Age of Kali – On Sati And History

“Despite my general opposition to the British Raj, I very much like Sir Charles Napier’s reply to Indians defending suttee: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.” – Masked Avenger

I figured that this was a good time to deal with an interesting part of history. Let us say this. Atheists know precious little about Indian culture or Hinduism. What we know about Islam in general is rather appalling and Hinduism? Well let us just say that when I started out? When I looked for “Ex-Hindu Atheists” the only place I found was the then silent Nirmukhta. I started writing because I saw no one else represent a group of atheists who are small but who do have a different view on the issues and different issues with the views.

I am an atheist. A pretty strong one. However? I also grew up Hindu. It is part of me. My girlfriend (Hera) still goes to the Temple and believes even if I do not. And I do not begrudge her or bemoan her faith. I think if we know the truth about our old religions we can take on the wisdom and ignore the ignorance. And one such is Sati.

Sati to me is a puzzling thing to discuss.

[Read more…]

Demonic Yoga

I often am irritated by the yoga brigade. Yes, yoga is a great exercise. I like it for that. Yes, meditation has benefits, we have seen some scientific evidence for the calming effects of meditationg. We aren’t saying Yoga lets you shoot fire and meditation lets you access a higher plane of consciousness. We are just saying that these are good exercise both physical and mental.

So it is rather puzzling when Christians buy into the magic powers aspect of “yoga”. [Read more…]

Denigration of Yoga

Yoga is a “big deal”.

Let us get this straight. Yoga in it’s modern form is nothing like it’s origins. Which is fine, boxing is not like it’s origins either and fencing hasn’t resulted in deaths recently.

Yoga is in effect a series of stretching exercises, resistance training and callisthenics that build up the flexibility of the body. It’s not magic, it’s basic common sense. It is however a Hindu tradition and steeped in “Ideas” that are based on Hindu tradition such as meditation and the idea of exercise to bring calm and peace.

In a nutshell when we go to the gym rather than pounding rhythm, Yoga is about building your body through holding awkward poses that strengthen the muscle. In effect your body is your resistance and weights. [Read more…]

Atheism is Justified

It’s rare to see Hindus bash atheists but they do so rarely. This it’s that our Atheism isn’t Justified according to the Hindustan Times.

I have taken five reasons why people don’t have faith in the existence of God. The first reason is the low or nil success rate of our prayers. Everyone prays from time to time, but our prayers are not always answered. We have many questions regarding God and generally about spiritual matters, but we are unable to get satisfactory answers. Scriptures appear quite mythical. God appears very distant even to persons who regularly do many rituals. And many exploit others in the name of religion/God by promising quick fix solutions.

No. These things create doubts in religion, but the ultimate reason is that there is no evidence for a god and scripture appearing mythical is a euphemism

But are these reasons good enough and valid? Are they based on facts? Judge for yourself. Let us start with the first reason, i.e. the poor success rate of our prayers. Let me give some examples. A student has not studied properly and he is praying for success in exam. A partisan fan prays for his team’s success. A gambler prays for winning a lot of money. Should these prayers be acceded to? The rule regarding prayers is very simple: if the cause is deserving, God generally helps.

Yet there are students who pray who pass their exams. There are fans who pray and get a team win. There are gamblers who win.

India is home to some of the poorest people on the planet and god doesn’t answer their prayers. Either this means that the gods do not exist or that your god thinks lottery wins are more important than starving people. There are plenty of deserving causes that god chooses to ignore.

Now let us take the second reason for lack of faith in God. Human beings are inquisitive by nature, because they are intelligent species. Unfortunately, we either don’t ask from experts or try to find answers within ourselves. The third cause for disbelief in God is equally unacceptable. This is regarding scriptures. Who wrote them? Did God write them? No, human beings did this. Are they conveying exactly what God had said in the past? The fourth excuse is equally fallacious.

