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Word of the Guru


Guruvakya as it is called in Sanskrit, the word of a Guru or a spiritual teacher holds utmost value in Indian traditions. It is said that a Guru, one who dispels the darkness called ignorance and guides the seeker to an understanding of brightness or pure knowledge is rare to find and when one find a Guru, it is said to be a seeker’s path to self-realization. Owing to great fortune one finds a Guru in this life. The understanding of the self is possible solely by the grace of a Guru. The techniques and practices to reach spiritual goals are taught to a sincere disciple who has passion to ascend on the path of self-realization by the Guru. No great person ever denied the existence of a Guru in one’s life.

Sampradaya is a term often used when speaking about a Guru- it is used to describe a tradition that has been passed on in an excellent manner to the next generation of sincere seekers. Sampradayas benefit seekers to connect with different teaching styles and paths towards the same end goal in mind. In some Sampradayas, the divine universal mother is shown as a Guru or the silent Dakshinamurthy is shown as a Guru. In some other Sampradayas, the avadhoota Dattatreya, who appeared as the son of divine couple Sage Atri and Anasuya is shown as the Guru. Several Gurus have taken birth as a blessing in this divine Universe and have, out of their boundless love for the welfare of all beings, given several teachings to uplift mankind from ignorance that arises due to an identification with the body. The teachings of a Guru or Gurubodha are in an accessible, approachable form to the beginner-seeker whose state of maturity in spiritual sciences is not as strong as the Guru’s. For the more advanced seekers, Gurubodha occurs at a advanced stage. The seeker must always plan to advance one’s spiritual progress by means of continuous improvement and inquiry. Sadhana is used to describe the practice of techniques a Guru gives to the sincere seeker.

Another word we hear often in relation to a Guru is Gurukripa or the grace of a Guru. It is said, to obtain Gurukripa is very difficult and only a humble, sincere seeker who meditates upon the lotus feet of a Guru and treats the Guru with utmost respect is able to experience it. In the modern times, we have seen instances where a person who has immense wealth is not able to enjoy its benefits owing to poor health or poor state of mind. One of the reasons for such an occurrence is the disbelief in the Guruvakya or even shunning a Guru or Guruvakya. It is said that a Guru can save a person from the wrath of God, but someone who has the wrath of a Guru, God too cannot protect. Such is the importance given to a Guru in a seeker’s life. The meditation upon the Guru must be inculcated by every sincere seeker and a Guru must always be treated with utmost reverence. On the occasion of Vyasa Purnima we bow to Guru Vedavyasa who is responsible for the abundant spiritual literature, due to which the world survives. Guru is the creative force, preserving force and the force of dissolution who guides sincere seekers towards the goal, whether present in a bodily form or not. Always remember to be grateful for the Gurus you have in life.

Sri-Adi-Shankara

As Adi Sankara rightly says in his Guru ashtakam, the eight stanza hymn describing the importance of centering one’s mind upon the lotus feet of a Guru,

“I am honoured in other lands and I am prosperous in my homeland; in the paths of righteous conduct there is none who surpasses me”, thus one may think; yet if one’s mind be not centred upon the lotus feet of the Guru, what then, what then, what then?”

The complete translation of the 8 stanzas in the Guru ashtakam is found here: http://www.rkmdelhi.org/videos/guru-ashtakam-of-adi-shankaracharya/

Listen to the Sanskrit recitation in the link which always bring solace to the mind.

May you all have Gurukripa.

Cycling Day n – Some thoughts


Cycling nThis is where man meets nature. The first meeting is always filled with electricity so we had the opportunity to experience the buzz electric of fireflies. Stumbling upon treasures is not easy. But, when man’s made aware of their existence, he experiences the feeling of ‘most alive’ in his encounters with such natural utopia.

Man can only go so far as his tools take him? No, they have never been his limitation. He has conquered and controlled nature but he sure knows there’s not enough he can do in his lifetime to hollow the deepest secrets in the box. When he realizes the box is inside him, he will stop wandering!

How the oPhone can cure hunger?


Yes, it’s true, it could happen. Smelling a delicious piece of food is as good as having it! If you don’t agree, ask Jimmy Johns which is all for “Free Smells”! There’s a power in our sense of smell, in fact, when I was in schoolschool (grade 10), a few scientists even won the Nobel Prize for discovering the mechanism or process by which olfactory sensors in our nose work. 

oPhone according to me is a great innovation and it’s not surprising as it comes from the world famous Wyss Institute scientists. Now you can send ‘smelly’ messages to your near and dear. Sounds gross, but believe me, you will be able to, if you read this article- http://www.wired.com/design/2014/01/send-scents-texts-new-phone/?cid=17205604.

