Increasing self-awareness

Do I know the context around me, the neighborhood and the neighbors, the friends and family, now and over the many decades of my life? The answer is that I hardly know things and people around me. I barely know my own full reactions to most of the situations I found myself in. I have a few pet theories of who I am, and who were responsible for guiding me. These are super simplifications that do not help come up with productive and promising ideas for the future. I think it is important now to know all or more around me.

What does it mean to know a person? How does one define a person? By their accomplishments or their goals, by their friends, or by how they carry themselves? We can seek out and learn about their interests. And accept whatever they are, positive or negative. It can take a long time to know people.

What does it mean to know a neighborhood or a situation? The neighborhood is about its support for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Safety. Limited regulations. Liveliness of activity. Plenty of wealth around. The situation would depend upon its difficulty and its impact on oneself, and how much one can do about it.

I think it is important to retain a sense of personal agency about oneself and the situations one finds oneself in. It is helpful to stop obsessing about one’s own interests and goals and accomplishments. The world is deeply interconnected and there is hardly anything one can accomplish without support from and alignment with the context around oneself.

 

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Carving out the Middle Ground

President Abraham Lincoln did a masterful job of defining an ambiguous situation. By the time he took office, seven southern states had passed resolutions of secession. The outgoing President Buchanan famously noted that under the constitution, the states had no right to secede, but he had no power to force them to stay. Lincoln never called them secessionist states, just my unhappy fellow countrymen. He never threatened aggression, just use of force in self-defence. He eventually won the Civil War!

I completed listening to a delightful 24-lecture course on Lincoln’s speeches. Here are some highlights on how he won and led.

Gain attention: Lincoln followed Douglas around the state of Illinois to rebut him till Douglas, the incumbent senator, would agree to formally debate him during the 1858 senate election. They agreed on seven 3-hour debates around the state, with each one opening the debate in an alternate manner.

Define the opportunity: Lincoln started on the defensive but at the end of the debates came out ahead. Lincoln actively answered Douglas’ questions while Douglas focused on Lincoln’s House Divided speech and kept mostly repeating the same tried and tested stuff. Douglas tried to paint Lincoln as a dangerous radical who would abolish slavery. Lincoln meanwhile began to own the middle ground. He plucked out from Douglas’ speech a ‘I don’t care whether slavery lives or dies’ statement and skewered him mercilessly. Using the Dred Scott decision, he now identified a clear logical slippery slope and said that it is only a matter of time that a second Dred Scott decision will make slavery permanent, and unoverturnable by Congress. Lincoln lost the Senate race because of vote distributions, even though in the aggregate Lincoln’s side won more adherents and votes.

Do the hard work: Lincoln went on to give a speech at Cooper Union in New York City in January 1860. He later said that that speech made him President. He had to do a masterful twin task of skewering the pro-slavery Douglas (the leading presidential hopeful for the opposite side) and differentiating himself from William Seward, the leading candidate from Lincoln’s own party, when his party itself had almost taken the strong position of abolition of slavery. Lincoln took the middle ground by saying that let’s listen to what the founding fathers wanted about slavery. In an astoundingly well-researched speech for the era, Lincoln spelled out that 24 of the 39 founders of the country had left written records on the issue and 21 of them said or implied that slavery was only to be tolerated while it lasted. That speech made him look reasonable and electable. He was nominated and won the election.

Anyways… the war had to come. And so on. Just thought I would share how Lincoln carved out the middle ground and won public support which too was critical for a military victory.

ABCDs of Life

ABCDs of Life

  1. Absolute. We are Absolute or Pure Beings. Eham Brahma Asmi. I.e. I am Brahma, the Totality. I am unbounded, infinite, and therefore invincible. I am the transcendent: bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest. There are no walls or limits. We are without any defining qualities.
  2. Bliss. The nature of life is bliss. Sat-chit-Anand or absolute-consciousness-bliss. Bliss is the highest level of life energy. Bliss is the only thing that matters. The taste of even a drop of bliss can transform our life. Bliss naturally creates world peace.
  3. Creative: We naturally feel the urge to create when we feel free. Forms and structures effortlessly arise and dissolve when we transcend. Expressing our inner creations is a great source of joy. A lot of the world that we live in is created by ourselves.
  4. Data-driven: We are naturally curious about the nature of the relative. We want to understand and enjoy the totality of creation. With fine quality of perception, we invent and use tools to gather and integrate data, with which we in-form our thinking and patterns.

