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. 

Goodness, in ourselves, and in others, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder.

The biggest casualty in Life is trust. And all the problems in the world are because of a trust deficit.
Look at the way we have been brought up. In a real world, with crime, terror, deceit and falsehood, we bring up our children pretty much the same way as we have been. We insist that they don’t speak to strangers, don’t accept eatables from them and don’t leave school unless one of us, parents, picks them up. In our zeal to protect and ensure safety of our children, we are, unwittingly, teaching them not to trust fellow human beings. Nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when, after we, or our children, reach adulthood, we don’t ‘unlearn’ what we have learnt to do__more as a necessity than as a choice. Resultantly, we end up harboring and breeding mistrust all our lives.
A few weeks ago, a friend, a very accomplished businessman who is worth several million dollars, advised me thus: “You should not trust three kinds of people. Don’t trust the three Ms: Muslims, Mangaloreans and Marwaris (the second being a place in Northern Karnataka, and the last being a businessman community from North India).” I was shocked. Here was an educated, successful man, wealthy and civilized, and yet having such primitive, conservative misgivings? But he isn’t the only one with such views. To someone else, it could be three other Ms: Malayalis (people from Kerala), Madrasis (all North Indians call anyone South Indian, a Madrasi) or Mongolians! Or it could be the three Hs: Hindus, Hungarians and the Hungry. Or the 10 Bs and so on. This is endless. And Meaningless. My response to my friend therefore was: “Well you can definitely trust one M: ‘Manithan’!” ‘Manithan’ in Tamzih means human!
Let us get this straight and right: just because we had a few bad experiences with a few ‘unevolved’ people, it does not make the whole human race bad. The number of peace-loving people in the world is far, far more than the small number of misguided, blood-thirsty extremists. There are more mothers around than the draconian mothers-in-law (saas) that Indian brides keep fearing! There are so many, many more people that are willing to help you in Life, at work, on the street, than that are out to cheat you or exploit you. There is so much goodness that’s waiting to be embraced and experienced from fellow humans than all the misery that we see and all the miserable people that we dread. To see the goodness in people, in Life, you need to stop generalizing and extrapolating your past experiences, and simply learn to trust both people and Life!
The 15thcentury mystic weaver-poet Kabir (1440 ~ 1518) says, “The river that flows in you also flows in me.” He championed seeing the oneness in creation and argued that if you could trust yourself, you could trust others. Lalon Fakir (1774 ~ 1890), a singer belonging to the wandering mystic sect, Bauls, criticized the superficiality of religious divisions in the 1850s when he sang these lines:  “Everyone asks: “Lalon, what’s your religion in this world?” Lalon answers: “How does religion look?” I’ve never laid eyes on it. Some wear malas [Hindu rosaries] around their necks, some tasbis [Muslim rosaries], and so people say they’ve got different religions. But do you bear the sign of your religion when you come or when you go?” This, incidentally, was the moot question raised by Aamir Khan’s PK too!
As much as we seem we are divided by religion, community, color of skin, nationality, social standing, education, wealth and whatever, we are still united and one as people. Goodness, in ourselves, and in others, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder. So, change the way you see people. Learn to trust them. And in the event you still are let down and your trust is shattered one more time, treat it as the handiwork of someone unevolved, view it as another exception and not the rule. Trusting, forgiving, moving on, you will have found one sure way to live happily, peacefully!

