Friday, September 30, 2011

Projects at DSVV

My work at DSVV was divided in two major parts: work in the Training Cell (office), a new office with new responsibilities and the second was to work at the Registrar’s office. My day would start at around 11 am and I would be done with my work around 6pm.  Of course these hours were not so set as my projects were quite flexible.  I would use the morning time to do some reading, personal work etc.

At the Training Cell I worked on three major projects and some small ones that came about here and there. These projects kept me busy for at least 3-4 hours per day in the morning. One of my projects was to go around taking photos of the DSVV campus and write a description about the buildings. I really enjoyed doing this project. I got to do what I love – taking photos and I saw the campus intimately and talked to more people I can think of to know about their work and programs.

The other projects I had involved visiting several offices for some specific information. Again I really enjoyed this project as it allowed me to go around campus and meet and talk to people, especially since I was living alone at DSVV and it was nice to get out and socialize.  It is amazing how people open up once you start asking them about their work and challenges. Of course there were some who were introverts :-).

The challenging part sometimes was to introduce myself and tell them what I was doing. People could not believe that I would come from USA to volunteer for two months. Well….even some of my family did not!!

My afternoons were spent working at the Registrar’s office. The work I did was quite diverse. Everyone at the Registrar’s office was so wonderful. Initially the biggest treat for me – believe it or not, was having a cup of tea daily!! I was still staying at Shantikunj during my first few days of volunteer work at DSVV and I hated to stand in line to get tea. So tea at the office was the best part of the day for me! Luckily I was there at the time of admissions so I got to see a lot of behind the scene action at an Indian University. Great experience!!

As time went on my work schedule would change and also I learned a lot about the university. I was really impressed by the Polyclinic that I decided to undergo some alternative therapy treatment myself. I was just so curious I just wanted to try out some things in any way possible. So I visited the Polyclinic and the doctor had me undergo Pranic Healing, do Yoga and Naturopathy (my diagnosis was mild obesity!). So during the latter part of my stay I went to about 9-10 days of my alternative therapy treatment. Everything was super. Yoga at 6:30 am was the hardest because I could not enjoy it when I was sweating so much. But I know all the treatments had a positive effect on me.

I liked everyone I met. Everyone was very friendly and caring. Overall I learned a lot about myself, about alternative medicine, about good living habits (some of which I have implemented in my life already). I am so moved by my whole experience at DSVV that I want to go back there again as soon as I can.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

About DSVV

I volunteered at Dev Sanskriti Vishv Vidyaalay (DSVV), Haridwar, for two months this summer.  I thought I would write my experiences down before it all just became a pleasant memory of yesterday.  

While I was at DSVV my daily routine was quite relaxed.  As I did not have to do any cooking, cleaning or driving to do I had plenty of time to do my volunteer assignment and work on my personal growth (although I don’t know how much I grew up!).  

My residence, the guest house, was on the DSVV campus and conveniently surrounded by the administration building (my main volunteer location), the canteen (chaach was great in during the hot summer afternoons!!) and the library.  My B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees are also from India and being here brought back many memories of my college days ....mostly good.  

DSVV is a residential university, and all faculty, staff and students live on campus.  It is really like having a huge family living together (yikes!!).   Everyone knows everyone!! I got to know so many people during my two months there and by the end they did seem like my family to me.  The residence halls (hostels) were very comfortable and again I was taken back to my B.Sc. days in my hostel in Meerut (fun times!).  The students at DSVV are lucky to be in a great place with such a safe, beautiful and clean environment. 

The university’s mission is not only to educate students to help them get a job but also to make them a good well rounded human being.  They all learn the philosophy of Acharya Sharma ji and hopefully they will all become good citizens of India. 

One of the unique aspects of the university was the three month internship that all students have to do after they finish their certificate or degree.  I have not heard of that requirement anywhere.  It is an opportunity for the students to go out to a different part of India (could be anywhere) and demonstrate what they have learned, academically and spiritually.

During my two months at DSVV I did a variety of little projects and some major ones.  There were some days that were a little slow but overall I was quite busy…..

