29 May 2020

Book Review : The Religions of Man

It was in the beginning of April that I had received an email from Erin Stahmer bringing my attention to David Allan’s TEDx talk titled “Who Knows What is Good or Bad?”. While reading the transcript, I found a reference to a Taoist parable that David credited the book “Religions of Man” for.

That is how I got curious about the book. Getting the book was a little more difficult though. This is not available in electronic format. So, had to order the paper version and wait for two weeks for it to appear. For about a month, I was a sight laying down in the bed every night with a highlighter in my mouth trying to take the book in.

Overall, two thumbs up. Loved the book and some of the quotes in it. It also made me put all the important religions on a timeline of when they started. Do you know which is the oldest religion and which is the youngest one?

The author does not get into too much historical details other than explain the societal background against which each of the religions emerged and then explains the basic precepts of each one of them and how they came about.

Some of the facts I learned:
1. How Abraham came to have two sons and how they eventually evolved into the two strands of Jews and Muslims
2. Violence in nature is aplenty. But violence within the species is fairly concentrated in humans only.
3. Had it not been a guard who would not let Lao Tzu go thru the Hankao Pass (he was trying to get away from society on his water buffalo) without writing down his thoughts, we would have never had a religion called Taoism!

Some of the quotes I enjoyed:
1. Tagore: “Truth comes as conqueror only to those who have lost the art of receiving it as a friend”
2. Talleyrand – “You can do everything with bayonets except sit on them”
3. Asked on his deathbed whether he had made his peace with God, Thoreau replied, “I didn’t know we had quarreled”.

Happy reading!

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25 May 2020

Everybody’s free (To Wear Sunscreen) – great advice to young graduates

This is really a very hard year for students graduating from college. I should know. I have one at home. To go thru four years of college and not be able to say Good Bye face to face to some of the great relationships you made in campus is gut wrenching. To be thrown out of a college into a job life where nobody is hiring – worse, you will compete for jobs with more experienced people – and most likely next year two batches of students will vie for the same jobs – well, that was not how the movie was supposed to have been written.

Yet, this too shall pass. There is not an iota of a chance that the message of this being ephemeral will land with any graduate. No more than when I told by daughters’ friends once they landed in great colleges to defer their admission, take a year off and backpack thru Europe or South America.

It is very hard for them to understand the perspective of elders. As is it for elders to understand theirs.

Thee following message was sent to me by my dear friend Larry Mason – the same guy who had sent me the “I wish you enough” message first. This time he sent me a Youtube video. I am not sure of the source – it is from 1997, apparently. I have attached the artist’s name as given in Youtube.

The message is equally great for graduates and their parents. Although, chances are that the parents will understand it more.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 97,

Wear sunscreen!

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proven by scientists. Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis, no more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Well, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me. In 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry at all. But know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind… the kind that blindsides you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy: sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives… some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they are gone.

Maybe you will marry. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you will have children. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you will divorce at 40. Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chances; so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you will ever own.

Dance.

Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions even if you do not follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel UGLY.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they will be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings…. They are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but the precious few, you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle. Because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths. Prices will rise. Politicians will philander, you too will get old. And when you do, you will fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse… but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it is worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.”

(Artist: Baz Luhrmann)

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23 May 2020

Trying out another new thing

I was talking to Harsh on his birthday a few days back and he asked me about the not cross posting to Facebook bit. (I stopped a month back). We were discussing his favorite way of knowing about updates – you know, like RSS feed (if you use a news reader), simply email notification etc etc. Harsh felt that , personally, for him, it would be good to have an option of getting email updates.

I promised him that I will set it up. So, in spite of originally being against the idea (I am just worried of too many emails in others’ boxes), last night I have set it up. I am still playing with it – and you might find some changes here and there as I refine it.

But if you want to get weekly updates on the blogs from prior week, sometime between Friday evening and Saturday morning, depending on where you live in the world, you will get a blog digest. You should be able to read the first paragraph of each blog from the week and if it piques your interest, simply click on it – for the full content and picture.

By making it weekly, I am hoping to strike the right balance between too many emails in your inbox and freshness of the topics that I write on.

If you wish to subscribe, you can go to the website www.rajibroy.com and notice the subscription option on the right below the yellow box of “Topics”. Put in your name and email id. You will get a confirmation email that you need to confirm with.

Ishita and Ram, I know you were trying other methods. In case this helps, I am bringing this to your attention.

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Category: Musings | LEAVE A COMMENT
22 May 2020

Relaxing on a Friday evening with a Rabindrasangeet

“Bhalobesey sakhi nibhritey jotoney
Aamar naam-ti likho, tomar monero mondir-e
Amaro poran-e je gaan baajhichhe
Tahar taal-ti sikho, tomar chorono monjeer-e”

“Out of old affection, gently and quietly
Do inscribe my name in the temple of your soul
Of that song that invariably sways my heart
Do teach your anklets how to dance to the rhythm”

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17 May 2020

Couple of interesting poems from Tao Te Ching

Now reading Taoism in that book Religions of Man. I had very little understanding of Taoism before this. One of the key learnings I had was Taoism’s focus on “creative quietude” (wu wei). In chapter 78 in the book Tao Te Ching (by founder Lao Tzu), is a great poem comparing the virtues of water – infinitely supple yet incomparably strong – to wu wei. (in the context of water eroding away rocks)

“What is more fluid, more yielding than water?
Yet back it comes again, wearing down the tough strength
Which cannot move to withstand it.
So it is that the strong yield to the weak,
The haughty, to the humble.
This we know.
But never learn.”

There is another poem in Chapter 17, that I had read before but never realized that the source is the original book of Taoism.

“A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists
… Of a good leader, who talks little
When is work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will all say, ‘We did this ourselves’ ”

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Category: Musings | LEAVE A COMMENT
12 May 2020

Poem by Seng Ts’an (also written Sengcan)

I am reading this book called “Religions of Man”. It is a fascinating book and I will write the review later. I just finished up with Hinduism and Buddhism. Have another six religions to go.

This poem is by Seng Ts’an. As I was reading up about him in Wikipedia, found this amazing story of how he – well into his forties – met the monk who eventually became his teacher and gave him the name Seng Ts’an (gem monk). Their interaction (like many koans in Zen Buddhism) went something like this:

Seng Ts’an: I am riddled with sickness. Please absolve me of my sin.
Huike: Bring your sin here and I will absolve you.
Seng Ts’an (after a long pause): When I look for my sin, I cannot find it.
Huike: I have absolved you. You should live by the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha

Any way, the poem called “Trust in the Heart” goes the following way:

The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose
Do not like, do not dislike, all will then be clear,
Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.
The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.
Do not try to drive pain away by pretending that it is not real;
Pain, if you seek serenity in Oneness, will vanish of its own accord.
Thoughts that are fettered turn from Truth,
Sink into the unwise habit of “not liking.”
“Not liking” brings weariness of spirit; estrangements serve no purpose.
The One is non other than the A;;. the All none other than the One.
Take your stand on this, and the rest will follow of its accord;
To trust in the Heart is the “Not Two”, the “Not Two’ is to trust in the Heart
I have spoken, but in vain; for what can words tell
Of things that have no yesterday, tomorrow or today.

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