Mind Without Fear – A Book Review

I finished listening to Mr. Rajat Gupta’s [photo credit: Wikipedia] memoir ‘Mind without Fear’ in just two sessions. It is a compelling story of the Mind and the Times of an exceptionally accomplished person. He had the good luck to be the right person in the right place to become first non (white) American managing director of McKinsey & Co, when the firm was ripe to go global. He was the wrong guy at the wrong time when he entered the financial markets with the wrong guy, and got the wrong overzealous prosecutor thus getting jailed for two years. He draws inspiration from his father who was an Indian Civil Services officer during the British rule but resigned Mahatma Gandhi’s call for freedom and was jailed and beaten mercilessly with permanent damage. He also draws inspiration from the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose beautiful poetry threads the book and gives it the title of Mind without Fear. He also draws solace from his strong family and the many friends who stood with him and believed his story. He however deeply regrets not taking the stand and testifying in his own trial, as he received overwhelming advice from his lawyers and his loving family that allowing the prosecutor to question him directly will be too risky. At the end of it all, he comes out of the ordeal with his head held high, without much bitterness for those who deserted him including the McKinsey firm who dismissed him summarily and took his name off their alumni list.

I believe Rajat Gupta’s story, as I have done over the years. He is a fellow IIT-Delhi alumnus ten years my senior. I met him at Pan-IIT meets in 2007 and 2009. He looked handsome and seemed very honest and a good listener. I do remember some of the stories of the next few years as the attorney Preet Bharara with political ambitions set his sights on a fellow successful Indian. There was a story in the Indian press about Preet Bharara and Dr Sanjay Gupta, whose moms knew each other from India, about whose son is doing better in the US. I recall a feeling of a certain revulsion at that approach to achieving success by beating down an iconic fellow Indian. Some of my well-meaning friends however felt at that time that greed and power had gotten the better of Rajat Gupta.

Rajat Gupta has done much good work including seting up Indian School of Business and starting the Public Health Foundation of India. He also started the Global Fund against three major diseases. These inspirational stories are laid out in great detail in the book. That alone makes the book worthy of attention. What the book does not tell is that none other than Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys, compared Rajat Gupta with the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru for having started two world class organizations in India. I also salute Rajat Gupta for his great work. May God grant him strength to continue his good work. He wants to work on the American penal system which he observed from the inside and found deeply lacking. He should also write a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, the book that he read during his incarceration and which helped him come out stronger, with malice towards none and with his head held high!

What is Ultimate Reality and how do we know it

The ultimate reality is that there is no separate Me. We are It; or as Vedas say, Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Are That, the all-encompassing Totality)! How do we know that? We can begin with accepting it as a conjecture from the ancient scriptures, written by ancient seers and the numerous seekers that have come before us, when they say that Tat Tvam Asi or Aham Brahmasmi (I am Totality). We then verify this truth for ourselves by experiencing in our own subjective lives.

Why should we trust the cognitions of ancient seers? Why should we trust our fallible subjective experiences? Why should we trust an objective truth about our subjective selves? These are three primary ways of verifying truth claims, also called darshanas in Vedas. These are also very good questions. All logical chains must with some axiom(s).

We can start with the axiom that Consciousness is primary. Consciousness is simply conscious of itself. It is all-pervasive, like a quantum field of intelligence. It is matter and energy in an interchangeable manner. Consciousness is the unified field of all the laws of nature and all those laws can be experienced in one’s own subjective awareness. It is the knower, the known, and the process of knowing, all rolled into one. Thus ‘we’ can know ‘ourselves’ by ‘ourselves’. The way to know one’s self is by stilling one’s mind and refining one’s perceptual ability to directly see the subtler reality, just as one sees the depth and clarity of a lake when it is calm. Newton inductively discovered the laws of gravity within his own consciousness when his attention fell on the falling apples.

Subjective personal experiences are usually the most powerful ways of knowing at a personal level. This can be just as empirical and personal data based as the scientific method. If doing some action, such as waking up early or doing a certain meditation regularly, makes one feel healthy or blissful, one would want to do it again and again. One’s personal experiences can override the received wisdom as well as scientific research and develop into personally useful habits.

