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Month: March 2024

Truly healthy

The word swasthya in Sanskrit refers to health.

I came across a very interesting interpretation by Sage Ashtavakra of Ashtavakra Gita fame. He was ashta-vakra because of his 8 physical deformities.

Could such a person be perfectly healthy or swasthya?

Seems impossible, but he was!


Because his physicality was irrelevant to him. All he cared about, was being forever established in the Self.

Which is swa-stitha, or self-established. How cool is that?

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Shragaal Gita

So here’s a Gita that I never heard of before, until I chanced upon a thread on X. Encountering this Gita, also known as the Jackal Gita, nestled within the Mahabharata’s Vana Parva, unveils a lesser-known yet profound dialogue between a wise jackal and sage Kashyapa, offering solace and guidance. The wisdom shared includes:

  • Humans are blessed with hands, which jackals and animals don’t have.
  • Even so, animals never contemplate suicide, and do their best with what they have.
  • The jackal explains how running after money won’t help him, a brahmin, become a king. And even a king cannot become a Devata. And a Devata cannot become Indra. And even Indra is dissatisfied!
  • Hence Kashyap muni should embrace being born as a human + brahmin, and do his dharma.
  • The sage then realizes that the jackal is none other than Indra himself in disguise!

This interesting and relatively less known Gita is a gem and enriches one’s understanding of ancient scriptures, offering valuable insights for navigating life’s complexities.

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Bigger better tougher

A recent ad enroute to the airport caught my eye.

It was an aptly placed photo of a really premium and really rugged luggage.

Very strong and very durable.

And it had been put through some endurance tests, presumably.

Because the tagine it went with was, “The bigger the test, the bigger the person becomes.”

A good reminder for me, when I feel like curling up into a ball and shutting out the world at the slightest hint of something not going my way…

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Food spirit

Many people find it cool to shun spirituality. And religion.

In its truest form, religion only helps make spirituality more accessible.

Why is spirituality needed?

We are all a combination of matter and spirit.

We know this, because just physically assembling a human body together will not make it “alive”, as it will still lack the spirit of life.

But we tend to spend all our time feeding the matter in us. Which might make us rich in material terms.

But what food are we giving to our spirit? Especially when it is the only thing can truly resolve our inner malaise?

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Divine ask

In the grand theater of existence, we often play the role of demanding divas, seeking divine intervention for our every whim. It’s like ordering takeout from the universe, expecting it to arrive in thirty minutes or less, with a side of enlightenment.

But the Divine isn’t a wish-granting genie; it’s more like a wise old friend gently nudging us towards self-discovery, all while chuckling at our attempts to control the cosmos with a vision board and a prayer.

So, next time we bargain with the Divine like flea market shoppers, remember: it’s not about what we get, but who we become in the process.

We must ask ourselves, do we want the Divine? Or only what the Divine can give us?

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Chakras and mantras

In the realm of Kundalinī-yoga, there’s a captivating concept known as “nerve-centers.”

These points, often called chakras, aren’t just physiological plexuses; they represent deeper psychological levels that modern science hasn’t fully explored.

When diving into Kundalinī-yoga, it’s supposed to be like embarking on a journey through consciousness. Each step involves ascending from one level of awareness to the next, encountering spiritual obstacles known as granthi along the way. This path is supposed to require intense concentration and perseverance until the aspirant reaches the pinnacle of universal consciousness.

Other schools of thought involve chanting and focusing various mantras on various energy centers to make spiritual progress.

The roads are myriad, but the destination one.

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Yugased it right!

In an interesting podcast featuring one Nilesh Oak, a historian by profession, he describes the concept of yugas, as mentioned in a part of the Aitreya Brahmana.

Now typically yugas are considered to be large time periods, and some of the dating doesn’t even make sense.

For instance, the common number one sees is that some 432,000 years makes up one yuga. And some will compound this number as well. And then they say the Mahabharata happened one yuga ago, so 432,000 years ago. Really? Was there even any human life back then?

And thus this different explanation of yugas was symbolic and interesting, as are most things in Hinduism! What did it say?

That when we sleep, that is Kali Yuga. When we wake up and sit, it is Treta Yuga. When we stand, it is Dwapara Yuga, and when we take action, it is Satya Yuga!

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Vana go?

In Sanatana Dharma, there are 4 stages of life progression.

Brahmachari, or student life.

Grihastashram, or family life (as a householder).

Vanaprastha, or going to the forest, relinquishing material life.

And lastly Sanyasa, which is completely giving up everything.

This is a beautiful progression no doubt.

But a billboard ad caught my eye today enroute to work. They were selling apartments in a lovely looking skyrise building.

The name of the building? Vana, of course, from Vanaprastha, but minus the prastha!

What are they offering? That for an insane price, one can buy a princely apartment in that building, with a nice forest-ish appearance (i.e., lots of trees!) and hence leaving no need to go to the forest for vanvaas at all!

Are  we running away from materialism, or towards it?!

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Forgetful prayer – part 4 of 4

Is there another lesson for us from what Swami Vivekananda did?

Do we completely give up our prayers, and wish for nothing?

And if we stop asking, will the Gods not make those things happen?

Do things happen only because we ask? Well surely this we know is not true. Our efforts matter, but most things are outside our control.

Then why pray? For our mental peace, at the very least. Because that is truly the only thing that matters. If we are lucky, specific chants might provide specific material results too.

Therefore it makes sense to pray for us to have the right mindset for every situation. That will us to samatvam, or equipoise in the face of everything.

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Forgetful prayer – part 3 of 4

So, what can we glean from Vivekananda’s experience? It prompts us to contemplate our own approach to prayer and spirituality. Are we too focused on asking for specific outcomes, rather than seeking a deeper connection with the divine?

The notion of living without constantly seeking fulfillment through external means poses a significant challenge. It requires a level of spiritual maturity and selflessness that few attain. Yet, it’s a worthy aspiration, inviting us to transcend our material desires and embrace a more profound understanding of existence.

In essence, Vivekananda’s journey urges us to reflect on the interconnectedness of prayer, enlightenment, and liberation. Perhaps it’s not about achieving one before the other, but rather recognizing that they are intrinsically linked – different facets of the same spiritual evolution. It’s a journey of self-discovery and growth, where each step brings us closer to realizing our true nature and purpose.

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Forgetful prayer – part 2 of 4

In Vivekananda’s repeated attempts to ask for help within the shrine, we witness a struggle familiar to many: the tension between faith and doubt, action and inaction.

Despite his genuine need, Vivekananda’s forgetfulness highlights the complexity of human nature, where even sincere intentions can be overshadowed by distractions or uncertainties. But was he really distracted or uncertain? Perhaps not.

It might be we who are truly distracted. Distracted away from God and into materialism. Vivekananda was exactly the opposite, because he forgot everything in the presence of the Lord. That’s not distraction, is it?

Ultimately, Ramakrishna’s gentle rebuke – that asking for material gains without understanding life’s deeper truths is folly – challenges us to reflect on our own motivations and expectations in prayer and in life. It’s a lesson in aligning our desires with a deeper understanding of the universe and our place within it.

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Forgetful prayer – part 1 of 4

There’s a remarkable incident from Vivekananda’s life that offers profound insight. Picture this: his mother lay gravely ill, nearing the end of her life, and Vivekananda found himself without the means to provide her essential medication or sustenance. The frustration and helplessness he felt must have been overwhelming.

In his distress, he turned to Sri Ramakrishna, seeking solace and guidance. Venting his emotions, he questioned the value of spirituality in the face of his mother’s suffering. Ramakrishna, a devout worshiper of Kali, suggested an unconventional approach: to seek assistance directly from the divine.

Despite initial doubts, Vivekananda entered the shrine. But, remarkably, he forgot to make his plea. This happened not once, but twice, demonstrating the fallibility of even the most earnest intentions in moments of crisis. Ramakrishna’s patient insistence on trying again underscored the importance of perseverance in spiritual practice.

What happened next? Continued tomorrow…

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Divine address

Ever pondered how to address the divine? The Bhagavad Gītā offers a hint: “Howsoever men approach me, even so do I accept them,” says the Avatar. Thus, whether one prefers a paternal or maternal demeanor, divinity accommodates all.

Within the realm of the divine, gender and personality dissolve, akin to fitting an elephant into a teacup—utterly futile, yet oddly amusing.

Here’s the twist: from the impersonal Brahman, cosmic entity extraordinaire, emerges the personalized Iśvara, donning a human-like garb for a more relatable vibe.

And when chaos beckons and evil looms large, God sheds the celestial garb, donning the guise of an Avatar—a divine intervention akin to a cosmic superhero, ready to save the day in style. Whether as Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, or the next box-office hit Avatar, divinity reigns supreme in all its multifaceted glory.

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Ego trippin’

Can (pseudo) spirituality manifest in untoward ways?

  1. Social Media Showcase: Some individuals attend meditation retreats primarily to flaunt their spirituality on social media, seeking validation instead of inner growth. By posting photos of themselves meditating, they prioritize external validation over genuine spiritual connection. Their focus shifts from personal development to impressing others, turning their spiritual practice into a disguised ego trip.
  2. Intellectual Ego Boost: Others use spiritual quotes and discussions to appear wise or enlightened in conversations. Rather than embodying humility, they seek admiration and elevate themselves intellectually. Their motivation isn’t genuine spiritual growth but rather to assert superiority over others, feeding their ego through the guise of spirituality.
  3. Manipulative Justification: Some manipulate spiritual teachings to justify selfish actions, distorting spirituality for personal gain. By claiming alignment with spiritual principles while harming others, they prioritize their own interests over compassion and understanding. In doing so, they not only deceive others but also corrupt the essence of genuine spiritual practice.
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Sam equanimity

The Sanskrit word samata refers to equanimity. Neither getting too happy when something good happens, nor getting too sad when something bad happens.

Samata is possibly the first step in karma yoga.

Can we directly give up all attachments and desires? Very difficult.

But can we slowly and surely train ourselves to be lesser and lesser volatile (of mind) to outside events? Absolutely.

And this will naturally cultivate a sense of detachment. Such an internal shift leads to a separation between the active surface personality, engrossed in various engagements, and the inner peace and detachment.

The individual begins to perceive that it is not they who are solely responsible for their actions, but rather that the actions are being carried out through them.

This perspective eliminates feelings of possessiveness or attachment to the outcome of their endeavors, regardless of their perceived significance or success in conventional consciousness.

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Cosmic liking

We fawn over ourselves like the world’s most stunning Instagram filter.

Yet, one snarky comment and our self-worth crumbles faster than a gluten-free cookie. What gives?

Vedic spirituality calls it “Maya”.

We see ourselves reflected in other people’s opinions, forgetting the eternal, flawless Self within.

Ditch the external validation and grab your meditation cushion.

Uncover your inner diamond, and those fleeting opinions will lose their sparkle.

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Just forget it

Forgetfulness comes in various forms. Sometimes, we misplace items or overlook appointments – minor slip-ups. But there’s a deeper, more profound kind of forgetfulness: absent mindfulness, where we lose touch with ourselves.

I stumbled upon the thoughts of the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard in an article in the paper. In his 1843 work, “either/or,” Kierkegaard reflected, “The unhappy person is one who has…the content of his life, the fullness of his consciousness, the essence of his being…outside of himself.” This detachment from oneself, Kierkegaard argued, leads to perpetual absence from the present moment.

He identified existential boredom as the root cause of our frantic pursuit of distractions, long before the digital age. Kierkegaard viewed this busyness as absurd – a futile attempt to fill the void of meaninglessness.

So, what’s Kierkegaard’s answer? He challenges us to find truth within ourselves. It’s about discovering ourselves in the here and now, where past and future fade away, leaving only the perfect present tense.

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TTSP, again

We’ve already seen TTSP once before.

But this was echoed several centuries ago by the wise Birbal.

King Akbar once asked him, “What is it that will make an unhappy man happy, and a happy man unhappy?”.

Birbal thought for a moment and replied, “This too shall pass!”, indicating that everything is transitory only.

If a moment seems too good, and a happy man is revelling in that moment, that moment will soon pass. And likewise for the unhappy man, who is extrapolating his life to constantly get worser and worser. But as we well know, TTSP!

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Praising the Box

In a TV series called Curbing Your Enthusiasm, one of the protagonists throws himself a “live” funeral. He’s absolutely convinced that it will catch on too!

What is this, according to the funny guy? A pretty nice concept, if you think about it.

His premise is that when everyone’s going to come to his funeral after he dies, they will invariably have very nice things to say. But, they will be saying all those nice things to “the body in the box”.

So, why not have the same situation, but receive the praise when alive instead?

The concept is cool. And it’s amazing really how no one praises anyone during the normal course of life. At least not when they aren’t expecting anything in return!

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Pleasurable pleasures

Why give up the thrill of pleasure, huh? Imagine soaking in a breathtaking sunset, admiring a majestic tree, or following the graceful flow of a river—sheer bliss!

But here’s the twist: when we cling to those moments like they’re going out of style, they become addictive. Suddenly, that beautiful face or serene landscape becomes an obsession.

We’ve all been there. We revel in a moment—be it artistic, intellectual, or simply awe-inspiring—and we’re hooked. Yet, this pursuit often clouds our minds, breeding false ideals and endless illusions.

Let’s be realistic though. Trying to kick pleasure to the curb is a futile endeavor. Instead, we could dissect it, and understand its quirks and cravings. Because when life becomes a relentless pursuit of pleasure, it’s like opening Pandora’s box of chaos, confusion, and blurred lines. Pleasure can be painful.

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Just came across a nice Jay Shetty video where a young lady all of 26, asks him for advice. She was hit by brain cancer 4 years prior, and she’s obviously seen all of her friends and colleagues move forward in life, whereas time had stood still for her.

How could she possibly reclaim her life?

Jay’s answer was sensible and sensitive. After calling out how inspiring this young lady was, he told her that what she and many others go through at such a point in time, is perhaps grief.

Why grief?

Because, he explained, that grief doesn’t just come because of losing someone or something, it could also come because of not having the life one would have wanted or thought they should have.

Pretty interesting way to define grief, no?

And he also said that the lady should continue to share her story with others and inspire those around her. Because as she helps others bring down their grief, her own grief would reduce!

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The wanderer – part 2 of 2

Our minds have a habit of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. And let’s face it, they can cling to the negative like Velcro. But here’s the important bit: we’re all born with innocence, just waiting to be rediscovered.

Remember those carefree days of childhood, when every moment was an adventure? That innocence is still within us, ready to bring a little magic back into our lives.

So, if we loosen up and embrace simplicity, life could become a whole lot sweeter. It’s not just about gaining knowledge; it’s about reconnecting with our inner selves. By welcoming our innocence, we can open ourselves up to a world of joy, spontaneity, and endless possibilities.

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The wanderer – part 1 of 2

Ever catch your mind in a daydream? It’s like a puppy, always chasing after the next thing. But here’s the deal: being aware of what’s going on up there is like having a superpower. It’s our ticket to taming stress and anxiety.

Sometimes our thoughts feel like a flock of birds, darting from one idea to the next without a care in the world. But when we start paying attention, we realize we can guide those thoughts like a skilled shepherd herding sheep.

The next time our minds take off on their own adventure, let’s grab the reins and steer them back to the present moment. Who knows? We might just discover a newfound sense of peace and clarity amidst the chaos of everyday life.

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Deathly dollhouse

In the recently released Hollywood movie called Barbie, there’s some interesting dialogues.

Of course Barbies always have fun and every day is perfect.

Just like the perfect world imagined by the minds of so many little girls who love their dolls.

However, one day, Barbie faces an existential question.

She begins to think about death, and that too, while shaking a leg at a party.

“Have you other dolls ever thought about dying?”

And suddenly there’s pin drop silence. Clearly this is a no-no on Barbie-land.

