Your ‘Mahamaham’ moment awaits you – not in Kumbakonam, but within you!

A dip in a ‘holy’ river or tank can never ‘cleanse’ you. Pausing, reflecting and awakening alone can.

A friend feverishly texted me on WhatsApp a few days ago. He’s close to me and believes that the financial challenges that my family and I are enduring, for close to a decade now, is directly related to my past karma– a ‘carry forward’ of sorts of ‘sins committed in a previous birth’. He furiously appealed to me I must make the pilgrimage to the Mahamaham tank in Kumbakonam and take a dip to ‘wash away all my bad karma, my sins’. “You will see an immediate change in your fortunes,” he insisted. I merely thanked him for his compassionate perspective and offered no justification for my choice not to accept his advice.
Mahamaham – Kumbakonam
Picture Courtesy: Internet
The Mahamaham is a Hindu festival that happens every 12 years in the Mahamaham tank in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. I have no disrespect for the Mahamaham. Nor do I intend questioning its legend that’s drawing several millions in (what they think is) piety. Yet, I sincerely don’t believe a ritualistic dip, however ‘holy’ the site may be, can ever cleanse anyone. In his memorable 2003 classic, Anbe Sivam (Love is God), Kamal Hassan beautifully explains to his co-star Madhavan why the God within us – the Universal Energy that keeps us alive – must awaken for us to realize the magic and beauty of Life. That realization, to me, is the biggest awakening. And only an awakening from within can truly cleanse us.
To be sure, there is a Mahamaham moment waiting for each of us – provided we are ready and willing to understand Life and have seeker’s, a student’s, attitude. And that moment need not be at a temple tank, where millions are crowding with a herd mentality, throwing personal and public hygiene to the wind! My own Mahamaham moment happened in my living room, some time in 2007, when I was having my favorite Royal Challenge whisky, and was utterly bored with two other things I was trying to do at the same time – swap channels on TV hoping to find something interesting and make sense of the English translation of the Sai Satcharita, a book on the Life and teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba. My search for something meaningful on TV drew a blank. And I soon turned it off. My family had long gone to sleep. Even as I poured myself another drink, I tried – but failed miserably – to understand what the Sai Satcharita was trying to say – it will easily rank as among the most horrible works of translation ever, from the original Marathi to English! I put the book away. And I thought deeply about what Shirdi Baba had taught the world in his lifetime. In a Eureka-like flash, it dawned on me that the two principles around which all his teachings were anchored are – Shraddha, Faith and Saburi, Patience. To face Life and to overcome the challenges that you are faced with, I realized that, you must keep the faith and learn to be patient.
Over time, I employed this awakening very constructively, through my daily practice of mouna (silence periods), to understand the impermanence and inscrutability of Life. I learned that this is the only Life we have. And to live this Life well – and happily – we must train our mind to be in the present moment. In the now. I discovered that the way religion is practiced in the world today is that it encourages you and me to fear people (who peddle religion) than inspire faith in creation – that if you have been created without your asking to be born, then the same energy that created you will care for you, will provide for you. When there is fear, how can there be faith? When there is no faith, how can you be patient?   
This clarity is helping me live my Life with total inner peace, despite the storm that rages on outside, in my business, professional and material Life. This clarity makes me believe that a dip in an insanely crowded temple tank will hardly cleanse anything – not even your body, let alone your mind. I am more with Kabir, the 15thCentury weaver-poet, here. He said:
Kabir Man Nirmal Bhaya, Jaise Ganga Neer 

Pache Pache Har Phire, Kahat Kabir Kabir

Translation
Kabir Washed His Mind Clean, Like The Holy Ganges River
Everyone follows behind, Saying Kabir, Kabir
That is, Kabir urges us to remove all impurities from our mind, from our thinking process, thus letting the light of divinity to shine forth. Truly, there is divinity in each of us. That divinity is suppressed, lying buried under layers and layers of grief, guilt, anger, fear and such debilitating emotions. This is why we are searching for God outside of us. This is why we are running to a Mahamaham.

Seriously, you don’t need to wait for 12 years to scramble to a Mahamaham for cleansing yourself. Your Mahamaham moment awaits you if you can simply pause, reflect and awaken to the opportunity of cleansing your mind, of living in the now! 

A magnificent Monday morning Namaste to all of you!

There’s divinity everywhere, all around us, and in each of us.
To spot the divine in yourself and in all creation around you, you must be willing, not just looking for or seeking it. The willingness here is the ability to know that just as you are unique, so is all of creation. Just as you have dreams, others do too. Just as you have opinions and emotions, others have them too. Willingness here is to accept that all creation is beautiful and special and that you are blessed to be part of this whole Universe. When you see divinity in everything and everyone around you, you see the Master Plan, the Cosmic Design, at work.
In Hindu mythology there are several stories of the different incarnations of God. While this has led to a plethora of Gods being worshipped by Hindus worldwide, the hidden message in the propagation of such myths must not be lost. That each of us is God incarnated as well. And each of us is capable of love, compassion and selfless service like Rama or Budha or Muhammed or Jesus. Awakening to this truth and discovering the divine in us, around us, is what nirvana__a state where we extinguish ignorance of who we are and find ourselves liberated and free__is all about. The Indian greeting ‘namaste‘, interestingly introduced to me and elucidated by my American friend Mark Lewis from Phoenix, Arizona, is not just a mere folding of hands, bowing of the head or a respectful gesture. It means “I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are One. The divine in me bows  to the divine in you.” Namaste to all of you! 

What a Sunday really means and is meant for

Pause. Reflect. Repair. Restart.
This is what a Sunday is supposed to be used for. This is the real meaning of Sunday. For most Christians, Sunday is observed as a day for worship of God and rest, due to the belief that it is Lord’s Day, the day of Christ’s resurrection. It perhaps derives from the Hebrew Sabbath or a Sabbath, which is again generally a weekly day of rest or time of worship. While Sunday is considered a day of rest in most Western and Eastern countries, in most Muslim countries and in Israel, Sunday is a working day. They take their Sabbath on Fridays. The important thing is not what day of the week, per the English weekly calendar, a Sabbath is taken. What is important is it is taken.
Do we take a Sabbath? Do we pause, reflect, repair and restart with fresh vigor? Or do we laze, drowse, feast and snooze on Sundays? Nothing wrong with the lazing and snoozing, except, when done mindfully, even that is a process of rejuvenation. But we are hardly mindful. True divinity, real repair of the soul, is experienced through mindfulness.
Here’s a story to illustrate this point. A priest went to Japan to study in a Zen monastery. He said that after sitting in meditation for long hours his legs would often begin to ache terribly. The Master advised him on the proper procedure and then asked what practice he was following in meditation. The priest explained that he was sitting silently in the presence of “God” without words or thoughts or images or ideas. The Master then asked if his God was everywhere. The priest nodded his head, “yes.” He asked if he was wrapped around in God, and the answer again was yes. “Very good, very good,” said the Master. “Continue this way. Just keep on. And eventually you will find that “God” will disappear and only you will remain.” The priest was offended by this logic, for it sounded like a denial of his sacred beliefs. He contradicted the Master and said, “God will not disappear. But I might disappear and only God will be left.” “Yes, yes,” the Master agreed, smiling. “It’s the same thing. That is what I mean.”
Indeed. That’s what a true Sabbath really means. That’s what a Sunday is for. For you to discover the God in you. For you to pause, reflect, repair and restart. And not for you to bury yourself, wearily, warily and slothfully. It is a time and opportunity for intense mindfulness, for filling our souls with bliss, for recharging our batteries. When we do this, we will find the God within. As Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet, has so beautifully said. “Jaise Til Mein Tel Hai, Jyon Chakmak Mein Aag, Tera Sayeen Tujh Mein Hai, Tu Jaag Sake To Jaag”. [Just as seed contains the oil, fire’s in flint stone. Your temple seats the Divine, realize if you can]”
So, use this Sunday intelligently for your Sabbath. Your temple seats the Divine. Invest this Sunday to realize your true Self__the Divine!

What a Siddha yogi and ‘PK’ taught me about ‘my’ God

Learn to value and celebrate the divinity within you. It may not solve your problems but will show you a better way to live with them!
Yesterday, I heard of the demise of a good friend of mine, Kavi Rajan, who was a Siddha yogi and was only 47 years old. We first met him 10 years ago when we had gone to him “seeking solutions” to our debt problem. He said, rather simplistically: “Embrace your debt. Love it. It is a guest in your Life. It has come to teach you something. It will go away just the way it has come.” Initially I resisted his advice. But, over the years, I found his call to “accept Life for what is” very meaningful. This drew me and my wife closer to him. We met him probably once or twice in a year. But each time we came away enriched and energized. He was not the bearded, saffron-clad yogi. No, he was not a Godman. He wore a lungi, a sleeve-less vest or a shirt, smoked a beedi and led a normal, worldly Life with his wife and two young children. But he was a man who, according to me, certainly had realized his God. He would tell us: “Don’t make me a guru and don’t think I am your God. Realize the divinity within you. I am only a means to your spiritual awakening. Once you are awakened, you won’t need me.” My wife and I will miss him in his physical form but we are sure we will always feel his presence in our lives.
Aamir Khan in ‘PK’
Picture Courtesy: Internet
I only wish many of the seekers out there get an opportunity to be guided and awakened by evolved souls like my friend Kavi. What is unfortunate is that almost every religion’s preachers today claim to find “solutions” to people’s problems and in turn make them fearful and confused. In the name of helping them reach or connect with God, those who have made religion their business, exploit gullible people of their money, time, resources, emotions and faith. This is the central theme of a beautiful movie I saw yesterday – Aamir Khan’s PK(2014, Rajkumar Hirani). Khan’s character PKmakes an impassionate appeal to all of us. He says, that there is no problem with the creator, the one who created the world and its people. The problem is with the God that man created. That God, he said, was a hostage of individual religions and the self-proclaimed custodians of these religions are exploiting mankind. PK urges us to snap out of our stupor and awaken to a more meaningful way of living our lives! He makes a pertinent and sound case for a world without religion, where all people are equal – just the way they are created – and who respect the divinity in each other.
Indeed there is a divinity in each of us. This divinity is nothing but the Life energy that is powering us – because of which we are alive and are capable of experiencing the abundance in our lives and in the Universe. But we miss this abundance because we don’t realize this divinity. We are trapped in our self-defined world of limitations – our anxieties, insecurities, grief, guilt and fears – and in our elusive search for a God outside of us. Only when we break free from our limitations and look within – a journey which can commence through self-realization and awakening – will we find lasting inner peace and happiness.

When you realize yourself, you will appreciate and celebrate the fact that there’s no greater God than the one you see in the mirror every morning. You will understand that there is no better way to live than to accept what is or whatever is happening to you. You will then value each moment and begin to live your Life fully – without fear and without expectations!

Celebrate the divinity in and around you

There’s divinity in every aspect of creation. There’s divinity in you and in me too! We don’t see it in us because of the way we have been conditioned to think of divinity.

We have been conditioned to think of divinity in the context of an external God. As someone who’s controlling and operating the Universe. As someone who cannot be seen and who’s more powerful than us. And as someone who must be feared.

Let’s try to understand divinity by re-examining our conditioning. For instance, the way we think of garbage, sewage, filth is with a sense of distaste. Yet, there’s divinity there too. When you see fresh vegetables, you see it as beautiful, sublime, pristine. The same vegetables when they turn stale or are part of wasted food and end up in a garbage dump, you find them detestable. Similarly, when you see a sewer, you hate its sight. But there’s a sewage system in your body: your intestines and kidneys are doing just the same job__precisely. The hallmark of an evolved person is the ability to see everything and everyone as equally divine.

A hunter once got lost in an African jungle. He thought he was going to die because he could not find his way out. But he was adamant that he would not pray to God. But he did something which was half-praying and half-joking. He said to himself: “God, if you exist, come and save me!” A few minutes later, an African appeared and saved the hunter. The hunter was delighted. But that night, he wrote in his diary, “I prayed to God, but a Negro came.”!!! Neither did he know nor did he believe that the Negro was perhaps the divine intervention he had half-heartedly sought. It can be argued as a coincidence too – but coincidences too have a cosmic dimension to them!

Thay, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, teaches us to appreciate divinity in all of creation. A pebble, a flower, a butterfly, a detractor, a critic, a thunderclap, a garbage heap__all are manifestations of divinity that are there to help us, to awaken us, giving us a message that there’s more to this Life and the cosmic design than what we can even fathom! When you see, recognize and celebrate the divinity within and around you, you will find the God you are so relentlessly in pursuit of!

Be enthusiastic about Life in 2014

There’s a divine spark within each of us. Be guided by it at each time, through each experience, in Life! 

As a New Year begins, there’s a fervent prayer in every beating heart that these 12 months must fill our lives with peace and joy! But as the New Year’s energies wear off, so does our enthusiasm. ‘Life-as-Usual’ takes over and we struggle with our everyday challenges. Sometimes we become depressive. At other times we are anxious and worried. As the year chugs along we often find our lives uninteresting and lacking lustre. When tragedies strike, as they always will, we curse our fate and believe that Life – and God – has been unfair to us.

This is clearly not a very intelligent way to live. You – and I – have been created to enjoy Life. Not to merely endure it. Life never promised, nor does it guarantee, any fair-play. It is your expectation from Life that makes you classify mere events in your Life as fair or unfair. At a very elementary level Life is simple. And beautiful. You complicate it by setting certain conditions to Life. And one of those conditions is that, because you are honest, hardworking and sincere, nothing should go wrong with your Life. But Life has a mind of its own. Anything can and will happen to anyone. Anytime. In all such times, instead of seeking answers and solutions – or pinning the blame on people and circumstances – outside of you, look within. You will find your godhead, your divinity, within you. Allow yourself to be led by your divinity. Just let go and surrender to it!

Your inner surrender will not necessarily change your external circumstances. Your relationship challenge may still persist. Your struggling business may still gasp for cash. Your health problem may continue to prevail. You may still be out of job. But deep within you, you will feel peace. Your heart will be on a song. You will feel bliss. Despite all the challenges that you are faced with, you will be enthusiastic about Life. And that’s because the God, the divinity, within you is at work. The word enthusiasm has a Greek root. ‘en’ means ‘within’ and ‘theos’ means ‘God’ in Greek!  So, enthusiasm is really about experiencing the God (godhead, divinity) within you!

Here’s hoping this year gives you plenty of opportunity to explore and experience your inner divinity, to feel good and be enthusiastic about Life!

Let your divinity flow

The divine Godhead is in each of us. So, intrinsically, we all have this ability to be loving, be human and be compassionate. But all our conditioning, over the years, has suppressed this ability. We have become, driven by logic, and the what’s-in-it-for-me question in every transaction, cold, self-centered and so full of ourselves. Our self-obsession leaves us with no time or opportunity to love and care. However, a time will come, when all that conditioning will vanish, all the walls that we have built around us will be torn down, and what will remain is our true self – that which is capable of limitless love and compassion.
One of Aesop’s fables teaches us this lesson beautifully.
At a riverside, a scorpion requested of a turtle, “Please carry me to the other shore on your back.” The turtle says, “Do not be foolish. Do not think me to be stupid. You may sting me in the middle of the stream, and I will drown and die.” The scorpion said, “I am not foolish; rather, you are foolish because you do not know simple logic. I belong to the Aristotelian school. I am a logician. So I will teach you a simple lesson in logic, a simple solution. If I sting you and if you are drowned and dead, I will also die with you. So be sensible, be logical. I will not sting you. I cannot sting you.”
The turtle thought for a moment and then said, “Okay! It seems sensible. Hop on to me and off we go.” And exactly in the middle of their journey, midstream, the sting comes. They both are sinking now. Before the turtle dies it asks, “Where has your logic gone? You have done a very illogical thing, and you yourself said that this is simple logic, you will never do it, and now you have done it. Tell me before I die. Let me learn another lesson from your logic.”
The scorpion says, “It is not a question of logic at all. This is just my character, just my nature. I cannot be without it. I can talk about it. I cannot be without it. I am incapable, really.”

In pretty much the same way, all our coldness, all of our self-centeredness are all mere masks. Each of us, truly, is created to be loving, caring and human. As Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet has said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

So, go on, seek those barriers within you – and remove them. Let your divinity flow – unfettered and freely!

Celebrate the Equality in all Creation!


All Life is equal.

Celebrating creation is our principal religion and only duty! Over centuries, religion, by its opportunistic practitioners pointing to an external God, has made bad spaghetti out of a perfect recipe for equality. Religion singularly has made us forget the divinity in all creation.

When you recognize that all Life is equal, and that you are as much the source of the cosmic energy, that which powers the Universe, as creation itself, then, you will discover the Godhead in you! Then, and only then, will your search for an external God end. When you have found God, why would you need religion?

Let’s do a small exercise to grasp this truth in a nanosecond.

Take an empty (water) glass.

Is the glass really empty? Or does it contain something?

Well, arguably, it contains air.

Now, drop the glass on a hard floor (not carpeted). Yes, just drop it!

It breaks, right?

Now what happened to the air in the glass? Where has it gone? Did it also break or did it go somewhere?

Well, it just merged with the air in the room. In fact, it always was merged with the air in the room in the first place. The glass was merely a container holding some of the air.

So is this, your, body. It is merely a container holding, during a specific tenure, a portion of the air, or the cosmic energy that’s powering the Universe. Isn’t that case strong enough to establish that you and everyone else are equal? Because all of us are powered by the same cosmic energy.

