Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Raaz-Pichle Janam ka

Recently a new reality show has been launched on NDTV Imagine. The participants come on to the show seeking answers to specific problems in their life. A therapist takes them, through hypnosis, into their previous life, from which they discover those answers. This blog isnt about the credibility of the show- its more about past life regression ( that the doctor on the show is doing) and why, according to the scriptures, past life regression makes complete sense.

I have already discussed about the soul in my previous blog. The soul, i.e. us is covered with this external body. However there are two coverings. First is the external body visible to us made of 5 elements-fire, water, earth, air and ether. Within that is a subtle body, made of the mind, intelligence and false ego.

At the time of death, the external body is destroyed and the soul, along with the subtle body, moves on to another external body. 

All our memories, of experiences and incidents that take place, our emotions and the impressions formed, are stored in the mind. The pain of death and the pain of birth is so strong that it 'pushes' these memories into the inner recessions of the mind. Past life regression is all about recovering relevant memories. Traumatic incidents in a previous life, especially traumatic deaths (eg caused by drowning or burning), leave strong impressions which often get carried forward to the current life. Past life regression makes us relive the memory and forces us to realise that it happened in the past, it is over. Once a patient realises this, it leads to the overcoming of those fears.

As for the show, I personally do not think that it is scripted. The doctor is clearly an expert in this field and a lot of people are being benefitted. And their creative team has done a great job in the picturization.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Different people, different views

(Read this blog in the Gone in 60 seconds format of MTV)

Examiner(while setting the paper):

1)Ek question to syllabus ke bahar ka rehna chahiye..
2)University syllabus ke last reference book ke exercise mein accha question hain...
3)No one will be able to answer this...Let me keep it for eight marks...
4)Yipee! Iss semester ka tough paper mere subject ka hoga...
5) 10 saal pehle poocha tha..Repeat karta hoon..

Student(after paper):

1)Maine correct subject padha tha kya?
2)Feka-Feki bohat kiya hain.
3)Sab kuch general tha- Mein paas hounga kya?
4)2 ghanta likha- 40 mil jayega....
5)Mere Local author mein aisa kuch nahi tha.. Techmax mein tha kya?

Examiner(while checking paper):

1)Ye kya likha hain?
2)Hmm..2 page likha hain...5 de deta hoon.
3)Bechara... iska total 39 aa raha hain...
4)Aaj 200 paper check kiye...Bas 2 din aur
5)Reval ke paise milenge.. Ye section chod deta hoon

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nothing Lasts Forever

Nothing Lasts Forever

Nothing lasts forever
Its just a matter of time
Hardwork, effort, endeavor
Nothing can stem the tide.

Bad name, illness, misfortune,
On coming, must leave
Night is always followed by noon,
Post darkest hour, sun shall arrive.

Success, power, fame and money,
Fleet-footed sisters;
Disloyal friends upon your journey
You blink, they disappear.

Bonds of love, they are so weak
Its all an illusion.
Its permanent, you just might think;
But end must the relation.


Nothing lasts forever
Its just a matter of time
Hardwork, effort, endeavor
Nothing can stem the tide.

(P.S: Its supposed to be a song and I have set it to a tune, but given my music skills, its quite pathetic....)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Me and Krishna Consciousness

10 reasons why I am so happy and so grateful to be a part of the Krishna conscious movement:

1)The devotees(other ISKCON members)- They really love you, they are so concerned about you, nobody wants to compete with you or bring you down in anyway. They are so amazing!

2)The prasad- Most of the time we are only feasting. Puris, Kacchoris, rice, dal, 2-3 types of vegetables, 2-3 sweets is actually standard fare in any ISKCON program. More importantly it is prepared with so much love and since it is offered to Krishna it tastes nectarean.

3)The festivals- Life is one big celebration for us. A typical year begins with flower festival, gaur poornima and nityanand trayodashi, continues with the sandalwood festival,ram navami, narsimha chaturdashi, jhulan yatra, janmashtami,nandotsav, balram jayanti, radhashtami, kojagiri and ends with govardhan pooja and damodar month. Festivals are all about fasting, decorating the deities and the temple, discussing pastimes of the Lord and then of course the feasting!

4)The kirtans- When the holy names of the Lord are sung with the accompanying of the Mridang and the kartal(cymbals), the harmonium and the jambo and everyone dances together its an out-of-this-world experience.

5)The social life- Between festivals, we are attending someones engagement, another's wedding, somebody's baby's naming ceremony, someone's deity welcoming and another's house warming. I am pretty sure any ISKCON member attends at least 2 social functions a month. Its crazy but its fun!

6) The logic- Everything is so logical. I mean all the 'big mysteries' are explained so sensibly. Everything makes sense when seen from the eyes of the scriptures.

7)The personality development- I think we end up doing everything. We participate in dramas, sing, dance, play musical instruments, cook, make flower garlands, jewelery, deity dresses, make presentations and public speaking, learn Sanskrit and Bengali songs and shlokas, learn proper rituals for deity worship, tend tulasi and grow flowers, develop marketing skills during book distribution and fund collection and develop people skills. Its gonna be hard to believe but trust me every ISKCON member is doing 90% of above list on regular basis.

8)The sense of purpose it gives to life- The whole feeling of being a part of Srila Prabhupada's mission, a global movement that is bringing about a revolution in the world cannot really be expressed.

9)Home is everywhere- No matter where you go- any other country, state, city, town or village- you can go to an ISKCON center and meet devotees who'll help you settle down and make you feel at home. Everyone is so like-minded- even if you dont really know them- you still know them. Everything you are used to is being done. You are at home.

10)The equality- There is no division whatsoever. Nobody is bothered about how much you earn, which caste/community/religion/nation you belong to, where you live, what you have studied, which car you drive or which mobile you possess. Everyone appreciates everybody. You get to interact with people from all strata of society and it really changes the way you look at the world.

