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!
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.
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 often say that I eat because of my comfort in math. It is my love and comfort with math that makes me confident and successful (sometimes), no matter what role in what organization. I was lucky to have parents who cared about math so much that I practiced and practiced, for funny money, always trying to find faster ways to accomplish my ‘practice load’. I was lucky to have a high-school math teacher who always emphasized starting from first principles, whenever in doubt. I have instilled in both our daughters the love for math.
An anecdote here. My wife was working at a Kumon center in Austin, tutoring 4-6 year old kids in English. I was then happily working at IBM. The live-wire Taiwanese-American lady owner of that Kumon center was bragging one day to her staff that not even CS professors at UT Austin can pass the G-level math test (They go from A to M levels). My wife casually said that I would pass it. Jennifer, the owner, said no way and said she would bet $100 that I won’t be able to pass. So, my wife chose to call me and told me about it. Never shy about such challenges, I drove up to the Kumon center, and took the G-level test. It is a good test that the kids have to score within a couple of errors, in a time frame of about 30 min, to pass. I was able to do it pretty quickly. Blood drained out of her face, as she went through my answers skipping many intermediate steps. She said she had never lost a bet in her life, especially around Kumon activities. We declined the $100, but she insisted on my accepting that crisp $100 note. So we organized a party for all the Kumon students. I later showed her my GRE transcript showing a perfect 800 score in math. I said she messed with the wrong guy, and she laughed.
I wonder if programmatizing anything is a kiss of death. The reason people feel bored in large organizations is because of large programs with rigid structures and limited scope for initiatives. May be the education departments should take note and teach the teachers to teach according to inside-out model, where students learn by expressing what they feel and see. That goes for teaching math, Psychology, Computer Science, Management, and everything else.