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Forever Happy Now! Posts

Practical virtues

In chapter 16 of the Amazing Simple Gita, my Guru has added an important element for many virtues in the first 3 verses. One of pragmatism and practicality.

Some people try to conflate the virtues given with perpetual application. In every single situation.

The virtue list asks to tell the truth? Well tell the truth all the time then, even if it hurts someone, especially a dharmic person.

Here’s one:

Kshama: An automatic, effortless (non-reactive) forgiveness. No stupidity, Great Prithviraj Chawhan, forgave his enemy 7 times and got killed in the 8th battle. Never forgive durjanas.

Adhroha: Bearing no enmity, dislike to none. Yet applied depending on your duty. For instance border protector, soldier and police. Don’t wait to get killed by other’s tricks.

See the stuff in bold? How practical is that!

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Extra of the ordinary

How about we cherish the beauty of the everyday? In the simplicity of routine, we uncover moments of wonder and joy, whether it’s the melody of birdsong, the comfort of a familiar embrace, or the aroma of freshly baked bread.

Amidst the hustle of life, we could pause to appreciate the magic in ordinary moments, like the gentle rustle of leaves in the wind or the soft glow of a candle’s flame.

We can embrace the notion that true miracles lie in the everyday, reminding ourselves to seek awe in the seemingly mundane, like the way sunlight dances through the trees or the laughter of children playing in the park.

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Journey or destination? Neither?

We’re always told to value the journey over the destination, right?

Because focusing on the destination aka result is what brings us stress and anxiety. Focusing on the journey hence will allow us to “enjoy the moment”.

Here’s another nice take I came across recently.

Shift your focus from the ‘how’ to the ‘who‘ – because the people you surround yourself with shape your journey.

In life’s adventure, the beauty lies in the company you keep. Prioritize the ‘who’ over the ‘how.’

There is magic in embracing inspiring souls; they transform ordinary journeys into extraordinary adventures.

The right people could make every journey and destination brilliant.

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Cat outta the bag

In Rajarshi Nandi’s book called Adhyatmikta, the author presents an interesting view on sects or lineages of saints, called sampradayas.

Many people simply become egoistic today, saying that they are linked to so and so lineage. Does it really matter?

Here’s a funny excerpt from the book…

Each sampradaya is susceptible to a single weak link in the chain of transmission. Nobody can fix this; that is how matters transpire. The classic example given is that of one great pundit who had a cat and would tie that cat near his puja room when he sat for puja so that the animal did not disturb him. Few generations down the line nobody really remembered why he used to tie the cat, but the thought process, and that action transformed into a dogma and a new rule was made that whoever did that puja ought to first buy one cat for himself and then tie it near the room!
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Simple reality

  • Life’s pursuit? Seek limitlessness.
  • Problem: How we seek.
  • Why? Because desires drive us, and actions limit us.
  • Upanishad say: Seeker and sought unite.
  • Knowledge, not action, leads.
  • Then why act? As work purifies mind, detached.
  • Pure mind grasps reality fast.
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Nature’s call

In Sanskrit philosophy, there’s this concept called “prakriti,” which refers to nature’s role in shaping our consciousness and giving it boundaries. Pra+kriti, first+action.

It’s like nature’s way of guiding us to act in certain ways, almost instinctively. Picture it as our default mode of action, the way we naturally respond when faced with a situation that demands action.

This innate nature, deeply embedded within us, influences how we perceive and interact with the world around us. Until we learn to master it, we’re bound by its constraints.

There’s this saying in Sanskrit that I came across, “svabhavo vijayati iti shauryam,” which translates to “the true heroism is to conquer our own nature.” It’s about overcoming those instinctual impulses and limitations to truly assert control over our actions and decisions.

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Mauna

A relative was recently discussing an experience of a silent spiritual retreat.

I’ve heard of these before, but never had the courage to attempt one. Still won’t, I think.

But it’s interesting when you realize that verbal silence is only one aspect of it. The real mauna is in the ability to make the mind go quiet. Silencing the mouth is just a means to that end.

Apparently there are a few types of maunas.

Karna mauna: control of speech;

Kastha mauna: maintaining a neutral expression in every way;

Susupti mauna: clearing the mind of doubts, recognizing life’s transient nature and the role of the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas;

Maha mauna: achieving a complete cessation of thoughts

Clearly, shutting my mouth is far easier than the others!

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No fear seer

Guruji’s Wisdom: “I am the body” breeds fear—of hurt, death, loss.

Cosmic Play: Recognize life as Lord’s Prakriti, embracing desire’s exhaustion for innate fearlessness.

Death’s Truth: Realize death befalls the body, not the everlasting soul—fear wanes.

Relinquish Labels: Strip away “I and mine,” embracing everything as the Lord’s—fear fades.

Devotion Triumphs Fear: Total faith in the Lord dispels fear; Prahalad’s unwavering trust exemplifies.

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Hard or soft?

In the realm of leadership today, there’s a lot of buzz around soft skills, and empathy often gets thrown into that mix. But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sees it differently. He believes understanding others goes far beyond what we typically consider soft skills. To him, labeling empathy as “soft” undermines its true importance—it’s actually one of the toughest skills to master.

Nadella emphasized this point in an interview with Axel Springer’s CEO Mathias Döpfner, stating, “Empathy is not a soft skill. It’s the hardest one to master—to truly connect with the world and the people who matter most to us.”

Moreover, Nadella highlights that empathy isn’t just about bettering relationships within a company—it’s also integral for understanding customers. According to him, genuine innovation stems from empathetically addressing unspoken needs.

Nadella has long championed the significance of empathy in leadership. His personal experiences, including being a father to his late son Zain, who had special needs, profoundly shaped his perspective. He acknowledges his wife’s empathy as a driving force behind his own commitment to infusing compassion into both his personal and professional endeavors.

In essence, Nadella’s stance underscores that empathy isn’t merely a trendy concept—it’s a fundamental pillar of effective leadership.

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Big, bigger…

Steve Schwarzman is global Private Equity behemoth Blackstone’s Founder and Chairman.

He’s 77 years old, and is worth some ~38bn dollars. So one can say he’s successful.

Here’s what he said in an interview recently, which offers some exceptional motivation:

Schwarzman, who will likely never retire, insists his global ambitions have nothing to do with money. "I look at anything and say, 'What's the maximum we can make this?"" he says of his life's work. "If you see some amazing opportunity, I just get so excited about that. Why shouldn't we own that? Let's go."
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Cool, calm, confident

Ever found yourself pondering how to tackle an unusual challenge? Imagine facing a judge’s puzzling verdict: a prisoner must be hanged on a surprise day from Monday to Friday.

Instead of succumbing to fear, the prisoner remains calm, employing a brilliant strategy. If he stays alive until Thursday, the judge’s Friday execution loses its element of surprise.

Extending this logical approach, if he survives until Wednesday, Thursday’s execution is ruled out. This method continues for each day, ultimately making a surprise punishment impossible.

This tale unfolds a powerful lesson in navigating tough situations with a composed mind and innovative thinking. When faced with adversity, the ability to think beyond the obvious can work wonders. The prisoner’s clever reasoning not only spared his life but left the judge in awe, leading to a compassionate decision.

In life’s challenges, perhaps remarkable solutions emerge when one stays calm and embraces creativity.

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Choosing choice

In our journey as humans, we’re endowed with the incredible gift of the human form, giving us the unique ability to choose our thoughts, feelings, and actions. This power shapes our destiny and happiness.

Life is often turbulent, filled with trials. Yet, amid the storm, our choices remain in our control. We can choose our attitude, our response – to be positive, proactive, and resilient.

Cultivating the art of choice is vital. Each decision carries consequences. Discovering our purpose guides us towards meaningful choices, aligning us with fulfillment and freedom.

But beware of ego-driven choices, which lead to bondage and suffering. The study of Vedanta offers wisdom, clarifying our path towards a meaningful and joyful existence.

In the end, the power of choice is divine – a force that shapes our lives and the world around us. Embrace it, for it resides within each of us.

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Meditative mantra

In the chaos of our daily lives, meditation has become a lifeline for many chasing success and inner peace. But what’s the real key to making meditation work? Well, it’s simpler than you might think: just repeat to yourself, “I am nothing, I know nothing, I do nothing.

Now, that might sound counterintuitive in a world obsessed with achievement, but here’s the trick – it’s all about letting go. Embrace the mantra, embrace the nothingness.

By acknowledging our smallness, we actually find a deeper connection within ourselves. It’s like shedding layers of stress, anxiety and ego.

This mantra isn’t about achieving something monumental. It’s about finding peace in the now, letting go of the need to know everything, and realizing that sometimes doing nothing is the most productive thing you can do.

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Really real problems

We’ve discussed previously the very nice and funny TV series called Our Man in… where the host is none other than James May of Top Gear fame.

Guess where he’s traveled to after visiting Japan and Italy? Well, India of course!

India is a country that’s just too vast to do full justice on a 3-episode show. And so while May has tried, he’s barely scratched the surface. At least it leaves room for him to come back for more!

What struck me as poignant, was how he a Britisher, and therefore ex-“colonizer” (as one of his guests in an episode funnily put it), summed up India at the end.

He acknowledged that foreign people always talk about the problems in India. And then he added, “The problems of India are no different than the problems we have back home. The only thing is, India is much bigger, and hence its problems look that much bigger.”

Nicely on point. The problems everywhere are the same. And interestingly, the solutions are the same as well. All dealing with the mind, and cleanly provided in our scriptures!

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Candle lit

Remember Elton John’s touching but outstanding song, “Candle in the Wind”? It got me thinking about life in another way.

Imagine life as a flame, akin to the candle in Elton’s song, but with an uplifting twist.

Each of us is like a candle, glowing brightly for a time before we’re gone.

Yet, the flame – our spirit or essence – doesn’t end with us. It moves on, lighting another candle, another life.

This is an analogical perspective to rebirth, isn’t it?

Our physical form may flicker out, but our essence continues in the endless cycle of life, much like the enduring melody of a beautiful song…

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Thanks but yes thanks

Daana or charity has a special place in spirituality. Lord Krishna considers it amongst the key rungs on the spiritual ladder.

Why would this be?

Because the root cause of all our troubles is said to be the ego. The more the ego has, the more it wants.

Au contraire, the more it gives away, the weaker it becomes.

This nicely sums up daana. Because when we part with something, we’re actually not losers, but gainers in the most crucial sense.

So charity, assuming it’s done right, with no expectations, and given to the right people / organizations, means that it’s really not the receivers who should be telling thanks to the givers. Rather it should be the givers telling them thanks, for giving them the opportunity to perform daana!

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Listen up

There was a funny incident recently. A session on improving presentation skills was being conducted.

The speaker said that there were three key things to watch out for.

  1. Listening
  2. Questioning
  3. Messaging

The speaker then said that he wanted the audience to pick any one of the three key focus areas that they believed were their strong point.

Everyone picked one of the three and put that into the chat box (most sessions happen online nowadays you see!).

Everyone except one chap. He picked Listening and Questioning.

The speaker said you’ve to pick only one. So he picked Listening.

But it’s funny no? The guy who picked Listening as his strong suit couldn’t listen to the requirement, which was to pick only one! Sums me up well many times, when I’m just physically present but mentally far far away someplace…

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Mental subtraction

Here’s a nice mental model that I came across recently.

What “mental subtraction” calls for, is to imagine that certain situations have not happened in our lives.

Many times we feel low and depressed. But how to get out of this rut? Mental subtraction of course!

So just think of the most important and the happiest events and situations that happened in your life.

Could be when you got married, or when you graduated, or got a promotion, or got your first child, or any of 100s of other such situations.

Now mental subtraction requires us to slowly remove each of these incidents from our lives. The positive triggers that pushed our trajectory forward? Yes, remove them.

How would we have felt? Where would we be? Surely not in a better position than we are in today?

And thus the need for gratitude and faith. Nothing is truly in our hands, but still, we are in good hands.

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Worship mentality

A lot of people would be doing homas (fire worship) for a variety of reasons.

While I was reading an excellent manual on performing a Chandi Homam (Mother Chandi is the divine primordial energy of life), I was struck by the message provided by the author on the mindset one needs to adopt while doing this homam. Pasting it below, verbatim, for your reading pleasure!

However, it is not necessary that She should take away one's material success and prosperity in order to give spiritual upliftment. In fact, many people who perform Chandi homam everyday or every week using this document may experience continued or even increased material success (and yet be able to remain detached from it and progress spiritually). However, in some cases, She may decide to give a shock or two in worldly matters if something is badly blocking one's spiritual progress and a setback is needed. The path towards self-realization is different for each person. She knows the best for each person. Unless one is willing to surrender to Her completely and accept whatever comes one's way good or bad as Her blessings and unless one does not expect any specific material benefit from this homam, one should not use this document to perform Chandi homam.

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Hamster Manster

Seem a hamster wheel before? No doubt you have!

It seems silly that the hamster keeps running on it, despite getting nowhere.

Well here’s the story of someone I know.

He was perched on a ladder, and was doing great.

Then he looked down, and felt super, because he saw many below him on lower rungs of the ladder.

Then he looked up, and felt sick, because there were so many above him on higher rungs.

And he felt those above him were getting away, farther and farther, while those below, seemed to be catching up!

But the Divine Being who was standing outside and observing, could clearly make out that the ladder was nothing more than a circle, exactly like a hamster’s wheel.

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Speak down

Most people today are crazy about speaking up. They just do anything to get the first word in, and more importantly, their word in.

It’s as though the world is run by people who talk, talk and talk more.

Speaking up is important, no doubt, at specific times.

But only speaking, and not letting anyone else in on the conversation? That’s plain bad manners!

And yet, most people just love the sound of their own voice a bit too much!

But you know what’s even more beautiful than sound and perhaps more important?

Silence!

Silence is crucial if one wants to listen to and understand the words and perspectives of others. Wisdom calls upon us only when we are silent. We can feel the Self within, only in silence. Indeed, silence is the true language of Creation.

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Extreme devotion?

Came across the interesting concept of Virodha Bhakti, or reverse devotion. The practitioners harbor such intense hatred towards God that they undergo self-destruction, only to be rescued by the very divine force that annihilated them.

This philosophy suggests that the immense power and transformative nature of the Divine makes any interaction, even adversarial, ultimately beneficial for the Seeker.

Liberation is attained when an asura, slain by Vishnu or Durga (for example) in battle, experiences this paradoxical union of destruction and salvation.

The gods of Hinduism, capable of formidable deeds, execute their actions with perfect detachment – destroying without hatred and loving without attachment.

This paradoxical nature underscores the profound dynamics of spirituality.

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10k marathon

Everyone who runs a marathon knows than the 10k or 10 kilometers run is not even close to the actual 42km.

Neither is it close to the half marathon at 21k.

But 10k is important in itself, as the stepping stone to the larger numbers. 10k is also the over-publicized and over-quoted number from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers where he coaxes people to get in 10k hours of practice on anything if they seek mastery.

We’ve discussed this before as well, and so we’ll get to the point. 10k hours works in everything, including spirituality. We spend 10k hours on many things, but how about on prayer?

Many people question faith. They say our scriptures and vedic chants do not work. But these statements come from quarters that have never tried these out. Try calling out to a deity with shraddha and bhakti 10k-hours-worth times and the view will change!

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Poverty-stricken who

For the Ayodhya Ram Mandir consecration, the who’s who across various fields were been invited to attend.

But there’s also one poor ragpicker who was invited.

Really? Why?

Because she had donated a meagre 20 rupees in total, 10 from her side, and 10 for her unwell son.

20 rupees is nothing. The middle class will argue that with inflation, even 2 million rupees is nothing.

But what this lady lacked in money, she made up for in faith and devotion.

In terms of money, everyone reading this would never considering themselves to be in poverty.

But I can’t help but wonder if I’m not spiritually impoverished. And whether the Guru has been trying forever to lift me above the poverty line.

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Tester kit

Life is a test. Or maybe a series of tests.

Like in school and college, we can’t always score a 10 on 10.

Some will be really tough tests, and others not so much.

But the tests are what cause us to grow.

They push us to become better.

When people hurt us by doing exactly the opposite of what self-help and leadership and “success-secrets” books tell us, that’s fine. Because those crazily aggravating scenarios too are just tests.

Can we keep our wits about us? Or do we give up?

Every moment spent here on earth is a test not for our bodies and minds, but for our souls. Are we able to overcome our basic instincts, and pass the test to become a higher power?

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Professionally permanent

Many of us may be attending a lot of satsangs, or at least one of them.

How does it make us feel? Great, right?

That one hour spent in satsang could be absolute bliss.

The key messages to empower ourselves, to bring us success, and to elevate our spiritual lives – all in those lovely 60 minutes. And add some socializing and some prasad, and that would seem like spiritual bliss.

But outside of that one hour of satsang?

Does the bliss continue?

Maybe the word professional satsangi is relevant then. We are (I certainly am) beneficiaries and maybe even contributors within that 1 hour period. But outside of that, life (aka strife) takes over.

Only if we consistently and mindfully implement each of the messages of our scriptures, can we hope to move from professional satsangi, to a permanent one!

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Vote for…

Apparently some 4 billion people across 60+ countries are eligible to vote this year (2024).

That’s just insane, and incredible.

A quick look at poll promises overall though?

Many leaders in the decades gone by, would offer development and things. Yes, things like schoolbags and bicycles and computers and what not.

Instead today, there’s hardly much positive left. It’s mostly all about promises of shutting down other communities, wiping out other religions and inviting hate wherever love and peace should exist.

The game seems to be all about self-gratification, ensuring continued rulership (via appeasement votes) with little care for those around.

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Level 43

Rohan Bopanna recently won his first tennis Grand Slam title. Now this statement may not be a big deal standalone, but Bopanna achieved this at the age of 43 years and 329 days!

Easy on the body? Nope. Easy on the mind? Absolutely not!

Imagine having played 100s and 100s of matches during all the so-called “prime” years of youth and not winning a grand slam at all. And yet, he persisted.

He couldn’t do intense weight lifting and similar exercises, so he switched to yoga, to give him the core workout he needed.

And of course, he switched his mindset to being super positive.

As he quipped, “I’m not 43, I’m at level 43!”

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Higher highs yet low

The markets across the world are going higher and higher.

Wealth effect is kicking in.

People are getting richer.

And yet, they aren’t happier.

Why?

Because those who are invested, are wondering what to do. Do they pull out their money, crystallize their gains? Or will the market go even higher after they pull out, only to leave them as helpless bystanders?

Then of course there’s the bunch that aren’t invested at all. They’ve just been watching and waiting, hoping to enter, but never able to truly make up their minds.

The market might be high, but the moods of the hoi polloi?

That’s a trick question, as you know by now, where happiness truly resides!!

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Gaumata

Cows have a unique significance in Indian / Hindu tradition.

Foreigners often find it funny that Indian roads (even highways!) are used by these bovine creatures to chill out, for lack of a better phrase.

And because of the respect for cows, people will leave them be.

In Vedic tradition and astrology too, feeding cows and taking care of them is said to bring benefit, including erasing or neutralising bad karma.

Now who’s going to go find a cow and take care of one? Thus when I was scrolling through my twitter feed today, I chanced upon https://dakshinvrindavan.org/, which is a retirement home for cows, and where anyone can donate whatever they feel like.

I haven’t particularly verified this organization, and maybe there are many others like them, but this one came recommended by some respected individuals, so just thought to share, in case someone is looking for helping spread some moo-sic to cows ears!

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Scary Antonym

What is the opposite of fear?

Bravery?

Courage?

Confidence?

Fearlessness?

Well, none of these are wrong. But they aren’t a 100% correct either, because to eradicate fear, we need something strong and permanent.

So what is such a thing?

Devotion.

With adequate devotion, even the deepest of fears melt away. Why fear when the Lord is here?

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Defective plan

When you’re gunning for the top post, and someone thinks you’re not worth it, how does that make you feel?

Not good, right?

A recent interview by US Republican ex-candidate Vivek Ramaswamy was outstanding.

A lady in the audience asked him whether he would accept being a VP to Trump (her implicit assumption being that Trump would win and be President).

Vivek said that he would always put his country first, and do what was needed. But also that he felt he was the right choice to run America.

The lady then said that his answer sounded like “a maybe”.

