Our dying planet

The Alliance of World Scientists have issued their second dire warning about the state of our earth, 25 years after their first stern warning issued in 1992. The scientists have collected and analyzed data about our planet and things have become worse, since their initial findings published over 2 decades ago. We are killing flora and fauna and other living creatures at a furious pace, and this destruction is unsustainable, for a living planet. Billions of years of evolution of species are being wiped out, in our thirst for water, food and our own human habitation. .

“Global climate change sits atop the new letter’s list of planetary threats. Global average temperatures have risen by more than half a degree Celsius since 1992, and annual carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 62 percent.

But it’s far from the only problem people face. Access to fresh water has declined, as has the amount of forestland and the number of wild-caught fish (a marker of the health of global fisheries). The number of ocean dead zones has increased. The human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent.” They have reported.

The scientists have come up with 13 suggestions for a greener planet and more sustainable practices, which we need to adopt. We need a vigorous debate on each of their propositions now, as if we wait another 25 years, things will not magically become better. Our consumption patterns have to change dramatically to bring about a brave new world. If we shy away from this responsibility our children and grandchildren will never forgive us. The time to act is now before more waterways, forests and myriad species disappear forever. We live in a time of great scientific discovery and new technologies are developed every day. From this complexity of science we have to develop a simple method to live and let live. The 1% control our economic reality, but should we let them control the destiny of our planet also?

The self-righteousness of our super rich and inflated egos of our political leaders, are leading us down a path of death, destruction and ruin.  If a butterfly does not flap its wings in China any more, will my grandchild still see a rosy sunrise? I fear for our future and can only hope to awaken our consciousness, towards compassion and love. There is much we still have to do and only if we take a stand to do what is right and reduce our wanton consumption, will we be able to save our earth and its creatures. I want my grandchildren to walk barefoot on the dewy grass in the morning, and watch the cottontails playing in our yard. I want them to see the swans living in our lake, and not stuffed in some museum. Maybe I have too much faith in our humanity, as science does not lie.

“For all our conceits about being the center of the universe, we live in a routine planet of a humdrum star stuck away in an obscure corner … on an unexceptional galaxy which is one of about 100 billion galaxies. … That is the fundamental fact of the universe we inhabit, and it is very good for us to understand that.” -Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (9 Nov 1934-1996)

Smart bombs

We live in a new world order now and China is extending its reach throughout the world, and Europe and the US have a different hegemony. India is trying to be recognized as the new kid on the block and carve out a piece of its own territory in South Asia. With Pakistan and China as neighbors it has not been easy and tensions still prevail beneath the surface, of deep cracks in the psyche of the nation from past wars. To rise above these and to find its rightful place in the nations of earth the Indian society has to change and adopt a more nationalistic stance. Only a strong nation can survive and there is much work to be done after decades of neglect of real world capabilities. The world has advanced and now India must put its best brains and capabilities into becoming a world player.

I recently read, “The Indian ‘smart anti-airfield weapon’ (SAAW), developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Research Centre Imarat (RCI), other labs and the Indian Air Force, was fired from an air force aircraft.” It has the capability of striking targets within a range of a 100 KMs without crossing the Indian border, with great precision. It can deliver enough of a payload to incapacitate, an enemy’s air capabilities. The development of smart bombs is just the start of the program, as India has a lot of catching up to do. Sadly its defense systems, need modernization on a massive scale. Big data capabilities, artificial intelligence, enhanced internet capabilities, smart weapons, and electronic surveillance are all part of the brave new world. India needs to step up its game to excel in these fields.

The planned build out of the capabilities of the Indian Defense forces, will be a major economic driver for South Asia. If done properly, it will provide much needed investment, labor and scientific development, using indigenous resources. The door for foreign partners is shyly opening up, and will become in the next few decades, a major opportunity for global defense industry corporations. The defense of the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean are at stake, and India has to develop the capabilities to project force, over greater distances. With its great rocket capabilities it now has to augments its ability, to deliver force to face any external force. Only the Air Force can ensure superiority on the battlefield, so any enhancement of their capabilities; is a step, in the right direction. For South Asia to emerge from its shell, India has to play a key role in ensuring, a safe and secure nation.

