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Month: December 2022

Unity in Oneness

In the 11th chapter of the Bhgavad Gita, Lord Krishna shows his VishwaRoopa Darshanam to Arjuna.

What does Arjuna see?

Countless forms of all types of creatures, and surely all of space and the universe and more.

He sees all types of Gods and Goddesses too.

All of them manifesting in different forms, however very much a part of the same all-pervading shapeless formless timeless Bhagavan.

Despite such unity of the Gods, it is mind boggling that human beings decimate their own unity in the name of God(s).

Let’s pray for a peaceful and united 2023! ??

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Flow of Gold

We may have all heard of the famous Kanakadhaara stotram. Kanaka refers to gold, while dhaara is its flow.

Whenever someone is impacted by financial troubles, the remedy suggested is this beautiful ode to Goddess Lakshmi. But why will she give us gold or money? Spirituality asks us to give up attachments and desires. Here on the other hand, we are asking for more?

A quick background is helpful to contextualise this: Adi Sankaracharya, as a young Brahmin boy, went to a poor lady’s house for alms for his lunch. The lady, mired in poverty, offered him the only possession she had – a single amla (gooseberry) fruit. Sankara was touched by her kindness and selflessness and sang 22 stanzas in praise of Goddess Lakshmi, which is now known as the Kanakadhaara stotram.

The Goddess appeared before him and asked why he had remembered her. Sankara implored her to reverse the lady’s fortunes by granting her riches.

But Goddess Lakshmi refused! She said the lady’s fate was bound to poverty due to karma from her prior births. Sankara pleaded for the Goddess to absolve the lady’s past sins and change her fate, saying that she has surely transformed spiritually now, given she gave away the only thing she had! Goddess Lakshmi was pleased and granted Sankara’s request, showering the lady’s house with golden gooseberries, aka the flow of gold.

To get some, we have to give some, or maybe give all!

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Living in the…

We know that we need to live in the now. That’s what all great people say. The present is a gift, and that’s why it’s called the present, yada yada.

So there was a question this weekend at the satsang by a newbie. A very valid question, that could put all the oldies to shame. Just because one has spent 30-40-50 years in the satsang means nothing, no different from giving the same exam year after after for decades and flunking each time.

The question was this. We are told to live in the present. But we often find great learnings from mistakes we made in the past. If we have to live in the present only, then how to learn from past mistakes?

The answer given by the speaker was mind blowing. He said that it’s great to learn from the past, but not okay to regret the past. What’s the difference? The former is a conscious activity, while the latter is unconscious. The former propels us toward action, the latter prevents it. Likewise for the future. There’s no harm planning for it. But getting anxious about the future? Not allowed bye bye.

Interestingly, both learning and planning, while associated with the past and future respectively, actually happen in the now only!

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Relationship Advisory – part 3 of 3

During the podcast, Adam Grant requested his guests – the Gottmans – to share examples of how they would resolve conflicts. And boy did they provide some funny yet eye-opening versions.

Without going into the examples here though, even better is how Adam summarized everything beautifully at the end. Here it is, verbatim:

I came into this conversation thinking the Gottmans’ secret sauce must be their knowledge from research and therapy. Now, I believe it's something more: their deliberate practice. It's like they've been training for the Conflict Olympics. They're not just coaches watching other people's highlight reels and bloopers. They're professional arguers. They practice fighting. They review their game tape afterward. Amazing. There's a lot of evidence that what hurts relationships is not arguing frequently. It's arguing poorly, and watching the Gottmans convinces me that the best way to get better at fighting is to do it more, and then debrief on what went well and how you could have handled it more effectively. That way, instead of duking it out to try to win the argument, you're on the same side, trying to improve the argument, together. I think we should all give this a whirl, and I know where I'm gonna start. 
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Relationship advisory – part 2 of 3

Continuing from yesterday, the Gottmans talk about an interesting concept. The “4 horsemen” is a term coined by John and Julie Gottman to refer to four common behaviors that are predictors of relationship failure. These behaviors are:

Criticism: This involves attacking someone’s character or personality, rather than focusing on a specific behavior or issue. For example, instead of saying “I don’t like it when you leave dirty dishes in the sink,” a person might say “You are so lazy and inconsiderate.”

