Living is a 24×7 job, a big responsibility – do it well!

All of us have an all-important, full-time job. And that is not being mom, dad, son, daughter, sibling, citizen, businessman, employee or friend. It is the job of living.
This is the job that will bring us unlimited benefits without us having to sweat, suffer and slog for it: good health, wealth, something meaningful to do in this lifetime and warm, loving relationships. Yet we do all other jobs diligently than focus on this high-return, zero-risk investment opportunity called living.
Living comprises of two parts: being happy and mindful action. Being happy is an individual choice and being engaged in mindful action is an individual necessity. Both responsibilities of the job of living require us to stop using external reference points while living our lives. Simply, we must stop wanting to remake the world outside of us. I am unhappy in this relationship, I want to move on. I am unhappy in this job, I want to make a career change. I am unhappy in this country, I want to migrate. I am unhappy with this Life, I want to end it. Each of these instances of unhappiness is linked to external conditions. I will be happy if so-and-so condition is met is the most stupid and unreasonable expectation__and so is sure never to be met. Instead, when the response changes to exercising the choice__mindful action, a necessity__to remain happy despite the conditions that affect it, the benefits not only accrue instantaneously, they actually multiply exponentially.
Imagine you own an orchard. And you have to work 18 hours a day to tend to it. And have to do this overcoming all odds, to just get a few hundred kilos of yield seasonally, annually. And imagine, if there was a guarantee that if you stayed happy, despite any provocation to be unhappy, and you managed your orchard with love and care, mindfully, you could get a perennial, unlimited, uninterrupted, bountiful supply of high-quality yield. Which option would you choose? Isn’t it a no-brainer? So, even in the relationship you are having difficulty with, you continue to give your best. You may choose to remain separate, distant, but send your energy, your prayers, to the estranged person. When you do that, selflessly, you will be happy. When you are not finding happiness in whatever work you do, don’t lament. Go discover what gives you joy. Don’t approach it with a sense of fear, but with the spirit of adventure.
We heard the story the other day of a young lady, who after qualifying for and working 10 years in the publishing industry, decided that she actually wanted to serve as a doctor. So, she quit her job, enrolled into med school and over the next 10 years, qualified to be a doctor. She says she is ‘alive and happy’ now. And that’s because she chosehappiness by opting for medicine and engaged in mindful action by persevering over 10 years to qualify for it.
The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita ends with a job description for the one who lives intelligently. Krishna, replying to Arjuna, says:
He lives in wisdom
Who sees himself in all and all in him,
Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed
Every selfish desire and sense-craving
Tormenting the heart. Not agitated       
By grief, nor hanker after pleasure,
He lives free from lust and fear and anger.
Fettered no more by selfish attachments,
He is not elated by good fortune
Nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer…
When you keep thinking about sense-objects
Attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire,
The lust of possession which, when thwarted,
Burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgment
And robs you of the power to learn from past
Mistakes. Lost is the discriminative
Faculty, and your life is utter waste.
But when you move amidst the world of sense
From both attachment and aversion freed,
There comes the peace in which all sorrows end,
And you live in the wisdom of the Self.
The disunited mind is far from wise;
How can it meditate? How be at peace?
When you know no peace, how can you know joy?
When you let your mind follow the siren
Call of the senses, they carry away
Your better judgment as a cyclone drives
A boat off the chartered course to its doom….
He is forever free who has broken
Out of the ego-cage of I and mine
To be united with the Lord of Love.
This is the supreme state. Attain thou this
And pass from death to immortality.”
A simple tip: please cut, paste and print out this verse. Carry it in your wallet, bag, make it your desktop wallpaper, save it under drafts in your message box on your phone, pin it up at your desk at work, in your car’s dashboard, on your dressing mirror__wherever. But see it several times daily. Apply each of your daily situations to this verse. You will find meaning to what you are experiencing, you will find solutions to your dilemmas, you will find an inner peace. You will soon be able to exercise the choice of being happy despite the circumstances you are placed in. You will discover that this choice and the need to be continuously engaged in mindful action go hand in hand and are a full-time, all-consuming activity. Know that it is a 24×7 job, a huge responsibility, this thing called living. When you do it diligently, keeping your mind, body and soul alert and aligned, to the singular objective of being happy, you will have lived fully. And will continue to live forever__through your Life’s work and message.

