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Monday, January 28, 2013

Dress does not matter for carnatic music

Another stupid article from the so called News paper The Hindu

Everything in life is contextual. If our 4 million odd years of evolution has not taught us to look into only the intrinsic and essential aspects and instead resort to painting something as taboo it shows pure lack of maturity.
Culture develops only by change, developments etc. If we had all to stick to traditions strictly then we must be either moving around nakedly or with bare minimum leaves covering certain parts of the body as that was the most ancient tradition of human race.
While analyzing anything we must explore only the relevant facts and while doing that we must desist getting distracted from the following major traps:-
1] Mutilating the facts,
2] Analyzing them with preconceived notions or prejudices,
3] Generalizing the particular and particularizing the general,
4] Approaching facts with unloving criticism or uncritical love,
5] Evaluating facts with our pet isms or philosophies,
6] Resorting to statistical justifications,
7] Unleashing unworkable utopia,
8] Mask them with logical fallacies,
9] Bury them in pleasant jargons, and
10] Give historical justifications or passing judgements based on traditions which are contextually not suitable or valid or hold water or which in no way contribute or affect the essence of what we are analyzing.
In this specific context I would like to ask the critic SUSHILA KRISHNAMURTHI with all due respects to her whether as per the tradition in Markhazhi she adorned the floor of the facade of her house with kolam in Arisi mavu[ rice flour] bordered it with kavi [red paint] and kept a ball of cow dung at the centre and erected a pumpkin flower [paruthi poo] in the middle of that cow dung ball. Had she bathed before doing all these and draped 9 yards madisaru saree.
Applying and analyzing with irrelevant yardsticks is the result of both fallibility of human perception fallacy of illogicality.
This hypocrisy of criticising women’s attire is itself a very trite and tedious tradition. In fact I wrote some 15+ years back in column titled as Adam’s View in a women’s magazine about this hypocrisy. Those interested may read the article in the following link
In fact such reviews have nothing to do with music and it has become a trend with news papers like Hindu to write such nonsense on almost every subject because people reviewing music do not have adequate musical knowledge. Let us place such newspapers and such articles in the correct place i.e. dustbins.
I would indeed welcome a day when boys and girls sing nicely with proper sruthi and bhavam wearing jeans on the stage. After all what matters in a music concert is music not what the artist wears. Are sabhas , organizers and these media sponsoring for the dress of the musicians like they do in the west. They do not and hence they have no business to talk about these things. Instead let the organizers, media etc help promote classical music by paying enough money to ensure the younger generation take up and continue with music as a profession. Let them criticize about the state of pathetic acoustics in most places. Let them criticize about the politics in music organizations which act like BCCI. Let them make music a 365 day profession which feeds the audience with both money and popularity rather than make it a December industry. Let the sabhas and media treat artist with dignity as they do in the west. Let the media respect the artists’ privacy and personal tastes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dharbham the Holy Grass

Dharbham -the Holy Grass 

The Holy Grass known as Dharbham or Dharbai - Kush Grass, Kusa - Eragrostis cynosuroides (by TRS Iyengar)

This article is on one of the practices widely used by Indian Brahmins all over using a Holy Grass named Dharbham or Dharbai. The botonical name is Eragrostis cynosuroides and Hindi they call as Kus or Kusha. Brahmins in general and Srivaishnavites in particular use this Darbai grass in all functions, auspicious or inauspicious, a performing person needs to wear a ring made of this Dharbham. But many have lost the reason of why it is to be used in the first place.

What I learnt from my father is proved to be accurately correct by a Medicine Practitioner. A medical practitioner named Dr. Sadhashiv Rao, once visited my home. When the topic turned to many subjects, I needed to tell him about the Holy Grass named Dharbham. When I told him about the usage and the values, he could not just believe my words. So, he took out a bunch of the Dharbham from me, went straight to the clinic to take an x-ray of his palm, by covering his hand with the Dharbham. To his utter surprise, he found that the grass absorbed about 60% of the (x-ray) radiation!

When the so powerful X-ray radiation can be absorbed by the Holy Grass, why can it not absorb the ill-radiations spread over the atmosphere? While chanting and reciting some Vedic phrases and versus, one needs to wear a ring made of Dharbham on his right hand ring finger. This is most essential, while performing all the rituals, such as Agni Santhanam, Thiru-Aaradhanam, all sorts of 
Havans known as Homam etc.

The count of leaves depends upon the function that is held viz.: for some functions related to death only Single leaf Dharbham is used; for Auspicious and daily routine a ring made of two leaves is used; for inauspicious but not death related functions, (i.e. Amavasya Tharppanam,Pithru Pooja etc) a three leaf Dharbham ring is used. And for the Temple Prayer and Pooja, a Four-leaf Dharbham
ring is used.

Also, when a fire ritual known as Agni Santhana is performed, these Dharbham are spread all the four sides of the Agni Kundam. Also, during the Eclipse time, these Dharbham are used to cover all food items to protect them from the harmful ultra violet radiation.

Whenever any function is held, firstly they perform a site-cleansing act known as "Sudhhi Punyaahavachanam". While reciting the selective versus, they hold the Dharbham bunch in their hand and  placing the tip point of it over the vessel containing water. Thus the recited vibration values are absorbed by water in the vessel through the Dharbham.

They found that the Holy Grass known as Dharbham has the highest value in conducting the phonetic vibrations through its tip. Later, they sprinkle the Holy water at every nook and corner of the place, where the function is held. A Dharbham without the tip is considered of no value, as the conductor-type value is lost in it.

If dharbam is cut & collected on the Avani Amavasya day (falls during 15th August & 15th Sept) it can be retained for usage for one full year. Also, if cut on the Masi Amavasya day then also one can use it for full year. There is a specific slokha for cutting dharbam (the holy grass) that is to be recited while cutting it; I give below the same for readers to know. If Dharbam is obtained from a 
Brahmin who doesn't know this slokam or versus, the Dharbam is useless, states the Vedic scripts!

