Two Good Ideas


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JK (aka J.Krishnamurthi) is an interesting thinker.

Two of his ideas are intriguing & worth experimenting with.

Idea 1 – Know thyself first

We all seek something in life. Some call it happiness, gratification, peace, tranquility. We follow religions, read books, pursue gurus, attend talks and so on, to find that lasting & permanent ‘something’ we seek. As JK puts it, unless the seeker knows himself well, his search will be futile.

“Now without knowing yourself, without knowing your own way of thinking and why you think certain things, without knowing the background of your conditioning, and why you have certain beliefs about art and religion, about your country and your neighbor and about yourself, how can you think truly about anything? Without knowing your background, without knowing the substance of your thought and whence it comes – surely your search is utterly futile, your action has no meaning?”

“Before we can find out what the end-purpose of life is, what it all means – wars, national antagonisms, conflicts, the whole mess – we must being with ourselves, must we not? It sounds so simple, but it is extremely difficult.”

“The pursuit, all the world over, of gurus and their systems, reading the latest books on this and that, and so on, seems to be so utterly empty, so utterly futile, for you may wander all over the earth but you have to come back to yourself.”

“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river. As one studies it, as one goes into it more and more, one finds peace. Only when the mind is tranquil – through self-knowledge and not through imposed self-discipline – only then, in that tranquility, in that silence, can reality come into being. It is only then that there can be bliss, that there can be creative action.”

Idea 2 – Just watch your mind.

What wears us out in life is struggle.

“We struggle to become somebody, achieve and maintain a certain position. All these external things soon weigh us down, and thereby we lose the joy of living. Look at the older faces around you, see how sad most of them are, how careworn and rather ill, how withdrawn, aloof and sometimes neurotic, without a smile.”

“When we struggle, the conflict is between what we are and what we should be or want to be.”

“If you observe your mind very quietly without giving explanations, if you just let the mind be aware of its own struggle, you will soon find that there comes a state in which there is no struggle at all, but an astonishing watchfulness. ….the mind is fully awake, and the mind that is fully awake is joyous.”

These 2 ideas – pursuit of self-knowledge and mind (or thought) watching – are related. One needs and supports the other.

Pursuing self-knowledge, we may discover our limitations, weaknesses and strengths. Each of us are different. What each of us seek is also different. What we seek may also change over time, as we age, as situations change & so on. Religions, Sciences, gurus, and books are sources of ideas. We can choose to accept or reject them, only when we know ourselves well.

To know ourselves well, we need to observe our mind and watch the flow of thoughts, without struggling with them or jumping to explanations.

Reversing the ideas is a useful way to remember them.

  • Are we sad & gloomy? Its time to sit quietly, just watch our thoughts flow freely. Let the mind be aware of its own struggle.
  • Are we confused and conflicted, seeking something, but don’t know what it is? Its time to analyze our true thoughts, beliefs & ideas, and know ourselves better.

In our modern extraordinarily busy & chaotic lives, there is little time or inclination to know ourselves or just watch our thoughts. No wonder there is widespread distress, disappointments and despair.

That’s a pity.



Overthinking & Mental Traps


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As evolved humans, we think. Sometimes we overthink as well.  And, therein lie the traps.

Our forest dwelling ancestors may not have thought so much. They possibly led simpler lives, largely driven by emotions & impulse, seldom pausing to think (forget over thinking), as they went about hunting & gathering in the wild.

Today, we take pride in our rational thought. We think often. We like to think hard. We believe our ability to reason will help us do well. 

And sometimes, at least some of us, tend to over think. The dangers of over thinking are many.

Andre Kukla, in his interesting book ‘Mental Traps – The Overthinkers Guide to a Happier Life’, points out the common dangers we face. He defines ‘Mental Traps’ as habitual modes of thinking that disturb our ease, take up enormous amounts of our time, and deplete our energy, without accomplishing anything of value for us or for anyone else in return.

Most of us are prey to such modes of thinking. The book identifies common mental traps, labelling them, like persistence, amplification, fixation & so on. It’s useful to be aware of such traps, label & list them to make it easy for us to spot them, and be on constant vigil against falling for them. Almost all of us fall for these traps every day, in all kinds of activities, mundane & esoteric. They make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to pursue what we really value and want to accomplish.

