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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.