Who Controls the Human Mind?

May 21, 2021

I recently gave up using the synthetic bathing soap in preference to ‘ubtan’, a powdered combination of cow dung, mud and natural minerals. Friends had been prodding me for a long time to make the conversion. However I’d been reluctant because I wondered if my body would stink. For the last thirty five years I’ve used soaps, perfumes and shampoos.

How could I give them up? Wouldn’t the body smell bad? Although I was intellectually convinced that cow dung soap is far more hygienic, lingering doubts and the uneasiness in changing my lifestyle prevented me from making the shift. Finally one morning, I took the plunge, and over the last two months, I am using natural products to clean my body and brush my teeth. Since then my life has changed for the better and my heart filled with realizations.

The initial feeling was of suspicion. What does this powder contain? Am I being brainwashed by some backward cow worshippers? Will the tooth powder protect my teeth from decay? I persisted using the products anyway, and slowly it dawned on me that I had never asked these questions all these years while using a variety of synthetic soaps and tooth pastes. I had been brainwashed by the advertisements and believed any claim made by any company, and the convictions grew stronger, especially if the claim was made by a sensuous looking woman or a smiling macho man. The visual media thus kept me spell bound for decades.

There are many aspects of our daily lives governed by the media and we never question them. These inputs into our consciousness become foundational and form our value systems and beliefs. Later, when we hear contrary information or about better alternatives, the mind protests and demands scientific evidence. It’s interesting how when advertisements encourage us to enjoy or promise gratification to the mind and senses, we are not compelled to question the authenticity. However, when the scriptures offer more prudent way of living that is eco friendly and also more satisfying to the soul, we protest. The mind rebels against any change. If a lady smilingly offers a non sticky cooking ware and household appliances, we too want it. But little do we mind the appliance being rich in Teflon, a hazardous chemical. Since the lady smilingly prods us to have one, we too desire it. She giggles in the advert, “I use this, and what about you?” Any beautiful model or super star could be purchased for a few million rupees and told to promote a product.

And if the commercial titillates our mind and senses, we feel the claim is reasonable. Where has our reasoning gone?

We may also defiantly claim that we aren’t influenced and we are indeed reasonable. If we are indeed prone to make decisions out of choice and not compelled to act, then why do companies spend millions of rupees on promotional ads? Are they fools to spend a million rupees for a ten second ad during the break of any popular serial. Repeated exposure to commercials bombards our fragile consciousness and convinces us to buy the product. And all the while we are convinced that we are not being influenced by anyone. We fool ourselves that we are independently thoughtful, while the reality is we are tiny puppets in the hands of the giant companies. For example, I may be constantly bombarded by an ad that says, ‘Enjoy Coca cola’ I see it at every stoplight and apparently ignore it. It doesn’t mean a fig to me as I drive, talk to my friends and carry on with my daily business.

My education and exposure to knowledge of this world convinces me to be independent, while I allow my mind to be bombarded by hordes of images and promises. Later as I sit in a restaurant, I inadvertently ask for a Coca Cola. I feel I have a right to choose and have thus made my decision, uninfluenced by anyone. However the reality is I have been tricked to act.

When can we claim to be not influenced? A spiritual practise is empowering because it helps us tap our inherent ability of self-awareness. Self-awareness is a unique human endowment. Animals can’t think beyond the four basic needs of eating, sleeping sex life and defending. Humans can be conscious of their consciousness. We can catch our thoughts and question our feelings. With superior intelligence that gets sharpened through regular meditation and balanced lifestyle, we can examine our deep inner most influences and paradigms that have been formed without our conscious endeavour. We also develop the ability to change our choices and think rationally.

A changeover to environment friendly products is the need of the hour, and I personally felt more of sattva (the mode of goodness) influencing me with these positive lifestyle changes. You too can try leading a less passionate and more sattvic regimen and share your realizations with us.

Is Television more Powerful than the Supreme Court?

May 10, 2021

The Supreme Court is rather less supreme than its nomenclature might suggest. It can pass a death sentence, but cannot execute it. The pun is unintended but apposite. Government dare not disobey the court, but subversion is always an option, which is why Afzal Guru has still not encountered his moment with justice.