My father, Late Shri Ramabathrachariar of Mukkur, fondly called by everyone as Sriraman, has taught me the immense values of Dharbham and its usage. With Sanskrit phonetic sound and  vibration, using the Dharbham increases its value. The usage varies according to the functions. It is really a marvel, that in those days of Vedic Era, the Sages & Saints of Hindu land used to control
the Magnetic path disturbances, just by simply using this Dharbham! One more important thing about the Dharbam is, which is not commonly known to many, that one case use the same Dharbam again and again for seven times, provided, it is washed and dried properly before reuse. This is permitted only when/where no fresh Kusa Grass the Dharbai is available for regular usage. However, the Dharbam used for
any inauspicious ceremonies viz. Death and karma rituals, should never be used again!

While I was just preparing this article, I received an interesting E-mail from Sri. Vijay Narasimhan, which I give below without


Basically all our Vedas and Upanishads are written in Sanskrit, Which basically is a phonetic based language. So I have a feeling that it is not just the mantras being powerful but mainly due to the effects "Sound" has over a humans body. I feel that our ancestors had mastered the art of sound; phonetics and acoustics as such. So when the Vedas was written and the tone set for its
deliverance that had no effect whatsoever on a "Man's" body but it should have definitely had a profound effect on a "Woman's" body that would have been the reason why ladies are not allowed to chant mantra or the Vedas or Upanishads or for that matter any of the slokas that a man recites. When we do Paaraayanam, I feel that the reason why girls are not allowed to do that is basically
their physique cannot take the tremendous changes effected due to sustained practice of known as Recital.

This is something that my grandpa's younger brother told me about, when we perform the Kumbabhishekam in a temple, At least 20 learned Vedic scholars would stand near the "kumba jalam"  ( holy water kept in the copper or brass vessel) and holding a "Dharbam",one end in their hand and other end in the water would recite all the slokas need or rather do the "Japam" - I think this is
because "Dharbam" is a very good conductor of acoustic vibrations - When this happens you can surely find the difference in the water's state before and after such a japam. The reason why i am  saying this has reference to my stating that Sanskrit is a phonetic based language and "Sound and Acoustics" does really change things.

Our ancestors would have done lot of research into acoustics management resulting in they mastering the art of sound and acoustics and using them to both, their constructive and destructive benefits. Again this is purely my and only my own opinion.


Apart from the above, Dharbham cannot be planted and grown everywhere. It only grows naturally at selective places and available almost in every state in India. Several persons at many occasions tried to cultivate this plant but failed to see its growth. Why, anyone can try this now if it is possible for them to plant & cultivate in their locations! Sorry, it will not grow as one might 
think. It has its potential soil selection, magnetic path locations and soil conditions that add value to its growth only in selective places! Some learned scholars name it after Saint Vishwaamitra – hence Dharbham is known and also called as "Vishwaamitra". If it is kept for a longer time, say for more than six months, (excepting the one cut during Masi & Avani Amavasya days.) then it loses its
value and the power of absorbing the radiation or magnetic path control values. However, the same can be used even after six month, only if it is re-energized with specific counts of Gayatri Mantra and when the Gayatri Japa mantra water is sprinkled on it. There is a system and ritual to revibrate/renergize the Dharbam after its lapes of six month!

Dharbham cannot just be plucked straight or cut on any day; There is a specific Slokha given above, that is to be recited before cutting it; That too it can be cut only on the day next to Full Moon - known as Krishna Paksha Pradamai. A Dharbham without its tip portion is not to be used for making a Ring like item known as "Pavithram".

A word of caution for the new users of this Dharbai / Dharbam. It is sharper than a blade! The edges are so sharp, it might even hurt & cut your palm if handled carelessly, that you'll notice only when you find blood oozing from your palm! Yes, you'll not feel the pain while injuring, but later one feels it. Only when it is wet, you can twist it to the form you need to make the called Pavithram or Bugnams.

science and its short comings

FROM 101 Things You Don't Know about Science and No One Else Does Either BY JAMES TREFIL just three samples

How Much Is a Kilogram?

When you buy hamburger in a supermarket, you aren't likely to worry that the weight written on your package is
incorrect. This is because there is a system stretching from your neighborhood store to scientific laboratories
around the world devoted to making sure that scales are correctly calibrated. Maintaining accurate standards of
measurement has always been a traditional responsibility of governments, and today it is a major scientific
undertaking. But old-fashioned or modern, the basic idea is the samethe government sets the standard for weight or
length or whatever, to which everyone within that government's jurisdiction must adhere.
The oldest such standard we know of is the Babylonian mina, a unit of weight equal to about a pound and a half.
The standards were kept in the form of carved ducks (five mina) and swans (ten mina), and were presumably used
in balances to weigh merchandise. In the Magna Carta, King John agreed that ''there shall be standard measures for
wine, corn, and ale throughout the kingdom." The marshal of the great medieval fairs at Champagne kept an iron
rod and required that all bolts of cloth sold at the fair be as wide as the rod. For most of recorded history each
country has kept various different standards for different purposes. In America, for example, we measure land in
acres, grain production in bushels, and height in feet and inches. According to the Handbook of Chemistry and
Physics, there are no fewer than eighteen different kinds of units called the barrel, for measuring everything from
liquor to petroleum. There is even a barrel used exclusively to measure cranberries!
It was, I suppose, to get away from these sorts of confusions that the nations of the industrialized world signed the
Treaty of the Meter in 1875. According to this treaty, ''the" kilogram and "the" meter were to be kept at the
International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris, and secondary standards were to be maintained in other
national capitals. In the United States, they were kept at the Bureau of Standards (now the National Institutes of
Standards and Technology, or NIST) in Washington, D.C. The meter was the distance between two marks on a
length of platinum-iridium alloy, the kilogram the mass of a specific cylinder of the same stuff.
But since the setting of these simple, intuitive standards, advances of technology have made them obsolete. It's all
very well for "the" meter to reside in a vault in Paris, but it would be much more convenient if everybody could
have access to a uniform standard. Thus the trend has been away from the kind of centralized standard-keeping
codified in the Treaty of the Meter and toward standards based on the one truly universal thing we know aboutthe
properties of atoms. The development of the atomic clock is one example of such a move, the new standards for
the meter another. In 1960 the platinum-iridium bar was discarded and the meter redefined as 1,650,763.73
wavelengths of a particular color of light emitted by a krypton atom. Since every krypton atom in the world is the
same, this redefinition meant that every laboratory in the world could maintain its own standard meter. In 1983,
following further development of the atomic clock, the meter was redefined as the distance light travels through the
vacuum in 1/299,792,458 second. Again, this standard can be maintained in any laboratory.
But the kilogram hasn't changed. It's still that same cylinder sitting inside three protective bell jars on a quartz slab
inside a vault in Paris. Even in such an environment, however, atoms of other substances stick to the cylinder's surface. Until 1994 it was cleaned periodically by an old technician using a
chamois cloth. (I remember listening to an absolutely fascinating argument at a NIST lunch over whether or not
removing atoms by washing was worse than letting gases accumulate on the surface.) When the United States
wants to check whether its version of the kilogram still matches the standard in Paris, the American kilogram has
to be carried overseas for tests. The last time this was done, in 1984, two scientists went with it one to carry it, the
other to catch it if it fell.
This is no way to run a high-tech society, and there is an enormous push to develop an atomic mass standard and
put ''the" kilogram into a museum. One technology that may allow us to do this is the new technique of isolating
single atoms in a complex "trap" made of electrical and magnetic forces so that they can be studied for months at a
time. These single atoms stay in the traps so long that they acquire names (the first, a barium atom trapped in
Munich in the 1980s, was called Astrid). It is not too difficult to determine the mass of individual atoms to high
accuracy; the problem is counting the number of atoms in a sample big enough to serve as a mass standard.
The cylinder that now constitutes "the" kilogram contains approximately 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
atoms, so even if we knew how much each one weighed to incredible accuracy, we'd have a real problem knowing
how many to add. At the moment, at least five different techniques are being developed to give the kilogram an
atomic definition, and I don't imagine it will be long before one of them succeeds. When this happens, the
kilogram will join the meter in its museum.

2] Why Does a Protein Have the Shape It Has?

Life is based on the chemical reactions between molecules, and these reactions depend on molecular geometry.
This statement represents one of the most profound truths we know about the nature of life.
Take the combining of two large molecules as an example. Bonds can be created only between individual atoms.
Think of the atoms that could form bonds as small patches of Velcro on a large, convoluted sphere. For
combination to occur, the molecules have to come together in such a way that the Velcro patches are juxtaposed.
The chance of this happening in a random encounter is pretty small, so chemical reactions in cells depend on a
third kind of molecule called an enzyme. The enzyme attaches separately to each of the molecules taking part in a
reaction, assuring that each one's Velcro is in the right position and allowing the reaction to proceed. The enzyme
is not itself affected in the process. Think of it as a broker who brings together a buyer and a seller but doesn't buy
or sell anything himself.
The enzymes in our cells are proteins, which are long molecules made from a set of smaller molecules called
amino acids. The amino acids are assembled like beads on a string, and the resulting protein then curls up into a
complex shape. Because there are so many possible combinations of ''beads," the final assembly can have many
possible shapes, which makes proteins ideal for the role of enzymes.
Cells work like this: the DNA in the nucleus contains codes specifying the order of the amino acid beads that go
into a protein. The stretch of DNA that contains the blueprint for one protein is called a gene. Each gene codes for one
protein, and each protein acts as an enzyme for one chemical reaction. In a particular cell, as many as a few
thousand genes may be operating at any given time.
This knowledge, combined with our ability to manufacture genes and implant them in bacteria, opens an exciting
possibility. If we know the chemical reaction we wish to drive, we can figure out the shape of the enzyme needed
to drive it. If we know how a specific sequence of amino acids folded up into a protein's final shape, we can design
a gene to make that sequence, put it into some bacteria, and brew it up.
But there's a problem with this notion that has plagued biochemists for the last forty years. Even if we know the
sequence of amino acids in a proteinthe order of the beads on the stringwe simply do not know how to predict the
protein's final shape. A solution to what is known as the ''protein folding problem" remains tantalizingly beyond
the grasp of modern science.
The reason for this gap in our understanding is simple: there can be hundreds of thousands of atoms in a single
protein, and even our best computers aren't good enough to keep track of everything that goes on when the protein
folds up.
At the moment, two lines of research are being pursued. The first involves experiments whose goal is to designate
intermediate states in the folding process. For example, a long chain might first twist into a corkscrew, then have
some segments fold over double, and then fold up into its final shape. By knowing these intermediate states we can
break the folding process down into a series of simpler steps. One difficulty with this approach is that proteins
apparently can follow many different folding sequences to get to a given final state.
Other scientists are trying to use clever computing techniques to predict the final shape a string of amino acids will taketechniques that do not require following each atom
through the folding process. For example, computer programs can estimate the final energy state of different
folding patterns. Since systems in nature move to states of lowest energy, the suggestion is that when you find the
lowest energy state, you have found the final pattern of the molecule. The problem: there may be many low-energy
states, and it becomes difficult to know which one the molecule will wind up in.
Another computer approach involves the techniques of artificial intelligence. Data on known folding patterns of
amino acid strings are fed into a computer, which then guesses a folding pattern for a new molecule based on
analogies to known proteins. The problem: you can never be sure the guess is right.
Whichever technique finally brings us to a solution of the protein folding problem, one thing is clear. When the
problem is solved, we will have eliminated a major roadblock on the road to manufacturing any molecule we want

3] How Does the Brain ''See"?

