Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wisdom - Is That Real?

Let me first of all steer clear of a possible misconception that may occur after reading this article. I am not a scholar of Hindu scriptures. I have not even learnt Sanskrit. But I did read a lot of spiritual teachings. Passing references to certain Upanishadic verses fascinate me. At the same time I do get a little sad to see, even stalwarts like Swami Chinmayananda having misconceptions about certain Upanishadic verses. For example he quotes a verse from, well, I think Mundakopanishad मूंदक उपनिषद्. It goes like this - "न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्र तारकं I नेमा विद्युतो भाति, कुतोयम अग्निः I तमेव भान्तमनुभाति सर्वं I तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति I - meaning, - there the sun does not emit light; neither moon nor the stars do. Even lightning has no light, where is fire? You are the only light and from that everything else reflects; and that is how the illusion that all these have light. Chinmaya says this mantra is the main chant of worship in the temples while casting the mangalaarati (मंगलारती) to the reigning idol, which clearly means that the verse is in praise of God. This comes as a reference while explaining what is Brahman (ब्रह्मा). So, it means that the whole of universe is visible through the only light that You, the God Almighty emits. Whereas, Chinmaya, while giving an explanation to the meaning of 'Upanishad' says - उप is near; नि is below or lower level and शाद is listening. So Upanishads means listening to the master sitting near on the ground below. That clearly refers 'You'  तम (तम + एव = तमेव) in the श्लोक - verse - to the listener, शिष्य or चेला ie., student, pupil, not God. So, you are the only light, certainly refers to the listener, the learner, not God!

God is my personal creation, because my God is what I want Him to be, right? Well you may not agree, but then you sure, will agree with learned spiritual luminaries and Swami Vivekananda, I hope is one such luminary. In his prayer, he says "May I be born again and again to suffer the thousands of miseries................ above all, my God the poor, my God the miserable, my God the wicked, is the sole motto of my prayer". Can the Swami's God different from mine? If not, for sure, my God is my creation, my sacred illusion!

So, the only light that exists, emanates from me, and from that light I create this universe around me.

In the same breath, Swami Chinmayananda opines that God is Brahman ब्रह्मा. But look at this, - a German research fellow, one Wilhelm Halbfass, a scientist, in his research paper, an attempt to establish the meaning of Akasha आकाशा which the later Upanishads bring in as the fifth element of matter - पंचभूत. In Chhandogya छान्दोग्य and earlier Upanishads there were only four elements - Earth, Light, Air and Fire. In his attempt to elaborate the meaning of this fifth element 'aakaasha' आकाश, he quotes quite a few verses from various Upanishads, one of which means, - 'So far as this अयं आकाश outer space (space is not an exact word for आकाश in English, there is no equivalent word) extends, thus far extends my inner space - अंतर्ह्रादयाकाश. There is everything, - that which I have, that which I do not and that I wish to have.' Halbfass further establishes, with the help of Upanishadic verses that aakasha आकाश is Brahman ब्रह्मा - universe.

If you agree with me in my inference then what I complained about Chinmayananda is right, that the only light that exists emanates from me, not my God. But I agree, this universe is not a separate entity from God. And that according to Shankaracharya, is true Vedic wisdom, when he declares अहम् ब्रहमास्मी - I am Universe or God! It is up to you to accept or reject this wisdom as real or illusory. For me, the very word 'wisdom' is creation of the mind just as every other word, to which I give meanings! Any takers?

Sunday, December 26, 2010


What is cheating?

The answer seems to be very simple at the outset, - you promise something and do something else; offer something and give something else; and there are so many ways of cheating from that poor fellow shouting from the top of his voice at the street corner and the corporate spending even 40% and over of their total turn over on advertisements to sell a brand, - is that not? But the more you go deeper into this social malaise, the more amazing ways of cheating you discover .

