Archives for category: spirituality

Immune system, protection, immune defense ,virus, bacteria

We are only aware of the world around us.  Often some of us wonder at the world within i.e. The micro biological universe or the sub atomic worlds of matter. Biology and medical science explore the first and  Physics and Atomic Sciences the next. Both amazing and fascinating aspects of creation which are at the root of the visible macro world with which we are familiar and in which we lead our lives oblivious of the other world deep within.

Here let us explore the biological universe within us which makes us keep alive and defends us beyond our imagination. Any species survives because of its inbuilt defenses called the immune system. Microbes, bacteria, virus, parasites, fungus protozoa called pathogens are perpetually seeking to invade our organism, multiplying within and consuming it till its demise and transferring to other organisms through techniques of infection.

So too our decaying cells infected cells and dead cells that create the debris in our system  which like in any municipal system requires to be cleaned or eliminated. This also includes rebellious cancer cells which have a plan of their own. A rogue created often by our addictions and harmful activities. These rogues in our own organism require to be eliminated no less than the invading pathogen.

I suppose Pathogens have a right of survival in creation as much as we do. Nature allows survival of the fittest, If a pathogen has superior ability to survive, then it will overcome the organism it  infiltrates and be the survivor. If the organism has evolved to withstand this onslaught then it will overcome the pathogens invasion and be the survivor. The human race as also many species of animals and living beings are the organisms that have survived to the present day despite the  war with the micro world of pathogens. If they had not survived we wouldn’t be here like the Dianasores  who became extinct. Extinction is allowed by nature when the victim is weak and has failed to evolve adequate defenses at the level at which pathogens exist in the micro universe.

It is not enough to have strength and muscles to deal with adversaries at the macro level – one organism against the other, though that too is vital, but the ability to deal with micro biological threats is equally important. Else, while you may become supreme as intelligence has made Homo Sapiens it cannot ensure supremacy at the micro level where another form of intelligence comes into play in the game of survival. Survival requires ability to procreate and multiply because organisms are mortal, ensuring survival over millennia. The same yard stick applies to other competitors, this time not at the macro level but at a micro level. Nature (God?) is ambitious but not sparing for the weak whether at macro or micro levels.  Having provided the best with evolution of the cerebral cortex it does not have unquestioned favorites. Its cardinal axiom is SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST not survival of the most worthy, the most beautiful, the most desirable, the most creative or even the most intelligent.

.  Nature is God’s handmaiden to protect and maintain His creation in the form He conceived, and there is no guarantee that He cannot change his mind as with the Gigantic beings of his earlier creations of life forms like the dinosaurs or the early stages of human evolution- The Neanderthal gives way to Homo Sapiens, Who knows whats next. In the process He is possibly not  opposed to his micro level creations and allows them free play in their own evolution. Quite like the mutations that have produced the present level of Homo Sapiens so also mutations at all levels for arriving at the most deserving. Thus His finest product yet, us, are allowed to mutate in like manner to overcome threats to survival of a prize creation, MAN. Lets have a glimpse at how that has become possible for deserving candidates.

Firstly I am no scientist or micro biologist and can claim no expertise other than imagination and free thought as to what may be going on, based on what i have read from eminent findings and research into the biological world of the micro cosmos. All i can do is give a perspective based on my readings and mystical inspiration, for whatever that may be worth. And yes the capability to wonder at this exquisite creation of which i am a part not just at the obvious visible macro world of our lives, but equally at the micro world which possibly holds the real secrets of His intentions both at the Biological level and the atomic or sub atomic levels. His intentions  at the micro level possibly resemble roots of grand trees that produce leaves to feed and flowers to procreate and fruit to  survive to the next generation. So too our roots in the micro level be they threat, defense or survival. His intentions appear to be not merely survival but diversification. The idea of male and female is precisely that – no two fingerprints should be alike. species should be varied, beautiful to behold and more numerous than you can ever imagine. After all that is the wonder of creation whether biological, atomic or the universe of planets, black holes, suns and life forms. Hats off to Him for such a thought about diversification in creation. There is no great achievement in a creation of clones, no great achievement in like rather than dissimilar beings. He is the master creator with imagination beyond our perceptions.

So, with these esoteric and mystical thoughts let us try and understand as an example, what He did to help us evolve our own defense system at the micro level so that our survival as His favorite element in creation would be justified. Here let us ponder over the Covid revolution at the micro level with numerous mutations to see whether it is a challenge to His choice of Homo Sapiens being His single grandest  element in creation. Let us explore the nature of our amazing inbuilt defenses in the game of survival of the fittest.

After reading a range of literature on the subject I feel overwhelmed at the thoroughness and intricacy of the designed or evolved defenses we possess within making us at least for now the fittest survivor on this planet.

That amazing defense is what goes by the name of THE IMMUNE SYSTEM. It is not unlike an army with the latest technology to defeat any invader. There are soldiers, spies and intelligence agencies always on the alert, fortresses where those with special skills congregate, alarm systems to inform  about an invasion, systems and forces to take care of rebellion from within, the ability to detect among millions of inhabitants and workers what constitutes the nation and what is alien, also who has been compromised and has  been forced to collude with the enemy,  what agencies exist to clear the dead and any debris on account of warfare, how to identify the sick and diseased to quarantine or remove them from the state, how to train and coordinate different forces of defense, where to begin recruitment of fresh forces when a threat is perceived,( the bone marrow is not unlike a military Academy training and forming soldiers of different specializations as required by the perceived threat) )how to mark and identify a known enemy, how to register and remember  a former enemy, how to keep meticulous records of sources of threat and be available to identify them when they attack, how to engage in repair of damaged resources after the war and elimination of the enemy, how to utilize  chemical resources available for warfare, how to have different agencies for specific defense needs, Where to train forces to handle every situation that may arise, ad infinitum, to ensure the survival of the state (our organism against all odds).

Rather picturesque in presentation but necessary analogies for laymen to get the full picture of this wonder within us.

The Immune system has two categories. First what is termed the Innate Immune system and next the Adaptive Immune System. The first was what we have always been blessed with for survival against the microbiological enemies. the second is a product of evolution when the innate defenses were rendered stronger and more effective. Together these two aspects of the immune system have made us survive to the present day. Not all living beings have both. some have a modified form of the first but only mammals with jaws have both. Let us now plunge into the facts of what are these defenses.

WHITE KNIGHTS

The cellular inhabitants of this state which is our living organism, have two types, the RBC or red blood corpuscles and the WBC or white blood corpuscles (among other cells like skin heart and brain cells). The first is a kind of worker cell that performs a crucial activity. Transferring vital oxygen from our lungs to the rest of the body.

the workers keeping us alive by transferring oxygen

The latter, white blood cells are different.

Cells of immunity :Leukocyte, lymphocyte, eosinophil, neutrophil, monocyte, basophil dendritic cell Vector illustration on isolated background

They have a range of obligations and duties which include defense from invading pathogens like bacteria, virus, fungus, parasites, protozoa, and internal enemies like aberrant cells that have forgotten their duties are disobedient and wish to do as they please, multiplying at the expense of the host or State. These White Knights as I would like to call them defend against external as well as internal threats to the organism. Something to remember – not all cells can divide. The brain cells and the red cells do not reproduce themselves or divide. Cells die at an appropriate time which is fixed – call it cell suicide while more cells as required are then produced in the bone marrow, what i call the training academy. – all this is highly organised and programmed (except of course the cancer cell which has turned into an alien like the Pathogen who does not have to listen to the body’s dictates and never commits suicide.)

 THE INNATE IMMUNE SYSTEM

 At the Innate Immune system stage of defense the following warriors are available:

White blood cells called Leucocytes

A subdivision called Phagocytes which include Monocytes or Macrophages, Neutrophils and Dendritic white cells meaning cells that attack engulf and dissolve or consume the invading Pathogen. This process of killing the Pathogen through engulfing and consuming is called Phagocytosis, thus their description as  PHAGOCYTES.

