MY VIEWS OF HUMANITY FROM THE SKY
MY VIEWS OF HUMANITY FROM THE SKY
I have lived on this earth for over seventy seven years and when people ask my age I simply say that I am still young in knowledge because I am still learning. Today I feel like flying up to be among the white clouds of the blue sky so that I can see my world from there. I feel that the experience, clarity and knowledge received from that vantage point would be beneficial to my living and life.
I have been on this earth for a long time visiting places of interest, attending institutions of learning and watching people conduct their affairs. I have found that age is really irrelevant to our successful living because I determine my age with the number of sun rises and sunsets I have observed with interest, the number of successful people I have met and interacted with in my life, the number of hearts I have cared for and loved, the number of worthy trips I have made for personal discovery and the number of concerts and dramatic presentations I have been to. In fact that is how old I am now.
All the earthly and humanistic attributes I feel can be seen and appreciated and/or criticised and evaluated a lot better from the upper point because when viewed from above we can definitely see the wider picture and overview the whole human development and culture more easily. I firmly believe that the perspective that reflects the well-being of mankind and the way the ordinary and the extra-ordinary people of this earth behave and interact socially, culturally, economically and politically can be assessed deeply and easily. We will be able to appreciate and evaluate people and their life and living together in a common society.
My purpose and interest in viewing human behaviour and conduct from up above are to see how simple, complex and confused we human beings of this earth have become through our various interactions. We humans tend to make things a lot more difficult and complex for us to handle easily and then we repent and loose our happiness and peaceful existence.
We humans are suffering from three stupid stages of life. Our teen age has a lot of time, energy and opportunity but there is no financial support. Our working age on the other hand has money, energy and the needed skills but we have no time. Then comes our old age where we have a lot of time and may have accumulated funds in our superannuation but we have no energy. My view from above shows that humanity is suffering as a consequence of these stupidities.
I have observed that we humans are rather selfish and act for our own benefit most of the time thus forgetting about the other people who live, work and exist around us. We often wake up to things and come to realize after it is a bit too late. It is sad indeed that we make a lot of mistakes but learn something worthwhile from only some of our errors. Had we not been so we might have been able to prevent a lot of things and events from happening to our disadvantage.
I know from my childhood and strong upbringing that to live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong or making a mistake. The best part of my growing up was that we should learn from our mistakes but get determined never to make the same mistake twice. Now I see from my vantage position that that does not happen on this earth where people make the same mistake over and over again. They get into the comedy of errors. I have observed that humans often forget to ask themselves whether it is a good and a right thing to do before doing it.
I see that humans often find themselves in very awkward situations when they are unhappy and worried because they have never felt self sufficient. They often fail to understand that the human mind is like a space that is hard to fill or cannot be filled effectively and sufficiently. There is always a lot of room for good and useful things in the human brain. I can visualize from my strategic position up above that human beings should adopt a simple philosophy to learn to fill what is empty with good ideas and at the same time empty what is full of rubbish. Soon they will learn to scratch only where it itches.
I also see that the earthly beings often develop fear of things and events that have not yet happened therefore they feel anxious about the unknown rather than looking for facts and relying on them for proactive action. Thus they get agitated and begin to hurt each other and worrying for nothing despite the obvious knowledge that life is too short for selfishness, hate and other damaging aspects of living.
It is unfortunate that we humans often do not fully understand what true happiness is when we display simplicity, peace and tranquality. We let our emotions take control over our reasons and rationality. This obstructs the attainment of our wisdom and knowledge. I see from here that many people are unable to properly distinguish the difference between true and artificial joy. True and real happiness comes from peaceful and disciplined mind but our human beings treasure fake and artificial joy by relying heavily on external and material objects.
The human beings who are living on a different level do not ever consider it to be a proof of truth just because it is written in books and scriptures because the earth is full of liars who have, will and continue to decrive us with their words and then would never hesitate to do the same with their pen. My observation is that if we want to expect the best of everything we must prepare ourselves adequately for the worst. My belief is very simple on these issues. I am running a race of a hundred miles and I have not reached the end as yet. So whenever I feel like quitting I quickly begin to think about the reason why I started it.
I can clearly see that many human beings are worried about what others are going to think about them. This negativity impedes their peace, progress and prosperity. So let us not bother about people who judge us without knowing us and our credentials because most dogs only bark if they do not know the person.
It is rather unfortunate that we humans often display greed, anger and illusions of lust and these are our obstacles for life. The test of life is when we gather enough knowledge and wisdom to exit out of these at an appropriate time and simply disengage from such dubious conditions. Consequences of these inappropriate circumstances lead us to a variety of sufferings when in reality human birth is designed by God to live happily and enjoy the fruits of living.
So I can see many smiles on the faces of people on the earth but I find it hard to know whose world is mentally, physically, socially, culturally, politiocally and economically upside down. I see that many people seem stagnant inside and yet they are moving so the earth looks promising and yet many human beings are deceiving. Some of us can see sunshine every day whereas others are living in darkness and shadows so their opportunities become their obstacles.
Let me come down to the earth because I am alarmed at the sight from above. I now see that everything that I need and want is on the other side of fear but those that have overcome their fear they have been living well. Now I am skeptical and do not believe that people on this earth are looking for any meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experiences to be alive and kicking.
So let me conclude my essay by making a few final points about humanity.
- Let us not worry about what people say behind our back because I know that they are the people who are finding faults in our life instead of fixing mistakes in their own life.
- To live alone and be lonely is much better in this competitive and confusing world than living in any bad company.
- So let us seek to be good, better and best and never let it rest until our good becomes better and our better turns best.
- For all of us our intelligence should be like our underwear because it is important that we have it but it is not necessary that we show it off.
- Any intelligence for human beings without the needed ambition and determination is like a bird without wings.
- The greatest gift we humans can give each other is our time because when we give our time, we are giving a portion of our life that we will never get back.
- Let us always remember that our ego is just like dust in our eye and without clearing it we cannot see anything clearly. So let us clear our ego and see the world clearly.
- As the wise have said that many times when fools speak the wise ones should listen because many times foolish words have some wisdom in them as well.
