Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Raamaayanaa and Srilankaa

 An interesting discussion on the path Prabhu Shrirama traversed during his Vanavaasa in Ramayana and what people in Srilanka know or think about Raavanaa.

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A.S.  Mar 15 : Below is a nicely annotated map showing the path that प्रभु श्री राम traversed during HIS रामायणम्. 

[ https://eastindiastory.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Ramayan-mapping-the-route-of-vanvaas.jpg ]

Recommend view it at full screen


There have been many other such images in the Internet, but I felt this was much more detailed and well annotated.

For me, there are two issues with this map. 

(1) I thought दण्डकारण्यम् to closer to present day South of West Begal and North Orissa along our East Coast. Maybe memory of my school-day geography is at fault.

(2) I note from this map that राम सेतु is not at the shortest distance between the shores of India and Lanka. 

This map image is from a nice blog titled Your Myth Is Our Fact [ https://eastindiastory.com/your-myth-is-our-fact/ ] by Ms Manjulaa Shirodkar where the auhor very persuasively tries to establish that Ramayanam is not just a mythology or just काव्यम् reflecting the literay prowess of महऋषि वाल्मीकि but his meticulous chronicling of History as it evolved; not that I need any convincing to accept  Ramayanam  as a part of our ancient history.I

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A.S.

There is a book called: Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia

https://www.amazon.in/dp/0195635183/ref=cm_sw_r_awdo_ZFXQXFK6CANFZN6227DH  Edited by Paula Richman

It consists of several Ramayanams as narrated not only in different parts of India, but also as told and enacted to suit their own ancient cultural ethos, while maintaining the essential core of the narration, in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other Far Eastern countries.. I had read the book long ago, and all I remember now is that I did not like it at that time.

As far as I am concerned, the original Vaalmiki's Ramayanam has been told and retold over thousands of years and eons in all parts of India, mostly unaltered and this itself gives it much weightage as its core narrative being a true description even if one concedes a bit of poetic licence in some of its embellishments.

1) We do now have slightly different versions of the original Ramayanam chronicled by Rishi Vaalmiki in Sanskrit, (and as accepted by a vast majority of persons), by Sant Tulsidas and Tamizh Poet Kamban. There is a very nice third English book closely following Vaalmiki's narrative, by Sh C. Rajagopalachari (1st Governor General of India and CM of Madras State). There could be many more well-followed versions (such as in Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam etc) by other authors, about which I do not know.

2) Having read English translations (Gita Press, Gorakhpur) of both Vaalmiki and Tulsidas, I realise that Tulsidas's versions, for his very good reasons, differs in many anecdotes compared to those of Vaalmiki.

3) Even Tyagaraja Swami, to reinforce his bhakti filled description of Prabhu Sri Rama's 'Mahima' (I think Tulsidas calls this 'Ram ki Kala'), has composed a kriti with an anecdote that is not brought out in Vaalmiki Ramayanam -- I had narrated this anecdote several years ago in the "email-group".

There is a general habit of many writers, who know that they may not become as famous as the original author of any literary masterpiece, and so interpolate their own writing, attempting to imitate the style of the original creator, and add it to the story as though it is a part of the original. This happens in all cultures. I have come across fake additions in great Tamizh literary works; A few of Tyagaraja Swami's beautiful Kritis are said to have been imitated and falsely propagandised as being his own. Same thing has been said of Shakespeare's works too.

As far as I know, only Vaalmiki's Ramayanam is considered original and "Standard". I understand that Valmiki Ramayanam stops with Prabhu Sri Rama and Devi Sita's Pattabhishekam. Uttara Ramayanam (with the Dhobhi story) was a later interpolation by one or more persons who wanted the kalank (shamefilled blame) on a married woman staying at another person's house overnight (that view which was strongly held in the society of those days) to be reinforced on the back of the popularity of Ramayanam.

Addendum:

Based on the Ramayanam pravachanam-s (discourses) I have listened to in Aastha Channel, I understand that Prabhu Sri Rama, Devi Sita and Sri Lakshmana spent most of their exile at Panchavati. By the time they left Panchavati on their way south, 12 years out of 14 had elapsed. Another 4 months or so were lost when Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana were "grounded" in Kishkinda due to the monsoon season there. Add to this about 9 days of war. After the Yuddham, they accomplished a quick return via aerial route, to reach Ayodhya, bang at the end of 14 years to the day. So all in all Sri Rama had about 600 days to reach Sri Lanka from Panchavati via their meandering path. (In fact, at Ashoka Vanam, Devi Sita tells Sri Hanuman that she will keep her life only for one more year till Sri Rama comes and saves her from Ravana; I think Sri Rama achieved that schedule very comfortably.)

All in all, belief is belief. It may be interesting to know that 'flat earthers' still exist, in fairly good numbers.

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AM. Mar 15 at 1:22 PM

  A great revelation indeed if true. There have been many speculations about the places mentioned in Ramayana including where is Lanka. Even the people of Srilanka do not believe in the legacy of Rawana or that Rama visited with his army and killed Rawana there. I had read a theory that the island was actually off the coast of Orissa. 

  Anyhow, descriptions of Chitrakoot, Dandakaranya Forests fairly matches with the Vindhya, Satpura Ranges. Is Nasik really the Panchwati?  Ramji travelled on foot from here to Lankapuri that's nearly 2000 kms by land. It would have taken more than 100 days. 

  Sans some Scientific research, we can keep on speculating on this for years without any conclusions. Thanks.

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A.S. Mar 15 

It is well recognised that Sri Aadi Sankara at a very young age travelled on foot from Kerala to the Himalayas and places like Vaaranasi.

I think they were hardy people. I expect, Prabhu Sri Rama, as an Avataaram of Maha Vushnu might have done that.

I would suggest, if you have not already visited Nilesh Oak's blogs / may be YouTube Channel too, you may like to see them where he has presented scientific explanations. 

My view: Archelogical finds need not be only the proofs.

Of course in this matter, whether one agrees with the proposition or not may not be a "head going issue"😊

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A.K.G.

This kind of "Topic" reminds one happening { true or not ;- no idea, but the  messaging is the moot point } , it seems, Gautam Budhha too had to face once { written almost 2/3  years ago in the main group}, when :-

Two Quarrelling Persons came to Buddha to ascertain whether God does exist  or not ?

The First person asked ,

 "God Exists, isn't it"?

Budhha replied in the affirmative.


When second person came and asked:" 

There is nothing called God, isn't it"?

Again Buddha replied in the affirmative.


When both of them went out , - one third person asked  Buddha , - the reason of saying yes to both of them.

It seems, Buddha told :-The highest attribute goes to the "Faith " system , - presence of which only makes many things to "Exist" , and absence of which makes things the other way ,- and thus subject of "God" is not a matter of any "Argument " { Not even Maths or Science too- My Addition}.


Similar might be the case 

and treatment with all kinds of Mythological Proceedings too, 

Which is:-

" Maano to Ganga Maiya,

Na maano to Behta Paani" .

Btw, It seems, Buddhism truly does not believe in God, but in "Reincarnations"  They  Do Agree !!!

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ABG  Mar 15 

We had a temple called Rameshwar near our home town Jamkhandi in Karnataka and the local people believed that Prabhu Ramchandra worshipped Prabhu Shiva at that place. There may be several such legends spread throughout India. Those about Ramtek and Panchavati in Maharashtra and Hampi in Karnataka are very strong, but some other researchers have not accepted them. 

I recently  got a video strongly refuting the traditional story, that Shrirama abandoned Seeta  after hearing a washerman (Dhobi) spreading some doubt about her chastity. Then Seeta went to Rishi Valmiki's Ashram, lived there and gave birth to twin sons. When the sons were about 10-12 years old they went to the court of King Shriram and sang whole Ramayan. As per information of that video maker, Shriram and Seeta stayed together and ruled over the world for thousands of years.

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R.Y.A.   Mar 15 

An interesting topic has opened up, just after my 15 days tour of Sri Lanka. I returned on 11th March.

In the Ramayana Ravana is not totally a black character. He is a brahmin, great victorious king, a learned person and a devotee of Shiva who constructed and played Ravana vina, he is attributed as composer of Shiv Tandav Stotram, he ruled over a very prosperous kingdom, which is called A Goldan Lanka. By all accounts he must have been a very popular king and the praja would have been extremely proud of him. Though for us Indians he is the villain of Ramayana.  

I was surprised to find the Sinhala population has no recollection of such a powerful king. Not that they don't trace their ancient history. They trace their history from the 4th BC and earlier of the stone age. They acknowledge the Sangam period. And later their interactions with Chola. Of Course they have reverence to Mahendra and Singhika (spelt in many ways) son and daughter of Emperor Ashok for bringing Buddhism to Lanka. But no recollection of Ravana.  How can this be explained? 

Yes there is a Ramayana tour, for the one who deeply believes in Ramayana. But all the places are of recent origin to boost tourism. The Lankans have nothing to do with it.

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ABG  Mar 15 at 6:46 PM

It is amazing to know that people (tourism operators), who have nothing to do with Shriram or Ravana, conduct a Ramayana tour only for promoting tourism and earn some foreign exchange. We also have a slightly different parallel in Bodhgaya. It is said to be thronged with tourists from Japan and other East Asian countries, while local population may have very few believers in Buddhism, but they do relate to Gautam Buddha.

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A.M.  Mar 15 at 6:46 PM

Very interesting RYA . 

  Hinduism is much older than Budhism that is only 4-5th century BCE. If they have kept their history so far back, they must know what religion was followed before that. It must be Hinduism being so close in culture to us as well. How can they be not aware of Rama-Ravana when people even as far away as Indonesian were. Thanks 

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RYA 

Dear AM, Your doubt is valid. It is really surprising Sri Lankan don't relate to Hinduism as their pre-Buddhism religion or way of life. They relate to paganism, the elements of nature assuming the status of deities, the way it is in the Vedic period. One such deity which has continued his existence is Suman Saman. You find his statue in Dambulla cave temple as protector of Buddha. He appears in other places as well. He appears at the base of Sripada  or Adam's peak. It is considered holy by Hindus, Buddhist, and all the three Abrahamic religions. At the base devotees worship Suman Saman for protection and success of the climb.   

Hinduism has considered Buddha as the 9th Avatar of Vishnu and in this way has tried to avoid the conflict or competition with the other religion. The same way Sri Lankan Buddhism has considered Vishu as the protector of Buddha. The statue or a temple of Vishnu appears in many Buddhist shrines. I saw it in the Dambulla cave temple standing behind Buddha's image. In Kandy, in the premises of (Buddha's)Tooth relic temple, there is a separate shrine of Vishu. In Tibetan Buddhism and especially the sects devoted to Tantric practices you find adaptation Hindu deities such as Durga and Bhairav, and many more appear more or less as protectors. We did not find such a truce between the deities statues of Hinduism in Myanmar. There is no relation to any of the Hindu deities. Similar is the story in China. Maybe Sinhala Buddhism  picked up and adopted from Hindu influence from the Big Brother, India and maybe that's why Sinhala Buddhism adopted Vishu as the protector of Buddha. It looks like Buddhism introduced Hindu deities to Sinhala, which sound strange. But there is no explanation why Ramayana influence doesn't appear in Sri Lanka. 

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ABG   16-03-2022

The relationship between Hindu (Sanatan Dharma), Buddhism and Jainism in historical period appears intriguing. Rishabhdeo ( ऋषभदेव) is considered as an incarnation of Vishnu in Bhaagvat purana and also the first Tirthankar of Jainism. He is not considered as one of the Dashavatar of Vishnu. Buddha is considered as ninth Avatar in Dashavatar. However, though there are some temples of Varaha, Narsimha and Parashuram in addition to many for Shrirama and Krishna,  I have not seen any ancient Hindu temple of Rishabhdev or Buddha nor heard any Hindu worshipping these Avataras. 

Jainism spread all over India and is in practice.  Buddhism might have also spread across India in ancient times, as we can see Stupas in different places. However, though it spread widely to other countries, it almost vanished in India. It has been rejuvenated in the last century after Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced it along with his followers.  They have built several new temples of Buddha in recent times.

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A M    Mar 16 at 1:12 PM

Very interesting ABG.

  Though all the three Dharma vis Hinduism, Budhism, Jainism evolved from the Indians, in India, the impact of the later two on ourselves has been vaxing and vaning. It's rather strange why and what for these two took different roots and routes. Did Mahatma Budha or Mahaveeraji find some things lacking in Hinduism, less ideological, too flexible or what else? It's also significant that Hinduism is termed as a "way of life", not as a Religion. Was that the reason?

  All said and done, I find Hinduism or more appropriately the "Sanatam Dharma" as a very practical Dharma, most flexible in nature or operations, with all kinds of God's n Godesses, Philosophies, Ideologies adoptable to all trades and work cultures, War or Peace situations, Rituals for all occasions, Places and kinds of Worships, Life situations, Psychologies et al as compared to other religions (though I am no specialist on this). Perhaps that may also be the main reason for it's survival over eons, as well as by applying the wisdoms of "survival of the fittest (flexible)" criteria. Thanks.

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RYA -  Apr 9 

Sri Lanka is in news for its economic hardship. I was in Sri Lanka just over a month back. I was there with my friends from 25th Feb to 11th March. We were on our Lanka travel going east – west and north – south. We essentially covered the historical sites, the forts of previous colonising powers and two national parks, Wilpattu and Yala. We visited Jaffna and Trincomalee and Point Pedro for the memories of civil war.

When we were about to leave for Sri Lanka, there were reports of fuel and food shortages and conditions deteriorating fast. When we arrived, we did not find the dire situations painted in media. Of course there were lines at the petrol pumps, but much orderly lines. We experienced only a three hours of power outage in Anuradhapura, out of 15 days stay. There were busloads of people on pilgrimage at the Buddhist stupas and temples. In fact we had to abandon our climb (a night trek to be on the top for witnessing sunrise) of Sripada (Adam’s peak), as being weekend, there were too many devotees climbing. There was no space at the top. The narrow steps for the final climb were jam packed. We returned 200 feet short of the top.

It seems the things have taken a political overturn. The economy is stumbling and people are suffering. We were lucky to escape the rallies and curfews.  

09/04/2022

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AM -  Apr 10 

Dear RYA,

   I missed one main pointer from you, viz what factors prompted you to undertake this trip besides the pandemic lock down itch. Another friend just returned last Sunday, did not face any trouble. Very well made videos by you. I could see some more as well on YouTube in sequence with yours. 

  Srilanka is a peace loving country with deep and long standing cultural, religious even language ties with us, may be same DNA as well. And still wants to project as a different entity. Some background learnt:

Q: "Sinhalese people inhabit Sri Lanka and are the main ethnic group that make up about 74% of the total population of Sri Lanka. They are also referred to as the Hela, or Sinhala; the word Sinhala, meaning “lion people”. According to popular mythology, the Sinhalese people are descendants from the followers of Prince Vijaya who served exile (from 543-483 BC) in Sri Lanka and hailed from a North Eastern Indian kingdom called Singhapur (Modern day Singhur, West Bengal). Genetic studies have shown that the origins of the Sinhalese people lie mainly in West Bengal and South India, with links also to native 'Hela' tribes."

    UQ: Whilst the Tamilians settled here from the times of Chola dynasties. The divide between the two groups is stark in every aspect. LTTE's struggle for a separate state within Srilanka is the root cause of friction between these inhabitants as well as between us as countries 

  Srilanka's GDP/person was twice that of India in PPP or . It's half the size of Tamilnadu but 1/3rd of it's population. 

  It's present crisis is mainly on account of FE drop due to the Tourism industry flopping during the Pandemic that earlier  contributed ~30 % of its import bills, that's now down to just 3% contribution. It may need at least 12-18 months to recover. 

 Overall one gets the impression of a small well managed n maintained State, good GDP, educations, wealth distribution but limited resources. 

. . . 

"Sinhala" may comprise of the two words, Sinha+Hela, meaning the "Lion People".


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TP - Apr 10 at 12:23 PM

Dear AM

Good to read your posting. One more reason for the present day problem is the amount of loan present government has taken and spent it lavishily on unproductive projects. Now the interest burden is also hurting them . The ban on use of fertilizers reduced the food production also. 

Yes it is true that the reduced tourists flow has given another shock to Srilanka. 

Regards,

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RYA - Apr 10 at 2:59 PM

Dear AM,

Let me answer first why Sri Lanka. Sometime back I developed interest in exploring the Indian linkages to other nations with regards to Hinduism and Buddhism. My friends were inclined to share my interests and so we started planning our travels. First we visited Thailand and Cambodia. In Thailand we made it a point to visit Ayutthaya (the name is the morphed name of Ayodhya). This was the capital of Hindu kings of Thailand, linking their lineage to Ikshvaku and Rama. They attach Rama to their Thai names even today. There is hardly any trace of old Hindu structures as Buddhism has totally taken over the nation. The push came mainly from Buddhist Kings of Myanmar who destroyed Ayutthaya and instilled Buddhism. Even then you find the Ramayana frescoes in the Royal palace of Bangkok. Angkor Wat is a classical case of Vishnu temple being converted to Buddha temple. Khmer people relate to Indian epics. I was surprised to see the life size statues of Bhima and Duryodhana engaged in a mace battle, in the national museum. Then we journeyed to Luoyang and the White Horse temple to trace the beginning of  Buddhism in China. It was a wonderful trip. We did not miss the Myanmar connection to Buddhism. We traced the 5th century ancient Hindu temples in Penjikent in Tajikistan. At Sarazm saw the ruins of Mitra Culture, a World Heritage site. In 2019 we traveled by retracing the path of Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) to India. In all these travels we included many more interesting places and activities. So now you will agree travel to Sri Lanka was but a natural choice. 