Absolute and Bliss are internal and unmanifest. Creativity and Data are focused on the external and relative. The inner Absolute Blissful Being is more powerful than the external reality. The inner qualities of awareness and blissfulness should be developed to guide creativity and learning. Meditation is the best way to experience the finest levels of bliss and creativity in life!

Browsing for ABCD,  I found some lovely organizations and descriptions.

  • Any Body Can Dance
  • Art Building Children’s Dreams
  • Assuring Better Child Development
  • Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development
  • Access to Baby and Child Dentistry
  • Ashley Brown Cake Design
  • And finally … American Born Cute Desi!

Have a blissful Day!

 

 

#MeToo for a Blissful, Peaceful World

The #MeToo movement is going global. It is creating new conversations that are somewhat discomforting, but which can be opportunities for discussing the undiscussable and raising the collective consciousness of the world. Recently a classmate of mine who is a professor in a university in the US found the courage to share in a public group, during an ongoing charged conversation on sexual insensitivity and harassment, that she had been a victim of sexual abuse/assault. This revelation could have polarized the group, but the group decided to pursue it to its logical end. But very soon the intensity of the topic died down. The topic is still the phantom 800 lb gorilla in our WhatsApp group and is impacting the language being used in the conversations. It is also making some men in the group uncomfortable as they are having to watch their every word. What is the point of the conversation, they ask. They just want to be themselves. However, they will necessarily have to change their tonality moving forward because status quo is not acceptable any more, and having friendly conversations with longtime classmate buddies is just too pleasurable to give up.

Sexual abuse and assault and harassment are just one of the categories of buried injustices in the world. Racial profiling and injustice in the US, and caste-based exploitation and injustice in India, are a couple of other prominent examples. This buried injustice and anger is finding its way out through social media. These eruptions threaten to rip apart all societies and their cherished models of control, just like it brought about Arab Spring. In some ways, just getting heard is highly cathartic for the individual and the society. Free from this heavy emotional baggage, hitherto disadvantaged people can have the opportunity to purify their perceptions. They will find bliss within. They will become the peace they want to see in the world. And the world will be blissful and peaceful!

Yoga and World Peace

Last week on International Yoga Day (June 21st), I was invited to participate in the First International Yoga Conference organized by the Consulate General of India, in New York. There were about 30 speakers in all – about 10 from the US and 20 from India, Singapore and Hong Kong.  The conference went very well. There was a wonderful group dinner too! On the 21st morning we headed out for yoga practice / demonstration in Central Park. Congratulations to the organizers! Here are a couple of pictures!

 

 

The gist of my own presentation was that Yoga is central to effective social transformation and world peace! Yoga has eight limbs, from the grosser limbs of Yama and Niyama, to the subtler limbs of Dhyana and Samadhi. The practice of transcendence or Dhyana, according to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s interpretation of Yoga Sutra is called Transcendental Meditation (TM). Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s yoga-inspired, quantum-mechanics-compatible theory called the “Maharishi Effect” posits that small groups of trained TM meditators can create enough collective coherence to counter hostile and negative tendencies and generate peace and prosperity around the world. Tat Sannidhau Vaira Tyagah (Yoga Sutra: 2:35) has been translated by Maharishi as: “In the vicinity of Yoga (or unity) negative tendencies are diminished.” Over 50 research publications in top scientific journals over the last four decades have established the efficacy of Maharishi Effect beyond doubt. I presented a few of those studies from around the world, on how group practice of TM and TM-Siddhis led to higher coherence and lower crime and higher prosperity. It is incumbent upon governments and organizations to take advantage of this technology and solve the grand challenges such as climate change and social inequality, through a small investment in training their peoples in Maharishi’s technologies of transcendence.

