An Introduction to the World of Meditation

A year ago, I started down the path of consciously seeking a stronger connection within. I started out struggling to sit, no lotus, with support for my back. Now, with a simple-minded sense I self-study and practice with whatever is available on the topic online. I steadily peel away at successive layers of Zen thought. I can say now that what drew me to it in the first place is it’s unusually strong emphasis on ‘see for your self’.

On my best days I sit for a little above 25 minutes in half-lotus. I sit once on all days, busy or relaxed, easy or stressful, productive and not so productive. I sit in the day and in the night. I’ve come to a point where I am beginning to feel the hunger for a teacher to help me refine. A quick Internet search revealed a Zen retreat in Kodaikanal. Interestingly, there are renown Zen centers in Seattle as well as in Rochester. Both cities I’ve resided in but never looked past my nose for answers.

You can also join a virtual Zendo treeleaf.org, an online practice place that seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Soto Zen Buddhist Sangha. I found them on this reddit.com/r/zen thread.

For the uninitiated who is interested in learning more, I recommend poking around a bit on the Web. There is a wealth of information available on meditation online. See for your self!

Meditation is Universal!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRMf4z8Cs8s]

An introduction to Meditation, Kavita Maharaj.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxhGmzAX-nA]

An introduction to Zen Meditation practice – Taigen Shodo Harada Roshi.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL2XUTeoUsM]

Exploring Serendipity

Google defines serendipity as “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: ‘a fortunate stroke of serendipity'”. The definition implies a sense of ‘chance’ or that which is not directly in our control.

Wikipedia has this to say – “Serendipity means a ‘happy accident’ or ‘pleasant surprise’; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.” Interesting that they would use the words while not specifically searching for it.

Going by gut, I’ve found Serendipity to be one part belief and one part effort. They’re both dependent on each other and work together to,
* give you the freedom to persistently continue your effort, to improve it,
* hold off despair through self-encouragement and,
* when the opportunity finally opens up – ensure that you are ready for it.

For instance, Roby John walked the Pune Open Coffee Club through how his startup June managed to unlock the serendipity of the Silicon Valley. Roby has made it a constant effort to focus on building his product and maintaining some presence in San Francisco through the better part of 2011 and 2012. In the middle of 2011, his startup were selected to attend office hours with Paul Graham. Later June applied to YCombinator and were accepted, thus becoming the first truly native Pune Startup to have earned that distinction. This is by no measure a trivial achievement. YCombinator are the institution of repute of Startup Incubation. In hindsight, would you still be surprised? And yet, I don’t think Roby knew all along that this was a certainty. That might be a question I want to ask him, but for now I’ll accept that mystery. In order for serendipity to work for you, you will need to keep rising up again, ‘n again, ‘n again.

There are important areas in our lives where we look forward to serendipity of this kind. I guess it is important to remember both belief and effort are necessary ingredients. Take time to list them out and strengthen both.

A day later.

Computer Science course books for sale

Update: I no longer have these books on me.

The following C.S. course-books:

1. Code complete. Steve McConnell. First Edition. $3.
2. J2EE Anti-Patterns. Wiley Publishers. $5.
3. Java NIO, Ron Hitchens, O’Reilly. $5.
4. Introduction to Algorithms, Cormen, Rivest, and Lieserson. Second Edition. $7.
5. Computer Architecture – a quantitative approach. Hannessey and Patterson. Second Edition. $3.
6. Data Mining. Jiawei Han and Michelle Kember. $5.
7. Distributed Systems Concepts. $5.
8. Computer Networks, Third Edition. Aaron Tanenbaum. $5.
9. Data Structures in C and C++. Aaron Tanenbaum. $5.
10. Lisp, 3rd Edition, Winston & Horn. $5.
11. The practice of programming. Kernighan & Pike. $6.
12. Java 2. Third Edition. Naughton and Schildt. $2.
13. Database System Concepts. Korth. $3.
14. Operating Systems. Milenkovic. $5.
15. Introduction to Languages and the Theory of Computation, John C. Martin, Second Edition. $2.
16. Distributed Systems Concepts and Design, Coulouris, Dollimore. Third Edition. $5.
17. Test your C++ Skills, Yashvant Kanetkar. $4.
18. Computer Networking, Kurose and Ross. $5.

All books are low-price asian editions, paperback. They have been used/marked with notes. Nothing else wrong with the books. If your interested, please send me an e-mail. I am only willing to accept cash.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Thanksgiving weekend
What a week this has been. I can no longer count the number of times the word ‘Wow’ has escaped my mouth. On a usual Wednesday evening, before Thanksgiving, I found myself wishing I had planned out the weekend. I had nothing to do and 4 days to kill. Well, I did want to go out and buy myself a whole bunch of things on ‘Black Friday’, but the idea wasn’t very enticing.

Sarjana, my friend, IM’s me and invites me to road trip. “It’s still iffy” she said since a few of her friends had not confirmed yet. But that state of affairs did not last too long. Before long, I cancelled all my plans and I had signed up for a road trip that would begin at 6am Thursday and end 6pm on Sunday.

The objective was Mount Rushmore, 1400 miles away along I-90 and to me this was a fantastic opportunity to hone my absolutely Rotten driver skills 🙂 away from my home state of Washington where people know me. And yet, in Sarjana’s word, while Mt. Rushmore may have been a destination, the objective was really the journey. Sort of puts life into perspective doesn’t it.

Day one: An Outback could be overkill
Sarjana managed to convince, or should I say con :), Rudra and Swati-she into coming along. I had met Rudi once before. We drove down to the airport to add Swati and my name as drivers of a flashy new Subaru Outback 🙂 rented. Boy, was the car a wise choice or what. Rudi turned on his charm and managed to get a deal on the car to sweeten the trip. It was either that or the fact that the rental company rep. was just too sleepy to want to negotiate with us.

Before long we were on our way, rattling down I-90 in what was a determined assault on our destination. On the first day itself, the rain was pouring down. As we continue East towards the Washington – Idaho border, the Sun mad a brief appearance to encourage us ahead.

A quick decision to visit the Gorge required us to take a detour after Columbia river. Unfortunately, the Gorge, a natural amphiteatre, was closed to visitors, I cannot be sure why.

I got my first taste of driving through lookout pass before we reached Montana. It was a treacherous pass and the rain pelted the car mercilessly. I had the wheels and I proceeded to terrify everyone else by passing at least 2 14-wheelers along tricky curves and steep grades.

The group got a different first impression of me though :). On approaching a gas station, Swati-she who happend to be at the wheel asked which side the gas tank opened up. I confidently piped in that all Japanese cars had them on the left. Well my Honda does, and so does everyone else in the car (they all own Honda’s). Everyone bought it :)! However, it turned out that the Subaru fills from the right hand side haha and everyone had a good laugh.

Day Two: Can I wake up at 5am
Sure I can 🙂 and I found out first-hand that it can be tough. Rudi was the first one to wake up, and we were on the road once again. We still had the time and therefore the luxury of breakfast. We duly stopped at a restaurant in Sheridan, Wyoming!! Setting out on the road, we had just a few hours more of driving ahead of us.

First stop on crossing into South Dakora were the jewel caves. I’ll be the Park Ranger there was surprised to see the four of us walk into the office enthusiastically without any foreknowledge of what the timings were. Next stop was the Crazy horse monument dedicated to all native american tribes. I had mixed feelings watching a mountain being carved out for the purpose of people. What if the work stopped halfway, the unfinished sculpture would only not only disturb the erstwhile pristine and beautiful black hills, but it would also be a very funny sight.

Mount Rushmore was more of the same, it did offer a vignette into 4 significant people who shaped the idea and the character of Democracy in the USA. The sculptures were etched into the face of the tall cliff and stared out into space. Surely, these men’s deeds earned them such greatness.

Amit Bhojwani

I found another familiar personality on the web today. Amit Bhojwani is one of the first few people I met in this unfamiliar land, apart from Airport security 🙂 and his friends who I met outside the airport.

Amit asked his friend Satyam and Shashank to help get Mithun and I from the Airport. Amit and Mithun go back a long way, to their days in Vincents I think. In any case, Amit offered to let us stay at his place since we did not have a place of our own yet. Before the week was out, Amit had helped us get setup and on track with settling in Rochester and attending RIT.

On the particular day, Amit had some issues with Java. I eagerly offered to assist Amit. However, I was so bummed out because of jet lag, I think my brain just shrunk down into my stomach. Not a great way to start a friendship, but I think I did my best.

Lately, I have been feeling much of the same, I just refuse to think, starting to feel very shallow and listless.

Amit replies (and I swear he was not a bad host):

###################

:)bus kya beedu….I'm flattered…a post about me on a fellow sindhi's website, which I must say is v v cool.

I feel bad that I was such a horrible host to you guys when you first landed. I was wound up with work during that month, and in retrospect I'm sure I came across as a wee bit snobish. Your JAVA knowledge, even though it came from a jet lagged soul was more than I knew then anyways….so I appreciate all your help dude..and once again apologize for not be of more contsuctive help then…

Cheers to cool Sindhis in Rottenchester;)

Master’s in C.S.

I think I have finally burnt out! So I must use hindsight.

These have been 4 tough months. Unlike India, where work was interjected with other concerns and occasional play, all I have done lately is work single-mindedly on my thesis and make a fair attempt to build my career. This usually takes up my whole day, 7 days a week, all days of the month.

Coupled with a surely too disciplined focus, things are starting to fall apart around me. Summer pay has been refused and I am going to have to draw out my savings. As if that was not bad enough, the heat wave is taking a toll on my overall well-being. If I stick to the basics, plan goals well, stay motivated, work smart, I am sure I will make the deadlines.

I like to think that I think I made it quite far in terms of balancing the discipline that is the hallmark of the west, and my hard working background. I was never born with much, neither did I have too less, lucky in that respect.

In the movie 'A House of Sand and Fog' the protagonist, aptly played by Ben Kingsley, is of Iranian origin. His slight contempt for the American way of life is evident from his quote, from the movie: "Americans have the eyes of little children, always distracted by the next toy that they see. They don't want to have any of the responsibility". I think he is being a little too harsh. He fails to highlight the other end of the spectrum.

I acknowledge that I would not trade my experience in RIT for a Master's in any other school outside the USA. One late evening with Rishabh and Arun while travelling through the University District in Seattle, I vehemently argued that a Master's here is not worth all the sacrifice. I acknowledge that I was wrong! It's not just education that people come seeking here, it is something a lot bigger than that, it is the opportunity to be all you can be.

My judgement was obscured by broken promises made by a few others, who I will most likely forget with time. I forgot that in the end, this society is built around the individual. Thus, in the end what your share is, is exactly what your willing to work for, to build for yourself. Selfish, but factual.

A few farewells have been said, Vin & Vis are graduating. Vishal graduated, having defended his thesis. I wish Vineet all the best with the future.

Almost 2 years at RIT, tonight is Senior Night…

My Master's were the 2 years where I gained the most value in all my life. The end is finally in sight, I don't have to wonder where I am going to be. Especially since, I am already on my way.

Main Hun Na

Sushmita Sen, her hair always seems to be flying in the wind. It doesn’t matter if she was Indoors or Outdoors. But she does look quite ‘fit’ ;).