Sebastian Kraves: The era of personal DNA testing is here-2

This ability to make copies of DNA, as simple as it sounds, has transformed our world. Scientists use it every day to detect and address disease, to create innovative medicines, to modify foods, to assess whether our food is safe to eat or whether it’s contaminated with deadly bacteria. Even judges use the output of these machines in court to decide whether someone is innocent or guilty based on DNA evidence. The inventor of this DNA-copying technique was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993. But for 30 years, the power of genetic analysis has been confined to the ivory tower, or bigwig PhD scientist work. Well, several companies around the world are working on making this same technology accessible to everyday people like the pig farmer, like you.

I cofounded one of these companies. Three years ago, together with a fellow biologist and friend of mine, Zeke Alvarez Saavedra, we decided to make personal DNA machines that anyone could use. Our goal was to bring DNA science to more people in new places. We started working in our basements. We had a simple question: What could the world look like if everyone could analyze DNA? We were curious, as curious as you would have been if I had shown you this picture in 1980.

You would have thought, “Wow! I can now call my Aunt Glenda from the car and wish her a happy birthday. I can call anyone, anytime. This is the future!” Little did you know, you would tap on that phone to make dinner reservations for you and Aunt Glenda to celebrate together. With another tap, you’d be ordering her gift. And yet one more tap, and you’d be “liking” Auntie Glenda on Facebook. And all of this, while sitting on the toilet.

It is notoriously hard to predict where new technology might take us. And the same is true for personal DNA technology today.

For example, I could never have imagined that a truffle farmer, of all people, would use personal DNA machines. Dr. Paul Thomas grows truffles for a living. We see him pictured here, holding the first UK-cultivated truffle in his hands, on one of his farms. Truffles are this delicacy that stems from a fungus growing on the roots of living trees. And it’s a rare fungus. Some species may fetch 3,000, 7,000, or more dollars per kilogram. I learned from Paul that the stakes for a truffle farmer can be really high. When he sources new truffles to grow on his farms, he’s exposed to the threat of knockoffs — truffles that look and feel like the real thing, but they’re of lower quality. But even to a trained eye like Paul’s, even when looked at under a microscope, these truffles can pass for authentic. So in order to grow the highest quality truffles, the ones that chefs all over the world will fight over, Paul has to use DNA analysis. Isn’t that mind-blowing? I bet you will never look at that black truffle risotto again without thinking of its genes.

But personal DNA machines can also save human lives. Professor Ian Goodfellow is a virologist at the University of Cambridge. Last year he traveled to Sierra Leone. When the Ebola outbreak broke out in Western Africa, he quickly realized that doctors there lacked the basic tools to detect and combat disease. Results could take up to a week to come back — that’s way too long for the patients and the families who are suffering. Ian decided to move his lab into Makeni, Sierra Leone. Here we see Ian Goodfellow moving over 10 tons of equipment into a pop-up tent that he would equip to detect and diagnose the virus and sequence it within 24 hours. But here’s a surprise: the same equipment that Ian could use at his lab in the UK to sequence and diagnose Ebola, just wouldn’t work under these conditions. We’re talking 35 Celsius heat and over 90 percent humidity here. But instead, Ian could use personal DNA machines small enough to be placed in front of the air-conditioning unit to keep sequencing the virus and keep saving lives.

Om Namah Shivay

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The S’rîmad Devî Bhâgawatam-The First Book-Chapter 4-12

THE FIRST BOOK

Chapter IV

On the excellency of the Devî

51-54. I am always subservient to that Maha S’akti; (under Her command) I am engaged in Tapasyâ for a long time; (By Her command) some time I enjoy with Lakshmî; some time I fight battles, terrible to all the Lokas, with the Dânavas, involving great bodily troubles. O Knower of Dharma! It was before Your presence that I fought hand to hand fight for five thousand  years before Your sight on that one great ocean

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in long-past days with the two demons Madhu and Kaitabha, sprung from the wax of my ear, maddened with pride; and by the grace of the Devî, successfully killed the two Dânavas.

55-61. O highly fortunate one! you realised then the great S’akti, higher than the highest and the cause of all causes; then why are you asking again and again that question. By the will of that S’akti, I have got this idea of man and roam on the great ocean; in yuga after yuga, I assume by Her will, the Tortoise, Boar, Man-Lion, and Dwarf incarnations. No one likes to take birth in the womb of inferior animals (especially birds). Do you think that I willingly take unpleasant births as in the womb of boars, tortoise, i.e., certainly not. What independent man is there who abandons the pleasurable enjoyment with Laksmi and takes birth in inferior animals as fish, etc. or leaves his seat on the seat of Gaduda and becomes engaged in great war-conflicts. O Svayambhu! In ancient days you saw before your eyes that my head was cut off when the bowstring suddenly gave way; and then you, brought a horse’s head and by that help, the divine artist Visvakarma, stuck that on to my headless body. O Brahmâ! Since then I am known amongst men by the name of  “Hayagrîva”. This is well-known to you. Now say, were I independent, would such an ignominy have happened to me? Never. Therefore I am not independent; I am in every way under that S’akti. O Lotus-born! I always meditate on that S’akti; and I do not know any other than this S’akti”.

62-66. Nârada said :– Thus spoke Visnu to Brahmâ. O Muni Vedavyâs! Brahmâ spoke these to me. So you, too, better meditate the lotus feet of Bhâgavati calmly in the lotus of your heart for the success of your idea. That Devî will give you all that you wish. Sûta said :– At these words of Nârada, Satyavati’s son Veda Vyâsa went out to the hills for Tapasyâ, trusting the lotus feet of the Devî as the all-in-all in this world.

Thus ends the fourth chapter of the first Skandha on the excellency of the Devî in the Mahapurâna S’rimad Devî Bhâgavatam of 18,000 verses.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Journey of Life-3

Like other emotions, contentment has to be cultivated in our consciousness. Anytime you step out, you will find people with better homes, cars, bodies, talents and wealth. They are all around you. When you see them, you may feel jealous, envious or inspired. Either way, it makes your present look lackluster. I’m not saying that anyone should sit idle and twiddle their thumbs. Each one of us is free to chase whatever matters to us. Having said that, every pursuit has a cost.

Contentment sprouts from mindful living, a sense that I don’t have to do something just because others are doing it. If you are not able to live in the present moment and find beauty in it, future is not going to be any better. For future is nothing more than present moments unfolding. My past in the afternoon was my future in the morning.

Life is like a river, ever changing, ever flowing. You can step into it again and again, thinking you are bathing in the same river. It is anything but true. The water that was there earlier is no longer there. Every time you take a dip, it is in new water. No two moments are alike. It is ignorant to cling to your past or a future. Life runs its own course. The river may be muddy in monsoons or cold in winter. It may be pleasantly warm on some days and crystal clear on other. At any rate, as long as the source does not dry up, it will continue flowing. Much like life.

Since we are already on the journey of life, we may as well walk with grace, with contentment. Whoever would roam, whoever would stay…

Flow if you want to merge in the ocean.

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We should have this deep faith that there is someone who loves us totally and will take care of everything for us. Then we can be free of all our worries and difficulties.

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It seems the harder I work, the more luck I have.

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Make a goal to arrive at work 10 minutes early.

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The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.

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Take time to be grateful for the opportunity to work, especially when you feel like complaining.

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Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

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Find what you love doing, and put your whole heart into it.

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Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

Om Namah Shivay

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राग-द्वेषका त्याग-3

अच्छा और बुरा लगता है, ठीक और बेठीक लगता है‒यह राग-द्वेष है । इसके वशमें न होना क्या है ? इसको तमाशेकी तरह देखे कि क्या अच्छा है और क्या मन्दा है ! न सुख रहनेवाला है, न दुःख रहनेवाला है । न बीमारी रहनेवाली है, न स्वस्थता रहनेवाली है । कुछ भी रहनेवाला नहीं है । इन सबका वियोग होने वाला है । बहुत दिनों तक संयोग रहने पर भी एक दिन वियोग जरूर होगा‒‘अवश्यं यातारश्चिरतरमुषित्वाऽपि विषयाः ।’ अतः सज्जनो ! इस बातको पहलेसे ही समझ लो कि एक दिन इन सबका वियोग होगा । लड़का जन्मे, तभी यह समझ लेना चाहिये कि यह मरेगा जरूर ! यह बड़ा होगा कि नहीं होगा, पढ़ेगा कि नहीं पढ़ेगा, इसका विवाह होगा कि नहीं होगा, इसके लड़का-लड़की होंगे कि नहीं‒इसमें सन्देह है; परन्तु यह मरेगा कि नहीं मरेगा‒इसमें कोई सन्देह है क्या ? जन्म हुआ है तो खास काम मरना ही है, और कोई खास काम नहीं है । अब इसमें राजी और नाराज क्या हों । अपने तो मौजसे भगवान्की तरफ चलते रहें । जो वैराग्यवान् होते हैं, विवेकी होते हैं, भगवान्के प्रेमी भक्त होते हैं, वे इन आने-जानेवाले पदार्थोंकी तरफ दृष्टि रखते ही नहीं । वे करने में सावधान और होने में सदा प्रसन्न रहते हैं ।

रज्जब रोवे कौन को, हँसे सो कौन विचार ।
गये सो आवन के नहीं रहे सो जावनहार ॥

सब जानेवाला है, मरनेवाला है तो क्या हँसें ! जो मर चुके, उनको कितना ही रोयें, वे आनेके हैं नहीं तो क्या रोयें ! यह विचार स्थायी कर लो । फिर राग-द्वेष मिट जायँगे ।

राग-द्वेषको सह लो अर्थात् प्रियकी प्राप्ति होनेपर हर्षित न हों और अप्रियकी प्राप्ति होनेपर उद्विग्न न हों । फिर आप जन्म-मरणसे रहित हो जाओगे । सन्तोंने कहा है‒‘अब हम अमर भये न मरेंगे ।’ अब क्यों मरेंगे ? मरनेवाले तो ये राग-द्वेष ही हैं । इन दोनोंको नाशवान् और पतन करनेवाले समझो । चाहे तो ऐसा समझकर इनसे अलग हो जाओ, नहीं तो भगवान्को पुकारो कि ‘हे नाथ ! हे नाथ !! रक्षा करो !’जैसे, मोटर खराब हो जाय तो खुद ठीक कर लो । खुद ठीक न कर सको तो कारखाने में भेज दो ! ऐसे ही राग-द्वेषसे अलग न हो सको तो भगवान्की शरणमें चले जाओ । भगवान्ने गीताके अन्तमें कहा कि ‘तू मेरी शरणमें आ जा’‘मामेकं शरणं व्रज’ (गीता १८ । ६६) ।

एक ब्राह्मण देवताकी कन्या बड़ी हो गयी । उसने एक धर्मात्मा सेठके पास जाकर कहा‒‘सेठजी ! कन्या बड़ी हो गयी, क्या करूँ ?’ सेठने कहा‒‘आप वर ढूँढ़ो, तैयारी करो, चिन्ता क्यों करते हो ?’ इसका अर्थ यह नहीं है कि सेठ ही आकर वर ढूँढ़ेंगे, विवाह करायेंगे, प्रत्युत इसका अर्थ है कि चिन्ता मत करो; धन हम दे देंगे, काम तुम करो । इसी तरह भगवान् कहते हैं कि ‘तुम अपना काम करो, चिन्ता मत करो । तुम्हें जो अभाव होगा, उसे मैं पूरा करूँगा ।’

Om Namah Shivay

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The Aghori Tradition and its practices

Q: Please tell us a little about the Aghori Tradition and its practices.

Guruji: This word Aghora itself conveys the meaning of this tradition. Aghora means that which is not terrifying, that which is beautiful and honourable. So Aghori means one who is very peaceful and who behaves in the same way. It means one who is very beautiful and has no aversions or hatred of any kind towards anyone. In the Rudram Chanting, one of the verses is, “Aghorebhyo Thaghorebhyo Ghora Ghora Tharebhyaha. Sarve Bhyaha Sarva Sharve Bhyo Namaste Astu Rudra Roopebhyaha”. How is Lord Shiva? Lord Shiva is both peaceful and terrifying, and yet he delivers and uplifts everyone. ‘Shiva’ literally means One who uplifts and blesses everyone. The verse means, “O Rudra (Shiva), I bow to you. You are the most beautiful and also the most terrifying of all”. This mantra is called the Aghora Mantra.

Nature is also the same way. When water flows as a river it is so peaceful and serene, but when the same water comes as a storming flood, then it is so destructive. A waterfall is so beautiful to look at, but at the same time it is also dangerous and terrifying. This is the closest example one can give for this mantra. For example, the Jog Falls in Karnataka, it is so majestic to look at, but there is huge amount of water falling from a height of many thousand metres. It is so dangerous as well. If you look at it from afar it is so beautiful, but if one gets caught in the waterfall, they will not be able to survive the intensity of the falls.

All the five elements are like this. Take the fire element for example. Fire is so wonderful to look at when it burns like a lamp. But the same fire can be terrifying when an entire house catches fire and goes in flames. Similarly the same goes for the air element. A gentle flowing breeze of air is so nice, but when the same air takes the form of a storm or a tornado, then it can cause so much destruction.

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There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Durjanam Prathamam Vande Sujanam Tadanantaram’. Worship the bad person also. The bad people are ruining themselves so convey your gratitude to them – since at their cost, while falling in a pit and getting ruined – they are teaching you a lesson.

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The soul is the truth of who we are.

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Q: If the parents don’t have a Guru but children have, will that help the parents.

Guruji: Yes. The sadhana you do helps many generations.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Journey of Life-2

Past the fake, or illusory, Facebook smiles most people live through a silent despair life brings with dawn every day. As if each one of us is carrying a weight inside us. It’s not always the weight of emotions. Sometimes, you are not angry, jealous, envious or discontent and yet you are not happy either. You don’t feel okay, fulfilled or complete.

Some days you may feel that life is perfect but it’s not a long lasting feeling. Almost everyone I know longs for a somewhat different life. Something different ought to happen, we feel. This fond longing quickly turns into a kind of melancholy. Consequently, feeling that our present life is inadequate and incomplete, we increasingly harbor regrets and grudges and go on to make dumb choices hoping it would erase the sadness within. All of this springs from just one perspective, one emotion: discontentment.

Arjuna once asked Krishna, “Who is a true yogi, Lord?”

“The one who finds contentment in the present moment and knows the way of moderation is the greatest yogi.”

Krishna did not call a meditator a true yogi, he did not call his devotee a yogi. He did not say that those who follow a certain belief system or practice rituals are yogis. Instead, he just simplified it. If you are content and tranquil, you are a yogi.

It is so easy to be obsessed about a pursuit. With a self-centered attitude, our obsessions lead to a sort of blindness. You fail to see the good around you. And this in turn creates frustration which ultimately brews anger. Clearly, you can’t be at peace or think clearly when angry. In such a state, it’s impossible to shed our maniac tendencies or find contentment in the present moment.

Gau dhan gaj dhan vaaji dhan aur ratan dhan khan,

Jab aave santosh dhan, sab dhan dhoori saman. (Saint Kabir)

IAST: godhana gajadhana vajidhana, aura ratanadhana khāna,

jaba āvai saṃtoṣadhana, saba dhana dhūrī samāna.

Your possession of cows, elephants, steeds, even a whole mine of precious stones is worthless compared to the wealth of contentment.

In my view, on the journey of life, contentment is the greatest blessing. By using the word blessing, however, I’m not suggesting that some of us are born with it and some others aren’t. Or that it is bestowed upon us by some external force. By blessing, I simply mean it’s the most divine emotion you can have. When you are truly content, you are compassionate and giving naturally. You spread happiness, goodness and kindness.

Om Namah Shivay

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Four Aspects of Mindful Parenting-2

Time (Samaya)

The most important question is do you have time for parenting? Luxuries, best education, gadgets do not make up for time. Good parenting requires that you give your children time. I know it’s demanding at work and you come home tired and have no energy to even utter a word, but to make a “good parent” you have to give “good time”.

This may mean cutting down on your TV or other activities and spending more time with your child(ren). Or it could be that you curtail your professional ambitions and put your family higher on the priority list. A family doesn’t need to be in a million-dollar home to be happy. You don’t have to take out that big mortgage or have a premium car. Millions of people communicate comfortably without an iPhone. You get the idea.

It’s not just true for parenting but everything. Whatever you want to nurture, you have to devote it time. Give time to angry thoughts and anger grows. Give your time to loving thoughts and love grows and so on. Want to learn anything, give it time.

Friendship (Maitri)

Ordinarily, maitri is referred to as loving-kindness. Its literal meaning is friendship. Anything coming from or given by a friend or even belonging to a friend is maitri. With friends, we can pour our heart out without being judged. If your children can come home and share their pains and sorrows without the fear of reprisal or penalties, the tree of friendship will take deep roots.

And, it’s true not just for a parent-child but all relationships. Friendship is the fuel. Lack of maitri, where two people are more focused on keeping things from each other than sharing them, gives rise to permanent undercurrents of tension and discomfort. As I have written many a time earlier that being a friend doesn’t mean you always say yes. On the contrary, it means to be able to say No in a positive way. It is to disagree while maintaining a healthy relationship. It is not as hard as it may sound in a sincere relationship.

Joy (Mudita)

Mudita is a simple word with a straightforward meaning: joy. Even if you have compassion and you are devoting time to parenting and there’s a degree of friendship but your relationship lacks joy, it’ll get very difficult very quickly. The joy of celebrating victories, the joy of having a family, the joy of laughing away at the pranks of life. The heart to live through failures. The courage to forgive and seek forgiveness. A sort of openness and honesty allows you to be comfortable with those around you.

If most conversations with your kids revolve around lecturing them, however soft or positive you may sound, even as friends, joy in your relationship with them will evaporate in no time. They’ll start avoiding you. Most parents have this strong tendency to keep showering advice on their children. Of course, it’s done with the right intention but would you feel joyous being with a “friendly” boss who keeps telling you how to become better? Sometimes, no advice is the best advice.

 

Om Namah Shivay

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