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Month: February 2022

Booster shot

The ego is a funny thing.

It just keeps on and on growing.

When we are babies, kids, there is hardly any ego.

But as we grow up and mature, and earn money, and attain fame and status, the ego swells bigger and bigger.

Oh a fat paycheck? Ego boost. A new car better than the neighbour’s? Ego boost. Double promotion at work? Double ego boost.

The more we apparently achieve, the more we think about ourselves, and greater the ego boost.

But funny it is then, that we achieve the foremost greatness, when we become One with all of Creation, when realization is attained i.e. the greatest of the greatest achievement, then the ego promptly falls to zero!

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Kids on the wall

The Ukrainian President Mr. Zelensky is being celebrated world over for his bravery and selflessness. No one knows what will happen in this terrible ongoing onslaught, but I wish there could be peace instead of war. Just imagine, we are in the year 2022, with mind boggling advancements and comforts in nearly every conceivable sphere, and yet what we see is only more greed and more desire for power.

Mr. Zelensky, when he was elected in 2019, apparently said in his speech, that he didn’t want his photos put up in the offices. “The President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait. Hang photos of your kids instead… “

Just for suspense, I’m not completing the last sentence.

My Guru used to give the following advice to parents, “Stop hanging photos of your kids on your walls at home. Because your kids will start believing that they are the centers of attention, that they are being worshipped in the house. Hang photos of Gods/deities instead.”

Is this contradictory? No no, of course not. Here is Mr. Zelensky’s full sentence. “Hang photos of your kids instead, so that you see their faces each time before you make an important decision (so that you do no wrong).”

My Guru’s tactic was aimed at the kids, while Mr. Zelensky’s message was for the adults.

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Blue collar

World over, blue collar workers are looked at with disdain and condescension.

They are usually uneducated, at least formally. When I used to take flights to the Middle East in the past, there would be at least a few who would not be able to fill in the immigration forms. You fill a form for one, and soon there will be a queue, each one waiting for you to fill theirs. But that is the least we can do right?

We might think that we are educated and know better. But most ‘educated elite’ who live abroad, usually just live there as outsiders, sometimes for decades. The so-called blue-collars there on the other hand tend to quickly pick up the local language, enough to have decent conversations even. I’ve seen at least a dozen cases of these blue collars stepping in to diffuse a tense situation between a local and an outsider, simply on account of them knowing (nay, having purposefully learned) the language.

What differentiates the blue-collars more than anything else? Their grit and determination. That no matter what, whether they like it or not, they will always GUDUSUNGU. It’s really their power that makes our blue planet go around.

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Holy Cow – part 5 of 5

A follow up question or thought could be, “There are so many cows in the world. I cannot help them all. Would my seva even matter?”

It is true that we cannot save all the 300 million cows in the world. But any seva we do to even one single cow, will surely make a world of a difference to that one gentle individual! Such could be the power and impact of our gauseva.

We are taught in the rat race that if we work hard, and get success, then we will be happy. But spirituality teaches us the reverse. Be happy first and then work hard, and this will automatically bring worldly success.

A similar sequence can be extended to cows. The reasoning is not that cows provide milk, which is useful, and hence cows should be worshipped as holy. Rather, because the cow is holy, everything that it produces is also perceived to be so.

If we get the chance to serve this most lovable of creatures, we should certainly grab the chance. It will provide peace of mind and other tangible and intangible benefits that can only be experienced first-hand.

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Holy Cow – part 4 of 5

Yet today, there is so much of cow torture and abuse, largely for commercial purposes.

Many cows are disposed of once they stop giving milk.

Do you know how many cows are slaughtered each year around the world?

300 million. Isn’t that shocking?

How insensitive is it, to chop off the hand that feeds us?

On the contrary, imagine the blessings one would get if provided with the chance to tend to this beautiful, peaceful and loving creature.

That chance is available, with the ability to participate (online in many cases, thanks to technology) in the seva of cows. Where gauseva is 100% seva, and 0% commercial. All cow products are either utilized within the premises or given away for free. And all cows are loved and cared for, no matter whether they continue to give milk or not.

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Holy Cow – part 3 of 5

Of all the animals and their products, it is milk from cows that we each have grown up on.

After the first few months of mother’s milk, all babies are switched to cow’s milk. And thereafter, cheese, khoa, butter, buttermilk, curd and others we continue to enjoy even to today.

Would it then not be fair to regard the cow as our second mother?

There is so much selflessness, that the cow shares her milk with us, despite having her own calves to feed.

