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Category: knowledge

Transitionary

Supple to firm to infirm.

Baby to youth to old.

Each one of us goes through this.

No exceptions.

Everything is short lived.

And still in this short time, we run after only short lived things.

Is this sensible?

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Little knowledge…

…is a dangerous thing, as they say. And this is absolutely true.

By the time he got to chapter 11 of the Gita, Arjuna thought he had an excellent understanding of how the Lord works. He had sat through much tougher chapters like 2 and 3 and 6. And so he felt he was ready.

He asked the Lord to show him His VishwaRoopa. He had seen the trailer and now he was ready for the movie, or so he thought. But to be fair, he had some doubt as well, which brought in some humility. He asked Krishna to show His VishwaRoopa only if He felt Arjuna was ready for it.

While the lesson in humility is superb for us, sometimes in real life, we need to take our chances (calculated risk as it is called).

As my Guru says, power is always taken, never given. So if we want to be successful in the material world, sometimes we need to ask and push our way through, because nobody is born a CEO.

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Cattywampus

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

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

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

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

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

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Knowledgeable, are we?

Found this in a newspaper clipping today. It was about the 5 types of knowledge, as mentioned in the Uttaradhyayana Sutra, which is an important spiritual treatise in Jainism.

1. Scriptural knowledge

2. Knowledge derived through the 5 senses + mind

3. Clairvoyance

4. Telepathy

5. Omniscience

The first two are alright. The last 3 are seemingly impossible, and logic-and-science defying.

And yet, we have all experienced these at some point. We know sometimes just a moment before that the phone is going to ring. Or that we are thinking of something that your friend is thinking about too. Or you have some intuition of something likely to pan out in a certain way, and it happens exactly like that. These stray incidents may be extremely rare and seemingly coincidental, but all our scriptures suggest that deep within us is present an extraordinary power for which even such ‘micracles’ are easy-peasy.

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How to increase devotion?

This is a common question with a simple answer.

It’s no different from devotion to anyone or anything else.

Love Bollywood or Hollywood or cricket or football? Why is that? Because of constant exposure.

What do we see on Instagram or Twitter or TV? What do we read about in the newspaper?

As we keep reading more and more about the glories of celebrities and sports stars, that only becomes a virtuous reinforcing loop.

The same thing is applicable to God as well. The more we read about Him and His leelas through various stories and scriptures, the more our devotion will become stronger!

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What to renounce? – part 3

So what is sattvika renunciation? That is doing one’s prescribed duty but giving up attachment and fruits.

So I do the work as though my life depended on it, but then do not worry about the results as if I know I’m going to live peacefully anyway.

Can this be confusing? Yes very, and so my Guru has provided various examples in his Amazing Simple Gita in chapter 18 verse 9’s purport:

  1. Manager forgiving the subordinate when the latter is not doing his work is foolishness and has nothing to do with the former’s Sattvik renunciation or prescribed duty
  2. It is foolishness to say it is alright that I did not get my bonus. What you need to do is to ask for and get your due share and then do charity out of it
  3. Doing self improvement workshops for students is the right thing and our prescribed duty
  4. We are duty bound. Duty has bound us, no escape, and so do duty the sattvika way
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What to renounce? – part 2

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

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

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

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Education is what?

Is having a degree the same as education or being educated? I was reading a book by Steve Schwarzman, the CEO, co-founder and Chairman of Blackstone Private Equity, and here’s what he has to say:

I believe that education is a discipline. The object of this discipline is to learn how to think. Once we have mastered this we can use it to learn a vocation, appreciate art, or read a book. Education simply enables us to appreciate the ever-changing drama fashioned of God’s own hand, life itself. Education continues when we leave the classroom. Our associations with friends, our participation in clubs all increase our store of knowledge. In fact, we never stop learning until we die. My fellow ocers and I just hope that you will become aware of the purpose of education and follow its basic tenets, questioning and thinking, for the rest of your life.

The author has a bunch of credentials and degrees under his belt, but so do many others. Not everyone is as successful or has given back as much to society. True progress is perhaps in constantly learning and applying.

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Educated guess

When someone says they are educated, what is it that comes to mind?

School, college, university, 12th grade, board exams, coding, chemistry, MBA, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, IIT, IIM, doctor, lawyer, engineer, CAT, UPSC, JEE. These could be a few of the top ones.

All good.

This is indeed what education means today.

What about character building? What about spirituality? Self discipline? Values of love, truthfulness, goodness and nobility?

But is this all?

Today’s education is mostly about living off of others, one-upmanship – always gaining something at someone else’s expense, always wanting more. More and more. The wants never stop.

True education is in our scriptures. They teach us that we should live not for ourselves, but for others.

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Gunas and roses

A lot of the Gita happens in threes. The most common threes are the gunas. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

In some of the chapters, the Gita goes into the most excruciating detail on these 3.

Like how to work, divided into three gunas. How to eat, divided into 3 gunas. How to give – you guessed it – also divided into 3 gunas.

Why is this happening?

Because Lord Krishna states clearly that purification of the mind happens only when we are in Sattvik mode.

And how would we know what is Sattvik, until everything is cleanly categorized into one of the 3 guna variants? That’s the reason for this excruciating detail, and seen in this light, it’s not excruciating at all.

Now that we know this from Krishna himself, its up to us to act accordingly. Roses await.

