Saturday, November 28, 2015

Smart and Green Villages, Towns and Cities




The majority of humankind now lives in cities around the world but some also live in farming villages scattered around the globe. While cities offer opportunities for modern services, they lack green and open spaces and also suffer from poor air quality. On the other hand, while farming villages offer green and open surroundings, they lack modern facilities. Many farmers, when they move to cities rarely want to return. This author applied his mind to the issue and tried to visualize urban and rural designs that overcome both these drawbacks so that mankind may achieve a much better quality of life than is possible now for most. Existing farms and villages can not be changed easily but whenever new cities or farming villages are conceived it would be wise to refer to these postmodern concepts. For ease of reference they have been termed as AM village or AM cities.

AM Farming Villages

https://twitter.com/DiscoverAustria/status/725572845309431810
 The traditional concepts of farming areas are farms scattered over a wide landscape. As a result, it is not economical to provide them with services available in cities such as transportation, well paved roads, water supply, schools, markets, stores in close vicinity etc. Further there are security issues of living in isolation. All these issues make rural life more difficult than life in a city. An alternative concept is used commonly in many villages around the world. Village homes are not on farms but in a cluster amidst farm lands. While this eases living, the farms can not be as well managed while green and open surrounding around the homes disappears even in villages then.

The new design of AM villages overcomes this by choosing strip farms. These are just 200 feet wide but may be half a mile or more in depth. The home and other construction are in the first two hundred feet adjacent to a road only. Therefore, when set side by side, such farming areas yield close set homes. It then becomes possible to provide services to farm houses in a manner similar to cities. When these are designed in a loop, a central area may then contain market; schools etc. and the road may run public transportation. Thus, one ends up with an urban like road in front of one’s home and a farm in the backyard. For more details of such villages check out the following link

http://steamcenter.blogspot.in/2014/05/postmodern-designer-villages.html

The above link describes a village where farm lots are ten acres each. For a more compact village with smaller farms see:

http://steamcenter.blogspot.in/2016/04/design-for-compact-postmodern-village.html


In this design urban lots are strategically alternated and staggered with small urban farm lots. Urban farms may not keep animals or grow thing like food grains but they are ideal for fruit, vegetable and flower farming. Thus the city ends up with green surroundings and open spaces as well as a farm fresh supply of fruits and vegetables. It is shown that such designs do not require any significant increase in land usage, and even if it is there, the extra land is put to good productive agricultural use and the air quality improves dramatically.

An additional advantage is that sewerage and green component of garbage is then composted in several farm locations for use on farms within the city while other waste is led to a nearby sorting and recycling unit. Other waste water from homes too with minor treatment may be returned for farm use while for drinking water there would be a separate well treated fresh water supply. The farm areas are also ideally suited to place wind turbines owned by the city since these do not shade the ground for collecting energy required by the city while solar PV panels may be placed on roofs of homes and both forms of energy pooled for processing and returning to the city grid. Thereby transmission losses are nearly eliminated. What such cities require is proper design and some simple easily implemented regulation. More details of these hybrid green cities can be found at:

http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2012/06/green-hybrid-city.html

Friday, November 27, 2015

Design for a cottage in the countryside





Dear readers, today’s blog post is on the design of a country cottage. It is a simple design with a living room, bed room, bath and kitchen separated by a passage. However, there is a large verandah in front that is a must for country living. It serves as a place for aging persons to read the newspaper, children to play, to entertain neighbors in daylight hours and to just sit and watch the rain or the rising sun. The entire plan fits in approximately a thousand square feet area and it is thirty feet wide. The Bathroom is spacious enough to have its own closet for dirty laundry and other things as well as to stick in a clothes washing machine while the kitchen is spacious enough for a small kitchen table next to the fridge. The bed room has been made large enough to have place for arm chairs and a desk. No staircase is shown but if desired the place for it on the side or back from the passage.

As with many other designs in this blog no side windows have been left so that two or more friends may make similar units side by side in a row if they so wish. It is always fun to step outside one’s own verandah and share it with a friend having his or her in the next one separated by just a wall.
 



Topmost image from:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Touching Image of a Small Boy



 children shoes captured during refugees crisis.  Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe,  2015.

CAUTION: This article is deeply emotional and discretion is advised before choosing to read it.

