FOMO and other phobias we suffer from

Fear has been the greatest force that evolution has unleashed, amongst all living beings and is wired deep into our brains. Despite all the advancements in humans the instant reaction to our environment, is automatically triggered in our reptilian brain, where the decision is made to fight or flee. It is only after that initial knee jerk reaction, that our logical brain takes over and analyses the situation, based on personal past experience and actual knowledge. The adrenaline surge and preparation of the body to fight or take evasive action, happens in milliseconds, and only then do the force of civilization and culture kick in. Unfortunately the truth is that we remain animals first, and only with a great effort rise to becoming humans.

FOMA or fear of missing out was just called by Bloomberg to be the driving force, behind the current and future S & P index rise to greater heights in 2018. It best describes the irrational exuberance which led to the Tulip craze, or Dot com rise, in the past, and the Bit Currency mania sweeping some up today. It is a fundamental force that takes hold of large areas of our populace, and creates an unnatural state of economic and financial bubbles, unsustainable by fundamental economics. Property and commodity booms and busts are similar in nature where by the time the ordinary investor gets in, he/she is just joining the others in the late cycle of a giant Ponzi scheme, which is bound to crash. I am not advocating we stay away from markets, but trying to make the case that they can be a potent tool, for long term human development if used correctly.

Our greatest inventions and achievements were driven by our survival instincts. Humans are inherently weak creatures and there are far hardier living species, who have survived successfully for millennia, even before the arrival of the great apes. Prometheus stealing the fire from the Gods is a great example of human fear, capturing and taming a destructive force, to aid its own survival. The evolution of tools though not unique to humans, has also been driven by fear, to overcome the adverse conditions that seem to overwhelm us, in nature. Modern cities are just an example of how fear pushed us to come together, for our common benefit. Religion and cultural norms are all a result of the paranoia and fear, which we all face when faced with complex phenomena which we cannot explain. Out of fear comes resolution and mental makeup, which helps us to not only survive but prosper in a new reality.

The Hindu sages debated for centuries on what is existence, what is reality, what is our state of knowing, what is life, what is death, what is our purpose, what is the creator, what is the culmination of desire, what is truth and finally what is reality? They distilled this wisdom in Sanskrit in the Vedic and Vedanta strutis memorized and passed down generation after generation.  While the names of the sages may be often lost, the wisdom still remains. A philosophy rose not based on the fear of the unknown, but on the myriad paths to overcome the unknowns. “Agni Miley Purohitam..” starts the first verse of the Rig Veda the oldest of the surviving strutis and talks about the taming of fire by the householder for greater good. In another example “Isa Vasayamidam Sarvam… “ The creator envelops everything and all our individual moments, are only part of the universal movement. By renouncing (the unreal) we can enjoy (the real), do not lust after another man’s possessions. In only 18 verses it lays out the relationship of the soul to our universe, and forces our eyes and mind to what is truth (eternal), and goads us to not stray into the world of untruth (transitory), which leads to fear, wrong karma (thoughts\actions)and braking of our dharma (rightful duty).

I admit it is a long way from obscure Sanskrit texts to the happenings on modern day Wall Street and the state of the human mind today. We have Fire and Fury and God on our side in multiple conflicts, and potential for far greater Fire and Fury if we stay on the current path. The Jewish, Christian, Muslim divide of the Judeo-Christian world, and the destructive Shia-Sunni divide, will not be resolved in our lifetimes. The Middle East burns and each new atrocity, fans the execution of another, more severe retaliation. The Buddhist are committing genocide against the Rohingyas in Myanmar, and the recent Hindu/Buddhist war in the Pearl in the Indian Ocean, is still healing. These are all the outcome of the stroking of fundamental fear amongst communities, bring out the worst in humans. Defenseless woman and children suffer the most, while men announce new victories every day.

My fear is that in the stock market or in society, if we are driven by the basest of emotions then our humanity will be lost. We have to go beyond the boom and bust of our stock markets, or the fear of an imminent nuclear Armageddon. The stock market and our society should be used to bring progress and peace to improve our health, happiness and living standards. We should harness the forces of progress to be funded and unleashed for the collective greater good, and release ourselves from our fears and phobias. We have been given a whole universe by the creator, and our petty squabbles and fears will keep us rooted to this earth, when we have a far greater future to look up to. We all have only one life to live and our end is certain. It is how we live this life that matters, and it will determine the fate of our progeny for eons to come.

