Tag Archives: Silence

Giving Back, Indian Education, and Artificial Intelligence

Of late, I have been reflecting on the meaning of life and trying to come to grips with the loss of my soulmate, Tavinder.  Over Christmas, I went on a four-day silence and meditation retreat in Southern India and then visited the ancient holy city of Varanasi.  Silence and meditation are amazing — and cleansing — and I recommend that you try it sometime.  There are retreats all over the world, offered by modern-day gurus who have repackaged ancient wisdom, and the messages and techniques are more or less the same.

I couldn’t, however, find the answers to my deepest questions, even after spending hours in the company of the Dalai Lama, visiting the holiest of religious sites, and reading several sacred texts.  All I could conclude was that there is more to life than we understand and that the best way to live it is by helping others and giving back to the world.  Life is unpredictable, and everything changes before you know it.  Money may be necessary for survival, but too much of it becomes a burden and leads to greed and unhappiness.  What you will be remembered for is not what you accumulated while you were alive, but what you gave to others.

This is why I made the decision to donate to India the most valuable intellectual asset I have, something I spent a decade creating: the curriculum that I teach to students at Carnegie Mellon University and the workshops that I charge leading companies six-figure sums for.  It is the most advanced course on exponential technologies, industry disruptions, innovation methods, and technology ethics in the world.  At CMU’s engineering school, which is the best in the U.S., the class is amongst the highest ranked.  And what I am proudest of is that my son Tarun, who teaches with me, is rated higher than most of the entire university’s tenured faculty — and me!  We have long waiting lists of students wanting to be admitted and get frequent emails from former students thanking us for changing their lives by teaching them to think bigger and focus on the opportunities to better humankind.

When I met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last October and presented him with a grand plan for curing cancer and building a $200-billion medical industry, he was very supportive and asked his Principal Scientific Adviser, K. Vijay Raghavan, to make it happen.  What he wanted from me were more ideas on boosting the Indian economy to meet his target of an annual GDP of $5 trillion.  I shared some possibilities with him, but began to realize that it will take more than technology.  The key is for India to improve its education system and unleash the ability of its entrepreneurs to solve the grand challenges of humanity.  This is exactly what I teach, how to build trillion-dollar industries; and it’s what I am offering India — because of Modi’s request.

While I was in Varanasi, I was delighted to receive a message over Twitter from India’s greatest mover and shaker, Amitabh Kant, CEO of the powerful think tank and government planning commission NITI Aayog.  He asked me to meet him and address a who’s who of Indian policy, which I did.  I was amazed at how open-minded and grounded Amitabh and his team were.  I have advised several heads of state and government innovation initiatives, including in the U.S., Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Hong Kong, and Mexico, and none is even close to matching this group’s vision and impact.

I offered Amitabh the curriculum, and he was very excited about accepting it.  But I felt like the dog chasing the bus: I had caught it, but now what did I do with it?  How do you convert a graduate engineering class and executive education program into something that can be taught to hundreds of thousands of students every year in a country in which the basic education system is weak?

This is going to be my next challenge.  I am not going to be teaching at CMU beyond this semester.  I plan to work instead with a who’s who of Indian education, including the chairman of its engineering education regulatory body, Anil Sahasrabudhe, to create a curriculum that helps India leap ahead of the rest of the world.  Instead of Indian students’ having to travel abroad for advanced education, my goal is to create something that students from all over the world, including the U.S. and Europe, flock to India for.  India’s engineering education may be stuck in the past, but it is not that much behind the West: all universities have dated curricula and ancient teaching methods.  And none are communicating adequately on the convergences of technologies and their disruptive capabilities.

Is my goal possible?  Frankly, I don’t know, because everything is hard in India, and there are always unnecessary obstacles.  But I will give it my best.

I wrote my first article after many months, at the prodding of Malini Goyal of The Economic Times.  She kept asking me to comment about the risks of A.I. and superintelligence.  I told her that it was complete nonsense, to think more deeply and look at her own spiritual values.  The premise that you can upload or recreate human consciousness assumes that there is no such thing as a soul.  Yes, A.I. may seem intelligent, but it is in no way “intelligent” as humans are and will never have human values or emotion…. And yes, my views are evolving as I think more deeply about life, the sprit, and humanity.

This was published with permission from the author.

Five Reasons to do Yoga this Holiday Season

Holidays can be a busy time to say the least; in spite of the joy surrounding it, you are pulled in different directions physically, emotionally and financially. For me, every year when the holidays come around, I resort to yoga. Yoga has been a constant thread in my life, one that I seek especially when my cup is overflowing.

The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yujir which means ‘to yoke.’ The Bhagavad Gita says, “Yoga is said to be equanimity” (2.48); “Yoga is skill in action” (2.50). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali say, “Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind.” An asana practice helps us achieve the higher goal of yoga. For me, asanas create equanimity which furthers my intention and understanding of utilizing that skill in all action that Lord Krishna is talking about. Asanas help calm the mind to take on the world a little better everyday. So if you are overwhelmed with love, joy, stress, foodlists, shopping lists or just too much on your plate, consider yoga this holiday season. 

Here are five reasons to give yoga a chance.

Stillness

What I crave most is silence when I’m consistently going to holiday parties and hosting guests. Carving out a few minutes for silence can really reset the body and mind’s rhythm and re-center me so I can face life’s busy-ness again.

Poses I love: Balasana ( Child’s pose), Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), Shavasana(Corpse Pose), Surya Bhedana (Sun-Piercing Breath) and Chandra Bhedana (Moon-Piercing Breath).

Detox

Who does not need a mind and body detox after the holidays? Inversion poses are really helpful for blood circulation and thus promoting detoxification and moving fluid to the lymph nodes.

Poses I love: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downdog), Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One leg dog), Salamba Sirsasana(Headstand), Dolphin pose

Digestion

All that turkey and stuffing along with endless gingerbread men keeping you bloated all holiday season? I find that my digestion is sluggish, especially paired with the colder temperatures. A few simple poses that aid digestion can go a long way. 

Poses I love: Bharadvajasana (Seated twist), Pavanmuktasana (Wind Relieving Pose), Salabhasana (Locust) and Agni Sara.

Gratitude

The economic commercialization of the holidays makes us forget the true reason for their existence. Yoga makes me stop to give thanks for the opportunity to have and love family, community and God in my life. Giving thanks makes the chaos of my life worthwhile.

Poses I love: Apanasana (Knees to chest), Malasana( Yogic Squat), Ustarasana (Camel Pose), Balasana (Child’s pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

Burning Calories

Okay let’s get real, everyone puts on those extra pounds during the holidays and everyone is seeking to burn calories. No time to go to gym? Yes yoga can help burn calories too! A vinyasa flow including the following poses can help tone and strengthen.

Poses I love: Plank pose, Utkanasana (Chair pose), Surya Namskar (Sun Salutation), Chattaranga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose), Navasana (Boat pose), and Agni Sara.

Preeti Hay has been a lifelong student of yoga. She has written for Yoga International, Yogi Times, India Currents and Khabar Magazine among others.