Learn. Unlearn. Relearn. Continuously…

Learn continuously, unlearn consistently and you will learn to live.
Many of us are aware of many things. Thanks to the internet, knowledge is on our fingertips. But this knowledge does not necessarily lead to intelligent living. Our academic education prevents us from growing spiritually in Life. This is why we are unable to experience and practice awareness or mindfulness. If anything, our education is making us more arrogant. We are beginning to imagine we are all powerful because we think we know everything. A man who claimed he knew everything was asked by a Zen Master how many seeds were there in an apple. The man sliced the apple, counted the seeds and reported his findings to the Master. The Master took one seed and placed it on the man’s hand and asked him how many apples there were in that seed. The man fell at the Master’s feet and sought forgiveness for his arrogance.
Just as the man learnt humility and realized that Life’s beauty lies not in what we know but in the unknown, we must too. True power is not in getting an academic education. It is in the application of our knowledge to make the world a better place. American writer and futurist, a former editor of Fortune magazine, Alvin Toffler, says this: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Make your choice now: do you want to remain the overqualified and educated full-of-yourself and illiterate person you are or do you want to learn to live by learning, unlearning and relearning continuously? 

Give without expectations. Receive without limitations.

We are continuously interdependent on each other: either giving or receiving all the time. All of us. Each one of us.

In fact, we are but servants of humanity, serving each other, unknowingly, unwittingly. Without the neighbor that you hate so much because of the way he blares his heavy metal music all night, you cannot understand the meaning of peace when the noise stops. Without the boss who breathes down your neck, you cannot understand the meaning of working under pressure. Without the guy who keeps proposing to you despite you declining each time, you cannot understand what it means to be wanted by someone. As servants we must therefore be humble and grateful for a. the opportunity to serve and b. the opportunity to receive.

However, we struggle with this concept. Sometimes, we don’t want to give__time, money, advice. At other times, we don’t want to receive__because our ego comes in the way. Learn for Nature, exhorts, spiritual guru, poet and artiste, Sri Chinmoy (originally, Chinmoy Kumar Ghose 1931~2007). He says: “The flower gives nectar. The bee gives pollination. The bee receives nectar. The flower receives pollination. Independent nobody is __ we just fool ourselves.”


Let us celebrate this spirit and the reality of interdependence by having a servant-like attitude to and in Life. Give without expectations. Receive without limitations. Only when we are giving and receiving freely, without inhibitions, without keeping count of what you did to others and what others did to you, do we feel completely fulfilled in Life. 

Loving what you get makes Life blissful

Learn to love what you get even if you don’t want it.
This is what will make Life easier, simpler and blissful. We cannot always get what we want. Most often it may be something we just don’t like. Maybe it’s the way your eggs got done this morning. Maybe it is the bad headache hanging over from last night’s party. Maybe it is the non-reclining seat on the plane this morning. Maybe it is the partner you have. Or the Rheumatoid Arthritis that you have been diagnosed with. Maybe you were called in to work yesterday, on a day when you had to be at your child’s annual day at school. Whatever it may have been, is, or will be, hating what you get is not going to make you feel any better. Loving it will.
How can you love something that you don’t want, that you actually will prefer hating? Let us understand hating first in trying to answer this question. Hating is about not being who you are. Does a baby ever say it hates something? Does it say it doesn’t want this weather, this religion, this name, these clothes, this food? Did you as a baby say you didn’t like this or that. So, as part of creation, we are all created to be loving, accepting, willing. Hating something therefore goes against our intrinsic nature. Second, it is the nature of Life to keep dishing out various events, experiences, learnings, challenges irrespective of our__yours or mine__individual preferences. So, the most intelligent response to Life has to be to be grateful and love whatever comes your way. Because it is the same Life which gives you what you don’t want that gives you things you love too.
A young girl from a very affluent family went to her dermatologist and asked him to help her get rid of her pimples and acne. The doctor told her that this was part of her growing up years, driven by hormonal changes in the body, and that in a few years she would be fine. The girl got angry and tried meeting many specialists and doctors with the hope that she may find a “cure”. For months and years she spent all her family’s money trying to get rid of her pimples. Nothing worked. Finally, she was introduced to a lady dermatologist, who was regarded as the best in the world. The girl flew down to London to meet this doctor. The doctor advised her precisely the same course of action and counseled patience that had been prescribed by all the specialists that she had been consulting so far. “But I have tried all these methods,” lamented the girl. The sagely dermatologist, in her 70s, looked at her young patient and said, “Well, if you have tried all of that, all I can suggest further is that you just learn to love your pimples and acne, because this is what has been given to you.”
If you found the girl’s reaction to having pimples and acne so preposterous, don’t exult too much. Our reaction, at most times, to what has been given to us, is pretty much as immature as the girl’s reaction to pimples was. Just as pimples are an integral part of an individual’s growing up years, biologically, so are Life’s challenges__through giving us what we don’t expect or want. They are an important aspect of our spiritual growth. Loving what you get makes Life simple, easy and bliss.

