The need of Religion/Dharma

Around us, we regularly find people coming together and helping the society in the name of religion. However, we also find them fighting over the same topic. On the other hand, we have a third group which is trying to believe that religion is one of the worst thing that has been created by mankind and should thus be considered obsolete in the modern secular (so called!) societies. This way, we can now classify all of us into three groups:

  1. People who believe that religion bring us together
  2. People who believe that we need to fight to show our faith
  3. People who think religion is an obsolete concept

The emergence of these three groups can only make the situation worse. The interesting fact is that, this division happens in the name of religion only, whether you believe in it or consider it to be obsolete. How are we going to solve this problem? Is religion really a worst thing that is created by mankind? Is religion supposed to unite us? Is it justified to fight in the name of religion? Good or bad, in any case, we need to make an attempt to understand it. For those who consider religion to be evil, just remember the fact that in order to gain control over the evil, you still need to understand it first.

Religion vs. Dharma

For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider the term in Vedic culture called “Dharma”. It does not literally mean “Religion”, but can still help to understand it better.

First, lets take a look at the world excluding all living beings. We notice that all the elements in the universe can be defined only in terms of its properties. For example, Water can flow and make other things wet. If it doesn’t flow or make things wet, you won’t call it water. Similarly, Fire can burn and provide heat. If it does not burn or provide heat, you won’t call it fire.

Any object that has mass can exhibit inertia and gravitation. The objects, which do not have these properties, are simply called mass-less objects. In Vedic philosophy, these properties that define the entity, is called its “Dharma”. It means, “to uphold”. Since every object upholds their own properties, it can be said that they follow their dharma.

What’s the benefit of following Dharma?

Let’s try to understand it through an example. Try to answer the following two questions:

  1. Is water good or bad? While it’s ability to flow is responsible for life, it can also cause destruction in the form of flood and tsunamis.
  2. Is fire good or bad? While it helps us to stay warm and cook our food, it has also killed people and destroyed forests and properties.

The obvious answer will be, it’s neither good nor bad, but it’s required. We do not hold water or fire responsible for all possible destructions since we understand that they were simple following their properties without having any intension to kill people. Similarly, they do not follow their properties in order to support life. If that were the reason, then they wouldn’t have acted in destructive manner as well. They simply continue to follow their properties and thus, their effects cannot be termed as good or bad.

What about humans?

In case of living beings and especially humans, the situation is not so simple. We are capable of thinking, have desires and emotions. With the ability of intelligence and communication, we also have the capacity to make impact on our environment. Since every human can think differently, have variety of desires and act with different levels of intelligence, we cannot expect two humans to act in an identical way in a given situation.

Though from one perspective, it looks to be messy and confusing, it also has an interesting advantage. As we all have different emotions and physical capabilities, we tend to have specific interests along with motivation to devote our time and energy over it. Thus, we tend to get extremely specialized in a particular domain or a field. On the other hand, we also have specific desires without any capability to satisfy it directly. Thus:

  1. We have interest towards one field and emotional motivation to work on it
  2. We have desires towards things but have no capacity to satisfy it directly

Again we face a problem, but not for long. If we notice it carefully, through our desires, we create demand. On the other hand, through our specialization, we can create supply of good quality products or services. This allows for a trade and the entire society can benefit from it. Personally, it makes us wealthy and happy as our desires get satisfied due to our interests.

However, this works if and only if, we accept that everyone is different. We are different because we have different interests and point of view. Once we understand how this difference can help us to be happy and satisfied, we realize that every individual and his/her point of view is important and special.

Conflict between different points of view

Often, we think that somebody’s point of view has no value or can be dangerous for society. This happens when we get too attached to our own point of view or ignore the experience from history. How to gain control over our attachments is a topic of spirituality and will be handled in a different post. But we can definitely consider the experience from history:

  1. Long back, when computers were invented, lot of people didn’t see much value in it. Decade ago, when certain organizations like banks started implementing solutions based on computers, lot of people considered this as “BAD” idea as it would have destroyed jobs of many people. However, if we think of it from today’s perspective, then considering today’s population and number of customer’s, it would have been impossible to manually handle the millions of transactions that happen every second. The banking process would have become so costly to manage, that it could have simply failed to respond to the growing demands. Thus, even though some people loose their jobs at that time, it helped the society eventually.
  2. When the Government had started the process of getting Konkan railway to Goa, lot of people had considered this to be a “BAD” idea as it would have increased the inflow of people from other states and possibly increase the incidence of robberies. Today, people consider Konkan raily as boon and can’t imagine the life without it.
  3. From our history, we also learnt that people invited other kings to help them defeat their own king as they thought it would be a “Good” idea to take help from other kings to get rid of “BAD” government from their own king. Eventually, people realized that it was their biggest mistake and few of them had to again fight the war of independence against the new rulers.

