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Category: spirituality

6 months to… part 2 of 3

As mentioned yesterday, today’s and tomorrow’s posts will contain some gems from the amazing book 6 Months to Live (available here).

  1. When some people are faced with a life-threatening illness, they lose all hope and wither away. True strength of character is seen when death is faced eye to eye without blinking, without questioning, without self-pity.
  2. “Not everything that is faced, can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
  3. We talk about angels in disguise…. What disguise? Here was an angel incarnate, whom God had sent to look after us in those trying times.
  4. The above vacations and participation in various family events just proves that cancer is not THE END of everything. You can almost go about your routine life with positivity and enthusiasm.
  5. Moving on is the best tribute you can give your most loved one who is no longer with you in person.

Concluded tomorrow, with some more gems!

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Pecking order

We never say “Oh look, his leg has gone for a walk”, or “hey her hand is making food in the kitchen”, do we? No we don’t, because we always consider everything about a person to be one singular entity.

In the Gita, Lord Krishna breaks it up, and for good reason. He says there is a clear pecking order:

Gross body < sense organs < mind < intellect < HE

This is to say, that it is our body and sense organs that get attracted to sense objects, because they give in to desires.

If we are able to use our intellect to focus the (monkey) mind on to HE, then that would be cool wouldn’t it? No need to worry about desires much then. But how to do it? Through karma yoga, aka the principle that work is worship (remember The secret to success at work?).

Also, this is a step by step process. When we know we are doing something bad, and we want to change it, we immediately try to jettison it, throw it out – and then we struggle with withdrawal symptoms. Whereas My Guru’s approach is always more measured, calibrated and sustainable. How? By aiming for something higher, so that whatever is lower and weaker, will automatically drop off. Work is good, but working selflessly as worship is the highest good.

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Slider

You probably know the story of the 3 old men who were invited into a home. They were love, wealth and success. But they refused to all go in together. So the house owner had to choose which one he wanted. And he chose well, i.e. he picked love. Automatically, the 2 men representing wealth and success followed as well. If he had chosen either of the other two, the home would have only had that chosen one.

This is a nice story, and is probably very true. My thoughts are of a sliding scale, with spiritual success at one end, and economic success at the other.

No doubt, most of us are hankering for economic success. Our every breath is directed towards earning more or reaching higher. While such focus is admirable, does it really give us peace of mind? Even if we wanted a way out, do we have any time left for a spiritual search?

The alternative, at the other end of the sliding scale is better. If we are steeped in spirituality, if we understand the non-permanence of it all, if we realize that all that we seek is within, then the scale itself will disappear. Much like the 3 old men who all traipsed in together, spiritual success automatically brings all other successes with it. But no other success will matter much at that time. Win-win!

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Runaway success

Remember those movies which were underdogs?

So many of them. Unheard of. The lead actors are practically unknown.

The movies? Least expected to do well.

Next thing you know, they become huuuuuge hits.

Massive runaway successes!

There’s a runaway success in the Bhagawad Gita as well.

For example, shlokas 19 to 23 in chapter 4.

They talk about giving up desires, giving up attachments, and maintaining equanimity in all situations of duality (like pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow).

These kinds of shlokas are absolutely successful in making even the staunchest of karma yogis runaway.

Runaway success of a different kind!

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Great falls

Shlokas 36 and 37 of chapter 3 in the Gita are eye-openers.

36 has Arjuna asking Krishna why people sin, despite knowing better. And he’s not asking about normal people. He’s asking about those very close to or even at, the pinnacle of spiritual progress. The jnaana yogis.

A jnaana yogi practitioner truly sees everything as the same – no discrimination. He sees the Atman not just in himself, but also in everyone around him. And he also experientially understands that all of these are no different from paramatma. Even so, our mythology is replete with the greatest of rishis, committing the gravest of mistakes, and falling from glory. So Arjuna wants to know why.

The Lord answers in 37, that this is all only because of our desires. “Desire is a great devourer – a great sinner, this is the enemy.”

