one life is not enough – the paradox

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

One life is not enough, yet for now this moment is enough unto itself. The statement may  seem to be a paradox, self contradictory, and outright goobledygook. However, it is not when you see different parts of the statement from different perspectives.

When you are playing the role of an experiencer, when you are drowned in sense pleasures, you crave to experience the pleasures again and again. The lustful man wants to have sex with all the women in the world, the greedy wants to own all the wealth of the world. Same way one can be greedy for experiences and achievements. Alexander wanted to leave no corner of the earth unconquered.

But, you can switch your role from being an experiencer to being the observer, or  a witness. Then you have a glimpse of the depth of the moment.

Baffled by the myriads of the creations, I have often made the petition to the maker  that one life is not enough to experience His limitless creations. At the same time, to experience the depth of His creation, one must learn to dive into the depths of the present. One who is bothered too much by the past or concerned too much about the future, loses the opportunity to utilize the fare of the creation on offer right now. 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.

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? One can experience the relative dimensions of time depending upon one’s state of mind. In deep meditation one can experience time stop and a stage comes when is established in the witness consciousness. In doing 100%, one is not bothered by past or future.

It may not be possible to play the role of the observer or be in a state of samadhi through out your life. Same way it is tiring to hanker, non stop, experience after experience. Deep real rest and an attitude of letting go helps a lot in recharging one self from time to time.

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 according to Bharata’s Natya Sastra, the artistic expressions involve nava rasas or nine falvours- some positive some negative. Contrasting flavours makes any story interesting.

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

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 film song from Anand – a  popular movie of yesteryears.

 

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 – the philosophy

 

one life is not enough 2

Each role has been like a life.

The transition of roles have been

Smooth sometimes.

Sometimes as painful as

Death imagined.

 

A student’s life, a teacher’s life

A son’s life, a father’s life

A spoilt life, a disciplined life

A civilian’s life, a soldier’s life

A villager’s life, a small town life, a big city life

A hermit’s life, a yogi’s life, an indulgent life

An addicted’s life, a sober life

A reader’s life, a writer’s life

A famous life, a nobody’s life

From being a student celebrity

To being an anonymous soldier,

Worker, clerk, teacher, and leader.

An atheist’s life, a god fearing life

A believer’s life, a rationalist’s life.

 

 

I am so grateful that in this one life

I have experienced so many lives.

Still somewhere

Why does the mind harp on

That this life is not enough?

one life is not enough 1

(Next post: one life is not enough – the paradox)

Dear friend, what is the first thought you get when you come across the line – one life is not enough? Share your views in the comment.

 

heights of beauty

Manushi Chhillar.jpgCan’t one be lovely without being fair? Is beauty only skin deep?  The facts, of a CBSE topper becoming the miss world this year and the balanced mix of whites, blacks, and browns in top ten of the Miss World pageant, are more than enough to bust these myths.

But one disconcerting question remains. One of the eligibility conditions to participate in the contest (for an Indian) is that a candidate’s height should be at least 5 ft 5 in ( earlier it was 5 ft 6 in). Even though this is the minimum, the past winners of Miss India contests have been around 6 ft. Hence, low height is a disadvantage for any contestant even though she may qualify. I don’t understand why should height be a limiting factor when it comes to be an eligible participant in a  beauty pageant?

I don’t think, from India, there has been any Miss World or Miss Universe who can beat Rekha in grace, elegance or mental agility. Same goes for Vyjayanthi Mala, Jaya Bachchan, Vidya Balan, and many of the past and present Bollywood divas. It is worth noting that the average height of Indian women is 5 ft.

Even though at the international level contest skin colour has never been a disadvantage, it seems it is a disadvantage to win the contest in India. I would be happy to be proved wrong if someone can inform me of a case when a black beauty in India was a finalist in the Indian version of the pageant.

Well there are some other limiting conditions. In order not to give a miss, the girl  should be a miss – literally and biologically and she should not be between 18 and 25. There is an ambiguous condition too: The applicant by nature and habits should carry the traits of a female. Maybe to give a chance to those who missed the contest for not being a miss, they have started the Mrs. world contest.

Such conditions keep a vast majority of the beautiful and talented women of India out of the context. Thus, chosen from the minority sample size, someone winning the contest at the international level contest is a great achievement indeed;  that too in a beauty contest where every contestant’s ultimate dream is to become a Mother Teresa or a female version of a Mahatma Gandhi.

