Monthly Archives: May 2016

Is Adi Sankaracharya India’s ‘national philosopher’?

Source: The Indian Express

He sure is!

Govt is considering a proposal to observe May 11, birthday of Adi Sankaracharya, as National Philosophers’ Day. Who was Sankara, what was his philosophy?

What exactly is meant by India’s “national” philosophy?

Indian philosophy is an incredibly rich, complex and diverse bouquet of thoughts and ideas that can be divided, at the most fundamental level, between the Astika and the Nastika schools. The Astikas believe in the supremacy of the Vedas (and not, significantly, in God). There are six major branches of Astika thought: Mimamsa, Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika and Vedanta. Mimamsa and Sankhya do not believe in God as the Creator.

The three chief Nastika strands are Charvaka, Jaina and Bauddha. All of them emerged in opposition to Vedic supremacy. They do not believe in God and the Vedas.

Indian philosophy has been occupied with ontological and metaphysical questions such as ‘Who are we?’, ‘What is the relation between the body and the self?’, ‘What is this world all about?’, ‘Who is the creator?’, ‘What is knowledge and its nature?’, ‘What are the various levels of reality?, ‘How does one attain knowledge?’, etc. Unlike western systems of philosophy, in India, the various branches co-existed over centuries, and sometimes evolved after intense debates among them. There is no one ‘national’ Indian philosophy, unless the very diversity of its many streams is considered the national characteristic of the Indian system of thought.

 

What is Vedanta, the system with which Sankara is most closely associated?

As the nomenclature indicates, Vedanta or the Upanishads mark the ‘end of the Vedas’. Vedanta represents the culmination of the vast Vedic thought. The Vedas are polytheistic, with a belief in many gods. However, all of these gods have a supreme lord above them. Upanishadic or Vedantic thought shifts the centre from God to the Self (Atma), and the entire endevaour is to realise this Self.

There have been many commentators on Vedanta, such as Sankaracharya (early 9th century), Ramanujacharya (11th century), Madhavacharya (13th-14th centuries) and Vallabhacharya (15th-16th centuries). Each differs from others on many aspects. But Sankara is almost unanimously seen as the most prominent.

So what are Sankaracharya’s main philosophical thoughts?

It is generally accepted that Sankara was born in Kaladi, not far from today’s Kochi, in 788 AD. At the heart of his philosophy of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) is “Tat Twam Asi” or “Thou Art That”, the famous phrase from the Chhandogya Upanishad, which perceives the Self (Atman) as the Absolute Reality (Brahman). Brahman is the sole cause, creator and consumer of the universe.

Sankara is also famous for his theory of Maya, which, according to him, is the charismatic power that creates the world, and is inseparable (ananya, abhinna, aprithak) from Brahman. Change, according to Sankara, is an illusion — nothing that did not exist earlier will come into existence. The change of outer form is visible to some eyes due to the operation of Maya, but truth remains the same.

Still, the world does possesses a practical reality. The dream is real until we wake up. Sankara doesn’t refute the dream, only points at the Maya that creates the illusion of dream. His notion of Brahman or Absolute Reality states that there exists just one infinite existence that reveals itself in myriad forms. Brahman is beyond distinctions, qualities, descriptions or definitions. It is Parabrahman, Nirguna Brahman (formless entity). Sankara’s philosophy has evoked the admiration of a spectrum of thinkers through the centuries.

So, can Sankara be called India’s ‘National Philosopher’?

Sankara came at a time when the Sanatan Dharma was divided and battered, and Buddhism was advancing; he established four maths in four corners of the country, unified the divided Santana Dharma, and is credited with the philosophical ‘defeat’ of Bauddhas.

For many Indian and western thinkers, Sankara’s non-dualism is the acme of Indian philosophy. It is generally agreed that he established a fine but strong balance among various levels of reality, and it is difficult to find a logical flaw in the formulations of this philosopher who was only 32 at the time of his death. Even as he propagated the Nirgun (formless) Brahman, he created the epistemic space for Sagun or Sakar Isvara (God) as well.

Despite some later criticism, Sankara is almost unanimously seen as the most logical and coherent of the Vedanta masters. S Radhakrishnan termed him a “mind of very fine penetration and profound spirituality”. He wrote: “His (Sankara’s) philosophy stands forth complete, needing neither a before nor an after… whether we agree or differ, the penetrating light of his mind never leaves us where we were.”

My Personal View:

Undoubtedly, Acharya Sankara was one of the greatest philosophers ever born in the world. A detailed study of his philosophy brings out the remarkable coherence in his logic and validity with the current scientific facts.

