Monday, December 31, 2012

New Recording: Vocals for Guru Nanak's "So kyon visrai meri maye"

I recorded the vocals for the shabad, "So kyon visrai meri maye." I am just singing to a drone ... just the starting point for a composition. Now I will start working on the music. Fun begins in the new year!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kabir on love with the Guru of truth

Says Kabeer, I have become mute, insane and deaf.

I am crippled - the Guru of truth has pierced me with His Arrow. ||193||

Kabir on who is "Raam"

ਕਬੀਰ ਰਾਮ ਕਹਨ ਮਹਿ ਭੇਦੁ ਹੈ ਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਏਕੁ ਬਿਚਾਰੁ ॥
Kabīr rām kahan mėh bẖeḏ hai ṯā mėh ek bicẖār.
Kabeer, it does make a difference, how you chant the Lord's Name, 'Raam'. This is something to consider.

ਸੋਈ ਰਾਮੁ ਸਭੈ ਕਹਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਕਉਤਕਹਾਰ ॥੧੯੦॥
So▫ī rām sabẖai kahėh so▫ī ka▫uṯakhār. ||190||
Everyone uses the same word for the son of Dasrath and the Wondrous Lord. ||190||

ਕਬੀਰ ਰਾਮੈ ਰਾਮ ਕਹੁ ਕਹਿਬੇ ਮਾਹਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ॥
Kabīr rāmai rām kaho kahibe māhi bibek.
Kabeer, use the word 'Raam', only to speak of the All-pervading Lord. You must make that distinction.

ਏਕੁ ਅਨੇਕਹਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਗਇਆ ਏਕ ਸਮਾਨਾ ਏਕ ॥੧੯੧॥
Ėk anekėh mil ga▫i▫ā ek samānā ek. ||191||
One 'Raam' is pervading everywhere, while the other is contained only in himself. ||191||

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Will Loneliness leave this New Year? Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca

It would be neat if with the New Year
By Jimmy Santiago Baca
for Miguel

It would be neat if with the New Year
I could leave my loneliness behind with the old year.
My leathery loneliness an old pair of work boots
my dog vigorously head-shakes back and forth in its jaws,
chews on for hours every day in my front yard—
rain, sun, snow, or wind
in bare feet, pondering my poem,
I’d look out my window and see that dirty pair of boots in the yard.

But my happiness depends so much on wearing those boots.

At the end of my day
while I’m in a chair listening to a Mexican corrido
I stare at my boots appreciating:
all the wrong roads we’ve taken, all the drug and whiskey houses
we’ve visited, and as the Mexican singer wails his pain,
I smile at my boots, understanding every note in his voice,
and strangers, when they see my boots rocking back and forth on my
keeping beat to the song, see how
my boots are scuffed, tooth-marked, worn-soled.

I keep wearing them because they fit so good
and I need them, especially when I love so hard,
where I go up those boulder strewn trails,
where flowers crack rocks in their defiant love for the light.

The dark hangs heavily over the eyes.- Gwendolyn Brooks


And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?

Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?

Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?

Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.

The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.

Let what will be, be. - Robert Frost


When the spent sun throws up its rays on cloud
And goes down burning into the gulf below,
No voice in nature is heard to cry aloud
At what has happened. Birds, at least must know
It is the change to darkness in the sky.
Murmuring something quiet in her breast,
One bird begins to close a faded eye;
Or overtaken too far from his nest,
Hurrying low above the grove, some waif
Swoops just in time to his remembered tree.
At most he thinks or twitters softly, 'Safe!
Now let the night be dark for all of me.
Let the night bee too dark for me to see
Into the future. Let what will be, be.'

On Acceptance

Acceptance means embracing what is, rather than wishing for what is not. When we accept difficult realities, we are able to discover whatever positive feelings and experiences may be possible in that situation. We find ourselves more at peace and able to experience life more deeply. Even so, acceptance must be guided by discernment – learning how to tell the difference between what we can change and what we cannot.

Acceptance of our faults and the faults of others helps us to be patient and to avoid hurtful kinds of criticism or judgment. By accepting faults we become more able to trust and celebrate strengths. Paradoxically, acceptance often leads to growth because it creates a safe space for insight and understanding.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guru Nanak on Yoga

Yoga is not in the patched coat,
Yoga is not in the walking stick.
Yoga is not in smearing the body with ashes.

Yoga is not in the earrings,
and not the shaven head.
Yoga is not the blowing of the horn.

