Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Oneness Metamorphosis

I was to write the second post on African Safari today, but prefer to postpone it for a while... and I have good reason for it. I just happenned to read this post by my sis Nanditha which inspired me to write a poem after a time. It might read like junk, but i need to jot it down here. I hope to have captured the spirit of her post.

Life flew past, not whole, as sought.....
As if was coxed, with the rudder lost.
The perplexed state, what course to take,
I was, as always, lost in thought

A beam shone bright, from a coastal might,
it did mutate my forlorn plight.
A portent, telling ...."vibrant life"?
The shore ... my hope, now well in sight

The light enticed the pupal stage,
the larval state is history now.
The cocoon spun, intense but fun,
the tangled status, well undone.

As time went by, the mess was cleansed,
The mind tranquil, all thirst was quenched.
Oneness glowed, .......don’t ask me why?
I felt............. I were,... a butterfly.

Friday, September 21, 2007

African Safari Series - I

I must confess that while setting out on the East African Safari I hadn't bargained for as much as it eventually offered. I ventured only because it made sense to me to see atleast a bit of the "dark continent" while being posted here. The chance of spending a few days with my wife was a pleasant addendum. Since I will not be able to do justice to the vacation in one post, I propose to intiate a series commencing with the present one.

The plan was to arrive at the optimum balance of liesure and adventure within the limitations imposed by my tight budget.Here is how we went about it:-
Day 1, 2 and 3 :-
I landed at the Entebbe airport (40 km from Kampala) in Uganda where Sudha joined me after about an hour. (This is the same airport where the Israeli commandos carried out a successful clinical raid in 1976 after an Air France plane was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists who were overtly supported by the notorious Idi Amin).

We hired a taxi to Jinja, a small sleepy town on the banks of Lake Victoria, halting on the way in Kampala to change money and give an "All OK" report back home. We felt at home while driving down the country side as the vegetation and landscape was much akin to that of Kerala. The road side was lined with jackfruit, banana, papaya and coconut trees as well as hibiscus and bogainevilla plants. There were stalls selling tapioca and fish.The yam leaves (the base ingredient in the recipe of "Patravodo", the patented konkani dish) were in abundance. We checked into a laid back resort called Kingfisher which had refreshing ambience, a lake side beach, beautiful flora & fauna, boating facilities and a swimming pool. Add to it some homely food send across by ammumma and I felt like someone had given me the address of paradise.

The number and variety of birds in this place was amazing. Lanky herons, melodious bulbuls, beautiful egrets, the pied kingfishers, noisy commorants, majestic fish-eagles ... and the list goes on. We even hired a local fishing boat to go to the isolated Samuka island where I suspect some trees had more birds on the branches than leaves. Joseph our boat-man cum guide poured out his knowledge to the extent that we soon felt overdosed.I found the fishing techinique employed by the pied kingfisher very interesting. It would hover a few feet above water fluttering its wings hard and nose-dive into the lake on spotting a fish. I waited for long to get a good snap but was dragged away by ..... you know who.

We had interesting company. A big British family comprising of father, mother and eight kids who were all over the resort (in fact we were so curious that I had to tactfully ask the father wether all kids were actually his, which he confirmed). I loved the concept and spirit of the vacation that this family enjoyed. While the parents and infants had a room, the bigger kids were housed in a tent pitched in the lawn. The family enjoyed outdoors like rafting, kayaking riding and fishing in the day. The father conducted informal swimming and diving tutorials for the kids in the afternoon when the mother enjoyed a book by the pool-side. Evenings were lit up by clebrations beside a camp fire. The older kids always looked after the younger ones. Some other characters in view included a senior lady who kept sitting under a garden umbrella with a book in one hand and coke in the other, some Japanese students who were always brisk-walking across the resort and a local couple who mysteriously appeard by the pool-side after mid-day. To our surprise a swarm of Indans appeard at the pool on Sunday. Most of them were Gujju business familes from Kampala. The scene by the pool was transformed in minutes.Plump Ladies in Salwar kameezes, Sethjis chewing pan and tennaged boys doting Dhonisque hairstyle gave the place the semblance of a marketplace in Surat. For some strange reason all the tourists vanished into thin air.

