Play the game of Life, to not win or lose, but to enjoy!


Winning in Life is not about how much you made or what you got, but, simply, is about how well and peacefully you played!

It is fantastic to win. To compete. To work hard. To want to get all that you want! To be on top of the world and to celebrate your conquest of hitherto uncharted waters. But it is also important you play. And just play. And play to enjoy the playing than wanting only the winning. This I say from a Life attitude point of view. Several of us have a ‘winning obsession’. Nothing wrong with it. Without wanting to win, there can be no discoveries, no conquests, no progress and no excellence.

Yet know also that Life may always not be fair. What if, despite your best effort and intent, your Life doesn’t fit into any logical framework? You have no idea of what’s happening to you and how you are going to handle it. How would you classify winning in such a scenario? When WHATEVER you try, how much ever you try, Life keeps plucking away from your hand?

In Life you can keep asking these questions, including others like ‘Why (only) Me?’ or ‘Why now?’. But there are no immediate answers. Your measure of success, financially, socially, physically, is always disproportionate to both your effort and intent. This is the harsh reality. Which is, the harder you work, the more ethical you work, the lesser you get rewarded in proportion! Yet you must play on. Remember, you DON’T have the option of quitting the game. Because quitting is easy. It is simply conceding defeat. It is in the playing, staying on, fighting every single day, getting better, not BITTER, with Life, that there is the winning, in this game of Life!

The world may define success as performance on parameters that are ‘visible’ and measurable __ the most easily available metric being money. You will be encouraged, actually coerced, to believe that success is only equated with how much you have in the bank, what is your credit-worthiness and what is the ‘method’ you employed to get rich?

But true wealth is your rich experience of having lived a full__irrespective of your circumstance__Life. Real success is not giving up and being positive and being present when Life is happening to you. 

I don’t know what you think. Or which side of Life you are on. But what I can tell you, and what you may want to tell your kids, is that Life will come at you, despite your best effort and intent, not to see you winning with riches and rewards, but to teach you how to win when all you have is a crown of thorns and a cross to bear! Winning then is just being present. Just being. When you are just being, you are  refusing to lose. And know that we cannot quit the game, because while giving in is an option (giving in = loving what IS!) in Life, giving up is not! We may depart some day, as all of us will, but it must not be because we quit the arena. But because we were called back by Life!     

Here’s an old Tao story on an archer’s obsession, his desire, to win! And there’s a great learning there for all of us too.

WHEN AN ARCHER IS SHOOTING FOR FUN
HE HAS ALL HIS SKILL.

IF HE SHOOTS FOR A BRASS BUCKLE
HE IS ALREADY NERVOUS.

IF HE SHOOTS FOR A PRIZE OF GOLD
HE GOES BLIND
OR SEES TWO TARGETS –
HE IS OUT OF HIS MIND.

HIS SKILL HAS NOT CHANGED,
BUT THE PRIZE DIVIDES HIM.

HE CARES.

HE THINKS MORE OF WINNING
THAN OF SHOOTING –
AND THE DESIRE TO WIN
DRAINS HIM OF POWER.

Don’t intellectualize Life, just live it!


You can’t intellectualize Life. You can only live it.

And the best way to live is to see from your soul. From the real core of your being. When you open your soul, you will see the light.

You are really not what you think you are __ you are not your name or body or qualification or your job! You are the Universe’s energy that’s powering you, and is actually powering all of creation. This isn’t complex at all. Every thing that’s happening to you and has happened or will happen in the future, is transient. Which is why in Indian culture, we refer to Life as ‘maya’ or as an illusion. So, in the end, this entire lifetime will be over, this experience you have had will end, but you soul will go on.

All your problems, worries, anxieties, fear, suffering come when you intellectualize Life. I have no money, what will I do? I am starting a new job, what will happen if I don’t fit into the new place’s culture? I have cancer and I will die soon. All these are intellectual responses. You have been conditioned to believe that you need money to live. That you cannot survive cancer. That people are unkind and that you must be wary of them in general. The soul has no such issues. It is impregnable. Nothing can touch it. If you understand your true Self, and see from your soul, you will live Life. And not merely exist.

Swami Ramakrishna Paramhamsa explains this very well. He was asked: “What is the logical, rational support for your illumination?” The question really was to understand what as the evidence for Ramakrishna’s enlightenment. He replied: “I am the argument. If you can understand me, if you can feel me you will know my illumination. It is radiating but your eyes are closed. Now I am not responsible for your eyes. If you want to know me, open your eyes — and not only the outward eyes but the inward too, because my illumination is of the inner.”

