Sunday December 17, 2017

Beyond yoga and meditation: Hindu contributions that set the wheel of discovery rolling for rest of the world

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Contrary to popular perceptions that Hinduism is a mystical religion exclusively concerned with transcendental concepts of spiritual practice, it has been a wellspring for vast contributions to global civilization spanning more than five millennia.

As a religious practice aspiring to understand the eternal mysteries of existence, Hinduism has never been a regressive or closed dogma satisfied with historicentric interpretations of one holy book. Indeed, Hindus have explored the mysteries of science, mathematics and astronomy to revel in the glory of Creation. Epochal advances in metallurgy, medicine, grammar, music and dance, among other disciplines, came from early practitioners of Hinduism and its scripture is replete with practical and esoteric observations. Some perennial contributions of Hinduism:

EducationThe first university in Takshashila in 700 B.C.E.
MathematicsThe concept of zero (200 A.D.). The modern numerical and decimal system (300 B.C.E). The value of pi (?) (497 A.D.). Area of a triangle (476 A.D.). Quadratic Equation (991 A.D.). Trigonometry.
AstronomyConcept of planets in the solar system circling the sun (500 A.D.). Earth as round, rotating on axis and gravity as a force of attraction by the earth (500 A.D.). Concept of Time as 365 days in a year.
MetallurgySteel, iron, gold discovered in archaeological excavations dating to 3000 B.C.E.
MedicineAyurveda, a system of allopathic and holistic medicine and now a subject of rediscovery, originated 1000 B.C.E. Detailed text called the Charaka Samhita includes anatomy, physiology and various treatments using various plants, fruits and herbs.
SurgeryThe Sushruta Samhita (600 B.C.E.) is considered the first detailed text with seminal descriptions of surgical procedures and instruments that, with modifications, are conceptually used today.
LiteratureSanskrit developed as the most ancient systematic language in the world. The Ramayan (before 3000 B.C.E) and the 100,000 verses Mahabharata (300 B.C.E.) are venerable epics that continue to inspire Hindus today.
ArtsHighly sophisticated Indian classical music finds its origins in the Sama Veda, one of the four original Vedas. The four classical dance forms of India find their origins and inspirations in Hindu religious tradition.
Yoga and MeditationThese are, perhaps, the most widely-recognized spiritual contributions of Hinduism to humanity. Hatha Yoga, the widely practiced system of cleansing exercises, is only one of the Yoga disciplines that encourage spiritual, physical and intellectual advancement. Meditation, a process that calms and focuses the psyche, is integral to yogic practice and recognized with yoga for its salutary effects on personal well-being.

As continuous invasions rocked the Indian subcontinent—from Alexander the Great and the heinous barbarisms of the Islamic conquests to the most recently repulsed British colonial rule—the last millennia saw the nadir of Hindu innovation. Yet the 20th and 21st century are marking a resurgence as Hindus in the diaspora, especially in the United States, strengthen their adopted lands with contributions in technology, medicine, engineering, fashion and the arts among many other disciplines.

Content: Hindu American Foundation

  • India may very well have made contribution in all spheres of science and technology. But what good is it if Indians themselves are not either made aware of that through a specially designed education system? The Anglophonic ruling class of India are educated to become a pathetic imitation of American or British, stripped of all sense of self respect and self dignity, committed to ridiculous imitation of the West. As one watches the debates in the mainstream media, participants express their logic and opinion that are mostly second hand information regurgitated from Western Sources. They are incapable of using Indian sources or offering something original.

    Let NewsGram undertake the role of making Indians aware of what we were and hence we are much more than just an appendage of the West.

  • India may very well have made contribution in all spheres of science and technology. But what good is it if Indians themselves are not either made aware of that through a specially designed education system? The Anglophonic ruling class of India are educated to become a pathetic imitation of American or British, stripped of all sense of self respect and self dignity, committed to ridiculous imitation of the West. As one watches the debates in the mainstream media, participants express their logic and opinion that are mostly second hand information regurgitated from Western Sources. They are incapable of using Indian sources or offering something original.

    Let NewsGram undertake the role of making Indians aware of what we were and hence we are much more than just an appendage of the West.

