What it means to be living…

I was watching a documentary on creation of synthetic life on discovery channel and at the end of the film they put a very pertinent question : from time memorial we have believed that life is something special and mysterious but if it can be created within a lab we may have to rethink our theories on existence, life, nature and God.

Sometime back I had read a book called the Web of life in which the author had pointed out that while we think of ourselves as central to the world around us , we are in fact an accident in the nature’s scheme of things. It is the atoms within us which have decided for some unknown reason to arrange themselves in a certain manner that gives us our shape, form, color, emotions,skills and intellect. If they decide to rearrange themselves in a different way there is jolly little we can do about it except get mad or sick or even perish and become non existent giving back to the elements what we took from them.To that extent our intelligence, beauty(handsomeness), morality, emotions are all governed by the arrangement of atoms and molecules within us. As we grow older this arrangement perhaps changes in more ways than one and we become different not only by getting old by by having more wisdom from the experiences stored in our data warehouse.The quality of analytics depends upon the quality of data and the richness of data points and so is the case with our mind.

Before I digress from the original thought let us turn to the interesting bit – if what is being proposed in Paragraph1 is possible even to a small degree then what I have quoted in para 2 doesn’t entirely hold true. Which is to say that if the atoms within me start arranging themselves which causes me pain from arthritis I could seek a remedy or even a cure from the artificial life cells and atoms within them. So on one side there is an attacking army which I do not own and has decided to fight against me but on the other side I have an army of my own that can be trained and programmed to do as I please,wish or command.This is different from antibiotics which are temporarily hired mercenaries who will cause more harm than good if not ousted from the system in time. And when your heart breaks you can go to the ‘love doctor’ and he will fix up the atoms so that you become completely oblivious to the person whom you once thought be the most important in life. Alcohol is currently used for this but again it has a transitory effect and is not free from side effects.

It might seem to be like a simple story of good vs. bad or love vs. hate but it is anything but that. It is really the theory of our existence and the very meaning of it. If we can always be happy and healthy then why go to the mosques, the temples and the churches ? Who will bother about God and seek his Blessing ? Death and decay cause fear and fear gives rise to ideas of another life, another time , another place that is accessible through the idea of a supreme being who created everything and can therefore control it whether it is on the earth or in heaven. Religion and morality which occupy a large share of our consciousness and mind space will be gone as now there will be no need for a means to attain bliss or God. You can see this now if you compare the importance of religion in the developed,the developing world and the tribals who have nothing to bank upon but the Sky and earth.

When You are always happy and healthy and you have what it takes to enjoy life to the fullest. Feeling stupid get your brain scanned and go for some Brainy cells, Feeling weak go and get some Sporty cells, Got a disease get it flushed and replace the diseased cells with good ones and so on.

But one problem will still remain – if no one dies then where will all of us live. And if we stop reproducing where will the newness in our lives come from ? and even if we suppose that we will keep rotating the same people in different parts of the world for a change who will look after such a complex system of transfers ? Also what will it mean to love if You cannot start a family or live with the same person till the end of your days as there are no end of the days anymore ? In suspended time where all people are always there humans may become like mountains seas and rivers till one day someone says enough I want to die so I can give my life a meaning. And then more and more may follow so that they can laugh and cry and strive and achieve and love and hate and live and die.

The one who preaches death as a means of salvation – finding meaning will probably become Deepak Chopra in the new world and you will have a number of Nityanands cropping up to give solution to the ever living souls trying to find some meaning in continuing to live forever without death and disease.

So what am I trying to say here….nothing great really perhaps Craig Venter should put me on a panel that advises him on how to use this new technology so it makes sense for the people and profits for him.

And then the same can be passed on to the Angels who I am sure have started to feel bored sitting and smiling there in heaven for centuries now….

Being straight and not straightened

Here is something I found on You tube.

I do not subscribe to the views expressed in the video and this is being put up by me just for the sake of reference as many others I have interacted with have similar notions.

Personally,whenever I have tried to explore Islam , I have found it to be a very repressive philosophy -arcane in its expression and orthodox in its approach.Going through the verses of Quran , it feels like you are going through a manual of Do’s and Dont’s  which tells you how to act in times of strife.It seems quite opposed to my idea of a religion.

