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HPI, February 27, 2007

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  • Yogacharya Dr.Ananda Bhavanani
    February 27, 2007 Musical Couple Popularizes Baul Singing BBC Videos On Hinduism Hindu Voice UK Editorial on Groups Who Don t Want to Use the Word Hindu 1.
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2007

      Hindu Press International
      February 27, 2007

      1. Musical Couple Popularizes Baul Singing

      KOLKATA, INDIA, February 27, 2007: They live in the heart of a cacophonous megapolis but the music they make smells of the soil of rural Bengal in all its sylvan splendor. Walk down a narrow south Kolkata lane of Jadavpur to meet the happening baul couple of Utpal Fakir and Sahajma whose impassioned "Allah Meherban Khuda, Khuda Meherban" took the musical world by storm in percussionist Bikram Ghosh's fusion Bengali folk album Folktale. "Both of us are from Kolkata but chose to tread a different musical path - a path not so easy since we travelled widely in villages and faced immense hardship to be with the wandering minstrels in rural Bengal and learn from them the real ethos of Baul tradition and music," said 38-year-old Sahajma, clad in the traditional Baul color.

      While Sahajma sings, her husband Fakir, in his mid 40s, writes the songs and composes the music. Sahajma is a history graduate from the city's St Xavier's College and Fakir did his m asters in Bengali. Both changed their real names in keeping with the Baul nomenclature. "I was into classical music and a pupil of M R Gautam and Sunanda Patnaik of Vishnu Digambar gharana. My husband has learnt under Pratima Kar, a student of Alauddin Khan. But my marriage to Utpal Fakir introduced me to Baul music and I realized that I belong to this genre," Sahajma told IANS. "Music came to me from my parents, but in classical I did not find what I found in Baul," said Sahajma. "I travelled with my husband and realized the depth of Baul music. Their sense of melody, rhythm and notations is absolutely mind-boggling. So we decided to research it and then we combined classical, Asomiya (Assamese), Jhoomar and south Indian tunes with Baul to give the audience something new," explained Sahajma.

      Bauls, a group of saffron-clad mystic minstrels from West Bengal and Bangladesh, constitute both a syncretic religious sect and a musical tradition used as a vehicle to express the liberal Baul thought and philosophy. The heterogeneous group, with many different streams to the sect, can often be identified by their distinctive clothes and monochord musical instruments like the ektara. The origin of the word Baul is debated. It has been suggested that it comes either from Sanskrit batul, meaning divinely inspired insanity; or byakul, meaning fervently eager. Whatever their origin, Baul thought has mixed elements of Tantra, Sufi Islam, Vaishnavism and Buddhism. It is thought to have been influenced by the Hindu tantric sect of the Kartabhajas as well as Tantric Buddhist schools like the Sahajia. Though Bauls comprise only a small fraction of the Bengali population, their influence on the culture of Bengal is considerable. Recently, even the US-funded HIV/AIDS campai gn in rural Bengal took the help of these wandering minstrels.

      2. BBC Videos On Hinduism

      LONDON, ENGLAND, February 27, 2007: This URL has four short videos on Hinduism posted in 2006 and 2007: the Ardh Kumbh Mela, vegetarianism, Hindu teaching in school and a Hindu businessman on his religion.

      The vegetarianism video is quite effective for a simple production. It was made by the youth group of the Dudley Mandir. Teaching Hinduism in school is a comparison of what English children know about Hinduism with what their parents know--with the parents coming up short. The last is a touching story of what Hinduism came to mean to a business man after the death of his father. The Mela video is too short for the subject and focused more on Ganga pollution than the event.

      3. Hindu Voice UK Editorial on Groups Who Don't Want to Use the Word "Hindu"

      LONDON, ENGLAND, February 27, 2007: Anish Shah analyses the psychology behind the widespread tendency of many Hindu-inspired spiritual or yoga groups to vehemently deny any connections with Hinduism:

      When I was asked to write this article for Hindu Voice, I struggled to think of how I could start it off. So I'll start with a conversation I had a couple of years ago while on holiday in California. While there, I went to a charity cultural show type thing organized by the local Hindu community and after the main event there was a dinner and a collection of stalls for various organizations to showcase their work, raise funds and get new members. There was one which caught my attention because it had a group of three people dressed up in white gowns and tilaks on their heads which gave them the look of holy people who might have just walked out of a mandir on the banks of the Ganga. More surprising to me was that two of the people were actually white Americans and so to me looked even more out of place at this gathering. The third was an American-born Indian guy and it was with him that I started talking. He explained to me that his organization was a worldwide organization, which had worked for many years to teach yoga and mediation to help people lead a stress-free and peaceful life. What's more, they teach for free and to anyone who wants to learn. The conversation moved on and I asked what other parts of Hinduism interested him and were taught by his group but even before I had finished he looked at me as if I had insulted his mother. "We do not teach Hinduism, we are universal," he said to me, "we do not restrict ourselves to Hinduism." Now I'm not an argumentative person but I couldn't resist pointing out that he was at an event organized by the Hindu community, that virtually everyone approaching his stall was either a Hindu or interested in Hinduism, that he was dressed in traditional Hindu dress, with tradition al Hindu sacred markings on his skin, that his group had a Hindu sounding name and that what he was offering to teach was an ancient Hindu practice and art whose ultimate aim is help the individual on the path to union with everything (or "God" some people might prefer). But this just made him angrier (so much for the anger control that his universal spiritual practice should have given him) and he insisted that all I was doing was restricting yoga by "labeling" it Hindu. Since then I have met other members of the "Brahma Kumari" group here in the UK and heard similar things as soon as you ask if they are teaching parts of Hinduism.

