Thursday, October 25, 2007

Temporary Homes for our Souls

Sometimes humans live in rented or other temporary accommodation. At times they live in a home that they own. Even though humans spend effort in making their temporary homes comfortable, they do not make any large investments on it. If they own a home they spend much more effort in maintaining and developing this latter property.

Humans that realize that their physical bodies are a temporary abode for their souls and that their soul is something permanent that lives in numerous bodies over many lifetimes then they would spend more time on assets connected with their soul rather than this temporary body. These assets are the experiences, memories, knowledge, evolution and karma that belong to the soul more than the body.

Our family relationships, wealth, property, and even name are something that belongs to our bodies rather than the soul and these are left behind when we leave this body. It is good to maintain the body just as we maintain our temporary rented homes, because if a home is not comfortable then the occupant suffers and deteriorates. However it is not wise to give total attention to the temporary home at the cost of our permanent assets. That is what spiritual practice is about -- first understanding ourselves and then giving priority to our permanent assets. Our physical assets of this lifetime must be regarded as a temporary convenience or means for this development only. Giving the physical assets more importance then they deserve is bound to lead to disappointment in much the same way as happens if a person makes large investments on a rented property only to find that he has to leave it behind eventually.

That is what this blog is all about strengthening our permanent assets while not ignoring the temporary ones i.e looking for improvements in the world in a way that do not compromise the soul, beginning with our bodies, the planet and the systems man has put upon it, while also looking for ways to strengthen our soul directly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yoga - Entropy Yoga

A depiction of The Buddha in a Yogic Posture

Yoga is a term that most of us in the modern world are familiar with. It is a general term used for a variety of exercises and procedures used for self-development or spiritual development. The precise meaning of the term is union. It is held in eastern philosophy that the individual consciousness, intelligence and soul has arisen from a unified Infinite Source (God) and continues to remain a part of it. We do not see this unity because of our own individual desires, ego and the exercise of our free will (along with the consequences it brings in the shape of retribution or karma). However if we reduce the very things that cause us to perceive ourselves as separate we come closer to the universal spirit that pervades the universe and thus also become more evolved. In the words of Einstein who revealed the secrets of nuclear energy, space and time to mankind,

"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”  Albert Einstein

In the ultimate state, which though rare yet feasible, an individual soul looses its identity and merges in the infinite. Yoga means this union and a yogic practice is one that brings one closer to this reunion of the finite consciousness with the infinite consciousness. Yoga may also be regarded as a practice that speeds up our evolution to superior states.

Yoga may or may not be a religious thing depending on its form but many forms do require belief in God or a universal consciousness. However, the mindful breathing practices as recommended by the Buddha does not require belief in God even. Even when a form of yoga is fully  irreligious it does contribute to evolution of the person practicing it and in that sense makes him or her more in unity with the world.

The various yoga practices as propagated in eastern philosophy are numerous. Some involve physical exercises. Many are connected with breathing methodologies, many classified under the general tern pranayam implying breathing disciplines. The yoga Buddha recommended is mindful breathing and there is a separate post on that in this blog. It is here

The more advanced yogas are connected with thought control through concentration, chanting or prayer. Some forms of yoga are concerned with lifestyle disciplines. Presently we shall discuss a yoga that can be understood by engineers but it may be practiced by anyone. It has been termed entropy yoga here.

Thermodynamics is a fundamental science that engineers study. Classical thermodynamics deals with the laws of thermodynamics along with its implications and applications. Many modern machines such as the automobile and thermal plants are designed with the help of principles of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics deals with the principle of entropy. According to this law every process that takes place in the universe serves to increase the entropy of the universe. In general when entropy increase is large, mechanical devices such as the automobile engine are less efficient as compared to the situation when entropy increase is small.

Every thing that has happened in the physical universe ever since it began has increased its entropy. Entropy is also a measure of disorder. Higher entropies imply a higher degree of disorder. One may ask what would happen to the universe if the entropy increases to beyond sustainable levels. It would lead to the destruction of the universe, as we know it.

