Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What we eat, how we eat, and where what we eat comes from

Resources for sustainable eating
from The Daily Goose by Matthew
Via Michael Pollan’s website, here’s a three page PDF with books and websites that look very useful for those of us who think what we eat, how we eat, and where what we eat comes from are important issues based upon fundamental principles.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The old Ashrams were not entirely like monasteries


Certainly, Mother does not want only sportsmen in the Ashram: that would make it not an Ashram but a playground. The sports and physical exercises are primarily for the children of the school and they also do not play only but have to attend to their studies as well. Incidentally, they have improved immensely in their health and in discipline and conduct as one very valuable result. Secondarily, the younger Sadhaks are allowed, not enjoined or even recommended, to join in these sports, but certainly they are not supposed to be sportsmen only; they have other and more important things to do. To be a sportsman must necessarily be a voluntary choice and depends on one having the taste and inclination. There are plenty of people around the Mother herself— X for instance — who would never dream of frequenting the playground or engaging in sports and the Mother also would never think of asking them to do it. So, equally, she could not think of being displeased with you for shunning these delights. Some, of course, might ask why any sports at all in an Ashram which ought to be concerned only with meditation and inner experiences and the escape from life into Brahman. But that applies only to the ordinary kind of Ashram to which we have got accustomed and this is not that orthodox kind of Ashram. It includes life in Yoga, and once we admit life we can include anything that we find useful for life's ultimate and immediate purpose and not inconsistent with the works of the Spirit. After all, the orthodox
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Ashram came into being only after Brahman began to shun all connection with the world and the shadow of Buddhism stalked over all the land and the Ashrams turned into monasteries. The old Ashrams were not entirely like that; the boys and young men who were brought up in them were trained in many things belonging to life: the son of Pururavas and Urvasie practised archery in the Ashram of a Rishi and became an expert bowman, and Kama became disciple of a great sage in order to acquire from him the use of powerful weapons. So there is no a priori ground why sports should be excluded from life of an Ashram like ours where we are trying to equate life with the Spirit. Even table-tennis and football need not be rigorously excluded. But putting all persiflage aside, my point is that to play or not to play is a matter of choice and inclination and it would be absurd for Mother to be displeased with you any more than with X for not caring to be a sportsman. So you need not have any apprehension on this score; that the Mother should be displeased with you for that is quite impossible. So the idea that she wished to draw away from you for anything done or not done was a misinterpretation without any real foundation since you have given no ground for it and there was nothing farther from her mind. She has herself explained that it was just the contrary that has been in her mind for sometime past and it was an increasing kindness that was her feeling and intention. The only change she could expect from you was to grow in your psychic and spiritual endeavour and inner progress and in this you have not failed — quite the contrary. Apart from that, the notion that she could be displeased with you because you did not change according to this or that pattern is a wild idea; it would be most arbitrary and unreasonable.


The Mother does not want anybody to take up the sports if he has no inclination or natural bent for them; to join or not to join must be quite voluntary and those who do not join are not cold-shouldered or looked down upon by her for that reason. It would be absurd for her to take that attitude: there are those

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who do her faithful service which she deeply appreciates and whom she regards with affection and confidence but who never go to the playground either because they have no turn for it or no time, — can you imagine that for that reason she will turn away from them and regard them with coldness? The Mother could never intend that sports should be the sole or the chief preoccupation of the inmates of the Ashram; even the children of the school for whose physical development these sports and athletic exercises are important and for whom they were originally intended, have other things to do, their work, their studies and other occupations and amusements in which they are as interested as in these athletics. There are other things more important: there are Yoga, spiritual progress, Bhakti, devotion, service....
I do not understand what you mean by my "giving time to sports": I am not giving any time to it except that I have written at Mother's request an article for the first number of the Bulletin1 and another for the forthcoming number. It is the Mother who is doing all the rest of the work for the organisation of the sports and that she must do, obviously, till it is sufficiently organised to go on of itself with only a general supervision from above and her actual presence once in the day. I put out my force to support her as in all the other work of the Ashram, but otherwise I am not giving any time for the sports.


