Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How should we mould our lives?

Fill the reservoir when it rains, so that in times of drought, you can feed the fields. Do intenseSadhana (spiritual exercises) now, when you are young and strong so that you can be in peace and joy for the rest of your life. Make the most profitable use of this present period of your lives. Do not waste the hours in irrelevance and irreverence. Do not indulge in the condemnation of others or in self-disapprobation. Let your hearts rejoice, clothed in fresh ideals, feelings and resolutions. Mould your lives into sweet songs of Love.

How should we sing the glory of God? What are the benefits?

Today the country is facing a lot of problems because people are not doing enough Naamasmarana (remembering the divine name). Let each and every street reverberate with the singing of divine glory. Let each and every cell of your body be filled with divine name. Nothing else can give you the bliss, courage and strength that you derive from Naamasmarana. Even if some people make fun of you, do not bother about it. DoNaamasmarana with total concentration and dedication. Do not be afraid of anyone. Sing the glory of God wholeheartedly without any inhibition. Only then can you experience divine bliss.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why is singing the glory of the Lord, a powerful tool to our growth?

There are many snakes of wicked qualities in the anthill of your heart. When you do Naamasmarana(remembering the divine name) all the ‘snakes’ of bad qualities will come out. Naamasmarana is like the musical wind instrument (Nadaswaram) which attracts snakes and brings them out of anthills. ThisNadaswaram is your Jeevana swaram (music of your life) and Prana swaram (breath of your life). One has to repeat God’s name in order to get rid of evil qualities. Today there are many who do not attach any importance to Naamasmarana. It is a great mistake. In this Age of Kali only chanting of the divine name can redeem your lives. There is no other refuge. Singing the glory of the Lord is highly sacred!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Paid news a big threat to democracy.

    Paid news during elections has become a big threat to democracy. Even as politicians are guilty of subverting democracy, media houses are entering
    into clandestine deals with candidates and political parties.

    THE report of the Press Council of India's (PCI) Committee on Paid News needs to be appreciated. The problem is not new. Anyone with money or power - high net worth individuals, corporations, powerful trusts in health, education and so on, and people in power - always had some degree of influence. They could control advertisement revenue flows to a particular media house.

    There is also a natural reluctance to take on the rich and powerful. For instance, Professors from a leading Business School in the US say in private that it is not advisable to expose the dealings of some of the big corporations in India. Here we look at only one aspect of it - paid news during elections.

    The phenomenon existed for at least a decade, but recent exposures by the media and the PCI's detailed report show the extent to which it has spread.

    We ask three simple questions. What are the roots of this problem? How does this affect good governance? What if anything can be done about it? The roots of the problem are clear. Both the media and the political system need money. On the one hand, there is intense competition in the media with hundreds of newspapers, magazines and TV channels. They are under pressure to earn profits. Some of the reporters, journalists and editors are also exposed to temptation when money is offered. Beyond individual corruption, media houses are entering into clandestine deals with candidates and political parties.

    On the other hand, elections have become a very high stakes game as candidates and parties pour in huge sums of money to ensure a win. There is a proliferation of political parties, spending more and more money to woo smaller and smaller vote banks. For a fraction of what they spend on wooing voters, they can buy some sections of the media. The roots are, therefore, in the intense competition and complete commercialisation of media and politics. This was inevitable, and the trend was clear for several years. We as a society did not sufficiently anticipate how big the problem would become.

    The impact of paid news during elections and its long-term implications also need to be clearly understood. Debates on paid news seem confined to the English media. The majority of voters in the country are exposed to the Indian language media. Selected candidates or political parties are built up by the media. Political parties or their leaders own newspapers and TV channels. In this situation, there is a good chance that voters are influenced.

    While we can debate the extent of money involved and its influence on the eventual outcome, the real question is: what kind of governance can we expect from someone who wins using dubious means? They are either the rich and powerful, or people who will stop at nothing to further their ends. Once in power, they will use it to recover their investments, and to manipulate the system in the interests of those who support them.

    High stakes, high investment elections have become the norm. Big money was perhaps always ready to accommodate those in power, a few honourable exceptions apart. But now they find that the balance has tipped - they need not humour those in power. Those in power are now eager to humour them.

    Big money is also flirting with directly entering politics instead of merely manipulating it from behind. This is a dangerous tipping point in the life of a nation, and we have reached it. In a two-part nation like ours, with India and Bharat on different sides, the implications are not difficult to see. On the one hand, politics will increasingly become populist, with more subsidies and concessions to vote blocks. That is because we have a very fragmented political system with small vote banks, and those in power often do not have the stamina or political strength to tackle the real problems of the country. They find it easier to build vote banks.

    On the other hand, there will be further sell out to corporate interests. This is not to paint the entire corporate sector as greedy and manipulative. But sections of it are definitely putting pressure on governments to bend rules, get tax concessions and get new laws passed. We will also see bigger and bigger mega projects coming up (that is already happening) involving huge sums of money. If the government cannot pay for it, we will use the PPP (Public Private Partnership) model, with some deals clearly favouring the investor over the consumer.

    Large-scale scams periodically hit the headlines. And the recent Commonwealth Games is only a case in point. Behind all this, the problem of black money will further spiral upwards. The real danger ahead is whether we will end up tarring the moral fabric of our society itself. In short, paid news contributes significantly to bad governance.

    Tackling the problem of paid news is not easy, and even if we succeed, the nexus between money and power will not entirely go away. One radical solution is to change the structure of media from a profit-making one, to a not-for-profit model, either as a society or trust, much like educational and religious organisations.

    There is also a crying need for more credible, honest media houses that are independent of big money and power. The Press Council of India's detailed report also has some excellent suggestions, and we need to consider them seriously. It includes an enforceable code of conduct, complete and transparent disclosure of paid news, inclusion of the electronic media under the PCI's jurisdiction, disclosure of all interests and share holdings of the media house and its owners, and strengthening the Election Commission to tackle this issue during elections. With the political system and the judiciary under a cloud, we cannot afford to soft-peddle the issue of media reforms.


Bureaucrats are failing the nation

In the system of public administration that India has inherited from the colonial British and wholeheartedly retained all these 63 years after Independence, the top bureaucrats manning the various departments and levels of the Central and State Governments are expected to guarantee the sanctity of all official transactions and observance of the criteria of fairness and accountability. In a sense, they are regarded as the custodians of nation's interests.

The rationale of the protection given under the Constitution to the organised Services, such as the Indian Administrative, Police and Revenue Services, to the extent of making them immune from any punitive or vindictive action is that they will carry out their duties in a dispassionate and independent manner, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, resisting pulls and pressures from whatever quarter that are detrimental to the well-being of the people.

The logic behind the requirement of specific sanction for starting criminal proceedings against officials above the Joint Secretary's rank is also the same: In the discharge of their functions in good faith they should not be subjected to victimisation in the form of proceedings based on frivolous, vexatious or malicious complaints.

In a parliamentary democracy, politicians have of necessity to face elections at regular intervals, and in order to win, make all kinds of promises, some of which may even be violative of norms of financial prudence and administrative propriety. Once they are elected and form part of governments, they are expectedly impatient to make good their commitments.

The paramount task of advising on their feasibility, giving them the appropriate legal backing and, if otherwise in conformity with the imperatives of public interest, taking suitable measures for giving effect to them, falls on the bureaucrats.

Sacrosanct role

In the process, the nation expects them to guide politicians in positions of authority and power along the right lines in regard to what is good for the health of the body politic, and if and when necessary, to courageously stand up to them and act as a second line of defence against adoption of impulsive and reckless policies and schemes that can eventually prove harmful.

Instances of bureaucrats abdicating this vital role have been multiplying in recent years and those having the strength of will not to buckle under any circumstances and being prepared to face the consequences have become rare.