To which Vivek said, “I gotta tell you about a defect I’ve got. You need to know because you gotta know your President has a defect. And that defect is, that I never have a Plan B!”

A masterclass in handling hecklers if there was one! But more than that, it shows extraordinary confidence in one’s abilities. Could he lose? Yeah, anything can happen, and I don’t remotely understand politics, so that’s not even the point. But if we could all work as though we had no plan B’s, how cool would that be?!

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Proof of investment

It’s funny how human nature rarely changes.

And this is exactly why all our scriptures, although written thousands of years ago, are still as relevant today as they were back then!

In the investing world, maybe a few decades ago, people would make basic mistakes like buying high and then getting wiped out in a market crash. Why’d they do that? Because they didn’t have enough information. About companies, about markets, about stocks. No internet, no information.

Hence, buy, because it seems like a get rich quick scheme, and hey the neighbor is in on it too!

Fast forward to today, and what has changed? Lack of information has changed to an overdose of information. But has this translated into wisdom? Hardly. Greed and fear still rule the roost, and hence the basal human nature is absolutely unchanged.

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Flying wheel

In business, concepts like the ‘flywheel effect’ and ‘virtuous cycle’ signify momentum from strategic actions. Surprisingly, these ideas also illuminate the spiritual path, particularly when exploring the synergy of humility and gratitude.

Humility sets this spiritual flywheel in motion. It’s a grounding force, reminding us of our small yet significant role in the universe. This humble perspective naturally ushers in gratitude – a deep appreciation for life’s often overlooked blessings.

Gratitude, in return, fuels humility. The more we express thanks, the more we recognize our interconnectedness and limitations. This understanding fosters deeper humility.

Together, humility and gratitude create a self-reinforcing cycle, each strengthening the other. This dynamic duo not only propels personal growth but also brings us closer to the core of spirituality, turning every humble acknowledgment and thankful moment into a step towards inner peace.

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Balanced sequence

Where does work-life balance start?

Obviously it starts with work, because it’s the first word, right?

Nyop.

Thinking about work-life balance as first balancing work and then attempting to balance life, is probably why we always feel imbalanced all the time.

So what to do then?

Invert it perhaps.

Start with life balance first. And within that, begin with the self.

Once we keep enough time for our own reading, prayers, meditation, chanting etc., our soul will feel nourished.

Then we can automatically be better and more humane with our families.

Which in turn will make us better at work. Balance achieved!

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Trusted, but how?

Everyone wants to be trusted. But how does one build this trust? How can one assume the role of a trusted advisor to someone else?

Here’s a super formula I came across in a training slide from one Simitri Group.

Trusted Advisor = (Trust + Liking) / Self-interest

How does one build trust? Trust comes from consistency, transparency, competence, reliability, and empathy.

And Liking? Liking comes from common interests, positive interactions, similar values, empathy, and active listening.

Self-interest, or rather not putting Self-interest first, is key.

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Mindful Marathon

Embarking on a marathon transcends testing physical stamina; the true challenge lies in cultivating muscle strength. This serves to ensure cramp prevention.

How does one do this? From nothing less than dedicated strength training.

Is there any dedicated strength training for the mind? Yes there is, and it is called satsang!

How?

By engaging in prayer, scriptures, chanting, and meditation.

In life’s marathon, achieving harmony between mental resilience and enduring muscles is the ultimate victory.

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Destination to where?

If you wanted to go to a particular city, and were standing at the station to get a ticket, what would be the most important info you’d need to give at the ticket counter?

The number of buffaloes in the destination?

The kind of cars that people drive there?

The type of cheese folks prefer to eat?

The types of buildings that city has?

Or…

Would it simply be the name of the place?

Surely the name, isn’t it?

As Saint Gondavalekar Maharaj says, such is the importance of nama. If we take the name of place to go to a destination, we must take the name of the Lord if we want to reach him.

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Blind faith or blind fate

It’s funny how many people hide behind the garb of “blind faith”. This is especially so when it comes to putting one’s religious or spiritual beliefs up.

While it is not possible to generalize, the younger generations are perhaps lesser connected to their roots compared to a few generations prior.

“It’s impossible for me to have blind faith in God. I’ll first need evidence.”

Where’s the evidence for gravity? It still exists though doesn’t it.

But the solution is really not about faith but about action. Spirituality and religion impact human beings at their core. Spirituality is experiential. If a certain process is followed as mentioned in the scriptures, the outcome will follow, no doubt about that. But how many people even give the process a try?

It’s easier to hide behind the veil of “blind faith” than to lift a finger. Such laziness will lead only to blind fate. Can’t be criticising the system then!

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Trimantra

Came across a book on mantras that presented an interesting distinction.

It said that there are 3 types of mantras. Sattvik, rajasik and tamasik. Yes you probably guessed that already the moment you read “3 types of”. Pretty much anything on Vedic spirituality can be categorized under these 3 buckets it seems.

What I found interesting, was that while the letters and words making up the mantras themselves may not be Sattvik, rajasik or tamasik, the intent of the one chanting perhaps makes it more so.

The book said that a tamasik mantra is one that is aimed at controlling and harming others. A rajasik mantra on the other hand is useful for our wants – a bigger house, a bigger car, more money, more fame etc.

And what’s a Sattvik mantra for? For all the good stuff, like progress in spirituality, for collective achievements such as the furtherance of dharma etc. Interestingly, even things like food, money and house etc. can be clubbed under Sattvik mantras, but only as long as these are basic needs. Once the focus graduates to greed, it’s not Sattvik anymore!

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Our man in dolce vita

There’s a super fun travel TV show called Our Man in Italy and the protagonist / anchor is a familiar one. James May, as we might know preciously as one of the 3 hosts of the superb automotive TV show called Top Gear, takes the helm here.

It’s great fun, because he travels from one country to another, and covers all the important cities and landmarks, giving us a vicarious look of what could be.

In Italy in particular, James is told to search for “la dolce vita”, or “the sweet life”.

What does this mean? Well usually it would be a lot of money, fame, wine, good cheese and pizza, a good house, and generally chilling. Seems sweet for sure.

But during the episode, James notices his own Italian guide simply staring at an old Vespa – one of the famous Italian manufactured 2-wheelers. The man is so in love with the Vespa that he continues to stare, unaware of the world whizzing past him.

Later on, he confides in James. “Buddy, who cares about money and wine and cheese. That Vespa moment was my dolce vita because I was completely at peace!”

What is your dolce vita?

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AIyo

Are we close to being overtaken by AIliens? Yes not the aliens from other planets, but the AI that we humans have created? Not that I have made any contributions whatsoever in the creation of AI, but it does collectively seem like quite an advancement in technology.

It may seem like AI and robots are taking over, but as a Tamilian would exclaim, the “aiyo” moment is probably not here yet. Here’s a piece I was reading from one FEI FEI Li, a computer scientist and a pioneer of the artificial intelligence boom.

"There's just so much complexity in human brain science that is still a mystery. We don't know how we do that in under 30 watts, the energy the brain uses. How come we're so terrible at math while we are so fast at seeing and navigating and manipulating the physical world? The brain is the infinite source of inspiration for what artificial intelligence should be and should do. I feel human intelligence should be the benchmark to judge Al and not the other way round."

There we have it. The One who has created us is far far ahead in this race for creation. In any case, anything we create is also a part of His creation only.

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Improved decision making

How does one make good decisions?

Well, it’s not easy for sure. And some would say that the decision itself doesn’t matter, much, and that it’s the follow through that’s truly critical.

But many people and organizations get stuck at the time of making a decision itself. Analysis paralysis. What to do in such cases?

Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon provided a stellar method, in one of his letters to shareholders back in 2015.

He said that the focus should simply be on whether the decision is reversible or not. If it is, then go ahead, make a decision, and don’t waste further time on discussing whether the decision itself is the right one or not. Explore and exploit. If things don’t work out, the decision can anyway be reversed.

Of course, if the decision is irreversible, then take adequate care, planning and strategizing, before making the final call.

A great focus point I think, in order to keep moving ahead in life!

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Open center

There’s a lot of people who claim that their chakras or energy centers are open. Or have been opened.

This may or may not be true, and I for one certainly am no one to judge.

Some say their ajna chakra has been opened and that they can plunge into deep meditation instantaneously. Others focus on the mooladhara chakra and can go into deeper states.

Of course such things can and do happen. Even if words like kundalini might be thrown around recklessly and find much media attention, that does not imply it is apocryphal.

More critical, as my Guru often reminds us, is what such folks (and everyone in general) do after they snap out of their trances. Are they truly seeking the Self, or simply self-centered?

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Scientist’s religion

Here’s a cool anecdote I came across in a book (don’t remember the name unfortunately).

“I met a man a few days ago in Washington, D.C. who, while a student in Delhi, had met Dr. Radhakrishnan, the second President of India. He had asked Dr. Radhakrishnan “Sir, since you are also a great philosopher, can you explain the difference between science and religion, as there seems to be a contradiction between the two? Religion speaks of something that is not seen and people have faith in that. But in science one accepts only what one sees, so it appears that scientists are anti-religion and faithless.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan gave a very nice answer. He said, “A little science takes you away from religion but more of it brings you nearer religion.”

This suggests that scientific exploration can ultimately lead to profound spiritual understanding. It’s a reminder that the pursuit of knowledge, whether through science or spirituality, can lead to unexpected revelations about the world and ourselves.

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Smart work hard work

There’s this endless debate about smart work versus hard work. You know it. And I don’t have an answer for it unfortunately (else I’d already be atop the ladder of the billionaire lists you see!).

Lords Ganesha and Karthikeya also had a tiff on the same topic with the elephant headed one simply circumambulating his parents thrice instead of traveling the whole world.

But can one be more right than the other?

We are told to work hard, right from childhood. And it’s necessary. Then why pray? So many mantras and deities exist in India who are supposed to help deliver outstanding results. Just pray and all will be well no? No need to work hard only.

But there’s a catch! A mantras book I was reading gave a specific mantra for Goddess Lakshmi, which if recited, would bring extraordinary wealth. But the specifics? The mantra had to be chanted 100-thousand times, 5 times a day. That sounds like hard work to me too! No free lunches…

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Putting in the hours

Does praying a lot make one automatically divine?

Does sitting in a meditative pose for hours mean one will automatically reach Brahman?

Unlike investing, where time spent matters, in spirituality, time spent matters, but perhaps much less.

We know of asuras who spent insane numbers of hours in penance. But are they prayed to or well respected?

If time doesn’t matter, then what does?

Perhaps the intention of the prayer matters the most. As that would cleanly differentiate prayers of the bad versus the good, wouldn’t it?

A sadhana that is practiced for the enhancement of one’s own ego becomes asuric. As simple as that perhaps. And we know what ego means – not the pride that we associate the English word with, but rather the incorrect attachment to the body.

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Dutifully full

One must be fully focused on ones own duty. Ones swadharma. Lord Krishna calls this out in the 35th verse of the 3rd chapter of the Gita. Here’s an excellent take by Shri Vinoba Bhave in his book called “Talks on the Gita”. He gave these talks when he was jailed for being a part of India’s freedom fight movement!

It is not good for me to adopt another's dharma, however superior it may appear to be. I like sunlight. It helps my growth. I worship the sun. But my rightful place is here on this earth. If I leave the earth and try to get close to the sun, I would be burnt to ashes. Compared to the sun, the earth may appear worthless; it may not be self-luminous, still I should strive for self-development by staying on the earth, which is my rightful place, so long as I lack the capacity to stand the sun's powerful blaze. If someone were to say to a fish, "Milk is more luxurious than water. Come and swim in the milk", will it accept? It can survive in water only; in milk it will die.

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Big bang practice

Everyone knows the amazing TV show called The Big Bang Theory – a sitcom where socially awkward but extraordinarily brilliant scientists navigate life, love, and comic books, often proving that even geniuses don’t know everything about the real world!

In a prequel adaptation called Young Sheldon (the smartest scientist of the lot), his mother Mary posts a question.

Mary: Sheldon, faith means believing in something you can’t know for sure is real. And right now, I am struggling with that.
Sheldon: So you don’t believe in God anymore?
Mary: That isn’t something for you to worry about. I need to figure this out myself.
Sheldon: Can I help? Maybe I could provide a fresh perspective.
Mary: I don’t think so, baby.
Sheldon: Did you know that if gravity were slightly more powerful, the universe would collapse into a ball?
Mary: I did not.
Sheldon: Also, if gravity were slightly less powerful, the universe would fly apart and there would be no stars or planets.
Mary: Where you going with this, Sheldon?
Sheldon: It’s just that gravity is precisely as strong as it needs to be. And if the ratio of the electromagnetic force to the strong force wasn’t one percent, life wouldn’t exist. What are the odds that would happen all by itself?
Mary: Why are you trying to convince me to believe in God? You don’t believe in God.
Sheldon: I don’t, but the precision of the universe at least makes it logical to conclude there’s a creator.

Food for thought?

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G-force multiplier

Many people say that God will take care of everything. Or if they are in a rut, then no worries because their Guru will take care of everything. “All is well. All is always well.” But what does this really mean? Is this possible? Can a Guru sitting somewhere actually take care of everything?

Yes it is, and only experience can build such faith. There is no difference between Guru and God. As we know, poet Kabir das once said that if he had to fall at the feet of either of God or his Guru, and both were at his doorstep the same instant, he would choose his Guru. Why? Because the Guru is the one who taught him about God in the first place!

We can only perform our karma, our actions. Over 99.99% of what’s happening around us is not in our control. Who’s taking care of those, if not the divine?

In essence, embracing this belief is not about surrendering responsibility but recognizing a greater cosmic harmony. Our actions, infused with sincerity and purpose, become part of a grander scheme, orchestrated by the divine. The Guru, as a guide, reveals this interconnectedness, teaching us to see beyond the immediate. To trust in a larger plan.

So, while we navigate life’s complexities, we do so with a heart full of faith, understanding that, in the grand tapestry of existence, every thread is held and woven by a force much greater than ourselves. In this realization, we find not just solace, but a profound sense of being part of something infinitely vast, yet intimately connected to our every step. That’s the G-force.

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Historical anxiety

We think we are struggling with stress and anxiety today, despite seemingly having the best of the best that technology can offer.

Was this always the case?

Our existence is a tapestry rich with ancestral threads, spanning not just the last 400 years but reaching far deeper into the annals of human civilization.

Within just say the last 400 years alone, our lineage would include an astonishing 4,094 ancestors over 12 generations.

It begins with a vast network of 2,048 ninth great-grandparents and intricately narrows down through the generations, converging at our 2 parents. However, this is just a glimpse of our heritage, as human history extends much further back.

Every generation, from those 400 years ago to the dawn of civilization, faced its own set of trials, triumphs, and life stories.

These countless generations, their struggles, joys, and hopes, have interwoven to create our present.

So what are we anxious about really?

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Happyness funnyness

Here’s some timepass happiness jokes I came across…

Why don’t we ever give happiness a remote control? Because it’s always found within, and you can’t lose it between the couch cushions!

Why did the smartphone go to therapy? Because it thought happiness was an app, but then realized it’s always in ‘plane’ mode within us!

Why don’t emotions use GPS? Because happiness is not an external destination, but an internal journey!

Why did happiness refuse to play cards? Because it’s not about the hand you’re dealt, but how you feel inside!

Why don’t fish worry about being happy? Because they know the best joy is found in the current moment, not upstream or downstream!

Some were not that funny? Don’t worry, be happy!

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Mind it

What does the mind do?

We think that the mind thinks. But what is this thinking about?

Mostly the mind thinks about the past. Or else about the future.

If something has gone right, then the mind tries to find some flaw or fault in it.

If something has gone wrong, then the mind tries to extrapolate that into Armageddon.

The mind struggles to remain in the now, in the present.

Interestingly, all our scriptures say that the here and the now is where the mind should be. That is what leads to spiritual evolution. In the now, the mind doesn’t even have to think. It simply needs to witness.

Mind it, it’s easier said than done.

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12th fail…

…is the name of an exceptional movie that is now streaming on Disney Hotstar in India.

No spoilers, but it’s about the difficulties involved in cracking India’s toughest exam, the UPSC, and how it gets even tougher for those born not with a silver or golden spoon, but perhaps no spoon or plate at all.

It’s an incredible movie that everyone should watch. The level of motivation a viewer will get is just indescribable.

And you know the best part? The movie is entirely based on facts. Yes, a true story.

Learning about such stories only makes me think one thing. That if I’m not giving every ounce of my energy to do my best at whatever I’m doing, then I’m not just wasting my time, but also indirectly denying opportunities to hundreds or thousands or millions who could have done infinitely better should they have been in my position right now. And this is perhaps applicable to each one of us.

Here’s the link to the movie, if you’d like to know more! https://www.imdb.com/title/tt23849204/?ref_=ext_shr

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Froggy vision

In the vast expanse of what we believe we understand, there lies an unseen realm. Take the frog, for instance. Its eye, a marvel of nature, deciphers only essential cues for survival. It can spot stark contrasts, sudden light shifts, moving outlines, and dark shapes. But it cannot admire beauty like a sunset or recognize faces.

Our human eyes, intricate as they are, fall short too. We boast of comprehending everything until we ponder about bees detecting ultraviolet patterns on flowers or how owls navigate the dark. Each species possesses a tailored perception system vital for its existence. Dogs catch sounds we can’t, insects pick up scents from miles away and more.

Vedic spirituality echoes this idea—there’s a depth beyond our grasp. It humbles us, reminding us that our intellectual understanding has its limits. Just as the frog’s vision serves its survival, our perception, albeit broader, is still confined. The universe holds mysteries far beyond our discernment, urging us to embrace the boundless unknown.

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Old is sold

So a 1952 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for a staggering 51 million dollars a few weeks ago in New York.

Absolutely incredible.

I would have thought that cars are to go from point a to point b. And the latest cars have extraordinary gadgets in them, almost making them more computers than cars.

But a 70-something year old car going for 30x more than a brand new one? Bonkers indeed!

But someone still sees value in them. Why? I do not know. Maybe it’ll be part of some billionaire’s rare collection. Or else it’ll get sold for even higher some 30 years down the line, when the antique becomes antiqu-er!

But if old is sold, then old is also gold, which is what our scriptures are. If 70-year old things have this much value, imagine what value books that date back to 7000 years have! Truly the secrets to life. If only one (i.e., me) would read them, imbibe them and practise them…

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Pomo juice

There was an incredible item in the newspapers about a couple of decades ago. It read “RR creates petrol from pomegranate juice!”

RR was the initials of the chap, a supposed scientist, that achieved this incredible feat. Fuel from juice. Wow, talk about renewable energy, and that too some twenty years ago!

Well you know what say. If it’s too good to be true…

So a few weeks later, an errata was issued, which read, “RR creates petrol from pomegranate juice and petrol!”

Howzzat!

While this is funny no doubt, from a spiritual point of view, we are all RRs only.

Whatever we think we are creating, we are simply using what already ever existed aka God. No different from “RR creates creation from creation”!

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Simplified answer

In many schools of spirituality, there are discussions about mantras and lineages.

It is said that a mantra must be given by a Guru to specific disciple in a specific manner. Absolutely true I’m sure.

It is also said to vary from Guru to Guru, from lineage to lineage.

And the ways of chanting each mantra and the various things to focus on, and of course accompanying visuals and dreams and what not.

My Guru is very clear. “Let the lineage be anything, what will you do with it?”

“Have you given up your desires and attachments?”

It’s that simple, without which he says nothing else matters.

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Anchoring bias

Came across a lovely story today.

A guy goes for an interview. There are 3 interviewers on the panel.

The first interviewer tells the candidate that he’s in the middle of the ocean on a boat and that there’s a crazy storm outside. The boat could capsize. What would he do?

Our man answers, “I’ll throw in a large anchor and steady the ship sir”.

The second and third interviewers ask similar questions, each time simply increasing the intensity of the storm. Our hero consequently simply increases the size of his anchors!

The panel ask him, “Buddy, all that’s fine, but where are you going to get such large anchors from, on such a small boat and that too in the middle of the ocean?”

The reply is swift. “I get the big anchors from the same place you get your big storms. Where you source fear, I source hope!”

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Teammateship – part 4 of 4

We finish the insightful podcast journey with Shane Battier by exploring a surprising concept: embracing chaos.

Shane argues that injecting a controlled dose of chaos into a team or system can be a powerful tool for innovation and growth. By introducing new players with diverse perspectives and experiences, we can disrupt the status quo and spark creativity.

Think about it like adding a new ingredient to a recipe. It might shake things up a bit, but it can also lead to a delicious new dish. The same goes for teams and systems. By welcoming controlled chaos, we can break through old patterns and discover new ways of thinking about and doing things.

Of course, it’s important to find the right balance. Too much chaos can be destructive, but too little can stifle progress. The key is to be open to change and embrace new ideas, even if they seem unorthodox.

So, next time we’re feeling stuck in a rut, remember Shane’s words. Embrace the chaos, shake things up, and see where it takes us. We might be surprised by what we discover!

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Teammateship – part 3 of 4

As Shane explains during his conversation with Simon, achieving anything truly remarkable requires a deep desire and unrelenting pursuit of success. He shares his experience with the Spurs, where their hunger to win ultimately surpassed that of their opponents, leading them to several championships.

But Shane also warns that this hunger can fade after victory. He emphasizes the importance of maintaining a constant drive for improvement and a relentless desire to win more. He credits the Spurs’ continued success to their unwavering focus on getting better, even after reaching the top.

So, it’s not enough to just have the talent or the skills. We need that fire in our bellies, that burning desire to push ourselves and achieve something extraordinary.

Concluding post tomorrow, on how embracing controlled chaos can lead to unexpected breakthroughs!

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Teammateship – part 2 of 4

Back again today with another insightful tip from Shane Battier. This time, he’s sharing the key to staying focused and achieving peak performance, aka, the power of the “next play.”

We’ve all been there, right? Dwelling on past mistakes or getting too caught up in celebrating successes. But Shane says the key to staying on top of your game is to focus on the next play.

Think about it like this: every moment is a new opportunity to start afresh and give our best effort. Shane days, “Don’t let the past hold us back or let the future distract us. Just be present, focus on the task at hand, and give it our all.”

Shane even says this applies beyond sports, to everything in life. Whether you’re working on a project, studying for an exam, or just facing a personal challenge, it’s all about the power of the next play. It’s about taking things one step at a time and giving our best in each moment.

Tomorrow we explore the fuel that drives success: a burning hunger for greatness.

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Teammateship – part 1 of 4

Did you catch that awesome podcast with Simon Sinek and NBA champ Shane Battier? Never heard of Shane? Ya me too. But that’s the point! You know who all he played with? All the famous guys – LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan etc. And yet hardly anyone’s heard of him.

He might not have been the top scorer, but guess what? He was always on teams that won the championship. And according to Shane, the secret sauce isn’t just about having a superstar leader. He believes that “teammateship” might be even more important.

Let’s think about it. Championship teams are more than just a collection of talented individuals. They’re a well-oiled machine where everyone trusts each other, helps each other out, and pushes each other to be better. They’re all working towards the same goal with a deep commitment to the team.

Shane used the San Antonio Spurs as a great example. They were known for taking players who weren’t quite there yet and turning them into valuable contributors. They created a culture where everyone felt valued and empowered, and guess what? They won a lot of championships!

So, the next time we’re working towards a goal, we can remember Shane’s words. It’s not all about having the best leader. It’s about building a strong team and supporting each other every step of the way.

Tomorrow: we’ll unlock Shane’s secret to staying focused and achieving peak performance!

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Aspirational heights

In ancient lore, mountains were realms of the divine, unreachable and mystical. Today, they stand as majestic challenges, echoing George Mallory’s sentiment on Everest: a mountain is to be climbed simply because it exists!

Our lives are dotted with such peaks, personal Everests that beckon us. They are not just physical heights but symbols of our highest aspirations and achievements. Victorian poet Robert Browning once mused that our reach should exceed our grasp, a reminder that true fulfillment lies in striving for the seemingly unattainable.

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s triumph over Everest serves as a metaphor for overcoming life’s steepest challenges. It teaches us resilience, urging us to persist despite setbacks. For every mountain we face, whether in the physical or metaphorical sense, is a reflection of our potential to ascend beyond our limits, turning daunting challenges into triumphs of the human spirit.

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Gratityou’d

You’d be best served if you practice gratitude. That’s what every spiritual guru says. It’s also what our shastras / scriptures teach us.

The idea is simple. To identify basic things from our lives and be thankful for them. Got food on the table for all the 3 meals of the day? We’re already better off than maybe half the planet. Wow, what a start!

The moment we begin to look at the world this way, finding the positives in everything, the chances of our material success multiplies manifold. Why? Because negativity and self-doubt get booted out the door, one thought at a time, as we are thankful about more and more things going our way.

Life is all about how everything that happens is part of a long story of lessons. We may just need to appreciate the flow and learn from them teachings. This then automatically converts from material success to spiritual success. Because once we are grateful for everything, then we want nothing more, and eternal peace follows.

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Non-violent violence

The sanskrit word ahimsa is a misunderstood one.

It is commonly defined as non-violence, and the treatment suggested is to show the right cheek when the left one has just been smacked.

Does this make sense in today’s world of wars and mobs and rapes and riots?

Absolutely not.

Ahimsa doesn’t mean complete non-violence. Instead, it aims to minimize collective harm and maximize collective harmony.

In many contexts, ahimsa will require engaging in war in order to establish and protect or restore collective harmony.

Why else did Lord Krishna ask Arjuna to fight?

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4 letter word

One of the Presidential candidates in the US recently put out his daily schedule video.

It was insane.

He did some 7-8 townhalls in a single day, across multiple regions – starting way before sunrise and going non-stop (travel, speeches, Q&As, meets-n-greets etc.) all the way till well past midnight.

Only for it to all begin again the very next day.

He summarized it beautifully.

“LUCK is a 4-letter word that is spelt as W-O-R-K”

So powerful isn’t it? Time for me to get back to work now!

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Easy come easy go

Here’s a story about “no free lunches” that I really love.

A wandering saint and his disciple stumbled upon a town where everything, from diamonds to daggers, cost a mere penny. The disciple, lured by the easy life, refused to leave. The saint, knowing that true happiness wouldn’t bloom amidst such absurdity, continued on his journey alone.

The disciple reveled in his newfound fortune, oblivious of the looming storm. One day, a man injured by a falling brick wall sought justice. The king of the land, in a ludicrous series of senseless accusations, blamed a girl for singing distractingly, leading to the wall’s collapse.

As the noose was slack around the girl’s slender neck, the king, unable to hang her, demanded someone whose neck fit the noose. The once-thin disciple, now plump from his easy life, was thrust forward by the king’s guards.

In that moment, the saint reappeared and convinced the king, blinded by his foolishness, to hang himself instead, promising him a glorious rebirth. The disciple, finally understanding his folly, thanked the saint as they left the town, and lived forever changed.

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Kety Perry

If you had a net worth of a million dollars, would you be happy? Depends on your position and privilege of course. But statistics from 2022 show that just 0.7% of the entire ~8 billion population in the world are millionaires. That’s it. So there’s 99.3% of 7.94 billion people who would be incredibly ecstatic if they got a million dollars.

Matthew Perry, was an outstanding actor, known for his role as Chandler Bing in the hit sitcom Friends. Personally, I loved Friends, and loved the Chandler character. Matthew Perry brought incredible wit to the character.

He passed a few weeks ago. Apparently from overdosing on ketamine, which is used to treat addictions and mental health problems. Surely he was a wonderful human being. He was also a millionaire, or a hundred-millionaire, with a net worth of over $120 million.

If there’s one takeaway, then it is that money and fame and success are not guarantees of happiness. Maybe flipping this around might help. True happiness could guarantee some or all of these things. Who knows?

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Latent tendencies

There’s a concept called vasanas in Indian spirituality, or latent tendencies. It refers to deep-rooted karmic imprints that tend to dictate our lives. Assuming one believes in reincarnation, then the soul or consciousness or Atman or Brahman pervades everything. But the mind goes from body to body, from one life to another.

Which is why maybe someone who died of drowning many lifetimes ago is still instinctively scared of drowning, even if they’ve never really been in the water much.

In a video I was watching where the speaker was a very accomplished tantric upasaka, he spoke of various practices and rituals he performs. He also spoke of the various deities he has personally experienced.

All in all, a very spiritual person, clearly on a very advanced plane. Pun intended, because while all his sadhanas have made him absolutely fearless in facing demons and what not, he still sheepishly confessed that he is very scared of traveling by plane!

That’s vasanas at play, and it doesn’t leave even those who are far ahead on the spiritual journey!

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Back to the suture

What is our life, but a tapestry of experiences, all stitched together by time?

Most people would give an arm and a leg (many sutures notwithstanding) to go back in time and relive their childhood.

But not everyone. There are some that would happily live in the today. But is that because they are mindful and spiritual? Or it is because they hate their childhood and are far better off today?

Then there are some that constantly live in the times to come. Neither happy with their childhood, nor happy with the way things are unfolding today. Ever writing in their minds, a chapter that has yet to be written.

As Vedanta teaches us, eveything around us is maya only. Yes we see life as a tapestry of experiences, but in reality, these are a string of lifetimes, of which we remember only a tiny part.

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Stressbuster

Within life’s intricate dance, Dada J P Vaswani crafts a transformative roadmap to conquer stress, encapsulated in a powerful acronym:

  • S: Smile
  • T: Tolerance
  • R: Relax
  • E: Easy
  • S: Service
  • S: Silence

Each element unfolds as a key to serenity and spiritual growth. Cultivate a perpetual smile, foster tolerance, embrace relaxation, adopt an easy-going stance, engage in selfless service, and practice silence for divine connection.

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Parking problem

With a small car in an insanely congested city, I thought car owners face a daily nightmare. Not just while driving, but perhaps worse, while parking.

I thought money would solve the problem, because with a lot of money, you buy some parking space, and poof, problem gone.

But apparently with more money, people buy more cars and bigger cars, and that only makes the parking problem worse.

But I read an article yesterday on Mr. Bezos’ mega-yacht, which apparently also suffers from the same parking problem! One of the richest men in the world has a parking problem?!

His yacht costs a cool 500 million dollars, is 400 feet long, and effectively cannot be parked with other yachts. Why? Because it’s too big! They had to dismantle a bridge to let it pass and that was met with fierce opposition that the yacht is now parked with larger ships out in the deeper sea.

Does money truly solve all problems? Or bring up new ones that one could have never even imagined!?

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Heavenly pitch

Every time I watch some cricket, I can’t help but feel the pull towards being more devoted to God.

What’s the connection, you might ask?

Well whenever a batsman scores a 100 runs, or if a bowler takes an important wicket, they implicitly look up to the heavens, thanking the Gods up there for their mercy.

This might seem like a simple gesture. It might even seem reflexive, almost part of a ritual ever since the first times the players of today saw their own idols doing the same on the pitch many decades prior to them.

But the thought of dedicating a small victory to the Infinite Divine is still outstanding.

I wonder about myself then. If and when a small victory does come my way in my own line of work, do I quickly look up in gratitude? Or do I first pat myself on the back for a job well done?

Mostly the latter I think, hopefully someday it’ll be the former.

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Pricing power

Imagine you could buy a dress for 100$. Do you think it’s worth it? It might be. Depends on so many factors – quality of the material, the brand on the tag, the end-use, like for a wedding or for a party, or just for home use?

Prices tell us a lot. But is there a price tag for after buying the item?

There is, but it is usually invisible. Like the cost of maintaining the item. A little lesser for a dress, a little more for a car, and perhaps substantially more for a home!

So there’s one price tag we see, and one we don’t.

It’s no different when we look at those around us who seem to have what we so desperately want. Their success, their wealth, their happiness, their fame. We sometimes don’t even see any price tags. As though we should have their success by default.

But even if we do see their visible price tags, what about the invisible ones? All the anxiety and jealousy and constant looking-over-the-shoulder that such success brings?

There’s an invisible price tag for sure. We just need to be cognizant of it!

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Time machinations

In the lovely Netflix series called Better Call Saul which is a prequel to the super hit Breaking Bad, there’s a tense yet funny moment.

Saul asks a bunch of people what they’d do if they could build a time machine and go into the past. What would they change?

Everyone thinks up some moment and goes on to say that they would go back in time and do this or change that.

When Saul poses the same question to a scientist known as Walter White (fans know he’s no ordinary scientist!), the response is incredible!

Walter first reprimands Saul for asking about scienfitic impossibilities. “Time machine? Of course there’s no way such a thing can ever exist.”

He then proceeds to tell Saul what he’s actually looking for. That he simply wants to recount times where he regretted what he did in the past. And that he just wants to get his regret off his chest. So what he’s searching for is not a time machine, but a regret machine.

Regrettably true, isn’t it?

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Happy crappy

Do we feel happy most of the time? Or crappy? Perhaps the latter, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s because we are constantly focused on the past. Thinking of things we could have done differently, aiming to jettison all regrets.

Or maybe it’s because we are constantly focused on the future. Thinking of the infinite permutations and combinations of a life that is yet to unfold. Can we control all of it? Most of it? Any of it?

We can instead give the highest priority to God right now, and become more and more aware of His presence in our lives. This will prove to us by self-experience that we are an integral part of a divine plan. We don’t need to demand for anything then, because by surrendering to the Lord, everything is automatically being take care of.

Instead of a fast mind and slow actions, these will invert, and peace will follow.

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Bridge of wisdom

Once, a massive elephant traversed a rickety bridge over a roaring river. Amidst the creaks of the old bridge, a small ant perched on the elephant’s trunk claimed that their combined weight almost shattered the bridge. Unfazed by the ant’s misconception, the elephant chose peace over proving a point, and simply agreed that yes the ant’s contribution to the total weight on the bridge was indeed massive.

The elephant’s tranquil response echoed a timeless wisdom: the futility of ego-driven conflicts. Yet, blindly mirroring the elephant’s response might not fit every scenario. Life demands a nuanced approach, where humility intertwines with assertiveness.

Striving for inner calm amidst ego clashes remains pivotal. However, discernment plays a role, determining when to stand firm and when to maintain serenity.

The tale of the elephant and the ant on the bridge whispers a lesson beyond ego battles—a subtle reminder to balance peace with assertiveness in the symphony of life.

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Full body glory

Had gone for my full body annual check-up this week.

They took a fair amount of blood to run various tests.

It’s astonishing how the body survives without that kuch blood. But it’s equally astonishing how so much blood manages to stay within the body, unless poked and collected like red wine in a glass!

Various instruments to test various things, but all only to see if things are running as they should be. No clue of why or how they came to exist in such a state. Who created this wonder?

Oh and the 2D Echo scan to check the heart. The doctor switched on his speakers to listen to my beating heart. Wow what a sound it was. Thumping away at breakneck-yet-measured speed and ensuring that the rest of the body has every drop of it blood it needs. Not just today, but incessantly since the day of our births.

And this maniacal rush of activity can’t be heard by anyone. Not by you. Not by your friends and family. Not even by your own ears. Glory to the Creator for this full body Creation!

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Tech transfer

Tech is awesome, but it can detrimental as well. We know this intuitively already, because we each experience the good and bad sides of tech on a daily basis.

One of the bad things that people speak of is addiction to TV series and the associated binge watching (guilty even without being charged!).

But incredibly, there are some outstanding devotional TV channels and programs as well. Just ask the older generation. It’s a life savior for those who are spiritually inclined.

What’s amazing is how tech is actually helping. Some of my family members were discussing how they’ve never had the chance to be at some spiritual sites during specific times. Like on a mountain top where just a handful of people are allowed to witness a particular ritual. And now? There are drones capturing the same thing live and beaming it to every home and mind that is open to it. Are we?

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Victoriously defeated

We often look at all things in dualities.

If we haven’t won something, then we’ve lost it.

If we haven’t succeeded at something, then we’ve failed.

But are we sure of this?

Many things in spirituality are inverted. If we win something, what really wins and gets boosted? Only our egos!

And everyone knows what happens to a big ego.

Lord Rama was neither happy when he was told he will be the next King of Ayodhya, nor was he sad when he was asked to go to the forest in exile.

True victory is the victory of the self over one’s mind and senses, no matter the external circumstance. Everything else is defeat only!

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Octodegenarian

Came across a live anecdote yesterday.

There’s some 50 odd octogenarians in a particular place.

They’ve all been there for ages. All living comfortably. Their kids are working in various cities, within the country or abroad, all well settled. Heck, even their grand kids are well settled!

No reason for these folks to be unhappy at all. A life well lived, if there was such a thing.

But old isn’t always gold. Said grandpas and grandmas are in the hunt for nothing less, than gold, in the form of real estate.

There’s some plots of land that these 80 year olds collectively own, and which are now set of go for re-development. Not everyone gets the same value though, for various reasons, and the same happy bunch has now been plunged into anxiety and anger and jealousy. All over some property that will add no real value to these people. When will humanity learn?

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Mischief maker

Some YouTube videos are just incredibly cute.

Especially the ones where there are guilty dogs. Who’ll chew up the whole sofa, and then go and hide. Or even point at some other innocent dog, as though they had no part in the mischief whatsoever!

This sleight of hand (or paw) by the guilty dogs is no different than what we do perhaps.

Who’s the real mischief maker? The other guy of course. Or the other entity. Or the other situation. Or to generalize, it’s the world at large.

Asked again, who’s the real mischief maker?

It’s always our own minds.

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Hunger pangs

In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Lord Rama encounters Kabandha, a demon cursed with insatiable hunger. In fact he has no head, and a mouth directly in his stomach. Kabandha symbolizes the relentless greed seen in many professionals today. Despite consuming everything, the hunger persists, mirroring a desire for endless accumulation. Similarly, some so-called leaders prioritize personal gain, exploiting workers and the environment without ethical considerations.

Contrastingly, Lord Rama embodies selflessness, compassion, and humility. His focus is on service, not amassing wealth or power. Everyone can learn from Rama’s values—prioritizing others, embracing honesty, transparency, and environmental responsibility. Contentment, rather than ceaseless ambition for personal gain, should guide them.

Emulating Lord Rama, one can break the Kabandha-like cycle, fostering a more just and sustainable world.

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Mousika vaahana

Here’s an unbelievable story.

I was out for an errand.

As I was walking back, I saw a dog just in front of me. I was thinking about how I’d heard on a recent podcast that those who pray to Bhairav baba often find themselves in the vicinity (and affinity) of dogs.

But this dog? Nope, he couldn’t care less about me, and it’s not like I’ve been praying devotedly to Bhairav ji either.

But my mind quickly wandered to my Ishta Devata, Shri Siddhivinayaka as guided by my Guru to many satsangis. This elephant-headed deity’s vaahana is mooshika, or the mouse. I wondered to myself, “damn, having dogs around me would be cool, but having mice around me? Scary! Unless them mice would be friendly or something.”

Almost momentarily, a fat little rat bounced along the center of the road, crossing, then going back, and trying to cross again, then zig-zagging. A car came by really quickly, but the driver thankfully saw the rat and he slowed down. Not enough to stop however, and he zoomed off. Only I could see how close a shave it was for the rat. The lucky escapee quickly crossed and went off to the other side.

Incredible. And all coincidence only of course. Isn’t it?

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Where do you go, my lovely?

There’s a song from my childhood called “where do you go, my lovely”. My childhood not because it was from my era, but my father used to hum that tune when it would come on the radio.

While watching some videos on ancient Indian temples today on youtube, this song came to mind.

Whats the connection? Perhaps nothing much.

But I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed looking at the insane number of devotees thronging these temples. It’s no different when I’m at a temple myself. There’s always hordes of people often in various groups, all dressed in similar clothes. One glance will tell us they are rich. Not at all rich by money, but very rich by devotion.

They will often travel ridiculous distances by foot, simply to catch a nanosecond glimpse of their favorite deity. What incredible faith they have. And so many of them!

Where do they come from? What do they come for? Where do they go, my lovely?

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Devi calling devi – part 2 of 2

We were lucky that the 2-mins-away Devi temple was open when we reached. We parked and climbed up the 200-or-so stairs leading to the shrine.

One lady in our group was the one who was really keen on visiting this temple. Actually she was drawn to the other devi temple that I’d mentioned yesterday. But that one was way off-route, and we just couldn’t travel that far. This seemed like some sort of consolation prize.

As we reached the top flight of stairs, there was a notice-board explaining the history of the temple. The Devi idol was a swayambhu, ie, it manifested itself rather than be created by any human. A great king living in the area many hundreds of years ago used to travel to the other far-away Devi temple in his youth. But as age got to him, he was unable to travel. The Devi appeared in his dream, and told him about this 2-min-away temple and that he can pray here instead.

Needless to say, the lady in our group was absolutely ecstatic, what with her unable to travel far enough either, only to come across this very similar story of the king. A case of Devi calling devi.

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Devi calling devi – part 1 of 2

A lot of spirituality happens only when we truly open our eyes and minds and look. Here’s a recent incident to someone I know and was on a trip with. The incident could be passed off as coincidence. Or maybe not.

We were considering going to a specific Devi temple on a trip, but couldn’t, because it was quite far off from our route.

While a bit disappointed, we did continue the rest of our journey. Enroute a few days later, someone who didn’t know about our plans to see a Devi temple pointed out that our route had another devi temple and that we could go there.

It so happened that this new Devi temple was exactly 2 minutes away from another place we were supposed to visit!

And so we quickly made our way there, thanking the Devi mentally for arranging this unexpected darshan.

Continued tomorrow!

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Will free

Does free will exist? Yes of course it does. That’s why you get to choose whether to drink tea or coffee while reading this post. Or maybe you choose not to drink either.

One might say though that hey, tea or coffee isn’t significant enough for a heavy topic like free will. Yes, unless coffee messes up one’s system and leads to a few missed days at work?

Anyway, that’s all conjecture.

More importantly, although Lord Krishna himself hints in various places about free will (such as “Arjuna get up and fight!”), does it really truly exist?

Perhaps it does. But we are also victims of our own pasts, and by extension, victims of ourselves. Everything lies squarely on us. If we’ve built up many lives of conditioning towards certain responses, experiences and situations, then can we really use our free will to change? Will we?

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Computer literacy

Here’s a very commonly used but absolutely spot-on analogy between computers and spirituality.

A Computer / laptop is like the physical body.

A USB drive is like the mind.

Electricity is like the soul.

Between lives, the mind moves from one body to another, taking with its past experiences and emotions.

No different from a USB being plugged in from one laptop to another.

And electricity is always present to power any laptop or computer with any usb drive.

Just like the eternal soul aka atman aka Brahman is omnipresent, constantly powering, animating and enlivening everything.

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Penny pinchers

Came across one social media post today by some influencer.

The person apparently stopped at a tire shop after one tire went flat.

This shop was in a very rural area, and the old man who was apparently very poor soon helped fix the tire, and asked for some 20 rupees (25 cents).

Our influencer said he didn’t have change, and handed over a 500 rupee ($6) note, to which the old man asked him to come by next time and pay him, whenever that would be, if at all.

Mr. Influencer is touched, and goes hunting for change, and comes back with 20 rupees and is delighted enough to not just pay the man some pennies, but also write a long post about it, which is further liked and shared by thousands.

Surely said influencer made a decent amount just from the views of his one post. But he still couldn’t part with his 500 rupees to help that poor old man. Reality is quite divorced from reality these days!

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Locational devotional

Was listening to a tantric expert on a podcast recently. Many of the things he said were mesmerising. And he knew it.

Like what? Like him sitting in a cremation ground and doing his sadhana (spiritual practices and rituals). Or him entering other dimensions and interacting with ethereal beings. And so on.

Fascinating for sure.

But he also made one thing very clear.

That the location is not important, at least not at first. He said that many people get carried away (or carried towards!) simply by hearing about things like cremation ground sadhana. But he repeated twice. If one cannot do their sadhana with devotion in their own puja rooms at home, then there is no chance of achieving anything anywhere else.

Charity, and seemingly spirituality, begin at home!

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Munger Hunger

How tenacious can humans be? How much will power do they have? How likely are they to stand back up when life has pushed them to the ground and glued them there? How hungry can one be, to not just survive, but also thrive?

The world lost investing guru Charlie Munger today, who died peacefully in his sleep at the graceful age of 99. While people would know him as a billionaire and a great investor who worked closely with Warren Buffet, not everyone knows about his tough early life.

At 29, Charlie was divorced from his wife of 8 years. The lady took everything, including his family home. He was almost plunged into poverty. Apparently he had a dirty old car he’d drive around. His daughter Molly Munger once asked him, “Daddy, this car is just awful, a mess. Why do you drive it?” The broke Munger replied: “To discourage gold diggers.”

Post the divorce, Charlie learned his 9 years old son had leukemia, and eventually lost him to it. He didn’t even have the money to pay for his treatment.

Later in life, a botched operation left him blind in one eye, and in so much pain he had to have the eye removed.

But despite all this, Charlie by age 69 became one of the richest people in the world, was married to his second wife for over 30 years, had 8 kids, many grandkids and was respected across borders by one and all.

Tenacity at its best!

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Scholastic

Most parents of young kids today discuss only one thing when they meet up – about the schools that their kids attend.

Whether it is this curriculum or that, whether it has 2 playgrounds or 3, whether it has an Olympic sized swimming pool or not, whether the music room has western instruments or only eastern, whether the labs are equipped with the latest equipment or aren’t. And of course no discussion would be complete without talking about the ridiculously high school fees required to support such lavishness.

While all this education is phenomenal in imparting an ability to create wealth, is it enough to provide lasting happiness? Is there any guidance towards achieving man’s true objective here in human form?

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Unfamous 5

The famous 5 of Enid Blyton fame, are, well, famous! But there’s another 5 that aren’t. Not people, but qualities. And funnily enough, these 5 are accessible within each one of us!

Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, emphasized five strengths for cultivating and harnessing inner powers in dharma practice:

  • Faith
  • Diligence
  • Mindfulness
  • Concentration
  • Insight

These strengths are inherent in us but may remain unrecognized until consciously cultivated. They serve to empower and enrich our spiritual journey.

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Paws and praise

For anyone who has a dog at home, homecoming transforms into a celebration. The doorbell unleashes fervent barks.

Before you know it, a blur of fur—your dog—outpaces any human, offering a welcome fit for royalty, conveyed in wags and jumps.

This daily ritual, far from ordinary, is an unwavering expression of pure joy.

Your four-legged companion’s greeting erases fatigue, replacing it with a heartwarming spectacle of affection.

Their boundless enthusiasm is a masterclass in mindfulness, reminding us to cherish the present moment with unguarded delight.

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Animanly

Life is a journey meant for more than mere indulgence in pleasures. While savoring life’s joys is essential, it’s not the sole purpose. What sets humans apart is the gift of intellect, the ability to comprehend and ponder. This faculty leads us to seek the truth beneath surface perceptions.

In Sanskrit, the distinction between humans and animals is strikingly clear. ‘Pašu’, the word for animal, implies one who merely ‘sees’, perceiving things at face value, without delving deeper for truth. For them, utility lies in edibility or survival value.

Likewise, the English term ‘man’ finds its roots in Sanskrit’s ‘manusya’, denoting a human being. Derived from ‘mann’, meaning ‘to think’, it emphasizes that a human’s role transcends mere physical observation; it demands contemplation of the deeper truth. Thus, the essence of human existence lies in the pursuit of Truth, beyond mere enjoyment.

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Educated ignoramuses

This is the term my Guru uses to label all pseudo-intellectuals.

What is the meaning of this?

There are so many people who are far more conventionally educated than most Gurus.

Some of the most advanced Gurus may not have ever even gone to school or had a formal education.

So what does education mean? Is it just fancy MBAs or PhDs?

For pseudo-intellectuals, yes it might be!

But what is true education then? That depends on what we want to, nay, should learn. What should we learn then?

About our purpose on this earth. About our human birth, and what we are expected to do with it. About how to live up to our true potential.

Is this what formal education teaches us?

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Ruin booin

Everyone wants money. How much? More than too much. Having money is easy? Here’s a perspective:

The great investor Charlie Munger was once asked by one of his rich friends if leaving his kids a bunch of money would ruin their drive and ambition.

“Of course it will,” Charlie said. “But you still have to do it.”

“Why?” the friend asked.

“Because if you don’t give them the money they’ll hate you,” Charlie said.

Isn’t he just so much on point?

Imagine this. You have all the money possible. And then your kids either lose ambition or hate you. A smart cookie might say the best combo would be to have a lot of money and no kids. But everyone who has kids say that it’s the best feeling ever. And they’d gladly exchange their money to keep their kids. So want more money, honey?

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F for fear F for faith

We each fear death the most. If that fear goes, then every other fear can be managed.

How can we not fear death? Well everyone must go one day, but the antidote to the fear of death is the faith in God.

Why?

Because we are implicitly playing God, when we fear death. Wondering when that death will come and how. That’s why we are constantly worried about whether we will live or not. Isn’t that playing God? What if we would surrender that duty to God by having full faith in Him?

Ironically, we do have faith even if we think we don’t. Because we go to bed each night with the faith that we will wake up the next morning.

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Re Inc.

Would you want to live your whole life again, from scratch, including all the bad parts?

What if that life would be only the bad parts!?

Imagine going through grades 1 to 12 of school, all over again. Damn, I don’t even know how I managed to clear them once!

And then college and university.

And then all the bad interactions with so many people and all the other traumatic experiences.

It of course could have been a lot worse. But it’s not.

So ideally one should use this opportunity to improve our position, and work towards never having to come back, and re-do all this. The choice is ours. But most choose to stay permanent employees of Re Inc(arnated)!

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The idea of a thing vs the thing itself

It’s easy to mistake the mental image of an object or experience for the real thing. For instance, the idea of money is often associated with success and security. However, money itself is just paper or numbers in a bank account. The value we attribute to it comes from societal constructs. Similarly, happiness is frequently visualized as a life filled with laughter, vacations, and luxuries. Yet, true happiness is an internal state of contentment that can exist even in simplicity.

This distinction is important because when we chase the idea of something, we may miss out on the genuine essence of that thing. A person might accumulate wealth but still feel insecure, or chase moments of joy but never find lasting happiness. The map is not the territory; understanding this difference can lead us to more authentic and fulfilling experiences.

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Right turn

In the Ramayan, post-war, Hanuman rushes to inform Sita of their victory. Arriving, he’s tempted to avenge the rakshasis for tormenting Sita, but she halts him, narrating a stirring tale instead.

A man, fleeing a tiger, scales a tree, disturbing a resting bear. The tiger urges the bear to push the man down for a meal, but the bear, valuing hospitality, refuses. When the tiger coaxes the man to shove the bear, he tries but fails. The bear, resilient in righteousness, denies the tiger’s renewed plea to harm the man, imparting a timeless lesson: no evil should deter the righteous from their virtuous path.

Righteousness, demanding yet dignifying, holds an immortal essence celebrated across cultures and festivals.

Righteousness is not the easy choice, but it’s the revered one, crafting legacies of honor echoing through ages.

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Kidults

I’m really not making this up. Imagine adults coloring intricate books, building forts with blankets, or having themed dress-up parties. It’s adults immersing themselves in children’s activities, seeking a slice of nostalgia and pure joy.

Real-world stores now cater to this, offering adult-sized ball pits, wall doodling sessions, and even crafting workshops reminiscent of our school days.

But here’s a thought: why did we ever distance ourselves from such simple pleasures?

Life’s demands shouldn’t push the child within us into obscurity.

Embracing a childlike demeanor – filled with wonder, non-judgment, and forgiveness – is not about immaturity, but about cherishing life’s moments.

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Deathly wish

The Gita in the 8th chapter says (Antakaaleti…) that whatever one thinks of at the time of death is what they will attain in their next birth.

Is this a loophole? Can one live a life callous about values and morals, and yet achieve salvation simply by thinking of the Lord at the last moment?

“Not so fast buddy”, is what Krishna seems to suggest.

Firstly, a life devoid of spirituality is highly unlikely to result in remembrance of the Lord at the time of death.

Secondly, in chapter 14, verse 14, Krishna makes it amply clear that it is the dominant guna that makes its appearance at death. This is not difficult to understand either. If the life lived has had only tamasik and rajasic gunas, then how can one expect sattva guna to dominate only at the time of death?

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Sharky

You know all these NatGeo and Discovery ocean documentaries? They show some outstanding footage of what happens in the depths of the deep blue.

But I realized one thing. Even though many creatures hunt for a living, they don’t necessarily have a high success rate. A shark might try to capture its prey many times, but it too fails often.

So a quote I came across today (for humans, not sharks!) was on point:

“Self-reflection is how one loses their edge. A shark keeps swimming.”

It probably makes sense to introspect once in a while. But only introspecting and never taking action? Not a good idea.

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Gunateetha…is what? – part 2 of 2

We say yesterday how when one is free of the body-mind complex, one becomes a gunateetha. But how does one practically achieve this?

Krishna answers in the 14th Chapter of the Gita: “Through single-pointed, unswerving devotion!”

A doubt might arise. “But we see so many devotees around us, thronging temples and prayer halls. But they all also don’t seem that happy in their own lives – definitely not like what gunateethas are supposed to be…”

Great catch!

The focus word here therefore is “single-pointed” and/or “unswerving” aka unwavering.

As devotees, do we focus exclusively on the Lord? Or do we give him a small slice of time – like a few minutes a day or week? Is He the first thought we wake up with and the last thought we sleep with? And what of the millions of thoughts in between?

There is much introspection to be done for me!

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Gunateetha…is what? – part 1 of 2

So there are some terms in the Bhagavad Gita that are a bit difficult to practically imagine.

Like Gunateetha. A person who is beyond the Gunas. It’s hard enough for most people to come out of Tamasik guna (indolence) or Rajasik guna (high energy) and move towards Sattva guna (harmony). But then the best state according the Lord Krishna is one where the individual has transcended all the 3 gunas altogether!

How does such a gunateetha even function then? How is such a person to be recognized?

In the 14th Chapter, the Lord spills the beans.

He clarifies that the gunas are only associated with prakriti or the world around us, including our bodies and minds. As long as we associate with the body and mind, we will always be under the influence of the gunas.

And therefore by extension, when one is free of the body-mind complex, one becomes a gunateetha!

And how to do this? Concluded tomorrow!

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Lightenment

It’s Deepavali again. This beautiful festival comes year after year, with just one aim. Which is?

Well in the essence of tradition, Deepavali celebrates the joyous return of Prince Rama to Ayodhya, marking the end of his 14-year exile. Symbolically, it mirrors our contemporary journey, as we navigate challenges akin to Ram’s banishment from his realm of peace and prosperity. Deepavali, at its core, signifies the victory of good over evil (including inside us). The lighting of lamps illumines not just the world outside but our very souls. Amidst the festivities, our actions carry profound symbolism.

Cleaning the house becomes a metaphor for purifying our minds, discarding emotional stains of the past.

Donning new clothes and household items symbolizes the ushering in of newness as we transform our thinking and behavior.

Exchanging gifts takes on a profound meaning, offering each other the priceless blessings of pure thoughts and feelings.

Savouring sweets becomes a pledge to sweeten our words with love and respect (while also adding to the waistline!).

Starting new account books reflects our resolve to reconcile past issues and embrace acceptance.

Happy Deepavali!

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Tip sip

Came across an interesting anecdote today from a well-traveled friend.

In most parts of the world, he said that anyone in the service industry will be happy when they are tipped for their quality of service. A few extra bills and the smile on their faces would be telling.

In a few countries however, tipping is a requirement, a mandate, no matter what. “If you don’t tip”, he said, “they can even become angry and abusive!”

In Japan however, he said tips are actually frowned upon. It is culturally insensitive to offer tips to waiters, taxi drivers, hotel boys and anyone else.

Why? Because they believe that they need to do their best at work irrespective of any additional incentives, and they also trust the original bill that is charged is all-inclusive.

Good service begins in the mind!

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Embracing TIME

Jay Shetty’s book Think Like a Monk has an interesting acronym: TIME.

It represents four transformative habits: Thankfulness, Insight, Mindfulness, and Exercise.

Thankfulness encourages recognizing life’s blessings.

Insight propels a journey within for deeper understanding.

Mindfulness invites present-centered awareness.

Exercise emphasizes physical well-being.

Integrating TIME into our daily regimen can steer us towards holistic wellness and enduring happiness, enriching our journey towards a fulfilling existence.

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The Lasso Way

Apple TV has an outstanding series called Ted Lasso, which we’ve discussed before. Season 3, the last and final one, just concluded. It was super. No big spoilers below, but don’t read if you don’t want to!

Trent Crimm, originally a harsh newspaper critic of Ted Lasso, turns over a new leaf, and even writes a book, called “The Lasso Way.” He then requests both Coach Lasso and Coach Beard for their feedback.

The contrast couldn’t be more pronounced. While Coach Beard’s feedback is direct and detailed, Ted Lasso, true to his character, simply writes that everything is perfect. He also adds, that the only suggestion he has, is to change the name of the book, because it was always about the team, and never about him.

If only everyone would be so kind and understanding!

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Medical spirituality

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor!

But from my experience going to some, generally we would have some problem, like say a stomach ache. We don’t go to a plumber for this, although a leaky gut might need some plumbing of another kind. The doctor would have to be a general physician at first and then maybe a gastroenterologist. And the all important medicine? Some specific tablet or syrup that only the doctor can prescribe.

Our life’s problems are no different.

What is the illness? Samsara, aka our dependence on external factors for attaining and maintaining happiness. Who’s the doctor? This one is easy, the Guru of course! And the medicine? Scriptures, spirituality, devotion, God… take your pick.

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Bra’war’y

It’s amazing sometimes, the bravery I see around me.

So many politicians, especially those fighting for justice, are willing to step up and speak up. Unafraid of the consequences.

Don’t they have a family? Of course they do, and yet they do their duty in unimaginably bold ways.

With the recent wars that have broken out, most people would be fleeing the scene. But I see brave men and women who work as journalists running towards the battlefield!

Such level of bravery is mind boggling. Many spiritual masters do suggest that one should be completely fearless. Like a fight for dharma. Because ultimately we are not the body or mind.

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Adjudicater

Know who should be the judge of any court? We each of course! Because we are born judg-ers!

Ever found yourself silently judging? We see someone act, and instantly, there’s a mental thumbs-up or thumbs-down. We all do it, right?

Guru Sri Sri Ravishankar suggests imagining judgments as breezes, brief and passing. That there’s something freeing about being immersed in love and compassion, where these judgments lightly touch and go. They guide our choices, like picking the freshest apples from a market, and shaping the company we keep. Some folks lift us up, others not so much.

It’s quite the journey, this dance with judgments. Can we completely eliminate it? Sri Sri says it’s not possible unless we attain the state of Being, as then we are always full of love and compassion.

What’s your take?

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Bent Lee

There was a clickbaity article recently on a man who asked to be buried after his death along with his 1 million dollar Bentley. And obviously I clicked on that clickbait (how else would such folks make money if not for suckers like me!).

I couldn’t imagine why anyone would think that they could take their car with them. Maybe to coolly cruise past the gates of heaven?

As it so happens, Mr Lee’s (don’t know his name, so we can call him Mr. Lee) brain was not bent out of shape. Quite the contrary actually.

He was trying to use his Bentley to bring awareness to people about the noble opportunity of organ donation. We feel we may useless after death, but actually the death of one person (inevitable to all) may bring life to another. Well bent sir!

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Utterly butterly

What’s a lovely analogy to understand the concept of soul and atman and other similar confusing terms?

The Amritabindu Upanishad of course!

Here’s an outstanding 4-liner:

Cows are of various colors, milk is one-colored,
the wise man looks upon soul as milk,
of bodies as cows of different garbs,
knowledge is hidden, as butter in milk

Utterly butterly delicious!

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Humble mumble

Came across a powerful, self-explanatory and yet profound line today.

Humility is a powerful virtue that involves thinking of oneself less, rather than thinking less of oneself.

That’s it. That’s the post for today. Much to reflect on!

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Mumukyearning

There’s a lovely sanskrit word called mumukshatwam. It refers to a deep yearning for liberation.

So deep, that the yearning for liberation is the only thing that the spiritual seeker yearns for.

Funny it is then, when my Guru asks a gathering of devotees, “How many of you want liberation?”, and all hands fly up immediately.

He then proceeds to add just one more word, “How many of you want liberation, now?”.

And suddenly all hands go down!

Hilarious, but the joke is on us ????

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Living peacefully

There’s war all around us in the world.

And incredibly, there’s war inside of each one of us as well. In our minds. Constantly fighting a variety of emotions and desires, with nary a clue of what is right or what is good.

So how to live peacefully then? The saints say this:

  • Continuously chant and attribute all actions to God for a joyful life.
  • If an actor doesn’t bring his stage role home, should we let our worldly roles define us? Remember, our pursuit of God isn’t an act because God resides within each of us.
  • When surrendering to God, let go of titles like devotee, scholar, or wealthy person. Then peace will prevail.
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Unidirectional

The direction is clear of what happens with me:

Something in the physical plane triggers my senses. The senses pass on information to my mind. The mind then gets super excited and begins planning for the future as though it’s already happened. This in turn waylays the soul, keeping it from achieving it’s true objective (of realising itself).

Spiritual wisdom unanimously dictates that this direction is wrong.

Our soul is meant to lord over the mind and the senses, not the other way around. Instead of focusing on the distractions of the outer world, we need to focus on the peace within.

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A-song of a-sanga

In the Bhagavad Gita’s Chapter 15, there lies solid wisdom on achieving inner peace and happiness. This chapter introduces us to ‘samsara’, a term denoting our attachments.

We often hinge our inner tranquility on three things: VVP – Vyakti (people), Vastu (objects), and Paristhithi (circumstances).

However, this dependence is a double-edged sword, leading to impermanent joy and potential suffering.

The antidote?

‘Asanga’, which translates to detachment.

Contrary to popular belief, detachment isn’t about negating emotions or connections. Instead, it’s about cultivating an intelligent relationship with our surroundings, including our very own bodies. By understanding the inherent value in everything, yet recognizing that none can offer everlasting peace or happiness, we find our way to a balanced existence.

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How hard can it be?

That’s exactly what goes on in the mind of tech titan Jensen Huang, the founder and CEO of Nvidia. In a recent interview, when asked if he’d start a company again in 2023, he chuckled and said, “Building Nvidia was a million times harder than any of us expected.”

But here’s the kicker. Despite knowing the difficulty involved, he’d constantly trick his brain by asking, “How hard can it be?”

Jensen candidly shared the rollercoaster of emotions – vulnerability, embarrassment, shame, and the endless challenges. But would he do it again? “Nobody in their right mind would,” he quips. Yet, the superpower of an entrepreneur is blissful ignorance. They dive in, thinking, “How hard can it be?”

Jensen’s secret sauce? A rock-solid support system. Surrounded by those who’ve been with him for decades, he says, “They never gave up on me.”

The next time we’re facing a challenge, we could channel our inner Jensen and ask, “How hard can it be?”

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Triple-gated

Swami Chinmayananda said that when desire is fulfilled – the left hand side gate opens. That gate is called Greed.

Desire fulfilled = Greed.

When desire is unfulfilled – the right hand side gate is opened.

That is called Anger.

Desire Unfulfilled = Anger.

So the main gate leading to both these gates is desire.

The triple gates to hell.

So we must close these three gates all together. That is the only prescription.

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Focused Wisdomism

  • Life’s journey: Sometimes we take detours from the divine roadmap.
  • Scriptures shoutout for: Compassion, humility, and selfless love vibes.
  • Beware! Greed and fear: peace stealers on the prowl.
  • Universal truth alert: Judgment day awaits, not as one day, but as a continuous karmic tracker so deeds don’t lie.
  • Bhagwad Gita wisdom drop: Arjuna’s quest & Krishna’s focus mantra?
  • Focus mantra: Think divine, act in line, and the universe will align.
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3 means of devotion

According to saint Gondavalekar Maharaj, there are 3 methods of devotion:

  1. Words of the scriptures
  2. Words of the saints (seniors / Guru)
  3. inward search by oneself

Which one do you like, and which one do you think works best for you?

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Babaji’s powers

A lot of spiritual seekers today run after anyone who can show off some siddhis (aka powers). A name that is used by many is that of purportedly one of the greatest Gurus and mystics of all – Mahavtar Babaji.

My knowledge about him is just from various books – not least of which is the famous “An autobiography of a Yogi”.

With so many people running after mystical experiences and opening up their kundalinis and all sorts of occult practices, spirituality almost feels like a lost cause to one who does not experience any of these.

What does Babaji himself say?

“Believe me my child when I say, that the man who loves others, who is devout and who lives the life of self-surrender is many times more powerful, even in altering his own circumstances, environments and tendencies, than the man who has learned all the Scriptures, who has mortified himself by sitting in the midst of five fires, who has mastered pranayama, who has shut himself in caves, who has awakened his kundalini and who has repeated millions of mantras millions of times and who has performed the most mysterious and elaborate ceremonies for the fulfillment of different specific desires.”

Aum Namaha Babaji Maha -Vishuddhi (I bow to Babaji, the Great Purity). An Excerpt from ‘The Voice Of Babaji’.

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Belling the chef

In a quaint little restaurant we visited recently, a bell hung aloof in the corner behind the door. It had a note attached to it which read, “Ring if you liked the experience!”

While there was a lot of cheer and laughter, no one bothered to ring the bell, as they exited the restaurant with full bellies and preoccupied minds.

After several entries and exits, one little child pressurized his father to pick him up so that he could reach the bell.

With great gusto, the little boy rang the bell more than once and the smile on his face was wide as a mile.

What was wider though? The smiles on the faces of the chefs in the kitchen, all of whom stood in a line, with their palms folded in gratitude for the recognition.

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Analogical – part 5 of 5

Concluding post today – with another lovely set of outstanding analogies, enabling us to intimately understand the depths suggested by our scriptures:

25. The Mirror and the Reflection: Just as a polished mirror reflects accurately, a purified mind mirrors our true nature.

26. The Artist and the Artwork: Similar to artists crafting masterpieces, the divine orchestrates our lives with intricate care.

27. The Guest and the Host: Much like guests finding solace in hosts’ homes, our souls discover refuge in the embrace of the divine.

28. The Raindrop and Ocean: Just as raindrops merge into oceans, our individuality merges into the expanse of universal consciousness.

29. The Jewel and the Light: Similar to jewels sparkling in the light, the soul radiates brilliance in the presence of divine knowledge.

30. The Wind and the Sky: Just as wind moves through the sky, experiences flow through the canvas of our awareness.

These analogies, like facets of a diamond, reflect the sophisticated-yet-simplistic wisdom of our ancients. By embracing these insights, we can embark on a transformative journey towards self-discovery and everlasting contentment.

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Analogical – part 4 of 5

More brilliant analogies from the wise ones, continued below:

18. The Sailing Boat and Wind: Like boats sailing with the wind, we journey through life with the divine wind of grace.

19. The Firefly and the Sun: As the sun dims fireflies, ego diminishes in the radiance of spiritual awareness.

20. The Needle and Thread: Similar to threading a needle, enlightenment requires focused awareness and effort.

21. The Seed and the Tree: Just as a tiny seed contains the promise of a mighty tree, our souls hold latent potential for spiritual growth.

22. The Pot and Space: Much like pots occupy space, the soul resides within the body while transcending its limits.

23. The Ocean and Waves: Just as waves emerge from oceans, our experiences arise from the boundless sea of Reality.

24. The Gem and the Dirt: Like a gem’s brilliance unaffected by dirt, the soul remains pure amidst life’s impurities.

Final set of analogies concluded tomorrow!

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Analogical – part 3 of 5

Continuing our voyage of scriptural wisdom seen through the lens of popular analogies:

12. The Musical Instrument and Musician: Much like musicians draw melodies from instruments, the divine orchestrates our lives, weaving together the symphony of existence.

13. The Honeybee and Flowers: Just as bees extract nectar without harm, we are required to engage with the world while preserving harmony.

14. The Fire and Fuel: As fire purifies through consumption, the soul burns ignorance and attachments to reveal its radiant essence.

15. The Child and Mother: Akin to a child’s solace in a mother’s arms, we seek refuge in the nurturing embrace of the divine.

16. The Silkworm and Cocoon: Like silkworms breaking cocoons, the Gita guides us to transcend self-imposed limits.

17. The Moon and Reflection: A tranquil mind reflects brilliance, akin to the moon mirrored in a still pond. And even if the pond has ripples, the moon itself is unaffected.

More analogies tomorrow!

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Analogical – part 2 of 5

More common analogies continued today:

7. The Sun and Clouds: Like clouds momentarily veiling the sun, ignorance can obscure our inherent brilliance.

8. The River and Ocean: As rivers merge into oceans, the soul dissolves into boundless consciousness.

9. The Garden and Weeds: Just as a garden thrives with weeding, we nurture positivity while uprooting negativity.

10. The Dream and Wakefulness: The Gita’s wisdom unveils the illusory nature of the material world, much like dreams upon awakening.

11. The Fish in Water: Just as fish thrive in water, souls flourish in the vast expanse of divine consciousness, revealing our inherent connection.

Analogies continued, tomorrow!

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Analogical – part 1 of 5

A journey through the Bhagavad Gita is best undertaken via analogies. They guide us like torches in the night, bridging ancient teachings with contemporary understanding. Here are some illuminating analogies used by several saints and Gurus across various books:

1. The Cow and Its Calf: Just as a cow tends to its calf without attachment, the Gita teaches performing duties without fixating on outcomes.

2. The Potter’s Wheel: Like a potter molding clay, divine forces shape our lives. Surrendering to the Lord aligns us with cosmic rhythms.

3. The Water Drop and Ocean: A drop merges with the ocean, echoing unity; like the individual dissolving into universal consciousness.

4. The Lamp and the Wind: A windless place doesn’t disturb a lamp’s flame. The mind too should remain undisturbed amid sensory distractions.

5. The Snake and the Rope: The Gita warns against confusing the transient with the eternal, akin to mistaking a rope for a snake.

6. The Lotus in Mud: A lotus rises pure from muddy waters, teaching purity amidst life’s challenges.

More analogies tomorrow!

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Tank half empty or half full?

In the realm of sports, moments of extraordinary tenacity often emerge, leaving an indelible mark on our hearts. Recently, I came across a riveting YouTube video that encapsulates this spirit in its purest form.

Picture this: A car race of paramount importance, with victory within arm’s reach. Max Orida, the leader, finds himself agonizingly close to the finish line when destiny throws a curveball. His fuel gauge reads empty, threatening to shatter his dreams.

Rather than surrendering to despair, Max’s spirit ignites a fire within him. With unwavering resolve, he leaps out from the car, and begins pushing his vehicle, every muscle straining against the odds. The crowd holds its breath, witnessing a testament to human willpower.

In that heart-stopping moment, Max transcends mere competition. He embodies the essence of perseverance, transforming a potential loss into a triumphant narrative. His actions remind us that when passion meets determination, even the most daunting challenges can be conquered.

Let Max Orida’s incredible feat be a beacon for us all. In the face of adversity, may we summon the fortitude to push forward, no matter how dire the circumstances. For it is in these moments that we forge our own path to victory, leaving an indomitable legacy for generations to come.

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Naturally patient

In the rush of modern life, nature whispers a vital lesson – patience. Much like a blooming flower unfurls its petals slowly, we too can find strength in moving at our own pace. The river carves its path patiently, shaping landscapes over time. Likewise, patience allows us to mold our experiences, creating meaningful stories.

Nature’s examples abound: majestic Redwood Trees grow slowly, standing tall for centuries, teaching us the power of steadfast growth. Caterpillars transform into butterflies, reminding us that change takes time, but the end result is worth the wait. Geodes, crystal-filled rocks formed over millions of years, show that true beauty emerges from patient, gradual processes. The Grand Canyon, carved by the Colorado River over eons, teaches us that persistence creates breathtaking masterpieces. Watch a spider construct its intricate web, showcasing the power of patience in achieving a goal. Coral reefs’ slow growth over thousands of years reminds us that small, consistent efforts lead to immense beauty and resilience.

Rushing seldom leads to lasting success.

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Mother necessity

“Look for the, bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife!” croons the ever-happy Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book cartoon classic.

The bare necessities is absolutely right. We don’t need much more than that to be happy, because happiness, as we know, is simply a state of mind.

But, necessity is the mother of invention. And as our necessities grow from bare sized to bear sized, inventions and gadgetry around us have proliferated.

Has happiness also proliferated? Hardly.

What might be the mother of necessity itself then?

Perhaps God, or chanting his name. When we are thinking of Him all the time, nothing else becomes important, and He will take care of everything else.

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Formulaic Godliness

At the core of our spiritual journey lies a delicate interplay between God, mind, and man, elegantly captured by two poignant equations:

  1. God + Mind = Man
  2. Man – Mind = God

These formulas encapsulate the essence of our quest for spiritual enlightenment.

To bridge the gap between ourselves and the divine, we must first understand the profound influence of our own minds.

Through dedicated concentration, a practitioner seeks to calm the ceaseless waves of thought, offering the mind a steady foundation.

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Which one are you?

An optimist. A pessimist. Or a realist.

The world loves optimists. Absolutely glorifies them.

Pessimists are always given the stick.

Realists? Do they even exist?

Here’s what Swami Swaroopananda says.

Be a realist. Why? Because an optimist never sees a problem, while the pessimis sees nothing but the problem. A realist approaches the situation with full awareness, mindful that things can go wrong and also the courage to see it through. 
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Quick change

You must have seen those magic shows where there’s a person that can change their dress really bloody quick. Like blink-of-the-eye quick.

The Gita says that our bodies are like clothes only. That death just results in the soul discarding one body to don another.

Within this life itself, we may change clothes multiple times each day, and a few hundred-thousand times through our lives.

The toughest clothes to change into would undoubtedly be ochre robes. Most people don’t even attempt to change into them.

But the irony is, that even after changing into ochre robes, if the mind is not tamed, outside clothes are of little use.

Clothes can be changed very fast. But the mind?

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Mission statement

We come across many mission and vision statements of large organizations, and famous people too.

What are the 4 steps to crafting these, and more so for oneself, according to Arthur Brooks, the creator of the concept of Happier-ness?

  1. Does whatever is being done glorify God? If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t matter what the other 3 steps are.
  2. Serve others.
  3. Have an adventure.
  4. Make a living.

These are the 4 steps to be followed to achieve any goal, and to be followed in the same order.

It’s ironic that most people follow the same order, but usually in reverse!

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Coinucopia

Peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Yin and yang. You just can’t separate these two out right? Just like 2 sides of a coin.

Here’s another. Desire and attachment. They’re always together.

Desire something deeply? In no time, you’ll be attached to it.

Attached to something deeply? It’ll lead you to desiring for that very thing or even other things for longer and longer.

To cut one is to cut none. To cut both is to find growth. Spiritual growth.

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Born loser

This is what Sadhguru begins one of his talks with. He says we are all “born losers”.

Wow, a scathing attack from a spiritual leader, one would think?

But is he wrong?

Hardly.

He proceeds to explain. We are all born losers because the moment we are born, we each begin to lose the most important thing we have: time!

What are we doing with this time? Are we maximising it in our service of others and our quest for the Self? Or are we simply whiling it away, living as egomaniacs and fueling this gross body that will anyway whither away soon?

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Learn to learn from

In a lovely podcast of Marlene Puffer, the Chief Investment Officer of a Canadian pension fund, I found a golden nugget.

She was describing how she began her career as an outsider. She was always in academia, with multiple degrees and what not.

And one day, at the grand old age of 29, she found herself in a teaching job as a professor of finance.

Her problem? She was all theory and no practice. Why? Because she hadn’t had the opportunity to work at Wall Street or other financial firms.

While she did suffer from imposter syndrome at first, she came up with an excellent solution. She knew she had very good theoretical knowledge and was very well read. Instead of feeling insecure in front of her much older and much more experienced students, she learned to learn from them instead, and layered it on top of her theoretical prowess.

“Hey Mike, you’ve got 15 years of experience working in FX derivatives, why don’t you share your perspective and learnings on how you did things at Morgan Stanley?”… and so on… Pretty cool no?!

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Playground

In the lovely book called Discourses by Shri Gondavalekar Maharaj, there are innumerable outstanding nuggets of wisdom.

One of them asks us to focus on the present, which we know. And not worry about the past or future, which also we know.

As a corollary, what he says (paraphrased) is, “On a daily basis, what are you using the prapancha (sense objects) for? If prapancha are being used simply to gain happiness, then clearly that happiness will never last. So what to do then? Use the prapancha as a playground to simply perform your duty. Then see the magic unfolding.”

So lovely!

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The real cause of burnout

On a cool interview of Bjørn Gulden, the global CEO of Adidas, one amazing insight came about. So much so that the interviewer (none other than CEO of Norges Bank, Nicolai Tangen) came back to the same point a few minutes later, even though the conversation had meandered to something else by then.

What is the real cause of burnout then, according to Mr. Gulden?

He says that since day 1 of his job, he has always been himself. He has never put on a pretense about anything. Since he doesn’t have to pretend, and doesn’t have to appear to be someone he is not, he carries no excess baggage on his head.

In his view, the reason for burnout is simply that people are constantly having to artifically put on a guise of who they aren’t. Maybe appear sharper, speak cooler, engage as though more knowledgeable etc. And doing so, say 12 hours every day, day after day, is what causes one to get burned out. Without it? One would enjoy working!

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Reverse bucket list

How many items are there in our bucket lists?

100s if not 1000s?

Wanting to have multiple experiences, to traveling across multiple countries, to trying out all sorts of fancy restaurants and what not.

The list can go on forever.

And that’s exactly why a “reverse” bucket list is such a great idea!

In a normal bucket list, as you complete one activity and check it off, you still see several hundreds left undone, leading to dissatisfaction.

But in a reverse bucket list, we only put things once they get done. This way, everything is always checked, and gives us the opportunity to be always happy!

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Timepass

Picture time as an expansive, black canvas. The saints saw that it’s not time that moves; rather it is we that traverse its expanse. We begin our journey at one point and conclude it at another, creating the illusion that time commences here and culminates there.

Yet, time is an undivided continuum, an unbroken whole. We transition from birth through childhood, youth, middle age, and into old age, painting our existence across this canvas. Therefore perception of time’s movement stems from our own progression. In truth, time remains an immutable, encompassing unity, ever-static in its entirety. But do we truly comprehend the profound nature of time, or are we merely skimming the surface of its profundity?

Colloquially, we refer to “timepass” when are whiling away time, not putting it to productive use. But what is truly happening? Is time passing us by, or are we passing by time?

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WhyWork

A company called WeWork has been in the news for the last many years. First for revolutionizing co-working office spaces, and more recently, for the fall of its valuations from the billions to the millions.

But WeWork is one thing. And WhyWork is another. No, it’s not a startup that you haven’t heard of, but a simple query to the universe.

Why work, when we are anyway asked to give up the results, and give up doership? If it ain’t gonna matter, then why work even a smatter?

Well the answer to that is simply because work needs to be seen as a means to an end (purification of the mind), not the end itself. The work is simply a journey, which is why the Gita never cares about the work itself, but only about “how” the work is done (with full surrender to the divine)!

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Praying in future tense

We’re probably always wanting something out there in the future.

When this want becomes fervent, it may morph into a prayer even.

With every cell hoping for a magical future.

But do we realize that many years ago and many prayers ago…

…we asked for things, that have become a reality, even if it may not seem so.

A comfy life, some travel, some family time, decent money and status, good health. Many of these we may have wished for, and indeed got, but do we remember? Or are the prayers of yesteryear simply replaced by new prayers hoping for even more cheer?

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Incorruptible

Nobody likes corrupt people. Not even the corrupt ones themselves.

But everyone has weaknesses.

And exploiting a weakness in someone could be the first step to corruption.

Offer them something to solve a serious problem, and they will forever be indebted, leaving open the possibility of crossing a line as a favour.

But there exists only one person who is incorruptible. The one who is a jnani. The one who wants only mukti and nothing else.

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Dancing confusion

In the realm of spirituality, seekers often ponder the art of engaging wholeheartedly with the world’s ups and downs, versus withdrawing into a state of inner calm and detachment. Can one gracefully transition between these two states? To immerse ourselves in life’s vivid experiences, yet also find solace in a serene, desireless state.

An analogy could be pertinent.

Imagine playing a role in a romantic flick alongside our favorite hero or heroine. In those scenes, we’re fully present, singing songs and reveling in the joy of the moment. But once the scene wraps, if we hold onto that role too tightly, we might be at the receiving end of a tight hand-to-face from said actor playing the favorite hero / heroine. There’s a delicate balance here. By recognizing it is only a role, we remain untangled, fully present in the day-to-day world, yet with a tranquil, uncluttered mind.

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Business-personal solutions

Here’s a thought provoking tweet by one Justin Welsh.

“Every problem in business can be solved in 1 of 2 ways. 1) Looking at your company data. 2) Speaking to your customers.”

I found this quite profound, and realized that this is not just the solution to business problems, but also applicable to our own personal and professional lives.

How can we look at our own data? By doing a quick self-audit. What are we doing right or wrong? How much time are we wasting. What are the pain points in our lives?

And who are our customers? Everyone we interact with regularly perhaps. And we can surely ask those who we are close with for self-improvement feedback!

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Action value – part 2 of 2

What else on action?

Vinoba also suggests that action should be offered as a sign of reverence, not as a payment or a duty. He gives an example of dakshina, which is a gift given to a teacher or a guest as a mark of respect. He suggests that dakshina is not measured by its amount, but by its sentiment. He says that water is sprinkled on it before it is given, to symbolize the feelings in the heart of the giver. He quotes a verse from Manusmriti, which says that a student can give a flower, a fan, a pair of sandals, or a pitcher of water to his teacher, as long as he gives it with devotion. He suggests that such a gift becomes priceless, because it is charged with love.

Vinoba illustrates this point with the story of Rukmini and Satyabhama, two wives of Lord Krishna. Satyabhama tried to weigh Krishna with heaps of gold ornaments, but failed. Rukmini put a single leaf of Tulsi (a sacred plant) on the scale, and it equaled the weight of Krishna, because it was full of devotion. Vinoba says that this is true of the actions of a karmayogi too. A karmayogi is one who performs selfless and desireless actions as an offering to God.

But there are so many actions to perform. How to choose? Simply what the Guru suggests, which will invariably involve providing maximum benefit to maximum people.

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Action value – part 1 of 2

What determines the value of an action?

Is it how much or how well it is done? Is it the result or the motive?

Here are some excellent insights from a book called Talks on the Gita by Vinoba Bhave, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and a pioneer of the Sarvodaya movement. He delivered these talks in a jail in 1932, when he was imprisoned for joining India’s freedom struggle. He spoke on the Bhagavad Gita, one of the sacred Hindu scriptures, that guides us towards living a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Vinoba compares action to a stone, or a piece of paper. It has no value by itself, unless it is filled with feelings. He gives an example of a letter from his mother, which had only a few lines, but was priceless to him, because it conveyed her love and care. On the other hand, another letter that had fifty pages, but lacked any emotion, was worthless to him. He suggests that action should be infused with the warmth of feelings.

What else? Concluded tomorrow!

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Shut up and get out

Swami Chinmayananda said exactly this to a reporter in an old interview.

“Shut up and get out.”

And then he smiles, and says that he’s not telling her personally to shut up and get out.

Instead what he’s giving is golden advice.

Shut the mouth up.

And get out of the body-mind complex.

So cool, isn’t it?

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FortyTwo – part 2 of 2

So what answer did Elon Musk find? In the whimsical universe of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, one finds not just humor and absurdity but also unexpected pearls of wisdom, especially when it comes to spirituality.

It’s a tale where the Earth is revealed to be a supercomputer designed to calculate the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything,”. And what is the final answer? Simply the number “42.”

This comically simple answer raises profound questions about the nature of spirituality. The search for meaning, for many, is a lifelong journey.

So much so that Elon himself believes that it’s not about the answer, but about finding the right question. What question about the complex creation we are part of will even come close to having an answer like 42?

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FortyTwo – part 1 of 2

Most of us want to be really rich. Why? So that we can chill and be free, and do what we want without others having to tell us so.

That’s a far off dream for me at least, but someone smartly asked Elon Musk this question. With some $180 billion in wealth that is more than the GDP of many countries, what keeps him ticking? Why does he go to work daily? What is the driving force behind his pursuits?

He answers almost sheepishly in his interview. As a teenager, he tried his best to figure out the purpose of life. He read all sorts of philosophical books and could yet not figure anything out.

Finally he read Douglas Adams’ sci-fi novel The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. And what did he learn from that? Did he get the answer to his question?

Continued tomorrow!

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Broken pointers

In the heart of Silicon Valley, Pierre Omidyar embarked on a mission that would redefine online commerce. In 1995, he birthed eBay Inc., envisioning a global marketplace for the exchange of goods and services. This visionary act began with an unexpected muse – a broken laser pointer, the first item ever listed. What seemed like an odd choice held a profound spiritual lesson: within imperfection lies hidden value.

Who the heck would want a broken laser pointer? Lo and behold, Omidyar got a bid for USD 14.83. He could scarcely believe his eyes, and hence wrote back to the bidder, who confirmed thus: “Yes, I am a collector of broken laser pointers”.

Incredible no?

This narrative mirrors the essence of our human journey. In our flaws and imperfections, there lies untapped potential waiting to be unearthed. Omidyar’s broken laser pointer became a symbol, reminding us that our own perceived ‘brokenness’ can be the catalyst for realizing our boundless potential.

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Intellectual difference

Here’s a question that was raised recently. “What is the difference between a sanyasi and a tyaagi?”

Honestly, I had not a clue, even though I faintly remembered reading about it somewhere, or listening to it during some talk.

Lord Krishna discusses sanyaasa and tyaaga in the 18th chapter of the Gita.

According to some experts, sanyasi means one who renounces everything. While a tyaagi only renounces the doership of the action, and of course the fruits associated with it.

Some experts suggest sanyasis and tyagis are effectively the same.

Other experts find other variations.

Which is correct? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Many concepts of spirituality are incredibly esoteric, and can leave the mind spinning. Unless intellectual debate is one’s profession, it’s probably much better to begin giving up doership and the fruits. But maybe that is even harder than simply intellectualizing things!

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Energetically yours

Came across a very interesting thought. It’s not radical or new. But a different perspective on the same thing.

Who is God?

Most will describe him as an old man with a flowing beard. No, not Santa Claus, although he does fit the description.

Said God apparently gets angry when we do bad things. And if we do good things, then he rewards us.

But is that how we have experienced God? Hardly.

A better way to think of this is that God is just energy. He is the energy that created all of Creation. He is also the one that sustains all of it, and eventually leads to destruction and recycling.

So if everything is God’s energy, what are we doing about it? If we do bad things, then God’s energy gets suppressed. But if we do good things, we practice gratitude, we are kind to others, we are empathetic and compassionate, then we automatically become free flowing channels of God’s energy. Isn’t that incredible?

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Happiness pointers

Happiness is not a destination, it’s a direction.

Happiness is not a style, it’s a skill.

Happiness is not a possession, but a state of mind.

Happiness is not in perfection, but in acceptance.

Happiness is not avoiding pain, but embracing growth.

Happiness is not about having, but about appreciating.

Happiness is not driven by luck, but by choice.

Happiness is not tomorrow or today, it’s now!

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Sourcefulness

Do we really own anything? All the money of the richest people in the world. Where will that go when they die? In today’s digital currency age, all that moolah can’t even be printed to take to the grave.

Do we really own anything then? Not in the least. We are merely temporary caretakers of Creation. Of what is already Created by God aka the Creator aka Divine Consciousness.

If we truly accept that we are only caretakers, then we would not stress so much about everything. We would be able to give to those deserving and destitute far more easily.

And whatever is left after we give, that too becomes blessed. Because there too it is the same caretaking principle. A branch when cut from the tree, dies in a few days. But a branch which continues to allow divine energy to flow through experiences the bliss of creation.

Every single thing we have is part of a larger cosmic canvas. If we train ourselves to recognize this, we will automatically see all our problems receding, and all the bliss of the Creator flowing unto us.

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Escape and not – part 5 of 5

In a world often driven by materialism and self-interest, Eddie Jaku’s words serve as a refreshing reminder of what truly matters. In his memoir, “The Happiest Man on Earth,” Eddie shares a profound lesson he learned from his father: “Kindness is the greatest wealth of all. Small acts of kindness last longer than a lifetime.”

Eddie’s father emphasized that kindness, generosity, and faith in one’s fellow man are more valuable than any monetary wealth. This lesson became a guiding principle for Eddie, shaping his interactions and relationships throughout his life. He shares a simple yet profound mantra: “May you always have lots of love to share, lots of good health to spare, and lots of good friends who care.”

In a world that has witnessed the depths of human cruelty, Eddie’s message is a beacon of hope. He encourages us to cherish and spread love, to appreciate the gift of health, and to nurture genuine friendships. His life story is a testament to the transformative power of kindness, even in the face of unimaginable adversity.

Eddie’s journey demonstrates that while life may present challenges, it is our response to these challenges that defines us. By choosing kindness, love, and understanding, we can create a legacy that outlives us, touching the hearts and lives of generations to come.

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Escape and not – part 4 of 5

In his memoir, “The Happiest Man on Earth,” Eddie Jaku reflects on the profound impact of perspective. After enduring the horrors of the Holocaust, he could have easily succumbed to bitterness and despair. Instead, Eddie chose a path of positivity and gratitude. He writes, “I have a belief that if you have good morale, if you can hang onto hope, your body can do miraculous things. Tomorrow will come.”

Eddie’s philosophy is proof of the strength of the human spirit. Despite the immense suffering he faced, he recognized the importance of hope and the power of a positive outlook. He believed that even in the darkest moments, there’s always a glimmer of light.

His message is clear: cherish every moment, embrace the good and the bad, and always choose happiness. As Eddie beautifully puts it, “Life is beautiful if you let it be. Happiness is in your hands.”

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Escape and not – part 3 of 5

Eddie further recounts a harrowing journey he endured once on a train to Buchenwald. Packed into open wagons and exposed to the biting cold, survival seemed impossible. Yet, even in those dire circumstances, Eddie and his fellow prisoners found a way to stay warm. They crafted a large blanket from their jackets, huddling together, only their heads peeking out, as snow piled on top.

But it wasn’t just the cold they had to contend with; hunger gnawed at them constantly.

And then, a glimmer of hope: as the train passed through Czechoslovakia, kind-hearted women ran alongside, throwing loaves of bread to the starving prisoners. It wasn’t much, but even a morsel of bread symbolized more than sustenance. It was a testament to the enduring spirit of humanity, a beacon of hope in the darkest of times.

Eddie’s story is as a powerful message that even in the face of immense cruelty and adversity, acts of kindness can shine through. It underscores the belief that hope, fuelled by the compassion of strangers, can be a lifeline in our most desperate moments.

Meanwhile, we need to question our own supposed sadness and depression. Given our lives are infinitely better than Eddie’s, do we have a reason to be sad, even for one second?

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Escape and not – part 2 of 5

Another story unfolds in the grim surroundings of a concentration camp, where Eddie was forced to work on machinery. Every day, he was chained to his machine, with only a drunk and abusive guard for company. The guard’s cruelty seemed boundless, but life had a twist in store for Eddie.

One day, Eddie was summoned by the man in charge of the factory, a man named Goh. Expecting reprimand or worse, Eddie was taken aback when Goh, with tears in his eyes, revealed that he had been a prisoner of war with Eddie’s father during the First World War.

Goh expressed his deep sorrow for the atrocities Eddie was enduring and, while he couldn’t help him escape, he promised Eddie something invaluable: sustenance. From that day on, Eddie found extra food hidden in his machine, a small act of kindness in a world devoid of humanity.

Eddie’s encounter with Goh is a testament to the unexpected places where kindness can be found. It’s a reminder that even in the darkest corners of human history, there are glimmers of hope and humanity. As they say, it’s always darkest before dawn.

More tomorrow!

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Escape and not – part 1 of 5

In his book “The Happiest Man on Earth,” Eddie Jaku shares his deeply moving experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Among the many tales of resilience and hope, some stand out: Eddie’s audacious escape from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Auschwitz, a grim symbol of the Holocaust, was a place where hope was a scarce commodity. Yet, Eddie, with his indomitable spirit, devised a plan. Hidden inside a drum, he was smuggled out of the camp on a truck. However, the joy of freedom was fleeting. Still wearing the Auschwitz uniform, he became a target in a world that might not always show kindness.

In search of refuge, Eddie approached a house, hoping for sanctuary. Instead, he was greeted with gunshots, a stark reminder of the era’s deep-rooted fear and prejudice. Injured and with dwindling options, Eddie made a heart-wrenching decision: to return to Auschwitz. Using the returning workers as cover, he seamlessly re-entered the camp, his brief stint of freedom now a haunting memory.

The same Eddie has written a book titled “The Happiest Man on Earth”. If we were to go through an ordeal 1/1000th as bad as his, would we even be able to smile, let alone write a book on happiness?

Continued tomorrow!

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Guru-luck

In a recent interview of monk-Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the interviewer asked him a simple question.

“Do you think you were lucky to have met your spiritual Guru?’

Pat came Yogi ji’s reply.

Janmjanmantar ka prarabdh hai yeh.

Which means that him meeting his Guru was no accident, but many lifetimes of accumulated karma!

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Complexifier

This was the word used by a David Von Drehle, an award-winning journalist. What was he talking about? Youngsters, of course ????

But it’s equally relevant for anyone else too.

David’s latest book, “The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109 Year-Old Man,” is a best-seller about resilience and what it means to live well.

He says that people are complexifiers, always trying to complicate everything. How true isn’t it?

He agrees that sometimes life can indeed seem very complicated.

But how to un-complicate it?

By simply spreading kindness, generosity and joy. That’s it.

Profound, and worth thinking over many times.

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Mind test

Here’s an interesting exercise.

Imagine a person suspects terminal illness. So they go to the hospital and get some check-ups done.

All day and all night, they are unable to eat, sleep or work properly, constantly consumed by the anxiety of what the report might contain. Will it be 12 months to live? Or even lesser?

And then the report comes.

The doc gives an “All clear”. Nothing to worry about.

All the problems of the world have suddenly vanished. Eating, sleeping, working have instantaneously become joyful activities.

But what changed? There was no terminal illness before the test, and no terminal illness after the test. Just the mind…

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The most critical definitions

There are two global epidemics that the world is facing today.

Nope, Covid isn’t one of them.

The first is depression. And the second is anxiety.

We all feel anxious and / or depressed at some point.

Here’s the simplest and most profound definitions I’ve heard of these two terms, which I came across recently on a podcast by David Von Drehle.

Depression = regret for things of the past.

Anxiety = fear of things of the future.

Deceptively simple, yet 100% true!

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Change?

With any problem in our lives, we pray for a solution.

What is this solution?

To magically make the problem go away of course.

To change the playing field, to change the circumstances, to change the experience itself.

But is that really a solution? Is that really a lasting solution?

What is the ideal solution then?

To pray to change not the circumstance, but to change me!

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The SHIELD to happiness

Was watching a video by an enthusiastic and energetic 75-years young Alvin Foo. The gentleman was asked how he maintains such good health. And his answer was golden. He said he lives his life by the acronym SHIELD. What is SHIELD?

“S” for Sleep: 7 hours. Prioritize rest, allowing the body and mind renewal for each day’s vigor.

“H” for Handling Stress: such as via meditation to conquer challenges with a calm mind.

“I” for Interaction: Cultivating relationships (friends and family) to uplift and dispel isolation.

“E” for Exercise: Keeping agile and energetic by embracing movement you enjoy.

“L” for Learn: Fueling your mind with new knowledge, keeping curiosity alive.

“D” for Diet: Nourishing your body with vitality-enhancing foods.

Simple and doable!

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Real reality

  • The recipe is not the dish.
  • The plan is not the journey.
  • The blueprint is not the building.
  • The script is not the performance.
  • The idea is not the execution.
  • The schedule is not the event.
  • The description is not the experience

What do these mean?

That at some point, no matter all the theory, it is only practice and execution that counts! A good lesson for me.

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DTNT

No, this is not Dynamic TNT, although the message itself is far more explosive.

Someone analyzed the life of Abraham Lincoln. In one particular year, he was going through absolute hell. On the work front, he was absolutely being clobbered. His 11 year old son died. His wife went into depression.

And yet, Abe Lincoln came out successful.

How did he do it?

The answer lies in DTNT.

Do The Next Thing.

Stop being stuck to whatever problem is there, and move on. Do the next thing.

Such simple yet exceptional advice for me!

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Fun for fun’s sake

On a podcast that was discussing happiness, the speaker threw out two normal English words. One was ‘amateur’, and the other was ‘dilettante’.

The meanings of both words is somewhat similar, in that there is interest in a field, but perhaps limited expertise.

The podcast itself was all about how if we do more things that are new and experimental (such as learning a new sport, a new language, a new art or skill etc.), then the chances of being happy are very high. Why? Because while learning these activities, we become engrossed in the moment, and quit complaining about mundane issues.

What I loved then was the etymology of both those words.

Amateur apparently comes from amour, which is to love (your work), and dilettante comes from delight. What fun!

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Pray for what? – part 2 of 2

So what do we pray for then?

Perhaps many things, but what struck me as I was sitting quietly yesterday was the following:

1. Clarity. We are faced with innumerable choices all the time. How do we know which decision to make? Which choice is right? Hence I would pray for clarity, in all aspects of life.

2. Protection. There is so much of negativity all around us. So much of anger and hate and ego and malice. Who is protecting us all the time, if not the grace of the Guru and the blessings of God?

But what do the self-realized souls pray for?

Simply for the well being and happiness of others, always!

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Pray for what? – part 1 of 2

What should we really pray for? We mostly pray for money and promotions and good health and good marks and success in various tasks we set out to do.

Are these the things we should be praying for? Of course, we can pray for anything we want, and no one can force us otherwise.

But all of the above things are purely material and short term, aren’t they? Except health of course. But health too is largely in our hands. If we stuff ourselves with processed garbage that is ubiquitous today, then what will our health be like if not garbage?

So then what else can we pray for?

Concluded tomorrow!

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Wrong-doer

Heard this in a cool TED talk clip. A very strong lesson and takeaway for me.

The speaker had observed children’s habits closely, and shared an anecdote.

In a drawing class, an otherwise uninterested-in-school 6-year-old was keenly drawing something. When the teacher went to the child and asked her what she was drawing, the girl replied, “I’m drawing God”.

To which the teacher said, “But no one knows how God looks like.”

Pat came the reply, “They will, in a minute!”

The takeaway?

Kids don’t care about being wrong. That’s why they learn so much in such a short time, like picking up new languages, without a care in the world of what others think!

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8Rules (part four): The Everlasting Journey of Love

In the concluding chapters from Jay Shetty’s “8 Rules of Love,” we are introduced to a powerful and uplifting perspective on love’s boundless nature. The eighth rule, “Love Again and Again,” is a celebration of love’s infinite potential. Love isn’t a one-time experience or confined to a single chapter of our lives. It is not a finite resource. It’s an ever-evolving journey, filled with countless opportunities to love, learn, and grow.

Shetty encourages us to view love as a continuous process, not limited by past experiences or future apprehensions. Every interaction, every shared moment, and even every setback is an opportunity to practice love. It’s about opening our hearts, breaking down barriers, and embracing the world with renewed passion and hope. Whether it’s the love between partners, the love for a friend, or the love for oneself, every form of love is valuable and transformative.

This rule is a reminder that our capacity to love is limitless. No matter the challenges we’ve faced or the heartbreaks we’ve endured, there’s always room to love again. It’s about recognizing love’s boundless beauty and allowing it to guide us through life’s many twists and turns.

In this boundless journey, every day presents a fresh canvas, allowing us to paint a new chapter in our ever-evolving love story, filled with hope, passion, and endless possibilities.

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8Rules (part three): The Resilience and Renewal of Love

The sixth rule, “Win or Lose Together,” is a testament to the resilience and unity required in love. Relationships aren’t always about sunny days and calm seas; there are storms to weather and challenges to face. But it’s not the challenges themselves that define a relationship; it’s how we face them. Do we let them pull us apart, or do we face them hand in hand, united in our resolve? Jay Shetty emphasizes the importance of solidarity in love. It’s about standing together, supporting each other, and emerging from challenges stronger and more connected.

But what happens when, despite our best efforts, love takes a different turn? The seventh rule, “You Don’t Break in a Breakup,” offers solace and hope. Breakups, while painful, are not the end. They can be a new beginning, a chance for introspection, growth, and self-renewal. Shetty reminds us that endings can also be opportunities. They offer a unique chance to rediscover oneself, to reflect on the relationship, and to prepare for a brighter, more informed future in love.

Together, these rules teach us about the resilience of love and the strength that can be found in both togetherness and endings.

Rule 8, and conclusion tomorrow!

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8Rules (part two): Navigating the Depths of Love

In the continuation of Jay Shetty’s “8 Rules of Love,” we are introduced to the third rule, which challenges our very perception of love. What is love? Is it just a fleeting transient emotion, or is it something deeper, more profound?

Shetty prompts us to “Define Love Before You Think It, Feel It, or Say It.” It’s a call to introspection, urging us to articulate this complex emotion. Love transcends the physical passion and the initial fluttering butterflies. It’s about shared dreams, mutual respect, and a deep, unspoken bond that ties two souls together. Now what you expected no?

As we traverse this path, the fourth rule shines a spotlight on the role of our partners in our love journey. Titled “Your Partner Is Your Guru,” this rule is a testament to the invaluable lessons we glean from our significant others. They become mirrors to our souls, reflecting our strengths, highlighting our vulnerabilities, and constantly pushing us towards personal growth. Through the ups and downs, the joys and challenges, our partners teach us about love, life, and most importantly, about ourselves.

Embracing these lessons can transform our love life into a journey of continuous learning and growth, where every moment spent with our partner becomes an opportunity for self-discovery.

Continued tomorrow, and day after!

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8Rules (part one): The Foundations of Love

In Jay Shetty’s interesting book, “8 Rules of Love,” he delves deep into the intricacies of love, unraveling its many layers.

The first rule he introduces is the significance of solitude. Contrary to popular belief, solitude isn’t about feeling isolated or lonely. Instead, it’s about valuing introspection, taking time to understand oneself, and laying the groundwork for genuine love. Through self-reflection, we discover our deepest desires, confront our fears, and prepare ourselves for the love we truly deserve.

Shetty then introduces the second rule, emphasizing the role of karma in our love lives. Every action we take, every choice we make, and every relationship we’ve had leaves an indelible mark on our souls (across multiple janmas or births I’d think!). These past experiences shape our present and future, influencing how we approach love. Recognizing and understanding this karmic journey is essential. It’s a profound lesson in accountability, teaching us that our past actions, both good and bad, play a pivotal role in our current relationships.

Together, these two rules set the stage for a love that’s both introspective and expansive. They remind us that genuine love starts with understanding oneself and acknowledging the forces that have shaped our love journey.

More rules, tomorrow!

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Secret ingredient

Now I’m no cook. I know next to nothing about the kitchen. A few dishes to survive? Sure, I can whip something up so that I won’t starve. But serve my cooking to others? Wouldn’t do it to my worst enemy even! With that simple disclaimer out of the way, an interesting book is “Masala Lab” by Krish Ashok. And within it lies a tale that resonates with every culinary enthusiast. Readers are gracefully led into a traditional kitchen, where generations-old recipes are passed down with love and care.

As the author meticulously lists the ingredients for a crispy multi-lentil pancake – adai as it is known in South India and specifically in Tamil Nadu – a profound revelation emerges. The grandmother, a character brimming with wisdom, introduces a secret ingredient that transcends the tangible: Patience.

Through this narrative, Ashok captures the essence of cooking as an art, where patience isn’t just a virtue but a vital ingredient. In our modern world, where instant gratification is often sought, this story is a poignant reminder of the timeless values that form the foundation of great cooking, whether in the kitchen, or as a recipe for one’s own success!

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A spider’s tenacity

Stan Lee, the legendary comic creator, once faced skepticism when he pitched an unconventional superhero idea. “I saw a fly on a wall and thought, what if a superhero could stick to walls? And thus Spider-Man was born,” he reminisced.

But challenges awaited. Stan’s vision of a teenage superhero with personal problems was met with stark criticism. “People hate spiders. Teenagers are sidekicks, not protagonists. Superheroes don’t have personal problems,” his publisher retorted.

In a twist of fate, Stan decided to feature Spider-Man in a magazine on the verge of cancellation. The result? Overwhelming success. His publisher, once a critic, now wanted Spider-Man as a series.

Stan’s journey underscores a powerful message. That if we have an idea we genuinely believe in, don’t let naysayers get in the way. In Stan’s words, “Just do your thing. Do it as well as you can. That’s what truly matters.”

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Work perk

On a recent trip to a beautiful but politically-charged place, I couldn’t help but notice the substantial presence of army officers and patrols.

They’ve been placed there for good reason of course.

But my heart went out to them – for their courage and sacrifice, all to keep the rest of the country safe and sound.

Are they different in any way? They too are human. But their postings are in far flung areas, often involving standing for hours together, holding heavy guns, ever ready to thwart a terrorist attack. Do they see family often? Not at all. Do they get to savour relationships? Hardly.

Yes, it is a job, and a very hard one that needs to be done. I cannot do it, as I wouldn’t be able to last a day in their grueling circumstances. But we can pray for them – as my Guru does – for their safety and well being, which is more critical than any other work perk.

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Hagglers

Often I’ve seen well-off folks haggle with poor roadside vendors and hawkers, even for chump change.

To an outsider, it might seem trivial, a petty argument over mere cents. But to the haggler, it seems like a battle worth fighting.

Why would someone do this? Maybe because when our lives lack significant worries, we inflate the importance of trivial matters? We focus on the loose coins of our lives, ignoring the wealth of happiness and peace that surrounds us.

The haggling with roadside vendors is simply a euphemism. There may be many such irrelevant and minor things which take up too much of our time, but which we should perhaps wean away from.

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Granted genius

Many years ago, a young Angela Duckworth (today author of bestselling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance) heard a phrase that would shape her life. Her father, in his candid manner, would often tell her, “You know, you’re no genius!” This statement, far from discouraging her, sparked a flame of determination. She only saw a challenge to prove him wrong.

Angela’s journey was not an easy one. She faced numerous obstacles and setbacks, but she remained undeterred. She pursued her passion for psychology, eventually becoming a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. There, she dedicated her work to studying grit and self-control, two attributes she believed were critical to success.

Her father’s words echoed in her mind as she delved deeper into her research. She realized that success was not solely dependent on innate talent or intelligence. Instead, it was the result of passion and perseverance, the very qualities she had demonstrated throughout her life.

Angela’s story is a testament to the power of grit. Despite being told she was “no genius”, she went on to win a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “Genius Grant” – how ironic isn’t it?

How do we each react in the face of adversity? That’s a good answer to have!

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GP when?

When is Guru Purnima? Depends on the lunar calendar yada yada.

But in this year’s GP celebrations some time ago, a satsangi simply listed the following 3 conditions to figure out if we are on Guru Purnima day or not.

1. We feel the grace of the Guru around us

2. We feel gratitude for the blessings of our Guru

3. We are engaged in some activity which involves remembrance of the Guru

The beauty of these 3 conditions is that every single day can be Guru Purnima… and so it should!

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The Laws of Human Nature – part 6 of 6

Continuing the last 3 laws/takeaways from the book called the Laws of Human Nature by author Robert Greene.

  1. The Law of Aimlessness – Without a clear purpose or direction, we drift through life. We must find our life’s aim and pursue it with determination.
  2. The Law of Self-NarcissismSelf-love can blind us to our faults. We need to be aware of our own narcissism and strive for a more balanced self-image.
  3. The Law of RashnessActing without thinking can lead to disaster. We should take time to reflect before making decisions, especially important ones.

    That’s a wrap – an excellent and big book of 18 laws summarized into a few lines. Hope you enjoyed reading, and find the applications useful in daily life!
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The Laws of Human Nature – part 5 of 6

Continuing the takeaways from the book called the Laws of Human Nature by author Robert Greene.

  1. The Law of FlatteryFlattery can be a powerful tool, but it must be used wisely. Insincere or excessive praise can be seen as manipulative.
  2. The Law of Grandiosity Overestimating our abilities can lead to dangerous overconfidence. We need to stay grounded and realistic in our self-assessment.
  3. The Law of Gender RigidityGender roles can limit our understanding of ourselves and others. We must embrace the full range of human qualities within us, regardless of gender.

    Continued tomorrow…
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The Laws of Human Nature – part 4 of 6

Continuing the takeaways from the book called the Laws of Human Nature by author Robert Greene.

  1. The Law of Infection – Emotions are contagious. We are influenced by the moods and ideas of the people we spend time with. We need to be mindful of the company we keep and the ideologies we adopt.
  2. The Law of the Endless ChainEvery action has consequences that extend far beyond the immediate moment. If we understand the chain of cause and effect, we can better predict and control the future.
  3. The Law of Non-EngagementSometimes, the best way to win is not to fight. We can avoid getting emotionally entangled in other people’s problems and conflicts.

    Continued tomorrow…
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The Laws of Human Nature – part 3 of 6

Continuing the takeaways from the book called the Laws of Human Nature by author Robert Greene.

  1. The Law of DefensivenessThis chapter discusses the human tendency to become defensive when challenged. It advises us to be aware of this trait and to use it to our advantage in conflict and negotiation situations.
  2. The Law of Self-SabotageThis law highlights the human tendency to sabotage our own success due to fear and insecurity. It encourages us to recognize and overcome these self-defeating behaviours.
  3. The Law of RepressionThis law discusses the human tendency to repress uncomfortable emotions and memories. It advises us to confront and process these feelings to achieve emotional health and stability.

    Continued tomorrow…
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The Laws of Human Nature – part 2 of 6

Continuing the takeaways from the book called the Laws of Human Nature by author Robert Greene.

  1. The Law of Compulsive BehaviourThis law discusses the repetitive patterns in human behavior. It encourages us to recognize these patterns in ourselves and others, and to use this knowledge to predict future behaviour.
  2. The Law of CovetousnessThis chapter discusses the human tendency to desire what others have. It advises us to be aware of this trait and to use it to our advantage in negotiations and power dynamics.
  3. The Law of ShortsightednessThis law highlights the human tendency to focus on immediate gains rather than long-term benefits. It encourages us to think ahead and consider the long-term consequences of our actions.

    As we can see, each law is relevant and power-packed, and the gist is contained above. It just needs some thoughtful reflection and conscious work for self-transformation. Continued tomorrow…
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The Laws of Human Nature – part 1 of 6

There’s a very interesting book called the Laws of Human Nature by author Robert Greene. What is the book about? Well, the title is obviously a bit of a giveaway. And it is very detailed and profound. So I thought to summarize the takeaways from each of the 18 laws in it. And we’ll do it using another rule – the rule of 3s, because it is said that the human mind can’t remember or digest more than 3 things at once!

  1. The Law of Irrationality – This law emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and rationality. Our emotions make us irrational. So the law encourages us to understand our emotions and biases, and to use this understanding to make more rational decisions.
  2. The Law of Narcissism – This law highlights the human tendency towards self-obsession and the need for validation. It advises us to be aware of this trait in ourselves and others, and to use it to our advantage in social situations.
  3. The Law of Role-playing – This chapter discusses the importance of understanding the roles people play in society. It encourages us to see beyond these roles to understand people’s true intentions and motivations.

    Continued tomorrow…
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Shooting for the loon

It’s outstanding that India was able to send a rocket and rover to the Moon for less than a hundred mil. This when other countries have done it for billions. Of course there are differences in the way the launch was planned and the time taken to reach the destination. But this is, after all, truly rocket science, and I’m surely not a rocket scientist, not even a scientist.

But what struck me as amazing was how all the rocket scientists at ISRO prayed at various temples before the launch.

Why should they pray? They are people of science no? They are more scientists than many other classes of scientists perhaps. They can’t get away from anything like I do by saying, “Hey this is rocket science!”

They pray perhaps because despite knowing so much about science, they still acknowledge that there is too much they do not know. And a billion things that they cannot control. The prayer gives them strength and hope. It may or may not give them a successful rocket mission. But it wouldn’t matter, because they would always be giving their best, no matter the outcome.

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Self studying or studying self?

Each life unfolds like a rich tapestry of truths, some steadfast and others transient, reflecting our evolving understanding. Wisdom from the Rig Ved encapsulates this beautifully— ‘Ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti’, implying the truth is singular, but the learned describe it in countless ways.

Life, in essence, showcases our judgments— floating like transient bubbles on water’s surface— as reality. Yet, with time, we discern the difference between our ephemeral judgments and enduring truth.

This understanding paves the way for ‘swadhyay’, a profound practice of self-study. It’s not just about immersing oneself in scriptures, but about diving deep within, studying our own ‘self’. As we throw light on our inner consciousness, we unlock our true essence, realizing the singular truth within us.

Swadhyay aids our transformation, shedding light on our evolution— from past notions to growing wisdom, from rigid patterns to adaptive behaviors, from a defined sense of belonging to its dynamic expansion. It facilitates our blossoming, guiding us towards an enlightened state of existence.

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The Pratfall Effect

Think perfection is good? Think others will like you if you are perfect?

In Jonah Berger’s insightful book “Magic Words”, he introduces us to a fascinating psychological phenomenon known as the “Pratfall Effect”. This concept revolves around the idea that our minor blunders and mishaps can actually enhance our likability.

Berger illustrates this concept through an intriguing experiment. A group of students were introduced to a trivia contestant (an actor in reality). This contestant was portrayed in two different scenarios – as highly competent, answering most quiz questions correctly, and as less impressive, answering only a few correctly. In both scenarios, the contestant clumsily spilled coffee on his suit.

The results were surprising. The competent contestant, despite his blunder, became more likable. His mistake humanized him, making him more relatable and endearing. This is the essence of the Pratfall Effect. It shows us that our imperfections can be our assets, making us more human and approachable.

So, the next time you stumble or make a mistake, remember the Pratfall Effect. It’s these little imperfections that make us who we are, and often, they make us more likable. So we can embrace our pratfalls oops I mean pitfalls, for they are a part of our unique charm, while always working on our competence of course!

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Love-it Post-it

In the realm of innovation, sometimes the most groundbreaking ideas come from the most unexpected places. Take the humble Post-it note, for instance. This ubiquitous tool, found in offices and homes worldwide, was born out of a ‘mistake’.

Spencer Silver, a chemist at 3M, was on a mission to create a super-strong adhesive for the aerospace industry. But, as life would have it, he ended up with a weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive that could be easily removed. It was far from what he intended, but Silver knew he had stumbled upon something unique.

For five years, he championed his ‘failed’ experiment within 3M, sharing his discovery in formal presentations and casual water cooler conversations. Yet, no one knew what to do with it. It was a solution waiting for a problem to solve.

Enter Art Fry, another 3M scientist, who attended one of Silver’s seminars. Fry, a choir singer, was grappling with a minor yet nagging issue – his bookmarks kept falling out of his hymnal. Eureka! What if he could use Silver’s adhesive on his bookmarks? They would stick without causing any damage. He tried it, and voila, it worked!

The Post-it note was born, not out of a meticulously planned project, but from a ‘failed’ experiment and a choir singer’s frustration. Maybe making mistakes and getting frustrated could be our recipe towards the next great thing – who knows!

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Primal Desire

In an enlightening podcast by Dr. Vineet Aggarwal, an expert on spirituality, he shares a profound explanation of life’s beginnings and the purpose of existence. It’s a journey into the heart of our ancient scriptures, the Puranas, which speak of a ‘Primal Desire’. This desire is not about possession or control, but a divine yearning to multiply, to expand.

Consider this – why is companionship sought? Or after finding companionship, why do couples decide to have children? The presence of another enriches life, allows the experience of love in its purest form. The scriptures say that God is the essence of love, not a stern taskmaster as often portrayed, but the embodiment of pure, unconditional love.

To experience this love, to truly revel in its depth and beauty, there needs to be ‘another’. Love is a salsa that requires a partner. It’s in this divine dance of love that individual beings come into existence.

God, in His/Her infinite love, manifests as multiple beings, each a unique expression of this divine love. This Primal Desire to experience love is at the heart of creation.

So, when pondering the purpose of existence, we might do well to remember this – born out of love, living to experience love, and in love, finding purpose. Not merely creations of the divine, but expressions of divine love.

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Tabling the conversation

Once upon a time, in the magical world of Pixar, there was a long, skinny table. This table, the silent observer of countless meetings, had a secret power. It shaped the dynamics of the discussions that took place around it.

The folks at Pixar, led by the visionary Ed Catmull, believed in the power of unhindered communication. But they soon realized that their table was playing tricks on them. Those sitting at the ends felt like their voices didn’t matter, while the ones in the middle seats seemed to have an unfair advantage. The table was creating a hierarchy that was contrary to Pixar’s core belief.

Ed decided to challenge the status quo. He replaced the long, skinny table with a more intimate square version, where everyone could interact equally. And just like that, the table lost its secret power, which was a great thing. The conversations became more inclusive, and the ideas flowed freely.

But old habits die hard. The place cards, symbols of the old hierarchy, still adorned the new table. It took the audacious act of Andrew Stanton, one of Pixar’s directors, to finally break this tradition. He shuffled the place cards, declaring, “We don’t need these anymore!” And with that, the last vestiges of the old hierarchy vanished.

This tale from Pixar’s early days is telling of how our environment subtly shapes our interactions. It also teaches us that solving a problem isn’t just about addressing the main issue. It’s about uprooting all the smaller problems that sprout from it.

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Oh my G

We watched the Bollywood movie Oh My God or OMG again today, just like that. The movie is a profound exploration of our relationship with divinity. It challenges us to rethink our understanding of religion and spirituality, using the protagonist, Kanji, as our guide.

One of the most powerful dialogues in the movie is when Kanji says, “I don’t reject God, I reject the God that you have created.”

This is a stark reminder that God is not a commodity to be bought and sold, but a divine presence to be felt and experienced, and available to all.

Kanji’s journey is a testament to the power of faith, not in rituals or idols, but in the goodness of our hearts. As he says, “God is everywhere, but people say he is only in the temple.” This dialogue underscores the message that God is not confined to places of worship, but resides in every act of kindness and love.

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Does experience count?

Yes and no.

Not a good enough answer? I couldn’t agree more!

Someone asked this question on an Adam Grant podcast recently, and I thought the answer was brilliant.

Does experience matter? Of course it does. Someone with a few years of experience in pretty much anything will probably at least be less worse than if they were starting a job completely afresh.

But can this be extrapolated to mean that someone with say 20 years of experience is necessarily better than someone with only 5?

Here’s where the answer was outstanding. And the answer is “no”. How? Because as Adam concluded, it is not about the experience itself that matters, but reflecting on the experience which brings about the transformation. And that is all that counts.

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The Universe’s Blueprint

James Maxwell, renowned for his groundbreaking work in formulating the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, was not just a scientist but also a man of deep faith. He once crafted a model of the solar system, setting it in motion in his study room. A close friend and fellow scientist, who happened to be an atheist, was intrigued by the model. “This is amazing! Who made it?” he asked. Maxwell, with a twinkle in his eye, replied, “Nobody made it. I was working on my table when I heard an explosion. I turned around and saw this had been created.”

His friend scoffed, “How ridiculous! How can this be created by an explosion? Someone must have definitely made it.”

Maxwell, seizing the moment, retorted, “My friend, you are not willing to believe that a little model of the solar system could be created by itself. And you want me to believe that the real universe, consisting of many such solar systems, has come into existence without a Creator. If it is logical to believe that someone has created this model, it is also common-sensical to conclude that the real world must have a Creator too.”

This story serves as a reminder of the intricate design and order of the universe, pointing towards the existence of a Creator. It’s a tale that invites us to ponder on the grandeur of the cosmos and the divine intelligence that might be at play behind its creation. If even those who have deeply studied the laws of the universe, like Maxwell, can hold a space for faith and the divine, why shouldn’t we?

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Selfish and awful

In the amazing new Christopher Nolan movie Oppenheimer, there are several outstanding scenes and dialogues. No spoilers here, but one particular dialogue was super.

In a moment of personal tragedy and difficulty, the protagonist approaches his friend for help. He knows his life is in a shambles, and he remarks, “We are selfish and awful people, but please help us.”

To which his friend counters, “Truly selfish and awful people never admit that they are selfish and awful.”

The power of words!

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The power of ‘I’

In the realm of communication, the power of ‘I’ is often underestimated. In his insightful book “Magic Words”, Jonah Berger explores how the use of ‘I’ can shape our interactions and perceptions, turning it into a tool for ownership and authenticity.

Berger suggests that using ‘I’ can make communication more personal and authentic. When we say “I found that…”, it makes it clear who did the work. It’s a way of taking ownership of our actions and thoughts. It’s a way of saying, ‘This is my perspective. This is my contribution.’

However, Berger also notes that using ‘I’ can make the findings seem more subjective. It raises questions about the universality of our findings. Would anyone else have found the same thing, or are our findings based on the choices we made while conducting the project?

So, the use of ‘I’ is a double-edged sword. It can enhance the authenticity of our communication, but it can also introduce a level of subjectivity. The key is to use it judiciously, depending on the context and the message we want to convey.

Now, you might be thinking, ‘Isn’t the use of ‘I’ a sign of egotism?’ It’s a common perception, but Berger offers a different perspective. He suggests that the use of ‘I’ is not about promoting oneself but about taking responsibility. It’s about saying, ‘I am accountable for this.’

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Chill to thrill

Feeling swamped under a pile of tasks? Experiencing stress from information overload? In such times, Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” suggests an inviting solution – let’s disconnect to reconnect. We can step aside, immerse ourselves in gardening, yoga, or cooking.

Such calming pursuits provide a necessary interlude, allowing our minds to recharge and reboot. When we return to the task at hand, it’s not unusual to find fresh perspectives dawning.

Remember Newton’s epiphany under the apple tree? A moment of leisure birthed a profound scientific insight.

Thus, we should not hesitate to step out of our routine grind. By opening ourselves to the unexpected (or even just setting aside time for the mundane walks and baths), we pave the way for creativity to flourish.

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The art of praising

Is praise always good? Yes it is, because it is better than criticising someone or complaining about someone.

But is there a good way and a bad way to praise someone? Yes there is apparently.

An example is while praising kids. Singling out one kid and praising that kid alone for a correct answer is a bad way. Why? Because the kid feels rewarded for his knowledge of that one answer. This is good, but no one knows everything. At the same time, the other kids who may not have have known that one answer will feel left out.

A better way of praising is to acknowledge and call out the behaviour and the effort. Such as commending them for participating in the class. Or praising the effort required to read up before the class. By focusing on the behaviours and efforts, the praise is far more sustainable too. Because it reinforces the need to continue such good behaviour, not just in that one person, but in everyone around them. And while one answer everyone may not know, a behaviour everyone can cultivate and effort – everyone can put in!

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Dancy dancy

Many toddlers love the idea of dancy dancy. Just dancing or prancing around or bum-shaking to some beats or music as though no one is watching. Ah, the bliss, even just for a watching passerby.

On the flip side, I can’t shake a leg even if held at gunpoint. The ear-limb coordination just does not exist. But my mind in this respect is as though of a different breed. It can dance all day and all night, and sway to pretty much any tune. Gossip somewhere? Okay let’s dance in that direction. Breaking news somewhere else? Okay let’s shimmy toward there now.

Indeed my mind might be the greatest dancer of all, never once sitting still. Which might sound like a contender for the Guinness Book of World Records, but on the path of meditation, it might score the lowest.

What is the solution? I have no idea. But maybe Osho’s thoughts below leave a clue?

Meditation is not anything of the mind, it is something beyond the mind. The first step is to be playful about it. It is a song to be sung, a dance to be danced. Take it as fun and you will be surprised: if you can be playful about meditation, meditation will grow in leaps and bounds... 
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Ataraxia

Came across this interesting term called “ataraxia” by Greek philosopher Epicures. It means “not being troubled”.

Not being troubled by what? By anything. Not taking the whole world’s problems and putting it on our heads. Not constantly living in anxiety.

All we need is some food, water and shelter. That’s how we relax too, isn’t it. Nothing much else is required.

The mind is at peace only when it isn’t desperately looking to acquire something else.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne says, “Happiness is like a butterfly, which when pursued is always beyond our grasp, but if you sit still down quietly, may alight upon you.”

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Scientific spirituality

The world today only believes in what can be proven and replicated.

Several scientists and R&D experts perform countless experiments and these result in new discoveries and inventions and gadgets that ultimately end up in our homes and pockets.

The tech revolution is incredible, and it has helped humanity in unbelievable ways. What was meant only for the kings of yesteryear is now available to everyone.

All thanks to science. And scientists. No one scientist is responsible for everything, but collectively over the years, massive progress has been made.

But yet, there are many things science hasn’t fully understood, including the nature of life itself.

Spirituality has the answer, and maybe is itself the answer. But science appears to always be at loggerheads with spirituality.

This is not the case. The only difference is that technology can be outsourced to scientists. But in spirituality, we are each individually the scientist. The answer needs to be discovered by each one of us.

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Forcefully yours

Here’s an interesting thought I came across.

How do we steady the mind? How do we prevent it from having thoughts? By sleeping of course!

In sleep, all the thoughts of the awakened state, at least whatever we were thinking about just before sleeping, is all gone.

But can we force ourselves to sleep? Impossible. The more we force ourselves to sleep by thinking that we should sleep, the more active and stressed out our mind becomes!

The 4 states of the mind – active, sleeping, dreaming and dhyan (meditative and ‘awakened’) are all natural states. If we “try” to reach these states, then we effectively only prevent these states from happening.

What can we do then? Simply prepare conditions for these favorable states to come about (like ensure a fit body for instance!).

PS: Dhyan, according to Shri Durga Charan Mishra is when one is doing something and becomes one with that process, then it is a state of dhyan, meditation.

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Winning the lottery

In a book called Attitude is Everything by Jeff Keller, there is an interesting (and familiar!) story.

There was a woman named Sally. She was just like any of us, living her life, going through her daily routine. One day, she found herself feeling extremely tired. When asked how she was, she responded honestly, “I’m tired.” This simple statement reinforced her belief that she was tired, making her feel even more fatigued. Her day at work was unproductive, and she brought herself and her co-worker down with her negativity.

Later that day, Sally discovered she had won the lottery. In an instant, her fatigue vanished, replaced by an overwhelming sense of excitement and energy. She was no longer the tired woman from earlier in the day. She was now a bundle of energy, celebrating her win and planning what to do with her newfound wealth.

Was this transformation due to some physical change in Sally’s body? Absolutely not. In just a few seconds, her mindset shifted from exhaustion to exhilaration. As Jeff concludes, we each hold a winning lottery ticket. This ticket is called our attitude!

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Rejection dejection

All rejections are bad right? Maybe not…

The founders of Google wanted to sell the company for $1 million back in 1999. But they were rejected, and dejected. Today that company is worth some $1.5 trillion!

Netflix was to be sold to Blockbuster at $50m, but was rejected. Today it’s ~$200bn!

7 out of 7 investors rejected investing in Airbnb at an early stage. The company was worth not even a million. Today it’s some $100bn.

If these companies had not received their rejections, what would have happened?

Time to believe that rejections and suffering and pain are good, not bad, maybe even great. Because that is when the real growth happens.

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Great work

This is what we all want people around us to say to us. “Great work!”

But how can we do great work if we don’t like our work much? That’s what Paul Graham writes about in a recent post of his. Great advice.

He says that it’s a bit of a hit or miss, finding your so-called passion in life. If you find it, then you are among the rarest of the rare.

But what if you don’t, or haven’t yet?

Mr. Graham’s advice? Keep trying. Keep increasing the surface area for luck to find you. Don’t just drift along and hope for a eureka moment. Take action! Success stories often involve serendipity: chance meetings or stumbling upon the right book. Luck is the secret ingredient. How do you attract luck? Be curious!

In his own words:

"Try lots of things, meet lots of people, read lots of books, ask lots of questions." 
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What is the karmic reason behind…

On a recent podcast (or videocast interview maybe?) with Smriti Irani, an exceptionally talented and empathetic Union Cabinet Minister of India, she was asked an interesting and important question.

“Do you believe in the role of destiny, luck, karma, circumstance etc. in bringing you to where you are in life today?”

“Yes, I do”, pat came the reply.

The follow up. “Why do you think God chose you for this role?”

This answer came even faster. “I have no idea. And anyone who tells you they do is lying!”

“Do you think about this?”

This to me was the clincher. “Not at all. I just say thank you. Because this opportunity that I have, is not an opportunity to question ‘why'”

How extraordinary a response is that! Absolutely love it.

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Mind bound

Remember Mind Bind from just 3 years ago?

The Amritabindu Upanishad which my Guru keeps referencing (because it is so awesome!) says mana-eva kaaranam mokshaaya bandhaaya. The mind alone is the reason, for both liberation and bondage. Said simply, the mind is both the problem, and the solution.

He recently in a talk beautifully added a couple more rhyming words at the end.

mana-eva kaaranam mokshaaya bandhaaya

mana-eva kaaranam dukhaaya sukhhaaya

mana-eva kaaranam maanaaya apamaanaaya

mana-eva kaaranam sarva vishayaaya!

So simply profound!

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sf – part 4

When author Polina Pompliani interviewed Francis recently, she says she asked him, “Okay, but how did you bet on yourself, like your entire life?” And he replied, “The entire time that I was doing this, I kept asking myself, ‘What do I have to lose?’” And the answer was, “Nothing. I can just keep trying and betting on myself and gaining the skills and learning the lessons.”

What was her takeaway?

She says she discovered the utmost importance of believing in oneself, by embracing one’s passions and skills. It may be daunting, but taking that leap of faith is crucial. Despite the risks, Francis fearlessly pursued his dreams. Failure held no sway over him, as he possessed the resilience to adapt and persevere.

Francis added, “I know that if I fail, I can start over and over and over and over. I have that skill, and you can take everything from me, but you cannot take that.” And when Polina asked him if he identifies as ‘the heavyweight champion of the world’, Francis replied, “Absolutely not because there’ve been many before me and there’ll be many after me.”

What an outstanding story isn’t it? Thanks for reading!

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sf – part 3

After enduring countless setbacks, Francis refused to be deterred. On his fifth attempt, fate smiled upon him, and he successfully crossed the treacherous waters to reach Spain.

Though faced with a brief period of detention upon arrival, Francis remained steadfast, knowing that asylum was within his grasp.

From Spain, his journey led him to the vibrant streets of Paris. Homeless and destitute, he found refuge in the shelter of a humble parking garage. Despite its meagre surroundings, Francis saw it as a sanctuary — or rather a luxurious haven in comparison to the harrowing ordeals he had overcome and the home he had grown up in.

By a stroke of luck, Francis found a boxing gym nearby. A perceptive trainer recognized his potential. The gym closed soon after, but fate led him to the “MMA Factory.” Unfamiliar with MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), he embraced the challenge. With relentless training, he became the heavyweight champion. In just nine years, he transformed from novice to dominant force. He ventured to the US, making his mark in the UFC, leaving the world in awe.

What does he say today when he looks back? Concluded tomorrow!

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sf – part 2

Why “sf”? For San Francisco of course, because that was his dream. Maybe it helped that his name Francis was embedded in the name San Francisco as well, who knows!

At the age of 28 (just ten years ago, in 2013), he knew he wasn’t getting to America directly. So he set his sights on Europe first. Was that easy? Not at all.

From Cameroon to Niger, Nigeria to Algeria, and finally, Algeria to Morocco, he traversed over 3,000 miles through the unforgiving desert. The magnitude of this feat cannot be overstated—it was sheer madness. With unwavering determination, he set his sights on crossing from Morocco to Spain, boarding a raft to brave the treacherous waters of the Strait. But the path to freedom was riddled with obstacles. It took him a gruelling 14 months to complete this ridiculous journey, constantly facing the threat of being pulled from the water. The Moroccan authorities, known for their harsh treatment of refugees, would often cast them back into the merciless desert or confine them to indefinite periods in Moroccan jails.

This happened to him four times. Continued tomorrow!

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sf – part 1

Super story here, of one Francis Ngannou, who I never heard of until today.

In the MMA / UFC (fighting/boxing) world, he’s a world champion, but given I do not follow the sport, his story was a revelation in incredible perseverance to get to the top.

Francis was born in Cameroon. He was digging sand mines as a kid for $1.8 a day. ‘Abject poverty’ would barely begin to describe him.

His only dream? To become a professional boxer and that too in America. While working at the sand mines, he’d be daydreaming about the USA and his boxing success.

So much so that everyone around him called him “sf”, for San Francisco. Even till today, he signs his name as “sf”!

Continued tomorrow!

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Selfimage pilgrimage

In the years of lore, what would people do during vacations? Travel the world? Chill on a hill? Rest in the west?

Maybe, but mostly no. They would often use the few weeks a year of downtime to head for their pilgrimages.

Today? Even the few pilgrimages are spent little on the Lord and mostly on taking selfies and reels of the way to the place. Hundreds of phone-cameras abound everywhere, with the focus being on the screen, rather than on the idol.

Swami Sivananda said the following about pilgrimages:

... If, after the pilgrimage, you prove that you have been purged of all sins... that you have been filled with spiritual vibrations of the sublime atmosphere you have sojourned in, and if you live a pure life of righteousness, devotion, truth, love... you have been liberated. The pilgrimage has served its purpose.

How do our own pilgrimages look like?

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Get down

My Guru narrated an outstanding short story on Guru Purnima.

The head of Gita Press likened our lives and creation to that of a vast ocean on which a boat is floating.

We have each been various species of animals and maybe even plants one birth after another. Some 8 million times, maybe more.

Now we’ve finally got a human birth, and are as if on that boat which has come very close to the shore.

If we don’t get off the boat, we will drown, and possibly go back all the way, one specie to another, one birth after another.

All we need to do is to get off the boat. The land is Vaikuntha. We just need to get off. But are we able to?

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I me my who

My Guru asked a simple yet startling question recently in one of his talks.

It’s not a question we don’t know from before. But that doesn’t make it any less startling.

His question was, that if we see a dead body, we refer to it as, “his dead body” or “her dead body”.

So that body is lying there. Finished. Finito. No life in it.

And yet we say “his” or “her” body.

Who is that “his” or “her” then?

We may know the answer. But do we really truly understand it?

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Rich walls

Came across a life story (his own) narrated by a stylish and talented Indian actor of yesteryear called Jackie Shroff.

He was describing his own poverty-stricken upbringing. Some 6-7 people slept huddled on the floor of his 1 room house.

When he or his siblings would cough as kids, his mother would just reach out and put her hand on their chest and and rub and calm them down.

And then, he says, they became rich and famous. Big cars and big houses.

No more sleeping huddled together on the floor. Everyone had their own rooms. And one day his mother suffered a heart attack in the adjacent room and passed away.

Jackie recounted how as the money came, the walls came too. His mother was in the other room, behind the walls, and so he couldn’t hear her cry out for help. Nobody heard her, else she might have been saved. He says that if he didn’t have the money, they may still have been sleeping on the floor together, and he would have immediately known his mother’s discomfort and saved her.

So thoughtful isn’t it?

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Moodle maps

Came across a cute story where a man was having back to back office calls. His little daughter was insistent on playing with him at exactly that time.

So he hatched a quick plan. He saw a picture of a world map lying on table. He quickly tore it up into many pieces and gave it to his child to put it back together. A fun puzzle and one that would take a while to solve!

To his surprise, his daughter was back in a few minutes, having put the entire thing together. The man was shocked. How? Was she a geography-savant?

His baby girl told him that on the back side of the map was a picture of a person. All she had to do was to put the person together, and the map would come back on its own!

The lesson for me: When we find inner harmony, when we are put together properly, when our mood swings don’t destroy us, the world will be taken care of.

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Which-sided?

We’re supposed to give up all attachments on the path of spirituality. But what are these attachments like?

1. Our attachment to material things. This is purely one-sided. No matter how much you try, your favorite Rolls Royce will not love you back.

2. Our attachment to other human beings. This can be one-sided and two-sided, although not always at the same time. It’s sometimes a function of necessity. We’re attached more to those who we need more, for the present moment at least. When circumstances change, attachment levels change.

3. Our attachment to God and Guru. This can be two-sided, especially in times of trouble, when we desperately need divine help and blessings to extract ourselves out from a specific situation. But it is at least always one-sided, because God and the Guru are always thinking about us, ever compassionate, ever loving.

Perhaps the more #1 and #2 are given up, the more #3 increases!

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Dumb choice

The story of legendary mountaineer Anker Conrad is incredible. He set out on a daring expedition with his best friends, fully prepared for the challenges they might face, as they climbed Mount Shma. However, fate had a different plan. An unforeseen avalanche struck, forcing Anker to make a split-second decision that would change everything.

What did he do?

He simply decided to dive left as the avalanche hit. His two colleagues dove right. Anker suffered a broken collarbone. Bad for sure, but at least he recovered. His two friends? Their bodies were only retrieved after many years.

His decision to go left was a simple ‘dumb-luck’ call as he himself admits. While not all such decisions may be life or death, many times in our lives, we too make sudden choices, with no knowledge of the future. It is the same for everyone.

When we look at successful people today, we assume they always did everything perfectly. Not true, because everyone has these dumb-choice moments. Best not to read too much into predicting the future by exactly following others paths. No one knows what is coming next. We each simply do our best, that’s it.

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Creative juices and snacks – part 2

Creativity is not a fleeting muse however; it’s a muscle that grows stronger with practice, and that is my big takeaway. Achatz’s journey exemplifies this truth.

What’s the worst that could happen to a chef? Him losing his sense of taste right? Well poor chef Achatz was diagnosed with tongue cancer. A seemingly cruel blow, for one who’s creative expressions rests nay depends on the use of his tongue!

Despite battling tongue cancer and losing his ability to taste, the chef didn’t let it dampen his creativity. In fact, he let it fuel his innovation even more.

Achatz discovered that taste is just one aspect of the dining experience. By leveraging his other senses (smell, sight, sound) and incorporating visual illusions, he created even more mind-boggling culinary surprises than before.

Shows that creativity is not just about inspiration or talent; but also about consistent work, dedication and a never-say-never attitude to one’s craft.

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Creative juices and snacks – part 1

We all would like to get our creative juices flowing. It’s always astounding to see professionals unleash their creativity and create some truly magnificent works of art, whether it be literary, or art, or even culinary!

A Chicago based chef I’d never heard of really intrigued me. Grant Achatz, considered a creative genius – is the chef behind Chicago’s cutting-edge restaurant Alinea.

How does chef Achatz get his ideas? He simply draws inspiration from various disciplines and infuses them into his culinary masterpieces. Achatz’s brain naturally forms connections between unrelated concepts, and he takes full advantage of this ability. Here are two lovely examples:

In a museum, a large-scale painting sparked Achatz’s imagination: “I want to eat off of that!” This inspiration transformed the tablecloth at Alinea into an edible work of art, adorned with sauces that resemble a masterpiece.

While listening to a song by Rage Against the Machine, Achatz envisioned an extraordinary dining experience with thrilling peaks and captivating valleys, just like the song. He transformed this musical flow into a culinary story that takes guests on a rollercoaster of flavors and emotions.

Concluded tomorrow!

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Ego-less pursuit

We keep reading about and coming across this concept of “giving up the ego”. What does it really mean? How will we feel after the ego is gone? Does it mean we will not have any identity left?

Here is a take from Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati:

If you begin to carve a statue out of a stone, what self-identity is the stone losing? None; rather, it is developing a new identity that will be witnessed and appreciated by many people. Similarly, in spiritual life there is no loss of self-identity; rather the distorted perceptions are corrected, the aggressive ego expressions are redefined, the new wiser you, the new creative you, becomes the new identity.

Interesting, isn’t it? Now if I could just make my ego go!

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Learning by immersion

One of the best ways to learn a language is supposed to be by immersion. What does this mean?

Instead of learning the vocabulary first, memorizing from flashcards and studying the grammar and so on, imagine you are uprooted and placed in a remote village in the country of the language you are trying to learn! Even to get water or go to the loo, you’ll need to begin speaking the lingo – and hence the immersion!

Another lovely story on immersion (not in verbal languages, but the universal language of spirituality!). A pot with 5 holes needed to be kept full of water. What is the solution for this?

Everyone will answer that we need to plug or cover the holes with various materials. All correct no doubt.

But Sant Gurunanak had the best answer. To immerse the pot itself in water, as that is the only permanent solution! The spiritual analogy of course is that our 5 senses, if they truly need to become selfless and have no attachment, then immersion in the Lord is the only way.

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