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Indulge in Yoga for a healthy and a good respiratory system

This article gives information on Yoga which is a very beneficial hack for having a good respiratory system

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Yoga good for healthy and respiratory body.
Yoga good for healthy and respiratory body. IANS
  • Akshar explains the benefits of Yoga
  • Yoga being the ultimatum for a good respiratory system

-by Akshar

Smog, the choking threat which has landed the national capital in a pollution emergency, has been the cause of many respiratory problems in children and adults. When your daily commute feels like living on the edge, what are your other outdoor activities supposed to feel like?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is dangerous to breathe when there is too much smog. Smog contains ozone particles, and elevated ozone levels can have a variety of negative effects on your lungs.

While it is advised to stay indoors when the air is toxic outside, a more practical solution would be to establish a habit of cleansing your respiratory organs through Yoga.

If Yoga has been shown to improve the quality of life of lung cancer patients, it could definitely do wonders against other respiratory issues. Here are a few asanas you could try to give you relief from chest congestion, respiratory flues and discomfort in breathing.

* Pranayama: This has proved beneficial for those suffering with bronchitis or lung congestion.

How to do it:

1. While performing pranayama one should make sure that his or her back is straight and should concentrate on the breathing.

2. Sahaj Pranayama, which is also called easy breathing, involves breathing a few times deeply.

3. Inhale through the nostrils for five counts and hold the breath for 10 counts.

4. Exhale through the mouth for 10 counts; this has to be repeated 10-12 times.

* Adho Mukha Svanasana: This posture strengthens the chest muscles and expands the lung region, increasing its capacity.

How to do it:

1. From table top position, tuck your toes, straighten your legs and lift your hips towards the ceiling.

2. Adjust your hands forward a bit, if necessary, and spread your fingers.

3. Keep your spine long, and your head and neck in line with your spine. Hold for one minute.

* Bhujangasana: This asana opens up the heart and lungs and gives them a good stretch.

How to do it:

1. Lie on your stomach; engage your back muscles in lifting your head and upper torso.

2. Align your elbows underneath your shoulders for support.

3. Open your chest and relax your shoulders away from your ears.

4. Look straight ahead and hold for one minute.

* Sukhasana: This heavy breathing seated position relieves yourself from stress, anxiety and exhaustion.

How to do it:

1. Sit erect, with the feet stretched out towards the front.

2. Now cross the legs in such a way that the knees are wide, shins are crossed, and each foot is placed under the knee. Knees must be bent, and legs should be tucked into the torso.

3. Feet must be relaxed, and the outer edges must rest on the floor while the inner edges must arch on the shins. Look down on your legs, must see a triangle formed by shins that are crossed and both the thighs.

4. Back must be balanced in such a way that the tailbone and the pubic bone are at equal distance from the floor.

5. Place the palms stacked up in your lap. Or you can also lay them on the knees palms up or palms down.

6. Elongate the tailbone, and firm up the shoulders. But make sure the lower back is not arched in such a way that it pokes the lower ribs forward.

* Marjari Asana: This involves deep breathing, which in turn expands the lungs and boosts blood circulation.

How to do it:

1. Begin with Adhomukhi Swanasana

2. Lean forward and place your knees down on your mat

3. Inhale, look up and relax

4. Inhale as you drop your knees

5. While navigating back, shift the body weight from the knees to palms and feet.

(Akshar is founder and course director of Bengaluru’s Akshar Yog. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at akshar@aksharyoga.com) (IANS)

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Top US Women Diplomats Speak Out on Sexual Harassment

Women from all sectors are coming out to speak against sexual harassment cases, this time U.S women diplomats lashed out against such incidents

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FILE - Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who served as the US Ambassador in Malta, addresses participants during a gay pride parade organized by the Malta Gay Rights Movement in Sliema, outside Valletta, June 30, 2012.

As U.S. lawmakers grapple with allegations of sexual harassment in their ranks, some senior American diplomats are speaking out about their struggles over the years.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who was U.S. ambassador to Malta from 2012-2016, told her story about serving at the State Department and the White House.

“There was one occasion in the department when a boss touched me and I told him if he did it again, I’d knock the s— out of him. He did not repeat it, but he did try to get me to curtail from the position,” Abercrombie-Winstanley told the Foreign Service Journal, a publication by the American Foreign Service Association.

The former U.S. envoy recalled another incident in which she said she was harassed by a senior lawmaker while serving on the White House National Security Council.

“Initially, I parried the advance from a senior member of Congress, but when he continued to call me, I reported to the NSC’s executive secretary that it was happening, and told him that if I had to do violence to repel it, I would,” Abercombie-Winstanley said.