Scientific method also relies of an axiom, that of materialism, i.e. material reality is primary. There is no such thing as subjective consciousness except as an ephemeral emergent property of materials. Thus, scientific inquiry precludes the existence of any such thing as an independent self that has a body and a mind? The organizing logic is that of self-preservation. What is the self that is being preserved? There is no cogent scientific theory of life beyond physical existence. There is no realizing the self, only a process of actualizing the ‘hidden true potential of the self‘ without objectively defining that potential.

It is best when all three modes of knowing reinforce each other. It is good to read the scriptures, undergo scientific education, and then verify the received truths in one’s own experience.





Carving out the Middle Ground

President Abraham Lincoln did a masterful job of defining an ambiguous situation. By the time he took office, seven southern states had passed resolutions of secession. The outgoing President Buchanan famously noted that under the constitution, the states had no right to secede, but he had no power to force them to stay. Lincoln never called them secessionist states, just my unhappy fellow countrymen. He never threatened aggression, just use of force in self-defence. He eventually won the Civil War!

I completed listening to a delightful 24-lecture course on Lincoln’s speeches. Here are some highlights on how he won and led.

Gain attention: Lincoln followed Douglas around the state of Illinois to rebut him till Douglas, the incumbent senator, would agree to formally debate him during the 1858 senate election. They agreed on seven 3-hour debates around the state, with each one opening the debate in an alternate manner.

Define the opportunity: Lincoln started on the defensive but at the end of the debates came out ahead. Lincoln actively answered Douglas’ questions while Douglas focused on Lincoln’s House Divided speech and kept mostly repeating the same tried and tested stuff. Douglas tried to paint Lincoln as a dangerous radical who would abolish slavery. Lincoln meanwhile began to own the middle ground. He plucked out from Douglas’ speech a ‘I don’t care whether slavery lives or dies’ statement and skewered him mercilessly. Using the Dred Scott decision, he now identified a clear logical slippery slope and said that it is only a matter of time that a second Dred Scott decision will make slavery permanent, and unoverturnable by Congress. Lincoln lost the Senate race because of vote distributions, even though in the aggregate Lincoln’s side won more adherents and votes.

Do the hard work: Lincoln went on to give a speech at Cooper Union in New York City in January 1860. He later said that that speech made him President. He had to do a masterful twin task of skewering the pro-slavery Douglas (the leading presidential hopeful for the opposite side) and differentiating himself from William Seward, the leading candidate from Lincoln’s own party, when his party itself had almost taken the strong position of abolition of slavery. Lincoln took the middle ground by saying that let’s listen to what the founding fathers wanted about slavery. In an astoundingly well-researched speech for the era, Lincoln spelled out that 24 of the 39 founders of the country had left written records on the issue and 21 of them said or implied that slavery was only to be tolerated while it lasted. That speech made him look reasonable and electable. He was nominated and won the election.

Anyways… the war had to come. And so on. Just thought I would share how Lincoln carved out the middle ground and won public support which too was critical for a military victory.

ABCDs of Life

ABCDs of Life

  1. Absolute. We are Absolute or Pure Beings. Eham Brahma Asmi. I.e. I am Brahma, the Totality. I am unbounded, infinite, and therefore invincible. I am the transcendent: bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest. There are no walls or limits. We are without any defining qualities.
  2. Bliss. The nature of life is bliss. Sat-chit-Anand or absolute-consciousness-bliss. Bliss is the highest level of life energy. Bliss is the only thing that matters. The taste of even a drop of bliss can transform our life. Bliss naturally creates world peace.
  3. Creative: We naturally feel the urge to create when we feel free. Forms and structures effortlessly arise and dissolve when we transcend. Expressing our inner creations is a great source of joy. A lot of the world that we live in is created by ourselves.
  4. Data-driven: We are naturally curious about the nature of the relative. We want to understand and enjoy the totality of creation. With fine quality of perception, we invent and use tools to gather and integrate data, with which we in-form our thinking and patterns.

