A Beautiful Mind – Not A Book Review

Last week I finished reading A Beautiful Mind. It is a biography of John Nash written by Sylvia Nasar. John Nash was a mathematician who made fundamental contributions to several fields of mathematics. His work in game theory has had a tremendous impact in economics. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994. Thing is, from the age of 31 to 62 he was besieged by schizophrenia and lived a life thoroughly lost to the world.

This is an astounding story of redemption, so very competently crafted into a detailed, thoroughly-researched saga. I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude when I finished reading the book. So I had a tiny exchange with my boss –



You are beautiful. So kind and loving. इतना सुकून महसूस कर रही हूँ after having read John Nash’s biography. Thank You for putting the book in my hands. Thank You for restoring his life. Thank You for making him the way You made him. Thank You for giving him that self-awareness that he learned to say no to his delusional thoughts, thought by thought, each time they occurred. Thank You for mending his relationships — that he finally became a supportive husband and father, with his quirks. That he finally had a good relationship with his sister. Thank You for Alicia. Indeed there is only Your love that blossoms across the universe in different ways. Thank You to Princeton and the whole mathematics community that kept him, let him stay and wander its corridors through all his dark days. Thank You to USA that brought him back when he was insistent on becoming stateless — though I fully understand the purity of that thought, of wanting to become stateless.

Thank You for Sylvia Nasar, for having her write such an excellent biography, with such in-depth research, thorough references, no words minced — all things beautiful and ugly relayed as it happened, no candy-flossing — right down to all the behind-closed-doors drama of the prize decision, showing me how Your hand is there in everything that transpires. Those adjectives, beautiful and ugly, I have inserted them. She related the whole thing almost totally as a true journalist — not just what happened in the outside world, but also the inner dynamics of the brain, how it feels inside for the person dealing with such a condition. All the informational sections of what the research world in USA was like in the 1940s, 50s, the sharing of the mathematics in a manner that laymen may comprehend, how game-theory has impacted economics, including Al Gore’s auctioning of wavelengths right at the time when the Nobel was being awarded were also so valuable and gratifying to read. Thank You for all of that — though I skipped several pages in between.

Thank You for the pointers and takeaways of how I can live a better life. Filter out every thought of warring family members and the sense of being alone (because it is a delusion), and give my mind to You, for Your beauty to flow.

You are most welcome. It is all because I love you.


By the way, John Nash also invented a game called Hex. It is very easy to play. I played with my nephew Dhruv and he beat me at it. Dhruv and I both lost to the computer. See if you want to give it a try.

How I Started Reading My Favorite Fat Spiritual Book

Those days, moments and settings of my childhood used to flash back to me vividly. So I wasn’t surprised that yet another moment from my childhood had presented itself in my mind. That moment put me in the grips of fear.

Emotions constantly change form. Even within seconds. So ok, that moment from childhood had presented itself and had generated a gripping fear in me, but I expected the moment to fade away. I expected the fear to change form. It did not. One week passed and the fear continued to grip me in its clutches in exactly the same way.

Calling the people involved in the moment from my childhood and demanding, “Why did you do this!” would not have helped. I had already communicated their impact on me some months ago. That moment in the past had occurred. Point is, I was in the clutching grip of fear right now. It was my present problem. I had spoken to my counselor about it and while she acknowledged my feeling, so what? I was still in the exact same grips of fear.

That is when I ultimately picked up this book to read: A Course In Miracles.

A miracle is a switch in the mind from fear to love, from the false to the truth. This course teaches how to make that switch. I had read about A Course In Miracles (ACIM), from another book, A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson. Marianne told me this book, ACIM, teaches that there are only two primary emotions, fear and love, and it teaches how to make a switch in the mind from fear to love. Now whether I was interested in love or not, I sure wanted this fear to budge. No other option seemed to remain. Days passed and the fear had not budged in the slightest. So I started reading this book.