My Guru is very clear on this too. It might sound boring. But if you want moksha, then this is the way (channelling my inner Mandalorian!). Not for material objects mind you – so not about praying for promotions and bonuses and topping in exams or begetting progeny, but for moksha alone. He doesn’t advise any maha mudras, or maha mantras, or maha japas, or any kundalini rising, or maha meditations – nothing. The only requirement he says, is to give up desires and attachments – that’s it. Can it get simpler?

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Progressive thinking

The world today in terms of thought process has never been more polarized. Wokeism, gender biases, racial profiling, income inequality, political extremes, and so many other aspects absolutely crowd out not just media headlines but also people’s minds.

Which side to be on? Which side is correct? What does correct even mean? And to who?

These are questions that may never have the right answers, because presented with sufficient background, narrative and rationale anything and everything can be and is being justified.

From a spiritual point of view though, our time here is limited. And how we live it is paramount, not so much what we do.

And how we live it, depends entirely on our state of mind. That is how spiritual progress itself can be measured. And this is exactly what Sri Ramana Maharishi stated over a century ago:

The degree of freedom from unwanted thoughts and the degree of concentration on a single thought, are the measures to gauge spiritual progress.

How to implement such profundity? By dropping attachments and desires. One step at a time…

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Divine eyes – part 1 of 3

In chapter 11 of the Gita, Lord Krishna shows his vishwaroopa darshanam (divine form) to Arjuna.

Arjuna of course is simultaneously flabbergasted, amazed and horrified.

Krishna says he grants ‘divine eyes’ to Arjuna for just a brief period, so that he may see the Truth.

This leads anyone who reads this chapter to wish they too could get such divine eyes. “How lucky Arjuna was!”

Yes he was indeed lucky, but having such temporary vision hardly did much lasting good.

In fact, Arjuna forgot all about the Gita in no time.

What is this temporary vision? Nothing more than internal purification.

We can chant and meditate all we like, but if the mind is still attached to sense objects and continues to have desires, no amount of ‘divine vision’ will help.

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Base rates

There are certain things in life that we would just be biased by. Psychologically. And this will mostly have to do with our upbringing. If we’ve only seen one kind of life, then it would be natural to assume that life in general for everyone is indeed as we have experienced it. For instance, a child born in the last decade, can never understand a world without mobile phones. So much so that s/he thinks that life without phones would be impossible.

A common example that would be asked to test biases is, “James Smith living in the USA is either a librarian or a salesman. His personality can best be described as shy and introverted. What are the odds that James is a librarian”

What is your answer?

James is a Librarian of course, at least a 90% probability. Right? That’s what most people would say. Because librarians are reserved and quiet people while salesmen are all chatty and gregarious. But would your answer change if you knew a fact – that there are 100 salesmen for every male librarian in the US? That means the probability of James being a librarian is just 1%, nowhere near the 90% we were thinking! That’s the base rate.

Base rates apply in spirituality as well. They are here for all to see. How many people got super happy and super rich after they died? Not even 1% of the people. Not even 0.0001% of the people. Because death = bye bye. Yet we crave more and more materiality, all the while ignoring the wise counsel of the gurus and saints who’ve lived this exact life for centuries upon centuries.

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Problematic

Verse 2.55 in the Gita is an interesting one.

But before that, do we have any problems in life? If no, then you are a jivanmukta. If yes, which should be the case for most of us, then the next questions should be – where do our problems come from?

For everyone who is working, we might unanimously think “Oh all my life’s problems come from my boss”. For those of us who are studying, we might think “Oh these darned exams. I love to study and read, but I so hate giving exams and having to compete in the mindless rat race”. For others, problems come from maybe an irritating sibling, or a friend, or a colleague, or even from certain things not going our way.

So the sources of problems can be multifarious.

But Krishna has a different take. He is saying “Hang on, all your problems, my problems, the world’s problems have only one source. And that source, is an unstable mind”.

And hence verse 2.55 says, “When one thoroughly casts off all cravings of the mind, is satisfied in the Self, through the joy of the Self, he is called one of stable mind.”

