What’s Awesome?

For an American everything is awesome. There is no friendly conversation between two people without using the word awesome.This expression in everyday use seems to convey merely a little element of surprise accompanied by approval – nothing more or nothing less!
Overuse of this expression by Americans and now all over the English-speaking world robbed the word of its original rich significance.

If one looks into the origin of the word, till perhaps a century back, this was used only in a context which provoked extreme wonder in a person – that is when one is wonder-struck. To be sure, it’s an emotion which creates a sense of wonder or a feeling of self-transcendence. In other words when you are awestruck, you forget yourself and identify yourself with something larger than your limited self. Typically, this is experienced when one sees a wonderful natural scene like, say, a Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, to take a couple of famous examples.

Our mythological stories present many examples of feelings of genuine awesomeness.To take one famous example, all of us know what happens to Arjuna when Krishna presents before him the entire Universe with all its immensity. Arjuna was terrified and might well have told Krishna: You are awesome, Krishna! or something equivalent in Sanskrit. (Someone remarked half in jest it was as if Arjuna was on a LSD trip!).
One can pick several such examples from our mythology or any other mythology.

Here are a few more real examples of awesomeness when you discover certain insights about ownership in our material world. When someone recently told me he owns a car, I told him – No, You don’t. The car owns you. How?, asked my friend. I said: The car is the master and You are a slave. The car makes demands on your time and money. If the car gets scratches, you cry. If it gets dented, you lose your peace of mind and attend to it immediately. This is true of any ownership – a house, a company or whatever. The ownership is merely a construct of the mind. Who is a house-holder, for example? Not you, surely. The house is holding you, binding you and making demands on you. You are just a slave. The ownership of anything is only an imagination. ( Please note this not a value judgment on ownership. This is only a statement of reality!)

A somewhat similar insight appears in Vedanta(Taitriya Upanishad). It asks: What is Annam or food? Is it something eaten by you? The Upanishad says: No, Annam is something that eats you. How is that? Simple. Annam nourishes you when you are an infant and during your growing years. But the same Annam after a certain age will slowly eat you up especially if you eat greedily or indiscriminately.

These insights, when one discovers for the first time, are indeed awesome. They are awesome because they make you see a different dimension of reality which you haven’t considered before. They can shake you up and help you get a different perspective on life.

Science and its discoveries too give great feelings of awesomeness. Richard Feynman, the Nobel prize-winning physicist once remarked:
I have a friend who is an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “ Look how beautiful it is”. Then he says “ I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing”. And I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is……I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty….. There is also beauty at smaller dimensions. The fact that the colours in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that the insects can see the colour. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? All kinds of questions which shows that a science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Steven Pinker, a famous cognitive psychologist, offers awesome insights on how our legs are designed(by nature). While most of us take the design of our legs for granted, he talks about how they function thus:
“Human legs come with a heavy price: the software to control them….A leg has to change its point of support all at once, and the weight has to be unloaded to do so. The motors controlling a leg have to alternate between keeping the foot on the ground while it bears and propels the load and taking the load off to make the leg free to move. All the while they have to keep the center of gravity of the body within the polygon defined by the feet so the body doesn’t topple over”.
And yet, in spite of all this complexity to see that we have well-functioning legs is awesome!

As Confucius said: A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace.
To this I may add: A dumb man will not marvel at anything – neither at uncommon things nor at the commonplace.

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Published in: on July 8, 2018 at 11:53 pm  Comments (2)  
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Imp of the Perverse – Emotion versus Reason

We frequently encounter situations in life where we find that the behaviour of others is utterly irrational. We often exclaim in exasperation: “Why do they behave the way they do with the full knowledge that it will harm them”. Funnily, We do not notice such irrationality in our own behaviour. It’s always about the others. The implication is that we know it all and we never fall into such traps. When people insist on an answer to the question as to why people behave irrationally on occasions when they know that a certain behaviour is positively harmful, my answer is very simple. I say: “Because they cannot help it”! Before you dismiss this answer as evasive, let me present before you how philosophers and psychologists handled this question.

