Why is Petrol price high in India - An Analysis (Part 1)

The global crude prices have fallen more than 70% in the last few months from a high of $147/barrel in July to a low of $36 in mid Dec. This is a 5yr low for the crude price. In most countries that have market linked pricing the price of gas at the petrol pumps has come down by a similar margin. However in India there has hardly been any movement in price. Whatever hike the Govt implemented in mid-year (Rs.5/lt for petrol, Rs.3/lt for Diesel, Rs.50/cyl for LPG) has been rolled back partially (Diesel was reduced by Rs.2/lt only and LPG price has not be revised). The objective of this article is to analyze why the petrol price in India is still high despite crude prices being at 5yr lows.

As part of my research I checked out the following aspects. I will be detailing each of these below:
  • Crude price movement in 2009 & Average crude basket price in India
  • Pricing components of Petrol price in India
  • Comparison of pricing components in India with pricing components in US
  • Gross Refining Margins of OMC’s
  • Profit/Loss of Govt owned Oil Marketing Companies(OMC’s) which control a 80%+ market share
  • Govt policy- Administered Pricing Mechanism(APM)/De-regulation of oil industry

Crude price movement in 2009 & Average crude basket price in India

While the price of crude has reduced drastically over the last six months if you notice the attached chart(Source: CBS Marketwatch) a big chunk of the reduction has come in Q4, 2008 only. The price came below $100/barrel in early October, below $60 in November and below $50 in early Dec. Technically price has been below $100/barrel for a little over 2 months now. This needs to be taken into consideration for the timing of price roll-back. We will come back to this later in this article.

One more factor that needs to be considered is the Exchange rate. US Dollar has appreciated by close to 20% this year against Indian Rupee. While the crude price has gone down the OMC’s will be paying around 20% higher price in Indian Rupee terms due to the exchange rate.

India imports around 70% of our crude from outside and the rest 30% is produced locally thru upstream oil companies like ONGC, Oil India ltd etc. The crude sale price of these upstream oil companies is fixed and they sell oil to OMC’s at $55/barrel irrespective of international crude price. So the average price of crude basket of OMC’s will be lesser than market price of crude as around 30% of the crude is purchased at $55 fixed price. As an example if the market price of crude is $140 the average Indian crude basket price will be $114.5 (average of 70% crude at $140 & 30% crude at $55). The average monthly crude basket price for IOC for last several yrs (Average price of imported crude only) can be found here:

You could use this to arrive at average crude basket price for IOC overall.

Pricing Components of petrol price in India

The pricing of the petrol in India is pretty complicated. I have detailed the same in the below table:

Based on the attached calculation the price of crude is only around 36-40% (based on how you calculate) of the total price that we pay at the pumps. There are way too many levels where we are taxing this needs to be simplified. Secondly there is lot of fixed price components in this. This needs to be changed to variable component as a % of crude or petrol cost so that it can vary relative to crude price. The current fixed pricing structure is beneficial for Govt whereby irrespective of crude price changes Govt get fixed revenue(easy for budgeting). At higher crude prices the overhead is reasonable/comparable to global standards however at lower crude prices the overhead is really high.

Comparison of pricing components in India with pricing components in US

In order to see how our petrol taxation compares globally I wanted to compare the various price components of petrol in India with US. Refer the attached chart for details.

Though the refining cost in India seems to be much lower than US in the attached chart in actual it is similar. Here refining cost if represented as a % of the price of petrol and petrol price in India is much higher than US. Hence the numbers looks skewed. In the same context our distribution costs are much higher than US.

At $65/barrel the average price per gallon of petrol in US is $2.6 & average price per gallon in India is $4.1 (arrived at based on above table). The gas price in US is around 35% cheaper than in India. Due to fixed rate structure of duties/tax on petrol price in India the gap will become bigger as the crude price goes below $65 and will become smaller as crude price goes above this mark.

To be continued. In the next part I will be covering about GRM, profit/loss analysis of OMC's, APM/de-regulation and my prediction on if and when gas prices would be reduced in India.

Happy Holidays!!

Satyam Debacle - Failure of corporate governance

The Maytas Infra and Maytas properties acquisition announced, and later cancelled by Satyam(SAY) earlier this week was a classic example of failure of corporate governance. I can understand the Chairman(Ramalinga Raju) wanting to buy these family companies at an inflated price for personal gains, however i am astounded that the board approved the purchase of these companies. They have some solid  people like Krishna Palepu (Harvard Business School), Vinod Dham (ex-Intel/AMD exec & father of pentium), Rammohan Rao (ISB dean) etc. as part of their board. How these guys bought into this whole idea is a big question and it will definitely impact their credibility in the market place. Alternatively were these guys out-voted by some of the other folks on the board? We would never know what happened in the backend.

If the decision to diversify into real estate (Sector affected by the current market conditions) was a bad one and it was precipitated by the artificial inflation of the price of these companies (almost 5x!!!!). Maytas properties price was pegged at $1.3 billion when the actual market value of its holdings is only around $255 million. This company is held by Raju's family and it raises serious questions around the credibility of Raju. Raju himself holds only little over 8% of Satyam and he was planning to use up around $1 billion of Satyam's cash reserves for his personal gains. If indeed the acquisition would have gone thru it would have led to Satyam ending up with $400M of debt from over a billion dollar cash surplus. The board should be fired for approving Raju's plan without doing the necessary due-diligence. In addition Raju should be sacked. The biggest irony is that Satyam won the ICSI National Award for Excellence in Corporate Governance earlier this year. They don't deserve it and should be stripped of that award.

The way the press release was handled during this whole ordeal was pathetic. Some of the terminology used like 'Risk in Core IT business' 'diversifying into real estate to derisk' etc can have some pretty serious repurcussions. It leads investors/customers to perceive that you are not doing well in the core business and would result in bad analyst reports/downgrades and customers looking for alternatives. It confounds conventional wisdom of sticking closer to the core and investing to improve your core capabilities during tough market conditions.

Here are some of the impacts that Satyam is going to face due to this incident:

Ø  Market credibility and reputation impacted

Ø  Downgrades by Financial analyst and possibly industry analysts as well

Ø  Loss of customer confidence leading to existing customers/prospects moving away in the near to medium term. I am positive that no new customers will want to do business with Satyam.

Ø  They will definitely lose some business in the next few quarters probably pushing Satyam into negative growth which again will have an impact on their share price/market cap

Ø  Loss of investor confidence due to credibility loss of the management/board & failure of corporate governance

Ø  Their stock has been hammered down and it has fallen more than 40% to around $7.8/share. Their market cap at the current price is $2.64B. They are an attractive acquisition target with considering that they have around $1B in cash reserves. I wouldn't be too surprised if someone mounts an hostile takeover bid for Satyam.

Ø  In the current market conditions some of the above factors can have a significant impact and may even lead to the fall of Satyam

This is a classic example of how a company can dig its own grave!! One of the lessons from this debacle is the importance of having strong corporate governance for sucess of the company.

