The World of the Virtues

Meditation, hatha yoga, writing journal helps me to connect to my own self. They are portals to know the self in me more closely. Life appears a never ending journey of friendship with the macrocosm inside me. So many entities, so many dimensions this microcosm within constitutes of! Its like being a feature matrix hung in an n dimensional space. Each moment of calm, settling stint of meditation goes to unravel and reveal each of these position vectors, with n dimensional components. n appears so large! Is it infinity?

Also one more interesting aspect to know these multiple vectors within is developing a sense of co-existence with diversity. Coexistence is also about exploring, knowing and respecting the other existence. There are so many thought quarters, personality, nature, visions, ambition, agendas all floating around – as different stories riding on the mind of varied people, institutions, events etc. Knowing them, and going beyond shutting off with shallow judgement makes so much more sense.

For example a blind fundamental leftist how easily misses the appreciation of the neutral insights of Marx in his book Capital. And a crony capitalist, how easily misses out the nuances of the invisible hand of Adam Smith. Or for that matter, a shallow uneducated nationalist, misses out the wonder of the rich culture of other worlds.

Hatred, conflicts and strains appear in relationship many a times due to this laziness of a self proclaimed end to continue the journey of exploration, learning and listening.

More i read, more i reflect, more i think, it appears to me that the archetypes and human ideals like love, courage, sincerity, commitment, perseverance, aspiration, veneration, respect, sacrifice etc has nothing to do with nationality, region, or for that matter humans themselves! Humans might be at max considered as a temporary basin to hold these virtues. These virtues have their own independent existence in the realm of not man, but his inspiring creations! These virtues belong to an immortal world. Men, countries, societies, institutions are all temporary place holders. They belong to the ephemeral world of temporality.

Its like motherhood is beyond a mother, brotherhood is beyond a brother, sisterhood is beyond a sister, love is beyond a lover. These are virtues from the immortal realm. Mortal entities just wear those garbs.

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Adi Shankaracharya and Institution building to keep Guru Prampara and Advaith Vedanta alive.

Adi ShankaraAdi Shankara (pronounced [aːd̪i ʃəŋkəɾə]; early 8th century CE[2][note 1]) was a philosopher and theologian[5] from India who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta.[1] He is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism.

His works in Sanskrit discuss the unity of the ātman and Nirguna Brahman “brahman without attributes”.[9] He wrote copious commentaries on the Vedic canon (Brahma Sutras, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) in support of his thesis.[10] His works elaborate on ideas found in the Upanishads. Shankara’s publications criticised the ritually-oriented Mīmāṃsā school of Hinduism.[11] He also explained the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism asserts “Atman (Soul, Self) exists”, while Buddhism asserts that there is “no Soul, no Self”

8th – 12th century AD marked the cultural renaissance in Kashmir .In a period spanning four hundred years Kashmir produced some of the greatest scholars, who were instrumental in shaping Indian thought and Philosophy. It was in this time that we see the resurgence of Agama and Tantra in Kashmir. The revelation of Siva Sutras could be termed as a milestone in the re-establishment of the Shaivate philosophy.

Adi Shankara travelled all the way from Kerala to Sharada Peetham(a shakti Peetham in Kashmir) in the second decade of 9th century . There he consolidated and established his ideas on Advaith philosphy. Then he travelled down south to Shringeri, Karnataka (near Chikamangalur), and set up the first Matha on Advaith Philosophy, and established the Sharada Temple Peetham in the Matha. This came to be known as Shringeri Sharada Peetham. After that, he established 3 more such peetham in the remaining 3 corners of India. This gave India the 4 seats of scholars and masters who were engaged in maintaining the eternal Sanatana Dharma, from the view point of the Advatya Vedanta Philosophy.Shankaracharya Mathas

The ancient Sharada Shakti Peetham in Kashmir was the seed of the Shakta and Agamas.  This influence is so very well seen in the works of Adi Shankara. He wrote a collection of 6 shlokas known as Atmana Shatakam or Nirvana Shatakam. This is provided below  with translation –

The same influence of Kshmiri Shaivism and Kashmir’s Sharada Peetham is visible in his first matha in Shringeri, Karnataka. Shringeri Sharada Peetham is the first Matha created by Adi Shankara after his inspiration from the Kashmir’s ancient Sharada Peetham.

Later he established his eastern pheetham – Govardhana Pitham which houses the famous Jagannatha Temple. Lord Jagannatha is considered to be the 9th incarnation of Vishnu. But also he is worshipped as Bhairav (the fierce incarnation of Shiva) in the same temple. There are many tantrics who perform their rituals in this temple precincts.

