My Closing Statements

     Our past, the unaccompanied baggage appended to our conscience, often comes prowling on us uninvited and unanticipated. It stays obscure as if seen through a hazy rearview mirror; distant, indistinct, doubtful, and almost impersonal. Many years of life along with all its trimmings, meshed like a canopy of fluffy clouds, embrace us and engulf our minds with vague judgments and no clear beginning or end. The sensation is often pleasing, at times poignant but mostly ambiguous and even daunting to an extent. If we attempt to gather them, sort them, and pack them to be bequeathed and passed on to posterity is akin to getting our dreams recorded onto a reproducible device; impractical, impossible. But the urge to assemble and bestow them on to the descendants who inherit the process could be an impending sword suspended over our scruples. And often, there is no holding back; it demands to be dropped.
     The need seeps in as an imminent thirst that needs to be quenched. Often it feels like a certain commitment that beckons our conscience to oblige. It is arduous and grueling to condense the experiences of a long lifetime, rusted and knotted 298 from aimless storage. Yet there is an element of joy along with relief waiting to be earned if we can have it dispersed and released. And irrespective of the results, it insists to be expressed before embarking on our next step, if there is any such a step.
     I am not sure; but was there a beginning to this journey or was it just a continuation, perhaps with a change of role and a different setting? Happenings in life seem to be imposed on us like an allotment from the available options. Do we have any say at all in the choices or it appears to be that way, just to entice and distract us, and finally trap us in the process? Even if one is not quite comfortable with the chore, it may eventually end up as a consolation, if we make an honest attempt to do it without resistance, conscionably and honestly. In making such a statement, rather a ‘closing statement’, shall we follow certain traditional guidelines, if there are any such customary measures? Whatever options we choose, the intent shall be to remain truthful, as dictated and guided by one’s own integrity and a cultivated sense of morality.
     An appropriate gesture would be to take an account of what we had and what we did; what we hoped and what we gained; what we aimed and what we earned; how we gave and were given. Declare with honesty and available accuracy our passage through the different stages of life; from childhood to sunset, education through professional times, and about our performance in relationships and dealing with obligations. Make an earnest attempt to tabulate our efforts and tally them with our expectations against end results. Indulge and scan our own prospectus of life with a purpose, to reach back and pull out from the remnants that our failing memory has stacked on its shelves.
     The measure is all subjective as it applies just to our conscience and to let us move on with the least burden as we can. The purpose, the intent in attempting to venture into such an effort is to let the future benefit in ways which it can from the performance of the predecessors. In doing so would be to guide them to improve upon our acts and thus let them avoid repetition of mistakes that we made in our lives. Such a feat must only be presented with the ultimate benefit of the followers gaining from it, in ways similar to improving the quality of a product or the performance in a multitude of arenas. As we do it, we should not lose focus on the reality that life from one generation to the next and the circumstances to deal with shall be entirely different, yet the basic precepts remaining similar.
     It takes a certain attitude, a certain humility, a stance attained through living, of being comfortable with and complacent about divulging our past; a sincere and honest declaration about our nature, our ability, and especially about our limitations and blunders. Through that submission comes a revelation that establishes and reiterates the modesty that we have earned through all the years of living. That ability may be the greatest asset that we have created as we lived. It certainly 299 would be greater than all the wealth we may have amassed, than all the pleasures we may have enjoyed. The exercise may take us farther into fulfillment and may endow us with revelations that we never considered possible. It must be a process to surrender our self-esteem and exchange it for an immense realization, to free ourselves of all the inhibitions and boundaries that held us captive all along. It is the permit that may release us to soar to altitudes we are capable of ascending and enjoy the freedom that our persona could carry us. For now, we have legitimately earned that status and thus a chance to grab rapture without the fear of being judged; that judgment is for ourselves to execute, and thus the judgment being irrelevant. One might wonder and hesitate, to what benefit such an exploit should be undertaken, risking a certain image, perhaps a façade we have tried to build around all our life. It should precisely be our purpose to honorably dismantle such a robe and shed the entire load if we have been dragging that burden all along so that we earn the privilege of respite.
     Most of us should have a conviction, rather a confirmed assumption that to be born as a human is the most profound gift which a soul can be wrapped up with; and the most appropriate way, the most honorable way to repay that gesture is to make the best out of that donation. To live a life worthy of that magnificent bequest, to utilize the attributes of human life to its fullest, does not dawn on many of us until it is too late; or circumstances mercilessly create a mutiny to deny us of that opportunity. But to most, such a possibility is available and is absolutely possible, if we are guided correctly and are persuaded with good examples by others ahead of us.
     Scholars have classified the nature of human behavior as a spread of three types, each of us exhibiting a varied blend of any and all three. These are ones with goodness, balance, and harmony; another with passion, restlessness, and activity; and a third with dullness, inertia, and laziness. It is our upbringing that can significantly make an impact on instilling such traits in our behavior and it is for us to make a conscious effort to cultivate the best of these traits as we proceed in life. An ideal blueprint of the philosophy that we should aspire shall be to impart our full potential in any endeavor that we are involved in, to explicitly avoid being critical of others, and be patient and content with whoever we are and whatever we have. Our happiness and contentment are totally based on how we train our attitude towards and acceptance of others since the performance of others will be entirely beyond our control. If we have not been able to develop such a philosophy in life, it is never too late to make an attempt and cultivate the discipline to steer ourselves in that direction. It will also be a noble endeavor to positively try and impart such qualities to those who we are obliged to or are responsible for.
     Evaluation of how much we succeeded is simple. If we can do some introspection of our performance and do it truthfully, we can come up with some conclusive answers. Have we utilized the basic tenets of human potential to enrich our lives? Have we attempted to impart the best in us and applied it to what is expected of us and to those who counted on us? Can we justify our efforts that we have invested in our involvements to be the best that we were capable of? Are we convinced that we have paid the most we could to the ones who gave their best to us? Were we able to do justice to the gift of life endowed on us in carrying out what it was potentially capable of? If our conscience can live with the answers, then we may have done what we could as human beings.
     Perhaps the most legitimate yardstick to appraise the performance of life may be to reflect on the products we have created and nurtured; our children. As much as it is unfair to judge someone on something almost beyond their ability to control, as many subjective measures influence the final outcome of those creations, in reality, these are the most relevant indicators which can be applied as practical parameters. As much as one may justifiably be blamed for the blemishes in their progeny, it is appropriate to confer the compliments to the parents whose children exhibit values of merit and dignity. If I were asked to comment on the influence of my parents on my value system, I would give all the credit to them for anything and everything that are venerable in me, while I would blame a host of other factors responsible for all the negatives in my personal.
     It should be comforting to view the brightness as we glance back over our shoulders from the shadows that have consumed us; a distant past almost setting beyond our reaches, yet soothing and consoling to our senses. The times that linger in our memory when the abundance of love showered upon us and prompted us to be special! The sense of being singular inspired us with the motivation to excel, to exceed the expectations of the loved ones, that certain commitment propelling us to reach beyond the abilities we had. Looking back, we feel convinced that how one is brought up, how much confidence and love they were fortunate to have, the expectation they felt growing up, and the inspiration that was imparted in them are what decide how that someone is eventually going to grow up. The pride, the value system, the commitment, and the compassion as they grow up are planted as little seeds into their tiny psyche at a very early age. That element may be the essential impetus that protects them, the drive that propels them to stay focused all their life. On the contrary, the struggles of childhood, the strained relationships with parents and others, lacking friendship, murky environment, and all the negatives that imposed on us can suffocate and strangle our incentives. This may be the time to unravel our past and make an assessment as to how such influence played in our lives; and consequently and distinctly more importantly, how we could help our followers benefit from our input.
     If we are able to phase out and vanish into our next with just one deed of goodness, just one act of righteousness, it would be to contribute the experiences of our life to the advantage of the future. If the lessons that we learned can benefit the ones who follow, it will be meaningful, momentous, and worthy of all our efforts, submissions, and sacrifice.
(December 2008)

