one year of one life is not enough – a recap

The first blog post was written exactly on this date last year.

Of course this is not my first blog. Two out of the earlier three blogs were lost to unprofessional hosting services. Unfortunately,  in one case I lost half of the posts as well due to my casual attitude towards regular back ups. Now I ensure that I back up regularly even though the blog is now hosted on the server of a trusted service provider.

Another blog that I used to have on blogger platform has been closed down as it was not practicable to have two blogs on the same theme.

I am thankful to all my fellow bloggers and readers for their encouragements and feedback. Hope, your love will continue to shower.

My special thanks to Ruchi Verma of Wiggling Pen (Formerly For Foodie Family) for considering my blog as the best personal blog of 2016.

Here are a random selection of ten posts that you might have missed:

1.   Bhajiwali’s Husband  : My maiden attempt at fiction (short story). Tried to find out a suitable name for the bhajiwali’s husband. But, could not.

2.  I see you as you are : Wouldn’t  it be a nicer world if we saw individuals as individuals stripping each one from their ethnic, religious or other kinds of stereotyping.

avtar2

3. Colours of a subzi bazaar: We are all familiar with a typical Indian subzi mandi. But have we ever taken a close look or soaked in its colourful ambiance? Interestingly captioned, this collection of photos  captures the moods of the neighborhood vegetable market.

sbh

4. It takes all the running you can do to to keep in the same place: Certain quotes and lines that linger your mind vaguely may make sense much later. Same thing happened with this line from ‘Alice in Wonderland’,.

alice_in_wonderland

5. When the wrapper is considered superior to the gift inside: emphasising the inner over the outer, Sant Kabir, in one of his couplets, says – Jat Na Puchho Sadh Ki Puchh Lijyo Gyan. 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.

6. Sunday musings and random notes #5: I have posted a series of lighthearted musings titled ‘Sunday musings and random notes’. This one with a few puns thrown in here and there takes a peak into the Bond movies over the years.

sanskari-bond-2

7. My idea of an evolved human being: The title says it all. It is about my idea of an evolved human being. It is what I personally strive to evolve into, in spite of being taken advantage of at times.

8.  The Revelation: My attempt at composing a sher in angrezi. A micro poem of just four lines. I could have as well written it here. Then, you would have missed the photo and some insightful comments.

9.  Suppose dogs were allowed status update: Another micro read. A funny take on the world of social media update. A short read.

10. Love is in the air: An attempt to explore various flavours of love, including the mundane ones.

love3

 

 

 

 

do self help books help?

self-help

Those who can, they do; those who cannot, they teach – thus goes an old maxim.

This can be a bit harsh to the teachers and coaches. Of course I include the writers of self help books and motivational speakers in this category. I say this even thought I myself have been and still do, off and on,  teach, give pep talks and write on ‘Art of Living’.

It does not mean that teachers are not successful. Only thing is that their growth, in the field that they are teaching now, has stopped.

Now  consider this. If somebody is passionate about science, he (she included) would go into the depths of science and come up with some invention or land mark scientific theory. He would not plunge into teaching science right after graduation or post graduation.

Players usually become coaches when they are well past the time when they could win at professional sport. In a sense they are teaching because now they can’t.

In fact I would rephrase the saying to say that  those who can should not teach, at least while they are still doing it and in the filed they are doing it. There comes a conflict of interest issue here. When a writer conducts creative writing workshop  I do not think she will honestly pass on all the secrets and tricks that has made her successful. Similarly, a professional payer cannot share all his secrets to others who are either his competitors or his potential competitors.

Today the book market is flooded with self help books. It is another issue that that the majority of the self help books do not help as was found out in a survey done some time back.

Before picking up a self help book one should do this simple probing. Did this author succeed in any thing other than in the field of writing self help literature. Recently, a book titled Success Mantra became a best seller in India. At least it was claimed to be so. The writer of the book is Mr. Subrat Roy and he wrote this book while he was in jail for his fraudulent practices. No doubt he has been successful. But what kind of success are we talking of?

Those who never worked in an office writer books about how to succeed in the workplace. Sometimes, people who failed in every field they tried their hands on, write books about how to achieve success and suddenly the book becomes a best seller.

Similarly,  I come across a number of motivational speakers whose only claim to fame is being a successful motivational speaker. Many of them chose this field because they could not stick to and persevere in their earlier chosen fields. Some of them might have been kicked out of their earlier jobs. Yet, they are hired by companies by paying hefty sums to motivate their employees to work hard and be more productive.