I drink alcohol…and I am spiritual

Just because you don’t like the message, don’t shoot the messenger!  
A couple of days ago I received an email forward of a media release purported to have been issued on behalf of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living organization. I don’t know if the release was indeed issued on Sri Sri’s behalf. I hope not. The release attacks, albeit in a veiled manner without naming them, director Rajkumar Hirani, actor Aamir Khan and their movie PK, for “projecting sadhus (Hindu saints) in bad light”, for “promoting dargahs (Muslim shrines) and putting down ashrams(Hindu monasteries)” and for “influencing young minds”. The release also says that the makers of PK have been funded by a terrorist to put down spirituality.
I find the content of the media release preposterous. And the charges against Khan, Hirani and PK baseless. Whoever authored that release and whoever authorized its circulation neither understands spirituality not do they understand PK’s message.
Spirituality is the flowering of inner awareness. It is the realization that comes from within that you are the divinity that you seek. Spirituality is deeply personal, it is intense and it is liberating. It sets you free. Religion, on the other hand, tries to achieve the same result but ends up making bad spaghetti out of a good recipe. Not because there’s anything wrong with the recipe. But because the cooks, the high priests of the various religions (as the PK character says in PK, “the managers of the various companies”), have hidden and divisive agendas; they promote ritualism and hold gullible people – like you and me – hostage! In the movie, in one brilliant scene, PK picks up a new born baby to inspect if the baby is born with a “stamp”, a means of identification, that he or she was actually created (“sent down”) to be a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim. The message is stark and uncomfortable: that our religion has been thrust upon us. We are born free to simply be human. But the label of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jew and such is stuck on us as an afterthought. Our family and society force us to follow the religion that they have chosen for us. To add to the confusion, people who are self-proclaimed leaders of the various religions, induce fear among their followers saying that if you question what is being told and practiced, you will be punished by your God! PK makes another important, uncontestable point – the God, he says, that created you and me, is different from the God that we humans have created to suit our convenience. God, the creator, is compassionate, loving and is ever present – within us. The God we have created, he says, is forever elusive, being “managed and protected by agents and managers” and making people fearful. The truth is where there is fear, there is no faith. And when there is faith, there can be no fear. Faith is like light and fear is like darkness. You can bring light to drive away darkness. But you cannot bring darkness into a room which is well lit. You cannot, therefore, claim you have faith in a God, your God, and yet be fearful of either God or Life or both!!
The media release makes one other ridiculous, erroneous point. It states that people who consume alcohol are not spiritual! Spirituality is totally unconditional. Being spiritual means just being. You can be whoever you are. You don’t have to abstain from anything, you don’t have to fear anyone, you don’t have to fast, you don’t have to pray and you don’t have to follow any rituals. You just have to be who you are and enjoy being who you are. Spiritually empowered people employ this freedom, this fearlessness, this faith – that they will be taken care of and provided for by the Universe – to live in bliss. To them nothing is a sin. And nothing is forced. They live simply – seeing the divinity in themselves and in everyone and everything around them.

I seriously hope Sri Sri’s ashram did not issue that release and that the mail I received was just one of those hoax forwards. If it was indeed a genuine communication, I pity those who put it out – for they are missing PK’s central message and shooting the messenger, Aamir, just because he’s seen, per worldly definition, as a Muslim.  PK is not about Hindus and Muslims. It is not about Hindu Gods and a Muslim God or a Christian God. It is about you and me and how we are allowing ourselves to be trapped in the vicious cycle of religion, rituals, godmen and fear. Watch PK if you can and care. And even if you don’t want to watch it, raise a toast when you drink tonight!! To Christmas, good health and happiness. My toast, however, is to the authors of that redoubtable release: “Hey, I drink alcohol…and I am spiritual”!   

What a Siddha yogi and ‘PK’ taught me about ‘my’ God

Learn to value and celebrate the divinity within you. It may not solve your problems but will show you a better way to live with them!
Yesterday, I heard of the demise of a good friend of mine, Kavi Rajan, who was a Siddha yogi and was only 47 years old. We first met him 10 years ago when we had gone to him “seeking solutions” to our debt problem. He said, rather simplistically: “Embrace your debt. Love it. It is a guest in your Life. It has come to teach you something. It will go away just the way it has come.” Initially I resisted his advice. But, over the years, I found his call to “accept Life for what is” very meaningful. This drew me and my wife closer to him. We met him probably once or twice in a year. But each time we came away enriched and energized. He was not the bearded, saffron-clad yogi. No, he was not a Godman. He wore a lungi, a sleeve-less vest or a shirt, smoked a beedi and led a normal, worldly Life with his wife and two young children. But he was a man who, according to me, certainly had realized his God. He would tell us: “Don’t make me a guru and don’t think I am your God. Realize the divinity within you. I am only a means to your spiritual awakening. Once you are awakened, you won’t need me.” My wife and I will miss him in his physical form but we are sure we will always feel his presence in our lives.
Aamir Khan in ‘PK’
Picture Courtesy: Internet
I only wish many of the seekers out there get an opportunity to be guided and awakened by evolved souls like my friend Kavi. What is unfortunate is that almost every religion’s preachers today claim to find “solutions” to people’s problems and in turn make them fearful and confused. In the name of helping them reach or connect with God, those who have made religion their business, exploit gullible people of their money, time, resources, emotions and faith. This is the central theme of a beautiful movie I saw yesterday – Aamir Khan’s PK(2014, Rajkumar Hirani). Khan’s character PKmakes an impassionate appeal to all of us. He says, that there is no problem with the creator, the one who created the world and its people. The problem is with the God that man created. That God, he said, was a hostage of individual religions and the self-proclaimed custodians of these religions are exploiting mankind. PK urges us to snap out of our stupor and awaken to a more meaningful way of living our lives! He makes a pertinent and sound case for a world without religion, where all people are equal – just the way they are created – and who respect the divinity in each other.
Indeed there is a divinity in each of us. This divinity is nothing but the Life energy that is powering us – because of which we are alive and are capable of experiencing the abundance in our lives and in the Universe. But we miss this abundance because we don’t realize this divinity. We are trapped in our self-defined world of limitations – our anxieties, insecurities, grief, guilt and fears – and in our elusive search for a God outside of us. Only when we break free from our limitations and look within – a journey which can commence through self-realization and awakening – will we find lasting inner peace and happiness.

When you realize yourself, you will appreciate and celebrate the fact that there’s no greater God than the one you see in the mirror every morning. You will understand that there is no better way to live than to accept what is or whatever is happening to you. You will then value each moment and begin to live your Life fully – without fear and without expectations!

Making your work brilliant

Approach your work with humility and innocence. That’s when it will become a work of art!
&Pictures, a TV channel, recently premiered “Chale Chalo – The Lunacy of Film-making”(Satyajit Bhatkal, 2004), a documentary on the making of the Aamir Khan-classic Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001). As part of the telecast, the channel had organized a live interaction with Lagaan’s cast and crew. Famous Bollywood film-maker Karan Johar, who hosted the show, asked the film’s lyricist Javed Akhtar to comment on his experience of writing the film’s songs – each of which went on to become memorable hits. Akhtar replied, modestly: “I feel as artists, we must set aside our past successes, our fame, our glory, our ego and approach each new assignment or opportunity with a child-like innocence and curiosity. Then the opportunity becomes simple to deal with. You should never work with the pressure of past success weighing on you. When you approach your work with humility, it always produces great results.” In cricketing parlance, one would say, “You take a fresh guard and start from zero in every new inning.”
There’s great wisdom in what Akhtar has said. Think about it. No one really wakes up to do a bad job. Yet works of art are rare – in whatever field you choose to consider. Besides, very few artists, professionals, sportspeople or other achievers, are able to sustain their success and stay on top of their game. The reason for this is that they are weighed down by their own success. They feel they have to prove something every time they work or play or create. It is only those who, as Akhtar explained, approach their work with humility, innocence and curiosity, who end up repeating their success or excelling in whatever they do – consistently. Another all-time great, Amitabh Bachchan often confesses to being nervous every time he faces the camera. Imagine, a legend like him feeling so! But that perhaps is the secret of his brilliance and of his ability to stay relevant in a highly competitive industry for over 40 years now!
 
I see my work as a prayer. I feel when I work – write, deliver Talks, coach people, consult, lead Workshops – the Universe’s energy is expressing itself through me. I offer my being as a prayer, whenever I work, and I allow this energy to speak through me. None of what I do, or what anyone does, is an individual effort. Life expresses itself through each of us. And since there are so many of us – the expressions are myriad too. So, whether you are a housekeeper or a music composer, if you bow humbly to Life and offer yourself as an instrument for Life to express itself, whatever you do will turn out brilliant!

