Saddened to hear the news of the death of one of the greatest minds of our times. I had written a post about him a couple of years back. I am sharing it as my tribute to him. May his soul rest in peace.
Here is a brief introduction to Stephen Hawking from his official website:
“Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. Now the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, his other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.
In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton…
Life and death are conjoined twins. Nothing makes us ruminate more on life than the news of death.
During those demonetization days if everyone became an economist, on the demise of Sridevi everyone seems to have become a philosopher. This was evident from the first tweet and the first whatsapp message that I came across.
The conscience keepers of the nation too had their grudges vented. Some lamented that while the nation and her pressmen were obsessed with a matinee idol, the death of soldiers in the boarders got only passing mention.
Some moralists even cried foul to see her body wrapped in the tri-colour. Actually, these moralists should protest when an artist is given any national honour like the Padma Awards. If we don’t have any objection to someone being given a national honour while living, why should we protest when, out of protocol, the same person is given a national honour when dead.
Ironically, these so called gatekeepers of Indian morality must have, at some point of life, indulged themselves in one of her movies to escape from the mundane affairs of everyday life.
Ram Gopal Verma, in a blog post, has shed light on some of the harsh realities of Sridevi’s life. He says that the only moments when Sridevi seemed comfortable with life were those when she was in front of the camera. If cinema has been an escape for the Indian public from the harsh realities of life, so was the case with her, from a different angle though.
During those days when she was gaining her foothold in the movies, high payments to filmi people were in black money to avoid tax. Her father entrusted the money to different relatives. When he died the relatives refused to give back the money.
Subsequently, her mother took charge to manages her financial and other professional affairs. She made a lot of bad investment decisions. By the time Sridevi and Boney Kapoor met both were in deep financial trouble.
I am not much of a Sridevi fan, though she came to rule Bollywood with a spate of super-hits with Jitendra when I was a late teenager. For casual fights and arguments, in our college hostel, we had two major Bollywood groups: one was the Jeetu-Sridevi group, another was Amitabh Bachchan group. I belonged to the later. My one-to-one combat used to be with Subrat Satpathy, who also had been my high school classmate. When I came in contact with him after a long gap (thanks to facebook) the first thing we relished was about our fights over Jitendra-Sridevi and Bachchan.
Nevertheless, we can definitely draw inspiration from the struggle and the achievements of persons like Sridevi. An artist’s contribution to the society as well can never be undermined in spite of the foul cry of the moralists.
We know that it is only a minuscule percentage of prospective artists who make it to the top of the celebrity charts and stay there for some time. The road to stardom is paved with thorns of sacrifice and struggle.
Still then, we fail to see the struggle, the pain, and the tears behind the grease paint applied to give us the picture perfect.
One life is not enough, yet for now, this moment is full in itself.
One life is not enough, yet for now this moment is enough unto itself. The statement may seem to be a paradox, self contradictory, and outright goobledygook. However, it is not when you see different parts of the statement from different perspectives.
When you are playing the role of an experiencer, when you are drowned in sense pleasures, you crave to experience the pleasures again and again. The lustful man wants to have sex with all the women in the world, the greedy wants to own all the wealth of the world. Same way one can be greedy for experiences and achievements. Alexander wanted to leave no corner of the earth unconquered.
But, you can switch your role from being an experiencer to being the observer, or a witness. Then you have a glimpse of the depth of the moment.
Baffled by the myriads of the creations, I have often made the petition to the maker that one life is not enough to experience His limitless creations. At the same time, to experience the depth of His creation, one must learn to dive into the depths of the present. One who is bothered too much by the past or concerned too much about the future, loses the opportunity to utilize the fare of the creation on offer right now. Same way, being grateful gives out a message to the universe that you deserve to be an active part of His creation for ages to come.
Time is fleeting. It is a continuum. The moment one tries to catch hold of it, it is already gone. So where is this moment and how to catch hold of it? One can experience the relative dimensions of time depending upon one’s state of mind. In deep meditation one can experience time stop and a stage comes when is established in the witness consciousness. In doing 100%, one is not bothered by past or future.
It may not be possible to play the role of the observer or be in a state of samadhi through out your life. Same way it is tiring to hanker, non stop, experience after experience. Deep real rest and an attitude of letting go helps a lot in recharging one self from time to time.
Life in its myriads of colours, shades, flavours and tastes
There are six basic tastes, according to Ayurveda. Depending upon the person, some tastes are pleasant some are unpleasant and some may be outright atrocious. However, to have a balanced diet and thus a balanced body and mind, one should include a bit of all the tastes.
Same way according to Bharata’s Natya Sastra, the artistic expressions involve nava rasas or nine falvours- some positive some negative. Contrasting flavours makes any story interesting.
So also in life. There are positive as well as negative feelings and emotions.
If one has experienced only the height of joy and not the depths of depression and sorrow, if one’s journey of life has been a smooth road without any ups and downs, any twists and turns, one has missed to live life in its totality.
Life is such an enigma
This is my translation of a favourite Hindi film song from Anand – a popular movie of yesteryears.
I was surprised at the logic of one of the bestselling authors of India. He tweets that even though, India is well known for yoga and Ayurveda, it has poor life expectancy. His further elaboration indicates that he means to undermine the efficacy of yoga and Ayurveda.
I replied, ‘Sir, agreed that yoga and Ayurveda originated in India. But, how many people do practice it? If you want to know the efficacy of yoga and Ayurveda take the health record of those who practice yoga and use Ayurveda and compare it with the non-practitioners, whether they are Indian or not.”
He did not have anything further to say. Coincidentally, this author is famous for writing fiction based on Indian Mythology. It implies that he must have read the Indian scriptures, seriously.
There are a section of writers among Indians who write stuff just to please those western sensibilities that take pride in undermining Indian culture. It is sometimes driven by commercial interests as they think that it will appeal to the western and the westernized Indian audience.
I would not have been surprised if the author had told that in spite of being gifted with such things as yoga, Ayurveda and spirituality, neither do we practise nor do we take pride in these things. I would have been happier if the author, instead of merely limiting himself to bookish knowledge of Indian scriptures, had practiced yoga and meditation and tried Ayurveda.
These days, along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (my spiritual master), spiritual leaders and yoga gurus like Baba Ramdev and Jaggi Vasudev are leading the movements to awaken the world to the ancient wisdom of India. Their popularity has also rang alarm bells for many who are not interested to see an awakened India. So, they raise pointless protests from time to time.
A case in point is the World Cultural Festival held on the banks of Yamuna River last year. Certain forces tried to portray Art of Living in a negative manner stating that it violated not only environmental norms, but also procedural norms. The press, which is always eager for such kind of baseless news also joined in. Of course now Art of Living has been cleared of all the allegations. But, this does not make as much media buzz as the previous occasions when there were so many baseless allegations.
Similarly, the so called environmentalists are never seen when lakes are encroached and huge tracks of forests are destroyed by the Industrialists. But, when a Spiritual Leader raises a statue to create awareness about yoga, these environmentalists become alarmed.
Another incident that made headlines across India a number of years back was when the Shankaracharya of Kanchi was arrested. But when he was absolved of all charges, the news hardly made even to the corner of a fifth page in our newspapers. To a large extent, our media has been responsible for projecting a negative image about India and its heritage.
Coming back to the author, it brings out an interesting facet of human nature. Our ancient scriptures have been guiding lights to many for finding solution to their practical as well as existential problems. At the same time, some use the same scriptures to support their counter arguments.
Even Arjuna was not able to gain the insight that Lord Krishna had intended till Arjuna was given the divine eyes. It is very symbolic. One should have the eyes to see the gems in the scriptures. A yogeswara like Krishna can provide those eyes. Without those eyes, one will see dung heaps in place of the gems.
Even to get those eyes one should have a little bit of willingness and some basic eligibility. Arjun was willing, desperate and deserving to have those insights into the nature of truth.
