Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Einstein’s Theory of Happiness – tested through Veda Vyāsa’s.

Albert Einstein’s philosophical views on life are equally well-known as his scientific theories, but not much is known about what he thought constitutes happiness. A hint at this came to be known recently from a brief note he had written on a paper and handed over to a courier in Japan in 1922, as a token of his appreciation of the service rendered by the courier.

The message he has written is as follows:

“.. a quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest”.
He has written in another blank paper “where there is a will, there is a way”, and handed over these two papers to the courier saying that these notes might become valuable to him than any tip he could offer him. Apparently he had referred to the ideas conveyed in these notes to be of guiding lights, but it turns out that the possessor of these notes is going to see a windfall as these papers are getting auctioned today (Tuesday, the 24th Oct) in Jerusalem.

Click the image to read 

The first message is of interest to us as it reflects what Einstein thought about happiness. Like his scientific theories that were tested with cross-referential tools of science and Cosmos over a period of time, his theory of Happiness also can be tested with the highly logical and cosmic theology of Vedanta, a facet of which known as Pantheism, was followed by Einstein himself.

Happiness (sukha – सुख) is the central theme of Vedic religion as any Yajna or prayer is aimed at Sukha. Even today the daily prayer of many Hindus including me is ‘lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu’ (Let all the beings in all the worlds become happy). So I thought of putting his version into scrutiny of the Vedic thought of Happiness!

Let us first understand what Einstein says in that message.

He says, ““.. a quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest”.

We can see two components in this message. One is that, leading a quiet and modest life brings more joy. Perhaps he refers to a modest life style with less wants and aspirations. This pertains to materialism. When one has less wants and is content with basic needs and has no cravings beyond means, life is happy!

The second part of the message talks about the strain that is caused by going after a pursuit of success. In this part, I think he could have been more explicit. Does he mean going after a goal or going after success? All of us have a goal, even Einstein had goals. Going after the goal for reaching it or achieving it does cause some stress. The same process (of going after a goal) also can be termed as going after success. So this part of the message seems to show that he is unclear about what he is coming to say. For, one can go after a goal with all its attendant stress, and still lead a modest and quiet life! And going after the goal need not make one unhappy, for, as long as one is steeped into the goal, there is no need to feel unhappy about the troubles on the way.

If success is your goal, which is interchangeable with the goal itself, then also one can remain immune to unhappiness that comes along the way as one must understand that nothing comes easy without tribulations. Even birth into this world comes with struggles and pains. It is so with all living beings (Cetana – चेतन). Even in the case of non-living beings, say in the formation and existence of cosmic entities like planets, existence became possible only with struggle to reach equilibrium (equated with success) and the struggle continues to retain that equilibrium in relation to each other. Thus we can see that there is no disharmony between the two parts in his message - of leading a modest life and pursuing a goal.

His 2nd note on will- way relationship (where there is a will there is a way), aligns with pursuing a goal (or success). This note written immediately after the first one seems to reflect a rethink on his part after writing the 1st note. Einstein seems to recognise the human tendency to pursue a goal (and therefore success of it), though laden with lot of unrest and stress, he seems to think that one must not give up. If one pursues it with a will, somehow one would find a way to achieve it.

Thus these two notes reflect an inner struggle at that moment (of writing) in Einstein’s mind – of craving for a less stressful life (which he thinks gives happiness) and a simultaneous urge to pursue a goal with its attendant problems. And what remains in his mind at the end is that one can achieve the goal (success) by a determined will. If he were to write another note after the 2nd one, perhaps he would have written that accomplishment after a great struggle gives happiness!

So his recipe for happiness is (1) quiet and modest life style, (2) pursuance of a goal beset with less struggle and (3) accomplishment of a goal (implied from his 2nd note).

Now let us do the cross-checking:

Quiet and modest living is possible, but not practical or possible for everyone. In a society with inter-dependence on each other for many goods and services, we need people who produce more, who work for others and who create wealth for oneself that go to the benefit others too. In all these, stress is an attendant component that cannot be avoided. A quiet and frugal living is viable only in the ‘vaanaprastha’ (वानप्रस्थ) stage in a person’s life when a person has completed his familial and material responsibilities. In the previous stages of life (as a family man or a societal man having some responsibilities towards society and in money- earning), there is struggle, but one can remain happy following a simple rule. That simple rule is adherence to Dharma (righteousness) in any work one does.

