Friday, November 2, 2012

Ashtavakra Gita - The Wealth of Knowledge

A Wonderful Discourse on Ashtavakra Gita by Sri Sri


A group of us recently listened to a wonderful discourse given by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Ashtavakra Gita. Ashtavakra Gita is said to be a dialog that happened between a sage, Ashtavakra and a very learned, wise King, Janaka. The dialog starts with a very simple conversation and unfolds very deeper aspects of life, nature of mind, qualities of the self and so on.

I should say it is a powerful discourse. His Holiness Sri Sri talks about so many subjects relating to our every day life. This discourse in a gentle way made me realize some of my own patterns that I have in my life. It also helped me to see things from a bigger prespective.

As the weeks went on and on, I noticed that I was able to let go of my own little ideas, concepts and connect with myself and the rest of the group in a much deeper level.

At the end of every session, I was left with the feeling of wonder, a sense of relief, contemptment and freedom.

I used to (still use to) have some really strong ideas, optinions, about things in life. In a way this has given some sort of rigidity, stubbornness, assertiveness in life. The knowledge of Ashtavakra Gita is so subtile, but yet so powerful. It helped me look at some of the patterns I have in my life and even let go some of them.

After watching the discourse, I feel soft, tender and connect with me and others in a better way. Thanks to His Holiness for the wonderful discourse on Ashtavakra Gita.

Our Group Manimozhian, Parag Agarwal, Sriram Hariharan, Varinder, Rachna Reddy, Monica Bansal and Seema Singh.

Jai gurudev,
-Mathi
November, 2, 2012
Sunnyvale, CA

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guru Purnima 2011

Art of Living Guru Purnima Celebrations 2011

We usually don't miss guru purnima celebrations as it is a sacred day. Guruji says, it is the day the devotee looks at the progress he has made on the path in the past one year. It is the day of the Guru and the disciple. A very special day to be around with the Guru.

After the Berlin trip my confidence was so high. I thought if we could manage the Berlin trip with so much ease, how hard could a trip to neighboring Canada be. Ramiya wanted to go to Niagra and I also wanted to visit our Maternal Uncle who lives in Toronto.

I quickly looked at Google maps. Niagra, Toronto, Montreal all of them appeared so close to each other. I thought the places are quite close and booked my flight ticket to Buffallo (nearest airport to Niagra), booked a rental car from there and planned to drive down to Montreal and Toronto.

I was so proud for making such a fantastic plan. I borrowed a GPS with canada maps from a friend, Prabhat, took printout of directions just to be safe, noted down all the addresses and contact numbers, booked the tickets and was all set to go.

The day before our departure, when I was looking at the directions, I noticed that Montreal from Buffalo is a 8 hour long drive.

Suddenly, there was a pinch somewhere deep inside, did I over look something? We were supposed to reach Buffalo at mid night and drive from there to Montreal. Guru Poornima Celebration was on the next day. Is it even possible to drive 8 hours straight and reach the ashram on time for Guru Poornima Celebrations? Attending Guru Poornima Celebrations was the whole intention behind the trip. If not for Guru Poornima, the whole trip looked so barren. I was concerned.

Before leaving for the airport, I prayed that everything goes smoothly. I prayed that I reach Art of Living Ashram in time for Guru purnima.

Guess What!!!

Our first flight got delayed by 3 hours. The crew found some problem after all the passengers had boarded the plane and when it was ready to take off. We had no choice but to wait for 3 hours on the plane.

All my plans and my doership fell flat on my face. I realized that if we miss the connecting flight, there is no way to reach Buffallo on time, rent a car, do a marathon 8 hours drive and reach the ashram for Guru Poornima Celebrations. For a second, I felt so helpless. I then prayed and prayed to Guruji that I want to be present for Guru Poornima Celebrations. How much i wanted to be for GP celebrations, I prayed with all that intensity. Don't know how many times I changed "Om Nama Shivaya".

So, the first flight landed in texas 3 hours late. Obviously the connecting flight has departed. I was anxious and nervous to find out about the next flight to Buffallo. I went to the counter. The lady at the counter greeted me with a smile and said "Sir, your next flight is tomorrow morning. You have to stay in texas for the night". I said "No, I have to be in Buffallo tonight somehow. Please check again". She replied, "Sir, I understand your situation. There is nothing I can do. I'm sorry". I could not take that answer. I kept telling her "Please check again. There has to be a way". I just stood there repeating the same thing. After 5 minutes, she said, "Wait a minute, there is another plane and you are already checked in on that". She was wonder stuck how that happened. I screamed "Yes" and ran to the terminal. It was the same plane that took us from San Jose to Texas and when all of the passengers have boarded the plane, they discovered the same problem that happened in the morning and delayed the flight by 2 hours once again.

