Monday, October 30, 2023

How to Think Better? - Six Thinking Hats, Edward de Bono


Rene Descartes's observation "Cogito, ergo, sum" in Latin which translates into English as "I Think, therefore, I am", is one of the most famous sayings in modern Western philosophy.

The ability to Think is a unique quality of a human being and possibly it makes us humans, distinctively different from other animals.

However, Thinking can be a daunting task especially when we have to make a big decision in life, when we are dealing with a complex problem, or when we are dealing with an unprecedented event or situation in life. Thinking becomes stressful, and confusing because we get overwhelmed by dealing with too many things - emotions, information, logic, self-interest vs collective interests, weight of the consequences (what if?) etc.

Edward de Bono, the famous Psychologist was a strong advocate for teaching How to Think? to children in their school curriculum. He had devised a methodology for improving the quality of thinking. This Thinking Model is known as Six Thinking Hats.

Six Thinking Hats is a simple yet powerful concept. Each hat colour represents a particular dimension of thinking. All one needs to do (individual or group brainstorming) is to imagine putting on the Hat one at a time and focus on a particular aspect of thinking. 

There is no one right sequence to follow. Just that a blue hat should always be used both at the beginning and the end of the thinking session - like two bookends.

The process culminates by putting together this singular aspect of thinking (one thing at a time) just like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, to generate the final, complete picture.

The chart below summarizes the key concepts of 6 Thinking Hats:

As mentioned above the sequence of hats can be any, just that the Blue Hat needs to be used in the beginning and at the end of the Thinking process.

The first blue hat indicates:
Why and what we are thinking, define the problem statement, what we want to achieve (outcomes).

The final blue hat indicates:
What we have achieved (outcomes), final conclusion, solutions and plan of actions. 

Pun intended - with Edward de Bono's 6 Thinking Hats methodology, we can reframe "I think therefore, I am" to I Think Better therefore, I am better". 

Hope you found it useful and you add 6 Thinking Hats in your tool kit and solve your problems more effectively and efficiently.

For a detailed reading, you can pick up the book Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono (Penguin publications).

Saturday, October 28, 2023

SHAOLIN - Insights from the Book by Bernhard Moestl

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The author Bernhard Moestl is of German origin. Since his childhood days he has been fascinated by Shaolin Kungfu. He traveled to China and stayed at the famed Shaolin Temple (Monastery) in Henan province to learn kung fu from the monks. This temple was made famous by the movie of the same name 'Shaolin Temple' realized in 1982. The Shaolin Temple was established over 1500 years ago by the Indian monk Bodhidharma. During his stay in the Shaolin Temple, he discovered that Shaolin Kungfu was Mental Discipline (Mind) and Physical conditioning (Body). The Shaolin monks have internalized that it is their mind that energizes the body - or weakens it.

In his book Shaolin, he writes about the Shaolin principles and the Shaolin monks' way of thinking, so that one can imbibe these learnings in their lives to achieve peace, clarity, and inner strength.

My blog summarizes the Key Insights from his book, to provide a quick couple of minutes read. (I have given reference to the book for serious readers who would like to take a deep dive into this 300-page book, which is a worthwhile read). 

The 13 Shaolin Principles and the key insights:

1. The Principle of the Present: Shaolin principle urges us to accept the present moment without attributing any judgment value to it. It urges us to live in the moment (here and now), to give it our everything, accept it with gratitude, and let it go (let bygones be bygones...).

2. The Principle of Mindfulness: The Shaolin principle recognizes Attention as a form of Mindfulness. It urges us to be mindful in the rituals of daily life because mindfulness leads to deeper insights and awakening.

3. The Principle of Resoluteness: The Shaolin principle cautions us not to want something without determination because it takes up an enormous amount of energy that you will lack elsewhere. It teaches us to either do things wholeheartedly or not at all.

Few people Act and Many people React. Resoluteness is the first step to acting.

