Sunday, September 23, 2018

Biggest festival in Jainism - Paryushan

Jainism is a way of life. Jains don't worship to please Gods or in the hope of getting something from Gods in return. But they worship the virtues/qualities of those innumerable souls who got liberated from the cycle of rebirth. Our soul is no different, and it can also attain this supreme state. The first step, however, would be to understand a few of those qualities which we celebrate during ten days of the biggest festival in Jainism called Paryushan (Das Lakshan).

On the 11th day, we conclude the festival by asking for forgiveness from everyone and clear our mind by forgiving everyone. <Micchami Dukkadam = Uttam Kshama = Extreme Forgiveness>

Responding to a comment:
Comment: Agree with a lot. but cannot agree to this 'You can get rid of bad karma by fasting and meditation'
How is fasting or meditation the opposite of bad karma?

A:  It's actually a deep philosophy. It requires an open mind, and some belief in concepts like soul, reincarnation, karmas theory, Moksha, etc. Even I am not an expert, but I will try to explain based on what I know. 

According to karmas theory, the influx of karmas is due to any activity of mind and body (words, thoughts, and action) Pleasant words, good thoughts, non-violent actions, etc. will cause an influx of good karmas and the opposite will cause an influx of bad karmas. However, to attain liberation (Moksha), it is required to STOP the flow of karmas (yes, both good and bad). Meditation helps us control the activities of our mind and body. Fasting is also a process of self-control (controlling five senses and mind). It helps in increasing the integrity within our soul (not body). 

PS: Good karmas lead to a good life in this birth as well as the new birth (as human or heavenly beings). On the other hand, bad karmas may lead to a bad life (rebirth as an animal, or hellish beings). But, even heavenly beings are not always happy, and they also suffer from the cycle of rebirth. So, according to Jainism, the ultimate goal of our soul should be to move away from this cycle of rebirth. Only after stopping the influx of karmas, the soul can achieve the state of extreme bliss (Moksha).

It is so much easier said than done (context of Day 9 Non-attachment)
A: Well, the first thing is that it is not asking you to reduce any possessions or change any responsibilities towards yourself, your family, and friends. You keep living in everyday life. This philosophy is about training your mind to stay happy with whatever you have and whatever situation you are in. Do you feel possessive of something that you never want to lose? Do you expect someone to return you a favor? Do you hold passions (anger, pride, etc.) that you find it hard to control? Do you desire more belongings and not satisfied with what you have? Do you worry something terrible might happen to you or your belongings? When you do, remind yourself if it matters in the long run for your life and soul. Realize that happiness is not elsewhere but within one-self.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Blessings of Professors, IITK

It's time to thank all the professors at IITK who guided us through the 4 years of the best period of our life. Saurav and I decided to meet all the professors who taught us at IITK. Most of the professors were surprised that we had come, as it was unusual that any graduating student would have come to wish adieu. We were flooded with their blessings and kind advises. Later, Anadi helped me to extend this list. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Adventures in foreign land

My experiences from the internship at Victoria, Canada.

     After a long journey, I arrived in Victoria on 1st May 2015. It took a few days to adjust, recover from jet-lag and of course learning how to cook. I stayed at one of the family apartments at University of Victoria (UVic) with two fellow interns, Anurag and Swayam. We cooked together at our well-furnished common kitchen.
University of Victoria

     Food was generally a problem because vegetarians do eat eggs there. I couldn't rely on the vegetarian food commonly served in restaurants and always asked the vendors whether it contained egg or not. There is only a small class of people who are vegan- only take vegetables, So the only option for outside lunch is to take salads and boiled vegetables- which were totally tasteless. Fortunately, I carried all required utensils and used to cook at home. All Indian groceries were available and we learned to cook after several experiments. We used to cook chapati, rice, sambhar and a few variety of vegetables as the main course. The extras included dosa, dhokla, pasta, maggi etc. I had to spend around 4-5 hours each day for cooking. The rest of the time was mostly spent in my lab.
Selfie with room-mates, Anurag, me and Swayam

     My mentor Dr. Pan and the lab mates Fei, Boyang, Dawood, Maryam, Dr. Wu and Dr. Kuang were very friendly and cooperative. We used to have weekly group meetings, in which each member would talk about their research in turns, and others actively asked questions and provided suitable directions.  I presented my work on two such occasions and received a great feedback, which provided me a proper direction and made my research lot easier. We also had a Webb forum for our lab members for internal communications, where we could access useful information and the complete work progress of every member and alumni. The resources were very useful. I used to write about my work progress and difficulties in the research. I used to get instant replies from my mentor with proper guidance and motivation.

Our Research Group
     Overall, the collaborative work culture and transparency inspired me deeply to pursue higher studies in my field. The good thing was that we didn't have many distractions, but a complete focus on our research. I had discovered a smart way to measure and improve my daily efficiency. I made a table on a piece of paper with rows indicating time intervals of half-an-hour from morning to night. I used to update a column many times a day with my instantaneous plans and put a tick mark if accomplished. The number of tick marks indicates the efficiency of the day. The aim was to maximize it.

