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Indian Soft Power at Work: International Yoga Day Captures Global Attention

Posted on 2016/6/24 18:17:48 ( 1381 reads )


INDIA, June 23, 2016 (The Diplomat): On June 21, 2016, the world welcomed the second celebration of the International Day of Yoga - constituted last year by the United Nations through a resolution that won the support of 177 member states. In his message on Yoga Day, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared the importance of promoting healthier lifestyles as part of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, which all member states adopted last year.

This emphasis on the ability of yoga to balance the mind and the body was echoed also in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's own address to the nation this year. Describing Yoga Day as a people's movement of sorts, he declared that it was a healthy practice for both atheists and the religious, and the most inexpensive route to health. "At zero budget, nowhere in the world is one assured of health -- but that is what Yoga gives you. Even the poorest of the poor can do this at ease and keep themselves healthy," said Modi, reminding the gathering that no other day has received this kind of encouragement and speedy acceptance the world over.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's speech at the UN on the International Day of Yoga last year more explicitly emphasized the importance of yoga as a tool for unity and India's soft power. "Yoga serves as a reminder of the potential for men and women to live in harmony with each other, as well as with nature, at a time when violent forces are threatening to destabilize society," Swaraj said. "Yoga is an important antidote to such negativity -- to move us on the path of peace."

Christians Ask: Why Is the United Nations Promoting Yoga?

Posted on 2016/6/24 18:17:38 ( 1252 reads )


UNITED STATES, June 21, 2016 (Christian Science Monitor): On Dec. 11, 2014 a wildly popular resolution was introduced to the United Nations General Assembly. A record number of countries - 177 - were willing to co-sponsor, making it so popular, it was adopted without a vote. But the resolution was not so much a political posture, as a physical one - or rather multiple postures, or asanas, as they are called in this case. The resolution established June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. That date, the longest day in the calendar year, was suggested by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who first brought the idea of the observance before the General Assembly.

Last year was the first time the date was internationally observed, and yogis came out to celebrate across the globe: yoga mats carpeted New York's Times Square as yoga enthusiasts stretched and breathed as they moved between postures; Modi led a record-breaking 35,000 in a yoga class in Delhi; hundreds laid their mats for a yoga session beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris; and at the UN headquarters, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon donned a white track suit and participated in the practice there. This year, the United Nations kicked off their celebration Monday night by projecting images of yoga postures onto a side of the New York City headquarters, connecting the practice to living sustainably.

However, the global spread of yoga has not come without critique, particularly because of the spiritual component of the practice, which some feel interferes with their expressions of faith. In a homily at the Vatican last year, Pope Francis cautioned Catholics against believing that yoga could open them up to God, saying "only the Holy Spirit can teach us how to love and free us from our hardened hearts." In the US, some parents whose children's school created a mindfulness class expressed concern that the program was inculcating religious and spiritual beliefs they did not necessarily share.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/6/24 18:17:27 ( 1135 reads )


O Mother! Let all my speech be your prayer; let all my crafts and technology be your worship and be the mystic gestures of my hand, adorning you. May all my movements become your devotional circumambulations. May everything I eat or drink be oblations to you. Let my lying down in rest and sleep be prostrations to you. Mother! Whatever I do, may all that become a sacramental service and worship for you.
-- Adi Sankaracharya's 'Hymn to the Divine Mother'

500 Stolen Antique Statues Seized by Tamil Nadu Police

Posted on 2016/6/23 20:45:06 ( 1140 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, June 21, 2016 (Hue Wire): The Tamil Nadu Police have seized around 500 stolen antique statues of Hindu deities from an alleged smuggler masquerading as an art collector. Many of the statues are over a thousand years old. The statues recovered include 254 ancient stone statues, 54 panchaloha statues, 28 wooden artefacts and 151 antique art works on canvas.

Investigators claim 84-year-old Deenadhayalan who runs an art gallery in Chennai's Alwarpet area is the kingpin of the alleged smuggling racket. Police have arrested three of his agents and have secured his home that doubled as an art gallery besides two of his other godowns in Chennai.

Police also suspect that Mr. Deenadhayalan was involved in the smuggling of antiques from the US and Europe as handicrafts bought from government owned outlets at a huge price. Many temple administrators from several parts of Tamil Nadu are now checking if their missing statues have been recovered.

Afghanistan's Dwindling Sikh, Hindu Communities Flee Abuses

Posted on 2016/6/23 20:44:56 ( 1063 reads )


KABUL, AFGHANISTAN, June 24, 2016 (by Hamid Shallizi, Reuters): On a bright day in downtown Kabul, Jagtar Singh Laghmani was in his traditional herb shop when a man turned up, drew a knife and told him to convert to Islam or he would cut his throat. Only bystanders and other shopkeepers saved his life. The incident earlier this month was the latest attack on a dwindling community of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan, a deeply conservative Muslim country struggling with growing insecurity caused by an Islamist insurgency and economic challenges. Once a thriving minority, only a handful of Sikh and Hindu families remain. Many have chosen to flee the country of their birth, blaming growing discrimination and intolerance. For centuries, Hindu and Sikh communities played a prominent role in merchant trade and money lending in Afghanistan, although today they are known more for medicinal herb shops. According to Avtar Singh, chairman of the national council of Hindus and Sikhs, the community now numbers fewer than 220 families, compared with around 220,000 members before the collapse of the Kabul government in 1992.

Although Afghanistan is almost entirely Muslim, its constitution, drawn up after U.S.-led forces drove out the Taliban government in 2001, theoretically guarantees the right of minority religions to worship freely. But as the conflict drags on, Avtar Singh said, conditions are worse than under the Taliban, which imposed strict Islamic laws, staged public executions and banned girls from schools."The good old days have long gone when we were treated as Afghans, not as outsiders," Avtar Singh said from a temple in Kabul, all the while keeping an eye on visitors by using monitors linked to security cameras. "Our lands have been taken by powerful figures in the government, especially by the warlords. We are facing threats, and this small community is getting smaller and smaller every day," he added.

"When we go to India, we are known as Afghans, but when we are here, we are seen as outsiders even if we are native Afghan," said Baljit Singh, a shopkeeper in Kabul. "We are lost between both worlds."

Is Christiainty Disappearing?

Posted on 2016/6/23 20:44:46 ( 1088 reads )


GREAT BRITAIN, May 27, 2016 (The Guardian, editorial): Is the end of western Christianity in sight? The most recent British Social Attitudes data shows that "No religion" is now by far the largest single identification in England and Wales. It is very nearly half the adult population, and more that twice the proportion who self-identify as Anglican; it is four times the Catholic population, and more than five times the total identifying with non-Christian faiths. The same pattern is seen all across Europe and increasingly in the US too, where the first chair for the study of atheism has just been endowed in Florida.

The study also shows that Christianity is extremely bad at either making converts or retaining cradle believers. The two big denominations, the Catholics and the Church of England, lose at least 10 members for every one they convert. The figure for Catholics would almost certainly be worse were it not for immigration from Eastern Europe and South East Asia. It is only the smallest and most self-consciously sectarian forms of Christianity that manage to retain believers, in part no doubt because they feel cut off from the society around them.

Over the last 50 years "religion" has come to stand for the opposite of freedom and fairness. This is partly an outcome of the sexual revolution and of the long and ultimately futile resistance to it mounted by mainstream denominations. "The religious" now appear to young people as obscurantist bigots whose main purpose is to police sexuality, especially female sexuality, in the service of incomprehensible doctrines. Institutional resistance to the rights of women and of gay people was an exceptionally stupid strategy for institutions that depends on the labor of both. But the Church of England was so much a part of the old imperial state that life in post-imperial Britain was never going to be easy.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/6/23 20:44:35 ( 747 reads )


Whatever defect I have in my sight, in my heart or mind, may God amend! May he, the Protector of the world, bless us!
-- Yajur Veda 36.2

International Day of Yoga to Be Celebrated in a Big Way in Delhi

Posted on 2016/6/22 19:55:39 ( 920 reads )


INDIA, June 18, 2016 (Press Information Bureau): The Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) are all set to organize the 2nd International Yoga Day on June 21, 2016 at Connaught Place, New Delhi and its six radials and inner circles, roads along with the three gardens Lodhi Garden, Nehru Park and Talkatora Garden.

As many as about 10,000 participants will be performing the common protocol Yoga. The program will start at 6.00 a.m. and common Protocol Yoga by all participants will start at 7:00 a.m. and go up to 7:45 a.m. The diplomats will participate in Yoga program at Nehru Park.

Outlining the details of the Yoga event, Secretary, NDMC, Smt. Chanchal Yadav informed that volunteers from organizations like Patanjali Yoga Peetha, Art of Living, Maa Shakti, Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vidyalaya, Dev Sanskriti University, Haridwar (Gayatri Pariwar), Moraji Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY), Delhi Police, NDMC, CISF, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, Walking Volunteers, General Public, VVIPs and VIPs would perform the yoga on the occasion.

More at "source" above.

Six Central Universities to Have Yoga Departments

Posted on 2016/6/22 19:55:28 ( 922 reads )


INDIA June 18, 2016 (Press Information Bureau): Six Central Universities will have full fledged Yoga departments from academic session 2016-17 and the number would be raised to 20 within one year. These six universities are Hemwati Nandan Bahugana Garhwal University, Uttrakhand (North), Viswa Bharti, West Bengal (East), Central University of Rajasthan (West), Central University of Kerala (South), Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak, Madya Pradesh,(Central) and Manipur University (North East). This was stated by Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani, Union Minister of Human Resource Development addressing a National Seminar on Yoga here today. Mrs. Irani said the action is in line with recommendations of a panel headed by Prof H.R. Nagendra, that had suggested various kind of courses ranging from certificate courses to Bachelor's, Masters and PhDs for yogic sciences.

India, His Beacon of Light

Posted on 2016/6/22 19:55:18 ( 676 reads )


INDIA, June 16, 2016 (The Hindu by Suganthy Krishnamachari): My curiosity is aroused when I hear that a student of Western philosophy from Denmark, is doing his Ph.D in Saiva Siddhanta in the Sanskrit Department, University of Madras. I meet Mikael Stamm one afternoon, and he explains why he was disenchanted with Western philosophy. "I didn't like its rejection of metaphysical questions. You don't skirt round questions, simply because they are uncomfortable. I couldn't accept the notion that it was the business of philosophy to clear up linguistic misconceptions for the sake of science. So I moved away from Western philosophy, and studied Computer Science, and for many years I worked in UNI-C, a government organisation, which develops service networks for Universities in Denmark."

A visit to the Viswanatha temple and conversations with pandits there, helped him to make up his mind. He decided he would study Saiva Siddhanta, and applied to three Universities. Madras University was the first to respond, and Mikael did his Masters in Tamil Saiva Siddhanta. He had read books on Hindu temples in Denmark, but had seen the temples merely as architectural marvels, without connecting them to the religion. It was his many visits to temples that made him realize that here was a living culture.

Is his interest in Saiva Siddhanta more than just an intellectual one? "Of course. I am a practicing Saivite. I have also become a vegetarian, says Stamm." After he finishes his doctoral studies, Mikael Stamm wants to teach Saiva Siddhanta in India, preferably in Tamil Nadu.

Much more of this interesting account at "source" above.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/6/22 19:55:07 ( 617 reads )


Correcting oneself is correcting the whole world. The sun is simply bright. It does not correct anyone. Because it shines, the whole world is full of light. Transforming yourself is a means of giving light to the whole world.
-- Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950)

Tirupati Temple to Earn $388 Million in Revenue This Year

Posted on 2016/6/18 20:27:57 ( 1316 reads )


INDIA, June 17, 2016 (International Business Times): Tirupati Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple, the world's richest Hindu temple and managed by the state government's Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) board/trust, will earn approximately US$388 million in revenue for this year, reported IANS, citing officials of the trust. Out of this amount, $149 million is expected in offerings (also called hundi) by the devotees of Lord Balaji.

In an earlier interview, an official from the trust said the offerings range from cash, jewelry, gems, property deeds, demat (ie, electronic) share transfers and bullions of gold, silver and other precious metals. While gold alone is estimated to add up to one ton a year in offerings, silver, diamonds and other items also flow into the temple trust's exchequer. "In the case of property deeds, due procedure is followed by the concerned department to transfer the title," noted an official.