Macrophage engulfing bacteria

Neutrophil engulfing bacteria.  infections. Neutrophils are part of the body’s immune response. . They extrude extracellular traps to catch and engulf (phagocytose) and destroy pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, and foreign material that has entered the body.

This defense belongs to our Innate Immune System. The three white warriors of this initial immune system , are not very advanced but very effective in warding off an initial attack.    Monocytes and the most numerous Neutrophils are the white warriors that travel perpetually in the blood stream in pursuit of invading Pathogens while the Dentritic white warriors  explore the external environment to detect presence of invaders at the location of the skin, nose , lungs and stomach and intestines the first barriers which Pathogens have to cross. Neutrophils are the first to arrive at the site of infection where acute inflamation occurs. Monocytes enter damaged tissues and become Macrophages which are the most numerous residents in tissues  and act as scavengers ridding the body of worn out cells and other cell debris not unlike municipal workers.

Neutrophils are the leukocytes found in the largest numbers in the bloodstream and they primarily fight bacterial infections.

Eosinophils are white warriors that specialize in targeting parasitic infections. Eosinophils and Basophils are involved in creating allergic reactions. Both release histamine and other proinflammatory compounds from their granules upon stimulation.

         

BASOPHILS

EONOPHILS

  • Natural killer (NK) cells are lymphocytes that recognize and kill abnormal or infected cells by releasing proteins that trigger apoptosis or cell suicide, vital for elimination of defective, worn out and infected cells..

    NATURAL KILLER CELLS

  • Monocytes are large, mononuclear leukocytes that circulate in the bloodstream. They may leave the bloodstream and take up residence in body tissues, where they differentiate and become tissue-specific macrophages and dendritic cells.

  • All the above warriors are leucocytes and belong to the first army or the innate immune system.

Before proceeding further let us learn what are Antigens and Antibodies.  Every pathogen has a unique molecule which marks it called an Antigen.  An Antibody is a y shaped protein used by the Immune system to identify and mark the pathogen for destruction. The antibody recognizes the unique molecule and binds to it whether it be a Pathogen or an infected cell and thereby tags it for destruction by relevant elements of the Immune system.

antibodies latching on to pathogen’s molecule to identify for destruction

The Innate Immune system ( I I S) and the Adaptive Immune system (A I S) are like two armies that need to coordinate their activity depending on the severity of the threat. The IIS has limited capability in facing the threat despite Phagocyte warriors plus above mentioned other specialists and is the first line of defense. It is able to prevent a menace that has appeared from overrunning the organism on a first onslaught. But this does not eliminate the growing threat from a persistent pathogen only limits its progress.. it then uses its messenger warrior the dentritic phagocite to carry the  antigen from the pathogen to the advanced army of the AIS .

DENDRITIC  WHITE CELLS the third category of Phagocyte warriors   present antigens to our T cells.

Dendritic cells

antigen presenting cell

These white warriors, the T cells play a key role in our ADAPTIVE IMMUNE SYSTEM  and are the most important  white warriors of this evolved immune system. Their origin  are the stem cells in our bone marrow. the T cell warriors  play a central role in eliminating virus infections and Cancer. when about their job they recruit other Leukocytes to the battlefield and help the soldiers to distinguish invaders from  self cells that belong to the host organism.  This  regulatory ability to distinguish alien from host cells to prevent their destruction are  however used by the cunning cancer cells to defend themselves from destruction by T cells. Dendritic warriors of the first army are to be found in the vicinity of the Lymphocytes the more advanced warriors of the modern army because they are always in the process of conveying antigen clues to the advanced warriors the T cells. They also can raise an alarm when a threat is detected in the external environment and are located on the skin, nose, lungs, stomach and intestines. They are the messengers that link the two Immune systems helping to coordinate their defense mechanisms as a joint effort against the enemy. The Lymphocytes belong exclusively to the  Adaptive Immune system.

Natural killer (NK) cells belong to the innate immune system. They generally serve as a first line of defense against foreign pathogens. This includes bacterial or virus particles or virus infected cells. NK cells are not specific in their immune response. In the sense that they recognize a wide variety of bacteria so any bacteria will activate them. This is good because when you spot an enemy, you must immediately engage and kill.  NK cells also have the ability to sense stressed cells i.e. cells that are infected with a virus or are turning cancerous. They will seek them out and destroy them before they do any harm. Therefore, they serve  as the sentinels of the body. They also induce damaged infected and worn out cells to commit suicide.

THE ADAPTIVE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The adaptive Immune system on the other hand relies on soldiers with a specific target producing a stronger and more particular immune response aided by superior immunological memory, each Pathogen is remembered by its signature antigen. The Adaptive Immune system is antigen specific, able to memorize and identify a Pathogen or its infected cell. thus the adaptive system is able to marshall its lymphocite white cells to destroy the particular invading Pathogen at a higher level than the inniate imuune system’s abilities. But the difference between the two warriors is that the former attacks all invaders at random while the more specialised T cell warrior targets only 1 ignoring the rest.

Then the Adaptive Immune system has another warrior called the B cell.  The B cell produces specific antibodies for specific pathogens. The antibodies lock on to the pathogen and mark them for destruction by other elements of the immune system. On the other hand the B cells may also inhibit the destruction of a cell, like tumor cells. Cancer cells take advantage of B cells to protect them from destruction by T cells. B and T cells are the armory of the adaptive immune system and come into the war when the White cell warriors of the innate immune system are unable to produce an effective defense because they have little or no immunological memory. Generally  the white warriors of the Innate immune system are efficient and able to ward off the threat. The T and B cells are called Lymphocytes because they are to be found in the lymph organs and are 18 to 42 % of all leukocytes. T cells are of two types -the helper and the killer. helpers activate the B cells to produce antibodies to mark the pathogen in question while T killer cells destroy  infected cells  and cancer cells.  Adaptive immune cells remember foreign invaders after their first encounter and fight them off the next time they enter the body.  The Innate immune warriors are unable to do so without antigen memory. Vaccines seek to do precisely that to create immunological memory where it may not exist.

THE LYMPHOID FORTRESSES

tHE LYMPH FORTRESSES are located in several parts of the body. Lymph nodes are classified as “secondary” lymphoid organs, with the primary lymph organs being the thymus gland, tonsils, spleen, and bone marrow. The white warriors of the innate immune system and adaptive immune system congregate at these sites, like soldiers in  a fortress. they release into the blood stream when a threat is signaled. There are hundreds of Lymph nodes inside the body. they are located mainly in the neck, between the lungs , armpits and groin. The lymph fluids from lymph vessels enter these filters where Pathogens and cancerous cells are eliminated by the immune warriors. Those that escape into the blood stream are then dealt with by the warriors of the first and specialized armies there.

CHEMICAL WARFARE

Apart from the external shell defense, skin, nose, lung, guts, intestines, stomach and internal immune defenses both innate and adaptive, the invading pathogen is subjected to what we can call chemical defenses and warfare.The complement system is a biochemical storm that attacks the surfaces of foreign cells. It contains over 20 different proteins and is named for its ability to “complement” the killing of pathogens by antibodies.. Complement is the major humoral component of the innate immune response.The cascade results in the production of peptides that attract immune cells, and coat the surface of a pathogen, marking it for destruction. This deposition of complement can also kill cells directly. 

This vast network of cells and tissues is constantly on the lookout for invaders, and once an enemy is spotted, a complex attack is mounted.

The immune system is spread throughout the body and involves many types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues. Crucially, it can distinguish our tissue from foreign tissue — self from non-self. Dead and faulty cells are also recognized and cleared away by the immune system.

If the immune system encounters a pathogen, for instance, a bacterium, virus, or parasite, it mounts a  immune response.