A Course in Miracles is my favorite fat spiritual book. Some months back I had shared with you my favorite thin spiritual book, Vigyaan Bhairav (The Science of Shiva). That book, is only 17 pages thin, so it took only one article to share it with you. This book, A Course in Miracles, is 1180+ pages thick, so it will take a little more than one article to share what I like about the book and how it has helped me.

The book is divided into two main parts. 1. The text. 2. Workbook for students. Today I end this post by sharing one teaching from the workbook.

“I am not alone in being affected by my thoughts.”

I meaning me, I meaning you, I meaning us. Each one of us. We are not alone in being affected by our thoughts.

Not only are we responsible for our speech and actions, not only does our speech and action impact our life and the lives of the people around us, and the world — each thought we hold impacts us, the people around us, and the whole world. Even if we do not get up and go out of the room and articulate the thought to anyone. Whether we like it or not, that is the way the universe functions.

I am not alone in being affected by my thoughts.

You are not alone in being affected by your thoughts.


Next post in this series:
How He Endeared Me To Himself

Image credit: Mohamed Hassan from Egypt, via pixabay.com

Thank you Albert

I finished reading Writing As A Path To Awakening by Albert Flynn DeSilver yesterday night. Even while reading it I had felt driven to contact the author and thank him – and so I did. He requested me to post a review on Amazon. So I sat down today morning to keep my word. This is what I wrote (or in his terms, freewrote). It is not quite a review, but the book is quite a book.

If writing is of interest to you to any extent, I recommend it highly. If you love reading, then too I recommend it to you. I think every person who loves reading has a writer lurking inside. This book will kickstart that writer in you. At the very least it will give you further confidence on your unique journey of self-expression.

This is the non-review I wrote today morning.


Thank you Albert.

If you could hear the heavy, solemn sound of my voice, born of sincerity – if you could see my eyes right now, filled with a soft, deep, vast gratitude – if you could enter into my chest and mindheart, then I would have to say just these three words in response to your book that is now mine –
Thank you Albert.

Now that this book is mine, not made by me but by a power divine, I can gush at its utter beauty the way I gushed with fascination at my new born niece, a fresh package of divinity.

See, this is what your book has done to me. I don’t want to write a well thought out, erudite, balanced review. The only thing I want to do, without having done any of the meditations and writing exercises yet, is to talk to you directly – to bring my true, natural, beautiful self to you as effortlessly as I can, and simply say –
Thank you Albert.

I could tell you that I have finished journeying through the twelve months you created within a few days, riding on the wings of your words so filled with grace that they took me to the sky I love, they took me to the sky within. I could tell you that I collected so many jewels on this journey as I kept highlighting lines to revisit, that at times it seemed I will turn the whole page and book orange. I could tell you that I intend to embark on this journey with you once again, to do at least some of the writing exercises – for sure the ones on editing, on death and sanctuary, on the elements and senses – but all this telling is immaterial.

The only thing material is gratitude – and being One.


Dear reader,

I recognize that this might not function as a very useful book review. All I have to say right now, as you may have gathered from the effusive outpouring above, is that I highly recommend it. If you resonate with the act of writing as a way of delving into yourself, irrespective of whether you want to make something concrete with it or not, get yourself a copy of this book.

The Science of Shiva – My Favorite Thin Spiritual Book

कहें न तुमसे तुम्हारी बात तो किससे कहें हम?

Shivji is one heck of a cool dude. You see, I have a teenage crush on Shivji that endures. So when he says, “O Beloved, put attention neither on pleasure or pain but between these, I feel this warm glow all inside.

He’s addressing me as beloved! Oh how nice!

What are you talking about Vani??

My favorite thin (ultra-thin) spiritual book. It’s called “Vigyaan Bhairav”, which means “Science of Shiva”.

The original is in Sanskrit, but hold on, don’t go away yet. We aren’t going to get all high brow, scholarly and stuff. In fact it’s because of its utter simplicity that I love this book – and there are many kind and sweet ways that it is accessible to us without having to bother about the Sanskrit.

Shakti (Durga, Parvati, The Supreme Feminine Force) poses a question –

“O Shiva, what is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
Who centers this universal wheel?
How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?”

