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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Līlā

I wish to make a brief comment on the recent killing of 17-year old Lila Salter from Australia in Vṛndāvana. I do not know her or her family and this is not a judgement of them. They have my heartfelt condolences and sympathy in this time of grief. Nothing justifies her senseless killing. I want to say in general, though, that western girls and women are often ill-prepared when they come to India as Vaiṣṇava converts. It is said that Lila went around uncovered and approached Indian men directly, trying to promote her Guru's books, as this is being done in the west. Indian morale has it, however, that even public women do not approach unrelated men in a direct manner. Surely her intentions were lofty, but it shows that westerners have a lot to learn about matters like modesty, though they often do have higher spiritual knowledge than many born Hindus or even Vaiṣṇavas. The solution lies in a combination of segregation and education. Western women need to be educated in modesty and Indian men need to be taught that western women's open attitudes doesn't make them prostitutes, though western women should first learn modesty. It's their (the Indian men's) country, after all! Segregation helps avoiding disaster scenarios like this. Sādhu Bābā told me personally that Indians marrying westerners would be a cross-cultural disaster, and it usually is. One doesn't become Indian, let alone brahmin, simply by putting on Indian robes. If westerners who are new to India can learn a lesson from this, Lila's tragic death will not have been in vain.

39 comments:

  1. Also is probably a good idea that after someone rapes your sister, if you are the big brother who is all of 27 years old, one idea is you should not invite the rapist into your house, especially if rapist has alcohol on his breath and is carrying a gun.

    And if you invite rapist into your house who is carrying a gun and has alcohol on his breath, at night, is probably best you do not let rapist apologize for the rape all alone in bedroom, with his gun and alcohol breath, at night, with your sister who is a minor.

    But who am I to judge anyone? I'm sure that is reasonable behavior to someone. On some planet. Somewhere. I guess. Maybe. If they had an IQ of 65.

    I don't know, I can't conceive of any circumstance where I would think of that as being the most reasonable and prudent thing to do.

    So why stop at criticising ladies for being immodest? Let's also criticise the brother, a man, for being an idiot. Was the brother mentally retarded or something?

    Here are some guidelines I propose:
    1) If rapist wishes to apologize to your sister, do it in a court of law with the judge, jury, attorneys, and armed security law enforcement there.
    2) Do not let a rapist into your house. Learn to use that little peephole to see who is at the door.
    3) If rapist says, "It's me, Grandma" then double check if it is Grandma or rapist first.
    4) If rapist has alcohol on breath, do not let into house.
    Even if rapist has lemonade on breath, ditto. Even nice lassi prasadam breath, ditto. Do not let rapist into house, period.
    5) Live in a better neighborhood, like a gated community, or an apartment building with security, where the friendly neighborhood rapists cannot come to your door in the first place.
    6) If rapist has a gun, do not let into house. If rapist has a nice gift for you, ditto. If rapist has japa beads and beadbag, ditto. No rapists into house, period.

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  2. A few points about your post:

    Traditionally in India, unmarried girls do not cover their heads. This is something that is done at the time of marriage. Lila Salter was a 17 year old, unmarried girl.

    Lila was not a Western convert. From all accounts, she was born a devotee and grew up most of her life in Vrindavan, and even spoke fluent Hindi. While not desi, she is not exactly videsi. She occupied some sort of cultural middle ground.

    It is also true that even the most chaste women, fully covered and 9 months pregnant, have had horrible things said to them while taking darsan of the Deities. Even serious female devotees, dressed in white saris with head shaved with sikha (but covered, of course) have been groped while visiting the temples. Even Western ladies who are very careful about being modest have a hard time there, and it's misleading to suggest there is always a very clear relationship between loose behavior and abuse.

    -- Akincana Krishna das

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  3. Thank you to Akincana Krishna das for sharing that information and thanks to Adwaitadas for posting it.

    The more we can all learn and share, the more we can help each other to avoid tragedy and calamities in the future, hopefully.

    May I ask a question? Akincana Krishna das, or anyone: what it is that makes certain men over there act like how you described?

    And also, what percentage of the men would you say are doing this? Like ten percent, fifty percent, one percent?

    And is it only in the holy dhamas? Or all over India? Or all over India and the Middle East? Where exactly is this happening?

    So we can be safe. But also to try to think why this is happening. Something in the water people are drinking over there?

    Living in a society where men think it is normal to pee in public makes men feel like is okay to have less boundaries with the opposite sex?

    Thanks, I really appreciate your sharing. Thank you!

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  4. Message to 'anonymous': news reports are not scripture, perhaps someone who takes them so should have their own IQ checked. You do not know what happened. Here is a different version of events:

    "The story as I hear it goes like this; Lila was trying to shake this fellow for the last year, finally they felt he was gone but shows up at late night at the Pepsi building and drunk makes threats and finally goes away. Later he returns with a gun and goes up to their room and forces his way in threatening to kill her and himself. Madhu was brave and took the gun away from the fellow who turns out to be the son of a famous Minister or some one prominent in Government here. The boy then apologized and said he would leave and not bother them again. He grabbed back the gun and took Lila into the bathroom there in their house and locked the door from inside and proceeded to rape her and threatened to kill her and himself again if she said anything. She started to scream and he shot her three times in the head and then put the gun to his own head and died immediately. Madhu broke open the door and found the two of them covered in blood. This is the story I heard from Subhangi -others tell more that this boy had raped Lila before and she was afraid to tell anyone since he kept threatening her and said the same story over and over he would kill her if she spoke."

    http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=85388&blogID=354369192

    I have known the brother Madhu since he was a child, and I believe he is brave and a hero. I find 'anonymous's comments ignorant and despicable.

    I agree with what Advaita says about western women in India.

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  5. "But who am I to judge anyone? I'm sure that is reasonable behavior to someone. On some planet. Somewhere. I guess. Maybe. If they had an IQ of 65."

    Well, mine is twice that score, i.e. 130. No kidding, I have several certificates and papers as proof of that. Honestly, you're right on. What happened to Lila is atrocious, and that as well in God's sweet, personal dhama. Had the guy who did this not shot himself, he ought to have been guillotined in my opinion.

    Before anyone starts drawing comparisons between this comment and the ones I gave on the Dhanurdhara Swami issue, let me say at the outset that two cases are entirely different. And in the former instance, nobody lost their life, so the similitudes, if any, are rather superficial and relative. The bottom line, of course, is that what occurred is a total tragedy, and we can only feel revolted and scandalised by all of this, and rightly so.

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  6. I want to say that the phenomena that is witnessed in India with the men being complete perverts (again not all) but a good majority, boils down to a couple of things things:

    FEAR & FASCINATION!

    Men are taught to fear sex, fear women, least they loose their spirituality...many sadhus will not even sit in a spot where a women has sat, for fear of becoming contaminated and sexually agitated.

    This fear is taught by the Religions that promote and exalt celibacy as supreme and it has been hammered into Hindu society for thousands of years by priests and so-called sadhus and saints who were themselves sexist and fearful of their own sexuality.

    The parents also have hammered this fear into their own children, who promote not getting married on your own, it must be arranged otherwise you will be driven by your own desire and attraction and that will lead to hell and sex.

    The whole Indian society is basically fearful of Sex and as a result they condemn the women.

    But what does this fear do in the long run...? It creates repression which in turn creates fascination, The more the repression the more the fascination until it becomes unhealthy fascination which becomes perversion which in turn results in men groping women at religious event or running out from an ally to feel some tit so they can run home to beat off to..

    It's really sick..and the main cause goes back to the celibates promoting fear of sex and women that they have learned from the religions and priests..

    more later..

    jeej

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  7. "Men are taught to fear sex, fear women, least they loose their spirituality...many sadhus will not even sit in a spot where a women has sat, for fear of becoming contaminated and sexually agitated.

    This fear is taught by the Religions that promote and exalt celibacy as supreme and it has been hammered into Hindu society for thousands of years by priests and so-called sadhus and saints who were themselves sexist and fearful of their own sexuality.

    The parents also have hammered this fear into their own children, who promote not getting married on your own, it must be arranged otherwise you will be driven by your own desire and attraction and that will lead to hell and sex.

    The whole Indian society is basically fearful of Sex and as a result they condemn the women.

    But what does this fear do in the long run...? It creates repression which in turn creates fascination, The more the repression the more the fascination until it becomes unhealthy fascination which becomes perversion which in turn results in men groping women at religious event or running out from an ally to feel some tit so they can run home to beat off to..

    It's really sick..and the main cause goes back to the celibates promoting fear of sex and women that they have learned from the religions and priests.."

    Sick it definitely is, but your analysis is flawed on a great many counts. Most modern Indians haven't got a clue about what true, authentic, traditional Hinduism is. Neither are the vast majority of them spiritually inclined. India is no doubt a very complex case, but from personal experience, I can vouch for the fact that only a teeny-weeny proportion of Hindus there fashion their worldviews as per the Vedic teachings. What it all boils down to is just plain lewdness, lasciviousness or outright base randiness. And this is coming from someone born Hindu like myself, well, outside of India, most luckily.

