Consumerism

Consumerism 

 The more I travel the more I know that people have started becoming shopaholic. We buy more than we actually need. Many economies of the world are crumbling down due to overconsumption of products. Have you ever thought that we have moved from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market? Sellers want to sell their products no matter what. They would go to any length to create a demand for their products so that they can sell. Increase in online shopping has given an ease and convenience to the consumer who can access anything at the click of a button. Relatively small town consumers too have access to products now with online services and cash on delivery facilities; all these have created a large consumption. While traveling I found that most of historic monuments have got turned into shopping malls. The culture of any country has been lost. There is no difference left from one country to another.

Let’s see the following data and information I gathered while researching the concept of consumerism. It just opened my eyes as to how difficult it is to control our desire to shop.
Buying is a habit – a bad habit

The Americans are compulsive shoppers. A country with a USD 600 billion trade deficit – about 5% of their GDP – is basically importing more junk than it can pay for. And the US has done this for decades. This means that the US government has printed US Dollar bills – which it gives to the Chinese and other exporting countries – and gets plastic toys, furniture, and clothes in return. Once in a while the Chinese send the Americans counterfeit parts for their billion dollar defence programme!

Two years ago, the savings rate of American households had turned negative. Their annual income was not enough to match their consumption. Not only were they busy buying Chinese goods, they were busy buying homes to put all those goods in and now they had a mortgage debt to repay. With jobs shipped offshore unemployment is north of 9%. Furthermore, salaries in the US have not increased over the past decade – with the exception of salaries of the financial sector and the lawyers, amongst others.

If you have visited a typical American home, the first impression that you will get is: Wow! These guys don’t need to buy anything for the next few lives! Yet, the mall is where you need to be – or maybe the online version of it. The in-flight magazines in US planes are full of junk that you never need, but feel that you should buy. The US consumer breaks the myth espoused by advertising gurus who believe that “advertising does not create a want, it merely fulfils a need”. No sensible person would need most of the products advertised in the in-flight magazines, yet the promotions create that “want”.

The first day of shopping is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, which is always observed on the last Thursday of every November. To make it easier for the ever-consuming Americans to consume, many stores began their “Black Friday” on Thursday itself. People stood in queues and camped in tents for hours to be able to buy more. “Black Friday” allows you to buy limited products at some pretty good discounted prices for a limited time. (As an aside, we have our own version of “Black Friday” in India except that business groups get to buy national assets like coal, gas, iron ore, spectrum and assorted paraphernalia at discounted prices on a daily basis! The astute Indian buyers don’t stand in queues and pitch in tents, though. The well-connected Indian buyer just makes the right phone calls and gets it done.)

Drink rationally, invest rationally

The point is that the solution to an out of control drunkard is not taking him to the bar again and serving drinks on sale. The Americans need to save. They need to pay down their debt. A recent report by the Federal Reserve states that US household debt is USD 11.7 trillion – it declined some 0.5% over the past 3 months. But delinquent payments – people who are paying late or cannot fully pay their debt – have increased and nearly USD 1.2 trillion of loans would be in this category. The good news is that people are buying fewer homes – and renting more. Disillusioned by the myth that home prices can only increase and by the difficulty of getting mortgage loans due to subdued salary levels, the US consumer is renting.

But this is only the beginning of a long, secular trend in the US: there is a need to repair their personal – and national – balance sheets. The US – and European – consumer is dead for all practical purposes and cannot be relied upon as an engine for economic growth for the next 3 years. That music died in 2008. The drunken consumer has already been in a rehab clinic for the past 2 years with muted bursts of activity.

US, Europe, and Japan are in trouble. China has its own economic issues and bubbles to deal with. India has its challenges. The markets will continue to jump around in all directions based on silly news and new silliness. Don’t let these daily, wild gyrations scare you – or enthuse you. And don’t forget to understand your own needs and your ability to take buy and repay for it.

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My Body! My Temple! 

