October 06, 2014

De-mystifying Mathematics (Part 7) – multiplying large numbers by converting to smaller negative digits

If you were to multiply a number by 9, a common response would be to multiply by 10 and then go back one count. We can extend this same concept to many other multiplication situations.

What we effectively want to do is reduce the number of large digit multiplications and have more of smaller digits. This would come with the complexity of negatives, but is worth it.

Let us take an example of 32 X 48. Multiplying by 8 would result in larger answers, so we can convert 48 to 5(-2)

The calculations as described in the previous posts give us the answer as 1536.

One more example to illustrate this: 89 X 72
We can convert 89 to 1(-1)(-1) and 72 to 1(-3)2

As you can see, you could get the answer as 6408 without too many large numbers to worry about.

This concludes the series of posts on basic arithmetic and how a comprehensive understanding of the placeholder systems can ease out mental calculations. So, do not feel afraid to use the number system in unconventional approaches.

Most of the mathematics an average person uses is arithmetic and I hope this set of posts would help.

Watch out for the next set of math topics to demystify…

October 05, 2014

A journey with Sudarshan Kriya - how it influenced my thoughts and shaped my life

Many seasons ago, in my early teenage years, it struck me that I would not remain on this planet indefinitely. There would come a time when I would leave behind all my ‘prized’ possessions. The chain of questions started from what would happen to my belongings, my room and my house, without me. Over a period of time, the questions increased and it probably started the quest – the quest for something deeper, something unknown. I did not know what I was looking for – there was my intellectual mind and there was a longing.

This state continued for the years to come. The intellect helped me achieve goals like cracking IIT-JEE without any classroom coaching, securing a good rank and admission into IIT Bombay. The fun loving mind loved enjoying life and calling itself an ‘atheist’, ‘scientist’ and other cool adjectives; yet it would seek solace in reading the Vedic scriptures and deciphering the text in there.

There was a 'wait' in the 'progress' – moving ahead, but still waiting for something or someone...

My first experience with Sudarshan Kriya

Maybe it was a chance or something within that drove me to attend the Art of Living course on the IIT campus(read more here). On the second day of the course, we did the Sudarshan Kriya and it was probably the turning point in my life. It gave a new thrust to the quest in my life. The adjectives dropped and frankly I was puzzled and astonished that how something as simple as breathing
can create the experience I had. I realized that there are things beyond explanation and I may call myself a scientist – but there are limitations in human understanding.

The key take away from the course was Sudarshan Kriya and the home practice. I did not know how it worked, but it worked. It brought about a big change in my behavior, attitude, outlook and confidence. Regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya brought a discipline in my life and a great depth in understanding. The questions about life started getting some answers and new directions. The scriptures started giving me real life insights and ambitions in life became clearer.

This was the time I was preparing for CAT for admissions into IIMs. Being a scientist at heart :-), I also experimented on the state of my mind after doing the Sudarshan Kriya. The peace and quiet in the mind was like cleaning and servicing the car. To perform in an exam, I could not immediately shift into the top gear and expect to win the race. Along with my practice tests, this was an important aspect of my preparation. I was able to find an optimal time to accelerate the mind from the meditative state in Sudarshan Kriya to the top performance level for my exams.

It was fun and a discovery that you can actually have some control on the state of your mind - an important realization that shaped my journey ahead...

Learning it young

The advantage of learning anything at a young age is that it stays with you longer. The mind is fresh and open to experiment. By the time I moved to IIM Ahmedabad, daily practice of the Sudarshan Kriya and meditation was part of my daily routine. I once bumped into a very elderly couple in my hometown who needed help in walking around and could not sit down on the floor. They commented that spiritual practices are for old people and not for the younger generation. I retorted back – at that age when I may not even be able to sit comfortably on the floor for a few minutes, what practices will I do?

In the years to come, I realized that it was so true. This misconception had created such a value gap in the society. The spiritual practices are the most essential in the early formation years so that you can make this part of your life and let the knowledge guide you through the life’s challenges.
I was fortunate to have learnt Sudarshan Kriya at an early age and have had the privilege to have this knowledge as my constant guide in my life.

Meditation is the best investment

There is a usual stereotyping of management graduates – they only think of return on investments! Well, the advantage of doing something over a long period of time allows you to experiment and understand the benefits for yourself.

There have been times when I have skipped my daily meditation routine, taken short cuts for a variety of ‘justified’ reasons. Was I able to perform my tasks on that day? Yes. Was the quality of work and efficiency at the top most? No! It took me long experiments to learn that I can ‘exist’ without doing the Sudarshan Kriya – but could not call it having ‘lived my life fully’ that day.