There is no need for anyone to take up sports as indispensable for Yoga or enjoying the Mother's affection and kindness. Yoga is its own object and has its own means and conditions; sports is something quite different as the Mother herself indicated to you when she said that the concentration practised on the play­ground was not meditation and was used for the efficacy in the movements and not for any purpose of Yoga.

1Bulletin of Physical Education, a quarterly journal published by the Ashram.
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It is also not a fact that either the Mother or I are turning away from Yoga and intend to interest ourselves only in sport; we have no intention whatever of altering the fundamental character of the Ashram and replacing it by a sportive association. If we did that it would be a most idiotic act and if anybody should have told you anything like that, he must be off his head or in a temporary crisis of delirious enthusiasm for a very upside-down idea. The Mother told you very clearly once that what was being done in the playground was not meditation or a concentration for Yoga but only an ordinary concentration for the physical exercises alone. If she is busy with the organisation of these things — and it is not true that she is busy with that alone — it is in order to get finished with that as soon as possible after which it will go on of itself without her being at all engrossed or specially occupied by it, as is the case with other works of the Ashram. As for myself, it is surely absurd to think that I am neglecting meditation and Yoga and interested only in running, jumping and marching! There seem to have been strange misunderstandings about my second message in the Bulletin. In the first, I wrote about sports and their utility just as I have written on politics or social development or any other matter. In the second, I took up the question incidentally because people are expressing ignorance as to why the Ashram should concern itself with sports at all. I explained why it had been done and dealt with the more general question of how this and other human activities could be part of a search for a total perfection of all parts of the being including the body and more especially what would be the nature of the perfection of the body. I indicated clearly that only by Yoga' could there come a supreme and total perfection of all the instruments of the Spirit and the ascent of the whole being to the highest level and a divine life on earth and the assumption of a divine body. I made it clear that by human and physical means such as sports only a limited and precarious human perfection could come. In all this there is nothing to justify the idea that sport could be a means for jumping into the Supermind or that the Supermind was going to descend on the playground and nowhere else and only those who are there will receive it; that would be a bad look-out for me as I would have no chance!
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I write air this in the hope of clearing away all the strange misconceptions with which the air seems to have become thick and by some of which you may have been affected.


You ought to be able to see that your idea of our insistence on you to take up sport or to like it and accept it in any way has no foundation. I myself have never been a sportsman or — apart from a spectator's interest in cricket in England or a non-player member of the Baroda cricket club — taken up any physical games or athletics except some exercises learnt from Madras! wrestlers in Baroda such as daṇḍ and baiṭhak, and those I took up only to put some strength and vigour into a frail and weak though not unhealthy body, but I never attached any other importance or significance to these things and dropped the exercises when I thought they were no longer necessary. Certainly, neither the abstinence from athletics and physical games nor the taking up of those physical exercises have for me any relevance to Yoga. Neither your aversion to sport nor the liking of others for it makes either you or them more fit or more unfit for Sadhana. So there is absolutely no reason why we should insist on your taking it up or why you should trouble your mind with the supposition that we want you to do it. You are surely quite free, as everybody is quite free, to take your own way in such matters.

