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?