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Category: Guru

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!

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Sacrificial – part 2

Yagna as we know and saw yesterday, refers to sacrifice. The word and its associated action might seem simplistic. But it has the most profound effect of them all – the unbinding of karma!

The first word of verse 3 in chapter 9 of the Gita is Yagna.

yajñārthāt karmaṇo ’nyatra loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya mukta-saṅgaḥ samāchara

Here is my Guru’s interpretation of this verse. “Man becomes bound by all actions, other than that done as sacrifice. Without being attached, you perform actions for Him.”

Worried about accruing karma for your actions? The simplest solution is here – do all work as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Guruji further adds in the purport thus, (with my musings in brackets):
1. This verse sums up karma yoga. (wow, entire karma yoga summarized in this one verse, what more do we need?)
2. All actions, good or bad, bind us to enjoy or suffer, this birth or next. (we know this, having seen karma in detail)
3. The only exception, is action done as sacrifice. This is how to come out of cycle of birth and death. (here is the solution to all our problems – but are we able to practise it?)

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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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Angrrr – part 6

Okay okay, last one on anger, I promise! Thought it would be good to round it up with what Thiruvalluvar says about this subject in his Kurals.

A few gems are below:

  1. From anger is born all evil.
  2. Everyone knows that it is bad for oneself to lose temper in dealing with superiors. But where anger is directed against persons in one’s power, it is the worst of all offences.
  3. Where anger may or may not hurt the other party, it simply causes pain to oneself.
  4. Can there be any greater enemy to mankind than anger – which kills laughter and joy (which indeed are the greatest blessings on earth?)

Bonus tips from my Guru on how to overcome anger:
1. Visualize that you are anger-free, say 2 years from now. Keep visualizing and living that image.
2. Pray, for the person you are angry with. Keep their photo on your altar. This is about changing yourself and your emotions and perception, not the other person.

Radical? 🙂

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Angrrr – part 4

The Gita has two shlokas in chapter 2, viz 2.62 and 2.63 which are known as anger management shlokas.

2.62 states “The wo/man dwelling on sense objects, develops attachment. From attachment springs desire, and from desire (unfulfilled), anger.”

How amazing is this? A step by step deconstruction of anger.

2.63 states “From anger arises delusion, from delusion comes confusion of memory, from that loss of reason, then complete ruin.”

Here’s how my Guru has summarized this in his Amazing Simple Gita purport. “With thoughts come desires. with unfulfilled desire anger ensures, eventually ruin.”

Let’s consider this outstanding perspective. If someone gets angry at us (like a superior at work, or a family member), we think the world has come to an end for us, and that we are scarred for life. But no – the Gita says here that the person who gets angry is the one that will face eventual ruin! So should we really be thinking about what somebody many years ago told us in a fit of rage? Why re-live those bygone words and days today and everyday over and over again? As long as we ourselves do not get angry, we are golden. That should be our goal.

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Middleman

There are so many messengers. So many intermediaries. So many so-called postmen.

Take the case of a delivery person from Dominos, Swiggy, Zomato or Grab. They take food from restaurant A to person A, and then restaurant B to person B and then restaurant C to person C. They carry the food with them, piping hot, tasty pizza, or lovely creamy pasta, or some tantalizingly cold ice cream sundaes. So yummy for the tummy. However, it is not for his tummy – for he is only the carrier, the messenger.

The same goes for a postman. He can carry letters of love and romance and adventure and delight. But none of them are addressed to him.

Likewise for the private secretaries of the king or queen. They may know all the intricate details, but cannot truly experience what their masters revel in.

This is the case for every single messenger there is – whether at home or at work or in politics or in society.

But there is one exception. And that is the Guru. He is the messenger of God, yes. But he is also completely dunked in the Bliss that is Consciousness, and therefore that makes him simultaneously both God and Carrier. Teacher and Creator. The Guru is the only one, who delivers the package as brand new, well after enjoying its contents. If such a messenger exists in our lives, we would do well to take in his message.

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Attitude platitude – part 4

My Guru’s brilliant notes on the ‘importance of right attitude’, continues and concludes below:

5. Start the day and end the day with positive input into your mind. Inspirational messages cause the brain to flood with dopamine and norepinephrine, the energizing neurotransmitters; with endorphins - the endurance neurotransmitters; and with serotonin, the feel-good-about-yourself neurotransmitter.