All this, along with peace of mind and as much happiness as it is possible to get in the material world and a great chance to go back to Krishna at the end-WOW!
My thinking is as follows- assuming there is no next life, no hell, no God, nothing then I have led a very happy and fruitful life and not missed out on anything in this life.
And if everything the scriptures say is true..... then I have been saved!!!
Thank-you Srila Prabhupada, Thank-you gurudev, Thank-you devotees.
I so dont deserve any of this.

"Vancha kalpa taru bhyashcha
kripasindhu bahevacha.
Patitanam pavanabhyo
vaishnavabhyo namo namah."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leftovers

Here are some tasty dishes you can make with left-overs:

1) If a little bit of 2-3 vegetable curries are left over from last evening's party just mix them all, add shev and farsan (umm salty Indian snacks), a little chopped cabbage and make misal. Have it with bread.

2)If the vegetables left are dry ones then just put them between bread slices and cook the sandwich in butter on a pan.

3)Left over idlis, can be dried, sliced and fried.(till reddish brown) Have them with leftover chutney or ketchup. Shallow frying them on a pan is healthier than in kadhai as they absorb lot of oil.

4) Make 'pappu dal' from leftover dal. (This is my grandma's recipe- she gave it the name too) Add tamarind water (obtained by soaking tamarind in water for 20 min), red chilly powder, a little salt and a little jaggery and boil it. Have with rice.

5)Convert curdled milk into paneer. Strain away the liquid and put the solid part in a muslin cloth and compress. You can also make kalakand(sort of) by cooking the solid part with sugar.

6)If there is excess milk and fruit make custard with the milk, add fruits and make fruit salad.

7)If there is leftover dosa batter- generally dosas don't come out that good next day. So add chopped cabbage, tomatoes, and coriander and make thick uttapas.

8)Excess left over rice, make fried rice.( This is standard recipe done in most Indian homes I think). Just fry ground nut, grated ginger, chopped chilly, sesame, jeera, turmeric, sambhar masala, salt, a sprinkling of sugar and chopped corriander and add the rice to this)

9)Excess chapattis leftover- make laddus. Break the chapatis into little pieces and grind them with chopped jaggery(3 times the chapatti quantity), roasted groundnut, khobra(or dry coconut) and little ghee. Make ladoos from the resulting mixture and enjoy!

10)Excess meat- give it to the dog.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why am I here?

Well, till now I have always been talking about how the soul is trapped in the cycle of birth and death, in karma etc etc.
I am sure the question must have arisen- How did we get here in the first place?

Let us begin this discussion with the word 'dharma'. Dharma does not mean religion- a literal translation is nature or essential characteristic. For eg: The dharma of sugar is to be sweet. If its not sweet- it cannot be sugar. Similarly, the dharma of fire is to give heat and that of water is to flow.

What is our dharma? The dharma of the soul is to serve.....
Seems strange? Not really...... Think about it.... What are we always doing? Serving others. This is the only thing that gives us satisfaction. Either we serve our parents, or our friends, or our children and siblings. It gets extended when we serve our communities or our country. Even the loneliest person gets a pet and serves it.
This is our nature.

So there we were in the spiritual world, serving God and having meaningful relationships with each other. And then sadly we became envious and desired to enjoy separately from God. We wondered why only God should be getting service not realizing that our happiness lay in serving Him.

And so He sent us to the material world. And this is what we have been trying to do here- life after life. Trying to enjoy separately from Him. And according to our desires and our karma we keep getting different bodies, different facilities to satisfy us. But we will never find happiness away from Him.

If we want to really be happy forever and find true love we should just turn to God and focus on serving Him and returning back to our eternal position.

[This may seem totally crazy but its not -really. I know many, many really intelligent and talented people who believe in this and have transformed their lives. I feel that everyone should take up this path and change for the better. All it needs is a little bit of your time and an open heart]

[Reference: Bhagvad Gita As it is- Srila Prabhupada]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Supreme Contradiction

The Supreme Contradiction

O Giridhar, mountain lifter,
Yet tottering while carrying Nandababa's slipper

O Damodar, personification of fear,
Yet You cried in fear of Your mother.

O Madhusudan, killer of demons,
In wrestling You, Your brother won.

O Eshwar, Supreme Controller,
Yet also Arjuna's charioteer.

O Govind, truth personified,
For Bhishma's sake, your vow you defied.

O Bhaktavatsal, Gopal, Nandlal
Your activities, a puzzle to us all.

P.S. Happy Diwali! May the light of love and knowledge shine in your life!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Funny things people say

Here are 5 of the funniest things I have heard people say......

1)"I am a descent boy....I dont pile on girls...."(in an online chat OMG!)
2)"There is no fire in me....."(in an email. This person was defending against the accusation that 'they did something wrong as there can be no smoke without fire')
3)"Send me your networking ass asap"(In a text message. How much effort does it take to type out that all important n?)
4)"It's in Pashan only"(On being asked where is Pashan lake located....)
5)"I hope they don't ask us to play table tennis! I am really bad at that....."(before an HR interview?!?!?)

P:S: If you find yourself here- no offense intended! :-P

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When Krishna played His flute....


When Krishna played the first note on His flute- autumn season appeared in Vrindavan.

When He played the second note, demigods like Brahma and Shiva stopped all activity and start listening attentively.

When He played the third note- the sun and the moon stopped revolving and froze in their orbits.

When Krishna played the fourth note- the Yamuna river changed direction and started flowing backwards out of sheer ecstasy.

When He played the fifth note- the cows of Vrindavan became still with their ears raised.

When He played the sixth note- the Yamuna river froze. Birds with their beaks dipped in the water got trapped in the ice.

