Prayers and God’s will

  

 

Doctor, how is my brother ? 

He is not at all doing well. Now it’s up to prayers and God.
When dealing with near and dear ones of critically ill people, I have heard many health care professionals saying this. Even some doctors/nurses who do not believe in prayers or a theist God ( the one who interferes for us hearing prayers)  practice it. For doing that they have an explanation. 

Why should we extinguish all their hopes? 
Is it ethical to tell some one that prayers which is proven to be ineffective or a mythical concept called God can possibly help them ? Does such an approach help ? 
It’s true that some patients recover miraculously even though chances of recovery was considered almost nil. They recover because of some factor that helped her recover was over looked or is yet to be known to science. Science and its practitioners very well know this fact and that is why we never say there is no chance of recovery. We always convey that chances of recovery is very slim. So we never extinguish all hopes. 
But by saying only prayers/God can help is like giving false hopes. There is zero proof that prayers are useful. Same stands for God.  So by saying prayers/God can help, you are misleading them. 
After hearing those words, if they foolishly wanted to shift the patient from intensive care to a shrine of worship for prayers you can only blame yourself.
Hearing that if another member of the family got sick , and if they decided only prayers to God is enough, again you cannot absolve from your guilt. 
When men of science give such prominence to irrational methods in every day life , ordinary people tend to become irrational to the core. They will start to believe in faith healing and sorcery. 

Now another scenario. Sudden unexpected death in a family. 
Reaction may be like this. 
“Sorry to hear your parents and brother was killed in that accident. 
It’s all fate. Pre determined. We can’t change it”. 
Or 
“Sorry to hear your parents and brother was killed in that accident. 
God calls back those who are dearest to him early !” 
Imagine this is about that recent fatal accident of German wings airline. 
Is that accident pre-determined ? Are all such accidental deaths pre-determined? Are all deaths pre-determined ? Then there is no point in trying to prevent them. 
Similary if God have special fondness for some people should we mourn their death ? Why should we treat and prevent the re-union of a gravely injured person and God by treating him ? 
But we, as a society try to do everything to prevent such deaths. We fight against fate and God’s will. 
 Now take that case of that German wings incident. Actually it was not an accident. It was cold blooded murder of all passengers by the suicidal co-pilot. If you consider it as fate, or God’s will, then we need not do anything. No need for strengthening of medical check ups of pilots. No need to provide special keys to pilots so that a pilot cannot lock the other one outside the cockpit. 
Concepts like pre-determinism and God’s will are not good ideas. They give us easy, but wrong explanations for questions. If you are satisfied with such fake explanations and stop your search for real ones , you will never find out reasons for things happening around us. If human society as a whole throughout its existence  were believing in pre-determinism, there would never have been any progress from hunter gatherer era. 
It’s Rationalism and disbelief in lazy explanations of fate that fuelled the flourishing of human society.  Now even in this 21st century , it’s the laziness of those who want to believe in god’s will that is retarding our progress. 
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Why I do not want Modi to become India’s Prime minister

It is Parliament election time in India. The right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the front runner and is assured of getting more seats in Parliament than other political parties. According to the opinion polls BJP lead alliance may get close to absolute majority. BJP is projecting Narendra Modi as the Prime minister. So if the opinion pollsters are right he will be Indian Prime minister by end of next month.
As the title of the post suggests I do not want Modi to be Indian Prime minister.
Let me try to explain rationally why I do not want him as Prime minister or BJP as the ruling party.

1. As an atheist and a rationalist I do not want a right wing political party founded on religious and national pride to rule my country.
BJP is a political party based on Hindutva ideology. It is the political wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the RSS.

What does RSS stand for?
“The Hindu culture is the life-breath of Hindusthan. It is therefore clear that if Hindusthan is to be protected, we should first nourish the Hindu culture”.

No rationalist can support politics based on religion.

2. BJP being a religion based party stand for many irrational things. See some of these excerpts from BJP manifesto.
“Ram Mandir: BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya”

“Cow and its Progeny: In view of the contribution of cow and its progeny to agriculture, socio-economic and cultural life of our country, the Department of Animal Husbandry will be suitably strengthened and empowered for the protection and promotion of cow and its progeny. Necessary legal framework will be created to protect and promote cow and its progeny.”

Ram is a Hindu god and Cow (not buffalo or goat) is a considered as sacred in Hinduism.
How can a rationalist support them?

3. BJP’s PM hopeful Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat when a genocide like situation happened. Gujarat riots were the most violent of all riots of 21st century in India. More than a thousand were killed, a large majority being minority Muslims, including a Member of Parliament. The riots occurred after the burning down of a railway coach and death of around 60 people who were a part of Viswa Hindu Parishad’s (an RSS affiliate) pilgrimage tour. The cause of the fire is still not clear, but probably occurred after a skirmish between Muslim vendors and RSS activists at the Godhra railway station.
Before starting of any enquiry, even before a first information report was filed by local police, Modi reached the site of tragedy and declared it is a conspiracy. He said:
“It (burning of the Sabarmati Express) was a pre-planned act. The culprits will have to pay for it. It was not communal violence. It was a violent, one-sided, collective act by only one community.”

