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Perspective | Oped | Reflections

PERSPECTIVE

On Record
Space research will help bridge the medical divide,  says Kasturirangan
by Sridhar K. Chari

D
r K. Kasturirangan, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, recently became the first Asian to win the prestigious Brock Medal for space research given by the International Society for Photoprogrammetry and Remote Sensing.

Unaided schools: Interference won’t
promote public interest
by J.L. Gupta
I
s the Director of Education entitled to regulate the fees in the private unaided schools? The Supreme Court has recently answered this question in favour of the department and rejected the contention of Delhi’s Modern School and others. The Bench has held that “the Director has the authority to regulate the fees under Section 17(3) of the Act.”



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August 6, 2004
End of the deadlock
August 5, 2004
More friends than foes
August 4, 2004
Rains are here, at last!
August 3, 2004
Anger in Una
August 2, 2004
Protest against tainted ministers will continue, says Arun Jaitley
August 1, 2004
It is shocking
July 31, 2004
Lining up for PM
July 30, 2004
Realistic Reddy
July 29, 2004

Not by boycott
July 28, 2004

Bank burst
July 27, 2004

Punjab without power
July 26, 2004

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS



Comments Unkempt
Malaysia’s quick march
by Chanchal Sarkar
T
he rendezvous with the new South East Asia is a sparkling discovery. Prosperity, in Malaysia for instance, is not just a trickle down but a solid swathe. When I first came to Kuala Lumpur the airport building was a Lutyens bungalow, today’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport now is a vast gleaming dream. It’s built for the next fifty years or more. The delegated highway to Kuala Lumpur, 75 kilometres away, is billiard-table.

Profile
His peace efforts bear fruit
by Harihar Swarup
A
decade ago when former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral L. Ramdas, founded the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, people called him “anti-national” and “a crazy person”. Ten years after, he is a hero having been decorated with the prestigious Magsaysay award, considered Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, in recognition of his tireless work in “reaching across a hostile border to nurture a citizen-based consensus for peace between Pakistan and India”.

Diversities — Delhi Letter
Uma Sharma’s film on kathak impressive
by Humra Quraishi
F
or some reason, most classical dancers perform as never before during August. There’s been one invite after another — from Odissi dancer Ranjana Gauhar to Kuchipudi — dancer Swapnasundari. Though Uma Sharma didn’t actually go about “kathaking”, she did it through a special film called “Indra Sabha”.

  • Teammates to cheer up Sehwag
  • Books on Saigal’s life & times
 REFLECTIONS



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PERSPECTIVE

On Record
Space research will help bridge the medical divide,
 says Kasturirangan
by Sridhar K. Chari

Dr K. Kasturirangan
Dr K. Kasturirangan

Dr K. Kasturirangan, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, recently became the first Asian to win the prestigious Brock Medal for space research given by the International Society for Photoprogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Currently the Director of the Bangalore-based National Institute of Advanced Studies, Dr Kasturirangan spoke to The Sunday Tribune on a range of issues including using satellites for health care, technological goals in space for India, and the continued magic that space holds for him.

Q: Telemedicine and the use of satellites for health care are much talked about today. Where do you see its greatest potential in our scenario?

A: There are many dimensions to telemedicine. The first is a doctor-to-doctor interface. About 98 per cent of medical specialists live in urban or semi-urban areas. And then there are far-flung places like the North East or the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The concept of telemedicine is to bridge this medical divide. For example, a hospital in Port Blair used to fly four patients a month on an average to the mainland. Only two actually required specialist health care, but that could not be determined before hand. It costs about Rs 2 lakh a patient to do this.

There is considerable saving if via satellite it can be established who needs what. You will see the tremendous advantage of this concept. Patients who have to travel to Bangalore for specialist care have hotel and travel bills to contend with, uncertainty of schedule, travel distress etc. Find out before hand and the economic advantages are enormous, as are benefits to the patient. The greatest potential in India is in this dimension. In fact, in the first six to eight months after we started this, we covered 15,000 patients, where a rural or remote doctor interacted with a specialist, with the patient available for quizzing.