Essentially she is asking him to spill the beans. She is asking him to tell us “the theory of everything”, the one final answer to all questions anyone may ever have.

And then Shiva answers –

He gives 112 short simple ways whereby we may know the answer ourselves by experiencing it. In short, his answer just boils down to this –

Be aware. Experience completely. Receive fully.

He does not directly answer the question ‘What is your reality? Who centers the universal wheel?’ – for if we just heard that, bereft of experience it would just be information and theory to us. He tells us ways in which we can enter his reality, ways in which we can arrive at the center of the universal wheel – above space and time, names and descriptions – and thereby we can directly reach the answer experientially. Nowhere in the book does he say, “I center the universal wheel. This is my reality. Worship me (or anyone or anything for that matter)”. I told you, he’s a cool dude.

.

Observe. That is the bedrock of science. Observe as much as you can, as minutely as clearly as you can. On a personal level that converts to – be aware, experience completely. Be as acutely aware, of as much in you, around you, as you can.

Scientists use various instruments to observe – be it the grand Hadron Collider at CERN or the hapless rickety Voltmeter in the school lab. We too have been bestowed with superb instruments to observe with. The grandest, big daddy of them all being – our mind. And a plethora of other superb instruments too – eyes, ears, skin…

We just have to tune our instruments and use it completely. When we do that, we directly reach the reality of what is Shiva, along with resolutions to life problems required enroute.

To solve a problem, we have to know the problem. To know the problem, we have to observe the problem. And that applies to whatever hassle we may be experiencing. And even if everything is hunky dory and you are filled with wonder at our wondrous universe and want to know what drives it all – the ultimate question of science, “the theory of everything” – Shiva tells us how you can straight away, bang on, arrive at it. At the center of it all. Not only do you get to know the theory of everything, you get to directly connect with everything, you get to become everything.

It all boils down to tuning our instruments and using it. One simple way that Shivji gives to tune our big daddy instrument, our mind, is – be aware of your breath.

The first four verses of his answer are all different ways of saying, be aware of your breath. Here is the first –

1. Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) – the beneficence.

Whenever I do that, whenever I choose to become aware of my breath, I feel a sense of calm. Ok, relative calm. Things do not feel as overwhelming. I feel his presence. Be aware of your breath.

Imagine a rickety voltmeter gone rogue, jumping all over the lab. That’s what our mind is like most of the time. What kind of an answer to anything will we get using that instrument? What kind of problem solving will it manage to do? Even if someone is blaring the answer we seek at top volume, we won’t be able to hear it. Cause the voltmeter (which has a radio transmission receiver built into it) won’t be able to receive any radio transmission. We gotta tune the radio.

A way to do it – be aware of your breath.

Dear reader, I invite you – pause a second, become aware of your breathing – no need to close your eyes, take on a posture or any such thing – be aware of the movement in your chest, or your tummy – whichever moves more. Just five breaths. In and out.

Being aware of just five breaths, in and out, being aware of just one breath, has tremendous power.

Then Shivji, in Vigyaan Bhairav, gives some further ways to arrive at the center of the universal wheel, above space and time. Here are some that I particularly like. It all boils down to – Use your instruments! See! Listen! When eating something, taste it completely. When having sex, experience it so completely that the fire burns in you forever. Feeling like a rag doll? Well experience that completely.

16. In the beginning and gradual refinement of the sound of any letter, awake.

17. While listening to stringed instruments, hear their composite central sound; thus omnipresence.

22. Consider any area of your present form as limitlessly spacious.

27. When in worldly activity, keep attentive between two breaths, and so practicing, in a few days be born anew.

37. Look lovingly on some object. Do not go on to another object. Here, in the middle of this object – the blessing.

41. While being caressed, sweet princess, enter the caressing as everlasting life.

43. At the start of sexual union, keep attentive in the beginning, and so continuing, avoid the embers in the end.

45. Ever remembering union, without embrace, the transformation.

46. On joyously seeing a long-absent friend, permeate this joy.

47. When eating or drinking, become the taste of the food or drink, and be filled.

50. At the point of sleep when sleep has not yet come and external wakefulness vanishes, at this point being is revealed.