We have a lot of god men and gurus around us promising eternal peace. You listen to one single lecture of this spiritual preacher, almost instantly you become a devotee of this man (or woman - there are many ammas) offering you eternal peace of mind. Most of them have abundant knowledge of scriptures, added with excellent oratory skills, sometimes with superb hold on the language/s. That makes you, especially the educated ones, an ideal prey of this person. I am yet to see a god man/guru without a spin of huge wealth, all the time preaching the worthlessness of wealth. I call them cheats, because it is absolutely impossible for any human being, however high on the spiritual levels, however learned of the scriptures, to give you peace of mind or bliss, enlightenment or whatever you wish to call it. Because the very thing you call it - peace, bliss etc., - is a creation of the mind, non existent, an illusion for which you do not need anybody to give you. If not, you are the one and only person who can give it to yourself!

Less said about spiritual cheating, the better. So coming to the intricacies of social cheating - there is gold mine of research in the field of politics to discover unimaginable forms of cheating - I take up the matter of psychiatry that offers abundant opportunities to the really competent psychiatrists not only to cheat unsuspecting public, and become super rich, but also earn a great name and fame in the society, - immediate, extended and even international societies. I have known one such person.

U.G. Krishnamurti, who recently passed away in his nineties, in a very competent and alert, witty and forthright state of mind as ever, once said in an interview to a reputed psychiatrist that ".... there is not much of a difference between you as a practicing psychiatrist and me as a patient. We both have similar irrational thoughts. The difference that puts you outside a mental asylum and me inside it is that, you suppress your thoughts, I don't!...". I am a taker of this comment.

There are problems, some on trivial matters which you blow out of proportion, and some real serious, sometimes even life threatening mental problems. But the basic thing in approaching a psychiatrist in the hope of getting a solution to the problem is your trust in the abilities of the trained counselor on the basis of his fame and name and to some extent the propaganda that gets spread in the society with or without intentions. Depending on his competence, the psychiatrist comes to know of the level of trust the patient or his attenders have in him, in the very first meeting. Please try to follow me; the moment I come to know of the exact position I have in your mind, the level of trust you have in me, I am easily lured into safely cheating you. As a psychiatrist, I also come to know of your paying capabilities within no time at all. Above all, I also know that it is more of the trust that solves your mental problem than the drugs I prescribe, many a time. Of course, in chronic cases of dual and multiple personalities and schizophrenia, drugs play almost the entire part of treatment. But whether chronic mental cases can be cured is debatable.

Long back, to my question, one psychiatrist told me -" Yes, almost all the depression cases are fully curable just through proper counseling, without or minimal use of drugs. But that is a time consuming process. In advanced countries like America, patients pay exorbitantly for the time of a counselor so that he may take only one or two patients at a time; but here in India, people neither have the time nor they pay that kind of money for the time they take of the counselor. And that makes usage of drugs a primary need in the treatment". Does that suggest earning is primary in psychological treatment, or for that matter the entire medical profession? Why should the time of a professional medical man cost exorbitantly? Why then should there be that Hippocratic oath a medical student is forced to take right in the beginning of his learning? Is that not a farce? And is it not possible to evaluate the time of a professional judiciously?

Now consider this. Most, if not all of psychotic drugs are habit forming with varying degrees and period of intake. Of course, they say that the modern drugs are not habit forming. There is also authentic report that research in psychiatry has seen a sea change in recent times. But I consider even this as a matter of trust, for, there were similar promises, nay, research reports in the past too, about habit forming properties of psychotic drugs. For example when Alprazolam first came into the market as a non-habit forming tranquiliser, prescriptions switched over to it from earlier forms of drugs that were known to be habit forming. This was over 20 years back, and I know people who started taking an alprazolam brand with humble 0.25 Mg strength with good effect, over 20 years back, do not get proper sleep even with 1.5 Mg - 6 times of the initial strength, today, and 20 years of continuous use with increased strength is certainly an addiction, not just habit, is that not? And alprazolam brands are practically sold across the counter (ATC) without a prescription in this country. Think about other more potent drugs.

