Wednesday, February 29, 2012

SYRIAN ARMY ASSAULTS REBEL DISTRICT IN HOMS

SYRIAN TROOPS ADVANCE
ON REBEL-HELD AREA OF HOMS
Amman (AP) - Syrian troops launched a ground attack in Homs on Wednesday in an apparent attempt to overrun the rebel-held Baba Amro neighborhood that has endured 25 days of siege and fierce bombardment, opposition sources said. “The army is trying to go in with infantry from the direction of al-Bassel football field and fierce confrontations with automatic rifles and heavy machine guns are taking place there,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi told Reuters from Homs. He said the military had shelled Baba Amro heavily on Tuesday and overnight before the ground attack started. Several Western journalists are trapped in the battered district, although Syrian activists escorted British photographer Paul Conroy to safety in nearby Lebanon on Tuesday in a messy escape in which some of his rescuers were killed.

Reports from Baba Amro could not immediately be verified due to tight government restrictions on media work in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is struggling to repress an almost year-long uprising against his 11-year rule. Activists say hundreds of civilians have been killed in besieged opposition districts of Homs, including at least 20 on Tuesday. Shells and rockets have been crashing into Baba Amro since Feb. 4. Army snipers pick off civilians who venture out. The International Committee of the Red Cross and its local partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have been pushing for a ceasefire to enable them to extricate wounded civilians and bring in desperately needed supplies of food and medicine. The United Nations says Assad’s security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt began last March. U.N. political chief Lynn Pascoe said Tuesday he has “credible reports” from Syria of more than 100 civilians being killed every day, “including many women and children.”

Syrian troops advanced today on a key rebel-held area in Homs.  Government forces have been heavily shelling this city for more than three weeks with tanks, artillery and rockets. While diplomats continue to seek ways to halt the crisis and get humanitarian aid into the country, Syrian Government’s deadly crackdown on an opposition uprising has already killed well over 7,500 people. Diplomats try to stop the killing, but the struggle for political power prevents find peace.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
When we forget this philosophy - that Krishna is the supreme father, Krishna is the supreme proprietor, Krishna is the supreme enjoyer, and Krishna is the supreme friend of everyone -  when we forget this, then we come into this material world and struggle for existence, fight with one another. This is material life.  Nor can we get any relief through our politicians, diplomats, philosophers. They have tried so much, but actually nothing they have tried has become fruitful. Take the United Nations. It was organized after the second Great War, and they wanted, “We shall now settle everything peacefully.”  But there is no such thing.  The fighting is going on, between Pakistan and India or between Vietnam and America or this and that. Mundane politics and diplomacy and philosophy - this is not the process.  The process is Krishna consciousness.

Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda :
“The Journey of Self-Discovery”
“Superconsciousness” -  Bhaktivedanta VedaBase

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

HOW A THIEF ALMOST BECAME NIGERIA’S PRESIDENT

NIGERIAN EX-GOVERNOR PLEADS GUILTY
IN U.K. TO MONEY LAUNDERING AND FRAUD
Africa (latimes.com) - The former governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta state, James Ibori, accused of stealing $250 million from state coffers, pleaded guilty to money laundering and fraud in a British court Monday. Ibori, formerly one of the ruling People’s Democratic Party’s most influential figures, was arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2010 and extradited to London, where he had six luxury houses. At the time of his arrest, Ibori was negotiating to buy himself a private jet.  Ibori’s case tells the story of a country rich in oil but characterized by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt, where billions of dollars in state funds has been stolen by government officials over many years and salted away in overseas bank accounts or spent on lavish lifestyles. British authorities, who had investigated the case for seven years, announced Monday that Ibori’s assets would be seized and returned to the people of Delta state.

Before he worked his way up through the Nigerian ruling party to become one of the country’s influential politicians, Ibori was a petty thief in Britain. He had worked in a DIY store in Ruislip in the 1990s. He was convicted in 1991 of stealing from the shop and a year later was convicted of using a stolen credit card to steal around $1,600. “Ibori “tricked” his way into office by changing his birth date and pretending he had no criminal record,” said authorities. His record would have barred him from standing for office, had it been known. He was never the legitimate governor and there was effectively a thief in government house. As the pretender of that public office, he was able to plunder Delta state’s wealth and hand out patronage. Ibori enjoyed immunity from prosecution while in office. His salary as governor was $25,000 a year. Ibori’s wife, sister, mistress and London lawyer had all been previously convicted of money laundering.

The story of how James Ibori went from convicted thief in London in the 1990s, to become governor of a wealthy oil-producing Nigerian state and then to a British prison is a remarkable one. It is the story of a wily political operator, backing the right political horses and shifting allegiances when expedient. Given slightly different circumstances it could have seen Ibori in the presidential villa rather than a British jail cell.  This is another example of a conditioned soul's defect: vipralipsa ('the desire to deceive').