2008 Economy & Stock Market Highlights

2008 will go down as a record year in the history. Most analysts and economists were predicting a slowdown in the economy and a soft landing earlier this year. However no one was even in the ballpark w.r.to the actual events. The complete world was taken by shock with the magnitude of the financial mess and global recession/slow down. There was unprecedented volatility in global stock markets, commodities like oil, Gold etc, Currencies, interest rates and a whole bunch of key economic fundamentals. This is expected to be the worst recession (some are even calling it depression) since the great depression in 1929. Almost all developed countries and key emerging/developing countries like China, Russia, Brazil, India etc are impacted in this global crisis.

Some of the key highlights/statistics from an economic perspective are listed below

ü All major stock markets down from their record highs in Oct 2007

o Dow is down almost 40-45% from its peak

o NASDAQ is down by around 45%

o S&P 500 is down by 40%

o BSE Sensex is down 55-60%

ü S&P 500 market has lost $6.17 trillion dollars in Market cap in the last year

ü S&P broad market index which has around 11,000 stocks in developed and emerging markets has lost around $17.7 trillion YTD

ü The entire Investment banks segment has been wiped out – Bear Sterns & Lehmann doesn’t exist anymore, Merrill Lynch has been acquired by BoA, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have converted into commercial banks

ü After Lehmann collapse the entire global credit market was frozen and there were massive money injections from multiple governments (US itself is investing over a trillion dollars this year to re-energize the market)

ü Several large & reputable US financial institutions have failed – Wachovia, Washington Mutual , Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG etc.

ü 25 US banks have failed so far this year and has been acquired by FDIC

ü US Federal Reserve interest rate is at a 50yr low of 0.25% with today’s cut

ü Oil started our 2008 at little under $100/barrel and reached a peak of $147/barrel in July and dropped to $40/barrel in Dec

ü In the last 15 months Gold which is typically the most stable asset went from <$700/ounce to a peak of $1020/ounce and is now back to $800/ounce

ü US Dollar has bucked a multi-year trend of weakening against global currencies and has appreciated against major global currencies by almost 15-20%

ü The US auto industry is in Doldrums and giants like GM, Ford and Chrysler are on the verge of going bankrupt

o GM’s stock is at a 80 yr low

ü US unemployment rate has gone up to 6.7% and number of unemployed people has increased by around 2.7 million during this year

ü All major global economies are either in recession or in the verge of getting into recession

o Ireland, New Zealand, France, UK, Germany, USA, Japan, Italy, Singapore, Spain to name a few

o China growth is expected to slow to 7.5 – 8 %. This is its lowest since 1990.

o India growth rate is expected to slow to 7.5% (from the 5yr average of close to 9%)

After reading the above the first question that comes to mind is have we seen the worst of this crisis?

I think we are in the middle of this crisis what we have seen so far is the first half of the crisis. There is more of financial crisis that is yet to come, Lay-offs are just starting out and has accelerated in the last 3 months and it will continue thru most part of 2009. There will be budget and spending cuts leading to reduction in customer spending and consequently impacting a wide range of industries etc. To cut to the chase the current scenario will continue thru the first half of 2009 and should start flattening out as we go thru the year. I expect the stock market to be volatile and fluctuate within a band during most of 2009 and start the climb up in 2010.

Is this shake out/recession good for us?

At the outset some of the news we hear and what we see in news would seem scary. However this is part of the economic cycle. The best part of open markets/economy is the self-correction. Companies start becoming inefficient and add lot of fluff over the years. These economic downturns are the times when some of the weak players are eliminated and strong players become more efficient and focused. While we go thru lot of pain in the near term it is good from a longer term perspective. Stock valuations, real estate valuations etc are very attractive now and while there is a little down side to it in the near term over the medium to long term they will start climbing up and this is a good time to start investing.

Stop worrying & start investing!!!

Las Vegas trip

This has been one of my longest road trips to date. We covered around 2800 miles round trip during this visit to Vegas and Canyon. I took a couple of days off around Thanksgiving and we did this trip over 6 days. The drive from Dallas to Vegas is a little over 1200 miles and it took us around close to 18hrs for this leg. On the way back we spent a day in Hoover Dam/Grand Canyon West, another day in Grand Canyon south Rim and drove back to Dallas on the final day. We did pretty good time on the return leg, we covered 1060 miles in around 14.5hrs. Its been my dream to do a coast to coast road trip in the US. This is the closely i have come to that so far. Overall we had great fun and both I and Anu enjoyed the trip. For a change i spent a lot of time on passenger seat. I and Anu had split the driving pretty much equally.

During this trip we stayed at the Excalibur resort in Vegas. I didn't do much gambling this time. I and Anu did some slot machines in a few casinos and overall i lost around $50 to $60 bucks. We spent a lot of time going around major casinos and seeing some shows etc. The highlight of the trip is the thrill rides that Anu went on top of Stratosphere. In fact this was one of the main reasons we visited Vegas. Anu really enjoyed these rides. I didn't join her as i didn't want to strain my back. Last time I went on a roller-coaster few months back i hurt my back and was on bed for close to a week. We spent a good half day at Stratosphere. The view of the city from the top of Stratosphere was amazing.

Las vegas has always amused me. I am at awe the way a barren desert has been developed into a sprawling metropolis and the gambling/night life capital of US within a short span of less than a century. Here are some of the snaps from my recent trip there.

Grand Canyon West

One of the highlights of the recent road that I and Anu did to Vegas and Canyon was Grand Canyon West. This place is popular for the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This place is around 230 miles from GC South Rim & around 150 miles from Vegas. In order to reach this place you need to pass thru a stretch of around 18 miles of unpaved road. The moment we left Route 93(Vegas to Kingsman highway) it was as if we had stepped outside the civilization. There were not much vehicles on the road. After around close to 15-20 miles or so you get this right turn for GC West. I was initially a little scared to go bcos i didnt expect unpaved road and we were in the middle of nowhere with no cell connection. What the heck after having driving so much distance I was not prepared to head back without seeing the Skywalk. It took us another hour long minute ride on the unpaved road to reach GC west.

The best place about this place is that it was not much crowded unlike GC south rim. The landscape and the canyon view was very good. You dont get the wide vistas like you get in south rim however it was still very good. We had under estimated the time we will need there. You can spend a good day here. There are quite a few sight seeing points. The Skywalk was very good. Its a little scary to get onto the glass floor looking down at the ground however once you get a hang of it this is that scary.

We went to the Skywalk/Eagle ridge and Guano point. We also met some native indians - Hualapai tribe and we saw a dance performance by them. It was impressive and a good cultural experience. Not too often do you get to see native indians in their traditional costumes and performing their traditional dances. There is a Hualapai ranch there which is also supposed to be good. However we didnt have time and i had to turn back. I had to drive the unpaved road while it was dark. We spent around 4 hrs there at the RIM it was dark by the time we turned back.There were a bunch of cars that was leaving with me so it was not that bad. Once we came back to the paved road the darkness was very impressive. The night was absolutely pitch dark. It was the 3rd or 4th day after new moon so there was not much light coming from the Moon. This place would make an amazing stargazing location. Overall I was very impressed with this place and would definitely go back there given a chance.