Take a moment to look around you. What do you see? Perhaps you see a room with colored walls, pictures, doors,
and windows. Whatever you see, though, one thing is cleara collection of cells in your eye and brain has converted
incoming light from the environment into a coherent picture. Over the past few years, scientists have started to
construct an amazingly detailed picture of how that process works.
It begins when light enters the eye and is focused on the retina at the back of the eyeball. There, in the cells called
rods and cones (because of their shapes), the energy of the light is converted into a nerve signal. At this point, the
external environment ceases to play a role in the process, and the mechanisms of the brain and the nervous system
take over. The central question: how are those initial nerve impulses in the retina converted into an image?
Since the early twentieth century, scientists have known that the basic units of the nervous system are cells called
neurons. Each of the many types of neurons has a central cell body, a collection of spikes (called dendrites) that
receive signals from one set of neurons, and a long fiber called an axon through which signals go out to another
set. The neuron is an all-or-nothing, one-way elementwhen (by a process we don't understand) it gets the right mix
of signals from its dendrites, it "fires" and sends a signal out along its axon. The problem for brain scientists is to
understand how a set of cells with these properties can produce images of the outside world.
The first bit of processing of the data carried by the light occurs in two layers of cells in the retina (oddly enough, these cells are located in front of the rods and cones,
blocking incoming light). These cells are connected in such a way that a strong impulse will go to the brain from
one set of cells if it sees a bright dot with a dark surround and a weak signal from that set otherwise. Another set
of cells will send a strong signal if it sees a dark dot with a white surround and a weak signal otherwise. The signal
that goes to the brain, then, consists of impulses running along axons that, in effect, break the visual field down
into a series of bright and dark dots.
These signals arrive at the primary visual cortex at the back of the brain, and from this point on the system is
designed to build the collection of dots back into a coherent picture. The signals feed into a set of cells in one
particular layer of the visual cortex, located in the back of the brain. Each of the cells in that set will fire if it gets
strong signals from a certain subset of cells in the retina. For example, one of the cortex cells may fire if it gets
signals corresponding to a set of dark dots tilted at an angle of 45 degrees. In effect, this cell ''sees" a tilted dark
edge in the visual field. Other cells will fire for bright edges, for edges at different angles, and so on. The output
from these cells, in turn, is passed on to other cells (perhaps in other parts of the brain) for further integration.
So the process of seeing is far from simple. Neurons fire and pass information upward through a chain of cells,
while at the same time feedback signals pass back down the chain and affect lower cells. Working out the details of
this complex chain is one important area of research. Another is following the chain upward, to ever more
specialized neurons. There are, for example, neurons in the temporal lobes (located on the sides of the brain) that
fire only when they get signals corresponding to certain well-defined patternsone set of cells may fire strongly in
response to a dark circle with a horizontal line through it, another to a star shape, another to the outline of a square, and so on. Presumably neurons higher up the
chain combine the output of these cells to construct even more integrated versions of the visual field.
Thus our image of the external world is built up in the brain by successive integrations of visual elements. Where
does the process end? At one point, some neurophysiologists talked about the existence of the ''grandmother
cell"the one cell in your brain that would fire when all the stimuli were right for an image of your grandmother.
While this simple notion has fallen out of favor, it seems likely that within the next decade scientists will be able to
trace the physical connections from the cones and rods all the way to the cells in the brain that put together the
final picture. Other scientists are already trying to locate the cells in the frontal lobe that fire when short-term
memory is activated. This work starts the next step in understanding the visual processfinding out how we
recognize an object whose image has been constructed.
But even when all these neural pathways have been traced out and verified, the most intriguing question of all will
remain: what is the "I" that is seeing these images? To answer that question, we'll have to know about more than
neural circuitswe'll have to understand consciousness itself.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Intellectual Curiosity

What an article I got a came across this only today i.e.27th Jan 2013 but published on 24th Jan 2013. Serendipity itself is a prompting by some unknown sources, if we are not too fussy ideologically or do not mind giving credit to some unknown element  we can ascribe that to some divine vibration and label it as god if we wish to. But undoubtedly it is a reminder to us that all life on this planet and elsewhere are interconnected, interactive either actively or passively and interdependent and in this scheme of things we can neither deny nor defy the importance of anything or anyone. This is precisely what one of the great philosophical system teaches in a nut shell as, "The spirit of Advaita is not to keep away from anything, but to keep in tune with everything." - - Swami Chinmayananda. I could see this [serendipity and interconnectedness] as a fact because unintentionally I posted in Jan2013 on my face book wall the following two pictures with sayings and observations

Intellectual Curiosity and the Military Officer
Journal Article | January 24, 2013 

