August 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
What is identity?
Identity is the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. It is about recognising ourselves with something other than ourselves. This tells us something crucial about the nature of a person. We need an identity to gauge our value and importance in our own eyes and in the eyes of the others. If you see synonyms of the word identity they are self, individuality, ego, personality, character, similarity, sameness, oneness and you get the idea.
Identity can hold a certain meaning for an individual and a different meaning from the perspective of a group. From an individual’s standpoint it gives a person a certain sense of belonging, security and stability in an otherwise unknown world and unpredictable life. Almost everything from civilizations, cultures, institutions, cult following, fan following, religion, family name, society is to give one an identity with which he/she identifies themselves or others can identify them as. Identities are important to help a person bond with others so that his/her understanding and experience of the world becomes relatively easy and comprehensible. Identities provide a tried and tested map for navigation in journey of life. But are identities always helpful or is this safety backfiring on us by not allowing us to become exploratory and have open minds in the truest sense?
Consider present day India. When a child is born the first id given to him/her is the name of the family. The pre-assumed id given is the affiliation to a certain religion which is of the parents. Another pre-assumed id is the caste of the family. Since you are born in India another id given to you is that of an Indian and the place you are born in. As the child grows up various ids are taken and given to the child. Which school he has gone to, which college he goes to, which profession one takes or is forced to take. Thus various innumerable tags and roles are given to play. All these ids are alright as long as a person is able to think on his own. The importance of all the institutions lies in the fact that they have certain strengths within them. When a person belongs to an institute he will ,by-default, imbibe within him the values that are practiced by the members of that institution. The ideal role of these institutions is to make the child or an individual capable enough to understand what might be right or wrong in a situation and not be afraid. Instead of this, members say something else, do something else, pass on their biases knowingly or unknowingly to both children and grown-up alike thus leaving them confused and highly influenced by that confusion. They promote limited curiosity. This results in a child/person who doesn’t ask the right questions but only questions to impress or asks comfortable questions, doesn’t observe what is happening around him and is desensitized due to lack of any understanding. All those traits which have led mankind to current state of development and prosperity both technologically and culturally are systematically suppressed in a child. The abilities to observe, not hold any pre-informed biases, ask questions based on observation irrespective of the comfort of the others, strength of mind to ask the right questions and seek its answers and the courage to act in a situation according to the need of the situation are what each identity giving institution should provide. Lack of such traits leads one to become a human-robot instead of being a human. Change whether internal/external has never been brought by a person who agrees to every identity he has been given or asked to take. Small changes within self which are brought about by the person after observation of self and big changes in society are brought about by people who have shed a certain identity ( whether to take on a new one or not take any) that was given to them.
Letting go of a particular identity /tag is a very challenging task which can be done only by an individual. No identity or role is harmful as long as it promotes growth and realization of true nature of an individual. Sadly that is not the case. Today an identity or a role aims to make an individual similar or a carbon copy of an ideal member with the same id. If the role alignment is successful then a person is ‘good and very obedient’. But this leads to a person becoming a robot doing similar things as people have done in the past and becomes a fanatic. If one looks around, fanaticism is what is seen. For example what does it mean to be an Indian? Does it mean being born in a certain landmass and utilizing it’s resources or does it mean contributing to its GDP? Does it mean approving of it’s ruling government or does saying Jai Hind or I love India make one an Indian? According to me, being of a certain country or some boundary means imbibing and acting upon what values that country has been built, formed or perpetrated. Thus a person living in India might not necessarily be Indian but might act on a different set of formative values. Thus having an id is alright as long as one is aware what one is being identified with and identified as. The role that you are asked to play should be well justified according to one’s nature and tendencies instead o2f being forced upon due to uncontrollable events like being born or simply because something is done by most hence has to be done by rest.
What can be done to improve the current scenario then? One suggestion is to be yourself which is easier said than done. Second is that identities have to evolve with time and societies. An id that was working well a few 100 years ago might not be suitable is current scenario. But is this the solution or a temporary workaround? When a particular solution did not work for a problem then how can a similar suggested idea work. There has to be different solution to the problem of tagging and identity.
Being yourself is easy to say and looks great as a quote or a photo tagline but what mostly happens is that even being yourself ends up following a certain trend or pattern. Being yourself in entirety requires shedding of all masks, ids and affiliations given to one and taken by one. If I have to be myself , I should try and think independent of all possible tags and ids. And then what comes to my mind is what I am in truth. The catch is- our thoughts and process of thought is defined by the environment and people around us. We are so influenced by these two factors that to not think in a particular way is almost equivalent to not thinking at all. The people who I believe are able to break away in whatever amount are the ones who have always thought differently and have never believed a word told to them unless they have verified it themselves even if that means that they believe very few things and very few people. Some are exceptions and some are taught to think that way. Not only this but these are the people who have great observation skills. They can see the farce, fanaticism, close-mindedness , behavior contrary to someone’s internal nature due to ids and tags. This creates an urge to shed those. Shedding those ids means un-thinking what has been thought and learned to think. In essence, it means becoming a blank slate, a child again at a later stage. That is what shedding or letting go of an identity means.
Being oneself is not easy. It is the most easily said and the toughest thing to do by an individual. How does one do it, that path has to be searched for. One way could be to find out if we are really our thoughts , our ego or not. But this is just a suggestion. I do not know the solution. This urge to shed and let go only arises when a person understands that there is something fundamentally wrong with what is going on.
June 6, 2017 § 1 Comment
What is your best moment in the trek?
Why do you come to mountains?
What did you take from the mountains and what did you leave in the mountains?
These three questions were posed to us by the camp leader of Patar Nachauni (Uttarakhand) and we were asked to give our own answers without discussion when we returned to Patar after summit. After the questions were asked discussions started and there was a difference to be noticed. The relatively younger ones (recent undergrads) immediately started discussing and words like perseverance, endurance, will power etc could be heard. Most just smiled at each other and didn’t discuss these questions with each other (not in my knowledge atleast). After successfully summiting Roopkund when all of us had returned to the camp of Patar Nachauni, one or two of the camp trek mates randomly asked if we have to answer the three questions and if we have to, when will they be asked. The questions were casually forgotten later maybe even the answers. In my case, one of the questions remained unforgotten and unanswered. I tried finding out the reason but everything seemed shallow, incomplete, dissatisfying or simply not the real reason. Maybe it requires many more treks to be able to realize the answer.
Recently I had successfully completed the Roopkund Trek (15696 ft) which located in the Trishul massif in the state of Uttarakhand. One difference that I observed between Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand is that Himachal looks like most common paintings done of the mountains (soothing) whereas Uttarakhand is rugged and raw. This is due to the flora of the state. Nevertheless it is not the soothness or the ruggedness of the mountains that brings one to climb it all the way to the top or the destination which requires endurance, patience, will power, perseverance and knowing oneself (partially and atleast physically if not otherwise).
Coming back to the questions, my best moment in the trek was reaching the summit. This time I had poor stamina and had caught a bad cold just before the trek started. This led to intense congestion throughout the trek thus leading to breathlessness while ascend. There were multiple instances while ascending where I had almost planned to give up and come back later but then decided to reach the camp site and then see if the thought still persisted. The last few hundred meters in reaching the summit were the most exhilarating steps I had taken as I was unable to breathe properly and it was a steep snow climb. One big reason why I was able to cover that last distance was due to not letting go at the last moment and the presence of one of the members of the technical team with me throughtout the climb. Had Inder Bhaiya not encouraged continuously saying “ तुम अच्छा चल रहे हो |बस थोड़ा सा और ऊपर है | तुम कर लोगे, बस अपनी pace में चलते रहो |”, I might have reached even later than I already did. I am so thankful to the technical team and the guides (Nari Bhaiya and Suraj bhaiya) of TTH for encouraging me to move ahead. Due to improper health , I always walked last which led to longer resting break. For fast walkers such long breaks are annoying as it cools their body down thus reducing efficiency. Even after all this not a single member complained rather all of them encouraged me to keep going. Hence I am thankful to all my trek mates.
My cold had started from home itself and my parents are well aware of congestion at higher altitude. This kept them in constant worry throughout my trek and there wasn’t regular contact as well. After reaching Patar Nachauni the first time, I had called them after a day’s break to inform them about my condition. The relief was clearly evident in their voices and the happiness that I was fit enough to continue though slowly (read very slowly). That relief and happiness in their voices gave me more strength to continue. That moment I realized the importance of parent’s support in a particular endeavor and how it helps to continue regardless of whatever conditions.
Another question was regarding what I had taken from the mountains and what I had left in the mountains. I had packed my bag assuming that I will be carrying it on my own and will not burden the mule with my bag. Also I am not a fast walker but neither am I a very slow walker. Hence walking at the last was the first dent on my ego. Second major dent was giving my bag to the mule on the third walking day of the trek. It was during these moments that I had realized that either it was my ego or me. It was these particular points in time throughout the treks that made me realize that my ego is not what I can do or what I am capable of doing. Thus during the course of the trek I have left some part of my ego in the vast expanse of the mountains. Not only my ego but also some of my weight was lost during the trek 😛
What did I take from the mountains? More patience and perseverance and bliss of an empty mind. Also a lot of memories of Uno and discussions. That is the only thing I can think of right now. A few realisations like why meditation is easier in the Himalayas as compared to any other place and why it is easier to put one’s mind to use than to quiet it down. There were moments of pure relaxation where it was easier to understand and realize these things.
The last question was why I come to the mountains. I do not know the answer to this question. There were a few hypotheses I had thought of but none of them seemed apt or satisfying. I do not even remember them now. As mentioned earlier, I will have to do self-exploration and maybe many more treks to realize the answer to this particular question.
The ‘why’ of most questions are tough to answer with certainty. Either the answer is attributed to age old customs or are ignored and forgotten. What I have understood by going alone on treks to mountains is that not being with someone and walking alone makes one thoughtless. If not completely thoughtless then atleast useless and redundant thoughts don’t occur or bother a person. This calmness gives one the medium to see things as they are than from a pre-informed lens. Such clarity of mind gives a person enough space to grow and work towards improvement of self. This state of empowerment can help a person answer or seek those ‘why’s’ much effectively and properly than with influence of others keeping only the most necessary points in mind. Such de-cluttering of mind which in ideal condition should be possible anywhere, becomes much easier in the mountains. Maybe this is one of the hidden cravings that lead me to the mountains. I believe that the day I achieve such a state of mind without going to the mountains will be a day of lifetime achievement for me. Then going to the mountains will be for a reason not involving self or maybe I become as vast and as accommodating as the mountain itself. Who knows.
My first Himalayan trek was Sar Pass. Roopkund’s beauty is not the same as Sar Pass. Its beauty lies in its ruggedness. We were lucky to have experienced sunny, cloudy, rainy, hailstones and snowfall in a span of six days. Story behind Roopkund and various sites on the way holds religious (Hindu) significance. The campsites were Loharjung-Didna Village-Ali Bugyal-Patar Nachauni-Bugwabasa-Roopkund-Patar Nachauni-Bedni Bugyal-Wan Village. Each of the campsites are named according to some mythological incidents involving Nanda Devi Yatra in the old times when Nanda Devi (Goddess) was going for a yatra through this route. Also some campsites are named after Lord Shiv and Goddess Parvati’s journey to Mount Kailash. Besides this Roopkund is one of India’s oldest trek routes. I will not be mentioning the reasons regarding why a certain campsite is named as it will reveal the fun of story telling beforehand. Some stories and moments are best experienced live and at that particular place for full effect. What I will mention though is the night sky (3AM) sky at Bugwabasa camp. It is the clearest ( hence the most beautiful) night sky I have seen till date! I can totally understand the curiosity night skies must have evoked in the man’s heart and mind which led to important findings and today’s search for extra-terrestrial life.
For me Roopkund was a trek with some old and some new lessons learnt, new understandings and increased clarity. I intend to do many more in the future in the hope of exploring a new place and a new part of self.
May 14, 2017 § Leave a comment
Books books everywhere,
and not a single thought to write,
Books books everywhere,
and not a single dream to write.
Books books everywhere
with easy access to them,
books here and books there,
everyone’s a philosopher.
Books on this , books on that
everyone’s an intellectual.
Someone else has written their idea
which you have gobbled with interest.
You have now made it your own
without a single thought of your own.
Real knowledge comes from observing
and thinking for yourself,
books only work as an aid
to help you grow and flourish.
Without a basis, without your input
you adapted someone else’s word.
It makes you easily influenced
with whatever is fed.
Books are here and books are there
not an original thought to write.
Books and books are everywhere
learning depends on your mind’s might.
P.S. It is better to first develop one’s own thinking process and then reading books (or internet articles) instead of first reading and then forming thoughts. One doesn’t grow with bookish knowledge. This applies in all fields whether technical or non-technical.
In no way am I saying that reading books are bad. I am an avid reader myself. There are certain topics or subjects where reading first is important to know something. But there are many areas where first thinking and then reading to varied views on it helps in expansion of mind and not vice versa. Being well read is one thing and being genuinely knowledgeable,intelligent and wise is another thing.
Original thought is important.
April 28, 2017 § Leave a comment
Is morality and ethical behaviour change-able or always fixed?
If changeable, why does it even exist?
If fixed, why don’t people always follow it ?
Are morality and ethics defined by religion or is the existence of these concepts because of religion?
If yes, why don’t people follow it?
If no, what stops people from naturally choosing an ethical path?
Is morality convenience and self-advantage based?
If yes, why does it exist?
If no, why do people find it tough to follow it?
What is courage? Is it something to show when things are favourable or a trait which is revealed during tight and unfavourable conditions?
Is morality, courage, and fearlessness the same?
Are these questions tough to answer?
If no, are you ethical?
If yes, go ask questions, question your religious beliefs and find answers. Also stay away from people who said yes without being ethical and moral themselves.
January 22, 2017 § 1 Comment
Being a stranger to self and others maybe the best thing I realised I could be to someone and to myself.
No, this is not coming out of helplessness that others ( and sometimes I) tend to leave me in but because this is the best way I can be of help to anyone and for self.
In the context of others, being a stranger is helpful because one behaves better with a stranger than one does with someone known. We ( at least most of us) are most empathetic towards the ones we don’t know about. We are least judgmental about them because we know nothing about them. No preconceived notions and no formed ideas as well. This makes us better listeners. That is how we understand people and make friends. Once we have made relations with friends and maybe found our lovers in the same way, why the sudden statements like, “I know you, you are not like this” or “I knew you, how can you be like this” starts cropping up. There is increased judgement and expectation. Why so? Judging and having expectations has never helped because a person faces a different situation everyday and nobody knows best how he/she will react. It is quite possible for the other to be as surprised at themselves as the other is, at a reaction to a situation. Judging self and the other will never help in this case.
When someone says ” I know” to my problem, it makes me think that “No, you don’t know because if you knew then maybe you wouldn’t have said this.” Making someone’s problem seem small or worthless not only reduces someone else’s worth for themselves but also makes the other feel judgmental about themselves. The problem might really be small but it has to be self-realised by that person. Denigrating someone will never help one see a situation or an issue in the way you want them to see it.
This brings me to being a stranger to self. Reasons are same. Since we think we know ourselves, any new reaction, new thought, a different kind of thought from usual makes us think about ourselves and tends to shake up our equilibrium or an established level. This brings rise to dissent and we start looking at ourselves critically instead of being a mere observer of our reactions without any opinions attached. Such a tendency ( which is in most of us-including myself) doesn’t help us learn about either ourselves or others. All it does is make us suppress my natural reaction which leads to further inner dispute. How is one supposed to arrive at a solution or learn anything in a state of turmoil.
All of the above points to a single thing-being non-judgmental. How can one achieve that. I wish I knew. What I do know is that a person reduces judging others when he/she ends up being in the same situation as theirs. But that is not a feasible solution to this.
Why does a person judge the other? That is the question to be looked at as it will lead to a lot more questions and will bring us to a few points about human nature which can be looked at.
Hoping to dig deeper into this.
September 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
“I want to be old.” This thought having crossed my mind felt so alien to me that I had to see what gave birth to it. I was sitting at a public place and quietly observing everyone when there arrived two professors who must be aged somewhere between 55 and 60. They came, sat and were having a conversation. Something about their demeanor, physical movements, way of having a conversation was appealing. They were what is called ‘being relaxed’. Everything about them was ‘chilled out’. This made me think “I want to be old.” The feeling of being this reposed and calm was what I wanted. This was enhanced by the fact that at same place there were many more people, all of them of the same age as mine. The difference in the general style of behavior was too obvious to be missed.
As soon as I wanted to be old and so relaxed, I wondered why is it that I find only the old people being this calm and not someone of my age? Why is it that a person reaches this state only when he or she is no more young and when the body is not going to support as it did? Why is it that people reach this state only by compromising on their age and health? I see no one of our age being pacific. What is stopping us from being this way?
What is it about old age that brings this state of mind? After a little thought what I came to understand was that age is not the factor here. It is the experiences and the situation a person is in during old age. Old age means having fulfilled all the responsibilities, duties and faced all pressures that one has to or is made to undertake. Since that takes 50 odd years of one’s life to complete and get over with hence true relaxation and peace comes only after 50 years. This implies that the tasks that is imposed on a person to be completed are the ones leading to delayed attainment of peace that too so late into life that one cannot even sufficiently delve into it without the body deteriorating itself.
There are only 2 phases of life when one truly feels serene-childhood and old age. Both are such phases where a person is not capable of doing anything with such peace. The only time when a person has the energy and enthusiasm to take action is during teens and middle age. But that phase is reserved by the people around them( or society) to impose certain tasks which are far from their natural state of being. Being forced with a certain set of responsibilities is not a person’s natural state of existence. There are two thoughts behind this-
1. Either a person is offered with a choice of taking those responsibilities. If that is the case then it is a matter of preference.
2. Or a person in forced to take up those responsibilities by stating them to be innate.
Now if the case were latter then why is it that a person is truly tranquil after he or she gets rid of those tasks? Any activity which is natural to a person’s existence or survival is not burden causing or tension-giving. Then why does one talk of attaining real peace only after one is done with these tasks, roles or responsibilities that one is forced to take in the name of necessity. Since when did anything other than living become a necessity. If a person undertakes a role or task out of choice, then it becomes a source of satisfaction and pleasure, not a consistent burden or a task to be completed and then taken a retirement after its fulfillment.
It is both funny and upsetting to see people being truly ‘relaxed and peaceful’ ( true words) after they are over with their set of duties and responsibilities but imposing exactly the same criteria and set of things-to-do on their children. If there wasn’t true happiness or calmness when they were doing those activities or fitting into roles which weren’t either natural to them or being chosen by them , then why is the same set of activities being imposed on the generation to follow. ‘Living with the society’ is usually given as an answer to this question.
What if the society is wrong?
What if people were never right?
What if initially,humanity took a wrong turn ?
July 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
Having digressed into areas which should have been left untouched and finally coming to exploring the three essential constructs of religion-personalism, subsidiarity and solidarity, I will expound on these areas.
All religions come with the idea of believing what you choose to, hence the various divisions among the same religion. No matter how much a particular subdivision tries to impose a particular interpretation of religion, every person has the liberty to choose their favourite ideas from it. Similar goes on in capitalism. Each individual can choose to believe, own, follow and preach his/her version. Competition for dominion exists in both. My idea being better than yours. Enters marketing.The principle of personalism is based on human dignity and free will, which is modelled on ‘God’s’ likeness.
This directly begets from personalism. If a man has the right to choose his version of religion and give his own version as well, that makes him or her the authority on it. Implications are direct, there is a central power governing various aspects of that version or interpretation which is unique to it and will not be passed down to the followers as they have not understood the underlying basis behind such an interpretation. This leads to blind faith and following, in essence consumerism. The ‘want’ to consume because of appeal which ultimately becomes the ‘need’ to consume as the principle has not been understood. Thus subsidiarity is evident and its implications are major unless general intelligence and the principles are clearly explained and equally clearly understood.
Solidaire means to join together firmly. Ideal is to have solidarity on a voluntary basis, as a free, humanitarian option instead of being forced upon by religion. This is not a flaw with religion but with human nature itself. Solidarity, if it is not combined with voluntariness, embodies all the tensions between contrasting notions of justice that lie at the root of envy and hate. The notions of solidarity have remained to be particularly individual based instead of religion defining or expounding on them without being abstract or interpretable. There is no universal validity to universal issues like common good, common justice, common evil, or what helps the poor?
In the end, it is true that both capitalism and religion have been corrupted and disoriented. Anyone who wants to remove both of them has to offer an alternative which is more feasible and less corruptible than these two. Best among the worst. Universal religion or any fundamental is love, but it is not easily achieved and definitely not in the ways how we assume to find or ‘acquire’ it.