An Evening on Applied Spirituality

Applied Spirituality
Kaushal Kishore [follow @HolyGanga ]

There are many programmes in the halls of India International Centre every day. Many of these events are focused on promotion of certain ideas, groups and even products. In many cases, you may predict almost everything if you know about the event and its organiser. Still a few of them are interesting and others are entertaining. But these days the brainstorming—interesting and stimulating—sessions are rare. Last Monday (21 September 2015) I witnessed one of such events there.

I never had an idea on how interesting and stimulating the dais comprising Madhu Kishwar, Arun Sorie, Reverend Valson Thampu and Swami Agnivesh can really be. That evening, it was the occasion of a talk on the newest publication of Harper Collins i.e. Applied Spirituality by Swami Agnivesh. The representative of its publisher Kartika, in brief, introduced the issue and digniteries on the dais, and handed over the cord to Madhu Kishwar to moderate the session further.

I thought that this is going to be a rather hot evening when I heard the preamble and questions that Madhu Kishwar raised. She puts her crisp views in straightforward and simple words, and asks certain burning questions. She begins with Maharshi Dayananda and his mission the Arya Samaj that emerged to counter rise of Christianity in Brithish India. And further raise questions on the articulation of attack on the prevailing impediments of religions, as stipulated in the book. The call for collective efforts and the hardness in the tone of attacks are the backbone of her introductory talk. At last she expects a modeate tone so that every one can join the platform.

Arun Sorie says that reaction to reform is always bitter. He has further defined three different states—spiritual, mystic and do-gooder—in order to establish relationship among them. He clearly states that Swami Agnivesh is doing all that was initiated by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He depicts examples from the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi and Raman Maharshi. However Gandhiji never went to Maharshi, still at times he referred many people to him. The audience before Maharshi praises the excellent works of Gandhiji, and questions so as to persuade him to do such works. In order to answer such questions Maharshi simply asks, ‘Who is doing these good works?’ The sublime and spiritual connection among these three different types of works is mentioned in the talks of Arun Sourie.

Debate on Freedom: Pristly class emerged in every religion, and only the priest is authorised to interpret the scriptures. In contrast there is the freedom that is being expressed in the behaviour of our children. Reverend Thampu says that every religion is against human freedom. Moreover religion is against spirituality. I was astonished to hear when a person like Valson Thampu says that he finally left the Inter Religious Movement after being a part of it for 25 years because the learders are not free to open their hearts.

Swamiji shares verbatium accounts of his formatin sice its inception in the Telagu speaking region of South India. His father died at the tender age of 4 and thereafter the maternal grand-father nourished him. There is many important things in his talk. I saw Swami Agnivesh first time in the chair. Although the audience felt the presidential address a bit lengthy, but still it was flawless and entertaining. The open session could have been more interesting, for there were many experts from various walks of life among the audience. Unfortunately it was not possible due to the time constraint.


Deepak Malaviya on The Holy Ganga


Comments on The Holy Ganga
By Deepak Malaviya Executive Secretary, The Samaja
President, Servants of the People Society

The Ganges that was once holy, pristine, pure and natural is no longer the same. These are the extremes of pollution. The Save Ganga Movement reflects prevailing changes in the life and order of the riparian culture. The sad demise of modern Satyagrahis like Gangaputra Nigamananda in Uttarakhand and Baba Naga Nath in Uttar Pradesh can lucidly express these changes. The experts may compare the fate of non-violent protest in the sixth decade of independence with the Gandhi‗s Satyagraha during the British regime and there-after.

A century ago, it was the period of World War I. The war erupted in the Europe. The colonial rulers were occupied in that. Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya was another prominent leader of the freedom struggle. He found an appropriate opportunity to bargain with the British for ensuring the Aviral Ganga at Hardwar. He had addressed almost every king of the princely states. The mass awareness campaigns were performed in the cloak of certain ancient rituals—arti and puja—on the banks of the holy river in shrines like Hardwar and Kashi. Later, he launched the Satyagraha at Har-ki-Pauri only after satisfactory campaign for preparations. Malviya Dweep, an island in the name of Mahamana, is a mark of that successful endeavour. At last the then viceroy accepted his demands to cut open a new orifice to restore the free-flow at the Bhagiratha Point.

The Ganges that represents the soul of our beloved motherland is still treated as the symbol of purity. Varanasi sheds tears in 2014 on eve of the Guru Purnima for Baba Naga Nath, who had started Satyagraha for Aviral Ganga on 19 July 2008. This was the second crusade for the Ganges in the twenty-first century.

The death of Gangaputra Nigamananda was making big news in June 2011. Scientist turned saint Swami Sananda (Dr. G.D. Agarwal) is yet another symbol of that spirit of the crusader. He is known for a series of Satyagraha that was launched at various places—from Uttarkashi to Kashi. Once the government heard him and cancelled certain hydropower projects in Himalayan province of Uttarakhand. Although that is a landmark of success in the Save Ganga Campaign, the process of decommissioning of dams in India is still far away.