They who fail the nation by abdicating their vital role can be grouped under three categories:

The timid, who wish to avoid any confrontation and give up after an initial remonstration (there are not more than a few of these);

the easy-going who are content to carry out the politicians' wishes, salving their conscience with the rationalisation that politicians, being elected by, and close to, the people, know what is best (this category forms the bulk); and

the unscrupulous, who actively connive, if not conspire, with the politicians in their misdeeds (their number, in popular perception, is rapidly growing).

It is the direct or tacit collusion by passive and pliant bureaucrats that is at the root of the unending series of scams and faked encounter deaths.

Actually, the sacrosanct role of the bureaucrats does not stop with maintaining the highest ethical standards; it also extends to their acting as whistle-blowers when any act of impropriety, illegality or malfeasance by politicians in power is perpetrated over their opposition or comes to their knowledge or notice.

If only bureaucrats, especially the top ones, in the Ministries of Communications and Sports, as also in the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), had been alive to this principle, people would not still remain in the dark, or have dust thrown in their eyes, about the goings-on in respect of the scandals concerning 2G spectrum and CWG.

Bhopal businessman buys ATM on Dhanteras

    Bhopal, November 3: Rajesh Jethpuria doesn't own a bank, but that didn't stop him from buying an automated teller machine (ATM) to celebrate Dhanteras! Inspired by a banker friend, the 38-year-old businessman made the Rs 7 lakh purchase on Wednesday, becoming India's first individual owner of an ATM.

    "We worship Goddess Laxmi on Dhanteras. So I booked an ATM last Friday," said Jethpuria, who runs a construction and interior decoration enterprise in upscale Maharana Pratap Nagar. "I told my wife it was legal and the beginning of a new business for me. We finalized the deal on Dhanteras. The manufacturer, Ezee Rupee ATM, gave me the papers today. I plan to buy five more."

    India needs one million ATMs but has only 65,000 machines. The State Bank of India has 20,000 ATMs while the remaining 35 banks have 45,000. In 2005, the RBI, as part of its liberalization policy, cleared outsourcing of ATMs because their maintenance was between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh per month.

    "A lot of money goes into ATMs. Banks don't want to take up this burden. If entrepreneurs take the responsibility of running ATMs, it will ease the financial burden on banks," said a Bhopal-based Bank of India officer, who requested anonymity.

    Manish Mathur, director of Ezee Rupee, a Canada-based ATM manufacturing company, said his firm was in touch with four major banks, both private and government-owned, to set up such ATMs in Indore, Surat and Ahmedabad. By February 2011, Mathur said, hundreds of such ATMs will be operational. "Jethpuria bought the first machine. But there are at least 10 other people buying ATMs from us in the next two days," Mathur said. "We are corresponding with banks, which will choose buyers according to their locations."

    According to RBI rules, the money in the ATM will belong to the bank. The vendor or owner of the ATM will maintain the set-up and get a commission on each transaction. "The national average on each ATM is 260 transactions per day, depending on the location and bank. I've bought the machine investing Rs 7 lakh. Now my only dream is to have SBI pick my ATM. I hope Goddess Laxmi grants this wish as well."

    "In India, the ATM network is small and exorbitant. So far, it was either the banks maintaining ATMs or third party service providers like Euronet Worldwide. Ours is a new business model where an individual owns the ATM and makes money with every transaction," said Cris Chandler, MD of Ezee Rupee.

    The idea came to Jethpuria when a banker friend told him that along with his business, he could install an ATM. He said the concept was in practice in America and Europe where it's called White Label ATMs. "I can install it in my shop or any location with a 16 sq ft space. A bank can sign a five-year contract with me and sponsor the machine,'' Jethpuria explained.

