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Category: happiness

Practical virtues

In chapter 16 of the Amazing Simple Gita, my Guru has added an important element for many virtues in the first 3 verses. One of pragmatism and practicality.

Some people try to conflate the virtues given with perpetual application. In every single situation.

The virtue list asks to tell the truth? Well tell the truth all the time then, even if it hurts someone, especially a dharmic person.

Here’s one:

Kshama: An automatic, effortless (non-reactive) forgiveness. No stupidity, Great Prithviraj Chawhan, forgave his enemy 7 times and got killed in the 8th battle. Never forgive durjanas.

Adhroha: Bearing no enmity, dislike to none. Yet applied depending on your duty. For instance border protector, soldier and police. Don’t wait to get killed by other’s tricks.

See the stuff in bold? How practical is that!

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Extra of the ordinary

How about we cherish the beauty of the everyday? In the simplicity of routine, we uncover moments of wonder and joy, whether it’s the melody of birdsong, the comfort of a familiar embrace, or the aroma of freshly baked bread.

Amidst the hustle of life, we could pause to appreciate the magic in ordinary moments, like the gentle rustle of leaves in the wind or the soft glow of a candle’s flame.

We can embrace the notion that true miracles lie in the everyday, reminding ourselves to seek awe in the seemingly mundane, like the way sunlight dances through the trees or the laughter of children playing in the park.

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Journey or destination? Neither?

We’re always told to value the journey over the destination, right?

Because focusing on the destination aka result is what brings us stress and anxiety. Focusing on the journey hence will allow us to “enjoy the moment”.

Here’s another nice take I came across recently.

Shift your focus from the ‘how’ to the ‘who‘ – because the people you surround yourself with shape your journey.

In life’s adventure, the beauty lies in the company you keep. Prioritize the ‘who’ over the ‘how.’

There is magic in embracing inspiring souls; they transform ordinary journeys into extraordinary adventures.

The right people could make every journey and destination brilliant.

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Cat outta the bag

In Rajarshi Nandi’s book called Adhyatmikta, the author presents an interesting view on sects or lineages of saints, called sampradayas.

Many people simply become egoistic today, saying that they are linked to so and so lineage. Does it really matter?

Here’s a funny excerpt from the book…

Each sampradaya is susceptible to a single weak link in the chain of transmission. Nobody can fix this; that is how matters transpire. The classic example given is that of one great pundit who had a cat and would tie that cat near his puja room when he sat for puja so that the animal did not disturb him. Few generations down the line nobody really remembered why he used to tie the cat, but the thought process, and that action transformed into a dogma and a new rule was made that whoever did that puja ought to first buy one cat for himself and then tie it near the room!
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Simple reality

  • Life’s pursuit? Seek limitlessness.
  • Problem: How we seek.
  • Why? Because desires drive us, and actions limit us.
  • Upanishad say: Seeker and sought unite.
  • Knowledge, not action, leads.
  • Then why act? As work purifies mind, detached.
  • Pure mind grasps reality fast.
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Nature’s call

In Sanskrit philosophy, there’s this concept called “prakriti,” which refers to nature’s role in shaping our consciousness and giving it boundaries. Pra+kriti, first+action.

It’s like nature’s way of guiding us to act in certain ways, almost instinctively. Picture it as our default mode of action, the way we naturally respond when faced with a situation that demands action.

This innate nature, deeply embedded within us, influences how we perceive and interact with the world around us. Until we learn to master it, we’re bound by its constraints.

There’s this saying in Sanskrit that I came across, “svabhavo vijayati iti shauryam,” which translates to “the true heroism is to conquer our own nature.” It’s about overcoming those instinctual impulses and limitations to truly assert control over our actions and decisions.

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A relative was recently discussing an experience of a silent spiritual retreat.

I’ve heard of these before, but never had the courage to attempt one. Still won’t, I think.

But it’s interesting when you realize that verbal silence is only one aspect of it. The real mauna is in the ability to make the mind go quiet. Silencing the mouth is just a means to that end.

Apparently there are a few types of maunas.

Karna mauna: control of speech;

Kastha mauna: maintaining a neutral expression in every way;

Susupti mauna: clearing the mind of doubts, recognizing life’s transient nature and the role of the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas;

Maha mauna: achieving a complete cessation of thoughts

Clearly, shutting my mouth is far easier than the others!

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No fear seer

Guruji’s Wisdom: “I am the body” breeds fear—of hurt, death, loss.

Cosmic Play: Recognize life as Lord’s Prakriti, embracing desire’s exhaustion for innate fearlessness.

Death’s Truth: Realize death befalls the body, not the everlasting soul—fear wanes.

Relinquish Labels: Strip away “I and mine,” embracing everything as the Lord’s—fear fades.

Devotion Triumphs Fear: Total faith in the Lord dispels fear; Prahalad’s unwavering trust exemplifies.

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Hard or soft?

In the realm of leadership today, there’s a lot of buzz around soft skills, and empathy often gets thrown into that mix. But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sees it differently. He believes understanding others goes far beyond what we typically consider soft skills. To him, labeling empathy as “soft” undermines its true importance—it’s actually one of the toughest skills to master.

Nadella emphasized this point in an interview with Axel Springer’s CEO Mathias Döpfner, stating, “Empathy is not a soft skill. It’s the hardest one to master—to truly connect with the world and the people who matter most to us.”

Moreover, Nadella highlights that empathy isn’t just about bettering relationships within a company—it’s also integral for understanding customers. According to him, genuine innovation stems from empathetically addressing unspoken needs.

Nadella has long championed the significance of empathy in leadership. His personal experiences, including being a father to his late son Zain, who had special needs, profoundly shaped his perspective. He acknowledges his wife’s empathy as a driving force behind his own commitment to infusing compassion into both his personal and professional endeavors.

In essence, Nadella’s stance underscores that empathy isn’t merely a trendy concept—it’s a fundamental pillar of effective leadership.

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Big, bigger…

Steve Schwarzman is global Private Equity behemoth Blackstone’s Founder and Chairman.

He’s 77 years old, and is worth some ~38bn dollars. So one can say he’s successful.

Here’s what he said in an interview recently, which offers some exceptional motivation:

Schwarzman, who will likely never retire, insists his global ambitions have nothing to do with money. "I look at anything and say, 'What's the maximum we can make this?"" he says of his life's work. "If you see some amazing opportunity, I just get so excited about that. Why shouldn't we own that? Let's go."
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Cool, calm, confident

Ever found yourself pondering how to tackle an unusual challenge? Imagine facing a judge’s puzzling verdict: a prisoner must be hanged on a surprise day from Monday to Friday.

Instead of succumbing to fear, the prisoner remains calm, employing a brilliant strategy. If he stays alive until Thursday, the judge’s Friday execution loses its element of surprise.

Extending this logical approach, if he survives until Wednesday, Thursday’s execution is ruled out. This method continues for each day, ultimately making a surprise punishment impossible.

This tale unfolds a powerful lesson in navigating tough situations with a composed mind and innovative thinking. When faced with adversity, the ability to think beyond the obvious can work wonders. The prisoner’s clever reasoning not only spared his life but left the judge in awe, leading to a compassionate decision.

In life’s challenges, perhaps remarkable solutions emerge when one stays calm and embraces creativity.

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Choosing choice

In our journey as humans, we’re endowed with the incredible gift of the human form, giving us the unique ability to choose our thoughts, feelings, and actions. This power shapes our destiny and happiness.

Life is often turbulent, filled with trials. Yet, amid the storm, our choices remain in our control. We can choose our attitude, our response – to be positive, proactive, and resilient.

Cultivating the art of choice is vital. Each decision carries consequences. Discovering our purpose guides us towards meaningful choices, aligning us with fulfillment and freedom.

But beware of ego-driven choices, which lead to bondage and suffering. The study of Vedanta offers wisdom, clarifying our path towards a meaningful and joyful existence.

In the end, the power of choice is divine – a force that shapes our lives and the world around us. Embrace it, for it resides within each of us.

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Meditative mantra

In the chaos of our daily lives, meditation has become a lifeline for many chasing success and inner peace. But what’s the real key to making meditation work? Well, it’s simpler than you might think: just repeat to yourself, “I am nothing, I know nothing, I do nothing.

Now, that might sound counterintuitive in a world obsessed with achievement, but here’s the trick – it’s all about letting go. Embrace the mantra, embrace the nothingness.

By acknowledging our smallness, we actually find a deeper connection within ourselves. It’s like shedding layers of stress, anxiety and ego.

This mantra isn’t about achieving something monumental. It’s about finding peace in the now, letting go of the need to know everything, and realizing that sometimes doing nothing is the most productive thing you can do.

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Really real problems

We’ve discussed previously the very nice and funny TV series called Our Man in… where the host is none other than James May of Top Gear fame.

Guess where he’s traveled to after visiting Japan and Italy? Well, India of course!

India is a country that’s just too vast to do full justice on a 3-episode show. And so while May has tried, he’s barely scratched the surface. At least it leaves room for him to come back for more!

What struck me as poignant, was how he a Britisher, and therefore ex-“colonizer” (as one of his guests in an episode funnily put it), summed up India at the end.

He acknowledged that foreign people always talk about the problems in India. And then he added, “The problems of India are no different than the problems we have back home. The only thing is, India is much bigger, and hence its problems look that much bigger.”

Nicely on point. The problems everywhere are the same. And interestingly, the solutions are the same as well. All dealing with the mind, and cleanly provided in our scriptures!

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Candle lit

Remember Elton John’s touching but outstanding song, “Candle in the Wind”? It got me thinking about life in another way.

Imagine life as a flame, akin to the candle in Elton’s song, but with an uplifting twist.

Each of us is like a candle, glowing brightly for a time before we’re gone.

Yet, the flame – our spirit or essence – doesn’t end with us. It moves on, lighting another candle, another life.

This is an analogical perspective to rebirth, isn’t it?

Our physical form may flicker out, but our essence continues in the endless cycle of life, much like the enduring melody of a beautiful song…

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Thanks but yes thanks

Daana or charity has a special place in spirituality. Lord Krishna considers it amongst the key rungs on the spiritual ladder.

Why would this be?

Because the root cause of all our troubles is said to be the ego. The more the ego has, the more it wants.

Au contraire, the more it gives away, the weaker it becomes.

This nicely sums up daana. Because when we part with something, we’re actually not losers, but gainers in the most crucial sense.

So charity, assuming it’s done right, with no expectations, and given to the right people / organizations, means that it’s really not the receivers who should be telling thanks to the givers. Rather it should be the givers telling them thanks, for giving them the opportunity to perform daana!

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Listen up

There was a funny incident recently. A session on improving presentation skills was being conducted.

The speaker said that there were three key things to watch out for.

  1. Listening
  2. Questioning
  3. Messaging

The speaker then said that he wanted the audience to pick any one of the three key focus areas that they believed were their strong point.

Everyone picked one of the three and put that into the chat box (most sessions happen online nowadays you see!).

Everyone except one chap. He picked Listening and Questioning.

The speaker said you’ve to pick only one. So he picked Listening.

But it’s funny no? The guy who picked Listening as his strong suit couldn’t listen to the requirement, which was to pick only one! Sums me up well many times, when I’m just physically present but mentally far far away someplace…

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Mental subtraction

Here’s a nice mental model that I came across recently.

What “mental subtraction” calls for, is to imagine that certain situations have not happened in our lives.

Many times we feel low and depressed. But how to get out of this rut? Mental subtraction of course!

So just think of the most important and the happiest events and situations that happened in your life.

Could be when you got married, or when you graduated, or got a promotion, or got your first child, or any of 100s of other such situations.

Now mental subtraction requires us to slowly remove each of these incidents from our lives. The positive triggers that pushed our trajectory forward? Yes, remove them.

How would we have felt? Where would we be? Surely not in a better position than we are in today?

And thus the need for gratitude and faith. Nothing is truly in our hands, but still, we are in good hands.

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Worship mentality

A lot of people would be doing homas (fire worship) for a variety of reasons.

While I was reading an excellent manual on performing a Chandi Homam (Mother Chandi is the divine primordial energy of life), I was struck by the message provided by the author on the mindset one needs to adopt while doing this homam. Pasting it below, verbatim, for your reading pleasure!

However, it is not necessary that She should take away one's material success and prosperity in order to give spiritual upliftment. In fact, many people who perform Chandi homam everyday or every week using this document may experience continued or even increased material success (and yet be able to remain detached from it and progress spiritually). However, in some cases, She may decide to give a shock or two in worldly matters if something is badly blocking one's spiritual progress and a setback is needed. The path towards self-realization is different for each person. She knows the best for each person. Unless one is willing to surrender to Her completely and accept whatever comes one's way good or bad as Her blessings and unless one does not expect any specific material benefit from this homam, one should not use this document to perform Chandi homam.

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Hamster Manster

Seem a hamster wheel before? No doubt you have!

It seems silly that the hamster keeps running on it, despite getting nowhere.

Well here’s the story of someone I know.

He was perched on a ladder, and was doing great.

Then he looked down, and felt super, because he saw many below him on lower rungs of the ladder.

Then he looked up, and felt sick, because there were so many above him on higher rungs.

And he felt those above him were getting away, farther and farther, while those below, seemed to be catching up!

But the Divine Being who was standing outside and observing, could clearly make out that the ladder was nothing more than a circle, exactly like a hamster’s wheel.

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Speak down

Most people today are crazy about speaking up. They just do anything to get the first word in, and more importantly, their word in.

It’s as though the world is run by people who talk, talk and talk more.

Speaking up is important, no doubt, at specific times.

But only speaking, and not letting anyone else in on the conversation? That’s plain bad manners!

And yet, most people just love the sound of their own voice a bit too much!

But you know what’s even more beautiful than sound and perhaps more important?


Silence is crucial if one wants to listen to and understand the words and perspectives of others. Wisdom calls upon us only when we are silent. We can feel the Self within, only in silence. Indeed, silence is the true language of Creation.

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Extreme devotion?

Came across the interesting concept of Virodha Bhakti, or reverse devotion. The practitioners harbor such intense hatred towards God that they undergo self-destruction, only to be rescued by the very divine force that annihilated them.

This philosophy suggests that the immense power and transformative nature of the Divine makes any interaction, even adversarial, ultimately beneficial for the Seeker.

Liberation is attained when an asura, slain by Vishnu or Durga (for example) in battle, experiences this paradoxical union of destruction and salvation.

The gods of Hinduism, capable of formidable deeds, execute their actions with perfect detachment – destroying without hatred and loving without attachment.

This paradoxical nature underscores the profound dynamics of spirituality.

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10k marathon

Everyone who runs a marathon knows than the 10k or 10 kilometers run is not even close to the actual 42km.

Neither is it close to the half marathon at 21k.

But 10k is important in itself, as the stepping stone to the larger numbers. 10k is also the over-publicized and over-quoted number from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers where he coaxes people to get in 10k hours of practice on anything if they seek mastery.

We’ve discussed this before as well, and so we’ll get to the point. 10k hours works in everything, including spirituality. We spend 10k hours on many things, but how about on prayer?

Many people question faith. They say our scriptures and vedic chants do not work. But these statements come from quarters that have never tried these out. Try calling out to a deity with shraddha and bhakti 10k-hours-worth times and the view will change!

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Poverty-stricken who

For the Ayodhya Ram Mandir consecration, the who’s who across various fields were been invited to attend.

But there’s also one poor ragpicker who was invited.

Really? Why?

Because she had donated a meagre 20 rupees in total, 10 from her side, and 10 for her unwell son.

20 rupees is nothing. The middle class will argue that with inflation, even 2 million rupees is nothing.

But what this lady lacked in money, she made up for in faith and devotion.

In terms of money, everyone reading this would never considering themselves to be in poverty.

But I can’t help but wonder if I’m not spiritually impoverished. And whether the Guru has been trying forever to lift me above the poverty line.

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Tester kit

Life is a test. Or maybe a series of tests.

Like in school and college, we can’t always score a 10 on 10.

Some will be really tough tests, and others not so much.

But the tests are what cause us to grow.

They push us to become better.

When people hurt us by doing exactly the opposite of what self-help and leadership and “success-secrets” books tell us, that’s fine. Because those crazily aggravating scenarios too are just tests.

Can we keep our wits about us? Or do we give up?

Every moment spent here on earth is a test not for our bodies and minds, but for our souls. Are we able to overcome our basic instincts, and pass the test to become a higher power?

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Professionally permanent

Many of us may be attending a lot of satsangs, or at least one of them.

How does it make us feel? Great, right?

That one hour spent in satsang could be absolute bliss.

The key messages to empower ourselves, to bring us success, and to elevate our spiritual lives – all in those lovely 60 minutes. And add some socializing and some prasad, and that would seem like spiritual bliss.

But outside of that one hour of satsang?

Does the bliss continue?

Maybe the word professional satsangi is relevant then. We are (I certainly am) beneficiaries and maybe even contributors within that 1 hour period. But outside of that, life (aka strife) takes over.

Only if we consistently and mindfully implement each of the messages of our scriptures, can we hope to move from professional satsangi, to a permanent one!

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Vote for…

Apparently some 4 billion people across 60+ countries are eligible to vote this year (2024).

That’s just insane, and incredible.

A quick look at poll promises overall though?

Many leaders in the decades gone by, would offer development and things. Yes, things like schoolbags and bicycles and computers and what not.

Instead today, there’s hardly much positive left. It’s mostly all about promises of shutting down other communities, wiping out other religions and inviting hate wherever love and peace should exist.

The game seems to be all about self-gratification, ensuring continued rulership (via appeasement votes) with little care for those around.

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Level 43

Rohan Bopanna recently won his first tennis Grand Slam title. Now this statement may not be a big deal standalone, but Bopanna achieved this at the age of 43 years and 329 days!

Easy on the body? Nope. Easy on the mind? Absolutely not!

Imagine having played 100s and 100s of matches during all the so-called “prime” years of youth and not winning a grand slam at all. And yet, he persisted.

He couldn’t do intense weight lifting and similar exercises, so he switched to yoga, to give him the core workout he needed.

And of course, he switched his mindset to being super positive.

As he quipped, “I’m not 43, I’m at level 43!”

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Higher highs yet low

The markets across the world are going higher and higher.

Wealth effect is kicking in.

People are getting richer.

And yet, they aren’t happier.


Because those who are invested, are wondering what to do. Do they pull out their money, crystallize their gains? Or will the market go even higher after they pull out, only to leave them as helpless bystanders?

Then of course there’s the bunch that aren’t invested at all. They’ve just been watching and waiting, hoping to enter, but never able to truly make up their minds.

The market might be high, but the moods of the hoi polloi?

That’s a trick question, as you know by now, where happiness truly resides!!

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Cows have a unique significance in Indian / Hindu tradition.

Foreigners often find it funny that Indian roads (even highways!) are used by these bovine creatures to chill out, for lack of a better phrase.

And because of the respect for cows, people will leave them be.

In Vedic tradition and astrology too, feeding cows and taking care of them is said to bring benefit, including erasing or neutralising bad karma.

Now who’s going to go find a cow and take care of one? Thus when I was scrolling through my twitter feed today, I chanced upon, which is a retirement home for cows, and where anyone can donate whatever they feel like.

I haven’t particularly verified this organization, and maybe there are many others like them, but this one came recommended by some respected individuals, so just thought to share, in case someone is looking for helping spread some moo-sic to cows ears!

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Scary Antonym

What is the opposite of fear?





Well, none of these are wrong. But they aren’t a 100% correct either, because to eradicate fear, we need something strong and permanent.

So what is such a thing?


With adequate devotion, even the deepest of fears melt away. Why fear when the Lord is here?

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Defective plan

When you’re gunning for the top post, and someone thinks you’re not worth it, how does that make you feel?

Not good, right?

A recent interview by US Republican ex-candidate Vivek Ramaswamy was outstanding.

A lady in the audience asked him whether he would accept being a VP to Trump (her implicit assumption being that Trump would win and be President).

Vivek said that he would always put his country first, and do what was needed. But also that he felt he was the right choice to run America.

