You can replay your favorite song, but…

Life moves on, and you can never rewind nor replay it, ever. That is a fact, my friend, even if this song is drawn from fiction.

Aap Ki Kasam
Rajesh Khanna in “Aap ki Kasam” (1974). Background score “Zindagi ke Safar Mein Guzar Jaate Hain Jo Makaam”

 

Over four decades ago, for a film situation, a very special lyricist wrote a song sprinkled with beautiful metaphors. Today is his 86th birth anniversary.

Story Context: A man, blinded by suspicion, throws his wife out from his life. Much later he realizes his folly. Alas it is too late; she is now married to another man. Deeply saddened, forlorn, he wanders around, regretting his rash decision, aching for the love he had recklessly abandoned.

Here is my transliteration of that iconic Hindi song.

Flowers will bloom, but some will fall off in autumn, to never bloom again next spring. Consider this, you meet thousands of people along life’s journey, but although you call out for some over a lifetime, alas, they may never return… you may never again meet those who had parted – disappointed with you – a long time ago some day.

A note of caution. What your eyes see may not be the entire truth. Don’t open your doors to suspicion… it is the darkest foe of friendship. Pay heed, ’cause if you don’t, you will regret it deeply, and all through your lifetime. No matter how often you call out to your friend (read ‘beloved’), your ‘hello’ will meet a deep ‘silence’. Those who have gone, will never return… ever. Refrain from such recklessness.

A new day will dawn, and dusk will bid goodbye, then another day will dawn, and this cycle of night and day will go on. Time moves on, the moment is here, and before you realize it, it’s gone… it won’t ever return. Man barely takes in the scene on screen, but in a flash it’s gone.

In life, the milestones that go past, will never return.

Here’s the song, I’ve just transcribed in Hindi.

ज़िन्दगी के सफ़र में गुज़र जाते हैं जो मक़ाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

ज़िन्दगी के सफ़र में गुज़र जाते हैं जो मक़ाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

फूल खिलते हैं, लोग मिलते हैं
फूल खिलते हैं, लोग मिलते हैं मगर
पतझड़ में जो फूल मुरझा जाते हैं
वो बहारों के आने से खिलते नहीं
कुछ लोग इक रोज़ जो बिछड़ जाते हैं
वो हज़ारों के आने से मिलते नहीं
उम्र-भर चाहे कोई पुकारा करे उनका नाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

आँख धोख़ा है, क्या भरोसा है
आँख धोख़ा है, क्या भरोसा है सुनो
दोस्तों, शक़ दोस्ती का दुश्मन है
अपने दिल में इसे घर बनाने न दो
कल तड़पना पड़े याद में जिनकी
रोक लो रूठ कर उनको जाने न दो
बाद में प्यार के चाहे भेजो हज़ारों सलाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

सुबह आती है, रात जाती है
सुबह आती है, रात जाती है यूँही
वक़्त चलता ही रहता है रुकता नहीं
इक पल में ये आगे निकल जाता है
आदमी ठीक से देख पाता नहीं
और परदे पे मंज़र बदल जाता है
इक बार चले जाते हैं जो दिन-रात सुब-ओ-शाम
वो, वो फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

ज़िन्दगी के सफ़र में गुज़र जाते हैं जो मक़ाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

The melancholy that seeps through Rahul Dev Burman‘s music composition, and Kishore Kumar‘s voice, along with the visual portrayal of Rajesh Khanna‘s helplessness, his forlorn state in the film, especially during the height of his career, has made this song from “Aap ki Kasam” (1974) memorable. These lucid lyrics, the mastery of Anand Bakshi saab’s metaphors in this film’s context are endearing, easy to sing along, soulful.

That soft knot on your tie… it’s hard to get it right.

Recall how hard it is to get it right? That soft knot on your tie… Yes… matching your shirt, then knotting your tie every morning isn’t as easy as it may seem to the inexperienced or the uninitiated. By end of day how easy it is to loosen the knot… and chuck the shirt in the laundry basket. By now the time and struggle of the morning are easily forgotten.

When you find the right partner to match your style and moods, remember your disheveled appearance by end of day may not quite match your partner’s mood or style; but hey, don’t be disturbed, sleep over it.  By morning, you’ll both be fine. The knot will turn out right; the tie will be perfect, the sun will be shining, it’s a start to another day.