When He played the seventh note- The unimaginable and the illogical occurred-all 5 seasons-spring, summer, rain, fall and winter appeared simultaneously in Vrindavan.

And then Krishna played the 8th note - beyond the seven notes known to us- and thus captured the heart of Srimati Radharani...........

[I heard this in a lecture by H.G Gaurgopal prabhu in Mumbai. I do not know the book it is in]

Monday, October 5, 2009

Comfort zone

Sometimes we get trapped in a comfort zone. A comfort zone is a place we are familiar with. It is a state of the mind.
"I can study for three hours only"
"I cant run faster than this!"
"I cant dance(or draw, or sing)"
Classic comfort zone statements....
But for how long are we going to remain in this zone? Sometimes situations force us to get out.... but mostly only an inner drive can push us through. I once succeeded in breaking out of one such zone. When I started doing crunches- I could barely do 5. But I worked on it, pushing myself daily, increasing the number by 2, until I touched 40- and it wasnt even so difficult anymore.

When Nauman completed his final roadies task, when Sudha Chandran danced with a wooden leg, when my brother changed his handwriting or when a friend finally succeeded in doing a headstand- it was all about gaining freedom- freedom from that zone.

So dont become complacent. Are you getting too comfortable? Then stretch the limits some more, hurt yourself , break free!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Karma-Infallible justice

Once there was a man who was born blind. He was the eldest son of a king, but his blindness denied him the throne. He was blessed with a hundred sons- but they were all butchered in war, while he lived.
This man was Dhritrashtra- the father of the Kauravas.
"How cruel! How unfortunate! What a sad fate!" you may think.
But consider this: In a previous life, Dhritrashtra was a hunter. Once he saw a bird nest with 100 newly hatched chicks. Out of sport, he killed all the chicks, blinded the parent birds and left. Now- didn't he get what he deserved?

Karma-the law of nature

There is a simple law that exists in the material world:
"Every action has an equal reaction"
What goes around, comes around.
You do good and enjoy the positive fruits, you do bad and you get punished. Ofcourse good and bad are also clearly defined in the scriptures-your own notions of good and bad are not going to change anything. Ignorance of the law too is no excuse.

Free will Vs destiny

Destiny is chartered out by your activities in a previous life. For eg previous karma determines your looks, your family background, your health and your intelligence. It is not random chance that determines why someone was born in the Gandhi family and why someone else was born to a beggar on the street. Its karma....
And free will? It is the choices you make while using the facilities given to you.
For eg: If you are born in a powerful family- you have a choice. How are you going to utilize the power given to you? If you chose to misuse your position in exploiting others, this facility will definitely be taken away in the next life.
We can chose how to act- the results of our actions are determined by karma. And our actions are determining the path our next life will take.

Heaven and hell

The Vedic understanding of heaven and hell is more complete than the Biblical understanding.
When you accumulate a lot of good karma, you get to go to the heavenly planets to reap the benefits. There are numerous heavenly planets and they have numerous facilities for enjoyment. For eg, you will get a beautiful body with a very long lifespan. They say that the most beautiful woman on earth looks like a frog compared to the heavenly damsels. There is great wealth and so much power. You could be made the head of wind, or of water or even become the King of heavens- Indra. But when your accumulated piety finishes off- you must once again return to earth.
Similarly too many sinful activities take you to hell. There you are punished for the stipulated time period and then sent back to earth. Recently I was reading the descriptions of hell given in the Srimad Bhagvatam. Quoting directly:

"One who appropriates another's legitimate wife, children or money is thrown into the dark hell known as Tamishra. There he is starved, given no water and is beaten until he falls unconscious"

23 hells are thus described and there are many more which have not been elaborated. Thus no crimes go unpunished.

Karma-the escape

As you can see karma keeps us bound. We keep getting different bodies, in different situations, as per our desires and our karma. Karma is compared to a dense network of banyan trees- roots from one tree lead to the growing of another tree until you can find no beginning and no end.
This network can be cut only by taking the shelter of Lord Hari. We cannot be inactive- action must be done. Hence action is done for God. When you work for God by offering the results of your activities to Him- then it is 'akarma'- karma that brings no reaction.(Eg, before eating, the cooked food is offered to the deity, time and money are utilised in His service etc)

Being liberated from these karmic chains we can then go to our true home- the spiritual world which is beyond both heaven and hell.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nature of God



(Disclaimer: I do not intend this article to be a litany against atheism, agnosticism, impersonalism or any other 'isms' that are out there. If you are a firm believer in any of the isms, you most probably are as bad as any religious fanatic and nothing anybody says is gonna sway you. If you are terribly narrow-minded and cocksure about your beliefs, please do not read any further. (Instead please see this and this.)However, I am of the opinion, that most people believe in God and even claim to have experienced Him, in the form of little miracles or unexplainable positive experiences. If you are confused about God, or curious, or you have never thought about these things, this article is for you. Anyways, my intention in writing this article is only to make an humble attempt to glorify that Supreme Being, who has created us, who is always with us and who loves us-unconditionally.)

1) God is a person- Yes He is the supreme person with a pure spiritual body. When the bible says, "God created man in his own image" or when the Koran says-"He has lotus feet and lotus eyes" this is what they mean. The original form of God is similar to ours, but ofcourse He is infinite and we are infinitesimal. His spiritual body is the source of everything-spiritual and material. And ofcourse, He is not bound by material nature to accept different material bodies like the living entity(i.e the soul) is.

2)He has the following 6 opulences in full- all beauty, all knowledge, all wealth, all strength, all fame and all renounciation. These are the opulences that all of us hanker to attain- but we can do so only in small measures, temporarily. He has them all the time, in FULL. And because He is renounced He is not attached to any of the other five opulences either.

