International Yoga Day 2017

International Yoga Day 2017

I think that International Yoga Day is a laudable initiative to bring emphasis and attention on Yoga.  I wrote about it last year too, calling it the Independence Day of the Human Spirit.

Yoga is ‘cessation of the activities of the mind’, as defined by Patanjali in the first phrase of Yoga Sutra. Yoga has 8 limbs.  Asanas is one of them. Meditation is another.  Asanas prepare the body and mind for meditation.  All good meditation centers avoid televisions and aggravating foods that would interfere with the practice of inner peace and quiet.

I have met Swami Ramdev. His vision is almost unfathomable. Have visited Yog Gram too. I want to go to Coimbatore to see Satguru’s center; have heard great things about it. Have met Sri Sri RaviShankar a few times and learned his technique too. At our own campus (set up by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) in Fairfield Iowa, everyone meditates daily for long periods for the dual purpose of self-development and world peace. I  have also been to many Vipassana centers and done their 10-day courses.  Every guru has a different meditation technique. They say there are 108 ways to transcend!

No guru is without detractors who would call their followers as a cult, sometimes somewhat justifiably. Ramdev made yoga popular. He propped up Narendra Modi in his bid to become Prime Minister of India. And he is giving foreign companies a run for their money. He has completely upended marketing practices. He is a big part of India rejuvenation.  … despite all his faults.

 

The Modern Menace of Heart Attacks

The Modern Menace of Heart Attacks

The Modern Menace of Heart Attacks

Too many people in their 50s, known to me, around the world, have died of heart attacks in the last few weeks. Makes me wonder, and worry!!
1. A close female cousin of both my wife and mine, of my wife’s age, died of heart attack in Jaipur, India, after a couple of months of kidney failures.
2. A close friend’s male cousin, a cardiologist, in Chicago, died while in late 40s.
4. A former female close family friend from Austin Texas, now residing in Chicago, of my wife’s age, died of heart attack.
5. A younger brother of another close classmate friend, also my age, died in Nepal, of heart attack.
6. A close classmate, in Dubai, was lucky enough to survive from a massive heart attack.
7&8. Two former colleagues from my first job in Wipro in Delhi, died of heart attacks in Pune and Delhi respectively.
For each of the first two in this list above, both of their parents are still alive and healthy. So heredity alone is not to blame.
What is happening? I spoke with a cardiologist friend in Ames, Iowa, who is a nephew of the friend #5 above.  This cardiologist had to rush to India an year ago to save another of those young uncles after a heart attack. This doctor friend said, at least India is sitting on a ticking time bomb of heart attacks. Bad diets and sedentary life styles are to blame. Even doctors sit all day and don’t move at all, he said! Sitting is the new smoking. And if I may add, sugar is the new nicotine. Stress is the ultimate killer though!!
Folks wake up! Get off your hinds!! Move around!!! Smell the roses. There is no iron clad guarantee of long life no matter what the actuarial statistics indicate. We are not immune from the environment we all live in.  Take care of yourself.  My classmate completely reversed his diabetes. My dad completely reversed his hypertension. Through proper diet, exercise, pranayama, meditation and yoga.
PLEASE go on a healthy diet before the doctor prescribes a bland boring salt-free diet.  Being sick is no fun. It is bad enough for yourself, ans othing feels or tastes good. But it is difficult for your family. And it is devastating and heart-breaking for your elderly parents should you they still be alive!! And it is pretty bad for your finances!!! Try Ayurveda and Acupuncture and Naturopathy and Homeopathy if you need a cure.  Please also learn to meditate. All this might save, and prolong, and enliven your life!!!
Updated: June 18, 2017
Happy Father’s Day!
Since the above post many other known people have died, from cancer and heart issues. They were all close to my age, or a little older.
9. A healthy, recently retired, close friend in Austin suddenly died on a visit to India, two weeks ago, from lung and heart issues.
10. A Cleveland friend’s neighbor, my age, dropped dead from heart attack outside his house a few weeks ago.
11.  A close local Iowa friend, a bubbly long-term meditator and our realtor, died of cancer two weeks ago.
12.  A local Iowa faculty colleague, died of cancer one week ago (after suffering for a couple of years though).
13. A local Iowa friend’s brother, who lives in Toronto suddenly died on heart attack a few weeks ago.
14. A close IIT friend’s dad in India had a fall, and then his heart gave up during surgery, a few weeks ago.
15. An IIT alum just a couple of years senior died suddenly of heart attack in Atlanta earlier this year.
Message: We should be grateful to be alive. Should not take a single moment for granted. Do not delay till tomorrow what we can do today. And take full care of health!!
An eternal love story …

An eternal love story …

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!

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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!

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.

Clash and convergence of paradigms

There are multiple paradigms of knowledge of reality. How can everyone be right?