The Sun is Almost Setting!

Life is one long lesson, from beginning to the very end


Sunrise from our living room is stunningly serene when the settings are precise, as the golden glow of dawn designs a silhouette behind the temple’s majestic tower, and its landscape is reflected in the still waters of our pastoral pond.  
My prevalent mood often persuades me to ponder over the solar star’s set journey for the day, equating a parallel with my own eight decades of expedition in life.  The early rays of the baby sun offering assurance, changing to an imposing dominance of the scorching noon, as he gets mellowed into a soothing angle in the evening, and finally fading in a faint dissolution, align very much with the style and substance of my mundane modus called living.  As my mind meanders through my life’s passage, from childhood to its present waning strides, a certain consoling calm embraces me offering solace and a sense of pacifying dignity.  Glancing back into the long stretch of life that I have traveled, its terrains and fluctuating climates, its varied rides, and the experience that I have amassed through the sheer process of living linger as vague, vast, and illusory, and yet reassuringly rewarding anecdotes.
Taking periodic stock of life is essential for re-evaluation and revision.  In hindsight, such earlier assessments should have been elemental, at least in my case, that could have adjusted my course, while keeping in mind that after all, life may be ‘pre-destined’.  Identifying the ‘real self, of what we are and who we are, as well as accepting the reality with security and confidence, is fundamental to contentment.  Attempting to create a false façade to project an image that doesn’t belong to us could be a burden to maintain while acting out without restraints is equally insensitive at the opposite extreme.  To accomplish a balance of finding self-assurance and amicable alignment with others, is the essence of establishing a ‘harmonious ideal of living’.  And while it is my understanding of what meditation can offer us, such a state of mind can easily be attainable through periodic contemplation and deliberation, by reaching into and taming our inner self.
I am fortunate to have a loving family, delightful friends and a contented life all along.  Retiring after forty years of comfortable medical practice, I continue to be active in a variety of involvements and maintaining decent physical and cerebral health.  I am eternally grateful to the generosity of that Higher Authority for being merciful, and blessing me with such a life.  Basically, I am an optimist, preferring to dream on happy narratives.  But what lies ahead is reality, obscure yet assured.   If the mind is tempted to drag us in the direction of premonition, it would be harmful and futile.  It is best not to take the ride of ‘how long is the stay, how hard is the journey, and what mode would be the exit’!  But most concerningly, how much would I entangle others in the process? 
I try to be rationally disciplined with food, exercise, avoiding excesses, and adhering to my physicians’ advices, staying engaged within my convenient reach.  But our information has limitations, our control has constraints, and the future is an instinctively unfamiliar conjecture.  Beyond all our observation and adherence to known disciplines, there are missing links, several of which remain outside our comprehension, even imagination.  As science is constantly expanding with new evidence, correcting the old ones, we need to remain humble ‘to know’, that ‘we don’t know it all’.  As we lose our dear ones, acquaintances and contemporaries who enjoyed ‘perfect health’ due to reasons beyond reasoning, the hypothesis of the ‘missing link element’ gets more convincing and credible as we age.
It is hard to be prepared for how others accept us or approach our old age; how seniors are acknowledged is up to the attitude of those they deal with.  Our image may stretch from a ‘decent and respectable elder’ to that ‘grouchy, grubby goat’.  It all depends up to an extent on how we behave with others.  Practicing patience, acceptance, adjustment, accommodation and appreciation could go a long way as against expectation, assertion, compulsion, objection, or aggression.  But once senility sets in, brain cells have plans of their own, and to many, that may be an opportunity to be who they really are.
Memories of childhood have remained the best treasures in my vault of perceptual possessions.  Those savings shine brighter when the rest of me is declining and come to my salvage, as and when I get distraught or disillusioned.  There are also sporadic guilt-trips that interrupt my strands of peace, scraping my conscience with bouts of ‘I shouldn’t haves’, ‘I could haves’ and ‘why did I’s’, creating hiccups in an otherwise tranquil setting.  But with concerted effort and introspection, one could and must settle such conflicts applying our set codes of morality, resolving issues paying a penance, engaging with those we may have harmed or finding ways of clemency exercising our own conscience as mediators.
Old age depletes us of our authority, almost at every level, in every sphere which matters.  To minimize the trauma that is bound to follow, adapt to acquire traits that may help – such as being docile, humble, grateful, contented, and calm.  Attempt practicing ‘like and love’ without conditions.
Humility is not a weakness of submission, but an undeniable strength of assurance.  And in old age, humility shall shelter us from humiliation.
I am not sure if anyone benefits from listening to another’s life.  But if I were to leave just one advice as an old man who has lived a long life, it is – “Refresh your mind from all undesirable attentions, about people, past or the uncertain future; keep a smile deep in your heart of all the good things that came your way”.                                               

Venugopal K. Menon, M.D.