It’s just the day’s decisions, dilemmas or, oft those dreams that went awry that cause the conundrums by end of day. Wait… don’t be in a rush. Sleep awhile… tomorrow will bring sunshine. It will drown all sorrows. With shirt tucked in, smile, sing a happy song… there… you’re on your way.

Stuck… without a smile!

How often do you think, “I’m stuck”? Pretty often, eh? I’ve felt that several times, and at the time then, I’m stuck in that feeling. So this is a reminder to myself.

For many of us, these clichéd phrases hold deep meaning and may have serious consequences, although the situations we are in are more often than not pretty commonplace. Annoyingly, we walk around wearing an expression that tells the world that we are stuck… [check] What’s worse, is that we silently imply (albeit, inadvertently) that it’s their fault that we’re stuck!

Stuck in a rut

Stuck in a routine

Stuck in a jam

Stuck in a relationship

Stuck in a job

Stuck to a nasty boss

Stuck to the boredom

Stuck in the rigmarole

Stuck to a spouse who won’t live with you but won’t leave you

Stuck in a life without meaning

Stuck in a place with nowhere to go

Stuck in a situation with no hope in sight

Stuck financially

Stuck with bad health

Stuck in a spot

Stuck in a past life with baggage that grows heavier by the minute

Specifics of each situation may be unique, but in a broad sense – at the macro level – these are everyday situations for everyday people, i.e. for all of us. So, is there no solution? But of course, there is, just as there is a solution to every problem conceivable… Even if the system is indeterminate, (mathematically speaking), it’s worth a try. But first, what is the problem? To find a solution, even a doctor asks of the patient, “What is your problem?”

We assume that the person/s across, whom we think we know well – our neighbor, our friend, our boss, our colleague, our subordinate, our partner’s ex, our spouse, our kids, our kids’ friends, our teacher, our gardener, our house help, our chauffeur, our relatives, our in-laws… s/he or they are all doing better than us. We believe that each of them is having an easier, more fulfilled life, has been dealt better cards through life, and hence appear to be a happy/happier person/s. S/he is able to wear a smile because s/he is trouble free… because, unlike us, s/he is not stuck in any way. Now, nurturing such a belief, or making an assumption like this in itself is a mighty huge problem. Yes, that is a problem. The first step is to detach oneself from this core notion. Effectively, acceptance of the fact – we all have problem/s in life – is very necessary. Life is a series of problems that must be solved. Some seem to have an easier test, but what if they don’t have the skills to cope with even that easy test, wouldn’t it be difficult for them? 

The very thought, that nobody else (or none of the folks I know) have encountered a problem (or a series of problems) such as the ones I have, and hence my issues are the biggest, unsolvable, and I’m stuck for life is a thought that must be banished from one’s head. No doubt, because each individual’s life is unique, the circumstances and situation are never comparable to the next person’s circumstances and situation, no matter how similar these may seem. Yet, despite the differences, the common platform is that Person X is in a difficult situation and must cope with it. Person Y is in a difficult situation and must cope with it… so on so forth. If each of the Persons A – Z were to wear long faces, and walk around as though the end of the world is just around the corner… wouldn’t we all be unhinged! Quite a bizarre world we would be living in, eh?

Life is like a puzzle. When you play a video game, or are given a puzzle (with no time limit for completion), many of us are engrossed in it, and enjoy the challenge of solving it. Some day, we’d like to see the complete picture, or solve the topmost level of the video game. Why not view life similarly? When we’re stuck at a level in a game, or while putting a picture puzzle together, would we blame the world, or would we say the other person has an easier game to play with? We would not indulge in such pointless comparisons. Likewise, meaningless comparisons to the next person’s life have no bearing on your situation or life problem. How about spending the energy, the skill-sets we’re endowed with to solve our unique problem/s. When we overcome the hurdle, there’s bound to be joy at having crossed what seemed at the time like a quagmire.

I recently met a very accomplished person and marveled at her accomplishments. Later I learned about her life-long physical handicap since birth. The new knowledge confounded me. But it also gave me renewed energy and a zest to make the most with my able-body and mind. Although this new friend was stuck to a chair… through her mental vitality she was soaring. With plenty to smile about, I refuse to be stuck. Lest I forget a lesson learned, this, as I said at the outset, is a note to myself… a reminder that’s stuck now in my head. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gambling… anyone? For a happier planet, we should all turn into gamblers.

Since wake up time this morning, this crazy notion kept crossing (and doubly-crossing) my mind. Okay, please pardon this cheesy opening… I’m a tad excited.

As a kid I read this epic story about a great war that waged between two families – cousins, actually – that started primarily because the oldest sibling (Prince Y) lost his kingdom, his possessions, his respect and even his wife in a marathon series of gambling games. After each game that Prince Y lost, he returned to the table with fervor — his passion (and stakes) seemed to double!

From this emerged my train of thought… Often, friends and well-wishers remind us about the proverbial expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. In my mind I can’t help but think of mother who’s severely arthritic, and intensely intolerant of lemons or lemonade. Her pain is excruciating, reaching new heights after consumption of this sour fruit – in any of its forms… juiced, pickled, sweetened, other. Oh, well… but then Ma is unique (as each one of us would say of our own Mom), and perhaps of ourselves, and our unique circumstances.

Speaking of which, back to gambling. Only 2% people on this planet – (and this is simply my assumption, but a calculated one at that, I assure you) – seem to receive a hand of cards with all aces, from birth until death, or even every time they gamble. The rest of the world struggles between alternating a good, bad, or an awful hand of cards in every game, every phase, every year of one’s life. In other words, lemons, eh?

Poverty begets poverty, the middle class rarely moves upwards – downwards, more likely (yeah, yeah, there are always exceptions to every rule; this is just a hypothesis); the rich seem to always remain rich (at least as we view them from the distance we’re at from them – i.e. several planets apart). Someone may recall Slumdog Millionaire; another may remember their fortune changing on that last Vegas visit, or may even visualize something akin to an Ocean’s 11 scenario. Anyone in the top 2% is unlikely to be reading this, so let’s move on to the essence of where my thoughts had drifted.

If each one of us behaved as did Prince Y – return to gamble even more passionately despite that lousy deck (or hand of cards), wouldn’t we live life with more zest, excitement, energy, and positivity in our life and make it so for those around us? If we live life with renewed energy, despite every failure – in fact because of it – and with rekindled hope that we will win the next time, chances are we will actually win in life. Forget the lemons and lemonades… there’s only so much lemonade you can make and consume from the countless lemons that are thrown at us. But if we live life proactively with a desire to win the game, throwing in all of the energy, skills and talent that we are endowed with, then we’re more than likely going to win… in this gamble, you won’t have to share the bounty. The winnings will be all yours, each time, every time. So play like it’s your last game, determined to win. Allow no defeat to depress you. The battle, if any, is with oneself – yourself, myself, ourselves. If you lose, play again with renewed will to win. It’s a numbers game… the more you play, the chances of winning increase. So gamble like there’s no tomorrow. (Caution: not once did I say “gamble with your money”… nope, that is a no-no). 🙂 Good luck for good winnings.

 

 

 

 

To treasure or to trash… Are you taken for granted? Do you have no self-respect?

If you think a bit about these two questions, you realize that they are co-related. Well, I’m guessing, nobody begins life thinking to oneself, “I have no self-respect”. However, it is possible to live one’s entire life without actually realizing, “I have no self respect!”. Then suddenly, one day, it hits you. Either, someone draws attention to this, or you arrive at the conclusion on your own.  What does it all mean? How does one ascertain whether or not one values oneself?

In some parts of the world, along the ‘growing up’ phase you learn through ‘good teachings’, ‘religious beliefs’, or by following ‘family traditions’, that the “good human being” is the one who makes supreme sacrifices, thereby pleasing others (even if it means hurting yourself, risking your own life, or giving your time indefinitely). In return for “being good” – and whether one explicitly states it or not, or is even consciously aware of this expectation – the person who makes the sacrifices begins to assume and believe that s/he will be loved immensely by all, due to their “good, caring and selfless” acts towards those individuals – the ‘takers’. But in that very thought/belief lies a supreme flaw (which nobody teaches you, nor draws attention to)! Just pause for a moment to dwell on this.