Edgar Poe, the 19th century American author and poet, writes in one of his interesting short stories(Imp of the perverse) about self- destructive impulses that we all possess and how we often commit acts which are not in our self-interest. The narrator of the story – imp of the perverse – murders a man using a candle which emits poisonous vapours in the victim’s a poorly ventilated bed room. Since there is no evidence of any murder,the coroner declares that it is an act of God. The murderer inherits the victim’s estate and enjoys the wealth for several years. Although the murderer remains free from any suspicion, he keeps repeating to himself – I’m safe as long as I do not foolishly confess. One day, a thought haunts him. He questions himself repeatedly – am I capable of confessing? Fearfully, he starts running around in the street arousing suspicion in the minds of people. They chase him and stop him. He feels as though struck by an inner demon or an evil spirit and blurts out the whole story of his murder. Having confessed, he faints and when he wakes up, people tell him he has already made a confession. He gets convicted for the murder.
The author of this story, much before the famous psychologists Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung talked about our dark Unconscious, theorized that we all have such self-destructive tendencies which make us act against our self interests.

As I write this, I recall an old funny incident which took place in our college. It was a chemistry practical class. Our demonstrator brought a very fragile glass apparatus and wanted to explain the safety aspects before starting the experiment. He was saying – “This is a very fragile and expensive glass equipment …you guys have to handle this very carefully.. absolutely carefully….” and all of a sudden he drops the very equipment he was proudly showing us and asking us to handle carefully. The thought that he should not drop the glass apparatus was very much in his working memory all the time and he did just the opposite.

This is what Daniel Wegner, a Harvard professor, talks about in his famous article in Science magazine titled – “How to think, say and do precisely the wrong thing”. Yes, we all think, say and do things against our interests.

I’m sure we all have experiences to narrate from our personal lives. For instance, we may go to a party telling ourselves that we shall NOT touch the dessert. We would keep repeating this to ourselves but the moment we see the spread of desserts, we would sheepishly follow our friends standing in a line and precisely do what we were hoping to avoid.

Psychologist Haidt, from the university of Virginia, describes this metaphorically like this. We all have a conscious rational mind and unconscious emotional mind. He compares the emotional mind to an elephant while the rational part is the Rider. That is, every human being has a Rider & an Elephant representing Reason and Emotion respectively.

The elephant cannot be overpowered by the rider because it is trained over millions of years of evolution to work on auto pilot mode without any effort or consumption of energy. On the other hand the rider, our Conscious mind, relies on exercise of sheer will power which is an exhaustible resource. Will power will work in the absence of temptations and when the mind is fresh. When the conscious mind is overloaded with work, it gets tired and that is the time when the elephant can easily overrule the rider. The rider is like a muscle power and any muscle can get tired under work load. Under those circumstances, the rider fails to either coax or distract the elephant. In that moment of vulnerability, the elephant can easily overcome the rider and make you do what you were hoping to avoid at all costs!

Talking of philosophers, David Hume, a famous Scottish philosopher was closer to the truth than Plato when he said, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” Neurobiology says precisely the same thing. The rider representing conscious thought is a mere advisor, not a master. The master is really the elephant. The elephant includes the gut feelings, visceral reactions, emotions, and intuitions.

Is there a way out, then? Reason and emotion must both work together to create intelligent behavior. For this to happen, there are no easy solutions. Becoming aware of this conflict and pitfall is the very first step, obviously.. Then the solutions may appear and one may succeed with a bit of intelligent hard work. Firstly, knowing its limitations, the rider can consciously avoid situations where it comes into conflict with emotions. If it’s not possible to avoid a conflict, the rider can play an advisory or a trainer role for the elephant over a period of time so that the new behaviour works on an auto pilot mode. How do we do that? Here’s an example from my personal experience:

Several years back, I decided to give up all bakery foods knowing they are ALL processed and therefore bad(processed foods are generally rich in carbohydrates and have chemical preservatives). But then my elephant would not listen. Every time I went to a super market, my elephant would demand and get biscuits and bread. The rider, as an advisor, would take a lenient view and let the elephant have fun. My rider did not give up for long, though. It presented a logic to the elephant saying how the biscuits are processed and why they are bad for health etc. This logic presented over and over made the elephant develop disgust for these foods. I realized developing disgust is the key. As many would know, disgust is a very powerful emotion that an elephant possesses. It was developed evolutionarily millions of years back as a survival tool against toxic and poisonous foods that are generally bitter in taste. It’s through disgust that non-vegetarians turn into vegetarians. So, the rider should often use this emotion to retrain the elephant. That’s precisely what I did to get rid of the elephant’s craving for bakery foods. That’s a big victory for the rider and today, I don’t have to make any effort at all to keep away from Bakery foods. I just pass through those shelves as though they do not exist!!

Published in: on June 24, 2018 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Are you motivating or demotivating? Here’s a simple Insight

Recently we got an exciting news of my cousin’s daughter being awarded  president’s medal for educational excellence in the US. Thanks to the social media, the news spread very fast and soon congratulatory messages started pouring in. I found it interesting to go through the messages. While most of the messages were simple in congratulating the kid, I found a couple of messages rather odd. One message talks about the brilliance of the kid while the other one says: You belong to such and such a family and so you ought to do well! I found the second message particularly odd. By bringing in family pride, you are not giving credit where it belongs. The achievement is purely a result of her hard work and she, as a person, deserves all the praise for the hard work and achievement. In any case modern science has dismissed all theories of superiority or inferiority of any specific race or tribe over others.

What about the other messages saying – You must be smart or you’re brilliant. At first sight, it may sound innocuous. In fact these are meant to boost the confidence or self-esteem of the kid or anyone for that matter. But, according to monumental research carried out by Stanford Psychologist (Carol Dweck), such well-meaning comments will have a negative impact on the kid. Carol Dweck published her findings in her famous book titled Mindset. I would highly recommend this book to all parents and indeed to all people playing the role of motivating others. In this post I will briefly summarize a few points relevant to our discussion:

What is wrong if a kid is praised for his or her great achievement? Carol Dweck coined two key expressions – Fixed mindset and growth mindset. Let me elaborate. The argument goes that when you praise some one saying he is smart or brilliant, the message one receives is the following: “If I’m successful, I’m smart….If I fail, I’m dumb. Will I succeed or fail. Will I look smart or dumb”. This is an example of a fixed mindset where the person has just one consuming goal , that is, to look smart! So, you will avoid taking any challenging assignment fearing failure. Also, “if I’m brilliant, there is no need  to work hard”. Such people believe their talents are carved in stone! They would start believing they are perfect (Carol Dweck calls this the CEO Disease!)

This is the fixed mindset with its disastrous consequences. There is no growth here since you cannot afford to fail at all.

The fact of the matter is that any big achievement, such as getting the presidential medal for educational excellence, is made possible by focused hard work. Mere brilliance will not win medals!

On the other hand, consider how a kid will receive a message such as: “Great, you must have worked very hard to achieve this”. The kid will say to himself or herself: “Yes, my hard work has paid dividends. I must keep working hard to maintain this level of achievement”. Eventually, working hard to achiever one’s potential becomes one’s passionate goal.

This is the growth mindset that she talks about.

Mind you, the conclusions drawn by Carol Dweck are not her opinions. They are based on hard-nosed research over several years.

The book reveals how, as genuine motivators with good intentions, we still make simple mistakes which can prove costly!

Published in: on June 15, 2018 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chinna Chinna Aasai – Little Pleasures of Life

Teeny-Weeny dreams and simple pleasures are the stuff of which our lives are made. Children show us how to make the most of the present.

