November 29, 2009

Likes and Dislikes – Bagavad gita and love marriages

As a sequel to my post on Bagavad Gita, I thought I would extend the discussion on looking beyond the ephemeral body, to human relationships. In an era of consumerism we find people developing strong likes and dislikes, but likes and dislikes are themselves false. Consider for example cigarette smoking –people who love to smoke enjoy the habit, while there are others who can’t stand its nauseating smell. How is it that the same cigarette induces happiness in some and misery in others? Similarly, we find many divorcees remarrying, how is it that someone hated this person so much to warrant a divorce while someone else wanted to tie the nuptial knot? This clearly shows that likes and dislikes are born out of our senses and thus have nothing to do with the object that is being liked or disliked. Like our senses they are also temporary and are subject to change over time. What we like today, we may hate tomorrow. Therefore, likes and dislikes are attributes of an immature mind.

However, we find in the modern times that people have been increasing their baggage of likes and dislikes. It is very common find people waiting for someone with “similar tastes (likes)” to marry. If they do find such a person with a similar baggage of likes and dislikes they feel excited in finding a ‘true’ life partner. But since this association rests on a false foundation, it crumbles soon and the relationship ends. This is perhaps why majority of the marriages in western nations fail, as they are founded on false reasons such as ‘similar tastes’, ‘my kind of person’ etc.

I think the arranged marriage system in India must be rooted in the gita. In this system, you marry a person chosen by elders, sometimes without even speaking a word before marriage. Marriage in Indian culture is more out of the need to perform one’s karma yoga – that of being a ‘grahastha’( raising a family ) than out of living ‘happily ever after’ with a person of similar likes and dislikes - That’s probably why it didn’t matter whom they married. However since the situation is changing now with more ‘love’ (similar likes) marriages, the number of divorce cases are also increasing.

One of my friends, member of a certain spiritual organization, told me about a unique way of getting married in his society. The boys and girls who want to get married are randomly chosen and their marriage is performed immediately afterwards. Surprisingly, the success rate of this system of marriage is phenomenally high. Though I was astonished then, somehow it is all starting to make sense now – the ‘unique’ system is after all our arranged marriage system with a different name.

November 24, 2009

Dr Jayprakash Narayan - RTC on parlimanetary affairs

Hi all,
I felt i had to post this video series in my blog. Dr J.P is a man of substance, and has pragmatic solutions to most problems affecting the Indian polity. He has had 16 years of experience in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). He quit his prestigious job and founded the Loksatta organisation which fights for reforms in politics. Like Aruna Roy who fought for bringing in the RTI act, Dr J.P's organisation can be credited with making the declaration of assets by politicians compulsory.

Presently Dr J.P is an MLA from the Kukatpally constituency in Andhra Pradesh. I'm happy to find people of his caliber entering politics.

Here are the videos..

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

November 04, 2009

Power of Language

Former President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam on “Power of Language”

I remember my dad teaching me the power of language at a very young age. Not only did he understand that specific words affect our mental pictures, but he also understood words are a powerful programming factor in lifelong success.

One particularly interesting event occurred when I was eight. As a kid, I was always hyper-active - climbing trees, poles, and literally hanging around upside down.

So, it came to no surprise for my dad to find me at the top of a 30-foot tree swinging back and forth. My little eight-year-old brain didn't realize that the branch could break and I could get hurt. I just thought it was fun to be up so high.

My cousin was also hanging upside down from another branch of the same tree, at about ten feet below me. Her mother also noticed us at the same time my dad did.

About that time a strong gust of wind came over the tree. I could hear the leaves starting to rattle and the tree beginning to sway heavily. I remember my dad's voice over the wind yell, "Hey, hold on tightly." So I did. The next thing I know, I heard my cousin screaming at the top of her lungs, and the next moment lying flat on the ground. She had fallen out of the tree.

My dad later told me why she fell and I did not. Apparently, when her mother felt the gust of wind, she yelled out, "Tammy, don't fall!" And she did fall.

