Accept your Life for what it is – and simply go on living

Does it really matter if there is such a thing as fate or destiny? If whatever will happen, will happen, then why analyze it, why agonize over it?  
In a conversation we had with a friend yesterday, we ended up discussing destiny and free will. My friend held the view that trying to understand how destiny works or blaming it for everything is simply futile. “Can your belief in or knowledge of fate, destiny, karma – whatever name you give it – really help in undoing, or changing, your Life’s course,” he asked.
And I agree with him.
What are we going to do by knowing that our lives are preordained? That really doesn’t change anything. Instead, the simpler way to look at Life – and respond to it – is to know that while you can’t do anything about what’s happening to you, you can at least act in a given situation diligently, with full commitment to living! People call this opportunity free will. I call it living. Just be, just live. Or, to further simplify, while you can’t do anything about what happens to you, do whatever you can in any given situation to make it better. And the best way to live through, endure, any painful situation, is to immerse yourself in the moment and to live it fully.
So, don’t dwell on whether your Life is preordained or not. It’s meaningless, it’s futile to do so. The fact is that you have this Life, a gift called this lifetime. You have no control over what happens to you. But you can and must do whatever is possible by you to live your every moment fully. You have that option, and no one can deny it to you, so use it fully.  
Osho, the Master, calls the fate-destiny-karma logic defeatist and escapist. He says when we try something and don’t get what we want, we conveniently blame fate. “What can I do, I am trying but my fate is such” is a common refrain we all hear or even use at times. Osho urges us to stop this blame game! He says don’t dump the responsibility of your Life on fate. Some people also dub fate as “God’s will”. So they dump the cause of their Life’s course – and their attendant miseries – on this, unknown, unseen, God. Osho asks, “You know why you blame God for all the things that happen to you that you don’t want happening? You do it because it is so convenient. God doesn’t talk back, you see. God doesn’t ask you how dare you blame me for your Life? So, you go on dumping your Life on God and you wallow in the comfortable cesspool of ‘my-fate-is-such’ thinking.”

Osho makes a powerful, unputdownable, point. Blaming Life or karma or God is of no use. Your Life – and mine – will unfold, go on, happen, in spite of you – or me. No matter what. This is the nature of Life. The only way to live this Life therefore is to accept it for what it is, the way it is, and simply go on living…!  

Accept your reality to get through an unwanted, yet unavoidable, phase

Accept and make peace with your reality. That’s when you can endure a phase you never wanted but still have to go through.
Rajratnam and Gupta: Picture Courtesy – Internet

A recent story in The New York Times caught my attention. It was written by an Indian, Anita Raghavan. And featured another Indian – the former McKinsey & Co boss, Rajat Gupta. The story talked about Gupta’s term in prison, alongside one-time friend and business partner Raj Rajaratnam – both men are convicted on charges of insider trading and are serving time at the Federal Medical Center Devens, in Ayer, Massachusetts, northwest of Boston, with 1000 other inmates. Raghavan seems to have pieced together information from a former Devens inmate, David Morgan, on Gupta’s time in prison. According to Morgan, reports Raghavan, Gupta seems to have accepted his imprisonment as “destiny”.

It is definitely a fall from grace for the former Harvard Business School graduate and old-timer at McKinsey & Co, Rajat Gupta. I remember, in 1994, when I was with India’s premier business magazine Business Today (from the India Today stable), Gupta was on its cover. It was I think for the first time that an Indian was making it to a global CEO’s position. My editor, Anand P Raman, told me what a proud moment it was for India, for Business Today and for us journalists to be featuring an Indian management great! I was young, just 27, back then. And I decided to myself that if ever I took up a corporate role (which I eventually did), I would want to emulate Gupta’s success. In fact, my erstwhile consulting Firm’s stated goal was to be an Indian McKinsey and this was in large measure influenced by Gupta’s leadership of McKinsey & Co over the period 1994~2000. It is incredible that the poster boy of management consulting and global corporate leadership is serving term in a prison in the US, to say the least.  According to Raghavan, “In prison, it is Mr. Gupta’s family that has kept him going. At the camp, he pasted family photos on the bottom panel of the bunk (bed) above him. “Hey, David, look at what we have to be grateful for,” Mr. Morgan remembered Mr. Gupta saying. “‘When I go to bed, I see them, and when I wake up, I see them.’”
Gupta’s story presents us with the opportunity to understand the true nature of Life. What goes up comes down. And what’s down sure goes up. This is the way Life plays out for each of us. Our stories may differ, our contexts may be unique, but the broad theme is impermanence – of time, people, events, things, relationships and of our Life itself. Everything and every phase in Life shall pass. And what the Cosmic Design has in store for you shall play out – unfailingly whether you like it or not, whether you accept it or not. When you don’t accept what is happening and resist the Life you have, you suffer. But with acceptance, as in Gupta’s case, as he has confessed to Morgan, while you can’t change your reality, you can at least endure it.

Time, Destiny, Karma, Life … whatever, just accept what is!

We are all a product of the time that we go through. Time plays the biggest role in shaping the way things pan out for each of us during our lifetime.
This is an unalterable truth about Life. But the way we are conditioned to think about time, thanks to the way we are raised, we are either totally driven by a belief that everything about our lives is pre-ordained and pre-set in, and by, time or that nothing is. A more aware approach to Life, however, can be helpful.
Although there may be several arguments or methods that claim to understand how time works during one’s lifetime, the reality remains that there will be some times in Life, certain phases, when nothing may work for you, the way you plan for it or want it to work, despite your best efforts. This reality may express itself differently in the context of each one’s Life. But this reality will be un-missable, unmistakable. Now, those who use methods, like the science of astrology for instance, to make sense of the “play of time”, may find some way to rationalize what’s happening to them. Those who either have no access to or interest in such methods may simply see a pattern, “of results not coming as expected despite their best efforts”, to their lives. They may either choose to go with the flow of such a pattern, which is go with the flow of their lives, or feel defeated and depressed.
I have learnt that the simplest, and the most peaceful, way to live Life is to have faith in Life’s plan for you. I have come to understand it as The Master Plan. And I have come to realize, over the eventful years of my Life’s roller-coaster experience, that The Master Plan has no flaws. So, even if something evidently is not going per a plan that you have, and so you conclude that things are going “out of control”, everything is still happening just the way it should, for you to live the Life that has been designed for you. This perspective has been immortalized by Steve Jobs (1955~2011) when he said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that somehow the dots will connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, Karma, Life, whatever. This approach has never let me down and it has made all the difference in my Life.”
I don’t need to substantiate this point with a story from my Life or recall Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech of 2005. I invite you to review your own Life. And you will see the pattern, your personal journey line, as evidence of this point. Wherever you are today has undoubtedly been a result of all your efforts and intentions. Even so, you will notice that at the most crucial junctures, mystically, an unexpected twist or turn has either helped you move forward or has led to an unplanned, unscheduled change in direction. Without this providential play of time, or Life, you wouldn’t be where you are today. This perspective is as good even when you don’t like being where you are today. Perhaps, Life has laid hurdles in your path – a curious turn of events has delayed or stunted your progress. Whatever it is that you may be faced with or are going through, know that there’s a larger design that’s not evident to you just now. Someday, in the future, you too, like Jobs’ will connect the dots backward and marvel at how beautiful your Life’s design always was!
You can appreciate this perspective or debunk it. You can be wedded to the “Life-is-pre-ordained” or “it’s-all-play-of-time” theories or you can believe that you control everything. Whatever way you choose, you can’t escape the reality that Life pans out for you, as it does for me, only in its own unique way. And the only way to live such an inscrutable Life, happily, peacefully, is to simply accept what is.

Actions, Choices, Decisions and Destiny

Your decisions and choices make your destiny. Always!

My son and I had an interesting discussion last evening. He said that he could not get himself to accept that Life was pre-ordained. He has a point. Life is at one level very mystical, very inscrutable. At another level, if you review your Life so far, all your past actions have seeded your present. What you do today creates your future. So, if there is a destiny, surely there is a role you – through your actions, choices and decisions – play in shaping it uniquely for yourself. Even so, you can only understand this truism in retrospect. You can only, as Steve Jobs famously said,  connect the dots backwards. And irrespective of where you find yourself, in whatever circumstance, whatever has happened, whatever is happening and whatever will happen to you, will only make you better, stronger and more evolved.

So, in a way, this whole concept of destiny can be deemed as escapist. And yet it can be understood as inevitable. It is escapist when we try to blame our destiny for our tragic current realities. And inevitable because, whatever was to happen, alone happened irrespective of who caused it. So, instead of analyzing Life and arguing for or against pre-ordinance, the best way forward, the way to live fully, is to simply own each action and each outcome. You need not have any expectation of the outcome – as the Bhagavad Gita has said – but you can certainly own it.

Essentially, Life is simple. It means do your best in any situation. And whatever be the outcome, accept it with all humility. If it’s an outcome you wanted, be grateful. And if it’s an outcome that you did not want, and one that you dislike, still go on and accept it, welcome it and embrace it. The Life that you reflect upon is what is your destiny. Many people, through scientific and other means, will tell you about your future. You don’t have to disregard them or avoid them. Listen to them. In a tough season, their perspective could have a balmy influence. In a great season, they could be reiterating what you already know. But no one can really cause you to escape your reality, your present. And it is in this present that you can experience Life. It is in the now that your decisions get taken. It is in the now that you stumble, fall, rise and conquer. It is your now, and what you do in it, or don’t do, that shapes your destiny!  


Bliss is celebrating and loving Life’s design!


In Life, everything is predetermined. And yet everything is up to you!

No, I am not contradicting myself. On the other hand I am merely summing up what Life really is. It is, essentially, what you experience between two ends of this paradox __ where you are born without your asking for it, you are given a lifetime without your inability to control anything that happens to you and at the same time, you have the opportunity, the choice, to live your Life fully, in bliss!

So, is there a destiny? A friend raised this question after the ghastly manner in which a 20-year-old girl died in an accident on Sunday. The news made headlines in the papers and left all of us shocked. The girl, with a gaggle of friends, was at a place which is more that 25 km from the accident spot. For no earthly reason, these girls, seem to have ventured out for a drive in the wee hours of Sunday morning and were on a highway on the outskirts of Chennai when the accident happened. All other occupants of the car survived the crash, except this one girl. So, someone who knew her and was shocked therefore beyond description said, ‘She literally walked into her death trap. It was destined.” That prompted my friend to ping me for a perspective.

Destiny is a subject that I too have often tried to understand. I don’t claim I have the answer that you may relate to. But I will share what I have learned through my Life and experiences__and what I find acceptable to me as an intelligent perspective!

Hard as it may appear to instantly believe, given our scientific grooming and our temperament for logical inquiry, our entire Life is in the hands of a Universal energy that is at the same time inscrutable and marvelous. At once compassionate and cruel. Totally understandable and yet completely incomprehensible. This is the energy that powers us all __ the breath that we take, and so does every living organism. From birth to death, of this lifetime in human form, we live to a pre-ordinance which we are completely unaware of. To that extent, it is all pre-determined. Even so, we do have the opportunity, the free will, to respond to Life as it happens to us.

Since none of us has seen God, in the manner in which each of our religions insist he or she exists, I would like to conclude that God, Fate, Destiny are excuses that mankind has invented to take the easy way out of remaining accountable in Life! We abdicate our responsibility towards our lives by dumping the blame on a God, an unknown Fate and an inscrutable Destiny. Osho, the Master, explains this well, in his trademark, in-the-face style: “There is no fate, no destiny. You are just trying to dump your responsibility on something that does not exist.  And because it does not exist, it cannot resist you; it cannot say, “Please don’t dump your responsibility on me!” God is silent, you can dump anything on him __ no resistance, because there is nobody to resist. Fate is again the same. You fail in love, you fail in other matters. It hurts that you have failed. You need some kind of ointment for your wounded heart. “Fate” is a beautiful ointment and freely available. You don’t have to pay for it. You can say, “What can I do?  Everything is decided by fate.” Success or failure, richness or poverty,  sickness or health, Life or death,  everything is in the hands of an unknown power called fate “I am doing my best,  still I go on failing. I am following all the moral principles preached to me, still I am poor. And I see all kinds of immoral people becoming richer,  getting ahead, becoming famous. It is all fate.” It gives you solace.  It gives you solace that you are not reaching your goals. It also gives you solace that if others have achieved success, there is nothing much in it, it is just decided by fate. So, on the one hand, you are saved from feeling inferior; on the other hand, your jealousy enjoys the idea that the successful person is successful only because fate has determined it that way: “It has nothing to do with him; he’s not superior to me.” God,  fate, destiny–they are all in the same category: throwing your responsibility onto something that does not exist.

My understanding is an extension of Osho’s point of view: If there is birth, there will be death. So, what’s so intelligent about calling someone’s death, a well-known, inevitable reality, his or her destiny? What’s the point in sulking and blaming your fate__when things go wrong, when we know for sure that things WILL go wrong? What is the point in calling a God, who you fear, unkind? Isn’t it obvious that you will fear something only when it does not meet your expectations in some manner __ being unkind being one of them!? I would, for the same reason, want to find someone who loves__not fears__God, call God unkind!

So, the moot point is Life will keep happening to you, the way it wants. You can accept it and be happy and content or you can resist it and sulk. This act of responding to your Life is what is free will all about. And that free will is within your control, even if your own Life is not!

Let’s take two examples of two exemplary women to understand how deployment of free will really impacts the quality of one’s Life:

Chitra Singh
Chitra Singh, the ghazal singer and maestro Jagjit Singh’s wife, came out of her self-imposed exile to pay tribute to her husband. She has been interviewed in the latest issue of People magazine. 22 years ago she had lost her son Vivek in a car crash, then her daughter Monica committed suicide in 2010 and Jagjit himself passed away in 2011. She admits to Dhaval Roy that she made repeated attempts at finding her voice again, but failed each time: “Life has been so kind and unkind to me at the same time that singing doesn’t come to me anymore. One’s voice is a very delicate mechanism. I just choked up and stopped singing. So, I did not leave music, it left me.” So, that is her response, employing her free will, her way, to living, to a predetermined Life design.

Shagufta Rafique
In the same issue of People, I encountered the amazing story of Shagufta Rafique, who once was a dancer in bars in Dubai and a prostitute, who has not become a screenwriter, dishing out hits like Raaz 3 and Murder 2, in Hindi cinema. She tells Divya Unny: ‘My stories are cheap and melodramatic like me. I am not a trained writer. A course cannot teach you how to tell stories. You need to have a flame burning within you which translates into something relatable. Life has taught me that. I have been a whore too long to erase that part of my Life. I have always dreamt of telling my story. And my own film will be the biggest test of my strength.” And, that, dear friends, is her response, employing her free will, her way, to living to a predetermined Life design.

Bliss is what happens when you choose, through your free will, to accept, celebrate and love, your Life’s design, or destiny. When you rue your design, blaming your fate, you will suffer. When you live your Life lovingly, you will meet God __ your God! And that God is bliss!