The book is rich with examples for each of the traps, taken from our daily lives. Needless to say, the above traps are encountered largely by people who tend to over think. Sometimes, more than one trap act together, causing the overthinker to constantly wade through a field of landmines.

What’s the way out?

The author suggests we adopt two policies, throughout our lives

  1. Attentiveness – commit ourselves totally to paying careful attention to whatever we’re doing. This will help make us aware of any of the above mental traps we may be heading into.
  2. Practice Thought-watching – allocate some time, periodically, to just sit quietly and watch our thoughts.

Now, both the above ideas are easier said than practiced. A thoughtful life has its downsides and is not easy, but neither is an impulsive life. How to strike a balance? We should know our demons first, before we can wrestle with them.

Thinking is hard. Overthinking more so.


More Sex & Junk Food Is Natural?



We are alarmed, ashamed & frustrated by some of our desires, behavior, actions and thoughts, despite our best efforts to control them.

We often succumb to the temptations of junk food, only to regret and reavow to healthy ways soon after. We are secretly ashamed of being addicted to pornography. We are alarmed by our lustful thoughts, despite all vain attempts to keep them at bay. We regret our irrational decisions to buy expensive cars and gifts. We feel disgusted by our tendencies to over-consume when we realize how they are harming the environment.

Are we alone?  Or is everybody like this?

Evolutionary psychology says its only human to want more sex and binge on junk food.  That’s the way we have evolved.

We may try to curtail or control some impulses, for various reasons. We may succeed or fail. But, there is nothing to be alarmed or ashamed about some of our desires, behaviors, actions or thoughts.

In his engaging & reassuring book ‘The Consuming Instinct’, Gad Saad presents a wide assortment of human consumption patterns – of products, services, ideas, experiences, etc. – and maps them to one of four evolutionary pursuits – survival, reproduction, kin selection & reciprocity.

There is a possible evolutionary reason for all that we think and do.

But, that’s no excuse.

The urge to have more sex and junk food is perhaps natural, but it can be disastrous without self-imposed limits.

Lets be alert, not ashamed or alarmed.


Only Violence Levels Inequality?



We wonder about poverty. Why some people should have it all, while millions of poor starve? Why can’t the world be more fair, egalitarian? Can we do something about it? Can we change the world?

The idea that only mass widespread violence narrows inequality is intriguing.

Walter Scheidel, in his book ‘The Great Leveller’, provides numerous compelling examples from stone age to present age. He points out inequality naturally widens over time, despite all human attempts to fight it. Only extreme violence narrows the inequality gap, for a while, and soon the gap starts to widen again. Specifically, four forms of extreme violence – wars, revolutions, state failure & disease – are capable of leveling inequality. He notes that each of these four possible levelers (in their extreme widespread forms) have a remote chance of showing up in the near future.

That implies that great ideas & benign actions by individuals, groups, institutions & governments, even when executed well, can do little to bring down inequality.

Of course, egalitarian pockets like Sweden exist. But at what costs? Did the rise of Sweden make some other country or community less equal?

The same reasoning could be extended to other types of inequalities – social, political, gender etc.  Wealth has an indirect influence on all other types of inequalities.

So, what can one do? Start a global war? Or just sit & watch the rise and fall of inequality?

Perhaps the best one can do is to be fair & egalitarian in one’s own personal life. One can associate and work with groups, communities & institutions in an attempt to bring down inequalities of all kinds. But, dreams about making the world just and equal can only remain that – dreams (at least in one’s own life time)

Let us do our bit.

Nature, over time, will do the rest.


The Reluctant Protestor

The 3 protestors huddled over a corner table at the popular cafe tucked away in a quiet cul-de-sac in the heart of the bustling city. It was a cold windy afternoon. The cafe, not too crowded at this time of day, had become their favorite haunt to debate & plot. The strong aromatic coffee, recommended by the barista, complemented their energetic conversation.

