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Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Books-9: (Related to Environment & Health)

1. Anil Agarwal Reader : A decade of incisive commentary on environment-development issues
The Anil Agarwal Reader collects in three volumes some of his writings on the environment. They range from the 1990s to the early years of this decade. The volumes showcase the intensity and acuity with which he engaged with the dominant concerns of the times. They are an essential introduction to environmental questions, moving seamlessly6 between local, national and international perspectives.
Pages Vol.1: 348; Vol-2: 220; Vol.3: 268
One Volume: Rs.300/ US $ 15
Three Volume set : Rs.750/ US $35

2. Body Burden : Health and Environment in India
A degraded environment brings with it a set of health problems – some new and some, which hagve posed a challenge over the years. Presenting Body Burden, a compilation of reports from Down to Earth on the health impacts of environmental pollution in India.
Pages 344
Price: Rs.390/-/US 31

3. Agenda Unlimited
Across India, people have taken their destinies into their hands – improving their future. A compendium of such stories. Reported over 12 years.
Pages 288
Price Rs.490/- /US $29

4. Homicides by Pesticides
Edited by Anil Agarwal
A series of articles discuss the effects of environmental pollution on public health – a must have.
Pages 128
Price: Rs.75/US $7

5. Slow Murder: The Deadly Story of Vehicular Pollution in India
Edited by Anil Agarwal, Anju Sharma & Anumita Roychaudhury
This report discusses the issue of smog and smog makers with shocking revelations on vehicular pollution
Pages 148
Price Rs.390/- / US $18

6. Poison vs Nutrition
This is a briefing paper on pesticides in water and soft drinks, pesticide contamination and its health impacts, regulatory apparatus and processes, right to clean water and the industrial use of water
Pages 74
Price: Rs.250/- / US $ 20

All the above 6 books published by and available at:
Centre for Science and Environment
41. Taughlakabad Institutional Area
New Delhi-110062
For online purchase :

Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Villages!

Bookshops, seen many. Book Fairs became Book Festivals, that also I have seen. But BOOK VILLAGES? I have read about it only today. Probably some of you might have already known. The concept of Book Village is quite fascinating for a bibliophile – a book-lover.

But, sorry, it is not new. The article which enlightened me on this is quite old. It was published in the June 1991 issue of Reader’s Digest. So the Book Villages are there for more than 16 years!

After graduation in Oxford, Richard Booth, 20, returned to his native village, Hay-on-Wye. He found the village dying out. He wanted to find a way to revive it. That is how the idea of a Book Village started. He gave the villagers useful work, selling books. Hay-on-Wye became the used-book capital of Britain. By 1990, he had 15 book stores in Hay with over half a million books in stock.

Belgian Noel Anselot, journalist, oil-company executive and intelligence agent, kept hearing in 1984 that Europe’s old villages are dying out. He owned a 16th century stone house in Redu, an old village, about 125 kilometers away from Brussels. Anselot loved the calm and serene Redu, surrounded by farmlands, woods and streams. He also loved Books. He moved to Redu permanently and converted his property into a gigantic bookstore. Everybody thought he was crazy. When Booth learned about Anselot’s plans, he was glad to support him. With a lot of publicity, the Redu Book Fair was opened in 1984. More than 12,000 people came to the Fair. The locals leased out to booksellers the abandoned homes and stables, which were improvised into bookshops.

By 1990, Redu had 23 bookstores and several other related service units.

Anselot says, “There are plenty of bookstores in the big cities, but there you don’t have the time to browse quietly, and the store-owner , with his space at premium, does not want you to do, either. But in a book village like Redu you have all the room and all the time in the world. And with 5,00,000 books here, you are bound to find something of interest.”

These Book Villages are becoming a sort of pilgrimage for booklovers all over the world.

In France, Colette Trublet was charmed by the quiet village Becherel in Brittany, which was also dying out. He caught hold of the idea of Book Village to revive Becherel. Now Becherel is growing into third Book Village of Europe.

The idea of Book Village is spreading to other countries. Book Villages are coming up in Japan and Russia.

Maybe some day somebody in India will also take up this idea and you will have one or maybe several book villages in the country. Let us always hope!

- Based on “Villages saved by Books” by Robert Wernick, Reader’s Digest, June 1991.

My grateful thanks to Robert Wernick and Reader’s Digest.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Books-8:

1. Break Free
by Debashis Chatterjee
The author, a trainer in Fortune 100 companies, addresses the ultimate need of all humans – freedom that leads to true success. He attempts to guide the reader, through instances and examples, to break free from limiting beliefs and offers breakthrough perceptions and choices at home and workplace.
Courtesy: ‘Books – Review”, SWAGAT, November 2006

2. Buddha : A Story of Enlightenment
by Deepak Chopra
Pages 288
A novel on the life of Buddha. Siddhartha as a child, youth and sage. Chopra takes the reader on the spiritual journey of the Buddha. Has a also Practical Guide to Buddhism.
(Detailed biography of Deepak Chopra from Wikipedia:

3. Wise and Otherwise : A Salute to Life
by Sudha Murthy
Pages 220
ISBN: 0143062220
A collection of inspiring tales from real life. One reviewer calls this book as the Indian version of Chicken Soup for the Soul (Schweta.Parekh)
(Detailed biography of Sudha Murthy with photo from Wikipedia:

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Bhagavatam

The Bhagavatam is a combination of exquisite poetry, sublime philosophical ideas and captivating mythology. Its appeal and operation are primarily through the heart. It is intended for, and succeeds in, capturing the heart and imagination. By means of certain potent insights, suggestions, allegories, images and stories, it enables the mind and soul to take off from their mundane moorings and soar into the infinite, ethereal realm of light, love and bliss, impossible for pedestrian, earth-bound intellect and dry reasoning. It enables us to taste and enjoy the delicious mango and be nourished by it, instead of getting bogged down in mere leaf-counting. (Swami Sastrananda)

Details about Bhagavata Purana in Wikipedia:

Complete Bhagavatam online: (The Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust International):

Srimad Bhagavatam : The Divine Story:

Some Bhagavatam Commentaries:

Tales from the Bhagavatam, Retold for Children:

Jaipur Literary Festival

Jaipur setting for major literary festival

Ziya Us Salam

The third Jaipur Literature Festival, set to begin on January 23, promises to be “bigger and more vibrant than ever before.”

With 75 Indian and 25 foreign authors expected to participate, the five-day even will arguably be one of the biggest gatherings of writers and bibliophiles. The likes of Gore Vidal, Ian McEwan, Manil Suri, Nayantara Saghal, Kamila Shamsie, Kunal Basu, Dev Anand, Aparna Sen and Aamir Khan are expected.

Author William Dalrymple, the brain behind the event, says: “We can claim unequivocally that it is the largest literary festival in the country. Many such occasions are confined to a closed circle of authors and their select readers. Here, you don’t have to be a member of any literary club or a society to listen to the authors. Just board a bus to Jaipur and come. There is no green room. The authors are at the mercy of the readers.”

Namita Gokhale, who chose authors with Mr.Dalrymple, says: “We worked closely together. The emphasis was not just on availability; we made an attempt not to repeat any author of last year. For instance, we have invited Tamil author Salma who is an example of empowerment through literature.”

The festival “will have a range, soul and an unexpected note,” Ms.Gokhale said, adding that it “provides an umbrella under which great names of literature can shelter the rising stars.”

Mr.Dalrymple adds: “We have come up with a mix of the highbrow and the popular. But the festival almost did not take off. Till October last year we did not have the funds. We gave ourselves two months but somehow managed to raise the money needed. D.S.Constructions came forward. It reflects a new dimension with construction companies coming forward to help build a literary festival..”

It is slated to have debates, lectures, editing and children’s workshops. One highlight is a music performance by Anoushka Shankar, whose album with Karsh Kale, ‘Breathing under Water’ has just been released. Aamir Khan’s film, 'Taare Zameen Par' will be screened. The premiere of ‘Atonement’ will feature Ian McEwan in a question and answer session with Christopher Hampton.

The festival will be preceded by a three-day ‘Translating Bharat’ seminar, bringing into focus the regional languages, authors and translators.

“We have no agenda, no government funding. There are some politically incorrect names maybe, but the idea is, people will come for the big names but go back with new names in their memory,” Mr.Dalrymple says.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, January 18, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Books-7:

1. Finding Time for the Timeless
John McQuiston II

2. Essence of Time Management - Principles and Practice
Michael LeBoeuf

3. Mother Teresa - A Biography
Meg Greene

4. Martin Luther King, Jr - A Biography
Rogers Burns

All the above four books published by Jaico Publishing House, 121, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Mumbai-400 001

5. Emotional Intelligence - Perspectives in Organisations
Edited by Rabindra Kumar Pradhan and Purnima Mathur
$ 35/-
Published by Academic Excellence, 42, Ekta Apartments, Geeta Colony, Delhi-110031

6. Ways to Truth - A View of Hindu Tradition
Ananda Wood
DK Printworld (P) Ltd
Sri Kunj
F-52, Bali Nagar
Ramesh Nagar Metro Station
New Delhi-110015

7. Fidel Castro - My Life
Translated in English by Andrew Hurley
Penguin Books P Ltd
11, Community Centre
Panchsheel Park
New Delhi-110 017

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Book of the day-7: "Spiritual Healing' by Swami Paramananda

By Swami Paramananda
Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai
Pages 86
Price: Rs.7.50 (in 1994, when I bought it, during my visit to the Ramakrishna Mission Saradapitha, Belur Math)

It is a small pocket book, sold at a very nominal price. But it contains some great thoughts on Health, Disease and Cure and many more things. I would like everybody, whether he is healthy or sick, whether he is a physician or a patient, and whatever be his caste, creed to study this book and ruminate over what he or she has read. If the wonderful thoughts contained in this book could be put to practice, it is bound to totally transform one’s life.

I shall reproduce some gems from this great little book:

· The real seat of disease is more often in the mind than in the body.
· The only true healing is accomplished by contact with the spiritual essence.
· One may not believe in prayer, but prayer heals.
· Faith also has great healing power because it elevates us to a plane where we can be healed.
· All power is of the Spirit. Through whole-hearted prayer and unwavering faith we succeed in making ourselves receptive to this power. Unless we are open to its direct influence, it cannot penetrate our being and heal us.
· Absolute faith is the basis of all healing; even in medical science it is necessary.
· Faith brings from purity of heart, from direct perception.
· The Scriptures tell us that disease is the result of sin. Some define sin as wrong thinking, others as wrong doing; but whatever definition we accept, it is apparent that when we go against nature, we create certain results from which we cannot escape.
· Suffering is often a purifying agent.
· Even sickness sometimes proves a blessing. It all depends on the mental attitude with which we meet it. If we allow ourselves to be dragged down and made despondent and unhappy by it, then it becomes a misfortune; otherwise it may be the means of bringing to us a new spiritual awakening.
· The highest form of healing is when we do not think of the body at all.
· In Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga, where health comes first, we are told that we must have a proper physical vehicle with which to work out our perfection.
· By the understanding and application of the science of right breathing, we can keep this body in a healthy condition; because by our breathing we control the PRANA or the life-force. As long as this life-force continues to circulate evenly and steadily, perfect rhythm or balance will be maintained in our system and we shall enjoy good health.
· If we can control our breathing, we shall restore the equilibrium of our mind and thereby safeguard our health.
· When we acquire complete breath-control, we have such a store of PRANA at our command that we can send it to any part of our organism, where there may be pain or distress, and reinvigorate it. Also we can transmit it to others. This explains the sudden cures by laying on of hands and all forms of magnetic healing.
· If we do not think rightly and live rightly, we cannot have health; because we generate a poison in our system by our wrong thoughts and actions which must culminate in disease.
· Even medical science has come to recognize that any strong passion, such as vehement anger or bitter hatred, may lead to serious illness.
· Whenever man can rise above the little self and become united with that which is universal and cosmic, there is no limit to his strength.
· There are various methods by which we may accomplish self-healing, - rigid and continual denial of disease, constructive affirmations, and concentration of the mind on a counteracting influence.
· Meditation has wonderful healing power.
· Thought has a vital influence on our bodily health and especially on the breath. Whenever we are under any great mental excitement, we see how abnormal and erratic the breath becomes. Whenever, on the other hand, our mind is exalted and peaceful, our breath grows very quiet and rhythmic.
· This body is the instrument through which we have to work out our salvation. If it is out of order, it becomes a serious hindrance. When the body is disturbed, it is difficult to forget it; and if we are constantly thinking of the body, we have no time to think of higher things.
· A healthy person is one who is least conscious of his body. Therefore the object of all breath-control is to make ourselves as little conscious of our physical condition as possible.
· The majority of mankind is more or less in an unhealthy condition, either of body or mind. The greatest disease of the mind is doubt.
· We must reverse the order of our life; and instead of being so full of craving for material things, we must be filled with yearning for spiritual things.
· The more we think o the body, the less are we conscious of that which sustains the body.
· If we can separate ourselves from our body-consciousness, not through death, but through higher reflection, at once we are released from bodily pain.
· One who is always seeking material benefits rarely has his desires satisfied; but to one who does not seek them, they come easily and abundantly. How strange seems the law!
· We must learn to retire within ourselves when there is any trouble. Whatever overtakes us – whether it be physical illness, nervous excitement or mental disturbance – we must not reach out to the external world for help; we must try rather to make ourselves more fit for the manifestation of the divine Spirit. If we can draw close to the cosmic Source within ourselves, we shall be relieved from our aches and pains and darkness.
· Meditation is a vital factor in healing.
· If our sufferings are due to matter, then the remedy must be sought in the spiritual; and the more we learn to turn towards that, the more our life is balanced.
· Sometimes an illness brings a lesson of which we have need. People are awakened often to higher thought and ideals through bodily afflictions or through misfortune.
· A person who is full of aspiration learns both through good fortune and misfortune; he learns equally through physical disease and through health.
· A healthy body is an undeniable advantage in our spiritual pursuits; but we must not let ourselves become absorbed in the idea of health as an end in itself. The best form of health is where we are least conscious that we have a body. When we are really healthy, we do not think about the body at all, our feet scarcely touch the ground; but when we are thinking constantly of the body, that is not a healthy attitude of mind or a healthy state of body.
· Nothing contributes more towards good health than an orderly life of moderation.
· Meditation is invaluable even for our bodily welfare, because it gives us balance. It quiets our nerves and brings our muscles to a state of tranquility. Often this is done involuntarily.
· There is no permanent happiness in the finite, the changing, the fleeting. That which is infinite and everlasting, That alone is the Source of real happiness and blessing. We must bind our hearts to That. In That is the only permanent cure for all disease, because It carries us beyond ignorance, beyond selfishness, beyond the unreal.
· The kingdom of God is within and we are told to seek that first, then all else will follow.
· No man can become a channel of divine power so long as his ego is in the ascendancy.
· To become a true channel, he must attune himself with God through humility, through purity, through an utter lack of self-consciousness.
· All we need is purity of thought, an open heart and sincere childlike longing. When we have these, all darkness vanishes quickly and healing takes place. When we touch the reservoir of life, the storehouse of Prana or vital energy, all our weakness must disappear.
· There are many simple people who by mere faith and ardent devotion have performed what we call miracles.
· Let us tune ourselves in such a way that we shall never be a jarring note in the cosmic harmony.
· Man’s life is inter-related. His physical life is so absolutely dependent on his moral and his spiritual life that unless he pays proper heed to these, he can never hope to be healthy.
· Whenever we violate the spiritual law and try to find a short cut to happiness, the fibre of our moral being is injured and we begin to feel pains and aches in the physical body. When these conditions continue and we do not try to remove them, a mark is made on the mind. Doubt, despair and despondency arise and these react again on the body.
· A man can never be converted by violence or by mere persuasion. He can be transformed permanently only by a spiritual influx which is so redeeming, so life-giving, so healing, that when he comes in contact with it, he is re-made.
· We must acquire a well-ordered mind; because our thoughts and feelings and aspirations will produce either good health or ill health in our body.
· Suffering is not a curse; bodily illness is not necessarily a punishment. Sometimes it comes to purify and strengthen us. Therefore those who have deeper understanding strive to make the best use of illness.
· Bodily suffering becomes a blessing when it teaches us to transcend outer conditions and to turn to the soul within.
· We must have real love for an Ideal in our hearts; then not only do we elevate ourselves, but we are able to bring constant benefit to the world.