Not just milk, but even cow dung is useful as fertilizer.

Many drink cow urine for its medicinal properties as recommended in Ayurveda. Not everything may be scientifically proven, but there have been miraculous cases of recoveries that medical science cannot explain.

And the cow’s sharing with us is totally unconditional – no care about our caste, or religion or gender or what background we come from.

What did we do to deserve this blessing?

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Holy Cow – part 2 of 5

Our scriptures prescribe 5 types of maha yagnas. These are

  1. Deva Yajna (for the dieties like sun, moon etc),
  2. Pitri Yajna (for our ancestors),
  3. Manushya Yajna (for our fellow humans, via charity),
  4. Bhoota Yajna (for other living creatures – feeding animals, providing shelter) and
  5. Brahma Yajna (for the soul inside us).

    Each of these are very important. But Bhoota Yagna is unique because it is service to creatures that have emotions (like us), but cannot speak or express themselves (unlike us).

There are many ways to do seva and Bhoota Yajna, but one of the best ways is gauseva, or seva of cows. As we know, the cow was very special to Lord Krishna, the Divine Cowherd. Most photos have Him playing His flute, relishing the company of cows and cowherds. So gauseva is not just a physical activity, but when done with humility, it can become one of the highest expressions of bhakti.

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Holy Cow – part 1 of 5

Remember the cow race from last year?

We all know the cows on our Indian roads – sometimes in the middle of a highway, and other times in the middle of smaller roads – but always unbelievably oblivious to the traffic around them. Irrespective of the commotion, they just do not let the outside world bother them, peacefully chewing away on their grassy meal.

And because of their gentle disposition as well as their generous nature (sharing their milk for one and all), they are considered not just bovine, but divine as well.

How to participate in this cow race?

By first realizing that it is not a race at all. Rather, it is a road to grace.

Our normal day to day world and work may be hard to change.

But we can use the bovine, to spark our inner-divine, and that itself can be life-changing.

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What’s the hurry?

Maybe this is an Indianism. I’ve grown up hearing the phrase ‘hurry burry’. The word burry doesn’t mean anything in particular, but taken together, the words refer to the crazy pace of life.

Indeed, everywhere I look, people are in a hurry. Mostly the hurry to achieve. To have lofty goals and ambitions and then shoot them down in half the expected time. And then feel dejected that it even took that long.

20-year olds are now routinely talking about making at least a million dollars by the time they are 30, and retiring by the time they are 35. Everyone wants to be a founder, and a CEO. By 20. Not 30, because 30 is very close to retirement.

What will someone do after retiring at 35, I wonder? Assuming life expectancy of a 100, that’s another 65 years to live through. Money = freedom, and I get that, and having a good sum of money saved up is great. But the crazy pace to get there? To put arbitrary age thresholds (30, 35 etc.)? Quite unneccessary.

Whether 30 or 60, it will always feel like there is too much time (no one thinks they are going to die tomorrow), or that there is too less (when things aren’t going your way). Best to not think about time as a factor, and instead just enjoy the work.

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Garden carpet

A lovely little quote I came across today.

"Think like a gardener. Work like a carpenter."

What does this mean?

Everyone wants everything at hyperspeed. We would not mind letters sent by post (snail mail) taking a month to reach us in the 90s, but today we want groceries delivered by an app in under 10 minutes. Bosses want deadlines met well before time, and deliverables are always overdue by default. Venture capitalist sharks fight for throwing the most money at the earliest possible stages, and then force the investee company to grow at backbreaking speed.

But talent and skills? These grow slowly. Does a gardener shout at his cute little sapling because it has not already become an apple tree?

The work needs to be put in however, consistently, daily, with discipline, just like a carpenter. The final product looks amazing, but it is really just patient repetition.

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Disruption is a reality – part 2

There is no doubt that disruption is happening faster than we can imagine. I’m here sitting and blogging, but blogs are kind of outdated now no? People have moved to YouTube and TikTok and what else not!

Continuing from yesterday’s post though, here’s some of the meat on how to survive in this crazy disruptive world. These aren’t from me although I agree with them, but more on that at the end.

  1. Be courageous enough to chart your own destiny. Don’t bother about what others are doing or saying.
  2. Before we take point 1 too far, also be open to feedback from your wellwishers. A good balance between points 1 and 2 can work wonders!
  3. Leadership is a choice. Anyone can lead. Thinking big, even at a junior position, can help propel your career. But do it nicely, with the support of your bosses, not going against them to prove a point or to show that you know better.
  4. There is no such thing as work-life balance. There is only work-life choice. Choose well. Some sacrifices may need to be made.

These aren’t my ideas. These were the ideas experienced and expressed by the current MD & CEO of Procter & Gamble Mr. Madhusudhan Gopalan a few years ago in his talk at IIM Bangalore. You should definitely watch this outstanding video here at the link below.

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Disruption is a reality – part 1

Everyone is running to learn coding. Or computer engineering. Or STEM. Or some other technical skill.

But what was the norm just 20 years ago, today stands completely disrupted.

What was taught 40 years ago in colleges and universities then? Pretty much useless.

Yes some basics will remain the same. But nobody can even predict where things will go in 5 years, let alone 15.

Everyone is running to learn digital marketing for the major social platforms.

But are we even sure those platforms will be around in 5 years? And 15?

How can we possibly prepare for such a future? What should we study? With change being the only constant, the ability to learn is perhaps more important than what is being learnt.

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Brahman substitution

Here’s something that keeps coming up.

When people take up spirituality for the first time, they are taught that the soul within each one of us is the same, deep down.

That it’s called Brahman and hence there is no real difference between any of us, in our purest forms.

This is meant to help us be equanimous and impartial in our thoughts and actions in the real world.

But questions arise. “If I’m Brahman, and the tiger is also Brahman, then am I supposed to go and hug the tiger?”

As you can imagine now, there are many variations. Substitute ‘tiger’ with any problem in your life, and it’ll feel like the energy is already being drained out.

The answer? Yes you know the tiger is Brahman. But does the tiger know you are also Brahman?

The first requirement is survival, only then, spiritual.

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12 and a half

A very interesting book I’m reading by Gary Vaynerchuk is called Twelve and a half. The author has identified twelve very critical emotional ingredients which he believes are absolutely essential for success. And then he identifies a 13th one as well, but since he believes he has much work to do on that last one, he only accords one-half the weight in the book’s title.

You would have heard of all these 12/13 items – like empathy, accountability, kindness, gratitude etc etc. But what I found very interesting is how the author emphasizes the need to combine these.

We often hear and feel “Good people finish last.” We’ve seen this happen as well – where the nice ones get taken for a ride. But that’s why Gary argues it is important to combine the ingredients, depending on the situation. Here’s a nice example from his book:

Let's say you are the head of a law firm, and you've hired a kid who grew up on "the other side of the tracks". He or she doesn't know the protocols for a fancy dinner with a client, and you end up losing the deal as a result. This is where you have to pull 'gratitude' and 'accountability' from the "spice rack". You need to be thankful for even having the opportunity to own a business and land this new account. You show accountability by realizing that you're the one who hired but failed to properly train that person. All of a sudden, [there is no blame game], and everything becomes secondary.
Note: [my addition]
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Ever felt this way before? Unable to concentrate because your phone notifications bar just popped up? What’s that now – oh a new Whatsapp message. You click once, harmlessly, and before you know it, 30 minutes have passed, you having gone from “reading a book” time to watching random reels on Instagram.

A book by Nir Eyal called Indistractable is all about solving this attention problem.

First, the word itself. You know the base in ‘distraction’? It’s ‘action’. And it is the same in ‘traction’ as well! Wow, that never struck me before. Distractions move us away from what we really want. Traction is the opposite.

Avoiding distraction is a skill, it can be learned, and needs to be practised. 3 things to help in this journey as per the book:
1. We never run out of willpower, so keep at it.
2. Reaffirm positively
3. Practice self-compassion

Other stuff: turn off notifications where unnecessary, delete apps that are not needed, use your phone’s ‘do not disturb’ feature etc. The last one I can really vouch for!

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A few days ago, it was decided that we should step out for a quick weekend getaway.

Someplace nice. Someplace serene. Someplace where the concrete jungle can be left behind completely.

And so we started looking through the various hotel aggregators. These have so many reviews, and taking them into consideration is always a good idea.

One recurring theme in the reviews in certain properties was the blessing of a digital detox.

What’s that?

Is it that there’s a cocktail of greens that one can down in a gulp and be freed of red eyes from staring into a screen for too long?

Is there something else the property offers that people praise the on-site digital detox so much?

Not in the least. All it means, is that the resort is completely isolated. No cell towers. Zero reception. Zilch.

If that’s what it takes to digitally detox, to spend so much money for it, why not just sit at home and switch off the phone? ?

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Meet DQ. The new kid in the Q.

You know IQ – Intelligence Quotient. I know IQ, but have little first-hand experience!

