"Bahut Mazaa Ayega!"

Don’t look for rewards and recognition in Life! In the end, they don’t matter. What will matter is this: did you live the Life you were given – fully, usefully, purposefully, happily?

400+ wannabe entrepreneurs: “The adventure is the reward!”
Yesterday, I was addressing an audience of over 400 students, from different academic streams, on ‘The Spirit of Entrepreneurship’. They were an amazing audience. Full of Life! Raring to go!! Enthusiastic!!! My message to them was that entrepreneurship is not what entrepreneurs bring to the table. Entrepreneurship is what makes entrepreneurs! I said Life, at best, is a big gamble. And both success and failure are mere labels, imposters as the Bhagavad Gita says! So, go have fun, enjoy the ride, because, I said, the adventure is the reward!

Indeed. We must all learn to have fun in Life, enjoying it every moment! Because the challenges that Life throws at us, and which we invariably overcome and conquer, in retrospect are indeed laughable! In school, when I couldn’t get Math right, I would often feel defeated. Now, when I look back, I joke about it! Similarly, when I was out of work, 21 years ago, because my employer shut shop, I thought I had lost in Life. But when I review that period, I smile appreciatively because what I thought was lost really was a new opportunity gained__because I wouldn’t be where I am today without that loss!


In the iconic Bollywood movie “Sholay”, the ferocious Gabbar Singh, often says, in a wicked drawl, “Bahut Mazaa Ayega!”, meaning “It will be so much fun!”. Just repeating this line in the same tone to yourself whenever confronted with a challenge is a great way to remind yourself that Life’s, after all, a big game, a gamble, if you like! But you must keep playing it, as long as there is Life, no matter what! As I left the auditorium after my Talk yesterday, yet another student there wanted my autograph. I wrote: “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game of Life. Trust me, “Bahut Mazaa Ayega!””

Awaken to who you really are

Strangely, we have come to a stage, in this time and age, when who we really are needs proving. Because we have started to believe that we are something else.

Think about this: we are all created as good, loving, patient, generous, compassionate, fearless, human beings. But we have become opinionated, confused, impatient, angry, jealous, anxious, fearful and self-centered. Look at children, aren’t they fearless? They are not scared of putting their hands into a burning candle flame or peeping precariously over a balcony railing? They wouldn’t have a problem sharing whatever they have with another. They would gleefully hug, embrace and kiss. They are simple and caring. And look at ourselves: we are complex and are afraid of every step we take, of every decision we make. We are jealous, silently pining to acquire what others have, and don’t have inhibitions demonstrating our hatred for others openly – especially now with social media offering everyone, virtually, ‘freedom to express’. We seek to earn a living but never a want to be living through anything we do. But we also are lost, we are searching for something. So, we enrol for “Bhagavad Gita” classes or church sermons, we read countless books on spirituality or attend Programs on self-improvement. Yet, while all spiritual thinkers and all scriptures champion and point to us going back to being loving, caring and giving as the most intelligent way of living, we demand proof. We ask if this will really work? Ironic, isn’t it? That we need justification and validation to convince ourselves of who we truly are. 

A spiritual seeker, like us, Wahiduddin, has this wonderful learning to share on awakening to who we really are: “The ultimate goal of spiritual practices is beautifully summarized in this centuries-old Zen teaching wherein Master Nanyue Huairang encountered his disciple Mazu Daoyi, who was deep in meditation, and asked him: 

“Noble one, what are you trying to do, sitting there in meditation?” 

Mazu said, “I’m trying to become a Buddha.”

Master Nanyue then picked up a nearby piece of clay tile that had fallen from the roof, and began to rub it briskly on a stone.

Mazu asked, “What are you doing?”

The Master said, “I’m polishing this tile to make a mirror.”

Mazu said, “How can you produce a mirror by polishing a piece of tile?”

Master Nanyue replied, “How can you make a Buddha by sitting in meditation?”

Oh what a wonderful little story this is! The goal of our spiritual practices is not to become something else. Our spiritual practices will never magically transform us into something that we are not. The tile will never become a mirror; that is an unrealistic goal, and an unrealistic goal will be met with failure upon failure. The goal of all our spiritual journeys is not to make us into something that we are not, but rather to awaken us to the truth of who we really are!”