Losing a great friend, a hero on every count

Obit: Dr. Bas Nair (C. K. Bhaskar)
By Arun Venugopal

Dr. Bas Nair (C.K. Bhaskar), a renowned cricketer for the Indian national team who went on to pursue an illustrious career in medicine and served on the 294 organizing committee for the 1993 AKMG Convention in Houston, passed away at his home in Houston, Saturday night at the age of 79. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Chandni; his daughters Rita Nair, Tanya Nair Cocchia, and Sonya Nair Cranford and his sons-in-law Dominic Cocchia and Johnathan Cranford.
    For the last seven years, Dr. Nair lived with cancer, but as his daughter, Tanya described, he remained unrelenting in his pursuit of all that mattered to him: travel, music, good meals, and time with the people he loved and cared for.
     “Up until two days before, he was still managing some patients,” she said.
    The Kerala Cricket Association mourned Nair’s passing on Facebook, acknowledging him as “the first International Cricketer from Kerala, who had played for India in the Unofficial Test Series against Ceylon in 1964 under the Captaincy of the Nawab of Pataudi,” and in First-Class matches. As one fan remarked, “He was Kerala’s hero.”
He was born in 1941 to Gopalan Nair and Ammu Kutty Amma. Even as a teenager entering medical school, Bhaskaran Nair was something of a legend.
      “‘C.K. Bhaskar is here. C.K. Bhaskar is here!’” recalled his friend, Dr. Venugopal K. Menon, echoing the excitement of students at Thiruvanthapuram Medical College in the late 1950s.
     At the time, he had gained fame as a young cricket player. But an embarrassing moment about his athletic abilities left a profound mark on him.
     “I was a final-year at Thiruvanthapuram Medical College when he joined,” said Menon. “Everyone knew him as the hero cricket player. When he was in the third year or so he played for India. Coming back to the class he was expecting a huge welcome. As the class started, [Principal of the College] Dr. M. Thangavelu entered and called out Bhaskaran’s name. He stood up, expecting accolades. But the sir told him, as a medical student you learn medicine, or can choose to play cricket, but not both together. Bhaskar felt bad but he took it as a challenge; went to the UK, got his MRCP, to Canada, and got FRCP, and into the USA and got the boards. When he met Dr. Thangavelu many years later, he thanked him for that awkward day.”
  His niece, Dr. Anjana Rajan, described him as a “master diagnostician.”
     “Recently I texted him from the E.R. after my son hurt his arm,” said Rajan, who is Director of Behavioral Health at Tufts University School of Medicine. “The E.R. physician misdiagnosed my son with ‘nursemaid elbow’ after he fell off a swing at the playground and we were discharged. Bas Uncle called me 295 immediately and said ‘Go back,’ [that] there’s no way that’s the diagnosis because I wasn’t swinging him around by his arms. He told me it was a lateral epicondyle fracture. He had not even physically seen my son as we live in Boston. Just heard my description of the events. He made me go back and insist on a full set of X-rays and scans and indeed it was exactly that.”
     In addition to his diagnostic abilities, Rajan said she was struck by his bedside manner as he treated her 5-year-old son.
      “I feel like very few people ‘get’ children. But he always treated him like a person first and not just a child. Always kneels down to talk to him and looks him in the eyes. Right up until the end he was always respectful to Niam in addition to being loving. We let my son know he passed away today and he was sobbing. He asked how old does he have to be to go to heaven to see him again.”
      Somehow, Nair found the time to have both a family and a thriving career while committing himself fully to his various passions.
      He ran marathons. He was a gifted public speaker. He played tabla and would unhesitatingly sing to a friend on their birthday or serenade a young newlywed couple with an old Bollywood ballad. He collected art — including works by Salvador Dali and Frederic Remington — and he obsessively followed sports. This included personally attending each Olympic Games from Munich (1972) to Rio de Janeiro (2016).
      “Every single one,” said Tanya
     He even, remarkably, obtained a patent: his invention, ‘Artificial wind producing flagpole assembly,’ (U.S. Patent 7,017,510) was intended to remedy the embarrassing condition of a limp flag, drooping feebly from its flagpole.
    His longtime friend, Dr. Jay K. Raman (aka Jay Mohan), who regularly gathered for dinner with Nair, put it this way: “Bhaskar is a person of unlimited energy.”
 “Is,” he said, retaining the present tense to describe his dear friend.
     Tanya described her father as ‘larger than life,’ and took some comfort in the fact that he was surrounded by family in his final weeks, and that he continued to crack jokes, to the point that his hospice worker questioned whether he was in fact sick.
      “He was basically like, ‘I’m not afraid of death, and you shouldn’t be afraid.’ He had that mentality. ‘I’ve had a very full life; I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to.’”
      There was little that could deter him, even in the throes of illness, she said. Three days before he died, as he sat in his bed, he asked for his tabla to be brought to him.
      “We were all just sitting around, watching him play,” she said. “It was really remarkable. And it was just such a beautiful time, too.”

— Arun Venugopal is a journalist and the son of Dr. Venugopal Menon and will
dearly miss Dr. Nair, aka Bhaskar Uncle

How sadly has my hometown changed!

Whenever I am in India, almost on a daily basis, I make it a point to visit my sister Ammini who lives about a mile away from my home. And often I choose to walk the distance. Not only that it gives me an opportunity to feel one with the surroundings, the effort offers me a perspective analysis of the enormous transformation that my hometown has gone through. The walk often carries me through seven decades in time, from the placid and rustic memories of the past to the raucous and boisterous cacophony of modernity. The idyllic village atmosphere that has been preciously protected in the crevices of my mind often gets disturbed competing with the present, harsh reality of clusters of concrete monuments, blaring noise, and choking smoke. As the speeding buses and honking autos race by me with utter abandon, I virtually succeed in escaping into my own imaginary settings of the green expanse of luscious paddy fields and clayish walking bunds that divided them. The acres of coconut palms, bushy trees, and vegetable gardens have been replaced by stacks of ugly cement tenements and shacks selling commodities. The scattered homes and occasional huts vanished to accommodate the skyscrapers and massive industrial complexes. Only the sky has remained the same. I search in vain for my familiar puddles, mounds of pebbles, and routine ditches that used to be signposts along my path from my father’s home to that of my mother.
      The single rail line that used to drag an occasional train has been multiplied several times hauling a variety of electric coaches to numerous destinations. A 291 double lane concrete bridge built overhead the railroad tracks has made it convenient for vehicles and pedestrians to cross without waiting for the trains. The handful of pedestrians who frequented the narrow sandy walkways have politely disappeared that many thousands of impatient humans can find their hungry goals in a hurry. The sprawling metropolis has mercilessly bulldozed the once upon a polite and placid land of mine to accommodate the growing needs of the faceless, soulless crowd and mutilated the sanctity of the place.
     Though I find it hard to precisely identify the many familiar locations of my several childhood connections, the events and the individuals remain transfixed as inseparable images in my mind. And as I walk through those spaces, the experiences glide in and weave back imposing themselves into the presence, crafting an illusional uncertainty. The best I can explain it would be a fusion of the dimensions of time and space, perhaps a scientific impossibility, but certainly within the realms of the faculties of the mind. The landscapes have no semblance of the past, but I still sense the ever bachelor shopkeeper Raman standing at his front door and watching the street, the barber Kuttan agreeing to report soon for my father’s haircut, or the graceful Velama greeting me with her charming smile. I still shudder as I walk through the old vicinity of the house of Ramakrishna Pillai, a gregarious old man with his long white beard and big belly that many years later, Sant Claus reminded me of. One of his sons along with his friends was arrested and put in jail for seven years for raping two nuns, the story making a huge scandal and totally shaming the respectable family. Ramakrishna Pillai never came out of the house. As I walk over the tall bridge, I think of the tall Tresa teacher and all her lanky family members who lived in a house on the side of the perpetual puddle (we called it valiya vellam – big water). When it rained, the puddle swelled deep and we could not walk through without wetting our clothes.
     As is said, change is the only dependable constant. Yet thoughts can sieve through transcending time and the accompanying changes and grab on to the saved old splendors. As we attempt to balance between our inner thoughts and their external expression, our conscience is often caught in a quandary of doing total justice to both. The closer the two can be and the lesser the modification is forced upon, life can be peaceful and serene.

