Mindstorm Robotics during half yearly exam holidays

Lokeshwaran and Vishwa are studying in 8th grade. They have completed their half yearly exam and had holiday for a week. During this week they were coming to STEM land and were learning Robotics. Along with them another friend of them who studies in Aikiyam school has also come and learnt to do robotics by watching Lokesh and Vishwa. They have built a Mindstorm robot which moves and picks an object when controlled. When I asked Lokesh what made him to come to STEM land during holidays and why he was so much interested to learn Robotics, he said he watched videos of his seniors in Youtube and got an interest to learn. He learnt it on his own by watching videos on Youtube. He said that he is now building a robot snake and will show it to me once it is done.

Here is also a short video on this.

Vipassana meditation: Reflections on Self development

~Sanjay Tumati

Reflections on Self development – I: Plateaus and Vipassana meditation

Before I had heard of C3StreamLand and the work that Sanjeev was doing, I had been meditating within the Vipassana tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin for a fairly long time. The benefits I experienced were not few and are common to several meditators

  1. The near elimination of stressors from short term causes (mental stress that is relevant over the short term, i.e. exam/test results, traffic jams, sports matches etc)
  2. The reduction of stressors from long term causes (Life, Job, Career, Family etc)
  3. Enhanced energy and concentration for work and day to say life
  4. General confidence to take on challenges that one would be afraid of under normal circumstances.
  5. An enhanced interest in personal development
  6. General Happiness

However, most long term Vipassana meditators are aware of what is called the Plateau, a stage where the meditator is able to notice that he/she has stopped making progress. A plateau can last quite a while and can happen to the most experienced meditators. The most common observed response to a plateau is that the meditator stops practicing Vipassana and moves on to something (or nothing) else.

In general, a plateau is a signal that the level of effort that one is expending, or the level of understanding that one is bringing to the practice is insufficient. Several suggestions are made to overcome this plateau

  1. If not meditating daily, start meditating daily
  2. If meditating daily but not two hours a day, increase to 2 hours a day
  3. If meditating two hours a day or having trouble getting to 2 hours a day, start going to group sittings to increase contact with other more experience meditators. The Buddha has stated that good company “is” the spiritual life. This can take the form of
    1. Weekly group sitting conducted by other meditators
    2. Weekly half-day or one-day sits conducted by the center nearest to place of residence
    3. Sit 10 day courses part time during the weekends as often as possible. GoenkaJi has considered the plight of
  4. If meditating daily two hours a day and still experiencing a plateau, one may also go for long courses (20-day, 30-day) all of which deepen one’s understanding
  5. If one has sat long courses and is experiencing a plateau, one may deepen one’s practise by increasing one’s level of seva or service to the sangha
    1. Serve more 10-day courses full time or part time
    2. Start hosting group sittings in your residence or help in hosting them wherever they are being hosted
    3. Volunteer at the center on Day0/Metta day
    4. Long term service at a center
    5. Remote registration service with Dhamma centers

As a meditator who has done almost all of the above (except for Day0 service, 5c), I can attest that one still experiences plateaus and very persistent ones that last for distressingly long periods of time. In the following blog posts, I will outline an alternate method to overcome these plateaus with an introduction to my understanding of RTL along with Vipassana along with the relevant context.

        Reflections on self development – II : What is a Sangha

Having experienced persistent plateaus after plenty of effort as outlined in my last post, I recollected my mind to the time of the most rapid growth that I had experienced.

  1. A few years after having been introduced to Vipassana when everything was new and exciting
  2. During a period where I was in contact with a most excellent meditator (Suresh Venkumahanti, who is now an AT living in Austin. I mention the name since I will reference him)

The solution then was clear à I must in contact with a person who is a most excellent meditator. It is the company of excellent meditators that constitutes a sangha. The best way to be in contact with such a person is to work with that person. To support him in his endeavours, to make his endeavours one’s own à eventually all endeavours are one to the extent that they all point towards one’s personal growth.

