Much of Life is Tax-Free – Enjoy it by Living it fully!

A couple of days ago, I read an interview that the famous film director Rajkumar Santoshi (who made Damini, Andaz Apna Apna, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Khakheeand, recently, Phata Poster Nikla Hero) gave the Times of India (TOI). Santoshi tell TOI’s Priya Gupta that he regrets not having spent enough time with his mother. He says candidly: “My mother died three years back due to cancer and I cry thinking I could not spend as much time with her. We all live thinking we will live forever, but Life suddenly goes away. Even though she lived with me, she would be sitting on the terrace while I would have my discussions inside for three hours. Now I regret not having spent one hour out of those three with her. Even though my work will continue, I cannot get my mom back. We cry only once we don’t have something, but don’t value it when we have it. I have bought this house with a terrace where I can see the stars and feel the breeze which is tax-free but still we do not want to enjoy it.
This is so true.
Not just the breeze, but most priceless aspects of Life are tax-free. Yet we spend so much of our time lamenting over things that are not there in our Life. Instead, if we focussed on what is there, we would be so much more happier. Because then we will be celebrating Life for what it is.
The essence of Life is to experience its many facets. Its ups and downs. Its trials and tribulations. Its joys and sorrows. Going with the flow of Life__without resisting it at any point__is one sure way to experience it fully. This doesn’t mean you sit on the terrace and enjoy the breeze all the time. Nothing wrong with it. Except that you will get bored in some time. So, do everything, do it well and in good measure. What is happening perhaps to many people today is that they are working harder than ever before, postponing living their lives fully and are therefore unhappy.
Instead of complaining that you are unhappy, choose to be happy! If you can create time for an unscheduled business meeting in an already busy week, can’t you create time to spend an hour with someone you care for, love and enjoy being with? Who’s stopping you from planning your time differently but yourself?
Each moment that you spend complaining that you don’t have this or that, or that you don’t have time, is one more moment gone – wasted, without having been lived fully! Enjoying Life for what it is, doing what you love doing, and experiencing Life fully, is a full-time job! Remember to complete that job too before your time’s up!  

Happy Birthday to you…!

Vishaka Hari
Earlier today I had the opportunity to listen to renowned Carnatic and Harikatha exponent, Vishaka Hari, who performed at a friend’s mother’s 80th birthday celebration! What Vishaka said at the end of her performance was inspiring. She said, while wishing my friend’s mother a great birthday: “The actual birthday for us, voyagers through this journey called Life, is not our date of birth. The day when enlightenment is born in us, through the flowering of internal awareness, is when we are truly born. That’s when we really start living.”
I completely agree with her.
Enlightenment is not what you attain because you give up everything and go sit in a cave or under a tree. What I have learned is that enlightenment is when you realize that the light you seek is within you. Enlightenment being fully conscious, aware, of your divinity. Of the Oneness of your creation with the Higher Energy that has created you. This consciousness leads you to understand the frivolity in chasing a material Life – the folly of being attached to all things that are impermanent, including your own Life! When this consciousness is born inside you, there is tremendous clarity. Suddenly you feel sure about who you are, why you are here and what you must do while you are here. It is more than a Eureka moment. It is as if a veil has been taken off, a cataract has been removed – so now you have the ability to see clearly! This happens in each of our lives. At some time or the other. So, in essence, all of us attain enlightenment in our own unique ways – because there’s no way forward without becoming conscious. Without being aware. Without being awake.
You __ or I __ don’t have to do anything special to become conscious or aware. Just be. Feel everything that you experience deeply. Train your mind – through whatever method works for you – to not be caught in a past memory or a future worry and be present, in the moment, in the NOW! When you are fully present, awareness blooms, and through that experience “you” are actually, really, born – to live and not simply exist!

