get away with unethical behaviour in worldly society, they will be made to pay for it by God/Divine power. I have heard Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba say, so many times, live in the Hall in Prasanthi Nilayam where I would be usually seated when Bhagavan was giving discourses from Oct. 2002 to Mar 2011 when I was part of the ashram system while Bhagavan was in living form: "Daiva Preeti, Paap Bheeti, Sangha Neeti" [English translation: (To) love God, fear sin, follow ethics of (your) community]. That was his simple but powerful mantra for people to lead good and meaningful and happy lives.

Further, I have absolutely no profit motive in the posts about this matter that I will publish on my blog and Facebook - and this applies to the future too. Ever since I created the blogs & Facebook account, they are free for anybody to access and I have not monetized them. And I will not be monetizing these blogs & my Facebook account in future. [If at all I get into such commercial work later, I will do it on new & separate blogs and a different Facebook account.]
--- end extract from my email response to Jeff Grant ---

I am very thankful to Jeff Grant for his posts on Sathya Sai Baba and for allowing me to use extracts from his posts on this free post of mine.
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11th Jan. 2020 Update

Given below is a screenshot of Jeff Grant mail to me approving of the above post contents and not wanting any changes (Grant was OK with me sharing his response). Note that one unrelated sentence in Grant's response has been blanked out.

[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.]



The text part of the exchange from the screenshot is given below:

I (Ravi S. Iyer) wrote on 6th Jan. 2020 [Ravi: It was 12:15 AM on 7th Jan. 2020 Indian Standard Time as per mail timestamp seen on my PC in Puttaparthi, India, and which would have been 6th Jan. 2020 evening in UK]:
Dear Jeff,

I have put up the second post on my blog here: https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2020/01/british-filmmaker-jeff-grants-2011-blog.html and on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2716165788599981.

I have given below the above mentioned blog post contents. Do feel free to discuss any changes you would like. Once again, thanks a ton.

[This was followed by the blog post contents]
---

Jeff Grant responded on 8th Jan. 2020:
Great post, Ravi! I like it. I have nothing to add or to ask you to change or subtract. It's very long but it holds the interest all the way through. And you've included enough links to keep me occupied for quite a while.

Brilliant. And thank you for including my experiences in such a comprehensive manner. All fascinating and very rewarding. It brings it all back in quite a graphic fashion. [Blanked out sentence]

Take care,

Jeff
--- end text of exchange in screenshot ---

I thanked Jeff Grant for his co-operation.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

2018 University of Birmingham, UK report says evidence from NGOs & others show 'abductions and forced conversions (to Islam) are one of the most serious problems facing Hindu and Christian women and girls' in Sindh, Pakistan

Last updated on 7th Jan. 2020 
Please note that I am NOT anti-Muslim and have great respect for peaceful and law-abiding Muslims of India. I am simply highlighting some bad practices among some Muslims in Pakistan where they persecute religious minorities. I also feel it appropriate to state my belief here: Ishwar Maalik! Allah Maalik! Yesu Maalik! Sabka Maalik Ek![Ishwar is the Lord! Allah is the Lord! Yesu (Jesus) is the Lord! The Lord of all is one!]

The University of Birmingham report is titled, "Forced Conversions and Forced Marriages in Sindh, Pakistan" and seems to have been published in 2018 (its Copyright statement is dated 2018). The Executive Summary of the report is only 4 pages. Here's the 44 page full document link: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-artslaw/ptr/ciforb/Forced-Conversions-and-Forced-Marriages-in-Sindh.pdf.

The main author is Reuben Ackerman, from CIFoRB, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.