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Nimittas – part 3 of 3

Knowing now that being the nimitta of the Lord is the easy way to moksha, how exactly does one go about this?

Krishna himself gives a clue in verse 11.54, specifying a particular type of devotion or bhakti. Not any bhakti, but ananya bhakti.

Ananya, refers to no ‘anya’, i.e. no other. There is no other, apart from the Lord. This is not of some specific deity necessarily, but could also be of faith in the Creator. If there is such unconditional, indelible love towards the Lord, thinking of only Him 24×7, then that would be ananya bhakti.

Is this practical? Some research suggests we have nearly 40,000 thoughts a day. Where is the space for 24×7 ananya bhakti then!

My Guru says we can start small (remember ‘microsteps‘?). Offer gratitude to the Lord before sleeping, after waking up, before eating, after eating, before working, after working, before leaving the house, after coming back, after sneezing, after coughing, while yawning and so on.

Eventually, everything we do will automatically become associated with the Lord.

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Nimittas – part 2 of 3

In verse 11.33 of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna “nimitta maatram bhava savyasaachin“. Savyasachin refers to Arjuna, but in a roundabout fashion, as the word in Sanskrit means ambidextrous, or one who can wield the bow effortlessly with either hand. The important word as we saw yesterday as well, is nimitta or instrument.

Krishna tells Arjuna that he has already slain all the adharmic enemies facing him on the battlefield, and that all he had to do was to stand up and fight.

This verse is immediately misinterpreted by many, stating that everything is predetermined and how Krishna leaves no chance for free will. How fatalistic and defeatist, they say.

But saying this would be missing the point. Krishna still offers Arjuna a very important choice. He recommends him to get up and fight, but does not force him to. Arjuna had the option of going back home and chilling out if he wanted to. Isn’t that not free will?

All Krishna said, was to be a part of the Grand (aka Karmic) Plan, where dharma would be upheld no matter what. It would benefit Arjuna personally if he would choose to act as the nimitta in that position. But if not, another nimitta would come by, in order to maintain dharma. Wouldn’t we want a similar justice system, where no matter the person playing the role of judge, the wicked get punished?

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Nimittas – part 1 of 3

There’s a branch of astrology called Nimmita astrology. Nimmita really means ‘instrument’. Astrologers that work on this principle look for cues from the world around us.

For instance, if someone were to come to the astrologer with a question, “Do you think my child will be a boy or a girl?”, and at that very moment there appears a young girl at the door, or the sound of a girl playing or laughing outside, the astrologer considers this ‘an expression of the Lord’ and the ‘girl’ in the scene as a nimmitta, i.e. an instrument, and makes his prediction.

Regardless of whether this approach works or not, Lord Krishna in the Gita asks Arjuna to be a nimmita of the Lord, i.e. to be an instrument of His. Are there any benefits to this? Absolutely, and life changingly so:

  1. No more stress, no more anxiety. Why? Because I am not doing the work. The Lord is working through me, and I am only the instrument. Then why would I be anxious?
  2. My 100% focus shifts from the result, to the quality of effort. Why? Because I am not doing some ordinary work (no matter what the actual work is), but rather the Lord’s own work!

A simple change in mindset and perception can make such a big difference! Putting this into practise isn’t easy. But the more we believe that we are indeed nimmitas only, the more this will make sense and the more life will become easier.

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Predictive analytics

Put a picture of a snake and mention the words ‘kaala sarpa dosha’, and this is modus operandi 101 for many pseudo astrologers to make a quick buck. Much of this deep rooted fear is unwarranted, as many of the leading vedic astrologers concur that there is nary a reference to this dosha in tradition and ancient texts.

But oh that fear… what to do? What will happen to me? Many of us are living our lives in constant fear of something that may in all probability not even happen.

It is common in India to go to an astrologer and hope to identify how the future would pan out. This makes sense to an extent, if the native is a new born baby. The chart would indeed be highly indicative.

However for someone who is say 40 years old, does the birth chart have significance? Yes it does to some extent, but the birth chart can only predict life based on, you guessed it, the birth!

