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Month: July 2022

Kadanaaynu pannaadhey!

This was the example a very senior satsangi gave recently in a satsang. And it was very funny!

This is a Tamil phrase which means “don’t do your work as though you are paying back some loans/dues”.

It’s a common saying down South, and is often expressed by irate parents who see their kids going about their work or studies in a completely uninterested fashion.

This phrase was mentioned yesterday when the speaker was asked about how we should be going about our work.

“With full dhriti and utsaaha, or perseverance or excitement, no matter how boring the work.”

Doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look out for better opportunities, but whatever we are doing currently, that needs to be done with the best intentions and mindset, not as though we were forcefully and woefully repaying a debt (even if in reality, some EMIs are to be paid each month ?).

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While on a road trip recently, the group of us was commenting as to how nice the roads were. Very well maintained, and no potholes and rough surfaces, which meant the ride was super smooth.

As we rode on, a large sign on the highway caught my eye. It said, “Every day is Safety Day. This one gets no special day, or any holidays!”

Not only was it a critical message for drivers, but replace the word Safety with Spirituality, and it’d quickly be immediately relevant to each one of us as spiritual aspirants.

Spirituality isn’t about going to satsang on one given day, or attending a sermon one-off, or thinking about the Lord when we want something or meditating just because we want to reduce our stress levels. Rather, spirituality is a way of life. It has no special days, or any holidays!

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Thanks Please

These are two words of great politeness and courtesy. We are always taught to say thank you and please right from childhood. This is good manners, nay, great manners.

But the two words could not be further apart in their import!

Please is for what is to come.

Thanks is for what came already.

We always want more and more, and hence we probably use please far far far more than we do thanks.

However this usage probably only keeps us unhappy, even if politely so. Because no matter how much we get, the – please I want more – will only grow.

But imagine starting each day, each hour, each minute, each second – with deep rooted thanks. A genuine gratitude for everything that we have already got. Not only is it polite, but it also keeps us mentally happy. Instead of looking for more, we realize we already have more and more.

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The real shark

On a recent episode of Shark Tank, a lady who was pitching spoke about how her father never believed she could/would ever be successful. The man wanted a son, but got her instead, and she broke down about how this would always scare her.

But she never gave up, always chasing her dreams, and that brought her to the sharky stage that day.

Robert, one of the sharks, who was already “out”, came back “in” at that point, and spoke of his own learnings. How he was always told throughout his childhood by everyone around him that he would never ever be successful.

Maybe this is quite a common experience. But what he said after that was key.

He said that after many years, he realized that the problem was not all those naysayers at all, but he himself. All his success came as soon as he yanked himself and his own negative thoughts that were standing in the path of his future.

Good lesson for any one of us that might have some negative thoughts from time to time!

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Temple duties – part 2 of 2

In several of the larger more famous temples in India, there are long serpentine queues, often requiring many hours of waiting and jostling to reach the sanctum sanctorum. But almost paradoxically, the time allowed to be spent at the feet of the deity is usually between 3 and 5 seconds. Hardly worth the effort, one would think.

And yet, people do it year after year, religiously, maybe even mindlessly? Surely this must be more than just blind faith. If things do not work out the way you wished for, would you come back the following year?

Much of this has become commercial and business driven. Playing on people’s faiths is easy. Nobody wants to anger a God. But the question is this.

While it is good to go to the large temples, are we regularly visiting the temple down our home street or town? If the Lord is everywhere, are we seeing Him in our parents? Do we treat those around us (who are also His Creation) with respect and love? If we are doing these things, then visiting large temples once a year or whenever is probably not needed? And if we are not doing these basic things also, then what is the point of visiting such large shrines of love and devotion?

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Temple duties – part 1 of 2

On a recent temple-hopping trip, there were some interesting experiences.

1. The priest at the inner sanctum sactorum of a large renknowned temple spoke very sweetly as we approached the deity. He gave us a 2 minute “extra” darshan, asked me to stand on the side, and then said in no uncertain words “take out your wallet and give me the big notes”. Despite literally being at the feet of the Lord, how much time did I get to really think about Him, versus trying to assess the situation after recovering from initial shock?

