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Month: April 2022

Movjars & shakers

If you have a jar with red ants and black ants in it, nothing notable happens.

The ants just mind their own business and go their own ways.

But give the jar a shake, and apparently the ants take on each other. The black ones feel the red were the cause of the jar-quake, and vice versa. And they literally fight each other to the kill.

Deadly.

But they don’t realize that it’s not them that caused the problem, but the jar shaker.

Don’t we behave similarly as well?

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Vocal for social

Imagine a chaotic check-in scene at an airport. At least 300 passengers are waiting for their turn to dump their luggages and collect their boarding passes. All in serpentine queues that would put a new iPhone launch line to shame.

There are many that have their flights departing in under an hour, and so the line-cutting begins. It’s chaos. It’s madness. It’s chaotic madness.

And then as one elderly chap begins to raise his voice against the (terribly) understaffed counters, a smart employee in counter 1 asks him to come over so that he could quickly be serviced, and more importantly, silenced.

What would most people do in such a situation? Take the shortcut right? The guy should have quickly taken his family to that counter, cutting ahead of at least a 100 passengers, simply because he raised his voice.

But that’s not what he did. He made his family stay back in line, went to that counter and reprimanded the employee for encouraging such shortcut behavior. He then proceeded to manage the line (and force other cutters to go back in-line) until his family got to the counter, after waiting in line. A role model citizen if there was one!

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VVP – part 2

We looked at Vyakti Vastu Paristhithi yesterday.

Today is another VVP. Something called a Value Validation Project.

I came across this awesome concept online. It’s amazingly helpful if you want to land a new job. It’s also amazing if you want to know if you want that job in the first place.

What does VVP involve? If you are applying for a job as a coder (say), the easiest thing is to click the ‘Apply’ button, ship your CV to the recruitment team, and hope for a response, just like a million other applicants.

But how to stand out? By validating your value, via a project. Use the opportunity to code something now itself for your prospective employer, so they see what you can do for them once you join.

This is not limited to coding of course, but can be used in any field. Value validation is not easy, but worth it. Shreyas over Preyas.

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VVP

This is how the world is deconstructed in the spiritual context.

Vyakti. Vastu. Paristhithi.

Person. Object. Situation.

According to the Gita and other Vedic texts, all of life revolves around these three and the interplay between them.

Why does this matter?

Because it tells us what is important. Or rather what is not.

Can any of these 3 – whether in isolation or in combination – bring us permanent happiness?

The answer is an emphatic No. Hence VVP helps us contextualise what is truly valuable.

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Fired up

‘Tis the time of The Great Resignation.

Some are leaving the workforce altogether, while others are leaving for better jobs.

The latter often find fatter paychecks elsewhere.

If a person’s salary was 100, and they asked for 120, sometimes they’re let go, only to be replaced by someone with a salary of 150. Isn’t that insane?

As they say, train someone so well that they can leave anytime. But treat them so well that they never want to leave.

Nice saying, but does anyone implement this in real life?

Most retention exercises are purely fire fighting exercises. Running from pillar to post to douse out the flames.

Why not start by not having any fires in the first place?

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Extreme meditation

Chapter 6 of the Gita is all about meditation. Funny then, that verses 16 and 17 would talk about moderation in food. Is there really any sort of connection?

A very deep one in fact.

A spiritual aspirant may think that “we are all Brahman, we are not the body”. And such a person might decide to eat too much or too little, and in general become careless about his/her health.

As we very well know though, if we are sick, then there is little ability to get any work done – whether material or spiritual (including meditation progress or prowess).

That’s why Krishna makes it very clear in this verse, that extremes won’t do. The body is the tool and vehicle provided to us to achieve our spiritual objectives. The mind might like extremes, especially good ones, but the body thrives on moderation.

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RR

Given this is cricket and IPL season in India, one could be forgiven to think this post’s title is the name of one of the prominent teams.

But a new RR I came across.

Maybe an RisR in fact.

The first R for Rejection.

The second R for Redirection.

Because any time at all, when we feel like soemthing did not work out the way we expected, we must always remember that Rejection is nothing more than Redirection.

RR is my new mantra. Hard to follow, but worth trying for mental peace.

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Concluder

It was my good fortune to visit a devout family recently.

Everyone gathered around their altar for a beautiful aarti.

Wonderful bhajans were sung, bells were rung, and the essence of agarbatti filled the air.