So Barbie quickly covers up, “I meant, I’m just dying to dance…”, and the party resumes like it never even stopped!

Funny stuff, but in the real world, we know all too well, that it is the thought of mortality that truly awakens one’s spirituality.

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King of the Whirled

An octogenarian leader made it clear that relinquishing power is not on the agenda. Despite advancing age and mounting health concerns, he remains steadfast in his position, defying expectations of retirement.

This stance prompts reflection on the universal struggle of letting go of power and privilege, even in later life. It highlights how deeply ingrained desires and attachments can overshadow considerations of what may be best for succession planning.

This narrative serves as a reminder of the complexities of human nature, where the allure of power often outweighs rational judgment or recognition of one’s limitations. It underscores the wisdom found in spiritual teachings, advocating for detachment from worldly desires and the pursuit of inner peace.

For the elderly leader, the throne is his whirlwind, a realm he’s reluctant to depart. Do we have such thrones as well?

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Can we truly give up all desires?

Perhaps not.

But can we give up one desire for another?

I feel like buying that cool looking $1200 new iPhone, but then seeing the $3500 Vision Pro makes my heart skip a beat (insane price and awesomeness both!).

So the interim solution is probably in trading desires upwards. Go for something better, and replace the lower.

Keep doing this, and we’ll realize that the only desire that truly and comprehensively fills the heart is the desire for God and the Self.

That’s also when we’ll accept that we already have everything that truly matters. What good is a desire for the one who has it all?

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Spirituality at work

It’s difficult bringing spirituality to work, isn’t it? Most people don’t get it, or don’t care. And we ourselves may not fully understand how to implement what Krishna has said. So here are three simple pointers:

  • Give Your Best: No shortcuts, just your A-game!
  • Keep Your Cool: Inner peace amidst the chaos is key.
  • Share the Success: We didn’t get here alone, and there are many people who will benefit from us, in myriad ways!

Being spiritual doesn’t mean being naive. But we can surely tackle the corporate jungle with a dash of mindfulness.

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The good old…

People always reminisce about the “good old days,” but maybe, the good old days are happening right now!

Remember when we had to rely on paper train timetables or stop random strangers for directions? Now, with just a tap on our smartphones, we can navigate through the chaotic streets of Mumbai or the bustling markets of Delhi without breaking a sweat.

The struggle of waiting for a bus in the scorching heat or pouring rain, praying it would arrive on time? Nowadays, with ride-hailing apps, we can summon a ride with a few taps and avoid the dreaded wait.

Back then, if you missed your favorite Bollywood movie at the cinema, you might have to wait ages for it to come out on DVD. But now? Streaming platforms bring the latest releases pronto.

So, let’s raise a chai to the present chaos because someday, we’ll look back and say, “Remember when we thought these were the good old days?”

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Magic garland

Here’s a super “miracle” that I had the good fortune to witness recently.

I was with a staunch devotee of a particular deity. This deity was the Ishta Devata of said person, and the person would chant copious malas of this deity’s mantras daily.

I watched the person put small flower garlands across the photos of all the various deities at their altar. All garlands from the same strip, and all similar flowers.

And yet, the next morning, while all the other garlands had wilted, only the garland around the Ishta Devata was incredibly fresh!

The difference was absolutely remarkable, almost as though that specific deity’s photo had specially charged energy… Divine and miraculous indeed!

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Practical virtues

In chapter 16 of the Amazing Simple Gita, my Guru has added an important element for many virtues in the first 3 verses. One of pragmatism and practicality.

Some people try to conflate the virtues given with perpetual application. In every single situation.

The virtue list asks to tell the truth? Well tell the truth all the time then, even if it hurts someone, especially a dharmic person.

Here’s one:

Kshama: An automatic, effortless (non-reactive) forgiveness. No stupidity, Great Prithviraj Chawhan, forgave his enemy 7 times and got killed in the 8th battle. Never forgive durjanas.

Adhroha: Bearing no enmity, dislike to none. Yet applied depending on your duty. For instance border protector, soldier and police. Don’t wait to get killed by other’s tricks.

See the stuff in bold? How practical is that!

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