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Month: March 2022

Chanakya Neeti – part 1 of 3

Just a few lovely takeaways from The Real Chanakya! (a book published by a Dheeraj Publications, and it does not name an author)

  1. The tongue is the greatest war monger. Silence is another name for tolerance, and a guarantee for peace.
  2. There is no question of putting faith in a bad friend. Even a good friend should be kept away from your personal and business secrets. These secrets can be used against you anytime.
  3. One must always assess oneself frequently. This practice will help the person take corrective actions in time to avoid any crisis.
  4. Troubles should be feared till they don’t come in front of us. Make efforts to avert them. But if they come, forget fear, and fight instead.
  5. A frank person can’t be a cheat because cheating needs secrecy and double talk. Polite talking needs cleverness cultivated through education.

Some more brilliant Chanakya thoughts tomorrow!

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Cake eater

Just traipsed into a cafe for breakfast. Wasn’t in the mood to eat anything.

But I was hungry nevertheless. With a bunch of thoughts about my ever growing to-do list, I sat at the corner after ordering a sandwich.

“The grill isn’t warmed up yet sir, it will take 15 to 20 minutes, hope you aren’t in a hurry”, said the man at the counter, wearing a friendly smile.

“No hurry at all”, and I went back to my thoughts. My eyes fell on a bunch of lovely looking cakes. Cream filled, multi layered, cheesecakey-dripping – just too yummy each one seemed.

And then, something else caught my eye. At the far corner of the room, an elderly man, probably in his seventies, white long beard and all, sat tending to some cakes. Nay, he was making them!

Never have I seen someone enjoy their craft so much. He was totally at ease. And totally unimpacted by all the noise around him. So many people moving past him, placing their orders, waiters at the tables, children screaming or crying. But no, completely at peace. And in harmony, with nothing more in focus than his cake. The love for his cake creation, was immediately manifesting in the beauty of the final product, and the demand for the pastries.

Truly karma yoga in action.

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Key, da!

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”, is what French philosopher Pascal once said. Bang on he was of course.

In Hindi, this is also known as ‘keeda’. Well not literally, because keeda only means insect. However, do imagine a small insect running around in your mind, with the latter unable to sit still.

That’s a keeda for you. Everything is perfect, life is great, the job is great, the pay is great, and yet, you want something more. You feel like something is missing, even though to an outsider, your life would look absolutely perfect. That’s a keeda in action.

How to get out of this feeling? Because everyone’s experiencing it most of the time. What’s the solution – the key, da? (to use some Tamil slang as well).

As my Guru keeps saying, the only way, is “to realize the futility of it all”. So many greats have come and gone. Where are all their worries and troubles now? Where will ours be in a 100 years?

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Pretrust

A friend of mine who runs a very successful start-up said something very nice recently.

It was about tipping.

Most people tip, like at the salon, or a restaurant or such. If the service was great, we may tip more, and if not that great, then we may tip less.

But he was talking about the brilliant effect of tipping before the service even starts.

His thought process was, that the service providers are often expectant of a tip, but unsure of whether they will get one or not. Because not everyone tips. Hence giving the tip upfront puts the receiver at ease.

But no. In a conversation with his own barber, who he tipped beforehand, he got a different reason. The guy told him that it was not about the surety of money, but the surety of trust. The trust placed on the service provider of superlative service, even before the service began. Such a nice way to think about this isn’t it?

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Affirmative

There’s a new-age fintech company called Affirm. This company uses technology to enable people to buy things now and pay for them later (in instalments).

It’s become a big deal and all, as more people who couldn’t afford larger ticket lumpsum-payment purchases, have now come into the customer fold.

In essence, it is allowing people to live (i.e. enjoy) life today, without worrying today itself about how to pony up the cash required.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but it did spark another chain of thoughts. We are always told how we should focus on the present and not on the past or the future. Even if we decide to forget the past, how can we not be concerned by the future? We need to plan for it right, which means thinking about it today. How do we resolve this?

Perhaps a hint lies in the name of the firm above. My Guru places an excessive emphasis on positive visualizations and affirmations. If we practise these effectively, we are staying very much in the present, giving our minds a lot of support and positive energy, while indirectly shaping our futures. What do you think?

