Empty yourself and Life will express itself through you

Awaken each day with total humility, stretch your arms wide open and be sure that Life will provide you all that you need.
I met a young lady who is an ace photographer. She prides herself with being able to connect with the who’s who of India and shoots them in the most unique contexts with the rarest of rare expressions. Her ability to create magic with her subjects is exceptional. While she’s talented, she’s clearly not very admired. Most people who know her believe she talks too much – often about herself. “I want to shoot people in a manner in which no one has done before. I want my stamp all over my pictures,” she declared to me, proudly.
Raghu Rai with his iconic picture of Mother Teresa
Picture Courtesy: The Guardian/Internet
I had an opportunity to listen to one of the greatest photographers in the world, Raghu Rai, recently too. And he said, “There is the divine in every moment. As a photographer I don’t try to show off my skill or talent through a picture. I am merely an instrument, as much as the camera that I use is, who captures that divinity for posterity. I am a nobody in the larger cosmic design.”
The two perspectives are so contrasting. One who humbly believes that he is only an instrument. And another who brags that she is the creator of all the magic in her work!  
I recall reading a beautiful interview that Times of Indiahad once done with A R Rahman. He told Priya Gupta: Every time I sit for a song, I feel I am finished. It’s like a beggar sitting waiting for God to fill your bowl with the right thought. In every song, I ask help from Him. Everybody around is so good, so to create music that will connect with so many people is not humanly possible without inspiration.
This is the humility I am referring to. To feel enriched, to live fully and to create value, we must empty ourselves daily. When we approach Life with a sense of nothingness, nobody-ness, in total surrender, we will be able to see and experience the Life that is ordained for us.
Our wanting anything is of no consequence really. There’s an old Arabic proverb that goes like this: “What is destined will reach you even if it be beneath two mountains. What is not destined will not reach you even if it be between your two lips.” Let’s remember that this Life has been given to each one of us. We didn’t ask for it. So, logically, if something has come free, without your asking for it, you don’t impose your wants on it. You accept what’s being given and use it intelligently, fully! That fullness can only come from respecting Life and being humble. When you start believing that your Life is happening because of you, you are being both ungrateful and irresponsible. You must cease to exist in a metaphorical sense for the God within you to find expression.

This is why people like Rahman or Rai, or any successful or creative person, is able to live in this same, cold, dog-eat-dog, world that we live in and are able to produce a matchless, beautiful, work of art each day. I am not talking of celebrity achievements here. You and I too can achieve those levels of creative expression, leading to phenomenal success, if we learn to empty ourselves and let Life express itself through us.

Stop resisting and just slip in with Life, hand in glove with whatever is happening…

Live losing yourself to your world, to your Life as it is. Unite with the Life available to you just now. Be one with the Universe.

Most of us struggle through Life because we resist what is happening to us. Any resistance will bring pain. Total submission, total acceptance will make living simpler, easy and blissful. Life is like dance. In dance, the dancer is encouraged by the Master, the guru, to unite with the act of dancing. It is only through the unison of the dancer with the act that a work of art, of beauty, is visible to the world.

Osho, the Master, says this story about Gurudjieff (1877 ~ 1949), the Armenian spiritual teacher from the 20th century, who taught that it was possible to transcend to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential by working on oneself: “…For the (true) dancers, the dance continued inside, and the inside whirling circles became smaller and smaller until they became centered. One day it happened that they were coming just to the edge of the stage, dancing. It was expected, supposed, that Gurdjieff would stop them just before they danced down the stage onto the audience. A hundred dancers were just on the edge of the stage. One step more and they would all fall down into the hall. The whole hall was expecting that suddenly Gurdjieff would say stop, but he turned his back to light his cigar. He turned his back to the dancers to light his cigar, and the whole group of a hundred dancers fell down from the stage upon the floor – on a naked stone floor. The whole audience stood up. They were screaming, shouting, and they were thinking that many must have broken their bones – it was such a crash. But not a single one was hurt; not even a single bruise was there. They asked Gurdjieff what had happened. No one had been hurt, and the crash was such that it seemed impossible that people would not be hurt. The reason was only this: they were really not in their bodies at that moment. They were slowing down their inner circling. And when Gurdjieff saw that now they were completely oblivious of their bodies, he allowed them to fall down. If you are completely oblivious of your body, there is no resistance. A bone is broken because of resistance. If you are falling down, you resist: you go against the pull of gravity. That going against, that resistance, is the problem – not gravity. If you can fall down with gravity, if you can cooperate with it, then no possibility of being hurt will arise.”

Quite similarly, as in the Gurudjieff story that Osho has made immortal, if you flow with Life, you will be bliss yourself. There’s a need for you__and me__to discover our inner rhythm, for us to harmoniously unite with our inner selves; to be the Self, to be nothing but creation itself. And that can happen when you stop resisting and just slip in with Life, hand in glove with whatever is happening, living in acceptance, peace and inner harmony. Bliss then happens naturally!!!