Please scroll to end of note for a new Xmas song being sung by some

I saw an image that has touched me deeply on TV. It was a small boy. It was a fleeting image that has appeared more than once on BBC World service in a collage of images that are used as signatures before and after programs and many thoughts have  gone through my mind as I have tried to imagine what the full story of this sweet little boy of less than five might be, not very different from my own grandson at that age. Little children everywhere are so much alike especially when they are less than five. The image touched me even more than that of Aylan Kurdi of about the same age lying face down in the sand on a Turkish beach, because this boy had not yet left for heaven.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CUXxB7IWsAA7Jqu.jpg
https://twitter.com/RazanSpeaks/status/668205137475842049
"Baba, lat yubki, aehna maak." ( Papa, please don't cry, I am with you)


The images above are not from BBC. In the BBC image the little boy was standing all alone, very still, a little removed from others in a crowd of refugees, a small lean boy standing erect, serious and forlorn, perhaps very tired from miles and miles of walking, as refugees from Syria have been doing before they find a roof to lie down under, tired but not sitting down because others are standing too, perhaps waiting to be allowed to pass through another check point, there have been so many in this journey of thousands of miles, alone because possibly his only guardian, a father has gone away for an errand and his mother and sisters were ripped apart by barrel bombs and he saw their pieces fly out the door before they left, that was before he and his father decided to run away from fear of another attack, leaving behind their car and all they possessed, they must take to open country and stay away from the roads where men armed with guns roam.  His father locked the home in case they come back one day, but the wall at the back has been blown away by an earlier bomb and locking is all but symbolic, they may never return, they must carry with them as little as possible, Johnny wanted to bring along the blocks his mama had  gifted on his fourth birthday but Papa says they must travel light, that he shall get him a new set just as soon as they reach Germany, he has hidden the little family gold on his body and they shall not pass through Slovakia, from where his cousin has messaged him, the guards  strip them, search, and take all the gold and money away before throwing them in prison, even children.



The boy continues to stand forlorn, now in a distant land, the TV shot suddenly shows a hand being extended towards him with a glass of water. The boy spots it and grabs it quickly, swiftly with both his small tender hands in gratefulness, in much the same gesture as a child would grab a much awaited Christmas or Birthday gift from a loving parent, as if he has been thirsty for a very long time, the image fades from the screen and another one replaces it.

From a sad child to Paris


PS: There are millions of other like Johnny of this note fleeing violence in Syria. Is it very difficult, for the world to help? It certainly is not. All the leading countries have to do is come together, US; UK; France, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran, create and announce a transitional International government independent of the Syrian factions, ask all to surrender their weapons for peace and those who do not, make them do so. More on that here

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/aylan-kurdi-the-syrian-toddler-drowned-bodrum-beach
A different eye may see this not as a heart breaking image of a dead child but of a proud symbol of western civilization, with a flag of France fluttering proudly in its midst on the beach, not a dead infant stomach,  proud of their values yet unable to protect the sweet children of our world, even aiding the offending parties at times


  Listen hear ye, angels scream
A new child dead today
from Libya to Sudan
from Sudan to Yemen
From Yemen to Gaza
Gaza to Baghdad
Baghdad to Kabul
loud is the scream
horror and sorrow
A new child dead today
What a shame, if these are the values the best of humans on the planet have become proud of, could an apocalypse be far away. What use are any other values, howsoever grand if the world permits/aids torture instead of taking care of the sweetest, most innocent, most loving and vulnerable of humans amongst them - infant children? Read about that apocalypse here
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2015/03/thirty-unusual-years-of-human.html


Top most Image Source:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The saintly do not accumulate





While most humans focus on earning and accumulating wealth in their journey through life or at least try very hard to do so, there are a few amongst them that do not make this a prime focus of their life. It is not that they do not like or value wealth but they are either distracted with other things that life has to offer or consider other pursuits far more important. Saintly persons are some from amongst these latter. People like Gandhi when they became saints gave away everything they owned. The word saintly is not used here in any religious sense but in the sense of persons bearing a consciousness close to the divine or universal consciousness.

The saintly lot of humans do not worry so much about accumulating wealth because somehow deep within them is the unshakable belief that the Lord or Universe would take care of their genuine needs as and when they arise and that accumulating much wealth in a life time is really not worth it except for its temporary use, that one life is just one lap of the journey in a vehicle called the human body and that they would have to change vehicles some time soon. They would not be allowed to carry anything material to the next vehicle that shall be assigned after death of the present one.

Amongst the saintly are not just poor persons and hermits in the Himalayas but also others ranging from poor ordinary folks in all walks of life to even royalty, royal personages such as Queen Victoria or Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth amongst some, for it is not status in life but status of the soul that decides such matters. These royal personages maintained utter simplicity in their personal leanings while maintaining all the jewels and frills as required for the mission the Lord had assigned to them in life. An illustration of this simplicity is that Queen Victoria found greatest happiness for a few months every year in a cottage near Balmoral castle in the highlands and not in the huge places she occupied at other times to perform her duty. Her closest of friends were not from royalty but those from amongst poor gypsies or a servant from a poor village in India. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on the other hand is quite happy to eat a TV dinner in a plastic tray rather than in fine dining rooms and even when entertaining in silver prefers to choose a simple menu of rice pilaf , finely chopped mixed salad suitable for rice, and lentils as she did recently on visit by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Buckingham Place rather than all manners of delicacies and dainty meats her kitchen can turn out just with a wave of her gloved hand. Saintly souls recognize each other, in high office or on the street,  and recognizing him as such Her Majesty the Queen realized that he would be far happier with this simple menu rather than an elaborate one. Moreover it was also a gesture of motherly affection knowing how much Modi ji cares for motherly love. The choice of a silver gray dress she wore however also expressed concern at the challenges India faces and he would have to deal with. In contrast the stark gray at the Chinese visit may have expressed sorrow. From ancients times Royalty both Western and Indian have expressed more through symbolism of their dress, jewels and expression than words. Perhaps the most famous expression of Her Majesty was when she first met PM Margaret Thatcher, an expression that seemed to say, “What a squeaky little Prime Minister."  LOL! Hope her Majesty who does love a laugh at times, shall pardon the humor : - )

