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.

 

the sentinels of vishnu

jaya vijaya.jpg
image source: pinterest

Ancient Indian legends or the stories from our puranas are not mere stories for entertainment. Each story also illustrates an eternal truth or an important lesson. Some of the puranas like the Bhagvat purana attempt to illustrate the principles of upanishads and other philosphies for the easy understanding of the common man. The two prominent epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata take us into deeper inquiry with regard to not only finding meaning in  life for an individual but also dealing with the complex social issues.

The stories of Jaya and Vijaya,  as narrated in Bhagvat Purana and further elaborated in various other puranas, are really fascinating. Jaya and Vijaya are not only the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu, but are also two of His closest devotees. Yet, in subsequent births they are the villains becoming fierce opponents of Lord Vishnu during some of His avatars. Jaya and Vijaya took birth as Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa in Satya yug, as Ravana and Kumbhakarna in Tretaya Yug and as Dantavakra and Shishupal in Dwapara Yug.

 In some mystical texts of ancient origin, it is also stated that Jaya and Vijaya are not different from Lord Vishnu. Of course it seems strange. But the stories of Jaya and Vijaya are in line with the following statements from Upanishad and other mystic ancient literature:

“One become two and then many, and finally many dissolve into the one”

Good and evil always co-exist. The Chinese concept of co-existence of opposing forces as found in the writings of Lao Tzu and other Taoist philosophers also finds resonance here.

According to the Bhagavata Purana, once the four sons of Lord Brahma also known as Sanat Kumaras, went to meet Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha Dham. The four sanat kumaras are Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumar. It is said that due to regular spiritual practices they looked like children. So the gatekeepers did not take them seriously. However, when they insisted that they be allowed to go inside without delay, Jaya and Vijaya told them that Lord Vishnu was taking rest and they have to wait till He wakes up. At this, the kumaras were enraged and told that Lord Vishnu is available all the time for their devotees. Further, the kumaras cursed the gatekeepers for their insolence so as to be born in the mortal world leaving their heavenly bode. Subsequently, the gatekeepers asked forgiveness of the kumaras and requested Lord Vishnu to waive off the curse. Lord Vishnu told that the curse of divine beings like the kumaras cannot be reverted. However, he wanted to commute the punishment. So He gave the gatekeepers two options – either to be born as His devotees for six births or as His enemies for three births. Jaya and Vijaya chose the latter as they thought the sooner they are re-untied with their master the better,  even though they have to play the role of villains.

So in their first descent from heaven as mortal beings they were born as Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa. It happened in Satya Yuga.

The story of Hiranyakha

Rishi Kashyapa had two wives – Aditi and Diti. All the devas and other auspicious beings were born to Aditi while the demons in general, and Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa in particular, were born to Diti. Hiranyakha, the elder one, was conceived during the evening time and stayed in the womb for one hundred years.

Hiranyakha, which means – one whose eyes are obsessed with gold. It signifies the greed for wealth and all worldly desires. The greedy and the lustful ultimately become tyrants and sadists. So it happened with Hiranakhya that he became a  burden  for the existence.

At his birth itself the universe was filled with inauspicious omens that scared the devas. They went to Lord Vishnu and sought protection. Lord Vishnu assured them that when the time was ripe he would descend to restore the balance.

Hiranyakha grew up to be a great devotee of Lord Brahma. The severity of his penances moved Lord Brahma. Knowing full well that boons given to this demon would only be misused,  Lord Brahma had to give  him boons which granted him immunity from being killed by any God, human or demon.

True to the predicament of the Gods, Hiranyakha started misusing his powers. Entering the sea, he started churning it with his waist. Varun Dev, the Lord of the Sea was upset. Yet the notoriety of Hiranyakha was so much that Varun Dev, instead of offering a fight, went to hide himself.

Narada Muni, the beloved of all Gods, demons and humans happened to pass by. He stopped for a chitchat with Hiranyakha. Hiranyakha asked Naradji if there was anyone now more powerful than him. “Yes”,  said Naradji, “It is none other than Lord Vishnu.” Thus saying Narad muni disappeared instantly, without stopping to provide whereabouts of Lord Vishnu or any further information.