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
Prabhupada: Everything is cheating because so long you are a conditioned soul, out of four defects, one of the defects is cheating propensity, karana patava, er, vipralipsa.(?) That is a qualification. And in this material world, the more you are expert cheater, you are considered very able man. All over the world, so many expert cheaters are going on.
Devotee: Are these people consciously cheating or raised in cheating so that they don’t know the difference?
Prabhupada: That is another thing, but they are cheating. That is a fact. How we have learnt it, that is another thing. But you are cheating. That’s fact. ... I have got tendency to cheat, so people unnecessarily poses himself as very big man even by ideas that you will consider him very great man, although I am nothing. So many gurus, they are doing that
.

Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda :
Room Conversation with Ratan Singh Rajda M.P.
“Nationalism and Cheating” - April 15, 1977, Bombay
770415rc.bom - Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Monday, February 27, 2012

WILLIAMS AND DAWKINS IN OXFORD ARGUMENT

SCIENCE VS GOD: RICHARD DAWKINS
TAKES ON ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
www.independent.co.uk - Oxford University held its first debate on the subject of evolution in 1860, just months after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Then, the Bishop of Winchester, Samuel Wilberforce, famously enquired of the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley whether it was through his grandmother or his grandfather that he traced his descent from a monkey. The response he drew from the man known as “Darwin’s bulldog” ensured that the exchange went down in history. The university hosted what seemed tantalisingly like a similar clash of great minds, between the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Professor Richard Dawkins – like Huxley, a bulldog on behalf of Darwin’s theories. The conversation was conducted with utmost politeness. The cleric even confessed his belief in evolution, and agreed with Dawkins that humans shared non-human ancestors.

The gentility of Dawkins and Williams’s confrontation was in sharp contrast to its febrile context. On a visit to the Vatican this month, the Tory party chairman, Lady Warsi, warned of the “militant secularisation” of society, presumably led by scientists such as Professor Dawkins. Dawkins subsequently made headlines by forgetting the full title of Darwin’s seminal work (On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life) during a live radio broadcast. He even faced a character assassination by a Sunday newspaper last weekend, on the basis that some of his ancestors probably owned slaves. Could Dawkins disprove the existence of God? He could not, he confessed, describing himself not as an atheist but as an agnostic.  On his own atheism scale of one-to-seven, the Professor suggested, “the probability of any supernatural creator existing is very, very low, so let’s say I’m a 6.9”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was going head to head in a public debate with the leading secularist Richard Dawkins at Oxford University.  Prof Dawkins set out a world view based on a process of evolutionary selection, played out over millions of years. But the Archbishop of Canterbury challenged this human-centric vision of the universe, arguing that all our analysis of the accidental or divine design of life was seen through the narrow lens of our own human experience.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
In the history of humanity there is a long standing debate on theism vs. atheism. Better thinkers than you or I have pondered this issue reaching different conclusions. From this it seems that there is sufficient logic in support of the spiritual reality, at least as much as there is in support of atheism. Beyond logic lies the realm of spiritual experience. ... And we can proceed to experience ourselves. If you like the experiences you get from your practice, continue the practice, as there is no other proven method by which one can get such experience. Furthermore, the method prescribed by the saints for attaining spiritual experience involves becoming an ideal person, whose actions (karma) are integrated with knowledge (jnana), making one fit for a balanced emotional life (bhakti).

Śrīla Bhakti Vedanta Tripurari Mahārāja :
“Difficulties on the Path: In the Hands of God”
Śrī Caitanya Sanga - Vol. II, No. 38 - November 2, 2000
http://www.swami.org/pages/sanga/2000/2000_38.php
http://swami.org/  -  http://www.swami.org/index.html

Sunday, February 26, 2012

SAVANNAH HARDIN FORCED TO RUN FOR 3 HOURS, DIES

SAVANNAH HARDIN, ALLEGEDLY
RUN TO DEATH BY RELATIVES
www.wptv.com/dpp/news - At a doublewide trailer along a dirt road in rural Alabama, authorities say 9-year-old Savannah Hardin was forced to run for three hours as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars. The severely dehydrated girl had a seizure and her death days later was ruled a homicide. Her grandmother and stepmother who police say meted out the punishment are in jail, facing murder charges. Witnesses told deputies that Savannah was told to run and not allowed to stop for three hours on Friday. The girl’s stepmother, 27-year-old Jessica Mae Hardin, called police telling them that Savannah was having a seizure and was unresponsive. Neighbor Roger Simpson said he saw a little girl running but didn’t see anybody chasing or coercing her.  Authorities are still trying to determine whether Savannah was forced to run by physical coercion or by verbal commands.

Deputies were told the girl was forced to run after lying to her grandmother, 46-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard, about having eaten the candy, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Natalie Barton said. The sheriff’s release says the autopsy report showed the girl was extremely dehydrated and had a very low sodium level. A state pathologist ruled it a homicide. The sheriff’s office received calls from concerned citizens who had witnessed the running. Court records show that Robert Hardin, Savannah’s father, filed for divorce in August of 2010. In his complaint, he asserted his wife was bi-polar and of had alcoholic tendencies. He accused her of previously having run off with the couple’s own child. Jessica denied all of Robert’s allegations. Savannah Hardin was a third-grader at Carlisle Elementary School.

Nine-year-old Savannah Hardin died after being forced to run for three hours as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars. Severely dehydrated, the girl had a seizure and died days later. Now, her grandmother and stepmother who police say meted out the punishment were taken to jail Wednesday and face murder charges. The failure to protect children and helpless creatures is a symptom of little people's spiritual progress in this age of Kali Yuga.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
As you progress in your spiritual purification and realizations, you will see how to use all aspects of your life toward your spiritual progress. So from the time you get up, to taking care of your children and family, or going to work, dealing with others, even eating and sleeping, can all be done in a way that adds to your spiritual development. All activities can provide lessons to learn and give insights into our connection with God and all His parts and parcels. Or it may also give insights into the futility of pursuing sensual delights which will emphasize the need to continue our spiritual advancement. In this way, we will remain motivated to use the body like a tool, along with the mind and intelligence, for purification in our transcendental existence.

Stephen Knapp (Śrīpad Nandanandana dasa) :
“Thirty-one Days to Salvation on the Vedic Path”
“Day Seven:  Follow the Purpose of Life”
http://www.stephen-knapp.com
http://www.stephen-knapp.com/thirtyone_days_to_salvation_on_the_vedic_path.htm

Saturday, February 25, 2012

SEINFELD ACTOR CRITICAL AFTER SUICIDE ATTEMPT

‘SEINFELD’ ACTOR CRITICAL AFTER
SHOOTING HIMSELF IN SUICIDE ATTEMPT
http://news-briefs.ew.com - Character actor Daniel von Bargen, perhaps best known for his work on television for his turns as Commandant Spangler on Malcolm in the Middle and Kruger on Seinfeld, has been hospitalized after a failed suicide attempt. ABC News reports that von Bargen, who also appeared in supporting roles in several films, attempted to shoot himself in the head with a Colt .38 pistol on Monday.  The 61-year old star, who resides in Montgomery, Ohio, called 911 after the attempt. “I shot myself in the head and… I need help,” he told dispatchers. ABC News also notes that “von Bargen is a diabetic and was supposed to have two of his toes amputated that day.” In the phone call to 911, von Bargen can be heard saying, “I was supposed to go to the hospital today, didn’t want to.” Montgomery Police Sgt. Greg Vondenbenken told ABC News when police arrived at von Bargen’s home five minutes after the call was placed, he was found “seriously injured.”

The actor who has shot himself in the head at his US apartment, is at Bethesda North Hospital, where his condition is reportedly improving.  Montgomery police Chief Don Simpson said Von Bargen was supposed to go to a hospital that day to have some toes amputated because of diabetes complications and had already had one leg amputated. He said he was feeling depressed before he shot himself. Daniel von Bargen appeared on four episodes of Seinfeld as Mr Kruger. He also played Commandant Edwin Spangler in Malcolm in the Middle. The character actor, often cast as police officers, has also appeared in a number of films, including roles as a variety of law enforcement officials in The Silence of the Lambs, Super Troopers, O Brother Where Art Thou? and Basic Instinct.

Actor Daniel von Bargen, who played George Costanza’s boss Mr. Kruger on “Seinfeld,” is fighting for his life after surviving a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.  When asked if it was accidental, he replies, “No, I was supposed to go to the hospital today and I didn’t want to, so I shot myself but it didn’t work.”  Von Bargen, 61, explains that he is diabetic and was due to have “at least a few toes” amputated that day.  Suicide is a grievous sinful act which causes the inability to have another physical body.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
That (to commit suicide) you can do because you have a little independence. It is not natural to commit suicide; it is unnatural. So because we have independence, we can go from nature to “un-nature.” A prisoner cannot go out of the prison house naturally, but somehow or other he arranges to jump over the wall and goes away. Then he becomes a criminal for further imprisonment. Naturally, the prisoner cannot go out of the prison house, but if somehow or other he manages to escape, that means he becomes again a criminal. He will be arrested again, and his term of imprisonment will be increased, or he will be punished more. So, naturally we cannot violate destiny. But if we do it, then we will suffer.

Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda :
“Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers”
“Deciding for the Future”
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Friday, February 24, 2012

‘XENA’ STAR TO STAY ON DRILLING SHIP

‘XENA’ ACTRESS STORMS SHIP
IN NEW ZEALAND PROTEST
USA (Scientific American) - “Xena: Warrior Princess” actress Lucy Lawless and a group of Greenpeace activists boarded an oil-drilling ship in New Zealand Friday in a bid to disrupt plans to search for oil off Alaska.  Lawless and six other protesters boarded the ship Noble Discoverer early Friday in a bid to prevent it sailing to the Arctic, where it has been contracted by Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell to conduct exploratory drilling. New Zealander Lawless, who starred as the title character in the fantasy television series “Xena: Warrior Princess” from 1995-2001, is a long-time environmental activist who was named as a Greenpeace ambassador in 2009.  Lucy Lawless said her actions, which temporarily forced authorities to close the North Island port of Taranaki, were prompted by a desire to save one of the world’s last pristine environments.

Lawless was not concerned at the prospect of being arrested over the demonstration, in which protesters climbed a drilling derrick on the ship and displayed banners.  Police had made a failed attempt to scale the derrick and the protesters remained on the ship. Lawless and the rest of the group had enough supplies to stay in place for several days and were determined to prevent the ship setting sail for Alaska.  Police said the activists were “clearly breaking the law by trespassing on the ship” but safety was the paramount issue in dealing with the protest.  US officials had pledged to closely monitor Shell’s plans for four shallow water exploration wells in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea to ensure operations are conducted in “safe and environmentally responsible manner”.  But green groups say it puts wildlife and native communities in the remote region at risk, citing the vastly complicated task of drilling in the harsh Arctic environment and effectively cleaning up any spills in such conditions.

"Xena: Warrior Princess" actress Lucy Lawless will spend Friday night chained to a New Zealand drilling ship with a group of Greenpeace activists after police decided against removing the protesters.  Green groups point the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, produced by the explosion of Shell's Deepwater Horizon rig, is an example of the inherent risks inherent of oil drilling in sensitive areas. We need to find ecological solutions to the growing demand of energy.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
Only under certain conditions do the planets float as weightless balls in the air, and as soon as these conditions are disturbed, the planets may fall down in the Garbhodaka Ocean, which covers half the universe. The other half is the spherical dome within which the innumerable planetary systems exist. The floating of the planets in the weightless air is due to the inner constitution of the globes, and the modernized drilling of the earth to exploit oil from within is a sort of disturbance by the modern demons and can result in a greatly harmful reaction to the floating condition of the earth. A similar disturbance was created formerly by the demons headed by Hiranyāksha (the great exploiter of the gold rush), and the earth was detached from its weightless condition and fell down into the Garbhodaka Ocean.

Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda :
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam - Canto 2: “The Cosmic Manifestation”
Chapter 7: “Scheduled Incarnations with Specific Functions”
Verse 1 - Bhaktivedanta VedaBase
 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

PROTESTS CONTINUE IN KABUL OVER KORAN BURNING

AFGHANS ANGRY OVER QURAN
BURNINGS ATTACK US BASE
Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan police on Thursday fired shots in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters who tried to break into an American military base in the country’s east to vent their anger over this week’s Quran burnings incident. The fresh violence came one day after clashes between Afghan troops and protesters broke out in the capital and in three eastern provinces over the incident, leaving at least seven people dead and dozens wounded. The Quran burnings have roiled Afghans and set off riots in an illustration of the intensity of the anger at what they perceive as foreign forces flouting their laws and insulting their culture. The U.S. has apologized for the burnings, which took place at a military base near Kabul, and said it was a mistake. In Laghman province, protesters hurled rocks on Thursday and tried to remove the razor wire from the perimeter of the American base in Mehterlam, the provincial capital.

The demonstrators failed to push through and get inside the walls of the facility, which also houses a U.S.  a mix of military and international civilians who work to improve local governance, services and infrastructure.  President Hamid Karzai said he shared the Afghan people’s pain at hearing of the Quran desecration, but asked them to stay calm until an investigation is completed. The top U.S. and NATO commander, Gen. John Allen, quickly issued an apology and telephoned Karzai and major news organizations to explain that a collection of religious materials, including Qurans, had been mistakenly sent to be incinerated. As soon as someone realized what they were burning, they stopped and retrieved what was left, Allen said. Four copies of the Quran were burned before the incineration was halted, according to initial Afghan government reports. The White House said it was an accident that they were sent to be burned.