Pls see below some of the snaps we had taken during this trip.

Grand Canyon Trip

The below snaps were taken during my trip to Grand Canyon South Rim during the thangsgiving weekend in 2008.As part of this trip we did a short 1/2 day hike into the canyon. We did a close to 7 mile hike in the Bright Angel trail. We went a little past the 3 mile point (just before Indian Gardens), roughly around 2500ft altitude change and returned back. The weather was perfect with a great sunshine, hardly any wind and a temperature of around mid-50's. This was Anu's first hike into the canyon. We really enjoyed the hike. The had amazing views of the canyon during the hike. This is my fifth trip to GC in as many years and this place never ceases to amaze me with its wonderful sights.

With this i have hiked all the key trails in GC. Last year i did the rim to rim day hike along south kaibab & north kaibab trail, This trip i did the bright angel trial, I have done parts of the Rim trail, Hermit trail and Grand view trail during some of my earlier trips. The view from inside the canyon is very different from the view from the top. The rim-rim day hike that i did last year was my toughest hike to date.

US Economic Outlook 2008 - 2011

An analysis of economic downturn by Sequoia Capital

I was browing the net and came across this presentation by Sequoia Capital about the economic downturn and what startups need to do to survive this downturn. Its a very insightful, creative & well structured deck.
Sequoia Capital recently made a presentation to its portfolio companies about how to try to survive an economic downturn. Here's the presentation

SlideShare Link

Alaska - The last frontier - Final Part: Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords is the smallest national park in Alaska. It represents the quintessential coastal Alaska with rugged & scenic landscape, majestic glaciers, unforgiving stormy seas, rocky headlands, magnificient fjords, diverse wildlife(birds, animals & marine life) and last but not the least, minimal human footprints. It is in the south central part of the state bordering Gulf of Alaska. The access town to Kenai Fjords is Seward, AK which is around 130 miles south of Anchorage.  The drive between Anchorage and Kenai is spectacular and is one of the top scenic drives in Alaska/US. The crown jewel of Kenai fjords NP is the Harding Ice field, which is around 700 Sq miles of glacial ice around a mile thick that was formed during the last ice age. This is the largest icefield in US and it covers more than half of the national park. There are around 33 glaciers flowing off this ice field, six of them are Tide water glaciers that flow into the sea. This park is best viewed from the sea(Kayaking/cruise boats). There is only one road into this park going upto Exit glacier. This park is well known for its marine life and is a popular whale watching spot.

On day 4 of our Alaska trip we drove from Denali to Seward, this is an almost 400 mile drive passing thru Anchorage. We left Denali around 9:30am and reached Anchorage around 2:00pm. We returned our camping gear at REI, grabbed a quick lunch and headed out to Seward around 3:30pm. The road to Seward hugs the shore of a Fjord for around 35-40miles. This section of the drive is very scenic, we made around half a dozen stops along different points during the drive. The weather was brilliant, we had great sunshine and blue skies which accentuated the beauty of this place. Initially when we started this drive it was low tide and the sand bars/ground was visible in most places in the Fjord. Shortly there after the high tide set-in. We were very lucky to witness what is called as "Boar Tide". This is basically a wall of water that comes like an inland wave(similar to what we see in beaches). The tide was around 1-2 ft tall. This is not the best boar tide in the world never the less it is a rare sight. 

One of the key stops we made in this stretch was at Beluga Point. There is a small rocky outcrop stretching out to the sea. I and Anu wanted to have a little adventure and climbed up this rock. It was not very big (roughly 75-100ft) however it was fairly tough and needed some advanced scrambling skills. Both of us ended up with a few scratches and Anu had a sprained ankle on completion of this climb. The view from the top of this rock was worth the climb. As the high tide set in we saw numerous Beluga whales which came along with the tide from this point. Beluga's are white colored whales roughly 10-15ft in length. They are found in the arctic waters only and are a very rare sight. Unfortunately we couldn't film these whales as they surface for 1-2 seconds take a quick breath and go down quickly unlike most other whales that stay at the surface for longer time and spout water while breathing. We made few more stops along the route, hung around for sometime enjoying the scenery and taking pictures and finally reached Seward around 8pm or so that night. We were staying in a Bed and Breakfast - Mobydick hostel for the next 2 nights.

The next day the weather started turning bad, it was very foggy and there was a storm expected later that day/next day. So we debated and finally decided to go ahead with our initial plan of the day long cruise through Resurrection bay and Aialik Bay. The cruise would take around7-8hrs long going upto Aialik glacier which is a large & popular tide water glacier and would drop us back at Seward. The first stretch of the cruise was scenic and we enjoyed the scenery. We saw Harbour seals, Bald eagle, Puffins, mountain goats etc. Ressurection Bay and Aialik bay are parallel to each other and we need to pass thru a short stretch of open sea(30-45 minutes) to reach Aialik bay. After a couple of hours when we reached this stretch of open sea it became very rough and the boat was bobbing up and down almost 10-15ft. Four of us(Me, Anu, Anitha & Anand) were caught in the front of the boat where this turbulence was more accentuated and we were getting sprayed with ice cold water. It was a pretty scary experience as we were caught in this suddenly and we couldn't leave our hand-holds to move back inside the boat. After about 5 mins the captain decided to turn back due to rough seas. Once the boat turned back into the bay the sea started to calm down. On the way back we saw Bear glacier, which is another Tide water glacier and some more scenery before returning to Seward. That afternoon we did some souvenir shopping and we went to Alaska Sealife center and watched some marine life there - Seals, Walruses, Penguins, Belugas etc.

The next day as well the weather was bad, however we were determined not to let the weather hamper our plans. We decided to go ahead and visit Exit Glacier. This is the only part of the park that can be accessed thru the road. This is around 10 miles from Seward. It was raining that day. We got ourselves some rain suits and went ahead with the Harding ice field hike. It is a strenous 8 mile round trip hike along the edge of the Exit glacier. It is a very scenic hike that takes us up roughly 3000ft high providing panoramic views of both Exit glacier and the Harding ice field. You also get great views of the sorrounding mountain ranges and the river flowing off Exit glacier. We saw a lot of wild flowers during this hike. Since it was raining we couldn't take too many pictures during this  hike. 

The trail was very slippery at places due to the rain. As you climb up and go higher you can see the vegetation changing from dense forest to Tundra landscape. Once you go beyond the tree line we were pretty exposed to the elements and it was very cold(probably mid 30's F). We went almost 3/4th of the trail upto the 3 mile mark. Around this point is where the Exit Glacier starts flowing from the Harding ice field. It offers excellent views of both Exit Glacier and  the initial stretch of Harding ice field. After resting here for a few minutes we decided to turn back due to bad weather. Over all we took around 4-5 hrs for the complete hike. Though the weather was bad and it was pretty cold, the hike is really worth the effort. We saw the glacier/ice field up close and we enjoyed the magnificient scenery of this area. We completed the hike around 4:30pm and it was time to head back to Anchorage. Like all good things our trip was coming to an end. The return trip to Anchorage was uneventful as the weather was bad and also bcos were tired/partly wet from the hike. We finally came back to Anchorage at around 8:30pm and grabbed a quick dinner and boarded our flights back home.

