Being a Homemaker: Honor or Disgrace? by Devaki Devi Dasi

I arrived in Kolkata on the 17th of November to offer a two-day seminar for the ladies over the weekend. The local devotees had chosen the topic “Being a Homemaker: Honor or Disgrace?” – a highly relevant subject for the young generation of ladies in modern India.

We had dedicated the entire Saturday and Sunday for this seminar – with a morning and afternoon session, and the temple provided the lunch prasadam for all participants. More than one hundred ladies eagerly participated, and we conducted the event in a spacious flat near the temple. I had compiled course materials, which were also translated into Bengali and Hindi. In this way we could welcome a maximum of participants, offering simultaneous translation into Hindi and Bengali.

I have certainly noticed, that the young generation of ladies in India are very eager for a professional career, thinking it to be great progress for a woman to enter the work force and earn money. Even amongst practicing devotees I have observed a strong trend towards economic development and material progress being the main and foremost goal in life. In a country like India, where spiritual traditions had been strictly maintained until recent days, it indeed seems so appealing and progressive for young ladies to abandon these seemingly old-fashioned customs of ladies being mainly engaged in the home taking care of the husband and children. Thus the ladies in India are now dreaming of becoming independent career women, and it appears all so attractive and glittering! read more

The Chinese self-designation Hua and the root-word Ᾱrya

The essence of the article is that the word that the Chinese use to call themselves is derived from the Sanskrit word “Aryan.” The article explains how this conclusion is arrived at. Excerpt: ‘It is but rare that I take the trouble to write a mere summary of a paper I have read with increasing enthusiasm. Here is one occasion. It pertains to “The earliest Chinese words for ‘the Chinese’: the phonology, meaning and origin of the epithet Ḥarya — Ᾱrya in East Asia” by Christopher Beckwith, published in Journal Asiatique 304:2 (2016), p.231-248. Some comments and background data are mine, but for the factual frame, the entire credit goes to Beckwith.

I had never suspected that the Chinese word for “Chinese” has a foreign origin. But yes, it does. In fact, the same foreign word has been borrowed twice and yielded two different Chinese words, one of which is widely used as the ethnonym for “Chinese”.’

“At any rate, the same word, or etymologically a homophonous loanword which came to be written with the same character, came to serve as the name of “us, Chinese”. According to Beckwith, in this meaning the term does not predate the Warring States period, the final part of the Zhou age (-5th to -3rd). At that time, knowledge was extant about distantly neighbouring countries, including Daxia 大夏, meaning “Greater Bactria” or “the Bactrian Empire”, i.e. Central Asia, then firmly held by the Iranian-speaking Scythians. These were a predominant influence from Croatia to Mongolia, where they imparted their lucrative knowledge of metallurgy and horse-training (Scythian legends pertaining to these skills were interiorized even by the Japanese). Their ancestral heartland was Bactria, i.e. present-day northern Afghanistan and southeastern Uzbekistan around the Amu Darya river (Greek: Oxus), an oasis friendly to agriculture and habitation amidst a harsh and inhospitable region.

The later Chinese tended to identify themselves with their ruling class. The Qin 秦dynasty (-3rd) yielded the international name China, Sanskrit Cīnā; the Han 漢 dynasty (-3rd to +3rd) lent its name to the usual self-designation of the ethnic Chinese as distinct from the minorities within China as “the Han”. It might be that a Chinese elite for some reason had identified itself with the expanding Scythians.”

‘The origin of the words Xia 夏 and Hua 華 is the collective self-designation of the inhabitants of Bactria, a country of which the Greeks rendered the Iranian name as Ariana. This is still the name of Afghanistan’s air company. The Iranians called themselves Aiirya, corresponding to the form Ᾱrya in Sanskrit, Arus in Anatolian (Hittite). In each of these languages, it originally meant “us”, “one of us” (as against “them”), “fellow countryman”. Surrounding or subject nations, and finally the Iranians themselves, used the word as an ethnonym for the Iranians. Indeed, Iran comes from Aiiryānām Khšathra, “kingdom of the Iranians”. Whole article at  INDIAFACTS.ORG

PREACHING IN USSR 1980-81

In 1980-81 I was living in Calcutta, which at that time was ruled by Jyoti Basu’s communist government. Even our next-door neighbor was the Polish embassy and down the street was the Soviet embassy (the temple was in the diplomatic section of town). Though Calcutta temple was far from Moscow we were part of a team that was using every possible means that we could think of to infiltrate the USSR with Krsna Consciousness.

