Diwali: Hearing Earth's Cry

Anantanand Rambachan*

On the occasion of Diwali 2014, I want to share a reflection on one of
the central narratives associated, in the Hindu tradition, with this
festival. This is the narrative that connects Diwali with the
celebration and rejoicing over the return of Rama to his home, after a
lengthy exile, and his defeat of the oppressive and tyrannical,
Ravana. Citizens welcomed him by lighting thousands of lamps, even as
over one billion Hindus do today throughout the world. The story of
Rama has become a central narrative of Diwali because of the Hindu
understanding of Rama as embodying divinity and also because it
addresses the universal human longing for freedom from oppression and
the hope of living in a world where there is peace, justice and

Rama's return to his home in Ayodhya and the joyous illumination of
the city with earthen lamps conclude the story of his life as told in
most versions of the Ramayana. I want, however, to return to the
beginning of the story. For this, I turn to the version of the life of
Rama authored by the religious poet Tulasidas in the 15th century.

The Ramayana begins with an account of unbridled greed, the violent
exercise of power and oppression perpetuated by Ravana and those who
served him. He ravaged the earth, and used its resources, human and
natural, to serve his own ends. "There is no limit," says Tulasidas,
"to the evil of those whose hearts delight in violence."

The first to protest the suffering of the world is Earth herself.
Tulasidas personalizes her describes her as being alarmed and
distressed. "The weight of mountains, rivers and oceans," she says to
herself," is not as burdensome to me as one human being who oppresses
others." She notices also that people are silent from fear of speaking
out. After careful consideration, she takes the form of a cow and goes
to the place where all the good beings are hiding in fear. With tears
flowing from her eyes, she tells them of her suffering, but receives
no offers of help. In her condition of grief and sorrow, they
accompany her to the world of the deity, Brahma. Realizing his own
inability to help, Brahma advises that they seek the help of God, who
alone can bring the suffering of the earth to an end.

There is a predicament, however, before they can approach God to seek
God's intervention. "Where can we find God so that we may plea for
help?" they wonder. Someone suggested that they all go to heavenly
world of Vaikuntha. Another reminded them that God dwelt, not in
Vaikuntha but in the ocean of milk. As the discussion went on, Shiva,
who was present among them, offered a word of wisdom. God, explained
Shiva, is identically present everywhere. There is no place and no
time when God is not. God pervades the entire creation. There is no
need to go anywhere. "It is love alone," said Shiva, "that reveals
God, even as friction reveals fire." Shiva's words bring tears of joy
to everyone and a beautiful hymn of love spontaneously rises. In
response, a heavenly voice assures them that God will incarnate among
them as a human being to relieve the earth of her suffering. Shri Rama
is then born in Ayodhya as the child of Dasaratha and Kausalya.

I chose to describe Tulasidas' profound and poetic framing of the
advent of Rama since it speaks powerfully to our contemporary context
and especially to our degradation of the earth and its fragile
climate. His narrative deepens our understanding of our relationship
with the earth and suggests a fundamental value for our
transformation. There are three insights from Tulasidas that I want to
lift up and share.

The first is that human actions are consequential. The consequences of
our actions, however, are not limited to impacting other human beings.
Our actions disrupt the balance of the natural world. Greed, and the
violence that inevitably accompanies greed, rupture the web of life
and earth suffers. The effects of greed can never be compartmentalized
or limited to the world of human beings. Tulasidas is calling our
attention to deep unity of existence in which human choices always
have implications for the natural world. In Tulasidas' account the
earth is the first to speak out against human evil and its effects on
her. "The weight of mountains, rivers and oceans is not as burdensome
to me as one human being who oppresses others."

The second insight from Tulasidas is that the earth is a living
system. Earth is alive. He represents her as suffering and distressed
by human choices. The earth is not a passive and inert field,
dualistically separate from us that we may thoughtlessly and
inconsequentially exploit for our purposes. Our lives are inextricably
bound together and our well being inseparably linked. The earth
community includes every creature depending on her for sustenance and
so Tulasidas has earth speaking of her pain in the voice of a tearful
cow. The impact of climate change adversely affects every life form.
The cow is a powerful symbol of the generosity of the natural world
pleading for human reciprocity and concern.

