Thursday, May 24, 2018

Sri Adi Shankaraacharya

Sri Adi Shankaracharya: Proponent of Advaitha Siddhantha

Even though Sri Adi Shankara lived only for 32 years, it is his astonishing achievements and the thoughtful works that are responsible for keeping Hinduism alive even today. Shankara Jayanthi is celebrated every year on Shukla paksha Panchami of Vaishaka masa. Just to provide a glimpse of the greatness of Sri Shankara:
  • He had completed the study of all the 4 vedas by the age of 8
  • Achieved mastery over shastras by the age of 12
  • Be able to write commentary by the age of 16
  • Became one with nature at 32

What others would take several lifetimes to achieve, it is incredible that in his short lifespan, Sri Shankara travelled extensively throughout India and propagated Sanatana dharma. Some compilation of facts:

  • Birthplace – Kalati in Kerala and on the banks of river Poorna
  • Birthdate – Shukla paksha Panchami of Vaishaka masa
  • Parents – Shivaguru and Aryaamba
  • Timespan – 788 – 820 AD
  • Guru – Sri Govinda Bhagavadpada
  • Philosophy propagated – Advaitha
  • Sanyasa – At the age of 8
  • 4 main disciples –
    • Sri Padmapaadaacharya
    • Sri Hastamalakaacharya
    • Sri Totakaacharya
    • Sri Sureshwaraacharya
      • He was the incarnation of Lord Brahma and was known as Mandana Mishra or Vishwaroopa
      • His wife was Ubhayabharati. She is none other than Goddess Saraswathi
  • Aamnaaya peethas –
    • Govardhana peetha, Puri, Orissa
      • Associated veda – Rig
      • River bank – Purva Samudra
      • Worship – Jagannatha, Vimaladevi
      • First guru – Sri Hastamalakaacharya
      • Maha vaakya – Pragnanam Brahma
    • Sharada peetha, Sringeri, Karnataka
      • Associated veda – Yajur
      • River bank – Tunga
      • Worship – Chandramouleeshwara, Sharada devi
      • First guru – Sri Sureshwaraacharya
      • Maha vaakya – Aham Brahmaasmi
    • Kaali peetha, Dwaraka Gujarat
      • Associated veda – Saama
      • River bank – Gomati
      • Worship – Siddeshwara, Bhadrakaali
      • First guru – Padmapaadaacharya
      • Maha vaakya – Tatvamasi
    • Jyotishpeetha, Badari, Uttarakhand
      • Associated veda – Atharava
      • River bank – Alakananda
      • Worship – Narayana, Poornadevi
      • First guru – Sri Totakaacharya
      • Maha vaakya – Ayamaatma Brahma
  • Sarvagnapeetha – Shankaragiri Sharada mandira in Kashmir
  • Sects defined – Shaiva, Vaishnava, Shaaktha, Soura, Gaanapatya and Kaumaara

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Driving in the rain

Often many a times, travel happens all of a sudden and this was no exception. But the difference here was the family that I had to take along with me. I still remember the days when Mohan, Prasanna and myself used to go on trips with 10 mins of notice time. Mohan and myself were bachelors and that made the situation less complicated. Inspite of being a family man, Prasanna used to heed to our calls and join us on adventures. Now we are realizing how difficult it was for Prasanna to manage the travel

Sometime in Oct 2014, Prasanna, Vanitha and Hari went to Coorg to attend a function. It was beautiful Saturday morning and I called him to enquire about his journey. While speaking to him, I instantly decided to travel to Coorg and return back with him to Bangalore. He was supposed to return on Sunday evening. But then, I could not just leave my family alone and go on a trip. Me and my wife also had to go for a discussion at a school for admission to my daughter Shriya. But we decided to head towards Coorg after the discussion at school. I had about 1 hr time for preparation and thus the journey started

If I had been for myself, spending overnight in a bus stand is no big deal. But then, we started to look out for good homestays . Getting availability at a short notice was a problem as well. We called up close to 15 homestays. Finally we were able to get confirmed accommodation at The Nest Homestay, run by Mr. and Mrs. Sagar. The place was near Gonikoppa and we had to take Virajpet road. We began the trip by taking the NICE road

