Bioethics – a Hindu Perspective

By : Dr Raj Maheshwari.

(The following is an abstract of the talk delivered by the author at the conference on “Core Ethical Teachings” at NSW Parliament House on 4 March 2011).

Dr Raj Maheshwari
Forensic Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist at St John of God Health Care
Sydney, Australia

Bioethics addresses specific ethical issues relating to science and medicine. With the advancement in technology, we are constantly faced with new scientific scenarios where ethical decisions need to be made. The principals of ethical decision making in Hinduism is informed by some of the ancient texts, namely Vedas, Upanishads, and two main epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Core Philosophy

Cycle of rebirth is one of the core concepts in Hinduism, based on the belief that the body is just a carrier for the soul, which passes on through the repeated cycles of birth-life-death-rebirth until the soul has been purified and can ultimately join the divine cosmic consciousness, also called as Moksha.

Hindu View of Life and Suffering

Contrary to the western view of health, Hinduism doesn’t view health as mere absence of disability; instead it is assessed as a product of sound mind and body, which off course is one of the goals of a Dharmic life. Likewise illness is accepted as part of ordinary life experience, which is instigated as a consequence of a bad past karma or a test from god to assess your commitment to a dharmic life.

Hindu views death as not opposite to life, rather, it is opposite to birth, and life is a journey between birth and death. Hinduism accepts suffering as inevitable even in death, so discomfort is accepted over drugs, while a conscious dying process is seen as a good death that would determine the properties of your rebirth. Thus death is seen as just another step in this cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Hindu View on Organ Transplant

Cremation in Hinduism is considered as both a destructive process and a course of creation; physical body and mind reunites with the earth, while atman wanders for about 12 days before continuing again the cycle of rebirth. Although in short no religious law prohibits organ transplant or donation in Hinduism, however there are contrary views. Some argue it to be a charitable act which is likely to attract karmic benefits; while others argue that if the body is incomplete during reuniting with the earth, the atman of the dead is suspended in a “state of animation” risking a karmic burden for family members. However, it is commonly insisted that the permission should be explicit.

Hindu view on contraception and abortion

Hindu bioethics agrees that there are two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning that brings husband and wife together, and the procreative meaning that capacitates them for the generation of new lives; and each and every sexual act need not be valued for its procreativity.

On abortion, the Hindu ethical decision making is based on the belief that the foetus is not just a foetus but a complete soul advancing into the next cycle of rebirth, so abortion is akin to murder; however, if mother’s welfare is in danger then the dharmic principle of duty to oneself takes precedence and abortion is permissible.

Hindu View on Biotechnology

Hinduism supports the idea of somatic cell genetic engineering which can address issues like sickle cell anaemia, haemophilia, or AIDS, on the principle of obligation to ensure survival of the present and future generations. However, it does not supports the idea of using genetic engineering for mere achieving perfection in body or bodily functions, again because Hinduism’s focus is on perfection of the soul rather the carrier body.

Regarding Cloning there are complex arguments in absence of any direct scriptural reference. The decision-making is guided by the principles of nonmaleficence (anyone’s well-being must not be sacrificed on some high altar of promoting a greater social and scientific good), beneficence (someone with leukaemia needing a compatible source of bone marrow), and autonomy (procreative or recreative rights along with rights to self-replicate).

Hindu View on Fertility Related Matters  

In ordinary cases, Hindu bioethics would want to limit IVF to married couples, using their own gametes in order to maximize the chance of both physical and emotional success for the child. However, there is provision for use of other person’s sperm in exceptional circumstances. One of the UpanishadsNiyoga, supports it if its purpose was the impregnation of a wife of an impotent or dead man so that his family may be preserved, and he may have sons to offer oblations for the welfare of his soul in the next world.

In summary, Hindu bioethics is philosophically pluralistic and ethically contextual, giving it the conceptual flexibility demanded by today’s complex moral problems. It is based on a multi-legged ethical decision making model involving the laws of Karma (good and bad actions), Dharma (righteousness), life after death, and Moksha (eternal freedom).

References and Advanced Readings

– Crawford, S. C. Hindu bioethics for the Twenty-first Century 2003; Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

– Lakhan, S. E. Hinduism: life and death. Student BMJ2008;16:294-336

– Coward, H. and Sidhu, T. Bioethics for clinicians: Hinduism and Sikhism. CMAJ, October 31, 2000; 163 (9)

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Pauline Hanson gives thumbs up to Indian Migration to Australia

By : Surinder Jain.

Pauline Lee Hanson is an Australian politician and a Senator representing the state of Queensland. She is also the founder and leader of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (PHON). Despite Hanson’s repeated denials of charges of racism,[13] her views on race and immigration have been discussed widely in Australia. In her maiden speech, Hanson proposed a drastic reduction in immigration with particular reference to immigrants from Asia. Condemning multiculturalism, her One Nation party has rallied against government immigration and multicultural policies.[20] Hanson publicly backed Kevin Andrews, then Minister for Immigration under John Howard, in his views about African migrants and crime.[25]

Senator Pauline Hanson (source : Wikipedia)

Hindu Council of Australia, in association with the Hon Coleman MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs and Senator the Hon Zed Seselja Assistant Minister for Treasury and Finance, celebraterd Deepawali festival and Annakut in the Great Hall of the Federal Parliament House in Canberra on Monday December 3, 2018. Pauline was one of the honored guests at Diwali.

It was Pauline Hanson’s first time at Diwali celebrations in Canberra, “This is the first time I have ever been to this event. I am not anti-migrant at all.” She added that there’s no problem with Indian migrants and that it was nice to be part of the Indian festival as a national political party, “It’s very special what I understand as a community. I am still learning. I don’t understand it fully but I think as a member of parliament and a national political party, it’s nice to be a part of it and support the Indian community on this special day.”

[Read more …]

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Addressing Global Warming through reducing meat consumption

By : Vijai Singhal.

An Open letter to MPs and Senators.

3rd December, 2018

Dear Senators and MPs,

As you already know, addressing Climate Change is the most important issue for humanity.The recent results of the Victorian State elections have clearly proved that Australian people want positive action on climate change. It has already resulted in the dethroning of the past four Prime Ministers in Australia.

Hindu Council of Australia has been very actively involved in addressing this issue mainly from the point of view of reducing meat consumption, which is the most effective things people can do to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and ensure food availability for the poor, as well as extending the values of respect and compassion for animals and is good for our own health. Hindu Councilhad launched its “Meat Free Day” campaign on 2nd October, 2008 – on Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday. We are now celebrating its 10th anniversary and Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th year of his birthday.

You know that as per UN FAO report: “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, animal-farming contributes more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than of all forms of transportation worldwide (18% vs. 13.5%). Under a business as usual scenario, the number of animals farmed worldwide is projected to double by 2050. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions would negate reductions from other positive changes (e.g. increasing automobile fuel efficiencies, switching to renewable energy etc). It is therefore necessary to take positive action to reduce meat consumption. This aspect of the problem is not getting the attention it deserves. At long last the recent IPCC report did emphasise the need to move to plant-based diet, improved farming practices and reduction in food wastage as being necessary to limit the GHG emissions.

It is also a big health issue, as you know WHO had released a report on 26 Oct 2015 that says that if you eat as much as 50 grams of processed meat (the equivalent of a few slices of bacon) every day – or a total of 350 grams a week – your risk of colon cancer goes up by 18 percent. Our average consumption is far too high. The resulting increase in health budget is becoming a big problem for the national government to balance its books as well. Moderating our consumption of meat and dairy products will lower the incidence of obesity, ischaemic heart disease and stroke, while cutting consumption of processed meat will reduce the incidence of colorectal cancers, resulting in the saving of billions of dollars in health budget.

We look forward to the support from Greens to highlight this issue as it effects so many aspects of our living.

Vijai Singhal

Director, Hindu Council of Australia

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Dalai Lama endorses Hinduism as most tolerant

Muslim nations must learn about religion from India : Dalai Lama

There are various religions and traditions in India having population of over 125 crore. Muslim countries should learn from India. so that there is peace. There is coordination among all the religions here and due to non-violence principle, modern India is developing,” the Dalai Lama said.

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NT Parliament celebrates Diwali

By : Shashi Khanna.

Northern Territory government celebrated the Indian festival of lights ,Diwali at Darwin, Parliament house. The beautiful huge structure of Parliament stands besides the water front. Amazing sunset adorned this festivity further at the lush green lawns of the Parliament. 
 
Extremely warm and whole heartedly welcome awaited the Indian community at the hall. All dressed up in their best of attires , Indian colourful dresses and sarees, chirpy girls swaying in their flowing dresses and men in their kurta pajama or semiformals, proudly represented India in this far away land of Australia. 
Minister for multicultural affairs along with her council lighted the lamp with Hindu society President . Well organised and beautifully synchronised dance performances by Indian community children mesmerized all . Saraswati Vandana , Rajasthan folk dance and much applauded performances brightened the atmosphere further. Heart felt speeches by the minister of Council showing the warmth and welcome of the Indian community in the society was motivating. The contributions of Indian towards the state, culture and society is appreciable. 
Every one wanted to have the best of the clicks as the cherished memories . High tea with Indian snacks and drinks added an Indian aroma to the atmosphere. 
 
A well organised evening of festivity and celebration concluded with Indian diaspora meeting each other and the members of the council in a very informal atmosphere of love, harmony and happiness which is the message of Diwali , spreading love light and happiness all over. 
 
Again ,on my personal note it seemed like a dream for me. I had to convince myself that I’m attending Diwali celebration by a state government in Continent of Australia. It was a wow moment for me. Of course, the efforts and hard work of my brothers and sisters who are settled here and contributing towards the society and country. Their efforts to spread the rich Indian culture is worth recognition and appreciation. It was pride to see many second generation Indians well absorbed in the government protocol. 
 
I felt like my purpose of visiting Australia during DIWALI Times is well served. Again congratulations and salute to the wonderful , amazing,  diligent Indian diaspora in Australia. Well done , kudoos guys !! Pride India Proud Indian!!

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Selling Burgers to eliminate world hunger and save the earth

By : Surinder Jain.

Amit Tiwari, founder of Soul Burgers fast food chain of restaurants in Australia, prides on selling tasty burgers with no animal meat in them. A burger without cruelty to animals (assuming killing is cruelty) and good for the environment (meat production is one of the major factors for climate change) is certainly good for the Soul, a soul burger.

Source : www.soulburgers.com.au

According to Soul Burger’s web site, plants are the future of meat! Although we make look at Amit and his Soul Burger joint as a fast food outlet, he doesn’t see it that way.  He sees himself and his burgers as leading a global movement in keeping animals out of slaughterhouses and off our menus. Plant-based foods also reduces the risk of chronic disease and are lower in calories than a typical meat burger.

Source : www.soulburgers.com.au

Amit Tiwari also believes that he is selling more than burgers. He sees himself on the forefront of fighting climate change as a global shift to a vegan diet will cut food related GHG emissions by 70%. Every plant based burger helps save the planet!

If cruelty and climate change were not enough, Amit also believes that his burgers can eliminate poverty. How? Well, by shifting to plant based foods, we cease contributing to inflated grain prices used to feed livestock, creating stronger food security in developing countries. He sees a shift to his burgers will thus help feed millions of hungry mouths.

Next time, I am out and about, I will eat Soul Burgers. It will help me stay healthy, help keep earth from becoming an inferno and will help me gain punya (merit) by feeding the poor.

You can read more about Amit Tiwari and Soul Burgers in this ABC News report.

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Santana Sikh of Potohar Pakistan

Baba Khem Singh Bedi Mahal Kallar Syedan Pakistan

 

Baba Khem Singh Bedi (1832-1905) of Bedi Mahal, Kallar Syedan was the influential Sikh leader of the traditional “Santana” order in Potohar region, Pakistan.( Sangini fort at Kallar Sayedan is also worth seeing).bedi mahalBeing 13th in line after great Guru Nanak Bedi (1469-1539) in the family tree, Baba Khem Singh always had one eye on political power. His influence was concentrated in the West Punjab — Sahiwal (Montgomery) and Kallar Syedan areas.bedi mahalBeing a traditional Sikh, that is an offshoot from a merchant class of Hindus (Kshatriya or Bedi), Khem Singh believed that there is very little difference between the two religions.bedi mahalKhalsa (pure) Sikh followers of the 10th Guru Gobind, insisted on separating Hindu and Sikh religions, but Baba Khem Singh would have none of that. This limited Baba Khem’s influence to the western half of Punjab.bedi mahalWhile the influence of Mughals’ had reduced considerable in the Punjab region in the last part of 1700s, the Sikh had risen to prominence. Baba Khem Singh during this time, being a spiritual leader, was very useful to the Colonials in preaching secularism, keeping dissent under check and sending recruits for the British.

Baba Khem Singh fitted perfectly with the colonials’ plans like a Tee. He participated in suppressing native rebellion in Gujera (Sahiwal) in 1857, personally leading cavalry charge and clearing routes.bedi mahal

For his loyalty to the crown as a ‘friendly native’, he was awarded the whole gamut of titles, powers and lands in Western Punjab, now part of Pakistan. The privileges included magisterial powers, knighthood, and an invitation to King Edward VII’s coronation etc. He was gifted vast agricultural lands appropriated by the British from the Muslim notables and distributed to their ‘loyalists’.

Baba Khem Singh’s descendants also sent soldiers to fight British battles including the 1st world war.

Baba Khem Singh was a huge philanthropist as well. Naturally, Sikhs’ being a minority (3%) anointed to rule by the British, had to be generous, in order to stay influential in a majority Muslim population. He was known to have organized the construction of 50 schools and paid seed money for a college in Rawalpindi.bedi mahalDespite his generosity, he still had money to splurge on a castle in the center of impoverished Kallar Syedan. The four storey castle had its own stables, dog kennels, a zoo and servant quarters. The bottom floor was the basement, probably to hide in, in case barbarians ran them over. Only the Muslim servants were allowed inside the premises.bedi mahalOne octogenarian described in his memoir the first time at his teen age that he saw the inside of the Bedi Mahal after the Sikhs’ left in 1947. All the 5000 Sikhs’ of the surrounding area had gathered at the Bedi Mahal compound during the religious riots and were driven in army convoys to safety. No one was killed here.bedi mahalThe Bedi Mahal we saw was dilapidated, but was still grand. I loved the mehmankhana (guest room), the carved wooden doors with brass knobs, the jharokas’, galleries, walkways, open central courtyard and dome shaped corner posts.bedi mahalThe best thing in Bedi Mahal was the frescoes and murals on the walls. The figures were of Muslim conquerors, Hindu deities, Sikh religious people, saints, all lined up around the courtyard into one streaming image of perfect religious harmony.bedi mahalThe top deck of the Bedi Mahal still overlooks Kallar Syedan like a king. I could see the town’s Hindu temple and agricultural well in the distance.bedi mahalWe then went up to the zanankhana at the forehead of the Mahal and it had images of Golden temple, Amritsar and several religious gatherings, mostly depicting Guru Nanak and some Hindu lady deity.  There was a wood carved separation as well. I wish someone could decipher the frescoes for me.

Oh in case I forget, Amitabh Bachan’s mother was a Bedi too, and her grandfather belonged to Kallar Syedan.bedi mahalIn the courtyard of the castle is the gaddi (grave) of a Muslim Sufi saint, kept there by the Bedi as a testament to their secular outlook. Besides the grave is the Sikh symbol erected on top of a metal pole.bedi mahalFifteen years in the making (ending 1855), Bedi Mahal (Castle) was abandoned in 1947. It was converted to a primary school and General Tikka Khan is one of its alumni. Now know why I keep searching through haunted houses while others make it to generals — it was the school building!

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ASMY Donates to help Regents Park Mandir rebuild after vandalism

By : Madya Lila.

Mark Orwin from the Australian School of Meditation & Yoga recently visited Regents Park Mandir to present the devotees with the holy scriptures Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  
 
He also offered a donation of a thousand dollars on behalf of ASMY to Indrajit Rai, President of the Satsang Hindu Maha Sabha of Australia, with Shailendra Tiwari and the members of Regents Park Mandir.
 

Mark Orwin from ASMY at Regents Park Bhartiye Mandir

 
The temple was recently broken into and vandalised and now needs renovating. Devotees also lost their scriptures in the attack. Mark addressed the community of devotees and said in times of adversity we grow and come together in friendship like never before. The devotees meet at the Mandir – 42 Kibo Rd, Regents Park every Friday night for Rama Katha at 7.30. Everyone is welcome.  
 
Regents Park Mandir devotees have set up a fundraising page where online contributions can be made https://www.gofundme.com/bhartiyemandirsydney

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Christian missionaries who won’t take no for an answer

By Robert Burton-Bradley. ABC.

Christians who won’t take no for an answer — touched by God or ‘white saviour complex’? According to the Centre for the Global Study of Christianity, there are 440,000 long term missionaries in foreign countries. There are more than 1.6 million young Americans going abroad on short missions for weeks or months every year.

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Australia’s first Hare Krishna schoolies: No sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling or meat

 
Australia’s first all-Hare Krishna Year 12 class is shunning traditional Schoolies Week celebrations in favour of a trip to India, while vowing to forgo sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling and meat.

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