The 30-40 minutes investment in the morning gave me almost 3-4 hours back in return throughout the day. Who would not want those kinds of return? Time was saved due to lower rework, effective communication, better ideas, faster processing speed. How does this happen? Because, the mind is where the work is and not floating around somewhere in time and space.

I have seen most workers wait for their coffee breaks, smoking breaks – my experience has been that SK practitioners need fewer breaks and are able to stretch themselves effortlessly.

Needless to say, for the last many years I have not missed my daily practice wherever in the world I am – it is as integrated into the daily routine as brushing my teeth or having a bath. If I cannot miss these, how can I miss the daily practice?

Analysis is good; Over-analysis can lead to paralysis in action

If there are so many benefits that the technique brings to you, what are the hurdles to learning and practicing it? I believe that the biggest hurdle is the mind. There are so many patterns that get built up over years and decades of our existence (exclude your previous lives for the time being). We get conditioned to think and behave in a particular manner and start believing that this is the only way to achieve the goals.

There are a lot of management books that deal with this topic – like ‘Who moved my cheese’, ‘What got you here Won't get you there’ and others. It takes a very strong mind to understand this and come out of it. This is where we fall into a Catch-22 situation of trying to free the mind using a patterned mind itself. Many times, we hire executive coaches; learn different techniques to help us break out of patterns and achieve our goals.

The underlying premise of Sudarshan Kriya is to provide a controllable breathing technique that indirectly addresses the mind. It is like hitting the branch to get the fruit – if you hit the fruit directly, it will be spoilt. There is a good video referenced here that explain this very well.

People of my age come from the pre-dotcom era. There was no internet or social networks that helped us with information when needed. We relied on the wise men, elders around us – people who had seen the world. Of course, it had its own limitations when it came to emerging trends and technologies.

The last 15-20 years have seen the emergence of internet and social networks that gives us instant access to all the information we need. One of the drawbacks, however, is that we start relying completely on this information without completely being aware of the person’s credentials providing that information. Sometimes, the amount of information that we have at our fingertips, leads to over-analysis and paralysis in action. There is so much time spent in analyzing pros and cons, which technique should I choose, what are others saying, am I on the right track, comparing with others, etc... My experience has been that it does more harm than benefit us in this matter.

The idea is to relax the mind and bring back the focus. This overdose of information can actually be counterproductive and you may end up saying – Forget it! I am OK the way I am now!!!

When it comes to the mind or health, there is a universal movement that is emerging to go natural, to go to the basics. Our Vedic scriptures hold a treasure of knowledge and a technique like Sudarshan Kriya is best suited to provide us with much needed mental peace – like a shadow in the desert sun, spring for the thirsty mind.

Why does it work?

There has been a lot of research in the recent years to identify why and how Sudarshan Kriya works. You can read one such Harvard report here.
In my early years of practice, I read many articles and doctors’ reports on benefits of SK and its effects on the brain, nervous system, etc... At some point, all the research seemed futile other than trying to convince the intellect. Nothing beats your first-hand experience.

There is so much research that gets done on food and trying to isolate the components that have different impact on the body. Most often further studies contradict it and eventually find that the mix of all components that nature has provided is the right mix to have it in.

There is a recent example that comes to my memory – a study further established the benefits of using turmeric (haldi - a common ingredient in Indian cooking). We could spend lot of effort to isolate the exact compound inside and make tablets out of it or just focus on cultivating turmeric and promote cooking with it. For advancement of science and scientific enquiry, it is good to do the research to establish the benefits. In my view, it stops there – there is no point fiddling too much with nature.

So, while it is good for the scientific enquiry to keep finding out why SK works, I would say – just loosen up, practice it and enjoy the benefits :-)

SK has helped me in many ways and continues to act as a strong catalyst in this journey of life – helping learn and transform into a better person.

Have all my questions been answered? Enough to leave me in amazement and wonder!
Have I stopped experiencing negative emotions? Aware enough to control them and let go.

Today, I wake up each day looking forward to living every moment and feeling grateful for this wonderful companion called Sudarshan Kriya! Wherever in the world I maybe, this is the link to my inner self and to the divinity in this creation.

Promising future ahead

Breathing techniques and meditation are the core practices of a spiritual path with many positive effects. Sudarshan Kriya as taught in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living courses packs the ancient wisdom in an easy to practice technique for today’s life style.

With so many people having learnt Sudarshan Kriya in the last 30+ years and the  continued demand, I see a safe and peaceful future for all of us. I pray that all the efforts put in by the teachers and volunteers of Art of Living will make this world a better place to live.