It is wonderful that an Indian girl has become a Miss World. It has happened after a gap of seventeen years. India has equaled the record of Venezuela in terms of most number of winners. However, given the talent that is available in India, if some of the discriminatory conditions are removed, India will not have to wait for another seventeen years to get the next crown. Moreover, it will be in line with the philanthropic ideals of the beauty contests.

 

India First

The unique thing about living in India is that one learns to live under a plethora of diversities and yet, love it. Nowhere does one get the real taste of this unique feature than in Armed Forces.

Yes, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of an Armed Forces fraternity; Indian Air Force to be precise, for two decades. Close interaction with people from different parts of India is a daily affair as part of your work.  Moreover, your frequent transfers throughout the length and breath of India gives you an in depth experience of the locality, that a casual  visitor to that place may not get.

Hard work and celebration is a part and parcel of military life. In addition to official celebrations, we used to have a lot of informal celebrations organised by the members of different religious and cultural communities. Without any inhibitions every one participated in those informal celebrations. I have lost count of how many times I have been part of X’mas and Id celebrations. We respected each other’s religions and cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Yet, neither did we lose the pride in our own unique culture or religion, nor did it make us a chauvinist or a fanatic.

In a formal way or in an informal way, there was  was zero discrimination based on caste or religion or ethnicity. It was secularism at its zenith. Whenever we met with someone, we just felt we are meeting with a fellow Indian. No judgement, prima facie or otherwise,  was formed about an Individual because he belonged to a different religion, caste, ethnic group, or spoke a different mother tongue.

Of course, by and large, people in India live peacefully in spite of having so many  groups with conflicting ideologies.  At the same time, it cannot be ignored that vested interests incite fanatic and chauvinistic feelings in the common man who falls prey to such mass manipulation tactics. Quite often the leader who incites chauvinistic feelings based on native language or ‘the perceived legitimate rights of the son of the soil’ may have his own children studying in posh schools where learning of the local language and love for one’s native customs and culture are considered stuff for lesser mortals.

Yet the common man forgets this and is ready to take the gauntlet against those imaginary enemies who are out to pollute his culture. He himself maybe as much ignorant about his own culture as someone who stays in his state temporarily. His own children may be reluctant to talk in local language. He himself is not the least bit interested to learn anything about another culture. But, he expects that (and considers it an insult if they don’t) people who come to his state, whether voluntarily or as mandated by their job,  must speak the local language, know every thing pertaining to the state and adapt themselves to the local customs.

A person who falls prey to such manipulative forces loses his perspective in distinguishing love for his own religion from fanaticism and love for his own ethnicity or language from chauvinism .

After leaving the Defense Services, due to professional requirements, I stayed in a city that prides itself of being a cosmopolitan city. I took an apartment. It was good to see that the apartment complex had residents from different states of India. There were a number of serving as well as retired Defense personnel and some hailed from my home state Odisha. It was also good to see that the residents celebrated many occasions like the New Year, Ganesh Puja, Diwali, Holi etc. together.

Another unique feature of India is its large number of religious and ethnic festivals spread throughout the year. A particular day or occasion may have many regional and local versions.

Fourteenth of April- the solar new year, is celebrated in different parts of India in different manners. It is known as Mahabishuba Sankranti and it goes by different names in different states. Like, somewhere it is Vishu, somewhere it is Poila Boishakha and so on. In my home state Odisha itself it has a number of local versions of celebration. In many parts of Odisha it is celebrated as Pana Sankranti because a special type of Pana (non-alcoholic sweet drink) is prepared on this occasion.

So, a few of us got together and decided to celebrate the Sankranti. We also decided that we would prepare and sponsor the special sweet drink so that people from other states get to have a taste of the same. We were enthusiastic about the celebrations. Many volunteers came forward offering help in organizing the events. I was asked to put out a message in our whatsapp group informing about the celebrations and inviting all to come and participate. I am reproducing my message word for word (sans place references):

"Hearty Greetings to all on the occasions of Mahabishuba Sankranti / Pana Sankranti /Odiya New Year / Ambedkar Jayanti/ Good Friday /Vishu / Baishakhi / Bihu / Lord Hanuman ji's Birthday (& any other festival if it is left out)

At (apartment name) let us celebrate this occasion with songs and drinks. 😀

On this grand occasion, all are invited to an evening of devotional songs and music. Place: .......... . Time: 6:30 pm .

Traditional Pana (non-alcoholic sweet drink) will be distributed as prasadam 8 p.m on wards on behalf of Utkal Samaj. 

All are coordially invited to participate with family and friends.

I was enthusiastic that people would be happy to read my message. I also expected that some would appreciate my sense of humour. Of course there was enthusiastic reception from the residents.

But the message did not go down well with a particular gentleman who demanded to know why I had forgotten to mention the name of his state which too celebrated the new year on this day.

I had given my greeting message after some research on the net. I double checked and found that neither Google nor Wikipedia knew that this state as a whole celebrated any kind of new year on this day. Nor, was there any mention of any unique specific name by which this festival was known through out the state. Of course, in some parts of the state, especially in temples it was celebrated as a general religious festival befitting the occasion of Mahabishubha Sankranti. 

Secondly, supposing that there indeed was any kind of state specific festival associated with the date, the gentleman’s demand  was akin to the demand of a child who goes on asking every stranger it meets, “uncle,  why did not you wish me on my birthday?”.  It was a childish demand based on his own ignorance mixed with chauvinism .

Thirdly, to make my message all inclusive and implying that due to my ignorance I might have, inadvertently,  left out mentioning any peculiar name associated with the festival I had included the phrase “& any other festival if it is left out” in my greeting message.

Still then, to assuage his feeling of being slighted, to prevent the festive spirit from being spoiled and to avoid the issue being dragged further, I sent a message expressing my apology for my omission.

But, the gentleman was in no mood to reconcile. He continued with his rants,  “Even though, you people stay in this state for so many years you do not learn about this state, blah blah blah……. “

One of my well wishers asked the gentleman to stop reading negative connotation from the  message and appreciate the fact that someone is inviting every one to be part  of a celebration. Of course,  this only  enraged the gentleman more and he continued with his offensive messages.  So I sent a message again requesting every one not take anything seriously as my message was just an invitation for a celebration.

Thereafter, in spite of being prodded by my friends to give a fitting reply to his humiliating messages, I chose to remain silent and asked others just to ignore his rants.

My Defense upbringing had taught me to protect my fellow Indians even at the cost of my own life. At the same time, the Indian in me did not want to fight with a fellow Indian over a trivial issue even after being humiliated badly.

I hoped that our silence would ultimately make the gentleman silent, unless he was so ungracious as to find something wrong with our silence as well. But the gentleman was gracious enough to stop his rants finding no takers for his further provocations.

Lufthansa’s attempt to incorporate Indian culture, cuisine and hospitality into their airline’s services takes this ‘India First’ approach a step further. However, there is a catch.

So, watch the above video to know of their conspiracy theory. There are plenty of hints in the video. Then supplement it with detailed knowledge about their conspiracy to Indianise themselves at the following link:

#moreindianthanyouthink

Definitely #moreindianthanyouthink.

10 Couplets of Kabir to lighten your day

It is not for nothing that Kabir’s sayings are known as ulat vani. Whatever he says it seems contrary to our common knowledge or perception. This was not only true for his spiritual sayings, but also for his couplets giving worldly wisdom. Take this first stanza of my compilation. Our usual tendency is to  keep close to someone who praises us and avoid someone who blames and criticizes us. But Kabir says that  the person who criticizes  you is your dearest friend and you should make a house for him in your inner courtyard. He wrote thousands of such couplets during his life time. Here are ten of my most favorite couplets:

I

A true friend

Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhawaye;
Bin sabun pani bina nirmal karat subhaye.

Kabir says that one should keep one’s critics close, even making a place for them in our courtyard. Without water or soap they clean up one’s  blemishes.

 The passionate critic is like bitter medicine. Of course sometimes people may blame us due to their own bias or lack of understanding. In such cases at least they make us aware of our actions and people’s reactions. The bonus advantage of keeping company of such a person is that they stop us from being egoistic, arrogant or developing a casual attitude.

II

Shun ego and speak

Aisi vani boliye, man ka aapa khoye

Auran ko sheetal kare, aaphu sheetal hoye

Shunning your ego, speak in such a manner that you remain un-agitated at the same time others are pleased.

 This second one may seem to contradict the first. It may mean- while you welcome other’s  criticism, do not do this favor to others. Others might not have heard of the first stanza of Kabir. There are different kinds of people and everybody may not take your frank opinion kindly. So talk sweet and soothing. Remember the sanskrti saying – ko satru priyavadinah.  A person who says what is agreeable cannot make enemies.

What Kabir says here  is that when you talk to someone out of your ego, it agitates you and others. So speak thus so that it does not cause mental disturbance neither in others  nor in you. For that, one has to be egoless and innocent. Sometimes a child may say things that are not agreeable. Yet, it does not cause disturbance in us because the child is so egoless.

III

Do not throw pearls before a swine

Hira wahan na kholiye jahan kujdon ki  hat

Bandho chup ki potri, laagahu apni bat

This couplet reminds me of the saying in the Bible – Do not throw pearls before the swine. One must speak according to the knowledge level and taste of the audience. Or else it is a waste of time and effort and in some cases may lead to being humiliated and frustration coming from selling mirrors to the blind.

IV

The saint is beyond caste and creed

Jat na puchho sadh ki puchh lijiyo gyan

Mol karo talwar ka, pade rehen do myan

In the times of Kabir, the caste system was at its height of ugliness. Kabir was born to a caste of weavers. Another remarkable thing about the century when Kabir was born, was that many of the saints and proponents of Bhakti  were from the lower castes. They were widely accepted. At the same time the higher caste people must have tried to revive the stigma attached to the people of lower castes who became spiritually advanced. Hence, Kabir here urges people to venerate a saint not by his caste but by his knowledge. He compares knowledge to the  sword and caste to the scabbard.  Even in modern times all over the world, many forms of discriminations are prevalent based on race, religion, region etc. In a wider context, a person should not be subject to bias based on his caste, creed, race, nationality etc.

V

Take the plunge and be saved

Jin khoja tin paiya, gahare pani paith

Mein Bapura budan Raha, RAha Kinare Baith

It is a beautiful example of Kabir’s specialty in ulatvani. He says – the person who went deep into the water in search,  got it and was saved, But I, who sat on the shores,  got drowned. Kabir urges us to sun our fears and laziness for the spiritual adventure. The person who is complacent and cares too much for security, in fact, finds that he/she has drowned in the worldly miseries and got deprived of the ultimate gem of spiritual experience. The spiritual journey needs some sort of risk and sacrifice. Those who take the risk get it, like the diver who dives deep and comes back with something.

VI

They do not understand, so they fight

Hindu kahe mohi Ram Piyara, Turk kahe Rehmana

Aapas mein dou ladi ladi mue, maram kou na jaana

This couplet is as appropriate today as it has been since ages. For the Hindu, Ram is the ultimate and for the Muslim, Rehmana is the one and so on. Even though all religions at some level teach the oneness of humanity and the Godhead, the followers become fanatic over their form of worship. Some take to sword and some to evangelism, forcing and urging people to accept that theirs is the only way. But none of these fanatics know the truth in essence. So they fight onto death.

VII

Good times, bad times

Sukh mein sumiran sab kare, dukh mein kare na koy

Jo sukh mein sumiran kare, dukh kahe ko hoy

It is exam time. Time for the ill prepared to go to temple, remember Jesus or Allah. Or, somebody is seriously ill. Even the doctor says (in line with our popular Bollywood dialogue) – Inhe abhi dawa nahin,  dua ki jarurat hai. People usually remember God or come to spiritual practices only when in distress. But, Kabir says, if you regularly remember God or do your spiritual practices, there will be no occasion for sorrow to befall on you.  Even if it comes, your wisdom will make light of it so that you do not feel distressed.

VIII

Search within

Kasturi kundal base, mrig dhundhat ban mahi

Jyo ghat ghat ram hai, duniya dekhe nahi

A deer has the fragrance in itself and runs throughout the forest for finding it. Similarly God is everywhere but we miss it and run round and round like the deer. Quite often we miss what is so obvious, what is so omnipresent and what is so close.

IX

When the ocean drops into a drop

Boond samani hai samundar mein, janat hai sab koi

Samundar samana boond mein, bujhe birla koi

This is another beautiful example of ulatvani. When a drop merges into the ocean, everyone understands it, but it is the rare one who understands the essence of the ocean merging into the drop.

Even in spiritual context, it is said that the ultimate aim for the individual consciousness is to merge with the universal consciousness. Even it can be seen this way – the ultimate aim of the devotee is to merge in God. But Kabir says that the phenomenon is just the opposite. When the devotee reaches its zenith, God comes to meet and merge in him. The devotee becomes the universe, the individual conscious becomes the universal consciousness.

X

The consciousness beyond all dualities

Had mein chale so maanava, behad chale so saadh

Had behad dono taje, taako bata agaadh

A normal human being is confined in limitations. The Sadhu transcends human limitations. But still there is a higher state, that goes beyond limit and limitlessness. The depth and understanding of such a being is unfathomable.

Kabir urges the spiritual aspirant to go beyond all dualities, including the dualities of limit and limitlessness.

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.