Transcendence in Life and Society

In some ways, transcendence is the recovery of the primal innocence we were all born with. We all emanated from some womb, through a similar process. Then we gathered the elements which bulked up our body. We gathered sensations that grew our mind. Then we began to develop our bodies and minds … making them sharp, beautiful, strong. We fell in love with these growing things, and we began to totally identify with our body and mind. We forgot our own selves, the little seed of awareness within. We began to worry about the potential loss of the body and the mind. We frantically began to covet resources of all kinds to protect the body and mind. At some point, we forgot our body and mind also and began to love the growing riches of stuff and resources Then we began to live in the dream state of life. Our coworkers became resources. Relationships became assets too. Instead of transcending to the state of freedom from thoughts and things, we began to become a thing ourselves. The objectification is almost complete. Then we enter the slumber state.  We are now manipulated by legal drugs, junk food, mindless entertainment, and constant interruption. Shhh … what/who is manipulating us? We will soon become automatons. Robots impress us as nearly as good as ourselves. We are being enhanced by robots. Soon robots will decide if they need us sleeping hydrocarbon blobs.

Suddenly some one wakes up from slumber. Oh my! This is not me. I am aware that this is not me. I am eternal awareness. I can’t be destroyed. I don’t have to worry. I don’t need much. I am invincible. I am unbounded. What’s going on, I wonder. Air does not need to be toxic. The water either. We can grow little wholesome food in our backyard. We have plenty of sunlight. We can be free. Autonomous. We can live on endlessly. And blissfully. Let’s spread some bliss around. However, others don’t believe our bliss. They live in Plato’s caves. We try telling them that they are seeing is the shadows, and that they should venture out in the open to see enjoy free life. They laugh it off as cranky and weird. Well, some of them muster the courage to try it. And voila! They find it different. Refreshing. Unbounded. Lively. Healed. Happy. Joy and Bliss. Our growing numbers and energies are now devoted to work on liberation of all, and on the healing journey for all. That is all there is to do. Everyone can be free to be compassionate. And slowly the world begins to become blissful again. And then exponentially so. And the world is happy and healed ever after.

P.S. What happens to robots? Well, they continue to grow more powerful and useful. They clean up our soil at our command. They plough and tend to our vegetable gardens. They do all the chores we want done. What happens to the information machines and Artificial Intelligence? Well, they are rolled into robots. Finally, what happens to the evil empire who wants to keep us all hooked and dependent in the caves? Well, the liberated ones scared the crap out of it. Little innocent children can scare the big bad bully out of its evil ways. Watch the Pixar movie ‘A Bug’s Life’ for inspiration.

 

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Sudden Death of a Dear Friend – Lessons Learned

A live-wire dear friend, a classmate from Delhi now living in Australia, died suddenly of a heart attack. The news shocked all our classmates as he was not only very popular, social, thoughtful, musical, athletic and fit, he was the life of our WhatsApp conversation group. Friends reflected very fond memories of conversations and time spent with him. However, it also jolted us all to take better care of ourselves through preventive measures before an event occurred. I am writing this so all can benefit from the lessons from this sad episode.

Bimal Mahendroo was a gem of person!  He grew up in Delhi, and went to the well-known Delhi Public School, and then went on to do Engineering at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. We were batchmates, and also in the same hostel, at IIT. He was a good student. He lost his father while still in college. He had the rare distinction (in those days) of having a girl friend while still in college. He is now survived by his wife (then girlfriend) and two adult children. Bimal also became a homeopathy expert and cured friends on chronic medical issues with homeopathic medicines.

One year ago, 35 years after graduation, our IIT class of 250 students decided to organize through a WhatsApp group. Bimal jumped into it with full gusto. Soon, there were hundreds of messages posted every day, with almost half of them written by him alone. With a delicious mix of music, humor and serious social commentary, he would hold everyone’s attention and respect. He could keep multiple conversations going simultaneously with different people. With that intensity and hunger to connect, the batch held a well-attended get-together in Gurgaon. Another get-together followed a few months later, incidentally at my parents’ house in Gurgaon. Bimal was the catalyst for many other mini-get-togethers, in Mumbai, in Dubai, in Singapore, and elsewhere. We were planning on one in the US in the summer. He was working on organizing one in Sydney, his hometown in Australia.

Bimal was very energetic. He did no smoking, no alcohol, and was a light eater. He had a passion for coffee, and had started a coffee shop in Sydney. He may have been a bit worried about reviving his career.  Bimal also engaged in 1-1 conversations online with many many people. Everyone saw him as their personal friend. He often fondly talked about his family.

