Our view of the universe
is dazzling in its brilliance.
There are the great works
of man, one of which,
Michelangelo’s David,
provides the template of
the giant on the adjacent
page. There is the boundless
natural beauty of planet
earth, only a tiny bit of
which (Cathedral Rock,
Sedona, Arizona) is reflected
in the illustration. And
finally there are the
wonders of astronomy,
the great views of the
heavens that are startling
in their ability to awe and
inspire us. The picture
opposite is of the M51
pair of interacting galaxies,
courtesy of NASA.

In preparing this illustrated
book on applied philosophy,
I have been fortunate to find inspiration around every turn of the page.
Thus, to begin to acknowledge every single inspiration would be nearly
impossible, and after a while, would get quite tedious. As a practical
necessity, in this section I can only hope to acknowledge only a few, most
critical, sources of inspiration.

My first intellectual debt is to the great thinkers and philosophers, whose
work I have taken the liberty to build upon. A major source of inspiration for
me has been Sri Aurobindo and his book, the Life Divine. Throughout history,
philosophers and common folk have struggled with the notion of Duality -
that the material is separate from the spiritual, the mind from the body, the
male from the female, the human from the Divine... Sri Aurobindo makes it
clear that everything has its place in the continuum from the gross to the
Divine. This principle of unity of all existence is called Advaita (or non-
duality), and has its roots in ancient Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.

The fluidity of the ebb and flow of life is perhaps best represented by Taoist
philosophy. This philosophy originated in China near the dawn of written
history. The Yin and the Yang are Taoic complements - each incomplete
without the other. By combining two sets of Taoic complements - the
Individual/Universal as well as the Potential/Actual, we arrive at the Tao Cycle.
The resulting segment representation overlaps deeply with the Ashrama
cycle practiced in Ancient India. In utter humility, I would propose that this
Tao Cycle can become the scaling mechanism that ultimately bridges
humanity into Divinity.

The Riddle of the Sphinx is taken from the ancient Greek text, Oedipus Rex,
by Sophocles. The Sphinx had a big presence in both Greek and Egyptian
cultures as the guardian of sacred places. In keeping with the theme, the
page backgrounds for this book are reproductions of a sheet of papyrus we
had acquired while visiting Egypt.

History has been kind to me in an educational sense. I have seen the plight of
ethnic and religious conflict, and the lingering results of the breakup of a
nation. Growing up in India, I have experienced, in close quarters, possibly
the greatest differences in living conditions amongst humans. Just to give an
example, in the afternoons I used to go out and play with the boy next door,
who was about my age. The difference was: he was a servant boy, with no
access to education and a minimal supply of food and clothes. Thanks to my
parents I was going to a good school and, though not affluent, our
necessities were well taken care of. At the end of the day, we both went home
to different worlds - one of hopes and aspirations, and one of subservience
and deprivation. I felt powerless to do anything then, but it spurred me on to
work towards a framework by which every human being could aspire to a
brighter future.

In large measure, I found this desirable environment of hope when I
immigrated to the USA. There was a lot more social mobility and just about
everybody had access to education. Things did not seem that hopeful when I
first alighted in New York in 1983. I had to spend my first night at the bus
terminal on 42nd street, and the people I met there amplified my feelings of
rootlessness. It is only much later that I figured out that the world at large is
now our root, and physical locations do not matter as much anymore...
In many ways this book, too, is an international effort. Many of the
illustrations were done by Inkpot of Kolkata, India. Brittany Douglas, from
Tucson, was marvellously patient with the copy editing. Much of this story
unfolds in locales all over the world – which I hope will appeal to you, the
global reader.

To my parents in India I am grateful for inculcating a sense of practicality, as
well as a background for spirituality. My father was an engineer during his
professional years, and so was I for the first twenty-two years of my career.
During this time I worked for Intel, the semiconductor company. There I
personally experienced a wild and exciting future unfold - first with the
Personal Computer revolution, and then with the internet. This experience
also gave me the tools to extrapolate my learnings deep into the future.

Last but not least, I must thank my family for the support they have given me
to pursue my dreams. My wife, Sarbari has been a constant source of
inspiration and our one stable economic anchor. We share an insatiable
desire to travel and see more of this world. This has allowed us to draw
inspiration from many parts of the world, from Michelangelo’s David
(Florence, Italy) to the ruins of Machu Picchu (Peru, South America) to the
pyramids of Egypt.  

Our children are also a great source of support and ideas. Our daughter
Shilpika is a talented young artist and photographer, and some of her
contributions you will see in this book. Our son, Abhik, eleven years of age,
has a very curious mind about science and the nature of reality. Our
conversations really helped me crystallize the simplest messages from an
otherwise hopelessly tangled contemporary existence. Some of the stories
developed during Hu’s and Uni’s discussions are based on actual shared
family experiences. Thus, the learnings have a very deep personal
significance for me.
The Riddle
   The Sphinx