Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Learning from the Story of the Woman Who Poured the Perfume on Jesus' Feet *

During the days of Jesus Christ, in the first half of the first century of the Common Era (CE), there lived an influential Jew named Simon in Jerusalem. He was a Pharisee and a halfhearted enthusiast in the teachings of Jesus. This Simon is not to be confused with the other Simon Peter who was a disciple of Jesus.

This influential Jew knew the social stigma and criticism that he might face from other influential Pharisees and wealthy Jews if he ever declared his partial attraction to Jesus.

Yet, he decided to invite Jesus and three of his disciples, Peter, James and John to his home for a social get together and meal because he was much impressed with Jesus’ personality and teachings.

Simon had other reasons also for inviting Jesus to his home. He was a wealthy Pharisee and the wealthy Pharisees of those days took much pleasure in publicly displaying their philanthropic acts of giving food to the poor people. Some Pharisees even blew a trumpet as they were about to give some alms to some beggar!

It was also a custom of these Pharisees to leave the doors of their house open when they provided a luncheon or a banquet for some distinguished guests. That was to allow the street beggars to come in and stand around the walls of the room behind the couches of the diners to receive portions of food that might be tossed to them by the privileged guests.

On this day when Simon invited Jesus and his disciples to his house for the meals, many others from the streets also came in, as usual.

Among the uninvited several from the streets, there was also a woman having a notorious past. This woman was well known throughout all Jerusalem as the former keeper of one of the so-called high-class brothels located very near to the court of the non-Jew people of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

But she had the opportunity to listen to the public discourses of Jesus in the past and she had become aware of her errors in life due to the teachings of Jesus. As a result, she had voluntarily closed up her nefarious place of business.  Having accepted the teachings of Jesus wholeheartedly in mind, she also became instrumental in influencing a good majority of her previous women associates to change their mode of living.

Yet she was not any acceptable one in the Jewish society and the influential Pharisees looked down her with utmost contempt. They still compelled her to wear her hair down as the badge of her previous taboo profession. 

When this woman came in to Simon’s house in the group of the poor on the day Simon made the arrangements for the banquet for Jesus and his three disciples, she brought with her a large flask of perfumed anointing lotion.

As Jesus, his disciples and his host reclined on the couch for eating the food; this woman approached Jesus and bent down to anoint Jesus’ feet with her perfumed lotion.

While doing this, she was also crying and her tears too fell and were wetting Jesus’ feet together with the perfumed lotion that she was pouring. Hers were the tears of gratitude she experienced in her innermost consciousness as she felt relieved from the erroneous life she had previously. This lowly human being had indeed found in Jesus some divine mercy and love that pacified and comforted her mind from remorse!

She wiped his feet with her long downed and untied hair. While doing so  she continued weeping and kissing the Master’s feet.

When the elitist host of Jesus saw all this, he thought like this:

“This man cannot be a prophet. Had he been one, he would have immediately perceived the kind of woman she is and he would not have allowed such a notorious sinner to touch him”.

Jesus could immediately sense the secret thought of his wealthy pseudo-puritanist. He told Simon like this:

“Simon, I would like to tell you a story.” Simon, hiding his inner feelings replied:

“Yes, teacher, I want to hear.” Then Jesus began to tell this for all there to hear:

“Once, there was a certain moneylender who had loaned 500 dinars to one and 50 dinars to another. But these two gentlemen could not repay their debts even after their agreed period. But the moneylender felt sympathy to both and decided to write off the debts of both. Simon, tell me, which one of the two, as per you, would feel much obliged to the moneylender?”

“I think, the 500 dinar one” Simon answered.  

“You guessed it right, Simon.” Jesus told and pointing towards the woman, he continued: 

“Simon, take a good look at this woman. I entered your house as an invited guest, yet you gave me no water for my feet. This grateful woman has washed my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of friendly greeting, but she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You neglected to anoint me with the perfumed oil, but she has anointed my feet with precious lotions. Simon, what do you think the meaning of all these? I tell you, her sins are all forgiven and that has led her to show all these gestures of gratitude. Those who receive a little forgiveness sometimes reciprocate only a little.”

Saying this Jesus turned around towards the woman, took her by the hand and lifting her up said further like this to her:

“You have indeed repented of your sins and they are forgiven. Do not be discouraged by the thoughtless and unkind attitude of your fellow beings. Go peacefully and feel the joy and liberty of the divine world henceforth even from this world itself.”

When Simon and his elite friends sat for the meals later, they began to whisper among themselves from the astonishment they had watching and listening Jesus some time earlier:

“Who he thinks he is? How dare he to say that he forgives our sins?”

Jesus could hear their murmurs. Ignoring them he said to the woman:

“Woman, go in peace; your faith has saved you.”

As Jesus rose with his disciples to leave, he turned to Simon and said:

“I know your heart Simon. I know that you are confused with your faith and your doubts. I understand that you are now agitated in your mind by your fears about your society and by your social pride by what have just happened. But I pray for you so that you may yield yourself to the light of the divine knowledge that has already brought in by your unwelcome guest. I declare all of you that the Heavenly Father has opened the doors of His heavenly administration to all who have the faith and the desire to enter. No man or no human administration can ever prevent any other human who have sincerely repented of his or her sins and sought to enter the divine world.”

Saying this, Jesus and his three associates left Simon’s house.

Later in the same evening Jesus made the long-to-be-remembered address to his apostles regarding the relative value of the status of humans with God and their progress in the long  ascend to the Centre of the Universes. 

Jesus taught them like this:

“My children! If there exists a true and living connection between a child and its father, the child is certain to progress continuously toward the father’s ideals. True, the child may at first be slow in this process, but progress in this regard would surely happen as time passes. What is important is not the quickness of the progress, but rather its certainty. Your actual achievement is not so important considering the fact that the direction of your progress is towards God. What you are becoming day by day is of more importance than what you are today.

“Some of you saw the transformed woman earlier today in Simon’s house. At this moment of time, she is living on a level which is vastly below that of Simon and his well-meaning associates. But Simon and his associates are indeed under false illusion of spiritual progress  as they are bound by meaningless ceremonies, rituals and social customs. But this woman has earnestly started out on the long and eventful search for God and her path towards attaining the spiritual worlds is not blocked by any spiritual pride or moral self satisfaction. By the established human standards, this woman is farther away from God than Simon, but her soul is in the progressive motion and she is already on the way towards her eternal goal. The soul of this woman has tremendous spiritual possibilities for the future. Likewise, there exist tremendous possibilities in each of you for the future. It is indeed better to have a small but living and growing faith than to be possessed of a great intellect full of worldly wisdom but with no desire for spiritual progress.”    

Concluding his teaching of the day, Jesus however earnestly warned his disciples against the foolishness of a child who presumes upon the love of its father. 

The Heavenly Father, he warned them, is not to be compared to a foolishly indulgent human parent who is lax, loose or ever ready to be lenient with all evil and willful recklessness of his children. 

Jesus categorically told them when he summed up:  

“My Heavenly Father is not in any way to make allowances to those acts and practices of his earthly children who are self-destructive and suicidal to all moral growth and spiritual progress by doing willful evil. Such practices are indeed repulsive in the sight of God”.

[*Adapted from the Urantia Book]

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Importance of Forgiveness in Our Lives: What Jesus Taught His Disciples?*

Jesus once taught his disciples the importance of forgiveness while we live our lives as humans on earth.

The following gives the essence of what he taught:

God is your Father in heaven and he loves his children, and therefore you should learn to love one another; the Father in heaven forgives you your sins; therefore should you learn to forgive one another.

If your brother does some wrong against you, go to him and with tact and patience to show him his fault. And do all this between you and him alone. If he will listen to you, then you have won your brother. But if your brother will not hear you, if he persists in the error of his way, go again to him, taking with you one or two mutual friends that you may thus have two or even three witnesses to confirm your testimony and establish the fact that you have dealt justly and mercifully with your offending brother. Now if he refuses to hear your brethren, you may tell the whole story to everyone in your locality or the authorities, and then, if he refuses to hear the brotherhood, let them take such action as they deem wise; let such an unruly member become an outcast from your locality.

While you cannot pretend to sit in judgment on the souls of your fellows, and while you may not forgive sins or otherwise presume to force the prerogatives of the spiritual worlds, it has been committed to your hands that you should maintain law and order in your own nation on earth. While you may not meddle with the divine decrees concerning eternal life, you shall determine the issues of conduct as they concern the welfare of the people on earth as it is applicable to your times.

And so, in all these matters connected with the discipline of the people, whatsoever you shall decree on earth shall be recognized in heaven. Although you cannot determine the eternal fate of the individual, you may legislate regarding the conduct of the group, for, where two or three of you agree concerning any of these things and ask of me, it shall be done for you if your petition is not inconsistent with the will of my Father in heaven. And all this is ever true, for, where two or three believers are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them.

You should forgive your fellow beings not only seven times but even seventy seven.

The spiritual administration of your heavenly father may be likened to a certain earthly ruler who ordered a financial audit of accounts with his officers. And when they had begun to conduct this examination of accounts, one of his chief officers was brought before him confessing that he owed the treasury ten thousand pounds. Now this officer pleaded that hard times had come upon him, and that he did not have the means to pay this obligation. And so the ruler commanded that his property be confiscated and sold to pay his debt. When this chief officer heard this stern decree, he pleaded to have mercy and grant him more time. And when the ruler looked upon this negligent but repenting officer, he was moved with compassion. He ordered that he should be released, and that the loan should be wholly forgiven.

And this chief steward, having thus received mercy and forgiveness at the hands of the ruler, went about his business, and finding one of his subordinate officers who owed him a mere hundred pounds, he laid hold upon him and, taking him by the throat and ordered to pay back his debts immediately. And then this subordinate officer begged for forgiveness and mercy. But the chief officer would not show mercy to his fellow officer but rather had taken disciplinary actions until he paid back the amount. When his fellow staff saw what had happened, they were so distressed that they went and told about this incident to the ruler. When the ruler heard of the doings of his chief officer, he called this ungrateful and unforgiving man before him and said: `You are a wicked and unworthy officer. When you sought for compassion, I freely forgave you. Why did you not also show mercy to your fellow officer, even as I showed mercy to you?’

And the ruler was so very angry that he ordered dismissal of this man from his service.

But our heavenly Father shows the more abundant mercy to those who freely show mercy to their fellows.

How can you come to God asking consideration for your shortcomings when you are so adamant of punishing or taking revenge on those of your fellow beings for being guilty of the same human weaknesses?

Therefore I say to all of you: Freely you have received the good things on earth from the spiritual administration of your heavenly father and hence you should not withhold that same goodness to your fellow beings on earth.

In a nutshell, the following is the essence of what Jesus taught:

Discipline must be maintained, justice must be administered, but in all these matters the wisdom of the human brotherhood should prevail.

Jesus invested legislative and judicial authority in the group, not in the individual. Even this investment of authority in the group must not be exercised as personal authority. There is always danger that the verdict of an individual may be faulted by prejudice or distorted by passion. Group judgment is more likely to remove the dangers and eliminate the unfairness of personal bias.

Jesus sought always to minimize the elements of unfairness, retaliation, and vengeance from the acts of people while they conducted their lives on earth.

[*Adapted from Paper-159 of the Urantia Book]

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Developmental Issues of India: Should We Do the Root Cause Analysis or Should We Pray for Getting Back Our Senses?

Let us pray for getting back our senses!

Here are some interesting news that are online today which tells about the Indian economic projections:

1. In a global survey 62 % Indian CEOs are reportedly optimistic about the future of their companies for the next 12 months. ( Don't ask why only 12 months!) 

2. India poised to become the fastest growing economy in the world in the next two years- says IMF, the Economic Times report.

Yes, the above reports are very optimistic, but apparently look like vision statements of people who operate from air-conditioned coziness rather than knowing the grass root realities.

The problem is that we hardly understand the dynamics of money and physical work. 

For example, how do we compare the worth of two companies doing business? 

Company-A  has a turn-over of 2000 million rupees and is consistently showing profit for the past few years. Undoubtedly, its stocks are in high demand and are traded many times above the issue price.

Company-B on the other hand has a turn-over 5000 million rupees and is barely showing any profit or at times reporting losses in the balance sheet. Its stocks are not much favored and has a low value.

By simple common sense of present day economic macro analysis, company-A would be the preferred one. 

Now, let us examine these two companies a bit more closely. 

Company-A , though has a good looking and posh air conditioned office with modern office gadgets and decor, the office space is on lease. The company's 200 odd employees do jobs connected with some financial services online. The economic activity the company does arises out of some policy guidelines and special economic situation. There is no guarantee of the situation remaining the same for ever. But if the company goes without work, they have not much to lose.

Company-B on the other hand is a manufacturer of physical goods. It has more than 2000 employees having various skills belonging to various professional disciplines. The raw materials to the company are produced by several ancillary industries. The products of the company also go for industrial consumption. The company has its own land, factory, machinery and such infrastructure. Thus this company can be considered as a core industry and an economic activity booster.

Often, company-B would be seen to move towards more and more unfavorable conditions including getting an incompetent management team that would eventually make it to close down its operations. That causes painful miseries to the 2000 families directly and a dent in the country's economy indirectly.

In olden days, governmental authorities used to be more sensitive to such issues and would have intervened at the right time to prevent such economic mishaps. Of late, in the so-called liberalized economy, governmental authorities are seen as shying away from executing their responsibilities lest they may be accused as partisan.

As I have written in this forum many times, government has a right and a responsibility to intervene in the affairs of any corporate business entity when it is faced with situations where employment and governmental income by way of taxes are affected or likely to be affected.

The ultimate aim for any government is to ensure welfare of its people and employment should be one of the first priorities under citizens' welfare. If the citizens do not have income, no country could progress. So, income of citizens should be the first priority of any progressive nation and its leadership.

Leader of a massive BPL population is nothing of a big achievement! Power and prosperity of the nation vest with the people. If the people are poor and pathetic, the nation as a whole too would be of that type. Strikingly rich individuals of such nations should not be in a position to raise their heads in pride if they have any consciousness left within them!

India is a nation of predominantly income-less people, with only about 3 % of the people officially paying direct income tax as per government reports. Even in this nearly 90% are in the income range of  $ 3000-8000 per year. A little over 42000 people in the whole of India are officially reported with an income exceeding $ 160,000/- in a year. But people having wealth in millions may be much more considering the high levels of black money, corruption and under reporting of wealth.

But yet it is a shameful condition. There is nothing that common Indians could take pride of in such a situation. The unemployment and under employment situations are alarmingly growing with no one having any solutions. Even those employed are hardly with any decent income that could cause any boost in the Indian market to generate more employment.

In India no one seems to be bothered about the situation. All seem to be pretty well satisfied with all the problems. They move as if in good sedation that they feel no pains ever!

A young man sent this famous Napoleon quote to me that reflected the anguish and anxiety that only a negligible number of people in India realize:

" The world suffers a lot not because of the violence of the bad people, but because of the silence of the good people!"

Is India listening? I doubt. 

Should we worry about the walking dead bodies of India any more? I do not know. I too am becoming one of that!

So how to do the root cause analysis of India when the majority feel no pains?

I could have done it to some extent. But there is no one to see and act on my analysis.

All around me appear as senseless. 

Soon, my own ability would vanish.

I too would become a walking dead body, sedated , senseless and feeling no pains!

Perhaps in the bliss of ignorance!

See how infectious this sedation is!

I started with something and ended with this sedated philosophy!

But it's okay because no one is going to read this and react.

If possible, let us pray to God for giving back our senses!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What Benefits the Christians Get By Converting Others to Christianity?

Religion and religion based politics are nothing new to our world now. Religion based conflicts keep happening. Had it been God who determined the human affairs of religion on earth, then perhaps religious conflicts would not have arisen at all. At least that is my simple logic.

Extending that logic further, it could perhaps be concluded that God has no real place in religious affairs of the men and women of earth as it stands today. Isn't it the people who determine about the who-what-how of God rather than God Himself ? Perhaps God has determined to leave this to the people themselves for the time being till they realize the truths! But realization of the truths perfectly can happen only after all the people get truly matured in their mind capacities!

Anyway, that is not going to happen in the near future. It might take many centuries ahead before all men and women of earth develop to some equitable status in their mind capabilities as determined by their character and competence. 

Till that time they keep creating situations of conflicts among them due to varying degrees of misunderstandings arising out of imperfect comprehension of truths and untruths. The immature ones would not even allow the peace loving, mature folks among them to live in an environment of social brotherhood of peace, friendship and service!

You may be wondering why I wrote all this? Be patient, and read ahead.

I am branded as a Christian in my country India, not because I am a true follower of Jesus Christ, but because I happened to be born to parents who were too branded likewise. I have no idea about those of my ancestors who got converted to this religion abandoning whatever faith or faithlessness they had. I do not even know why they did that. Did they do that under inducements of money, power or force as some now believe? I have no idea. There are no records either.

Yet I am happy for that great decision of my ancestors. I am happy that I now belong to an indigenous Christian church, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, which takes pride not only in its Indian character but also in its centuries' old Syrian cultural ancestry and progressive christian values. Even though it is a mere accident of time, I can't help thanking the Almighty that I got the opportunity to be born and brought up in a family that believed in Christian values rather than in any other faith systems that exist today.

Christians world over believe and practice (in varying degrees of conviction and effort) the command that Jesus Christ had believed to have told his followers as recorded in the first book of the New Testament Bible, in the gospel according to St.Matthew @ (28:19):

" Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father (God Almighty) and of the Son and the Holy Spirit

Just as my non-Christian friends, I too had unanswered doubts lingering in my mind for many years about the manner in which Christian missionaries and evangelists convert non-Christians to Christianity. 

What is the real motive behind Christian proselytism? 

Did Jesus really instruct his followers to baptize  all people of all nations as his disciples? Why did Jesus gave such an instruction? What did he actually mean by it? Is this the reason why Christian churches, individual evangelists and groups keep on carrying out their so-called gospel missions and conversion activities?

Why do Christian churches sponsor missionaries and try to convert non-Christians to their fold? Are they doing this for their selfish benefits? Are they doing this for taking control of all nations and making their own super power? Is it a political agenda by some vicious Christian leaders to subjugate all other religions and peoples? 

Modern democratic leaders and for that matter, even the dictators or monarchs of the world, gain power from the majority people. So, being in a majority is commonly thought as having some advantage by the minorities. It may not be a fact, but when in minority, it is always possible for the minorities to consider themselves being exploited for one reason or the other. It is not possible to form a cohesive and equitable society of people when people are all individually different in some physical or mental attributes! It is easy for clever people to inject thought poisons to divide a group of otherwise innocent individuals having varying mind capacities!

The mechanics of 'divide and rule' is nothing new in our world! 

When Christians became a majority in the world order by their centuries old collective and individualized proselytism activities, they happened to be viewed as a threat by those who happened to be in the minority faiths. Christians were a persecuted minority in the past, but in many regions of the world over the centuries, they emerged as a well-to-do and progressive class in general. Divisions in the society did not get eliminated in nations and regions even when all people became Christians. Emerging new religions and divisions within the Christendom caused conflicts to keep happening.

Where they are a minority, Christians are generally labelled as a potential threat by radical thought provokers of modern times who keep postulating their theories very convincingly. The Christian haters do get opportunities to bash the former as Christians too are nothing very different from their other human brethren with regard to their maturity levels!

In the modern world, Christian proselytism is opposed by counter proselytism which adopts both peaceful and violent means. A major Indian political party's right wing cadres have thought it best to launch mass campaigns to bring back the lost members of their faith back to their fold by controversial programs such as the 'Ghar Wapsi' (Home coming)

In the Christian dominated western countries, the new thought is to stick to secularism as the guiding principle of democratic politics and governance rather than having governments under the banner of the dominant religion. Since that idea is again perceived as originating from the affluent Christian dominated nations, non-Christian majority nations and thinkers are apparently not very much enthusiastic to discuss about it. 

'It was their time earlier, but now it's our time!'. Such a thought also seems very logical for many. 

Writers, thinkers and leaders keep debating over these issues. I keep reading what the so-called learned men have to say about the issue of religious conversions.

Here is one such essay by a a foreign writer, perhaps from a Christian background.  

In my country, many influential writers from all faiths keep expressing their own ideas and opinions.

For example in today's Economic Times, I happen to read an article by a well known Hindu educationist, business leader and writer, Mr. T V Mohandas Pai. For the benefit of my readers, I reproduce a photo scan of what he had written, below:

In his article, he is lamenting about the inaction of the people of his community for not making use of the huge wealth of the Hindu temples for social benefits of the Hindu community which, according to him, is giving the opportunity to the Christians to lure the poor Hindus to become vulnerable to Christian proselytism.

