A love story that began in the 1940s…
Earlier this month, both parents of my close friend in Delhi died within a span of just 12 days. It is a big shock to their entire family. The mother passed away first. My parents and I had known her for a long time. We visited my friend’s house to offer our condolences. At the time of our visit, my friend’s father was not in good health. However, he regaled us with stories of their love story. He said that they had a love marriage in 1949. Love marriages were not acceptable in India even a couple of decades ago, and this was much before that!
The boy and the girl both lived in Lahore (now in Pakistan) in pre-partition India. There were neighbors and knew each other. The girl would daily take surplus buttermilk to that neighbor’s house, and they kinda fell in love. After partition of India, both the girl’s and boy’s families independently moved to India. The boy found out the family, and took up some work in the shop of one of the girl’s uncles. Two years later they were married with full approval of families of the boy as well as the girl. They were just about getting to be 18 at the time. He also said that they had never had a fight with his wife in the 67 years of their marriage; she always got whatever she wanted.
This story fascinates me since love marriages were frowned upon while I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s. India is far more tolerant that what we give it credit for. India also has a lot more variety of life styles than the canonical media would like us to believe. Another interesting thing is that the man passed away immediately after the successful completion of the 12th day rites of his wife’s death. He had told his children that he will not go before their mother’s 12th day rites were over. What a fascinating chemistry between the two spouses!
America is finally coming to grips with its diversity. For the last 50 years America has become much more diverse. The Immigration Act of 1965 opened America’s doors to immigrants from all countries in the world. Now there are immigrants from India, China Ethiopia, and many other countries that are not Caucasians or Christians. They have developed deep roots in this country, and have succeeded by dint of their talent and hard work. The image of white Christian America is ending. The replacement image is much polyglot and inclusive.
This demographic trend has proved threatening to the white Christians who kinda owned this country for the last couple of hundred years. This sense of unease turned into anger with the election of Barack Obama, the son of one such Kenyan immigrant student, to the presidency of the country.That was a transformative moment for America and a scary moment for the status quo. Donald Trump was among those who stoked that fear and anger by questioning the legitimacy of the President by absurdly refusing to accept that denying that Obama was even a US born person. That made this angry or uneasy demographic segment beholden to Trump. This demographic segment constitutes the solid one-issue base of voters that has given Trump 38-40% poll numbers for the last one year. This base is now losing its last fight in this 2016 election. However, Donald Trump will not fade away after this election. He will remain relevant for as long as this base continues to be angry, and till it accepts the transformation of America.
Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are coming fast. They are coming in the form of Robots and Deep Learning machines etc. Elon Musk has even called AI the existential crisis for humanity. Steven Hawking has wondered what would happen it the AI developed a will of its own, a will that is at odds with the will of humanity. Those will be interesting times. They will be as challenging to all of us, as the current times are challenging to those who ruled the roost in America till a few decades ago.
I made a presentation on Moksha, in Delhi last weekend. It was a heavily attended event. There were dozens of scholars from Sanskrit, Philosophy, Physics, Law, and many other fields. A retired Supreme Court Justice presided over the meeting. Many emeritus professors from Delhi Universities also attended. Many supportive comments made, and many questions were asked. Many points of view on achieving Moksha were expressed. This presentation may become the spark for a new multi-day national seminar on Moksha.
I made the following points.
- Moksha is total liberation, from everything.
- That Enlightenment and moksha is everyone’s birthright.
- That I had achieved a Moksha moment from witnessing an Ati-Rudra-Abhishekam; and that others too can achieve it relatively easily and quickly.
- That there are many Vedic technologies to facilitate that development of the deep awareness of one’s true Self.
- Among them are meditation techniques like TM and yagyas like Rudra Abhishekam.
- That there are over 700 scientific published studies that show the benefits of TM in human life.
The major objection was that Moksha is extremely difficult to achieve.
- A major objection was a sense of disbelief that one can achieve Moksha without acquiring a full and detailed knowledge of Vedas.
- Another related objection was that there are scores of meditation techniques and they have become commercial businesses. So how is one to determine which meditation technique to use.
- Another question was about why waste time studying the whole of Vedas and thousands of mantras if the right mantra depended upon a person’s nature.
- Another question was about the process of transcending to the unified field of the laws of nature.
Many people made supportive comments about the inclusive nature of research techniques today, which include objective and subjective ones. A new scientific paradigm is emerging. The combination of western scientific techniques, the sacred Vedic knowledge, and personal experience can all together help to discover and confirm the truth. That we are all divine beings, and can enjoy a blissful life.
Who are we?
That is a perennial question asked by all philosophers and seekers of life. The question can be best answered at two different levels.
At one level we are all Pure Being, the unbounded absolute infinite Consciousness that pervades the universe. At another level, we are all discrete and unique beings, differentiated by mind, body, ability, DNA, ethnicity, and so on.
- At the first level we are pure unbounded existence while the second level we are doing and thinking machines or entities clothed in our physical bodily existence.
- At the first level we see ourselves as living in bliss consciousness, while at the second level we seek happiness in exchanges of mental and physical products with other entities.
- At the first level we are eternal spirit – unborn and undying. At the second level we are born and then we die. At this level, we can become afraid of death. So we worry about many things, become greedy, and save resources to better guard against death.
- To live at the first level, we transcend our mind and senses using any of many techniques such as meditation. Living at the second level seems simple and easy, as we can access our mind and body through the use of our ordinary senses and supporting instruments.
- At the second level we are all separate and each defined individually by our ego- consciousness, while at the first level we are all one together as nature and defined by our eco-consciousness.