It is not that I have been a strict adherent of the wisdom I am dispensing here. I have also read a number of best seller self help books. One thing I have noticed is that if you pick any book, not only does it say why this book is the best book,  it also tries to convince you that all the other books are totally out of time and useless. Now examine another scenario. Suppose there are 100 self help bestsellers. Every books proclaims that other ninety nine books would not work. So by the authors’ own collective admissions 99% of self help books do not help.

But all self help books are not totally useless. Occasionally, you may comes across a book that dispenses wisdom and insights to uplift you.

I have come across friends and colleagues who are addicted to self help books. They do not read anything else. If you are one of them, remember: there had been successful people since the time of Adam, long before the Americans started flooding the market with self-help books.

Of course, you may take solace in this positive possibility. If you read enough number of books on how to become a motivated productive employee, one day you my end up becoming one of those motivational authors or speakers.

Well, what has been your experience? Please leave your opinions.

yoga #2: common yoga myths

yogaThe celebration of international yoga day has brought a lot of limelight to the ancient Indian practice of yoga. However, the myths surrounding yoga still continue.

In fact, as more and more people take to yoga in various capacities as practitioners, teachers, propagators and entrepreneurs new myths are created and propagated to suit vested interests. Here, let us explore a few of such myths.

 

  1. Yoga is all about asanas and body contortions

Now a days many forms or rather distortions of physical postures and activities are practised and are passed for as yoga.

In a wider context yoga is all about bringing integration to one’s various levels of existence. The word yoga which has been derived from the root ‘yuj’  means to join.  The English word ‘yoke’  has originated from the word yoga.

Asanas or the physical postures are part of the branch of yoga known as ‘Hatha’ Yoga. The broader context of yoga can be understood from the fact that various chapters of Bhagavat Gita are named as various types of yoga. Like Arjun Bishad Yoga, Sankhya Yoga, Gnana Yoga etc. Lord Krishna is also known as yogeshwar even though he is not known to have taught any kind of asanas. However, whenever there is talk of yoga, people understand the physical part of it.

  1. Maharshi Patanjali is the harbinger of yoga

Interestingly the word asana occurs in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras only a couple of times. Patanjali’s compilation of Yoga Sutras explores the basic philosophy of yoga. It does not contain any technique or procedure regarding how to do yogasanas or prayanama etc.

Various forms of yoga including Hatha Yoga have been in existence long before Maharshi  Patanjali compiled the Yoga Sutras  around 200 BC. Proof of yogic postures have been found to be in existence in the lost civilization of Mahenjodaro. Like the Upanishads whose writers preferred to by anonymous, the exact inventors of ancient yogic postures and practices are not known.

  1. With so many fake gurus around, it is better to self learn yoga. 

There are black- sheep in every profession. There are fake or fraud doctors. That does  not prevent us from going to a doctor when a need arises. Nor, do we brand the whole profession as frauds because of the existence of a few fraud doctors. Ravana came to abduct Sita in the garb of a saint.

In the Yogasara Upanishad it is said, “Gururantike yogabhyaset”-  Learn yoga under the guidance of a Guru. Similarly, setting aside their friendship, Arjuna accepts Sri Krishna as a Guru and seeks his advice for his existential dilemma. (Shishyasteham trahi mam prapanna… thus goes a stanza in the Bhagavat Gita)

Authority from the scriptures apart, let it be known that any kind of yoga, even hatha yoga is not just a kind of sundry exercise.  Many subtle energy centres and channels get activated while doing yoga.  So, the presence of a master or an expert is always a safer option.

Self learning of yoga is a kind of self medication where trial and error may sometimes lead to  dangerous consequences. Even if one may not face any kind of danger, one has to do a lot of trial and error and spend a lot of time unnecessarily to find out what form or pattern of yoga would suit one, considering that various combinations of yogic practices may run into thousands. Either way, it makes sense to seek the guidance of a master.

It is better to learn yoga first under the guidance of a master- a genuine master.

ageing gracefully

 

Once somebody asked His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – ‘How can we age gracefully?’  Pujya Gurudev answered,  (with a mischievous smile and a small subtle gesture toward himself) “Like this! See you are really asking how to look attractive. Your desire to look attractive makes you unattractive! If you want to look attractive, have that feverish desire that makes you unattractive. But if you are calm, serene, then that brings beauty….”

Indian BloggersQuite often ageing ‘gracefully’ is equated with sporting a youthful look and many industries now survive selling those dreams. Some people go to great lengths to prove to the world that age has not withered their physical powers in any way even though they might have added a few wrinkles. There was this US millionaire who married an eighteen year old girl when he was eighty six. He spent millions and hired many top scientists to do research on slowing down aging process.

Many wise men have come up with prescriptions and consolations for the problems that come with advancement of age. “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul”, says Samuel Ullman while Jeck Benny philosophizes, “Growing old is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”. However here is a nice piece of advice from Ogden Nash, “Old age begins and middle age ends the day your descendents outnumber your friends”.

In India, traditionally, a certain amount of grace and respect has been attached to aging and in many families the eldest enjoys the veto. While the problem of aging has been an engaging concern in the west since long, with the disintegration of joint family and deterioration of family values it is becoming an ever increasing matter of concern in the east as well.

Be it on the popular films or the media, the solutions suggested mostly emphasise on being young at heart in line with what John Kenneth Galbraith said “If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon our heart. The spirit should never grow old.”

Some would like to continue to be young in their acts as well.  “I’m not in the least interested in growing old gracefully; I want to grow old disgracefully, with a gleam in my eye. I want to carry my own wood into my cabin on the day that I die,” said Leslie Kenton.

Worse than the obsession of hiding the wrinkles is the self inflicted pain of aging regretfully. Unfortunately, a great many of today’s middle aged and aged subscribe to it. While those concerned with freezing the marks of old age live in an utopian future, those aging regretfully live in a perpetual ‘should have’ past. The latter may agree with Mark Twain’s saying “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been”, – as if old age is not meant for smiling at all.

A simple antidote to aging regretfully would be to age gratefully.  When one ages usefully, aging gracefully is a natural follow up. May be that is what Pujya Gurudev indicated when  questioned about aging gracefully.

It is not that only when one has some kind of official or formal position, one can age usefully. Just an intention to change the dynamics from trying to be the centre of attraction every situation to giving attention to others will work wonders. One of the common complaints of the aged is- “Now no one cares for me, nor do I command the respect or awe  that I used to have”.

sri sri ravi shankar
Sand art tribute by famous sand artist of Odisha – Sudarshan Patnaik

(When we talk of aging gracefully and usefully, who can be a better example than Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself. By the way, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar steps onto his sixty first year today. Wishing him all the best. He has been a guiding light to millions in mastering the Art of Living. May his grace continue to flow for ages to come.)

Tabebuias -Living Life in its Totality

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Tabebuias – Flower full

Come February, and you will find these flowering plants called Tabebuias in the streets and parks  full bloomed in their yellow, pink or violet versions. This one too is in its full flowering glory.

I am awe stuck by these plants. Off season, you will not find even a single flower on them. But when they flower, they flower as if the whole being of the plant has flowered.

It reminds me of children. When they cry, they cry with their whole being; when they laugh, they laugh with their whole being. There is no halfheartedness. That is what you call living life in its totality.

As we grow up we become more and more divided. In order to achieve 101 things, we loose our propensity to live in the present moment undivided in our being. As the society becomes more progressive and more civilized, crocodile tears and plastic smile replace our heart full expressions.

The plant also reminds us of the principle of fullness and emptiness. It is the emptiness that gives birth to fullness. Sun Tzu has enunciated this in context of ‘Art of War’. In fact it is the basic principle of ‘Meditation’, and in general, this could be applied  in our attempt to master the ‘Art of Living’.

Ah the Tabebuias! How they remind us to live life in our totality. Either do something wholeheartedly or do not do it at all.

Indian Bloggers                                   tangy tuesday 21317

The Monk who is yet to get his Ferrari

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‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

In addition to sharing bits and pieces of information about my life on many of the posts here, I have written specific posts covering my personal life. All these have been categorised under 'memoirs' . 

May be this is an opportunity to sum up the journey so far. Maybe, I could be revealing some aspects for the first time in a public forum.

I was born in a remote village in Odisha about half a century ago and spent my early childhood there..

Did all schooling and colleging in government schools and colleges at government expenses (was recipient of generous Government scholarships from class IV till Post-Graduation)

In our days, campus placement was unheard of, but I got a campus selection.
(The head of our High School Campus selected me to marry his daughter.)

 After remaining an academic topper in all the exams till matriculation, decided to dip the academic graph so that I was able to join Indian Air Force, another childhood fascination. (Maybe to pay back part of the Govt. generosity bestowed on me during student days).

Now that our son has crossed fourteen, he is at par with both the parents and his elder sister  to have all the rights in our democratic family where no one imposes anything on another, even though consultations and opinions are actively sought.

While in high school, wanted to become a monk, so ran away from home for a brief period (safely during summer vacation) and stayed in a stranger’s house in Puri near Jagannath Temple.

