119 years of Trust BOOK REVIEW
Sunday, November 7, 1999
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What morality? It is physicality!
Review by Kuldip Dhiman
The Inner Journey by Osho. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 262. Rs 250.

Words turned into images
Review by R. P. Chaddah
The Tree of Tongues — An Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry edited by E.V. Ramakrishnan. Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. Pages 234. Rs 350.

A veteran Kashmiri looks back
Review by V. N. Datta
My Kashmir Diary by S.L. Pandit. Utpal Publications, Delhi. Pages 237. Rs 395.

Warrior roots of

Review by Surinder S. Jodhka
The Universe as Audience: Metaphor and Community among the Jains of North India by Ravinder K. Jain. Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Pages 122. Rs 160.

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What morality? It is physicality!
by Kuldip Dhiman

The Inner Journey by Osho. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 262. Rs 250.

“I am the beginning of a totally new religious consciousness. Please don’t connect me to the past — it is not even worth remembering.” This is Acharya Rajneesh or Bhagwan Rajneesh or Osho, master of the rhetoric, making one of his characteristic statements.

At the time when all the babas and gurus were busy preaching morality, making us feel ashamed of our bodies and making us feel guilty for enjoying ourselves, Rajneesh emerged on the scene like a tornado with his unconventional views. Not many could digest his teachings, and there are many among us who have condemned him as a hedonist without hearing a word of his discourses.

This is sad, because in spite of all his eccentricities, there is a lot that one can learn from Rajneesh.

Over the centuries, we have nourished our minds at the expense of our bodies. And almost all civilisations and religions are guilty of it. So much stress has been laid on the glorification of the mind that the body is now seen as an ugly and sinful mass of flesh and bones.

This dualism is actually responsible for most of the ills of our society. Our seers recognised this problem and that is why they introduced the system of yoga in order to strike a perfect balance between the mind and the body. Unfortunately we lost this balance and we began to glorify asceticism: eat less, sleep less, have less fun, avoid all worldly pleasures, shun beauty. Self-denial somehow got associated with self-realisation.

In the present volume, “The Inner Journey”, based on talks given by him at Ajol in Gujarat, Rajneesh tells us that the most important centre in the human body is the navel, followed by the heart and the mind. Unfortunately for centuries we have reversed the order, making mind the most important centre.

This has created havoc in our lives because if the navel centre is undeveloped and weak, other centres will be weak too. “The mind alone,” Rajneesh stresses, “will take man only towards madness. Do you know that the more a country becomes educated, the more the number of mad people there?”

Most religions and saints tell us to control the mind, suppress all evil thought. But suppressing does not really help because whatever you suppress “goes more deeply into your being — because what you are suppressing came from within, it did not come from outside. . . And the mind functions in certain ways. For example, whatever you want to suppress or escape from becomes central to the mind. . . .To forbid is to attract, to refuse is to invite, to prevent is to tempt.”

So instead of suppressing our thoughts, we should drop all conflict, try to come to terms with it and just watch. Understanding and watching will have two results: “First, your knowledge of your own energies will develop, and knowing them makes you the master; and, second, the strength of the grip which these energies have on you will decrease.

“Slowly, slowly you will find that at first anger comes and then you watch; then after a while, gradually, you will find that when anger comes, the watchfulness will come at the same time. And finally you will find that when anger is about to arise, the watchfulness is already there . . .

“Then you will realise that you have discovered an amazing method: you will have discovered that only in unconsciousness do anger, sex and greed have power over you. Watching them, bringing your awareness to them, they all disappear.”

It is generally accepted that as we become enlightened our consciousness moves from the lower part of our body to the mind. But this belief is erroneous and misleading, says Rajneesh. “The journey of a meditator is downwards, towards the roots. One has to descend from the head to the heart and from the heart to the navel. Only from the navel can anybody enter into the soul: before that one can never enter it. . . . A meditator has to bring this life-energy deeper, more downwards, more towards the centre; he has to turn it back.”

For this, we have to first relax the mind, and then “create tension in the strings of the heart . . . If these two things happen, then the third thing can happen: then it is possible to descend to the real centre of your life — the navel.”

Other ways through which the dormant energy of the navel could be awakened are proper diet and adequate sleep. Rajneesh then demonstrates his relaxation and meditation techniques practically. Whether they work or not is up to the reader to find out by following them step by step.