3)The following is a verse from Brahma Samhita which very aptly describes the nature of God:
"Ishvarah paramah Krishna
sachidanand vigraha
anadir adi govinda
sarva karana karanam"

God is the supreme controller, He is all attractive , His body is eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss. He is the first person-'adi purush'. He is Govind(who gives pleasure to the cows and to the senses) and He is the cause of all causes.

Yes-He controls everything-not even a blade of grass may move without His explicit will. He is the reason behind all reasons..... And He is so attractive-you only need to open your heart and your mind to Him-to experience His love.

4)Another beautiful verse from the Ishopanishad says-

"Om purnamadha purnamidam
purnat purnamadyuchyate
purnasya purna madaya
purnamevavashishyate"

God is complete. And His creation is complete. Complete emanates from the complete and yet the original complete remains complete :)
Well basically this verse says that where God is concerned 1minus 1 is still 1. How?

Because He is God. He is so much more superior to us that we cannot understand Him with our limited intelligence.
We do not even aim to understand God. We are simply His servants. Our aim is to please Him, to serve Him. True happiness can be achieved simply by doing this.

As we travel from body to body, God travels with us, as the supersoul, or paramatma. He is simultaneously within and without us.He never leaves us alone. He simply observes and waits for us to turn our attention towards Him. He will never force us to love Him- because as unique individuals we have our free will- we always have a choice- to turn to Him or away from Him.

What is your choice?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Birds in my life

Living in an area, which has hills and a lake nearby, and in a society with more trees than buildings,we always have frequent visitors of the feathered kind. And thanks to a friend who was devoted to 'bird-watching'(the right kind) I even learned to identify our guests.

Our annual visitors are Mr. and Mrs Tailorbird. We have this particular plant in our terrace, with long leaves, ideally suited for their nest. The first time they came, we were fascinated by the entire nest making process. Using cotton and thread(no idea where those little birds even found this stuff) they wove two leaves together into a perfect cone. Once the chicks were born, the poor parents were continually stressed out, hunting insects to feed them with. We often entertained ourselves by lightly shaking the plant when the parents were away. Instantly, the chicks would stretch out and start opening and shutting their beaks. But if mum and dad happened to be there, they would start trilling a warning and the chicks would dive inside, hidden perfectly. The chicks soon grew fat and fell out of their nest. Honestly, they were bigger than their parents with stumpy little wings that flapped feebly. We had fun chasing the green fuzz balls while they hopped around, and this encouraged them to try harder, until they eventually flew away.

Then we had Mrs Dove. Earlier, our terrace was uncovered, and we had a shelf that we had built into the wall to keep pots on. She had built her nest in one such pot. Unfortunately, Mrs Dove didn't have a very good experience with us. She laid 2 eggs, of which only one hatched. And then 1 day the little chick just disappeared and so did Mrs Dove. Most probably a vicious crow had eaten her baby.

Speaking of crows, they are the mafia lords of this area. There is a huge tree here with a large number of crows' nests. Not only do we have crows, but also their larger and meaner cousins the ravens. I have seen one catch a fan-tailed drongo(a sparrow sized bird with a Japanese fan like tail) in mid-flight. One particularly bold specimen had also once pecked me hard on the back of my head, while I was eating a snack on the terrace. I was stunned,but I didn't drop the treat and the poor fellow had to fly away disappointed. (Not before giving me a disgruntled look though :D) Now that the terrace is covered, the supporting poles beneath the roof have become a cozy monsoon retreat for crow couples. You'll find them sitting there and watching the rain - and they are kind enough to leave behind droppings as payment :(

Then we have the red-vetted bulbuls. They are my favourites. I used to leave grapes and other fruit treats for them on the bedroom windowsill. Since this particular window is usually open, they flew in and attempted to build a nest on the tubelight. But they quickly dropped the idea when they realized that the window could be shut and they could be denied access to their home by outside forces :) Eventually, the nest was built on the ground-floor tubelight of our building. But they continue to come and sing for treats. :)

By singing, I am reminded of Mr.Sparrow. He was a pain! He had a ' singing phase' where he would come everyday to the above mentioned window and chirp incessantly 4 am onwards. Later on, we discovered that its the sparrow's mating ritual. Once they have found an ideal nesting spot, they keep calling out, until a female comes, inspects and approves of the place. This did happen and he left us in peace. (We tried searching for the nest later, but it was well hidden in the rafter above.)

In the same rafters we have also had tree sparrows make their nest. (We found this one- its empty now and beautiful! Like a dome made of woven grass) Tree sparrows are a deep brown in color and very shy- unlike their 'common' cousins. We would leave puffed rice for them-and they would eat it only after complicated maneuvers that involved staking out the area atleast 5 times and then hopping from grill to grill in a very round-about fashion.

My bird stories don't end here. We have had pigeons building nests above our bathroom window(only they could bully Mr Sparrow and make him fly away for some time), humming birds come in to sip the nectar when the gladiola bloomed(in my covered terrace- how did they find it?) and parrots who come to eat the beans off this particular tree. We have the cuckoo in spring time-(We still coo back at him in our 'cuckoo' moments - pun intended), the babblers who harass us with their continual babbling(shrieks that resemble the keening of a wounded dog ), and the Indian pheasant(Bharatbaaj), on seeing which we religiously fold our palms and make a wish.

Love them birds. :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

A golden day in world history


11/09/1965
A seventy year old man stepped off the cargo ship 'Jaldoota' anchored of the port of New York. He wore saffron clothes and carried a trunk that contained 3 books, a typewriter, his kartals (metal cymbals) and Rs 40 (Approximately 7 dollars then)
He had had 2 heart attacks on the way from Kolkatta to the USA, while crossing the turbulent Atlantic Ocean. When he alighted from the ship, he did not know whether to turn right or left.

This man was 'His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami'. Fondly called Srila Prabhupada, He went on to launch the International Society For Krishna Consciousness(ISKCON). Today it has 350 centres, 60 rural communities, 50 schools and 60 restaurants worldwide.

