Monday December 18, 2017
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Meet Tulsi Gabbard, real face of Hinduism in the United States Congress

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By Harshmeet Singh

A non-Indian family with 5 children named Tulsi, Aryan, Jai, Vrindavan and Bhakti is hard to find in the US. But interestingly enough, a daughter in this family is today regarded as the ‘rising star’ in the Democratic Party in US. The Hawaii Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, caught the imagination of the International media when she took her oath to the office over her personal copy of Bhagavad Gita. In January 2013, she became the first and the only Hindu to be elected to the US Congress. Interestingly, during her election campaign, her opponent mocked her religion saying that it “doesn’t align with the constitutional foundation of the U.S. government.” 

Contrary to the common perception, Gabbard has no connection with India, the birthplace of Hinduism. Gabbard’s father practices Catholic faith and boasts of Samoan heritage whereas her mother is a Hindu of Euro American descent. Gabbard doesn’t fit into an orthodox image of a ‘Hindu girl’. A surfing enthusiast, Gabbard joined the US army on combat duty in Iraq for a 12 month stint in 2004. She married (for the second time) on 9th April 2015 in a Vedic style wedding.

Tulsi Gabbard'd Vedic Style wedding photograph
Tulsi Gabbard’d Vedic Style wedding photograph

Gabbard has often pressed the need for good relations between India and the USA. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US, she greeted him with Hawaii’s indigenous ‘ginger flower’ garland and gifted him the same copy of her ‘Bhagavad Gita’, which she used to take her Oath.

An Iraq war veteran, Gabbard was also the youngest woman in the US history to be elected to a state legislature in 2002. Getting back at her opponent for taking a shot at her religion, she reportedly said,

“It is stunning that some people in Congress would so arrogantly thumb their nose at the Bill of Rights. When I volunteered to put my life on the line in defence of our country, no one asked me what my religion was.”

Ever since Gabbard entered the political arena, she has been seen as a role model by the American Hindus. Most Americans still picture the followers of Hinduism as gurus dressed in saffron cloak, reciting complex shlokas and searching for eternal knowledge, an image which seems far from the developed American lifestyle. Gabbard is trying hard to break this stereotype.

Gabbard’s long list of achievements seem even more awe-inspiring, considering that non-Christian politicians have always found it hard to make their way to the top in USA’s political scene. The two most well known Indian American politicians in the US, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, converted to Christianity for some reasons. Jindal has always been known to suppress his ethnic background at the political scene. Preferring to be called by his nickname ‘Bobby’, instead of his real name ‘Piyush’, Jindal reportedly said, “My dad and mom told my brother and me that we came to America to be Americans. Not Indian-Americans, simply Americans.”

Haley, on the other hand, proudly wears her ‘Indian background’ tag. Her endeavours to forge strong relations with India aren’t a secret to anyone. This, perhaps, has made her a familiar figure among the Indian community in the US.

Although Hindus account for a population of close to 2 million in the US, their representation in the mainstream national politics is extremely meagre. Barring a few local leaders across states, not many Hindus have managed to make their mark in the mainstream US politics. Some other names that have managed to secure political posts include the US Attorney for New York’s Southern district, Preet Bharara and the US Surgeon General, Vivek Hallegere Murthy.

A possible reason for minimal political representation of the Hindus is that barring metro areas of New York and Chicago, their population is too dispersed to make their votes count. The chances of winning an office based on their votes have a minimal probability. Though ‘religion based politics’ seems like an indigenous term to India, religion isn’t completely irrelevant when it comes to US politics as well. The national presidential candidates have long faced questions (and often backlash) around their faith and worship. The number of Christians in the high offices in the US is overwhelming, if not cent per cent.

Gabbard has always been vocal about her faith and doesn’t hide her disappointment on coming across incorrect projection of Hinduism. “Hinduism is largely misunderstood today in part because of how it’s been portrayed in a negative and backwards way,” she once said. Hindus, in fact, remain an overlooked faction in the US, which is probably why her opponent’s hate speech against Hinduism in 2012 didn’t get much attention within the country.

Apart from the everyday discrimination, Hindus also have to face numerous misconceptions and ignorance among the American population. Hinduism remains an ‘unfamiliar’ entity for most Americans – an enigma which they don’t give much thought to.

Hindus in the US are confident of a proportional political representation following Gabbard’s meteoric rise and her strong allegiance towards her faith. Her concern towards a ‘misunderstood’ image of Hinduism in the US could go a long way in making the American Hindus proud and ensuring that the US emerges as a truly secular society.

 

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Jadav Molai Peyang: Forest Man of India

Jadav Molai Peyang, 'Forest Man of India' single-handedly plants 1360 acre of forest on a barren sandbar.

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Indian Forest Man
Jadav Peyang, Forest Man of India. Wikimedia Commons.

There are many international organizations that have been working to save our planet from many harms of deforestation but there is one Indian man who, single-handedly, gave rise to the forest in 1360 acre land and converted it into the man-made forest in India and that man is Jadav Molai Peyang.
Jadav Peyang’s story was first discovered by journalist Jitu Kalita when he was stalking the vultures on the other end of Arun Sapori, an over 1,000-hectare riverine island on the Brahmaputra when he saw the forested area and found Peyang’s story there.
The forest man has planted over 1500-saplings since 1980 which has grown into the famous, Molai Kathoni, the forest famously named after his maker. Peyang had started this initiative as a teenager who started planting bamboo in the woodland after he had witnessed deaths of several snakes at the shore when water had resided from the area after a flood. Following that horrifying scenario, he sought the advice from the village elders who asked him to grow a forest as only the forest can save the lives of birds and animals. Since then, Peyang’s Molai Forest has developed its own ecosystem as deer, rabbits, rhinoceros, Bengal tigers, birds, insects have inhabited the forest which consists of trees such as Bamboo, valcol, Arjun, Pride of India, silk trees, cotton trees, to name a few. But it was a herd of 100 elephants that brought the attention of Assam’s forest department on Peyang in 2008. The elephants pay a yearly visit to his forest and give birth to their calves in the comfort there.
But the journey of creating a barren sandbar in the middle of the river Brahmaputra of Assam into the thriving forest that it is today wasn’t easy.
In the initial stages, he found planting trees extremely difficult and time-consuming but now as he gets the seeds from the trees, the forest seems to live on itself.
The forest man was the first part of the 5-year project launched by the Assam Forestry Division in Aruna Chapori in 1980 with an aim to reforest two hundred hectares of land. Peyang enrolled for the job and started planting trees for the project though, the project was finished in five years, Peyang had stayed and spread his own project bigger than Central Park, NYC (842.6 acres). Since his first project, he has been invited to several environmental conferences, conferred many honors among which is Padam Shri, the highest civilian award and ‘Forest Man of India’ by JNU along with the recent honor bestowed on Jitu Kalita and Jadav Peyang by Taiwan Government for their efforts.
The forest man’s story is full of inspiration and compassion as he keeps providing shelter to various insects and animals while his family, which consists of two sons, a daughter, and his wife subsides on the income provided by their livestock, there is a lot to learn from him. He had braved several threats and all he has to say to them, ‘Kill me first, before you kill my forest,’ but his ideas for the world remains unknown among the several honors.

Samridhi Nain. Samridhi is a student of Philosophy (Hons.) from University of Delhi.

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Donald Trump Planning to meet Putin during his Asia tour

Donald Trump's first trip to Asia is the longest international tour.

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US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. wikimedia commns
  • US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his Asia tour.

“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One before landing at the Yokota Air Base in Japan, Efe reported.

Putin is scheduled to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, which Trump will also attend as part of his long Asia tour.

The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to dominate Donald Trump’s meetings in Japan and the next two stages of his tour, South Korea and China, where he will have a highly anticipated sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The remainder of the tour will be more focused on economic issues, with Trump scheduled to take part in the APEC meeting in Da Nang and then in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is the longest international tour by a US head of state since the one then-President George H.W. Bush embarked on in 1992.

Bush became ill at the end of that trip, famously vomiting on the Japanese prime minister’s lap at a formal dinner before fainting.(IANS)

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‘Religion’ in India- Types and its Connection to Country’s Civilization

The Ancient religions of India are Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

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Religion
Ancient Religions of India.

India’s economic and political strata in today’s world have reached a great level, but that is still not what the country is known for. The country is known for its diversity and religions because the term ‘religion’ in India is not just a system of belief and worship, but a way of life too. Since ancient times, it has been an integral part of its culture. For the citizens of this country, religion pervades through all the activities of life- from cooking chores to working and politics. The religion we follow plays an important role in our upbringing as well. Our conditioning is done based on the principles of our religion. India is a home to many religions- Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and others.

How old is the Indian civilization?

The Indian civilization is around 4000 years old, with the existing Indian religions growing in that period. The antiquity of the religions in India begins from the Harappan culture. It’s a secular country which respects all kinds of religion and culture, but during the ancient times, when the Human civilization was developing, there were three main religions native to India- Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The predominant religion during this period was Hinduism, which is said have originated in the Northern India.

Religion wise Indian Population:

  • HINDUISM – about 82%
  • ISLAM – about 12%
  • CHRISTIANITY – about 2.5%
  • SIKHISM – about 2%
  • BUDDHISM – about 0.7%
  • JAINISM – about 0.5%
  • ZOROASTRIANISM – about 0.01%
  • JUDAISM – about 0.0005%   (stated by adaniel.tripod)

Hinduism

Religion
Brahma                                                                                                                                                          Pixabay

Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Its followers worship several deities. Unlike the other religions, this religion does not have one teacher. Its followers, the ‘Hindus’ believe in a supreme divine spirit called ‘Parama Brahma’. The concept of Parama Brahma states that Brahma is omnipresent.

Hindus believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means the whole world is a single family. They also believe in Sarva dharma Sama Bhava, which means all religions are equal. The practice follows the ideas of mercy, charity, compassion, benevolence, non-violence and mercy. It believes the concept of ‘Bhakti’ or devotion.

The sacred writings of Hinduism include the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads.

Also Read: The history and development of Indian Handicrafts

Jainism

Religion
Lord Mahavira                                                                                                                                                   Pixabay
According to tradition, the founder of Jainism was first Tirthankara Adinatha. However, the religion was widely propagated by the 24th Tirthankara, Mahavira. He was born in Vaishali, Bihar, who belonged to the clan ‘Licchavi’. Mahavira was moved by the sufferings of people, and therefore, left his home at the age of 30 to seek the truth. He supported the teachings of the previous Tirthankaras, and added his own beliefs to the teachings.
He believed in the ideology of leading a good life and not doing any wrong. He did not encourage the practice of needing the help of God for everything.
Doctrines of Jainism:
  1. Ahimsa (Non-violence)
  2. Satya (Truth)
  3. Asteya (Non-stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (Chastity)
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession)

Buddhism

Religion
Lord Buddha                                                                                                                                                    Pixabay
Buddhism is a religion which consists of different kinds of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddha’s name was Siddhartha. He was the son of the Shakya clan’s leader. It is believed that Siddhartha made three observations, which changed his life:  a feeble old man; a person suffering from disease; and a dead body being taken for cremation. This propelled him in finding the true meaning of life. He left his home at an early age and attained ‘enlightenment’ in Bodhgaya.
He also prescribed the four noble truths and eight fold path.
Four noble truths are:
  • Dukkha (truth of suffering)
  • Samudāya (truth of the suffering’s origin)
  • Nirodha (the truth of suffering’s cessation.)
  • Magga (Direction to eight-fold path)

The eight fold path are- Right aims, Right beliefs, Right conduct, Right speech, Right effort, Right occupation, Right meditation and Right thinking.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at twitter @ImMeghaacharya.