AI / ML for Peace, Beauty and Joy?

I like technology. I like doing something with technology. AI and ML (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning) seem to have pushed aside just about everything else in the technology world. I tried many a times to immerse my fingers in some AI / ML project. Each time I came away wondering. One reason is the headache of messing with elaborate technical stuff. The other reason is a philosophical conundrum which stands before me every time I start doing something with AI / ML.

AI / ML learns from past data points. It learns from the attributes fed into the black box. It teaches itself to emulate the past learning samples given to it. And the objective is categorization (racism as a child rightly said 🙂 ). This is the way conventional human psychology works too. However, despite the tendency of human psychology to work in this manner, an intelligence from beyond does manage to penetrate the human psyche at times. That intelligence from beyond gives the message of integration and oneness. It tells us that all attributes are too superficial.

How can I use AI / ML to honor integration, oneness, and the message that ultimately all attributes are too superficial? I want to design a project and objective that honors that, while engaging myself in the childlike activity of doing something with the hot thing of today’s world (AI / ML). The other issue is data. This integration and oneness would emerge if one threw enough data, and enough disparate data at it, and the objective not be categorization but integration. But if the “correct answer” is always only the one same answer then do we need any AI / ML in the first place?

Maybe I should create a project where the objective is not categorization but peace, beauty, joy. A system where whatever data point you throw at it, the learned system shows the user how that data point = peace, beauty, joy.

There’s A Creature on My Bookshelf

I came out of my bedroom and discovered there is a new clock on the book shelf. As I sat across it on the sofa, looking at it with no particular concentration or focus, happy and content with my morning time with myself, I realized — that is not an object, it is a creature. With its second hand moving around, (and its minutes and hours too, which was not visibly moving, but I know it moves), suddenly it looked like a small pet to me. The seconds hand like a wagging tail, the slow-moving minutes and hours hands sleeping like a python, and the clock itself like a small bunny rabbit or something. And I sensed the intelligence, that gave it form and birth. The intelligence by which it is an integral part of the universe.

It’s all alive. Everything around us. Individually and collectively. A single breathing combined organism, of which we too are a integral part.

From the coronavirus, beyond the One Mind

The coronavirus has made all wars between all various names within humanity vanish. What is ours, what is theirs — all that silliness has vanished. Suddenly no dharma needs any upholding, sanaatan or otherwise, because indeed it never did.

Yes, now there is a war between one biological organism and another. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit…”

The difference between the mind and body is becoming more apparent as humanity learns to live all the more online. The One Mind became apparent to me pretty soon when the internet came into my life. Now I am feeling there is something beyond (behind) even this One Mind and myriad bodies.
 
There is no point latching onto words coined by thinkers without any direct appreciation for what the words refer to. So aatmaa, parmaatmaa, soul, God all get tossed out, not to be considered. 

Why does God get tossed out? We all have a sense of God, independent of what has been ‘taught’ (fed) into us. Forget about rituals and practices, we have all turned to God privately. The reason why God is also tossed out, not to be considered is because most of that turning to God is essentially a गिड़गिड़ाना — a beseeching out of fear – “I can’t handle this, ‘you’ please handle it”. Not out of any direct knowing.

Yes, we meditate. We all meditate. We all turn to some activity that soothes and eases our mind. Meditation is not just sitting cross legged with eyes closed. Sometimes in meditation we feel quieter, more peaceful. That is just a relief and respite from a frenzied mind. It is just a mind that has slowed down somewhat. Indeed that is valuable.

OK, so I come back to the proposition of seeing beyond the One Mind and myriad bodies. Point is, I don’t know how to see beyond this. Absolutely no clue whatsoever. The only option is to wait — to keep ‘seeing’, even if into what seems like nothingness, cluelessness. The one thing rooting for me in all of this is the power of intention. If you place your intention into something, it has direct impact. This I know for sure.

From My Office Window

Flowers abloom outside my office window today. 6th March 2020.

Take in the beauty. Let it nourish your heart. Come on, look at the photo just a bit longer, before you read on…

And then when you feel a bit stronger (Happier? Peaceful? Its all the same. All forms of strength) by that nourishment, laud not the flowers alone. For this is not an achievement of the flowers alone. This is the handiwork of the leaves, stems, tree trunk, roots, earth, rains, sun, air, space and time together. Each of them crucial in the scheme of things. None lesser or greater than the other. Each of them existing and dancing their dance together due to that same Intelligence and Life that permeates them all. Made complete by you who has appreciated the beauty of it all.

How Science Helps Me Be Spiritual

The fundamental thing about science is, to observe. Patiently. With childlike curiosity and fascination.

Science is not about analysis, mathematics, logic, problem solving, learning a bunch of theories, learning what is right and wrong. They follow sometimes, naturally, as a result of observing keenly and patiently — but science is not about these fundamentally.

It is not the scientist’s duty to achieve anything. Observe — that is the only fundamental duty of a scientist. It is also not the scientist’s job to label things as good or bad. This is happening, whatever the ‘this’ is — that means it is worthy of being observed.

When we do that, when we observe, patiently, with childlike curiosity and fascination — we automagically become spiritual. Fundamentally spiritual. Not spiritual as in the following of some rules. Not spiritual as in talking about God. But fundamentally spiritual. Spiritual in the sense of connecting to a force larger than our limited self. Spiritual in the sense of loving — for to keenly observe something means to love that thing.

We can choose to observe anything. Scientists study the clouds as well as the soil. They study beautiful flowers and creepy crawly insects too. One is not more worthy of being studied than the other. Scientists make the political forces the subject of their keen observation too — and music, painting, dance they study those too, with fascination.

And the cool dude scientist observes and studies her own thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and actions. Patiently. Keenly. With childlike curiosity and fascination. Without labeling any thought, emotion or physical sensation as good or bad.

When we do that, when we observe our thoughts emotions and sensations, we become all the more spiritual. We end up loving ourself. We end up knowing that we extend far beyond our limited selves. We end up knowing firsthand, without anyone telling us, that we are an intricately woven mesh of ever dancing energy.

We can all be scientists. It is not hard at all. In fact it is very easy and super fun. All we need to do is to observe — anything. Patiently. Keenly. With childlike curiosity and fascination.


Image credit: hjrivas at Pixabay.com

Served Breakfast By The Universe

It happened one morning in Manipal that I was served breakfast by the universe. That morning still lives in me.

I sat down on the floor with my glass of sattu, almonds and fruits ― and then this thought stream started ―

Thank you Papa for buying this sattu again and again, thank you Mummy for packing and sending it to me. Thanks to you my day starts comfortably.

Sattu is roasted chanaa, powdered. I have it as a drink in water every morning, with lemon, jeera (cumin) powder and salt. It is available in eastern India ― eastern U.P., Bihar and Bengal. When it comes to cooking, I have always been rather lazy. So my parents would regularly send packets of sattu to me when I was living alone in south-west India, so that my day could start with something substantial and energy-giving.

Then, with the food still untouched, the thought stream continued ―
Thank you to the man down the road who stocks these fruits that I am eating. Thank you to the man who transports the fruits in the mini truck to this shop. One by one my mindheart automagically stepped from one stone of gratitude and acknowledgement to the next like a quiet child in a beautiful garden.

Thank you to the people who manufactured this truck, on which the fruits came ― the people on the factory floor and the people who managed the people. Thank you to all the people who manufactured the raw material for the truck ― the metal and the rubber tyres… Thank you to all the people near and far, in space and time, who designed the vehicle in layers and layers of innovation and refinement, starting from generations back to when a wheel and a cart were made.

Thank you to the ones who have grown this fruit, the farmers who tend to the plants each and every day. Thank you dear earth and all the natural process by which fruit grows and makes metal malleable that it can be used in truck.

Thank you to the people who feed and have fed my parents that they could send me the sattu for this morning, to the people who have fed the man in the shop down the road, the man who drives the truck, the people who feed and have fed the ones who manufactured and designed the truck, the ones who grew the fruit…

Thank you to the ones who have fed them not just food, but education, love, companionship ― to all the moments and people who touched and connected to bring this food here.