PS: (Enjoy this beautiful song that captures the spirit of this Thought. Live losing yourself as the dancers in this video from Jodha Akbar, 2008, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai; music is by A.R.Rahman, who says he composed this tune in his sleep, while he dreamt of the Garib Nawaz of Ajmer!) 

Irrespective of the circumstance you are placed in, play on

Life is a great teacher. She will humble you till you learn your lessons. And then when you are humbled, she will enlighten you.
All of us live through our nightmares before we live our dreams. And if we are living our dreams, know that the peaks will give way to valleys, and then to abysses only to find that when we have hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. Soon, we will reclaim our lost honor, succeed yet again with our craft and regain our glory __ only, the second time around, on the rebound, we are a lot more fulfilled, a lot less anxious and see each moment of Life, or what remains of this lifetime, as a blessing. This cycle of Life, with its inscrutable up and down patterns or down and up ways, plays itself out, time and again, from person to person, incessantly, ceaselessly.
One such co-voyager in Life, a genius in his own right, an emperor of his craft, is Tamil music composer Ilayaraja. During the 70s, 80s and well into the 90s, Ilayaraja, remained king. His was the music that mesmerized listeners and sold movies. For over a decade, well actually 15 years, no Tamil movie was released that did not have Illayaraja composing music. Such was his genius. Such was his command that he was unbeatable. Not that anyone even tried. And then came along A R Rahman, the prodigal genius, who with Roja, in 1992, swept the world away! His music was different and Ilayaraja’s hold on Tamil cinema was challenged deceptively. One tune at a time, one movie at a time. By 1997, Rahman had become staple in the entertainment business down south and Bollywood filmmakers too were counting on the Mozart of Madras (Rahman) to sell their films.
It was at this time that I met Ilayaraja at his home. A beautiful shrine-like place in T Nagar, in South Chennai, where music, moods, fragrances and floral patterns made the simple white walls and furniture in the house come alive almost surreally. Taking me to his studio on the first floor, Ilayaraja, playing a new tune he had just composed, asked me, “What do you think of it?” And I remember replying: “It’s out of this world.” “What to do,” bemoaned the genius, much to my shock, “the world does not recognize my worth anymore. Everyone wants the new kid, who learnt at my feet and today challenges me.” I was surprised. In fact horrified. I felt Ilayaraja must be proud, not jealous, of his protégé. I felt that the greatest compliment a ‘guru’ can get is when a ‘shishya’ (disciple) outsmarts him at his own craft. But I did not express my opinion; I went on with my meeting and left Ilayaraja’s home-shrine, a tad befuddled.
Kamal Hassan, Sridevi, Ilayaraja, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikant
at ‘Shamitabh’s’ music launch
Picture Courtesy: PTI/Hindu/Internet
What began then was, as I came to realize, Ilayaraja’s hibernation, which lasted almost 10+ years. He was down, no music composition offers, no interview seekers, no titles, no awards. I am not aware how he spent those years. Maybe he sulked. Maybe he grieved. But if that was indeed his state, it well was his own creation. He was, is and will always be a musical genius, to me, and to millions of his fans across the world. That he had to make way for a next generation sensation called Rahman was only a reflection of the way Life is and works, and was no indication of any flaw with his craft. But maybe, just maybe, Ilayaraja missed this point. Until ‘Cheeni Kum’ (2007, directed by Balki and starring Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu) happened, where Ilayaraja made a phenomenal comeback. Balki, a senior professional in Indian advertising (Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Lowe Lintas), says he got into filmmaking onlyto work with two of his idols__the Big B and Ilayaraja! And Ilayaraja re-used an old tune of his from the 1986 super, super-hit, Mani Ratnam film, ‘Mouna Ragam’ (follow video link here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5v1xOQmcQE) in ‘Cheeni Kum’, along with a couple of other unputdownable compositions. And slowly, very slowly, the King of Tamil music, a veteran of 999 (Tamil director Bala’s up-coming ‘Tharai Thappattai’ will be his 1000th!) films, and 5000 songs, is coming into his own again. He is perhaps, hopefully, in his second innings, realizing that he was always a winner. That the music in him never died. In January this year, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth came together in Mumbai to launch the music for Balki’s latest ‘Shamitabh’, which again was composed by Ilayaraja. Talking at a public event in Chennai, some time ago, Ilayaraja said, “I don’t know how the music comes, if I find out, it will stop!”