Hiranyakha started searching for Lord Vishnu everywhere he could go, but to no avail. Frustrated, he made the earth into a round ball and hid it in the cosmic ocean, so as to provoke Lord Vishnu to  come to him.

The devas panicked and approached Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu took the form of a wild boar. It was his Varah avataar – the third one. Lord Vishnu took this Avataar so as not to transgress the boon given by Lord Brahma. There ensued a fierce fight between Lord Vishnu in his Varah Avtaar and the demon Hiranyakha. Finally Hiranyakha was killed and the earth was restored to its former glory.

The demonic mind set is that even after so much penance it asks for power and glory – the things that are transient. Neither does it rest in peace, nor does it allow others  to have it. It seeks power and glory to torment others. In contrast, the person with divine mindset seeks love, beauty or truth. Even if it gets power,  it is utilised for the benefit of the mankind.

the sentinels of vishnu part #2

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

Essays on Hinduism by Karan Singh

 

essays-on-hinduismIt is not a book review. I am not going to write about the pros and cons of the book. I loved the book and will give a summary of the book along with the salient features that stuck me.

I read this book over  a couple of days in a hospital waiting room. Once I started the book or every time I restarted the book, I  got lost in no time and forgot about the surroundings, till someone came and tapped my shoulders.

This book is written by Karan Singh, an Ex-Cabinet Minister in the Congress Government. So the book is not coming from a member of the saffron brigade. Nor is it written by one of those so called foreign scholars. Hence, we may expect a fair degree of neutrality along with the right amount of compassion, unlike the contents in the plethora of books on Hinduism which either exalt it to the point of exaggeration or portray it as nothing more than a religion of snake charmers, idol worshipers or  charlatans  selling solutions for premature ejaculation.

Blurb:

In this collaboration of essays the author discusses the basics of Hinduism. Outlining the message of the Bhagavat Gita and the Upanishads, he argues that Hinduism is not a cult, nor a bunch of dogmas but a religion of the highest order that speaks of an immanent and transcendental god. It also offers a philosophy of life that cuts across ethnic and geographic barriers between men. According to him, the essentials of Hindu religio-philosophic teachings are pervaded by the ideals of universalism and love for humanity.

The author drives home the relevance of Hindu unversalism to an age in which nations are armed for mutual annihilation. He maintains that successful application of the  Hindu seers will help humankind to overcome the worst crisis facing it in the nuclear age, and will lead to restructuring  the world on the all-embracing principle of freedom and equity. the text is followed by the author’s lucid translation and commentary on Mundak Upanishad.

 

However, what the blurb does not talk about is the recurring theme in the book that Hinduism has five basic tenets . The author returns to these tenets again and again. These five tenets, in brief, are as follows:

  1. The concept of Brahman, the unchanging undying reality that pervades the entire cosmos. The vedic seers saw that everything in the universe changes and they called the creation sansara, that which always moves. But they also perceived that behind this change there was an unchanging substratum from which the changing worlds emanated like sparks from a great fire. This supreme all pervasive entity known as brahman has been beautifully described in various upanishads.
  2. The second great insight of the vedic seers was that,  as the changing universe outside was pervaded by Brahman, the changing world within man himself was based upon the immortal spark known as  Atman. The human entity is born again and again across aeons, gathering a multitudes of experiences and gradually moving towards the possibility of perfection.
  3. Having perceived the existence of Brahman without and the Atman within, the great seers realized through their spiritual insights that Atman and Brahman are essentially one. This  concept of Tat Twam Asi (that thou are) is beautifully expounded and illustrated in Chhandogya Upanishad.
  4. The fourth basic tenet is about the supreme goal of life  which is to realize the deathless Atman within and its unity with the Brahman.
  5. The fifth one is the concept of Karma – a concept that includes Action, Causality and Destiny.

In the chapter, Secularism – a New Approach, the author emphasises  the need for an Indian approach to secularism as opposed to the western approach which is prevalent now. According to the author,  India has never had an organised church , so the European concept of secularism was never relevant to our requirements. The following are the three premises suggested by the author to form the basis of our secularism:

  1. The term Sarva-dharma-sambhava (Not favoring a particular religious denomination over others) is a  far more meaningful formulation than Dharma-nirapekshata and  is much closer to the view of Mahatma Gandhi on secularism.
  2. When the conflicts among various religions and religious sects which create serious law and order problem, it is clear that the myth of religion being a purely personal matter can no longer be sustained and the state has to take cognizance of religion as social force.
  3. The myth that, as education increases and living standards improve religion will steadily lose its hold over the minds of people and become increasingly peripheral, has been debunked by the facts that  more places of worship are found in developed societies than the underdeveloped ones.

The author also touches upon the subject of environmental preservation and other issues faced by the global citizen  and how the solution can be found combining modern findings with vedic wisdom. At the end the author hopes that  the world recognizes ‘Basudhaiva Kutumbakam‘ (The whole world is one family) as propounded  by the ancient seers so as to realize the oneness of the human race and rise over individual and class differences to  end the conflicts among nations and groups.

Thus, major parts of the book explore the insights of the ancient seers as found in the Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures in general and the Bhagavat Gita in particular.  In a way, though the eighteen essays along with the appendix containing commentaries on Mundaka Upanishad, the author presents the soul of Hinduism, as opposed to its body which are the various rituals associated with the religion ans which are also the major focus of many of the western writers and Indian intellectuals.

My recommendation:

If you want to have a feel of the soul of Hinduism and get many of your long held myths  (which you might be unaware till you read this book)  about the religion  get busted, this book is a must read for you.

Indian Bloggers

 

The Notebook of a Blank Life

New Delhi, 31.12.1974

She opened a blank note book. “It was not just any blank note book”, recalled Shravani. It had been given to her by a Buddhist Monk, when she had wandered inside the monastery in a listless moment  a few days back. Nothing was written on its blue covers. There was  no mention of its price, not even the name of the company making such notebooks. It contained one hundred pages of spotless white pages. It reminded her of ‘One hundred years of solitude’ – a book she had postponed reading a hundred times or so.

She smiled. It was the smile of a remote uncertain hope. A kind of imagined hope one experiences when the day gets slightly brighter on a gloomy rainy day.

But the memory of the tumultuous recent past cast such a gloom. How was she going to erase it? How was she going to be relieved of the burdensome memory?

She had read somewhere, she remembered, “to write is to get relieved”.

Indian BloggersAt the age of thirteen, when most of her friends boasted of boyfriends,  she had formed an idea that she was enough unto herself. Now, at the age of twenty four some one comes into her life and she has this feeling that she is not enough unto herself.

He came, he saw and he swept her along. It happened at the wedding of one of her cousins, who was also one of her best friends. Usually, she avoided going to weddings. But this one she could not. Saket was not the usual guy who went out of the way to flirt with girls. Something happened in her in his presence. At the first meeting he had given her a ten second glance and gone away. Of course, she had heard of him from her cousin who had so profusely praised him as if her own fiancee was nothing compared to Saket.

Then there was a chance meeting with him after one week or so. The Ambassador she was driving had met with a  minor accident near Old Delhi Railway station. It had hit a taxi in front and a crowd had gathered around her. Things were taking an ugly turn. Suddenly, Saket appeared form nowhere and became her saviour. A friendship developed which slowly turned into romance.

They met at secret places as often as possible. There was neither a dream nor a down to earth plan that did not involve him. But the dream world of heaven did not last long. Some days back, on 20th December to be precise, she received a letter that jolted her out of the dream world. The hero of her dream world turned out to be a coward. Of course he claimed he was being martyred for the sake of his family’s honour and he had to marry the girl of his father’s choice.

The latest Bollywood number – mera jiban kora kagaz – wafted across from the radio of a neighouring house. She closed the notebook, kept aside the pen after  capping it and glanced at the envelope lying at the corner of her study table. She opened it to read the appointment letter, perhaps, for the seventh time. “Mama we are leaving to Calcutta Tomorrow. I am going to take up that job at the All India Radio, Calcutta”, she shouted so that here mother who was in the kitchen heard her. “It does not matter if we have to pack the whole night in stead of celebrating the new year”, she added.

