Celebrate Life, don’t cerebrate it

Life cannot be lived fully trying to make meaning out of it!
At one level Life is meaningless, in fact. You come with nothing. And you will go with nothing. So, what’s the point in doing anything about a Life which is meaningless? Undoubtedly, this argument will hold true if you bring logic into Life. But in reality you can’t apply logic to Life. And so you can’t derive any meaning.
A disciple asked his Sufi Master what is the meaning of Life?
The Master replied: “Can you tell me the meaning of a lotus flower? Or the meaning of a raindrop falling on you? If you can, I will tell you the meaning of Life.”
The disciple replied: “Master, a lotus flower is a lotus flower. And a raindrop is a raindrop. What’s the point in looking for a meaning beyond what you see, beyond what is.”
“Exactly my son. What’s the point in understanding the meaning of Life beyond what is? Life is what you experience, what you see, in a given moment. It keeps on happening, moment to moment,” explained the Master.
Life’s meaninglessness, inscrutable nature, makes it beautiful. Life has to be lived. Not understood. A 1000-rupee note is not an object of beauty. It has a utility. It has to be used. There’s meaning to money. But a lotus is beautiful. It is to be seen and celebrated. It does not have a meaning the way money has. Which is what Life is all about – it is a continuous celebration.
We miss this opportunity to celebrate each moment because we are leading our lives – working harder and longer than before – hoping that someday soon “everything will be fine” and we can live a perfect Life – happily ever after. The truth is everything’s fine with our Life, just the way it is, and a perfect Life may never be possible. So, in postponing the celebration, we are postponing living. Be sure, even on the day we die, our inboxes will not be empty, our to-do lists will still be pending and we will still be worried about incomplete goals and dreams in our lives! So, stop seeking for meaning in Life. Stop the cerebration of Life. Start celebrating it!

Don’t be in a relationship if you don’t relate anymore

If you have stopped relating to someone, step out of that relationship!
This is so important in a marriage when both husband and wife have stopped relating to each other – they must stop focussing on what each of them wants and instead look at what the kids need.
A couple we know have reached that point in their marriage where their differences are irreconcilable. Both of them are smart, intelligent and are earning well. They have been married for 17 years. And they have two young children – a boy who’s 12 and a girl who’s 6. Their differences have arisen from their individual definitions of happiness. The husband’s view of happiness is to work hard, earn well (he sure does), save a lot, stay at home as much as possible and immerse himself in his music – he’s a much sought after instrumentalist. The wife’s view of happiness is her career (she’s doing remarkably well too), a very active social Life, good shopping budgets, often dining at fine dining places and frequent, exotic vacations. Both of them have been unable, in all these years, to come to a common ground or definition of happiness. Especially after the birth of their daughter their different outlooks to Life have wrecked the peace between them. They have been sleeping in different rooms and end up having a fight over anything that they begin to talk to each other about. The boy, being at such an impressionable age, has been impacted majorly by their behavior and becomes violent every time his parents argue or fight among themselves.
Clearly the marriage between the couple is over. But they refuse to accept it. And continue to endure each other – while still getting at each other’s throats! This is causing the children to grow up in a very fractious environment at home. In all such unfortunate cases, parents must recognize that they have a huge responsibility towards their children. They have to ensure that the kids don’t grow up seeing strife at home. Even if it means the parents must separate for the kids’ sake!
Zig Ziglar (1926~2012), the great American motivational speaker, said this so well: “The greatest gift you can give your children is a happy marriage with your spouse.” And I believe if you can’t have a happy marriage then you must simply not have an unhappy one saying you are enduring it for the sake of the kids. In fact, if two people have stopped relating to each other – and that is evident when they develop different outlooks to Life or start sparring with each other – there is no point clinging on to labels like marriage or friendship or family. It is best they liberate themselves and each other.
Simply, no one can be happy trying to live Life based on another’s idea. When people come together in Life, as in a marriage, they bring their own individual ideas of Life to form a collective new idea for both of them. If this does not happen for any reason, and only a physical consummation happens, then there is no relating between them and so there’s no meaning in the marriage. In fact, marriage is at best just a label; a religious or legal framework in some cases, a social institution in some others! The word marriage does not make a relationship beautiful or meaningful. Continuing to relate to each other is what counts. Without even being married people can experience great love and companionship between them. And despite being married for years there are those who experience neither.
So, the key to living a full Life with anyone is to keep relating to that person. And when you do realize that you are not relating anymore, it’s best to let go or get out of it. For your sake, for everyone’s sake!