     I didn't have any ongoing project to work on. I had to discover a research problem myself in a completely new field. I studied cognitive radio networks and its diverse areas like spectrum sensing, spectrum mobility, spectrum sharing, etc. Time flew away quickly and I just had a few childish ideas after a month, without any knowledge of how to apply them. Soumya Basu, who is a former intern and currently doing his Ph.D. from UT Austin, helped me to discover a way to transform the ideas into reality.

 "And, when you want something, all the universe conspire in helping you to achieve it." Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)
     Being deeply involved in research doesn't mean that I missed other things. We left no stone unturned in exploring our little island and enjoyed every possible adventure. Trying to keep the long list short, the best things were the weather, beaches, lakes, gardens, castles, forest trails, cultural events, peoples, late night parties... etc..

Inner Harbour.  Empress hotel has Canadian Flag and the Legislature building is at the centre.
     Victoria is in western Canada, located in Vancouver Island, and the capital city of British Columbia. This garden city is still under the influence of British culture. The perfect weather makes it among the top livable city in the world. It's neither too hot nor too cold. Mild rain is enjoyable.. you won't get wet, but enjoy the mini droplets. A cold breeze is for relief from the hot sun.

Rocky Beach
     Beaches were awesome, one is near to UVic, half a km from our residence. a great place to spend time for peace and sanctity, after tedious work. Sometimes we walked through deep forest taking some narrow trails, relying only on GPS and discovered some paths to reach rocky beaches. The great sea gave us immense pleasure and relief from all pain.

Cars in Miniature World
     The inner harbor at downtown was the best place to spend our day. Water ferries, small and large ships were always there. There were a lot of places nearby to visit and appreciate their beauty. The legislative building, Fairmount Empress Hotel, Royal BC Museum, Miniature world, Fisherman's Wharf etc were a few of them. The Miniature world is one of the unique experience, where, everything is so small that we feel ourself like aliens conquering the world. The models of a war scene, the common life of people, railways, circus and fairy tales are scaled down hundred of times and displayed in the large area.
Hatley Castle
Craigdarroch Castle
Peacocks are friendly
On the top of Mt. Douglas

Wish to fly
     The city is famous for its natural beauty. Beautiful flowers of Finnerty Garden, Rose Garden, ancient Craigdarroch and Hatley Castle, Thetis Lake Park, Beacon Hill Park are admirable. One of the best things includes hiking, kayaking and wild play park. We took one of the most difficult paths to climb to the peak of Mt. Douglas Hill. Besides climbing on rugged rocks and forests, the best part was when we reached the top. Several small islands seemed floating on the sea, which covered three sides of Victoria, with large mountains on the other side. Everything looked so static and perfect that compelled me to think about the power of nature. Why humans are trying to destroy it? Why not move towards the ancient culture, where people lived in woods when humanity, brotherhood, and spirituality was central to our belief.

Kayaking with Swayam and Anurag
Like a monkey! at Wild Play Park
     We realized the power of the great sea while kayaking. How difficult it was to steer the waves to paddle our boat. We went to a nearby small island where seals and seagulls welcomed us to their natural habitat.
     Wild Play Park was very adventurous. Walking on a rope, climbing ladders etc.. hanging logs, ziplining and several obstacles have covered the way, ten meters above ground. What-to Fear jump (freestyle jumping from the edge of a 40-foot perch) was very courageous.
Anurag, Xiwen, Swayam and me

     The everlasting impact of that place is not the adventures, but the people, their politeness, and their culture. The culture of smiling and saying hi even to a stranger, stopping the car at a distance to let the pedestrian go, thanking the bus driver at the end of your journey... it was a system running on the faith of the people. Hi, how r u doin', thanks, see u, you're welcome... are the most common phrases.

Indian jhanki on Victoria Day 
     People celebrate their culture as Victoria Day and Canada Day on 18th May and 1st July respectively. The whole city comes on roads and common gathering on such occasions. The vivid culture of Victoria comes alive in the form of beautiful jhanki on Victoria Day, including, the parade of school children, dance, and music of many nations, cycle and bike show, and performance by the military and many other institutions and industries.

Canada Day, participating in human flag
Human Flag
     Canada Day had many special programs. We participated in the human flag, wearing red and white T-shirts to make a large Canadian flag on the ground. The rock Delhi 2 Dublin show and late night fireworks were awesome.

     I wished that the internship should be longer, but the end was near. The Barbecue by MITACS, Hotpot Party by Xiwen with fellow interns and Farewell by Dr. Pan and my lab-mates indicated that it was time to say adieu. Last two months were more research oriented and I feel, I did very well. It was time to conclude everything. I had my final presentation, where I talked about my ongoing work and experiences. I wished to continue my work. Gifts were exchanged and I received a great farewell, especially in Indian Restaurant, because of my choice of Vegan food. The three months fled like a few days, but the memories are still there to cherish forever.

     It was a mixed feeling which can't be expressed, the excitement of coming back to our relatives and friends and the despair of leaving a beautiful place, people and country. The flight was not that exciting this time. The large layover at Frankfurt (~12 hours) made me sick and captive, but the company of Amit and Abhishek kept my boredom away (We also met on the forward journey). I read "My experiments with Truth" on my new tablet, throughout the journey. The childhood of Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle at London inspired me to write about my own experience in Canada.

Thoughts are endless, but I have to stop myself.
In the Flight, back to India

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.                                (Robert Frost)