Every state will identify district hospitals and specialist hospitals for linkage. In Karnataka, a pioneering state, all the district hospitals are being covered. The state government funds the terminals while ISRO offers transponder capacity without charge. What is encouraging is top doctors have agreed to give their time, without charge. Assam and other North-East areas, the Andamans, Lakshadweep etc., are being covered. The other dimensions are general screening of people in rural areas, and training to medical workers.

Q: What are the technological goals for India in space, in the short term, and in the long term towards reusable launch vehicles and the like?

A: In the short term, one, we are looking at the refinement of application satellites. In imaging, as you aim for superior resolution for imaging smaller and smaller features, we have to see that we can retain the ability for wide area coverage. Two, there is thermal imaging and far-infrared imaging. Third, we should develop microwave technology, where there is a lot of interest. It has both day-night capability and cloud penetration. The real advantage comes in when it is done in multiple frequencies and polarisations, to get compact radar in space.

In communications, the challenge is to increase the power — the more power, the less is the size of the antenna on the ground. We need to shift more and more complicated operations to space like switching operations — beam forming, beam switching, reconfiguration of beams etc. These are currently being done on ground. We need to do this to be a player in mobile hand held communications, with geo-synchronous or orbital satellites. These are technologies where we have a fairly good handle, and if you put resources and good people, we will see results.

On the launch vehicle side, our GSLV mark III, which can launch four tonne satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit, offers a launch cost of US $ 10,000 to 15,000 per kilogram, which at present is between US $ 20,000 and 22,000. But world is moving towards further reduction in cost. If you want something like $ 5000 a kg or even $ 1,000, you must increase payload fraction, (the weight of the satellite vis-à-vis the weight of the launch vehicle), and the launch system must be recoverable and reusable. The most important of this is air-breathing engines (ISRO has an on-going programme to build one). This will take another 25 years at least. The challenge for our young engineers is to develop a strategy to work towards this. There is a marriage between aircraft and space technologies.

Q: You are a votary of setting up an Aeronautics Commission.

A: Yes. Our aviation sector has crossed significant milestones with LCA, ALH, IJT, indigenous manufacture of Sukhoi etc. But there has been no corresponding success in the civil side, with a 100 or 150 seater. We need to give this an impetus. Any country with a successful space programme has had a vibrant aircraft programme. Here we have a vibrant space programme, but no Department of Aeronautics. Many countries have an Integrated Department of Aerospace.

Anyway, the synergy is already there. HAL builds our structures and does some engine work. Manufacturing and design capability is there. But civilian programmes have suffered because of the lack of a driving structure. An Aeronautics Commission, on the lines of the Space Commission, will fill this gap and help both civil and defence programmes. It has a cascading effect – in human resource, marketing, infrastructure, regulatory mechanisms and the like. What better year than this year, the centenary of man’s first powered flight and the birth centenary of JRD Tata, an Indian aviation pioneer, in which to initiate this?

Q: Having in a way mastered space, has space lost any of its magic for you, in the sense of an unknowable beyond? Do you connect with it in any spiritual way?

A: I don’t think there is a contradiction between the concept of God, and scientific work with its demands of rationality and so on. The fascination of astronomy, the ability to look at the skies, beyond what you can see from the earth has never left me. Whether with X-rays, Gamma rays, or UV rays, you open up new dimension of celestial events — these charge your mind and spark the ultimate in the intellectual realm. Given the chance, I would very happily get back to work in X-ray astronomy, look at the latest satellite information, and look for something new in say, neutron star characteristics, binary systems, cataclysmic variables, galactic and intergalactic emissions.

You know, working with space technology, there are things that I cannot explain even now. You do your best, and you make sure things are according to your guidelines, and you don’t take chances. You do reviews and reviews and re-reviews, take independent opinions and so on. You need that rigour and thoroughness. That does not mean you can get it right completely. There is that small, small ‘insignificant’ probability where you simply have to leave it to providence.
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Unaided schools: Interference won’t
promote public interest
by J.L. Gupta

Is the Director of Education entitled to regulate the fees in the private unaided schools? The Supreme Court has recently answered this question in favour of the department and rejected the contention of Delhi’s Modern School and others. The Bench has held that “the Director has the authority to regulate the fees under Section 17(3) of the Act.”

