Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Black money, Real estate AND Us

I believe that black money (significant part if not most of it) is present within Indian boundary and is not languishing at foreign coasts. This article at valueresearchonline.com sums it up nicely.
Many Indians have shown their willingness to curb corruption over past 2-3 years. In the same spirit, I recommend minimizing real estate transactions, in our own life, till a cleanup happens in real-estate sector. This will involve minimal individual pain. If many of us do this, we can effectively curb a big chunk of black-economy.
How to minimize real-estate-transactions in one's life?
Buy only one house in which you want to live. Do not buy house for investment purpose. There are sound financial rationale against real-estate-investments anyway. Rooting out corruption/black-money is an added kicker against real-estate-as-investment philosophy.
If you are facing black-money (read compulsary cash transaction) menace while buying first house itself, do the following:

  1. If you are buying a house from builder, there is minimal to zero black money involved in the transaction. If the builder insists on cash, find another builder.
  2. If you are buying second/third hand from an individual, refuse to pay cash. Move to another seller or a builder.
  3. If neither method works, stay put in rented accommodation. If you are really consumed by the fire to root out corruption, is it too much of a pain to stay rented? Is it too much of a sacrifice?

What if you are a seller and buyer insists on cash?
If you have bought only one house for your own consumption there is no question of selling it. Unless, you are forced to move out of the city permanently. If your move-out is temporary, say for job compulsions, then you must have an intention to return to your city in future. In that case, rent out your own house and remain a tenant in the new city.
If the house you want to sell is your second/third/fourth(read investment) house, then buyer indeed holds power on you. That is why I recommend not to use real-estate as investment.

I believe if many of us minimize personal-real-estate-investment, the industry and government departments will correct its ways. The proverbial-black money will then be forced to find out other avenues. Is it not a worthwhile crusade?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

My experiments with meditation: Eknath easwaran and passage-meditation

(part 5)
One of my seniors from engineering college introduced me to writings of Eknath Easwaran. I first read 'Take your time' by Easwaran. I was immensely impressed. Easwaran detailed a technique called passage-meditation. Easwaran used a beautiful writing style along with compelling similes. I will spoil your experience if I try to paraphrase Easwaran in my words.
In summary, the meditation technique consists of memorizing a 'holy' passage and reciting it during the meditation session in your mind. If you reach the end of the passage, you start from the beginning. In case the thoughts wander away from the passage, it needs to be brought back to the start of the passage.
I took a liking to passage meditation as it came from an authority figure. I felt the security of numbers while picking up this technique. I also took the opportunity to memorize shlok from Bhagvad-Gita and brush up my Sanskrit (which I had studied for 4-5 years in high school). It was fun.

(To be continued)

Friday, October 03, 2014

My experiments with meditation: Salvation through music

(part 4)
I reasoned that among our five senses, listening is the most unwieldy. You can block sight by closing eyes. You can block taste with an empty mouth. Maintaining an odour-free area is very easy and even if there is a smell, nose quickly adapts to it. Touching the sitting surface is inescapable. However touch is so commonplace that the feeling-of-touch almost never registers on consciousness unless you focus on it. That leaves out SOUND.
You cannot easily block out sound. The perfect earplugs are not generally available. "If you cannot beat them, join them". Hence I thought of a meditation technique where instead of blocking the sound, I choose to immerse myself in it. The sound will not be of ambient-noise which I cannot control. Instead it will be the music of my choice through the earphones. I chose evening-prayer-of-ramakrishna-order.
The meditation session will mean sitting with your favorite hymn/music/tune plugged to your ears. The idea is to focus on one aspect throughout one meditation session. Sometimes I focused on the beats of drum, sometimes on the words of the hymn, sometimes on the written words of the hymn which I imagined in my mind. However in a particular session, the focus will be on a single aspect. In case the thoughts wander around, it needs to be brought back to the drum-beat/sequence-of-words/sequence-of-lettering.

(To be continued)

Monday, September 29, 2014

My experiments with meditation: Flame in heart

(part 3)
I started with meditation while I was at high school. The meditation sessions were sporadic and ad-hoc. I do not remember the technique I adopted in my early days.
I remember the meditation details starting from undergraduate days. Some of my engineering seniors became monks of Ramakrishna-order after their graduation. Through them and some books of Advaita publication, I picked up the flame-or-picture-in-heart-technique.
In this technique, one has to imagine the presence of their favorite person or a burning flame in the chest area. All the thoughts should be focused on the flame/person-in-our-heart. In case the thoughts wander around, it needs to be brought back to the flame/person.
(To be continued)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My experiments with meditation: Fears

(part 2)
There were fears and nervousness too. There is this fear that a meditation-gone-wrong can seriously impact sanity. There is a myth that Vivekananda died prematurely due to incorrect practice of Raj-yog. However, I have always believed that the returns of meditation is worth risking one's sanity.
On top of that, I now understand that the multiple ways of meditation, that I learnt and practiced, are all variations of same fundamental principle. Hence I am now confident that I do not practice any incorrect version of meditation.
In the subsequent blog-posts, let me walk you through all the forms of meditation I have practiced and the similarity inherent in them all.

(To be continued)

Monday, September 08, 2014

My experiments with meditation: On and off

(part 1)
I have failed to sustain the meditation habit in past. It is interesting to note that I have restarted the practice each time I have quit. Sometimes there were gaps of multiple years. Till now, I cannot say that I have greatly benefitted from meditation.
Ironically, during times of turmoil, I felt that meditation is useless and discontinued. It is ironic as meditation is supposed to support one, precisely during the turbulent times. Somewhere deep inside(let me call it samskar), I do believe that the discontinuity happened because of my lack of practice and not because of some inherent flaw in meditation. Samskar tells me that if I am more regular with meditation, it will indeed support me during times of trouble. Hence I come back to it again and again. It is not all inner-voice and samskar though. There have been periodic articles in magazines extolling the virtues of meditation.
So here I am, back at meditation, possibly seventh time around.

PS: I have assumed samskar and gut-feel to mean the same thing.
(To be continued)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Stoddard Temple: Plenty of those in India

In Ayn Rand's Fountainhead, Howard Roark constructed the Stoddard Temple. The temple's theme was that god exists within human. Hence Howard designed the temple to keep it 'grounded' yet exalted. The central idol was that of a human (Dominique).
In many Indian temples, the same theme is seen. Rabindranath Tagore captured it brilliantly in his essay titled 'Mandir'. There are temples which have the normal day-to-day human life carved out on the outer walls. The deity resides within this depiction of day-to-day-human-tussle.
This is the kind of god I will like to believe someday. Thanks Tagore. Thanks Ayn Rand.