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Tag: guru

5 point program

In chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna provides an interesting break-up of karma yoga.

This comes in verse 30. Here is how we could break it down for daily application:

1. “Renounce everything to the Lord” = make spirituality a priority in life, which will make life peaceful and content. Let it not just be a 5 minute activity, but the substratum of every waking moment.

2. “Quality matters” = Work in the best way possible; treating it like worship, with the knowledge that this is the highest offering there is. The benefit? We wont slack off or cut corners, irrespective of whether someone is inspecting or not.

3. Niraashi = no aasha, no expectation or hope of a specific outcome = receive the result with grace.

4. Nirmama = no mamakaar = no ‘i’ness = work with the attitude of custodianship; i.e. none of my achievements are possible without the support of those around me.

5. vigata-jJwara = “without fever” = this is not body temperature, but the fever of the mind, i.e. stress and anxiety, which can be eradicated if the above points are followed.

Such a nice and implementable way to live, isn’t it?

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Can we give up desires?

A tough aspect of spirituality is not in reading what is said, but in actually understanding and implementing it.

For instance, Lord Krishna in the Gita often asks Arjuna to give up desires.

Is this practical? If I give up all my desires, I wouldn’t even be able to get up from my bed on a Sunday, let alone on a Monday morning!

Maybe there is something deeper and subtler. This is my Guru’s amazing interpretation.

When Krishna says ‘give up desires’, he actually means ‘give up the cravings in your mind’. Having dharmic desires is fine, but it is critical to cut the umbilical cord between desire and happiness.

Our happiness is always linked to the fulfilment of desires. “Think of a time when you were happy” tends to be accomplishments like “when I won the game, or topped the class, or got married, or had kids, or got promoted”.

But what if everything we did, could start from happiness, rather than end in it? This is possible, and it (too) starts with gratitude.

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Oh my I

Here is what my Guru wrote to me recently on ‘ego’:

The ego needs to be defined to be understood.

What is this ego? Simple.

My view. My idea. I think. I feel. I am sure. I myself. I alone. I have seen. I think I can. My house. My dog. My experience...

You can easily add another hundred more to such expressions.

As you can see, so much I and my.

My goals...

Might be a good reminder to finish the target, or maybe obliterate it.
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Chosen two

In a satsang session a few years ago, my Guru was asked to do a quick recap of the entire Gita.

What better way, than to do it in just 4 minutes? Wow a 4-minute Gita!

He recited 1 shloka per chapter, so 18 chapters, 18 shlokas, with their meanings and application, and all extempore. It was truly a sight to behold.

For only the 2nd chapter, he recited not one, but two shlokas. 2.71 and 2.72.

To say he thinks these are important shlokas would be a massive understatement.

2.71 is vihaaya kaamaanya sarvaan. Vihaaya is giving up, kaamaan is desires, sarvaan is all. And then he recited is backwards. Sarvaan kaamaan vihaaya – All desires give up.

2.72 is similar, stating that one who achieves such state of mind, achieves liberation even at the time of death.

Each chapter has only 1 shloka that he picked. But chapter 2 alone had two. Is it important? Yes, twice as important.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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On priority

How does one who is completely devoted to and lost in the Lord behave? Maybe there’s more than one way – surely. But here’s what’s on the cover page of the Mukunda-mala-stotra book originally composed by King Kulasekhara and then of course expounded upon by various greats. This specific excerpt is from Srila Prabhupada’s commentaries:

When King Kulasekhara saw the breath-taking beauty of Lord Krishna in ecstatic trance, he lost all the desire to rule his vast kingdom. Later he wrote, "My mind cannot turn from Sri Krishna's lotus feet even for a moment. So let my dear ones and other relatives criticize me, my superiors accept me or reject me as they like, the common people spread evil gossip about me, and my family's reputation be sullied. For a madman like me, it is honour enough to feel this flood of love for Godhead, which brings such sweet emotions of attraction for my Lord"

The very things that we each are craving for – societal approval, name, fame, wealth, status – are being given up in an instant by a great King, simply because he tasted the true nectar of being one with the Lord. We are no kings, so it is all the more important that we have our priorities straight. But is that the case?

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First who, then what

Much of the work in the world is focused on answering the “what”s. What is the solution to this problem? What is the workaround here? What should be my position on this issue? What should I tell him or her? What should I expect from this project? What is our vision? What is the outcome of this strategy? What, what, what, what … that is what is everywhere.

However, the really successful people (think billionaires), they don’t care much about the ‘what’. They only care about the ‘who’. They know there’s a problem. But they also know they cannot solve all the problems in the world on their own. They know that the most optimal use of their time is to get the best person to solve that problem. Who do they want to work with? Who do they like? Who knows this job the best? Who is the one who’ll do this with the least fuss? That’s the important question – it’s always about the who. If the ‘who’ is taken care of, the ‘what’ will sort itself out. If the driver is good, then one needn’t worry about the car heading in the wrong direction.

Similar for spirituality as well. We are often focused on the what. What shlokas should I chant? What mantras work best? What meditation mat should I buy? What scriptures should I read? What seva should I do? What satsang should I join? So many whats.

But all we need, is one who. Who is the right person to answer all these questions? The answer is only one. The Guru. Once that answer is fixed, then all we need to do is to follow his advice. All problems solved.

500th post today by the way. Thank you for reading, and being part of this journey of joint transformation! 🙂

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Ready for battle

Here’s what my Guru says. Imagine you had the world’s best army.

It can achieve anything.

No task is insurmountable for this army.

100 billion in this army. And another 90 trillion. And another 27 trillion.

Yes that’s how awesome this army is. Imagine the scale and the power!

And you really do have this army – it’s no joke.

100 billion brain cells. 90 trillion body cells. 27 trillion hormones. It’s there in each and every one of us.

Are we making the most of it though?

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Devil in the details – part 3

In the superb Hollywood TV show called Lucifer, the (very funny and likeable) Devil himself, walks around Los Angeles in the garb of a human being. He never lies, and in fact goes around announcing to everyone who comes and goes in his life that he is none other than the ruler of Hell. But where are the horns? And the red tail? And the Devil doesn’t wear expensive designer suits now does he? Despite him telling the truth to everyone, no one believes him, and so it really is never a problem for him.

That’s in the reel world, but here’s a parallel in the real/spiritual world as well. Most spiritual seekers are looking for something to ‘happen’ to them. Like in comic books when they show the Buddha was enlightened, they show a halo around his head. So seekers expect they too will see light, or hear some messages from the air, or experience some otherworldly mystical phenomena.

But what if there is really nothing more to spirituality than simply watching your thoughts and actions in an unbiased and detached manner? It doesn’t mean that miraculous inexplicable things can’t or don’t happen. But that is maybe something else? Many spiritual greats forewarn seekers to not be swayed by anything cool they come across on their paths – power et al – as those may be mere distractions. As my Guru repeatedly says, the only thing that is required for spiritual progress is to drop one’s desires and attachments, and turn the mind inward aka toward God. It sounds simple, but its certainly not easy (to do, or to believe, à la Luci).

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Pretty girl

On the theory of relativity, Einstein once said “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.”

And so time is a matter of perspective. We often hate office and work, but love vacations. It might seem like the 12 hours we spend a day at work just drags on forever, while the 24 hours in a vacation goes off in a jiffy.

Satsangs are similar too. At times, they may feel boring. Almost like we have heard the same things (messages, quotes, stories) over and over again. And to find even that 1 hour a week would be the hardest thing in the world. Why waste an hour when we can do something else – like catch a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime?

If we have spent countless births stuck in Maya, the thought to ponder over is, will just an hour a week suffice, to get us out of it? We will have to fall in love with satsang, just like Einstein’s pretty girl, if we wish to make tangible progress. Eventually, every waking minute will become a satsang, just like a Guru’s life.

As Guruji says, satsang is the most noble place, because it is a zero-liabilities place. There are no downsides to satsang, only humongous benefits.

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Blinded by

There is a medical condition called Anton’s Blindness. It is a real thing. But those affected by it, do not believe it. They think they can see perfectly well. But they cannot, and so when they walk or move around, they bump into objects they cannot see and often hurt themselves.

This sounds exactly like what my Guru would think of me. “Blind fellow, bumping around in the world from one problem to another, and constantly hurting himself. If only he would accept that he doesn’t see the Truth. The Real Truth. That Consciousness that powers everything. And then this acceptance may bring him some solutions. But alas. He is blinded by ignorance, anger, jealousy, greed – you name it. And he seems to enjoy this state of blindness too. What a pity.”

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Middleman

There are so many messengers. So many intermediaries. So many so-called postmen.

Take the case of a delivery person from Dominos, Swiggy, Zomato or Grab. They take food from restaurant A to person A, and then restaurant B to person B and then restaurant C to person C. They carry the food with them, piping hot, tasty pizza, or lovely creamy pasta, or some tantalizingly cold ice cream sundaes. So yummy for the tummy. However, it is not for his tummy – for he is only the carrier, the messenger.

The same goes for a postman. He can carry letters of love and romance and adventure and delight. But none of them are addressed to him.

Likewise for the private secretaries of the king or queen. They may know all the intricate details, but cannot truly experience what their masters revel in.

This is the case for every single messenger there is – whether at home or at work or in politics or in society.

But there is one exception. And that is the Guru. He is the messenger of God, yes. But he is also completely dunked in the Bliss that is Consciousness, and therefore that makes him simultaneously both God and Carrier. Teacher and Creator. The Guru is the only one, who delivers the package as brand new, well after enjoying its contents. If such a messenger exists in our lives, we would do well to take in his message.

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