You are right in tracing the origin of Sinhala. As per Mahavamsa, the chronicle of  Sinhala history, the account of origin is shrouded in supernatural births, Yaksh and Nags and curse and punishments. 

They also relate to Chandravanshi Clan, to descendants of Pandavas at Mathura etc. I may like to point out a correction to "Hela". As per our guide Hela is not a name of a tribe. It is a Sinhala word and the meaning is humans/people, like the Gond from central India identify themselves as "Koya" and its meaning is human. We have tagged them as Gond, based on their language. 

Tamils and Sri Lankan have a long history of interactions including battles. Cholas overran the city of Anuradhapura, destroying many Buddhist sites. Small kingdoms of Sri Lanka were united to end the Chola rule. They had interests in Chola and Pandian conflicts. But they have coexisted for thousands of years. Tamilians being better educated occupied many government posts along with the Burghers (Eurasian mix race equivalent to our Anglo Indians). After independence Sinhala was made the only official language including the medium of instruction in schools and colleges. This was a classic case of generating the division of We and They. Burghers left for England but Tamilians had no option of that sort. The results were predictable: the two societies drifted apart. As in any other civil conflicts outside elements also play a part. We cannot ignore the local Tamil Nadu politics taking interest in Tamil Sri Lankans. This politics of dividing society along ethnicity, race, language and religion may pay dividends in short term political gains but in long term it inflicts festering wounds on the society and nation. Sri Lanka suffered a bloody civil war which devoured thousands of innocent lives. 

I think the present situation in Sri Lanka is not the result of only the foreign exchange crunch. The resentment against the brazen long term manipulative one family rule  is coming to boil. One does not know yet, how it would end.     


10/04/2022

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Monday, 30 March 2020

आजके माहौलपर दो रचनाएँ

१. आज के माहौल पर एक ग़ज़ल पेशे ख़िदमत है.......


बेवजह घर से निकलने की ज़रूरत क्या है |
*मौत से आंख मिलाने की ज़रूरत क्या है |*

सबको मालूम है बाहर की हवा है क़ातिल |
*यूँ ही क़ातिल से उलझने की ज़रूरत क्या है ||*

ज़िन्दगी एक नियामत, इसे सम्हाल के रख |
*क़ब्रगाहों को सजाने की ज़रूरत क्या है ||*

दिल बहलने के लिए घर मे वजह हैँ काफ़ी |
*यूँ ही गलियों मे भटकने की ज़रूरत क्या है ||*

मुस्कुराकर, आंख झुकना भी अदब होता है |
*हाथ से हाथ मिलाने की ज़रूरत क्या है ||*

श्रेयांसकुमार जैन द्वारा प्रेषित

🙏🙏

२.  हरिवंश राय जी की प्रसिद्ध पंक्तियों की प्रेरणा से आज के परिपेक्ष्य में आप सभी से निवेदन,,,,

शत्रु ये अदृश्य है
विनाश इसका लक्ष्य है
कर न भूल, तू जरा भी ना फिसल
मत निकल, मत निकल, मत निकल

हिला रखा है विश्व को
रुला रखा है विश्व को
फूंक कर बढ़ा कदम, जरा संभल
मत निकल, मत निकल, मत निकल

उठा जो एक गलत कदम
कितनों का घुटेगा दम
तेरी जरा सी भूल से, देश जाएगा दहल
मत निकल, मत निकल, मत निकल

संतुलित व्यवहार कर
बन्द तू किवाड़ कर
घर में बैठ, इतना भी तू ना मचल
मत निकल, मत निकल, मत निकल


अनुरोध कि जन चेतना हेतु जब तक यह दावानल थम न जाए, पंक्तियों को अग्रसारित करें।।।।
🌹👏🌹
किसी ने अच्छा लिखा है —
विनोद कुमार द्वारा प्रेषित

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Measuring Consciouness

All of us know a little about consciousness. To state in simple words, it is how much we instantly come to know or understand about what is happening around us. This ability starts building up from the birth of a child and is built up further as he grows and it gradually diminishes with ageing, but it also gets temporarily diminished in different degrees due to sleep, anesthesia, shock, injury, sickness, alcohol, drugs etc., even due to over-sized ego, ignorance or excessive concentration. People live in different states of consciousness from fully conscious to semi-conscious or unconscious. It is essentially integration of information with in the brain.

However, these states are qualitative and subjective.  A post informing about some research being done on quantification and measurement of consciousness initiated a very stimulated discussion about consciousness taking it beyond the realm of medical science into the ionosphere of vedanta philosophy and back to the earth, encompassing wider areas such as knowledge, Gyan (ज्ञान), Vidya (विद्या),  Soul (आत्मा) etc. While value addition diminished  progressively, personal duels initiated by the debate continued even after somebody suggested a full stop. So I had to use the scissors of my judgement to chop of some portions and pick up the relevant and/ or interesting contents. Going through the chain of mails for this purpose again was quite interesting. Though a large number of comments were made, there was hardly any reference to the research work except in one or two. Perhaps very few friends might have taken the pains of opening the link to find out what it was about and in a way it defeated the purpose of the original mail. Still it was worth collecting these mails in a post to my blog.


The dictionary meaning of the word 'Consciousness' is as follows. This is to start from ground level.

"1. the state of being aware of and responsive to one's surroundings.
synonyms: awareness, wakefulness, alertness, responsiveness, sentience
2. a person's awareness or perception of something.
synonyms: awareness of, knowledge of the existence of, alertness to, sensitivity to, realization of, cognizance of, mindfulness of, perception of, apprehension of, recognition of."

Bringing Chit (चित् ) in the discussion (in place of consciousness), without specifically naming it, perhaps resulted in its getting so prolonged. It was still absorbing to read anyway. 


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AM , Apr 10 at 5:47 AM

   Sleeping-Awake-Unconscious-Coma etc are various states of Consciousness of our brains. Here is a theory to define it scientifically and also how to measure it. I found it interesting and hence share. What I could not find is, as to how it differs, or not, from the concept of Wisdom. A rather long one but still informative for those interested in AI n concepts of our Brains. A sample paragraph:
   "The great strength of IIT (integrated information theory) is that it’s mostly consistent with common sense, in contrast to competing theories, which often propose deeply weird solutions (such as denying that we are conscious at all). IIT explains why an assault to the cerebellum, which encodes motor events, causes ataxia, slurred speech, or a stumbling walk but results in no diminishment of consciousness. That’s because the cerebellum, unlike the neocortex, doesn’t integrate internal states, even though it is home to 69 of the 86 billion nerve cells in the human body. IIT tells us that human beings in deep sleep or under general anesthesia aren’t conscious, because information integration has broken down. And IIT is consistent with how life feels: Consciousness is graded over a lifetime, blooming in an adult but withering with age, drugs, or alcohol, when our capacity to integrate information falters.

    But the theory has its surprises too. Because IIT proposes that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe and that any system that integrates information is to some degree sentient, it follows that things that we do not think of as conscious at all, such as a light diode or the clock in a computer, will possess non-zero phi values, like temperatures just above absolute zero. This seems wrong, but Tononi promises that an upcoming paper will show that computers that are feed-forward systems, even artificial intelligences that employ deep learning, would not be conscious. “The phi of a digital computer would be zero, even if it were talking like me,” Tononi says. To make a conscious AI, Christof Koch speculates, would require a different computer architecture with feedback mechanisms that promote information integration, such as a neuromorphic computer."

https://www.wired.com/story/tricky-business-of-measuring-consciousness/
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RR- Apr 10 at 3:21 PM

It is interesting topic, yet measuring Consciousness sounds more like measuring infinity. Anything that can be measured, or metered, is called Maya, but it is not Consciousness. The latter can only be experienced thru personal meditation, devotion, right action, or right knowledge. Once experienced, you stop expressing it in terms of measuring, or quantifying it.

How can Love, Bliss, Anand, Pure Joy be measured? Some in India have called it गूँगे का गुड. Yet the friends, family, the world knows if you are experiencing it. It cannot be hidden. I would read BG, to understand what is SQ- Spiritual Quotient?

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ABG - Apr 10 at 5:51 PM

I may sound striking a discordant note, but as I have understood science, there is a basic contradiction in its approach to acquisition of knowledge as compared to that of most of the religions, more prominently Hinduism.

The preachers of these religions state that knowledge is infinite and you will never understand anything about it. So better ask them and believe them.
Scientists also know that the knowledge is infinite, but they try to acquire it bit by bit by their own efforts and put it to use in making life a little better.