He continued to travel the length and breath of India, and established 2 more pethams – one in Dwarka and the other at Badrinath. Following are the maths Adi Shankaracharya set up.

PEETHAM TEMPLE DEITY
Sharada Srigeri Peetham Shrigeri Sharadamba Temple (Shringeri, Karnataka) Sharada/Saraswati/Shakti
Govardhan Peetham Lord Jagannath Temple (Puri, Odhisa) Lord Jagannath/Bhairava (Vishnu/Shiva)
Jyorthimatha Pitham Badrinath Temple (Badrinath town, Uttarakhand) Badrinath/Badrinarayana (Vishnu)
Dwarka Peetham Dwarkadheesh Temple (Dwarka town, Gujarat) Dwarakadheesh (Vishnu)

Setting up of these mathas were important. They were building of institutions that would continue the Guru Parampara continuously from 900 AD till date, ranging across a huge period of 1,117 years till date! This was a strategic move to enable the wisdom to be created and maintained across generations, going beyond the intellectual prowess of a single person.

Another important thing that Sankara did was that he made the 4 mathas specialize in different Vedas. This enabled deep dive into different Vedas by people who were more inclined to one of them. Following are the different themes of the Vedas, which are totally different from each other, and people would need to really spend enough time and efforts to know, apply and practice the wisdom in them. Hence it made pure sense to set up 4 universities to specialize in the 4 Vedas.

PEETHAM VEDA SPECIALIZATION THEME OF VEDA DETAILS
Govardhan Peetham, Jagannath Puri, Odhissa Rig Ved Principles of existence It has 10 Books known as Mandalas. These contain 10,552 mantras. These mantras are known as riks, which is chanted in various meters such as Gayatri,
Anushtup, Trishtup. The meter is determined by the number syllables ending wiht a vowel. A mantrain Gayatri meter should have 24 such syllables.
Sharada Peetham, Shringeri, Karnataka Yajur Ved Applications of the knowledge. It is divided into two books – Shukla Yajurveda and Krishna Yajur Veda. This contains a combination of rik mantras and yajus mantras. Unlike rik mantras yajus mantras are short and rhythmic phrases, such as, ‘namah shivaya’.
Dwaraka Peetham, Dwaraka, Gujarat Sama Ved It is a subset of Rig Veda, and the same mantras are sung in rhythms Every mantra has a number mentioned to the left of the text. It runs from 1 to 1,875.
Jyotirmath Peetham, Badrinath, Uttarakhand Atharva Ved Impact on the world. Sustenance. Sociology, politics, battles, education, healing, longevity, Ecology. Many popular Shanti mantras from the Upnaishads are found here. This Veda contains the “Bhu Suktam” – An Ode to Earth. THe only one in teh entire ancient literature of the world. It begins with the idea that earth is not a mere physical structure, but an organism.

Such was the constructive and organisational aptitude of Adi Sankara. Due to his systematic approach of building institutions in the right manner, he revived the Santan Dharma, when it was increasingly losing popularity due to the increasing appeal of Buddhism and Jainism.

His philosophy of Advaith Vedanta is inspiring, and enables us to reflect on the non-dual aspect of your unchanging experience that is a silent observer amidst the changing ephemeral dram of the mind and the world of the physical.

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It’s all in the Narrative!

In today’s post modern world, it appears that humanity is more and more vexed with means of production. Any conversation that is not directly or indirectly related to means of production, is generally considered unnecessary and superfluous. Most of the  intentions, ideas, thought, and actions are immediately judged with the yardstick of their ability to prove themselves in concrete terms – either an increase in productivity, efficiency, or monetary value. If not these, for the most liberals, at-least the “objectivity” of the idea and its so called “validity” in terms of being able to see and prove it “scientifically” is the minimum litmus test that the conversation must pass through. It is about believing and articulating an idea only when it is proved and is repeatable by a deterministic sets of well defined steps. This vexation with the so called scientific and rational discipline of judgement has its own very important place. Most of the scientific discoveries (ofcourse except those of Einstein’s theory of relativity) are based out of the foundation of such empirical rigour of empirical experimentation before they were postulated.