Our body is the most complex and durable machine ever built. Not even the most advanced robot is capable of matching the abilities of a normal five year old child. If you treat your body as your temple, it will nurture and bless you with remarkable health and happiness. Though I know that being ‘18 till I die’ is realistically impossible, I am fanatical about being fit and energetic – even when I grow old! I believe that one can control the decay of one’s body and health through various kinds of yoga, pranayam and vigorous exercise. Good habits are vital, too. I have been a vegetarian all my life. I don’t smoke and drink. I avoid cold drinks and frozen food most of the time. When I’m tired, I go for fruit juices, milkshakes and coconut water instead of tea or coffee. I also hit the gym regularly to keep myself fit. However, I still feel that I need to do more to stay healthy and keep looking for ways to increase my stamina.
My friends often wonder how I control the temptation to binge on something unhealthy. My answer is simple – I have never been the kind of person who gives in to an impulse. If I need to cut down on something or lose a few kilos, I do whatever it takes to get there. It doesn’t matter if you’re completely out of shape. Your body is tremendously forgiving and I’m sure you’ll reap the benefits sooner than you think!

What we eat is what we are!

Food! The most important part of our life. Many of you will agree that most of the people on this earth live to eat. If you are a foody, it is a boon to be born in India. This is the place where you will get to taste more than four thousand various cuisines across the country with many combinations of gravy and spices. Because of the climate, our life style and right food habits we never had to worry about weight or any related diseases. The modern lifestyle invited many such problems hence we need to rethink about the food we eat.

Let’s find out what kind of food you should eat and what to avoid for having a complete balance of mental peace, health and strength.

A must have,


Fruits, dry fruits and salads:

It is not a secret that one should eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. But very few know the science behind how and how much we should eat. Breakfast is the best time to eat fruits as the stomach is empty and the essence of fruits directly goes into your blood cells. It is recommended to eat one fruit at a time and take a break of fifteen minutes before the next one. Having a fruit juice is definitely not a good idea as you tend to lose the important fiber while filtering it. Follow our original trend of eating only seasonal fruit as they work best on your body keeping the outside climate in mind.
Dry fruits are loosing its ground in today’s modern life style. But they are the best and the shortest way of achieving a great health. If you want to improve vitality and strength, eat black dry grapes, walnuts and nuts. If you do the workouts regularly, black grapes would be the best thing to have before you start your gym sessions, which was recommended to me by a senior trainer at the gym in London.
Many of us swear by salads with different types of dressings. But remember one thing, anything uncooked creates gas in the body, it is the home for worms as mostly we don’t clean the salads with warm water and it doesn’t give any satisfaction to our taste buds. Including herbs, pepper, olive oil and ajwain or aniseeds to your salad will help in avoiding gastric problems.

Why be a vegetarian?

The human race exists since millions of years. As we evolved we invented variety of cuisines to satisfy our taste-bud. But originally, our body was designed to have fruits and vegetables only. They have a life in them in some ways and work on our body positively helping us grow in health, vitality, positivity and emotional strength. They get digested faster comparatively and have absolutely no side effects to the body.
We included grains and other pulses as we got evolved and added spices for the flavor and aroma in the food. Some of spices also have medicinal properties, which really prevents many unwanted diseases in the body.

The non-vegetarian food is high in cholesterol, fat and many unwanted properties which are damaging to the human body. Our body was never designed to digest such food as it takes almost three days to digest one piece of meat; hence it takes a toll on the digestive capacity of our inner organs. I know that half of the world population lives on meat products but then they are the ones who are suffering with all sorts of diseases. The ratio of people suffering from cancer is much higher in the western world due to meat eating compared to India which is largely vegetarian.

So think twice before eating such things as your body is not the graveyard of dead animals.


What to avoid!

Alcohol, soft drinks and processed juices
Alcohol is the most tempting liquid on this earth and the most difficult thing to leave if you have been enjoying it for years. But trust me, the world of full consciousness and awareness is much more beautiful than what you see after getting a bit tipsy or drunk. As everyone knows that alcohol is responsible for liver problems, memory loss, loss of appetite, loss of physical strength and stamina and the most important thing is you tend to invite unnecessary disputes with people which you could have avoided otherwise.
I have seen many relationships getting spoiled because of the alcoholism of the husbands in most cases and wives in some cases.