Pace, or the lack of it, is the preferred form of subversion. It took one formal letter and 15 reminders over four years from the Union home ministry to the Delhi government to shuffle the Guru file towards its next legal step, the office of the lieutenant governor of Delhi. This is not snail mail. This is blackmail.

What fear, or perception of fear, persuaded the Congress government in Delhi to delay the death sentence of Afzal Guru? As ever, there is someone who drops a clue; as usual, it has been dropped by mistake. When the Delhi government did activate due process, about four years too late, on May 18, its official spokesman told media, “The government…does not have any objection (to the death sentence). But the Centre must examine the law and order implications if the death sentence is executed.”

What could the phrase “law and order implications” mean? Did the official imply that Delhi’s citizens would erupt in anger, destroy public property and bring the capital to a halt because they were livid at the execution of a convicted terrorist? Or did he believe it would lead to a massive invasion by Guru’s fellow terrorists? Terrorists are not waiting for a file to crawl from point A to B; Guru’s life, or death, is immaterial to their programme. Their summer infiltration from bases in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is in full flow. There are near-daily reports of firefights and battles with the Army in Kashmir. Stockpiles of arms have been discovered this week during combing operations around Kupwara.

What, then, was the anonymous but widely quoted Delhi official so anxious about? Shall we mention what he left unmentioned? Was he warning the Centre that Indian Muslims would react by instigating violence, and the very prospect was sufficient to terrify the mighty government of the Union of India into frozen chicanery?

This is communal and racial profiling at its worst. In effect, the Congress government is saying that Indian Muslims treat a convicted terrorist as their icon. If this is the secret reason why Afzal Guru is still alive, then Delhi has lost its sanity.

Chidambaram could have activated the Guru file at any time during the last 18 months he has been home minister; all he had to do was pick up the phone. It isn’t as if the government of Delhi is based in Pakistan, and needs periodic dossiers on Afzal Guru. Chidambaram did not do so because he did not want to do so. Nothing happened for four years, and lots more of nothing would have happened were it not for the public reaction to the Kasab verdict. Even as Indians cheered (including, since the two blindsided governments of Delhi appear not to have noticed, in Mumbai’s Muslim areas) they were also reminded of the fact that an earlier Kasab was sitting comfortably in jail because the government had lost its nerve. Their anger was evident.

It was only a question of time, and intent, before someone asked RTI for the documents, and since they were not secret, they entered public space. A TV news channel got them, and pointed out the obvious: Guru was the beneficiary of political indecision. When public opinion prodded the government in the pants, the dormant file began to spurt.

Governments protect who they will, and punish those they want to. The system has collaborated to keep Sajjan Kumar beyond the reach of judgment a quarter century after the Sikh riots of 1984. This week’s reason for another pause in the judicial process is a typo. The CBI pointed out, virtuously, that Section 339 has been mentioned instead of Section 449 in the order on filing of charges. This is where we are after 25 years, discussing the order on filing of charges. Where are all the award-winning human rights activists who pursue perpetrators of riots? Maybe they will turn up on the 30th anniversary of 1984.

We have a law now that prevents underage children from being sent to prison. By 2014 they should have a law in place by which anyone above retirement age could serve out a sentence in his personal air-conditioned drawing room. That would keep Sajjan Kumar safe till God was ready to pass His judgment.

Unless, of course, the Ultra Supreme Court of Television intervened, and even that might be too little, too late in the case of Sajjan Kumar.

The Man Who Defies Medical Science

April 25, 2021

Investigations of a sadhu who has not eaten for sixty years give food for thought to scientists and spiritualists. Exclusive interview between Dr. Manu gupta and Prahalad Jani.

Ambaji, Gujarat: I am sitting in front of Prahlad Bhai Jani, a sadhu who claims that he has not eaten or drunk anything for past 60 years. “IMPOSSIBLE” If this is your reaction then check out the report by a team of reputed doctors and scientists from DIPAS (Defence Institute of Physiology And Allied Sciences). After observing the sadhu in strict controlled environment for 15 days, they declared: “For 15 days, Prahlad Jani did not eat, drink, and pass urine or stool.” The medical community calls him a miracle. I look at him. For his 83 years of age, he is agile and alert, lean and quick on his feet. There are no wrinkles on the face, but a thin bluish ring encircles the cornea of the eye representing cholesterol deposition due to aging. He has grey hair and a medium-size beard. About five feet tall, wearing red robes of a renunciant, he sits with a straight back.We introduce ourselves. He folds his hands and bows his head. “Can we take your pictures,” I ask. He nods.