A very irrational and dangerous statement deliberately made to instigate violence on minority Muslim community.
The following days saw large scale violence against Muslims all over Gujarat, with the Modi controlled Police not being much effective in protecting the life and property of citizens.
How can a rationalist support such a person who deliberately instigated violence in name of religion? He becoming PM can result in further riots and deaths of innocent lives. It is true that in India, most political parties indulge in tactics which may promote religion based violence. But the main instigator was always been RSS and its affiliated organizations, because majority religion always benefits from religious divide of society.

4. BJP being a religion/nationalism based party has its own distorted view of history which is in much variance from the actual history.
Here is what historian D.N Jha has to say about distorting history by Hindutva forces:
“The quest for India’s national identity through the route of Hindu religious nationalism began in the nineteenth century and has continued ever since. In recent years, however, it has received an unprecedented boost from those communal forces which brought a virulent version of Hindu cultural chauvinism to the centre stage of contemporary politics and produced a warped perception of India’s past. This is evident from the indigenist propaganda writings which support the myth of Aryan autochthony, demonise Muslims and Christians, and propagate the idea that India and Hinduism are eternal.”
Can a rationalist support a political party whose core ideology is based on distorted history?
5. BJP being a faith based political party staunchly supports god men and women, who fool the naïve believers by selling spirituality. Leaders in spiritual business like Sri Sri Ravisankar, Baba Ramdev and Mata Amrithanandamayi support BJP and BJP supports them strongly. Rationalists who question these god men are many a time physically assaulted by BJP cadre.
6. RSS, the force behind BJP is a men’s only club holding medieval patriarchal values. For RSS, role of women in society is only as good mothers and wives, nothing else.
I can come out with many more reasons for not supporting Narendra Modi, but these are the core issues.
I will conclude by saying a vote for Modi/BJP is a vote for a faith/hyper nationalism based Government which will actively promote divisiveness in society, irrational beliefs, patriarchy and distorts history.
That is why I do not support BJP/Modi.

Links
RSS
BJP Manifesto
History distortion
on Gujarat riots

Holy Hell of an Ashram

This post written by me was first published in Taslima Nasrin’s blog here

It has been few weeks since the book written by former disciple of the so called hugging saint Amrithanandamayi has started making waves in social media in Kerala in south India. The book named “Holy Hell, A memoir of faith devotion and pure madness” is written by Gail Tredwell, a former devotee and close assistant of Sudhamani (Amrithanandamayi). The book reveals the dirty underbelly of the Ashram with revelations of rape, sexual encounters between Sudhamani and her senior “celibate” swamis, financial irregularities and cut throat rivalries between those in the Spirituality business. By contrast the mainstream media, always hungry for controversies and scandals, strangely remained silent until the Ashram made its first public statement of denial. Though there is no definite proof of veracity of revelations, the book it seems to me is a highly credible account of her experiences at the ashram.

