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)

Wall Street Father Day Remanence

Driven out of the office by the extraordinary work pressure of downtown Manhattan, I was pleasantly surprised by a pleasant cool summer Friday afternoon. The ferries were leaving from Pier 11 or Wall Street, in regular sailings and awaited my departure to NJ, this evening. The Hudson River was full of traffic and the helicopters from the heliport were also busy, as the helicopters came and left, with their Wall street clients. I was reminded of the recent pair of the huge green machines, which had ferried our President and the PM of Australia; some time back for a historic joint outing, to the Intrepid Aircraft carrier. New York has always had a mercantile culture, from its early founding by the intrepid Dutch; who settled permanently on this great harbor, at the mouth of the mighty Hudson River.

I was at the old slip near the First Precinct Police Museum and walking on Water Street towards Wall Street. I passed Governor Lane and found myself at the intersection of Wall and Water and gazed at all the magnificent temples to commerce and finance, all around me. It is truly a great time to be living in this land and have the honor to live and work in one of the most vibrant cities on this planet. The big banks were back after Dodd Frank, much stronger than ever, recapitalized to a great extent, and far less dangerous for the public. Risky leverage and irrational exuberance had been largely controlled, as the PEs of Large corporations and Banks have improved since our Great Recession. A Large hearted President and government, had bailed out, numerous large private institutions; in Finance, Industry, and Insurance. Our deficits soared in the greatest expansion, of our nation’s balance sheet in history. Worried working class Americans voted for Trump in droves, hoping a new self-made capitalist; will finally turn the tide, in favor of the distressed middle class.

Nobody can deny that Wall Street will greatly participate in the remaking of America. A New New York Bridge is being built, after over 6 decades of use of the old bridge.  The Bayonne Bridge has been raised, to allow the new bigger container ships, and other giants, that can cross the enlarged Panama Canal, from across the Pacific, to sail right into Port Elizabeth. The port is expected to get even busier in the coming years, to feed the demands of the citizens, settled in the great valleys of the Hudson and the Empire and Garden States. New York City is poised for a recovery of mammoth proportions, if we just use the abundant resources of nature and manpower available in the United States of America. Wisdom is the need of the hour and public policy and private enterprise must work together, to bring about the digital age and the new economic revolution, based on better technology, logistics, communications and research..

As I stood in the middle of Wall Street I read the plaque posted for us residents and tourists. I was at a historic site I noticed. Between Water and Pearl Street a slave market flourished in this very place in the 18th century. Before all the other markets there was this slave market, that thrived and became the hub for the residents of New York, to traffic in humans. The population of the new colony under British rule was growing rapidly and they needed slaves from Africa, to tame this hostile land. Forests and land had to be cleared to make the new roads and homes for the colonialists and clear the fields for agriculture and animal rearing. In fact the wall that had to be constructed to protect the city was built by slave labor. This road along this wall came to be known as Wall Street and today is the symbol of American capitalism. 40% of New Yorkers owned slaves and almost a third of the working population, was represented by them, making New York the biggest slave owner at the time, in proportion to its population.

The Anglicans had come to supremacy in the town and the original Dutch houses, had to coexist with the new arrivals. The Anglicans needed a new Cathedral to pray to their Lord and Trinity Church was built using slave labor, to rise to the heavens. The small settlement continued to grow into a large town, at the tip of Manhattan, then known commonly as New Amsterdam. Without the slaves most of the progress in the growing city would not have been possible. It would take almost a century to finally abolish slavery and another century, to bury their contributions into history.  The construction growth and the agriculture boom that followed in the upper regions, would not have been possible without able bodied men and women from Western Africa toiling in the fields and homes. The slave market was eventually replaced by the growing trade in Grains, Meats and other commodities, which the rich land produced with the help of slave labor. The market, housed between Pine and Water Street became a center of commerce for New Yorkers. America was well on its way to prosperity built on the backs, of these forgotten people.

Today as I walk down Wall Street I see the great houses of the large Banks, Bank of New York and others from around the world, housed in the towers on both sides of the street. Trump’s major source of wealth is housed here in the Iconic tower at 937 feet the tallest at that time, built by the Manhattan Company which grew wealthy supplying water to the new city.  JP Morgan’s original office from where his house financed modern capitalism and governments, stands across from the Federal building, where George Washington became the first president of the new Republic. I walk past 1 Wall Street near which the first reputable journal of commerce was published, and lives on today as the Wall Street Journal. Modern journalist and accurate reporting for a new era of mass communication of financial health of companies was born here. The New York Stock Exchange stands in all its neo classical façade of Grecian columns rising to the heavens, and traders walk in and out, as machines have slowly taken on more of their roles, as market makers to the world.

The New York stock exchange has a sculpture of ‘Integrity Protecting the works of men’ carved on its face. Mercury the God of Commerce presides over toiling men and women on her left, representations of mining and agriculture and on her right, symbols of industry, science and invention, all sources of American prosperity. We owe a great gratitude to the men who worked so hard, to leave us a nation today, which continues to be the beacon on the hill for the rest of the world. On this father’s day I wandered the streets and took in the sights and paid my remembrances, to those who had come before me.

I cross Broadway and enter the quiet dignity of the Trinity church. I sit in the front pew and look at the hymnals and Holy Bible. I stare mesmerized at the stained glass windows depicting Jesus and his disciples. I close my eyes to meditate and am troubled by the thoughts, that if I could look through them, I will see the ghosts of the twin towers rising, even higher than this great church. I close my eyes and pray to “Our Father..” My thoughts rise up to the heavens for all the slaves, who helped to build this church and this great land. I think of the fathers who saw the advertisements, selling their daughters to slavery, and am deeply troubled. History may have forgotten them, but on this Father’s day, I say they were as much a founding father of this nation, as George Washington who owned them. The remains of Alexander Hamilton the father of modern Banking and Commerce and many other foundational breakthroughs, for our new nation, lies in these hallowed grounds.  While we remember George and Alexander in our history as founding fathers, let us also pray for the forgotten fathers of American black citizens, who died and are lost in unmarked graves of this great city.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone – the weary, the tired and the forgotten, and remember to be grateful and joyful for all that we have!

The longest day must have its close — the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning. An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night, and the night of the just to an eternal day. -Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (14 Jun 1811-1896)

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!.

Urban thinking and epidemiology

During the Napoleonic era a great man who pioneered sociology, statistics, epidemiology and gave us perhaps the clearest glimpse into urbanization, was Louis-René Villermé (10 March 1782 – 16 November 1863). I consider him the earliest known man who studied economics, sociology and did research and established statistics that became the base, for many of French reforms for how people lived and worked.  He advocated against child labor when their nimble fingers were busy working the tools, of the first Industrial revolution. We have much to thank him for his studies of industrial workers, prisoners and he established the earliest linkages between hygiene and health, and between poverty and their poor growth, and their early death.

In his great French book “Study of the Physical Condition of Cotton, Wool and Silk workers” a most comprehensive current state of the working people and their moral and physical life, is indeed a gift to our history. With the rapid urbanization that has taken place from the eighteenth to the twenty first century, the evolution of our cities and their populations is truly remarkable. So much we take for granted like safe drinking water, modern sewage systems, hygienic working conditions, reasonable work\life balance, were all unknown in Villerme’s times. He was a modern man and liberal who showed the path for better urbanization, to improve our human condition.

Previous changes took centuries to evolve as we have seen, but in the modern world change is going to arrive faster. Machines are now evolving at a very fast phase to take over the routine drudgery, of modern manufacturing and information flows. More robots and bots are doing increasingly more sophisticated work repeatedly and endlessly, without getting tired, or exhibiting any human error. We have evolved to become masters of a rapidly changing universe. Every day new cures are found or are being actively worked on, for old diseases and human conditions. We have achieved a level of health and happiness in our modern society, with the base needs of food, shelter and security being largely taken care of.

We owe so much to the great thinker who have come before us. The prime example is of Villermé who covered a wide array of subject matter including: children in the workplace, savings accounts, asylum rooms, and drunkenness among the working class. The work was unique in combining health topics with research and social reforms. We have come a long way since that pioneering work but now the need is even greater.

We have to prepare before the next devastating pandemic overtakes us. We have to continually improve our living and working conditions for the billions, who inhabit our earth. We are all of us, in this together, and to ignore development for some, and to allow only the few to enjoy the fruits of what we have achieved, is meaningless in a flat and seamless world. Our path is to Go forward from here. Striving for global happiness through rightful living, should remain our only goal.

Lady Liberty’s enlightenment

The Ferry takes the commuters from New Jersey to New York

They pass the Lady Liberty’s enlightenment as she stands tall,

Her flame held high welcoming newcomers into the Golden Door

The commuters are busy with their phones and nobody looks

The flame appears weak to my failing sight and imagination

Looking around I see the towers of Manhattan welcoming workers

Further up the East river the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge appear

We are a diverse crowd and united only in chasing dollars

Lady Liberty attracts me again as if seeking help today

She seems confused by the rising tone of our leaders

Her flame flickers as the message on her tablet fades

Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free it reads

Instead give me your White, Christian conservatives new leaders say

She beseeches me as she still steps forth bringing enlightenment

I am a stranger in my adopted home now

What can I offer to bring enlightenment to our land?

Turning my gaze away I understand why people look at phones

There is no community here that cares or helps the needy

We are all strangers in a strange land where bigotry reigns

The Ferry docks and a new day begins for workers again

The dollar is stronger but our souls weaker on Wall Street

The New Colossus” is a sonnet that American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) wrote and a part is shown below

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Shadows of the overhanging granite cliffs

A bright sunny day and the ground next to the lake,

still had the white snow, left by the last snowstorm,

lying in the shadows of the overhanging granite cliffs.

The swans swam in the shallow end diving occasionally,

for their meal, and then sailing gracefully on the water.

The Geese swam at another end with the occasional honk.

My day is busy and the afternoon fleeting away in writing,

Who has come and who has gone is not my concern,

I am busy with my life and imagining tales not told.

Where did that idea go, as I had it in my grasp?

Maybe it is time for a nap and let existence be.

RK

The color of truth is grey. -Andre Gide, author, Nobel laureate (22 Nov 1869-1951)