The Holy Ganga is an outcome of a long and time consuming research. The author initiated that on 2 June 1997, when he met the Gangaputra first time in the garden of Matri Sadan situated on the right bank of the holy stream at the outskirt of Hardwar. Together they raised certain issues like ever increasing pollution, deforestation and ruinous mining in the river basin for more than six years. In fact, this book is a call for a dynamic movement for the holy Ganga and the great Himalayas. This cause was represented by many patriots like Mahamana Malviya and Gandhian leader Padma-Vibhushan Sundarlal Bahuguna, the protagonist of the Chipko Movement, in the past. Gangaputra Nigamananda, Baba Naga Nath and Swami Sananda emerged as the eminent leaders of this movement in more recent times. The author closely observed and noticed the developments in the struggles of these Satyagrahi saints of modern India.

I was astonished to know the particulars of the cases that they were fighting at various platforms including the court of law. The author speaks for the mute creations of the Mother Nature i.e. forest, wild-life, rivers, etc. This volume gives details of the situations of past, present, and further predicts how the future will be like in absence of that flow of nectar of immortality. He offers simple solution of various environmental problems with passionate and impartial approach. At one place he treats all rivers like the Ganges, and says that the Thames denoted a river goddess known as Themesis or Themesia. She was also worshipped like the Ganges before the Christianity denounced this practice by calling it pagan in the council of Arles in 452 AD.

I further hope that the further details of the predicament will appear in an upcoming volume, Agony of Ganga, by the author of this work.

Pt. Anshul Shree Kunj on The Holy Ganga


11 July 2008

By Pt. Anshul Shree Kunj President, Bharat Jagriti Mission and Editor-in-Chief, Mission Express

It is with great pleasure that I am writing a prologue to this great literary work The Holy Ganga, centred around the devotion and faith of millions of people living in various corners of the globe. This book is based on extensive research of the author during the course of the decade long movements and noble initiatives for preservation of the environment and ecology. The ancient scriptures and epics of India sing glorious songs in praise of the threefold river goddess Ganga. Lord Krishna defines the Ganga in Srimad Bhagavat Gita: ‘Gam prithvim gachhati iti Ganga’ which means: ‗The one that descends onto the earth from the heaven is the Ganga‘. He again says: ‘Ga avyayam gamayatiti Ganga’ which means: ‗The Ganga takes one towards the paradise‘.

The Indian culture of love, peace and fraternity imbibed all alien elements just as the Ganga moulds all hard stones that represent the ego, smoothing them in the process. Words fail me to describe the glory of the holy mother; my prayers seem so insignificant and insufficient in comparison to the magnificence of the glorious mother. My ardent wish is that mother Ganga resides in our hearts and souls.

The idea of writing a book on the Ganga got a fillip during a national seminar organised by the Bharat Jagriti Mission on 5 April 2008 with the theme: ‗Significance of the Holy Ganga in the Present Scenario‘. Numerous well—known environmental activists and thinkers along with various saints, social workers, politicians, students and common citizens participated in the programme chaired by His Excellence B.L. Joshi, the Governor of Uttarakhand. As a consequence of the brainstorming session, the Mission resolved to introduce devotees of the holy mother as its preservers. These dedicated devotees of the holy mother are called Ganga Rakshaks. Water is the basis of all life. In the present scenario, water crisis is the most severe and pervasive problem of the entire world. The average water supply in many corners of India is far below the global standard average per person. The water availability graph of the last fifty years reflects a sharp decline in the supply and availability of water. Today, India is a water stressed country with only four per cent of the total available fresh water of the world even though it forms sixteen per cent of the total global population.

Ganga, Yamuna and the entire Ganga system is one of the largest available fresh water resources of the nation, and these precious water resources are depleting at an uncontrolled speed. The destruction of water resources is a bigger crime than terrorism since it can destroy the entire community—millions of people and property worth billions in a single shot. Presently, the water resources are destroyed by uncontrolled pollution, greenhouse effects, indiscriminate mining and corporate maneuvering of the resources. In addition to these, politics of faith is yet another problem. These are just a few problems that challenge the very existence of the holy river and the great Himalayas.

In this context there was a need of a holistic literature on mother Ganga that chronologically throws light on her history, myths, significance and the present degrading situation. The author describes and offers simple and pragmatic solutions of various problems with a passionate, simple and impartial approach. He has made an earnest attempt to compile all the facts, legends and problems pertaining to the holy river from the beginning to modern times in the three sections. In all, the book is priceless offering to adorn any bookshelf.

The present volume is a call for a peaceful and dynamic movement to preserve the holy river, the great Himalayas and our planet from the impending catastrophe. The living water of the holy river is known for her curative properties and purifying characteristics. The Holy Ganga illuminates the spiritual, religious, social, economic, cultural and environmental importance of the Ganga along with more immediate problems of livelihood. I believe that the author of the book deserves my sincere gratitude for his marvelous and relevant literary contribution. The Ganga is just not a simple river; it is the flow of the nectar of immortality that sparks a current of life throughout the Indian subcontinent. The book is a necessary tool for creating awareness among readers about the Ganga‘s present state of pollution and helping evolve solution techniques.

I hope this volume awakens the consciousness of devotees and inspires every individual to join the Save Ganga Campaign. Once again, I thank Mr. Kaushal Kishore for his literary work. I would also like to thank Rupa & Co. for publishing this precious literature on the holy mother. At last, I pray to mother Ganga for the wellbeing of all and request all of you to preserve the sacred water of the holy river.

Ganga Calling


Book Review By Rajbir Deswal
The Tribune, Book Review

The popular legend credits that the Ganga was brought on Earth by sage Bhagirath who did penance and performed austerities to please the Gods, in order to cleanse the sins of his ancestors and to perform rituals for their salvation, with the holy waters. Sagar, who was the great-grandfather of Bhagirath, had 60,000 sons who perished in a fire, after they incurred the wrath of Rishi Kapila.

The author Kishore, a known environmentalist and a Ganga activist, discusses the Ganga as a goddess and as the lifeline of India, its pollution problems and solutions. Each segment of the book tackles various issues related to the Ganga which is more than a mere river for the Hindus, although water worship has been known to be practiced in many civilisations, except at a stage in Christianity, that too as late as in the 14th century. But this reviewer finds it more relevant to talk about Ganga‘s boons, curses and contamination. A few mythological inputs from the book are worth mentioning.

Another legend has it that Ganga‘s birth was a result of a curse, when during a Raas (dance of devotion and love) performed by Radha and Krishna, they melted, merged and liquidised in the purest form of love, that was Ganga herself. Lord Shiva himself was a witness to this dance. Later, when in another Raas, Radha, not recognising her own daughter Ganga, whose bewitching beauty had Krishna eye and ogle at her, cursed her to fall on Earth. When Krishna explained to Radha that it was being a natural part that he answered Ganga‘s glances, Radha gave a boon to Ganga to be known as the purest in all times to come.

Ganga‘s story of the curses and boons doesn‘t stop here. Once when Ganga, the most beautiful and capricious, visited Lord Brahma, she had her thinly clad youthful richness exposed, when all other present turned their eyes away from her, but not King Mahabhisha. For his ―harassing and offending‖ the honour and grace of Ganga, Brahma ordained he shall have to go to Bhoolok (Earth) to redeem himself, by being instrumental in Ganga‘s matrimony, in a way that his son Shantanu would marry her.
Yet, another legend has it that Ganga once annoyed the angry sage Durwasa, with her playful and impish demeanour and outrage. Durwasa‘s loin cloth (dhoti) worn over his lower limbs flew in a breeze when Ganga giggled and laughed, making the sage lose his temper and he cursed her to fall from the Heavens. On beseeching, she was spared but only to the extent that the eighth Vasu (one of the immortal sons of Manu who enraged sage Vashishtha by stealing his cow) was to be born to her. This Vasu was Dev Vrata, popularly known as Bheeshma Pitamah in the Mahabharta.

Another story related to the Ganga is that of Agatsya, a virtuous sage possessed with extraordinary gastronomic powers. Having been tormented by the demons that hid themselves in the ocean after troubling devtas, they approached this saint to drink all the ocean water, so that demons could be found and killed. Agatsya drank the entire ocean water and the devtas killed the hiding demons. When they were all returning to heaven, Lord Brahma prophesied that the ocean would remain dry, and will have to wait till the time king Bhagirath brought the Ganga on Earth, and filled the ocean with water.
Many facets of the Ganga are dextrously delineated in the book. She is described as the daughter of Vishnu. The purity of the Ganga is also described since it is considered to be the water with which Vishnu washed his lotus feet. She is also said to be emerging out of the Kamandal of Brahma. She is known as Jahnvi for when on her way to cleanse the sins of Bhagirath‘s ancestors, she flooded the ashram of sage Jahnu, who drank all her water and let her come out of his right ear, but only on being beseeched by Bhagirath.

The book has details about the places en route to the Ganga River and their mythological and religious status. Various fairs like the Kumbha, Kanwars, Magh, etc., are discussed here. Temples, shrines and pilgrimage places find mention with apt details. Ganga‘s pollution levels, water quality, Ganga as ―the sink‖, types of plastics, floods, outcome of climatic change, disastrous dams and ruinous mining are other subjects dwelt upon in detail here.

The Holy Ganga is the most suitable for devotees, scholars and environmentalists alike.