We took the deviation at Hunsur and proceeded towards Virajpet. For the homestay, the first check point in a place called Thitimati. Just a few mins away is a place Devarapura. In here we have to head left to reach the homestay

The road here is a narrow one and on either side of the road we could see lush green paddy fields

Once we cross the paddy fields, the road becomes very steep. So had to be extra careful while ascending this stretch. This stretch directly leads to the homestay

This is a very beautiful home stay situated amidst lush green nature. It has 3 rooms and to our pleasant surprise, we were the only guests that day. The hospitality was supreme and I really have to compliment the Sagar family for making us feel at home

Shriya enjoyed the stay very much and did not want to head back to Bangalore at all

After staying overnight at the homestay, after breakfast we headed towards Madikere to pick Prasanna and family. We thought of taking the Virajpet route, bur Mr. Sagar advised us a better and scenic route. Also we wanted to visit Dubare. Thus we headed towards Polibetta. This was a very narrow road for quite a while until we hit a stretch good patch. There was hardly any traffic and is advisable only to travel during day time

Once we started nearing Polibetta, the road quality improved and the scenic beauty improved too

We could see numerous coffee estates and most notably the Tata coffee

There are plantation trails, but make sure to have prior appointment/booking

Golf course in Pollibetta

Once we crossed this stretch and headed towards Dubare, the road quality deteriorated. Also it started to rain. I always wanted to experience rain in Coorg and here I was presented with an opportunity

On the way the rain subsided and we arrived at Dubare. This is an elephant camp run by the forest department and on the banks of Cauvery river. The department runs ferries to a small island that houses elephants

We did spend quite a bit of time there and finally had to head back to Bangalore. We picked up Prasanna and family enroute at Hunsur and reached Bangalore around mid night

Overall it was a whirlwind trip [we covered 508 KM], but a thoroughly adventurous one

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Times of Life: ISKCON

I first got introduced to ISKCON when I was in primary school [probably in 5th or 6th standard, 1988/89]. ISKCON had started to build a temple at Mahalakshmipuram and had organized quiz, essay writing and drawing competition. Students from SSVM [my primary school] were taken to the under construction temple site for the competition and we had the bus arrangement made from Jayanagar 4th block bus stand. If I remember correctly, my good friend Suhas had won in the quiz competition. I believe we were presented with books on Ramayana and Mahabharatha

My next encounter happened during my high school days when ISKCON people had visited National High School and had books for sale. They also spoke about the competition and invited students to participate in them

The next opportunity to see the temple, courtesy Prasanna, was when he took me there for a pooja he had given in the temple [probably between 1999 and 2001]. I was really awestruck by the brilliance of the temple architecture, ambience and the way pooja was performed at the temple. Probably I had never seen anything like that before. It was a very elaborate pooja ritual and which included aarti, procession inside the temple and circumambulating the sanctum sanctorum, song and dance. The pooja was followed by a meal. This was the first time I got to taste food at ISKCON. The food at ISKCON resembles typical Bengali cuisines. But the best part according to me was the dry jamoon. Ever since, I have developed a liking for that sweet [and only from ISKCON]

I believe I have visited the ISKCON near Kodachadri about 3 times. Myself and Prasanna had been to Kodachadri [I believe in 2000] and this was my first time there. We took the Sampekatte route. This turned out to be a longer route and was the vehicle path. It was a mud road and we were soaked in mud till the time we reached the peak. While coming down, we took the other path and that led to Karekatte. To my pleasant surprise, I came to know that there is an ISKCON temple situated right in the middle of the forest

Myself and Prasanna wanted to do a monsoon trek and we decided to go to Kodachadri [probably July 2002]. Rain was very gentle and mild till we reached Karekatte. We started the trek around 10:00 AM. As we started the trek, the rain started to pour heavily and intermittently. We had thought that the rain might stop and proceeded ahead. Along the way we saw a big tree that had fallen down and a swami from ISKCON was stuck on the other side. He was chopping the branches to make way for his vehicle and he was headed towards Kundapur. It started to rain more heavily and leaches started to bite us. We had gone prepared by taking salt and lime stone, but could not manage well. We decided not to proceed ahead and instead go to ISKCON. It was around 1:00 PM by the time we reached there