Great Banyan story

By Biswarup Ganguly – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12679235

Long have the mystics I have studied instructed followers to stay away from Anger, Lust, Greed and things unnatural. They have all advocated that life has enough to offer without needing any artificial enhancement. In a world of plenty we need to get closer to mother nature and our origins. There are so many wonders around us that we can lead a full life, without having to travel to exotic locations. If we want to travel to exotic locations, then there is no harm, in that either. We just have to follow our own path, and not let life just happen to us. We can pick any path our heart desires, and proceed along it, to a goal, or a state of being. We must seek joy, happiness and mirth in everyday situations. If we are happy now with what we have, then start giving the extra stuff away. To live like a mystic, is to not have attachment, and hence one does not accumulate anything. One lives and discovers wonders of the world like, the Great Banyan tree as life progresses. Let me tell you a little more about the wonder of this tree:

A 255-year-old Great Banyan at the Indian Botanic Garden, Shibpur, has increased its girth by a massive two acres in a little over 30 years, from 3 acres in 1985. The Great Banyan lost its main trunk long ago after surviving two cyclones. The tree is now balanced on its growing new roots. The new roots seem to be walking east towards the sun. It is also the direction away from human habitation in the city and its pollution. 4 senior botanists and their assistants take care of the Great Banyan ensuring its health, and have built a new barrier around it. This is a remarkable tree like the Redwoods in California. They are massive and live for centuries yet this covers far more space. It continues to flourish and has grown into the largest single canopy, on earth.

We must praise nature as the more we take care of it, the more it gives back to us. We must take care of the fauna and the flora, of our native lands. Like the huge store in Norway of all the world’s seeds is good for preservation, but there is no sight like looking up from the base of tall Sequoias; and wondering how tall the trees were, as one could not possibly see the top of the trees? The real life is in our fields, our forests, our woods, our lakes, our rivers, our mountains and our oceans. They have to be nourished and cared for, by an army of people, to make them whole again. We have taken and destroyed so much, that we have to take a joint exercise, just to count the tigers, living in Nepal and India. The numbers are low, and preservation is just starting to work, and a lot of work still needs to be done to preserve the jungle species. They need their own habitats with grazing lands, rivers, woods to continue to do what nature does best. Life is to be enjoyed in its enormity and not in narrow dogmas preached for human consumption. We have become very powerful and with power also comes great responsibility. Let us use our powers wisely, to grow ourselves, and allow others to prosper also, as there is a whole universe still to explore. If we must dream then let us dream big like the Great Banyan!

We become what we desire

Very early on I was given to understand that I would never be an emperor of India. I was all of 12 and dreamed all the dreams that Alexander the Great (my hero) would have dreamed, at my age. The tall Qutub Minar towered proud above me after all these centuries in the gardens of Delhi. Gardens and monuments surrounded me from the early Sultanates of India. None was more powerful than the Slave Dynasty that established Muslim rule in India. Ruling from Delhi they conquered the Indus rich lands and a large part of the Gangetic valley and prospered. The pillar was of course much older and had fascinated me for years in its height and girth.

The Ashokan Pillar marks an older tradition of Buddhism, in India. This rust less iron pillar is ascribed to emperor Ashok and was part of his many edicts and signposts, laying down the rules of Dharma. Those rules had been long largely discarded, in the India I grew up in; and long consigned, to the pages of history. Modern Indian politics of Independent India, has been turned towards a new national identity. I had stood with my back resting against the pillar, preparing myself. I looked up at the beautiful carved stone archways, left over from a past kingdom. Vainly I tried to reach around my back, and grasp both hands. Soon I knew that there was no hope, as I was short. Maybe if I had been two feet taller with longer arms, then it may have been easier as the pillar did seem to taper slightly, from the broad base where I stood, reaching our blindly.