When one adheres to Dharma in his pursuit of regular activities, in acquisition of wealth and in matters of passion and emotions, one does not invite any adverse karma which in effect would not cause unhappiness! At all times we are doing some karma. When it is done within the parameters of Dharma, the resultant karma bestows happiness. This is best explained by Veda Vyasa at the end of Mahabharata.

Vyasa makes 4 specific statements as follows:

1. Thousands of mothers and fathers, and hundreds of sons and wives arise in the world and depart from it. Others will (arise and) similarly depart.

2. There are thousands of occasions for joy and hundreds of occasions for fear. These affect only him that is ignorant but never him that is wise.

3. With uplifted arms I am crying aloud but nobody hears me. From Righteousness is Wealth as also Pleasure. Why should not Righteousness, therefore, be courted?

4. For the sake neither of pleasure, nor of fear, nor of cupidity should any one cast off Righteousness. Indeed, for the sake of even life one should not cast off Righteousness. Righteousness is eternal. Pleasure and Pain are not eternal. Jiva is eternal. The cause, however, of Jiva’s being invested with a body is not so.

Vyasa begins the statement about the continuing life cycles of all people. There is not just one life but many lives that one goes through. This concept is valid on the logic that whatever one experiences in the current birth could not have come without a prior karma (cause) in a previous birth. The law of cause and effect is very much the basis for cyclical births and rebirths.

The second point is that since we have taken countless births, we have experienced pleasure and pain, and fear and happiness for countless number of times. So by now we must have understood why we are experiencing them. If we have understood we would not be feeling the pain and unhappiness. The one who has understood is a wise man. So what is that one has to understand?

This is explained in the 3rd point. It is Dharma that protects one from all ills and gives happiness. Dharma in any and every action, Dharma in acquisition of wealth and Dharma in matters of desire and craving (kaama) would insulate one from pain and unhappiness. Vyasa says this in a dramatic way by raising his hands and crying aloud. But alas, no one listened to him even at that time (about 5000 years ago when he lived). He shouted that one gets wealth and happiness from Dharma, but why then nobody adheres to it?

This statement can be understood on the basis of views expressed in Bhagavad Gita. A man cannot remain inactive at all times. One cannot avoid doing some work or action. There are regular chores, and works aimed at making money or earning a living and actions and activities connected with emotions, feelings and desires. If one adorns the kind of attitude that does not harm others and that is right in the given situation, one would have the satisfaction and happiness at the end of it. Even if one has failed to achieve success at the end, one would have the satisfaction that one was right in his ways.

An important feature in all these is that one must adopt an attitude of equanimity – being equal in all situations – that is, being equi-distance from success and failure, happiness and sadness, and gains and losses. All these – success, failure, happiness, sadness, gains and losses - are the result of one’s past karma. One does not have a hold on them, despite how well one might have planned and executed an action. Beyond all his actions, there is an element of an unseen karma of the past that comes into play. The one who realises this is not caught up with sorrow when things do not happen in the way he expected. Such a person is wise and is least perturbed with feelings of sorts at success or failure but continues to discharge his actions / karma with an unperturbed mind. Such a person is known as a “Karma yogi”. Such a Karma yogi crosses the boundary of cycle of rebirths, as re-birth is not needed to experience anything, as he is unperturbed by any feelings that could give rise to a fresh karma.  

In the next and last statement Vyasa says that one should never deviate from the path of Dharma at any time, even if one’s life is at risk. For, Dharma is eternal but not the pleasure and pain. We, the Atman are eternal but not the karma that binds us in this body. The realisation of this enables one to keep his cool in any situation so as not to create a fresh karma. Such a person will experience an immense calm in his mind which is nothing but eternal Bliss.

Reaching this state must be the aim of any person, according to Hindu Thought.

One might have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and flooded with immense riches around him. That was the result of his past karma. But he has to keep up his equanimity of mind intact to get lasting happiness, for, his riches may vanish one day. Some other person may be born poor, but even in that state if he is unperturbed by pleasure and pain, he is certainly happy. At every moment of our life, we have to keep our mind not swayed by wants, desires, pleasure, pain, happiness, sorrow and fear. If we do so, we are inching towards cutting off karma. The state when Karma is no longer affecting us, we experience bliss.