ISKCON is not just an organization- It is a movement. The Hare Krishna movement of love, peace and spiritual awareness. It is a movement which has taken the glorious Vaishnav culture and tradition, earlier concentrated only in the state of Bengal, to every country and every continent- from Russia to China, from Dubai to South Africa from United Kingdom to Singapore. A movement that is rapidly growing, ensuring that the holy names of the Lord are sung 'in every town and every village'.

Before leaving for the US, Srila Prabhupada was staying in the beautiful place of Vrindavan. He had accepted sannyasa, renounced worldly life, and he could have chosen to remain there, peacefully meditating on the Supreme Lord. What prompted him to leave the place so dear to him, at the fag end of his life, to go to a land with a culture completely opposite to the one he was used to?

It was the instructions from His spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, given to Him when He was a young man. His Gurudev told him ," You are an educated man. Go preach this knowledge to the west in English." He took this instruction to heart and spent his entire life trying to fulfill this aim, eventually succeeding beyond anybody's wildest imagination.

It was Prabhupada's compassion towards all living entities, and his strong faith in the Supreme Lord that enabled him to go through so much struggle to fulfill his life's mission. He wanted to give what was dear to him to the entire world. For this purpose, he authored some eighty volumes of translations and summary studies of India's great spiritual classics. Highly respected by the academic community for their authority, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into over fifty languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy. In just twelve years, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents.

It was his sacrifice, his efforts, his love and nourishment, his straightforward attitude, his refusal to compromise on spiritual standards, that softened the hearts of materialistic people all over the world. Thousands of people have given up meat-eating, intoxication, gambling and illicit sex and are leading pure vaishnav lifestyles. His disciples are simply carrying forward his inheritance and this movement is benefiting everyone across the globe.

Everyone can be a part of this glorious movement.
To know more about ISKCON click here.
To know more about Srila Prabhupada click here.
To know about ISKCON Pune and find out about our activities click here.

Jai Srila Prabhupada!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The true goal

Imagine a man driving swiftly down a highway. He is cutting through traffic, honking crazily, in a big rush. Somebody stops him and asks him, "My friend, where are you heading?" And the man says, "I don't know."
Absurd? This unfortunately is the situation of our life today. The whole world is in a big hurry, but nobody knows where their life is heading.....

This brings us to another important question- What is the goal of my life?
Everybody has certain goals- may be earning lot of money, or fame, or power. Some want to have a happy family life and some others want to travel the world.
But if you think about it all these goals will finish at death for they are all related to the body. You on the other hand are the eternal spirit soul. What then is your goal?

The true goal of human life is to awaken the dormant love that we have for God and escape from the cycle of birth to death.

Ok now that needs a little explaining. Let us discuss some of the problems we have in our life. You are unhappy with petrol prices? The oil owning countries are getting richer. Grumbling about your sibling bugging you? But your sibling is having fun.
Mosquitoes kept you up at night? Oh but they were having a delicious feast.
My point is - "one man's meat is another man's poison" What may seem like a problem to you may actually be a solution to someone else.

However there are four problems which are common to all living beings. Everyone has to face these. They are birth, death, old age and disease.
Old age and disease are situations of extreme discomfort. Death is so painfully that it is equivalent to 40,000 scorpions stinging you at once. As for birth, spending nine months trapped in a constricted space, unable to move, in bile and acid and being bitten by all kinds of bacteria and worms is terrible.
We are stuck in this cycle, getting one body after the other. The body we get need not be human. We get a body based on our activities and our desires.(More on this in the next blog)In every body we try to seek happiness by fulfilling different desires.

But really, can we of spirit find happiness in matter? No. All our attempts will always be futile. The human body that we have is our one chance to escape from this cycle of birth and death. And where can we escape to? To the spiritual world- which is eternal and full of happiness. That is the place where we get what we keep trying to find here, but never succeed - love. Love that is eternal and that wont ever be taken away from us, for it is in relation to God. True happiness lies in serving God.

And how do we go about it? In this age of Kaliyuga, the process is simple-
chant the names of God. It can be any name - allah, jehova, Krishna. For the name of God is non-different from Him.

"Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare"

Meaning:
O Radharani(Hare), the energy of God, O all attractive one(Krishna), O reservoir of all pleasure (Rama) Please engage me in your service.

You can listen to it here:

By chanting this mantra regularly, we can all escape the cycle of birth and death.

Reference - Bhagvad Gita As It Is- Srila Prabhupada

(This blog may have raised many questions. Whether you agree/disagree please do give feedback. (I have even kept the anonymous comments option :) )
)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Five Little Puppies

Five Little Puppies
Five little puppies were born today,
Nuzzling and cuddling- so happy and gay.

Five little puppies in the downpour,
One shivered and froze and then there were four.

Four little puppies feeding 'neath a tree,
One couldn't grab his share and then there were three.

Three little puppies walking in a queue,
A car reversed carelessly and then there were two.

Two little puppies having some fun,
A vicious stray attacked and then there was one.

One little puppy lying in the sun,
The dog van arrived, and then there were none.

This poem is in remembrance of the five puppies born in my society this summer. This was the second year that 'Bimbo', their mother, gave birth to a litter of pups. Once again, none survived.
Now you know why stray dog sterilization drives are so important......

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The parrot and the cage

Once upon a time there was a rich old lady. For her personal amusement, she purchased a parrot. It was a cute green bird with a lovely curved red beak. Now she wanted to display her new pet to all her friends. So she ordered a cage to be specially made for the parrot. Being rich and eccentric (and a show-off), she had the cage made of the finest gold and studded with precious gems. It had delicate carvings of miniature designs. She hired servants who polished the cage 5 times a day with silken cloths. People came from far-off lands for the lady's fancy parties and the cage was greatly admired. "What design?! How artistic! How expensive!" they exclaimed. And the poor parrot? No one noticed it. No one fed it or even gave it water to drink. It died within days.