Is he or for that matter all those who think in that lines, to conclude that it is the money and such other inducements that force the non-Christian folks to adopt Christianity? Are the evangelists using foreign funds for their missionary acts to lure and convert the hapless victims? Else, what other techniques they adopt to make this happen?

As I have written here above, I too have been thinking about the reasons behind the religious conversions that are initiated by Christian evangelists and missionaries, just as Mr Pai. Mr Pai might not have attended any Christian congregation or church or even interacted with any of those so-called evangelists or missionaries. But I have.

And to be very frank, I am surprised. I do not find any logic in any person, rich or poor, to convert to another faith because of lures of money, inducements, threats or other such influences in these modern times. At the same time I do not deny the fact about the existence of a few such persons who switch their faith for temporary material benefits. But I have not yet come across a person of that sort. If there are some, they are perhaps people with no self esteem just like those who do any thing for money, fame or for some other very selfish non-spiritual gains.

I have studied other religions very closely. Had the other religions been better to satisfy my inner spiritual urge, I would perhaps had overcome the social stigma to get converted to any one of those where I found that satisfaction! 

Perhaps people who get converted to Christianity or other religions are doing that for quenching their spiritual thirsts more than the material thirsts. In my opinion, the material or social prospects alone would not make a person in this modern times to change their faith. In most cases, they overcome the societal stigma of changing faith and convert to another religion because of some inner spiritual awakening about which only they can explain.

Since, voluntary faith conversions take place more to Christianity than to any other religion, there should be some thing special with Christianity that makes it possible.

I had the opportunity to meet several well-to-do and not-so-well-to-do  people who have converted voluntarily to Christianity in the recent times. I do get overwhelmed by their spiritual enthusiasm in their newly acquired faith and religion- some thing that either me or the lot like me do not have. In the times we live, religion and faith are very sensitive issues and therefore, I know the various difficulties they might have faced in taking the decisions to convert to Christianity. Unlike those who do religious conversions for purely temporal or beneficial physical gains such as marriage, those who do it for apparent spiritual benefits face much embarrassment in life. Yet many keep doing it. It is perhaps difficult for many to understand the logic or purpose behind it in pure material terms.

I also know several people who while outwardly retaining their original religious affiliations, remain inwardly as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. I also had occasions when a few such individuals trying to convince me- a branded Christian- to convert to the version of the christian faith that they believe as true. I often wonder why they have more of the christian faith than me!

It is not possible in these days to make a person to fall in line with your thoughts, whatever inducements you try to adopt, unless they themselves have taken such a decision willfully. Human beings are will creatures. The mere fact that they are poor or downtrodden does not change that. It is a mere foolishness to think that the poor class are will-less slaves!

Under physical force and also under conditions of torture, it might be possible to make some people to do some religious rituals or to make them verbally pronounce or denounce their faiths. But that would not make their minds to change, unless they themselves decide for a change. But, true followers of Christ have a legacy of withstanding even great violence and torture! They apparently possess a stronger will that could withstand all physical problems.

The Christian faith is based on the reality of God and the reality of life after death. By combining the old and the new together, the Christian Bible makes one understand the evolutionary aspects of faith under love, compassion and service. The contrasts between the old and the new together with the fatherly love of God to all his creations are great help for all spiritually starved persons to realize the reality of God as their divine father. The history of Jesus as depicted makes one understand the way Jesus made his followers understand the power of simplicity, service, love and humility rather than the material power.  Physical power is easier to perceive and understand, while spiritual power, though superior, is difficult to perceive. 

As with any other religion, Christianity too have been used by evil forces for meeting their vested interests. But it also possessed the self healing systems within itself to overcome such difficulties and to function as a great agent of modern civilization and progress. Perhaps it enjoyed some divine over-care during times of difficulties.

As with any faith, Christians are also not a unified or cohesive force in this world. There are several groups, churches or denominations and all have their differences and agreements of thoughts. Many follow a religion about Jesus Christ and not necessarily the religion of Jesus Christ. Yet, Christianity as it stand today is a religion that essentially nurtures human personality, values and character rather than chaining its followers under regressive mores, rituals or traditions. While they have institutionalized the churches, the churches are all essentially democratic and the individuals members enjoy freedom of expression and thought.