    As for the rest fo your piece, well, I ignore whether you've ever gone through the Kama-sutra. I happen to own a very good English translation of it, and have bothered to peruse the work a little. You should also bear in mind that treatises on kama have existed since Vedic times and the contents therein were utilised by Lord Krishna in His intimate lilas with the milkmaids of Vraja.

    From a study of Vatsyayana's composition, it is clear that ancient India was far more sexually liberated and open than it is today. Of course, the focus back then was a million miles away from the hedonistic promiscuity of our own times. But it stands in stark contrast to the closed-mindedness of many a contemporary Indian. And where the evidence points to for the cause of the present state of affairs is the career of the Abrahamic religions, with their funny attitudes to sex, in South Asia. In a nutshell, much of the disgusting preoccupation with "eve-teasing" as they call it, that in some instances result in tragedy and death, as in Lilaji's situation, is largely attributable to Islam and Christianity, and the impact that these ideologies have "hammered" upon the Indian mentality. Of course, this is simply part of the big picture, albeit a substantial one, and there are of course other factors that contribute to it, a few of which you touched upon in your post.

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  8. Yes I agree ancient India was much different, I was not referring to that but primarily India and what happened to Indian Religions after 800AD.

    namaskar

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  9. "May I ask a question? Akincana Krishna das, or anyone: what it is that makes certain men over there act like how you described?

    And also, what percentage of the men would you say are doing this? Like ten percent, fifty percent, one percent?

    And is it only in the holy dhamas? Or all over India? Or all over India and the Middle East? Where exactly is this happening?

    Living in a society where men think it is normal to pee in public makes men feel like is okay to have less boundaries with the opposite sex?"

    Where to start?

    North India is supposedly worse than South India in regards sexual harrassment. But talk to South Indian women and you will get a different perspective. When in South India I was harrassed less than in North India, but I was still nonetheless harrassed.

    It happens in Middle Eastern countries as well, but from what men tell me, men as well as women are targets there.

    I am definetly of the opinion that sexual repression and the idealization of celibacy are part of it. Even married couples are not entirely free to explore an exciting intimate life together (some cultural and social taboos exist for them as well, joint family living situation does not exactly help either.)

    I definitely do NOT agree that "western women should first learn modesty", because, "It's their (the Indian men's) country, after all!"

    No matter how anyone acts or dresses, a crime is a crime (the problem is getting the GOV to recognize every day street harrassment as an actual "crime"). That being said, I do not recall ever seeing any woman, Indian or non, "immodestly" dressed or behaved in India. But when males are repressed and frustrated, even the sight of an ankle could set them off, I guess.

    Unfortunately we are nevertheless expected to conform to medieval behavioural modes when visiting or residing in many places in India, and as unpleasant as that may be, sometimes it does help in directing attention away from us.

    People seeking comfortable living and "fun" in India should seek it somewhere other than Braj. Braj is meant for sadhu sanga and bhajan.

    Western style resorts can be found all around India. I don't see the need to build them in Braj. Tourists as well as short and long term pilgrims should perhaps build their fancy complexes on the outskirts of Sri Brindaban and take local transportation into Brindaban for darshan, sadhu sanga, etc.

    As far as the openly peeing in public, yeah, I think such a mentality also contributes to sexual harrassment. Sometimes the guys point it at a passing woman when they are done.

    Bottom line; India has ALOT of issues. As a parent I would NEVER let my kid live there without constant parental supervision and protection, no matter how old they grew to be.

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  10. "Living in a society where men think it is normal to pee in public makes men feel like is okay to have less boundaries with the opposite sex?"

    Bottom-of-the-social-rung females also do it, and I have personally seen this happen. Still, I understand your basic point.

    "I am definetly of the opinion that sexual repression and the idealization of celibacy are part of it."

    I second your point on sexual repression, but really think that the idealisation of celibacy argument is a non-starter. Being of Indian descent myself, married to a woman from India and as a somewhat regular visitor to the country, I simply don't see this idea gaining traction anywhere in the subcontinent. In fact, in places where intensely religious people abound, such as the Buddhist regions of Himachal Pradesh and the holy towns of the Himalayan foothills, such harrassment is present to a far, far lesser degree than in Vraja and many other places across India. In Rishikesh, Devprayag, Kedarnath, Badrinath, or Dharmshala, it is virtually non-existent in fact.

    "Even married couples are not entirely free to explore an exciting intimate life together (some cultural and social taboos exist for them as well, joint family living situation does not exactly help either.)"

    This is baloney. Indians produce babies at a higher rate than any other peoples on earth, and to anyone who knows a thing or two about India, it is more than obvious that joint living is a thing of the past for the major part of the middle and upper middle classes , i.e. the percentage of the population with the lowest birth rates. Extended families still persist to a significant extent in rural areas as well as city slums, and mainly affect those bods who love to spend their free time copulating, hence the sky high rate at which these fecund types reproduce.

    "No matter how anyone acts or dresses, a crime is a crime "

    Agreed.

    "People seeking comfortable living and "fun" in India should seek it somewhere other than Braj. Braj is meant for sadhu sanga and bhajan."

    Again, agreed.

    "Bottom line; India has ALOT of issues. As a parent I would NEVER let my kid live there without constant parental supervision and protection, no matter how old they grew to be."

    Once more, you're right, but the only comment I would make is that if by the time your kid is 25, you still have to mollycoddle him or her, you've simply failed as a parent. Past a certain age, children should be trusted to take care of themselves, if you've not missed anything in their upbringing that is.

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  11. In every country in the world, foreigners visit and do not strictly follow the customs because they do not know them all. In most places, people make allowances for such ignorance and behave graciously and with honor. I do hope you are not saying that Indian men are somehow incapable of this, as this would paint a very poor picture of the honor and integrity of Indian men!

    Nor can the bad behavior of some men be explained or excused by so called loose behavior on the part of women. Other men manage not to take advantage--why not all?

    The problem is inside the man at fault, not in whether or not a woman had her head covered or inadvertently flashed her ankles! Or, my goddess, sought to distribute some spiritual literature--which only a lunatic would mistake for a sexual come on!

    Anyone wanting to support Indian women in their effort to combat "eve-teasing" can find more information at:

    http://blog.blanknoise.org/

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  12. Protection of woman by father, husband, son, the Vedic system. They still practice the tradition in villages. For western lifestyle, I recommend the city to live, or outside of India.
    There is danger everywhere. The guardian's duty is to protect, 'train' and educate the dependents.
    Also its very easy to accuse anyone of 'rape'. To me, people do not maintain the kind of relationship with a guy who raped their sister, enough to 'allow him into her bedroom to apologise'. It sounds to me that the couple were having a mutual relationship and something backfired.

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  13. To adderss Vikram's points;

    Poor people in India who do not have access to private toilets MUST relieve themselves outside, and I do not begrudge them that because they have no other choice.

    However, in Braj and even Delhi men who have toilets at home do it simply because they can!

    All of the "middle class" people in Braj have toilets and bathrooms in their homes. However, it is precisely this class of men, in their outdated polyester pants who are doing the majority of the outside peeing on the walls of Nidhuvan and elsewhere. It is precisely this class of man who has wagged his tiny willy at me many a time. The dirt poor men are not wagging. They pee and go. Afterall, they have WORK to go to in order to be able to feed their family that night.

    The idle "middle class" man of UP who automatically inherits family house and property and thus does not really need to worry about keeping a roof over his head is the one who is doing the waggy willy dance in Vrindavan.

    That Indian people are popping out babies like cats and dogs does not mean they are having SATISFYING sex lives with their spouses. There is a difference between quantity and quality. Ask any woman to get a the downlow on the female perspective.

    Joint family IS alive in well in most of India. In fact, in all the Indian homes I have been to - maybe one hundred or more - that was the living style. Yes, some call center workers in Delhi are living singly and facing issues. Sometimes they also continue to live in nuclear family after marraige. This is the minority. I can't speak for Mumbai, but in New Delhi, the norm is joint family, rich or poor, high class or low.

    I wish it were true that after the age of 25 in India that a son or daughter no longer needed "coddling" but this is precisely what Indian mothers do to their SONS their entire life (could write a book about the Indian ma-beta relationship).

    Also, having been a 25 year old woman in India myself, although I don't need coddling, it was dangerous. If I had a 25 year old daughter, knowing what I do about that country and it's attitudes towards women, I would not encourage her to live their all alone. I'd go with her if I could.

    Celibacy - by this I did not mean that the average Indian family encourages one's son or daughter to become a brahmachari yogi/ni type. I meant that even for unmarried adults, they are expected to refrain from relationships with the opposite gender before marriage. This creates a big problem in the psyche of people in their mid 20s to mid 30s who are still single.