Apart from the two immune systems and their cellular forces there are also mucus membranes that help trap or destroy pathogens. Mucus in the throat, bronchi. hair like structures called cilia in the nose, saliva with killer enzymes, stomach acids, even tears. and beneficial bacteria in the guts together support the immune systems.

All blood cells are produced in the bone marrow some like lymphocytes are created or mature and are stored in the spleen, thymus , lymph nodes, tonsils – called lymphoid organs.

The bowel plays a central role in defending the body against germs: More than half of all the body’s cells that produce antibodies are found in the bowel wall These cells detect foreign substances, and then mark and destroy them. They also save information about the substances in order to be able to react more quickly the next time.

In a nutshell,this then is the amazing defenses that we have been provided with,  for our survival at the microbiological level, to ward off dangers from pathogens that exist at that level and to enable us to destroy the damaged and dead cells and the malignant cancer cells to maintain our supremacy as Homo sapiens on our planet.

I suppose it goes without saying that no medicine or vaccine can compete with the body’s ability to defend and repair itself.  All they can do is to assist the inbuilt system to improve or aid in the recognition of its foes. That ability also flows from the cerebral cortex which too is based within not in some lab. The vaccines and medical science can be termed an evolution beyond that of the Adaptive immune system. But in the final analysis it is the body’s system that gives us clues about vaccine defense as too the fight against cancer can be borrowed from our immune system which daily engages in removing aberrant failed or faulty  cells, else we all would have cancer in our very youth. The T cells the B cells and their antibodies, the marker cells like dendrite cells, and macrophages ,  the leukocytes in their variety of specializations, the chemicals and protein defenses we generate from within, , the helper cells and natural killer cells that induce cell suicide and detect  tumors and cancers when cells fail or rebel, even before we undertake a cat scan the amazing alerts that the immune system are capable of to diligently protect the organism, no medical ability could duplicate, like fevers  and inflamations arising from our immune reactions to kill pathogens and the repair mechanisms there after to help us recover, are all the gifts of the Master Biologist. We learn to fly after studying avian abilities, make mobile engines after studying the bodies processes, nature is a library from which we have learnt so many lessons, antibiotics are already readily available in nature for us to copy or derive from and our own brains the perfect study to make mechanical brains in computer technology. Nature of which we are an integral part is the source of all advancements by simple emulation from the Great Guide. Yes we have been enabled and with that gift we shall overcome and evolve. Our gratitude and applause to the Universal Essence.

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The Ball cactus that transformed into a Hindu tremple

Of all plants the cactus fascinates me the most because it is quiet pensive like a Muni undemanding as required by the Gita, able to face challenges like drought and heat without complaint, able to defend itself from predators with its Armour of spikes and finally because it is capable of surprising you with sudden spectacular blooms that leave you breathless.
This time it was not gorgeous flowers. Some time back I had bought a Ball cactus, thus called because it is round and in the shape of a ball. During the monsoons it suddenly produced six bumps on its side which grew into smaller balls attached to the ‘mother’. then the dome of the cactus began to grow till the shape of the ball began to change and become more oval. This continued till the dome grew higher and more pronounced and the six ‘buds’ also increased in size. One fine morning it was time to water the cactus. I just stood back aghast and realized that the ball cactus had transformed into the shape of a Hindu temple!!! This was the ultimate gift and surprise from my cactus friends.

It is not uncommon in ones sorrow and frustration to turn ones anger towards God blaming him for ones plight.  Others accept it as ones deserving fate for ones wrong doings and those who believe in Karma, on past and present life doings with their positive and negative effects in the present life. In many faiths ones challenges in life  are explianed as tests by the divine to help in the evolution of your soul and therefore to be borne with courage and fortitude rather than believing that it is simply the punishment for ones sins.

There is yet another explanation for ones circumstances,fortunes and misfortunes  particularly with New Age theologists and thinkers and those who have sought to explore the phenomenon of Near Death Experiences (NDE) thereby claiming to have briefly visited the spirit world and learnt some of its secrets.

In this version God does not figure. It is claimed that the eternal soul is forever seeking to evolve to a higher spiritual level in its craving to gain proximity to the creater and eventually to merge with that Supersoul.

 

In the process it seeks to impose challenges and corrections from one lifetime to another. While guidance is available from great spirit souls and beings in the spirit world, the task of self analysis is left to the individual soul to devise obstacles in a future life, to acquire positive and negative circumstances and attributes, to choose its parents its progeny its circumstances of birth even handicaps and extraordinary skills and abilities – the combination of positive and negative at birth and in the life to unfold, in order that together they shall enable it to prove itself and evolve spiritually. Here there would be situations where the father is a tyrant or a mother dies prematurely or there is abundant love from sibling or else abuse from members of ones own family. All manner of combinations to produce the right type of challenges to test the soul’s mettle and help it move forward in evolution. In this version there is no God to blame, no fate to explain ones circumstances. There is also abundant provision for positive support to enable the soul to face the difficult challenges like being in love compassion of near and dear,riches and luxuries, great achievements and honour, brilliance and success in certain fields the happiness provided by good progeny etc. But lingering behind these happy situations are the never ceasing challenges in one form or the other chosen by the soul itself, much like a dilligent student who wishes to choose a difficult subject despite failure being quite common. In all this at moments of extreme misery and difficulty, spirits and guides aware of the souls plight will assist and support it so that it is able to endure the difficult plan it has adopted for evolution.

Providence and the spirit world never impose a difficult trial of life in the material world but leave it entirely to the responsible soul to choose the path for its correction and evolution. Therefore there is no question of blaming God, fate or previous sins for ones present plight.  This view may be difficult for some to accept as it does not hold ones sins or omissions responsible for ones situation and plight, nor does it allow you to pass the blame on  to earlier omissions in past lives or again Gods fury to teach you a lesson through punishment. The soul becomes the supreme arbiter of the choice of a life whether of a Helen Keller, a mother Teresa, a beggar , a king, a male or female, the nature of ones family, friends, career and time and manner of death. Nothing fateful, everything chosen and imposed by your great soul.

But that is the New Age view based on its vision of the spiritual world and the souls freedom of choice. The Hindu view still relies on evolution of the human individual where the eternal soul is trapped. All the entrapped soul yearns for is freedom from its human entrapment and rejoining the Supersoul – Paramatma – i.e. God, of which it is an integral part – ansha – and from which it has got seperated at creation of the material world.

final liberation of the soul from rebirth in a human shell.

The soul being a part of Godhead is already perfect and needs no evolution. furthermore according to the Gita it is not the agent of action or the actor on the human plane accumulating Karmik debt. As it does not act it is beyond the law of karma. But the cage in which it is trapped is indeed subject to karma. The human being acts  driven by its insatiable ego and Karmik forces then determine the consequences of those actions in this life and the next. It also determines the circumstances of rebirth and the trials the human shell will have to undergo for the shells evolution. The soul plays no part in the karmik consequences of the gross and subtle body of the material entity. All it hopes is that the shell will evolve to the point of perfection when its rebirth will cease and with that evolution the soul will finally get released from bondage in a human body. Meanwhile though not responsible for any acts of the body it plays the role of councellor guiding the ego driven body on a path which will not attract karmik consequence of a negative sort, retarding its evolution and thereby enforcing rebirth for yet another trial in another lifetime.

The islamic view requires great reverence for god – Allah- who is the all merciful and compassionate. No question of any blame or aspersion being tolerated. All that he deals out to humans is trials and tests -Ajmaish- for their evolution which have to be borne with humility and dedicated effort to overcome weakness and faults or punishments for wrong doing to have the subject reap what he has sown. There are no Karmik laws and no rebirth. the soul or Rooh which in this case has been the actor and agent of action takes responsibility for all acts of commission and omission and faces the consequences in afterlife after judgement has been pronounced at the throne of the Almighty.

raaz e ulfat – secret of love

When i retired I had no idea what i would do with my leisure time. Ofcourse sports, watching TV plays, shows and films, walks in the park, writing books, poetry, writing on my blog about spirituality Hinduism, the after life, mysticism, music ,study of different religions, meditation, looking deeper on the meaning of life , establishing contact with lost friends and relatives having spent my life overseas in the Foreign Service and pursuing my interests like keeping pet fish and birds, studying nature and animal life ad infinitum.