In life, where there’s “give”, there’s always “take”. This rule applies universally. Think of fundamental accounting principles (of Debit the receiver, Credit the giver), or recall classroom physics i.e. Newton’s Third Law of Motion (that every action has an equal but opposite reaction). The difference in real life though, is that complex human nature creates a tendency in people to usually take more than they wish to give. Hence, many will try to grab as much benefit as is possible for the least amount of giving as is possible. In extreme cases, if one can get as much for free as is possible, then oft times there’s even secret self-admiration for being so clever. In the same breath, such shrewd people may even consider those they grabbed from as total fools, idiots! As we often see, the very people for whom you did good, tend to call you a fool.

Now, speaking of human relationships, is it possible that you pride yourself as being the supreme ‘giver’? Think again. Is it even possible for you to be that supreme giver who has an endless amount of everything, including energy, to give, give, and give without expecting anything in return from those you give to? You’re only kidding yourself, because even for the richest, the most generous, or the biggest philanthropist in the world, endless amount of giving (in any form) is just not possible. Therefore, pause to remind yourself that “I am not a Supreme Being (God)”! Remind yourself that you are not endowed with an endless stream of everything, hence you have no luxury nor liberty to ‘sacrifice’ endlessly.  You are not the supreme giver! By this token, nobody can, or should be allowed to expect you to keep giving without having to give you in return!

But ask yourself, how did people you interact with get this absurd idea in the first place – the notion that you should give endlessly without return expectations? Either you put that idea in their head/s by continually giving, and without expressing your expectations in return; or, your actions lead them to believe that i.e. by always being available whenever they called out to you (for help, or for anything else). Therefore indirectly you yourself are responsible for allowing them to believe that you are available anytime, every time, and always… for anything, and that it is okay with you, even if you must bend backwards to make them happy, or give of your time. In some ways, it also implies that you will set aside all your other priorities (or that you have none) to make time for them. When others think – consciously, or subconsciously that “It is okay with you”, that point is the beginning of your downfall! You don’t want to lead anyone into believing this of you. Wisdom lies in the knowledge that nothing in life is for free… not from your kids, nor from your parents, nor from your best friend, spouse… from no one, hence you’re not expected to give anything for free, because you aren’t God (Don’t kid yourself about that last bit)! Your life is not free for all to take as and when it suits them. People don’t have time nor inclination to think for you, nor for your good. They are neither being selfish, nor are they callous. They are just being human – like all of us. Each of us – I, or you – has to place a price for anything we do for others, or for anything you give others… whether it’s your time, your effort, or your love. I’m not suggesting that you ‘buy love’. Those who receive from you – your time, energy, your effort, your love – should be made aware of this fact by you and by you only. Then they will value you, your time, your energy, your effort, your love.They will stop taking you for granted. They will respect you for who you are.

People ought to be made aware of the value of what they receive from you. Just as when you go to buy the best strawberries in the market, or the best jewel, or the best anything… there’s a price one must pay for the best. If the price is not stated upfront, you wouldn’t know how valuable the item is, or even how good the item is. Usually, the better anything, the higher its value, right? How do you measure the worth of anything? When you are told its value or when you see its price tag. If that is not revealed at the beginning of the transaction, the person receiving the item may even be holding the most expensive diamond without knowing its value, and may even throw it away thinking it’s just another piece of rock. Only when you know the price of something would you decide whether to treasure it, or to trash it.

I set off by starting to explain this concept in a very different way. However, I hope those who will read this piece to its end here, will dwell on this simple analogy. Often, a lifetime goes by without realizing or respecting one’s own self-worth. But when you do realize it, value yourself for what you have been endowed with, for what you have achieved. Nobody else can know your value and what you’re worth, except you yourself.  When you know what you’re worth, just watch, even others will begin to see your worth. Be proud of who you are. Others will be proud to be associated with you. Introspection, self-discovery are the first steps to discovering the beauty around us. When you have fun discovering the diamond that you are, others will stop throwing rocks at you. 🙂

 

 

The Wisdom Tree film… a spiritual journey that traverses farther yonder!

