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Month: October 2022

Bob the algo?

There’s a lot of stuff we find online nowadays that is quite misleading. And if it’s written professionally, then it can be quite damn persuasive.

There are algorithms for everything. Some can read your SMSes and find out the One Time Password automatically. Some can read your emails and summarize all your credit card bills and expenses. Some algos can look through your search history and helpfully predict why you might need soon – groceries, spare parts, financing, medical supplies, you name it.

This is all done in the name of simplicity. And it has definitely made our lives simpler, no question about it.

But as one cybersecurity analyst commented, “just imagine that the word algo is replaced by some person’s name, say Bob”. Now suddenly Bob has all this information about you. How does that make you feel? Safe? Surely not. But this is indeed the case because there is little difference between an algo having all your personal info versus a Bob having it all.

Hence the need for us to be alert all the time. Like Lord Rama with his bow and arrow, ever watchful, ever ready. As one senior satsangi often remarks, he only prays nowadays for one thing – that he remain alert to the lures of the material world – one misstep, and the fall from the spiritual path can be steep.

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Family first?

This is not a political post, but simply a humanitarian one.

The current President of India is Droupadi Murmu.

This statement can just end there of course. But someone who didn’t know better could assume that this lady got there easily.

But nope, couldn’t have been harder.

She is from one of India’s most backward and underdeveloped communities. She also lost her husband, both her sons (one to an accident), her mother and her brother, all in the span of a few years. Losses that would have destroyed any other normal person.

But this strong lady continues to work selflessly for her country. And with a smile.

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All of creation is always struggling.

The deer wakes up and and starts to run, else it’ll be eaten by the lion. The lion wakes up and runs after the deer else it’ll starve

The deer and lion also have struggles within their own communities, for power, for mates, for kids, for food, for a home.

This is true of all animals, insects, plants, and all living organisms.

Humans are no different. But apart from all the external struggles, we also have internal enemies that we constantly struggle with. Insecurities, fears and weaknesses that prevent us from achieving our full potential.

Our scriptures recognize precisely this, and provide every conceivable solution to these struggles.

Our overarching struggle though? To even find the time or inclination to read the scriptures.

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ABCD people

A famous investor recounted his mother’s teaching on a podcast recently. Some parents are all about the marks and ranks for their kids. Others are a little more hands-off.

Said investor’s mother was cut from the second cloth. This was her thought process:

If A is the top ranked kid in school, and D is the bottom ranked kid, this is what will happen in (real) life.

The As work for the Bs. The Cs run companies, while the Ds have buildings dedicated to them.


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Animal sacrifice – part 2

Who says that animals do not have emotions or feelings? That they are mere animals?

The second instance of animal sacrifice is of a baboon that is ostracised by its tribe.

When a leopard attacks one female baboon which has a new born baby, our man-baboon jumps into action. He literally drives the leopard away from atop a tree, single handedly. Leopard versus baboon, and the baboon emerging victorious? Wow I’d have never bet on that outcome!

As fate would have it though, the female baboon is unfortunately caught by a large python and crushed and swallowed in seconds.

The ostracised male baboon does not even bat an eyelid, before adopting the new born baby.

Soon, the leader of the baboon pack comes by and harasses and humiliates our hero, including urinating on him. But our guy doesn’t even flinch, else he risks the pack leader fighting him and harming the baby. But nope, not a flicker.

What a lovely series of sacrifices!

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Animal sacrifice – part 1

No this is not about sacrifice of animals at the altar as some blood ritual. Rather, it is about true sacrifice, in the animal kingdom.

In a BBC documentary called Serengeti, there are two outstanding sequences of sacrifice.

The first is about a hyena family. The queen hyena of the pack is also their chief hunter. She is not just a mother, but also a grandmother.

In order for her daughter-hyena to take her place as the new queen, the daughter will have to earn her status, including completing a successful hunt.

Given her lack of experience, the youngster chases the prey from behind, kills it, but also breaks one of her hind legs in the process. A pride of vicious black-maned lions smells blood and looks to attack and kill the daughter-hyena.

In one swift move, the queen hyena steps in, gives herself up, and is instantly mauled and killed by the lions. What an unbelievable sacrifice.

The second story, tomorrow…

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Les perishables

Chapter 7 of the Gita is an interesting one.