I pursued all these interests now that retirement had given me the time to do so but kept on searching to find what could engage my free time more fully. And then i stumbled on a treasure trove to keep me fully engaged. Earlier in life we had come across some good Pakistani serials which we had enjoyed greatly rather than indian or American serials. I found that the Pak serials had gained great maturity in more ways than one. I couldnt believe how well they were produced, directed, story line,acting and actors and actresses, screen play, dialogue (in urdu) and issues explored from daily life in all classes from village, feudal, middle class, urban life and upper class life styles. The themes were also amazing in their diversity and authenticity. Yes I was totally hooked and it became my old age addiction and passion to spend several hours each day watching the Pak serials with total concentration and enjoyment. Life without these well produced, directed and acted serials would have become a source of depression in old age. And they are available on the internet free with hardly any ads on u tube and other sites. What a bonzana of good entertainment, drama, ethical and social issues and Islamic values of life and consequences of your actions. Neither in India or the west have these issues and relationships been tackled with so much finesse and admirable insight as the Pak serials which are often also subtitled to reach beyond the Urdu- Hindi lanuages to the west and elsewhere. All the themes have an amazing appreciation of spiritual values where the consequences of your actions provide in the end the right results in spiritual terms with tragedy or reward for commendable behaviour compassion and concern for others as against self centered pursuit of pleasure and hedonism depriving others of their rights imposing ones will on others and denying them their rights.

 

Indeed i have seen in these plays so much of what actually happens in life between people, families friends and siblings and the power of love, hate ,envy and selfishness equally of evil intentions and purposes, the life of poverty, riches and class, truely portrayed, that I am left entralled by the ability of these story writers, producers, directors and actors for the works of art they have created which leaves us totally engaged and driven off our feet for their insights and abilities. How have these Pak serials managed to achieve with absolute distinction what others have not been able to do!? And my happiness knows no bounds in finding that there are over 500 such priceless dramas never failing to impress, available on the internet at no cost and with minimal advertisements to feed ones addiction.

yes my friends these serials are jewels to treaure just right length with about 30 episodes or less succinct rarely trailing and never lasting longer than you want. The drama story line and emotions in relationships are superb and portrayed without any exaggeration. In particular i love the presence of parental figures showing the intimate affections and guidance provided by Mother for daughter , son the Fathers discipiline and guidance both loving and dictatorial in turns, the beautifully portrayed relationships of siblings, and of course the nature of love affairs involving sacrifice committment defiance of custom and tradition, leading to a lifetime of regret and tragedy or managing to overcome outdated norms and constraints which are only meant to shackle freedom happiness and free will. Ihe power of evil intentions is also wonderfully shoown where friends betray one another out of petty jealosies or seek to ruin the lives of gullible innocent souls by subterfuge deceit and cunning to win over trust and exploit it for ones selfish desires.Every type of relationship has the attributes to show all these characteristics good or bad superbly portrayed. and that is no wonder because many of the stories are written on by hired script writers whose only purpose is to win the box office with flimsy shallow themes but by eminent pak writers not aping the west but producing and showing the best in Pak and Islamic character. Finally every drama serial has attached to it a priceless message of what Allah or god is like in his guidance compassion and measuring out fate and anguish and trials of life to test the mettle of those He loves. Tests are the basic themes of these stories where every trial is there for a purpose, that being to improve the quality of humaness, test the mettle of mankind to raise it to ethereal levels. The concept which really won my admiration was that of ‘AJMAISH; which in urdu means supreme test through adversity. Like all religious messages Islam’s message of AJMAISH is beautiful because it seeks to show you that all adversity is not a punishmebt rather a test of the strength of your soul;s ability to endure and evolve which alone makes you what in the Gita is mentioned as the person who is dearest to Him.Whether in Islam hinduism or christianity the message is basically the same – christ on a cross, we bearing our own crosses all finally leading to evolution and enlightenment here and later elsewhere. These pakistani serials have managed to capture and beautifully portray that concept in their themes of love betrayal family relationships, human intereactions and life in totality. I congratulate them for not merely entertaining but leaving behind a message which goes way beyond that.Bravo and congratulations to these special people for what they have done and continue to do with unbelievable ability and skill.

let me introduce you to some of the serials i enjoyed most:

DASTAAN

A moving story of partition faithfully rendered without bias and stereotypes. Outstanding cast and individual portrayals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicine Buddha and Apsaras -Antiques from Bangkok

Pleasures come in strange ways. Some can be arranged others come unexpected. They give meaning to life and doubtless help in lengthening your life span if they happen often enough. They are quite subtle and differ from merely feeling happiness. They are more specific than happiness. More focused. My pleasures come from relating to nature, viewing works of art at a museum, growth, devotional music which elevates you to sublime heights, seeing and loving antiques and owning them, keeping pets and seeing them multiply, learning about mysticism through philosophy, religion, spiritualism, yoga, meditation, discovering spread of Hinduism in alien cultures, New Age views of afterlife, different views of the meaning of soul, secrets of astrology,  scientific riddles, the universe and planetary systems, space and time dimensions. and a lot more that i cannot think about.

That is a lot said about pleasure. but for the immediate context lets narrow it down to recent experiences. I went to a park and a cat came up to me. Normally cats run away when you approach them. but this cat came and caressed my legs as a stood surprised. so i bent and petted her. then i went and sat on a bench. she followed me and jumped up and came into my lap. I fondled her and she remained there while i cuddled her chin. she purred. I fell in love with her and wanted to take her home. Then i saw the collar on her neck and knew she belonged to someone else. sad but true. So much love from nature overwhelmed me. I responded in kind. we remained like this together for half an hour. O what pleasure. why did she come to me. did we have a relationship in the past.

The friendly cat

 

I bought a cactus, the type that is round like a ball. sitting pretty in a small bowl. never wanting too much water or care, only the sunlight and an occasional spraying. i left it alone for a month. It just sat still doing nothing to know that it existed. Then i went on a vacation. when i returned it had grown. more pines coming out of its centre. Greener and more voluptuous. what a pleasure to see it slowly grow larger, if you know what i mean.

Cactus

I acquired four rare snails for my aquarium, called Apple or mystery snails. Very beautiful with golden shells and about two inches in width. They cleaned my tank then started mating. see my post on them. their sexuality was quite unique and very sensuous. the result in a month to my surprise were egg pods planted on the surface of my aquarium. then i went on my vacation. On return i was amazed to see 200 small snails all over the aquarium to my utter pleasure. I cannot explain the extent of my pleasure. They were very small and black not golden but crawling all over. One day They will all turn into giant Mystery snails . that is the wonder that caused my pleasure, though you may think such pleasure as silly.

Mystery snails mating

My Budgies, i have some 30 in a cage of all colours,  which gives me pleasure to see, I have a book which explains the colours, which in nature in Australia are only green, also bred. I saw some eggs in some of the bowls i put in the cage. then they produced little buddies which the mother and father took turns to feed into adulthood. each process gave me pleasure beyond measure. Again you may say that this is a stupid source of pleasure but for me it is not.

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I have a post on the pleasure of loving an object. One in the museum or one acquired by you to keep. On a visit to Bangkok I acquired some more. and they too give me no end of pleasure.

Emerald buddha, bejewelled

On my recent visit to Bangkok i was amazed by the influence of Hinduism and India on this alien land. whenever i saw a Hindu influence on the roadside or at a shrine I was again amazed by the cultural spread of Hinduism with no effort of proselytising, rather a unique embracing of culture from another land. I have two recent posts emphasising this phenomenon in Thailand as doubtless it is also true in Indonesia. Cambodia, China and Japan. Well this also gave me great pleasure to see my culture so well regarded in the Far East.

Brahma shrine Bangkok

Well, these are some of the sources of pleasure that I experience. sure many people have different sources. Bit these are mine and i wanted to share them. though they may feel strange to many.

 

 

 

Shiva at the temple

 

Though there is ample evidence of Hindu influences in Thailand which I covered in my previous post, there were still some surprises in this regard. I heard that there was a grand Shiva temple on the outskirts of Bangkok and made my way there. i was amazed at what i saw – nothing like this compared to any Shiva temple in India. The scale was magnificent with every care taken to produce the best in artistry of tableaus, sculptures in plated gold, bronze and clay. The aesthetic ambience was superb and only possible because of the faith and love of the Thai people for Indian gods and myths. i was unable to find out who had created this monument to Shiva though judging from the numerous alters to the royal family I had the feeling that it was sponsored by the Thai king and his government. When i left I was in a state of ecstasy and overwhelmed by the cultural, religious and artistic  efforts that must have gone into creating such a shrine in a land not very familiar with Shiva.  Even the Birla temples in india though quite grand, could not compare with the artistry and dedication that must have produced this monument to Shiva.

As i entered the temple complex i saw two great elephants with the god Indra astride them with domes housing a Shiva Linga (phallus) and a statue of goddess laxmi on either side of a a great Linga in the middle with dragons inscribed along the shaft.

Entrance to Shiva’s shrine

As i proceeded further i witnessed the great myth of the churning of the mythical cosmic ocean with gods on one side pulling a serpent and demons on the other in the hope of gaining the treasures which the ocean could bring up. What came out was the nectar of immortality which both gods and demons coveted, the vicious poison which could end creation, and the goddess of wealth and well being prosperity and happiness, Laxmi. Vishnu the god of sustaining creation immediately claimed Laxmi as his consort, the nectar of immortality went to the gods as Vishnu disguised as a beautiful damsel held the cup for the gods to savour,  and the poison threatening to extinguish creation, but the great lord Shiva took up the challenge and drank it to save the world, his throat turning blue in the process, but leading to the preservation of the universe. This act made Lord Shiva a saviour of mankind.

The churning of the cosmic ocean

I then proceeded to one of two temple structures where Lord Shiva was enshrined to make my offerings.

Lord Shiva in the first temple

Behind the black stone statue of lord Shiv in contemplation on the creation of the universe were further images of Shiva and his family of Ganesha and the goddess  Parvarti his consort in her furious aspect of Kali decimating the demons, the root of worldly evil.

Mahakali the furious aspect of his consort Paarvati

Exploring further i came across the divine embodiment of Rama, Laxman, Sita and Lord Hanuman. Their blessed presence added a new nuance to the temple considering that all royal kings of Thailand are styled as Rama.

Rama Sita Laxman and Hanuman

Apart from the Hindu gods with Shiva as the centre piece there were  Chinese gods and goddesses and the great Buddha all in one enclosure, inviting devotees of  Hinduism,Buddhism and Taoism all in one place which was quite remarkable.

The Buddha at the shrine

Chinese gods and goddesses

There was a stall neatly installed as is the Thai way, for offerings by devotees which was quite impressive.

our personal offering

offerings for devotees

 

 

 

 

 

I thI then then went to the second temple at the complex. on the ground floor there was a marriage hall with many seats and tables and altars to the royal family along with numerous pictures of lord Hanuman and Krishna. Ascending the steps i proceeded to the first floor which was equally magnificent. As one entered there was a beautiful statue of Shiva riding his bull, Nandi.

Shiva on Nandi

As i entered the sanctum sectorum i was amazed to find the entire galaxy of Shiva and family. On a throne were seated Shiva and Parvati and on two other thrones beside them Lord Ganesha and Kartike his sons. On the steps leading up to the altar were numerous Ganeshas in different ‘mudras’ and on the other side Parvatis in dancing poses. What exquisite artistry must have gone in creating these bronzes I cannot imagine.

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The alter to Shiva and Parvati

As if this were not enough of spiritual grandeur next to pillars were installed gold plated statues of Sarasvati goddess of learning and culture and consort of Brahma and Brahma who is greatly revered for having helped the Buddha in gaining enlightenment.

Sarasvati

Brahma

On the side of the altar were once again Chinese gods and goddesses and behind the alter a row of Chinese sages and gods.

Chinese gods and sages

On the other side was a shrine to the Buddha in black marble

Budhhist shrine

The goddesses Durga and Amba were also not ignored and figured at the temple.

Durga and Amba

At the gate as we left we saw the two guardians of Shiva holding tridents in their hands.

guardians of Shiva

Then there was also Shiva at the gate doing his cosmic dance of creation and destruction, the Nataraja.

Naataraja

And finally to our  eternal delight on an adjoining hillock a giant gold plated statue of Shiva in supreme meditation.

Shiva on a hillock at the temple

Hats off to the Thais for their artistry, faith, spirituality and dedication.

Brahma image from Bangkok Thailand

 

On a visit to Bangkok there were many surprises.The city was spotless clean with no litter whatsoever, the traffic was orderly, if busy,no terrible honking of cars, no evidence of road rage as in India, quiet and peaceful with the swirling of tyres progress and modernization, stately high rise buildings, shopping malls and hotels. This city could compete with any western metropolis. And finally the people. Charming, polite, gentle and graceful from the greeting with folded hands and a bow by Air hostesses in the aircraft extending to further welcoming with folded hands at shops and commercial establishments and restaurants – the epitome of etiquette and courtesy. It spoke of an excellent administration, law and order with an innate natural calmness in demeanour arising doubtless from a unique and effective culture.

If you delved deeper you discovered the reason for this. Piety was the  hallmark of the Thai people. At street corners, apartment complexes, shopping centres, markets and commercial establishments, one was struck by the universal presence of altars and domed pavilions dedicated to Hindu gods and other spiritual presences called Spirit Houses.

These small temples standing on pedestals with no deities inside, fall into a category of their own, neither Buddhist nor Hindu. They have their origin in antiquity before the arrival of Hinduism and Buddhism and are essentially animist, relying on beliefs in spirits, ghostly beings and the like. They inhabit the physical world rather than that of the spirit. They enjoin people to respect nature and its mystical influences. The belief in spirits is strong and people leaving their homes for work go first to the Spirit House to worship and make offerings for good luck and to avoid misfortune. The offerings of garlands, fruit, sweets incense and candles, even Coke and Fanta and occasionally alcoholic drinks are meant to appease the spirits and obtain their blessings. People travelling around town also make it a point to pause at spirit houses to make offerings.

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Spirit house with offerings

The nature of the faith in them is different from worship at Hindu altars and Buddhist temples. Buddhism tolerates this worship and does not oppose it. This may be due to Buddhisms deep respect for nature.Many of the spirit Houses are consecrated by Brahmin  priests or Buddhist monks.

On the other hand the Hindu alters have exquisite sculptures particularly of Brahma the Hindu god of creation all over the city in stone bronze and clay and Lord Ganesha with daily offerings of marigolds garlands incense fruit and sweets.

roadside Ganesha

roadside Brahmas

roadside Brahma

I therefore went to visit the shrine dedicated to Brahma in the heart of the city, The shrine was actually created by the Thai government. When developers sought to build a hotel at the site there were so many mishaps that labourers refused to continue, believing the project to be cursed. The government shifted the hotel construction to a neighboring plot and instead dedicated the spot for a shrine to Brahma. It then became a place of pilgrimage for Thais. The beauty of the canopy inlaid with glass and stone and the golden image of Brahma took my breath away.