The other contributors are:
Javaid Rehman, Professor of Law, Brunel Law School, Brunel University London, UK.
and
Morris Johns, All Party Parliamentary Group for Pakistani Minorities, UK

I have given below an extract from the Executive Summary of the study/report:

It has been estimated that 1000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted, forcibly converted and then married off to their abductors every year (ref The Aurat Foundation and the Movement for Solidary and Peace (MSP)). Former vice-chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Amarnath Motual, notes that 20 or more Hindu girls are abducted every month in Pakistan. [2] The volunteer group, Responsible for Equality and Liberty, also estimate that between 20 to 25 Hindu girls are forcibly converted every month.[3]

Pakistan has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), of which Article 16 confirms the right of every woman to enter into marriage ‘only with their free and full consent’.[4] Pakistan has ratified the Child Rights Convention, of which Article 14 (1) states that state parties need to respect the right of children to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.[5]

As argued by Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, the state has responsibility to provide protection against individuals or organisations that try to convert people by resorting to means of coercion or by directly exploiting situations of particular vulnerability. ‘They also have a responsibility to ensure that forced conversions do not occur in the context of marriage or marriage negotiations.’ [6]

However, as this report shows, Pakistan is failing to fulfil their obligations under these international treaties to protect the rights of vulnerable minorities from forced conversions and forced marriages.

The reality of forced conversions and forced marriages in Pakistan

In most cases the victim is abducted and is then subjugated to sustained emotional and physical abuse often involving threats of violence towards their loved ones.

Evidence provided by numerous NGOs, journalists and academics have shown that abductions and forced conversions are one of the most serious problems facing Hindu and Christian women and girls.

Minorities often do not receive the protection required from state institutions and lack access to justice [7]. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that the police often turn a blind eye to reports of abduction and forced conversions thereby creating impunity for perpetrators. The police will often either refuse to record a First Information Report or falsify the information, thereby denying families the chance to take their case any further. Both the lower and higher courts of Pakistan have failed to follow proper procedures in cases that involve accusations of forced marriage and forced conversions. The judiciary are often subject to fear of reprisal from extremist elements, in other cases the judicial officers’ personal beliefs influence them into accepting the claims made that the woman/girl converted on her own free will.

There is often no investigation into the circumstances under which the conversion takes place and the age of the girl is often ignored. The girl/woman involved is largely left in the custody of her kidnapper throughout the trial process where she is subject to further threats to force her into denying her abduction and rape and claiming that the conversion was willing.

Many religious institutions, local mosques and seminaries fail to investigate the nature of the conversion or the age of the bride and mostly simply accept the word of the abductor. Some organisations, like Minhaj-ul-quran, routinely and as a matter of official policy, encourage the practice of converting members of minority communities by offering rewards for successful conversions. They say that it is the equivalent of Haj-e-Akbari, or the greatest religious duty to Muslims.[8]

[References:
2 Submission to UNOHCHR during Pakistan’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review, p. 5 http://unpo.org/downloads/2075.pdf

3 REAL, Pakistan, http://www.realcourage.org/2010/03/pakistan-25-hindu-girls-abducted-everymonth/ [accessed 3/9/2017] [Ravi: Link seems to be protected now and so not accessible - 4th Jan. 2020]

4 UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, ‘Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’ http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm [accessed 3/9/2017] [Ravi: Link is broken when I checked on 4th Jan. 2020]

5 UNOHCHR, ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx [accessed 2/9/2017]

6 Heiner Bielefeldt, Freedom of Religion and Belief: Thematic Reports of the UN Special Rapporteur 2010-2016, 2nd Edn (Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft, 2017), p. 112.

7 HRCP, Belief and relief access to justice for religious minorities (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 2014) p. 11. http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Access-tojustice-for-religious-minorities-Expert-Group-Report.pdf [Ravi: Link is broken when I checked on 4th Jan. 2020]

8 Asian Human Rights Commission, “Pakistan: Another Hindu Girl Forcibly Converted to Islam After Being Abducted,” 9/1/2007, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2158/ [accessed 7/7/2017]

end-References]
--- end extract from Executive Summary of University of Birmingham report ---

The section titled, "Socio-economic and cultural position of those vulnerable to attack" on Page 7 of the report shows how many of these Pakistani Hindus come from historically suppressed Hindu castes (Dalits). But there are other non-Dalit Hindus too in this area.

The section mentions that these Hindus are a large part of Sindh's landless bonded labour which service the agriculture and brick kilns of Sindh - the backbone of the Sindh economy. Note that officially bonded labour has been outlawed in Sindh but in reality that continues in some form, as per the report.

Given below is an extract from that section of the report:
The situation of bonded labour places people in a virtually powerless position vis-à-vis those who own their labour. For example, 14-year-old Jeevti from Sindh, the daughter of Hindu bonded labourers, was abducted in the middle of the night from the family’s home by the landlord. She was converted to Islam and forcibly married to the landlord as his second wife because he claimed that the family owed him $1000.

The girl’s mother went to the police and the courts and they did nothing to act against the influential and powerful man despite the fact that Jeevti stated that she had no idea what was in the police documents which included an affidavit that she had converted and married of her own free will. [22]

Hindus, both Dalits and non-Dalits, even if they aren’t in bonded labour, are forced into low-status jobs that many Muslims refuse to take, such as sweeping streets or sewage cleaning.[23] This shows that the government has clearly failed to remove discrimination in jobs. This lack of socioeconomic power perpetuates the weak position of Hindus in society.

[Refs:
22. ‘They Always Choose the Prettiest’: How Girls are Enslaved for Debt Payment in Pakistan,’ 23/12/2016, Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/they-alwayschoose-the-prettiest-how-girls-are-enslaved-for-debt-payment-inpakistan/articleshow/56137395.cms [accessed 06/09/2017] [Ravi: Link is broken when I checked on 4th Jan. 2020. But I found a similar article here about the same case: ‘Modern slaves’: In south Pak, Hindu girls are snatched away for debt payment, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/modern-slaves-in-south-pakistan-girls-are-snatched-away-for-debt-payment/story-B9gZgDucV3ynpTjpXzSHdO.html, 23rd Dec. 2016. ]

23 Javiad Rehman, ‘Pakistan’ in Durham et al. (eds.), Encylopedia of Law and Religion (Brill-Nijhoff, 2016) ]
--- end extract from section of report ---

[I thank University of Birmingham and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extract from their report on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]
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5th Jan. Update.

Here is Indian cricket star Harbhajan Singh's recent tweet content and the tweet it shares:

"Awal Alaaah noor upaya, kudrat k sab bandhe, Ek Noor te jagg peya upjeya,kon bhalle ko Mandhe..apas mai ladne se koi masla hal nahi hoga..pyar se sarre masle hal hote hai🙏 dhan guru Nanak bhul chuk maff kari.. sab tere bandhe 🙏", https://twitter.com/harbhajan_singh/status/1213510300206387205

[Text content of shared tweet: https://twitter.com/ShahabSpeaks/status/1213460567010267142, which has a video of the person speaking in Urdu/Punjabi: "The person who uttered objectionable words against Sikhs yesterday apologises today for his misconduct.

Says Gurdwara has never and will never be attacked. Muslims and Sikhs live like brothers and will continue doing so."]

I shared the above Harbhajan Singh tweet with following introduction/share text of mine: "Wonderful to see this development of the person who made the atrocious statements against Nankana Sahib and Sikh community there, withdrawing it and seeking forgiveness. May God give him strength and keep him on peaceful Islam path living in peace with Sikh community there.", https://twitter.com/RaviSaiIyer/status/1213699577758404609

Perhaps Pakistan PM, Mr. Imran Khan, and/or his office had noted the tweet of Harbhajan Singh (I am quite sure they have both played in same cricket matches but representing Pakistan and India respectively), and initiated some action resulting in this apology and goodwill to Sikhs statement of the person. If so, Mr. Imran Khan must be thanked and congratulated for this wonderful work of his towards improving inter-religious harmony in Pakistan.

---- end 5th Jan Update ----

Additional info. from a recent Facebook post of mine,  https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2712529438963616, which is relevant to this matter:

Watch: Pak man threatens to take over Nankana Sahib, rename it Ghulam Ali Mustafa, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/news/watch-pak-man-threatens-to-take-over-nankana-sahib-rename-it-ghulam-ali-mustafa/videoshow/73087635.cms, 3rd Jan. 2020.

This shows the unfortunate reality of religious discrimination against minorities in Pakistan. In this case it is the Sikhs who are the target of discrimination.

Additional background to this matter is that as per this article, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/muslims-mob-attack-gurdwara-nankana-sahib-with-stones/articleshow/73088062.cms, updated on 4th Jan. 2020, the local Muslims were resentful of local Sikhs (in Pakistan) opposition to alleged forcible conversion of a Sikh girl (daughter of some person associated with one of the Gurudwaras of the area) to Islam and her (forcible) marriage to a Muslim boy.