The Constitution makes it incumbent upon the State to “make effective provision for securing the right…to education…” Despite the lapse of over 50 years, the government “with its slow moving machinery” has not been able to fulfill this promise to the people. The excuse has been the perennial lack of resources.

The government’s inability has inevitably encouraged the growth of private institutions. A majority of these has performed satisfactorily. They have provided good facilities and quality education. Yet there are complaints. The parents want to pay less. The ‘babus’ in the secretariat like to spread their wings and exercise control over the private institutions. So, the two become comrades and join to help each other.

In the very nature of things, everyone wants his child to get good education. Even the officers responsible for managing the governmental institutions do not usually send their children to government schools. The reasons are not difficult to imagine. The infrastructure is inadequate. The teachers do not have the requisite commitment. The functioning of these schools leaves much to be desired.

The private schools, however, select better teachers, provide good facilities and quality education. It costs. Thus, they need funds. Necessarily, the institutions have to create resources. There are some that get aid from the government. There are also those which do not ask for anything. But the government invariably treats the two types of institutions alike. This is not legally correct or morally right.

There is an essential distinction between aided and unaided institutions. The aided schools are not independent. If they forsake aid, they enjoy autonomy. They can legitimately object to any unwarranted interference by the executive. The two categories of schools are different and cannot be treated alike.

Legally, the ‘establishment of educational institutions’ falls within the freedom of ‘occupation’ as guaranteed under Article 19. The right of the unaided institutions to claim immunity from interference has been recognised by a 11-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in TMA Pai’s case. The court ruled that in the case of unaided institutions, the management is entitled to freedom in administration. It can make admissions and fix the fees. In case the government orders fee reduction, it has to compensate the school.

Despite the categorical enunciation of law by a 11-Judge Bench, the Supreme Court has, by majority of two to one, rejected the complaint of Delhi’s schools against departmental interference. It has held that the “Director has the authority to regulate the fees...” The “salaries and allowances shall come out from the fee whereas capital expenditure will be a charge on the savings. Therefore, capital expenditure cannot constitute a component of the financial fee structure…” It has also ordered that “the management of recognised unaided schools should be permitted to charge development fee not exceeding 15 per cent of the total annual tuition fee.” The Court has finally concluded that every recognised unaided school covered by the Act shall “maintain the accounts on the principles of accounting applicable to non-business organisation/ not-for-profit organisation;” and “file a statement of fees every year before the ensuing academic session…”

The Bench notices that “in modern times, all over the world, education is big business.” Still, the court likes to treat the management as running a “charity” or “not-for-profit organisation.” Why? Is it fair or reasonable to contend that a person is not entitled to an adequate return on his money? Is profit a legally bad motive? Does the decision not ignore the fact that the citizen who has invested his money has a stake in the school and is entitled to regulate its affairs? Has the Bench not ignored the categorical dictum delivered by the Constitution Bench in TMA Pai’s case?

Rule 177 clearly allows the utilisation of the funds for meeting the capital or contingent expenditure. It permits use of funds for construction of a building. But the court has ruled that an institution cannot save money for further expansion except from the tuition fee paid by the pupils. Consequently, a society shall be able to establish only one school. For another school, it may have to beg or borrow. It cannot save and spend out of the funds available in the accounts of an existing school. Is this fair? Is it not likely to impede growth?

Still more, the decision has the inherent danger of placing the private, unaided institutions in the hands of ‘babudom.’ These hands are not reputed to be clean or smooth. The bureaucracy’s track record is far from flattering. Thus, governmental interference in institutions of excellence shall not promote public interest.

The court has also referred to the terms of allotment of land. It appears that the land was allotted to the educational societies subject to certain conditions. Probably, the land was given at a concessional rate. Was it not an incentive to attract private enterprise? Did it carry an obligation to submit to the governmental control? Did the authority not recover the amount from the others who had purchased the land in the locality? Assuming the institutions had got the land cheap, the authority may be entitled to recover the amount, if due, in accordance with law. However, the institutional autonomy of an unaided school cannot be jeopardised.

