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Category: acceptance

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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Terminal

Social media platforms are often used in funny ways. Facebook and Instagram are no more places to talk about one’s own life – rather it has become a place to sell one’s wares (and very effectively too sometimes). Linkedin is more about sharing one’s personal life than professional life. Twitter was supposed to be for short messages, but I’ve seen ‘threads’ with 100s of posts too.

The first post on my Linkedin feed today morning was another personal one. It was a tragic post. After seeing countless profiles on Linkedin of people who had succumbed to Covid after being tagged posthumously by their friends, this one was different.

This man posted that he only had a few more months to live – having been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He said with utmost gratitude that he’s enjoyed his life of 60+ years and that he’d had no regrets and that this would be his last post.

The comments that followed had people sympathising with him – that their future would be different without him, and that he should live his best life going forward etc. Given how unpredictable life is, these commenters assume that they will be around longer than him. Not a bad assumption to make – but it’s an assumption nevertheless. What if it weren’t true. Would we live our lives any differently? It’s fashionable to say ‘yes’. But if ‘yes’, then why aren’t we living that different life already?

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Blinded by

There is a medical condition called Anton’s Blindness. It is a real thing. But those affected by it, do not believe it. They think they can see perfectly well. But they cannot, and so when they walk or move around, they bump into objects they cannot see and often hurt themselves.

This sounds exactly like what my Guru would think of me. “Blind fellow, bumping around in the world from one problem to another, and constantly hurting himself. If only he would accept that he doesn’t see the Truth. The Real Truth. That Consciousness that powers everything. And then this acceptance may bring him some solutions. But alas. He is blinded by ignorance, anger, jealousy, greed – you name it. And he seems to enjoy this state of blindness too. What a pity.”

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Lockdown

“Isolation” and “Quarantine” and “Lockdown”. Three words that have suddenly become commonplace, all thanks to the Covid situation. Most people everywhere seem to be cribbing big time. “I’m so sick of staying at home. Just can’t wait for things to open up. I hate this lockdown business. Can’t even go anywhere. I really miss my vacations and international trips.”

But a change in mindset is necessary. An entitled person may think sitting at home unable to travel for pleasure is bad. But how about those people who are isolated in hospital wards, separated from their loved ones, stuck on a hospital bed amongst hundreds of others, breathing into tubes attached to cylinders, with no indication of when their ordeal would end. Isn’t that infinitely worse? And then there are those that desperately need hospitals / ICUs / beds but these are all full. What of them?

As an Indian army jawan noted on his Linkedin post – “Don’t be scared of isolation. My longest spell was on Siachen glacier, lasting 138 days, with 98 days of intense firing. All 19 of us survived 100s of kilos of TNT. I lost 19 kilos of weight, and took bath after 138 days. The minimum temperature was -50-degrees Celcius.”

What are the rest of us cribbing about? We must be deeply cognizant that anyone stepping out for any reason could be the cause for someone else falling sick or losing a loved one. It is our duty to stay indoors and safe, until all this bad news passes.

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Sightful

Here’s an awesome story narrated by Morgan Housel who writes for the Collaborative Fund blog.

Dr. Dan Goodman once performed surgery on a middle-aged woman whose cataract had left her blind since childhood. The cataract was removed, leaving the woman with near-perfect vision. A miraculous success.

The patient returned for a checkup a few weeks later. The book Crashing Through writes:

Her reaction startled Goodman. She had been happy and content as a blind person. Now sighted, she became anxious and depressed. She told him that she had spent her adult life on welfare and had never worked, married, or ventured far from home – a small existence to which she had become comfortably accustomed. Now, however, government officials told her that she no longer qualified for disability, and they expected her to get a job. Society wanted her to function normally. It was, she told Goodman, too much to handle.

Wow, you did not expect that ending to the story did you? It is no surprise that humans are the worst predictors of their own future. Our superpower, nay super-weakness is the ability to isolate exactly one outcome of the future (like more money, fame, here eyesight etc.) that we want, to the exclusion of everything else – often risks – that would automatically accompany that outcome.