June 18th 2017 Dr Ram Lakhan Prasad
THINGS FALL APART
“THINGS FALL APART”
When I was a high school student I had read a novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the African writer. It depicted a Nigerian tribal village that was stable for centuries but quickly and utterly crumbled after the arrival of colonialism.
In a heartbeat, things in our life can fall apart and the reality is that they can and do as can be seen from these three of the many true stories.
One of my good friends was standing at a busy intersection waiting for the lights to change. Beside him stood a middle-aged lady and a grey-haired gentleman. We did not expect this glimpse of our mortality.
It was evening rush hour, dusk was upon us and everyone was in a hurry as usual. Traffic whizzed by centimetres from where they were standing, staring across the street at the pedestrian signal. When the lights changed, each of them instinctively began to step off the curb to cross the road.
An instant later, they were all reeling back against each other. A delivery truck, trying to beat the light, sped past them centimetres from the curb and through the intersection against a very clear red light. The wind from the speeding truck slapped their faces. Had they taken another step, one or more of them would have been under the wheels.
The three strangers were brought briefly and intensely together at the intersection and were bonded by their shared close call with death. I heard them briefly counting their blessings by shaking their heads in disbelief at the red-light runner and then hurrying in their separate ways.
Things could have fallen apart for one or all three road users and I could not help but wonder how many centimetres stood between their close and catastrophic adventure?
Last year when I was in Los Angeles spending my healing time with the family of my brother, things fell apart close to their home. A young lady across the street, a sweet natured, always smiling, high school student was driving home. It was just her routine trip until she came to a dip in the road where water tended to collect but this day because of the freezing temperature the young lady could not judge the hazard of the frozen black snow. When suddenly she applied the brake the car skidded and hit an oncoming truck.
A happy life was forever altered. The lady remained hospitalized with brain injuries and the bereaved parents all helpless and distraught. While their daughter was convalescing in hospital fate put them in even a worse situation when a loaded truck skidded off the pavement and crashed through their bedroom wall, killing them both. Their other two sons who escaped injury were left orphans.
Things fall apart, and many times in ways so incredible as to seem impossible and unbelievable but they are not.
Later that year I went to visit my younger son in Kuala Lumpur and heard this story from the grieving parents. Their three sons went out one evening and after enjoying their time at a nearby restaurant decided to call a taxi to go home but no taxi would come so they decided to go home on foot. It was only a few kilometres of walk home late at night.
There was nothing particularly queer about this but as the brothers were crossing the road near their home a bus ploughed them down. Two of the brothers were instantly killed on the spot but the third brother miraculously escaped unhurt.
Sometimes life can look like a shooting gallery and we become the swimming ducks in the lake. The shots come at random picking off some and sparing others with no pattern or predictability. Of course, there seems no fairness at all.
Therefore, the parents of the brothers still feel that life is many things but fairness is not one of them. Think of the brother who was left behind to prepare to cremate the other two.
Things do fall apart and for the rest of us who are lucky, there is tomorrow to be careful and avoid the circumstances where things do and can fall apart.
We all know something about human generosity and have done or experienced the ultimate act of kindness sometime, somewhere or from someone in our life.
Some two decades ago one of my friends, who was an excellent administrator, narrated his story to me. When he was laid down flat with a bad virus and was hospitalized for a long time he had almost lost all hopes of recovery.
Some people will say that that was no big deal because everyone gets the occasional bug in their life. However, as you will see that this one was altogether different and by the time my colleague found his way to the hospital his life was in jeopardy. The virus had severely attacked his heart and the medical team detected that only a third of it was functioning.
The father of two sons and a devoted wife was placed on a variety of medications but within a few months his heart had wasted away to an even lower functionality. At age fifty he was among the walking dead.
Doctors with the funds from his insurance company arranged his treatment overseas where he was put on a heart-transplant list. There he waited, finding himself in the odd position of hoping for a healthy stranger’s untimely death.
Some seven weeks into his anxious wait, the long awaited phone call came. It was the transplant co-ordinator of the hospital who said that they had located a heart for him.
An athletic man, who worked as a sports administrator, was celebrating his thirty sixth birthday on the premises when he was attacked with a baseball bat. He ended up in a coma and ten days later he was declared brain-dead. In their grief, the person’s siblings agreed to donate his organs. In a few days the medical team at the hospital worked tirelessly to give my friend a new heart and a new life. Within weeks he again had the stamina of a young man and his family began their normal life.
Years passed and my administrator friend could not forget the family that gave him a new life, nor the person whose heart was beating in his chest.
Then two years later he went back to the hospital for a review and at a gathering of transplant recipients and donor families he managed to dig through records to learn the identity of his donor. There he met the brother of his donor.
After a brief introductory exchange of emotional words my friend told the brother of the donor that he was sorry that he had lost his brother but he should be pleased to meet and look at the person who has his heart.
The donor’s brother had lost his brother and he did not know who my administrator friend was and yet he said yes to organ donation. When pressed for reason for the donation, the brother of the donor said that at that time it just made the best sense because the family did not want the organs to be buried in the ground. He explained that his brother was a very giving person and they all knew that if he had a choice he would have gladly agreed.
At this point there was no need for any more words and the two strangers hugged each other with one shared miracle.
From one loss came another life. From one sorrow emerged one solace. This was the gratitude of the deepest human order. It is beyond description and we can only imagine.
Later in life a tragedy struck my friend’s sixteen year old son when he was struck by a car as he rode his bike home from cutting his grandfather’s lawn. The next day after the doctors declared him brain-dead, the family donated the son’s organs to others who could not live without them.
This has been another grieving family’s ultimate gift where human heart beats bravely on with human generosity.
WHO SAID CHIVALRY WAS DEAD?
WHO SAID CHIVALRY WAS DEAD?
My wife Saroj, while driving from Nadi to Lautoka Teachers’ College had seen many acts of chivalry on the road. She used to tell me stories she heard from her women friends, who were stranded on the roadside with flat batteries, punctured tyres or without petrol and were kindly rescued by kind gentlemen who were total strangers.
Saroj told me about strangers who went out of their way to return lost wallets, cell phones, credit cards and even cash. One of her friends once accidentally tipped the driver with a $50 note thinking that she was handing him $5. The driver, knowing that it had to be a mistake, followed her and returned the money.
Once Saroj and her friend Seini ordered their usual tea and some cakes from a new café only to discover that they had left their wallets in their car that was in the parking lot. The cashier simply told them to pay on their next visit, not knowing if he would ever see them again but they returned the money later the same day.
Sometimes a little trust goes a long way. Saroj used to visit schools as a senior lecturer to inspect the work of her students on teaching practice. Her handbag used to contain several vital documents, along with her cash and other important items. One day she accidentally left her handbag in the supermarket and drove away.
When Saroj arrived home and discovered that her handbag was missing, she was heartsick but a message was waiting on the answering machine of her home phone. A boy had found the handbag and used the address in it to leave a message to collect the handbag from the given address.
Saroj said she tried hard to get him to accept a reward but he politely refused by saying, “I am just going to sleep better, knowing that I did what I should have done.”
One of Saroj’s favourite stories shows a contagious nature of kindness at the waiting room of an emergency department of the hospital. While she was waiting there for her turn, a mother with two very young children walked in. The mother was trying frantically and unsuccessfully to occupy the fussy children.
Another mother of a toddler began to feel for her and when her number was called, she turned and handed it to the young mother. It was as if a winning lottery ticket was offered to her. She thanked the giver of the ticket repeatedly and this made the mother of the toddler feel really good.
The best part according to Saroj was yet to come. The mother of the toddler settled in to wait another hour for her turn when a young man whose number had just been called turned to her and said, “Go ahead.”
“This once again proved that one good deed deserves another,” concluded Saroj.
KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS
KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS
We often hear about exceptionally generous people who would give you the shirt off their back to you but many of us would never believe that anyone would do such a thing until we hear the story of my good friend Fred.
Fred’s son Henry, who was a final year law student, went to Perth during his semester break. While he was walking to catch a bus with his friends, the strap of one of his sandals broke. He told his friends to go without him. Just then another young man whom he did not know stepped forward and asked Henry the size of his shoes. The stranger then took off his shoes and handed them over.
He refused payment or an offer to meet up later so that the shoes could be returned. For Henry it seemed like a wow moment and the one all his friends are still impressed with. This is one of the stories that my friend Fred treasures in his book of kindness which he says is contagious.
Fred’s wife Joan has a few other stories of charitable acts that she had experienced that intrigued me and restored my faith in the human race. She knows of an eighty-year-old widow in Chaple Hill who requires a wheel-chair to get around. Joan is amazed at the generosity of strangers who willingly deviate from their business to push her wheel-chair to the place she wants to go.
Joan too has often assisted her eighty- year- old neighbour who says, “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to be the recipient of so much kindness. I feel like I have a constant guardian angel with me.”
KINDNESS SHOWS UP IN UNLIKELY PLACES
KINDNESS SHOWS UP IN UNLIKELY PLACES
I noticed that simple acts of human kindness are often found in the least likely places. John one of my other friends was at an intensive care unit of the hospital after his brother was critically injured in a car accident.
As John kept a round-the-clock vigil, a food -filled cooler mysteriously appeared beside him. There was no name on the cooler and upon enquiry the nurse told him that a woman had left it there for him. That gift sustained John through one of the most difficult times of his life.
Another acquaintance of mine Martin, a retired teacher, found the act of kindness in a busy store at Noosa. The store was jammed with a long line at the register. Martin noticed that a lady behind him had three young children with her and he offered to let her go ahead of him, which she did with pleasure.
When Martin got to the cashier he was told that the bill was already paid for by the woman with the three young children. Martin could not believe it so he got out just in time to thank the lady for being so kind. Her response was that Martin was the one who was being kind by letting her in front in the first place.
Then there is another of my personal stories where an act of kindness was displayed. When we were living at Bushlark Court I was awakened at midnight by the repeated ring of the door bell. When I opened the door, a gentleman was holding the bunch of keys to my house. I had accidentally left the keys dangling from the front door and the passing taxi driver spotted them.
I thanked him and he was quickly on his way but I can think of many things that could have happened if he had not noticed the bunch of keys dangling on my front door and rung the door bell.
Then there is a story of an old man who spoke very little English and was trying without much luck to wrestle a large item he had just bought into his car. I was in the store and as I opened the door to go to help the old man, a strong young man with a large truck changed course and came over to offer his truck and his help. Others joined him and together the group of strangers heaved and lifted the load into the young man’s truck. He then followed the owner home to deliver it.
For all those sceptics, no, the young man with the load of the old man on his truck did not speed off in the opposite direction with the purchase.
When I met that old man after a few days his complaint was that none of the strangers who helped him would accept any reward that he offered them.
Last week I was doing my daily walk around the block and a gentleman was walking ahead of me with a plastic bag. He kept collecting any trash he found on the way. I quickly joined him and shook his hands to thank him and assure him that I will do the same from tomorrow. He just tossed off the thanks by saying he does it all the time.
Just imagine, if every day each person picked up one small piece of litter, what an amazing difference that would make to our environment.
Then a year ago one of my lady friends found this act of kindness when she ran out of petrol on the motorway. She did not have a mobile phone so she sat there for almost two hours while cars passed by. Finally a car with two young men and a woman stopped to find out the problem. Later they returned with a can of petrol and then followed my lady friend to the petrol station.
My friend told me that the boys did not take any money for the trouble they took to help her and she could not stop to sing praise for their kindness.
Finally, I know of a couple who were on vacation but they were hopelessly lost and asked a stranger for direction to their hotel. The stranger not only showed them the way but he drove them right to the hotel’s parking lot. It probably took the stranger many kilometres out of his way.
When they thanked the stranger profusely and said “God Bless You” he turned back to them and said, “Since you said that, could I ask you to pray for me? I have cancer.”
I am sure that the couple would have prayed for the stranger for his act of kindness.
TREASURED TIMES WITH PARENTS
TREASURED TIMES WITH PARENTS
I remember making that last trip to my father who was in hospital suffering from his heart attack. He was covered with all kinds of medical equipment and I sat next to him on his bed. He saw a look of despair on my face and assured me that he was in good shape and would be discharged from hospital soon to go home. He forced a smile and I said what I had planned to say, “I love you Dad (Taji).”
My father replied, “I love you too, son but I want you to do two things for me. The first thing I want you do is to look after your mother after I am gone and the second thing is for you to recite a few couplets from the holy book Gita for me.”
I thanked him for teaching me some of those and I repeated almost all of them from my Gayatri Mantra to verses 7 and 8 of Chapter 4 of the Bhagwad Gita. While I was reciting these he was listening intently but his eyes had tears in them. When I asked him the reason for his sorrow and tears in his eyes he said the tears were of joy that I heard my eldest child show me the route to my next home and then they were tears of sorrow for my son who I have burdened with added responsibility before going home.”
A lot of these did not make much sense then but they were all revealed when I got the message en route to my home that he was no more. I returned to take care of his funeral but was pleased that I made that last visit to my dying father and was able to communicate some of my last words to him.
After writing this episode in my ‘Sweet and Sour Reflections’ that is published on my various websites I heard from many people who had made that same difficult but essential journey to say their last goodbye to their parents and from others who could not make it in time or they know that they will be making that important journey soon. It was very sad to hear from those who missed their chance, who got delayed too long, and even now, years later, deeply regret it.
One of my friends wrote to me, “I will feel guilty about not having said my last goodbye to my father before his death to tell him one last time how much he meant to me.”
My next friend wrote, “I was fortunate like you that the last thing I ever said to my father was ‘I love you’ and for me to get that gift was one of the best things in my life.”
A lady friend of mine Anita was at her job in the city and when the call came from the nursing home that her mother was critically ill, she was fortunate to arrive at her mother’s bedside half an hour before her passing away. She wrote, “I was with my mother, holding her hand and saying every prayer that she had taught me into her ear.”
Then there was another person who I had not met but he wrote to say that he had spent his last annual leave with his father, walking on the beach and talking about life but two days later he received a call that his dad dropped dead while putting on his shoes. He was sixty-six, fit and in perfect health. So he said, I now tell people to make their connections now because you just never know what happens next.
Ganesh, who moved his dying mother back home added, “I am so grateful that I was able to have her with me for her final days.”
It took James many years and the death of his mother to realize something, “You see, big guys do cry,” and they do say, “ I love you, Mom.”
Joseph makes a point to have dinner with his seventy-six-year-old mother every day, not knowing which might be the last. “It is hard to say goodbye and to say how much you love your parents,” he wrote, “but better to say it than to leave it unsaid.”
Ratna made that last trip two years ago and said that it was difficult but the memories from my last few days with my Dad are nothing short of priceless.”
“I lost my father very suddenly, almost ten years ago, when he was only seventy three,” wrote Radha. “What I wouldn’t have given to have had a chance for one last meaningful visit.”
Likewise, Krish’s father left for his war duties twenty two years ago and never returned and he says, “I would give anything to have one more day with him.”
Devi looks at her aging parents and says, “I realize my time with them is nearing an end. As an only child who hasn’t married, I see that our branch of the family tree is about to fall off.”
Joe’s regrets have spanned the last half-century. He writes, “Fresh out of college and caught up in the demands of a new career, I never said those heartfelt words to my father in the late 1960s even though I knew that his heart disease would soon claim his life.”
I received another regret from some Michael who wrote, “My dad taught my brother and I that true men never told another man they loved him. I am sorry now that I never spoke that L-word to my dad. He never told us that he loved us either. I guess he thought we knew.”
I have formed my view on this issue now. This vital last visit to parents should never be delayed. We can procrastinate paying our taxes or paying our phone bills but never on telling our aging parents what is in our heart.
My beloved wife Saroj had a massive heart attack at home and was taken to the intensive care unit to be placed on life support that made talking impossible. She passed away two days later, all her four children beside her. The grieving husband was left looking at the drizzle of rain falling outside the window as if a gift was being sent from heaven.
I do not need to emphasise how treasured are those last few days together with our aging parents. I guess what I am getting at is that time is precious, life is short and it can end suddenly. So always let your aging parents know what you are feeling. Never wait.
Some trips home are harder than others but Raj’s trip was one of the hardest of all. Home for him was the house he grew up in, the home where his parents still lived, although for how much longer no one could say.
At eighty-eight, his mother was frail and forgetful but with her new hip replacement and heart bypass she was otherwise going strong. It was his father, who until a few months ago was always the robust one, physically strong, mentally sharp and of near boundless energy. However, then came the diagnosis of leukaemia followed by some other complications and the poison that was dished out to him as medicine.
Raj’s father did not want him to come because as he put it that Raj had his own family to look after but Raj showed up anyway. Disobedience for him never felt more correct.
Raj has narrated his story to me, “My father was home from hospital temporarily but the full and the devastating effects of the chemotherapy had not yet arrived. He was weak but comfortable, his mind clear. He was turning eighty- nine soon.
This was our opportunity to be together but neither of us would say it, although we both knew that the last day was coming closer. We usually sat at the kitchen table or the lounge or the balcony and talked. We just talked about life, health, home repairs and grandkids. When he grew tired he went to his bedroom to rest and I went outside to work in the garden or do some cleaning.
When I returned, the house was as quiet as a shrine and I walked from room to room with all my fond memories. The once- blazing but now the cold fireplace was silent. The furniture, the electronic and musical items and the kitchen sink that will always be synonymous with my mother were starring at me. At the basement I stood at the workbench where Dad had taught me to repair the furniture.
When Dad woke up, he asked me to bring him the wooden box I had made for him from hardwood at my industrial arts class. He opened the lid and one by one pulled out his most precious keepsakes.
Among them there was an old clock that my grand dad had given him as twenty-first birthday gift. There were a few school certificates that had distinctions engraved on them. And then there was one of his most treasured possessions of all, his grand father’s silver wedding ring. He described each one in detail and when he was done I put them back into the box and closed the lid.
We were passing time and after dinner I cleared and washed the dishes and retired in the family room. I summoned my nerve and asked my father for a favour. Would he mind letting me interview him about his life? I dreaded asking this because everyone knows that children do not ask for such things until time is running out.
