Life happens – and expresses itself – through you, not because of you

Every piece of art or work we create or do happens through us – not because of us. We, in fact, own nothing – not what we create, not what we buy and not what we cling on to!

Music maestro Illayaraaja has declared war on several audio labels and FM and TV stations for copyright violations of his classic songs. He says that his songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s were governed by contracts that have since expired. Any usage, he demands, of those songs must be done after entering into fresh contracts with him and after paying him royalties. He says he will share the royalties with film producers, lyricists and singers. In a business context Illayaraaja must be making the right moves and he has every right to protect his intellectual property. So I don’t really wish to comment on what he thinks is right for him and his work.

Even so, on a spiritual plane, it is relevant to pause and reflect on whether at all we own anything. After all we came with nothing and will go with nothing. So why this high drama over ownership, intellectual property right and copyright? Why lose sleep over who owns what? Yes, we must protect our interests. We must surely work on monetizing them if we are capable and possess the acumen. But there’s no use really in losing sleep over any of this – especially if legal loopholes have been exploited by opportunists or if people have cheaply plagiarized your work.

I am reminded of a beautiful Zen story. A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of Life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find that there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned early and found the thief in his hut. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes nevertheless and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he thought to himself, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.” In a world full of opportunists and fly-by-night operators and plagiarists – who will go all out to lift ideas, work and opportunities – the Zen Master’s attitude is a good one to cultivate, especially if you value your inner peace.

And if you find the Zen Master’s attitude too evolved and therefore removed from your own thinking, perhaps you may just want to consider internalizing what the Bhagavad Gita says. Here’s an extract (maybe not the most authentic but makes sense nevertheless) from the Gita Saram – The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita!

Whatever happened, it happened for the good. 

Whatever is happening, is also happening for the good. 

Whatever will happen, that too will be for the good. 

What have you lost for which you cry? 
What did you bring with you, which you have lost? 
What did you produce, which has perished? 
You did not bring anything with you when you were born. 
Whatever you have taken, it is taken from here. 
Whatever you have given, it is given here. 
You came empty-handed and you will go the same way. 
Whatever is yours today, will be somebody else’s tomorrow 
And it will be someone else’s another day. 
This change is the law of the Universe.

The key to inner peace is to accept this change and live your Life with all humility. Know that you cause nothing – neither your successes, nor your failures. Life simply expresses itself through you. Whatever happens, whatever you create, happens through you and never because of you.

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Accept what comes your way, be happy and keep laughing!

Everything happens at its own time and place. Life works at its own pace – no amount of kicking around, or getting frustrated, can change anything.
Ganesh – Picture Courtesy: Internet
I read this remarkable story of the Tamil film industry music composer (of the famed Sankar-Ganesh duo) Ganesh in The New Indian Express (TNIE) this morning. A letter bomb he received in the mail on November 16, 1986, exploded in his hands and injured his fingers and his eyes. He lost much of his vision in one eye and was left with blurry vision in the other. This incident marked the beginning of a downhill run for his career as well. The Ilayaraja era arrived first and then A.R.Rahman swept the Tamil film industry. For 27 years, Ganesh has been in oblivion. Three weeks ago, Dr.Amar Agarwal, of the Agarwal Group of Eye Hospitals, convinced Ganesh to go through a special surgery which involved implanting an intra-ocular lens with a glued technique. The surgery was successful and Ganesh’s vision has been restored completely! While grateful for this medical miracle, Ganesh says he’s always been accepting of Life. “From my young age I have had only one policy – be happy and keep laughing. Now, I can do it without glasses,” he told TNIE’s Daniel Thimmayya.
There are two learnings I take away from Ganesh’s story. First, this story reiterates, yet again, that there will be times when Life will push you on the back foot. No matter who you are, your career or a relationship or your health or your financial fortunes – something, or at times, a few things, will get impacted. I call it an intermission, like the one we have while watching movies in cinemas in India. While you wait for the movie to resume, you just relax – maybe you have a Coke and some popcorn. The movie will resume only when the Cineplex operator turns the machine on. So it is with Life. There will be times when an intermission will be forced on you by Life. In all such times, take the second lesson from Ganesh – “be happy and keep laughing”. Because your being depressed, anxious, angry or frustrated is not going to make Life happen the way you want it to. In Ganesh’s case, it has taken 27 years. There are people who also never recover from a Life-enforced intermission – like R.D.Burman (RD), for instance (to take a film industry parallel), whose brilliant career ended in the early eighties, and he died a heart-broken, beaten man, in 1994, as nobody wanted his music anymore. That today, people worship RD and his music is one of the travesties of Life!
So, the simple truth is, that Life has a mind of its own. What goes up will come down. And what goes down will come up. Or, at times, what’s down may just get buried. Or, what’s up, may just fly away! Even so, everything, absolutely everything, in Life happens at its own time, place and pace. We simply have only one option – accept what comes our way, be happy and keep laughing!