Trai seeks views on blocking stolen mobiles

 The country's telecom sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has released a consultation paper relating to blocking of IMEI for lost or stolen mobile handsets. It has sought views from service providers and other stakeholders on ways to block lost or stolen mobile phones, to curtail the illegal handset market, discourage handset theft and protect consumer interest. IMEI is a unique serial number which identifies the handset. This number is stored in the equipment identity register (EIR) database of a service provider.

Currently, there is no method to block a mobile phone in case it is lost or stolen. Service providers can only block the SIM card, in case a lost or theft complaint is registered with them. The only other way is that the mobile phone owner has to write the unique identity number or the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of the phone and in the eventuality of it getting lost or stolen can report it to the police for it to track the hand set.

In case of theft of a handset, the service provider can flag its IMEI number and can block the handset in its own network. There are no figures available for the lost or stolen mobile hand sets, but industry experts say the number is alarming. In 2004, Trai had made a similar attempt, which failed as a number of service providers did not have the capability to track mobile handsets.

The consultation papers has sought views on the cost and funding aspects of centralised EIR, the process that should be adopted for blocking the hand set and the unblocking procedure if a lost phone is found. If the EIRs of service providers are shared through a centralised database, the lost or stolen mobile can be prevented from use in all networks.

turning regrets into blessings

Some of the most significant feelings we have that can keep us trapped in our pain include, regret, guilt, and shame. Many of us have an easier time forgiving someone else than we do ourselves. If we don't transform these feelings they easily lead to depression and even serious illnesses.

Sometimes it is helpful to reframe the case you have created justifying your regrets. For example, it is relatively easy to have regrets when looking back in time with more developed insights from the present. However, by honouring that most often you were doing your best, given the perspective you had at that time, you can create a new case--one that allow you to free yourself from the shackles of regret.

At other times, it is helpful to receive the wisdom and gift (that's right--gift) that can come from regret. Regret or guilt is an internal remorse for a choice you have made. The remorse you are feeling is an opportunity to learn something about yourself, and even more importantly it is an opportunity to become more familiar with your essential truth and live from that place of awareness.

Have you ever had the experience of apologizing to someone for something you did or said that had been nagging at you, only to discover that they didn't even remember the event? I did that a few times until I finally realized I was receiving the message that I'm a lot harder on myself than most people. I understood that if they had not taken it personally or had already let it roll off their back, maybe I needed to do the same thing.

There have been other times I was feeling regret and guilt over something and apologized to someone who responded with relief that I realized I had done something hurtful. My sincere apology created space for them to provide me with some insights about how my choice affected them. It also created space for us to connect in greater depth, honesty and compassion about what we were feeling and experiencing.

Regret and guilt have been powerful teachers when I have been willing to embrace the lesson. Whether I was being hard on myself or needing to take responsibility for a choice I made that I knew would hurt another, this question has typically helped me claim my lesson, "Why was I feeling guilt or regret?"

In some way, my choice--what I said or did--wasn't in alignment with my clearer, more awakened self. Regret became a touchstone for greater honesty, calling me to be more present with the truth of each moment, rather than in reaction to my perceptions and assumptions.

Here is an example of that calling. The other day, my husband said something to me in what I interpreted as a rude tone of voice. I responded to him with a crackling, indignant and angry retort. He immediately saw what was happening, and apologized. He was feeling a great deal of stress and it was bubbling up in frustration.

I immediately felt regret for the way I had responded, because I assumed he was being disrespectful. I felt guilty because instead of recognizing his rudeness wasn't about me and choosing to hold space for him to get to the truth of his apparent frustration, I reacted with a greater dose of rudeness.

We could have both just continued to spin around in regret and guilt (like we used to do in relationships), but we didn't. We sat down together and I listened while he talked about what was frustrating him. I listened until I saw peace and awareness settle into his shoulders. We kissed and went on about our day.

Here is what I discovered in the process. I have the equivalent of a masters degree in guilt. Actually, I have several of those kind of masters degrees. For example, I've mastered impatience, knowing everything, being right, and more. Because I intimately know the feelings of guilt and regret, I believe I'm entitled to master other qualities, like compassion, patience, not knowing, and even being wrong. It is very freeing to give myself permission to claim my mastery and move on.