In this post I have put together a few fun pictures of my grandchildren which I enjoyed:

Here’s the amazing expression that my granddaughter showed when she got her first tattoo of her life – it’s a tattoo of a lion and then a monkey. The expression combines several emotions – surprise, happiness, awe, wonder – all rolled into one. I bet FB or Whatsup cannot come up with any emoticon to describe such a loaded expression. Look at her dilated pupils:

Next, it’s the turn of my grandson to show off – He insists on carrying his daycare bag containing all his valuables like diapers, change of clothes, lunch etc.!  Why not?

 

 

Here the little one is trying to show he can drink his milk straight from a big vessel with equal ease and facility. Yes, it’s a perfect demo of  – “whatever you can do, I can do better”:

 

 

Here’s a selfie by the little one. Yes, in the game of one-upmanship, he will win hands-down. (Don’t ask me how he managed the selfie. It’s a secret he is not prepared to divulge)

 

 

 

The lil’ one seems to say – Look how I help my mom clear the kitchen:

 

Here’s my Happy hour with my uncle in Chennai:

 

Isn’t he saying here – “My sister has a monkey tattoo – Yes, I’m the monkey in her tattoo”!

 

Hey, this is the ultimate in relaxation – lying down in a basket that just fits me and me alone:

 

It’s story time – a time to let all bygones be bygones, forget about all fights during the day, sit back, relax and enjoy!

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A great moment of Nostalgia for the elders – here’s  yet another generation enjoying the evergreen song of Rajkapoor – Mera  Joota hai Japani!

 

Finally, in a contemplative mood after listening to an interesting mythological story, I guess:

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Published in: on May 13, 2018 at 5:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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Hamburg – An Interesting City

Some cities in Europe are very well-known and talked about. So they become popular tourist destinations like, for instance, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Venice, Vienna, Florence, just to name a few. On the other hand there are quite a few cities which are little talked about in spite of the fact that they are interesting. They may have everything that is needed to attract tourists like great history, heritage structures, well-preserved historical architecture, museums etc. Still they do not capture the imagination of tourists. I will add Hamburg to this list. I never heard of this city as an attractive tourist place. So when I visited this place recently for a technical conference, I hardly had any intention to do any sight-seeing. Reluctantly, on the last day of my stay, I decided to explore the city for what it’s worth. Well, as you will see in this post, my experience was beyond expectations! In the limited time available, I could not explore much of the city. Luckily, though, I did not miss the most important tourist attraction of the city, the so-called Miniature Wonderland. In fact my post will be mostly about this place.

Hamburg is a port-city built around the river Alster which is a tributary of the famous river Elbe. The water canal networks form two huge lakes in central Hamburg. The lakes and the surrounding areas are the central attractions for tourists with several ferries taking visitors on rides. The ferries also double up as restaurants at dinner time. A stroll around the lake will take roughly 3 hours to complete as the total distance is 10km. The lake and the surrounding parks and walk-ways are easily the most relaxing places to hang around  with friends in the city.

The city-centre has modern buildings jostling with old architecture built on wooden piles. See the pictures below, for example. The third photo below is that of a grand philharmonic theatre which hosts music concerts.

 

The most interesting place for visitors, though, is the so-called MINIATURE WONDERLAND. It’s amazing and ambitious in concept and brilliant in execution. The name says it all. The place exhibits in miniature form several important landmark buildings, structures, natural & geographical wonders, historic places and so on. Under one roof, one gets to see the entire world so to speak – past and present. There are separate sections for each country. One gets impressed by sheer attention to details shown in each exhibit. What makes it a wonderful experience is that one can see the places in action too. Yes,  really! Push-buttons are provided at each exhibit and all you have to do is to push a green button to see the pieces in action. Not just that. All the exhibits are shown in day light for 15 minutes and under illuminated light of the night for the next 15 minutes. The huge railway networks of europe is shown in action. Even airports and planes taking-off  are exhibited. One can see grand canyon, Yosemite parks of the US which may be  just a stone’s throw away from the beautiful canal network of Venice or the famous Colosseum of Rome. Sample, for instance, the following pictures and videos which I have taken to capture the sheer brilliance of this place:

The first picture shows Saint Peters Church in Rome in the ambience of night under illuminated light while the second picture presents the same place as seen in broad day light:

 

 

The two photos below are of an airport in the night and day respectively.

