July 28, 2008

A Beautiful Mind

I only recently saw ‘A Beautiful Mind’ - a Ron Howard film with brilliant lead role by Russell Crowe.

I simply loved the movie. It had a nice mix of general college banter, witty humor, and some very poignant moments. What particularly struck me, as the most telling scene was the dialogue spoken by Dr. Rosen. “Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?”

It made me understand people battling the kind of condition much better. John Nash is an intelligent mathematician and the film is based on his life and how he copes with Schizophrenia. The movie is brilliantly taken and all the emotions he goes through and his wife Alicia are handled beautifully. I have newfound admiration for Russell Crowe; much credit goes to him for superb portrayal of Prof. John Nash.
I think many will agree that the acceptance speech on receiving his Nobel is the most touching scene in the movie. Its a 2001 release and many of you may have seen it but those who haven’t, pick it up the next time you head to the DVD library.

July 4, 2008

Blinding flash of the Obvious

Alright, this post is a little heavy reading. Its about a deep experience I had some seven years ago..

As Hindus, we are all familiar with four different paths or margas to Moksh, namely, Bhakti, Karma, Gnana, and Raja, and that one can opt to pursue any of the above, depending on one's inclinations. I was often baffled when I read the Bhagwad Gita that speaks of one path being superior over the other three, and then later recommends another path in a different context. While there are obvious benefits that our commentaries are full of contradictions (it accommodates all viewpoints and therefore very inclusive in philosophy), (un)fortunately, this gives us

• ample food for thought,
• stimulates the mind into reflection
• gives each one an option, thereby space and freedom

but also confuses and forces the mind to decide a particular path. Most of us can relate to a little of each of the four paths; then how does one choose one over the other? Elders in the house often add to the confusion by suggesting that one path follows the other and that their order is also fixed and rigid; some others have chided me for being confused!

I realized the need to decide my own path but didn’t know how. I was therefore totally amazed when one day it came to me as a flash that

"There are no different margas, there is only one; just as there are many forms of Gods and Goddesses under various names, but there is only one God".
They appear to be different, but if man truly follows one path, he is automatically following the other three too; just as "if you are a true Christian/ Muslim, it follows that you are also a true Hindu". Since it is so obvious, it follows that it must also be true!

The rational mind also found support for by relating to the lives of some of the great men who lived in our country, namely, Adi Shankaracharya, Gyanasamandar, Meerabai, Ramakrishna Paramahans, Thyagaraja, Shri Aurobindo etc. All these great saints practiced all the four margas simultaneously. I am fortunate to have found a Guru in H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar whose life completely validates this theory.

Let me elaborate with an example; lets take the life of one of them, say Adi Shankaracharya; he wrote the commentaries on the Brahmasutras, Gita and single handedly unified the highly divisive Hindu community of his time - he practiced the path of Karma marga. He simultaneously, on more occasions than one, showed the path of total surrender to God, which gives man the strength to face the world without fear. He wrote Bhaja Govindam which extols the virtues of chanting God's name - he practiced the path of Bhakti marga. He also held debates and won over all the contemporary scholars and philosophers by his sheer brilliance and clarity in thought - he practiced the path of Gyana marga. He travelled far and wide under difficult and hostile terrain, only because he had total control of his physical body and kept his body amenable for travel - he practiced the path of Raja marga.

Likewise, think of all the great souls you have heard or read about, different languages they spoke maybe, but each one would have practiced all the four margas simultaneously. This theory is probably not new to some people but appears to be quite different from those that one comes across at various discourses and satsangs.

This theory that all the margas are indeed one has brought great restfulness to my mind as I am no longer confused about which path I am in:-).

Ok, those of you who managed to read this far, I would love to hear your comments.

July 1, 2008

The fine print in Dasavatharam: reading between the lines

A number of people don't seem to get the subtler details of the movie Dasavatharam. I got this as an e mail forward and it kind of captures the details for those who didn't get it.

If you knew the real Dasavatharams of Lord Vishnu and their characters you can appreciate the script more.
Let me explain, starting with the best adapted role:

1. Krishna avatar - Vincent Poovaraghavan
Lord krishna is actually a dalit, he is dark-skinned [shyamalam]. He saved draupadi when she was being violated and he was the actual diplomat in mahabharatham. Lord krishna dies of an arrow striking his lower leg. Now look at how vincent was introduced.. he appears when asin is about to be molested and he saves her like draupadi. Vincent is the dalit diplomat, fights for land issue [soil issue to be exact] and dies from the metal rod striking his leg. Oh even five of vincent's men are drugged at P. Vasu's.. sounds familiar???

2. Balarama avatar - Balaram Naidu
This is an easy given. as the name suggests and the role personifies you can easily get it.

3. Mathsya avatar - Ranagaraja Nambi
nambi is thrown into water in an act of trying to save lord from being thrown into sea, though vainly. what more clue do you want?

4. Varaha avatar - Krishnaveni Paatti
During the mukunda song, krishnaveni paatti does varaha avatar in the shadow puppetry. The frame freezes on it for a second. there is the clue. Moreover, in varaha avatar lord actually hides earth so as to protect life forms. Here too krishnaveni hides the germs - life form inside the statue so as to protect.

5. Vamana avatar - Kalifulla Khan
remember in vamana avatar, lord vishnu takes the vishvaroopa, that is the giant form! Hence the giant kalifulla here symbolises vamana avatar.

6. Parasurama avatar - Christian Fletcher
Parasurama is actually on an angry killing spree and killed 21 generations of the particular kshatriya vamsa. Hence the real KILLER... Guess what thats what our Fletcher is! He comes around with the gun [modern upgrade for axe] and kills everyone around. I have to check if he kills 21 people though

7. Narasimha avatar - Shingen Narahashi
first of all the name itself is a play on the words singam [means lion in tamil] and narasimha [the avatar being symbolised]. Lord Narasimha manifests himelf to kill the bad guy and he also teaches prahaladha. In the movie, he shows up to kill the killer fletcher! and is also a teacher.. Lord Narasimha had to kill the asura with bare hands and hence the martial arts exponent here.. get it?

8. Rama avatar - Avatar Singh
Lord Rama stands for the one man one woman maxim, kind of symbolising true love.. Here Avatar portrays that spirit by saying that he loves his woman more than anything and wants to live for her.

9. Kalki avatar - Govindaraj Ramasamy
As you know, the hero in kaliyug can be none other than the Kalki avatar!!!

10. Koorma avatar - George Bush
This is the most loose adaptation I couldn't clearly comprehend. But if you look at the real koorma avatar, the lord is the turtle/tortoise that helps in stirring the ksheera sagara and bringing out the amruth. This essentially creates war among the devas and asuras. Similarly today Bush facilitates war between you know whom... May be Kamal also indicates that this avatar is a bit dumb like the tortoise...