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Shiva cafe

On a recent trip to a Shiva temple, we had the opportunity to trek up a little hill. Why? Because there was a nearby waterfall, which the locals swore by.

We quickly fished out our phones to check the exact location (thanks GoogleMaps!).

Not only did we spot a waterfall on the map, but we also saw ‘Shiva Cafe’, located right in the middle of the water (on the map, not in real!).

Curiosity piqued and all, we quickly read up. It was a 1.5km hike to the top – not the easiest. But the cafe had amazing reviews – the views, the food, the ambience.

As we started our ascent, we realized it was definitely not an easy climb. However, we were also surprised by the fact that a number of others (old and young) were also trekking up to Shiva Cafe – the difficulty of the climb notwithstanding.

Of course the view was super from the top, but it also reminded me that quality of work trumps everything else. To receive good food and be treated well, people will climb mountains. Said differently, if we work as worship (karma yoga) and add value to others, there is no reason why others will not flock to acknowledge us.

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Candyman

We go for a brisk walk on most mornings. Usually along the perimeter of a small oval-shaped garden.

Some walk fast, others slow.

Everyone’s busy of course, minding their own business, lost in thought or a podcast or song.

One day, an old sickly uncle was walking really slow.

But he had a lovely smile on his face.

Even more, everyone passing by him got a smile on their faces too.

As we passed him, he motioned to us, put his hand in his pocket, took out two lychee candies, smiled, and gave those to us.

No idea who he was, or why he did that. But our faces had big smiles too 🙂

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Calcoolus

That title is enough to give me goosebumps. Reminders of several nightmares. What a mess those few years at school were. I couldn’t help but wonder why this topic was ever even included.

But in the real world, Calculus is what has made much progress possible. Without going into the examples (and even worse, the equations!), there is apparently little we could have achieved without Integration and Differentiation.

Despite my struggling to solve Calculus in school and college, it’s got amazing lessons for real life problems.

What is differentiation if it’s not about breaking complex problems, repeatedly, into smaller and smaller problems, until the smallest problem is solved. Integration is the reverse. Take those solved small problems, and keep building up from there.

What can we learn from this? That while we look for big solutions to our life problems, it’s the small good habits that really change our life. Fix the small (differentiation), and then aggregate those fixes to the large (integration).

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Equations

Remember the happiness equation (blog post) from Swami Chinmayananda?

Happiness = Desires Fulfilled / Desires Entertained

Here is another very similar one I came across in a podcast yesterday, attributed by the speaker to some Buddhist monks.

Satisfaction = Haves / Wants

This is somewhat an even shorter and easier representation of the same thing.

Reduce the denominator, increase satisfaction.

Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have any ‘wants’ though. They key is to cut the umbilical cord between ‘getting the wants’ and ‘being happy’.

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Uncommon drive

Pretty much every car driver I have come across would agree that driving at night is a bad idea.

Oncoming traffic lights are blinding, there are often no streetlights, and just the thought of getting waylaid or stranded in the middle of the night is enough to keep most night drivers at bay.

Not one fellow I met recently, who has been driving for decades now though.

I’m sure he didn’t have a choice, and driving at night was an occupational hazard for him. But he didn’t let that deter him.

With a wide smile, he explained how he loves driving at night. “The air is pure and clean, and there is less traffic. It is also safer, because I don’t need to depend on my horn, because my powerful headlights take care of visibility.”

Despite not being put in a good situation (“having to regularly drive at night”), he had totally accepted it, and was even selling the proposition to others! Quite the mindset to deal with adversity.

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Rural elite

So I met a nice guy recently, who owned a sizable plot of land.

It was an ancestral handover to him, so yes, free.

He had 3 cows, 6 dogs, 2 pigs, 4 hens, and a few other animals.

“I’m an animal lover!”, he exclaimed to me.

There was a lot of greenery on his farm, and he was growing a few vegetables at least. And he said he would sit a couple of hours daily, just taking in all the fresh cool unpolluted air.