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God alone knows?

How difficult is it to attain moksha? Very hard. How difficult is it to attain moksha in this very life then? Infinitely more difficult. But as my Guru always says, “Difficult, but possible.”

In the Katha (Story) Upanishad, a young Nachiketas asks Lord Yama about the Secret Divine Knowledge which is the True Purpose of life. Since Yama had granted Nachiketas a boon, he had no option but to give him this Knowledge.

But Yama also tried at first to distract Nachiketas away from his question. He told him, that even the Gods don’t know about this Divine Secret, so why is a small boy asking questions on these lines!? But Nachiketas was adamant.

And so Yama beautifully explains the True Nature of ourselves and how we should choose the path of Shreyas over Preyas.

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The guaranteed setup for success

It’s common knowledge to think that success comes from hard work. But does this make sense, is hard work sufficient, and what does hard work even mean really? Is 10 hours of working every day hard work? Or 12? Or 20?

More than hard work, it’s probably important to have a mindset that is hard. There are two separate but simple and related things I came across while reading something today.

One was on problems, and how we all try our best to run away from them. But if we think back to every single problem we each faced in our lives, then we would realize that every iota of growth and success actually came from surmounting these same problems. So does it make sense to run away from problems?

The other was on what’s being taught to kids. Opulence and cornucopia. Kids born even into middle class families today are pampered with every possible luxury, both tangible and intangible. Success comes from the ability to fight despite all odds. But with all odds in their favor since a very early age, how can they be expected to fend for themselves?

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Police dharma

The French word for police is gendarme. No I don’t speak French, but I was looking it up recently. Why?

Because I came across the word for police in a few other languages. “Jandarma”

Jan Dharma?

In Sanskrit, that would be amazing – what does the police do? Their dharma is towards the people. Pretty awesome!

But of course that wouldn’t necessarily be where the word came from. The French gendarme came from gens d’ arms, meaning the men who possessed arms (like guns etc.) and are hence the police. But nice wishful thinking for sure with the Sanskrit connection!

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Bhajan shortcut

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

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

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

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

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

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How to make the right decision?

You know how we are at a crossroads so many times in our lives? We need to make one decision or another. This job or that. This country or that. This course or that. This institution or that. And so on.

Despite this, we rarely have a clear blueprint of how to go about these decisions. So critical, yet so confusing.

A senior satsangi this past weekend gave a simple yet profound 3-step technique for just this problem:

  1. Pray for the right wisdom.
  2. Ask for guidance from materially successful mentors especially if they are also on the spiritual path, such as a part of the same satsang.
  3. Understand deeply, that the grass is always greener elsewhere. Not that we shouldn’t strive for better – but just that it helps to have realistic expectations.

Decision making conquered!

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You have been replaced…

…is a fear each of one us have had at some point.

Whether replaced in a pivotal relationship, or replaced in your job, or replaced from a position of authority, everyone likes the status quo. And the inertia of sitting and lazing around is probably the strongest force in the world!

A new and more recent threat of replacement is one of AI – Artifical Intelligence. We already see so much of computational power around us. Many jobs that were once done by people (ATMs in place of bank tellers; Alexa instead of typists; e-booking instead of travel agents) are all done by computers.

How to survive this? What skills are irreplaceable?

Here is the list, according to a study I came across. 1) Empathy, 2) Emotional Intelligence, 3) Creativity and 4) Unstructured Problem Solving (i.e. not solving via code).

That’s the list. And you know the beauty of these? Each one of these can be developed by us, and strengthened. And forget computers replacing us, if we excel at these, even other people cannot replace us. The hard part? None of these are taught anywhere. Except maybe in satsangs and spiritual books.

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Ableknowledge

How much do we really know?

We think we know a lot. Sometimes we feel like we know everything. And that others around us know very little. Especially if there is a new joinee on the team.

It used to boggle my mind, that for the IIT JEE, probably the most competitive entrance exam in the world, the top scorer would often not score even 50%!

It still boggles my mind.

In chapter 7, verse 1 of the Gita though, the Lord says he will give Arjuna the complete knowledge. There will be no doubts. He just needs to set his ego aside.

Isn’t this awesome?

The highest knowledge is that, in which there remains no curiosity, which is not followed by any logic and which leaves no room for imagination.

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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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A life of minutes

Many ask why we need to read the same scriptural books again and again.

It’s the same messages only, said in myriad ways.

No anger, no jealously, no greed, no fear, no this no that.

Surely we don’t need to keep reading again and again?

I came across a boardgame called Othello.

Here’s what it said on the box, which is also very relevant for the spiritual repetition we just discussed above:

“It takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master!”

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Machiavelli Neeti

You must have heard of Chanakya Neeti. It is extremely famous in India at least. Chanakya was easily the best kingmaker ever.

All of his laws, rules, suggestions, principles – call them what you will, have been codified into what is called Chanakya Neeti.

There are plenty of books available on the topic. His thought process is truly marvellous.

I happened to be in a restaurant recently that also had a small library. One of the books there was Chanakya Neeti.

I picked it up, but was distraught at the title. Okay not that upset or anything, but it was funny, bordering on silly. It said this bright and bold, up on the cover page itself. “The Machiavelli of India.” Wait, What?!

I quickly did a Google search. Just as expected, Machiavelli was born in the 1400s, while Chanakya was born in 375 BC!

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