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Category: karma

Kadanaaynu pannaadhey!

This was the example a very senior satsangi gave recently in a satsang. And it was very funny!

This is a Tamil phrase which means “don’t do your work as though you are paying back some loans/dues”.

It’s a common saying down South, and is often expressed by irate parents who see their kids going about their work or studies in a completely uninterested fashion.

This phrase was mentioned yesterday when the speaker was asked about how we should be going about our work.

“With full dhriti and utsaaha, or perseverance or excitement, no matter how boring the work.”

Doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look out for better opportunities, but whatever we are doing currently, that needs to be done with the best intentions and mindset, not as though we were forcefully and woefully repaying a debt (even if in reality, some EMIs are to be paid each month 😄).

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How to work?

My Guru repeatedly says that there is no such thing as a perfect type of work.

Even the best of things, done over and over, will only bring boredom and frustration.

Our scriptures also place no emphasis on the actual work we do, but rather only focus on the state of our minds, while we are engaged in that (any) work.

How to work then? My Guru repeats this verse from chapter 18 of the Gita:

mukta-saṅgo ‘nahaṁ-vādī dhṛity-utsāha-samanvitaḥ

It means that one must be free from attachment and ego, and be endowed with dhriti and utsaha, i.e. perseverance and enthusiasm. That is the simple (but not easy) secret sauce to success.

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Titular

CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, Head of Legal, Head of Sales, Executive Director, Managing Director, Senior Vice President, Senior Partner, Senior Principal etc etc.

These are all lovely titles.

Everyone wants them.

But can everyone handle them?

Each of these titles comes with truckloads of stress and deadlines and deliverables and insane client demands.

If we run after the titles alone, we will experience nothing more than stress and anxiety.

However, if we focus on adding value to those around us, neither will we be stressed, nor will we need any titles. Paradoxically, all the titles in the world will come running to us!

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Constructive focus

Was observing a construction worker recently.

He had just laid a ton of bricks. Putting one after the other, and cementing up an entire wall. Grunt work, if there was any.

His boss came up to him the next day and said the owners had asked for the wall to be shifted a little. This meant disassembling his entire work from the previous day, and putting the wall up again, brick by brick, a couple of meters away.

Anyone in his place would have been frustrated, and understandably so. Why couldn’t someone have told him the correct place to put the wall up in the first place?

But our man? Not at all fazed. He coolly nodded, and went about taking apart the current wall and setting up the new one. His entire focus was on the work itself (laying the bricks) and not at all on the result (whether the wall was here or there or on Mars). A good lesson for me as I go about my daily work.

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Conflicted

There’s a big conflict in Arjuna’s mind.

He sees a lovely path ahead of him called the Path of Knowledge. Jnaana Yoga.

And then a much tougher one, the Path of Work. Karma Yoga.

Of course he is drawn to Jnaana Yoga. Just “learn” some “knowledge” and run away from the battlefield and be done with all work forever.

But this is only an apparent conflict, borne out of delusion, as Krishna explains to him, and indirectly to us.

There is hardly any difference between the two Paths.

Jnaana Yoga is also a path of work only. Because the true Path of Knowledge gets the individual to realize that it is not work that should be shunned, but only attachment to it and its fruits.

The paths only exist in the mind. To the realized soul, everything is the same.

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RR

Given this is cricket and IPL season in India, one could be forgiven to think this post’s title is the name of one of the prominent teams.

But a new RR I came across.

Maybe an RisR in fact.

The first R for Rejection.

The second R for Redirection.

Because any time at all, when we feel like soemthing did not work out the way we expected, we must always remember that Rejection is nothing more than Redirection.

RR is my new mantra. Hard to follow, but worth trying for mental peace.

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Long short

One of the blue collar workers I know has an amazing vision. She’s from a really far away place, needing hours of public transport rides to get to the nearest city. And then hours of flying to the nearest metro.

But her vision is to bring her entire family to the metro. Pretty amazing. And what will she do after that? She will work odd jobs of course. Two jobs, maybe three a day. But that could be too much no?

Nope, she doesn’t even begin to understand the concept of a holiday. Her only thought is to make enough money to support her kids. “Who needs a holiday? If I take a holiday, I won’t get paid that day, and what will I do on a holiday anyway?” she asks innocently.

Folks like her are sorted in life. Karma yoga is all they know. No worrying about what new skill to pick up during the weekend, or which holiday jaunt to shuttle to and then put on insta, and so on. There is no day-to-day long-term vision leading to anxiety. There is only short term work associated with a single goal of providing for her loved ones.

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Shiva cafe

On a recent trip to a Shiva temple, we had the opportunity to trek up a little hill. Why? Because there was a nearby waterfall, which the locals swore by.

We quickly fished out our phones to check the exact location (thanks GoogleMaps!).

Not only did we spot a waterfall on the map, but we also saw ‘Shiva Cafe’, located right in the middle of the water (on the map, not in real!).

Curiosity piqued and all, we quickly read up. It was a 1.5km hike to the top – not the easiest. But the cafe had amazing reviews – the views, the food, the ambience.

