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Month: May 2022

How much to donate?

Took a rickshaw ride to the metro station today. Turned out to be a very expensive one. Instead of paying x, I paid 10x.

Why? Because the rickshaw driver got a 10-second call in between, told me he just got news that his wife delivered twins, and congratulated himself. He then said all was good till 5 days ago when his father passed away. And that his wife was in ICU and that he had no money to buy her medicines. He wiped a (possibly) non-existent tear from his left eye too, whilst slapping his forehead a few times.

I gave him a little cash, and he asked for more because “medicines are expensive”. I told him that’s all I had, and he motioned to the QR code stuck on his vehicle and said I could transfer the money to him. To which I reminded him that the meter showed x, and that I’d just paid him 10x.

Even 10x really wasn’t a very big number – hardly anything. Maybe I should have been more generous – because what if he was being genuine? But some of this also seemed like it was pre-rehearsed. Was he lying? Was this a scam? I have no clue. No way of finding out.

My Guru says a) donate 10% of your post-tax income, and b) to make said donation only to the cause he has selected (education for the underprivileged). Why ‘only‘? Because he has already done the research, and knows the practical difficulties of trying to help everyone and supporting every cause. While ad-hoc folks asking for money like the example today is not uncommon in India, following principles ‘a’ and ‘b’ is what gives me peace of mind.

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Shifting gears

As someone who likes to drive, I’ve always been fascinated by car gears. Some have 4, some 5, some even 6. And there are those that have Reverse gears on the top left, and some on the bottom right. You know what I mean.

But I saw this crazy video recently of a long-haul truck, with wait for it, 18 gears! Eighteen! That is just insane.

But the number 18 is interesting. It is also the number of chapters in the Gita.

And regardless of the vehicle, just like we shift gears one to the next, once the destination has been reached, there is no alternative but to bring it to neutral.

Just as in the Gita, we can go from one chapter to the next and back, but ultimately, we’ve to reach nothing but the neutral state. One of permanent stability and everlasting peace.

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Inflation

There’s inflation everywhere now.

The whole world is talking about it, and the whole world is reeling from it as well.

Many shelves are empty, especially electronics with semi-conductor chips in them.

In developed countries, wage inflation is so rampant, that 5 star hotels have stopped room service, and many restaurants and bars have been clubbed together.

Inflation is pinching everyone.

But there’s one type of inflation that pinches the most.

And this is called the inflated ego. No explanation necessary 😄

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Scare tactics

My Guru has this very funny joke.

He says that if you don’t like someone for whatever reason, and want to get rid of them, then what is a foolproof way?

  1. just invite that person home for a satsang, and give them a copy of some scriptural book.

    It is quite likely that that person will never come back again.

    And if they do…
  2. Pick up another copy of the same scripture you gave them, and ask them if they read chapter 5 or 6 or whichever.

    That’s a foolproof way right there – so much fun even in spirituality!

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Ableknowledge

How much do we really know?

We think we know a lot. Sometimes we feel like we know everything. And that others around us know very little. Especially if there is a new joinee on the team.

It used to boggle my mind, that for the IIT JEE, probably the most competitive entrance exam in the world, the top scorer would often not score even 50%!

It still boggles my mind.

In chapter 7, verse 1 of the Gita though, the Lord says he will give Arjuna the complete knowledge. There will be no doubts. He just needs to set his ego aside.

Isn’t this awesome?

The highest knowledge is that, in which there remains no curiosity, which is not followed by any logic and which leaves no room for imagination.

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Give or take

There’s this YouTube video with several million likes.

Its premise is this. The protagonist is out on the street, asking for a few dollars from passersby.

Most avoid him like the plague. Not surprising.

But the catch? He gives 100x back to anyone who gives him any money.

One guy gives a dollar, and gets back 100$. A lady gives 10$ and gets back a thousand!

People are so damn happy when they get the money, totally unexpected.

But there’s just one lady at the end of the video, who not just gives the protagonist some money, but also refuses to take the 100x. “Pay it forward, to someone who needs it more”, she says.

Would have been so good to have more like her, but clearly such people are rare. There are more people that would take a 100x from someone they don’t know. But lesser than those who would not stop to help in the first place 🤷

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Stone throw

We know this story, but it is worth recollecting again.

