The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Tuesday 29 September 2009


I was assuming a fair outcome of my reading of the latest Dan Brown work but after going through 509 pages of The Lost Symbol, I can say it’s tough for me to go back and think about something captivating. The promise promised by the celebrated The Da Vinci Code author is not delivered here though the book is selling like anything.

The story begins with a sense of déjà vu. One can start picking threads of the story just at the moment when the writer starts setting its pieces in motion. Once getting a clue here, the story follows somewhat a predictive path, the worst case scenario for a thriller.

What holds the book even after this killjoy of reading is its excellent narrative. But even this is deeply ironic; we will come to it later on. I can say the narrative outdid my sense of déjà vu while reading the initial pages and led me to finish it. Brown writes so marvelously about Symbology and Mysticism that it holds your attention and creates an urge in you to know more about Symbology, Semiotics, Noetic Sciences and Mysticism. I am sure many would have googled for all these terms.

Development of characters takes it’s time and evolves as the author wants but every character except Langdon demands something more. We can safely assume here that this missing ‘something more’ in characterizations is the main culprit of the sense of déjà vu.

The premises that constitute the later part of the story and its climax have nothing better to say. By their composition they seem ironic in what the author wants to convey and how he thinks he can hold interest of his readers. Excellent narrative of the book is based on intelligent mix of deeply intellectual and highly complex fields of discourses like Symbology, Noetic Sciences and Mysticism and the author has based his storyline all along the theme of obscure with two main characters representing the two fulcrums of reason and unreason. What is ironic here is the greater influence of the character that represents the Mysticism without any scientific temper in retaining interest in the narrative, the not so menacing Mal’akh or Zachary Solomon. Brown attempts to be on the rational front through the conscious of Langdon but he has not been able to capitalize on the same excellent narrative this time to save the protagonist.

We expect a captivating Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code and a clearer Robert Langdon next time.


Question: What is the connection between the life of contemplation and the call to social action in the world?

Brother David: You can’t really be a contemplative, unless you also want to change the world. You want to change yourself, and that’s where the struggle comes in. By changing yourself, you’re beginning to change the world. In fact, you’re changing the world much more by changing yourself than if you’re running around blindly, involved in one cause after another.

But the difference between what we call the apostolic and the contemplative orders, or vocations, is that the apostolic approach says, “We live in this world, we’re responsible for it, and we have to do something to change the world for the better.” The monastic answer is, “We are not strong enough to change the world in general. Let’s change that little spot where we are. And let’s put a wall around it and say this is as far as we go, as far as our strength reaches. And now within that narrow confine, let’s change the world, make it more what it’s supposed to be.”

That approach has its drawbacks, too, because it can become ingrown, its own private little affair. And the apostolic approach has limitations, because it can become so watered down that nothing spiritual remains. So we need the two; they are the poles of one continuum. People who are now engaged in apostolically changing the world need to come back periodically to a monastic environment where what they are trying to achieve everywhere is to a certain extent achieved already. And if the world could gradually become what a good monastery or Zen center is, that would be fine. The monastic communities can provide the strength, the encouragement to realize that true order can be achieved.

Charity Focus

Wednesday 16 September 2009


Mister Sharad Yadav said he would consume poison if the Women’s Reservation Bill were passed in current form.

Cut to the euphoria expressed by across the section on Meira Kumar being elected as first Women Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

It was said to be proud moment for women of the country! The country sang the eulogy in the louder vein. The chorus to the politics of conditionality and unilateralist viewpoint, as is the case with Sharad Yadav and other opponents of the Bill, is also growing louder.

Ironies of the 11th hour! Is this an indication of conflict of interests? Conflicts of interests of pro-egalitarain and anti-egalitarian approaches to the society? Is this desperation of the last hours to maintain the patriarchal flow of society by a section (or majority, who knows)?

An answer or a solution is certainly a tricky and complex one in the light of various affirmative actions taken since we became sovereign. A change in an orthodox society is always tough to be brought about. But then we lack even in the basic premises towards the other half of us. Chorus of both the types mentioned in the opening paragraph is just about this.

We say it is a proud moment for women that a woman will chair the Lok Sabha. In saying so, we, very conveniently, forget the basic discriminatory nature of the text. Rather it was a long overdue that just has come to the fore. It becomes even more ironical when we look back, when we see stateswomen and politicians like Sarojini Naidu and Indira Gandhi or emergence of Sonia Gandhi or Mayawati. Therefore this overture should not have been expressed like a new beginning made. What is relevance of adoring women with a self-conceited array of words, time and again, that makes women realize their secondary status? Rather we should introspect and retrospect to look at failed initiatives, either spontaneous, or through efforts.

Indeed, it is a long journey of failed initiatives, failures not just on part of men, but women, too, have played their role. Somewhere, somehow, they became part of the patriarchal flow of the society. While man is undoubtedly the culprit, it is a truth to be accepted that almost of dowry deaths are abetted by in-laws including mother-in-law. Seems somewhere it is the basic nature of humanity to seldom to learn from one’s own miseries and hard times though sometimes a woman has no option but to become a silent party to these atrocities. Agreed, suppression suppresses voice. Agreed, voices, though at a low pitch, can be heard sometimes, even being heard louder than ever. But, mostly these are individuals who stand out; something needs to be massified desperately. Agreed, we’ve improved women participation in most walks of the life. But, has there been a change in the mindset or the kind of the change in the mindset that is required at the first place for a change to take place. There can just be ‘either’ or ‘or’ answers. Either there has been no change or change at a pace where we have failed to keep a tab on to realize a process of change.

Government of India reserved one third of the seats for women in Panchayats way back in 1993, yet it has not been able to invite a healthy debate in the House over the Women’s Reservation Bill since it was first introduced in 1997. Every time it was tabled, chaos erupted and pushed it for a postponement without a date. It should be seen as an eye-opener to the pace of reforms, of our intentions, to project a society of ‘equal-opportunities’. Providing reservation to rural women in the rural governing bodies 17 years ago was an initiative that was akin to hitting the malaise at the root, a right approach to start the process from ‘Basics’. Ideally, it should have resulted in a qualitatively strong representation base for women in local rural governing bodies in 17 years and that should have been echoed at national level, at least. As per the ‘The State of the Panchayats,' a mid-term report on panchayati raj system, 36.7% of total panchayat representatives was women in 2007. As on December 1, 2006, Bihar had the highest number of women panchayat leaders in the country, incidentally a state with lowest development indicators. Though the statistics reveal women have increased their representation in rural governing bodies, still the achievers are accorded with ‘proud moment for women’, indicating why still terms like ‘Pati Pradhan’ are used for women Panchayat Heads. It is, therefore, a corollary, just to mention, that ‘bottom of pyramid’, the basic crust of our multi-layered society, have not produced the desired result. It too has become debatable like ‘reservation to weaker sections’ of the society, a still debated concept that was initially introduced for five years in 50’s and is continuing without any social or accountability audit to bring about period refroms. It presents a very reasoned prospect that ‘do we really need a category of reservation’ again’ when we adopt such a lackadaisical attitude to such an important affirmative action that had and that has potential to produce a egalitarian society? We have been witness to how it has been handled and we will be witness to.

Ideally, statistical success of women in Panchayats should have been echoed and the Women’s Reservation Bill should have been adopted. But on the surface, the condition is still gloomy as far as the basic women development indicators are concerned.

In some rich Indian states like in Punjab and Haryana, sex ratio never reached to the level of 900 since the Census started in 1901. Gujarat, with a sex ratio of 921, and Maharashtra with a sex ratio of 922, is also below the national level of 933. In fact, Maharashtra has seen a gradual decline in sex ratio after independence except the 1981 Census while Gujarat never crossed the 950 mark. And, with growing prosperity, sex ratio is on growing decline. The ‘defined’ urban landscape is no better, even worse. Just see the sex ratio of places-South Delhi (788), New Delhi (785), South West Delhi (771), Mumbai (770), Chandigarh (740). In case of female literacy, only Maharashtra, out of the four mentioned above, could find 10th spot in the best ten states in terms of female literacy according to an Indicus report for female literacy for 2008-09 estimates. Also, an Indicus report estimates at least 25 districts in the country with more than 60% of under-aged girl marriages. When we take industry, women representation has increased there with brilliant figures in sectors like IT and BPO but making relieving moves at such figures would be nothing more than complacency. If we go by a 2008 ILO report, while the 78% of working age men had jobs, only 34% of women could get a professional vocation and mind you, these are global figures. Think of India perspective here. Also a report says,“The National Sample Survey 2004-05 shows that across all kinds of income, social or wage labour categories, farm or non-farm, rural or urban, women tend to get the least. Compared with a scheduled tribe male worker earning Rs60 as average daily wage for a non-farm job and Rs41 for farm labour, a tribal woman would be getting Rs42 and Rs29. A male college graduate, similarly, would earn Rs130 for a non-farm job, while a female would earn Rs95.” Add it to increased cases of glass ceiling. An eye-opener?