On a dark, stormy night, driving on an empty road in Northern California, Steve Hamilton, a self-conflicted quantum physicist meets with an implausibly bizarre car accident! Dr. Trisha Rao, a compassionate but unwavering neurologist attending to Steve’s injuries, and an anguished FBI Agent, Mike Parker, attempt to untangle this baffling accident. The mystery deepens as the trio stumbles upon clues rooted in fine art, music, mysticism, spirituality, and science. The confounding clues trigger a cascade of questions; before long, the troika foresees the inevitable — the human race is at risk! With twists in the plot, this sci-fi drama progresses to avert a looming catastrophe.  A haunting background score with ethereal vocals, integral to the story, lends to the timeless dimension of The Wisdom Tree film, essentially a fiction story.

The Wisdom Tree melds quantum physics with eastern mysticism in a riveting mystery that swirls around human desires and their latent fears. The knotted plot of this sci-fi drama tangles around an exquisite backdrop of fine art paintings, Indian classical music, and new age elements, alluding that the universe is multidimensional, strange, and harmonic; and, as some eastern spiritual traditions have long maintained, “All is One”. Amidst this harmonious confluence of colors, shapes, shadows, light, space, time, mystery, math, music, and the mystical, lurks a profound question, “Could this be true?”

Recently, did you watch the film première at AMC Metreon in San Francisco? Or, their next screening in Orinda, East Bay, California? Well, if mysticism, mystery, sci-fi, spirituality, art, music are your scene, you may not want to miss this film. Ever since its private screenings earlier in 2013 at Emory University, Atlanta, and at the Science and Non-Duality Conference, San Jose, audiences and invitees have been intrigued by this indie. Here’s the small catch… it isn’t mass-distributed. Hence, you may want to sign up to request a screening in your town. If this subject excites you, you may even want to volunteer and get your friends, family, like-minded folks near you at your Meet Ups or Groups to sign up. The sooner you all sign up, and the more number of folks express interest, the sooner it will be screened in a town near you. Well, I’ll make this easy… watch The Wisdom Tree film trailer. 😉

Oh, I almost forgot to mention… the ravishing Sheetal Sheth is in the key role as neurologist, and Patrick Alparone, a fine theater actor you may know of already, plays his first film role as quantum physicist. Check them out. There are many fine actors this film has drawn. The crew also includes some eminent Oscar winners and other award nominees. Personally, it all speaks well of Writer/Director Sunil Shah, and the co-producers of the film, Laura Techera Francia and Renu Vora. There are many names you may recognize. Visit their facebook page, or join their growing number of followers on twitter… indeed, they’re active.

Explosions at Bodh Gaya!

My tympanic membrane is tired, and hardened from the continual onslaught of explosive news. Not only tired of the terrorism, I’m sickened by the endless rapes that women suffer mercilessly. Add to that the helplessness one feels, reading about the pointless deaths of hundreds, thousands – en masse!

Now, worse, am defeated by the mindless attempt at destruction of something sacred… not merely from a religious perspective; but it’s the sanctity of a brick structure that withstood the test of time, and weathered the elements for over two millennium – The Mahabodhi Temple! By using explosives, miscreants shook the foundations of an edifice that is symbolic of ‘ahimsa’, non-violence, and is sacred to millions of people across the globe.

A while back I posted photographs from a visit to the ruins of Nalanda, not far (56 miles) from Bodh Gaya in Bihar; also an institute of higher learning in Ancient India, particularly for Buddhist monks. I dread to think of the damage that depraved minds are capable of doing… and shudder at the thought of the pain they are causing those who are perhaps the few among the peace-loving people remaining in this world.

Speech for Peace: President Obama accepts Nobel Peace Prize

For my records:

Following is the transcript of President Obama’s speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on Wednesday 9th December 2009, as released by the White House:

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world:

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who’ve received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women — some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 42 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I’m responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

Now these questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease — the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

And over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers and clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when certain conditions were met: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

Of course, we know that for most of history, this concept of “just war” was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations — total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of 30 years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it’s hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.

In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations — an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize — America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty and self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

And yet, a decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states — all these things have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today’s wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there’s nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naïve — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another — that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier’s courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly inreconcilable truths — that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. “Let us focus,” he said, “on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.” A gradual evolution of human institutions.

