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.