As we started our ascent, we realized it was definitely not an easy climb. However, we were also surprised by the fact that a number of others (old and young) were also trekking up to Shiva Cafe – the difficulty of the climb notwithstanding.

Of course the view was super from the top, but it also reminded me that quality of work trumps everything else. To receive good food and be treated well, people will climb mountains. Said differently, if we work as worship (karma yoga) and add value to others, there is no reason why others will not flock to acknowledge us.

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Calm storm

Here is a doubt that was asked in a recent satsang.

When doing karma yoga, we are told to be calm inside, not be motivated by the fruit of our actions, to remain unfazed by appreciation.

At the same time, in the outside world, we are expected to do the exact opposite. Be aggressive, ask for a bonus, an increment, a promotion, a better opportunity and what not.

So are we then pretending to be one thing on the outside, while doing something else on the inside?

Maybe initially. Inside Rama, Outside drama. But that is only for starters.

The real magic happens when all work and all thought is aligned towards one goal alone.

What is that goal? To do the work at hand, to the best of one’s ability. And this pretty much sums up karma yoga.

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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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5 point program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What am I doing?

There are these days, where the questions flow thick and fast. What am I doing? Am I living my life to its fullest potential? How are so many, so successful and so young? How can I find happiness? Will I ever find the answers I seek? Will I ever stop asking questions?

And then I read these awesome few lines from a book called Karma by Acharya Prashant.

To not have the thought that you are diseased is health, and that is Yoga. Yoga is not about feeling special. Yoga is not about being in a great state of consciousness. Yoga is about not having a lot of things that we usually have. Now, what do we usually have? We usually have inferiority; we usually have lack of fulfillment; we usually have a lot of search and seeking; we usually have a lot of questions. Yoga is about not having these. ‘I am already all right. What would I do with achievement? I am already all right. What would I do with medicines and methods? I am already all right. What would I do with questions and their answers?’ That is Yoga. Yoga is not a special feeling, mind you. Yoga is the absence of that which we usually keep feeling. Thoughts are still there, feelings are still there, yet there is freedom from thought and feeling.
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Parts of speech

We all know the parts of speech in English right – noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, interjection, conjunction – maybe I missed a few?

Now guess which of these is the most important? Not the noun, which is subjective (pun-unintended), or the adjective, which is always flowery. Rather, it is the simplistic, yet potent ‘verb’.

Here’s how google defines it: “Verb: This is the most important part of a speech, for without a verb, a sentence would not exist. Simply put, this is a word that shows an action (physical or mental) or state of being of the subject in a sentence.”

A word that shows an action or state of being of the subject in a sentence. So cool, and so relevant to spirituality too, because verbs are the very essence of karma yoga!

The ‘who is doing?’ is not relevant. The ‘what is being done’ is also not relevant. Neither is ‘why are we doing?’. Instead, the highest focus, is on the ‘doing’ itself. It’s not as if the other things don’t matter, but they matter less. The end result isn’t key, the process of doing is more important. Because if the process is done well, then the other things will be taken care of. And before someone disagrees and says the above questions are important – yes, they are. But not ‘during’ the ‘doing’. For those, there can be a separate session of planning, brainstorming etc. all of which are verbs for their own sakes.

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Animalistic

One of the questions that often arises in the minds of spiritual seekers, is whether animals accumulate karma.

A realized soul would say, “Does this even matter? All of these silly worldly questions – how does the answer to this question help one in their spiritual quest for liberation?” And such a soul would be bang on!

However, the question has come indeed, and one answer could be thus, which I came across in Acharya Prashant’s new book titled Karma.

No, animals do not accumulate karma. Because to accumulate karma, one would need to make a choice. A choice of whether or not to do something. Humans have choices – so we can either do a good thing and earn good karma, or the reverse. But animals? Acharya Prashant argues that animals have no choice. A lion kills deer to eat, driven by its natural instincts aka hunger. How far do you think a vegetarian lion would get in life? 🙂

But humans do have a choice isn’t it? To eat vegetarian or not. To exercise or to live unhealthy. To live a noble life or one of plunder. So many choices, so many possibilities, and so much karma.

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Randomly random

Karma. That is what we are constantly accruing. But it is also the name of a newly released book by Acharya Prashant. He’s an IIT-IIM-grad-turned-spiritual-Guru and so I was quite keen to read what he has to say on this topic.

There are many interesting things he covers. One for today’s post, is on randomness. He says that the happenings in the material world around us are truly random. That it is impossible to predict the future with any certainty.

There are so many people and creatures in the world and each has its own free will. When all of these interact, in real time, dynamically, how is it possible to ‘setup’ a specific karmic event for any single individual that is supposed to experience the fruits of their past actions?

The thought is sobering, and indeed seems to make sense from the perspective of our limited and miniscule intellect. But for the Creator of everything around us, maybe it is not such a big deal? The author agrees that karmic law exists. However, this is applicable at the level of an individual, by way of his/her reaction to an external stimulus, i.e. two people could react very differently to the same news, for instance.

So is this what the birth chart of a native predicts in vedic astrology? That s/he will be successful during this period, or will get married during this period, and so is perhaps referring to internal emotions likely to be felt by the native? The word ‘likely’ is important, because free will can be exercised in a counterfactual manner.

