Sunday, August 31, 2008

What is to experience?

This is an often repeated topic by the Nityanandas, Jaggi Vasudevs and JKs. Still, there is nothing wrong in I, being a common man like you, repeat it.

The context of this topic came up during a once-a-year meeting I have with my brother. The meetings usually span about three days when we cover topics ranging from music (his favorite subject) to films and literature. He being a fan of, had problems in appreciating music that he knows is copied. To him, good music is one that is original (as far as his knowledge goes).

I see this as two different activities - one is the listener's experience of the song, two being the problem of plagiarism. By knowing that a certain music is copied shouldn't come in the way of experiencing the music. Rahman's rendering of "What are you waiting for (Album: Vandemataram)" and "போறாளே பொன்னுத்தாயீ" (Album: Karuththamma), were expressive of the respective moods. I happen to hear a fast paced party song in the same tune. I don't care to know the source of the song. Should you not experience the melancholy of the Tamil rendering because Rahman is not the original "creator" of the music? The problem is, the mind comes in the way and passes judgement on the work, preventing a real experience.

As a small exercise, when you hear a song, watch for your thoughts. Are they about the instrumentation, lyrics, the visuals or the people associated with it? If it is none of them, you are probably experiencing the music.

The second part is about plagiarism. I'm not getting into the details of music plagiarism. It is known problem, but does't deserve the kind of attention it gets from music lovers. I do not believe that anyone can claim ownership of an intellectual property - be it a creative idea in science or arts. To give shape to an idea, there is human effort involved and that deserves a reward. That is, a musician gets to be paid well for a good rendering of a song. He doesn't have the right to prevent or restrict the rendering of the same music by others.

More on my views on Rights, Copy Rights, Open Source later...

P.S: Typos and errors in Kannadasan's work I referred in my previous post have been fixed. My apologies for the copy paste errors from an unauthenticated source. Please feel free to add a comment if it is still incorrect.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More on freedom

Friend Nag responded to my earlier blog on being free. His comments were:

1. Brain will never give up its superiority (functioning) until it cease to exist or the functioning is stopped. Let us assume, the brain evolves to attain freedom, by then it would've realised to stop procreation to ensure freedom. I'm unable to foresee such a evolution process. Well, if it turns out to be true, that will be the end of man kind, as procreation will stop.

As for any creature, expanding itself, is so primal, I really doubt that can happen. If it were to happen, then freedom comes with human extinction.

2. The way I see freedom is, when everything becomes an abstract and you don't see the cause and relationship and not affected by what is happening around. That could be the state of bliss. This state of bliss, could be attained by a few percentage of the human race and not by all.

Still freedom will be achieved by all, in their own definition and not in a common parlance.

Nag has got it right in relating the identity or the mind to the procreation. But what I see as freedom is, a state in which the mind is not the master, but a part with equal priority as the other senses. Just like the other organs, the brain will take part in the process of procreation, but the primary motive in the process will not be lust (arising out insecurity).

The state of bliss is a great one, but we are not born just for bliss. It is good in small doses. In a state of bliss, it is very likely that the body is passive. As we are born with sensory organs, I see the purpose of life is to experience and not to stay in a blissful state for extended periods of time.

Here is a quote from Kannadasan in support.

பிறப்பில் வருவது யாதென கேட்டேன்
பிறந்து பார் என இறைவன் பணித்தான்

இறப்பில் வருவது யாதென கேட்டேன்
இறந்து பார் என இறைவன் பணித்தான்

மனையாள் சுகமெனில் யாதெனக் கேட்டேன்
மணந்து பாரென இறைவன் பணித்தான்

அனுபவித்தே தான் வாழ்வது வாழ்வெனில்
ஆண்டவனே நீ ஏன்? என கேட்டேன்

ஆண்டவன் சற்றே அருகினில் வந்து
அனுபவம் என்பதே நான்தான் என்றான்.

Unlike a blissful passive state, there is a great active state where the mind (rather the influence the abstract identity) doesn't influence the action. This is a state where your actions are not influenced by who you are, but what the situation demands. Since there is no bias towards an identity, the actions are for a greater good.

I plan to write more on some ways of engaging your "mind" and be free for a moment or two. More on that, later.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Real Freedom

On India's Independence day, here is my attempt write about real freedom and to demystify the philosophy on Maya, self etc.

Imagine the brain as a computer (crude, but simple to explain) with all its CPU and buses; the sensory organs being the peripherals. One important difference is, there is an experiencer - that is you. When inputs come from the senses, the brain processes the inputs and there is an experience.

Now add the complexity of memory. Memory evolved with humans and it has been a pretty useful one, just like the computer's memory. It is able to remember more, information gathered over generations is stored better resulting in more complex ideas and innovations. With its evolution, the memory managed to get a higher priority over the inputs from the senses. In computer terminology, we can say that the bus between the memory and the CPU has higher capacity than the other buses.

The experiencer explained in the first paragraph is more and more dependent on the memory. In fact, the experiencer identifies himself / herself with the memory acquired. So, people have macro identities with their nationality, religion, caste and micro identities like name, education and profession. These are nothing more than assertions in the memory. This is what we mean when we say "I". My understanding is - the eastern philosophy refers this as "Maya" - a bunch of abstract thoughts and the lack of real experience. Almost all our thoughts and actions are influenced by these identities. There is definitely better life if we have lesser influence of these identities. Imagine a world without so many divisions!

What does it mean to be free?

When a child looks at a thing, there is just an experience of seeing. The mind doesn't intervene in the interpretation of what is being seen. To understand this better, listen to Bharathi's "காக்கைச் சிறகினிலே".

Can you be really Free?

From ancient times, people have been attempting to get rid of the influence of this identity and be free. The interesting part is, the mind gets stronger with every serious attempt to reduce its importance. For example, if a prophet or a saint finds a way and disseminates his experience, it soon adds to the assertions and forms a cult or a religion with rituals. It is impossible to create a student as enlightened as the master for the simple reason that their physical brains are different.

With the current knowledge and technology, it is almost impossible to permanently set aside the dominance of the memory, for this is a physiological condition. Some have the physiological condition where they are able to see memory as just another source of information and are able to dissociate the experiencer from the memory.

I see the modern Gurus having this condition. Please see this as no more a specialty than what an athlete has - an extraordinary physiological condition. Good poets are another group who go through the experience without the disturbance of the mind. At times, when this is not possible, alcohol or narcotics help.

Powerful inputs from other senses sometimes can help in reducing the importance of the memory and in turn the identity - like the vision of a favorite deity, smell of a few flowers, sound of conch, bells and chanting. Another crude parallel - as the aroma of your favorite food triggers the secretion of saliva, bile juice etc.

As the brain and in turn the mind evolved to its current state, it is also possible that the brain evolves further to be free. With improved understanding of the functioning of the brain, more interaction between the scientists and leaders and coming together of the various cultures, I think it will be possible for normal humans to be free. The process would be more of a physiological evolution than a religious one.