But since then, 40 years have passed. Prarabhdha karma is as of the birth time, not beyond. So much of free will, in all these 40 years, could potentially have completely transformed the life of the person… of any of us really! But if we choose to remain rooted to what the birth chart indicates, and surrender to our so-called fate and the subsequently induced fear, then how will our true potential come to the fore?

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Detaching from the world

This is a recurrent theme in the Gita. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna to remain detached from the material world, but to also continue doing his duty to the best of his ability. We know from personal experience that this is easier said than done.

For instance, I would be okay giving my heart and soul into my office work, but that’s also because I’m attached to the results. If I was to be given a zero salary, zero bonus, zero increment and no promotion, would I be able to work as hard? That is probably the real test of my detachment. Ironically, if I can work this way, then all the salary and bonus and promotions will likely find its way to me automatically!

One lovely example of detachment as explained by Sri Ramakrishna is that of a baby’s nanny. The nanny knows very well that the child is not hers. Yet she lovingly takes care of the baby for many years and gives it unending love and care, probably more than it’s mother, who is caught up in the vagaries of her professional life. The nanny may even have her own little children who she is unable to be with. But that does not come in the way of her work.

Even so, the nanny knows very well that the baby is not hers, and that any day her mistress may ask her to pack up and leave. Thus there is constant mental detachment, while physcially she takes care of the baby as her own.

Can I mirror this in my office work? For anything around us where we believe we are getting too attached, we can remind ourselves that we are merely caretakers (like the nanny), and not owners. Because the real owner is the One who created us all.

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Young dung

Often times, new comers, especially youngsters, come to the satsang seemingly in bliss. No, no, not that they’re high or anything, but they can often not see the point of having a satsang or being in one.

“Life is good. I’m working in a good company. I get recognized for my work. I get a monthly salary. I’m interacting with my friends and colleagues and having fun. Everything is fine and dandy. Then why do I need satsang at all? Meditation, liberation, sanskrit verses, detachment, no desires and blah blah blah, my problems aren’t really so big that I need to do all these boring things”, all the youth seem to say.

There can be two ways to think about this.

1. Yes, forget satsang and spirituality and all that. If really someone is in nirvana with the life around them, then so be it! No stress, no anxiety, no peer pressure, no comparison right? Life’s good, and everyone believes you.

2. Maybe one day, some day, hopefully never, there is the off-chance that something in that “perfect life” may not go according to plan. And when that happens, opening up a chapter of the Gita will be too little, too late, and meaningless. Because spirituality is not about knowledge, but about action. And no artist perfected his craft with just the first stroke. That’s why years of practice are necessary, and no different for spiritual success either.

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Happy Diwali aka Deepavali

Best wishes to all the dharmic people of this world.

’tis the festive season, and more specifically it is Deepavali.

Most people know it as Diwali. According to Sadhguru, the original name was Deepavali, but it got corrupted and was modified to Diwali. In any case, what’s in a name?

More important, is the emotion and the rationale associated with this festival of lights.

The lights and the bursting of firecrackers are supposed to physcially alert us in the winter months, rather than slip us into hibernation as most animals do during that season.

But as is always the case, it is also symbolic of something deeper.

While it signifies the dominance of light over dark, it also represents the victory of our inner Self over the darkness of our ignorance / ego.

My heartfelt wish that each one of you enjoys a splendid spiritual transformation journey over the coming year and more!

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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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Confusion, instruction, disciple-tion – part 2

Of course Arjuna said he feels defeated already. Nay, not defeated, but more deflated, like retired-hurt, to use a cricket term. Or maybe a hit-wicket? He didn’t even want to star in the war, the same one for which he had trained all his life!

So he finally came to Krishna and surrendered completely. “Krishna, I’m lost and I’m a mess. Please instruct me. Take me as your disciple. What should I do now?”

But let’s look at the other side of the battlefield shall we? Just days before the Kurukshetra war, the arch villain Duryodhana had a meeting with Krishna too. He was in fact offered a choice – either Krishna, or a massive army. Duryodhana chose the latter, because tens of thousands of soldiers are better than the Lord Krishna no? Or was it because he didn’t recognize that Krishna was an avatar of the Lord?