Play and Replay: to “win” Inner Peace

Last evening we watched a unique theater performance: “Re:play”! I had had a very rough day and I walked in tired and curious. “Re:play” was promoted as a performance duet inspired by traditional Indian games. It was designed and directed by a young, creative genius, also known as a perfectionist in theater circles in India, Aruna Ganesh Ram. The show, which had stellar performances by two young artistes Supraja Narayanaswamy and Manav Chidambaram, celebrated several Indian traditional games – Pallankuzhi, Chaturanga, Pacheesi, Goli, Tossed Shells, Paramapadham, Aadu Puli Aatam (Baag Chaal) and Kabaddiamong many others! The show took our breath away – and totally refreshed and reenergized me!
Most impressive __ and awakening __ was the climax. The artistes decide to close the mythical Pandora’s Box which has been “open” for ages. So they invite the audience to surrender one emotion or trait in them that they would like to rid themselves of. Soon the Pallankuzhi wooden box goes around among the audience. Each member in the audience has to drop a tamarind seed into the box, metaphorically ridding herself or himself of a wasteful emotion or trait. So, someone drops anger, another drops wealth, a little girl drops sadness, someone drops jealousy, yet another drops poor health…and in some time, the box is full. Then the artistes close the box forever and toss it away.
Talking to Aruna after the show, I discovered that the final act was not a traditional Indian game. She had conceptualized this act as part of her show’s design to leave a message with the audience that it was time we all worked towards cleansing ourselves to make this world a better place. I reckon that’s a fantastic idea we can all implement too.
Add caption
Why not set up a little jar or a wooden box or even a soup bowl on your desk at work or in a corner of your living room? Each time you experience a negative emotion, let’s say ‘fear’, write ‘fear’ on a small piece of paper, roll it up, and toss it into your own “Pandora’s Box” – be sure to trash its contents weekly or fortnightly or monthly! And every time fear raises its ugly head in your mind, think about ‘why’ it is recurring, go to its root, its cause, and remind yourself that you have already tossed it away. Over time, your ability to deal with your fears will improve dramatically. Because you are not brushing it aside. You are facing it, you are thinking about it constructively. You are taking simple, cognitive action. I did something similar during my ‘mouna’ (silence periods) sessions a few years ago. I wrote about my emotions, in notes to myself, in my journal. It helped me immensely. The “Pandora’s Box” ‘game’ is in the same league. And will surely work for all those who are not so comfortable with writing how they are feeling. Because the very act of thinking about a debilitating emotion or trait, and metaphorically tossing it away, is progressive. It opens up a dialogue within yourself – between you and what holds you hostage.
The key is to face whatever torments you firmly. Anger, fear, hatred, sorrow, jealousy, insecurity, inferiority, anxiety, worry – whatever. Look it in the eye. Do not wish it away. Understand it. Deeply. Your understanding will help you deal with it effectively and efficiently. And then, giving it all your attention and focus – mindfully – toss it away! Through repeatedly playing your “Pandora’s Box” ‘game’, you will discover that freeing yourself of all wasted emotions and traits has actually led to the flowering of internal awareness and inner peace. Now, if that’s the priceless prize you win playing a simple game – what more can you ask for?

Get off that “ledge” and get going…

Last night I watched the 1993 Hollywood action movie Cliffhanger. In the movie, Gabe, played by Sylvester Stallone, is a mountain rescue team member. When attempting a rescue mission, across from a ledge on a mountain top called The Tower, Gabe is unable to save Sarah, whose harness breaks and she falls 4000 feet to her death. Gabe is unable to forgive himself and vows to never attempt another rescue in his Life. In fact, he gives up climbing. Eight months after Sarah’s funeral, Gabe comes to pick up his belongings from his girlfriend Jessie’s place and asks her if she too will go with him. Jessie is livid and distraught that Gabe’s gone into a shell and is grieving with guilt. She tries to talk to him, invites him to move on while explaining to him that it wasn’t his fault! But Gabe refuses to accept her point of view. In one final, desperate attempt to make him see reason, Jessie screams at him. She says: “If you don’t forgive yourself, let go and move on, you will be on that ledge forever.
Metaphorically, many of us are on our own “ledges” too. Often times, we make Life choices that backfire or even blow up on our face. It’s important we recognize that making mistakes, judgment errors, is an integral part of growing up. Almost with every wrong call, the realization that it was indeed a wrong call is instantaneous – as soon as it fails or bombs! Within ourselves, we know that it didn’t work out. And we know for sure that it was our __ the individual’s __ mistake. But we will not want to admit it, and instead prefer to grieve with guilt, pretty much like Gabe, because it “feels good” to take the “higher moral ground”. Well to sit on a perch, even if it made from a mountain of guilt and self-soothing morality, is good for a while. But how long can anyone be up there? And how long can anyone be carrying the burden of a past guilt? At one time or the other, you have to climb down, you have to set down your guilt, free yourself, and move on. If you don’t do that, you will be depressive and will suffer endlessly.
Today is Kshamavani– the Forgiveness Day, per the Jain calendar. Mahavira taught that forgiveness begins with the Self. Unless you forgive yourself for your mistakes, your transgressions, your anger and your ego, you cannot forgive others. And if you don’t forgive others you are a breeding ground of more hatred, more anger, more himsa (violence – violent thought). The Jains use a very beautiful phrase to practise and propagate forgiveness: Micchami Dukkadam. It means ‘May all the evil that may have been done be fruitless’.
Today’s a good day to make an intelligent choice. To forgive. Begin with yourself. Let go of all resentment. And let all the himsa in you, turn into ahimsanon-violent thought. Get off that “ledge”, learn to forgive, if possible forget, and move on! You, surely, will live happily ever after!

Acceptance makes dealing with problems simpler

Life is not a problem. But Life is full of them.Intelligent living is to know that Life’s problems cannot be wished away but have to be accepted. Problems can either be solved by you, by applying logic and intellect, or when you can’t solve them, you can allow them to be solved by Life, over time!
Fundamentally, problems become simpler __ even if not easier __ to manage when you accept them. But if you keep denying that there is a problem, then you are creating a conflict with both the problem and within yourself. Because one part of you is forcing you to see the problem and accept it. While another part is forcing you to deny its existence. Out of this denial, fear and insecurity is born.
Denial itself stems from lack of awareness. Denial is when you are arguing with Life. You are arguing because you expect Life to be fair, and so you believe that nothing “out-of-the-ordinary” is going to happen to you. But the truth may well be that “it” has happened to you. Why deny what has happened? Denial is not going to make a problem go away. In fact, it will breed fear, which itself is then a new problem to deal with. Of course,  accepting a problem is not going to make it disappear. But acceptance at least makes you peaceful – and through that inner peace, your ability to deal with the problem, or attempt solutions, is enhanced.
Let’s say, someone is finding no joy in her marriage. She suspects that her spouse is not “involved” in their Life anymore. But she continues to brush that thought away and “endures” the marriage. How happy do you think she will be? Her acceptance of the problem may or may not make the marriage any better, but will surely make her peaceful. This is not just true in this lady’s context, it applies to every situation in Life.
We create more problems for ourselves, in most situations, by wanting things to be different from what they are. Instead simply accept. Acceptance is empowering and liberating. While it may not make Life’s problems go away, it certainly enhances your ability to deal with them!