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Foggy

Alan Alda, the American actor and 6-time Emmy and Golden Globe winner once said, “Your assumptions are your windows to the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

This might seem obvious, but its effective implementation is worth its weight in gold.

The real problem is that these windows are not dirtied by others. They are dirtied by we ourselves, after imagining what others are thinking about us.

So much so, that sometimes being blind is better, as shown in the very popular Marvel TV show called Daredevil. The protagonist has superhero abilities, but cannot see. This lack of vision though, gives him much clarity in other walks of life. Contrast that to his best friend and partner – ironically named ‘Foggy’ – who lives by making large (and silly) assumptions and getting himself into trouble.

Scrubbing our windows needs courage and the ability to recognize that we may have been wrong – often publicly. And it’s infinitely better to be wrong and corrected on Step 1 than on Step 100, by which time, it might be too late.

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Disastittude

  1. She had worked really hard on her presentation. All of last week. Little sleep and plenty of sweat, and tears.
  2. Now it was ready. All external dependencies, and myriad coordinations, checked and resolved, approvals sought.
  3. Mail drafted, and ready to send. This would put her in the upper leagues. People would take notice.
  4. And then came the phone call. Some of her data points in chapter 3 were incorrect. Taken innocuously from a defunct source.
  5. The correction would take time. Maybe a couple of weeks if not more.
  6. Oh what a bummer. She felt like the world came crashing down.
  7. Irritated. Frustrated. She hated delays. She also hated going back to the drawing board.
  8. Then she realized. This was not a disaster, rather, she was saved from one.
  9. Imagine if her email with the wrong presentation and data had gone out. What a mess that would have been!
  10. It was just a week from annual appraisal day too. Her bonus could have been slashed, and promotion rescinded.
  11. Her frustration abated momentarily, and her gratitude for Divinity’s mysterious ways gushed to the fore.
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Fear to become

Have we not feared, every step of our way to today? Those terrible kindergarten days, where we hated being separated from our parents. Moving to a new place, not knowing if we would be accepted in the school there. Joining a sports class, only to be bullied by some of the seniors. Entering the workplace – our very first day at work – the butterflies, the discomfort – is always there. When we are on the cusp of progress, we always have a tendency to look back. Seeing all the obstacles we overcame, we must ideally feel a great deal of strength, knowing that if we go through all this all these years, we can get through anything.

All of this reminds me of Khalil Gibran’s outstanding poem titled Fear. The premise is beautiful. It speaks of a river that has meandered its way through mountains, winding roads, plains, forests, villages and what not. Now the river is in front of the ocean, about to enter it. That’s when it looks back at its journey, and trembles. Seeing such a vast ocean, the river is worried about disappearing into it forever. The rest is too good to paraphrase, so here is the original:

But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.

Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.

The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.

I get goose bumps each time I read this.

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Carma

At the valet parking area of a renowned 5 star hotel, the owner of an old and tiny Hyundai i10 was waiting for his car to be brought to him.

He watched, as the valets buzzed about, servicing their guests and deftly moving from car to car. One valet drove up in great style in a brand new Mercedes Benz AMG GLE Coupe. The Coupe owner took the keys and handed the valet a crisp couple of notes. The smile on the valet’s face was telling of his satisfaction.

The compact car owner thought to himself, “Wow these valets have it so good. I can’t even dream of driving these sporty beauties. That Mercedes GLE is a special edition model – just 10 of them in the whole world!”

Little did he know the thoughts running in the valet’s mind. “Oh these rich folks – such show-offs. And having to drive their cars? Back and forth, back and forth, from the reception area to the parking lot, a 100 times a day. Can there be anything more repetitive and boring? With the money I make, I barely make ends meet. My school going son would love it so much if I could own even just a simple car. Even an old dilapidated Hyundai i10 would be perfect.”

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2021

A simple but important blog post to ring in the new year. Here are five things for me to work on, so as to get the best from 2021.