Before coming to the main point I may as well clear out one matter not unconnected with it: my articles or messages, as they are called, in the Bulletin', for their appearance there and their contents seem to have caused some trouble, perplexity or mis­understanding in your mind and especially my speculations about the Divine Body. I wrote the first of these articles to explain about how and why sport came to be included in the programme of the Ashram activities and I think I made it clear, as I went on, that sport was not Sadhana, that it belonged to what I called the lower end of things, but that it might be used not merely for
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amusement or recreation or the maintenance of health, but for a greater efficiency of the body and for the development of certain qualities and capacities, not of the body only but of morale and discipline and the stimulation of mental energies: but I pointed out also that these could be and were developed by other means and that there were limitations to this utility. In fact, it is only by Sadhana that one could go beyond the limits natural to the lower end means. I think there was little room for misunderstanding here, but the Mother had asked me to write on other subjects not connected in any way with sport and had suggested some such subjects as the possibilities of the evolution of a divine body; so I wrote on that subject and went on to speak of the Supermind and Truth-Consciousness which had obviously not even the remotest connection with sport. The object was to bring in something higher and more interesting than a mere record of gymnasium events but which might appeal to some of the readers and even to wider circles. In speaking of the divine body I entered into some far-off speculations about what might become possible in the future evolution of it by means of a spiritual force, but obviously the possibilities could not be anything near or immediate, and I said clearly enough that we should have to begin at the beginning and not attempt anything out of the way. Perhaps I should have insisted more on present limitations, but that I should now make clear. For the immediate object of my endeavours is to establish spiritual life on earth and for that the first necessity must always be to realise the Divine; only then can life be spiritualised or what I have called the Life Divine be made possible. The creation of something that could be called a divine body could be only an ulterior aim undertaken as part of this transformation, as, obviously, the development of such a divine body as was visioned in these speculations could only come into view as the result of a distant evolution and need not alarm or distract anyone. It might even be regarded as a phantasy of some remotely possible future which might one day happen to come true.
I then come to the main point, namely that the intention attributed to the Mother of concentrating permanently on sports and withdrawing from other things pertinent to Sadhana and
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our spiritual endeavour is a legend and a myth and has no truth in it. Except for the time given to her own physical exercise — ordinarily, two hours or sometimes three in the evening on the playground — the Mother's whole day from early morning and a large part of the night also has always been devoted to her other occupations connected with the Sadhana — not her own but that of the Sadhaks — Pranam, blessings, meditation and receiving the Sadhaks on the staircase or elsewhere, sometimes for two hours at a time, and listening to what they have to say, questions about the Sadhana, results of their work or their matters, complaints, disputes, quarrels, all kinds of conferences about this or that to be decided and done — there is no end to the list: for the rest she had to attend to their letters, to reports about the material work of the Ashram and all its many departments, correspondence and all sorts of things connected with the contacts with the outside world including often serious trouble and difficulties and the settlement of matters of great importance. All this has certainly nothing to do with sports and she had little occasion to think of it at all apart from the short time in the evening. There was here no ground for the idea that she was neglecting the Sadhaks or the Sadhana or thinking of turning her mind solely or predominantly to sport and still less for imputing the same preoccupation to me. Only during the period before the first and second December this year Mother had to give a great deal of time and concentration to the preparation of the events of those two days because she had decided on a big cultural programme: her own play, Vers l'Avenir, dances, recitation from Savitri and from the Prayers and Meditations for the first December and also for a big and ambitious programme for the second of sportive items and events. This meant a good deal more time for these purposes but hardly any interruption of her other occupations except for one or two of them just at the end of this period. There was surely no sufficient ground here either for drawing the conclusion that this was going to be for the future a normal feature of her action or a permanent change in it or in the life of the Ashram ending in a complete withdrawal from spiritual life and an apotheosis of the Deity of Sport. Those who voiced this idea or declared that sport would henceforth be
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obligatory on all were indulging in fantasies that have no claim to credibility. As a matter of fact, the period of tension is over and after the second December things have returned to normal or even to subnormal in the activities of the playground and as for the future you may recall the proverb that "once is not for ever."
But there seems to be still a survival of the groundless idea that sportsmanship is obligatory henceforth on every Sadhak and without it there is no chance of having the Mother's attention or favour. It is therefore necessary for me to repeat with the utmost emphasis the statement I made long ago when this fable became current for a time along, I think, with the rumour that the Supermind was to descend on the playground and the people who happen to be there at the time and nowhere else and on nobody else — which would have meant that I for one would never have it!! I must repeat what I said then, that the Mother had never imposed or has any idea of imposing any such obligation and had no reason for doing so. She does not want you or anybody else to take to sports if there is no inclination or turn towards it. There are any number of people who enjoy her highest favour, among them some of her best and most valued workers, some most near to her and cherished by her who do not even set foot on the playground. Nobody then could possibly lose her favour or her affection by refusing to take up sport or by a dislike of sport or a strong disinclination towards it: these things are a matter of idiosyncrasy and nothing else. The idea, whether advanced or not by someone claiming to have authority to voice the Mother's intentions, that sport is now the most important thing with her and obligatory for Sadhana is absurd in the extreme.