The answer is that there is a dilemma in the waking state of consciousness. One can continue discussing from different points of view and be correct in some vital way, without being able to refute the other points of view. Only when one transcends the waking state that some unified realities become available and acceptable. From the transcendent level of consciousness one can experience the connectedness of the entire universe. Eventually one can potentially experience the Vedantic non-dual reality of ‘tat tvam asi’, or ‘Aham Brahmasmi’. From the waking state of consciousness these look like absurd words. Even reading the Vedas from a waking state of consciousness is meaningless, and brings no power. Vedas have to be experienced from a state of transcendental consciousness. After all the Vedas were cognized by the seers from that state of consciousness.

Another question often asked if body is hardware, and mind is software, what is soul?

The answer is: the soul would be like the natural laws of electromagnetism and computation and information theory. There are three fundamental gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Lord Shiva represents form, or space, and thus the body. Lord Vishnu represents energy, or function, and thus the mind. Lord Brahma represents logic, the knowledge that binds form and function in the service of a purpose. This trinity together make up the entire universe. Consciousness is that which is aware of itself. Thus it is the knower, the known, and the process of knowing (the subject, object, and the verb, all in one). Thus the soul is the knower, the mind would be the process of knowing, and the body will be the known.

 

Feel whole, feel blissful

Feel whole, feel blissful

Freedom of choice is key to joy and bliss. Loss of wholeness is the primary affliction. Choices made from a lack of wholeness can be wrong, leading to pain and suffering. However, that pain leads to self-correction in choice-making, bringing back towards balance and wholeness. One should return to the whole Self, and operate from there, i.e. “Yogastha Kuru Karmani.” (Bhagvad Gita, 2:40). One should be making fulfilling choices. These choices are all recorded at the level of consciousness. One can even overcome past karma by being wider and broader, and more wholesome.

Even the most evolved and enlightened person can occasionally ‘fall’ into specificity, and lose the wholeness. The feeling of ‘I am’ is that destructive specificity. Balance must be re-established at every moment. It is good to be energetic, powerful and growing. But it is good only when one maintains contact with wholeness. When that wholeness is lost, then that person becomes like a cancer cell. Healthy communication between human cells can inspire the development of healthier bodies, and healthier societies.

One should maintain a correct perspective for the experience of any objective reality. The perception and joy can be vastly different depending upon one’s state of consciousness. What we call ‘real’ is the three-fold dynamic interaction of the properties of the observer, the observed, and the process of observation. If the observer changes himself, there will be a different outcome in terms of experience. Even the experience of seeing a simple thing, such as an apple, in front of us can evoke a different structure of experience depending upon one’s state of consciousness. New connections in the nervous system and new patterns of consciousness emerge from new experiences, and they transform us.

Knowledge from the other fields can lead to progress in one’s field, and in one’s quality of choice-making. Nature’s intelligence is distributed across what we called ‘disciplines’. It is all one, and therefore applicable to all the fields, to some extent or the other. Instead of studying just one discipline, one should study the laws of nature, and operate from that level of wholeness. The Vedas embody that wholeness of knowledge, which can also be found in the body and mind.

The general principles of wholeness-based choice-making are applicable at any level and time. What is true at the individual level can also be true for the development of consciousness of countries and societies. Balanced development will lead to the evolution of societies in the right direction, towards greater happiness and prosperity.  It can take decades or even centuries for society to evolve to perfection. Ram Raj is the culmination of the evolution of societies into a perfect system of governance.

 

Indigestion: The Source of Maladies

Indigestion: The Source of Maladies

Undigested food in the body putrefies and leads to many ailments. Eating is easy and pleasurable. However, digesting all the ingested food is a task. Indigestion is the inability to reduce and assimilate all that food into the body. Ayurveda calls undigested food as ama. It is a toxin. Ama shows up on the tongue in the morning as a white coating. Removing ama with a tongue-cleaner is like removing ama (american medical association) from one’s life. i.e. detoxifying, and mitigating the possibility of disease and medical intervention.

Walt Whitman in his newly-found series on articles in 1860 on Men’s Health in the now-defunct newspaper ‘New York Atlas’ talks essentially about avoiding indigestion. Discussing “The great American evil: indigestion,” Whitman says, “It is doubtless here that four-fifths of the weaknesses, breakings-down, and premature deaths, of Americans begin.” Overeating, To combat this great evil, Whitman recommends eating “simple and hearty food, and no condiments” and avoiding “solid and liquid stimulants, artificial tastes, condiments” that have unfortunately become an integral part of the standard American diet.

(image source: stomachbloating.net)

Undigested food can also lead to increase in body weight. An effective way to lose weight is to eat early in the evening, as there is no undigested food in the stomach at the time of sleep.

Undigested information is the source of stress, confusion, and many mental maladies. Collecting facts and information is fun and pleasurable. However, analyzing and integrating all that information in one’s mind is quite a challenge. Mind needs deep rest, as in meditation, to rise above the din of random sets of information, to let the useless information float away and evaporate from the mind, and let one’s consciousness develop and expand blissfully with a greater integrated awareness of the Self and the world.