The lady then said that his answer sounded like “a maybe”.

To which Vivek said, “I gotta tell you about a defect I’ve got. You need to know because you gotta know your President has a defect. And that defect is, that I never have a Plan B!”

A masterclass in handling hecklers if there was one! But more than that, it shows extraordinary confidence in one’s abilities. Could he lose? Yeah, anything can happen, and I don’t remotely understand politics, so that’s not even the point. But if we could all work as though we had no plan B’s, how cool would that be?!

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Proof of investment

It’s funny how human nature rarely changes.

And this is exactly why all our scriptures, although written thousands of years ago, are still as relevant today as they were back then!

In the investing world, maybe a few decades ago, people would make basic mistakes like buying high and then getting wiped out in a market crash. Why’d they do that? Because they didn’t have enough information. About companies, about markets, about stocks. No internet, no information.

Hence, buy, because it seems like a get rich quick scheme, and hey the neighbor is in on it too!

Fast forward to today, and what has changed? Lack of information has changed to an overdose of information. But has this translated into wisdom? Hardly. Greed and fear still rule the roost, and hence the basal human nature is absolutely unchanged.

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Flying wheel

In business, concepts like the ‘flywheel effect’ and ‘virtuous cycle’ signify momentum from strategic actions. Surprisingly, these ideas also illuminate the spiritual path, particularly when exploring the synergy of humility and gratitude.

Humility sets this spiritual flywheel in motion. It’s a grounding force, reminding us of our small yet significant role in the universe. This humble perspective naturally ushers in gratitude – a deep appreciation for life’s often overlooked blessings.

Gratitude, in return, fuels humility. The more we express thanks, the more we recognize our interconnectedness and limitations. This understanding fosters deeper humility.

Together, humility and gratitude create a self-reinforcing cycle, each strengthening the other. This dynamic duo not only propels personal growth but also brings us closer to the core of spirituality, turning every humble acknowledgment and thankful moment into a step towards inner peace.

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Balanced sequence

Where does work-life balance start?

Obviously it starts with work, because it’s the first word, right?


Thinking about work-life balance as first balancing work and then attempting to balance life, is probably why we always feel imbalanced all the time.

So what to do then?

Invert it perhaps.

Start with life balance first. And within that, begin with the self.

Once we keep enough time for our own reading, prayers, meditation, chanting etc., our soul will feel nourished.

Then we can automatically be better and more humane with our families.

Which in turn will make us better at work. Balance achieved!

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Trusted, but how?

Everyone wants to be trusted. But how does one build this trust? How can one assume the role of a trusted advisor to someone else?

Here’s a super formula I came across in a training slide from one Simitri Group.

Trusted Advisor = (Trust + Liking) / Self-interest

How does one build trust? Trust comes from consistency, transparency, competence, reliability, and empathy.

And Liking? Liking comes from common interests, positive interactions, similar values, empathy, and active listening.

Self-interest, or rather not putting Self-interest first, is key.

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Mindful Marathon

Embarking on a marathon transcends testing physical stamina; the true challenge lies in cultivating muscle strength. This serves to ensure cramp prevention.

How does one do this? From nothing less than dedicated strength training.

Is there any dedicated strength training for the mind? Yes there is, and it is called satsang!


By engaging in prayer, scriptures, chanting, and meditation.

In life’s marathon, achieving harmony between mental resilience and enduring muscles is the ultimate victory.

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Destination to where?

If you wanted to go to a particular city, and were standing at the station to get a ticket, what would be the most important info you’d need to give at the ticket counter?

The number of buffaloes in the destination?

The kind of cars that people drive there?

The type of cheese folks prefer to eat?

The types of buildings that city has?


Would it simply be the name of the place?

Surely the name, isn’t it?

As Saint Gondavalekar Maharaj says, such is the importance of nama. If we take the name of place to go to a destination, we must take the name of the Lord if we want to reach him.

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Blind faith or blind fate

It’s funny how many people hide behind the garb of “blind faith”. This is especially so when it comes to putting one’s religious or spiritual beliefs up.

While it is not possible to generalize, the younger generations are perhaps lesser connected to their roots compared to a few generations prior.

“It’s impossible for me to have blind faith in God. I’ll first need evidence.”

Where’s the evidence for gravity? It still exists though doesn’t it.

But the solution is really not about faith but about action. Spirituality and religion impact human beings at their core. Spirituality is experiential. If a certain process is followed as mentioned in the scriptures, the outcome will follow, no doubt about that. But how many people even give the process a try?

It’s easier to hide behind the veil of “blind faith” than to lift a finger. Such laziness will lead only to blind fate. Can’t be criticising the system then!

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Came across a book on mantras that presented an interesting distinction.

It said that there are 3 types of mantras. Sattvik, rajasik and tamasik. Yes you probably guessed that already the moment you read “3 types of”. Pretty much anything on Vedic spirituality can be categorized under these 3 buckets it seems.

What I found interesting, was that while the letters and words making up the mantras themselves may not be Sattvik, rajasik or tamasik, the intent of the one chanting perhaps makes it more so.

The book said that a tamasik mantra is one that is aimed at controlling and harming others. A rajasik mantra on the other hand is useful for our wants – a bigger house, a bigger car, more money, more fame etc.

And what’s a Sattvik mantra for? For all the good stuff, like progress in spirituality, for collective achievements such as the furtherance of dharma etc. Interestingly, even things like food, money and house etc. can be clubbed under Sattvik mantras, but only as long as these are basic needs. Once the focus graduates to greed, it’s not Sattvik anymore!

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Our man in dolce vita

There’s a super fun travel TV show called Our Man in Italy and the protagonist / anchor is a familiar one. James May, as we might know preciously as one of the 3 hosts of the superb automotive TV show called Top Gear, takes the helm here.

It’s great fun, because he travels from one country to another, and covers all the important cities and landmarks, giving us a vicarious look of what could be.

In Italy in particular, James is told to search for “la dolce vita”, or “the sweet life”.

What does this mean? Well usually it would be a lot of money, fame, wine, good cheese and pizza, a good house, and generally chilling. Seems sweet for sure.

But during the episode, James notices his own Italian guide simply staring at an old Vespa – one of the famous Italian manufactured 2-wheelers. The man is so in love with the Vespa that he continues to stare, unaware of the world whizzing past him.

Later on, he confides in James. “Buddy, who cares about money and wine and cheese. That Vespa moment was my dolce vita because I was completely at peace!”

What is your dolce vita?

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Are we close to being overtaken by AIliens? Yes not the aliens from other planets, but the AI that we humans have created? Not that I have made any contributions whatsoever in the creation of AI, but it does collectively seem like quite an advancement in technology.

It may seem like AI and robots are taking over, but as a Tamilian would exclaim, the “aiyo” moment is probably not here yet. Here’s a piece I was reading from one FEI FEI Li, a computer scientist and a pioneer of the artificial intelligence boom.

"There's just so much complexity in human brain science that is still a mystery. We don't know how we do that in under 30 watts, the energy the brain uses. How come we're so terrible at math while we are so fast at seeing and navigating and manipulating the physical world? The brain is the infinite source of inspiration for what artificial intelligence should be and should do. I feel human intelligence should be the benchmark to judge Al and not the other way round."

There we have it. The One who has created us is far far ahead in this race for creation. In any case, anything we create is also a part of His creation only.

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Improved decision making

How does one make good decisions?

Well, it’s not easy for sure. And some would say that the decision itself doesn’t matter, much, and that it’s the follow through that’s truly critical.

But many people and organizations get stuck at the time of making a decision itself. Analysis paralysis. What to do in such cases?

Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon provided a stellar method, in one of his letters to shareholders back in 2015.

He said that the focus should simply be on whether the decision is reversible or not. If it is, then go ahead, make a decision, and don’t waste further time on discussing whether the decision itself is the right one or not. Explore and exploit. If things don’t work out, the decision can anyway be reversed.

Of course, if the decision is irreversible, then take adequate care, planning and strategizing, before making the final call.

A great focus point I think, in order to keep moving ahead in life!

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Open center

There’s a lot of people who claim that their chakras or energy centers are open. Or have been opened.

This may or may not be true, and I for one certainly am no one to judge.

Some say their ajna chakra has been opened and that they can plunge into deep meditation instantaneously. Others focus on the mooladhara chakra and can go into deeper states.

Of course such things can and do happen. Even if words like kundalini might be thrown around recklessly and find much media attention, that does not imply it is apocryphal.

More critical, as my Guru often reminds us, is what such folks (and everyone in general) do after they snap out of their trances. Are they truly seeking the Self, or simply self-centered?

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Scientist’s religion

Here’s a cool anecdote I came across in a book (don’t remember the name unfortunately).

“I met a man a few days ago in Washington, D.C. who, while a student in Delhi, had met Dr. Radhakrishnan, the second President of India. He had asked Dr. Radhakrishnan “Sir, since you are also a great philosopher, can you explain the difference between science and religion, as there seems to be a contradiction between the two? Religion speaks of something that is not seen and people have faith in that. But in science one accepts only what one sees, so it appears that scientists are anti-religion and faithless.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan gave a very nice answer. He said, “A little science takes you away from religion but more of it brings you nearer religion.”

This suggests that scientific exploration can ultimately lead to profound spiritual understanding. It’s a reminder that the pursuit of knowledge, whether through science or spirituality, can lead to unexpected revelations about the world and ourselves.

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Smart work hard work

There’s this endless debate about smart work versus hard work. You know it. And I don’t have an answer for it unfortunately (else I’d already be atop the ladder of the billionaire lists you see!).

Lords Ganesha and Karthikeya also had a tiff on the same topic with the elephant headed one simply circumambulating his parents thrice instead of traveling the whole world.

But can one be more right than the other?

We are told to work hard, right from childhood. And it’s necessary. Then why pray? So many mantras and deities exist in India who are supposed to help deliver outstanding results. Just pray and all will be well no? No need to work hard only.

But there’s a catch! A mantras book I was reading gave a specific mantra for Goddess Lakshmi, which if recited, would bring extraordinary wealth. But the specifics? The mantra had to be chanted 100-thousand times, 5 times a day. That sounds like hard work to me too! No free lunches…

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Putting in the hours

Does praying a lot make one automatically divine?

Does sitting in a meditative pose for hours mean one will automatically reach Brahman?

Unlike investing, where time spent matters, in spirituality, time spent matters, but perhaps much less.

We know of asuras who spent insane numbers of hours in penance. But are they prayed to or well respected?

If time doesn’t matter, then what does?

Perhaps the intention of the prayer matters the most. As that would cleanly differentiate prayers of the bad versus the good, wouldn’t it?

A sadhana that is practiced for the enhancement of one’s own ego becomes asuric. As simple as that perhaps. And we know what ego means – not the pride that we associate the English word with, but rather the incorrect attachment to the body.

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Dutifully full

One must be fully focused on ones own duty. Ones swadharma. Lord Krishna calls this out in the 35th verse of the 3rd chapter of the Gita. Here’s an excellent take by Shri Vinoba Bhave in his book called “Talks on the Gita”. He gave these talks when he was jailed for being a part of India’s freedom fight movement!

It is not good for me to adopt another's dharma, however superior it may appear to be. I like sunlight. It helps my growth. I worship the sun. But my rightful place is here on this earth. If I leave the earth and try to get close to the sun, I would be burnt to ashes. Compared to the sun, the earth may appear worthless; it may not be self-luminous, still I should strive for self-development by staying on the earth, which is my rightful place, so long as I lack the capacity to stand the sun's powerful blaze. If someone were to say to a fish, "Milk is more luxurious than water. Come and swim in the milk", will it accept? It can survive in water only; in milk it will die.

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Big bang practice

Everyone knows the amazing TV show called The Big Bang Theory – a sitcom where socially awkward but extraordinarily brilliant scientists navigate life, love, and comic books, often proving that even geniuses don’t know everything about the real world!

In a prequel adaptation called Young Sheldon (the smartest scientist of the lot), his mother Mary posts a question.

Mary: Sheldon, faith means believing in something you can’t know for sure is real. And right now, I am struggling with that.
Sheldon: So you don’t believe in God anymore?
Mary: That isn’t something for you to worry about. I need to figure this out myself.
Sheldon: Can I help? Maybe I could provide a fresh perspective.
Mary: I don’t think so, baby.
Sheldon: Did you know that if gravity were slightly more powerful, the universe would collapse into a ball?
Mary: I did not.
Sheldon: Also, if gravity were slightly less powerful, the universe would fly apart and there would be no stars or planets.
Mary: Where you going with this, Sheldon?
Sheldon: It’s just that gravity is precisely as strong as it needs to be. And if the ratio of the electromagnetic force to the strong force wasn’t one percent, life wouldn’t exist. What are the odds that would happen all by itself?
Mary: Why are you trying to convince me to believe in God? You don’t believe in God.
Sheldon: I don’t, but the precision of the universe at least makes it logical to conclude there’s a creator.

Food for thought?

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G-force multiplier

Many people say that God will take care of everything. Or if they are in a rut, then no worries because their Guru will take care of everything. “All is well. All is always well.” But what does this really mean? Is this possible? Can a Guru sitting somewhere actually take care of everything?

Yes it is, and only experience can build such faith. There is no difference between Guru and God. As we know, poet Kabir das once said that if he had to fall at the feet of either of God or his Guru, and both were at his doorstep the same instant, he would choose his Guru. Why? Because the Guru is the one who taught him about God in the first place!

We can only perform our karma, our actions. Over 99.99% of what’s happening around us is not in our control. Who’s taking care of those, if not the divine?

In essence, embracing this belief is not about surrendering responsibility but recognizing a greater cosmic harmony. Our actions, infused with sincerity and purpose, become part of a grander scheme, orchestrated by the divine. The Guru, as a guide, reveals this interconnectedness, teaching us to see beyond the immediate. To trust in a larger plan.

So, while we navigate life’s complexities, we do so with a heart full of faith, understanding that, in the grand tapestry of existence, every thread is held and woven by a force much greater than ourselves. In this realization, we find not just solace, but a profound sense of being part of something infinitely vast, yet intimately connected to our every step. That’s the G-force.

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Historical anxiety

We think we are struggling with stress and anxiety today, despite seemingly having the best of the best that technology can offer.

Was this always the case?

Our existence is a tapestry rich with ancestral threads, spanning not just the last 400 years but reaching far deeper into the annals of human civilization.

Within just say the last 400 years alone, our lineage would include an astonishing 4,094 ancestors over 12 generations.

It begins with a vast network of 2,048 ninth great-grandparents and intricately narrows down through the generations, converging at our 2 parents. However, this is just a glimpse of our heritage, as human history extends much further back.

Every generation, from those 400 years ago to the dawn of civilization, faced its own set of trials, triumphs, and life stories.

These countless generations, their struggles, joys, and hopes, have interwoven to create our present.

So what are we anxious about really?

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Happyness funnyness

Here’s some timepass happiness jokes I came across…

Why don’t we ever give happiness a remote control? Because it’s always found within, and you can’t lose it between the couch cushions!

Why did the smartphone go to therapy? Because it thought happiness was an app, but then realized it’s always in ‘plane’ mode within us!

Why don’t emotions use GPS? Because happiness is not an external destination, but an internal journey!

Why did happiness refuse to play cards? Because it’s not about the hand you’re dealt, but how you feel inside!

Why don’t fish worry about being happy? Because they know the best joy is found in the current moment, not upstream or downstream!

Some were not that funny? Don’t worry, be happy!

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Mind it

What does the mind do?

We think that the mind thinks. But what is this thinking about?

Mostly the mind thinks about the past. Or else about the future.

If something has gone right, then the mind tries to find some flaw or fault in it.

If something has gone wrong, then the mind tries to extrapolate that into Armageddon.

The mind struggles to remain in the now, in the present.

Interestingly, all our scriptures say that the here and the now is where the mind should be. That is what leads to spiritual evolution. In the now, the mind doesn’t even have to think. It simply needs to witness.

Mind it, it’s easier said than done.

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12th fail…

…is the name of an exceptional movie that is now streaming on Disney Hotstar in India.

No spoilers, but it’s about the difficulties involved in cracking India’s toughest exam, the UPSC, and how it gets even tougher for those born not with a silver or golden spoon, but perhaps no spoon or plate at all.

It’s an incredible movie that everyone should watch. The level of motivation a viewer will get is just indescribable.

And you know the best part? The movie is entirely based on facts. Yes, a true story.

Learning about such stories only makes me think one thing. That if I’m not giving every ounce of my energy to do my best at whatever I’m doing, then I’m not just wasting my time, but also indirectly denying opportunities to hundreds or thousands or millions who could have done infinitely better should they have been in my position right now. And this is perhaps applicable to each one of us.

Here’s the link to the movie, if you’d like to know more!

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Froggy vision

In the vast expanse of what we believe we understand, there lies an unseen realm. Take the frog, for instance. Its eye, a marvel of nature, deciphers only essential cues for survival. It can spot stark contrasts, sudden light shifts, moving outlines, and dark shapes. But it cannot admire beauty like a sunset or recognize faces.

Our human eyes, intricate as they are, fall short too. We boast of comprehending everything until we ponder about bees detecting ultraviolet patterns on flowers or how owls navigate the dark. Each species possesses a tailored perception system vital for its existence. Dogs catch sounds we can’t, insects pick up scents from miles away and more.

Vedic spirituality echoes this idea—there’s a depth beyond our grasp. It humbles us, reminding us that our intellectual understanding has its limits. Just as the frog’s vision serves its survival, our perception, albeit broader, is still confined. The universe holds mysteries far beyond our discernment, urging us to embrace the boundless unknown.

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Old is sold

So a 1952 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for a staggering 51 million dollars a few weeks ago in New York.

Absolutely incredible.

I would have thought that cars are to go from point a to point b. And the latest cars have extraordinary gadgets in them, almost making them more computers than cars.

But a 70-something year old car going for 30x more than a brand new one? Bonkers indeed!

But someone still sees value in them. Why? I do not know. Maybe it’ll be part of some billionaire’s rare collection. Or else it’ll get sold for even higher some 30 years down the line, when the antique becomes antiqu-er!

But if old is sold, then old is also gold, which is what our scriptures are. If 70-year old things have this much value, imagine what value books that date back to 7000 years have! Truly the secrets to life. If only one (i.e., me) would read them, imbibe them and practise them…

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Pomo juice

There was an incredible item in the newspapers about a couple of decades ago. It read “RR creates petrol from pomegranate juice!”

RR was the initials of the chap, a supposed scientist, that achieved this incredible feat. Fuel from juice. Wow, talk about renewable energy, and that too some twenty years ago!

Well you know what say. If it’s too good to be true…

So a few weeks later, an errata was issued, which read, “RR creates petrol from pomegranate juice and petrol!”


While this is funny no doubt, from a spiritual point of view, we are all RRs only.

Whatever we think we are creating, we are simply using what already ever existed aka God. No different from “RR creates creation from creation”!

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Simplified answer

In many schools of spirituality, there are discussions about mantras and lineages.

It is said that a mantra must be given by a Guru to specific disciple in a specific manner. Absolutely true I’m sure.

It is also said to vary from Guru to Guru, from lineage to lineage.

And the ways of chanting each mantra and the various things to focus on, and of course accompanying visuals and dreams and what not.

My Guru is very clear. “Let the lineage be anything, what will you do with it?”

“Have you given up your desires and attachments?”

It’s that simple, without which he says nothing else matters.

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Anchoring bias

Came across a lovely story today.

A guy goes for an interview. There are 3 interviewers on the panel.

The first interviewer tells the candidate that he’s in the middle of the ocean on a boat and that there’s a crazy storm outside. The boat could capsize. What would he do?

Our man answers, “I’ll throw in a large anchor and steady the ship sir”.

The second and third interviewers ask similar questions, each time simply increasing the intensity of the storm. Our hero consequently simply increases the size of his anchors!

The panel ask him, “Buddy, all that’s fine, but where are you going to get such large anchors from, on such a small boat and that too in the middle of the ocean?”

The reply is swift. “I get the big anchors from the same place you get your big storms. Where you source fear, I source hope!”