Given the importance of this rigour of ‘seeing is believing’, one must also acknowledge the other end of the spectrum – ‘believing is seeing’. It is a powerful narrative that sets the ground for being able to establish something ground breaking and novel, before that has already happened in concrete terms. The bias towards the former in most of the world communities appears to be the biggest detrimental force impeding a contended, fearless, joyous and creative existence of mankind. This article is an attempt to present that it is a powerful narrative – out of purely internal inspiration – that creates the ground and foundation for manifestation of an external achievement, that can be measured and judged via scientific yardstick.

In the means and ways of scientific pursuits of Einstein, this idea was most powerfully demonstrated. He approached Physics from the standpoint of imagination, and kept nurturing his childhood dream of being able to ride by the side of a travelling beam of light throughout his life. His rich imaginative mind had developed an intuition on nature of gravitation, space and time. And throughout his life, he continued to reverse engineer that hunch using mathematical means to prove the same. There were theories of his that got empirically proven after 100 years after their pronouncement. This nature of things is not limited the life of a Genius like Einstein. Rather the role of narrative is the most prevalent value in an Indian social context. One note of caution is that the mention of ‘narrative’ here is not a wishy-washy superficial whim of a shallow dreamer. Rather it means a strong but aesthetically inspiring articulation of a committed reality, before that reality is physically observable in concrete terms. However, the narrative leads one to that physical experience in concrete terms. Only that it it is the second step. The first step is coming up with that narrative in the first place, and ofcourse having that set of skills and abilities to come with such a narrative. Like for example, Einstein’s narrative would not have much value, if he was not already a master of traditional Newtonian physics and advanced Mathematics.

Yesterday we did a small ‘homa’ at our home. The pandit was a Yajur Veda expert. During the entire 2 hours ritual, the pandit, did some chanting with a polished small round black stone (Salligram), a copper pot, inside which was the water from kitchen tap. On the top of the pot there was a 5 leaves from the mango tree, a coconut, decorated with flowers, vermilion, turmeric, coloured rice grains etc. All these were established on an ‘asana’ on a raised platform. For a rationalist all these certainly is wastage of time and a child’s play, coming from a deep seated superstition. But then, if one goes a little deeper into this so called drama, the real significance of all this alights in the one’s comprehension. The secret of all the understanding is the ‘Narrative’. The pandit, while doing all those trivial rituals with mundane objects all around him, was not quietly sitting. He was chanting Vedic mantras that were intended to convey something. Mantras are short poems that were revealed to ancient Vedic Rishis several thousands of year ago. Their exact origin are not known. The most inspiring aspect of these mantras are two things – the unique meter(chhandas) in which these mantras are chanted, and the meaning of these mantras. The frequency of sound that is generated while chanting these mantras has its own healing nature. But that is just the starting point. When one is able to go deep into these mantras, and is able to understand, reflect and apply their meanings, it is then when one is able to really leverage their immense power.

One needs to understand that, at the source of anything concrete there is a realm of inspiration, idea and intent. That realm is invisible, and is at source of conception of the idea as well as sustenance of the idea in long term. We have umpteen examples of people taking up something and then unable to continue that in long run. Projects, relationships, institutions, families, societies, countries have see eventual dissipation and weathering-away, due to entropy that sets in them in long run, in the absence of an opposing creative force, to nurture them and strengthen them. For example, we all know that exercise is good for our body, and we have scientific evidence that a regular regime of stretching and exercise is good for our health. But our daily experience shows how very small proportion of people are really regular with this daily regime. Same is true for learning new domain, reading, re-skilling oneself in something new and difficult, or taking up a difficult hobby, or for that matter continue to maintain love, respect, dignity and harmony in our relationships both inside our homes and offices and outside in the general public places.

But, once these rituals and impregnated with a narrative, the probability of their continuance and eventual blossoming increases. So, a set of exercises that is done in the yoga tradition was named as “Surya Namaskaar”. The name literally means bowing down in respect, love and wonder to the Sun. There is a detailed literature and a very strong narrative present in the Vedas and Puranas on Surya. That narrative goes a long way in establishing an emotional bond with the cosmic force, and then man gets pulled to this ritual daily to experience that love he has with this power. As he continues the ritual on daily basis, that love strengthens and holds him more established in the path. Just observe the difference in quality of the experience of doing a dry rounds of exercise in a gym, and doing a daily action of love to experience the bond, and closeness with a divine being! The former is focused on result – either producing abs, or a rounder but, or broader chest, or for the most unambitious, a healthy body. But the latter is an act of rendezvous with one’s own beloved. It is about a conversation with the beloved. And mind it the beloved is not a normal mortal, rather an immortal and endless cosmic power, which has His reflection deep in human psyche too. We humans are emotional and social beings, and such congenial narrative helps to re-enforce a beneficial practice with lots of purpose and meaning. We need to see a purpose and meaning to what we do. Otherwise, we lose the commitment, and the action loses its sheen and rigour.