Contempt: This involves putting the other person down or mocking them in a hostile way. For example, using sarcasm or eye-rolling to show that you think the other person is stupid or unworthy of respect.

Defensiveness: This involves avoiding responsibility for your own actions and trying to shift blame onto the other person. For example, instead of acknowledging that you made a mistake and apologizing, you might say “I only did it because you always…” or “It’s not my fault, it’s yours.”

Stonewalling: This involves shutting down or withdrawing from the conversation, either physically or emotionally. For example, not responding to the other person’s comments, or walking out of the room without saying anything.

Pretty cool way of dissecting relationships, and especially what can go wrong!

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Relationship advisory – part 1 of 3

In a cool new podcast by Adam Grant, he interviews John and Julie Gottman. The two are psychologists who have been studying healthy relationships for over four decades. They co-founded the Gottman Institute, and have written numerous bestselling books together.

They discuss their famous study on predicting divorce rates in the podcast episode. I first thought, “what? Predicting divorce? How is that even possible? Are they using Vedic astrology?” But no, it was a proper study!

They had couples come into their lab and talk about the issues in their marriage, and were able to predict their divorce rates with astonishing accuracy by coding the little signals they sent each other back and forth. They synchronized the video time code to physiological measures from each person, looking at heart rate, how much they sweat from their hands, respiration, blood velocity, gross motor movement, and the emotions that the couples were displaying.

Almost shockingly (to me!), they could account for more than 90% of the variation in what happened to the couple, and could not only predict whether they would stay together or get divorced, but also predict when they would get divorced and how happily married they would be if they stayed together.

Incredible, and so did they have any more insights to offer? More tomorrow…

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An Offer you can’t refuse

For any fan of the movie, the title of this blog post would immediately remind one of The Godfather movie – one of the most iconic ones ever to be made. But making the movie itself was no easy task. Low budgets, a string of prior failures, struggles with casting, involvement of the real-life mafia, you name a problem and it was present.

All of this is captured beautifully in a TV miniseries released recently aptly called The Offer. The producer of the film and the CEO of Paramount at the time had this dialogue exchange:

Charlie (CEO): A word to the wise, Ruddy. When you fail alone, there's no one else to blame.
Ruddy: That's the only way I want it.

Why I find this so beautiful and so profound, is because it represents the struggle each one of us goes through in life daily. Should we just take it easy, and go with the flow? Or should we go against the grain where needed, and really do something pathbreaking?

I suppose it depends on what we want in life. Do we want to make the most of the time we have here in this life? Or just come unknown and go unknown?

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Striving for perfection can be a source of stress and anxiety for many people, especially me. This even though we know perfection is an unattainable goal. A better way? To focus on progress and self-improvement instead.

The story of Sir Walter Raleigh serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of appearing too perfect. Raleigh was a man of many talents, including being a scientist, poet, leader, entrepreneur, and sea captain. However, despite his many skills and charms, Raleigh faced opposition wherever he went. It seems that by showing off his skills and qualities, he made others feel inferior and created silent enemies. This envy ultimately led to his downfall, even though it was officially due to treason.

No one is truly perfect, and that’s okay I guess. Embracing our imperfections and striving for progress rather than perfection can help us find peace in our pursuits. Focusing on the process rather than the outcome and taking breaks to recharge can also be helpful in maintaining a healthy balance. This is the essence of karma yoga.

While it’s natural to want to be the best we can be, perfection is not a realistic goal. Following the teachings of the Gita, we can focus on doing our best in every moment, letting go of attachment to success or failure, and finding peace and balance in our pursuits.

