Thursday, December 4, 2008

Needed: A New Approach to Fight Terrorism

An interesting post on the Bombay (Mumbai) attacks:

I liked two points the author made: (i) it's time to give up attachments (I presume to old ways of thinking); and
(ii) the horrifying events of the past week do invite us to open our "eyes, hearts and minds."

I believe it's important we look for new approaches that are likely to lead us away from conflict, towards peace. I believe it's equally important we find approaches that are realistic, which means we cannot afford to ignore the realities of the situation. These realities include the facts that Pakistan's military intelligence (the ISI) is obviously not under the full control of the civilian government and that the ISI continues to train and finance terrorists.

I was amazed to hear a Pakistani foreign minister state clearly to the world media last week that it was in Pakistan's interest to cooperate with India on the ongoing investigation of the attacks. This is indeed an opportunity for Indians and Pakistanis to give up their attachment to old ways of thinking and work together for peace.

Yet, the Pakistani government was unable that same week to persuade the head of the ISI to visit India, even though it had publicly announced such a visit. Meanwhile, the evidence of ISI complicity in terrorist activity continued to mount. At the moment, attention is focused on the results of the Indian investigation of the Mumbai attacks. But let us not forget that the New York Times quoted US government sources back in August to say that the ISI had aided the blast at the Indian embassy in Kabul in July. And, because of its concerns about the Pakistani military, the US no longer provides Pakistan with advance information of attacks against Al Qaida terrrorists on Pakistani territory.

What does all this mean for India? I think it means India, and Indians (such as myself), need to distinguish between the various wings of the Pakistani establishment and support those that stand firmly against terrorists while standing up to those that continue to train and finance terrorists. This is, of course, easier said than done when it is far from clear what action, if any, Pakistan’s civilian government intends to take against terrorist groups or their powerful supporters.

Perhaps the civilian government in Pakistan could start by extraditing those wanted in India in connection with terrorists attacks, including an attack on Parliament and the hijacking of a plane. At the same time, the government, with the help of its allies, might begin tracing the money that reaches terrorist organizations based on Pakistani soil. Lastly, it must begin the difficult process of bringing its military, including military intelligence, under government control.

Pakistan’s allies and well-wishers need to take their heads out of the sand, acknowledge the ground realities, and help and encourage the elected civilian government to deal with those realities.

The Indian people are understandably angry and sad after the latest attacks in Mumbai. It is important to direct that anger against terrorists rather than against communities or countries.

It is in no-one's interest to be subjected to more terrorist attacks. It is not in the interests of either the Indian or the Pakistani people to have any force, any power, continue the indoctrination and training of terrorists. And it is not in the interests of either country, and their people, to have a “failed state” and a power vacuum in the subcontinent.

I hope these realities will finally help us to overcome the divisions of the past -- based on nationality, religion or language -- and create, finally, the one division that is needed today, not just in the subcontinent, but around the world: the division between people who seek peace and people who spread terrorism.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bombay Attacks and After

Anger after the Bombay Attacks – Let's Learn from History

I can sense the anger now in some of the TV interviews, in messages from friends – and in myself. By now, we know and accept the fact there there are groups of murderous, indoctrinated people dedicated to terrorizing the world. But for many Indians, there is the added frustration of believing that many of these terrorists have received their indoctrination, training and financial backing in Pakistan. Whether from the government proper, or the intelligence service ISI, or from other sources. Whatever the precise source, it is generally believed in India that many terrorists have been trained on Pakistani soil and received supplies and money originating in that country.

I have no doubt the Indian authorities investigating the Bombay attacks have already gathered much useful information on the perpatrators and their backers. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have clearly pointed to “elements in Pakistan.”

The real question now is what we as a people do with this information, and with our own very human feelings of anger and frustration. These feelings are not dissimilar to those felt by large numbers of Americans after 9/11. Initially, these feelings were channelled into taking legitimate action to protect Americans, and indeed the people of the world, from more terrorist attacks. The invasion of Afghanistan, however unfair in historical terms, served the specific purpose of smashing terrorist networks and transforming the society that had supported those networks.