And as I sat on the floor about to eat, imperceptibly but significantly feeling myself to be pure, innocent as a child, it seemed as though all of humanity, past, present, *and future*, and indeed through them, all of the Universe is standing before me.

They placed the plate before me, and with hands gently stretched out, said a single word, “पाईये” (receive).

I Have Many Mothers

Hindi is my Devaki, English is my Yashoda. Marwari is my grandma, Bengali, my maasi-maa (mother’s sister) — and Sanskrit is my great-grandma. Each of them, in their own way, have nurtured me. They all have a very significant place in my life.

All the languages of India, indeed all the languages of the world are my maasi-maa. There are many among them that I have never met, but I know that when we do meet, we shall become friends – because they are my maa-see, like my mother. If I offer their children – the speakers of that language – a smile, they shall offer one or two of their words in return. I have experienced this first-hand. When I was in USA, I experienced it with Spanish, in south-west India, in Udupi-Manipal, it was the same with Kannada. If I see the beauty of my maasee with fascination, if I hear her carefully, I shall recognize her – I will learn that language. This shall happen with any language that I care to see with love. I know. Every language of the world is my very own.

Why do we believe that we have only one mother – that we have only one mother tongue, one culture, only one religion? I have many mothers.

I feel a deep sense of gratitude towards these languages that have enriched my life — specially for Hindi, English, Sanskrit and Bengali.

Most of my school friends shy away from Hindi, and that is such a pity. They have convinced themselves that it is tough. So they deprive themselves of the beauty that is for their taking. It leaves me deprived of sharing half of myself with childhood friends.

At the same time, I find people referring to English with bitterness in the Hindi forums I frequent, in the articles I read in Hindi magazines. My heart protests immediately, but most times I remain silent. English is my mother tongue, and yes, whether anyone likes it or not, English is an Indian language.

When we feel a sense of pride for our culture, our heritage, that pride does not demand that we feel bitter towards another culture and heritage of this world. That other culture is also our wealth. All the beauty that emerges in this world, is all our wealth. Why do we keep ourselves limited? Our heritage is “vasudhaiv kutumbakam” – this world, this whole earth, is our family.

I am proud of my heritage. More than pride, my heritage gives me a sense of security. This heritage includes music, poetry, history, mythology, arts, eastern science – and they all give joy and a feeling of being with my self. Above all I feel proud of Vedanta. Whether my being will ever proclaim “I am That” or not, that Vedanta is there, that knowledge is there, means I am safe.

This hypothetical scenario arises in my mind at times – what if something drastic happens and all of the heritage of India fades away, its classical music, dance, poetry, Hindi, Sanskrit, all its stories and history… what if the message of Vedanta, termed as Vedanta is on the verge of being wiped out – and I am told that I can keep only one gem of my heritage, what would I choose to keep?

I shall choose two words: vasudhaiv kutumbakam. The world is my family. Even if those two words fade away on the path of time I ask that the thought, that truth, remain shining in me – that all humans, all beings on this earth, are my family.

I know that with this thought in my heart, wherever I may go, I will meet family. My needs shall be met, wherever I may go. All of the 13 years that I lived alone, away from my official family, this has been my experience – in each city, at every step. I did not just befriend people, they did not just help me at the time of trouble – from each interaction, with each person I felt – you are family. If that feeling did not arise at that time, it arose later when I was able to understand that interaction in greater depth.

I received education in an English medium school. Every day in the morning, at assembly, we used to sing one hymn. There was one singing class per week too. Our singing teacher taught us various fun songs like Audrey Hepburn’s All I Want Is A Room Somewhere, and she taught a few more hymns. At home dad read Bachchan’s Is Paar Us Paar, and Raskhan and Bihari’s Meree Bhav Baadhaa Haro in such a soulful manner in the evening, that it left an indelible impression on me. Mom taught Sanskrit to my brother and me. Sanskrit stotras and the creations of Tulsidas are a regular affair at home. The result is that now, even after all these years, all of a sudden words of hymns rise up in me as spontaneously as lines of some Sanskrit stotra or bhajan.

Jesus I give You, my heart and my soul
I know that without You, I’ll never be whole
Master You opened all the right doors
I thank You and praise You
From earth’s humble shores
Take me I’m Yours

These lines are as much my own, as these –

आत्मा त्वं, गिरिजा मतिः, सहचरा: प्राणाः, शरीरं गृहं …
यत्-यत् कर्म करोमि तत्-तत् अखिलम्, शंभो तवाराधनम्
करचरणकृतं वा, कायजं, कर्मजं वा
श्रवण नयनजं वा, मानसं वापराधम्
विहितमविहितं वा, सर्व मेतत् क्षमस्व
जय जय करुणाब्धे श्री महादेव शम्भो।

So I am a Hindu, and a Christian – and I am neither.

These days I am studying a book called “A Course In Miracles“. It was written in USA around 1970. Through this book I am learning how we can choose love instead of fear every moment, moment to moment. Whatever this book teaches is the same as what Vedanta teaches. This is a matter of satisfaction for me. Some terms in the book are of Christian, the voice of the book is such that it feels as if Jesus is speaking, but content is the same as Vedanta and yet the manner of saying what has been said is very different. I am able to receive the message of this book more easily than some Sanskrit scripture because its manner of explaining is more effective for me. That it is originally written in contemporary English is significant bonus.

So I am a Christian, and a Hindu – and I am neither.

An elderly couple were my neighbors in Manipal. The lady had many vegetables growing in her garden. She came to my place one day to teach me to grow vegetables. There were many wild Tulsi (Basil) plants growing in the vegetable patch in the backyard. We were digging the soil and making it ready for planting vegetables. There wasn’t enough space due to the Tulsi shrubs. I suggested were uproot one or two of those Tulsi shrubs.

“Is that ok with you?” she asked.

“Yes. Why not? We need space to grow the vegetables, do we not? What will I do with so much Tulsi? The main Tulsi of the house is at front,” I said – and we started uprooting the Tulsi.

A little while later Auntyji, who is a Christian, said, “But you all consider this holy…”

“Yes, we do consider it holy – so that we may know that it is an extremely beneficial herb,” I replied.

“We lost all this several generations back,” she said in a disappointed voice.

It was sad to hear that. Though I did not say it, I felt like saying, “So what? You can still be devoted to your Jesus and adopt whatever you wish of Hinduism that you consider beneficial.”

Why do we believe that we can be followers of only one religion? If we adopt anything else why do we feel we are betraying our own religion? That sense of guilt, that doubt is so meaningless.

Why do we keep our identities so limited?

My identity comes from the womb of silence. She is my Durga Maa – the language of silence. She is my Radha too.


Image source: From the menu card of The Scoop, New Market, Kolkata

An Ode To You

Dear Reader, this is an ode to you –

***

The body may be hurting but you are as God created you. The Son of God cannot suffer — and you are The Son of God.

You are Perfect because Perfection can only create the Perfect.

You are Whole because the Whole can only create the Whole.

You are Infinite because Infinity can only create the Infinite.

You are not a body. You are as God created you.

You, The Perfect has not been sullied in any way.

You, The Infinite have not become limited.

You are as God created you.

Limitless, Powerful, Peaceful.

The body may wilt but you remain Limitless, Powerful, Peaceful.

You are not a body. You are free. You are as God created you.

You are the One Awareness that permeates this whole Universe. The awareness that is there in every atom. The awareness with which each particle dances.

You permeate the Universe.

 


Image source: speakingtree.in

Happy Independence Day!

I share with you 4 lines I came across in Jaishankar Prasad’s Kaamaayani. (Jaishankar Prasad was an eminent Hindi poet and Kaamaayani is a celebrated mahakaavya of Hindi literature). These are the 4 lines, translated by yours truly –

We were not gods, neither are they –
All cogs in the wheel of change.
Yes, tie yourself up as a horse
To the pride-chariot, as you may.

The original Hindi
देव न थे हम और न ये हैं
सब परिवर्तन के पुतले
हाँ – कि गर्व-रथ में तुरंग सा;
जितना जो चाहे जुत ले।
– जयशंकर प्रसाद (कामायनी से)

Yes, we are precious, special, unique. Worthy of being honored.
And so is everyone else.