My dad then explained to me that the mind will have a very difficult time processing a negative image. In order for my cousin to process the command of not falling, her nine-year-old brain had to first imagine falling, then try to tell the brain not to do what it just imagined. Whereas, my eight-year-old brain instantly had an internal image of me hanging on tightly.

This concept is especially useful when you are attempting to break a habit or set a goal. You can't visualize not doing something.

When I was thirteen years old, I played for my junior high school football team. I tried so hard to be good, but I just couldn't get it together at that age. I remember hearing the words run through my head as I was running out for a pass, "Don't drop it!" Naturally, I dropped the ball.

My coaches were not skilled enough to teach us proper "self-talk." They just thought some kids could catch and others couldn't. I'll never make it pro, but I'm now a pretty good Sunday afternoon football player, because all my internal dialogue is positive and encourages me to win.

Here is a very easy demonstration to teach your kids and your friends the power of a toxic vocabulary. Ask them to hold a pen or pencil. Hand it to them. Now, say to them, "Okay, try to drop the pencil." Observe what they do.

Most would release their hands and watch the pencil hit the floor. You respond, "You weren't paying attention. I said “try” to drop the pencil. Now please do it again." Now they would pick up the pencil and seem to be in excruciating pain while their hand tries but fails to drop the pencil.

The point is made.

If you tell your brain you will "give it a try," you are actually telling your brain “to fail”. I have a "no try" rule in my house and with everyone I interact with. Either people will do it or they won't. You will never hear the words "I'll try" come out of my mouth unless I'm teaching this concept. So remove the word "try" from your vocabulary.

My dad also told me that psychologists claim it takes seventeen positive statements to offset one negative statement. I have no idea if it is true, but the logic holds true.

Ask yourself how many compliments you give yourself daily versus how many criticisms. I know you are talking to yourself all day long. We all have internal voices that give us direction. So, are you giving yourself the 17:1 ratio or are you short-charging yourself with toxic self-talk like, "I'm fat. Nobody likes me. I'll try this diet. I'm not good enough. I'm so stupid. I'm broke, etc. etc."

Here is a list of toxic vocabulary words. Watch out when you or other people use them.

But: Negates any words that are stated before it.

Try: Presupposes failure.

If: Presupposes that you may not.

Might: It does nothing definite. It leaves options for your listener.

Would have / Should have: Draws attention to things that didn't actually happen.

Could Have: Draws attention to things that didn't actually happen but the person tries to take credit as if it did happen.

Can't / Don't: These words force the listener to focus on exactly the opposite of what you want. This is a classic mistake that parents and coaches make without knowing the damage this linguistic error can cause.

July 08, 2009

Karma Yoga -The art of doing action

I attended Swami Parthasarthy’s lecture on chapter V of the Bagavad Gita on Karma yoga and Gnyana Yoga -“The yoga of action and renunciation”. I feel it is my duty to write a summary of the four days of lecture for the benefit of all.

Kindly read my previous post on the Significance of idol worship before you read this one.

Atma- Body difference

As I mentioned in my previous post, most people do not understand the difference between Atma and body. Atma is permanent while the body is perishable. Atma is what enables the eye to see but it cannot be seen, it enables the ear to hear but it cannot be heard, it enables the mind to conceive but it cannot be conceived. Atma is a dispassionate witness to all our actions. It is the cause and not the effect. It is like the petrol in a car- the petrol causes the car to move, but it can neither be blamed for the accident nor praised for the safe arrival of the car.

Bagavad gita says the entire purpose of one’s life is to understand the atma and concentrate on it always. One must derive all happiness from inside (from the atma), than from the outside (the external environment). Bagavad gita goes on to say that the happiness one derives from touch, smell, sight, and through other sensory perceptions are nothing but wombs of sorrow.

The reason is not hard to see, for the happiness one derives from the outside is not permanent. As an example, let’s say someone starts smoking a cigarette for happiness. The first cigarette one smokes no doubt gives him happiness, yet the next day in order to get the same level of happiness he may have to smoke two cigarettes instead of one. This slowly increases in number and finally the person finds himself smoking one whole packet. After reaching this stage, the person smokes not because it gives him happiness, but because he feels miserable if he does not smoke. At this point the person is said to have become neutralised to smoking. This is the characteristic of all things that cause addiction. Consuming an addictive substance does not give happiness, but abstaining from it results in sorrow.