Even otherwise, the world is changing. Society recognises the need for private participation. If so, why should there not be free competition? If a person invests and a parent is willing to pay, there should be no objection from any quarter.

We may also remember that the cheapest is not always the best. The expensive is not necessarily elitist. And rich is not a bad word. Even if it is assumed that the private schools are expensive and do not serve the common man, their existence does not become illegal or immoral. The public schools have flourished along with the ordinary institutions. Both have and continue to serve society well. Both should be allowed to grow to the fullest. Competition can promote institutional growth and should not be controlled or curbed by courts.

The writer is former Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court
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Comments Unkempt
Malaysia’s quick march
by Chanchal Sarkar

Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Dr Mahathir Mohamad

The rendezvous with the new South East Asia is a sparkling discovery. Prosperity, in Malaysia for instance, is not just a trickle down but a solid swathe. When I first came to Kuala Lumpur the airport building was a Lutyens bungalow, today’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport now is a vast gleaming dream. It’s built for the next fifty years or more. The delegated highway to Kuala Lumpur, 75 kilometres away, is billiard-table.

The pity is to see bulldozers at work scouring away the beautiful forests on either side to build unlovely housing estates. Whatever is built is kept polished and clean. The star-encrusted hotels, office buildings, the malls (a word used first in the USA and now common parlance in Malaysia) are not just top-dressing, they are clean all the way through.

British rule has long departed but much of the discipline, tempered with helpful politeness has taken over. Putrajaya Dr Mahathir’s concept of a capital within a capital is not beautiful but the space around makes it attractive. Time is kept, the roads are houk-free, it’s difficult to spot a car that is more than two or three years old.

It was a quick march, the development. The beginning was with plantation — rubber and palm oil — then industry with the basis acquired from abroad and, now services. Malaysia’s (and Dr Mahathir’s) moment of fame came when the Tiger countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand had upto a 40 per cent drop in their currency value in 1997-98 but Malaysia stared the IMF in the face, kept its ringit pegged to the US dollar.

It’s come through a lot, Malaysia, World War II, Ching Peng leading a Communist guerrilla revolution from the forest, emergencies, a civil war between Malay and Chinese that almost destroyed Malaysia in 1967, then the determined climb to prosperity, giving citizenship to its different ethnic groups (Indians 8 per cent).

The discovery of oil and gas and the building of Petronas to control their sale and its attempt to fight terrorism, its own and that infinitely bigger neighbour Indonesia. In 22 years, rule the headstrong Dr Mahathir turned the country around. Will Badawi, softer but astute, lead Malaysia to stay the course? One of our group asked him it, put into Mahathir’s shoes, Malaysia will defy American bullying, and follow a distinct Third World and Islamic policy? Abdullah Badavi replied, with a smile “I wear my own shoes”. We liked him saying that.

About 20 or so years ago we used to quarrel with our South East Asian friends about India’s determination to build things on its now. Cars, for instance, aircraft (at best light aircraft) locomotives and so on. Ridiculous our friends used to say and now with ‘globalisation’ we too seem to have tipped the other way. Tens of thousands of imported or joint-production cars, foodstuff, clothes, watches — you name it and we produce it. Sometimes saying with pride: parts imported. Swanirbhar is pushed way down the scale.

So who were right? Had we built an underground rapid transport system in Kolkata and Delhi we would have saved millions of man-hours of time and inconvenience. We squandered valuable time, eventually we did go in for satellite phones and “metros” but it was late and the equipment came much more expensive.

Suddenly now there is a mass hankering after refrigerators, television sets, jacuzzi baths and so on. The rich import whatever they want, the unrich got the models of day before yesterday at high prices. People in South East Asia were forced to make the choice. Either as in Cambodia, Viet Nam (for ideological reasons) or Burma (out of a blind isolation) the people were kept deprived while the leaders took the cream off. Time will come when the Burmese will be allowed refrigerators and washing machines. In the Soviet era, copying machine were not allowed and the few computers had to be registered. All that has gone. The West has benefited enormously because it provides the equipment — cable car, luxury equipment in home and hotels, and, for the rich, yachts and MWS. Have we gained?