What do we learn from these experiences? We should realize that at any moment, we cannot decide on which point of view is good and which is bad. Only time can answer the question. In Puranas, we find Asuras worshipping Devas to get their wishes satisfied. Most of us still think that Asuras were the bad guys and find it strange that Devas used to grant their wishes. If we read those stories properly, we realize that they never said that Suras were good and Asuras were bad. They were simply two groups having two different situations and viewpoints. These stories also bring out the fact that even Suras have troubled the world out of their ego and have been punished as per their Karmas. This clearly describes the fact that at any point of time, we cannot decide on who makes the valid viewpoint. If that was the case, then Deva’s would have never granted the Asuras’ wishes.

Recently, in one online group, a member said that if we wait for the time to decide, then many things would get destroyed. Well, the only other way he could have pushed his point of view would be with the help of force. This is how some of the people actually try to practice dictatorship under the hood of modern secularism and democracy.

So can a point of view be a “Dharma” or a Religion?

The point of view can be considered as “Dharma” if and only if we try to follow it regularly without being self-focused. I have seen some students who believe in helping weak students and try to do so. However, during the time of examinations, they focus only on their studies and ignore their friends. In this case, their point of view of helping weak students cannot be termed as act of “Dharma” since they did not uphold it during the time of their exams.

Conclusion

We can see that by realizing that the point of view of every single individual is important and special, we can have a progressive society. This is why our ancient texts have taught us to follow dharma and all the stories actually share this wisdom. Unfortunately, the books today have reduced them to the stories of fight between good and bad and our education system does not give it proper importance. The proper education of Dharma would have made people realize the importance of respecting other’s point of view. Since we all have believe in different ideas, we cannot have a secular system. The only way we can live together is by following Dharma and not by ignoring it. In this post, we have seen how Dharma can help society. In the upcoming posts, we would also see how it can help us at personal level and also why the so called Secularism is not a feasible idea.

Mistake Or No Mistake: Part 2

This is the second story in the “Mistake Or No Mistake” series (You can read the first part here). While this story might be the simplest in the entire series, it forms the base for the conclusions that we would make at the end of this series.

Mr. Vijay Gupta, a senior software manager in a reputed production company, is walking towards his office. He was slightly late today so he was trying to walk as fast as he could. As usual, he was dressed in formals and was carrying his laptop. Suddenly, while walking on the foot-path, he slips over banana peel and falls down. Ooooops!!

Now, coming back to our question, who do you feel was at fault here? Was there any mistake from Vijay’s end or did he pay for mistake from someone else?

Mistake Or No Mistake: Part 1

Long back, we were told a story about a man who goes to jungle for adventure. The story was more like a question to make us think and force us to enquire.

Once upon a time, there was a doctor who used to enjoy making regular trips to a nearby jungle for adventure and studies. However, on his 100th visit to the jungle, something happened.

That day, he left for jungle early in the morning. There was nothing new here as, he always used to leave early for his jungle/study trip. With him, he had carried all usual stuffs like first aid, communication devise, camera and binoculars. Soon, he was deep inside the jungle.

Though he had visited this area before, on that day, he noticed a tiger in that area. The tiger was lying down near the river. The moment the doctor noticed the tiger, he got scared and cried for help. As a result, tiger got up and started staring at the doctor. The doctor, in order to save his life, started running as fast as he could.

Next day, police found his dead body in jungle….

The story ends here. We were then asked a very important question, “Who do you think was at fault? Do you think it was Doctor’s mistake? Was there a mistake or no mistake?”.

When we heard the story for the first time, we were so much disturbed that our first reaction was, “No, Doctor didn’t commit any mistake”. However, as we enquired further, we learnt a very important lesson.