“To this day I still have the instinct that the treasure, what one needs to know for a profession, is necessarily what lies outside the corpus, as far away from the center as possible.  But there is something central in following one’s own direction in the selection of readings: what I was given to study in school I have forgotten; what I decided to read on my own, I still remember.”
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb
A degree doesn’t make you smart.  A formal education doesn’t make you wise.  But without that piece of paper from somewhere, you won’t get promoted.  Just turn that box green, and to the promotion board, your intellectual merit is validated.
But should it?  Recently, the age old military debate of whether a technical or humanities degree makes a better warfighter has again reared its head.  Both sides are right – and wrong.  They each also miss the point about what continuing education in a strategic framework really means.
Anecdotal examples from some historic and present warfighters give a confusing picture when trying to validate either position.
John Boyd got a degree in industrial engineering, with a detour into thermodynamic physics along the way, and revolutionized military strategic thought.  VADM James Stockdale went to Stanford and took a Masters in International Relations, but spent most of his time absorbing Stoic philosophy, laying the groundwork for his remarkable leadership in the hell of the Hanoi Hilton.  ADM James Stavridis earned a PhD in International Relations from Tufts, and is one of the most innovative flags to ever have served.  General James Mattis attended the National War College, and will forever be recognized as both a remarkable warrior and cunning diplomat.
Aside from the first name James, what set these remarkable military leaders and intellects apart?  What about their respective educations assisted their rise?  Was it the degree they took or something more?
To be sure, a degree is a signaling device of higher intellectual abilities.  Only 8 percent of the American population holds a Master’s Degree or higher.   Furthermore, the military at large is better educated than the general population, as Tim Kane, most recently of Bleeding Talent fame, pointed out in 2005. Yet, these general trends hardly matter when it comes to strategic brilliance.
The very term “brilliance” implies an outlier; someone well removed from the intellectual norm of society. It is in this rarified region that our best battlefield commanders and strategic minds reside.  It is also the place where the degrees they have are secondary to the minds that earned them.
And this is where we find the defining characteristic of the strategic thought leaders throughout the ages.  It is an intellectual curiosity punctuated by a desire to learn as much as possible from as many people as possible in as many areas as possible as often as possible. 
You have to want to learn to learn.  If you are intellectually curious, you will go in search of answers – often finding them where you least expect them, growing wiser along the way.  Your curiosity will lead you to discover the world is more than either Mechanical Engineering or International Relations.  It is the complex interaction of both, and more. 
The formal degree, if any, is just a basic foundation.  Real learning occurs over years of voracious reading and concerted, sometimes heated, interaction with other minds.  Show me an inspiring leader, and I will show you a continuous learner who experiments with the ideas they have absorbed. 
General Mattis, the Warrior Monk, is famous for this.  At one point, he had a collection ofover 7,000 volumes in his personal library.  Vice Admiral Stockdale’s intellectual foundation, which allowed him to survive Vietnam, was rooted in extensive studies, and debates, over the Greek and Roman classics.  John Boyd read everything under the sun, combining philosophy, physics, economics and sociology, among others, to create his defining works.  Admiral Stavridis is a self-professed “big reader of fiction” in addition to his daily, extensive intellectual diet.
Reading, however, is just the beginning.  It, to paraphrase Peggy Noonan of Reagan speechwriting fame, is the sowing of intellectual capital.  It is the synthesis of all these ideas, and the vigorous interaction with others about these ideas, that create a mind able to tackle the biggest problems. 
Far too often military people live in their own bubble, seeing little need to interact with the civilian society they protect.  Much of this has to do with too many of our duty stations being located far from intellectually vibrant and innovative metropolises.  Even if we wanted to be engaged in local non-military friendships, it’s difficult to do so in places like Twenty Nine Palms.
Although anecdotal, one of the most intellectually liberating experiences of my life was PCSing from sleepy and rural Lemoore, California to San Diego – a hub of biotech and entrepreneurial culture.  I knew nothing of either industry, but merely having the opportunity to interact with those different than me sparked numerous unanticipated collaborations, and a greater understanding of the world at large. 
Being exposed to more people and more ideas inherently increases serendipity.  Serendipity, in turn, creates exponential opportunity directly proportional to the amount of intellectual preparation already undertaken.  That opportunity leads to action, and sometimes, revolutionary change.
The most potent collaborations match people of different temperaments and talents together, leveraging the best of each for a sum far greater than their constituent parts.  Strategists, by their very nature, are experts at connecting disparate dots into a cohesive whole, necessarily linking people together to accomplish this.  Again, the foundation for all of this is rigorous, diverse and continuous intellectual curiosity.
So, what’s the prescription for educating a future strategist?  Degrees are fine, but insufficient and end at some point.  Therefore, learn everything you can, formal or otherwise, and maximize serendipitous relationships.  Meet with people you wouldn’t normally interact with.  Start understanding the people outside the military silo – because in 21st century warfare, the greatest adversaries will likely not be professional warriors. 
Read, but fail fast – namely, if something bores you, move on to something that doesn’t.  Learn things as they become relevant to the problems or interests in your given stage of life.  Read on a variety of topics, to include non-military fiction.   The human condition is better revealed in Hugo’s Les Miserables and Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo than nearly all psychology textbooks combined. 
Engage in frequent discussions with those you disagree with.  Create twitter friendships anddebate the merits of military ethics.  Push the envelope, and be willing to take heat for crazy ideas like melding MBA programs with the Naval War College.  You might be wrong – but your ideas will evolve, adapt, and become better in proportion to the frequency of their exposure to reality. 
The tricky part for bureaucracies evaluating talent is that this is not easily quantifiable.  There is no metric the board recorder can point to in the Tank when your name pops on the screen to say, “he gets it.”  You won’t get your “intellectual curiosity qualification” alongside your JPME II because it is an ever evolving, ongoing process. 
Rather, it will, and does permeate itself in more subtle ways.
The intellectually curious officer will find innovative ways to solve problems.   He will have built relationships beyond his service and community to create collaborations and get things done more effectively.  He will be better able to empathize with their people better.  He will be more attuned to the military and non-military goals of his subordinates.  Most importantly, when an adversary arrives in a form that was unanticipated, he will be able to draw upon years of education tested not in the classroom, but in the real world.
In short, a given degree is of minor consequence.  Strive for life-long learning, be curious, and turn off the damn TV so you can do something productive.  General Mattis, by the way,has never owned one either. 

charama slOka

charama slOka

Significance of Charama Sloka

Dr. C. Umakantham
Associate Professor
S.V. University

(Sapthagiri magazine of TTD)

Sarvadharman Parityajya Mam Ekam Saranam Vraja |
Aham tva Sarva Papebhyo Mokshayishyami Masuchaha ||

This is the noblest of all Slokas in the Bhagavad Gita. The commentators have shown their originality in commenting upon this Sloka and maintaining their own point of view. To Ramanuja, this is the final verse (charma sloka) of the whole Gita. So, these are the final verses of Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the eighteenth chapter of sixty sixth Sloka of Gita. It is a universal scripture. The implied meaning of this Sloka according to Ramanuja, is that if an aspirant has no capacity to perform Sadhanas like Karmayoga, Jnanayoga, Bhaktiyoga etc., he can perform this alternative Sadhana through Charama sloka. The first part of the sloka states, "Having given up all Dharmas or rites unintentionally, surrender to the Lord alone". Further, the first sentence explains the thing that has to be done by the doer of Saranagati. The second part assures, "I will release you from all sins and give Moksha; don't despair or grieve". In the second sentence the things that the Lord will do for the sake of doer of Saranagati is explained. On close observation, it is obvious that the first part of the verse shows that the Lord only as the Upaya or the means to be adopted at times of distress and the later part explains the fruits of Saranagati. We now deal with the first part of the Charamasloka.