51. In summer when you see the entire sky, endlessly clear, enter such clarity.

52. Lie down as dead. Engaged in wrath, stay so. Or stare without moving an eyelash. Or suck something and become the sucking.

59. Simply by looking into the blue sky beyond clouds, the serenity.

62. In rain during a black night, enter that blackness as the form of forms.

67. Feel yourself pervading all directions, far, near.

79. Toss attachment for body aside, realizing I am everywhere. One who is everywhere is joyous.

82. Feel the consciousness of each person as your own consciousness. So, leaving aside concern for self, become each being.

91. Wherever your mind is wandering, internally or externally, this.

92. When vividly aware through some particular sense, keep in the awareness.

96. Devotion frees.

98. The purity of other teachings is as impurity to us. In reality know nothing as pure or impure.

100. Be the unsame same to friend as to stranger, in honor and dishonor.

101. When the mood against someone or for someone arises, do not place it on the person in question, but remain centered.

104. Wherever your attention alights, at this very point, experience.

108. Here is a sphere of change, change, change. Through change consume change.

109. As a hen mothers her chicks, mother particular knowings, particular doings, in reality.

110. Since, in truth, bondage and freedom are relative, these words are only for those terrified with the universe.
This universe is a reflection of minds. As you see many suns in water from one sun, so see bondage and liberation.

112. Beloved, at this moment let mind, knowing, breath, form, be included.

.

.

Did you sense a deep silence and wide expanse in those words?

There is tremendous transformative power in receiving our experiences completely. As we do it (even if just sometimes) over time it creates a shift, a transformation within. We start seeing the same things that have been in our life all along, in subtle but significantly different ways. There is power shining everywhere and every once in a while we are able to connect to it. A wide expanse opens up and our mind gets transformed in unimaginably gorgeous ways. We feel unlimited. We become unlimited.

Then, in the original Sanskrit, at the end of all his answers, Durga “कण्ठे लग्ना” – i.e. filled with gratitude, she embraces him, she hugs him tight.

That is exactly what happens. We are overcome by gratitude.

That sure is what happens to me. उनके बस गले लग जाना, ज़ोर से – और क्या चाह सकती हूँ मैं?

विस्तृत होकर मन मुस्काया
छा जाती नभ सी यह काया
मैं बस वाणी – मन भरमाया
मैं तो हूँ ब्रह्माण्ड समाया


Zen Flesh Zen BonesDear reader, the excerpts that I have shared with you here are from the book Zen Flesh Zen Bones which consists of four parts (it is not 4 parts as in 4 printed separate books – there are 4 parts within this one book Zen Flesh Zen Bones).

This, a very simple, extremely pared down translation of Vigyaan Bhairav is the last, 4th part of Zen Flesh Zen Bones titled “Centering”. 18 printed pages. That’s all.

There are other ways in which Vigyaan Bhairav is accessible to you too. There is a version available from Bihar School of Yoga / Bihar Yoga Bharati where the original Sanskrit is given with short explanations in English after each shloka. Osho Rajneesh has written a commentary on Vigyaan Bhairav where he has extensively expanded on each of the 112 shlokas and ways of going beyond space and time that Shivji gives. I have cursorily glanced at both these versions. Both are very nice. There are others too.

Sri_Vijnana_Bhairava_Tantra
Book of Secrets - Osho
Vijnana Bhairav - Lakshmanjoo

Personally, I am satisfied with these 18 pages in Zen Flesh Zen Bones and do not feel the need to delve into other more scholarly discourses. I really like the way the authors of Zen Flesh Zen Bones (with the help of a teacher Lakshmanjoo, in Kashmir), have pared down the verses to bare minimum words. It makes the spirit of the message that much more accessible to me. It enables me to stay near silence, near him – unentangled with words and form.

The Science of Shiva – Observe. Experience. Receive fully.


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Image credit: Shiv Shakti by Updendra Ratra