Soft drinks

Everyone knows the adverse effect of soft drinks but nobody knows how to avoid them and control the craving for it. Most of the soft drinks are as strong as toilet cleaners. Many scientists have proved that if you put a human bone in any cola drink it will melt in seventy-two hours.
It also reduces your stamina, is extremely high in sugar and highly acidic for your digestive system. I know many people who drink cola while eating which is the most dangerous thing to do as it prevents your natural acid to digest the food in your stomach thus creating problems in the immune system. It is the most common replacement to water while we are on the move but it actually dehydrates your body leaving you even more thirsty.


Processed juices

We tend to get carried away by many advertisements on processed juices which claim to be natural. But the actual life of any fruit juice is thirty seconds after it is extracted. The manufacturers of the juices have to use highly concentrated salt based preservatives to keep the juices fresh which are certainly not healthy. It increases the weight, reduces the white cells of the blood resulting in lack of stamina and is high in bad sugar.

We mostly drink juices in flights, house parties, as evening snacks, serve guests and drink after workouts. Replace it with fresh juices, coconut water, barley water, milk shakes, green tea, herbal tea etc.

 Wafers, icecreams,biscuits

This recommendation is only for those who are practicing any form of meditation and want to grow in their spiritual path.
Our body, mind and soul get affected by certain kinds of food, environment, our circumstances, people we associate with and how we think. The food is the most important thing as it controls our emotional self and we tend to think and react to our circumstances in that manner.
If you have been meditating for a long time, you will surely get disturbed by any such food intake while practicing as it is exactly the opposite to pranik food which is mostly recommended by yoga and meditation gurus.


Processed and fast food

As many scientists have proved that the major reason for various types of cancer is the western lifestyle and food which is mostly processed with many chemical ingredients. Just like juices, the life of the cooked food is only two- three hours and not meant for any kind of machine treatment or acidic preservatives. The moment it gets processed, it creates cancerous bacteria which are harmful for the body.

What I think! on a funny note!

Being a person of intensive thinking; I felt that it is very important to understand the important aspects of life more deeply. So thought of penning them down with a twist. Pragmatic though funny!

  • The Internet – The most powerful driver of global change
  • Movies – A mirror to our innermost fantasies
  • Books – A magic carpet that whisks your mind away to new lands
  • Religion – Has the potential to both cripple and uplift the society
  • Meditation – A healing balm for the soul
  • Ayurveda / Herbal Medicine – The only practical route to good health
  • Men – Vulnerable beings who are perennial slaves to desire
  • Women – God’s only beautiful creation
  • Having fun – Work hard, but party harder
  • Procrastination – Robs you of life’s most precious commodity: time
  • Politics – the cruelest game the human brain can ever play
  • Relationship- the only hope for emotions to survive
  • Love – God’s best emotion ever created
  • Heart- always pumps for all the wrong reasons
  • Spouse – a free punching bag to cool your temper
  • Spouse – a reason to come back home
  • Spouse – an ultimate reason to live
  • Spouse- an ever-lasting reason to smile
  • Sky- the ultimate limit
  • Sky- the best way to define father for its sheltering nature
  • Mother – the ultimate definition of given
  • Mother- a symbol of sacrifice and care
  • Father- the best guard
  • Father- our identity on this plan
  • Friends – the biggest time-pass
  • Friends – true savior in case they are genuine
  • Friends – a handbook of experiences

Theory of Karma to gain liberation or moksha

A look at the karma theory in the 4 religions

We all believe that we have some kind of permanent residence here on earth. We plan, prepare, hoard and organize plans for a long overhaul forgetting that we have all come with a return ticket. Life is often compared to a journey and all our relatives and friends are like the fellow travelers we meet on the journey. Some get off before we reach our destination point, still others continue even after we get down. Our Indian religions keep pointing out to this so often. Still we tend to forget this simple truth. Karma, reincarnation, liberation are words that we across in all the four religions that have had their origins in India.