September 20, 2014

Living with the Master - My experiences with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

It was the year 1995, my classmate at IIT-Bombay – Ramnik Bansal – woke me up from my siesta on a Friday afternoon. He had been asking me to attend a course to learn some breathing techniques for a year. Priding on my scientific/ analytical background, I did not find it an interesting proposition. But, that afternoon in March was something different – I still do not know why I agreed to go with him to the Art of Living course.

The intense experience of the Sudarshan Kriya and the calmness after that was something beyond my comprehension. It was an instant liking – as if I was waiting for it in my life.

Couple of months later, Bawa (the instructor) told us that the founder of the Art of Living courses – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – was visiting Bombay and that we could meet him at the evening satsang. There was a heavy downpour that day – I remember carrying my shoes in the hands, wading through knee deep water in Juhu, walking towards this temple. I reached there to find around 150-200 people in a hall, mostly dressed in white. I had only seen a small postcard size photo of Sri Sri once till then. I was looking around for him. A few minutes later, when he walked into the hall, I knew it was him.

It was an amazing state of mind. After some singing, we were allowed to meet him one-by-one and greet him. After greeting him, he gave me a hug – and it was like getting exposed an enormous energy field. The energy blast was as intense as the Sudarshan Kriya – I had to sit down immediately and it was instant meditation for 10-15 minutes.

That was the defining moment for me – all I knew was that I am not letting him go :-)

(Contd… In the next part, he will not let me go:-))

Part - 2

I still remember my first experience with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The intensity of experience continued and life changed course. It was like the train that took a small shift on the tracks and life changed forever. There was no way I was getting back on the old one… I was not the one who liked rushing into things – however, things did start changing quite fast.

I remember one of the initial benefits I got was getting through my CAT exams into IIM-A. I experimented with the time gap that should be between the Kriya/ meditation and starting to write the exams. It is like giving your mind deep rest and it would take a little while to accelerate and zoom… The improved intuition and faster processing of information were benefits that just came along. I was very impressed that how a breathing technique can make so much of a difference.

Over a period of time, I got to meet Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Guruji) multiple times. We conducted many courses on campus with Bawa in the two years that I spent at IIM-A. It was towards the end of my stay, I had an experience of the most powerful life changing moments – a direct glimpse into the spiritual knowledge that is infinite.

The time was the placement week in 1998. Having specialized in Finance and Operations Management, I had naturally applied to many financial institutions. I had a good resume (grades and other achievements) – but I did not even get shortlisted for many of the jobs based out of Mumbai (the financial capital of India). The others where I got an interview were a disaster – not because I was not prepared. During these interviews, I experienced the delinking of the words coming out of my mouth and what I was thinking/ wanting to talk. I was sitting there, listening to myself speak some irrelevant things.

I was quite surprised at how this could happen. I am fully there, wanting to say something and something else coming out of my mouth and I am not able to stop that.

Then on the 3rd day, came this company – recruiting for the first time in India and only from IIM-A. Job location: USA – A side note, some openings in Bangalore. Something got into my mind – made 2 copies of the resume and posted it for both these openings. Finished one round of the US interview and before the second one, the Bangalore guys called me in and in 2 minutes flat, I had a job offer on hand. I was not keen on the role that was offered in Bangalore. The recruiters were more than happy to put me into consulting and the whole process lasted less than 10 minutes. All my other friends got into the same role in US and I was destined to move to Bangalore!

I moved to Bangalore in the summer of 1998 – did my Art of Living Teachers Training program and joined this new job. It did not take much time after that for me to realize what I was blessed with! Being in Bangalore comes with so many benefits – I am sure all of us know. This was the time when some days there would be less than 50 devotees for satsangs in ashram with Guruji and big satsangs would have 200. The walks, the drives, the flights – it was an amazing time.

I realized there was not much in my control – so there is no question of me not letting Him go. I was sure that He will not let me go anywhere… and it is better this way :-)

Part - 3

From the head to the heart

I could have never imagined that life can change so much. And, the best part of this journey has been that there were no turning points - it was a gentle curve under the loving guidance of Guruji. Having done my education from the premier institutes in India, I was a bit intellectual. I was not ready to accept the existence of the Divine. Yet, the irony was that I used to do all the chanting in the pujas at my home. I was looking for something more - link that could put all my understanding together. And, then I met the Divine itself.

I remember fighting against torrential rains and wading through knee-deep water on my way to the temple where Guruji was to come. That was my first meeting with Him and there was something that just pulled me towards Him. I can still feel the vibrations in my body when I first hugged Him that evening. After that there has been no looking back.

I continued on my intellectual quest of understanding the scriptures and meanings behind it for quite some time. By Guruji's grace I used to get good insights into my questions during my sadhana. Then one day, a realization dawned upon me - "You may know everything in this world - So what? You may know the entire secret of this creation - So what? Till there is no love, no devotion in your heart, till you do not share this joy and happiness with others - it is of no use!" That was the actual beginning of my journey - from the head to the heart.

Always be with me

On a flight to Ahmedabad, I was seated next to Guruji. I asked him if there was something that I need to do. He said, "Just be with me, always." It was like receiving a blessing in the form of a command. He is always there for all of us. By keeping our focus, it reduces the overtime He has to do.

A couple of months later, when He was leaving Bangalore, I asked Him when we would meet next. He paused for a moment and said, "Come with me to Paris and German ashram. You anyway have work in at your German office". I replied that I would surely come, but I did not know of any work at my office. He started talking about something else and in the afternoon, He again asked me, "So, Vinod, what do you say - the Paris and Germany plan is good, isn't it?" I was more puzzled than ever. My confusion increased when He again reminded me about it in the evening.

I found out if there was some work at Germany - there was none. But, I was I was mentally prepared for anything now. Two days before Guruji was to leave, I got a call from my manager that I had to go to Germany immediately - And I could be there with Guruji! When I told Guruji about this, He pretended as if He did not know anything - He's got the style!

And, I must admit, He has done this many times after that!!! - rather, I became aware of it only after this incident.

You are the best

What would you say when Guruji asks you, "Can you pack these bags? Do you know how to do it?" I said, "Yes, I can do it. I know it a little bit" - wanting to be a bit modest. And then, there was a stern voice, "What do you mean little bit. Say you know it the best. No one can do it better than you. Stop this, something, little bit..." It was a lesson well learnt. That single incident has put in so much of confidence and fearlessness in me. It is amazing how Guruji transforms you with each sentence He says.

Doing things 100%

I had this wish that He should scold me in a satsang - a crazy wish maybe. But, He is there to fulfill even that. One evening, He asked me to type out the knowledge sheet. I just typed out the content and did not bother to get the continuous flow into it. I thought it would be edited later. And, to my surprise, He asked me to read it in the satsang. I did - and got nicely reprimanded for doing such a shoddy job, for not being 100%.

It really takes a Master like Sri Sri to make sure that each and every one devotee is able to totally integrate the knowledge in his/ her life.

September 08, 2014

De-mystifying Mathematics (Part 6) – flexibility of the placeholder system in subtraction

De-mystifying Mathematics (Part 6) – flexibility of the placeholder system in subtraction
Now that we understand the placeholder system and its uses, let us ask an out of the box question – can I put a negative digit in a place?
Let us see what it would mean. For ease of representation, we can put the ‘–‘ sign on top on the number. Let us take an example of a number as  
What this number implies is that it has 1 hundreds, 2 tens and 2 ones-short. To convert this into a regular number, we can transfer 1 tens out of 2 and give it to the ones to cover for this shortage. If you go through the above mentioned steps, you will find that this number can be represented as 118!

You can try these examples – the answers are posted at the end of the post.

So, if you have got the above answers, you would notice that you can convert your subtractions into this representation and translate that into a final answer at the end. Let us take a subtraction example to see how this works:
The interesting thing to note is that instead of using a carryover method and converting 5 (tens) to 15 (tens) and subtracting 7 from it, you need to subtract 7 from 5 = (-2) or ‘2 short’ and then adjust from 10 that you get from hundreds making it (10-2 = 8). Effectively all your subtractions are between numbers up to 10!

This will need some practice. Once you figure it out, you will find that it speeds up your mental calculations. And needless to say, this does not impose you to start from the right or left. You can do each column independently and remove the negatives in any order!

Let us try one more before you go.

Answers to the earlier questions:

Enjoy till the next one – where we will merge negatives and multiplications :-) 

Read the next part here

June 25, 2014

De-mystifying Mathematics (Part 5) – using the flexibility of the placeholder system in multiplication

We usually follow one method for all multiplication problems we need to solve. I still remember struggling with understanding the zeros/ “+” sign that I had to put at the end of each new line. It was done as a matter of process without appreciating what we were doing.
If I have to redo this now, I would think of it differently. Ones multiplied by Ones would give me the Ones in the answer. Tens by Tens would give me the Hundreds in the answer and the Tens by Ones will give me the Tens.
The answer in this case is technically 2 Hundreds 17 Tens and 8 ones that translates into 378 in our accepted notation.
This can easily be expanded to larger numbers are illustrated below:
The beauty of this approach is that each single digit multiplication is treated as an independent calculation and the answer put in the right column.  All the smaller answers are then added in the last step to get the final number. You do not need to start from right or left – you just have to make sure all combinations are multiplied!

In fact, if you have built a multiplication module using electronic chips in computer programming, this is exactly what you would have done.

So, enjoy this while I come back with subtraction and handling negative numbers in the next post.