Language is the most potent tool, to elevate, to maintain a make-believe situation, to continue the domination. When we say a ‘proud moment’ about a moment, we need to look beneath. We need to go for ramifications before we act. It is indeed a welcome change that some of most dominant figures in Indian politics today are women but we need to weigh this proposition historically.

Detailed analysis on the way..

Tuesday 15 September 2009


It seems that the key to the practice is maintaining vision and focus. Vision keeps an overview of what one is doing and the greater context in mind. Focus is concerned with the specific task at hand. The whole thing is too big to focus on at once but I can start with one simple thing, the floors. I like sweeping the floors. I know how to do it. I don't feel anxious about it. I find it relaxing. And most days, people haven't taken away the dustpan and broom so it is actually possible to do. When I'm sweeping the floor, I enjoy it. I relax into the movement, feel my body and breath and focus on the bit of floor I'm sweeping. But I keep the whole floor in mind. So the vision is the whole floor and the focus is the little bit I'm working on.

One of the problems with vision and focus is that they can get out of balance. When there is too much vision, then you get stuck in ideas. And the mind gets so stuck in everything that needs attending to, it becomes worn out just from thinking about it; there's no energy left to do anything. On the other hand when there is too much focus, the mind gets obsessed with the particular task at hand, like repairing something or building something, and the whole world becomes separated into that which helps me do my job and that which obstructs me. So if someone interrupts by asking a question, it's easy to snap or to dismiss them because; - they're interfering with my work. - People are growled at, [services] get missed, sometimes people can't even make it to the meal because they're too busy getting their work done. But one thing is for sure, the work is never done; there are always more things that need attending to.

So the challenge is to work in a way that keeps the vision alive, maintains the aspiration as well as the buildings, and strengthens faith and confidence in the practice. When we keep the vision alive, our hearts rest in the purity of pure awareness. There, one finds joy, peace and easefulness of heart. This is the real work we are doing here.

Charity Focus

Monday 14 September 2009



..Let’s try to be practical here. To quote we all depend on Statistics but to gain insight we need to extract qualitative analysis that a manipulative and quantitative science like Statistics would not be able to provide. World Bank estimates say 28% of rural India and 26% of Urban India is living below the poverty line today while the same agency had estimated around 42% of the overall Indian population to be living below the poverty line, i.e., having subsistence on $1.25 a day. Again a World Bank study pegged India’s lower-middle-income class around 42% of the population in 2007. If we look into these figures, we find a large chunk devoid of every basic amenity of life. Prune the understanding to a finer level and see! The population chunk above the poverty line may be surviving on any sum above $1.25 and if we do not go much into the statistics, we all know the plight, the widespread base of lower middle class that survives not much above this $1.25 limit. Let’s think what we can do with Rs 55 a day earning. Here we are!

This felony of depravity at bottom of the pyramid is the root cause of most of the evil in our social structure and gives sustenance to the victim as well as the evildoer. When someone can hardly manage a meal, it is outrightly atrocious to think the person would be able to finance his healthcare needs. The class belonging to such Indians is a readily available vast pool of preys for these blood-suckers. The irony starts.

A healthcare industry report says the Indian healthcare market is presently at $35 billion and is expected to reach over $75 billion in 2012, $150 billion in 2017, and $280 billion by 2022. The report further goes on elaborating emergence of corporate hospitals, increasing options for healthcare financing and leapfrogging medical tourism. The visiting cost for any small hospital in a small city is at least in the range of Rs 100-200 and we can very comfortably put this ceiling around Rs 500 in case of multi specialty hospitals, and nothing less that Rs 1000 would no anything, just for a single visit, to the ‘corporate’ reincarnation of healthcare. Let’s not talk about a person earning Rs 55 a day, can a person earning even Rs 200 a day avail services of private hospitals without compromising on some other basic needs of life? We know the answer.

So this wide base of India’s human capital has govt hospitals as the only viable options. But visiting a govt hospital may be economical in terms of doctor’s fee; two other major problems thwart people willing to access the govt healthcare infrastructure. Long waiting hours at cost of daily wage earning and high medicine costs. The irony continues.

When someone is surrounded with so many hardships, when every day is a new battle, just for merely passing the day somehow, to make the count one more, the lure of easy bucks becomes a much awaited reality for the person. Survival becomes the primary instinct and the ‘right and wrong’ debate becomes the primary obstacle to the survival..


Sunday 13 September 2009


What can be one of the most shocking news? Certainly death forms one of its categories. Unexpected deaths or massacres have been the regulars. But what about mercenaries of death who inflict unscalable damage beyond capacity of any massacre or genocide.

The unbelievably believable shocking news of HIV+ blood transfusion to six children in a small town, Anupgarh, in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan was doing round in media and hence social conscious recently. These six children were just few names from a clutter of our population that inhabit the bottom of social pyramid, the largest and most neglected human capital in India, the place that started a sovereign journey with a ‘so-called’ socialist agenda 62 years ago. The only saving grace is five of these children were tested HIV- later on.

A medical lab and a nursing home of Anupgarh were found guilty in the case where two children died in a week after blood transfusion. Probe of the case is on. All other shops in the area have downed their shutters only to resume committing their heinous and pervert activity again once the glare of probe and investigation and media interest abate. And we need to accept the interest has abated in just two weeks. And it is not just these mercenaries who are culprits; we have chains of pervert stories behind every such move to flourish in the society; in societies across. Anupgarh, the border town in Rajasthan notorious for being a transit spot for fake currency and weapons smuggling, is again one of the many faceless criminal syndicates involved in illicit trade of life.

We cannot have saving grace all the time. Around the same time, another blood trading racket was busted in Lucknow after police raid on half-a-dozen private hospitals and medical labs in the city. The dubious duplicity was made to be original with work on finer details like using wrappers of registered hospitals and blood banks, saline bottles, syringes. Police also suspect involvement of some employees of the prestigious King George Medical College of the city. Every possible manipulation was done here. It is almost utopian to think such killers would conduct mandatory tests before collecting blood units. They treaded the extra mile by diluting the blood to increase volume and placing any blood group sticker as and when they had to sell a particular blood group unit. What is more worrying here is police estimates that over one lakh people might have been affected by using blood channelized through this racket.

Someone with basic knowledge knows its repercussions, human body cannot accept unmatched blood units and if the racket was flourishing for so long, we can only think about the damage already inflicted.

Here we need to identify where the fault line lies. Every district or development block has a presiding health superior with network of officials working at village and block levels. Let’s put aside India’s poor health infrastructure for a while. According to some reports India has one doctor for every 10,000 of its population while hospital beds availability is just a little over 0.7 hospital beds per 1000 population whereas the world average is 3.96 hospital beds per 1000 population. This negative indicator at least may have a positive lever here. With this small number of facilities, even if we include the private players, the monitoring and supervision could have been ensured in a more organized way to discourage such practice. On the contrary, here the malaise starts. Just have a visit to any of the govt hospital in the national capital and you are bound to witness the stink that will make you run away at that instant if you had not any compulsion. Mid-tier and small towns have a Pandora box of horrible tales with govt health infrastructure and collusion of govt health officials and private players involving doctors and lab owners. Lure of some easy bucks and increasing population and awareness among people to approach hospitals was an ideal diversion ground when all this might have started. Gradually it has become a monster that if not checked would be the most prolific HIV/AIDS precursor in the country.


Sunday 6 September 2009



In the midst of some activity, even the activity of reading this now, it is completely possible to allow your mind to open fully, and in that opening to discover the peace and fulfillment of your own spacious awareness.

No place to go, no thing to get, no goal to be realized; no body to change no perfection to be attained. Simply, in this very moment, you can recognize what is always here. Here underneath all the lists and underneath all the victories and defeats.

In meeting yourself, free of all should's and must's and will's, for even a moment, you realize that even if nothing gets fixed or done, simple natural fulfillment is already here.

Of course there is much in our world, our bodies, and our minds that could use fixing. And part of the human evolutionary thrust is to use our mental capacities to discover what is wrong -- outside and inside -- and then to begin the work of correction by removal or augmentation. What a truly awesome power of mind. It is a hallmark of the capacity of the human brain.

The problem arises when this evolving, mistake-searching aspect of mind rules the life form called by your name. And this problem is huge in our culture.

How much of your attention is focused on what is wrong with yourself or others?

When we see how much is wrong or harmful in our thinking and our and others' actions, we can be overwhelmed by the tasks revealed. This overwhelm can result in giving up and reverting to cynicism or in strengthening our resolve to work even harder. To think and do more.

I am actually suggesting that before the overwhelm, or even in the midst of overwhelm, it is possible to stop, if only for a moment, and return to silence. In that moment, there is the recognition that to be internally free and at peace, nothing needs to be done.

Even a moment of true silence allows for true choice, for authentic, appropriate action or non-action to follow.

Some spiritual traditions refer to this silence as no mind. But for me that term is too close to mindless as in ignorant or stupid. I prefer the term open mind. The open mind is spacious and aware. It finds nourishment in itself, intelligent and aware without the need to follow thought.

In truth, all creative and fresh thinking comes out of this nourishment of aware silence. And it is available for you right now.

Charity Focus