Spiritual depth came in life after coming in touch with my master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living in 2001.

After living a vagabond life due to a frequently transferable service, came back to the city of my first love, Bengaluru,  in 2011.

In 1996, was bereaved of my mother who was unique, like every one’s mother and in 2008, lost my father – a simple man who never imposed anything on me even in my childhood.

I am a monk who is yet to get his Ferrari – having fun living the contradictions of life – being a mystic and a man of the world at the same time; trying to  delve into the depths of spirituality without getting biased or dogmatic towards anything.
Indian Bloggers

My Idea of an Evolved Human Being

An evolved human being has the innocence and intelligence of a child, yet is without the accompanying helplessness and childishness.

The evolved human being loves his neighbors, his culture & his nativity. However, he never confines himself to any boundary. He learns to see an individual as an individual and does not draw pre-matured conclusions based on the particular group the individual belongs to, by virtue of his birth. (more of this elaborated in I see you as you are)

He recognizes all the conditioning he is subjected to by the society and the vested interests and rises above them.  However, he does not forget his duties to the society and his fellow living beings.

He may or may not be a follower of rigid religious rituals, but he has a kind of religiosity or spirituality  that is not dependent upon any concept of God or Heaven or Hell.

Indian BloggersTo be an evolved human being is not only about valuing one’s own freedom, but also recognizing and respecting the freedom of others, at the same time realizing that we are all interdependent.

To be an evolved human being is about never going beyond a healthy point to persuade another to our own views and behave to our liking. It is never projecting our own dreams on others, however dependent they may be on us.

The evolved human being has his way, which he may follow very fervently. However, he recognizes and respects other paths.

Everything, anyway, one day returns to the source. The evolved human being, while realising the impermanence of everything, does not neglect to live with passion and commitment. (More of this at One life is not enough yet this moment is enough unto itself)

The evolved human being is truly an individual, yet he is the ultimate universal man. For him all the world is one family – ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’.

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Couplets of Kabir- My top ten favourites

 

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.

Lessons from the Movie – The Bridge on the River Kwai

bridge-on-the-river-kwai-1957

It was only accidentally that I got to watch the movie. In a friend’s  house once I came across dozens of movie CDs gathering dust. I asked him whether I could borrow those and see if those contain anything worth watching. On a listless Sunday when I had nothing else to do, I started checking the quality of the video of those CDs. After two or three movies, came the turn of this movie-the Bridge on the River Kwai. I could not simply stop watching the movie and kept on watching till the end. It was only later that I learnt I had watched one of the all time great movies. Here are the basics of the movie: (Source: wikipedia)

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 Second World War film directed by David Lean, based on the eponymous French novel (1952) by Pierre Boulle. The film is a work of fiction but borrows the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–43 for its historical setting. It stars William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness and Sessue Hayakawa. The movie was filmed in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). The bridge in the film was located near Kitulgala.


The film was widely praised, winning seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) at the 30th Academy Awards; in 1997 this film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.”

Lessons from the movie:

1. Quite often, the passion for creative activity/inventions/discovery coupled with the urge to display professional competence overrides ethical considerations. That’s why, knowing full well that the bridge would strengthen the enemy, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson went ahead to construct the bridge. Or else, we would not have people like Einstein inventing the Bomb. That may be one of the reasons why many bright people, who do not find a positive channel to utilize their talent, join destructive movements like the Naxal movement or insurgency outfits.

2. Whatever you do, sooner or later everything returns to dust. That does not mean we should stop creating anything. The sand artist is a great inspiration. Knowing full well that sometimes, the creative work will be washed away even before its completion, he/she does not loose enthusiasm or stop creating.

3. The movie ends with the words of Clipton – “madness.. madness”. Madness is a subjective view of the observer and there is hardly anything in life that’s not madness. If we took out the madness from life, may be, we would loose the charm of living. This also reminds us not to be too much attached to anything. For the enlightened, the crowd is insane; in the eyes of the crowd the enlightened is mad. There is a spiritual sect in West Bengal called the Bouls – the mad people.

4. Leaders, who show courage and stand by their people even in the face of adversity, are respected.

5. Adversity makes strange bed fellows. Even enemies develop cordiality depending upon the situation.

6. The British take pride in engineering marvels compared to their eastern counterparts to the point of showing disdain for the Japanese Engineers in the movie. I think, they deserve to do so. Many of the bridges they constructed in India still survive even though some are more than 100 years old. Sometimes in India we come across news where a bridge collapses even before its completion.