A Life lesson from a blade of grass

Being humble, yielding, in times of adversity, is being courageous. That’s when you emerge “cleansed” and “stronger”!

There’s an ancient Chinese analogy for understanding courage, for demystifying the popular perceptions we have of this magical quality which we all possess but don’t summon, don’t use. Imagine a 3000-year-old ancient tree, 300-feet high. The very sight, the presence of this tree gives strength, denotes power. But a huge storm, like Nilam, can__and often will__ uproot this tree. When the storm blows over, the tree which, obviously logically aware of its might and power, fought and refused to surrender, lies defeated, uprooted and felled. Whereas the blades of grass at the foot of the tree and around it, remain un-uprooted. Imagine the meek, easy-to-yank-out blades of grass, being able to withstand a whole night of fury. And after yielding to the storm, allowing the storm to ‘cleanse’ them, the blades of grass are again looking fresh and dancing in the early morning sunlight, with little drops of dew adorning their tips like crown jewels. That’s illogical, right? The mighty tree has been felled and the meek grass lives on, happy, blissful! And yet, this is what happens. This is what courage is all about. The tree showed logic and operated from its head__its knowledge of its strength and its ‘unyielding nature’ is what felled it, not the storm really. On the other hand, the grass showed tremendous mindfulness, ‘yielding’ happily when the storm raged and finding the song in its heart back the next morning! Between the two, the grass showed courage.

Courage is not fearlessness. Courage means going all the way despite the fear, in spite of the unknown. The storm represents the phase that sometimes we encounter in Life. And the tree represents those who operate from too much logic, too much ego, too much unwillingness to change. And the grass is the inspiration for all of us__to be willing to let go, surrender, yield, so that our inner equilibrium remains undisturbed despite the huge storm raging outside. Courage is therefore choosing the way of the grass__to NOT treat Life as something to be conquered, defeated, but to yield humbly, intelligently, and to go with the flow!

Your ego obstructs your living Life fully

If you are not living Life, fully, freely – it could be that your ego is coming in the way!

Humility is the key to your spiritual growth. But your ego is a big deterrent. It has to first be expunged.

A Japanese king sent his minister to meet the Zen Master Lin Chi. The king had a question. He wanted to know the difference between hell and heaven. Lin Chi told the minister to ask the king to come personally if he really wanted to learn the answer to his question. The king arrived to meet Lin Chi and bent down to touch the Master’s feet.

Lin Chi reacted violently to the king’s gesture: “You idiot! You don’t even know manners?”
The king was shocked. And in a rage, he immediately drew his sword to attack Lin Chi.
Lin Chi said: “Wait a minute! This is the door to hell”
The king was surprised. He put his sword back in its sheath.
Lin Chi now said: “Good. Now that is the door to heaven.”
The king said he did not understand what this was all about.
Lin Chi explained. “Hell is not anywhere else, in some after-Life, but is in your ego. How does it matter if I called you an idiot? Why did you get so angry that you were ready to take a poor man’s Life? Who was hurt? Think carefully – it is your ego that was hurt. And when you abandoned the hurt – in your quest for learning from me – you put the sword back in the sheath, you expunged your ego and so rose in your heaven. Heaven is where there is no ego.”
Lin Chi’s wisdom is so pure. So beautiful. The biggest hurdle on the spiritual path is the ego. How does it matter whether people call you an idiot or a great mind? At the end of the day, it is what they think, it is their opinion. You cannot concern yourself with people’s opinions. You cannot live your Life based on them. Know who you are. That’s enough. You don’t really need to depend on what society thinks of you. It is your ego that depends, that thrives on societal opinion! Your ego keeps you enslaved in a social context. To live Life fully, freely, that context does not really matter.
The ego is what causes all your misery. So, to rid yourself of your suffering, get rid of the ego. A simple way to expunge the ego is to drop the “I” in every context in Life. A friend of mine came to me to share his feelings over a messy divorce that he was going through. He said, “I have been betrayed, I have been trampled upon and I am being accused. I feel so stupid, so used. I must get rid of this feeling of injustice and shame. Is there a way?” The Buddha has taught that one way to be free is to drop the “I”. I shared that learning with my friend. And asked him to say the same statement again without using “I” anywhere in it. My friend tried and this is how it sounded: “Have been betrayed. Have been trampled upon. Am being accused. Feel so stupid, so used. Must get rid of this feeling of injustice and shame.” And that’s an interesting method, isn’t it? Without the “I” the statement is without a personal context. It is just a reporting of fact and feeling. And therefore, a solution to the situation, appears almost instantaneously! With the “I”, a resolution, or an escape from that hurt, would have been unthinkable!
Osho, the Master, points to what a beautiful Life await us if we can drop our ego. He says: “The ego is preventing everything. Your ego is making you a beggar, while you are an emperor of a vast empire. Of course, that empire does not belong to the outside world. It is in your own being. Which has the vastness of the whole Universe.”

Get off that “ledge” and get going…

Last night I watched the 1993 Hollywood action movie Cliffhanger. In the movie, Gabe, played by Sylvester Stallone, is a mountain rescue team member. When attempting a rescue mission, across from a ledge on a mountain top called The Tower, Gabe is unable to save Sarah, whose harness breaks and she falls 4000 feet to her death. Gabe is unable to forgive himself and vows to never attempt another rescue in his Life. In fact, he gives up climbing. Eight months after Sarah’s funeral, Gabe comes to pick up his belongings from his girlfriend Jessie’s place and asks her if she too will go with him. Jessie is livid and distraught that Gabe’s gone into a shell and is grieving with guilt. She tries to talk to him, invites him to move on while explaining to him that it wasn’t his fault! But Gabe refuses to accept her point of view. In one final, desperate attempt to make him see reason, Jessie screams at him. She says: “If you don’t forgive yourself, let go and move on, you will be on that ledge forever.
Metaphorically, many of us are on our own “ledges” too. Often times, we make Life choices that backfire or even blow up on our face. It’s important we recognize that making mistakes, judgment errors, is an integral part of growing up. Almost with every wrong call, the realization that it was indeed a wrong call is instantaneous – as soon as it fails or bombs! Within ourselves, we know that it didn’t work out. And we know for sure that it was our __ the individual’s __ mistake. But we will not want to admit it, and instead prefer to grieve with guilt, pretty much like Gabe, because it “feels good” to take the “higher moral ground”. Well to sit on a perch, even if it made from a mountain of guilt and self-soothing morality, is good for a while. But how long can anyone be up there? And how long can anyone be carrying the burden of a past guilt? At one time or the other, you have to climb down, you have to set down your guilt, free yourself, and move on. If you don’t do that, you will be depressive and will suffer endlessly.
Today is Kshamavani– the Forgiveness Day, per the Jain calendar. Mahavira taught that forgiveness begins with the Self. Unless you forgive yourself for your mistakes, your transgressions, your anger and your ego, you cannot forgive others. And if you don’t forgive others you are a breeding ground of more hatred, more anger, more himsa (violence – violent thought). The Jains use a very beautiful phrase to practise and propagate forgiveness: Micchami Dukkadam. It means ‘May all the evil that may have been done be fruitless’.
Today’s a good day to make an intelligent choice. To forgive. Begin with yourself. Let go of all resentment. And let all the himsa in you, turn into ahimsanon-violent thought. Get off that “ledge”, learn to forgive, if possible forget, and move on! You, surely, will live happily ever after!

Life’s too short…so, “move on” when you can!

I had an interesting experience yesterday. A certain institution, a not-for-profit service provider, who have laid down some very stringent processes for them to be able to run a world-class operation, decided not to allow me to use their services. Apparently, I had failed to fulfil some of their requirements. The service was time-bound and had to be  delivered today (Wednesday morning IST). A senior management member from the service provider’s side sent me a strong email saying they could not deliver me their service because of my inability to have met/fulfilled certain criteria. While accepting their verdict, I told them that I failed to see why they were inflexible. The gentleman got back saying while they were flexible with certain ‘genuine’ cases, they were unwilling to be so with me. He wondered if I would, despite this one time, want to continue to avail of their services. I wrote back a mail saying Life is too short to be breaking up over what they saw as ‘a non-negotiable’ process and what I saw as an ‘inanity’. I wrote why I felt my case was genuine – not so much to influence the service provider’s stance but to merely explain mine! Even so, I offered to continue to avail of their services going forward. The mails between us were officious and terse, with both of us using impeccable English – making the exchange more dramatic than it should have been. After the last mail from me was sent, I forgot about the issue and moved on with other things to do on my plate.
By early evening though, the gentleman who had been corresponding with me, wrote back. He apologized for his stance and felt, after reading my last mail, that my case was indeed genuine. And that he would advise his team to deliver the service that I had requested. He went a step further and called me up. By the time his call came in, I had just finished reading his mail. I answered his call saying I was very grateful for his understanding and deeply appreciative of his offer to provide us with his institution’s service. He said: “Please don’t deify anyone or anything beyond what is necessary. I would like to apologize for what happened. Let us move on.”
Being a not-for-profit organization, that was offering a service which was rare, there was no way I was going to make them accountable for their stance. So, there really was no need for the gentleman to do any of the following:
          – Review my case
    – Accept that, despite my non-compliance of their process, there may have been an ‘error in
    – Apologize
    – Pick up the phone and ensure (through that one call he achieved what half-a-dozen emails
      could not) that a bond was built
    – Offer to provide the service  
To be sure, the fault was also mine – owing to a set of circumstances that I was caught in, I was unable to fulfil certain criteria that anyone seeking their service must. Through the gentleman’s conduct, and this experience, I learnt, yet again, the power of “moving on”.
A lot of the time, a lot of people, cling to positions, stances, opinions, that their ego drives them to take. Once on that ego-driven perch, reason fails to apply. Empathy fails to matter. And the ‘I-am-right’ view holds sway. It takes a lot of courage and conviction to climb down from such a stance, accept a mistake and “move on”.
Think of the number of times you have been driven to taking such stances. Perhaps you are still clinging on to such positions. Review your actions and ask yourself if you can really “move on”. If you believe you can, just climb down, own up your mistake and let go of your big, fat ego. Life is short…so, “move on” when you can! Your world will be a much more beautiful and happier place than it is presently!

Witness – Doer = Bliss

To understand and deal better with your ego, just be a witness. Not the doer. The ego is all about doing. Being the witness is about non-doing, simply seeing.
In fact, as I have seen it happen in my Life, all of Life’s experiences are to humble you, to teach you to be a good witness. To realize that in any case you are not causing anything – neither success, nor failure. And with each new experience, your ego gets peeled away. And you start relating to your inner core, your soul, more and more. Imagine your lifetime to be like a pencil. As you sharpen the pencil, its shavings fall to the ground and expose the lead within. With your lifetime too, the same thing is happening. With each experience, a part of your ego has been shaved off and you are closer to your real Self. Over time, there’s only a non-doing, no ego Self of you that is left. And that’s the point when you truly realize what a great teacher Life is!
So, don’t fuss or obsess over your ego. Don’t be stumped by it. Don’t be controlled by it. Don’t attempt to drop it either. Just sit back and watch Life happen to you. As if you are a third party, a mere witness. When you are in this state, you can see through this whole game called Life. You will realize that you were never in control, you are not in control, that you cannot control anything in your Life! You will then enjoy yourself merely being a witness, without engaging with your doing self – your ego! You will then be bliss!

Stay Humble, Stay Happy

Unhappiness is a condition that arises from expectations. When what you expect, or want, is not met, not fulfilled, you are unhappy. Expectations complicate Life. They are unreasonable demands your mind places on Life. They are a function of your ego leading you. Now, you can’t do much to become egoless. It is pretty much impossible to be egoless. It is also a bad idea to suppress your ego, because some day, under some condition, it will erupt and cripple you, causing you much anguish and suffering. But surely, the ego can be made irrelevant. And that you can do by always remembering just these few truisms:

  • You arrived with nothing
  • You will depart with nothing
  • Life is pretty simple when you try and do your bit to make this world a better place and leave without fuss, quietly

Indeed. When you see yourself as a mere speck in the vastness of the bountiful cosmic design, you will recognize and celebrate your nothingness. It is when you think in terms of your narrow vision, focusing only on your turf, your fiefdom__acquired no doubt through education, experience, expertise, hard work, position and business__ do you think of owning, controlling and possessing it. However, in reality, whatever you try to possess is actually possessing you! So, the fear of losing what you possess, cripples you, making you fearful, anxious and unhappy.

There’s one way to be free from the clutches of such an existence. That way__and word__is ‘humility’.

Justice K Chandru bidding goodbye – Pic Courtesy New Indian Express
This morning’s papers reported the story of a respected Judge of the Madras High Court, Justice K.Chandru, retiring from service yesterday. The papers ran pictures of Chandru taking a local suburban train back home. He finished his last day at work as a Judge, came to his office, changed into a dhoti and a khadi shirt, walked__without insisting on being dropped back home in his office car__up to the Beach Station, and boarded a suburban train to his residence on Greenways Road, an upmarket residential neighborhood in Chennai. In India, in Chennai, this is rare. Members of the judiciary are known to fluant their official status on the streets __ riding in cars sporting red beacon lamps! It is also rare for someone relinquishing office not to want, nor allow, a felicitation ceremony to mark his or her tenure. Breaking a century-old tradition, Chandru declined an official farewell. A notice stuck on his office door read: No deities__no Flowers, no one is hungry__no Fruits, none is shivering__no Shawls. We need only Best Wishes.” Chandru simply finished his work__disposing of 96,000 cases in his less than seven-year tenure__for the day, declared his assets to the Acting Chief Justice (the first time a retired Judge has done so, though the norm requires Judges to do so, nobody really follows it and no one insists either!), walked out on to the street and blended with the fruitsellers, rickshawpullers, pedestrians and public __ a mere face in the crowd!

Justice Chandru is humility personified. Important, he doesn’t seem to be doing what he is doing for projecting something he is not. He is who he is! He inspires us to re-think our own lives.

How much of the Life you live is led by your ego, even if sub-consciously? How can you make your ego irrelevant by embracing humility, making your Life simpler, happier?

Each of us has our own encounters with our ego several times daily. Except you don’t notice it or define it as one. The ego has this uncanny knack of camouflaging its existence, of hiding behind other sentiments. Here are some typical daily ego-moments:

  • Someone says something which you despise – How dare so-and-so say it is ego appearing as anger! Or how unkind and cruel of so-and-so to say it is ego masquerading as a hurt!
  • I deserved better – The ego strutting about as a “reasonable” expectation
  • I have been wronged, done in, stabbed in the back – The ego pretending to be righteousness and self-sympathy
  • For all my integrity and effort, I must get this – The ego making its presence felt as a demand or a want
  • Life’s not fair/This is so totally unfair – The ego coming across as a sulk or a deep brooding

So, however hard you may try, you can’t get rid of the ego at all. The more you fight your ego, the stronger it will get. Instead, in each of those contexts above, and others, imagine if you did not recognize the ego’s protests at all. What if you did not give it any space, any importance? Wouldn’t it lose its relevance, its power, its control of you, of your emotions? That’s really what just being really means. When you just be, in acceptance of what is, in any situation, with no resistance, no strife, then you are being truly humble. Which is, you are being a true child of creation, of Life, doing your bit and leaving the rest to Life __ no expectations, no wants in return for your effort. When there are no wants, there will be, logically, no unhappiness, right?! It is as simple as it sounds.

To be sure, humility does not mean either abstinence or giving up. Humility simply means not wanting, not placing any demands on anyone or anything. Humility also means simply being __ not because you want something in return, but because you love being__and are__that way. Humility is not egolessness. It is not the opposite of being egoistic either. When you are humble, you are being genuine. When you are genuine, you are one with creation. It is this oneness that helps you celebrate who you are and connect with the core of peace and happiness inside you!

To get more out of Life, get out of Life’s way!

Almost everyone wants more out of Life. But sometimes in Life, nothing seems to work! When nothing works, miracles will! Miracles happen not when you want them, but when you need them. Miracles don’t happen from your logic, they happen from the Universe’s magic. Not through rituals and mumbo-jumbo and god-men or god-women but from complete, total surrender to the Universe. They happen from letting go. They happen when you get out of Life’s way and allow Life to lead you the way!

Someone I know told me his Life’s story a few years back. He had lost everything in Life. His most recent marriage too had ended in a divorce, with the court granting his wife much of his estate. His business had suffered owing to the protracted legal proceedings. His children from an earlier marriage too had staked claim to his estate. They too had got what was left through the court settlement. His partner of several years had schemed and finally forced him to sell out his stake in the business ‘as-is-where-is’. He had barely got a few months’ survival costs out of that deal. That too had run out and all he had was about 200 pounds with him one morning in March! He was staying with a friend. He woke up, left a note for his friend, who was still asleep, and took a cab to the nearest rent-a-car service centre in East London. He hired a car for two hours but paid for five with the money he had. He just had enough to buy himself a burger and a Starbucks Coffee. He started driving out of London. He told himself he would drive as far as the gas in his rented car took him. He would step out where the car stopped and find a way, then and there, to end his Life! “I didn’t see a point living anymore. Nobody loved me. I had no money. And I was old, 58! I thought what was the big idea in struggling with a Life I didn’t want,” recalled my friend. So, when his car sputtered to a stop on an incline, en route up a small hill, he stepped out and walked up to the hill top. He managed to get to edge of a precipice that lay waiting for him. It was easily a 50 feet drop to a hard, rocky, certain death, he thought, as he surveyed the ‘last mile’ or so of his Life! He looked up at the sky. And noticed it was dark and cloudy. He spent several minutes staring at the clouds __ and wondered if there really was any silver lining in any of them. He thought all that he had gained, lost, learned and unlearned in Life. He confessed his mistakes to himself. And, in a ‘subconscious act of benevolence’, he thanked the Universe for what had been a tumultuous but eventful Life. It was then that he realized it was raining. Not heavily. But just so. He started enjoying the rain and told himself that since this was the last rain he would ever feel, he might as well wait for it to stop and relish every moment of being drenched in it. He closed his eyes and focused on each rain drop that fell on him. There was a certain beauty and a rhythm with which they fell, he noticed. Soon, he thought he heard music from the falling rain. It was like a very soothing Jazz piece, from his favorite, Louis Armstrong. Soon the music ended. And he could feel the rain no more. He opened his eyes believing that it was time he jumped without any more ado. When he opened his eyes, there, in front of him, where only gloomy, dark clouds had loomed large less than an hour ago, he saw the most beautiful rainbow ever! “I thought it was a rainbow created only for me! And if the Universe was creating such a miracle for me, I realized I had no business taking my Life which too the Universe, creation, whatever, had ‘given’ me. How could I take something which wasn’t even mine,” he recounted. He took a deep breath. He walked back to the road, hitched a ride. And decided to live a new Life!  He has since rebuilt his business, mended his relationships with his children, and lives Life to the fullest. What would have been the end of a sob story, continues to inspire!

When I heard him tell this story, my own Life was filled with darkness. His story gave me an opportunity to understand the magical quality of Life. I too, just like you perhaps, have come to such moments of complete hopelessness. Many, many times! I have learned, each time, that Life’s best when we don’t come in Life’s way! The truth is Life is playing a game with each of us. And since this Life has not been given to us because we asked for it, and since it is only a gift, we must not look a gift horse in the mouth. Our games and the rules are different__and unique to each of us. Metaphorically, each of us has been given a unique version of, let us say, ‘Angry Birds’. The rules vary and the levels of difficulty vary. It gets tougher as we start playing the game better. Every conquest of a new level is an ‘aha’ moment! Just as with a game, if you can’t crack a difficult level, flinging the phone or the iPad, in frustration, isn’t going to help, there’s no point absolutely getting angry with Life! Life has to be met, played with diligently and learned from daily. As you learn to play your Life’s game better, your level of difficulty may well increase, but as you let go and get out of Life’s way, you will see the beauty and magic in it!

Getting in Life’s way is something that we all do all the time. Not that we succeed. But our vanity, our ego, wants us to solve the problems that Life has placed in front of us. This is when despondency and depression sets in. This is when you feel you can go on no more. This is precisely when you must learn to get out of Life’s way! That’s only when you will get more out of Life too!

No matter what you are dealing with right now, learn to enjoy and feel the rain. Or if it isn’t raining yet, simply open your window and let some fresh air caress you. Hear the music of Life. Dwell in the beauty of that irreplaceable moment. Watch yourself coming alive. Witness a rainbow brighten up your Life. Your rainbow may well be a bird chirping, a dew drop falling or a child smiling on the bus. That moment of magic, that reaffirmation that Life’s beautiful, despite the circumstances you find yourself in, is your miracle!

Here’s hoping you get out of Life’s way and get more out of it this Sunday!

Don’t criticize and don’t worry about being criticized either!

Everyone has an opinion about everything. And everyone loves to offer it whether it is asked for, needed, or not. Some of that opinion is often critical. Again, everybody loves to criticize others. And they do it all the time! It’s so interesting. And often downright funny. If you just watch the social media space, for instance, everyone has an opinion on how the country must be done. Every action of public figures __ politicians, bureaucrats, movie stars, sportspeople __ is criticized and rubbished.



You and I are as guilty of indulging in, and are not spared from it either, criticism.



