The Dangers Of Meditation
Scott Carney wrote a long piece for Details about “India Syndrome” — one of may place specific menal disorders (see Wired’s coverage of Jerusalem Syndrome, which mentions that the majority of people dealing with these syndromes have pre-existing psychiatric issues).
But particularly interesting is a bit about the potential negative sides of meditation (something that we’ve discussed here before):
Less discussed are the disorienting and damaging side effects of meditation. Neophytes have reported seeing walls move or rooms change color. The introspective state that is one of the goals of meditation can induce feelings of paranoia and terror. According to Willoughby Britton, a neuroscientist at Brown University who studies the effects of meditation on the brain, practitioners can perceive small sounds as cacophonies and lose the sense that they are in control of their own actions. Britton has claimed that this experience, which some refer to as the “dark night,” has caused numerous people to wind up on psych wards under suicide watch. Guided visualizations… are “designed to completely psychologically rearrange you,” says Paul Hackett, a lecturer in classical Tibetan at Columbia University. In a foreign setting, that kind of experience can be even more traumatizing, especially when you take into account the way some Westerners in India tend to snack at the country’s spiritual smorgasbord—a little Ashtanga yoga here, some Vipassana meditation there. “People are mixing and matching religious systems like Legos,” Hackett says. “It is no surprise that people go insane.”
Details: Death on the Path to Enlightenment: Inside the Rise of India Syndrome
There was also a Buddhist Geeks interview with Britton.
(both links via Contemplative Computing)
Previously: The Risks and Rewards of Yoga
When Microfinance Goes Wrong: Over 200 Microfinance Related Suicides in India
The AP reports that it has obtained internal documents that link SKS Microfinance to a rash of over 200 suicides in India. According to a report commissioned by SKS, the company’s employees had verbally and physically harassed borrowers, even going so far as to tell a borrower to commit suicide. One employee watched another borrow drink pesticide in a failed suicide attempt. Another blocked a women with a sick child from going to the hospital, demanding payment first.
Last Living Master of Fading Sikh Martial Art Seeks Successor
Nidar Singh is the last known living master of the Sikh martial art shastar vidya, the “science of weapons”:
“I’ve travelled all over India and I have spoken to many elders, this is basically a last-ditch attempt to flush someone out because if I die with it, it is all gone.”
He would be overjoyed to discover an existing master somewhere in India, or to find a talented young student determined to dedicate his life to the art.
BBC: The only living master of a dying martial art
How to Do Asian Steampunk Right
Zheng Yi Sao, 19th centry female pirate
Jess Nevins wrote an article on “the problem with Asian steampunk.” Nevins points out that most people default to ninjas, samurai and geishas when they try to do Asian steampunk, but there’s a much richer world of possibilities. “Pirates, submarine captains, hard-boiled reporters, female private detectives… these are all part of east Asian history and popular culture in the steampunk era. Steampunk writers and cosplayers, expand your horizons!”
Here are some examples:
- Zeppelin pirates are a staple of steampunk, but nautical pirates were a reality in the waters of Southeast Asia. Notable among these were the female pirates, from Zheng Yi Sao and Cai Qian in the beginning of the 19th century to Lo Hon Cho and Lai Choi San in the early part of the 20th century. These women were captains and admirals, commanding dozens of ships and leading them into battle from the front, gaining reputations as fierce fighters. According to a contemporary Chinese account Cai Qian Ma even commanded ships with crews of niangzijun, “women warriors.”
- The hardboiled, crime-solving reporter was a part of Western mystery fiction from the 1880s, but in real life there were large numbers of reporters just like that in China, especially Shanghai, where the competition between newspapers was intense and reporters and editors did anything they could for a hot scoop. These newspapers were modeled on American and English newspapers, and though many of them were aimed at the Europeans in China, some were written by Chinese for Chinese.
- Roguish treasure-hunters need not automatically be white. Since the 11th century there has been a tradition among Nyingma Buddhists in Bhutan and Tibet of a special class of lamas, the gter-ston or “treasure hunters,” who “discover” gter-ma (scriptural treasures) which have supposedly been hidden away during the Buddha’s lifetime so that they can be found and revealed to the world at a foreordained time. The gter-ston were active through the 19th century, and while some were genuine many were fraudulent.
TOR: The Problem With “Asian Steampunk”
Grant Morrison’s Indian Mythology Comic 18 Days, Interview and Preview
For the 18 Days version, we took the Mahabharata’s descriptions of vimanas and astras very literally as accounts of ancient advanced technology and created a vision of the battle at Kurukshetra which combines traditional images of the Mahabharata with a kind of Vedic sci-fi approach which adds a new freshness and modernity to the story. This version is less about trying to create a historically-accurate representation of conflict in ancient India and more about emphasising a timeless, universal and mythic vision that has as much to say about the world we live in today as it does about the past. The transmission of the Bhagavad Gita at the heart of the story opens the way for a metaphorical spiritual understanding of the conflict as the war between desire and duty, the material and the spiritual, that is fought every day by every human being.
The Gita, with its direct, no-nonsense guide to living in the odd universe we all share, is at the very heart of the story, in the sense that everything else revolves around that moment when Krishna lays it on the line for Arjuna.
Newsarama: Grant Morrison Wages War Using Indian Mythology for 18 DAYS
Calculus created in India 250 years before Newton
Researchers in England may have finally settled the centuries-old debate over who gets credit for the creation of calculus.
For years, English scientist Isaac Newton and German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz both claimed credit for inventing the mathematical system sometime around the end of the seventeenth century.
Now, a team from the universities of Manchester and Exeter says it knows where the true credit lies — and it’s with someone else completely.
The “Kerala school,” a little-known group of scholars and mathematicians in fourteenth century India, identified the “infinite series” — one of the basic components of calculus — around 1350.
CBC: Calculus created in India 250 years before Newton
Disputed Bay of Bengal island ‘vanishes’ say scientists
A tiny island claimed for years by India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal has disappeared beneath the rising seas, scientists in India say.
The uninhabited territory south of the Hariabhanga river was known as New Moore Island to the Indians and South Talpatti Island to the Bangladeshis.
Recent satellites images show the whole island under water, says the School of Oceanographic Studies in Calcutta.
Its scientists say other nearby islands could also vanish as sea levels rise.
BBC: Disputed Bay of Bengal island ‘vanishes’ say scientists
Pakistan and India officially recognize “third gender”
India and Pakinstan now officially recognize the “third gender” of hijara – transgendered people, transvestites, and eunuchs.
The transexual movement for equal rights in South Asia is fascinating and ancient, distinct in many ways from their Western counterparts.
The right to an ID card for a third sexed individual is a recent development there, but in India there are several hijras (or aravanis, as some prefer to be called, after the god Aravan) already who have succeeded in being elected as political officials.
Additionally, hijara are being hired by governments to recover defaulted loans because hijara are believed to possess occult powers.
Electric Children: Pakistan Supreme Court Recognizes Third Gender
Indian engineer ‘builds’ new glaciers to stop global warming
Chewang Norphel, 76, has “built” 12 new glaciers already and is racing to create five more before he dies.
By then he hopes he will have trained enough new “icemen” to continue his work and save the world’s “third icecap” from being transformed into rivers. [...]
By diverting meltwater through a network of pipes into artificial lakes in the shaded side of mountain valleys, he says he has created new glaciers. [...]
So far, Mr Norphel’s glaciers have been able to each store up to one million cubic feet of ice, which in turn can irrigate 200 hectares of farm land. For farmers, that can make the difference between crop failure and a bumper crop of more than 1,000 tons of wheat.
Telegraph: Indian engineer ‘builds’ new glaciers to stop global warming
(via Ecofriend via Atom Jack)
RIGHTS-MALAYSIA: Ethnic Indians on the Warpath
“Malaysia’s Hindus — mostly Tamil descendents of 19th century labourers — on Sunday ignored warnings by Prime Minister Abdul Badawi and braved tear gas and police batons to protest alleged official discrimination and demand a fair share of the national wealth. Their street demonstration, the first on this large scale since independence in 1957, shut down the city centre that is overlooked by the gleaming Twin Towers, the capital’s famed landmark. Commuters, shoppers and workers ran helter-skelter as teargas canisters rained on the protestors and filled the air with chemicals. Malaysiakini.com, an independent online news provider, put the number of protestors at 20,000, while other estimates said upto 50,000 people had turned up.
Many were turned away or arrested as they came into the city from the interior, said the organiser of Hindu Rights Action Force or HINDRAF, that was formed in 2005 to fight for Hindu rights. Many protestors waved the Malaysian flag and carried pictures of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi hung around their necks to signify non-violent protest.
They also carried banners urging the authorities to let them voice their grievances peaceably. “We only want to tell you our problems… don’t treat us like animals,” one banner said. But their cry for understanding and moderation went unheeded.”
via IPS News
(see also the Attack on Sufis)