Demystifying Nirvana

Living without enlightenment is like choosing to walk in the dark in your home, without turning the lights on!

We have all been brought up with a romantic view of enlightenment. That it is something special which only the ‘chosen’ few can attain. Wrong. Enlightenment, or ‘nirvana‘, as explained in Buddhism, means simply to blow out__’nir‘ meaning out and ‘vana‘ meaning to blow. So, reaching this stage means to blow out the darkness of ignorance and, consequently, invite the light of awareness to brighten up your Life. Attaining ‘nirvana‘, therefore, does not require us to abdicate the Life we have been given.

One day a rich man came to Gautama Buddha. And calling him the Awakened One, he asked Gautama if he too should give up his wealth, his work and sit under a tree, to understand the meaning of Life and find his true Purpose. “Should I give up everything to find Truth and Happiness,” asked the man. The Compassionate Buddha replied patiently,”Anyone can receive the bliss of finding Truth as long as he follows the path of unselfishness. If you are going to cling to your wealth, then it is better to throw it away than let it poison your heart. But if you do not cling to it, and use it wisely, then you will be a blessing to people. It is not wealth and power that make people slaves, but clinging to them sure does.”

So, you__and I__too can attain ‘nirvana‘ if we recognize that living in this world with what has been given to us is not sinful. Being attached to our worldly acquisitions – including material things, relationships and opinions  is what brings us misery. So, the way to enlightenment is to live in this world and yet be above it. To remain free of all attachments. To invite this awareness requires nothing more than the effort you will need to make to turn on the lights in your home. If you choose not to, despite the fact that you know the layout of your home, you will stumble, trip, even fall, hurting yourself in the process. But the moment you turn on the lights, you move freely. Unrestricted.

Osho, the Master, exhorts each one of us to be a Buddha. “It is just a question of opening your eyes. You are asleep. If you awaken, you too can be a Buddha. There have been many Buddhas before Gautama, many after him and there will continue to be many more in the future,”he says. Buddha really means ‘the Awakened One’. Gautama Buddha’s message simply was ‘Be a Light unto yourself’. Here’s hoping you turn on the light in your Life and live with awareness and in joy hereafter!

Let go of what makes you unhappy and you will be happy!

There are no barriers to happiness except the ones you erect for yourself. Let go of what makes you unhappy and you will be happy!
Indeed. It is as simple as that.
I met a friend yesterday who is breaking up with her husband. Her business is not doing too good – she’s in a lot of debt. And her two children are still very young – they demand a lot of her time. She’s not able to focus on her passion – dance – as her failed relationship, her struggling business and her little children are taking up all her time and attention. “I am under a constant cloud of unwantedness, unhappy with whatever’s happening in my Life. I want to be able to devote time to my kids. It makes me sad that I really can’t do that either,” she confessed.
Many of us are this way too. Seeking happiness while doing what distinctly makes us unhappy. Sticking around in situations and relationships that drain us out completely and then lamenting that we are unable to break free. We don’t realize that the only reason we are unhappy in any situation in Life, is because, perhaps, we choose to be so.
Consider what my friend declared to me: “There seems to be no way out of this quagmire. I have hit a dead end.” I then asked her why she thought there was no way out. She said because she couldn’t see a way out. Now, those are two different things – there being no way out and your inability to see a way out. Most often, we don’t see the way out, because we are not looking in the right direction or we are not looking hard enough. Or, maybe, we just don’t want a way out? For, sometimes, being unhappy is so comfortable. The whole world will come to console you when you are unhappy. And to deal with unhappiness is so simple – you just have to frown at everything and everyone. It is addictive. And keeps you constantly engaged – wallowing in self-pity and self-declared hopelessness. This is exactly what I told my friend too. I advised her that all she needed to do was to end her relationship, shut down her business and spend quality time pursuing her passion and raising her children. She needed to focus on those factors in her Life that are enablers of happiness than on those that are debilitating. Simple.
But what does one do when you can’t get rid of what makes you unhappy. Like a failed relationship or business can be walked out of. But how can you walk away from the memory of someone whom you have lost? And what if that memory continues plague you – making you unhappy? Interestingly, the same approach will work here also. Let go of those memories of loss and pining. Replace them with memories you have of all that you enjoyed doing with that person who is no more now. Your unhappiness will instantaneously disappear. Again, as you will realize, focusing on the happiness enablers than on debilitating factors is the only way to rid yourself of unhappiness.
This is true for all of us. Without exception. In all situations. Happiness is not a state to be attained. It is who you are. Through conditioning – both economic and social – you have built walls or barriers around you, within you. These walls need to be torn down. In other words, if you throw out whatever makes you unhappy, you will end up being happy!