This is a primary distinction in life. Ignorance of this basic piece of knowledge of who we are is a source of many challenges in living life properly. How we see ourselves depends upon our state of consciousness. From an ego consciousness, we appear to be this body and mind and others, just as others too have their own body and mind, and we interact with them to exchange materials ideas and so on. However, we all have a higher self. Not knowing it is the first and biggest fallacy. There are techniques to learn about the higher self just as there are techniques to learn the bodily and mental self. Our trained and disciplined mind is the biggest instruments for learning about the higher self. What we pay attention to grows in our consciousness.
However, this distinction may be of little interest to the poor who do not get even two pieces of bread every day. Meeting their basic physical needs becomes their primary challenge in life, and they do not have the time or energy to transcend. Similarly, this knowledge may be of little interest to the super rich for whom material abundance and physical pleasures have become intoxicating, and who do not believe in the transcendent. This knowledge is perhaps most useful for the middle-of-the-roader , the seeker of a blissful life, free from pain and miseries. If interested, one can learn more at tm.org.
A good friend recently said,”do not give me this bliss s**t”. It is all a mind game, he said. Another good friend said, “you say you live in bliss, but I don’t see you so.” Both of these people are longtime friends from India, intellectuals with PhD degrees, who are comfortably settled in the US.
To the first friend, I said that there are over 700 scientific published studies that show the benefits of meditation, and that one can enjoy good health, happiness and bliss. That did not convince him. So, I spoke from personal experience, and how my moksha experience led me to write my book ‘Moksha’. That did not convince him. Come to our town and if you do not feel peace in your heart, I will pay you a substantial sum of money. That got him going. In essence, he said that Moksha is a very big thing, and it cannot be achieved by a simple process. He said he had been meditating off and on, and he did not get any benefit. His mom meditated all life and did not reach anywhere near there. I said it also depends upon the strength of desire, and one cannot will the desire. He said that desire alone cannot produce anything. So, I felt best to let go of the argument, and let him take his own time to be ready.
To the second friend, I said that bliss is an intensely subjective experience, and there is no way another person can experience it. One just have to believe it or feel it. Also, that bliss experience can come and go, depending upon continued practice of meditation. I also said that I was given the Maharishi award recently for bringing bliss to the community. I could see that he did not believe my story on Moksha and therefore had not bothered to read my book even though he had it.
I feel that most people are completely conditioned to no-pain-no-gain theory. If bliss is that good, it must take a lot of time and expertise and effort, they argue. However, bliss is an effortless accomplishment. Bliss is our true nature. One does not need a complicated process to achieve it. However, one does need a strong desire for it, which would overshadow other worldly desires. I feel that not everyone has the desire to escape the stresses of modern life, and reach out for their god-given gift of bliss. The book is an attempt to inspire that desire in others.
A really enlightening but imaginary conversation.
God: Welcome to God’s house. What do you want?
Bernie: Please make me the democratic candidate for President.
God: That is a good idea. But why do you want to become President?
Bernie: The country is up for sale. All politicians are corrupt. They are busy filling their own pockets. We have to save the country. We have to give hope to the people.
God: That too is a good idea. But do you really want to become President? It is a tough job.
Bernie: I have been a mayor. I can run the country too.
God: Ok. How will you run the country? The entire political establishment is against you.
Bernie: This is a political revolution. It will throw up new leaders. The Constitution does not give any political establishment the right to power forever.
God: Logically you are right. But your revolution will create a lot of uncertainty. Who knows what will happen. Even we Gods see a danger in this. People may even refuse to follow us.
Bernie: People power is absolute. Anything is possible.
God: What if robots take advantage of this power vacuum? They can snatch power from the people!
Bernie: Right now, there is little chance of that happening. But you are right. Anything is possible.
God: Will have to think some more. Meanwhile ask for something for you personally.
Bernie: I have heard these days you are easily giving away long life to people. I am already 73 years old. Give me 30-40 more years, so I can take this revolution pretty far.
God: So shall it be.
Identity (of the self) is a fundamental concept that one develops about oneself that evolves over time. A fixed identity composed of name, relationships, and belongings keeps one locked in small self.
How can one proactively evolve or transform one’s identity? First step would be to locate and unfreeze the current identity. Research has shown that there is a part in the brain that is responsible for one’s memory and identity. That part is hippocampus (seahorse-shaped) in the middle of the brain. To transform one’s identity is to change the flexibility of that part of the brain.
Yagyas such as AtiRudraAbhishekam when done properly are a great way for self-transformation. Ashwamdetha yagyas are another way to achieve that. Coming from the Vedic tradition, the Ashvamedha is a ritual used by great Indian kings to expand their imperial sovereignty. A stallion would be released to wander for a period of one year. Whatever area the horse would cover in a year, unless challenged, would belong to the king. Then the horse is sacrificed.
There are two ways to explain the change in identity: Imagination and Transcendence.
Ashwamedha yagyas lets the king’s horse roam freely to as far as it can. Similarly, if the mind is free to imagine itself in the most expansive terms, it could be the broadening or expansion of identity. All of that territory becomes the mind’s. That is the way to understand it from an object-referral method.
Ashwamedha yagyas is also seen as the sacrificing the horse. Sacrificing the specificity-oriented mind to give way to a wholeness-oriented self, is the self-referral way of explaining self-transformation. That identity of specificity has to be erased and identity of wholeness has to settle in.
Transcendence is the forgetting of specificity and stepping into wholeness. Transcendental Meditation is an effective and proven method for self-transcendence. While both are complementary concepts, Self-transformation through transcendence may be more desirable than self-expansion through imagination.