6. Begin and end the day by reading or doing something positive.

7. Remember, success is a process, not an event.

8. Invest your time in your attitude, and it will pay off in your skills as well as your career. Think about it...

What a brilliant note written by the Guru isn’t it? We are all hankering after skills. But hankering after the ‘right attitude’ instead will in turn bring skills, luck, success, fame, fortune and whatever else one desires!

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Attitude platitude – part 3

Continuing again, my Guru’s typewritten message on the importance of the right attitude.

3. Read something informational or inspirational every day. Reading for 20 minutes at just 240 words per minute will enable you to read twenty 200-page books each year. That is 18 more than what the average person reads! What an enormous competitive advantage ... if you'll just read for 20 minutes a day.

4. The University of Southern California reveals that you can acquire the equivalent of two years of a college education in three years just by listening to motivating and educational cassettes on your way to your job, and again on the way home. What could be easier?

A 2021 reference for point 4 above – we can replace ‘cassettes’ with ‘podcasts’. Many are yet to discover the amazing power of podcasts – but all you need to do is download any podcast player app from your app-store, and then search for and add your favourite channels / topics. It is like having the most successful people on earth talking to you in your ear, as you go about doing your housework or other activities.

Sorry for the digression. Continued (and concluded) tomorrow…

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Attitude platitude – part 2

Continuing from yesterday, my Guru’s typewritten message on the importance of the right attitude.

Perhaps if more people knew how simple it is to develop and maintain a positive attitude, they would invest more time doing so.

So here we go. Five steps to staying positive in a negative world:

1. Understand that failure is an event, it is not a person. Yesterday ended last night; today is a brand new day, and it's yours. You were born to win. But to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and then you can expect to win.

2. Become a lifetime student. Learn just one new word ever day, and in five years you will be able to talk with just about anybody on anything. When your vocabulary improves, your IQ goes up 100% of the time, according to Georgetown Medical School.

Continued tomorrow…

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Attitude platitude

Here are a series of posts which will simply cover what my Guru had written in a single typewritten note a few decades ago. It is so fine in its choice of words and intent, that any modifications I make to it will only worsen it. So here it is, with no further ado:

Harvard and Stanford Universities have reported that 85% the reason a person gets a job and gets ahead in that job is due to attitude; and only 15% is because of technical or specific skills. Interesting, isn't it?

You spent how much money on your education? And you spent how much money on building your positive attitude? Ouch! That hurts.

Now here's an interesting thought. With the 'right' attitude, you can and will develop the necessary skills. So where is your emphasis? On skill building? Or on attitude building?

Unfortunately, 'neither' is the real answer for many people.

Continued tomorrow…

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To listen or to speak?

Both Dale Carnegie and my Guru cannot overemphasize the importance of listening as a skill. We are all accustomed to talking non-stop especially in social situations. We love to hear the sound of our own voices. And onc they topic shifts to anything even remotely of self-interest, then the words just don’t stop rolling out!

But listening allows us to win over other people, because if everyone likes to talk, then someone must be there to listen? Listening also builds patience, maturity, concentration and empathy over time.

There is one scenario I’ve seen though, where people love to listen and completely shy away from speaking. This is on the stage. Any formal stage, be it big or small – we often hate the spotlight and the associated stage fright aka butterflies.

However, at least from a satsang perspective, there is no better place to speak – no not after the satsang, but as the main speaker! And the reason is very unique here. If we just listen to satsangs, we will get knowledge. But it may not convert to wisdom or action. In order to make that conversion, speaking is a wonderful tool. When we listen to others speak, we may feel like we are understanding concepts. But when we laboriously sit and prepare for a speech, read up copious information to demystify our scriptures, underline the various important points, search for interesting anecdotes and stories, attempt to figure out the ‘real meaning’ and ‘practical meaning’ and ‘deep meaning’, we will encounter on these abstruse topics some epiphanies that will never leave us for life.

Speak we must, at every satsang opportunity. But prepare we must, too, so that our speaking is easy listening for everyone.

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Hearty speech

Many satsangis under the guidance of my Guru have conducted amazing personal empowerment workshops. Mainly for students, but also for teachers, principals, army officers, corporates and so on.

The experience for conductors has been exhilarating, to put it mildly. The experience for the attendees, specifically the students, has been life changing.

What is critical for conducting a workshop well? We would think the most essential ingredients are a good grasp over the content, excellent communication skills, top presentation style, stage presence, presence of mind, a good voice and other such attributes.

The Guru obviously has a unique viewpoint. He says, yes these are important, but there is one thing far more essential. And that is to harbour great a great and selfless love for the students. He asks conductors to feel the love and nobility – to imagine the poor undernourished students, who have had no opportunities in their lives thus far, and how this program could transform their lives.

It is not oratorical skill from the brain that matters, but genuinely felt love from the heart.

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Weight and watch

Is it possible to give someone specific advice without hurting them? Here is one example of how my Guru did it.

One of the satsangis had put on a lot of weight. Obviously this wasn’t good from a health point of view. Of course one could just tell her point blank, “Hey, you are fat, and this is unhealthy, please follow a strict diet and exercise plan, or else you will land up in a hospital one day.”

Although that is the truth, it is also a very harsh way of putting it across.

My Guru instead was generally chatting with the woman, on matters not even remotely related to health or fitness. And he just added at the end, “Hey do you see that other woman over there? She was telling me that she reduced 10 kilos in the last 3 months.” The lady’s ears immediately perked up and she asked, “Oh wow, how did she do that Guruji?” To which he replied, “1 spoon less, 5 minutes early.” (which means don’t do anything drastic like a crash diet because those are unsustainable, instead eat 1 spoon less and hit the sack 5 minutes earlier progressively)

That’s it – zero hurting and zero criticism!

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Visual creatures

One of my Guru’s most favourite topics is the power of visualization. He loves to help others (young and old) visualize their future dreams and goals. He is of the strongest opinion that it has an undeniable and incredible influence on the final outcome. And through this power of visualization, he has made so many miracles happen – things that otherwise seemed impossible, but happened nonetheless.

This visualization principle is not different from what other sources might teach us. Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret, which became a worldwide phenomenon when it was released, essentially said “The universe will give you whatever you ask it.”

And we know that if we set our minds to something and go after it with single-pointed focus, then rarely can something stop us along the way.

“But how is it possible Guruji, how can we create the future by simply visualizing?” I once naively asked him.

His response was golden. “Deep down, we are all Brahman. All Creation has come from the same Brahman. Why can’t the Brahman inside you create the future that you want then?”

Point taken.

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(Wo)men

One of the books my Guru suggests we should all read is the Kural by Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar. No he’s not a Tamilian and he cannot read Tamil, but there are English translations (C. Rajagopalachari), so nothing to worry. We’ve discussed this book before a few times. It is a series of couplets, ~1300 of them, with amazing practical takeaways for daily life.

A question that comes to some readers is, why is everything written from a man’s perspective? And why does it sound derogatory to women? Like the ‘Life Partner’ chapter is all about duties of a woman – so men go scot-free?. And the children bit talks only about sons, not daughters. Where is the feminism and equality angle?

How should we understand  this? My Guru says whatever lessons are applicable to a man should also be taken to be applicable to women, wherever relevant, using common sense. Also:

  1. The book was written 100s of years ago. So certain aspects may need to be re-read in that context.
  2. We can combine the lessons from his Amazing Simple Gita – marry it with his purports. When it says a woman must be completely devoted to her husband, we absolutely take it to read the other way as well.
  3. Like the Vashishta – Arundhati stars in our galaxy – where they both go around each other, unlike the Sun in our solar system, where the Sun is relatively stationary and other planets orbit around it. Wedded couples too are supposed to be going around each other, not just one being stationary at a time.
  4. There are negative criticisms too in the Kural. But all of those too, are directed towards men only. Like a person who is speaking harshly is referred to as a man not a woman – so in that sense, both good and bad have been treated equally.

There are some absolute gems in the book – totally not worth missing out on, and certainly not because of this gender issue!

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Chilled out

There’s a simple lesson my Guru taught me once. It’s hard for someone like me to apply – given I prefer to be the silent observer, and rein my emotions in tightly.

One satsang had got over, and there were a few of us standing and talking. I was doing more of the listening, not the talking. There were a couple of people in the group who were cracking jokes one after the other, following up with roaring laughter and in general keeping the spirits of the group high.

Guruji pointed at those happy fellows and told me, “These guys are great conversationalists. These are the people who can strike up conversations anywhere, and build outstanding relationships with the maximum number of people. You need to be like this too. You know why they are able to do it? Because these guys are living in the moment. How can you joke about something in-the-moment, if you are constantly thinking about something that happened in the past, or is likely to happen (or not) in the future?”

Apt lesson for me indeed.

And it is no surprise that “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.”

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Penance

In one of our recent youth satsangs, we had a very engaging discussion on ‘thawam’ from the Kural, which in Tamil means penance / austerity. Is penance only for the likes of Ravana or others who sat and meditated for years together? Or is there some penance possible in our daily lives as well?