How? Devotees like Kirtiraja Prabhu, would smuggle phone directories of major cities out of the USSR and send them to Calcutta (not sure if other temples were involved). Then under Adridharana Prabhu’s leadership we would take addresses from the phone directories and put them on envelopes containing a Russian translation of Prabhupada’s introduction to the Bhagavad-gita. Then we would take these many thousands of  “time bombs” and mail them to the USSR from many different Indian cities so that the KGB and their Indian collaborators could not figure out the source. Because India and the USSR were close allies, letters from India would not be scrutinized so closely if at all, but if thousands of letters had suddenly come from a Western country suspicions would be aroused.

Admittedly we were using a scatter-gun approach and had no idea who we were sending them to. The letter could end up at the home of pious person or the head of the KGB, we just didn’t know. Nor did we know if our endeavor was having any effect. read more

Is India the Rape Capital of the World?

Even before but more so after the sensational Nirbhaya gang-rape case of December 2012 India has been portrayed as the rape capital of the world where violence against women is enshrined. But what do the numbers tell us?

Other countries in fact have much higher rates of rape than India, but the media for their own reasons sensationalize the ones in India – more on that later. According to this “country-by-country rape statistics”[1] India has one of the lowest rates of rape in the world something one would not know if one listened to the media reports. It proves the adage “don’t believe everything you read in the paper.”

The rate of rape is determined by dividing the total number of reported rapes by the total population and the units of measure are the number of rapes per 100,000 people. Thus even though India may seem to have a rather large number of rapes reported in any given year but considering that India has a population of 1.3 billion people the rate of rape (number of rapes divided by 1.3 billion) becomes very small. And even if as some people claim that many rapes go unreported that even if we double or even triple the number the rate would still be low compared to many so-called First World countries. read more

The Concept Of The Atom

The concept that material objects such as cars and chairs are composed of many small units called atoms is not new, in fact the ancient Indian philosophers Gautama and Kanada taught this.

It is significant that this concept of the atom was present in India thousands of years before it appeared in the West — its first appearance in the West is generally attributed to Democritus of ancient Greece. Unfortunately modern historians, who do not generally give credit to ancient India for any significant achievements, now teach that Democritus was the first to put forward the idea of the atom. It is, however, important to realize just how poorly substantiated the modern historians’ picture of ancient history really is.

Modern historians tend to give the impression that they know quite well what went on in ancient times, but the actual fact is that most ancient records have been lost so their picture of ancient history is based on fragmentary evidence and guesswork. One of the main reasons for this lack of information is the frequent warfare which occurred between the ancient nations. read more

A Historical Sense

I had come to Sanskrit in search of roots, but I had not expected to have that need met so directly. I had not expected my wish for a ‘historical sense’ to be answered with linguistic roots.

Aged twenty-seven or so, when I first began to study Sanskrit as a private student at Oxford, I knew nothing about the shared origins of Indo-European languages. Not only did I not know the example given in my textbook—that the Sanskrit ãrya, the Avestan airya, from which we have the modern name Iran, and the Gaelic Eire, all the way on the Western rim of the Indo-European belt, were all probably cognate—I don’t even think I knew that word, ‘cognate’. It means ‘born together’: co + natus. And natus from gnascor is cognate with the Sanskrit root jan from where we have janma and the Ancient Greek gennaõ, ‘to beget’. Genesis, too.

And in those early days of learning Sanskrit, the shared genesis of these languages of a common source, spoken somewhere on the Pontic steppe in the third millennium BC, a source which had decayed and of which no direct record remains, absorbed me completely. Well, almost completely. The grammar was spectacularly difficult and, in that first year, it just kept mushrooming—besides three genders, three numbers and eight cases for every noun, there were several classes of verbs, in both an active and middle voice, each with three numbers and three persons, so that in just the present system, with its moods and the imperfect, I was obliged to memorise 72 terminations for a single verb alone. read more