Skip to content

Category: Ego

Substantial

My Guru was giving a discourse on the Bhagavatam recently. In that, sage Narada happens to be traveling and reaches the world in its current state, i.e. Kali yuga. What is the sum and substance of this age? That the substance has gone from everything. The Guru explained it beautifully thus.

The ‘substance’ has gone means the ‘purpose’ has gone.

Means people are not putting their hearts and souls into what they are doing. There is no love and enjoyment for work. There is no attention to work.

Not just office work. But to most actions.

If one is going to a temple to pray, the substance is lost, because the mind is not on the Lord, but on what we want from the Lord.

How profound! An important message for me, especially on this auspicious day of Guru Purnima. All glories to Him!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Sacrificial – part 3

Chapter 4 in the Gita is called Karma Sanyaasa Yoga, and talks of a variety of yagnas or sacrifices, as we’ve seen in the last couple of days.

The list of yagnas is beautiful, mesmerizing and sequenced to perfection.

It starts with physical items. Things like ghee, coconuts and other things one would normally offer into a fire ritual. But those are the easy ones.

Next come giving up the sense organs. What does this mean? Cut off my ears and put it into the fire? Certainly not :). Rather it is attachment to these organs and their perceptions that needs to be given up. What? How can I give up my organs. Seems illogical, until we come to terms with the scriptural end-game. Which is that all creation around us is simply maya, and all the sense organs are doing for us, is to bind us more to this world.

A question that is relevant here is – which part of all this is truly ours? All the money and material possessions we have – in some shape or form belong to the earth. We have maybe taken it, and processed it and converted it, but not truly created anything. If none of this is ours in the first place, what can we really sacrifice?

Oh yes, there is only one thing that is wholly solely ours. And it is called the Ego.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Masculinity

There’s an excellent interview on Youtube of ex-US President Mr. Barack Obama. It’s a very short clip – hardly two minutes long. He is quizzed on what masculinity is, what it means to be macho. Mr. Obama’s response, as expected of him, is simple yet profound.

He says that “a man doesn’t need eight women around you twerking to show their masculinity”. When we see most music videos / ads / movies / magazines / item numbers in songs etc. – they all seem to capture this exact theme – machoism and womanizing.

Instead, Mr. Obama clarifies that what makes a good man, is “first and foremost being a good human being and that means being responsible, being reliable, working hard, being kind, being respectful, being compassionate. The notion that being a man is to put somebody down rather than lift them up is an old view.”

Such a lovely thought, isn’t it? In the spirit of equality, no doubt this applies to women as well – because at the core of this life of ours, we are all human beings first.

We become great when we make others around us great, and this starts by treating them as though they are already great.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Twit quot 2

Here are some more simple yet profound quotes I came across on Twitter:

The way to forget insults is to not take compliments in the first place.
When in doubt, go for a walk.
Don't worry about being qualified. Everyone is learning as they go.
Reading 1-2 hours a day puts me in the top 0.00001%.
In the short term you are as good as your intensity. In the long term, you are as good as your consistency.

Link to Twit quot 1

Like it? Please share it!
2 Comments

Ritualistic pride

When doing a puja, homa (havan) or other ritual, the doers often become conceited. “Oh look I just performed a huge yagna and see how many people attended, and see what amazing catering I arranged” etc. Even if the havan was done on a small scale, ego can creep in. But it’s helpful to really think what aspects of the homa or puja were done by “the doer”.

How about these?

  1. The deity we are praying to has to make him/herself available
  2. Agni, the fire God, has to function as the medium and carry one’s prayers to the deity
  3. The various ingredients – coconuts, walnuts, other inflammable items, flowers, ghee, water and everything else – does the yagna doer create these items?
  4. The priest who conducts the ceremony – is the organizer the priest? Soes s/he know every single mantra, shloka, chant – not just to recite, but to understand and to feel? Did s/he create those incantations?
  5. Or maybe if it’s a self-chanted self-conducted ritual, then gratitude to our own memory, vocal chords, the guru who taught us the mantras…
  6. How about the free time we were allowed by our family members to devote to the puja
  7. Also the attendees who showed up, and the cooks who prepared all the dishes
  8. A few other things I would have missed here for sure

Without any of these, how would the havan have been a success? Really is there much for us to be proud of then?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Ego wars

Ego is our enemy right?

It prevents us from seeing things as they really are. It blinds us from believing that we’ve made a mistake. It helps us beautifully and creatively come up with ways to put the blame on someone else. Ego is a sureshot way of making suboptimal decisions and repeating mistakes. Eventually it leads to stress and anxiety.