We begin snapping. He sits unfazed, looking away from us. When we are done, we again come nearer and with the help of a translator conduct the interview. Because of prolonged vows of silence often lasting for years, we were told that his speech is slurred and he seldom speaks for long. But as he lay on the swing in his acrama, he spoke candidly and at length with us.

Some excerpts from the interview:

Manu gupta: By seeing your devotion and power, many people are getting faith in spirituality. He smiles and raises his hands towards the heaven. What is your message for the public?

Prahlad Jani (PJ): Nothing. I just give them blessings. Whatever their karma, they will get benefit accordingly.

Manu gupta: What was the purpose behind doing this investigation?

Prahalad Jani: We want to tell the world that man can live without food and water. Man can live without water even in drought. There is nothing new in this. However you train your body it will adjust. Previously, sages and rishes could eradicate sickness and live. Everything is there in the body, but we search outside. There is nothing outside; whatever is there is in the body, with us. Scientists want to search such a method that the soldiers can live during wars without food and water. But science deals with outside.

Manu gupta: Vedic scriptures mention that one should eat food, so how can you live without food and water?

Prahalad Jani: In whichever way we train the body, it adjusts. For nearly 80 years, I have been living in the forest.

Manu gupta: What is your age?

Prahalad jani: 83 years.

Manu gupta: Are you happy after doing this austerity?

Prahalad jani: I have now achieved siddhi. I have to show this to the world that even stone can speak, even stone melts. Man can do anything. Man has power in body but he searches outside. Whether I live for 11 years or 5000 years, I have no desire in life. I don’t want to possess anything. I had a desire to build an acrama – it is now fulfilled. In Allahabad Kumbha- and Nasik Kumbha-mela different saints come. So many saints attempt to get this siddhi but they die without getting it. Only I achieved this siddhi.

Manu gupta: What inspired you?

Prahalad Jani: Divine power. Dev-shakti se. I got the mercy of Goddess Amba in my childhood.

Manu gupta: How can common masses get to do this?

Prahalad jani: Only if they search on their own.

Manu gupta: Is it possible for a common person?

Prahalad jani: They will take many years. It is very rare. Till we become expert, it?s very rare to achieve it. Otherwise, we will be neither here nor there. Na ghar ke na ghat ke. People with less knowledge may advance little, but due to lack of complete knowledge, they eventually back out.

Manu gupta: People are running away from spiritual life. What do you say?

Prahalad jani: I don’t involve with people of this world. Apni masti mein mast rahta hoon. I am happy within. Till I achieve my aim I will have no interaction with this world. My life is different from the world.

Manu gupta: How does your body function?

Prahalad jani: Amirasa (Amruta or nectar). It runs on amirasa. When Pandavas, went to Himalay’s, they survived on amirasa Sun rises and sets at its pace. If it did not do this, there will be chaos in this world. Time reigns. So many saints come for Kumbha-mela, but where they go back after the mela? How many know about it?

After the interview, he requests us to take some milk and fruit. He gets up, walks swiftly, climbs over a stool, takes out some sugar-candy prasada from a tin and offers it to us. For a person in international media limelight, he is humble and down to earth.We come out of the acrama. On our right is a small white temple on a bighill. It is Gabbar, a holy place associated with Mother Durga. In a cave of this hill, Prahlad Jani spent years in meditation and austerity. The temperature is around 480C. I wonder, “Does this sadhu really live without food and water?”For the answer, we travel 200 km to Ahmedabad to meet the doctor who tested this sadhu.Science studies the Sadhu.We meet Dr. Sudhir Shah, an eminent neurophysician based in Ahmedabad, who studied Prahlad Jani twice in seven years. Since the matter is under defence authorities, Dr. Shah is unable to disclose information about the investigations and tests. But he has great interest in spirituality and agrees to discuss the interface between science and religion with us.