If I ask someone whether he enjoys breathing oxygen he would think I’m being stupid, but if I forcibly close the nostrils and suffocate him, he wouldn’t mind giving me his entire wealth just for drawing some air. Similarly we do not enjoy seeing normal things, but we would feel miserable when our eyes are tied even for a minute. You can see for yourself that our senses have the same characteristic of an addictive substance. Any enjoyment derived out of these senses, cannot be permanent and soon you’d get neutralised to that object that is causing you happiness. This is why you must derive your happiness from within and not from outside.

How do we attain the knowledge of the atma ?

Bagavad Gita prescribes two ways of realising the atma –Karma yoga (through action) and Gnyana yoga (through renunciation). Among the two the first one, Karma yoga is simple and can be followed by everyone. Gnyana yoga requires one to control the senses before attempting to realise the atma. In fact, Lord Krishna himself prescribes Karma yoga to Arjuna, to realise his atma.

Karma Yoga – The art of doing action

The nature has given the animals a blue print which they follow without fail. You do not find one tiger in nature that eats grass, nor do you find a cow that eats meat. Animals in the forest are neither overweight nor underweight. Human beings on the contrary have the power to make choices. But on what basis do we make those choices? Karma yoga clarifies this doubt.

All actions can be classified into three categories –Selfish, unselfish, and selfless. Those actions which are done for our selves are called selfish actions, while those that are done for others are called unselfish actions. Bagavad gita says that the best form of action is neither of these two - It prescribes Selfless action. Selfless actions are those that are performed neither for us nor for others. Selfless action is performed when we don’t think of the benefactor. Can any action be performed that way? You’d be surprised to know that all actions in nature are selfless actions. The Nightingale sings neither for itself nor for you. Similarly the sun shines neither for itself nor for you.

You can be a plumber, carpenter, Engineer, or a Doctor, whoever you are, if you can do your action without thinking of who is going to benefit from it, you’re a Karma Yogi. Doing action for the sake of action is the message of Karma yoga. If action is performed in this way, it results in excellence and more importantly it relives the Karma yogi from the bondages of this world. This type of action enables him to realise his atma and attain eternal happiness.

Most of the problems in this world are caused because of searching for happiness from outside. Instead of thinking of the evenness in objects, we’re worrying more on the differences between objects. A small car may seem incomparable to the grandeur of a sedan, but if one realises it is the same fuel that drives both, then it would be easy to see the evenness in both. Likewise, if one understands that all living beings are made of atma, it would be far easier to see through the perishable body and appreciate the evenness. One who sees the evenness in all objects and sees success and failure pass by without being bothered by them, the Gita says, stops going through the cycle of birth and death. He is the one who has realised his atma.

July 05, 2009

Significance of Idol Worship - from Bagavad Gita

I’m listening to Shri Velukudi Krishnan’s upanyasam (commentary) on Bagavad Gita. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. I started listening to Bagavad gita to find out for myself whether our Hindu culture is really as backward in thinking as the present generation makes it out to be. For instance, I believe that life is short and each minute is precious, that’s why this moment is called “present”. Is it correct to brand certain times as “good” and certain others as “bad”? Bagavad Gita has answered most of my doubts and now I know that these irrational things being said in the name of culture or religion have no sanction of the ‘Gita’. In fact I feel Bagavad Gita is a practical cook book for youngsters like us. It is a philosophy for the strong, not for the weak.

On Idol worship

Right from the time a man wakes up in the morning till the time he retires to sleep, he performs such acts that satisfy his senses – Eating, working for money in order to buy things, studying for sharpening his mind etc. However the senses which are part of the human body are bound to die one day or the other. A life which is entirely devoted to satisfying senses, which will perish someday, cannot be meaningful.

Such a person slowly forgets that ‘atma’ and body are different. The Gita says that atma has no death. Atma takes a body and when the body dies, the atma takes another one- Atma is eternal while the body is ephemeral.