But is ego always bad?

Maybe not, because it is the force which makes us act, often with great confidence. Without ego, we wouldn’t even want to get out of bed, let alone send a man to the Moon or even strive for that promotion or bonus at work. Nobody would ‘start-up’ as the fear of failure would be too large a force to prevent any action.

Why does spirituality condemn the ego then, and is there a way to reconcile this?

Yes, but it would take some effort. Instead of the using the ego to focus only on ourselves, if we can use it to work for others, to ensure society at large is benefited, that would be a win-win. This is why one with ego is under one’s own will, but a realized soul without ego (i.e. ego surrendered) is under God’s/Guru’s will.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

How to be equanimous

One of the mainstays for a liberated life according to the Bhagavad Gita, is samatvam or equanimity. This is also called having sama darshanam or equity in vision, i.e. looking at everything as inherently the same, irrespective of whether it is good or bad, pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow and so on.

To live comfortably and mentally unblemished in the face of criticism, one must begin by eschewing praise. We cannot have the proverbial cake and eat it too. We want equanimity in hardship, but our pleasure receptors shoot through the roof in the slightest hint of praise and recognition.

How can we then practically be equanimous? When the boss says “Wow you’ve done amazing work here, you deserve this promotion!”, do we just scowl at him and walk away? Or do we say “No sir, it wasn’t me.” The boss is then likely to keep the promotion/bonus for himself 🙂

The way prescribed in the scriptures, is ‘surrender’. Surrender with faith, to the divine, or if that’s too abstract, then to the Guru. In Hindi, sur means head. So putting your head under the Guru or ishta devata, offering everything to him or her. Everything means all good and all bad without distinction. So grab that promotion by all means, but mentally prostrate and offer it to your deity of choice. This will keep us grounded, always. Difficult, but worth it.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

DK boss

Look around you. At work, at the gym, in your social media feeds etc. How many people are really really successful and good at something? And how many just make a lot of noise? Okay, identifying this on social media could be hard, because everyone always puts their best foot forward. But is it really possible that everyone around us, is doing super duper amazing work, all the time?

There’s a principle called the Dunning-Kruger effect. It refers to cases where people significantly overstate their abilities, without realizing it, because they are too incompetent in the first place to even realize that they are incapable. Have you come across any such people? Many people? Maybe your boss? Your employee? Your colleagues? Most of your friends? There are so many people in the all talk and no do bucket.

A very simple mistake we can make here though is to solely evaluate others. Pointing fingers at others is too easy. But the above is meant squarely for each one of us, or definitely at least for me. I need to accept that there is much I do not know, much I am not good at – and being humble about it, I can attempt to bridge my ignorance with knowledge, and inability with practice.

Relevant here is one of Albert Einstein’s less referenced quotes. It is simple yet profound, and also a math equation!

1 / Knowledge = Ego

More the knowledge, lesser the ego, and vice versa. How cool is that?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Compounding experience

Here are some simple truths my Guru keeps mentioning. They are so easy to apply but we (or I) still do not.

  1. In Hindi, “Viveki ko anadar mat karna, warna zindagi bhar dukhi rahoge“. This means, if you disrespect a wise person, you will be sorrowful throughout your life. Is this easy to understand? Yes it is. His own example is, between a 2 year old and a 6 year old, who is better for life advice? The parent will always tell the 2yo to learn from the 6yo. But introduce a 10 yo, and automatically the 6yo will learn from the 10yo. Life experiences have a compounding effect, and hence an 80yo (especially a wise person like a Guru) will have a better world view than a 40yo.
  2. Benjamin Franklin’s statement on the same point, but just said differently. “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other

My Guru was no doubt referring to me when he said these things. He continues to say them, which also tells me I have a long way to go. As Robert Frost would say, miles to go before I sleep.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The Flow

There is an interesting connection I’ve noticed first hand, between some masters and their science-crafts.

The best guidance from Gurus comes when their only goal is the benefit of those who seek their help.

The best readings from astrologers come when they have no ulterior motives.

The best suggestions from palmists come when they take no money in return.

The best nadi analyses from ayurvedic doctors comes when their sole aim is the patient well being.

The best healings from Reiki practitioners come when they tirelessly want their patrons to be rid of all negative energies.

