Monday, December 08, 2008

The Journey of Life

We transverse this existence we term life hoping to find a purpose or reason but many times in doing so we pass over the wonder that is the journey. Life doesn't have a path that it lays out for us, life merely is, it is we who bring the journey to it. To some life is mundane, to others it is divine and sacred, others it is a myriad of possibilities and probabilities and to others still it is as we so often put it these days "it is what it is". We pass day by day in a routine that we have acquired through days, months, weeks and years of habits. The sorrows of yesterday slow dissipate into the numbness of today with the hope of happiness of tomorrow.

We live in a world that isn't always fair, more often than not it is unjust and appears to be remorseless and full of suffering. Infants die every day without reason, little children are sold into slavery, women are abused and degraded, men are sent to their deaths for no other reason as someone else's incentive and interest. People kill and are killed over land, food, money and objects of desire. Insentient property is sometimes given more weight and influence than lives of beings. Lives are destroyed and snuffed out without so much a whimper. Many of us feel helpless as the weight of the world and our existence burdens our lives like the baggage that is placed on the back of a donkey, yet we continue trudging along forward, or backward, as one may opt to see it.

Most of you who read this live a comfortable life, including me, or at least a more comfortable life than 99% of the world. Buddha says that "Existence is suffering." The majority of the suffering we see exists in a world that appears to be in a world away or at least outside the confines of our immediate consciousness. It re-asserts itself once in a while when we pick up a newspaper, open up a news website or switch on the television. Once we close that paper, site or turn off the television that world of suffering goes back to being somewhere out there and not here with us, we return the world that comforts us in the dark like a warm blanket in midst of a cold spell.

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with the pain of those we see and with that pain also accompanies this impotence that how can we do anything to alleve this suffering, if not for others but for ourselves. We sometimes lose sight of the all encompassing idea that the pain of others is our own, in their happiness is ours. Can it be denied that our hearts tug when we see the plights of the millions of children all over the world without food or water, with out families and without a proper chance at a life that they inherently deserve? Can it also be denied that when we see a child smile or laugh in joy and amusement that a part of us hearkens back to the days we were ourselves children, enjoying the afternoons with our friends and evenings with our families?

Life gives each of us an opportunity to begin and continue on a journey of our own making, sometimes that journey is beleaguered with extreme difficulty and obstacles and other times it is as if the path is cleared and one has an easily accessible vehicle to careen through the journey. The former builds our character and shapes our approach to the world in a much more substantial manner. The latter presents us opportunities to do something for the individuals who are struggling with their journey. We can use our vehicles to clear the paths for the others who are finding the journey of life difficult but doing so might divert us away from the open path we are presented with.

Every being on this planet and in existence faces some moments of dense and obscure jungle to navigate but it is in our ability to ground our moments of difficulty in comparison with others that allows us to determine our own journey. Charity, compassion, equanimity and action are the universal religion and spirituality of all beings. Placing our own problems into a larger context and relating to others empowers us, it allows us to gain a sense of control and overcome the impotence we may feel to the nearly insurmountable burdens of life. Buddha also says "A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity." Our lives present us with a chance to learn from experience and impart that experience to others. When we act compassionately to our fellow beings and do so with equanimity of mind and desire to do charity we empower and renew ourselves.

When we are wronged it behooves us to try and prevent that wrong from being experienced by another. Even if it is something that appears minuscule to us, such as giving 20 dollars a month to help some child have food or shelter, or even giving food to a homeless person, or talking to someone who needs talking to or even listening, it is something more than we have done before. Human beings are social animals and we need to feel as if we matter and have some sort of connection or impact to those around us even if they happen to be strangers. Take every day as a chance to make it a better day, a day well lived and loved. A day of compassion and hope. In doing so maybe our own meager or even gargantuan sorrows and problems might be ever so slightly lightened. Just look into the eyes of the person, you give hope to and you yourself will find your own hope and potency growing. Strength is found in both actions and words.

There is a wonderful exhortation written by the 4th century sanskrit playwright Kalidasa in his Ritusamhara (The Garland of Seasons), it is aptly titled Usha Vandanam or the Exhortation of the Dawn: "Look to this day!
For it is Life, the very Breath of Life.
In its brief course lie all the varieties
And realities of your existence :
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty.
For yesterday is already a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today well-lived, makes every
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day!
Such is the salutation of the dawn.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sarah Palin: The Regressive Choice

I have tried very hard these past few months to avoid getting involved or keeping tabs on the political milieu of this nation during this election season but the nomination of Sarah Palin galvanised me into caring again. John McCain and the Republican party had numerous candidates to select from, all of whom were qualified in some level to at least share the podium with him as a potential running mate. Sarah Palin was not nor is not one of them. Palin as a candidate does not bring anything to the table aside from being a small town mayor, 1/2 term as governor for a state that is enormous land mass size but minuscule in human presence size and she is a hockey mother. In fact Orange County, California, my home county has more people to be more specific it has nearly 5 times as many people in that county than in all of Alaska. As of 2006 Alaska had approximately 670,053 inhabitants while Orange County had 3,002,048 inhabitants.

