Don’t judge others; especially, when you have not walked their path

We must completely avoid judging, or at least opining and commenting on, the lives of people whose path we have never walked.
Shreekumar Varma
Photo Courtesy: The Hindu/Internet
Our good friend, the acclaimed writer and poet, Shreekumar Varma was abducted last fortnight in Senegal, in Western Africa. He has since been freed and is hopefully back home in Chennai. Shreekumar had, it appears, been to Senegal to sell an original painting of Raja Ravi Varma. Interestingly, Shreekumar also hails from Raja Ravi Varma’s family. The story of his abduction broke a couple of days ago in India and his subsequent release has been going viral on social media. What baffles me is the way people are judgmental about Shreekumar and his predicament.
Some of the questions being asked or judgments being pronounced are:
·    Was a ransom paid for his release?
Was the painting itself the ransom?
Shreekumar was a fool to be lured to Senegal to sell an original Ravi Varma painting
Something’s fishy about his visit and the whole story
I wouldn’t ever sell a Ravi Varma original
Maybe he was selling the painting without his family’s knowledge
Now these questions and points of view may be arising out of curiosity because Shreekumar’s story is in the public domain. But is it necessary to pass judgment on matters that don’t concern us directly or of which we have no or limited knowledge. Just because you are on social media, and there is an opportunity and space available to air a comment, don’t opine on people and events that you don’t know anything about.
People who know Shreekumar and his wife Geetha will agree that they are surely among the most genial people on the planet. We have known them only over the last three years, but we have immense regard for them. They conduct themselves with so much humility – despite their lineage and all their accomplishments – and dignity. No one I know knows under what circumstances Shreekumar made that trip to Senegal. I personally don’t think it is relevant. He got into a messy situation there. And the local Indian Embassy, the Ministry of External Affairs and his family worked on securing his release and safe passage back home. Simple. And period. There ends the story. I don’t think anyone has the right to dissect, analyze and pronounce judgment on a matter such as this – especially when they are so totally removed from the truth and the facts.
We have seen how social opinion colored and condemned the passage of justice in the Aarushi case – the Talwar couple serve a jail sentence when there’s not a shred of evidence against them! Vaani and I have also been at the receiving end of unsolicited public pronouncements and judgments. So, we surely know how it feels. We have learnt to be detached from what people have to say about us. But sadly not everyone may have that ability.  
Let us understand and appreciate that people – that includes you and me – do things in Life with their own rationale and logic. Sometimes, things go horribly wrong despite all the intent and planning. So, people do end up in a circumstance that they never quite believed they will ever be in. Everyone’s story has only one truth. And unless you know what that truth is, don’t speculate, don’t opine, and most important, don’t judge anyone. Apart from puncturing the morale of those you judge, it is, quite honestly, a total waste of your time and, seriously, none of your business! 

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Drop your sense of self-importance, just be!

You have to do nothing to take care of your Life. Actually, Life has always been taking care, is taking care, and will take care of you!
At a coffee shop the other day, two friends were catching up at a table that was very close to mine. I was immersed in checking Facebook on my phone. But something one of them said to the other caught my attention. He said, “My Life is not in my hands anymore. I have to take care of my family, my parents, my sister who is going through a divorce, and I have to work by butt off trying to achieve my targets at work. It is insane, but I am no longer living my Life. I am constantly running, earning, providing for and serving others. I feel so lost, so overworked, so stressed – all the time!”
Many of us may well be in this person’s position. We may have the same feeling that we seem to be alive only so that we can provide for other people. And perhaps we are tired of such an existence. Some may even be suffering. To be sure, this is a very natural feeling when we are overwhelmed by the challenges we face and the responsibilities that we carry.
The way to deal with this situation, if you are feeling this way, is to stop giving yourself too much importance. A fundamental belief that comes in the way of our living our lives fully, totally, is the view that we have to take care of ourselves and of others ‘dependent’ on us. There’s this huge protector-provider role that we all have self-imposed upon ourselves. Or a better way to say it is that we have self-assumed this role. And so we go about our lives obsessed with an avoidable sense of self-importance. We believe every problem around us needs our immediate, urgent attention__and resolution. That everything from money to succor, in our immediate circle of influence, must be provided for by us. And when it doesn’t happen that way, as it often may not, we feel something’s wrong with us, or with creation, or both and so we grieve, agonize and suffer!
Osho, the Master, says, and only he could have said it so well: “If the whole existence is one, and if existence goes on taking care of trees, of animals, of mountains, of oceans__from the smallest blade of grass to the biggest star__then it will take care of you too. Once you have started seeing the beauty of Life, ugliness starts disappearing. If you start looking at Life with joy, sadness starts disappearing. You cannot have heaven and hell together, you can have only one. It is your choice.”

So observe what’s causing you stress just now. And let it go. Let go of your self-assumed need to be problem-solver, protector and provider. Instead just be. And then you will discover that creation will take care of you, and all that you call your own. 

There is no strategy to live Life: just be useful!

You must simply live your Life, and carry on living, not worrying about either strategy or success!
Someone I know told me recently that he does not understand what I gain by blogging, Vlogging, delivering Talks and holding free, inspirational, public events. “There’s no meaning in this. You are not making money,” he said. I smiled back at him and said, that doing all this, makes me useful – even if not successful in a worldly sense! “It is liberating to share, unlearn, learn…,” I explained. But my friend said he still could not see any meaning in my “strategy”.
I did not try to justify any further. Because there’s nothing to explain. There is really no strategy to Life and living.  Life cannot be lived fully when we are nailed down by negative, debilitating emotions like doubt, anger, jealousy, sorrow and fear. It cannot be understood too when we are held hostage by our ego and our wants. It can only be understood when we let go of what cripples us, what worries us and what scares us. Only when we practice detachment__from what holds us and what we hold on to__can we be useful without reason, without “strategy”.
When the ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ ceases to be anything material, your Life is filled with abundance, grace, happiness and, well, magic!

Thanks to our conditioning and to our upbringing we are encouraged to start running a race, as soon as we begin to make sense of our world, and are taught that Life’s meaning is to come first, to win, to acquire, to accumulate, to conquer. In this context, by always wanting to win, we don’t realize we have to willy-nilly ‘vanquish’ or ‘deny’ others the opportunity to win. Or when we try but when we don’t win, we end up feeling depressed and despondent. This is when we start looking for a strategy to employ in Life. Then, a time does come when even that ‘winning strategy’ becomes meaningless. So, we end up seeking meaning when we discover that despite all the winning, all the conquest, all the accumulation, we are still missing something __ the essence of Life, of simply being happy.

In Viktor Frankl’s 1946 epic book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ __ chronicling his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II __ he concludes that, as time passed and as he looked back at all that he had been through, the gut-wrenching experience he had in the camp was nothing but a “remembered nightmare”. Even his desire to kill his tormentor was now gone. He awakens to his Life’s meaning which is “to help others find theirs”.

In summary, as I have discovered it__and I am still learning__Life has no meaning. You bring meaning to your Life by being useful than merely wanting to be successful. It is not that wanting to be or being successful is wrong. But the pursuit of success often blinds us and takes us in the direction of being successful at the cost of others. Whereas, being useful, is what true success is all about.