2. The priest at a small relatively unknown temple, explained the full history-geography of that deity – all without asking, gave extra blessings, and took no money.

3. After we paid for a special darshan queue at a famous temple, we were asked to pay the same amount again at the end, off-the-record, just in order to receive a few flowers and one coconut.

How to think about these things? Does money come in the way of spirituality? Is God really asking for cash from his devotees? Should we stop going to temples altogether?

Thoughts tomorrow!

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This is how you conquer fear

Fear is a struggle for most people. As one quote says, you don’t need to put a gun to a person’s head to make him afraid. You just need to ask him to go on stage to speak in public.

Of course, fear has more facets than just to do with public speaking. Even in day to day work, when faced with something unfamiliar, new, uncomfortable and uncertain, there is often a feeling of dread. The mouth dries up, the stomach ties up, and the brain fries up. This leads to anxiety, and eventual (or immediate) underperformance. What to do?

A common solution would be to “stay calm” or “try to calm yourself down” or “take a few deep breaths buddy”. This is good advice in general, except that when fear has already struck and when your adrenaline is pumping and heart rate is already high, trying to calm yourself down hardly works.

According to some research, we need to transform our mindset at the time into that of excitement. Trying to calm down a body engulfed by fear is like yanking the hand brake when the car is hurtling forward at 100 kmph. But excitement? “Yes I’m unsure of how this will work out but boy am I so excited to try out this new job!”

This is really just a shift in mindset, but do try it out the next time you face any sort of fear. Try telling your mind that you are so excited by this opportunity, and watch in amazement as the fear melts away, replaced by enthusiasm and eagerness!

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When I was a child, there used to be many Gita chanting competitions. These still happen today as well, but I’m an uncle now ?.

These contests were a struggle, given my memory power and recitation prowess has been weak at best. Other kids would memorize 18 chapters and 700 shlokas and produce them at will, and I used to watch on, stunned.

Years later when I heard my Guru speak, I realized he changed the game completely. He never once asked his satsangis to memorize shlokas or be able to chant them. Never mind the fact that he himself knew the Gita backwards and forwards, with (even today) the ability to pluck any shloka out of thin air, recite it and proceed to give a 2 hour talk on it.

But to his spiritual seekers? His sole focus has been on application of the messages of these shlokas in daily life. It might seem like this is easier than memorizing and chanting, but do try it out and see if that is the case!

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Greenest grass

On a recent rural trip, I couldn’t help but marvel at some homes on the way. Yes they were rudimentary, but also so peaceful. There were cattle grazing, elders lounging around in the sun, kids playing by a small brook, and lush pristine green as far as the eye could see.

The immediate thought that comes to city dwellers in such circumstances is, “What am I slogging for really every single day in the concrete jungle I’m living in? All the money in the world cannot buy such experiences in nature and simplicity. Wish I could live here instead.”

Mine was a day trip, and I had to head back to base in the evening. This meant I passed by the same rural homes, although this time after sundown.

It was pitch dark. A few earthen lamps lit the patios. But enough to warn of any wild animals, especially snakes in the grass, or other creatures lurking in the shadows? Not a chance. Men and women walking along the sides of the main roads could only be seen if lit by the high-beam flashlights of passing vehicles. God forbid if someone was driving with low or no lights. All the dazzling serenity and beauty of the place in the morning, was replaced by an eerie silence instead.

Surely these were the good old days, where waking up with sunrise and winding down by sunset were the order of the day. But can we follow this in our city lifestyles? Will that keep us happy, or is this just greener grass?

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Good to liberate

We should all do good only all the time. Isn’t it?

Yes of course we should, absolutely, what stupid questions I ask sometimes!

But will this doing good always, lead us to moksha or liberation?

Not at all.

Really! But why?