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Learning from who(m)… Part 3 of 3

The great sage Dattatreya’s learnings, continued and concluded…

9. From a python, he learned the lesson of contentment, because of its eating habits. Eat when hungry and don’t hog.

10. From the ocean, he learned to remain quiet and calm beneath, no matter how many rivers pour into it

11. From the moth, he learned the dangers of ruining oneself, like the importance for the moth of staying away from the fire, of being distracted by the senses

12. From the bee, that he should beg for little food only, from one house to another

13. From the beetle and the worm, he learned the principle that as a man thinks, so he becomes, and hence the need to continuously contemplate on the Atman

There were a few other teachers as well, totaling 24, and interested readers should read the amazing entire story!

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Learning from who(m)… Part 2 of 3

Continuing the learnings of Sage Dattatreya who in turn learned from observing nature…

5. From fire, he learned austerity, as the flame of self knowledge burns away all desires

6. From the moon that waxes and wanes, he learned that the Self is complete and changeless, but seems to be transforming to the undiscerning eye

7. From the sun, he learned that like the sun is reflected in many pots of water, the atman appears as manifold displays when reflected in the mind

8. From birds, he learned of the dangers of getting attached, as the entire family of birds were trapped, no different from man being trapped in the entangling web of maya

Continued and concluded tomorrow!

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Learning from who(m)… Part 1 of 3

In the Bhagavad Purana, King Yadu is perturbed by his father Yayati’s decision to renounce kingship. So Yadu goes to a forest and meets a realized soul there, an avadhuta, none other than the great Dattatreya.

What he is surprised by more than anything else is how happy this carefree man of the forest is. The Guru then proceeds to tell the King to learn from nature itself. He then explains how he got self realization by observing nature and its teachers. A quick summary follows:

1. From the earth, the quality of patience, forbearance and doing good to others

2. From air, the value of non-attachment and freedom

3. From the sky, the expansive nature of the Self, which is untouched by any object

4. From water, the quality of purity and coolness

More tomorrow…

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The 4 Purusharthas as they are called, are DAKM = Dharma + Artha + Kama + Moksha.

One wonders if these are supposed to be separate or they go hand-in-hand?

Here’s a few lines I came across written by Mata Amritandamayi:

Dharma and moksha are interdependent. One who lives according to the principle of Dharma will attain Moksha and one who has a desire to attain moksha will lead a Dharmik life. If they are used incorrectly and unwisely, money and riches can become big obstacles. They are obstructions to those who wish to evolve spiritually. The more money you have the more obsessed you are likely to become with your body. The more you identify with your body the more egoistic you become. Money is not a problem but unintelligent attachment to it is. 
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Golden touch

Enough successful people will tell us that life is a marathon, not a sprint. And yet most people live their lives as a series of successive sprints, often more tired starting the next one, than they were the prior.

Look back at your school days, and you’ll realize that many folks who stood top of their class have not made it as far as their potential would have probably suggested at the time. Why could that be?

Perhaps it’s the case of the “golden touch” as one author put it. If we start out successful, then the potentially misplaced confidence in our own abilities skyrockets. We think that we are solely responsible for our own success, and don’t believe that something like luck aka extraneous factors even exists.

Others are often too scared to even try. As my Guru often notes, success is nothing but repeated failure. However, failure that comes from not even trying is not what he’s talking about here. We (me in particular) need to be bold and venturesome. Not timid and close-minded. Failure of the courageous type is nothing more than a synonym for learning.

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Short and sweet

ForeverHappyNow blogs are always short. Sweet, I don’t know. Depends on the mood I suppose, of the writer, the reader, the environment, the circumstances, you name it.

And these mood swings are common to one and all, except the Guru perhaps. We each go through so many positive and negative emotions, always with ourselves in the center. What if this, what if that, am I capable, am I good, am I liked, am I strong, will I be successful, will I be rich etc etc?

