My 75th Birthday
On behalf of our family, I want to thank all of you for joining us on this happy occaision. I also want to thank Sunanda, Abhijit and Sujata for organizing this party and taking care of all the details.
This party was supposed to be a surprise for me. But, because of the transparency between Sunanda and me, I could see on her face that something was going on. So, finally she acknowledged and I happily joined the planning committee. Now, I get to play both roles, the host as well as the guest.
I started thinking about my 75th birthday. I thought, “What’s the big deal?” But then, 15 years ago, I had my 60th birthday party at the River City Brewery. Many of you probably remember that. It was again, Sunanda and Abhijit, who did the wonders. Ashwin and Rahul came all the way from Boston, which was a pleasant surprise for me. Then, I had my 70th birthday party at Abhijit’s home, this same beautiful place. That was also a great surprise and a lot of fun.
Then, I started thinking of my current age. 75 years is old age, when you look up from below, but, it is “just a kid’s age” when you look down from above. I thought of tweaking the number 75. May be it is 57 or even “17.5.” But, it did not feel right. Now, it feels fine and I am happy at 75.
So, what is one’s life-span any way? As a matter of fact, this exact question was asked by the great Gautama Buddha to his disciples, in one of his assmblies. Various answers came from his disciples: 60, 75, 80 or even 100 years. Buddha’s profound answer was that your real lifespan is just one conscious moment; rest is all memory of the past and imagination of the future. To me, that is absolutely true. In, that case, all of us are of the same age, the NOW age. We are all living and conscious of this precious moment. So, this Life is an even-playing field for all.
One other way to look at one’s age is to realize one’s connectedness in life. Sunanda and myself have been married happily for the past 51 years. We have three wonderful sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and six amazing grand children. So, if you add the ages of all family members, my immediate family-tree age comes to over 400 years. And also to that, if you add my whole family from India and all of my friends including all of you, then my Human age becomes several thousand years like the 4000 years old, giant Sequoia tree, still thriving in the Red Wood Forest of California.
In order to appreciate the common heritage of all life on earth, please read an article in this month’s National Geographic on “Genes Are Us. And Them.” Life on earth is about 1.6 billion years old and we carry genes that are common with so amny animals and even plants. We share genes with Baker’s yeast (18%), Wine grape (24%), Roundworm (38%), Honey bee (44%), Starlet sea anemone (54%), Chicken (65%), Zebrafish (73%), Dog and Horse (84%), Cow (85%), Mouse (88%) and Chimpanze (90%). The whole of Life-Tree is like the Sahasra-Purusha as described in the Purusha-Sukta of Rig Veda. All living things are connected to each other, by elements through our genes and also by the energy-awareness-being of that ageless Sahasra-Purusha.
The whole point of this is that with such a holistic perspective, all of us are ageless like the whole Humanity itself. Humanity and Life-at-large have continued in some form or the other, as far as and as long as we know. So, there is no need to fear the end of life, but to LIVE NOW fully with an appreciation of all the wonders of this amazing One Life. Not individual, but our Universal aspect continues. We have to learn to relate to that Universal Reality.
सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्म तज्जलानिति शान्त उपासीत ||३:१४:१||
Sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ Brahma Tajjalāniti śanta upāsīta.
All this is Brahman. Brahman is Tajjalāna (tat-ja-la-an) “That (tat) from which the phenomenal existence (experience) emerges (ja); That in which it merges (la); and That in which it breathes (an). One should meditate on it with Serenity. Chāndogyopaniṣad 3:14:1
Then, I thought of the rate of aging and human growth. Can you believe that our youngest grand daughter, Sona, has just doubled in age; that’s correct, from 1 year to 2 years! What a quantum jump it is. Her brain and especially her vocabulary have doubled or even tripled in size. Unfortunately, my vocabulary is slowly shrinking; that is just a part of aging well. In a way, it is good forget the negative and the hurtful. Why carry the burden of the painful past. We have to learn to stay positive, like the Buddha advised us to stay cheerful and joyous (Mudita), friendly (Maitri), comapassionate (Karuna) and equanimous (Upeksha).
William, our 3 year old grandson loves playing with his Toy-Story Big Buzz and he excells in show-and-tell on the Skype, whenever we chat with him from Shanghai, China. Elsa is talented in drawing and painting and she likes to get dressed up in a pretty pink costume like a beautiful princess. Amelia is studious. She is our Chinese and Music teacher. She is also good at playing soccer.
Now about Jayan; If you see some place that is way high-up and that is hard to reach, then be assured that Jayan has already climbed up there and he is ready to climb down without anybody’s help. He is very agile and good at rock-climbing and most sports.
Rohan is already behaving like a Harvard-trained orthopedic surgeon like his Dad and Ashwin kaka. Just last week, he tested the range of motion of Sunanda’s left shoulder joint, when he noticed that she had stopped using her shoulder sling. She had a major shoulder-repair surgery, performed by the best shoulder surgeon in town, our son, Rahul. Some times, I joke that so far as the excellence in orthopedic surgery is concerned, Rahul stands out as the best in the Western Hemisphere and Ashwin as the best in the Eastern Hemisphere of this good Earth.
All six of our grand children are growing fast and well. Whenever we interact with them, they amaze us by how much they know and understand. I was recently surprized and humbled. I was typing on our ipad, “pbskids. c o m” for Rohan to play. He politely pointed out, “Aba, you don’t have to type all that; you just press this “.com” key and there it was. He was right, of course. I was humbled and learnt something new. Remember, it is good for a 75 year-old grandpa to learn from his 6 year-old grandson. Learning never ends, at any age. Life is for learning. We feel very blessed to have six amazing grand children. They are the love and joy of our lives. They make us feel happy and young, every time we play with them. Life is good, even in these 70s!
We are truly proud of Abhijit, Ashwin and Rahul and we consider ourselves very fortunate to see them grow into highly professional, good-natured and compassionate gentlemen. We are also very proud of our loving daughters-in-law, Juliet and Sujata, who are also highly professional and caring of their families.
Come to think of it, I am not the only one who is growing old. All of us are getting old, day-by-day. Oliver Sacks recently published an essay in The New York Times, called, “The joy of old age (No kidding).” One of his line that struck me the most was, “One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, beauty.” He also said, “I am looking forward to my 80th birthday.” I am also looking forward to my 80th birthday. All of you are cordially invited on July 31st 2018, at this same beautiful place, Abhijit’s home.
Thinking of the beauty of Life, Nature and Mind, I would like to share with you a new poem that I wrote a few days ago. Hope you will enjoy it.
Shoreless Ocean with a Timeless Song
We were in the Florida Keys.
We went on a glass-bottom boat ride,
At the John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park.
It was a clear, Sunny day and
The visibility of water was sixty feet deep.
When we reached the Molasses Reef,
The Ocean had put on a new colorful face.
Sometimes, it looked turquoise blue,
Othertimes, it was brilliant blue-green.
The Ocean was teeming with marine life,
From giant staghorn and brain corals,
To large schools of colorful fish, including
Parrot fish, Yellow-tails, and Blue-angels.
All this wonderful life was happily contained
In One Beautiful Ocean.
Last week, I was playing Chess
With Rohan, our six year old grandson.
I was showing him some of the strategies
That Bobby Fischer wrote in his book on Chess.
Then, we played a real game.
Rohan asked me to play “easy to medium.”
At the end of the game,
He checkmated my poor cornered King,
with his powerful and triumphant Queen.
He was so excited and jubilant
With his first big win against Aba.
I was also proud of his sharp and focused mind.
All of these loving moments were happily contained
In the One Ocean of our Mind.
This morning, I was doing Pranayama & Dhyana.
I was aware of the changing postures of my body.
I witnessed my inhalation and exhalation
And the quiet pause in-between,
When I experienced that unique foundational stillness.
I was aware of quietly counting breaths,
And noticing any random thought that passed by.
During these quiet periods, I could clearly hear
The unique sound of inner silence, which is known as
The anahata Nada, Nada-Brahman or
The transcendental sound of Avalokiteshwara.
I was aware of my present state of energy-being,
With a sense of ease and at-homeness with my Self.
Nothing was lacking in this serene, holistic field, as if,
The whole existence was blissfully contained within It.
In this shoreless ocean of awareness is
A sweet, whispered song of an endless Spring.
That silent song is clearly present,
When the listener, listening and silence,
Are fully integrated in one holistic reality.
That is the shoreless ocean with a timeless song!