In order to understand the atma-body distinction, one has to reduce the addiction to senses. If the senses are muted, then one would be able to give ample time to contemplate on the atma.

Senses can be controlled if they are focused on an object. If you can keep all your senses on an object and enjoy the object and nothing else in this world, your senses will automatically be controlled. Bagavad Gita says that such an object which has the power to control your senses in the lords ‘deham’ (idol).

Why can’t other objects serve the same purpose?

Bagavad Gita says that all men and objects in this world have 3 qualities attached with them – Satva, Rajas, Tamas. The satva quality is the best of all. This quality enables a man to work with the highest order of intellect without wanting anything for himself. The selfless action is the hall mark of the satva quality. The Rajas quality signifies intelligence but with some degree of selfishness. People with Rajas quality don’t involve themselves in any action, if there is nothing in it for them. The Tamas quality signifies low intellect, people with this quality can’t think and act on their own and need to be told what to do. Among the above three qualities Satva is the most desirable.

However, all objects in this world have all of the above qualities in varying amounts. This is why when you keep your senses on these worldly objects, your senses don’t get controlled for although they have a percentage of the Satva quality, the Rajas and Tamas qualities associated with them prevent your senses from being controlled. Only the God’s deham (idol) is entirely made of satva quality, and it is the only one which has the power to control your senses and make you understand the distinction between atma and body.

Once a man understands the distinction between atma and body, he becomes fearless for he does not care for his body anymore. Neither does he care for the results of his action for he knows that the atma does not care whether you succeed or fail in your action. For example, for an atma that would occupy the body of a cow later, it does not matter whether the body that it occupies now passes or fails an examination. The person who has understood the distinction between body and atma lives like a lotus in a pond. The lotus is born in the pond, it lives in the pond and dies in the pond, but it does not get attached with even a drop of water. Likewise, a man may be born in this world, live in this world, and die in this world, yet if he understands the distinction between atma and body, he can live without being bonded with it. Their in lies eternal happiness –Bliss.

Once it is understood that one’s action should not be directed at satisfying the body and that the atma is not affected by the results of one’s action, it is logical to study how to act in the first place. In my next post, I will discuss Karma yoga – The art of doing action.

July 04, 2009

Candle light vigil for our heores, at chennai -video

check out the video we shot at Marina Beach on December 7,2008.

March 20, 2009

Candle light vigil for our heores, at chennai

We had a candle light vigil for our security men who put down their lives to save us during the Mumbai terror attack. These are some pictures from the event. The vigil was organised on December 7, 2008 at Marina beach. I'm posting the photos a little late, but better late than never.


February 24, 2009

Steps to tackle Terrorism

Finally, Pakistan has agreed that it’s ‘soil was used’ in planning the Mumbai attack. I’m sure they will ultimately agree that it was planned and executed from Pakistan. Absolving itself from the terrorist attack was stupid in the first place. It is like farting in a swimming pool and denying it, though you may not agree, the evidence is there for all to see. 

Notwithstanding the wishes of many nations around the world, Pakistan cannot be asked to stop all its terrorism related activities at once. For Terrorism contributes significantly to Pakistan’s GDP. Under the ‘Terrorism sector’ come some vital components such as – foreign exchange earnt through illegal export of technology (nuclear and other), foreign exchange through Al-qaeda’s operations in its western border, money earnt through illegal sale of opium trade by Taliban which has its new base in NWFP(North West Frontier Province in Pakistan), remittances from Pakistani terrorists abroad etc.

 Managing the international border with such a neighbour is no joke. A clever tactic needs to be employed by our politicians and diplomats. War is definitely not the solution – not just because it leads to collateral damage, but such a threat would fail to scare them. War mongers don’t get scared by a threat of war, in fact they become happy. If they can plan the ‘Mumbai attack’ before finding the assassins of their ex-prime minister, what else are they?