All this seemed surreal, until he said that he was unhappy. That he wanted to move to the city, “for more opportunities”.

Here’s a fellow living my dream life, and I want to be where he’s at. But he wants to be where I’m at. Oh the irony.

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Assisted greatness

Just saw a very nice ad for a shaving razor by Gillette.

What’s the big deal now?

Oh so much build up for just another shaving razor. ?

How many blades have they got these days – Mach 3 or Mach 5? Or is it Mach 10?

I have lost count.

But the ad I just saw was different. Because it wasn’t about self-shaving, but rather ‘assisted shaving’.

First time I’m hearing about this concept. And apparently the Gillette Treo is the first and only product of its kind too.

Assisted shaving is to shave someone else – like someone paralyzed, or an elder in the family that is weak or sick and can’t tend to themselves.

Doing something for yourself is good, but assisting someone else? That’s just great.

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So enjoyable

In chapter 11 verse 33 of the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord uses the word “enjoy”.

Oh that’s great news isn’t it?

Because everyone thinks spirituality is boring and means the aspirant has to become boring as well. No smiling or laughing. Only sitting in a serious padmasana pose and meditating all day long. Know anyone who can really do this? Hardly.

That’s why the Lord is very clear. Do your duty well, and then enjoy the result. This is what he tells Arjuna in this outstanding shloka, “Therefore do arise and win glory. Conquering foes, enjoy the affluent kingdom. These warriors already stand slain by me. Be you only an instrument.”

Isn’t this just amazing advice? Don’t make your life boring and morose. Instead, do your duty, do not worry about the result, and have a grand gala time, enjoying the journey as well as the eventual result!

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CEO gets Tesla!

No big deal this blog post title you’d think. A CEO, rich fellow, can easily afford one. Okay now forget and move on.

But wait, this Tesla was not bought by the CEO, but gifted to him. And not just by anyone, but by his own employees. Wow, your own employees coming together and gifting a car worth USD 70,000! No mean feat.

How did this come about?

The CEO is Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, a payments processing company. In 2016, he was drawing a million dollar salary, while some of his employees were struggling to make ends meet, getting paid only USD 35,000 a year.

What did Mr. Price do? Something unheard of. He cut his own salary by a ridiculous 94%, and distributed the cut across all the other employees, such that the minimum wage at his company rose to USD 70,000!

By keeping his employees happy, the revenues of the company grew sharply. Isn’t this a great lesson in empathy?

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Daily social

There’s some bad things with social media. We know that.

There’s also some good things with social media. We know that too.

What’s awesome, is that some bad things, can become good things, via social media!

Here’s an example. A temple visit.

Pre-pandemic, going to temples, standing in a long queue, sometimes for many hours, and then ultimately being able to spend a grand total of 2 seconds at the sanctum sanctorum… Wow really futile effort, it would seem.

Now? Many temples after being closed to visitors, have gone digital. Not just in accepting donations, but also in installing state of the art cameras and broadcasting daily aartis as well as other rites. Live, for the whole world to see. And sometimes in such fantastic Ultra HD 4K clarity, that it’s impossible to get this even in the real place. And every day beautiful new dresses and ornamentation for the idol? Check.

Pretty amazing being daily social. Do check out the Siddhivinayak temple Twitter feed if you like!

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Emoshunned – part 4 of 4

Why the jealousy versus envy example? Because as humans, we are naturally wired to compare.

Naming the emotion here helps. Because we get to identify the inflection point. If we are envious about something someone else has, we can consciously choose what we want to do with that comparison. As someone nicely summarized – if we compare against others, we become bitter. But if we compare against ourselves, we become better!

Brene dropped this cool line on the podcast – “To compare, is human, but to let go is divine.”

She also talks of the 4 Bs. Biology, Biography, Behaviour and Backstory. These help in further dissecting one’s emotions.

Biology is what we naturally have a tendency for. Biography is how we were raised (in a very strict upbringing versus easy going, or rich versus poor). Behaviour refers to my reactions today – do I just control my anger, or do I turn red and punch a wall, or worse. Backstory – this really helps find an answer, such as if someone tears up, is that anger? Grief? Sadness? Disappointment?