121-Hindu-priests-perform-14000-recitations-Sri-Rudram-11-days_730948

To the followers of Vedic Hindu scriptures’ based lifestyle, the law of karma is a fundamental belief. ‘As we sow, so shall we reap.’ We go on accumulating results for our action and keep reincarnating or taking so many lives until the soul obtains moksha or liberation. Krushna describes in Bhagwad Geeta to keep doing the work and leave the fruit of the Karma on him. He says that we always belonged to him. We have come to this material world due to some karmic results and it is our duty to perform karma which can lead us back to him. The only way to escape this karmic bond is by offering everything to god, to do nishkama karma- which essentially means, doing an action without looking at its fruits.

sikhism

The youngest religion Sikhism asserts that our lives are connected to karmic debt. The more karmic debt we have, the more number of times we will come back to earth and as we make an effort to reduce the karmic debt, then we are a step closer to God. A good Sikh is one who has got rid of the karmic debt completely after which he will reunite with the creator.

Jainism explains karma in an interesting manner. Karma is not an immaterial concept there. It is said to exist in the form of subtle particles. When the jiva is overcome with passions, then these particles enter the jiva and it acquires a body. In order to get disembodied again, the jiva has to go back to the pure state again. Only then can the jiva get freed. It is for this that every jiva has to follow the sadacharana or observance of ethical discipline.

The Buddha himself is supposed to have reincarnated many times. The Buddha made use of the powerful analogy of taking birth as an animal in the next birth to caution simple laymen to lead a life of virtue. This fear of being born as a lower life, that is as an animal, kept people away from mischief. But it cannot be taken too literally. The entire process of change from one life to the next is called “becoming again”. Karma operates as a moral law in the universe according to Buddhism as a continuous chain reaction of cause and effect. The Dhammapada says, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought, it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts.” So we can change our Karma with our good thoughts, good words and good actions. We can reach the enlightened state of the Buddha by raising ourselves with our goodness thus escaping the clutches of karma.

We thus see that these 4 religions speak of reaching god or achieving reunion with god by progressing with our own self effort and transcending the cycle of birth and death, by finally merging in the ultimate being. This is referred to as achieving liberation or moksha or nirvana.

I generally prefer to write in few words to explain any points to keep up the interest of the people. If any of you want to know more about any of these theories feel free to ask me. OR you may go through our website www.indianscriptures.com

 

 

Theories of Moksha in various vedic beliefs in Bharat- part 2

I was thinking about the statement that ‘India is a cradle of many religions’. Well, that means India must have always been a tolerant country that has welcomed newer thoughts getting infused into existing religion and breaking out into new religions. That speaks volumes about the nature of its people who were ready to embrace any new thought, invention, discovery fully aware that nothing can ever shake the mother tree which can withstand any great storm without getting affected. Thus our country with its ancient religion has seen the birth of religions like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

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Hinduism speaks about pluralism that is- all paths lead to the same goal ‘ekam sat viprah bahudah vadanti’– Truth is one; the wise call it by different names. There is no rigidity here. You can have sadhus sitting in the icy perch of the Himalayas or you can have karm yogis going about their dharm without any other care except to do what is ordained to be theirs. In between you can also have the mad frenzy of those rushing to temples to participate in community worship. And then there is the silent seeker who goes about his quest quietly and finds peace in the silence of his being. Oh, the wide variety that our religion offers, there is such a basket of options you can choose what suits you best. I love this pluralism that is accepted here.

Fascinatingly, this pluralism is also there in Jainism. It was Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and philosopher who said famously, ‘everything we hear is an opinion not a fact; everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.’ Reality is always dependent on one’s perspective and this certainly cannot be considered as the absolute truth. The Jains accept that reality can comprise of many truths as seen from each one’s perspective and are willing to accept that premise.

Buddhism is also amazingly pluralistic. Sikhism also seems to extol the same thing. Sikhs are always advised to follow the path shown by the great gurus and prophets. The holy book of the Sikhs (the Sri Guru Granth Sahib) says, “Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false.”