Anti-American demonstrations erupted on the outskirts of Kabul and in another Afghan city over an incident that the U.S. said was inadvertent burning of Muslim holy books. The unrest started when Afghan workers at the main American military base saw soldiers dumping books in a pit where garbage is burned and noticed that Qurans and other religious material were mistakenly put among the trash.  Tolerance is a necessary virtue no matter what religion one professes.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
Every individual has his peculiar nature distinct form any other. So, obviously individuals will vary in their opinions and tastes and this is quite natural. It is an unnatural thing to attempt forcibly to encage individuals into one fold, faith or particular ideology. Accordingly cultivation of tolerance of others’ views is essential for world-peace and unity.  Indian sponsors of religion appeared to have got that insight and tolerance; hence many independent views have cropped up in India and have flourished simultaneously.  Want of tolerance makes us sectarian and that spirit motivates us for forcible conversion of others which brings turmoil and unrest in the world. Religion should give equal scope to all the individuals for their respective spiritual development according to their attributes.

Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Madhava Mahārāja :
“Realistic Solution for Diverse Humanity”
Speech at a ‘Spiritual Summit Conference’ - 1968 Calcutta.
Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math -  http://www.sreecgmath.org/scgmtimes/scgmsbdm.php



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ARGENTINE TRAIN SLAMS INTO STATION, KILLING 49

ARGENTINE COMMUTER TRAIN
CRASHES, KILLING 49 PEOPLE
Buenos Aires (Reuters) - A packed commuter train plowed into the buffers at a Buenos Aires station during Wednesday’s morning rush hour, killing at least 49 people and injuring more than 670 in Argentina’s worst rail crash in three decades. Passengers said the force of the collision propelled the second train car inside the first carriage, trapping dozens of people in the wreckage alongside the busy platforms at Once station. Officials said faulty brakes were suspected of causing the accident and witnesses said the train hurtled into the buffers.  Most of the victims were traveling in the first two cars of the eight-car train, which Transport Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said was carrying between 1,200 and 1,500 passengers. “The train entered Once station at 26 kilometers per hour (16 mph) ... we suppose there was some flaw in the brakes,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency Telam. “The train folded up on itself.”

Relatives and friends wandered around the train station later in the day, trying to find news of missing loved ones.  The 28-year-old driver remained in intensive care and about 460 of the injured were still being treated in local hospitals. Wednesday’s crash is bound to fuel criticism of the country’s dilapidated and overcrowded rail services, which are run by private companies with hefty state subsidies and are prone to accidents and delays. Argentina’s once-extensive rail network was largely dismantled during the privatizations of the 1990s.  The company holding the Sarmiento line concession, TBA, said it was investigating the cause of the collision. Some 10 million passengers travel every month on the Sarmiento line, which links Buenos Aires to western suburbs.  The worst train accidents in Argentine history include a 1970 crash that killed more than 230 people and another in 1978, in which about 55 died, local media said.

A commuter train plowed into a barrier at a Buenos Aires station, killing 49 people and injuring more than 670 in Argentina’s worst rail accident in more than 30 years.  In 1970, 200 people died when two trains crashed north of Buenos Aires.  Eight years later, 56 people were killed when a train hit a truck in Argentina’s Santa Fe province.  This body means an invitation to death.  Due the association with this body I am dying and in danger at every step of life.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
So when the general apprehension of destruction comes, whether individual or collective, we shall try our best to utilise our time with the high conception, within divinity. That is very good. It is also appreciable that where the apprehension of danger is acute, one runs there for relief work. That is laudable. Circumstances may vary, and how far the intention is correct in a particular case is to be judged. ... Our aim will be to engage ourselves always in this distribution. Again, distribution may not be the only work. Some are seen to distribute, some are supplying, and others are cooking. Different functions are necessary to save the people.  Some disasters are acute and some minor, but disasters are always occurring. It is not only limited to the human beings, but so many insects, animals and others are also in need of receiving such vibration that comes from the Divine layer.

Śrīla Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Mahārāja :
“Distribute In Danger”
http://www.scsmath.com/
http://www.bvml.org/SBRSM/did.html

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MAHA SHIVARATRI CELEBRATIONS

SHIVA DEVOTEES CELEBRATED
FESTIVAL OF MAHA SHIVARATRI
www.hindustantimes.com - For Shiva devotees across the capital, Monday started early. With a ritual bathing of Shivalingams and prayers, the devotees geared up for the festival of Maha Shivaratri. Unmarried women fasted on the occasion and prayed to Lord Shiva for a good husband. “It’s a ritual. On Maha Shivaratri, unmarried women observe fast from dawn to dusk and pray to Lord Shiva to give them a good spouse,” Shivani Khanna, 20, told IANS. “On Maha Shivaratri, offerings of milk, bhaang (hemp leaves) and Bel leaves are made at temples. I also prepared special sweets for the occasion,” said Nisha Verma, a housewife who had come early to pray at a south Delhi temple. “We pour water and a concoction of milk, rose water and honey on the Shivalingam while offering our prayers, four times during the day,” she added. Bathing of the Shivalingam and the different offerings are said to have their unique meanings.