Einstein did experience this state of mind when he wrote “I do not need any promise of eternity to be happy. My eternity is now. I have only one interest: to fulfill my purpose here where I am.” This is the dialogue of a Karma Yogi – one who is dedicated to his goal and works relentlessly unperturbed by failure or success.

Einstein goes on to say, “This purpose is not given (to) me by my parents or my surroundings. It is induced by some unknown factors. These factors make me a part of eternity.” (For full text read here)
The unknown factors that he mentions is his karmic path laid by past karma and he being a part of the grand design of the cosmos that keeps on going with its work relentlessly.

All of us are a part of this cosmos and its design which implies that a grand component of this cosmos of which we are a part is also a part of us! That grand component pervading this cosmos is known by various names, but it has one name given in Rig Vedas – that is, Sat! In common parlance it is known as GOD. The realisation that we are part of that eternity is Knowledge which gives eternal Happiness.

Einstein was close to that realisation but fell short of expressing it coherently.


UPDATE on 27th October 2017.


Einstein’s ‘Hidden formula’ for Happiness sells for $ 1.5 million

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | October 25, 2017 01:31pm ET

Gal Wiener, owner and manager of the Winner's auction house in Jerusalem, holds two notes, including one on happiness, written by Albert Einstein in November 1922. Both notes were written in German on stationary from the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.
Credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty

Two advice-filled notes Albert Einstein wrote to a bellboy in Japan 95 years ago, including one that advocated for "a calm and modest life," fetched more than $1.5 million at an auction on Tuesday (Oct. 24).  

In October 1922, Einstein was traveling to Japan to deliver a series of lectures when he received a telegraph announcing that he had won the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics. The physicist was hardly ever short on groundbreaking theories, but found himself short on cash when he wanted to tip a bellboy who had delivered an item to his room at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

In lieu of a monetary tip, Einstein gave the bellboy two thoughtful notes he had just written on hotel stationary. Einstein told the bellboy to keep the letters, "as their future value may be much higher than a standard tip," according to Winner's Auctions and Exhibitions, in Jerusalem, which auctioned the letters. [8 Ways You Can See Einstein's Theory of Relativity in Real Life]

The longer note, popularly called the "happiness letter," reads: "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." (The original German reads, "Stilles bescheidenes Leben gibt mehr Glueck als erfolgreiches Streben, verbunden mit bestaendiger Unruhe.")

A bidding war for the letter lasted 25 minutes, and ended with an anonymous buyer purchasing it for $1,560,000, a price that includes an additional charge known as the buyer's premium.

The other note Einstein gave the bellboy says, "Where there's a will there's a way." (The original German says, "Wo ein Wille ist, da ist auch ein Weg.") Another anonymous buyer purchased that note for $240,000, an amount that also includes the buyer's premium, according to the auction house.

Despite an invitation to the Nobel Prize ceremony, Einstein opted to continue his journey in Japan, which is why he didn't travel to Stockholm that December to receive his award in person, auction officials said.

Original article on Live Science.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mt Atlas was ‘Asta-giri’ - the mountain of sunset. (Part -2)

Part 1: Tracing the route to Udayagiri - 'the mountain of sunrise' to Fiji islands.

It was established in the previous article, that a mountain known as “Udayagiri” located in Fiji Islands (180 degree E) was regarded as the first location of sunrise on the earth. The route towards this place from India was narrated by the Vanara king, Sugreeva and recorded in Valmiki Ramayana. This narration showed that when the sun is overhead in this location, it is dawn in the Indian subcontinent.

Two inferences can be derived from this:

(1) The Indian sub continent, known as Bharata khanda was treated as the central or pivotal region of the world geography from which the eastern limit was decided in terms of sunlight.

(2) Such delineation also established a western limit, in the west of Bharata khanda and decided in terms of sunlight.

One can find the description of the western limit in Valmiki Ramayana in the words of Sugreeva. Sugreeva gives the details of the lands to the west of India till the region where the sun sets behind Mt Astagiri (Astam Parvatam – VR 4-42). This means this region falls 90 degrees west of the Indian sub continent. This roughly coincides with Prime Meridian at Greenwich.