But this is no way undermines the importance of Buddhism and Jainism in shaping the “Indianness” of the subcontinent. In fact, Acharya Sankara called his philosophical rival Buddha as “the emperor of all yogis”.

Buddha gave a practical philosophy and techniques to attain enlightenment. The Buddhist doctrines and scriptures that are found to be self-contradictory by Vedantis were framed by his disciples and later monks. Buddha never intended to give a theory about metaphysical realities. His only concern was welfare of the people and their “Nirvana”. So, he taught the practical technique to that goal. Buddha was a great yogi.

Similarly, the Jain faith has been a big contributor to “Indianness” in the sense that it promoted vegetarianism, truthfulness, non-violence and non-indulgence. The famous Jain story about “6 blind men and an elephant” matches with the essence of Indianness, also espoused in the Rig Vedic hymn “Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti” meaning: “Truth is one, scholars describe it in different forms.”

Why is the 350th Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji an important mega-event for all Indians to celebrate?

Source : http://gnnsj.in/

Throughout his life, Guru Gobind Singh Ji embodied values that help define India and her aspirations today:

guru-gobind-singh-ji

 

National Cohesion: In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, formed the Khalsa, by choosing the five Pyaras (beloved ones) from different castes, different locations and different vocations. This act reinforces the Guru’s much needed vision of creating a spirit of unity amongst all peoples beyond perceived boundaries of caste, vocation and ethnicity, and is an important value for India in the present day and beyond.

Click here to see a map showing the different vocations and locations of birth of the Panj Pyare

Freedom of Religion: Before becoming the tenth Guru, a young Gobind Rai, prompted his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, to make the supreme sacrifice in order to defend the rights of Hindu Pandits to practice their religion. During the Moghul reign of Aurungzeb, Hindu’s were being forcibly converted to Islam, and Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed after defending the Hindu’s rights to practice their own religion. Unparalleled in the history humankind, this willingmartyrdom in the defence of another religious community earned Guru Tegh Bahadur the title of “Hind ki Chadur” i.e. The Shield of India. It has often been noted that this act, together with Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s formation of the Khalsa as “Saint-Soldiers” to defend righteousness, was a major factor in preventing mass forced conversions to Islam across northern India. India has a proud history of not just religious tolerance, but of religious respect, and the importance of Freedom of Religion is enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Sarbat da Bhalla (the good and welfare of all): Guru Gobind Singh Ji championed universal solidarity by proclaiming “manas ki jaat sabae ek hee paechanbo” (recognise the whole human race as one family) and Guru Ji’s further hukam: “sach kaho sun leho sabhae jin prem kiyo tin hee prabh paiyo” (all those who wish to meet up with God must exercise love for God’s entire creation) is a guiding light for us all to be inspired and motivated in pursuing global “Sarbat da bhalla”.

Para Tatva

Source : The Hindu (Faith Column)

One who perceives the underlying oneness in creation realises peace. The legends and stories about saints, kings, devotees, etc, in the Puranas enable the common man to come to an intuitive understanding of this abstract Truth, said Swami Paramasukhananda in a discourse.

Daksha’s hatred for Siva is transformed to bhakti when his ignorance about the Supreme Truth is broken and wisdom dawns in him. After the yagna Daksha had planned was disrupted, the celestial beings along with Brahma approach Siva to show mercy on them. They had not opposed Daksha’s extreme behaviour. Siva is extolled as the Supreme Deity in the famous Siva Stuti at this juncture.

Daksha is repentant after being chastised, and, once again performs the yagna. This time the offerings to the celestial beings are duly made. At that time Vishnu appears and explains the truth that Brahma, Vishnu and Siva though three in form are one entity. The Lord, though one and without a second, assumes the three forms, respectively of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva for creation, preservation and dissolution of the world. No difference in the three exists except in attributes.

Scriptures hail this Supreme Brahman as above all Gunas and as the very embodiment of Sat-Chit-Ananda, the eternally existing Truth which is the essence of consciousness and bliss. Though He is the ultimate principle, He is also the personal God who creates the perceptible world by His Prakriti and also resides in the heart of every being. He is the enjoyer of all sacrifices. He stirs our hearts to devotion and answers our prayers and is the source and sustainer of values. He enters into personal relationship with us in worship and prayer.

Women & Work (India)

Source : IASbaba.com

Behind the Gender Pay Gap

  • India has one of the lowest female labour force participation (FLFP) rates —share of women who are employed or are seeking work as a share of the working-age female population — among emerging markets and developing countries.
  • At around 33 per cent at the national level in 2012, India’s FLFP rate is well below the global average of around 50 per cent and East Asia average of around 63 per cent.
  • An FLFP rate of 33 per cent implies that only 125 million of the roughly 380 million working-age Indian women are seeking work or are currently employed.