The realisation of the Divine is the one thing needful and the rest is desirable only in so far as it helps or leads towards that or when it is realised, extends or manifests the realisation. Manifestation or organisation of the whole life for the Divine work:
first, the Sadhana personal and collective necessary for the realisation
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and a common life of the God-realised men, secondly, for help to the world to move towards that and to live in the Light, is the whole meaning and purpose of my Yoga. But the realisation is the first need and it is that round which all the rest moves, for apart from it all the rest would have no meaning. Neither the Mother nor myself ever dreamed or could dream of putting anything else in its place or neglecting it for anything else. Most of the Mother's day is in fact given to helping the Sadhaks in one way or another towards that end, most of the rest is occupied with work for the Ashram which cannot be neglected or allowed to collapse, for this is too work for the Divine. As for the gymnasium, the playground and the rest of it, the Mother has made it plain from the beginning what place she assigned to these things; she has never done anything so imbecile as to replace essential things by these accessories.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Become the instrument and servant of a higher consciousness, a spiritual life

Notes From a Fellow Traveller Elliott S. Dacher, M.D.
author of Integral Health: The Path to Human Flourishing January 22, 2008
Mental and Spiritual Development
The great Indian sage Aurobindo divided psychospiritual development into 12 progressive stages. His work falls within the great philosophical and spiritual traditions, East and West, that identify an ascending development of consciousness reaching from a survival-based instinctual life, through progressive levels of mental experience to the highest attainment of direct spiritual experience. This final apotheosis transcends all previous levels of cognitive mental experience...
The Spiritual Experience
We have all had a glimpse at the spiritual experience. We’re given small tastes and touches whose significance we often overlook. That’s to say we have the experience but miss the meaning. This glimpse can occur in communion with nature, the first blush of romance, the peak of orgasm, in the arts and music, meditation, and the heights of athletic performance. It’s the moment of timeless presence when, for a brief moment followed by a quick return to ordinary consciousness, self and cognition dissipate revealing a spacious choiceless and open awareness unfettered by usual mental activity. But these are only glimpses of the real thing. They are neither fully developed, matured, or stable. So we cannot hold these experiences and they rapidly drop back into our day-to-day level of development. If we grasp or attach to these “peek-peak” experiences we end up with suffering and addiction rather than the liberation and enlightenment of the genuine and fully developed spiritual experience.
What is revealed in these brief touches of the divine is neither created nor constructed. This liberating open, non-cognitive awareness is always present untouched and untainted by obscuring and unceasing mental activity that hides us from our source. This place of inner peace free of suffering and custodian of the transcendent and permanent qualities of wholeness, happiness, love, and compassion is hidden not absent. These brief glimpses we have spoken of beak through the obscuring clouds of our active mental life and for a moment we see what has always been present and discover the key to the end of all suffering and the emergence of the fullness of human life.
To turn a glimpse into a permanent reality is to develop our inner life, expand consciousness, accurately understand the nature of mind, self, and reality, and progressively extend and stabilize this higher and direct level of human experience. It is not that we abandon the rational cognitive mind, but rather than we abandon our fixation on it, its misperceptions and afflictive emotions. The center of our life is lived from a spiritual awareness and our rational capacities to investigate and know the relational day-to-day world become the instrument and servant of a higher consciousness, a spiritual life.
If we do not understand the distinction between a higher mental life and a spiritual life our development will be frozen at the mental life. We may be wise but we will neither attain the final and complete freedom from suffering that is immune to life’s adversities nor the enduring and changeless qualities of the enlightened spirit.

William James disavowed any scientific method that tried to dissect the mind into a set of elemental units

Misreading the mind
If neuroscientists want to understand the mystery of consciousness, they'll need new methods.
By Jonah Lehrer LAT Home > Op-Ed: Sunday Current January 20, 2008
Since its inception in the early 20th century, neuroscience has taught us a tremendous amount about the brain. Our sensations have been reduced to a set of specific circuits. The mind has been imaged as it thinks about itself, with every thought traced back to its cortical source. The most ineffable of emotions have been translated into the terms of chemistry, so that the feeling of love is just a little too much dopamine. Fear is an excited amygdala. Even our sense of consciousness is explained away with references to some obscure property of the frontal cortex. It turns out that there is nothing inherently mysterious about those 3 pounds of wrinkled flesh inside the skull. There is no ghost in the machine.
The success of modern neuroscience represents the triumph of a method: reductionism. The premise of reductionism is that the best way to solve a complex problem -- and the brain is the most complicated object in the known universe -- is to study its most basic parts. The mind, in other words, is just a particular trick of matter, reducible to the callous laws of physics. But the reductionist method, although undeniably successful, has very real limitations. Not everything benefits from being broken down into tiny pieces. Look, for example, at a Beethoven symphony. If the music is reduced to wavelengths of vibrating air -- the simple sum of its physics -- we actually understand less about the music. The intangible beauty, the visceral emotion, the entire reason we listen in the first place -- all is lost when the sound is reduced into its most elemental details.
In other words, reductionism can leave out a lot of reality. The mind is like music. While neuroscience accurately describes our brain in terms of its material facts -- we are nothing but a loom of electricity and enzymes -- this isn't how we experience the world. Our consciousness, at least when felt from the inside, feels like more than the sum of its cells. The truth of the matter is that we feel like the ghost, not like the machine. If neuroscience is going to solve its grandest questions, such as the mystery of consciousness, it needs to adopt new methods that are able to construct complex representations of the mind that aren't built from the bottom up.
Sometimes, the whole is best understood in terms of the whole. William James, as usual, realized this first. The eight chapters that begin his 1890 textbook, "The Principles of Psychology," describe the mind in the conventional third-person terms of the experimental psychologist. Everything changes, however, with Chapter 9. James starts this section, "The Stream of Thought," with a warning: "We now begin our study of the mind from within." With that single sentence, James tried to shift the subject of psychology. He disavowed any scientific method that tried to dissect the mind into a set of elemental units, be it sensations or synapses. Modern science, however, didn't follow James' lead.
In the years after his textbook was published, a "New Psychology" was born, and this rigorous science had no use for Jamesian vagueness. Measurement was now in vogue. Psychologists were busy trying to calculate all sorts of inane things, such as the time it takes for a single sensation to travel from your finger to your head. By quantifying our consciousness, they hoped to make the mind fit for science. Unfortunately, this meant that the mind was defined in very narrow terms. The study of experience was banished from the laboratory. But it's time to bring experience back. Neuroscience has effectively investigated the sound waves, but it has missed the music. Although reductionism has its uses -- it is, for instance, absolutely crucial for helping us develop new pharmaceutical treatments for mental illnesses -- its limitations are too significant to allow us to answer our biggest questions.
As the novelist Richard Powers wrote, "If we knew the world only through synapses, how could we know the synapse?" The question, of course, is how neuroscience can get beyond reductionism. Science rightfully adheres to a strict methodology, relying on experimental data and testability, but this method could benefit from an additional set of inputs. Artists, for instance, have studied the world of experience for centuries. They describe the mind from the inside, expressing our first-person perspective in prose, poetry and paint. Although a work of art obviously isn't a substitute for a scientific experiment -- Proust isn't going to invent Prozac -- the artist can help scientists better understand what, exactly, they are trying to reduce in the first place. Before you break something apart, it helps to know how it hangs together.
Virginia Woolf, for example, famously declared that the task of the novelist is to "examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day ... [tracing] the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness." In other words, she wanted to describe the mind from the inside, to distill the details of our psychological experience into prose. That's why her novels have endured: because they feel true. And they feel true because they capture a layer of reality that reductionism cannot. As Noam Chomsky said, "It is quite possible -- overwhelmingly probable, one might guess -- that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology."
In this sense, the arts are an incredibly rich data set, providing neuroscience with a glimpse behind its blind spots. Some of the most exciting endeavors in neuroscience right now are trying to move beyond reductionism. The Blue Brain Project, for example, a collaboration between the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, and IBM, is in the process of constructing a biologically accurate model of the brain that can be used to simulate experience on a supercomputer. Henry Markram, the leader of the project, recently told me that he's convinced "reductionism peaked five years ago." While Markram is quick to add that the reductionism program isn't complete -- "There is still so much that we don't know about the brain," he says -- he's trying to solve a harder problem, which is figuring out how all these cellular details connect together. "The Blue Brain Project" he says, "is about showing people the whole." In other words, Markram wants to hear the music.
One day, we'll look back at the history of neuroscience and realize that reductionism was just the first phase. Each year, tens of thousands of neuroscience papers are published in scientific journals. The field is introduced to countless new acronyms, pathways and proteins. At a certain point, however, all of this detail starts to have diminishing returns.
  • After all, the real paradox of the brain is why it feels like more than the sum of its parts.
  • How does our pale gray matter become the Technicolor cinema of consciousness?
  • What transforms the water of the brain into the wine of the mind?
  • Where does the self come from?