The one thing Ashok and Buddha consistently talked about was that compassion and contentment are noble attributes. The sooner we acquire them the easier is our trip to Nirvana. We must not follow our desires as like Lucy in the Sky with diamonds they can never be satisfied in our lifetime. We can take a strange trip of chasing all our desires in a distorted reality, or one with all ones lucidity and love. Just contentment stops a lot of things from happening – mostly with positive results. We do not seek, so are not disappointed, and also do not have any guilt of missing the next high. Desires continue to flourish in our imagination as human beings desire more and more as the world unfolds before us. Every new vision or revelation makes us children again reaching out for a newer shinier toy.

Some seek God and salvation in narrow beliefs and blind faith, while others like the Isa Upanishad say God is in everything so nothing is ours and it is all His, so renounce and enjoy. Buddha did not destroy desires but he found a path we could follow, which would help us overcome becoming trapped in this world of Maya and endless rebirth leading to a state of Nirvana. Great saints have all proclaimed the supremacy of their God and shown paths to serve Him as in the prayer of Saint Francis to his Lord to, “make me an instrument of your peace.”   The end result of many of these learned beings is the concept of Sangha or society that is equal and everyone works for its betterment. God does not dwell in Churches. Temples or Mosques but in each of us and his laws do not differentiate between rich and poor. Follow your Dharma or beliefs and you will find the right path.

So to conclude we remain largely the slaves of our desires. We indulge in more ways to enjoy them and seek the company of those who are followers of the same path. The Germans did not start off as evil under Hitler but they took his beliefs to an extreme and became evil. Similarly we need to ensure we seek contentment versus the fulfillment of all our desires. Desires come and go and we need to be in harmony with nature. The universe has forces far larger and stronger than us puny men trapped on this blue planet. We are only as great as our belief and so seek higher living and thinking. When we destroy whole species of flora or fauna, we are destroying a little bit of ourselves. We have the power to create a new world, full of goodness and hope. Seek to live righteously, as in the end all of us must die.

Improving India’s economy

Arun Jaitley, India’s Finance Minister when asked about disinvestment targets not being met for the State owned enterprises said, “Always remember that privatization is the art of the possible. Therefore it is an exercise which has to be transparent, it has to be acceptable to a cross section of political and public opinion, it is an exercise that must result in a better performance.”
This argument seems false as to provide better infrastructure and build a new and better India, it can only be financed by allowing all state owned companies to go public. His wishing to time the market, and wait for an opportune time, may never come, as markets go up and down randomly in cycles. To presume that the current bureaucrats at the Public Sector enterprises are doing better, at managing their affairs, when compared to other International companies, in the same sector; it seems like smoke and mirrors. The Public sector needs modernization and investments in technology, logistics and global supply chains. He should let his older babies go, as the capital raised from their sales, will help fund the nascent projects of tomorrow.

The legacy of Nehru and Indira for nationalizing and reserving huge economic areas, allowing State Enterprises to have a virtual monopoly in Banking, Finance, Oil, Coal, Energy for so many years. As the Private Sector has grown in India it has taken up the challenge, to meet the consumer needs with more efficiency. The money can be put to more productive use and the more Jaitley can put to work the better it will be for him. It is time for the Modi government to show, how it will pull the Indian economy out of its slump. Regarding disinvestment “the art of the possible,” may be just swallowing ones pride, and letting the Market forces take over. Let the Government get back to governance of its governed, rather than be distracted in running large businesses; best left to the private sector, to grow.

A new trust has to be established where disinvestment of some sectors of the economy, yields investment in Highways, Cities, Logistics, Airports, Railways, Mass Transit and the list is endless. With India needing huge improvements in sanitation, drinking water, electricity and broadband there have to be huge public and private partnerships for improvements. The 11 B disinvestments are not going to be able to fund existing ambitious plans of the different ministries. I am advocating to go for broke and raise 100 B and maybe 200 B over three years and really impact the economy. The digitization of Adhar and direct deposits, is an easy way to share some of these funds, with the poorest of the poor. The ones who need it the most, may also provide the largest productivity gains if they become consumers. We need a helicopter economy.