  1. Every day, all day, be happy and grateful for everything we already have. Success, money, fame will come automatically.
  2. Zero compromise on health (i.e. proper nutrition and exercise) – for if there’s one thing an invisible virus from 2020 has taught us, it is that without a fit body and mind, everything else is pointless.
  3. Give / donate / help generously and selflessly. This is the only way to purify the mind and intellect. (Why? Because it removes the notion of ego / i-i-i)
  4. Join a satsang and / or actively participate in one. Repeatedly dunking the mind in scriptural knowledge as guided by the Guru and applying it in our lives will fast track our spiritual transformation.
  5. Enjoy every single moment, and look at every stumbling block as an opportunity to improve. As they say, there are no failures, only lessons.

Are these easy to follow? Do you have other things you would like to focus on? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. All the best for 2021!

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Shock and awe 2

This is a continuation of the Shock and Awe post from a few days ago. The premise is simple. We only learn when we are shocked or surprised by information – either new, or presented in a different manner. Here are some more such outstanding examples from my Guru’s unparalleled Amazing Simple Gita (life-changing free download!).

  1. It is not the CEO that reaches the Lord. Anyone who is unattached to his position, work, reaches.
  2. If your subordinate is promoted, feel good. No need to resign! (Why?, because “be even minded in success and failure. Evenness of mind is only called yoga.”)
  3. A never ending need, curdles into greed – without our knowledge. Hence our misery.
  4. Seek refuge in equipoise of mind. When this is practised, you seek neither fame, nor wealth nor acceptance from others.
  5. If you do not feel lost or dejected, but feel calm, you have become a yogi.

Aren’t these just mind blowing? So practical. What profundity! Now time to put these into action, step by step, as much as possible.

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You are the best/worst

Since the day we were born, we have only been trying to please others. Why? Not necessarily for others’ sakes. But because it makes us feel good. We love the support, acknowledgement and adulation.

If we’d said the words ‘mama’ or ‘papa’ correctly, we would have been rewarded with big smiles and claps. If we built nothing more than a vertical tower of a few blocks of toys one on top of the other, we would have been showered with hugs and kisses “Wow! My baby is a genius!”.

In school and college as well, getting appreciated by our teachers and professors, and even by our friends and peers was a big thing. No great shakes then that this continues into professional life too. We don’t mind working weekends and late nights, so that we get the accolades from our bosses, in the hope we will be promoted this year or the next.

Think of any famous person – whether politician or actor or chef. How many people like them? How many people do not like them? Their fan following is often deeply divided.

So, is expecting praise wrong? Not at all. But we have become so conditioned by praise that the lack of it throws us into reverse gear. And even worse? We do not know how to deal with the other extreme, which is sharp criticism. Sure, we must not hurt or criticise others. But on the receiving end, we have no control over what others think or say. One bad comment can lead to fear of the future and in some cases even severe depression. We can help our cause by reminding ourselves that it is okay to receive flak. What is in our control – and hence what we can focus on – is our willingness and action to better ourselves and do good for society and the world.

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Why I’m (not) incompetent

As toddlers, when we wanted to speak better, we were surrounded by those who spoke well, and just kept repeating the same gibberish over and over. Today as an adult language learner, if we are in the company of a native speaker, we feel incompetent.

Where we previously studied and memorised many lists for many exams, today we feel incompetent. If someone at the workplace has better ideas than us, or gets promoted, we feel incompetent. Even at home, if a sibling or a cousin achieves more than us, we feel incompetent.

Incompetence is not jealousy, although it could stem from it. Incompetence is only an excuse to doing better, not a solution. It is this very same feeling of incompetence that leads to depression. Despite having everything, an unsolicited and unnecessary comparison to peers throws life off track.

What if we were to just accept the situation and let go? We are not very good at something? Okay so be it. If we can try to improve, then great, otherwise also great. In the long run, values matter more than skills, because skills can be outsourced and values cannot. Incompetence in values can and must be fixed. Peer comparison in skills is a waste of time, but trying to be the best most-humane person? Always a good thing!

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The right age

My Guru, at the age of 81, works 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No this is not like going to office for getting a salary. Rather he works selflessly and tirelessly for others, with zero pay. No bonus, no increments. All assets willed away to charity. Nothing but the future of the world and its good citizens as his sole concern. Yet I have never once seen him complain or display weariness.

