25 December 2008

"Every animal knows far more than you do." (Nez Perce)

Norbert Rosing's striking images of a polar bear coming upon tethered sled-dogs in the wilds of Canada. The photographer was sure that he was going to see the end of the dogs when the polar bear wandered in, but the bear returned every night that week to play with the dogs.

From About.com: "The location was a kennel outside Churchill, Manitoba owned by dog breeder Brian Ladoon, who kept some 40 Canadian Eskimo sled dogs there when Rosing visited in 1992. A large polar bear showed up one day and took an unexpected interest in one of Ladoon's tethered dogs. The other dogs went crazy as the bear approached, Rosing says, but this one, named Hudson, "calmly stood his ground and began wagging his tail." To Rosing and Ladoon's surprise, the two "put aside their ancestral animus," gently touching noses and apparently trying to make friends."

From Rosing's website: "1988 he started his still ongoing project: The World of the Polar Bear. It covers the entire Canadian Arctic from Churchill/Manitoba to Pond Inlet and Cambridge Bay in Nunavut. He captured in his pictures the life of the Inuit, Muskoxen, Atlantic Walrusses, Whales, Aurora Borealis and of course the life circle of the Lord of the Arctic, the Polar Bear."

Remember that Sarah Palin does not believe that polar bears are endangered, she hunted wolves from a helicopter, and she does not believe that global warming is real.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
- Mahatma Gandhi

What incredible images!

Sending bear hugs to you all!

(thanks Existentialist Cowboy!)

16 December 2008

does religion make us more divine or deranged?

(photo credit: bhakticollective)

Kaustubha Das asks a very good question. no society is immune from religious fundamentalism, just look at our home-grown fundamentalist Christians. all fundamentalists have the same thing in common: devotion to their god and a belief that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

in Sanskrit that would be bhakti combined with avidya with a good dash of asmita thrown in. devotion combined with ignorance and ego.


"When we see innocent people running our city streets, scrambling for shelter from acts of violence committed in God’s name, whether in Manhattan or Mumbai, it’s a good time to ask ourselves whether our religion is making us more divine or deranged. On the verge of 2009, it’s become all the more apparent that the first decade of the new millennium will, in many ways, be defined by the impact of religious terrorism on our nations, communities, families and minds. Times like these call for us to examine how our faith affects our reasoning....

The most relevant questions about religion will address how we approach it. Religion, as a method of self-transformation (or yoga), can purify the heart, free us of unworthy instinct and compulsion, and nurture the best in us. A pure heart is fit to receive God’s grace in the form of wisdom, contentment and compassion. Conversely, a superficial approach sees religion as merely a ticket to salvation via membership to a group endowed with the favor of God. It can result in just the opposite, fostering pride, sectarianism and hate. It can become an instrument for the expression of exactly that which we need to be purified of. Which brings us to the real enemy: not Islam, not even extreme fundamentalist Islam...."

To understand human nature I don't have to read modern western psychology books...all I need to do is look to yoga philosophy and Buddhism. Buddha was the first neuroscientist and psychologist and after his enlightenment he taught how to relieve our suffering, nothing more, nothing less. in fact his teachings were so simple that he almost decided not to teach what he discovered under the bodhi tree because he thought people would not believe him. after his enlightenment he was asked what he was and he merely said "awake." that is all the word "buddha" means.

As Das explains and also asks: "Yogic literature speaks of six enemies (Ari-shad-vargas) which bind the soul: kama, (lust); krodha, (anger); lobha, (greed); mada, (madness); moha, (illusion); and matsarya, (hate and envy). True religion aims at uprooting these terrorists. The sincerity of ones purpose in their approach to religious practice weighs heavily in determining ones success. Will the soul be purified or putrefied?"

Are you your own terrorist or will you choose to awaken?

03 December 2008

the heroes of Mumbai

(photo credit: New York Times)

For Heroes of Mumbai, Terror Was Call to Action

"On any ordinary day, Vishnu Datta Ram Zende used the public-address system at Mumbai’s largest railway station to direct busy hordes of travelers to their trains.

But last Wednesday just before 10 p.m., when he heard a loud explosion and saw people running across the platform, he gripped his microphone and calmly directed a panicked crowd toward the safest exit. The station, Victoria Terminus, it turned out, was suddenly under attack, the beginning of a three-day siege by a handful of young, heavily armed gunmen.

“Walk to the back and leave the station through Gate No. 1,” he chanted alternately in Hindi and Marathi, barely stopping to take a breath until the platform was cleared. No sooner, gunmen located his announcement booth and fired, puncturing one of the windows. Mr. Zende was not hurt.

Overnight, Mr. Zende became one of Mumbai’s new heroes, their humanity all the more striking in the face of the inhumanity of the gunmen....

Not far from the train station, as the same network of gunmen stormed the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, a sous chef named Nitin Minocha and his co-workers shepherded more than 200 restaurant diners into a warren of private club rooms called The Chambers.

For the rest of the night they prepared snacks, served soda, fetched cigarettes and then, when told it was safe, tried to escort the diners out through the back. They wanted to make sure their guests, many of them Mumbai’s super-elite, were as comfortable as possible.

“The only thing was to protect the guests,” said the executive chef, Hemant Oberoi. “I think my team did a wonderful job in doing that. We lost some lives in doing that.”

During the attacks, six employees from the kitchen staff were slain.

Even after an aborted evacuation bid, hotel workers helped get water for their guests and held up bedsheets to create makeshift urinals....

Mr. Zende joined the railways at the age of 19, when his father, a railway guard, died. With a 10th-grade education, Mr. Zende began at the bottom of the ladder, working himself up to the announcement booth. Now, he commutes an hour and a half each way from a working-class corner on the city’s northern edges, naturally on the railways. He makes little more than $300 a month."

India has lived with terrorism for years, yet it only becomes front page news when the white faces are killed.

I fell in love with India on my first trip. I was 51, alone, and I had never been overseas in my life, but as soon as my foot hit Indian soil I knew I had come home. when I returned to my American home a month later, I was changed. I experienced reverse culture shock that lasted for many months. I did not want to be here at all, it made me depressed. tired of my constant talk about India, my husband asked me, annoyed, "why do you love India so much?" I said without hesitation, "the people", and I started to cry.

I've spent my time with slum children who use garbage for toys and with Brahmins, the highest caste. I've spent time at a shelter with women who were rescued from the streets. There I talked with a former Bollywood star who told me, when I started crying because these women reminded me of the battered women to whom I teach yoga, "don't cry, madam, we like it here." I was hugged by a woman who could speak no English but she touched my hair and then touched hers and started talking to me in Tamil...the translator told me that she said we were the same because we both had the same thick, curly, dark hair. I've sat on the concrete floor of my auto rickshaw driver's two room apartment that doesn't have a bathroom, eating lunch with my hands in the south Indian way, sharing a communal meal with him and his wife and three daughters. they sleep on straw mats on the concrete floor.

I was the guest of honor at a school in the slums of Madurai where I told the children that they were all Gandhis. a teacher told the kids how it was their privilege for the American yoga teacher to visit their school today. I said, no, it was MY privilege to be treated with such graciousness, a total stranger. the principal took my hand and said I was a gift from God for them...and that's when I started to cry.

I've met people who have nothing according to white bread suburban standards and yet they have everything. there has not been one day since 2005 that I do not think about Ma India. she cracks open my heart and makes me count the days until I can run back into her arms and lose myself all over again.