Swami Vivekananda has something short and sweet to say:

All power is within you; you can do anything and everything. Believe in that, do not believe that you are weak; do not beleive that you are half-crazy lunatics. You can do anything and everything, without even the guidance of anyone. Stand up and express the divinity within you. 

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Plus minus equal coincidence

Have been reading one interesting book by a Robert Greene called the Laws of Power. In that, he mentions that he trained a young protégé at one point – a Ryan Holiday – to also become an author. All good.

Then in the newspaper today, I saw an op-ed where someone quoted something written by – you guessed it – Ryan Holiday! Nice coincidence.

But that’s not the reason for this post. The newspaper article said Ryan had an interesting learning on “Plus, Minus, Equal”, that a martial arts trainer used.

To become great he says, each fighter needs to have someone better they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal who they challenge themselves against. So a plus, a minus and an equal.

The unsaid conclusion of this amazing philosophy, is that one is constantly learning, as one is always a student. Even the best of Gurus, have their own Gurus. Humility is key.

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Awesome Inferiority

Watch any toddler for a while.

Apart from all the cuteness, what is most striking?

Their complete lack of ego.

They know that they do not know.

They also know that everyone else in the room knows more than them.

Their inferiority complex actually leads to their superiority in learning.

Why do we, as adults, then fear an inferiority complex?

Not that we need to feel inferior about everything. But it is probably a great tactic to enhance learning.

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Output obsessed?

The world today is obsessed with outputs.

External manifestation is what takes the cake. Bulging biceps or hardboard abs? Wow, everyone wants that, but without going to the gym or eating clean.

Want to close a mega sales deal? Everyone does, but not by putting in the 100s of hours and 1000s of cold calls. Folks look for the one-call-wonder.

Young new joiners at companies want to quickly learn all the technical skills and show off their knowledge, and get promoted as quickly as possible. That’s a good thing, except that experience and (lack of) speed brings emotional and mental maturity – something that is woefully ignored.

But equally, the other side can be emphasized. Most employers don’t care about outputs. Only inputs. Number of hours and weekends worked and “facetime” is more important compared to actual work done.

So is the world more output focused? Or more input focused? Purely from a spiritual point of view, does either matter?

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Focus chokus

Focus is a great thing. But it can also be a greatly destructive thing. How? When we are focused only on the short run.

Feel like you want to sleep right now so as to get a full 8 hour shuteye before that important morning meeting? Sleep will probably evade you for the next hour, if not more.

Want to perform really well in your music audition today? All the nerves will probably get to you.

Desperate to find a life partner? The chances of making a mistake in the process just goes up materially.

Instant gratification is not good. Our scriptures talk of enjoying the journey. If everything is instant, then where is the journey? Before you can even wear your slippers, the ride is over! No wonder all this focus is choking us.

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Horsing around

Someone I know recently met someone else I know.

One of them took the efforts of finding out that the other person loves horses.

So he gifted him a horse encyclopedia. And that connection just skyrocketed, potentially opening future doors for collaboration.

All’s well that ends well!

And then I saw this quote now:

Just as a horse can be controlled by a bridle, the sensual pleasures and passions can be overcome by knowledge, meditation and power of penance. A well controlled horse that gallops fast reaches its destination safely. And sense organs well controlled by the reins of scriptural knowledge can help in realizing the Self.
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Silly Con

What comes to mind when you think of Silicon Valley?

Surely all sorts of techie stuff like social networks and software companies and VC funded tech startups.

But the Silicon in Silicon Valley refers to not these outcomes, but the basic material that enables all of this insane computing power, ie silicon chips aka semiconductors.

In Spiritual Valley too, there’s a lot of focus on breathing tricks and yogic realms and revelatory chakras and other mystic stuff. I am no one to comment on these, and great people have attained and demonstrated various powers or siddhis.

But my Guru is very clear. It is important to give up attachments and desires of this material world. These are the basic materials of spirituality. In Metallica’s words, Nothing Else Matters.