Mataji who was staying there understood our plight and prepared lunch, even though it was well past lunch time for them. Also she gave us plenty of dry jamoon and wrapped it in a cover for us to take. We stayed in ISKCON till about 3:00 PM and decided not to pursue further trek towards the Kodachadri. Instead we headed back towards Bangalore

Along with my trekking group friends, we had been to Kodachadri again [2001 or 2002] for a 2 day trek. From Karekatte cross [Kollur road], the trek starts and passes through dense and pristine Mookambika forests. We stopped at ISKCON and then proceeded towards the hill

ISKCON near Kodachadri is spread across 60 acres and there is a very nice temple of Radha Krishna. They run a school for the children staying nearby. They do have a very good gou – shala and do organic farming. It is very hard to believe that they conduct such wonderful activities and by being in the middle of the forests. It will be totally cut off in monsoon from the rest of the world. Even if the mata/swami would want to get ration, they need to be go to Kollur to get them, and it is more than an hour’s journey from the temple. The temple runs purely on donations, and it is one of the activities of the swami to raise funds in order to run/maintain the temple

Mohan, Prasanna, Myself and other friends have been visiting Tirupati every Shivaratri, and we climb the hill on the Shivaratri night. Probably in 1999 or 2000, when we visited Tirupati, we got to know that there is an ISKCON temple getting constructed. We visited the site. The temple architecture was very unique in the sense that the foundation was resembling Lotus flower. The idea was to create the ambience of Vaikunta where Lord Vishnu is seated on Lotus flower. Subsequently, over the years, we visited and stayed in the temple as well, and the temple complex [after construction] turned out to be very beautiful

Prasanna informed me about a program being conducted in ISKCON Bangalore, and known as FOLK. This is an acronym for Friends Of Lord Krishna. It was in the year 2002, we had attended this program. It was a 2 day residential program and we got to know about the various activities conducted in the temple. We had to assemble in the temple by 4:30 AM. This is the time the temple opens and the rituals start. Upon opening the door of Sanctum, elaborate rituals take place. One of the ritual in the Tulasi pooja. By far, my favourite is the Shayana Aarti held during the temple closing time in the evening. The ritual is conducted for over an hour’s time. It involves elaborate aarti, bhajans, dance and circumambulating the Sanctum along with Utsava murthi

We again stayed in ISKCON on new year eve in 2002 and got to witness the various rituals

I had an opportunity to visit Kansas city for 6 months in 2008. My wife had accompanied me on the trip and it was the first time that both of us were visiting a foreign land. We did have a very good accommodation at Marriott service apartments. We used to visit temples regularly while in India and had to find some places of worship in KC as well. To our surprise we discovered that there was an ISKCON nearby to where we stayed. It was a Church converted to a temple and housed Radha and Krishna deities. The customs followed were the same as what I had witnessed in India. Temple head was an American and one of the swami was of Bengal origin. We used to visit the temple every Sunday evening for the aarti. There used to be a discourse on Bhagavadgeetha or on other thoughts prescribed by Srila Prabhupada on Krishna consciousness. This was followed by aarti around 5:00 PM and usually lasted for about an hour. Devotees who used to come also participated in bhajans and dance. There were musical instruments in the temple, like mridanga [a variant of it] and etc. and devotees were free to pick them up and provide background score. After aarti, food was served. Food used to be prepared in the temple by the devotees and had Bengali flavor to it

On the day of Janmasthami, we started the preparation for the festival by participating in the temple activities early in the morning. We started off by cleaning the kitchen and helped in preparing dishes. We took a break in the afternoon and went back to the temple in the evening. We along with other devotees had prepared about 140 varieties of dishes. Janmashtami celebrations started around 10:00 PM and aarti was held at 12:00 midnight. We served and also had food and went back to our apartment. It was a very memorable event and which we won’t forget for life. Devotees from nearby states of Iowa and Wichita had also come to participate in the festivities