Only a being that is beyond the laws of the physical universe can reverse this change. By definition God is one such being. The process of creating something out of nothing itself implies a process where entropy can be reduced. If all of us have a component of this Infinite power in ourselves then we too have the capacity to decrease the entropy of the universe. Any systematic habit or practice that we adopt to increase order and reduce disorder leads to a reduction of entropy and in that sense is a form of yoga. Let us call this entropy yoga.

If you go around arranging the things in your room in any orderly fashion then you will be practicing entropy yoga. If you do that all around your home than entropy reduces further and if it is done on a larger scale around the city or country then one becomes the agent of substantial change and possibly substantial spiritual evolution. From this point of view, cities and countries that are more orderly are more spiritually evolved as compared to others that are disorderly. Cities and countries disturbed by violence and chaos are in the grip of anti evolutionary forces and in that sense living in Hell, metaphorically and literally.

Entropy yoga can be practiced with all our activities. If one walks on predefined paths and routes then one is practicing this yoga. If one wanders about wherever it pleases him or her then this yoga is not being practiced. In driving if one drives strictly in one’s lane keeping prescribed distances from the vehicle ahead one is practicing entropy yoga. In brief disciplined behavior that helps maintain order is entropy yoga whereas undisciplined behavior is not.

A person who carries out fundamental things like eating and sleeping according to pre decided time schedules is practicing entropy yoga as well. If you set aside scheduled weekly times to organize your personal belongings and other activities then a more powerful form of entropy yoga is being practiced where order is being affected in both space and time.

When we speak truthfully and thoughtfully we practice an advanced form of entropy yoga as connected to our speech because truthful and thoughtful speech is a high degree of order as compared to loose talk or lying. In every situation there can be a million lies but only one true statement.

Cleanliness is an essential part of entropy yoga because uncleanliness is merely the undesirable placement of matter in wrong places, and cleanliness restoring that disorder.. It is also the first step to a practice of it and has been referred to as Shoch in Sanskrit by the father of Yoga, Patanjali

Entropy yoga or behavior leads to the same mystical energy that created the universe. Worldly objectives are easily obtained by persons and societies practicing entropy yoga, whereas nothing works properly when entropy yoga violations are widespread. The sense of time stretches for a person on entropy yoga because there is an intimate connection between flow of time as perceived by the consciousness and entropy changes. However, entropy yoga is only the first step, albeit a necessary one. Not followed by other yoga such as kriya yoga it may drive a human to stressful states rather than peace and happiness, a fate of many developed societies of the world today.

Intelligent beings like humans can practice entropy yoga consciously whereas animals cannot. Entropy yoga leads to spiritual evolution and increases abilities to achieve goals. However, even though individuals can play their role in reducing entropy not all processes in the world are in their control. Overall the entropy of the universe is constantly increasing. There is only one other quantity that moves in a single direction like that and it is time. To carry out a process where entropy does not increase is to hold time still and to carry out another that slows down the increase of entropy is to reduce the flow of time for the individual who does it. Thus individuals who act in an orderly disciplined manner will achieve more than others who behave in a disorderly fashion even though they may spend a lot of time and energy in their endeavors. The practice of punctuality combines introducing order in time, space and thought. Individuals who are intentionally and habitually unpunctual in that sense practice the reverse of yoga or play the role of the devil in a manner of speaking.

The greatest amount of disorder that humans create is perhaps at the level of thought. They are generally turbulent. The more emotional we are the more disorderly the thoughts. Spiritualists have recommended stilling thoughts through constant repetition of a name. That is called Jap yoga or chanting. However if we focus on any activity that we are doing at any time with full concentration, preventing our thoughts from wandering we may achieve the same effect.

A person who is well ordered and disciplined in his thoughts, actions and deeds and promotes order in the world and conserves his energies. When his motivations are simultaneously to evolve or achieve greater unity with the Infinite consciousness of the universe rather than personal gain then it can be a far more effective way of spiritual evolution than prayer or meditation at a few fixed times during the day. A person can feel the spiritual gain immediately by the feeling of joy and happiness that emerges from such near isentropic actions (where entropy does not increase) as compared to selfish or disorderly actions which produce tiredness, unhappiness or disgust and possibly even depression combined with sinking into lower levels of evolution. This mode of action has been referred to by the Sanskrit word Tap by the father of yoga Patanjali

To Summarise

Entropy Yoga may be defined as any practice that reduces disorder and promotes or enhances order in one's thoughts and actions or in one's surroundings because of one's actions. 

A description of  the next essential yoga, most simply described  by a Himalayan Mystic - Baba Haidakhan - called Kriya Yoga is given here


Note: The concept of entropy yoga emerges as a result of discussions between the author and an engineering colleague – KHC Prabhu. The emils regarding this are pasted below

Hey Mal,
I read your blog "someitemshave" and found it very interesting. I was unable to leave comments in that site as it refuses to take any comments from "UNKNOWN" persons, so I'm giving the same here, for all Mech-71'ers to read & understand. You might remember Thermodynamics course at IITD, where one of the books mentioned that the Entropy of the Universe, which is an indicator of the state of disorder in the Universe, is forever increasing, and that at one time some great soul had reset it to its initial state of zero entropy (i.e. complete calm and no disorder absolutely), and that great soul is none but ALMIGHTY GOD. Every living being, be it a human or an animal or a plant, has some part of the original soul and the unseen forces within each soul cause it behave in the particular way that it does. Each soul is sent to this earth with a definite purpose, and goes back to the Almighty once the purpose is served. Each soul is like a collection of bits and pieces of various computer programs, cookies and the like, and the package behaves in the particular pre-destined manner, controlled by the originator of it, just like Computer Viruses behave, completing their pre-defined Karma in their lifetime. The concept of increasing Entropy can be seen in our daily lives when we see increasing disturbances all round us. The ultimate end will be THE END of everything, when the Almighty will recall all souls unto itself and the Universe will be reborn with Zero Entropy and absolute calm.
This is what I have felt and understood and I am sure all of you will also feel the same after reading this. It is nothing new but only a simple collection of some thoughts that we all may have had sometime or the other.

Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts with my classmates & friends.

--- KHC Prabhu

Dear Prabhu It will be very nice if you can enter all this in the blog as well. The blog does not take anonymous comments but if you plug in your gmail ID and password in the required boxes that should be fine and your comment will get posted (since the blog is by google also that runs gmail) There is another article there on Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism that I plugged in today ( ) As regards your recent comment, you are right on. The physical universe only increases disorder but it requires a spiritual being to decrease it. We all have bits of that and whenever we do something that reduces disorder in the world around us we are in a sense doing the bidding of God and we increase disorder the reverse happens. The more one can increase order the more evolved one is. If we see the disorder in Indian cities and compare that to the order in west it is an indication of the poor state of things in India at the present time. I think at this moment in whichever room we are sitting if we arrange our surroundings so that they are more orderly, we have done a little bit to reduce the entropy of the universe. If we venture out and do that around the city or the world through any means we do more of that and it must be pleasing in the eyes of the Infinite. It then becomes a form of Yoga (union with the infinite) who does the very same for the entire universe. I think westerners indulge in this type of entropy yoga much more than most Indians do. :-) Mal

Dear Mal,
After reading your message I tried again to post the comments on your blog, but I always get the same message, and then security alert about secure & non-secure items pops up and prevents entry of google-id & password in the required boxes. As an alternative I have tried to attach the comments with this e-mail and hope you can try your hand at posting it on the blog. Thank You.
--- KHC Prabhu

Dear Prabhu:

Well, here goes. I am posting our email conversation here as a blog item and emerging from it something called entropy yoga that we can share with others who visit this blog.
Cannot really understand why you could not enter comments. Another route is to create a blog of your own. It only takes a few minutes. Make it on any topic you like and one can start with just a very small post. That way you will get an ID to visit and post comment in any blog


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Spiritual Values from an Engineer’s Point of View

Roof of Naini mata Temple in Nainital
Engineering science and practice aims at meeting the needs of society and improving the quality of life of humans through a practical application of scientific knowledge. At its highest level (for example doctoral level studies and research work) there is a convergence between science and engineering. Both endeavors create new knowledge. The only difference is that the research work of an engineer is in a direction that has a foreseeable practical application whereas that of a pure scientist may be of an entirely fundamental nature having nothing to do with any immediate application. An Engineer engaged in research such as a Professor or Scholar of any well-endowed university (as opposed to one who may be primarily involved in teaching or teaching related administration) may be classified as both a scientist and an engineer.

Spiritual Sciences too aim to improve the quality of life of humans by proposing methodologies for increasing peace, happiness and by alleviating human want and suffering. A primary forum for spiritual study has been organized religion. Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism are some. However, Spiritual Sciences can be, and have been pursued independent of religion as well. The main difference between religious and pure spiritual science is that religion involves history, tradition, ritual etc. besides spiritual knowledge and these differ from religion to religion. That is only to be expected since different religions have evolved in different cultures at different times. If one isolates the spiritual content from religious sources then the differences reduce. There is considerable unanimity between fundamental beliefs as propagated by various religions that are prevalent on our planet. All uphold Love, Truth and Simplicity as some of the highest virtues and all believe in a Single Supreme Intelligence and Creator that is in complete control of all processes – microscopic as well as Macroscopic in His creation.

Some Spiritual Concepts

Just to consider few of the primary spiritual beliefs as upheld by most major religions –there is belief in the existence of a soul as something fundamental to living beings– something that was present before birth and continues after death. The physical body is said to be transient and temporary whereas the soul is not. It is explained that even in childhood and old age beings possess different bodies but the soul remains the same. Through modern science it is possible to transplant and change significant portions of a human body, however as long as the soul remains the same the person remains the same. There is some difference in the stated fate of souls after death amongst different schools. Religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and Hinduism that emerged in the Himalayan belt incorporate the principle of reincarnation. It is held that a soul can be reborn as a human being, animal or even on other planet through a process of reincarnation. Religions that developed in the Semitic regions appear to reject this principle at least in their current versions. However even Christianity and Islam profess that a soul will be reborn in heaven or hell according to its deeds and thus support the principle of reincarnation although its nature or terminology differs.

A second aspect most religions emphasize is the principle of retribution. A soul is judged for all its actions (even thoughts) and faces a consequence because of these, either good or bad or both. The principle of retribution is called the principle of Karma in Eastern religions. It has an analogy in physical laws of conservation – to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

When engineers or scientists confront spiritual principles they are faced with several doubts. First of all, scientists and engineers are used to dealing with physical proofs. Spiritual beliefs do not offer any such foolproof evidence and whenever some evidence is actually offered an alternative scientific explanation of the phenomenon remains equally plausible. A second concern that a scientifically minded person faces is that in most cases the methodology proposed for an individual’s spiritual progress is often the opposite of that which is required for material progress. For example spiritual practice involves sacrifice and working for serving others as opposed to personal gain. It proposes giving away rather than accumulating. Further, spiritual attainments involve besides sacrifice, long hard practices such as meditation, prayer, fasting, dietary restrictions, functioning in a manner contrary to basic instincts etc. (for example celibacy or Brahamcharya is recommended as opposed to sexual involvement).

Another question a scientist may ask is - if spiritual beliefs are valid then why is it that most humans do not follow that path. It is only a rare Saint or Sanyasi who appears to display spiritual attainment or a firm belief in spiritual practices. Religious texts too say that true spiritual understanding is rare. One of the most widely respected spiritual books in India – The Bhagvat Gita - states that of thousands of men only a few undertake to follow the spiritual road and of these only a few gain understanding. The Christian Bible too claims that reaching heaven is as difficult as a camel passing through a needle’s eye. If that is the case, it is entirely reasonable for an ordinary human to question the usefulness of an undertaking where progress is limited and rare as compared to a purely material and physical methodology that is easier more widely practiced and does not involve anything as nebulous as mere faith.

This author too is a Scientist and Engineer but besides scientific study he has had deep interests in spiritual philosophy as well. His belief is that true progress of mankind lies in spiritual development and that scientific progress is not contradictory to material progress. In fact the most fundamental advancement in scientific disciplines have been due to persons who were highly evolved spiritually as well. Einstein for example was a firm believer in God. The doubts such as those expressed earlier in this article have occurred to this author as well, but a resolution of these have been found in spiritual studies. These are discussed next.

Scientists often do not actually measure or perceive a scientific quantity directly. It is perceived through the effects of that quantity. For example, substances possess something known as Internal energy. A quantification of this quantity is essential for design of such things as thermal power plants. However the internal energy of steam, for example, is not directly measured. It is deduced from the effects of internal energy on quantities such as temperature and pressure. Temperature too is not directly seen or measured. A thermometer deduces temperature by the effect; temperature has on the expansion of substances such as mercury or the current that is produced in devices such as thermocouples constructed through wires of two dissimilar metals. Spiritualists argue that the soul too can be deduced from its effects even if it cannot be perceived directly.

As opposed to machines and robots, human possess feelings and emotions. It is difficult for any engineer to conceive of a robot or computer that even in its most extreme extrapolation can possess emotions such as love and hate, or struggle to preserve its existence such as living beings do. I wish that my computer possessed such an instinct. It hardly cares if a virus infects it and if all of my files are destroyed. All living beings on the other hand (except some evolved spiritualists) struggle to hold on to life. Spiritualists declare that these emotional qualities are something that is totally alien to purely physical and material aspects of our universe. Life possesses these because it has something that extends beyond the physical universe and at the individual level this extra something is the soul.

A second effect of the soul is the existence of free will in living beings. All of us believe that we have the freedom to choose between a set of given decisions. Purely material constructs cannot have such a freedom. Its entire doings must necessarily be a result of internal programming or external effects. Indeed engineering designs would fail miserably if machines designed by engineers displayed any sort of free will. In the latter case Power plants may choose to take a holiday at Christmas or one’s car may decide to go to the beach when one intended to go to office. Engineering designs are based on the premise that machines cannot possess free will. Engineers as living beings however do possess a free will, albeit within the constraints of circumstances. The constraints that an individual is subject to are related to the degree of evolution of the individual. Individuals and beings that are more evolved possess wider choices and a greater ability to make their wishes come true as opposed to those who are less evolved. God as the most evolved Infinite power in the universe is believed to possess total control and enough power to create or destroy any or all of our universe merely by wishing. Other life forms possess a small or large fraction of this infinite power according to the degree of their evolution. Spiritual sources declare that even though a final attainment of eternal peace or nirvana is indeed rare, any effort in working towards it is not wasted. Such effort even though it may not lead to final liberation, leads to a being evolving more rapidly than his fellow beings, perhaps to become a leader in his chosen field if he or she so desires, and this evolution is carried by that being into future lives even after death.

As to the third concern raised in this article - if spiritual attainments are indeed beneficial why is it so rare? The answer is perhaps a simple one although a blow to human pride. Consider that life exists on other planets in our universe as well. Indeed, that is the likely scenario if one considers the vastness of our universe and the near infinite magnitude of stars that exist in it. It would be too egoistical to think that ours is the only Sun capable of breeding life. The extent of evolution of life must vary from planet to planet as it has varied on ours over time. On some live planets life would be at its most primitive bacterial level, on others at the animal level and on some at a more advanced and higher level than our own planet. If the level of evolution is at the animal or primate level (say that of a chimpanzee that is more than 99 per cent human genetically) then spiritual understanding is impossible. Animals are not capable of understanding spiritual concepts. Whatever evolution will take place on such a planet would be under the benevolent influences of nature and over a long period of time – even millions of years as has happened on our own. Until human or other intelligent beings emerge on such a planet life will function entirely under primary extinct such as those of breeding, eating, shelter, preservation of species etc.

Where exactly does our planet lie in terms of its degree of evolution in this universal scheme? Humans consider themselves far more advanced than animals. However if a close study is made of their motivations, these are identical to those of animals. Humans spend a great deal of effort and thought on sexual pursuits or accumulating wealth (a measure of their capacity for acquiring food and shelter etc.). Great leaders fallen from their chosen course when confronted with sexual temptation. Only a few humans indulge in true philanthropic activity and selfless service that are for the benefit of others rather than their own (or their families) and when they do, it is usually a small portion of their overall effort. Often it is for show or a tax benefit. Governments know of this tendency very well and therefore attach a tax incentive to charitable donations. In this respect the overall evolutionary levels of humans is not really that different from animals. Working for one’s family as opposed to just one’s own self is not an instinct very different from that of animals. It is then not surprising that at the present level of evolution on our planet, true spiritual knowledge and spiritual attainment is rare. It is simply because planet earth is still an animal planet even if it hurts our ego to admit it. The quality of life has undergone a significant change over the last hundred years as a result of scientific discoveries but the fundamental motivations of humans have not undergone a similar change. An intelligent being – human - that can compose books has definitely emerged on planet earth, but his emergence is recent and his evolution limited.

Some ancient spiritual texts contain a description of heavenly planets (Dev Lok in Hinduism) where the beings (devas) are more advanced then humans and where the primary motivation of beings is selfless service in the universe rather than animal instincts or working towards satisfying one’s own interests. At some stage, perhaps hundreds or thousands of years later, our planet too may evolve to the level of a Dev Lok. In the meantime its only a few individuals will perhaps hasten their own evolution to godly levels to be reborn on other planets or perhaps on earth to lead others to follow a similar path, but their call will continue to be the call of a prophet in the wilderness. It will fall on deaf ears too preoccupied with serving their own needs in the way they are accustomed to.

Highly evolved persons give greater importance to service rather than personal gain. Peace, happiness and prosperity are a necessary prerequisite to excellence in any endeavor. How is that possible if individuals spend their time in philanthropic activity rather than in meeting their own personal needs? If some individuals or advanced beings (Dev Purush in eastern terminology or Angels in western terms) base their actions primarily on the service motive, it does not imply that they are disregarding personal gain. They simply put it on the back burner but with the assurance that the meal will be cooked. They are moved in the direction of service because it pleases them to do so yet at the same time they believe that their own personal interests are more easily taken care of when they are involved in selfless service and that their own good lies in the greater good of the world that surrounds them. The principle of retribution assures that it will be so. If we carefully examine the life of humans we know personally, we may come to realize that whatever good or bad happens to them is more a result of external circumstances rather than their own doing. If they take credit for it that may just be a matter of human pride and ego. Humans are blessed with intelligence but a side effect of this intelligence is pride that is frequently present to cloud reason. The process starts with birth. Some individuals are born with superior genes and in rich families. They get an advantage from the start. Others may be born handicapped or disadvantaged. The process continues throughout life. We find some people get lucky opportunities while others have to face bad luck time and again. Luck is a concept invented by humans. Strongly spiritual persons do not believe in luck but rather believe in a universe where everything that happens is a result of precise control and calculation by Universal Intelligence. Nothing takes place by chance or at random or as Einstein said “God does not play dice”. Thus beings that spend their effort in selfless service believe that their own minor interests will get taken care of easily and automatically by the will of the Universe i.e. by circumstances that surround them as a result of their Karma. The latter if true is perhaps a much easier and effortless path to serving one’s own interest then having to struggle endless hours for it as most humans seem to. The creator who is capable of creating an infinite universe can do it for you far more easily if He deems fit.

Our planet may be regarded as one that is on the threshold of Dev-like evolution but not yet a Dev Lok or heavenly planet. The reason why it may be regarded to be on the threshold is because life on our planet has evolved to a level where the most intelligent beings i.e. humans can indulge in logical thinking and attain spiritual understanding albeit with extraordinary and rare effort. Humans have been encouraged to undertake to the spiritual path by religiously evolved personalities so as to hasten their own natural and slow evolution and thereby excel as compared to other fellow humans that disregard this path.