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Please Seat Down

That oh-so-famous interview question? “Tell me about yourself”

Came across a crisp video about how to answer this well, instead of starting with where one was born and what the temperature was on that fateful day!

It’s called the SEAT principle. The interviewee must make sure to cover:

S for skills one brings to the table

E for experiences or educational qualifications

A for the key achievements so far

T for the type of person you are and what gets you going

Pretty simple stuff, but so well formulated! Even outside of formal interviews, it’s always good to have this framework at the back of our minds. It can be used in pretty much any context where one has to introduce themselves. Who knows, that conversation could end up being the opportunity of a lifetime!

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The Gods who are weak

Almost everyday there is a point when I feel tired. Maybe mentally if not physically. But often physically too. Especially if it’s a Monday. Strength seems to always be coming back towards Fridays though. ?

But weakness isn’t good. Here’s what Paramahamsa Yogananda has said once:

You are all gods, if you only knew it. Behind the wave of your consciousness is the sea of God's presence. You must look within. Don't concentrate on the little wave of the body with its weaknesses; look beneath. As you lift your consciousness from the body and its experiences, you will find that sphere of your consciousness filled with the great joy and bliss that lights the stars and gives power to the winds and storms. Awaken yourself from the gloom of ignorance.
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Upset? Upset!

A columnist in the newspaper recently deconstructed the upset wins of Japan and Saudi in the 2022 Soccer World Cup.

Of course, the upset was to the incumbents, not the winners.

He theorized that the upset victory came due to two reasons, and both are applicable to me in my daily life.

1. Preparation. Being the underdog helps, because they do not expect the game to be easy. Apparently the Saudi coach screamed at his team to get their act in order instead of just gawking at their idol Messi and waiting for selfies with him after losing the match. They had a solid gameplan, knew the exact formations to take against their formidable opponents, and then it was execution to the T.

2. Globalization. Most of the best European soccer leagues have players from all over the world, rather than just from Europe. It reminded me of Indian cricket IPL, where players come from all over the world. This results in spectacular exchange of best practices. The community builds and grows together. This is useful even from a 9-to-5 work perspective. If there’s a scope to learn from people across various regions and cultures, then why not? With the internet at our fingertips, learning is not a luxury, but a function of our own desire.

Upset? Or not so much?

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Superb heroes

The new superhit movie from India made on a shoestring budget called Kantara is making waves all over the country.

It’s actually not a generic Indian movie but one from a specific part of Karnataka, a state in the country.

Not just any random love story, but one of demigods and people with superpowers. Not beams flying out of their eyes, but powers given to save the citizens of the district, while enabling them to live in harmony with nature.

While this may sound like superstition and mythology to some, there is certainly an element of truth to it. The spiritual energy is tangible to those who are receptive to it. Not just the movie, but more so of the same rituals practised in real life.

But folks have watched this movie, and said it’s nonsense. “These things can never happen. Random magic and superstition and silly ancient rituals”

And yet the same people will watch spandex-clad caped-crusaders shooting webs from their wrists and light from their eyes and gloat in amazement. Go figure.

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Hot or cold

Winter is here, and we had to get our geyser fixed. Warm water was coming, but hardly. So we called the plumber, the same chap who had installed our geyser a few weeks back.

He said he wasn’t available, and to call the company for a replacement technician directly, which we did.

Said technician came over, took one look at the geyser, and immediately decalted declared that this installation suffered from the most basic of errors, i.e. incorrect positioning. It had been placed upside down – apparently the most rookie mistake possible.

Mistakes happen, and no harm done (except a nice bill of course).

We sent photos of the pre- and post- geyser setup to the plumber. His response? “I’ve been doing this job 25 years, and you tell me I’ve made a mistake? Impossible. I won’t even look at the photos you’ve sent.”

Nice lesson in overconfidence, ego, customer service, humility, and many other things I’m sure.

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Devatas around us

After watching Kantara, everyone wonders the same thing. Are deities or Devatas really a thing? Do they exist around us, physically? Is there a way to experience them? Because our scriptures and mythological stories have tons of such examples. And when we pray, aren’t we praying to deities for their help? Why pray if they aren’t real?

PVR Narasimha Rao, a Vedic astrologer and Sanskrit scholar put up a nice video recently on YouTube where he addresses this question. He says that deities are indeed real, and can be experienced physically as well as internally.

How this is done is a different story – perhaps needing a lot of meditation.

But the question is, even if you experience something, how can you prove it? These are intensely personal incidents of course. But wouldn’t the Devatas themselves want to prove their existence?

Not at all, says PVR ji. Instead, they are like oxygen. Oxygen doesn’t care whether people know about it or not. And even if we don’t know about the oxygen around us, we are certainly breathing it, else life would be impossible. Only a scientist would try to study the air and evaluate oxygen, just like only a spiritual seeker will seek to study himself and his true nature.

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Giving and SV – part 4 of 4

The superb writings on Giving by Swami Vivekananda concludes below:

1. Ask, therefore, nothing in return; but the more you give, the more will come to you.

2. The quicker you can empty the air out of this room, the quicker it will be filled up by the external air; and if you close all the doors and every aperture, that which is within will remain, but that which is outside will never come in, and that which is within will stagnate, degenerate, and become poisoned.

3. A river is continually emptying itself into the ocean and is continually filling up again. Bar not the exit into the ocean. The moment you do that, death seizes you.

4. Be, therefore, not a beggar; be unattached.

Such amazing wisdom in these writings. It’s up to us to follow to whatever extent we can!

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Giving and SV – part 3 of 4

Giving is living, and so more gems from Swami Vivekananda are below:

1. None is there that will not be compelled, in the long run, to give up everything.

2. And the more one struggles against this law, the more miserable one feels.

3. It is because we dare not give, because we are not resigned enough to accede to this grand demand of nature, that we are miserable.

4. The forest is gone, but we get heat in return. The sun is taking up water from the ocean, to return it in showers.

5. You are a machine for taking and giving: you take, in order to give.

We are machines for giving, isn’t this an outstanding perspective?! Concluded tomorrow…

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Giving and SV – part 2 of 4

More gems from Swami Vivekananda on giving.

1. Learn that the whole of life is giving, that nature will force you to give.

2. So give willingly, because sooner or later, you will have to give up.

3. You come into life to accumulate. With clenched hands, you want to take.

4. But nature puts a hand on your throat and forces your hands open. Whether you will it or not, you have to give.

5. The moment you say “I will not”, the blow comes and you are hurt.

Continued tomorrow…

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Giving and SV – part 1 of 4

Swami Vivekananda was probably one of the most articulate realized-souls ever to be born. Apart from various topics, he specifically focused on the importance of giving. Giving as a virtue, and giving as a necessity. Here are some outstanding statements of his:

1. Give what you have to give. It will come back to you.

2. But do not think of what will come back to you from your giving now. However, it will come back multiplied thousandfold.

3. The attention must not be on what will come back.

4. Yet, have the power to give. Give, and there it ends.

Continued tomorrow…

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Sacrificial paradox

Was reading an interesting article by Sri Sri Ravishankar, about the paradox of sacrifice.

Of course we know that sacrifice is a good thing, because we are doing it for others, and it helps build selflessness. Sacrifice is also the foundation of yagna.

But sacrifice can only come from love. The example Sri Sri gives is of a mother who was scheduled to watch a movie, but then her child falls sick. Does she sacrifice the movie to nurse her child? Apparently she does, but in reality, it is not a sacrifice at all. The mother couldn’t care less about the movie because all her attention is on her child.

So love is key, and one can only sacrifice something they value (such as the movie). If there’s no love, there’s no sacrifice.

As Sri Sri concludes, for a wise man, there is nothing higher than the love for God. If that is his greatest love, then how can he sacrifice God? That is the paradox of sacrifice.

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