Monday, September 30, 2013

China to allow ‘traditional religion’ as it stalls moral decline and materialism.

This news report coming at a time when the temples of South India have refused to divulge the gold holdings to the RBI (Read here) makes a compelling reading. These holdings accumulated over thousands of years are the result of voluntary parting of gold and money by the people, to the Lord. To say that this was done to get back some favours from God is malicious and smacks of a lack of understanding of such religious practices. The traditional religion of our land induced people to shed carving and materialism. The first and the best acquisitions were offered to God. Even the kings, who were the richest in those days, offered the best of things that they had in possession to the Lord. There were no returns expected for such offerings. But the contrary of it – offering something to God in return for something – is a perverted version that has entered into the people today as a result of materialism. Astrology being used for this today is a sad state of development.


 I think this news item on China deserves a reading and a rethink on our part on what our traditional culture and religion had offered us all these days and made us a rich civilisation of moral and intellectual abilities. I specifically state 'traditional' like how the Chinese too have viewed the utility of their traditional religions like Buddhism and Taoism. What these religions can offer is something which the imported religions like Christianity or Islam cannot offer. The idea of karma and re-working of karma play a role in stalling materialism and moral decay which these two religions cannot offer – particularly in India where these religions depend on lure by money and questionable moral ways to expand their base.





Xi Jinping wants traditional faiths to fill moral void in China

Beijing: President Xi Jinping believes China is losing its moral compass and he wants the ruling Communist Party to be more tolerant of traditional faiths in the hope these will help fill a vacuum created by the country's breakneck growth and rush to get rich, sources said. Xi, who grew up in Mao's puritan China, is troubled by what he sees as the country's moral decline and obsession with money, said three independent sources with ties to the leadership.


He hopes China's "traditional cultures" or faiths – Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism – will help fill a void that has allowed corruption to flourish, the sources said. Sceptics see it as a cynical move to try to curb rising social unrest and perpetuate one-party rule. Xi Jingping.


AFP Xi Jingping, who grew up in Mao's puritan China, is troubled by what he sees as the country's moral decline and obsession with money, said three independent sources with ties to the leadership. AFP During the early years under Communism, China's crime rate was low and corruption rare. By contrast, between 2008 and 2012 about 143,000 government officials – or an average of 78 a day – were convicted of graft or dereliction of duty, according to a Supreme Court report to parliament in March. Xi intensified an anti-corruption campaign when he became party and military chief in November, but experts say only deep and difficult political reforms will make a difference. Meanwhile, barely a day goes by without soul-searching on the Internet over what some see as a moral numbness in China – whether it's over graft, the rampant sale of adulterated food or incidents such as when a woman gouged out the eyes of her six-year-old nephew this month for unknown reasons.


"Xi understands that the anti-corruption (drive) can only cure symptoms and that reform of the political system and faiths are needed to cure the disease of corruption," one of the sources told Reuters, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for discussing elite politics. Government agencies would moderate policies towards Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in the hope these faiths would also help placate the disaffected who cannot afford homes, education and medical treatment, the sources said.


"The influence of religions will expand, albeit subtly," a second source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity. "Traditional cultures will not be comprehensively popularised, but attacks on them will be avoided." Sceptics described such tactics as a ploy to divert blame away from the party for the many problems that anger ordinary Chinese, from corruption to land grabs.


 "Buddhists accept their destiny and blame their predicament on the bad deeds they did in their previous lives," said Hu Jia, an AIDS activist and Buddhist who has been intermittently under house arrest since his release in 2011 after serving 42 months in prison for subversion.




Religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution but the officially atheist Communist Party has no qualms about crushing those who challenge its rule. The party is paranoid and would remain vigilant against cults and feudal superstition, the sources added. China banned Falun Gong as a cult and has jailed hundreds, if not thousands, of adherents since 1999. Former president Jiang Zemin also defrocked and put under house arrest a six-year-old boy anointed by the Dalai Lama as the second holiest figure in Tibetan Buddhism in 1995.


 "Relaxation and suppression go hand in hand," said Nicholas Bequelin, of New York-based Human Rights Watch. "In China, religion must serve the state," Bequelin said. "There is greater religious freedom in China … but to what extent is the party ready to allow genuine religious freedom?" Washington will also need convincing.


In its 2012 report on international religious freedom, the U.S. State Department said Chinese officials and security organs scrutinised and restricted the activities of registered and unregistered religious and spiritual groups. The government harassed, detained, arrested or sentenced to prison a number of adherents for activities reportedly related to their religious beliefs and practice, it said. Indeed, conservatives in the party still frown on what they see as "religious infiltration". Zhu Weiqun, a vice chairman of the top advisory body to parliament, warned in an interview with China Newsweek magazine in June that party members should not even practise any religion.


Others think change is in the air. "This is for real," Lin Chong-Pin, a Taipei-based veteran China watcher and former government policymaker, said by telephone. "To save the party and the state from the current crises, Xi must fill the spiritual void."




In a sign of the changes Xi wants, Zhang Lebin, deputy director of the Bureau of Religious Affairs, wrote a commentary in July in the party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily, that said "treating religions well should become a common consensus … and the right to practise religions should be protected". The following month, Xi called for building both a "material and spiritual civilisation" – Communist jargon for growth and morality. Back in February, Xi met Taiwan's top Buddhist monk, Hsing Yun, in Beijing along with a delegation of dignitaries from the self-ruled island which Beijing claims as its own. Meetings between top Chinese and religious leaders are rare.


Hsing Yun was banned from China in the early 1990s for giving sanctuary to a senior Chinese official at his temple in the United States after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. He is now a bestselling author in China. "President Xi and his family have feelings for Buddhism," said Xiao Wunan, executive vice chairman of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation, a Beijing-backed non-governmental organisation. In yet another sign, Yu Zhengsheng, ranked fourth in the Communist hierarchy, visited five temples in Tibetan areas in July and August and a mosque in western Xinjiang province in May – unprecedented for such a senior leader in terms of frequency.




China estimates it has 50 million practitioners of Buddhism and Taoism, 23 million Protestants, 21 million Muslims and 5.5 million Catholics, Independent experts put the number of practitioners of Buddhism, Taoism and folk religions at between 100-300 million. Chinese emperors embraced Confucianism for centuries, encouraging the philosopher's teachings of filial piety and respect for teachers and authority. Mao then posthumously purged Confucius in the early 1970s.


Confucianism has since made a comeback, although not a smooth one. A 9.5-metre (30-foot), 17-tonne statue of Confucius was erected in 2011 outside a Beijing museum adjacent to Tiananmen Square, not far from a portrait of Mao which overlooks the area. It vanished weeks later with no official reason given. Conservatives celebrated its removal, which came on the heels of an online uproar about the statue's location.


Buddhism was virtually wiped out during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when temples were shut and Buddhist statues smashed. It has crept back although China maintains tight control in Tibet where monks and nuns have been jailed for their loyalty to the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Communist rule. About 120 Tibetans have set themselves alight in protest against Chinese rule since 2009. Most have died. Taoism, or Daoism, a philosophy-turned-religion preaches living in harmony with nature and simplicity.


Nevertheless, despite the emphasis on fostering more openness for traditional faiths, one thing in the world's second biggest economy will remain the same. "Economic development is still the No. 1 (priority). Moral development is No. 2," the third source said. Reuters


Friday, September 27, 2013

Is Vedic astrology derived from Greek astrology? (Part -14) Tamil sources (Skanda, Mesha & Scandinavia)

Thagar – is the Tamil word that exactly signifies the Ram – the Mesha that has a strong head with thick horns with which it is known to attack others. It is for this reason this Thagar was used in ram-fights in those days. Thagar means "thagarthal" ( தகர்த்தல்) – 'to break or shatter into pieces'. This variety of goat is known for hitting the opponent by its head. Today this word is not in common use among Tamils and many Tamils don't even know that this word exists in Tamil to mean ram. Today this is known as "Kidaai"  (ஆட்டுக் கிடாய்). But the word 'Thagar' is found in Sangam texts thereby showing the popular use of this term 2000 years ago.