A backstory helps us do better. For instance, if we have an interview lined up, it is but natural to have a few butterflies in the tummy. For some, this can even lead to anxiety. But instead of feeling desperate for the job and just making things worse, it would help to have backstory that emphasizes how it would be such an exciting challenge to speak with 4 interviewers and clinch the job.

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Emoshunned – part 3 of 4

We may use disappointed and sad interchangeably. But are they both the same?

Apparently not. If there is a lot of expectation behind the negative emotion, then that would classify as disappointment. We really expected something to do very well, and that not taking place would leave us disappointed, not sad.

Why is this important? Because if you don’t know the illness, how would you know what medicine to take?

If you are sad, then maybe watching a comedy movie might make you feel light again. But if you are disappointed, it might be better to come to terms with our lofty expectations in the first place.

Another simple example is the difference between jealousy and envy. Honestly, I always thought the two were the same!

Apparently envy is wanting what the other person has. Like someone bought a brand new car, and now I envy them. And jealousy? That is when I already have something, but fear losing it to someone else. Like I have a car, but I’m jealous of my neighbour who I believe can easily buy two such cars if he wanted to. This would kill my perceived status in the way I view society.

We are weird, I know, but it is what it is! Closure tomorrow…

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Emoshunned – part 2 of 4

The way we are often asked to deal with emotions is to simply ignore them. When things turn ugly, how many times have we heard “just grin and bear it”, or “this too shall pass”, or “time is the best healer”.

These statements are each true no doubt, but in that very moment, does “not dealing” with the emotions we are going through help us?

Likely not. In her book, Brene lists 87 types of emotions. Wow. That number blew my mind. Eight seven of them, really?

Apparently there are more, but she just chose those she felt were most important, and what we tend to experience fairly regularly.

She also didn’t want her book to be translated into any other languages because she would have no control over the final meaning. For instance, the word shame in English has at least 3 similar but different words in Spanish.

Why is it important to name these emotions properly? More tomorrow…

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Emoshunned – part 1 of 4

A lovely episode of The Happiness Lab podcast I was recently listening to discussed the sad-bad-glad triad.

This was a comment by the guest on the show, Brené Brown. Per Wikipedia, Brené is an American research professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. Brown is known in particular for her research on shame, vulnerability, and leadership.

She’s written a book called Atlas of the Heart, which deconstructs and maps out human emotions.

At first, I thought, what the heck, is it really a big deal? But as I heard more, I realized this is stuff people do not talk about much, and perhaps ought to.

She first quotes Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher from the early 90s as saying “​“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

What does this mean? Imagine you put your heart and soul into a project, but did not get the desired result. If your vocabulary is constrained, you would say you were sad. If you also got a free scratch-and-win lottery ticket and saw what I always see – “Better luck next time”, you would again be nothing but sad. And if your favorite team lost the match? You’d be sad again. Sad sad sad. That’s because vocabulary aka language as the ‘constraining factor’ is offering a limited window to the world.

Why does this matter? Continued tomorrow…

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Netted

There’s a beautiful description of two of the greatest devotees of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa as given by Swami Ranganathananda in his Bhagavad Gita exposition.

It was said that Maya could never catch either of them. Why? For two opposing reasons.

For the first devotee Narendra aka Swami Vivekananda, he had becomes just too big for the net of Maya. How? Through jnaana or knowledge. The jnaani knows he is the same as The Infinite One, and hence no net however large can contain such a person.

And the other devotee? He was Durga Charan Nag, a householder and a doctor. He was supposed to have been one of the greatest devotees of the Divine Mother. He was so humble, that he would say the Lord is everything and he is nothing. This made him so small that he could easily pass through the Maya net!

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Regarding

Came across an interesting theory that differentiates humans and animals.

Animals are said to be ‘self-regarding’ in nature. This means that when they communicate, they are always talking about themselves. Like “I’m hungry”, “I’m angry”, “I’m excited”, “I’m looking for a mate”, “I’m a part of this group” and so on.

Humans are ‘other-regarding’ because we are able to reference external objects.