This is what is happening to all of us. We are born winners. But we stop seeing our own worth, our own value because we expect Life to give us ideal performance conditions. And despite all the wishing that we__you and I__do, that can never be guaranteed. What can be known for sure though is that there’s a lot, a helluva lot, of talent in each in us. Our craft, our work, is our prayer. Irrespective of the circumstance we are placed in, let us keep playing on. Seasons will come, seasons will go, years will wear on, the body will age and wither away too someday, but eventually we will find that despite all of what has happened to us, the music within each of us remains intact. And all that happened, happened to humble us, to enlighten us, to enrich us, so that our music can light up the world!   

Let your sadness make way for joy!

Don’t approach anything that happens in your Life from sadness.
A loss. Pain. A heart-break. An insult. All of them are not what we expect. And so we respond with shock, anger and sorrow. But after we get over the initial response, we must develop the attitude to shift the attention to joy. Exult in the opportunity that each of those surprising, often times even shocking, events has thrown up. A loss always points to a gain in the future. A loss also teaches you, through your grief, what is more valuable to you in your Life. You grieve a loss because you attach a value to it. This awakening to the realization of what’s important to you must call for celebration. And joy, not grief and sorrow!
If someone insults you, you must celebrate because you have now the opportunity to learn to live with an insult. A capability that you never thought existed in you. Your spouse tells you that she or he can’t carry on in the relationship with you anymore. Beneath the obvious layer of shock and tears, it actually opens so many more opportunities to start afresh in Life. To explore newer horizons rather than be stuck in a bad relationship in grief, in sorrow, in pain. Joy here means the suffering for both of you has come to an end. Yes the pain of going through the process of separation will have to be dealt with. But eventually it too will lead to joy!

So, in effect, there are no sad endings in Life. Why then be sad about the interludes over which we have no control? A beautiful song from the John Abraham movie ‘Jhoota Hi Sahi’ (2010, Abbas Tyrewala, A R Rahman, Javed Ali, Chinmayi) comes to mind. It is among the most spiritual songs to emerge from Bollywood recently. The message is simple: Why Cry! Life’s too short to be spent in sadness and worrying! 

Go easy with Life – Oh! Yes! Abhi!

Don’t take yourself or Life too seriously. At the end of the day, Life’s but a dream!
A couple of years ago, a young lady came to meet me and my wife, feeling totally despondent about Life. She was separating from her husband, she had two young children and her business was just not working out. She had accumulated a lot of debt – most of it from family. She was wondering if there was any meaning to Life. She asked me: “What’s the point of Life if there’s so much pain in going through it?” I am sure this is a question each of us has asked ourselves at least once in our lifetime so far.
I shared with her a story from the Life of the great Chinese mystic, Chuang Tzu (a.k.a Zhuang Zhou or Zhuangzi, 369 BCE ~ 286 BCE).
One morning, sitting in his bed, Chuang Tzu looked very sad. His disciples had never seen him so sad. And never after waking up had he remained in his bed, sitting. What had happened? Was he sick?
They gathered around and asked him, “Master, what is the matter?” He said, “The matter is really difficult, I cannot solve it; perhaps you may be of some help. I will tell you what is the matter. In the night I dreamed that I had become a butterfly, and I was moving from one flower to another flower.”
One of the disciples said, “This is nothing to be sad about. In dreams we all do strange things; and this is not a bad thing, to be a butterfly – colorful, beautiful, moving from one juicy flower to another juicy flower. Why are you so worried?”
He said, “You have not heard the whole thing. The problem is, now I am awake and I am wondering whether Chuang Tzu dreamed that he is a butterfly, or now the butterfly has gone to sleep and is dreaming she is Chuang Tzu.”

This may well be ‘koan’a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment. So, are you who you are? Or is this Life that you lead a dream? In Sanskrit and Pali literature, in the ‘Vedas’ and ‘Puranas’, there’s this concept called ‘maya’ which really points to Life (and everything) as an ‘illusion’, and if you don’t get it and don’t understand Life’s true nature, well, ‘maya’ can also mean ‘delusion’ in such a context!

As Chuang Tzu shared his dilemma, his disciples remained silent. They understood the import of Chuang Tzu’s poser. This is what all the scriptures have been saying – that everything is maya’. Everything is a dream. So, why the strife? Why worry, why the anxiety, grief, guilt, anger and sorrow? Chuang Tzu taught his disciples this: Continue easy with Life and you are on the right path. He didn’t say this way or that way was right. He said, whatever you are going through, go through it with ease, don’t resist, don’t fight, don’t aggress. Just go easy. Because whatever is happening to you is just a dream. It will soon be over. So, don’t gloat over your riches or your successes. It’s a dream that’s soon to die. Don’t bemoan your sorrows. But it too is a dream and will be over soon.
I met that young lady recently. We had been mentoring her, holding her hand and helping her understand Life better, over these two years. But in the past quarter we had not met her. So, when she came over, I noticed how much she had evolved. I saw a twinkle in her eyes, a radiance on her face and an enthusiasm in her step. I asked her how things were. And she replied: “Nothing’s changed – the marriage is still going through the final rites, the kids are a handful and the business is deep in the dumps. But I am taking it all easy. And so, I am at peace and I am very happy.”
Sometimes, Life can weigh you down. Things just won’t go the way you want them to. That’s the time to learn to take Life easy. As the famous song from the Tamil movie ‘Kadhalan’(1994, Shankar, A.R.Rahman; Hindi – ‘Hum Se Hai Muqabla’) goes, (have a), “….Take it easy, policy!And have it now – Oh! Yes! Abhi!

