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Category: spirituality

Karmic simplicity

Here is a simple Karmic truth.

Many people think that spirituality and materialism are poles apart.

But Lord Krishna in the Gita has given a way to make them both the same!

He asks us to perform karma yoga, so that our worldly work will continue on, as the body continues doing all the necessary actions.

And the mind? The mind is attached to God, because all work is done as a service to Him, and hence no karma is accrued.

Thus spirituality = materialism!

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Can we think of the Lord all the time?

A close friend couple (husband + wife) had taken a 1 year sabbatical. This was what they recounted to me.

They planned their sabbatical about 10 months in advance. And they were both working right till the start of the sabbatical.

Initially, they said, it felt so far off, and they would hardly think of it.

But towards the end, as time kept moving forward, and as the time-to-sabbatical reduced from months to just weeks and days and hours, they said that they kept thinking of the sabbatical ever increasingly, even during their office work, which they were anyway doing, and doing well.

We certainly seem to have the capacity to process multiple things at once in our minds. So can we think of the Lord a lot of the time, while also going about our other daily duties? We sure can!

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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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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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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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Shifting gears

As someone who likes to drive, I’ve always been fascinated by car gears. Some have 4, some 5, some even 6. And there are those that have Reverse gears on the top left, and some on the bottom right. You know what I mean.

But I saw this crazy video recently of a long-haul truck, with wait for it, 18 gears! Eighteen! That is just insane.

But the number 18 is interesting. It is also the number of chapters in the Gita.

And regardless of the vehicle, just like we shift gears one to the next, once the destination has been reached, there is no alternative but to bring it to neutral.

Just as in the Gita, we can go from one chapter to the next and back, but ultimately, we’ve to reach nothing but the neutral state. One of permanent stability and everlasting peace.

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Beyond home and work – part 8 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

How has Satsang helped me?

It has brought discipline to my life.

Satsang has made me less concerned about money – not that money doesn’t matter, but my happiness doesn’t revolve around it as much.

Satsang has given me more peace, and the ability to step back and look at situations more holistically, and not being sad immediately or for too long if something doesn’t happen the way I expect it to.

Satsang has made me a part of larger community – there are so many close friends here in satsang, it is more like a huge extended family.

Very importantly, satsang has brought a noble / everlasting mission and direction to life, beyond just the mundane home and work.

Last but not least, through the Guru’s grace and blessings, satsang brings miracles not just sporadically but daily.

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Beyond home and work – part 7 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

And satsang isn’t just about singing bhajans, or chanting mantras or some other boring sounding stuff.

Then what does satsang help us give up?

Satsang helps us give up our anxiety, our stress, our jealousy, our anger, our greed, our fear.

Satsang helps us do our dharma.

How?

Most people say dharma is religion. No dharma is not religion. Dharma is really the art of balance.

How to balance all the taking with the giving, that is dharma. and that is why satsang helps us in our dharma.

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 6 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

Imagine you had to setup a justice system, your own justice system. You are the Chief Judge. That’s right. You decide the law. You are the law! Would you favour the ones who are only taking-taking-taking? Probably not, right?

How does this get balanced out? Because at home we are taking-taking-taking, at work also taking-taking-taking – money, bonus, position etc. Then when to give?

That’s exactly what satsang can help with. – to kickstart our giving process, and also the giving-up process. To give-up what? Your money? No, SS doesn’t need your hard-earned money.

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 5 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

So here is something for each one of us to think about deeply.

Everything we each have succeeded in today, can we really say with 100% confidence that it is all solely because of us? The marks we got in school? Yes we studied of course, but teachers helped, parents helped, someone wrote a question paper, someone wrote a book, someone invented or discovered something that could be written about in the first place – and on and on!

Same for the bonuses and promotions we got at work, somebody trained us, someone recognized us, someone provided us with a job to be, someone invented a computer decades ago, without which much of our work wouldn’t even get done!

It’s not that we should not get credit for our actions, but think about it, and we’ve really just been taking-taking-taking from day 1.

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 4 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

One-and-a-half hours later, there was still no respite, and people started getting angry and stressed. Some were shouting, others were fighting, some started live-tweeting their frustration, babies were crying – it was just total and complete chaos.

And it was immediately evident, that even outside of home and work, stress and anger can cause the entire day to become unproductive.

Because yes this got sorted and people checked-in and all. But even after the flight was over and we landed at the destination, there were some people arguing with each other about having cut in front of them into the line in the morning and how they have no manners and such!

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 3 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

It might seem that satsang and its benefits are important in two large parts of our lives, home and office.

This is true of course, but if you draw a Venn diagram, you’ll have one circle with Work, another circle with Home, and the part where both intersect (that post-2020 is called work-from-home!).

But even outside of that, there is life and so much stress and anxiety, and really there is no aspect of life that satsang cannot touch and transform.

I recently had to take an early morning flight. As early as 3 am, there were serpentine queues, with people of all ages waiting to check-in. There were literally 100s of passengers, and just two open check-in counters. Crazy isn’t it?

Continued tomorrow…

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Beyond home and work – part 2 of 8

Continued from yesterday:

For many of us, the question will be, “Really? Is there even anything outside of work and home?” “With weekdays and weekends both just flying past in a complete blur?”

But there still are things that frequently upset us – like:

  • struggling with our workout schedules,
  • not being able to take vacations, or even worse
  • taking vacations but mentally still being unable to relax;
  • or we may have doubts on what the right decision to make is, given a certain set of circumstances;
  • or there may be an inability to maintain true friendships – we may be online all the time on social media, and yet feel extremely lonely and disconnected,

and on and on and on….

Continued tomorrow…

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Classy

As I board a 16 hour flight for a business trip, I see people seated in different parts of the airplane.

The majority are in Economy.

The minority are divided between First and Business.

Everyone reaches the same destination, no partiality there.

But the journey? Vastly different, whether quality of service, legroom or food and beverage options etc.

No different than life outside an aircraft.

The end game is fixed. But the journey is what matters – what we do, what we make of it, and how we impact those around us.

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VVP

This is how the world is deconstructed in the spiritual context.

Vyakti. Vastu. Paristhithi.

Person. Object. Situation.

According to the Gita and other Vedic texts, all of life revolves around these three and the interplay between them.

Why does this matter?

Because it tells us what is important. Or rather what is not.

Can any of these 3 – whether in isolation or in combination – bring us permanent happiness?

The answer is an emphatic No. Hence VVP helps us contextualise what is truly valuable.

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Extreme meditation

Chapter 6 of the Gita is all about meditation. Funny then, that verses 16 and 17 would talk about moderation in food. Is there really any sort of connection?

A very deep one in fact.

A spiritual aspirant may think that “we are all Brahman, we are not the body”. And such a person might decide to eat too much or too little, and in general become careless about his/her health.

As we very well know though, if we are sick, then there is little ability to get any work done – whether material or spiritual (including meditation progress or prowess).

That’s why Krishna makes it very clear in this verse, that extremes won’t do. The body is the tool and vehicle provided to us to achieve our spiritual objectives. The mind might like extremes, especially good ones, but the body thrives on moderation.

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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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Changeless

Change is the only constant. We’ve heard this ad infinitum. Be ready for change. Be prepared for change. Be adaptable.

Yes, it’s all true, and necessary.

And yet, when Jeff Bezos was asked many years ago, “What do you think will change 10 years from now?”, he coolly flipped the question.

“Let me tell you what won’t change 10 years from now. That customers will want discounts. And that they will want fast delivery.”

That’s pretty much what has happened now, many many years later.

Focusing on what won’t change is a stellar strategy. Spirituality says the same thing. There is only one thing that is truly changeless. Nothing else needs any attention.

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Yearning pool

The intense yearning for liberation or moksha is called mumukshatwam in Sanskrit.

What does this intense yearning look like?

There’s a story about the great Swami Vivekananda with his Guru Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa. Apparently the former had this very same question too. So his Guru asked him to take a dip in the Hooghly river in Calcutta (or Kolkata). And then pushed his head down in the water (like the villain would do to a hero in a Hollywood movie, and vice versa in a Bollywood movie!) not allowing Vivekananda to come up for air.

Needless to say, the only intense yearning at that point was for oxygen. Not any money or or material objects.

That was how much intense yearning was required for moksha as well.

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TTSP

This Too Shall Pass

We’ve all heard this hundreds of times, if not more. If something does not go as planned, if it appears that we may have failed in something, and we are really dejected about it, then TTSP comes up immediately.

And it’s truly a great phrase. Everything is indeed transitory.

But this phrase is usually used only for bad times. However, even the good times are equally transitory. The promotion doesn’t last, the bonus doesn’t last, the new car doesn’t stay new for more than a few months.

TTSP is the common thread across all our life experiences. All except one. The true SatChitAnanda.

As Lord Krishna says in the Gita Chp 9 verse 33, “Having come to this transient and joyless human life, constantly worship Me.”

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