    However, on the other hand, in religious communities celibacy as described above IS idealized, even amongst families in Braj. That has it's own set of complications which I won't address here.

    Well, so much could be written, there is alot of material to work with in India, that is for sure!

    Tapati and anonymous, it's not about covering the head or one's ankles. Jeans and a t-shirt is modest dressing and totally acceptable. No need to don niqab like a Saudi lady, although sometimes I am tempted.

    What I'm saying is that even in modest dress like salwar/kameez (punjabi suit), sari or jeans and t-shirts, women are STILL getting harrassed, so it has NOTHING to do with clothing.

    Guys are doing it because they know they can get away with it.

    For the anonymous who suggests living in Indian cities for western lifestyle - cities like Mumbai also are tackling this issue.

    For people who want to live ISKCON style though, I recommend building their fancy accomodations and restaurants on the outskirts of Braj like Kosi or off the Delhi-Agra highway around where the MacDonald's and new AC shopping center was constructed. That way they can have easy access to the holy places but be far away enough as to not spoil the charming old world "mood" of the Dham.

    Westerners who appreciate the simple living of the locals and Bengali vaishnavas can then reside in Braj without having to be exposed to the aiswarya scene of ISKCON which are samskars not anukula for developing Braj bhakti.

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  14. Respectful obeisances to all ~

    In regards to "...the problem is inside the man at fault":

    I would daresay also: the problem is in under-estimating the danger of the small percentage of the population that cannot abide by the normal social niceties that the rest of us can.

    And failing to educate ourselves and others as to the danger of this segment of the population.

    Also: failing as a society to have the will to change things so that this percentage of people stays small and conditions do not exist that exacerbate their anti-social behaviors.


    One place to start would be to read "The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us" by Martha Stout PhD. She estimates that 4% minimum and up to 10% maximum of the population has ASPD Anti-Social Personality Disorder or what is commonly called a sociopath.

    According to her book, the US hosts 11.7 million sociopaths and NYC alone is home to 320,000 of them. So if India has a population of one billion, then what is 4% to 10% of that? Alot of people.


    Now let's examine where does this come from? ASPD begins in children as ODD Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Mainly because it is not PC to tell a parent "Hey your kid is a sociopath". So it is couched in a more benign terminology.

    Mostly men have these mental illnesses of the Conduct Disorder continuum. After childhood, if the condition persists, it is called Conduct Disorder. CD co-exists usually with ADD/ ADHD, LDs [learning disabilities], discalcula, disgraphia, Tourette Syndrome, and low self esteem to the point of EH [Emotionally Handicapped].

    Usually what happens is the person has ODD/CD and a LD concurrently, the LDs make them feel worthless and low self esteem, so in order to raise their self esteem they view others [esp. women] as a "poison container" and vent/ put all of their anger, rage, and hostility onto the poison container person(s).

    So next one of two things happen: either the person lives in an environment where they have adequate food, clothing, shelter, clean air, clean water, bathing facilities, educational opportunities, and medical attention or they don't.

    For the people who are lucky enough to get diagnosis and extra help [remediation] with their LDs
    then they source of pain is mitigated. So they tend to act out less. Result? Their symptoms of ODD-CD decrease.

    But for people in most of the world, where there is not a good education system in place with free therapy for all of the child's LD and EH conditions as part of the free education system,
    then the CD disorders get worse.

    Then from ages 20 to 45 the person is categorized as having ASPD rather than ODD or CD.


    So what does this mean? First, we need to educate the most vulnerable members of our society about the reality of The Sociopaths Among Us.

    Sociopaths are in every occupation, in every country in the world. It is mostly men [according to DSM-IV Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders], and they feel no remorse at all, ever, like the rest of us do.

    So that is why most people teach their children "Do not talk to strangers". Because maybe they think it is too scary to be honest and just come out and tell kids that, "Hey, 4% of the people in this world are a bunch of psychos, and they rise to the top of most professions the easiest and fastest. Why? Because they have absolutely no scruples, no morals, and no remorse at all. Boo! Happy Halloween! Everyday of your life!!! Welcome to Samsara!!!"

    So I don't know about you, but knowing how many sociopaths are amongst us, I certainly would not want to encourage ANY young lady go out and distribute religious literature, ever, anywhere: no matter WHAT country she lived in.

    Because you don't know about that 4% to 10% of the population out there: who they are and what they might do. Is not like they are wearing a red and white name tag that says "Hello! I'm a Sociopath".


    I would not encourage ANY lady to talk to strangers in Kali Yuga because of this 4% to 10% of the population that ruin everything for the rest of us. The world is getting crazier and crazier.

    And in traditional cultures you never hear of rites of passage of making young ladies go out on the street to meet and greet people, because the world has always had these sociopaths.

    And even you consult an advice column or contemporary etiquette book like Miss Manners it actually says: "What do I say if a stranger approaches me on the street and says hello?" Miss Manners replies, "Well-bred people do not speak to strangers on the street!"

    So this is not some medieval advice, this is 21st century advice column and author from Western countries.

    And you never hear about rich girls traipsing around without their limo driver and bodyguards. Even if they are rich and walking around half naked, they are doing it in Beverly Hills. Do you know how quickly the Beverly Hills police respond to an incident? They are there is two minutes and take your complaint very seriously.

    So yes, if your parents are yuppies and yes, you are a college kid and not a psycho, yes you will get a class where you will learn that, "If a girl says no, she means no. And even if she is naked and gave consent, if she changes her mind then you have to respect what the girl says."

    This is what they are teaching educated kids in Western countries. But even in Western countries has its Ted Bundys and charming killers of coeds. So how much more dangerous it is going to be in a country where there is a different status quo for the proletariat.

    The bottom line is 4% to 10% of the population is extremely dangerous. The super rich know this, so they don't let their daughters go out anywhere without bodyguards, private jet, limo, chauffeur, and minimal contact with people they do not know.

    They do it because they can afford the best of everything. And the best is do not put yourself into a situation where you might be vulnerable. Because all it takes is one sociopath to permanently change everything. So best do not even give a stranger the benefit of the doubt.

    But for the proletariat, who live on the street, walk on the street, and use the common streets of the common places, well maybe they never heard of "Well bred people do not speak to strangers on the street."

    So to them perhaps is acceptable to allow girls to do Harinam Sankirtan because they have no equivalent like the Debutante Ball where you are formally introduced to your peers in society and you are expected to only associate with your social peers.

    Anyway it appears to be a class issue as well as a mental health issue. And while the class issue maybe can do nothing about that, the mental health issue we can all become more aware of how dangerous the world is and educate ourselves and others about it.


    Lastly, in 02138 Magazine [Harvard alumni magazine] a recent article "Designer Babies, Designer Parents" said that in countries where female infanticide is practiced, if a society has a ratio of more males than females, the more violent that society.

    India is world famous to practice female infanticide. There are millions of "missing" women there of all ages. So Indian society is going to be a more dangerous and violent one, according to this latest research by sociologists.

    One reason why is because men have more mental illnesses, like ASPD, than women.

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  15. The last comment was quite good. Everywhere people are facing oppression and abuse. Right now the suicide rate in America is climbing and the reason according to research is economic/ social problems.
    I also heard that a percentage of men in certain European countries have pedophile tendencies, hence the popularity of child porn on the internet.
    Yes its important to be on guard at all times, and become educated about what is going on.
    Anyone would try to exploit a person who is gullible, naive, too trusting and innocent, for personal purposes.
    The tendency to trouble others, for our own gratification is present in all of us, even though we are not concious, or care to admit it. Knowing that, its important to always keep up the guard, because the wolf is always eyeing Red Riding Hood to make his move, and feast. No set of laws and policing will ever stop the bad wolf.
    But still, there are also wolves lurking in the family, most times. Too many 'devotees' do not believe in karma. According to the scriptures, suffering is a result of past sins. Yet we are too concieted to admit the extent of our sins. Thats the other side of the coin, the side that enrages a good many 'devotees.'

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  16. To the anon who posted the 'wagging willy dance' comment - this heads towards obscenity, which is not allowed. Secondly, I do not agree that T-shirts are not revealing.

    To the anon who commented with Red Riding Hood - this too is a border-case, since it's swerving off-topic.

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  17. "That Indian people are popping out babies like cats and dogs does not mean they are having SATISFYING sex lives with their spouses."

    Frankly, what do you know about the sex lives of Indians? There is much stuff that I wouldn't write as comment on a spiritually-oriented blog, otherwise I could educate you all about the matter at length. Put simply, your post is not entirely useless but what you say is far from encompassing the entire picture.

    "Joint family IS alive in well in most of India. In fact, in all the Indian homes I have been to - maybe one hundred or more - that was the living style. Yes, some call center workers in Delhi are living singly and facing issues. Sometimes they also continue to live in nuclear family after marraige. This is the minority. I can't speak for Mumbai, but in New Delhi, the norm is joint family, rich or poor, high class or low."