Dr. K. K. Sekharan, memories

Dealing with obituaries gets harder as one gets older. We start losing people of our own age, people you have shared the same stages in life. All the claims that these are times to celebrate the lives of the departed to rejoice in what they accomplished and not to mourn, should apply to the younger generation who have legitimate reasons to commemorate their loved ones for having enjoyed productive and pleasant times here. These children certainly had a father they can be proud of forever. And one who would be hard to emulate.
      But to me, the perspective is different.
     I am the same age as Sekharan. We became friends as we met the very first time – a picnic in a park around Kingwood. It was 1979 or so. From that very day, we have remained good friends, a family, for several years. We were young – once upon a time -we came from similar backgrounds and culture, traditions, purpose, ambitions and hardships, we did succeed in our professions, we raised our children together, we met as often as we could, we enjoyed doing things jointly, we celebrated birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and Shashtipoorthis and we treasured each other’s company. And then we got old and limited and faded. Now, he is gone. I am still around.
      As much as I lost a dear friend, the one consolation I have, is that he was not himself for many years, and without much hope for a recovery, I accept it as a relief that he has escaped from the clutches of a sad and hopeless predicament. I am sure, he felt the same way. We all would.
     Sekharan was a unique person, a distinctly different creation, if I may. We don’t get to see many of his kind around. A man of few words, but very bright, resolute, determined, at times even remote, but one who would accomplish anything he sets his mind on, no matter what that objective is. A most dependable friend, you can trust and entrust him, and leave the rest up to him. It would be done, and done better than anybody else could have done.
     Whether it is running the marathon, what a coincidence that our Houston marathon is tomorrow, or learning Bharatnatyam dancing at 65, he was determined to excel. There was nothing impossible, nothing insurmountable in his vocabulary. Just interesting challenges and exciting goals that he could and would be conquered. Never a question; not even a hint.
     I remember once he was in our house and wanted to do the treadmill on my equipment. Normally I struggle doing about three miles an hour, of course with no slope, but he straightaway went to 6 or 7 miles with the steepest incline. And he kept doing it without a clue of tiredness. I was surprised, and even a bit jealous and I asked him, what the heck or you trying to prove, Sekharan? Showing off? You have to respect your age and find your limits. But Sekharan did not have limits in his glossary. If he decided on something, he will make sure it happened.
     During the last few years, he was compromised. It was so sadly ironic, that someone who was so very healthy, had to endure such a situation. That is when we revisit our acceptance in a designed destiny, the fate element. I believe in a higher decision, as much as science may frown upon calling you fatalistic, sentimentalist, ignorant.
     Perhaps each of us is sent down here with an assignment to complete, with a certain length of time and resources offered at the discretion of the Creator. With the kind of tenacity, determination, and over-enthusiasm, perhaps my friend completed his assigned chores, exhausting his allocated supplies, way ahead of his time. In school, while taking tests, the smart ones completed the question papers well ahead of others. And in the Marathon, the winners completed and took rest while the slow ones kept toiling. Sekharan apparently did it with his life. He was perhaps taking it easy, resting up, during the last few years, allowing and offering an opportunity, for his loving family to take care of him. Even testing them out! Who knows, he might have been contemplating! Being Sekharan, one would never know, and we would never find out.
     He was a brilliant physicist. Only brilliant people would choose such a tough field and can do well. And of course, it is dry and boring to others who cannot fathom it. And Sekharan’s personality perfectly matched that of a physicist. Clean, distinguished, objective, uncluttered, and defined as the subject.
     As you know, in the Hindu pantheon, there are male and female deities. You may have heard about the Ardhanareeswara concept. The symbolic, spiritual explanation is that the male aspect represents the matter and the female, that of energy. As distinctly different they are, abiding by the notion that ‘opposites attract’, the inert matter cannot function to its potential without the counterpart, the vigor of energy. And the couple functioned in unison like an equation in Physics. And in their family, I don’t need to tell you who was the matter and who was the energy.
      If one follows science, Particle Physics and its potential has a huge role in our past, present, and future, in all the prospects and potential of humanity. He was an example of that enormous potential.
     With that concept, let us collectively wish Sekharan a passage into Eternity and pray that his soul earns the Ultimate Salvation, blending with the Absolute Consciousness. Moksha. That only the saintly can attain. And my friend was a saint in his own inimitable way.
     And Sekharan always has been way ahead of us. Now, certainly more than ever.
Thank you. Om Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi.

Dr. Waldo W. Martinez

Dr. Waldo Martinez, ‘dear Waldo’ to me, has been one of my dearest friends, colleague and classiest of a gentleman, who I was fortunate to know for over 35 years. As we worked as Allergists at McGovern Allergy Clinic, we used to spend many hours together, discussing patients, our families, our life in general growing up in Cuba and India, about our migration to the USA, about a variety of our interests, learning from each other, sharing stories and enjoying camaraderie. My association with him has enriched my life in innumerable ways; professionally, culturally, socially, philosophically and by sheer being in the company of a good human being. His pleasing and positive demeanor, his hearty smile, the sincerity in his dealings and his impeccable principles were endearing traits that I cherished as privileged treasures. He beamed as he spoke about his family members, from his dearest wife Finita to his four children, his grandchildren and great grandchildren, each of them having had a very special place in his heart. Waldo was a rare and exceptional human being who was endowed with that inimitable charm, that was profusely expressed and shared with all those who dealt with him. He will be missed, painfully, sensitively, sentimentally.
May your soul rest in peace, Waldo; may your smile shine forever. Affectionately,

My Thoughts about Creation

     Since there is no simple, abbreviated way to pass it on, pardon me if this gets lengthy and hazy. I am attempting to deal with a topic of discussion based on millennia-old writings, assumptions, imaginations, speculations, folklore and my faith along with some scientific observations. Every human being is at liberty to accept and believe a theory which they are comfortable to believe.
     According to Hindu concept, which is basically the Indian concept, all the information is derived from old scriptures – the Vedas, believed to be of divine origin, compiled by sages from 6000 B.C, onwards, classified into hundreds of disciplines and each comprised of many volumes. These are so hard to understand and not taught in schools or religious institutions and only taken up by scholars who are well versed in Sanskrit. It is said that even to understand and study the classification of all the scriptures, it takes about six months. Many of these have been lost to time and invasions by aggressors from other countries.
     About creation, there is a hymn in Rig Veda “None knoweth whence creation has arisen, and whether He has or has not produced it. He who surveys it in the highest heavens, he only knows, or perhaps he knows not.” This hesitancy to claim superiority and exclusiveness of thoughts, beliefs, and practices have minimized dogmatism in the Hindu religion, leading to belief in religious tolerance.
     Hindu belief is that the universe is without a beginning or end, but rather 223 projected in cycles each lasting about 12 million years and ending in a cosmic deluge. According to the Upanishads, the universe arises from Brahman, the Supreme Reality which has no attributes and forms the Ultimate Principle underlying the universe. Regarded from the point of view of Time, Brahman is Eternity or Immortality; measured from the point of view of Space, He is Infinity or Universality; regarded from the point of view of Causality, He is Absolute Freedom.
     There are five great elements (Panchabhutas) which are the ingredients of all observable matter in the universe, including our physical bodies. They are Ether (Akasha – gravitational energy), Air (Vayu – kinetic energy), Fire (Tejas – radiation or light), Water (Ap- Electricity), and Earth (Prithvi – Magnetism). Advaita (non-dualism) philosophy holds that the Brahman (supreme reality) and Atman (individual soul) are identical even though they appear to be different as a result of universal ignorance. As per the belief, there is divinity in every living organism. Sankhya is a system founded by sage Kapila, which advocates an evolutionary view of the universe based on continuity of life from the lowest to the highest level of existence. Since modern science does not yet recognize the concept of an individual soul of Hindu philosophy, the discussion about creation can only apply to the evolution of the observable matter. Hindu concept holds that the soul, depending on the good or evil deeds of each life, as dictated by the ‘karma’, can act as a catalyst in the subsequent life cycles.
     Now the explanation of Male/Female concept: The Primal Existence turned toward manifestation has a double aspect – Male and Female, Purusha and Prakriti, Positive and Negative. The process of manifestation of the Brahman for expression is executed by a Power which is inherent in His Being. It is this Power that turns the wheel of Brahman. That Power is Sakti, the Energy of the Divine self, which is the female aspect. Her relationship with the Lord is spoken of in the Upanishads in terms of the Female and Male, the executive and creative aspects of Manifestation. The Man and the Woman, Universal Adam and Eve are really one; each one is incomplete without the other, inactive without the other. Purusha the Male, God, is that side of the One which gives the impulse towards phenomenal existence; Prithvi the Female, Nature, is that side which is and evolves the material of phenomenal existence – both are unborn and eternal.
     The doctrine of ‘sin’ is not accepted in Hinduism. According to the Hindu view, man commits sin only because of his ignorance of his own true nature. Due to ‘avidya’ (ignorance), man perceives himself as an independent entity, separate from ‘Brahman’. This ignorance makes him forget his real nature and his intimate relationship with the Divine. Under this delusion, man behaves in petty ways and attaches himself to fear, craving, anger and so on. In the Hindu view, ‘ignorance’ of ‘Self’ is the root cause of all evils in the world. Self-knowledge is thus essential in eliminating evil since knowledge destroys ignorance.
     Interestingly, it is mentioned that many of these concepts go alongside with the modern understanding of theoretical physics. Principles of Relativity and Quantum theory have alluded in connection with the Hindu philosophy about the universe. I found a mention of Sage Sankara, who already started writing where Einstein ended centuries later.
     Because of the enormity and complexity of the writings, very few Indians (Hindus) even bother to delve into the scriptures. In fact, Hinduism is not a true religion in the broader sense, but a philosophy towards understanding the meaning of human existence, as scholars have narrated centuries ago. Scholars in every religion have promulgated theories about life and the universe, which to the common man, may be too hard to fathom. Eventually, we can identify similarities between all the concepts from different observations and if someone is willing to and makes an effort to write a treatise bridging all the gaps, perhaps we can see something close to the total reality.
(December 24, 2008)

The Beginning – Or

Beginning; origin; start; source; foundation; basis…

     Is there a Beginning on its own? Is there ever a beginning from ‘nothing’? Is there an origin or a start of anything from nothing? Has anyone seen, observed or felt anything new, anything original born out of nothing, without a previous form or feeling? To our common understanding, there always exists a substance or substrate or experience for anything to originate from; be it another substance or be it a sensation. Always it is a transformation, a modification, or an alteration of something pre-existing for anything to evolve; anything at all. For water, it is either ice or steam or Hydrogen and Oxygen; for a plant, there is a seed, for a creature it is an ovum or a cell; for a sculpture, it may be a block of wood or clump of clay. For Life, essentially, there must be something vital as its origin. For an inanimate object, there usually has a precursor form. For a feeling, there always is a reason; for hunger, it is the empty stomach, for fear, there has to be a scare; for love, there will be an objective reason, a focus.

In the case of ‘the Universe’, is it any different?

     For the beginning of the Universe, for the Galaxy, for the enormity of all that exists, there is bound to be a previous state or perhaps at least a valid explanation, which we may or may not be able to comprehend; yet, it has to be there. It is very unlikely, at least from the perception of human experience that Cosmos originated out of Nothing. If we can figure out a definition for that ‘Nothing’ or if we can come up with an explanation that there was ‘Something’ prior to ‘Everything’, then the process can be understood as a phenomenon without a real beginning or an end. For one to assimilate the concept of origin there has to be a substantial faith convincing to that conscience or a logical theory postulated and accepted by the scientific circle. For the former group, those who approach it through sheer belief, or accept it as an act of faith, every religion has their account of creation revealing their belief how everything began. For the scientific mind, inquisitive of proof, volumes are available explaining the various theories about the origin of cosmos and that of evolution. Often most of us come up with our own comfortable conclusion depending on our upbringing and the extent of information we are exposed to which make a meaningful inference to our probing minds.
     While dealing with a subject which is understood in a variety of ways and the details of which are so obscure, hard to be explained or be proved, it makes reasonable sense to look at it with an inquiring mind and with a broad attitude. Another option is to be dogmatic and deceive one’s own judgment.
     As an interesting, educational exercise let us journey through the various ways the different religions approach the concept of the ‘very beginning’ and how they compare or conflict with the truly scientific findings that are on record.

     Hindu belief is that the universe is essentially without beginning or end, life being in the midst of an infinite cycle of cosmic deaths and births, dictated and controlled by an enormous concept, God. Hindus consider that the creator is transcendent, ruling beyond the dimensional limits of the universe, beyond time and space. In that context, the Hindu view differs from the “big-bang” theory, which proposes that the entire universe, all the matter and energy and the dimensions of time and space, exploded into existence from an infinite density, approximately 15 billion years ago. Accommodating into the Hindu belief, perhaps such big-bang explosions can just be the ‘beginning’ of every cycle in the ongoing cosmic evolutions. Such a theory would give credence to the notion of a steady state of affairs rather than of a one-time occurrence, even if such an event were to repeat once every few billions of years.

     The ancient Hindu scriptures, like the Rigveda, Manusmriti, Upanishads, and others, devised by sages of antiquity, describes the universe as going through a continuous, cyclical process. God creates and destroys this universe in a cycle of eras, named Krita Yuga (1,728,000 years), Treta Yuga (1,296,000 years), Dwapara Yuga (864,000 years) and Kali Yuga (432,000 years). Our present universe is considered to be in the Kali-yuga for the last 5,000 years. After each cycle, there is a transitional period where the universe is deluged by huge flooding. One combined unit of the four yugas makes one cycle and 71 such cycles comprise one ‘Manu’. Since this creation, it has been six different Manus and the current period is the 28th cycle of the seventh Manu, which has 43 more four-yuga cycles remaining. Then there will be seven more Manus before the universe will come to an end and will be recreated again. A thousand four-yuga periods (Mahayuga) comprise one day of the Creator Brahma and another thousand such periods make one night for him. The universe lasts for the duration of the creator’s one day (4,320 Billion years) and it stays unmanifest for the duration of his night. When He wakes up, the universe is in motion again. The day and night of Brahma are called a Kalpa, which is equal to 2000 Mahayugas. It is said that when Brahma starts his day, all entities become manifest from the un-manifest state and when his night starts, they all go back to the un-manifest state. The 15 billion years as stated in the big-bang theory is only two days to Lord Brahma, the God of creation. When modern astronomy deals with billions of years, Hindu creation concepts deal with trillions of years, yet with no beginning or end, but going in an everlasting circle. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna states, “At the beginning of time or Kalpa, I create everything and at the end of time Kalpa, the whole creation 217 merges in me; the whole universe is created and annihilated by my will”. “I am life, cause of all life and I am death, devoure of all”.

     The Biblical understanding about the Beginning of the Universe is very clear, according to Genesis 1: 1-4; that God created the universe in six days, thousands of years ago. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”
     The Bible informs us that time is a dimension that God created, into which man was subjected to. God exists in eternity outside the dimension He created (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2) and He is not subject to time. Because we live in the dimension of time, it is impossible for us to understand anything without a beginning or an end. Believing in the concept of God’s eternal nature, we believe the concept of space having no beginning or end.
     Even though there are differences of understanding between various fundamentalists and liberal groups among Christians as to the actual length of days mentioned in the Genesis, essentially the belief attributes God as the creator. Also accommodating scientific theories especially of evolution versus creation is a topic of controversy, with varying degrees of opinion among different groups. The belief is driven purely by the love of God and not by an objection to science.

     As per Quran, the divine revelation of Islam, Allah created the universe from nothing and brought into existence all the creatures. It makes unmistakable reference to the fact that Allah created it from a single entity, and He is All-capable over all things. Allah then ordered the ‘single entity’ to split, which it did, and turned into a cloud of smoke. From this cloud, Allah created the heavens and earth. (2:117, 21:30)
     The descriptions in the Quran are not intended as dry historical accounts, but rather to engage the reader in contemplating the lessons to be learned from. The act of creation is thus frequently spoken of as a way of drawing the reader into thinking about the All-knowing Creator Who is behind it all.
     When describing the creation of the ‘heavens and earth’, the Quran does not discount the theory of a “Big Bang” explosion at the start of it all. In fact, the Quran says that “the heavens and earth were joined together as one unit before we clove them asunder” (21:30). The elements and what were to become the planets and stars began to cool, come together and form into shape, following the natural laws that Allah established in the universe. The Quran further states that Allah created the sun, the moon, the planets and the rest, each with their own individual courses or orbit (21:33).

     According to Jewish legend: “In the beginning – before the beginning – God’s light filled the entire universe. When God decided to create the world, He had to withdraw some of His light from the universe, so that there would be space for the land and the seas, the trees and the corn stalks, the butterflies and the lions, the ladybugs and the sea otters. So God breathed in some of the Divine light so that there would be room for all the things He wanted to create.
     And then God began to create: the sky and the earth, the drylands and the waters, the fiery sun, the shimmering moon and the twinkling stars, the forests and the deserts, the creepy crawly things and the birds of the air, the fish of the seas and the animals roaming from here to there. Each of the little shards of light, the sparks of God, became the soul of a human being. God declared that the crowning works of creation were these humans, created in His image, created with a spark of His Divine Being. And to man and woman, God assigned a divine task and a sacred mission.
     ”The traditional Jewish interpretation of Biblical creation differs from that of Christian creationism. The more science discovers, there may be more of a convergence of science and that of Jewish interpretation of Genesis. The controversy between the six days of creation according to Genesis when compared to the 15 billion cited by science may have some compromise if the ‘day’ as mentioned in Genesis is a ‘divine day’, which is actually 365,250 years long. “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday” (Psalm 90:4), since each year contains 364 ¼ days, the calculation may put the two figures approximate each other.

     At the very beginning, what existed was void; Chaos, according to Greeks. A void is emptiness, a dark emptiness where nothing is visible, endless, and bottomless. Then earth appears; Gaia as the Greeks calls it, the floor of the world. Earth rises up in the very heart of the void and then shapes up like mountains and oceans and the rest. Primordial love is the next to appear, Eros. Then two offspring Uranus and Pontus, Sky and Sea are born from where the rest is born.

     According to “Egyptian cosmology” by Moustafa Gadalla, they have monotheistic mysticism, go along with the Big Bang theory that started the universe and applies it to a concept of cosmic consciousness. The Big Crunch would end the universe and the Big Bounce would start creation all over again.

     The Chinese concept of the origin of the universe is from that of space and time, reflected by the term yu-zhou, meaning a continuum without bounds and limits. The concept is compatible with the modern theory of the universe. Before the existence of heaven and earth, there was complete chaos. Silent! Empty! From the chaotic state, the universe entered a state of order in which all things were produced in accordance with the spontaneous dao, the ‘mother’ of all things.

Then there are numerous thoughts about the Beginning and about creation from many corners of the earth as believed by different tribes like the Zulus, Efics, Apaches, Aztecs, Mayans, Australian Aborigines, and others.

     Based on the findings of modern research, most scientists at the moment favor the Big Bang theory as the beginning of the Universe. It states that the Universe in its current shape is only a phase of a process that started with a gigantic explosion about 15 million years ago. The entire matter and energy were condensed into an infinitely small volume, which blasted into the matter, energy, space and time. The period ‘Before’ the explosion does not exist because, ‘time’ and ‘space’ did not exist before that.
     After the explosion, the ‘space’ created was filled with ‘energy’ and had an extremely high temperature. Instantaneously, ‘elementary matter’ came into existence, followed by protons, neutrons, and electrons which all started expanding. Since the beginning, it is said that the universe is constantly cooling and expanding simultaneously. This era is called the ‘radiation’ era since electromagnetic radiation was the most important phenomenon in the universe. After several thousand years, the temperature was cool enough for atoms to develop from elementary particles, especially hydrogen and helium; the era was called that of ‘matter’. After more thousands of years of cooling, the galaxies arose.
     The evidence of Big Bang theory came with the observation of Edwin Hubble and his space telescope, which could monitor activities in the space and follow the behavior of the planets and stars. It is observed that as the universe is expanding, the galaxies are drifting farther away from each other. There seem to be two possibilities to follow: either an Infinite Universe, if the expansion continues forever until all the galaxies form isolated islands in an infinite space-ocean, or, an Oscillating Universe which after the expansion stops, begin to shrink again and end in a thick mass of ‘singularity’, the opposite of Big Bang which can be called the Big Crunch.
     It will be relevant to make mention of Newton’s Laws, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Dynamics and the concept of Black Holes in the context of the Big Bang theory. Newton’s Law states that there needs a force acting on the mass to change its velocity. The General Theory of Relativity changed the basic concepts and showed that gravity is a property of space and not just a force between masses. It says that time is not a constant feature but will be expanded at high velocities like the speed of light or areas with intense gravity. It calculates the relationship between the dimensions of space and time. Quantum theory is the new branch of theoretical physics evolved to understand the properties of matter, which could not be explained, by classical mechanics or electromagnetic theory. It deals with the nature of sub-atomic particles and the heat radiation or the energy emitted by them, which are called quanta. Electrons revolve around the nucleus of the atoms, just as planets revolve around the sun. A Black Hole is an object whose gravity is so strong that the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light; the matter, which spirals into it, disappears extremely compressed and heated to extreme temperatures.
     The interesting findings of modern-day Physics seem to explain the cosmological events in many ways similar to those mentioned in eastern scriptures; that all observable and describable realities are manifestations of the same underlying ‘divine’ principle. In the multiplicity of things, there is unity; matter is many things and one thing at the same time.

     It is impossible to enumerate all the different viewpoints about the ‘beginning’ fostered by the numerous groups of believers around the world, from major religions to small tribal establishments, only a few of which could possibly be mentioned here. Faith is something very precious and personal to every individual, no matter how it may appear to others with an entirely different conviction. On issues with no concrete finality about the accuracy and assuming civility in our approach, such matters are best left at the discretion of the believers.
     Scientific theories are based on observations, analysis, and inference from data collected using systematic methodology, accepted by the scientific circle. Even though their findings may all be reasonably acceptable as facts, using the same examples of Newton’s Law is proved to be not all the truth and the Relativity theory being influenced by the Quantum Dynamics, scientific information will remain ‘true’ until the next ‘truth’ is invented in due course of time. Science also may remain elusive to understand and explain matters beyond a certain sphere of ‘time and space’. It will be prudent and sensible for any student who is honestly curious about knowing the truth without bias or preconceived notions to give scientific findings the respect they deserve. Perhaps much more complex, is for anyone seriously inquisitive yet accommodative, to respect the postulates put forward by the various religious circles, purely on the basis of faith. It is likely that the majority may be content and even comfortable to live with the limited understanding of the dictations of the faith they are brought up without doubting or questioning the authority of such teachings. When one is devotionally loyal to the ultimate submission to the concept of divinity they have subscribed to, all other explanations and pieces of evidence will automatically cease to impress them. After all, since no one has claimed for an ultimate truth unequivocally based on proof, scientific or otherwise, it will remain to be the call of the individual to believe whatever he feels comfortable to live with. Applying the same sentiments, it will be desirable for all of us to honor the others option on such preferences and respect their freedom to choose the way every individual feels at ease with. Arguments to establish the superiority of a certain philosophy and animosity over others who prefer to follow a different path is perhaps the basis of most of the turmoil that we face in today’s world.

Sri. Raja Rathna Bhattar – His Memories Always guiding us.