In verse 20-22, the Lord says that spiritual seekers can worship various deities. By following the specific rules related to these deities, they will get what they desire.

Then in verse 23, He mentions the words antavattu phalam. Anta is end and Phal is fruit. Taken together, the words refer to perishable desires.

The Lord is trying to convey only one simple truth here. That we should not be running after material desires. Why? Because they are perishable! Would you want to buy a shiny new sports car that you know would be junk in a year?

The 3 core components of life = vyakti, vastu, paristhithi = people, things and situations – all of these are perishable, and yet our desires only revolve around these.

What should we desire that is permanent then? Spiritual growth to reach the Lord.

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TV series

There’s a lot of random nonsensical crap on TV these days. All sorts of Reality TV that is totally unreal, and as scripted and fake as they come.

But there’s also some gems. We found two lovely shows recently.

1. Devlok by Devdutt Pattnaik, where Mr. Devdutt, an acclaimed author (and ex-doctor!) goes into amazing depth on Indian mythology and how to relate those to our daily lives.

2. Ramayana with Amish, where the author travels 5000 kilometers from Ayodhya in India to the tip of Sri Lanka and covers all the key locations visited by Lord Rama during his 14 year exile.

Surely there must be many more such lovely documentaries too. Do share good ones you’ve come across in the comments please!

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Love or enjoy?

Heard this in a talk show recently. The guest was asked about people spending more time in offices and working and it leading to burnout.

He said that it is indeed true.

So what to do?

You need to enjoy your job, not love your job. 

That was his advice. Why enjoy and not love?

Because he said love for one’s job brings attachment. Which then invariably leads to stress, anxiety and disappointment, especially when something doesn’t go as planned, when results are delayed despite efforts, or colleagues do not collaborate and so on.

Hence enjoy, not love!

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Nothing much in the title, except that these are 3 examples of Vibhutis (glorious manifestations of the Lord) that Krishna mentions in Chapter 10 of the Gita.

1. Kamadhenu. Moo-moo, wow a wish fulfilling cow! Wish I had one! I’d get everything I want. But no, that’s not the point at all. It’s not about getting everything from the cow, but rather whether we can be like the divine cow – give (grant wishes) to others without expecting anything in return.

2. Lord Rama, personified with his bow and arrow. No, not as a great warrior, which he surely was, but rather signifying alertness. Alert we need to be, if we do not want to fall off the spiritual path.

3. Prahalada, the foremost devotee. His own father didn’t like him, and tried to finish him off. And yet Prahalad’s faith towards Lord Narayana only grew stronger. What do we do in the face of adversity?

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Ravana good or bad?

Was recently watching an interview of a Sri Lankan historian who said that Ravana to her and her people was a hero while Vibheeshana was a traitor. She supported her belief by saying the latter defected only because he felt insulted after being given the smallest and farthest of the 10 local kingdoms.

This would be completely the opposite view of anyone in India who has grown up reading the Ramayana. Ravana was obviously devout and skilled unlike any, but also supposed to have been brought down by his own ego. Vibheeshana however is eulogised for having stood by Dharma.

What to do in such cases where the stories themselves apparently contradict each other?

The answer is to not focus on the story or characters or who was the hero or villain but rather on the underlying message. Follow dharma, banish ego. This is the message of our scriptures, and the same is true of the mythological texts. That will be enough for us to know how to act when we are faced with tough circumstances and choices in life, because ultimately it’s all about our own inner transformation.

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Trincle trincle

The story goes, that after Lord Rama killed Ravana to free his wife Sita, he made a pit stop at Trincomalee (in Sri Lanka).


Because he had sinned. He had killed a learned and devout Brahmin.

To absolve himself of such a sin, he prayed to Lord Shiva at Trincomalee.

This is truly mind-blowing. God Himself finds the need to atone for his so-called sins. Which means there is no escape from karma, for anyone, as Krishna explains in the Gita.

Also an avatar of Maha Vishnu is praying to Shiva. The reverse happens too in various texts. Gods don’t have a problem with their statuses and hierarchies. Humans do.

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Is there a question here?

A star investor-cum-poker player once had an 82% probability of winning a hand. She was on the biggest stage of her poker life ever. And the prize money was the most she had ever played for too, and so, no pressure at all!

As luck would have it, she lost. It truly was a bad luck moment. From an 82% probability of winning to actually losing. Probability isn’t certainty, as we all know.

At the same event, she met a celebrity international-level poker player and said to him, “Damn it, that was such terrible luck. How I wish I was given a better hand to start with. I hate it when I encounter bad luck. I’m so unlucky”. To which the man simply replied, “Is there a question here?”

Needless to say, the lady was taken aback. And as she herself recounts later, the celeb-champ was not wrong. That guy was more than ready to discuss poker strategies and in-game tactics till the cows came home, but he was least interested in wasting time talking about things that were outside of his control (like bad luck). Nice lesson for me in my daily life!

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in Madhya Pradesh, India, was one of the places where Lord Rama stayed during his 14 year exile.

It’s astounding that certain elements in the true story still have found no answers to today.

Chitra means beautiful as a painting and Koot means mountain. How could someone stay inside a cave in a mountain for 11 years? Well there was a river that was flowing inside. Not the normal Godavari river, but one called Secret or Gupt Godavari.

Why secret? Because till today geologists don’t know where the water comes from and where it goes!

And there’s also a stream in there that brings fresh water that presumably Lord Rama drank. How would one know its fresh water? Because there are small fish in it!

Plenty of such unexplained miracles in India ??

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Special generalist

The Vibhuti Yoga chapter 10 in the Gita is truly special.

It starts off with the Lord giving examples of his manifestation in Creation. He gives 54 such examples, like Om, Sri Rama, Prahalada, Kamadhenu and others.

But the best example is towards the end of the chapter, where the Lord talks about Himself as being the Ultimate Vibhuti. How so? Because there is nothing else besides him!

Those who fight over the supremacy of their God over other’s Gods, would be reminded by Krishna that there is only God and nothing but God.

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Loud quitting – part 2 of 2

If a doctor has been giving simple cough syrup to cure someone’s cough, but later realizes that this is a deeper lung issue, of course the doc will have to quit giving cough syrup and progress to more potent medication.

If the workplace is really toxic, then what’s the problem in quitting? If there’s a better opportunity available, shouldn’t one take it?

There’s a concept in economics called ‘opportunity cost’ that exactly defines this, and businesses use it all the time. With a limited set of resources, how can you make the optimum use of the opportunity at hand? No matter what happens, if there are multiple opportunities, one or more will have to be sacrificed, and that is the cost of missing out. But it’s fine, we cannot do everything at the same time, all the time.

Quitting isn’t bad. It’s why one quits that matters.

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Loud quitting

There’s a whole “quiet quitting” movement that is going on in the corporate world. Employees don’t actually quit but they are so disillusioned with work, that they quit mentally. So they would not put in the efforts required and do a half hearted job perhaps.

There’s something about quitting in our world that just evokes the deepest of passions.

“How can you quit? Quitting is for losers. Tough people never quit.” Haven’t we all grown up hearing these?

This even exists with the greatest most successful folks. Nobody says they quit. They want to be seen as evolving, not quitting, even if it’s a tennis star keeping down her racquet or a footballer hanging up his boots.

Why is quitting so bad? More tomorrow.

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Sleep hack

We all surely experience times where sleep doesn’t come that easily.

Or maybe we wake up randomly at 2 am or such, and then keep tossing and turning, struggling to fall asleep again.

The first port of call for most? The mobile phone of course. And once that light hits the eye, sleep is only going to get delayed even further (science backs this up!).

But there’s another way.

Know how we usually do not find much time to meditate? Well why not meditate at such times when sleep isn’t coming?

I find this incredibly useful. One only needs to focus on the breath, slowly and calmly. At that time of night, usually all surrounding noises have died down. Peace prevails, and sleep will soon too.

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Om Aum ॐ

Om has a special meaning and significance in spirituality. Every satsang typically starts with chanting Om.

  1. Krishna Himself accords great importance to Om in the Gita chapter 10 Vibhuti Yoga. “Among utterances, I am OM” is what He says.
  2. Om is both word and symbol for the Lord himself.
  3. It also represents creation, being the very primordial sound and vibration of the original genesis. It is said that Om also pervades the universe today in the background.
  4. Om is everything and everything is in Om.
  5. Om is also ideal for meditation, to calm the mind down.
  6. Om is great for babies too, whether in the womb or outside.
  7. Om not only helps the mind to get aligned spiritually, but physicaly too, Om is said to activate all 3 parts of body. Aa-oo-mm, each syllable representing the lower, middle and upper portions of the body respectively.
  8. Om is also a beeja mantra, or a seed, that activates the the energy centres in the body.

Is there any scientific evidence for all this? Maybe not, but once experienced personally, no proof will necessary.

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We know this lovely story narrated by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

The exact same garden is visited by 3 different people.

Person 1 is a tourist, and marvels at all the colors on display.

Person 2 is a scientist and starts recalling the various biological names of plants and insects and counting the number of species present.

Person 3 is a staunch devotee of the Lord and sees the Creator Himself there manifested in the immaculate beauty and diversity.

Isn’t this such an outstanding perspective and example? Newton too was sitting in a garden when an apple fell on his head, and that too led to what is nothing less than a divine discovery.

There is indeed divinity all around us. In fact there is nothing else. We just need to acknowledge it and then accept it and then live it.

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How to increase devotion?

This is a common question with a simple answer.

It’s no different from devotion to anyone or anything else.

Love Bollywood or Hollywood or cricket or football? Why is that? Because of constant exposure.

What do we see on Instagram or Twitter or TV? What do we read about in the newspaper?

As we keep reading more and more about the glories of celebrities and sports stars, that only becomes a virtuous reinforcing loop.

The same thing is applicable to God as well. The more we read about Him and His leelas through various stories and scriptures, the more our devotion will become stronger!

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How to define God?

Notice how whenever someone who is a realized soul speaks about God, they only talk in a very generic ambiguous way?

Since I haven’t experienced anything myself, I have no clue how it will be. But this is where the analogy of the salt doll is appropriate.

Said salt doll wanted to test the depth of the ocean. Funny, no? So the salt doll jumped into the ocean, and instantly dissolved.

Can we say it reached the bottom?

Can we say it didn’t?

As Swami Chinmayananda once said, “to define God is to defile God”.

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What if learning causes problems?

Imagine a relatively young and new-at-his-field surgeon. Is that someone you want operating on your loved one? Absolutely not, isn’t it? Because what if he gets it wrong? He’s just a newbie, and you don’t want him using your loved one as a testing ground now!

How to think of this? By giving up the ego, it would seem! Here’s Master surgeon Atul Gawande in his own words in a superlative Adam Grant podcast:

Q: But one of the things I took away from that book was how important it is to be able to detach your ego from your mistakes and your failures. And you're now facing that at a much larger scale, knowing that if you fail to contain an outbreak, it could be thousands of people or hundreds of thousands of people who die. How do you navigate that?
A: This was during my training, where I had to learn on people how to do surgery. How do I claim that permission to have a learning curve? And the only way is by not pretending to be perfect, but instead to always be living up to the belief that I'm aiming for perfection and that I understand it's not just me, but a team of people that make it possible for me to learn effectively and safely and for a person who depends on the team to have confidence in the team in even if there is a learner on the team. 
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Old is sold

Many people start feeling old the moment they hit 30. Some feel old even before. “Oh no, my twenties are almost over!” they sigh.

Given the stresses and lifestyles of today, it’s not just the twenties that are receding, but hairlines as well. All sorts of garbage are sold in the garb of success.

That’s why it’s a pleasure to see what limits are possible. And this is not about fake limits set up on Instagram, showing extraordinary bodies shot in conditioned light. Nope.

I was reading about Olympic Champion Eliud Kipchoge, who recently broke his own world record running a marathon in just 2 hours 1 minute and 9 seconds. Outstanding feat. But I also liked what the 37 year old had to say about his fitness, both physical and mental.

"My legs and my body still feel young. But most importantly, my mind also feels young."
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Charity for all

So many people to give charity too. But there’s not enough money to give. Not for one middle-class person at least.

But what are we giving the money for? To help the other person? Or to feel good about ourselves? Perhaps both?

Neither is necessarily good or bad. Here’s a line from a spirituality column in a magazine:

Even the 'charity' given to the undeserving, the scriptures tell us, makes it tamasic and, therefore, harmful to the giver, to the recipient and society at large.

Wow pretty dire consequences it seems! Can we even begin to fathom who is deserving or not? Impossible.

That’s why it’s best to donate to the charity that the Guru has chosen.

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What the Carlyle Group founder says about adding value…

The 73 year old ultra successful billionaire investor and founder of the Carlyle Group, David Rubenstein, had the following to say when asked about what kind of projects he takes on or spends time on.

  1. Work on starting things that others aren’t able to start.
  2. Work on finishing things that others aren’t able to finish.
  3. Wherever possible, attempt to make tangible progress, rather than something that might or might not happen in a distant future.
  4. Give your time to your projects of choice, in addition to giving your money.

Isn’t this very instructive and insightful on how we each could look to prioritize our own times as well?

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2 types of passion!

Apparently there are two types of passion. Harmonious and Creative. This I came across in a podcast where the guest was none other than famed surgeon and author Atul Gawande. Here’s what he had to say:

"I'm gonna give you another framework that I work with on this. There are cycles of how the work works, and it's understanding those cycles. So surgery is a harmonious passion in a very straightforward way. I can go in to do a two or three-hour operation and I will get something done and I will lose sense of time. And it, I can't tell you what a great experience it is working with a team focused on doing something where everybody is skilled and, and working harmoniously together. But there is nothing creative about it. In fact, you're trying to be anti-creative. You're trying to do things the same way every time. What you accumulate are thousands of people you've taken care of and not necessarily something that builds something larger. Whereas writing or doing certain kinds of research work, that's six months of effort, not always harmonious. Painful. A learning curve every time, but at the end of it, incredibly gratifying. And I found my six month cycle of doing with the creativity added in is my sweet spot."

So interesting isn’t it? That’s probably why it always helps to have at least two or more passions to focus on. One can be our daily office jobs, while the other could be something more creative for the evenings. Worth trying!

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Want name, fame, money?

Here’s what I saw in the newspaper recently. Someone moderately famous had bought a house. A fairly big house.

Now for most people, that should be a private, intimate transaction. But the newspaper got wind of it. How? By looking through the property-tax papers that get filed alongside. Yes, apparently it’s a paparazzi thing-to-do now!

As if mention of this wasn’t enough, the article also proceeded to state that they were the first to break this news.

Still not enough? They also wrote that they tried reaching out to various members of that family, “but repeated texts and calls remained unanswered at the time of going to press”.

Is this what we are all chasing after? With great power comes great responsibility. But with great money comes great liability. Ironic isn’t it?

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I’ve got dual citizenship!

Well, well, congratulations are in order, aren’t they?

Who doesn’t want to hold two, or maybe even more, passports?

But I’m not alone. You’ve got dual citizenship too.

There’s two countries that we each keep traveling between. We belong to both. We always have. They are always with us, no matter what.

Our scriptures call them dwandvas. Dualities. Two sides of a coin. Pain-pleasure. Night-day. Sorry-Joy. Nothing is black or white, good or bad. Good leads to bad, and bad leads to good. That is nothing more than constant evolution.

For permanent ananda? We have to give up all passports. That will provide Universal Citizenship.

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Captain cool

We all know that MS Dhoni is Captain Cool. Boring, old news. Next item please.

Yes, but before that, I came across an article today that said that even the head coach of the Indian team, Ravi Shastri, cannot reach Dhoni directly on his mobile phone. Why?

Because Dhoni never shared his phone number with him! ?

Funny, but also true. But beyond that too, was what really caught my eye. Dhoni apparently never carries his mobile phone with him.

In a world where everyone is constantly in a state of anxiety, wondering “what to multi-task on next”, here is a champion who switches off and lives in the present. Wish I could too do the sa…. (clicks on another notification to see a video sent by a friend on whatsapp)

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For the non-believers

There’s always a raging debate about whether God exists or not.

Has He created everything around us? Are we responsible for our own fate, and did we each land on this planet and into this family and unique circumstance just by chance?

“It’s all just a random coincidence.”, is what the non-believers will say.

And that’s where the debate begins.

But why debate at all? Lord Krishna clearly says that only 1 in millions will even begin to appreciate true Divinity. If you are that 1 in many millions, why spend time and effort trying to convince others?

Everyone’s time of awakening and understanding will come, either in this life, or after many more.

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