4. The Principle of Detachment: Shaolin's principle cautions us against Greed because it makes us vulnerable and susceptible to coercion. The principle of detachment teaches us to do things because we want to do them, not because we want to gain something in return.

5. The Principle of Calmness: Shaolin's principle says a good fighter has no anger, nor should they. A furious person has power, but they have no control over the situation or the consequences of their actions. People lose their true calm in life, therefore they react without comprehending the full situation. If you are agitated, do and say nothing. Slowly breathe in and breathe out and wait till your spirit is calm and clear once more.

6. The Principle of Slowness: Shaolin's principle asks us to reflect - What have you gained by the increase in speed (fast life)? And what has it cost you? It urges us, not to allow ourselves to be rushed.

It is better to do nothing than to achieve nothing with a lot of effort. - Lao Tzu

7. The Principle of Imitation: "There are three methods by which we may learn Wisdom. First by Reflection, which is the noblest, Second by Imitation, which is the easiest, and Third by Experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius. Shaolin principle gives importance to imitation but also cautions against mindless imitation. It urges us to reflect on what is worth imitating and then to learn easily by imitating.

8. The Principle of Opportunity: The Shaolin principle asks us to define our objective (goal) and not just one way (plan) to achieve it. It states us to have the ability to deviate from the plan when needed and to have patience because patience leads to success.

9. The Principle of Yielding: The Shaolin principle teaches us that the Soft triumphs over the Hard. Stiffness is the companion of death, flexibility is the companion of life. A tree that cannot bend will crack to the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken, the soft and supple will prevail.

10. The Principle of Superiority: The Shaolin principle teaches us to build a reputation so that people fear engaging in a fight with us. Draw the bow, but not to shoot. It is better to be feared than to hit.

11. The Principle of Letting Go: The Shaolin principle teaches us to approach each situation afresh. It urges us to recognize our biases because it clouds our judgments and it urges us to let go of tired and tested methods or preconceived solutions.

12. The Principle of Self-Knowledge: Shaolin principle urges us to learn, that everything you are and will become lies only within you.

"Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment" - Lao Tzu.

It also teaches us to free ourselves from praise or criticism from outside. Learning to deal with praise and criticism is an important quality.

13. The Principle of Community: The Shaolin Principle says that leadership does not mean power over others, but the opportunity to achieve a common goal. Leadership means responsibility, leadership means giving recognition and leadership means winning together. It also states that Self-Leadership is crucial, authority depends on inner attitude and good communication is key.

Here is the Book for your reference:

Thursday, October 5, 2023


If you are from India, you will know Bihar Government released the Caste Census Report last Sunday (2nd October). Before I lose my readers who are disinterested in politics, let me quickly tell them this Blog is not a commentary on the census report. Thanks for not scrolling away.

In this report, there was interesting data on ATHEISTS. The census report mentions a very small number of 2,146 atheists in a state of 137 million people.

This drew my attention to Shaheed Bhagat Singh's famous essay WHY I AM AN ATHEIST? which he wrote in a jail in Lahore, during his last days while waiting for the execution of his death sentence. So, I picked up the book from my bookshelf and indulged myself in reading it.

Once again if you are from India, Bhagat Singh needs no introduction. For the wider audience, Bhagat Singh is one of the most adored and loved Indian revolutionary and Freedom Fighter, a Youth Icon (in fact with time, his ideas grow more relevant). He was martyred at the young age of just 23 years but his inspired a whole new generation of freedom fighters and Indian freedom movement against the British Raj.

Coming back to Bhagat Singh's writing WHY I AM AN ATHEIST?

His writing is divided into two parts:

In the first part, he puts forth his arguments and reasons against those who attribute his Atheism to arrogance, pride, and vanity.

In the second part, he puts forth his arguments and reasons Why he became an Atheist.

Part 1:

Bhagat Singh was accused of becoming proud, arrogant, and full of vanity after he was shot to fame in the Delhi bombing and Lahore conspiracy cases. So he writes, that's not true. He was raised as a believer, offering morning and evening prayers and reciting mantras, by his father who was an Arya Samaji. He practiced Sikhism all through his elementary education and at D.A.V. College in Lahore.

He had started to think deeply about religion, about God during his college days overlapping the Non-Cooperation movement, much before the Delhi bombing and Lahore conspiracy cases.

Even when he joined the Revolutionary Party, he met a leader comrade Sachindara Nath Sanyal (he later served life imprisonment in connection with the Karachi conspiracy case). He was a Believer and his book Bandi Jivan has chapters in the Glory of God.

The Kakory martyrs Ram Prashad Bismal was an Arya Samaji and Rajan Lahiri recited hymns from Upanishads and Bhagwat Gita.

There was only one person he met in the revolutionary party who was Anti-religious (against organized religion) but did not deny the existence of GOD.

Bhagat Singh concludes by saying his Atheism is not due to arrogance or vanity. This is a development over a while after thinking long and deep on this matter. He grew skeptical by seeing the degraded values of society and eventually, he rejected the belief in the existence of an Omnipresent, all-powerful, all-knowing God.


Bhagat Singh mentions his early days when he joined the Revolutionary Party. He says, during those early days I was just a follower. Our party faced a lot of opposition pressure and we were not growing into a mass movement. These experiences seeded in him, a strong desire to study (read). He had a paradigm shift from Romance of Militancy to Realism in Thinking. He had a growing realization violence produces opposite results in a mass movement and that violence is to be practiced only in extreme situations. So he emerged himself into developing a clear conception and Ideology.

He studied Bakunin's God and State, Nirlamba Swami's Common Sense, and books written by Karl Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky. In the year 1926, he publicly declared to be an Atheist (just a small digress, Bhagat Singh's martyrdom day is 23rd March 1931 at the age of 23 years).

He does acknowledge that belief makes it easier to go through hardships. A man finds support, encouragement, and consolation in God.

He mentions being an Atheist is not an easy choice, because If no belief, there is no alternative but to be Self-dependant (self-reliant). He elaborates on his situation, now that his death sentence is confirmed and he is waiting for its execution in jail, he is missing out on finding Solace in God and he has no Hopes to entertain himself of a rebirth into a better life or an afterlife spent in heaven.

Despite this mental agony, he is firm in his conviction and he says, "A short life of struggle with no such magnificent end shall itself be my reward. I sacrificed my life for the cause of Freedom."

He calls himself a Realistic man, who can overpower circumstantial pain with Reason. Merciless criticism and Independent Thinking are the two necessary traits of Revolutionary Thinking. As Mahatma Gandhiji is great, he is above criticism, as he has risen above, all that he says in the field of politics, religion, and Ethics is right. You agree or not, it is binding upon you to take it as truth. This is not constructive thinking. We do not leap forward, we go many steps back.

Bhagat Singh makes a commentary on religion. He says, our human ancestors spent time solving the mysteries of the world, its past, its present, and its future, its whys, and its wherefores, but having been terribly short of direct proofs, every one of them tried to solve the problem in his own way. He mentions this lack of proof and reliance on philosophy makes our religions antagonistic and conflicting with each other. The claim of only one true religion is the root of all evil.

Instead of developing the ideas and experiments of ancient thinkers, we are making ideological weapons for future struggle. We are being lethargic, idle, and fanatical as we cling to orthodox religion and in this way, we are reducing human awakening to a stagnant pool.

He calls for action to every person who stands for Progress to Reason, because reason is the guiding principle of life and blind belief deprives one of understanding. He clarifies he is not advocating countering beliefs with beliefs, but rather challenging the efficacy of old beliefs with sound arguments and upholding the time-tested old beliefs which pass the litmus test of reasoning and build upon them further with new ideas to construct a new philosophy.

He ends his thought-provoking essay with questions for the Theists:

Why an Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient God create a world of woe, grief, and countless miseries and not of peace?

Nero burnt Rome, Genghis Khan killed thousands, and millions of people dying of hunger in slums. Can you say, "All is well in God's Kingdom?" Why so?

Why the Omnipotent God does not hold a man back when he is about to commit a sin or offense? After all, it's a child's play for God. Why does he have to wait to punish them in their afterlife or next birth and why do the poor and unfortunate have to suffer in their existence today?

Why does God not infuse humanistic sentiments into the minds of the Britishers so that they may willingly leave India? Why he does not fill the hearts of all capitalist classes with altruistic humanism which will free the whole laboring humanity from the shackles of money?

Bhagat Singh concludes by writing, as regards the origin of God, my thought is that man created God in his imagination when he realized his weaknesses, limitations, and shortcomings. In this way he got the courage to face all the trying circumstances and to meet all dangers that might occur in his life and also to restrain his outbursts in prosperity and affluence.

Being realistic comes at a cost, he has to throw his faith aside and face all adversaries with courage and valour. This is exactly my state of mind. As Bhagat Singh waits for his capital punishment, he writes "I don't think that by strengthening my belief in God and by offering prayers to Him, I can bring improvement in my situation, not can I further deteriorate it."

One of my friends asked me to pray during these last days of my life. I said, "No, dear sir, Never shall it happen. I consider it to be an act of degradation and demoralisation. For such petty selfish motives, I shall never pray." Readers and friends, is it vanity? If it is, I stand for it.” – Yours, Bhagat Singh

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Excerpts from the Book - My Experiments With Truth - M.K.Gandhi

2nd October Gandhi Jayanthi was an impetus for me to pick up MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH, which had been lying on my bookshelf for months if not for years.

My Experiments with Truth is an autobiographical memorabilia by Gandhiji recounting his days as a student in England (1888 to 1891), as a struggling Barrister in India, and his journey into public life and public affairs in South Africa (1893 onwards).

Sharing with you, a few interesting, insightful readings and fun facts from the book:

Certificate of Vegetarianism: Gandhi had given word to his mother that he would not take up eating meat during his stay in England (a student pursuing to become a Barrister). During the sea voyage, he asked one of his fellow European travelers to give him a certificate (testimony) that he didn't eat meat while onboard. This certificate was a prized possession for him until he found out that there were many Indians with such fake certificates :)

New Experiences and Developing New Habits: In England, Gandhi wanted to grow and develop beyond books by immersing themself in new experiences. So he left his single-room accommodation and moved in as a tenant with an Anglo-Indian family. He also developed new habits such as reading newspapers and books every day. While in South Africa (1885) he found Indians were discriminated against under the Law For Asiatics. Indians had no land ownership, no franchise, a curfew to move around after 9 p.m. and they could not use footpaths for walking. Gandhi wanted to experience What it is to be a Coolie? So he used to deliberately go out after 9 pm and used to walk on footpaths inviting trouble upon himself from the patrolling policemen of European origins. He got in touch with Indians living in Pretoria to interact with them and to study their conditions and hardships. He encouraged the Indians to unite, form an association, and jointly submit complaints to the authorities and gave them advice on how to improve their social, economic, and political conditions. He volunteered to teach English so that small-time Indian businessman could increase their income by catering to more clients.

Wave of Vegetarianism: Even back in those days, there was a wave of vegetarianism movement in England (Europe). Several books and speakers promoting the idea of Vegetarianism urging Europeans to shun meat. Salt's Plea for Vegetarianism, Howard Williams's The Ethics of Diet, and Anna Kingsford's The Perfect Way in Diet were several of the famous books in this category. Gandhi's first experience in organizing and conducting an institution came by running a Vegetarian Club in Bayswater.

Self-improvement: Gandhi from his early days was engaged in changing himself for the better. He was conscious of the hardship his family had to endure for his studies abroad so he actively found ways to cut down his expenses and increase his savings, he adopted a minimalist lifestyle and harmonized his inward and outward life. In his words, he describes, "My life was more truthful now".

Cultural Differences: During those days travelling overseas was a taboo for Indians. People who traveled abroad were outcasted by their society. Gandhi also faced the same obstacles but he defied these warnings from his community and pursued his ambition of studying in England. The concept of child marriage among Indians back then was quite common. This practice was uncommon among the Europeans. The Indian students would hide their marital status and pretend themselves to be bachelors to escape this awkwardness of cultural difference. On a different note, the cost of Drinks being more than the cost of food was an element of surprise for Gandhi.

Self-doubts and Overcoming them: It was interesting for me to find out that one of the tallest future leaders had so many self-doubts during his growing-up years. Gandhi had a fear of public speaking and he had a panic attack in his first case (Mamibai's case of Rs 30) as a barrister, when he had to present in front of the judge. He struggled to establish a successful career as a Barrister at Rajkot, so he moved to Bombay to practice without much success, he eventually returned to Rajkot and continued a self-sustained career as Barrister working for a law firm and taking up cases through referrals. Gandhi felt inadequate to be a successful Barrister and he approached one of his mentors to seek advice. He was told "Your general reading is meagre. You do not know the world. You have not read the history of India. You need to develop the ability to read a man's character from his face." This advice propelled him to immerse himself into wide and deeper reading to engage actively in public affairs and eventually make history.

Reflections of the society of those times: In 1893 in South Africa, Indian immigrants comprised Merchants (Muslim, Hindu, and Parsi) and Labourers which was the largest class (Tamilians, Teleguites, North Indians). The laborers were called Girmitiyas, also commonly referred to as Coolie or Samis. The Merchant class and the Girmitiyas had business relations only and no other social mixing. There was predominate Colour Prejudice and we all know the infamous incidence of Gandhi being thrown out of 1st class compartment by railway police, despite having a legitimate ticket. Those days 1st and 2nd class tickets were not issued to men and women of colour. Even though the macro and general trend of the society were prejudices against men and women of color, he did encounter several British (Mr. Jacobus De Wet, Mr. Coates, etc.) who were respectful and considerate towards Indians and their plight.

Religion and Spirituality: Ironically Gandhi was introduced into reading Bhagawat Gita in England, through Sir Edwin Arnold's English translation of Gita called The Song Celestial. He also read another book called The Light of Asia. His faith in prayers and belief in the Almighty grew stronger by the day through his readings and practice of rituals. In his words, "When every hope is gone, when helpers fail and comfort flee, I find that help arrives somehow, from I know not where." During his stay in South Africa, his exposure to Christianity grew and he read the holy books Bible and Koran. Leo Tolystoy's book The Kingdom of God Is Within You, had a big impact on him. He was a practicing, proud Hindu but he stayed away from the belief that any religion for that matter Hindu, Christianity, Islam, and others flawless, supreme, and perfect.

Entry into Public Life: Gandhi's entry into public life was not a pre-planned, strategically thought-through move. The opportunity of working for 1 year at a Law firm in South Africa can as luck by chance. Taking up this opportunity was an economic decision as it would provide him with a steady income as he was struggling to establish his practice in Rajkot. Apart from working for the law firm in South Africa, he used to utilize his free time networking and getting to know the Indians settled in Pretoria. This made him aware of the challenges and injustices they used to face daily. Armed with his legal knowledge, he started to counsel them and guided them in forming an association to make a collective voice in shaping legislatures taking into consideration the interests of Indians.

Ending with a fun fact. Did you know when Eiffel Tower was inaugurated amidst a great exhibition, it drew crowds from worldwide? Gandhi also traveled to see the Eiffel Tower from England. However, during those times, not everyone was in love with Eiffel Tower. There were many critics too. Leo Tolstoy said, "Eiffel Tower was a monument of man's folly, not of his wisdom."