My Guru explains in his Amazing Simple Gita thus:

“Even a million good actions cannot lead one to liberation. Knowledge of Reality, that you are Brahman, and your world is false, is a must. Ignorance of Reality is the cause of the existence of the World.”

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Give up yet never give up

There is a lot the Gita asks us to give up. Fruits of our actions. Desires. Extremes. Attachments. And so on.

But there is also something that Krishna says (and my Guru strongly advocates) we should never give up. This comes up in chapter 18 verse 5.

What is this? It is SAC.

SAC? Yes, Sacrifice, Austerity and Charity.

Sacrifice is doing everything for the benefit of others. Austerity is living with simplicity and minimalism. Charity is providing for others who cannot provide for themselves.

Why do SAC? My Guru says it is to purify our minds. How so? By shifting our focus from ourselves always (ego) to those around us. And we know how the pinnacle of spirituality is achieved by giving up the ego. Such a beautiful connect, don’t you think?

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Food over medicines

There was a bit of a medical emergency recently. Not a big scare or anything. But some medicines were needed, and pronto.

There’s so many “10-minute delivery” apps nowadays, that any one of them should have done the trick.

Except that at 4 am, none of them deliver medicines even in 3 hours, let alone 10 minutes.

That is understandable of course. Can’t expect the world to be awake in the wee hours of the morning to make medical deliveries.

Until you open the food apps that is, and realize that you can order burgers and fries and high-sugar fizzy drinks at 4 am for immediate delivery, but not critical medicines.

We collectively as a society seem to have our priorities clear ?

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Is good always good?

We often think that only good needs to happen to us, all the time.

Is that really a good thing though?

Think of a turkey. Not the country, but the bird.

Every day it gets fed lovely food. The tastiest choicest of grains. And it’s loving it.

The turkey thinks that it has arrived in life and achieved it all.

The more it eats, the fatter it gets.

All is good, right?

Then comes Thanksgiving…

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What if I can’t remember the Lord always?

This is a common question every spiritual aspirant gets at some point. Yes, we need to remember the Lord all the time. But when I’m speaking to my friends, browsing Instagram or Facebook, doing my office work, having dinner with family at a restaurant on Friday night, taking the kids to the park, meeting other important deadlines and so on, it’s practically not possible to constantly keep the chanting of the Lord’s name going on in the background. Isn’t it?

So what to do?

Lord Krishna has already addressed this in chapter 12 of the Gita verses 9 to 12. What does he say?

My Guru explains beautifully in his Amazing Simple Gita thus. “Fix the mind and intellect on Him. That’s the goal. Can’t do it? Okay, try next. Practice meditation. Keep practicing. Can’t do this also? No problem, try next. Be intent on working for Him, and you shall attain Perfection. Still difficult? Relinquish fruits of actions in whatever you do, and peace immediately follows.”

The best takeaway from the Gita ever, don’t you agree?

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Police dharma

The French word for police is gendarme. No I don’t speak French, but I was looking it up recently. Why?

Because I came across the word for police in a few other languages. “Jandarma”

Jan Dharma?

In Sanskrit, that would be amazing – what does the police do? Their dharma is towards the people. Pretty awesome!

But of course that wouldn’t necessarily be where the word came from. The French gendarme came from gens d’ arms, meaning the men who possessed arms (like guns etc.) and are hence the police. But nice wishful thinking for sure with the Sanskrit connection!

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The art of 3s – part 3 of 3 (duh!)

What are the reasons for Curry’s ridiculous success? He himself highlights two of them.

1. Imagination, and 2. Repetition.

Imagination? What’s that? No different from Creative Visualization that my Guru strongly endorses. Don’t just dream of the future you want, but visualize it, strongly, as if it has already happened. And add smells and taste and flavour to it. It will come true, if you also follow #2, Repetition, which is the same as Practice.

As Curry notes, every dream has to be “built upon the foundation of hard work”. Is he taking it easy, now that he has achieved the pinnacle of success? Quite the opposite – because he says he practices today more than ever before in his life! And it’s those days where he doesn’t feel like going for practice, but still shows up – that make all the difference.