She stepped on to the balcony. A gentle breeze was blowing, to sweep away the last trace of her burdensome past.  The neighbour had increased the volume of the radio. But she heard nothing. She saw nothing. Felt nothing. As if a sea of void had devoured her. As if the decision not to write about her tumultuous recent past had erased the memory of it. With this erasure, came a great relief, a great hope. A hope to start life anew, as new as a blank note book.

Mumbai, 31.12.1994

She moved to Calcutta with her mother, leaving behind her father who did not mind staying alone for some time. The stint at Calcutta was short lived. So was the stint at Madras where she had been transferred subsequently. At her own request and with a little bit of influence of her father who still worked for the government of India,  she got a transfer to Bombay. After moving to Bombay, life took a different turn. No more did her mother brought up the topic of marriage. She left the job at All India Radio and at the  behest of a private production company she became a director for Telvision Serials.

The December month of this year has been particularly  eventful. The short documentary film she had made on the life of the slum dwellers had won an international award. Her serials were getting high critical acclaim.

She was not much of a party woman. So she had declined all the invitations for the new year party. But her mother was happy to see the glow in her daughter’s face. This month has been an all time high in her career.

May be now was the time to write something in that notebook,  she thought. She had regarded the note book as a kind of a sacred relic. Neatly wrapped in a silk clothe, she had given it to her mother to keep it in a safe place. She asked her mother to bring her the notebook. The interior pages had slightly mellowed. But the pages were fit enough to be written upon. She recalled all her achievements and thought of chronicling those watershed moments in the notebook. She felt the rush of adrenaline and the unconstrained joy by recalling her achievements that had far surpassed her dreams. She wished she could somehow reign in her overflowing joy.

In the morning that day, she had gone to the beach to inaugurate the Sand Art Festival, where she was the centre of attraction. One of the sand artists was her intimate friend. As she remembered her friend, suddenly, she had a vision where the art and the artist were not different. She was terrified when she saw, in her mind’s eye,  the artist receding into the sea along  with the sand sculpture that he had created.

Simultaneously she saw that she herself and her achievements were  vanishing into the blank pages of the notebook and the overflowing joy had ceased into a calm lake without any waves.

She closed the notebook immediately, wrapped it up and gave her mother to keep it where it was.

New Delhi, 31.12.2014

After the death of her father, they moved back to Delhi. Even at eighty four, her mother was healthy enough to walk without support and eat without any restrictions. Sometimes she felt older than her mother. Of late, she had taken more interest in yoga, philosophy and spirituality. This particular day she had thought of going to the monastery with the blank note book and if possible to trace the monk who had  given her the notebook forty years back.

After reaching the monastery she sought an immediate appointment with the senior-most monk. She was ushered into a  circular room where the monks received visitors. As she entered the room she wondered whether life, some time or other came full circle. There was nothing on the wall except a painting of a lady and a monk. As her attentions got stuck there, the monk said that it is was a painting of Amrapalli, gifted to the monastery a few day back.

Oh! how could she forget Amrapalli. After all, she had made a serial on the Buddhist tales and the serial was highly popular those days.

The monk, his head clean shaven, was sitting on the floor on a mattress. He motioned her to sit across and make herself comfortable. She asked him as soon as she settled down, “Are you the same monk who gave me this blank note book?”.

“It does not matter whether I am him or not him. But what matters is, whether you have written anything in it.”

” I tried, but I could not write anything. Whenever I tried to write something some strange things happened in my mind.”

“Then, perhaps,  you deserve a better blank book or some surprise gift in exchange of the blank note book. You have preserved it so carefully.”

He went inside and brought a gift wrapped in colourful paper.

She was going to ask many things, say many things. But the monk got up and said, “Excuse me. I have to go urgently. Take this gift and open it at home. I will discuss with you when you come here next time.”

She took the gift home. This year too she had decided to skip the new year celebrations. “But one thing I will do this year”, she thought, “I will open the gift exactly at 12 o clock”.

It was midnight and she could hear crackers bursting and loud speakers blaring to announce the dawn of a new year.

She opened the gift. Inside was a strange thing that looked like a note book. As soon as it was exposed to the air it started vanishing and was gone in a few seconds.

Now there was nothing even to create the dilemma – whether to write or not to write.

Outside, the celebrations became louder and louder. But she heard nothing. She sat down and felt the silence within, as she sank into the depths nothingness.