A Himalayan Hermit that this author greatly admires is Baba Hairakhan of Nainital District who possessed nothing more than the single garment he wore all through his life when wearing something, but when he chose a lovely but remote location in Nainital district of Himalayas for establishing himself, others arrived from four corners of the globe to bring labor and money to build rooms for all to stay in a Monastery that is bigger than most any castle or palace on earth. Government ministers arrived and built a beautiful road cutting through mountains to reach his ashram so that disciples could take modern transportation and not have to walk to it. Thus the saintly have existed amongst the crowd of humanity from the beginning, each at his mission to bring light to the world and solace to distressed humanity running hither and thither in false pursuits and pride, each on a Lord's mission in his or her own way, to each the Lord has provided as and when their needs demanded it as appropriate for their missions from the simple hut of saint Kabir, a tree of shade for Buddha, caves for some and palaces for others, for such saints must cover the spectrum of activities necessary to maintain the world.

Perhaps the point may become clearer from a short story:

John and Harry were friends and the most charming and handsomest of all young men who lived in their poor village that was below the emerald castle of the king on the hill  One day guards arrived from the palace and said the old King had invited them to live with him in the palace for a year and since he had no sons of his own, they shall have all the comforts and rights as due to Royal princes for one full year. However, that they may not bring anything with them when they come nor take anything back when the visit ends.

Both John and Harry were delighted and jumped into the carriages that had come to take them. At the guard room of the Castle, the guards asked them to strip to the buff since the king had desired they bring nothing with them. However after some streaking about in the buff in distress to the amusement of the guards, they found royal garments to put on.

Both John and Harry spent the following months in great joy and comfort. John loved to tend the gardens and was fascinated by the garment section where he saw how workers extracted silk from cocoons of the forest and turned it into fine royal garments. There were lots of cocoons on mulberry trees scattered through the vast forests of the Kingdom. In fact John became so good at the art that he turned out a couple of silk garments for the King all by himself that the King was delighted. Harry on the other hand was wiser and felt that such rare opportunities in life do not arrive often and one must make the most of it. He spent a lot of time building a collection of expensive jewels that he had rightful access to as a prince. He knew how important wealth is and how useful it would be later when he is in need.

When the year came to an end, they were led back to the guard room and asked to strip again and put on their original clothes. The King had desired that they take nothing back. Even the jewels Harry had collected were taken away even though he begged to be allowed to keep some.

John returned to the village and began a business of weaving silk garments from the skill he had learned at the Palace and earned enough to give some food to Harry too from time to time who was very hard up. However, some months later the royal army arrived at the gate of John’s hut. They carried with them royal garments and a crown and said the old King is now abdicating from old age and had chosen John to be the new King. He had asked them both to the palace for a year just to observe and choose the one most worthy for this honor. 

While John lived happily ever after, in private moments he did not give up his simplicity and his friendship with Harry who later managed to steal a few jewels from the King from time to time until his old age so that even though he did not become king he lived right royal. When the time came for both to leave this world the angels from heaven arrived to strip both of all the garments and everything they had. They lead Harry to horrid hot lodgings in the other world and John to another lovelier Palace, even as they remarked,

“Naked you came into the world and naked you shall return”.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Four types of food for good health, fifth for excellent




Goosefoot in Yoghurt with hot buttered unleavened bread and a herbal chutney

 Scroll down for recipes of items in the picture
The following four types of food if included as part of one’s regular meals would lead to simplicity yet good health for most humans as regards diet is concerned in the view of this author and these do not include meat although one may add eggs
  1. Food from seeds of grasses called food grains and the best of these are wheat and rice. A few are allergic to the gluten in wheat and they may choose from a range of other grass seeds
  2. Leafy green vegetable
  3. Milk or milk products such as yoghurt, processed and unprocessed cheese, butter
  4. A raw easily palatable food such as fruits and salad vegetables
In this selection, milk products are the protein source. In case that is not available, protein must be be made up from other things such as lentil beans, fish or eggs. Between these four groups of food a human may find all the carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, enzymes and micro nutrients a human body needs for good health. If a fifth is added that includes nuts from trees and the ground then excellent health is possible. The best nuts are almonds from the mountains, coconuts from ocean coasts and peanuts from the ground when roasted. One may ask what about the host of other foods Mother Earth produces. Do add them for variety and taste to make your meals a delight and joyful but it is best not to forget the basics to sustain good health.