Beat “maya” with M.A.Y.A

Life is but an illusion. A seen between two unseens__of the time of the soul before death and its time after death.This is the big teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. This is the essence of being in this world and yet being above it.
When we realize that whatever is happening to us__fame, success, defeat, pain, loss__is not happening to the real us, that all this is a perception, we will be able to stay detached. Life is like going to the movies. When we go to watch a movie, we see the entire story play out in front of us, on a giant screen, we get involved sometimes with the characters, but never attached. When the movie is over, we get up and depart. Life is that movie, and you, the real you, are the spectator, the watcher. Your journey on the planet in a human form is like the stint of the movie-goer in a movie hall__you arrive, you witness, you depart. And a movie is just an imagined story, a perception of reality, really not the reality itself.
In Indian mythology, and in Indian scriptures, this whole illusionary experience of Life is called maya. So if we are to assume that everything we know or have ever known is only an illusion, then what is the point to it all? That, the Gita explains, is a good question. Krishna asks Arjuna: “Why do we find sorrow in this truth that the attachment to all that is unreal, and only a perception, is pointless?” But there’s a way out from this entrapment__from this illusion, from maya. And that solution, I have read somewhere, is M.A.Y.A.The cure for mayais M.A.Y.A, which is to be Mindful, Awakened, Yielding and Accepting! In being Mindful of the now__focusing on whatever is happening than focusing on what happened or will happen__we will be Awakened to immense possibilities and opportunities. From that Awakenedstate we will see value in Yieldingto__and not resisting__Life. When we Yieldwe reach a state of Acceptance. In Acceptance, and only in Acceptance, do we find total bliss. And only in bliss will we find our true, real, Self! So beat maya with M.A.Y.A. Be Mindful, Awakened, Yielding and Accepting __ always!

Hiss when you must…!

Sometimes, you may have to be firm and tell some people off. In doing so, you are not being unkind or rude. You are simply responding to a situation that has been created by someone and which you intensely dislike.
This happens to all of us. Especially in close relationships. That people start taking you for granted. They intrude on your privacy. They want to have an opinion about everything you do. And they, if you are not wary, end up treating you like a doormat. You suffer them because you don’t want to be either petty – like them – or it’s not in your “intrinsic nature” to be “unkind” to people. Now, let’s get this right. There’s nothing “unkind” in asserting yourself so as to protect your inner peace and dignity. Whoever it may be – parent, sibling, child, neighbour, colleague or friend – no one, no one has the right to treat you in a manner in which you don’t like or don’t want to be treated. Period.
There’s an ancient story of the Buddha and a snake. A snake wanted to play with the children of the village. But every time he went near them, the children would pelt him with stones and hit him with sticks. They were scared he may bite them. The snake reached out to the Buddha when he was visiting the village: “O Merciful! Can you draw out my poison so that even accidentally I won’t harm the children. That way, over time, they will understand me and include me in their games.” The Buddha obliged. But the children, still in fear of the snake, continued to abuse and attack him. On the Buddha’s next visit to the village, the snake once again prostrated in front of him and asked him what to do. “Look at my body; I have so many bruises and it is very painful.” The Buddha replied, while patting the snake on his back: “My dear, I removed your poison so that you don’t, even accidentally, bite those children. But I never advised you not to hiss!”
So, hiss when you must. Just to put people in their place and to protect your inner peace.
Some of the situations Life places you in will also require you to fight for justice. Often with people who are supposedly close to you. Don’t get clouded by sentiments about close blood relations in such cases. I am not encouraging you to fight because it is the right thing to do. But what do you do when the situation created by people around you demands a firm – sometimes even legal – response? Don’t let your ego – in the garb of compassionate sentiments – come in between you and what you must do. Just do whatever you believe must be done in the interest of all parties concerned, without hatred, without anger, without any rancour.  
A friend of mine called to say how his older brother, with whom he shares the ownership of the family business, was making it almost impossible for both of them to co-exist and survive. “Neither is he accepting a separation of the business and the assets, nor is he allowing me to lead it and run it well, nor is he running it efficiently. We are bleeding losses month-on-month. He’s challenging me to fight him. If I fight him I can at least save half the family’s fortunes – for my immediate family and for my mother and sister. But how can I fight my own brother? I am not interested in any fight,” lamented my friend. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna: “Don’t escape from the war… because I can see this escape is just an ego trip. The way you are talking simply shows that you are calculating, you are thinking that by escaping from the war you will become a great saint. Rather than surrendering to the whole, you are taking yourself too seriously– as if there will be no war if you are not there.” Krishna says to Arjuna, “Just be in a state of let-go. Say to existence, ‘Use me in whatever way you want to use me. I am available, unconditionally available.’ Then whatsoever happens through you will have a great authenticity about it. It will have intensity, it will have depth. It will have the impact of the eternal on it.”
Such is Life. When you have to do something to ensure that your inner peace is not disturbed, you have to do it. And only you can do it. Do it also knowing, as Krishna says, that you are a mere instrument, a conduit for something that Life wants done through you! So, don’t fall short, don’t fight shy. If you don’t do what you must do in such situations, you will come in Life’s way and you will cause your own suffering. When you allow Life to flow through you, and you choose not to suffer, is when you are happy and in bliss.