What sets Rajneesh apart from other gurus is that while they tend to destroy the thinker in you, the questioner in you by asking you to follow them unconditionally, he encourages you to question everything, doubt everything, and to adopt a scientific approach. But the problem is Rajneesh does not teach us how to think, how to question, how to analyse. One reason could be that he was himself an unsystematic thinker, and his knowledge of science was superficial, outdated and even unreliable.

Whenever he tries to support his arguments with the latest advances in science he is vague, and never mentions his source. For instance when he says that the navel is the centre of life-energy, he does not support his argument scientifically or even rationally. He tells us that whenever we are in danger, we feel the impact on our navel, and when we see our beloved our heart beats faster, hence the navel is the centre of life-energy and heart the centre of love.

Now this line of reasoning is a case of unwarranted conclusion. According to modern science, when we see danger, our eyes send the appropriate message to our brain, which in return signals our various body organs to react to the situation. In case of danger, the brain directs our guts to tighten up for a fight or flight response; and in the case of love, our breath stops for a while because we are so enamoured of our object of love; hence the brain directs the heart and lungs to beat faster to make up for the lost oxygen.

True, science still has a long way to go, but just because an organ behaves abnormally under a given situation, is no proof that it is responsible for the resulting emotion.

The other problem with Rajneesh’s discourses is that they are often marred by sweeping statements that he was so fond of making, thus giving ammunition to his detractors. “I am beginning of a totally new religious consciousness,” he boasts. “Please don’t connect me to the past — it is not even worth remembering.” Having said that, he borrows liberally from Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Chinese, Japanese, and western philosophy and from almost everywhere; the only problem is that he does not acknowledge his debt.

And though he was brilliant, the fact is there is nothing really original in Rajneesh’s thought. There is nothing like “Rajneesh philosophy”. He was an expert at reinterpreting age-old wisdom and making it relevant for the present age. This was his main achievement, and it would be a pity if we ignored him solely because he dared to question our sense of misplaced morality.Top


Words turned into images
by R. P. Chaddah

The Tree of Tongues — An Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry edited by E.V. Ramakrishnan. Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. Pages 234. Rs 350.

THE book under review is edited by E.V. Ramakrishnan of South Gujarat University, Surat. He has published a number of books on criticism and poetry. The present volume is a companion to his earlier “Making It New: Modernism in the Poetry of Malayalam, Marathi and Hindi”.

The take off point of these two books is a comment by Salman Rushdie on Indian writing in “The Vintage Book of Indian Writing 1947-1997” that “the rich poetic traditions of India continued to flourish in many of the subcontinent’s languages during the last 50 years”.

In the past 30 years, the period covered by the present anthology, there has been a powerful centrifugal impulse in Indian literary culture, which looks towards the resources and resonances of the regional, folk experience and forms. Poets of this genre have consciously turned away from the constricted idiom of aesthetic modernism and have moved towards more open and socially responsive and responsible forms.

The anthology gets its title from the emergency (1975-77)-inspired poem of K. Satchidanandan which invokes the memory of Thiruvarangan, a folk troubadour who roamed the countryside to awaken households.

The central motif that runs through this volume of 136 poems by 52 poets is that of a loss of language and the need to invent a language. Satchidanandan, Kolhatkar, Yashaschandra and Raghuvir Sahay restate in their poems in personal terms the acute agony of the prayer “may my tongue be never paralysed”.

The search for a new language and the theme of resistance become inseparable in the poems of Dilip Chitre, Sankara Pillai and Kedarnath Singh.

According to the editor, dalit poets in Marathi and Gujarati refuse to translate their work into the middle-class dialects of poetry. Women poets also demonstrate the same ability to turn inwards while probing public mind.

There is a hint of free play of surrealist imagination in their irreverent images, especially Malika Amar Sheikh and Teji Grover.

“Countless men suspended from the tree of passion begin to fly by night/in the direction of blind bodies. We’ve often lost ourselves/in the jungle of intestines.” (Malika Amar Sheikh).

“To collect the ashes of the real/The sons have arrived at the burning ghat.” (Teji Grover).

The four sections of the anthology are devoted to each language with almost an equal number of poems and poets. The impact of English/American literature is apparent in many poems. This is natural since a number of poets teach English but write in their mother tongue.

The nuances and rhythms of literature embellish and effect the flow of thought: “I met Whitman/the Whitman who talks aloud in solitude of the multitude.” (K. Ayyappa Paniker, Malayalam).


“To succeed in life you don’t need/to read Dale Carnegie’s book/ but to understand traffic signs.” (Dhoomil, Hindi)

The personification of “Boiled Eggs” in the poem by K. Ramakrishnan (Malayalam) gives some food for thought: “Don’t hatch us.../don’t turn us into beings/we are content in ourselves as we are/Boil us, peel us, and swallow us...../We will have the satisfaction of being ourselves.”

K. Satchidanandan talks of “Languages” and gives each major language space to breathe, in inimitable metaphors: “Kashmiri, a sleepless refugee/Punjabi, Guru-faced yet illiterate./Haryanvi screams from the maize field./Urdu sings the last ghazal/standing under the huge thighs of a Hindi film heroine.”

And he very rightly concludes: “My language rises from the street/the obstinate cry of the new-born orphan.”

Dilip Chitre and Arun Kolhatkar are bilingual poets; they write poetry in English and Marathi and as such there is a perceptible difference in the translation of their thoughts from one language to another.

“This is the law of destiny/With a stroke of pen every future/Can be wiped out.” (Dilip Chitre, Emergency, Marathi)

Narayan Surve (Marathi), a political activist, imparts a delicacy of touch when he in the poem “Vigil” talks of his poems being truthful and realistic: “Your eyelashes keep a vigil on my words/That is why in the lines of my verses/there is no bit of adultery/Forever, in my poems, there dwells truth.”

The 90s obsession with yet-to-be fulfilled yearnings of the body finds support from N.D. Mahanor (Marathi) and Sitanshu Yashaschandra (Gujrati). “While fiddling with the knots/of her taut blouse/she cares for the erotic moon-signs/on her fair, snowy breasts/and then accommodates them by slackening the knots.”


“Like loam the woman/Spreads herself on all sides beneath me./I infiltrate her layers like flood-waters/and she is nourished.......

In several poems concerning history, Dilip Chitre’s “Emergency”, painter G.M. Sheikh’s “Delhi”, Shrikant Verma’s “Magadh” and D. Vinayachandran’s “History”, poetry becomes an urgent, immediate speech like despatches from the zones of a civil war where continuous fighting goes on. Attoor Ravivarma’s (Malayalam) poem “Recall” ends with these agonising lines: “I am neither the trigger/nor the bullet, I am neither the monkey/nor Valmiki./I am only a completely bald/half-dhoti clad/bullet-ridden question mark/with no front teeth.”

The tone captures the cramps in conscience, it neither panics nor pleads in the face of a moral crisis that has no easy solution. In Dhoomil’s (Hindi) “Twenty years after independence” there is an attempt to create a dialogue in poetry in a tone that alternates between concern and confrontation: “Twenty years later/I ask myself......../is freedom only the name/of three tired colours/dragged by a single wheel/or does it have some special significance?”

Dhoomil’s questioning of the self is more directed against the manufactured consent that checks our voices from stating the obvious.

Way back in 1949 Roy Campbell has said that translation (like wives) are seldom faithful if they are the least attractive. But translations in this anthology are quite faithful, the reason being that the editor has roped in the services of famous translators who themselves are well-known names in Indian poetry in English — A.J. Thomas, Ranjit Hoskote, Saleem Peeradina, A.K. Mehrotra, Mrinal Pande, Harish Trivedi, etc.

Two names are conspicuous by their absence in an anthology which pertains particularly to the four languages. One is Kamala Das (Malayalam and English) and the other is none other than the City Beautiful’s famous Kumar Vikal, who had impeccable credentials as a Hindi poet and died two years ago.

Modernity in Kumar’s poetry re-establishes the links between man and nature as opposed to the kind of obscene modernity imposed on us. Progressive thought in his poetry brings out the multiple and pretty relationships between man, society and environment.

Other than this omission, the anthology does succeed in highlighting the radical phase of modernist Indian poetry written over last 30 years.Top


A veteran Kashmiri looks back
by V. N. Datta

My Kashmir Diary by S.L. Pandit. Utpal Publications, Delhi. Pages 237. Rs 395.

Only a few teachers stimulate abiding academic interest in their students and S.L. Pandit, a teacher of 25 years standing is surely one such rare individual. His pupils who occupy privileged positions in our society, would readily vouch for his outstanding ability, integrity and goodwill.

Even at the age of 90 his passion for learning remains insatiable. At a function in New Delhi held in India International Centre in August last his book “My Kashmir Diary” was released by Dr Karan Singh, a pupil of S.L. Pandit. H.K. Kaul, the librarian of India International Centre, a poet and literary critic, introduced the book.

S.L. Pandit regards his book as a “record of memories”; the first section is written in a literary vein; it is a reconstruction of family, religious and social life. In those days educational facilities in Kashmir were inadequate and the author, like many of his contemporaries, had to struggle hard to complete his post-graduate studies.

The second section highlights the elements of Kashmir culture which is another name of Kashmiriyat (including its evolution since the Mughal days). Pandit calls Kashmiriyat as a priceless heritage of communal harmony and religious tolerance, a legacy of the integration of the finest values of Hindu Saivism and Muslim Sufism, which has worked steadily and surely as a leaven through the centuries.

The author also deals with a number of social and political themes. He criticises Maharaja Hari Singh’s indecisiveness in finalising the accession of Jammu and Kashmir state to the Indian Union but also deplores the attitude of the Indian National Congress in ignoring Jinnah’s proposal for the settlement of the communal question in the 20s and the 30s of the century. He regards the Jammu and Kashmir accession to India as final, and thinks that the only solution feasible is to recognise the line of control as an international border and guarantee imfettered travel from both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Jammu and Kashmir (p 88).

The rest of the book contains articles which show Pandit’s highly cultivated taste and a wide range of reading from Shakespeare to T.S. Eliot and Ghalib to Rabindranath Tagore. The author had studied English literature under N.K. Siddhanta who had secured first class in Tripos in English from the University of Cambridge and who was appointed straightaway as professor of English literature at Lucknow University when he was in his early twenties.

As did his generation, Pandit believed, and I hope he continues to believe, that education and literature do not stand for narrow specialisation, knowing more and more about less and less, but are meant for broadening the mental horizon, deepening human sympathy and cultivating a literary taste. All these qualities are reflected in Pandit’s book, which is written in a lucid and free flowing style.Top


Warrior roots of Jains
by Surinder S. Jodhka

The Universe as Audience: Metaphor and Community among the Jains of North India by Ravinder K. Jain. Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Pages 122. Rs 160.

MANY in north India may not be aware of the fact that Jainism is a distinct religion. They are often clubbed with the Banias, the Hindu trading caste of north India. This is partly because many among the Jains are traders and in the contemporary times they have been politically invisible in most parts of India. That they are not concentrated in a particular region of the country and largely the mercantile character of the “community” could be the factors responsible for their political “insignificance”.

Ravinder K. Jain in his book on the Jains of north India offers an introduction to the philosophy of the faith and its sociological composition. He shows how despite having a common religious identity, the rather small number of followers of the faith are internally divided on many fundamental questions. The divisions of Jains into the Digambar and Shvetambar sects are quite well known. The author, however, argues that “the divisions among Jains do not end with the major schism into Digambar and Shvetamaber but continues into the subdivision of each division right till the present time”. Even in a small town of north India, where he conducted a fieldwork among the Digambar Jains, he found sharp internal divisions.

The problem with Jainism is not merely at the popular level. Even philosophically, the status of Jainism as a religion has often been a disputed one. This is primarily because Jainism does not have the concept of “a creator God and of the worship of and belief in gods and goddesses”. Some have gone to the extent of arguing that like Buddhism, it is simply “a monastic organisation” or “an order of begging fraternities”.

The author does not accept such views and insists that “along with certain other world religions like Theravada Buddhism, Jainism belongs to the polytheistic class of ‘religion’ though it is largely non-theistic”.

The author points out that apart from the sectarian divisions among the followers of the faith, an understanding of the geographic spread of Jains in India is equally important. While the “southern Jainism” (especially in the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra) is almost wholly Digambar, in northern India, the western states of Gujarat and to a lesser extent, Rajasthan, are predominantly Shvetambar.

Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa are mainly the abode of the Digambar Jains. There are some Shvetambars in Madhya Pradesh but, by and large, the Jain population of that state is Digambar.

One of the interesting points that he makes about Jainism is that its preoccupation with nonviolence or ahimsa is not an ancient character of the faith. He argues that classical texts like Adi Purana presented Jains in warrior imagery. In the ancient and medieval periods of Jainism, the stress on vegetarianism and no harm to even the smallest creatures was manifestly lacking. It was a development connected with, what he describes as a transition of the faith from a Kshatriya to a Vaishya model.

This also coincided with the overall change in the character of Jainism from “a sect” to “a church”, an organised religion, during the medieval period. R.H.J. Williams, a scholar on the subject, described this change as a transformation of Jainsm as a philosophy, a darsana, to Jainism as a religion.

His historical account of the changes within Jainism and its various churches is based on the works carried out by other scholars. It is in the last two chapters of the book that the author provides an ethnographic account of the factions and divisions among the Jains in a UP town where he did some fieldwork.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this ethnographic account is his vivid account of factionalism within the “community” and the relationship that local level conflicts have with the wealthy elite elsewhere — particularly those based in Delhi and Mumbai. They actively participate in fomenting conflicts among the various sects.

While the elite and the city-settled Jains had a vested interest in perpetuating the vyavaharnaya, the “conventional view” of the faith, the poorer and the lower castes tended to go along with the nishchayanaya, the “non-conventional view”.

Though a useful reading, one wishes that it had been written in a more readable language!Top

Write view

Sonia — a novice or manipulator?
by Randeep Wadehra

The Search of a Prime Minister: Multiple Voices by S.K. Ghosh. APH Publishing, New Delhi. Pages xii+130. Rs 250.

RECENTLY there was a lot of ballyhoo about Sonia Gandhi’s eligibility for the Prime Minister’s job. Ghosh has tried to be the first to come up with a “monograph” on the subject. Before going after Sonia hammer and tongs the author has touched briefly on the post-independence Congress, especially its downfall since the days of Indira Gandhi. Though there is nothing new in what he states, he has called Sonia a manipulator.

Now this is a new one. Seasoned politicians of various hues, especially the saffron-clad ones, helped by their camp followers in the media have been trying to portray her as a novice, a dumb doll and absolutely ill-equipped intellectually to handle the top job. Now she is being made out by the author as clever enough to manipulate the entry and exit of such seasoned politicians as Sitaram Kesri and Narasimha Rao. Will the real Sonia please stand up?

This book is a rehash of various articles that have appeared in the press berating Sonia’s arrival as a serious contender for the post of Prime Minister. Right from her foreign origin, to her political naivete and our presumed national disdain for dynastic rule have been touted as her disqualification.

Her resounding victories at Bellary and Amethi should close the foreign origin chapter for good. Politically, she is proving to be as good if not a better leader than the veterans within and outside the Congress.

As for dynastic rule, it has become the norm: Devi Lal, Badal, Jaswant Singh, Deve Gowda, Sushma Swaraj et al have tried to promote their progeny, spouse and/or other kin politically. Why focus on one family alone? After all, no politician is exactly a saint. As Aldous Huxley said, “Idealism is the noble toga that political gentlemen drape over their will to power.” The “gentle” ladies in politics are no different.

* * *

Children and Human Rights by S.K. Pachauri. APH, New Delhi. Pages vi+261. Rs 600.

When it comes to children, cliches sprout like grass. They are our future citizens, assets of society, the nation’s hope blah blah blah. But when one witnesses their real condition in our society one cannot but hang one’s head in shame. Sodomy, rape, child slavery, prostitution and other forms of abuse and violence against their person and psyche are on the increase.

According to the author, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh lead in crimes against kids, having a share of 72 per cent of the total reported cases. Juvenile victims of rape below the age of ten years were the maximum in Maharashtra (120) followed by MP, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. In kidnapping and abduction the honours are shared by West Bengal, UP, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

A child’s rights cover a wide spectrum of social and administrative activities. He has a right to a healthy enviromnent for all round growth, parental love and care, protection against all forms of abuse and danger and finally an assured future. There are any number of international conventions and national laws which strive to provide the child with all that is ideal. Yet his suffering only grows.

The reason is not far to seek. With emphasis on individualism modern parents are less family-oriented. Consequently there is a total about-turn in family discipline and cohesion. So what if the father is a consummate philanderer and the mother a feckless flirt? Don’t they fetch the goodies their kids always craved for?

Immorality, however, is only a small part of the total picture. The attitudinal change has exposed the child to elements he is absolutely helpess against.

This book has a number of tables depicting statistics of crime against children. It provides the contents of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, etc. A useful reference work.

* * *

Professional Police — Witness Interviewing by James Vadackumchery. APH, New Delhi. Pages xxxvi+ 227. Rs 400.

A citizen’s interaction with our policemen invariably leaves a bad taste in the mouth. If that citizen happens to be a witness in a case and faces the prospect of being interviewed by the police, you can well imagine his state of mind.

In our country a witness does not get away with merely recording his testimony. Since the time lag between the filing of the FIR — a doubtful starter in itself — and the actual beginning of court proceedings is indefinite, the witness comes under tremendous pressure from different quarters.