Can he control the world around him? Hardly. But himself? Oh his control over his mind is phenomenal. He says he was not always this way. But practise of sacrifice, austerity and charity has made all the difference.

When did he become like that? At age 20? Or 40? Or 60? Or when he started getting white hair? Or after he retired? Or after he had kids? Or after he shifted jobs?

He became like that the moment he decided to, which was well in the prime of his youth. And that is exactly what he and all the other spiritual masters preach as well. While we are busy becoming dizzy in the world, we tend to postpone anything remotely selfless and spiritual to when get ‘older’. Many 70-year olds still give the same excuse!

The decision, and the benefits, are ours.

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Lion king sting

There is a big debate between idealism and spirituality. When a God has said that this is right and this is wrong, why do people not follow it? Why do I not have the freedom to do as I please? Why do people still commit mistakes? Why is the government not stopping these people from doing their (barbaric) acts?

There are staunch feminists who say “I will wear whatever I want. My choice. My freedom.” And that is indeed correct. But the same logic then applies to perpetrators of crimes as well, and they too do whatever they want. We should ideally have a fool-proof legal and judicial system that doesn’t let even a single crime go scot free. But our life experiences tells us that this is far from the truth.

This is not about being feminist or anti-feminist. This is about being practical. If we want to live in a lion’s den, we must prepare well, or else we will become lion food. Yes this is unfair, but that is (unfortunately) the world we are living in. We deal with lions (or worse) day in and day out, and in all walks of life. Some lions also do not look like lions, so it is hard to know what/who they really are. We may also not be spiritually advanced enough to throw our hands in the air and say “Oh Lord you take care of me” as a menacing lion approaches. We may have read and imbibed our scriptures, but the lion has not! Survival first, spirituality (and other things) next.

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Pleasantly good

We touched upon the red pill and blue pill in a post titled The Matrix a few weeks ago – link here. This is a concept that has existed for ages in many Indian spiritual texts, notably in the Kathopanishad.

The blue pill denotes that which is pleasant. The red pill denotes that which is good. Is there a difference between pleasant and good? There certainly is.

What is pleasant, is merely a function of what our sense organs perceive. That yummy looking pizza, that smell of freshy baked cream cookies, the sound of a TV advert asking you to spend the next 2 hours on the couch – are all examples of pleasant things. But are these necessarily good as well? Hardly.

In Sanskrit, the pleasant is denoted by the word preyas, while the good is called shreyas. It follows, that many times, to get the good, the path may not be easy or obvious.

Across many parts of the world, as the coronavirus threat seems to be abating somewhat, many people are throwing caution to the wind, and going on holidays and partying with friends (preyas). Needless to say, some of these have resulted in new infections. While 6 or 8 months spent locked down at home has indeed been painful, can we not wait another 2-3 months (shreyas)? Ask anyone who has gone through the ordeal of having to beg for hospital beds for their loved ones, and then maybe we will realize the gravity of the situation.

The Kathopanishad concludes decisively – “The wise one always chooses shreyas.”

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Brain drain

There was a girl whose name doesn’t matter
Her life was not handed on a platter
No this is not a love story
But one of hope, dedication and glory

She does Uber Eats home delivery
But was herself delivered with cerebral palsy
26 years old and 10 extra courses after college
Still got her no job, despite all her knowledge

She delivers everything on a wheelchair
Of course she isn’t speedy, now is that fair?
90% of her orders are rejected due to inaccessibility
Tough life, but she always smiles like she’s silly

And us? Oh we worry and stress about some triviality
Without smiling or accepting our reality
Damn them little problems we have in life
What with a perfect body and a brain sharp as a knife

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Pay it b/f?

We are all familiar with people who ask too many questions. Whether the school nerd or the nosy (and noisy!) neighbour, there is only so much we can put up with. But this post is not about them. This post is about many righteous good people who ask too less. Not just ask questions, but ask for help in general. Because many times, asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness. The misconception backing this thought is, “I want to be seen/known as a self-made individual.”