Of Krishna the Lord, Krishna the seeker – and bliss!

Whatever you do, do it as an offering to the Universe – from your soul to the cosmos. And you will be at peace with yourself!
T.M.Krishna
Picture Source: Internet
T.M.Krishna continues to amaze me. In a recent interview to Sumana Ramanan of the Open magazine, titled The Argumentative Musician, Krishna has laid bare what he believes in and why he often ends up doing what he does. For instance, at a concert last December, during the famed Chennai music season, Krishna stopped singing an hour ahead of schedule and drove away, much to the chagrin of the organizers and his own rasikasand fans! Opinions flooded the music scene – ranging from how arrogant Krishna had become to his hitting a creative block to the premise that he did so only because it was a free kutcheri(concert). But Krishna told Ramanan: “I had actually reached a point of fulfilment. In that state of repleteness, I felt there was nothing left for me to sing. I may have been able to sing for another hour, but would that have been music…it had nothing to do with the fact that the concert was free…Music is not about delivering a fixed number of hours’ worth of singing, but (it is) about transcending the earthiness of being.” Krishna elaborated further on what drives him: “…I am not doing this (whatever I am doing) for reasons that have anything to do with T.M.Krishna, the performer. I do not even like the title ‘performer’. I am in this because I passionately and insanely believe that music has given me a window into Life that is taking me somewhere…I am not afraid of disappearing from the popular stage.”
For those of you who do not know Krishna well, he, at 38, is regarded as one of Carnatic music’s most outstanding young proponents. His talent is regarded as prodigious and many expected him to walk the predictable path to “glory” in the highly templated Carnatic music industry that thrives on overflowing kutcheris, raving, nodding rasikasand awards and titles being accumulated annually. Perhaps it was Krishna’s personal quest (his seeking the ‘earthiness of his being’), influenced by his schooling with the KrishnamurtBi Foundation of India (founded by renowned philosopher J.Krishnamurti), for finding a deeper meaning to Life, that led him to stop running the “Carnatic rat race”. He stopped playing to the rules long back and has done “crazy” stuff like refusing to sing at paid-for concerts. To many, he’s the enfant terrible of Carnatic music.
I don’t know much about Carnatic music for me to be able to comment on Krishna’s genius. But I firmly believe he’s not being argumentative ever. If anything, he’s spiritually evolved.
Consider what we can learn from him. For one, we are all so conditioned to chasing success – recognition, fame, wealth – in whatever we do, that even if we don’t enjoy what we are doing anymore, we continue to do them because we want to protect our trappings of success, the “fringe benefits” of earning-a-living! In choosing to sing for himself, for his inner joy, not fearing a loss of popularity or demand, Krishna is highlighting the importance of following your bliss. Second, although he hasn’t said so in his interview to Ramanan, Krishna reminds me of what Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the concluding verses of Chapter 9 of the Bhagavad Gita. Here’s my guru Eknath Easwaran’s translation of the relevant verse:
A leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even

Water, offered to me in devotion,

I will accept as the loving gift

Of a dedicated heart. Whatever you do,
Make it an offering to me –
The food you eat or worship you perform,
The help you give, even your suffering.
Thus will you be free from karma’s bondage,
From the results of action, good and bad.