Global rating agencies are following closely the adherence to the 3.2% deficit financing target and so far Mr. Jaitley has obliged, to a great extent. With his options dwindling he may have to bring all tools in his arsenal to bear. “We are all conscious of the fact that there is importance of the kind of fiscal prudence that is required in the economy,” Jaitley said. “At the same time we are also conscious of the need in such situations of spending and finding the balance between the two.” With GST rolled out and its implementation in progress and it is a game changer, from the previous state and local taxes on distribution. Making India into one market for taxation makes sense and its benefits will be shared with the States. The laws have to be enforced and systems automated and simplified with AI to ensure collection and auditing of the taxes owed and encouraging the growth of the formal economy.

With timely disinvestment it appears that Mr. Jaitley can open the spigot, to be able to spend on Defense and other BJP priorities. The Indian economy has more than enough room to grow for this century, with its young and dynamic youth. Somebody has to become the enabler, of all the Micro to the Macroeconomic needs, of India. Such great opportunities come rarely and only action is required, in the Parliamentary sessions, to take them forward. The Markets have their own mechanisms to provide the price for Assets and these exercises need to start, in a far larger manner that we see today.

Investments in Infrastructure and human capital, provide rich rewards, as seen in the case of China. Education, health and human well being need major investments and the sooner the better. Increasing the productivity of India’s billion people will yield a virtuous spiral upwards, for the poor. It needs fire and fury to awaken the forces of nature on a gigantic scale, which only a modern India can achieve. This talk of balance and improvements in performance sounds good, but it is not the action required on the ground. Speedier and better implementation is the need of the hour and good leaders should be working towards these goals for improving Indian humanity.

The Path in the Woods

There is a path in the woods, which I believe leads to change. We must all seek this path, as to stay stagnant is to slowly die away. We do not know what we will find on this path, as we are not sure what we want. We must seek the path and follow it to where it leads, as that is why we are here. We were not given this life to only rot in our internal turmoil, and not seek what is freely given. We are free to explore and find the meaning of life in our own way. We must change to find love, compassion, balance and life itself.

There are many paths I have walked on and many more left for me to explore. I am angry about many I have taken in the past, as they took me to misery and pain. I am anxious about the ones I have to take in the future, as they are unknown and may lead to even more pain and sorrow. The one I am on now is the best, as I know exactly where I stand and also know, where it is taking me. I know my love is with me and I have compassion in my heart for all creatures, on this path. I am blessed to feel this passion for life, as it drives me to move faster and seek more. Love is boundless and compassion expands our hearts even more and we attain happiness, when we experience joy in even the smallest of happenings.

As we change so does our life and our path to joy. This path of happiness is so subtle that we have to experience it, to understand the true meaning of life. Many a year has gone by when we did not know what our life was meant to be. Many a day I was lost and many a night I cried that this meaningless life, was better off without me. Pain and suffering surrounded me and all that was dear was forlorn, and all that was near, was just a reminder of my past failures. How could I continue to live and I withdrew into my skin and dared not look, feel, or reach out around me, afraid of human emotion and touch.

Then one day I met a person who had nothing and was happy and laughing at the world. He was ugly, poor, disabled and had no economic future, yet he was happy to meet me and laughed at me, for what I had become. He had known me when I was young and lively and the whole world was within my grasp, and he had been the same. Now I was morose and even though I had everything, he told me I did not value what was given to me. I looked into the twinkle in his eyes and realized I was looking in a mirror of time, and wondered why I would let myself become him.

I learnt a lesson that day and now every day, I walk fearlessly on a new path and find all that my heart desires and more….

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

 

The race for the future of humanity

Everywhere I look I see new corporations that did not exist a few decades away leading the charge for the future of humanity. While the middle class in America is very troubled at its shrinking future, there are other areas where America is truly great and continues to flourish and make billion dollar enterprises, with some approaching trillion dollar valuations. The rise of Trump and his denial of climate change, and attempts at reviving coal and fossil fuels,, and the new age successful entrepreneurs embracing green energy and reducing emissions, is a dichotomy approaching loggerheads with each other. People have voted for security as he has fanned their base fears of an existential threat, to our way of life, saying only he can help fix it. The five principles mentioned above by PWC show exponential progress is possible, from our current human condition.