Responsible children come from responsible parenting

The best education you can give your child is to always teach them to do what’s right than what appears to be right; and to always own up a mistake, say sorry – and face the reality as it is.
Source Internet
This past week there have been rumored reports on social media sites of a top industrialist’s son being involved in a hit-and-run case in Mumbai. The reports suggest that the young man was driving an Aston Martin Rapide in a drunken state. His car is believed to have crashed into two other cars and injured two people. The reports allege that the industrialist hushed up the matter by influencing the country’s top media houses to “black out” the news of this incident and also by getting one of his company’s chauffeurs to “own up and surrender” for the accident. The only reason why I am not naming the industrialist in this post is because I don’t want to be party to a rumored report. Besides, the issue for examination and review here is not who did it.  That is best left to the investigative agencies of the land. What’s important is to look at what we can learn from this instance.
Undoubtedly all parents love their children above all else in the world. But that affection can sometimes blind parents and cloud their vision for their children. Here are some thoughts on mature parenting that I believe are relevant here.
The first principle to imbibe, internalize and initiate in parenting is ‘responsibility’. To groom responsible children, the parents must first display responsible behavior. We must recognize that it is in their teens that children seek independence. They are driven by a passionate sense of adventure. They want to explore this beautiful world, they want to explore their bodies and their sexuality, they want to express themselves and they want to do things that they believe has not been done before. The normal approach that parents take in such cases is to restrict their children, admonish them and often make them yield under emotional pressure. And often when much of this is being forced upon the children, the parents are not conforming to or following any of this themselves. For instance, at least in an Indian context, parents will openly watch pirated movies, will drink and drive, will pay petty bribes to get “stuff” done and flout any inconvenient law like wearing a seat belt. Yet the same parents will insist that their children speak the truth, are ethical, don’t drink and drive and grow up to be sincere law-abiding citizens. How much more ironic can it get? In India, working around an established legal framework, is considered “normal”. It is obviously not right to bribe a traffic cop if you are caught driving without your seat belt on or fail a breathalyzer test – but it is considered or appears to be right to most people. And this is where parents miss the point. How can you have anyone – let alone your children – do something which you are not willing to do yourself? So, be responsible. Lead responsibly. And you will have responsible children following you.
The second principle is to inculcate in your children the courage to own up. Let’s recognize a child’s, especially in the teens, spirit of adventure will drive him or her to take risks. How much ever you may advise, counsel, lead by example or even show case through examples from Life around you, every child will learn his or her lessons only from his or her personal experience. Whether it is having pre-marital sex or getting drunk or drinking and driving or whatever – more than all your preaching, what wakes up a teenager, or even a young adult, is when things blow up on his or her face. So, whenever something goes awfully wrong, be there for your child. Don’t rub it in by saying “I told you so!”. Instead teach your child to own up the experience, whatever it may be, and face Life squarely. Covering up or shielding a child from the consequences of his or her actions will only mean that you endorse such deviant behavior. Which is surely not true. I am sure that industrialist is as distraught as any other parent in his position will be. But by not teaching his child, if at all those reports are not rumors but are true, to own up and face the legal process, he’s grooming, however unwittingly, his child to be an irresponsible parent and citizen.
Let’s remember that as we grow older – and hopefully wiser – as parents, the most gratifying thing in Life will be to see our children lead happy and responsible lives. For that aspiration to come true, it’s very important that we lead the generation that we brought into this world – responsibly!

This whole Life is but a dream

This whole lifetime is an illusion, a dream – to struggle with it is simply an unintelligent thing to do. If you really want to snap out of ‘your’ dream – just awaken!  

Last evening, I watched an Italian movie, La Grande Bellaza (The Great Beauty), made by the brilliant Paolo Sorrentino. The film deals with a man’s discovery, as he turns 65, that the whole Life he has led is a ‘trick’, an illusion. His Life, for decades, has been spent in the extravagant social and literary circles of Rome. Now, in the evening of his Life, he finds how hollow the lives of the people he knows are, how shallow their thoughts are and how they desperately try to hide their despair and shroud their darker sides. He realizes that somewhere along the way he has lost a lot of ‘his’ time too, ‘doing what he really does not like doing’ and so he decides, in one brilliant awakening moment, as the movie ends, to write his second book – something he had been postponing for years!
You need not watch the movie to get its message. You don’t need to wait until you are past 60 to wake up. If you realize that your Life is running out and you are speeding towards your death, just as everyone else is, you will awaken! As Omar Khayyam, the 11th Century Persian poet, has said so beautifully: “The wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop and the leaves of Life keep falling one by one.” Soon your Life too will end. Just as mine will. And this entire lifetime we have experienced may simply appear to have been a dream. What’s the point then in clinging on to characters in the dream, to events in the dream and to memories of the dream?
Really, if you think about Life deeply, there is nothing to attain in Life. There’s nothing to abstain from or give up

or renounce in Life either. When you watch a three hour movie, you don’t cling on to it as it ends, do you? You just get up and walk away. The movie was an experience. Simple. It was make believe. That is what Life is too. So everything you have now – and you cling on to – is make believe too. You think it is ‘yours’. You think all of what you are experiencing is real. But the truth is different – and the only reality! Your family, your children, your business, your assets, your money, your nationality, your religion, your name – all this is make believe. None of this is either the real you nor is it yours. When an entire lifetime is like a dream, at the end of it, how can you even stake a claim to anyone or anything that was part of this illusion?

So, stop struggling with your Life. Let go! Live Life fully – do only what gives you joy! And, yes, please enjoy the dream, this experience, as long as it lasts!  

Acceptance: the key to being free

When you accept Life for what it is, you will be free!

But we all have a problem with acceptance – always! Your mind does not keep quiet. It keeps on reminding you that your Life ought to be different from what it is. So even if you see the stark reality in front of you, your mind insists that you don’t accept that reality and keeps encouraging you to wish that there be a different reality. But there can only be one reality. The truth does not have versions. Then it is not the truth. It is then either an opinion or a perception. So, how intelligent it is, in the face of reality, to wish for another truth? It is stupid, actually, if you examine the concept of acceptance closely.
Consider these two situations:
  1.     Your child has come back from school and is reporting the loss of her school bag that had the Nick character Dora on it. Your child’s Dora bag was a special edition bag that was launched by Nick as a promotion. Now you can’t get the same bag in the market, nor can you order it online. That edition of school bags is sold out. But your child wants exactly the same bag. Over the next few days, and weeks, you console the child. But every day the child demands that bag and is woeful about it all day. Finally, exasperated, you tell your child: “Listen, you can cry as much as you want. But you are not going to get that bag again. It’s just not possible.” Chances are very high that with such firm communication, the child will forget her old bag and learn to live with a new one that you have got her!
  2.         You have lost your spouse. And are simply not able to come to terms with that reality. Many months have passed but you find your Life meaningless and listless. Your friends and family try to cheer you up. But you seem to be wedded to your grief. Your mind keeps going back to the past and wishes your spouse was still around. What if someone came up and told you: “We understand your pain. We know we miss your spouse. You can cry as much as you want, but you are not going to get your spouse again. It’s just not possible!” Chances are you will struggle with this reality. While you understand it, you will be unwilling to accept it.

So, in essence, it’s your unwillingness to accept your current reality that is causing you grief and suffering. Never the reality itself. And that’s where perhaps we can learn from children. They have an amazing ability to accept and move on.

Non-acceptance is a serious adult problem. It creates all the strife and suffering within each of us. As long as you argue with reality, and choose not to accept it, you are not going to be free. As Byron Katie, 71, the famous American speaker and author asks: “When you argue with reality – I lose, but 100 % of the time. Would you be rather right or free?”

Don’t resist the Master Sculptor!

Life is a Master Sculptor.

We must offer ourselves completely to Life. We must ask ourselves whether we are offering ourselves as clay, allowing us to be molded into something of better value, or are we resisting when the Sculptor is at work on us, ‘beating’ us to shape? In making that choice, we find the subtle but important difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable. It is, always, when we resist, that we suffer.

As Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet has asked: “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”

Life happens only in the ‘NOW’

As the season’s energy peaks, remember this: living moment to moment, fully, and in complete gratitude, is the best celebration.

Life is a gift. You didn’t ask for it. Yet you have been born and given this lifetime. That you have been created human is a blessing. So celebrate your creation, make your lifetime memorable. Don’t squander this priceless gift away.

There are two factors that inhibit your living fully, intensely. One is worry. Worry is only about the future. It is always about what isn’t yet! And the other is guilt and/or grief. Guilt and/or grief are always about the past. About what has happened – about what is dead and gone. So, as long as you are steeped in worry and guilt/grief, you are not in the now. But Life happens only in the NOW! If you are not present in the now, in the moment, it will be gone – never to return again.

One sure way of expunging worry and guilt/grief is to understand Life deeply. Ask yourself – What am I afraid of? What am I worried about? What am I grieving over? What am I feeling sorry for? When you examine these questions closely and try to find their answers, you will find that invariably you will connect back to fearing a loss – of something you possess, of someone you love or perhaps, the loss of your own Life. But dig deeper and you will reckon that you came empty-handed and you will go empty-handed. All that you gained here in this Lifetime, including your relationships and your memories of this experience, will not go with you when you depart. So, where is this fear of perceived loss coming from? Only when you internalize this truth, will you awaken to living joyously, in the moment!

Drop all your worries. Get rid of your guilt. Let go of all grief. Life is not about doing. It is about being. When your whole being is tuned as a thanksgiving to Life, you will be soaked in abundance and bliss! This does not mean inaction. This means acting with total awareness. This means living fully – maximizing the opportunity to live and celebrate each moment!

Have a magnificent Sunday…

Make peace with that unpopular Santa called ‘fate’

An eternal confusion that abounds in us is whether our lives are predestined or not.  

If Life is predestined, what is the point of trying to control it by dreaming, imagining and living it our way? And if it is possible to live Life the way we want to, why doesn’t everything we will and work towards always happen?

The answer to these questions lies in the definition and understanding of Life itself. Former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s definition of Life is best in this context: “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” Determinism is pre-ordained destiny. Free will is the ability to choose an action freely in the context of (every day) living. Someone wise once said that a man born to be hanged shall never drown. So, even if he tries to commit suicide (free will) he will survive and will die only from hanging (determinism). But that doesn’t mean he must give up living__or, in his case, trying to commit suicide! The joy of dealing with Life’s ‘unseen’ hand, of responding to it intelligently, is what makes Life interesting and unputdownable. You need to crouch when Life is raining blows at you and then leap back when both your confidence and the conditions are up. Think of this Life as an adventure sport, where your faith and patience are continuously tested and you must keep summoning both qualities from within you, to live each moment fully. Apple co-Founder Steve Jobs says of this so beautifully, “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.  So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Determinism or fate is like an unpopular Santa Claus who’s bringing you things that you don’t want or like. Making peace with that Santa is free will. It means to accept what comes in your stocking and live with it, while believing and knowing that what you really want is on its way to you. In making that choice, free will again, you will find the cloud lifting, the confusion clearing and__bliss!

Here’s to you, Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…

Where there is compassion, there can be no separateness.
All of us believe we love people that are close to us. But there’s a higher quality than love. It is compassion. Compassion has its roots in Latin and simply means ‘co-suffering’ or ‘to suffer together’. But a more relevant meaning is that compassion is about ‘having a deep awareness of another’s suffering and wanting to relieve it.’  Love, on the other hand, is about possessing someone. It has, over time, acquired a conditionality. ‘I will love you if you love me’ or ‘I will love you if you are truthful or this or that…’ The moment a condition specific to the relationship is not met or fulfilled, the love ‘deal’ is off! But compassion is unconditional. Which is why it is beyond love.
Pic: Nirmal Harindran, The Indian Express
Yesterday, S.Sreesanth, 30, the ‘enfant terrible’ of Indian cricket, married his girlfriend of six years, Bhuwaneshwari Shekawat, 28, a.k.a Nayan, who is from one of the royal families of Rajasthan and is a jewellery designer. Sreesanth has been in the eye of the spot-fixing scandal that broke in the Indian Premier League in May this year. He has since been banned from all forms of the game by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). He spent a few weeks in Tihar jail earlier this year and has been booked under the stringent provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 (a law that was enacted to combat crime and terrorism). The whole country, led by the media whipping up a frenzy over the scandal, the social media and almost anyone who voiced an opinion – went against Sreesanth. Most believed he was guilty beyond doubt, several opined that he deserved what he was faced with and many, many others felt his whole Life was over. Perhaps, he too must have thought it was all over. But Nayan did not think so. Nor did she believe what the world was saying. She stood by him as he was taken from one court to another, one investigation to another, one lock-up to another, to finally a longish term at the Tihar jail, before being granted bail. And at a time, when most others would have broken off the relationship, Nayan agreed to go ahead with her marriage to Sreesanth! A friend of mine, on facebook, marvelled at the young lady’s conviction in her beau. I too admire that quality. I am not here to comment on what Sreesanth did or what course the law will take on his case(s). That’s for the legal system to decide. But I want to celebrate the compassion that this young lady has displayed. In a world, where everything is conditional, to standby someone – who has already been tried by the media, pronounced guilty by popular perception and ostracized by society – is really, truly remarkable.
You don’t have compassion for another. You arecompassion. The Buddha has described compassion as the feeling, the quality that transcends love. When you love someone you are desirous of that someone, you need that someone to complete you, but when you are compassionate, that same love becomes a sharing. You not only relate better to the other person, you actually feel for that person better – sometimes even better than the way the person feels for herself or himself. Compassion heals – definitely the person who is compassionate, but also the one who receives compassion. It is the highest form of energy – one that dissolves all separateness and makes way for our souls to be in unison, in harmony!
It was compassion that made Gandhi and Mother Teresa do what they did. We don’t even have to rise in love to those heights. If we can just stop asking ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ in each interaction in Life and give others our unconditional support and understanding, without judging them, we would have walked the path of compassion. And for this learning, this morning, with due respect to Simon and Garfunkel (ref. ‘Mrs.Robinson, written by Paul Simon, performed first as a single in 1968; Grammy 1969), ‘Here’s to you, Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…More power to you…Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…’!

Gaining from loss

You will learn to value what you have, only when you lose something!
Only a loss, physical or emotional, often awakens us to the reality that our lives are soaked in grace. Until then each of us takes our Life for granted. So, we stumble along in a perpetual state of ‘I-know-it-all’ or ‘I-am-in-control’. And then something always happens – that shocks and numbs us, alright, but also awakens us. It’s intensity shakes us to the extent that we begin to count our blessings even in the darkest hours of grief and sorrow. In a way, therefore, a loss is a great way to reboot in Life!
Loss is inevitable. Just as death is inevitable. So, when you lose something, or someone, don’t worry about what happened. Don’t grieve over why it happened. Anybody offering you a rational explanation for the ‘why’ is only consoling you. Consolations are of no use. Instead of consoling yourself, face the loss upfront. Asking why, lamenting and crying hoarse are of no use. Get up and face the brutal reality of your Life. Focus on the learning that Life wants you to have through the experience. This is the only way to make the loss worthwhile.
A man lost everything material in his Life – money, assets, his home, his job. Everything. Absolutely everything. What he had left was his family – his wife and his two children. A close friend of the man was genuinely concerned and expressed his shock over what had happened. He said, “How do you manage? How do you live?” The man replied: “It is only now that I am living. Up until now, I was just existing, earning-a-living perhaps! Living through this cashless, penniless phase, I am realizing that money is resource. It is not a constraint. Not having money is not a crime. I am learning that the value of what I have, which is my family, is far more significant than what I have lost. Because I can always earn money in the future. But I can never get my family back had I lost them.”
That’s a remarkable way to look at Life and loss – to gain from what you have lost! If you look closely, you will see that all aspects of Life are impermanent, perishable, transient. So, try and simply witness the Life that is happening to you. Don’t ask why. Don’t attach meanings to any loss. Just watch what’s happening. And celebrate what you have. Not that such an attitude can make your Life, especially in the wake of a loss, any easier, but it can definitely make it peaceful!