The figure above (taken from Wikipedia) shows one half of the globe (180 degrees) in the right which was very well known to the ancient people of Bharat. In the right side segment one can see India forming the central position. When the sun rises in the 180th degree (90 degree from India ) in the east, it was midnight in India. When the sun reaches midday there, it is sunrise in India.

Now looking at west of India, the present day Prime meridian formed the setting degree in ancient geography of India. With India at the centre, the land getting stamped by Vishnu’s first step with sun rise, forms the eastern most point. When Vishnu’s 2nd step touches the zenith in India, it is the glorious time. With the 3rd step of Vishnu, whatever gets under is pushed down into darkness. This corresponds to the region of Prime Meridian! Thus from pacific to Atlantic, one segment of sun’s travel gets over wherein Bharat khanda forms the pivotal position.

This is not to say that ancient Indians did not know the other side of the globe. The other side of globe was known to them but it did not matter to them. We do come across references in Surya Siddhanta and Siddhanta Shiromani, to place- names on the other side of the globe that experience midnight when it is midday in India. What we are discussing here is based on the views held during Ramayana times. Their view (which continues till date) is that Vishnu, with his light governs the life of people of Bharat. The starting and ending point of that light formed the limits of their geography.

Tracking Sugreeva’s narration we come across two important mountain ranges in the west after crossing river Sindhu. The first one is identified as ‘Merum Uttama Parvatam’ – the mountain range that can be qualified as Meru. And the second and last one is ‘astam parvatam’ – the mountain of sunset.

The first one suits well with the Alps Mountains. Sugreeva describes this as “giri sahasraNi” – thousands of mountains – that is, a chain of mountains with lofty peaks. Any unique mountain is recognised as Meru. In the previous article we found a similar name appearing for Mt Semeru in Java which was originally known as Mt Shishira in Sugreeva’s narration. The unique mountain in the west of India is Alps and it was recognised as Meru!

Sugreeva says that after reaching this mountain , the sun moves to ‘astam parvatam’ (VR 4- 42- 41 &42). Sugreeva gives the time taken for the sun to move from Mt Meru (Alps) to Mt Astagiri, as one and a half Muhurtha. This is equal to 72 minutes. The sun crosses 18 degrees  during this time. This gives a clue to locating Astagiri, the mountain of sunset. Another clue is that Astagiri is roughly 90 degrees west of India.

Greenwich does not find mention in Sugreeva’s narration as he talks only about a mountain behind which sun disappears. There is a mountain called Ben Nevis in Scotland at the same distance. But in the absence of a memory of a past glory to that mountain in that region, we have to look at other locations and find the description fairly coinciding with Mt Atlas in North Africa.

The farthest points between Alps and Atlas roughly turn out to be 15-18 degrees. The ideas around Atlas in Greek mythology reflect Indian views on Astagiri.

For example, Astagiri forms the western most limit of Indian geography. The Greeks also thought the Atlas formed the western edge of the world! The specific reference to that region as the western edge in Greek mythology seems to be a remnant idea of ancient Bharat as known from Valmiki Ramayana.
The Greeks thought that Atlas was stopping the sky from falling on the earth. Why should they think that the sky was falling down on the earth, unless it was a euphemism for the end of day light? As night set in, it seemed as though the sky had fallen down.

The other belief of the Greeks that the land of their departed ancestors lay beyond the Mt Atlas, is also in tandem with the view of ancient India that the world (as it mattered to India) ended with that mountain range. The Greeks had later expanded the idea by visualising a home for departed people beyond that edge.

Probing further into this, one is surprised to know that there is no convincing etymology for the name Atlas in Greek or any other European language. But it has a pre-Greek but non- European name “Thalassa”. Thalai (தலை) is the Tamil word for head. Atlas was supposed to have borne the sky on his head and shoulders. How did this similarity exist in the word Thalassa with thalai?

The mountain of Atlas is where Berbers lived. The influence of Berber language is there on the pre-Greek society. The name of Atlas is supposed to be derived from the language of Berbers, from the word ‘adrar’ which is said to mean Mountain. In Tamil “athar” (அதர்) means ‘path’ or ‘long passage’. The Atlas Mountain forms a passage between Mediterranean world of Greeks and the western edge of the word (according to them) in the place where Atlantic Ocean starts off Spain. Beyond this existed the Paradise called Elysium.  The Atlas range formed “Athar” (in Tamil) or a passageway to the other world.