Since I became an adult (in 1980) and was reading up/aware of such matters as reported in Indian mainstream media, I have never ever heard of any similar case in India of a girl of a minority religion (Muslim or Christian or Sikh or Buddhist or Jain or Zoroastrian/Parsee or Jew) being abducted and converted to the majority religion (Hinduism) and being forced to marry a Hindu.

I find it hard to imagine life as a minority religious community person in  Pakistan. I mean girls being abducted and forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim boys! That is utterly horrific.

Now this may be happening only in rural areas in Pakistan and not in the major cities. But wherever such things happen, they are utterly horrific.

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Given below are my comments (slightly edited) from my Facebook post,  https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2713159192233974, associated with this blog post:

In response to a comment, I wrote:
Noted your comments. They are into very sensitive zones which I very much hesitate to enter.
My focus on the post was on some Muslims in Pakistan who engage in this horrific religious persecution. I don't think all Muslims in Pakistan engage in such stuff.

Further, there are, and have been for decades, large number of Indian workers and (white collar) staff in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain etc. but I never heard of such cases of abduction of Hindu or Christian girls and women in such countries either from the Indian workers/staff & their families or from other countries' workers/staff & their families.

So Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and which has the two holiest sites of Islam, Mecca and Medina, does not have this horrific stuff today but Pakistan does! So the problem that I have highlighted seems to be an issue with some parts of Pakistani Islamic society (and perhaps that happens to lesser or more degree in some parts of Afghanistani Islamic society and Bangladeshi Islamic society too) but not Saudi Arabian Islam(ic society) or, in general, Arab Islam(ic society), today. That is a terrible blot on today's Pakistan, and if that happens in today's Afghanistan and today's Bangladesh, then on them too.

Shirdi Sai Baba used to often say, 'Allah Malik'. From outward appearance he was like a Muslim fakir. But he encouraged worship of God in Hindu as well as Muslim ways (and perhaps other ways too like Parsi/Zoroastrian).

I hope and pray that more and more Shirdi Sai Baba like teachers appear amongst our Muslim brothers and sisters in the world so that there is peace and harmony between our Muslim brothers and sisters, and followers of all other (mainstream) religions.
...
I would like to add that Indonesia and Malaysia are both Muslim majority countries in South East Asia and where Hindu minorities live (and I guess there would be Christian minorities too in these countries). I don't think Indonesia and Malaysia have this horrific problem of abduction of girls & women of minorities and forced conversion to Islam, and forced marriage to Muslim men. I mean, there are much more advanced and safer for minorities Islamic countries in the world than Pakistan! Pakistan perhaps needs to learn from them and get out of such horrific practices.
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Given below are some of my tweet responses on my tweet thread,  https://twitter.com/RaviSaiIyer/status/1213401228354281473, related to this post:

Bro. It is a half hour video and the language in the intro text part is very aggressive. That's something I am not so comfortable about. BTW the blog post: https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2020/01/2018-university-of-birmingham-uk-report.html has an update you may want to see.
...
I saw part of it. It is an argument in a very charged atmosphere. Such arguments may be good for TV audiences and so money but perhaps not so good for improving understanding of the situ. Note that Shirdi Sai Baba preached unity of Hindus & Muslims in late 1800s and early 1900s.
...
Bro. There is a lot of unpleasant sathyam in all religions including Hinduism. Don't forget that. I hope you are not anti-Muslim. If so, that is a serious concern for me. Jai Sai Ram!
...
Good. Following Sathya Sai (or Shirdi Sai) teachings with respect to Islam is safe. They are ***divine*** teachings going beyond politics and power-craze driven violence in religions. Sathya Sai has spoken a lot about Shirdi Sai. All the best.
...
Good share. Had read it earlier but was good to read it again. You are on right track, IMHO. Calling out bad acts of some people indulging in violent and criminal acts of religious discrimination (e.g. abduction of girls, forcible conversion and forcible marriage) is good ... ... as such bad acts should be resisted. But tarring the whole religious community with the same brush because of some bad actors is wrong.
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