Monster Salary Index report on India’s gender pay gap

  • The gender pay gap in India stands at 27 per cent— while men earned a median gross hourly salary of Rs 288.68, women earned only a median gross salary of Rs 207.85 per hour
  • The highest gender pay gap was recorded in the manufacturing sector at 34.9 per cent.
  • The lowest gender pay gap was recorded in the BFSI (banking, financial services, and insurance) and transport, logistics, communication, equally standing at 17.7 per cent each

Information technology (IT) sector: 34 per cent (has increased from around 29 per cent a year earlier)

Several institutions-

  • Prefer male employees over female employees
  • Promote a higher number of male employees to supervisory positions

Companies speak up—

  • Gender pay gap exists because of divided work-family loyalties, as women take more time off from work to care for their families, leading to long career breaks, thus, missing out on the trends and the changed environment.
  • Also, often women lose out through voluntary termination of service at a rate two or three times faster than men once they have attained the experienced, mid-career level— impact on the supply line for higher levels.
  • Almost one-third of women employees showed reluctance and have not resumed work in the absence of a support system at home to take care of the child— Flexible work policies or extended leave, stays minor enablers for those who possess career aspirations in a situation where close to 78 per cent of eligible female graduates choose not to participate in the organised workforce.

Analysis done by Economist Korn Ferry

  • Analysed employees in 33 countries and found that on average, women earn 18 per cent less than men, which is of course higher than the 27 per cent overall industry pay gap mentioned by Monster India.
  • Korn Ferry highlighted — that the United Arab Emirates has a reverse pay gap. Women at the same level, company and function actually earn two per cent more than their male counterparts partly because fewer women (13 per cent) participate in the labour force, and those who do tend to have higher levels of education (Indian IT sector’s gender pay gap seems highly skewed)

Consider the US— For every dollar a man makes in the US, a woman earns just 78 cents for doing the same job.

Monster Salary Index (MSI)

  • It is an initiative by Monster India in collaboration with Paycheck.in (managed by Wage Indicator Foundation) and IIM-Ahmedabad as a research partner.
  • For employers, MSI is an online salary survey that aims to provide employers with practical information and helps them make informed decisions by analysing the salary market and optimizing employee remuneration.

Why the fuck am I vegan? – The downside they don’t tell you about.

RedWineVines

People don’t tell you about the downside. They talk about the incredible health benefits, and the reduction of risk for heart disease and cancers. They talk about how it supports the planet because animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, species extinction, habitat loss, ocean dead zones and greenhouse gas emissions. They tell you about how you’re no longer contributing to the horrific torture, mutilation and misery in the everyday lives of innocent animals and the horror they endure in the slaughterhouse.

Granted. There’s no denying that.

So then being vegan must be awesome… right?!

View original post 2,388 more words

No more killing of old animals in Army: India’s Defence Minister

Source: defencenews.in

The Indian Army has reversed its age-old practice of killing dogs and horses, if they are unfit for the service for 1 month.

A new policy that envisages proper arrangement for old animals’ suitable rehabilitation till they die naturally is under the defence ministry’s consideration, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar informed the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Last year, the Indian Army came under criticism from animal welfare activists after the force admitted that it killed the unfit animals.

“Army horses and dogs are evaluated for their fitness with respect to the performance of duties. Animals which are considered unfit for one month active service are disposed of by humane euthanasia,” the force stated responding to a right to information query.

This triggered angry reactions from animal welfare activists, compelling Parrikar to take note of the archaic practice.

“The policy regarding rehabilitation of unfit Indian Army animals has been revised and necessary instructions have been issued to Army headquarters regarding immediate cessation of further destruction of old and worn out animals,” Parrikar said in a written response.

Euthanasia would be allowed only for animals suffering from incurable diseases, injuries and terminal diseases, but even those animals are to be dealt with as per the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

The defence ministry has also appraised the Delhi High Court about the proposal to do away with euthanasia of old and worn out army animals and their suitable rehabilitation till they eventually pass away. The High Court is hearing two petitions on this issue.

Army animals are being trained at Remount Veterinary Corps, Meerut and National Training Centre for Dogs and Animals, Chandigarh before they are absorbed into the Army.

Among the dogs, the Army generally uses Labradors, German Shepherds and Belgian Shepherds, depending on the altitudes and weather. Their tasks range from patrolling to bomb detection.