Let your divinity flow

The divine Godhead is in each of us. So, intrinsically, we all have this ability to be loving, be human and be compassionate. But all our conditioning, over the years, has suppressed this ability. We have become, driven by logic, and the what’s-in-it-for-me question in every transaction, cold, self-centered and so full of ourselves. Our self-obsession leaves us with no time or opportunity to love and care. However, a time will come, when all that conditioning will vanish, all the walls that we have built around us will be torn down, and what will remain is our true self – that which is capable of limitless love and compassion.
One of Aesop’s fables teaches us this lesson beautifully.
At a riverside, a scorpion requested of a turtle, “Please carry me to the other shore on your back.” The turtle says, “Do not be foolish. Do not think me to be stupid. You may sting me in the middle of the stream, and I will drown and die.” The scorpion said, “I am not foolish; rather, you are foolish because you do not know simple logic. I belong to the Aristotelian school. I am a logician. So I will teach you a simple lesson in logic, a simple solution. If I sting you and if you are drowned and dead, I will also die with you. So be sensible, be logical. I will not sting you. I cannot sting you.”
The turtle thought for a moment and then said, “Okay! It seems sensible. Hop on to me and off we go.” And exactly in the middle of their journey, midstream, the sting comes. They both are sinking now. Before the turtle dies it asks, “Where has your logic gone? You have done a very illogical thing, and you yourself said that this is simple logic, you will never do it, and now you have done it. Tell me before I die. Let me learn another lesson from your logic.”
The scorpion says, “It is not a question of logic at all. This is just my character, just my nature. I cannot be without it. I can talk about it. I cannot be without it. I am incapable, really.”

In pretty much the same way, all our coldness, all of our self-centeredness are all mere masks. Each of us, truly, is created to be loving, caring and human. As Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet has said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

So, go on, seek those barriers within you – and remove them. Let your divinity flow – unfettered and freely!

Learning to be content may not be easy, but is simple

Every day is a new chance to learn to be content with the Life that you have.

Contentment, you are made to believe, is important to survive this lifetime. Those who propound this theory have a valid justification for it. There’s so much that happens in Life that does not meet your expectation. In fact, you end up getting so much in Life, from Life, that you don’t want. A lot of what happens in Life also causes suffering – especially when you resist what’s happening to you! So, the wise among us, those who have seen more of Life, advocate learning to be content. Which is to learn to live with what is. Than crave for something which is not!

But to be content, though it is simple to understand, is not easy to practice. The mind will always encourage or seduce you to pine for what is not. So, contentment simply comes from disciplining the mind. It comes from acceptance and from a deep understanding of what Life is all about.

Osho, the Master, explains it thus: To be contented means: don’t expect anything from life, just live it moment to moment, and whatsoever it gives is just fantastic. Life goes on pouring infinite treasures on us. And because of this mind asking for more, we remain blind to those treasures. Once this constant noise for more stops, then this chirping of the bird is enough. There is nothing in it and all in it.”

When you start your journey seeking contentment you will first struggle with it. You will fall. But the key is to get up, dust yourself and keep walking. When you experience contentment for the first time it will blow you away. You will want more it. Then nothing in Life will affect you anymore – you will not be swayed by pleasure and you will not be held hostage by pain. All you will want is for that “feeling” of contentment to be perpetual. And you will do whatever it takes to continue to experience it. This is the way to bliss – when the past does not matter, when the future is irrelevant. What matters is that you are here, now, happy and content, with what is!

When you simply “are” you are bliss

When you are (present) you will experience Life in all its beauty, its majesty!