Except the experts in religion regularly say things that are plain idiotic and are responsible in the case of Hinduism of a hegemony of oppression that is only now starting to crumble. If scriptures are fallible due to the humans who wrote them then so are the so called experts you claim who know the true meaning of “scripture and faith”. And the gods appear distant because they are non existent.

God is not distant for persons who follow His instructions to know Him. We cannot invent our own system and hope to know God. The last reason is extremely unfortunate. Fraudulent persons have done a lot of disservice to  humanity by making a business of cheating the innocent public in the name of God.

Even if you chanted the Vedas and sacrificed ghee you would not be able to appease a non-existent being. You may pray for the health of your loved ones but you still check your blood pressure at a clinic.

So what is the conclusion? Is atheism justified?

Until you can prove without contention using empirical evidence that your god exists, a skeptical viewpoint is not only justified but also the logical norm.

Greatest Show on Earth – Kumbh Mela

If you hadn’t already heard, I was at the Kumbh Mela for 3 days.

What is the Kumbh Mela? It’s arguably the biggest religious event in the Hindu calendar occurring every 12 years and it’s a ridiculously oversized event. This year 30 million people converged on the town of Allahabad.

I was planning to cut lose and photograph stuff but since the camera was damaged (don’t worry, I have earmarked a nice little camera to pick up when I am back home in May.) but more than an equaliser the mela is an entirely different world of faith, poverty and humanity.

IMHO it is poorly managed. It’s mass of humanity is astonishing. 30 Million People is a enough to populate most countries let alone a small town. The facilities are lousy. The streets are filthy.

I have said this to people everywhere but here especially I mean it the most. In India you will see the absolute best of humanity and the absolute worst of humanity. I shared food with someone who saw that I had worked 8 hours straight, they found out I just finished my exams the day before and treated me to a little bit of their dinner and some sweets they had. I saw rich people help poor people when they wouldn’t normally have in any other part of India. I saw the weird side of Hinduism in the Naga Sadhus (not to be confused with the Naga Khmer).

I also saw the bad side of it. Open toilet facilities that were little more than holes in the ground (let’s just say I didn’t really eat for 3 days lest I required to take a poop as the toilet facilities terrified me). Many of these were not even covered so they spread flies and disease and were often in full view of public access (even the women’s facilities).

And it was weird, I never got asked for money. Just for food and water. At the Kumbh money has no meaning since water and food are more valuable. A couple held onto my legs as I walked recognising the white coat and stethoscope I carried to work. I didn’t understand what they wanted then but someone later told me that their child had gotten lost and they hoped I could have found it. It sounds silly to assume that a doctor (in their minds) somehow had the power to find their child where others had not in the seething mass that was the Mela.

You can share what water and what food you had but you would get mobbed. There are too many to share with and you do what you can. I heard the people who had helped feed the pilgrims often fed them by the thousand. I didn’t keep count on the number of patients I saw but on day 1 I slept like a brick when I finished my shift. This was the India that people never see because it was so poor.

There is nothing like this in any other faith, Hinduism’s unique position as the last “old” religion left means it is unique and different to the ones we are familiar with. Check out these photos. They are absolutely stunning. (I know many of you don’t click links but Do It… Consider this Doctor’s Orders)

So I did something weird, on my last day there I woke up early and told myself that I would get to sleep on my flight and made my way down to the river where I was to take a bath myself. I certainly looked the part of a pilgrim with my hair shaved that morning in just a pair of trunks. It was cold and it certainly wasn’t pleasant or clean. The water is murky and polluted. Many pilgrims were drinking this stuff and I knew by the sheer number of cases of diarrhoea and dysentery that it was a “poor idea”. To think that this would wash your sins away is laughable but I still did it because I could.

I left feeling ambivalent.

And then I saw the news. In order to control a crowd of poor pilgrims who broke through barriers that had overcrowded them, Police responded with a batons (in India they are called lathis) which caused a stampede killing 32.

Those who lost loved ones poured the water they had collected from the sacred river at this most sacred of events onto the bodies of those they lost because they believed that it would bring them back to life…