There was a wise woman traveling in the mountains. She found a precious stone. The following day she met another traveller who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveller saw the precious stone at that time, and asked the lady for it.

She handed the precious stone over with zero hesitation. The traveller left, happy like never before. He thought he was now set for life.

But he came back shortly thereafter, to return the stone to the wise lady.

Why? Because he told her he wanted something even more precious than the precious stone. What could that be?

Only the ability and attitude to be able to give away something so precious in the first place.

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Prayers don’t work – part 2 of 2

Okay, time for the big reveal!

What 5.14 is saying, is that the Lord doesn’t interfere in our karmic world, or our actions and reactions. However, this “Lord”, is nirguna (no gunas, i.e. no qualities), the formless nameless substratum of all existence, aka Brahman, Paramatman etc.

The prayers we offer however, are not to this nirguna Lord, but to the so-called ‘lower’ deities. These deities like Hanuman or Ganesha or Shiva and so on are all part of the same formless “Lord”, but they had also taken up specific forms for specific purposes in this world. It is believed they still exist, albeit in an astral body / energy form, and that is why we pray to these deities for various reasons. Like to Ganesha to get rid of obstacles, to Hanuman for victory and fearlessness and so on.

There are also various rules that have been codified. Such as if there is a 5-syllable mantra like Na-mah-shi-vaa-yah, and it is chanted 5-lakh times with faith and devotion, then the deity will manifest. These rules are all created by the Original Creator aka the nirguna Lord, but he does not participate in them. Neither are we praying to him, because he can’t be encapsulated, not even in words!

This is why my Guru’s trick-question is such an outstanding one.

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Prayers don’t work – part 1 of 2

In verse 5.14 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that the Lord does not interfere in the karma of anyone. That nature alone functions.

Many years ago, my Guru threw this to me as a brainteaser. He asked, “When the Lord is so clear that there is zero interference, and that we each sow what we reap, then why do we pray?”

The answers to this confounding question often go something like, “We pray so that we ask for more faith, more strength, more spiritual awakening etc. etc.”, primarily in an attempt to tie it away from material matters.

However, even these don’t answer it fully, because the Lord says he doesn’t interfere at all, no matter whether for infusing money into our pockets or more faith in our hearts!

What could the answer be then? Revealed tomorrow, after you’ve had the chance to give it some more thought 🙂

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Desert rose

“Oh desert rose eh ley hi ey ley…” crooned the legendary singer Sting many years ago.

I have never figured out the words after ‘rose’, but that’s digressing from the point.

No one likes deserts no? Not desserts, which are universally loved (except by the 22 year old trying desperately to get his abs to show!), but the dry arid landscapes that parch your throat just by thinking about them.

A dry barren dune-filled land is always considered infertile and useless. “What will anyone do with such a place?” is the first thing that comes to mind.

But even weaknesses can be turned into strengths. That’s my learning. We know this, but still get dejected in the face of adversity. Here’s a nice line I saw about the Indian state of Rajasthan, as part of a tourism advertisement.

“A pioneer in the green revolution (to generate solar energy) in India with 300-330 sunny days a year, which is comparable to the deserts of California and Nevada!”

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Stomach prayers

It’s a common sight at the Big Fat Indian Weddings.

There’s a lot of food, like truckloads of it. And often spread across 4 or 5 days.

After a recent wedding, many people fell ill, suffering from food poisoning and sore throat and what not.

The immediate thought is to pray to God for these people, and hope that they will not suffer too much.

The next thought though is, why to bring God and trouble him with these petty things? Aren’t we mature enough to know what to eat, when to stop eating, what constitutes ‘moderation’?

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Ageless

If you are middle aged and have many years of experience, would you work for a teenager? Probably not, right? Huge career risk perhaps, and their lack of experience means you may not learn much. Besides, working for someone that much younger than you could be a bit weird.

That thinking is passé now.

No I’m not saying this frivolously.

I recently discovered that one of the hyperlocal apps that I use is a billion dollar company run by two teenagers!

Of course no one can see the future and how risky it can be. But surely in this day and age, age is no bar. Execution of an idea (perseverance, patience) trumps everything else. Good advice for spirituality as well.

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Beyond home and work – part 8 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

How has Satsang helped me?

It has brought discipline to my life.

Satsang has made me less concerned about money – not that money doesn’t matter, but my happiness doesn’t revolve around it as much.

