Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why is Obama's Christianity Such A Big Deal?

I recently read an article on CNN's Belief Blog which stated that only a third of Americans believe that their President is Christian. Nearly one in five Americans think that Obama is a Muslim. I have been pondering over this issue for quite some time now.

The White House asserts that the President is indeed a Christian, emphasizing on Obama's relationship with his church. The article from the CNN blog concluded with an opinion from a Florida evangelical who is frequently in touch with the President -The Rev Joel Hunter suggests that perhaps, "the White House should be a little more public about what the President does to be an active Christian."

I wonder why religion is such a public issue. After all shouldn't it be a matter of faith between you and your Maker? What is the need for someone, the President included, to convince others of their faith? Why is religion the eye of many political storms today? I simply fail to understand why such a big deal is made about religion. Sure, my faith in my religion is what keeps me going. That doesn't mean I need to convince everyone that I am a good Hindu. And on a different note, what exactly is the problem if Obama is indeed a Muslim? Does that make him in any way less qualified for the White House? Does that make him a terrorist? Does it make him unfit to be President? Does it mean he ceases to be 'American'?

It's high time people realize that faith is a deeply private issue, something involving only you and your trust in God, whatever name you call Him by. It is not meant to be made into a spectacle. It is not something to fight over. And it certainly isn't something you convince others about your identity...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Humility

A dear friend of mine always says, "There's a thin line between self confidence and arrogance". Although the difference between the two is subtle, it is not difficult to analyze whether a person is just self confident or simply over confident. Through the years, I have realized that whilst confidence is a sine quo non for success, it needs to be tempered with humility. Clichéd as it may be, pride indeed goes before a fall.

Humility doesn't mean that you become meek and submissive. It means that you are willing to listen to other peoples' points of view. It means you are willing to acknowledge that you could be wrong. It means that you can treat success and failure just the same. Humility enables a person to accept defeat with grace as well as acknowledge success without conceit. Above all, it shows strength of character. I am reminded of a beautiful verse I read from one of the many 'Our Daily Bread' booklets at home:

"Blessed Saviour, make us humble,
Take away our sinful pride;
In ourselves we're sure to stumble,
Help us stay close by Your side." -- D. De Haan


Monday, November 15, 2010

Little Things in Life

Well, I am supposed to be hard at work. But I couldn't resist blogging about this ;so I'll keep this post short and crisp. I just received an email from Sadhana, about whom I've written quite a number of times. It was a sweet message, written with all the innocence of an eight year old. The main purpose was to inform me that her birthday falls this week. Haha! And then she says, "Keep smiling". I am so touched that she still remembers me!
I don't know why but suddenly I feel as if there's a solution to any problem. Optimism is so infectious! I know it sounds terribly naive. But then I guess little things in life do count! And they definitely make a huge difference! I cannot believe that I am actually grinning as I return to my world of studies, studies and even more studies...
Thank you Sadhana for the little things in life! Thank you for inspiring me! :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Free at last!

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is free at last! The military junta in Burma finally agreed to release Suu Kyi after 15 years of house arrest. 15 years of being cut away from the rest of the world, 15 years of struggle. She refused to succumb to pressure from the junta and held steadfast to her dream for her nation.

Yes, her dream and that of millions in Burma hasn't been fulfilled yet. But this is surely a harbinger a hope. Once again the world has proved to us that struggles are not futile, although it may seem as if it's never going to be realized. Moses and his people struggled for forty years in the wilderness before they reached the promised Holy Land. India struggled for nearly a century before she achieved independence from the traders-turned-invaders. Nelson Mandela struggled in Robin Island for 27 years before apartheid was abolished and his dream became a reality. History teaches us time and again that no matter what, struggles always win at the end of the day.

Forgive me if I sound naive, but it's just a matter of time before the light of democracy replaces the darkness of dictatorship in the land of the Shwedagon. As the poet says, "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dawn



Dawn. The most splendid time of the day. The glittering stars of the night slowly fade into the backdrop of the vast unconquered skies. A new day stealthily makes its way across the dark horizon. The pitch black of the sky slowly turns dark blue...purple. Slowly, it fades into pink, till the birth of a new day is marked by the sunrise, declared by the chirp of the early birds... And so it goes... dawn to dusk. Dusk to dawn... Dawn represents new hope for me. The beginning of a new day, a fresh start. Optimism and zest for life.

According to Hindu belief, dawn is brahmamuhurtha, a time of immense spiritual significance. No wonder I always found it easier to concentrate on work during those wee hours of the morning! I started this practice quite a number of years ago. Having spent nearly seven years in the Middle East, dawn for me was always marked by the call of the muezzin, calling the faithful for the fajr prayers. It's funny but this is one of the many aspects of life that I miss now.