A summary of the meaning of the Charama sloka

In 'Rahasyatrayasara' Vedanta Desika (Tr. Rajagopala Ayyangar) vividly says about Charama Sloka as follows:

"Your knowledge is limited; your ability is insignificant, your life is short and you are also impatient of delay; therefore do not go about seeking other upayas which you cannot (fully) understand; which you cannot easily adopt and which can bear fruit only after much delay; Realise that I, who am easy of access to all, who am the Saviour of all the worlds, and who am endowed with the attributes essential for a Saviour, am the only upaya and perform the surrender of the responsibility of protecting your self to me with its five Angas. When you have adopted this upaya, you will have done what you ought to do, you will become my ward and be extremely dear to me. Supremely compassionate and gracious, independent and omnipotent, I will, myself, by my mere will and without any other aid, and for the fulfilment of my own purposes, free you from the manifold, endless and insurmountable groups of obstacles without leaving any trace of them. I will enable you to have enjoyment similar to mine own, since you will enjoy myself and all that belongs to me. I will find delight in making you render all forms of service in all places, at all times and in all circumstances - service which will be of the nature of the overflow of the full and perfect enjoyment (of my self) you have absolutely no cause for grief".

The first sentence of the sloka contains six words (Sarvadharman, Parityaja, Mam, Ekam, Saranam, Vraja) and the second sentence contains five words (Ahamtva, Sarvapapebyo, Mokshayishyami, Ma, Suchaha) - both comprise 32 alphabets.

Meaning of the word 'Sarva Dharman'

The general meaning of the word 'Dharma' is 'the way' or 'means of attaining an object'. The way or means is shown in the Sastras. The word Dharman (in plural number) indicates the varied nature of the ways or means of Dharmas. The word 'sarva' means 'all' which includes the sayings in Sruti, Smruti etc. as follows: Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhaktiyoga, Avatararahasyajnanam, Purushottama Vidya, Desavasam, Tirunama Sankeerthanam, Tiruvilakkuerikkai, Tirumalai edukkai etc., are the things to be done intentionally. It is suggestive of the Angas or limbs of Dharmas which are referred to by the word 'all'. But 'Sarva' could also be interpreted to mean the opposite of 'one' i.e., Anga Dharmas. Another meaning of the word 'Dharma' is the absence of qualities like Nitya and Kamya Karmas. The 'Dharma' without these qualities would refer to other Upasanas or meditation with accessories like Dharavidya, Sandilya Vidya etc., for attaining liberation. Thus, according to Visistadvaita - 'Sarva Dharman' refers to Upasanas or certain Vidyas but not the duties pertaining to social life. Pillai Lokacharya also underlines that the word Dharma here refers only to the 'Mokshapha-lasadhana' in a sutra. Commenting on the Sutra, Manavala Mamuni stresses that here Mokshaphala sadhana means that it contains Bhagavatprapti. With a view to change the wavering mind of Arjuna who considered his duty of war as Adharma, the Lord Krishna says it as 'Dharma'.

Implications of the word 'Parityajya'

The word 'Parityajya' means 'having given up' or ' renunciation' which implies that Saranagati does not require other Sadhanas. This gives rise to the question, how can the aspirant know his ability to renounce all Sadhanas. Desire develops bondage and renunciation is advocated, though it is not easy to adopt or practice perfectly. The syllable 'pari' in Parityajya means extreme dislike or aversion. According to Rahasyatrayasara of Vedanta Desika "Aversion in every form" means being without the improper desire to perform what is impossible for a man with the thought: "Though I cannot adopt the upaya in full perfection, I will do it to the best of my ability; when that also is too difficult to perform, I will adopt, in the place of the prescribed Angas, something less difficult or the upayas which will produce the prescribed Upayas". Ramanuja has said in his Saranagati Gadya thus: "I see no means of crossing the sea of Samsara in all the eternity of time which lies before me". When one desires to adopt any Sadhana it is preferable to adopt any easy Sadhana rather than difficult ones like Karma, Jnana and Bhakti etc. In such a predicament, "Give up all Dharmas" is an advice to an aspirant who has renounced all other Sadhanas which are unsuitable for practice. In such circumstances alone one can adopt Saranagati. This only goes to prove that Saranagati does not need any other Sadhana along with it.

Pillai Lokacharya classifies the word 'Parityajya' under three aspects viz. Tyaga, Laypu and Upasarga. 'Tyaga' means not merely giving up the Dharmas; but it means that one has the constant mind in giving up other upayas also as a mean, like thinking of the brass as silver or thinking of a particular route which is wrong and that one has to go through another route. Manavala Mamuni adds that one has to feel for his ignorance of following other means for Moksha though he is the one who desires that Lord is the means for Bhagavatprapti. The syllable 'Layup' means that it stresses the giving up of other upayas andsurrender unto the Lord who is the only means to attain Moksha just like the Sastras which prescribe that one has to take food only after bath. Likewise one has to practice Saranagati, after giving up all other Sadhanas.

In conclusion, it can be summarised thus: Vidhi or imperative presupposes the renunciation of all Dharmas. To put it differently and more simply, the Dharmas that are required for all the other Vidhyas are not necessary for Saranagati. For instance: (i) shaving off one's head (ii) residing in holy places where Bhagawan is residing (iii) wearing the holy thread. In other words, Saranagati does not prescribe the renunciation of any Dharma. Some Acharyas, while attempting to explain what is Charamasloka, first state what need not be done and then state what has to be done. But all Acharyas are in total agreement that Saranagati can be practised only when one is ignorant of all the other Sadhanas and one is fully aware of the relationship betwen Jivatman and Paramatman. The following are the implications of the word 'Sarvadharman Parityajya':

1. Inability to perform the duties beyond one's capabilities makes one suitable for adopting the Sadhana of Saranagati. 

2. Total ignorance of other Sadhanas becomes a qualification for Saranagati. 

3. Giving up all rites or Dharmas becomes an Anga for Saranagati. 

4. Non-indulgence in trying to perform what one is not capable of. 

5. Being uninterested in doing what one is unable to do. 

6. The principle of Brahmastra which states that resorting to use any other accessory or Anga would render the entire attempt a failure. 

