Maha Shivratri: The Night of Shiva

“Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Lord Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. It falls on a moonless February night, when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivratri (In Sanskrit, ‘ratri’ = night) is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya — the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. The festival is observed for one day and one night only.

Origin of Shivratri

According to the Puranas, during the great mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified, as it could destroy the entire world. When they ran to Shiva for help, he, in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and because of this he came to be known as ‘Nilkantha’, the blue-throated one. Shivratri celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world.”

Source: Maha Shivratri: The Night of Shiva

Opinion | What if We’re All Coming Back? – The New York Times

Introducing the newest op-ed writer for the New York Times, Michelle Alexander, who writes:
“I can’t say that I believe in reincarnation, but I understand why some people do. In fact, I had a bizarre experience as a teenager that made me wonder if I had known someone in a past life.”
“, , , , This month, the world’s leading climate scientists released a report warning of catastrophic consequences as soon as 2040 if global warming increases at its current rate. Democratic politicians expressed alarm, yet many continue to accept campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry that is responsible for such a large percentage of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s nearly impossible to imagine that our elected officials would be so indifferent if they knew climate scientists were foretelling a future that they would have to live without any of the privileges they now enjoy.”


On the Role of Chinese Religion in Environmental Protection – The New York Times

“Prasenjit Duara is one of the most original thinkers on culture and religion in Asia.

A 66-year-old historian of China, he was born in Assam, India, and educated at the University of Delhi, the University of Chicago and Harvard. He later taught at the University of Chicago, Stanford and the National University of Singapore and now teaches at Duke.

Professor Duara began his career with a pioneering study of Chinese religion: “Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942.” This work, published in 1988, helped redefine how many people thought of Chinese religion, showing it to be one of the most powerful forces in traditional Chinese society. His subsequent books reflect a broadening of interests to include topics such as nationalism and imperialism. His latest work, “The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future,” brings many of these strands together, along with issues such as climate change.In a recent interview in Beijing, Professor Duara discussed Buddhist environmentalism, what aspect of religion most alarms the Chinese government and the South Manchuria Railway Company.

Source: On the Role of Chinese Religion in Environmental Protection – The New York Times

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

This is a beautiful piece about an extraordinary scholar and set of ideas. I am a candidate for his book, “The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future”.

In the historical fiction I am writing about eighteenth-century Vietnam, The Tay Son Rebellion, I apparently missed the social aspects of the temples. I haven’t seen documentation of the way they created large crowds for specific rituals, but there is plenty of evidence in my research and writing that the Viets were more open to outside religious ideas than the Christian missionaries, who benefited from that openness.

Can the Chinese Communist Party really pick the next Dalai Lama? Heavens No.

Thank you Chris Buckley. Can the Chinese Communist Party really pick the next Dalai Lama, can they legitimately decide who the reincarnated being is?
Buckley writes, ““It’s like Fidel Castro saying, ‘I will select the next pope and all the Catholics should follow.’ That is ridiculous,” Mr. Sangay told Reuters on Tuesday. “It’s none of Padma Choling or any of the Communist Party’s business, mainly because Communism believes in atheism and religion being poisonous.” ”
The article is rich with resonance. The Communist Party as a totalitarian regime is doomed in its present incarnation, if it remains so arrogant and stupid, and it will deserve to die in hell-fire and be reborn. I only believe in god on certain days of the week, but seven days of the week I believe in the separation between Church and State. The CCP thinks you can fool most of the people most of the time. I hope that’s not how it went.

A comment by the Tibetan spiritual leader that he might not reincarnate has run afoul of the Communist Party.|By CHRIS BUCKLEY

Sikhism is extraordinary. Not fundamentalist.

My friend Ed Stannard wrote a piece in the New Haven Register about how Sikhs are targeted for hate crimes, though they are not fundamentalists. I got interested enough to go to Wikipedia, which informed me of shockingly exciting facts about this amazing reform religion:
“The philosophy of Sikhism is covered in great detail in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text. Detailed guidance is given to followers on how to conduct their lives so that peace and salvation can be obtained in this life, rather than the afterlife. The holy text outlines the positive actions that one must take to make progress in the evolution of the person. One must remember the Creator at all times – it reminds the follower that the “soul is on loan from God, who is ever merciful”, and that the follower must dedicate their life to all good causes – to help make this life more worthwhile.

The sections below give more details of the underlying message of this faith. It is easiest to discuss the topic if the details are divided into the following sections:


1 Underlying values
2 Prohibited behavior
3 The Three Pillars of Sikh belief
4 Other observations
5 References
6 External links

Underlying values

The Sikhs must believe in the following values:

Equality: All humans are equal before God – No discrimination is allowed on the basis of caste, race, gender, creed, origin, color, education, status, wealth, et cetera. The principles of universal equality and brotherhood are important pillars of Sikhism.
Personal right: Every person has a right to life but this right is restricted and has attached certain duties – simple living is essential. A Sikh is expected to rise early, meditate and pray, consume simple food, perform an honest day’s work, carry out duties for his or her family, enjoy life and always be positive, be charitable and support the needy, et cetera.
Actions count: Salvation is obtained by one’s actions[citation needed] – good deeds, remembrance of God – Naam Simran, Kirtan.
Living a family life: Encouraged to live as a family unit to provide and nurture children for the perpetual benefit of creation (as opposed to sannyasa or living as a monk, which was, and remains, a common spiritual practice in India.)
Sharing: It is encouraged to share and give to charity 10 percent of one’s net earnings.
Accept God’s will: Develop your personality so that you recognise happy events and miserable events as one – the will of God causes them.
The four truths of life: Truth, contentment, contemplation and Naam (in the name of God).

