Friday, December 19, 2008

The Science versus Art conundrum (Part 1)

Science and art are opposite in nature to each other. The nature of science is analytical, breaking down complex ideas into simpler ones, trying to hit the root of the issue. The nature of art is assimilative, combining a plethora of ideas and thoughts, to come up with something unified, complex and beautiful.

Even in life, our approach can be scientific - the scientific method credited to Socrates, or artistic - seeing things as a unified whole than as individual parts. To understand both the approaches better, let us take the example of water. Going back to the chemistry classes of school, we remember that water is made up of 2 atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Thus, the scientific method breaks down water into its constituents to help us understand it better. On the other hand, the artistic method looks not into the components of water but its nature to understand it. The properties of water are completely different from those of its individual constituents. So, it looks at water as a whole and not in terms of its constituents.

So, how should any general problem in be approached? The scientific approach helps solve it better or the artistic approach? That is what I call the science versus art conundrum.
(To be continued...)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Technique and essence

Being a mathematics teacher teaching for competitive exams, I understand very well that students give a lot of importance to the techniques to solve problems. They call these techniques by names like short cuts, easy solutions etc. and they wish to know how they can crack their exams in as little time as possible using these techniques. People like short cuts and people like techniques.

Short cuts dont always work! Cliched though it may seem, it is nothing but hardcore truth. If you follow a technique to solve a problem and the problem statement is slightly modified, the technique might not bail you out. You might need to customize the technique to suit your new requirement. And you can only do this if you know the essence of the technique. Essence is that which creates, technique is the created! But knowing the essence, deriving the formulae and understanding the logic behind a method if more tedious than just learning a formula by rote. And thus, the technique is known, the essence compromised!

The whys and hows are the questions that are more difficult to seek answers to than the whats. But only those who make the effort go the distance! Maths is so much like life. We all need to survive. When in school, I did not realize that survival is so easy. Come what may, in the end, everyone survives. Whether you are rich or poor, famous or unknown, intelligent or not, everyone in the end survives. People follow various professions(techniques) to earn a living and survive(essence). But is surviving the final essence? IS that the only purpose? Surviving is in itself a technique for the bigger essence which is living. We are here not just to survive, we are here to live.

Living then is just a technique to attain our purpose in life, which is the essence. And so on. Every technique can be the essence for a newer technique. But, what we need to know is the essence, for once the essence is known the technique can be easily derived.

Most religions in the world today have ended up being a set of rituals and rites(techniques) to be followed. In the technique, we have forgotten the essence and hence, all the terrorism and riots the world over. Let us ask those questions that lead us to the essence. Asking the whys and the hows is a technique that takes you towards the essence. Every technique is like an institution in itself which people follow. But let us de-institutionalize ourself and find out the essence of our every day techniques - techniques to survive, to live and to be happy and blissful.

Let us adopt those techniques that take the journey the reverse way around - those techniques that take you to the essence - to the source and the creator. Lets just breathe and know our ownselves better - let us know numbers before attempting to crack the CAT!!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The circles of responsibility

Responsibility is defined as "the trait of being answerable for someone or for something".

What exactly are we responsible for in life? We ofcourse dont have just one responsibility in life. There are many. Which responsibility is more important accordingly decides our priorities in life. I believe my responsibilities are like concentric circles, and I am situated at the centre. So, the farther away the circle, the lesser my responsibility towards it.

Responsibility comes from the degree of influence on an object. As some people say, "Power is responsibility". The more the control you have over something, the more responsible you are for it and hence it falls into your closer circle. For example, whe you borrow a book from someone, you get control over that book for some time and hence it comes into your closer circle. When you do not have the book, it does not come into your circles of responsibility.

I define the circles for myself as follows. The innermost circle is that which you have been given maximum control over - yourself! So, your beliefs, thoughts, actions, paradigms, ethics, health come into the innermost circle which constitute an extremely central constituent of your existence.

What is that you have most control over other than your ownself? For me, it is my family. So, that is the next concentric circle. When you have a high control over someone/something, the most amazing thing is that that someone/something has also given you a lot in life. So, the next responsibility is the family.

Then come my friends and close relatives. Then nature, society, India (my country) and then all the living beings in this world in that order.