Is it always so good for him? Does every aim-and-shoot always result in a perfect 3 pointer? Far from it. But he focuses on his wins, and looks to better each weak shot, forgetting the associated negative emotion. He calls it “Intentionality of Amnesia” ?

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The art of 3s – part 2 of 3 (duh!)

Steph Curry is just 34 years old, but already holds the record for the maximum 3 pointers ever scored (>3000) across all the seasons he has played. He crossed other stalwarts like Reggie Miller and Ray Allen who held these records previously.

The interview I wrote about yesterday? It was conducted by Miller himself – after Curry overtook him!

What does that teach us? That nothing is permanent, and today’s greatness can easily be outdone tomorrow.

Will it be easy? Absolutely not. In fact, for any of today’s greats to best Curry, it is estimated that they would need to score an average of 250 three-pointers – for each of the next 15 seasons! Most of them will neither achieve this average, nor even play that long. Besides, Curry’s own score count is likely to increase further during this period!

So, how does Curry’s basketball magic happen? Super lessons for us (mainly me) in tomorrow’s concluding post!

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The art of 3s – part 1 of 3 (duh!)

Three is a very important number in spirituality. Many mantras are chanted in 3s or multiples thereof. Even 108, which comprises 1 mala, is divisible by 3. Then there’s the 3 worlds – bhur, bhuvah, svah. And the 3 gunas – sattva, rajas, tamas, and so on.

But this post is not about the spiritual 3s. Rather this is about – wait for it – basketball!

Scoring a 3-pointer in basketball is not easy. Even if there are no opponents, it is hard enough – having to stand well outside the D, and aim and shoot a ball through a tiny basket (barely bigger than the ball itself) perched 10 feet high.

But there is one man called Stephen Curry who plays in the NBA, who’s made a career out of this. He’s scored 400 3-pointers in a single season – a record that no other professional player has even come close to.

I don’t follow basketball as such, but I recently watched an interview with Steph Curry titled “The Art of 3s”, and came across some brilliant takeaways that can be used in our daily lives. Continued tomorrow!

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One Love

Back in the noughties (only 20 years ago!), the boy band Blue crooned, “One Love is all we need”, and that song became a massive hit.

While that song was about something else too, it is indeed One Love that is the common denominator across all religions.

People fight today in the name of religion, declaring that their own path is Supreme, in isolation, and to the exclusion of every other faith.

But no God ever said this. Only man did.

And humans do this why? Because of their ego.

It’s not about the Lord or the religion anymore, but about “their” God and “their” religion.

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Road to rationality

There are plenty of miracles that happen in our lives, even if we do not necessarily look at it that way. That we are even alive, on the only blue planet in the universe, spinning at 36 km/s, and yet not leaving anyone dizzy – how did the Creator even come up with all this?

Despite several inexplicables (such as those who pass away in one half of the year will only reach heaven while the others will go to hell) in The Gita chapter 8 verses 26 and 27, my Guru has a brilliant and practical suggestion / solution.

1) One path is that if we are already endowed with strong faith, then there is no problem. We fully side with and believe in what our scriptures tell us, and follow accordingly.

2) The other road is one where some of us might question the logic and rationality of such ‘miracles’ and other spiritual setups. To which Guruji’s point is, “Great, this scepticism is good. Anyway this is all a play of maya only. So the faster one transcends this body-mind complex by working on their spiritual sadhanas, the better it is, because one can then sidestep the need to have blind faith in something that the intellect is unable to grasp.”

Which road would you choose?

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So bored with…

One of the challenges with spirituality? It appears to make life, and living itself, quite boring.

Lord Krishna says the world is dukhaalayam (sorrow-filled) and ashashwatam (fleeting), and also to give up desires and attachments and what not.

So a new spiritual seeker could find all this very boring.

But that is not the intention at all. The only reason for all these mentions, is to be objective and realistic in the way we live our lives.

