Faith = Knowing that if you are created, you will be provided for

When you can’t find a way forward, when it is absolutely dark, look within. That’s where you will find the light. That’s what is called faith.  
We have, for long, been conditioned to understand faith is what we have in an “external” Energy or object, sometimes a.k.a God. So, in times of crisis, when Life comes to a grinding halt, when you are circumstantially cornered, your faith, as you understand it, also becomes questionable. The external Energy, God, whatever, doesn’t physically come to your rescue – at least not in the way you expect it! And so, you question whether there really is a God? Whether there really is a Higher Energy? We have all gone through these tests. We have all, in a fit of rage, when it appeared that Life was most certainly over, declared that God is blind, that the God-theory is all hog-wash and all your faith has been misplaced. There’s nothing wrong with such a response to Life in trying, and excruciatingly painful and hopeless, situations. It is but natural to vent your frustration especially when matters relating to faith are concerned.
So is keeping the faith a really futile exercise? Actually, to answer this question, you must re-examine how you define faith.
Faith is not what you project externally. Faith is a deeply personal resource which can be found only when you look within. You don’t normally understand this because of the way you approach Life. Consider this: something challenging happens in your Life – you lose your job, you suffer a serious health setback, you lose someone you love, your business is badly hit or any other context. Immediately, the focus, the examination of the event, is through external reference points. Any effort to deal with the situation is also driven by external coordinates. Rarely is there an inquiry within. I remember, when things started going wrong in our business, we went around on pilgrimages for months on end. We went to people who advised us how the apartment we lived in needed redesign (actually, re-engineering!), how our Firm’s name had to be changed and so on. We were taken to someone who advised me to wear rings on my fingers, in both hands. I have nothing against any of these efforts that we undertook or the advice we received. Except, to complete the story, none of these efforts helped our failing business – and we indeed went bankrupt! But I am not bitter or ridden by guilt over what we tried. I am only transparently sharing here, the steps we undertook, to reinforce my point that we always look outside for answers, for solutions. My visits to a very learned astrologer were also part of this external-gratification journey.
However, I am blessed that I found this gentleman, a scholar, a maestro in his craft (the science of astrology). He opened my eyes to my soul!
On one of my visits, I remember asking him: “Sir, how is it that you don’t advise any poojas or special prayers to help mitigate the effects of the time that we are passing through?”
My astrologer, a saintly-looking man, in his 70s then, took a deep breath, and asked: “Saar, I see that you are wearing rings, with stones embedded in them, on your fingers. May I ask you why?”
I replied: “Sir, a famous gemologist advised me to wear these rings. He said they will ward off negative influences of certain planets that are not well disposed towards me.”
My astrologer laughed heartily when he heard my reply. He responded with this profound perspective – something that awakened me: “Saar, kallala vidhiya maatra mudiyuma? Can a piece of stone change your destiny? Also, no planet is harmful. Everyone, you, me, everyone, really goes through certain phases in Life. No stone, no special prayer, or pariharam(remedy; atonement) can change what you are ordained to go through. Astrology is a science, no doubt. Yet, it can only tell you what you are going through and what you are likely to encounter in the future. It can’t alter, or help you escape, your destiny. Keep the faith. Know that if you have been created, you will be provided for. Sometimes, what you are provided for, is not what you want or expect. At such times you have to remember that this is what Life has planned for you – so that you can learn and grow from each experience.”
My inward journey was triggered in part by that unintended discourse. To me, ever since, faith has meant knowing that “if you have been created, you will be provided for.” I am not against religion or an external-God theory. But I will champion any day, from personal experience, that in Life’s darkest hours, the road that you will find fully illuminated, and inviting, is the one that leads you within. Being on that road does not mean that all your problems in the external world will cease to exist. Being on that road, however, surely means that you will be more capable, and feel more confident, of dealing with all those problems. Because that road always leads to inner peace.

Try a “Doing Nothing” Monday

Sometimes it’s a great idea to be doing nothing!
On another Manic Monday, this thought seems too idealistic and improbable perhaps. But have you considered doing nothing? No meetings. No agendas. Just goofing off on a working day?
There’s a heavy downpour just now….as I write this! I have had a rough start to the day and to the week. So, I decided to do nothing for a while. I simply chose to hang around. As I paused to reflect, a truth about Life became more apparent than ever before. We are all so used to a frenetic pace of working that when Life slows down, as it sometimes painfully will, we think something’s wrong. And remain keyed up about the “slowness” of things.
However, a high-pressure week’s start is, I believe, a great time to revist and revive the art of doing nothing. Doing nothing here clearly means “not having any business to transact, or schedules to worry about”. But it doesn’t mean being unproductive. In fact, you can learn so much about Life without having to rush through it. You don’t even need to travel. You don’t need a resort. Even if you stay at home, choose to do what you would normally not have the time to do. Just examine your street from your window. Watch people passing by. Hear the birds. Listen to the music from the noise that vehicles passing by make. Feel the air in your lungs. Spend some time on the pavement. Or simply watch and listen to the music that the rain creates. Witness Life playing out in front of you. You will evolve and awaken more than you would attending a “vipassana” Program or a Silent Retreat. You will heal.
A Zen proverb says, “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” So, allow Life to slip into you, touch your soul and show you a glimpse of bliss. If you like it, do more of doing nothing. If you don’t, well, it is so simple__all you need to do is to rush back to rushing!
Here’s wishing you a magnificent Monday and a wonderful week…