Now, we come to the question of who is a most excellent meditator. Suresh here provided the clue himself. An excellent meditator is one who takes up worthwhile challenges, tasks that are not being done because they are difficult, where failure is a real option, one who is not afraid of standing alone and one who discharges them all with a smile while constantly seeking to increase one’s capacity. Suresh did not say that an excellent meditator is someone who does long courses, stays and serves at centers long term, sits and serves several courses a year at centers, always dressed in white , etc and other outward appearances.

I consider myself very fortunate here that life brought me into contact with and kept me in contact with another very Suresh-like meditator, Sanjeev. Sanjeev and his qualities are very well known to everyone likely to read this blog post and I will therefore spare everyone the details and end this post here

Reflections on Self development – III : An RTL Workshop leads toC3StreamLand

C3StreamLand (Formerly StemLand, AuraAuro Design) is the organization for which Sanjeev has taken up responsibility at Auroville. If you are already reading this post, then you need no introduction to C3StreamLand or what it does or what it’s objectives are. To me, C3StreamLand is, if not the ideal Sangha, then the best Sangha that I know of, that I can be part of. The reasons for this have been outlined in another blog post on this website and there is no need for me to repeat myself here.

The question that came to me after a few months of stay here was, what would motivate Sanjeev to set up some place like this? Setting up even an ordinary organization is a very challenging and frustrating endeavor indeed. What would motivate someone to set up an organization that primarily does social work, does not depend on external donations, finances it’s social work via its own revenue generation in a cut-throat commercial environment (*1), provide an opportunity for each person to take responsibility for their growth, and create a space for everyone who comes in contact with the organization? These are not the aims of an ordinary organization. Certainly, the effort involved, or the wisdom involved, in setting up and running such an organization must be great indeed.

Pre-2015 Sanjeev too was reveling in the need to spend time with children and staying in that comfort zone until he was introduced to a self-reflection technique called RTL. It is when he attended his second RTL that he realized that he was setting his sights too low and that if he was to unlock his full potential, he could not continue with his prior ways any longer. It is important to note that at the time, Sanjeev had already been regularly practicing Vipassana meditation for 6 years since his first course in 2009. Any technique that can bring forth such a realization in a long term Vipassana meditator is definitely a technique worth looking into. How do I say that RTL brought forth a realization in Sanjeev and not just a fast-dissipating feel-good Aha moment? By what followed afterwards à C3StreamLand. It is by its fruits that you know the tree.

*1: I notice that people who claim to be spiritual or have a social consciousness can look down on commercial work, and some may also not be up for the rigor it needs.

Reflections on Self Development – IV: A Buddhist Monk endorses anRTL-like process and a synthesis between RTL and Vipassana

I have been introduced to RTL only 18 months back and me being a slow learner, my understanding is very shallow at best and so I will not attempt here to give an overview of the technique. Instead, here I will share how my understanding of RTL has shaped my practice of Vipassana so far.

I shared my reflections on Self development plateaus in my very first post on the series. I once asked a Buddhist Monk this very question on why so many Vipassana meditators are experiencing such plateaus in spite of putting up what looked like substantial effort (*1). The Bhante’s (*2) answer was as short as it was instructive, the self-reflective component may be missing from the practice of the meditators. Their practice may have become mechanical without understanding what they are doing, why they are doing it and why/how what they are doing must help them go where they want to go. They forget the rationale behind the process and start worshipping the process and forget to benefit from it.

The Bhante’s explanation of the behavior of meditators is analogous to the Math student who memorizes that formulas, memorizes the algorithm for computing HCF/LCM/Limits/Integral/Differential without understanding what about the principle implies. Sure, he can compute the LCM when you ask him to, but he/she may not be able to recognize a real life LCM problem as an LCM problem. Similarly, the meditator who mechanically observes sensations and superficially watches them come and go (Anicca) on the mat but when those same sensations come up in real life either as temptation or fear or sloth, he is strangely unable to do what he did with aplomb on the mat. He then concludes that what is needed is more 10-day courses, more long courses, more service at a center, more long term service at a center, or worse, that the technique does not work and drop Vipassana altogether.

Now the question arises, what does it mean to observe sensations with understanding? It is not necessary to go into an description of the Bhante’s instructions except that they seem remarkably close to what is done in RTL. Here is how RTL comes into the Bhante’s words? RTL is in fact a self-reflection technique that invites me to reflect on the core of my being  (*3). The RTL technique then invites me to reflect on the learnings from the self-reflection that I just performed. It invites me to reflect on exactly what constitutes an insight, a realization

The table below offers my opinion on the Synthesis between RTL and Vipassana

RTL Vipassana
What do I believe in?  What do I care about? What is my stand? Why am I practising Vipassana, why am I meditating? What qualities am I hoping to cultivate?
What am I doing about what I believe in and what I care about How will observing sensations in this particular manner help me cultivate those qualities.


Is this action I am undertaking right now in sync with my stand? Am I observing this sensation in a way that is conducive to cultivate the quality I desire?
What did I learn about myself from this experience? What did I learn about myself from this sensation? Did I learn that my automatic response to any sensation is to push it away (aversion) or attempt to hold on to it (craving, ego enhancement)? For that matter, what did I learn from this blank area? I learnt that I hate it! Why? Because it indicates to me that my mind is gross from which I conclude that I am a poor meditator à Ego
What insights did I generate How do I feel when I notice a sensation passing away?
What will I do differently next time? Having noticed that my spontaneous response to any sensation is craving or aversion, what will I do to break this habit pattern? And why do I believe that what I plan to do will indeed break this habit pattern?
What did I do well this time? Was I really able to generate insight into the Anicca nature of this sensation? Did the thought that this sensation is Anicca arise spontaneously as I became aware of the sensation or was it more superficial than that? Was I truly able to notice the sense of loss at a sensation passing away?


(*1): Substantial to the extent that a householder is capable of.

(*2): Bhante is how laypeople address monks, Literally Venerable Sir. For Nuns, correspondingly, Ayya

(*3): Shades of Ramana Maharishi


Using gears for ratios

7th in Udavi children were learning ratios. We used a crank fan and used a spur gear system (in the pictures) to spin the blades around and make a breeze. The faster the fan turns, the stronger the breeze. Using a big gear to turn a small gear makes it easier to turn the blades quickly. For one full turn of the big gear, the small gear spins around many times. How many times it spins depends on the number of teeth both gears have (gear ratio). The spur gears turn the blades much faster than if you turned the blades directly with a crank. Using this crank fan, we showed 1:1 ratio up to 1:5. Showing it visually gave children the confidence to understand the ratio concept.

We gave the students another gear pair as an example for further examination: If the 75-tooth driver gear rotates 3 times, how many times will a 15-tooth driven gear rotate? What if the 75-tooth driver gear rotates 5 times? By focusing on the relationship between the gears. In this case, the 15-tooth gear rotates 5 times for every rotation of the 75-tooth gear. This is true regardless of the number of times the 75-tooth gear rotates. This brought us closer to the gear ratio of a 75-tooth driver gear and a 15-tooth driven gear and what they do in class as the gear ratio is 1:5.

Children understood that.

A colon is often used to show a gear ratio:

gear ratio = rotations of a driver gear: rotations of a driven gear.

Children when seeing it visually it gives confident to build different numbers to find the ratio. The session was interesting for the children. Children sheared their learnings to each other and started working in peers.

Yoga class for Shifuians

Becoming and Being a Shifu (Master) program focuses on developing skills, competencies and inner capacities in graduates through a 1 year residential program. Muthukumari, a yoga and healing therapist, had offered that she can do yoga class for our team members. I thought it will be useful for the Shifuians and asked them if they were interested. Seven of them were interested and Muthukumari was happy to come on campus and offer the sessions. So far six sessions have been conducted. One of our employees has also joined the class.

The goal of this session is to introduce the asanas for good mental health, physical health and wellbeing. Muthukumari expects that after few sessions when people will master these asanas they will be able to do these as part of their daily routine.

Shifuians were able to learn Asanas, Suryanamaskar and Prayanama:



Veera bathrasana




Sedhu banda sarvangasna





Pachi mottanasana


Suryanamaskar 12 steps






















Continued learning and breaking silos

~Sandhiya, Durai

At C3STREAM land we have sessions of continued practice of Radical Transformational Leadership sessions every Thursday within our group as well as being open to people from outside. For this session, Sanjeev and Sri Bhavani were the resource people. We worked on what I stand and my socialized fear.

These sessions help us break our silo work in the groups and projects we work on and give us an opportunity to have deeper conversations with others.

Though we had done the exercise many times each time it gives us an opportunity to reflect and learn about ourselves. We thought of the qualities of a person we deeply admire. Based on that values we create a new narrative of introducing of ourselves to everyone. I noticed that a few people had changed their stand.

This week we also had few friends of Sanjay who had joined us from New York. They also engaged with us and explored what they care about and what limits their choices in life. They then visited STEM land and learned about what we do with children. We felt this was an appropriate way to introduce who we are and then what we do.

The processing of stands and fears was interesting. One of us reflected on how we have a fear of not meeting others and my own expectations and of needing to maintain an image in the mind of others. We had fears of not being good enough and of judgment of others.

This fear is default and then acts from the universal values the fear will automatically get down and the stand will move up.

Some reflections from the group:

  1. When something changes I see that fear is my default. I see that sourcing my values I can transcend fear.
  2. I noticed that my role model was a reflection of my universal value and what I wish to become.
  3. I noticed that I rationalize my fear, but this just makes the fear drive my actions and takes me away from being in integrity.

Radical Transformational Leadership (RTL)

Once a year we have a team building session when we come together to look at leadership the ability to create a new future together. This is both a personal transformation program and a team building program. As we become a larger team that is working on more and more diverse and specialized areas we tend to work more an more in silos and this offers an opportunity to break these silos. This year I attended RTL session along with my team members over 9 days (spread across 3 months). It was organized as a hybrid session with 50 odd people who joined online from different parts of the country and a few from the world and we attended in the session physically in
Auroville. I noticed this helps break the monotony of only working with the people we always know and get new perspectives and insights. It also helped us connect with Dr. Monica who participated from the US.

In the first session I joined online as a PC to support the online participants. This gave me an opportunity to interact with many people as the workshop is based on peer learning.

Session 2 and 3 I attended onsite
with my team members and other groups from Auroville (Tamarai, Isai ambalam school, Aikiyam School, Last school, Auroville consulting, etc).

The onsite interactions are easier to engage with for some participants staring at a screen the entire day even on a projector was too intense. We attempted different interactions online and onsite e.g. we were together in the mornings to share insights and then did our exercises independently and came together at the end of the day. Having participated both online and Onsight I felt that the richness that had come with sharing insights after each session was missing. I brought this up at our debriefing session and the resource people took this into consideration and found a way to do the exercises independently and yet come together for insights and also process them together.

During these sessions I was able to reflect on my
actions and come up with my own examples of my practice and noticed
where all I need to retain or improve as a person. I learnt that there a
multiple ways of saying no and I need to use the appropriate words when
I decline requests and the other learning is when I was able to relate the
isms with me I was able to find intersectionality and when multiple
isms are interconnected, discrimination and sufferings are high.


Cycle Safety light

For quite a long time (year and a half), kids in the electronics lab have been working on breadboard circuits which they build and then dismantle. They built quite a few circuits this way working with LEDs, Opamps, comparators, 555, microphones, speakers etc. We found that generally one in 20 kids to whom the circuits were introduced become interested to come regularly to the lab in the evenings at the expense of their free time which they usually use to play. A visitor from Austria expressed surprise that any kids at all turned up at the lab at the expense of play time.

Sanjeev and Siva both suggested that this number (1 in 20) would go up if we focussed on some practical circuits which the children could use in their daily lives (and also show their parents, friends and relatives) instead of just making toy circuits on the breadboard which they would proceed to dismantle to build the next circuit. Obviously this is a bit harder and a bit more time consuming for some of us, and that’s why we stayed in the comfort zone (among other reasons) for all this time. Well, staying in comfort is not a universal value and it was clear that changes will have to be made.

So we have now (finally!) started on practical applications. Two of these are

  1. An outdoor light that turns on automatically when the sun sets and turns off automatically when the sun rises (Blog post to come).
  2. An indoor light that turns on when there are people in a room and turns off when people have left the room or staying still (Blog post made by Manogar and Sundaresan)

The third was an idea that came from kids themselves. Their mothers are understandably worried when they use their cycles at night. Cycles owned by the kids have no back lights to warn motorists who approach the cyclist from behind. So it was decided that a light at the back of a cycle that flashed red light once a second was a fine practical circuit. Humans (indeed all predators) are sensitive to movement rather than stillness and to flashing lights rather than still lights. They are also more sensitive to Red and White flashing lights than to any other color.

So an astable multivibrator was built based on the 555 chip which the children first tested on the breadboard and then soldered it on the PCB with help from C3StreamLand youth. An 8th standard student from Udavi school called Ajay took up the challenge to design the structure to house the circuit and to also mount it on his cycle. The student you see with the cycle and the flasher in the attached photos and videos is Ajay.

Ajay’s next target(s)

  1. Make it waterproof
  2. Make it robust to rough riding
  3. Power it off a Dynamo instead of a 9V battery as is being done now

Shifu students visit to Sadhana Forest

Becoming and Being a Shifu (Master) program provides opportunities for the students to explore and integrate in Auroville. As part of this exploration we visited Sadhana Forest community last Friday. Every Friday the community offers a tour, screens a documentary and serves a vegan organic dinner (this offering is free of charge and reservations are not required).

Here are some things we saw, discussed and experienced.

  • We have discussion about the environment and people particularly about compassion and share our thoughts and heard others thoughts about the world.
  • Compassion towards humans, animals and towards children
  • We learned about Deforestation and Reforestation
  • We noticed they used ash to wash vessels
  • Three buckets to subsequently wash the vessels and prevent waste
  • Less amount of water is used to wash hands
  • Human excreta in dry composting toilets is eventually used as compost. These are stored in a barrels with saw dust for a year to make compost
  • Human pee is a Nitrogen rich element when it is mixed with charcoal is good for the soil.
  • Efficient use of redesigned stoves
  • Speed breakers like soil structures were built to reduce soil erosion
  • Vegan dinner!
  • Rescued animals were sheltered and taken good care of by the volunteers
  • High compressed plastic sheets are used as roofs of dorms
  • New species of animals and birds are coming to the forest because of rich natural environment
  • Seeds were thrown in surface and volcano like structures made up of leaves maintain the humidity. Water bottles with holes at the bottle with threads as root of bottle ensure the moisture is well maintained in the soil.

Here are some insights from the Shifuians.

Arun Kumar:

I learned that the initiative can turn into a movement when everyone realises the importance of the initiative. I learned about the soil structures to prevent the soil erosion when the heavy rainfall happens. I learned that everyone likes the nature and wants to prevent and want to make it prosperous but it all requires standard procedures.  I learned that the efficient use of water is an impact which they want to achieve from everyone. I learned the importance of working together to create a enriched forest for all living beings


The experience of visiting sadhana forest was a really a tremendous one. What I have learned is one of the precious learnings in my life.
To live a life, there are many ways, choosing the way to live my life is in my hands.
I noticed my passion towards people, the passion towards children, the passion that i have towards nature and animals.


My reflection about Sadhana Forest they focusing reforestation, water conservation, recycling and reduce wastage and how to grow plants and how to pour water in it. They put one movie about roots. It say that how roots are important in our life because roots only save the world. so trees and forest are most important in our life and also the world.


I did learn about Sadhana Forest; they are focused on water conservation and reforestation, natural materials, and organic foods.  They are using construction methods, like composting toilets, and recycling the waste, and they are also using drip irrigation to grow the plants and trees.


I learnt about the importance of forest and saving rain water and get a chance to interact with strangers and also about reusage of everything, and to live simple life with more compassion towards nature.


After visited sadhana forest l learned about how to use the water in efficient way. The reason for using the charcoal powder as dish wash powder because of rich in carbon and nitrogen. The reuse of waste products such as plastics into useful ones. How they conserve the water in order to prevent soil erosion. The importance of roots and how the plants transfer the food to roots make it healthier and thicker. How they human and animal waste into manure by natural process. The concept of drip irrigation (The process of pouring water into roots).


I learnt to interact with strangers. From the strangers, I learnt to live with unity. I learnt to save water easily. I will apply that method to my home. I learnt the importance of trees and growing roots. I learnt to use the waste materials from them. I learnt to live with animals. I learnt to convert my waste food to my pet’s food.

Sivaguru Prasath:

Learnt about effects we have made in the nature and environment. Also learnt about water and soil conservation and food wastage management.

Radical Transformational Leadership workshop for 7th and 8th grade children in Udavi

In Udavi school we have organised RTL session for children in 7th and 8th grade. Once in a week we have a session with them. Sanjeev, Nirmala, Dhavaselvy, Muthukumaran, Helena, Honor, Kavitha and Nina are the resource people. The workshop has 7 sessions and 11 tools. Each session is 2 hours.

Week 1: 19/11/2022 Stand and fears

1. I learned stand and fear. I thought I don’t have fear. I learned to be courageous. I learnt my fear and next time I will think of fear as a cartoon character.

2. Still I didn’t find my fear. I learnt my friends’ stand and fear and what they care about which usually we don’t talk about.

3. I learnt what equity is and my fear. I learnt courage and to work from it.

4. I learnt different qualities and fears. I learnt to use courage.

5. I have fear and it is there. I should know how to transcend it. Fear is normal. Second time I did the exercise I noticed that my fear had reduced. 


Week 2: 26/11/2022 4 profile and Background Conversation 

Stand and fear:

  1.     How to control fear.
  2.     How to control fear and give name for my fear and act from my universal values.
  3. How to name my fear and put down my fear being in my values and learnt what are my universal values.

4 profiles

  1.     Ignore the issue in society, be yourself (in values).
  2.     Treat everyone equal
  3.     From my universal values I see everyone is my friend.
  4.     Treat everyone equally by being in my universal values and do not ask caste.
  5.     Do not judge others based on their dress or their profession.
  6.     See everyone as equal and do not judge them.
  7.     Do not see cast and treat them equally by being in my universal values.

Background Conversations and deep listening:

  1.     Deep listening to each other and should not allow my background conversation.
  2.     Do not hurt others by not listening to them.
  3.     I should listen to others while having conversations.
  4.     I should listen to them with wholeness (deep listen).
  5.     I should not have background conversation and listen to others instead of finding the flaw (background conversation)
  6.     It is my choice to listen to others.

Week 3 :  03/12/2022 Story of stuff and introduction to Conscious full spectrum Response model

Following are the system principles children came up with. 


1. Cause and effect of the problem and to identify the solution.

2. If something has happened, some we can change some we can’t. (Eg: if a scale is broken I can’t do anything for it)

3. Not to pollute and a system is working together. 

4. I learnt not to cut the trees. I learn about systems.

5. I learnt about a system and it’s cause and effect. 

6. Design using all three circles. Only one or two circles does not give a sustainable solution.

7. I am also part of the system and I need to change if I wish to see change.