All of these sciences / skills require a certain amount of intuition. Intuition is nothing but the Lord working through us. Said differently, it is the Consciousness within that delivers the appropriate messages utilising the body as an instrument. When the channel is pure, intuition flows. When the channel is blocked by ego / desire / selfishness, there is little room for anything else.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
1 Comment

Clean up

In the 1980s, my Guru and his wife visited Washington DC. They were staying at the local Iskcon chapter there, paying the 100$-odd fee. Despite no affiliation to that society, the karma yogis that they both were (and still are), they spent all their time being useful to the people there. Guruji’s wife cooked for over 100 people daily, while he washed utensils and cleaned all the toilets. Did anyone ask them to do it? Not at all. Would I do it if presented with the chance? When was the last time I washed utensils or cleaned toilets or cooked for someone else, when visiting a relative’s or friend’s place? Visiting a third-party establishment and performing selfless service is many steps higher. The then President of Iskcon was so impressed by the selfless couple that he beseeched them to move permanently to Washington. Of course that never happened, and thankfully so, else I may have never got to meet my Guru. Even in this matter I can only be selfish!

All spiritual texts carry the same message. Give up attachments and give up desires. If this is done, then ownership of your body and my body and your house and my house and someone else’s toilets ceases to be. Common sense applies of course, but this sort of mental re-programming would aid in spiritual growth as the ego gets progressively subdued.

How does one break free from attachments and desires? By seeing the futility of it all. By realizing that ‘enough’ is only theoretical. It will also help to carve out a part of our lives in the service of others. This physical and mental clean-up will at least partially allow the egotistic ‘I, me , myself’ to be replaced by altruistic thoughts and actions.

Like it? Please share it!
3 Comments

Good to Great, or the reverse

When Hanuman went to Lanka to rescue Sita, he laid eyes on Ravana for the first time. He described Ravana as “shining like a thousand suns”. He also remarked, “When it comes to greatness, Ravana might well be ahead. But when it comes to goodness, there is no match for Rama!”

Are good and great mutually exclusive? Not, but it is very difficult to combine both. These might explain the difficulty expressed by Scott Fitzgerald’s framework when he talks of having “Two opposing ideas but still retaining the ability to function”. Why? Because greatness gets to the head. The ego swells so much, that there is little room to think of others. Empathy and goodness are replaced by selfishness and greed.

Watching the superb Netflix series Scam 1992 depicts the protagonist Harshad Mehta going through the same conflict. Starting off humbly, and wanting to provide the best for his family, he gets sucked into the world of stock trading. Success after success fuels his ego to such an extent that no amount of wealth and fame is enough. Goodness gets thrown out the window, as fraud after fraud is committed in the quest for greatness.

We must strive for good. Whether great comes or not is irrelevant.

Like it? Please share it!
1 Comment

Accepting praise

It feels so good when someone lauds us for something we did. It could be a boss praising us for good work, or colleagues for us getting a promotion, family for us clearing an exam or friends for us winning a match.

Praise is good, but more important is how we handle it. Some people handle it beautifully, graciously. Others – for even inconsequential wins – begin to gloat like they just conquered the universe.

Irrespective of external appearance, the best internal way to accept praise is to immediately attribute the success to someone else. There are two outstanding benefits to this approach.

1. Spiritually, one can attribute the praise to the Lord. We can think that without Him it is impossible to achieve anything. We have neither created nor designed anything here. We merely borrowed what is given by Him, and re-purposed it for our temporary requirements. This helps us because it subdues our ego, which is the single biggest hurdle on the path to liberation.

2. Materially, one can attribute the praise to creation/universe/Gurus/partners/parents/teachers/family/others – only because of whom such a conducive environment was made possible. This helps us because it de-stresses us for the future. We do not have to worry about ‘becoming unravelled as a one-trick pony’, or ‘not being able to replicate the success in future’. Why? Because the success was caused by others, we were only instrumental in it, and we have already passed on our heartfelt gratitude to them.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Acronyms of a liberated soul

Just a fun post this one (aren’t they all!). Here’s how a liberated soul might react to some common acronyms:

ICYMI – In Case You Missed It – “There is nothing to miss, because nothing ever was.”
BRB – Be Right Back – “How can you be so sure? It is all a play of the Supreme”
AFAIK – As Far As I Know – “We know nothing. Even Saraswati says she knows less than 1% of all creation.’
G2G – Got To Go – “What is the hurry? In a 100 years from now, none of us will matter”
BTW – By The Way – “All ways lead only to Him.”
YOLO – You Only Live Once – “Couldn’t be further from the truth.”
OMG – Oh My God – “Why do you exclaim only in times of need? There is nothing besides God”
IMHO – In My Humble Opinion – “I have no opinion, it is all God’s plan and His doing only”
IDK – I Don’t Know – “Yes, you are right on that one”
LOL – Laughing Out Loud – “I’ll join you, because life is fun.”
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions – “What is Brahman, Aatman, Paramatman, Maya, Moksha?”
DIY – Do It Yourself – “Who else will? You came alone, you will go alone.”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

1+1=?

