Why Gandhi is relevant to your personal transformation today!

AVIS-on-Happyness

The one who is angry is often helpless

Being angry with a situation and expressing your anger on everyone and everything around you is never an intelligent response.

I watched a beautiful Malayalam film the other day called Manjadikuru. Made by Anjali Menon (of Bangalore Days fame), the film tells the story of a family as seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy, Vicky. One of the protagonists of the film is a man called Raghu (played by Rahman). And Raghu is forever angry with his family – with his brother and his sisters. Raghu’s anger seems often irrational and habituated. As in one moment he could be complaining about his brother’s decision to turn a Naxalite, abdicating his family responsibilities, and the other moment he could be ranting about his sisters flocking together only to seek a share in the family wealth. So, Vicky, while narrating the story, concludes that his big learning watching Raghu’s bouts of anger is that those who are angry are often helpless.
Anjali Menon (who is also the writer of the film) shares a phenomenal spiritual insight there. Something that I can totally relate to. I used to be prone to senseless bouts of anger too. I once remember, as a 20-year-old, flinging my shaving razor at our television – which left it cracked – because I could not have a reasonable, logical conversation with my parents. Years later, when these anger spells had become far too frequent and had begun to ruin my professional stature, I discovered that each time I lost it, I was choosing to express myself in a violent sort of way only because I was unable to control what was going on or what others were saying or doing or because I was unable to convince someone. Bottomline: my helplessness was manifesting as anger.
Through diligent practice of mouna (daily silence periods), I learnt that your helplessness is nothing but a ego-based position. Why do you need to convince anybody? You have a right to your opinion. And they have a right to theirs. It is only when you try to force your view on someone and you fail, it is only when you try to control a situation and you fail, that you get angry. But the truth is that you never were in control of anything or anyone. Things just happen. People just behave the way they want to. So, just go with the flow. There is no need to be angry. And even if you do experience anger, channelize it constructively. Anger is nothing but the energy within you. Don’t squander it through violent thought, expression or action. Simply use it to drive change in a logical, legitimate fashion. This is what Gandhi did to practise ahimsa and help secure India her independence. This is what anger, when used constructively, can eventually yield.

So, if you are experiencing too much anger within you, pause and ask yourself if you are responding so only because you are helpless? In asking that question, you may well unlock the way to a lifetime of inner peace.

Fight the good fight, fight the issue, but forgive the person

When people behave irrationally, trampling upon you, it is time for you to practice forgiveness.
There is no point in grieving over others’ behavior. Because you have no control over them. What you can control is how you react. Forgiveness needs to and must be cultivated. This does not mean you give up your stand or stop being firm in a situation. Fight the issue, fight the good fight, be dogged about what you believe is right, including the way you want to be treated, but forgive the person.
The practice of forgiveness involves training your mind using three steps: 1. Give the situation love. Send peaceful thoughts and energy to that person. This may be initially difficult, because the very thought of that person may make you feel angry. But keep at it. Keep saying, “May everything that this person wants to achieve in Life, and with me, be possible and may there always be light, happiness and peace in this person’s Life”. 2. Find ways to communicate to the person what your stand or views on the issue you are fighting over are. Avoid getting even. Stick to the point. Text messaging or sending a simple email are good options for such a purpose. Remember a physical interface can only aggravate and lead to a verbal duel. 3. Work hard on not revisiting that hurt. Immerse yourself in what gives you joy. Music, children, work, nature…whatever; keep reminding your mind that you don’t want to think about the hurt.  The most important reason why you must forgive and move on__irrespective of your stand on the issue__is that you__and I__are created to be happy and not in grief. You may, however, stick to your stand on the issue itself, doing whatever it takes to right the wrong that you believe has been committed.
Gandhi led the way and his Life with this idea of forgiveness. He would always champion this in his practice of ahimsa: “I cannot hate anybody, least of all an Englishman. But I hate the way the English rule our country and will fight their way till the very end.”
Big learning there. Holding on to a resentful episode at a personal level means you are continuing to hurt. This will only chew you up, keep you unhappy and in pain. When you walk away, with forgiveness in your heart, from a hurtful, resentful situation, you are walking tall. And you are walking away happy. Doesn’t that matter the most?

Break free from the tyranny of "I can’t"

The biggest impediment to living your dreams is the view that whatever you want to do hasn’t been done before and/or that you can’t do it.

This is what I call ‘starting trouble’. In the good old days here in India, we used to have Ambassador cars (we still have some of them on the roads). My family too had one. It was already a pretty old car by the time we bought it. And every once in a while, its ignition switch would fail and so we used to bring out a metal ‘handle’ from the boot and literally, physically crank the engine up. Or, if there was help available, we would push the vehicle in neutral gear for a while in a bid to start the engine with a jerk as the gears were switched! Almost all of us are like that old Ambassador car. We have trouble getting started on our journeys. We are willing to die, unknown to us, a million times in the few years that we are alive, doing things we don’t like or love doing, than live the time we have on this planet fully! To livewe need to awaken to the possibility that we too can achieve anything, absolutely anything, that we want.

