Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do the Do

Sorry for not responding to comments or posting new material. I am in the process of doing what I am known best to do (no, not cooking.. NO, not eating, either): moving cities. Hence, I will be away for a while (ranging from 10 min to a week). Hope to return with a new surge of joy!

Monday, August 17, 2009


More than a post about H1N1 or swine flu (though the porcine relation is now diluted: it is a quadruple reassortant virus. But swine flu is easier to spell!) this is about how we cannot entirely trust the sources of information we think we can rely on and how it is humanely infeasible to verify the truth about everything we hear. There has been a panic about H1N1 in India. I don't watch TV and surely not news channels. Hence, I get to know about Britney Spears and H1N1 through friends (and the news givers sift themselves into personas!). I do read the newspapers sometimes and read enough to know that I am supposed to panic. Those who know me, know that I don't ever panic. I didn't even now but I took this rather seriously and wore a face mask while travelling in the bus. Yesterday, I was in the midst of coughs and clearing throats and realised that I noticed these more than I would on any other day. I even came home and had a bath. Then I decided to collect info for myself.
If I told you that up to 500,000 people died per year due to a disease and that is mostly in the developed countries, wouldn't you take it seriously?
If I told you that this disease occurs twice a year wouldn't you take it seriously?
If I told you that the disease causing virus keeps getting "better" nearly every year and vaccines have to be continuously modified to accommodate this development, wouldn't you be worried?
If you answered yes to all of the above, then why aren't the news channels and newspapers making a hype about the seasonal flu which has struck nearly every one of us every year? The WHO provides some good information about H1N1. You could find a lot of info about Seasonal Influenza, too, on their site.
Media has made us believe that H1N1 is unusually fatal. This is not true. Media has probably made us believe that this is not curable. This is not true. Media (in India) has made us believe that medicines are the only recourse. This, I believe, is not true (I will explain shortly). Media has also made statements about the inadequacy of medical supplies in India. This appears to be false.
The primary cause of concern is the newness of this virus. Had this been around for a while, people would be less worried. Why? Because the health industry would have come up with a hundred tablets and a couple of vaccines. WHO mentions that standard drugs which are inhibitors of neuraminidase can work, as H1N1 belongs to the family of Influenza type A. There are enough drugs in the market which belong to that category. Don't pop pills. The novelty of this virus has created a panic attack for misplaced reasons. My point is, in spite of the seasonal flu being so common and treated for so many decades, it still kills several thousand people per year! Hence, flu (of any sorts) can be fatal: some for known reasons and some for unsolved reasons. That is the truth (factual).
So why panic about H1N1? Because our helplessness with it is more than with normal seasonal flu. Which means that we can only be worried about the lack of medical advancements. Which implies something that I will not get into in this post.
I have had flu quite a few times in my life and my most commonly employed cure is to do nothing. I would let the fever come, shake up my schedule and go. Most ailments have been handled thus in my life. Doesn't make it the best approach, just something I do. It appears that H1N1 too could be tackled in a similar manner. There are Swine Flu Parties which take this approach to the next level! Has any news channel/newspaper mentioned this possibility? But it is fairly common treatment for seasonal flu. I agree that H1N1 is fairly new (though it also struck in 1918) but most strains of flu are.
I cannot deny that the media has created a wide awareness about H1N1. Nevertheless, I feel that the panic that it has instilled is unwarranted. To report merely on the deaths than all the number of people cured and statistical information creates panic which is pointless. It is important to maintain hygiene but wearing masks is taking things a little farther than required. There is always going to be a virus around. Are we going to wear a mask always?
WHO has marked this pandemic mild to moderate in severity. Medicines exist for this disease. Simple hygiene suffices. It is very easily and methodically curable. The fatality rate is probably on par with any other kind of flu (avian flu is an exception). So, why panic? Why hype this one disease to levels that make it seem as dangerous as an Ebola fever!?
So whose responsibility is it to provide factually correct and educated information to the public? In whom do we place trust? Should the media have a protocol about presenting potentially inciting (for the wrong reasons) information? I still recall the manner in which the Taj hotel incident was covered.
Point is, if our only sources of information are hyped, biased and/or inaccurate, then what do we do?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Making Mama Proud


I was and still am extremely proud of my little boy going up on stage, confidently adjusting the microphone and then reeling out Urdu the way it should be. Ain't he adorable!? So my mom and his mom (who also happens to be my sis) get to argue about who's son was better on stage at this age! Little boy and me ignore them and watch cartoons! We both agree I was a lot cuter though the brat looks at my collection of his pics and tells me "Mama, I am so cute, no?" Runs in the family, I suppose! :-D I will write a post about how I took to the stage and ate all the lipstick sticks that the teachers had brought along.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Understanding Duality

A recent post found Pingu quote from the Hua Hu Ching (supposedly an unknown work of the Lao Tzu) and Parvati present her views on it. For those who find it tiring to look through the comments, here is the quote:

How can the divine Oneness be seen? In beautiful forms, breathtaking wonders, awe- inspiring miracles? The Tao is not obliged to present itself this way. It is always present and always available. [When speech is exhausted and mind dissolved, it presents itself. When clarity and purity are cultivated, it reveals itself. When sincerity is unconditional, it unveils itself.] If you are willing to be lived by it, you will see it everywhere, even in the most ordinary things.