Furthermore, she believes in creationism and that the Coming of the Rapture is nearly imminent. She also believes that women do not have the right to an abortion even in cases of rape, in fact while she was Mayor of Wasilia, she made rape victims pay for their own rape kits. What happened to the compassion that Jesus preaches, is that just for rhetoric? If Jesus Christ is soon coming down for Final Judgement doesn't it matter that she as a leader showed no compassion for her actual fellow living, breathing and conscious human being? These women who were raped were victims and they didn't need to be treated as pariahs, that sort of thinking existed in the middle ages and as recent as a few decades ago but doesn't belong in the 21st century. Palin's rational is this, yes rape is wrong but so is abortion because abortion is murder so lets not commit two wrongs to make it right.

Fundamentally, this comes from her entirely uneducated understanding of life and conception with its various stages of development. The idea of person hood has only been an issue of law in the past 150 years or so, it was in the 19th century that both the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church conferred full person hood upon conception. The ancient Greeks viewed person hood becoming reality 40 days after conception for males and 90 for females. While the early Catholic Church varied in its position about when the soul actually enters the fetus, the modern church holds it occurs upon conception but various early Churches held different views, St. Augustine believed that the soul can only be unified with the body when the body is formed, meaning the lump of cells in the early stages isn't a person yet. The 13th Century church held that the soul is in the body only upon the quickening or the movement of the fetus in the womb, therefore abortion before that was not a sin nor murder. For the next few hundred years until the modern age, the stage at which person hood was attached varied until 19th century when the modern Church held the view conception is the stage of person hood.

Modern Science doesn't fully deal with when "person hood" attaches but we do have an objective standard to judge by now, that is when does consciousness and ability to feel pain set in. By week 9 the fetus has develop the medulla, pons and mid brain which means at this stage the fetus will spontaneously kick or move then within a week of that will take its first breath in the womb. It is also at this stage that the limbs are finally forming. From that time on, the brain grows at a phenomenal rate and the fetus six weeks prior to birth has shown signs of actual cognition through auditory and other means of outside the womb. It is almost a medical/biological impossibility for a fetus to feel pain prior to 29 or 30 weeks. Palin and those like her don't base their belief on anything concrete or objective but just on religious or moral authority.

Now, I can keep going on but I'm going end by talking about her lack of qualifications to be a national leader. First and foremost, Palin is not an educated person, she attended 5 different colleges in 6 years. That is the extent of her education. She doesn't understand how the economy works nor any background in foreign policy or international relations nor does she understand science. She runs on two main things 1. her gender and 2. emotional/moral support that people look for. She uses her gender to her advantage, she is the woman reformer who worked tirelessly to break into the old boy's club. She is anything but the woman reformer, she wishes to take women back to being baby receptacles and the silent bearers of tradition. She uses her "reform" platform to appeal to those out there who are seeking emotional and moral solidarity, instead of presenting logical and reasonable ideas she preys on the emotions and fears of people, a very typical GOP and Bush administration tactic. She stands for the idea that we don't need to expect much out of our leaders only that they are "average" and can relate to us, not that they need actual ideas, inspiration, education and qualifications to run this land of ours. Let me leave you with this, if you were going into surgery you'd want a qualified and knowledgeable surgeon operating on you not the hot dog vendor, or the lawyer or the sales person at the Gap or especially this Governor of Alaska. How could you possibly want her to make decisions that have repercussions over generations and control the lives of millions of people and affect billions. If she is elected...maybe the rapture is coming, cause only God could save us from our own stupidity at that point.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I, Ego and Pride

I haven't really blogged in a few months so I apologize for that. I was going to blog on the Dark Knight today but decided I will save that for a week or so after more people have seen the movie, because I do have a lot to say about that movie. The pertinent topic I wish to engage in today is the idea of Ego or Pride, in sanskrit the word is Ahamkara (literally means the I maker). Ahamkara is used in three primary ways in sanskrit philosophical writings. First, it is used in the most fundamental way, the notion of first person perspective or fundamental consciousness, which is linked to (either qualitatively or identically) with Atman or soul. Second use is in the idea of agency, as in the idea that "I am the agent of my actions". The third and final use of the word Ahamkara is for the idea of pride and even arrogance. For the purposes of this blog I want to focus on the second and third uses of the word because the use of Ahamkara in the primary sense is an issue of epistemological and ontological significance not so much practical or psychological.

In a previous blog I talked about anger and how that is the root of a lot of problems but that's not entirely true. There are many roots to problems and one of the biggest ones is the pride. There are numerous sayings in all cultures about the negative consequences of pride. But there are few positives and I'll start with them first. According to Aristotle, pride is the crown of all virtues. He defines right or true pride as the idea of claiming something that is in accordance of your merits. Ayn Rand also lists pride as a virtue but specifically calls it the virtue of selfishness. Its the idea of placing yourself and your goals as paramount in your life and never sacrificing your own self or ideas for others. Now all the major religions of the world see Pride as a negative trait. As the old saying goes, Pride cometh before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). It is one of the seven deadly sins in Christianity, one of the six enemies in Hinduism (it is called mada in that list, which comes closer to the idea of arrogance) and in Buddhism it is an illogical idea as no one person can be better or worse than anyone else so Pride itself is irrational.