It is similar to a newly married couple. The first year pre and post marriage are the best. Why? Because the couple can only see the best in each other. Which is a great way to live, but is eventually replaced with reality. Smart parents, will advise their kids accordingly, not to deter them from marriage, but to prepare them for it. And so it is, with life, and spirituality.

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The meaning of Guru’s grace – part 2 of 2

The next line?

Yaha shruti ved kehta, Guru bina gyaan kaisa?

Meaning: our scriptures ask how we can get True Knowledge if there is no Guru

Gyaan bina mukti kaise, aave teri dhyaan mein

Meaning: without That Knowledge, how will you even begin to comprehend liberation?

Krodh kapat tyaag kijiye, sadguru ki seva kijiye

Meaning: give up anger and deceit and focus on serving the Guru

Sadguru ki sharan lijiye, khel yeh maidan mein

Meaning: surrender to your Guru, and continue playing in this game called life.

To me, this bhajan, reflecting the beautiful Guru-shishya relationship is what is true Grace. Are we worthy of it?

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The meaning of Guru’s grace – part 1 of 2

Can’t explain it better than my favorite Guru bhajan, which happens to be in simple Hindi.

Guru brahma roop jaano, shiv ka swaroop maano

Meaning: The Guru is no different from Lord Shiva Himself

Paapse bachaave Guru, Gnaanko sikhaave Guru

Meaning: The Guru is the one who saves us from sins, while also bestowing upon us the True Knowledge (of the Self)

Brahmase milave Guru, Turiya padh gyaan mein

Meaning: The Guru shows us Brahman through experience via the meditative Turiya state

The rest of this brilliant, enchanting yet simple bhajan will be continued tomorrow!

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Please select justification

What’s good and what’s not? Can a bad thing also be a good thing?

My work recently required me to send a bunch of emails. All similar emails, similar content, but with changing only the names, addressing each recipient individually.

These kinds of one-off tasks can get boring and repetitive (because they are!), but sometimes just need to be done.

Each time I would hit the “Send Email” button, a pop-up would show up: “Please select justification for sending this email outside the office domain”, and I’d have to select “Official Purpose” and that would be it. But if I had to do this for each time I had to send those 50-60 emails, it was becoming irritating.

Until, after about the 20th email, in a hurry, I forgot to change the name of the recipient, and hit send. Oops! I realized my mistake in that split second itself, and my heart jumped into my mouth. Luckily, there was a pop-up “Please select justification…”

Phew. Saved by that same pesky pop-up! Again, what’s good and what’s not? Can a bad thing also be a good thing?

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Don’t worry be happy!

This title is the crux of spirituality. Really.

All is well. And all will be well. Whether something is good or bad is decided by the mind. Our minds are very poor predictors of what is to come – and that is why we can never stay happy, even if we achieve exactly or more than what we want.

When we let every minor or major problem in our lives derail our happiness, we get more and more irritated, angry, frustrated, jealous, disappointed… which then leads to further worry.

Why do we worry? Because, my Guru says, we are living in the past or the future, not in the present moment. What is the fix? To simply accept things the way they are, to enjoy the moment, and to not worry about what was or will be. Easier said than done?

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Here’s the shortcut

The shortcut is that there is only a longcut.

We all want to evolve spiritually, and evolve fast.

We want to quickly conquer the vices, never get angry, never be greedy or jealous, and never cower in fear.

But there are no quick fixes. Only preparatory fixes. The prep for a war cannot start one day before the war. It’s a continuous process, requiring years and years of prep. Many army / navy / airforce people might prep for decades (and even retire!) without so much as entering a real battlefield. Then why prep? Because that’s the only way to be ready, because we can never predict when the war will begin. Just like in our lives too – we need to be ready in advance. That’s why our scriptures focus so much on satsang and sadhana – so that when a problem strikes, we are ready!

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Whose problems?

Everyone’s got problems. Some are big, some are small. But no, rarely would anyone consider their own problems as small.

