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Forever Happy Now! Posts

Scare away

One of the reasons why people run away from spirituality is because of perceived impracticality. Like getting rid of attachments.

Whoa, getting rid of my attachments? This means I should not be attached to my spouse, my parents, my kids, my relatives, my friends… Surely I do not want to let go of all these people. Is this what spirituality is telling me to do? To shun them away? To live a solitary existence?

Absolutely not. This is the perception of impracticality right there, and also why a Guru is so important – because such a person can not only demystify what is advocated, but also apply it to our present times.

“Don’t be attached”, doesn’t mean do not love the people around you. It only means do not be conditional in your approach. If we love (not the romantic type) only one person, then it likely means we are deriving something conditional from that relationship, and that is the reason for the love. This is transactional. It doesn’t free us, rather only binds us even more.

True love, is selfless. Much like God would love each one of us – equally, impartially, or a mother would, her children.

Love is not a finite currency. The more we give, the more we are automatically replenished with.

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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. 
  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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Detaching from the world

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

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

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

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

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

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The happiest animal

In the much acclaimed TV show called Ted Lasso, there’s an amazing scene. Nay there are many many amazing scenes, and dialogues.

In one, a soccer player falls to the ground, is tackled and beaten, and then booed by the rest of the players. Clearly something isn’t right. The player on the ground is dejected. Coach Ted calls him to the side line, and asks him, “Do you know what the happiest animal in the world is?”

“What?!”, exclaims the player in disbelief, little expecting such trivia when there’s so much going on in his head already.

“A goldfish”, comes the answer from coach Ted, “Because it only has a 10 second memory. Be a goldfish.”

Had a bad day today? No problem, be a goldfish.
Had a good day today? Also no problem, be a goldfish.

Only then can we live in the moment.

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This is the biggest sin – part 2 of 2

We saw yesterday how aham was the biggest sin. This is more from a spiritual angle though. What of the material living-breathing world we live in? Is there an equivalent such mega-sin?

As I thought about this for a few days, only one recurring thought kept coming back. What leads us to live below our potential? What prevents us from achieving what we can, ought to, are able to, but still don’t?

That’s when it dawned that perhaps the biggest sin could be nothing more than the weakness of our own minds. I don’t want to say anything more on this except to just reproduce Swami Vivekananda’s outstanding words on this menace.

Misery dares not approach us – till the mind is weakened. The weak have no place here, in this life or in any other life. Weakness leads to slavery. Weakness leads to all kinds of misery, physical and mental. Weakness is death. There are hundreds of thousands of microbes surrounding us, but they cannot harm us unless we become weak, until the body is ready and predisposed to receive them. There may be a million microbes of misery, floating about us. Never mind! They dare not approach us, they have no power to get a hold on us, until the mind is weakened. This is the great fact: strength is life, weakness is death. Strength is felicity, life eternal, immortal; weakness is constant strain and misery: weakness is death.

Could there be a bigger sin?

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This is the biggest sin – part 1 of 2

Look at the world around us. So many sins are committed by so many people on a daily basis. The aggregate of sins on a sin meter would hit infinity in no time.

Then look at ourselves. Are we any different?

The countless mistakes we’ve made, well, “by mistake”, those are probably not sins, and can perhaps be forgiven. But even though we made these mistakes unintentionally, they still could have hurt someone deeply right?

And the sins that are committed on purpose – what about those? No respite there.

My Guru though says there is only one real sin. The biggest sin of them all. And we have all committed it. And continue to commit it.

That sin is called aham in Sanskrit. The “I” feeling. The ego. The conviction that I am the body and mind and not the soul.

In front of this sin, all the others are meaningless. If this one sin is rectified, the concept of a sin itself becomes irrelevant.

Concluded tomorrow…

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G for …

Who is greater? God or Guru?

Atheists would say it doesn’t matter.
Consultants would say it depends.
Theists would say God.
A loving disciple would say Guru.
A realized soul would say they are no different.

Which is correct?

Here is what Sant Kabir had to say in my favourite doha (couplets).

Guru Govind dou khade, kake lagoon paay?
Balihari Guru aapne, Govind diyo batay.

If the Guru and God are both standing here, who’s feet should I fall at?
Choose the Guru, because he only imparted the knowledge to even recognize God.

Such a profound couplet!

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Magi-cal

Here’s a lovely story I came across called the Gift of the Magi, and I paraphrase: There’s a couple that can barely make ends meet. But it’s Christmas soon, and so the wife wants to get her man a gift, specifically – a gold chain for his most favourite possession – his shiny watch. But she has no money. What can she do?

She cuts off her lovely long blond tresses, sells them to a wig maker, and uses the money to buy the gold chain. She cooks food, prepares the table, and awaits her man, bald head and all. Her husband enters, and is shell shocked seeing his bald wife. “Do I not look beautiful to you?”, she asks him.

“It’s not that darling. You are more beautiful than ever.” And then he hands her her gift wrapped present. She opens it, to find a beautiful designer comb that she had always had her eyes on. “But…how could you afford this?”, she asked him. And he pointed to his wrist. There was no watch. He’d sold it off to buy his wife her favourite comb. She too gave him her present – a watch chain, for a watch that no longer existed.

What fools both were, weren’t they? Buying things that they couldn’t even afford, and that too which wasn’t even needed anymore? What would she do with a designer comb when she didn’t even have hair? And what would he do with a watch chain, if he didn’t have a watch?!

Quite the contrary. Both of them were able to demonstrate in action, that they were each able to give up what was dearest to them, simply to spark happiness in their loved one. Isn’t that the ultimate sacrifice?

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People’s choice

There used to be a bunch of highly prestigious awards called the Padma Awards in India. These were given to exceptional achievers in society. But the awards also often only went to the rich and elite.

That has changed, with the new people’s Padma Awards. Now it goes to anyone making waves, with a focus on grassroots India, and nominated by the people. This is an outstanding initiative.

Most of the awardees are uneducated and illiterate. Some were married off early, and some ostracized by society. Many have toiled laboriously and continue to do so. It is not wealth or income of these awardees that decides their inclusion to the list, but rather their quality of impact.

A few examples: A 77-year old retired principal has been changing the lives of destitute children by teaching them to read and write, at a mind boggling cost of 2 rupees (2.7 cents) a year. A 68-year orange vendor who grew up in abject poverty and never had access to education, used all his earnings to setup a school for the kids in his village. A 77-year old woman who had no education is dubbed the ‘Encyclopaedia of the Forest’ having planted over thirty thousand trees and knows everything about the flora of the forest. A 102-year old class 7 dropout (no money to continue further) has been teaching kids and adults basic math and alphabets for many decades, and all for free.

Nothing can be more inspirational than these people who started with nothing but have yet achieved so much. Their secret? Selflessness. Imagine what each one of us could achieve, given the head start we have in life, and if we worked so selflessly!

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What am I doing?

There are these days, where the questions flow thick and fast. What am I doing? Am I living my life to its fullest potential? How are so many, so successful and so young? How can I find happiness? Will I ever find the answers I seek? Will I ever stop asking questions?

And then I read these awesome few lines from a book called Karma by Acharya Prashant.

To not have the thought that you are diseased is health, and that is Yoga. Yoga is not about feeling special. Yoga is not about being in a great state of consciousness. Yoga is about not having a lot of things that we usually have. Now, what do we usually have? We usually have inferiority; we usually have lack of fulfillment; we usually have a lot of search and seeking; we usually have a lot of questions. Yoga is about not having these. ‘I am already all right. What would I do with achievement? I am already all right. What would I do with medicines and methods? I am already all right. What would I do with questions and their answers?’ That is Yoga. Yoga is not a special feeling, mind you. Yoga is the absence of that which we usually keep feeling. Thoughts are still there, feelings are still there, yet there is freedom from thought and feeling.
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Delightful

Have you come across people who are always happy no matter what? Like if you just see them, you feel like smiling too?

Yes, I know, hardly anyone like that nowadays. Not all the time anyway.

One guy though is always happy. His name in fact has happiness inbuilt – one Mr. Ross Gay.

He did something called a Delight project, which was his own idea.

He made it his life’s objective to look for and document, daily moments of delight. He later wrote a book chronicling his experiences called The Book of Delights. You hear him on a podcast like I did here, you’ll immediately see how happy and delighted he sounds!

So where does delight come from? You go looking for it, and it appears in the most mundane of areas. Like our bodies functioning normally; seeing those around us happy; participating in social activities; spending time with loved ones; playing with pets, or babies; just breathing-in the cool morning air; feeling the breeze on our faces… and you get the drift.

It could be anything. One thing for each day. Just soaking in the delight. Feeling it for every single second of that experience. Feeling alive. And feeling deep amounts of gratitude, for even just having the ability to feel that delight. Wow!

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Parts of speech

We all know the parts of speech in English right – noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, interjection, conjunction – maybe I missed a few?

Now guess which of these is the most important? Not the noun, which is subjective (pun-unintended), or the adjective, which is always flowery. Rather, it is the simplistic, yet potent ‘verb’.

Here’s how google defines it: “Verb: This is the most important part of a speech, for without a verb, a sentence would not exist. Simply put, this is a word that shows an action (physical or mental) or state of being of the subject in a sentence.”

A word that shows an action or state of being of the subject in a sentence. So cool, and so relevant to spirituality too, because verbs are the very essence of karma yoga!

The ‘who is doing?’ is not relevant. The ‘what is being done’ is also not relevant. Neither is ‘why are we doing?’. Instead, the highest focus, is on the ‘doing’ itself. It’s not as if the other things don’t matter, but they matter less. The end result isn’t key, the process of doing is more important. Because if the process is done well, then the other things will be taken care of. And before someone disagrees and says the above questions are important – yes, they are. But not ‘during’ the ‘doing’. For those, there can be a separate session of planning, brainstorming etc. all of which are verbs for their own sakes.

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Inheritense

Had a client meeting recently after ages. It was an in-person meeting, at a café. And my word was the café full! Absolutely jam packed, teeming with people. Open air, yes, but still, hard to believe that just a few months ago, people were scared to so much as just get out of their homes, for fear of an invisible killer. Such is human memory. So short, not necessarily so sweet.

Another thing that we don’t remember too well? The price paid for luxury. The price paid for money. “For”, not “with”.

My client had this to say. He has 2 brothers. And his dad died some time back. Did the 3 brothers get an inheritance? Not even a dollar. Instead, it was the other way around. He had left some overdrafts and other dues which the 3 men only discovered after the man’s passing. They got together and paid off the balances.

Here’s my client’s thoughts after he recounted this. “I’m really thankful that my dad did not leave us any inheritance. Because if he did, then we brothers would have squabbled over who gets what. And no matter how fairly we tried to divide it, we’d still have ended up unhappy, and this would have broken the family. I’ve seen this in the case of so many families it’s not funny. I’m really glad we got nothing, because having money is a curse.”

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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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Smile please!

A video I saw on whatsapp recently was just awesome.

It was about a supermarket in Denmark.

At first glance, it seemed like any other supermarket.

Except, that the main entrance glass doors are shut, and don’t have any handles.

How do they open then?

Only if the person looking to enter at the door smiles.

A camera with AI is connected to the door, and as soon as the person smiles, it is Open Sesame!

Most people are anxious, stressed, moody, angry or worse, as they come to the door, and often in a hurry to just make their purchase and leave.

But the moment they smile and the door opens, their faces light up, and they clearly are having their best moment at least in that day.

Imagine if all doors everywhere would only open this way 😄

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Negative stop

A video that was circulating on social media recently caught my attention. A bunch of young girls – probably in their early 20s – had gathered around the Dalai Lama. The question one of them asked him was, “Why do I keep getting negative thoughts?”

The Dalai Lama didn’t have to think much. He said there are two things that lead to this.
1. The first is self-centeredness.
2. The second is that the reality is not truly as we see it (he quotes the Shunyata theory – i.e. nothing exists as it appears).

The girls just giggled and the video cut off. But their expressions suggested they didn’t fully catch the purport of his words. I too had to think for a while, and I’m still not sure I’ve understood fully.

Self-centeredness is the easy one. We look at the world with eyes of relativity. Nothing is taken as is. If someone gets a good bonus, we immediately compare that bonus to our bonus, and the self-centeredness brings in feelings of jealousy, anger and incompetence, all of which can only lead to negative thoughts.

The second point though. Was he talking about maya? Or maybe that we only see the things we want to, rather than as they are? What do you think?

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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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Fleeting

Here’s a Chinese proverb I came across:

1. If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
2. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
3. If you want happiness for a month, get married.
4. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
5. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else. 

All of these are true. Point 3 is funny even. And these must be taken in the right spirit. It is not about the activities, but rather about the fleeting nature of happiness. This has even been studied by scientists, including the various chemicals released by the brain (endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin etc.).

The winner is always the last one. Point 5. Do more for others. In fact, do everything for others only. Because there is no difference deep down, from a spiritual point of view. Our scriptures say that if we do for ourselves only, we are only adding fuel to the fire which is our ego.

The challenge is, that even doing point 5 well is hard, because we look for some signs of acknowledgement from the people who have just benefitted from our help. When they don’t even say a thank you, that can get us really riled up. The real test of spiritual progress is how little such feelings impact us.

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Monk-ey business

In his book Think like a Monk, monk-turned-author (and many other things) Jay Shetty writes about competition. Not just normal competition like in sports, or at work.

But competition amongst monks. What? Monks have renounced the whole world right? What is there for them to compete on?

He says in their ashram, monks would aspire for such high levels of purity that they would compete as follows:

  1. I meditated longer than everyone else
  2. I ate lesser than that monk
  3. I outlasted all of them, etc.

He poses a valid question at the end. If a monk behaves like this, then what’s the point of, well, being a monk?

He also concludes beautifully with a reference from another book called The Monastic Way. “In a monastery, the only competition allowed is to outstrip each other in showing more love and respect.”

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