I didn’t intend to make this post sound sarcastic, but I couldn’t help it. We (Indians) are anguished by the Mumbai terror attack. The kind of public response that followed must have convinced everyone that Indians hadn’t forgotten to unite at the time of crisis –something our grandfathers learnt while fighting the British. The public response was spontaneous, widespread, and included all sections of the society. By the way, it also ended the careers of some politicians in the country

Pakistan of today poses a big threat to the peace and tranquility of all nations around the world. The state has accepted the Taliban’s hold in the swat valley and has given them the control of judiciary. From now, terrorists will dispense justice to people, instead of the government. Ever heard of such a thing? Why does Pakistan want our Kashmir valley, so that they can convert it to another swat valley?

If we have to examine why Pakistan has reached where it has, we have to go back to the pre-independence era to analyse the circumstances that justified its creation. Pakistan was conceptualized on a false premise that the political and economic interests of Hindus and Muslims were separate. This notion is unscientific because religion cannot be the basis of political and economic interests or of political groupings.

Mohammed Ali jinnah in his maiden presidential address to the constituent assembly of Pakistan said …If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be on end to the progress you will make.” Basically, he was trying to put back the genie into the bottle, which he had helped to let out earlier. It was the same man who had earlier remarked “I alone with the help of my secretary and type-writer won Pakistan for Muslims”.

India has the 3rd largest Muslim population in the world – after Indonesia and Pakistan. I can say with confidence that Muslims in India are much more secure (we don’t attack our girls attending schools with acid) and prosperous than the citizens of Pakistan. It is ironical because Pakistan was founded to further the interests of Muslims, as it was felt that it could not be done in a Hindu majority country.  

In India, we have always hailed our citizens for their good work –without any bias for their religion. Many of our citizens who happen to be Muslims have reached highest constitutional positions in our country. Examples are plenty, from Maulana abul kalam azad (our noted education minister) to APJ Abdul kalam (our ex-president). At the time of composing this post, entire India is jubilant and in a celebration mode for the oscar award that our musician AR Rahman has won. In fact even in a fanatic sport like cricket, we have had many Muslim cricketers who have led India – such as Mansoor ali khan pataudi, Mohammed Azharuddin. 

How does Pakistan treat its minorities (Hindus in Pakistan)? The percentage of minorities has been declining in Pakistan since its independence, as they are being forcibly converted to the state religion of Islam. On the other hand, in India the percentage of Hindus (the majority religion) has been declining. This clearly shows that Indian society is much more liberal and tolerant than that of Pakistan. Indians are free to convert and profess any religion they want.

However critics may point out the Babri masjid demolition as an example of religious intolerance in India. No doubt, demolition of the Masjid is a black mark on the Hindu-Muslim unity in India. I really hope some government in the future constructs a new mosque in the site. However it is also true that destruction of temples in Pakistan is an every-day event. The destruction of Ramna kali mandir and Dhakeswari temple are glaring examples. In 2006, a hindu temple in Lahore was demolished to make way for a multi-storied commercial building. As far as religious intolerance is concerned, what is exception in India is the norm in Pakistan.

Having said all this, I still consider Pakistanis as my brothers who had severed their relations with us because of some misunderstanding. Indians can equate themselves more with Pakistanis than with the British or Americans even today. Our lives had evolved together since the times of Indus valley civilization, Mughal rule, and continued till the occupation of the British. It was the clever “divide and rule” policy of the British that we succumbed to. We had been na├»ve not to have understood the implications of certain poisonous acts of the British -such as the Partition of Begal in 1905 which created a Muslims majority province of East Bengal, and the Morley-Minto Act of 1909 which provided separate electorates for Muslims. I dream of the day when India and Pakistan would again become one-nation. That day, with our combined strength, we will crush our common enemies. We could make Taliban-juice and fertilise our dry lands. 