What is the difference between self-esteem and Pride? Self-esteem is upholding ones own self worth in that "I matter and am of significance at the same level as everyone/anyone else." Now I'd be stupid if I didn't admit the existence of different types of pride, there is the base idea of pride which is a bit stronger than the idea of self-esteem. Statements like "I'm proud of my effort" or "I'm proud that you tried" or "I'm proud that you did the right thing" are of that nature. They reaffirm the potentiality that self-esteem professes. Self-esteem is the potential that one sees in themselves and pride is the actualization or attempt to actualize that potential. At this point, it'd be prudent for me to differentiate Pride as I used it immediately above and the stronger notion of Pride. The stronger notion of Pride can also be called hubris and arrogance. From here on in, I'll refer to it as Hubris.

Hubris is the notion that because of one's education, wealth, race, religion or other discrimination criteria, that one is better or of more self worth than another. We have all at some point if not consistently dealt with this. How many of us have ever been in a situation where someone told us something and we thought to ourselves "who the hell is this person to give me advice" or something of that nature. Now that's hubris. Instead of listening to what the person says we cut them off in our minds as not someone worthy or in a situation of equal gravitas as us to give us advice. Or the idea "what does X person know, he is just a kid" or "she just has a high school degree". Now someone might make the argument you won't give the same weight to the advice of Joe Schmoe with that of a Doctor when it comes to medical issues. This argument would miss the point, as Hubris is an issue of how one views oneself in relation to others, not how others should be view with regard to specific questions in particular cases and professions. That being said, I'd take the advice of a doctor in regards to medical problem because of their expertise in that particular subject (given it is highly specialized) not because I view them as equal or not equal with me.

This the root of many of our problems. Hubris is the elevation of ourselves above others in the realm of inherent worth of human experience and existence. We take offense when we are reprimanded because it knocks us off our sense of elated self worth. When we are called out for our flaws, we instead of listening to the criticism allow our hubris to feed into our base emotion, anger. It is why we think to ourselves "how does this person have all this and I don't" or "I worked hard for what I got and I deserve it but clearly the people who don't have what I have aren't at my level" Hubris makes us buy these fancy cars and fake bodies, for appearances, so that we appear better than everyone else. This goes into my next point about Ahamkara.

Hubris has its foundation in the notion of the self as an agent. The notion that we actually do things or have control over anything more than our actions. As if our action is the direct cause of something happening. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth. Our actions are only one of the infinite number of causes that contribute to the occurrence or non-occurrence of things. Any causal relationship can be broken into millions of various other factors. I think if work hard and win a trial then its due to my effort. But if one were to really consider it, there are numerous if not unlimited factors that go into the actualization of that act. My ability to comprehend what actually happened, my ability to present that information coherently, the witnesses ability to actually witness the events, their ability to relate that information, the credibility and honesty of the witness, the defense's ability or inability to argue their case, the judge's ability to listen and understand what I want him/her to understand, their own world views being similar to the views i want them to hold and so on and so forth. Right there are so many factors that are beyond my control, in essence, the win isn't something I was responsible for it is merely something I contributed to, co-relational at best.

Krishna says in the Gita:
Karmany eva adhikaras te Ma Phaleshu Kadachana
Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhur Ma Te Sango astva Akarmani
(chapter 2 verse 47)

In doing your karma is your only right, not in the fruits of that action.
Do not be attached by the fruits of the work, nor should you be attached to inaction.

Why should we only be attached to our actions alone and not the fruit? As shown above it's because the fruits are not in our control, we don't really have any real sense of agency to "cause" things to happen. All we can do is act accordingly to what we should do and need to do. Meaning, that we should act because it is what is necessary and right not because we will always gain our goals. Make money so that we can live not making the acquisition of wealth the goal, work to live but the point which i haven't addressed here but Krishna says in the Gita, Live to know and eventually know to love all beings and things as oneself, in essence removing that Ahamkara and seeing oneself as not a separate agent but part of all existence, an fundamental and defining aspect or part of the grandeur that is existence and Being.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wisdom and Regret

Now is the time were we notice the gradual but clear change in seasons, as the winter snow melts into lush green grass, we began to reflect on the wonder of life and enjoy the splendor of spring, the fresh flowers, bright warm sun, the cool breezes and so on. It then become inevitable that we also reflect on our lives and the decisions we have made and are currently considering. In essence, we come to a crossroads of our lives, a time where we either consciously or subconsciously, determine who we want to be and who we are. Sometimes they are the same but hopefully they are not because the moment you determine that you don't need to change you have either deluded yourself or reached a state of enlightenment. If its the latter then you're set but if its the former and trust me, 99.999999% of the time it is the former, you will end up worse than you are.