    Even if I were to concede to this, which I'm not since personal experience and my knowledge of Indian statistics tell me differently (hence my seriously questioning your observational faculties and taking the whole of your post for what it is, i.e. a self-seeking tirade of typical Western-influenced hypocrisy and demagoguery), there is nothing inherently worse about joint families than what you have in your own dysfunctional Occident. Nobody in their right mind would deny some of the problems that come out of living together, but at least Asians (not just Indians) have a semblance of humanity left in them. My own Dadi of 86 years of age lives at my uncle's very near my place, and my heart melts each time she plays with my little tyke, her great-grandson. Also, my own parents live next to me, so my family isn't a typical extended example, but the immensely beneficial physical proximity of my child's grand-parents to him is palpable for anyone to see. I also consider myself truly blessed to have had my grannies look after me when I was little. Yes, we do believe in caring for our elders, and rightly so, unlike in some parts of the globe where the selfish, self-centred, messed-up folks living there tightly hold their dogs and cats to their bosoms but send their mothers and fathers, what to speak of grand-parents, to old peoples' homes, effectively consigning senior citizens to spend their last days meaninglessly.

    "Also, having been a 25 year old woman in India myself, although I don't need coddling, it was dangerous. If I had a 25 year old daughter, knowing what I do about that country and it's attitudes towards women, I would not encourage her to live their all alone. I'd go with her if I could."

    If I had a daughter of whatever age, I would seriously caution her against potential dangers no matter what country she was living in. Having spent a large part of my life in London, and having travelled a bit elsehwere, I know for a fact that nobody is safe anywhere in the world, least of all in Yankeeland. Perhaps if you were from Switzerland, Dubai, Japan or New Zealand, you'd have a better platform from which to judge others (of course, I don't know where you're from, but if you're from America, you better put a sack in it, since no land on this planet is as despised by the rest of the world as the US is). The bottom line is, however, that no place on earth is free from such troubles, and only somebody in a coma would argue otherwise.

    "Celibacy - by this I did not mean that the average Indian family encourages one's son or daughter to become a brahmachari yogi/ni type. I meant that even for unmarried adults, they are expected to refrain from relationships with the opposite gender before marriage. This creates a big problem in the psyche of people in their mid 20s to mid 30s who are still single.

    However, on the other hand, in religious communities celibacy as described above IS idealized, even amongst families in Braj. That has it's own set of complications which I won't address here."

    You should take the matter up with young Indian yuppies and see whether or not they don't burst out in wild whoops of laughter in your face. And the fact that SOME people may feel frustrated because of comparable sexual matters speaks more of their own decadence than it does of the societal expectations thereof. In erstwhile days, this was certainly hardly an issue, and celibacy was way more prevalent than today. The now widespread Western-originated ethos of hedonism that is sweeping the planet is doing its job perfectly, by dehumanising the earth's current batch of humans and propounding consumerism as the ultimate goal of life. Ineluctably, nowadays, morals increasingly take a battering from various quarters, since policy-makers and multi-nationals have a monumental stake in keeping us dullards of Kali-yuga engrossed in the bodily concept of existence. Once again, I find it mystifying that somebody professing to be a Vaishnava wannabe lacks the basic insight to perceive such an obvious reality. What's more, the evidence points in the exact opposite direction than what you believe. HIV is on the verge of becoming chronic in much of India, and divorce rates keep soaring, which speaks reams about the stupidity of the persons concerned but simultaneously counters your points.

    "Well, so much could be written, there is alot of material to work with in India, that is for sure!"

    I haven't finished reading up Western intellectuals thump their own (embarrassing) histories and ideological short-sightedness, both of which are greatly responsible for the pandemonium of a world we currently have, so I guess I'll take up India in the aftermath of that.

    I thought I was finished with this post when a few additional grotesquenesses started glaring at me, so I reckoned I would complete the job and then leave. So, here are a few more pearls from our anonymous pal:

    "All of the "middle class" people in Braj have toilets and bathrooms in their homes."

    There are no middle-class folks in Vraja as such, unless you wanna include lower middle classes, which I don't, as I count them as working class. The 300 million-strong middle class of India is almost exclusively an urban phenomenon, with certain exceptions, as always exist. I'm formally trained in finance and economics, and this is how I earn a living, therefore I do know how to classify populations on these bases. And I also read enough about the Indian economy to have full confidence in what I'm asserting.

    "I wish it were true that after the age of 25 in India that a son or daughter no longer needed "coddling" but this is precisely what Indian mothers do to their SONS their entire life (could write a book about the Indian ma-beta relationship)."

    One could write just as voluminously if not more so about the clinical parent-child relationship that persists in almost all non-Asian peoples generally. The relationship between parents and their offspring, or lack thereof, in the West, is equally the cause of countless ills which is plain to one and all but which you conveniently choose to downplay or ignore, and this reeks of intellectual disingenuousness.

    Where I do concur with you is that not only poor people urinate in public in India, and this does spawn revulsion in lots of individuals, myself included. And harrassment of many varieties is definitely there, which needs addressing too. The last 2 Anons do make some searching remarks, and I would tend to chime with them on what they write.

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  18. Mr. Ramsoondur,

    You fiercely defend Indian culture but where are you spending your precious human life: in the West. If you ask Westerners whether they would swap their western lifestyles for an Indian life style, there is great chance most would reply "no, thank you, I prefer to live as a westerner, defects and all." But if you ask Indians if they would adopt a western life style, many are sure to reply, "yes, I like to try". And in fact, many Indians are trying, inside and outside of India. Why are Indians copying the West if it is so beneath their standards? You do not address the fact that there are great problems with Indian/Asian cultures, the greatest of all and its Achilles tendon, the problem of objectification of women. The West is ahead of Asia in this aspect. To Asians, the West may appear to be on the corrupt side with regards to women's liberties. But the fact is that the West is undegoing a process of finding a solution for the quest for human equality in all levels. The West is being forced, by necessity, to find said solution in other recourses than force and imposition, which is the outdated model still lingering in Asia. Is the West succeeding then? Apparently not YET, but one advantage found here, and which evidently is gaining credibility with young Asians, is that anomalies such as mysoginy, abuse, racism and castism no longer can expect to pass for the norm of a culture. It is silly of Westerners and Asians alike not to recognize where our weaknesses and strengths are, especially in a time where old vices and new blunders can and are being easily and equally spoted.

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  19. Hearting Krishna but not all things IndianThursday, February 21, 2008 at 8:35:00 PM GMT+1

    " Nobody in their right mind would deny some of the problems that come out of living together, but at least Asians (not just Indians) have a semblance of humanity left in them."

    And non-Asians have zero humanity?

    This is both untrue and inflammatory.

    "Perhaps if you were from Switzerland, Dubai, Japan or New Zealand, you'd have a better platform from which to judge others (of course, I don't know where you're from, but if you're from America, you better put a sack in it, since no land on this planet is as despised by the rest of the world as the US is)."

    Excuse me? Because I took birth in the US I must not form or express opinions? Sorry, that's not going to happen.

    I have spent most of my adult life in India. I definetly know a thing or two about that place, I definitely have opinions about it, and I am definetly going to express them.

    I also will not delve into the details about Indian culture and it's issues with sexuality here. However, having seen things first hand, having talked with Indians personally about their problems, suffice it to say, I could write volumes. But I'm not going to.

    I also know that there are benefits to joint family living, just as there are benefits to nuclear family living. However, as the issue here is the harrassment and death of a young woman and the cultural, social, pscyhological ethos that may have contributed to that, what we are addresssing is the DYSFUNCTIONS of Indian culture, not the healthy functions.

    Every culture on this planet has it's good and bad. I am not a hippie dippie westerner with dialeted pupils who waxes eloquent while idealizing and romantizing the Orient. Quite the contrary.

    India has some good points over the country and culture I was born in. Similarly, the country and culture of my birth has some good points over the country of my current residence - India. The place of women in society happens to be one of them. There is marked difference in how I am treated in the US compared to what I face in India. Many women, Indian and non, concur. There is no comparison actually. I have never felt as unsafe in US, even at night in urban areas, as I do in daytime in Uttar Pradesh. Nor have I ever been sexually harrassed in US.

    Not all cultures are the same or even equal. Some are better in some areas than others. India is better than US in some areas, in some areas it is worse.

    You seem to write in terms of black or white. I deal in shades of grey.

    By stating that forced celibacy results in sexual repression and frustration does not mean that I am in favor of "hedonism".

    If you read the yoga books of Indian swamis from the 1940s-60s, the ones who's disciples paved the way for the yoga movement in America later on, you will find unrealistic, naive and strange ideas about sexuality and an over glorification of celibacy.

    However, if you read yoga books written by western practitioners of yoga, the approach to both celibacy and sexuality is much more realistic and balanced.

    It is this middle path that needs to be sought in order for a human being to come into balance.