So, to get started this morning on what can be a turning point in your Life, just consider what Mahatma Gandhi did. His greatest struggle was not about overthrowing the British. It was about ‘How do you make an enslaved race think and feel equal to others when all around there is compelling evidence of the enslaving race’s ‘superiority’?’ Porus Munshi, an innovator, thinker and author, says Gandhi found a way, by showing people the power of satyagraha and ahimsa. When people realized that they too could contribute to the freedom movement, they felt equal!


There’s a parallel here for us to delve into. We are all enslaved by our beliefs, our insecurities, our self-doubts. We must change the orbit of our thinking. The ‘handle’ we must use to crank up our engines is to awaken to the reality that we are all created equal. If you love painting, know that you too can become successful like M F Hussain, if you love writing fiction, you too can be insanely great like J K Rowling, if you love planes and flying, you too can own an airline like Air Asia’s Tony Fernandez, if you want to change the world and serve, you too can become the next Gandhi or Mother Teresa. The key operative word here is love. And that love must be present and continuous – as in a verb! You must love whatever you do and your love for it must make you want to do it again, and again, and again – no matter what the impediments are. So, awaken. Break free from the tyranny of “I can’t”. Know that nothing can come in between you and your dream, unless you allow it to! Take flight, if you love something, go live it! 

Stop being a ‘thought terrorist’!

You are human first. Your gender, your religion, your nationality, your qualifications and your income come later and, quite honestly, don’t matter at all.
Misbah Quadri
Picture Courtesy: The Hindu
This morning’s Hindureports the shocking story of a 25-year-old young lady, Misbah Quadri, being denied accommodation in all of Mumbai just because she is a Muslim! “Mumbai – of all places?” I thought. If Mumbai has become so parochial, the rest of India may well be damned! But this is not an isolated story or occurrence. The other day I was at a friend’s place for dinner. And he openly acknowledged that he would never rent his apartment to Muslims. He confessed: “Call me conservative or anti-Muslim, I cannot simply trust people who belong to that religion.” My friend is educated, widely traveled, does business globally and yet he holds such a regressive view? Within my own family, I have someone who cannot refer to Muslims without using an expletive alongside. This is a sad trend and needs to be condemned with as much intensity as it is being propagated.
When I think about it deeply, dispassionately, I believe we are finding it convenient to generalize and to hide behind our insecurities and flawed assumptions. While it is true that most acts of terror in the world are conducted by Muslims, it is wrong to imagine that all Muslims are terrorists. Perhaps, people find it simpler to banish an entire community because they have never tried to – or wanted to – be discerning in their judgment. Another reason why people cannot understand or appreciate Muslims may be because of their inscrutable practices, rituals and traditions – from circumcision to Muharram to the ubiquitous burkha. But that is no valid argument. Every religion, the way each of us is raised, every community has its own idiosyncratic methods and beliefs. If you find a burkha restricting women empowerment, then you should find the Hindu practice of disallowing girl children from performing the last rites of a dead parent equally restrictive. A sandhyavandanam can be as banal as Muharram if you don’t understand the significance of either.
I think there are as many reasons to divide humanity in this world as there are people on the planet. We don’t need to invent newer ways or choose to alienate a particular community or religion just because we don’t know or understand someone or something. Those who think they are very smart in exercising options such as the ones my friend has chosen, or what building societies in Mumbai have chosen against young Misbah, are actually sick in their heads and hearts. The very thought that you can discriminate against someone just because he or she belongs to a particular community or religion is an act of violence. As Gandhi would say, it is himsa (violence) of the highest order. It is worse than the acts of terror that kill people around the world each year. We must drop this tendency to be violent in our thoughts, in our perceptions, that lead us to discriminate against fellow human beings – urgently and wholeheartedly.

Fundamentally, let’s remember that there are only two kinds of people in the world. Humans who practice love and compassion. And humans who indulge in hatred and violence. If you cannot immediately decide which category someone belongs to, it is fine. But don’t imagine they belong to the latter category just because they come from a community that you think is redoubtable. If you do that, in the absence of valid, irrefutable evidence, unfortunately, sadly, you will be indulging in himsa too! When you discriminate against someone, you are being violent in thought. And, to be sure, thoughts can kill – they are like cancer, chewing away humanity! So, unless you are one, stop being a ‘thought terrorist’! 

Practice magnanimity: receive, embrace and transform hate into love

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

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