Brahma’s shrine in Bangkok

Thai worshipers had gathered in large numbers on a week day making offerings of elephants and horses made of clay. The profusion of marigold garlands and incense showed the deep faith and reverence in which he is held. The devotees included the young ,even teenagers in ardent prayer. If a wish is granted the devotee pays for a classical dance in Brahmas honour. Dancers wait ready in an enclosure.

devotees

Young worshipers

Crowds at Brahma shrine bowing and praying

Wish granted worshiper pays for a classical dance to honour Brahma

I then drove to other parts of town to explore further the extent of Hindu influences in Thai culture. I came across two more shrines dedicated to Ganesh the elephant headed god and a Thai invention , the amalgamation in one gold statue 10 feet high of the Hindu trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, one head for each deity. The crowds here were no thinner, with worshipers at the Ganesh statue seeking wisdom and removal of obstacles ( students generally come here before exams) and those at the Trimurti for love wealth and a list of other benefits. A nearby stall provided garlands and other offerings while a board proclaimed the benefits of prayer in English and Thai. Grand canopied domes adorned the shrines which were in the commercial centre.

Ganesh shrine in Bangkok

Trimurti of Brahma Vishnu and Shiv

Lord Indra

Indra beauty of sculpture

I proceeded further and came across yet another shrine dedicated to lord Indra exquisitely carved from green stone in another quarter, with worshipers. What superb artistry and craftsmanship the Thais possess – I haven’t come across such mastery in sculpture  even in India except in ancient temples. Indra, the chief of all Vedic sub deities associated with the elements, is popular in Thailand for granting boons and has a large following. I was surprised to find that every bench in parks in Bangkok had a golden emblem fixed on the back seat showing Indra riding his mythical elephant.

Near a 5 star hotel i was amazed to see a pavilion with a deity in it half Shiva as a male and Vishnu the other half as a female a unique conjoining of two deities which only the Thais could conceive of. In India the cosmic hermaphrodite is depicted as Shiva and his consort in one body.

Shiva as male Vishnu as female in one body

As if this were not enough I found a shrine for the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Laxmi in the heart of the popular Gaysome Mall in Bangkok. The story went that when a number of bankruptcies occurred in the neighborhood , Thai merchants decided to seek her protection and blessings and installed the shrine.

Laxmi at the roof of a mall

Outside the Intercontinental hotel another shrine was dedicated to Narayan, showing a bronze statue of Vishnu astride the Garuda.

Narayan, Vishnu astride a Garuda

 

However apart from the shrines and altars at public places there are only a few Hindu temples in Thailand, one in particular is dedicated to the goddess, in Bangkok which has become a centre of pilgrimage for Thais. Hardly any Hindus or Indians are seen there compared to the numerous Thais who seek blessings from the priests, bow and pray intently and make offerings. On Navratra the great Hindu festival celebrated throughout India ushering in the new Hindu year,and invoking the presence of the goddess during the nine nights, the Hindu temple in Bangkok becomes a centre of activity. Thais devoutly carry images of the goddess through the streets in palanquins and road side vendors assist the procession for several kilometers. There is no conflict with other faiths and the Thai authorities enable the procession providing police protection and arrangements to keep the crowds orderly. It is amazing that worship of the goddess has taken root in Buddhist Thailand.

 

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Many  Thais believe that it is easier to win favour of and access a Hindu god for mundane purposes of daily life, than the Buddha who is more concerned with teaching right behaviour and helping with attainment of Nirvana or enlightenment.

While Brahma is universally revered in Thailand, in India there is only one temple dedicated to him. His role in helping the Buddha gain enlightenment is the reason for Thai devotion. He is also believed to grant all wishes.

I didn’t see many Buddhas at road side shrines though 98 % of Thais are Theravada Buddhists. The grand golden Buddha, 50 tons of solid gold and other gold plated Buddhas found in numerous ornate temples where worshipers flock in large numbers from the youth to older generations indicates a strong and universal faith and spirituality. Youth are enjoined to assume monkhood for a couple of months before seeking employment to discipline them and familiarize them with Buddhist teachings. The benign presence of the Buddhas is aesthetically pleasing and the ultimate in art and sculpture.

The Golden Buddha

 

Rclining Buddha, Parinirvana

Buddha at the Royal Temple, a Vihara for monks

Mahathat temple Bangkok for training and housing monks

Hindu God’s again make an appearance outside Buddhist temples called Wats, such as a bronze Vishnu pulling a bow outside a Buddhist chapel at the national museum, a real work of art at which I kept gazing for long.

Vishnu with bow

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Again at the royal Vihara where relics of the Buddha are enshrined, outside stand guard two giant statues of Shiva and Vishnu.

Vishnu outside the shrine of Buddha relics

Shiva at the shrine of relics

The corridors at the royal palace complex are replete with murals depicting scenes from the Hindu epic the Ramayana with good reason. The national dance the Ramakein is derived from the Ramayana.

The Hindu influence is strong at the royal palace where the chief priest called Rajguru is a Thai Brahmin assisted by a group of Brahmins from India for performing rituals associated with the monarchs coronation, birth and funeral. By tradition this takes precedence over Buddhist prayers and rituals, inherited from royal practices in ancient India like bathing the monarch with holy waters from the rivers and chanting prayers in Sanskrit. Then follow the Buddhist monks with their chants and prayers in keeping with the Buddhist Theravada rites. There is total tolerance for the Hindu customs and gods and it is difficult to separate Buddhism and Hinduism. Thais feel that Hinduism is not a separate religion  but an offshoot of Buddhism. Here there is amalgamation of the two creating an ambrosial mix of two great traditions both having their origins in India. The Buddha was after all an Indian prince several hundred years before Christ, whose teachings spread far and wide  to South East Asia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan,Mongolia, China and Japan. In India the Brahmin priesthood sought to divorce Buddhism from India. In Thailand there is no such divorce. The two coexist in total harmony as one.

Not therefore surprising that the monarch is considered  as an incarnation of Vishnu and assumes the title of Rama his avatar. Thus we have monarchs for generations styling themselves as Rama I to Rama XI. Thus numerous streets are named Rama I to XI. The Thai national emblem is the Garuda, Vishnu’s steed, half man and half eagle. On the walls of Buddhist temples the Garuda is shown as holding up the sky. Banks have the Garuda as their logo as too the official stationary of the Thai government. Alters dedicated to the king have a Garuda at his feet.

Altar to the king at a shopping mall

Shops are full of Buddhas and Hindu gods. One popular theme is Lord Rama in Thai royal attire pulling his bow.

Ayothia the ancient capital of Thailand is a tourist’s delight. Here there is a reclining Buddha of stone some 200 feet long in an open field. A giant Buddha statue adorns one of the ancient temples.

Buddha at Ayothia

The very name Ayothia is derived from the Indian town Ayodhia considered the birthplace of lord Rama in mythology.

Finally I visited the magnificent museum near the Royal Palace complex in the old city. Apart from numerous Buddhas in various Mudras there were the Hindu gods from antiquity.

Shiva at the museum

Vishnu at the museum

One final surprise awaited us as we departed. The Thai airport is named Swarnbhumi, which in Sanskrit means land of gold, indeed so appropriate. As we entered the lobby we witnessed a grand tableau depicting the Hindu myth of the churning of the cosmic seas by gods and demons holding a serpent with Vishnu astride a tortoise round which the churning was taking place. This produced the nectar of immortality, a vicious poison and the goddess of wealth. Here too the Thais had embraced a Hindu myth for all visitors to see on arrival and departure. As we departed, these memories of Thailand’s Hindu connections and the extraordinary piety and spirituality of the Thai people left us overwhelmed. We fell in love with Thailand and its gracious people.

The holy churning of the cosmic ocean

Vishnu on a turtle at the churning

 

There is total tolerance for the Hindu customs and gods and it is difficult to separate and Hinduism. Thais feel that Hinduism is not a separate religion but an offshoot of Buddhism and there is amalgamation of the two creating an ambrosial mix of two great traditions both having their origins in India.

