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 New Way: Disrupt Yourself

The New Way: Disrupt Yourself

Unshackle yourself from the lessons of past lived experiences. They are not nearly as normal as one typically believes them to be. They are a product of the times and of our own perceptual apparatus. We are conditioned by the received distilled wisdom from well meaning family and friends; and by what we read, especially in the younger ages when we lack the power to critically examine and reject an incoming lesson.

In the abstract we know that we are infinite, invincible and blissful. In practice we feel bounded, weak and miserable. The path from the practical to the ideal seems long, arduous, uncertain and unachievable. Most people give up on the ideal. The new way is to disrupt yourself. Do not settle for the unsatisfying and the unfulfilling.

Drop the baggage of past experiences.  It has to be a visceral process. The experiences are embedded in the core of our mind and body. But perhaps not in our souls. We can reclaim our souls.  We can do what we deeply desire.  We can also do what we deeply fear: jump into the deep end.  We reveal ourselves to ourselves thus.

The relative future is inherently uncertain.  But that can be an exhilarating ride. If only we can drop our expectations.  That is scary. Without great expectations, nothing great can be achieved.  Is that so? Truly so? Charles Dickens wrote so. He is widely considered the greatest English writer, at par with Shakespeare. Did he write from special wisdom or did he just articulate what he lived in the sweatshops of his times.

Disrupting oneself can mean having altered expectations. Or even no expectations. Could set us up to be light as a feather.  And float nicely in the winds of the times. It does not guarantee survival. Or a long life.  But we don’t know. It guarantees blissful life.  Or at least an authentic life. Of a fleeting hundred moments or a hundred long years.  How does it matter? The soul does not die. It was never born. The body was made up from the elements. It will merge into the elements anyways. Sooner or later i.e.

Disrupt yourself.  That is the New Way of living.  Expect nothing. Achieve everything. Including blissful fulfillment.

 

Sudden Death of a Dear Friend – Lessons Learned

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!

What am I? Pure Existence!

What am I?

This is a better question than ‘Who am I’. Many wise people suggest asking ‘who am I’ as a way to deflate ego, develop humility, and become more agreeable with others. However, the most reasonable answer to this question is a bunch of roles. Like being a human being, citizen, father, son, worker, etc. But then the suggested answer would be that I am a soul!

The question ‘what am I’ is a more direct way of knowing oneself or perceiving oneself. The correct answer would be ‘pure existence’. i.e.  I am pure existence, which is an awareness of existing, or just pure Being, in no particular framework of any kind. I am pure Consciousness, which is conscious of itself. I may have many names and roles and assets and talents and feelings and whatever else. But I in itself is just pure existence, or awareness or Consciousness.

Who are we - two levels

Meditation helps me become aware of my being pure awareness. Everything else falls away like scales from eyes. Nothing matters.  What am I? Same as What is You! Same as What is everything else. We are all the same … overall Awareness, the Consciousness.

The right question goes a long way!

Vastu House in a Vedic City

Vastu House in a Vedic City

Today we moved into a beautiful Vastu house in Maharishi Vedic City. A Vastu design follows a branch of the Vedas called Sthapatya Veda. Vastu houses are supposed to be completely aligned with all the laws of nature, and are considered health- and fortune-giving. Vastu is named after Vastu Devata (god) who is supposed to give health and wealth. Vastu houses are distinctive in how they strictly align with nature, and with the movement of the Sun, with East being the most favored direction.

1746 Joy ave

Maharishi Vedic City was incorporated in Iowa by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as a township in about 2001, with the express purpose of establishing a Vedic way of living. Said to be the first Vedic village since the Vedic times, it is a small city with its own mayor. It is an experiment in government by natural law. The layout of the town is designed completely according to Vastu guidelines.  Most of the residents of the city are white. These white desis, as I call them, are completely Vedic at heart. They are all long-standing practitioners of Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi techniques.

We are a rare family of Indian origin living in this Vedic city. It will be a nice experiment for us to discover the health and wealth giving power of Vastu homes, and Vastu devata! Stay tuned!

Technology and Spirituality Coexist

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.

 

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!