March 18, 2018

Why so many New Years? - Part 1 (De-mystifying Jyotish Siddhanta - Ganita)

Even though 1st January is widely accepted as the new year, each community and culture has its own new year. In fact, the Indian Calendar Reform Committee that was set up in 1952 identified more than 30 well developed Vedic (Hindu) calendars that are in use across different parts of India!!! Today being Ugadi (Gudhi Padwa), it may be an apt day to start this series and share what I have been to learn about Jyotish Siddhanta - a subject that deals with astronomical calculations and measurements.

'What exactly is a new year?'. Time, as we know it, is continuous. We cannot comprehend the start nor the end of it. As Sri Sri says, time is not linear-continuous, it is spherical! Understanding this will need quite some appreciation of theoretical physics/ spirituality and we will discuss it under another post.

New year, or the definition of an year, helps us put markers on this infinite scale of time. As we measure distance from one city to another, an year measures the distance on the time dimension. As the distance can be measured from any point, any origin; the year can also technically have any starting point. And that can be a New Year. In fact, we do have anniversaries and birthdays that do the same.

Definitions of a start and end of year helps us take stock of the progress in our lives, businesses, relationships and plan for the next period of time. It is large enough to encompass different seasons and yet small enough to have 80-100 such cycles in one life time.

Most of our life revolves around the seasons that we experience on earth. So, what better than to define an year as a repetition of seasons. This also translates into one revolution of earth around the sun. Thus, was born a basic form of calendar that was based on seasons. It has 4 anchor points - the 2  equinoxes (equal day and night duration), the longest day and the shortest day. These 4 anchor points define the duration of the year.

One could choose any date as the new year and have any definition of small intervals (months) within that. For some reason, the current Gregorian calendar, with variable month durations, became widely accepted with 1st Jan as the new year. We will talk more about this in the next part.

Life would be simple if the nature was that simple :-) There was one additional complexity that was solved by the Indian calendars. The astronomers found that, in the space, one revolution of earth around the sun is a bit longer than the one defined by these seasonal calendars! What that means is, if we were to mark a point in space on the earth's orbit and call the year as the time taken for earth to come back to the same point on the orbit - it would not match with our duration as measured by the topical (seasonal) calendars.

Why would that be? It turns out that earth has 3 types of movements - not just rotation and revolution that we have studied in the school. There is a 3rd movement - similar to a spinning top whose 'axis of spin' itself rotates. This movement is now called 'precession of the equinoxes'. The difference created by this movement was added in Indian horoscopes as 'Ayanamsa'. Over an extended period of time, this implies that the equinox on earth will occur at a different point on earth's celestial orbit!

The difference is quite small and the accumulation of this difference is approximately 1 day (1 degree) over 60 years. This makes it hard to notice it in one lifespan. How did the Indian Jyotish experts found this this out, is a mystery. Hence, all the Indian new years, festivals are based on the astronomical positions of the sun and moon - rather the seasonal calendar.

Happy Ugadi (New Year) to all of you - welcoming the Vilambi Samvatsara (Vilambi is the name of this year in the cycle of 60 that repeats itself after that) on the Gregorian day of 18 March 2018. This also coincides with the start of spring season - with 'new'-ness in the air.

The other implication that may shock you, is that if you follow western astrology, that relies on the topical calendar, then there is a 70% likelihood, that your sun sign is not the one that you think it is :-)

More on that in the next part… hopefully, before the next new year on 14th April! Does this cause change in the earth's average temperature across the year? We will find that out in the coming parts of this series.

October 01, 2017

Science behind Change Management

Have you wondered why some new ideas are readily accepted, while others are not? Sometimes what you think is a small change faces a lot of resistance and other times drastic changes are done easily. This is often debated in management classrooms and a lot of theories and approaches in psychology/ organization dynamics try to explain this.

Many scientists/ engineers who become managers and consultants struggle with handling/ managing change. This also stems from the fact that our education system breaks down learning and knowledge into separate compartments and do not readily allow mixing of concepts. Science is a disciplined approach to explain the workings of the universe. But we have restricted that to physical objects that we can perceive because it relies on observations and measurements. Hence, psychology or behavioral science is treated differently and people are made to believe that these are different.

All of us remember reading 'Newton's Laws of Motion' in our school days. If you read the first law carefully, it gives us a great insight: "An object will continue to remain at rest or move in a straight line unless it is acted upon by an unbalanced force". What this tells us is that there are 3 types of inertia - Inertia of rest, Inertia of motion and Inertia of direction.

This law holds good also to behaviors and organization dynamics.
  • More the mass (group size), more is the inertia
  • More the speed of movement (growth, speed of the process to be changed), more is the inertia
  • More we move in the direction of least resistance (straight line, or downhill, for example), more is the inertia
And more the inertia, more is the force required to alter course.

Now comes the interesting part - we have also studied the concept of levers where fulcrums/ pivots can magnify the force applied. So while one approach could be to keep increasing the force to alter the course, a smart way is identify the right pivot and apply the right amount of force to make the change.

The key is to identify the right pivot - what is called as leverage in management jargon. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says that emotions are a thousand times more powerful than intellect. A strong intellect can keep a check on the emotions, but when a storm/ wave of emotion comes in, the intellect gets washed away. Something that you can hold on to in such situations are your values.

Do we choose an intellectual, emotional or value lever? That is what a good change management design is all about. Need help designing your change management program, you can reach out through the comments section.

True science should be able to explain physical, mental, emotional - all layers of the universe along with their interdependence. This is what we call as spiritual knowledge in this land. And it is time we encourage a holistic learning/ perspective to life around us.

July 11, 2017

When zero is the same as infinity

I once asked Poojya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, "I am very possessive, what should I do?" The usual response to such a question is acquiring knowledge to drop the possessiveness. However, Guruji's response was, "Become more possessive, feel possessive about the whole world, the whole universe". It was many years later that I really understood the depth of the statement.

Adi Shankaracharya's Atmashatkam (Nirvanashatkam) has a line that says 'अहम् भोजनं नैव भोज्यं न भोक्ता'. Here भोजनं (bhojanam) not only implies food, but the objects of experience or enjoyment. The phrase then means - I am neither the object of experience/ enjoyment, nor the process of experiencing/ enjoying, nor the experiencer/ enjoyer. 'चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम्'. I am the eternal bliss-form element that is Shiva.

At another satsang, I hear a very beautiful bhajan that said 'मैं हूँ मंजिल, मैं हूँ सफ़र भी, मैं ही मुसाफिर हूँ' The devotee here says - I am the destination, I am the journey and I am the traveler himself'.

One wonders how can both these be true. At one point, I say that I am nothing and the other point I am everything. This is the beauty of spiritual knowledge that not only accepts multiple dimensions of Truth, but also propagates it. On one hand it allows you to detach and drop all that is sensed and perceived. On the other hand, it also tells you that all that you see around has emerged from the same 'Me' and it is all 'Me'. I believe that this multi-dimensional knowledge is the strength in the culture of भारत (India).

It is like a having a dream. You are not in the dream, nor are you the dream - yet the dream is in you and so are all the characters and their experiences. Depending on which side of the mirror you are, your spiritual journey is towards zero or towards infinity. You will reach the same destination.

Deeper understanding of the existence that we perceive will take you to the same level as disassociating from the existence. Either embrace the whole thing with deeper understanding and realize the nature of the dream. Or drop it with detachment and watch the movie.

The infinity that we see around us is nothing but a zero - like the infinite dream world is nothing in the waking reality.

Enjoy the confusion and bliss at the same time...