Some of the very interesting aspects that I can narrate would be the discourses conducted in the temple. These events were conducted by Americans and who had embraced Krishna consciousness. They were ardent devotees of ISKCON movement and had become sanyasis. Their main task was to spread Krishna consciousness. It was such an irony for us to hear about Krishna, Hindu culture and Bhagavadgeeta from them. But for sure, we were impressed by the knowledge they possessed and respected them for that

Another interesting incident was that of a cab driver [American origin] who used to visit the temple. He had become a good friend of mine. On one occasion, I had to travel to Washington DC and had engaged him for a pick to the airport. Before we started from our apartment, the driver told me that it would cost $30 to reach the airport. He asked me to pay only that and mentioned he is not going to switch on the meter. Also he told if I wish to give him more money, he would donate it to ISKCON. It was very early in the morning [around 4:30 AM] and while we were headed to the airport, there was a poor man seated beside the road. The cab driver stopped the car and handed over a book published by ISKCON on Krishna and told the man to read and follow the principles as written in the book, and that itself is enough to feed him for the rest of the life. It was really amazing to see as to how teachings of Srila Prabhupada had inspired people to accept Krishna consciousness

It has been a wonderful experience to have been associated with ISKCON and the movement. There are a lot of good articles that gets written in the monthly magazine published by ISKCON. It is truly a blissful experience reading them and to get enlightened

Hare Krishna

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Traits of a S/w engineer

“You have to be good at logic and math”. This was a common phrase I used to hear during my college days in order to get hired in any of the S/w companies and to be a successful S/w engineer. I don’t deny the fact about good logical thinking being an essential skill, but there is more to it than only logic

One fine day [Jul 2002], when I came to work at Tantra, I was told that I might be deputed to a different organization to work on a project. During that week, Mahesh [owner of Tantra] and myself went to Knoxware’s office at Indiranagar. It was a fairly big office but I could see only handful of people working there. I was told by Mahesh that there would be an interview and only if I clear the interview there would be deputation. I was seated in the lobby area while Mahesh was having a conversation with Santosh Kejriwal [owner of Knox]. Later I was called to meet with Santosh for a brief chat and this was to be followed by a technical discussion with Satish Bhat

I did have the privilege to work with brilliant people while at Knoxware. The experiences and knowledge I had gained by working with them had been truly invaluable. Among the many important things that I learnt there, few that stands out would be commitment, temperament, communication, articulation, honesty, integrity. These are not in any order of importance, but 2 more traits would have to be added, programming and logical thinking. Probably these would occupy middle to last positions. From being a person who used to hear about math and logic as primary qualities for a S/w engineer, I discovered that these are “also” traits that an engineer has to possess

Satish Bhat had been an integral part of Knox and a very good friend of Santosh. He was the brain behind the technical architecture of the project I was supposed to work on. The first impression about Satish was that of a person who could articulate things extremely well and who made complicated stuff look easy. He was a master at various technologies and had great learning abilities. Working with him was like getting a master’s degree every day and on new things. Even though I had worked with him only for 3 months, the learning I’ve had was immense and they are staying with me even today and probably for ever after. It has been more than 13 years since I have met/worked with Satish. I hope our paths cross in the future as well

The technical interview at Knox was a brief one and focused on OOPs and C++. It was my first meeting with Satish and my first technical interview as well. It was a fairly nervous moment and Satish recognized that instantly. He made me feel comfortable and then started to probe me on C++. I was not very good at that technology and Satish got a feel of that instantly. I felt happy and embarrassed at the same time. Happy as I did not have to answer any more questions on C++ and embarrassed as I was not sure about the outcome of the interview. The discussion then focused on work I had done at Tantra and I was able to answer them pretty well

After about 20 mins of discussion, we went to meet Santosh. Mahesh had been seated with Santosh as well. To my astonishment, Satish accepted my candidature. He mentioned that though I’m weak at C++, he liked the way I looked at things and put them to work. I could barely understand what he had meant by that. But then, job was accomplished

