Friday, June 13, 2008


I went to Omkarananda Ashram yesterday with Neelkanth and Chandramaniji to see if they had developed any resources for this kind of project. I was assuming that that Itranslator was the tip of an iceberg. It wasn't. That is all they have done and will likely intend to do. Nor did they have a host of typists behind rows of computers typing out Sanskrit texts 24 hours a day... or know of anyone.

Their ashram is very impressive though. Interestingly, the place is run by the Swiss. The current acharya Vishweshwarananda and his right-hand man, Satchidananda, built the place practically from scratch starting in 1982 when they first came, and have turned it into a veritable empire, with guesthouses, yoga ashrams, and especially schools--more than 50 in the surrounding foothills region with a really big one (2000 students) in Rishikesh itself. There is also a college right next door. Their Swiss background shows in the aesthetics, cleanliness and efficiency of the ashram and the work they are doing.

They are on the bypass road (officially Omkarananda Saraswati Marg) that runs to Lakshman Jhula from Muniki Reti, through a hilly and forested area. With the view of the Garhwal hills over the Ganges, you may forget you are in India and indeed think you are in Switzerland. And then you hear the honking of the cars and tempos in the street below...


I am thinking a little more about the environmental issues. Before leaving Vrindavan I spoke to a few people and realized that there is no LOCAL newspaper, not even a weekly. This means that there is no forum in Vrindavan for raising and discussing issues that are of vital importance to the local community. Such a newspaper would be of immediate success in the Vrindavan area, as I have noticed that almost everyone turns to the Mathura/Vrindavan pages first when they look at the paper. But subjects that have recently come up--manhole covers being left open, the monkey problem, etc., could all use deeper coverage and followup--and there are so many other matters that need to be raised on a regular basis.

In general, ALL articles in the Hindi newspapers (at least the ones I looked at) are superficially written, seem to be more interested in listing the names of people who were present rather than in analyzing and discussing the issues that are being reported. A typical example would be the coverage of the Gopal Ghose event at the Vrindavan Research Institute (at which I was present), which said practically nothing about Gopala Ghose, and spent half of the article listing the names of people the who spoke--without saying what they said. Khushamod. Everyone likes to see their name in the paper. In short, they have little or no JOURNALISTIC value.

I thought that a good name for the paper would be Chakshuh, as in divyam dadami te chakshuh. The reason is that people just don't see what is in front of their eyes unless someone tells them what to see. Pashyann api na pashyati. The garbage issue is really a classical case. People just do not see that it is a horrendous mess unless they are made aware of it.

In Vrindavan there are numerous similar issues that need to be brought to the fore, like the responsibility of the Goswamis and sadhus, politicians and businessmen in preserving the sanctity of Vrindavan, the proper attitude towards yatris as tourists (how to cultivate and promote a healthy and flourishing tourist industry), etc. Somehow, the idea has to be communicated that progress, the need for which is often given as an excuse for neglect of the environment--in every sense of the word--must become associated with concepts of cleanliness, sanctity, and environmental responsibility.

Local temples and ashrams (and of course the various environmental NGOs) could be brought on board by articles promoting and covering their events. Local politicians could, of course, be wooed by giving them the opportunity to vaunt their own programmes and virtues. It is sometimes said that all politics is local, and it is also said that we should think globally and act locally. So this is an essential aspect of any meaningful action plan.

Financing of the paper could be done through sponsorship, advertising and by vigorous promotion of sales to people coming from outside. The paper could also be "mirrored" by a website, preferably bilingual (English-Hindi), which would keep people around the world appraised of the situation. There is a hunger for news of Vrindavan in the world Vaishnava community and we could feed that hunger while linking potential donors, etc., to the various good causes through their webpages. This could also be a source of income, and Vrindavan businessmen might also see this as a good advertising venue.

I don't think the city of Mathura should best be involved, for many reasons, but Govardhan, Varshana and Radha Kund all should. It is not that Mathura is not suffering from the same kind of environmental disease as the rest of the region, but they have so many other issues that they would swallow up the kinds of concerns that we would like to deal with.

I think that this is of utmost importance in developing the environmental movement, and we would have a stock of good writers in those who are concerned but presently have no venue in which to make their visions visible. Therefore "chakshuh."

This idea may take a while to take shape. First of all, I am in Rishikesh for the time being and from here there is probably little that I could do, and unfortunately my networking resources are minimal. However, I believe that if "Bhangi Bihari" is merciful, people will come forward.

Jai Sri Radhe!! (From a letter to Shrivatsa Goswami)


Anonymous said...

A newspaper? That's a brilliant idea! Absolutely needed!

Jagat said...

Gaura, email me at jan k brz (one word, no spaces) at yahoo good old dot com

Jagat said...

One of my secular heroes is Bill Moyers, whom I first encountered in his famous interviews with Joseph Campbell. His current activism (not really new, of course) in media and democracy is outstanding. You can check out this recent video here: Patriot's Dream.

In the Indian context, almost everything he says is applicable, though thankfully India is still a step or two behind. Nevertheless, the problem of local media is most probably a result of conglomerates dominating the media.

It is not unimpressive to see that the all the same newspapers have local editions throughout north India. Nevertheless, you get the distinct feeling that the "bottom line" is more important than journalistic integrity, following the American model.

Jagat said...

Radhe Radhe!

The word Bhangi is banned totally and for which our Ex Prime Minister Narsimha Rao had to seek apology in the parliament. We can never use the word Bhangi Bihari as you suggested. There are many ways of radical approach to solve any particular problem. But by using such a word to the Lord is not only insulting to Him, but it is to promote the racism, which is unacceptable. However I respect your emotion to keep the Braj Region Environment friendly and a newspaper on it is a good idea.

Regards, YS Jagannath Poddar

jijaji said...

"One of my secular heroes is Bill Moyers, whom I first encountered in his famous interviews with Joseph Campbell"

Me too, of course you probably know that Chambell was a disciple of Swami Nikhilananda and did extensive translation and editing work for the Ramakrishna mission in New York. It's even said that Campbell used to give the 'Sunday Feast' lecture (so to speak) there once in a while back in the old days when he was working on 'The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna'