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. 

Go on, be a Buddha today!

To find peace, meaning and happiness in Life, all you must do is to stop searching.
When you are searching, you are missing what’s most apparent. When you just be, just the way you are, you will always find whatever you are searching for.
This has often happened to you or you have seen others go through this: people search for their glasses all over while they have raised them to leave them on their foreheads. They look high and dry, feel exasperated, and then when they are told that they have been carrying them on their foreheads, they feel stupid and sheepish.
So it is with Life too. You are the peace you seek, your Life has a Purpose, and you can be happy only in the present moment. These are unalterable truisms of Life. Also, you are a Buddha. The root word ‘Budh’ means to wake up, to understand. A person who wakes up and understands is called a Buddha. To grasp this wisdom, you don’t need to be a guru. You must just be willing to let the flow of Life take you in its fold. In any situation, allow Life to take over. Just go with the flow.
For instance, this weekday morning, don’t get stressed out if you are running a few minutes late. Watch your every breath, take your very step in peace. Look at your schedules for the day and ask yourself how you will be creating value and making a difference today. Choose to focus on only those items on your agenda where you can make a difference in the first half of the day. At lunch, review how you are feeling. You will be happy. Not because I have told you this. I am no soothsayer. This is no prophecy. You will be happy because you created conditions within you to be happy, despite it being busy day at work, despite the frenetic pace and stress of your working Life. When you stop running, and start feeling your breathing, you live. Most of us are alive, but we don’t think much of it. When you realize you are alive, when you celebrate each breath you take, anything is possible. When you live understanding the peace, meaning and happiness in each moment, you become a Buddha yourself. Go on, simply be, be a Buddha today!

Pain can have no voice if you can mute the suffering

Pain is a visitor. It will stay with you, serve a tenure and go away. If you focus on the pain, you won’t be able to enjoy the Life you have as long as the pain lingers on!
I had been postponing a series of dental procedures for a few years now. The reason has been simple: lack of money to fund them. As happens with most urgent and important matters, my dental situation started causing me discomfort over the last few weeks. After a round of opinions, and a full mouth X-Ray, my dentist, a very mature and reassuring lady, Dr.Aparna, advised that I get rid of two of my teeth. One of them at least required a surgical procedure. I am 48 now. And barring the ‘usual’ stuff like what most of us deal with – colds, virals, two severe bouts of rheumatoid arthritis and a now-benign asthmatic condition – I have never been in hospital with someone cutting me up. My diabetic condition too means that I must be be extremely wary of any invasive procedure. But we decided to go with Dr.Aparna’s advice. In preparing me for the procedure, she asked me: “Sir, how would you describe your ability to handle pain?” I thought for a moment and said, “My ability to handle physical pain is average, but I am very good at handling emotional pain.”
Indeed. While our bankruptcy has helped me become emotionally resilient and I must say I do deal with mental trauma very efficiently, I have, mercifully, not had much experience dealing with physical pain, especially on the health front. Yes, bouts of severe asthma and rheumatoid arthritis can be very painful – and debilitating. But I have not had any surgery done on me. So, this procedure was to be a different experience.
(The last time I had had a dental procedure done, at least from what I can remember, was when I was six years old. We used to live in Jaipur. And the name of the clinic was Mohan Dental Clinic. It was bang opposite Prakash Talkies. My dad bought me an ice-cream and took me to watch a movie playing at Prakash – it was called “Zanjeer”, a movie that not only marked the arrival of the Angry Young Man, and Superstar, Amitabh Bachchan in Indian cinema, it also marked the beginning of my fan journey, which still continues, with him! Interestingly, when I walked in for my extraction yesterday, I was reading a new book “Written by Salim-Javed: The story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters” (Penguin, Diptakirti Chaudhuri). The book, among so many other stories, looks at the evolution of Amitabh Bachchan, considered to be Salim-Javed’s protégé.)
This procedure was indeed a new one for me. The local anesthesia administered made the process simpler – and in fact “cool” and “enjoyable”! Dr.Aparna had told me to expect pain within an hour of the anesthesia wearing off. And surely it arrived. Initially, it seemed unbearable. But I decided to employ all my spiritual experience – and learning – to deal with the pain. I was reminded of the Buddha’s most powerful – and my favorite – saying: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I made a choice: I was not going to suffer. I was not going to resist the pain or ask how long it would be there. I told myself: let it be; and let me be. I guess it worked. I slept peacefully last night. I still have a nagging swelling and very mild pain – I feel both only when I think of the procedure and the wound it has left behind!
I can now totally relate to what Ramakrishna Parahamsa (1836~1886) once said. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in the beginning of 1885. During his last days he was advised not to speak – so as not to aggravate his ailment. But he preferred meeting, interacting and conversing with his followers. He told his doctors, “My disease and I peacefully co-exist in my body”. This is such a spiritual and evolved perspective.

Most of us see all forms of pain as traumatic because we don’t know how to detach ourselves from our situations or conditions. We also think that pain arrives in our Life with an agenda to make us suffer. Here’s what I believe it is: Pain is pain. Pain has no agenda.Whether it is the bankruptcy – and resultant complexities we are having to deal with daily on that count – or a dental procedure that I had to deal with or any other situation/condition that may come tomorrow, I will suffer only if I wish the situation/condition didn’t exist. Suffering is clearly a human creation. Pain is a natural process. In Life, what goes up will come down, what is gained will be lost, the human body will have its share of wear and tear and you will be faced with myriad grievous situations – physical and emotional – yet, all this pain can’t touch you, won’t affect you, if you just treat your pain as a visitor and choose not to suffer. Simply, pain has no voice if you can mute the suffering!

Life = It is what it is

Life can be both an irony and a tragedy at times.  This isn’t the problem. Because such is Life’s nature. The problem arises when you don’t understand Life’s true nature and expect Life to be in a certain way – as you wish it to be!
Prasanna, A R Rahman and Vivek
Picture Courtesy: Internet
This morning’s papers carry the poignant story of Tamil comedian Vivek’s 14-year-old son Prasanna’s untimely death. The boy succumbed to suspected dengue and brain fever after 40 days in hospital. One of the papers pointed out the irony – Vivek has been an ambassador for the Tamil Nadu government’s dengue-prevention campaign! My auto-rickshaw driver amplified another angle to the irony: “Saar, Vivek made so many people laugh their guts out as a comedian. Poor guy, he is now having to cope with such a huge loss.” When I heard the news first, I remembered A.K.Hangal’s immortal dialogue (written by Salim-Javed) in Sholay (1975, Ramesh Sippy): “Jaante ho duniya mein sabse bada bhoj kya hota hai? – Baap ke kandhe pe bete ka janaaza!” It means: “The heaviest burden in Life is a child’s coffin on a parent’s shoulder”.
I am sure everyone today must be sending Vivek and his family a silent prayer and positive energy. Of course, beyond that none of us can do anything. The truth is, when our time comes, each of us has to deal with our own Life situations. This is perhaps why the famous Hindi poet, Harivansh Rai Bachchan (1907~2003), said this: “Jeevan ka matlab hai sangharsh”; “Life is a struggle, a challenge.” It doesn’t mean that Life is only full of pain and challenges. It means that you have to go through your share of challenges no matter who you are and no matter what you have done or not done, no matter whether you think you deserve it or don’t deserve it.
This is where the Buddha’s advice is very relevant. He said this: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Suffering is a human, self-inflicted condition. You suffer when you expect your Life to be any different from what it is, from the way it is. Someone dies and you feel the grief. That’s because your pain leads you to grief. And that is natural. But the moment you ask why should this person die or ask why should this person die now, then you have invited suffering into your Life. Who is going to answer your “whys”? Actually nobody has any answers. So, following any painful event or situation, only when you keep clinging on to the grief, do you suffer.

A friend, a retired Wing Commander from the Indian Air Force, who lost his grandson within a day of the child’s birth, had this to say: “Well, he came, he fulfilled his time on the planet and he went away. That was his design. We can’t do anything but accept his reality.” I agree completely with my friend’s outlook to Life. In fact, the simplest way to live Life is to be prepared for anything – and everything. And let us not ask the “whys”. Just take it as it comes. For it was what it was, it is what it is and it will always be what it will be. 

Live Unsoiled!

Learn to live unsoiled by the world.
There are enough and more temptations and distractions out there. And we are not talking about materialistic objects of desire alone. Or of ruinous addictions like alcohol, tobacco or drugs either. While these are deterrents to intelligent living, most certainly, what we need to be wary off also are the myriad ways in which we get dragged into brooding or worrying on a daily basis. Think deeply about this. How often in a day do you worry about a future event __ someone’s terminal illness and impending passing, a child’s graduation, someone’s wedding or loans to be repaid? How often in a day do you grieve over the past __ having experienced someone wrongly, an irreconcilable loss, a mistake you made, a hurt you caused someone? How often do you lose your patience or temper or both daily __ on a child or spouse or subordinate or with just someone on the street? Each of these episodes takes us away from living. Every time we worry about the future or fret over the past or get dragged into anger spells, every single time, we die a death.
The ultimate goal and measure of success of intelligent living is notto change your external environment and make it incapable of causing you worry or making you feel guilty or angry. It is about engineering your inner space and insulating yourself from the vagaries of the world. This is what the Bible says ‘living in the world but not of it’ and what the Bhagavad Gita advises of ‘being in this world but being above it’.
The Buddha enlightens us, making this perspective simpler and easier to hold, using the metaphor of the lotus, “As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.” Imagine being like a lotus. You too must avoid letting your soul be soiled and live, unsoiled, in bliss!