Sitting on a pedestal or mourning in self-pity – both are in vain

Through victory or defeat, stay unmoved.
Two interesting perspectives, and learnings, came up after the recently-concluded World Chess Championship in Chennai, where Magnus Carslen, 23, became the new World Chess Champion, defeating Viswanathan Anand, 43.
After the emphatic win, Carlsen spoke of Anand to The Times of India’s Susan Ninan: “Although he’s an all-time great player, his results lately have not been too good and he’ll need some time to readjust to be able to come back. In this match I showed him in a way that although he’s taught me many things in the past, it’s probably now my turn to teach him. So, it’s safe to say I’ve surpassed him now.” I was not surprised to see Carlsen’s statement or his conceit. It’s his age, I told myself, to think and express himself that way.
This morning, I read what Anand told The Times of India’s Chidanand Rajghatta, in response to a question if Anand really believes Carlsen can teach him: “I wasn’t expecting him to be gracious, so fair enough. The winner can say anything when he wins… so I guess we will just have to swallow it for now.” Considered as one of the greatest chess players of all time, and given his equanimity, it was but expected of Anand to be accepting and graceful.
I can relate to both these attitudes.
I once had the misplaced brashness of Carlsen – when I was his age! In those times, I used to imagine that you needed to display your aggression, that you needed to be “seen” as a doer – that, only through such visibility, you could build a reputation as “someone to reckon with”. As I became more and more successful, I vainly believed that “I” was causing all that success. I remember, as a young, firebrand, civic journalist, I was mandated by my mentor and boss, “Master” C.P.Seshadri to run a weekly column in The Indian Express’ Chennai (then Madras) edition. My stories reported the lack of amenities in the suburbs of the city. The nature of coverage, and the newspaper’s reach, made the column and me very popular. I began to assume that I was all-important and, therefore, over time grew irreverent. Now, I was on the editorial team in the paper and so, was technically not liable to report stories. The head of the reporting team was a very senior journalist called Rmt.Sambandam – his experience was my age at that time! Sambandam was a stalwart in Chennai media and everyone in our paper, and among competition, looked up to him. But I remained irreverent and did not greet him or even acknowledge his presence when I saw him in the hallway or when we rode in an elevator together. Somewhere in my mind, I had developed this holier-than-thou feeling – that made me believe that I was delivering stories that Sambandam’s team was “incapable” of reporting. Years passed. I went my way in Life. I built my career in the media. And then I quit the media world to join the corporate sector. Eventually, after almost a decade of work experience behind me, I went on to set up my own consulting practice. Sambandam, in this time, grew within the Indian Express Group. And eventually went on to edit the Group’s Tamil paper Dinamani. I was not aware of this development though. So, I was dazed when, one afternoon, when I landed up at the Dinamani office, to meet someone “senior” to seek some information I needed, I was ushered into Sambandam’s room!!
Sambandam greeted me with a beaming smile!
“AVIS! My boy! How are you?” he exclaimed.
I tried to mutter a reply but I could not. I had never expected him to be there. I quickly recalled, in a flash, the innumerable times that I had looked away from the man. I wondered what he may be thinking of me. To be sure, over those years, I had sobered down and had realized that to behave haughtily was petty. But I could not undo what I had already done. Especially with Sambandam. And here I was, in front of him, and I did not know what to say or where to begin.
Sambandam made things easy as he humbled me. He said: “It’s grrrrreeeeaatttt to see you. You know after you left us, I often used to wonder where you were. I would occasionally make enquiries and would be delighted to hear that you have grown in your career and are doing very well. You had to. You are one of the finest journalists I have known and are also one of the most ethical and hardworking people in your generation.”
I was speechless. With my raw ambition, as a rookie journalist, I had run roughshod over this man and his team. Not that it affected them. But I imagined, vainly, that it had! Here I was being feted by the man himself. It was both humbling and embarrassing. In fact, I was ashamed of my past conduct. In that brief meeting Sambandam, unwittingly, taught me “how vain it was to sit on a pedestal”.
That’s perhaps why I related to Anand’s sagacity, in response to Carlsen’s bombastic claim,  when I read his interview this morning.
I have learned from Life that “Victory” and “Defeat” are labels that we pin on events that happen in our lives. When you understand and examine Life deeply these labels have no consequence. You and I are mere specks on this vast cosmic landscape. We neither engineer our successes nor do we cause our failures. We keep on acting, doing what’s within our control and what we think is right. Sometimes, these actions lead to results that meet or exceed our expectations – we call these results our successes. At times, our actions backfire and intended results are not achieved – we call these moments our failures. That’s simply it. There is no need, therefore, to sit on a pedestal when we succeed or mourn in self-pity when we fail. Being unmoved in either situation is an intelligent choice. Irrespective of what others may say or think, this is a choice that can surely guarantee your inner peace!