Still it was very unsure if we will land in Buffallo on time. They close the rental car place by 1:30 a.m. We need to be there before that. I started chanting and praying once again. All my thoughts were "I just want to be in the Ashram when Gurudev chants Guru Pooja". After another long wait, we eventually departed from Texas. Surprise. The second flight did not have a stop over on the way unlike our original plan. That saved us enough time and we reached Buffallo exactly when we were supposed to be as per the original plan. I was so happy.

I was so grateful looking at how things have been unfolding the whole day until I found that our baggage did not arrive. I had put all my electronic stuff including GPS on the baggage. I thought i would check at the Car Rental place to give us a car with GPS. We went to the Car Rental and the lady at the counter says "I'm sorry sir. We only keep a limited number of GPS units only for those who have booked for it". I thought how can I ever drive from Buffallo to Montreal without a GPS? I have never been to these places. I just don't know the directions. I told her, "I really need one. Please check once again if you have an extra GPS". She said "I'll see what I can do". She checked her system and after some time, tells me "Sir, we have exactly one more car of the same type you booked with a GPS. Do you want it?" I said "Jai Gurudev".

Though I consider myself educated when it comes to using gadgets, I just could not get the GPS to work. I can not punch in the Ashram's address at all. All I can put in was Montreal and get the GPS to show directions just till Montreal. After trying unsuccessfully for 5 minutes, I thought it is already getting late, may be I should start driving and figure out the rest once we reach Montreal. We started driving. It was such a beautiful night drive. The beautiful full moon was giving me company all through the night. I felt so contempt and relaxed as I drove through those empty free ways one after the other. It was so beautiful to see the first rays of morning Sun Light. We crossed the border and as we got closer to Montreal the traffic picked up and the GPS didn't work after that. We relied on the google map print outs to go to the Ashram from Montreal.

It was like a puzzle. We were not 100% sure about the route, but had no choice to go that way because the GPS didn't work. It was 8'O clock in the morning. I stopped at a gas station just to confirm if we are going on the correct path. The people at the gas station spoke only French and they didn't understand me at all. Once again just when I thought it would make me confident if some one can confirm the direction, a person walked into the gas station and did just that.

Finally we arrive at the Canadian Ashram at 9:30 a.m. I saw a friend James, telling me that Guru Pooja is at 10 a.m. We quickly had our shower and rushed towards the hall. On the way we saw a crowd and people shouting "Guruji, Guruji". And there was Guruji walking barely a few feet away from me going from his kutir to the Meditation Hall for Guru Poornima Celebrations. We happily followed him and as we entered the hall, Guruji started chanting Guru Pooja. My heart felt so full and didn't want to come out from there at all.

All my plans fell flat. All my preparations didn't help. But we reached the Ashram just on time for Guru Poornima Celebrations. Some how things fell in place one after the other and we ended up at the Ashram at the right time. It still gives me goose bumps and gratitude when I think about how it all happened.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Two Holy Journies

I have seen/heard many people undertake holy journies in their life. Some visit holy sites, holy shrines, temples or even places. Many times the whole idea behind this journey is a search. Some search for supreme or higher power. Some search for a way to purify themselves and to rid things that hold us back in life. Some realize the impermanence of life and search for that which is eternal.

I too took two such journeys this year in 2011 and I'd like to share my experience in this blog.

Journey I - A Trip from Bay Area to Berlin, Germany

Ever since, Guruji, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, we'll celebrate 30 years of Art of Living in Berlin, I know I wanted to be there. But we just had returned from India. Already had spent a lot for the India trip and the tickets to Berlin were costly too. It all made me hesitate a bit.

One day, a friend of mine, Vivek Gulati (an Art of Living Teacher) called me and asked, "Yo, Are you coming to Berlin?". I replied, "No, It's too costly for me". He repeated, "But, do you want to come?". I said "I want to come. I very much want to come. But money is a little tight". Vivek said "Forget about money. It's not your problem. Put an application to the Master and let's see what happens". I just thought "If only I had $1700/- more, I'll go to Berlin". I don't know how I came up with that number, but that's what I thought.

Life went on. I filed my taxes and the tax consultant told me that I have a refund. And the amount was exactly what I thought I needed to go to Berlin. I was shaken. How can it be the exact amount? I thought it was time for me to stop saying excuses for not going to Berling and just go register. And I did.

