Everything is in your control when you realize that nothing’s in your control.

Let’s try and accept a simple truth that we can never be in control of what happens to us or of what people around us do. Much of our frustration with Life comes from trying to control everything and everyone around us. What we have control over is how we respond to situations and not really in the way the situations themselves occur! When we live our lives as if we are just witnesses, observers, we will be perpetually happy.

Osho, the Master, tells the story of the Buddha. The Buddha was passing through a village. The people of that village were against him, against his philosophy, so they gathered around him to insult him. They used ugly words, vulgar words. The Buddha listened. Ananda, the Buddha’s disciple, who was with him, got very angry, but he couldn’t say anything because the Buddha was listening so silently, so patiently, rather as if he was enjoying the whole thing. Then even the crowd became a little frustrated because he was not getting irritated and it seemed as if he was enjoying. The Buddha said, “Now, if you are finished, I should move – because I have to reach the other village soon. They must be waiting just as you were waiting for me. If you have not told me all the things that you thought to tell me, I will be coming back within a few days, then you can finish it.” Somebody from the crowd said, “But we have been insulting you, we have insulted you. Won’t you react? Won’t you say something?” The Buddha said, “That is difficult. If you want a reaction from me, then you are too late. You should have come at least ten years ago, because then I used to react. But I am now no longer so foolish. I see that you are angry, that’s why you are insulting me. I see your anger, the fire burning in your mind. I feel compassion for you. This is my response – I feel compassion for you. Unnecessarily you are troubled.”


So beautiful, isn’t it? Another’s thoughts and actions are not in your control. What happens to you in Life is not in your control. When you awaken to this reality, you discover that you are in control ONLY of yourself! From that clarity, bliss is born! Then everything that matters fills your Life__love, peace, good health and joy!

You are a freak if you think you control Life

When your Life’s design begins to go against what you have planned, recognize that it is yet another affirmation that you are not in control.
Someone wrote to me a while ago saying his failing business was causing him much grief. He said he was consumed by worry and fear. He wondered if his business would ever be back in his control? I am not sure I can say how things may work out for my friend. But a simpler way to deal with Life will be to stop believing or imagining that you are, or were, ever in control of anything!!
We humans make a virtue of our ill-founded belief that we are in control. You want your mind, your body, your spouse, your children, your employees, your neighbors and your government to work according to your whims and aspirations. Nothing wrong with the want per se. Except that it will not be fulfilled! Your mind cannot be in your control unless you anchor in silence (the practice of ‘mouna’) for at least an hour daily. Your body cannot be in your control unless you have your mind trained to being still. People, and governments, will continue to do what they want despite what you think or expect of them. Still we kid ourselves into believing that we are in control? Someone does something rude, nasty, harsh to you, like a colleague quits in a huff leaving you and your project stranded, you begin to wonder how-dare-he? This thinking spurs another thought that you must avenge this act. That leads to yet another thought that makes you plot and want to wish the worst for your detractor. So much negativity. So much grief. Step back and ask yourself, is this all worth it?
What do you, or I, control? You can’t even control your heart beat. It beats so you are alive. Can you control its stopping to beat? And what if it chooses to? Can you do anything about it? Fundamentally, you are a freak if you think you control Life. This doesn’t mean you and I should feel diffident about Life and resign ourselves to a master controller’s actions. Instead learn to act in the given moment with the circumstances that have been delivered unto you. Accept what is, do what you think you can best do in the situation with peace and joy, and just do it. Then deal with the next moment similarly. And so on. If each time, the thread is pulled away from your hand and cast on the floor, pick it up again and wind it up, slowly, peacefully. Be patient. Be accepting. Believe. Be. When you live Life this way, Life may not exactly be what you may want it to be, but your ability to be in bliss will be sufficiently enhanced and enabled!

Live simply: don’t try to control the uncontrollable and don’t ignore the controllable

Life really is so simple. It is a whole of two parts: one that is beyond your control and the other that is within your control.

This is the truth of Life. Intelligent Living is about knowing this truth and practicing it, knowing what is beyond and what is within your control. When you try to control what is uncontrollable or when you don’t act on things that are within your control, in both these instances, you experience suffering.