There were no objections or major questions from the attentive audience.  One senior researcher from Mumbai said that they had always thought of yoga only from an individual perspective. She and her team want to learn more about this collective perspective. Another researcher from Mumbai said that they learned from my and other MUM presentations that one should always work from and present hard data. There is potentially an opportunity to present this research in more detail to them in India. Another professor from Uttarakhand asked in a reverent and friendly manner how to measure the performance on what I had called out as the subtle limbs of yoga … Dhyana and Samadhi. I said these are self-referral activities. Measuring them will change the nature of activity itself, citing quantum theory. However, its correlates can be measure through EEG etc. One has to become self-aware and self-referral, and radiate that energy to help others become so too!! That is the true import of Gandhi’s message of being the change.

Maharishi Effect is a paradigm change. The new paradigm is self-referral. Maharishi Effect perhaps hits at the very core, the dualistic core, of the Cartesian Enlightenment paradigm!  It does not go well with the powers-that-are in society today. Passionate young people feel that unless something is done proactively, the new generation too will sleepwalk into the existing dualistic paradigm.   Instead of looking around for other people who have transitioned to new paradigm, one should become self-referral oineself. And then look for other self-referral people. And more importantly, radiate to other people so they too can become self-referral. That was the import of Gandhi’s Be the Change message. This is easier said than done for those still caught in career and marriage and family narrative.

I am astonished at how few people in India practice meditation or other transcendental techniques. TM is perhaps the best, but I may be biased. Vipassana is Buddha’s own technique of enlightenment. There could be others too!! Grand challenges will be overcome only by people coming together from a transcendental level!! I also feel that the current rage of Mindfulness is a wonderful start for individual level benefit. However, it has no solution for grand challenges.

I will present this research again at the Academy of Management in Chicago in August, and will describe my experiences and the audience feedback later! I heard that India’s AYUSH ministry is interested in setting up centers of excellence in yoga at elite academic institutions in the US. I wonder if they would support a Yoga Research center at MUM, where our colleagues do research at the absolutely cutting edge. We want to organize a 2-day conference on ‘Collective Consciousness and World Peace’ on our campus in Fairfield next Spring.  The agenda would have a few big sub-themes, with a total of about 15-20 speakers. Half the presenters could be from Maharishi University of Management , and the other half would represent other organizations and traditions! More on that later!!

Have a Blissful Day!!

 

Quantum Mechanics and Bliss

QuantumMechanicsConference1927

Here is one of the most high-IQ photographs ever taken. It is of the participants of the 5th Solvay Conference on Quantum Mechanics in 1927. They include, among others, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Niels Bohr. 17 of the 29 attendees were or became Nobel laureates. This picture has obviously been around. However, I find it amazing that almost a century later, the world (us) still does not understand the significance of quantum mechanics.  We still live mostly by the ‘billiard ball’ classical Newtonian mechanics level of understanding, where every one of us is a discrete solid ball.

For me the first step in understanding Quantum Mechanics is to accept the ‘weird’ non-intuitive proposition that a thing can have two values of the same property at the same time, with each value having a certain probability.  The observed value depends upon the observer’s act of observation. It is almost like the game of having two different things in two fists: the value  one gets depends upon which fist the person chooses to open.  Imagine that the two fists are actually the same fist, at two different points in space-time. Quantum Mechanics uses the term ‘wave function’ for the distribution of probability of observing any one among a range of values. It calls ‘collapse of the wave function’ at the point of observation, for the fact an observation will reveal a certain discreet ‘particle’ value to the observer. This wave-particle duality, and its resolution by a sentiment being observing, is at the heart of consciousness and universal connectivity!

This means that we are all interconnected, just One! At the same time, we are also separate beings living our own separate lives. Both the values of the Self – unity and diversity – are simultaneously true.  What we see depends upon our consciousness!  Thus, the non-dual postulates such as Aham Brahmasmi (I am Totality) laid out in the Vedas are completely aligned with quantum mechanics. The rishis (seers) wrote Vedic treatises based on their deep perception of their own transcendent Self. The rishis meditated deeply and reached a pure physiology leading to the perception of these subtle and fine quantum laws of nature. They proved that all the laws of nature reside within one’s own consciousness, but it would take the finest level of self-awareness to perceive them!! We should honor their intelligence and believe in the great heritage they bequeathed upon humanity!!