There are also many great saints who have tweaked the karma of their disciples. Some say that mass fatalities like plane crashes and terrorism are part of ‘community karma’, perhaps engineered to perfection by Nature Herself. How does that fit in here, in a world ruled by free will and chaos? I guess there will always be some things we just cannot understand…

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Distractions galore

Our lives seem to be full of distractions. The mobile phone, the internet, YouTube… Oh there are so many culpable offenders in my fight against distraction. So many things to do, but just no ability to focus on the various tasks at hand.

But maybe distractions are par for the course simply because the work that is done is chosen poorly. The work is chosen only because the result seems favorable. Some money, some benefits, some perks, some power, some something or the other.

Spirituality keeps on asking us to live in the moment. That only means we’ve to love the work, i.e. the process of working, and not the outcome of the work alone. If instead, we are focused on monthly payday alone, of course distractions will plague us. Even the feeblest of winds can get us to alter course then.

If we look at it this way, then maybe distractions are good, even great. If I’m going to work in an organization for the rest of my life/career but still get distracted easily, maybe that work is not something I truly like? What’s the point in doing something if it’s truly not meaningful enough? Note that meaning is only for the doer – what’s meaningful to me might be nonsensical to another.

The alternative of brainstorming, networking and hustling to get to do what you feel is truly meaningful, is not an easy path. And so for most, it is easy to continue to do what they have been, while cribbing about distractions, while letting the void-for-meaning deep within them, grow stronger and stronger.

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Irrelevance

Buying and owning a library of amazing spiritual books – Irrelevant

Reading the latest editions of spiritual and self-help texts – Irrelevant

Listening to spiritual sermons by the best of saints – Irrelevant

Writing books (and blogs!) on spirituality – Irrelevant

Attending live sessions of preachers and spiritually realized souls – Irrelevant

Speaking to small and / or large audiences on the Gita / other spiritual texts – Irrelevant

Ability to read/write/process Sanskrit to access said abstruse spiritual texts – Irrelevant

Chanting or performing great mantras/hymns/shlokas/homas – Irrelevant

Everything superficial is irrelevant in the pursuit of the Self, unless the lessons and takeaways are put into day-to-day implementation. That’s the only way, according to my Guru, does even a modicum of transformation take place.

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Qarm& yogA – part 2

The Q&A on karma yoga concludes today.

Question 4 – If there are no qualifications needed, then what is my duty exactly? Because the grass always seems greener elsewhere (ie other’s duties seem better).
Answer to that is verse 35. Whatever you are doing now, that is your duty. If you are speaking in the satsang that is your duty. If you are driving your car that is your duty. Also, our ultimate duty we need to remember, is to attain the Happiness within and eventually enable everyone around us to access it, just like Guruji does. As Krishna says in the 18th chapter, the one who teaches His messages is dearest to Him.

Question 5 – Now that we know our duty, while doing it, how should it be performed?
Answer to that is verse 25 – Selfless work – always working for the welfare of the world. No “what’s in it for me”?

Question 6 – How to work without expecting a result? Should I not be aiming for a goal/target/promotion?
Answer is that there is a difference between goals and results. The Guru says by all means have a goal and work hard towards it, but do not dwell on the result. The distinction is subliminal, yet key.

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Qarm& yogA

Chapter 3 in the Gita is all about karma yoga. Here’s my quick 2-part Q&A on this outstandingly practical chapter.

Question 1 – The Lord says that ‘knowledge’ is superior to ‘action’. Should I not then go in search of ‘knowledge’ first?
Answer to that is verse 3 – two paths are given by Lord K – one jnaana yoga, other karma yoga. If the mind is pure, then jnaana yoga is fine. But if we are not ready for it, and still have desires and attachments, then action is the only alternative. But the same goal can reached, irrespective of the path – knowledge or action.

Question 2 – When we feel hopeless and helpless sometimes, and become fatalistic, because “in the long run, we are all dead anyway” – then why should I do any work/action at all?
Answer to that is verse 8 – action is superior to inaction. Through inaction, one cannot even maintain one’s own body.

Question 3 – What qualifications do I need? Do I need to be a doctor, lawyer, MBA for karma yoga?
Answer to that is verse 19, purport 2 – also the favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, and which Guruji has also put onto the back cover of his Amazing Simple Gita. “No qualifications needed.”

Intrigued? Continued tomorrow…

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Come again

Many people do not believe in reincarnation. And those who do, can’t prove it.

Some people are totally against it. While some others even speak of remembering their own past births.

Who and how and why to believe?

Reincarnation comes into the picture from a karmic point of view, i.e. the law of karma, i.e action begets reaction.

Think of a justice system, that does not punish one for a crime. Rather, all their good actions and bad actions are separately totalled, and then netted off. If good is greater than bad, then no matter how barbaric the bad (think murders and rapes), the person goes to a ‘heaven’. And that’s that. Case closed. Story over. No rebirth.

Does that sound like a logical justice system? Or would it make more sense for the perpetrator to suffer or enjoy the consequences of each of his/her actions – no matter whether this birth or the next?

Food for thought.

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