Epictetus, the Greek sage and philosopher who lived between 55 AD and 135 AD, was a great champion of this thinking. His life epitomized this perspective too. Born a slave (something beyond his control), he was able to convince (something within his control) his Master to allow himself education while staying bonded to slavery and loyal to his Master. According to Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control, but we can accept whatever happens to us calmly and dispassionately. Individuals, however, are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power. As Universal beings, each of us has a duty to care for all fellow humans, he taught. The person who follows these tenets, preached Epictetus, would achieve happiness and peace of mind. It is said that Epictetus’ Master broke his leg deliberately (something which he couldn’t control) but Epictetus responded with forgiveness and labored on, working and sharing his learnings (something that he could control), perhaps, earning his freedom that way. Epictetus says knowing, understanding and living this truth is the key to success in this lifetime: “If you seek truth you will not seek victory by dishonorable means, and if you find truth you will become invincible.”


Soak in this simple philosophy. Don’t try to control Life. But you can choose to respond by living intelligently though__accepting whatever happens, calmly, dispassionately!

What happens “to you” in Life is not in your control

Everything is in your control when you realize that nothing’s in your control.
The paradoxes of Life simplify it, as long as you can see them and accept them! The problem with education is that it makes us argue and reason with everything that comes our way. While it is good in most respects, in the matter of dealing with Life, we must realize that its simple realities are non-negotiable. Because we don’t realize this, we refuse to accept a simple, irrefutable truth that when we give up control__of people, things and events__they just come back to us. We try to control because we think we are in control. Wrong. We are just witnesses, observers. What we have control over is how we respond__not react__to situations and not really in the way the situations themselves occur!
Osho, the Master, tells the story of the Buddha. The Buddha was passing through a village. The people of that village were against him, against his philosophy, so they gathered around him to insult him. They used ugly words, vulgar words. The Buddha listened. Ananda, the Buddha’s disciple, who was with him, got very angry, but he couldn’t say anything because the Buddha was listening so silently, so patiently, rather as if he was enjoying the whole thing. Then even the crowd became a little frustrated because he was not getting irritated and it seemed as if he was enjoying. The Buddha said,”Now, if you are finished, I should move – because I have to reach the other village soon. They must be waiting just as you were waiting for me. If you have not told me all the things that you thought to tell me, I will be coming back within a few days, then you can finish it.” Somebody from the crowd said, “But we have been insulting you, we have insulted you. Won’t you react? Won’t you say something?” The Buddha said, “That is difficult. If you want a reaction from me, then you are too late. You should have come at least ten years ago, because then I used to react. But I am now no longer so foolish. I see that you are angry, that’s why you are insulting me. I see your anger, the fire burning in your mind. I feel compassion for you. This is my response – I feel compassion for you. Unnecessarily you are troubled.”
So beautiful, isn’t it? Another’s thoughts and actions are not in your control. What happens to youin Life is not in your control. When you awaken to this reality, you discover that you are in control onlyof yourself, only of how you respond! From that clarity, bliss is born! Then everything that matters fills your Life__love, peace, good health and joy!

In uncontrollable situations, practise patience

Cultivate patience – especially in situations where you have no control over what’s going on!
Two evenings ago, I was riding in an auto-rickshaw through rush hour traffic. We got stuck in a massive traffic jam that last over 30 minutes. The heat and humidity was maddening. People were impatient in their vehicles and kept honking in vain, adding to the chaos. Not a vehicle budged. The fumes from the exhaust of the vehicles made the already sweltering heat even more difficult to bear. In such times, I have learnt to focus my attention on something other than what causes me concern or what remains out of my control. So, I kept chatting with my wife or checking cricket scores on my phone or simply watched my breathing. A couple of times that my mind strayed to complain about the heat, din and mess we found ourselves in, I brought it back to attend on my breathing. Not everyone around was so forgiving. People were complaining, honking or were trying to elbow other vehicles in the hope that some vehicle ahead would make way and we could move.
Chennai moves a Heart: Picture Courtesy/Times of India
The next morning’s papers had this moving story on how Chennai halted traffic that evening to save a Life! In a beautiful example of precision and coordination between surgeons of two hospitals and the city traffic police, a medical team transported a heart from the Government General Hospital near Chennai Central to Fortis Malar Hospitals in Adayar, about 12 kms away, in less than 14 minutes by creating a “green corridor” – that is, red-light free access. For those unfamiliar with Chennai, it’s important to know that the road connecting the two hospitals is a key arterial road, usually carrying heavy traffic. That the police, doctors and the people of Chennai (unwittingly) cooperated to free up that arterial road, which lead the other roads feeding it getting choked and me and my wife getting into the traffic jam we were caught in, for saving a Life is obviously a great feat.
When I reflected on the background to that insane traffic jam we were stuck in, I realized how insignificant our 30-minute wait really was. And I sure all those who honked and complained, fretted and fumed, may have felt that way too.

This reflection led to a reiteration of a learning I have had. There will be times when people, events, situations, will be beyond your control. Trying to control that which is uncontrollable is a sure prescription for anxiety and stress. What can you do if you are stuck in a traffic jam and nothing’s moving – actually, when nothing’s movable? What can you do if you miss a flight? What can you do if you have lost your home keys and are locked out for the night? What can you do when you can’t do something about a thing, person, event or situation? Instead of boiling over, focus on your breathing. Use the event or situation as an opportunity to practise patience. When you are patient with someone or a situation, you are peaceful. When you are at peace, you are happy. It is as simple as that! Try practising patience in a stress-filled, pressure-cooker situation the next time you encounter one. Believe me, you will feel lighter and more cheerful! 

Angry? Put your “Awareness” to work

Anger is an expression of energy being wasted in you. When you are angry at someone or something, some part of you, within you, burns first before that energy is expressed on a target. You can’t avoid anger altogether – but the key is to be aware whenever you get angry!  
Understanding, and being aware of, anger is important to live intelligently. Anger and desire have a connection. You want something or you want someone to do something or even when you “want” someone to love you or respect you, and you don’t succeed, you immediately get angry. Your deep, intense feeling of depravation is expressed as energy that gets beamed on whatever or whoever came between you and what you desired. That’s why you intensely dislike whatever or whoever came in the way. This intensity is nothing but anger. It starts first by burning within you and then soon gets expressed on whoever or whatever came in your way. This happens only when you want something or someone very badly. When you are awfully serious about Life. But what if you were less serious, in fact a little playful, like in a game? What if you told yourself that you will try your best and that sometimes in Life, you win some, you lose some, what if you were accepting of the vagaries of Life? Will you feel so much intensity within yourself? Will you be so rabid about not getting what you wanted? Of course not. This is the balance, this is the tolerance that comes from understanding Life, from being accepting, by being playful. This is what being aware really means. Awareness cannot stop you from getting angry. But it serves as an early warning or an alarm system that goes off as soon as anger rises in you.
A question that may come up is how can you achieve anything in Life without being serious about it? Indeed, focus and being serious are critical to any ambition being fulfilled, to any dream coming true. So the suggestion here is not to dissuade you from being either focused or serious. What I am saying is that you can’t always get what you want in Life. When you don’t get it, when you fail in your efforts, don’t let your failure consume you. Don’t be so serious with yourself and Life that your frustration and anger destroys you. Temper your ambitions with a deep understanding of Life. When you don’t get what you want, you would normally expend energy by being angry with yourself or with whoever prevented you from getting what you wanted or with Life. If you invest that energy instead on learning from your failure, you will get better at whatever you are trying to do. That’s what awareness can help you do – become a better player. When you play better the next time, the chances of your winning, of getting what you want are that much higher!
Remember: you can neither repress desire. Nor can you control anger. You can only learn to be aware of both. When you live with awareness though, a certain peaceful quality, a tolerance arises in you. Your awareness alone is capable of drowning every wave of anger that rises in you every time your wants are not met. Interestingly, it is this same awareness that can guide you to getting whatever you want from Life!

Don’t try to control your Life – you simply can’t!

Wanting to control Life is like trying to hold on to water in your fist. However hard you try, the water will always slip away…leaving your hand wet, but empty!
I met a friend yesterday who said he was perhaps facing a mid-Life crisis. He had started off on his own some years back. Then, when that venture didn’t do well, he took up employment again. He had changed a few jobs in the last five years, he wasn’t earning enough money, his kids were growing up and he was clearly insecure about his future. He lamented, “I have this feeling that I am being led. I am no longer in control of my career and Life. I don’t think I will be able to put my kids through college at this rate.”
I explained to him that there never is a thing called a mid-Life crisis. “You feel crisis-ridden because there’s a turmoil within you. Your wants are in conflict with your reality,” I said. My friend wants a more challenging and well-paying job. He wants to save money for his kids’ higher education. And the reality is that he is having a mediocre job, that pays him just so much that he can make ends meet. Which means the reality is that he is unable to save any money. His insecurity, his gripped-by-crisis-like feeling comes from his wants. His reality is perfect as it is. His wants are what are disturbing him. I said that the only way he could change his reality was to work on it instead of worrying about it.
This is so true for each of us in our own Life situations. Our upbringing and education make us believe that we are in control of our lives. To a large extent it just appears to be so. You study hard, you graduate, you get an employment, you start earning and saving. When this pattern of progression is uninterrupted, it soon becomes predictable and also makes you believe that you have caused and controlled your Life and career. But ask those who have seen a series of interruptions early on in their lives and they will tell you a different story. Someone’s been dyslexic or someone’s been orphaned or someone’s had an accident leading to a disruption in academics or someone’s just not found a job despite good grades! Ask these folks and they will tell you that nothing is really in our control – that we are merely being led by Life. So, there’s really no crisis and definitely no such thing as early-Life or mid-Life or late-Life crisis. There’s just Life happening in its own unique way for you – all the while. Whatever’s happening is your current reality. Period. As long as you are focused on that reality and acting from that point of view, you will be fine. The moment desire steps in, the moment you start wanting the reality to be different or starting thinking of a future reality, misery will set it. You could feel anything – from anxiety to suffering – and all of them will be debilitating. 
This does not mean inaction at all. I am not advising my friend to live with his mediocre, low-paying job forever. All I am telling him is this – please look for a better opportunity, but don’t pine for it. Keep trying, but stop lamenting. Keep the focus on what you must do, just don’t concentrate on what you don’t have. Accept the Life that you have rather than trying to control it.
Life has been going on, is going on and will go on not because of you but in spite of you! This is the truth. When you awaken to and understand this reality, you too will learn to be peaceful and to go with the flow of Life!

You control nothing – and yet you are the Master!


You are a Master the moment you realize that you can never be one! Or, more simply, you can be in control of your Life when you realize that you don’t and can control nothing! This understanding is all that there is to spirituality!  

Most people don’t see spirituality as the flowering of internal awareness. They don’t get it that its essence lies in understanding an irrefutable paradox about Life __ that the less you believe you control, the more you are in control!

People often see any spiritual perspective as ‘beyond’ them because they are so caught up in the quagmire of worry, anger, guilt, sorrow, suffering and the ‘earning-a-living’ syndrome. They have an ostrich-like mentality _ their heads are buried deep in their ill-formed beliefs. Their minds are closed although there’s so much grace, so much abundance, freely available. Kabir, the 15th century weaver-poet asked us to think: ‘What if a fish said it was thirsty?’ Wouldn’t that be the most stupidest of situations? Won’t you tell the fish to go re-examine its brain? How can a fish be thirsty when it is always in water? Quite similarly, the human mind is being foolish by seeking peace outside and by not looking within. By not allowing this flowering of awareness to happen from within. So, you conclude that you can’t be at peace, you refuse to look within and choose instead to be enslaved by your self-imposed limitations. Only when the awareness within you blooms, only when you understand that you can be in control while controlling nothing, only then will you see the Master in yourself.

This understanding is elusive because, while being profound, it is, at the same time, too simplistic. That’s why, it doesn’t come to everyone __ especially when  they are employing their education, their logic, in trying to make sense of Life. The truth is Life doesn’t conform to any framework or rules. Least of all your logic. So, Life is simple__and uncomplicated__when you simply accept its paradoxical, often inscrutable, nature.

Look around you. Everything is illogical. Everything is contradictory to what you have been taught, what you have been brought up with or grown up on.

  • Consider this – People behave thanklessly. There’s no dignity for human Life. Ethics and integrity don’t always make you successful anymore. You are encouraged to be worldly-wise than be honest and sincere. You find that trust is impossible to place and impractical to earn. Yet all these symptoms of a decadent world are true of people, even if they are from within your close circle of influence, whom you have no control over. You just can’t control what others do. Yet doesn’t all your grief come from wanting them to be different?
  • Consider another context – A close friend of mine worked very hard. He was sincere and a genius with his craft __ marketing. He grew up the corporate ladder fast. Because there was none like him in the business. For a man with average qualifications, he earned substantially. He had only one son. And he was saving up for his son to be studying in an American University. Then one day, a few years ago, his 16-year-old son was killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. His son was not drunk. The driver was. I still remember what my friend told me when I visited him to condole his son’s passing away: “I wish I had known this would happen. I would have then spent enough time with my son rather than spending that time earning money for him!” It is so bizarre. A hard-working father saves up for his only son__only to lose him so tragically?

How can you, despite all their education and logic, ever prevent what happens in Life? But you can surely choose how you respond to people and to Life. You can be grateful, you can be human, you can continue to be ethical, hard-working and honest. You may not earn as much as the others do, but you can sleep well. And doing all the things that you are comfortable doing, you can feel good and peaceful __ within you! This is your personal paradox and you must learn to accept it, appreciate it and live with it! You must, for the sake of your own inner peace, know that you cannot control anyone or anything outside of you in Life. If you can control anything at all, it is just how you live, how you relate to and how you respond to what Life throws at you!

I may have shared this before. There’s this story of the Buddha. The Buddha was passing through a village. The people of that village were against him, against his philosophy, so they gathered around him to insult him. They used ugly words, vulgar words. The Buddha listened. Ananda, the Buddha’s disciple, who was with him, got very angry, but he couldn’t say anything because the Buddha was listening so silently, so patiently, as if he was enjoying the whole thing. 
Then even the crowd became a little frustrated because he was not getting irritated and it seemed as if he was enjoying.

The Buddha said, “Now, if you are finished, I should move – because I have to reach the other village soon. They must be waiting just as you were waiting for me. If you have not told me all the things that you thought to tell me, I will be coming back within a few days, then you can finish it.”

Somebody from the crowd said, “But we have been insulting you, we have insulted you. Won’t you react? Won’t you say something?”

The Buddha said, “That is difficult. If you want a reaction from me, then you are too late. You should have come at least ten years ago, because then I used to react. But I am now no longer so foolish. I see that you are angry, that’s why you are insulting me. I see your anger, the fire burning in your mind. I feel compassion for you. This is my response – I feel compassion for you. Unnecessarily you are troubled.”

So beautiful, isn’t it? Another’s thoughts and actions are not in your control. What happens to you in Life is not in your control.

This is the state we must all ascend to. When you awaken to this reality, you will discover that you are in control ONLY of yourself! That you control nothing and yet you are the Master! From that clarity, bliss is born! Then everything that matters fills your Life__love, peace, good health and joy!


The true meaning of Life is being free — so let Life simply be!


The true meaning of Life is being free!

And to be free you must just let everything be. When you wish that things were different is when the shackles of pain, agony, suffering, sorrow, guilt, anger, jealousy, remorse and fear imprison you. 

How do you let it, or anything, be?

This question has be answered with understanding why it is being asked in the first place. What is the difficulty in letting things be? One clear idea can be that if you don’t do something about some situation, you will have abdicated responsibility. Or if you don’t do something, something worse will happen. Or that you may grieve later that possibly you could have done something. So, for these reasons and perhaps a few more, you will find it difficult to let things be! And you want to get back into control.

Let’s also be clear about what situations call for action and which ones call for letting them be. Your house is on fire, obviously, you can call the fire service. Your teenage child is taking to drugs. Surely you can counsel him and take him to a de-addiction center and work on getting him back. So, you act when you can act and must act. No issues. But there may be situations in Life when you cannot do anything. Someone close to you is dead. What action can you take to bring the person back to Life? So, let it be. Or someone is seriously ill. The doctors are trying. But they too say only a miracle can save her. What can you do to work that miracle. The best you can do is to let it be. Or a relationship is suffering because someone is hell bent on interpreting whatever you say. You have clarified, apologized, fallen at their feet, but the person keeps on bludgeoning you. What can you do? You want the situation to heal, but what can you do? Healing takes time. So, you just let it be. Or you try your best to resurrect a failed business and your Life, but every single attempt meets with zero success. It’s not that you lack talent or purpose or values or ethics. But still the business doesn’t happen. Money just refuses to come to you. You have tried getting an employment but nobody even wants to meet you, let alone hire you. What do you do? Other than letting it be, do you have a choice? So, when you have tried everything and nothing works, while you may still want to try newer approaches to dealing with a Life situation, you just let it be. 

When you let things be, the mind will make matters worse. It will remind you that you are doing nothing about a grave situation. It will amplify every small fear into something draconian, gruesome. But fear has to be dealt with head-on by facing it. Only then can you overcome it. Once you have crossed the threshold of fear, all other emotions become manageable. If you are not scared of what will happen, how can worry even exist? When the future doesn’t worry you why will the past haunt you anymore? Your entire being slips into just being.

So, to practice letting things be, take stock of your Life:

1.   Make a two lists: areas that you can act on and areas you cannot

2.   Act on all areas that you believe there are options available to act on

3.  And on those areas where you can’t do anything anymore, where you don’t have any more options left, just let them be. Watch your emotions as they obsess with you. Meet them head-on. Only that way will you transcend them.

4.   When you transcend your emotions, beginning first with fear, you will slip into just being

5.  This may take days, weeks, months, years, but only through continuous practice can you arrive at that state of just letting your Life be

6.   And once you have let it be, you have given up the need to become, you are NOW free!

That’s how you experience true freedom. Freedom means a certain inexplicable blitheness of the spirit. You feel alive – because fear, anger, worry, guilt, everything, every guest who was residing in you, holding you in their grasp, has taken leave. The house is empty. And what resides there is a lot of air and light. It’s pure. It’s beautiful. And that is what the true meaning of Life is __ being free, unshackled, unencumbered, detached, being alive.

Whatever happens, let your music play…..


Whatever happens, know that Life will go on. And you too must flow with it, ‘letting your music play’!

There are times in Life when you wish you could do something about what you are faced with. But you will be unable to. So, instead of hating what you have been served, just start loving it and live in the moment.

I watched ‘Titanic’, James Cameroon’s classic movie, one more time during the weekend. And learned one more time from the amazing musicians on how to ‘let the music play’ till the very end.

Wikipedia says: “After the Titanichit an iceberg and began to sink, Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster and violinist, and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. One survivor who clambered aboard ‘Collapsible A’ claimed to have seen Hartley and his band standing just behind the first funnel, by the Grand Staircase. He went on to say that he saw three of them washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase’s deckhouse, only to be dragged down with the bow, just before Hartley exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!” A newspaper at the time reported “the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea.””

I wouldn’t say it is heroism. It is simply intelligent living. Because you can only control what’s within your control. All your worries and anxieties, fears and insecurities, come from what you can’t control. Now, instead of worrying, fearing and suffering, if you can just look at the situation and say, “Well, well, well….if this is what it is, let me see how I can find peace within this situation.” This really is the only way to live a Life which we didn’t ask for and whose game-plan we have no idea of either!

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Let us remember that there is the opportunity, always available to us, to change our most dreadful moments into ones full of grace! All we need to do is to be open to the opportunity. When we are grieving, mourning, sorrowful, we are closed. We are not open to the Universe’s energy __ its compassion, its warmth, its grace. As Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said, “The winds of grace are always blowing. You must open and hoist your sails to catch it.

So, unfurl and open your sails, open up your soul. If you are in a difficult time, accept it. Don’t resist it. This may not take the pain away. But it will help you immensely by ridding you of all your suffering! This then is the only way to ‘let your music play’….