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Category: transformation

Upside warrior

There’s a very interesting book I’ve been reading called The Way of the Wall Street Warrior by Dave Liu (link). It’s got some amazing tips and tricks on rising up the corporate ladder – quite possibly the best book that exists on this specific topic. While the title has ‘Wall Street’ in it, the book can arguably be useful in ‘Whatever Street’, as the author himself suggests.

We’ve all heard of Michael Corleone’s “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” super statement in the epic movie The Godfather.

Dave goes one step further, and integrates his own learnings, i.e. there’s no point having enemies. Instead, have only two buckets: friends, and very good friends!

Why? Because having enemies is hard work. You’ve to constantly watch over your back. And tackling one enemy might not seem daunting. But what if they all gang up on you? Scary story. Besides, as the author asserts, having enemies means substantial downside and zero upside. But having friends? There’s only upside, even if it may not be immediately obvious.

So then, how does one go about winning friends? We’ve seen the solutions many times here on ForeverHappyNow. The smartcut from Dave? Be nice; listen more; be genuinely interested in others; try to help others – easy isn’t it?

Do read the book. It is very cool and very funny (and this is not a paid endorsement) šŸ™‚

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Superior inferior

In the workplace, a common complaint I’ve heard across industries and sectors is that it appears the seniors / superiors / bosses / managers don’t really do much. They also don’t know much. But by virtue of their legacy, having warmed their chairs for many years, they get to be where they are.

How to tackle this? Here are some ways to look at this:

  1. If we are junior to someone else, we cannot control the other person’s current position or future career trajectory.
  2. We can control what we do with our hours put in at work though.
  3. In many cases, a person’s authority in a particular position comes solely because of the title. If an incompetent person is made head of the team, it is still the head only who can take certain decisions, whether bad or good.
  4. If a superior doesn’t ‘deserve’ a role, s/he may hold the position for a very long time, but the impact they will create will be negligible.
  5. If we get a chance to go into that role in say 3 years or 5 years, what would our impact be then? What would we want it to be?
  6. If the impact has to be much better, then we need to start putting in substantial efforts – from today itself.
  7. We cannot control the outcome of tomorrow, but we can control what we learn today, what skills we develop today and what networks we build today. This is most important. And it has never been easier to learn new things and add to ones repertoire – whether via Udemy, or YouTube or Coursera or any other.

As Swami Vivekananda has said, “We find ourselves in the position for which we are fit, and if one has some capacity above another, the world will find that out too.”

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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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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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How to vacation

Ah vacations! Don’t we all love them? Or at least love the first few days of those vacations? Sure the subsequent few days are often spent worrying about going back-to-school or back-to-work. But there certainly is some bliss to be found in those dream vacays. Here are some thoughts on this topic:

  1. We often think a vacation is for our bodies to get a change of place, and some much needed rest. However, the body gets all the rest it needs if we sleep well at night. So vacations it would seem, are really needed for the mind.Ā 
  2. From a spiritual vantage point, the only time to take rest, is to take rest from always serving ourselves. For serving others, there is no question of rest. Surprisingly, when we work selflessly, we never feel tired.
  3. Just look at our bodies. What if our organs decided to take rest? If the heart decided to stop beating and take rest for 5 minutes. Or the lungs wanted to go on vacation for a week, because it is bored of doing the same thing over and over!
  4. Most human beings want only one thing. And that is the need to feel important, and be recognized and acknowledged. The challenge with being and feeling important, is that we cannot enjoy life and be chilled out. As Bertrand Russel said, “If you’re beginning to think what you’re doing is very important, then you need to take a holiday.”
  5. In the book titled Gurudev, on Sri Sri Ravishankar (founder of Art of Living) by his sister Bhanumati N, a question is asked to him. “Gurudev, when do you rest?”. His answer, “In between lifetimes”.
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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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Across the road

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it wanted to get to the other side!

And why did the kitten cross the road? Because someone taped the kitty to the chicken of course!

Okay okay, my apologies, worst joke in the world. But I actually did see the video of a kitty trying to cross the road. Not because it wanted to, but because it just unknowingly scampered into the centre of a 6 lane highway.

So many vehicles, all zooming past at breakneck speed. The kitten obviously had little clue of its bearings. It was afraid, and probably did the worst thing. Instead of trying to run to either side of the road, it just lay down still.

Car after truck after bus after car is seen swerving in last ditch attempts to save the helpless creature. Some drivers expertly manoeuvre their cars to ensure they pass cleanly over the baby.

Until one fellow puts on his hazard lights, stops his car a few feet away from the kitty, steps out, picks the baby up, cuddles it in his arms, takes it with him into his car, and drives away.

Such empathy. And one lucky kitty.

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Dutiful desire

Remember the awesome Conversion Test we discussed here previously?

Got a desire? Is it a good one? The test involves checking if it can be converted into a duty. Binge watching Netflix? Big big big desire. But is it good enough to be converted into a duty? Not unless you work for Netflix, or maybe a competitor and tasked with peer benchmarking!

In any case, doing such tests and banning Netflix/Amazon Prime/others from our lives could border on extreme. We don’t want to become dull and boring now do we? Recognizing that we are human, and need the occasional or even regular ‘fun-time’, here’s a brilliant 3-step checklist one of the satsangis recently dished out:

  1. Apply a filter. Is the action dharmic or adharmic? If adharmic, then eliminate it right away. Watching video-on-demand isn’t adharmic, so we can safely move on to step 2.
  2. Moderation is key. In our example, regular binge watching, is not moderation. Maybe an hour a day, depending on the circumstances, could be permissible.
  3. Balance the scales. Watched Netflix for an hour? Great. Now ensure you spend an hour doing something else that would ‘add value’ to yourself and society. Read scriptures. Further your goals. Exercise. Help someone. Attend satsang. No compromises on the good stuff!
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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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Health mantra

A new book I came across recently is called ‘Your time to Thrive’. No points for guessing that it’s a self-help book.

I haven’t read it, and I don’t plan to. Not that the book isn’t good, it’s got rave reviews. But what’s the point of reading all these self-help books if the application in real life (for me) post reading is non-existent?

In any case, most books these days have just one central element, around which 400 pages is spun. This book has something called ‘microsteps’. If anything is scaring your pants off, then don’t try to do it all at once. Do it in, you guessed it, microsteps. If anything seems too hard or daunting, don’t try to achieve it all at once. Achieve it in, you guessed it again, microsteps!

My Guru has been summing this up for decades. “5 minutes early, and 1 spoon less”. This is his golden health mantra. Wake up 5 minutes early, not 2 hours early, i.e. don’t try to wake up at 5 am if you usually wake up at 7. Eventually even the 5 am wake-up would become easy-peasy. And eat 1 spoon less, rather than starve / fad-diet your way to depression.

One microstep after another.

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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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Astral planes – part 2

  1. How can we understand the sookshma sharira? If we are pinched, we feel pain physically. But is all pain only physical? How about emotional pain? This happens in the mind. And so perhaps doesn’t require a physical body at all, and so the astral body aka sookshma sharira is sufficient.
  2. Is there any use of an astral body? When we perform homas / havans / sacrificial fire offerings, it is believed that the prayers and offerings are carried via the fire to deities who each are astral beings. Said astral beings may also be a part of the same environment / room where the homam is being performed. This is why menstruating women for instance are advised to stay away, as the smell of blood may displease said astral beings. On the flip side though, there are certain temples where only women or rather menstruating women are allowed to visit, so there’s that too. Hollywood movies like Marvel’s Dr. Strange speak of the ability to control one’s astral body at will – and even make it a superhero’s main powers. Perhaps this is really possible? Or maybe only in heaven?
  3. We often expect astral beings and fairies and what not to only be found in heaven. And thus has ensued man’s never ending search for such a hallowed land – the ultimate paradise. But Sadhguru has a nice take. He says that living here and now, when we are doing something willingly, that is only heaven. And if instead we are forced into doing something unwillingly, then that becomes hell! As the saying goes, “A religious person is one who believes in and is afraid of going to hell and a spiritual person is one who has been to hell and back”

Concluded tomorrow…

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Astral planes – part 1

So there are often questions about mystical fantastic things that capture a spiritual aspirant’s imagination. One question is on astral elements, like does an astral body exist? Who is the experiencer of an astral body, if the physical body has been left behind? Will the astral body go to heaven or hell?

Honestly, these are very hard to answer, all the more because I’m also always learning. But here are some of my thoughts.

  1. Does an astral body exist? I don’t know from self-experience, but many scriptural books (like Yoga Vashishtha) have spoken of this in great detail. Many Himalayan masters and mystic Gurus today also talk of it. So who am I to go against them? Also, I’ve seen a few things that would be impossible to explain by simply using the word ‘coincidence’ as a euphemism. So I would certainly not want to write any of this off.
  2. How can I see my astral body? Not sure again, although I’ve read it needs a lot of meditation, dhyaana etc. to experience.
  3. How about what exactly happens to the astral body after death? Well in some texts, like in the Garuda Purana, the various kinds of torture an erring soul will have to go through, have been enumerated.
  4. But who is undergoing this so-called torture in hell, if the physical body is already dead and discarded? It’s the sookshma sharira or the subtle body.

More tomorrow…

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5 to 7

If something is really hard to do 5 days a week, then it would obviously be really really hard doing it 7 days a week right?

Maybe not.

For instance, did you know that it’s easier to workout 7 days a week, compared to working out 5 days a week?

No way, that doesn’t even make sense right? Or does it?

Think about it. When we work out 5 days a week only, we spend a considerable amount of time wondering which two days should be no-exercise days. Suddenly laziness creeps in. Or maybe we’d want to keep Sat-Sun as no-workout days? Yes possible, except that dragging ourselves to exercise on Mondays becomes that much harder.

Instead of giving ourselves the illusion of choice, what if we just worked out all 7 days, maybe taking it easy on some while really going the whole hog on others? We do brush our teeth and take bath everyday, so why not exercise?

This is really not just about exercise, but could be relevant for developing any good habit at all. Want to read more? We can read 10 minutes a day – everyday – compared to reading 1 hour, only on weekends. Want to eat cleaner? Eat cleaner (not necessarily 100% clean) every day, rather than struggling a few days, only to give all the gains back on one cheat day/week. What do you think?

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Hair pulling

A very chubby baby I came across recently had the cutest baby laugh. Gurgling and chirping, it was just a joy to be around. Except when it would pull its own hair. Babies, as we know, do funny things sometimes. They don’t know the exact cause of pain, and because they tend to be fairly (very) uncoordinated, pulling their own hair with one hand satisfies the requirement of the hand to grab onto something. But it also simultaneously causes immense pain.

Now what to do? The only way is for the baby to leave its own hair alone. Even it’s parents can’t do anything at that point, because the grip of the baby is too tight. But it’s a matter of time, and the baby loosens the grip on its own.

Such is also our plight often in life. By keeping gargantuan expectations, we often invite misfortune into our lives. This self-inflicted pain is no different from the baby pulling its hair. And these expectations are not just milestones in professional setups, “achieve sales of x%”, or “drive costs down by y%”, but also expectations related to when happiness should be allowed to flow. It’s almost like we have a stop button inside us. “No, today I have a lot of work, and hence I will not smile even once.” Surely I’m guilty of that many times!

Taking myself too seriously can only end badly. It’s better to be sincere, than serious. As Swami Paramarthananda says, the disciple needs to first identify that a problem exists (with themselves). The Guru thereafter, needs to not only know the remedy, but also be free of the problem!

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Calculus

Okay, I admit, I suck at math. I used to hate it in school, and I still don’t find it fun. And calculus? Oh man, I never understood it. It just wasn’t intuitive you know?

There was a point though, when I learned that everything in the world around us, is actually mathematical, to an amazing degree. Like fractal patterns in snowflakes and plant designs and what not. Wow. I also remember how a dog that runs to catch a frisbee in the beach, intuitively does calculus. Same for the archer fish that shoots its prey from underwater, implicitly calculating refraction angles. Pretty amazing instincts.

As one of the senior satsangis says, all of the learning around us is additive. If we study math or history or geography or medicine, we actually become more knowledgeable about those subjects, and hence those ‘add’ to us.

However, a scriptural book like the Gita? It was just a conversation between a charioteer and a warrior. Not much to add to oneself really. Why? Because the Gita is not really a book of knowledge. One could read the meanings of the 700 shlokas maybe in a few hours and come out none the wiser. That is because, the Gita is a book of action. Calculus applies here. The Gita is not additive, it is integrative. Like a spoon of sugar dissolving in the coffee.

The same Gita when read over and over again, and its lessons put into action, can result in the reader being transforming into a better and better person each time.

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Swa

Swa. That’s the name of an artisanal juice syrup brand I got to taste recently. It was tasty, and its name comes from the fact that one has to make it ‘on their own’. Put in the effort of adding water to the Swa syrup and mixing it.

And such is the case with Dharma as well. The ultimate dharma, the ultimate goal of a human being is to attain moksha or liberation. However, the path to getting there is what is called as swadharma, because it is of one’s own doing.

A super example is from Acharya Prashant’s book called Karma. He likens dharma to being at the (x,y,z,) coordinates of (0,0,0). This is the starting point. It’s where we all came from originally, and where we need to go to eventually (in this lifetime or next).

Depending on where we are currently, our coordinates could be (10,12,15), or (3,4,5) or even (-20,-8,19). And thus the starting point is what will determine the work we would need to do to get to (0,0,0). This difference in starting point is what requires swadharma. Everyone would have to do their own bit. The work is not easy. Time for a drink.

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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…

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