Whatever you do, do it while giving it your fullest attention. It may be the most mundane task, like helping your wife take out the peas from the pod, but if you are mindful about it you will see what a beautiful creation a pea pod is. Mindfulness is integral to the art of intelligent living!  

Here’s a Zen story I have heard some time back that illustrates this point.
A Zen Master saw five of his disciples return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the Master asked the disciples: “Why are you riding your bicycles?”
The first disciple replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The Master praised the disciple, saying, “You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.”
The second disciple replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.” The Master commended the disciple, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”
The third disciple replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I chant my prayers.” The Master gave praise to the third disciple, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly oiled wheel.”
The fourth disciple answered, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.” The Master was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”
The fifth disciple replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The Master went and sat at the feet of the fifth disciple, and said, “I am your disciple.”

The ability to simply be, without letting your mind wander, without worrying, without analyzing, is the only requirement for you to be (in) bliss – and experience inner peace and joy!

Halt the cycle of hatred

When someone hates you and so hurts you remember that person needs your understanding and help, not hatred in return.

It is normal, when someone offends you or hurts you, to try and get even with that person. After all a hurt is always difficult to deal with, forget getting over! But there’s another way to look at the situation and the person. Hating and hurting require a lot of negative energy. So, if someone is causing all that hurt that you are experiencing know that the person is full of negative energy. Thich Naht Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, says this very beautifully: “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

I have learned from experience that hating or hurting in return never helps. It only keeps the cycle of negativity alive. To expunge the negativity someone has to break that cycle. And that person can well be you! Whenever I feel hurt or offended, I send a silent prayer to the person who has caused it. I also try and reach out to the person and see if we can talk things over. But sometimes the differences are so deep and immediately irreconcilable that a conversation may not be possible or help. In such situations, you can let go of the hatred brewing inside you by sending the person positive energy and prayer. Whenever I have done this, I have found my anger and my hurt dissipating. I feel peaceful. Simply, it is not relevant who started it or who is to blame. What is important is to recognize that clinging on to suffering is futile. It helps no one. While it may be ideal for both parties to cleanse themselves, if this not possible for whatever reason, at least one person – you – breaking free from the negativity is indeed a good step forward!
The essence of intelligent living is to be able to rise above hurt, hatred and suffering. And to live free, to live fully – a meaningful and blissful Life!

Lessons from the QSQT man!

Mansoor with Aamir at the Mumbai Launch of ‘The Third Curve’
Last evening we attended the launch event of a very interesting book titled ‘The Third Curve’ by Mansoor Khan. Mansoor is someone who has always followed his bliss. Son of the legendary Bollywood filmmaker Nasir Hussain and a drop-out from  IIT-Bombay, MIT and Cornell (he never completed any of the courses he took up at these institutions), Mansoor is famous for all the films he made (he directed the first four and produced the last) becoming superhits – Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (which made his cousin Aamir Khan a national sensation and Juhi Chawla a star), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Josh and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (which launched the career of his now famous nephew Imran Khan).  In 2003, Mansoor gave up Mumbai and Bollywood (returning briefly in 2008 only to produce Imran Khan’s launch film) and moved to Coonoor to take up organic farming and  set up a homestay (http://www.acres-wild.com/) – something he was always passionate about.
I learned two very important lessons from Mansoor. And I am happy to share them here with you:
  1.         No matter what happens, stay calm: As we arrived at the Landmark book store, everything seemed set for Mansoor’s book to be launched. But, as we were soon to discover, that was not really the case. The audience had not yet arrived. And when they did, we were told the screen, on which Mansoor intended projecting a presentation, had not arrived. Soon, the folks at Landmark brought a vinyl banner which was turned around and hung on the backdrop to provide a make-shift white background on which Mansoor could project his presentation. Then a power cable had to be drawn to start up his laptop and projector. When everything seemed set, someone suggested the lights be turned off around the front of the house, over the ‘screen’. And someone, by accident, turned off the line that powered the laptop and projector. Phew! All of this led to the official start being delayed by a good 40m. But Mansoor was unruffled. He was clear what he wanted. And he went about getting it done his way. This was a book launch mind you. There was an invited audience, several of them potential readers of his book, and ticking off even a few of them could have left a lousy taste at the launch. But Mansoor’s down-to-earth demeanor (absolutely no airs despite being so unconventionally, professionally and financially, successful) and his cool-as-a-cucumber attitude won him many admirers in the audience! And once he started sharing the concept behind his book, he was on a song. Hearing him speak was like watching Sachin Tendulkar bat! It flowed from the heart!!!
  2.         Be the change that you wish to see: Mansoor’s book, ‘The Third Curve’ is really about how mindlessly chasing a desire to exponentially grow money, over the last 150-odd years, has led to a phenomenal erosion of energy reserves in the world (he says 250 million years of sunlight reserves have been squandered since the advent of the Industrial Era, in just 150+ years!). He warns that the world, and all of civilization, is on the brink. He calls for urgent, immediate action. He wants us all to wake up and embrace the Green Life. Energetics, he says, and not just economics, can save the world! While his book, and his Talk, are refreshing and make you think, what’s inspiring is that Mansoor is not just prescribing a solution. At his farm, Acres Wild, he lives the solution. Acres Wild is an eco-friendly farm, that encourages a holistic and self-sustaining lifestyle – they grow their own vegetables organically and do not use chemicals, strive to increase bio-diversity and keep tillage to the minimum. If there’s one reason people may be encouraged to heed his clarion call, it will be because Mansoor leads by example!