Let us examine the new trends and see if in this time of great change in human existence, to understand if there any hope, for a brighter future. Firstly people in the rust belt are right as the mass secure employment offered by huge assembly lines, and the manufacturing era, is fast vanishing. Automation and robotics are fast replacing manual labor. An example is that the latest steel plant in Germany producing high value products, is run by just 11 people, monitoring all the production on video screens and sensors. The era of the rugged steel worker facing scalding smelting pots, in Andrew Carnegie’s and J P Morgan’s US Steel is now officially over. Machines will carry out the labors repeatedly and with lesser errors, than men and women doing physical labor.

Manufacturing and mining jobs are taking a hit as new systems and machines evolve. The new auto factories have armies of robots doing repetitive tasks, like welding and painting with great precision, 24 hours a day. Machine learning is making the machines ever smarter every day, and they are able to see, feel, adapt and repeat with increased precision and productivity. The glory days of manual human labor is receding and machines are making our lives easier, by doing the work that caused endless repetition and back breaking work, by our fellow beings. We will enjoy the fruits of these advanced machines making products ever faster and more economically; and designers, engineers and visionaries will use the machines to produce products just in time, to meet our needs. Rosy the riveter is now a machine.

Logistics is going through a sea change from what it was, and what it will become. If we go to a modern warehouse we find that increasingly there are no men riding forklifts ferrying pallets and goods, across racked spaces and trying to keep track from memory, where the goods are. Now sophisticated robots store and retrieve goods in huge cavernous spaces, where only sophisticated computers remember where each barcoded or RFD item is stored. Where hundreds worked in labor daily, now a handful monitor and program the arrival and departure of goods. The development of autonomous trucking, will further remove the thousands of drivers, who drive through the night to make a living and keep our stores full. Even the railroads will become autonomous, as trains will move through automated signals and routing, day and night with no human error.

In agriculture there are fewer people on the farms, as the new machines are computerized wonders. A modern farmer can single handed do what took hundreds toiling day and night in the fields in the last century. The seeds are genetically improved – a process going on since the Inca and the Maya’s improved corn, by selectively cross breeding large grasses, into what we know today. Cotton production in India improved substantially as an example, from using the new seeds. Pest resistant, drought resistant varieties help farmers to ensure a good harvest, where previously the weather gods and nature dictated the outcomes of an year’s work. New drip irrigation techniques and fertilizer application optimization, is leading to greener farming, with less run offs and environmental damage. We can fight the change, but it is surely coming, as we will need to feed 7 plus billion humans soon with a more nutritious, healthy and assured diet.

The Service sector is the mainstay of any modern society and the changes here are probably the most visible, to the ordinary man or woman on the street. Communication devices have become smaller, smarter and ubiquitous. The ability to mass produce and ensure communication seamlessly globally, is a modern reality and some of the greatest minds are working tirelessly, to make it even better. Modern banking and the cashless society are becoming a reality. The middle men are being squeezed out of the supply chains and the managing of money and assets as machines do not make mistakes and follow instructions instantaneously. Global trade and services will continue to improve despite all national efforts, to control things at our border, as it is becoming a flat world with economies of productivity going, to the lowest cost producers.

Finally our homes and cities are changing at an increasing pace. iRobots, electronic washing machines, fridges, internet connected lighting systems, are all examples of how small machines, can save the drudgery of housework. The Internet of things is developing faster than imagined and the digitization of society will proceed at a faster pace. Our grandchildren will wonder why we owned cars and drove polluting vehicles in our cities killing thousands in preventable accidents. Even our music and entertainment is now delivered 24 hours a day long as we have a connected device and can watch sitting in our own homes. Meals and produce is going to be delivered on order seamlessly and no physical cash or human interaction will be required as drones deliver to our doorstep. We will order from the likes of Alexa and the bounty of our universe, will come to us. Smart cities will emerge making life easier for our citizens.