Just review the past 24 hours. Think of all that you said. And in some way you may have criticized or offered an opinion on something or the other in your circle of influence. Maybe you may have posted something on your facebook page criticizing a movie or a politician. Or you may have sworn at an unruly driver on the street and criticized the lack of traffic sense among people.  The one curious thing about criticism is that it always sounds right and justified when you use it on someone else. But when you are criticized you often grieve. This happens everywhere __ in our homes, at workplaces, among friends, in social circles, on a plane, even at a funeral! Criticism can surely debilitate you__leaving you wondering why people are being so mean and are unwilling to understand you.




Yet when you receive criticism, it is a great opportunity to cleanse yourself. When you are, or anything you have done is, ridiculed, questioned and rubbished, through your pain you can awaken to an awareness that can transform you. Your grief, the way you feel at the time that you are being criticized, gives you the opportunity to understand the value of being compassionate and appreciative of others’ efforts and opinions.

In order to appreciate this better, first understand why you__or I__ criticize in the first place. Criticism is, fundamentally, an ego game. It is your mind urging you to consider yourself superior to another person. It is also a reaction borne out of fear. Because the act of criticizing is older than you are! So, you have been criticized even before you came to terms with the ways of the world. Your criticism, of others, is often, therefore, in self-defence. You criticize because you find it, obviously, more rewarding than being criticized!



The best way to deal with criticism is the way you would deal with hot candle wax. First allow it to dry up. It is a lot easier to discard it and get it out of your system when it has become cold and stale. Understand also that criticism is just a review about an event or action that is over, past, dead and done away with. In the now, in the present, there is no issue. So, learn to let go and move on than dwelling in the past! Second, appreciate where the person who is critical of your actions is coming from. Even if the person is unjustified, rude, violent or cruel, understand that that person has a right to her or his view. It belongs to that person and does not belong to you __ even if it is about you. Train your mind to respond with an exclamation__from awe, from wonder, from amazement__ that says “Is that so?” instead of responding with anger and violence while asking “How dare you?” Know that when you, even if it is only in your mind, question the other person’s right to opinionate, criticize, it is really your ego which is leading you. Refuse to follow. Turn your attention away. Learn to treat the whole experience like a game. Tell yourself: “Hey! Watch out! This situation, this comment, this person is provoking me. And my mind is urging me to fall prey, to succumb. Let me escape!” And each time you win, punch your fist up like a champion will. When you do succumb, do get dragged into the situation and when you emerge from it bruised and grieving, remind yourself to not fall prey again. Like with all other games you have learned in Life, you get better and better at dealing with criticism with practice. Then, over a period of time, you will have mastered the art of being unmoved. All criticism, then, will just fall off you. Like water falls off a duck’s back!

Celebrate your critics too. They are the ones who will tell you things which no one else will. Not all criticism is unfair or unjustified. There’s value in everything. Focus on the message and not on the messenger. On what is being said and not on who is saying it or why the person should not be saying it! Again, you don’t need to always agree with what’s being said. But you can at least reflect on it. And if you see value, incorporate the learning or input, to make you, or whatever you are doing, better.



Whatever you do, whether you welcome criticism or reject it, learn to be both miserly with your own views of others and to be unaffected by their views of you! It’s a beautiful way to cut your giant ego to size. And an even more wonderful way to celebrate the mystical diversity of thought that thrives in the oneness of all creation!  

Empty Yourself of You – All the Time!

Only when you empty yourself of your ego will you understand the essence of intelligent living!

Unknown to us we__you, me, everyone__carry a rather unnecessary sense of self-importance than we normally should or even need. Self-importance is different from self-respect or self-esteem. Self-importance means you think your Life is being controlled by you! The more self-importance you perceive of yourself, the lesser you will be closer to realizing your true Self and the angrier you will be with Life and with people around you!

Several years ago, things were going horribly wrong for me at work. My team was playing truant. People were quitting. They were sharing information with competitors. And there was a whole deal of negative energy flying around. The final nail in the coffin was when one member of my team, an office assistant, filed a police compliant against me for non-payment of a statutory due. It was an ignominious moment. We had, as a Firm, picked up that kid literally from the street. We had supported his education helping him acquire a degree in Commerce and an MBA in Marketing through distant learning programs. I was heart-broken when he did what he did. For one there was no truth in his complaint. Second, HE had done that to ME! Over a drink, I shared my grief with a very dear friend, whom I will call Guruji!

“You know how much I have done for this boy,” I lamented. And continued: “I have helped him financially when his mother was in hospital and later when she died. I have bought him clothes every quarter. I have paid for his exam fees and his tuitions. I have enrolled him to a computer training Program and helped him become tech savvy. And he still did this to me?”

Guruji smiled back at me calmly and asked, “Are you finished with your tale of woe, AVIS?”

“Are you finding something funny with my plight,” I shot back, quizzically.

“Indeed. I find it funny that you think your team is the problem. To me you are the problem!”, said Guruji, in a tone which was both peaceful and rude-sounding to me!

“What are you saying? I have been a good employer. I have led with care and compassion. I have uplifted the lot of my team. I have provided them with rewards, recognition and opportunity. And you say I am the problem?” I roared.

“Just count the number of times you have used ‘I’ in this conversation AVIS. You are so full of yourself. Empty yourself of the ‘I’ in you. Be humble and you will grow and glow!” said Guruji.

It was like a ton of bricks had fallen on me. I was devastated. But over several days and weeks of introspection and rumination I understood what Guruji meant. This old Zen story, which he sent me on the mail, further helped me.

A Cup of Tea 

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Having understood the essence of and discovered the power of intelligent living, I went on to empty my cup. But the interesting thing is, when you empty it, doesn’t stay empty. You have to keep on emptying it. It is a continuous process.

Each time someone slights you, each time someone rubs you the wrong way, you mind will tell you “How dare he or she?”. Immediately, remember Guruji, remember Nan-in and empty your cup. When things are not going according to your plan, and you are getting angry, irritable, disturbed and your inner peace is destroyed, empty your cup.

The more you stay empty, the more grace it will attract. Because Life can only fill an empty cup with abundance. How can a cup that is full attract any grace or abundance?

The simplest way to live is to know that your cup must be empty and to remember that Life goes on, in spite of you and not because of you!

The End is Always the Beginning!

The end is always the beginning! When you fail, love that moment. Because it teaches you how to face Life! Failure always prepares us for trying better the next time!
The reason why all of us struggle with coping with failure is because we think we are in control. We feel we have put in the best effort. And so, we believe, we must pull off every plan that we embark on. In a way it is our ego, of us knowing what the outcome will be, that makes our failures unbearable.
On the other hand, failure can be a great motivator if we shed our ego. When we understand that what’s within our control are only the motive, the means and the effort. Beyond that we don’t have any control and therefore no right to the outcome. When this thinking is firmly established in our sub-conscious, we will treat failure as a teacher. And worship failure than abhor or loathe it!
Abhishek and Vikram: Expressive and Intense!
Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet and converse with one of India’s finest film makers, Mani Ratnam. A good friend, and one of India’s finest cinema critics, Baradwaj Rangan’s new book ‘Conversations with Mani Ratnam’ was launched by Penguin yesterday. And I caught up with Mani on the sidelines of the event. Everyone around there at the event was keen to talk of and toast to Mani’s fine body of work, and his most successful films. I wanted to learn from him how he dealt with failure.
Me: “Mani, the director, as the captain, the leader, often takes some momentous decisions. They work out well sometimes. And they backfire sometimes. In recent times, your decision to cast Abhishek Bachchan as ‘Raavan’ in the Hindi version of the Tamizh film ‘Raavanan’ (Actor Vikram plays the title role in the Tamizh version!) completely backfired. How do you deal with a situation when you realize you have perhaps blundered with such an important decision?”
Mani: “Failure at and with something is not the end of the road. I still feel both choices__Vikram in Tamizh and Abhishek in Hindi__were right ones. And both actors delivered masterfully. They have very distinctive styles of delivery. One is intense and the other is expressive. As his director, I believe Abhishek gave me what I wanted. He gave me a stellar performance in that role. The audience rejected it though. And I accept that verdict. Did I fail? Commercially perhaps. But creatively, I learned more than what others may even understand. And that’s the only way to look at things when they don’t work out the way you planned them to be.”
That’s a great quality. A mark of a winner. To be himself in the face of both success and failure. When you fail, despite your best planning and efforts, it only reinforces that the Master Plan has no flaws. So, that moment of failure does not call for grief. It calls for exultation, celebration. Because you have just discovered something that has the potential to break your ego __ which is that YOU are NOT in control of any of the outcomes of your efforts! And why would anyone not want their ego bubble bursted? Because only in the absence of the ego does bliss arrive and thrive! When the ego dies, a new awakening, a new YOU is born!
Which is why the end is always the beginning. So, love it, love yourself when you fail. Because you have one more opportunity at Life and__hopefully, intelligent__living!