I could not understand anything about measurement of consciousness from the paragraph quoted by Ashok and it did not inspire me to read the full article. However, it will be a great improvement if they can invent a better equipment than a breath analyzer. I wish we can test it on other intoxicating agents such effects of speeches given by Babas and Netas.

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RR - Apr 10 at 6:33 PM

ABG  wrote it nicely "the way he understood it". Contradictions are expected, due to the infinite variety of knowledge, the natural attitudes of people and their longings. Yet I would differ, "that you will never understand anything about it”.
Firstly, understanding of this inner wisdom or Gyan is not the same as acquiring mundane school knowledge.
Secondly, one does not attach similar seriousness, similar commitment.
The beyond-mundane -Vidya would not have survived if it was irrelevant or un-understandable. More and more school kids in America are getting roped in from early years, as essential part of curriculum to stop them from drop-out, drugs, crime, wastage and absenteeism. Surprisingly, schools are interested in meditation just 20 minutes a day due to the economic benefits in the short term of billions of dollars each year. This is real science; Hell with the religion- is the new chant.

Friends, I do med myself, more and more and would urge more friends to do too. Enough of arguing. The spirit soul is starving for Faith, Hope and the Action.
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PDS - Apr 10 at 6:57 PM

I think wonderful discussion on 'Measuring Consciousness' leading to understanding that knowledge is infinite; do meditation; IIT etc etc.. Most of it went flying. In my humble opinion let us keep life simple. Let us not complicate life. Less we understand better for all. Lead a simple and happy life. People who have acquired deep Knowledge say 'Ignorance Is Bliss'. Measuring any aspect of consciousness is in the realm of experts. I salute to them.
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RA - Apr 10 at 11:29 PM

I agree with ABG. It is the spirit of inquiry and the desire to make the unknown understandable is important. When we accumulate knowledge over generations we try to tag some (now) common knowledge as mundane and some at higher level knowledge or wisdom or Gyan. We forget that what is termed today as mundane was once cutting edge wisdom.

The American kids getting engaged to meditation for some gains (worldly gains?) has no relation to what you are saying.
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K.N - Apr 11 at 12:37 AM

The complex  materialistic analysis of the functioning of the brain through the divisions we make of cerebrum, cerebellum and medulla oblong  gata,  conceived as a central computer controlling the millions of cells, giga bytes we may call them, is quite different from the abstract conception of knowledge and wisdom, as I understand.
I do not know whether there can be any connection between these materialistic and abstract aspects, except that the later is some inexplicable product of the farmer.

I guess AM is after the first.
I guess ABG is referring to the unraveling of knowledge for our material comfort., usually attributed to Science.
It is again doubtful whether this materialistic attributes have any relation to the abstract attributes like happiness, contentment, peace of mind.
Maybe this abstract aspect is referred to as wisdom,  professed to be guided by religion.
In spirit, yes, but in course of time degenerated by dogmas, outcome being exactly the opposite of the objective., leading to the conclusion of ABG.

But the blossoming of wisdom is from PDS, ‘why worry’.

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ABG - Apr 11 at 9:12 AM

The title "Measuring consciousness" made me think that it is a scientific effort. I only expanded it to acquisition of "knowledge", the purpose of Science. I have taken meaning of word "knowledge" as it is in English language.
RR wrote about infinity of ज्ञान, (Gyan) supposed to defy every attempt of containing within any boundaries, supposed to be obtained by a few great souls chosen by the Almighty.
I still think the article is about Science, some may downgrade it as 'materialistic' if they like it.
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AM - Apr 11 at 9:50 AM

   What a wonderful experience sharing a thought process is. I would have remained like a frog if all the connotations of Conciousness per se as brought out by ABG/KN/RR/PDS/RA were not correct to varying extent. I fully agree that Conciousness has infinte dimensions/no upper limit, limited only by the concepts, imagination n capability of the thinker. That's what the Lord showed to Arjuna as a "Virat Roop" or our sages who attained "Divya Darshana" .
  Whilst there is no higher limit, but I think there is a lower limit below which the mind shuns Conciousness. It may be something akin to the sudden lighting of a tube light. The medicine men are after that stage to understand Coma, Sleep, Subconscious etc. We all know the affliction of Stephen Hawking , fully Concious but fully incapacitated and many other cases of fully capacitated but unconcious. I think that was what the article was all about.
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K.N - Apr 11 at 10:32 AM

I believe  Science is generally about materialistic things, some hypothesis to explain some things or phenomena being called as theories, bordering on philosophy.
Philosophy, I believe, is about non-materialistic things, abstract or metaphysics being used for want of a better term. Science and the real sense of religion are supposed to meet these two aspects, with no downgrading  or upgrading involved.

Since the topic has not yet died, I may advance some more drivel!

The wonderful power plant of nature, that of the human brain, is governed by two layers.
The control function, based on information collected and transmitted by numerous sensory cells, a conscious action of processing and issuing commands, is that of ‘the brain’., falling under  ‘voluntary action’
The second layer,  falls under ‘involuntary action’,  is governed by  spinal cord,  connected  to and forming an important part of, the central brain, but yet in a different location.
When the brain ‘sleeps’, an unconscious state,  this layer takes over essential control, with involuntary action., as  in the quick and involuntary pulling up of the hand or leg when the mosquito bites a sleeping person., bypassing the brain action.
A subject which very much fascinated me in my school days, with half baked impression still left..

One  micro part of the brain, called neurons, are endowed with ‘radiating properties’, as per present day discovery.  meaning transmission without physical connection, explaining the mystery of ‘action at a distance’,  of mind power.

Like the unopened Tiruvanandapuram  temple dens,  Nature may still hold  quite a lot of unsuspected treasures!

Hope the flow continues from brain, on brain,  in the science or abstract plains!

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GRS - Apr 11 at 11:17 AM

  Very interesting reading. KN’s  posting brings out the hard fact, which I was not “conscious”. Even reactor was first “built” by nature at Gabon Africa, where it operated with a high capacity factor for thousands of years. I now see that  two independent control systems already existed in humans ( and animals?). Also there is no sharing between these two human system until Final Acting Elements. May be there are other areas in nature  which can yield “gyan” to designers.

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pd  - Apr 11 at 12:41 PM

Everybody   is   talking   about  what   conciousness  is  and   what   it   is   not.  But  I  want   to   know   why  it   is   so.  Any  answers?

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RA - Apr 11 at 12:45 PM

There is no denying that the true wisdom / supreme consciousness /  Virat Roop / Divya Darshan, call it by any name, is boundless. Human ignorance may be an ocean but still bounded. All human efforts (and ours in this group too) are to shrink the borders of the ocean of ignorance, kind of reclaiming knowledge form the ignorance. Does it make any difference to the boundless knowledge / consciousness? No. BUT it make a huge difference to our vision  / to our understanding of the true nature of the universe. We peel of one more layer of unfounded fear / unreasonable dogma / romanticized falsehood.

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AG - Apr 11 at 3:39 PM

Literally , in medical parlance {scientifically}, the " Measurement of Consciousness " is done by EEG.

The way , cardiac activities are seen on ECG monitors and very regular patterns with  up/down & in between straight , indicates normal functioning of heart pump.

Similarly, Regular pulse patterns  on EEG is supposed to show normal electrical activities ( level of consciousness) on different points on  brain.
Whether a person is in sleep, wakeful state  , inebriated, coma etc.every minute details can be monitored on EEG screen.

When all lines fall flat, - no consciousness - known as "Brain Dead".
Semi/Un/ Consciousness ,- all are in the domain of time, space & causation {earthly existence), but the next higher up  "Super Consciousness" seems to be altogether different ball & game , very very rare personalities only may reach there.
But almost all present day Babas/Gurus try to kick the ball through that  window of opportunity
To run their show/business.

-  Just  some random thoughts, nothing more .
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K.N - Apr 11 at 7:00 PM

I treat this group as a sort of technical and philosophical journal, an assembly of fairly intelligent people, hard to get anywhere  and love to do loud thinking with.

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RV - Apr 11 at 7:18 PM

Consciousness is perhaps measurable only so long as it occupies and manifests in the equipment it has chosen.
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RR - Apr 12 at 4:43 AM

PDS's message is amusing indeed, like the outdated Charvak philosophy.
I had a neighbour in the college hostel in Delhi Engineering college in 1955. His grandma showed up suddenly from Gwalior to personally check the welfare of her ‘baby boy’ who had never been away out of Gwalior home. I remember, we were returning from the smithy shop practice. Grandma looked at the ‘baby’s’ tender hands full of blisters. She fired the workshop superintendent for his cruelty and would you believe she took the student away- just to keep her baby’s life simple? The precious seat remained vacant the rest of the year.

Everyone has a message to deliver, based on his or her personal experiences.
While Life must be simplified, that is what engineering and technology all about. Yet In our craze for simplicity, we cannot afford to be simplistic or simpletons.