Even Financial institutions as we know them with their great bastions of secure banking and physical assets and authentication, are changing fast. Blockchain authentication and digital transactions will be at our fingertips and devices. A visit to the bank for doing a transaction will be unknown to our Grandchildren, as the new financial systems and crypto currency evolve. The thousands of bank tellers and service personnel, will be replaced by machines and sophisticated authentication system. Crony capitalism will stand exposed, as markets and transactions become more transparent, and regulators will shrink in number, replaced by ever vigilant machines and systems.

So to conclude the middle class is in a grave danger of shrinking as the jobs of today, will be gone tomorrow, in huge numbers. Yet I have full faith in humanity and the human spirit, as we are more capable than the machines, which will replace us. We will rise to even a better future for our human race as we will find better things to do, than the drudgery of some of today’s jobs. The five principles outlined above will guide us to a better future, as technology will be a great enabler. I remain optimistic that we can and must do better, for ourselves and our grandchildren. We will have to reskill the workforce to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s humans, and that race is now on in earnest. .

Power will flow to enterprises that embrace automation, reduce internal costs, make better use of advanced devices, design modularity into their products and services, and participate in blockchain-style verification systems.’ By John Sviokly who is a principal and U.S. marketing leader at PwC, where he also works with clients on strategy and innovation. He is the head of the Global Thought Leadership Institute.

Life of meaning and value

 

We are here only because of our desire for being. Our egos are satisfied only if we live for ourselves.I have always admired Sartre and Bertrand Russell for their existential philosophy, as their writings first opened up my mind to a life lived with meaning and having values. In our life we have the choice to live in a manner deserving of our aspirations. If we have very high aspirations our life is a little more complicated, than if we have lower expectations.  This choice is critical for the life, we are about to lead. Thus it is clear that the more we live our aspirations, the more meaning our lives have in the end.

The second more important truth is the value in our life that we seek. If we seek a higher purpose and always strive to achieve that high moral ground, bound by our inner conviction, then we cannot go wrong. The value of our life increases exponentially, the more creatures we help around us. We have to start small and walk along this path of eternal values, as only by following the laws of nature, can we be successful. Evolution of our species has allowed humans to evolve, into a higher life form on earth, but we still remain but specs in this universe. There is much still for us to explore and much around us, that we still have to understand.

The merging of meaning and value in one life are a beautiful creation. The greatest achievements in our human evolution, have been done by these great thinkers and doers, who have come before us in this realization. We have a collective memory of survival and prosperity from our Parents and Grandparents and what they achieved. Their values and meanings have now become ours and we have to bring fruit, to those aspirations. Those of us who rise socially, economically or spiritually all live our own value system, which gives meaning to our life. We are all individuals but are tied up in this world wide web of human endeavor, and achievement. Some are of course more successful than others like me, in achieving a state of perpetual awareness and serenity..

It should not stop us from striving for betterment. We still have time long as we live, to adhere to our values and to add meaning in our life. Since infinity is available, we can strive for that. That is the most beautiful piece of truth in our our life that nothing is in our way to achieve, our goal, except ourselves. Existence is only for us to live to our potential. Do not short sell ourselves as all that is here, is ours; and all that we seek, is at hand. Pick the right values, and the true meaning of a compassionate and peaceful life will emerge. The greatest men have always emphasized human equality, and the rule of law. Enjoy walking on their path as it leads to greatness, and gives us a a freedom from unneeded action and strife. Live life as the great gift, where we will leave a better universe; for all our succeeding, generations!

Life has no meaning a priori. … It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose. -Jean-Paul Sartre, writer and philosopher (21 Jun 1905-1980)

One world to live

For some of us who may not remember we are all creatures of this earth with no special privileges; but a lot of responsibility towards nature and our world and the state of our universe. Some say the original sin cast humans out of the Garden of Eden and from then on, men have killed each other, for myriad reasons. All religions have suffered their great wars and destruction at one time or another, and some have gone on to become stronger. The devout use them to do charitable work and spread knowledge, compassion and love through their chapters. Religion is the comfort of millions in their times of need and personal darkness in this life.

Peace as described by Lennon seemed a possible worldwide phenomenon, which we should all strive to. We all share this earth and have to live and die on it for the most part. We can use to live in harmony with nature and our fellow creatures, or in a war with our environment and fellow human beings. The choices are plentiful and a person can use his own path, in the time given to him, to live. Many paths lead to salvation and knowledge and each one of us adapts to our environment to survive. More people have been lifted out of poverty in the past decades than ever done in the history of mankind, yet much more remains to be done.

Politicians of course do not see the world as one huge family but rise to power by distinguishing their own followers, from all the other inhabitants. Their message has to be one to rouse their fellow political leaders of division and exclusion, and inclusion only of their chosen followers. Their survival depends on the borders of their city, province, state or nation. They have to keep strengthening them with like minded people by love and other monetary or social coercion. To those who do not follow their philosophy they have a policy of exclusion by outright neglect, or even division of the state into smaller pieces. Others bravely expand by violence or influence into larger states and form new political alliances.

The word hegemony by large powerful states, is as ancient as human history. As different races emerged, they chose different areas of this world to settle upon by an accident of history. Languages and cultures emerged to live and die, with the ancient empires. Even today in our modern world this countries and states, form the backbone of our great civilizations. There is an innate pride amongst the people of different countries in their heritage and civilization. People become citizens of where they are born, and inherit into the house of worship they are born, in a divine throw of the dice. Brothers who are separated at birth, will swear allegiance to the different faith, and go to war on their beliefs, as each is righteous in his learned belief. In the sad irony of our times fate allows humans to rape the women, kill the children, and cause mass misery and genocide often in the name of race, religion or greed.

We have to awaken our inner conscious and strive to be humans of this earth, rather than parochial and mean. We are creatures of a greater future, and should not let our past guide us. If we were wrong in our approach n the past, we have still time to change it. We must march forward, with a new vision and hope. Please learn to embrace the differences of others customs and beliefs. Celebrate our festivals together, and learn joy and harmony over fear and hate. My fellow creatures are also dear to me and the flora and fauna has to be better preserved. We have to leave our earth richer for our children, and not poorer.  We are only the custodians of this Garden of Eden, and must learn to turn it back into that wonderful place, on this blue planet. We all laugh, cry, celebrate, live and die together in our mother earth’s bosom and can all become friends.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” -Maya Angelou, poet (4 Apr 1928-2014)

Rig Veda – First Verse

Today I spent time studying the first verse of the over 1,200 verses in the first of our four Vedas, commonly known as the Rig Veda. When in doubt, wise men have told me to try and go to the source of the doubt. So I sought out the most ancient chant in our tradition. What could an ancient verse that survived many millennia in a spoken tradition, chanted by priests and their families, till writing was invented, tell me? Ancient Sanskrit has changed and one has a problem understanding it, but the message of the verse; is a bedrock of Hinduism and clarity shines brightly through in an intensity, that shows the clear thinking, of the ancient mystic who wrote it.

Agnimile purohitam, yagyasya devamrtvijam, I hotaram ratnadhatamam II

A learned mystic Sri Aurobindo translated it as, “I adore the Flame, the vicar, the divine Ritwik of the Sacrifice, the summoner who most founds the ecstasy.”

One of he most ancient of Mantras to survive in human existence is also translated as: “I venerate Agni, the priest (lit. who is placed on the seat of honour/in the East), divine ministrant of the sacrifice, bestower of treasure, par excellence.” 

अ॒ग्निमी॑ळे पु॒रोहि॑तं य॒ज्ञस्य॑ दे॒वमृत्विज॑म्। होता॑रं रत्न॒धात॑मम्॥१॥

Well any of us who have invoked Vedic Mantras while lighting Agni in the Havan kund know the ritual well. We start with (water, samagri, ghee and samidha) dry wood kindling and special mixture of natural items found in nature, to purify the air and raise the sacred flame of Agni within and without. We know that its a homage to the fire of creation, which burns in each and every one of us. It is only now when I have had the pleasure of reading the first verse of (our strutis) or knowledge passed down, by the invokers of the devas. The ancient sounds have not changed much from when they were first spoken, to express human ecstasy, while conducting the fire sacrifice (Havan or Homa). It is we who have forgotten them, and the ancient rishis still lead us to the righteous path.

It is rumored that when Edison asked his friend Max Muller to do the first recording in human history, he recorded this first verse for posterity.  This first recorded sound kept up an ancient Indian spoken tradition, unbroken in recorded time and still alive as originally spoken. So the ancient seer spoke these words and passed them on to his progeny, generation after generation, from the time the Arya arrived in India, and made it their own home. I am a product of these settlers in the rich valleys of the five rivers in the northern plains of Hindustan, in a region now known as Punjab.   The Indo-Aryan migrations started in approximately 1800 BCE, after the invention of the war chariot, and also brought Indo-Aryan languages into India.

In the Epic Mahabharata Arjun rides a war chariot and Krishna is his charioteer who drives and protects him and pulls the chariot up in between the warring cousins on the ancient battlefield of Kurukshetra. The sun reflects off of the bronze protective plates of the war ready warrior, as he throws down his great bow and questions why he must bring death on his near and dear ones. The chariot stops and we hear the Bhagavad Gita from the mouths of Arjun and Krishna (as described to the blind king many miles away by the seer Sanjay). The Gita is considered a condensation of the Vedas in some ways, as it lays out men’s duty to society, religion and knowledge.  So while the first verse of the Vedas spoke so much about internal ecstasy, the Gita gave us a whole new religious philosophy, showing many paths.

We in the Arya Samaj strongly believe, that the Vedic tradition is one of the most noble ways of life, and those who follow it will become Arya, or the enjoyers of inner peace and contentment . We will always strive to become learned, and do this by hearing from others and also passing on what we learn, to teach others.  We study the ancient texts and my mother used to do a daily Havan for man years, even in the worst of times, when she became a refugee in India, after the partition. The internal light in her lived on through life’s ups and downs, as it did in my father who was also a karma yogi. Their joint reciting of the Sanskrit verses during festivals and social occasions was a reminder to us that the pursuit of knowledge, would bring its own rewards.

My translation, “Oh Agni! Thou does’ light my inner being and I adore thee and the one (male\female) who sits on the East and hosts this great ceremony. By this great yagya flame we do the divine Ritwik of our traditions, for conducting this sacrifice. This sacrifice brings us closer to the Devas and the priests who have invoked them for millennia. As we raise our voices to the divine it is you Agni who causes the flame of our efforts to rise and lead us to greater ecstasy. We discover a treasure from the fruits of our Havan, a treasure so exquisite that we consider it par excellence. Finally we call out the summoner who is within us this day, who has mystified these words, and has invoked the eternal ecstasy, by his recitation of the ancient texts as they should be read He is the bestower of the greatest treasure called life, as we gather here to sing this hymn to its glory.”

We have lost our way in the current age of Kalyug or dark times,and Satyug or Truthful times will come again in our future, when we are free from Maya. Till then we can recite the verse and have faith that the promised treasure awaits us, and it is we who are wanting. Our ancients gave us such a powerful message of hope in the opening verse itself, that if none other had followed, Hinduism would have still lived to its modern form. The power of the tradition where an ordinary conductor of the ceremony becomes the raiser of our inner faith is so powerful a construct, that it needs no other external support. Hence Hinduism has lived through the ages largely unchanged, often reformed; yet the work, never quite completed.

We return in the end to the funeral pyre, where the body is disposed off by Agni, but the soul is not burnt; and it rises to either live forever in its ecstasy, or try again in a rebirth. So life begins and ebbs, rises and falls, in the rhythms, of these ancient verses. We have to just stop and breathe evenly, recite the ancient and sacred words, pour the ghee and samgaree on the kindling and pray. If we look hard enough at the fire burning outside and say the right words, our inner fire flames up, and the rest of the day is full of an awareness of love for nature and our universe.Imagine yourself as the Purohit and say the words that will bring you to your personalized ecstatic treasure. Life does not become more intense than this verse in its simplicity and power, so enjoy!.