Absolute and Bliss are internal and unmanifest. Creativity and Data are focused on the external and relative. The inner Absolute Blissful Being is more powerful than the external reality. The inner qualities of awareness and blissfulness should be developed to guide creativity and learning. Meditation is the best way to experience the finest levels of bliss and creativity in life!

Browsing for ABCD,  I found some lovely organizations and descriptions.

  • Any Body Can Dance
  • Art Building Children’s Dreams
  • Assuring Better Child Development
  • Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development
  • Access to Baby and Child Dentistry
  • Ashley Brown Cake Design
  • And finally … American Born Cute Desi!

Have a blissful Day!



Travel adventure – going overseas without wallet

This is a travel adventure of going overseas without one’s wallet and still coming out whole.

A few days ago, in December 2017, I traveled from Delhi to Seoul in South Korea. I was an invited speaker on Data Analytics at an international conference. I got dropped me off at the Delhi International airport, went through the immigration and security counters, and sat down near the flight’s departure gate. A little bored, I look around and saw my favorite snack counter close to my gate. I walked over to the store and found my favorite snacks. When I tried to pay for it, I discovered that I did not have my wallet with me. I rummaged through my pockets and then my bags but could not find it. I became a little worried that I had lost or dropped it somewhere.

A sweet and beautiful young Indian lady, from Los Angeles, was shopping in the same snack store. She heard me saying to the shopkeeper that I had lost my wallet, and was very sympathetic. She asked me how much money I needed. I said that at the very least I needed $15 for a one-way ride to the hotel in Seoul. With great effort, she managed to scrounge $15 cash from the various pockets inside her handbag. Very cheerfully she gave the money to me. God bless her. I took her phone number and will try to return the money, even though she said not to bother.

I then frantically tried to reach out to my parents in Delhi by phone. They looked around and quickly found my wallet on my bed. I was a little relieved. I realized that I was trying to remove some of the unneeded cards and cash from the wallet, and in the process I forgot to pick up the wallet. I had checked that I had the passport before I left, but did not check the wallet. My father, a retired UN diplomat, was worried how I will manage without the wallet. But I told him it will be an adventure. We both laughed, and he was relieved.  Now the correct story was that I had ‘forgotten my wallet at home’. I texted my daughter in the US to be ready to wire me money in Seoul just in case. I also texted a friend who was coming to the same conference that I may need his help.

In the plane, I tried to meditate and keep calm. I lost all fear, and became determined to find someone who would be willing to help. I was a little concerned about the currency conversion process at the airport that I may fall just a little short of the Korean currency needed to get to the airport. I looked around for who could help.

A young Korean man sitting right behind my seat. I asked him if he could convert for me $15 worth of Korean currency to pay for one-way bus ride from the airport to the city. He talked nicely with me but found it ‘unusual’ how one forgets one’s wallet at home. He said he will think about it. I also asked the Korean flight attendants for help. They said that none of them had any Korean currency, and could not help.

I wanted to ask another Indian person. I had seen an Indian family with little kids in the departure lounge right behind me. I looked for them in the plane. I saw a family sitting close to my seat. It was a different young man. He looked pretty blissful sitting there with eyes kinda closed. I approached him. He said he lived in Seattle, and had worked with Microsoft till very recently. I told him about my situation. He agreed to lend me $15. But then he said his wallet was in his bag up in the storage, and he will give me later. I came back to him with a copy of my Big Data book which had some brief description of me as an author. Finally, when we landed in Seoul, he gave me $15.

Now I was confident that I will be able to make the trip without any hassle. I had enough money to reach the city. I had friends at the conference. Hotel bill was prepaid. I did not need any additional money, as I did not need to buy anything. I had carried some home-made vegetarian food from home. I returned to Delhi from the conference safely two days later. I contacted them both my benefactors so I can return the monies. I can’t thank them enough.

I believe there are no ‘accidents’. It all happens for a reason. We don’t know how many dots get connected for some event to happen. Somehow I developed the confidence to manage an international trip without carrying my wallet. Anything is possible!!

Lessons: check your documents and wallet before you leave for a trip. Do good to others, so nature will provide support back. Both the US-based Indians whom I approached, helped; that warms my heart!!



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!

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.
Image result for first big data president
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.

Mathematics is Fun

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.