Everyone was engrossed in the Lord, while the old grandfather in the house was lying on the couch in the next room, engrossed in a cricket match.

“Why would he not come here?”, I thought to myself. I quickly concluded in my mind: “He must be one of those staunch atheists. Completely against what the rest of the family believes in, preferring his favorite sports to anything remotely spiritual.”

Until, a few days later, I saw the old man again, this time in a wheelchair. He couldn’t even stand up on his own, let alone walk. No wonder he didn’t join the ritual. A fitting lesson for the concluder in me.

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Rich people

On a recent business trip, the cabbie was a chatty fellow.

Looking at where our hotel was (apparently in a posh locality, although the hotel itself wasn’t!), he said “Are you guys from the top of the food chain in your country?”

We tried to deflect, “No, no, no such thing, our travel agent just happened to find this hotel convenient for our meetings and such.”

To which he quickly replied, “Hey I have no problems with rich people, none of that inequality angle or the attitude or jealousy or anything. In fact I like rich people, because they’re the ones that keep my business running!”

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Aww-scarred

In an awards ceremony, the host made a joke about a man’s wife.

The man got up from the audience, walked to the stage, and slapped the host on his face.

The host was stunned, but carried on, as though nothing much had happened.

The man went back to his seat, and loudly reprimanded the host for talking about his wife.

Is it okay for people to make lewd jokes in public?

Is it okay for people to take matters into their own hands literally, with physical violence?

Is this a reflection of the times we live in?

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A life of minutes

Many ask why we need to read the same scriptural books again and again.

It’s the same messages only, said in myriad ways.

No anger, no jealously, no greed, no fear, no this no that.

Surely we don’t need to keep reading again and again?

I came across a boardgame called Othello.

Here’s what it said on the box, which is also very relevant for the spiritual repetition we just discussed above:

“It takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master!”

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Long short

One of the blue collar workers I know has an amazing vision. She’s from a really far away place, needing hours of public transport rides to get to the nearest city. And then hours of flying to the nearest metro.

But her vision is to bring her entire family to the metro. Pretty amazing. And what will she do after that? She will work odd jobs of course. Two jobs, maybe three a day. But that could be too much no?

Nope, she doesn’t even begin to understand the concept of a holiday. Her only thought is to make enough money to support her kids. “Who needs a holiday? If I take a holiday, I won’t get paid that day, and what will I do on a holiday anyway?” she asks innocently.

Folks like her are sorted in life. Karma yoga is all they know. No worrying about what new skill to pick up during the weekend, or which holiday jaunt to shuttle to and then put on insta, and so on. There is no day-to-day long-term vision leading to anxiety. There is only short term work associated with a single goal of providing for her loved ones.

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Machiavelli Neeti

You must have heard of Chanakya Neeti. It is extremely famous in India at least. Chanakya was easily the best kingmaker ever.

All of his laws, rules, suggestions, principles – call them what you will, have been codified into what is called Chanakya Neeti.

There are plenty of books available on the topic. His thought process is truly marvellous.

I happened to be in a restaurant recently that also had a small library. One of the books there was Chanakya Neeti.

I picked it up, but was distraught at the title. Okay not that upset or anything, but it was funny, bordering on silly. It said this bright and bold, up on the cover page itself. “The Machiavelli of India.” Wait, What?!

I quickly did a Google search. Just as expected, Machiavelli was born in the 1400s, while Chanakya was born in 375 BC!

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Negative to positive

Many people think that visualization is a farce. That positive reaffirmations do not work. That our minds are not really that powerful.

But just look on the flip side. If someone says something mean to us, we feel so angry. If we don’t clear an interview, we feel like the world has come to an end. That we are not even worth a job. If we have to present something in front of a group, we start feeling nervous, maybe the tummy goes for a toss too. These are all absolutely normal.

But these are all also linked to the mind only. The same mean comment, interview and presentation would mean nothing a few months or years down the line, even if they do not go in our favor. But today they do matter, and the mind getting so restless due to the uncertainty can itself cause bad results.

If this is the case for negative outcomes, why can’t the reverse be true for positive outcomes?

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With much aplumb

The drain in the washroom where we were temporarily residing recently had got clogged. Pretty common occurrence, especially if some hair or other small item goes and gets stuck. It could also be because of dirt (aka muck) getting accumulated over time.

The easy part is to just call the plumber.

What a tough job. The guy came in a few minutes. And where’s we’d otherwise squeam or cringe before even going near the drain, this chap was cool as a cucumber.