“Smearing Sindoor and bathing the lingam with milk signifies sanitisation of the soul, offering of fruits represent a long life and fulfilment of desires while lighting of a lamp signifies achievement of knowledge,” Verma told IANS. People thronged temples across the city to offer prayers and pour milk on the Shivalingams. Maha Shivaratri, which is celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva, falls on the 13th or 14th day of the month of Phalgun (February-March). It is said that Maha Shivaratri is celebrated to commemorate the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Devotees also take out processions to celebrate this holy marriage. A symbolic marriage of Shiva and Parvati is carried out by the priests in the Shiva temples in the evening. “The festival is accorded much significance in the Hindu culture. While women and young girls observe a day-long fast, it is also believed that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on this day absolves one of all sins,” said Rajan Pandit, a BPO employee and an ardent Shiva devotee.

Maha Shivaratri is typically celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Hindu month of Phalguna, which usually falls between February and March.  The festival marks the marriage of Lord Shiva to Parvati. Hindu women offer prayers to Parvati on the festival to ask for marital bliss.  Hindu devotees pour milk over Shivling (a symbol of Lord Shiva) inside temples and it is said that Lord Shiva fulfils everyone's wishes during the celebration of this Maha Shivaratri festival.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated sometime during February-March. It is believed that Parvati, the wife of Shiva, prayed, meditated and fasted on this day for the well being of Shiva and hoped to ward off any evils that may fall upon him. Though, both men and women celebrate Shivaratri, it is an especially auspicious day for women. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and sons, while unmarried women pray for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband. On Shivaratri, devotees awake at sunrise and bathe in holy water (like the Ganges River) and wear new clothes. On the day of the festival, people will fast and spend the day focused on Shiva, meditating and chanting "Om Namaha Shivaya." … It is customary to spend the entire night awake singing the praises of Lord Shiva.

Stephen Knapp (Śrīpad Nandanandana dasa) :
"Hindu Festivals"
"Maha Shivaratri"
http://www.stephen-knapp.com
http://www.stephen-knapp.com/hindu_festivals.htm

Monday, February 20, 2012

HINDU ARTIFACTS SMASHED AT MALDIVES MUSEUM

MALDIVES MUSEUM REOPENS
MINUS SMASHED HINDU IMAGES
Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP) - The Maldives’ national museum reopened days ago without some of its most valuable exhibits a week after a mob of suspected religious extremists smashed images from the pre-Islamic era of this Indian Ocean archipelago. About 35 exhibits - mostly images of Buddha and Hindu gods - were destroyed. Some of the artifacts dated to the sixth century, museum director Ali Waheed said. Waheed says 99 percent of the Maldives’ pre-Islamic artifacts from before the 12th century, when most inhabitants were Buddhists or Hindus, were destroyed. “Some of the pieces can be put together but mostly they are made of sandstone, coral and limestone, and they are reduced to powder,” he said. The mob of suspected Muslim extremists attacked the museum during the Maldives’ unfolding political crisis. The country has seen weeks of protests and some weeks ago President Mohamed Nasheed stepped down. He later said he was forced to resign at gunpoint.

The attack was the latest blow to the island nation that is best known as a high-end tourist destination. “We are very sad. This is the physical and archaeological evidence of the country, we have nothing to show (of the pre-Islamic history),” Waheed said. The items had been preserved since the museum opened in 1952. Waheed said the the attackers did not understand that the museum exhibits were not promoting other religions in this Muslim country. Practicing or preaching any religion other than Islam is prohibited by the Maldives constitution, and there have been increasing demands for conservative Muslim policies to be implemented. Last year, a mob destroyed a monument given by Pakistan marking a South Asian summit with an engraved image of the Buddha in it. Pakistan is an Islamic republic that also has a Buddhist history.

The Maldives’ national museum reopened days ago without some of its most valuable exhibits a week after a mob of suspected religious extremists smashed images from the pre-Islamic era of this Indian Ocean archipelago.  Some of the pieces made of sandstone, coral and limestone, were reduced to powder, museum director said.  According to some researchers, once upon a time the Vedic culture was spread not only far away the borders of Bharata-varsa (India) but all over the world.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
Srimad Bhagavatam gives us a list of kings who ruled in India according to strict Vedic principles during the first 1.000 years of Kali-yuga. After that 1.000-year period the rulers in India went into sharp decline, resulting in weaker and weaker kingdoms with soft borders - thus entered the foreign conquerors. ... But in any case India was not actually called India before 2.500 years ago, it was called Bharata-varsa, a Sanskrit name meaning the region once ruled by Bharata Maharaja, son of Rsabhadeva. India being an English word is actually derived from the older Greek word Indika, referring to the land of the Indus Valley.  In antiquity the borders of Bharata-varsa extended to the Caspian Sea in the west, in the north it included what we now call Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and beyond and, as already stated, in the east the borders of Bharata-varsa reached up to Burma.

Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasingha Mahārāja :
“Who Ruled India?”
http://narasingha.net/
http://gosai.com/writings/who-ruled-india

Sunday, February 19, 2012

POPE TAPS 22 CARDINALS TO ELECT SUCCESSOR

POPE NAMES 22 NEW CARDINALS TO
ADVISE HIM AND NAME HIS SUCCESSOR
Vatican City (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday brought 22 Catholic churchmen into the elite College of Cardinals who will elect his successor, cementing the Italian majority in a future conclave but also giving New York’s garrulous archbishop a position of prominence. Cardinal Timothy Dolan emerged as something of the star of the consistory, delivering a highly praised speech on spreading the faith and mentioned in some Italian media as an improbable “papabile,” or having the qualities of a future pope. Traditionally Americans are ruled out as papal contenders, with the argument that the world doesn’t need a superpower pope. But Dolan’s joyful demeanor seemed to have struck a chord in a Vatican that has been anything but joyful over a rash of news reports about political infighting and financial mismanagement. “He certainly is going to be given many responsibilities as a cardinal,” said the other American who got a red hat Saturday, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, the outgoing archbishop of Baltimore.

Dolan artfully dodged the question when asked about the speculation Saturday by a gaggle of reporters who traveled from the U.S. for the ceremony: “Io non parlo inglese,” he said. (“I don’t speak English.”)  In all, 22 churchmen got their red hats Saturday, including the archbishops of Prague, Toronto, Florence, Utrecht and Hong Kong as well as the heads of several Vatican offices. Seven of the 22 were Italian, adding to the eight voting-age Italian cardinals named at the last consistory in November 2010. As of Saturday, Italy will have 30 cardinals out of the 125 under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a future conclave.  “The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters even unto shedding their blood, if necessary,” the Pope said. Benedict, who turns 85 in April, was wheeled into St. Peter’s Basilica aboard the moving platform he has been using for several months to spare him the long walk down the center aisle.

PPope Benedict XVI has elevated 22 Bishops to Cardinal. They will be among his closest advisors and be numbered among those who will elect his successor.  He told them to base their actions and decisions on the bedrock of their faith as they exercise greater responsibility and power. “Everything in the Church rests upon faith: the sacraments, the liturgy, evangelization, charity,” Benedict said.  As much as sraddha (the faith) in guru (master) and God is increased, a disciple can advance quicker.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
Sraddha, faith, is the most subtle thing, and it is also the most tangible. It is not imaginary. We must realize that it is reality, it is concrete, and not merely an abstract sentiment of mere individual consciousness. Faith is universal as the most fundamental element that can connect us with the finest objective. Through electricity or radio we can establish communication over a long distance. But faith is much more subtle, and through it one can establish both higher contact and reciprocation. Subtle faith is not approachable by anyone and everyone; it has its tangible existence and it may function in any circumstance if we have its peculiar contact. We cannot give false statements that we possess it; our power and grandeur are not necessarily any proof of its presence in us. Despite great pomp and show, all we personify may be falsehood. We should be very cautious to maintain our contact with genuine faith.

Śrīla Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Mahārāja :
“Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion”
Volume One - Chapter Three – “The Success of Faith”
http://bvml.org/SBRSM
http://bvml.org/SBRSM/books/SERMONS1.PDF

Saturday, February 18, 2012

MEAT IN THE DIET TAKES AN ENVIRONMENTAL TOLL

THE LESS MEAT ONE EATS, THE
BETTER IT IS FOR ENVIRONMENT
USA (Scientific American) - Our meat consumption habits take a serious toll on the environment. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the production, processing and distribution of meat requires huge outlays of pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, feed and water while releasing greenhouse gases, manure and a range of toxic chemicals into our air and water. Livestock are typically fed corn, soybean meal and other grains which have to first be grown using large amounts of fertilizer, fuel, pesticides, water and land. EWG estimates that growing livestock feed in the U.S. alone requires 167 million pounds of pesticides and 17 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer each year across some 149 million acres of cropland. The process generates copious amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, while the output of methane - another potent greenhouse gas - from cattle is estimated to generate some 20 percent of overall U.S. methane emissions.