Memorable Passages-6: From "The Universal Symphony of Swami Vivekananda"

Narendra’s Search for Truth

Vivekananda’s pre-monastic name was Narendranath Dutta, Narendranath or Naren, for short. Unlike Ramakrishna, whose wisdom and enlightenment owed nothing to institutional education, traditional or modern, Vivekananda was a full-fledged modern youth in education and upbringing, when he first met Ramakrishna towards the end of 1881. In his views and outlook, he represented young India in transition. India had, by then, been exposed to the powerful influence of modern Western culture for over half a century through the new education introduced by the British Government, which was avidly sought after by the Indian youths. Modern science, Greco-Roman history, English literature, modern Western history, and modern socio-political thought, opened the mind of India to the rich cultural heritage of the Western peoples and roused in it a mood of questioning, self-criticism, and a general spirit of restlessness. Narendra drank freely of this education; he was a keen student of Western thought with its scientific spirit and its philosophy of rationalism and humanism. This philosophy had already dominated the Western mind for nearly a hundred years, and now it found a fertile soil in India also. At college, Narendra was a handsome youth, intelligent, vivacious, and energetic. He was a keen physical culturist, a devotee of music, a student of science, and a lover of philosophy. He opened himself up to the influences of all the best elements in the Western heritage and became a dynamic representative of that heritage. He was a picture of strength and manliness; he possessed the Promethean spirit. And yet, this education and achievement did not satisfy his heart; it was restless with a nameless spiritual thirst and a yearning to realize Truth. It was to quench this thirst that he went to Sri Ramakrishna.

His English and Indian professors as well as his fellow-students were impressed by his intellectual brilliance. His English Principal, William Hastie, a great scholar, said of him (The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples, Fourth Edition, p.26):

Narendranath is really a genius. I have traveled far and wide but I have yet come across a lad of his talents and possibilities, even in German Universities, amongst philosophical students. He is bound to make his mark in life.”

In spite of the intellectual agnosticism which modern education bred in him, he held fast to the ideals of purity and renunciation, which he had imbibed and his passion for spiritual life grew with the years.

It was from a chance remark of Principal Hastie during a lesson on Wordsworth’s poem, The Excursion, that Narendra heard the name of his future master for the first time. Explaining the poet’s reference to trance, Principal Hastie had said that such religious ecstasies were the result of purity and concentration, that it was a rare phenomenon in modern times, and that he had known only one person who had experienced that blessed state, and that person was Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar.

Narendra soon realized the inadequacies of modern rationalism and humanism. Religion may have its faults; it may have blundered into dogmatism and intolerance; but it has a spiritual core which mankind cannot ignore without making itself poorer, said he to himself. The endeavours and conclusions of the sense-bound intellect cannot be the last word in man’s search for truth. An intellectual approach to truth will end only in agnosticism; and often even in cynicism. But the whole being of man seeks to experience truth, to realize it. And he found that modern thought had no message to give to man on this theme. This rising above rationalism to direct experience and realization, this growth of man from the sensate to the super-sensual dimension, is the special message of the Indian spiritual tradition; and Ramakrishna embodied it in himself in its fullness.

Man may sharpen his reason and intellect; he may have the best of wealth and power; he may enjoy the delights of art and literature; yet his heart will continue to be a vacuum, and a prey to tension and sorrow, till he discovers his own spiritual dimension, till he realizes God. This is the testament of Indian thought. Says the Svetasvatara Upanisad (VI.20):

“Even if men (through their technical efficiency) roll up all space like a piece of leather, they will not experience the end of sorrow without realizing God.”

Vivekananda felt the pang of this vacuum as a university student. That made him restless; he could have silenced his heart’s craving for truth, learnt to live with his intellectual agnosticism, and made the best of the world with his undoubted talents. But he was made of a different stuff, and meant for a different role. His passion for truth would not allow him to compromise with a humdrum life. So like a ‘hart that panteth after the water-brooks’, in the words of the Psalm, his heart became restless for truth, and in this mood he went from place to place, from teacher to teacher, until an inexorable destiny took him to Sri Ramakrishna. ‘Is there a God? And, if there is, ‘Have you seen Him?’ were the questions that this young seeker put to every teacher. The history of religion tells us that when this question has been seriously put by any seeker, he has receive a positive answer. The very soul of religion lies in the yearning behind this question. None of the teachers gave him satisfactory replies. None except one; and that was Sri Ramakrishna.

Excerpt from “The Universal Symphony of Swami Vivekananda” by Swami Ranganathananda
Published by Advaita Ashram (Publication Department), 5, Dehi-Entally Road, Kolkata-700014

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The American Treasures of the Library of Congress

The American Treasures of the Library of Congress contains more than 130 million items in the Library of Congress, which are considered treasures.

For more details:

Book of the day-6: "Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart' by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama

With extraordinary grace and insight, the Dalai Lama shows how Tibetan Buddhist teachings on compassion can be practiced in our daily lives, through simple meditations that relate directly to past and present relationships. While many world religions have mind-transforming or purifying techniques, Buddhists have placed particular emphasis on these practices for more than 2000 years. Basing his discussion on a 15th century Buddhist text, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people gives clear, highly accessible explanations of these methods and how they can be incorporated into the busy rhythms of modern life. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and is the author of two memoirs and several books on Buddhism.

Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart is the second volume in the Library of Tibet series, which was founded in order to preserve and disseminate the cultural heritage of Tibet. The volumes of the Library will cover Tibetan history and culture, from meditation practices to social history. Volume Editor Donald S.Lopez is Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. John F.Avedon, General Series Editor of the Library is the author of In Exile from the Land of Snows, the definite history of modern Tibet. (From the blurb of the book)

Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart
by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama
(Core Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism – The Path to Enlightenment)
Published by HarperCollins Publishers India, a joint venture with The India Today Group, New Delhi
Price: 250/-
Detailed biography of the author (Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama) with his photos from Wikipedia:

The author’s website:

Article on Dalai Lama Lineage from Wikipedia: