Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Solve the Global Warming Problem within a Year


Me on the way to Nainital during a dry summer month

While nearly all scientists and experts agree that global warming is probably due to human activity, not many agree on the precise cause and which of the various human activities is to blame. The following two are the most suspected:

  1. Increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere
  2. Increased deforestation

My own leaning is towards cause number two. The reasons for that have been discussed in my steam center blog and I shall not go into that again. Here is just a suggestion that could take care of the problem in a jiffy whatever be the cause.

The population of grown up humans on our planet is currently around five billion. If each of these humans planted two trees each, the additional ten billion trees would take care of the entire carbon emission (through carbon capture) or deforestation problem for a year. The trees can be planted anywhere in town or country side. However, if humans continue to generate carbon dioxide at the same rate they would have to repeat the exercise every year for fifty years.

Those who are unable to plant a tree on their own may be obliged to pay a fee to enable others to do it on their behalf. The operation will help the economy too by creating professional tree planters who plant for a fee and certifiers who certify that they have been properly planted with photographic record. Even the poor should pay this fee/fine or if they cannot they can plant a couple of trees instead.

In making this recommendation, I have not made any precise calculations (it is just the idea) and the numbers suggested here could vary depending on that.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

About Mantras

Photo shows roof of Naini Mata Temple in Nainital with text overlay by Ashok Malhotra



My cousin Pradeep and a face book friend posted something this morning about a Mantra on his wall:

Mantra Dhaarnaa Yon Kar, Vidhi Se Le Kar Naam
Japiye Nishchaya Achal Se, Shakti-Dhaam Sri Ram

These verses in Hindi may be translated as:

From right Teacher learn right technique of repetition of right name
Then mediate with greatest faith, Upon the Lord’s most vital name

I fully agree with my dear cousin that the chanting of Mantras done correctly is a powerful technique, even magical. That is the reason one has magicians chanting spells in fairy tales to perform magic. Recently a college classmate and dear friend got into serious legal difficulties. His name is Rajat Gupta. Until recently he was one of the most senior corporate executives on our planet well known to Prime Ministers and Presidents including Obama and Clinton. He can be found in Wikipedia. However, amongst some of his friends were also some that indulged in illegal insider trading. Those friends are in prison now but because of his association with them some suspicion has fallen on Rajat Gupta as well and those proceedings will begin in court tomorrow. We (his close friends) believe or at least hope that he is innocent and that would be proved in a court of law in due course. Over the previous year, as he prepared for this trial, I have sent him emails with encouraging words. My friends know of my interests in spiritual philosophy and in times of difficulty sometimes expect some spiritual advice. Mind you though it is only in times of difficulty because who cares for stuff like God and Spirituality when the going is good? To my older friends I have just two suggestions nowadays:

4. Trust and believe in God
5. Learn and practice a mantra containing His name

This is for older friends though. For younger ones I add three more steps:

  1. Enhance the virtues of Love, Truth and Simplicity
  2. Work hard but do not overwork
  3. Enhance cleanliness and order in your self and around you.

These first three steps are not suggested to older persons because they presumably already know more about it than I do or are too far gone to make any worthwhile changes in this direction now. These five steps are just my own classification for spiritual progress and it is a classification I have adapted from a spiritual teacher of Nainital (Baba Hairakhan). Others divide spiritual methodologies into different number of steps. The eight steps of yoga propounded by an ancient teacher of yoga – Patanjali – are the most well known. Yoga is essentially any practice that enhances spirituality and because each step enhances spirituality, individual steps are yogas too and can be given special names. I have termed step number 3 as entropy yoga borrowing from my engineering background and there is an entire older blog post on that in this blog as well as other articles on the Internet on that. Step number 1 encompasses much of what is termed as ethical, moral and good behavior and therefore at the present time we shall skip its elaboration so as to return to the topic at hand – mantras. For example, simplicity includes absence of affectations and pretensions, lack of greed, lack of pride, contentment, humility etc. etc.

We have an email group of friends that corresponds regularly sending group emails and a very dear friend Gill often responds that all this spiritual stuff is all bunkum. My suspicion though is that secretly he practices much spirituality because in his behavior he is very spiritual. I suspect that he practices Mantra meditation too and that his secret mantra is the most popular mantra of the Sikhs – Wahe Guru – meaning the Lord is great. I shall send him a link to this blog and let him contradict what I have written about him as a comment here if he wishes to.

On the other hand in his most recent email Rajat Gupta- the other dear friend facing the Judge - has responded that he regularly practices another mantra that is highly regarded by the Hindus since ancient times – The Gaytri Mantra. This mantra is a bit long containing around fourteen words or so in Sanskrit that praise God and seek his guidance for right behavior. I said around fourteen words because in Sanskrit it is possible to join or break words changing their number in a phrase. I too practice the Gayatri mantra from time to time but for regular chanting I prefer shorter ones.  A mantra can be as short as a single word or it may contain many.

In order to practice the chanting of mantras one needs to learn a mantra and learn the associated techniques for their recitation. The technique involves an examination of one’s breathing during recitation ensuring that it is smooth and even. It also involves choosing a point or thought for focus because without it the thoughts would wander and the mantra will become ineffective. Mantras can be chanted aloud or silently. I believe they are more powerful when chanted silently in a quiet place. At the outset I mentioned that a Mantra should contain a reference to God but mantras without a reference to God also produce beneficial effects. However the latter are less effective, in my view. Including the name of God is only possible when one believes in God. I can almost hear my friend Gill or my blogging friend Vincent screaming - I do not believe in God. The Buddhists don’t either. Instead some of their mantras include the name of Buddha such as

Buddham Sharnam Gacchami

That means I go seek the protection and shelter of Buddha. The favorite point of focus during recitation for Buddhists appears to be their own breathing and it is my favorite too.

Mantra meditation is followed in all major religions of the world as well as spiritual practices that are not religious. Ancient Christian monks chanted their mantras with the help of rosary beads and the Muslim Sufis frequently chant the single Name – Allah. At times they clap and dance to the beat joyously in a group until they move into a heavenly trance that renews their soul and makes them independent of the world.

In my experience, Allah is the easiest and most beautiful word to chant because it beautifully synchronizes with breathing when the Word is spread over the inward and outward breaths as Al- Lah. However not being a Muslim most often I chant other mantras.

Before practicing mantra meditation one must learn some mantras that appeal. A yoga teacher – Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi – apparently made a good pile of dough selling mantras to individuals. However one need not purchase a mantra. One can discover or invent one’s own with some effort. Baba Hairakhan of Naintal suggested the single Mantra to all who sought his advice,

Om Namha Shivai

This mantra includes the name of the Lord in his formless aspect as Om and in a formed image as Shiva. Perhaps if Baba Hairakhan had lived longer I would have asked him for some more mantras. However in keeping with the tradition of the Young Babaji of Nainital he left the world young at the age of 34. I have great regards for Baba Hairakhan because he was not in the business of collecting money. He never asked any from his disciples and even today one can go live and eat free in one of his beautiful ashrams in Nainital and one would not be asked for any donations. His free hospitals and ashrams are run from donations disciples offer voluntarily in his temples or trust.The favorite mantra of the favorite eastern teacher of Steve Jobs– Neem Karoli Baba (also from Nainital district) was probably,

Jai Shri Hanuman 

It appears that  the mantra of the Christian Mystic Edgar Cayce was  "Hari Om". There is a full post on him in this blog and the link is in the side bar.

And that of Gandhi,

He Ram

For more on mantras and to listen online to one of the most beautiful mantras from the deoths of the Himalayas check out the following  link
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2013/08/a-mantra-par-excellence.html

Do you have a favorite mantra too? If so please tell us about it as a comment.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to select a tree to grow at Home



The wonderful thing about planting a tree is that in doing so we not only help ourselves but also perform a service to the world. If we were to go into all the benefits that trees provide there will be little space left for the topic at hand. Just briefly, one may reiterate that trees absorb carbon during their growth and that helps stabilize climate. Trees produce life-giving oxygen. Planted at home they enhance aesthetics and value of the property. Depending on the variety they may also produce fruits and other food besides. Planted in places of work, they improve work environment; planted on a street or park trees improve human habitations and planted in the countryside they adorn and enrich mother earth; all this while they work steadily to improve climate, soil and provide food plus shelter to numerous birds and animals.

One may have noted that most plants and animals serve nature and earn good karma just through the process of living, for example birds help spread seeds of trees and manure over wide territories. A human is perhaps the only animal that may do more harm to the planet than good during his or her lifetime. However planting a tree is a good thing that humans can do more easily than other animals if they choose to. In case one decides to plant one or more trees, the question that arises is which tree to plant. There are so many kinds. Selecting the wrong variety can lead to problems.  The simple way out is to just plant what a neighbor has planted or plant a tree that a nearby nursery suggested. One could make a more informed decision though. There are three things one may consider while selecting a tree - Adaptability, Desirability and Suitability.

ADAPABILITY

Not every tree will grow easily in every climate. Before you go about selecting a tree to plant, there is a need to find out which trees are native to your area and which trees are potentially native. Native trees are the trees that grow wild in the countryside or are common in the city or town you live in. Potentially native trees are those that are not common in your area yet, but will grow easily, if planted. There is no strict definition of what a potentially native Tree is, but for convenience we may define a Potentially Native tree as one that will grow outdoors with no fertilization, insecticides and will not require watering that is more frequent than once a week in the first year of its growth during the hottest and driest months.

A potentially native tree will probably require no more than monthly watering during its second year and no watering at all in subsequent years. It is a different matter if you fertilize the tree and water more frequently to speed growth and enhance fruiting in later years but that is optional. The advantage of planting a potentially native tree as opposed to a native tree is that one may thereby introduce greater bio-diversity in an area. Discovering what trees are potentially native to your area and bringing saplings to plant from distant places is another matter. In the absence of professional advice, it may take some experimentation. If such trees are is planted in a home garden or farm one may wish to plant more than one variety in close proximity. Incase they all come up; some can be pruned or removed later. It takes time to grow a tree but it does not take much time to remove one. The best option would be if there were government sponsored tree propagation centers in your area that provide required guidance and saplings at reasonable cost. Alas, few such exist and this is something city, provincial and national governments must consider developing.

DESIRABILITY:

A fruit tree may be excellent for a home garden or perhaps you want one that looks pretty. Some trees will be both pretty and provide fruit. There are trees like the drumstick trees that provide much food. Its fruits, flowers and foliage are all edible and highly nutritious. If you were planting on a farm you may wish to consider some trees for their timber value. Hard wood trees yield wood for furniture and construction and can be sold for a good price. A tree may be cut down without a guilty conscience provided one plants some more to replace it. If it were up to this author, he would oblige all farmers with land areas greater than ten acres to reserve at least ten percent of land for orchards or other trees by law. Such a law may come up in future as more and more forests are cut down to make room for more farms.

Those with farms larger than twenty acres may be obliged to create a pond or lake of around at least two-acre size as well to catch rainwater. This will conserve ground water resources and possibly fishery if they were inclined to it. It may be pointed out that creation of lakes and ponds to store rainwater is the proper method of rainwater harvesting. Directing rainwater deep inside the ground through pipes is the incorrect method. That leads to pollution of ground water sources. Water that reaches under ground reservoirs from lakes has the benefit of bacterial purification above ground and natural filtration through the ground. Such reservoirs once created can help water plantation during dry months.

SUITABILITY:

If you were planting a tree at home you may wish to consider the eventual shape and size of the tree depending on the size of the garden. It may shade out a potential lawn, flower or vegetable bed. Planted on the south side of the home it may block winter sun, unless it sheds its leaves in winter. On the other hand, a conifer or other slim trees will add grace to a home without producing much shade. If you are fortunate enough to live in a home with a large garden you can become more adventurous and plant several trees, some that may become huge, some that come up quickly and others such as a walnut that will develop over numerous years.

Many homeowners with a small garden choose just one fruit tree such as an apple, cherry or almond in cool climates or perhaps a dwarf mango or citrus tree in a warm one. There are small fruit trees such as a variety of limes and lemons that do not occupy much space and can be planted in large numbers even in a small garden. However, a tree need not be planted at home only. One can venture out on the street, parks and countryside (depending upon local needs, regulations and laws).

An excellent option for those who dwell in apartments is to grow an indoor tree in a pot. It will brighten up the apartment for a couple of years. When it becomes taller than three feet it may be shifted to the countryside during a picnic with a shovel and a basket of sandwiches with coke or beer. Do consider planting a tree, while encouraging others to do the same and then go on to plant bushes besides. You do not have to buy tea from a store if you have a tea bush, jasmine or white mulberry tree growing at home.

The picture is a photo of a couple of trees in my backyard that I grew around ten years ago.