Ecologist David Pimentel of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences says the seven billion livestock in the U.S. consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire U.S. population. Our meat consumption habits also cause other environmental problems. Four-fifths of the deforestation across the Amazon rainforest can be linked to cattle ranching. And the water pollution from factory farms can produce as much sewage waste as a small city, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Further, the widespread use of antibiotics to keep livestock healthy on those overcrowded CAFOs has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that threaten human health and the environment in their own right.  Eating too much meat is no good for our health, with overindulgence linked to increasing rates of heart disease, cancer and obesity. Worldwide, between 1971 and 2010, production of meat tripled to around 600 billion pounds while global population grew by 81 percent, meaning that we are eating a lot more meat than our grandparents.

A lifecycle analysis conducted by EWG that took into account the production and distribution of 20 common agricultural products found that red meat such as beef and lamb is responsible for 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as common vegetables and grains.  The grain currently fed to some seven billion livestock in the United States could feed nearly 800 million people directly.  Lets use agriculture products to feed humans instead of feeding bred animals.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
You have to feed 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to a cow to produce one pound of edible beef. In other words, to produce 500 pounds of meat on a 700 pound cow requires that the cow consume 8,000 pounds of grains and soybeans. And you can feed many, many more people with 8,000 pounds of grains and beans than with the 500 pounds of beef. ... Any beef producer will admit that he buys (or grows) far more pounds of feed for his cattle than what he sells as meat. Meat production is horribly wasteful. Meat feeds a few at the expense of many. Futurists predict that, as the population of the world grows, vegetarian diets will be the norm, since the limited resources of the planet will be unable to supply the demands required to produce meat. ... And then consider the ethical argument: it is estimated that 20,000,000 people per year die of malnutrition throughout the world.


Friday, February 17, 2012

PRIESTS HIRED HITMEN TO KILL THEMSELVES

SUICIDE BY HITMEN: COLOMBIAN
PRIESTS HIRED GUNMEN TO KILL THEM
www.nydailynews.com - Rev. Rafael Reatiga asked his parishioners to pray for him and gave the choirmaster a list of songs for his funeral just before he was found shot to death together with another Roman Catholic priest, a Colombian prosecutor said. Authorities initially suspected robbery when Reatiga’s body was found along with that of Rev. Richard Piffano, 37, in a car in southern Bogota on Jan. 27, 2011. But prosecutor Ana Patricia Larrota said investigators had determined that it was suicide by hitmen: the two priests hired gunmen to kill them after Reatiga discovered he had AIDS. The priests gave members of a criminal gang the equivalent of $8,500, said the chief investigator of the prosecutor’s office, Maritza Gonzalez, as two of the four alleged assassins appeared before a judge for processing. She said the two priests had originally planned to throw themselves off a cliff into a canyon north of Bogota but apparently lacked the nerve.

In addition to AIDS, Reatiga had syphilis and witness testimony indicated he was a regular visitor to places frequented by gays in central Bogota, Larrota told the judge who processed the two alleged assassins on Tuesday. Gildardo Alberto Penate and Isidro Castiblanco were charged with aggravated homicide, said Larrota. Each faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. Three weeks before their deaths, Reatiga had transferred his possessions to his mother. Piffano withdrew about $3,700 from his bank account on the day of his death, Gonzalez said. Investigators said they located the alleged killers based on telephone numbers the priests had called from their cell phones in the days before their deaths. Some of the numbers ended up belonging to a criminal band involved in counterfeiting, fraud and arms trafficking, they said. It allegedly supplied the killers, including two who authorities say remain at large.

Two Colombian priests who were found shot dead in the capital Bogota a year ago had themselves hired the assassins who killed them, prosecutors say.  They had agreed a suicide pact after one of them was diagnosed with Aids, but contracted hitmen because they could not bring themselves to carry it out.  It is sad that people seek refuge in suicide, which leads to take birth in lower species of life or to remain as a ghost, unable to obtain a gross material body.

WHAT DO THE VEDIC TEACHINGS TELL US? 
When a person in despair feels that all of their basic defenses are broken and there is no one to turn to, nor can they find a comforting voice to console or support them, then they may conclude that there is no way out but through death.  If their cry for help is not heard or seems to be ignored, or if they do not know where to find help, then suicide may be considered as a last resort.  But it must be understood that suicide is never the end.  And suicide, and the state of mind that one has to compel one to commit suicide, is never a way for progressing into the next realm.  Death is never the final act.  It only opens the door to additional challenges that must be met or endured, depending on how one leaves their body.

Stephen Knapp (Śrīpad Nandanandana dasa) :
“Curing Depression with Spirituality”
http://www.stephen-knapp.com  -  http://www.stephenknapp.info/
http://www.stephen-knapp.com/curing_depression_with_spirituality.htm