Thinking of the past necessarily forces us into thinking of what we've done and the choices we've made. As such, we are confronted with the idea of regret. If we had the choice to re-make our past choices, would we make the same choice or knowing what we know now make another choice? There are two trains of thought, one train of thought says that the choice I made has essentially made me the person I am today and to not make that choice would fundamentally alter who I am. The second train of thought says that the knowledge we have now, if given the chance, should instruct us to make another decision the better or even the right decision. It is the idea that if confronted with the exact same situation again, would you learn from that prior decision and make another choice or would we ignore that situation and fall into the same trap again?

Although I do think there is some merit in the idea that we are now what we are because of what we have done but that idea implies that we couldn't be where we are now if we took other choices. Wisdom, they say comes with age and experience, is the one thing that we must gather from any experience or choice we make. That wisdom in most cases dictates that we should have done things differently, to ignore that wisdom would in essence make that experience or choice pointless. Wisdom also requires that we ascertain whether it was the choice itself that was bad or the merely the outcome. If it was the outcome that was bad then maybe that choice should be made again but if you determine that the choice itself was bad then that choice should be reconsidered and if need be dismissed. Living a life without regrets means taking the choice on the right choice and then learning from that choice. I, myself, have a few regrets in life meaning that if given the chance and given what I know now, I would make a different choice. A majority of the choices I would do the same way because I think it was the outcome that was bad not the choice itself. One of the main goals in life is to acquire wisdom, apply it to live a good and happy life and pass it on. It is with that in mind we need to approach making decisions and when confronted with similar if not the exact situations from our past that we need to apply that wisdom and act.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Peace of Mind and Emotions

I recently found one of my childhood and still favorite albums of all time, The Bhagavad Gita as song by K.J. Yesudas. As I kid, I used to think this recording was the actually recording of the Gita and that Yesudas's voice was the voice of Krishna. Ya, I'm an idiot but whatever. You can listen to it here: Yesudas Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2. I was just listening to it again and decided to reflect on two of the passages which I think are very pertinent and penetrating:

nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham

indriyāṇāḿ hi caratāḿ
yan mano 'nuvidhīyate
tad asya harati prajñāḿ
vāyur nāvam ivāmbhasi

Gita, Chapter 2, verse 66-67

the meaning is this:

For one without a controlled mind there can be no discerning intelligence
Nor also can they have meditation
Without the ability to meditate (on oneself) there is no peace
Without peace where can there be happiness?

The mind which follows the wandering senses
carries away one's discrimination
like the wind which carries
away the boat on the waters

A person whose mind is erratic, clouded and pulled in different directions without being reigned in or controlled will not be able to gain the discerning intelligence and insight that is needed. If they can't gain discerning intelligence then how can they reflect or meditate to get peace and peace is the foundation for happiness. In our lives we find that many times our mind is torn and clouded by numerous experiences, thoughts and interactions. All these things weigh us down and keep us from seeing the world as clearly as possible but even more they keep us from seeing ourselves. Our decisions in the world are based on how we view ourselves, do we have the peace of mind to know who or what we are. When we are confused to our own identity and our own inherent being we find that our actions and thoughts reflect that. Our emotions will rage in various directions as if beyond our control much like a boat is carried away in whatever direction the wind blows.

Krishna's advice is one of keen psychological and mental impact, the individual who tries to control their mind and their senses will be able to make decisions that are much more clear, they will be able to develop wisdom which leads to peace which provides happiness. The analogy of the boat is highly descriptive because a boat which is manned and controlled can weather the storm and use the wind to navigate the waters but one which is without proper equipment, crew and leadership will be lost at sea. Another key underlying point to all this that, many times when we do things we do them because we've lost control and the discerning intelligence to make the right or good choice. We all get caught up in the sway of our minds and emotions. When it happens to me, I always think of these verses and take a step back and analyze my current situation and thought processes. I find by doing that and reflecting on it all, I develop a certain peace about my mindset and can then make a more conducive and informed decision. Krishna isn't saying that we must suppress our emotions but control them, there is a vital difference. To suppress something requires that we ignore them and hold them down, which creates a pressure cooker situation, at some point all those emotions will explode out. Controlling something is absolutely fruitful because it allows to harness and guide those emotions to better and more stable decisions. A dam that only holds back the water will inevitably break but a dam that directs the waters and controls its flow will not break. Learning to control our emotions and thoughts will lead to peace of mind and that will lead to happiness.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I've been struggling with the issue of certainty for the past few years. How can I rationally believe in anything if there is no real certainty? How can I trust my own thoughts, feelings or ideas? How can I believe in a God and so on. We live in a very uncertain world, nothing is an absolute certainty. Quantum physics teaches us that all existence waivers on the verge of probability at the sub-atomic level, which would lead to the larger truth that all things are entirely based on probability. Let me correct myself, only change and death are a certainty. The nature of existence is change, we all experience it. In the world we live in, we see everything change all the time. Friends, family, locations, ideas, relationships, principles, emotions and all change, they fluctuate. Physically speaking, we are different every second, cells die and cells are born. At no two points are we the exactly the same. Our emotional and mental states are the also different at every second.