Whether we get the proof we seek or we find ourselves by seeking within, one thing is for sure: unless we go back to the true nature of our creation, to who we really are, we will never find inner peace. 

“With acceptance there is only happiness”

‘The Happiness Road’ is a weekly Series on this Blog that appears on Sundays where I share my conversations with people while exploring their idea of happiness!
This Sunday I feature the dancer couple Shanta and V.P.Dhananjayan.
There’s a glint in the eyes of the Dhananjayan couple that you can’t miss. Over the last three decades, I have noticed the glint every time that I have seen them perform or on the few rare occasions that I have spoken to them. Recently, I met them for about an hour at their Shastri Nagar home. And all through the conversation, I couldn’t but help admire that glint. Perhaps, I wondered, the glint reflects their state of inner joy and peace – what you will find in people who love what they are doing and do only what they love!
Almost as if he is reading my mind, Dhananjayan says, “Happiness is just being.” “It is about being satisfied with what you are doing, with how you are living,” adds his wife Shanta.
Picture by Vaani Anand
Dhananjayan qualifies his earlier remark saying he feels blessed in many respects to have had the “right influences that impact happiness” at different times in his Life. First, he considers himself fortunate to have been born in a family where his father, a school teacher, instilled in him the value of ‘giving’ and taught him to never cling on to anything material. “He gave away everything he had to his sisters, leaving nothing for his eight children. Yet, all of us grew up happy, even if there was no food to eat at home on some days.” Second, living and learning in a gurukulam, at Kalakshetra, helped him understand that “group energy spreads harmony” – a work model that he has preserved over the years. Third, his companionship with soul-mate and partner Shanta, says Dhananjayan, has contributed immensely to the way he has grown through and evolved in Life. “We share each other’s ideology. Our art brings our hearts together. There’s a great understanding between us…we complete each other.”
Picture by Vaani Anand
Dhananjayan believes that when you know what you want from Life, and what makes you happy, you can face any situation, any challenge stoically. Shanta says that when they left Kalakshetra in 1968 they were only in their twenties, but they were already clear that they wanted to dedicate their lives to “putting Bharatanatyam on the world map”. “With the 25 continuous years we have spent conducting our summer gurukulam at Yogaville, Virginia, with the global collaborations we have had with artists from various genres and with the contribution we have been able to make to propagate Bharatiya sanskruti and kala worldwide, I guess we both have had a very fulfilling Life journey.”
But hasn’t there ever been a blemish on the bliss canvas? A challenge that threatened to disturb their inner equilibrium?
“Oh! There have been many,” exclaims Dhananjayan, adding, “But art teaches you humility and gratitude. When you have that attitude you always overcome.” He recounts his 15-year saga to establish Bhaskara, an academy to preserve and nurture the performing arts, in Payyanur in Kerala’s Kannur district. Everyone, from environmentalists to common-folk to a cold bureaucracy to disinterested politicians, came between him and his dream. For years, he soldiered on, investing every available hour and their hard-earned money in the project. Initially Bhaskara was only Dhananjayan’s baby. But when Shanta saw his intent and his passion being challenged by those who were opposing the project, she jumped in too, backing him fully. But “the people who operated the system” queered the pitch every single time. Finally the couple gave up, selling their investment to an educational institution that runs a B-school there now. “I was drained. When people don’t want to understand you, it can be very difficult. Kerala may be God’s own country, but it is also the Devil’s workshop! One day, seeing me frustrated, Shanta pointed out that there was no point in doing anything, even if it is your dream, if your inner peace is going to be disturbed. I saw light in her perspective,” confesses Dhananjayan.
Would he consider the Bhaskara project an epic loss – something that he failed at? “Fortunately, the Bhagavad Gita has taught me to keep my mind steady. Yes, there may be instances when the mind will waver. That’s when my art has helped steady it again. I have realized that there’s no success or failure. I have learnt to deal with both joy and sorrow with acceptance. With acceptance there is only happiness,” explains Dhananjayan.
So, here’s the secret, as I have discovered it, of that glint in Shanta’s and Dhananjayan’s eyes: Do what you believe in and love doing, always be grateful and content, simply accept whatever comes your way and never let anything disturb your inner peace!

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.