Even though what Churchill says is not free from his own prejudices , his point about Islam being more of a cult rather than a religion as it does not allow self exploration and inquiry strikes a chord in an interesting way. Hinduism and Budhhism both give a lot of emphasis on looking inward and challenging yourself to find the truth in you.Islam on the other hand offers a philosophy in which others and their view of you seems to be central to your existence.I am really aghast sometimes the way women and their freedom is dealt with.Are they not children of the same God??

As a Hindu religion is personal to me and I find it hard to subscribe to a point of view which forces discipline on others around you while discouraging knowledge of your own self.

I believe in Being straight and not straightened as Marcus Aurelius has said.

I am reading more to understand one thing – if a billion people believe in Islam so ardently ,there has to be more to it than what I know. Coming from a very tolerant Hindu background I find the ways of Islam quite bitter and aggressive but then I find myself being drawn to Sufism time and again.

A word of Caution on Churchill’s speech: We must remember that it’s the same Churchill who uttered all kinds of statements about India and Hindus , Brahmins in particular.Here’s what noted Historian Ramachandra Guha writes in the Hindu :


And being a drunkard and a womanizer himself it is understandable that he found the tenets of Islam particularly annoying.

Anyway being honest to the spirit of inquiry is what will finally  remove all doubts – for or against and that’s exactly what my pursuit is going to be.

Children of a playful god

Have been on the road for a while and did not get much time to post anything.Between airport lounges,boardroom meetings and Taxi rides it struck me that most of the people I met with,looked at or came across were trying to prove a point ,to themselves if not to anyone else.

I am a business Manager                             DSC02424

I am a Vice President

I am a go getter

I am an achiever

What no one seemed to exhibit was a simple statement which perhaps drives whatever we do in Life.All this while I felt a very strong urge to stand up and shout :

I am Happy,I am at peace with myself,I am joyous about the world around me.I am…..just I am.

I guess saying that would mean stepping down from my current status of a harassed,overworked,struggling,upwardly mobile executive.I am none of that and I do not wish to be any of that.I just wish to be me not judged by anyone,not playing to live up to my image,not answering anyone or asking any questions to others.Just existing and being alive,aware.

I have always found happiness to be a very rational and logical choice.There is a lot to be gained if I keep myself amused as the world passes by  and there is everything to be lost if I chose to crib and sulk.I am not saying that I do not indulge in those activities but I am always aware that I am doing it for the sake of it.Deep down I am unmoved,unchallenged.

Its Janamashtmi today and sadly enough I will be arriving home well after Lord Krishna is ‘born’. Through his life Krishna gave a message be playful,be joyous,to have nothing to loose or to gain.We have many lives.There IS no hurry.Be patient,enjoy the journey.

I had a debate with a friend who was reading Bertrand Russel’s treatise on religion.He asked me the question : why did God create the world ?And I told him what Tulsidas said when he was asked why did he write Ramcharitmanas : Swantah Sukhaya which simply translates : for his sheer satisfaction/pleasure.There cannot be any other reason.This is why we do most of the things we do and perhaps it applies to our creator too.If you consider it God does not have to go through an appraisal process so he ‘HAD’ to create the world else he will be given a lower rating.There is no one who can force him to do anything.He does not owe anyone of us a favor so what else ?He could not believe it and said it is a silly assumption.Well I believe in it as it is the only thing that gives meaning to my life and all that happens around me.I cannot otherwise explain the death,disease and the misery.Just like in a video game you keep playing for pleasure and do not mind if you loose a life ,being alive or dead cease to have  a context when you know that it is just a game in which each player has as many lives as there could be till he gets the perfect score,Nirvana,Moksha or whatever else you may call it !

So what have I done about it ??Nothing just been playful doing things for my own pleasure.

I hanged the showpiece in my company guest house in a funny posture and asked the caretaker to make sure it doesn’t change till my next trip.He thought I had lost it and I loved the expression on his face.

I realigned the basketballs at Reebok Office in a certain manner which I thought was funny while waiting for the meeting to start.Those who worked in that office thought something was weird but could not figure out what.I was amused yet again.

I made faces at a 5 year old riding back from school dressed in Krishna attire…………she teased me back.

I smiled .Both of us were children of a playful God.

** I wrote this post on the free internet connection provided at the Airport Lounge at Delhi and saved Rs.30 worth of internet time 🙂

Nirvana Shatkam – Adi Shankara

I learned the Nirvana Shatakam as part of my education in Chinmaya Mission.Since then it has remained etched in my mind.I really treasure each word of this blissful text by Adi Shankaracharya.Attached video has tranlation by Swami Vivekannanda and is also sung beautifully in classical Indian style.

It is also known as Atma Shatkam and describes the enlightened state of mind or “samadhi”

मनोबुध्यहंकार चिताने नाहं । न च श्रोतजिव्हे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।
न च व्योमभूमी न तेजू न वायु । चिदानंदरुप शिवोहं शिवोहं ॥ १ ॥

I am neither the mind, nor the intellect, nor the ego, nor the mind-stuff;
I am neither the body, nor the changes of the body;
I am neither the senses of hearing, taste, smell, or sight,
Nor am I the ether, the earth, the fire, the air;
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute

I am He, I am He. (Shivoham, Shivoham).

न च प्राण संज्ञो न वै पंचवायुः । न वा सप्तधातुर्न वा पंचकोश ।
न वाक् पाणी पादौ न चोपस्य पायु । चिदानंदरुप शिवोहं शिवोहं ॥ २ ॥

I am neither the Prana, nor the five vital airs;
I am neither the materials of the body, nor the five sheaths;
Neither am I the organs of action, nor object of the senses;
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute –

I am He, I am He. (Shivoham, Shivoham).

न मे द्वेष रागो न मे लोभ मोहौ । मदे नैव मे नैव मात्सर्यभाव ।
न धर्मो न चार्थो न कामो न मोक्ष । चिदानंदरुप शिवोहं शिवोहं ॥ ३ ॥

I have neither aversion nor attachment, neither greed nor delusion;
Neither egotism nor envy, neither Dharma nor Moksha;
I am neither desire nor objects of desire;
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute –

I am He, I am He. (Shivoham, Shivoham).

न पुण्यं न पापं न सौख्यं न दुःखम् । न मंत्रो न तीर्थ न वेदा न यज्ञाः ।
अहं भोजनं नैव भोज्यं न भोक्ता । चिदानंदरुप शिवोहं शिवोहं ॥ ४ ॥

I am neither sin nor virtue, neither pleasure nor pain;
Nor temple nor worship, nor pilgrimage nor scriptures,
Neither the act of enjoying, the enjoyable nor the enjoyer;
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute –

I am He, I am He. (Shivoham, Shivoham).

न मे मृत्यू न मे जातीभेदः । पिता नैव मे नैव माता न जन्मः ।
न बंधुर्न मित्रं गुरू नैव शिष्यः । चिदानंदरुप शिवोहं शिवोहं ॥ ५॥

I have neither death nor fear of death, nor caste;
Nor was I ever born, nor had I parents, friends, and relations;
I have neither Guru, nor disciple;
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute –

I am He, I am He. (Shivoham, Shivoham).

अहं निर्विकल्पो निराकार रूपो । विभुत्वाच्च सर्वत्र सर्वेंद्रियाणां ।
सदा मे समत्वं न मुक्तिर्न बंध । चिदानंदरुप शिवोहं शिवोहं ॥ ६ ॥

I am untouched by the senses, I am neither Mukti nor knowable;
I am without form, without limit, beyond space, beyond time;
I am in everything; I am the basis of the universe; everywhere am I.
I am Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute –
I am He, I am He. (Shivoham, Shivoham).

Do whatever you will..

Do whatever you will, but first be such as are able to will.

We often hear inexperienced youngsters defining freedom as being able to do what they want.The myth is perpetuated by ads of brands pretending to be selling stuff that liberates you from the shackles of your confinement parents,college,rules,society.I have heard this interpretation of freedom so many times that it is not only cliched but appears to be outright dumb.

The first question that one must ask – freedom to do what ? To drink,smoke,have sex,speed bikes and well that’s it.It’s nothing ! It’s reducing yourself to a silly pygmy.Anyone can do these so what’s the big deal?

That’s why I like Jim Morrison so much.In one of his poems he says :

Lying on stained wretched sheets with a bleeding virgin,you can start a religion or plan a murder.

That’s being able to will and be free from limitations of your own mind.The struggle for freedom is individual and has nothing to do with do’s and dont’s prescribed by the external world.The spirit is free to explore outside the mind,body and intellect – good and bad are just definitions.