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Single Female in India

This whole thought process happened when I was coming back from Har Ki Pauri on 5th June.  I was sitting in front with the driver of the Vikram, and he could not help but ask, “Are you alone?” and I said, “No. My family is at Shantikunj.”  He proceeded to ask, “Do you have any kids?” What is his problem?? I said, “No.” And then he proceeded to advise me, “One should have kids in life, they are your life support when you grow old.  I have four boys and you should also have kids.”  So….just because “he” thinks his sons will support him in future, which I seriously doubt, he thinks I should have kids – without knowing anything about me!!

All of this conversation started churning my brain cells and I had to write my thoughts down.  And since that incident I was a little more observant of how people act around me.  For most part it was okay, but there were some that were not so okay. 

Why do Indians have a hard time with single Indian female? Why does everyone ask – “Who is with you? Where is your husband? Where is your family?” Why is it compulsory for an Indian woman to have a husband and kids?  I am person on my own, or am I not?  Do they ask the same question from a single man?  I am quite sure that even widows have a hard time living in India, but at least at one point they had a husband…but these caretakers of the society will still shake their heads if she does not have any children.  (These same people will not help a woman who is being abused by her husband or if her husband has left her for another woman).

But a single, never married (or divorced) woman, is not acceptable in the Indian society.  We can accept single devis: Saraswati, Gayatri etc but not a single female.  Why? Why is it so critical for a woman to be with someone? I understand that it is good to be married and have a family, but just because one does live with family does not make them a sociopath. 

So here are my two cents of what I think about a woman being married for old age and having kids. (And just because I am not married does not mean I am against marriage or kids.  I believe everything happens on its own time….)

I have seen many women who have been widowed in their 50s or 60s – not really an old age these days.  Men usually have a shorter life span than women, so women are generally left alone by the time they are getting old.  And it is not acceptable in our culture for a woman to marry a younger man so in general, women will more likely be widowed.  Most people say, oh you don’t feel the loneliness now, but you will feel it when you are older.  Well okay, but the husband has died by then.  So no matter whether you are married or not, most women are still left alone when they really need someone’s assistance.  Men don’t stick around to give company to their wives in old age. 

And it is not acceptable in our culture for widows of any age to get married again, forget about going out with other men or women for company sake.  The only acceptable social outing for a widow is temple or satsang!

Now for the children:  I have yet to see parents living harmoniously with their children.  Everyone is independent and wants their freedom – so even though couples have well earning children, they would rather live alone.  In fact these days there may be more American parents living with their children than Indian parents.  And if the Indian parents are living with children they are miserable.

So why push so hard for marriage and kids?  Why not promote self sufficiency in a person?

People living alone learn to manage things by themselves.  They become better in dealing with various kinds of people, taking care of their own finances, their career, homes and day to day chores.  How many wives can do all these things? Do they even have the freedom to take care of all these things? Granted they may not need to all those things as they have a husband who may do some of the work, but it is a good idea to be self reliant (remember, guys die sooner than the gals). 

And what about the widowed mother living with her children? Does she, after living a long life of only giving, have the luxury of doing what she wants to do in her old age? Can she spend some money on whatever she wants to?  Does someone take care of her like she took care of her family? I am afraid that the answer may be no to these questions.  So what was the point of her life then – just to give birth and live the cycle of life?

I noticed young women and girls these days are smart and talented, yet they are still expected to stay submissive and accept the decisions made by their fathers and husbands.  It is very contradictory.  On one hand you are giving them education to stand on their own feet yet on the other hand you are telling them they are not capable of making their own decisions.  Girls should be allowed to participate in family decisions with freedom and confidence, just like boys do. That is how they will learn to make good decisions in future.

In many cases I don’t see even women supporting each other in life.  They are trying to pull each other down – mother to daughter in law, daughter in law to sister in law – all these complex relations in our society!  Sometimes even total strangers will say for a woman who is going through trouble – oh she must have brought it upon herself, rather than helping out.

All of this is quite frustrating to watch. And the worst part is that there has not been much progress for women in India.  Granted we have women in some leadership roles, but how many are really good role models?

My vision for girls  is that of self reliance, whether they are single, married, divorced, widowed - whatever.  I think with a little effort from both men and women it is possible to have IT all (whatever that “IT” is for anyone). 