 

Don’t miss the following action video showing a beautiful take-off  of an air-plane:

https://photos.google.com/u/0/search/google%20my%20photos/photo/AF1QipPIcx_UQ0zquksZvRl5He_nAaz6J6dw-v11eevp

 

What you see below are the pictures of Venice with its canals.

 

I’m not sure what the picture below represents. I found this piece in the American Section. Could it be grand canyon. I would not know since I never saw grand canyon.

 

 

Talking of train networks, here are a couple of pictures:

Don’t miss the following two videos which shows a train in motion:

https://photos.google.com/u/0/search/google%20my%20photos/photo/AF1QipPUiuZL56MRN7WNqYIq4IW2iYFTKwOEPuJhzMMN

 

https://photos.google.com/u/0/search/google%20my%20photos/photo/AF1QipMSpejIpZ2s5mwRmJnY5WFjGXIykRVbeMi97oSR

 

The photo below is perhaps a huge modern Football stadium:

 

Now, it’s time to see a bit of Rome – The famous Colosseum of Rome – the ancient amphitheatre used for entertainment sports.

  

 

Here’s yet another wonder – A huge giant wheel with around 4800 LEDs:

 

What I have shown in the post is just a few glimpses of the exhibition. It’s a great exhibition of human perseverance, creativity and engineering marvel. It’s largely based on imagination inspired by existing buildings, landscapes etc.

For those who may be interested in statistics and numbers, the real exhibition layout size is 1490m2. With future additions, it will be 2300m2.There are 9 sections, more than 1000 trains,and 10,000 carriages, 1300 signals, 50 computers, 385,000 lights, 130,000 trees, 260,000 figures and innumerable human forms. Construction time 760,000 hours and construction cost 20 million euros. Mind boggling, isn’t it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on April 22, 2018 at 9:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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A Holiday with grandchildren!

I took a break for a month in the month of March just to spend time with my grandchildren. Needless to say that we had great entertainment. I will let pictures and videos do the talking and write very little.

Here’s my one-year old grandson putting on the role of a teacher or is it the role of an unruly modern-day student? Either way, you can see him climbing on the chair and reaching up to the board on the wall? Showing that he has zero tolerance for the graffiti on the wall, he pulls it down unceremoniously to the shock of his 4-year old sister & cousin who created this artwork. Having destroyed it, look at his celebratory scream:

In his next avatar, you can see him draw inspiration from his elder sister and brother.  He shows clearly that he is no less capable in perseverance and hard work. Is he trying to prove that genius is ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration from his sister?

 

Having worked hard, a well deserved rest and relaxation with a book!

 

Now it’s fun time in the train playing peekaboo with everyone:

 

 

My 3-year old grandson who loves to listen and tell stories. Here he is retelling a story I narrated earlier of a fox and a lion full with a musical interlude:

 

Finally, it’s time for some meditation and silence. It’s a ploy by one of the elders to get some relief from their never-ending noisy playtime which at times bordered on fistfights. See the picture below. The game is about balancing a thin piece of paper on the head for over a minute forcing them to remain silent for over a minute:

 

Published in: on April 15, 2018 at 2:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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Love and Vedanta

The other day I had an interesting debate with someone. The question was: Is love a verb or a noun? One is likely to dismiss this as a trivial or an academic question and answer it’s of course a verb. If anyone tells you – No, it’s a noun – he is again likely to be dismissed as crazy. To understand it’s indeed a noun, one has to have a certain understanding of Vedanta.

That love is a verb is a western concept. We have been brainwashed to believe that it’s a verb. Consider the consequences. If it’s considered a verb, we will tend to believe that an action is needed to prove that you love some one. Interestingly, our lives are shaped and influenced by the words and meanings we ascribe to them. That is why we feel the need to celebrate so many days – valentine day, women’s day, father’s day, mother’s day etc and on these days we have to shop hard to prove our love. The white man has succeeded in thrusting his life-style upon us and we follow this unquestioningly. Of course it serves the commercial interests of the businessmen too. In these days when everyone is busy with Whatsup and FB, the only way to show one’s love is to shower our loved ones with expensive gifts. If, for whatever reason, you forget, you will be chastised with a comment: you don’t love me anymore!

Let us come back to the basic question once again. As I said earlier, to understand love is a noun and not a verb requires a certain Vedantic perspective. Love is a certain mental disposition. It’s the most basic emotion from which every other emotion arises. Empathy arises out of pure love. Peace and Happiness are the products of Love. What about the qualities like patience or tolerance? Well, Love implies immediate acceptance of the other person as he or she is. Acceptance manifests as tolerance.

Lack of  love produces negative emotions such as anger, hatred and jealousy. What about greed. That’s misdirected love. If one has love for unlimited wealth, we say he is greedy. What about fear? When love gets distorted and makes one possessive about a thing or a person, fear of loss is created.

One can go on explaining every emotion in terms of either love or the lack of it. That makes love the most basic emotion.

Does it mean no action is needed? The point is that proper actions will follow naturally if one acts out of love. This is contrary to the Western concept of love. In the west ( now in India as well), you act and therefore you love.

A Vedantin would perhaps put it differently. He would say: You are Fullness – complete by yourself even without fulfilling any desires. A person who is complete by himself  is contented and experiences Ananda which is love and joy. Love is our original nature and everything else is a result of distortion of love. (There is a section in Taitriya Upanishad named ANANDA VALLI which deals with the nature of Ananda).

 

Published in: on March 31, 2018 at 2:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Of Mind, Metaphors & Saint Thyagaraja’s Music

Understanding the human mind is the most challenging problem for the humanity. This is where metaphors come in handy.

How do psychologists describe the unpredictable nature of our mind? The modern psychologist Jonathan Haidt came up with an interesting metaphor of an elephant and a rider. Elephant represents the most incorrigible part of our brain which simply acts instinctively with a preprogrammed setup. That is why our responses are automatic to a variety of situations in life. Most of our emotions like love, compassion, worry, anger, jealousy are all preprogrammed.

Who is the Rider in the metaphor? Rider represents the intellect which is run by the conscious part of the brain.  Most of the emotions like anger are instinctive and unless the conscious part of the brain, the rider, is brought into play there is no way of improving our character.

The Psychologists like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (belonging to early 20th century)used the word Unconscious to describe the darker part of our mind which operates on an autopilot mode. Psychotherapy then involves bringing out this Unconscious through a few techniques involving the conscious part of the brain so that the corrections and improvements in one’s character can take place.

While psychologists were struggling to understand the mind, philosophers came up with interesting metaphors as a means to understand the complexity of the mind. For instance, the Greek philosopher Plato, describing the mind, came up with a metaphor of a chariot pulled by two winged-horses – one noble and the other wicked. One can easily imagine and sympathize with the plight of the charioteer. There is no way he can reach his destination.

Vedanta, known as Upanishads, has analyzed the problem of the mind in detail and came up with amazing metaphors. For instance, Kathopanishad came up with a very interesting metaphor to describe the mind (Bhagavadgita also uses a similar metaphor):

Atman or Self is the rider in the chariot,
and the body is the chariot,
Know that the Buddhi (intelligence, ability to reason) is the charioteer,
and Manas (mind) is the reins.The senses are the horses,
The rider, the Self or the Atman is a mere witness. His fate will depend upon how the budhi handles the mind & the senses, represented by horses.