It is this invisible domain of inspiration, purpose, meaning and love that was topic of interest of the ancient Vedic Rishis. They took each and every such creative and constructive aspects of human psyche and nature, meditated on them, and by some complex neural process, these mantras were revealed to them, which in poetic forms attempted to echo that hidden inspiration. That created a powerful narrative aimed at damping away the destructive forces of entropy inherent in any physical systems. You name an inspiration, there is a detailed narrative for the same. Following are some keys to these narratives. Keys are the proper nouns that are used to index all the inspirations of the similar nature together. They are also known as Devas. Some indicative examples are given below for the reader to get an idea. There are several other equally powerful narrative spread all across the Vedas.

Devas (Inspiration)
————————————————————————
Agni (Will, Inspiration, Spark of intention)
Indra (Mental clarity)
Soma (Delight of existence one experience having done a difficult task that needs high degree of skills. In psychology this state is known as “FLOW”)
Varuna (Magnanimity and openness)
Saraswati (Inspiration and Knowledge)
Mitra (Friendship, love and harmony)
Rhbus (Execution excellence)
Ashwins (Wellbeing and healing)
Marut (Life forces)
Usha (Creative beginning)
Aditi (Infinity)
————————————————————————–

The narrative obviously does not end withe just the keys. Vedas have systematically arranged and indexed mantras which beautifully develops these ideas more fully and extensively.
There is a powerful inspirational effect that happens within one’s soul, when one chants these mantras, knowing their contexts and meaning.
The impact is made even more powerful by the impersonal nature of the Sanskrit and the resonating effect of the chants.

Given this huge and rich inspirational literature given to all Indians and the world as a legacy, it builds a strong case of being able to
add aesthetics and power in one’s narrative. That narrative injects life in the concrete world, and gives meaning and purpose of our existence.
The meaning, purpose and love are aspects that science will never be able to quantify and create in labs. Rather they linger over time in the soul of man,
out of his constant efforts in understanding such powerful narratives in the extant literature and scriptures. This is something that does not come from birth.
This is an aspect of the culture, that mankind has created over last thousands of years. No matter how much the post modern world underplays the importance of
narrative, culture, and that invisible aesthetics of what is known as “Divine”, the importance of it will remain. It will continue to make its presence felt
through psychological and neurological studies.

A strong narrative is a thing of art, elegance, aesthetics and inspiration. That is the first step of doing anything worthwhile.

If you are interested to know about Vedas and these powerful narratives hidden in the mantras, I strongly recommend you to read the books by Rishi Aurobindo on Vedas, and the translation of the Vedas to English by Dr. R. L. Kashyap. You can find more information on Dr. Kashyap’s work at http://www.vedah.com