“I was letting him know beforehand, I said, because I did not expect to lose my job as a result,” she added. “After a moment of shocked silence, he said ‘Thanks for letting me know.’ And the member stopped calling me.”

She later told VOA these occasions are an “extremely small part of my professional journey” and declined to either comment further on details or identify the congressman.

‘Zero-tolerance’ policy

In a letter electronically distributed to all American diplomats around the world earlier this year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the department upholds a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding discriminatory and sexual harassment.

“Effective harassment prevention efforts must start with and involve the highest level possible,” Tillerson said in his policy statement.

For years, secretaries of state release their statements on diversity and harassment in the workplace at the beginning of their tenure and review annually thereafter. They usually highlight two anti-harassment policies: one prohibiting sexual harassment, the other banning discrimination.

U.S. Ambassador Laura Dogu. (U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua website)

Male-dominated circles

Still, female ambassadors said they must learn to adjust and handle the challenges involved in working in mainly male-dominated diplomatic circles.

“I am frequently the only woman in meetings outside the office with the host country, and when I have control over the guest list, I insist that we include at least 30 percent women, if not more,” U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Laura Dogu said in the Foreign Service Journal article.

Like Ambassador Dogu, former Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt said she has been the only woman or one of the only women in the room at virtually every meeting throughout her career. The key to working in such an environment, she said, is to be well-prepared and a good listener.

FILE – U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry past a traditional honor guard upon arrival at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 5, 2016.

“So you can speak authoritatively and there is no question that you are on top of your brief. It’s also important to dress professionally, which in my book means wearing a suit at all times,” said Galt, who was appointed as principle deputy assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs earlier this month.

She also said, “Being sure to listen carefully to what others have to say so that you’re not repeating, but rather amplifying and adding value with your remarks.”

Building minority leadership

In a speech to student programs and fellowship participants in August, Tillerson said he had directed relevant committees to develop “minority leadership” at the State Department.

“Every time we have an opening for an ambassador position, at least one of the candidates must be a minority candidate. Now they may not be ready, but we will know where the talent pool is,” Tillerson said.

Seen as part of these efforts, Irwin Steven Goldstein will begin his new position next week (December 4) as the first openly gay undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

In Senate testimony, Goldstein thanked his spouse for supporting his career of developing and executing communications strategies that connect diverse audiences. (VOA)

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Greater Scrutiny Set for Nonimmigrant Work Visa Renewals

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H1B Visa, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
A security guard looks out of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York. VOA

United States, October 27: The United States has announced changes to its nonimmigrant work visa policies that are expected to make renewals more difficult.

In the past, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would generally approve the renewals unless the visa holder had committed a crime. Now, renewals will face the same scrutiny as the original applications.

“USCIS officers are at the front lines of the administration’s efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system,” USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said, according to the announcement posted on USCIS’ website this week. “This updated guidance provides clear direction to help advance policies that protect the interests of U.S. workers.”

The new regulations could affect more than 100,000 people holding at least eight different types of work visas who fill out the I-129 form for renewals.

Sam Adair, a partner at the Graham Adair business immigration law firm in California and Texas, said that for the most part, he expected visa holders would most likely face lengthier adjudication periods in their renewal processes, as opposed to increased numbers of denials.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big shift for us,” Adair told VOA. “But I think what we’ll see is just an increase in the number of requests for evidence, an increase in the delays on the adjudication of these petitions, and really it’s going to just result in more costs for the employers who are filing these petitions.”

‘High-skilled’ workers

Of all visa holders affected by this policy, those in the United States on an H-1B, a visa for “high-skilled” workers, are the biggest group. Of 109,537 people who had to submit I-129 forms in fiscal 2017, 95,485 were H-1B holders, according to data sent to VOA by USCIS.

H-1B visas have been threatened in the past, most recently by a bill proposed this year that would have raised the minimum salary requirement for workers brought in on the visa. While advocates of the program argued that it would keep workers from being exploited, many H-1B holders feared that businesses would be less willing to hire them or keep them on board.

But some Americans support the new regulations, saying that nonimmigrant work visas hurt American workers.

“It’s prudent to make sure that the people that receive those visas are in complete compliance with all of the requirements,” Joe Guzzardi, national media director of Californians for Population Stabilization, told VOA.

“It just isn’t possible to think that there aren’t American workers that couldn’t fill these jobs,” he said, noting that while the regulations might hurt businesses, they would help Americans looking for work.(VOA)