So it is with each of us. Our souls are closed. We operate as if our excel sheets and smart phones and our decisions make our lives happen. The truth is that Life makes our lifetimes happen. We don’t! If we accept this reality, Life will be simpler and much, much, much more beautiful!

When you pause for a while and watch lazy raindrops fall rhythmically on water puddles, when you see a baby sleeping peacefully with no care about the world around it, when you hear the bleating of a goat, when you see the sun magically disappear over the horizon, when you reflect on your breathing…..in those times, your soul will be open. The key is to make this experience consistently repeatable. And that can happen ONLY when intellectualization stops and living begins!
                                                                                                                                                                                          

Astrology is like a weather forecast: prepares you better if you use it well!


As long as the information you receive is reliable, use any tool to further your decision-making process. But apply your intelligence, gut feel and your FAITH too to make your choices. You may make some right decisions and you may make some decisions that go awry in Life. But whatever happens, you will have learned!

A friend told me yesterday that astrology doesn’t work. And wondered if I believed in it!

I am often asked this question. And my simple answer is the problem is really not with astrology as much as it is with astrologers. Astrology is a science. And it works pretty much like the way computer science or space technology or aviation works, Practitioners of science can do both __ for instance, they make life saving drugs and they make chemical weapons. Similarly, astrologers can be two kinds too. The ones who are like good scientists – precise, reliable, modest and ethical. And the others who are good with their craft but yet are greedy, want to control you so they can fleece you and therefore employ questionable practices and rituals in the name of ‘God’ and ‘religion’.

Obviously, people are free to choose. I am one who likes the truth up front, on the table and completely abhor religion and rituals. So, the astrologers I consult are those who are Masters __ they are as good as Sachin Tendulkar or A R Rahman are in their crafts.

Even so, I have also learned that astrology cannot change your Life. In fact nothing can change your Life’s design. And astrology can’t solve your problems. At best astrology serves as a dashboard __ just as you need to know various parameters to be able to drive your car efficiently, astrology can enable you to lead your Life better. It can help you deal with your problems better. But the aspect of leading your Life __ living it, being present, making choices, taking decisions, all of this is, and will forever remain, ONLY YOUR responsibility.

And this is where Faith comes into play. Faith, again what I have learned, is not about religion. It is about understanding and celebrating Life. It is about being. Being present, than about worrying or fearing, when Life is happening to you! I have learned to simply trust Life, which has given me this lifetime, and trust people who are Masters in their craft, their science, and lead it to the best of my ability. I employ astrology like I do a weather forecast. If I know it is going to be squally, I may prefer being indoors. Or if there are going to be showers, I will be better off carrying an umbrella. Just because the weather forecast says a storm lies ahead, I don’t plunge into a depression. And I sincerely hope no one does too. To be sure, praying to a God is not going to stop a Sandy hurricane from hitting you. A weather forecast and a natural calamity doesn’t mean you stop living. It only means you work on being better prepared. And you learn to accept whatever’s happening with the weather. So it is with you, your Life and astrology. Trust if you will, choose not to if you won’t!

Now you may wonder, and it is quiet logical, as to why and how do you trust someone who knows a science that you don’t. That’s precisely why you need that person. If you knew about something why would you need someone else to guide you? And don’t you trust a doctor, who knows how your heart or kidneys or lungs or liver work better than you do, with your Life when you sign up for a surgery? And don’t you also trust a pilot, whom you have not even met nor demanded to see his pilot’s license to check his credentials, with your Life when you board an aircraft to fly? So, why not trust an astrologer__who, by the way, is no small subject matter expert!

Good astrologers, like good doctors, are not charlatans or soothsayers. They are seers __ they have seen Life and see its inscrutable nature several-fold better than you or I do!

There was a time when, under advise from some quarters, I wore rings with special gems in them, on my fingers to ‘help protect me during my difficult times’. I was not convinced with this. But I still wore them because I thought I was not losing anything by wearing them. On one visit to my astrologer, a 75-year-old veteran, I showed him my rings and asked for his opinion.

He laughed heartily first! Then he asked: “Kallaala vidhi-ya matra mudiyuma, Saar?” ‘Can a stone change your destiny?’

I stared at him curiously. The absurdity of my choice and expectation that a pre-ordained design can be altered by wearing a ring became evident to me in a nano-second! I felt woefully stupid.

Then, he answered his own question: “Bhakti ala matrum mudiyum.” “Only devotion can change it.”