The foremost principle of being a Christian is the principle of loving service to fellow beings, not necessarily fellow Christians. So those who are in Christian faith are more willing to share their wealth for common good. While they contribute for a common cause, very often they are neither doing so for gaining some immediate material gain from a satisfied deity nor to please a God who would otherwise become angry.

I am a member of an Indian church. All members contribute voluntarily to the church for various purposes. Funds are required for maintaining the common infrastructure for the church as well as for doing welfare measures for others in the society who might benefit from it. Those contributions from the members help the churches to build hospitals, schools, training centers and such other things for areas and peoples who really need it. Just as the Indian Christians, all Christians in the world do it as a part of their small commitment towards making a bit difference in the lives of several of their unfortunate human brothers and sisters. Besides, most Christians feel the internal joy of sharing the spiritual wellness of being a follower of Jesus that actually helped them to become an individual capable of sharing both physically and spiritually.

St.Thomas School, Ranchi witnessing a sports meet 
for the underprivileged children of the remote schools the church members started just an year ago

At times, some Christians become too ecstatic in sharing their spiritual joy and for any onlooker it might appear as an effort by them to induce others to their fold. But as I explained, it is not possible for any one to change a person's mind by material inducements alone. I have reasons to believe that human faith under voluntary conditions can change only with some unseen divine intervention! Christians commonly believe this as the work of the all pervading effect of what they call and identify as the act of the Holy Spirit.

Once a senior bureaucrat and a Hindu by faith who was a fellow air passenger with me on a flight from Port Blair told me some thing he found as difficult to explain by any simple logic. He was the government commissioner of the Nicobar islands. How could the many remote islanders of Nicobar become Christians several decades or centuries ago? Who converted them and by what method at a time when there was no modern communication methods available? Even with all government support, he said, these islands are difficult to reach. Then how these people speaking different languages or dialects were contacted so that they changed to a new faith in large numbers? He had no answer, nor had I.

But that is the manner in which the world population got converted to Christianity. It started with the Jews, Greeks, Egyptians and the elite Romans some 1900 odd years ago. Human inducement or divine intervention? I do not know. But humans alone cannot do it. That I am sure.

If my fellow Christians start discarding their faith and embrace other faiths in large numbers, I would not get angry. I believe religious faith is a matter of personal choice. But I would be perplexed and puzzled to know the reason. My human curiosity would try finding the reasons by talking to those of my fellows who changed their faith. If I get convinced, I too would perhaps join them. Otherwise not. But would I ever get convinced to overcome the various barriers to take the decision for a conversion? I doubt. I would need an irresistible spiritual boost to over come the mind barrier. If it is like that for me, it might apply to others as well.

Why did Jesus tell his disciples the way it is written in the Bible? He was not interested in becoming the king or the emperor. But then why did he tell that way? Why did he want the whole nations of the earth as his disciples? For political power or for some thing else?

I was curious to know the details of what he might have actually told. Then quite surprisingly I got the answer in my favorite book (the Urantia Book). The book says that Jesus taught most authoritatively after he got resurrected the third day after his death on the cross. One day before his ascension, he instructed his followers about preaching the good news and about the realities of the kingdom of God to all people who live in ignorance.

Let me quote what is written in this book:

"Peace be upon you. For a full week have I tarried that I might appear again when you were all present to hear once more the commission to go into all the world and preach this gospel of the kingdom. Again I tell you: As the Father sent me into the world, so send I you. As I have revealed the Father, so shall you reveal the divine love, not merely with words, but in your daily living. I send you forth, not to love the souls of men, but rather to love men. You are not merely to proclaim the joys of heaven but also to exhibit in your daily experience these spirit realities of the divine life since you already have eternal life, as the gift of God, through faith. When you have faith, when power from on high, the Spirit of Truth, has come upon you, you will not hide your light here behind closed doors; you will make known the love and the mercy of God to all mankind. Through fear you now flee from the facts of a disagreeable experience, but when you shall have been baptized with the Spirit of Truth, you will bravely and joyously go forth to meet the new experiences of proclaiming the good news of eternal life in the kingdom of God. You may tarry here and in Galilee for a short season while you recover from the shock of the transition from the false security of the authority of traditionalism to the new order of the authority of facts, truth, and faith in the supreme realities of living experience. Your mission to the world is founded on the fact that I lived a God-revealing life among you; on the truth that you and all other men are the sons of God; and it shall consist in the life which you will live among men—the actual and living experience of loving men and serving them, even as I have loved and served you. Let faith reveal your light to the world; let the revelation of truth open the eyes blinded by tradition; let your loving service effectually destroy the prejudice engendered by ignorance. By so drawing close to your fellow men in understanding sympathy and with unselfish devotion, you will lead them into a saving knowledge of the Father's love. The Jews have extolled goodness; the Greeks have exalted beauty; the Hindus preach devotion; the faraway ascetics teach reverence; the Romans demand loyalty; but I require of my disciples life, even a life of loving service for your brothers in the flesh".[The Urantia Book, Paper 191:5.3]

My dear reader! I now have the answer to the question that was in my mind for so long. Christians are not there to defend and protect their religion or their god. It is the God that acts through many of them, if not all of them. The baptism that Jesus preached was about the baptism of the mind and a change from ignorance to wisdom and loving service. Since all men and women are children of God, there is no need for any one to make a formal declaration or a physical ritual to embrace the good things that he revealed.   

Read the above quote once again. You would know the difference!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Option to Opt Out of LPG Subsidy-Wouldn't You Like to Be in the Scroll of Honor?

The Central Government of India recently has initiated a campaign to involve all those well-to-do citizens of India to voluntarily opt out of the subsidy they enjoy for purchasing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders for domestic consumption.

The government could have well done this by an administrative order by refusing subsidized domestic LPG to all citizens who are above some prescribed income strata. But that would have definitely incurred peoples' wrath in some way. People would have taken such a step as bullying by the government.

But the Narendra Modi government came up with a novel idea which is indeed a welcome step and a good sign of good democratic governance. The government has made arrangements for all existing domestic LPG consumers to voluntarily opt out of the subsidy price regime.

The existing three major public sector LPG supply companies have initiated a call to all consumers to voluntarily opt out of availing the LPG price subsidy. The companies have done this, under the guidance of the government.

The names of those who opt out would be listed in the 'scroll of honour' in the common website of the companies called

This same mylpg website can be used for exercising the opting out option. When you click this site you land on the introductory page which gives the option to enter the page of your own gas supplier, namely, Indane, Bharatgas or HPgas. 

Clicking on the image of the gas cylinder of your gas supplier you enter the relevant site of your gas supplier.

The various options and information that you are required to know as a domestic LPG user are given on the top of the page as scrolling icons. Here one would also see the icon for opting out of the subsidy regime.

For exercising this option, one needs to be a registered user of mylpg site. The instructions are self explanatory and one can easily do it within a few minutes.

Why burden the government for a couple of thousands of rupees in an year for availing the gas subsidy when that amount is too insignificant for you? Let us voluntarily come out of it if we could afford it. 

The price of a non-subsidized domestic LPG cylinder having 14.2 kg gas  now cost only about Rs.752/-. That is approximately Rs.50/- a kg. On the other hand, the subsidized cylinder costs about Rs.417/- or about Rs.30/- per kg. 

A nuclear family of India with 2 adults and one or two children hardly consumes 6 cylinders of gas in an year. The amount such a family is to spend extra for the non-subsidized LPG is hardly Rs.2000/- per year or about Rs.170/- in a month. That is a very insignificant money for most of the tax paying middle class and the non-tax paying well-to-do's of India.

In my opinion, such citizens should cooperate with the government and say no to the present fuel subsidy, voluntarily. Earlier there was no option to exercise this option by the individuals. But now there is an option. Let the subsidy be availed by those who really need it. Let the government be freed of its subsidy liabilities to some extent and let the government use that money for some other plans beneficial for the under privileged.

LPG consumers can also say good bye to the subsidized price system by giving an application to their retail gas agency.

So, say good bye to the peanuts of LPG subsidy and buy gas at full market price, if you can afford it.

Let us consciously and voluntarily denounce all those insignificant freebies dolled out by the government. Let the freebies go to those who really need it!