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On the other hand, I wonder if like everything is insecure today, even these machines will be prone to hacking and tampering. Wonder how that would be like! Atleast it’s safe to say only the rich can get a hold of such gadgets. Even if they aren’t expensive as of now, these devices must be made so expensive that only the wealthy can afford them. Don’t try making everything cheap, some devices should be reserved to be affordable only by the rich. 😉

Humans give technology to humankind and they expect humans to behave civilized, but you can never trust humans. They don’t know how they behave when they see something new. So, a sincere request to Mr David Edwards and his group to sell them only to those who are going to make positive use of them; maybe to spas for aroma therapies and to meditation centers etc, I don’t know  but please don’t make it publicly available for all because that would be one literal smelly mess the world can get into although there’s no doubt it’s already in one right now. I know it’s going to be commercial but I hope you take this suggestion seriously.

Fall and Deepavali


It’s not just in the Spring that we see colors and blossoms; Fall is a good time to see the beauty of nature as well. For me, nature sits right outside my apartment. I have conversation with it every day while going to the University! With the temperatures dropping, as they should, this time of the year, Fall has given many beautiful sights to nature lovers. With recently acquainted knowledge about the Science behind changing leaf colors (less chlorophyll, so more anthocyanin and carotenoids), Fall is getting very pleasant (the path from ignorance to darkness is a tough one but everyone must get there eventually). With Deepavali just around the corner, it is time for more celebration by lighting Diyas in Sesame oil. ‘Fall’ing time is also in ‘Q’ (November 3rd is the scheduled Fall back, which means we will have sunrise at 7ish instead of 8ish). Seeing people in their winter-wear already is a ‘cool’ sight as well! Just yesterday, I had a pleasant opportunity of being a spectator to some undergraduate students in Halloween costumes. Glad to see them following this tradition!  

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Talking of tradition (usually takes me back to Bharat Desh), I remember Life in Hyderabad, India is a different story this time of the year. It reminds me of my school days when we were finishing the syllabus for the Half-yearly exams that usually happen in December and so many talent search exams in November. At home, with Deepavali approaching, I used to go shopping with my parents to buy crackers (which, after a while, we stopped doing) and sometimes run into classmates at the HACA Bhavan ‘firecracker market’. Later in the evening after Puja, we used to spend time watching the special programs on TV. It’s always good to meet the neighbors who are never visible downstairs bursting all sorts of crackers. That’s a lot of information about Deepavali and Fall. A random mini-blogpost again, if you can handle it!            

Wish I had some samosas and chai with me right now! 

If you feel my English is not the usual type you are used to, then it’s because it’s Indianized 🙂 Look at the link for what’s Indianism!!! Funny but true!   

http://travel.cnn.com/mumbai/life/10-indianisms-652344

 

Springing with fun


Spring blossoms are a feast to the eyes. As a newcomer to US I am exhilarated seeing the colors on Purdue campus and in Lafayette, Indiana. Spring came late this year and is going to end soon with Summer just around the corner. But there’s always enough to do when you see almost everyone outside. The other day, I say students with their hammocks studying for their finals on campus. Then there is this apple tree close to my place in Lafayette that blossomed. The smell of apple’s blossoms is  naturally sweet.  I had the fortune of eating ripe apples of this tree too (ones that ripened and fell- not ones I plucked) in the Fall. This tree holds a very special place in my life in Indiana. I was able to capture a bee mesmerized by the smell from the apple flowers this morning.

I am going to participate in the Arbor day tree planting event this Saturday- a great opportunity to cherish our beautiful nature and learn to respect it. Thank you Purdue BoilerOUT for organizing this event – we must always remember the Sanskrit saying “Vruksho rakshathi rakshitaha” or “Save the tree and it saves you”. We are lucky to be alive because of the trees that supply us with clean air. Try planting a tree this Spring and don’t forget to take care of it.

Hammocking around Purdue Mall
Hammocking around Purdue Mall

 

Purdue Rowing club practicing in the Wabash
Purdue Rowing club practicing in the Wabash

 

Bee attracted to apple blossom
Bee attracted to apple blossom
Tulips in Lafayette, Indiana
Tulips in Lafayette, Indiana

 

 

Ekkadi Manusha Janmamu- Pedda Tirumalacharya Keertana 1


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Ragam: Bouli
Language: Telugu (spoken majorly in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India)
Composer: Pedda Tirumalacharya (s/o Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya called ‘Pada kavitha Pitamah’)
Link of the rendition on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV6EewU9OOM

Composition:

Pallavi:
Ekkadi Maanusha Janmambetthina Phalamemunnadi;
Nikkamu ninne nammithi; nee chitthambikanu
(What is the fruit of this human life you have presented to me among the 84 lakh lifeforms? I am Your devotee alone and what You do with me is totally up to Your wish)

Charanam1:
Maruvanu Aahaarambunu; Maruvanu Samsaara sukhamu;
Maruvanu Indriya Bhogamu; Madhava nee Maya
(Oh Lord Vishnu! You designed me in such a way that I don’t forget to eat, I don’t forget the worldy pleasures and I don’t forget sense gratification, all this is due to the illusion you created)
Maracheda sugyanambunu; maracheda tattva rahasyamu;
Maracheda guruvunu daivamu; Madhava nee Maya
(On the other hand, I forget the knowledge mentioned in our Vedas and Puranas i.e. knowledge about You, Lord Madhava, I forget that the secrets that help me discover You and I also forget my teachers and the deities, all this is due to the illusion you created)

Charanam2:
Viduvanu paapamu punyamu; viduvanu naa durgunamulu;
Viduvanu mikkiliyaasalu; Vishnuda nee Maya
(I do not stop committing sins or conducting virtuous acts (the cycle of virtues and sins is building up on me) without realizing the reason for my existence- to reach You; I do not give up my bad qualities/habits; I do not let go of my excessive needs; all this is due to the illusion you created oh Lord Vishnu)
Vidicheda Shatkarmambulu; vidicheda vairagyambunu;
Vidicheda naachaarambunu; Vishnuda nee Maya
(I do not perform the 6 necessary activities of 1.performing and 2.moderating Yagna, 3.learning and 4.creating opportunity to learn the Veda near the Guru, 5.donating and 6.accepting donation as required; I do not exhibit dispassion/detachment to this worldly pleasures; I let go of the good practices laid in the sacred Vedic scriptures; all this is due to the illusion you created oh Lord Vishnu)

Charanam3:
Tagileda bahu lampatamula; tagileda bahu bandhambula 
Tagulanu Mokshapu maargamu; Talapuna yenthainaa
(I get involved in so many activities cause me to be in relationships with many people i.e. my activities make me depend on so many people; I attach myself to several worldly relationships; I do not understand why, despite doing so many worldly activities I do not try to get onto the path to Salvation)
Agapadi Sri Venkateswara Antaryamivai 
Nagi nagi nanu neevelithi Naakaa ee Maya 
(I can see you before my eyes Lord Venkateswara, also you exist within me [as you are all-pervading]; And looking at my helplessness with (dealing of) the world of Maya you created, you laugh at me- I am your devotee, is this Maya necessary for me? I plea for your mercy to let me free from this Maya so I can realize the true meaning of this human life, to chant your name and reach you on the path of Salvation)

Thank you for reading this 1st attempt of my translation from Telugu to English. 

Chalo Amerika -1


Hi everyone.

It has been a while since I posted my experiences and that’s because of the visa process and departure to the United States. Now that I’m here at Purdue, let me share some experiences of my first visit.

I landed at Chicago airport on 22nd of August via the Air India flight from New Delhi. The flight itself was a great experience as I was a first-time traveller on an international flight. I was given a seat with large leg space so I had my own comfort while on the plane. The economy class seats tend to be congested so you actually do not get enough space to turn to a side and sleep. That was the only uncomfortable part of the flight. You get to watch as many movies as you can on the flight but I suggest everyone travelling for the first time to sleep as much as they can on the flight. Drink lots of water and juices on the flight because you get dehydrated. Just stretch your muscles by walking around in the plane. There’s not much one can do on a window seat on the plane, so the aisle is good to go. The food on the plane is not so good; it is advisable if you got some home made food to eat so that you do not feel homesick already 🙂

An I-94 card is handed out few hours before landing. It has to be filled and any valuable items that you carry have to be declared on the form. You cannot carry fruits and vegetables to the US :-p . Finally the plane landed and I was in the USA!  The immigration process at the Chicago airport is very simple and finally I came out of the airport after checking out my baggage. The trolleys are big enough to carry the suitcases (I took three heavy ones) so you won’t have problems with luggage handling. Be sure to get a calling card that works well with your mobile phone so you can call back and let your family know about your safe landing. I was lucky to find a PhD student and an Indian Professor going to Purdue so I had company from the Chicago airport to Purdue Airport(Yes, there’s an airport here!)

Seniors I contacted on the IGRASP forum came to pick me up from Purdue Airport (Vartika Mishra and Gauri Kulkarni) and drop me at the off-campus housing which my friends from India already occupied. It was very sunny as it was 1.30 PM by the time I reached home. I saw my roomates for the first time in person! The apartment is big enough and I am typing this article from my room!

More about Purdue and USA in the next post.

A strategic difference between sane and insane- a Radio perspective


“Akashavani, aap sun rahe hein Subah Prasaran” those golden and lovely words formed the starting sentence of a morning broadcast of All India Radio and what is primarily being broadcast even today but only to a very few listeners. The divinity of the morning is brought in by the announcements that came in from the morning braodcast till ten years ago.  What we have now in this radio set on the cell phones is the raucous sound from the film music that is played to wake up the listeners.  There has been a paradigm shift in the way radio has earned its listeners and it is the trend that is causing the disturbance. The FM channels, that ‘manufacture’ the  noisy ‘wake up sessions’ have a lot to learn from the traditional Akashvani or Vividh Bharti. What forms an important part of transmission in the morning is presentation of ideas or music in a presentable and enjoyable manner. No trumpets to wake up listeners please!

Jockeys, the other name for announcers of yester years All India Radio have been busy using their mouths as instruments to drill holes into listeners’ ears. From the beginning of the day, there seems to be an endless jabber about some of the most insignificant issues to society and in general, everyone. But you may say, that’s not the purpose of the radio. I disagree and do so with reason. There is a responsibility that lies on the shoulders of every information disseminator towards the society. If there is just some directionless talk, then the purpose is a prodigal one. There is every need to have a meaningful and definitely enjoyable means of broadcasting on the FM medium. And this is what makes the Akashavani so special, that,10 years ago had a great listener database, that was and is, its pride. What FM channels aim for is cheap publicity that can be proved by the programmes that they continuously, on a daily basis,  broadcast. Akashvani programmes were meaningful, helpful and most importantly, inspiring to the women and children in particular and the public in general and were a companion to the listeners. There were all kinds of programmes involving science for the children to morality expressed by plays and audio-skits and jingles. They were scheduled for a time every week and were worth the wait.

The announcers of Akashavani had pleasant tones and their way of making announcements or replying to listeners’ letters was a beautiful experience. But today’s jockeys have the motto of causing pain to the ears by using high notes of their voice and make a mess of the issue they want to talk about. It, for all reasons, irritates the listeners and sometimes even causes pain to the feeling of several listeners. The trend that has been observed for the recent few years is a disturbing one and the listeners ought to check this trend by giving positive feedback on the way the Jockeys perform their ‘so-called’ duties.

Jockeys have their own way, and I strongly refer to a personal of speaking about issues that concern general public. Radio has been a source of information and has always called for informative and thought provoking discussions and debates- Courtesy: AIR New Delhi, but today’s FM channels have caused much trouble by bringing up issues that are totally meaningless and just for cheap fun all the time. Radio has to be a friend one must cherish to carry along with oneself. The moment the Jockeys start speaking, it is just like a train that runs past at 80 mph speed and nobody was able to get a glimpse of it.

Providing information in a melodious tone was the motto of Akashvani and FM Jockeys should learn the same. Do not try to lose listeners by making them lose the attention and giving them a tiny attention span. Learn the basics of announcing on radio and do not try to be overbearing on the listeners. Listeners would react if entertainment is provided in a balanced and presentable way. There’s a lot to learn from the Announcers of Akashvani- those working and retired.

Electron Microscopy and its uses in Nanoscience


Nanoscience, in crude terms, is the analysis of a nanomaterial in the nanometer range and its applications for making stronger materials. It involves the use of very precise instruments for the observation of nanostructures. These useful instruments or rather equipments are called Electron Microscopes. They can be Scanning Electron Microscopes, Tunneling Electron Microscopes, Scanning Tunneling Electron Microscopes etc. Each of them are used for specific purposes and they can be used together for doing nanostructure characterisation and subsequently, analysis.

In using these equipments, one not only requires the understanding of the working of the equipment, but also the skill to operate them. India has many such equipments in prestigious Government and Institutional facilities but there is a great dearth of skilled manpower to handle them. This was what I could deduce from the speech given by the Ex-President of the Electron Microscope Society of India or the EMSI, Dr. R P Tandon. In order to make students more technology-aware, the EMSI had decided to start zonal chapters of its society in New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata. It would be a boon for students interested in getting hands-on experience in handling these equipments. The society plans to increase its memership and also conductworkshops that would produce more students skilled in operating the equipments for characterisation purposes of nanomaterials.

The International conference on Electron Nanoscopy EM50, organised as a part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the EMSI in association with the DMRL, Hyderabad was a right step for India to make a mark in the IFSM(International Federation for Societies on Microscopy). Inter-continental research in the field of combining microscopies would be a great effort to bridge the divide between nations actuvely involved in nano characterisation. The conference was a great attempt to make India an even bigger participant in the International Microscopy scenario and the President of the IFSM Prof. C Barry Carter has suggested that India follow the steps of China to make a greater contribution in the field of Microscopy. China, which has started as a active member in the IFSM, has now become one of the world leaders in the field of Electron Microscopy.

If there is one thing that we can learn from our large neighbour, it is the active interest and breakthrough research it conducts in the field of Science and Technology using Electron Microscopy. I hope India becomes a leader too and Nanoscience attracts many more individuals than it does now.