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Category: transformation

Metered growth – part 2 of 2

This is a wonderful story about how Hermès controls their brand, and creates a pull factor, a synthetic demand, a craving, if you will. They had all the means to push for more and more growth, but they didn’t. Why?

This goes back about 15 years or so. In Japan. Hermès was selling a type of luxury canvas bag. The ones that would normally be say 10$, but this one sold for maybe 15 times that at 150$. It’s a Hermès after all, and a relatively more accessible one. And so these were flying off the shelves.

99.99% of company managements and Boards would have seen this and said, “Hey, double down, triple down, do whatever it takes, just sell more bags!”

But what did Hermès do? They pulled the bags. Completely took them off the shelves and stopped selling them. Why? Because they knew what they stood for. Ultra Luxury. They didn’t want everyone to own a Hermès and alter their perception of the brand.

The CEO and his team at the time apparently went to get the approval of the Hermès Board at the time to de-authorize selling this incredibly lucrative product, and guess what the Board did? Gave them a standing ovation! Imagine someone doing that today if they are told they will shut down their best selling product…

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Metered growth – part 1 of 2

In this hyper world of hyper startups running at hyper valuations, hyper losses and hyper growth, is there anything that can be metered? Limited? Set to a threshold? And that too growth?

Quite unlikely. Even in life itself, we are all running after something, we often don’t know what. Like a hamster on a wheel, running faster and faster, but mostly getting nowhere.

The guy who stands up and says, “Stop, enough is enough”, wins mental peace, but apparently loses in life.

Would we stand up like this? Or do we prefer to run with the herd?

One incredible (and unexpected!) example I came across recently is of the ultra-luxury brand Hermès. If there was any one entity to gain from hyper growth, it was Hermès, but they didn’t do it. Why? More tomorrow…

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DivINity

The divine is IN us. Here’s a short story from Osho that reiterates this point.

A man approached a Zen master with the desire to become a Buddha. The master, no less than 90 years old, in response, struck the man hard, leaving him confused and hurt.

The man went to an old disciple for an explanation of the master’s actions. The disciple explained that the master’s actions were rooted in compassion, and that the man should consider the master’s age and physical limitations before judging him as cruel and violent. At 90, the master’s hand would have pained more than this fellow’s cheek!

Despite this explanation, the man still sought the deeper meaning behind the master’s actions. The old disciple simply replied, “The message is simple. If you are seeking to become a Buddha, you must understand that you are already one. The master’s strike was a reminder of this truth.”

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Being Human means what?

We’ve all come across spiritual texts and saints who say “just be”.

They say that’s all spirituality is. Just be. No need to do anything. Just be. Whatever is needed, is already within you. Just be.

What does this even mean? Can’t say I’m 100% sure to be honest, but here’s one excerpt from a book on Kundalini Yoga called KY Exposed. A pretty good read I must say, although it seems to be extremely advanced (so waaaaay out of reach for me, but interesting stuff nevertheless):

Being isn't opposed to living life. It doesn't imply that you sit and don't do anything all day long. It does mean that you simply aren't hoping for something to happen. You embrace life as it is, for life is not separated from you! Your body-mind will act and do what it has to do, but inside, you are peacefully reposing in your blissful Self- Awareness.
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CSN

Chandra Shakha Nyaya. This is an ancient technique and analogy in Sanskrit which teaches one to locate the moon in the sky.

How would you teach it, if the crescent moon was just a sliver, and practically not discernible? The sky is vast and has no other reference points. In the early evening, the sun’s light might be quite bright as well, further reducing the chances of spotting the baby crescent.

The answer is, via CSN, or “moon-branch technique”. The teacher would point to a nearby tree, and then to a trunk on the tree, then to a branch on the tree, then the tip of the branch, and finally the eye would spot the moon, as if just off the tip of the branch.

The moon is completely separate from the tree, trunk and branch. Very similar to how the soul or Atman within us is completely separate from the body, mind and intellect. Yet we must use these very faculties (whether through meditation, reading the scriptures or living a dharmic life) and go beyond.

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Good and Bad

Here are some outstanding lines from the Ashtavakra Gita:

He who has known that adversity and prosperity come through the effects of past actions is ever contented. 

Notice how it says both adversity and prosperity. Not only prosperity. It’s not only the good experiences and things we have which lead to contentment. Instead, it is the knowledge that both adversity and prosperity come from past karma – that’s what leads to true satisfaction. If something bad happens, it probably resulted from something much more than just what we did an hour ago. If something great happens, it too probably resulted from something more than just last hour’s effort. We must think not just about the outcome, but of the million billion incidents that had to all happen since we were born, in order to bring that specific event to fruition.

He who knows that happiness and misery, birth and death are also due to the effects of past actions becomes free from care and is not attached even though engaged in action.
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Learning from who(m)… Part 3 of 3

The great sage Dattatreya’s learnings, continued and concluded…

9. From a python, he learned the lesson of contentment, because of its eating habits. Eat when hungry and don’t hog.

10. From the ocean, he learned to remain quiet and calm beneath, no matter how many rivers pour into it

11. From the moth, he learned the dangers of ruining oneself, like the importance for the moth of staying away from the fire, of being distracted by the senses

12. From the bee, that he should beg for little food only, from one house to another

13. From the beetle and the worm, he learned the principle that as a man thinks, so he becomes, and hence the need to continuously contemplate on the Atman

There were a few other teachers as well, totaling 24, and interested readers should read the amazing entire story!

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Learning from who(m)… Part 2 of 3

Continuing the learnings of Sage Dattatreya who in turn learned from observing nature…

5. From fire, he learned austerity, as the flame of self knowledge burns away all desires

6. From the moon that waxes and wanes, he learned that the Self is complete and changeless, but seems to be transforming to the undiscerning eye

7. From the sun, he learned that like the sun is reflected in many pots of water, the atman appears as manifold displays when reflected in the mind

8. From birds, he learned of the dangers of getting attached, as the entire family of birds were trapped, no different from man being trapped in the entangling web of maya

Continued and concluded tomorrow!

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Learning from who(m)… Part 1 of 3

In the Bhagavad Purana, King Yadu is perturbed by his father Yayati’s decision to renounce kingship. So Yadu goes to a forest and meets a realized soul there, an avadhuta, none other than the great Dattatreya.

What he is surprised by more than anything else is how happy this carefree man of the forest is. The Guru then proceeds to tell the King to learn from nature itself. He then explains how he got self realization by observing nature and its teachers. A quick summary follows:

1. From the earth, the quality of patience, forbearance and doing good to others

2. From air, the value of non-attachment and freedom

3. From the sky, the expansive nature of the Self, which is untouched by any object

4. From water, the quality of purity and coolness

More tomorrow…

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“Leave your work behind in office”

We’ve all heard this as advice at some point, or even felt it personally. When work gets to us, when stress and anxiety from the workplace increase, we wish the option would exist to keep our personal and office lives completely separate.

The brilliant folks over at Apple TV created a mind-boggling TV show called Severance with exactly this premise. What if you could truly leave your work behind… at work?!

A couple of considerations on how it would play out practically, as portrayed wonderfully in the show:

1. We would literally have no recollection of work outside it, and ditto for home. Once the clock strikes 6 pm and you’re out of office, you won’t know what happens in office at all. Is this good?

2. Maybe not. Because your work self only knows work, it’ll mean one never gets out of work at all. Each day begins with you walking into the office (but from where, you’d never know, because that is a separate life), and each day ends with you walking out, without knowing where to. As far as your life is concerned, work and home have truly been separated.

Of course the show is much more nuanced than just this. But it is a sure starting point for anyone who thinks that the splitting of work and life brings immediate benefit. It does not!

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Rain rain come again

“How to get rid of attachments?” is an oft-asked question by spiritual seekers.

One senior satsangi recently said that we need to know what we are attached to in the first place, before we attempt to wean off them attachments.

So he provided a cool acronym called RAIN.

R for Results, so don’t be attached to the restults of whatever karma we do.

A for Action, so don’t be attached to the action either, like feeling very proud of oneself for going to satsang.

I for “I”, the real ego, putting myself above all else, which is the chief culprit.

N for Non-action, kind of like a counter-point to “A” above, because we can’t be attached to not doing something either. For instance, someone might not go to parties on weekends and feel great about themselves and begin looking down upon those that do go, and getting attached to that inaction.

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Bob the algo?

There’s a lot of stuff we find online nowadays that is quite misleading. And if it’s written professionally, then it can be quite damn persuasive.

There are algorithms for everything. Some can read your SMSes and find out the One Time Password automatically. Some can read your emails and summarize all your credit card bills and expenses. Some algos can look through your search history and helpfully predict why you might need soon – groceries, spare parts, financing, medical supplies, you name it.

This is all done in the name of simplicity. And it has definitely made our lives simpler, no question about it.

But as one cybersecurity analyst commented, “just imagine that the word algo is replaced by some person’s name, say Bob”. Now suddenly Bob has all this information about you. How does that make you feel? Safe? Surely not. But this is indeed the case because there is little difference between an algo having all your personal info versus a Bob having it all.

Hence the need for us to be alert all the time. Like Lord Rama with his bow and arrow, ever watchful, ever ready. As one senior satsangi often remarks, he only prays nowadays for one thing – that he remain alert to the lures of the material world – one misstep, and the fall from the spiritual path can be steep.

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Sleep hack

We all surely experience times where sleep doesn’t come that easily.

Or maybe we wake up randomly at 2 am or such, and then keep tossing and turning, struggling to fall asleep again.

The first port of call for most? The mobile phone of course. And once that light hits the eye, sleep is only going to get delayed even further (science backs this up!).

But there’s another way.

Know how we usually do not find much time to meditate? Well why not meditate at such times when sleep isn’t coming?

I find this incredibly useful. One only needs to focus on the breath, slowly and calmly. At that time of night, usually all surrounding noises have died down. Peace prevails, and sleep will soon too.

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Om Aum ॐ

Om has a special meaning and significance in spirituality. Every satsang typically starts with chanting Om.

  1. Krishna Himself accords great importance to Om in the Gita chapter 10 Vibhuti Yoga. “Among utterances, I am OM” is what He says.
  2. Om is both word and symbol for the Lord himself.
  3. It also represents creation, being the very primordial sound and vibration of the original genesis. It is said that Om also pervades the universe today in the background.
  4. Om is everything and everything is in Om.
  5. Om is also ideal for meditation, to calm the mind down.
  6. Om is great for babies too, whether in the womb or outside.
  7. Om not only helps the mind to get aligned spiritually, but physicaly too, Om is said to activate all 3 parts of body. Aa-oo-mm, each syllable representing the lower, middle and upper portions of the body respectively.
  8. Om is also a beeja mantra, or a seed, that activates the the energy centres in the body.

Is there any scientific evidence for all this? Maybe not, but once experienced personally, no proof will necessary.

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For the non-believers

There’s always a raging debate about whether God exists or not.

Has He created everything around us? Are we responsible for our own fate, and did we each land on this planet and into this family and unique circumstance just by chance?

“It’s all just a random coincidence.”, is what the non-believers will say.

And that’s where the debate begins.

But why debate at all? Lord Krishna clearly says that only 1 in millions will even begin to appreciate true Divinity. If you are that 1 in many millions, why spend time and effort trying to convince others?

Everyone’s time of awakening and understanding will come, either in this life, or after many more.

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3 factor model

Was speaking with a friend who volunteers with anti-cybercrime elements. “How cool!”, I’d told him the first time I found out. He said he himself had been the victim of cyber fraud and lost money. And hence he decided to help others who might be in a similar predicament.

The coolest part of whatever he told me was his understanding of why people fall prey to such cyber attacks. 3 things he said, in Hindi:

  • Darr (fear)
  • Laalach (greed)
  • Aalas (laziness)

They didn’t all make sense to me, so I asked him for an explanation. He said the fear was not fear of the fraudster, but the fear of missing out! The scam looks so juicy that you don’t want to be left behind. The greed angle is obvious. The laziness aspect is that we may be too bored to report some wrong doing.

The 3 factors are also what in many ways keeps me complacent in my wordly life, not pushing through as much in the spiritual path as one should.

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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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Inner voice

There are many spiritual people I’ve come across who have said their meditation takes them to different higher planes. Ones where they get messages from their own Gurus, or where they get answers to questions, learn about karmic exchanges for others, see the future and so on.

I’ve myself seen none of these. I find it difficult to even sit in one place, let alone meditate and keep my mind fixed.

So I asked one of said spiritual people recently about why I have no such divine talent. His answer was relevant and encouraging.

He said to me, “I’m a spiritual healer. So whatever I experience during my meditations or thoughts helps me in my work. In your case too, you would be getting messages to help you, in your own line of work. Maybe you are creative at work, or while making a presentation or in the speed at which you find solutions to problems and so on. All of this is your intuitive power, which is nothing but divinity. If you see it this way, it will only continue to increase.”

We all have this inner voice, but we probably do not pay much attention to it.

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Turning the tables

In many parts of the Gita, Lord Krishna mentions that he is only the Watcher, not the Doer. He has only created the Nature around us to function based on certain laws (of nature), and whatever happens thereafter is upon creation, not Him.

Some people question this. How?

By asking why the Lord would not step in where required. Seems very easy to just say, “Okay, I’ve created, and so my part here is done.”. Why not interfere when things are going wrong? If crime is being committed, why would the Lord not come in and take charge? Why does he have to say that he has nothing to do with this?

The answer lies in karmic theory of course. That we each are responsible for what we do, and this karmic record spans multiple lifetimes. But there is another way to think of this as well.

What if the Lord questions us thus, “Hey I created this universe and world and have given each of you the most beautiful planet to live on. I’ve ensured everything is perfect, beautiful nature, bountiful resources and every reason for you to be happy forever. And yet, what have you people done? Are you really happy? Are the resources you’ve been given used properly? Sustainably? Are you all living together in love and harmony?”

The tables have been turned.

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Is good always good?

We often think that only good needs to happen to us, all the time.

Is that really a good thing though?

Think of a turkey. Not the country, but the bird.

Every day it gets fed lovely food. The tastiest choicest of grains. And it’s loving it.

The turkey thinks that it has arrived in life and achieved it all.

The more it eats, the fatter it gets.

All is good, right?

Then comes Thanksgiving…

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