No1, with a long mustache and short-cropped hair, restless & angry, was ranting, “The public is clueless and they don’t bother. The government is unleashing irresponsible policies which are going to hit them hard. Yet, they don’t react or protest”

No2, adjusting his ever-dropping horn rimmed glasses on his nose, agreed, “Yes, this protest we are organizing will help raise awareness”

No1 continued, speaking fast, “Yes, it will be a show of strength. Lets show the filthy politicians & kowtowing bureaucrats that we matter. They can’t make us pay for their mistakes & blunders. They have to reverse their policies and make them more beneficial to our lot. We are a big vote bank after all. We just need to showcase our numbers for them to take notice”

No2 – Before I forget and we go deeper, I want to say that the cafe owner has graciously offered to sponsor our table today. He is happy to see we are regulars here, sometimes bringing in a bigger group of friends. All coffee and pastries, including the cafe special I have ordered today, are on the house.

No3 was leaning back in his chair with brooding eyes

No1 – Something bothering you?

No3 – We can protest, but I am not sure if it will solve all our problems.

No2 – We can’t keep quiet. The policies are draconian.


No3 – Yes, I agree. But we got a whole host of issues. New challenges keep cropping up everyday. You resolve one issue after another….there seems to be no end to this. Corruption & inefficiencies are everywhere.

No1 – Unless we act and protest, how to stop these? We should do our best and things will work out well, over time. Key is we continue protesting. If we stop, the situation will get worse.

No2, biting into the fig & honey tart, concurred,  “Yes, the corrupt politicians and businessmen will take over the city sooner or later. We should fight them.”

No3 leaned forward, put down his coffee mug, and spoke slowly, “We want to protest against corruption, inefficiency, nepotism etc. in the public sphere. But, on the other hand, we seem to have a hand in perpetuating the same problems we are fighting”

No1 spilled some coffee from his mug as he burst out, “What are you taking about?”

No3 continued, “All of us have day jobs. We are not full-time social activists or protestors. We are engineers, entrepreneurs, bankers and so on.  While we don’t directly contribute to creating these social problems, we don’t stop to think about indirect and second-level effects”

No2, toying with a pastry in his plate, frowned, “Thats confusing”

No3 was getting animated. “Not really. Take the example of my banker friend who is keen to join our protest. He draws a salary from his bank and is a socially responsible citizen. But, in his day job, he provides loans to social irresponsible real estate businessmen who are linked to corrupt politicians. Isn’t he socially irresponsible, indirectly?”

No1 – That’s a very convoluted argument. Everyone needs a job and income. All engineers, bankers & entrepreneurs cannot quit their jobs to become socially responsible.

No3 – I not saying everybody has to quit their jobs. But they need to think and worry about their net impact.

No2 – Net impact?  Whats that?

No3 – Are you a smoker?

No2 – No, and you know that.

No3 – Do you invest in cigarette companies?

No2 spoke rapidly, putting his coffee mug down. “Of course not. Cigarettes are unhealthy & socially harmful. I don’t want to make money by investing in a company which sells cigarettes.”

No3 – Well, you are not selling cigarettes yourself. So, what’s wrong in buying shares in a business selling cigarettes?

No2 – I want to be socially responsible. I don’t want to contribute, in anyway, to the promotion and selling of cigarettes, even indirectly.

No3 – Perfect. The same logic applies to my socially responsible banker friend who, by providing loans to corrupt businesses, is also being socially irresponsible. So, he needs to think about his net impact. Is it positive?

No1 jumped in. “That’s very complex. There is no way to measure one’s net impact. Nobody can know for sure. Going by your logic, No3 cannot invest in many other industries also, like retailing and logistics, as all these indirectly support the cigarette manufacturer.”

No3 – That’s right. We are part of a huge complex inter-linked society. A junior software programmer may just be a small contributor towards building a complex business-critical enterprise software that is sold to a weapons manufacturer. But he is indirectly contributing to the business success of his employer’s client, the sale of more weapons, and towards the possibility of more conflicts, wars & destruction.

No2 – Wow, that sounds fantastic.

No3 – Yea, it is fantastic but true. We are in a consumption driven world. The more we consume, the more is our indirect contribution to the growth of greed, corruption and other evils, which cause the many public social issues we face today.

No2 – You are thinking too much. If everyone starts thinking like you, there will be no progress, no growth, no development. The world will stagnate. Nobody will work on innovations, inventions & discoveries.  Everybody will be paranoid.

No3 – Not necessarily. Things will slow down, no doubt. But, when more of us work towards making our net impacts positive, the world will become more sustainable, more livable and enjoyable.

No1 – That’s utopian thinking. Not possible. Not feasible. How can you make the whole world think like that?

No3 – What do we want to achieve by organizing this protest?

No1 – We want to highlight issues & challenges we face in the society today…raise awareness.

No3 – That is exactly what I am doing right now. Making you aware of the indirect impacts of your actions and decisions.

No2 – But, how is this going to help the society or the big wide world? Just 3 of us worrying about our net impacts will not change anything.

No3 – That’s true. Just like our protest won’t solve all the problems in our complex inter-linked society. As long as the protestors are indirectly contributing to the very problems they are protesting against, there won’t be much progress. We may jump 10 feet, but will be dragged 9 feet back, without us noticing it. The net impact may not be significant…can even be negative.

No1 – That’s a very defeatist attitude and thinking. Are you against the protest?

No3 – I am not sure. I want to fight. But I am also worried about my net impact. Am I directly or indirectly contributing to the very problems we are protesting against?

No2 – You are intellectualizing this too much. Remember our last discussion. We decided its time to act. We have had enough debates.

No3 – Yes, I agree. We can’t keep quiet. We got to do something. But I also want to make my net impact positive. It may take sometime or even a lifetime, but I want to work on it.

No1 – That’s a very noble thought, esoteric and so very long-term. Think about the present? We should be worried about the issues plaguing us and our children today. Now is when we should fight corruption, inefficiencies, irresponsible politicians & bureaucrats, and so on. We must try to make the world better for us and our children. Thats how mankind has progressed, throughout history. Think of all the revolutions & wars. Human progress & development was always through protests, struggles and fights.

No3 – That’s a popular narrative version of history which needs some rethinking. Was there an alternative path to progress which we seem to have missed and ignored? Lets suppose we had chosen to avoid the paths of struggles, protests, wars & destruction, over the course of history. And chosen the slower, more peaceful & sustainable path of progress, could we have done better?

No2 – Well, that’s a big supposition. And, anyway, it didn’t happen that way. Getting the whole world to change to your thinking is impossible.

No3 – I can start with myself. Then try to influence the two of you.

No1 – Your idea of net impact sounds good, but difficult to practice. Almost all jobs I can think of has negative indirect consequences.  Even a small time clerk in a government office or a primary teacher in a village school may be indirectly contributing to global terror or viral epidemics. I can’t starve. I need a job and income.

No3 – That’s true. I am not saying its easy. But, at least, we can be conscious of our choices and actions. We got to start somewhere.

No2 stretched and yawned, “We are heading nowhere. I am full of pastries and coffee. I want some fresh air.  Any of you want to join me for a walk in the park?”

No1, shuffling some papers and glancing at his watch, spoke seriously,  “Lets finish what we came here for. The blueprint for the protest is almost ready. We just need to agree on a few points and we are good to go. No3, are you still with us?”

No3 sat back and murmured, “Yes, I guess so”

Contemplations on Money



Man-made wonder. Gone awry.

Self-replicating meme. Gone wild.

Medium of exchange. Gone viral.

A wonderful idea. Gone beyond its brief.

A thoughtful convenience. Another language.

We created it. It conquered us.

Many want more. Few have enough.

Most work for it. Modern slaves.

Toiling day & night. Seldom pausing to think.

Few say enough. And call it a day.

Relentless pursuit. Almost till death.

How much is enough? When to stop?

Is piling it up the goal? That’s a pity.

Life is much more. Given up so easily.

money illusion

A tool has taken over. How did we allow it?

A trick? Delusion? Mirage? Nightmare?

It helped trade. It created things anew.

Then it created more of itself. It now runs the world.

There is no stopping it. It’s a snowball.

Its rolls on…& on. Amassing speed and size.

Delighting many. Crushing many.

Slaves abound. One generation after another.

Ready to serve it. Grow it.

It looks immortal. Defeating its creator.

Kings & men. Few are left untouched.

Few stand up to it. Enlightened souls.

What more can it do? Create or destroy?

More evil than good? Who is to ponder?

Our destiny in its hands? Or its destiny in our hands?

It governs the world. It decides. Behind the scenes.

Who eats? Who wins? Who does what? Who goes where?

Who survives? Who lives it up? Who dies? Who rules?

It greases the wheels. The world goes around.

Bigger than its creator. Runaway renegade.

Pause & think. It’s an illusion.

Come out of it.

Contemplations on Food


Eternal question. Eat to live. or Live to eat?

We master it. Or it masters us

So little the body needs. Why eat more?

The senses take over. The body is beaten.

So much available. So many starve.

So much feted. So much wasted.

So much variety. So much creativity.

Food is much more? An art?

Hunger or senses? What is right?

The body is a vehicle. Food is a fuel.

Right food at the right time. Works like magic.

Medicine or fuel? Aren’t both the same?

Eat well. Live well. Age well.


Good food. Healthy body. Alert mind.

Simple or fanciful. Does it matter?

Many are enslaved. For life.

Senses & desire. Chain the young & the old alike.

Many indulge. A life long habit

Few control. Many can’t.

Death & disease. Seldom teach lessons.

Even the aged are smitten. Unable to give up.

Keep it at bay. Sooner the better

Less or more. Fat or thin. No one perfect way.

The body knows whats right. And how much is right.

The body signals. We know it.

We take the hint. Or we don’t.

Many have fallen. They teach us best.

Food is life. Food is not life.

Eat well. Live well. Eat right. Live more.


Contemplations on Sex



The King of all desires. Seldom vanquished

Wild & passionate. Often uncontrollable

Natural or God-given? Indulge or despise?

20 or 70. It never turns stale

The flesh may wrinkle. Memories linger

The Original Sin?  Or The Original Gift?

Varieties of experiences. Feisty cauldron of senses

History says it all. Volumes of text

Kings & men. Few are immune

Men and women. Struggle in vain

Shame and pain. Soon forgotten

Many fall. Few admit

Cultures & traditions. Fight in vain

Laws & rules. Seldom work


Religions pour scorn. Desire is evil?

Whats wrong with it? Say the brave

Why fall for it? Say the cautious

Fatal attraction for some. Playground for some

Some are bound. Some abandon themselves

Vicarious for some. Clandestine for some

Avoid or plunge in? Is there a middle way?

Control or abstain? What’s right?

The pages of history. Offer much insight

The mighty & the fallen. Say it all

Think, pause, act. Find the right way

Many paths. Some new, some old

The King of desires. Relish it, with caution.

Speculations on Hindu Rituals


To believe, or not to believe

To do, or not to do

To fear, or not to fear

There comes a time in the lives of some Hindus when he or she gets to contemplate the deeper meaning, purpose and implications of various Vedic rituals.

Some are born into rituals, some take to them along the way, some have rituals thrust upon them.

Any ritual, modern or ancient, has a purpose. Its inculcates habit & discipline to achieve a goal, like daily running is a good habit or ritual for an aspiring marathoner.

Over time, however, rituals have the tendency to gather ‘bells & whistles’ which, though decorous and interesting, have to be stripped away to get to the real purpose behind them. Many modern exercise regimens, accessories & gadgets have made running so complicated, expensive & daunting that the simple exhilarating pleasures of freestyle running are largely forgotten.

Vedic rituals, over time, have become so complex, mysterious and voluminous that we need a guru or guide to help us navigate them. However, most gurus just show the path without shedding much light on what lies ahead on the path. They tell us what rituals to do and how to perform them, without saying much about why we need to do them at all.

The result is fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Rituals are designed to serve our needs. We don’t need rituals for the sake of having rituals. Our ancestors who originally designed the Vedic rituals would have had a purpose or goal. Some of those purposes may not be valid in today’s world where we (hopefully) have a better understanding of nature and how it works. It’s safe to assume our ancestors would not have fashioned the rituals to create fear, panic or uncertainty in our minds.

It’s useful to cut through the weeds and get to the heart of the rituals. Lets look at just two common rituals.