But we have got to where we are today, both collectively and individually, only by standing on the shoulders of giants of yore. There are phones with 12 GB RAM today, while entire computers from 3 decades ago barely had 12 MB! We would not have flat screen TVs, if someone hadn’t invented a black & white TV in the first place. The very phrase ‘let’s not reinvent the wheel’ presupposes efforts already put in by several others in the past, using which alone, we are here today.

What often stops the aforementioned righteous folks, is their perceived inability to pay back. The fact of the matter is, we will always be indebted to countless others for many things – at work or otherwise. Our parents for bringing us up, our teachers (and specifically the Guru) for imparting their knowledge, our employers and bosses for recognising our potential and enabling us to grow and likewise for friends, family and others. Therefore, it is impossible to pay everyone back. What we can do, and must do though, is to pay forward. Realising how much we have got, we can try to spread the joy, maybe put in a good word for a colleague, offer counselling / mentoring for students from our alma maters, provide books to the local libraries for free, impart our talents / skills to those around us, among other things.

Once we realise that paying forward is just as good as or better than paying back – we will try to gain the most from others, for selfless purposes, and then selflessly distribute forward. Important to remember, that when we pay forward, we too must expect nothing in return, exactly as those who did for us and brought us to this point.

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Twitterati

A celebrity passed away in a hospital recently. It was a government hospital, not a private one. He was shifted from one to the other, as he did not have money to pay for his treatment at the more expensive one. Nobody stepped forward to help him at the time.

However, soon after his demise, many of his peers took to Twitter to announce their ‘grief and shock’, and some have said they would “take care of his family”, “educate his kids” and what not.

Some might ask, “Where were these people 15 days ago?”

Don’t worry, this is not a long rant on social media. This is life. So what can we take away from this?

  1. Nobody cares. Or at least most people don’t. Or maybe they do, but they are just so caught up in their own mess that they rarely help sort out other people’s problems. It doesn’t make them bad people. Maybe. So instead of being upset, we can take it in our stride. Not for anyone else, but for our own peace of mind.
  2. No matter how much you may help others in this life, you may still leave here in unexpected, and unenviable ways.
  3. Money and fame – that which we covet the most today, could be gone tomorrow.
  4. Health is the real wealth. But hardly anyone wants to be rich in health. But we can buck that. And we can start right now.
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Living in uncertainty

Spirituality is often misunderstood. It is neither about spirits nor about rituals. Rather, it is simply about accepting life as it comes, without being affected by it. While reading about this on a blog might make it seem all too easy, implementing this is the hardest thing in the world.

Imagine you are in the midst of a lecture, addressing a group of students. Suddenly you get a call, and are informed that a loved one has just passed away. What would your state of mind be? Would the whole world just come crashing down in an instant? Yes, highly likely. But not for my Guru – who just continued his lecture as though nothing had happened. This is not to say he has no feelings. Far from it, because he is the most empathetic human being I have ever come across. He used to whimsically take his car out on extremely hot days, so that he could pick labourers up, give them a bottle of water to quench their parched throats, and drop them where they wanted to go. These labourers would otherwise spend hours walking under the scorching sun, almost having their skins peeled off. But my Guru is able to beautifully practise what he preaches – that there is an innate futility of linking ourselves to our material body and possessions.

Living in uncertainty alone is spirituality, as he says. And this is not only in the case of bad news. For good news too, practising restraint is extremely difficult. Imagine someone comes up and says you got a special out-of-turn promotion and bonus that you never saw coming. We quickly take credit for the entire success, and sometimes go so far as to think, “Good, but this itself was a bit late – it should have come last year itself.” Such thoughts never keep us grounded, and our own ego gets in the way of progress. For the good events in life, my Guru credits 100% of the results to God / super-consciousness / Nature / Creation. This too is not because he doesn’t enjoy the moment. Far from it. He revels in every moment – even just while breathing the air around him. However, he realises that revelling too much can only bring attachment, desire and downfall therefrom.

Many seekers nowadays take to spirituality hoping that its various practises will bring them success. In reality, spirituality may not bring success. But it surely prepares the seeker to handle success. And also failure.

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