I don’t want to get into the merits or demerits of Karmic theory or the existence or non-existence of God here. The point is very simple. You and I, and Krishna, have been created without our asking for this lifetime. We have been endowed with our own special talent. In Krishna’s case, it is proficiency in Carnatic music (and in writing, as I have come to discover; his book ‘A Southern Music – The Karnatik Story’by Harper Collins was released by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen last month). This Life, therefore is a gift. The talent each of us possesses too is a gift. So, the best way to live the Life given to us is to offer whatever we do to the Universe – freely, without seeking anything in return. When there are no expectations from whatever you do, there can be no agony. And when there is no agony or suffering, you will thrive in your native state of inner peace, joy and bliss! That’s what Krishna of the Bhagavad Gitaprofessed and that’s what T.M.Krishna believes in – and is championing!

You will never awaken unless you are felled by hubris

Beware, as you ascend in Life, in career, in society, in name and fame, of the Master Feller – Hubris!

Tarun Tejpal
Much is being written and told of former TehelkaEditor-in-Chief, Tarun Tejpal’s rise and fall this past week. Almost everyone who knows him is sure that he was struck by hubris – excessive pride and a presumption that one is infallible! Because nothing else can explain why Tejpal, now 50, and one of India’s finest thinkers, editors and writers, would want to allegedly sexually outrage his much junior colleague, who not only is his daughter’s age, but is also her best friend? As one commentator, Vijay Simha, wrote yesterday: “His argument that it was a fleeting consensual encounter suggests that he may be in a state of denial. He may be having difficulty processing the consequences of his actions.Friendly or hostile is not the point. Tejpal simply shouldn’t have been there. A legal victory, which he seems to think he will have, is a mere footnote. The only real authority a human being has is moral. All other forms of authority are fugacious. Tejpal has ceded moral authority.”

Tejpal was once my senior colleague. Indeed I am saddened by what has happened. But I am not here to preach morality in Life. I may hardly qualify to be able to do that. But let me warn you about hubris. Because I too have been felled by hubris.

There was a time when everything about my Life was just the way I had wanted it to be. I come for a middle-class background. So, as I grew up, for various reasons, I developed this urge to want to succeed beyond even the wildest imaginations of my family. I wanted name, fame and money. To be sure, I got all of that. By the time I was 35, I had it all. I had built a very successful consulting Firm, I lived in a premium neighborhood, I was famous in the industry we worked in and I had money. Then I made mistakes with the way we chose to grow our business. I was warned that this was not the way to go about growth – by my soulmate and partner, my wife. I was warned by senior advisors who we had on our Firm’s management council. I was warned by my colleagues. But hubris always strikes stealthily. You will never know that you are thinking of yourself as infallible. On the contrary, hubris will wear the mask of humility and complete down-to-earthiness. It will make you believe that you can conquer the world. It will make you think that all those who are offering you sane counsel are wimps. And just when you believe that nothing ever can go wrong with your Life, everything really will! My decisions blew up on my face. My Firm’s fortunes came crashing. And in no time we were bankrupt! All that I had painstakingly built up – from my career to my Firm to my finances – went up in smoke. Everything that I was attached to was taken away from me.

It was very, very, very difficult to accept whatever was happening to me. I resisted. I fought. I cried. I sulked. But Life only got more difficult to face. It hurt me so much that I had failed and fallen. I desperately wanted to let go of the past and I wanted to know how I could be peaceful, happy and content.

That’s when, by sheer accident, actually cosmic design, I stumbled upon my Guru, Eknath Easwaran’s (1910~1999) book Gandhi The Man. Easwaran talks about the evolution of spirituality in the ordinary mortal – who was pretty much like you and me – M.K.Gandhi, eventually making him a Mahatma. Easwaran shares a verse, and I reproduce a relevant part of it below,  from the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita that Gandhi meditated on each morning for over 50 years of his Life.

Arjuna asks Krishna: “What are the marks of the man who lives in wisdom, completely established in himself?” (Himself here means ‘his true, real, Self’). Krishna replies:

“….He lives in wisdom
Who sees himself in all and all in him,
Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed
Every selfish desire and sense-craving
Tormenting the heart. Not agitated
By grief, nor hankering after pleasure,
He lives free from lust and fear and anger.
Fettered no more by selfish attachments,
He is not elated by good fortune
Nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer…”
I too have found great value in meditating on this verse. As I struggled to get over my fall, and my losses, Easwaran’s commentary on learnings from Gandhi’s Life and this verse helped me immensely. I soon discovered that what’s more valuable and enduring in Life are not what we acquire for ourselves in our lifetime but what we will leave behind – by way of a message, by way of creating something that will continue to be useful for generations to come, by way of leaving the world better than we found it!