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Teammateship – part 4 of 4

We finish the insightful podcast journey with Shane Battier by exploring a surprising concept: embracing chaos.

Shane argues that injecting a controlled dose of chaos into a team or system can be a powerful tool for innovation and growth. By introducing new players with diverse perspectives and experiences, we can disrupt the status quo and spark creativity.

Think about it like adding a new ingredient to a recipe. It might shake things up a bit, but it can also lead to a delicious new dish. The same goes for teams and systems. By welcoming controlled chaos, we can break through old patterns and discover new ways of thinking about and doing things.

Of course, it’s important to find the right balance. Too much chaos can be destructive, but too little can stifle progress. The key is to be open to change and embrace new ideas, even if they seem unorthodox.

So, next time we’re feeling stuck in a rut, remember Shane’s words. Embrace the chaos, shake things up, and see where it takes us. We might be surprised by what we discover!

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Teammateship – part 3 of 4

As Shane explains during his conversation with Simon, achieving anything truly remarkable requires a deep desire and unrelenting pursuit of success. He shares his experience with the Spurs, where their hunger to win ultimately surpassed that of their opponents, leading them to several championships.

But Shane also warns that this hunger can fade after victory. He emphasizes the importance of maintaining a constant drive for improvement and a relentless desire to win more. He credits the Spurs’ continued success to their unwavering focus on getting better, even after reaching the top.

So, it’s not enough to just have the talent or the skills. We need that fire in our bellies, that burning desire to push ourselves and achieve something extraordinary.

Concluding post tomorrow, on how embracing controlled chaos can lead to unexpected breakthroughs!

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Teammateship – part 2 of 4

Back again today with another insightful tip from Shane Battier. This time, he’s sharing the key to staying focused and achieving peak performance, aka, the power of the “next play.”

We’ve all been there, right? Dwelling on past mistakes or getting too caught up in celebrating successes. But Shane says the key to staying on top of your game is to focus on the next play.

Think about it like this: every moment is a new opportunity to start afresh and give our best effort. Shane days, “Don’t let the past hold us back or let the future distract us. Just be present, focus on the task at hand, and give it our all.”

Shane even says this applies beyond sports, to everything in life. Whether you’re working on a project, studying for an exam, or just facing a personal challenge, it’s all about the power of the next play. It’s about taking things one step at a time and giving our best in each moment.

Tomorrow we explore the fuel that drives success: a burning hunger for greatness.

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Teammateship – part 1 of 4

Did you catch that awesome podcast with Simon Sinek and NBA champ Shane Battier? Never heard of Shane? Ya me too. But that’s the point! You know who all he played with? All the famous guys – LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan etc. And yet hardly anyone’s heard of him.

He might not have been the top scorer, but guess what? He was always on teams that won the championship. And according to Shane, the secret sauce isn’t just about having a superstar leader. He believes that “teammateship” might be even more important.

Let’s think about it. Championship teams are more than just a collection of talented individuals. They’re a well-oiled machine where everyone trusts each other, helps each other out, and pushes each other to be better. They’re all working towards the same goal with a deep commitment to the team.

Shane used the San Antonio Spurs as a great example. They were known for taking players who weren’t quite there yet and turning them into valuable contributors. They created a culture where everyone felt valued and empowered, and guess what? They won a lot of championships!

So, the next time we’re working towards a goal, we can remember Shane’s words. It’s not all about having the best leader. It’s about building a strong team and supporting each other every step of the way.

Tomorrow: we’ll unlock Shane’s secret to staying focused and achieving peak performance!

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Aspirational heights

In ancient lore, mountains were realms of the divine, unreachable and mystical. Today, they stand as majestic challenges, echoing George Mallory’s sentiment on Everest: a mountain is to be climbed simply because it exists!

Our lives are dotted with such peaks, personal Everests that beckon us. They are not just physical heights but symbols of our highest aspirations and achievements. Victorian poet Robert Browning once mused that our reach should exceed our grasp, a reminder that true fulfillment lies in striving for the seemingly unattainable.

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s triumph over Everest serves as a metaphor for overcoming life’s steepest challenges. It teaches us resilience, urging us to persist despite setbacks. For every mountain we face, whether in the physical or metaphorical sense, is a reflection of our potential to ascend beyond our limits, turning daunting challenges into triumphs of the human spirit.

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You’d be best served if you practice gratitude. That’s what every spiritual guru says. It’s also what our shastras / scriptures teach us.

The idea is simple. To identify basic things from our lives and be thankful for them. Got food on the table for all the 3 meals of the day? We’re already better off than maybe half the planet. Wow, what a start!

The moment we begin to look at the world this way, finding the positives in everything, the chances of our material success multiplies manifold. Why? Because negativity and self-doubt get booted out the door, one thought at a time, as we are thankful about more and more things going our way.

Life is all about how everything that happens is part of a long story of lessons. We may just need to appreciate the flow and learn from them teachings. This then automatically converts from material success to spiritual success. Because once we are grateful for everything, then we want nothing more, and eternal peace follows.

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Non-violent violence

The sanskrit word ahimsa is a misunderstood one.

It is commonly defined as non-violence, and the treatment suggested is to show the right cheek when the left one has just been smacked.

Does this make sense in today’s world of wars and mobs and rapes and riots?

Absolutely not.

Ahimsa doesn’t mean complete non-violence. Instead, it aims to minimize collective harm and maximize collective harmony.

In many contexts, ahimsa will require engaging in war in order to establish and protect or restore collective harmony.

Why else did Lord Krishna ask Arjuna to fight?

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4 letter word

One of the Presidential candidates in the US recently put out his daily schedule video.

It was insane.

He did some 7-8 townhalls in a single day, across multiple regions – starting way before sunrise and going non-stop (travel, speeches, Q&As, meets-n-greets etc.) all the way till well past midnight.

Only for it to all begin again the very next day.

He summarized it beautifully.

“LUCK is a 4-letter word that is spelt as W-O-R-K”

So powerful isn’t it? Time for me to get back to work now!

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Easy come easy go

Here’s a story about “no free lunches” that I really love.

A wandering saint and his disciple stumbled upon a town where everything, from diamonds to daggers, cost a mere penny. The disciple, lured by the easy life, refused to leave. The saint, knowing that true happiness wouldn’t bloom amidst such absurdity, continued on his journey alone.

The disciple reveled in his newfound fortune, oblivious of the looming storm. One day, a man injured by a falling brick wall sought justice. The king of the land, in a ludicrous series of senseless accusations, blamed a girl for singing distractingly, leading to the wall’s collapse.

As the noose was slack around the girl’s slender neck, the king, unable to hang her, demanded someone whose neck fit the noose. The once-thin disciple, now plump from his easy life, was thrust forward by the king’s guards.

In that moment, the saint reappeared and convinced the king, blinded by his foolishness, to hang himself instead, promising him a glorious rebirth. The disciple, finally understanding his folly, thanked the saint as they left the town, and lived forever changed.

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Kety Perry

If you had a net worth of a million dollars, would you be happy? Depends on your position and privilege of course. But statistics from 2022 show that just 0.7% of the entire ~8 billion population in the world are millionaires. That’s it. So there’s 99.3% of 7.94 billion people who would be incredibly ecstatic if they got a million dollars.

Matthew Perry, was an outstanding actor, known for his role as Chandler Bing in the hit sitcom Friends. Personally, I loved Friends, and loved the Chandler character. Matthew Perry brought incredible wit to the character.

He passed a few weeks ago. Apparently from overdosing on ketamine, which is used to treat addictions and mental health problems. Surely he was a wonderful human being. He was also a millionaire, or a hundred-millionaire, with a net worth of over $120 million.

If there’s one takeaway, then it is that money and fame and success are not guarantees of happiness. Maybe flipping this around might help. True happiness could guarantee some or all of these things. Who knows?

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Latent tendencies

There’s a concept called vasanas in Indian spirituality, or latent tendencies. It refers to deep-rooted karmic imprints that tend to dictate our lives. Assuming one believes in reincarnation, then the soul or consciousness or Atman or Brahman pervades everything. But the mind goes from body to body, from one life to another.

Which is why maybe someone who died of drowning many lifetimes ago is still instinctively scared of drowning, even if they’ve never really been in the water much.

In a video I was watching where the speaker was a very accomplished tantric upasaka, he spoke of various practices and rituals he performs. He also spoke of the various deities he has personally experienced.

All in all, a very spiritual person, clearly on a very advanced plane. Pun intended, because while all his sadhanas have made him absolutely fearless in facing demons and what not, he still sheepishly confessed that he is very scared of traveling by plane!

That’s vasanas at play, and it doesn’t leave even those who are far ahead on the spiritual journey!

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Back to the suture

What is our life, but a tapestry of experiences, all stitched together by time?

Most people would give an arm and a leg (many sutures notwithstanding) to go back in time and relive their childhood.

But not everyone. There are some that would happily live in the today. But is that because they are mindful and spiritual? Or it is because they hate their childhood and are far better off today?

Then there are some that constantly live in the times to come. Neither happy with their childhood, nor happy with the way things are unfolding today. Ever writing in their minds, a chapter that has yet to be written.

As Vedanta teaches us, eveything around us is maya only. Yes we see life as a tapestry of experiences, but in reality, these are a string of lifetimes, of which we remember only a tiny part.

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Within life’s intricate dance, Dada J P Vaswani crafts a transformative roadmap to conquer stress, encapsulated in a powerful acronym:

  • S: Smile
  • T: Tolerance
  • R: Relax
  • E: Easy
  • S: Service
  • S: Silence

Each element unfolds as a key to serenity and spiritual growth. Cultivate a perpetual smile, foster tolerance, embrace relaxation, adopt an easy-going stance, engage in selfless service, and practice silence for divine connection.

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Parking problem

With a small car in an insanely congested city, I thought car owners face a daily nightmare. Not just while driving, but perhaps worse, while parking.

I thought money would solve the problem, because with a lot of money, you buy some parking space, and poof, problem gone.

But apparently with more money, people buy more cars and bigger cars, and that only makes the parking problem worse.

But I read an article yesterday on Mr. Bezos’ mega-yacht, which apparently also suffers from the same parking problem! One of the richest men in the world has a parking problem?!

His yacht costs a cool 500 million dollars, is 400 feet long, and effectively cannot be parked with other yachts. Why? Because it’s too big! They had to dismantle a bridge to let it pass and that was met with fierce opposition that the yacht is now parked with larger ships out in the deeper sea.

Does money truly solve all problems? Or bring up new ones that one could have never even imagined!?

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Heavenly pitch

Every time I watch some cricket, I can’t help but feel the pull towards being more devoted to God.

What’s the connection, you might ask?

Well whenever a batsman scores a 100 runs, or if a bowler takes an important wicket, they implicitly look up to the heavens, thanking the Gods up there for their mercy.

This might seem like a simple gesture. It might even seem reflexive, almost part of a ritual ever since the first times the players of today saw their own idols doing the same on the pitch many decades prior to them.

But the thought of dedicating a small victory to the Infinite Divine is still outstanding.

I wonder about myself then. If and when a small victory does come my way in my own line of work, do I quickly look up in gratitude? Or do I first pat myself on the back for a job well done?

Mostly the latter I think, hopefully someday it’ll be the former.

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Pricing power

Imagine you could buy a dress for 100$. Do you think it’s worth it? It might be. Depends on so many factors – quality of the material, the brand on the tag, the end-use, like for a wedding or for a party, or just for home use?

Prices tell us a lot. But is there a price tag for after buying the item?

There is, but it is usually invisible. Like the cost of maintaining the item. A little lesser for a dress, a little more for a car, and perhaps substantially more for a home!

So there’s one price tag we see, and one we don’t.

It’s no different when we look at those around us who seem to have what we so desperately want. Their success, their wealth, their happiness, their fame. We sometimes don’t even see any price tags. As though we should have their success by default.

But even if we do see their visible price tags, what about the invisible ones? All the anxiety and jealousy and constant looking-over-the-shoulder that such success brings?

There’s an invisible price tag for sure. We just need to be cognizant of it!

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Time machinations

In the lovely Netflix series called Better Call Saul which is a prequel to the super hit Breaking Bad, there’s a tense yet funny moment.

Saul asks a bunch of people what they’d do if they could build a time machine and go into the past. What would they change?

Everyone thinks up some moment and goes on to say that they would go back in time and do this or change that.

When Saul poses the same question to a scientist known as Walter White (fans know he’s no ordinary scientist!), the response is incredible!

Walter first reprimands Saul for asking about scienfitic impossibilities. “Time machine? Of course there’s no way such a thing can ever exist.”

He then proceeds to tell Saul what he’s actually looking for. That he simply wants to recount times where he regretted what he did in the past. And that he just wants to get his regret off his chest. So what he’s searching for is not a time machine, but a regret machine.

Regrettably true, isn’t it?

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Happy crappy

Do we feel happy most of the time? Or crappy? Perhaps the latter, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s because we are constantly focused on the past. Thinking of things we could have done differently, aiming to jettison all regrets.

Or maybe it’s because we are constantly focused on the future. Thinking of the infinite permutations and combinations of a life that is yet to unfold. Can we control all of it? Most of it? Any of it?

We can instead give the highest priority to God right now, and become more and more aware of His presence in our lives. This will prove to us by self-experience that we are an integral part of a divine plan. We don’t need to demand for anything then, because by surrendering to the Lord, everything is automatically being take care of.

Instead of a fast mind and slow actions, these will invert, and peace will follow.

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Bridge of wisdom

Once, a massive elephant traversed a rickety bridge over a roaring river. Amidst the creaks of the old bridge, a small ant perched on the elephant’s trunk claimed that their combined weight almost shattered the bridge. Unfazed by the ant’s misconception, the elephant chose peace over proving a point, and simply agreed that yes the ant’s contribution to the total weight on the bridge was indeed massive.

The elephant’s tranquil response echoed a timeless wisdom: the futility of ego-driven conflicts. Yet, blindly mirroring the elephant’s response might not fit every scenario. Life demands a nuanced approach, where humility intertwines with assertiveness.

Striving for inner calm amidst ego clashes remains pivotal. However, discernment plays a role, determining when to stand firm and when to maintain serenity.

The tale of the elephant and the ant on the bridge whispers a lesson beyond ego battles—a subtle reminder to balance peace with assertiveness in the symphony of life.

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Full body glory

Had gone for my full body annual check-up this week.

They took a fair amount of blood to run various tests.

It’s astonishing how the body survives without that kuch blood. But it’s equally astonishing how so much blood manages to stay within the body, unless poked and collected like red wine in a glass!

Various instruments to test various things, but all only to see if things are running as they should be. No clue of why or how they came to exist in such a state. Who created this wonder?

Oh and the 2D Echo scan to check the heart. The doctor switched on his speakers to listen to my beating heart. Wow what a sound it was. Thumping away at breakneck-yet-measured speed and ensuring that the rest of the body has every drop of it blood it needs. Not just today, but incessantly since the day of our births.

And this maniacal rush of activity can’t be heard by anyone. Not by you. Not by your friends and family. Not even by your own ears. Glory to the Creator for this full body Creation!

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Tech transfer

Tech is awesome, but it can detrimental as well. We know this intuitively already, because we each experience the good and bad sides of tech on a daily basis.

One of the bad things that people speak of is addiction to TV series and the associated binge watching (guilty even without being charged!).

But incredibly, there are some outstanding devotional TV channels and programs as well. Just ask the older generation. It’s a life savior for those who are spiritually inclined.

What’s amazing is how tech is actually helping. Some of my family members were discussing how they’ve never had the chance to be at some spiritual sites during specific times. Like on a mountain top where just a handful of people are allowed to witness a particular ritual. And now? There are drones capturing the same thing live and beaming it to every home and mind that is open to it. Are we?

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Victoriously defeated

We often look at all things in dualities.

If we haven’t won something, then we’ve lost it.

If we haven’t succeeded at something, then we’ve failed.

But are we sure of this?

Many things in spirituality are inverted. If we win something, what really wins and gets boosted? Only our egos!

And everyone knows what happens to a big ego.

Lord Rama was neither happy when he was told he will be the next King of Ayodhya, nor was he sad when he was asked to go to the forest in exile.

True victory is the victory of the self over one’s mind and senses, no matter the external circumstance. Everything else is defeat only!

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Came across a live anecdote yesterday.

There’s some 50 odd octogenarians in a particular place.

They’ve all been there for ages. All living comfortably. Their kids are working in various cities, within the country or abroad, all well settled. Heck, even their grand kids are well settled!

No reason for these folks to be unhappy at all. A life well lived, if there was such a thing.

But old isn’t always gold. Said grandpas and grandmas are in the hunt for nothing less, than gold, in the form of real estate.

There’s some plots of land that these 80 year olds collectively own, and which are now set of go for re-development. Not everyone gets the same value though, for various reasons, and the same happy bunch has now been plunged into anxiety and anger and jealousy. All over some property that will add no real value to these people. When will humanity learn?

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Mischief maker

Some YouTube videos are just incredibly cute.

Especially the ones where there are guilty dogs. Who’ll chew up the whole sofa, and then go and hide. Or even point at some other innocent dog, as though they had no part in the mischief whatsoever!

This sleight of hand (or paw) by the guilty dogs is no different than what we do perhaps.

Who’s the real mischief maker? The other guy of course. Or the other entity. Or the other situation. Or to generalize, it’s the world at large.

Asked again, who’s the real mischief maker?

It’s always our own minds.

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Hunger pangs

In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Lord Rama encounters Kabandha, a demon cursed with insatiable hunger. In fact he has no head, and a mouth directly in his stomach. Kabandha symbolizes the relentless greed seen in many professionals today. Despite consuming everything, the hunger persists, mirroring a desire for endless accumulation. Similarly, some so-called leaders prioritize personal gain, exploiting workers and the environment without ethical considerations.

Contrastingly, Lord Rama embodies selflessness, compassion, and humility. His focus is on service, not amassing wealth or power. Everyone can learn from Rama’s values—prioritizing others, embracing honesty, transparency, and environmental responsibility. Contentment, rather than ceaseless ambition for personal gain, should guide them.

Emulating Lord Rama, one can break the Kabandha-like cycle, fostering a more just and sustainable world.

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Mousika vaahana

Here’s an unbelievable story.

I was out for an errand.

As I was walking back, I saw a dog just in front of me. I was thinking about how I’d heard on a recent podcast that those who pray to Bhairav baba often find themselves in the vicinity (and affinity) of dogs.

But this dog? Nope, he couldn’t care less about me, and it’s not like I’ve been praying devotedly to Bhairav ji either.

But my mind quickly wandered to my Ishta Devata, Shri Siddhivinayaka as guided by my Guru to many satsangis. This elephant-headed deity’s vaahana is mooshika, or the mouse. I wondered to myself, “damn, having dogs around me would be cool, but having mice around me? Scary! Unless them mice would be friendly or something.”

Almost momentarily, a fat little rat bounced along the center of the road, crossing, then going back, and trying to cross again, then zig-zagging. A car came by really quickly, but the driver thankfully saw the rat and he slowed down. Not enough to stop however, and he zoomed off. Only I could see how close a shave it was for the rat. The lucky escapee quickly crossed and went off to the other side.

Incredible. And all coincidence only of course. Isn’t it?

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Where do you go, my lovely?

There’s a song from my childhood called “where do you go, my lovely”. My childhood not because it was from my era, but my father used to hum that tune when it would come on the radio.

While watching some videos on ancient Indian temples today on youtube, this song came to mind.

Whats the connection? Perhaps nothing much.

But I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed looking at the insane number of devotees thronging these temples. It’s no different when I’m at a temple myself. There’s always hordes of people often in various groups, all dressed in similar clothes. One glance will tell us they are rich. Not at all rich by money, but very rich by devotion.

They will often travel ridiculous distances by foot, simply to catch a nanosecond glimpse of their favorite deity. What incredible faith they have. And so many of them!

Where do they come from? What do they come for? Where do they go, my lovely?

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Devi calling devi – part 2 of 2

We were lucky that the 2-mins-away Devi temple was open when we reached. We parked and climbed up the 200-or-so stairs leading to the shrine.

