Skip to content

Category: time

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

One at a time

Sometimes there’s just too much to focus on. Like the rabbits that Jack Ma talked about once. He said that if you’ve got a room full of rabbits and you need to catch one, most people start with the rabbit closest to them. If that runs away, then they switch to the next nearest one. Momentarily another rabbit comes into view, and then they run after that one. And then another one. At the end, they are left with no rabbit.

The better way, is to just focus on one rabbit all along.

This can be extended to our daily ‘things to do’ checklist as well. We could focus on one newspaper, one podcast, one TV show, one book, one scripture, one chapter, one YouTube channel etc. Even within these, say one specific online course that we like, the focus can be on doing only the 10 minutes it requires per day. That would make it easy to execute as well as track.

If this is implemented with discipline, it can work wonders in the medium to long term. But if not, then at the end of the month, on one fine weekend, we are suddenly saddled with hours of work to catch up on, which then leads to anxiety and feelings of incompetence. 10 minutes a day. That’s all it takes. It’s a fine line!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Live in the moment (really?)

Here’s something we hear often. And it is linked to spirituality too. “Live in the present”, “Live in this moment alone”, “Don’t live in the past or in the future”, “the present is a gift” and so on and so forth. There are many variations of these. And they all sound amazing. Liberating too. Marry these words with some spectacular visuals on Instagram or Facebook and that is enough to make even a corpse feel all charged up and alive.

Feeling charged up and alive is indeed a good thing. But ‘living in the present’ needs to be understood well. It is ultimately dependent on the internal qualities or gunas of a person.

If people are sattvik by nature, they are likely to work for others and for a greater cause. Therefore their focus while working – in the true sense – will not be focused on the results of their actions.

For tamasik people however, this is not so obvious. They too may appear to not care about the result. But this apparent lack of caring comes from a deep rooted centre of laziness, inertia and selfishness which precludes them from calling a spade a spade. Their very success comes from denying the truth, and from seeking to avoid the consequences of their actions.

In that sense, the rajasik folks may be better off – as they at least know there is a gap which they need to bridge.

And thus, it is important to understand well what it takes to live in the moment. If we are thinking only about ourselves, jumping from one desire to the next, we may already be many moments ahead, and certainly not in the present.

If one has transcended the ego however, and is working solely for the benefit of the greater good, then living in the moment will come automatically. It is a state of ‘flow’. Nothing needs to be done to achieve it.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Regressive development

When a realized soul says, “What is the use of education? What is the use of all this advancement and technology? These are all meaningless in the quest to quell the mind.”, it certainly raises some eyebrows. In this day and age of amazing technology, how can someone denounce these life-savers? “I can’t even sit in a room alone for 5 minutes without my phone – God bless the one who invented it”, would seem a reasonable response.

Maybe a slight shift in perspective would help see the world from the eyes of a jivanmukta. Indeed, to live in today’s world as it is, technology and education are important. But what if this world wasn’t the way it is?

If we went back to the olden times, there were no TVs, no cars, no ACs. But them folks still survived, relying on the outdoors and social gatherings. There were no mobile phones, even for long distance calls, but then there really wasn’t any need for going long distance. All needs were met within the village area. Yes trade and commerce and what not helped ‘develop and civilize’ humans, but was that really necessary? All industrial and technology improvements are supposed to have made our lives more efficient, but here we are, more stressed, more depressed and more anxious than ever before. And the great advances in medicine are now mainly to treat cool-sounding “lifestyle diseases”, which probably wouldn’t have arrived if man didn’t venture beyond his means.

This is probably what the self-realized folks really suggest. If all the technology and modernization and education ultimately leads to a worse life than before, then of what good is all this so-called progress?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Monetime

A very interesting book called Layered Money that I’m reading traces the evolution of money through time. In the very earliest days of commerce, there was no money – only the barter system. If I had potatoes from my farm, but desperately wanted cotton, then all I could do was to offer my potatoes and hope the cotton farmer wanted some. Of course potatoes were important (still are), but there could be a limit to how many potatoes a cotton farmer could eat.

