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Category: Guru

Scare tactics

My Guru has this very funny joke.

He says that if you don’t like someone for whatever reason, and want to get rid of them, then what is a foolproof way?

  1. just invite that person home for a satsang, and give them a copy of some scriptural book.

    It is quite likely that that person will never come back again.

    And if they do…
  2. Pick up another copy of the same scripture you gave them, and ask them if they read chapter 5 or 6 or whichever.

    That’s a foolproof way right there – so much fun even in spirituality!

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Prayers don’t work – part 2 of 2

Okay, time for the big reveal!

What 5.14 is saying, is that the Lord doesn’t interfere in our karmic world, or our actions and reactions. However, this “Lord”, is nirguna (no gunas, i.e. no qualities), the formless nameless substratum of all existence, aka Brahman, Paramatman etc.

The prayers we offer however, are not to this nirguna Lord, but to the so-called ‘lower’ deities. These deities like Hanuman or Ganesha or Shiva and so on are all part of the same formless “Lord”, but they had also taken up specific forms for specific purposes in this world. It is believed they still exist, albeit in an astral body / energy form, and that is why we pray to these deities for various reasons. Like to Ganesha to get rid of obstacles, to Hanuman for victory and fearlessness and so on.

There are also various rules that have been codified. Such as if there is a 5-syllable mantra like Na-mah-shi-vaa-yah, and it is chanted 5-lakh times with faith and devotion, then the deity will manifest. These rules are all created by the Original Creator aka the nirguna Lord, but he does not participate in them. Neither are we praying to him, because he can’t be encapsulated, not even in words!

This is why my Guru’s trick-question is such an outstanding one.

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Prayers don’t work – part 1 of 2

In verse 5.14 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that the Lord does not interfere in the karma of anyone. That nature alone functions.

Many years ago, my Guru threw this to me as a brainteaser. He asked, “When the Lord is so clear that there is zero interference, and that we each sow what we reap, then why do we pray?”

The answers to this confounding question often go something like, “We pray so that we ask for more faith, more strength, more spiritual awakening etc. etc.”, primarily in an attempt to tie it away from material matters.

However, even these don’t answer it fully, because the Lord says he doesn’t interfere at all, no matter whether for infusing money into our pockets or more faith in our hearts!

What could the answer be then? Revealed tomorrow, after you’ve had the chance to give it some more thought πŸ™‚

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Slippery guidance

On a recent snow trek, we decided to engage a guide. Neither were we good trekkers, nor were we accustomed to the snow. Surely having a guide would be paramount?

The first thing he told us was to change into rubber boots, which he helpfully provided. And then we proceeded to climb.

En route, we saw a group of fellows creating quite the racket. They neither seemed interested in the abounding natural beauty, nor were they dressed for it. They wore slippers or sneakers (on a snow trek!), and our guide mentioned to us that these guys were going to face problems especially on their descent. We watched as the tumbled many a time, not just hurting themselves, but also endangering others.

The path itself was narrow, and given heaps of snow, losing direction was a real risk. No problem with a guide, but a few who were attempting to save a few bucks also found themselves lost.

Krishna says in the Gita that spirituality and the material world is like a forest. One needs a guide (aka Guru) to deliver them to the destination. Great advice.

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White hair

Everyone detests white hair right?

It’s the surest sign of aging, and of course no one wants to grow old.

I got my first white hair pretty early on, and it’s not like we have a choice in this anyway.

But there’s youngsters on social media who actually color their hair white. Apparently it is a fad, a new style trend. It’s odd seeing these people, such young faces coupled with old-people hair.

An ex-boss of mine once told me that white hair is a good thing. Why? Because in business settings, the other person tends to take you more seriously. Would you believe a 50 year old CEO or a 20 year old one? No matter what their actual capabilities are, the mind would naturally gravitate towards the one with white hair.

Lastly, whenever my Guru used to have some outstanding insights on anything, and would see the stunned look on my face, he would casually remark, “the hair on my head has turned white for a reason…”

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Kids on the wall

The Ukrainian President Mr. Zelensky is being celebrated world over for his bravery and selflessness. No one knows what will happen in this terrible ongoing onslaught, but I wish there could be peace instead of war. Just imagine, we are in the year 2022, with mind boggling advancements and comforts in nearly every conceivable sphere, and yet what we see is only more greed and more desire for power.

Mr. Zelensky, when he was elected in 2019, apparently said in his speech, that he didn’t want his photos put up in the offices. “The President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait. Hang photos of your kids instead… “

Just for suspense, I’m not completing the last sentence.

My Guru used to give the following advice to parents, “Stop hanging photos of your kids on your walls at home. Because your kids will start believing that they are the centers of attention, that they are being worshipped in the house. Hang photos of Gods/deities instead.”

Is this contradictory? No no, of course not. Here is Mr. Zelensky’s full sentence. “Hang photos of your kids instead, so that you see their faces each time before you make an important decision (so that you do no wrong).”

My Guru’s tactic was aimed at the kids, while Mr. Zelensky’s message was for the adults.

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Humanize and divinize – part 3 of 3

We discussed two key practically implementable things over the last two days:

  1. Humanize the divine
  2. Divinize the mundane

The concluding masterstroke here, is that there is only one point where both of these intersect and juxtapose.

That sacred point, is the Guru.

Finding it difficult to speak to an idol on your altar because he doesn’t talk back? No worries, because the Guru is a living idol.

The Guru is also the mundane like us, flesh and blood, a part of the elements. And hence divinizing him, to Him, is only a shift in mindset.

In the Guru, humanity = divinity.

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Humanize and divinize – part 2 of 3

Why should we not cut down trees? Because trees give us oxygen, and we need oxygen to survive.

This is a practical view, and a correct one. But it is not the only one. Followers of Sanatana Dharma worship trees as Gods. This will lead them to question a thousand times before cutting a tree down.

Why? Because this is not just a tree anymore, but a manifestation of the Lord.

And if the tree indeed needs to be cut down? Then we could try to contribute more than we consume.

Imagine if we could do this in every walk of life. The fundamental attitude towards the world itself changes. To one of divinizing everything in the world. Every interaction with it is a God given gift, and an opportunity.

Wouldn’t that be awesome? For sure. But there is something even more awesome. Concluded tomorrow…

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Humanize and divinize – part 1 of 3

In chapter 4 of the Gita, Arjuna asks the Lord, “Hey Krishna, how come you revealed this secret of creation and yoga to the Sun God many aeons back, when you were just born a few years ago? Something doesn’t add up.”

And then Krishna tells Arjuna about reincarnation, and the many births they took before.

Hard to wrap our heads around this concept because there appears to be so little proof. And we don’t remember our past lives either (thankfully so!). The forgetful person that I am, I actually don’t remember much about my current life as well πŸ™‚

In any case, if the Lord has been taking so many births aka avatars, there is something human about Him. Why is he easier to worship as Krishna, and not as some formless being? Because that is how we are able to empathise with Him.

My Guru has a way for this. He says we should constantly be having a conversation with the Lord. Even if it is only one-way. But keep Him updated of all the goings-on in our lives. That will change nothing for Him. But humanizing Him will strengthen our faith.

What about divinizing? Coming tomorrow…

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Removing corruption

“How can we get rid of corruption, and how can I prevent myself from becoming more corrupt, as I earn more money?”, was the question asked by a disciple to Sadhguru. I listened to this on a podcast, and found the answer enlightening.

Power corrupts. Isn’t this the famous statement we have all heard so many times? And we look nastily at bureaucrats and politicians as if they are solely to blame. Maybe some of them are, who knows.

However, Sadhguru’s take is different. What does he say?

That people are either corrupt, or not corrupt. It has nothing to do with power. How so?

He links this back to spirituality. Our corruption starts from the moment we identify with ourselves. Not just ourselves, but only ourselves. Because that means we favour only us over someone else. This is the seeds of corruption being sown right there. And then, we get married, have kids, have a large family to take care of and so on. Which means only one thing. More corruption.

The way out? To stop being so self-centered, and to be a citizen of the world. That’s why my Guru doesn’t pray for small small things anymore. His only objects of prayer? Desh (country) and dharma.

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5 point program

In chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna provides an interesting break-up of karma yoga.

This comes in verse 30. Here is how we could break it down for daily application:

1. “Renounce everything to the Lord” = make spirituality a priority in life, which will make life peaceful and content. Let it not just be a 5 minute activity, but the substratum of every waking moment.

2. “Quality matters” = Work in the best way possible; treating it like worship, with the knowledge that this is the highest offering there is. The benefit? We wont slack off or cut corners, irrespective of whether someone is inspecting or not.

3. Niraashi = no aasha, no expectation or hope of a specific outcome = receive the result with grace.

4. Nirmama = no mamakaar = no ‘i’ness = work with the attitude of custodianship; i.e. none of my achievements are possible without the support of those around me.

5. vigata-jJwara = “without fever” = this is not body temperature, but the fever of the mind, i.e. stress and anxiety, which can be eradicated if the above points are followed.

Such a nice and implementable way to live, isn’t it?

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Can we give up desires?

A tough aspect of spirituality is not in reading what is said, but in actually understanding and implementing it.

For instance, Lord Krishna in the Gita often asks Arjuna to give up desires.

Is this practical? If I give up all my desires, I wouldn’t even be able to get up from my bed on a Sunday, let alone on a Monday morning!

Maybe there is something deeper and subtler. This is my Guru’s amazing interpretation.

When Krishna says ‘give up desires’, he actually means ‘give up the cravings in your mind’. Having dharmic desires is fine, but it is critical to cut the umbilical cord between desire and happiness.

Our happiness is always linked to the fulfilment of desires. “Think of a time when you were happy” tends to be accomplishments like “when I won the game, or topped the class, or got married, or had kids, or got promoted”.

But what if everything we did, could start from happiness, rather than end in it? This is possible, and it (too) starts with gratitude.

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Are you a leader? – part 2 of 2

As a leader, what is expected of us? In verse 21 of chapter 3 of the Gita, Lord Krishna says the following.

"Whatever a great man does, other men also do. Whichever standard he sets, the world follows it."

This is a very interesting shloka, and it seems like a motivational quote for one’s goal setting, doesn’t it? We should all have great goals, be great leaders, so that people follow in our footsteps. But that’s not all.

Krishna in this verse is also talking about Himself. Is he subjected to the same rules? He says he is! Isn’t He also constantly working to keep the universe running? Brahma creating, Vishnu sustaining, Shiva destroying, in a sense?

My Guru would be another example – an already-realized soul, but why is he working so hard? Why would he need to do aarti thrice a day? Why would he choose to live his life in a rural setting to help educate the poor? Why would he need to wake up at 5 am daily to do yoga? Why does he work 7 days a week 365 days a year?

Because as Krishna says, “whatever a great man does, other men also do. Whichever standard he sets, the world follows it.” What are each one of us doing? What are we striving to achieve? It is a question we need to answers for ourselves, and honestly.

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Great falls

Shlokas 36 and 37 of chapter 3 in the Gita are eye-openers.

36 has Arjuna asking Krishna why people sin, despite knowing better. And he’s not asking about normal people. He’s asking about those very close to or even at, the pinnacle of spiritual progress. The jnaana yogis.

A jnaana yogi practitioner truly sees everything as the same – no discrimination. He sees the Atman not just in himself, but also in everyone around him. And he also experientially understands that all of these are no different from paramatma. Even so, our mythology is replete with the greatest of rishis, committing the gravest of mistakes, and falling from glory. So Arjuna wants to know why.

The Lord answers in 37, that this is all only because of our desires. “Desire is a great devourer – a great sinner, this is the enemy.”

My Guru is very clear on this too. It might sound boring. But if you want moksha, then this is the way (channelling my inner Mandalorian!). Not for material objects mind you – so not about praying for promotions and bonuses and topping in exams or begetting progeny, but for moksha alone. He doesn’t advise any maha mudras, or maha mantras, or maha japas, or any kundalini rising, or maha meditations – nothing. The only requirement he says, is to give up desires and attachments – that’s it. Can it get simpler?

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Oh my I

Here is what my Guru wrote to me recently on ‘ego’:

The ego needs to be defined to be understood.

What is this ego? Simple.

My view. My idea. I think. I feel. I am sure. I myself. I alone. I have seen. I think I can. My house. My dog. My experience...

You can easily add another hundred more to such expressions.

As you can see, so much I and my.

My goals...

Might be a good reminder to finish the target, or maybe obliterate it.
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Mentorship

Ah what would we do without mentors? I have lost count of the number of times a mentor has benefitted me – be it my parents, my wife, my brother, my friends, my teachers, well-meaning colleagues, ill-meaning colleagues, good bosses, bad bosses, friends… you name it. Even though some learning experiences were brutal and demeaning at the time, looking back, those feedback loops are what helped into shaping the person I am today. Of course I’m not a successful billionaire, so this probably doesn’t count for much from a materialistic point of view.

But mentors are super important in life, and especially the specialist mentors, the 1-2 people you can rely on for non-technical guidance in your specialist domain. If you are lucky, such a person can double up as your boss too.

The logical next question is, what if I need to move (presumably to a better workplace), and if I consequently need to leave my mentor / boss as well?

This is summarized beautifully in a dialogue in the hit TV series called Ted Lasso:

A good mentor hopes you will leave.
A great mentor knows you will leave!

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Chosen two

In a satsang session a few years ago, my Guru was asked to do a quick recap of the entire Gita.

What better way, than to do it in just 4 minutes? Wow a 4-minute Gita!

He recited 1 shloka per chapter, so 18 chapters, 18 shlokas, with their meanings and application, and all extempore. It was truly a sight to behold.

For only the 2nd chapter, he recited not one, but two shlokas. 2.71 and 2.72.

To say he thinks these are important shlokas would be a massive understatement.

2.71 is vihaaya kaamaanya sarvaan. Vihaaya is giving up, kaamaan is desires, sarvaan is all. And then he recited is backwards. Sarvaan kaamaan vihaaya – All desires give up.

2.72 is similar, stating that one who achieves such state of mind, achieves liberation even at the time of death.

Each chapter has only 1 shloka that he picked. But chapter 2 alone had two. Is it important? Yes, twice as important.

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Nimittas – part 3 of 3

Knowing now that being the nimitta of the Lord is the easy way to moksha, how exactly does one go about this?

Krishna himself gives a clue in verse 11.54, specifying a particular type of devotion or bhakti. Not any bhakti, but ananya bhakti.

Ananya, refers to no ‘anya’, i.e. no other. There is no other, apart from the Lord. This is not of some specific deity necessarily, but could also be of faith in the Creator. If there is such unconditional, indelible love towards the Lord, thinking of only Him 24×7, then that would be ananya bhakti.

Is this practical? Some research suggests we have nearly 40,000 thoughts a day. Where is the space for 24×7 ananya bhakti then!

My Guru says we can start small (remember ‘microsteps‘?). Offer gratitude to the Lord before sleeping, after waking up, before eating, after eating, before working, after working, before leaving the house, after coming back, after sneezing, after coughing, while yawning and so on.

Eventually, everything we do will automatically become associated with the Lord.

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L_t o_h_r p_r_o_ w_n

Can you try to figure out the blanks in the title above? Somewhat like guessing the letters in that 90’s show Wheel of Fortune. Sadly, no prizes here though, not a monetary one anyway.

This title above, is what my Guru wrote to me recently. Absolute pearls of wisdom, and clearly I need it πŸ™‚

We think degrees and education beget success. Not so. There is only one thing that is needed. And that is win-win mastery.

Here are his words:

The principle in win-win mastery is these 4 words. 'Let other person win'.

When? Once in a year on their birthday? Or every month? Or week? Or day? Hour? Minute? Second?

Yes every nano-second!

No one can defeat him/her who agrees with you. This appears to be the art of flattery. But it is the quickest way to win life's invisible gold medals, and have practically zero adversaries, zero enemies, even competitors. All gold medals of life will be yours.

An intelligent wife / husband / child / parent / grandparent each can' win, if they brush aside one major obstacle called ... Ego. Yes, the root cause is ego. Watch only one person in life, who's name is MY EGO.
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Scare away

One of the reasons why people run away from spirituality is because of perceived impracticality. Like getting rid of attachments.

Whoa, getting rid of my attachments? This means I should not be attached to my spouse, my parents, my kids, my relatives, my friends… Surely I do not want to let go of all these people. Is this what spirituality is telling me to do? To shun them away? To live a solitary existence?

Absolutely not. This is the perception of impracticality right there, and also why a Guru is so important – because such a person can not only demystify what is advocated, but also apply it to our present times.

“Don’t be attached”, doesn’t mean do not love the people around you. It only means do not be conditional in your approach. If we love (not the romantic type) only one person, then it likely means we are deriving something conditional from that relationship, and that is the reason for the love. This is transactional. It doesn’t free us, rather only binds us even more.

True love, is selfless. Much like God would love each one of us – equally, impartially, or a mother would, her children.

Love is not a finite currency. The more we give, the more we are automatically replenished with.

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