But the propagandists and the activists that I am talking of are not interested in truth. Motivated by their narrow personal gain (which may sometimes include a promised better place in heaven), their ceaseless campaign is aimed at showing Indian spiritual and cultural traditions in poor light. Sometimes they may come in the garb of rationalists and humanists to hide their vicious agenda.
Today the book market is flooded with self help books. It is another issue that that the majority of the self help books do not help as was found out in a survey done some time back.
Before picking up a self help book one should do this simple probing. Did this author succeed in any thing other than in the field of writing self help literature. Recently, a book titled Success Mantra became a best seller in India. At least it was claimed to be so. The writer of the book is Mr. Subrat Roy and he wrote this book while he was in jail for his fraudulent practices. No doubt he has been successful. But what kind of success are we talking of?
Those who never worked in an office writer books about how to succeed in the workplace. Sometimes, people who failed in every field they tried their hands on, write books about how to achieve success and suddenly the book becomes a best seller.
Similarly, I come across a number of motivational speakers whose only claim to fame is being a successful motivational speaker. Many of them chose this field because they could not stick to and persevere in their earlier chosen fields. Some of them might have been kicked out of their earlier jobs. Yet, they are hired by companies by paying hefty sums to motivate their employees to work hard and be more productive.
It is not that I have been a strict adherent of the wisdom I am dispensing here. I have also read a number of best seller self help books. One thing I have noticed is that if you pick any book, not only does it say why this book is the best book, it also tries to convince you that all the other books are totally out of time and useless. Now examine another scenario. Suppose there are 100 self help bestsellers. Every books proclaims that other ninety nine books would not work. So by the authors’ own collective admissions 99% of self help books do not help.
But all self help books are not totally useless. Occasionally, you may comes across a book that dispenses wisdom and insights to uplift you.
I have come across friends and colleagues who are addicted to self help books. They do not read anything else. If you are one of them, remember: there had been successful people since the time of Adam, long before the Americans started flooding the market with self-help books.
Of course, you may take solace in this positive possibility. If you read enough number of books on how to become a motivated productive employee, one day you my end up becoming one of those motivational authors or speakers.
Well, what has been your experience? Please leave your opinions.
In Treta Yuga, Jaya and Vijaya were born as Kumbhakarna and Ravana. Assuming that most of the readers are familiar with Ravana, I will skip writing about Ravana now. Along with Ravana, Kumbhakarna is also well known, so well known that one who sleeps too much is called a Kumbhakarna and one who has a very sound sleep (including sound making), is said to have a Kumbhkarna nidra.
Kumbhakarna is a very complex character. It is said that even Lord Indra was jealous of him. Once, Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Bibhisana did penance together. When it was time to ask for the boon, by a twist of the tongue, instead of asking for Indrasana, Kumbhakarna ended up asking for Nidrasana. The twist of tongue was caused by Goddess Saraswati at the behest of Lord Indra. Lord Brahma said, “tathastu, so be it”. Later on when Ravana realized the mistake he pleaded for the reversal of the boon. Lord Brahma modified it and said that Kumbhakarna would sleep for six months and would be awake during the other six months.
In Dwapar yuga, Jaya and Vijaya were Sishupala and Dantavakra. They were both Krishna’s cousins.
Life is full of strange phenomena. Who knows when your benefactor becomes your malefactor.
Born with three eyes and an extra limb, Sishupala was an odd child. The prophesy was that when someone special takes Sishupala into his hands, he would be cured. But that special person will also be the cause of Sishupala’s death. In search of that special person, his parents invited many eminent persons to their palace and asked them to take him in their hands. However, nothing happened for a long time.
Once, Lord Krishna paid a visit to his aunt and casually took his cousin Sishupala into his arms. Sishupala was instantly cured. Seeing this, his mother was happy. At the same time she was reminded of the other part of the prophecy. So she begged Lord Krishna to spare Sishupala and forgive him in case he did anything wrong or insulted Krishna. Lord Krishna promised that he would forgive one hundred times, but no more than that.