Meaning of the word 'Mam'

Pillai Lokacharya lucidly expresses the word 'Mam'. Mam means the Lord Narayana who is all protector, who responds to Bhaktas' prayers disregarding their mistakes and who is the asylum, the constant protector even when 'Sri as the mediator intercedes to help the jiva for unison. Further, the word 'Mam' dispels the other stages of the Lord i.e., Para, Vyuha and other Devas like Agni, Indra and so on, since the Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to vanquish all Dharmas and surrender to Him, as He is the real Dharma (Sakshat Dharma). Pillai Lokacharya says that this word 'Mam' directly focuses on the attributes of the Lord i.e. Vatsalya, Swamitva, Souseelya and Sowlabhya. He beautifully describes Lord Krishna who is having the following qualities in his Mumukshuppadi :

He brings out the dramatic contrast within the image of Lord Krishna, who is both the charioteer, sitting on the chariot with His legs dangling over the edge, His hands holding rein and a whip, and his hair all awry with the dust of the battlefield, and at the same time He is the Supreme Lord who declares that He is the ultimate refuge of all men.

Vedanta Desika in his 'Rahasyatrayasara' defines by quoting Harivamsa Sloka that 'Mam' means that the Lord is the saviour. Lord Narayana who has the ocean - milk as His abode has now come to the city of Madhura leaving His serpentine bed Adisesha. He also elicits that it means the Lord's inseparable qualities like Sousilya Seshi, His being the Lord of Sri, His being Narayana, omniscience, omnipotence etc. Each quality is enumerated by quotations from Bhagavat Gita, Lakshmi Tantra, Vishnu Purana, Amanushastava and so on.

The word 'Ekam'

The syllable 'Mam' in singular offers the same meaning of 'Ekam'. Pillai Lokacharya further means that the word 'Ekam' implies the meaning of negation of the nature or Upaya in choosing Saranagati, as understood in the word 'Vraja'. According to Vedanta Desika, the word 'Ekam' represents the fact that Lord is the Ultimate goal of the Jiva and He is at the same time the Upaya for attaining that goal. He is comparable to the Kalpaka tree that has the power of granting all wishes. The usage of the word 'Eka' after the word 'Mam' shows the underlying unity in the ultimate goal of attainment and the means for that attainment. The Bhagavatam expresses the same idea in these words, "By all Sadhanas, seek the protection from Me alone who am the inner self of all beings. You will then have no fear of any kind". Some Acharyas interpret 'Ekam' in a different way. They are of the opinion that 'Ekam' means 'Chief', 'something other than' and 'there is no other than this'. These could be synonymous with 'no other' and lastly 'only' or 'alone' as the Gita says:

Daivi hyesa gunamayi mamamaya duratyaya |
Mameva ye prapadyate mayametam tarantite ||

"Those who seek Me alone (and no other) as their refuge will overcome the insurmountable Maya". Ahirbudhnya Samhita also says as follows: 'I pray that thou alone shouldst be my upaya'.

Meaning of the word 'Saranam'

According to Pillai Lokacharya, the word 'Saranam' has several meanings such as Upaya, abode, protector, taking refuge in and total surrender at the lotus feet of the Lord. Here it means 'upaya' only because it has to add with the meaning of 'Sarva...Ekam'. This is being underlined in Ahirbudhnya Samhita. This was the prayer that was taught to Arjuna by Lord Krishna. It is applicable to all and Ramanuja has mentioned it in his Saranagati Gadya thus, "O thou who art the saviour of all beings in the world ignoring the differences that may exist among those that seek thee" and in the utterance of Valmiki, he said, "The great and eminent Rishis say that thou art the refuge and the saviour of those that have sought thy protection". These prove beyond doubt that the Almighty is the only saviour for all Jivas. The most essential requisite while taking refuge in Him is that one should not entertain the idea of any other Lord except Lord Narayana.

Meaning of the word 'Vraja'

'Vraja' means 'choose' or 'take to'. It is comparable to 'Prapadye' of Dvayamantra because it also enjoys self-surrender. In Prapadye the first person 'I' is used because it is only a meditation of a man who performs Saranagati, whereas in the word 'Vraja' of Charamasloka, the second person 'you' is used because it is addressed to Arjuna by Lord Krishna. It is the mind to choose the right path through mind'. This is called Jnana Visesham. This Jnana Visesham is also attainable by the grace of the Lord as spoken by Nammalvar - 'Aduvum Avanadhu Innarule' in Tiruvoiymozhi.

This leads to an intriguing question; whether the aspirant has the option of surrendering or not because the very soul is bestowed with a 'free will'. So, Saranagati is definitely an act of choice, an exercise of free will when it becomes convinced of the Jiva's utter helplessness and feels the necessity of attaining the life's goal i.e. Moksha. Does possession of the free-will lead the Jiva to choose the right path for the attainment of the Ultimate goal? Every Jiva is free to choose the path of liberation. However the right conduct is to seek refuge in Lord because man is helpless. The discerning power must actuate the free will to discriminate between what duties have to be performed and what ought not to be performed.

As seen above, the Charama Sloka consists of two parts. In the first part a particular Upaya the Lord is suggested for a particular Adhikari. It also enumerates the ways to be adopted by Adhikari to attain Moksha. Hence in the first sentence of this Sloka the following theme is derived:

The negation of all Dharmas intentionally is spoken in 'Sarva Dharman Parityajya' meaning the method of negation, 'Mam' means the Lord as Upaya, 'Ekam' means the negation of other means like Karma, Jnana and Bhakti, Saranam means the nature of upaya. 'Vraja' means the upayasveekaram.

Let us discuss the syllable existing in the second part of the Charama Sloka. In the second part Bhagawan is said to be the saviour who eagerly awaits the opportunity to protect and comfort the aspirant. For this, the aspirant must perform Saranagati with wholehearted faith in God. In other words, the second sentence enlightens the doings of Lord Krishna.