It is winter just now in South Asia and leafy greens such as goosefoot and mustard leaves are available for free in farm areas. Others such as spinach and fenugreek leaves are also available at rock bottom prices. Wheat has been cheap in the modern world and farmers who have access to milk because they keep a couple of cows at home can expect to be in good health. For the raw component, there are bananas, radishes and carrots also plentiful in the fields, so that even the poorest of persons may hope to sustain good health. Wise farmers who plant drumstick and white mulberry trees on corners of their farms and know that their leaves are nutritious when goosefoot and mustard shall disappear from the fields may sustain good health round the year and their children and young adults shall develop rosy cheeks and a robust body.

However man does not live by bread alone and the many types of yoga ( for example see) as described in various articles of this blog would take care of the rest.

Check for health benefits at image source: http://herbs694.rssing.com/chan-28662168/all_p5.html


Recipes


Unleavened bread

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

Begin with two cups of flour ( will serve two) of your choice, plain, all purpose flour, refined or whole wheat flour may be used for different varieties. One can also mix in other food grain flours such as corn or millet if fresh (these other flours do not have a long shelf life like wheat flour).  In a large flat tray, sprinkle in a little water at a time in to the flour, mixing with your fingers at first and then with whole hands and kneading into a stiff dough. One needs practice to get it right. If it becomes too soft, mix in some more dry flour. You can oil your hands with cooking oil to reduce sticking.

Now take balls of this flour the size of large eggs. Roll it between both palms into a round smooth ball, then flatten and roll with a rolling pin after dusting with dry flour to prevent sticking. Try and get them as thin as you can without their breaking. The ideal shape is round but in the beginning if it comes out odd shaped that is OK.

Place the rolled out  dough ball on a hot iron plate place it to cook. If you do not have an iron plate, you may use a thick frying pan. Turn it around a few times until both sides are evenly done. Remove and rub butter on the surface, just one side. Fold and keep inside a folded cloth napkin for dinner time. Some oil can be added to the frying pan for a fried version that is easier for a beginner. In this latter case do not butter them after cooking. The fried bread is called Parantha and different names for the non-fried versions are phulka, Chapati, roti, mande in increasing order of thickness. Ususally the bread of the poor is thick and of the rich thin because the poor must derive most nutrition from bread while the rich have many other things to eat.

The edges of the bread come out broken as in picture if millet or corn flour is used but they are smooth with wheat flour. Making good unleavened bread requires much practice, the same as with any bread, but the results are edible and delicious from the word go so do not hesitate to begin. It is the most economical and healthy addition to food anywhere on the planet.

Goosefoot Raita (Sour cream and Green Sauce):

Ingredients:

2 cups yoghurt ( or a mix of butter milk and sour cream a cup each)
1 cup fresh Goosefoot leaves (Young Dandeloin leaves may be used as replacement)

Begin with either two cups of yoghurt or a mix of half and half butter milk and sour cream. Bring a cup of goosefoot leaves, well washed and chopped, to boil in a pan of salted water. Let boil for a few minutes. Drain and cool and mix it in the yoghurt mix. Add a pinch of salt to taste. Some prefer to grind the boiled goosefoot leaves in a blender before mixing in yoghurt . For an extra zing to the raita one may add a pinch of gum asofetida, a small crushed clove of garlic or roasted and crushed cumin seeds (half a tea spoon here) or even a chopped green chilli if one prefers it hot.. A few fresh green leaves of parsley, mint or cilantro may be used as garnish if serving to guests. This should serve two to four persons depending on what the other dishes at the meal are.

Raita is an ideal South Asian side dish for lunch with unleavened bread or steamed rice (never dinner because yoghurt is not considered as good for health at that time). The other dish often served with it is seasonal stir fried vegetables or a lentil dish to make a wholesome and substantial lunch.  Instead of goosefoot leaves it can be made with many other things. Diced boiled potatoes are very nice too. In some part a bit of turmeric is mixed in to give a yellow color to the raita.