I soon discovered that it wasn't easy to wake before the sun at a place like NUS. No matter how many alarms I kept, I always seem to sleep through them! Today was an exception. I finally beat not only the alarms but also the sun. Yayyy!! More than being able to utilize my time in a more productive manner, watching dawn made me more optimistic. Reminded me of the song "When you believe" from The Prince of Egypt. "Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill...". Looking at it from a grander level, I also think of our own insignificance in this universe. As the poet Rumi would say, "Who are we in this complicated world?".

Here's to dawn and hope! :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Of Happiness and "Happons"


I just attended the last leg of lectures for this semester. My macroeconomics prof was explaining to us about shifts in the concepts of the Production Possibility Curve. While explaining the different combination of products that could be manufactured, his discussion moved to which combination is more prosperous, thereby making the economy happier. In order to make it easier, he told us to assume that happiness could be measured in terms of "happons".

Later I began thinking about what is happiness. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am becoming slightly disillusioned with the idea of worldly success. Oh yes, graduating top of the class and getting a top job that gives you a six figure salary is indeed a good idea. Not that I wouldn't want that, of course! It's just that am wondering if that is what happiness is all about? Surely there is more to it?

Like all other things, they also come to an end one day. In our tradition, after prayers, we have a custom of wearing holy ash (vibhuti) on the forehead. Just to remind ourselves that everything will perish one day. Fame and friends, kith and kin, wealth and riches... simply everything. I realize that this does sound pessimistic. But then how can we be happy with our existence in such a temporary world, where everything is teased by cruel maya? I think the key to this issue is to just remain happy throughout, regardless of the circumstances. Abandon this mad chase for something that you believe will bring you happiness.

I think we should just learn to let go. Not think about achieving happiness. Instead spend every moment believing that you are indeed happy. I recollect an incident where I forgot to wish my uncle on his birthday. So the next day I called him and apologized for missing his birthday. He said, "Every day is a celebration! So why apologize?". (Vasantha valiacha, if you're reading this, I want you to know that I truly cherish that conversation :)) Thus the moment is now, I guess. Just be happy, wherever you are, whatever situation. Life's so short anyway. It doesn't make much sense to do anything else, haha!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why is Obama's Christianity Such A Big Deal?

I recently read an article on CNN's Belief Blog which stated that only a third of Americans believe that their President is Christian. Nearly one in five Americans think that Obama is a Muslim. I have been pondering over this issue for quite some time now.

The White House asserts that the President is indeed a Christian, emphasizing on Obama's relationship with his church. The article from the CNN blog concluded with an opinion from a Florida evangelical who is frequently in touch with the President -The Rev Joel Hunter suggests that perhaps, "the White House should be a little more public about what the President does to be an active Christian."

I wonder why religion is such a public issue. After all shouldn't it be a matter of faith between you and your Maker? What is the need for someone, the President included, to convince others of their faith? Why is religion the eye of many political storms today? I simply fail to understand why such a big deal is made about religion. Sure, my faith in my religion is what keeps me going. That doesn't mean I need to convince everyone that I am a good Hindu. And on a different note, what exactly is the problem if Obama is indeed a Muslim? Does that make him in any way less qualified for the White House? Does that make him a terrorist? Does it make him unfit to be President? Does it mean he ceases to be 'American'?

It's high time people realize that faith is a deeply private issue, something involving only you and your trust in God, whatever name you call Him by. It is not meant to be made into a spectacle. It is not something to fight over. And it certainly isn't something you convince others about your identity...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Humility

A dear friend of mine always says, "There's a thin line between self confidence and arrogance". Although the difference between the two is subtle, it is not difficult to analyze whether a person is just self confident or simply over confident. Through the years, I have realized that whilst confidence is a sine quo non for success, it needs to be tempered with humility. Clichéd as it may be, pride indeed goes before a fall.

Humility doesn't mean that you become meek and submissive. It means that you are willing to listen to other peoples' points of view. It means you are willing to acknowledge that you could be wrong. It means that you can treat success and failure just the same. Humility enables a person to accept defeat with grace as well as acknowledge success without conceit. Above all, it shows strength of character. I am reminded of a beautiful verse I read from one of the many 'Our Daily Bread' booklets at home:

"Blessed Saviour, make us humble,
Take away our sinful pride;
In ourselves we're sure to stumble,
Help us stay close by Your side." -- D. De Haan


Monday, November 15, 2010

Little Things in Life

Well, I am supposed to be hard at work. But I couldn't resist blogging about this ;so I'll keep this post short and crisp. I just received an email from Sadhana, about whom I've written quite a number of times. It was a sweet message, written with all the innocence of an eight year old. The main purpose was to inform me that her birthday falls this week. Haha! And then she says, "Keep smiling". I am so touched that she still remembers me!
I don't know why but suddenly I feel as if there's a solution to any problem. Optimism is so infectious! I know it sounds terribly naive. But then I guess little things in life do count! And they definitely make a huge difference! I cannot believe that I am actually grinning as I return to my world of studies, studies and even more studies...
Thank you Sadhana for the little things in life! Thank you for inspiring me! :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Free at last!