When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it. -Charles de Lint, writer (b. 22 Dec 1951)

Be Free

It is Friday night and the moon is mostly full, on this not so cold, winter night. The house is empty and quiet; once I turn off the PBS serial of Masterpiece Theater, which I am watching on the HDTV. At the end of the episode I rise and think of dessert. A ripe pear yellow and blushing red from the fridge, is ever so juicy and delicious. I follow it up with a scoop of butterscotch twirled Friendly’s extra rich and smooth Vanilla ice cream. This I top with a darkly intense chocolate, with blue berries and grapes, which adds a subtle, yet deep aroma and taste. I enjoy each bite and relish every single moment and intense flavor, as it stays on my tongue. My senses of touch, smell and taste are overwhelmed with a love for life. which only I, can experience!

I am not beholden to anyone or anything and on this night, I hold my head high and think from my life force and meditate on reality.This is the supreme existence, the sages talked about, but we ignored them, in our modern urgency. We have to slow down, to speed up, as the saying goes. Soon I am so inside myself, that I explode into eternity. This moment is stitched in the space and time continuum, and I rest in peace in a turbulent universe. What if I never existed would I have had this moment, or is this moment the cause of my existence? No one answers, as everything is only me, and I make myself to be free. There are no questions, where I have arrived..

I put away the dishes and wipe the counter clean, suddenly a very content man. My life force is still strong, yet it does not have the recklessness of youth, or the doubts, of our early attempts at life. Now I am alone in my strength and all else exists for me. I do not serve anyone and nobody serves me tonight. We have become free at last in the long history of humankind, as now we have the means to be truly independent. It is sadly an independence of decadence and extravagance of modern life, and no longer the sparse, simple garb of the ancient yogis.

The week end approaches and the choices are multiplied, if one only opens a travel site and looks for deals. We can go anywhere in days and enjoy exotic food and locations, if we so wish, at a few hours’ notice. We have become slaves of our daily habits rather than the fearless travelers and nomads, we used to be. At the end of the day I would rather live alone and not serve or be served; to enjoy the proverbial, thousand years of solitude. There is a dignity in becoming self-sufficient, but not all of us achieve this. We remain mired in our desires, fanned by our senses and memories, to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  The cycle of slavery perpetuates itself in us, as we become dependent on others, for our own happiness. This co-dependency only adds to our attachments and we can never break out, and be free.

“Here lives a free man. Nobody serves him.” -Albert Camus, writer, philosopher, Nobel laureate (7 Nov 1913-1960)

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)

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.

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

 

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)

Trump’s 100 days

President Clinton came to our world stage to champion opportunity for all, responsibility by every individual, and the need for a united community. Barak Obama brought Hope and Racial Equality to the White house. President Bush created regime change in Iraq, from an old ally against Iran, who was in no way connected to 9/11.  President Trump has now crossed a 100 days in office and the world looks on amazed at what these men accomplished in their world views. Clinton brought the festering European sore, of the Balkan religious wars, to a sustainable peace. Barak was steadfastly against outright war and expansion of American troops abroad, but held firm to American beliefs and power by killing Bin Laden.

President Trump has out trumped them all with his first hundred days achievements, if one listens to his administration.  He has signed 24 executive orders in the first 100 days a modern day record. One of his signature achievements (literally executive orders) is bent on reversing a Federal Ocean preserve, back to commercial use; a power only the congress has. Another contested one is the State Tax exception removal where Blue States suffer most. Trump, in contrast to the great economic wars fought by Roosevelt and Obama in the start of their presidencies there is no major signature. Trump took office following 75 straight months of job growth, a 4.7 percent unemployment rate, and the wind down of massive, post-Sept. 11 troop deployments.

 

We can have great prosperity in the future with an energy boom and an IOT boom opening up the economy. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla are giants of the new digital age that is emerging and powering the US economy along. Oil and gas from Fracking continues its rapid growth ushering in a new energy independent age. Their incredible contribution to rapid economic growth has kept the US economy growing as the Government has had to step back, because of our growing Federal Debt. Now with the promises of lower taxes and help to bring profits back from offshore, Trump may raise the Capital badly needed, to invest in the infrastructure of the US. He hopes to bring in Billions from safe havens back to the US for deployment on the infrastructure and energy systems of tomorrow.

Only problem it is that he seems to be driving while looking at the rear view mirror. The past is apparent in trying to repeal Obama Care and replacing it with less healthcare for all. He has brought together a group of white conservative men to lead his administration; and changed the Supreme Court for years to come, to a more conservative stance. An administration of billionaires will do what is good for them, and the masses will enjoy a trickledown effect. Future generations will fight climate change and women will lose reproductive rights over their own bodies, and racial equality will suffer. The Greatening of America in the first 100 days leaves much to be desired from my point of view, as none of the laws passed can be counted as a “major reform”.President trump

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!.