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EXCLUSIVE: Book Discussion on Arun Shourie’s ‘Two Saints’

Arun Shourie, seen as an Indian Economist, Journalist, Author and Politician, but never have we seen this facet of him where he delves into spirituality consequently scrutinising mystical experiences.

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Arun Shourie
Author Arun Shourie along with Swami Atmapriyananda and Swami Shantatmananda
– by Saksham Narula
June 13, 2017: Arun Shourie has authored a number of books. His latest book is titled “Two Saints: Speculations Around and About Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharishi”, which was released by the Holiness Dalai Lama. 

On 11th June, the discussion on the book was held in Ramakrishna Ashram, Delhi. Mr. Arun Shourie along with Swami Atmapriyananda and Swami Shantatmananda joined the audience in the Sarada Auditorium to discuss the contents and events mentioned in the book.

Mr. Ashok Jain, a regular visitor to the Ashram, was an audience member. He told NewsGram that he had not read the book, however, he was interested in seeing the spiritual side of Mr. Shourie. “I know Arun but I have never seen this side of him”, said Mr. Jain. 

The introduction to the event was by Swami Shantatmananda followed by Mr. Shouries’ talk. Mr. Shourie opened with branding himself as an “unemployed Punjabi” who is now questioning the mystical experiences, its components and impacts in view of modern neurology and psychology. The audience laughed at the modesty.

Before the author began describing the contents of his book, he mentioned the insensitivity of the book reviewers in general. In the past, he has been a victim of criticism from reviewers who have not read the book, shared Arun Shourie.

Arun Shourie "Two Saints"
‘Two Saints’ on display inside the Ramakrishna Ashram, Delhi

He began with William James’ story. William James was an American Philosopher who began writing in the late 19th-early 20th century. This was also the period when scientific inquiry was stressed upon.

In 1902, William James wrote his masterwork “The Varieties of Religious Experiences”. In the book, James studies the collective accounts of western mystics and their experiences and concludes that these mystic experiences are real. He urged for science to try and comprehend these experiences and give them evidentiary credibility.

This was the background that inspired the author. The last book that Mr. Shourie authored is called “Does He Know a Mother’s Heart: How Suffering Refutes Religion”. This book is about the lessons that he learned while raising his son Aditya who is handicapped and seeing his wife as a victim of Parkinson’s since twenty-five years.

These circumstances led him to question the explanations of suffering. He talks about the old historic problem- Either God is not powerful to prevent evil, or he is powerful but does not want to. The question is old but there is no absolute answer for it.

Then Mr. Shourie “turned” to Upanishads, Vedas, and the Gita for answers. He further read the Quran and the Old Testament but the answers were still not satisfactory.

The author continued, “I had no option but to turn to the three people I have revered most- Swami Ramakrishna, Swami Ramana Maharishi and Mahatma Gandhi”. He wanted to investigate what they had to say about the questions that troubled him.

He does not state whether the answers satisfy him, but he definitely feels satisfied with the way they approach the questions. A devotee of Gandhiji, Mr. Shourie agreed that the answers given by the Mahatma may not be right in the absolute sense but they are so pure that the listener has no alternative but to arrive at those answers.

“Their words have a ring of truth… They have attained the highest states”, said Mr. Shourie.

He continued that Bengal in the 19th century was crawling towards the western civilization. The western culture was so strongly influencing the Bengal region that they almost became strangers to their own culture. They viewed their culture as primordial baggage that should be left off and not carried further. However, it was the goodness of men like Gandhi and Swami Ramakrishna that prevented things from turning on their heads.

Arun Shourie
Audience carefully listening to Arun Shourie

The book title has the word ‘speculations’, clarified Mr. Shourie, for which he thanked his editor for rightly keeping it that way. The book or author himself have no conclusions to make.

Furthermore, he tried to extract the most authentic mystical experiences that Swami Ramakrishna and Swami Ramana Maharishi had experienced more than 200 years ago and scrutinize them under neuroscience. He wanted to see what neuroscience would say if it chanced upon such experiences.

“What would neuroscientists say if they chanced upon Swami Ramakrishna? In his 12 years of continuous sadhana, he would experience a man coming out of his body and sitting in front of him, guiding him, and then disappearing when it was all over. How can neuroscience explain this?” asked Mr. Shourie.

Consequently, he also wanted to investigate if these peripheral experiences are circumstantial or could be invoked through brain surgery or laboratory. From the neuroscientific viewpoint, Shourie concludes it is too premature to say anything or even accept or reject anything.

However, the devotee does say that Swami Ramakrishna and Swami Ramana Maharishi were plain and simple. Their miracle was goodness and simplicity. “The standards they have set are extremely high to match up to”.

Shourie also takes a dig at the present day God-men of the country. “Can we hold today’s gurus who travel in Rolls Royce and have multiple ‘Shri’ in the prefix to their name to the same standards as set by Swami Ramakrishna or Swami Ramana?”

After Mr. Shourie, Swami Atmapriyananda opinionated on the book or rather the underlying philosophy of the book- science and spirituality. Swami Atmapriyananda is the Vice-Chancellor of Ramakrishna Mission, Vivekananda University. He is a “graduate in particle physics who turned to metaphysics”. The audience laughed at that smart wordplay used by Swami.

Arun Shourie
Swami Atmapriyananda humoring the audience

As a lover of science as well as spirituality, Swami Atmapriyananda explained that the answers we seek are not new. Humans since time memorial have asked these questions but none could come up with an answer. “We do not know anything about anything!” said Swami.

However, Swami Atmapriyananda agreed that it is right for science to ask questions about spirituality and religion. He gave the instance when Swami Vivekananda pondered if religion should be scrutinized using the same yardstick as regular science. The answer by Swami Vivekananda was yes. In fact, if there are elements that fail under the scrutiny they should be dropped.

Swami Atmapriyananda advised that one should not take anything seriously, but at the same time take everything seriously. He also encouraged Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of “Think globally, act locally”.

Swami, a physics enthusiast, did point out to Mr. Shourie that his book was a little biased towards neuroscience and should have involved a bit of physics and mathematics, particularly the Godel’s theorem of incompleteness and the God particle. (which Swami jokingly put as the god-damn particle out of which the word was later omitted because it shook the foundations of academics).

Swami Priyananda stated that it is innate in our nature to come up with theories to justify our existence. If the theory is harmless but satisfactory to the individual, it holds. `

Arun Shourie
Swami Shantatmananda thanking Mr. Shourie for his presence at the Ashram

In an exclusive conversation with NewsGram, we asked the author how important does he think it is for the young generation to read his book considering the fact that they all are growing up leaning more towards science than spirituality. To which Mr. Shourie smiled and answered that an individual should first have an interest in it. If so, he suggested one should then start with the original works of Swami Ramakrishna which proved his true devotion. He also enlightened us on his Holiness Dalai Lama’s program of integrating neuroscience with Buddhist spirituality. An interest in the spiritual world comes from within.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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Do You Know there are only two Leaning Temples in The World? Visit the Leaning Temple of Huma in Sambalpur

Huma is about 23 kms towards the southern direction of Sambalpur, Odisha. and is connected with Sambalpur and other cities of Orissa by road. The temple is situated inside the village of Huma.

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Leaning Temple
The Leaning Temple of Huma. Wikimedia.

Odisha October 23, 2017: The famous Leaning Temple of Huma built in 1670 AD is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is one of the only two leaning temples in the world. It was constructed by the ruler, Baliar Singh, the 5th ruler of the kingdom of Chauhan of Sambalpur, Odisha, India. The speciality of this temple is it’s structure skewed to one direction.

Reason Behind its Tilted Structure:

It is regarded that the reason for its tilted structure could be some interior dismounting of rocky bed at which this temple is positioned, either because of flood current inside the Mahanadi River or earthquake, thereby affecting the position of this original temple.  An interesting fact to be noted is that the other little temples inside the Hamlet are also tilted to various other directions.

The finest time to visit this leaning temple is October to March. Enshrine your spirituality during these months and celebrate the festive season in the town of Sambalpur, Odisha. Shivratri is believed to be the chief festival of this temple. Hence, it advances a huge gathering specially during Shivratri festival during March. You may also find ‘Kudo’ fishes on the bank of river Mahanadi near the temple who are given food by devotees as a part of the worship.

Leaning Temple
The Leaning Temple of Huma. Wikimedia.

How to Reach the Leaning Temple of Huma:

By Road – Huma is about 23 kms towards the southern direction of Sambalpur, Odisha. and is connected with Sambalpur and other cities of Orissa by road. The temple is situated inside the village of Huma.

By Rail – Sambalpur railway station is the closest station from Huma. You may find taxis and cabs to drop you 23 kms towards the temple of Huma.

By Air – Bhubaneshwar is the closest airport to Huma which is approximately 290 ms away from Huma. Catch a taxi or cab to drop you at the exact destination.

Leaning Temple
Huma Leaning Temple is one of the two leaning temples of the world. Wikimedia.

Where to stay:

There are various hotels nearby the temple at affordable prices presenting the pleasant view of the outside village.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana 

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Checkout Ten Must-Read Books For Women

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Must reads for a woman.
Must reads for a woman. Pixabay

Nothing in this world can give you the feeling which books do. Some stories, some word just touch your heart and end up giving you the greatest lessons of life. Books can be inspiring at times, and help you make the toughest decisions of life. Below are ten must-read books for women:

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns

The book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, who has also authored ‘Kite Runner’ revolves around the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila. The beautiful friendship of these two and the things they go through is mesmerizing. The book’s subtlety puts it under the category of must-read books for women.

2. Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson

The Millennium series has three books- “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest” and “The Girl who Played with Fire”. The lead character of the series, Lisabeth Salander, is a confident and bold woman who never follows the old norms of the society and leads her life differently. Her rebellious nature can inspire the girls out there to stand for themselves.

3.  Pride And Prejudice

Must-Reads for women
Pride and Prejudice. Wikimedia.

The classic by Jane Austen teaches you to distinguish between the essential and the superficial. It makes you come across a way of looking at women, which is not judgmental. It teaches you to stand up for righteousness. It is definitely ones of the must-read books for women.

4. The Book Thief

Th novel, “The Book Thief” by the Australian author Markus Zusak gives out the inspiring message that no matter what the situation is, women can come out of it strongly on their own.

5. How To Be A Bawse

The Book, “How to be a Bawse”, by the Canadian YouTuber Lily Singh is a beautiful guide on tackling tough situations in life, supported by the examples of real-life situations. Lily’s classy and sassy video style has already been loved by a lot of women out there.

6. The Hunger Games Trilogy

Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games Trilogy is one of the must-read books for women out there as the book’s lead character Katniss, makes you feel proud of being a girl. Her character motivates you to be your own hero.

7. Daughter By Court Order

“Daughter By Court Order”, by Ratna revolves around the story of a woman who has been disowned by her own family. The woman is fighting against money, power, deceit, and for her right to be recognized as a daughter. She has to handle everything on her own.

8. To Kill A Mocking Bird

The book is written by Harper Lee and is an all-time classic. The book revolves around a six-year-old protagonist who is a feminist and refuses to accept the societal norms and always challenges them.

9. The Diary Of A Young Girl

Must-Read Books For Women
The Diary Of A Young Girl. Wikimedia.

The novel by Anne Frank is set during the time of Nazi invading Netherlands. Anne Frank shares her feelings with her diary while she was in hiding for two years. The emotions and struggles make it one of the must-read books for women.

10. The Palace of Illusions

The book Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni shows the epic Mahabharata, through Draupadi’s eyes. Her problems and shortcomings are shown, along with the fact that how ego can lead to a battle.

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

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10 quotes from Bhagavada Gita to kick start your day

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By Sakchi Srivastava

Bhagavada Gita or the Song of the God, in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, is a narrative between Arjuna and Krishna. Krishna passes on sermons and teachings on life and death to Arjuna. These teachings are universal truths which have proved their relevance through millenniums. They are of extreme relevance to people of all ages, no matter which nationality they belong to. These are eternal truths which help every individual to pass the necessary ordeals of life.

Here are 10 special quotes from the Bhagvada Gita which can enlighten the mind and the soul –

1. “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”
People are born in this world as individuals responsible for their own actions. They should make their own decisions no matter how right and wrong they are, without trying to imitate others. People should learn to take ownership of their life rather walking on someone else’s road.

2. “I am Time, the great destroyer of the world.”
As goes the great saying “Time and Tide wait for none”, Bhagvada Gita also propagates the beliefs that time is the most valuable ornament of our existence. Any being belonging to any age group cannot afford to waste it. It teaches us how to be organized and have a productive and meaningful life. Once wasted, it can never be compensated.

3. “O Krishna, the mind is restless”
The mind is a powerful element that cannot be controlled by any force. It is its own master. At one point people believe in something and at the very other moment they support something else. The mind is always in a state of flux.

4. ‘Reshape yourself through the power of your will.’
Life should be conquered by the will. Will is the strongest emotion which drives the entire existence. People’s will to achieve their goals or to become something in life helps them to achieve success.

5. “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.”
People have the right to work, but never to the fruit of that work. They should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should they long for inaction. Hard work should be the soul dedication and the result will follow. People should always be patience.

6. “There is nothing lost or wasted in life.”
Everyone has the privilege of living only one life. People come into this world without belongings but as individuals. They should not have regrets in this life. They don’t even lose their loved ones, they are all here.

7. “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.”
Every man is an individual with different opinions and perspectives. A man is known by his beliefs. Whatever he believes in becomes his identity.

8. “There is neither this world nor the world beyond nor happiness for the one who doubts.”
Anyone who doubts his decisions, his likings, his dislikes or is not confident about his choices will fail to be happy no matter how many chances are given to him. He will not find happiness in any state of mind.

9. “One can become whatever one wants to be (if one constantly contemplates on the object of desire with faith).”
All have hankering towards achieving goals in life. Though some are successful but some lose the battle because they are in doubt. People should understand humans have the capability to achieve everything in life only if they believe in themselves.

10. “I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Anything that takes birth is destined to die. Everything, that breathes, which includes plants and animals, also have a lifespan.