Absolute certainty doesn't exist for human beings because absolute knowledge is unattainable. We can on the other hand have relative certainty within any given framework. I can be relatively certain of my own existence because to doubt it would be to reassert it, it is Renee Descartes argument of I think therefore I am. Our minds can only comprehend so much and we fundamentally cannot know all various viewpoints of any truth. We maybe able to observe any event from an "objective" view point but we can't fully know the various subjective viewpoints of any of the parties involved. There is a saying that there are two sides to every story but in fact there are many sides if not infinite sides to any story. Right and wrong isn't necessarily absolutely black and white, but its a dependent on the situation, time and place, in other words its also uncertain until one in such a situation. Certainty doesn't exist in the world, we have to create it and know it from whatever information or knowledge is available at hand. There are only a few things in this world I'm certain about and we all need to search within ourselves and find that certain thing or things and use that as your guiding light.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Another piece of my writing from a few years back, I think much like today I was still contemplating human nature or why we let our negative thoughts and emotions control us.

Darkness (August 19, 2001)

It dwells within us and outside of us

Descending quickly it covers us

Blinding and trapping us, it smiles

No one is hidden or protected from its knife like sight

It’s sight pierces into our core and overwhelms us

What can possibly overcome this darkness,

which is felt but never seen,

which moves but is never heard?

Where it comes from, we know not

But what it is, is known

It is our very self

It is that part of us we hide

It is our doubt

Our fear

Our hunger

It deludes us into believing we are its servant

But in reality we are its master

Do not fight it nor challenge it

Embrace it and harness it

Let it merge with you

Let it serve you

For we are the inner light

the darkness is the untouched part of us.


This is something I wrote a few years ago, just thought I'd share it. I have random writings littered all over. Any comments or suggestions?

Spotlight (December 14, 2004)

The curtain draws and the audience goes quiet

Their eyes squint and focus to try and catch a glimpse of the darken figures before them

I can sense the anticipation in their breathing and even in the dark, I can see their eyes

I take a deep breath before….

The light slowly begins to shine on me

At first it is slight and only reveals my outline, as I stand with my head facing the ground and my arms behind my back

Then ever so slowly the light brightens, the shape of my face and my skin color can be seen, my facial features still obscure

My eyes remain closed, remembering my lines and letting the character take over me, I feel myself losing perspective

The light brightens more and now my facial features are visible and I slowly open my eyes

I find myself receding to the background as the character moves forward

The light shines at full intensity and my entire body is visible, my eyes are open and I raise my head to look at the audience

Only I remain, yet I feel a pair of eyes watching me from the shadows behind me, it matters not because the show must go on

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bad Things and Good People

Lately quite a few people have told me about whats going on in their lives and have been questioning a lot about their lives specifically asking me why bad things happen to good people. I'm not going to delve into the question of what a "good person" is because I think I've dealt with that before. The people, who have asked me about this, are genuinely good people, nice, caring, honest, loyal and dependable. They are the kind of people who you could ask for anything and they would do it. So when bad things happen they naturally ask why me? I don't have a grand metaphysical explanation as to why: maybe God, assuming one exists, is testing people and thereby makes them stronger; or maybe its Karma our past actions revisiting us.

I think there might be a more realistic explanation, good people put themselves out there in an open and accepting manner. I am going to limit myself to the issue of person to person interaction not issues of why did good people get diseases or things of that nature, those questions are better left to the answers above about God or Karma or mere chance. Most good people fundamentally believe in the goodness of humanity and do what they can to help those around them even if its a detriment to their own self interest. I'm talking about the people who give others money that they selves can't afford to give but do so to help others. The people who despite going through their own problems will still be there to help their family, friends or anyone else without so much of a grimace or self pity. Good people put others before themselves and go out of their way to do the right thing, not so that others think they are good but because its the right thing to do. By doing so they leave themselves open to being used and taken advantage of. This clearly applies to class of people known as "nice guys". The old adage applies "if you give an inch they will take a mile". The problem, I think, is that most people are selfish and self serving, when they see an opportunity to get something that doesn't hurt them they will jump on it, even if that means someone else might get hurt.

Therein lies the rub, people who behave in selfless manner live in a world where that isn't necessarily virtue that is tauted. These good people are often pitied or seen a gullible but I think it is anything but that. In fact, I would say these people are more often than not they are the strongest and most courageous people in our lives. They put themselves out there knowing themselves to be vulnerable yet still do what they do. They don't feel the need to put up walls and trying to protect themselves because they rather help others and they know themselves to be strong enough to weather the storm and eventually walk out of it, even stronger. These nice guys and "gullible" people are the people who the rocks in our lives, when all is said and done, we all end up relying on people like them because they are dependable, strong and pure. Bad things happen to them because of we don't give them the same support and help that they gave us, many of us suddenly have our own problems to deal with and lives to live. Anything to add?