But its not nationalism, its want of discipline. Our pilgrimages are a stampede, as are our railway journeys. Delhi’s international arrival terminal is a chaotic mess. There is always scramble and confusion and trying to push ahead of the person in front. In the so-called Tiger economies — particularly Malaysia’s — life is more peaceful. Freedom of expression, human rights — now that is a different question. Many of the citizens would probably settle for buying in malls, soft-shell crabs and lobsters. There are the unreasonable ones who spend time in painful prison cells. They are of two kinds — the seekers of an Islamic State where life will be run as it was in Mecca and Medina and the ideologues who dream of Communism or of a secular, liberal state with free speech and human rights. But those do not come easy or unflawed even in the ‘advanced’ West. ‘Ethnic cleansing’, ‘genocide’, ‘skinheads’ trouble all the continents.

Since the turnaround after the currency slide Malaysia holds it head up with confidence attempting to reach an ‘Asian identity and Islamic identity. Growth has been around 7 per cent, there is greater foreign investment than in China, people from Indonesia, the Philippines are hankering to slip in for work legally if possible, illegally if not. Tourism, a great revenue earner, highly sophisticated targeted towards the West, Japan and the Middle East not Pahargunj hotels.... Malaysia is an excellent country to visit.
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Profile
His peace efforts bear fruit
by Harihar Swarup

A decade ago when former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral L. Ramdas, founded the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, people called him “anti-national” and “a crazy person”. Ten years after, he is a hero having been decorated with the prestigious Magsaysay award, considered Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, in recognition of his tireless work in “reaching across a hostile border to nurture a citizen-based consensus for peace between Pakistan and India”.

It was indeed a spectacular achievement for a soldier trained for war to be recognised for his work for peace, that too, in Pakistan.

Admiral Ramdas actively involved himself in the unofficial peace initiative between India and Pakistan soon after his term in the Navy was complete. In 1993, former Cabinet Secretary Nirmal Mukherjee advised him to become part of the people-to-people peace efforts between India and Pakistan. A year later, at a convention in New Delhi, the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) was born. Admiral Ramdas was elected its President in 1996. He headed the organisation till 2003. Seven years were the formative years of the forum and a period of trial and tribulation for him.

Admiral Ramdas now admits that most of his journey has been a lonely one. He hardly got any support from his colleagues in the armed forces and his initiative for the peace process was ridiculed in political circles. But he tenaciously carried out the work and his efforts began bearing fruit at the grassroot level, almost unnoticed.

Ramdas’ counterpart in Pakistan, I.A. Rehman, the joint recipient of the award, also worked with equal zeal and commitment. A journalist by profession and a human rights activist, Rehman is credited with success of the peace initiative in Pakistan.

Now that the Indo-Pak relations have shown signs of improvement, Admiral Ramdas has every reason to be happy. “I am happy that there has been a lot of positive changes in the Indo-Pak relations”, he says. “There is a great deal of maturity on both sides”, he feels. He is aware of the pitfalls and now his efforts are to ensure that the atmosphere of goodwill does not evaporate after an odd blast or killing.

He was quoted as saying that his real work in the changed scenario has just begun. The PIPFDP will continue people-to-people contact while the governments of India and Pakistan will go ahead with the official dialogue. “It has been helpful for the people on both sides to realise what a great civilisation we have been”, he says.

Admiral Ramdas is 71, but he possesses the stamina of a young man. He has been extensively touring since 1998 within India and abroad and participating in a series of events highlighting the dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. He is also an active member of the movement for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. His other activities include assisting community-based organisations in the neighbourhood and elsewhere in India. He also takes interest in environmental and developmental issues in addition to current affairs and political trends — national and global. His other interests are horticulture and water management, music and theatre, history, preservation and conservation of national heritage.