What might this evolution look like? What might these practical steps be?

To begin with, I believe that all nations — strong and weak alike — must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait — a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.

Furthermore, America — in fact, no nation — can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our actions appear arbitrary and undercut the legitimacy of future interventions, no matter how justified.

And this becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.

I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That’s why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

America’s commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.

The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries, and other friends and allies, demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they’ve shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular, but I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That’s why NATO continues to be indispensable. That’s why we must strengthen U.N. and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That’s why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali — we honor them not as makers of war, but of wagers — but as wagers of peace.

Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant — the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions.

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.) And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard.

I have spoken at some length to the question that must weigh on our minds and our hearts as we choose to wage war. But let me now turn to our effort to avoid such tragic choices, and speak of three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.

First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to actually change behavior — for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure — and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.

One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them. In the middle of the last century, nations agreed to be bound by a treaty whose bargain is clear: All will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work towards disarmament. I am committed to upholding this treaty. It is a centerpiece of my foreign policy. And I’m working with President Medvedev to reduce America and Russia’s nuclear stockpiles.

But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.

The same principle applies to those who violate international laws by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo, repression in Burma — there must be consequences. Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy — but there must be consequences when those things fail. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

This brings me to a second point — the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.

It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

And yet too often, these words are ignored. For some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are somehow Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists — a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values around the world.

I reject these choices. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent-up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America’s interests — nor the world’s — are served by the denial of human aspirations.

So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that these movements — these movements of hope and history — they have us on their side.

Let me also say this: The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach — condemnation without discussion — can carry forward only a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.

In light of the Cultural Revolution’s horrors, Nixon’s meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable — and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul’s engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan’s efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There’s no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.

Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights — it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.

It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can’t aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

And that’s why helping farmers feed their own people — or nations educate their children and care for the sick — is not mere charity. It’s also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement — all of which will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and environmental activists who call for swift and forceful action — it’s military leaders in my own country and others who understand our common security hangs in the balance.

Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, the determination, the staying power, to complete this work without something more — and that’s the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there’s something irreducible that we all share.

As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are; to understand that we’re all basically seeking the same things; that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.

And yet somehow, given the dizzying pace of globalization, the cultural leveling of modernity, it perhaps comes as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish in their particular identities — their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we’re moving backwards. We see it in the Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.

And most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint — no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or the Red Cross worker, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but I believe it’s incompatible with the very purpose of faith — for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. For we are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best of intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.

But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached — their fundamental faith in human progress — that must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

For if we lose that faith — if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace — then we lose what’s best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.

Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, “I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present condition makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.”

Let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. (Applause.)

Somewhere today, in the here and now, in the world as it is, a soldier sees he’s outgunned, but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, scrapes together what few coins she has to send that child to school — because she believes that a cruel world still has a place for that child’s dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that’s the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you very much. (Applause)

Accepting Peace Prize, Obama Offers ‘Hard Truth’

Readers’ Comments

Gayatri Mantra… enunciation for my reference.

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Aum (ॐ) Bhur (भूर्) Bhuvah (भुव:) Swaha (स्व:)

Tat (तत्) Sa-Vi-Tur (सवितुर् ) Va-Re-Ny-Am (वरेण्यं)

Bhar-Go (भर्गो) De-Vas-Ya (देवस्य) Dhi-Ma-Hi (धीमहि)

Dhi-Yo (धीयो ) Yo (यो ) Nah (न: ) Pra-Cho-Da-Yat (प्रचोदयात् )

Learn these words by uttering them aloud. To practise saying the words, listen to the intonations in the chants .

When chanted accurately, breathing should improve.

Ultimately, this should help improve overall respiration.

Now, there are: 24 syllables i.e. 3 lines of eight syllables each…

ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व: तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं । भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि, धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।।

Aum Bhur Bhuvah  Swah

Tat  Savitur  Varenyam

Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi

Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat

In a nutshell, from the explanations detailed in the above links my understanding is as follows:

Aum = OM = primordial sound. ‘Beej’ Mantra i.e. ‘Seed’, “Pranav” – i.e. most fundamental mantra.

Bhur Bhuvah Swaha” = describe fundamental qualities of the Supreme being.