Satsang has given me more peace, and the ability to step back and look at situations more holistically, and not being sad immediately or for too long if something doesn’t happen the way I expect it to.

Satsang has made me a part of larger community – there are so many close friends here in satsang, it is more like a huge extended family.

Very importantly, satsang has brought a noble / everlasting mission and direction to life, beyond just the mundane home and work.

Last but not least, through the Guru’s grace and blessings, satsang brings miracles not just sporadically but daily.

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Beyond home and work – part 7 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

And satsang isn’t just about singing bhajans, or chanting mantras or some other boring sounding stuff.

Then what does satsang help us give up?

Satsang helps us give up our anxiety, our stress, our jealousy, our anger, our greed, our fear.

Satsang helps us do our dharma.

How?

Most people say dharma is religion. No dharma is not religion. Dharma is really the art of balance.

How to balance all the taking with the giving, that is dharma. and that is why satsang helps us in our dharma.

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 6 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

Imagine you had to setup a justice system, your own justice system. You are the Chief Judge. That’s right. You decide the law. You are the law! Would you favour the ones who are only taking-taking-taking? Probably not, right?

How does this get balanced out? Because at home we are taking-taking-taking, at work also taking-taking-taking – money, bonus, position etc. Then when to give?

That’s exactly what satsang can help with. – to kickstart our giving process, and also the giving-up process. To give-up what? Your money? No, SS doesn’t need your hard-earned money.

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 5 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

So here is something for each one of us to think about deeply.

Everything we each have succeeded in today, can we really say with 100% confidence that it is all solely because of us? The marks we got in school? Yes we studied of course, but teachers helped, parents helped, someone wrote a question paper, someone wrote a book, someone invented or discovered something that could be written about in the first place – and on and on!

Same for the bonuses and promotions we got at work, somebody trained us, someone recognized us, someone provided us with a job to be, someone invented a computer decades ago, without which much of our work wouldn’t even get done!

It’s not that we should not get credit for our actions, but think about it, and we’ve really just been taking-taking-taking from day 1.

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 4 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

One-and-a-half hours later, there was still no respite, and people started getting angry and stressed. Some were shouting, others were fighting, some started live-tweeting their frustration, babies were crying – it was just total and complete chaos.

And it was immediately evident, that even outside of home and work, stress and anger can cause the entire day to become unproductive.

Because yes this got sorted and people checked-in and all. But even after the flight was over and we landed at the destination, there were some people arguing with each other about having cut in front of them into the line in the morning and how they have no manners and such!

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 3 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

It might seem that satsang and its benefits are important in two large parts of our lives, home and office.

This is true of course, but if you draw a Venn diagram, you’ll have one circle with Work, another circle with Home, and the part where both intersect (that post-2020 is called work-from-home!).

But even outside of that, there is life and so much stress and anxiety, and really there is no aspect of life that satsang cannot touch and transform.

I recently had to take an early morning flight. As early as 3 am, there were serpentine queues, with people of all ages waiting to check-in. There were literally 100s of passengers, and just two open check-in counters. Crazy isn’t it?

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 2 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

For many of us, the question will be, “Really? Is there even anything outside of work and home?” “With weekdays and weekends both just flying past in a complete blur?”

But there still are things that frequently upset us – like:

  • struggling with our workout schedules,
  • not being able to take vacations, or even worse
  • taking vacations but mentally still being unable to relax;
  • or we may have doubts on what the right decision to make is, given a certain set of circumstances;
  • or there may be an inability to maintain true friendships – we may be online all the time on social media, and yet feel extremely lonely and disconnected,

and on and on and on….

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 1 of 8

Recently, I was given the opportunity to address a youth satsang session on the topic “Satsang beyond home and work”. Here is the gist of the contents, split over a few parts, just to make it easy to consume.

“You remember those childhood days where we used to play some sport with a bat and a ball? And there’d be 3 kids, one would own the bat, the second would own the ball, and this third kid would own neither and so he only gets to be the fielder!?

Well I’m the fielder today, because after two very powerful talks on satsang @ home and satsang @ the office, I’ve got this task to field every other life situation that falls neither under the office or under the home.

For many of us, the question will be, “Really? Is there even anything outside of work and home?”

Continued tomorrow…

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