As the Chief of Naval Staff (1990-93), he had the privilege of heading one of the most important navies of the world with a manpower of about 45,000 service personnel and about 50,000 civilians. Before heading the Navy, he had held various appointments, ashore and afloat, including those of the Eastern Fleet, Southern and Eastern Naval Commands. He had the opportunity to interact with his counterparts from neighbouring countries, and other maritime nations, like the US, the UK, Russia, France, Germany and Australia. Also during his tenure as the Chief of the Naval Staff, he was instrumental in resurrecting the naval exercises with other friendly navies.

Admiral Ramdas has also been a prolific writer. His writings on Indo-Pak relations, nuclear matters, peace and disarmament have depth and foresight. Many of his projections have come true. So high is his credibility that he was chosen to head the agency tracking down wealth stolen by the deposed Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
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Diversities — Delhi Letter
Uma Sharma’s film on kathak impressive
by Humra Quraishi

Uma Sharma
Uma Sharma

For some reason, most classical dancers perform as never before during August. There’s been one invite after another — from Odissi dancer Ranjana Gauhar to Kuchipudi — dancer Swapnasundari. Though Uma Sharma didn’t actually go about “kathaking”, she did it through a special film called “Indra Sabha”.

Screened at the Indian International Centre last week, it took one back to the Avadhi era  of Wajid Ali Shah where rulers promoted dance widely. The focus of  this film was on Uma Sharma’s impressive kathaking.

Almost each year, Sonal Mansingh holds a dance concert on the eve of  the Independence Day on August 15. This time the invite is yet to come. In one of her previous concerts, she even stretched the dance concert all the way to Kashmiri poetess Lal Ded’s verse, though not really stretching herself all the way to the Valley.

This isn’t a new trend but a typical Delhi-ite’s strain. Call it by any name — smart, selfish or overcautious — but none of the doers — Muzaffar Ali, Sanjeev Bhargava and others who hold those big concerts centering around Sufism. While this has become a fashionable word in today’s setting in New Delhi, they never take those concerts to the place where Sufism originated — the Kashmir Valley.

Teammates to cheer up Sehwag

On August 13 evening most members of the Indian cricket team would be here for the  launch of the biography of Virender Sehwag. 

Titled “The Virender Sehwag Story”, it is written by Vijay Lokapally and published by UBSPD.

Though the publishers and co-hosts, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (where Sehwag is an employee), have planned a big do at The Grand (incidentally one of the better planned luxury hotels in the capital with ample parking space, for your structure and for your vehicle), one only wishes that Sehwag does not repeat the arrogance  he had displayed at his wedding reception.

At that reception, scribes and photographers  were subjected to Sehwag’s mood-swings.

Though most overlooked and bypassed those strains then, this time he’d better show control.

Together with the team members, there would be a  whole list of the erstwhile players, right from Pataudi to Kapil Dev to the who’s who here.

Books on Saigal’s life & times

Even before Sharad Dutt’s book on K.L. Saigal could be out, there is another book  rolling out. This one is by Pran Nivelle and I am told that it is one of the best produced books on the veteran singer Kundan Lal Saigal. And doesn’t leave out a single aspect — right from his early days to the singing highs to, of course, the decay of the man and with that of his talent.

I have not read this book and so I cannot comment on the finer aspects of Saigal’s life, but on an earlier occasion Sharad Dutt had told me that the singer died not because of  alcohol but medical complications arising from the fact that he was diabetic. Together with that, there was also this factor — women chased him and he couldn’t say a firm  no to chasing and more.
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One should meditate on one’s soul after controlling one’s diet, posture and sleep, and gaining knowledge by the grace of the preceptor, in accordance with the precepts of the Jina.

— Lord Mahavir

O Siva! forgive all the sins that I have committed with hands or feet, with ears or eyes, with words or body, with mind or heart; forgive my sins, those past and those that are yet to come.

— Sri Adi Sankaracharya

The Guru is God, ineffable, unsearchable. He who follows the Guru, comprehends the nature of the universe.

— Guru Nanak

Difficulties come, but they do not last forever. You will see that they pass away like water under a bridge.

— Sarada Devi

Do not look at the faults of others. You cannot judge a man by his faults. Do not recognise wickedness in others. Wickedness is ignorance, weakness.

— Swami Vivekananda
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