Portions within [...] were not quoted in the comment though they form part of the original text. Lao Tzu is by far the only historic individual whom I shall ever consider to be a true teacher. There might be others but I don't know of them.

Writings on the Tao tend to stick a knife in their selves. By claiming that knowing the Tao cannot be described or constructed, they have made themselves open to ridicule, but Chunag Tzu would proclaim that state of being ridiculed to be a Taoist state. Let's not complicate things.

Parvati-ji responded as follows:

If I may intrude with a response to what you have said, here, Pingu,which essentially proclaims that all is the Divine, there is another quote from the Gita where the Supreme declares that the Divine on Earth is what is perfect. Perfection here, as clearly stated in all the verses starting from the 20th to the 40th verse of Chapter 10. Do read all of them starting from this link to later ones. -

To give just a glimpse,

" Of the Vedas, I am the Sama Veda, of the senses, I am the mind, of the commanders I am Kartikeya, of the reservoirs of water I am the ocean, of all the divine sages, I am Narad Muni, of lordly elephants, I am Airavatha, of humans the King, of all the animals I am the lion, of the birds, I am Garuda, of the swift I am the wind, of the wielders of weapons, I am Rama, of the flowing rivers, I am Ganga, of the poetic metres I am Gayathri, of the seasons I am spring, of the Pandavas I am Arjuna, of the sages I am Vyasadeva etc etc.

" Certainly wherever and whatever is majestic, beautiful or magnificent, you must certainly know that all these manifestations arise from but a fraction of My Glory."

# I suspect that there are two fundamental truths of spirituality,
one is what you have quoted from Lao Tzu as all is the one Divine Consciousness, and the other is that on Earth and in manifestation this Divine Consciousness is a constantly evolving perfection in time and in space, whereby a present state of 'imperfection' can be criticised or if not criticised or condemned, its inferior qualities as exhibited by its errors and ill consequences in rightness and fairness can be discarded and fairer means that lead to a better harmony, but in truth and rightness can be expounded.

1. All is the Divine. This is an essential fundamental truth and an absolute
2. All becomes the Divine in the most outward and external manifestation too. This is in time as a growth from a lesser way of being to a more enlightened way. God too becomes in matter and material life.

The second fact justifies every single thought, discussion, debate that elucidates more and more, better and better ways to actually enable the Divine that is everything to actually be seen thus in matter too.

If mentally I understand that all is the Divine, and hence keep silence or kill my soul when I see ugliness or unfairness, assuming that evil too is the divine, then I disable a chance for me and my context to be redeemed in a greater light.

# Maybe the fact that I see unfairness and want it to be mitigated or annulled is also the divine and hence justified...

# Sorry, Eroteme, about this too long a response, maybe repetitive too, in your space. But Pingu's comment evoked such a comment from me. Do bear with me...

No apology required, Parvati-ji.

To summarise, there is one perspective where everything is the Divine and another where somethings are the Divine (or tending to the Divine) and some not of the Divine. The latter notion is also the source of the God-Devil duality. In the grand scheme of things, perfection and imperfection are both necessary parts of the whole. What Pingu quoted states just that; what Parvati-ji clarifies is a response to "Ok! So what do I do with that idea that all is the Divine?" Her words are a response to an often reached conclusion "Since everything is ok, let me do anything and everything and then simply call it the Divine and get away with it."

The Tao resonates with me and hence the notion of good and evil seem illusory to me at times. But there are so many moments when I see the vile clearly and am repulsed and propelled into action, thought or reflection. The Tao is not against action. The Tao is not against anything. To be one with the Tao (a state which seems so impossibly near to be true) implies a clarity and a freedom from conflict. The Tao guides the sword as it does the wind.

The problem arises when the ignorant mind clings to the notion of "All is the Divine" and then suffers the daily travails of facing the "bad" things. We want to believe that everything is the Divine but what do we do with this wretched liar who just robbed me of all my life's savings? What do we do when the immoral politician has taken over my piece of land? What do we do when someone jumps the queue? How can all of that still be the Divine?

Here we need to visit our notion of the Divine (which Pingu has quoted and Paravati-ji has elaborated on). We still believe that the Divine is beautiful and only the beautiful can be the Divine. Perfection is considered to be the Divine while imperfection isn't (though the Zen notion of wabi-sabi looks at things differently). We seem to view that all things imperfect are not-yet-Divine and in the movement from imperfection to perfection there is a move towards Divinity. Even the Gita says so!

Who then created the imperfection that seems to be more abundant than perfection? Why? Then is there a creative force on par with the Divine force? And questions keep pouring forth once we go down that track eventually ending in a conclusion that the Divine "itself" has been incapable of creating a perfect world and has created a world full of imperfect entities which need to continuously move towards perfection, or the Divine! Many souls are comfortable with that notion because the "worldly" acts of tests, challenges, missions etc. resonate with that idea of separating an entity (at the outset) from its perfect state of being and then making it difficult for that entity to become perfect.