Dominos Pizza recently launched a new pizza. My first reaction was “What kind of a weird combination is this?” The same reaction I observed in some of my colleagues / friends / family members as well when it came up for discussion.

The combo was that of pasta and pizza. Or rather pasta on top of the pizza. Who even came up with such an idea?

Of course we know things like “Do not judge a book by its cover” or “Beauty is only skin deep”. But I still couldn’t help but wonder who would have thought up putting this portmanteau of a dish together.

Having tried the pasta-pizza though, I was really surprised at how good it tasted. Not only did each individual dish retain its own flavour, but their synergistic convergence was drool inducing, and had me thinking about eating more slices long after the box had been emptied and thrown away.

So it is, that the whole can always be greater than the sum of its parts, as long as each ingredient gives its best to the mix. This is relevant for people as well. Instead of bringing up ego battles when two stalwarts come together, it is far more beneficial if they work together for mutual and wider benefit. The same goes for us. We each have many many wonderful things to contribute to the world. Why should our ego be one of them?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Being nobody

There is only one difference between us and God. That difference, is the ego. The feeling that “I am”.

In material life, all success comes from “I am”. I am – an engineer, a charter holder, an accountant, an architect, a tennis champion, a saxophonist, a movie director, an Oscar winner, an artist, a photographer.

In spiritual life, only failure follows “I am”.

Swami Premananda, one of the foremost disciples of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, was once told by a younger monk that Premananda was lucky because his Master had “made him great.”. To which Premananda immediately responded: “No! The Master did not make us great, he made us ‘nobodies.’ You also have to become ‘nobodies.’ Wipe out all vanity from the mind. The Master used to say, ‘When the ego dies, all troubles cease.’”

Practically for us, is it possible to live a life giving up our ego completely? Not at all. We will only be trampled underfoot. However, one can give their ego up to their Guru. This would mean doing as the Guru says, no questions asked. This path too is very hard, but at least the Guru is there to take care of us, acting as a safety net at all times. Practising this form of ego deposition at the Guru’s feet is not easy either, but it is perhaps the easiest of the various spiritual paths on offer.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Why surrender?

We often hear about the need to surrender the ego. Spirituality covets it as the highest achievement. Because once that is done, there is no I or me or my, and nirvana has been attained.

While that is indeed a lofty goal, there is one immediate and practical utility.

All our problems stem from the perception that the universe revolves around us. “Oh, if I do not dish out an amazing blog post day after day, then my fans will be disappointed.” Nope – what fans? “Oh, if I do not make the perfect presentation, my employer will shut down”. Nope – no deal was ever clinched solely because of one presentation. “Oh, if I do not top the class, my career will be finished.” Nope – everyone cannot come first, and there is infinitely more to life than firsts and seconds. “Oh, if I do not sing the lead part of this song, my streak will be broken.” Nope – if you give a chance to others instead of hogging the limelight all the time, you will get their blessings. “Oh, if I do not lose 5 kilos, my fiance will leave me.” Nope – because if 5 kilos was all it took for your partner to leave you…

While we must continue to do our best work (in every aspect) day after day, we must also tell ourselves that we are not that important, and that most things really don’t matter. This will help get rid of the insane demands we make of ourselves.

Life is much more than just us. Let us be happy – status quo.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Oh what a sacrifice!

So many things in this world are misunderstood and mistreated, simply because we do not take the pains to delve deep enough. Many (pseudo) intellectuals today criticise palmistry, astrology, vastu, ayurveda and various other sciences, and conveniently twist certain extracts to suit their arguments.

“How dare you even call these sciences?!”

Nothing wrong with criticism, as long as the critic has studied the subject in sufficient detail. Chances are, and my personal experience attests to it, that by the time the period of study is complete, even the staunchest disbelievers become converts.

An example of such misunderstanding? The ancient Hindu tradition of animal sacrifices in temples during fire offerings.

In his book on Purusha Suktam, Swami Tejomayananda beautifully clarifies. Animals were never killed at temples. Rather, they would be tied to a pole at the start, and as an offering, they would be set free, i.e. the owner of the animal would ‘sacrifice their ownership‘.

This is key. It is not about the object. Rather it is about relinquishing ownership of the object. The animal would then be free to roam around the village, and would be fed by all villagers with equal reverence. Such a beautiful concept, but misunderstood!

The ultimate goal is to sacrifice our egos. This is considered the pinnacle of self-realisation.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment