The best way to win any battle is not to fight at all.

Really, nothing is ever worth fighting for. When we fight anything__injustice, insult, injury__we are becoming centres of negative energy. This breeds hatred, anger and contempt.

By not fighting, the advocacy is not to give up one’s rights. Or to give up wanting to correct a wrong. You can claim your rights and set a deviant process or method right by addressing the core issue rather than turning yourself into a volcano that is boiling over__hurting yourself and others in the process.

So, the best approach to deal with situations that you don’t agree with, that you want to change, is to remain silent and yet keep working on taking irreversible corrective action. The immediate urge to explode, to seize control of and to prove a point must be avoided. The physical dimensions of a fight are simply not worth it. But at the same time keep at bringing about lasting changes to whatever you deem as unjust, unethical and improper. That way, you will contribute to a larger cause__of making a difference with your Life__as opposed to merely feeding your ego.

On a spiritual plane, and Life always bears testimony to this indisputable reality, when you let go, everything that you always wanted and more will come back to you!

The way to heal our world

The death, last week, of Garry Davis at a hospice in Williston, Vermont, in the US, at age 91, would not have made news had it not been for what he did for the last 60 years of his Life. Davis worked relentlessly and passionately for creating One World, where people were not divided by nationality. His thinking was that if there were no nations, there would be no war. Davis was not the first champion of the idea of One World, but was its most consistent, visible and vocal protagonist. To be sure, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Jean-Paul Sartre and E.B.White too had led with that idea but Davis was the only one who persevered with it, establishing the World Government for World Citizens, a self-proclaimed international governmental body that has issued documents — passports, identity cards, birth and marriage certificates — and occasional postage stamps and currency. In an obit, The New York Times reports: “The quest for a unified earth was an objective on which Mr.Davis had trained his sights very early. It was born of his discomfort with a childhood of great privilege, his grief at the loss of a brother in World War II and his horror at his own wartime experience as a bomber pilot.”
Davis’ response to a divided and increasingly warring world may appear to be bordering on lunacy when we consider the impracticality and impossibility of the idea. But conceptually there is no other way to heal the world. Every day, as we struggle to digest news from the world over, of civil strife, terrorism, bloodshed and violence, the need for peace, understanding and brotherhood seems only more urgent. facebook may have shrunk the world in terms of communication but the distances between its over 1 billion users has only grown wider, not to mention the other 6.5 billion who are not even similarly connected.
Years ago, Osho, the Master, propounded the idea of a commune, which he believed was the right answer to fractured families, societies, nations and the world at large. Osho reasoned as follows:
  •     It is not about living together. Everyone, everywhere is living together. But where’s the togetherness? In today’s world, people don’t even know their neighbors. This is not togetherness, because there’s no communion. So the current societal framework has to be pulled down.
  •      The first institution whose myth must be busted is that of the ‘family’. The family is all about possession: husband possesses the wife or vice versa and together they possess the children. The moment you possess a human being, that person’s freedom is lost forever. So, families must cease to exist.
  •     And so must marriages. Because marriages are built on the tombstones of love. The relating, the love, between people has long ceased but people still remain trapped in the relationship, in the marriage. Love should be the only law between two human beings. If they decide to live together, only joy should be their binding force, not a social framework.
  •      Right now everybody is living according to the idea of others. Religions, nationalities and faith are dividing people and pigeon-holing them. Human beings must just be seekers, discovering joy and inner peace in every living moment!

Perhaps, drawing from both Davis’ and Osho’s concepts, we must pause to reflect:
  •      Are any of our beliefs divisive?
  •      Are any of our actions even remotely isolating people?
  •      What can we do to create a more understanding, caring and loving world _ beginning with our own circles of immediate influence?

These are not profound or global issues. These are simple baby steps heal our ecosystems and to leave this world a better place than we found it!  

Hanker not for success nor fear failure

Last evening I was watching an old Hindi movie – Seeta aur Geeta (1972, Ramesh Sippy, starring Hema Malini, Dharmendra and Sanjeev Kumar). An interesting song in the movie got me thinking about success and failure. The lyrics of the song go: “zindagi hai khel, koi pass, koi fail….khiladi hai koi…anari hai koi….” It means, “Life’s a game…some succeed, some fail…some are great players and some are mere fools…”
While those lyrics are surely reflective of the truth, the other side of the truth is also that neither success nor failure is permanent. And today’s great players often bite the dust even as fools eventually learn to play the game of Life and win! My two-penny worth learning from Life is that we are all a product of the time we go through. Which is why I completely believe in and champion what the Chinese Master Lu-Tsu has said: “Work quietly, silently, untroubled by any idea of success or failure.”
The import here is that we must not get too lost in our idea of success nor be too fearful of failure.All we have to do is to keep at Life – living fully, quietly, diligently. What we must all realize is that success is a by-product of disciplined effort. It will happen on its own. Any obsession with success is a reflection of ambition, ego and greed. And when you are fully immersed in chasing success, you will be haunted by the fear of failure too. Such fear will be debilitating. So, in effect, you will be pulled apart by two conflicting forces. You will be full of turmoil within you. So, the best way to work is to put in your best and leave the rest to Life – choosing to stay detached from the outcome. Knowing, as the Bhagavad Gita says, that if the motive is pure and the means are correct, it will always be fine__your effort will always be rewarded. As Lu-Tsu says, this existence__Life__is very rewarding. Nothing genuine, attempted with integrity, ever goes unrewarded.
So, begin this Monday, by resolving to work quietly. Doing your best__not hankering for success nor fearing failure__and leaving the rest to Life!
Here’s the link to that song from Seeta aur Geeta – it’s catchy and hope its spirit and this learning stay with you all week!

Your anger is your own creation

Understanding why you are angry__with someone or something__is the most important step to be able to deal with it. Getting to the source of your anger is the only way for you to manage your emotional health better.
In today’s world, where personal time is at a premium, patience is scarce. Intolerance to people and situations drives each of us crazy. And more often than not, those who lose it, who succumb to anger, feel angrier at their inability to have held themselves in check.
I met a parent the other day who confessed that she was just not able to control herself when getting her playful 12-year-old son ready for school every morning. “Every day, I promise myself that I am not going to explode. But when I find him wasting his time on the computer or in the shower or reading up cricket scores in the paper, I simply lose it. I end up screaming, bringing the house down. Then after I have finally sent him off to school, I am consumed by guilt. Couldn’t I have handled him more maturely? After all, he’s my son. What do I do?,” she wondered. In another episode that I read in the papers this past week, a young man, in a fit of rage, hit a drunk laborer, who came in the way of his motorbike on the road, on the head with his helmet. The laborer collapsed and had to be taken to hospital where he died two days later. The motorist is now charged with murder. Both these episodes are manifestations of anger __ erupting from the stresses of everyday living.
I have had my fair share of explosive behavior in the past, and my own reflections, guilt and repentance have led me to discover that the best way to deal with anger is to go to its source, within you. The important point to be noted here youget angry only when things don’t happen the way you have wanted or expected them to happen. Whether it is your child driving you nuts with his childishness or whether a drunk is adding to your challenges because of his drunkenness or whether a boss is giving you a hard time because of her unreasonableness, anger rises in you. Not because the other caused it but because you allowed it to rise. Your anger is your own creation. And often times, in the name of being human, we express it on to the other person. Or, in the name of learning to control anger, we suppress it. But when you suppress anger you are not helping yourself either. Because while you may not be expressing it, even the very thought of the person against whom the anger is directed, will make you angry. You anger is still simmering inside you. And that’s not great news for your emotional health. Because today you will not express it. Maybe you will not express it for a week or month or year. But sooner than later the energy that’s boiling over within will find an avenue __ and will lead to an explosion,  often against someone who is momentarily placed in an emotionally weaker state than you. So, while you may have been angry with the boss, you will take it out on your spouse. Or the other way round! Clearly, neither expressing your anger not suppressing it is going to help.
So, what’s the way out?
There’s only one way: go to the source of your anger. Understand and realize that the source of your anger is within you. Know that unless you allow anger to erupt, you cannot be angry. And the way to disallow anger to rise within you, is to accept that you control nothing – and no one! Not your child, not your neighbour, not your boss, not even your Life! Don’t focus on your anger. Focus on understanding Life. Don’t focus on who’s doing what to you. Focus on accepting what has been done. Don’t sit in judgment. Don’t ask why or why me? Instead be anchored with your inner core and say that whatever is happening, is happening. You have to only accept it. And if you must avoid it from happening again, the only way to achieve it is to approach it with calm and not angrily!
A deeper perspective to hold is to understand that at our core, there’s nothing but energy. This is the same energy that is keeping us alive. This is the same energy that expresses itself as love, caring and compassion. This is the same energy that appears as anger, as hatred, as vengeance. The way to appreciate this energy is to remember that just before an angry moment happens in your Life, the energy is there. It is within you as long as you have been alive. Then why is it that you were not angry one moment and you are angry in another? Because you let that energy run amuck. You let it go berserk. If you can use your awareness and understanding to keep that energy from going haywire, you can conserve it. And deploy it in a far more meaningful, constructive manner to meet the same objectives that you would have otherwise directed your anger towards!

Why ‘Just Being’ rocks!

Often people think ‘Just Being’ means inaction. Just the opposite is true – ‘Just Being’ is a lot of action, for there is a lot to do, simply being present in the moment!
Yesterday, a friend of mine implored me to do ‘more’ than I was doing currently to deal with a Life situation. He said, “I don’t think you are doing enough. I think you have resigned to your fate. Everyman makes his own destiny and that you make by putting your 150 % into a situation every single day!”
I didn’t want to discuss fate and destiny with him. Because both our belief systems are polar opposites. However, while agreeing with him over making each day count, I made my point that being in the now, in the present, being mindful does not mean inaction at all. I told him that it means two things:
  1.     Being in the moment, engaged, mindful. Thoroughly involved. Which is a LOT of action.
  2.     Being involved with also DOING what is possible, what is right and doing it well, in that       moment, and yet BEING DETACHED from the outcome.

When 1 and 2 are happening simultaneously, where’s the question of passivity or inertia or remaining grounded? You are in flight! You are soaring. Despite the storm, despite the chaos, your sails are filled with grace, energy and momentum! Progress, ahoy!
The reason though why many people see ‘Just Being’ as inaction is because they have this view that they are in control of their lives. So, they believe, that ‘Just Being’ will breed inertia and they will vegetate. So, they feel the need to stay busy and feel important that they are doing many things! This state is where almost everyone finds themselves at some point or the other in Life – running on a treadmill, where you are doing a lot of running, but are still in the same place! ‘Staying busy’ is just that – it doesn’t get you anywhere and leaves you drained, frustrated and beaten! Whereas, ‘Just Being’, gets you to enjoy the magic and beauty of Life, while keeping your energy reservoir within you brimming over!
Vietnamese Buddhist guru Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this so well. He calls ‘Just Being’ non-action, not inaction. “Sometimes if we don’t do anything, we can help more than if we do a lot. We call that non-action. It is like the calm person on a small boat in a storm. That person does not have to do much, than just to be himself, and the situation can change,” he says.
Know that whatever’s happening to you now is part of a larger design that is creating your future. The funny thing about our present, our now, is that it is already happening. Which means we can’t wish it away. The only way to deal with it is to accept it, live it, to stay engaged with it. Just as we enjoy when what’s happening is what we like, we must learn to appreciate whatever’s happening even if that’s not what we wanted or expected or like! This is mindfulness. This is ‘Just Being’. It helps you connect with the source of your creation, helps you drop anchor and find bliss no matter what you are doing, or where you are, or what circumstances you are dealing with!

Strive for harmony within

Don’t avoid conflict__whenever you strongly disagree__for the sake of feigning courtesy or harmony. At the same time, never make the conflict personal. Focus on the issue. Never on the person.
There are often times, when you will not want to accept what is being said or proposed or done. Yet you will not want to wave a red flag or raise an objection or even make a point because you fear that the “harmony” in the relationship or environment will be lost. And that you will be accused of disturbing it. So, you will choose to swallow your sentiments, submit to being popular than being authentic, and simply go on. Now, clearly, whenever you allow something to happen, with which you don’t agree principally, remember you are maintaining decorum externally but within you there is a violent churn. You are grieving, for, within you, there is chaos, turbulence, sorrow. And therefore your justification that you are choosing to ‘give in’ or remain ‘mum’ for the sake of ‘harmony’ falls flat on its face. This is not an intelligent way to live!
But this is the way we ‘adjust’, ‘accommodate’ and claim we ‘adapt’ in Life – all the time. This is true in all our relationships: boss-subordinate, parent-child, husband-wife, between lovers, neighbors and siblings. Every time we choose not to disagree, in order to prevent a debate for whatever reason, we are allowing a part of us, in the context of that given relationship, at that point in time, to die.
I am not saying that you take up cudgels on every issue, with everyone under the sun, and become combative. It is totally pointless to keep fighting people all the time. In fact, I am not even saying fight over an issue. All I am saying is please express yourself. Allow your sentiments to flow – in the context of the issue, irrespective of who you are dealing with. It is unlikely that the other person may agree with your sentiments. But at least the other person will know what__and how__you are thinking. When you express yourself, you are in harmony, you are free, you are traveling light! On the other hand, when you keep things bottled up, within you, you are simmering within, under the pretext of maintaining dignity and decorum outside.
An intelligent conflict, an intellectual debate, is far more harmonious than a pretentious peace when your insides are boiling over. Now, there will be times when your effort to debate is received immaturely. And you are dealt with a personal, often below-the-belt, response. When that happens, your awareness should help you not to get provoked, not to retaliate, but to stay with the issue – without getting personal. If you find that any effort is not worth it in this context, simply move on. Just don’t grieve. And, at all times, please don’t try to be a martyr. Self-martyrdom is very bad for your self-esteem and inner peace.
This is the way of the Tao that champions ‘effortless action’. The import here is that as long as you do what comes naturally to you, without having to make an effort, you will be at peace with yourself. So, if you must disagree while expressing yourself, please do so, even if it means being in an issue-based conflict. Except that such expression must be effortless. On the other hand, if refraining from expressing your sentiments requires a huge effort – which, in turn, affects your inner peace – drop that effort. Harmony begins with you. Unless you are at peace with yourself, in any context, you cannot live fully. And if you are not living fully, you may well be alive, but you were dead long, long ago!

Of Raavan, Ram and Jannat

The conditions inhibiting our inner peace are, interestingly, within us! Our true, native state is love and peace. But years of conditioning, in the way in which we have been raised and how we lead our lives, have suppressed that true state. Our only task is to undo that conditioning and remove all the layers of anxiety, misery, jealousy, self-doubt, anger, hatred and fear that suppress our true nature__and we too will return to being loving and peaceful!
I watched the Hindi movie Swades (2004, Ashutosh Gowariker, starring Shah Rukh Khan) another time last night. There’s a line in a beautiful song “Pal Pal Hai Bhaari” (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar, Music by A R Rahman) in the film that goes like this: “…man se Raavan jo nikaale, Ram uske man mein hai…”. It refers to the plight of the devotee who is signing the Lord’s praise but actually nurtures a lot of hatred and evil within. Raavan (the demon) and Ram (the Lord) are metaphors here. That line in the song is a reminder that if you really want to experience the Lord (love and peace) get rid of what’s tormenting you (the evil, whatever’s debilitating, in you)! The real import for all us, mortals, caught in the rat race, is that to be truly peaceful, we need to throw out all the conditions that inhibit our inner peace from our lives.
In Urdu there’s a word called jannat – it means paradise. Jannat is where love, peace, prosperity and all the good things in Life are in abundance. Most people believe jannat is something to be attained after completing our worldly tasks, after fulfilling our responsibilities, perhaps, in an after-Life.  But the truth is that there’s only this one lifetime, as we know it. And whatever has to be attained and experienced has to be done here. Now. By accepting and loving what is.
It is by resisting what is that we are piling on the layers of wasted emotions that restrain our true, native state, of love and peace, from flowering. Look at young children. They just submit themselves to Life, to their environment, to the conditions into which they are born – unquestioningly, without resisting. Which is why they are in complete bliss. We will do well to draw inspiration from children around us! And experience Ram and jannat – here, in the now!