You’ve been Culted!

India is the birthplace of the highest number of religious cults in the world.

At least one person you know is involved in a religious cult. You may yourself be a victim of a cult, without knowing it.

Why do so many religious cults flourish in India? Because of you.

Most Indians have a very poor knowledge of our own culture, if at all. We prefer to obtain our cultural education from grannies’ tales, TV and Amar Chitra Katha -and from self-appointed Gurus and godmen.

The wrong values are dinned into our heads. We are told to blindly obey our elders. Skepticism is crushed out of a growing child’s brain. Free thought is blasphemised. The spirit of enquiry is demonised.

Religion and “spirituality” (whatever that means) are simply shoved down our throats. Unreasoning adherence to idiotic rituals, esoteric prayers chanted in an abstruse language by an incoherent pot-bellied priest – this is “religion” for us.

I spent two years learning classical Sanskrit, and after passing four exams in the language, I gained a cursory understanding of our ancient culture. It will take me a decade before I can claim any kind of proficiency in Sanskrit, but even now, with my rudimentary knowledge, I am deeply impressed by the profundity of India.

Skepticism and religious debate were encouraged in India. There were several schools of thought, not all of which regarded the Vedas as sacrosanct. In fact, the Charvaka school was blatantly anti-Vedic, atheistic and materialistic. Yet, all schools flourished side-by-side. Each school was expected to study and understand other schools.

That was the India of the past. Broad-minded, skeptical, tolerant in behavior, free in thought. And there’s India of the present. Violently intolerant and cultist. The colonialists are long gone, but we are still enslaved – by the Gurus of modern India.

These are the cardinal signs of cultism:

1) One person above all: Cults grow around one powerful individual. That one leader is known by different names – Guru, Baba, Father, Amma, Maseeha, Avatar, and the like.

That individual need not even be alive. The most dangerous cults in India are built around self-styled godmen who are long dead.

The Guru is all. No criticism is allowed. Dissent is ruthlessly erased. What the Guru utters is alone the truth. His word is the law. The Constitution of India and the law of the land do not exist in his domain.

2) Secretive rituals and practices: Cultists greet each other in a special way, they are “initiated” into allegedly yogic practices that are unknown to the outside world, they are made to sign non-disclosure agreements. They are told they are an elite group that has access to “spiritual” treasures unavailable to lesser mortals.

3) Guilt and fear: These are the primary instruments of control. You are made to feel guilty about your personal habits, your behavior, your appearance, your wealth, your career or lack of it, your sexual orientation.

You are blamed for your bad “karma”, for the sins you committed in a previous life, for the alleged sins you keep committing in the present life, and so on. And in a literal sense, the fear of god is put into you.

The Guru alone can show you the path to your salvation. Surrender yourself to Him or Her, and you will be saved.

And by the way, the path to your salvation doesn’t come free of cost, and you will be relieved of all your wealth, thank you very much.

4) Aggressive recruiting methods: Cultists (especially your relatives who are cultists) will barge into your house, emotionally blackmail you, harass you, scare you, turn your loved ones against you, and do anything they can to rope you in.

5) Brain-washing: Repetitive chanting, bhajans, group meditation, vigorous and rhythmic breathing techniques – these are powerful brain-washing methods used since ancient times. Usually, psychotropic drugs are also used, and usually without your knowledge.

6) Unrelenting demands for money and your free labor, in the name of “nishkama” karma.

When Krishna talks about “nishkama” karma in the Gita, what He means is that you perform your duty, whatever that duty is, with all your heart, and dissociate yourself from the outcome of that duty. He means that while you do need to act with a certain objective, you understand that there are factors out of your control that may defeat that objective. And so, do your work sincerely without unduly worrying about failure or success.

By “nishkama karma” Krishna certainly does not mean that you donate free labor and your hard-earned money to an unscrupulous rogue who evades taxes and goes around in a Mercedes, while you roast your ass in the sun doing unpaid charitable work for him.

7) Us and Them: You are constantly told that the world outside is your mortal enemy. The outside world is jealous of your Guru and all the alleged good he’s done. Your duty is to protect your Guru, by giving him all your money and by recruiting more and more ignorant devotees for his use.

8) Vague platitudes: Ask the Guru an uncomfortable question, and either you will be forcefully shut down, or he will answer with a benign smile and vague cliches. For good measure, he will throw in some high-sounding Sanskrit phrases, and a joke or two that will make everyone chuckle, but won’t answer your question. Confused and intimidated, you smile bravely and shut the eff up.

9) Foul-mouthed bodyguards. Only the chosen ones (and politicians) are allowed direct access to the Guru. He lives in a secluded mansion, travels in a motorcade, surrounded by an aura of “spirituality”, and pan-chewing watchmen armed with walkie-talkies and guard dogs. All of which are paid for by your “nikshama” karma.

10) Showmanship: This is the defining characteristic of all great cult leaders. They know how to put on a grand show. Massive group events, huge venues, lavish stages, caparisoned elephants, dazzling celebrities, high-profile politicians, they know all the tricks in the book. PT Barnum would have been ashamed of himself.

Does all this sound horribly familiar to you? Then you, my friend, have been Culted. Cut your losses and run.

If you really want to do charity, donate money to a reputed academic institute or to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. You will get substantial tax benefits as well.

If you want to help someone, then first see if that someone actually deserves your help. If he does, then just help him, and forget about receiving any gratitude.

Do your official work, however humble it be, with sincerity and devotion. Teach your kids to think for themselves, to question, to wonder, to seek their own answers – without the help of a self-styled Guru.

Read about our country’s glorious culture, even if you have to read an English translation. Use your own brains. And do not hesitate to rudely shut down any cultists, even if they are your own family.

Feel free to be an atheist, or not. Feel free to accept the Vedas, or not. Just be a good human being, do your job sincerely, be nice to your fellow man and to the rest of the planet, respect the law, and do not abuse Mother Nature.

That, my friend, is nishkama karma. And you don’t need an effing Guru to teach you that.

Cheers … Srini.

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Eight glasses of water a day? Are you mad?

Of all the dangerous medical myths out there, the most dangerous is the one that claims that we must drink eight glasses of water a day for good health.

The average glass of water is 200 to 300 ml. You have been led to believe that you must drink upto 2.4 liters of water a day.

Are you mad? That much water can actually kill you. There is an enormous amount of medical research that has clearly and repeatedly shown that too much water can indeed kill you.

Why do you drink water?

Obviously, because your body needs it. Your body needs to maintain a balance between its electrolytes and water. The technical term is “osmomolarity”.

And how do you know when you should drink water?

Equally obviously, your body will tell you. To be more accurate, your brain will tell you. The sub-fornical organ is a specialised part of your brain that tells you when you need a drink of water. Your brain has a sophisticated and accurate mechanism for maintaining osmomolarity. You know it as Thirst.

And how do you know how much water is enough?

Once again, your brain will tell you. Just as the brain has a thirst mechanism, it also has an accurate inhibitory mechanism that tells you when enough is enough.

It’s called the swallowing inhibition response.

Simply put, you will find it difficult to swallow water after a certain point. At this point, stop drinking more water. Just stop.

Who came up with this eight-glasses-a day crap anyway?

Well, there was a report published back in 1945 by the US Food and Nutrition Board that recommended a total water intake of 2.45 liters. Mind you, total water intake. That includes water from food, vegetables, fruits and beverages like coffee and tea. An apple for example, contains 86% water. A banana has 75% water. A cup of cooked rice about 65%. Rasam, sambar, most curries are 70% water. A cup of tea is about 95% water. Even dry roasted peanuts contain at least 2% water.

Some nitwit, or more likely, a manufacturer of bottled water misquoted this report, and started this ridiculous and dangerous myth about eight glasses a day.

There’s a more recent report by the US Food and Nutrition, published in 2005, that will give you every single detail you need to know about water intake, and more important, the real risks of drinking too much water.

You can download the entire report using the link I’ve given below.

What this means is that a normal adult who eats thrice a day, and has two or three cups of tea or coffee, does not need more than two or three glasses of water a day.

Look at your urine. If it’s straw colored, you’re doing fine. If it’s dark yellow, drink a glass of water. If your urine is like water, then you’re in trouble.

The health benefits of drinking eight glasses of water are: Zero.

Effect on skin: Nil
Effect on “toxins”: Nil
Effect on weight-loss: Nil.

On the other hand, the dangers of eight glasses of water:

Damage to kidneys: YES.
Increase in blood pressure: YES
Excessive strain on your heart: YES

By drinking eight glasses of water a day, you will lose too much sodium from your body. It’s called hyponatremia. And it is potentially fatal.

How about dehydration then?

Yes, dehydration can occur with severe diarrhoea, excessive sweating caused by heat, and some disease conditions. Elderly people sometimes forget to drink enough water. Only in such cases, and under medical advice, is higher water intake recommended.

For a normal adult, there is no medical justification whatsoever for eight glasses of water a day. The health benefits are ZERO. The risks are very real.

Get this into your head: Too much water kills.

Educate yourself by talking to a doctor and by reading correct information from approved sources. I’ve given some links at the bottom. Do use them.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.

Cheers … Srini.

Useful links:

https://ods.od.nih.gov/Health_Information/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.aspx

http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/Gyn/ObgynClinic/8GlassesWaterMyth.pdf

http://www.sciencealert.com/there-s-no-evidence-we-need-to-drink-eight-glasses-of-water-a-day-researcher-advises

She is of “marriageable” age. We want to get her married “off”.

It’s a typically Indian scenario, no matter what caste or creed it is.

Young daughter is in the house. She has attained “marriageable” age. Worried parents go around town, frantically seeking a suitable match.

“You’re already 23”, they wail. “Who will marry you?”, they cry. “Look at your cousin. She already has a brood of three children”.  And on and on, ad nauseum.

“But I have plans of my own. I want to have my own life, my own career”, screams the daughter. “Tell that to your husband”, retort the parents.

And so, as it has happened in millions of homes across India, and to millions of hapless Indian women, parents win, daughter capitulates, marriage is enforced, children are born, children need to be raised “properly” by the hapless wife, children grow up, get married, children leave home.

And caught in between her husband’s bodily needs and her children’s chronic demands, the daughter’s life is finished.

I’ve seen it happen over and over again. And I will continue to see it happen over and over again. Either the daughter accepts her fate, and leads a bitter and unfulfilled life till her death. Or she tries to fight for her life, opts for a messy divorce, and still leads a bitter and unfulfilled life.

In the process, everybody loses – especially the parents who forced their daughter into a marriage she did not want.

All because we think that there is such a thing as a “marriageable” age for Indian women. In many parts of our country, girls still get married off at puberty. And if you think that child marriages occur in some remote parts of India, you’re dead wrong. They happen right here in the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore. Every single day.

So. What is the right age for an Indian woman to get married?
Answer: There isn’t one.

Arguably, there is, in general, a right time in a woman’s life to bear children. But that’s a wide time period, ranging across two decades of a healthy woman’s life span.

Obviously, the age of fifteen is far too young, and perhaps forty-five is too old in biological terms. That doesn’t mean that the age of twenty two is the only correct age, and that a woman should be willy-nilly impregnated as soon as possible.

Since she is the one who alone has to bear the consequences (quite literally), I’d say it is solely a woman’s right to decide when she gets a husband and thence, when and how many children she has.

And it’s not as if Indian men have a picnic either. We get screwed too.

I became a husband and a father at too young an age. Mind you, I was the right biological age, but I just wasn’t ready. No stable job, no money, no firm roof on my head. Ironically, I was the one who was forced into fatherhood by my wife at that time, who in turn felt, at the age of 23, she was getting too “old”.

And her parents in turn, started loudly wondering if I was really a “man” – and if I was physically incapable of impregnating their fecund daughter.

The net result was a total disaster. I lost the daughter who was born from that reluctant union, to a vicious divorce twenty years ago. I will never see her again.

You see? Indian men get screwed too, because of this foolish notion of the “right” age.

So. When does an Indian woman (or any other woman, for that matter) get married?
When her time is right.

And when is her time right? When her career priorities are right, when her mind is right, when her finances are right – and when her heart is right.

And of course, when the right man comes along – assuming one such exists.

My point of view – first studies, then career, then money, and then marriage.

If you don’t want to have kids, that’s just fine. Be clear about it, focus on your work and your self, and don’t bother about what the world thinks. Let tongues wag, even if those tongues belong to your own parents and relatives. It’s your life.

If you do want to have kids, then be even more clear about it. First get your finances in order. At today’s prices, you will need at least Rs. ONE CRORE to bring a child into this world and bring up that child to adulthood, in a reasonably comfortable lifestyle and with a reasonably good education.

Don’t believe me? Do that math yourself. Starting from conception, to maternity, to childbirth, growing pains, medical issues, school, college, smartphone, laptop, two-wheeler, internet, graduation.

Rs. One crore it is. Per child.  Not counting marriage expenses.

Or, keep that one crore to yourself, and have a royal, worry-free life for yourself. Your choice.

Call me old-fashioned. But the institution of marriage is the cornerstone of Indian culture. Call me medieval. But a happy wife is the bedrock of a happy marriage.

An unhappy wife will be an unhappy mother. An unhappy mother will bring unhappy children into this world.

Everybody loses.

It’s just that simple.

Think twice, think thrice, and then think again, before you make an unhappy mother of your own daughter.

Daughters are not meant to be married “off”.

Srini.