By mere words,
Yoga is not attained.

Yoga is not in wandering
to the tombs of the dead;
Yoga is not in sitting in trances.

Yoga is not in wandering
through foreign lands;
Yoga is not in bathing
at sacred shrines of pilgrimage.

Meeting with the True Guru,
doubt is dispelled,
and the wandering mind
is restrained.

Nectar rains down,
celestial music resounds,
and deep within,
wisdom is obtained.

When the horn is blown
without being blown,
then you shall attain
the state of fearless dignity.

One who looks upon all with the same view,
and knows them to be one and the same
he alone is known as a Yogi.

Remaining dead while yet alive -

practice such a Yoga O Nanak!
Remaining unblemished in the midst of the filth 
of the world - this is the way to attain Yoga

Also read Guru Gobind Singh on Yoga:

Kabir's Interest on life's mortgage

Says Kabeer, my days have passed, and I have postponed my payments; the interest on my account continues to increase.

I have not meditated on the Lord and my account is still pending, and now, the moment of my death has come!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Music says what cannot be said

This is a beautiful article published about the response of musicians to the connecticut 
"We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."
Here is the article (Original in Wall Street Journal):
For many, this will not be the most jolly of Christmases. Our region has been hit hard in the last few months, first with the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, then with the heartbreak of the shootings in Newtown, Conn.

In the aftermath of both events, artists and institutions have found creative, meaningful ways to respond. One common element has been music, to help raise money, offer solace and express what cannot be articulated in words. Music is central to our culture—and looking back at previous tragedies, too, we're reminded how consistently true that has been throughout generations.
Getty Images
Paul McCartney, center, was among the high-wattage stars on hand to raise money at the '12-12-12' concert at Madison Square Garden.
Of course, the most visible single effort was the "12-12-12" benefit concert for Sandy relief that sold out Madison Square Garden by assembling an unparalleled collection of rock talent: Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones,Alicia Keys and others. It was a mega-watt production that had enough reach to raise significant sums: Already, $50 million has been raised and is being distributed by the Robin Hood Foundation.

While pop music is of its time, there were also concerts of timeless choral music. At Trinity Wall Street, the choir and orchestra presented Bach's Mass in B Minor, a masterpiece that connects to the highs and lows of human life and reaches beyond the moment. "The singing human voice can just touch the soul in a way that nothing else can," said conductor Julian Wachner. "There is intimacy and a directness to seeing 24 singers 10 feet away from you as opposed to at Madison Square Garden or on the radio."
In response to the shootings in Newtown, some artists have been sharing new work on social media sites. Musical theater composer Jason Robert Brown recorded himself singing the names of the deceased along with a composition he played at the piano, then posted it online. The piece was conceived, he said, when he read the list of names the day after the murders. The names made him think of the children in his 7-year-old daughter's class, and a tune came to him, so he went with it. "It was not all that conscious," he said. "In this case, it just sort of began and I felt responsible to keeping it going."
Ultimately, his song, and other efforts like it, explore a different realm of communication. "Art, be it visual or musical, speaks to something that is not expressible in words," Mr. Brown said. "Even poetry speaks to the words beyond the words. I still don't have any way to describe my emotions about it. All I could do was make music about it."

The proximity of the Newtown tragedy to the holidays has added an even more difficult layer of emotion. Conductor David Hayes, who leads the New York Choral Society and other groups, sensed the uncertainty of the audience when he led an annual Christmas carol sing-along in Philadelphia the day after the shootings. "Some people weren't quite prepared for it, and some people wanted to forget," he said, adding that he chose not to preface the concert with a spoken introduction. "I felt like the music would speak for itself. What could I say in words?"

Perhaps a year from now, there will be a new piece of music that serves as a memorial. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, composer John Adams was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to compose a work for the occasion. A year later, his "On the Transmigration of Souls" made its debut. Mr. Adams's haunting work, which blends the reading of names with orchestra and a choir of children and adults, earned the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for music.
"On the Transmigration of Souls" has been performed since, and it has assumed a broader significance, Mr. Hayes said: "It has had a chance to transcend its moment. It's about more than the specific event. It makes it universal."

That's what the great masterpieces in the classical repertory are—and have been for centuries. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, completed in 1824, was performed by the New York Philharmonic in response to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. (The orchestra chose to omit the "Ode to Joy.") In 1963, after the assassination of President Kennedy, the Philharmonic played Mahler's Symphony No. 2, completed in 1894, for a televised concert led by Leonard Bernstein.
If any musical figure could encapsulate a moment with a few words, it was Bernstein. Three days after Kennedy's death, the conductor addressed the United Jewish Appeal benefit at Madison Square Garden, delivering a speech that has been printed and quoted many times since. It bears printing and quoting again:
"We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."
Write to Pia Catton at
A version of this article appeared December 24, 2012, on page A19 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Song Is Worth 1,000 Words.

Yes, I am crazy - Guru Nanak

Some call me a ghost; 
some a demon.
Some have pity on me, 
poor human! 

I am fearful of the one.
for I fear no one else

I gave up my cleverness
for I am in his wisdom

I am bad, all else good. 
I am truly in love 

Yes, I am Crazy

- Guru Nanak

Other posts with the "Crazy" theme:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Don’t pay back evil with evil; stay on higher ground.

“Share the joy of those who are happy and the grief of those who mourn. Live with one another in peace. Don’t be snobs, show the spirit of fellowship to those who aren’t important in the world’s eyes. Don’t grow a big head. Don’t pay back evil with evil; stay on higher ground.”
— Romans 12:16-17

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


There is chaos,
then there is elegance.
A blurry photo,
and one focus on the subject's eyes.
A meandering river
flowing in to the sea.
Ugliness and beauty.
There is random noise,
Shiv, then tonal music.

Beth Howard's Pies of Love

Beth Howard pulled up to Newtown in her 24-foot-long camper, loaded with 240 apple pies.

She dished out pie to kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School, grieving parents and anyone who asked.

She describes herself as an attaché for grief, with her greatest gift being pie “made from love.” Most people simply call her “the pie lady.”

“Pie is meant to be shared,” she said. “It’s meant to be given away.”

As she spoke, there was a knock on her door. Women preparing a wake for one of the slain girls would like some pie for mourners.

“Could we give them three pies?” a helper asked.

“Of course,” Howard said. “Will you please put ribbons on them?”

Her 1,100-mile journey here began with a Facebook post last Friday. Like the rest of the nation, she was horrified by the massacre that killed 26 people at the school, including 20 children.

She told her Facebook friends that she was considering loading her RV up with baking supplies and heading to Newtown.

She lives in Eldon, Iowa, in the American Gothic home where artist Grant Wood got his inspiration for his most famous painting — the farmer couple with a pitchfork. She sells pies there from the Pitchfork Pie Stand.

Within two hours, she had $2,000 in donations.

“I felt like, how could I not go with that groundswell of support?” she said.

She hit the road at 8 a.m. Saturday. She picked up a friend in Chicago and cruised to another friend’s home in Flanders, New Jersey, where she “walked into this pie-baking mania.” More than 60 volunteers were peeling apples and making dough throughout the neighborhood. One family made 60 in a single day.

“They were making pies for Newtown because of this one Facebook comment,” she said. “That was a powerful thing.”

After several days of intense baking, she posted on her The World Needs More Pie website at 8:45 a.m. that the pies were done and en route: “We’re on our way to Newtown, Connecticut, now to hand out slices of pie, gift pies to funeral receptions and grieving families, and later in the week bake more pies with residents of the community.”

They went straight to the Newtown Youth Academy where therapy dogs helped children cope with the horror at their school. Parents were there too. One mother said she realized she hadn’t eaten since before the tragedy. She was glad to eat apple pie.

Another father explained his two sons knew one of the slain children.

“He was talking about how he was talking with his children about the grief, and they seemed to have had a very open conversation about it,” Howard said. “That was very encouraging to hear.”

“It’s a pretty positive energy over there, I have to say. There’s grief, but there’s also an amazing spirit here. It comes through very loud and clear,” she added.

An author, blogger and TV host, Howard knows about grief: Her husband, Marcus Iken, died three years ago of a ruptured aorta. She poured her grief into baking pies.

“Why pie? Answering that is about as easy as explaining why seemingly healthy Marcus dropped dead at the age of 43,” she wrote in her book, Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie. “If only the answer was as easy as ‘It was his time.’”

Relaxed in her pie-filled RV, she elaborated. “What I learned is people don’t like to talk about grief,” she said. “That’s a big reason why I’m here.”

“If I just keep slicing pie, that helps me. It’s not a cake that you make with a little mixer. This is something made by hand,” she said. “The pioneers made pie; the pilgrims made pie. It’s about endurance. It’s about nurturing. It’s about simplicity. It’s about nostalgia. And ultimately, for me, it’s about sharing and it’s about giving.”

Her love of pie goes back to her parents’ courtship. One night, her mom baked a banana crème pie. When the two finished, her father said, “Will you marry me?”

“Pie makes me happy,” she said. “It makes people happy. It makes me want to do something nice for somebody else.”

Another resident knocks on her door. She wanted a pie for her family and for a friend’s. A smile grew across her face when she was given two.

Howard smiled too.

“People smiled today,” she said. “And that alone was worth the drive.”

So far, she has raised $7,000 in donations. Any extra money — after gas and pie expenses — will be donated to a local grief counseling center.

Lunch lady puts job at risk for doing the right thing

Lunch Lady Fired for Giving Free Lunch to Low-Income Student

Arguably, next to recess, lunchtime is one part of the day that schoolchildren look forward to the most. It's a time to grab some grub and socialize with friends. Dianne Brame, the cafeteria manager at Hudson Elementary School in Webster Groves, Missouri, said she knows each one of her students by name. Brame took a special interest in one fourth grade boy. She noticed that he used to be on the free lunch program, but he had not been renewed to continue receiving free meals. Brame believed that was because his mother, who does not speak English, did not understand the paperwork for getting access to the meals.
So Brame stepped in and tried communicating with the family through the mail, but to no avail. Any kids who do not have current eligibility status are allowed to receive only three free regular meals. After that, the protocol is that these kids receive only a cheese sandwich and a carton of milk. Brame feared that the boy would be made fun of or bullied. So she gave him a free regular lunch for two months.
An employee reported Brame's actions to Chartwells, the food service company employed by the school that prepares the food served to the students. Chartwells then fired Brame. But the story does not end there.
When Chartwells found out the full details of the boy's story and why Brame took the actions that she did, they rehired her and said it was all just a misunderstanding. They released the following statement: "Chartwells appreciates the concern of this employee, and of all of our employees, who put the well being of school children first."
Brame told local TV station KSDK that she knew she had broken the rules, but she was trying to prevent the young man from being made fun of, and she would do it all over again, adding, "I don't think any kid should be hungry."
Hail to the lunch lady!
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Email response to Tanmit

My dear Tanmit,

It was lovely meeting and learning from you. You and Satinder form a beautiful couple and I hope wageguru will bless me with your friendship. I have been looking at your blog today and will be following occasionally. When I'm on a computer I will probably have a better time reading some of the older material.

You can find my music on and my research on raags on My relationship with Guru Nanak is not very broad. I just know a few shabads that I keep with me in my travels. There is no better way I found to have him be with me all the time.

Be well. With love and hope,


Monday, December 17, 2012

Another chilling story of brutal murder of young kids in December

Six year kids brutally murdered at the hands of a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut. We don't know what he wanted. We won't ever know what these kids would have become. As I was playing with my own 6 year old earlier today, I was reminded of the story of Guru Gobind Singh's youngest son: Fateh Singh. In the month of December he was murdered by the government of the time because he refused to convert to Islam. The course of large countries can be altered by the sentiments created by such events. A mass conversion of India never took place. And I am hoping that the course of gun violence will improve with the senseless act of horror in Connecticut last week. I hope.

Here is the story of the kid martyrs:

The youngest sons of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji, Sahibzada Baba Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Baba Fateh Singh Ji were born at Anandpur Sahib. Thier grandmother Mata Gujjar Kaur Ji was especially close to the young Sahibzadas. When Guru Ji's family evacuated from Anandpur Sahib, Mata Ji took charge of both of them as the column moved out of the city. 
While crossing on horseback the rivulet Sirsa, then in spate, the three were separated from Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji. Gangu, who had worked for the Guru's family, also succeeded in crossing the stream. He escorted them to his own house in the village of Kheri, now known as Saheri, near Morinda in presentday Ropar district. While unsaddling the horse he saw that there was some cash in the saddlebag. This tempted him to treachery. He not only stole the saddlebag during the night, but also planned to betray the fugitives to the government in hope of a reward.
On the morning of 7 December 1705, the day of the fateful battle of Chamkaur, Baba Zorawar Singh ji, along with Baba Fateh Singh ji and their grandmother, was taken into custody by Jani Khan and Mani Khan Ranghar, the officials at Morinda. They were despatched on the following day to Sirhind where they were consigned to the Cold Tower (Thanda Burj) of the Fort.
On 9 December 1705, Baba Zorawar Singh ji and Baba Fateh Singh ji were produced before the faujdaar, Nawab Wazir Khan, who had just returned from Chamkaur with his feudal ally, Nawab Sher Muhammad Khan of Malerkotla. Wazir Khan tried to lure the Sahibzadas to embrace Islam with promises of riches and honours, but they spurned the suggestion. He then threatened them with death, but they remained undaunted. Death sentence was finally pronounced. Upon Sher Muhammad Khan's intercession for the innocent children to be spared their lives, they were given some more time to ponder over the suggestion to convert. Sahibzada Zorawar Singh ji and his brother spent another two days of severe winter in their old grandmother's lap in the Cold Tower.
Still adamant, they were, on 11 December 1705, ordered to be sealed alive in a wall. As the masonry around their tender bodies reached chest high, it crumbled. The Sahibzadas were sent to the Cold Tower again for the night. The next day, 12 December 1705, the alternative of conversion being again turned down, Baba Zorawar Singh ji and Baba Fateh Singh ji were martyred by sealing alive in a wall. The aged Mata Gujari Kaur ji, who had all along been kept in the Cold Tower, only a little distance away, breathed her last as the news reached her ears. Mata Gujari ji through upbringing of her grandsons played such an important role in Sikhism that as Sikhs, we can owe our existence to her. It was due to her teachings that the young Babas did not bulge from their Dharma and attained martyrdom, thus continuing and emphasizing the institute of martyrdom in Sikhism.
Seth Todar Mall, a wealthy merchant of Sirhind, performed the cremation of the three dead bodies the following day. The site of the fateful happenings, since christened Fatehgarh Sahib, close to the old town of Sirhind, is now marked by four Sikh shrines. A religious fair is held here from 25 to 28 December every year to honour the memory of the martyrs. 

Our deepest fear - a poem by Marianne Williamson

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually who are we not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people
won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And when we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

- Marianne Williamson

Imagine: Man Created God

July 21, 2011

Imagine: Man created God

Humans' need for attachment and authority figures is behind religion, some scientists argue

By Anderson Thompson and Clare Aukofer, Los Angeles Times - July 21, 2011

Before John Lennon imagined "living life in peace," he conjured "no heaven … / no hell below us …/ and no religion, too."

No religion: What was Lennon summoning? For starters, a world without "divine" messengers, such as Osama bin Laden, sparking violence. A world where mistakes, like the avoidable loss of life in Hurricane Katrina, would be rectified rather than chalked up to "God’s will." Where politicians would no longer compete to prove who believes more strongly in the irrational and untenable. Where critical thinking is an ideal. In short, a world that makes sense.

In recent years, scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion’s "DNA." They have produced robust theories, backed by empirical evidence (including "imaging" studies of the brain at work), that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to "no heaven … no hell … and no religion too."

Like our physiological DNA, the psychological mechanisms behind faith evolved over the eons through natural selection. They helped our ancestors work effectively in small groups and survive and reproduce, traits developed long before recorded history, from foundations deep in our mammalian, primate and African hunter-gatherer past.

For example, we are born with a powerful need for attachment, identified as long ago as the 1940s by psychiatrist John Bowlby and expanded on by psychologist Mary Ainsworth. Individual survival was enhanced by protectors, beginning with our mothers. Attachment is reinforced physiologically through brain chemistry, and we evolved and retain neural networks completely dedicated to it. We easily expand that inborn need for protectors to authority figures of any sort, including religious leaders and, more saliently, gods. God becomes a super parent, able to protect us and care for us, even when our more corporeal support systems disappear, through death or distance.

Scientists have so far identified about 20 hardwired, evolved "adaptations" as the building blocks of religion. Like attachment, they are mechanisms that underlie human interactions: Brain-imaging studies at the National Institutes of Health showed that when test subjects were read statements about religion and asked to agree or disagree, the same brain networks that process human social behaviour — our ability to negotiate relationships with others — were engaged.

Among the psychological adaptations related to religion are our need for reciprocity, our tendency to attribute unknown events to human agency, our capacity for romantic love, our fierce "out-group" hatreds and just as fierce loyalties to the in-groups of kin and allies. Religion hijacks these traits. The rivalry between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, for example, or the doctrinal battles between Protestant and Catholic reflect our "groupish" tendencies.

In addition to these adaptations, humans have developed the remarkable ability to think about what goes on in other people’s minds and create and rehearse complex interactions with an unseen other. In our minds we can de-couple cognition from time, place and circumstance. We consider what someone else might do in our place; we project future scenarios; we replay past events. It’s an easy jump to, say, conversing with the dead or to conjuring gods and praying to them.

Morality, which some see as imposed by gods or religion on savage humans, science sees as yet another adaptive strategy handed down to us by natural selection.

Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom notes that "it is often beneficial for humans to work together … which means it would have been adaptive to evaluate the niceness and nastiness of other individuals." In groundbreaking research, he and his team found that infants in their first year of life demonstrate aspects of an innate sense of right and wrong, good and bad, even fair and unfair. When shown a puppet climbing a mountain, either helped or hindered by a second puppet, the babies oriented toward the helpful puppet. They were able to make an evaluative social judgment, in a sense a moral response.

Michael Tomasello, a developmental psychologist who co-directs the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has also done work related to morality and very young children. He and his colleagues have produced a wealth of research that demonstrates children’s capacities for altruism. He argues that we are born altruists who then have to learn strategic self-interest.

Beyond psychological adaptations and mechanisms, scientists have discovered neurological explanations for what many interpret as evidence of divine existence. Canadian psychologist Michael Persinger, who developed what he calls a "god helmet" that blocks sight and sound but stimulates the brain’s temporal lobe, notes that many of his helmeted research subjects reported feeling the presence of "another." Depending on their personal and cultural history, they then interpreted the sensed presence as either a supernatural or religious figure.

It is conceivable that St. Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was, in reality, a seizure caused by temporal-lobe epilepsy.

The better we understand human psychology and neurology, the more we will uncover the underpinnings of religion. Some of them, like the attachment system, push us toward a belief in gods and make departing from it extraordinarily difficult. But it is possible.

We can be better as a species if we recognize religion as a man-made construct. We owe it to ourselves to at least consider the real roots of religious belief, so we can deal with life as it is, taking advantage of perhaps our mind’s greatest adaptation: our ability to use reason.

Imagine that.

J. Anderson Thomson is a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia. Clare Aukofer is a medical writer. They are the authors of Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Think less, sing more - (inspired by @fayhart101)

Think less, sing more!

Fay Hart (@fayhart101)
The important thing is not to think much, but to love much and so, do that which best stirs you to love. ~ St Teresa of Avila

We are the song and the singers ... @Loveszar

We are the phrase, 
the rhyme, the song, 
and we are the singers.  
How fortunate of us!

Loveszar (@Loveszar)
"It is easy to believe we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean."
― Jon J. Muth

Monday, December 10, 2012

I loved seeing Guru Nanak in action in Vancouver

Sikh Group “Vancouver Sangat” Feeds The Homeless In Downtown Vancouver

VANCOUVER – Sikh community charity group “Vancouver Sangat” started food service program for the needy in downtown Vancouver last weekend.  After several years of successfully feeding thousands in need, Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen (GNFK) brought a great deal of respect for the community and much appreciation from those it served.  The food was prepared at the New West Gurdwara and the program grew from just a handful of volunteers and limited resources to one that is greeted with a line-up of hungry people waiting for food every Sunday at Main and Hastings.  The program set an example and encouraged others to get involved.
Last weekend the Sangat at Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver started a food serve program that will provide the same warm and healthy food on Saturdays at the same downtown location.  Over 500 people were fed in the cold and pouring rain.  Much appreciation was expressed.  The volunteers, some of whom were pioneers with GNFK, were thanked for coming out in the bad weather.  One individual even expressed that this was his first meal of the day and that too at 2 pm.
Initially, this program will run every two weeks (on the first and middle weekend of each month).  The food prep will commence at 9 am Saturdays at the Vancouver Gurdwara and will be served downtown at 1:30 on Hastings and Main St..  This is a collective community effort and everyone is welcomed to help and encouraged to bring items that are easy to serve (small individual juice containers, sandwiches, wraps, nutritional bars, etc.).  The next food serve date is December 15.

A sailing trip to Helmund, an Afghani restaurant in Cambridge

In last weeks trip to Boston I visited an Afghani restaurant called Helmund on the recommendation of a new friend I met on the plane: Billie Sue, a flight attendant.

I had two colleagues with me who both work with me at our biotech company. I was reminded by a person who is retiring in the next few years that the purpose of life is to sing. His song is to sail. 

He told me retiring is not being inactive, it's about being worry free. I like that definition because that's how I define retirement. He wants to sail after he retires to do research on other sailors. He wants to write a book on the history of American Navy. He told me how amazing it was that those guys could sail and navigate without all the modern equipment that exists today. 

He sang with humility, gratitude and amazement. His song was sweet. There is so much to learn in this world. There are so many miles to sail. There is so much to sing about.   

And, by the way, the food was delicious. None of us had eaten Afghani food before and we all loved it. At the end, our plates were licked clean. I really liked their bread too -- freshly baked in front of us in a wood burning oven.  Sitting in front of the oven was warm. Added to the warmth of the conversation.  

Me, outside the restaurant

Wanting Sumptuous Heavens - A poem by Robert Bly

This poem by Robert Bly reminds me of Guru Nanak's advice to sing, to surrender to the will.  Instead we often choose to grumble.  I often look for antonyms for "singing", and one is "to grumble. "  Here is a poem by Robert Bly that compares us to "lesser" animals.  These lesser animals are much more content than us superiors. 


Wanting Sumptuous Heavens - A poem by Robert Bly

No one grumbles among the oyster clans,
And lobsters play their bone guitars all summer.
Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want
Heaven to be, and God to come, again.
There is no end to our grumbling; we want
Comfortable earth and sumptuous Heaven.
But the heron standing on one leg in the bog
Drinks his dark rum all day, and is content.

“Wanting Sumptuous Heavens”" from The New Yorker by Robert Bly, published by Conde Nast in Nov 5, 2007. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An email to Billy Sue

Dear Billie Sue:

It was a pleasure meeting you in the plane last week. I went to this afghani restaurant. I loved it and so did my colleagues. I wrote about it in my blog. You can also find links to my music and artist page on this blog:

Keep singing and love to you and your dog!


Howler Monkeys show that humans probably had sex with with neanderthals

The following story indicates that humans must have had sex with neanderthals: 

A bundle of recent genetic studies have suggested that modern humans had sex with Neanderthals thousands of years ago when the two populations roamed the planet alongside each other. However, the bones left behind by the two species don't bear any obvious traces of interbreeding and a new study of monkeys in Mexico shows why we shouldn't expect them to.

Researchers examined blood samples, hair samples and measurements collected from mantled howler monkeys and black howler monkeys that were live-captured and released in Mexico and Guatemala between 1998 and 2008. The two monkey species splintered off from a common ancestor about 3 million years ago and today they live in mostly separate habitats, except for a "hybrid zone" in the state of Tabasco in southeastern Mexico, where they coexist and interbreed.

Through an analysis of genetic markers, from both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, the researchers identified 128 hybrid individuals that were likely the product of several generations of interbreeding. But these hybrids shared most of their genome with either one of the two species and were physically indistinguishable from the pure individuals of that species, the team found.

"The implications of these results are that physical features are not always reliable for identifying individuals of hybrid ancestry," Liliana Cortés-Ortiz, an evolutionary biologist and primatologist with the University of Michigan, said in a statement. "Therefore, it is possible that hybridization has been underestimated in the human fossil record."

The work on howler monkeys was part of the doctoral dissertation of Mary Kelaita, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Kelaita added that the study "suggests that the lack of strong evidence for hybridization in the fossil record does not negate the role it could have played in shaping early human lineage diversity."

When scientists finally finished sequencing the Neanderthal genome in 2010, they revealed that 1 percent and 4 percent of some modern humans' DNA came from the stocky hominids. This suggested that humans had sex with Neanderthals, picking up some genes, and possibly even an immunity boost, from Neanderthals before the population disappeared about 30,000 years ago. But not all scientists are convinced that the genetic evidence alone proves ancient interbreeding and a study last year found that even if humans and Neanderthals did have sex, those encounters would have been rarely successful in producing offspring.

The scientists of the new study say more work is needed to study interbreeding and the factors governing the expression of physical characteristics in hybrid individuals.
The research was detailed online today (Dec. 7) in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Listening to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's Yadaan Vichhre Sajjan Diyan Aiyan (Lyrics included)

The memories of my love have come
there is a rainstorm in my eyes
Let separations drown in this world
there is a rainstorm in my eyes

In Punjabi:

Yadaan Vichhade Sajjan Diyaan Aaiyaan
Akhiyaan chon Mee Vaseyaaa
Shaala dub jaan jag to judaiyaan

Akhiyaan chon Mee Vaseyaaa

Dukh jes gal dal ae yaad khus chaliyeh
rus jaan vaaleya a yaadi rus chaliyeh
Savaan aakhiri vee tere naal laiyaan

Kithey jaa ke luk gayon lekhaan deyaan Tareyaa
de gayon judiyan sanu jeendi jaande mareya
ro ro sadraan den duhaiyaan

Mahi de pyaaran walaa chetaa jadon aanda ae
gham deyan badalaan to dil ghabranda ae
gal pae gaiyaan ne gham diyaan khaiyaan

Translating and Listening to Nusrat's "Aiwain Bol Na Banere Utte Kaavan"

Translation and Video of a sufi song by Nusrat: 
Aiwain Bol Na Banere Utte Kaavaan

(For other translations see:

Don't crow on my window
My love is not going to come
For a long time this street is empty
My love is not going to come

You are giving hope to my heart
Why are you speaking these lies
Be quiet I am trying to explain
My love is not going to come

Don't speak on my window
I beg you fly away please
Don't make these false prayers

In thoughts my heart trembles
My love will not return home
If he were to come then I would know (?)

Aiwain Bol Na Banere Utte Kaavaan
Sajjana Nahi Aunaa
Paiyaan Kadon diyaan Sunjiyaan Raavaan
Sajjana Nahi Aunaa

Dil mere noo vad bhadkaaven
Kaanu aiwain boliyan Paaven
Chup kar jaa main tainu samjhaavaan

Naa toon bolee bol banere
Ud Jaa Tarley paavan tere
Naa Joothiyaan de sadaavaan

Sochan de wich dil ghabraya
Sadik mud vataneen nahi aayaa
Auna hove te dasse sarnaavan

Raag: Bhatiyar
Thaat: Marwa
Time: Dawn

Notes (Swaras): Komal Rishabh, both Shuddha and Tivra Madhyam. All other notes are Shuddha.
Raag Bhatiyar is a morning Raaga. An offshoot of Thaat Marwa, Raag Bhatiyar has a strong emotional undercurrent – something you might not expect from a morning melody. The Raaga begins with all Shuddha notes; Sa-Ma-Pa-Dha-Ni.. all pure just like the morning dew. It almost lulls you back into that tasteful sleep you just woke up from. You sit back enjoying a cup of hot tea with the newpaper lying on the table in your front and that is when Bhatiyar takes a wild turn while on Nishad, skipping the higher Shadja and falling upon Komal Rishibh revealing a deep sorrow that has always been lingering beneath the seemingly serene surface of the pure notes of the Raaga. In the audio clip, focus on the connection between Shuddh Nishad and Komal Rishabh while Mashkoor Ali Khan sings the words ‘…Murata Murari’.

But after that unexpcted emotional burst, just when you begin to experience melancholy, Raag Bhatiyar returns to its jovial mood with sequences like (Sa) Dha-Ni-Pa, Pa-Ma-Pa, Ga-Pa-Ga-Re-Sa and brings the smile back on your face.

Raag Bhatiyar is not an easy Raaga to perform what with its intricate and complex tactics. Only an acclaimed artiste can unfold this Raaga for your experience and only an acclaimed artiste can reveal the essence of this Raaga. Raag Bhatiyar is immensely pleasing and peaceful to ears. Raag Bhatiyar possesses healing qualities; it can effectively console an aggrieved mind and calm your soul.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Translating And Listening to Nusrat's Sochan Doongian

Translation of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Song:

You left me in deep thoughts
and didn't even tell me my fault 
You left me sick in separation

and didn't even tell me my fault 

It was your heart that was wavering
and you left me on our road alone
You left me for people to laugh
and didn't even tell me my fault 

On the pillar of very high  hopes  
you made some house of love
Then you broke all your promises
and didn't even tell me my fault 

Punjabi Version:

Sochaan doongiyaan de vas mahi paageyaa
key das ke kasoor na geyaa
rog jind nu judaiyaan vaale laageyaa
key das ke kasoor na geyaa

Ena das jaan noo maani peya doleyaa
Kedi gallon mainu raavan vichon roleyaa
haasa mainu saare jag da banageyaa
key das ke kasoor na geyaa

laare la ke sanu door jaan waleyaa
changa ghar muhabbatan daa paleyaa
vaade keete saare sajjan bhulaageyaa
key das ke kasoor na geyaa