Friday, 25 November 2016

The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo

1.Title:  The Life Divine
2.  Author:  Sri Aurobindo
3.Publisher:  Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department
4. First Published:  1939-40
5.ISBN :  81-7058-188-5
6.Copyright:  @Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1970.
7.Pages:  1070
8.Price:  Rs140 only.
I must confess at the outset that it is a difficult book. A  friend had gifted it  in 1994 when I was posted in Moradabad  as District Magistrate. I tried to read it on several  different occasions , but  I had to give up after reading the first  few pages. It was too abstract and difficult .It was only in  July ,2016 that I  took it up as a challenge  .I could slowly read it over a period of about three months and completed its reading in October , 2016.I  can say with all humility that I  have understood it only partly , but whatever I could understand , was worth all the time I spent.
             The Buddha , as he stood on the threshold of Nirvana , of the Non-Being , his soul turned back  and took the vow  never to make  the irrevocable crossing  so long as  there was a single being  upon earth  undelivered from  the knot of the suffering , from the bondage of the ego.The real goal of life  is not Nirvana for an individual.
           God is Sat , Chit Anand .In other words , God is Existence,Consciousness-Force , Bliss.The Divine descends  through the creative medium of Supermind . On the other hand ,  human beings ascend from Matter , Life , Soul(Psyche), and mind and Supermind towards the Divine.This is the Reality and the Universe. This is explained by Book One.
        Book Two is about the Spiritual Evolution .Ego is separative and divisive. Vidya , the highest knowledge is the knowledge of One. Avidya is the knowledge of  the divided Many. Actually Vidya alone is Knowledge . Avidya is Ignorance. Knowledge in its totality , is  abiding self-knowledge  and world knowledge. Self-knowledge  leads to the most direct road to Nirvana.(Knowledge of God).
            Reality is Truth, Good , beauty.(Satyam , Shivam ,Sundaram).Whatever knowledge of self there would be , would be perfectly embodied in the will of the self , the will perfectly embodied  in the action of the self. This will result in  self-formulation and delight of self-expression .The complete self awareness  is what is meant by spiritual knowledge.
              A Divine life must be  first and foremost  an inner life. Those who turn the eye inward  see and know the Spirit  and develop into spiritual being. Inward turning  is the first step towards a true  universality .Often our universalization  on the surface  is a poor and limping endeavour. We think we are universal  in our altruism  but we do not see that it is a veil  for the imposition of our  individual self ,  our need for ego enlargement  upon others whom we  take up into our extended orbit. We have to have an inner sense  of the reality of oneness  to have a realization of spiritual unity. Such a life can govern the action of a divine life. An inner life awakened to a full consciousness  and to a full power of consciousness  will bear its inevitable fruit  in all who have it , self knowledge ,  the joy of a satisfied being , the happiness of a fulfilled nature. Then we have conscious communication of mind with mind , heart with heart, a unity of being , a spiritual conscious community.
             “The individual  does not owe his ultimate allegiance  to the State  .His allegiance must be to the Truth ,the Self , the Spirit , the Divine which is in him and in all .Not to subordinate  but to find and express  that truth of being in himself  and help the community  and humanity in its seeking  for its own truth  and fullness of being must be his real object of existence.”
              As a person moves towards  spiritual freedom ,  he moves also towards  spiritual oneness. He becomes preoccupied with  the good of all beings. A perfected community  also can exist only  by the perfection of  its individuals .For the awakened individual , the realization of his truth  of being  and his inner liberation  and perfection  must be his  primary seeking.
            Education and  intellectual training by itself  cannot change a man  because it leaves human ego unchanged .Man’s true way out is to  discover his soul  and its self force  and replace by it  both the mechanisation of mind , the ignorance and disorder  of life  nature. What evolutionary Nature presses for , is an awakening  to the knowledge of  self , the discovery of self , the manifestation of the self  and spirit within us  and the  realisation of its self knowledge , its self power. A life of (Gnostic) awakened  beings  carrying the evolution  to a higher  supramental  status  might fitly be characterised  a Divine Life. This is the soul true  supermanhood and the one real possibility  of a step forward  in evolutionary Nature.
                 I find  an identity of views between Sri Aurobindo and CG Jung.Both emphasize self knowledge.Self knowledge automatically leads  one towards  being a super mind and work  for  spiritual unity and good of community .Altruism at surface , without inner awakening and self knowledge , is  merely a display of ego .
             If you  muster the courage to read this  difficult  book , it will change your life.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Undiscovered Self by C.G.Jung

1. Title of the book: The Undiscovered Self
2. Author: C. G. Jung
3. Translator from German: R. F. C. Hull
4. First Published : 1958
5. Publisher: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd
6. Pages :  113
7. ISBN: 0-7100-1625-5(  c )
8. Rating:  *****
Normally  a person  possesses only a  limited degree of self-knowledge. State  tries to influence a person through mass movements while religion  does so  through  baptism en masse. But they do not touch the inner man  and cannot bring about any  real and fundamental change in  an individual . Nothing is achieved by  telling , persuading , admonishing , giving good advice. To  know a person , one  has to  relate to the individuality of the human being .
             We cannot ignore the existence of  the unconscious. Self-knowledge  requires not only conscious knowledge of self but also an understanding of  the unconscious self or psyche. Man’s progressively increasing concern  with consciousness  at the expense of the unconscious  results in many psychic disturbances and difficulties. In this way , man  slips into an unreal world  where the products of  his conscious activity  progressively replace reality. As our consciousness  has  broadened  and differentiated , our moral  nature has lagged behind .This is because we have neglected our unconscious , our soul. Self-knowledge  can be achieved only  by exploring our unconscious.Our unconscious  self is the source of our individuality.
              The salvation of the world consists in the salvation  of the individual  soul. Many aspects of of a neurotic’s life  are in the last analysis  , the direct effects of  the Zeitgeist. Such a condition cries out  for order and synthesis. “Resistance  to the organized mass  can be effected only by the man  who is as well organized  in his individuality  as the mass  itself”.
                 A deep-seated change  of inner man (metamorphosis)  can not come from environment .Religion , as a rule , only confirm  certain tendencies  and does  not change them.An individual  has to remould  his archetypal forms  into ideas  which are adequate to the challenge of the present. He has to give all attention to  his soul, his unconscious. It takes time to bring about psychic changes  that have any prospect of enduring .
                Preaching and persuading  are futile .But any one  who has  insight into  his own actions , his own unconscious ,  involuntarily  exercises an influence  on his environment .Its effect lasts only  so long as  it is not  disturbed by conscious intention. .
                         Our social goals commit the error  of overlooking  the psychology of the person  for whom they are intended .Otherwise they only promote his illusions.
                    This book was written in 1958 in the backdrop of communism  and clod war , but I find that it   affirms  the fundamental  truth that to know and strengthen our self , we have to look into our unconscious .Merely acquiring the knowledge of the external world and our conscious self through that knowledge is  highly inadequate.
               I strongly recommend you to read this outstanding book.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Food Wastage and its Impact on Environment

When we talk of food wastage , we have in mind  the wastage of cooked food .But  there is a wastage of food all along  the food  supply chain .There is a wastage at the stage of production , post -harvest , storage , processing , distribution and finally at consumption stage .At global level , there is a wastage of  1.3 billion tonnes of food every year. Total agricultural production  for food and non-food uses is about 6 billion tonnes.   FAO’ s “Food Wastage Footprint : Impact on Natural Resources “ is the first study to analyze the impacts of  global food wastage  from an environmental perspective, looking specifically  at its consequences  for the climate , water, land use and biodiversity.
                  FAO study report says  that 54% of  the world’s food wastage  occurs during  production , post-harvest  handling  and storage, remaining 46% of  wastage happens  in the  processing , distribution and consumption  stages. Thus farmers ,  traders , consumers and all citizens  are all stakeholders in the reduction of food wastage .The direct  economic losses due to food wastage are  of the order of $750 billion  every year .(This is the figure of 2007 , as reported by FAO).This is equivalent to the  GDP of Turkey or Switzerland .This is a low estimate since it mainly considers  producer prices  and not the value of end product .
                                       But economic costs are not the only reason why we should reduce food wastage. Environmentally , food wastage is responsible for  adding 3.3 billion tonnes  of green house gases.As such ,  food wastage ranks  as the third top  emitter after  USA and China.Food wastage contributes to the largest volume of material in landfills in the US and accounts for 21% of total waste system  in that country.Methane emissions  from landfills  represent the largest  source of GHG emissions from the entire waste sector , contributing around  700 million metric tonnes of  Carbondioxide equivalent per year .
In addition , there is water footprint related to  food wastage .Globally ,  consumption of water resources((both surface and ground ) of food wastage  is about 250 Km cube , which is equivalent to  3.6  times  consumption of the USA  for  the same period   .     Besides environmental  costs , there is a major moral  imperative related to food wastage .While 870 million people  go hungry every day , we cannot  allow one-third  of all the food we produce , to go waste .This is criminal .
But what is happening  to food wastage  over time?In US , food waste has increased by  about 50% since 1974 , and now accounts for  nearly 40% of  all food produced  in the US..Across the supply chain , the loss is  1400 kilocalories  per head per day.Food waste accounts for  a quarter of the fresh water  supply , and 300 million gallons  of oil a year .In the times of water shortage  and higher gas prices , that is a lot of wasted resources.One billion people could be fed for a year  with the amount  only the USA  wastes every year.This obviously indicates  the need for stepping up efforts to prevent food wastage.

How to prevent food wastage?
In developing countries , significant post-harvest losses are a key problem , occurring as a result of  financial and structural limitations in  harvesting techniques , storage  and transport infrastructure .Climatic conditions also add to  food spoilage.In India , we need to pay more attention  and devise policy measures to reduce food  losses at these stages .In middle and                                             
high-income regions , food wastage at  the retail and consumer level  accounts for 31-39% of the total wastage  while in low-income regions , it is 4-16% of the total wastage.FAO report also says that  the later a food product is  lost or wasted along the food chain ,  the greater the  environmental consequences , because  the environmental costs  incurred during  processing , storage and transport  and cooking must be added  to the initial  production costs.
               The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include target number  12.3   aims to halve  food loss and waste by 2030.”Think.Eat.Save” campaign of UNEP , launched in 2014, in partnership with  FAO  is a public awareness raising campaign  to mobilise  global action  against food wastage  and against its adverse impact  on  environment , economy and society. This  campaign gives assistance to  businesses ,  local authorities and governments  for designing  effective food wastage prevention programmes.
One way to prevent food wastage is   through reuse. Where reuse is not possible , recycling and recovery  should be pursued .Dumping food in landfills  is a bad idea because  food thrown in landfills  is a large producer of Methane , a particularly harmful  Green House Gas. Instead ,  recycling , anaerobic digestion, composting  and incineration  with energy recovery  have significant advantage over dumping. In order for city and local  governments  to efficiently and effectively  recycle food  waste, it is essential to take actions  at the household level  to separate out food waste from the rest of the waste. Recycling  schemes work out only  when waste is properly sorted at the source. Suitable regulations in this regard  need to be framed and judiciously used.
   Rather than dumping waste in landfills, the use of anaerobic  digestion to break it down into digestate is preferable to both composting and landfill disposal .It gives both  fertilizer and biogas .When digestion is not possible , home composting represents the next best option .At the individual level ,  home composting can divert  up to 150 Kgm of food waste  per household per year from local collection authorities. Incineration  of food waste (with energy released   being recovered) is the option of last resort  for preventing food waste  from ending up in landfills.
                    Food wastage prevention programme  has to be  implemented and monitored both  at the level of businesses and households. Businesses  - both those operating  within the food chain as  well as those operating outside the food chain (which have  a large food print , like Cafeterias, for example) can conduct food waste audits  to determine  how they can improve  their performance in controlling food wastage. Households can also conduct relatively  simpler food waste audits.
 Better awareness and sensitization  in and among all participants in food chain  is of great importance .For example ,  when farmers do not find a market for products , they leave them to rot in field .This needs to to be changed. Families cook larger quantity of food  than actually required .They should be more precise   how many persons will eat food on a particular day. Supermarkets sometimes downsize orders to producers  at the last minute , leaving the producers with  large quantities of unsalable products. Restaurants over stocking  food by over-estimating demand .Food-retailers displaying very large quantities of food , believing it to contribute to increased sale , is a wasteful practice and needs to be discontinued .When  food item starts to approach the end of its shelf life , it is discarded , resulting in wastage .In short, food-retailing has to be environmentally-minded.
                       In a world where we have large population of starving , poor  human beings , where we are suffering from the environmental  challenges of pollution , lack of cleanliness, global warming and climate change , taking all possible steps at individual household level as well as at the level of local bodies and the state and central government  is the need of the hour.-(This article was published in the October 15,2016 issue of the magazine Tree Take , Lucknow , India.)