Coming back to trust and cheating, having been a medical distributor for over ten years, I have known the ratio between an end user's cost (MRP) and a distributor's costs, let alone manufacturer's. It is anywhere from 25% to 75%, a major portion of the margin going to the prescribing medical practitioner in the form of kind and cash incentives. Most of the psychotic drugs fall under higher margin bracket, even over 75%. Most of the psychotic drugs are habit forming, necessitating life time intake. Trust makes the killing in this process of money spinning. Trust cures, if at all. Trust also makes prescribing a necessary part of cure even if they are not needed in many cases. And all this makes a competent psychiatrist an ideal, legal and scrupulous cheat! And the person sticking to true ethical norms is thrown out of business, out of the very system mercilessly within no time, irrespective of the part he plays in the system. Antipropaganda is the most handy and the most effective weapon the unscrupulous elements in the field successfully use against him. Again, in this antithesis too, rumours or trust makes the killing.

The system that generates several lakh crores revenue in this poor country, is more to blame than individual. With full knowledge of this fact I have written this blog. Yet, I refuse to refrain from calling a cheat a cheat!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire

The other day I had been to the Austin Public Library. While scanning through the Philosophy section, this title drew my attention, not only because what it says - 'Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire', but also because of Deepak Chopra, quite some of whose books I have read. That was some three years back. I was gazing at the title for a few long minutes. Is it really possible to fulfill a desire?

This question was making its way through the depths of my mind. Soon it pushed me into a deeply paradoxical situation. If I can really fulfill a desire, - say a promotion in my job or find a suitable woman to marry - does it really stop there? When I get the desire of promotion is fulfilled, my eyes immediately get trained to the next promotion! And if I really get a 'suitable'(There is no such thing as suitable; it is a temporary state of mind driven by prevailing situation or circumstances) woman and marry her, soon the desire of marrying a suitable woman gets replaced by expecting 'good' children. Does desire stop at any stage in life? At this age of 67, I still have desires. It doesn't matter what desires I have, at this age, good or bad, virtuous or dirty, etc., but it does matter to me to understand the impact of desires on my life.

Desire is a basic component of the mind. Desire is rooted in the very process of this mind splitting itself into 'me' and 'my mind(not me?). Hence, so far as this mind prevails, thus far stretches desire.

I am not preaching to stay away or suppress desire. I am not in the belief of "Burn all your desires" culture. I am not preaching celibacy either, another form of suppression. For me desire is a natural instinct of survival. It is the desire that makes me work for food when I am hungry. To get rid of desire is to wish death! Does that mean indulgence? To hoard more than necessary is not desire; it is greed. Indulgence is the result of greed; Over eating, for example. Greed is the root of all violence. It is in understanding my desire, separate from greed, without the influence of any social, cultural or traditional values, virtuous impositions, at a deeper level, at the very origin of my desire, that my life thrives. It is these given values that turn simple living desires into greed. Because at this level, where there is no influences and biases, you will be able to differentiate between desire and greed and the vital part played by fear between these two states of mind.

But is it possible to think without any influence - social, cultural, racial or hereditary values?...without a sense of sinning?...without a sense of pride and virtue? It is! Because all values are given to the mind; there are no internally created values, virtues and sins. In the process of discovering the truth of this statement there is the possibility to rid this mind at least for a moment from all its given values. And in this precise moment lies the meaning of life with all its desires and fulfillment; not in burning your desires.

All said and done, I did not take the book from the library, perhaps being well versed with Deepak Chopra style of teachings the desire to read one more of Deepak Chopra got burnt by itself; perhaps there was spontaneous fulfillment of the desire!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Date With Death - From The Memory Lane - 2

Having lived a checkered life with frequent change of profession, at this age of 67, perhaps I have many
interesting experiences to share with the world.