But, apparently, the invasion of Afghanistan did not of itself mop up the anger and frustration in America. Instead of taking action to change the mood to something more positive, instead of channelling the energies into work that would make the world safer and better, the Bush administration lied and manipulated its own people to justify the invasion of Iraq.

It is now clear to all, as it was always clear to some, that there was no link between 9/11 and anything or anyone in Iraq. The world became not more peaceful, but less so. Young men and women from America, Iraq, Europe, Korea and many other countries continue to lose their lives in a conflict that still drags on and that has no clear purpose. No terrorist networks have been smashed and no weapons of mass destruction found as a result of the invasion. Iraq is much less stable than it was and the world even more divided than before.

The urge to lash out in anger and frustration is natural. But if we lash out indiscriminately, or if we lash out irrationally against a convenient “soft target,” we give in to the basest of human instincts. The instinct that led to the carnage that accompanied the partition of India and Pakistan. The same instinct that has led to Hindu-Muslim riots in India, Shia-Sunni conflict in Pakistan and Sinhala-Tamil strife in Sri Lanka.

The events of the past few days offer us, the Indian people, a clear choice: we can lash out indiscriminately and irrationally, rather like terrorists do. Or we can respond in our own best interests and the best interests of the world, with a clear sense of purpose. We have the right to respond to these attacks. But, this time, let us not allow our politicians to manipulate our anger to fill their own hunger for power; instead let’s push them to respond in India’s, and the world’s, best interests.

This will require taking action – possibly both military and diplomatic action. But let us not start with a knee-jerk action and then think of what it has or has not achieved. Let us instead set our objectives first and then find the actions most likely to help us achieve those objectives.

And let the objective not be more power for India’s various political personalities and parties. Let the objectives be greater peace, more security, a better chance for material and spiritual development for the Indian people.

I end with a famous quote from the Bhagavad Gita:
Karmanyevadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachan.*

Let us be guided in these difficult days by what we believe to be right, rather than by any expectation of personal gain.

*The full verse (2 lines) is tranlated thus: You have the right to work [or action], but never to the fruit[s] of [your] work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction.
(Chapter 2, Verse 47, as translated by Eknath Easwaran)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Sense of Separation in a Globalized World

We live in a tremendously globalized world. An economic crisis in one country spreads throughout the world in next to no time. A doctor in, say, Minneapolis may be reading out an MRI report written in Bombay. If you have a problem with your computer in London, you might end up talking to a call centre in Gurgaon, India, or Manila, Philippines. Etc.

And yet…

In this globalized world, people still feel so separate. Us vs. Them, a clash of civilizations, Muslims vs. “kafirs,” Hindus vs. Muslims, Shias vs. Sunnis, Sinhalas vs. Tamils, Maharashtrians vs. non-Maharashtrians. Wait, the list goes on. Senior executives in global countries and national politicians vs. the general public out there to be exploited for economic gain or political power.

In the age of globalization, the only widely shared values appear to be greed and self-interest. Both of which require a sense of separation from the rest of humanity.

The Bombay Attacks

I woke up to the horrifying news of the Bombay (Mumbai) attacks this morning. At 6:30 in the morning, my husband, a journalist, was preparing to go to India to help with the media coverage.
I turned on the TV. By 8 a.m. (5:30 a.m. in India), BBC had told us about 16 attacks, 78 people killed, 200 wounded and hundreds held hostage.

Good morning world.

This is the world we live in now. The news could be coming out of Bombay, or London, or Karachi, or anywhere else in the world. It is always bad, each attack adding some new horror, some new “efficiency” to the killing. In the 7 years since 9/11, we have seen attacks in Britain, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey… More that I can’t even remember at the moment.… One would think the world is now firmly divided between those who terrorise and those who are under threat.

Yet, in Bombay this morning, a young woman interviewed on BBC spoke of another threat to peace: political exploitation of the attacks to narrow party political ends, which could very possibly end in communal rioting. All this while the fire still raged at the Taj hotel, an old Bombay landmark, and while hundreds of Indians and foreigners were still being held hostage at 3 locations in Bombay.