My Guru used to say that if a lot of people are complaining about their problems, they should all be brought together. Like at a dining table, and then made to discuss their problems, one by one. Then at the end of the discussion, the choice should be given to each one to exchange their problems with others.

Would anyone be ready to exchange? Absolutely not! While their own problems are bad, the other person’s problems are even worse, so we are better off with our own! So what is the takeaway? Quit cribbing, and be happy with what we’ve got.

The corollary? As the saying goes, “Don’t tell people your problems. Eighty percent don’t care and the other twenty percent are glad you have them.”

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Miraculous – part 2/2

Surely the greatest thinkers ever, the rishis who had communion with God Himself, they would immediately realize that the planets are too far to make an impact on humans? And yet they persisted. Writing treatise after treatise on astrology. Not just astrology, but also palmistry, and yoga, and ayurveda, and so many other sciences.

It’s alright if it doesn’t appear to make sense or seems illogical. But we should come to this conclusion after spending enough time studying these subjects, should we not?

In my personal experience, while I started as a sceptic, the more I read and learned about these fields, the more I realized these teachers-of-yore were onto something. If anything, my initial scepticism helped build even stronger faith later on. Eventually, it has led to acceptance, that 1+1 is not always 2, and that there are many things I will never fully understand.

Here are some interesting books in no particular order that help satiate a bit of curiosity, while also opening our eyes to newer possibilities. 1) The Aghora series, by Dr. Robert Svoboda, 2) Demystifying Reincarnation by Chaitanya Charan and 3) The Autobiography of a Yogi.

Do let me know what you felt after reading some of these!

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Miraculous – part 1/2

In chapter 8 of the Gita, Lord Krishna mentions the existence of seven hells and seven heavens. Really? What is this? Coming from a logical and scientific background, do such things even make sense?

One satsangi said this topic was a complete ‘bouncer’ for him, and why not!

While some of these things may sound fantastic, and I have no way of either proving or disproving them, my preference has just been to keep an open mind. Nobody really understands everything, and to pooh-pooh something just because I don’t understand it doesn’t seem like the right approach to me.

Take vedic astrology for instance. The most common argument against it is that, “Oh how can some planet situated so many light years away have an impact on me?”. My counter to that is, for the rishis and munis that discovered such sciences many thousands of years ago and had such insanely high acumen that they uncovered many secrets of human life – would these same brilliant sages have just decided to ignore the most obvious “planets are too far away from earth” observation?

Concluded tomorrow!

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Should you bribe?

In certain places and situations, it might seem like doing the so-called wrong thing (just a wee bit off the law) might actually be the right thing. Maybe giving a small bribe to move some papers for the benefit of others. Or jumping a red light to get someone to the hospital for an emergency and so on. Somewhat like a white lie.

But is this alright? What do the scriptures say?

Without getting into specific instances of what is right and wrong, here are some principles from the Gita, my Guru and senior satsangis.

1) Do what is dharmic. This message is clear and consistent. 2) Try to avoid doing what we know is explicitly wrong (adharmic). So if the emergency you are battling is a life or death situation, maybe you could be forgiven – but do you always only encounter life and death situations? Surely not. In fact, cutting a signal to avoid a life and death situation could end up actually making the situation a life and death one! 3) Prayaschittam, such as chanting 16 malas of a mantra, to atone for the error, and seek forgiveness. This is done not for the Lord, but for oneself, so that we register the mistake in our minds and try to avoid in the future.

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More and more

The other day, I came across a book in a bookstore (yes those still exist!).

It was partially covered, and so I only saw half the title.

The words were “Ask For More”.

I thought to myself, “What a weird title!”, and then proceeded to pick up the book out of interest.

Turns out, the title was actually “Say Less, Ask More”. It was not ‘ask “for” more’. That was just my mind playing tricks on me. Not just tricks, but working in its usual ways of wanting more and more.

The book instead was on how to lead effectively. By listening more, saying less, and asking more questions so that learning improves. Nice isn’t it?

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