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is free at last! The military junta in Burma finally agreed to release Suu Kyi after 15 years of house arrest. 15 years of being cut away from the rest of the world, 15 years of struggle. She refused to succumb to pressure from the junta and held steadfast to her dream for her nation.

Yes, her dream and that of millions in Burma hasn't been fulfilled yet. But this is surely a harbinger a hope. Once again the world has proved to us that struggles are not futile, although it may seem as if it's never going to be realized. Moses and his people struggled for forty years in the wilderness before they reached the promised Holy Land. India struggled for nearly a century before she achieved independence from the traders-turned-invaders. Nelson Mandela struggled in Robin Island for 27 years before apartheid was abolished and his dream became a reality. History teaches us time and again that no matter what, struggles always win at the end of the day.

Forgive me if I sound naive, but it's just a matter of time before the light of democracy replaces the darkness of dictatorship in the land of the Shwedagon. As the poet says, "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dawn



Dawn. The most splendid time of the day. The glittering stars of the night slowly fade into the backdrop of the vast unconquered skies. A new day stealthily makes its way across the dark horizon. The pitch black of the sky slowly turns dark blue...purple. Slowly, it fades into pink, till the birth of a new day is marked by the sunrise, declared by the chirp of the early birds... And so it goes... dawn to dusk. Dusk to dawn... Dawn represents new hope for me. The beginning of a new day, a fresh start. Optimism and zest for life.

According to Hindu belief, dawn is brahmamuhurtha, a time of immense spiritual significance. No wonder I always found it easier to concentrate on work during those wee hours of the morning! I started this practice quite a number of years ago. Having spent nearly seven years in the Middle East, dawn for me was always marked by the call of the muezzin, calling the faithful for the fajr prayers. It's funny but this is one of the many aspects of life that I miss now.

I soon discovered that it wasn't easy to wake before the sun at a place like NUS. No matter how many alarms I kept, I always seem to sleep through them! Today was an exception. I finally beat not only the alarms but also the sun. Yayyy!! More than being able to utilize my time in a more productive manner, watching dawn made me more optimistic. Reminded me of the song "When you believe" from The Prince of Egypt. "Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill...". Looking at it from a grander level, I also think of our own insignificance in this universe. As the poet Rumi would say, "Who are we in this complicated world?".

Here's to dawn and hope! :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Of Happiness and "Happons"


I just attended the last leg of lectures for this semester. My macroeconomics prof was explaining to us about shifts in the concepts of the Production Possibility Curve. While explaining the different combination of products that could be manufactured, his discussion moved to which combination is more prosperous, thereby making the economy happier. In order to make it easier, he told us to assume that happiness could be measured in terms of "happons".

Later I began thinking about what is happiness. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am becoming slightly disillusioned with the idea of worldly success. Oh yes, graduating top of the class and getting a top job that gives you a six figure salary is indeed a good idea. Not that I wouldn't want that, of course! It's just that am wondering if that is what happiness is all about? Surely there is more to it?

Like all other things, they also come to an end one day. In our tradition, after prayers, we have a custom of wearing holy ash (vibhuti) on the forehead. Just to remind ourselves that everything will perish one day. Fame and friends, kith and kin, wealth and riches... simply everything. I realize that this does sound pessimistic. But then how can we be happy with our existence in such a temporary world, where everything is teased by cruel maya? I think the key to this issue is to just remain happy throughout, regardless of the circumstances. Abandon this mad chase for something that you believe will bring you happiness.

I think we should just learn to let go. Not think about achieving happiness. Instead spend every moment believing that you are indeed happy. I recollect an incident where I forgot to wish my uncle on his birthday. So the next day I called him and apologized for missing his birthday. He said, "Every day is a celebration! So why apologize?". (Vasantha valiacha, if you're reading this, I want you to know that I truly cherish that conversation :)) Thus the moment is now, I guess. Just be happy, wherever you are, whatever situation. Life's so short anyway. It doesn't make much sense to do anything else, haha!