Buddha Jayanti

buddha01Siddhartha Gautam, aka Sakyamuni (the sage of the Sakyas), became a buddha around 2,500 years ago. Today, known as Buddha Purnima, the day of the full moon in May, is celebrated as his birthday. Here’s the Chinese singer Imee Ooi singing the Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra, aka The Heart Sutra. Listen.

The maha-mantra of the Heart Sutra, “om gate, gate, para-gate, parasum-gate, bodhi svaha om”, appears around the 3:50 time stamp. Continue reading

What the Heck is Democracy

liberty bellI am persuaded that the word ‘democracy’ is one of the most abused words in India (another being ‘secular’.) The common people certainly don’t know what it really means or entails, but even the “intellectuals” (second-hand dealers of ideas, as Hayek defined them) and assorted pundits have only a feeble grasp of the concept at best.

Politicians cannot reasonably be expected to understand anything that requires intelligence and knowledge but people who claim to be educated cannot be excused for their ignorance of such a basic concept as democracy. Journalists, especially, ought to know what it means before they pontificate.

As a public service, let me provide a clue for the hundreds of millions of Indians and their sainted journalists what democracy means, and most importantly what it does not mean. Continue reading

Ask me anything – the Aron Ra edition

Greetings from the San Francisco Bay area. It’s great to be back in the old neighborhood visiting friends. I’ve been away for almost 15 months. The weather is as usual wonderful. Traffic on 101 and 880 is lighter than normal because of the pandemic-induced work from home situation. I’ve been driving around a bit. I miss being here.

Here are a couple of videos for your pleasure. I respect Aron Ra. He is a straight shooter, an activist atheist. I like his no-bullshit style. Here are a couple of videos of his I watched today. Continue reading

Is Competition Always Good?

lion gazelleIn a comment to a post, Prabhudesai asked “Is competition always good?” The simple answer is “It depends.” It depends on the circumstances and on whether one gains or loses from competition.

Competition

Competition is a feature of the biological world. The competitive struggle for survival is ubiquitous and ineradicable. And one may argue that it is also necessary and desirable for evolution to do its magic. The competition between predator and prey improves both groups. Competition is good for the group but not for the individuals who are unable to come up on the top. Continue reading

Barbaric Religious Discrimination of India

Hitler discriminated on the basis of religion — as does the government of India. India is a disgraceful state. Indians tolerate religious discrimination. Indians lack basic morality and humanity. Indians should be ashamed of their uncivilized backwardness.

Discrimination in the private sphere may or may not be morally and ethically excusable. But state-imposed policies that discriminate for or against particular segments of the population is unambiguously wrong, immoral and barbaric. Regardless of whether the discrimination is legally sanctioned or not, it is morally odious in principle and is pernicious in its effect on society. State sanctioned and state imposed discrimination among citizens on any criterion is bad in general but it becomes absolutely unacceptable when the criterion applied is religion.

What deserves unconditional denouncement and unreserved condemnation is when a self-professed secular state discriminates on a religious basis. No state in modern times can claim to be civilized while blatantly committing the crime of discriminating against segments of its population based on religion. The Indian State should be roundly criticized for breaking a universally recognized norm in this regard.

Continue reading

Don’t be silly, People

The 1962 movie “Lawrence of Arabia” by David Lean is an all-time favorite. Peter O’Toole is superb as T. E. Lawrence and the cinematography is epic. It’s one of those movies that appears on practically all “Top 100 Movies” list.

The wiki notes (click on the image on the left):

“The American Film Institute ranked Lawrence of Arabia 5th in its original and 7th in its updated 100 Years…100 Movies lists and first in its list of the greatest American films of the “epic” genre. In 1991, the film was … selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In 1999, the film placed third in the British Film Institute’s poll of the best British films of the 20th century, and in 2001 the magazine Total Film called it “as shockingly beautiful and hugely intelligent as any film ever made” and “faultless”.” Continue reading

Government Bureaucracies are Dens of Incompetent Retards

Here’s a concrete example of something trivial that, in the light of general principles, explains why governments of some countries are quite terrible in governing. This is a follow-up of  the previous post, First Principle Explain a Lot.

Around 1.2% — 3.8 million — of the US population are of Indian ancestry. I am one of them. I estimate that around 1 million of us are US citizens and therefore need a visa to visit India. I also estimate that at least half of us (around 500,000) so-called “Non Resident Indians” visit India every year. The point to keep in mind is that the number is in the hundreds of thousands.

The Government of India recognizes some of the Indian diaspora as “Overseas citizens of India.” It’s idiotic to do so because the Indian government does not allow dual citizenship, and therefore it contradicts itself. But I will pass on that matter for now. Idiotic, illogical, and contradictory rules and regulations are par for the course when it comes to the Indian government. Continue reading

First Principles Explain a Lot

Hickson Compact Group 92, a group of five galaxies. Composite image created from pictures taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Click to embiggen.

Examining very closely even something quite trivial in the light of general principles helps in understanding the world. It’s a way for us ordinary humans to explain, and to understand what is and why it is so.

For extraordinary humans — say a Newton or an Einstein — close observation of something trivial coupled with clarity of thought lead them to explain not only the phenomenon at hand but the discovery of general principles that explain the non-trivial and the unobserved.

Newton examined the fall of an apple, so the story goes, and figured out that the reason it did so was the same that explains the orbits of astronomical bodies. Now that I know the laws of motion and gravitation, I too can understand to some limited extent natural phenomena using those principles which I could not have discovered. Continue reading

Moving out of the Google Ecosystem

I have been using Google products for over 20 years now. Google’s search engine was quite an amazing tool. Then came gmail — and that too was great. And then the rest of the many dozens of services such as maps, VOIP calling, cloud storage, photos, docs, etc. Many of them were quite bad and had terrible interfaces, and they got canned. But search, mail and maps — they continued to be great.

Then gradually the company got huge. And gradually it began to change. It forgot its warning: Don’t be evil. Nietzsche warning was being realized: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster … for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” Continue reading

Happy Pi Day & Happy Birthday, Einstein

Albert Einstein was born on 14th of March in 1879. Happy birthday dear Albert, happy birthday to you.

In the US, March 14th is 3/14. Since 3.14 is an approximation of π — the mathematical constant of the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — Americans celebrate today as Pi Day. It began in 1988 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Continue reading