Kesri Singh Mandawa

Suddenly someone who you loved and knew intimately all your life leaves your radar screen and disappears like a fallen aircraft does from the screen of Air Traffic Controllers.  My dear cousin Kesri is one such, who after a month in the ICU at hospital had a heart seizure.  He had stopped smoking for the past twenty years and took care of his kidneys which a month ago were no worse than mine. But after his youngest brother passed away, ten years younger, he was quite inconsolable, though he didn’t show it. He arranged a grand funeral for him at his village fortress, but after the cremation, for the first time, he began neglecting himself and went out canvassing for the General Elections in India in the open 48 degree midday sun, and suffered a heat stroke and kidney failure. He was rushed to Jaipur three hours away and admitted to hospital where they placed him in an ICU. There when I visited him, he joyously greeted me, waving both arms and was also chatty with the nurses. But he did not survive beyond a month.

Kesri’s Funeral at Mandawa

 

Sure, he must then have joined his parents’ souls waiting for him. So dear Kesri then left this world and joined the spirit world meeting his mother, father and 95 year old grandfather. 

Dear Kesri is therefore, alas, no more. What a maverick personality he was and an achiever. He had a finger in every pie and a concern and compassion for his family, extended family and people at large. He was always there for anyone who approached him with a kind word, providing help they needed. He looked after his brothers, their families, his own family, wife, daughters and a son, and even the grandchildren. He was always on the lookout to meet his uncles and their kids, arranging parties and get-togethers so that no connection was ever lost, like a grandsire.

In that respect, he was much like his parents whose home was always open to relatives and all and sundry with the warmest hospitality and affection you can imagine. From childhood my siblings and I were always there. He inherited those qualities.

He was also a great entrepreneur, full of initiative, and built his fortress in the village into a grand four-star hotel where tourists from overseas and home visited, feasted and were provided every conceivable comfort. It is today on the map of the world, “ Mandawa Castle”, and in Jaipur he turned their villa into another hotel called Mandawa Haveli. Places to be a must-visit for foreigners. He also set up a Desert Camp with 50 rooms and tents, replete with the latest luxuries for tourists in the village. Indians and foreigners came in flocks to this renowned but remote tourist site promoted meticulously in foreign capitals and on the website.

He discharged all his responsibilities with equal vigour and concern, marrying his daughters and son with great fanfare at the fortress in Mandawa where governors, maharajas, ministers, relatives and the social elite all congregated to enjoy the festivities. These events were spectacular and full of traditional hospitality which few can equal. Dance, folk music, torch bearers, puppet shows, and the finest cuisine and drinks to fulfil all expectations were all there. What fun we had at these events with Kesri the magnificent host.

He cared for the aged older generation with the same fervour ensuring their presence at all these events like his 90 year old mother’s sister, who circumambulating his coffin, said, “I have lived too long. Now it’s my time to go.”

I knew him first as a kid of 7 joining the ETON of India, Mayo College. We remained in touch over decades a close and warm relationship, as he grew from being an energetic kid into a great entrepreneur, full of compassion for family concerns and the desire to develop his fortress.

He also joined as governing member of Mayo College at Ajmer, Rajasthan, and developed it with fervour, always present at its events. He then spawned an extension of the college for resident girl students and a Mayo Girls came up where people from faraway places like Nepal sent their daughters to receive boarding education which was hardly available elsewhere.  At Mayo College he developed sports like polo and golf which facilities didn’t exist in other public schools.

Kesri was always a dynamic personality, full of energy and spirit, despite his health, and managed to survive to the age of 73. I called on him a year ago and requested a peculiar favour. I said, “When I die, I would like you to take care of my funeral.” He smiled and said, as was his wont, “Sure, I will, but who knows who will go first“- Prophetic words for he has preceded me.

I miss him terribly and I am sorry being overseas could not be there for his funeral.

He came thrice to see me when I fell and broke my hip and had surgery. Each time, he was so full of love and concern. May his great soul rest in eternal peace with his dear parents.

I remember, vividly, just two months ago at the funeral at the fortress he sat beside me as the cremation proceeded and chatted for half an hour as if he had a premonition that this would be our last meeting. He was always full of humour and in parting said that I should spend another night there considering that when his mother had wed the Mandawa barat had spent three nights at our village.

It is going to be a challenge for his only surviving brother, Randhir, some seven years younger, to bear the loss, guide the family affairs, and carry the Mandawa flag, having lost three brothers in as many years. Our sympathies go out to him. May God give him the courage, strength and discretion to carry on.

Randhir Mandawa

And Kesri’s dear wife, Bindu, who cared for him all his life, as a doctor would have, must be quite inconsolable. Whenever I asked him about his health, he would say, “I don’t have a clue. Ask Bindu, she knows it all.” May God give her the strength to bear this irreparable loss to be able to guide her children and grandchildren in the times ahead. May his spirit be constantly with her at her elbow to provide the same strength love and compassion as he did when he was alive.

Kesri and Bindu with their children: Geetanjali, Priyanjali and Shivarjun.

His two daughters Gitanjali and Priyanjali are now mature, with children almost out of their teens. He had the pleasure of being a grandfather many times over. They and his son, Shivarjun, are sure to miss his guiding hand, but he taught them about life and they should fare well.

Never failing to discharge his duties to the very end, he went campaigning for the General Elections in the midday sun which proved fatal. As they say the brave conscientious warrior was brought home dead to find eternal peace and rest.

Here, I am in conclusion, reminded of Rajput warriors who became the legendary “ Jhunjhars” who kept on fighting and remained in the saddle even when their heads were severed, like dear Kesri at the Election Campaign and later battling life in the ICU. This was a true Jhunjhar if ever there was one. 

Kesri: The Jhunjhar

 

REINCARNATION  kRISHNA .COM

The Gita allows  a soul precisely 8.4 million reincarnations on the difficult path of evolution. Early Christianity also had a concept of reincarnation which was later discarded. New Age thinkers and philosophers with the evidence produced by Near Death Experiences (NDE), hypnotic regression leading to past life recall by psychologists, and the activity of Mediums in allowing possession by spirits for those wishing to contact departed loved ones, are now universally inclined to accept reincarnation as a cardinal truth.

On the basis of my readings of the subject from philosophy, religion, New Age insights, NDEs, books by famous mediums and the occasional reported cases of people who recall their previous reincarnation and visit their former families, I have arrived at one conclusion with growing faith in it.

Not only we on the earthly plane know little about the intricate complexities and reality of the spiritual world which is as vast as our material one if not more so, but the spiritual world also knows little about our material world and is keen to know more. Therefore there appear to be two purposes of reincarnation.

One being to help the soul evolve. Its metal cannot be fully tested till it goes through the harrowing experiences of life on the material plane, time and again down from its home at the sublime heights of the spiritual life and world. It is basically a necessary but unwelcome option which is always challenging for souls who would rather enjoy the eternal beatitude of the spiritual life, where they are more aware through extra sensory perceptions, more loved and loving in divine grace and in a state of bliss. But they are not permitted to tarry there for eternity and must enter earth school to be tested and to evolve into greater souls, even if reluctantly. 

Gods creation is made in a way where spirit is attracted to matter even as matter is attracted to spirit and so they merge and mix as often as possible  in a union that matches the mind of the Universal spirit we call God the creator of both, though for mysterious reasons known to him alone he keeps them apart as two coexistent realities produced by his supreme imagination and pensive introspection about his own reality.

The other reason for reincarnation is the absence of knowledge of the material world by the spiritual one. This is my gut feeling and strong impression. Angels spirits souls and their mentors have little clue of the goings on here. The reincarnation of souls apart from testing their metal also reveals the truth of material life and the way matter acts in different situations which do not exist in the eternal spiritual world in a state of total harmony and beatitude. The impulses of the material world are totally different from the spiritual one. While God knows all the answers his spiritual world does not. And its intense curiosity impels reincarnations of its souls.