One lady in our group was the one who was really keen on visiting this temple. Actually she was drawn to the other devi temple that I’d mentioned yesterday. But that one was way off-route, and we just couldn’t travel that far. This seemed like some sort of consolation prize.

As we reached the top flight of stairs, there was a notice-board explaining the history of the temple. The Devi idol was a swayambhu, ie, it manifested itself rather than be created by any human. A great king living in the area many hundreds of years ago used to travel to the other far-away Devi temple in his youth. But as age got to him, he was unable to travel. The Devi appeared in his dream, and told him about this 2-min-away temple and that he can pray here instead.

Needless to say, the lady in our group was absolutely ecstatic, what with her unable to travel far enough either, only to come across this very similar story of the king. A case of Devi calling devi.

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Devi calling devi – part 1 of 2

A lot of spirituality happens only when we truly open our eyes and minds and look. Here’s a recent incident to someone I know and was on a trip with. The incident could be passed off as coincidence. Or maybe not.

We were considering going to a specific Devi temple on a trip, but couldn’t, because it was quite far off from our route.

While a bit disappointed, we did continue the rest of our journey. Enroute a few days later, someone who didn’t know about our plans to see a Devi temple pointed out that our route had another devi temple and that we could go there.

It so happened that this new Devi temple was exactly 2 minutes away from another place we were supposed to visit!

And so we quickly made our way there, thanking the Devi mentally for arranging this unexpected darshan.

Continued tomorrow!

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Will free

Does free will exist? Yes of course it does. That’s why you get to choose whether to drink tea or coffee while reading this post. Or maybe you choose not to drink either.

One might say though that hey, tea or coffee isn’t significant enough for a heavy topic like free will. Yes, unless coffee messes up one’s system and leads to a few missed days at work?

Anyway, that’s all conjecture.

More importantly, although Lord Krishna himself hints in various places about free will (such as “Arjuna get up and fight!”), does it really truly exist?

Perhaps it does. But we are also victims of our own pasts, and by extension, victims of ourselves. Everything lies squarely on us. If we’ve built up many lives of conditioning towards certain responses, experiences and situations, then can we really use our free will to change? Will we?

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Computer literacy

Here’s a very commonly used but absolutely spot-on analogy between computers and spirituality.

A Computer / laptop is like the physical body.

A USB drive is like the mind.

Electricity is like the soul.

Between lives, the mind moves from one body to another, taking with its past experiences and emotions.

No different from a USB being plugged in from one laptop to another.

And electricity is always present to power any laptop or computer with any usb drive.

Just like the eternal soul aka atman aka Brahman is omnipresent, constantly powering, animating and enlivening everything.

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Penny pinchers

Came across one social media post today by some influencer.

The person apparently stopped at a tire shop after one tire went flat.

This shop was in a very rural area, and the old man who was apparently very poor soon helped fix the tire, and asked for some 20 rupees (25 cents).

Our influencer said he didn’t have change, and handed over a 500 rupee ($6) note, to which the old man asked him to come by next time and pay him, whenever that would be, if at all.

Mr. Influencer is touched, and goes hunting for change, and comes back with 20 rupees and is delighted enough to not just pay the man some pennies, but also write a long post about it, which is further liked and shared by thousands.

Surely said influencer made a decent amount just from the views of his one post. But he still couldn’t part with his 500 rupees to help that poor old man. Reality is quite divorced from reality these days!

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Locational devotional

Was listening to a tantric expert on a podcast recently. Many of the things he said were mesmerising. And he knew it.

Like what? Like him sitting in a cremation ground and doing his sadhana (spiritual practices and rituals). Or him entering other dimensions and interacting with ethereal beings. And so on.

Fascinating for sure.

But he also made one thing very clear.

That the location is not important, at least not at first. He said that many people get carried away (or carried towards!) simply by hearing about things like cremation ground sadhana. But he repeated twice. If one cannot do their sadhana with devotion in their own puja rooms at home, then there is no chance of achieving anything anywhere else.

Charity, and seemingly spirituality, begin at home!

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Munger Hunger

How tenacious can humans be? How much will power do they have? How likely are they to stand back up when life has pushed them to the ground and glued them there? How hungry can one be, to not just survive, but also thrive?

The world lost investing guru Charlie Munger today, who died peacefully in his sleep at the graceful age of 99. While people would know him as a billionaire and a great investor who worked closely with Warren Buffet, not everyone knows about his tough early life.

At 29, Charlie was divorced from his wife of 8 years. The lady took everything, including his family home. He was almost plunged into poverty. Apparently he had a dirty old car he’d drive around. His daughter Molly Munger once asked him, “Daddy, this car is just awful, a mess. Why do you drive it?” The broke Munger replied: “To discourage gold diggers.”

Post the divorce, Charlie learned his 9 years old son had leukemia, and eventually lost him to it. He didn’t even have the money to pay for his treatment.

Later in life, a botched operation left him blind in one eye, and in so much pain he had to have the eye removed.

But despite all this, Charlie by age 69 became one of the richest people in the world, was married to his second wife for over 30 years, had 8 kids, many grandkids and was respected across borders by one and all.

Tenacity at its best!

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Most parents of young kids today discuss only one thing when they meet up – about the schools that their kids attend.

Whether it is this curriculum or that, whether it has 2 playgrounds or 3, whether it has an Olympic sized swimming pool or not, whether the music room has western instruments or only eastern, whether the labs are equipped with the latest equipment or aren’t. And of course no discussion would be complete without talking about the ridiculously high school fees required to support such lavishness.

While all this education is phenomenal in imparting an ability to create wealth, is it enough to provide lasting happiness? Is there any guidance towards achieving man’s true objective here in human form?

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Unfamous 5

The famous 5 of Enid Blyton fame, are, well, famous! But there’s another 5 that aren’t. Not people, but qualities. And funnily enough, these 5 are accessible within each one of us!

Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, emphasized five strengths for cultivating and harnessing inner powers in dharma practice:

  • Faith
  • Diligence
  • Mindfulness
  • Concentration
  • Insight

These strengths are inherent in us but may remain unrecognized until consciously cultivated. They serve to empower and enrich our spiritual journey.

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Paws and praise

For anyone who has a dog at home, homecoming transforms into a celebration. The doorbell unleashes fervent barks.

Before you know it, a blur of fur—your dog—outpaces any human, offering a welcome fit for royalty, conveyed in wags and jumps.

This daily ritual, far from ordinary, is an unwavering expression of pure joy.

Your four-legged companion’s greeting erases fatigue, replacing it with a heartwarming spectacle of affection.

Their boundless enthusiasm is a masterclass in mindfulness, reminding us to cherish the present moment with unguarded delight.

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Life is a journey meant for more than mere indulgence in pleasures. While savoring life’s joys is essential, it’s not the sole purpose. What sets humans apart is the gift of intellect, the ability to comprehend and ponder. This faculty leads us to seek the truth beneath surface perceptions.

In Sanskrit, the distinction between humans and animals is strikingly clear. ‘Pašu’, the word for animal, implies one who merely ‘sees’, perceiving things at face value, without delving deeper for truth. For them, utility lies in edibility or survival value.

Likewise, the English term ‘man’ finds its roots in Sanskrit’s ‘manusya’, denoting a human being. Derived from ‘mann’, meaning ‘to think’, it emphasizes that a human’s role transcends mere physical observation; it demands contemplation of the deeper truth. Thus, the essence of human existence lies in the pursuit of Truth, beyond mere enjoyment.

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Educated ignoramuses

This is the term my Guru uses to label all pseudo-intellectuals.

What is the meaning of this?

There are so many people who are far more conventionally educated than most Gurus.

Some of the most advanced Gurus may not have ever even gone to school or had a formal education.

So what does education mean? Is it just fancy MBAs or PhDs?

For pseudo-intellectuals, yes it might be!

But what is true education then? That depends on what we want to, nay, should learn. What should we learn then?

About our purpose on this earth. About our human birth, and what we are expected to do with it. About how to live up to our true potential.

Is this what formal education teaches us?

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Ruin booin

Everyone wants money. How much? More than too much. Having money is easy? Here’s a perspective:

The great investor Charlie Munger was once asked by one of his rich friends if leaving his kids a bunch of money would ruin their drive and ambition.

“Of course it will,” Charlie said. “But you still have to do it.”

“Why?” the friend asked.

“Because if you don’t give them the money they’ll hate you,” Charlie said.

Isn’t he just so much on point?

Imagine this. You have all the money possible. And then your kids either lose ambition or hate you. A smart cookie might say the best combo would be to have a lot of money and no kids. But everyone who has kids say that it’s the best feeling ever. And they’d gladly exchange their money to keep their kids. So want more money, honey?

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F for fear F for faith

We each fear death the most. If that fear goes, then every other fear can be managed.

How can we not fear death? Well everyone must go one day, but the antidote to the fear of death is the faith in God.


Because we are implicitly playing God, when we fear death. Wondering when that death will come and how. That’s why we are constantly worried about whether we will live or not. Isn’t that playing God? What if we would surrender that duty to God by having full faith in Him?

Ironically, we do have faith even if we think we don’t. Because we go to bed each night with the faith that we will wake up the next morning.

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Re Inc.

Would you want to live your whole life again, from scratch, including all the bad parts?

What if that life would be only the bad parts!?

Imagine going through grades 1 to 12 of school, all over again. Damn, I don’t even know how I managed to clear them once!

And then college and university.

And then all the bad interactions with so many people and all the other traumatic experiences.

It of course could have been a lot worse. But it’s not.

So ideally one should use this opportunity to improve our position, and work towards never having to come back, and re-do all this. The choice is ours. But most choose to stay permanent employees of Re Inc(arnated)!

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The idea of a thing vs the thing itself

It’s easy to mistake the mental image of an object or experience for the real thing. For instance, the idea of money is often associated with success and security. However, money itself is just paper or numbers in a bank account. The value we attribute to it comes from societal constructs. Similarly, happiness is frequently visualized as a life filled with laughter, vacations, and luxuries. Yet, true happiness is an internal state of contentment that can exist even in simplicity.

This distinction is important because when we chase the idea of something, we may miss out on the genuine essence of that thing. A person might accumulate wealth but still feel insecure, or chase moments of joy but never find lasting happiness. The map is not the territory; understanding this difference can lead us to more authentic and fulfilling experiences.

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Right turn

In the Ramayan, post-war, Hanuman rushes to inform Sita of their victory. Arriving, he’s tempted to avenge the rakshasis for tormenting Sita, but she halts him, narrating a stirring tale instead.

A man, fleeing a tiger, scales a tree, disturbing a resting bear. The tiger urges the bear to push the man down for a meal, but the bear, valuing hospitality, refuses. When the tiger coaxes the man to shove the bear, he tries but fails. The bear, resilient in righteousness, denies the tiger’s renewed plea to harm the man, imparting a timeless lesson: no evil should deter the righteous from their virtuous path.

Righteousness, demanding yet dignifying, holds an immortal essence celebrated across cultures and festivals.

Righteousness is not the easy choice, but it’s the revered one, crafting legacies of honor echoing through ages.

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I’m really not making this up. Imagine adults coloring intricate books, building forts with blankets, or having themed dress-up parties. It’s adults immersing themselves in children’s activities, seeking a slice of nostalgia and pure joy.

Real-world stores now cater to this, offering adult-sized ball pits, wall doodling sessions, and even crafting workshops reminiscent of our school days.

But here’s a thought: why did we ever distance ourselves from such simple pleasures?

Life’s demands shouldn’t push the child within us into obscurity.

Embracing a childlike demeanor – filled with wonder, non-judgment, and forgiveness – is not about immaturity, but about cherishing life’s moments.

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Deathly wish

The Gita in the 8th chapter says (Antakaaleti…) that whatever one thinks of at the time of death is what they will attain in their next birth.

Is this a loophole? Can one live a life callous about values and morals, and yet achieve salvation simply by thinking of the Lord at the last moment?

“Not so fast buddy”, is what Krishna seems to suggest.

Firstly, a life devoid of spirituality is highly unlikely to result in remembrance of the Lord at the time of death.

Secondly, in chapter 14, verse 14, Krishna makes it amply clear that it is the dominant guna that makes its appearance at death. This is not difficult to understand either. If the life lived has had only tamasik and rajasic gunas, then how can one expect sattva guna to dominate only at the time of death?

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You know all these NatGeo and Discovery ocean documentaries? They show some outstanding footage of what happens in the depths of the deep blue.

But I realized one thing. Even though many creatures hunt for a living, they don’t necessarily have a high success rate. A shark might try to capture its prey many times, but it too fails often.

So a quote I came across today (for humans, not sharks!) was on point:

“Self-reflection is how one loses their edge. A shark keeps swimming.”

It probably makes sense to introspect once in a while. But only introspecting and never taking action? Not a good idea.

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Gunateetha…is what? – part 2 of 2

We say yesterday how when one is free of the body-mind complex, one becomes a gunateetha. But how does one practically achieve this?

Krishna answers in the 14th Chapter of the Gita: “Through single-pointed, unswerving devotion!”

A doubt might arise. “But we see so many devotees around us, thronging temples and prayer halls. But they all also don’t seem that happy in their own lives – definitely not like what gunateethas are supposed to be…”

Great catch!

The focus word here therefore is “single-pointed” and/or “unswerving” aka unwavering.

As devotees, do we focus exclusively on the Lord? Or do we give him a small slice of time – like a few minutes a day or week? Is He the first thought we wake up with and the last thought we sleep with? And what of the millions of thoughts in between?

There is much introspection to be done for me!

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Gunateetha…is what? – part 1 of 2

So there are some terms in the Bhagavad Gita that are a bit difficult to practically imagine.

Like Gunateetha. A person who is beyond the Gunas. It’s hard enough for most people to come out of Tamasik guna (indolence) or Rajasik guna (high energy) and move towards Sattva guna (harmony). But then the best state according the Lord Krishna is one where the individual has transcended all the 3 gunas altogether!

How does such a gunateetha even function then? How is such a person to be recognized?

In the 14th Chapter, the Lord spills the beans.

He clarifies that the gunas are only associated with prakriti or the world around us, including our bodies and minds. As long as we associate with the body and mind, we will always be under the influence of the gunas.

And therefore by extension, when one is free of the body-mind complex, one becomes a gunateetha!

And how to do this? Concluded tomorrow!

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It’s Deepavali again. This beautiful festival comes year after year, with just one aim. Which is?

Well in the essence of tradition, Deepavali celebrates the joyous return of Prince Rama to Ayodhya, marking the end of his 14-year exile. Symbolically, it mirrors our contemporary journey, as we navigate challenges akin to Ram’s banishment from his realm of peace and prosperity. Deepavali, at its core, signifies the victory of good over evil (including inside us). The lighting of lamps illumines not just the world outside but our very souls. Amidst the festivities, our actions carry profound symbolism.

Cleaning the house becomes a metaphor for purifying our minds, discarding emotional stains of the past.

Donning new clothes and household items symbolizes the ushering in of newness as we transform our thinking and behavior.

Exchanging gifts takes on a profound meaning, offering each other the priceless blessings of pure thoughts and feelings.

Savouring sweets becomes a pledge to sweeten our words with love and respect (while also adding to the waistline!).

Starting new account books reflects our resolve to reconcile past issues and embrace acceptance.

Happy Deepavali!

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Tip sip

Came across an interesting anecdote today from a well-traveled friend.

In most parts of the world, he said that anyone in the service industry will be happy when they are tipped for their quality of service. A few extra bills and the smile on their faces would be telling.

In a few countries however, tipping is a requirement, a mandate, no matter what. “If you don’t tip”, he said, “they can even become angry and abusive!”

In Japan however, he said tips are actually frowned upon. It is culturally insensitive to offer tips to waiters, taxi drivers, hotel boys and anyone else.

Why? Because they believe that they need to do their best at work irrespective of any additional incentives, and they also trust the original bill that is charged is all-inclusive.

Good service begins in the mind!

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Embracing TIME

Jay Shetty’s book Think Like a Monk has an interesting acronym: TIME.

It represents four transformative habits: Thankfulness, Insight, Mindfulness, and Exercise.

Thankfulness encourages recognizing life’s blessings.

Insight propels a journey within for deeper understanding.

Mindfulness invites present-centered awareness.

Exercise emphasizes physical well-being.

Integrating TIME into our daily regimen can steer us towards holistic wellness and enduring happiness, enriching our journey towards a fulfilling existence.

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The Lasso Way

Apple TV has an outstanding series called Ted Lasso, which we’ve discussed before. Season 3, the last and final one, just concluded. It was super. No big spoilers below, but don’t read if you don’t want to!

Trent Crimm, originally a harsh newspaper critic of Ted Lasso, turns over a new leaf, and even writes a book, called “The Lasso Way.” He then requests both Coach Lasso and Coach Beard for their feedback.

The contrast couldn’t be more pronounced. While Coach Beard’s feedback is direct and detailed, Ted Lasso, true to his character, simply writes that everything is perfect. He also adds, that the only suggestion he has, is to change the name of the book, because it was always about the team, and never about him.

If only everyone would be so kind and understanding!

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Medical spirituality

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor!

But from my experience going to some, generally we would have some problem, like say a stomach ache. We don’t go to a plumber for this, although a leaky gut might need some plumbing of another kind. The doctor would have to be a general physician at first and then maybe a gastroenterologist. And the all important medicine? Some specific tablet or syrup that only the doctor can prescribe.

Our life’s problems are no different.

What is the illness? Samsara, aka our dependence on external factors for attaining and maintaining happiness. Who’s the doctor? This one is easy, the Guru of course! And the medicine? Scriptures, spirituality, devotion, God… take your pick.

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It’s amazing sometimes, the bravery I see around me.

So many politicians, especially those fighting for justice, are willing to step up and speak up. Unafraid of the consequences.

Don’t they have a family? Of course they do, and yet they do their duty in unimaginably bold ways.

With the recent wars that have broken out, most people would be fleeing the scene. But I see brave men and women who work as journalists running towards the battlefield!

Such level of bravery is mind boggling. Many spiritual masters do suggest that one should be completely fearless. Like a fight for dharma. Because ultimately we are not the body or mind.

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Know who should be the judge of any court? We each of course! Because we are born judg-ers!

Ever found yourself silently judging? We see someone act, and instantly, there’s a mental thumbs-up or thumbs-down. We all do it, right?

Guru Sri Sri Ravishankar suggests imagining judgments as breezes, brief and passing. That there’s something freeing about being immersed in love and compassion, where these judgments lightly touch and go. They guide our choices, like picking the freshest apples from a market, and shaping the company we keep. Some folks lift us up, others not so much.

It’s quite the journey, this dance with judgments. Can we completely eliminate it? Sri Sri says it’s not possible unless we attain the state of Being, as then we are always full of love and compassion.

What’s your take?

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Bent Lee

There was a clickbaity article recently on a man who asked to be buried after his death along with his 1 million dollar Bentley. And obviously I clicked on that clickbait (how else would such folks make money if not for suckers like me!).

I couldn’t imagine why anyone would think that they could take their car with them. Maybe to coolly cruise past the gates of heaven?

As it so happens, Mr Lee’s (don’t know his name, so we can call him Mr. Lee) brain was not bent out of shape. Quite the contrary actually.

He was trying to use his Bentley to bring awareness to people about the noble opportunity of organ donation. We feel we may useless after death, but actually the death of one person (inevitable to all) may bring life to another. Well bent sir!

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Utterly butterly

What’s a lovely analogy to understand the concept of soul and atman and other similar confusing terms?

The Amritabindu Upanishad of course!

Here’s an outstanding 4-liner:

Cows are of various colors, milk is one-colored,
the wise man looks upon soul as milk,
of bodies as cows of different garbs,
knowledge is hidden, as butter in milk

Utterly butterly delicious!

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Humble mumble

Came across a powerful, self-explanatory and yet profound line today.

Humility is a powerful virtue that involves thinking of oneself less, rather than thinking less of oneself.

That’s it. That’s the post for today. Much to reflect on!