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Angels and Helpers

In our daily life, we have several people, animals, plants, insects, birds, and other inanimate beings – both living and non-living that alights out of nowhere and have something unique that helps and nourishes us. They are so different and unique and so starkly different from us. But all of them have something very special that helps us in some way or the other.
As humans we have a very limited ability to recognise them and appreciate them. It needs lot of practice to go out of our shell and be able to even acknowledge their presence. On contrary we most of the times want to change them, and make them a replica of who we are. We are obsessed with judging people as within our circle and outside our circle. We tend to be appreciate all that is like us, and remove the ones unlike us as a foreign circle. At max we watch them with curiosity and a sense of weirdness as we visit a zoo, and watch different species of birds and animals.
Life is certainly beyond being a zoo. It is rather about co-existence with all those different species of men, women, animals, birds, insects, nature, wind, earth, fire, water, etc. It is like being deep inside an ocean of things, symbiotically contributing and being contributed.
There are several people at home and outside – our friends and family we meet – who are obsessive about cleaning. Every day, I see them spending hours together dusting, cleaning, and keeping petty things in order at home. For me, life is an opportunity to do things bigger than dusting. I would rather keep that thin layer of invisible and incomprehendible dust un-disturbed in the remotest corner of the windows, tables and walls, and spend that time, reading, doing mathematics, writing, or doing meditation or yoga. I used to be freaked by their stance.
This sense of disgust was suddenly transmuted to a sense of gratitude one day, as I was completing my session of meditation, when i saw the same daily chore being accomplished with lots of rigor in my study room. There was this dusting in full swing happening. It occurred to me that it was wonderful, that there are these angels who take it as the purpose of their life to remove that remotest speck of dust in that hidden corner of my book shelf and windows. Wasn’t it a magical thing? Here I was in a situation, where free of cost, my surrounding is getting cleaned with world class precision, without me doing anything. And best part is that, there is no external motivation required for this activity to be sustained in long term. These people would do this even on the day of judgement. They are so hardwired to do this dusting the first thing every morning they wake up!
Certainly from my point of view this was an utter waste of human potential. And certainly the last thing I would every do in my life the first thing, I wake up early in the morning. For me, watching the dawn, being grateful of that beautiful red hue in the eastern sky, the swaying of the trees being caressed by the cool fresh misty breeze of the early morning, and sitting in deep meditation in an acknowledgement and gratitude of all these amazing processes happening all around me is certainly more attractive than starting with a cloth dusting all around me. But then, no wonder, there is some value in dusting too!
It keeps my surrounding spic and span – shiny and ordered. It was automatically done every day and I have been taking this ordered environment of mine for granted! Only when I happen to meet other mavericks like me, who do not have that privilege of having such angels and helpers around them, I see in black and white the importance of these elemental angels around me!
So, it was a great moment of enlightenment, and a profound sense of gratitude tiding deep within my heart. I caught myself having that sense of disgust earlier for the same angels because, I was trying to change them, or trying to see them from my constricted vision of being a human. For me humanity does not have any other possibility rather than pursuing an exalted end. And that there was this deep entrenched superstition that such a goal of life is what makes it worth living. This blind belief can be easily de-constructed on face, if one reads the scriptures where Sabari attains enlightenment offering berries to Rama, or Hanuman attains the knowledge just being a helper to the whims of Rama, or for that matter Rama Krishna Paramhansa dedicating all his life offering puja to a clay idol of Kali in a temple of Dakshineshwar.
So, the idea that dawned to me was that no action, motivation, or way of being is probably higher or lower. It is that we are surrounded by different beings – angels and helpers. These beings might appear similar to us, and biology might be labelling them to be belonging to the same species as we are. But then, they are by far very different from who we are. And that their difference and that stark diversity will never appear congenial and reconciling from the narrow standpoint of our own belief systems. Going beyond the disturbances of the chatter of our small mind, when we separate us from our judgements a bit, we can see a new realm of reality. In that realm we see ourselves to be surrounded by these immensely unique and powerful angels all going on their own path, that is driven by their own swadharma, and getting along together to help us be what truly we are.
Diversity of humanity is not a subject of tolerance. It is a subject of gratitude. It is about co-existing in profound thankfulness, helping each other be more fully than what we are intrinsically. Appreciating this diversity is the first step to peace. I am fascinated by this Shanti Mantra from Taittiriya Upanishad and Katha Upanishad –

ॐ सह नाववतु |
सह नौ भुनक्तु |
सह वीर्यं करवावहै |
तेजस्विनावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥

Oṃ saha nāv avatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha vīryaṃ karavāvahai
tejasvi nāv adhītam astu
mā vidviṣāvahai |
Om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ ||

Aum! May He protect us both together; may He nourish us both together;
May we work conjointly with great energy,
May our study be vigorous and effective;
May we not mutually dispute (or may we not hate any).
Aum! Let there be peace in me!
Let there be peace in my environment!
Let there be peace in the forces that act on me!

This mantra so beautifully captures that idea of co-existence of all of us, together in this ecosystem, beyond our differences. For these differences are the source of our being able to be alive and evolve stronger given the ruthless and impersonal nature of creation. Earth and all its flora and fauna (humans inclusive) has been able to sustain and continue their journey of evolution only due to this inherent ability to cooperate and co-exist. More and more modernity hits our civilization, and our needs are being fulfilled by machines, that weird cancerous attitude of individuality creeps in, and man starts developing that narrow attitude of self disconnected with the larger humanity – the diverse conglomerate. That single trickle of water, once disconnected from the ocean of the larger ‘others’, will soon dry up and cease to exist.

Our families, societies, countries and the world provides innumerable structures that help us to practice this and build our muscles of co-existence. Truly what a wonderful life it would be when we acknowledge and appreciate the helpers and angels all around us – dedicating their existence for our own well being in long term. So, we are doing to their existence, being what we are. The contributions that we term as negative too are helping us be better. For what does right and wrong mean, in this relative soup of diversity!