The Berbers called their language as “Tamaziɣtor  Tamazigh”. Why this phonetic similarity with the name ‘Tamil’ ? Even the name Berber – having a repeat of ‘Ber’ obeys a rule of Tamil grammar called ‘irattai-k-kiLavi’. Such repeat words are common in Tamil.

Another surprise comes in the name of a place located in the west of Atlas range. It is Marrakesh.

This place was inhabited by Berbers for long. The meaning ‘Marrakesh’ is given as the “country of the sons of Kush” in the 11th century manuscript, according to the historian Susan Searight. Kush was the son of Rama who inherited the throne of Ayodhya after Rama.

There also existed a 'Kush' empire that ruled Egypt in the 7th and 6th century BCE. Their origin is traced to Sudan, but there is nothing more known about their previous roots. The analysis of the web sources of this Kush throws interesting connection with India and Nepal where Kush and Luv were born.

For example the ruling queens of Kush empire were known as 'Kandake' . This is phonetically similar to Ganadki, a river that flows from Nepal to India. In the vicinity of this river lived Sita! There is a Valmiki Ashram on the banks of this river in Nepal where Sita took asylum under Valmiki Maharishi when she was pregnant. Her children Luv and Kush were born in this place. This is really a surprising connection that the queens of Kush dynasty in Egypt were known as Kandake!

Like Kandake for queens, the kings of this dynasty bore a titular name, "Qore" 'Khola' is the name of the streams in Gandaki river! 

Another interesting connection with Indic sources is the prevalence of the name 'Mani' (meaning gem in Sanskrit) in the names of kings of Kush dynasty. The names of kings of Kush dynasty run like this: Aserkamani, 
Lakhineamani etc. 

All these show that a deeper analysis of the roots of Kush dynasty is needed to be done. The preliminary indications show that they were an of-shoot of Kush, the son of Rama!

One may recall that a name connected with Ramayana is still in existence near Udayagiri, the mountain of sunrise. It is Ramu river in Papua New Guinea.  In a surprising similarity, the region in the mountain of the western edge was known as the country of sons of Kush! Have the people of India spread to these two extremities of Vishnu pada, after Ramayana times?

A specific description in Ramayana needs further probe. Sugreeva says that the region between Mt Meru (Alps) and Mt Astagiri (Atlas) was supposed to have a gigantic ten leaved Date palm tree – which is golden and shines with a marvellous podium. Perhaps the landscape dotted with ranges of mountains was described like the leaves of date-palm. The picture below shows the raised landscapes between Alps and Atlas in brown colour.

It is somewhere in this region sage MerusaavarNi (मेरुसावर्णि)is residing, according to Sugreeva. Is this a veiled reference to future Manu (human race)? SaavarNi is the 8th Manu – a future progenitor of human race that supports Veda Dharma ! We are now in the period of the 7th Manu, Vaivasvatha Manu who was the progenitor of the people of India and the present Vedic culture.
Is the future Manu going to be in the western most part of the geography ancient Indians (of Ramayana times)?

There are amazing connections to the west and darkness with this Manu. For example he was supposed to be born to Surya (Sun) and his wife Chhaya. Chhaya signifies shadow or darkness. The western most Astagiri being indicative of setting sun and hence darkness, the birth to Chhaya seems to indicate the birth a future human race in this region of the world.

Bali, who was pushed to Netherlands by the 3rd step of Vishnu is going to be one of the seven sages of that Manvantara (of SaavarNi Manu). This is also in tandem with the logic that Astagiri marks the 3rd step of Vishnu.

When is this Manvantra going to happen?

Each Manvantra has duration of roughly 30 crore years (306 million years). Each Manvantra has 71 Chatur yugas and we are nearing midway, being in the 28th Chatur Yuga. So it’s a long a way to go before the next human race gets established in the region between Alps and Atlas or with Alps as Meru. Perhaps at that time Udayagiri of India is likely to become the region of global sunrise! The western point of sunset would then occur in the Mayan land in Mexico!