During out three-day stay at Jinja we also visited the source of Nile and the Bujagali falls. Ganghiji's bust is the last thing one expected to find in Jinja. I quietly nodded my head when the knowledgeable Joseph explained to me that Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian President whose ashes were immersed in the Nile here. One gets tempted to try out bungee-jumping and river-rafting but took my wive's advice not to test the strength of my twice- injured spine. Uganda is one of the three countries in the world which has Mountain gorillas and the offers an opportunity of tracking gorrillas in their natural habitat. We however had very little time at hand as the wild-life in Kenya was awaiting us. In the evening of day 3 we boarded a bus for an overnight journey to Nairobi.

(Some snaps taken during this trip can be seen here)

to be continued ......

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Yogi and a Scientist who speak the same "Language"

Dr Mani Bhaumik and Sri Paramhansa Yogananda.... one a scientist and other a mystic.

It is common perception that science and spirituality are like two parallel lines with no apparent point of conjunction. I recently happened to read two books which reinforced my belief that these parallel lines do meet, possibly at infinity. It is only that one has to have the courage and faith to venture out and look for the place they call "infinity".

In Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, he lucidly describes his spiritual odyssey and enlightens the reader on the miracles that could be achieved by mastering certain techniques of yoga and meditation. Though I found the account very captivating, I must admit to feeling sceptical while reading about certain aspects like astral travel and omnipresence of masters. All the doubts were put to rest by the time I finished the second book titled Code Name God by Dr Manilal Bhaumik (he was the scientist instrumental in the discovery of the Excimer Laser which is used for the LASIK eye surgery). The author uses established scientific facts to justify and almost establish the truth behind some aspects formerly construed as being part of ancient and transcendental wisdom.

Mukunda (Yoganandaji’s real name) was born into a pious and fairly wealthy family and was intuitively inclined towards mysticism. He didn’t care much for regular education and was focused on achieving spiritual discipline. He went on to become one of the most revered and globally accepted practitioners of Kriya Yoga and founded the Self Realization Fellowship in LA. Mani Bhaumik on the other hand was born into an extremely poor family. Food was such a scarce commodity that his grandmother starved herself to death to let her grandson live. His father was a freedom fighter and a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. It is nothing short of a miracle that he grew to become one of the most eminent scientists of (rather from) free India. In the book he candidly confesses to his intimate flirtations with a life of opulence before returning to the life of a seeker. The similarities between the authors might not be apparent from their profiles. Both hail from Bengal, both had been raised in spiritual environments and both eventually established their respective empires against all odds in the USA. However, these are not the only parallels I am hinting at. There is more to it than that, though I doubt my ability to quantify it in words.

The intention of this post is not to delve into the personalities of these great men, but to share some derived lessons from both their biographies that can transform one’s perspective of both science and religion. More importantly they can help us lead a less complicated and fulfilling life.

1. Tune your mental frequencies to be in resonance with that of the universal mind to receive grace (this, I feel is the secret behind telepathy, omens and even prayer).

2. Have faith, especially in times of adversity. This would help unclutter the mind and quickly tune into the channel as mentioned above.

3. “One must be the change one wishes to see in the world”.

4. Meditate regularly and keep it simple to experience the exaltation of thoughtlessness.

5. Have the humility to accept that all one sees might not be true and everything believed to be true may actually be an illusion. Remember, Galileo had a tough time convincing people that Earth was round and it took some time for the world to accept that material and energy are substitutable even after Einstein proved his famous equation.

There are numerous other ideas contained in these books that are intellectually stimulating and spiritually enriching. I don’t intend giving them out here because of two reasons. Firstly, one has to read them in the context of the book to imbibe the spirit intended by the authors. Secondly, my knowledge of science is too rusty to be able to do justice to Dr Bhaumik’s book. So I have listed only those points which I found practicable and have decided to at least attempt cultivating.

For those who find these concepts too abstract for consumption, I recommend a read of these books as mere biographies without prejudice or judgment. I guarantee a change in outlook. For those who are compulsive pragmatists the books offer answers to an array of intriguing questions. Sample these:-

1. How does meditation lead to happiness?

2. When Bible says that the world was created by God in a day and Darwin postulates his theory of evolution, they mean the same thing. How?

3. Einstien mentioned of the Unified Field Theory and Lahiri Mahasaya spoke of the ubiquitous nature of divine spirit. Doesn't it sound similar?

I suppose that should be sufficient to generate curiosity.