A very senior cousin of my wife's had burnt his fingers in attempting rather a large scale venture of tobacco farming in late sixties. When the company wound up within a short period incurring heavy losses, being the main promoter this old gentleman had to shoulder the burden of making good of a major portion of debts. In return he got some dry lands, which fell barren for a long period of over 15 years. It was not one single piece but small and big pieces scattered along a string of small villages by the side of dense forests. Having incurred losses, this gentleman had a wish to develop at least one piece of the lands he owned, not to make up his losses but for the pleasure of seeing at least a green garden out of the losses. Being still active in a couple of big businesses (upper middle class) along with a lot of social and community services, this fellow could not materialise his dreams himself. His age - then 60+, now nearly 90 -his search for the right man to take up the job failed. I came to know of it late in 1985. I took up the challenge in 1986 living almost alone on the lands since my children in different stages of school and college had to live in city and were taken care of by their maternal grand mother, a widow having no male children. As it necessitated, my wife was alternating between the farm and the house in the city like a visiting guest to both her husband and children.

I was reasonably successful in raising a horticulture farm. The first thing I did after constructing a small farm house was digging an open well at the lowest corner of the land. In fact, a piece of less than a quarter of an acre was bought at exorbitant cost for this very purpose of digging a well as striking water at the spot was almost certain as it was situated near a natural tank. The total acreage of the lands was 36, all dry sandy loam. There was no irrigation and agriculture was solely dependent on rain fall which was medium and erratic. So horticulture was the best option as also the land was on the slope of a hill having little or no retention of rain water. Water was struck at a depth of 30 feet and I dug the well with a diameter of 50 feet. (A swimming pool?!). In the dead of summer the water recuperation was 40,000 litres in 24 hours. With proper water management this kind of supply should be sufficient to develop the entire 36 acres into a horticulture farm, which I did in stages. At the time when the circumstances forced me to leave the farm after a ten year toil, the garden had 500 coconut plants some of which just had started yielding, 350 mango plants of four best varieties of the region, which were already in the third year of yielding, 500 pomegranates of a very successful hybrid variety of those days, seedlings of which I personally procured from Sangli, Maharashtra and there were a few dozens of other fruits such as jack fruit, sapota (chickoo) cashew etc. It was at this juncture of vacating the farm I survived a murder and decoity attempt. My wife was with me at the farm.

It so happened that rumours got spread in the surrounding villages that after leaving the farm I would start a money lending business in Shimoga city. Three of the servants who worked for me for over 3 years each, thought I had abundant cash (you see, I was going to start lending business as per the info they collected) and had kept it at the farm house! The leader of this gang of three was a very trusted servant and had free access even to my bed room where I kept my double barrel gun hanging on the wall, always loaded. In fact this gun helped all human and wild animal threats in the beginning. People of the surrounding villages thought I was a retired army man and I did not try to clear the misconception, because in rural India people generally think that army personnel have licence to kill! This misconception helped me greatly.

That evening after fixing a bigger rented house in the city, I returned to the farm in my motorcycle by nightfall with my wife. No sooner we parked the bike, a small boy came from nowhere and delivered a slip and told me that some unknown people had come to see me and delivered the slip asking him to pass it on to me on my return. I opened the door, emptied the motorcycle boxes of the goods which I had to fetch from city from time to time, went to the bath room and lighted the gober gas stove below the boiler. I used to take bath in the evening after the works were over. There was no power, a usual thing to which we were accustomed. Lighted a candle and while changing the dress I took out the slip from the pocket. It was written in a very childish language. But the text could be clearly understood. I quickly looked at the wall where the the gun was hanging. It was not there! Raised my head towards the ceiling at the corner; the open door to the attic was staring at me; a few stars in the dark sky were visible through the gap of a couple of removed tiles. Panic started to set in. The very thing that had given me enormous courage, my gun was absent and the note said if I did not send my wife with all cash and valuables at 11 o'clock to a lonely place on the top of the hillock behind the house, both of us would be shot dead. The note also warned me not to use the phone, as the decoits were hiding in the bushes very near to the house and would come to know if I talked over phone.