Looking back, the last 6 days has been wonderful and some of the best I've had. We had a chance to experience some of the greatest & the most magnificient scenery on earth, we also saw a lot of diverse wildlife which is rare these days. For me it was a dream come true after 5 long years. My resolve to visit Alaska only deepened after this visit. I definitely do hope to come back again to Alaska sometime down the line and enjoy its treasures!! Next time around I want to come here in winter to view Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and if possible try my hand at Mushing :-)

Book Review: Go Green Live Rich by David Bach

This a neat little book by David Bach. We humans have been abusing our planet and over using the resources leading to rapid environment degradation and global warming. The pace at which this degradation is happening has accelerated dramatically over the last few decades threatening to change the face of earth and disrupt the quality of life for us and our future generations. It is our responsibility to preserve the earth and hand it over to our future generations the way we received it.

This book gives you 50 simple ways in which you can become more environment friendly at the same time save yourself a bunch of money. As a first step the author recommends that we start by measuring our carbon footprint and understanding the various factors that drives this footprint. You can measure this at earthlab.

Some of his key recommendations that are covered in this book are summarized below:

Driving Smart - Getting rid of at least 1 car and moving to public transport, upgrading to a hybrid vehicle, tuning your car to ensure that it operates in peak condition, using bio-fuel, checking pressure in tires etc.

Energy Smart - Use natural lighting to the extent possible, check & seal any leakages in your house, lowering heater/Ac settings by a few degrees, move to CFL bulbs, use energy star compliant devices, unplugging unused devices & if possible explore alternate energy options (Solar water heaters, residential wind turbines etc.)

Low Flow - Using low flow showers/taps, shutting off taps when not required etc.

Green Real estate - Get smaller house if possible(will lower AC/heating requirements), utilize recycled materials, planting trees etc.

Shop Green - Buy organic foods, buy in bulk, bringing your own reusable bag for shopping, reducing meat consumption, growing vegetables in your garden, buying recycled paper products etc.

Recycling - Buy and sell everything, get rid of junk mail and convert to online statements/bills etc

Make green your family value - Spend more time with family outdoors instead of in front of TV, taking volunteer vacations by helping social/environmental causes, send e-greetings & green gifts for holidays instead of paper greetings & gifts with lot of packaging

Green at Work - Bring lunch to work, think before you print, switch off light/computer before leaving for the day, telecommuting etc.

Green investing - Going green is the next biggest trend in the market, invest in green companies, start green business etc.

Give green - Donate for green causes, join green communities, Vote green etc.

A lot of the ideas given in this book are practical and implementable without a lot of effort/investment. The author has also provided lot of web sites, products and a whole lot of related information so that you don't have to search and figure out the details. While we may not practically be able to implement all the ideas, even if we can implement a handful of these ideas we will be helping our planet and at the same time helping ourselves by saving more money. Though each of these changes may not make a significant impact by themselves cumulatively they will make a big impact. As the saying goes 'Every single drop counts'. This book is very short and crisp and it has a wealth of information. I would strongly recommend this book if you want ideas for saving money at the same time would like to help & preserve the planet by going green.

If you do decide to buy the book pls go green and get an used book from online !!!

Alaska - The last Frontier - Part II: Denali National Park

Finally i found time to write the second part of this article. I will cover about the Denali national park visit in this blog.

Denali national park gets its name from the native Athabaskan name for Mt. McKinley. It means "The high one". It is one of the largest national parks in America at 6 million acres. The centerpiece of the national park is Mt. McKinley which is the highest peak in North America at 20,320ft. The Alaska range of mountains runs through the center of the park and offers breathtaking landscape with its perpetually snow covered peaks and glacially carved valleys. The range is also the source of several glacially fed streams & braided rivers. 

Most of the Denali national park is a designated wilderness area. There is a 90-mile road from the entrance of the park to Kantishna(Old Mining community) that offers the only connection to external world. Visitors are allowed to drive in their vehicles for the first 15 miles of this road. There are regular shuttle buses that ferry visitors beyond Mile 15. The round trip from Visitor center to Kantishna and back takes around 10-12 hrs. There are also no designated trails in the park unlike most of the national parks in US. So you can pretty much get off the road and hike wherever you want !!

The vegetation in the park varies from Taiga to Tundra. At lower elevations and near the entrance of the park the vegetation consists of boreal forests consisting of coniferous trees like pine, spruce & willows etc. As you travel deeper and higher into the park the coniferous trees start becoming shorter and stunted and gradually pave way to Tundra landscape consisting of Moss, Fern, Lichens & grasses. As you go even higher you start encountering barren landscape which has been stripped bare by the natural elements. The transformation of the vegetation/landscape from Taiga to Tundra is pretty dramatic.

We took the shuttle bus from visitor center and went up to Eielsen Visitor center(Mike 66) on both the days. Few miles out from the visitor center the road starts climbing and roughly between miles 10-14 you can get a view of Mt. McKinley on a clear day. The scenery on this stretch is very beautiful. You can see the changing vegetation and stunted pines here. Late August/early September is fall in Denali and the whole landscape consisted of plants in different hues of red's, yellow's and brown's. This stretch is also a popular Moose watching area. We saw around 3-4 moose in this stretch. The nearest one we saw was at 50ft and it was a bull Moose sporting huge antlers!!

The Savage river camp ground where we camped was at Mile 14. A mile from this campground the road descends and goes across the savage river and you get to a check post. Only Park shuttles are allowed beyond this point. We got off at this point and did a short 3 mile hike by the savage river. The hike follows the river for little over a mile. Here there is a small wooden bridge allowing you to cross the river. We Crossed over and followed the river on the other side back to the road. We saw marmot & arctic squirrel in our hiking path(<10 ft) on the way back. There were some good, challenging rocks where we tried our hand at climbing/bouldering during this hike:-).

After the savage river the road climbs back again to Primrose ridge and descends to Sanctuary river/campground. This is a primitive campground with minimal facilities. Few more miles along the road you get to Teklanika river(Mile 30). The shuttle makes the first stop at this point. There is a nice viewpoint for viewing the Teklanika river which is very wide and braided. There is also a campground at this place. It looks like couple of Grizzlies had visited the campground the night before :-). From here on the next 20-30 miles the possibility of seeing Grizzlies is good. Infact we saw around half a dozen plus grizzlies in the stretch between here and Eeilson visitor center. Beyond this point the park road is unpaved and is a gravel road.

As we continue along the road we pass thickly wooded stretch for a few miles. We cross the Igloo campground and we start climbing up. This area is a good hiking area and there are multiple mountain tops that you could hike to like Igloo mountain, Cathedral mountain, Sable mountain, Double mountain etc. You get a great view of the Alaska range from these mountain tops. These mountain tops are also very popular with Dall Sheep which graze along the steep and precipitous slopes. We saw quite a few Dall sheep on these slopes. They normally graze in small groups. If you notice any white specs on these mountains its the Dall sheep. 

The road then goes past the sable pass, descends and we cross the East fork river. This and the Tolkat river beds are a popular spot for Grizzlies. We go off the bus here for a hike. We tried to climb down off a steep & slippery slope(roughly 200ft) without much success. We followed the road for a little bit and got off on a small side road which leads to a winter cabin by the river side. As we hiked down the path and came around a bend we ran into a red fox. It had just hunted a small animal(possibly Squirrel)and was eating it in the path. We stopped a good 25-30 ft from this Fox. To our surprise, the fox started walking towards us and it crossed us and disappeared into the brush!!!! We saw the fox at <10ft distance. One of the things that really surprised me was that most of the animals in this park are not afraid of humans. We continued our hike along the river bank, spent some time there and hiked back out.

From here, the road climbs back very steeply for a few hundred mtrs and you pass thru stretches with steep drops. The top of the climb takes you to Polychrome overlook(Mile 47). You get a nice panaromic view of the Alaska range and the Tolkat river from here. The landscape here is amazing. You can see all the different colors in the palette as part of the scenery. There is also a short hike from here to the Polychrome mountain. This would give you a even better view of this landscape and on a clear day you could see Mt McKinley. 

Further along, the road descends to the Tolkat river. There is a visitor station here on the river bed displaying some artifacts & books regarding Alaska. This river bed is also a popular hiking spot and you have a good possibility of seeing some wildlife(Caribou & Grizzly). The river is huge and the river bed stretches a good 1+ mile across. The road continues to climb through highway pass and then you go thru a sharp descent, series of hairpin bends and few miles further down you get to Eielson visitor center(Mile 66). We saw a large caribou with huge antlers during this drive. From Eielson visitor center you can some of the best views of Mt McKinley. The best months for viewing McKinley is in Winter when the sky is clear. We were at Denali for 3 days and were not successful in viewing the mountain. The visitor center has a good clay model of the Alaska range and the surrounding mountains. It clearly highlights the various glaciers, climbing paths, features etc. It looks like from this point on it becomes very foggy even in the best weather conditions. We stopped at this point and didn't continue due to bad visibility. 

Beyond this point the road goes through a flat stretch and reaches Wonder Lake at Mile 85. You pass the Muldrow Glacier on the way. This is one of the largest glaciers originating in Mt McKinley and is around 30 miles long. This used to be one of the major climbing paths to the top of McKinley during early days. On Clear days the view of Mt McKinley from Wonder Lake is supposed to be one of the most beautiful views of the mountain. You get a clear reflection of the mountain on the lake. We same some fotos of this at the visitor center and it was breathtaking. Few more miles from here the road ends at Kantishna which used to a mining village during the early 1900's.

In terms of wild life Denali is the Serengeti of North America. Some of the wild like we saw during this trip include Grizzlies, Caribou, Moose, Dall Sheep, Red fox, Marmot, Arctic Squirrel, Cayote and Snow shoe hare. Some of the major birds we saw include Golden Eagle, Ptarmigan, Arctic Warblers and Gyrfalcons.

Overall we had a great trip to Denali and we really enjoyed the scenery and wild life. Though we were there for around 2.5 to 3 days it was over in a flash and i wish we had some more time to spend here.

To be continued. The final part of this series will cover our trip to Kenai Fjords National park.

Alaska snaps - Kenai Fjords National Park

You could also check out these snaps at the below link
Kenai Fjords National Park

Alaska snaps - Denali National Park

You could also check out snaps at the below link
Denali National Park

My visit to Alaska - "The last frontier" : Part 1

I am currently in the middle on my Alaska trip and writing this blog from there.

Alaska is truly one of the last frontiers in the new world where nature is at its best. It is vast, remote, undeveloped with miles upon miles of wilderness teeming with wildlife. It is a very scenic place with magnificient vistas & sights. For those who don't know where Alaska is, it is on the North West end of North America continent bordering Canada on the east, Bering Sea in the west/South and Arctic ocean in the north. The eastern most end of Russia(Kamkatcha) is around 60 miles from Alaska. Alaska is the largest state in the US with around 656k sq miles total area, which is 1/5th the size of continental US.

Alaska has been one of my dream destinations and has been in my "Must Visit" list for close to 5+yrs now. I finally managed to take off to Alaska during this labor weekend. We planned to spend 5 full days in Alaska visiting Denali National park and Kenai Fjords National park. I took couple of days off from work, combined it with the 3 day weekend and headed to Alaska on 27th Aug. We planned to return back to Dallas on 2nd September. My cousin Anand and his wife Anitha are joining Anu and me for this trip.

We flew into Anchorage and are planning to spend 2 days in Denali, 2 days in Kenai Fjords and do the scenic drive from Anchorage to Seward between the two trips. The four of us reached Anchorage on 27th evening around the same time. We rented a car and drove to REI to rent camping gear and headed out to Denali. We had to stopover on the way for dinner & for buying food/grocery supplies for camping. Finally we reached Anchorage around 1pm in the night. We pitched our tents and by the time we hit the bed it was around 2pm. The drive was very scenic, Sun was up till around 10pm.

I will continue the with more details on our trip in my next post. Its getting fairly late here and we have an early start tomorrow. I have posted couple of snaps from our trip here.

Chugach National Forest - It is on the way between Anchorage & Seward

Anitha, Anand, Nandu & Anu at Polychrome overlook at Denali NP

Welcome address

Vivekananda's speech - The World Parliament of Religions
Chicago, 11th Sep 1893.

Below is the video playlist of this speech in YouTube

For those who would like to read it here's the complete text of the speech

Sisters and Brothers of America, It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. l thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects. My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:

"As the different streams having there sources in different
places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the
different paths which men take through different tendencies,
various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world, of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita:

"Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him;
all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me."

Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

Why we disagree

Vivekananda's speech - The World Parliament of Religions
Chicago, 15th Sep 1893.

Below is the video playlist of this speech in YouTube

For those who would like to read it here's the complete text of the speech

I will tell you a little story. You have heard the eloquent speaker who has just finished say, "Let us cease from abusing each other," and he was very sorry that there should be always so much variance. But I think I should tell you a story which would illustrate the cause of this variance.

A frog lived in a well. It had lived there for a long time. It was born there and brought up there, and yet was a little, small frog. Of course, the evolutionists were not there then to tell us whether the frog lost its eyes or not, but, for our story's sake, we must take it for granted that it had its eyes, and that it every day cleansed the water of all the worms and bacilli that lived in it with an energy that would do credit to our modern bacteriologists. In this way it went on and became a little sleek and fat. Well, one day another flog that lived in the sea came and fell into the well.