The thought expressed in each of these is so true that I feel enthused to delve more so I can learn more. I started reading on the various rituals observed by these four religions and was quite startled to see there is a string that runs through all of them even in this aspect. The fire ritual, havan, yagnas are terms not just restricted to Hinduism but I learnt that Mahayana Buddhism in Japan, Tibetan Buddhism and some other branches of Buddhism adopted them and absorbed it in their respective cultures. So also, the prayers to the ancestors- This too seems to be there in these religions. In Jainism the likeness is even more similar. Prayers for a good baby soon after conception, celebrating the new born, naming ceremony, offering the first solid food to the infant, beginning of the education process, ceremonies connected to marriage, death, building a new house, initiating new year, starting the financial year – all these bear close resemblance to Hindu customs but of course with a distinctive Jain slant like the recitation of the Navakar mantras and chanting the peace mantra. Hinduism speaks of Jiva karunya or compassion to all living beings and this can be seen fully fulfilled in Jainism and Buddhism.

I found Sikhism also to be speaking of many of the same things – the importance of consecrated water Amrit, prayers for the newborn, naming ceremony, importance to the soul and not the ephemeral body all seem to have a common thread running through them. It is only when we understand these features we can appreciate the beauty of every religion or sect. These theories state that most of the religion or sects originated in Bharat have many similarities and believe in growing on the common grounds of reincarnations, liberation, cycle of birth and death, karma and strong family bonding. Isn’t this amazing?

Various theories of Moksha in Vedic scriptures part 1

5.Sri Adi Shankaracharya 8th Century -Gave Priciples of Advaita Vedanta

Hinduism is such a fascinating religion that the more I delve into it the more I am fascinated by it. It seems to offer something to everybody. Look at Adi Sankara, on the one hand, he has given us so many stothras like the Ganesh Pancharatna, Kanakadara etc. and many other vaidik rituals and in the same breath he speaks of a god with no form, of advaita philosophy which speaks of the highest state Aham Brahmasmi, oneness with an impersonal god Brahman. In this, lies the beauty and grandeur of Hinduism. Ekam Sat Viprah bahudah vadanti- Truth is One, the wise call it by different names. It is this apparent flexibility in the religion that has attracted followers from all parts of the world, because nothing is forced here and a genuine seeker can find answers to any question in our scriptures. There have been atheists and agnostics, believers and Vedantins- there is space for everyone here. I find this really amazing. Many paths, one summit.

The next thing that I like about this religion is reincarnation and the theory of karma. Otherwise how else can we convince people who question us about the apparently different lives that each individual leads though born of same parents or under same or similar conditions? Why, even the lives charted out for identical twins remain so different and distinct from each other. We have the most convincing explanation- Poorva janma karma. In other words, we will remain in the cycle of reincarnation until we are able to rid ourselves of all karmic debt. Once we are completely free of karma, our soul will be liberated from the curse of reincarnation and reunited with Brahman, the infinite perfect being. So in other words, we keep reincarnating until we progress over a period of many births and reach the ultimate goal of liberation. arti3But then liberation or moksha itself does not come easy. Our scriptures tell us there is no single window clearance for us to get liberation. We have the Yogas, which are methods and disciplines and we can use one of these or a combination and attain liberation or moksha. That’s a state where we are beyond birth, death, grief, pain or any such thing. We reach the state of Godhood. And so we have the many paths, the yogas- Raj Yog or the Path of breath control, Karm Yog- the path of service, Jnan Yog- the Path of knowledge and Bhakti Yog- the Path of devotion. The last one is the easiest and we see majority follow it diligently. Pujas, bhajans, discourses all these are done to show our devotion.

Each time I read some work or the other, my understanding grows a little more and I salute the ancient wisdom that could accommodate so many strands of thought without fearing that it would threaten its survival. In fact this oldest religion has stood the test of time only because it keeps reinventing itself fresh each time a philosopher or thinker propounds a new thought born out of the existing isms. Even the other religions born out of Hinduism share so many similar features that I feel like jumping in glee at the thought of vedic Hinduism being such a wonderful mother. There are so many commonalitiesin other school of thoughts like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism which derived many concepts of reincarnations, karma and destiny from the main stream Vedic Hinduism.

We will continue with this discussion in my next article too.