I think God is equidistant from both of his worlds, he leaves his creation alone till there is a crisis when through his infinite grace and concern he assumes the form of a soul, WHICH MUST BE A SUPREME TRIAL OF HIS ESSENCE and reincarnates himself as Avatar or prophet to restore equilibrium,and experience all the trials and tribulations of material earthly life as did Rama, Krishna, the Buddha and Christ. 

Whether he does the same for the spiritual half i naturally have no clue. In the spiritual world there are masters and great souls  that is his way of producing a presence there. Quite possibly the spiritual world also requires guidance as we do here. In Hinduism both are aspects of Maya or illusion, the supreme imagination of God in contemplation.

So, two God induced mysteries apart, the spiritual and the material, both surely dear to his heart and mind. his divinity is in both.

This divinity is present not merely at the spiritual plane but equally on the material and physical levels. Matter and Spirit are integrally conjoined and inseparable. The divine is thus universally present both as matter and spirit. Matter and Spirit, two facets of the Universal Essence or God, are not only inseparable and united but also exhibit attraction for one another by being in a state of perpetual interaction. While the material aspect is manifest, finite and perishable and recycled from creation to creation, the spiritual aspect is infinite, imperishable, constant and eternal.

Matter is passionately attracted to the presence of spirit and spirit never leaves matter alone either, probing, infiltrating and combining with it.

He allows the two aspects to come together, being part of his unity,  through the process of reincarnation of souls which provides some insight to each about the other without merging them totally as is his scheme and purpose. Unity in diversity. i would even venture to conjecture that Gods way of acquainting himself fully with his creation and being an indivisible part of it is through the reincarnation of souls which after all as said in the Gita are his own reincarnated essence that neither acts nor is responsible for any karma but acting in the human body run by the ego as a counsellor and guide the conscience in man.

This concept of the soul is quite different from the Judaic Christian or Islamic ones. There it is not the material ego but the spiritual entity they call the ‘soul’ which is active not inactive and certainly not a divine essence but one that is responsible for all good and bad deeds in material life and therefore subject to judgement at the end of a life and a place either in heaven hell or purgatory. In their concept the only difference between the human persona and the soul is that in the one case it is material and alive and in the other  matter transformed into spirit the same entity just with change in form but liable equally to judgement. The soul is no godly essence merely a spiritual aspect of the persona of a being assuming such a form after life.

In Hinduism the soul is God incarnate incapable of no  sin or karma a guiding light within, a beacon to god. The Gita calls it inconceivable, a marvel, a wonder, and none know it. The Gita says that it is easier to visualise God through meditation than access the soul within. The spirit of god is in every being and atom of creation whether spiritual or material.

The Buddhist concept does not speak of the soul as an essence of god within man as it does not talk about any super being like god at all. Neither do the Jains.

So we have the Hindu concept of the soul, the Judaic and the Buddhist/Jain concepts apart from the the New age mystical one which is close to the Hindu concept. My point is that they are inseparable because god is omnipresent in every aspect of both, being his divine dream. I wish to emphasise that the spirit world is not conversant with the material aspect of god and wishes to be through incarnation. the physical world equally is ignorant of the spiritual creation of God and seeks to access it through mysticism religion prayer and meditation.  The souls evolution is quite another matter and requires reincarnation, if you take the Hindu point of view of the soul.

In summary, God is ubiquitous, the soul is his essence, separated from him in the illusion of creation – he has diffused himself to understand his dream of creation. When the souls fully evolve they will join the ocean of godhead and become one with him again giving him full insight of his dream of creation.Till then they will reincarnate and evolve understanding matter and spirit and communicate that to godhead. Meanwhile his spiritual and material worlds will remain separate and seek to intensely communicate with one another the eternal dance of spirit with matter to get to know each other and finally conjoin as one to gods final satisfaction and understanding of his glorious dream.

kRISHNA EXPLAINING THE SOULS REALITY TO ARJUN IN THE GITA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asttrophytum Myriostigma – Star Plant

Since childhood Ive always had a fascination for the cactus. why I’m not clear but whenever i saw a cactus i would gaze at it for long observe its special architecture different from plants and wonder at how it survived. i always treated it as some kind of pet animal that had presence but didn’t move or make a fuss. As i grew older I examined this strange fascination. The cactus never asked for much, no daily water and strong in all weathers. It knew the art of survival. Nightly it would quietly absorb carbon di oxide, then as day dawned it would use it to photosynthesise with its fat succulent stems which stored water to produce its food. It hardly grew and had spines to ward off predators and catch the first morning dew drops in a desert with no water or rainfall, which would then trickle to its roots and quickly be absorbed in the fat succulent stems. What a wonder of a creature i would think. So self sufficient and self reliant sitting still like a yogi in meditation. It did grow imperceptibly thickening its water filled stems protected by a waxy coat to prevent water loss, always looking plump and happy never withering like other plants with neglect. Its architectural contours were perfect round with pretty shapely stems and the spines. In many cases these spines looked purely ornamental than to ward off people. I loved my little cactus and daily gazed at it trying to communicate to its desert soul. If you water a cactus daily it will die. Its that kind of strong hardy plant that does not like pampering. So I would give it sunlight not keeping it on my desk table and water  once a week. It thrived and grew. Like a fat pumpkin. Im sure it was aware of my loving presence. Then one surprising day i noticed a protuberance at the top, a kind of boil. As i watched daily it grew into a thick bud quite out of keeping with its general make up of stems and spines. It assumed a brighter green colour and finally the bud grown real big burst into flower, my happiest moment. no small flower but a lotus like big single flower red and yellow and bigger than the cactus. a miracle of nature. It said to me I’m happy and sexy. The flower remained for a month before it had done its purpose and fertilised its ovum, then it dried and fell away. The happy cactus then grew fast and became double its usual size. It was for me always like a dear pet.

Then I began my crazy pursuit of other cacti. I went to distant nurseries to collect all species and brought them home. My family thought i had gone crazy. Opuntias with yellow and white thorns, with a character of their own, succulents of all kinds and my favourites the globular spineless ornamental type. My favourite was the Astropfytum Miriostigma translated as starplant with several dots. It was a grey blue smooth stemmed plant with few spines and a myriad pretty dots on its sexy fleshy stems which were parted in four. Then one of the Opuntias taught me a lesson. my vision suddenly blurred. The eye doctor said you have a ‘thief’ in your eye. One of the hairlike spines had travelled and implanted itself in my cornea. He surgically removed it and said i had better get rid of the Opuntias. so i did.

Then decades later in my retirement i saw some globular cacti in a nursery and brought two as pets. They give me no end of pleasure. A mystic astrologer remarked, these are not just plants but souls so you better look out. Its not considered auspicious to keep them. I didn’t care, if they are souls they must be the friendly type.

Some of my favourites:

A poem inspired by my unusual fascination for these plants:

                                          THE  CACTUS

Halls of ochre butcher as they chase

One drop.

Not one insect spared but splits

In parching,

Sound of dry grass crackling,

Eyes thaw in ochre dust.

Like a dwarf sits the cactus.

Awkward limbs but affection in the interior,

Soft pulpy green-walled translucency

Where the moisture drips.

But without,

Its challenged thorn-lusty prurience grapples

With the desert’s grip.

Hate is an outer armour,

Love’s moisture is in the stem

And there is proof for when

The desert awakens in the rain,

Bulbs of chlorophyll

Explode in monsoon blooms

The milk pulp making fissures on the ragged skin;

Blood red hues, hibiscus violet

Flowers fed on milk. Then

How large the hidden heart

Bandaged in bristling brutality

For survival.

And now is the time of seed’s revival;

Another need brings the dwarf’s art.

 

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