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Being in love! (with a domain)

Love is one of the most intense state of being for humanity. It is experienced in shades infinite, in forms innumerable throughout life. It has had its showers of blessings as well as wrath of bloody violence on the civilisation from time immemorial.

Of all the forms of love that has been glorified or vindicated by poets and thinkers, love for a domain is something that is least discussed. Poets most of the times have expressed their maddening love for men, women, seasons and nature. But the love for a domain is hardly directly articulated by many.

However, it is not very difficult to see the powerful and transformative nature of this magical potion of love, when alighted on a non human domain – a field of study. Lives of great men starting from Pythagoras or Plato to Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, to Keats or Blake, to Einstein or Planck, have always shown what it means to be in love with a domain.

Eric Fromm in his book, “The Art of Loving”, had very powerfully demonstrated the importance of the self and one’s own capacity and abilities to experience this highly exalted state of humanity – love. He compares love with expertise in a form of art. He says the subject of art has nothing to do with the excellence of an art form. It is the mere inspiration, skill and perfection attained by an artists due to years of consistent hardwork, perseverance and discipline, that makes their work a masterpiece. Being a psycho-analyst, he delves primarily into the love for men and women.

Without much difficulty it is very easy to extrapolate this nature of the transformative process of love even in non human aspects, especially love for a domain of study. This article delves into the powerful dimensions of this form of love, and exalts it over humanly love.

Love by nature is infinite and it infuses power, energy, rejuvenation, vitality and an urge to blossom. The way it is experienced in a human relationship is rather of a substandard value. Rather, I would say, the source of the experience even in a human relationship, lies firmly founded in a non human aspect. For a lover, he might be enchanted by his beloved. But then a little deeper reflection in the nature of this love, would soon reveal to the lover, that the source of his love lies in probably a non human aspect of the personality of the beloved, that he craves for and he misses that in himself. I would not further delve into the nuances of the human psychology. Rather, I would slightly drift towards the non human aspects.

In his seminal work – FLOW, Prof. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, scientifically proposes this powerful psychological state a person enters when she is involved in doing something that requires high level of skill, and it is inherently complex in nature. He says that when a person is involved in a work of this nature, he enters into this trance like state, where she forgets the passing time, physical needs, hunger, discomfort, etc, and gets totally involved in the process. The time flies. The more important aspect is that after this trance like the person happens to have evolved with a greater sense of differentiation and integration.

It is very intuitive to visualise the nature of FLOW, and we all have experienced this. We also easily can conclude that one of the secret for a vital, happy, inspiring and engaged life is to be able to be in FLOW doing something difficult, that needs high skill to do. But the fundamental question is how one gets into FLOW.

One idea that was seeded in me several years ago while reading the novella, “Little Prince” was the musing of its author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He mused,

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

“This longing for the endless immensity of the sea” is the subject of this article. This is that state of being, when one is in love with a field of study. Life of Einstein and his likes show us what magical impact this love has on the lover. And it is also very easy to appreciate the higher class of the relationship with a domain, over that with a human.

That love for learning, once kindled in a human soul, I feel her destiny is made. All human tribulations dwarf outs for her. She turns out as invincible in the face of all odds. Only that ability and capacity to kindle  and nurture that love for learning is what is to be developed.

In this era of speed and skewed importance towards productivity and efficiency, this kindling of love is equally relevant. Once this spell is cast on the person, she would magically ride the waves of time, figure out for herself energy and time needed to pursue her study, experimentation and will undoubtedly continue her progress in the field. The art of time management becomes intuitive. Rather to her, it appears as if time is elastic, and it extends to accommodate what is needed to accomplish results in the field of study, she is involved with.

One humane need to sustain love for anything, is the desire for novelty. As the novelty dies down, love withers away. Love for a field of study ensures a constant flow of this novelty. As a person graduates from one level to the other, they are exposed and challenged to newer areas and aspects of the field of study. That continues to challenge them, and feeds the need to explore. The beloved remains as a newly wed bride, for the lover. That is the key thing that separates love for a domain with love for a person. A person has a very limited ability to provide for this novelty. This immortal nature of the love for learning, is the source of its strongest dimension. It is the at source of all creativity.

From a sociological point of view, this form of love does more good than its lower kin. It enables mankind to be a medium of evolution of the ideas and thoughts (meme) to higher levels of beauty and perfection. Human love culminates only in procreation. But the reach of this form of love for a domain, breeds path breaking discoveries, transformative inventions, and above all makes man more humble, respectful, compassionate and better integrated with life and people.

From my school days, I had this immense love for Physics and Mathematics. This love overflowed into Physical chemistry, and then later into Organic Chemistry. (Thanks to the book on organic chemistry by Bahl&Bahl). Interestingly, these same subjects were source of dread in early days. And then in-order to overcome that fear, I delved deeper in these areas -read more and practised more, only to find later, that I am deeply in love with them. Once I was in love with them, time management, daily routine, memorization, replicating in exam, experiments, etc did not matter at all. Everything just happened like a cake walk. Computer algorithms and Linux, was another domain that helped me to experience this childhood love during my engineering days.

Today, I am able to re-live this childhood love for computations and science, with my engagement with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. By coincidence, this area fascinated me while I was doing my MBA at IIM-B. I started reading about computational models on corporate strategy. I was able yet again experience that childlike wonder and immense love for numbers, theories, and application of them to visualise and explain complex phenomenon in the visible world.

More I meditate on that unifying nature of this love, more it becomes clear to me that what had always fascinated me is the invisible domain which is at source of anything and everything that is visible. This love for that invisible, always pulled me into the working of things. That infatuated me to pursue engineering too. I feel grateful for being an software engineer, for my profession is to look into the source of providing a visible solution, from the domain of computations, algorithms, bits and bytes. That makes one feel like God; more concretely, a medium that connects visible with the invisible source.

As a father, I always try to kindle that love for the invisible in my daughter. But that is nothing special about me. If one looks into the evolution of human civilisation, it becomes so clear that pursuit of the evolution of mankind has always been directed towards exploring that invisible. Starting from religion, to science, to technology – all was directed towards making more sense of the invisible. It was always an effort to reconcile what is visible with what is not.

That is the best part of being a lover of the non human domain that fascinates me. You become an agent who is tirelessly looking out for that link between the invisible and the visible. You become an eternal explorer. You are always in the constant companionship of your every youthful beloved!

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The sage in the dog

Sleeping MaggieI was visited by a sage in the form of a dog. Ofcourse she was so adorable, naughty, loving and a bundle of eternal joy for me; a fountain of bliss was my lab – Maggie. She was like my daughter. That said and done is normal, isn’t it? In such effortless and natural sense of being, these beautiful creations of nature are expressions of God’s finest virtues.

One of those virtues that I learnt first hand from Maggie is the sense of belonging and trust. A very special thing I observed when she was with me was that she would sleep off relaxed and completely surrendered anywhere in the house. Be it the drawing room, bed room, bathroom, balcony, kitchen, utility, puja space – just anywhere. She would just spread her limbs and lie down in complete relaxation with eyes closed in ecstasy. In that meditative presence of here, she would exude a larger than life centeredness of trust, contentedness, bliss and peace! What a celestial view would it be! I was amazed by the ability of Maggie to totally surrender and have absolute trust and that feeling of unshakable safety being at home. If there would be even one outside person, or an unfamiliar/out of family sound or smell, she would be immediately active and all awake to make sure that she if safe and can reach out to safety at any second that is demanded. But then, as soon as that unfamiliarity would dissolve out by the gradual and gushing waves of the ocean of the presence of the familiar love and care of presence of my wand of fatherly safety around her, she would again be lazy, and lie down yawning and smiling would she doze off.

That ability of Maggie to make herself comfortable at home from the day one of her coming, was absolutely divine. I remember when she came home just one week old, she snuggled on my feet at the puja place, started nibbling my toe, and slept at the feet of the photo of Guruji, near the altar. I never could fathom how that little seemingly naive creature could sense my unfathomable affection for her, and the presence of Divine! How could she even had the inkling that she was in the safe hands, and that it was time for her to indulge in that cushion of fatherly warmth, and the delight of her existence.

That profound aspect of her presence of that sense of absolute surrender, carefree relaxed presence was nothing less than an ethereal realization. Her still posture would radiate out her absolute peaceful inner self, as if everything is taken care, and that there is nothing she needs to worry. It was not that the sense of prudence and instinct of survival was not there in her. She would show that off whenever she was out of home. But then, at home it would appear that she has absolutely kept that natural instinct to take care of herself and protect her aside. And that she is more than just her limited body. Rather she was an expression of that eternal self who would bathe in the showers of the blessing of a father who was deeply connected to her, and that it was his responsibility to keep her safe. She would know that as if it was so natural as air and water.

That basic instinct of wordless gratitude, love and being at home was something that had moved my heart! It showed me first hand what it means to be a fully aware piece of life. For the first time I could get a living expression of that sense of unshakable “shradda” – the power of “active” faith, that the Vedic Rishis proclaimed in their mantras!