Later in life, Shishupala’s would be wife Rukmini was abducted by Lord Krishna. Of course, it was done at the request of Rukmini as she was in love with Lord Krishna and did not want to marry Shishupala. But this was cause enough for Shishupala to nurse a grudge against Krishna. The opportunity to even out with Krishna came during the occasion of Rajasuya yagna of Yudhisthira. Shishupala opposed the selection of Krishna as the chief guest of the function. Arguments followed and Shishupala began insulting Krishna. When the insults crossed one hundred, the Sudarsana chakra beheaded Sishupala. But it was also the moment of mokha for Shishupala and made him regain his place in Baikuntha.
Dantavakra was not only a cousin of Shishupala, but also a close friend of Salva whose death was also caused by Lord Krishna. In order to take revenge an enraged Dantavakra invited Krishna for a mace duel. Dantavakra got killed in the duel. Thus ended the earthly parts played by Jaya and Vijaya as part of Lord’s Leela during three of his avatars.
The stories of Jaya and Vijaya illustrate the oneness and the wholeness of the creation. The best or the worst, all are filled with the divine light and the whole world is a playground of the creator. You may hate somebody thinking he is bad or is villainous. But he is as much a child of the divine as you are. He is as close to the divine as you are. This is the key to unconditional compassion.
Ancient Indian legends or the stories from our puranas are not mere stories for entertainment. Each story also illustrates an eternal truth or an important lesson. Some of the puranas like the Bhagvat purana attempt to illustrate the principles of upanishads and other philosphies for the easy understanding of the common man. The two prominent epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata take us into deeper inquiry with regard to not only finding meaning in life for an individual but also dealing with the complex social issues.
The stories of Jaya and Vijaya, as narrated in Bhagvat Purana and further elaborated in various other puranas, are really fascinating. Jaya and Vijaya are not only the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu, but are also two of His closest devotees. Yet, in subsequent births they are the villains becoming fierce opponents of Lord Vishnu during some of His avatars. Jaya and Vijaya took birth as Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa in Satya yug, as Ravana and Kumbhakarna in Tretaya Yug and as Dantavakra and Shishupal in Dwapara Yug.
In some mystical texts of ancient origin, it is also stated that Jaya and Vijaya are not different from Lord Vishnu. Of course it seems strange. But the stories of Jaya and Vijaya are in line with the following statements from Upanishad and other mystic ancient literature:
“One become two and then many, and finally many dissolve into the one”
Good and evil always co-exist. The Chinese concept of co-existence of opposing forces as found in the writings of Lao Tzu and other Taoist philosophers also finds resonance here.
According to the Bhagavata Purana, once the four sons of Lord Brahma also known as Sanat Kumaras, went to meet Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha Dham. The four sanat kumaras are Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumar. It is said that due to regular spiritual practices they looked like children. So the gatekeepers did not take them seriously. However, when they insisted that they be allowed to go inside without delay, Jaya and Vijaya told them that Lord Vishnu was taking rest and they have to wait till He wakes up. At this, the kumaras were enraged and told that Lord Vishnu is available all the time for their devotees. Further, the kumaras cursed the gatekeepers for their insolence so as to be born in the mortal world leaving their heavenly bode. Subsequently, the gatekeepers asked forgiveness of the kumaras and requested Lord Vishnu to waive off the curse. Lord Vishnu told that the curse of divine beings like the kumaras cannot be reverted. However, he wanted to commute the punishment. So He gave the gatekeepers two options – either to be born as His devotees for six births or as His enemies for three births. Jaya and Vijaya chose the latter as they thought the sooner they are re-untied with their master the better, even though they have to play the role of villains.
So in their first descent from heaven as mortal beings they were born as Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa. It happened in Satya Yuga.
The story of Hiranyakha
Rishi Kashyapa had two wives – Aditi and Diti. All the devas and other auspicious beings were born to Aditi while the demons in general, and Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa in particular, were born to Diti. Hiranyakha, the elder one, was conceived during the evening time and stayed in the womb for one hundred years.
Hiranyakha, which means – one whose eyes are obsessed with gold. It signifies the greed for wealth and all worldly desires. The greedy and the lustful ultimately become tyrants and sadists. So it happened with Hiranakhya that he became a burden for the existence.
At his birth itself the universe was filled with inauspicious omens that scared the devas. They went to Lord Vishnu and sought protection. Lord Vishnu assured them that when the time was ripe he would descend to restore the balance.
Hiranyakha grew up to be a great devotee of Lord Brahma. The severity of his penances moved Lord Brahma. Knowing full well that boons given to this demon would only be misused, Lord Brahma had to give him boons which granted him immunity from being killed by any God, human or demon.
True to the predicament of the Gods, Hiranyakha started misusing his powers. Entering the sea, he started churning it with his waist. Varun Dev, the Lord of the Sea was upset. Yet the notoriety of Hiranyakha was so much that Varun Dev, instead of offering a fight, went to hide himself.
Narada Muni, the beloved of all Gods, demons and humans happened to pass by. He stopped for a chitchat with Hiranyakha. Hiranyakha asked Naradji if there was anyone now more powerful than him. “Yes”, said Naradji, “It is none other than Lord Vishnu.” Thus saying Narad muni disappeared instantly, without stopping to provide whereabouts of Lord Vishnu or any further information.
Hiranyakha started searching for Lord Vishnu everywhere he could go, but to no avail. Frustrated, he made the earth into a round ball and hid it in the cosmic ocean, so as to provoke Lord Vishnu to come to him.
The devas panicked and approached Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu took the form of a wild boar. It was his Varah avataar – the third one. Lord Vishnu took this Avataar so as not to transgress the boon given by Lord Brahma. There ensued a fierce fight between Lord Vishnu in his Varah Avtaar and the demon Hiranyakha. Finally Hiranyakha was killed and the earth was restored to its former glory.
The demonic mind set is that even after so much penance it asks for power and glory – the things that are transient. Neither does it rest in peace, nor does it allow others to have it. It seeks power and glory to torment others. In contrast, the person with divine mindset seeks love, beauty or truth. Even if it gets power, it is utilised for the benefit of the mankind.
(This time, in stead of I writing a blog post in response to the topic of Indisipre Edition #165, I asked my son Dipayan to write one. Being the beginning of the academic year, I saw him having too much fun and I wanted to curtail it. But I was proved wrong as he announced that writing the article was no less fun.)
I love my sister. Though there’s 10 years of difference between us (ten years three days to be precise), there’s no gap of affection. She is now in Switzerland, but still we talk often. I do miss her, but I still get to talk to her, and that’s a good thing. Quarrels are rare, because the last time we quarreled must be around 8 years ago, when I was 6 and she 16 and we used to stay together (aah, those days…). But those quarrels used to end in a jiffy. None of them were too serious. I stayed with her till her twelfth class. After that she went for higher studies to NIT, Trichy where she stayed in a hostel. So, we met only during vacations.
Two years back, she went to Zurich to do M.S. Since then, we have been able to meet only online.
We used to play many small games together, and we had a lot of fun. I didn’t feel bored at all when I was with my sister.
Having a sister has many advantages. A sister is more caring and patient than a brother. My sister taught me many things. She taught me many good values, and of course, helped me a lot in my studies. Not only in studies, she helped me a lot in everything, and in return, I helped her. According to me, helping and caring is what makes a sibling relationship special.
She used to hug me tightly and kiss me everywhere on my face and call me many affectionate names like ‘cutie pie’, and I believe she would do the same when I meet her now. She says even if I grow, I would still remain a small child to her.
My sister motivates me not only by her words but also by her deeds and achievements. She was one of the CBSE All India toppers both in Class X and XII. She carried on her academic feat to NIT, Trichy, where she was also much sought after for co-curricular activities like organizing and compering special events, creative writing and editing.
She tells me what to do and what not to. She is my inspiration and I am proud of her. When I miss her and cannot immediately contact her online, I watch the following video on youtube, which is a recording of her fun presentation on drones at Science Slam Zurich.