  1. Marriage rituals

At the core, these rituals are vows and promises the couple make to each other in the presence of various witnesses – celestial, terrestrial and in-between. It’s quite natural for these rituals to have acquired, over time, various elements of celebration, education, entertainment, and prayers to invoke blessings of Gods & ancestors. A tinge of Godly fear and respect also prevails over the rituals to caution the couple in case they venture beyond the boundaries of the wedding vows and promises. This fear perhaps serves a useful purpose for the couple, their families and societies to be organized and disciplined. But when the fear and other ‘bells & whistles’ dominate, the original purpose and the meanings of the vows & promises are lost.

2. Death rituals

These are more complex and tedious which have, over time, acquired various elements of fear to enforce rigor and discipline. We need respect & curiosity to understand these rituals, not fear. Our ancestors would have fashioned the original rituals, without the attending frills, to serve a purpose which is more important to understand. Would our ancestors, having died and gone to wherever they go to, be dependent on us for food & water or curse us if we don’t perform various rituals?  Fundamentally, these rituals are a way to offer our respects & gratefulness to our ancestors – both human & non-human (like trees, animals & insects). They provide an occasion to think about and learn from our ancestors, how they lived their lives, their success and failures, lessons they taught us directly or indirectly, and so on. 

When we remove layers of modern technological marvels and conveniences which dominate our times today, our lives are little different from those of our ancestors’. They probably went through similar lifetimes of ups & downs, childhood and adulthood, faced similar fears & pains, joys & happiness, wondered similarly about birth & death.  Are our experiences & circumstances in life vastly different? Probably not. If we want to know how to live life well, find a satisfying job, get married, make friends, wage war or even die well, we just need to turn the pages of history. It’s all been done before. We can learn much from past masters, and our ancestors.

Most death rituals provide an opportunity to contemplate our ancestors, their lives and past times. There is much to learn from them, not fear them.

Such a rational approach to understanding rituals can be labelled speculative, preposterous, atheistic….

But, perhaps, it is better than blindly performing the rituals out of fear or compulsion.


So what do we gain by performing “mere” rituals? We will acquire one-pointedness of mind, discipline, non-attachment, will power, humility. On the whole it will help us to live a moral life. Without moral conduct there can never be Atmic inquiry and Atmic experience.

There are many benefits that flow from rituals, puja, etc. One of them is that they help to make us good. They are also of value in taking us to the path of workless yoga and the inward quest.

Rituals are indeed not necessary for one who has realized the Self. But we must put the question to ourselves whether we have truly realized It, whether we are mature enough for realization, whether we have become inwardly pure.



Hey Brahman !


Hey Brahman, who are you?

What’s all this?

Is it all real or illusory?

Or something else?


If its real,

Why is it imperfect?

Why all these ups & downs?

Twists & turns, trials & tribulations?

Why the many temptations & sins?

Desires, joys & sorrows?

Why can’t it be simpler, easier, perfect?

Is it simple, but I make it complex?

Is it easy, but I make it hard?

Is it perfect, but I can’t see it?

It’s all surreal


If its illusory,

Why the elaborate delusion?

What are you trying to prove, teach, learn or discover?

Why & for whom?

For yourself, your ego, your desires?

You too suffer these human frailties?

Why such a complex & fantastic magician’s trick?

Why don’t you simply say so?

Are you dropping hints here & there?

No, I don’t see them.

It’s all surreal.


Is this something else, maybe your play?

Why should I be a part of it?

What am I supposed to learn?

Discover myself or you?

Why this long journey & many acts?

What are we trying to do?

Its abstruse, frustrating

It’s all surreal.


Where are you from?

What was before you?

What is after you?

Is there a ‘before’ and ‘after’?

What is death?

What happens after?

Do we become one?

Do I come back?

Gods, Vedas, Rituals, Devotions…

How do they all fit in?

They seem superfluous

It’s too difficult, beyond me.

It’s all surreal.


Is this your idea of having fun?

All this elaborate creation or delusion, or whatever it is?

Should I relax, have fun, or drown in sorrow?

Should I be stoic and tranquil?

Should I give it all up and await death?

There are so many questions, so many paths, so many ideas.

What is true, what is real, what should i do?

It’s too confusing.

It’s all surreal.


There must be an easier, simpler answer.

What’s the right question?

Lets start again

Hey Brahman, who are you?