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D.Muthukrishnan (Muthu), Certified Financial Planner- Personal Financial Advisor

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Archive for the ‘Life & Spirituality’ Category

Thinking Fast and Slow

Posted by Muthu on December 17, 2016

I had many queries on the piece shared yesterday from Michael Lewis’s latest book.

Some of you have asked as to what is the best book to understand the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

Daniel Kahneman has written a master piece called ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. I would sincerely recommend this book to all of you.

I’ve shared below some quotes from the same. I hope this would interest you to go and grab the book.

“The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.

We are prone to overestimate how much we understand about the world and to underestimate the role of chance in events.

An investment said to have an 80% chance of success sounds far more attractive than one with a 20% chance of failure. The mind can’t easily recognize that they are the same.

The easiest way to increase happiness is to control your use of time.

The brains of humans contain a mechanism that is designed to give priority to bad news.

If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do.

Money does not buy you experiential happiness, but lack of money certainly buys you misery.

We are far too willing to reject the belief that much of what we see in life is random.

We can’t live in a state of perpetual doubt, so we make up the best story possible and we live as if the story were true.

A reliable way of making people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.

The world makes much less sense than you think. The coherence comes mostly from the way your mind works.

An inability to be guided by a “healthy fear” of bad consequences is a disastrous flaw.

An unbiased appreciation of uncertainty is a cornerstone of rationality—but it is not what people and organizations want. Extreme uncertainty is paralyzing under dangerous circumstances, and the admission that one is merely guessing is especially unacceptable when the stakes are high. Acting on pretended knowledge is often the preferred solution.”

Buy the book and read.

Posted in General, Life & Spirituality | 1 Comment »

Gems from ‘The undoing project’

Posted by Muthu on December 16, 2016

I read around 4 to 6 books a month. The book I’m currently reading is “The undoing project: A friendship that changed our minds” written by Michael Lewis. I’m half way through this book. This book is about two Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky whose path breaking work created the field of behavioural economics.  Their studies are fascinating as to how our mind alters our perception of reality. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for this.

The book mentions about a piece of paper kept by Amos Tversky containing the following insights. I thought of sharing the same with you.

“People predict by making up stories.

People predict very little and explain everything.

People live under uncertainty whether they like it or not.

People believe they can tell the future if they work hard enough.

People accept any explanation as long as it fits the facts.

The handwriting was on the wall. It was just the ink that was invisible.

People often work hard to obtain information they already have and avoid new knowledge.

Man is a deterministic device thrown into a probabilistic Universe. In this match, surprises are expected.

Everything that has already happened must have been inevitable.

A part of good science is to see what everyone else can see but think what no one else has ever said.

The difference between being very smart and very foolish is often very small.

So many problems occur when people fail to be obedient when they are supposed to be obedient, and fail to be creative when they are supposed to be creative.

The secret to doing good research is always to be a little under employed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.

It is sometimes easier to make the world a better place than to prove you have made the world a better place.”

Go and buy the book.

Posted in General, Life & Spirituality | 1 Comment »

12 Life lessons from a man who has seen 12000 deaths

Posted by Muthu on May 21, 2016

Rooted in the hearts of many Hindus is the belief that if you breathe your last in Kashi (Varanasi) you attain what is popularly known as ‘Kashi Labh’ or ‘the fruit of Kashi’—moksh or “release from the cycle of rebirth impelled by the law of karma”.

Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan in Varanasi is one of the three guesthouses in the city where people check in to die. The other two are Mumukshu Bhawan and Ganga Labh Bhawan. Established in 1908, Mukti Bhawan is well-known within the city and outside.

Bhairav Nath Shukla has been the Manager of Mukti Bhawan for 44 years. He has seen the rich and the poor take refuge in the guesthouse in their final days as they await death and hope to find peace. Shukla hopes with and for them. He sits on the wooden bench in the courtyard, against the red brick wall and shares with me 12 recurring life lessons from the 12000 deaths he has witnessed in his experience as the manager of Mukti Bhawan:

Please read more at:


Posted in Life & Spirituality | Leave a Comment »

Free will, an illusion

Posted by Muthu on November 16, 2015

It’s some time in 2010.

I went through months of serious introspection and stumbled upon a conclusion that there is no free will. Everything is determined. Call it destiny, god’s will or randomness; things happen on their own. If you ask me to prove my conclusion, I would not be able to do it. But I’ve strongly internalised this concept.

It is not that I’ve not felt this way before 2010. Even in mid nineties, when I used to regularly visit Ramanasramam, similar thoughts strongly used to occur and then fade away.

From 2010, it slowly and steadily started becoming a regular occurrence.

It has made my everyday life much better. To quote Sam Harris “Losing a belief in free will has not made me fatalistic—in fact, it has increased my feelings of freedom. My hopes, fears, and neuroses seem less personal and indelible. “

Though by design, I’m a believer in God; I started reading Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens after this change.

If you’re interested, please read ‘Free Will’ by Sam Harris. It’s a small, 83 pages and insightful book.

This faith in lack of free will has made me less religious and less ritualistic. It has also brought more compassion and depth.

In everyday life, I act as if both I and others have free will. My faith in lack of freewill and actions with a strong sense of free will may look contradictory to others. That is what I’m comfortable with. And it works well for me.

To quote Ramesh Balsekar:

“The human being lives on fictions. For example, the human being knows that the sun is stationery and that it is earth that is in movement but nonetheless in his daily life he accepts the fiction that sun rises and sets. So the understanding is that all this is an illusion and that you do not have free will, but in life you must act as if you have free will.”

I’ve shared with you in the past some quotes I like on this subject. I feel like sharing the same with you again.

1) “Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”- Albert Einstein

2) “Once you realize that all happens by itself, call it destiny, or the will of God, or mere accident, you remain as witness only, understanding and enjoying, but not perturbed. You are only responsible for what you can change. All you can change is only your attitude. There lies your responsibility.”- Nisargadatta

3)  “Whatever this body is to do and whatever experiences it is to pass through was already decided when it came into existence. This is not to be taught to all. Even if we tell them, it will lead to endless discussion.”- Ramana

4)   “If the moon, in the act of completing its eternal way around the earth, were gifted with self-consciousness, it would feel thoroughly convinced that it was traveling its way of its own accord on the strength of a resolution taken once and for all.  So would a Being, endowed with higher insight and more perfect intelligence, watching man and his doings, smile about man’s illusion that he was acting according to his own free will.”- Albert Einstein

5) “Whatever is happening is bound to happen. There is a series of events; a scenario is written down. So according to the scenario, things happen. There is no volition as far as an individual is concerned; things happen on their own. When that is seen, there is already a certain peace of mind.”- Nisargadatta

6)  “Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course therefore is to remain silent.”- Ramana

7)  “I do not believe in freedom of will. Schopenhauer’s words, ‘Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants’, accompany me in all life situations and console me in my dealings with people, even those that are really painful to me. This recognition of the unfreedom of the will protects me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and judging individuals and losing good humour.” – Albert Einstein

8)  “In reality things are done to you, not by you. Your desire just happens to you along with its fulfillment or non-fulfillment. You can change neither. You may believe that you exert yourself, strive and struggle. Again, it all merely happens, including the fruits of the work. Neither is by you and for you.”- Nisargadatta

9) “You can do what you decide to do—but you cannot decide what you will decide to do.” – Sam Harris

Posted in Life & Spirituality, Muthu's Musings | 3 Comments »

Mind SIP

Posted by Muthu on October 25, 2015

I always write about SIP for creating wealth. I would continue to write on the same.

My recent piece on ‘Health SIP’ was well received by you.

That motivated me to write this piece.

Anything done regularly, repeatedly in a disciplined manner is a systematic plan.

I read for few hours a day, almost every day. That’s a systematic plan for learning.

The key is regular, repetition and discipline.

As we’ve covered wealth and health, let me touch upon something for mind today.

Our mind is nothing but continuous stream of thoughts. Thoughts keep happening throughout the day and sometimes even during sleep.

There is need for some space in mind in addition to thoughts. A mind occupied nonstop by thoughts without any gap becomes very superficial and shallow. The depth and peace come to the mind only when there are gaps in additions to thoughts. Even if gaps are not possible, at least there should be slowing down of thoughts. Reduction in frequency of thoughts makes the mind deeper.

From my experience, I’ve found observing breath is the best way to slow down the thoughts or create gaps in the mind.

We know many good things but would not practice it. That was the case with physical exercise till last year. I’ve written in detail as to how only for last one year I’ve been regular in practicing exercise. Though I know the benefits of breath watching, I’ve never practised it regularly. To me, to label something as regular, one should have at least practiced it nonstop for a year.

I’ve also written about our achieving financial independence. Doing SIP for wealth, health, learning etc. have been happening regularly with discipline.

For those of you who read health SIP, I’m already on to treadmill for 20 minutes a day. It would be increased to 30 minutes in next one month.

Though there is nothing in life which makes me unhappy, I find that there is less or no space in mind. If your living room is full of furniture without space, it would be stuffy. My mind is presently like that.

Like I took a resolve for health last October, this October I’ve taken a resolve to practice breath awareness for next one year.

From my experience, I’m sure it would de-clutter and create some space in my living room; my mind. That is the whole purpose of this practice.

The actual practice is very simple. It is just watching your breath 3 to 5 times every one or two hours. This can be done while you are attending to some other activity. This can be done with eyes wide open. It would totally take 12 to 15 minutes a day.

The simplicity of this practice should not deceive us about its efficacy.

Those of you interested in knowing further on how to practice breath awareness can read “Peace is every step” by Thich Nhat Hanh. There are many books written by him. However if you read this book, especially only part one (this book is divided into 3 parts), it is more than sufficient. Being a monk, he would emphasise mindfulness on every activity. For ordinary mortals, who only want peace in everyday living, this limited practice would do.

For those of you, who want to go very deep, can enrol for Vipassana. I learnt and practised vipassana for a brief period and decided it is not for me.

Vipassana is for very serious seekers looking for self realisation.

Coming back to daily practise of breath awareness, I would like to end this piece with a small passage from ‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle:

“Discover inner space by creating gaps in the stream of thinking. Without those gaps, your thinking becomes repetitive, uninspired, devoid of any creative spark, which is how it is for most people on the planet. You don’t need to be concerned with the duration of those gaps. A few seconds is good enough. Gradually, they will lengthen by themselves, without any effort on your part. More important than their length is to bring them in frequently so that your daily activities and your stream of thinking interspersed with space.

Someone recently showed me the annual prospectus of a large spiritual organisation. When I looked through it I was impressed by the wide choice of interesting seminars and workshops. It reminded me of a smorgasbord, one of those Scandinavian buffets where you can take your pick from a huge variety of enticing dishes. The person asked me whether I could recommend one or two courses. “I don’t know”, I said. “They all look so interesting. But I do know this,” I added. “Be aware of your breathing as often as you are able, whenever you remember. Do that for one year, and it will be more powerfully transformative than attending all of these courses. And it’s free.”

Posted in General, Life & Spirituality, Muthu's Musings | 3 Comments »