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There’s a lovely sanskrit word called mumukshatwam. It refers to a deep yearning for liberation.

So deep, that the yearning for liberation is the only thing that the spiritual seeker yearns for.

Funny it is then, when my Guru asks a gathering of devotees, “How many of you want liberation?”, and all hands fly up immediately.

He then proceeds to add just one more word, “How many of you want liberation, now?”.

And suddenly all hands go down!

Hilarious, but the joke is on us ????

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Living peacefully

There’s war all around us in the world.

And incredibly, there’s war inside of each one of us as well. In our minds. Constantly fighting a variety of emotions and desires, with nary a clue of what is right or what is good.

So how to live peacefully then? The saints say this:

  • Continuously chant and attribute all actions to God for a joyful life.
  • If an actor doesn’t bring his stage role home, should we let our worldly roles define us? Remember, our pursuit of God isn’t an act because God resides within each of us.
  • When surrendering to God, let go of titles like devotee, scholar, or wealthy person. Then peace will prevail.
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The direction is clear of what happens with me:

Something in the physical plane triggers my senses. The senses pass on information to my mind. The mind then gets super excited and begins planning for the future as though it’s already happened. This in turn waylays the soul, keeping it from achieving it’s true objective (of realising itself).

Spiritual wisdom unanimously dictates that this direction is wrong.

Our soul is meant to lord over the mind and the senses, not the other way around. Instead of focusing on the distractions of the outer world, we need to focus on the peace within.

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A-song of a-sanga

In the Bhagavad Gita’s Chapter 15, there lies solid wisdom on achieving inner peace and happiness. This chapter introduces us to ‘samsara’, a term denoting our attachments.

We often hinge our inner tranquility on three things: VVP – Vyakti (people), Vastu (objects), and Paristhithi (circumstances).

However, this dependence is a double-edged sword, leading to impermanent joy and potential suffering.

The antidote?

‘Asanga’, which translates to detachment.

Contrary to popular belief, detachment isn’t about negating emotions or connections. Instead, it’s about cultivating an intelligent relationship with our surroundings, including our very own bodies. By understanding the inherent value in everything, yet recognizing that none can offer everlasting peace or happiness, we find our way to a balanced existence.

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How hard can it be?

That’s exactly what goes on in the mind of tech titan Jensen Huang, the founder and CEO of Nvidia. In a recent interview, when asked if he’d start a company again in 2023, he chuckled and said, “Building Nvidia was a million times harder than any of us expected.”

But here’s the kicker. Despite knowing the difficulty involved, he’d constantly trick his brain by asking, “How hard can it be?”

Jensen candidly shared the rollercoaster of emotions – vulnerability, embarrassment, shame, and the endless challenges. But would he do it again? “Nobody in their right mind would,” he quips. Yet, the superpower of an entrepreneur is blissful ignorance. They dive in, thinking, “How hard can it be?”

Jensen’s secret sauce? A rock-solid support system. Surrounded by those who’ve been with him for decades, he says, “They never gave up on me.”

The next time we’re facing a challenge, we could channel our inner Jensen and ask, “How hard can it be?”

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Swami Chinmayananda said that when desire is fulfilled – the left hand side gate opens. That gate is called Greed.

Desire fulfilled = Greed.

When desire is unfulfilled – the right hand side gate is opened.

That is called Anger.

Desire Unfulfilled = Anger.

So the main gate leading to both these gates is desire.

The triple gates to hell.

So we must close these three gates all together. That is the only prescription.

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Focused Wisdomism

  • Life’s journey: Sometimes we take detours from the divine roadmap.
  • Scriptures shoutout for: Compassion, humility, and selfless love vibes.
  • Beware! Greed and fear: peace stealers on the prowl.
  • Universal truth alert: Judgment day awaits, not as one day, but as a continuous karmic tracker so deeds don’t lie.
  • Bhagwad Gita wisdom drop: Arjuna’s quest & Krishna’s focus mantra?
  • Focus mantra: Think divine, act in line, and the universe will align.
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3 means of devotion

According to saint Gondavalekar Maharaj, there are 3 methods of devotion:

  1. Words of the scriptures
  2. Words of the saints (seniors / Guru)
  3. inward search by oneself

Which one do you like, and which one do you think works best for you?

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Babaji’s powers

A lot of spiritual seekers today run after anyone who can show off some siddhis (aka powers). A name that is used by many is that of purportedly one of the greatest Gurus and mystics of all – Mahavtar Babaji.

My knowledge about him is just from various books – not least of which is the famous “An autobiography of a Yogi”.

With so many people running after mystical experiences and opening up their kundalinis and all sorts of occult practices, spirituality almost feels like a lost cause to one who does not experience any of these.

What does Babaji himself say?

“Believe me my child when I say, that the man who loves others, who is devout and who lives the life of self-surrender is many times more powerful, even in altering his own circumstances, environments and tendencies, than the man who has learned all the Scriptures, who has mortified himself by sitting in the midst of five fires, who has mastered pranayama, who has shut himself in caves, who has awakened his kundalini and who has repeated millions of mantras millions of times and who has performed the most mysterious and elaborate ceremonies for the fulfillment of different specific desires.”

Aum Namaha Babaji Maha -Vishuddhi (I bow to Babaji, the Great Purity). An Excerpt from ‘The Voice Of Babaji’.

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Belling the chef

In a quaint little restaurant we visited recently, a bell hung aloof in the corner behind the door. It had a note attached to it which read, “Ring if you liked the experience!”

While there was a lot of cheer and laughter, no one bothered to ring the bell, as they exited the restaurant with full bellies and preoccupied minds.

After several entries and exits, one little child pressurized his father to pick him up so that he could reach the bell.

With great gusto, the little boy rang the bell more than once and the smile on his face was wide as a mile.

What was wider though? The smiles on the faces of the chefs in the kitchen, all of whom stood in a line, with their palms folded in gratitude for the recognition.

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Analogical – part 1 of 5

A journey through the Bhagavad Gita is best undertaken via analogies. They guide us like torches in the night, bridging ancient teachings with contemporary understanding. Here are some illuminating analogies used by several saints and Gurus across various books:

1. The Cow and Its Calf: Just as a cow tends to its calf without attachment, the Gita teaches performing duties without fixating on outcomes.

2. The Potter’s Wheel: Like a potter molding clay, divine forces shape our lives. Surrendering to the Lord aligns us with cosmic rhythms.

3. The Water Drop and Ocean: A drop merges with the ocean, echoing unity; like the individual dissolving into universal consciousness.

4. The Lamp and the Wind: A windless place doesn’t disturb a lamp’s flame. The mind too should remain undisturbed amid sensory distractions.

5. The Snake and the Rope: The Gita warns against confusing the transient with the eternal, akin to mistaking a rope for a snake.

6. The Lotus in Mud: A lotus rises pure from muddy waters, teaching purity amidst life’s challenges.

More analogies tomorrow!

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Tank half empty or half full?

In the realm of sports, moments of extraordinary tenacity often emerge, leaving an indelible mark on our hearts. Recently, I came across a riveting YouTube video that encapsulates this spirit in its purest form.

Picture this: A car race of paramount importance, with victory within arm’s reach. Max Orida, the leader, finds himself agonizingly close to the finish line when destiny throws a curveball. His fuel gauge reads empty, threatening to shatter his dreams.

Rather than surrendering to despair, Max’s spirit ignites a fire within him. With unwavering resolve, he leaps out from the car, and begins pushing his vehicle, every muscle straining against the odds. The crowd holds its breath, witnessing a testament to human willpower.

In that heart-stopping moment, Max transcends mere competition. He embodies the essence of perseverance, transforming a potential loss into a triumphant narrative. His actions remind us that when passion meets determination, even the most daunting challenges can be conquered.

Let Max Orida’s incredible feat be a beacon for us all. In the face of adversity, may we summon the fortitude to push forward, no matter how dire the circumstances. For it is in these moments that we forge our own path to victory, leaving an indomitable legacy for generations to come.

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Naturally patient

In the rush of modern life, nature whispers a vital lesson – patience. Much like a blooming flower unfurls its petals slowly, we too can find strength in moving at our own pace. The river carves its path patiently, shaping landscapes over time. Likewise, patience allows us to mold our experiences, creating meaningful stories.

Nature’s examples abound: majestic Redwood Trees grow slowly, standing tall for centuries, teaching us the power of steadfast growth. Caterpillars transform into butterflies, reminding us that change takes time, but the end result is worth the wait. Geodes, crystal-filled rocks formed over millions of years, show that true beauty emerges from patient, gradual processes. The Grand Canyon, carved by the Colorado River over eons, teaches us that persistence creates breathtaking masterpieces. Watch a spider construct its intricate web, showcasing the power of patience in achieving a goal. Coral reefs’ slow growth over thousands of years reminds us that small, consistent efforts lead to immense beauty and resilience.

Rushing seldom leads to lasting success.

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Mother necessity

“Look for the, bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife!” croons the ever-happy Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book cartoon classic.

The bare necessities is absolutely right. We don’t need much more than that to be happy, because happiness, as we know, is simply a state of mind.

But, necessity is the mother of invention. And as our necessities grow from bare sized to bear sized, inventions and gadgetry around us have proliferated.

Has happiness also proliferated? Hardly.

What might be the mother of necessity itself then?

Perhaps God, or chanting his name. When we are thinking of Him all the time, nothing else becomes important, and He will take care of everything else.

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Formulaic Godliness

At the core of our spiritual journey lies a delicate interplay between God, mind, and man, elegantly captured by two poignant equations:

  1. God + Mind = Man
  2. Man – Mind = God

These formulas encapsulate the essence of our quest for spiritual enlightenment.

To bridge the gap between ourselves and the divine, we must first understand the profound influence of our own minds.

Through dedicated concentration, a practitioner seeks to calm the ceaseless waves of thought, offering the mind a steady foundation.

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Which one are you?

An optimist. A pessimist. Or a realist.

The world loves optimists. Absolutely glorifies them.

Pessimists are always given the stick.

Realists? Do they even exist?

Here’s what Swami Swaroopananda says.

Be a realist. Why? Because an optimist never sees a problem, while the pessimis sees nothing but the problem. A realist approaches the situation with full awareness, mindful that things can go wrong and also the courage to see it through. 
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Quick change

You must have seen those magic shows where there’s a person that can change their dress really bloody quick. Like blink-of-the-eye quick.

The Gita says that our bodies are like clothes only. That death just results in the soul discarding one body to don another.

Within this life itself, we may change clothes multiple times each day, and a few hundred-thousand times through our lives.

The toughest clothes to change into would undoubtedly be ochre robes. Most people don’t even attempt to change into them.

But the irony is, that even after changing into ochre robes, if the mind is not tamed, outside clothes are of little use.

Clothes can be changed very fast. But the mind?

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Mission statement

We come across many mission and vision statements of large organizations, and famous people too.

What are the 4 steps to crafting these, and more so for oneself, according to Arthur Brooks, the creator of the concept of Happier-ness?

  1. Does whatever is being done glorify God? If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t matter what the other 3 steps are.
  2. Serve others.
  3. Have an adventure.
  4. Make a living.

These are the 4 steps to be followed to achieve any goal, and to be followed in the same order.

It’s ironic that most people follow the same order, but usually in reverse!

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Peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Yin and yang. You just can’t separate these two out right? Just like 2 sides of a coin.

Here’s another. Desire and attachment. They’re always together.

Desire something deeply? In no time, you’ll be attached to it.

Attached to something deeply? It’ll lead you to desiring for that very thing or even other things for longer and longer.

To cut one is to cut none. To cut both is to find growth. Spiritual growth.

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Born loser

This is what Sadhguru begins one of his talks with. He says we are all “born losers”.

Wow, a scathing attack from a spiritual leader, one would think?

But is he wrong?


He proceeds to explain. We are all born losers because the moment we are born, we each begin to lose the most important thing we have: time!

What are we doing with this time? Are we maximising it in our service of others and our quest for the Self? Or are we simply whiling it away, living as egomaniacs and fueling this gross body that will anyway whither away soon?

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Learn to learn from

In a lovely podcast of Marlene Puffer, the Chief Investment Officer of a Canadian pension fund, I found a golden nugget.

She was describing how she began her career as an outsider. She was always in academia, with multiple degrees and what not.

And one day, at the grand old age of 29, she found herself in a teaching job as a professor of finance.

Her problem? She was all theory and no practice. Why? Because she hadn’t had the opportunity to work at Wall Street or other financial firms.

While she did suffer from imposter syndrome at first, she came up with an excellent solution. She knew she had very good theoretical knowledge and was very well read. Instead of feeling insecure in front of her much older and much more experienced students, she learned to learn from them instead, and layered it on top of her theoretical prowess.

“Hey Mike, you’ve got 15 years of experience working in FX derivatives, why don’t you share your perspective and learnings on how you did things at Morgan Stanley?”… and so on… Pretty cool no?!

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In the lovely book called Discourses by Shri Gondavalekar Maharaj, there are innumerable outstanding nuggets of wisdom.

One of them asks us to focus on the present, which we know. And not worry about the past or future, which also we know.

As a corollary, what he says (paraphrased) is, “On a daily basis, what are you using the prapancha (sense objects) for? If prapancha are being used simply to gain happiness, then clearly that happiness will never last. So what to do then? Use the prapancha as a playground to simply perform your duty. Then see the magic unfolding.”

So lovely!

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The real cause of burnout

On a cool interview of Bjørn Gulden, the global CEO of Adidas, one amazing insight came about. So much so that the interviewer (none other than CEO of Norges Bank, Nicolai Tangen) came back to the same point a few minutes later, even though the conversation had meandered to something else by then.

What is the real cause of burnout then, according to Mr. Gulden?

He says that since day 1 of his job, he has always been himself. He has never put on a pretense about anything. Since he doesn’t have to pretend, and doesn’t have to appear to be someone he is not, he carries no excess baggage on his head.

In his view, the reason for burnout is simply that people are constantly having to artifically put on a guise of who they aren’t. Maybe appear sharper, speak cooler, engage as though more knowledgeable etc. And doing so, say 12 hours every day, day after day, is what causes one to get burned out. Without it? One would enjoy working!

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Reverse bucket list

How many items are there in our bucket lists?

100s if not 1000s?

Wanting to have multiple experiences, to traveling across multiple countries, to trying out all sorts of fancy restaurants and what not.

The list can go on forever.

And that’s exactly why a “reverse” bucket list is such a great idea!

In a normal bucket list, as you complete one activity and check it off, you still see several hundreds left undone, leading to dissatisfaction.

But in a reverse bucket list, we only put things once they get done. This way, everything is always checked, and gives us the opportunity to be always happy!

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Picture time as an expansive, black canvas. The saints saw that it’s not time that moves; rather it is we that traverse its expanse. We begin our journey at one point and conclude it at another, creating the illusion that time commences here and culminates there.

Yet, time is an undivided continuum, an unbroken whole. We transition from birth through childhood, youth, middle age, and into old age, painting our existence across this canvas. Therefore perception of time’s movement stems from our own progression. In truth, time remains an immutable, encompassing unity, ever-static in its entirety. But do we truly comprehend the profound nature of time, or are we merely skimming the surface of its profundity?

Colloquially, we refer to “timepass” when are whiling away time, not putting it to productive use. But what is truly happening? Is time passing us by, or are we passing by time?

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A company called WeWork has been in the news for the last many years. First for revolutionizing co-working office spaces, and more recently, for the fall of its valuations from the billions to the millions.

But WeWork is one thing. And WhyWork is another. No, it’s not a startup that you haven’t heard of, but a simple query to the universe.

Why work, when we are anyway asked to give up the results, and give up doership? If it ain’t gonna matter, then why work even a smatter?

Well the answer to that is simply because work needs to be seen as a means to an end (purification of the mind), not the end itself. The work is simply a journey, which is why the Gita never cares about the work itself, but only about “how” the work is done (with full surrender to the divine)!

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Praying in future tense

We’re probably always wanting something out there in the future.

When this want becomes fervent, it may morph into a prayer even.

With every cell hoping for a magical future.

But do we realize that many years ago and many prayers ago…

…we asked for things, that have become a reality, even if it may not seem so.

A comfy life, some travel, some family time, decent money and status, good health. Many of these we may have wished for, and indeed got, but do we remember? Or are the prayers of yesteryear simply replaced by new prayers hoping for even more cheer?

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Nobody likes corrupt people. Not even the corrupt ones themselves.

But everyone has weaknesses.

And exploiting a weakness in someone could be the first step to corruption.

Offer them something to solve a serious problem, and they will forever be indebted, leaving open the possibility of crossing a line as a favour.

But there exists only one person who is incorruptible. The one who is a jnani. The one who wants only mukti and nothing else.

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Dancing confusion

In the realm of spirituality, seekers often ponder the art of engaging wholeheartedly with the world’s ups and downs, versus withdrawing into a state of inner calm and detachment. Can one gracefully transition between these two states? To immerse ourselves in life’s vivid experiences, yet also find solace in a serene, desireless state.

An analogy could be pertinent.

Imagine playing a role in a romantic flick alongside our favorite hero or heroine. In those scenes, we’re fully present, singing songs and reveling in the joy of the moment. But once the scene wraps, if we hold onto that role too tightly, we might be at the receiving end of a tight hand-to-face from said actor playing the favorite hero / heroine. There’s a delicate balance here. By recognizing it is only a role, we remain untangled, fully present in the day-to-day world, yet with a tranquil, uncluttered mind.

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Business-personal solutions

Here’s a thought provoking tweet by one Justin Welsh.

“Every problem in business can be solved in 1 of 2 ways. 1) Looking at your company data. 2) Speaking to your customers.”

I found this quite profound, and realized that this is not just the solution to business problems, but also applicable to our own personal and professional lives.

How can we look at our own data? By doing a quick self-audit. What are we doing right or wrong? How much time are we wasting. What are the pain points in our lives?

And who are our customers? Everyone we interact with regularly perhaps. And we can surely ask those who we are close with for self-improvement feedback!

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Broken pointers

In the heart of Silicon Valley, Pierre Omidyar embarked on a mission that would redefine online commerce. In 1995, he birthed eBay Inc., envisioning a global marketplace for the exchange of goods and services. This visionary act began with an unexpected muse – a broken laser pointer, the first item ever listed. What seemed like an odd choice held a profound spiritual lesson: within imperfection lies hidden value.

Who the heck would want a broken laser pointer? Lo and behold, Omidyar got a bid for USD 14.83. He could scarcely believe his eyes, and hence wrote back to the bidder, who confirmed thus: “Yes, I am a collector of broken laser pointers”.

Incredible no?

This narrative mirrors the essence of our human journey. In our flaws and imperfections, there lies untapped potential waiting to be unearthed. Omidyar’s broken laser pointer became a symbol, reminding us that our own perceived ‘brokenness’ can be the catalyst for realizing our boundless potential.

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Energetically yours

Came across a very interesting thought. It’s not radical or new. But a different perspective on the same thing.

Who is God?

Most will describe him as an old man with a flowing beard. No, not Santa Claus, although he does fit the description.

Said God apparently gets angry when we do bad things. And if we do good things, then he rewards us.

But is that how we have experienced God? Hardly.

A better way to think of this is that God is just energy. He is the energy that created all of Creation. He is also the one that sustains all of it, and eventually leads to destruction and recycling.

So if everything is God’s energy, what are we doing about it? If we do bad things, then God’s energy gets suppressed. But if we do good things, we practice gratitude, we are kind to others, we are empathetic and compassionate, then we automatically become free flowing channels of God’s energy. Isn’t that incredible?

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Happiness pointers

Happiness is not a destination, it’s a direction.

Happiness is not a style, it’s a skill.

Happiness is not a possession, but a state of mind.

Happiness is not in perfection, but in acceptance.

Happiness is not avoiding pain, but embracing growth.

Happiness is not about having, but about appreciating.

Happiness is not driven by luck, but by choice.

Happiness is not tomorrow or today, it’s now!

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The most critical definitions

There are two global epidemics that the world is facing today.

Nope, Covid isn’t one of them.

The first is depression. And the second is anxiety.

We all feel anxious and / or depressed at some point.

Here’s the simplest and most profound definitions I’ve heard of these two terms, which I came across recently on a podcast by David Von Drehle.

Depression = regret for things of the past.

Anxiety = fear of things of the future.

Deceptively simple, yet 100% true!

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Fun for fun’s sake

On a podcast that was discussing happiness, the speaker threw out two normal English words. One was ‘amateur’, and the other was ‘dilettante’.

The meanings of both words is somewhat similar, in that there is interest in a field, but perhaps limited expertise.

The podcast itself was all about how if we do more things that are new and experimental (such as learning a new sport, a new language, a new art or skill etc.), then the chances of being happy are very high. Why? Because while learning these activities, we become engrossed in the moment, and quit complaining about mundane issues.

What I loved then was the etymology of both those words.

Amateur apparently comes from amour, which is to love (your work), and dilettante comes from delight. What fun!

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sf – part 2

Why “sf”? For San Francisco of course, because that was his dream. Maybe it helped that his name Francis was embedded in the name San Francisco as well, who knows!

At the age of 28 (just ten years ago, in 2013), he knew he wasn’t getting to America directly. So he set his sights on Europe first. Was that easy? Not at all.

From Cameroon to Niger, Nigeria to Algeria, and finally, Algeria to Morocco, he traversed over 3,000 miles through the unforgiving desert. The magnitude of this feat cannot be overstated—it was sheer madness. With unwavering determination, he set his sights on crossing from Morocco to Spain, boarding a raft to brave the treacherous waters of the Strait. But the path to freedom was riddled with obstacles. It took him a gruelling 14 months to complete this ridiculous journey, constantly facing the threat of being pulled from the water. The Moroccan authorities, known for their harsh treatment of refugees, would often cast them back into the merciless desert or confine them to indefinite periods in Moroccan jails.

This happened to him four times. Continued tomorrow!

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Shadow monster

A man once achieved success. But he soon felt his sense of achievement dwindling away. And felt that he had to achieve more.

So he ran and ran, faster and faster. But he didn’t like that his shadow was catching up to him all the time.

So what did he do? He ran faster of course! No matter what he did, he couldn’t shake it off.

Of course, he could have just stepped into the shade.

But the man dropped dead soon enough, having tired himself out in the constant search for external perfection.

Life isn’t about that. Life is about finding internal perfection.

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The perils of numero uno

In a world consumed by the race for being the best,

We frequently forget the perils of this relentless quest.

Seeking validation, we sacrifice our peace of mind,

Leaving the true joy life holds far behind.

But the race to number one is an elusive game,

A mirage that flickers like a flame.

Happiness lies not in the laurels we achieve,

But in embracing nature and the lessons we receive.

So give up the pressure to always be at the peak,

Solace is in the journey, the joy that’s truly unique.

In being true to ourselves, we find our inner peace,

And be foreverhappynow, as our own masterpiece.

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Dear intern

In one of the largest tech companies in the world, a recently-joined intern messed up. The intern sent out a blank test email to thousands of the company’s customers.

A major faux-pas, if there was one.

The company immediately tried to fix the situation, apologizing on social media that it was a fat finger type error by an intern.

“Yes by an intern, so don’t blame the company.”

What I loved was seeing how the internet reacted to that. Truckloads of messages poured in of examples of people’s own mistakes, and more importantly, how they have still managed to survive and thrive till today!

Mistakes are a part and parcel of life, as long as learning from them is how we use them.

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Don’t believe everything you think – part 4

A final few excerpts from the brilliant book:

It’s not possible to just entirely stop thinking, but what we can do is reduce the time we spend thinking so that it gets smaller and smaller each day that passes. Eventually we can get to the point where we spend most of our day not caught up in our thinking and live in a blissful state most of the time. When we say that we want to stop thinking, many people assume that we are trying to stop all thoughts in general. This isn’t what we’re trying to do. Now that you know the difference between thoughts and thinking, we are working on allowing thoughts to come and flow through us while we minimize the thinking about those thoughts that emerge.
The most interesting and almost paradoxical thing about stopping our thinking is that we don’t have to do anything to minimize it other than to be aware of it. By us becoming aware that we are thinking and that it is the root cause of all our suffering, it automatically makes us conscious to that fact and we become detached to it, allowing it to settle and pass. This takes almost no effort and is done through pure presence in the moment.

Highly recommend reading the entire book!

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Don’t believe everything you think – part 3

A few more superb excerpts from the book:

What’s crazy is that most people didn’t have any thoughts going through their mind when they felt the happiest and the most amount of love in their lives. For those that had the thought that they were grateful, they felt that way before having that thought. If they had that thought, it happened after they felt the feelings, so the thought could not have produced the feeling. This brings us to another truth: you do not have to have thoughts or think to feel positive emotions.
It is not the content of our thinking that causes us stress, but that we are thinking, period. The amount of thinking we have going on is directly correlated to the magnitude of stress and negative emotions we are experiencing at any given moment. When you’re experiencing a lot of frustration, stress, anxiety, or any negative emotions, just know that it is because you’re thinking, and the intensity of those emotions is directly correlated to how much thinking is going on. Therefore, it’s not WHAT we’re thinking about that is causing us suffering, but THAT we are thinking. To summarize, we do not have to try to “think positive” to experience love, joy, bliss, and any positive emotions we want because it is our natural state to feel those emotions.
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Don’t believe everything you think – part 2

Continued today again, a few excerpts from the lovely book…

Our minds do an incredible job to keep us alive, but it does not help us thrive. It is concerned solely with our safety and survival, but not our fulfillment or joy. The mind’s job is to alert us of potential dangers in our environment that may threaten our lives. It does its job so well that not only will it scan our immediate surroundings for threats, but it will even reference our backlog of past experiences to create hypothetical scenarios and predict what it thinks could be future potential dangers based on our memories.
Thoughts are the energetic, mental raw materials which we use to create everything in the world. We can’t experience anything without thought. It’s important to know that thoughts are a noun and aren’t something that we do, but something we have. A thought takes no effort or force on our end, and it is something that just happens. We also cannot control what thoughts pop into our minds. The source of thoughts comes from something that is beyond our minds —the Universe, if you will. Thinking, on the other hand, is the act of thinking about our thoughts. This takes a significant amount of energy, effort, and willpower (which is a finite resource). Thinking is actively engaging with the thoughts in your mind. You don’t have to engage with each thought in your mind, but when you do, that is thinking. Thinking is the root cause of all our psychological suffering.
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Don’t believe everything you think – part 1

Just finished reading a very nice book called “Don’t believe everything you think”, by Joseph Nguyen. Some very interesting snippets:

It’s not about the events that happen in our lives, but our interpretation of them, which causes us to feel good or bad about something. This is how people in third world countries can be happier than people in first world countries and people in first world countries can be more miserable than people in third world countries. Our feelings do not come from external events, but from our own thinking about the events. Therefore, we can only ever feel what we are thinking.
The root cause of our suffering is our own thinking. Now before you throw this book across the room and light it on fire, I’m not saying that this is all in our heads and that it isn’t real. Our perception of reality is very real. We will feel what we think, and our feelings are real. That is completely undeniable . However, our thinking will look like an inevitable, unchangeable reality to us until we begin seeing how our reality is created. If we know that we can only ever feel what we are thinking, then we know that we can change our feelings by changing our thinking.

Superb no? More tomorrow…

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Investments in life – part 2

A few more gems from the 2023 Berkshire Hathway event – applicable to investing, but more so for life and success and happiness itself!

  • Keep learning all your life.
  • Delay gratification
  • Avoid toxic people – get them out of your lives and do it fast
  • Know how people manipulate others and avoid doing that to other people
  • Praise by person, critize by category.
  • Anyone who had been kind has not died without friends… Can’t say the same about money.
  • The best part about investing is that there is uncertainty. If you play golf and score a hole in one then people won’t enjoy it… The fact that you hit in the woods and in the sand makes it more fun.

As my Guru says, living in uncertainty alone is spirituality!

Lovely no?

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Investments in life – part 1

The annual investment conference by Berkshire Hathway is a much loved event, with great fanfare for the Oracle of Omaha none other than 93 year old Warren Buffet himself. While it’s a very technical finance and investment oriented spectacle, there are some amazing takeaways for life as well. Here’s a few that I loved from 2023:

Road to human happiness is to keep your expectations low.
New things don't give you opportunities... What gives you opportunities is other people doing dumb things.
Most people today are competing in arenas where you don't need to fight. Your edge has to be thinking differently in terms of time horizons.
Most of the inheritance issues are specific to the families, dynamics and relationships. It's important to have this right... If you want to give them values, act and talk the values.
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It’s become fashionable in today’s day and age to state that one is indeed spiritual but certainly not religious. Because religion is supposedly full of superstition.

Many religious practices involve the use of candles, lamps, bells, and other ritual objects. To some people, these practices might seem superstitious or unnecessary. But from a daily life perspective, these objects can actually have a calming and positive effect on us.

For example, lighting a candle or a lamp can create a warm and peaceful atmosphere in our homes. The soft glow of the flame can help us relax and unwind after a long day. Similarly, the sound of bells or chimes can be soothing and calming, helping us to focus and center ourselves.

Chants and bhajans, too, can have a positive effect on our mental and emotional well-being. The repetition of a mantra or sacred phrase can quiet our minds and bring us a sense of inner peace. These practices have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and even boost the immune system.

If we find ourselves drawn to a religious practice, we may not need to dismiss it as superstitious or unnecessary. Instead, we can embrace it as a way to bring more peace and positivity into our lives.

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PERMAnently happy

Created by the king of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, the PERMA model is a framework for achieving happiness and well-being. PERMA stands for:

P – Positive Emotions
E – Engagement
R – Relationships
M – Meaning
A – Accomplishments

So, how do these five elements contribute to happiness?

Positive Emotions: This one is pretty straightforward. Feeling happy, joyful, content, and other positive emotions contribute to our overall well-being.

Engagement: When we’re fully absorbed in an activity, we experience a state of flow, which leads to a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Relationships: Strong social connections and a sense of belonging to a community are essential for our happiness.

Meaning: Finding meaning and purpose in our lives gives us a sense of direction and motivation.

Accomplishments: Setting and achieving goals, no matter how big or small, gives us a sense of accomplishment and boosts our confidence.

In a recent podcast, Prof Seligman however changed up his M for Meaning to M for Matter. Do we matter when we are gone? How to ensure that we matter? By helping others. That’s what to strive for. That will in turn bring the M for Meaning according to him. Pretty cool!

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Building the pipeline

What do we fear? Failure. And death of course. But the latter we have no control over. So let’s stick with failure.

Is there a practical way to reduce the probability of failure?

One way could be to have multiple options. If you need to achieve your targets, then it’s best to have multiple avenues of getting there. A simple horce racing analogy would be, instead of betting on one horse, bet on a few. Yes the gains may not be as large as correctly picking only the winning horse each time, but at least the chances of winning increase materially!

Same for while at work. Having multiple projects helps. If one or two of them do not work out, at least the year end bonus discussions won’t collapse, because one or more of the other projects may have delivered, even if only partially.

The important thing is to keep building a pipeline. And while building it, to dedicate the construction work to the Lord. And once built, if some water flows through the pipe, then go dedicate the water to the Lord as well. This way, we will forever be at peace.

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Happier than who?

When can we truly be happy? When we are content.

When can we truly be content? When we think we are better off than those around us. Not just around us physically, but even within our eyesight, whether in-person or online.

We might be super happy. But that friend on Instagram holidaying in Paris looks way more happier. “If only I could be in Paris…”

Our happiness seems to be inextricably linked to the happiness levels of others around us.

But do we really know if they are happy?

As Montesquieu said, “If you only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.”

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So much money

Came across a gentleman recently who owns a 6 bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

Who lives in it? Not him. Because he lives in another country, as an employee, still running the rat race.

So is it empty? No no, his wife lives in it. Away from her husband. And also a 1 hour commute away from her workplace!

And their 3 kids?

All spread out, in different parts of the country.

So much money, they’ve got as much as their generation and the next could ever use.

And yet, there are sacrifices to be made. That’s just a common theme of life. Best to be happy with what we have than be envious of what thy neighbor does!

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Rhyme or reason

Sleep is the foundation of our health,

But fear can steal our peaceful wealth.

Karma says what we do comes back,

Good deeds create the right sleep track.

Meditation, gratitude, and cheer,

These positive habits help us steer.

Toward an optimistic, happy mind,

Where fears and worries are left behind.

So let’s cultivate good karma each day,

And let our fears and anxieties sway.

For with positive habits, thoughts, and rhyme,

We’ll sleep better and feel sublime.

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Granted for life – part 2 of 2

What else do we take for granted?

Good health, because only when we get sick, do we realize how important it is to have a healthy body.

We may not always be conscious of the peace and security that we enjoy in our daily lives, but when there is a threat of violence or instability, we become acutely aware of their importance.

We have become so reliant on the internet for communication, entertainment, and work that we may not realize how much we depend on it until we lose connectivity.

Time too, because it is a precious commodity that we may not fully appreciate until we run out of it or feel rushed.

Other things include the presence of a Guru and a satsang in our lives. Lucky are we to be having these.

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World’s happiest!

There have been these World’s Happiest Nations rankings that have been doing the rounds for many years. I’ve always wondered what those were about, but never got to the bottom of them.

It did seem odd, that some countries which ranked at the top (ie the happiest), were also those that had high suicide rates and harsh winters with many months of no sunlight.

Some other countries which didn’t seem to be that bad ended up being ranked abysmally.

What gives? Apparently the ranks are decided based on very small sample sizes (like 2000 respondents for a population in the hundreds of millions or more) and also factors that are counterintuitive. Like aspiration. The question asks if you are aspirational – on a scale of 1 to 10 – if your goal is 10, then where are you today? If the answer is 1, then you are deemed unhappy. But as we know from the Gita, aspirations and happiness can indeed go hand in hand!

A nice analysis on these rankings here – a great read!

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Happy painting

If you had to draw happiness, what would it look like?

A lot of money? Happy people everywhere? An island paradise with clear blue waters? Lounging by the beach? No more office or work, ever?

This is what it looks like according to an interesting forward I got from WA University (yes, you know which one!). Apparently this was drawn by Turkish artist Abidin Dino. He drew a picture of a whole family. All cramped up on a broken bed, under a leaky roof in a shabby room. Still with a smile on each member’s face!

I can’t see any money or tropical beaches here. Well worth pondering over, for me.

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Freuden Schaden – part 2 of 2

While schadenfreude we (now) know, it also has a happier cousin, called freudenfreud. What is this?

Enjoying someone else’s success or happiness is what is referred to as “freudenfreude” by social scientists. This term, derived from the German word for joy, refers to the happiness we experience when someone else achieves something, even if it has no direct impact on us. According to psychologists, freudenfreude acts like a social bonding agent, making relationships more enjoyable and intimate.

Some call this positive empathy, ie. the ability to feel and experience someone else’s positive emotions.

Studies have shown that experiencing freudenfreude can foster strong relationships and increase our sense of belonging. For example, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that people who experienced freudenfreude in response to their friends’ successes reported higher levels of life satisfaction and more meaningful relationships.

This is all no different from what the Gita or my Guru says. Just live for others, and dedicate our lives to helping those around us.

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Avec plaisir

This is the French way of saying “with pleasure”.

“Will you be able to help me with this please?”

“Oh mais oui, avec plaisir!”

That’s all the French I know, but the word plaisir triggered a thought about what the great Swami Chinmayananda once said in response to a question.

A devotee asked him why he was unable to be happy.

Pat came Swami C’s reply, “Because you think you are happy, and looking for happiness, but actually all you are looking for is pleasure.”

Pleasure comes from ephemeral things. Happiness or the true state of Ananda is a permanent state, and cannot be linked to material temporary objects.

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How can a comedy be a tragedy? We just need to look at our own lives and the lives of others around us. Everything we experience is a karmic cycle, or maybe even a karmic circus.

We hear or see something terrible. Somebody lost their child to an unfortunate accident, or their own limbs, or lost all their money, or their reputation. All sorts of unbelievable unimaginable things are happening around us. This is the tragedy.

Every Guru and Saint and realized master and spiritual expert realizes that everything is action = reaction. Nothing is without consequence. Today’s eaten becomes tomorrow’s eater, who then becomes day after’s eaten and so on.

Today’s alarming tragedy hence when seen from a detached vantage point, is some play of karma only. We see disasters all around us, and yet we behave like we are immune, constantly taking, taking and taking more.

When and how will be restore the karmic balance this way? What if our karmic store of goodness, runs out? We act without realizing that there is no perfect-er accountant and re-balancer that Creation. This is the tragicomedy.

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Sad happiness

My neighbour’s 8 month old baby becomes incredibly happy when she sees me. Her smile is a mile-wide, each and every time!

My Guru’s smile is also a mile-wide, each time he sees me. It’s as if he was waiting all day eagerly to see me, even though I am a nobody. He does this for every single person, no matter who they are.

There is so much happiness in this that all sadness and all irritants in life are forgotten. These are cases of happiness instantly infusing happiness into others. But do we practise this ourselves?

Typically when we see happiness around us, we become sad. Really? We do? Think of a peer getting an early promotion and a solid bonus. Could have been ours, but wasn’t, and then jealousy kicks in. We may smile on the outside, but deep down the emotions are different.

As long as our happiness is linked to a material pursuit, this will always be the case. We will either want to immediately possess the same material item or else become upset.

But happiness is neither a thing nor linked to one. It is an infinite resource, and comes from celebrating eveything life has to offer. Today’s failure is a seed for tomorrow’s success, and today’s success is a seed for tomorrow’s failure. If we can accept this, we can each be forever-happy-now!

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Biggie wiggie

Big is eveything. The more the merrier. The grander the better.

All of human life seems to revel in the grandiose.

More money, more fame, more partying, more socializing, more work, more bonus, more holidaying, more promotions.

But “more” is relative, and limitless. And we tie our happiness to this word.

Then how can we ever be happy?

For happiness, less is more. Even zilch is more. The more we give the happier we become. Helping others with zero expectations, being kind to animals, conducting oneself with humility, doing one’s duty with sincerity, protecting our gift of Mother Nature, living with fellow human beings in loving togetherness – these are the simple yet essential requirements for happiness prescribed by the ancients. Not biggie wiggie, but smallie wallie.

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Learning from who(m)… Part 2 of 3

Continuing the learnings of Sage Dattatreya who in turn learned from observing nature…

5. From fire, he learned austerity, as the flame of self knowledge burns away all desires

6. From the moon that waxes and wanes, he learned that the Self is complete and changeless, but seems to be transforming to the undiscerning eye

7. From the sun, he learned that like the sun is reflected in many pots of water, the atman appears as manifold displays when reflected in the mind

8. From birds, he learned of the dangers of getting attached, as the entire family of birds were trapped, no different from man being trapped in the entangling web of maya

Continued and concluded tomorrow!

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Learning from who(m)… Part 1 of 3

In the Bhagavad Purana, King Yadu is perturbed by his father Yayati’s decision to renounce kingship. So Yadu goes to a forest and meets a realized soul there, an avadhuta, none other than the great Dattatreya.

What he is surprised by more than anything else is how happy this carefree man of the forest is. The Guru then proceeds to tell the King to learn from nature itself. He then explains how he got self realization by observing nature and its teachers. A quick summary follows:

1. From the earth, the quality of patience, forbearance and doing good to others

2. From air, the value of non-attachment and freedom

3. From the sky, the expansive nature of the Self, which is untouched by any object

4. From water, the quality of purity and coolness

More tomorrow…

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Short and sweet

ForeverHappyNow blogs are always short. Sweet, I don’t know. Depends on the mood I suppose, of the writer, the reader, the environment, the circumstances, you name it.

And these mood swings are common to one and all, except the Guru perhaps. We each go through so many positive and negative emotions, always with ourselves in the center. What if this, what if that, am I capable, am I good, am I liked, am I strong, will I be successful, will I be rich etc etc?

Swami Vivekananda has something short and sweet to say:

All power is within you; you can do anything and everything. Believe in that, do not believe that you are weak; do not beleive that you are half-crazy lunatics. You can do anything and everything, without even the guidance of anyone. Stand up and express the divinity within you. 

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Love and happiness?

When you see an animal that is hurt, do you feel sorry for it? Do you try to help it? Or do you pelt it with stones? Harming an innocent animal may not even occur to most of us, and yet there are people (and kids) who take pride in causing such harm. Maybe it shows some false sense of being in control?

How abnout removing stones on the path to prevent some bare feet from getting hurt? Or to remove a nail from the road to prevent a tyre puncture? This is all nothing but being sensitive, being attuned to the needs of others, as the great Jiddu Krishnamurthy would say.

This set of feelings for those around us, is not coming because these other people are ours, but because we are aware of the divinity and beauty inside everything.

Love is being sensitive to others. Doing things for others, irrespective of what others may do back, no different from what a mother does for her baby. When the heart is filled with love and affection, it becomes happy. And this happiness itself is nothing but God.

Love = happiness = God

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ABCD people

A famous investor recounted his mother’s teaching on a podcast recently. Some parents are all about the marks and ranks for their kids. Others are a little more hands-off.

Said investor’s mother was cut from the second cloth. This was her thought process:

If A is the top ranked kid in school, and D is the bottom ranked kid, this is what will happen in (real) life.

The As work for the Bs. The Cs run companies, while the Ds have buildings dedicated to them.


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Special generalist

The Vibhuti Yoga chapter 10 in the Gita is truly special.

It starts off with the Lord giving examples of his manifestation in Creation. He gives 54 such examples, like Om, Sri Rama, Prahalada, Kamadhenu and others.

But the best example is towards the end of the chapter, where the Lord talks about Himself as being the Ultimate Vibhuti. How so? Because there is nothing else besides him!

Those who fight over the supremacy of their God over other’s Gods, would be reminded by Krishna that there is only God and nothing but God.

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Angry turd

No one likes angry people. Except the angry ones themselves, who feel great, in the heat of the moment. And these angry people aren’t other people, but rather each one of us, and specifically me. Guilty as charged folks!

It’s not necessary that angry people only show their anger outwardly. Sometimes the rage can be simmering on the inside for a very long time. One day that volcano might erupt.

What’s the opposite of being angry? One would say it is being peaceful. Maybe, but while being angry is seen as being active and assertive, being peaceful is seen as being passive and suppressed.

That can’t be further than the truth. Being peaceful is a positive and active state of consciousness. True strength is when our inner peace is completely unruffled, no matter what the external stimulus is.

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Remembrance when?

Sant Kabir has this amazing couplet:

Dukh me sumiran sab kare, Sukh me kare na koi
Jo sukh sumiran kare, Dukh kahe ko hoye kabi

When do people look to the heavens? Only when things are going wrong of course.

Sant Kabir says, that if we remember God when we are happy instead, then there will be no sorrow in the first place!

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The root cause of all problems

One of the most iconic and revered money managers of all time is Charlie Munger. He is better known as the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which is the conglomerate run by another billionaire investor Warren Buffet.

Warren is 92 years old, while Charlie is 98, and so both these men have seen pretty much everything there is to see, from a life point of view.

In a recent speech, Charlie noted something very profound. He said that humanity’s problems do not stem from greed. Rather, they stem from envy.

We just need to think a little about this to understand it’s significance. In absolute terms, all of the world’s human beings are better off today than say a 100 years ago. Many essentials of today like gadgets and appliances and healthcare and peace so on were luxuries even just a century ago. But why are we still not happy, despite being better off?

The answer is because everyone else is also better off. We are not better off than others. The mind always wants to compare and see if we have won, if we are ahead, if we own more. Envy is the name of the game. Envy is also the thief of happiness.

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CWG – part 2

Adversity is a good thing not a bad thing. Problems aren’t bad, they’re good, because they help us grow and evolve into better human beings. We don’t need to actively seek problems out, but if they come our way, we needn’t lose our minds.

In the recent Commonwealth Games, the weightlifting gold winner in one of the categories had faced unbelievable adversity. His father died when he was 10, and the man had been a rickshaw puller – so it’s not like he left his family rich. The boy worked as a farm labourer and a part time embroidery worker, eventually getting to weightlifting gold. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that journey would have been.

Other medalists had parents who were paan sellers, tea sellers, lorry drivers, landless farmers and the like. Such a hard upbringing.

Having too much can be a bad thing. Check out this tweet.

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The essence of Krishna

Krishna tells us to do and follow a lot of things via the Gita. But here’s how Krishna himself followed these (suggested) rules in such a cool manner:

  1. He is always cheerful. His life has been one chock a block full of problems – demons, enemies, asuras, his own people, his birth itself into a poor family etc. But he is ever smiling, even on the Kurukshetra battlefield!
  2. He has zero expectations. Why did the Pandavas fight the war? To get back their kingdom. Why did the Kauravas fight the war? To retain the kingdom they had usurped. Why did Krishna fight the war? Only for dharma, as he would have got no material possession either by winning or losing the war.
  3. He exemplified non-attachment. He was born in Mathura, raised in Vrindavan, lived later in Dwarka. He never kept cribbing that he misses his home town and that he wants to go back. So many people come and go from his life but he was always unattached.
  4. He personifies love. Never once would he not come to the rescue of his devotees.

Krishna led by example. We must only try to follow whatever little we can.

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Directionless or wrong direction?

Many of us feel like we do a lot. Yet all this doing doesn’t seem to give us the mental peace and happiness we expect to find. Why is this?

Maybe it’s because we don’t have our priorities straight?

Despite knowing what is important and what isn’t (like family time needs to be balanced with work time), I’ve often found myself slipping one way or the other.

Much of the slipping probably happens because of the need for external validation. I’m unsure of what my action or decision will lead to, especially if it’s an uncommon one. And so I’d rather look at what others are saying, going to say, thinking, going to think – about me! Really? Is anyone thinking about you/me/us? How much are we thinking of others?

A lovely quote I came across is on Mahatma Gandhi’s suggestion for getting to that happy state.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

This alignment, irrespective of what the external world thinks, could be the answer to internal peace.

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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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Mental case

Troubled by stress, anxiety and tension? You are not alone.

How to keep these at bay? By not worrying about what will happen. We know this.

The only thing that differentiates each one of us, and especially those who take a lot of tension versus those who don’t, is their state of mind once a problem has been revealed to them.

Maybe you found out that you need to make a presentation in front of a 1000-people audience, and you just detest the idea. But you need to do it, because that is your job.

The chilled out guy is not worried, because he knows he anyway has to present to that large group, so why worry? Besides, he has faced several tough situations before, and he’s still alive, and so he has faith in himself and/or at least in a higher power to help guide him.

Often it’s not the fear of actually presenting that is the cause of worry, but the fear of underperformance. That people will laugh. That I’d make a fool of myself, and be relegated to YouTube’s Greatest Fools’ Hall of Fame top list. The reality is that no one cares, because everyone is too busy worrying about themselves.

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Public Work

Met an old bloke today. Probably in his fifties.

He was happy – smiling and whistling to himself. Not that I met him in happy circumstances.

He was in his small claustrophobic office doing his work. We know his office well. It is also called the public restroom. No he wasn’t spending time there because of a bad stomach. It was just his daily job. 8 hours of business to be done once others were done with theirs.

He said he traveled 2 hours one way from house, in an overcrowded train, every single day. 4 hours spent in traveling, in sweat and crowd, all to get a pittance, after being locked 7 days a week 8 hours a day in a tiny smelly room!

How could he possibly be happy and smiling and whistling? The only possible answer to this question is that happiness is in the mind.

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Desert rose

“Oh desert rose eh ley hi ey ley…” crooned the legendary singer Sting many years ago.

I have never figured out the words after ‘rose’, but that’s digressing from the point.

No one likes deserts no? Not desserts, which are universally loved (except by the 22 year old trying desperately to get his abs to show!), but the dry arid landscapes that parch your throat just by thinking about them.

A dry barren dune-filled land is always considered infertile and useless. “What will anyone do with such a place?” is the first thing that comes to mind.

But even weaknesses can be turned into strengths. That’s my learning. We know this, but still get dejected in the face of adversity. Here’s a nice line I saw about the Indian state of Rajasthan, as part of a tourism advertisement.

“A pioneer in the green revolution (to generate solar energy) in India with 300-330 sunny days a year, which is comparable to the deserts of California and Nevada!”

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Beyond home and work – part 1 of 8

Recently, I was given the opportunity to address a youth satsang session on the topic “Satsang beyond home and work”. Here is the gist of the contents, split over a few parts, just to make it easy to consume.

“You remember those childhood days where we used to play some sport with a bat and a ball? And there’d be 3 kids, one would own the bat, the second would own the ball, and this third kid would own neither and so he only gets to be the fielder!?

Well I’m the fielder today, because after two very powerful talks on satsang @ home and satsang @ the office, I’ve got this task to field every other life situation that falls neither under the office or under the home.

For many of us, the question will be, “Really? Is there even anything outside of work and home?”

Continued tomorrow…

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Rich people

On a recent business trip, the cabbie was a chatty fellow.

Looking at where our hotel was (apparently in a posh locality, although the hotel itself wasn’t!), he said “Are you guys from the top of the food chain in your country?”

We tried to deflect, “No, no, no such thing, our travel agent just happened to find this hotel convenient for our meetings and such.”

To which he quickly replied, “Hey I have no problems with rich people, none of that inequality angle or the attitude or jealousy or anything. In fact I like rich people, because they’re the ones that keep my business running!”

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With much aplumb

The drain in the washroom where we were temporarily residing recently had got clogged. Pretty common occurrence, especially if some hair or other small item goes and gets stuck. It could also be because of dirt (aka muck) getting accumulated over time.

The easy part is to just call the plumber.

What a tough job. The guy came in a few minutes. And where’s we’d otherwise squeam or cringe before even going near the drain, this chap was cool as a cucumber.

He wasn’t even wearing any gloves. He just unscrewed the perforated drain cover and stuck his hand inside, to check what the problem was. Of course his hand got dirty, and it wasn’t even dirt that he caused! But a quick check, and he smiled, “I found the cause of the problem, it’s some blockage outside.”

And bounced off to the other side of the building, ladder in tow, in order to ‘reach’ the area of the problem. 10 minutes later, all was fine and dandy. Never seen a guy stick his hand into a drain and still maintain a smile. I couldn’t do it, surely. My work is infinitely better, yet I find ways to be unhappy ?

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Advaitic duality

The concept of Advaita or non-duality is always confusing.

So a man once asked Adi Shankaracharya himself, the foremost proponent of the field. “You say we are all the same deep within, the same Brahman. Then why are we not all equal? We all have the same blood flowing through our bodies do we not?”

To which Adi Shankara replied that advaita needed to be practiced at the level of one’s attitude and thoughts.

The man wasn’t convinced, and proceeded to argue further.

Adi Shankara replied, “Your mother, sister, mother-in-law, daughter – they are all women aren’t they? Yet, can you treat your mother as your wife, and your wife as your daughter, your daughter as your mother?”

The man understood.

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We go for a brisk walk on most mornings. Usually along the perimeter of a small oval-shaped garden.

Some walk fast, others slow.

Everyone’s busy of course, minding their own business, lost in thought or a podcast or song.

One day, an old sickly uncle was walking really slow.

But he had a lovely smile on his face.

Even more, everyone passing by him got a smile on their faces too.

As we passed him, he motioned to us, put his hand in his pocket, took out two lychee candies, smiled, and gave those to us.

No idea who he was, or why he did that. But our faces had big smiles too 🙂

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Remember the happiness equation (blog post) from Swami Chinmayananda?

Happiness = Desires Fulfilled / Desires Entertained

Here is another very similar one I came across in a podcast yesterday, attributed by the speaker to some Buddhist monks.

Satisfaction = Haves / Wants

This is somewhat an even shorter and easier representation of the same thing.

Reduce the denominator, increase satisfaction.

Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have any ‘wants’ though. They key is to cut the umbilical cord between ‘getting the wants’ and ‘being happy’.

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Rural elite

So I met a nice guy recently, who owned a sizable plot of land.

It was an ancestral handover to him, so yes, free.

He had 3 cows, 6 dogs, 2 pigs, 4 hens, and a few other animals.

“I’m an animal lover!”, he exclaimed to me.

There was a lot of greenery on his farm, and he was growing a few vegetables at least. And he said he would sit a couple of hours daily, just taking in all the fresh cool unpolluted air.

All this seemed surreal, until he said that he was unhappy. That he wanted to move to the city, “for more opportunities”.

Here’s a fellow living my dream life, and I want to be where he’s at. But he wants to be where I’m at. Oh the irony.

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Emoshunned – part 1 of 4

A lovely episode of The Happiness Lab podcast I was recently listening to discussed the sad-bad-glad triad.

This was a comment by the guest on the show, Brené Brown. Per Wikipedia, Brené is an American research professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. Brown is known in particular for her research on shame, vulnerability, and leadership.

She’s written a book called Atlas of the Heart, which deconstructs and maps out human emotions.

At first, I thought, what the heck, is it really a big deal? But as I heard more, I realized this is stuff people do not talk about much, and perhaps ought to.

She first quotes Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher from the early 90s as saying “​“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

What does this mean? Imagine you put your heart and soul into a project, but did not get the desired result. If your vocabulary is constrained, you would say you were sad. If you also got a free scratch-and-win lottery ticket and saw what I always see – “Better luck next time”, you would again be nothing but sad. And if your favorite team lost the match? You’d be sad again. Sad sad sad. That’s because vocabulary aka language as the ‘constraining factor’ is offering a limited window to the world.

Why does this matter? Continued tomorrow…

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Holy Cow – part 1 of 5

Remember the cow race from last year?

We all know the cows on our Indian roads – sometimes in the middle of a highway, and other times in the middle of smaller roads – but always unbelievably oblivious to the traffic around them. Irrespective of the commotion, they just do not let the outside world bother them, peacefully chewing away on their grassy meal.

And because of their gentle disposition as well as their generous nature (sharing their milk for one and all), they are considered not just bovine, but divine as well.

How to participate in this cow race?

By first realizing that it is not a race at all. Rather, it is a road to grace.

Our normal day to day world and work may be hard to change.

But we can use the bovine, to spark our inner-divine, and that itself can be life-changing.

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Thinking about thinking – part 2 of 2

Now that we understand no one really is thinking about us, how can we use this to improve our lives? Easy. By ‘letting go’. By being sincere, but not serious. By taking things with a smile, but not lightly. Read this:

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.

—Lao Tzu

Isn’t this just phenomenal advice? For instance, we might feel tensed and anxious before an important meeting. We are already well prepared and know the outcome. But still, there are those butterflies – “what if it doesn’t go well?” And once the meeting is over? Almost instantly we feel better, no matter the outcome.

That’s why letting go is so important. Letting go of our need to be perfect in everything – looks, speech, writing, presentation, cooking, and everything else.

But letting go doesn’t mean we don’t care. Letting go only means “okay if it happens, and okay if it doesn’t”. Once we ‘let go’, we stop focusing on the future, and how others may or may not perceive us (and we know most people don’t have the time to care!). Instead, we begin to enjoy and live in the present.

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6 months to… part 3 of 3

Continuing from yesterday, here are some awesome snippets from the book 6 Months to Live by Dr. Sangeeta Raman Girdhar.

  1. If you are taking life for granted, all you need to do to come around, would be to go to any big multi-speciality hospital and go to the cancer ward, and ask someone with cancer, what he or she would give for just one more day of life.
  2. Have no resentments towards anyone. Everyone behaves in a particular way because of what they are going through. It has nothing to do with you. Everyone is carrying their own baggage of problems.
  3. Why we are afraid of the death of a loved one? Have you ever given it a thought? What do we fear? Why are we so scared of our close ones leaving us? In our minds, it’s not that I love her too much, she cannot die…but it is, what will happen to me if she dies? How will I manage? How will I cope? I won’t be able to live without her…I won’t be able to manage. I won’t be able to handle life without her presence… See? Where are we thinking of the person concerned in this? All we are worried is about ourselves.
  4. Our loss was immeasurable… but then, so was the love she left behind for us… and the memories…

    Do consider reading this impactful quick-read book (available here). There were a lot of eye openers for me.
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6 months to… part 1 of 3

There’s an outstanding short-book that I just finished reading.

It’s called 6 Months To Live, and written by Dr. Sangeeta Raman Girdhar.

The book is only about 70-odd pages long, and can easily be finished in one sitting, and within the hour.

But the convenient length of the book not the reason everyone should read it.

What the book captures so beautifully, is a combination of 4 things:

  1. What all a loved one goes through when faced with a terminal disease
  2. What the immediate family of this person goes through
  3. What life lessons and spiritual lessons we can each take away, especially if (God-forbid) put in such circumstances
  4. How to deal with cancer, and even make micro lifestyle changes to prevent it

I’m going to share a few powerful takeaways from the book over the next couple of days, but the book has much more than just these, so do consider reading it. The author is my cousin sister, who is an amazing human being. The least I can do is feature her work on FHN! The book is available here.

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4 the long term

A podcast I was listening to this weekend had something very interesting on investing.

The investment expert was asked how he manages to beat the market, to stay ahead of the curve, and deliver superior performance for his portfolio. The approach he articulated was so clear and simple, yet so profound. He said he makes investments into companies, only when he is convinced that his (data-backed) expectations of one of 4 things is better than the rest of the market’s expectations.

  1. The magnitude of cash flows that will be earned by the company
  2. The duration of cash flows that will be earned by the company
  3. The quality of cash flows that will be earned by the company
  4. The use of cash flows that will be earned by the company

It got me thinking that this can be applied to many choices in life. Not ‘cash flows’ per se, but whatever we expect the perceived return to be.

Like if we are unsure of a career choice or a degree choice. Don’t choose computer science (just an example) because everyone else is choosing it. Figure out whether the magnitude (impact) of that education for you will be relevant? For how long, i.e. what duration is it just a passing fad, and you internally despise the subject? What is the quality of this degree in what you want in your life? How can I use it to get what I want?

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A 6-month old baby I know was recently bitten by a mouse.

This occurred in the middle of the night, during a torrential downpour, and when the electricity went kaput.

Sudden high pitched crying from the baby alerted its parents, who then found their own shirts to be soaked in some blood, as they quickly picked up the baby.

They didn’t know at the time that it was a mouse that bit her.

The baby cried for 10 minutes, as the shock and the pain of the bite waned off.

A couple of hours and a visit to the emergency room later, the baby was fine, laughing and playing like nothing had happened. No fear of the mouse returning. No irritation of her beautiful little finger now having a mouse’s teeth marks. No frustration for having a tiny bandage in an already tiny finger. No anger towards her family members for not having prevented the mousebite in the first place. No permanent scarring and fear of mice. All the bad forgotten, just like that.

How I wish I could put all the loathsome experiences in my days behind me with such panache!

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To do…

To do lists are awesome. They really help me get my work done, and ensure that I don’t miss anything critical.

So to do lists are great, and we’ve established that.

But you know the problem with to do lists? They are never ending. My to do lists just keep getting longer and longer. And this builds up a lot of stress and anxiety.

Therefore, here’s another kind of useful list… The ‘to-don’t’ list!

Many times, what I’m unable to do or accomplish is a direct outcome of other things I should be giving up. Like?

Here’s some to-don’ts for me. Don’t check your emails for at least an hour (did you know we check our emails on average 80 times a day?!). Don’t procrastinate. Don’t worry about the future. Don’t focus on the result. Don’t think about missing one day of your 7-days-a-week workout. Don’t worry about one cheat meal. And so it goes.

Even a short but effective to-don’t list can make a to do list really effective!

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Pet chasing

Imagine a dog or a cat or a mouse. Yes like in Tom & Jerry. You are trying your best to catch the animal, but it is just so quick, darting about – here now, next second hopped onto the wall, and the next onto the tree. Phew, all this running around and chasing is really tiring.

Is there a better way? Yes there is.

How about just sitting quietly, with some pet food. Yummy. No need to chase the animal anymore. The animals love pet food, and so will come right to your lap.

The animal here represents nothing but the whole world. We are constantly chasing after it, looking for one elusive success after another.

Through this entire journey, we forget the most important aspect, which is ourselves.

The pet food is our skills, talents and abilities. If we work on constantly improving ourselves, we don’t need to chase anyone for anything, and instead the whole world will come chasing after us.

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This is the biggest sin – part 2 of 2

We saw yesterday how aham was the biggest sin. This is more from a spiritual angle though. What of the material living-breathing world we live in? Is there an equivalent such mega-sin?

As I thought about this for a few days, only one recurring thought kept coming back. What leads us to live below our potential? What prevents us from achieving what we can, ought to, are able to, but still don’t?

That’s when it dawned that perhaps the biggest sin could be nothing more than the weakness of our own minds. I don’t want to say anything more on this except to just reproduce Swami Vivekananda’s outstanding words on this menace.

Misery dares not approach us – till the mind is weakened. The weak have no place here, in this life or in any other life. Weakness leads to slavery. Weakness leads to all kinds of misery, physical and mental. Weakness is death. There are hundreds of thousands of microbes surrounding us, but they cannot harm us unless we become weak, until the body is ready and predisposed to receive them. There may be a million microbes of misery, floating about us. Never mind! They dare not approach us, they have no power to get a hold on us, until the mind is weakened. This is the great fact: strength is life, weakness is death. Strength is felicity, life eternal, immortal; weakness is constant strain and misery: weakness is death.

Could there be a bigger sin?

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Negative stop

A video that was circulating on social media recently caught my attention. A bunch of young girls – probably in their early 20s – had gathered around the Dalai Lama. The question one of them asked him was, “Why do I keep getting negative thoughts?”

The Dalai Lama didn’t have to think much. He said there are two things that lead to this.
1. The first is self-centeredness.
2. The second is that the reality is not truly as we see it (he quotes the Shunyata theory – i.e. nothing exists as it appears).

The girls just giggled and the video cut off. But their expressions suggested they didn’t fully catch the purport of his words. I too had to think for a while, and I’m still not sure I’ve understood fully.

Self-centeredness is the easy one. We look at the world with eyes of relativity. Nothing is taken as is. If someone gets a good bonus, we immediately compare that bonus to our bonus, and the self-centeredness brings in feelings of jealousy, anger and incompetence, all of which can only lead to negative thoughts.

The second point though. Was he talking about maya? Or maybe that we only see the things we want to, rather than as they are? What do you think?

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Here’s a Chinese proverb I came across:

1. If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
2. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
3. If you want happiness for a month, get married.
4. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
5. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else. 

All of these are true. Point 3 is funny even. And these must be taken in the right spirit. It is not about the activities, but rather about the fleeting nature of happiness. This has even been studied by scientists, including the various chemicals released by the brain (endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin etc.).

The winner is always the last one. Point 5. Do more for others. In fact, do everything for others only. Because there is no difference deep down, from a spiritual point of view. Our scriptures say that if we do for ourselves only, we are only adding fuel to the fire which is our ego.

The challenge is, that even doing point 5 well is hard, because we look for some signs of acknowledgement from the people who have just benefitted from our help. When they don’t even say a thank you, that can get us really riled up. The real test of spiritual progress is how little such feelings impact us.

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5 levels up

The ‘level 5 leader’ is an awesome outcome of Jim Collins’ research. He covers this in great detail in his book Good to Great as well. What is this level 5, and how did he get there? Rather surprisingly, Jim wasn’t even looking for leadership to be one of the defining qualities of an amazing company. It makes sense right? Leaders exist everywhere – bad companies, good companies and great companies. Yet why do only some succeed and not others? Thinking thus, he proceeded to almost remove the ‘leadership’ component of his research.

Until he discovered that not all leaders are created equal. And voila, 5 levels of leadership! This is somewhat like Maslow pyramid of needs, except this is for leaders. Level 1 is about individual skills. Level 2 is team player skills. Level 3 is management skills. Level 4 is leadership skills, which is not just figuring out what to do, but also motivating your team to want to achieve it themselves.

So what was level 5, that led to the companies where these leaders worked outperform to such an extent? It was a combination of two things: humility and willpower. The indomitable human spirit, will, where it’s there, there’s a way – is well known. But humility? It’s not just the self-effacing type. Rather, it is a specific type of humility, defined as the ability to recognize the flaws and faults that you have that you have to grow past with honesty.

And where would one build such humility from? Only from failure. We are all afraid of failure. But it is actually failure which builds success. Imagine combining this humility, with the will to not just do something selfishly (not a leader), but to work for a greater purpose. Incredible.

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I swear

Here’s a cute scene on TV I saw recently.

A table had a small glass jar with a few coins in it. A label ‘Swear Jar’ is pasted across it. A mother is seen berating her 5 year old daughter’s use of swear words. Every time she says a bad word, the kid needs to put a dollar from her pocket money into the ‘swear jar’.

Like all kids, this one too tries to find loopholes, asking her teacher to “go to shell” and “what the muck” among other such cleverly hidden expletives.

The mother is initially irritated by this behaviour. But it dawns on her that the “swear jar” is not the right approach. If one were to create a rule such that the target person (the 5 yo) can’t even understand (because she is too young to), then of course said target would try to break the rule!

The mother then changes tactics and says something beautiful. “Baby, no more swear-jar okay? That is pointless. But I want you to understand why bad words are not okay. And that’s because bad words make other people feel bad. Now you are such a good girl – surely you don’t want other people feeling bad because of what you say do you?”

“No mommy.”

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Working remotely

There’s a lot of people who want to work remotely these days. Work from the mountains. Work from the snow. Work from the riverside. Work from the beaches. Work from anywhere but home. All you need is a strong internet connection and some good homecooked food.

I know many people who’ve made this journey as well. From a few weeks to a few months, they’ve tried different combinations. And technology has certainly made things easier. No denying that. However, the feedback I’ve got (and it’s expected of course!) is that the work doesn’t magically become lighter. The sweet aroma of the flowers from the mountain top does little to change the deadline of an irate client.

Said differently, all that matters is what’s in our minds. If we train it to seek a rumbling waterfall or gurgling creek in order to do our work well, then that’s what it will keep demanding, regardless of whether it actually works well in that landscape.

Also, we hardly know what is good for us – but we always think we do. A recent tragedy is a case in point. So many wanted to work remotely from this idyllic place. But said place saw unexpected rains and subsequent landslides that resulted in quite a bit of destruction and loss of lives. Sometimes, if life doesn’t go the way we dream it too, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Does that mean we should never wish for anything? Not at all, but if it doesn’t go our way, then best to just take it in our stride.

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Advanced beginner

As a kid, going to amusement parks meant having to size oneself up against a ‘bar’. If I was shorter than the bar, then sorry, that ride wasn’t for me, no matter how adventurous it looked.

We always want to be permitted to do what we want. To be what we want to be. No shackles, no limitations.

I came across a spiritual book recently, which needed some permissions to be read. To read a book? Really?

Here’s what the book cover said. “Only for advanced seekers or absolute beginners.”

What an amazing requirement. I don’t know what was in the book, but it certainly makes me want to read it (even though I don’t fulfil the requirements). I’m certainly not an advanced spiritual seeker. And unfortunately, I’m not an absolute beginner either. I’ve read some spiritual books and listened to some YouTube talks, and that means my ego has only risen, rather than crumbled, as would be ideal.

Krishna makes it explicitly clear in the Gita. He needs no status, wealth, name, education or credentials for granting a spiritual revolution unto Him. All he needs is a clean heart dedicated only to Him.

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Equations – part 2

A few more simple equations:

  1. Visualization + execution >>> execution-only > visualization-only
  2. Health + wealth >> Health > wealth
  3. Distraction = destruction
  4. Spirituality = embracing uncertainty
  5. Pain =/= suffering; suffering is only in the mind
  6. Pain + reflection = progress

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Cover page

When we discuss Dale Carnegie’s (DC) amazing book How to Win Friends & Influence People in satsang, participants often ask certain types of questions. Maybe we can call these questions as extremities. Here are some examples:

  1. DC says we need to listen to the other person. But what if the other person keeps on talking and I don’t get to talk at all?
  2. DC says think from the other person’s point of view. But what if the other person doesn’t think from mine?
  3. DC says we need to smile as often as possible. But others aren’t smiling.
  4. DC says develop a genuine interest in the other person. But when do I then get to talk about my interests?

These are all valid concerns. However, our objective must be clearly understood. As the title on the book’s cover page states, this book is useful if you want to win the other person over, befriend them and / or influence them.

If this is the clear focus and objective, then we need to think: Does it matter whether I get to talk or not, or that the other person doesn’t smile or not, or that they don’t see the world from my point of view? Ideally, no!

This is DC’s decades and countless experiences’ worth of rare wisdom neatly encapsulated into a 200 page book. The real question we must be asking ourselves is – how better can I apply the learnings of this magical book to my life?

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Lost plot

Many professions today do not practically need the depth and breadth of our prior education. Primary school, high school, junior college, senior college, bachelor’s, master’s, post doctorals – the list goes on.

But do we apply all of what we learn in our daily work? Hardly. What our bosses need is mostly just to focus on getting small bits and pieces done at the right time. Ownership, responsibility, dedication, meeting deadlines, being a team player – yes these are often substantially enough to differentiate a good employee from a bad one.

But even doing this is difficult at times. The focus is often on the things that do not matter. Like trying to do something to perfection, when it has been clearly communicated that a rough framework would suffice. Or when one has been asked to use something off-the-shelf, only to find out later that the person tried to reinvent the wheel. These smaller errors are unrelated to the work itself, but are enough to let the one in charge know that the doer has lost the plot.

A similar plot loss happens in spirituality too. All that is required is for one to realize the Divinity deep within. It is an internal exercise. The Gurus say that one must simply watch the mind, and prioritize the Real over transient. But many seekers love to delude themselves, and resort to a plethora of practices and meditations to attempt to quiet the mind. The mind is like a schizophrenic monkey on steroids. Can it really be quietened? The only sustainable way the Gurus say is to give up all attachments and desires.

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Down to earth

One of the biggest challenges facing humanity today is climate change. We’ve discussed this in previous posts. But suffice it to say that we are taking from mother earth far more than we are giving back.

A famous Hollywood actor named Zac Efron has a TV documentary series called Down to Earth where he travels the world trying to find sustainable solutions for humanity’s problems.

One of the studies being done in Sardinia is interesting. There are a bunch of ‘blue zones’, where the locals all seem to live easily beyond a 100 years.

Zac himself has six-pack abs and admits to eating his bodyweight in protein every single day, and having gone months and even years together without touching carbs at all. And these cute centenarian Sardinian aunties and uncles? They barely have much protein – and certainly no whey powder or creatine powder or other supplements. What they do have though, is a really chilled out, but active lifestyle. Lots of walking and very less of stress.

Zac summarizes by saying thus, “I gotta get out of Hollywood man. That place, with all the stress and tension, it’s just not conducive for living. I just gotta get out.”

But we all want more fame and more money and more status even at the cost of a terrible lifestyle right?

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Mediterranean Life – is back

We discussed the TV show Mediterranean Life back in April this year. They’re back with season 2, and boy do those landscapes and vistas and balcony views look stunning!

So yet another bunch of families leave their homes and hometowns behind, in the quest for a peaceful Mediterranean lifestyle.

One opening remark by one of the wandering souls struck me deeply. He said, “Wow what sunny beaches. I’m so happy to leave behind all the snow. Yay, no more snow!”

No more snow? I’ve never been to a place while it’s snowing. I don’t know how snow feels. Is it hard? soft? fluffy? I’ve seen many YouTube videos of course, but never had snow falling over my head. But 45-degrees sun? Yes that I’ve seen plenty of.

It’s amazing how what one person is running towards, another is running away from. The bottom line is that people are always running. Standing still might be the best antidote to all our problems. Physically, and mentally.

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The world loves extroverts. These people are chatty, gregarious, always have stories to tell, and seem to get along so easily.

Introverts on the other hand, seem to struggle to get along with most, and prefer to be curled up with a book rather than the centre of attention in a pub.

A book called Quiet by Susain Cain explores how introverts are actually very powerful, can think deeply and make massive contributions to the world in their own ways.

But maybe extroverts and introverts as defined by outward behaviour is irrelevant, even though that is what catches the eye. Dig a little deeper, and what may really matter is empathy.

One can make quick and superficial judgements about people looking at how they behave in public (intro or extro). But when someone goes the extra mile, out of the way to do something for someone else, that is the true basis for a sustainable relationship. In this respect, even an introvert could be an extrovert, by thinking about the other person selflessly.

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Lights out

Today morning, the electricity went off. Poof, kaput, gone. Some maintenance work yada yada will be back in 12 hours yada yada said one whatsapp message.

I quickly switched from wifi to mobile hotspot and continued to work. A couple of video calls, and a few other normal calls, plenty of emails, several powerpoint slides, some excel sheets and a few more emails later, my laptop battery started to give way.

A few hours later, and my phone was dying too. Dusk had set in. Darkness all around, except my phone screen. And then that was gone as well. No this is not a horror story.

No screens, no calls from work, no deadlines, no TV, no music, no noises, only darkness. But it was beautiful. We sat together and talked – with zero distractions. It was free flowing, and chilled out. Not a care in that moment. Such simple pleasures of life. Going with the flow.

And the lights momentarily came on as the fan whirred back to life. Deadlines, phone calls, work, screens, distractions – everything was back. Back to normal. But our normal is quite abnormal, isn’t it?

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Securing the crown – part 4

There’s an amazing episode surrounding the moon landing of 1969. His Royal Highness Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburg was lost in his life – directionless as it were. The outside world it seemed was doing great things, making great strides – while all he did, was go from place to place – making speech after speech, which no one could care less about.

Just as the moon landing caught the world’s imagination at the time, so too it did of Prince Phillip. He not only watched and read countless times the footage and reports of the astronauts and their mission, but he also sought out a 15 minute audience with Neil Armstrong and his two co-pilots. His quest – to understand how they truly felt, as they carried out what was probably the most ambitious and significant journey in human history.

On meeting the 3 young men, he is filled with awe, and eagerly asks them about what their thoughts were as they descended on the surface of the moon, and how they felt when they looked at their blue home 380,000 km away. Their response?

They were just process driven. Men on a mission. Hundreds of checklists to ensure everything was working to perfection. No time to smell the proverbial roses, or maybe moon dust. No time to think even. They don’t even begin to understand the essence of the Prince’s questions. They in fact counter-question him thus, “Sir you are so lucky, how does it feel to live in a palace of a 1000 rooms, live with the queen, have so many royal dinners and meetings, and live such a meaningful life?”

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Securing the crown – part 2

We all speak about happiness. Because we all want it. And we’re perennially looking for it – high and low.

And it’s relative too. What does that mean? Queen Elizabeth played by a brilliant Claire Foy in The Crown shares her take on… unhappiness, not happiness.

And what a lovely line it is.

That's the thing about unhappiness. All it takes is for something worse to come along and you realize what you were experiencing was actually happiness after all.

Much like man’s search for heaven up there in the skies. When he dies here on earth and goes up, God asks him, “So, how did you like your stay on heaven?”

We already have everything, if we choose to look within. If we stubbornly look outside only, constantly comparing and recognizing apparent gaps and holes, then we will be left with nothing. Years later, maybe we will realize that that state too was actually happiness – but it may be too late to realize it.

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Securing the crown

There is an amazing scene in the Netflix drama The Crown, which is based on Queen Elizabeth’s life. No spoilers ahead, I think 🙂

In season 2 episode 8, when John F Kennedy travels to the UK, they meet the Queen and her husband. It’s not just the Queen who’s the lead female though. More than JFK, it is Mrs. Kennedy that has got everyone’s heads turning. Smart, charming, beautiful, dazzling, intelligent, a brilliant conversationalist – on and on her admirers go. So much so that even the Queen’s husband is desperate to get a seat near Mrs. K at the lavish dinner table.

But the (dinner) tables do turn, and make for provoking thought. The Queen is extremely uncomfortable. Why? Because she feels threatened by her adversary. Although she’s not really even her adversary is she? One is the Queen of Great Britain, the other a First Lady of another country. And for crying out loud, she is the Queen! She has everything and more anyone could ever ask for. There ought not to be any comparison at all!

Therein lies the catch. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have – even if you are the proverbial (or literal) Queen of England. If there is something you do not have however, and if someone else has it, then that immediately takes the Crown (figuratively only :)). What Mrs. K had, the Queen lacked, or so she thought, and the power of insecurity rises to the fore in some wonderful acting. What the Queen doesn’t realize at the time, is that Mrs. K too has her own share of insecurities. Wow, the two most powerful women in the world back in the 1960s, had so many insecurities…

This is not to poke fun – no, not at all. But just a reminder, that deep down, we are all human, and suffer the same human biases. If we can control the mind, that is much better than having a head with a crown on it.

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Score backwards

Think of everything you already have in your life. EVERYTHING.

What would you value it at?

Of course you’ve read this blog and many scriptures and the like, so the answer would be 100… out of 10. Well done!

Now think of everything you don’t have, but want.

That promotion, that net worth, that designation, that house, that car, that international vacation, that recognition from others…

What would you value it at? 1,000? 10,000? Maybe more? Isn’t that what we spend our entire days and nights working towards / stressing for?

So everything we have is 100, and everything we want is 10,000. Surely we’ve got this backwards? Why else would anything we obtain incrementally, not add to lasting happiness? Why are we still unhappy? To be pondered over…

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Here’s an awesome story narrated by Morgan Housel who writes for the Collaborative Fund blog.

Dr. Dan Goodman once performed surgery on a middle-aged woman whose cataract had left her blind since childhood. The cataract was removed, leaving the woman with near-perfect vision. A miraculous success.

The patient returned for a checkup a few weeks later. The book Crashing Through writes:

Her reaction startled Goodman. She had been happy and content as a blind person. Now sighted, she became anxious and depressed. She told him that she had spent her adult life on welfare and had never worked, married, or ventured far from home – a small existence to which she had become comfortably accustomed. Now, however, government officials told her that she no longer qualified for disability, and they expected her to get a job. Society wanted her to function normally. It was, she told Goodman, too much to handle.

Wow, you did not expect that ending to the story did you? It is no surprise that humans are the worst predictors of their own future. Our superpower, nay super-weakness is the ability to isolate exactly one outcome of the future (like more money, fame, here eyesight etc.) that we want, to the exclusion of everything else – often risks – that would automatically accompany that outcome.

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Quick not hasty

Google Pay has a nice ad. It shows people engaged in a variety of transactions, and then using the app to make their payments. The tagline that goes alongside is “Jaldi, lekin jaldbaazi nahin”, which means quick but not hasty. This is an important but often overlooked mode of action.

Just a few days ago, a friend of mine who had come back to his hometown for a break, was telling me that his marriage got fixed. But he had given an ultimatum to his fiancee, that they needed to be married in the following 3 weeks, before he headed back to his place of work. The girl’s side wasn’t so keen on this alacrity. Marriage is one of those things where it is not possible to momentarily reverse one’s decision – it is not a hop-on hop-off bus. While one can understand my friend’s urgency, in the long run, what is a few months here and there?

But we’ve now got used to doing everything at great speed. Instant gratification and all that. And we naturally come to expect this in spiritual progress as well. But as is very nicely described in Tattvabodha, there are four things simultaneously needed for moksha or liberation = a Guru + satsang + scriptures + X. Three of these we can all have. But what is X? It is time. No matter how much of a hurry we may be in, we cannot sidestep the learnings that time and experience unveil to us.

For large important life-changing decisions, quality trumps speed any day, especially if we want to minimize regrets in the future.

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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.

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A tale of two-is-one

The famous opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities goes “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

  • This is applicable to investing today – because the market is up, but the economy is down.
    There are many other examples too.
  • Within the same industry, during the same business cycle, one company gains market share, while another goes bankrupt.
  • The economy may be in the doldrums and companies downsizing, but some people still manage to find new jobs.