Thursday, February 07, 2008


This past week has been a bit of a frustrating period for me for a variety of reasons and I've found myself feeling my old enemy growing in my gut. No, not a beer gut or the fatness that I rid myself of. I'm talking about anger. Growing up I had a terrible temper, I would lash out saying and doing things that were out of control. I would feel my temper rising and I would let it control me, acting out like an animal, yes humans are animals but you know what I mean. I've said things and done things that I am not proud of under the influence of anger but that was when I was younger around 19. It became apparent to me that I had to learn to control that rage and I decided that the way I would do that I would not act out. So I learned to suppress it and internalize it.

When life frustrated me, due to a lot of things, and the anger grew, I would grit my teeth and not act out but let it grow in me. That rage began to eat away at me and that became apparent in my first year of law school. I began to isolate myself and became more and more brooding, dark and irritable. I would lash out at friends and essentially became a hermit. All the rage would come out when I partook in some of the nectar of the Gods, usually made by Grey Goose. I was becoming someone I didn't like so I needed to change. Thats when I decided I would learn to understand myself and the root of anger.

As dorky as it sounds I turned to the Bhagavad Gita, I'm not a religious person but that text connects with me. The thing about Krishna, the singer of the Gita, is that he is a realist and practical, his advice to Arjuna is how to overcome his fears and false views and regain his resolve to take up his arms and fight a Dharmic war. He offers a keen insight into the nature of anger.
Krishna says in Chapter 2 Verse 62-63:

dhyayato visayan pumsah
sangas tesupajayate
sangat sanjayate kamah
kamat krodho 'bhijayate

krodhad bhavati sammohah
sammohat smrti-vibhramah
smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso
buddhi-nasat pranasyati

Which means:
Fixating on the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.
From anger, delusion is born, and from delusion loss of memory. When memory is lost, then discrimination is lost and when discrimination is lost, he is lost.

I started to think about this and it made perfect sense to me. Our anger doesn't arise in a vacuum it arises when we are attached and expect something. When one is betrayed they get angry because they never expected the betrayer to do so. When things don't go the way we want or expect we get angry. I also discovered that when you get angry due to another's actions you have essentially given that person power over you, the power to control your emotions and the power to get to you. In other words, you are not your own master but at the whim of other people's actions, you become a reactive person. It dawned on me that I want to be able to achieve that sort of control over my emotions and in the words of Borat become "King of the Castle". Words and actions once said and done can never be revoked and will always linger in the minds of those whom it was directed at. We may forgive but we never forget and even our forgiven is usually conditional.

I do also believe in a righteous anger, an anger that stems from an injustice or a wrong committed to you or others. It is an anger that can fuel someone into correcting a wrong and balancing the scales but in those cases too one must be very conscious of allowing that anger and rage to overwhelm you. I haven't quite conquered my anger but I think I'm getting there, I am able to try and reason through it now, trying to find the rationality behind the other people's decisions and how to put myself in their shoes and then try and understand them, by doing so I can cut out the root of the anger in these situations which is ignorance and not allow the beast to grow. Control your anger and you will be able to find your center and the king of your castle.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Fear, is one of the most fundamental and primary emotions that all conscious beings possess. It is the basis for the evolutionary fight or flight response that is triggered in times of extreme stress and when we are back into a corner. It is the emotion that has been hardwired into our minds and our very biology. It is quite possibly the most powerful and dominant emotion that we possess, most of our actions are done out of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of inability to survive, fear of stability and so on. Fear pushes us to act out in anger, in ignorance and in pure desperation. It can be argued that fear is the foundation of all other "negative" emotions or even the positive ones. When a person steals, they steal for a few reasons including desire to possess, possibly survival (food) or to thrill. Each of those reasons can be reduced to a foundation of fear. Desire to possess is fundamentally about fear of inadequacy either in monetary/material possessions or in social status. Survival is self-explanatory, no food=death and fear of death is the most base emotion. Thrill is the fear of normalcy, fear that one does not really experience happiness or excitement unless acting in such a manner.

Fear, I think is an amazing thing, quite possibly the most positive emotion we have because every time we are caught in its iron like grip we have the opportunity to fight it and conquer it. It is an opportunity for us to judge our own mettle. Do we give in or do we stand and fight, overcome our fear and push forward. There is a saying by Ambrose Redmoon:

"Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that there is something more important than fear"

Fear gives us an opportunity to display and know our own courage. Fear has the ability to overpower our minds and our reasoning but we have the ability to try and resist that, it is in using that ability we can conquer fear. As the statement above says, we will always have fear but it is finding something that supercedes and shines a light over fear. For some people that thing is God, others is the love of their life, others its principles or even self-enlightenment. Fear should never hold us back and control our actions, Fear should impel us towards venturing into the unknown and opening up new horizons for ourselves. Every time we conquer one fear we open up a part of ourselves that has been hidden or ignored and for that we gain strength and wisdom. Life cannot be lived fully if fear looms over our heads and controls us. Far too often we use fear as an excuse not to live fully, maybe it be prior experiences which have hurt us and left us fearful of pain or the fear that maybe the risk we take will leave us with nothing or severely limited. Fundamentally, we have the power to conquer and channel the fear into something powerful to fuel us. Find that greater thing than fear and know that to be you, then fear is nothing more than a hurdle to jump rather than a mountain to climb.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Of late I have been really missing India. I used to go every couple years and spend months there, it was usually in the summer when the weather was hot and humid. The summer months would be spent with me sitting in a pool of my own sweat while I was assaulted by dozens of tiny blood sucking insects, and no I don't mean lawyers, I am referring to mosquitoes. On top of that I would usually get sick for a week or so because I love/loved street food. See in India, the best food you can eat is the food made on the street by small time vendors. The food was simply the best food you can eat anywhere. Who can resist the taste of food cooked in the finest bacteria infested water, mixed with human sweat and dirt from the street. I personally believe that those ingredients add the je ne sais quoi to the taste. Once you have the street food, you will constantly crave it like a good addict craves crack. It is simply put some of the most amazing food one can eat.

I would constantly be traveling in the summer while in India, usually on family temple tours. We would spend about 10-20 days going from city to city visiting vast, ancient and extravagent temples, usually of the Vishnu persuasion. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from those trips. There is something wonderous about being able to see the top of a temple towering over large and densely populated trees, as if it is an divine establishment in the midst of lush greenery. Some of these temples were built into the top of a mountainside where we would trek up the mountain then have to enter into small crevices to finally get into the sanctum sanctorum. Then as you enter into the sanctum, it is usually a very solemn and dark place lit by only lights of a lamp that are placed to highlight the deity, who is adorned with the finest clothes and jewelery that money can buy. The light from the lamps reflects off the gold and diamonds that drape the deity and adds an inherent glow, highlighting the sacredness of the location and the deity. Some of these temples are becoming more and more like tourist attractions but a few of them truly inspire and pervade you with pure spirituality and a sense of communion with the unknown. A sense of oneness with nature and the universe would also accompany you, especially in the peaks of the Himalayas, with the flowing Ganga or Yamuna, where great beings found communion with all that was, is and will be, but my experiences there are another post and a later part of my life.

If I went to India during winter, most of my days would be spent going to music concerts all day because that is the season of the Chennai Music Festival, where all the best carnatic musicians in the country and world come together and perform concerts every day. Its a time of immersing myself into a world that I rarely get to fully enjoy and a culture that only exists for me on my ipod. There is nothing quiet like being at a concert when you can actually observe the musician making music on the spot as they get lost in the moment. India in the winter is also India without the mosquito invasion and the sultry humidity of the sub-continent.

India, at any time is one of the most amazing places on this planet because it is living contradiction, it is the ancient and modern world converging into the same place. You will see a brand new mercedes hybrid racing down the street along side a man riding a bullock cart with wheels that are about the fall off. A high paid industrialist will be eating alongside an Vedic priest who still lives in the mentality of 3000 years ago. Democracy meets Dharma, Capitalism and Karma converge. Superman posters will be all over the city while statutes and idols of Hanuman are found on every street corner and tower over neighborhoods. India is where my soul resides and I miss it dearly.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Surrogate Motherhood

Before reading my diatribe or even discussion of the issue please read this article:

There are couple main issues here. First the broadest issue, what is the relationship between you and your body. One might say that you are your body but using a grammatical argument I can assert that the mere fact that we can say "my body" implies a fundamental difference between I and body, the body is relegated to possession of the I, much like we can say "my car". The subject, I, has possessory control over the object, body. Now, an argument to counter this that grammatical arguments aren't arguments of reality but of practicality and cultural milieu. While there is some merit to that, given that some languages do not have the concept of mine that English and most languages have. I don't want to delve into that argument but just want to say that lets assume a possessory interest between you and your body. If there is a possessory interest then next logical question is what level of interest do you have in regards to your body, meaning is it absolute or conditional.

Absolute interest means just what it states, the individual has total control over what they can or cannot do with their body much in the same vein as they have total control over what they can do with their car. If I want to destroy my car then I can do it and no one can stop me. Now, if the interest is conditional then how much control does one have over their body? The answer is that for nearly every state in this world, the individual does not possess absolute interest in their body. The governments regulate what we can do to ourselves and what we cannot. The United States has outlawed most drugs while in Amsterdam some drugs are allowed. In many countries, attempted suicide is a crime and for those who are wondering why suicide isn't considered a crime, send me your address and I will come and hit you upside your head. If you complete a suicide, YOU ARE DEAD. The government asserts some interest in your body. Whether they should be able to or not is another question, a question I will delve into at some point because it depends entirely on your view of the body and also the role and origins of government/statehood.

Now, how does all this apply to surrogate motherhood. Surrogate motherhood is about two key issues. First, does a woman have an possessory interest in her reproductive organs. Second, can that possessory interest be used for monetary gain? The answer to the first question is yes but in most of the world it seems to be absolute interest. A woman can do what she wants with her reproductive organs and if that is the case then it follows that she can loan or rent out those organs. If a man can donate his sperm to a sperm bank for money and a woman can donate her eggs then why can't a woman rent her uterus out? Consider manual labor such as construction work, is that not using of ones limbs directly for money? How about test subjects in medical trials, don't they use their bodies as grounds for determining if a drug works properly? It is theoritically speaking almost the same thing.

I think the issue that is most argued is that surrogate motherhood allows for society to view the human body and specifically a woman's body as merely an object, which many argue would dehumanize and allow people to disrespect and abuse women. This, I think would only occur when society begins to treat the act of surrogate motherhood in a mechanical fashion, not if we treat it as a way to help both infertile couples and woman who are poor. There is another argument that this is taking advantage of the poor woman and using her poverty to one's own advantage. The same can be said of any sort of labor, one of the main reasons that people get jobs is to make money so that they aren't poor and can live or survive. It is part of the human condition in this day and age. If the woman who decides to become a surrogate mother and does so because she needs money, what is wrong with that? We assume that people make rational decisions in regards to any other job so why don't we do that in this regard? I think a reason is that we are still paternalistic in regards to poor woman. There is a sense that poor women are less able to make these huge decisions which I believe is wrong. In fact these women are doing the opposite they are making rational decisions to help and further their lives and the lives of their families. They view surrogate motherhood as a job that lasts 9 months but which will keep help their families for the next 10 plus years.

People might also argue that infertile couples should adopt instead of trying to go the path of surrogacy but I think that ignores the fact that one of the goals of human existence is to perpetuate one's own genes. Adoption is something that lofty and I think something people should do but its not the only alternative to actually having children of your own. Surrogacy can and should be an option if that is something that one really desires. Nor should it have any moral indignation attached to it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ring in the New Year, Welcome to 2008

So this is my first post in a while and of 2008, sadly I only had blogged once in 2007 and I know I keep saying I will try be more regular in my blogging but I haven't been able to. I don't believe in resolutions so I won't be making one now, lets just say I'll make a good faith effort to be more consistent.

Now with that out of the way, lets get on to the topic of the day. I've had a few things on my mind of late, primarily the role that honesty, consistency and character play in today's society. Of these words can be reduced down to the simple idea of honor. By honor I am referring to the idea of personal integrity and strength of character. A person for whom their word is their bond and who would rather make the hard and more often than not right choice over the easy and more personally beneficial choice. I've been finding it harder and harder to meet people who possess those qualities, especially in New York.

We tend to place more value, as a society and people, on the end goal and notions of success than we do on character. Honesty is a core value that needs to be foster and ingrained more into people. Honesty in word and action. The foundation of honesty towards others is to first to be honest with oneself as the root of dishonesty is delusion of both yourself and the person you are dishonest with. In order to be more honest, it would require deep introspection and analyzing of yourself, to see who you really are to discover your desires, wants, goals, strengths, issues, weakness and flaws. Honesty requires that you face all of these things and determine what if anything you wish to do about them. The hardest part is to confront your flaws and come to terms with them, either as something you need help to overcome or something you need to fight against. Raging within each of us is a desire to ignore our flaws because to confront them would mean to stare our own inadequacies in the eye and see the darkness that dwells in us. Each of us has that darkness in us, some more than others.

Too often people don't want to stare into that abyss because it is scary and depressing, it can force us to drop whatever notions of self we held before and demolish our self-conceptions. This confrontation is not a one time action but a consistent and conscious decision on our part to keep doing so because every time you keep confronting yourself, you shine a little more light and gain a stronger and rooted center. I believe this will force you to be more honest with yourself and paves the way for you to be more honest with others.

Once you are honest with yourself, the harder quality to possess is strength of character or the will to act. Knowledge without action is useless and honesty without the will to change or improve is only subjectively good. What do you do after you know confront yourself? Do you just take comfort in that knowledge and continue on? or do you delve deep and try to develop yourself and turn those flaws and issues into something that builds your character? Take the statement in Batman Begins "its not who you are underneath but what you do that defines you", as corny and cliched as it may sound it rings with sound of truth. It is our actions that define us, not necessarily what we think inside our minds. I maybe the most honest person with myself but if I don't give others the same level of respect, then fundamentally I can't call myself a truly honest or good person. Honesty and respect go hand in hand, to be honest with someone is show them respect as a being who is worthy of you. There is a saying in hindu thought "satyam vada dharmam chara" Speak the truth and act righteously. To remain true and honest to yourself and others even in the face of adversity and fear is truly courage and strength of character, that is how one should be defined. A person should be idolized not necessarily for money, skills, abilities or possessions but on their character. How do they deal with adversity and what happens to their values and truth when it is put to task? Just something to ponder about. Any thoughts?