    Personally, in the circles that I hang in the west, we pretty much have a down-to-earth approach about these things. Being neither impressed by celibates or sexual hedonists, we all seem to be pretty much "ok" in this area. So far no women have complained of being sexually harrassed by any of our men, and no one in a relationship has complained of dissatisfaction, neither have the few "celibates" complained of frustration. Healthy and responsible sexuality is appreciated for the positive role it plays in the mental and physical health of individuals, couples, families and the larger peace of community. For some adults "healthy sexuality" may mean complete celibacy, and that is fine too, as long as it is a personal choice and not one arising from societal or family pressure or especially EGO (hoping to gain acceptance and adoration for being a "tyagi").

    There are indeed middle class people in Braj. But Braj's middle class may be "lower middle class" in places like New Delhi or Mumbai where incomes are higher.

    Regarding this comment;

    "The relationship between parents and their offspring, or lack thereof, in the West, is equally the cause of countless ills which is plain to one and all but which you conveniently choose to downplay or ignore, and this reeks of intellectual disingenuousness."

    I believe I did mention the lack of parental presence in Lila's case, didn't I?

    Anyway, I may be wrong but it appears to me that your experience living in India is very limited. Yes, divorce rates are rising, which I see as a positive thing in cases of abuse. Women, (and some men) are finally feeling empowered enough to leave toxic and dangerous marraiges. They have my full moral support. However, in the divorce rates are rising where? In the small towns like Mathura/Vrindavan? In villages like Benur? Or is it in metros like Bangalore and their surrounding suburbs?

    Vikram, I invite you to reside in Braj for say, oh, a good 3 years. Then you might actually gain insight into the psyche of the North Indian villager, small towner.

    Even just a few years ago, one of only 2 Braj women that I know who are divoreced, was so ashamed of being divorced that when I asked where is her husband, she remained silent, eyes cast down. Finally after about 30 minutes our mutual friend explained that she was divorced and that is why she remained silent. Um, ok.

    I'm sure you are a well meaning individual and your writing for the most part is polite, but you seem to have some over-idealistic views of India's modernization. INDIA SHINING CAMPAIGN, but going the other way.

    India is not the hub of liberality you would make it seem.

    Regarding the HIV spread, much of it is due to married truck drivers who cheat on their wives with prostitutes on the road, get AIDS, and take the AIDS home to their wives.

    That also speaks volumes about the wives' positions, but this is not the place for me to get into that. There are so many NGOs trying to empower those women and writing about it right now as I type. No need for me to write more.

    Although in my heart Braj is my home and there is nowhere else (for now) to find rasik vaishnavas but in India, still, socially as a woman, I feel much more safe and at mental peace in other countries.

    This is just my personal reality and no amount of poetry can convince me otherwise, nor should it even try.

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  20. I love the last comment by Vikram.
    I'm a western Indo myself, and I get tired of hearing Westerners looking for every opportunity to ridicule Indians and India, and feel themselves better. Why they go to live in India, or accept an Indian guru really puzzles me. Too much superiority complex is what I am noticing, way too much, while in the west people are commiting suicide, going crazy. depressed, drugged, super- stressed, because of problems created by European lifestlye and laws.
    I doubt that the guy indeed raped Lila, but since the family is white the accusation will be accepted as a fact by all. I say again the two were sharing a romantic affair and something went sour. Forget about what the mother is saying. Its hard to lose a child, but I dont think she was an innocent little girl as they are trying to portray, who was raped by this super-lusty Indian.
    Some of these people are so unappreciative of Indians, they do not appreciate anyone who is not a part of the white controlled Iskcon institution. There are also some who criticise Vedic culture, scripture, and brahmins etc.. This is pure yavana, nothing but yavana culture.
    I was one time in Braj on a tour with white devotees and they instructed their pilgrims to give one or two rupees only, not more, as donation to any temple besides Iskcon.
    I'm so repelled by their snobbishness, I steer clear of them most time, But thankfully there are there are exceptions like Adwaita and other gems like him, who do not display this racism/ superiority complex. Thats why I maintain warm feelings towards people like them.
    Any kind of superiority complex obstructs one from reaching Krishna. According to Chaitanya, one should feel lower than a blade of grass and give respect to others.
    There is a reason Chaitanya and Krishna appeared in India, in spite of the crimes and criminals, and not in Europe. Think about it.

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  21. Regarding the KAMA SUTRA as mentioned by a commenter here;

    Kama Sutra is written from the male perspective, and as far as my research goes, was intended for the upper class royals and similarly highly educated folk (sanskrit literature). There are various theories on erotic temple sculpture, and some of them are very prudish indeed such as, "the outside walls of our temples represent the life we need to leave behind once we enter into the sacred interior of the holy space".

    From my readings of Vedic supplementary texts, I have not gleaned an extremely permissable society, especially not for women. I also have gleaned that covering of a woman's hair (and possibly even the face) was something that possibly could have been existent in South Asia prior to the advent of Islam.

    I think the combination of ancient Indian ideals in regards the behaviour of "chaste women" and the glorification of rishis and sages who were either lifelong celibates or eventual vanaprasthas and sanyasis at the end of their married life, as well as later Islamic and Victorian influences are definetly a part of the dysfunctions around women and sexuality we experience in India today.

    Funny, when I see the issues that are being dealt with in India right now, I see a parallel in all of the religious groups that are Indian influenced here in the West, the ones I'm exposed to anyway.

    While the West may have progressed, there is an element of backwardsness in many of us who have adopted Indian religions as our own. It is as if we substituted one set of dysfunctions for another, and in many cases, one set of healthy native functions for unhealthy, foreign dysfunctions.

    The case for such is especially strong in ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness), yet I cannot say that my own sect is totally free either.

    Issues regarding the place of women, sexuality, celibacy and transgenderism are also being tackled by us Westerners who have adopted some sort of an "Indian model" towards life.

    The parrallels are striking.

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  22. "And non-Asians have zero humanity?

    This is both untrue and inflammatory."

    They certainly have a deficiency of it as far as valuing elders and seniors are concerned, and having spent much of my adult life in Europe, there is nobody on earth who would succeed in convincing me otherwise. If that sounds invidious to you, just too bad. I maintain my position.

    "This is just my personal reality and no amount of poetry can convince me otherwise, nor should it even try."

    My experience of India is obviously going to be different from yours, as I'm Indian-bodied and male, so no surprise there. I'm not going to respond at nearly every paragraph of yours I have done earlier for the simple reason that I have got neither the time nor the proclivity for that, since it's all prajalpa, a blasted waste of time. Suffice to say that for someone who has the gall to accuse others of seeing things in black-and-white, it is only as a response to my last post that you have been forced somewhat into admitting platitudes that everybody is well aware of such as "there is good and bad in all cultures", etc. Earlier on, it was all the stereotypical garbage that your ilk love to vomit about other peoples and exotic social contexts. No, anon, like all thinking people, I try to look at the big picture of everything in existence, and that can only mean adopting a "grey" vision.

    And for your information, my interest with India is mainly with the religious and spiritual side of it. I don't go there in order to delve into the many societal problems that Indians face, and neither would I ever squander my time and energy in such a pointless pursuit. I should point out, however, that NO female member of my family has ever complained of sexual harassment of the order of magnitude that you and your cohorts complain of. Yes, my wife is from India, and she did have guys hitting on her when she was studying at Panjab University several years ago, in the same way that my female cousins both in England and Mauritius have had - so nothing special about eve-teasing in educated circles in India's cities. Maybe Vraja is home to a host of illiterates, which perhaps explains some of the attitudes you decry. Further, neither of my wife's three sisters in Punjab nor another cousin of mine who read Microbiology at St. Xavier's in Mumbai some years ago, have ever had to contend with anything approximating the gloomy picture which you paint.

    As for the India Shining hogwash, never did I buy into that nor will I ever. The so-called modernisation of India is a euphemistic way of expressing the fundamental truth that Indians have lost their ways and are mindlessly aping, rather clumsily I should say, the materialistic humanism of the soulless West. Now, I'm not going to waste myself attempting to halt that process. This is the age of hypocrisy after all, and I'd prefer to heed what a certain Western Vaishnava sadhaka typed on his blog not long back, i.e. that the scriptures tell us to basically mind our own business and not indulge our minds and senses with gossip and themes that are not favourable to spiritual progress. The search for God is a path that ultimately leads one to withdraw from the outside world and retreat into our own selves. That you still managed to find time to culturally analyse modern materialistic India (in light of your own biased, limited perspective of course) as an aspirant devotee is quite confounding, if I may say so. What did you go there for in the first place, to transpose your incorrect theories of feminism to the Hindu heartland or to advance on your personal quest for the divine?

    In summary, do I deny that modern India has got many, many issues to tackle? NO. But I do take exception to your opinion as to the root causes of them. Not that you're wrong, at least not completely, but there are many other factors which as an insider to Indian samskriti (even though I was born somewhere else) I instinctively and intuitively sense but that you cannot even begin to comprehend, as an outsider. Likewise, I'd subscribe to the version expounded by Indian swamis any day as the real word of shastra, rather than seriously consider anything coming from a few foreign-born dabblers in yoga and so forth.

    As a final note, what you term as liberality is synonymous with degradation and degeneration in my books, and I am personally quite appalled by the route down which my Indian homeland is going these days. Just to give you a taste of how vehement my aversion to occidental "values" is, I shall conclude by stating that I'd rather watch India mutate into a fundamentalist Wahabi nation than end up fully taking to the rotten methods of Europe and America. Feel like having the last word? Please be my guest.

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  23. govindanandiniji, I reside in Mauritius, a Hindu-majority island, not the West, where I have lived in the past. As for the rest of your comment, sorry, time is too precious, and I shall respond at some other time, if possible (I don't promise to).

    "This is pure yavana, nothing but yavana culture."

    "But thankfully there are there are exceptions like Adwaita and other gems like him, who do not display this racism/ superiority complex. Thats why I maintain warm feelings towards people like them."

    "There is a reason Chaitanya and Krishna appeared in India, in spite of the crimes and criminals, and not in Europe. Think about it."

    You've said it all, mitra. Let them ponder over it, that is, if they've got the requisite humility and buddhi.

    "I also have gleaned that covering of a woman's hair (and possibly even the face) was something that possibly could have been existent in South Asia prior to the advent of Islam."

    This is utter nonsense.

    The gist of some posts here is really rich, I find. The people of Bharata were composing the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas at a time when the ancestors of today's Europeans were still grappling in their caves, with hardly any accoutrement at all. This says it all, and little else needs to be added in that regard. I surely thank Krishna from the bottom of my heart that he endowed me with my Indianness, which if I'm careful to PROPERLY utilise, will certainly bring me closer to the gates of Vaikuntha some day. Bharata is not known for no reason as Deva-bhumi, and nothing or no-one can alter that fact. As for those who feel uncomfortable with this painful reality, gosh darn, tough, the caravan rolls on.

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  24. I heart Krishna (but not Indian guys)Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 7:20:00 PM GMT+1

    "I doubt that the guy indeed raped Lila, but since the family is white the accusation will be accepted as a fact by all. I say again the two were sharing a romantic affair and something went sour. "

    Perhaps she DID have a relationship the man and perhaps she WAS STILL RAPED.

    There is also such a thing as "marital rape" although I do not know if it is recognized in Indian law.

    Whether or not this girl has a relationship with this man or not is of no consequence. What happened was a gruesome crime.

    Although I myself would not willingly enter into a relationship with an Indian man, if she did so, of her own accord, that is her personal choice. I have nothing against dating or teen romance.

    How would this take away the issue of the crimes we know did happen - murder and possibly rape.

    I am not an ISKCON member and therefore I do not agree with their policy of giving only 2 rupees to all temples except for their's .

    At the same time I am not overly impressed with Indian society. Not any more impressed than I am with any other society, that is.

    While there are things about Indian cultures I do appreciate, I am not starry eyed.

    As far as Vikram's sharing with us that the women in his family were "hit on", I would like to ask what he means by "hit on"?

    If by hit on you mean approached and politely asked out for a date, I have nothing against that at all. That is not "eve teasing", nor is it "sexual harrassment", it is normal.

    By eve teasing and sexual harrassment I am referring to abuse and crimes, at least what should be recognized as crimes.

    Like you said, you are a male of Indian descent, so your experiences and thus opinions of India will be drastically different from mine.

    I have been sexually harrassed in India countless times.

    Does this mean anything to you two guys or not?

    And I have been asked out on dates by men too - there is a huge difference.

    Why do we westerners go to India?

    For sadhu sanga.

    What else?

    And even our Indian gurus warn us about the local guys!!!!

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  25. One more thing...

    Govindanandini, it will be interesting to see how the two Indian gentleman here address this;


    "Mr. Ramsoondur,

    You fiercely defend Indian culture but where are you spending your precious human life: in the West. If you ask Westerners whether they would swap their western lifestyles for an Indian life style, there is great chance most would reply "no, thank you, I prefer to live as a westerner, defects and all." But if you ask Indians if they would adopt a western life style, many are sure to reply, "yes, I like to try". And in fact, many Indians are trying, inside and outside of India. Why are Indians copying the West if it is so beneath their standards?"

    .................. Afterall, many western vaishnavas give up a very good life on many levels to take up a life of (some sort of) bhakti in India's holy dhams, undergoing severe austerities as well as risking their lives in order to try their relative best at sadhu sanga and bhajan. However I have never met an Indian Vaishnava from the West actually go back to India and live in a Dham. Have you?

    Perhaps the answer is $$$.

    But wouldn't the draw of a spiritually focused life, no matter how hard draw western Indians (vaishnavas) as well?

    Wouldn't the pull of "great Indian culture" pull even ordinary western Indians back to the "desh".

    Wouldn't the magnet of woman's glorious position in Indian culture suck millions of Indian woman scattered throughout the globe back home?

    (Actually, the allure of cheap labor in the form of nokars (maids) does in fact draw them. Can't blame them there, if they are the ones doing the majority of the cooking and cleaning at home, despite having outside jobs).

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  26. I doubt that the guy indeed raped Lila, but since the family is white the accusation will be accepted as a fact by all. I say again the two were sharing a romantic affair and something went sour. Forget about what the mother is saying. Its hard to lose a child, but I dont think she was an innocent little girl as they are trying to portray, who was raped by this super-lusty Indian.

    So...he was capable of murder and suicide but too saintly to stoop to committing rape?

    If people are left to conclude that he's guilty, it is due to his own actions, not the color of his victim's skin. He chose to murder his accuser rather than face her in court. Behavior like that makes one appear guilty in any culture.

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  27. However I have never met an Indian Vaishnava from the West actually go back to India and live in a Dham. Have you?

    You haven't, but many have...
    Satya Narayan was in Detroit, now Vrindavan, there are also Bhakti Caru Swami (who lived in Germany), Raghavananda Das (USA), Sarvabhavana, etc. etc.
    In short, you are grossly generalizing.

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  28. "One more thing..."

    Just as an ultimate reply to the last few comments here. I am not a Western Indian; I was born and bred on the island of Mauritius, over 70% of the people of which are of Indian descent (49% Hindu, 18% Muslim and some Christians as well). I have spent a lengthy period span studying and working in Britain, but it's been quite a few years now since I returned to my native clime and folks. Also, I utterly condemn what happened to Lila like any sane person would. At the same time, I have NEVER, EVER, pretended that all was peachy in Indian culture or any other culture for that matter. However, I don't have to take as gospel truth analyses which I don't see much sense in. Each individual has the prerogative to look at things in light of his or her own psychology, intelligence and conditioning. There is seldom an absolute gloss to be had on such issues, as these are the happenings of the temporal, relative world, hence, if one wants to be really generous about it all, it could be posited that one's take is just as valid as another's, as we are here dealing with not one but several angles of vision. I hope that this little bit reconciles the conflicting points of view and concludes the discussion to the satisfaction of one and all.

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  29. "I have been sexually harrassed in India countless times.

    Does this mean anything to you two guys or not?"

    Yes, Mataji/Didi (whichever one you prefer), it does revolt me, and I'm not just saying it for effect. Indeed, if it had occurred in front of me, whoever was responsible would've taken my fist on his mug. And I mean it.

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  30. But the fact is that the West is undegoing a process of finding a solution for the quest for human equality in all levels.

    I noticed this and want to make a brief comment here - this goes against even the most basic Vedic knowledge or common sense. kAraNaM guNo sango'syat sad-asad yoni janmasu "As a result of attachment to a certain culture (guNa) the soul takes birth in good or bad species." (Bhagavad Gita 13.22) There is no equality anywhere, never has been and never will be. In the Vedanta Sutra it is asked whether God is partial because some people suffer and others enjoy, and the answer is that karma is beginningless.. There will always be rich, poor, good, bad, high or low persons.

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  31. "I noticed this and want to make a brief comment here - this goes against even the most basic Vedic knowledge or common sense. kAraNaM guNo sango'syat sad-asad yoni janmasu "As a result of attachment to a certain culture (guNa) the soul takes birth in good or bad species." (Bhagavad Gita 13.22) There is no equality anywhere, never has been and never will be. In the Vedanta Sutra it is asked whether God is partial because some people suffer and others enjoy, and the answer is that karma is beginningless.. There will always be rich, poor, good, bad, high or low persons.

    I beg to disagree, equallity has been the central quest of humanity since ever. Absolutely NO ONE wants to be ruled against his/her will. This is a fact and this is the real common sense enlightened human beings have undertood.