The meaning of the word 'Aham'

'Aham' or 'I' is the only source capable of doing the impossible and relieving the evil effects of one's sins. Pillai Lokacharya vividly describes the attributes of Lord Krishna in the word 'Aham' i.e. the Lord who is all knower (Sarvjna), all Valour (Sarvasakti), (Praptam), chief (seshi). Having given the meaning for 'Aham' by quoting God's attributes Lokacharya further states its usage in the present context as commented by Mamuni. Mamuni states that when the Lord wanted to help the aspirant by eradicating his sins and accomplishing his wishes, He realises Arjuna's earlier stage and further adds what he wants to do with this when the utility of Sarvajnatva and Sarvasaksitva of Lord is known. For the action of His is only for His sake by benefitting by Himself as He is seshi - the relation of Lord. Mamuni includes the attribute of Poorthi (Avaptasamastakamatvam) along with these qualities. Further, Pillai Lokacharya says that Arjuna feels that Lord Krishna distinguished Himself as a charioteer for his sake and to clear his fear, emphasises His attributes in the word 'Aham'. He underlines that Lord's servitude as charioteer is also His supreme.

The word 'Tva' (Thou)

'Tva' refers to the acquisition of the discerning ability to comprehend the nature of three ultimate Tatvas namely Cit, Acit and Iswara. Pillai Lokacharya says that 'Tva' refers to Arjuna (soul) who does not know what to do; who has no valour to do what he wants to do; and also has no right to do what he wants to safeguard and who approached Him as the means. Elaborating the sutra, Manavala Mamuni says that even one has knowledge to do what he wants and one has valour to act what he thinks, but he has no right to execute it and one who has redeemed all Dharmas and approached Him as the mean. Such is the nature of soul as enlightened in this word.

The word 'Sarva Papebhyo' (free from all sins)

For eliciting the inner thought, Pillai Lokacharya has given three Sutras for the word 'Sarva Papebhyo'. Manavala Mamuni classified it into three words as follows: Papam, its multitude and Sarvam - all combined 'Sarva Papebhyo'. Here 'Sins' are categorised into two aspects : i) the obstacle for desire (Istavirodhi) and ii) the cause for the evils (Anishtahetu). Here Mamuni means that since this Sloka speaks about Moksha, 'papam' denotes the obstacle for desire (Istavirodhi) i.e. the obstacle for the experience of divinity. It is necessary for the aspirant to renounce all evil deeds that lead to Adharma, Artha and Kama which are sinful and not capable of giving joy or bliss. The sins are as follows: ignorance (Avaidya), past impressions (Karma Vasana), taste (Ruchi) and matter (Prakrti) are the evil deeds that have to be shunned and they are characterised by the word 'Papebhyo'. Manavala Mamuni describes the word 'Sarva' denoting the aspirant who performs duties unknowingly that accumulate sins and who performs daily rituals with fearfulness etc. According to Sruti and Smrti the evil deeds must be avoided if one wishes to attain Moksha. Tiruvoyamozhi also reiterates the same point. It says : "sarntha iruvalvinaikalum janiththu mayap, pattamuththu theernthu thanpal manam vaikka thirutti veedu Tiruththvan" - which means "give up Punya and Papa both of which are of the nature of Karma and hard to give up".

It is necessary to assure the anxious Jiva that he would be freed from all sins. Sins could be classified as past, present and future which could be committed either through body or mind or speech. Past sins are sins that were committed before performing Saranagati. Present sins are those that are being committed and future sins refer to those that may be committed after the performance of Saranagati.

The word 'Mokshayishyami'

Pillai Lokacharya says 'Moksha ishyami' means that the 'Lord will grant liberation from sinful life. Further, he says that in the phrase mokshayishyami, the tense 'Ishyami' means that neither the Lord will try for it, nor the aspirant need pray for eradication of sins; as the aspirant has surrended to God, they will automatically leave him due to fear and not known where they has gone. Vedanta Desika opines that the word 'Mokshayishyami' conveys the meaning "I will grant the liberation or Moksha from this mundane world at the time when you want it". Liberation means release or freedom from the bondage of Samsara. This liberation is possible only if the individual (jiva) adopts Sadhana. Further, Vedanta Desika states that, one thinks that he is doing this for his personal end and becomes sinful. The Lord Krishna shows the way for liberation in the following words:

Sarvakarmanyapi sada Kurvano madvyapasrayah | 
matprasadadavapnoti sasvatam padamavyayam ||

which means, the Karma Yogi, however who depends on Me, attains by My grace the eternal, imperishable state, even though performing all actions".

The syllable 'Masuchaha'

'Masuchaha' means 'do not feel sad' or 'do not despair'. According to Sruti, God will never forsake one who has taken refuge in Him. Once the Sadhana is performed by the individual which in fact is not difficult, is capable of removing all the obstacles and is having the power to grant the desired goal i.e.. Moksha. Hence, truly there is no need to grieve or despair. In the words of Bhagavan Krishna:

Daivi sampadvimokshasya nibandhayasurimata|
masucah sampadam daivimabhijatosi pandava ||

It means - "If you adopt this Upaya, your welfare is My burden or responsibility and I Myself be interested in looking after it; you are as it were My property or wealth (to look after) and there is no reason why you should despair". Pillai Lokacharya says that 'Masuchaha' means that since Arjuna has not entered to do his work and the Lord has involved Himself in his work, there is no grief for 'Arjuna'.

It is said that there are two more Charamaslokas i.e., Varaha Charamasloka and Rama Charamasloka. During Varahavatara, the Varahamurthy preached two slokas (Vakya Dvaya) to Bhumi Piratti, which speaks the easy way of doing Saranagati when one in a calm state of mind, health and action, prays God and when unable to sustain one's health at the end of life the Lord will think of him and take him away to His abode. In Ramaavatara also, Rama preached Charamasloka to Vibhishana when he wants to surrender before Him, by saying even one who pretends himself as a friend and surrenders Him, He will take him away His abode (Vaikunta).

From the above discussion it is obvious that the mantra- Charamasloka is the source of maintenance, nourishment and enjoyment to Jiva and also the cause for Moksha. This Mantra focuses on Saranagati as an easy Sadhana for attaining Moksha. Thus Charamasloka has a significant place in Srivaishnavam.

I have known this Mighty Being refulgent as the Sun beyond darkness.

By knowing Him alone darkness there is no other way transcends to go death.