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RR - Apr 12 at 6:04 AM

ABG made interesting observation on Gyan, as applicable in modern India..
It is true only a few can attain the end goal, but everyone is entitled to make the attempt. The quality can come only out of the quantity.
Remember the famous Bell Curve in Statistics course. The image below is taken from Google.

The curve shows the following interpretation in respect of Knowledge-
Some are ignorant/confused (the left side trail)
Some are knowledgeable (the right side trail)
Majority are in between, or struggling(the central hump).
Progress or process improvement means the curve is gradually skewed to the right, as more and more members in the control group are participating.

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AM - Apr 12 at 6:55 AM

    Appears, there is some ∆ room left to push in a few more thoughts.
   The heading itself appears to be misleading, for, to measure any thing, lends itself to a 'physical quantity'. It might better have been "Menifesting Conciousness" or a similar one.
  There are many non physical quantities, even in Science, that are only menifested in theory, but not (as yet) physically experienced or measured e.g the black holes, the dark matter, the great subatomic forces, even the gravity waves till a few years back, quantum mechanics etc and I am not counting the omnipresent biological ones, like the greatest of all mystries "what's Life, the Concept of God, what's the purpose of this Creation etc etc?".
    So,... it's a 'trap' to muddy the waters when we push this item towards a .... "physical quantity" or 'how it matters' like thoughts .
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AG - Apr 12 at 9:36 AM

Don't know : Right or wrong.
It appears, the more appropriate word would have been :
"CONSCIENCE /CONSCIENTIOUSNESS", - which, not being a physical parameter, cannot be visualised by any method or instrumental at all.

- Just an attempt, nothing more.
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BM - Apr 12 at 11:08 AM

Consciousness is a qualitative term. It is possible to experience it,  but not possible to measure it.

As RR Compares  Consciousness with infinity (equivalent to the Level of GOD CONSCIOUSNESS :- say 7th Level ) महात्मा बुद्ध,  गुरू  नानकदेव जी lived life on the 7th level of consciousness.

All saint's also  lives life on the higher level of consciousness than other peoples.

In my opinion all great scientists also lives life on higher level of consciousness than ordinary peoples. Because God selected that body of scientists for new creation eg scientists  'Arya Bhatt,   Edison etc etc.

We all are born as Human beings, it is possible for us to improve our qualities.
If we are able to increase our qualities in the same ratio our consciousness will be increased.

So being  human  it is very much in our hand to  increase our level of consciousness and established in Samadhi (समाधि)
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AM - Apr 12 at 12:55 PM

    Appears, there is some ∆ room left to push in a few more thoughts.
   The heading itself appears to be misleading, for, to measure any thing, lends itself to a 'physical quantity'. It might better have been "Menifesting Conciousness" or a similar one.
  There are many non physical quantities, even in Science, that are only menifested in theory, but not (as yet) physically experienced or measured e.g the black holes, the dark matter, the great subatomic forces, even the gravity waves till a few years back, quantam mechanics etc and I am not counting the omnipresent biological ones, like the greatest of all mystries "what's Life, the Concept of God, what's the purpose of this Creation etc etc?".
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AKS - Apr 12 at 1:28 PM

I think conscious and consciousness are two different thing.
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RA - Apr 12 at 5:48 PM

It seems we are wandering all over the field of consciousness. Starting with trying to measure the consciousness, to discouraging measurement of an infinite, to encourage only its experience, to distinguishing its measurable / gradable aspect, to recognising  superlative grades of "C" (randomly at 7) granted by the divine grace  to the accepted great achievers. The reason is the subject is truly fascinating, complex and hence challenging.

AM gives a list of nonphysical entities which so far are intractable / discernible including "C", one among them is "What is Life".It reminds me of the lecture series delivered at Dublin University, about 75 years back by the famous physicist Erwin Schrodinger, yes the same with the famous cat. With care he has avoided the singularity of origin of life and the backlash of the mighty church. In four lectures he painted the complexity of biological systems in a way which was fascinating to the students of other branches of science. That really opened the flood gates of interdisciplinary research. Not only the understanding of biological functions and processes made a quantum jump, it enriched the other branches of science. AND STILL WHAT IS LIFE IS INTRACTABLE.

In short there is no reason to give up a hard problem as understanding or measuring "C" , there could be other side benefits spinning out of it. I think our group understands this instinctively and is carrying on every which way.

One more thing. Does our group has "C"? Because as per the article referred  by AM

" Other things that have zero phi (no "C"), according to Tononi, include collectives of sentient individuals, such as corporations or the United States"

We often  talk of collective "C" of the society or nation etc is that of a non existent thing? Or is it the part of the same complexity and intractability of big "C"?

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RR - Apr 12 at 8:29 PM
Worrying is not the correct verb.  Nothing substantial is ever achieved by worrying, nor by ignoring or burying the head in sand.
The correct verb may well be to understand for yourself intellectually through self-study, and/or friendly help and face the issue responsibly and courageously. Finally eat the Prasadam, to experience the grace and bliss.
Realising Consciousness is whole nine yards of spiritual technology. Once you pick up the baton on the field, you must run the full length. No short cut, no dropping out.

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AM - Apr 12 at 9:45 PM

Reading RA's thought provoking  questions in his last paragraphs, some out of the box thought occured to me.
    Is the "Concept of Conciousness" some how representative of the "Concept of the Universe"??
     Both seem to be full of comlexities, diversities, surprises, unlimited in dimensions, ever expanding etc....
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K.N - Apr 14 at 11:46 AM

Just some stray thoughts to keep the light, humorous, responsibly responsive,  flow of mails in our group!
 Co ordinates are relative and the same remark may have different connotations from different coordinates.
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RR - Apr 14 at 2:43 PM

An interesting conclusion.
-There are Different interpretations of the word Consciousness.
- Yet it is simple to argue that for anything to make sense, must be measurable.

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K.N

On rereading, I still feel that we are dealing with two very different things. The author of the article ‘link’ed by AM also is not clear in his perception. On a purely scientific topic ( in the medical  field) about declaring the state of a patient( or a normal being) in the scale of consciousness and unconscious state, (as in a patient  being medically shifted from a conscious to an unconscious state as part of a medical procedure),  the confusion was introduced by bringing in scientifically unconnected topic of Wisdom and Knowledge. One may note that this was done only in the first/second para and does not figure in further development of the scientific quantification of the unconscious state, medically.
 Our wise members also caught this parenthetical reference , opening up discussion on this non-medical, abstract topic ., and tried to connect the topic of measurement  to the impossible, infinite, abstract  Wisdom and Knowledge, not the topic dealt with in the article.

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AkS - Apr 14 at 8:20 PM

Topic can become even more interesting if the conscious can be defined or elaborated. Voice if conscious is very often used statement for achieving multiple objectives.

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RR - Apr 14 at 9:27 PM

Came across some witty and wise tales….
1. One passenger to another, "I always carry two books on flights. This is the book #1, I am going to read, and book#2, in case book#1 is terrible".
Lesson: One cannot avoid the terrible ones, or scams, or cheating or stealing, or lying that is going on. Read only, or spyware may be a solution. Mindful Choice making, and Self-care is another, or the better way.

2. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on teaching at Stanford, “ It is not my job to make you comfortable. Actually, it is my job to make you uncomfortable”
Lesson: Pain is the unavoidable price of freedom, Freedom from pain can come from spiritual growth and deep personal transformation. Each person has his/her own recipe. No need to argue, or to block the outside by living in a glass box.
We have only two hands. Learn to Use these to win over your own inner chatterbox (चित्त वृत्ति), not to fight the crowd-at-large outside. Hats off to Ms. Rice.

3. Fred: What’d you get your wife for Christmas?
    Ned: She told me,” Nothing would make me happier than a diamond necklace.
    Fred: So you got her diamonds.
    Ned: No, I got her Nothing.
Lesson: The IAS type answer generally wins in materialistic life. One must, however be careful in applying the same lesson to non-materialistic issues.

4. The timeless message- Be Simple and Stay positive... Thanks to PDS

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pd - Apr 14 at 9:34 PM

To  whoever  can   help
KINDLY  give   definition  (in  1/2/3  lines  )  of
1)   Consciousness
2)   Atma
-The   jigyaasu
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RR - Apr 15 at 7:32 AM

According to Indian Vedanta philosophy,
1. Brahman(ब्रह्म) is the absolute non-dual Supreme Reality, aka the cosmic Self, or pure Consciousness.
2. Atman (आत्मन) is the individual Self, aka the pure Self is eternal/immortal and its essential nature is 3-fold: existence(सत्), consciousness(चित्) and bliss(आनंद).
IOW, Consciousness or Knowledge of the Self leads to Bliss (सच्चिदानंद).
Attaining Bliss, through Self-realisation is the true goal of human life.
3. There is a perfect identity between the individual Self and the cosmic Brahman. The difference or duality between the two is simply illusion.