Consequently a rape victim (usually the sole witness to her defilement) gives contradictory statements, thus discrediting herself. A foreign limousine somehow transforms into a made-in-India truck in a serious road accident. Needless to say, the police sides with the mighty, the meek victims be damned.

It is not that our law does not provide adequate safeguards to the witness. Procedures, if faithfully followed, can effectively prevent all types of intimidation and blandishment. However, this presupposes the existence of basic professional ethics among police officers, a healthy value system in society and a fearless citizenry. Alas! none of these exist in adequate measure to make a tangible difference.

Lacunae in our laws do exist. Section 174 of IPC provides for imprisonment for anybody who ignores court summons for giving evidence. Policemen, however, can misuse this provision, because, instead of respecting a witness as a law-abiding citizen, he can easily be treated as a potential offender and harassed.

The author observes that evidence can be recorded under Section 161. Citing court rulings he avers that a witness could be interested, disinterested or even hostile. Evidence given by relatives cannot be ignored, nor can one allow the caste or neighbourhood of a witness to determine his credibility. Sometimes a police officer too can be called upon to give evidence.

While dealing with the psychology of different categories of witnesses, Vadackumchery has taken care to keep legal as well as technical aspects in view. Overall, a thoughtful eassy on how the police should interview a witness.

* * *

Starting a successful Business by Rajan Chhibba. Penguin India, New Delhi. Pages x+219. Rs 250.

Andy Warhol, the US pop artist, once remarked, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art ... Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” You find several types of businessmen. Some take up the profession because they are good at nothing else. Some inherit the trade. Others get fed up of taking orders from their superiors and decide to be their own boss, while a few just drift into a particular business and stay put for no other reason than it provides for all their needs.

The ball game is now changing. Non-professional drifters and take-it-easy laggards are going to find it difficult to survive in the maket place. Professional businessmen specialising in specific aspects of production techniques or products are asserting themselves now. Even the “homely” karyana store is being slowly pushed out of the market by well organised market savvy departmental stores. The rude lala of yore is being replaced by the suave entrepreneur of today.

Chhibba has given 10 rules for starting a successful business enterprise — namely, technical self-sufficiency, focus on cash, focused spending, never borrow to finance losses, regular quarterly review, control of pilferage, build allies and find mentors, manpower management, value of time and, lastly, research customers and competitors.

You will not find these ideas exactly original but the presentation is lucid and crisp. He has given tactical tips for beating the competition. But for that you will have to read the book. It is an excellent buy for the price, provided you really want to be your own boss.Top


Wrong facts

The book “Shirdi Sai Baba in the Light of Sufism” by Marianne Warren and reviewed by P.D. Shastri under the title “About the other Sai Baba” (Sunday Tribune, October 24) contains several distortions and misrepresentation of facts.

First, it is absolutely wrong to say that he was a Muslim Sufi saint, or that he was every inch a Muslim. He lived in a mosque but burnt the holy fire (dhooni) there round the clock in the manner of a Hindu saint. He had his ears pierced. He accepted worship and aarti with lighted lamps and sindoor which was performed several times a day in the mosque. He believed in the theory of karma and the cycle of births and rebirths. He celebrated Ramnavami, Dusehra and Diwali as well as Id and urs because he taught that there was no distinction between a Hindu and a Muslim. To his Hindu devotees he deliberately used to say “Allah Malik” and to his Muslim devotees “Eishwar Malik” and not the other way round.

His chief disciple was Malsapati and not Abdul, although Abdul was also one of his disciples living in the mosque. Abdul was an unlettered man and there is no question of his keeping a diary and recording what Sai Baba spoke. Again, it was not Abdul but Malsapati in whose lap Sai Baba rested for three days when he merged his “prana” (life force) into the Brahmand.

Many people are uncertain whether he was born a Hindu or a Muslim but as mentioned in “Shri Sai Satcharita” written by Govindrao R. Dabholkar alias Hemadpant, Sai Baba had once told Malsapati that he was born in a Brahmin family in Pathardi in Maharashtra but was brought up by a faqir.

Sai Baba was not buried in a grave but his mortal remains were placed in a samadhi at Bootiwada (near the mosque) as is done in the case of great Hindu saints.

Again, it is a figment of imagination that the Shirdi Baba fought the British on the side of the army of the queen of Jhansi in 1857. He never did. It is also disputable whether Satya Sai Baba is an incarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. The author should have visited Shirdi rather than Puttaparthi before writing this book.


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