Revenues from the sale of tickets, prasadam and others add another $89.5 million, while the proceeds from auctioning of the hair tonsured my men and women as a form of bidding to their beloved deity attracts another $21 million. The temple trust said in April that it had deposited 2,890 lbs. of gold with the Punjab National Bank under India's Gold Monetisation Scheme.

Caribbean Jurist Suggests That Yoga Can Curb Violence in School System

Posted on 2016/6/18 20:27:47 ( 1217 reads )


PORT-Of-SPAIN, TRINIDAD/TOBAGO, June 14, 2016 (for HPI by Paras Ramoutar): Acting Chief Justice of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Justice Rolston Nelson wants the Trinidad's Ministry of Education to introduce yoga in the school system to curb school violence and indiscipline.

Justice Nelson was delivering the keynote address at the launch of International Yoga Day set for June 21, and it took place at the Trinidad Hilton Hotel on Monday. The Second International Yoga Day will be observed from June 18 to 26 at ten locations in this twin-island state, including the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus and at Divali Nagar.

Nelson noted that yoga enriches the body with peace and harmony. "It is very important in these days of great stress. We would see why such benefits are important. Those of you who watched the news for the last 24 hours would see how the mind can become diseased...it can suddenly explode and cause great destruction".

The jurist highlighted that yoga can bring unity in the universe and that was a benefit we can all aim for. "In light of the current situation in terms of crime, that if one had more of the total benefits of yoga spread on the population we might be living in a much more humane and gentle society. I look forward to the Ministry of Education paying more to the science of yoga."

Deoroop Teemal, chairman of the International Day of Yoga Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (IDYCTT) pointed that research has shown that if the body is kept in a certain position for prolonged periods, "it works on certain centers of the brain" which can address stress and anger among students. Teemal said that 12 active yoga groups will be participating in this the Second International Yoga Day

Indian High Commissioner, Shri Gauri Shankar Gupta, who will leave his posting next month, said that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is partnering with the Ministry of Health, the United Nations Organizations and the IDYCTT. Some 60 schools will hold yoga classes in September, he said.

Gupta quoted Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi's address to the United Nations on September 27, 2014, in which he called at the United National General Assembly to declare June 21 annually as the International Yoga Day which was supported by 177 nations, "that yoga is an invaluable gift of ancient Indian traditions. "It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us to deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day."

"Yoga is a perfect science, and it can relax your body and mind and improve your immune system. We would be happy to go into the high risk schools and teach yoga. At the end of the day, we would have healthier children. We are appealing to the Government to come forward and co-operate with us," Gupta noted. He pointed out that even modern science agrees that everything in the universe is just a manifestation of the same quantum firmament. Science of yoga had pronounce this long ago and it enables us to experience this reality.

Yvonne Lewis, director, Health Education Division, Ministry of Health, noted that yoga was an alternative in keeping one's body active. Lewis admitted that citizens of Trinidad and Tobago were faced with high levels of non-communicable disease (NCD) such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and stroke. "These account every year for over 60 per cent of deaths, and what concerns the Ministry most is that 70 per cent of those diseases can be prevented.

Daily Inspiration

Posted on 2016/6/18 20:27:36 ( 958 reads )


Lord Siva, the bestower of happiness, gave the art of yoga. As Nataraja, King of dancers, He gave dance.
-- BKS Iyengar

Awake: A Documentary Film on Paramahansa Yogananda Released

Posted on 2016/6/17 19:47:03 ( 1270 reads )


INDIA, June 17, 2016 (The Hindu): A documentary on the life of the guru who inspired millions is now releasing in India. Titled Awake: The Life of Yogananda, it traces the life of Paramahansa Yogananda from his birth in India to when he left for the U.S. as a 22-year-old to take the teachings of the East to the West, in 1920. He later emerged as one of the most popular spiritual gurus in the world, with the Los Angeles Times calling him the first superstar guru of the 20th Century. Awake releases on June 17. The video can be purchased or rented here: http://www.awaketheyoganandamovie.com/. The inspiring trailer is also available at the same site.

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