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AM - Apr 15 at 7:57 AM

All this Vedanta philosophy about "Aatma", Brahma and "Parmatma", is it just just a nomenclature or a definition or an explanation about an otherwise unknown entitity? Does it have some origin or ending or a foundation or a menifestation, either in the physical or in a natural format? We know it is eons old and is our heritage but since then our knowledge about nature and universe has grown manifold. And I am sure even it's writers did not proclaim it as absolute wisdom n or truth that it can't be updated or challenged.
   As, without any such basic links now, it tentamounts to an "Alice in Wonderland" like scenario for the uninitiated. Sorry for the rebuttal but this may be the feeling of all of us except the proponents. 
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K.N - Apr 15 at 8:57 PM

For the complex topics of Brahman, atma, karma and tbe like, a devouted scholar would go for textual treatments, or the gigabytes of internet not to this group.
That is why Forwards and Links for the same referred to in this group, piously, seemed to.me to be a bit odd.
Viewed from a different angle , possibly with a new glossary, possibly with some different interpretations, possibly with awe from a historical perspective, may be different., and has been tried in our group.
But, converting this into a dogmatic Veda class is a bit difficult to take., as expressed typically by AM 
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MP- Apr 15 at 9:07 PM

Too much it is, I thought KN appoint a committee for R&D and come out  with a physical instrument as spirituality  gives different perspectives - 

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RR -Apr 16 at 9:19 AM

AM's inputs and comments are appreciated. I am glad you are asking valid questions to ascertain their use in the 21st century.
Apart from short definitions in 3 lines, requested by pd, the following explanation may help in further understanding the relationship between Atman, Brahman and Consciousness
1. Mind-Body-Breathing problem
A material scientist, particularly trained in the Western country (India may also be heading in that direction), generally takes a solid, liquid or gaseous object, analyses it physically and chemically, to manipulate matter and the measurement. That is enough to establish the material existence. A human being is, however not primarily physical. The research is further complicated when mind and breathing enter into the picture. I have met a fellow scientist, saying “Either you are breathing, or not breathing. If you are breathing then everything is alright. If you are not breathing then obviously you are dying. It is that simple, isn’t it?” A yoga teacher trained in India or in the East would however, say it is a foolishly naive approach.
2. Science of Pranayama
At the Institute of Yoga in Santacruz east Mumbai, the library has several treatise books on Breathing which were written centuries ago. In India, breathing has always been an extraordinary science. The Sanskrit word for breathing is Pranayam, consisting of three sub-words:  Pra(first unit) + na(energy)+ ayama (manifestation, expansion and contraction). 
In order to understand the Cosmic aspect of God, the student is first trained to balance his breathing, calm his nerves and control his mind. Control of mind is a pre-requisite to the ultimate subjugation of the cosmic merging of individual soul Aatman  with the cosmic soul Brahman.

3. The current research in the West is surely seized with the benefits of this Upanishadic wisdom, and they are trying to prove it in their labs. They are awed how this was once discovered by Rishis of India, without modern labs, which is truly mind-boggling. It is predictable that Nobel prizes of the near future will be in the realm of Consciousness.

4. Conclusion: My personal view point is this: West was kept bereft of this super science of Consciousness during 200 years or more of British rule. The schools and Universities in America will take time, but sincere efforts are going on. This is a good news. 
The bad news is- It is not a simple matter. Believe it or not! 
Are the schools and colleges in India similarly equipped? Swami Vivekananda had remarked more than a hundred years ago, 'renaissance of Yogic science will take place in America’. Are the retired scientists leaving such legacy for the new generation, beside the wealth, home or will.

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The last word is not yet written!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Pun Fun


"English is a Funny language!" That is a famous Filmi dialog, delivered in a funny manner by none other than our all time super star Amitabh Bachchan. A collection of some interesting puns was forwarded by my friend Vedamoorthy. I have put a bit of explanation in bracket, not to kill the fun, but to make it easier to appreciate for those, me included, who might need some brushing up of English language. ... and also to get a bit of satisfaction of having added some value.
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New Additions on 14/02/2018

And there are some more .........

Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils? ...... (Pupils)
When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble!  ....( u r in)
I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words. ..... (Play)
I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down. ..... (Down)
When chemists die, they barium. ...... (Bury him)
I stayed up all night to see where the sun went....  And then it dawned on me.  ..... (Dawned)
I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time....... (Stop)
Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.  ..... (Wurst)
I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now. ..... (Sinking)
They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Typo. (Type ‘O’)
I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.  ..... (Missed)
England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
How does Moses make tea? Hebrews it, of course. ...... (He brew)
.
.
.

Vagaries of ENGLISH Language !  Enjoy !!! 

* Wonder why the word funeral starts with FUN?
* Why isn't a Fireman called a Water-man?
* How come Lipstick doesn't do what it says?
* If money doesn't grow on trees, how come Banks have Branches?
* If a Vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a Humanitarian eat?
* How do you get off a non-stop Flight?
* Why are goods sent by ship called CARGO and those sent by truck SHIPMENT?
* Why do we put cups in the dishwasher and the dishes in the Cupboard?
* Why do doctors 'practice' medicine? Are they having practice at the cost of the patients?
* Why is it called 'Rush Hour' when traffic moves at its slowest then?
* How come Noses run and Feet smell?
* Why do they call it a TV 'set' when there is only one?
* What are you vacating when you go on a vacation?
We can never find the answers, can we?
So just enjoy the pun and fun of the English language !
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Oh My English ! 

1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.  (Circumpherence, Pie)

2. Atheism is a non-prophet organization. (Profit)

3. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.   ( Hole or matter?)

4. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.  (Illusion)

5. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.  ( Double meanings of Still)

6. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass”. ( Double meanings of Grass)

7. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery. (Stationary)

8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie. (Knot)

9. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.  ( Double meanings of Hit)

10. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran. ( Double meanings of Seasoned)

11. In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.

12. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you'd be In Seine. (Insane)

13. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'  (Damn!)

14. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal : transcend dental medication.  (Transcedental)

15. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.  (Intended)

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Communities

Man is said to be a 'Social animal', so are elephant, deer, monkey etc. Birds of a feather also fly together. Ants and honeybees make huge communities. Thus living in groups appears to be a natural choice for many species including human beings. However, we also know that self-interest is a strong instinct. Might is right being the nature's law of the jungle, the stronger wants to snatch whatever he wants from the weaker and generally is able to do so. Then why do they still live together? It is because the strong are also seen taking care of the weak and protecting them. Some people think it is indicative of presence of the God in their heart, while some other people think it is the result of insecurity. Others attribute it to destiny, Karma etc. or do not think at all. The interaction between an individual and the community is an interesting topic, so also the evolution of a community in relation to its surroundings.

Shri Revindra Apte is a brilliant engineer by education and training. He cultivated his interest in trekking and went beyond the common perception of trekking as a mode of strenuous physical exercise and spirit of adventure. He closely observed the fauna and flora of the terrain he covered and also the living of local inhabitants. Then he went to live with tribal people in deep forests infested with Naxalites, Maoists, seperatists etc. and share their style of living. He helped the NGOs working for upliftment of these tribals by educating them and imparting them some modern skills.

He recently visited Madagasker, a large island off the shores of Africa, where different plants and animals not found elsewhere, were evolved because of its isolation from the mainland. He went there mainly to study the life of Lemurs, a species of monkeys closest to the primates from whom the humans evolved. Then he visited Kenya and looked at the tribal villagers living a peaceful life in their villages and a disturbed life in the city of Nairobi.

He has given his observations and tried to extrapolate them to the virtual communities on social media where people often hide behind various masks and some times they do not even exist in reality. Finally he has tried to relate them to an e mail group, where people are real and though they do not live together, they are close to each other as they freely communicate on internet.  

An interesting discussion followed.   

Madagascar is also habitat of some special varieties ob birds and chameleons. Beautiful videos on these creatures are added to this blog. The Videos on these expeditions are really absorbing. Their links are given below for convinience of the readers.

African Safari     (32 minutes)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqUTBJrLah8&feature=youtu.be

  Lemurs of Madagascar    (26:30 minutes)


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Ravindra Apte, Nov 2 at 5:08 PM

 Communities.

Recently, Aug – Sept, I visited Madagascar. I was attracted by the famed biodiversity of Madagascar and especially the Lemurs, the closest living relative of the ancestral primates from whom the Humans evolved. The sever loss of habitat has endangered the many species of lemurs.  It was an experience to trek in the jungle trying to spot the lemurs. The Andabise National Park is the last wild habitat of Indri Indri lemurs. There were two groups of Indri Indri consisting of 6 to 8 members. They were territorial and proclaimed their areas by loud calls. With no predator except for the fossa, a civet or mongoose like mammal, the lemurs have diversified into 59 living species as a response to scares resources. Some feeding on top canopy of trees, some near ground, some specializing on insect hunting and some becoming nocturnal in the process of occupying niches in the environment and forming their own small flourishing communities. Is it a process of forming clans and tribes in humans to occupy and guard the niches in the environment?