Sri. Raja Ratna Bhattar

     To be asked to express about someone you hold in high esteem is an honor that I cherish immensely. I am privileged with that honor to write about Sri. Raja Rathna Bhattar, Priest Emeritus of Sri. Meenakshi Temple of Houston. I also consider it a blessing to have been closely associated with a person of such intense knowledge and devotion, during my fortunate involvement in the activities of the temple.
     Priests in Hindu traditions occupy an exalted status in terms of respectability and reverence, yet are not the bastions of power wielding politics, like in many other religious hierarchies. In our religious customs, they function as the mediators between the sanctum and the devotee, invoking the divinity of the deities through ritualistic practices. The priests also function as the teachers of our rich religious wisdom, by interpreting and explaining the profound philosophy enshrined in our sacred scriptures.
     Sri. Raja Rathna Bhattar has been a godsend to our temple, spearheading the evolution of our phenomenal growth, from its humble beginnings to the present glorious accomplishments. Since the most basic function of a temple is to provide religious, ritualistic services to the visiting devotees, the priests shoulder the major responsibility of its success. As the chief priest of Sri Meenakshi Temple for many years, Sri. Bhattar was instrumental in establishing, sustaining and promoting the high standard that it has achieved now, attracting many thousands of devotees from far and near. I can honestly and sincerely credit Sri. Rathna Bhattar for having guided us in the marvelous strides we have made in meeting our religious needs in an alien land so far away from ‘home’.
     Sri. Bhattar has been instrumental as a guiding force in all our temple religious activities, like daily poojas for the various deities, planning the various special poojas arranged as needed, making the yearly temple calendars, giving discourses explaining our traditions, providing input in the expansion of our facilities, organizing cultural activities and participating in various educational needs. Even after retirement, he has been tirelessly available and been graciously helpful in all our temple needs. On a personal level, in times of need, he is always there to advise you and to guide you, with compassion and sincerity.
     Sri. Rathna Bhattar and his elder brother Sri. Thanga Bhattar was called to divine duty to Houston many years ago, from the illustrious, priestly background of the famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple, for the benefit of the Hindu population of Texas and surroundings. For someone hailing from a strict, almost rigid religious legacy, adhering to fundamentalism and observing fastidious, orthodox practices, would seem to be a practical impossibility to adapt to modernistic, western attitudes in an almost hostile environment. But Bhattar Mama, as we reverently and affectionately address him, not only lived up to the needs but surpassed our expectations, by his uncanny adaptability and scholarly comprehension of the circumstances. With vast, in-depth knowledge of the true meaning of our scriptures and its application, he has been successful in providing the needed guidance to Hindus here, to fit their needs as demanded by our new lifestyle.
     On a personal note, he has been very close to our family, providing advice on a variety of religious and adaptability issues that we face in this land, accommodating the practical differences in a cordial and prudent fashion without diluting our time-honoured tenets. Even if he tries to snub some issue that cannot be accommodated, with his diplomatic and authentic understanding, he makes it palatable to those listening. Bhattar Mama conducted the weddings of our two daughters, one to an American Catholic and the other one to a Gujarathi Jain; and he held on to all our traditions and incorporated their valued customs without offending either of us and doing phenomenally authentic rituals.
     In Hinduism, as in most religions, one can easily get bewildered and go astray if one does not comprehend the basic tenet that divinity dwells in all. Bhattar Mama has set an exemplary example of a true Hindu scholar by his broadmindedness, his understanding, and interpretation of our philosophy, his application of the knowledge in our religious practices and daily life and his ability to convey the essence of our faith and convince us about it. Speaking at the InterFaith assembly, I have heard him saying to an astonished group of mostly onetrack believers, that Krishna and Christ or Mary or Maariamman are the reflections of one and the same Almighty
     As we celebrate his birthday, it is my honor and good fortune to felicitate his accomplishments and pray for his long life, health, and peace of mind. May Goddess Meenakshi shower her blessings on this enlightened individual, his devoted wife, and his affectionate family and protect him for the benefit of the many of us, who look up to him for his guidance.
(Bhattar Mama has been gone, but he will always remain in our thoughts)

Guidance about Hinduism, for a Doctoral Thesis

Dear S,
     Now that I have a notion about your objective with the manuscript, I can say, that you have done well.
     Allow me to share some of my suggestions from a Hindu perspective since that is what you have expected from contacting me.
     If one is analyzing the behaviour of a human being from a spiritual angle that they have cultivated through the religion they follow, through the belief system they prefer and entrust, the analyzer would be more equipped and better prepared if they go a bit deeper into that particular belief system (‘religion’ for want of an alternate nomenclature), explore the fundamentals, origin, peculiarities, popularity and practice parameters of that religion. If one is searching the cabinets for a particular piece, it would be sensible to explore the lower shelves than reach out to the top ones straight away.
     Especially expedient would be to study the philosophy of that faith that would have a direct bearing to the follower’s functioning, and in this case within the context of their hedonic or eudaimonic well-being.
     ‘Hinduism’, to be blunt about it, is not a religion. It is ‘anadhi’, without a traceable origin, ‘apourusheya’, without a founder, and ‘Anantha’, endless with an 184 infinite ending. Based on the concepts of ‘Sanatana Dharma’, eternal righteousness, it is a discipline that follows a certain philosophy that guides the inquisitive ones towards understanding the ‘meaning of it all’, of ‘what it is all about’, who and where we are, and how best we can make it, if you are keen about it. ‘Hinduism’, preferably addressed as Sanatana Dharma, may be called the faith of those who remained following that philosophy bequeathed from its principles and derived from the teachings of the wise from the past, from the Vedas, Upanishads and such scriptures that predate the concept of true religion by millennia. Hinduism became a religion when others who preferred to be ‘others’ thrust such a name on them.
     If humanity were to be compared to passengers in a train getting on from some beginning and taking off to an unknown destination, several sets of the commuters opt to exit in different stations when enlightened guides attracted them to follow and accept their leadership. They all established, multiplied, enlisted others and settled as inhabitants of their chosen cities, that they called ‘regimented religions’. After many stations and many established ‘religions’, those who continued on the train remained as ‘Hindus’ following their scriptural indoctrination and cultivated philosophical habits. If one chooses, the train may be replaced by a space rocket, dropping passengers on different planets and moving on.
     As per the instructions followed by the Hindu scriptures, the ultimate goal of those ‘passengers’ is to attain ‘Moksha’, ‘Nirvrithi’, bliss, salvation, by blending with the ‘Absolute Consciousness’, the Brahman, the God factor, if you may. That ‘happiness’ is their ultimate destination, of no more births as they become part of the ONE ORIGIN. (Taittiriya Upanishad, 2.7.1). As per their Karma, they may have to take several trains to reach that goal. And through each of such rides, they gain or lose traction getting closer or falling farther back, until they reach the goal, if ever.
     According to Hinduism, during each life (or ride), there are three types of happiness; Physical (Bhouthika) comforts of life, sensual enjoyment and bodily pleasures, Mental (Manasika) sense of fulfillment, freedom from worries, afflictions, and anxieties, and Spiritual (Adhyatmika) freedom from the cycles of births and deaths, and union with self. (
     Few thoughts about your article: Overall you have covered the essentials of Sanatana Dharma, touching upon the Atman, Brahman, Atma Sakshatkara, Absolute Consciousness and how to reach ultimate happiness, the Bliss.
     You have surmised that Arjuna enjoys happiness through the pride of his mastery in archery, pleasing his master Drona, but we feel that it is more with reference to his ego and false pride rather than to impress the teacher. Your 185 reference to Rama and his going on exile and thus resulting in his father’s death is totally off mark as per our teachings. He did it for two reasons; as a dutiful son protecting the father’s pride and dignity to keep his promise, and to be able to carry out the purpose of his incarnation to kill Ravana. And attaining wealth is encouraged, but only through moral pursuit. Bhagavad Gita (2.47) explicitly explains ‘Karmanye vaadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kada Chana’, you have the right to perform, but not entitled to the fruits of your action. Do your duty, but don’t be attached to the fruits of your labor. Your example of Duryodhana is a perfect lesson against immoral, unscrupulous, behavior and greed.
     Wishing you the very best with your dissertation and for a bright future.