In my journey to know myself, and make a sense of my connection to nature and God, that short stint of Maggie in my life was a great quantum leap in my awareness of what it means to be an aware piece of life.

Samrat Kar

Kar Conversations, Bangalore, Friday 28th Aug 2015

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The inspiring world of non-humans – Journey towards sanity

Life is lived in two different dimensions. In one dimension we have to deal with people in our lives – family, friends, colleagues, fellow citizens of the country and the world. There are things to be done to fulfill our basic needs of food, clothes and shelter. There are things to be done to survive. This level is the level of day to day physical reality.

There is another dimension that co-exists with the above mundane reality. That dimension is the rich and varied dimension of the world of the non-humans. The world made up of animals, mountains, valleys, rivers, oceans, falls, winds, Sun, fire, cosmos, art, music, books, etc. This is the world where God resides. And the beauty is that this world co-exists with the physical world of stones and mud, friends an foes. I call this the inspiring world of non-humans – or simply “the inspiring world”.

The key is that this world is devoid of human, and its frailties. This world disciplines us, makes us better, challenges us, and evolves us to be a better person. The most interesting thing is the realization that it is this world that makes us ready and fit to face the human world with full sanity. The inspiring world of non-humans restores sanity in us.

It is very evident to see the shades of insanity in the people who do not have delve in silent periods of solitude engaging themselves with the non human world – the world of art, books, yoga, meditation, etc, on a daily basis. The human world exhausts us. The non human world rejuvenates us. Human world is required for us to survive. The non human world is required for us to thrive.

For example a human can live the whole life being reasonably well off with any engagement with nature, animals, music, arts and God in their lives. But, the difference in richness of life can be observed only when one compares the life of a person with similar circumstances with atleast one additional parameter from the non human world – say an animal, or an interest in books, or an interest in art. Just one is enough. It is not uncommon to find people who have dogs to be more open, creative, understanding and with higher level of patience and empathy to their fellow human beings. It is not uncommon to see that the civilizations which are destructive, are by definition closed to changes, and do not relate to anyone or anything that is different from who they are, and what they think.

More open a society is, more creative a society is, more accepting of new thoughts a society practices, more that society is found to have engaged into the non human world. Starting from the pre-historic cave paintings, to the intricate drawings of ancient Egyptians, to the rich exuberance of art during the renaissance, all vocally with great intensity remind us of the same truth.

Mental illness, depression, non-productive mindset, destructive propensities are found conspicuous in men and women who dump their minds and times with people matters through out; who do not have any corner empty for the non human world to be established and thrive.

Symbolically, in from the Vedic times, there has been a practice in the Indian society to have a corner in every house dedicated to the God. This corner is an indicative of that essential compartment of the non human world. One needs to develop this corner in their heart, nurture the same and make it grow. You never know who it grows, and what shape this amazing magical world takes. It not only morphs a person in their thought, but also in their appearance, actions, opinions and priorities. The non human world impels man to sanity.

A stint with a pet dog, cat, or 5 mins conversation with an artist, or a yogi, or a scientist, is good enough to give one a glimpse of the magic and power of this non human world.

Yes, man is a social being. But to be able to truly be social, man has to grow up. The human world cannot grow a man. It is only the devoid of human world that can practically evolve man. Otherwise everything is just theoretical. One never knows what love is unless they lose their must adored love. One never knows what power of God is unless they have been through the dry emptiness of the world of a scientific atheist. One never knows the power of a hearty conversation with a friend or a sibling, unless he has lost a close friend and his own sibling.

I see the human world as a process of exhalation. A process where you need to contribute, to give, to make a difference, to collaborate, to help, to stand for something important. It is a world of dynamism and action.

The world of non-human is like an inhalation. It is about retrospection, seeing things, understanding, being mindful, knowing one’s own self, exploring the nature of the self and the world, journeying through the meanderings of the ebb and flow of our emotions, thoughts, dreams, and moments of epiphany. These moments of inhalation helps us to exhale. Without these moments of the world of non-human, we cease to be human. That is the paradox!

Certainly it is a task mammoth to be fully human. Not many people in human history have been able to achieve this humongous task. To be fully human, one needs to merge into nature, God, art, ideas, contemplation, meditation and above all in the journey to know one’s own self. It is the inspiring world of non-humans that ushers us into the journey of sanity.

Samrat Kar

Bangalore. 9th Aug 2015

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