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Category: Guru

What to renounce? – part 2

Here are some examples provided by my Guru in the chapter 18 verse 8 purports related to incorrect renunciation, and I’ve paraphrased them, so any inconsistency is purely my error in understanding:

  1. For an agnihotra or fire worshipper, it doesn’t matter how they light the fire – whether by rubbing sticks or by lighting a match. Using an easier way (the matchbox) doesn’t make this wrong. What matters is the worship and mental state during worship.
  2. Wearing skimpy clothes or wearing 9 yards sari – neither is the former a sign of spiritual delinquency nor the latter a sign of spiritual progress. Outer paraphernalia have nothing to do with purity of the mind. “These vast changes in the world are only on account of the Lord’s wish to remove miseries of the oppressed class called women”.
  3. Bringing food for puja, ordering from outside on account of strain cannot entirely be construed as rajasik. If lethargy or wealthy comforts are involved, yes it is rajasik.

Eye opening aren’t these? What then is sattvika renunciation? More tomorrow…

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Fool who?

In chapter 9 of the Gita, Lord Krishna says that fools think he is just a normal human being (having assumed such a form), whereas he is the all-pervading Supreme Being.

My Guru has an amazing purport that immediately follows this.

“Reading the meaning of this verse, we start looking for fools, Ravana etc. among our relatives or friends. No, He is talking about you and me, because it we who have:
1. Vain hopes (that name, fame, wealth will make us happy, finally!)
2. Futile actions, actions without viveka
3. Futile knowledge – any content that takes us away from the Lord”

What clarity!

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Gamechanged

When I was a child, there used to be many Gita chanting competitions. These still happen today as well, but I’m an uncle now 😂.

These contests were a struggle, given my memory power and recitation prowess has been weak at best. Other kids would memorize 18 chapters and 700 shlokas and produce them at will, and I used to watch on, stunned.

Years later when I heard my Guru speak, I realized he changed the game completely. He never once asked his satsangis to memorize shlokas or be able to chant them. Never mind the fact that he himself knew the Gita backwards and forwards, with (even today) the ability to pluck any shloka out of thin air, recite it and proceed to give a 2 hour talk on it.

But to his spiritual seekers? His sole focus has been on application of the messages of these shlokas in daily life. It might seem like this is easier than memorizing and chanting, but do try it out and see if that is the case!

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Good to liberate

We should all do good only all the time. Isn’t it?

Yes of course we should, absolutely, what stupid questions I ask sometimes!

But will this doing good always, lead us to moksha or liberation?

Not at all.

Really! But why?

My Guru explains in his Amazing Simple Gita thus:

“Even a million good actions cannot lead one to liberation. Knowledge of Reality, that you are Brahman, and your world is false, is a must. Ignorance of Reality is the cause of the existence of the World.”

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What if I can’t remember the Lord always?

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

So what to do?

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

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

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

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Road to rationality

There are plenty of miracles that happen in our lives, even if we do not necessarily look at it that way. That we are even alive, on the only blue planet in the universe, spinning at 36 km/s, and yet not leaving anyone dizzy – how did the Creator even come up with all this?

Despite several inexplicables (such as those who pass away in one half of the year will only reach heaven while the others will go to hell) in The Gita chapter 8 verses 26 and 27, my Guru has a brilliant and practical suggestion / solution.

1) One path is that if we are already endowed with strong faith, then there is no problem. We fully side with and believe in what our scriptures tell us, and follow accordingly.

2) The other road is one where some of us might question the logic and rationality of such ‘miracles’ and other spiritual setups. To which Guruji’s point is, “Great, this scepticism is good. Anyway this is all a play of maya only. So the faster one transcends this body-mind complex by working on their spiritual sadhanas, the better it is, because one can then sidestep the need to have blind faith in something that the intellect is unable to grasp.”

Which road would you choose?

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The meaning of Guru’s grace – part 2 of 2

The next line?

Yaha shruti ved kehta, Guru bina gyaan kaisa?

Meaning: our scriptures ask how we can get True Knowledge if there is no Guru

Gyaan bina mukti kaise, aave teri dhyaan mein

Meaning: without That Knowledge, how will you even begin to comprehend liberation?

Krodh kapat tyaag kijiye, sadguru ki seva kijiye

Meaning: give up anger and deceit and focus on serving the Guru

Sadguru ki sharan lijiye, khel yeh maidan mein

Meaning: surrender to your Guru, and continue playing in this game called life.

To me, this bhajan, reflecting the beautiful Guru-shishya relationship is what is true Grace. Are we worthy of it?

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The meaning of Guru’s grace – part 1 of 2

Can’t explain it better than my favorite Guru bhajan, which happens to be in simple Hindi.

Guru brahma roop jaano, shiv ka swaroop maano

Meaning: The Guru is no different from Lord Shiva Himself

Paapse bachaave Guru, Gnaanko sikhaave Guru

Meaning: The Guru is the one who saves us from sins, while also bestowing upon us the True Knowledge (of the Self)

Brahmase milave Guru, Turiya padh gyaan mein

Meaning: The Guru shows us Brahman through experience via the meditative Turiya state

The rest of this brilliant, enchanting yet simple bhajan will be continued tomorrow!

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Water from where?

Imagine you had a bucket of the world’s purest water. Life-giving, disease-healing, magically-energizing water. And then you put just one teenie-weenie drop of toilet water into it. Would you drink this water?

Absolutely not, right?

This is the outstanding example my Guru keeps giving at every opportunity.

He says that all the bad news and bad events in our lives – like someone died, someone fell ill, you lost your job, you didn’t get the promotion or bonus you were looking for, someone spoke something harsh against you and so on and so forth – that all these would take up just maybe a few days of bad feelings at most.

What do we do though? We spend weeks, months, years and sometimes our entire lives in mental anguish, stress, regret, sorrow and worse. In an otherwise perfect life, we have introduced a few drops of toilet water.

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Bhajan shortcut

In chapter 8 of the Gita, Lord Krishna appears to offer a shortcut to reach Him.

He says, that no matter the kind of life one has led (including very sinful), if one remembers the Lord at the time of death, then such a person would definitely reach Him.

Seems easy enough! So one clever chap who had never been even remotely pious or religious or spiritual in his entire 90 year life, decided to utilise this shortcut. His plan? To make sure that on his deathbed, his near and dear ones play some Krishna bhajans, so that automatically he keeps thinking of Krishna.

On the last day/time, he is on his deathbed, and a Krishna bhajan is played. And then another. And another. Our man cannot stand it any longer, all these alien songs, having never listened to any bhajans in his life. “What is this stuff? It’s so boring. Stop it! Can’t you people just let me die in peace?”. They did stop the bhajans being played, and he promptly passed away.

The shortcut in chapter 8 is not a shortcut. It just appears so. In order to remember the Lord at the time of death, it is necessary to remember Him at every waking moment!

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Pottymouth

One guy I came across has a real potty mouth. Not just cuss words or expletives, but even hurtful and derogatory words were common usage for him. You know some folks are just very angry and irritated by everything around them? Yes, this chap was exactly like that.

It so happened, that one of the times very recently, he shouted at someone for their tardiness, only to realize that the other person had just lost a parent, which was the reason for the delay in the first place.

And then this pottymouth fellow felt really bad, that he gave that poor fellow a tough time, when he was already grieving over the loss of his closest one. What to do now? Because no amounts of sorrys would offer reprieve. “I wish I had been nicer to him on that day”, he said.

But no, that’s not how this works. You cannot pick and choose the time to be a nice person or a bad person. Good and bad are ingrained into our psyche, assuming we are normal people. That’s why my Guru says we need to transform our thinking, our lives in totality, and not just chase after temporary solutions.

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Peace of mind

We are constantly worrying about the future, aren’t we?

How will I perform in a new job? How will I perform in a new family setup? How will my kids do? Will my family be able to cope? Will I be able to deliver my presentation well? Will I be able to get a promotion? Will I clear my impending exams and certifications? Will I be accepted by my peers and colleagues? Will I be able to provide for my family?

And on and on and on these questions go, with hardly any clarity.

And to make matters worse, with each passing day, more and more questions only keep getting added on to the pile.

Then how to get rid of these?

You can’t. That’s the simple answer.

The solution? To keep the mind occupied elsewhere. That’s the only way. I observe this in my Guru. Nearing 80 years of age, he spends not even one waking minute in isolation, thinking and wondering about the future, but is instead always engaged in karma yoga, action here and now. We just need to imitate.

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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 🙂

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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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