I don’t know which is the biggest tragedy. The deadly terrorist attacks that are so much a part of our lives now, the feeling that our politicians will stop at nothing to grab power – or the lack of faith in ourselves as a society, the feeling that we can be easily manipulated to kill more innnocent people rather than fighting the terrorists.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A New High in Maya (a Sanskrit word loosely translated as "illusion")

The age of virtual reality is truly upon us. It has been coming on for a few decades, but now it is well and truly here.

I have a hard time understanding the wonderful world of high finance, but I gather the current global financial crisis has a lot to do with:
(i) trade in notional products and services;
(ii) trade in a speculative prediction of an asset’s future value; and
(iii) repeated use of a single asset (such as a house) as collateral for an infinite number of deals.

So, we are no longer buying and selling actual products and services, but the idea of such products and services. And sometimes, apparently, the idea turns out to be an illusion.

Now, to help us overcome the financial crisis, the US will pump $700 billion dollars into its economy. No doubt this rescue package is just the thing at this point in the crisis. But, once again, we are relying on pieces of paper that represent a notional value of – well, something. Let’s hope there is some more solid reality behind all these paper icons (icons as on your computer, that awfully solid link to a whole world of virtual reality).

What a tough world. So much gloom and doom all around us. Time to relax – how about getting together with a few good friends and engaging in a leisure time activity? I know, let’s play some Scrabble, that’s always fun. No, don’t bring out the actual board and bag of letters… Why would I play with a family member or a friend across a real table, when I can connect with 400 virtual friends on Facebook and play – virtually, of course – with any of them?

Family members are busy anyway – all connecting with friends on the Net, probably. The kids are creating sexy, exciting avatars (and how that word has changed in meaning…) or virtual personalities for themselves to use in the parallel universe they inhabit.

Well, at least this is real. I’m expressing my views clearly on the world of maya, or illusion – to virtual readers on the Net… :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

ORBS: In the lens or in the sky?

Here’s something interesting for all of us to mull over. I was going over some old pix the other night, taken with my old digital camera and stored on my computer. Started looking through pix I took in Burma in March 2006.
On one of them I noticed a tiny, but quite bright, circle. Look to the right of the stupa (the LEFT half of the PICTURE as you face it). If you look closely, you can just about make out two larger, but much fainter circles further left on the picture. If you can't spot them yet, never mind, you’ll see strange and interesting circles soon enough!

With idle curiousity, I blew up the small circle to see what it was. This is what I saw:

I was really rather psyched. I had recently been reading with renewed interest about orbs – circles of light that show up unexpectedly on people’s pictures. And this definitely looked like an orb! So I went back to the full picture and made it brighter – just to make the sky lighter so I would be able to pick out anything that may be hidden by the darkness. Wow! The whole sky was full of these circles!
If this had been a print, I would have thought it was mould or something odd on the paper. But this is just a digital photo on the computer! Next, I wondered if the electric light that lights the stupa at night was doing this – but look at the full picture (the first one) – how would this be possible!

Here’s a brightened and cropped picture focusing on the sky:

Now, what do you make of that, hey?!

Here’s another cropped and brightened section of the sky:

And one more, which includes that first small but bright orb in the bottom right-hand corner:

Well, what do you all think? I'm keeping an open mind to all possibilities. Have bought a book on orbs and am talking to a friend who has been photographing them for years. It's all rather new and amazing to me though, so I welcome your comments -- affirming ones or skeptical ones. Just so long as we preserve the decencies of debate, of course.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vinita Karim's wonderful paintings

One of my favourite painters is based right here in Manila -- Vinita Karim. I have two of her paintings and I can tell you they have added much joy to my life. One of them hangs in my Reiki room to inspire me as I heal!
Check out her work:

Vinita does exhibit in India and other countries as well, I think, so even if you're not based in Manila, you might want to get in touch with her if you like the samples you see on her website.

