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The Big Questions

A technology or a civilization is judged based on the problems it is trying to solve. The Western world sought to address the big challenges of science which led to breakthroughs such as the Theory of Relativity and also double-edged technologies such as nuclear science.

The big questions that originated in India were related to us, what happens to us in the universe we exist in and how we can transcend it. Most of Indian thought started with questions and we see this in almost all the scriptures.

The universe is vast and our knowledge is limited. The 7th-century BC Greek poet Archilochus is famous for one line: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing", while in the Mundaka Upanishad, Saunaka asks "What is that, through the knowledge of which, everything becomes known?" In other words what is the one big thing?

Humanity has always been puzzled by death, the transition to the unknown . In the Katha Upanishad, the young boy Nachiketa, sent t…
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The Psychology of God-Vision

These notes are condensed from Swami Ashokananda's book "Ascent to Spiritual Illumination"
Chapter 1: The Psychology of God-Vision
God-vision depends on our state of mind. If your mind were scattered or inattentive you may not see a tree in front of you.
The purpose of today morning is to define the state of mind necessary to the experience of the Spirit.
What is God? He is the Eternal, Infinite One and Being. This infinite Being is all joy, all light, all goodness, all truth. This is the Being we are trying to experience.
Where is that Being? Everything that exists He is interpenetrating through and through.
How is it that we don't experience and perceive Him?There is some kind of block due to which we cannot see Him. The distraction and scattering of the mind is the block.
When the mind has learned not to dwell on matter - and the mind can learn it - then spiritual life has begun, not until then.
You escape [sense objects] by learning to be quiet. That is the great…

The Perfect Man

From the first poem in the world, Valmik's Ramayana, comes a template for what he defines as a perfect human being. Valmiki asks the following question to Narada

Who, in this world, is a person:
1) of great qualities,
2) of great valor,
3) of acute discernment about right and wrong,
4) that appreciates, remembers and is grateful for the help received from everyone,
5) that stands by his word all the time,
6) and pursues his goals to their completion, unswervingly?

Who is a man
7) of great character,
8) who always wishes and does good to all beings,
9) who is well read about all aspects of life,
10) who is capable of getting the most challenging things done,
11) who is also approachable, personable and pleasing to all alike, at all times?

Who is a person
12) of exemplary courage,
13) in complete control of his temperament,
14) of great intellect,
15) that is unbiased and doesn't indulge in slander,
16) and whose displeasure would be taken note of by even the gods?

Narada repli…

Sikkim - A State of Mind: Day 3

Day 3: 19 April 2016

We're woken up at 4:45 AM by a cacophony of bird calls outside our room. I step out and am struck by the glorious view of the Kanchenjunga with the morning sunlight falling on it.

There are times when the camera and words cannot capture the enormity of what you're seeing and this was one of those moments. We clicked dozens of photos of the mountain emerging over the clouds.

Reports have come that the road to Lachung is still blocked and we may not be able to proceed. We go for a walk in the town on Mangan as we wait for the work to progress. As the district headquarters, Mangan has many government offices, schools and even a post office (PIN code 737116).

The "Special Branch" also has an office with a great view of the mountains.

Football (the global one and not the the American version where players use their hands and wear helmets!)  has a huge following in Sikkim and we cross what is probably one of the most scenic football ground in the count…

Sikkim - A State of Mind: Day 2

Day Two
We're awake at 5:30 AM and it's bright daylight. Our first sight of Sikkim in the daylight shows a land bursting with greenery and flowers.

The valley is shrouded in fog. Occasionally the fog lifts to show glimpses of the mountainside. Everything we see is in  panoramic mode - sweeping hills, rolling clouds and the fog appearing suddenly shrouding the entire landscape in grey.

Before we have breakfast, we go for a quick round of birding - there are Mountain Bulbuls, Oriental White Eyes and lots of Mynas. We have a breakfast of Alu Parathas with yogurt and pickle, some toast and marmalade and the teas for which North East India is famous.

Our plan for the day is to leave after breakfast for the town of Lachung, in Northern Sikkim. Lachung is the gateway to the Yumthang Valley and Zero Point in Yumesamdong beyond. While it is just 129 km (80 miles) away, the uphill ascent and the bad roads mean that it would take us close to six hours to get there.

Our route will take us…