When I look back at this moment today, I’m able to put the things into perspective and recognize why I was selected in the interview. The interview focused on many things apart from technology and that is where I believe the selection was made

It was very hard work during my tenure at Knox. Even though we were only 3 engineers and 1 architect working on the project, Satish provided mentorship to all of us and stood behind like a rock during times of crisis. It is another matter that due to the strict timelines, every day was a crisis

I used to see a gentleman who occasionally [couple of times a week and usually for about an hr’s time] used to visit Knox’s office and meet with Santosh and Satish. Later I realized that the gentleman was Harsha Kollaramajalu and happened to be the Chief Technology Officer [CTO] of Knox. My other friends at Knox told me that Harsha is the mentor/guide for Satish and is a technologist par excellence. Well, I could not imagine how would it like to be working with Harsha. Little did I realize that in the very near future, I would be working with him directly

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Moment of reckoning

I had come back from office at around 6:00 PM and it had been a rainy day. Office work was very hectic and often schedule used to be very irregular, like going to office post lunch and returning back early next day. This had been the norm for almost 2 months. We were working on a peer to peer file sharing system and which rivaled Napster. Work was very interesting and involved lots of learning

Santosh had been heading Knoxware and he came across as a very astute businessman. His communication and articulation style were very impressive. He was a very practical person and knew very well on how to get the things done

It was my first encounter with enterprise level product development. Technologies used were C++ and wxWindows. This was Linux equivalent of MFC but provided cross platform compatibility. There was no machine generated code, but we had to write the framework code as well. For a person who was used to MFC, this provided a platform to write all the code and learn in great depth on how the framework behaves

Project had been in a very critical phase and there was immense pressure on the team members to deliver faster than expected

I received a call on that rainy day from Santosh right after I reached home. I had not been well and hence had come home early. But circumstances were such that I had to get back to office at the earliest and told Santosh I’ll be there in some time. Right after that I received calls from the PJM and the Tech lead and they were telling me not to come. But I decided against it. It was raining heavily so I had to stop mid-way near Richmond circle. I called up Santosh and told him that it would take some more time for me to come

I reached office at around 9:00 PM and fully drenched. I could see a sense of gratitude and relief in the eyes of Santosh. I could not step into the office lest the floor would get wet. He immediately took me to his house and gave a pair of fresh clothes. We came back to office and started the marathon work session. Every person would have a moment of reckoning and I think this was mine. I’m not sure till date whether he valued me so much, but I believe this moment turned it around

I went back to my parent organization after the completion of my tenure at Knoxware. We met again after a month or so during the house warming ceremony of Harsha. This was in 2002. Since then we have not met in person. Whenever I go to US I make it a point to call him or when he is India, we speak over phone. Our friendship has grown over the years and we remain good friends till date even though it has been more than 13 years since we have met

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Strange encounters

There have been instances where in I have met some of my friends very rarely and these meetings have had lasting impacts. I have known Shankarnarayan right from my primary school days and he was my senior there. Also we used to stay 2 blocks away [Jayanagar 1st block] and often used to meet after school for cricket or just to roam around the streets. Gradually I lost contact with him, and met only once in a while. After we moved to BSK 2nd stage, I totally lost contact with him

My degree subject had been a combination of Hardware and Software. So there were great deliberations in the house on whether should I stick to Hardware or Software line. Both had its own pros and cons. Finally I started off with joining a Computer hardware servicing company. I started to gain experience in servicing and repairing computers, and slowly started to enjoy the work. In the meanwhile, my father had taken up a fabrication work at a house in Rajajinagar. The owner of the house had just started a S/w company [Tantra Solutions] and my father had spoken to him about me. I went along with my father to meet the owner [Mahesh P] and learn about the company

During those days [1999 - 2000] Infosys, Wipro, TCS were the main S/w companies, and everybody wanted to be part of these organizations. The salaries that were paid were huge [at least 10000/PM] and every parent wanted their children to settle down in one of these companies

It was a good meeting with Mahesh. The discussion went on for about 30 mins. Mahesh had been an expert at Database technologies and I was a novice. I only know dBase3 and did not know anything related to core DB concepts. But I had known C very well and had expressed my desire to work on this technology [and had frankly told that I don’t like to work on DB]

I was again called to meet other directors of the company. This is when I saw the physical location of the office. It was neat Majestic and in Cottonpet area. I met with Arvind, Kumar, Mahesh P and Mahesh N. There was one other director [Jayesh] whom I met at a later date

Having heard about big IT companies, doubts started to creep in my mind about Tantra. This was more to do with physical infrastructure rather than anything else. I bought some time for deliberation and continued working for the Computer service company. I was not convinced that I would want to join Tantra and decided to pursue career in Computer H/w field

I was returning home one day after office, and met Shankarnarayan accidentally near my house [I was meeting him after 10 years or so]. It had been a very pleasant surprise and spoke at length on how life is treating both of us. He had joined for a S/w course and was considering joining S/w companies [even though his father had an established business]. I had not told him about the interview at Tantra. During the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he would be willing to join any S/w company even though it did not have good infrastructure. This was mainly to do with gaining experience. He also advised me to do so if there is an opportunity. Probably he was able to foresee the future of S/w industry better

If it had not been for the rendezvous with Shankarnarayan, I might not have joined Tantra and not entered S/w at all. The wonderful journey I’m having in this sector started on Jan 24th 2000 from an office near Cotton pet main road. I have not met Shankarnarayan since then and not sure when the destiny would arrange further encounters

Monday, February 09, 2015

Victory comes at a cost

It had been a thumping majority for Modi and BJP during 2014 elections general elections. People were swept away by the manifesto and the promises BJP made towards taking India forward. It has been almost 1 year since the government has been in power and we are yet to see any tangible benefits that has reached common man. We all know that Modi is a man who has delivered amazing results in Gujarat and are expecting the same to happen at national level. Patience is waning out and it is time the government starts to deliver on its promises. Importantly the people on the ground should feel change. This has not happened yet. Wake up....

Arvind Kejriwal, take note of this fact. Thumping victory means people have great expectations and to be delivered in a short time. More the margin of victory, less the honeymoon period. This is inversely proportional. Work will have to start from today, and you have a long way to go. All the Best!!!

BJP, AAP hamein chahiye

There are a lot of marathon debates running across TV channels on who is better, BJP or AAP. My take is, let us not try to equate parties that are residing at either end of the spectrum. Both have their own agendas and are good in their own spheres. It is here that we as Indian nationals need to choose either of them based on the circumstances

BJP has been a party that has existed right from Independence movement and the contributions have been immense. It has provided to India visionary leaders like Shyama Prasad Mookharjee, Atal Behari Vajpayee et all. In recent times, visionary leaders like Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley are striving hard to take the country in the right direction. We need leaders like these to lead the nation and to reclaim the lost fame and glory. These are the people who are master strategists, think long term and have loads of experience in administration and public policy

AAP is a recent entrant to the political sphere. What started as a movement against corruption has got manifested into a political movement, which common people like you and me can readily associate with. What really matters to us is ground level realities. For ex: Corruption at Sub registrar’s office, Bribes at every step in public life and etc. These are important issues that needs to be rectified and AAP had provided a ray of hope when they were ruling Delhi. People saw that hafta collection stopped and people did not have to bribe government officials to get the job done. This is a party that did not have any experience in running a government and deserved a chance

Whatever happens to the Delhi elections, I believe it would be good for India. If AAP manages to clinch Delhi, the people of Delhi would have a ray of hope and would look forward to see corruption free administration. If BJP manages to win, it would be another feather in the cap for Modi and the state would benefit from same party rule at center and state. This also translates to greater coordination between state and center

If AAP loses Delhi, it would be a question of survival and would have to be seen how can the party keep itself united. If BJP loses Delhi, it would be an eye opener/realization that one size doesn’t fit all. This also will have greater national implications in the way of non BJP parties coming together in an opportunistic manner

Both these parties deserve to be in power but in different ways and places. This will be good for us