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! 

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. 

Sunny Leone is more spiritual than most people around us

Important Note: This Blog will continue to feature my daily blogposts. In addition, on Sundays, public holidays and long weekends, I will feature The Happiness Road Series and my #HelpYourselfToHappiness Vlog Series!
Here’s today’s blogpost!
Spirituality does not impose any conditions on your being. It is the flowering of inner awareness that brings you to be present in whatever is.
Sunny Leone
Picture Courtesy: Internet
There’s this whole song and dance, well we can call it drama too, over Bollywood actor Sunny Leone’s interview with CNN-IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey. I have not seen any of Sunny Leone’s movies nor have I dug up her footprint, as an erstwhile porn star, online. I have also had no interest in any interview she has given up until now. That’s when my friend BG’s story on the actor and her interview appeared in The Hindu this morning. Now, BG’s someone I respect a lot. And his concluding line, “…Until now, she was a small-time actor, the interview made her a heroine.”…caught my attention. So I googled and pulled up Chaubey’s interview with Leone and watched it. I not only concur with BG’s perspective but I go a step further: I don’t just think Leone is gorgeous-looking, sexy if you will, I believe she’s very, very, spiritual too.
I have no comments to offer on Chaubey’s interviewing style or the quality and tone of his questions. That’s his way of Life. So, my perspective here is not because I disagree with what Chaubey asked or did, but is here because I agree with, and can relate to, everything that Leone said. It takes an evolved person to say that I have no regrets about the past. And Leone does not just say it, she says it with a deep conviction. She says, “ …Everything that I have done in my Life, has led me (in)to this seat…it’s a chain reaction that happens…everything is a stepping stone…when you are young you make decisions that lead you to who you are as an adult…” To me, Leone’s interview offers an unputdownable lesson in spirituality. It left me admiring this young lady for her ability to hold herself up with dignity, when so many people are hell bent on judging her. Watch the full interview here:

I make no comparisons here. But interestingly, at the recently concluded Hindu Lit for Life event, ace photographer Raghu Rai, who was in conversation with renowned art editor Sadanand Menon, said something very similar: “I am just a sum of all the experiences I have been through in Life. Everything that I have done in my Life has made me the person that I am today.” Everyone who heard Rai share with Menon came back feeling reflective and spiritual.

And truly, that’s all there is to Life. We all are a product of the time and the experiences we go through. There’s nothing right or wrong about the choices we make. Each choice leads us to another one and that one leads to yet another. And through choosing, falling, crawling, getting up, flying and falling again, we learn to choose better and cruise along in Life. Leone’s choice of opting to be in the porn industry was not very different from my choice of having been a salesman early on in my career or Rai’s choice of being a news photographer for several years. In the end, really, no experience is a waste and no experience is bad. Each one teaches you something, provided you are willing to learn.

As I see it, there’s a lot I can learn from Leone. She displays humility, acceptance and a keenness to just let things be. For instance, she says that she has neither been “haunted” or “held back” by her past. She tells Chaubey that she does not want to think of a future – of acting with a big star like Aamir Khan – that is not yet born: “At this moment I don’t know (about the future) any better.” I wish, instead of bringing a hypocritical sense of morality into play, that people pause and reflect on Leone’s interview for the honesty she inspires through it. That and her ability to be who she is, celebrating herself, without any regrets of a past that is dead and gone, and without any anxieties over an unborn future, are very spiritual qualities.  To me, those qualities make her more spiritual – and not just sexy – than most people around us are. 

A Life lesson in minimalism from Comrade Bardhan

Important Note: This Blog will continue to feature my daily blogposts. In addition, on Sundays, public holidays and long weekends, I will feature The Happiness Road Series and my #HelpYourselfToHappiness Vlog Series!

Here’s today’s blogpost!

The best way to be happy and content is to want nothing, cling on to nothing and just be!
A.B.Bardhan (1924 ~ 2016)
Picture Courtesy: Jitendra Gupta/Outlook
Three weeks ago, veteran Communist leader (CPI), A.B.Bardhan, passed away. I am not a communist. But I admired Bardhan’s simplicity, integrity and down-to-earthiness greatly. Even so, I was surprised when I saw a picture (see below) going viral on social media. Shot by someone called Bhupinder and shared by Bardhan’s close associate Vineet Tiwari, a writer from Indore, the picture shows the only possessions that Bardhan left behind: a rusted almirah, some clothes, a pair of shoes and a red suitcase that he used while traveling. Bardhan, I gleaned, did not even own or rent a house – after his wife Padma passed away in 1986, he moved into the CPI headquarters in New Delhi, Ajoy Bhawan. I have never known Bardhan personally. So, I am not sure if he was happy or what his idea of happiness was. But going by the tributes that flowed upon his passing, I believe that he was a much loved and respected man.
Picture Courtesy:
Bhupinder/Internet/Vineet Tiwari
My own admiration for Bardhan grew exponentially when I saw the picture. I have learnt from Life that minimalism – the art of living with bare essentials – is the key to happiness. Isn’t it a great idea to live with just a few sets clothes, and perhaps a passport if you love traveling, a mobile phone and a laptop with high speed internet connectivity? You may want to consider owning a house if you can afford one, or perhaps just rent one. After all, at the end of the day, you just want a roof over your head, meaningful work to do and some food to keep your body nourished and healthy.
I am reminded of a Zen story. A visitor arrived at the home of a Master. The home was just a small hut. It was absolutely barren. No furniture. No bed. The Master sat and slept on the ground. He ate fruits from the orchard in the neighborhood and drank water from a stream nearby. He had one robe which he washed and re-wore every day.
The visitor was intrigued. He asked: “Master, how come you have nothing here. How do you live without anything – no furniture, no utensils, no clothes?”
The Master looked at the visitor and said: “Sir, you too have come empty-handed – no furniture, no utensils, no clothes!”
The visitor was surprised with the Master’s remark and exclaimed: “But I am just a visitor!”
The Master, beamed a big, glowing, smile and replied: “So am I!”

That’s what we all are. Mere visitors on this planet. And to live here – and be happy – we need nothing more than the bare essentials! For almost 7 years now, my wife Vaani and I have been following a simple principle: anything, barring our passports and important documents, that we have not used, we have been giving away – every six months. This process helps us sustain a free flow of positive energy while keeping our home clutter-free. This energy, we realize, is the key to inner peace and happiness. Each person’s idea of peaceful living and therefore their version of the bare essentials will vary. But our experience has been that the lesser we want, the lesser we cling on to, the happier we are.