      But it turns out that this way of thinking is more widespread than just one group. Most "gurus" who come here to the West also tell their students that they are not teaching them anything which is "Hinduism." Try asking your local Yoga teacher and see what the response is. It goes for gurus teaching more than Yoga - even more "spiritua l" teachers will say that they are not teaching "Hinduism" but something else. Another famous example of this is Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON or the Hare Krishnas, who said many times that he was not teaching "Hinduism." This has led to a lot of confusion for many people who become Hare Krishnas because they are not always quite sure if they are Hindus or not. Don't take my word for it - next time you meet a Brahma Kumari or ISKCON member try asking yourself about the "Hindu"-ness of their teachings.

      Another place where the "H"-word is avoided is in the commercial publishing world. Again most Yoga books won't mention any Hindu connection. A famous example of this is the writer Dipak Chopra who has made millions of dollars selling Hindu spirituality in America without mentioning the roots of where his teachings come from. He is also an adviser to Virgin Comics who have recently marketed a series of Hindu-based comics without actually mentioning the "H"-word. What these people do sometimes (but not always) concede is that they are i nspired by "traditional Indian" or "ancient Indian" stories, teachings and history.

      Actually, I have met lots of ordinary Hindus who always tell their non-Hindu friends that they are "Indians" when asked about their background or when asked more specifically about religion will say something like "my parents are Hindus" or "I am spiritual, not really 'religious'." Now I'm not saying any of this is lying or false but it does contrast with my Muslim and Sikh friends who always answer with their religion when asked about their identity.

      So the question really is: why is the "H"-word so bad? Most people who fall into the groups I have described so far sometimes tend to argue as follows: "Hindu" is a foreign word so doesn't really describe us. That's true - the actual word "Hindu" is non-Hindu in origin, but then so is the word "Indian" and is derived from the word "Hindu" anyway, so is that really any better?

      Digging deeper, you find that another reason that a lot of Hindus or Hindu-influenced people do not acknowledge Hinduism is because the word "Hindu" itself has become a dirty word. "Hindu" has become associated with anything which (other) people see as negative - for example: polytheism, idol worship, caste, poverty, extremism, weakness, conservatism - but that anything positive - for example: art, yoga, conservation, tolerance, pluralism, music, dance, spirituality - is seen as separate from "Hinduism." This article isn't about the various negative things associated with Hinduism which need discussion elsewhere but obviously it is unfair to only look at one side of the story.

      Communist historians, politicians and intellectuals in India are also quite prominent in claiming that they are not Hindus and that Hinduism hasn't really contributed much to India. In fact, they go a step further and have championed the notion that Hinduism doesn't even originate in India but from somewhere else. However, this is one group that we shouldn't be too surprised about as they have also at the forefront of telling the one-sided negative story of "Hinduism." Sometimes non-Indians just love India too much to be taken in by all this negativity fed to them by these Indian born people with Hindu-sounding names but that's usually the best time to tell them that everything they love is not "Hindu" but "Indian."

      One group which has at least recognized the Hindu origin of Yoga has been the Catholic Church which has long discouraged all of it's followers from taking up what they perceive as an evil and Pagan practice. Many extremist Christians in America have also condemned Yoga because they see it as Hindu. Other Christian groups have recognized that yoga is too popular and the yoga-banners too mad for that argument to work. So instead they have come up with "Christian-Yoga" which believers can now practice without having to incur the sin of taking up Paganism.

      So everywhere you look, you'll see that the people who teach and make a living from Hindu teachings are ashamed of the Hindu roots. Even individuals seem to be ashamed of their Hindu roots. And ironically, the only people who are willing to accept the Hindu origin of teachings and practices such as Yoga are the ones who do not like those practices anyway. So the formula is simple - pick something you hate and call it "Hindu," pick something you like and call it "better than Hinduism." And eventually you get the ridiculous situation where you can have "Christian Yoga" but you can't find "Hindu Yoga" anywhere or even just "Yoga" where the Hindu origin is acknowledged.

      Ultimately I guess every Hindu reading this needs to ask how they themselves see "Hinduism" and the word "Hindu." To me it represents not just the heritage of my parents and all my ancestors but represents the oldest living tradition in the world today. It represents an unequalled richness in literat ure, art, architecture and history. It represents a culture of scholars and ascetics who would not even put their own names to their teachings, a culture of warriors who fought bravely in the face of all sorts of enemies and brutalities to ensure the survival of Hinduism when her sister civilizations died one after another. It represents a constantly evolving society which has always moved and renewed itself and has always been an open, tolerant and pluralist society. It represents a wisdom which belongs to everyone, which has benefited the world in the past, benefits the world today and will continue to benefit the world in future long after we are all dead. It represents this and a whole lot more and to me all of these are positive things and therefore to be called "Hindu" should be a matter of pride and honor for anyone, not the swearword some people see it as.

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      Yogacharya Dr.Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani  www.icyer.com www.geocities.com/yognat2001/ananda  ICYER,Tamil Nadu 605104  Tel: 91-413-2622902,91-413-2241561


      Yogacharya Dr.Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
      Chairman : Yoganjali Natyalayam and ICYER
      Hon General Secretary, Pondicherry Yogasana Association
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