Some very special people helped me gain this mastery. My husband is one of them. He has been there many times when I said or did something I later regretted. He has been my mirror, allowing me to see my own reflection. There have been family members and friends that have also been that mirror for me.

Consciously or subconsciously, they were the ones that were there as I learned about how I really wanted to be in the world, and that included some decisions reflecting how I did not want to be. Now, when the regrets come up, I thank them and bless them. I thank the spirits of the people that have been there for me while I was learning. I thank them for their willingness to help me see myself so that I could discover the beautiful part of me that most wants to express itself in the world.

Plant the Seeds of a New Self

Trying to resolve the pain within us by holding others accountable for it is like looking out at a field we have planted on our own property and wishing, every day, something other than what grows there would take hold and flower. If we wish to have true harmonious relationships with others, then it is we who must change. We must assume responsibility for what our relationships reveal to us about us, and then do the interior work it takes to plant the seeds of a new Self.

Everywhere we look, people are concerned with essentially one thing: getting what they want, when they want it, and as fast as possible. The fires that fuel their appetite for this envisioned success create so much smoke that they lose sight of the fact that all they reap for their insistent sowing are the cold ashes of regret raked out of broken relationships.

If we are ever to realize the integrity and consistent kindness of our True Self, if we long to know something of heaven while we live on earth, then we must sow the seeds that bring that higher life into fruition. One cannot expect to reap what one does not sow; and merely hoping for a higher life is not sowing true spiritual seeds, any more than climbing an imagined mountain is the same as reaching its top.

To sow spiritual seeds means that we do spiritual work. Spiritual work is always interior work first, even if, as a matter of course, this work becomes manifest through exterior action. What is this interior work by which we sow the seeds of the celestial within us?

One way to sow the seeds of a higher relationship with life is to not burden others or ourselves with past regrets, disappointments, or fearful future visions, even as we learn to ask truth for more insight into those unseen aspects of our present nature that are reaping their regrets even as they sow more of the same dark seeds.

It is not our duty to suffer over what will be or won't be -- to live with painful regret or guilt over what was or wasn't. Our soul task is to be responsible for what is -- and to allow this relationship with life to produce what it will. There may or may not be suffering in this order of responsibility but, if there is, it will be transformational as opposed to self-tormenting --which is the negative effect of every act born of assuming some false responsibility.

It is not enough to just sow seeds in this physical life, i.e., to struggle for or make millions, invent the greatest gizmo ever, or become the "who's who" of some social registry; for regardless of how sublime these intentions first seem, and even if their seeds should grow and flourish, they can only grow into forms that pass and fall in time. If our wish is for a life that is whole and loving, one that is filled with new light, then we must sow the eternal seeds of a higher life within ourselves; that is our work.

Set your self to the task of being an inwardly awake person and watch how you begin to reap the awareness that makes all things possible.

What are the challenges that spiritual seekers must overcome? Why?

The farmer, intent on cultivation, ignores even food and sleep, for he is too busy ploughing, levelling, scattering seeds, watering, weeding, guarding and fostering the crop. He knows that his family will have to subsist on the harvest that he brings home and that if he fritters away the precious season in idle pursuits, his family will be confronted with hunger and ill-health. So, he sets aside or postpones other pursuits and focuses all his attention on farming alone. He puts up with difficulties and deprivations, toils day and night, watches over the growing crops and garners the grain. As a consequence, he is able to spend the months ahead, in peace and joy, with his happy family. Students and spiritual seekers have to learn important lessons from the farmer. The stage of youth is the season for mental and intellectual culture. These years should be intensively and intelligently cult ivated irrespective of difficulties and obstacles. The clamour of the senses has to be silenced; hunger and thirst have to be controlled; the urge to sleep and relax has to be curbed.