This, unfortunately, is the case, of our lives today too. We are so busy doing everything for our body and for all things related to it - like our family, our status in society etc that we completely forget about ourselves. We spend 24 hours maintaining the body and not one second for us-the soul.

Along with IQ and EQ(emotional quotient) it is also important to build our SQ(spiritual quotient).
This can be done through mantra meditation, prayer, deity worship, listening to devotional songs and reading spiritual literature.

So stop polishing the cage and start feeding the parrot. :)

Reference: (Bhagvad Gita As It Is-Srila Prabhupada, Discover Yourself-Radheyshyam Das, www.thespiritualscientist.com)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The science of the soul

I have often asked people "Who are you?" and for some reason this simple question leaves people confused. Some answer "Rahul" or "Anita". But really thats just a word. Its your name. Its not you. Some say "girl" or "boy" but again thats your gender.
Just like when you claim- its my bag or my book you do not become the bag or book. You are different from either of those two. Similarly you cannot say I am my body. They are your hands, your eyes, it is your body. You are not that body.
So then who are we?

The scriptures state that we are the spirit soul- a spark of energy that animates the body. The body is simply a dead machine unless it is activated by the soul. We can consider the analogy of a car. The car has wheels and the body has legs for motion, the car has a horn to generate noise and the body has the lungs, vocal cords etc. But the car will never move until the driver activates it. Similarly the body needs spirit to activate it.

Now some of you may be thinking the above is just word jugglery. I, my - just playing with pronouns. People want proof of the soul's existence. This is a little funny- you are actually asking for the proof of your own existence :) But anyways for cynics

1)Common sense
The body is ever changing. It is claimed that every seven years all the cells of the body are replaced by new ones. Everybody knows that as a baby, a toddler, a teenager and as an adult your appearance has changed tremendously. But you are still you right? Your identity is not dependent on the appearance of your body. Then how can you identify yourself with your body?

2)Consciousness
Some times people ask, why cant I see the soul? But is seeing or (direct experience) the only way to accept something's existence? In fact the entire field of electrostatics is based on something which we cannot perceive with any of our senses- the electron. We know that an electron exists from its symptoms.(You can see its light reflection on a CRT screen). Also we cannot percieve X-rays. We can only see their effect on the right material. Similarly consciousness is the symptom of the soul. Consciousness differentiates a dead body from a live one.

3)Near Death Experiences-
Many cases have been documented where patients undergoing a critical operation are able to recall later, in very accurate detail, the operation theater, people present, instruments used, conversations etc. Many cases have been scientifically documented(See link)

4)Intutive understanding-
When someone dies the common phrase is "he passed away" but the body is lying right there. Then who passed away? Also the fact that near death experiences are called out-of-body experiences goes to show that you are not the body - you are the soul.

Hopefully by now you might be convinced that you are not your body, you are something different. Now what exactly does it mean to be a soul?

It means that
1)The soul is sat, chit and anand. i.e. full of knowledge, eternal and full of bliss. ("Strange", you wonder "I cannnot claim to be full of knowledge and nor am I always happy") Yes, this has happened because we identify ourselves with our body. We are covered by this material nature which is exactly opposite. Everything related to matter is temporary, full of ignorance and can never give us true happiness.
By appropriate spiritual training we can all realize our true nature.(More about this in next blog)

2)Knowledge that we are not the body frees from fear, stress and lamentation that arises when near-and-dear ones pass away or when we suffer illness or disease related to the body.

3)Realization of the soul also brings true universal brotherhood. Major problems like terrorism, racism, infact everything arise because people identify themselves on factors related to their body(eg race, caste, etc) and hate everybody else externally different from them. Knowledge that we are all eternal spiritual beings encourages
universal love.

Reference: (Bhagvad Gita As it is-Srila Prabhupada, Discover Yourself-Radheyshyam Das, www.thespiritualscientist.com)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Miniclip must-play games

I have had so much fun playing some really cute, challenging and creative games on www.miniclip.com that I thought I must mention them here.
They have a huge list of flash games but sometimes you come across some real gems....

1) BLOXORZ
)My absolute favourite ever - this game consists of a rectangular wooden block that has to be rolled around a rectangular 2-d maze and dropped into a hole without letting it fall of the edges. There are 32 levels of which the last few are really tricky. The levels consist of all kinds of special buttons and tiles which need to be rolled onto or rolled around. The cool part about this game is that for many levels even if you get a solution you wont be able to repeat it next time without thinking. A must try.

2)ClickPlay
This game consists of around 25 levels of really creative scenarios. You have to click around or click and drag objects until a play button appears on the screen. The aim is to finish the game in least number of clicks. Less than 600 will get you a bronze medal :). The whole game is in black and white and has that old cartoon feel.
If you get stuck google for the walk-through :)

3)Chronotron
This game consists of a time machine. Every time you enter it your future self emerges while your past self repeats its movements. You basically have to attain the level objective with the help of your past selves. It requires thinking in many dimensions :) Cute graphics and there is a very cool phenomena called time paradox where your past self dies while your future self is alive - which technically cannot happen- so your game ends. This game really got me thinking about how it must be made. Requires a lot of patience and thinking though.

4)Magic Pen
This is a rather unusual game. It consists of a drawing of a ball, a flag and some objects between them. You have to get the ball to the flag by drawing other objects and using them to push the ball. Do go through the instructions before playing. It requires great amount of artistic skill and a different kind of thinking. No wonder I couldnt make much progress :(

Do play and enjoy!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Walking angels

Who says angels dont walk on earth? I am surrounded by angels in my life.

