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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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Strugglers

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.

Ponderable!

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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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Tribhutis

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).

Why?

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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Chitrakoot

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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Gardenia

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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