A Life Lesson from Darin Zanyar – Be what you wanna be…!

Be what you want to be. Do what you want to do. You will make mistakes along the way. You will fall. But be sure, you’ll rise again. That’s what Life’s really all about!
It is that time of the year when most parents are all keyed up about what academic program their young (almost adult) children must pursue. With amazing consistency, most choices are made basis the “earning potential” that careers promise. Very few parents actually let their children choose what comes to them naturally and what they can do best. Sometimes, children don’t know what they are good at. Or don’t know what they want to do. Which is also totally fine. Life, despite all its unpredictability, still offers a lot of time for people to decide what they want to do and then actually allows them the time to go do it too! To agonize over the (perceived) “indecisiveness” of a teenager, in my humble opinion, is neither appropriate nor is it sensible!
My experience as a young adult who had to fight for doing what I wanted to do and as a parent who has allowed his two children to do whatever gives them joy has taught me some simple lessons.
1.   However much you plan, Life has a way of taking you to where you must arrive. And that destination may not have even been on your radar or in your wildest dreams!
2.     There’s nothing called a zero-defect career or even a perfect career. Everyone makes mistakes. S@#T Happens!
3.     Having money and job security doesn’t necessarily mean you will have fun doing what you do and enjoy Life!
So, the best way to approach your career is to ask yourself:
                                                          i.    What am I extremely good at?
                                                         ii.    What do I love doing? What comes naturally to me?
                                                        iii.    How can I create value and make a difference, doing what I (will) do, every single day?
Even as you answer those questions honestly and then choose to follow your dream, be open to the surprises that Life may throw up. It may be a breakthrough or it may be an unprecedented challenge. Go wherever Life’s taking you and go with whatever comes you way. There’s only one thing you can really control in your Life. And that is, getting better, every single day, at doing what you love doing! In the last scene of the iconic movie 3 Idiots (2009, Rajkumar Hirani), the narrator’s voice over quotes “Baba” Ranchhoddas (Aamir Khan) as saying: “Kabil Bano, Kabil. Kamyiabi Phir Jhak Marke Tumhare Piche Ayegi”. It means: “Strive to become capable or skilled (actually the best) in whatever you do. Success will then come, chasing after you.” The movie’s message is inspiring. Unfortunately, too few parents have internalized it. And fewer still have had the courage to let their children do what they want to do.
What inhibits parents is a sense of insecurity, a “what if” fear, an overzealousness to protect their children. Naturally, if you are a parent who has overcome challenges to be where you are today (in fact, who hasn’t been through tough times?), you don’t want your children to face the same situations and hardships. So, you begin with advising career choices but soon start directing and managing your kids’ careers. Children, on the other hand, respond in two ways. Either they rebel – like the way I did or they just do what the parents advise them to do, out of “respect” for them.
Parents and children both must understand one thing – that each Life is unique. There is no template to Life. Each of us is entitled to our share of experiments, adventures, mistakes and genius. The best way to live then is to live loving what we do. Then everything, in the end, always falls in place!
I was very impressed listening to a song by the young Swedish pop singer Darin Zanyar. The lyrics went somewhat like this ~
“Doctor, Actor, Lawyer or a Singer,
Why not President, be a dreamer,
You can be just the one you wanna be…
You never know what Life could bring,
‘Cause nothing lasts forever…”
Darin’s all of 26 and to imagine he sang this simple yet meaningful song (‘Darin’, 2005) when he was barely 17! That’s what’s really possible when parents don’t rein in their kids’ latent talent!
If you are a parent reading this, you may want to drop your inhibitions and insecurities. Go listen to your children, understand what they are deeply passionate about and then trust them to go follow their dreams. If you are a young adult reading this, know that it’s cool to be yourself. So, go be that person you want to be! The world needs people like you – who are alive, happening and happy!