Angels who get me a birthday dress and even give it for stitching when I am too busy preparing for placements, who turn off the lights and get me water when I am lying down in bed-too tired to get up(though they are equally tired) and who come all the way to college to give me my tiffin because I refuse to eat out.

Angels who rescue my cellphone when I leave it in college, who give me those all important write ups every time I demand them, who are ever ready to give me a ride to college(sometimes going out of the way to drop me to a place of my convenience), who tow my bike to the garage when it breaks down and who come with me to collect and check it thouroughly after its serviced.

Angels who call me up late at night to tell me some weird questions and their answers for my next day's viva, whose house is always open to me and I get a full delicious meal whenever I visit and who are bothered enough to explicitly insist on a missed call so they know I have reached my destination safely.

Angels who care enough to persuade me to communicate when I am upset and retreating into a shell, who are ready to listen when I am so excited about some small achievement and talk about myself for hours, who motivate me when I enter into my "Damn, life sucks....I am a loser" mood and who are ready to just 'take-over' my responsibilities when I ditch out last minute on meetings.

I think this list can go on and on.
I am blessed......Thank-you Lord and ofcourse thank-you angels.......

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The tale of X and Y

X and Y are 2 people in a relationship. It can be any relation- siblings, lovers, parent-child, friends anything. Y means far more to X than Y realizes. X remembers every conversation and every joke shared with Y. X values all the opinions that Y has. It really matters to X what Y thinks about X.
And then, one day, Y does something that may be a small thing for Y , and an insignificant thing for the world but is a big thing for X. X feels hurt. X wonders-why did Y do this? If only it had not been Y.......
Even if X confronts Y- Y wouldn't understand- coz Y doesnt know and Y may not care. And then X has to reconcile itself- "This is my problem, not Y's problem. For my perspective about this relation is very different from Y's"
After that, X changes, and the relation changes, but Y doesnt know and Y may not care.
How often have we been X?
How often have we been Y?
"For the world you might be someone, but for someone you might be the world."

Eisenheim-The Illusionist

I saw a movie called Illusionist recently. It was excellent. Really well-made.
And it got me thinking about how the illusionist or conjurer uses smoke and mirrors to create a mirage, an illusion. And the audience is so excited about what they see that they forget all about the conjurer. He uses all the tools of his trade- pretty lighting, unearthly speeches, clever hand-gestures, fancy clothes, smooth expressions - to fool people into believing something that isnt. He gives the people what they want because he just wants to make everyone happy. And all his tricks are so charming that people stop caring about the real person-what his hopes and dreams are, what he likes, what he really wants. And then the poor fellow wonders how did he end up being so lonely? Did he do 1 trick too many? May be now his defences are too strong and nobody can get past them.... Or may be it is the fault of the people- none of them want to try...
And so the illusionist stands - all alone on his stage.....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Geek Symptoms

You know you are a computer geek when:
  1. You hear trees and think children, binary search and recursion and not about those brown and green thingys on which fruits grow.
  2. To you 'windows' is a swear word (or 'that other os' if you are polite). You never look out of them. No wonder you dont know what trees really are.
  3. "Google is a search engine"- to you this sentence is akin to blasphemy. Thats coz Google is your dictionary, spell-checker, translator, postman, problem solver, calculator, convertor, locator, publisher, editor,artist, essentially everything.
  4. The only exercise you get is when you bend to turn on/turn off the pc or take a trip to the kitchen to get some drink. If you are a health freak you most probably do those 'chair exercises' where you stretch your legs in front of you, rotate your feet and think "Wow, aerobics is tiring..."
  5. You have weak eyes. Do try to take a break every hour and stare away from the screen.
  6. You speak 'Geekanese'. This language contains sentences like -
    "I think its time to refactor my cupboard."
    "Those newbies are having a flame war and adding noise to my list."
    "I just submitted a patch by skipping the tarring and simply gzipped the code."
    (I am unable to present an English translation of the above sentences as google translator does not support Geekanese yet. If you dont understand them count yourself lucky.)
  7. You hero-worship some and identify almost everyone of the following people: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Linus Torvaldus, Chris Mason, Valerie Aurora, Avi Kivity, Daniel Philips and Steve Jobs. (Ya I know you are itching to add some more names here-feel free to comment :))
  8. You are terrified of bugs because you know there is no pest control agency on the planet that can come around and zap them out for you.
  9. You are more comfirtable chatting online or texting than phone conversations. ("Its cheaper" is just an excuse. Stop fooling yourself) And real conversations with real people is a rare event.
  10. You have read through (and understood) all the above points and now you are wondering "This aint normal/expected/regular behaviour?"
Welcome to the world of computer geeks!!! Actually you were already here. If you are suddenly noticing other behaviour which you have been taking for granted all this while do comment. :)
Cheers!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My cooking bloopers

Hi,
I thought I'll write down some of the CRAZY mistakes I have made while struggling up the cooking curve and what I learned from them. Why I am writing this is because:
1)Life is too short to make all the mistakes that everyone makes so its good to learn from others' :)
2)Its funny. Lolz.

Ok here goes:

1)I actually put the rice cooker on the gas without adding water. Duh. By the time I realised what I had done the bottom (of the cooker) had turned black and some of the steel had melted into the rice. (Eeeyuck!!! Good-bye cooker) In my defence- I was 14 :P
Lesson- Never ever put a cooker on the gas without double checking its contents.