True happiness is being in a perpetual “Is That So” frame of mind.

Just be a witness to your Life; be an observer. If you choose not to try to control your Life, you will always be happy and at peace with your Life and yourself!
Here’s a short Zen story that illustrates this point. It teaches us three new, magical, words that can bring us happiness now and always. All we need to do is to say them as nonchalantly, as effortlessly as we would have said “Hello”! Saying these three words in every situation, in each moment, can deliver peace, meaning and bliss to your Life instantaneously.
The three words are – ‘Is That So?’
The Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku (1686~1768), one of the most influential figures of Japanese Zen Buddhism was revered by his neighbors as one living a pure Life. A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. One fine day, the girl’s parents discovered that she was pregnant. This made her parents very angry. She initially would not confess who the man__who had got her pregnant__was. But after much forcing, she, at last, named Hakuin. Horrified, the shocked parents went to the Master, blamed him, berated and threatened him with dire consequences if he did not “own” their daughter’s child.
“Is that so?” was all that Hakuin said, smiling.
After the child was born, it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, as people shunned him for his “immoral” conduct. The barbs from, and being ostracized by, the people did not trouble him at all though. Instead, he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from some of his more forgiving and tolerant neighbors and provided for everything else the little one needed.
A year later, the young girl could stand her own lie no longer. She told her parents the truth – that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the local fish market. The mother and father of the girl were even more horrified this time. They at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get their grandchild back again.
Hakuin was both forgiving and willing. In yielding the child, all he said again, smiling, was: “Is that so?”

The moral for all us is to just be like Hakuin. Let us learn to be just witnesses of whatever happens to us in Life. In fact, that’s what we really are __ mere observers. In joy or in sorrow let us not get attached to the events, people and circumstances of our lives. This, and this approach alone, can guarantee us the happiness that we all crave for, work hard for, but never really manage to find. True happiness is being in a perpetual “Is That So” frame of mind. You too can switch to that thinking right now. It’s a personal choice!

You can brave any storm in Life if you find its epicenter – which is within you!