February 11, 2009

Being Gay

After reading the following post, you might conclude that I could have avoided this controversial title. Yet, if you acknowledge the fact that making people visit your blog requires some advertisement, you wouldn’t complain. : - )

This post is about the growing ‘pink slips’ being given to employees of private organization due to the economic recession which is evidenced worldwide. If we were to analyze where the “global meltdown” started, we might point our fingers to the bankruptcy of some of the premier financial institutions, much more fundamental reason would be the sub-prime crisis. These financial institutions failed miserably because they had invested huge sums of money and bought the sub-prime mortgage loans. More concrete than that would be the stupidity of the banks in lending huge sums of money to people who had no means to return them, in the hope of increasing their profits with their money which was lying idle. If we have to sum up all of this and say it in one word, we have to choose “Greed” to describe it rightly.

One of the immediate consequences of an economic slowdown is layoffs. The person who is shown the door may not be responsible for the plight of the company, in most cases like the recent crisis he may not even know the cause completely, yet he is asked to go! What could be the rationale behind the indiscriminate firing adopted by the companies whenever even the slightest of economic troubles crop up? We can accept layoffs as a last minute resort under unavoidable circumstances, but one cannot understand why they are being used as the first method to deal with financial instabilities.

The reason is not hard to find out. These companies don’t think they are dealing with human beings, for them you’re a “human resource”. You’re one of the most dispensable of the resources available to a company, unlike the physical resources like buildings, land etc. The “human resources” in a private company don’t form workers’ union and it becomes so easy to get them out without fearing a backlash. Also, when good times come and if it is required to acquire some of these “resources” to make more money, they are easily available in the market. This is the understanding that the companies have of a warm blooded human being like you and me.

Once hired, maximum ‘throughput’ has to be obtained from the “resource”. This can be done only when the “resource” is engaged for 12-14 hours a day (sometimes even longer). But how does this affect the human being? Bangalore may be the software capital of India, but did you know it is also the divorce capital and the suicide capital of India? The city has got this distinction only after it witnessed the software boom. The work conditions in a private company are not different from the ones that existed in the days of Industrial revolution in Britain. Plainly put, it is extortion. The glittery office cubicles, swimming pools, gym, that these companies show to prove their commitment to the workforce are in reality a clever idea designed in some management book to motivate the “human resources” in order to obtain maximum throughput. It is like playing music to a milch cow to make it yield more milk.

Most software companies in India resorted to “preemptive” firing because they wanted to meet their financial targets for the year set by their board. It is a fact that most of the companies that resorted to layoffs posted profits. What does it indicate? It shows desperation on the part of the companies to keep the investors (share holders) happy. Unless the investors are happy, the share prices will not remain high in the stock exchanges. Thus the companies are ready to keep the unseen and ever-changing investor happy (since the shares change hands frequently) , by resorting to cost cutting by removing the “human resources” who have worked for long hours every day, without complaining and at the cost of their own personal lives. However, the companies know that they have to conceal this opportunism and turn GAY. They fire their resources citing “under performance”, this reason cannot be contested in any court and is highly subjective, which makes it easy for the companies to get rid of an employee. If it is true that suddenly so many “resources” have turned under performers then shouldn’t the HR department be sacked en masse for recruiting them? Was it hatching eggs when the said underperformers were hired, made permanent after the initial period, being given an increment in their salaries, given promotions, given merit certificates appreciating their good work?

This forces us to analyse some philosophical issues. Why do we need development and to whom should it be directed? Is it for giving means to people so that they will be empowered, or is it simply for acquiring more wealth for the sake of wealth? What is the point in making money by pushing people into poverty? It is like winning wars by killing lakhs of men and pushing thousands of families into sorrow. What is the point in denying hundreds of human beings their happiness, and design an electronic gadget that promises its holders exactly the same?

Though many of us feel strongly about these issues, we hold back and don’t express them because of the fear of being prosecuted. We must know the rights guaranteed to us by our constitution. I know that I enjoy the ‘Right to freedom of speech and expression’ guaranteed under Article 19-1(a) of my constitution. If someone asks me to shut up, I know I can directly approach the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, under Article 32, for the infringment of my Fundamental Right. Most of us may be professional graduates, yet when it comes to knowing our rights and fighting the bully, we are no different from the people who were subjugated to slavery. “Our lives begin to end the day, when we remain silent about things that matter” Martin Luther king.

The day we know our rights, we will turn human beings from human resources.