He wasn’t even wearing any gloves. He just unscrewed the perforated drain cover and stuck his hand inside, to check what the problem was. Of course his hand got dirty, and it wasn’t even dirt that he caused! But a quick check, and he smiled, “I found the cause of the problem, it’s some blockage outside.”

And bounced off to the other side of the building, ladder in tow, in order to ‘reach’ the area of the problem. 10 minutes later, all was fine and dandy. Never seen a guy stick his hand into a drain and still maintain a smile. I couldn’t do it, surely. My work is infinitely better, yet I find ways to be unhappy šŸ¤·

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Temple twitter

Before the pandemic and the lockdowns and all that, going to a temple would be a normal affair. Either once a week, or a fortnight or a month, or whenever.

Stand in serpentine queues for hours, get a darshan for a couple of seconds, and then get jostled away by the guards.

My Guru used to suggest (and still does!) praying to Lord Siddhivinayak, chief of the problem solvers and obstacle crushers.

While I’ve been to Siddhivinayak temple many times, I hardly had the time to note the specifics.

But that’s all changed now. Technology has brought Siddhivinayak home, into our hands through our screens.

Check out his outstandingly beautiful Twitter page right here. Available 24×7, and in unbelievable high-res beauty. Similar pages exist for many/most temples now. What more could any devotee ask for?

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Changeless

Change is the only constant. We’ve heard this ad infinitum. Be ready for change. Be prepared for change. Be adaptable.

Yes, it’s all true, and necessary.

And yet, when Jeff Bezos was asked many years ago, “What do you think will change 10 years from now?”, he coolly flipped the question.

“Let me tell you what won’t change 10 years from now. That customers will want discounts. And that they will want fast delivery.”

That’s pretty much what has happened now, many many years later.

Focusing on what won’t change is a stellar strategy. Spirituality says the same thing. There is only one thing that is truly changeless. Nothing else needs any attention.

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True Knowledge

We’ve all heard of the story of the dead machine right? One fellow had his machine messed up and just could not manage to fix it. He tried all sorts of things from all sorts of manuals, but no luck. Finally he called the mechanic, who took a look at the machine, fished out his pencil, and then tapped at one corner. The machine immediately sprung to life. So the owner asked for the bill, and he was told 10,000$! Wow, so much for just a tap? “Yes yes”, the mechanic said, “because it’s not the tapping that matters, but knowing where exactly to tap!”

I was reminded of this story on a recent trip to a really really cold place. The heater in the hotel room wasn’t working. After calling up the help desk several times, and them sending housekeeping to replace multiple heaters, nothing was doing the trick. There were no other rooms to move out to because the hotel was full. At dinner, it so happened that I bumped into the owner of the hotel. He enquired if my stay was alright, and I said of course all was good, and also brought up this point on the heaters. He immediately said, “Don’t worry, the room that you are in has electric blankets under the beds. Let me send my person to show you how.” And that’s what he did. It was hidden under the covers, and no one else in the housekeeping team seemed to know about it. A potentially very cold experience turned into a warm one!

In the materialistic world we live in, knowledge is key. In the spiritual world too, only a Guru who has truly experienced the Knowledge, really knows how to take us out of our cycle of births and deaths.

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Advaitic duality

The concept of Advaita or non-duality is always confusing.

So a man once asked Adi Shankaracharya himself, the foremost proponent of the field. “You say we are all the same deep within, the same Brahman. Then why are we not all equal? We all have the same blood flowing through our bodies do we not?”

To which Adi Shankara replied that advaita needed to be practiced at the level of one’s attitude and thoughts.

The man wasn’t convinced, and proceeded to argue further.

Adi Shankara replied, “Your mother, sister, mother-in-law, daughter – they are all women aren’t they? Yet, can you treat your mother as your wife, and your wife as your daughter, your daughter as your mother?”

The man understood.

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Showerma – part 2 of 2

A good friend narrated this incident to me.

He had travelled for an educational workshop to some remote villages in the northern most tip of the country.

Suffice it to say, that it got very very cold there.

Most folks didn’t take bath there for days, he told me.

But he came across one child, enjoying his bath, out in the open, wearing just a small half-pant, and singing bhajans of the Lord.

My friend asked him how he could be so happy when the climate and the water are so cold.

The child’s reply? “Arre sir, kam se kam, yahaan paani toh hai na!” (at the very least, water is available here!)

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