So people devised ways to get around this. In the earliest days, money wasn’t coins or paper as we know it today. It was mostly seashells. Big and shiny meant richer and wealthier. But of course not everyone lived near a beach, and so that had to change. Iron pieces were then used too – for quite a while. And then unsurprisingly, silver and gold came along the way. People with a lot of gold and silver even today are considered rich.

Alongside that wealth, came human ego. Coins were introduced, and standardized in design and weight. And then coins were embossed with the faces of the kings and queens of the time. Currency notes too had the same features. Many rulers would kill and plunder simply to change the faces on them coins and notes. It was a matter of great personal pride. Coins from hundreds of years ago – of perhaps the greatest kings that ever lived in those times – are but worthless now. That face – completely unrecognizable and irrelevant to those born today.

And now we have digital currencies, like Bitcoins and Ether. Even these aren’t as individualistic as their creators would want them to be, because there are over 9500 cryptocurrencies. And anyone with coding knowledge, can create a new one. Time takes care of all egos.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Sweaty

In a recent youth satsang, one of the questions asked was on how to calm oneself down during an altercation. This is surely hard. If someone gets angry at us, then even if we’ve read all the anger management books out there, we may still feel our pulse racing, our hearts beating faster, our teeth and jaws clenching etc. So then what to do?

The answer given by a senior satsangi was on point. He quoted, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.”

We think controlling our emotions is an on-off switch, and can be learned with some tips from a one-hour session. But the crux is to prepare before the game. Well before the game. To in fact be in a constant state of preparation.

Our scriptures suggest a variety of ‘exercises’, whether it is breathing, yoga, giving up desires and attachments, meditating, austerity, sacrifice, charity and several others. It might seem like these are all unrelated and irrelevant to our daily troubles. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Single-tasking

Have you ever seen a job description that asks you to work only on a single task? If you have, then please forward it to me so that I can apply šŸ˜‚.

In this book I’m reading called Beyond the Alphas, the author mentions that the average worker makes between 10,000 and 40,000 decisions – every day!

This is just insane. Apparently we also switch between tasks no less than 300 times a day. For all this talk and requirement for multitasking – is this something that is really even possible? Can I read a book and play a video game, at the very same time? Or can I have a deep conversation with my spouse while also watching TV? That second one I don’t even want to attempt!

Multitasking is only done by computers, that can really run multiple processes in parallel. And when we have computers doing all that work, why should we? Computers don’t get tensed or anxious or stressed, but we certainly do.

That’s why it might be a good idea, to get back to single-tasking, at least on the weekends. To spend 3 hours reading a book, and nothing else. Or an hour of deep conversation, and nothing else. A few hours playing with the kids, and nothing else. Including no phones, tablets or other screens for distraction. Let’s try it out!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

NWL

In the amazing Netflix show The Crown, there’s an interesting scene. The show itself chronicles Queen Elizabeth’s life and her ascension to the throne at a relatively young age. I don’t know if that’s what the entire show is about – we’re only on season 1, and there are three more to go at least. But soon after her coronation, her mother (now the ex-queen Mary) feels quite suffocated and heads off to Scotland to be with some friends and to get some air (riding horses by the seaside, hiking in amazingly scenic landscapes, you get the drift). In this particular scene, the ex-Queen is asked by her friends, “Has it been very difficult?” To which she replies thus:

"I don't want to sound self-piteous but loss has followed loss. First and foremost, the loss of a husband.
Then the loss of a home, having to leave the palace. The loss of motherhood, as daughters become adults.
Loss of a routine, a sense of purpose. The loss of a Crown. Imagine, 17 years' experience as Queen and being the head of the family. Bertie was a wonderful husband and father, but he needed a great deal of help as King.
And then we lose him and, at precisely the moment when they should be giving me more to do, stop me falling into despair, they take it all away... They put it all into the hands of a girl who's totally unequipped for it."

If this were to be on Twitter, people would tag it as #firstworldproblems. Of course, a bereavement is never easy. But it also shows that power – especially got from position – is impossible to let go of. What she went through, every human being must go through as they age – whether queen or not. It begs the question – do we even realize when our needs becomes wants, and our wants become luxuries?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Lockdown

“Isolation” and “Quarantine” and “Lockdown”. Three words that have suddenly become commonplace, all thanks to the Covid situation. Most people everywhere seem to be cribbing big time. “I’m so sick of staying at home. Just can’t wait for things to open up. I hate this lockdown business. Can’t even go anywhere. I really miss my vacations and international trips.”

But a change in mindset is necessary. An entitled person may think sitting at home unable to travel for pleasure is bad. But how about those people who are isolated in hospital wards, separated from their loved ones, stuck on a hospital bed amongst hundreds of others, breathing into tubes attached to cylinders, with no indication of when their ordeal would end. Isn’t that infinitely worse? And then there are those that desperately need hospitals / ICUs / beds but these are all full. What of them?

As an Indian army jawan noted on his Linkedin post – “Don’t be scared of isolation. My longest spell was on Siachen glacier, lasting 138 days, with 98 days of intense firing. All 19 of us survived 100s of kilos of TNT. I lost 19 kilos of weight, and took bath after 138 days. The minimum temperature was -50-degrees Celcius.”

What are the rest of us cribbing about? We must be deeply cognizant that anyone stepping out for any reason could be the cause for someone else falling sick or losing a loved one. It is our duty to stay indoors and safe, until all this bad news passes.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Sightful

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 ā€“ 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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

FTP 30 TAP

To a computer engineer, these might sound like some network transfer protocols. But I’m not one, so I have no idea šŸ˜

FTP and TAP are the difference between sorrow and happiness.

It’s very simple.

30 refers to 30 seconds.

FTP is Fail To Pause.

TAP is Take A Pause (courtesy a satsangi).

There are so many scenarios in day to day life that we come across, where we say or do things that we come to regret later on. It could be an uncontrolled burst of emotion, an angry retort to a loved one or friend or boss (these could be the same person šŸ˜‚), a hasty decision, or just a lazy and unnecessary comment about someone or something.

A 30 second pause will not delay our life. But if it prevents us from saying or doing soemthing reckless, it can surely improve it.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Metabolic reversal

There are only two things we need to do to be happy.

  1. Have a fit body.
  2. Have a fit mind.

Indeed this sounds very simple. It is, but it is not easy to achieve.

A fit body requires being active throughout the day. “Oh how I wish my metabolism would be better!” Contrary to popular perception, we do not move less because of low metabolism. We move less to begin with, and that leads to low metabolism!

A fit mind on the other hand, requires lesser movement and more stability. Meditation, or the ability to focus and concentrate is key. And this comes only with practice.

How contradictory! The body needs movement, while the mind needs stability.

For many of us, given all the developments in technology and instant deliveries, our bodies are mostly resting, while our minds are mostly exercising. Just reversing that, will make our lives infinitely better.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

5/25

Ace investor Warren Buffet’s personal pilot was Mike Flint. The latter once came to Mr. Buffet for some career prioritization advice.

What did he say? “Write down your top 25 goals. Now circle the top 5, and drop all the others.”

This is super advice, especially for someone like me, because I often have lengthy to-do lists, and keep worrying about not being able to achieve those things. More often than not, the pace of new items coming on to the list is much higher than the pace of things coming off it!

Why does the 25/5 rule help? Because it fairly estimates that each individual has certain limitations. Over the long run, it is difficult to achieve more than 3-5 large goals, and hence what goals 6 to 25 are, are not really goals, but more of distractions.