Reductionism can't answer these questions. According to the facts of neuroscience, your head contains 100 billion electrical cells, but not one of them is you, or knows you or cares about you. In fact, you don't even exist. You are simply an elaborate cognitive illusion, an "epiphenomenon" of the cortex. Our mystery is denied. Obviously, this scientific solution isn't very satisfying. It confines neuroscience to an immaculate abstraction, unable to reduce the only reality we will ever know. Unless our science moves beyond reductionism and grapples instead with the messiness of subjective experience -- what James called a "science of the soul" -- its facts will grow increasingly remote. The wonder of the brain is that it can be described in so many ways: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, but we are also just stuff. What we need is a science that can encompass both sides of our being. Jonah Lehrer, an editor at large for Seed magazine, is the author of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Top 10 travel hotspots in India

Little paradises The Tribune, Saturday, January 19, 2008
Over the years, the tried and tested touristy destinations have remained popular but for some years now avant-garde tourism has been picking up. Mukesh Khosla lists 10 travel hotspots in India that promise an out-of-the-ordinary experience
A different view of the Taj
When you go to Agra, visit the Taj Mahal and then hit the Mughal Heritage Trail. This is one of the most unusual treks that has just been developed. It has been catching the fancy of the discerning tourists ever since it was developed. The trail on the backside of the Taj Mahal is designed around a 4-km meandering pathway of lesser-known monuments like the Chini Ka Rauza, Itmad-Ud-Daula and Rambagh. Another trail leads to Humayun’s mosque, where many of his kith and kin are buried, and the Jantar Mantar carved out of a single stone. While the mosque still stands, only a small part of Jantar Mantar remains and is known as Gyaraha Sidi (eleven steps). Soak in history as you stand atop one of the lighthouses from where you can get a stunning view of the Taj from across the Yamuna.
Divine experience at Lamayuru
The surreal gompa (monastery) perched atop a mountain in Ladakh is hidden from the world. Yet, twice a year on full moon nights, Lamayuru hosts the coming together of lamas from other monasteries of the region. They chant Buddhist shlokas and perform the mask dance, a symbol of divinity that is believed to guard against all evils. Tourists stay in Leh and take a taxi to Lamayuru which is 200 km away and spend the night in small resorts or camping sights along the way for a divine Buddhist experience.
Golden sands beckon
As you motor down from Jodhpur cutting through unending sands, Jaisalmer seems to rise out of the dunes. Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer magic of this desert city of Rajasthan. The majestic yellow fort is etched against the azure sky as if in a fairyland. A camel safari from Jaisalmer is an exhilarating experience. As you meander through sand dunes, you will go past havelis, magnificent temples, Rajasthani women in colourful attire and men in resplendent turbans sporting big moustaches. There are also the stepwells, sandstorms, desert foxes and chinkaras. A picture postcard exotica that’s held an enduring fascination for the footloose traveller.
A date with lions in Gir
Two centuries ago the Asiatic lion ranged across a territory that spread from Europe to Asia. Since then, the continual expansion of human habitat has contributed to its extinction in all but one small region, the Gir National Park and Sanctuary in the bowlshaped Saurashtra region in Gujarat. The home territory of the last surviving Asiatic lion, the Gir forest has been designated a national park. A jeep safari in this 1,400 sq km sanctuary is a wildlife lover’s dream come true. Besides the Asiatic lion, the other residents include the spotted deer, chital, nilgai, four-horned antelope, chinkara, wild boar, jackal and hyena.
Trekking time
A trek in the Garhwal Himalayas offers such stunning sights that it will take the breath away. Lush green forests on the one side and high mountain ranges on the other, with waterfalls cascading down from the skies. A trekking trip in the bugyals, extensive pasture lands found at heights ranging between 3,000 and 4,500 metres above the sea level, is an experience of a lifetime. The snowcapped mountains stand in bold relief against the lush bugyals. The most popular are the Panwali Bugyals skirting the Bhilling valley on the old pilgrim route from Gangotri to Kedarnath. No hustlebustle, no rush, no cars. Just the rustling of leaves, chirping of birds and the whistling of the wind. Truly time spent in paradise.
Falling in love with the falls
At first sight the natural horseshoe waterfalls created by the Indravati river in Chhattisgarh look startlingly similar to the Niagara Falls. And that is the main attraction of the town of Chitrakote in Bastar district, near Jagdalpur. This is the tribal heartland of India and nature trails lead you to unknown temples, dancing peacocks, stray cattle and happy locals in colourful attire. This is truly God’s own country that has not just retained its unspoilt charm but also its unique cultural and ecological identity. Don’t also miss the picturesque Tirathgarh falls at the Kanger river that cascade down from a height of 100 feet.
Auroville’s sounds of silence
Legend associates ancient Pondicherry or Puducherry with the great Hindu sage Agastya. Today there are more than 350 churches, temples and mosques, making it a virtual Mecca for the devout. One of the most striking and now universally famous religious centres is the Aurobindo Ashram founded by poetphilosopher Sri Aurobindo in 1926. Pay homage to the samadhis inside the premises of this ashram and then head for Auroville—the City of Dawn—on the Chennai-Puducherry highway. This is an abode of peace where meditation and yoga are a way of life. Soak in the sounds of silence as you commune with God.
On the lakefront
Though Nainital maybe the preferred destination for holiday-makers, many discerning tourists are skipping the crowded hill station and discovering the joys of nature walks in Bhimtal. Just 22 km from Nainital, this resort is a source of pleasure for those who enjoy nature’s pristine bliss. The lake that has an island in the centre is larger than Naini Lake and there are many ancient temples dotting the numerous hilly trails, one of which leads to the famous Bhimeshwar temple complex said to have been built by Bhima of the Mahabharata fame. Another trail leads to the Nal-Damyanti Tal, named after the mythological King Nal. Many historians are of the view that Bhimtal was a part of the ancient Silk Route.
Cruising the backwaters
A boatride in a kettuvalam on the backwaters of Kerala, starting from the Kumarakom jetty, is an exhilarating experience. It is a journey across several canals snaking through Kavalam and Pulinkunnu villages. The journey is in picturesque settings and these are wonderful waterways unknown to city dwellers. These waterways efficiently connect islands and villages in the interiors. The sight of coconut palms swaying in the breeze amidst a vast expanse of paddy fields, children bathing in the canals is an experience only Kerala can give. And don’t miss the canal of hyacinths on Punnamada Lake at Alleppey, the most befitting finale to a journey of a lifetime.
Nature trail at Binsar
Just a half-hour drive from Almora in Uttaranchal, Binsar, the capital of the eighth-century Chand Rajas, is an experience of a lifetime. Spread on top of the Jhandi Dhar hills, the small town offers a panoramic view of Greater Himalayas. The peaks of Nanda Devi, Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, Trishul, Panchchuli and Nanda Kot are visible on a clear day from Binsar. The resort town is lush with oak, rhododendron, pine and deodars. There is a wildlife sanctuary for those who like the wild side. HOME

Friday, January 18, 2008

The philosophical idea of Sri Aurobindo that the evolution is actually of consciousness

The World Science Blog January 15, 2008 From Aju Mukhopadhyay:
Re: Did insects take down T. rex? (Jan. 4):
I find that this finding by the scientists is very thought provoking. It tells about the evolution of birds due to their short existence in one life. This takes us to the question of Indian rebirth theory- it seems that there is some authority which decides about the duration of life, about the evolution and through these we go to the philosophical idea of Sri Aurobindo that the evolution is actually of consciousness and not just of physical existence which means simply that the mightiest only exists.
Surely insects are of negligible consequence to the mightiest dinosaurs. Who creates these blooming flowers and brings insects into existence at a particular point of time? I don’t very simply say that it is God but then it is sure that all these are decided somewhere at the supramental level. We may, like the scientists, do some post mortem research and try to find something. On the whole the things are very thought provoking indeed. 5:34 PM