The Sangam age text called "Pattinappaalai" sung in praise of Karikal Chola makes a specific mention of a fight between a pair of "Mesha- Thagar"  in the capital city of Pumpuhar.  It is written as "Mezhaga-th-thagar". "Mezhagam" (மேழகம்) is the Tamilised word for Mesha  (mezha + agam = mezhagam = house of mesha). By saying "Mezhaga-thagar" the poet refers to the ram of Mesha rashi, thereby giving no doubt on what the thagar stands for.


The context where this term appears refers to a popular pastime of Pumpuhar on sport events. It involves many kinds of fights between men and between animals of different kinds.  The description of these events starts with a comparison with - of all the things - stars and planets. The verse  says "like the stars that move in clockwise direction in the vast sky, joining with the planets, the men joined with other men in this stadium". (1)


Stars   always move in clockwise direction, but the same cannot be told of planets. This brings in the element of clash between the star that is up in the sky and the planet that joins it below in the opposite direction. This eventually creates friction which is astrologically applicable and the winner is determined by the more powerful between them. It is because of this reason, the poet had compared the combat between men with stars in clockwise and the planets that join them or cross them.


The poem mentions 3 such fights among men (boxing, wrestling and sword fighting) and four among animals. The animal combats involved pigs, cocks, "Mesha – Thagar" and a bird called Sival. (2) These fights are part of 64 forms of arts in ancient Bharat. Even before Ramayana times, these arts were learnt. Sage Rishya Shringa who conducted the Puthra kameshti Yaaga for Dasharatha was lured to come to the city by women who were experts in these arts. 


The Mesha -Thagar combat as one among these arts goes farther back to Karthikeya's times as according to Tamil Sangam texts Thagar is the vaahana for Lord Karthikeya, popularly known as Muruga in Tamil lands (3). The Thagar –Mesha – Muruga connection exists because Muruga was born with the aid of Fire- God in high mountains and nurtured by Kritthika stars.


The description of the birth of Karthikeya in Valmiki Ramayana (1-37) has Indra in the company of Fire God leading the other celestials. There is a corroboratory verse in Rig Veda 1-51-1 on Indra  that praises him as ram / Mesha adored by many and whose gracious deeds for men spread like heavens abroad. (4)


This shows the combination of Fire + mountain + Kritthika star + Mesha which Karthikeya was associated with and which gave him the nature of combativeness. This combatant mentality is what a person born in Mesha rashi is endowed with. It must be noted here that though Kritthika star is spread into two rashis, the combatant spirit is manifest only in Mesha which has the tendencies of fire and ram, and not in Rishabha. Further explanation of this will be taken up in another article when I will be explaining a verse to this effect from a Sangam text.


By identifying the ram (thagar) as the vaahana for Karthikeya, it can be deduced that  the idea of Thagar as Mesha must have come into existence long ago in Tamil lands. .  According to Tamils Muruga was not a myth as he was the one who developed the Tamil language along with sage Agasthya and was one among those present in the first assembly of First Sangam in the now submerged South Madurai. Most of the publications of the first Sangam were on Muruga and his escapades.  He was one of the early Pandyan kings, known as "Ugra Kumara" born to Meenakshi, the heiress of the Pandyan king Malayadhwaja .The Tamils had nurtured a strong connection with him as he married a local Tamil girl called Valli. The Muruga legend is three-dimensional – as a divinity, as a natural phenomenon and as one who existed in flesh and blood. The Sangam texts speak of him as one who stopped an ocean flood by throwing his spear at it. That was the first flood experienced in Deep South (somewhere near Australia – Sundaland) at the end of Ice age. But South Madurai survived and Tamil Sangam was started after that Flood.


Before going further, I would like to bring to the notice of the list an interesting information  from Mr Dale Drinnon on the 8 legged animal, Varudai  that I wrote in Part 12.


An 8 legged horse Sleipnir is  found in Norse Mythology.

Odin , a Norse God associated with war, battle, victory and Shamanism was possession of this horse and also a spear called Gungnir. This is similar to Muruga who was described as the Commander in chief for the celestials.

This spear of Odin is similar to the spear of Karthikeya. Look at Odin's head. He has horns similar to the Thagar, the ram, the fighting variety of Mesha.