To be wise, to live intelligently, is not difficult. It is a choice. All of us – you, me, everyone – will be struck by hubris at some time or the other, in our own unique ways. When you understand that Life is far more meaningful than satisfying your sensory pleasures and amassing wealth or seeking fame, you will have built the best armor around you to protect yourself from that wily predator – hubris. But the interesting irony about Life is that – in big or small measure – unless you are felled by hubris, you will never awaken!

Indeed, you cannot be serious about Life!


A key factor that inhibits progress on the spiritual path is our tendency to take Life too seriously. Everything that we do, it appears, seems to key us up. Every small conquest seems to be a moment to claim superiority and every failure is seen as a numbing, lethal, final blow! So much so, when a hard-earned victory comes our way, we fritter away the moment in showmanship and bury ourselves under a heap of unsolicited critique and free opinion, when we fumble and fall.

So, it was with great interest that I read noted columnist Nirmal Shekar’s views on Indian cricket captain M.S.Dhoni in yesterday’s Hindu. Celebrating Dhoni’s legendary equanimity, Shekar made a case for sportspersons having the ‘right perspective’ to their game. That perspective, wrote Shekar, is to understand that a game is just a game. “…Sport is not really a matter of life and death. Sport is enjoyable only so long as we can get our perspective right and put it in its place, put it where it really belongs in the big picture. If we let it become too important, then what was sought as a pleasurable experience will turn out to be a pain.”

I completely agree with both of Shekar’s views: on Dhoni’s attitude to the game and on the nature of sport itself.

My two-penny worth learning from this lifetime’s experience so far is that Life is no different. In Life too the right perspective is very important. And we must place ourselves, and our perspective, where they belong in the big picture. Else what could well be a pleasurable experience may well turn out to be a pain!!!

The past week, I have been limping around, literally, owing to a nagging, painful condition in my right leg. Even a small step forward, at times, requires a big effort. I felt, at several times, crippled unable to carry out my routine normally __ like a bath, or driving, or going out for my daily walk. However, on my visit to the hospital the other day for a review with the doctor, I found a young lady seated on a wheel-chair. She seemed fine, for all practical purposes, laughing and joking with her family and nurses. So, I even wondered what she was doing seated cross-legged on a wheel-chair. Only when I looked closely did I realize that all her limbs were deformed. She didn’t have legs to speak of! Her lower limbs had shrunk abnormally owing to either a disease or birth deformity. Her hands were not normally formed either and her fingers seemed to be sticking out, without a palm, on both hands. I reflected on her spirit. And on my condition. I felt ashamed about the brouhaha I was creating over it! The right perspective and its place in the big picture fell in place immediately. I laughed to myself, much to the surprise of the nurse attending on me. When she insisted I tell her what the joke was, I said, “This leg, this painful condition, is the biggest joke! I find it absolutely funny!”

So it is with everything in Life! What seems like a grave problem momentarily, over a period of time, surely turns out to be laughing matter!  The key, I believe, is not to get keyed up about Life. The operative word and sentiment here is equanimity. Equanimity is simply the ability to deal with both success and failure, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, dispassionately. Dhoni has it. You too can. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gitaends with the highest state of consciousness a human being can attain. Krishna, replying to Arjuna, says: “…He lives in wisdom…Who sees himself in all and all in him…. He is not elated by good fortune…Nor depressed by bad…Such is the seer…!”

Whatever you are going through, take it easy! This Monday resist the temptation to get wound up any further. Invoke the right perspective and place it where it belongs in the big picture. To quote Swami Sathya Sai Baba, “Don’t we sometimes wake up from a dream, ponder over our conquests and defeat in our sleep-state, and shrug it all off thinking ‘it was but a dream’? We need to bring the same approach to Life as well. Because this lifetime is nothing but a dream.” Indeed. Maybe you will not understand, appreciate or accept this perspective just yet. But, may be you will at the end of your journey on this planet. Just maybe. That you really cannot or should not (have ever been) be serious about Life!