'Where are you form?'
'I am from the sea.'
'The sea! How big is that? Is it as big as my well?' and he took a leap how one side of the well to the other.
'My friend,' said the frog of the sea, 'how do you compare the sea with your little well?'
Then the frog took another leap and asked, 'Is your sea so big?'
'What nonsense you speak, to compare the sea with your well!'
'Well, then,' said the frog of the well, 'nothing can be bigger than my well; there can be nothing bigger than this; this fellow is a liar, so turn him out.'

That has been the difficulty all the while.

I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks the whole world is his well. The Mohammedan sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world. l have to thank you of America for the great attempt you are making to break down the barriers of this little world of ours, and hope that, in the future, the Lord will help you to accomplish your purpose.


Vivekananda's speech - The World Parliament of Religions
Chicago, 19th Sep 1893

Below is the video playlist of this speech in YouTube

For those who would like to read it here's the complete text of the speech

Three religions now stand in the world which have come down to us from time prehistoric - Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism. They have all received tremendous shocks, and all of them prove by their survival their internal strength. But while Judaism failed to absorb Christianity and was driven out of its place of birth by its all-conquering daughter, and a handful of Parsees is all that remains to tell the tale of their grand religion, sect after sect arose in India and seemed to shake the religion of the Vedas to its very foundations, but like the waters of the sea-shore in a tremendous earthquake it receded only for a while, only to return in an all-absorbing Hood, a thousand times more vigorous, and when the tumult of the rush was over, these sects were all sucked in, absorbed and assimilated into the immense body of the mother faith. From the high spiritual flights of the Vedanta philosophy, of which the latest discoveries of science seem like echoes, to the low ideas of idolatry with its multifarious mythology, the agnosticism of the Buddhists and the atheism of the Jains, each and all have a place in the Hindu's religion.

Where then, the question arises, where is the common center to which all these widely diverging radii converge? Where is the common basis upon which all these seemingly hopeless contradictions rest? And this is the question I shall at- tempt to answer.

The Hindus have received their religion through revelation, the Vedas. They hold that the Vedas are without beginning and without end. It may sound ludicrous to this audience, how a book can be without beginning or end. But by the Vedas no books are meant. They mean the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times. Just as the law of gravitation existed before its discovery, and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is it with the laws that govern the spiritual relations between soul and soul and between individual spirits and the Father of all spirits were there before their discovery, and would remain even if we forgot them.

The discoverers of these laws are called Rishis, and we honor them as perfected beings. I am glad to tell this audience that some of the very greatest of them were women.

Here it may be said that these laws as laws may be without end, but they must have had a beginning. The Vedas teach us that creation is without beginning or end. Science is said to have proved that the sum total of cosmic energy is always the same. Then, if there was a time when nothing existed, where was all this manifested energy? Some say it was in a potential form in God. In that case God is sometimes potential and sometimes kinetic, which would make Him mutable. Everything mutable is a compound and everything compound must undergo that change which is called destruction. So God would die, which is absurd-Therefore, there never was a time when there was no creation.

If I may be allowed to use a simile, creation and creator are two lines, without beginning and without end, zoning parallel to each other. God is the ever-active providence, by whose power systems after systems are being evolved out of chaos, made to run for a time, and again destroyed. This is what the Brahmin boy repeats every day:

'The sun and the moon, the Lord created like the suns and the moons of previous cycles.'

And this agrees with modern science. Here I Stand and if I shut my eyes, and try to conceive my existence, 'I,' 'I,' 'I', what is the idea before me? The idea of a body. Am I, then, nothing but a combination of material substances? The Vedas declare, 'No' I am a spirit living in a body: I am not the body. The body will die, but I shall not die. Here I am in this body; it will fall, bull shall go on living. I had also a past. The soul was not created, for creation means a combination, which means a certain future dissolution. If then the soul was created, it must die. Some are born happy, enjoy perfect health with beautiful body, mental vigor, and all wants supplied. Others are born miserable; some are without hands or feet; others again are idiots, and only drag on a wretched existence. Why, if they are all created, why does a just and merciful God create one happy and another unhappy, why is He so partial? Nor would it mend matters in the least to hold that those who are miserable in this life will be happy in a ôare one. Why should a man be miserable even here in the reign of a just and merciful God?

In the second place, the idea of a creator God does not explain the anomaly, but simply expresses the cruel Rat of an all-powerful being. There must have been causes, then, before his birth, to make a man miserable or happy and those were his past actions.

Are not all the tendencies of the mind and the body accounted for by inherited aptitude? Here are two parallel lines of existence - one of the mind, the other of matter. If matter and its transformations answer for all that we have, there is no necessity for supposing the existence of a soul. But it cannot be proved that thought has been evolved out of matter; and if a philosophical monism is inevitable, spiritual monism is certainly logical and no less desirable than a materialistic monism; but neither of these is necessary here.

We cannot deny that bodies acquire certain tendencies from heredity, but those tendencies only mean the physical configuration through which a peculiar mind alone can act in a peculiar way. There are other tendencies peculiar to a soul caused by his past actions. And a soul with a certain tendency would, by the laws of affinity, take birth in a body which is the fittest instrument for the display of that tendency. This is in accord with science, for science wants to explain everything by habit, and habit is got through repetitions. So repetitions are necessary to explain the natural habits of a new born soul. And since they were not obtained in this present life, they must have come down from past lives.

There is another suggestion. Taking all these for granted, how is it that I do not remember anything of my past life? This can be easily explained. I am now speaking English. It is not my mother tongue; in fact, no words of my mother tongue are now present in my consciousness; but let me try to bring them up, and they rush in. That shows that consciousness is only the surface of mental ocean, and within its depths are stored up all our experiences. Try and struggle, they would come up. and you would be conscious even of your past life.

This is direct and demonstrative evidence. Verification is the perfect proof of a theory, and here is the challenge thrown to the world by the Rishis. We have discovered the secret by which the very depths of the ocean of memory can be stirred up - try it and you would get a complete reminiscence of your past life.

So then the Hindu believes that he is a spirit. Him the sword cannot pierce - him the fire cannot burn - him the water cannot melt - him the air cannot dry. The Hindu believes that every soul is a circle whose circumference is nowhere but whose center is located in the body, and that death means the change of the center from holy to body. Nor is the soul bound by the conditions of matter.

In its very essence, it is flee, unbounded, holy, pure, and perfect. But somehow or other it finds itself tied down to matter and thinks of itself as matter. Why should the free, perfect, and pure be thus under the thraldom of matter, is the next question. How can the perfect soul be deluded into the belief that it is imperfect? We have been told that the Hindus shirk the question and say that no such question can be there- Some thinkers want to answer it by positing one or more quasi-perfect beings, and use big scientific names to fill up the gap. But naming is not explaining. The question remains the same. How can the perfect become the quasi-perfect; how can the pure, the absolute change even a microscopic particle of its nature? But the Hindu is sincere. He does not want to take shelter under sophistry. He is brave enough to face the question in a manly fashion; and his answer is: 'I do not know.' I do not know how the perfect being, the soul, came to think of itself as imperfect, as Joined to and conditioned by matter.' But the fact is a fact for all that. It is a fact in everybody's consciousness that one thinks of oneself as the body. The Hindu does not attempt to explain why one thinks one is the body. The answer that it is the will of God is no explanation. This is nothing more than what the Hindu says, 'I do not know.'

Well, then, the human soul is eternal and immortal, perfect and infinite, and death means only a change of center from one body to another. The present is determined by our past actions, and the future by the present. The soul will go on evolving up or reverting back from birth to birth and death to death. But here is another question: Is man a tiny boat in a tempest, raised one moment on the foamy crest of a billow and dashed down into a yawning chasm the next, rolling to and from at the mercy of good and bad actions - a powerless, helpless wreck in an ever-raging, ever-rushing, uncompromising current of cause and effect - a little moth placed under the wheel of causation, which rolls on crushing everything in its way and waits not for the widow's tears or the orphan's cry? The heart sinks at the idea, yet this is the law of nature. Is there no hope? Is there no escape? - was the cry that went up from the bottom of the heart of despair. It reached the throne of mercy, and words of hope and consolation came down and inspired a Vedic sage, and he stood up before the world and in trumpet voice proclaimed the glad tidings: 'Hear, ye children of immortal bliss! even ye that reside in higher spheres! I have found the Ancient One who is beyond all darkness, all delusion: knowing Him alone you shall be saved from death over again. 'Children of immortal bliss' -what a sweet, what a hopeful name! Allow me to call you, brethren, by that sweet name -heirs of immortal bliss - yea, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. We are the Children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. _e divinities on earth - sinners! It is a sin to call a ma. so; it is standing libel on human nature. Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant of matter.

Thus it is that the Vedas proclaim not a dreadful combination of unforgiving laws, not an endless prison of cause and effect, but that at the head of all these laws, in and through every particle of matter and force, stands One, 'by whose command the wind blows, the fire burns, the clouds rain and death stalks upon the earth.'

And what is His nature?

He is everywhere, the pure and formless One, the Almighty and the All-merciful. 'Thou art our father, Thou art our mother, Thou art our beloved friend, Thou art the source of all strength; give us strength. Thou art He that beareth the burdens of the universe; help me bear the little burden of this life.' Thus sang the Rishis of the Veda. And how to worship Him? Through love. 'He is to be worshiped as the one beloved, dearer than everything in this and the next life.'

This is the doctrine of love declared in the Vedas, and let us see how it is fully developed and taught by Krishna whom the Hindus believe to have been God incarnate on earth.

He taught that a man ought to live in this world like a lotus leaf, which grows in water but is never moistened by water; so a man ought to live in the world - his heart to God and his hands to work.

It is good to love God for hope of reward in this or the next world, but it is better to love God for love's sake; and the prayer goes: 'Lord, I do not want wealth nor children nor learning. If it be Thy will, I shall go from birth to birth; but grant me this, that I may love Thee without the hope of reward - love unselfishly for love's sake.'

One of the disciples of Krishna, the then Emperor of India, was driven from his kingdom by his enemies and had to take shelter with his queen, in a forest in the Himalayas and there one day the queen asked how it was that he, the most virtuous of men, should suffer so much misery. Yudhishthira answered, 'Be hold, my queen, the Himalayas, how grand and beautiful they are; I love them. They do not give me any- thing but my nature is to love the grand, the beautiful, therefore I love them. Similarly, I love the Lord. He is the source of all beauty, of all sublimity. He is the only object to beloved; my nature is to love Him, and therefore I love. I do not pray for any- thing; I do not ask for anything. Let Him place me wherever He likes. I must love Him for love's sake. I cannot trade in love.'

The Vedas teach that the soul is divine, only held in the bondage of matter; perfection will be reached when this bond will burst, and the word they use for it is, therefore, Mukti - freedom, freedom from the bonds of imperfection, freedom from death and misery- And this bondage can only fall off through the mercy of God, and this mercy comes on the pure. So purity is the condition of His mercy. How does that mercy act? He reveals Himself to the pure heart; the pure and the stainless see God, yea, even in this life; then and then only all the crookedness of the heart is made straight. Then all doubt ceases. He is no more the freak of a terrible law of causation. This is the very center, the very vital conception of Hinduism. The Hindu does not want to live upon words and theories, If there are existences beyond the ordinary sensuous existence, he wants to come face to face with them. If there is a soul in him which is not matter, if there is an all-merciful universal Soul, he will Rota Him direct. He must see Him, and that alone can destroy all doubts. So the best proof a Hindu sage gives about the soul, about God, is: 'I have seen the soul; I have seen God.' And that is the only condition of perfection. The Hindu religion does not consist in struggles and attempts to believe a certain doctrine or dogma, but in realizing - not in believing, but in being and becoming.

Thus the whole object of their system is by constant struggle to become perfect, to become divine, to reach God, and see God; and this reaching God, seeing God, becoming perfect even as the Father in Heaven is perfect, constitutes the religion of the Hindus.

And what becomes of a man when he attains perfection? He lives a life of bliss infinite. He enjoys infinite and perfect bliss, having obtained the only thing in which man ought to have pleasure, namely God, and enjoys the bliss with God.

So far all the Hindus are agreed. This is the common religion of all the sects of India; but then perfection is absolute, and the absolute cannot be two or three. It cannot have any qualities. It cannot be an individual. And so when a soul becomes perfect and absolute, it must become one with Brahman, and it would only realize the Lord as the perfection, the reality, of its own nature and existence, the existence absolute, knowledge absolute, and bliss absolute. We have often and often read this called the losing of individuality and becoming a stock or a stone.

'He jests at scars that never felt a wound.'

I tell you it is nothing of the kind. If it is happiness to enjoy the consciousness of this small body, it must be greater happiness to enjoy the consciousness of two bodies, the measure of happiness increasing with the consciousness of an increasing number of bodies, the Rim, the ultimate of happiness, being reached when it would become a universal consciousness.

Therefore, to gain this infinite universal individuality, this miserable little prison - individuality must go. Then alone can death cease when I am one with life, then alone can misery cease when I am one with happiness itself, then alone can all errors cease when I am one with knowledge itself; and this is the necessary scientific conclusion- Science has proved to me that physical individuality is a delusion, that really my body is one little continuously changing body in an unbroken ocean of matter, and Advaita (unity) is the necessary conclusion with my other counterpart, Soul.

Science is nothing but the finding of unity. As soon as science would reach perfect unity, it would stop from further progress, because it would reach the goal. Thus chemistry could not progress farther when it would discover one element out of which all others could be made. Physics would stop when it would be able to fulfill its services in discovering one energy of which all the others are hut manifestations, and the science of religion become perfect when it would discover Him who is the one life in a universe of death, Him who is the constant basis of an ever-changing world, One who is the only Soul of which all souls are but delusive manifestations. Thus is it, through multiplicity and duality, that the ultimate unity is reached. Religion can go no farther. This is the goal of all science.