I would like to ask the same question to all the readers of this blog post. Who do you think was at fault? Do you think it was Doctor’s mistake? Was there a mistake or no mistake? Kindly reply through comments.

Fact-Based analysis of our current social and legal issues

As far as human nature is concerned, it tries to define the problem and it’s corresponding solution based on the way his/her preferences and understanding of the problem. At any point, while it is true that we cannot really say which definition and solution is right, we could at-least try our best to be rational and form our conclusions on basis of facts.

Let’s consider few cases.

  1. Traffic problems:We face traffic problems everyday and at every point in time, we blame government and police for that. If we think rationally, we would notice that the laws are already in place to enforce the lane discipline, Helmet and seatbelt usage etc. But the question is, do we follow them properly? Use of helmet or seatbelt is for our own safety but we still do not use them regularly. At this point, most people would claim that the cops should monitor and fine the rule breakers. But then, the reality is, people tend to wear helmet or seatbelt only when they notice that there is a police vehicle in front.On Mandovi Bridge, I notice this particular problem everyday. Whenever there is a traffic slowdown, people try to occupy the other lane completely without even a rational thought that this would simply convert it to traffic jam. At the end, we do get traffic jam AS EXPECTED.
  2. Social Equality: We know that this problem exists everywhere. In India, since we believe that law can help everywhere, we have reservation systems in place. Most claim that certain communities did get benefits out of these laws. But a conscious and rational observation would show us that majority of people are still suffering from social inequality. Remember the participant in the show “Kaun Banega Crorepati”, where he mentioned that his community is still not allowed in village temple. All this, while the required laws are in place.
  3. Criminal Activities: While the required law and enforcement agencies are in place, we still observe these cases around us.
  4. Eve teasing: This occurs everywhere and to almost every girl. Even though every brother knows that his sister has experienced this trouble, he would ignore such incidents when it happens to “some other girl” or he himself might get involved in eve teasing activities involving “some other girls”.
  5. Attack on parliament: We could literally say that the people involved in this have raped our national pride. As per the law, the criminal involved is already sentenced to death 8 years ago, but not yet executed.

Why am I talking about all these problems at this point in time? It’s because, all these observations bring about a larger picture. It highlights the true reality. Even though laws are in place, it has not helped in getting rid of any of these problems in first place. Now, what can we conclude with help of our rational thinking and observations?

As it could be seen, all these issues could be traced back to the individual behaviour or awareness towards social responsibility. Though we have required laws in place, we have not made any advances in raising the level of social awareness and building up of individual character.

Most of the schoolgirls face the problem if being teased by her own classmates. Most schools try to take strict actions and often follow strict punishments to avoid it. However, the problem continues. My father was principal of a school, which also happened to have such cases. However, he decided to try out a completely different solution.

While the strict actions and punishments were being taken against the students involved in teasing girls, he went ahead and started celebrating “Rakhi” festival with aim of raising the sense of brotherhood. In few days, it was noticed that it helped in making students realize their mistakes and thus, reduced the number of such cases dramatically.

When only the strict actions were being taken, students used to be careful only in school premises, but not when they used to be out of it. However, the effort to build up the character and sense of brotherhood in every boy and girl did help to handle the “out of school” cases as well.

Keep in mind, the laws can be broken and in most cases, they either help only after the incident has occurred or end up causing a bigger harm. For example, in order to make the best laws, we have only made the entire system so complicated, that a wise man has to think twice before going to court.

Law is not a medicine. Law is only a process. Following the law and order, is again an attribute of individual character or level of social awareness. Since we have failed at building up the character or social awareness, it’s pointless to ask for new laws.

Another best-known human nature is the ability to forget. Last year, there was a protest against corruption. It seemed as if we would definitely see some results. However, at this moment in present, I have no clue what happened to that protest or what’s going to happen next. There is a saying that time heals everything”. I would just add “including the good things” to it.

When there is a loss of individual character and lack of social awareness, the laws tend to be useless. This leads to a political advantage:

  1. First make an issue out of any incident to gain political benefits
  2. Once the issue starts affecting you as well, simply try to divert the issue with other related but less important thing, till the issue itself is forgotten. We are best at forgetting aren’t we?