Even though the phone connection was given to me on priority considering my situation living alone away from any human settlement at least by 2 kilometers, the line used to remain dead most of the time. There were 27 pylons erected to lay the line to connect from the main road which was three kilometers away from the house. I had to go personally to the rural exchange at a small town 7 Kms away to complain every time when the line went off. Those days there was no cell phone and BSNL, then DoT, was monopolistic service provider for telecommunication. I don't think I need to explain the quality of DoT service in those days, but the lineman at Sowlanga, where the rural exchange stood was a nice and compassionate man.would attend my complaint at the earliest. But his availability was always a problem as he was in charge of over half a dozen villages spread over some 15 Kms area. My phone was out of order for the previous 5 days and I could not contact Puttanna, the lineman. Only that morning while going to Shimoga, I had gone to his house and told his wife to tell Puttanna to set right my telephone line. He had already gone to some other village to make a new connection.

With much fears, not because the decoits would listen but because if the line was not working at all, I lifted the receiver and to my good luck there was dial tone and the trunk call, - yes, it was STD, not a direct call to Shimoga, but got immediately connected. That much was pure, a great luck as proved later. I kept myself very calm once the line got connected and my contact in Shimoga came on line. I briefly told him that I am in extreme danger and to fetch as many people as possible as fast as he could. The next two hours were felt like a millennium! The decoits did not come to know of my calling Shimoga and were waiting for 11 o'clock, hiding in the bushes very next behind the house and they simply fled as soon as they heard the sound of the Jeep and saw the head lights directed towards the farm from a distance. This we came to know only the next day when one of the three was caught by the police.

The Jeep arrived by 10:30 with six men prepared and ready to face any situation. That kind of the contact I had in Shimoga. Four of them remained with us and two went to the police station which was at the taluk headquarters 18 Kms away. Police came at around 12 midnight, but in the pitch darkness could not make a search even though they had come equipped with arms. Next morning one fellow was caught hiding in the forests. The whereabouts of the other two were not known. The gun was recovered, cartridges intact inside the barrel, thrown in a bush on the hillock while fleeing from the scene. The one caught by the police explained later during interrogation that they, - all three were my trusted servants, - planned to murder both of us even if we had surrendered and run away to Bombay the same night with the (imagined) booty!

Preciuos power did not arrive throughout!

Without a second thought we vacated the farm and moved to Shimoga the very next day without waiting for the preplanned date; we were given the keys to the new house the previous day. I am happy to have survived to write this account today.

It took full two years for me to get back my weapon through court. I have still retained it and as always it is loaded and lying in my bedroom!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How Civilised Is This Civil Society We Live In?

Sometimes I seriously think of stopping my subscription to daily newspaper simply because each morning there is very disturbing news on the front page without fail. Why spoil the mood right in the morning, haahn? Just look at some of the front page headlines in today's Deccan Herald. "Hindu groups big threat: Rahul"; "Girl child sacrificed in Mangalore" (with a picture of a room containing tantra - black magic - materials); "Maoists massacre 7 Forward Bloc members (with picture of a few scattered dead bodies). And there are many news items inside the paper, which are so disturbing that the very meaning of civilisation becomes questionable.

The first thing I do everyday after scanning the front page headlines is solving the day's SU-DO-KU. The mental exercise prepares me to read the news columns with a sane and stable mind. After solving SU-DO-KU, I straight away go through the letters to the editor section. That makes me feel that we still have truly concerned intellectuals around us.

State Governor fights with incumbent government like a stooge of the opposition party, editorial column fearlessly calls ex-CJI a liar in the context of the retired CJI denying the allegations made by the Madras high court chief justice with documentary proof regarding the latest and biggest 2G scam, a renowned columnist promoting Dalit cause laments not because 2G scam happened but because the king pin in the scam is a dalit!

There are intellectuals like Arundhati Roy declaring her support to Marxists while they were killing security guards at will right in the middle of busy public streets and daring the government to arrest her, soon declaring that Kashmir is a free land and the government doing nothing. And there are secularists and human rights activists supporting freedom of expression when M.F.Hussain painted Hindu gods in the nude, abundantly displaying his cowardice by not painting similarly the revered icons of other religions.

The supreme court says in a passing remark on record that Bombay high court has something rotten, to which the Bombay high court not only expresses its displeasure but also legally appeals to the supreme court to expunge the remark from records and the supreme court outright rejects the plea making me liken the spat with some 5th grade pupils.

One Julian Assange succeeds in breaking all Internet security codes and reveals to the world documentary proof of the most disgusting things that happen between world governments in secrecy.

God men and religious gurus living in most irreligious materialistic ways are brought to the notice of unsuspecting devotees with documentary proof such as video clips which the gurus deny as concocted or doctored. One of the most popular guru having the widest following aspires to become the prime minister of the nation to bring back the black money stashed away in Swiss banks, which is said to be so huge that India needs no tax collection to run the administration for the next 30 years.

No! I am not depressed. I am only wondering if at all we are a civil society. I wonder if so called intellect is one more illusory creation of the stupid greedy mind!

Only very little is said in this article; lot more remains unsaid. After all, me, an old junk forgetful and unfit to live in this civilised society!

Friday, December 17, 2010

From The Memory Lane - 1

A lot of things pop up from the memory store during normal daily events. Of late, I have been thinking of putting at least some of them in words. So, this could be first of a series I hope to blog. Read on.

I am regular on the walking track of the residential park here since long, for both my morning and evening walks. Mornings I walk more and simply return home after the walk but in the evening I walk less and then take a seat for awhile. It has been during this period many people - old and young - made friends with me. Almost all of their first question has been - "Excuse me sir, are you a retired army personnel?" A six-footer with straight and erect body, disciplined style of walking with firm steps is natural to me and this perhaps makes people think I am retired army man and ask that question. I tell them the truth that I am retired small time businessman, having never been in military service. They could not hide their surprise.

This is how I have made quite some friends, some casual, some indulging in serious talks and some others feeling safe to reveal their innermost secrets to me! Otherwise, I am usually a shy loner almost never making the first move with strangers.

That military thing brings back an old memory to the fore. During my second year B.Sc. at St. Aloysius College of Mangalore I was a junior NCC cadet earning accolades from my seniors and the coach from Indian  Army. A conditional Short Service Commission offer came from the Indian Army for outstanding NCC cadets. The condition was that not only the degree should be completed at first attempt but also a senior grade certificate exam of the NCC should be passed. These two things were not much of a bother to me. But a third condition that my parent or guardian as the case maybe, should consent my joining the army in writing, because I was still a student irrespective of my age - minor or a major, legally. My big brother, my guardian in the absence of my late father refused to sign the statement in my commission application. There ended the matter. Let alone me the youngest, nobody in the family dared to talk against the wishes of my big brother.

People still thinking that I am a retired army man makes me look back at this incident and rue over my bad luck! For a brief moment I get depressed, - if my brother allowed me to join  the army I could have climbed up the ladder, I could have got many medals for valour, why, I could even have become regular on service without retiring after a short period. I could have made a successful army career. I feel sad for having missed the opportunity.

I think every person, irrespective of his/her level of knowledge, spirituality, social or administrative position however high, still rues over missed opportunity. I am sure the so called Godmen are not exception to this natural behavior of the mind. If you say you do not have any regrets for the past, I dare to say you are cheating yourself; none else!

The funny thing I notice every time when I indulge in this nonsense - I have lot many missed opportunities in life to rue, don't you? - I rue over only the good things I missed along with the opportunity. In the case in focus, what if I return home maimed for life? If dead by an enemy bullet, or bomb on the war front nothing is left to rue. Also what if I or my health failed to adjust with weather of the place of my posting? Above all, would I compromise with my most cherished principles if I am placed in a position of easy inflow of bribe?

Mind creates only good or happy things about past and rues, why? Desire and satisfaction are ever elusive, aren't they? Mind never stops desiring nor can it be satisfied. So how do I manage myself in such a reality of life? To me, acquiring the ability to see one's own thoughts without judgements, without criticism, as if the thought is of somebody else, totally unconcerned to me gives me much more clarity in seeing life; takes me much more closer to the reality. So, I never condemn myself for having such thoughts of missed opportunities. I clearly see that it is only a passing state of mind with an ability to bounce back to the present and that is why I always call this mind petty, little, shallow, and stupid! Any takers?