Yesterday, he was returning from playing badminton, and in the car itself had a massive heart attack. He died before reaching the hospital.  A friend wrote that Bimal came into our lives like hero of the movie Anand …of course without the illness …he connected with ease. For a dear lady classmate, he was more than even a brother!!  The light has gone out of our batch, I said. Bimal’s last words on WhatsApp were in response to something I had posted. He wrote:

  • ‘The folly of human conceits, demonstrated the best in our differentiated treatment of each other, the incessant need to compare, contrast and differentiate. Wonderful reminder, Anil, of our morality. And mortality.’

When someone so bubbly and social and athletic passes on so soon, it must be for a higher purpose!!!!  Here is my imagination of Bimal’s conversation w God.

God: Welcome home.

Bimal: thanks God. It is pretty nice here. But can I return for a moment?  This happened too fast.  Can I say hello to my friends?

God: tathastu (so be it). You can do it from here itself.

Bimal:  hello friends. Sorry had to leave like this. Miss you all so much. You were my life. But I am here now. Up there somewhere.  It is nice here.  Don’t worry about me. Hopefully you will remember me as a nice funny chap. Just keep having fun. I will watch from here.  Once in a while I might drop by through someone who can connect with me.  The heart-to-heart channel, you know.

God: (smiling). Very nice.  They love you and will love you forever.  Anything else you want?

Bimal: For my family too. Same message. Just keep living your life happily. Uxxx, sorry had to leave like this. Sorry.  You were the love of my life. We will meet again.

God: Yes, things will keep changing.

Bimal: thank you.  Please bless all my friends and family.  So they can enjoy every moment of their lives fully.

God: तथास्तु।

It is also a stark reminder that life can be so unpredictable. This is a wake-up call for all of us. I am sure some of us have managed their health better and others can benefit from their experience. Here were a few key suggestions shared by friends:

  1. One suggestion is to be disciplined in diet, nutrition and exercise. One of Bill Clinton’s Doctors is Dr. Dean Ornish and he has a book on “Reversing Heart Disease”. Dean Ornish’s book was helpful for another friend when he underwent a coronary angioplasty recently. There is also a vegan-diet plan from a group called freedomfromdiabetes.org. Both of these conditions, cardio and diabetes, go hand in hand. Regular exercise and movement is also required to manage body weight.
  1. Another suggestion was to do an annual comprehensive medical checkup. Many people could thus get the diagnosis in time so they could do something about it. Personally, I get a comprehensive checkup done almost every year when I visit India.
  1. Please meditate. Saying differently, in life s**t will happen! We just don’t want it to stick to us.  We wash our bodies everyday with soap and water.  We should also cleanse our minds everyday with meditation. Try TM, Vipassana, or another other well-tested technique you like. Choose carefully, as just like all diets and medications are not the same, so also all meditations are not the same.

Wish you the fastest growth to enlightenment!!!!  And the resultant freedom from stress.  And great health!

Technology and Spirituality Coexist

In the last couple of weeks, I had long fulfilling conversations on spirituality and Moksha with two young people in their 20s. Both are Computer Science students, with one doing a bachelor’s degree and the other doing a master’s degree.  One is a male and another is a female. One is a student on my own university campus and the other is on another university where I had recently visited to give a technology seminar based on my Data Analytics book. Both students happened to be from Hindu backgrounds, but neither is from India.

Both said that they were deeply spiritual people, and they were always concerned about how might technology and spirituality co-exist. I said I was a living example, and they felt reassured. Of course, there are many other IT people who have even become full-time spiritual people. I also said that spirituality is all encompassing, and it includes everything including technology, management, society, and all other fields. In fact, spiritual technologies can accelerate the path to moksha.

Both also said their conversations with their classmates and friends were not too fulfilling since others could not communicate with the others at the level that they found fulfilling. One described the conversations as being more about questions and answers about manifested things, and it was difficult to describe to their friends their deep spiritual experiences that had changed their view of the world. The charm they found in their inner journey was very enjoyable, but not necessarily describable. The other student was curious whether spirituality could help technological solved problems more creatively.

I wished them great progress in their spiritual journey. Enlightenment is very easy to achieve if one innocently wished for it, but does not obsessively try hard to find it in the world outside. It will come when one is ready.  This is the same message I gave my two friends in the summer when they said that don’t give me this Bliss s**t.

 

Transformation of America

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.
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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.

Who are we: A perennial question

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.

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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.

Conversations With God: Bernie Sanders

A really enlightening but imaginary conversation.

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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.

 

 

Transformation of Self-Identity: Imagination and Transcendence

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.