Herbal Chutney:

Ingredients:

1 Cup, your favorite herbs and green leaves that are edible when raw (Do not use cabbage or lettuce leaves)
2 Cloves garlic, 1 Green Chilli that is not very hot and  few drops of lemon juice

Chutneys are a ground mix of herbs and spices with added salt to taste, few drops of lime juice and a touch of sugar for sweetness. It can be made with grinding together Mint or cilantro leaves, green chillies and a bit of garlic. Kale makes an interesting variation. fresh coconut, roasted peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds or hemp seeds may be added before grinding to improve taste and nutritional value. In South Asia there are as many chutney recipes as their are homes. Try out your own variations before you come with an ideal recipe for your home. Chutneys do not store well like cooked sauces even in a fridge and must be made fresh for the day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A message of love for all Muslims, especially those from Iraq and Syria



Words of Love for Muslims

Today there are some words of love in a picture for my Muslim friends and brothers across the world, especially those In Iraq and Syria. I have lived for several years amongst Muslims and Arabs and some of my most loving friends have been from amongst them. I love them even though I could not become a Muslim myself (Ahna Yishrab – Two words in Arabic that only my Arab friends will understand). This message, because it is from the depths of the heart, is really perhaps only through me and more from the Spirit of the Universe. The message also appears on Twitter at:


It will also be shared on Google plus too so that it reaches as many as possible.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Violence through words is worth avoiding





Few on a path of self improvement would deny that physical violence must be avoided but not all realize that violence in speech is highly detrimental too. While physical violence drags the human soul back to the level of animals from whence it arose, verbal violence pushes a human to misery and denies the joy a human deserves.

A path of self improvement involves a study of self and constant evaluation of one’s behavior to discover the good and the bad so that one may reduce bad and enhance good. Realizing what is poor is the first step, after that an effort is required to banish the shortcoming since it may persist out of habit for longer. I too do  a self review all the time and have come to realize that, while use of physical violence has not been a problem with me most of my life, I have been prone to use verbal violence at times and it is a shortcoming I am working on to eradicate, even though advanced in age. It is never too late for self improvement. Life continues even after we leave this world. We carry our habits with us to the next world.

I had initially used “speech” in title but changed it to “words” later for written communication has a similar effect as  verbal one and in the present electronic age a lot more communication takes place through written words than verbal ones. Hurtful or harsh word can hurt longer than physical hurt, they go deeper and in case one faces a constant volley of it, even when milder, such as in nagging, constant criticism, ridiculing or long arguments, it can cause grave psychological damage. There are cases of persons who have been driven to suicide because of it or to a shrink instead. Some married couples have escaped this last through divorce and while men have been guiltier of physical violence, it is women who have been guiltier of nagging and verbal violence.

At times, one feels compelled to use verbal violence against foul or bad behavior by another human but it is better not to become as foul through violent speech. It does not mean that we have to keep silent about bad behavior but there are civilized ways to do it when one decides to do it that way. A calm statement of facts may be civilized and at times mixing humor with criticism, when appropriate, makes it easy to swallow just as sugar makes it easy to swallow bitter medicine. Civilized criticism is not easy when one is angry and those are times it is best to remain silent and withdraw. The most important thing to note is that to err is human and we all make mistakes as we journey through life and when we do that, we would not like others to be unkind about it. The famous Saint Kabir has pointed out that if one is abused and one responds with abuse, it may become a volley of a thousand abuses, while if one remains silent, it stops at that one abuse.

Every rule has an exception and just as physical violence is at times necessary in self defense, verbal violence too is similarly necessary at times. However, one must know at such times that just as physical violence will drive away others, so will verbal violence. Therefore, one must be careful not to do it with near and dear ones or those one wishes not to be cut off from. In such cases, one must first explore if there are other ways available for self defence. A way to escape possible physical violence is to run away from it. One may use a similar tactic of removing one self from the scene instead of using verbal violence, if possible when dealing with those one wishes to or feels obliged to maintain a relationship with. These include close relatives, friends or those in one’s work environment. Even when dealing with strangers, it is wise to avoid verbal violence because there is the universal mechanism that brings back to us whatever we put into the universe.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Understanding Popular Forms of Modern Yoga





The sacred Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi peaks in Himalayas. In the modern era, the peak Sunanda Devi earlier termed Nanda Devi east by British explorers was identified by the author of this note. Jai Ma Nanda, Jai Ma Sunanda


Yoga is a means of evolution for the soul that dwells within each living body. A soul acquires a body at birth in keeping with its state of evolution at birth. As a human, it is possible for a soul to consciously make an effort to evolve and although one is stuck with one’s body for life, the soul within is free to evolve. There are many symptoms of an evolved soul with the most obvious one being its reaction to light. Since the Universal consciousness is a creator of light, souls closer to it emit and reflect more light from their faces and bodies than less evolved human souls who absorb light instead. During living, the state of a being changes from time to time and they are described as glowing when in evolved states. They may even remove themselves from the eye of a camera when in low states of evolution. An aura may be observed around the most evolved of all souls even in the darkness of night since they become net emitters of light just as the universe in its constant state of creation is. On the other hand a deep darkness surrounds depressed and unhappy souls.

The father of yoga, Patanjali has described yoga as consisting of eight parts in his outline text on Introduction to Yoga. It is a compact text consisting of four chapters. After describing fundamentals of yoga, he defines the eight parts in the 29th verse of the second chapter through Sanskrit terms, the language of the text, as – Yam, Niyam, Asana, Pranayam, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyan, Samadhi.

The subject matter of the eight parts of yoga may be understood briefly as follows

First Part: This is to do with basic morality and shunning of animal instincts such as violence, lying, stealing, lust devoid of love etc.

Second Part: This is to do with cleanliness, order, discipline, shunning greed and having trust in God. God is not defined in the sense of religions or in a sense on which different religions appear to have special monopoly on, but simply as the Supreme Infinite power of the universe accessible not just to persons of all religions on earth but throughout the universe to all life, of all religions and to those without a religion too.

Third Part: This is to do with physical perfection and physical movements of the body the soul occupies

Fourth part: Is to do with breathing and practices connected to it

Fifth Part: Is to do with detachments from desires, worldly goals and things

Sixth Part: Is to do with mastering the mind and thought processes and developing the ability of concentration

Seventh Part: Is to do with meditation and practices connected to it

Eight Part: Is the final state of evolution, undoubtedly reached by a few rare enlightened souls only when the body the soul occupies, a vehicle for the journey, is no longer necessary.

These eight parts are viewed as eight steps by some but that is an incorrect interpretation although undoubtedly each part is more advanced than the previous one. They are not steps because perfection in none of the steps is possible without perfection in the others and final perfection is attained by full perfection in any of the steps. That is, they all lead to the same point, the final state of evolution that any living soul is capable of. Another highly revered text by the Hindus, the Gita focuses on practices emerging from the second part terming it as Karma Yoga, the Yoga of action as also on the seventh part – Terming it as Sankhya Yoga. It says clearly that final attainment and goal is the same by both steps but the second part is within the reach of most humans while the seventh part is not easy for most. While the text by Patanjali contains only the briefest of definitions and summaries ( known as Sutras in Sanskrit) the Gita elaborates on Karma yoga giving in details the steps required to bring it into practice.

Patanjali too has clearly stated that a human may reach final attainment through a perfection of the second part which he terms as Kriya yoga or in fact even from a third part of the Kriya Yoga, a complete surrender to Universal Will and consciousness. The Gita too in its last chapter has affirmed this as the ultimate secret of spirituality and being.

While The Gita is a Hindu text, Patanjali lived in a spiritually vibrant time on earth stretching in the old world then from Greece to China, where there were many debates between theists and atheists, Buddhists and Hindus etc. but he regarded himself as aloof and above these religious and philosophical divides and it seems once in lighter moments remarked at those debates as fights between snakes and mongoose, wherein at time one is on top and times the other, endlessly. Buddhists have developed practices emerging from the fourth part - mindful breathing- in to a fine art, a practice that is relatively easy to follow as compared to other meditative practices yet with profound  results.

As said, since final attainment is possible through any of the eight parts, it is also possible through the third part, the primary focus of modern yoga. According to Patanjali this final state is achieved when thoughts emerging from the mind cease, and the soul unites with its origin, the Universal consciousness.

The word Yoga means to unite. A soul may carry on with the body it attained at birth as long as life remains but it would not get new bodies after that if it attains the peak of evolution, unless it chooses to do so temporarily for a service in the universe (something that Bodhisattvas of Buddhism, gods and devas of Hindus or Angels of Christianity and Islam might do) and instead become a part of the infinite as Buddha described.  The Hindu saints on the other hand in their final state of the eighth part, Samadhi, consciously and willingly shed off their physical bodies. For most souls, however, evolving implies reaching higher and more joyous states of being in their journey of countless lifetimes through the universe. While popular forms of modern yoga focus on the third part of yoga as described by Patanjali, it has also freed it from religion as Patanjali intended, free from religions and their mythology, rituals, regulations etc. but not free of the Almighty Supreme Being and Creator. The description 'OM" is a part of the ancient Aryan tradition adapted by the Hindus just as the word Allah is of Semetic tradition or God of western tradition. None of these Names occur in the text on yoga by Patanjali.

From the Author of "The Babaji Affair"


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Oils and Fats for Good Health





No good kitchen is complete without a good selection of cooking oils or fats. But, there are so many to choose from and the information out there on which are the best is confusing. Hope this note would help the reader in making a better selection

THREE FACTORS THAT DETERMINE CHOICE OF COOKING OIL OR FAT

The three factors that decide which oil or fat to use in which recipe depends on:

  1. Health
  2. Cost
  3. Taste

While good health cannot be sacrificed neither can good taste of food we consume. Cost of oil used also  matters for most except the very rich.

TRADITION VS SCIENCE IN SELECTION

A human uses traditional practices prevalent in one’s area in selecting the best cooking oils. Aside from this, humans are also influenced by various recommendations from scientific bodies or health organizations that are put out from time to time.

My own personal decision in this regard is to value traditional knowledge more than scientific knowledge or advisories in deciding what goes inside my body. A human body is precious and deserves our best care and attention. I myself am a scientist from a different discipline (heat and fluid flow) and that has helped me place scientific findings on food on a lower priority as compared to traditional knowledge. The reason is that from my own discipline, I have realized that when it comes to even simple machines like an automobile engine, research findings are tentative and subject to revision with more work. Therefore, when it comes to a human body that is far more complex, it is difficult for me to believe that many findings can be final except for the broadest and most obvious issues. I do not mind risking ruining my car engine with the wrong fuel but would hate to do that to my body.

Thus, as a doctoral student in Canada in the seventies, when reports began to come out on how cholesterol is bad for you and things like butter must be avoided, I discarded that finding in the trash can because traditional information of centuries had told me that butter is good for health. With time, scientists too have revised their findings. They said later there is good and bad cholesterol, that the body needs saturated fats too for good health and later that it is not saturated fats that are bad but trans fats are bad etc.  The scientists can take their time in making up their mind, I will just listen to what my grandma or that hermit in the Himalayas instead when it comes to food.

As regards advisories of health bodies and organizations such as the FDA, the less said the better. It seems FDA had to be taken to court to make them admit that trans-fats are bad and their classifications lists cannabis as more dangerous than opium and alcohol when in fact even imbecile persons know that truth is quite the reverse.

There is another reason aside from the one stated, why tradition has been a better guide for me in food than science or health advisories – Influence of greed and commercial interests.  Even scientific studies are influenced by commercial interests in various direct and indirect ways. As regards the FDA, that revolving door on Wall Street may just let the drool flow faster than corpses of dead humans in hospitals from transfat induced cardiac arrests and thousands languishing in prisons because the FDA thinks that cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol.

It is not that scientific studies are not useful. They do lead to good information provided it is used with caution and not blindly. When it contradicts traditional beliefs regarding food,  it must remain suspect.

THE 1-2 -3 OF COOKING OILS AND FATS

Based on the sort of arguments just explained, the choice of cooking oils in my kitchen are presently confined to just six  - one fat from an animal, two from the fields and three from trees

The One from an Animal

The cooking fat of choice for me is clarified butter. Butter is wonderful on toast but when it comes to cooking, some of its components burn and ruin the color and taste of a dish. Moreover it does not have a very long shelf life. When butter is clarified by boiling it in a pan for some minutes, the solids burn out and settle in the pan (salt too if any), the moisture evaporates and then one may drain of clear clarified butter oil or pure ghee from top and store it in jar for long periods (several months) without refrigeration. I do not use lard. During childhood it used to freeze around my mouth while eating and in later years I have shunned violence in procurement of food. Milk and butter produced from cows does not cause violence if the animal is well cared for.  A cow is delighted to share her milk with the owner in return for care and food.

Clarified butter is also known as Ghee or Butter oil in different parts of the world. it is perhaps the healthiest and most pleasant tasting of all cooking oils. However, even if you can afford it, please do not confine yourself to butter and butter oil only. Too much of a good thing becomes bad and a human body needs variety to catch up on numerous nutrients it needs for best health. Moreover, there are things like cold sauces and salad dressings where butter oil is not just right. Select another oil or two from the selection below that come from trees and fields and keep a mix in your diet, selecting the best ones for your different recipes.

Two Oils from the fields

The two oils that come from agricultural produce that I have chosen are

Sesame oil
Mustard Oil

Both have been chosen because of their traditional use and selection by humans over centuries but both have a strong taste that takes some getting used to. In the past, when media reports came for things like the supposedly great PUFA in things like Corn and Sunflower oil, I puffed it away into the garbage can because these oils have not been in traditional use. Just today I came across new studies by Professor Martin Grootveld that have found that these oils on cooking produce dangerous compounds that produce cancer and dementia. See the following link on it (for example see)

Similarly, in the past, when I heard of mustard oil being bad for you, I discarded that finding too. It has been used for centuries regularly and far more frequently than I ever would in the healthiest North-Western parts of India. Recently I had studied the matter again and it seems that bad publicity in the west arose from a study in which its isolated compounds were fed to rats. Since then I have increased use of mustard oils. From natural principles of health foods discussed elsewhere in this blog, isolated compounds are indeed harmful and must be shunned in comparison to a whole food processed and cooked by natural simple methods. There is a traditional tip to remove the least healthy parts of mustard oil though, after pouring it in a pan for cooking, heat to smoking point, the color lightens and the oil is said to be healthier then from traditional wisdom. However, when used for skin or hair massage do not use cooked oil but the fresh virgin oil direct. It must not be used on skin of babies though being too strong for that.

Note: Mustard oil and rapeseed are two names for the same oil. See:
http://www.cals.uidaho.edu/edcomm/pdf/wrep/wrep0143.pdf
Canola oil is somewhat different. It is from a plant developed from the Mustard plant to change its chemical composition to what some scientists believe to be healthier. It has not been proved to be necessarily healthier by long term human use as mustard oil. This author avoids it.




Sesame in Panchkhal Valley, Nepal by Krish Dulal
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sesame#/media/File:Sesamum_indicum_NP.jpg

The reader may also wish to check out this detailed link on the many benefits of sesame oil. Agricultural fields of both mustard and sesame delight the soul because of their profuse flowering. The young leaves of both sesame and mustard are edible especially before flowering has begun. They are a healthy green food. The cream of mustard leaves dish is just heavenly with garlic bread or buttered nans provided one knows the recipe.  The best recipes for this in the world come from Punjab (a dish called Saron da Saag)The accompaniments for this meal are a salad of sliced raw onions and radishes and a drink of butter milk. It is a completely balanced meal that rural Sikhs of Punjab have almost daily for lunch during the mustard season. They become robust and healthy as a result of it for the full year.

I had used peanut oil earlier because it has a mild flavor that blends with many foods and peanuts are healthy but because it has not found much traditional use, I did have my doubts. Recently, I came across a study that showed some possible harm from it (here) and have decided to stop its use too. I am not against making use of scientific information if it is supported by traditional knowledge. However, peanuts are still recommended as a great food because, firstly a whole food has a different effect from extracts and secondly one does not use as much of it as part of a peanut. Often a good thing becomes harmful in excess when it comes to food.

Oils like almonds, sunflower and peanut although great for health when present in their original seed my be too potent for good when used in cooking.

Three oils from the trees

The three tree oils of choice in my kitchen are

Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Palm Oil

Do note that while fresh palm oil is healthy, oxidized palm oil is not. Therefore it is is not a good idea to save palm oil if used for deep frying (see this) There is concern that palm oil plantations are ruining the environment but they need not if bio-diverse plantations are mandated as described in an earlier post of this blog.

WHICH OIL TO USE WHEN

Which particular oil to use when, depends upon the recipe. Once health issues are taken care of by a proper selection, the two other considerations that remain are taste and cost. Cost of various oils and fats including the six selected here vary from country to country, depending on production and it remains an important issue in most kitchens. Following are my choices briefly

Deep Frying:

While clarified butter and coconut oil is great for deep frying, both are costly where I live. Deep frying involves using large amounts. Therefore the choice here is one of the two oils from the fields – sesame or mustard – or palm oil. Personally I detest taste that olive oil develops in deep frying and do not recommend its use for that. Besides, it is more expensive than palm oil or mustard oil in most parts of the world.

Other Cooking:

Some recipes require much browning of onions in oil as in the most delicious curry recipes of South Asia as well as some sauces elsewhere. This does not come out well with most oils because of their differing smoke points etc. South Asian curries come out best with mustard oil or clarified butter but since mustard oil imparts its own strong flavor, the choice depends on the specific dish. As a rule, spicier dishes come out better with mustard oil and less spicy ones with clarified butter. Stir fried recipes on the other hand do not come out so well with mustard oil most times as with the other oils. Olive oil is not recommended here because its taste seems to spoils on cooking. However, if one must use olive oil for cooking than prefer light oil rather than the virgin variety.

Adding to hot foods:

Some times an oil or fat is added on top after cooking such as on hot spaghetti and both butter and olive oil are great for that for both taste and good health

Cold foods:

When it comes to salad dressings and cold sauces like mayonnaise the choice narrows down to olive oil if available, because the other oils and even clarified butter, are just not right for taste and texture here. However sesame or mixtures of olive and sesame oils or even coconut oil may be used as a replacement.

Do note that both coconut oil and clarified butter freeze and solidify in cold.


THE MIX

Of the six oils suggested here, clarified butter, olive oil and coconut oil appear to be the healthiest and it is possible for a person to design all of one’s cooking around the three if one can afford it, because they are also the most expensive ones in most countries, while reserving the other three for deep frying and a few other recipes only. There are also some wise mothers who you use an oil that is twice as expensive such as butter but only half as much in their cooking and end up with a family that is twice as healthy with the same expense.

One may also consume other edible oils outside this list every now and then provided food is not deep fried, that is where some oils can do most harm. In any case deep fried foods must not be frequent. They are not the best thing for health and personally I keep it to less than once a week. Persons over fifty, when the body is less agile need to avoid them even more. The choice of edible oils eventually depends upon one’s taste but it is good to keep variety in. As with carbohydrates, the obese and the overweight must minimize use of oils and fats in food but they must not be eliminated completely, rather consumed sparingly.

The question arises -  what to do with all the corn oil and other oil the world produces?  The answer is – they make great carbon neutral biofuels.

Dear reader, hope you have found this information useful. It is not the final word on the subject but merely my experience that I share with readers wishing them good health and joyous meals. If you have any other information on the topic, I would love to hear of it as a comment to this note. 

May we end with a new nursery rhyme

Ba Ba black sheep
would you note the oils please
One from the cow
two from the fields
Lovely three are from the trees