The musical compositions of Tyagaraja, Annamacharya and Dikshitar abound in songs which address this problem of the Unconscious. How do they do it? They use two interesting techniques. In one set of compositions the saints address the Mind directly while in the second set of compostions the composers get into a dialogue with God Himself. In both cases budhi, the intellect, comes into play. The Unconscious, with its petty games, stands completely exposed. There are a number of songs falling into both the categories. In this post, I will present one such composition of Saint Tyagaraja:

In the composition Manasa mana samarthyamemi set to a rare raga Vardhini,  he addresses the Mind thus:

manasA mana sAmarthyamEmi O

vinu sAkEta rAju vishvamanE rathamu nekki tana sAmarthyamucE dAne naDipincenE

alanADu vashiSTAdulu paTTamu gaTTE palukula vini vEgamE bhUSaNamula nosagina kaikanu
palumAru jagambulu kallala nina ravijuni mAya vala vEsi tyAgarAja varaduDu dA canaga lEdA

This is a beautiful piece describing the true nature of the mind. The saint straight away hits the nail on its head. The vacillatory nature of the Mind is completely exposed.

It says: ‘’Oh, Mind, do not take any pride in your abilities. You are utterly powerless as the Lord seated on a chariot called the Universe is driving it with His prowess called Maya”. Maya is that power of the Lord which completely clouds the Mind of even the sanest person in inexplicable ways. The complexity of the Unconscious described by Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung may be likened to Maya and its effects on the mind.

The saint goes on to substantiate the effect of Maya by referring to the story of Ramayana where Kaikeyi becomes a victim of the Lord’s Maya. When the sage Vasishta announces the celebration of coronation of Rama as the King of Ayodhya, Kaikeyi, at first, was all jubiliant like everyone else. However, she made a volte face and rejected the whole proposal. Blinded by jealousy, she demanded that her son should be made the king in the place of Rama. This sort of irrational and bizarre conduct of people in the world can be explained only in the light of the effects of Maya of the Lord which acts as a veil hiding the truth from the minds of people. It prevents the mind from seeing issues in the right perspective and leads us astray. This is why the saint is asking a rhetorical question in the beginning of this composition: Oh, Mind, of what use is your assumed abilities when you are under the cloud of the powerful Maya of the Lord?  By implication, the saint is pointing out the bizarre nature of the mind and the need to surrender one’s mind to the Lord as a means to keep one’s mind under control.

Listen to this beautiful song sung by ML Vasanthakumari

 

My Grandson & His Antics

Here are a few action photos and videos of my grandson’s antics during his weekend trip to our place.

In the first picture you can see him inspecting the broom before deciding whether it’s good enough for him to use:

He approves the quality and instantly gets into action:

 

PM Modi would be proud to see this this kid zealously following his drive for Swach Bharat Abhiyan..

But then his mother has other ideas. She whisks him away before he could complete his job.
Not to be outdone by his mom, he goes about finishing his unfinished job, this time picking up a mop:

 

Next, the little fellow wants to prove his credentials as an Iyengar boy. A staunch Iyengar that he is, he throws out onions and garlics with the contempt they deserve:

Can you see him point his finger triumphantly at the job well done.

He, then, quietly watches his sister play with cupcake moulds. His sister wouldn’t let him touch any of those.

Somehow, he outsmarts her and manages to steal a couple of them. However, he has no place to hide them. So here he goes with the cupcake moulds – one decorating his ear and the other tightly held between his teeth.

 

His next target is our closely guarded telephone. When no one was looking, he managed to grab it and dismantle the instrument:

 

Well, now it’s time for some play. How will he communicate to his mom that he needs an outing into the nearby park? No problems. He walks into the kitchen holding his shoes in both the hands to see his mom.

How can anyone miss such a powerful message? Whisking him away from the kitchen area before he does any further damage, myself and his mom get ready  to take him to the park. Here’s the video of his play:

His joy and excitement can be seen and heard too?
Before we realized, the weekend was over. It was indeed short and sweet. They packed up their things to get back to their town leaving us the grandparents high and dry!(yes, we were really on a high during their stay and felt completely dry afterwords).

Published in: on January 24, 2018 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Fun Stories For (From) My Grand-daughter

To say that my granddaughter loves to hear stories is to say the obvious. To say that she loves to tell stories (of her own wild imagination) is perhaps a little unusual for her age.
Here are a few sample stories she narrated in her own inimitable style:
Story of a monkey:This is a story which I narrated to her but she loves to retell the story to her amma on phone in her own words adding a little spice. My thata (grandpa) bought some bananas out of which two were left-over. He went for a walk while my grandma had gone for Jo-Jo(to take bath). A baby monkey somehow sensed it and managed to squeeze through a tiny opening in the window-grill. It then quietly walked into the dining area, peeled off the bananas, ate both the bananas and left the scene of crime as quietly as it entered (slow-va vandu slow-va vodi pochu). It did not leave behind any clue of its crime. My thata came back from his walk and wanted to eat the bananas. To his surprise, he didn’t find them. He assumed my Patti ate it which was unusual since she does not like bananas. Patti, however, thought, my grandpa finished it off. It was only when she saw the banana peel neatly kept near the dining table, did she get a whiff of doubt. They put two and two together and realized that the baby monkey was the culprit.

Story of baby chair & table for my little brother:
Amma & Appa (My parents) bought a compact set of a tiny table and a chair for my little brother to make him sit in one place while feeding. This was delivered at our Chennai home and we wanted to bring it to Tirupati. The dismantled pieces were packed nicely and kept in the Dicky of our car. On the way we heard a lot of noise and stopped the car to check what was happening. We found that the loose packing gave way and all the parts of the table & chair set were having a jolly good time making a lot of noise and playing among themselves ( jolly-ya valayandindiruthadu). My parents tied them down nicely and the poor parts had to travel the rest of the journey in complete silence! Then she said: kattipota pavam Thana (isn’t it pathetic to tie them down?).

Having completed the story, she abruptly started off with a story of Krishna Umachi (Umachi is God) . She said: Aana, Krishna Umachi sad-ave aagala, kattipota-kuda). But see, Krishna umachi wasn’t bothered when he was tied down by his mother to a wooden rod.. He kept dragging the heavy rod along and dashed off against two trees..anda Katha teriyuma Thata (don’t you know that story, thata). She, then, completed the story saying the the trees got transformed into two angels, thanked Krishna Umachi and vanished. I saw the connection between the two stories immediately. Isn’t she talking about freedom and happiness? (without actually saying so in so many words)? In one case the parts of the table & chair set were extremely happy enjoying the freedom when they were let loose but they turned sad the moment they were tied down. On the other hand, Krishna was happily enjoying himself even when he was handicapped having been tied to a wooden rod. Thus I got an unusual insight from her story that a happy person will keep up his happy mood in spite of adverse conditions!

The Story of a Big Cat: The story that really stole the show, however, is a sensational story  of a Big Cat, a leopard which strayed into a colony close to where we live (in Mulund). This is the story of the day for everyone in Mulund today. A leopard created terror and havoc in a colony nearby. The news-hungry papers and the residents got excited naturally . All the newspapers carried the news with photographs and horror stories. The leopard attacked six people and even entered a flat. The Main door of a ground floor flat was open and when the man of the house came to close it, he found, to his horror, a leopard standing in front. As he rushed inside, the leopard entered the flat and hid itself behind a sofa in the living room. Seeing this, the man and his son ran out of the flat to escape from the leopard. Finally, the forest officials got into action. They tranquilized the leopard, put it inside a cage and transferred it back to its natural habitat. My granddaughter was fascinated by the story and wanted to know a lot more. She asked – why did the leopard come from the forest? Did she find her parents after getting back home. Amma leopard kochindala? (Did the mother leopard get angry). So I continued with the rest of the imaginary story:

The leopard got back home and its mother got angry with her. Mother leopard: Why did you go down to where humans live? Baby leopard: I was hungry and wanted to catch a doggy or a cat. Mother: I will give you doggy mammu(snack) for lunch –  don’t you venture alone in future.

My granddaughter has a lot more unanswered questions in her mind and she kept asking me for answers.

Here’s a picture of the leopard being trapped after being tranquilized:

 

 

Published in: on January 14, 2018 at 8:32 pm  Comments (2)  
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