I would love it if girls were empowered in any and all of the below.
  • Be educated, so in time of need they can become financially independent.
  • Take their own decisions for something as simple as what they want to eat.
  • Give all relationships their due respect.
  • Live a balanced family life.  This can happen only when they are taught how to do everything and also to multi-task.
  • Be healthy and keep their families healthy.
  • Be financially capable.
  • Believe in "self" and stand up for themselves.
  • Stand up against injustice and old fashioned traditions.
  • Support other women and speak up for women who cannot speak for themselves.
Just because someone takes their own decision does not make them disrespectful or aggressive. Neither a man nor woman is above the law of humanity.  Taking away the freedom of another human being is not humanity.

Men should not fear an independent woman but welcome her, she can take so much burden off from him and then they both can have a successful partnership in life.  But I think it is all about control and power struggle for everyone!  The ego comes in the way – for both men and women.

Strange thing is that I encountered these same questions (about me having a family) from everyone throughout my two month stay in India. Most married women were very happy to know I was single and well….I don’t know what the men thought J …or maybe I do but just don’t want to write too much about it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chemistry and Spirituality

As I was writing notes for my General Chemistry class today there were so many terms I wrote that made me think of how easily they can be applied to our spiritual lives.  Yes...chemistry is related to life – in so many ways.  I have studied all these terms many times before but suddenly I am seeing them with a different perspective.

This is evaporation of the molecules from the surface but because of not enough energy and more intermolecular forces the surface molecules are not able to leave thus causing a film on the surface of the liquid.  The elasticity of this film is called surface tension.  It is dependent directly on intermolecular forces and indirectly on temperature.

1) This got me thinking about how children in a family are like those surface molecules, ready to leave but not able to because of the familial intermolecular forces, but energy gained from education and jobs makes them want to leave their container (home).  This creates the tension in the container, and the children are left in this tension where they sometimes are not able to belong either to home or to the outside world.  This is apparent when kids have very few friends or are sometimes not able to be successful in life for some reason or another.

One can view this in different ways:
One is that a molecule sometimes needs to leave the container to be able to go places….and the other point of view is that if the intermolecular forces are strong then one can have a good family life since everyone stays together.  Depending on one’s circumstances one can view from either point of view.  Of course in the former case if all molecules start leaving the container, there comes a time when there are no molecules left in the container.  There is also this little equilibrium on the surface of a liquid where molecules keep leaving and coming back.  That could be the best kind of situation, where an equilibrium is maintained, where the molecule is allowed to leave and come back.

2) The other aspect of surface tension is “us” individually.  We have this inner self which is in perfect equilibrium within us, however there is a whole surface personality that comes out when we deal with other people.  Our inner values (intermolecular forces) create the tension with the outer world (maya).  During the times of stress, if we have low intermolecular forces (values) then we lose to the outer world and vaporize.  But strong values give us the depth and stability we need in this world of high temperature.

The ability of a liquid to flow. It is also dependent on intermolecular forces and temperature.

We as human beings are in constant motion in this world.  Our basic nature is to keep moving, how fast or slow depends on our intermolecular forces: our attachment to family and our values.  The more we have of those two the slower we will move.  Slow here does not necessarily mean bad.  When we move slowly we can see where we are going and how we are getting to where we are going.  The faster we move the more the chances that we might go the wrong way or lose our way.  Speed makes you lose control (as in a car).Moving slower also means we have more control over our actions.  

Higher temperature decreases viscosity i.e. a liquid moves faster.  In human beings high temperature can be anger, temperamental nature etc., and those might lead to a person's molecules moving faster than normal, and then he tends to lose control.  So I think high viscosity is good for a human being.

This is the evaporation of molecules from a substance which then exert pressure on the substance.  Vapor pressure also increases with temperature, as more molecules would evaporate. High intermolecular forces cause the vapor pressure to be less.

Here again we have to think about our nature and values (intermolecular forces).  How volatile are we? Do we lose our molecules (cool and values) at the slight increase temperature of a situation?  And suppose the vapor pressure does increase due to some reason, do we start boiling and lose total control of ourselves then? 

So keep your intermolecular forces high and hold on to your molecules.

The temperature at which no amount of pressure can turn a vapor back to its liquid state.