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Gail Tredwell was born and educated in Australia. Coming from a dysfunctional family background, she reached India on an Asian tour in search of elusive happiness and meaning of life. She was 19 when she landed in India in 1978. Falling instantly in love with Indian spirituality, she began her search for a guru to show her the way to salvation. Finally in 1980, her search ended as she became a devotee and assistant of Sudhamani. Sudhamani was then called Ammachi and was a member of fishermen community near Kollam in South Kerala. During those days she used to act as Krishna and Devi (gods of Hinduism) at her family shrine and bless devotees by hugging. Her fame spread as there were stories of her performing miracles. As the disciples increased, including some people of white skin, her popularity surged. An Ashram was constructed and later she became Mata Amrithanandamayi as she proclaimed herself to be a saint. By the time the disillusioned Gail Tredwell left the Ashram after 20 years of devoted service, the mutt has grown up to a multimillion dollar empire comprising of several branches all over the world, hospitals, several colleges and schools and even a deemed University.
With in 2 years of service at Ashram, Tredwell came to know about one of the lies that are being spread about Sudhamani. Her devotees where told that she is ‘pure’ and do not have menstruation. But one day Tredwell was witness to the event. See how she describe it in her book
For a moment I was in shock. But I let it go. This discovery did not affect my faith. It made me feel trusted and special. She had her menstruation every month from that day onward, and I did my best to help her conceal the fact. I always knew it was a secret. Not once did it ever cross my mind that it was a lie. I was so wound up in my devotion and in holding onto my dream position that the full implications of the deception were lost on me. I either blocked out or completely forgot the truth. Her biography clearly stated that she was“pure.” Amma obviously knew this claim to be incorrect. She allowed it to be published anyhow”.
Tredwell was in such a blind devotional trance that she could not understand this as plain deception. Also this underlines the patriarchal basis of Indian Spirituality, were a menstruating woman could not be called a saint.
Tredwell describes how the second in command of the Ashram, Balu raped her several times. Why she never reported it to Amma? She explains.
“I tried to argue and plead my way out, but he was obsessed and relentless. I felt trapped. If I didn’t oblige, he would start sulking and acting weird. People would begin to wonder what was going on. If this ever came to light, I would be the one to suffer. I would be the one punished—not Balu. Amma had never shown any leniency to me before, so I had no reason to believe this time would be any different. The common notion in India is that Western women possess loose morals. I believed I would be blamed, possibly kicked out of the ashram, and most definitely no longer allowed to serve Amma. I knew I couldn’t live with such consequences. I felt I had no other choice but to succumb to his demands—to his manipulation“.
She also talk about sexual encounters between senior Swamis (who were supposed to be celibate) of the Ashram and Sudhamani. There are also vivid descriptions of the verbal abuse and physical assaults Tredwell and few other women disciples had to endure from Sudhamani.
Within a few months of getting my robes, history began repeating itself. Once more I was being hit, kicked, slapped, and thrown out of her room. She even invented a new form of punishment for me when she was really angry. Grabbing me by the throat with one hand, she would dig her nails
in and rip towards the center, scraping the skin as she went. I was then left with bright red scratch marks across my throat, and sometimes blood
”.
To a keen observer of such spiritual ashrams of India, the book is never shocking. Such tales has been told by several former disciples about gurus and swamis of all hues. It’s said that there are two types of spiritual gurus and god men. Those caught out as fake and those yet to be caught.
Most interesting about this book is how beautifully it reveals the mind of a theist. Gail Tredwell was convinced that there is a hidden meaning for life, which can only be revealed to her by a guru. She was in search of elusive happiness outside her material world. Though she receives setbacks after setbacks she remains convinced that all these bad experiences were there to test her devotion. See how she rationalizes the sexual encounters between Sudhamani and Swamis.
“I didn’t want to leave the ashram and give up what I believed to be the opportunity of many lifetimes. This was my life, my family, all I knew, and all I wanted. I had myself convinced that I was on the express train to God, and I couldn’t imagine being pushed off at full speed. In that moment I made a choice. I vowed myself to silence. Mustering every ounce of justification juice, I accepted this behavior as Amma’s way of “keeping it in the family.” Because she is one with God (I explained to myself), she’s beyond any form of human desire, longing, or attachment. She’s letting these senior fellows release any pent-up sexual frustration upon her as part of the bigger picture in her mission to save the world”.

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Gail Tredwell rationalized like this for 20 years, before she became wise enough to escape. Even then for several years she continued to suffer from severe mental trauma. Only now she could come out of her closet to write a memoire, to get everything out of her system. She writes
“I offer my story with the sincere hope that it will illustrate to spiritual seekers the downside of blind faith, and that surrender to a guru/teacher is sometimes mind control in disguise. Perhaps some readers will now recognize that they too have turned a blind eye to reality in order to protect their beliefs. I hope that those who doubt will feel free to question, those with questions will find answers, and those already suffering the wounds of betrayal and disillusionment will find consolation and validation.
Ultimately, I hope this book will empower those trapped in any form of abusive relationship or unhealthy situation to find the courage to step away and to trust that an amazing life awaits them—a life full of unexpected blessings and wonderful people”.

This book if widely read may slightly reduce the popularity of Mata Amrithanandamayi. But the vast majority of susceptible theists will continue their elusive quest for salvation, going from one guru to another. As long as there is demand, the product of spirituality will sell like hot cakes.
Scientifically speaking life happened spontaneously, not for some definite purpose. Bacteria, mosquitoes or cows do not worry about the aim of their lives. It’s the highly developed human brain that makes us think about aims of life. Gail Treadwell’s experiences underline the fact that one has to find one’s own meaning for life and find happiness ourselves. Humanistic ideals can serve as a guide, but ultimately we are on our own. No guru or mata can help you. Only the lazy theist waits for an elusive guru or become a fundamentalist believer of a book or prophet or a mythical god. A rationalist finds her way herself.

God’s grace, a theist way of saying I am lucky!

When they achieve some thing, Theists say “by god’s grace”.

Is it not strange that Theists praise the god when things go their way, but do not blame him, but just curse their ill luck when they are the victim? Or are they actually pointing out to the luck they had by praising god? So god=luck?
Do those theists who kill & rape also say “by god’s grace”?
What about their victims? Should they believe that God is angry with them?
#religion #hypocrisy

God, Religion and Selfishness

The other day I was discussing about God/Religion with my theist friend. He was arguing that if every one become atheists the World will become a very Selfish World.
Is that correct? Is the World or the Organisms residing in the World not selfish (or less selfish) because of their Beliefs in supernatural God?
I do not think so.
Doing good things to others just because you are afraid of ‘God”s punishment and to attain ‘heaven ‘ can be considered as one of the most selfish of all acts.
But still some people will say even if done for a selfish purpose, it is good.
I agree that people doing good things to others is good. But is it really because of God/religion? Is it because of unselfishness?
Non believers also do good things to others. What is the explanation for their noble acts?

In my opinion all living organisms in this World are selfish. All of them are seeking their own happiness. Happiness is a certain state of our Brain. We try to attain that state constantly.When we reach that state we automatically try to share our mood with others. Our body is hard wired to share ( or let others know) our emotions. That is why we smile/laugh when we are happy and cry when we are sad. Other wise there is no purpose for smile/tears.
When some one smile or laugh in front of you, automatically you tend to smile or laugh. Mirror neurones in our Brain are responsible for this behaviour. Thus happiness becomes infectious. Sorrow is also infectious like this.
When we help others we are trying to make others happy (smile/laugh). Their happiness in turn make us happy. So the primary purpose of doing good things to others is to make us happy, a very selfish motive.
This selfishness is a very good thing and has nothing to do with God/religion.

Beliefs and Children

Should parents force their children to follow their brand of Religion and God? On the other hand should parents force them to be an Atheist?

May be the just way is to explain to them about God/religion and Atheism. Encourage them to question everything including your own belief/non-belief. Give them books to read which explains the essence of religion and free thinking.
Let them choose their own path at their own time.

Is mainstream media victimising Hindus?

Many are seen complaining that mainstream Media is against Hinduism.Many others have the opposite view.They feel Islam is the number one enemy of the Media. Some also feel that media is against Christianity. What is the truth? Let me try to explain my view.

Many Hindus [I think]feel Hinduism is under attack when Sangh Parivar’s agenda is attacked by the media.They some how believe in the Sangh propaganda that attacking it is same as attacking Hinduism. Same is true of followers of other religion.When the sordid and murky happenings inside the convents are exposed,some Christians believe that Christianity is attacked. When Jihadi madrassas producing terrorists are attacked by the media many Muslims feel their religion is under attack.

As an organisation, mass Media which includes newspapers,magazines,TV Channels etc are established primarily for 2 reasons. Main aim is to make profit to the owners. At the same time the owners will try to propagate their point of view [politics and or religion]. So no Media is neutral.They basically try to make maximum money by selling the owners politics.Wise owners will try not to push their point of view too much so as not to jeopardise the profits.

As a reader in Kerala the National Newspapers which I follow are The Hindu and The New Indian Express. The Hindu is evidently anti-BJP while the Indian Express is pro-BJP. That is their political view. But they try to convey news in a neutral fashion so that the Circulation is not affected much by their political bias. But no one can say that The Hindu is anti-Hindu or Indian Express is anti- Islam. Religion is usually not attacked in pages of these newspapers.

There are many Malayalam Newspapers. Most popular are Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhoomi. Manorama is a pro-Church and anti-Left newspaper. Mathrubhoomi have multiple owners, most prominent is a Janata Dal leader who is now with Left Front.Many others are close to Nair Service Society. So Mathrubhoomi many a time do not have a fixed bias.
Now let me examine the National TV News Channels that I see namely,NDTV,Time Now,CNN IBN and Headlines Today. All the National News Channels handle the National Parties, BJP and Congress with due respect. But most of the regional Parties are dumbed as corrupt, opportunistic or chauvinist. The same is true for the National Parties but that fact is conveniently forgotten.This respect of the News Channels to Congress and BJP may help them to get some favours from these Parties.
NDTV obviously have a soft corner for Congress.Like wise Headlines Today favours BJP.Times Now and CNN IBN do not seem to have fixed bias.None of the four attack Religion as such.Any way they do not attack Hindu religion.Some times I feel,their anti terror rhetoric turn in to anti-Islam bias.

So there is no logical reason to believe that Mass Media as a whole is against Hinduism. Mass Media represents several political view points which is not against any religion.
Why then there is a cry of victim hood from some Hindus? Such a cry of victim hood is carefully propagated through a whispering campaign orchestrated by the Sangh Parivar.They want all Hindus to believe that attack on Sangh Parivar’s divisive policies is an attack on Hinduism.Thus they believe that sufficient pressure can be put on the media to prevent reporting of the truth.
Similarly many Christians and Muslims believe the same when media attack some practises of the Clergy of their religion.
Such unreasonable attack on mainstream media helps only the Communalists.