All of us are quick to complain. Few people take action – Mansoor being one of them! His story is remarkable because he is following his bliss and he is being the change he wishes to see around him. Perhaps, that also explains how he can be so calm and unruffled – when things don’t exactly go to a plan! An inspiration for those who pause to reflect and are willing to learn?

Get Better from Life, not Bitter

You can either be bitter from Life or better from it.
A key reason why many of us turn bitter, over time, with Life is because we are not able to treat events as events. We hold on to them, analyze them, and regret them, refusing to let go. Let’s say someone says something harsh to you. In reality, it’s just an event. But if you keep mulling over it, wondering why it was said, and what will others – who heard this person say this of you – think of you, then you are surely going to end up feeling miserable. Chewing endlessly on by gone events, holding on to past grudges and painful memories, is a sure way to invite suffering into your Life.
I am reminded of the Zen story of the two monks who were walking in the Himalayas.  
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross the river. The young woman asked them if they could help her cross to the other side.
The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows at their monastery not to touch a woman.
Then, without a word, the younger monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on with his journey.
The older monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. He simply stood there staring as his young colleague briskly walked up the hill. After re-joining his companion, he was still speechless, but seething with rage nevertheless.
An hour passed without a word between them. Two more hours passed. Then three. Finally the older monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out: “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The younger monk looked at him, startled at first, and then, comprehending the full import of his senior’s question, replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
Unfortunately, many of us, even if we have grown older, like the senior monk, have not grown up. We still carry baggage from our past with us – principally, hurt, regret, resentment and grief. And so we stumble along through Life. Our painful memories enslave us to the past and ensure we stay bitter. And this way we remain unhappy – unable to enjoy the present moment, the now! This is true of a lot of people, a lot of the times.
Siddharth Varadarajan: No Bitterness
Therefore, it was indeed refreshing this morning, to read Siddharth Varadarajan’s (the former editor of The Hindu) views on his unceremonious exit from the paper, following some Boardroom intrigue at Kasturi & Sons Ltd. (KSL – the company that owns The Hindu) earlier this week. An online portal asked him if he was feeling betrayed. And Varadarajan replied: There is no question of feeling betrayed. I came to this job with my eyes wide open. I had a great run as Editor of The Hindu, which is India’s finest paper, and am grateful to the KSL Board for appointing me to the post.
Clearly, whatever be the event that you end up having to face in Life, you have two options. You can be bitter or better from it. If you choose to be bitter, you will miss the opportunity to live fully and to experience the magic and beauty of Life in each moment. If you choose to be better from the experience, you will find yourself soaked in abundance and inner joy!

Extraordinary pain is an opportunity to be reborn

Living through a painful period can seem, logically, impossible – but in reality it is not!
A 54-year-old man committed suicide in Chennai just two days ago, by jumping off the top of his five-storey building in George Town, because he found his chronic back pain of 15 years unbearable – especially after a pain killer injection that he used to take daily was banned by the government and was no longer available in pharmacies. The reason people give up on Life, or suffer a lot through Life, is because they want the pain to not be there. They want it to go away. Or they want to escape it.
Pain is not something that you can control. Just like your being alive is a fact, so is the presence of pain in your Life. The art of living is to be able to live in peace despite the pain in your Life. Why most people struggle with pain is because they work towards eradicating the pain or the source of that pain. Instead if they worked on witnessing the pain, as if they were a third party, they will realize that pain is harmless. And that surely pain does not have an agenda to cause anyone suffering. They will then be able to separate themselves, their true selves, from whatever is causing them pain.
A friend’s actions recently caught up with him – it appeared to all of us who knew him that he had let down his entire family – his grown up, young adult, children and his wife of 25 years. His actions, always questionable, led his wife to be arrested by the police. She was sent to jail for a few days until she was granted bail by a court. When she was released from jail, the lady, much to everyone’s surprise, came out calm and strong. Everyone had expected her to be suffering, to be worn out and beaten, because of her incarceration. Indeed there were physical scars of her trauma. She had not been eating in jail. And so had lost 8 kilos in 4 days. But her spirit was intact. She said, upon seeing me, “Your friend has let me down very badly. At first I was very angry. The pain was unbearable – both of being let down and of being in jail for no fault of mine. I wanted to end my Life. But then I told myself, that would be the easiest thing to do. Then I stepped back and looked at my Life. I can’t live with my husband anymore. I accepted that my Life has changed forever. I have now decided to divorce my husband and focus on my children and be available for them as they settle down and raise their families.” The lady’s stoicism comes from her sense of clarity. Which again comes from her ability to have “witnessed” her pain, her acceptance and her choice not to suffer.
Extraordinary pain – like betrayal, death, financial losses, a relationship breakdown, a health crisis – are all opportunities to be reborn. Through pain, you learn not to suffer. When you don’t suffer, despite the pain, Life becomes meaningful, beautiful, in fact, a celebration! If you want happiness and inner peace, don’t reject anything that comes your way. Least of all pain. Through rejection you suffer. Through acceptance, your inner peace, your bliss, flowers.

Hopelessness leads to awareness

To be hopeless is a great boon, an opportunity – use it!
We often come across situations where there is no hope. In such times, what stares at us is a wall or complete darkness. Fear and insecurity in such situations is a natural response. But the moment fear takes over, any chance of you coming out of that situation are eroded. So, even as fear lurks around, choose your hopelessness to remain focussed in the now, in the present. No it is not difficult. If you understand hope you will be able to understand what hopelessness truly means. Hope is an aspiration of a future which is yet to arrive. So, when you are hopeless, it really means you see no future. Which therefore only means that, since the past is over and the future doesn’t exist, what you are left with is the present moment.
As Osho, the Master, has said so beautifully: “When there is no hope, you are. When there is no hope, the present is.”
Which is why hopelessness is an opportunity to live in the present moment. For when you have nothing to look forward to, then you can only live from moment to moment. Having lived this way for months and years now, let me tell you, it is a beautiful, awakening, humbling experience. Because you witness how magically Life goes on, without you controlling any of the influences – particularly, money, food, clothing and shelter – that you have been conditioned to believe are key to living.  
Hopelessness is still a desire. When you are pining that there be hope. And when with your human mind and vision you can’t see one, you despair, but even then, from deep within your heart, you continue to hope. Which means you expect a change in the situation. But true awareness is when you have transcended expectation, desire, hope, hopelessness and are simply with Life, living in the now. That’s when you have given up expecting anything from Life. And you simply are.