In the same trip I visited Kenya. In the riparian habitat of River Ewaso, the Sambaru National Park, we visited the Sambaru tribal village of Namaiyiana. There were few huts with traditional design but modern material of discarded card board and plastic sheets and could easily pass for the shanties in Nairobi. The villagers though poor and deprived of many modern amenities were still cheerful and displayed integrity and pride. When I was in Nairobi I was struck by the vacant looks in the eyes of the homeless drifting people and there are hoards of them. Up rooted from their clan and tribe they look desperate and melancholy. It was a period just after the presidential election. The election of Uhuru Kenyata was challenged by Raila Odinga and the case was in court. Our driver and guide informed us that when the election campaign was on most of the people preferred to be with their own tribe and their home towns. This was in anticipation of any post-election violence. The residential schools were closed and the students back in their own tribal home land. (Which explained the deserted schools, both government and of mission, in our travel across Kenya) The history of tribal violence is that of short of genocide, be it in Rwanda, Sudan or Congo. Apart from providing the cultural and emotional mooring the community is expected to provide the strength and safety in numbers.

The idea of various online groups (virtual communities?), like our retiree group is interesting to explore. Apart from the age old communities bound together by the idea of a nation, religion, caste and sub caste, ethnicity and language we had the communities bound by interest like the fan clubs of football clubs and the super stars. The virtual communities are of recent origin. It can be mobbed by faceless individuals with feigned common interests or identity. Leaving aside the danger of falsehood in it for a moment, what purpose the group serves to the individual and the larger community?

Does our group of retiree, I am hesitant to call it virtual community; a better word would be a Distant Community, is just for time pass or for distribution of Gyaan or safe guard the pension or something more? What is there for individuals who are silent for most of the periods (and they are in good numbers)?  Why do I feel writing in this group once in a while?

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Padmakar Puntambekar, Nov 2 at 5:43 PM

Dear Ravi
Your post are very much interesting to read and it increases our gyan. Please post few photos of your tour. 
In response to your last para , our group is of  retirees. We have different hobbies intrest still we  have enough time now to read and enjoy our colleagues post on various typics. Already there is lot of bombarding of mails from group members,  so silent members are also contributing to maintain group decipline. 
Regards 
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Thottappilly Premachandran, Nov 2 at 5:57 PM

Dear Sri Apteji,
Your mail gave me lot of insight on unexplored regions where many of us dare to visit. Nicely narrated. 

Thanks for your enlightenment of a new world.
Regards

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Ravindra Apte - Nov 3 at 5:37 PM

It seems my African Journey has created some interest.

Actually the trigger to write the piece was the article in Indian Express (2nd Nov) The Dangers of a Flawed Poll.  It is about the Kenya's fresh Presidential election and the mess associated with it and the atmosphere of intimidation. I was in Kenya after the Aug elections and heard and seen the disruption it had caused, the schools shuttered and people withdrawing to ghettos. That thought lead to reflections on societies and communities and the roles they play. Reference to my travel was incidental. 

My journeys are not that adventurous or courting danger, just they are off the usual destinations. That is possible because with like minded friends, I am able to plan destinations on our own of our interest. I carry a video camera and taken a few stills. My videos on the trip are ready but they are too long, half an hour each and so I am hesitant to forward the links. But I will do it one of these days. In the meanwhile here are some stills, which I had shared on WhatsApp group (another Distant Community) 

I enjoy sunrise and sunset tremendously and invariable end up clicking them.
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Ashok Malhotra : Nov 3 at 8:49 PM

Apteji welcome back after a long long break with recharged batteries from your diverse travelogs. Medagaskar and Kenya are both exciting, unique as well diverse places and we would love to hear your entire stories. The unique rock formations of Medagaskar are world famous. Association of Kenya to India is also very old and its culture and cities have been evoked in the good old films n songs. I still like to hear the good old song "Mombassa-Mombassa". The Kenyan names of Zanzibar, Masai mara also cross the memory. Please go ahead with your travelogs. Thanks
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Thottappilly Premachandran : Nov 3 at 9:05 PM

I know that ur trips involves bit of trekking also. In case you permit outsiders of your group,  some from this group may like to join next planned trip where  there is only a limited trekking is involved.

Apart from this we, in AEPWF was also thinking of some trips of our group members . I am told DAE retirees in Kerala regularly meet and undertake local trips. Dear Apteji, can you suggest and take some lead.

Regards
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Ravindra Apte : Nov 3 at 10:50 PM

Regarding involvement in planning fun trips, my experience is trekkers are misfit for planning it. They simply have different understanding of feasibility, hardship and fun.

Here are the links to pictures again, hopefully they would work. 
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Shah Nawaz Ahmad : Nov 3 at 11:41 PM

Mirza ki taraf se ek aur, unke liye jo khil na sakey:----

sab kahan kuch lala-o-gul mein numayan ho gaien
khak mein kya suratein hongi k pinhan ho gaien

Not all, only a few are destined to  bloom and grow
How many flowers lie crushed in dust, none may e’er know
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Ravindra Apte : Nov 4 at 12:28 AM

You are quite right on Indian connection with Kenya. The trade is still in the hands of those Indians, migrated years back. They are there more than three generations. The hundreds of acres of rose green houses in Naiwasha were owned by an Indian. Surprisingly when our guide gave this info, he said after three generations and Kenyan citizenship the person is Kenyan only. 
In the hotels one could get chapati and all Kenyan know what it is chapati, only they don't know how to make it in right way. We had chapati made like a pancake and cut like a pizza. 

You are right about the famous rock formation of Madagascar, they are in the south region. Our interest was with the Lemurs in the wild and since we had limited days we were in the eastern region of M. We missed out on the rocks as well as the baobab avenue. But the visit to Andasibe made for the loss. The other parts of Madagascar are exploited for mineral. France devastated the country for chromium and looted the forest for mahogany and rosewood. Today most of the mines are passed their peak production. Canada has interest in mines, especially that of zirconium.    

It is strange how the communities adopt certain customs and rituals. Madagacy  society has very strange custom of honoring their ancestors. This came to our knowledge when we visited the Ambohimanga, the spiritual center and old residence of kings. The guide showed the royal tomb and explained how it is generally laid out. It is a long deep trench and on both sides there are bunks on which the remains of the ancestors are placed, rapped in fine cloths. Every seven years they grave is opened and the remains are taken out, re-rapped  in fine cloth and re-buried. There is a big feast and presents are exchanged. I thought this old custom might be a history, but it is not. Our guide said just last year he has shown the great grand parents to his son. 

All communities have their own versions of after life and they way to remember the departed. They pyramids stacked with gold and  other items and mummies, the Chinese emperors tombs are famous examples. Even the Nabataean nomads of Jordan had the City of Dead, Petra. In Petra I saw the three halls for the great feast lasting of a week, which occurred once in a year. (similar to our पक्ष / पितृ पक्ष )  There are no remains of the dead as they practiced keeping the bodies on a rock pillars for the birds like the Parsi. But the dwellings of the dead are a remarkable work of rock cutting. There are hundreds of such places both great and simple. Closer home we have the samadhi, chattri (छत्री), विरगळ, सती हात to honour  the departed and keep their memory strong. Some times the desire to honour and remember the departed may take the shape of beautiful Taj Mahal. Since we are closely associated with these practices we don't find them odd. 

Even in today's world the idea of after life is carried to a ridiculous level. In North East I have seen a Maruti 800 car being buried along with the departed Naga chief. The story goes that periodically money is buried in the grave, you see to run the car the Chief will have to buy the petrol and the prices being riding rocket the money must be used fast. The grave vandals had reduced the car to a skeleton and robbed the money. Hard luck for the Chief.  

Dear Ahmad Sahab, Good you thoughtfully translated the couplets. 

But Sahab, what about those flowers which bloomed and whose fragrance wafted on the gentle westerly wind and they were never aware of it. 

Ravindra Apte  
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Ashok Malhotra : Nov 4 at 7:32 AM

    Perhaps another way to look at the "flowers that did not bloom" is.. "those having a selfish motive of not to share n spread their fragrance".
  Apteji, thanks. You are not only lucky to see all the exotic places in this world but also having the God's gift of the prose. Reading your mails leaves a strange mix of melancholy and envy b'cause it matches with my partially fulfilled ambitions. I am also reminded of the reading of "Gulliver's travels".
   Is Petra derived from pitr? 

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Ravindra Apte  : Nov 4 at 12:45 PM

The name Petra is not derived from pitr (पित्र / पितर). It is derived from Greek word for rock.
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K.Natarajan : Nov 8 at 6:26 AM

Virtual communities! 

