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.

sixteen parenting sutras

parenting sutrasI am not a great believer in tips, tricks, shortcuts, and patchworks (or what they fashionably call ‘hacks’ these days) when it comes fundamental issues of life and relationships. In fact such superficial measures cannot have any meaningful impact when it comes to deeper issues of life. I believe that if one’s basic attitude or philosophy is based on sound understanding of the issues, these will be in the right direction and a few mistakes on the way will not have much  impact in the long run. After all no one is perfect. But one can have the right attitude and adopt a philosophy that is based on the reality of the times.

Each of the sixteen ‘sutras’ or principles that I have phrased and enunciated in this book has an underlying philosophy. Each is an attitude to adopt. These are not tips and tricks to be used in response to  particular situations.

These principles have taken a long time to come to sixteen. In 2008 I was invited to give a talk to the parents of a gated community. For the talk, I developed a write up that I called five parenting points. That time I was regularly conducting Art of Living classes for adults and children. I was also doing my meditation regularly. This write up was a product of my receiving divine revelations from up above.

Just joking. Actually this write up was a product of my interest in eastern philosophy, my own experience as a parent for fifteen years by then (What is so unique about it?), and my interaction with a large number of children and parents by virtue of my workshops where in both the parties voiced many of their concerns.

The write up about five parenting points was published in ‘Lighthouse’ where I have been a co-editor.  Subsequently, a magazine about Positive Life took an interest in the article. The editor was so positive about the interest this article would generate among the readers that she wanted me to expand the article so as to be serialised over a number of issues. I expanded the principles to ten. Subsequently, I don’t know why her enthusiasm turned negative. Was it because I had cited a Samskrit sloka that did not go down well with her? Well, I would never know.

The manuscript gathered dust till last October when I wanted to revive it. Meanwhile, I have also become a little wiser so as to make the total number of principles to sixteen.

So, if you are looking for shortcuts or any quick fixes, this book is not for you. But, if you would like to explore beneath the surface and ponder over the common fallacies that many parents fall prey to, read the book and chew on. It is a small book. But the impact may not be so.

 

the perils of being a vegetarian

Self styled Indophiles and western and westernized authors propagate the myth that an ideal Hindu is an idol worshiper, a snake charmer, a fatalist, a peace-loving tolerant compromiser and above all, a vegetarian. Of course, it is a statement of half truths.

When it comes to vegetarianism it can be said without being politically incorrect that Hindus are selectively vegetarian. Contrary to the practice of the pro-genies Abraham, non-veg foods are absolute no on religious occasions for the pro-genies of Brahma, the exception being certain festivals and rituals connected with shakti and tantra.

South Indians who have never come in close contact with the Brahmins of Odisha, Bengal, Bihar or the Kashmiri Pandit, may generalise that a Brahmin has to be a vegetarian. This again is far from the truth, the exception being the Bengali Brahmin for whom fish is a vegetarian delicacy.

Rather I should say that among the Hindus some are vegetarians, some are selectively vegetarians and some are selectively non vegetarians. When I say selectively non-vegetarian it is applicable both across the spectrum of time and the spectrum of non-plant based foods. This again is region specific.

I come from a family of Odiya Brahmins where some of the elders did not believe in the practice (not in principle) that a Hindu, that too a Brahmin, has to be selectively vegetarian. For them it did not matter whether it was a Thursday or the Janmastami. Without some kind of non-veg sides their stomach refused to accept any kind of food.

Now I am a converted vegetarian.  The transition from being a selectively vegetarian to a pure vegetarian happened when I became a certified yoga teacher. I was supposed to warn my course participants about the perils of non-veg foods and the related issues like cruelty to the animals. There was no way I was not going to practise what I preached. Frankly speaking my transition was not a difficult one. I am not a foodie and before becoming a full time converted veggie it was only on rare occasions that I used to take non veg food.

So now, having adopted vegetarianism as a way of life I am not looking back in spite of the fact that it has now become an expensive lifestyle choice for a city dweller who does not have the luxury of a kitchen garden. I remember that during our childhood days in the village half of our vegetable needs were fulfilled by our own vegetable garden in the backyard. Even half of our non-veg needs were fulfilled by the river flowing by.

On a sleepy Sunday morning you go to the local vegetable market to wake up to the fact that today tomato has decided to act pricey and hence out of reach. Some other day you get exhausted chasing the onion that is playing catch me if you can. This does not  happen with the prices of non-veg food items that do not go through seasonal fluctuations even though they are subject to normal market inflation like any other item. Forget about mutton and chicken, these days, the transportation networks ensure that even fish never goes out of fashion.

You may safely eat fish salad, but unless your vegetables are cleaned by a Hema Malini recommended scientifically sophisticated vegetable washer you would be eating raw vegetables at your own risk. Same goes for the carbide laced fruits available in the market. After getting mouth ulcers on a number of occasions, these two items – uncooked vegetables and ripe fruits –  have entered my not-to-eat list along with non-veg items, further narrowing down my to-eat list.

To avoid the ill effects of the chemical and colour laced fruits and vegetables, now a days, you have the choice of upgrading your status (both real and Facebook) from being a simple vegetarian to an organic vegetarian. That again comes with its own price tag further increasing your cost of maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle. Further, there is no way of ascertaining, if someone is taking you for a ride in the name of organic food.

Indian hotels too give the vegetable lover a raw deal. The word vegetarian has a close connection with vegetables. When you go to a south Indian veg Hotel, the only item containing vegetables sometimes could be the pickles.

In a north Indian pure veg hotel when the waiter sings the menu starting from various combinations of paneer and mushroom I feel like shouting at the top of my voice, you *** let me tell you paneer is not a vegetable and mushroom is a controversial vegetarian delight as my friend from Andhra testifies that in their family it is considered a non veg item. By the way, someone following the vegan philosophy would not certify paneer, which is of animal origin, to be conducive to a vegetarians lifestyle. Now, tell me about a dish containing vegetables. Then his answer would be,  ‘Sir there is mixed veg, veg kolhapuri, ……’ Being allergic to over-spicy dishes I opt for the mixed veg highlighting the fact that it should be less spicy.

When the waiter brings me the dish of mixed veg, do I hear the poor vegetables singing:

"dhondo dhondo re sajna.. 
bits and pieces of us
in this ocean 
of gravy and spices"

When it comes to parties- official, unofficial, formal and informal- it is not a nice feeling these days to belong to the disadvantaged minority. In our family we have this ritual called the sacred thread ceremony where the son of a Brahmin is certified to have known the Brahman and become the twice born after not understanding a single word of what the purohit was chanting for three hours. Now a days even such a religious occasion demands at least a fish dish. Like any other buffet party here also your area is quarantined.

When I was a neo convert to the cult of vegetarianism I would go to any such party with the airs of moral superiority over the people who are directly or indirectly responsible for heinous cruelty to animals. It would take some time for me to realise that actually I was looked upon like a criminal there as someone would remark with a disdainful look, ‘Oh! You are a vegetarian’. Even some well wisher friends would bestow me with tons of sympathy for what I was missing in life.

So, with chemically conditioned and artificially colored vegetables and step motherly attitude of the hoteliers and party organizers, the tribe of vegetarians will continue to face the existential crisis for years to come.

It is said that Budhha had fixed a maximu limit  of  begging for his bhikhus. Those days it must have been simple – A few handful of anna and vegetables. I think if Budhha were alive today the limit would be something like this:  150 grams of rice and vegetable (both organic) and two liters of mineral water. Alternately, he might have set a limit for daily cash receipt with an inflationary component factored in.

Mad charvak says that in this ghor kalyug even a monk needs money, a lot of money. After all,  he has to purchase the water to drink and maybe,  after a few years, the air to breathe.

P.S.: To be fair even though occasionally the price of a particular farm product sky rockets, the farmer hardly gets anything out of it. Rather, in some seasons we come across the phenomenon when tons of rotten vegetables are thrown away or vegetables are sold at throw away prices. Over the decades, food prices have not been subject to the same rate of inflation like other consumer items. In spite of the compensatory measures like fertiliser subsidy and other slogans, the overall condition of the Indian marginal farmer continues to deteriorate.

do self help books help?

self-help

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.

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

blogpost-wow-write-your-life-story-in-ten-sentences.jpg

‘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

If Life is a Game, Play

 

I am reminded of Shakespeare’s famous lines, ” All the world is a stage and we are mere actors and actresses….”. Further, he goes on to describe the stages of life. Beginning from childhood to old age, it is a full circle. My take from this is that if it is a play, where is the need to be so serious. Five thousand years before Shakespeare, Lord Krishna had emphasized amid the back drop a looming war that life is a leela, a play.

Of course, dear life, you are fleeting and momentary. So many sages through out the ages have tried to bring home the point that life is transitory. If misery does not last, so doesn’t  happiness. This does not mean one should shut oneself out of the play. Or, just watch, wait and endure till the play is finished.

I am reminded of the sand artist. The sand artist is a beautiful inspiration. His art is so transitory. Sometimes it may  not last beyond a couple of hours. But, look at his enthusiasm while he is in the process of creation. He does not loose heart over the fact that  it would all be over in a few moments.

Of course it is good to have the realization at the back of the mind that nothing is permanent. It takes away the feverishness that comes out of too much desire and attachment. At the same time one need not be anti-life. The sand artist inspires us to be lost in the creative process of the moment so much so that  the present moment is stretched to eternity. It is a beautiful balance. If life is meant to be a play, it is meant to be played and played with all intensity. One loses so much being just a bystander all the time.

Your opposites are there to give depth to each other, not cancel out each other. So, where is the point of complaining when bad moments come. Without pain how would we know pleasure? Even sweetness loses its taste when there is no other taste to contrast it with. Thus, dear life, whatever you throw at me, gratitude comes. Sometimes, when you take me down, I know it is just to deepen my roots, so that when I come up, I come up like never before.

There was a time, I tried to understand you. The more I tried to understand, the more I got intrigued. Then I realised there is no point in trying to analyse you too much. I stopped over thinking about you. And then, you smiled and invited me to dance with you. I just surrendered myself to you rhythm. In stead of understanding, I started living you, experiencing you and occasionally getting lost in wondering about you.

It has been such an intense living, not rejecting any of your moments, whether mundane or extraordinary. I would take this opportunity to give a small message to my fellow travelers.

If life is a game meant to be played, play. Do not stand on the side lines just to watch, cheer or condemn.

 Indian Bloggers

Street is where the action is

The street is a place of never ending ‘reality shows’ and ‘soap operas’, of fascination, beauty and ugliness. For this photo challenge, not only did I take some new photos, but also dug up a  few interesting ones from my archives. Here are a selected few, along with some thoughts they evoked.

I

street3

Don’t  we have such streets in every part of India, where the road is perpetually under repair? A street where tangled wires carrying charges and messages hang menacingly. A street of heat and dust and partially open gutters. And, the ubiquitous holy animal.

II

Of course, let not the previous picture  be taken as a representative image of India. I am not vying for any Oscar. Hence, I have no inclination to show only the ‘nasty’ part of India.

Street is where the action is. Sometimes some inaction. Many streets could be so beautiful and cosy, you would not mind having a sound sleep on its pavements on broad day light, as can be seen in the  picture below.

street-1

Oblivious of the surrounding sounds, his chappals serving as his pillow, this old man takes a sound  afternoon siesta on the hard pavement  of a busy Bengaluru street.

Obviously, when it comes to quality of sleep, the quality of bed is immaterial.

III

street5

While  some step lightly into the day, hoping it to be a jolly good one ………

IV

On the same street (in the same frame) there is some one getting prepared to shoulder the burden of the future.

street4
“If only I could exchange my two small bags for a big bite of those two ‘happiness’ pieces.”

 

V

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Things do change. The street of picture I, after two years.