You have an embedded Operating System

by | Feb 1, 2022

Everyone knows the internal drives – emotions, feelings, and, of course, thoughts – that keep buzzing inside one’s head and indeed drive the responses and reactions to the events in one’s life. Everyone also knows the dreams that every night brings a weird world. I am identifying this system as an Operating System – a familiar term in the modern world, known even to every mobile user, who is asked to update the Operating System (OS) every now and then. 

According to the eternal religion of the Hindus (Sanatan Dharma), each living person is born with a subtle body that carries forward the impressions from one’s earlier existences. As the body grows and later, ages, this subtle body keeps updating itself – bringing to fruition what is stored as well as registering the new impressions. At the time of death, the updated subtle body leaves the gross body, which is disposed of through cremation, and assumes a new body. Let us call this subtle body as your kernel, your centre, or your axis, around which your life happens. 

A lot of intellectual work has gone into our inner world over thousands of years and has created an enormous load of ideas and theories packaged as religion, traditions and culture. The burden and noise of this work is so much that it puts off a normal person from even knowing about it. Everyone ends up following a dogma. Not surprisingly, it hardly has any effect, except training one like an animal in the zoo. But that is a big sell-off. The destiny of an animal is not to live in a zoo, but in the wild. This blog makes one realize this loss of ours.

Know yourself as a part of the same infinite that is the universe outside. Don’t take this world as your reality; rather, realize that the universe in which this earth exists is like a mere speck of sand in a desert. Stare at the star-filled sky in the night, watch the sunrise every morning, or sunset, and you will know this without a doubt. Sit quietly, cut off from the world for a while, close your eyes and feel this infinite inside, starting with watching your breath going in and out and slowly sinking deeper in the body.

You will soon become aware of different sensations – itches, twists, aches, pains, burning sensations. Allow them to pass. Next to arrive would be memories, appearing on the mind’s horizon, as clouds appear in the sky. Allow them to disperse and drift away. And then, you will ‘taste’ a moment of peace. That is infinite; that is Sat-Chit-Ananda – a consciousness that is eternal, placid, and blissful. Through practice, these moments will become longer spells and you will know what is good for you thereafter.

The Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.1) declares:

द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते।

तयोरन्यः पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्त्यनश्नन्नन्यो अभिचाकशीति

Two birds, beautiful of wing, close companions, cling to one common tree: of the two one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, the other eats not but watches his fellow. It is there, but as a witness. Not participating in your actions. But if you can access it, engage with it, wonderful things can happen.

The Indian mystic poet, Kabir (1398-1518), says:

उठो ग्यानी खेत संभारो, बिगै निसरेगा पानी। 

निरत सुरत के बेल बनावो, बीजा बोवो निज धानी। 

Get up, O wise farmer and mind your body (the field), else, the drama of this world (the rain) will wash it away. Live a disciplined life (make a weir around your field), regulating your vital energy (holding the water) and lead a flourishing life (your crop).

The Irish philosopher, George Berkeley (1685-1753), said very aptly, “We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see.” Later, the Scottish philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), declared, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” Hume even pointed out, “Custom is the great guide of human life.”

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), called the presence of an immortal self in our body, the watching bird, as a ‘thing-in-itself’ and “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” According to Kant, “We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” So, stop running on the ‘treadmill’ of being successful – more money, more work, name, fame…. All this speed is going to bring you to a halt sooner than later. Bring moderation to every aspect of life, especially your indulgence with the affairs of the world. 

Steven Covey, in his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, distinguishes between “one’s ability to focus on what one can do and can influence” and “focussing one’s energy on things that are beyond one’s control”. Irrespective of who wins the elections, which stock rises or crashes, irrespective of what the price of petrol and conversion rate of dollar is, mind your sleep, your bowl and above all, your mood of general happiness and ease. 

Have a proper goal in your life, appropriate to your age and the conditions around you. Work on that and do not allow any other matter or issue to disturb you. The Infinite knows what can be done by you. The Infinite is aware of your subtle body and will get whatever best you can deliver, done from you. For infinite wisdom and care, for your life to be constantly sustained, all you need is to let Nature flow through you, and to be engaged in the work that you can do best without straining yourself. Too many thoughts are noise. Learn to quieten your mind. 

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) popularized the answer given by the God of Death (Yama) to the child Nachiketa, mentioned in the Katha Upanishad (1.3.14), “उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत, meaning,Arise! Awake! Approach the great and learn.” Swami Vivekananda exhorted, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it; dream of it; live on that idea. Let the brain, the body, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. That is the way great spiritual giants are produced.”  

Your operating system is designed to bring out the best in you. It is not designed to change others. Your attempts to change other people are such a waste of energy. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), the Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, lamented, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) summed up the secret of life, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

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24 Comments

  1. Sir, May I add Shrimad Bhagavad Gita’s declaration (Chapter 4, Shloka 42):

    इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः।
    मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः।।

    The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and the soul is even higher than the intelligence.

    If instead of living by chasing or running away from objects, if we follow instructions coming from inside, life will be much better lived.

  2. Thank you for a very interesting blog. Each one of us know how helpless we are to handle emotions like anger, love, and hatred. It is true that none of us have any idea about how these emotions arise – to our great harm. Your description as a software based on Scriptures is a compelling reading.

    There should not be any doubt about human personality as a bio-psycho-social unity. There is an obvious result of the interaction between heredity, environment, and education. But emotions are more like earlier baggage we must carry here. I take your words, “to let Nature flow through you, and to be engaged in the work that you can do best without straining yourself.” You are right, “Too many thoughts are noise. Learn to quieten your mind.”

  3. Sir, thank you for a thought-provoking blog. The idea of our destiny as software is not new and we have a great tradition of Bhrigu Samhita about “patterns” that life can follow. But what makes your blog special is that these patterns are not pre-defined, but life has a direction that favours cooperation and those who play non-zero-sum games move ahead in life. Excellent insight!

    By making an organism, the genes in the genome seal their common fate. Either they survive together, or they die together. This is truly a non-zero-sum game. However, within the broader non-zero-sum game, there are opportunities for playing zero-sum games. Like, even though we are a family and there is a single ice cream left in the fridge, you would want to have it and leave it to other members.

  4. Good compilation. Before retirement and while performing the duties due to the society, one should be like king Janaka (yes… Sita Devi’s father). He was a king – performing the tasks he was assigned to, yet with a detachment. I was told that he was initiated into the bliss by Rishi Asthavakra (I am yet to read about his person – leave alone understand). Till then, a gradual detachment is what i am trying to practice. Best wishes to all.

  5. Dear Bhaisab thanks for sharing a wonderful article on self soul searching. Examples quoted from Upanishad are true to the subject. The example of Nachiketa and his conversation with Yama “ Arise! Awake! Approach the great and learn.” is the answer to bring the change within.
    Deep meditation is the only way to retrospect and bring the change within rather expecting the world to change.
    Wonderfully written and very inspiring. Thank you .

  6. God is a genetic imperative. God is embedded in our genes. People are not only wired to believe in God but genetically programmed to do so as well. God is not merely an idea in the domain of religion. In its different varieties, religion is rooted in nurture and spirituality in nature.

    Spirituality derives from genes, and religion from memes-the cultural counterpart of genes-ideas, values, or patterns of behaviour that are passed from one generation to another nongenetically, often by imitation. I remember reading a Time cover story in 2004 linking genetics to spirituality.

    People do have innate capacity to reach out beyond themselves-to see everything in the world as part of one great totality. Thank for triggering thinking on these fundamental aspects. Ignorance of God-within can never be bliss but a never-ending misery, which is the situation of majority of people.

  7. Very thoughtful and relevant blog. Neuroscience has established the role of the brain in everything we think, feel, and do. Religious belief is a neural substrate. Your blog raises a question how the brain might be “hardwired” for spirituality.

    Going by the history of religion, the structure and function of the human brain predisposes us to believe in God. There must be some inherent neural imperative to believe in God in the first place. Among the limbic structures that have been associated with religious belief, the most frequently credited are the hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus.

    Modern scientists are going a step further in suggesting that the limbic system is dotted with “God neurons” and “God neurotransmitters.” Thinking about God can indeed change the way the brain works. So many neuroscientists have published fMRI brain scans in persons who are happy, depressed, or obsessed demonstrate that these phenomena are brain driven. Why not publish them in religious states?

  8. Your blog demystifies and gives a clear head. I can now see that there are two aspects of spirituality.

    1. The first is a scientific observation of the world. Knowing the world, its movements, its games, its suffering, and its cunningness is very important.

    2. The second aspect is Faith. I understand the world. I see that I am made of worldly influences, but I also have faith that there has to be something beyond these influences.

    Spirituality = attention + faith.

    Getting connected to something that is of the beyond; something that is not merely a mental apparition is most helpful

  9. Very thought provoking Blog Prof Tiwari Ji, which makes one to feel on need for self-introspection. It is true, we want to change others based on our perception and what we want. But the almighty has created each one a different being and it is this diversity that adds value to this beautiful universe. The question is can we really change ourselves also? If yes to what extent and for whom and for what! May be each one of us has a function to do based upon what we have and who we are! May be we are clear what we want from life, we change ourselves accordingly.

  10. Interesting philosophical piece. My collaborator is an Indian diaspora and founder of Eye Foundation of America Dr. V.K. Raju and he often told, “Everything must be in moderation including food”. Your piece especially on Immanuel Kant reminded me of him today. David and I have been enriched by Steven Covey’s bookThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and it is awesome to reflect through your writing. I am also an ardent admirer of Swami Vivekananda who was one of the most secular leaders in our country. Thank you for sharing the proverbs and your thoughts.

  11. True, be the change that you wish to see in the world.

  12. Dear Sir, I am indeed feeling blessed after reading this blog. Not only do we have our operating system as Providence, our region provides us continuous help in deciding between the right and wrong course of things.

    One famous verse of English writer and Puritan preacher John Bunyan (1628 –1688) from his famous book The Pilgrim’s Progress.

    This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
    The difficulty will not me offend.
    For I perceive the way to life lies here.
    Come, pluck up, heart; let’s neither faint nor fear.
    Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
    Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.

    Thank you for your selfless efforts to guide us through the best of the examples.
    Please take care and stay safe Sir .

  13. Dear Sir, What a great explanation of the human system, you are correct we have an embedded OS which operates based on the software and apps downloaded in our memory.

    If we download any wrong programming or any virus then our system gets infected and the whole purpose of our existence gets dissolve. Human mind being the OS should only download those applications which help him to progress towards the goal of the life.

    An antivirus in the form of ‘Value System’ should be downloaded in the human OS in the early childhood and keep updated with reading books and kepp in touch with people like APJ Abdul Kalam and Vivekanand, i.e. Satsang. Warm Regards.

  14. Such a wonderful read. I needed this one at this time. This blog is meditative Uncle. So much is work is to be done on inner self . Thanks for reminding us to update our Operating Systems every now and then.

  15. Dear Prof. Tiwari, Simplicity, moderation, and closeness to and harmony with nature are the key elements of a peaceful and spiritual life. Very aptly said – ‘Be the change that one wishes to see in the world’. One needs to update the ‘operating system’ – change and improve oneself. How great would it be if the operating system were automatically upgraded – Almighty inspiring and creating wisdom from within. In the Hindu philosophy, a person’s life in divided into four segments – ‘Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha and Sanyasa. For each stage in life, ‘dharma’ and activities are prescribed.

    After reading the blog, a few questions came to my mind. Are ‘subtle body’ and soul same or different? When the subtle body assumes a new body after death, does the new body belong to the same species and gender of the previous birth? If subtle body is different from the soul, what happens to the soul after death? Can the noises be eliminated from religion, traditions and cultures? If yes, what kind of filters are needed to reduce the noise and make life more meaningful? Very true and inspiring – ‘richness is not measured by our possessions but with what we can live without.’ Warm regards

  16. The art and science of living one’s life fruitfully needs to disect the self and the surrounding on a unified plane to understand multidimensional nature of the nature in which we all exist. The conflicts within and conflicts outside needs to be sensed as nondisturbing symphonies to transcend the self to plane of reality. The kernel of life is in the pod of ego and conflicts we all live in. But the operating system within every one needs to be tuned to attain the higher horizon of consciousness.

  17. Dear Sir, Thanks for an educative, philosophic and path showing blog. “The infinite knows your subtle body and will give you what you really deserve and what is appropriate for you” is the most assuring line of the blog. If one gets convinced about this philosophy all his efforts will be without any expectations. Any effort with this philosophy always gives ultimate satisfaction to the doer and there is no fear of the result(failure).

    As rightly brought out all our efforts should be afoot to change ourselves rather than wasting our effort to change others. This is the most important message and suggestion to all. Practically what I have seen is that when we are young we think we can change others and waste our energy in that . By the time we realize the whole effort was futile, it will be quite late. if this is practised right from early age, so many conflicts can be avoided and the society will be a better place to live in harmony.

    Thank you once again for an excellent blog. It is amazing to see blogs from you on wide spectrum of topics covering, history, philosophy, Medicine, Engineering, Gita, Upanishad, Literature and latest technology. Each topic is covered in depth and written in a simple language which can be understood by all. I am tempted to dedicate the following Sher of Doctor Rahat Indori to you sir.

    और अपने हाथों से बनाया है खुदा ने आपको,
    आपको थोड़ा बहुत मगरूर होना चाहिए..!!

    God has created you Himself, a little pride is not out of place.

  18. The operating system as identified by you in a human being is indeed the body itself with directions to operate emanating from the mind. The conscious, subconscious and the eternal desire drives the bandwagon of life. From birth till death the evolution of mind by updating the operating system time and again is what acts as a manure. But alas! A time comes in every mortals life when he/she has to move on so why try to store the desert sand when every particle collected or attained through the life will surely slip from the fingers and what is left would be an empty hand.

    You have perfectly stated “Sit quietly, cut off from the world for a while, close your eyes and feel this infinite inside,” Relax and be connected with yourself. The materialistic world around is a big zero, a void. If one can understand Buddha, follow his path and ultimately attain nirvana is what will make him/her immortal while still being mortal. May sound difficult and unattainable for you and me but I accept and believe – practice perfects the being. To run a marathon, to swim across the English Channel, to climb an Everest or win a gold at the Olympics all begin by giving it a start, to take baby steps, calls for a slog, to labour, practice and grind self so as to reach the pinnacle….

    None can disagree, it’s a must for a new born to grow, to crawl, walk run and finally utilize the energy to attain enough to live life, service one’s own body and take care of responsibilities and liabilities. We cannot shun from it but then can it be thus far and no further, beyond this it is simply ego, simply superfluous, simply showmanship and simply monstrous. Roti Kapda aur makan beyond this if one has a balanced contended and satisfied fertile mind we can say one has made his/her life meaningful

    Fully synchronize with you when you mention the operating system should be designed to bring out the best in you and not to try to change others. In Mahatma Gandhi’s words “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Is an appropriate ending to a well conceived blog.

  19. Dear Shri Tiwari ji, Namaskar, jai Swaminarayan.
    Adhabhut article. In today’s material world you have shown how one should practice spirituality in daily life.
    Superb. Thank you

  20. Namaskaram Sir, It was a very nice article sir. The upanishadic references add a vedantic depth to the article which appeals to the modern perspective as well. The parallel drawn between Swami Vivekananda s message to the youth and Yama’s to the young boy Nachiketas is very nice

    Interestingly sir, I too identify the same analogy from the Gita where each one has an embedded OS – Prakriti which is predominating in one of three modes. Hare Krishna.

  21. Thank you Arun ji for the educative blog. My learning is that Lot of time gets saved if we do not focus on changing others and instead that can be used to it achieve our goals.

  22. Thank you for this great piece of inspiration! How very true it is – one can only change the surroundings beginning with oneself (intellect, emotion, motion…).

    In Kinyarwanda, there is a saying” ijya kurisha ihera ku rugo”, literally translated as “before a cow goes grazing, it starts with its own kraal”. One cannot change anything if one doesn’t change oneself first!

    In military teaching, a soldier is assigned and focusses on an area of responsibility (AOR) for success to be achieved. Outside areas of interest are assigned to other soldiers. Let us focus on improving and changing ourselves, and the surroundings will change.

  23. Dear Sir, Thanks for sharing your perspective on the subject, the title is very apt and the examples shared are very relevant.

    The process of inner understanding and self change is a long drawn process, and requires grit to overcome the challenge of pointing outwards. It requires deep meditation and years of practice to overcome the chit chats of the mind.

    As I write the comments I just started (couple of days) reading “autobiography of a yogi” its very intriguing and though provoking book.

  24. This made a wonderful read about the higher inner self. Those who have tried connecting to the inner self know it takes a great deal of continuous self-awareness and introspection. Noble men who have managed to connect with their souls never get bogged down by anxieties, discomfort, depression or fear rather take care of the world. Epicurus was right for the most pleasant life is one where we abstain from unnecessary desires and achieve an inner tranquility (ataraxia) by being content with simple things. To walk through Epicurus’s ‘Pleasure Garden’ let’s robe ourselves with simplicity and humility. As we begin and end our day with gratitude, may we consciously keep us away from vanity, the tyrant so that we don’t forget our immortality and accountability to the supreme being.

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