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Category: Guru

Better-est path

Everyone wants to find the best-est path to liberation. They may not want liberation, but it’s sure fun to know what the right, nay, easiest path is.

So people have intense discussions and arguments over whether karma yoga is better or Jnana yoga is better. Or if bhakti yoga is better-est than the others. A few vouch for raja yoga while others say there is nothing better than kriya yoga. Which is truly the best-est path?

In chapter 12 of my Guru’s outstanding Amazing Simple Gita, he writes profoundly thus:

In all paths, our mind needs to be free of thoughts from the world. If our interest is in the world and it's activities, then no path is easy for us.

Clear as a blue sky!

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“Why Me”s

Every obstacle we face in life tends to be associated with a “Why Me?”. Why am I the one to suffer? Why am I not getting a promotion? Why am I not getting as much as money as my peers? Why am I not as good looking as my friends? Why am I not as famous as my batch mates? Why Me only?

There are infinite more such Why Me questions that are possible.

But if we are living decent and comfortable lives today, if we even have a couple of miracles to count, even just the fact that we are alive (because so many babies don’t make it past their first week in this world), then there is only one Why Me question to ask. And that is:

What did I do to deserve my Guru’s grace? Why did my Guru choose me over so many others who have no Gurus and no direction in life? Why does my Guru look at me with so much love and compassion? Why Me?

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Plus minus equal coincidence

Have been reading one interesting book by a Robert Greene called the Laws of Power. In that, he mentions that he trained a young protégé at one point – a Ryan Holiday – to also become an author. All good.

Then in the newspaper today, I saw an op-ed where someone quoted something written by – you guessed it – Ryan Holiday! Nice coincidence.

But that’s not the reason for this post. The newspaper article said Ryan had an interesting learning on “Plus, Minus, Equal”, that a martial arts trainer used.

To become great he says, each fighter needs to have someone better they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal who they challenge themselves against. So a plus, a minus and an equal.

The unsaid conclusion of this amazing philosophy, is that one is constantly learning, as one is always a student. Even the best of Gurus, have their own Gurus. Humility is key.

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Silly Con

What comes to mind when you think of Silicon Valley?

Surely all sorts of techie stuff like social networks and software companies and VC funded tech startups.

But the Silicon in Silicon Valley refers to not these outcomes, but the basic material that enables all of this insane computing power, ie silicon chips aka semiconductors.

In Spiritual Valley too, there’s a lot of focus on breathing tricks and yogic realms and revelatory chakras and other mystic stuff. I am no one to comment on these, and great people have attained and demonstrated various powers or siddhis.

But my Guru is very clear. It is important to give up attachments and desires of this material world. These are the basic materials of spirituality. In Metallica’s words, Nothing Else Matters.

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Cattywampus

The Cattywampus was one of the fiercest animals to roam the planet during the Ice Age. I’d not heard of it before, but it was an interesting read. There was a professor who taught his students about the now-extinct animal, and also conduct a spot test thereafter, asking various questions such as the Cattywampus’ color, type of fur, size, diet and so on.

Given all the facts were fresh in their minds, every student answered each question exactly as the professor had just taught. Each student expected a nice 10/10 marks.

But they were shocked when they each got a 0 instead. And so they protested.

The professor’s response? “Yes you answered what I taught, but you did not verify if any of it was true. There is no such thing as a Cattywampus, it’s simply a figment of my imagination!”

This story was featured in a 1991 edition of Readers Digest. Pretty cool way to remind us to each ask questions of the things we see around us. Especially on social media, where there is a lot of fake nonsense. Even Arjuna constantly cross-questioned Krishna. There is nothing wrong in the approach, as long as the questioning is not done from arrogance, but rather a desire to learn.

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Teacher taught

Everything we learn in school is usually one-way communication.

Teacher teaches, student learns.

The more knowledge a teacher shares, the more knowledge a student learns.

In spirituality, it is a bit different.

The knowledge is already inside. Locked up and hidden. The teacher aka Guru comes about, and unlocks the hidden knowledge.

But for this, the Guru needs to be allowed near the student. Not necessarily physically, but especially mentally.

If the ego is a big wall, then no one can come near, not the Guru, not even God.

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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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