This is very rare in the animal world, except for alarm calls, as you would know if you’ve been on any jungle safari. The safari guide would quickly be able to identify warning calls from Samba deer or specific monkeys, as these animals try to warn others around them.

But this is not rare at all for humans, because we can think in other people’s terms, and communicate through empathy and compassion as well. Despite this amazing superpower, most people choose to only talk and think about themselves. What irony ?

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White hair

Everyone detests white hair right?

It’s the surest sign of aging, and of course no one wants to grow old.

I got my first white hair pretty early on, and it’s not like we have a choice in this anyway.

But there’s youngsters on social media who actually color their hair white. Apparently it is a fad, a new style trend. It’s odd seeing these people, such young faces coupled with old-people hair.

An ex-boss of mine once told me that white hair is a good thing. Why? Because in business settings, the other person tends to take you more seriously. Would you believe a 50 year old CEO or a 20 year old one? No matter what their actual capabilities are, the mind would naturally gravitate towards the one with white hair.

Lastly, whenever my Guru used to have some outstanding insights on anything, and would see the stunned look on my face, he would casually remark, “the hair on my head has turned white for a reason…”

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Repetition

My Guru in his Amazing Simple Gita has encapsulated many outstanding truths of life. One such truth comes in chapter 1 itself.

He has written it for all the utopians amongst us. Those who yearn for perfect harmony. For a world filled with peace and laughter.

We have everything already don’t we? Incredible changes in technology mean even some of today’s poor people might have luxuries unbeknownst to the kings and queens of yesteryear.

But still, the kings and queens and rulers of today are themselves discontent. Ever eyeing nearby lands and their resources, with not a care for its people, on they go with their plunder and loot.

Oh why can’t this change? Because of the mind. The mind is one’s own best friend and one’s own worst enemy. Consumed by greed, lust, jealousy and anger, how can this mind think of harmony and peace? No matter the reward, the mind is continuously dissatisfied. As my Guru notes, as long as the mind exists, there exists no respite.

Spirituality teaches us how to subdue the mind, and surrender the ego. When this is achieved, there is nothing but peace.

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Peda

Peda is a sweet popular in India. There’s also PEDA. That’s not a sweet, but can surely make your life sweet. How?

Most of us struggle with time management. There’s just never enough time. But that’s probably because of how we look at time.

We start with our task list and then start assigning times it will take to complete each. Total them up and realize it would take days and weeks to complete, leading to frustration.

Enter PEDA. (Okay okay, too dramatic I know, but hear me out). It’s just an acronym I put together for the following:

  1. Procrastinate (everything you don’t need to do right away)
  2. Eliminate (whatever you don’t ever need to do)
  3. Delegate (to others who are better at the work or have more time)
  4. Automate (if it is repetitive and can be coded)

There you have it. Follow PEDA, and you’ll find time is actually plenty.

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No pain no…

We all hate pain. Even the thought of having to give some blood makes us squeamish. Needle? No thank you ma’am.

But as doctors will tell you, pain has a very important function.

Consider the real life story of Gabby Gingras. She was unable to feel any pain – because of a rare genetic condition.

She could feel touch, but not pain.

Might seem cool almost? Not in the least.

Think of it this way. You kept your hand over the flame, and the pain makes you take your hand away instinctively.

But Gabby? She would just watch her hand go up in flames, and have no instinct to move her hand away. Imagine how many other issues – biting the tongue, biting the fingers, twisting a body part etc etc. Unimaginable no?

Pain is good. It helps us not just prevent the worst, but also constantly improve. Let’s be thankful for it.

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Shyness Clinic

is the name of a real-life clinic in Los Altos, California. What does it do?

It helps its patients, i.e. chronically shy people, improve their social skills.

What is amazing is the way they go about this. They do not focus on the past at all. So it doesn’t matter where these shy people come from, what specific life experiences left them under a shell or why they struggle the way the do.

Instead, the focus is entirely on the present. Only exercises to keep improving their social skills. Forget about the bad, just keep adding the good.

One such exercise, and one of the first ones actually, is to walk up to a stranger and ask for the time. The exercises keep increasing in rigour – asking five strangers for the time, chatting with a stranger in the elevator, making random phone calls etc.

The final test is a cool one. To walk into a grocery store, pick up a watermelon, lift it above the head and purposely slam it onto the floor. That’s the easy part of course. Passing, requires enduring the stares of several strangers. Whether those shoppers will lose the taste for watermelon, I know not, but shyness is now surely out the window, one good habit at a time.

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Calm storm

Here is a doubt that was asked in a recent satsang.

When doing karma yoga, we are told to be calm inside, not be motivated by the fruit of our actions, to remain unfazed by appreciation.

At the same time, in the outside world, we are expected to do the exact opposite. Be aggressive, ask for a bonus, an increment, a promotion, a better opportunity and what not.

So are we then pretending to be one thing on the outside, while doing something else on the inside?

Maybe initially. Inside Rama, Outside drama. But that is only for starters.

The real magic happens when all work and all thought is aligned towards one goal alone.

What is that goal? To do the work at hand, to the best of one’s ability. And this pretty much sums up karma yoga.

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Successhun – part 2 of 2

There’s an amazing scene in Succession. Correction, there are several amazing scenes in this 8.9 IMDB rated show.

One in particular stood out for me. No spoilers don’t worry.

The kids (grown up of course) are all standing around papa Logan, the big man, the head honcho.

Everyone is looking for their own pound of flesh, trying to score brownies points, and put everyone else down while at it.

One narcissistic chap tries to sell himself golden, “Dad, remember how I did this and that and succeeded and cracked the deal last week and blahblueblee.”

To which the big kahuna replies curtly as only he can, “I don’t do ancient history.”

Finito. Trap wide shut. Nobody gives a damn about the past. It’s over. We shouldn’t either. The future, is in the present. That’s all that matters.

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Successhun – part 1 of 2

It’s funny that the word ‘success’ is a part of the word succession. If you’ve watched the brilliant HBO TV series called Succession, you know that that the two don’t go too well together.

Sure, it looks mighty awesome to be born into a filthy rich family such as Waystar Royco.

But is it easy? Absolutely not. There are always sharks circling the water, waiting to draw blood.

Every family member doubles up as an adversary. The worst words, are not the ones that are spoken, but the ones that aren’t.

There is so much backbiting, so many scheming members, everyone secretly working their own private agenda, even the characters themselves don’t know what they truly stand for. A loose wind blowing towards the direction of a temporary one-up is enough to bring all the scavengers flocking.

It’s unreal that even a billion dollars at that level is considered meaningless, because someone else has more. And trust me, such comparisons aren’t just in the reel world, but in the real one too.

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Secret goals

The title of this blog post might have you think that maybe some goals should be kept secret. Or that there might already be some secret goals. Or that all goals are secret. Those who don’t have any goals at all may wonder what all the hoopla is about!

There is evidence that it is best to keep one’s goals (especially the big ones) secret.

An NYU study in 2009 found this. Pretty startling.

A lot of people love to toot their own horns, whether on social media or in real life, and whether for minor achievements, or major goals.

Why does keeping your goals a secret matter? This is what the study found. That telling others about your goals apparently creates an unconscious win – tricking our minds into thinking that we have already accomplished the goal.

An important goal would hence be to keep all future goals a secret. My lips are sealed ??

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Shouting for directions

Here’s a nice perspective I came across.

We’ve all used Google Maps. The turn by turn navigation has literally changed our lives. So much so, that we wonder how we ever managed to find our way around before it existed. It was launched in 2005, not that long ago, but those were probably very early builds. A really robust one on our phones was probably available 7-8 years later only, which is quite amazing, given it feels like we’ve been with it forever.

What’s awesome to learn from Google Maps is the guiding lady’s peace of mind.

If you ever missed a turn or a u-turn or took the wrong left or right, what does she do? Does she scream? Does she abuse you for not even understanding basic directions?

Quite the contrary isn’t it. She simply finds the best alternative route, re-routes you, and then proceeds to guide us on the new path.

Is there some learning for us from her mannerisms?

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