Nothing can prevent you from realizing your True Self except you

This morning’s Times of India reports that the Akal Takht, the highest temporal Sikh body, bans Sikhs from keeping the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book and the “living, active Guru” of the Sikhs, in homes that also have bar counters in them. I don’t quite see merit in such a sanction.
Sikhism, as I have known and understood, is one of the world’s youngest religions, founded only around the 15th Century. It is not a religion that draws upon one line or school of thought. It is inspired by Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism and several others. It is also the only religion that is not built on the teachings of a single Guru, but is based on the teachings of 10 Masters, with the Guru Granth Sahib, being the final and ever-living Guru. To me, it is not even a religion – it is a beautiful confluence of various streams of wisdom. Which is why Sikhism, and the Guru Granth Sahib, are very contemporary and very relevant even today. Nanak, the founding Guru of the Sikhs, said that ultimately what __ or the only thing that __ matters is The Truth. And The Truth, he said, was unspeakable. Which is why he, and his successors, sang it. Which is why the Guru Granth Sahib is in verse, containing 1430 angs (limbs or literary sections), actually hymns, complied and composed between 1469 and 1708.
Perhaps, by virtue of their religion being so young, or maybe their upbringing is based on practical and liberal tenets, I have found Sikhs to be very fun-loving, friendly and caring. They live Life to the fullest. They are never self-obsessed and choose always to get involved, and to serve whenever they get an opportunity. They are also the only set of people on the planet who can laugh at themselves. The innumerable Sardarji jokes that we come across is strong evidence of this. No other community will be so tolerant if they were to be the butt of so much global ribbing and ridicule. So, when a stricture is passed on such a wonderful people, it does shock and surprise.
I have another personal reason and learning to share. Understanding and realizing The Truth that Nanak sang about, and that which every spiritual path will take you to, does not require abstinence. In fact, intelligent living does not demand anything from you. It only wants you to be. To live in the moment and experience the Now. This will happen, only after a person’s quest for inner peace, through pursuing material matters of the world, draws no result. Only when seeking outside is futile, does man consider seeking within. That’s when, as Nanak taught, and Sikhism preaches, the individual sees the panj chor (Five Thieves) of ego, anger, greed, attachment and lust, as distracting from being on The Path. So, in essence, each one of us has to find our ways to get on to The Path – through experience, through stumbling, through falling and through learning. No religious diktat exists nor can any direct anyone to The Path, unless, she or he really wants to be on it. Whatever dos and don’ts abound around us, are the handiwork of the mandarins that want to control, using the name of religion, and causing fear of retribution by an external God, to coerce the masses into submission.
Simply, nothing outside can distract you or prevent you from realizing your True Self – and the Godliness in you – except you! As Nanak himself has sung it so beautifully: “As fragrance abides in the flower, as reflection is within the mirror, so does the Lord abide within you. Why search for Him without?”

On the futility of hating

When Nina Davuluri won the Miss America pageant on Sunday, the celebrations were marred, shockingly, by some hate tweets, and as some view it, racist comments. Obviously, those comments led to more hatred against the haters on social media. And, surely, this morning’s newspapers in India led with Davuluri’s crowning on Page 1, playing up, alongside with the young lady’s triumph, the misplaced hatred for and racist comments against her.
That brings us to a simple yet important question: why do we hate someone or something? To be sure, each of us is strongly opinionated. Some of us express ourselves rabidly – of late on social media – while others keep their views to themselves. But, without doubt, we have experienced hatred for someone, whom we cannot get along with (often not even stand the sight of) at some time or the other. The question is why?

The fundamental reason why we hate is because we are not aware of the oneness of all creation. It is when we see each person as different from ourselves do we even have the urge or temperament to compare, and therefore, to dislike, or in some cases, hate. Separateness comes from the ego. When the ego is driving you not to look at the core of your creation, but at the fringes – when you look at nationality, community, family background, social or economic standing, color and such. Instead look at the core of all creation – especially among us humans – you will find that there is no separation, no difference. All of us are alive because of the same Life source powering us. We may have different stories, different upbringings, different education, different approaches to Life and even speak different languages – but we are all one! An evolved person will not let the ego drive her or his Life. Such a person will look beyond the differences, and go to the core and celebrate it. Then Davuluri’s win is your own win. As much as the loss of lives in the Washington D.C naval base shoot-out is your own loss.

The more we see creation as separate, the more we will be consumed by such wasteful emotions like hatred. At least one intelligent response when you see a chain of hatred being triggered is not to participate, not to respond. Just let it go. One opinion less out there means one moment less in the public lifetime of that form of hatefulness. By choosing to stay away from joining the chain of hatred in a situation does not mean ignoring it or “brushing things under the carpet”. When you feel hatred towards someone or something, focus all your attention on it. Don’t respond to it. But deeply meditate on it. You will then see the futility of your anger, the stupidity of your opinion, the frivolity of your venom, your hatred and through your ‘seeing’, you will see the object of your hate and you as one! It may sound incredible. But try meditating on someone you hate and you will come to this realization soon – perhaps after a few attempts owing to the “extent” of your hatred and your own evolution with the practice of meditation!
The truth is, as the Buddha taught, either you – the real you – exists or hatred does. If hatred is, then you are not. And if you are, then there can be no hatred. The real you, the real me, get suppressed when we are not aware, when we are in the clutches of ego. The moment awareness takes over, the ego cannot survive. And when there is no ego, there’s no hatred, there’s no separateness. Only oneness thrives!