Practice magnanimity: receive, embrace and transform hate into love

Don’t fight anyone, any situation in Life, by struggling, suffering and despairing. Feel deeply, practicing magnanimity, to understand the person, the situation, that is causing you distress. You will eventually prevail with love and compassion, than from fighting and engaging in a battle.
There are so many situations that you__and I__have encountered, and are perhaps even now facing, when people have been unkind to us. When they have schemed against us__in business, in families, at work, in the communities we live in__and have gained an upper hand by embracing falsehood and by using dishonest means. We have been devastated by the unfairness of people’s ways. And have become cold, numb and even turned cynical. We have lost trust in all of humanity perhaps too. We are suffering. Each one of us is. At times, it is not just individuals, but Life itself that has been ‘unfair’. A perfect Life has been thrown asunder by a health challenge or a devastating blow has been dealt to you by death snatching away someone that meant everything to you. You have never quite recovered from that tragedy. You are suffering. In either situation, the one caused by people around you, or the one in which Life dealt with you ‘unfairly’, practice magnanimity. Look at the person or situation deeply. Understand why that person is doing what she is doing. The truth is that a mother-in-law who is causing suffering to her daughter-in-law is actually suffering more. Her actions are actually a manifestation of her suffering. A boss who is trampling on his team member’s self-esteem, causing untold misery on the poor professional, is actually suffering more because of his own Life’s experiences. A rapist who outrages the modesty of a young teenager is actually representative of a mind suffering from a huge inferiority complex and craving for attention and love. The one who causes suffering is already suffering. Know that. And understand that if you respond with wanting to retaliate, avenge, fight, with I-will-teach-you-a-lesson attitude, you will only continue this chain of suffering.
Feeling deeply, practicing magnanimity, is what will break this chain. It may seem difficult and impossible. How can I be magnanimous in the face of deceit, dishonesty and a vulgar display of power, you may ask? I am not Gandhi, I am just a human being, you may argue. The truth is Gandhi was also a human being. A mere mortal. So was Jesus. But they did not suffer like you and I do. They ended their suffering by feeling deeply for those who perpetrated inhuman acts against them. When one side stops fighting, the other side HAS TO come on the path of love, awakening and peace. Hate cannot end hate. A fight cannot end a fight. Feeling can, magnanimity can.
The Buddha taught this to his disciple Rahula thus: “There are four great elements__earth, water, fire and air. Learn from them, Rahula. Whether people pour milk or fragrant liquids, deposit flowers or jewels, or pour urine, excrement, and mucus on the earth, the earth receives them without discrimination. Whether people throw into water things that are pure and pleasant or wash in it things of filth and stench, water quietly receives everything, without feelings of pride, attachment, grievance or being humiliated. Fire has the ability to receive and burn all things, including things of filth and stench, without grieving or feeling humiliated. Air has the ability to receive, carry away, and transform all odors, sweet or foul, without pride, attachment, grievance or feeling humiliated. Why? Because the earth, water, fire and air have the capacity to receive, embrace and transform. The earth can receive excrement and urine because it is immense. It transforms them into flowers, grass, and trees. Water has immense embracing capacity, is ever-flowing, and has the ability to receive and transform whatever it takes in. Fire has immense receptivity and the ability to burn and transform whatever people bring to it. Air has immense embracing capacity and the extraordinary faculty of mobility. If you cultivate your heart so that it is open, you can become immense like the earth, water, fire and air, and can embrace anyone or anything without suffering.”

Try responding to a person or situation you are currently grappling with in your Life, with the attitude of the four great elements__earth, water, fire and air. This does not mean that you merely accept, and resign to, a situation that is causing you grief or unhappiness. It means invoking your immense capacity to be magnanimous, to feel deeply, understand and, therefore, transform your current plight into an opportunity for abundant happiness. In fighting, you continue to be unhappy. And suffer. In feeling deeply and embracing with understanding why some people behave the way they do, you become bliss.

Romance Life to see how loving you really are!

Just as you can learn swimming, cycling, writing, you can learn loving too.
Overcoming small irritations and injustices by giving the situation and the perpetrator love, instead of anger, is how you practice loving. A motorist tries to cut past you and creates a small traffic jam but ends up blaming you. Don’t respond with a how-dare-you look. Smile and say it was just an ‘oops!’ situation. At a busy check-out line at a store, someone edges past you and the cashier does not insist that you must be allowed to bill first. Don’t agitate. Smile and say these things happen! Your boss holds you singularly responsible for the team’s poor show though you have put in several extra miles. Don’t grieve. Pray for your team and your boss.
Our daily Life is peppered with several hundreds of opportunities__or call them nanosecond tests__to practice loving. In that nanosecond you have to make a choice. Do you want to respond with anger or practice loving instead? When you practice loving, you learn forgiving__or, as Richard Carlson would say, you learn how not to sweat the small stuff. How you deal with the small things in Life is what determines how you deal with the big things. The interesting aspect of practicing loving is you don’t have to become loving. You are love and you are capable of loving. The only thing that comes with practice is that you become more aware of this capability.
Just like Mother Teresa and Gandhi and now, Narayanan Krishnan, personify love, so can you. Because you are that already. Just that you don’t know it. The love in you doesn’t just need some lemon and honey, it needs practicing. Romance the travails of everyday Life, and see how loving you really are!

Our compassion is urgently required – to heal the world

If you have been able to live today doing something proactively for someone, which cannot be repaid to you, then you have led a meaningful day.
This morning, while on our walk, we spotted a home, outside which someone had drawn a beautiful kolam (a design, a.k.a rangoliif it is drawn with colors, drawn on the ground using rice powder – a prevalent daily practice in south India and used in north India on special occasions). A hungry crow pecked merrily on the rice powder oblivious of the walkers who rushed past. My wife paused to admire this beautiful sight. She remarked to me: “Look, how meaningful is this ritual of drawing a kolamusing rice powder. It serves the purpose of beautifying the front of the home no doubt, but it works as a simple method to feed ants and birds.”
As we continued on our walk, I reflected on the thinker-guru, Eknath Easwaran’s (1910~1999; it’s also his birthday today) book The Compassionate Universe that I had read some time ago. Easwaran had written: “My grandmother lived in a Universe filled with Life. It was impossible for her to conceive of any creature — even the smallest insect, let alone a human being — as insignificant. In every leaf, flower, animal, and star she saw the expression of a compassionate Universe, whose laws were not competition and survival of the fittest but cooperation, artistry, and thrift. . . .The earth was our home, she would have said, but no less was it home to the oxen that pulled our plows or the elephants that roamed in the forest and worked for us. They lived with us as partners whose well-being was inseparable from our own.
And so, this morning, I learnt the value of the ritual of drawing a kolam with rice powder. Most people of today’s generation have given up on this practice as they perhaps find it boring or irrelevant or both. But this is a practice, as I understand it now, that sows the seeds of compassion early on and helps you to not just think for yourself but to think for the entire ecosystem. To be compassionate is to do something meaningful, proactively, selflessly, in such a manner that it can never be repaid to you. Compassion is when the love within you – for creation, for the Universe, for all beings – overflows. Even if you can’t do anything physical for anyone, just sending them positive energy is compassion.

Being compassionate in these times needs more intent than just reason. And our compassion is urgently required to make this world a better place. There’s something compassionate you and I can do today, right now, apart from possibly drawing a rice powder kolam outside our homes – we can send positive energy and a long distance hug to all those parents and families in Peshawar who lost their children in yesterday’s dastardly Taliban attack. If misplaced passion, as in the case of the Taliban, can continue to cause destruction, our compassion can and will heal the world! 

How to dissolve in prayer

Prayer is not sitting in front of an idol or reciting verses or visiting a place of worship. Prayer is simply living Life fully – being content with what you have and being happy, caring and loving!
A Sufi mystic was so full of love, and so full of joy — his whole Life was laughter, music and dancing. And the story goes that God became very interested in him because he never asked God for anything; he never prayed. He felt his whole Life was a prayer, there was therefore no need to pray. He never went to the mosque, he never even uttered the name of God; his whole existence was the argument for the presence of God. If anybody asked him whether God exists or not he simply laughed — but his laughter was neither a yes nor a no.
God himself became so intrigued that he decided to pay the mystic a visit. When he met the man, God said, “I am immensely happy because that’s how I want people to be — not that they should pray for one hour and do everything against it for twenty-three hours. Not that they should become very pious when they enter the mosque, and when they go out they leave their piety in the mosque and they are just their old selves: angry, jealous, full of anxiety, hatred and violence. I have watched you and I have loved you. This is the way: you have become the prayer. You are, right now, my only argument in the world that something more than man exists — although you have never argued or vouched for my existence, you have not even uttered my name. Those are superfluous things… but you live, you love, you are so full of joy that there is no need for any language; your very presence becomes the argument for my existence. I want to give you a blessing. You can ask for anything.”
The mystic thought deeply and said, “But I don’t need anything. I am so joyous, and I cannot conceive there can be anything more. Forgive me, I cannot ask because I really don’t need anything. You are generous, you are loving, you are compassionate; but I am so over-full, there is no space within me for anything else. You will have to forgive me, I cannot ask.”
Osho, the Master, would tell this story to his followers and explain that true prayer is not an action. It is a state of being. In that state you are everything that Life is about – joyous, peaceful, abundant, loving, forgiving and giving. In that state, you don’t need an external God to pray to. You become the prayer. When you reach this stage of evolution, you even learn to wish your detractor, or someone that you can’t relate to, all success, good health and joy. Selflessly. The selfless seeking of another’s joy, success and bliss is true prayer.
It is very easy to love someone you like. But it is very difficult to love someone you don’t agree with, relate to, or even, at times, hate or have hated. Our normal tendency is to distance ourselves from people we don’t agree with or get along with. But if we make an effort, we may still be able to do our duty in a situation where such differences arise and exist, and more importantly, do that duty in peace. Prayer is about practicing to do this. Day after day after day. And include in the circle of influence of such prayer, every person we know on this planet. Slowly, our world becomes the world we always wanted to be in. Full of peace and calm. This is when, as they say, you dissolve in prayer and you realize God or discover Godliness in you!!

Pause, Listen, Share! Let’s make the world a better place!!!

Each of our stories is so fascinating. If only we pause to listen to them the world will be so much more a better place to be in.
Yesterday I was moderating a Panel Discussion on building Safer Cities at a Business Conclave. One of the speakers I met there is a fine Britisher named Dr.Andrew Hawkins, a senior management team member at Microsoft. Dr.Hawkins has an amazing, almost incredible, story. His great grandfather was lost in the high seas when his ship wrecked while he was on a voyage through the Indian Ocean. But he miraculously swam ashore, landing at an Indian beach. A group of Indian fishermen cared for him for several months, helped him regain his health and he eventually found his way back to Britain. Dr.Hawkins was very emotional when he said: “I am here, able to speak to all of you, only because a few kind Indians, in a coastal village here, many, many years ago took care of my great grandfather!” Dr.Hawkins finds it so overwhelming that, over three generations later, he should be in the same country that helped his great grandfather rebuild his Life. He plans to come back to India on a sabbatical to locate and reconnect with the families of those fishermen that tended for his forefather and express his family’s gratitude to them.
Hearing Dr.Hawkins’ story reminded me of a beautiful expression, a truth, that I had read some years ago. We are all not human beings going through temporary spiritual experiences, we are all spiritual beings going through temporary human experiences. All the strife and disharmony in the world exists because we don’t notice the divinity in each other. We go around seeking God in temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras, but we fail to see the God within. You and I are alive because of a Life energy that powers us, that thrives in us. And it is the same. The slum dweller in Dharavi in Mumbai, the President in the White House, the hungry child in South Sudan, the Maori aboriginals of New Zealand and each of the seven billion people on the planet – each of us, has the same energy source. What more evidence do we need of the divinity in us? That makes all of us equal and connected. You inhale what I exhale. And I inhale what you exhale. There can’t be a more evident connect, a more deeper bond between us humans.
Yet, however much social media may have transformed the world by shrinking distances, we continue to be divided by race, religion and nationalities. The distances between us are actually no longer just physical. We are distant because we have stopped being human. We are just not available for each other. We are no longer making an effort to reach out, to understand, to appreciate and celebrate each other. We are lost in our own myopic worlds and are consumed by our challenges. We don’t realize that if share, if we listen, we can learn a lot more and feel a lot, lot more happier and secure. The Dalai Lama, someone who I admire greatly for his simplicity and wisdom, has said this so beautifully, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

Here’s hoping you and I make more time for each other and for pausing to share and learn from our stories. That’s the only way we can, together, make this world more caring and leave it better than we found it!
namaste! – The God in me bows to the God in you!  

Here’s to you, Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…

Where there is compassion, there can be no separateness.
All of us believe we love people that are close to us. But there’s a higher quality than love. It is compassion. Compassion has its roots in Latin and simply means ‘co-suffering’ or ‘to suffer together’. But a more relevant meaning is that compassion is about ‘having a deep awareness of another’s suffering and wanting to relieve it.’  Love, on the other hand, is about possessing someone. It has, over time, acquired a conditionality. ‘I will love you if you love me’ or ‘I will love you if you are truthful or this or that…’ The moment a condition specific to the relationship is not met or fulfilled, the love ‘deal’ is off! But compassion is unconditional. Which is why it is beyond love.
Pic: Nirmal Harindran, The Indian Express
Yesterday, S.Sreesanth, 30, the ‘enfant terrible’ of Indian cricket, married his girlfriend of six years, Bhuwaneshwari Shekawat, 28, a.k.a Nayan, who is from one of the royal families of Rajasthan and is a jewellery designer. Sreesanth has been in the eye of the spot-fixing scandal that broke in the Indian Premier League in May this year. He has since been banned from all forms of the game by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). He spent a few weeks in Tihar jail earlier this year and has been booked under the stringent provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 (a law that was enacted to combat crime and terrorism). The whole country, led by the media whipping up a frenzy over the scandal, the social media and almost anyone who voiced an opinion – went against Sreesanth. Most believed he was guilty beyond doubt, several opined that he deserved what he was faced with and many, many others felt his whole Life was over. Perhaps, he too must have thought it was all over. But Nayan did not think so. Nor did she believe what the world was saying. She stood by him as he was taken from one court to another, one investigation to another, one lock-up to another, to finally a longish term at the Tihar jail, before being granted bail. And at a time, when most others would have broken off the relationship, Nayan agreed to go ahead with her marriage to Sreesanth! A friend of mine, on facebook, marvelled at the young lady’s conviction in her beau. I too admire that quality. I am not here to comment on what Sreesanth did or what course the law will take on his case(s). That’s for the legal system to decide. But I want to celebrate the compassion that this young lady has displayed. In a world, where everything is conditional, to standby someone – who has already been tried by the media, pronounced guilty by popular perception and ostracized by society – is really, truly remarkable.
You don’t have compassion for another. You arecompassion. The Buddha has described compassion as the feeling, the quality that transcends love. When you love someone you are desirous of that someone, you need that someone to complete you, but when you are compassionate, that same love becomes a sharing. You not only relate better to the other person, you actually feel for that person better – sometimes even better than the way the person feels for herself or himself. Compassion heals – definitely the person who is compassionate, but also the one who receives compassion. It is the highest form of energy – one that dissolves all separateness and makes way for our souls to be in unison, in harmony!
It was compassion that made Gandhi and Mother Teresa do what they did. We don’t even have to rise in love to those heights. If we can just stop asking ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ in each interaction in Life and give others our unconditional support and understanding, without judging them, we would have walked the path of compassion. And for this learning, this morning, with due respect to Simon and Garfunkel (ref. ‘Mrs.Robinson, written by Paul Simon, performed first as a single in 1968; Grammy 1969), ‘Here’s to you, Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…More power to you…Mrs.Nayan Sreesanth…’!

Excuse me, do you have a moment please…?

If you can help – always help. Don’t think. Just help.

Most of us lead such busy lives that we don’t even have time for ourselves. So, we don’t pause to reflect on the challenges people around us are faced with. Perhaps, there is less trust in humanity at one level – so not many want to come forth and offer help. Or, maybe, people don’t have enough time anymore. Or, often times, we don’t even realize that someone around us needs help.

An incident in Chennai on Monday, that has been reported extensively by the media here, holds up a mirror to all of us who are “too busy” to even look up from our own lives’ schedules, forget helping someone.

A 46-year-old man, Augustine, walking by the Adayar river with his wife and two children, suddenly flung his nine-year-old daughter Roshni into the river. He then tried to snatch his seven-year-old son, Joshua, from his wife, Rani, in an attempt to throw the boy too into the river. When a shocked Rani resisted his efforts, Augustine jumped into the river. It was rush hour on a Monday morning. Several people driving past on the bridge pulled up and peeped over the railing, wanting to, as it so often happens in India, “catch the action”. But none came forward to help. It would have been another typical Indian roadside story of apathy in the face of a tragedy, had it not been for Dinesh Babu, a 23-year-old, marketing executive, on the way to work. Unmindful of the depth and treacherous nature of the river, or of his limited knowledge of swimming, Babu jumped into the river and managed to lift Roshni above the water, over his shoulder. Seeing him struggle with the girl, another passer-by, Saravanan, 26, dived into the river. Saravanan knew swimming and he managed to escort both Babu and Roshni to the bank of the river in some time. Augustine however was not found for all of Monday. His body was recovered from the river on Tuesday.

Babu’s braveheart act not only calls for an applause but also begs reflection and introspection by each of us. Ask yourself:    
  •        What would you have done in such a situation?
  •       How can you be more sensitive to the needs of people around you?
  •       Whenever you can’t help personally, do you consider mobilizing help?
Each situation that requires helping someone may not be fraught with as much urgency and risk as in Roshni’s case. But the key point to ponder over is do we even considering helping? Or are we so caught up, indifferent and self-obsessed, with our own lives that we miss even noticing that someone needs our help?

My family and I continue to be blessed by the kindness and compassion of people, often even unknown folks, who have walked into our lives and have helped us – spontaneously, selflessly. I can vouch for how much of a difference it makes when you realize that someone, somewhere cares. So, if it is possible, do pause to look up, and around you, from your busy Life – someone can possibly do with a wee bit of what you have in plenty, if only you care to offer it to them! PS – most often that resource can even be time, and not necessarily money or something in kind!