To ask for more info, drop her an email:

Quick Book Review -- In the Name of Honour

In the Name of Honour – by Mukhtar Mai, with Marie-Thérèse Cuny (translated into English by Linda Coverdale)
This is the tremendously inspiring story of Mukhtar Mai, also known as Mukhtaran Bibi, a peasant woman in a remote village in Pakistan who in 2002 was “sentenced” to being gang-raped by her village tribal council. Mukhtar Mai does not dwell on the despair she undoubtedly felt after the “sentence” was carried out, focusing instead on her fight for justice and human dignity.

Depite all the translation the book required, it speaks simply and forcefully of a woman with an immense strength of character and spirit. Overcoming an initial urge to commit suicide, Mukhtar Mai chose instead to stand up for her rights and the rights of all women in her country.

Against all odds, fighting corrupt local police and high-level government pressure, she told the world her story and pushed her case through to the Supreme Court. Along the way, she became a symbol of women’s rights and an advocate for education, especially for girls.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Summer

How’s your summer going? Mine’s pretty good so far (what, is it over already?!)

I resigned from a 9-5 (more like 8-8 actually) job in May and that started off the summer just right. Now I work from home, at my own pace, doing the things I love to do (Reiki healing, counselling, writing). Not that much money coming in so far, but luckily that’s not an imperative right now. And hopefully it’s just a matter of time before it starts flowing in... (C’mon, one can always hope.)

Apart from the freedom from the 9-5, one of the highlights of my summer has been a brief trip to Europe. I managed to do a bit of quite a few fun things. Visited some old haunts (mainly in Austria) and went to new towns (in Italy). Met up with a dear friend I hadn’t met in 10 years and with cousins I don’t see very often (we’re a bit of a scattered family). Attended an Italian-Indian wedding (hence the family reunion) in Verona, where I also took in some fabulous opera at the Arena, a huge old amphitheatre open to the skies.

Not only was the opera really good, it was a visual feast on a vast scale (much bigger than most opera houses, obviously). In fact Aida was so much of a visual feast that I couldn’t focus too well on the music and the singing! By contrast, Nabbuco had a somewhat minimalist set, but the music and singing were divine. And Carmen was just so much fun (despite the sad end).

Verona itself is a beautiful old town, somewhat overshadowed by the splendour of other Italian cities with their art treasures (Florence) and huge historical wonders (Pompeii). Verona can’t compete with those, it’s true, but it’s really quite a charming town. Just like Bergamo, known mainly for providing Milan’s “second airport.” (Many flights from within Europe seem to land here.) But it is stunningly beautiful, surrounded by hills, and steeped in history. Truly Italy is spoilt for riches. Oh, and one additional factor in favour of such towns: far, far fewer tourists.

This hit us (my husband and I) when we moved straight from Verona to Venice. Fabulous city, of course, and quite unique – but absolutely crawling with tourists! Well, yes, we were tourists too…
Travelling further, we took the train from Venice to Vienna, Austria. A friend who’s done this same journey described it so: at some point I noticed everything was neater, in straighter lines – the fields, the bales of hay… A bit exaggerated, but kind of true. Decades ago, when I lived in Vienna, travelling to Italy always felt like travelling half-way home to Asia. You get the picture.

Our most fun day in Austria was when we took the boat from Krems to Melk, in the Wachau valley. Green hills, often covered in vineyards, along the banks of the Danube, little villages with beautiful churches, and a ruined old castle on every hilltop (well, almost). And at the end of it all Stift Melk – a beautiful, yellow-exterior Baroque abbey on top of a hill overlooking the river. Lovely. Inside, the abbey is perhaps a bit too Baroque. The church that you come to at the end of your wanderings around the abbey is jaw-droppingly gold-covered. Not exactly elegant, and certainly nothing understated or subtle about it -- it stops you dead in your tracks as you enter. The church includes relics of unknown saints, something that’s always puzzled me. How do you figure someone’s a saint if you don’t know who they are? I’m sure there’s an explanation, but I didn’t know who to ask. Besides, I was busy hitching up my jaw again.

And now to sort through my 1,200 photos!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

How precious is YOUR life?

Most of us are taught from an early age that all life is precious – or, at the very least, that all human life is precious. But how well do we really learn this lesson?

All spiritual and religious traditions, as well as the best secular value systems, tell us that life is precious. These traditions do not distinguish between individual human beings, assigning more or less value depending on race, monetary worth or any other criteria.

Yet, so often as a counsellor, I have met people who value their own lives less than those of others. I had a young client who literally couldn’t bear to hurt a bug – her mother told me of how she saved a beetle from being accidentally squashed and how they weren’t allowed to kill ants in their home. Yet this same girl often cut herself – mostly on her arms – with a blade.

I am not suggesting, of course, that low self-worth is an unexplainable phenomenon. During counselling, we uncovered certain incidents in my client’s childhood that had a very direct bearing on her lack of self-worth. Even so, is not surprising that she was so mindful of a beetle’s life and cared so little for her own well-being?

Another woman, a devoted and fiercely protective mother of two, tried to kill herself when she discovered her husband was cheating on her. Why would she put his fidelity (or lack of it) above her own life? Fortunately, she survived the attempt, got counselling and has not looked back since. Her love of her children has helped her to move on – and, I hope, also a newly-discovered love of herself.

The Bible tells us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. This assumes that we already love ourselves. That part – loving oneself – does not need an explanation. Or so it seems.

The Bhagavad Gita, which encapsulates India’s Vedic wisdom, teaches us that our innermost core, and our Highest Self, is atma, or soul, which is an aspect of God. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, when you fold your hands and bow to another, you are saluting that innermost Self in the other person: the Buddha within, the atma, the spark of divine fire at their centre. In return, they fold their hands in deference to the divinity within you.

All our lives are precious. In the overall scheme of things, your life is no more – and no less – precious than any other. But to you, it should in fact be more precious because it is a personal gift to you, for which you alone are responsible.

Whatever our beliefs regarding creation, we all know we did not create ourselves. This life, therefore, has been given to us – as a gift. Do you treat this gift of life with the love and respect, and responsibility, it deserves? Do you appreciate, do you treasure, the most precious gift that you can possibly receive on this Earth?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Reiki's 5 Principles for Daily Living

Just for today:
I will count my blessings.
I will not worry.
I will not be angry.
I will do my work honestly.
I will honour my teachers and elders, and be kind to all living beings.

Reiki sessions available in Manila

To book a session, email

What is Reiki?
Reiki is a safe, non-intrusive healing technique. The Reiki practitioner places her hands gently on different chakras, or energy points, on the client’s body to help the client access universal life energy, described in various traditions as prana, chi or ki.
The Reiki practitioner acts as a channel that allows life-enhancing energy to flow to the client to help address physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances, removing blockages at all these levels. Reiki helps physical healing from disease or injury. It helps overcome depression, confusion or tension. It brings clarity of vision and spiritual growth.

The Reiki experience
Reiki is a personal experience. You may experience it as powerful energy moving through you or as subtle energy shifts; as a release of mental tension or an easing of physical symptoms; as deep relaxation or greater awareness and clarity. The energy helps each person in the way best suited for them.
Each session lasts an hour, including a brief consultation with Pamposh. She can supplement the Reiki with crystal therapy, meditation or counselling based on your needs. All interaction is confidential.

The practitioner
Pamposh is a certified Reiki Master, initiated into all three degrees of the Usui system of Reiki healing at the Ra Kendra in Manila and SoulCentre in Singapore. She was initiated into the highest degree by Reiki Master Sally Forrest of the U.K. Pamposh is a student of Indian spiritual master Vikas Malkani of the spiritual tradition of Swami Rama of the Himalayas.
In addition, Pamposh is a member of the Singapore Association for Counselling and has a Masters degree in Social Science (Counselling) from the University of South Australia, Adelaide. She has experience in face-to-face, Internet-based and phone counselling.