All science is bound to come to this conclusion in the long run. Manifestation, and not creation, is the word of science today; and the Hindu is only glad that what he has been cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in more forcible language and with further light from the latest conclusions of science.

Descend we now from the aspirations of philosophy to the religion of the ignorant. At the very outset, I may tell you that there is no polytheism in India. In every temple, if one stands by and listens, one will find the worshipers applying all the attributes of God, including omnipresence. to the images. It is not polytheism, nor would the name henotheism explain the situation.

'The rose, called by any other name, would smell as sweet.' Names are not explanations.

I remember, as a boy, hearing a Christian missionary preach to crowd in India. Among other sweet things he was telling them was, that if he gave a blow to their idol with his stick. what could it do? One of his hearers sharply answered, 'If I abuse your God, what can He do?' 'You would be punished,' said the preacher, 'when you die.' 'So my idol will punish you when you die,' retorted the Hindu.

The tree is known by its fruits. When l have seen amongst them that are called idolaters, men, the like of whom, in morality and spirituality and love, I have never seen anywhere, l stop and ask myself, 'Can sin beget holiness?'

Superstition is a great enemy of man, but bigotry is worse. Why does a Christian go to church? Why is the cross holy? Why is the face turned toward the sky in prayer? Why are there so many images in the Catholic Church? Why are there so many images in the minds of Protestants when they pray? My brethren, we can Do more think about anything without a mental image than we can live without breathing- By the law of association the material image calls up the mental idea and vice versa. This is why the Hindu uses an external symbol when he worships. He will tell you. it helps to keep his mind fixed on the Being to whom he prays. He knows as well as you do that the image is not God, is not omnipresent. finer all, how much does omnipresence mean to almost the whole world? It stands merely as a word, a symbol. Has God superficial area? If not, when we repeat that word 'omnipresent', we think of the extended sky. or of space - that is all.

As we find that somehow or other, by the laws of our mental constitution, we have to associate our ideas of infinity with the image of the blue sky, or of the sea, so we naturally connect our idea of holiness with the image of a church, a mosque, or a cross. The Hindus have associated the ideas of holiness, purity, truth, omnipresence, and such other ideas with different images and forms. But with this difference that while some people devote their whole lives to their idol of a church and never rise higher, because with them religion means an intellectual assent to certain doctrines and doing good to their fellows, the whole religion of the Hindu is centered in realization. Man is to become divine by realizing the divine. Idols or temples or churches or books are only the supports, the helps, of his spiritual childhood; but on and on he must progress.

He must not stop anywhere. 'External worship, material worship' ?,' say the scriptures, 'is the lowest stage,' struggling to rise high, mental prayer is the next stage, but the highest stage is when the Lord has been realized., Mark, the same earnest man who is kneeling before the idol tells you, 'Him the sun cannot express, nor the moon, nor the stars, the lightning cannot express Him, nor what we speak of as fire; through Him they shine.' But he does not abuse anyone's idol or call its worship sin. He recognizes in it a necessary stage of life. 'The child is father of the man.' Would it be right for an old man to say that childhood is a sin or youth a sin?

If a man can realize his divine nature with the help of an image, would it be right to call that a sin? Nor, even when he has passed that stage, should he call it an error. To the Hindu, man is not traveling from error to truth, but from truth to truth, from lower to higher truth. To him all the religions from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, mean so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realize the Infinite, each determined by the conditions of its birth and association, and each of these marks a stage of progress; and every soul is a young eagle soaring higher and higher, gathering more and more strength till it reaches the Glorious Sun.

Unity in variety is the plan of nature, and the Hindu has recognized it. Every other religion lays down certain fixed dogmas and tries to force society to adopt them. It places before society only one coat which must fit Jack and John and Henry, all alike. If it does not fit John or Henry he must go without a coat to cover his body. The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only be realized, or thought of, or stated through the relative, and the images, crosses, and crescents are simply so many symbols - so many pegs to hang spiritual ideas on. It is not that this help is necessary for everyone, but those that do not need it have no right to say that it is wrong. Nor is it compulsory in Hinduism.

One thing I must tell you. Idolatry in India does not mean anything horrible. It is not the mother of harlots. On the other hand, it is the attempt of undeveloped minds to grasp high spiritual truths. The Hindus have their faults, they sometimes have their exceptions; but mark this, they are always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbors. If the Hindu fanatic burns himself on the pyre, he never lights the fire of Inquisition. And even this cannot be laid at the door of his religion any more than the burning of witches can be laid at the door of Christianity.

To the Hindu, then, the whole world of religions is only a travelling, a coming up, of different men and women, through various conditions and circumstances, to the same goal. Every religion is only evolving a God out of the material man, and the same God is the inspirer of all of them. Why, then, are there so many contradictions? They are only apparent, says the Hindu. The contradictions come from the same truth adapting itself to the varying circumstances of different natures.

It is the same light coming through glasses of different colors- And these little variations are necessary for purposes of adaptation. But in the heart of everything the same truth reigns. The Lord has declared to the Hindu in His incarnation as Krishna: 'I am in every religion as the thread through a string of pearls. Wherever thou seest extraordinary holiness and extraordinary power raising and purifying humanity, know thou that I am there. ' And what has been the result? I challenge the world to find, throughout the whole system of Sanskrit philosophy, any such expression as that the Hindu alone will be saved and not others. Says Vyasa, 'we find perfect men even beyond the pale of our caste and creed.' One thing more. How, then, can the Hindu, whose whole fabric of thought centers in God, believe in Buddhism which is agnostic, or in Jainism which is atheistic?

The Buddhists or the Jains do not depend upon God; but the whole force of their religion is directed to the great central truth in every religion, to evolve a God out of man. They have not seen the Father, but they have seen the Son. And he that hath seen the Son bath seen the Father also.

This, brethren, is a short sketch of the religious ideas of the Hindus. The Hindu may have failed to carry out all his plans, but if there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these. and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in infinite arms, and find a place for, every human being from the lowest grovelling savage, not far removed from the brute, to the highest man towering by the virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in awe of him and doubt his human nature. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognize divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be centered in aiding humanity to realize its own true, divine nature.

Offer such a religion and all the nations will follow you. Asoka's council was a council of the Buddhist faith. Akbar's. though more to the purpose. was only a parlor meeting. It was reserved for America to proclaim to all quarters of the globe that the Lord is in every religion.

May He who is the Brahman of the Hindus, the Ahura-Mazda of the Zoroastrians, the Buddha of the Buddhists, the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father in Heaven of the Christians, give strength to you to carry out your noble idea! The star arose in the East; it traveled steadily towards the West, sometimes dimmed and sometimes effulgent, till it made a circuit of the world, and now it is again rising on the very horizon of the East, the borders of the Tsang po(1), a thousand fold more effulgent than it ever was before.

Hail Columbia, motherland of liberty! It has been given to thee, who never dipped her hand in her neighbor's blood, who never found out that the shortest way of becoming rich was by robbing one's neighbors, it has been given to thee to march at the vanguard of civilization with the flag of harmony.

(1) A Tibetan name for the Bramaputra River
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