Maybe waiting in a line for 14 hours to get one’s hand on the next latest and greatest iPhone could be considered penance. But that would only be scratching the surface. To some, penance is minimalism, such as getting rid of all gadgets (including aforementioned iPhone) and spending time with nature instead. They may also spend much lesser money than others – never eating out, never traveling – being extremely frugal. But where does one draw the line? Does one also stop wearing clothes, taking bath, not sending the kids to school, not visiting a doctor for a medical emergency? Surely penance is about frugality, not miserliness.

Great men and women have said (and experienced) that nothing worth having comes easy. Which means penance is a part of all success worth having. It also begs the question, why is penance so hard? The answer is that it’s not hard. It’s very easy in fact, if one TRULY wants something. Most struggle with this, because they want something (like success), but do not want to work for it.

It’s one thing to do penance for our own benefit. But the truly great people – like my Guru, they observe penances solely for the benefit of others. He observes fasts or chants 21,000 ashotrams for other people’s health – sometimes people who he has not even met! As Thiruvalluvar says, “How fire refines the gold, the pain of penance refines the person.” What more can one ask for?

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Bharatha 600BC

There is an awesome board game called Bharatha 600BC, created and released by a company called GoIndia Games. It’s quite unique because such games that are made in India are rare. The map of the game itself is beautiful – featuring ancient India from – you guessed it – 600 BC!

The game makes for fun family bonding time – especially offering a clean hour or three. ‘Clean’ meaning no screen diversions (mobiles, tablets, TVs etc) – wow is that even possible these days?

The board game has plenty of paths to victory – and one can use tact, strategy, battle, speed, rationing (i.e. hoarding) of resources, using special cards – you name it.

One interesting thing that happens when we play with my mother, is that she will never battle, and she will also always ‘give up’ resources for the rest of the family to win. “Oh, how can I battle my own son!”, or “You want resources, here take mine” – much to the groans of others “come on ma, this is supposed to be a competitive game – leave your familial bonds aside!”

While there are groans during the game, one must look behind the curtain. The motherly love kicks in with feelings of compassion overruling everything else – and not just during board games but even otherwise. What if we too can apply such compassion/empathy all the time. Just like the Guru does. Wouldn’t that be the true application of everything we learn in our scriptures?

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Miraculous (escape)!

We were sound asleep. Blissfully unaware of the goings on of the night. A sudden loud crash jolted us awake. What was that?

A slab of granite making up the top of the window sill had just crashed to the floor. No announcement, no warning. Through the darkness, we could see some more slab, hanging precariously.

We tried to go back to sleep. Hardly a few minutes passed, or was it an hour? Another deafening crash, a bigger slab fell this time.

This was a place where we would normally be sitting under in the daytime? Or certainly walking past at least – many times a day. But the slabs never caved in then. How infinitely lucky were we?

A sheer miracle, if there ever was one. Not just tonight, but every night and every day till today. Who knows what all unspeakable things could have happened, but by some divine grace, didn’t?

Life certainly seems to be crumbling around us from time to time, all the time. But if it doesn’t knock us out, and allows us to keep moving ahead, that is nothing less than a blessing and a miraculous escape.

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Nectar for life

Here’s some pointers I found very thought-provoking from a recent speech my Guruji gave.

  • How to get moksha? By living a choice-less existence. Accept whatever comes to you. The goal of life isn’t to become rich or to be educated. The true goal of life is to realize the Self within, and realizing that That Thou Art (tat tvam asi)
  • We are all going to temples which are great energy centres, but always still asking for more and more materialistic things. When will the cravings stop?
  • Each one of us can achieve anything. One person has done 12 PHDs in printing technology, but still not used even 5% of his brain. Einstein used less than 5% of his brain. We can each do anything.
  • But we must always remember, that achieving great material things means nothing to the Lord, and to our progress on the spiritual path. Materialism will not help us see the Self within.
  • The biggest problem in our lives is not related to job, money, health, wealth or relationships. The biggest problem is that we have desires and are deeply attached to everything and everyone. Gita shlokas 2.71 and 2.72 clarify this.
  • Guruji had once said anyone can come and take anything in their house – even the altar. Even the Vishnu paadaas where he was doing puja with great love all the time. No attachments + no desires is the key. Vishnu paadaa is only a symbol. One must give up the whole world, only then can one attain moksha.
  • Sleeping early is a habit, but so is sleeping late. Reading scriptures is a habit, but so is not reading scriptures. Giving charity is a habit, but so is not giving charity. Same for eating and overeating. We must be careful about the habits we cultivate.
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