I also understood that the devotion he was talking about was not religious fervor. He invited me to stay devoted to the experience I was going through. He said experience is the ONLY teacher. And the more I resisted the experience of the challenging time I was being subjected to, the more I would suffer. Instead if I embraced it, loved it and devoted myself to the learning process, I may not suffer. Not that I can immediately change my current reality, he said, but I would be able to deal with it infinitely better.

I just loved his perspective and could relate to it completely. So, I put my faith in his advice. Astrology to me is a tool. It helps me take informed decisions. I use it as well as I use my cell phone. And both work on science!

As you can see, my Life goes on __ ridden with squally weather, hailstorms and cyclones, volcanoes, forest fires and earthquakes, but there’s phenomenal inner peace. Occasionally, I go back to astrology to refresh the forecast and my Life’s dashboard, so that I can lead myself and my family onward, on the path, that much better!

                                                                                                                                                                                          


Every moment in Life is a Leap of Faith


Don’t approach the future with fear. Dive into it with complete abandon!

Many a time, thanks to the blows Life would have dealt you, you may choose to tread warily, cautiously. This innate human nature to be forewarned sometimes evolves into fear. Fear breeds insecurity. And that leads to worry. How can you deal with what’s coming up in your Life when you are not even present __ in the present moment?

Life’s inevitable situations are agreeably numbing. They just leave you scarred and socked. But don’t let a past experience prevent you from living what you are endowed with right now or prevent you from approaching what’s coming up, freely.

Anchor in faith though. Know that if you have lived through your worst times, then you are ready for anything. And believe me when I say that what you fear most never happens. And if it is death that you fear, then that’s foolish. Because if you were to die, you would not even know you are dead. Someone else will have to be called in to certify that you are dead.

By letting fear get to you, you are losing Life as it is happening. Going through challenging times IS Life! While planning is important and we should all work towards higher fiscal and physical efficiencies, we must also understand that Life’s Master Plan is above all else. And when Life happens, you better be present. If you are busy planning, fearing or are swamped in the past or worrying about the future, you will miss living. And when you think you are ready to live, it’s already too late and the time to die, to depart has come!

Remember: Life is a bunjee jump. Every moment of Life is a leap of faith. Either you can let the fear of unknown cripple you or you can anchor in faith and know also that during the course of your jump, even as you think it’s all over, you will either be given wings to fly or a hand will haul you up!
                                                                                                                                                                                          

Why ask Why?

‘WHY’ is the most debilitating question in Life! The moment you ask that, your peace will be destroyed. And you will just go crazy.

For instance, just take the recent events in our world. Why should Malala Yousafzai be shot in her head when all she asked for was her right to an education? Why should an innocent lady girl be gang-raped in New Delhi, and with such beastly brutality that she fights for her Life despite her indomitable will to live? Why should 20 angels perish in a mindless bloodbath in Connecticut? Why should miscreants infiltrate the student crowds protesting peacefully in New Delhi and why should a police constable, who was only doing his duty, have to pay the price with his Life for their unjust, violent behavior?

Why do good people have to go through pain and suffering? Why does Life always work in a cycle: extraordinary pain always being a prelude to extraordinary grace and vice versa?

WHY? This one simple question really can drive you nuts.

Reading an interview The Hindu carried yesterday with music composer, the Maestro, Ilayaraja, I learned something more about the WHY question! Subha J Rao writes of the Master’s humility and wisdom saying, “….the Master musician refuses to take credit for any of his creations. “It just came. I don’t know from where. Questioning the origin of music is like asking why the breeze is soothing, why you shiver in exhilaration when the spray from the waterfall hits you. The day you wonder where it comes from, things get difficult. Sometimes, entire songs are ready in just about five minutes.

How do you explain that?””

Ilayaraja’s perspective to Life is enlightening. He has seen it all. And learned too. A simple village lad from Pannaipuram in rural Tamil Nadu, he made it so big in the south Indian film industry that films would run in the 70s and 80s only because they had his compositions in them. And then, with the advent of the techno-age in composing music, and with the rise of the prodigal talent A.R.Rahman, Illayaraja lost his relevance. He was literally in the wilderness between 1995 and 2011. Yet, he’s back now, because of the sheer quality of his work. He epitomizes the famous saying in cricket, “Form is temporary. Class is permanent.”

So, the key to intelligent living is to never ask why __ don’t ask when you are getting the Life you want and don’t ask when you are getting the Life you don’t want. Simply live __ wanting the Life you are getting!