I had never been to Europe (except for flight transfer on our way to India). Have no idea what it takes to get there, what the culture there is, where to stay, what kind of food will we get, how to get to the Olympic stadium (where we had our Celebrations). I knew nothing about the place and the more I thought about it, the more butterflies flew in my stomach. Ramiya and Niranjan also decided to come to Berlin

Just two days before going to the German Embassy for getting German Visa, I found that they do not accept Passports that are more than 10 years old and mine is already more than 11 years old. For a second everything stopped for me. I couldn't find out what to do next. There are only 2 days for the interview at the german embassy which can not be postponed and I have a passport that won't be accepted by them. I took my chances and applied for my passport renewal at the Indian Consulate in SFO. Guess what. I got a new passport the very next day. I still can not believe how fast things happened just on time.


We completed all the requirements like getting the visa, travel insurance, booking our flight, getting international driver license, booking the hotel, book a car, took print outs of the local transportation in Berlin, etc.,

When we landed in Berlin on July 1st 2011, my mind was filled with anxiety, I need to find out the car rental place, need to drive in a foreign country, go to the hotel, what if i get lost some where. That is when we met another Art of Living friend, Tara. Her friend who is supposed to pick her up from the airport and take her to the hotel got delayed. And Tara couldn't contact her. She has been waiting in the airport. Without thinking anything, I just told her you come with us. You can stay with us until you locate your friend. I think it was that moment when things totally got changed.

We got the address of the hotel where Guruji is staying. Picked up the car from the Rental place, Drove to the Hotel, Checked in the Hotel, Had a nice shower, Did our Kriya and we were on our way driving around the City. They had given a very good GPS in the car, so we were very confident in driving around. The city was beautiful. We actually passed by several landmark places in Berlin while trying to locate the Hotel where Guruji was staying and when trying to locate the Hotel where we had to drop Tara. It was a big getting out of the comfort zone for me driving in Berlin, just because I have not driven anywhere other than US.

The next day we drove to a near by City called Magdeburg. There was a stretch in the free way where there was no speed limit and people were just zooming past our car. I just stick to a safe speed. Magdeburg was on a river bank, so beautiful, so relaxed and had a very passive life style. Just when we got used to driving and the convenience of having a car, it was time to return it and rely on the Public Transport system. Berlin has excellent public transport. The city is well connected with buses and subway trains. The local people were so friendly and helping. The trick is to find someone who speaks English :-)

We really enjoyed travelling in the subway, particularly Niranjan. He used to see the map and track the stations we passed through. Reached the Olympic Stadium on time. Enjoyed the World Cultural Festival Celebrations in the rain. Enjoyed being there in the presence of Guruji. Guruji spoke a lot in German at the Cultural Festival. We just forgot that we have come to another country. It was like being in the neighborhood with all the Art of Living Friends and Family. A wonderful feeling.

There were more than 50,000 people in the stadium who have come from various different countries like India, Pakistan, Prague, France, Spain, Japan, Canada, China, Taiwan, US, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Norway, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Poland and so so many other countries. The celebration was top notch. It was like watching a professional Open Ceremony of Olympic Games. The only difference was that this was put together mostly by Volunteers and Teachers of Art of Living Foundation, inspired by His Holiness Sri Sri. There were also participants, dignitaries, policians from so many different countries. Guruji, His Holiness Sri Sri had brought the whole world together for World Peace and to celebrate the Diversity. I felt so fortunate to be part of such a gathering. Guruji also led us through few beautiful Meditations. I should say the Meditation took care of all the travel tiredness and fatigue in the body that it felt so much better after that.

We returned very late that night. I forgot to note down the subway stop where we need to get down and we got down two stops past the one close to our hotel. Even at that late night, we enquired around and there were people who showed us the way to our hotel. We had to walk 20 minutes to the hotel. Everyone whom we asked were so polite, so helping and so friendly. This trip really helped me change my ideas and opinions I had about the people in Germany.

The next day also we enjoyed the rest of the Celebrations. Heard that there is a public satsang with Guruji, went there in the evening and returned to US the next day.

This trip made me stretch so much, break so many barriers and boundaries, come out of my small tiny shell and at the end realize that every thing is taken care of. The trip also made me so humble and grateful to my Guru for giving this wonderful opportunity to be part of the Celebration. Events like this don't come that often in our lives. Niranjan enjoyed the trip all through. Co-operated very well and this is a trip that will stay in our Memory for ever.


Journey II - Guru Purnima Celebrations - Check out the next blog.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Perfect Linux Setup

I have been using Linux for a few years, now. What I really like(d) about linux is
  • It can be customized to a very great extent compared with Windows. I can download the latest kernel from kernel.org and compile it myself.
  • No need to run additional anti-virus. ( Atleast I don't run )
  • No need to worry about malware, spyware.
  • Linux very well co-exists with other Unixes. I need this to login to my work.
  • Pretty much all the applications I use, are available on Linux.
  • If I get bored with the UI, i have plenty of themes to choose from. (I can even change the DE from xfce, gnome, kde)
  • Linux gives me a feeling that I have better control over the system than Windows. Everything is documented
  • Reliable and Stable. (Not that I had any stability problems on windows for my use, but a journal file system is any day better than a non-journal one)
  • My family can use this system to surf web, watch flash movies with out having to worry about virus & worms.
Choose a distro

One has to choose an appropriate Linux Distro according to the needs and liking. My hardware is not latest and greatest. It is 4 - 5 years old. I needed the best performing distro on it which not only need to meet all my requirements and also need to have all the applications I use.

Debian Lenny

To begin with, I installed debian lenny, just because it was just released at that time. I really liked it. It was clean and fast. It had gnome as the DE. I had always used KDE before and KDE 4 is little slow on my system. Hence I went with gnome. There are a few things I didn't like in Lenny, but I could live with those. For example, I didn't like the fact that firefox was renamed to iceweasel for whatever reason. I think the true credit was not given to firefox because of that. Iceweasel also had problems with some of the websites I visit, while firefox worked perfect. Just for this I had to use firefox from Mozilla. I didn't like this because i had to manually update firefox when there is a new release.

I used vpnc to connect to my work, which didn't play very well with network-manager. Since my computer was also wired to network all the time, network manager was not even needed and I removed it

Debian Lenny did not have a pre-emptive kernel by default. I could really notice it when playing music or watching flash video. Both audio and video would jump, pause and skip

Other than that Debian Lenny worked great and I was pretty happy with it. I had been using Debian Lenny for few months until I started to notice that my system was beginning to lag behind others in terms of latest software and hence features. I have been reading about the new releases of Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSuSE and the truck loads of new feature they bring. One thing that really caught my attention was the fast boot. I needed this because i shut down the computer when I don't use it to conserve energy.

Ubuntu

When i had to decide which distro to pick from Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuSE (I like all three distro's), I decided to go with Ubuntu 9.04 because I've got used to apt-get and deb's.

I installed ubuntu 9.04 on my system. It boots really fast. But the applications, gnome, firefox, thunderbird are all very slow compared with debian lenny. I didn't like the fact that the system now functions slow. Also the metacity window manager doesn't even do smart placement of new windows which annoyed me. I wanted to explore my options.

Xubuntu

Xubuntu looked promising. Light weight, fast and efficient. So, I ended up installing Xubuntu. Xubuntu team has customised xfce so much to look like gnome. While it is lightweight, it didn't feel really fast over gnome. I removed the xubuntu customisations including usplash ('aptitude remove usplash' removed usplash and all the dependent xubuntu customisations) To my surprise the system responded much better. I also very much liked the vanilla xfce. I can only wonder why Xubuntu team put in all these customisations that really slow down the system. I also removed the firefox customisations like ubufox, firefox-gnome-support, firefox-xxx-branding. Firefox also worked snappy afer this. Woo hooo

Customization
  • Removed network-manager, as this system was wired to network all the time.
  • Installed open office
  • Instaled Sun's JDK
  • Installed additional system tools like system-config-printer, ntfs configuration tool (to mount ntfs partitions) partition-editor, services-editor, shared folder (to configre samba, nfs), gnome-network-admin (to configure network)
  • disabled unwanted services at start time through the service editor.
  • install a text editor that has syntax highlighting for C and java (gedit)
  • install flash (add the repo "deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu jaunty partner" and do "aptitude install adobe-flashplugin")
Optimizations

My system had intel i80 graphics chipset, which performed badly on Ubuntu 9.04 Googling for solutions, I found that the intel driver needed an update

So, i added this repo "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates/ubuntu jaunty main" and updated the driver. But still full screen flash video was skipping frames and very slow.

Someone suggested to try the latest 2.6.30 kernel image from "http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/main/l/linux". Installing the latest kernel (2.6.30-9 as of now) flash performance improved very much. It is possible to watch full screen video now. I was not interested in kernel modsetting.

Finally, I had to replace xfce-terminal with rox term, since there were problems with xfce-terminal. I also installed chrome. Though it is no where near feature complete on linux, it is lightning fast and stable.

I'm now very happy with the current setup. System feels responsive, light-weight and useful. I still use Windows once in a while because linux doesn't have driver for my creative webcam and I video chat with my family. Also the Video editing software I use, works only on windows. Though there are many video editing solutions on linux, I haven't found one that is easy, simple and feature rich as the one I use (Pinnacle Studio) on windows.

Useful Links

Ubuntu KMS : https://wiki.ubuntu.com/X/KernelModeSetting
Kernel Builds : https://wiki.ubuntu.com/KernelMainlineBuilds
Latest intel drivers : https://launchpad.net/~ubuntu-x-swat/+archive/x-updates
Chrome for Ubuntu : http://dev.chromium.org/getting-involved/dev-channel