My Dad cheerfully agreed and for the next two hours he talked and I listened as the video camera captured the stories of his life for my children and theirs to come. His story depicted his childhood, his work life, his community service and his family life. Even as he spoke, I felt that he was giving me the greatest gift possible.
The next morning we were all up before the sun, even Mom, who those days slept late. My flight waited to return me to my other life, the life of a husband, a father and a wage earner. As children always must, I had to leave.
In my family, men have never been demonstrative with their feelings because while growing up, my father and I would not greet each other with a hug or a kiss but with handshake. We followed the rule that the love word was better shown than spoken but on that morning, standing in the porch, his walking stick dangling by his side Dad held out his arms to me.
“Dad,” I said, summoning the words I had said so seldom, “I love you.”
He responded so quickly, so automatically that the words just rushed out as if he had been waiting all those years for permission to speak.
“I love you too, Raju (Beta),” he said. My mother joined him too, “I love you heaps, Raju.”
Raju. This was my mother’s favourite word all along but my Dad had not called me by that loving name since I was a little boy.
On my drive to the airport, I realized something. Something big. There are hard trips home, but no wasted ones. So I have decided to make more trips home and more frequently,” concluded Raj.
One day we all will be staring into the face of death so it is only right and proper to keep saying ‘I love you’ to our loved ones with a hug, a kiss and a solid embrace.
When my own mother became sick and was bed-ridden at age seventy-four I could not be with her in the final hours because I was on assignment but my wife kindly volunteered to go and be with her to care for her in the final days. Within a fortnight my wife called me to say that the final hour for my mother was near so I rushed to be at her bedside.
In the meantime I told my wife to tell my mother that “I love her very much”. My expression of love was conveyed to my mother and I was later told by my wife that my mother opened her eyes and gave her a smile before she left this world. I still harbour regret in my chest that my mother passed away a few hours before I could reach her.
This is life where there are multiple opportunities for treasured times but we do meet regrets that keep hurting us. I have now completed my seventy-five years of happy living amongst my loved ones and as long as I live I would be satisfied with the love and affection that I have been getting from my own four children and their families.
May God Bless Them All.
OUR MOM AND DAD
They never look for praises
They are never ones to boast
They just go on quietly working
For those they love the most.
Their dreams are seldom spoken
Their wants are very few
And most of the time their worries
Will go unspoken too.
They are there, as a firm foundation
Through all our storms of life
A sturdy hand to hold to
In times of stress and strife.
They’re our true friends to turn to
When times are good or bad
The man and woman we call
Our loving Mom and caring Dad.
It’s one of our greatest blessings
When they love and care for us
The least we can say ‘I love you’
And visit them without any fuss.
(RLP for mothers’ day 2015)
SEX AND GURUS
Sex and Gurus
The purpose of this discussion is not to support the alleged sexual activities of any spiritual master, but to examine the sexual mores that are applicable to those who practice modern Hinduism and those who follow an ascetic path. It is important to remember that there is a big difference between Hinduism and any other way of life as far as sex is concerned.
All religions emphasize the importance of self-control and celibacy in religious practice. However, original Hinduism does not condemn sexual acts as sinful except those that are deemed deviant or socially unacceptable such as incest, rape, adultery, and unnatural sex. In Hinduism, sex is divine. It is an obligatory duty because it responsible for procreation and the orderly progression of creation. Without sex, there is no possibility of rebirth or liberation or continuation of God's eternal duties.
As with other things in creation, sex is also of three types, sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. Of these sattvic sex, which leads to pleasure and happiness, and orderliness of society, but does not lead to pain or breach the social and religious norms, is the best. Sattvic sex is dutiful and moral; rajasic sex is selfish and lustful; and tamasic sex is coercive and painful. Hence, Hinduism rightly recognizes sexual pleasure (kama) as one of the chief aims of human life. However, as with other things, sex must fit into the overall scheme of an orderly and disciplined life that leads to liberation and upholding of dharma. In other words, one must indulge in sex in the larger interests of life and existence, as part of one's duty towards God, not otherwise. While students are expected to practice celibacy until they are married, householders are allowed to indulge in sex.
In Hinduism, polygamy was an accepted practice until modern times. Men were allowed to marry multiple women. They also enjoyed the freedom to indulge in sex with willing women outside their marriage such as the maids who worked in their households or those who provided sexual pleasures for money, power, love, protection, or some other reason.
However, sex with women who were under the protection of their fathers or other male members of their families was strictly prohibited. Of course, there are evidences that women were sold and bought in some parts of ancient India. Prostitution was prevalent in ancient India and pleasing desirable men through enticing acts was considered an art. Unmarried women who chose to live freely had the privilege to sleep with the men of their choice. The story of Jabala, the mother of Satyakama, is an example in this regard.
If a widow had no children, she had the permission from the law books to choose a brother or cousin of her deceased husband for procreation. If a couple had no children for long, law books gave permission to the couples to choose a suitable person to impregnate the wife. Hindu scriptures draw a clear distinction between sex and lust. While sex is divine, lust is an evil and those who succumb to it fall down to the lowest worlds.
The gods of Hinduism are pleasure loving, while the goddesses are mostly chaste and pure. The Puranas depict most of the Hindu gods as libidinous and not immune to the charms of opposite sex. They enjoy having sex with heavenly maidens and beautiful earthly women. According to the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Upanishads when a person departs from here to the immortal world, on his way thousands of maidens come forward with perfumes and garlands to greet him and entertain him. It is one of the passing pleasures of a pure soul that has attained liberation and ready to be anointed by the Lord Himself in the highest world.
Indra is as fickle as the human mind and susceptible to sexual desire. He is particularly jealous of anyone trying to practice celibacy or asceticism. If they progress far on the path, he would dispatch beautiful nymphs from heaven to entice them and disturb their austerities. Vedic gods such as Indra and Agni were often captivated by the beauty of earthly women, and even the wives of rishis. Indra ruined the reputation of many chaste women, such as Ahalya, by tempting them with his guiles and indulging in sexual conjugation with them. Among other gods, notable was Lord Krishna who had numerous wives and consorts. Even Shiva, an epitome of self-control and asceticism, fell for the beauty of Mohini, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu and legend has it that they had a child out of that engagement. Brahma, the creator god, was captivated by the beauty of Saraswathi, his own creation, and made her his consort.
Celibacy is a central part of Hindu asceticism. Hindu ascetics are expected to shun sexual intercourse by all means as part of their spiritual transformation. Brahmacharya is one of the chief restraints. However, it is not a universal norm, because sexual intercourse is permitted in certain Hindu traditions, such as Tantra, as part of one's liberation.
Most of our ancient seers, including the seven seers, were married. They had one or more wives and had children through them. They also often enjoyed sex with other women and celestial nymphs. The progenitor of Indian people, Bharata, was born from a relationship between sage Viswamitra and the heavenly beauty Menaka, who was sent by Indra to entice him and disturb his austerity.
Satyavati, wife of Santanu, had a son named Krsna Dvaipayana, also known as Vyasa, before her marriage. She bore him through sage Parasara, who saw her alone one day, when she was ferrying passengers across a river. She had a bad body odor. Sage Parasara promised to remove her bad odor, if only she would consent to sleep with him. Afraid that he would curse her if she refused; she agreed to satisfy his lust. As promised, Parasara removed her bad body odor. A son was also born to her from that union. When Vicitravirya, her second son through her husband, Santanu, died without children, sage Vyasa helped both the widows, to conceive sons and continue the Bharata race. He also slept with one of the servant girls sent by Satyavati, to whom Vidura was born. Even the Pandavas and Kauravas were born under strange circumstances outside marriage.
In the Ramayana, we have the story of Bali forcibly taking away Tara, the wife of his brother Sugriva and keeping her in his palace. When Bali was killed by Lord Rama, she returned to her husband. In the same epic, we see Rama subjecting his wife who was in captive to a fire test before accepting her chastity. Later in the story, when a commoner doubted her chastity, he banished her to forests.
There are few verses in the Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads which are explicitly sexual in nature. They suggest how a man can make a woman agreeable for sexual intercourse for procreation, by performing certain rituals and how force can be used if necessary to make the woman agree for the intercourse. They also suggest how a husband can harm the secret lover of his wife with the help of some sacrificial rituals and by invoking destructive powers. These Upanishads compare sexual intercourse to a sacrifice and the various organs used in the intercourse to the tools and materials used in the sacrifice. Conclusion From the above, it is clear that in Hinduism sex is not a taboo, while lust is.
We may also draw the following conclusions from the above presentation:
1. In Hinduism sex is not considered sinful but divine and an essential part of creation and procreation. It facilitates continuity, preservation of family lineage, social order, rebirth and opportunity for the souls to work for their salvation.
2. Both men and women have the permission to indulge in sexual acts as part of their obligatory duties, subject to the norms prescribed for them.
3. As a rule, students are not allowed to indulge in sexual intercourse or even the thought of it before the completion of their education.
4. Householders have the freedom to engage in sex within as well outside their marriage, as part of their obligatory duties and to maintain the order and regularity of the world.
5. As a rule ascetic people are not allowed to engage in sexual intercourse, except in tantric traditions. However, in some traditions, ascetic people and spiritual masters are allowed to marry and lead the life of householders. In exceptional circumstances they are also allowed to perform special services to help childless women procreate.
6. If ascetic people indulge in sexual acts out of lust, it dissipates their spiritual energy (ojhas) and leads to their spiritual downfall. However, through austerities and spiritual practices, they can regain their lost power and spiritual purity.
It is important to remember in this discussion that modern Hinduism is a fluid religion. It is neither rigid nor dogmatic nor judgmental. The freedom that we enjoy in Hinduism is meant not to disregard the prevailing norms of society, but to cultivate tolerance and remain indifferent to the practices with which we may not agree. A spiritual guru may engage in sex or may not. Whether he is right or wrong depends upon what he preaches and practices. If he preaches celibacy but indulges in sexual acts clandestinely, you can consider him deceptive and avoid him. If he preaches tantra and advocates the use of sexual energy in self-transformation, he is well within his right to practice his tradition.
If you have fallen prey to a deceptive guru, please do not lose heart. You may consider it part of your past karma, without losing faith in your spiritual aims. If your own resolve and faith are strong and if you practice your spiritual goals sincerely, you do not have to worry much about the moral conduct of your spiritual guru. In spiritual life, it is not your guru's knowledge and chastity but your faith and resolve which matter most. Your guru can be a living person, a dead person or an image you hold in your mind as God. What is more important is how to bring out your own inner Guru and Guide through your faith and follow that ideal to reach your goal.
Therefore, I think that the legal actions of people against the priests and teachers who indulged with them sexually have to be re-looked at in the light of my essay on “Sex and Guru”. I have seen so many of the modern gurus or teachers falling for the beauty of their students and are still leading a wonderful life.
In some religious organizations and churches some teachers got so enticed by the beauty of their students that they performed sexual acts with them. These activities were kept hidden for years until the teachers and the priests were brought before the courts for punishment. This is seen as a punishable crime in the modern justice system. Many religious organizations have paid very heavy penalties and compensation for the sexual activities of their priests and teachers.
I know of a very close friend of mine who too had a few falls as a teacher when he admired his students and enjoyed their social company. So what?
None of his students have come forward to lay any charges against him and he feels he is free from all sins and fears of sexual misconduct. They were all mutually consented sexual activities and were conducted on the spur of the moment and momentary desires. I also know of many other friends who could not get out of the temptation and got married with their students.
THERE ARE MANY OTHER CASES OF SEX AND GURUS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. ONLY SOME ARE MENTIONED HERE.
Five women filed civil suits against Bikram in 2013 alleging incidents ranging from sexual assault to rape. The cases have yet to be heard. Bikram is famous for making off-colour sexual remarks.
In February 2012 an anonymous website went up alleging John Friend was guilty of leading a Wiccan Coven, having affairs with married students and Anusara teachers, messing with his employees pension fund and mailing marijuana to himself and expecting employees to deliver it. John Friend has since re-launched himself with a new brand of yoga called Sridaiva Yoga.
The Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation made a public statement on September 22, 2012 saying we’ve been made aware of the varying allegations of sexual, mental and emotional abuse against Dr. Kausthub Desikachar. The allegations were made by four teacher trainees.
Upholding this tradition and approach in the field of Yoga and Therapy, the Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation are taking these allegations very seriously.
Seven months later, Kausthub was back with a new website, and a letter explaining his new beginning:
I realize that some of the decisions that I have made in the past have not been consistent with the high standards that I usually set for myself. I also fully understand and acknowledge that these have had far reaching effects, way beyond me. There is no way of changing this past. I wholeheartedly repent for what has happened.
Amrit Yoga Institute
Amrit, married, confessed to three affairs in 1994 and was forced to resign as spiritual director of his own ashram. While Amrit’s website makes no mention of the affairs or his expulsion from Kripalu, it does says that:
In 2000, after a period of personal reflection and sadhana, Gurudev founded the Amrit Yoga Institute, first located Sumneytown, Pennsylvania and then moved to its current location in Salt Springs, Florida.
Kripalu survived the falling of it’s guru and founder, and restructured its organization to be led by a professional management team, including people who had long been ashram residents. It has thereby became;
“The first traditional yoga ashram founded on the guru-disciple model to transition to a new paradigm of spiritual education.”
However, their website makes no mention of the scandal that almost destroyed them, summing it up in just one innocuous sentence.
In 1994 Yogi Desai resigned as spiritual director of Kripalu.
Osho, also known as Bhagwan Shree Rajnees
Oh Osho, where to start? While he’s enjoying resurgence in popularity as a spiritual leader some twenty years after his death, Osho was a complicated man who got in all kinds of trouble.
It’s alleged he was involved in, or aware of, everything from tax evasion, immigration fraud, prostitution, drug-running, drug use, and he worked his followers to the bone. In India, he was known as the ‘sex guru’, and in the States as the ‘rolls-royce guru’, owning more than 90 at one time.
In 2002, Rodney was accused of having affairs with some of his yoga students. He divorced his wife of 24 years, Donna Fone, and went on to marry his former yoga student, Colleen Saidman
“In the past, I think I was conveniently ignorant,” says Yee, who has apologized for previous infidelities. “I was pretending to myself that I wasn’t sexual in class.” Now he turns down yoga retreats where the students hang out with the instructors all day, the very setting that gave rise to his affair with Saidman.
Oh Guru, Guru, Guru began Lis Harris’ 1994 New Yorker article on the controversy surrounding Swami Muktananda, founder of the Siddha Yoga Path.
Introduced to America in the 1970s by Baba Ram Dass, Muktananda was known as the ‘Guru’s guru’ and was a widely respected teacher of meditation and yoga.
However, many of his followers have since come out and claimed that Muktananda allowed, even encouraged, guns and violence into his ashrams, and grew rich and corrupt from his devotees work efforts.
He also claimed to be completely celibate but it’s alleged that he regularly had sex with female devotees.
Michael Dinga, an Oakland contractor who was head of construction for the ashram and a trustee of the foundation, said the guru’s sexual exploits were common knowledge in the ashram. “It was supposed to be Muktananda’s big secret,” said Dinga, “but since many of the girls were in their early to middle teens, it was hard to keep it a secret.” CoEvolution Quarterly
Swami Satchidananda made it big in the USA in the late 1960s when he was flown in by helicopter to be the opening speaker at Woodstock Music Festival. He went on to found the Yogaville ashram in Virginia and Integral Yoga institutes across the country and, with thousands of devotees, including Lauren Hutton and Carol King, was somewhat of a ‘Yoga superstar’.
But by 1991, the situation had changed: Protesters waving placards (“Stop the Abuse,” “End the Cover Up”) marched outside a Virginia hotel where he was addressing a symposium.
“How can you call yourself a spiritual instructor,” a former devotee shouted from the audience, “when you have molested me and other women?” New York Times
Satchinanda always denied the accusations against him of sexual misdemeanors, but many of his followers are reported to have left his ashrams and institutes after at least nine women claimed he had sexually abused them.
Described as “a tall man with a strikingly handsome face” Swami Rama founded the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, based in Pennsylvania with centers worldwide, as well as various service and teaching organizations. He was also one of the first Yogis to be studied by Western scientists.
Journalist Katharine Websyter spent two years investigating the allegations of sexual abuse against Swami Rama, publishing an article in a 1990 edition of Yoga Journal that documented the experiences of women abused by Rama.
A final blow to Rama’s reputation came just after his death in 1996, when a jury awarded nearly $1.9 million to a young woman who claimed she had been forced to have sex with him up to thirty times when living at the Himalayan Institute in 1993.
He would fixate on a woman and make her a sort of valet, and then he would tell her it was necessary to perform these acts to further her spiritual development,” said Cliff Rieders of Williamsport, one of the woman’s lawyers. Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau.
A yoga icon and founding father of yoga in the West, Yogananda introduced countless people to yoga with his renowned book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’. He was also one of the first Indian yogis to make the move to the USA, spending much of the 1920s and 1930s lecturing and sharing his knowledge of Kriya yoga.
There have been allegations that he fathered several ‘love children’ and that he ran a harem whilst on tour. The swami had young girls housed next to his room on the third floor of the former hotel, and how they went in and out of the swami’s room at all hours, while older women were housed on a separate floor entirely. NHNE
However, DNA testing recently cleared Yogananda of fathering a child with a married disciple and evidence supporting the other claims against him is not well documented.
Born James Donald Walters, Kriyananda was an American univeristy student who read ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ and left everything to become a disciple of Yogananda. He later founded Ananda Sangha Worldwide.
However, Kriyananda was reportedly ‘thrown out’ of Yogananda’s fellowship and was later sued for violating their copyrights by republishing the writings and recordings of Yogananda.
He was also brought to court for the abuse of Anne-Marie Bertolucci, a former disciple, who claimed she was sexually abused by Kriyananda and another senior leader, and accused the fellowship of fraud. She won the case, and the Ananda Church was ordered to pay $1 million to Bertolucci as compensation.
The case was given added weight thanks to support from other ex-devotees. After Bertolucci filed suit, a dozen ex-Ananda members stepped up to support her case. Six women gave sworn testimony detailing various forms of what they considered sexual exploitation by the swami. San Francisco Weekly.
Swami Akhandananda Saraswati
Swami Akhandananda was the spiritual leader of Mangrove Ashram, a Satyananda ashram in Australia, from 1974. In 1987 he was charged with 35 counts of sexual abuse against four girls, convicted and sent to prison. His conviction was later over turned by the Australian High Court on a technicality. The Swami died of alcoholism in the late 1990s.
This particular case has recently been re-heard by the Royal Commission Inquiry in Australia. The best summary I’ve found of this Inquiry – which has yet to make its final report – is on Matthew Remski’s website.
While this case was known in Satyananda circles for the past few decades, many who knew about it didn’t know the extent of the abuse. At the inquiry, it was also alleged that many of the other adults at the ashram, in particular the Swami’s partner Shishy, were aware of what was going on.
Former child resident Alecia Buchanan testified that Shishy was often in the room while Akhandananda raped her. Buchanan was 15 when it began. She also said: “Looking back now, I’m certain some adults at the ashram knew Akhandananda was abusing us girls. We were always coming and going from his hut and other people saw this happening. We were often summoned very publicly over theloudspeaker by the receptionist or by Shishy’s personal assistant, Muktimurti, words to the effect of, ‘Shantibodh, go to swamiji’s office’ late at night.” From Mathew Remski’s article, quoting directly from the Royal Commission documents.
Plus, at the inquiry, fresh allegations have been made against Swami Satyananda himself of abuse, and allegations that his successor (Satyananda died in 2009) Swami Niranjananda entered into sexual relationships with at least one female disciple.
Another ‘Yoga Rockstar’ Maheshwarananda is the founder of Yoga in Daily Life a humanitarian organisation with ashrams all over the world, including here in New Zealand.
However, when on our shores in 2013 the spiritual leader was confronted by an angry former disciple and a TV3 news reporter, accusing him of abusing his female devotees.
Internationally Maheshwarananda has been feeling the heat as well. According to Madison magazine: A whistleblower set up a website on which several women posted shocking testimonies of alleged betrayal by Swamiji. It appeared the monk, whom ex-followers say claims to be celibate, had routinely abused his powerful status to exploit young female devotees for his own sexual pleasure. While none of these claims would amount to sexual assault, people began to leave.
In Australia, a growing chorus of members demanded answers. By the end of June, 18 senior figures who had been part of Yoga in Daily Life for up to 20 years resigned. This included the entire board. Some were forcibly expelled; other attendees simply stopped coming. Some centres closed down.
The Guru and Director of the Mount Eliza ashram, Shankarananda has allegedly had sex with up to forty female followers. Although Shankarananda never claimed to be celibate, or demanded it from his students, the revelations have still deeply wounded his followers and community.
A heartfelt blog post from Waverley Yoga Studio sums up some of the grief and confusion:
My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the behaviour. Such an abuse of power and trust. And I feel for the women, the husbands and partners of many of these women whose trust has been violated, and indeed for the whole community. At the moment there are a great many people who have chosen to leave and there are still some sitting as his feet. I’m pretty sure all are feeling pain, as I am.
The ashram is now being investigated over allegations of sexual abuse according to Australian newspaper The Age.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
The celibate leader of the widely popular Transcendental Meditation movement, known as the ‘Giggling Guru’ for his high pitched laugh, has been accused of seducing his followers, one of whom has written a book, Robes of Silk, Feet of Clay, about her experiences.
Once adored by The Beatles, all but one of the band broke contact with him over accusations he tried to rape Mia Farrow.
At the time of his death in 2008 the Maharishi had amassed a considerable fortune and lived in a luxurious two hundred room manison according to UK newspaper The Mirror.
It was alleged in 1987 by the Telegraph newspaper of Calcutta that five boys died after being used as guinea pigs at the Transcendental Meditation “medical institute”, which was searching for cures to diseases such as cancer. The allegations were never proven. The Independent.
Jivamukti Teacher Ruth Lauer-Manenti
This case came to light in April of 2016, after Slate published an article detailing sexual harassment allegations against senior Jivamukti teacher Ruth Lauer-Manenti.
Matthew Remski followed up a few weeks later with a more detailed article that included an extensive interview with Holly Faurot – the student who had brought the suit – and also comments by Jivamukti owners Sharon Gannon and David Life.
The allegations name not just in the suit, but also Gannon and Life and studio director Carlos Menjivar as co-defendants for their role in ‘coving up and condoning’ Laurt-Manenti’s actions. Remski’s article is well-referenced, including links to the documents filed with the courts. The allegations have cast a light on the operating practices of Jivamukti.
These are only a few glaring cases of sex and gurus outside India but this is only the tip of the ice berg because many victims have never come forward to report the abuse maybe because of reasons best known to them. Of course, there are multiple reports of Sex and Gurus within India. Many are swept under the carpets of the temples and some have been floating as gossips around the holy sites.
WHY OH WHY? The meaning of Guru does not support such activities.
Simple Definition of guru
: a religious teacher and spiritual guide in Hinduism
: a teacher or guide that you trust
: a person who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular subject.
Full Definition of guru
1: a personal religious teacher and spiritual guide in Hinduism
2a : a teacher and especially intellectual guide in matters of fundamental concern
2b : one who is an acknowledged leader or chief proponent
2c : a person with knowledge or expertise : an expert.
I leave the readers to make their own analysis of the gravity of this phenomenon and see how best they can reconcile the idea of Sex and Gurus. I was an active teacher for over two decades and taught many students who were pretty and enchanting but never in my teaching duties, I looked at them with any other but the feeling of guru and shishye – teacher and student.
Of course, I was a handsome person during my teaching days in high schools and colleges and doing a lot of handsome activities but none of my students ever displayed any feelings other than that for a teacher. None ever felt any infatuation either. I am glad that I had the needed discipline to forge ahead with my teaching duties and responsibilities. Maybe this is the reason why many of my students show that special respect for me. I am proud of my contributions.