The WHY question is also a human question. Look around you. Do you see any other form of creation questioning anything? Everything, everyone, is in a state of acceptance. Except us humans. Which is why suffering is such a unique human condition. Pain is everywhere. When a tree is cut, there is pain that the tree goes through. When there’s a drought, the earth goes through immense pain. But there’s no evidence to suggest that they suffer. Suffering comes ONLY when you ask why you are having to go through pain? Think about it. When you get a migraine or a cancer and you don’t ask why, will you suffer? You will be in enormous physical pain, alright, but you will not suffer. Suffering is born when you ask WHY and you get no reply. Because Life doesn’t give answers. It gives us experiences and allows us to learn from them.

Simplify Life. Learn to appreciate its beauty in its inscrutability. What are you going to achieve by dissecting Life and analyzing why things are happening the way they are? It would be an intelligent proposition if you could at least get half-way through to finding the answers you seek. But making sense of Life is like taking a sharp sword and hoping to cut through water. It is an exercise in futility and make you insane. Because no sword can even as much as cause a scratch on water! Lou Majaw, the pioneering musician from Shillong, who worships Life, besides Bob Dylan, teaches us to appreciate Life the best: “Life is beautiful, and the best part is you get it for free.”

So, why look a gift horse in the mouth? Why ask WHY?
                                                                                                                                                                                          

Will you be a Santa today__and all year round?


The true purpose of Life is to serve. And that’s what the spirit of Christmas is all about too.

As kids we have all grown up adoring Santa. We have waited for our gifts. Or in families such as mine, where Santa was seen as something Western, Christian, we perhaps quietly envied those whose lives were touched by Santa. Even if it was about some wishes coming true or about surprise gifts coming clothed in stockings, there was an admirable quality about Santa. He toiled to make others happy. I remember, as a young boy growing up in New Rajinder Nagar in New Delhi, in the year preceding the imposition of Emergency in India, wondering if Santa would not be tired visiting so many homes. My bed was beside the window. And my neighbor Buba, whose family had a Christmas tree up in their balcony with festive lights adorning the frontage, making it all, look surreal and beautiful, had told me that he had wished for Santa to deliver a battery operated toy car to him! Buba’s balcony was in front of my window. I remember sitting up all night, keeping vigil on Buba’s balcony, trying to see if Santa really came by. I must have slept at some point because I did not see Santa come in. But Buba had his wish fulfilled. He came running home first thing the next morning to show off his new toy car!

My own views of Santa have changed obviously over the years. From thinking of him as a religious father figure __ because he visited only Christian homes! __ to seeing the message of selfless service in his legend. And now I see Santa as a metaphor for service, for touching lives and for making a difference. Santa is also an inspiration for serving selflessly __ have you ever wondered what wish Santa may be wishing, what gift Santa wants or who will grant him his wish or give him his present?

Surely, as each generation grows up, it will realize, just as we all have, that Santa is what parents play to their excited little ones. But perhaps there is value in teaching our children, and their children, that a true Santa is really one who touches lives and makes a difference.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, try something different today. Don’t try it because I invite you to or that you want to feel good. Even wanting to feel good is an expectation. Do it because you genuinely want to give! Take anything that you have not used in 6 months __ except your passport __ and which you think will be more useful to someone else. It could be books, clothes, shoes, blankets, pillows, suitcases, a table lamp, utensils, a pen drive, an old wristwatch, a bunch of music CDs, whatever. Go around a couple of blocks in your neighborhood. And give away whoever needs whatever you have with you. Someone may not need any of these things you carry with you, but may just want a hot coffee, or some soup or a meal. Buy them that. Or sometimes people may just need someone to talk to. Give them your time, your presence and your attention. When you are handing over whatever you eventually will, look the person in the eye and say, from the bottom of your heart, ‘Thank You. Feel genuinely grateful for this opportunity to serve. If you felt blessed and drenched in a rare energy, do it every day. Or at least when you get time or whenever you feel depressed, trampled upon or lost in Life.

The essence of intelligent living is in understanding that it is far more significant to be useful than just be successful. A small mass of humanity is successful. An equally small mass of humanity is useful. But it is only the latter that make a big difference to a large mass of humanity that is suffering and lives in hunger and depravation __ yearning for food, clothing, warmth, shelter and above all, compassion.

You can choose to be Santa and touch those who form this unfortunate majority. Go touch a Life this Christmas __ that would be a far more intelligent thing to do than just post hollow greetings, that you have not even applied your mind, forget soul, to, on social media or instant messaging services.

In reality, Santa is timeless. And seasonless. When you value someone’s need as higher than your own, when you make an effort with no self-gain in mind, when you simply give because you want to give, you will be a Santa too and each day will be merry __ Christmas or not __ meaningful and memorable.