With the definition of who is more important comes the concept of what is more important for each of these circles. For example, someone might look at this theory and say that if you kill someone for your own greed, you are satisfying your topmost priority. But, that is not true. Hence, it becomes more important to define responsibility for each level.

My responsibility towards my own self is not to give myself all luxury of the world. Instead, it is to strive for higher growth - better health, more spiritual growth and a use of my capabilities to fulfil the other responsibilities lying in other circles. Doing this satisfies my responsibility towards myself rather than just enjoying all comforts of the world and making my body and mind unhealthy and lazy. Your sense of ethic also comes into this layer. (This layer deserves a post of its own :))

Responsibility is giving these layers what they dont have. For example, if my parents are very wealthy, what is the point of giving them more money? It is not even standing upto the terms and conditions these layers define for you. For example, the society respects you if you take up science or commerce as an education stream but disrespects arts graduates. That does not mean taking up science or commerce is your responsibility. Take up the field of your choice and contribute and give the society the direction it lacks.

Responsibility is not just satisfying the desires of the various circles around you. It is about giving them that which they need in life, not that which they want in life.

But in all of this, never ever forget that the most important thing is your own growth. Only then will you be able to contribute to someone else's growth. Move inner towards the centre of the concentric circles. And when you reach there, bang in the centre, consider it done!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Waking Up

The process of waking up is iterative in nature. Waking up can be called an event but can be better described as a process which culminates in an event.

Sleeping is waking up. When we sleep, the process of waking up begins and finally, the event takes place which we actually call waking up.

Physical sleep is just one thing we wake up from. But, life is continuously a dream where we experience waking up so many times.

At the age of 11-14, we wake up to a new physical self. This self existed within us but we were not aware of it till the physical reality awoke in us.

After a broken relationship, we wake up. After failures, we wake up. Making the failure is part of the waking up! And when we wake up, we realize that a new dimension is present within us - the dimension which was always present, just that it was laying dormant.

Death wakes us up to newer realities - we question the existence of this world and this life, its inherent purpose, the presence of God etc. Things which you had never thought of but now, the very same mind within you is thinking of them. The mind has woken up to question, to reason.

Every setback wakes you up. Every difficulty eventually wakes you up. And the best part about waking up is that when you truly wake up, you cross the process of sleep forever. Once you grow a third dimension, you cannot remain stuck in two dimensional boundaries.

Each waking up is perhaps the effect of the previous waking-ups. And you keep waking up until you figure out the ultimate truth. The last boundary crossed, the last sleep completed wakes you up to enlightenment. Thus, the true end of sleep is not waking up, but enlightenment. And then there would be no more sleep and no more waking up.

Similarly, life is death. And while you are living, the process of dying is on (Within 5 years, every single cell of your body will die and will be replaced by a new one). And the process of dying will culminate in an event we call death. And the process will recur and recur till the final culmination of it all which is moksha/nirvaana. Life, thus, I believe is a process which culminates in an event not called death, but nirvaana. And then, there will be no more life and no more death. You will be immortal and you would exist no more!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Grace of the Guru

Who is a Guru, people often ask. The answers are varied. Whenever I answer the question, my answer is that our life and life in general is like a maze where we somehow need to reach the exit. You can reach the exit by finding out the right path on your own through the millions and millions of doorways in the maze. A Guru is someone who already knows this maze in and out. And if you give Him the opportunity to lead you to the exit, He will take you through the perfect doorways and make you reach your final destination, divine love, much quicker than you can even imagine.

So, when we need something in life, we pray to the Guru. And the Guru makes it happen innumerable number of times. How can this happen? For this, we need to look at another way of looking at the meaning of Guru. My Guruji says that Guru is nothing but the Self, the awakened spirit. He is not outside you, but right within.

There is the famous saying from the Alchemist, "When you really want something to happen, the whole Universe conspires so that your wish comes true". When you pray to your Guru, you pray to your own inner self with a deep sincerity for what you want. And that part of your awakened spirit leads to the entire Universe making it happen for you. The Guru makes you aware of your own power - the power of Self!

But, all this can happen only through the awakening of the spirit, through the rise of the Guru's grace within you, through that special connection which can move the world and the Universe - that special connection with the Guru.

Jai Gurudev :)

I love my Guru

- Shreyans' soul