What if one has no knowledge or interest in understanding quantum mechanics or the Vedas. Just remember that the more one can be in non-judgmental observational mode, the more this non-intuitive fact would become intuitive. The more we are able to get into a silent witnessing mode, the more this diverse world would look like a beautiful integrated whole. Meditation techniques such as Transcendental Meditation (TM) enable us to become a silent witness to the wholeness of our own infinite and invincible Self. And that wholeness is Blissful! From wholeness arises more wholeness, and the world gets ever more blissful!! Wish you an eternally Blissful Life!!!

For those interested: here is the wholeness mantra from the Vedas (in Sanskrit language and its English translation):

पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते |
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||
“That (‘Brahma’) is infinite, and this (‘universe’) is infinite; the infinite proceeds from the infinite. (Then) taking the infinitude of the infinite (‘universe’), it remains as the infinite (‘Brahma’) alone.” – (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad V.i.1)

 

Blissful Living!!

Who are We? And how can we live blissfully?

  • If we think we are a collection … of assets, memories, impressions etc, then that is our small self.
  • If we think that we are everything … the sun, the earth, the wind, the birds, insects and people, … then we are the big Self.
  • When we are the small self, we are like a well, proud of what we have. It is ‘our’ stuff.
  • When we are the big Self, we are like the ocean, all encompassing, and not having anything our own, but being an integral part of an undivided infinite whole.
  • To grow we can push out the boundaries, re-lay-out our fences at a greater distance, and make a greater circle with more space to store more stuff. … concepts, memories, and assets. We can become BIG in our own eyes, and of society.
  • To really wake up to our unbounded Self, however, we can simply burn or remove or dissolve the boundaries at all. Then the entire infinite space and everything everywhere is our own. We are not defined by finite anything. We are infinite and blissful.

If I am infinite, then by the same logic, so are you and everyone else infinite. And not only that, we are the same infinite existence. If you are infinity, and I am infinity, then what is the difference between you and me? Why do we even have names for you and me? How do I converse or engage with you?  Is all separation and then trying to connect with each other, some sort of a game? Is it useful at all?

‘Good fences make good neighbors’ begins with the premise of separation of people into small individual bounded selves. Fences help contain the amount of violence that one would do on the other in a world of numerous separations.

So long as we define ourselves by our own interests first, we will be afraid, and our thinking will be corrupted. By thinking of safety for ourselves alone, we will do immeasurable cruelty on others from whom we are afraid. Then we will give bribes, trade favors, and care for our own pleasures. How can we be happy when we are selfish?

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said the purpose of life is the expansion of happiness. When we are all the same infinity, then we are like a joint family. Everything good that one person does, gives benefit to everyone. One person’s happiness becomes the happiness of all the others. That is how Vedas, the ultimate knowledge about the universe, says: ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’, meaning the world is one family.

Measurements help with reducing everything down to measurable particles and energy. Technology helps measure and create things that are considered pleasurable and useful for the individual selves. Technology thus helps to maximize achievement of safety and power as defined by money and assets.

Even as there are inexorable forces of separation of things into smaller and smaller particles, there are forces of choreographing delicate dances of apparent oneness. Technology also helps to do things that help people temporarily forget their false boundedness. Social occasions such as Mardi Gras or sports matches, and chemical means such as alcohol and opoids, help people temporarily forget their bodily identification, and create some larger units of identity, such as a team, a city, a country, or a culture. The tradition of romantic and sexual love, and marriage to become a family, is another such ancient integrative practice. A regular exercise of the practice of spiritual transcendence, of ‘seeing’ one’s seamless union with everything else, helps creates the joy and charm of that undivided infinite existence.

Overall, though, the forces of separation are winning over, and creating enormous angst among certain segments of people. They may not care too much about the physical existence, but their existential angst is boiling over. The old-fashioned-values people are taking opium, and dying in record numbers with a kiss-of-God.

The solution lies in unlearning our boundaries, and many of the concepts of separation. These boundaries were created by Reason, and can be dissolved by the Heart. A regular process of transcending will help dip into that unbounded unified field of all the laws of nature, and experience the bliss of the awareness of that unbounded existence. No wonder, Emotional Intelligence, has been displacing Traditional Logical Intelligence as the more important skill to live joyfully and productively in the world. There is increasing focus on Spiritual Intelligence, which is a totally different kind of intelligence … less measurable and more blissful!