Dealing with situations:

We can deal with situations either in reactive way or proper way. The reactive approach is often the result of instinct and can lead to unwanted outcomes. For example, the chance of a person getting drowned in water increases if he acts reactively. Similarly, a person beaten by snake can die before he could be treated due to his reactive actions (faster heart beats due to fear of death).

Thus we need to deal with situations in proper way. Unfortunately, we cannot think about proper way or provide proper help quickly. Thus, we should be in a position to handle the situation, till we identify a proper way, rather than being reactive.

When person is under medical emergency, First Aid is applied. If we happen to see it from other angle, we realize that it might sound stupid, as First Aid itself, does not save life. It is of no use to just apply First Aid and provide no medical aid. It just helps us in buying time before we provide the right help.

Similarly, in case of war, soldiers use a concept of cover fire. They are not aimed at a particular person, but help the group to relocate to a better location.

In martial arts, certain actions are followed only to confuse the opponent and divert his attention. Such techniques are to be followed in case the opponent is stronger as compared to you.

In industries, people try contract negotiation as a technique to buy time to properly understand the requirements and allocate team members.

Conclusion:

Lets consider it from the perspective of the recent unfortunate and horrible rape incident in Delhi. People have been:

  1. Doing the March protest: Good way to unite people and express opinion, but such protests cannot be sustained.
  2. Asking for a new law: On what facts and rational thinking do we believe that it would help to “Solve” the problem.
  3. Discussing about what certain religious entity said about it: Isn’t it the easiest way of diverting people’s attention from the real problem? Ignoring all the efforts taken to raise individual character and social awareness by these entities, why spend time on discussing a “misunderstood” statement? It would not help in solving the problem but would indeed help political actions to be able to divert the attention.

Time has come to stop teaching others on what to do and what not to do. We all need to follow the path of proper enquiry to understand the world and the problems while increasing our individual character and level of social awareness. My new year’s resolution was not to change the world, but:

  1. To follow proper enquiry to learn from past and current issues
  2. Act myself whenever a thought comes to my mind saying “Somebody should do something now”.

Airtel 3G With Samsung Galaxy S2 : My Alternate Source For High-Speed Internet

Can you imagine life without high speed internet access? Without it, we won’t be able to:

  • Enjoy services provided by sites like Youtube
  • Download free and opensource applications
  • Make video calls through services like Skype
  • Share screens and work from home (I hope you like it)

Seriously, high speed internet adds significant value to our daily life. Like most of my friends in India, I use BSNL Broadband to access high speed internet service at home. It provides pretty good connectivity in terms of speed and quality as shown in the screenshot below:

However, during monsoon period, I often face connectivity issues which can cause problems, especially if I want to work from home. Thus, I prefer to have alternate source of high speed internet connection as backup. I prefer this source to be wireless and stable while providing good internet speed.

While searching for another source of high speed internet access, I came across Airtel 3G. Following screenshot will show you the speeds that I get with Airtel 3G:

These screenshots show that Airtel 3G provides internet with speed which is half of what is provided by BSNL broadband. Depending on the quality of network, I can even get better speed.

To access this internet connection on my laptop, I make use of the “Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot” feature provided by my Samsung Galaxy S2 mobile phone. It’s a great device with lot of good features and this is just one of it.

I have been using the internet provided by Airtel 3G for around a month now and I am pretty much happy with it. Now I use it for most of my regular tasks and rely of BSNL broadband only to download large files.

Error in ruby on rails documentation for ActionController::UrlWriter

In Ruby on rails, methods that generate urls from named routes are not globally accessible. For example, you can’t access them from console (script/console). If you want to use these methods from such places, then the rails documentation for ActionController::UrlWriter suggests two ways of doing it. According to this documentation, you can:

  1. Include ActionController::UrlWriter in your class
  2. Call the method directly on ActionController::UrlWriter

When I tried it out, only the first method worked. I was able to use methods generated from named routes in console after including ActionController::UrlWriter. However, it was not possible to call those methods on ActionController::UrlWriter. This looks like an issue with documentation to me.

It might be the case that the second method used to work in earlier version of rails. As rails is constantly being developed, some refactoring might have made the second method obsolete. I hope rails community will fix such issues in documentation soon.

Simplicity is the best policy

Few days ago I came across a story here. In this story, an assembly line worker suggests a simple, low-cost but highly effective solution to the problem for which engineers had developed a complex and expensive solution. Why am I referring to this story today? Because, I notice lot of people having a misconception that you need to have a complex system to solve a complex problem.

People innovate and develop solutions or machines to reduce human efforts. In other words, machines or solutions are developed to simply our day-to-day activities. By developing complex systems, most of us don’t realize that:

  • Instead of simplifying something, we have actually transferred the problem to another new system: Complex solutions give us an impression that it solves the problem completely. But in reality, it might end up creating new problems for you. This new problem could be in the form of maintenance or in the form of some hidden cost.
  • Complex solutions are often too costly: This means that only few rich people will be able to use the solution.

I am sure that most of us would have heard about interactive whiteboards (also known as smart boards). These boards are quite costly as they would cost you at least few hundred thousand rupees. Due to this high cost, lot of schools and colleges cannot enjoy the benefits of such iterative systems. Now, is there a cheaper and simpler solution to this problem?

Of course there is!!! Johnny Chung Lee, who works as a researcher at Microsoft – Applied sciences, has developed a simple systems that achieves most of the functionality provided by commercial smart boards at fraction of their cost. His project makes use of an IR pen, Nintendo Wii remote and a small software application. You can watch the following video to know how this system works:

Next time, before developing any solutions or systems, try to ask yourself a question: “Is this the only way of doing this? Can there be simple way to do it?”

I am sure you will definitely find an answer :)

Search Google Visually

Today I came across an online tool that allows you to see the screenshot of pages in the google search result. You can give it a try at “Veesual.com

Veesual

Veesual Result

While I found the concept to be interesting, I was wondering what could be the use of looking at screenshots of pages in search result. What matters to me is getting a list of relevant search results. A thumbnail of a particular page in search result won’t help me in determining how relevant that page is to my search.

However, I do see one use for getting search results along with thumbnails. It can be used to come up with ideas for designing web-sites for a particular theme. You can search on Veesual using a keyword that describes the theme of your site and then take a quick look at the design of pages in the result. This can help you to come up with your own web-page design.

Do let me know if you can think of some more applications of Veesual.com

After file and photo sharing, it’s time for “code sharing”

If we want to share a file or photos while chatting with our friends on internet using IM tools like GTalk, we use file sharing services available online. These services allow us to upload a file to their servers and give us a link which we can share with our friends. But what if you are a developer and want to share a small piece of code with your friend? You are left with following choices:

  • Paste it in your chat: I know most of us do this when we quickly want to share the code. However, its annoying as it becomes unreadable and makes your code look as if its obfuscated :)
  • Email: This approach is better compared to previous approach, however the recipient wil need to manually compile the code and run it if he wants to know the output.

I won’t say these approaches are useless. But I would like to have a place, where I can put my code fragment and then share it using a link. I can use this link in my gtalk status, chat or even in twitter posts.

Luckily, there is a site called “codepad” that allows us to do exactly the same thing. It allows us to share a piece of code using a small url.

You can try it now at “http://codepad.org/” or take a look at this example code posted by me at “http://codepad.org/XZpSNngW

Finally, one thing I would like to see is support for C# code.

Missing attachment detector in Gmail

It is really embarrassing to send an email with an attachment and actually forgetting to attach the file you were supposed to mail along, isn’t it? In my case, I often forget to attach files to emails if I’m typing it in hurry. Sometimes, I even end up receiving replies from recipients of those emails requesting me to eat food instead of attachments. It’s really embarrassing when you are working as a professional or interacting with your teaching assistant while studying through online universities.

Luckily, today I came across a feature in Gmail Labs, which helps you to identify missing attachments as soon as you press send button. This small functionality in Gmail warns you if you have written something like “I’m attaching” or “I am attaching” or “I have attached” in your message body and you haven’t actually attached any file. I’m not sure if it is capable of identifying any other patterns in email text which suggests that you wanted to attach something. However, I tested for above 3 patterns and I’m good with it.

To enable this feature, you will need to login to your Gmail account. Then go to Settings -> Labs, and enable ‘Forgotten Attachment Detector’. Don’t forget to click on ‘Save changes’ after that.

I would like to thank Mr. Jonathan K, for creating this useful feature in Gmail lab. It is definitely an important feature for me, and for many other people who like to eat attachments instead of food.