All our problems in the world, between us human beings occur because we identify too much with the human body. Without the body, without the mind, there can be no desire. Without desire, there can be no one-upmanship. Without one-upmanship, how can there be inequality? And without inequality how can there be ignorance? Just this awareness that you are not the body, that you are the God you seek, that you are the Universal energy is so brilliant and so very liberating.

“Desire, ignorance, and inequality—this is the trinity of bondage,” taught Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary it is today!

Indeed. We are enslaved by our ignorance of our true Self. We are trapped in our desires. And we are victims of the conditioning that we are an unequal race. The question we must ask ourselves is if you inhale from the same source I exhale into, how can you and I be unequal? If people across the world understood this truth, there would be no problems, no wars, and we will have peace and love everywhere.

Swami Vivekananda further said, over 100 years ago, and it is so true, so relevant, even today: “We believe that every being is divine, is God. Every soul is a sun covered over with clouds of ignorance; the difference between soul and soul is owing to the difference in density of these layers of clouds.”

By simply worshiping, and celebrating, creation, we will find our God and peace __ both that which we desperately seek and need!

Worship Your Divinity!



Recognize how sacred you are and worship your divinity.
There’s so much focus on an external God that we humans have all but conceded that we are mere pawns in this game called Life! While it is important to follow our individual faith and respect the traditions in which we have been raised, it is equally crucial for us not to feel unworthy.  
Just consider you upbringing. You have been told that God is all powerful. That God hates sinners. And that you must keep doing good to stay blessed. So, all along, the reference point is something external. And when things go wrong, as they often do, you believe that your solutions too has to come from an outside source! As you grow up you do get a whiff of wisdom and realize that it is perhaps possible that the energy that powers the Universe, that keeps you alive, is inside of you. And that energy is possibly the God that everyone refers to and is looking for. Yet years of conditioning cannot possibly be dismissed by few moments of epiphany.
Also consider the experiences when you have possibly encountered people who, while appearing to be incapable of divinity (at least as perceived by us), are able to provide phenomenal insights to intelligent living. Your logical, re-doubting mind often wonders if such people have an axe to grind or are charlatans! Fundamentally, while we humans crave that the Gods we worship, in temples and churches and mosques and gurudwaras, open their eyes and grant us our wishes, we have a serious problem believing and trusting when God, finally, speaks, especially in human form!
Seek Within and You shall find
During some specially trying times, a few years ago, my wife and I went to meet a Siddha yogi. We were referred to him by a close friend. When we reached his place, on the outskirts of Chennai, we were quite startled to find him dressed in a lungi and vest, standing outside on the street and smoking a beedi. He politely requested us to go inside and be seated. He took his own time finishing his smoke and later joined us. As soon as he sat down in front of us, he said, “Is your problem your debt?” We were dumbfounded. Startled. Shocked. We had not spoken to him about anything. Nor had we introduced ourselves. And here he was, putting his finger on exactly the same issue that confronted us, our enormous debt and our struggling business! How was that possible, we wondered? But the yogi had no intention to allow us time to marvel at his abilities. He continued quickly, even as I mumbled saying yes, “Sir, your problem is not your debt. Your problem is how you are dealing with your debt. You are hating your debt. So, it bothers you. Instead love your debt. It has come into your Life to teach you something. Learn you lessons. And be sure that when you learn them your debt will go away just the way it came into your Life. All our problems in Life can be solved ONLY when we look within and find our OWN answers.” With that our meeting ended.
We found his answer too simplistic. I remember telling my wife as I got into our car that the man is either too naïve or is a charlatan! Now, when I look back I realize how stupid, fickle and uncharitable I had been. Because the yogi had not called us, we went to him. He did not ask for money. He did not prescribe a tantric ritual or a series of prayers. All he said was look within and advised us to learn our lessons while loving the problem that had invited itself over in our Life! Over the years I have found only his approach working for us. Our problems remain where they are. Even so, our ability to deal with them have grown phenomenally because we have learned to love them and continue to learn from them. The yogi has also become a close personal friend who has taught us another important perspective to Life: “Worship the divinity within you. Face Life. All your solutions, to problems that confound you, are within. Seek within and you shall find them”!
In our case, it was our debt. Your story and your problem situation may be different. But whatever the problem may be, I am sure, this awakening perspective will certainly apply to you too.
It really is as simple as it sounds. Life is not complicated. We make it so by failing to recognize our own divinity!