I try to use this even for day to day living, as it helps with minimalism. It could be for the things I need to get done in the next hour. Or in the next day. Or even while grocery shopping. If there’s a list of 25 items I think I need, do I really need all of them? Or can I make do with lesser, and order the rest in the next round? A good test of self-control.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Kaizen

We discussed here before the benefits of doing things small, rather than larger-than-life. Instead of having insane unachievable new year resolutions, just taking it step by step, but being consistent with it, is likely to yield far better results.

There’s a Japanese term called Kaizen, and maybe you’ve come across it before. The term refers to ‘taking small steps for continual improvement’. It is such a revolutionary yet simple idea, because the small steps make it sustainable, and the consistency compounds over time.

As James Clear beautifully puts it in his book Atomic Habits, 1% worse every day over a year, is (0.99)^365 = 0.03, whereas 1% better everyday is (1.01)^365 = 37.78. What a difference consistency makes!

Robert Maurer in The Kaizen Way talks of 6 simple strategies that can bring about big changes in a our lives over time.
1. Asking small questions.
2. Thinking small thoughts.
3. Taking small actions.
4. Solving small problems.
5. Giving small rewards.
6. Recognizing small moments.

Not how the common word is ‘small’. Big changes often only trigger subconscious fears in our brains, and these end up hampering our progress. Instead of asking “How can I be successful in my career?”, we could ask “What can I do today at my work, that is an improvement over yesterday?” Same for relationships. Asked and acted upon consistently, you can see how career-success and relationship-success will come naturally, eventually!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Drive through

The Gita says that each one of us has had multiple births in the past. Millions, billions, I don’t know, maybe countless births. The soul keeps changing from one body to the next. Probably once an ant, to once a deer to once a human being and so on. It also adds that attaining liberation is possible via a human birth alone – because only in this birth do we have the ability and capacity to understand what liberation really means and takes. In all these births, we have in one way or another been associated with all the people around us. In one, today’s sister may have been an uncle. In another, today’s uncle may have been a grand-daughter, and so on.

This is somewhat like an experience most people who love to drive would have had, especially long distance. More often than not, on short patches of maybe 50 kilometres, we will find another vehicle that drives at nearly the same speed, and maintain a temporary unsaid relationship. Navigating through the same traffic, passing the same slow cars in equal frustration (followed by relief), once taking the lead, once falling behind, almost having a mini unarticulated drag race. You know it’s nothing, yet the feeling of a duel is palpable, even if only to yourself and the other driver, while all other passengers are blissfully unaware. And then one car, either yours or theirs, needs to make a pit stop – to buy water, to drink some chai, to have a bite, to fill some petrol, or just take another path. And the race is over, almost abruptly. Only to be resumed a few kilometres later, but this time with another vehicle. And another after that, and another. The cycle repeats ad infinitum. Until the journey itself comes to an end, i.e. liberation.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Over and over

A question arises, “Why should I keep doing the same things over and over?” Why read our scriptures daily. If we’ve read it once, that should be enough no? Or why participate in satsang as many times as possible? Why not just listen to one lecture once and then implement and chill?

Marcel Proust, one of the greatest French authors of the 20th century said “”The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

As the story goes, a child asked his grandpa why he was repeatedly reading the Gita. To which grandpa asked the child to fetch water from the nearby river, but in a basket. The child did as instructed, but obviously much of the water leaked out through the gaps in the basket. The grandpa asked the child to go and get water, again and again, and each time most of the water had leaked out. Finally, when the child was frustrated, the grandpa asked his grandson to look at the basket closely. This child remarked, “Wow, the the basket has now got cleaned so nicely!”, exactly like how the mind would need to be cleaned by multiple readings.

My Guru follows this principle very closely, and takes it a step further – adding that reading alone is not enough, but acting upon the lessons learned is critical. Like the Chinese philosopher Confucius once said. “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment