Book Review: Bhakti Sans Religion

Author: Mallikarjun B. Mulimani

Publisher: Leadstart Publishing

Price: Rs 150

Pages: 138

Rating: * * * ½

Review By: Keyur Seta

 
Is money enough to guarantee contentment? Can you achieve peace without faith and love? Is it necessary to have a religious tag to attain spiritual enlightenment? How important it is to forgive ourselves?

Author Mallikarjun B. Mulimani has explored these questions in his spiritual novel, Bhakti Sans Religion. The book is more like a pleasing ride that enlightens and overwhelms you and at the same time, keeps you engaged.

It tells the fictional tale of two individuals from diverse parts of the world. Hailing from the US, Christine is a lawyer who is deeply in love with her profession. Her super successful stint in the legal world is dream-like. But deep inside there’s a void that needs to be filled.

Bhakti-Sans-Religion
Picture: Leadstart official website

Rudra’s rise from extreme poverty to the high ranks of corporate world is almost miraculous. But his life is far from perfect. Destiny brings Christine and Rudra together. Will they find answers to the serious questions lurking in their minds?

The title of the book, Bhakti Sans Religion, sounds too philosophical. That is not quite the case with the content though. Of course, there is enlightenment and the exploration of a lot of deep questions. The manner in which faith and love is created in two individuals is convincing. People from urban areas who are only involved in work would surely be able to relate with the tale.

But the book can also be enjoyed by those interested in fiction and are not much into spirituality. The fast pace and the very short length makes it appealing to a larger audience. Although the character of guruji is that of a spiritual preacher, he is entertaining. What’s also pleasantly surprising is the romantic angle, which is truly heartwarming.

However, the following points fall in the negative zone:-

– The story of Christine in the first 38 pages is narrated too hurriedly. The author should have been more elaborate during the important life events of the character. Also, in these portions the writing is too simplistic at times.

– It’s good to have shorter books in today’s era. But this one should have been at least a bit lengthier. Elaborating Christine’s story would have helped in this aspect too.

– There is slight lack of conviction on a couple of occasions (can’t reveal much to avoid spoiler).

Overall: Bhakti Sans Religion has its heart at the right place. It’s an honest, well-intentioned saga that is enlightening and heartwarming.

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Short Story: What is the true meaning of worshiping God?

By: Keyur Seta

People worship various Gods in various ways. There are innumerable theories and beliefs as to how to worship God and what pleases him/her the most. Some go through various austerities while others believe in saying a silent prayer for few seconds. But what exactly is the meaning of true worship? What pleases God the most?

Have a look at the following two scenarios and decide for yourself:-

1)

Mr X is a super-rich industrialist, living in the plush Cuffe Parade locality of south Mumbai. His family, which consists of his wife, two kids and mother, has access to all the luxuries one could imagine. His kids go to the most expensive school in the city. Buying new clothes, gadgets, accessories and what not is a continuous process for them. His family just needs a reason to throw parties that cost lakhs of rupees.

Mr X’s family is also very religious. They have a chamber in their apartment where they perform religious activities twice daily, without fail. His family religiously follows and celebrates all holy days and festivals as per the religious calendar. They are also seen embarking to holy places at least 4-5 times each year. Needless to say, they spend a bomb in religious activities too.

2)

Swami-VivekanandaLiving in the Girgaum area of south Mumbai, Mr Y hails from a simple middle-class family. He is a bank executive in a bank while his wife works with an insurance company. Naturally, their income falls in the average category. Their only child goes to a normal private school. Although Mr and Mrs Y believe in God, they aren’t ritualistic. They hardly visit places of worship and never go for holy trips.

Despite the fact that they don’t earn handsomely, the couple has been saving money since a year to contribute to the needy farmers of the Marathwada district, who are committing suicide due to drought and debt. They also involve themselves in various social issues selflessly whenever they get a chance.

So, the question arises as to who exactly is worshiping God here? Family X or family Y?

You decide.

Actors Nana Patekar and Makarand Anaspure have been selflessly working towards the cause of farmers of Maharashtra. They have been contributing from their own pocketss despite not being rich. They have started an NGO called NAM Foundation.

You can contribute any amount that suits you by following the following method:-

Send in your amount to “NAM Foundation”

SBI Current account no. 35226127148

IFSC Code no. SBIN0006319

SWIFT Code no. SBININBB238

 

“If a stray dog of my country remains without food, my religion will be to feed and take care of him. All else is either non-religion of false religion.”

“He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva. And if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary.”

– Swami Vivekananda

Shani Shingnapur Row: Why April 7 was a landmark day for Gender Equality in India?

By: Keyur Seta

The scene of Trupti Desai and other women activists entering the inner sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple was pure delight for those who care about gender equality in India.

Weeks of relentless protests despite police and administration brutality have finally paid off. After 400 long years, women were finally allowed inside the inner sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple. The so-called trustees had to finally bow down to the dedication of protestors.

Shani-ShingnapurDespite the law being equal for both and the recent Bombay High Court order assuring the same, women weren’t allowed in the inner sanctum due to some atrocious and chauvinistic beliefs (not tradition). But the theories of sexist bigots are finally kicked out! Seriously, throwing away a practice as old as 400 years is a terrific achievement.

April 7, 2016 was a landmark day for gender equality in India. A big salute to all those women who kept on fighting. For the uninitiated, Desai and many others like her have been protesting near the temple against such discrimination. Despite brutalities from police, administration and chauvinistic villagers, they didn’t give up. Seriously, many of us would have.

But the road ahead is still very long. There are countless self-proclaimed dharam ke thekedaars aka sexist bigots and their so-called theories that still are against women visiting certain religious places, despite no law or religious text stopping them. The Trambakeshwar Temple in Nashik and Mumbai’s Haji Ali dargah are few such examples.

However, there has at least been a start. May this be a stepping stone towards complete gender equality in India.
Watch women devotees entering the inner sanctum after 400 years:-

They were busy celebrating Holi. What happened next will melt your heart… (Short story)

By: Keyur Seta

“Will it be Happy Holi for us this year?” The six-year-old girl with two ponytails asked her mom in a sad tone. The mother was dying to answer in the affirmative but she couldn’t lie. All she could do was caress the little one’s head. She tried hiding their helplessness through a fake smile, not sure whether it would work… It didn’t. Her husband didn’t know what to say.

Few hundred kilometers away in Mumbai, a group of college kids were having the time of their lives at a Holi party in a resort in the Juhu area. Water was flowing almost as freely as air. Although their bodies were drenched, they were asking for more, with the ear-splitting DJ music taking them further into a trance.

Each one of them had planned the day long ago. They were lucky enough to be there since one was required to book in advance, despite being ready to shell out a huge amount. This was inclusive of Bhaang or liquor. There were some in the crowd who were crazily high despite not having taken any of these substances.

Marathwada-drought
Picture: Saddahaq.com

Just then, something out of the blue, took all of them aback. The water stopped flowing. Loud sighs and abuses were being heard. After making some enquiries with the staff, they realized that it was due to some issue between the resort and the municipal corporation of the city.

But the youngsters were not ready to take any of this. The abuses continued. “Such a flop Holi this turned out to be,” said one. “It’s terrible,” said another. A loud voice was heard, “It’s not a Happy Holi anymore. It’s unhappy Holi.”

Few hundred kilometers away in Marathwada district, a woman was seated under a banyan tree. Its leaves had dried off due to the terrible drought. But it had enough to protect her from the scorching heat. It was yet another day her family would be forced to live without water; rather survive.

With wells drying off, they were solely dependent on water tankers provided by the government, which arrived once a week. It was scheduled to come that day. But unfortunately, the villagers were been given a shattering news that the state transporters had gone onto a strike. There would be no water.

The woman knew that the rest of the country would be busy wasting water in the name of Holi while wishing each other, “Happy Holi.” Before the bad news was broken, she had told her husband, “If we get a decent amount of water for our basic use, that itself would mean a Happy Holi to us.” But that was not to be.

When the three of them were sitting helpless, her six-year-old daughter with ponytails asked, “Will it be Happy Holi for us this year?” The mother was dying to answer in the affirmative but she couldn’t lie. All she could do was caress her little one’s head. She tried hiding their helplessness through a fake smile, not sure whether it would work… It didn’t.

She looked away from her child as she couldn’t bear the sight of her dejected face. Just as she turned away, her eyes fell on the faraway road. The scene instantly brought a smile of relief on her face. She turned to her daughter and said, “It is a Happy Holi for us.”

As she lifted her up and walked towards the road, the tanker came nearer. The strike was called off just few moments ago.

When Ramakrishna monks recited Bible on Christmas eve…

By: Keyur Seta

Christmas Eve is an important occasion at all Ramakrishna Mission centers across the world. It was on December 24 in the year 1886 when Swami Vivekananda, then known as Narendra Nath Datta, and his brother disciples acquired monasticism (Brahmacharya).

Ramakrishna-Mission-ChristmasThey later established the the first Ramakrishna Mission center at Belur in Kolkata, named after their Guru Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. The place is known as the Belur Math. In other words, Swami Vivekananda’s mission towards inspiring and serving humanity began on Christmas Eve.

Therefore, every Christmas Eve is celebrated in a unique way at every Ramakrishna Mission centers. Catholic Priests are specially invited for the occasion.

The scenes were the same this year too at the Mumbai math. As per the scheduled rituals, the event started off with Jesus Aarti. This was followed by the recitation of The Holy Bible by Swami Mukteshanandaji. After a speech by Swami Sarvalokanandaji, Father Philip D’Souza gave a discourse on Christmas and the need for harmony.

Lastly, Swami Kamalakantandaji and party sang Christmas Carols and the closing song.

Merry Christmas to one and all 🙂

christmas-ramakrishna
Jesus Aarti during last year’s celebrations

 

Book Review: The Rozabal Line


Rating:
* * * ½

Review By: Keyur Seta

Even before the halfway stage in The Rozabal Line, you realize that Ashwin Sanghi’s knowledge about various religions, conspiracy theories related to some religions and other global issues is simply outstanding. This coupled with his amazing writing and storytelling skills make The Rozabal Line a roller-coaster theological saga, despite some glaring issues.

The story takes place across continents and time zones. In 2006, Father Vincent Sinclair, an American Priest, starts seeing weird visions after a tragic incident. His aunt Martha helps him decode them through her knowledge of Indian spiritualism and mysticism. Swakilki, a young and beautiful Japanese woman, has been serially killing people across the world. She is following the orders of Alberto Cardinal Valerio, head of Crux Decussata Permuta in Vatican City.

Picture: Flipkart
Picture: Flipkart

The Lashkar-e-Talatashar, an arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has vowed to create havoc in the world. Ghalib, their leader, and his 12 subordinates have planned something dangerously sinister in the year 2012. Their fate has striking resemblance with Jesus Christ and his 12 Apostles. How these unrelated characters cross paths forms the rest of the story. The book also explores the theory of Jesus’ connection with India.

Like all good thrillers, The Rozabal Line keeps you hooked from the very first page. As the story moves back and forth, from the period of B.C to 2012, it not only increases your excitement but it also gets you in awe of Sanghi’s vision, imagination and knowledge. To narrate your tale in 100 different time zones and various places is a mammoth task for anyone. Plus, Sanghi’s smart mixture of rich and simple language further helps the cause.

Reincarnation is a major ingredient in the story. But it should be noted how the author has presented that aspect in a practical and mature manner. In fact, after going through the reincarnation process mentioned here, you might laugh at how Bollywood has presented this subject.

But The Rozabal Line is far from being truly superlative. Although the climax provides a spiritually enlightening feeling, you realize that various subplots, characters and incidents were unnecessary. Even the basic aim of the tale appears unclear. There is an overdose of information, which is confusing and difficult to keep track, especially since the focus keeps moving through these many time zones. It makes us feel as if the author wanted to flaunt his terrific knowledge.

Having said this, there are enough reasons to grab The Rozabal Line if you are a lover of thriller novels.

Author: Ashwin Sanghi

Publishers: Westland Ltd.

Pages: 346

Genre: Theological Thriller

Original Price: Rs. 295 (Reduced rates on Flipkart & Amazon.)

This beautiful video will force you to question everything around you!

It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words. Going by this logic, a moving picture should speak many more than thousand words. This holds true at least for the video below. It is a fusion footage from movies Samsara (2011) and Baraka (1992). It will force you to question everything that the world and we ourselves are doing in our lives.

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See it for yourself:-