One can view this from two points:
1) One is where you reach such a point in your life that no matter how much pressure the world exerts on you, you are at a different level of life where nothing can affect you and you remain in your state you choose to be in. 

2) The other view is that you are so far gone in your bad habits that no amount of knowledge or education can bring your back to your normal self. 

You decide where you want to be!

The temperature and pressure at which all three phases: gas, liquid and solid exist.

I think this point is the bliss point! We can exist in our fullest potential at this point.  This would be where the world (maya), the divine and the mortal coexist in perfect balance and harmony then that would be bliss.  This is not an easy point to reach but once reached would make anyone to want to be in that balance all the time.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Shivir - My Views

The shivir was a very good way for me to get to know Shantikunj, if I had not done it I would not have understood Pandit Sharma ji’s philosophy.  Even though I am reading his books, listening to some of the speakers was a great experience.

The speakers were 99% great. Some did not speak loud enough or with enough conviction. But by and large all of them had charisma and had good command of what they were saying.  What was impressive for me was how they all conveyed their message in a nice flow of thoughts.  I don’t know how much they wanted to cover, but whatever and however they had to cover, they did.  No one brought any notes or guidelines.  I got some really good insight into Sharma ji’s ideas and I realized that he believes more in action than just mere words. He is revolutionary in his thought and is all about promoting righteousness in all aspects of life.  His seven pillars of action for the society:  
1.      Self development  
2.      Education
3.      Health awareness
4.      Self reliance
5.      Environmental awareness
6.      Women empowerment
7.      Getting rid of old school of thought and andhvishwas

All these actions have been part of my life also one way or another.  Being in the education field I feel I try to promote not only my discipline but hopefully instill some good habits of learning in my students.  I have always been protecting the environment.  I have worked on programs of women empowerment for the longest time.  I strongly feel that women should be independent and be able to stand on their own before they take responsibilities of others.   Health wise I take care of myself and promote healthy habits in everyone around me.   I have also done all these through all my volunteer activities at my college and also my local organizations.  After listening to all the lectures I feel I am on the right path in life.

One thing that was a little hard about the shivir was the daily 30 mala Gayatri jap.  Initially I had a really hard time with it because of jet lag and my sleep was not set, but later I got with the program.  Getting used to the food was another thing.  Eating once a day is not a problem but the food was not palatable!  I understand satvik food but come on – it can still be made tasty.  Maybe it is hard to cook tasty food for thousands of people.  I don’t know.  In any case eating that for nine days was a challenge but I managed it.  Fruits helped a bit.  After my sleep and food were adjusted then mala was not hard to do. 

Funny thing was that so many of the speakers mentioned about the mala jap. It seems that it is a challenge for everyone and in order to finish the daily jap they will not listen to lectures.  Well, my suggestion is to reduce the jap so they listen to the lecture.  Both are important so give enough time to people to do both things.  Besides they are in Hardwar, they will want to go around so it is granted that they will miss some lectures or jap.  So many times I would see all these people doing jap and not listening to all the good things the speakers were saying. I think it is more important to do things (karm) than do jap in life.  Once one starts to live life in a certain discipline then jap will come automatically.  I don’t think jap comes before self discipline.  But I think most people believe that at least get people to say the Gayatri mantra, that will give them sadbuddhi, and that will make them do good karm in life.  I don’t think it works that way. Unless their mental make up is right no amount of Gayatri jap is going to do anything.  But what do I know?!

I thought that most people who came just came to get energy for something – but definitely not righteousness.  Very few of them seemed disciplined for the kind of life Sharma ji wants for them.  I did not get the feeling of cooperation, helpfulness, kindness, discipline or politeness in many people working or visiting Shantikunj.   It means they have not internalized anything that their guru has asked them to do except for the jap.  What good will that do? Maybe it will in their future lives – not this one.

I still don’t think I understand the concept of yagya.  I attended the first one and got disappointed by the actions of the women in the line.  There was so much line jumping and pushing that it was virtually impossible to really do the yagya peacefully.  Not one of the speakers mentioned the usefulness of daily yagya in life, although they promote it all the time. 