The materialistic aspect of travelogue apart, the philosophical thought of  virtual communities and the introspective ‘why am I tempted to put in a mail to this group once in a while?’  of Shri R yay Apte
  geared me down to this belated response.

Like the determined existence of lemurs, close to extinction, but still steadfastly fighting nature to survive by organizing themselves into different ‘groups’,  the retirees from a unique and purposeful organisation of a sensitive technology, suddenly find themselves without a mooring, and, refusing to settle down to the dull retirement, place themselves in a matrix of different rows and columns  of their creation for a virtual survival and respond from the virtual group of a row or column, as they deem fit.
The motive force is not safeguarding mundane interests like pension etc, or even timepassing,   but , I believe, to preserve the link with our past !

The mass of the virtual group of any row or column creates its own virtual gravitational force to pull the element to respond(or to create) . An element may occasionally feel detached, apparently away from the field of influence, but the ebb and flow of gravitational waves  is sure to pull the element into its fold , sooner or later!

Shri RY Apte’s ‘virtual communities’  and the rhetoric question posed, are  nice thoughts!

K.Natarajan
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anand ghare : Nov 8 at 9:40 AM

I had read an article long long ago titled "Tourists are not travelers".
I might have made more than a hundred official tours  and almost equal number of journeys to various different places in my personal life. Though I was keen to see the places of interest, natural as well as man made and tried to taste locally made food,  wherever I went, it was still only as a slightly more interested tourist.  I am understanding the difference between a tourist and a traveler after reading the accounts given by Shri Apte and talking to him, rather listening to him speaking passionately about the people he met whether in North East India or Africa and now Lemurs, a species I had not even heard of.
He has asked some questions at the end of his first mail. I was hesitant to respond because I do not think to be competent enough to address those questions. I can probably only say पिंडे पिंडे रुचिर्भिन्ना कुंडे कुंडे नवम् पयः।, (meaning every person has a different taste and every pond has different water). So I will not hazard a guess about our virtual or Distant community. It is certainly not homogenous.

Anand Ghare

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Ravindra Apte : Nov 8 at 5:38 PM

The Communities

Shri K Natarajan has explained the operational mechanism / principle of virtual / distant communities. I think it has other dimensions as well.

The virtual communities / groups are attractive as they provide a degree of anonymity. You could express your, not so savoury opinion and get away. But in our group there is hardly any anonymity and still I came to know the many shades of personality of the members of the group, which were not revealed when we were interacting on daily basis. One reason could be we were interacting strictly on need based, in the sanitized atmosphere of office and office procedures. It revealed only our competence or lack of it in technical issues or procedural maze or ability to negotiate hurdles in a meeting or being a team member. But as a person you were unknown to many with whom you interacted.

As for you Sir KN, I worked with you for many years and thought I knew you well enough. As a boss you gave an impression that you have no life beyond office, so immersed you were in the technical details and matters of office. (You still show those traits!) Yes I was aware of your deep roots in logical and rational thinking and your rare ability to call a spade a spade without malice. But only in this group I came to know about your breadth of reading and interests from scriptures, philosophy to classical music. It was you who introduced me to T M Krishna’s music and his personality; I had only attended his lecture on freedom in creativity.

Another person is Shri. R. Rustagi. I came to know him before I joined PPED, you see he had visited the training school along with Shri Mahadev Rao to woo fresh trainees to join PPED. He was successful in his mission, some 20 of joined PPED. Later I interacted with him in matters related to the instrumentation of reactivity mechanism and later for the Secondary Shut down System for NAPP. When he left for greener pastures of US and came back to sell the valves, I was still there. I had never suspected his interest in Tulsi Ramayan, his exposure to scriptures and philosophy, his deep veneration for Indian culture and tradition (even though I know the NRIs are more Indian than we Indians). And how gravitates all things to yoga.

I never knew, Anand Ghare writes so lucidly on diverse topics. That is because even though we met, it was in the confines of office, which discouraged informal chats. And that’s why there were many groups for informal interactions. There were those tea groups, lunch groups or buddies, the after lunch stroller’s group, the bridge players group and yes we had that trekker’s group. These groups were rather exclusive, the criteria may be any,  of batch mate, of the same section etc. Rarely one engaged in informal chat outside their group. I remember Mago used to engage is such chats when he was learning Marathi and wished to try it out. He had seen the Hindi version of the controversial Marathi play Sakharam Binder. He wished to know how the Marathi audience has received it. Once by chance I met him and S N Ahmad, after the film show at Metro. The film was that Govind Nihalani classic, आक्रोश. We ended up in the nearby Irani restaurant dissecting the powerful film. I remember the comments of Ahmad when we were discussing the characters, played out by Amrish Puri and Naseeruddin Shah. He said the character of Amrish Puri had made peace with the system. I think many a time this insight helps in knowing how the system functions and why people act the way they act. Such interactions were rare outside the groups.  

The retiree group is a first group which has brought us all together and provided a common platform to interact. Yes it has provided a degree of anonymity, I am sure, for some I am just a name; the way I find it difficult to give a face to a familiar name. There is a transparency in the writing style of members. At times it uncovers the deep seated beliefs and preferences and political opinions bordering on the reason and rationality. We are known to each other for so long that we don’t mind presenting the way we are. And how many times we are going to meet face to face? There is an escape hatch as well, of simply vanishing, when the things being too hot for our liking and still we can keep tabs on what is going around.

As KN has put it the motive force for the group is to preserve the links to our past. Yes it is very true, where would I share my memories from my office days, other than this group?

Ravindra Apte

08/11/2017  

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Ravindra Apte : Nov 11 at 6:31 PM

In Aug - Sept I traveled through Kenya and Madagascar. Here is a brief video account of the same.  

***
For planning the tour of Kenya the prime attraction was the yearly migration of wildebeests and zebras. Of course the wild life attraction was there, but then we had the idea of a safari in our trip to Tanzania in Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. That was more than 10 years back. For this trip, we decided to visit different habitats and in that process chose five national parks / reserves. It gave an opportunity to understand how animals adapt to the habitats. But it also required long, on an average 250 km, drives between two parks / habitats and with the conditions of roads it meant 6 to 8 hours of drive. We traveled from north to south south-east and through the geological marvel of Rift Valley, running from Red Sea to Mozambique a length of 6000 Km. 
All of us have seen, myself a number of times, the excellent coverage in documentaries of Discovery / NG TV channels, of the great migration from Serengeti to Masai Mara of the wildebeests daring the river crossing, saving themselves from the jaws of crocodiles. We were lucky to witness the migration. We have to jockey our vehicle, one in a crowd of 50, to the spot and struggle for the best possible angle and film and at the same time marvel at the scene. Yes, my video coverage is no comparison to the professional job, but to tell the truth the most professional documentaries fail to give the real feel. For that you have to see the live action yourself. 

***
Our Madagascar trip happened because I could not avoid the temptation to visit it when we were so close to it from Kenya. A biodiversity hot spot being reduced to a desert. It is a fairly large country and the interesting spots are dispersed, with the poor connectivity one has to spend days to cover all the interesting places. We had limited days and budget (yes Madagascar is expensive) and so we concentrated on our main interest The Lemurs.  

On the net there is a reference of a 1932 talk by Shankaracharya of Kanchi, in which he shows the connection between Madagascar and India comparing the names. Yes many of the names sound to have roots in Indian names. But in the local language they may not have the same meaning. But no doubt there is Indian connection. As in rest of East Africa the trade, especially of gold, is controlled by the descendants of the brave and enterprising Bohara and Marwadi traders who migrated years back. Madagacy people believe in astrology, the good time and the concept of Rahu Kal. Our guide informed us the Indian astrologers are the best and in great demand. 

***
Here are  links to two videos  

        African Safari     (32 minutes)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqUTBJrLah8&feature=youtu.be

        Lemurs of Madagascar    (26:30 minutes)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKsYnwIVlg0&feature=youtu.be

Ravindra Apte   
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Ravindra Apte <ravindra.apte@gmail.com>
To:npcil_retirees
Nov 12 at 1:22 PM

Hi,

Kenya is not well known for birding destination. But on our Safari we saw many birds, thanks to our guide and driver, Anthony, who was a bird enthusiast and never complained for halting vehicle for bird observation. Some of you may enjoy the video. Here is the link to video, Birds of Kenya about 30 minutes. 


Ravindra Apte

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Ravindra Apte <ravindra.apte@gmail.com>
To:npcil_retirees
Nov 12 at 10:28 PM

Dear Anand Ghare,

This is the last video from my Madagascar trip, may be you would like it to be included  in your blog.

Chameleons are interesting creatures. Their ability to change the body skin color to match the surrounding background is amazing. I am fascinated and wonder how the feed back mechanism must be functioning to have a perfect match. It is a ripe subject for a PhD and many have actually worked on it.


Ravindra Apte