Some excerpts from the talk:

Manu gupta: How did you test the claims of Prahlad Jani ?

Dr. Sudhir Shah : In 2003, I studied Prahlad Bhai for ten days. This was to verify if the claims were true. They were. In 2010, we did the tests to see how this can be true. For this study, the DIPAS decided the protocol. Prahlad Bhai was kept in a closed room with a glass door. The toilet was sealed. There was 24-hr monitoring with CCTV and a person lived in his quarters for observation. He was given only 100 ml water for washing his mouth and it was measured afterwards. He did not bathe for the first seven days. After seven days, he was given water for bathing and it was measured before and after the bath. He did not pass urine. He would form around 100 ml of urine, but later absorb it within the bladder.The investigation protocols were decided by DIPAS. They are an independent body who came in to picture after I requested the former President Dr. Abdul Kalam to consider the vast potential of this case.

Manu gupta: What can be the reason behind this phenomenon?

Dr. Sudhir Shah : I have formed a hypothesis, which includes a) chronic adaptation, b)deriving energy from cosmic sources ) recycling energy within the body, and d) genetical or structural changes. For more details, check my website www.sudhirneuro.org Manu guta: Okay. We see that the Vedic literature and tradition is filled with stories of s?dhus possessing mystic powers. For example, in anoanga-yoga there is a kriya called khecara-mudra, in which the practitioner elongates his tongue, rolls it back, and then touches it to the back of the uvula hanging from the palate above. Once the yoga does it, he can access nectar, which descends from the head.

Dr. Sudhir Shah: Yes. Also by raising the kueoalin (a subtle energy located in the spine) to the top of the head, one can access the nectar. This nectar has the power to provide all nutrition. There are some contemporary yogis who have this power and also there are two cases of non-eating sadhus mentioned in The Autobiography of a Yogi.

Manu gupta: Yes, they are postulated to access the solar energy through the medulla oblongata, a part of the lower brain, just above the spinal cord. Also yogis like Baba Ramdev mention that there are subtle nutrients in the atmosphere, which can give nourishment to the body.

Dr. Sudhir Shah (laughs): May be this is the reason why some people are unable to put off weight, even when they hardly eat anything.

Manu gupta: Yes, it makes sense. But does science believes in all these spiritual theories?

Dr. Sudhir Shah: Science fails here. I am bewildered. This case debunks all our theories about the human body as we know of it. If the kidneys do not form urine for four days, a person needs dialysis. This man did not urinate for 15 days our controlled environment! Despite fasting, he is in perfect condition. His pulse is 45. Only highly trained athletes have such low heartbeats.

Although Dr. Sudhir envisions finding a physical process behind this strange phenomenon and using it for helping armed forces, astronauts, victims of natural disasters, etc.; his real motivation is spiritual. “These yogis are the wealth of our nation, he says. ” They are the pride of our culture. By scientifically verifying and presenting their amazing powers we are glorifying our vast heritage…Please keep in touch, he says and requests us to share further spiritual insights on this phenomenon.The Spiritual science Modern science sees the human body as a fine machine, where life is a product of a special combination of matter. Like any machine, the body needs fuel in the form of food, and after absorbing the useful components from food, the waste is discarded as stool and urine. Although man can survive without food for a few days, survival without water is possible only for 4-5 days.

Therefore, this case makes modern medical science completely clueless.But when we examine it from the Vedic paradigm, many possibilities open up.The Vedic literature describes that there are yogis who possess the powers to manipulate laws operating in material world. These mystic powers are called siddhis, and are broadly of eight types:Aeima: becoming small like a particle Laghima: becoming lighter than a soft feather Prapti: getting anything from everywhere Mahima: becoming heavier than the heaviest Icitva: creating something wonderful or annihilating anything at will Vacitva: controlling all material elements Prakamya: possessing such power as will never be frustrated in any desire Kamavasyita: assuming any shape or form one may even whimsically desire The Vedic literature is filled with supernatural events and feats which,according to modern scientific paradigm, were considered miraculous and therefore impossible and imaginary. Due to innocent faith in the feats of modern science and stubborn pride, which assumes that science is the only means of providing information about the cosmos and its phenomenon,unfortunately educated persons were generally unwilling to accept the Vedicsystem of knowledge. But this one sadhu clearly shows that there are higher laws and phenomenon.

Where Medicine Blends with Devotion

March 21, 2021

Ambulances sounding their sirens screech to a halt. Bodies, mutilated beyond recognition, keep pouring in. Ten kilometers north, another blast-the seventh in eleven minutes-has terrorized the city. As anxious and bereaved relatives rush in, the neighborhood and the media are hysterical. Local politicians vie for space on news channels. Meanwhile, the staff at Bhaktivedanta Hospital quietly rushes to offer their service to another victim of the mindless carnage.

On this fateful night as many succumb to their wounds, the Spiritual Care team at the hospital comforts the grief-stricken families while the medical team saves hundreds of lives. The traumatized relatives spend the long and anxious night soothed by Srila Prabhupada’s chanting of the holy names, resounding on overhead speakers. As Lord Jagannatha’s miniature cart reaches out to each bed, Mr. Lalge, wailing in pain, offers a silent tear in gratitude. Each day for the next two months, while Mr. Lalge battles for life and eventually survives, Lord Jagannatha will come to his bed and look upon him mercifully.

A Hospital-Temple

“Please do not remove your footwear,” announces a prominent notice at the entrance to Bhaktivedanta Hospital. I can’t help smiling, realizing that any first-timer could easily mistake this building for a temple. Welcoming visitors to the hundred-bed state-of-the-art hospital are a sparkling lobby, a regal deity of Srila Prabhupada, and soft chanting of Hare Krishna on the two hundred overhead speakers placed everywhere from the reception area to the mortuary. Bhaktivedanta Hospital is located in a noisy, crowded northern section of Mumbai, amid schools, colleges, and, in the same complex, an ISKCON temple. The ambience inside is a refreshing contrast to the honking rickshaws, traffic fumes, and burning asphalt outside.

Inside, Ramasharana Dasa greets me with a buoyant smile. A member of the Spiritual Care team, he is happy to show me around the hospital. Now in his mid-thirties, Ramasharana relinquished a lucrative career with the government-owned Canara Bank and joined the hospital seven years ago. His wife, Kshama, who also worked in the private sector, in now an officer in the hospital’s administrative department. What prompted this couple to change their careers?

“We were both keen to be at a workplace that was spiritually surcharged, and where we needn’t feel apologetic for being devotees,” says Ramasharana, who is also a popular actor in the annual drama festivals organized by the devotee community.

Echoing similar sentiments, Ms. Sumedha, who has worked with the human resources team for over a decade, feels that her weekly need to visit a temple, a practice since childhood, attained perfection when she joined the hospital. “Now it’s a temple visit daily,” Sumedha says with a smile. Doctors I see every Sunday at the local ISKCON temple, clad there in the traditional Vaishnava attire of dhoti and kurta, now look different. They sport beautiful clay Vaishnava tilaka on their foreheads, but wear shirts, trousers, and neckties. They look busy. Giving last-minute instructions to their assistants, they hurry to another appointment, but not before greeting me with a personal touch of “Hare Krishna.”

As I enter a fourth-floor ward, I see that the hospital provides for almost all major specialties. I silently celebrate the festive blend of professionalism and devotion.

Spiritual Care in Action

I soon notice that the place doesn’t smell like a hospital. The fragrant incense lends a spiritual touch, as do the walls adorned with beautiful paintings of Lord Krishna.

“This has a deep psychological effect and goes a long way in healing the patient,” asserts Damodara Pandita Dasa, a senior counselor to the patients and their relatives.

A person admitted to a hospital carries an emotional burden, he reasons. Financial pressure, family stress, and work-related trauma are common stress inducers and tend to play on the mind of the patient, thereby worsening his or her condition. Bhaktivedanta Hospital has a team of counselors under the Spiritual Care team that addresses these needs for patients and their relatives. This is to serve the mission statement: “With love and devotion, we will offer everyone a modern, scientific, and holistic health care service based on true awareness and understanding of the needs of the body, mind, and soul.” Through counseling, the troubled souls are made to see themselves in a new light.

“We tell them that the body is just like a covering and they should learn to detach themselves from the body and concentrate on purifying their souls,” says Damodara Pandita. “This concept works like a tranquilizer and helps ease their troubles.”

Media’s Obsession with Falsehood

February 21, 2021

A man doesn’t eat or drink for more than 60 years. Yes you have read correctly, it’s not 60 minutes but 60 long years! The nation’s best doctors and scientists closely examine the facts and observe and monitor his movements on camera for three weeks. Yes, it’s true. He’s a miracle, declare the members from the Defence Institute of Physiology and Applied sciences (DIPAS). Isn’t this a sensational news, deserving of first page headlines in all newspapers and the main feature of all TV news programmes. Surprisingly all newspapers and TV channels are observing a mauna vrata (a vow of silence).

Initially the news was covered with excitement, in hope of discovering yet another false claim and a scandal; to whip the already beaten Hindu culture and hurl abuses and mockery galore. However to the shock of the media, the investigations not only proved the sadhu’s claim true, it even challenged the modern society’s conceptions of reality. The sadhu explained that as a teenager, mother Durga (one of the most popular Hindu goddess) had given him darshan (audience) and blessed him with supernatural powers.

Now the media is caught in a flux. How do they explain him to the world based on their reasoning and logic? They can’t explain this supernatural feat without attributing his prowess to divine intervention and acceptance of spiritual facts, the knowledge of which the media lacks. Hence they prefer the safer way out- ignore the news. Just imagine if the studies had proved he’s a fraud, what would have happened to the National media. They would have been hysterical in denouncing the saffron brigade. Now the silence in face of a sensational discovery of truth exposes the media’s double standards. On the one hand the media claims to search for truth but on the other seeks only scandals and controversies, especially opportunities to ridicule Hindu culture.

82-year-old Prahlad jani’s stunning the world by not eating or drinking since the age of fifteen (for the last 67 years) deserves honour and kudos but the media prefers to go gaga over IPL and the sex lives of Bollywood gods.

A few years ago Ramadev Baba was needlessly dragged into a controversy by the media which accused him of mixing animal bones in his medicines. The National media lashed at him, and Hindus apologized for being Hindus and for having a fraud as their messiah. Ramadev had revolutionized yoga and offered simple breathing exercises (pranayama) to help the billions in India lead a healthy life. As money poured in and his coffers increased, it also invoked the lower human tendency of envy amongst the politicians and the media.

Mrs. Brinda Karat launched a campaign against Swami Ramdev. Besides other allegations, she charged that the medicines produced in his pharmacy contained animal bones. There was a great hue and cry. The NDTV channel which is reported to be related to Mr. Prannoy Roy gave great coverage to her. It even organized many discussions live. In the end when the Health Minister of the then Congress government of Uttarakhand held a Press conference to declare that they had conducted laboratory tests and found no bone contents in ayurvedic medicines of Baba’s pharmacy, the NDTV which had led the anti-Baba campaign blacked out this news from its viewers.

Many people wrote to Mr. Prannoy Roy in March 2006 through e-mail and by post also highlighting this act of infringement of the journalistic morality. But no response. In the meantime, INDIA TODAY included Mr. Roy and his wife among the top 50 personalities of the country describing them as the “credible face” of journalism. We can clearly see that NDTV had blacked out this news deliberately to avoid its own embarrassment. It only proved that the channel had launched a deliberate tirade against the yoga guru without ascertaining facts. So can you say that NDTV was free, fair and objective, at least, as far as this episode was concerned? Months later many other investigations declared him to be innocent and the allegations by the media were proved baseless. This time once again the media turned a Nelson’s eye, and didn’t cover the acquittal.

Indian culture and Hindu saints have been time and again misrepresented in the Media and the billion plus Indians sit nonplussed as hedonistic values are championed by the media. Men and women are encouraged to abandon reverence to saints and the holy wisdom contained in Hindu culture. It’s time the intelligent Indians challenge the credibility of the media rather than blindly accept the news. The media for sure is not serving the best interests of the Nation nor are they interested in protecting the National values and culture. In fact most of them are working against the interest of the Indians. After Pakistan, we have another in-house enemy to confront- the national print and electronic media. In fact these are more deadly for they pose as friends and plant the seed of destruction within the country. Indians beware of this hydra headed demon- the media.