    Our beloved Krishna informs us in Bg. that a saint sees all with EQUAL vision - samyat. Is the saint a sentimental silly man/woman we pompously bow to while in his/her presence, for the sake of sadhacara, but then afterwards we foxily resume our businesses of being mysoginist, racist, castist, scriptural-fundamentalist, etc? No, of course not. We honor the saint by BECOMING like him/her. That is, we too must see all with EQUAL vision. And having thus The Vision, we act again as per Krshna's recommendation in Bg. where he says (to Arjuna) that his loving service is EQUALLY available to sudhras, vaisyas, women and outcasts. So indeed these differences do exist but they are transformed in the presence of pure LOVE. Indeed, when one has The Vision, these differences become a stone upon which the freed jiva soul steps to attain his/her beloved Krsna. Queen Kunti was grateful for difficulties, because she understood that the only reason for difficulties in our lives is that they are to veer us towards Krsna.

    Please note Advaitadas that attachment and repulse are two sides of the same coin. The problem with a fellow who counts too much on his "high" birth as a male brahmin is that, due to said birth, very likely he will become proud and abusive and so forth , and then go down the social scale in future lives, and round and round, like that. What you would do well clarifying to your readers is that karma is beginningless much in the same way circular thinking (this is "high" and that is "low") leads ultimately, well, nowhere. Thus a real seer, while retaining the concept of distinctions, absorbs the further understanding that there is a reason for such seemingly senseless samsara.

    So lastly, Advaita, God indeed is partial. He is partial to his devotees. And then again, he says that ultimately everyone follows his path, so ultimately everyone is his devotee. There is no other reason for anybody's life events, life after life, in this or any other world, than equal opportunity for service to Krsna.

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  32. Adwaitaji,

    You may be confusing "equality" with "sameness".

    True, we are all suffering and enjoying according to our many activities from past and present lives. Hence we will all look, act, talk and think differently. No two individuals are the same. But we all suffer pain and we all enjoy pleasure, to some extent or other.

    However, "equality" as it is used in Govindanandini's context, and the general context of the word today does not mean "sameness".

    It refers to the noble pursuit of humane treatment for all humans, and oppurtunities for self-expression and reaching one's potential.

    We can say that the present concept falls short in that it generally does not include animals and other species of life outside of humans, unless you're a member of PETA or the Jain religion or something along those lines. However, it's a beginning and a very good one, I think.

    That being said, nobody is claiming that we are all the "same" and similarly endowed with the same kind of intelligence or same kind of social skills or same ability to make $$$ or same kind of atheletic prowess, etc.

    Vikram,

    I, like you am growing tired of discussing the social ills of India. If I'm not part of the solution then I'm part of the problem. Talk is cheap. I need to walk my talk. So I will end discussion on that here and up my ante to the next phase - action.

    Like you, I am also not ashamed of my country, culture, family and the methods with which they raised me. Maybe I was sheltered but I feel I grew up with pretty decent values that are worthy to be shared with others who may not have had the good fortune to be born into or raised in conscious environments.

    At the end of the day, despite the social ills that plaugue Uttar Pradesh, who can deny the bhajan-shakti that has been reposited in Braj Dham and which can still be felt to this day? What to speak of the lilas performed there even earlier?

    jayati jayati vrndaranyam etan murareh priyatamam ati-sadhusvanta-vaikuntha-vasat ramayati sa sada gah palayan yatra gopih svarita-madhura-venur vardhayan prema rase

    Jaya Jaya to Sri Vrindavan Dhama, shere Sri Murari enjoys residing more than He does in the hearts of sadhus or even in Vaikuntha! Where He forever tends cows, and where, by playing sweet melodies on the flute, He increases the gopis' amorous love for Him!!!

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  33. Much has been written on the position of Indian women on this blog, and nobody in their right mind would go on to blind themselves to some of the self-evident truths that are undeniably featured in the writings of the two Western-born Behenjis. However, it should be recalled that in the traditional Hindu milieu, men are enjoined to look at women as expansions of Maa Durga, and uncountable references to ladies in ancient and medieval Sanskrit literature attest to the majesty of womanhood, whilst at the same time stressing that females are way better-off under the CARE of their fathers, husbands or sons. The fact that far too many modern Bharatiya males act like sex-starved beasts at the slightest contact with or sight of women is certainly testament to the extent to which the soil once treaded by Krishna and Mahaprabhu has degenerated, more due to the influence of Kali-yuga than anything else. I refuse to totally blame Samskriti for this, however. The roots of this particular social ill are multiple, and the subordinate status of South Asian females in bygone ages is for sure one of the causes. I think that Sripada Tripurari Maharaja's latest Sanga on the Manu-smrti does furnish an excellent perspective on this fascinating issue. I am thus reposting the article here, which I reckon quite a few would find worthwhile. Maharaja's presentation is illuminating, to say the least.


    Women and the Laws of Manu

    Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari

    “While Manusmriti stresses socio-religious life, it does so with a view to help qualify humanity for the pursuit of essential spirituality. Thus there is a thread of spiritual truth that runs through it that applies to all times."

    Q. I read some really horrible things from a Hindu book called the Manusmriti [Manu-samhita], which contains the class-conscious rules of varnasrama dharma. One of the most egregious of these rules is that women should never be given freedom. They are meant to be always under the control of men. Furthermore, I read that Srila Prabhupada is among the few modern gurus who accept this book as authoritative. When I read all this I became so terribly sad as I had the greatest belief in Prabhupada, but now this belief is shattered. My question is how any person with a conscience can accept this frightful book as authoritative? Do you accept Manusmriti as authoritative?

    A. Thought to be the oldest of the dharma-sastras, the Manusmriti is often described as the law book of ancient Hindu society. The text deals with four subjects: the origin of the world, the sources of dharma, the rules of the four varnas (social orders) and four asramas (spiritual orders), and karma-yoga. The laws found therein are obviously not modern. Thus to be fair, they should not be compared to modern laws, but rather to socio-religious rules that pertain to an ancient culture.

    The laws of Manu made sense to religious people living centuries ago in India, and if we had lived in that bygone culture it is unlikely that we would have found the text unacceptable. Nor would adherence to its essential precepts have inhibited our spiritual progress. Why? Because for the most part dharma-sastras such as Manusmriti address relative socio-religious concerns, and true spirituality transcends such concerns. However, while Manusmriti stresses socio-religious life, it does so with a view to help qualify humanity for the pursuit of essential spirituality. Thus there is a thread of spiritual truth that runs through it that applies to all times. Ultimately this thread is what was important to Srila Prabhupada, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Paramahansa Yogananda, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (a former president of India), and other spiritual and religious leaders who often spoke highly of the text. Even Nietzsche said, "Put down the Bible and pick up Manusmriti." (The Will to Power, Vol.1)

    Though Srila Prabhupada more readily identified with social standards of times gone by, some of which fit better with the words of Manusmriti, in practice he embraced whatever in his judgment was helpful for performing and disseminating Krsna bhakti, some of which did not conform to the injunctions of the dharma-sastras. That some of Manusmriti's centuries-old injunctions do not resonate with people living in our times is to be expected. For that matter, no Hindus today adhere to the text more than in some small part, and most scholars believe that the laws of Manu were never universally enforced anywhere in India.

    Still, practically all Hindu historians and teachers accept its authenticity in the same sense that Srila Prabhupada did, as one of the authentic texts of the Hindu dharma-sastras. In doing so they promote what they consider appropriate in Manusmriti and more or less disregard the rest. The founder of Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, a noteworthy 19th century campaigner for women's rights, cites Manu's laws hundreds of times in his writings. In his opinion, verses highly critical of women and the lower classes (sudras) are not Vedic at all but interpolations introduced later by the corrupted brahminical class. Another scholar, Dr. Surendra Kumar, claims that out of a total of 2,685 verses in the present Manusmriti, only 1,214 are authentic or can be confirmed by the Vedas, the other 1,471 being interpolations.

    Therefore, in consideration of its overall content and the culture in which it was written, it would be inappropriate for a Hindu to disrespect Manusmriti in its entirety. Better one should try to understand it in terms of its historicity and its spirituality, knowing full well that religious laws are often relative to time and circumstance. Indeed, many injunctions in our times accepted as appropriate by the religious and secular alike will likely be considered inappropriate by future generations.

    By contrasting the Manusmriti with books and beliefs from other ancient cultures, one can see that it is hardly unique in its strictures against women. For example, in classical Athens, the city heralded as the birthplace of democracy, women took no part in the democratic process. After marriage they were largely confined to the women's section of the house and were forbidden to eat with or speak to men other than their husbands. The Minnesota State University Museum tells it like this: "The status of Athenian woman in Greek society was minimal. By comparison to present-day standards, Athenian women were only a small step above slaves by the 5th century B.C." About teaching women to read and write, the Greek playwright Menander wrote, "What a terrible thing to do! Like feeding a vile snake on more poison." Other authors and philosophers had similar quips about women. Summing up the Athenian view of women, Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle, student of Plato and tutor to Alexander the Great, wrote, "The male is by nature superior and the female inferior…the one rules and the other is ruled."

