Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Mar 9, 2017

SPOTLIGHT: ‘Humanitarians, Visionaries, Heroes and You’ by Mary Feliciani (Biography)

Spotlight is my small effort to support upcoming authors in their effort to reach their readers. And yes, it is FREE, however to be featured in this section, you need to go through a selection process, please click here for details.
“Writing is both cathartic and introspective. It forces you to search corners of your mind that you might not get to in any other way." - Mary Feliciani

Sometimes, in our day-to-day activities, you come across someone who you could relate
to very well. As we discussed the purpose of Mary Feliciani’s book in course of writing this Spotlight, she touched a chord within me as she echoed my own thought process. As I keep saying in my discussions with fellow authors, students and would-be writers, any work of art has to have a purpose to become a masterpiece. As the purpose of my books 'Songs of the Mist' and 'Kuhase ke Geet' (Hindi) has been to inspire young generation to read and write for the beauty of language, since it has the power to change; while the purpose of writing for the author Mary is to inspire an individual to change the society for the better.

I think that this comes out in my writing. Certain issues in society compel me to write. My book Humanitarians, Visionaries, Heroes, and You would fall into the sociopolitical realm for this reason.” - Mary Feliciani


The book is a collection of seven inspiring mini-biographies. The author uses the voices of Mattie Stepanek, Martin Lurther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Terry Fox, Craig Kielburger, and her own reflections to encourage the reader to join a growing movement towards social responsibility and global citizenship.


Mary is a Canadian author, independent publisher and a former elementary school teacher. She attended UTM where she studied psychology and still lives in Mississauga, Ontario.

Mary’s background in psychology, work with children and passionate interest in the human condition, which stems back as far as she can remember, are all evident in her writing.


I feel compelled to write about certain issues. The issues themselves inspire me. I write about topics that I am passionate about, and if you are passionate about a subject, there is always more to say. Ideas live in my head for a very long time before I sit down to write.

Currently, I am writing a book about bullying entitled The Invisible Boy. Bullying is a type of abuse and an issue that I'm interested in. Issues in our society such as these are what motivate me to write.


The most difficult aspect of writing the book was the balancing act I was trying to sustain. On one hand, I wanted the biographies of the personalities in the book to be inspiring for the young reader, but not so surreal that the reader would think they could never emulate them. I use the word "You" in the title because I think that there are young people out there today who possess the same qualities as the humanitarians in the book. Also, the most important quality that the personalities all demonstrated was that they wanted to make a better world.

I also wanted a balance between appealing to the reader’s intellect and appealing to the reader's emotions. It is a persuasive piece of writing. If you both think and feel that something is right, that is a very powerful connection. I wanted the reader to be connected to the humanitarians, visionaries, and heroes in the book on both levels.

1. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” - Gandhi

We cannot control the behavior of others. We can only control ourselves. But, through our actions and words we can influence people. That is what Mattie Stepanek did through his poetry. That is what Craig Kielburger along with his brother, Marc Kielburger, are continuing to do with “We Day”. 

2. “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love always won. There have been tyrants and murders and for a time they seemed invincible, but in the end they always fall - think of it, always.” - Gandhi

This statement gives us hope no matter how bad situations are.

3. The beginning of Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech always arouses strong emotions in me. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I heard it so many times paired with the news of his death, that I became conditioned to feel connected to him. When I hear or even think the words, a strong feeling of humanity is evoked in me.

4. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - Dalai Lama

We don't often think about how rewarding being able to understand others can be, and what a toll hate and anger takes on us. I also like this quote because it contains two of my favorite things – truth and humor.

When asked to choose from the following purposes for writing: ego, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose, Mary adds philosophy and psychology to the mix.

Mary says that philosophy motivates her. She is always asking questions about humanity. But one might argue that philosophy presupposes both psychology and politics and that we end up back in the political sphere. Although understanding the individual is the focus in psychology, and understanding both the individual and society are central to philosophy, politics is a narrow sliver of philosophy applied to the masses. And there is an aspect of philosophy that isn't always found in politics - the humanist worldview. She says her book relates to this worldview.

When I asked why she writes
, and if she would stop writing, if asked by someone she looks up to, she says she can only stop when she has nothing more to say or finds another media to say it in. For her, writing is a form of self-expression.

I don't believe that it is my ego that drives me to write. I never aspired to be an author. Growing up I wanted to be a psychologist, but ended up having a rewarding career as a teacher instead.” - Mary Feliciani

On the question about the timeline needed for her book to be published she says… “It is difficult to estimate because most of the book had been written in my head before I embarked on any serious writing. I always felt that I was my own guru. I was consciously aware that I was very introspective at a young age. The belief system that comes through in the reflections of the book had been with me forever. I just hadn't thought of a way to share them until I had the book idea. Once I started writing the book, it took one year to complete. That would include the whole process of publishing: writing, editing, book design, acquiring photos from certain organizations/foundations and printing.”

She jots down ideas wherever she is when inspiration comes, but for serious writing - when she wants things to come together - she writes in the peace and quiet of her study room. She is currently writing the second book of her bullying trilogy. It's entitled The Invisible Boy and will be published in late 2017. The first book of the trilogy, Big and Small in the Mirror, was published in 2015.


I love to travel and I am a prolific photographer. I have thousands of travel photos. Also, I am into health and fitness, and I plan to take an art course in the near future.


I am proud of how I raised my children and my career as an elementary school teacher. My children have a love of learning and have done well in academia and their respective careers. I enjoyed the time spent with my students, and I hope that I have made a positive impact on them. 


GENRE: Mystery

I crave mystery in books and also look for it in television and movies. I find this genre relaxing and intellectually stimulating at the same time. The reader/audience has to solve a puzzle, which is cerebral, but it is also relaxing because you know that the crime isn’t real – it is all in good fun.


Agatha Christie is my favorite mystery author. She helped to develop the genre. My favorite books would be Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None. The plots of both of these books were unique for their time period.

Irrespective of genre, my two favorite books (that I read in 2016) are The Book Thief and 1984 (which I read as a young adult and reread in 2016).

– by Shashi 
Regional Head of a Multi-National Firm
Speaker | Author of “Songs of the Mist” & "Kuhase Ke Geet "
Haiku Poet | Writes India’s #1 Spiritual Blog “Shadow Dancing With Mind
(Global Ranking #36)

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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"The Politics of Unity' by M Cuddehe    Path to Wholeness - David Bookbinder

Mar 7, 2017

THOUGHTS: Demonetization of Vedic Currency - PART II AGHORI On CNN Series 'Believer by Reza Aslan'

Here is a question...
What do you think are the reasons behind recent spurt of violence against Indians in USA?

In my opinion, there is an underlying current of the archaic worldview of India which is inciting the fringe groups and racist people to commit acts of violence against Indians. There are popular shows in USA that talk about religion, Hinduism and Ancient Vedic Customs, peppered by stereotypes like caste-ism, bizarre fakirs and their theatrics and, to top it all, now Cannibalism as well (Thanks to CNN's bizarre episode to demystify Hinduism in 'Believer'), which goes on to create ugly impressions of India and Indians across the world.

A Sadhu friend from an ashram in Varanasi
I know that there are some views in Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, Smiriti etc. which is not acceptable in 21st Century by people of the modern world, including me but that does not mean that the Indian Culture and Vedic Heritage does not have anything to share and learn from. There are numerous ideas and thoughts within thousands of our ancient scriptures that are worth all our consideration. Not only there is a beauty in the language of those ancient manuscripts, which alone can change us into becoming a better human being but there are deep thought processes and philosophical discussion which can help mankind to become more inclusive and at peace with each other.

However, my issue is not with people who talk about Vedic Culture and Hinduism but with people who 'cherry pick' things from the ancient books and our cultural heritage and present a distorted world-view of India as country of savages, cannibals, fakir, snake charmers and abhorring caste-ist, who generally treat women as an objects of oppression.

Here is a thought experiment...
You have been approached by a prominent Electronic Media (read CNN) to curate and host a popular show on religious beliefs across the world and in one of the episodes, you are asked to go and shoot in India. What kind of belief system from India you will pick up to showcase?

If you are anything like Reza Aslan, (Who is Reza Aslan, you may ask and I will come to that later in this post) you will of course pick one of the most obscure, mysterious and abhorred (by mainstream Hindus) form of religious beliefs like Aghoris and go live 'on air' with CNN’s program ‘Believer with Reza Aslan’. And having done that, you will promptly jump on to  ‘Late Night show with Seth Meyers’ with a copy of the edited footage. Of course the footage that you have, is to show how immersive you have been within an obscure sect of Indian Cannibals and bring their 'way of life', out of obscurity. You will emphasize with the full force of your academic credential, that you went 'deep' within the secretive sect to get out the outrageous sound bytes of Aghori, who wanted to cut off your head and eat.

Well, few days ago, this actually happened. CNN aired a particularly controversial episode of 'Believer with Reza Aslan' despite many protests by Hindu Community leaders, Scholars, prominent TV Critics and even by a Congress Woman (some of them were not even Indians). Hindu American Foundation’s also voiced their protest against the show, by highlighting that the program devoted ‘copious footage to highlighting stereotypical and sensationalized presentation of Hinduism.' CNN program is latest addition to the narrative of Indian society as weird, theatrical and cannibalistic.

“Many of the groups and leaders featured here are so fringe that their bizarre philosophies and theatrics distract from Aslan's main mission -to demystify lesser understood faiths and find a commonality that makes us all believers in something." wrote LA Times reviewer Lorraine Ali. (TOI)

Tulsi Gabbard, elected to US Congress in 2012, condemned the episode on twitter as '...perpetuating bizzare and ugly impression of Hindus and their religion'...

"CNN on Sunday aired the first episode of a new series called “Believer” hosted by Reza Aslan. For this episode, Aslan apparently sought to find sensationalist and absurd ways to portray Hinduism. Aslan and CNN didn't just throw a harsh light on a sect of wandering ascetics to create shocking visuals—as if touring a zoo—but repeated false stereotypes about caste, karma, and reincarnation that Hindus have been combating tirelessly.  CNN promotional materials and trailers that included a scene showing a group of Hindus under a caption “CANNIBALS,” perpetuated bizarre and ugly impressions of Hindus and their religion." - Tulsi Gabbard

And here is CNN Promo for the 'Believer' episode. 
(Please note the video contains graphic content)

Who is Reza Aslan?
Reza Aslan is professor of Creative Writing, who keeps on insisting that he is an expert in the field of religion. Though he claims (falsely) to have PhD in History of Religions, (He is PhD in Sociology from Univ of California - 2009) he mostly uses his master’s degree (MFA from Iowa -2002) in Fiction Writing when he talks or writes about religions he does not know or understand, specially Hinduism. Fictional writing comes easy to him as the only consistent academic position he has, is 'Professor of Creative Writing'. The interesting part of his qualification is the fact that he does not even know the problems facing his own community (Female Genital Mutilations, Terrorism etc.) and goes on to judge other religions based upon his false interpretations and biases. Though he keeps reminding viewers, in his various interviews, that he is an expert of religions, he clearly is not.  Click here to know 'Why Reza Aslan Can Not Be Trusted'  

For Fact check, clickDavid Pakman Show

What is wrong in the clip Seth Meyer has shown on the late night show with Reza Aslan?

Below is the full clip, edited part of which was shown in the Seth Meyers Late Night show. The host Seth Meyers was seen and heard, putting across his own distorted world view of Hinduism, with words like ‘Human Ashes’, ‘They All go like that?' etc. to which Reza Aslan magnanimously replied ‘They (the particular group of people in the clip) were more easier with their views’.  Reza claims that he does the show after immersing himself with the believers instead of just taking interviews. With this small snippet of a very small sect of Hinduism (probably less than 0.00001% of Indian Population) which most of the main stream Hindus abhor, Reza projects the Indian diversity (with its third largest Muslim population) as a culture of weird theatrics and cannibalism. He is showcasing a group of people as Aghoris who themselves vehemently deny to be Aghoris in the first place. 

See the whole footage below and my interpretation / translation of Hindi, spoken by the person along with what was given in the subtitles at Late Night show with Seth Meyer.

Reza: (Asking one of his team member, probably a local guide) Why are the people on the other side of the river are so afraid of Aghoris?

Person doing to certain practice around fire responds: Kya jinda ko kha jayein? Abhi chaho toh hum abhi (inaudible) karein. Lo toh hum apne hi maas ko kha ke dikhay. tab kehna Aghori.

SUBTITLES: Should we eat the living? Shall I show you by eating my own flesh? Then call me Aghori.
My Translation: (Do you think) that we should eat the living? If you want now, I will right now (inaudible) do. Look here, shall I show you eating my own flesh? (When I do that i.e. eat flesh) then you should call me Aghori.

Reza: I see. Why.. Why (probably trying to repeat his previous question - why people are afraid of Aghori’s)??

Person: (Getting angree) Aghori ki Ma **** Ab jyada bola toh tohar garden hi kaat ke kha-oonga.

SUBTITLES: I will cut off your head if you keep talking so much.
My Translation: (Angered by Reza’s repeated question that people are afraid of Aghoris and probably the person was trying to tell Reza that they are not Aghoris, who Reza believes them to be, breaks out in abuses) I will **** Aghori’s Mother. Now if you talk more then I will cut your neck and eat it.
Basically, the person was not going to literally eat Reza's head, but was trying to fend off his irritating question about the fear of Aghoris, which the person did not like as he was not but this is not what comes out in the Show. What the show and Reza Aslan has projected with this clip, is how weird and skewed Hindu Religion is. This adverse narrative is based on a lie, wrong translation and misunderstanding.

With one of Sadhu in Rishikesh
And this is the kind of projection i.e 'weird Indian society and Indians', is neither new nor a rare occurrence. It is happening across the world. The powerful media groups, scholars with vested interests (who believe 'Hindu bashing' will get them appointments and lucrative posts in academia) are continuously creating distorted 'world view' of Indian philosophy, religion and its people. These experts of Religions go on popular shows, showing off their ‘in-depth’ study of weirdness that is spread across the horrible, caste based, archaic society of India. 

What deeply troubles me is that the phenomenon is not exclusive to Western world but there are many in India as well who belittle the beauty of our language and depths of our ancient Indian Heritage and Vedic culture. There are Indian writers, Media houses, Journalists etc. who provide a misconstrued and skewed view of Hinduism to who ever listen to them as they have their own agenda, vested interest in creating a negative narrative about India, Indians and Hinduism.

This kind of narrative has to be challenged and I believe this course correction has to come from all of us Indians.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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