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Category: acceptance

Bye-byes

Goodbyes are always hard. Unless you are leaving a toxic workplace or a terrible boss.

Even then, there’ll always be some people in the organization that were nice to you, and bidding them adieu isn’t easy.

But the beauty of change, is that when one door closes, another opens up, bringing with it several new relationships and possibilities.

Life on a spiritual level is similar too perhaps. Even at the most difficult time of death, which the Gita speaks about in great detail, the give up of these wordly attachments and cling-ons means that one gets to truly know and meet their Creator. Unless one wants to come back to this cycle of births and deaths of course.

As the poet Rumi noted on his deathbed to his weeping disciple, “Don’t weep, I’m parting ways with this world and getting ready to embrace my greater beloved.”

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Turning the tables

In many parts of the Gita, Lord Krishna mentions that he is only the Watcher, not the Doer. He has only created the Nature around us to function based on certain laws (of nature), and whatever happens thereafter is upon creation, not Him.

Some people question this. How?

By asking why the Lord would not step in where required. Seems very easy to just say, “Okay, I’ve created, and so my part here is done.”. Why not interfere when things are going wrong? If crime is being committed, why would the Lord not come in and take charge? Why does he have to say that he has nothing to do with this?

The answer lies in karmic theory of course. That we each are responsible for what we do, and this karmic record spans multiple lifetimes. But there is another way to think of this as well.

What if the Lord questions us thus, “Hey I created this universe and world and have given each of you the most beautiful planet to live on. I’ve ensured everything is perfect, beautiful nature, bountiful resources and every reason for you to be happy forever. And yet, what have you people done? Are you really happy? Are the resources you’ve been given used properly? Sustainably? Are you all living together in love and harmony?”

The tables have been turned.

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What if I can’t remember the Lord always?

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

So what to do?

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

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

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

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Miraculous – part 2/2

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

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

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

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

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

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ABCs

In JP Morgan’s recent quarterly commentary, I came across an interesting acronym.

If you read the title of this post, then no doubt you guessed it already.

ABC (duh!).

Here is the statement verbatim.

“We’ve always believed that ABC – Arrogance, Bureaucracy and Complacency leads to stasis and death.”

You don’t usually expect to find such lines in boring corporate commentary, but sometimes such gems do exist in the most unlikeliest of places!

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Directions

We were all set for experiencing the Siddhivinayak Kakad Aarti at 5.30 am. One would have to wake up much earlier maybe 4 am, shower and then reach the temple.

Night owls would consider such trips sacrilege. But those familiar with morning sevas of Indian temples would know this is not such a bad time – given some start at 2 am!

In any case, we were headed to the temple, just on time. Until of course we encountered a road closure. It was tantalizingly close to the temple, while also being far enough that we couldn’t walk to reach on time.

The area wasn’t familiar, and so we didn’t know the bylanes at all. Momentarily, and out of nowhere, in an otherwise deserted street, a car overtook us, as if directed by Someone higher up. The car went ahead, hit the same road closure, took a U-turn, and then proceeded to the take the shortest alternative route to the temple. We obviously followed, quickly, and otherwise would have had zero chance of reaching on time. Divine directions indeed!

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Conflicted

There’s a big conflict in Arjuna’s mind.

He sees a lovely path ahead of him called the Path of Knowledge. Jnaana Yoga.

And then a much tougher one, the Path of Work. Karma Yoga.

Of course he is drawn to Jnaana Yoga. Just “learn” some “knowledge” and run away from the battlefield and be done with all work forever.

But this is only an apparent conflict, borne out of delusion, as Krishna explains to him, and indirectly to us.

There is hardly any difference between the two Paths.

Jnaana Yoga is also a path of work only. Because the true Path of Knowledge gets the individual to realize that it is not work that should be shunned, but only attachment to it and its fruits.

The paths only exist in the mind. To the realized soul, everything is the same.

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Key, da!

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”, is what French philosopher Pascal once said. Bang on he was of course.

In Hindi, this is also known as ‘keeda’. Well not literally, because keeda only means insect. However, do imagine a small insect running around in your mind, with the latter unable to sit still.

That’s a keeda for you. Everything is perfect, life is great, the job is great, the pay is great, and yet, you want something more. You feel like something is missing, even though to an outsider, your life would look absolutely perfect. That’s a keeda in action.

How to get out of this feeling? Because everyone’s experiencing it most of the time. What’s the solution – the key, da? (to use some Tamil slang as well).

As my Guru keeps saying, the only way, is “to realize the futility of it all”. So many greats have come and gone. Where are all their worries and troubles now? Where will ours be in a 100 years?

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Emoshunned – part 2 of 4

The way we are often asked to deal with emotions is to simply ignore them. When things turn ugly, how many times have we heard “just grin and bear it”, or “this too shall pass”, or “time is the best healer”.

These statements are each true no doubt, but in that very moment, does “not dealing” with the emotions we are going through help us?

Likely not. In her book, Brene lists 87 types of emotions. Wow. That number blew my mind. Eight seven of them, really?

Apparently there are more, but she just chose those she felt were most important, and what we tend to experience fairly regularly.

She also didn’t want her book to be translated into any other languages because she would have no control over the final meaning. For instance, the word shame in English has at least 3 similar but different words in Spanish.

Why is it important to name these emotions properly? More tomorrow…

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6 months to… part 2 of 3

As mentioned yesterday, today’s and tomorrow’s posts will contain some gems from the amazing book 6 Months to Live (available here).

  1. When some people are faced with a life-threatening illness, they lose all hope and wither away. True strength of character is seen when death is faced eye to eye without blinking, without questioning, without self-pity.
  2. “Not everything that is faced, can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
  3. We talk about angels in disguise…. What disguise? Here was an angel incarnate, whom God had sent to look after us in those trying times.
  4. The above vacations and participation in various family events just proves that cancer is not THE END of everything. You can almost go about your routine life with positivity and enthusiasm.
  5. Moving on is the best tribute you can give your most loved one who is no longer with you in person.

Concluded tomorrow, with some more gems!

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6 months to… part 1 of 3

There’s an outstanding short-book that I just finished reading.

It’s called 6 Months To Live, and written by Dr. Sangeeta Raman Girdhar.

The book is only about 70-odd pages long, and can easily be finished in one sitting, and within the hour.

But the convenient length of the book not the reason everyone should read it.

What the book captures so beautifully, is a combination of 4 things:

  1. What all a loved one goes through when faced with a terminal disease
  2. What the immediate family of this person goes through
  3. What life lessons and spiritual lessons we can each take away, especially if (God-forbid) put in such circumstances
  4. How to deal with cancer, and even make micro lifestyle changes to prevent it

I’m going to share a few powerful takeaways from the book over the next couple of days, but the book has much more than just these, so do consider reading it. The author is my cousin sister, who is an amazing human being. The least I can do is feature her work on FHN! The book is available here.

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Arrivals

Surely you’ve heard of that neighbor’s son who’s so successful right?

We all live in different apartments, towns, cities, countries and even continents. Yet we all have those “neighbour’s sons / daughters” that we are invariably compared with.

This is not about comparing with others, as much as it is about our own definitions of success. But can we really define our success?

Were we successful when we cleared first grade? Or weren’t we?

How about when we cleared grade 12? How about when we graduated? When we got a job? Or when we got another job, and then another and another? How about when we were promoted to head of a department? Or when we started our own company? Or when we donated a decent sum to the charity of our choice? Or when we were able to use our ‘influence’ to recommend a friend to a good job? Or when we got to the Board of Directors? Or CEO or Chairman of a small company? Of a large company? Of a Fortune 500?

Who decides if we are successful or not? Is it really us? Or is it an arbitrary line in the sand, drawn by someone else, that declares that you have arrived?

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Sunken

“But I am like this only.”

“But this is how I’ve always been doing it.”

“This is how it has been since… forever!”

Heard such statements before? You surely have. Do such statements leave a good impression on you? Probably not. Why? Because we all know, that if we want to get ahead, to improve, we need to adapt and change. But sentences like the ones above, indicate exactly the opposite. Something has been done a particular way, and there is no way I’ll change that.

This actually has a name. It’s called the sunk-cost fallacy. It is also called the Concorde fallacy. That second name was a bit of a giveaway wasn’t it?

This refers to the stubbornness of the governments that made the Concorde. They kept drowning it in cash even after it was clear that it was a commercial disaster. They had already put in so much money and effort, i.e. ‘sunk costs’, that they were just unwilling to change.

We all know the ultimate fate of the Concorde. Would we want to end up like that?

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Memento mori

How did the Ancient Romans manage triumph? Did they let it get to their head? Such a weird question isn’t it?

No, because they actually had a process around it. The process was such, that a victorious general or commander could only enter his home city during a special parade. All the loot and plunder and slaves would be displayed amid great pomp and show.

Bringing up the end of the parade, would be the victorious commander, riding in a chariot.

However, he would not be alone. He would be accompanied in the chariot by an auriga, a slave.

This auriga’s only role during this lavish cavalcade? To continuously whisper the title phrase into the commander’s ears.

“Memento mori, memento mori, memento mori, memento mori…”

“Remember you are mortal, remember you are mortal, remember you are mortal, remember you are mortal…”

What a lesson to be reminded of, at the peak of one’s glory!

And then there are some who gloat, even without achieving any glory… <facepalm>

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Distractions galore

Our lives seem to be full of distractions. The mobile phone, the internet, YouTube… Oh there are so many culpable offenders in my fight against distraction. So many things to do, but just no ability to focus on the various tasks at hand.

But maybe distractions are par for the course simply because the work that is done is chosen poorly. The work is chosen only because the result seems favorable. Some money, some benefits, some perks, some power, some something or the other.

Spirituality keeps on asking us to live in the moment. That only means we’ve to love the work, i.e. the process of working, and not the outcome of the work alone. If instead, we are focused on monthly payday alone, of course distractions will plague us. Even the feeblest of winds can get us to alter course then.

If we look at it this way, then maybe distractions are good, even great. If I’m going to work in an organization for the rest of my life/career but still get distracted easily, maybe that work is not something I truly like? What’s the point in doing something if it’s truly not meaningful enough? Note that meaning is only for the doer – what’s meaningful to me might be nonsensical to another.

The alternative of brainstorming, networking and hustling to get to do what you feel is truly meaningful, is not an easy path. And so for most, it is easy to continue to do what they have been, while cribbing about distractions, while letting the void-for-meaning deep within them, grow stronger and stronger.

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I swear

Here’s a cute scene on TV I saw recently.

A table had a small glass jar with a few coins in it. A label ‘Swear Jar’ is pasted across it. A mother is seen berating her 5 year old daughter’s use of swear words. Every time she says a bad word, the kid needs to put a dollar from her pocket money into the ‘swear jar’.

Like all kids, this one too tries to find loopholes, asking her teacher to “go to shell” and “what the muck” among other such cleverly hidden expletives.

The mother is initially irritated by this behaviour. But it dawns on her that the “swear jar” is not the right approach. If one were to create a rule such that the target person (the 5 yo) can’t even understand (because she is too young to), then of course said target would try to break the rule!

The mother then changes tactics and says something beautiful. “Baby, no more swear-jar okay? That is pointless. But I want you to understand why bad words are not okay. And that’s because bad words make other people feel bad. Now you are such a good girl – surely you don’t want other people feeling bad because of what you say do you?”

“No mommy.”

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Double role

Chapter 2 in the Gita, towards the end, talks of dwandvas, which refers to duality, like two sides of the same coin. This duality is such, that no matter what the situation, the other side will occur as well – whether we like it or not. Life is full of such dwandvas. Night is always followed by day, and day by night. This can never be changed. Pain is followed by pleasure, and pleasure by pain. There is no escaping it. Success is followed by failure, and that failure in turn can lead to great success. Where great joy exists, great pain will follow too.

There are literally countless examples – pretty much everything we see and feel around us. Get too close to somebody? Then the pain of separation will eventually become too much. Love your child too much? One day s/he will have to go away for higher education or marry someone elsewhere. Love your job or role or credentials? One day you will have to retire and all these will become meaningless. Desperately waiting to go on a vacation? Soon the vacation will come to an end and you will be back at work. And thus the cycle continues, on and on and on.

What’s the point of thinking this way? Only to understand and appreciate that this duality is the nature of the world around us. We keep praying to God for many things. Each of those things also comes with the same duality only. We pray for good things to happen to us. But we forget that these good things will by design come with some not-so-good stuff attached. That is the law of life and creation. So if a prayer isn’t answered, maybe we shouldn’t be depressed about it after all?

In any case, there is only one thing that is non-dual. And that singular omnipotent omnipresent omniscient being can be found deep within each one of us.

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How to attain spiritual perfection

Here are three most important requirements which were discussed in a recent satsang.

  1. Humility
  2. Compassion
  3. Ananya bhakti (i.e. constant devotion to the Lord / God / Oneness / Consciousness / Paramatman / Supreme Being etc.)

If we attempt to analyse these a bit more:

Humility comes from accepting that neither do we know everything, nor are we the best at anything.

Compassion comes from accepting that there others more needy than us (usually we are the only centre of our attention).

Ananya Bhakti is harder to grasp and practise. It requires more alertness than the other two. It requires the spiritual seeker to bring God into every aspect of one’s life, into every waking moment, into every voluntary thought and action. A good way to begin, is with gratitude for everything that has already taken place and is currently taking place.

Seen differently, 1 and 2 chop away constantly at the seemingly infallible tree that is the ego. And point 3 replaces it with the only Truth that exists.

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The Great Debate

People of science argue that there is no God. Because science is based on logic. And logic can be proven. And repeatedly so.

People of faith argue that there is a God. Logic is irrelevant to them. Why? Because their own personal experiences have taught them that miracles can and do happen – and if its a repeatable non-coincidence at their times of greatest need – then who cares about logic.

The science folks argue that if God exists, then why do you need technology to improve lives. Why have cutting edge medicine to save lives. Why use computers and mobiles and other amazing inventions? God didn’t invent those did he? Man did. The faith folks argue that the substratum for any ‘inventions’ were not invented by any man or human, but are divine gifts, of which we are mere renters.

This is a never ending debate. But it needn’t be so.

All the ancient scriptures describe God in the same way. As the spark of Consciousness that resides deep within each one of us. Not just us humans, but in all living beings. Not just living, but also inanimate things. Basically everything there is, is just an expression of this Consciousness, but in a multitude of forms. It is this Consciousness spark in humans that is known as intuition, that sometimes results in amazing solutions to problems, that results in great advancements in technology and so on. Seen this way, there is no debate.

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