Monday, October 31, 2011

Concert at the Yoga Farm: Latif Bolat

Yesterday evening at the Yoga Farm, instead of the usual discourse following the evening mediation and chanting, there was a concert by Latif Bolat, a Turkish mystic musician. His instrument was the lute, but when he saw the piano at the Yoga Farm, he chose to play one piece on the Piano; he mentioned that prior to becoming a mystic musician, he was an opera singer.

The music was wonderful. And throughout the performance he provided educational tidbits on what the lyrics meant, and the origins of sufism and the music. One of the interesting things that he mentioned was regarding quarreling with God, while he was discussing his book by the same name. He said that one can quarrel with God only if there is true love; if there is fear, quarreling is suppressed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Concert at the Yoga Farm: Collective Awakening

Yesterday evening at the Yoga Farm, instead of the usual discourse following the evening mediation and chanting, there was a concert by Collective Awakening, a duo of Martin Klabunde and Wing Man Law. They used several interesting instruments -- an adungu, an agokos, and a djembe, a didgeridoo, and tibetan meditation bowls. They have samples of the music on their website and some videos on Youtube.

Two of the pieces I found interesting were Nomad (part of the album Portal Opening) and Amore (which was done as just an instrumental as in the reprise version in the album From the Heart).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A story about ego

Back in 2006, I chanced upon a group called Charity Focus. I don't recall exactly how I found it. One of the things they offer is Wednesday evening meditation sessions in the South Bay that are open to all. I had met one of the founders, Nipun Mehta, there and he was one of the several people that nudged me very strongly to take my first 10-day vipassana meditation course. But I digress.

I attended a few of these Wednesday sessions. On August 23rd 2006 they had a special guest, Subba Rao. The following story was told to us that Wednesday by him. I wish there was a transcript of the story as he told it, but since there isn't I'm going to tell it in my own words and hope I can convey the message as intended. Subba Rao himself is a very interesting person, and I would urge you to read this interview.

The story is about man who meditates for many years, even decades, without an ulterior motive. However, on seeing the diligence of his practice, God makes an appearance and asks him to request a boon. He can ask for anything he wants and it shall be granted. The man refuses saying he is meditating just for the sake of meditation itself. To which God says, "In that case, I will grant you a boon anyway. I will grant you the power to heal the sick and the power to eradicate poverty. If you see a sick person and will it, the person will become healthy at once. If you see a person stricken by poverty and will it, the person will become wealthy beyond imagination."

Thus saying, God was about to leave, when the man responds, "Now that you have granted me this power, I must ask for something else." God begins to wonder what it might be that the man has suddenly decided he needs, but nevertheless obliges. So the man continues, "If I should ever exercise this power that you have bestowed upon me, please do not let the thought enter my mind that it is me that is making it happen."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

American Veda

A couple of weekends ago, on my regular Saturday visit at the Yoga Farm, following the evening meditation and chants, instead of the usual discourse, there was a talk by a guest speaker. The speaker was Philip Goldberg and he talked about his book, American Veda.

The book is about how Vedic philosophy has influenced life in America and talks about many of the early spiritual teachers and yoga masters that were responsible for bringing the teachings of the Vedas to the west.

As a part of his talk, he played the following video to show how Vedic philosophy has made its inroads into mainstream spiritual life in America.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cars that drive themselves

A few months ago, the Stanford Center for Professional Development sent out an email about a webinar on Design Thinking and the Car of the Future. The webinar by itself is interesting because it discusses innovation in what is considered to be a fairly mature field, but what I found really fascinating was the video of the car that was the result of their work.

This first video shows a self-driven car creating Audi's 4-ring logo in the sand.

The second one is a follow on and shows the climb to Pikes Peak.

We've all heard of cars that can parallel-park themselves, but the reason I found this fascinating was that it brings complete automation to high-performance driving. It makes it clear that the day is not too far when we'll be able to get in a car, program a destination, and have the car drive us there. And in sporty fashion if we so desire.

This could have interesting implications for the world of auto racing. Perhaps in the future, cars will race in competition using computer algorithms instead of drivers.

Update 02/21/13 - Commerically viable autonomous cars?

Just received a related piece of information from IEEE Spectrum -- UK unveils 'affordable' self-driving RobotCar.  Researchers in the UK are attempting to build a self-driving car that will add just $150 to the cost of the base car.

Update 07/10/13 - Smart cars getting hacked

Car with more smarts bring with them another problem -- that of being hacked.  This poses problems in two areas -- break-ins and taking over of the driving controls.  You can read more about these risks in these articles:
Update 5/28/14 - Google's self-driving car

Google blog recently posted the following article -- Just press go: designing a self-driving vehicle.

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