When the wrapper is considered superior to the gift inside


I have a friend who has a cup board full of gifts given to him. These are still kept neatly wrapped and he has never opened them. I once asked him whether he has ever bothered to find out what they contain. He answered, “I am not among those fools who would spoil such beautiful wrappers”.

Of course I do not mean to undermine the usefulness of gift wrappers. They are very much needed to make the world a little beautiful and to attract the attention in the first place. They are useful only up to a limit and should not be taken for the gift itself.

  Emphasising the inner over the outer, Sant Kabir, in one of his couplets, says – Jat Na Puchho Sadh Ki Puchh Lijyo Gyan. It means, one should not ask for the caste of a saint but know him from his wisdom. Seen from another context the saying highlights the obsession of the society with the outer. The first impression becomes the only impression. The outward traits like one’s looks, the way one dresses, walks or talks become the sole criteria to pass the final judgment.

Discrimination by caste has been one of the worst banes of Indian society. In Kabir’s time it was very rigid. Of course now the rigidity of the caste system based on the four fold division of Brahmana, Khatriya, Vaishya and Sudra is loosing its grip. However, one can not altogether do away with the class distinction. New class distinctions always appear based on power structure, social status or property holding. Now In most of the so called progressive, liberal and secular western countries, especially in Australia, Germany and France racial and religious discrimination is taking an ugly turn.

In organizations also employees and members are divided into various classes based on hierarchy and receive differential treatment and benefits based on their relative status. In organizations like the Military it is unavoidable. Even some spiritual organizations formally divide people into categories like jignasu, sradhhalu, premi, bhakt etc. Sometimes there may be informal divisions like junior disciple, medium disciple and senior disciple, or, local devotee, national devotee and international devotee.

Even in spiritual organizations that are supposed to be more concerned with the inner beauty, the same madness goes on. In one of the advertisements for a spiritual teacher that I came across recently the USP highlighted was his handsome look. In another brochure the pronunciation skill of a yoga instructor was highly praised. Never mind if the person is just a parrot. All is well, if he looks well, dresses well and talks well.

Ironically one of the highest forms of knowledge has been given to us by one of the ugliest persons on earth – Astavakra.  King Janak’s court was full of rishis and sages and he used to take great delight in inviting rishis to conduct discussions and debates on spiritual knowledge. Astavakra, when he was barely twelve years old went to the court. Not only was he bent at eight places (hence the name Astavakra), he must not have been able to speak fluently as well, or so I think. Seeing him, the sages burst into laughter. So Astavakra said to Janaka, “Oh, king. How come such a knowledgeable person like you is surrounded by people who judge others by their skin”

King Janaka could immediately understand. He came and fell at the feet of the twelve year old deformed boy and begged him knowledge. Thus Astavakra Gita was born. And barely before the completion of the first chapter Janaka had become enlightened.

Sometimes the division becomes a practical necessity. However, as long as the structure is not rigid and it remains only a functional requirement, it aids growth of both the individual and the organisation. On the other hand, how can one, whose eyes are stuck only with the wrapping, find out the gift inside?



I see you as you are


When the protagonist of the movie Avatar says to the heroine.”I see you”, the heroine retorts back” I see you too”.  Like the movie itself, the dialogues may contain many layers of meaning. When they say to each other “ I see you” that means,  “I see you as you are, stripped of the psychological conditioning brought out by the society. I see you as a unique individual not to be judged based on your family, social,  national, or planetary background”. Or else, how could two different minds from two different planets meet?

As I have mentioned in my article ‘Living by the motto‘, by virtue of my association with some wonderful organizations, I have got the opportunity to interact with a wide spectrum of people from the Indian and global diaspora. I have learnt to see everybody as a unique individual. Sometimes, persons in a particular group may show some similarities in some aspects like way of thinking, food habits, pronunciation etc.  However, It does not mean every one of that group would confirm to those characteristics. The reality is that, two persons speaking the same language and living under the same roof can be  diametrically opposite in many aspects. Similarly, two persons living in two different parts of the globe may show similarities in many aspects of their character, attitude and life.

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Often I come across  people who have a stereotyped image of an ex-defense personnel  and the ideal way he should behave. On many social gatherings when I refuse to take alcohol or non-vegetarian food, this comes as a surprise to many. “How come”, they would say, “you being an ex-defense personnel do not drink or take non-vegetarian food”.  Even though the person himself may not be exhibiting all the group characteristics of the group he is part of, it comes as a surprise to him that somebody does not behave in line with the group image he has formed in his mind.

 “Judge not, for ye not be judged”, says the Bible. However, you and your work are constantly being judged, most often prima facie, by people who do not care to learn a little more about you. The height of such prima facie judgement happened when I took up the current job. There was another ex-serviceman who had joined that office one year back. At the age of 47, he was  still a bachelor. There was this lady colleague who asked me the moment she came to know I am an ex-serviceman, “when are you going to get married?”

When a whole society or group develops bias against another group it leads to social and political unrest. In its extreme form this group bias may manifest as racial discrimination, or still worse communal violence, terrorism, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Even though the differences with regard to the way we dress and speak may be slowly vanishing due  to frequent migrations,  globalization and other factors, our biases with regard to other cultures and religions still remain a matter of concern. The only way to overcome these biases are to learn more about other cultures and religions with an open mind. May be the day we learn to see  a person as he is or she is, without drawing premature conclusions based on his family background, position of power, caste, religion, sect, language or nationality, will be the day that heralds the end of all group conflicts and forms extremism.


One life is not enough, yet for now, this moment is full in itself.


Life in its myriads of colours, shades, flavours and tastes

There are six basic tastes, according to Ayurveda. Depending upon the person, some tastes are pleasant some are unpleasant and some may be outright atrocious. However, to have a balanced diet and thus a balanced body and mind, one should include a bit of all the tastes.

Same way the artistic expressions involve nava rasas- some positive some negative. Any piece of great art or composition includes all the nine rasas.

So also in life. There are positive as well as negative feelings / emotions / flavours.

If one has experienced only the height of joy and not the depths of depression and sorrow, if one’s journey of life has been a smooth road without any ups and downs, any twists and turns, one has missed to live life in its totality.

Life is such an enigma

This is my translation of a favourite Hindi poem, which has been included in a popular movie.


Life is such an enigma

Sometimes it makes you laugh

sometimes it makes you cry.

The mind never wakes up.

It continues chasing after dreams

Sometimes it so happens

The traveler on the path of the dream

leaves behind the dreams

and goes away somewhere

never to be found again.

Those who came together

to set up the ‘mela’ of life

together struggle and are

partners in happiness and sorrow.

Suddenly one of them chooses silence,

and goes away somewhere

never to be found again.

One life is not enough, yet for now, this moment is full in itself.

Time is fleeting. It is a continuum. The moment one tries to catch hold of it, it is already gone. So where is this moment and how to catch hold of it?

Living in present moment is like flowing with time, like a stray leaf blown by the wind, without any resistance. One can experience the relative dimensions of time depending upon one’s state of mind. In deep meditation one can experience time stop for one self. In doing 100%, one is not bothered by past or future.

Baffled by the myriads of the creation I have often made the petition to the maker of this creation that one is not enough to experience His limitless creations. At the same time to experience the depth of His creation one has to live in the present moment fully. One who is bothered by past or anxious about the future most of the time, looses the opportunity to utilize the fare that the creation serves one now. For such a person, even this life is more than enough. Same way, being grateful gives out a message to the universe that you deserve to be an active part of His creation for ages to come.

The secret of living is to live as if YOU do not live. When the realization dawns that one is pure witness and everything is a happening, then where is the regret for past, or worry for the future?

The concept of living in present moment is beyond intellectual dissection. However, one can experience it. So, come let us meditate.

(This post was one of the Spicy Saturday Picks – August 20, 2016 at BlogAdda )

A Brief Note on Stephen Hawking

stephen hawking

Here is a brief introduction to Stephen Hawking from his official website: 

Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. Now the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, his other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.

In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. Professor Hawking has over a dozen honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Science. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.’

What does not find mention in his official website is his love life. Sometimes events of his personal life gets so much media coverage that some people develop an aversion to him and ignore his contribution to science. As a person, Stephen Hawking may seem to have crossed certain boundaries of morality, particularly the ‘Indian Standard of Morality’ with multiple affairs and marriages. However, on a lighter note- considering the fact that most of his voluntary organs are not working, even the Superman should be jealous of his female fan following.

Jokes apart – his contribution to science should not be undermined whatever ‘moral’ flaws he may have. Many of the geniuses of past and present are known for their eccentricity and bizarre behavior. Stephen Hawking comes from a culture and society where his personal life is normal acceptable behaviour. Moreover, he is not a hypocrite. His whole life is in public domain. Contrast this with the life of many of our Indian leaders and famous persons. They live/ lived a double life and are/were hypocrites.An honest biographical film about Nehru was stalled time and again. What we read as history in our text books are nothing short of fiction. The stories of Stephens and Clintons would be overshadowed by the real life events of many of our adored leaders, provided these things are available in open domain.

It is surprising that a hardcore scientist like Stephen Hawking recognises the power of love.

“I’ve been privileged to gain some understanding of the way the universe operates through my work,” he writes. “But it would be an empty universe indeed without the people that I love.”

He is a great inspiration for all of us. In spite of his physical limitations, he keeps on exploring the limitless.. and he has never lost the jest for life.

“Although I’m severely disabled, I have been successful in my scientific work,” Hawking writes. “I travel widely and have been to Antarctica and Easter Island, down in a submarine and up on a zero-gravity flight. One day, I hope to go into space.”

Stephen Hawkins is a genius. His die hard attitude is an inspiration for all. I recommend my friends to read his works, at least the bestseller – THE BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME.

It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place

alice_in_wonderlandCertain lines that I came across in novels, text books and sometimes in the form of Graffiti  never made any sense then. But there was certain inexplicable quality to those lines and they remained in memory. One such line is – “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”. This appears in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. Even though the novel is recommended for children, I am sure adults will be equally delighted if they could decipher lines like these.

There came a time, may be 10 years after I had read it, when one day the meaning, or what the author indicated, by those lines came as a flash of lightning. It was one of those series of busy days, while in Air Force.  I was working on a project. Work would start at 6 am and continue sometimes upto 11 pm. It was like continuous running, both in body and mind with a  few  hours of rest in between. Then one day after may be three or four weeks, orders came from a superior authority, we have to do the project again. A little frustrated, suddenly the line- It takes all the running to keep to the same place- flashed in the mind.

In another sense, especially in developing and underdeveloped countries, all the running one does is just to keep the body and soul together. In other words the whole life is spent in fulfilling only the basic needs. Forget about progress of the individual or the family or the society. It takes all the running just to keep to the same place, so that things do not degenerate further.

I discovered another layer of meaning of this phrase after a session of meditation. I was reflecting on the affairs of life. How much ever you may achieve in terms of position, money, fame, power the final destination is the same. If your body is not burnt, for sometime a few square feet of earth is earmarked for you.  You come from nowhere and again vanish into nowhere, in between running and running. Like Adi Shankaracharya said in Bhajagovindam,

A child is obsessed in playing games, a young man is obsessed in young women, the old are obsessed with worries. Man never turns towards the divine.”

Obsession is nothing but repetitive running in the mind. As long as there is life there is physical running accompanied by running in the mind in terms of obsessions or worries. At the end of it all, one vanishes nowhere. (Of course there are theories and beliefs of rebirth, let us put them aside for the moment)

I do not know for sure whether Lewis Carrol had all the above in mind while he wrote the line. This also must have come to him as a flash of insight. Nevertheless, the line has helped to get insights about certain facts of life , or at least, express certain thoughts in a better way.

An activity is an activity, whether it is pleasurable or unpleasant. Ultimately it would tire you and leave you wherever you were. It is good  sometimes to take a break from all those runnings, physical as well as mental and spend a few day in meditation or just relaxing experiencing the pleasure of ‘doing nothing, achieving nothing and going nowhere’, neither in body nor in the mind.

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