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Pongal/Makar Sankranti Reflections

Very happy Pongal wishes to my Tamil friends; Makar Sankranti to the ones in North and Lohri to the one in the North west! Ankita Chobey in her article [i]in Mumbai mirror describes this as: “It is January and for Indians it is the time of the year when we mark the beginning of the season’s end – that is time to bid winter a farewell. This is also the time of the year when winter harvest festival is celebrated. Across the lengths of our country, this festival is celebrated in various ways. While some call it Makar Sankranti, some call it Pongal and some name it Lohri”. Though these celebrations are done across India in different names and different legends are associated with it two things are quite common: Mark of the end of a season and harvest festivals.

Since it is a harvest festival think along with festivities and Pujas it is also important to spend time thinking about the well being of the ones who are involved in the whole work of agriculture and harvesting them. The plight of farmers are getting worse in India which is an agrarian country with 70% of people depend on agriculture. Times of India article[ii] reported that over 12000 farmers commit suicide every year since 2013. The figures are alarming. I stay here in Uttar Pradesh where I constantly listen to issues where the farm lands are taken by land mafias for constructing flats. An article[iii] in BBC notes, “Half of its people work in farms, but farming contributes only 15% to India’s GDP. Put simply, farms employ a lot of people but produce too little”.

All of us get excited when we get fresh crops, see greenery and celebrate festivals. But mundane realities remains the same. I wonder if our economic model has done any serious favour for uplifting the poor. Rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. Today as we celebrate harvest festival, can we seriously think about the ones till in the field? Think about what possible can be done for them?

As I conclude I would like to give a glimpse of some of the Agrarian themes in the Bible. Though Christians are not known to celebrate Biblical festivals, Bible mentions about atleast three harvest festivals:  the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22, Num. 28:26-31, Deut. 16:9-12) which celebrates the early harvest and the final harvest called the Feast of Booths, Shelters, or Tabernacles; (Lev. 23:33-44, Num. 29:12-39, Deut. 16:13-16). There is also a festival which was called festival of Firstfruits which also has to do with harvest (Lev. 23:9-14, see also Exod. 23:18 and 34:26). As I finish I quote few Bible portions:

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.” Deuteronomy 11:13-15

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth” Psalm 104:14

May the God as per His promise protect our land, give good yield, take care of the farmers and take away the ailments of farmers who got affected by Okhi and other calamities. May He change our heart to be good to be farmers and the land.

[i] https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/news/india/makar-sankranti-lohri-pongal-how-india-celebrates-itswinter-harvest-festivals/articleshow/56518330.cms

[ii] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/over-12000-farmer-suicides-per-year-centre-tells-supreme-court/articleshow/58486441.cms

[iii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40184788

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SRI YESU JANMOTSAV BLESSINGS

Sri Yesu Janmotsav* blessings to all my readers as you remember the birth of our Lord, God and Saviour Lord Jesus Christ. As you celebrate Sri Yesu Janmotsav I think it would be appropriate for us this time to reflect on the very meaning of the name Jesus (Yesu).

Matthew chapter 1, verse 21 reads as: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The name Jesus is very familiar. But many do not necessarily understand the meaning the name signifies. Jesus means “He will save His people from their sins”. The problem of evil, injustice, corruption, terrorism and all are great evil our society is facing. Bible traces sin as the root of all these things. And Christ’s birth is indeed great news as it gives a new birth to the world struggling with evil, injustice, corruption, terrorism. Well, how does the birth of Jesus help the world that is struggling with the above evil. Bible promises in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and verse 17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come”. Meaning that when a person accepts Jesus God implants a new nature in that person and enables him towards good work and reduces his lenience to evil. This change of heart is the secret of the name Jesus.

However I would make a word of caution here. Many people who bear a so called Christian name might live a life that does not live the message as proclaimed by the name “Jesus”. The promise in the Bible is depended on the free will of a person to accept Jesus and His teachings. This does not necessarily nullify the power of the name Jesus; rather a call to the ones who call themselves Christian or to follow Jesus to retrospect and truly accept the Saving power of Jesus and allow them to be transformed by Jesus.

May the message of Jesus and His salvation bring a new hope to the world struggling with  evil, injustice, corruption, terrorism and so on. Once again blessed Sri Yesu Janmotav greetings.

*Janmotsav– Refers to celebration of someone’s birth. This context it refers to celebration Christ’s birth.

Conversion and Ghar-vapsi: My Initial reflection

Conversion and Ghar-vapsi: My Initial reflection

We are hearing a lot of hue and cry about conversion, antI-conversion and re-conversion. The ongoing debate is that conversion should stop. If it does not stop rules will be framed or force will be used to stop conversion. Let us examine some basic truths that come out of this conversion debate.

Conversion is inevitable:

Change and conversion is inevitable. Worldundergoes change and get converted into new shape in every other second. The world we see is not the same that we saw few years back. Is it bad? Given an option, people opt for conversion. A person havinga bike converts his mode of transport to a car when he can afford for it and feels the need for a conversion. He can either hold on to a philosophy of contentment and retain biking or can have a more comfortable philosophy and can convert his mode of transport. When a person gets a responsible position in government or a political party, his whole life style gets converted. No party – even the ones against conversion are no exception. Even ordinary people who migrate from one part to another gets themselves converted to a new place’s life style. Sometimes this conversion is thrust upon, sometimes accepted willingly.

Why does one get converted:

When a person wishes to convert, he eitheris dissatisfied with the existing system or wants to adopt a new set of philosophies, life style and principles. Some may convert even for getting some benefit. But such opportunists who convert may not be very loyal to the principles, philosophizes and ideologies of the converted way of life. They may not even have problem in converting themselves again to some otherparty for some gains as and when the opportunity knocks. But willful conversion is different from forced conversion. Why do many give up their lives when they werethreatened? Why did not they compromise even when faced with severe persecution and threats?

Conversion by Hinduism:

Hindus show that Muslims and Christians are the ones who convert. When I go to some parts of tribal villages of Tamil Nadu,Andra, etc I find people worshiping gods other than Hinduism but calling them as Hindus. Their gods mostly are based on their village tradition. Mahabarata, Ramayana, Upanishads are alien stories to them. Then why do they call themselves Hindus? Did they too undergo some kind ofconversion somewhere in the history? Since we have history from the perspectiveof the influential can this conversion be ruler out?Who can claim to be original?Today we live in a globe with different religions. At one point of time in history there should have been one religion and even before that no religion. Religion as an ideology might have developed over the years. Can’t it be? Beginning of human existence should have been the origin of all. If any “ghar vapshi” should take place it should take place to respect human beings’worth and grand them their right. That is a real ghar vapsi. If we know history only from one perspective and only from a particular period of time, we should not give a call about “ghar vapsi”

More serious problems raised by conversion debate:

Willingnes to conversion also shows the need for a better alternative for the one who wishes to convert. When a conversion happens we should not ask the question “how to bring back the convert”, but introspect on a more serious question “why did they get converted?”. Instead of alleging false and superficial accusation, the losing party should think of restructuring so that it can retain. Deep questions should be asked from sociological, ideological and practical point of view.

A note on Christian conversion:

Before commenting on Christian conversion of non- Christian, let me make it very clear that a Christian can never give birth to a Christian. They give birth only to ordinary human beings. They can either choose to be Christian or not. Every new generation born in Christian families have to under go conversion.

Christians are often told that they lure people by money. But Christians empty themselves and their pockets when they see a need. Because of the love shown to them by Jesus Christ by giving Himself completely and His teaching to love everyone, charity becomes a part of Christian living. So when they find a need for hospital they will not stop from emptying their pockets for a social cause. What do you expect from a Christian? Not to respond at the time of need? By the mean time when some of those benefited by this upliftment gets to hear about this new teaching, he may wish to accept this self giving ideology. What is wrong in him? Why did the existing community wait till a Christian community empty its pocket? Why did it not think of such activities? Christianity went through different phase of reformation. Why not other religions who cry about conversion go through reformation? Why use force? Why use influence? Why politicize it?If there is weakness in you why do you want to invent a problem to hide your weakness? Why don’t you dare to change yourself? Why threaten people ?Why fight against conversion? Conversion was a part of history and it will have to be

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Teachers as nation builders

Happy Teachers day to all my teachers.

We live in a pakka set up of Kali yugh (last days as per Christian understanding). Day after day we see shocking crime reports. News about rape has become everyday news. Bribery, corruption, abuse of power and possition are the order of the day. Policy paralysis, slow growth rate and struggling Indian economy are some of the serious concerns our nation is facing.

 Teaching is one important profession which can really change the fate of our nation. I remember incidents where villegers comment ‘you are a learned person. How come you do such a petty act’. Well, in Indian psyche, education is not just gaining expertice in one particular field of study, but more than that it has to do with ‘being civilized’. But it is sad to see a holy profession like teaching becoming a source of mere consumerism and business. Consumerised education has brought down the quality of education to a great extent. It is sad to see such a situation arising in a nation which always hold teaching as a sacred festival with a festival like ‘guru purnima’ centred upon gurus.

 India does not lack a strong foundation for education. India’s university kind of education dates back to around 500 BC when Nalanda university was in its hay day with 10,000 students and 2000 faculty. Also guru (master) – sishya (disciple) kind of learning is not alien to Indian education system. India has also produced many model propogators of education like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Swami Vivekananda and so on.

 

Past is history but the present with its technical and educational advancements doesn’t seem very well. That is why the role of teachers as nation builders is crucial. One of the definitions for guru (master) goes like this: “he word Guru is derived from two words, ‘Gu’ and ‘Ru’. The Sanskrit root “Gu” means darkness or ignorance. “Ru” denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore one who removes darkness of our ignorance is a Guru”. India is faced with lot of darkness as I have discussed in the first paragraph. The questions Indian education system has to ask are: Can the teachers teach with a perspective that will help in removing the above vices completely? Teachers primarily give interpretation of the texts. Can teachers choose to teach in such a way to enable the students to stand against vices?

 Being a Bible teacher, I see Jesus as a perfect example of a good teacher. Some of the good qualities of teaching is as follows:

He chose to teach in a very contemporary and easy to understand way. He used parables (short stories on a theme) as a means for the same.

“And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable.” (Luke 8:4).

He stood against the existing wrong teachings and sought to bring transformation through right kind of teaching.

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.” (Matthew 21:12-17)

He focused primarily on moral transformation through his teaching.

“Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:10,11)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

(Matthew 5:27-28)

May the Lord almighty enable the teachers of this nation to be nation builders.

Because God has chosen me ….

Because God has chosen me ….

Isaish 49 5-7

(49:5) And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength—

– Right from my formation, God has a purpose for my life. For Isaiah it was to gather all Israelites to him.
– As I trust in God to accomplish what He wants from me, He invariably becomes my strength to accomplish that particular task.

(49:6) he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

– c.f (v2,4). I may think I could not acieve much for God. But He says that He will enable me to achieve this task which is very light and enable me to achieve something stil greater.

(49:7) Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

– There are times when we will have to face stuations like ‘being ‘deeply’ despised, ‘abhored by nation’. But God IS STILL FATHFUL. One day people will understand the God who has chosen me and they will give due respect to me (because God has chosen me).