Prohibited behavior
Main article: Prohibitions in Sikhism

Non-logical behavior: Superstitions, or rituals which have no meaning, such as pilgrimages, fasting and bathing in rivers, gambling, worship of graves, idols or pictures, and compulsory wearing of the veil for women, are prohibited.
Material obsession: (“Maya”) Accumulation of materials has no meaning in Sikhism. Wealth such as gold, portfolio, stocks, commodities, properties, et cetera, will all be left here on Earth when you depart. Do not get attached to them.
Sacrifice of creatures: Sati – Widows throwing themselves in the funeral pyre of their husbands, the act of slaughtering lambs and calves to celebrate holy occasions
Non-family oriented living: A Sikh is encouraged not to live as a recluse, beggar, monk, nun, celibate, or in any similar vein.
Worthless talk: Bragging, gossip and lying are not permitted.
Intoxication: The consumption of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or other intoxicants is prohibited.
No priestly class: Sikhs do not have to depend on a priest for any of the functions that need to be performed.
Eating meat killed in a ritualistic manner (Kutha meat): Sikhs are strictly prohibited from eating meat killed in a ritualistic manner (such as halal or kosher, known as Kutha meat[1] ), or any meat where langar is served.[2] In some small Sikh Sects, i.e. Akhand Kirtani Jatha eating any meat is believed to be forbidden, but this is not a universally held belief.[3] The meat eaten by Sikhs is known as Jhatka meat.
Having premarital or extramarital sexual relations[4][5][6][7]

The Three Pillars of Sikh belief

Naam Japo is meditation, singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib or of the various names of God, especially the chanting of the word Waheguru
Kirat Karo is to earn an honest, pure and dedicated living by exercising one’s God-given skills, abilities, talents and hard labour for the benefit and improvement of the individual, their family and society at large.
Vand Chhako is to share what you have and to consume it together as a community, whether this is could be wealth, food et cet. The term is also used to mean to share one’s wealth with others in the community, to give to charity, to distribute langar and to generally help others.

Other observations

One God: – There is only one God (Waheguru), who has infinite qualities and names. God is Creator and Sustainer – all that you see around you is His creation. He is everywhere, in everything. He is without birth or death, and has existed before Creation and will exist forever. Sikhism does not acknowledge an anthropomorphic God. This is true to the extent than one can interpret Him as the Universe Itself.[citation needed] Sikhism also does not acknowledge the belief of a Personal God[citation needed], as does Christianity. Instead, God is usually interpreted as being unfathomable, yet not unknowable.
Reincarnation, karma and salvation: – The journey of the soul is governed by the deeds and actions that we perform during our lives.
Remember God: Only by keeping the Creator in your mind at all times will you make progress in your spiritual evolution.
Humanity (brotherhood): All human beings are equal. We are sons and daughters of Waheguru.
Uphold moral values: Defend, protect and fight for the rights of all creatures, in particular your fellow human beings.
Personal sacrifice: Be prepared to give your life for all supreme principles: Guru Tegh Bahadur died for others.
Many paths lead to God: – Sikhs are not special; they are not the chosen people of God. Simply calling yourself a Sikh does not bring you salvation. Members of all religions have the same right to liberty as Sikhs.
Positive attitude toward life: “Charhdi Kala” – Always have a positive, optimistic and buoyant view of life. God is there – He will be your help.
Disciplined life: Upon baptism, a Sikh must wear the Five Ks and perform strict recital of the five prayers (gurbanis).[citation needed]
No special worship days: Sikhs do not believe that any particular day is holier than any other.
Conquer the five thieves: It is every Sikh’s duty to defeat these five thieves: Pride, Anger, Greed, Attachment, and Lust, known collectively as P.A.G.A.L.
Attack with Five Weapons: Contentment (Santokh), Charity (Dan), Kindness (Daya), Positive Energy (Chardi Kala), Humility (Nimarta).
Having premarital sexual or extramarital relations: Sikhs are encouraged to be faithful to their spouse. All forms of adultery are discouraged.[7]
Not son of God: The Gurus were not, in the Christian sense, “Sons of God”[dubious – discuss]. Sikhism says we are all God’s children.
All are welcome: Members of all religions can visit gurdwaras (Sikh temples) if they observe local rules: cover the head, no shoes, no smoking in the main hall.
Multi-level approach: Sikhism recognizes the concept of a multi-level approach to achieving your target as a disciple of the faith. For example, sahajdhari “slow adopters” are Sikhs who have not donned the full Five Ks but are still Sikhs regardless.

Note: The Punjabi language does not have a gender for God. Unfortunately, when translating, the real meaning cannot be properly conveyed without using “Him,” “His,” “He,” “Brotherhood,” “Him or Her,” et cetera; furthermore, this distorts the meaning by giving the impression that God is masculine, which is not the message in the original script. The reader must allow for this every time these words are used. It is often the case that rather than taking a gender definition, God is simply conveyed as “Omnipotent Being” rather than God, thus conveying the correct perceptual image.”