2)Once I had invited a friend over for a chinese meal(I was giving her my birthday treat). In a last minute rush I set a chocolate cake for baking. I think I screwed up with the soda bicarb measure because some part of the cake puffed up (like a bubble) while all the solid part just remained stuck to the bottom of the baking dish. In the end we scraped of the bits and had them with vanilla ice-cream. My friend was sweet enough to have it although she did refuse a second helping ;) Luckily for her everything else turned out great!
Lesson- Plan your menu carefully and prepare your desserts in advance :)

3)When I cooked my 1st pulav it turned out like khichdi. Reason: I added potatoes, overcooked the rice and undercooked the tomatoes. Umm I also forgot the spices.
Lesson- Cook your tomatoes and masala thouroughly and only add water in proportion to the rice not rice+ vegetables. Oh and never add potatoes :)

4)Overcooking pasta. I went through this phase where every pasta dish I made was overcooked. "Pasta dish" includes noodles, spaghetti, rice sevai, macaroni.......And I dont know if you have experienced this but eating an overcooked pasta dish feels like eating glue :P It took me a while to realize that:
Lesson- When you cook the pasta in water you must cook it for exactly the time given in the recipe and then wash the pasta in cold water immediately. Else it will cook further in its own steam.
However I am going through the undercooked pasta phase right now so may be someone can help me with this one :)

Tada!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Recipe- sweet pumpkin puris

We made pumpkin puris on Janmashtami for bhoga. I did most of the stuff myself. Thought I'll record it here complete with secret tips from my mom :)

Sweet pumpkin Puris

Ingredients:

1 cup grated pumpkin(lal bhopala)
1 cup jaggery(chirleli-could the english equivalent be grated?)
wheat flour (approximately 200 gms)
oil to fry

Method:

1)Steam the pumpkin in a kadhai till it is cooked. The pumpkin will eventually release water.
2)When that happens add the jaggery and cook both together until it looks like a chocolate brown broth. Basically, the jaggery should have melted completely, becoming slightly dark.
Tip 1: Add a pinch of salt to this. A little salt adds a special flavour to jaggery based desserts.
3)Ok, now comes the tricky part. Take 1 bowl wheat flour and add the jaggery+pumpkin broth to it. You have to start kneading the flour so that it becomes proper puri consistency. Usually you know the amount of flour required and add appropriate water(i.e. the liquid) In this case it is reverse. Go on adding flour and depending on amount of liquid. Eventually you'll get a lump of kneaded puri dough.
Tip 2: Use a little oil in the end as a finishing touch to smoothen the dough.
4)Now 'belo' and fry the puris as normal. Fry them till they turn a deep reddish gold.
Tip 3: Make slightly thick puris(while 'beloing'). Otherwise they become hard after frying.
Tip 4: Fry on a medium-low flame. Too hot oil burns the jaggery and spoils your puri :)

Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Prime Evil

Thanks to swine Flu I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands.....
So just thought of publishing one of my better poems:

Prime Evil
Hungry, Hungry for your soul,
Wanting, wanting more and more,
Pleasure, pleasure only goal,
Lust, lust bleeds your core.

Rage, rage burning fire,
Fury, fury in your cry,
Pain, pain unfulfilled desire,
Anger, anger blinds your eye.

Counting, counting always less,
Struggling, struggling in a mesh,
Working, working increasing stress,
Greed, greed eats your flesh.

Mine, mine you falsely claim,
Claw claw as they depart,
Cling, cling to long dead name,
Attachment, attachment traps your heart.

Lesser, lesser beneath me all,
Mighty, mighty nothing I lack,
Harder, harder you will fall,
Pride, pride breaks your back.

Roving, roving jealous eye,
Gnawing, gnawing swallows whole,
Why, why, why not I?
Envy, envy poisons your soul.

Six, six evils prime,
Saviour, saviour only one,
Hurry, hurry there is no time,
Chant, chant or come undone.


-
Shweta Shetty


ThoughtWorks Placement Process

Thoughtworks selected three people from my college(Pune Institute Of Computer Technology) during the placement process in July 2009. (I was one of them :)) They had 6 rounds:
  1. Aptitude- which had flow chart based questions. You just have to be really, really careful while solving these- the maximum you can score is 12 and their selection cutoff can be as high as 10-11
  2. Group Activity- Groups of 8-12 people are told to design a software system. We had to design an intranet for a second-hand car dealership. Other systems asked were pizza delivery, online airline reservation, online advertising, etc. They selected 3-4 people from each group.
  3. Coding round(Read the next post)
  4. Technical interview round 1- 16 people reached this round. Each of us was drilled for an hour or so on C, OOP, Data Structures, Java, Puzzles and DBMS by a panel of 2 people.
  5. Technical interview round 2- 8 people reached this round. Each of us was interviewed for almost 3 hours. Our concepts and problem solving skills were tested in detail.
  6. HR- 3 of us reached this round and all of us got selected. However, Thoughtworks does end up rejecting people from this round too, so do not take it lightly :)
Basically Thoughtworks wants people who:
  1. Have strong technical skills
  2. Have good communication skills
  3. Who are passionate about what they do
  4. Who enjoy learning
  5. Who are confident, (but not overly so)
  6. Who are great team-workers
So if you are going to be appearing for the ThoughtWorks selection process, just keep your cool and be confident. The whole thing is also really grueling- you will need high levels of energy, patience and mental stamina. All the best!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Why am I blogging?

Hi all!

Ok this is totally wierd. I mean I still cant believe I am blogging! I have been debating with myself for the past 3 months on whether I should blog or not.......Listing some of the reasons why I should not:
1) Kind of creepy letting strangers into your personal space
2) No time
3) My life's got too many varied aspects
4) Apprehension

And why should I?

1)Love writing
2)Knowledge/Information should be shared
3)Keep my English skills brushed up. I just reread the above stuff and realized my grammar seems to be going in the same direction as sewage(down the drain:))
(Hopefully I have corrected most of my mistakes)
4)Love reading other people's blogs so may be some one just might like reading mine:)

Anyways I am now compelled to introduce my future blogs
They are all going to be on crazily different topics - depending on whatever is going on in my head at that particular time.
They wont be regular and I wont even try writing regularly.
They will be entertaining(I hope:)).

Ok thats all for now.
Bye