Bhu-r = Earthy | Divine | a Constant | Life itself

Bhuvah = Consciousness | Supreme Being untouched by Sorrow | Supreme Being is ‘Anant’ – limitless, boundless

Swaha = Connect with the Supreme Being to experience Bliss

Tat = He or That (third person, referring to the Supreme Being)

Savitur = Bestowed upon mankind by “Tat = Supreme Being”, is the fountain (of knowledge to distinguish right from wrong) as well as the immense ‘potential’ or ‘power’ to act, empowered by this fountain.

Varenyam = An uninhibited acceptance of the one who is worthy to lead i.e. this Supreme Being who has endowed each of us with the knowledge and has empowered us to act righteously.

Bhargo= the purity of the Supreme Being’s Light that allows each of us to see through the darkness of maya = illusion.

Devasya = Likeness (of qualities) to the Supreme Being, since each of us exist because of that being (and as an extension of him? I wonder).

Dheemahi = Focus on the purity of the Supreme Being (embodiment of virtues) i.e. meditate to remove thoughts that are anything but pure.

Dhi-yo= Allow the influence of the Supreme Being to impact one’s ‘intellect’ = ‘dhi-yo’.

Yo = Third Person ‘that’ i.e. The Supreme Being

Nah = an earnest sincere request to the Supreme Being on behalf of the entire universe and its inhabitants (a family as a whole, with everyone connected somehow) to continually endow us with that generous fountain of knowledge + potential to act righteously.

Prachodayat = a summary, culminating from the above, completing this acknowledgement of the Supreme being and the request to the common benefactor with the end goal of peace, prosperity and fundamental joy.

He wanted to be a “Quant”…

In the late 90s, my close buddy quit his well-paid job of ‘research scientist’ with a leading oil company. He wanted to be a “quant“. Lured, not by the money; that would follow (and plenty of it, although not quite as much as the obscene figures that Wall Street traders take home), but by the sheer mathematical elegance (I recall him using those very words way back then), which this new career would allow him to dabble with.  He spoke of the subject with a passion that sounded more like a woman’s dreams of luxury, silken sheets and Manolo’s!

His previously earned doctorate in hydrodynamics from M.I.T. was a mere starting point. He immersed himself in studying tomes of finance books – disciplined and motivated enough to “self-educate” himself on the subject. When he spoke of ‘vanilla’ or ‘exotic’ it had little to do with flavors of ice cream, or the fjords of Scandinavia. He pondered long over what he considered hot’ topics at the time – derivatives, futures, swaps and options – and seemed lost in a world of numbers!

To be honest, it was with immense difficulty that I had grasped the math entailed in regression analysis, linear programming and autocorrelation, towards earning credits for o-r and econometrics… in fact, I’m still fuzzy whether my present state is a result of “statistical error” or whether it may be deemed as a fitting error“. 😉 Random, or residual – why care! Instead, speaking again of my friend… when he first mentioned ‘modeling’, my brain – then skewed towards advertising, was farthest from ‘mathematical modeling‘. When he spoke of inverse problems my thoughts drifted towards micro-economics, juggling personal finances to fit month-end needs. Not in my wildest imagination could I have considered derivative pricing, or financial engineering.

Well, now as we approach 2010,  I can hardly pretend to have turned into some finance whiz, comprehending the jargon of Wall Street. Call it fate, or destiny, the events in the early years of this decade somehow did not allow my buddy with an opportunity to work as a ‘quant’ on Wall Street… something he had so deeply desired, and for which he toiled and sacrificed much, but which somehow eluded him.

Talking of predictions, futures, recent market volatility, financial debacles and gargantuan tumbles in the world’s financial capital, I am secretly thankful – at a personal level – that a perceived “failure” in finding a suitable position turned out to be a boon in disguise. For the past several years my pal has again immersed himself in science, and research towards what I consider a noble cause, and which, in my opinion, deserves far more genuine respect than what he would have earned through his computational genius on Wall Street.

Good luck to all those who have done well in their selected field, playing a clean, positive role, even in what is today deemed a maligned world, but which will undoubtedly rise again. When money begins to flow freely someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, memories of present times will fade, of that there’s no doubt, I’m afraid.