The third insight of Tulasidas is embedded in the words of Shiva. When
the helpless gathering is debating God's location, Shiva reminds them
that there is no need to search for God anywhere. God is equally
present everywhere and in everything (hari byāpka sarbatra samānā).
God becomes manifest, Shiva explains, only through love even as fire
is made visible through friction. The teaching that God exists equally
in everything, repeated twice in this conversation, is a call to us to
see the radiance of God in the earth. In the Hindu tradition,
everything in which God is present is regarded as God's form (rūpa).
This means seeing the entire universe as embodying the divine. The Isa
Upanishad opens with the beautiful invitation to see the world as
enveloped by God (isa). Such seeing, described in the beautiful
Sanskrit word darshan, must express itself in a profound and loving
reverence for earth. This loving reverence, as Shiva attests, calls
forth and releases a tremendous energy that is devoted to saving the
earth. God's energy is manifested when our actions are inspired by

The tears of our earth, poignantly described by Tulasidas, have not
ceased, afflicted as she is by pollution, the rapid loss of her
bio-diversity and by climate change that threatens her ability to
sustain life itself. Our religious traditions must awaken and
re-awaken us to a reverence for the earth and inspire energy and
action to respond to her plea and to relieve her from suffering.

We celebrate Diwali with lamps molded from the earth, in which we
place cotton wicks soaked in oil. As we hold these fragile lamps in
our hands this year, may we be mindful of our earth. May we know our
unity with her and be filled with gratitude for her gifts. May we be
attentive to hear again her cry and may we respond with loving

(Inspired by the Religions for the Earth Conference at Union Seminary
NY (19-21 September 2014) and the UN Climate Summit that followed)

The article originally appeared in Huffington Post on 15th October 2014.

*Anantanand Rambachan is Chair and Professor of Religion, Philosophy
and Asian Studies at Saint Olaf College, Minnesota, USA, where he has
been teaching since 1985. Prof. Rambachan is the author of several
books, book-chapters and articles in scholarly journals. Among his
books are, Accomplishing the Accomplished, The Limits of Scripture,
The Advaita Worldview: God, World and Humanity, The Hindu Vision and
Gitamrtam: The Essential Teachings of the Bhagavadgita.

UNFPA resource center in Janakpur

In an effort to enhance knowledge of local people on development
issues including population, youth, sexual and reproductive health and
rights and gender equality, social inclusion, a resource center has
been established at the Regional Support Office of UNFPA, the United
Nations Population Fund, in the southern Nepalese town of Janakpur.
The city, historically called Mithilanchal, is the center of the
ancient Maithili culture, which has its own language and dialect.

Despite being one of Nepal's fastest-growing towns, Janakpur with a
population of 97,997 (Census 2011) still faces long hours of power
outages. Local people in the city lack access to an uninterrupted
internet facility or a resource center having a wide range of resource
materials on development and contemporary issues. "Keeping these
issues in mind, we established the center to cater to local needs,"
says Narendra Mishra, Regional Development Coordinator of UNFPA Nepal
in Janakpur, also a famous religious city.

The center is expected to benefit young people particularly adolescent
girls, women, researchers, scholars, students, journalists and others
who have an interest in these issues but lack access to a variety of
resources. A high speed internet facility even during power outages
will be available free in the center together with books, published
reports, journals, district profiles, district periodic plans, IEC and
other materials in both electronic and hard copies, says Mishra.

Women and young people make up almost half of the population in
Janakpur so it is fitting that there is a center which will help
development workers, students and researcher's understand their needs
more fully and will provide adolescents and women the chance to also
understand their rights more fully.


The Master of Human Rights and Democratisation (Asia Pacific) is a 60 credit point degree that seeks to develop the capacity of emerging leaders in the Asia-Pacific region to protect and promote human rights. It is offered in partnership by the University of Sydney, Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia, the Kathmandu School of Law in Nepal, the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and Ateneo de Manila Law School in Philippines.

The Asia Pacific Program in 10 points:

  • Highest standards of inter-disciplinary scholarship
  • A uniquely regional lived experience of human rights and democracy
  • Focus on the most pressing issues in the Asia-Pacific
  • Exposure to emerging areas of human rights scholarship in the Asia-Pacific
  • Practitioner-led training and development activities
  • Opportunities for independent research
  • Field experience and internships
  • Unique regional professional networks
  • Exposure to cutting-edge research
  • Engagement with leading human rights campaigns

At the end of the program, students graduate with a firm grounding in the philosophical, political, institutional, legal, sociological and cultural dimension of human rights and democratisation. The Master of Human Rights and Democratisation (Asia-Pacific region) brings the study of human rights and democracy to life.


The Master of Human Rights and Democratisation (Asia Pacific) is taken over 1.5 years with an option to complete in 1 year. Students attain foundational knowledge and skills at the prestigious University of Sydney (from July to November). All students then undertake a regional semester at one of the leading human rights educational institutions in the region (January - July if students nominate to accelerate their studies, or up to September on a 1.5 year schedule), choosing either an experiential or research–based elective stream. Students also undertake a one–week intersessional intensive unit of study, which is offered at either the University of Sydney (in November) or off–shore (in January) each year (note, the 2015 calendar has not been released yet).

See Degree Structure for more information.

Financial support – scholarships for study

Scholarships for the 2015-16 cohort are now open until 12pm December 14 2014.

There are two types of scholarships available:

  • International Scholarship Scheme: Covering course fees to the value of 60 credit points of domestic student tuition at the University of Sydney and partner universities. It also offers a partial stipend to cover some living costs. Open to students from the Asia Pacific region including, in exceptional circumstance, Australians and New Zealanders.
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See the Financial Support page for more information about scholarships including selection criteria or download the 2015-16 Scholarship Application Form.

Applications for admission

Applications for admission should be made online via http://sydney.edu.au/courses/master-of-human-rights-and-democratisation-asia-pacific-regional-program.

Visit the Admission Requirements page for more information.


Telemor – Viettel Group’s subsidiary in Timor-Leste is the winner of “Startup of the year” Award in International Business Awards 2014, being the first company of Viettel making profit after launching only six months.

Paris, France (10th October 2014) – Today at the Gala event of The 11th Annual International Business Awards held at the Westin Vendôme Hotel in Paris, France, Telemor - subsidiary of Viettel Group in Timor-Leste is presented to be the Siver Winner of “Startup of the year” Award.

Telemor – a young telecom operator in Timor-Leste has made a strong impression on the Judges because of its significant achievements just within the first year of business operating since its launching on July 2013. Telemor has covered mobile services to 96% of Timor-Leste population. Its subscribers has grown dramatically catching up with the number of subscribers that its competitor developed in more than 10 monopolized years, increasing the mobile penetration of Timor-Leste from 33% to 75% population. The appearance of Telemor has brought up a remarkable change to the telecommunications of Timor-Leste, as The Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Xanana Gusmao said: “Telemor has quickly created remarkable differences and changes”. Telecom services (mobile 2G and 3G, internet) are now accessible to every population thanks to Telemor’s good price, wide coverage and strong supplying chain to each village, even the remote areas.

Telemor had to compete with more than 3,500 nominations from organizations and individuals in more than 60 nations to be presented “Startup of the Year” award, an encouraging recognition of Telemor’s effort and success as leading innovative operator in the market. Among others, this is the first project of Viettel to make profit after only 6 months running business.


Telemor is the 5th offshore investment projects of Viettel Group with total value of USD 15 millions.  Another subsidiary of Viettel – Movitel in Mozambique also dramatically won the Award “Fastest growing of the year in Middle East and Africa”.

Viettel has been granted telecommunications in 9 countries with total population of over 160 millions, total investment value of USD 1.5 billions. 5 subsidiary companies in CambodiaLaosHaitiMozambique and Timor have provided services. 2 companies in Peru and Cameroon is going having official launching on October 2014. The other 2 in Burundi and Tanzaniaare under infrastructure deployment of their networks.

Total revenue from overseas business of Viettel reached USD 1 billion in 2013 with around 11.5 million subscribers, bringing in more than USD 180.5 million accumulated profits.

Media Contact:

Bui Thi Phuong Thao (Ms)

Communications Executive

Email: thaobtp@viettel.com.vn/ buithaoiir@gmail.com

Tel: +84 979438100

Emily Dickinson - If you were coming in the fall ...

Emily Dickinson 

If you were coming in the fall,
I'd brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly
If I could see you in a year,
I'd wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.
If only centuries delayed,
I'd count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemens land.
If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I'd toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.
But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time's uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.

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