When you don’t know what to do, simply surrender to Life!

Life is a great leveller.
Whether you like it or not, whether you ask for it or not, at some time or the other, in some unique, unfathomable way, Life will bring you to a state when you will awaken to the truth that your Life is not in your control. At such times, the best response is to simply surrender to Life. Let whatever must happen, happen. Because, whatever is to happen will anyway happen!
But the normal human response is anger, frustration, depression, fear, insecurity, anxiety, worry and grief. There’s no point suppressing these feelings. They will naturally arise in you. Allow those feelings to come. Feel each of them and ask yourself if they can help you deal with your Life situation any better. If they can, persist with them. Let’s say, someone’s dying of cancer. How can any of these feelings help cure the cancer? Or prevent that person from dying? Or let’s say you have been let down in a relationship. How can these feelings help you cope any better? When you sit calmly and analyze your Life situation – any situation which cannot be solved at a human level; and there are many of them – you will understand that going with Life’s flow, and the grand Cosmic Design, the Master Plan, is the only intelligent option you have. So, logically, there’s no point persisting with these debilitating emotions. Surrendering to Life really means dropping these feelings and being free!
There’s a forgettable Tamizh movie called Azhagiya Tamizh Magan (2007, Bharathan, Vijay) that has a great song (with some awful picturization though!) composed by A.R.Rahman in it. The song celebrates the Creator – to me, Life, the Higher Energy – and goes, “Ella Pughazyum Oruvan Oruvannuke, Nee Nadhi Poley Odikonduirru…”. It means, “All glory is to the Only One, you keep flowing like a river…” The essence of this song has resonated with me every time that I have heard it. I have come to believe that not knowing what to do in Life is an opportunity to understand, appreciate and live Life better. It is a humbling experience. Our education and intellect make us believe that we are in control, that we are achieving this and that, we are creating assets and raising families, that we have everything planned out and mapped out in our lives. But when a Life situation strikes, and pushes you into a corner, you realize that you were never in control then – or now. It is only through this awakening that you understand the value of surrendering to Life and going with its flow.
So, if you are in a place in Life when you don’t know what to do about someone or some situation, go with wherever your Life is taking you. Don’t resist. Don’t fear. Don’t agonize. Perhaps, that’s where you eventually need to be and that’s where you will be peaceful and happy!  

Of Raavan, Ram and Jannat

The conditions inhibiting our inner peace are, interestingly, within us! Our true, native state is love and peace. But years of conditioning, in the way in which we have been raised and how we lead our lives, have suppressed that true state. Our only task is to undo that conditioning and remove all the layers of anxiety, misery, jealousy, self-doubt, anger, hatred and fear that suppress our true nature__and we too will return to being loving and peaceful!
I watched the Hindi movie Swades (2004, Ashutosh Gowariker, starring Shah Rukh Khan) another time last night. There’s a line in a beautiful song “Pal Pal Hai Bhaari” (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar, Music by A R Rahman) in the film that goes like this: “…man se Raavan jo nikaale, Ram uske man mein hai…”. It refers to the plight of the devotee who is signing the Lord’s praise but actually nurtures a lot of hatred and evil within. Raavan (the demon) and Ram (the Lord) are metaphors here. That line in the song is a reminder that if you really want to experience the Lord (love and peace) get rid of what’s tormenting you (the evil, whatever’s debilitating, in you)! The real import for all us, mortals, caught in the rat race, is that to be truly peaceful, we need to throw out all the conditions that inhibit our inner peace from our lives.
In Urdu there’s a word called jannat – it means paradise. Jannat is where love, peace, prosperity and all the good things in Life are in abundance. Most people believe jannat is something to be attained after completing our worldly tasks, after fulfilling our responsibilities, perhaps, in an after-Life.  But the truth is that there’s only this one lifetime, as we know it. And whatever has to be attained and experienced has to be done here. Now. By accepting and loving what is.
It is by resisting what is that we are piling on the layers of wasted emotions that restrain our true, native state, of love and peace, from flowering. Look at young children. They just submit themselves to Life, to their environment, to the conditions into which they are born – unquestioningly, without resisting. Which is why they are in complete bliss. We will do well to draw inspiration from children around us! And experience Ram and jannat – here, in the now!