A speaker later on mentioned that life should be yagya and not just saying swaha in a yagya.  True – so now I feel that is what I will do instead of swaha.  Living life is the hardest thing in this world.  So I would prefer to learn how to do that rather than how to do swaha.

My biggest peeves during the shivir:
1.      The ringing cell phones!! Turn off the phones people.
2.      The ladies coming late and then wanting to squeeze in the middle where there is no space to sit.
3.      The young children getting restless and the mothers trying to play with them instead of listening to the lecture.  Don’t come if you have that small children – or sit in the back.
4.      The constant coming back and forth of young kids with their parents, for keys or water or whatever. It is disturbing to other people.

Granted there are so many people and one cannot control such a crowd but my suggestion would be to at least have a concurrent program for the young kids while parents are in lecture.  It should be mandatory.  Kids should then learn about what they can do in their lives or learn how to sing songs or whatever.  Just not play around wasting time and disturbing everyone.

All in all it was a good experience with lots to learn and implement in life.  I had to adjust to sitting on the floor for all the nine days. The first three days were hard….but then I got used to it. As an Indian living abroad, I could enjoy this more because I was in a comfortable housing.  I don’t think I could have enjoyed it so much if I had to share my bathroom with 15 other people daily for 9 days at least.  I was blessed and lucky to have my space and privacy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

10th and 11th June

Ganga Dusherra

The day that Bhageerath brought Ganga on earth.  There was a program in the evening.  Again, very good speakers and totally worth it wait for 2 hrs to sit in the front. 

The messages were:
  •  Simple living and high thinking.
  • Discipline yourself: your senses (especially tongue),  thought (don’t think, say, listen or talk bad), eating, money, time. 
  • Control your mind (buddhi), pride (ahankaar), and thought (chitt).  These all are part of man.  However your decision is made by your buddhi.  So try to discipline  your buddhi by using Gayatri mantra and concentrating on one thing – best is the rising sun. 
  • Man is supposed to be the superior species so how did we become so low in our actions? Your man is like an elephant – big and untamed.  To tame it you have to ask God for help.  
  • Gayatri mantra is like the universal mother, she will give you what you ask for – so be careful what you wish for. 
  • The person who does wrong never thinks he is doing wrong, he thinks he is right and everyone in the world is wrong.
Personal View
I have gone back to my old eating habits: samosas, dosas and jalebis! Shantikunj is full of people!! There are crowds everywhere, people are sleeping under the stars.  But no one cares where they sleep so long they have a mattress and a place to lie down.  Privacy has no meaning in Indian culture. There are public bathrooms everywhere and food is free in the bhojanalay.  Clothes are hanging out to dry is a huge city inside a city.  In a way it is nice to see that everyone is getting along.  I have not seen a single altercation or crime happening.  People may be rude or unhelpful but at least they are not having a full blown fight.   There is no doubt that Sharma ji has done something amazing in this place.

11th June - Gayatri Jayanti
Got up really early (4 am) to find a nice spot up front to hear Dr. Pandya and Jiji.  I will never do that again –after sitting for 3 hours on the floor I was not in any shape to listen with complete attention.

Dr. Pandya spoke about the importance of Gayatri mantra and meditation. 
  • Thoughts – thoughts should be changed for the better. 
  • Character – after thinking about what you have done right or wrong, change your character for the better. 
  • Action – apply action in your life – don’t just sit and think about things.  Get up and do things. 
  • Meditation brings us closer to ourselves so we look inward instead of outward.
Evening program was the deep yagya.  Very pretty ceremony and really nice lecture also.  A lot of it was repetition of the earlier nine days – but still nice to recap.

Personal thoughts
There was a whole list of things to do today  including visiting the “Akhand Deep”…but the line was so long that I did not have the guts to stand with Maya in the humidity and the sun, and besides I was soooo hungry, I had been up since 4 am and now it was 11am.  So I decided to battle the crowd for lunch instead.  Victory was sweet and very tasty.  (For once food was actually tasty!!)

Luckily the other NRIs and I were invited by the Abroad Cell to visit Akhand Deep and get blessings from Dr. Pandya and Jiji separately.  Lucky us!! So I did everything Maya did, only sooner.  The other nice part of this was that I got to meet some of my fellow NRIs.