    Therefore, as we appreciate the positive contribution of other ancient books and leave aside the rest, we should similarly appreciate the Manusmriti. In this light, the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is no friend of Hinduism, says: "Yet, with all this [restrictions on women, etc.], the ethical teachings of the 'Laws of Manu' is very high, embracing almost every form of moral obligation recognized in the Christian religion."

    Furthermore, although Manusmriti, like other patriarchal religious law books of its time, does prescribe the subservience of women to men, it condemns men who are derelict in their duty to care for and protect the women under their jurisdiction. Manu also glorifies women considerably, and taken in context with his rules to honor and never violate women, his laws pertaining to them seem progressive in comparison to those of many other ancient cultures. For example, Manusmriti (3:55-57) says, "Those who seek great prosperity and happiness should never inflict pain on women. Where women are honored, in that family great men are born, but where they are not honored, all acts are fruitless. Where women pass their days in misery and sorrow because of the misdeeds of their husbands, that family soon entirely perishes, but where they are happy because of the good conduct of their husbands, the family continually prospers."

    Most importantly, Sri Krsna explains in Srimad Bhagavatam (11.20.9) that one is obliged to adhere to the smriti of the dharma-sastra only to the extent that one has not awakened faith in hearing and chanting about him. This is also the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita as Krsna emphatically tells us therein to forego the dharma-sastra and take exclusive shelter of him: sarva dharman parityaja mam ekam saranam vraja (Bg 18.66).

    Thus a soul surrendered to Krsna (saranagata) need not be concerned with dharma-sastra. One serious about Krsna bhakti need only be concerned with the smriti of the Vaisnavas, such as Hari-bhakti-vilasa. Furthermore, this should be done under the guidance of a guru competent to advise one which injunctions therein apply to one's situation. No sect of Gaudiya Vaisnavas that I know of follows all the injunctions of Hari-bhakti-vilasa. Rather than trying to follow everything in Hari-bhaki-vilasa verbatim, one should under good guidance extract its essential principles and apply them to life in the modern world according to time and circumstance.

    As Gaudiya Vaisnavas are taught to take the essence from Hari-bhakti-vilasa, those treading the karma-marg should be encouraged to embrace the essence of Manusmriti's injunctions rather than try to follow the letter of its law, which would be impossible to do in today's world anyway. For that matter, in essence the dharma-sastra ultimately points in the direction of Hari-bhakti, for the perfection of adherence to dharma is determined by the extent to which such adherence satisfies Hari (God): samsiddhir hari tosanam.

    Finally, regarding varnasrama dharma, it is not about taking away people's freedom. It is ultimately about freeing people from material existence. By studying the precepts of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, which could very well be considered the New Testament of Hinduism, one can understand varnasrama dharma and at the same time be in a position to transcend it altogether in the context of the culture of prema dharma, the path of love.

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  34. Govinda-nandini, sorry, that isnt completely right either. You are mixing spirituality (adhikara for bhakti is indeed for everyone) with material circumstances (rich, poor, bad, good etc). Furthermore, there is no equality either in spirituality other than adhikara-wise. There are five rasas, which are not equal, plus there is our maryada duty - see CC Antya 4, Mahaprabhu teaching Jagadananda Pandit and Sanatan Goswami. He speaks of etiquette, both vyavahara (materially) and paramartha (spiritually). There too, some are Guru, while some are sisya.

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  35. "jayati jayati vrndaranyam etan murareh priyatamam ati-sadhusvanta-vaikuntha-vasat ramayati sa sada gah palayan yatra gopih svarita-madhura-venur vardhayan prema rase

    Jaya Jaya to Sri Vrindavan Dhama, shere Sri Murari enjoys residing more than He does in the hearts of sadhus or even in Vaikuntha! Where He forever tends cows, and where, by playing sweet melodies on the flute, He increases the gopis' amorous love for Him!!!"

    Beautiful. That is more like Gaudiya Vaishnava talk (by this, I'm not suggesting that we shut ourselves in ivory towers and die to the world outside, at least not at our present imperfect stage).

    Radhe Radhe

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  36. "Govinda-nandini, sorry, that isnt completely right either. You are mixing spirituality (adhikara for bhakti is indeed for everyone) with material circumstances (rich, poor, bad, good etc). Furthermore, there is no equality either in spirituality other than adhikara-wise. There are five rasas, which are not equal, plus there is our maryada duty - see CC Antya 4, Mahaprabhu teaching Jagadananda Pandit and Sanatan Goswami. He speaks of etiquette, both vyavahara (materially) and paramartha (spiritually). There too, some are Guru, while some are sisya."


    Advaitadas, adhikar MEANS circumstances. It is practically synonymous with differentiation. Bhakti, however, is always equal whether it is to be found in a highly qualified individual or less qualified individual. Bhakti is an entity in it/herself, independent enough to not respond to adhikar. Thus there is equality in bhakti, and BECAUSE bhakti is the truly abiding substance, as opposed to the relativity of circumstances, it overrules differentiation. This is the meaning of equal vision. Moreover, you are wrong in projecting differentiation like that found in this world in to the 5 rasas. The 5 rasas are unequal because BHAKTI so wishes. That is, differentiation springs from Bhakti for the sake of more bhakti! Differences in this world, however, are meant to be gradually eliminated for the sake of the establishment of bhakti. Thus, one who insists in seeing the differences in this world as real, only sees half of the picture.

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  37. "Govinda-nandini, sorry, that isnt completely right either. You are mixing spirituality (adhikara for bhakti is indeed for everyone) with material circumstances (rich, poor, bad, good etc). Furthermore, there is no equality either in spirituality other than adhikara-wise. There are five rasas, which are not equal, plus there is our maryada duty - see CC Antya 4, Mahaprabhu teaching Jagadananda Pandit and Sanatan Goswami. He speaks of etiquette, both vyavahara (materially) and paramartha (spiritually). There too, some are Guru, while some are sisya."

    The problem with this line of reasoning Adwaita, is that who, or which group, is considered "more equal" than others.

    I may assert that white European descent culture is superior to other cultures and races, and thereby "more equal" or entitled to a status of respect. Indeed, there have been many arguments made along these lines for hundreds of years.

    A black African descent can argue however that ancient Egypt and Ehtiopia were the first civilized cultures and thus the African descent peoples are "superior" or "more equal".

    Indians also have some credence to their "superior culture" claims, as do the Arabs. Where does the buck stop?

    A person may have been born into a wealthy and intellectually gifted family, does that make her "more equal" than the "less fortunate" masses around her?

    So what is considered "higher", "lower", "moreequal", etc is relative. Hence the strive for "equal oppurtunity" for all. That means, differences are acknowledged but the fundamental rights to education and oppurtunity for all are put in place in an effort to avoid unneccessary discrimination and bias.

    One group need not be facilitated at the expense and exploitation of another.

    The best bet is to make oppurtunities for growth and expansion available to all. Those who will take it and do something with it will naturally rise to the top.

    It is a noble cause, if even not yet fully realized.

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  38. Govinda-nandini, you contradict yourself, saying

    Thus there is equality in bhakti, and BECAUSE bhakti is the truly abiding substance, as opposed to the relativity of circumstances, it overrules differentiation. This is the meaning of equal vision. Moreover, you are wrong in projecting differentiation like that found in this world in to the 5 rasas. The 5 rasas are unequal because BHAKTI so wishes.

    "bhakti is equal" but you acknowledge that "the 5 rasas are unequal" - so which one is it? Why don't you prove your flowery words with some evidence from shastra.

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  39. ""bhakti is equal" but you acknowledge that "the 5 rasas are unequal" - so which one is it? Why don't you prove your flowery words with some evidence from shastra."

    If you go back and read carefully, Advaita, my "flowery" words were that you project inequality like that of this world in to the 5 rasas. Now, understand that distinctions in the spiritual world are not the same as here. Here they sometimes are called inequalities. So there is no contradicition in the statement that there is distinctions in the 5 rasas and yet bhakti is equal wherever it appears. As far as shastric evidence for the equanimity of bhakti, I have already given a couple of samples: Bg. 9.32 and 5.18.

    Regarding the "spiritual" distinction of the 5 rasas, it seems to me you need understand a bit more about rasa yourself. The very concept of bhakti rasa implies a state of consciousness where there is no wanting but pure establishment. Thus there is no question of an hierarchy of demands and supplies where a rasa may not be satisfying enough to Krsna and therefore "lower". From the point of view of tasting, each rasa is complete in itself. The distinction is made from the neutral poin of view, that is, from our point of view when observers. As soon as one is immersed in any one of the rasas, there is no question of perception of anything but the rasa itself. So no question of distinctions. This is why in general rasa is refered to as theory: It can only be completely "learnt" when it blossoms in the heart as a permanet state of being. But the conundrum is that as soon as one experiences rasa, it ceases to be a matter of study; the neutral element falls away and there is no longer a "need", so to speak, for such study. Thus, from the point of view of distinction, it remains a theory. But as an actual event, rasa is distinction and equality simultaneously. Hence, our acaryas advise us to find our true indentity in bedha-abedha exploits.

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