But notions are just that: convenient beliefs to provide solace or security. They are convenient because one needn't dig deep to understand the duality of the Divine and the non-Divine. One needn't have to face Truth, least of all, deal with it. Who has the time, especially when one is busy trying to get that promotion, or that apartment or something equally important? Who has the time or energy when juggling a million tasks and responsibilities?

So we often tend to take one of two sides: The Divine is beautiful and all things ugly aren't (yet) the Divine (and the common Japanese view of individuals born with physical disabilities is one such example) OR all is the Divine (like the various new age gurus and cults say though they essentially end up creating a following which believes that their guru or their God is the true Divine and the rest is all humbug). The first category face lesser questions (not because there are fewer question but because there are fewer people willing to think deep enough to ask questions) and the second category face the questions like the ones Parvati-ji hinted at: If everything is the Divine, then is raping someone also a Divine act? Hell! no.

Confusion arises in actions and events (that seem to be related to an action). People see something happen and aren't able to explain it. Be it rape or thievery or the IPL cricket matches, we aren't able to explain how someone can do something like this to another person. Hence, we either call them all evil or smile over clenched teeth and repeat endlessly that "All is the Divine".

Action which stems from clarity is different from action which stems from ignorance. In the latter case it is one's own pettiness which drives action. When there is clarity then the action to protect a child from a murderer is as effortless as breathing. Once in that state, action and thought are not different nor motive forces for the other. In that state, the Divine is not a goal but the Divine simply is. In that state, when one is one with the Tao, Pingu's quote is obvious and clear.

Since most of us are not in that state, we seek ideals and goals which we can work towards. Krishna's words jar in my head more than they create resonance. Such a tone is the root of all misunderstanding and ill-formed thought and action. A lay man will shun all assuming that only that which Krishna said He is, is worth looking at or possessing or coveting. In the hands of fools, threads of gold will either be sold for a view of the Sun or they will be futile ropes to tether cows. Krishna is talking to a rather confused person who in the middle of the battlefield is busy raising queries which takes people a life time to understand. Krishna is immensely crafty and knows exactly how he needs to deal with a gentleman like Mr. Arjuna Pandu. After having told him so much and clearly that there is nothing in this entire universe which doesn't stem from Him and doesn't return to Him, Arjuna still asks Him for the "glories" of Krishna. To me, Krishna's bit after that sounds like pure pep-talk. He eventually ends it with saying "Amongst the Pandavas I am Arjuna" which hopefully did the bit! At the end He still wonders (perhaps with frustration): What necessity is there for you, O Arjuna, of such detailed knowledge and so many examples? (When I have been telling you that) I support this entire universal manifestation situated in but a fraction of Myself.
To miss verses 2-5, 7 -11 (yup, all prime numbers) and only focus on verses 21-38 (though I love what He says about feminine graces in 34. I really wish I could ever meet a girl who had those!!) is presenting oneself in a manner no better than Mr. A P. To invoke the Divine grace for a pep-talk is rather shabby. Had Krishna told Arjuna that "Well, I am the Divine and am the cause for everything. I am you and Duryodhana. I am the cause of your birth and of this war" then I wouldn't be one bit surprised if Arjuna ran back to Kunti telling Krishna to fight it himself and end it also by himself. Arjuna needed to know that he had the Divine on his side and that he was part of a worthy cause. Neither did Arjuna know nor did Krishna care to tell that to fight was being one with the Tao, because the war was meant to happen. Krishna with all his claims also died an anonymous death at the hands of a hunter who mistook his heel to be a deer's face! Krishna didn't simply vanish into thin air (like Master Ugway did). He died the way he was supposed to. Krishna wasn't without conflict (he actually charged Bheeshma when Arjuna let loose excuses for arrows, only to be calmed by Arjuna who was a few days earlier calmed by Krishna). He was surely one with the Tao for most of his life on Earth. So one cannot and should not take Krishna's words out of context, the context being

If we leave Krishna and Arjuna alone, we need to still come to terms with the following questions:
  • Is it possible to stay without an awareness of what happens around us?
  • Once we are aware, is it possible to be without recognising it as good or bad?
  • Once we recognise something as good or bad, is it possible to not react?
  • If we react, is it possible to figure out whether it was meant to be or not?
I will leave the reader with these questions, because it is sometimes best to live with questions than have answers.

How else could I know?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Interesting, no?

I recall watching a program where a rather old gentleman won an award for the loudest snorer. It seems he snored as loud as a chopper bike's engine or something like that. None of this was interesting to me till the anchor mentioned that his wife was growing deaf due to the constant noise every night but the old man wasn't. Isn't it interesting that the same noise served to two individuals produces different effects on them perhaps due to the fact that one of them is causing it? It would be like a drummer playing his loudest music but only his neighbours growing deaf. So why does our body react thus? I am inclined to my view of life where most ailments and problems come about only due to resisting what happens rather than accepting things.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I love you?

Things left unsaid...
Through the winter night
To a fading moon I ask:
Why did she think so?