No, Duryodhana very well knew of Krishna’s true nature. In spite of this knowledge, he chose the army. Not just that, he also told Krishna thus, “I know what I am doing is wrong. I know I am on the wrong side of Dharma. I know I should be choosing you. I know I am a wicked person. But still Krishna, I am unable to do what is right.”

What is the difference here then? Simply one of ‘ego’. Duryodhana was just unable to accept that he needed help. He was unable to surrender to a greater power. Because he thought himself to be the greatest power. Arjuna on the other hand, realized that he was in a situation that he could not solve on his own. What better way then, than to surrender?

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Confusion, instruction, disciple-tion

Shloka 2.7 in the Gita is a landmark one. Arjuna says, “I’m confused as to my duty. Please instruct me, I’m your disciple.”

There could be so many learnings from this. Here are a few:

  1. Arjuna is confused, after a life full of preparation for this very war. And confusion is alright, especially for mere mortals like us. As long as we understand that we are confused, and are ready to seek help. (More on this, tomorrow)
  2. Humility – on Krishna’s part. He is omniscient, yet never interrupts Arjuna’s lamentation. He never utters a word even, until he is asked for advice. Most people today, with far lesser achievements than Krishna, start spewing solutions without even knowing what the problem is.
  3. Asking for instructions, and to be taken as a disciple, probably means that Arjuna exhausted all of his options. He realized there was no way he was going to arrive at a solution on his own.
  4. The word used here is ‘instruct’. Not ‘advice’ or ‘help’. Advice is surely given for free these days. But this ‘instruction’? It will have to come with clear guidance – a plan, here is step 1, step 2, step 3.
  5. Arjuna is asking Krishna only for instruction. He is not asking for Krishna to magically make this all go away. Arjuna knows that each step needs to be implemented by he himself. No way out. This work cannot be outsourced to a backoffice.
  6. There is also no doubt that Arjuna has about the quality of his teacher – he knows he’s got the best. Just like a Guru. But no, Krishna is a God, isn’t he? How can a Guru be a God? Guru is God only. The difference is only in the eye of the beholder.
  7. Arjuna is clear he wants to be Krishna’s disciple. Not his childhood friend, not his cousin, not his colleague, not his commanding officer as Krishna was only his charioteer. Nope, he had full faith. And that right there was his foundation for success.

Concluded tomorrow!

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Astral planes – part 3

  1. What then, about the patal lok, narak lok, various layers of hell, lower worlds, upper worlds, 14 worlds etc.? Maybe they exist, we can never know for sure. But for sure these are all also states of mind. When something nice happens, we are quickly transported to cloud 9, while we would like nothing more than to bury ourselves deep underground if we encounter failure.
  2. Even heaven is said to have an end date. To get moksha, our scriptures tell us we need to come back to human form, so we will have to leave heaven and thus: end date.
  3. Heaven is the greatest place ever no? But then even Indra, the king of heaven, is not one person, but just a position. There are stories of millions like him who have come and gone. So is heaven really the place of all awesomeness that we are thinking of?
  4. Even in said perfect heaven, there will be jealousy and promotions and favourites no? Because not all citizens of heaven are Indra or his consort. There will be people who work for them, and those who work for them and so on. Is it logically possible for everyone in heaven to be always happy? Then is this really a heaven?
  5. My Guruji’s point is very clear. We have to go beyond all this heaven/hell/duality/dwandvas. Krishna is very clear too, that if dwandvas exists, then there is no moksha there.
  6. The very fact that heaven and hell might exist at opposite ends of the spectrum means that dwandvas exists.
  7. The ‘desire’ to get the answer to such questions on astral planes is also a form of desire only. The ‘attachment’ to this very body, and to think whether this astral body will enjoy/struggle in heave/hell, that is also attachment only. So Guruji says we need to break out of the shackles of all our desires and attachments, as this is the only way to break out of this cycle of samsara.

Your thoughts please?

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