EQ is the topic of much recent study – Emotional Quotient. You know this.

DQ is a new term that I came across in a recent Harvard Business Review post.

Decency Quotient. Plenty useful in the workplace.

It goes a step further than EQ, implying that a person not only has empathy for employees and colleagues but also the genuine desire to care for them.

“DQ means wanting something positive for everyone in the workplace and ensuring everyone feels respected and valued. DQ is evident in daily interactions with others. DQ implies a focus on doing right by others.”

DQ is perhaps the most needed of the three today – agree?

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Great falls – part 2 of 2

We discussed great falls just a few months ago. Another thought struck me, and so I wondered why not discuss this as well? It is another example of such a great fall. One that was experienced by a saint called Sri M. You can see his videos and lectures on YouTube. He was born as Mumtaz Ali Khan, but is highly fluent in Hindu traditions (maybe more than many Hindus themselves!), including being able to chant the Vedas etc.

I heard about him first a few years ago when I read his autobiography called Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master. There is plenty of other-worldly stuff going on in it – rebirths, remembering past lives, miracles, magic etc etc. The book is great, if you can stomach these many “happenings”.

The way the book starts, really drew me in. Of course everyone would wonder how a Muslim might be able to chant the Vedas with such ease. Sri M’s own explanation is that he was a devout Hindu in his previous life. Not an ordinary one, but one with quite some spiritual power.

Apparently when he was meditating in the Himalayan peaks back in that life, one old fakir approached him, begging. Instead of helping this person (as any spiritually evolved person should do), he reprimanded him for disturbing his meditation session. The fakir was heartbroken and proceeded to commit suicide by jumping off the cliff. Sri M’s Guru (in his past life) then told him he’d be reborn in the fakir’s religion in his next birth, but still find his way back, in the next one.

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There’s an absolutely beautiful bhajan called Achyutam Keshavam on Lord Krishna. It’s beauty lies not just in its melody, but primarily in the simplicity and depth of its lyrics. It’s in simple Hindi, but a quick translation of the 4 key paras follows:

  1. Who says God doesn’t come? Have you tried calling Him like Meera (one of His foremost devotees) did?
  2. Who says God doesn’t eat the food we offer Him? Did you offer food with the same love as did his devotee Shabari?
  3. Who says God doesn’t sleep? Did you put him to sleep with the same affection as Mother Yashoda (i.e. Lord Krishna’s mom)
  4. Who says God doesn’t dance? Did you try making him dance like the gopis (Krishna’s fellow cowherds) who loved Him so dearly?

Such a sweet and simple bhajan isn’t it? The Lord doesn’t require big material displays, but only a modicum of true affection.

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Many of us want success and we want it quick. We also want it with smart work and the least effort.

One journalist covering basketball champion Kobe Bryant wanted to catch up with him while practicing.

Kobe asked him to come join him at 4.30. Not in the afternoon, but 4.30 in the morning!

To show discipline, the journalist went to meet Kobe 30 minutes earlier, at 4 am, hoping to score some brownie points.

But even at 4 am, he was amazed to see Kobe already having started his practice about a half hour prior, his jersey fully drenched in sweat.

Kobe was in fact practising repeatedly some very basic drills. To which the journo asked, “You are the best player in the world. Why are you doing such basic drills?”

To which Kobe replied smilingly, “Why do you think I’m the best player in the world? Because I never get bored with the basics…”

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Hampi dampti…

sat on a wall…

Ah those awesome childhood days. Just watch nursery rhymes and cartoons all day long and chill.

Not a care in the world.

And today?

Try to sit still for a minute, and out come the phones and tablets and other screens.

No wonder then, that a new board game called Hampi has my family hooked.

An hour of no screens may not seem like much.

But try doing it without the board game as a prop!

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Andrew Carnegie is a name you might be familiar with. He was a steel magnate who lived in the US in the 1800s. An absolute rags to riches story, if there was one.

Wikipedia says that during the last 18 years of his life, he gave away ~$350 million (or $5.2 billion in today’s terms), almost 90% of his fortune, to charities, foundations and universities. You must have heard of the Carnegie Mellon University? Or the Carnegie Corporation of New York? These, and many more, were founded by the same Mr. Carnegie.

Like any other famous personality, he too was involved in some controversies, but that isn’t relevant for this post. What I really liked though, is a story about how he dealt with people.

Someone asked him this question. His reply? That dealing with people was like digging for gold. To get one ounce of gold, we need to dig through tonnes of dirt. But when we go digging, we don’t go looking for the dirt first. Rather we go looking only for the gold.

What a wonderful thought, which we can apply to the way we deal with those around us as well! Instead of constantly looking at or for the flaws that people have, focusing on their goodness, on the gold inside them, would be the secret sauce to developing outstanding relationships.

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Humanize and divinize – part 3 of 3

We discussed two key practically implementable things over the last two days:

  1. Humanize the divine
  2. Divinize the mundane

The concluding masterstroke here, is that there is only one point where both of these intersect and juxtapose.

That sacred point, is the Guru.

Finding it difficult to speak to an idol on your altar because he doesn’t talk back? No worries, because the Guru is a living idol.

The Guru is also the mundane like us, flesh and blood, a part of the elements. And hence divinizing him, to Him, is only a shift in mindset.

In the Guru, humanity = divinity.

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Humanize and divinize – part 2 of 3

Why should we not cut down trees? Because trees give us oxygen, and we need oxygen to survive.

This is a practical view, and a correct one. But it is not the only one. Followers of Sanatana Dharma worship trees as Gods. This will lead them to question a thousand times before cutting a tree down.

Why? Because this is not just a tree anymore, but a manifestation of the Lord.

And if the tree indeed needs to be cut down? Then we could try to contribute more than we consume.

Imagine if we could do this in every walk of life. The fundamental attitude towards the world itself changes. To one of divinizing everything in the world. Every interaction with it is a God given gift, and an opportunity.

Wouldn’t that be awesome? For sure. But there is something even more awesome. Concluded tomorrow…

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Humanize and divinize – part 1 of 3

In chapter 4 of the Gita, Arjuna asks the Lord, “Hey Krishna, how come you revealed this secret of creation and yoga to the Sun God many aeons back, when you were just born a few years ago? Something doesn’t add up.”

And then Krishna tells Arjuna about reincarnation, and the many births they took before.

Hard to wrap our heads around this concept because there appears to be so little proof. And we don’t remember our past lives either (thankfully so!). The forgetful person that I am, I actually don’t remember much about my current life as well 🙂

In any case, if the Lord has been taking so many births aka avatars, there is something human about Him. Why is he easier to worship as Krishna, and not as some formless being? Because that is how we are able to empathise with Him.

My Guru has a way for this. He says we should constantly be having a conversation with the Lord. Even if it is only one-way. But keep Him updated of all the goings-on in our lives. That will change nothing for Him. But humanizing Him will strengthen our faith.

What about divinizing? Coming tomorrow…

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Down and out

Just saw this crazy #tweet.

A guy was working alone on his farm and met with an accident.

It was a horrific one, where both his arms were chopped off.

What did he do? Not just fall down as though the world had collapsed (like many might do when they don’t get enough likes on their latest instagram or facebook photos).

He called the ambulance emergency services number with a pencil that he dialed with his mouth.

How crazy and inspiring is that? Both his arms are reattached surgically now and he is fine.

Good to remember things like this when we are apparently down and out.

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Temporarily permanent – part 2 of 2

Did you notice the sly switch of words in title from yesterday to today? 🙂

There’s a reason for it.

While Lord Krishna’s message may have got lost in between, the content remained absolutely the same. Absolutely evergreen. So despite temporary disappearances from our collective memories, it still remains permanent.

Why? Because the message is as relevant today as it was 5000 years ago.

But how is that possible? Would the ancients even begin to fathom how hard it is when your post on social media does not get even 10 likes? Or the difficulties presented by not having a charger on hand when the iPhone battery is close to dead?

Obviously they wouldn’t. But that is also precisely the point. No matter the advancement in technology, the underlying problems are still the same. People still get tensed, jealous, angry, stressed, greedy – you name it.

What should we prioritize then – newer technology or time-tested truths?

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Permanently temporary – part 1 of 2

At the start of the 4th chapter of the Gita, the Lord tells Arjuna, “I revealed this yoga to the Sun god, Vivaswan, Manu, Ikshvaku. It got lost by passage of time. The same is told to you now.”

Can you believe it? The most important knowledge in the world, nay not even the world, of all creation. In fact the secret of creation itself…lost!

What does this tell us?

That with the passage of time, everything is lost.

Grandpa plants a seed, three generations later, the kids are okay to cut down the tree to construct their home. Parents save a fortune, only to see it frittered away by the next layer. Bulbs, telephones, car models, women confined to the kitchens – you name it, and it will change.

What do we learn from this? Not to be (too) attached to anything. Because the expectation that we should preserve anything forever, is just foolishness.

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