Sunday, November 29, 2015


Many times I decide I will not do something for e.g. say browsing HN when I'm working on something. I will even do it with great success that day. Then the next day, I accidentally open the website. I just innocently click an link and start reading. That follows another and by the time I know it, I would have wasted a lot of time clicking and reading whatever I find interesting. And when look back how it happened, it always comes back to the point that I was doing it without thinking mindlessly.

Sometimes I catch myself about to do this, and I can stop myself thinking about why I didn't want to do it in the first place. And this gives me glimmer of hope that if I'm more mindful of what I'm doing, I will be able to really able to pull it off. 

What is mindfulness?  It is being fully aware of the present moment and knowing why and what you're doing. It is being fully present in what you're doing at that moment. If you are fully present, you are aware of your thoughts and it is easy to just acknowledge the distracting thought and leave it instead of reacting to that thought. Actually all life  is only in the now, but we forget it most of the time.  

How can you be mindful? You can do few simple things to live mindfully. Put all your senses in what your'e doing. It is not as easy and that because our minds are simply distracted. So how do you overcome those distractions and live in the present moment ? As everything else, it has to be practiced and developed. Sages and teachers have faced this problem eons ago and were able to design and perfect a method to practice mindfulness. That method is meditation. There are many different ways of meditation practice. One simple way is to put your attention on your breath. Any time your attention wanders off your breath, simply realize it and bring your attention back to the breath without judging. But how do you know if you have totally wandered off and don't even know that ? You can try counting your breaths and that will give you another anchor to return back your attention to your breath each time you count. The more you practice this, the better your power to stay focused will increase and you can start becoming more mindful. 

If you are new to meditation, you can download the headspace app. It will guide you through the meditation process. 

Being mindful not only increases your focus. It will help you overcome something you do mindlessly, whether it is getting angry quickly or being negative on yourself. If you give your mind some space to relax and be present lot of stuff that take your attention mindlessly can be freed to be put to use on stuff you want to put your attention on.

Any one person's reality is ultimately wherever they choose to focus their attention and time on. I stole this line from Ben Thomson. So if you can deliberately choose what you focus on, you can make that thing a reality.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Thoughts on Hinduism

In the role of organized religion, I argued that religion 

  • gives us hope about problems we cannot solve ourselves.
  • provides some social mores to stop society for degrading
  • Provides a set of common cultural values, rituals and expected conduct.

Initially I argued a reasonably intelligent man can form his own beliefs but I realized that it is not everyone's interest and not everyone has the patience to think through all the beliefs and understand them and religion provides some sensible defaults which people can follow. 

In Why I prefer to be an atheist, I argued against the beliefs that we are born with some karma and we need to work towards attaining moksha and stuff like that. 

In my evolving understanding of it, it seems that whatever is being said in Hindu philosophy has two layers to it. 

On the outer layer it just lays down some cultural values, rituals and expected conduct so that people can live their lives without much confrontation. Historically when these communication methods were not available, religion was one of the way in which law and order was maintained in the society. So some of the customs and rituals were created and used which were suited to that time. Even the karma philosophy was created to create the feeling that being good will bring outcomes and being bad (sins) will create negative outcomes and exaggerated it saying if you do something bad, it will haunt you for multiple incarnations. 

But for a discerning mind, there is an inner layer of the philosophy which was always available to the learned. I particularly like the 'Tat twam asi' principle which says 'You are that' where that refers to God or divine. It doesn't constrain us with the Karma philosophy or anything else. It says that you have divinity in you. You have all that is needed at this time. It is upto you to recognize this and live accordingly. This is the central tenet of the 'Advaita' philosophy expounded by Sri Shankaracharya.

So previously I was looking at the different philosophies literally and was only looking at the outer layer and now I also see the inner layer about the truth that was already known and evident but only available to the discerning mind. 

So a lot of customs and rituals we follow were mostly created for the times they were created for. It is for us to examine those rituals and decide what to keep and what to ignore. 

It would have been great to know why a custom was created and how it has morphed into. But unfortunately most of our history is not written as we didn't good means of writing and storing info. The writings on leaves didn't survive our tropical climate. Lacking good means of communication and writing all they could do was to create poems for people to remember and spread it orally and that is what is available today. Sure someone who created something might have known why he created it, but not everyone has the patience to understand why it was created and the creator might not have had the patience/time to explain it to everyone, so it might have been reduced finally to just a rule to follow. 

Now the customs we follow have become like puzzles for us to figure out the reason for that and thats really interesting to me.. 
Thanks to Balaji Viswanathan on Quora for sharing his excellent thoughts on Hinduism 
He writes more eloquently than me and trust me, you wont be disappointed.

Start with this

Monday, March 23, 2015


Drona was teaching archery to Pandavas and Kauravas. There was bird on top of which of which the eye was to be shot. He asked everyone what they were seeing and they
replied like they were seeing a the sky, the tree, the branches, moving leaves, the bird on which the branch was sitting etc. Only Arjuna replied that he was
seeing only the eye of the bird. It seemed like a impossible tale for me as I thought it was impossible to see only the eye of the bird without seeing the other things
surrounding it.

Only now I understood that it was a lesson about focus. It is not seeing but the ability  to look. The ability to ignore extraneous details and to just focus on
what is important. To be able to really see only what we want to see. To be able to say no to other interesting things vying for our attention. The narrower the focus
the easier it is to hit the target.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Blogs I follow and enjoy

Just wanted to quickly point you to some blogs I read and enjoy which you might like too...

Recently I discovered the blog of Cal Newport, who is extremely productive, completed his Phd, wrote three books, maintains a popular blog at and eagerly shares his productivity tips.

A must read:

After these there are other blogs I read and have thought provoking posts.. you can sample them to see if you like..

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Learning Scala

I am taking the 'Principles of Functional Programming in Scala' taught by the creators of Scala programming language Dr Martin Odersky.

It is a really good introduction of functional programming and its advantages compared to imperative programming. It is really good and check the course here if you get time.

But the course goes too fast without teaching much Scala so it is not a great introduction to Scala. So I am learning the syntax and doing some practice. I will share my learnings in the blog here.