Life’s full of storms. Some are personal __ health-related or relationship-focused. You or someone you know is battling a deadly ailment or someone walked out on you, leaving you numb, alone and suffering. Some are professional __ your career just doesn’t seem to settle down, you get laid off or your business keeps making losses leaving you without clients, without cash and with a mountain of losses and debt. You lose someone dear. And you feel you can’t go on in Life. A friend once recounted how he felt when his father died suddenly, when he was barely 19. “It was like the roof over your head being blown away by a raging storm and you are there, alone, drenched to the bone, cold, lonely and scared!” he described.
Maybe you too have felt this way. This feeling invariably leads to anxiety and hopelessness and agitation. You desperately want the reality to change__and NOW! But why? Because you feel you will be destroyed, annihilated.
That’s such a naïve perspective. Let us understand how storms work. In the eye of the storm, the epicenter of a cyclone, there is no destruction. Because there is no chaos. There’s only peace. And the strength of a storm emanates from its core. The epicenter of the storm is also its power center. This is science. Apply the same logic to Life’s storms also. If things are happening around you__you lose a job, your health suffers, a relation dies, you lose money__know that they are not happening to you. You are not your job, you are not your body (and therefore not your health!), you are not losing a relation__you are merely losing the body in which the soul you related to was housed, you are not your money! At the core, you have the opportunity to be peaceful and feel empowered instead of feeling helpless. You are indestructible. So, why flap your wings and kick your feet in distress?
More often than not, we are operating on the surface of Life. The waves are on the surface and on the periphery of the ocean. They are never inthe ocean. All that we are experience in today’s world, in this lifetime of running the rat race__protecting our incomes, securing our deposits, saving to invest in real estate and worrying endlessly about our children__are all surface level activities. To find peace__and our true selves__we must brave the waves, we must go beneath__and past__Life’s storms. Dive into the storm. Go deep. Drop anchor by practicing silence periods daily. ‘Mouna’ or the practice of silence periods will take you to your center, and to the real you. And the Life storm you find yourself in the middle of will blow over, leaving you unscathed, stronger, wiser, saner__and awakened. 

Understand the nature of, and reason for, your creation

All of us have been created equal. No one is superior. And none is inferior.
When we understand why we have been created, we will find meaning in our lives. It is in comparing ourselves with others that we lose the essence of creation and the awareness of the opportunity in front of us. Comparisons lend us to believe, for example, that just because Sachin Tendulkar is a great batsman, your child, who like most others has an above-average interest in the game of cricket, must become a cricketer. Or someone who can recite a few couplets mustbecome Javed Akhtar. Or because your neighbor has acquired a new Toyota Altis, you must get yourself a big car too. Abandon these comparisons, strip yourself of your desires to become something. Just be. Realize the power within you. Maybe the Sachin wannbe is actually an A R Rahman in the making. Or the part-time poet is actually someone endowed with leadership skills that may be more useful in a corporate role. Understanding the Self, your Self, can awaken you to THE truth: that you have all the energy that powers the Universe within you, and that it will all be available to you when you discover the reason for your creation.
In Hindu mythology, in the Ramayana, Lord Rama asks his Mr.Jeeves, Hanuman, “Who are you?”. Hanuman’s answer is not stemming from a theological and literary perspective. It comes from his being aware of his own Self.  His reply can be understood as follows: “You are the creator and I am the created, You are the Master and I am the Servant, You are the Teacher and I am the Taught, but at a soul level, You and I are one.”  This oneness needs to be discovered and understood, for each of us to live in bliss. In a recent Bollywood movie “Mausam”(2011; directed by ‘Karamchand’Pankaj Kapur and starring his son Shahid Kapur and Sonam Kapoor), the hero is a Sikh and the girl is a Kashmiri Muslim. When professing her love for the hero, the girl fears how her father will react to the relationship. The hero replies: “At the core of it, beneath the layers of religion, communities, color of skin, we are all human. That humanity will make way for us, uniting us.”
The problem therefore is not creation’s or Life’s. It is arising from a fickle human interpretation of this lifetime that has been gifted to us. Instead of understanding why you__and I__have been created, we are interpreting it basis religion, race, color, brilliance, money, assets, class of travel and such. We are missing the opportunity to live__therefore! Let’s awaken from this deep slumber. Let us know who we truly are. All else will follow.

Monday Morning inspirations from Panchamda’s immortal music

Except what you will be remembered for, nothing is permanent. Neither your success. Nor what you call failure.
Everything changes. You too have changed. You too will lose everything that you desperately seek to protect: your name, your position, your salary, your savings, your assets. You too will move on, when your time comes. This is the Law of Life. This is the way of the Universe. If this is so, why do we fret, fume, worry, amass, control, protect, fear and feel jealous of or hate another?
Understanding the impermanence of Life itself and of each experience that comes with it in this lifetime is intelligent living. Whatever has happened, whatever is happening, whatever will happen to you cannot be changed. It is when you live with this realization that you actually live. And until you get this simple truth about Life straight, you will struggle and suffer through Life.
Last evening, I was listening to one of R.D.Burman’s compositions – Musafir Hoon Main Yaroon – (Parichay, 1972, Gulzar, Kishore Kumar). To call Rahul Dev Burman just great is perhaps blasphemous. RD or Panchamda as he was fondly called, was__and IS__one of India’s greatest music composers. Between 1966 and 1982, he ruled Bollywood. I am sure no one needs any introduction to his genre or his songs. Just a gentle reminder will get us all humming. It is said that he composed ‘Aye Meri Topi Palat Ke Aa’ for his father Sachin Dev Burman’s 1956 ‘Funtoosh’when he was hardly 9 years old! The golden years of Hindi cinema were courtesy RD: ‘Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera’ (Teesri Manzil, 1966), ‘Dum Maro Dum’ (Hare Rama Hare Krishna, 1971), ‘Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja’ (Caravan, 1971), ‘Chingari Koi Bhadke’, ‘Kuch Toh Log Kahenge’ ‘Yeh Kya Hua’ (Amar Prem, 1971), ‘Duniya Mein Logon Ko’ (Apna Desh, 1972), ‘Chura Liya Hai Tumne’ (Yadoon Ki Baraat, 1973), ‘Is Mod Se Jaate Hain’ (Aandhi, 1975), ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ (Sholay, 1975), all songs of the musical blockbuster Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin, 1977,  ‘Nam Gum Jaayega’ (Kinara, 1977), ‘Aaj Kal Paon Zameen Par Nahin Padte Mere’ (Ghar, 1978), ‘Piya Baawri Piya Baawri’ (Khubsoorat, 1980). The list is endless. Each of his songs can send people like me into a rapturous, emotional nostalgia trip. Yet, writes Bollywood chronicler and RD-admirer, Ganesh Anantharaman in his book ‘Bollywood Melodies’, “despite the youthful hit scores of Love Story (1981) and Betaab (1983), I believe that by the 1980s, RD was in the throes of a serious identity crisis. He had exhausted his capacity to create westernized jazzy scores. He had too many instances of his more melodious scores being rejected, mostly because the films were badly made or did not have the right star cast.” In reality this translated into RD being totally rejected by Bollywood.
Can you imagine one of the greatest music composers of all times knocking on the doors of producers and studio owners in Mumbai “asking” for an opportunity?   Where R.D. Burman had made a career from songs with a strong Western jazz influence, he found that he was repeatedly being outdone by Bappi Lahiri’s Western “inspired” disco. There were a few reprieves though from this ignominy. Notable among them, once again showcasing his genius, was the work he did for his close friend Gulzar: ‘Mera Kuch Samaan’ (Izzazat, 1987). He plodded on, hurt, humiliated, financially devastated, in pain and suffering. ‘1942-A Love Story’, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s super hit, and whose music restored RD’s glory convincingly came, I guess, a trifle too late. Although he had poured his heart into composing the film’s music__evident with the runaway success of the numbers ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha’, ‘Kuch Na Kaho’ and ‘Pyar Hua Chupke Se’__he died, beaten, rejected, dejected on January 4th 1994, several months before the film’s release and, therefore, before seeing his last work reach cult, iconic status.
(Enjoy a review of a book on him by Aniruddha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal, R.D.Burman __ The Man and Music, in the video link here)

Such is Life. You could be on top one day. And hit rock bottom on another day. Or you could be catapulted to glory from the throes of defeat, failure and frustration. The key to intelligent living is to recognize the transient nature of Life. Then you will want to live well, in the moment, doing whatever you can do__the dishes, painting, cooking, teaching, curing, leading, whatever__the best way you ever can. Don’t get carried away by fame. Don’t get defeated by insults and rejection. What lasts is the immortality of your work__when you leave behind a legendary body of art. Just the way RD’s music is. Everything else is impermanent.