Is there really a God or is that someone “out of office – on vacation”?!


Ever so often, every once in a while, you will find God ‘unreachable’! A much touted omnipotent savior who is simply not traceable when needed the most! Who’s probably fiddling away on his harp, while your home’s burning. Irrespective of what religion you follow, you will find that it’s most prized invention, it’s God, is not available to its followers, including you, to stop injustice, pain, death, separation, disease or loss. When you zoom out, climb to 30,000 feet, and take a holistic view of things happening in this world you live in, you will seriously wonder whether there indeed is a God? Tsunamis, earthquakes, wars, terrorism, malnutrition, AIDS, starvation, water scarcity, lack of education, the rich become richer and the poor get poorer, rape, murder, forgery, betrayal, deceit, the good, the pious suffer while the sinners prosper  __ what is God doing? At a personal level __ you often wonder why you don’t ever get what you believe you deserve? Why do people whom you love have to leave you or die? Why is there so much pain__and suffering__in your Life when all you have striven to be is good, ethical, devout and caring? But despite all this grime, gore, tears and sorrow, look at each new day, look at the sun rise, feel the rain, watch the birds fly away and the butterflies hover from flower to flower or watch a child smile. Now, how’s all this possible? Is there someone who makes all this happen? And is it the same one who simply watches when everything’s going wrong in the world?

However fair such questioning may well be, it is also futile. Because there’s no point in asking such questions. They have no answers.

Yesterday, my own Life came to yet another precipitous point. In the 30-odd minutes that it took for that crisis to finally blow over, hours after it had kicked in, I discovered that I was in a state of complete inner peace while a storm raged outside. It was one of those moments in Life when the paradox is both stark and soulful! In my moment of solitude, I recollected a friend’s email, which had arrived a few hours ago. Someone in that friend’s extended family had died. And there was an overall pall of gloom and anguish, understandably, in the family. Given my own circumstance, I was able to relate to their grief. Which is when it dawned on me, one more time, that the only truth about Life is what you are experiencing in the present moment. Nothing else counts. If you can encounter inner peace in the throes of a storm, you may have well found God. If you are searching for one in that moment of, call it despair, know that you are moving in the opposite direction. Not only will you not find peace, your search for God__and God’s answers to your whys__will end yield nothing__and in fact may enhance your desperation!

Think of all the reasons why God is relevant. Fundamentally, God is an emotional crutch, a form of security that consoles you, gives you hope and succor. God-bashers make you believe that all such hope is  hot air because why would a merciful, compassionate God create so much hardship and suffering for helpless, hapless, people in the first place? So, those who find hope in God, are the believers. The theists. And those who find no hope in God are the non-believers. The atheists. Atheists say they are free from God. Good point. But being free from something or someone is one thing, and being free for something or a reason is another. If freedom from God has led you to peace and joy, great. If it has not, and you still remain miserable, then, something’s not right. Obviously!

That’s where I would humbly like to offer a different take. A third dimension, if you will. When you are confronted with a dark and desperate situation, and you are drowned in hopelessness, remember that you are still alive. If you are alive it means that the same energy which is powering the cosmos, is powering you too. Which further means that if the whole Universe is a miracle so are you. And if you are a miracle, then you are capable of one too! We miss this simple truth when we are confronted with death, pain and suffering. Instead of dipping into the endless reservoir of cosmic energy within us, we look to external reference points. God too is one such external reference point. In its most identifiable forms, God is an idol at a temple or a church or a tombstone at a dargah. The problem with an external reference point is that its tangibility only makes it unreal. So, when you ask why, wailing in prayer or pouring your heart out at a place of worship, you don’t ever get a reply. Instead, if you go into the world of the intangible, go within, then you encounter the real truth. The real God! So, simply, if you go inward, you will awaken. You will then understand that:

  1. Life happens differently to each of us all the time. It IS inscrutable and it IS always what it IS!
  2. Nothing is permanent. Anything that is created will be destroyed. Anything born will die.
  3. As long as you know you are alive, you are capable of living happily. The choice to live happily__despite your circumstances__is your own.
  4. If you have not known how to live in the moment, you never will have lived. You will have merely existed. If you have only existed, you have not found peace within you. If you have not known inner peace, you will never know God!      

Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet, said it so beautifully: “Moko Kahan Dhoondhe Re Bande, Main To Hoon Tere Paas Main…..Na Thirath Main, Na Moorat Main….Na Mandir Main, Na Masjid Main….Main To Hoon Tere Paas Main….” This means, referring to man’s quest for God, “Where are you searching for me? I am near you. I am not in a pilgrimage nor in an idol, not it a temple nor in a mosque, I am near you, in you….”.

Here’s hoping you make that short journey inward. You will find your God at work__and not on vacation or missing in action__24x7, there!

The worse never really happens!


Examine what you fear. And know that the worse that you imagine often never really happens.

I don’t relish hospitals. Who does, in fact? Yet, they are great institutions at the service of people looking for crucial, urgent solutions at most times. And so, in a sense, are both indispensible and laudable!

I had my own brush with what,  in medical terms, is a simple, out-patient procedure yesterday. An abscess in my right ankle had become very painful. It required what they call ‘Incision and Discharge’. All day I kept thinking about how painful it will be when they finally ‘nicked’ the abscess. The doctor had reassured me, the previous evening, that it would be a simple procedure and painless. Yet, when the hour dawned, I was mortally challenged. I can’t say I was scared of the procedure itself. But I guess I feared the physical pain and did not know if I would be able to handle it.

So, there I was. I lay coiled up on the hospital bed. As the nurse applied some, I presume antiseptic, solution around the abscess, I realized I was clinging on to my shirt with one hand and the railing of the hospital bed with another. I must have looked quite a sight. Then the doctor asked for my name, and he seemed to be touching and feeling the abscess. There were a few shards of intense pain that went through my body. I must have squealed “Ouch!” more than a couple of times. But I soon realized I was not howling. I was not writhing in pain. It was painful but not the unbearable type. In a few minutes it was all done. And the wound was dressed up. I opened my eyes and felt a lone tear drop.

As I sat up and listened to the doctor explain how he wanted me to look after the wound over the next few days, I could reflect on a key learning. And I share it here with you today: Much of what we imagine is, well simply, our imagination. The worse really never happens.

This is so true about Life. When we face up to Life, to situations, to people, to events, we do always find that the fear of having to face the unimaginable is what is gruesome. In reality, every situation can be faced. Each of us has been equipped with the ability__call it courage__to face Life as it happens to us. Because courage is NOT the absence of fear. It is the ability that fear delivers unto you when you face up to it.

Invariably, for almost all of us, things don’t always go to a plan. But such is Life. The dark eventualities we conjure up in our myriad ‘if and but’ situations in our mind never really pan out as bad as we have feared them. Look back at your own Life. Every horrible, fearful situation has been met by you, has been lived through and that ability to ‘face up to Life’ is what has brought you to this moment. And it will be so in future too.

So, sit back. Relax. Face Life as it is, for what it is. The worse never really happens!

Letting go or walking away is not always giving up!


There will be times in Life when you can’t do anything about a situation or a person, or both! You will feel incapacitated, even helpless. You will want to give up. Instead give in. Sometimes, a good way to make peace with a situation or a person is to give in, to let go, to walk away. But do it with grace, giving the person or the situation all your love and understanding. Do it peacefully. Without malice, without prejudice, without feeling frustrated.

Last week the Pope announced his resignation. An act, I believe, of extreme humility__announced as it was in a much-watched and debated environment__which personifies the message of letting go. The Pope does not have a higher office to direct him. Yet, he treated his conscience as one.  And heeded its silent counsel that he did not have either the health or the leadership acumen to capably discharge his duties anymore as the Vicar of Christ. Even as I ruminated on the learning ensconced in this rare decision, over the weekend I watched the Hindi movie ‘Inkaar’ made by celebrated director Sudhir Misra. It is a story of love and hate packaged in the backdrop of a sexual harassment suit in an advertising agency. In the film’s climax, when it becomes apparent to the viewer that this is a love story gone haywire, and that the ambitious lady protagonist is all set to come to terms with her guilt, the lead male character, played excellently by Arjun Rampal, simply walks away. He recounts a lesson that his father had taught him when he was a boy: ‘When you can help someone experience inner peace by leaving them an opportunity you are clinging on to simply do it. Never hesitate to walk away!”

So two different, and at the same time, unique scenarios. One was in the context of being infirm and incapable of performing and leading anymore. Another was in the context of not wanting to come in the way of someone experiencing peace. Yet both were acts of letting go and walking away. To be sure, there may be a temptation to view these as acts of giving up. Perhaps a third anecdote may help clarify the essence of this learning better.

I have a friend who, apart from being a very acclaimed actor in Tamil cinema, is a very successful entrepreneur. He will not like to be named, so I will not disclose his identity. Some years ago, he was in business in partnership with his cousin. They both held equal stakes in a large, highly profitable, business process outsourcing enterprise. Suddenly, owing to irrevocable differences of opinion between them, it became apparent that they both could not see eye to eye in the management of the company. Resultantly, all Board decisions were getting stalemated. My friend tried to have someone arbitrate the matter with his cousin. But the situation was getting acrimonious, messy and a prolonged, legal battle for control of the company seemed inevitable between them. My friend, however, in one shocking move, relinquished all his claims on the company, including transferring his stake for zero value, in favor of his cousin and walked away. I confronted my friend and asked him what was the whole idea of being a martyr? After all, it was he (my friend) who had built the company up from scratch. I recall my friend replying, smiling, calmly: “The cost of my relationship with my cousin far outweighs my financial stake in and benefits due from the company. That relationship is affected today because of the business. Not the other way round. I don’t want to fight a relationship over a business. In trying to prove each other wrong, we will spend a lifetime in grief and there will be so much bad blood. It’s simply not worth it!”

Indeed. Trying to prove a point at the cost of your peace of mind is simply not worth it. Most often in Life, we don’t grieve over the injustice meted out to us by someone or a system or a situation. Our grief often comes from the fact that we have been taken for granted. That we have been pissed on, trampled upon and passed over. The hurt from having been used causes far more suffering than for having been abused. It is to avenge the ignominy of the treatment that we either fight or give up, choosing to continue to grieve or sulk eternally. Neither approach delivers peace. But giving in does.

This doesn’t mean you must not contest. That you must not compete. That you must not take up the leadership of a situation or run a race. But whenever the sporting spirit is lost, and acrimony is beginning to set in, or as in the Pope’s case, when you are no longer able to create value, clinging on, even if something legitimately belongs or is due to you, is pointless. Letting go or walking away or giving in is not an act of cowardice. It is the most intelligent way to restore peace and equanimity, allowing all parties, including you, the time and space to think things over, sort themselves out and reflect on the learnings without any angst or animosity or fear of losing!

Immerse yourself in whatever you do to find bliss!


When you do something from your inner core, for yourself, for your joy, you don’t have to work at all! Then work become a prayer, an offering of yourself to the Universe. Then what you do always delivers bliss unto you!

Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan: Abhimaan
Last night I was watching Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1973 classic ‘Abhimaan’ starring Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan. Both play singers and in the early stages of their romance Uma (Jaya) asks Subir (Amitabh) about his singing. He says he sings for a living. She is quite startled with that answer and says: “So, you don’t sing for your own joy? My dad who is also my guru always says true music is created only when it comes from your inner joy!”

(Here’s a brilliant song from the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAb-ru6rjXs! Enjoy!)

So it is. Only what you do for yourself, and that which arises from within you, from your inner core, leads you to bliss.

This is not the same as concentration. When you concentrate you are still employing a thought of getting something done. When you are simply doing, without employing any thought, but are becoming one with the doing, with the action, then work becomes worship and you experience bliss.

One of the Emperors of Japan had gone to see a great Zen Master, Nanin. He asked Nanin, ”What have you learned that makes you a great Master, known all over the country?”

Nanin said, ”Very simple: when I chop wood, I simply chop wood; and when I carry the water from the well, I simply carry the water from the well.”

The Emperor said, ”I had come to listen to something spiritual. What nonsense are you talking? Chopping wood, you simply chop wood? Everybody does it; what is special in it? Carrying water from the well, you carry the water from the well? I have come a long distance, and I am your country’s Emperor. You should at least give me some spiritual advice.”

Nan-in said, ”That was my spiritual advice, and I want to make it clear to you that everybody is not doing that. It took me years to chop wood without any thoughts: to just be there, chopping.” And it is tremendously beautiful: the sound in the valley, the chips of the wood flying all over, the wind blowing through the trees, their song, their music. And I am utterly silent, just chopping wood. Carrying water from the well is the same. ”My whole day is the same. I have given you, in short, my basic approach of Life. Be where you are. Don’t let mind go away.”

This is the key. Not letting the mind to get dragged away in different directions. The human mind, on an average, thinks 60,000 thoughts daily. None of those thoughts often, on most days, pertain to what you are doing. Many of them are focused on the past__on remorse, guilt, anger, grief__and many, many more are steeped in worry, anxiety and fear of a future that is yet to arrive. This happens all the time. When you are drinking your morning coffee, when you are driving to work, when you are in meetings or even when you are talking to someone on the phone. Which is why most days have become dull, drab, monotonous, listless and boring! Which is why bliss seems so unattainable. Why, even happiness plays truant and you imagine you have to pursue it to find it!

Make a simple shift this Sunday. Choose one activity. Maybe it is reading. Maybe it is spring cleaning your home. Or maybe it is gardening. Immerse yourself in it like Nanin says, being silent, and simply doing that one thing. Don’t focus on getting it done. Just do it! Do it for 15 minutes. If you like it, extend it for another 15 minutes. Examine how you feel after this immersion session. That inexplicable feeling of peace, calm and happiness, is called bliss.

Live a blissful Sunday today!

 

Be honest, be upfront, and you will be peaceful!


In every relationship, exercise your right to be honest about how you feel. Have open, transparent conversations. Set the contours of the relationship. State what’s done and what’s not done. Spell out what works for you and what doesn’t. You will then ensure peace for yourself and for the other party at all times.  

Yesterday, my 18-year-old daughter returned at midnight from a friend’s birthday party. As I opened the door to let her in, her phone rang. I was curious when she didn’t want to take the call. I told her it was fine for her to answer the call because I was anyway going to sleep and she could speak to whoever it was in private. She said she didn’t want to take that call because it was her friend’s mother calling to check on where she (the friend) was. So, I too asked where that friend was. My daughter explained that her friend had had one drink too many and had to be dropped off at another friend’s place for the night because she was scared of going home and facing her parents, who apparently did not approve of her drinking at all.

I completely empathized with the distraught parent trying to ensure if her child was safe. Yet I could not help but wonder why things come to such a pass between parents and their young adult children.  

A principal reason is that while almost each household does have its own dos and don’ts framework, honest conversations are not normally had. It is fine for a parent to not encourage or allow a teenager to drink. But it is also important for the parent to understand that the child may not necessarily follow that advice or diktat__whatever. In such a scenario, perhaps a good expectation to set would be to ensure that communication doesn’t break down between them. Imagine the plight of the mother, wondering all night about what’s happening to her daughter? Imagine the showdown that will have ensued in the morning when the daughter got back home. So much acrimony and anxiety could have been avoided if both parent and child understood the contours of their relationship. From a parent point of view: That we don’t support drinking and yet be sure that this expectation may well not be met. But breakdown in communication, being unreachable, not messaging back when pinged, is simply non-negotiable. From a teen/young adult point of view: Communication is non-negotiable but a bit of adventure, as long as it doesn’t turn reckless (like drinking and driving, doping and such), is always fine! Especially in the context of a parent-child relationship, one honest conversation may never be enough. You may need to have them several times often reminding each other that there’s equal opportunity to share, to converse, to resolve and to agree!

Even as I was thinking about this episode I read an interview that Times of Indiahad carried this morning with the young Hindi movie star, Aditi Rao Hydari. Aditi’s parents separated when she was just two. Her father is a close friend of our family. So, we know a bit of their story. I was both impressed and happy to see Aditi, now 26, having evolved into a fine, mature person. She did admit to Times of India that she had had a difficult relationship with her father. She said her father, who is in the last stages of lung cancer, recently wrote her an email sharing all that he wanted to. She said she had written back saying she did not want to hear either his story or her mother’s. And that she preferred they all focused on the present and what they had of and for each other. She said she did care for her father having overcome the initial phase of turmoil and uniqueness of their relationship. Now, that’s what an honest conversation is all about. Where you say what you feel__so that you continue to be in peace!

Obviously, honesty doesn’t apply in a parent-sibling context alone. In any relationship, the slightest whiff of dishonesty, and this does not mean breach of trust or betrayal alone, when you refuse to say or share what you feel, can be destructive. If you really seek to be peaceful, and badly want it, you must invoke it in your relationships by always expressing yourself honestly. By always saying what you feel about someone or something without worrying about either circumstance or consequence.

We have become dishonest with each other because it is a lot more convenient. Dishonesty often helps keep the external environment peaceful. But is that pretentious peace more important than what you (want to) feel within yourself?

A young manager reached out to me recently asking for advice on how to handle his two bosses who were at war with each other, playing ping pong with him, his career and his emotions. He said he was afraid to red-flag either of them lest he be thrown out of his job. I asked him what he would do if job was guaranteed. He replied saying he would have spoken his mind, appealing to the two bosses to be considerate to him and his career, and recommending a working arrangement where everyone won. I advised him to simply carry out that plan saying that if he did lose his job then probably that wasn’t right place to be in, in any case! He, of course, hesitated. But eventually, after thinking through my advice for over a month, he executed the plan. Last week he called up to say, his honest conversation with his two bosses__one an Indonesian and the other a Spaniard__worked wonders. And they were now working in complete harmony with both bosses giving him more empowerment and responsibilities!

We often sacrifice our inner peace on the redoubtable altar of dignity, etiquette and decorum because we fear imaginary consequences. The truth is that those consequences are never going to ensue because no one likes being dishonest. Simple. Dishonesty often gets practiced though because it is easy. It is easy for the parent to dictate that the child shall not drink. It is difficult for the parent to see that the child, in spite of the diktat, may well drink. It is easy for the child to avoidthe parent’s calls. It is going to be difficult, in fact scary, to pick up the phone and say that I have had a drink and so the best thing for me to do is to stay over at a friend’s. It may have been easy for Aditi to tell her dad, who is sinking, that it was fine for things to have happened the way they did between him and her mother. But she would have been dishonest__principally, with herself. So she chose to be upfront and said let’s focus on what we have left with us. It may have been difficult doing that but she did that for her own inner peace. The young manager did not find peace the easy way, allowing himself to be played ping-pong with! He found it only when he exorcised his demons and confronted his bosses!

Dishonesty and honesty, always deliver this logical outcomes, when practiced. This is true of any context, in anybody’s Life. Examine your own relationships. Wherever you find your inner peace being compromised, be sure that you are not being honest enough. To become peaceful, simply be honest, be upfront!

           

To stop suffering, embrace your insecurities!


Fear of the unknown often kills you in each of your living moments. Many of us have already died a thousand deaths in our lifetimes, worrying stiff about what will become of us, if this or that happened or did not happen to us. Anxiety and insecurity hold us in their vice- like grip. We are all like the character Thenali, in Kamal Hassan’s comedy movie ‘Thenali’ (2000), who is fearful of everything in Life. In one epic dialogue he tells his psychiatrist that he is scared of the sun, the stars, the moon, the sky, the water, the earth, Gods, angels, demons and just about everything in the Universe. He confesses that he has become a nervous wreck and some way, any way, to get out of this fear-trap! So it is with you__and me!

You may not be fearful to Thenali’s bizarre extent, but there’s a lot you worry about. Principal, and common, among your anxieties are:

  • Will I ever have enough money?
  • Will I be successful__with money, business, career, academics, love, relationships, whatever?   
  • Will I be respected, recognized, famous?
  • Will I die sooner than I want to?
  • Will people cheat me, betray me?
  • Will the people I love be around me as long as I want them to?
  • Will my health be good?
  • Will my children be happy, healthy, successful, safe?
  • Will I get all that I want?

Obviously, the list can be endless. And a global list may be close to Thenali’s too!

Anxiety breeds insecurity. Insecurity causes suffering! Understanding insecurity can help us deal with it better. Fundamentally, insecurity haunts you because you dislike it. Instead welcome it. Anything that you resist persist. If you are feeling insecure about something don’t hate it or fight it anymore. Just accept it. Because insecurity is the very essence of Life. Life is all about change, impermanence, uncertainty. So, it is perfectly fine not to know what’s your Life all about or how things will be or what will befall you. You are suffering only because you demand security in a compulsively, naturally insecure scenario. Yet you insist on being convinced that you are secure and will be secure forever. So, when that sense of security is unavailable__because it can NEVER be available or given to you__you grieve. You plunge yourself into worry, anxiety, depression and enslave yourself to such dark, debilitating emotions.

Someone I know was telling me that he has saved over a million dollars in cash in his bank accounts. Besides these he has invested in shares and real estate. He has two apartments. One in the heart of Chennai and another in an up-market suburb called ECR. Yet he said to me on his 60th birthday a few weeks ago that he was feeling insecure. He said, post retirement, his monthly inflow had stopped. And that gave him sleepless nights. He confessed: “I feel so incomplete and insecure. I wonder what will happen if my wife or I fall gravely ill and all our assets have to be liquidated to meet our healthcare expenses. So, I am desperately trying to create an income stream by seeking a retainer assignment with a couple of companies I know so that I can feel confident that the money I have saved will not be touched and will be available for an emergency on a rainy day!”

A family we know insists that their 22-year-old daughter must marry before she gets into grad school in the US (for a post-graduate program). Since we are reasonably aware that the young lady is not interested in anyone presently we asked why is marriage a pre-condition to her academic pursuit? “So that we can feel secure that she’s with someone she knows and also to ensure that we complete her marriage before something happens to us,”explains the girl’s mother. The girl’s parents are in their mid-40s and they don’t necessarily believe it is important their daughter be with someone she loves than someone she knows!

This is how most people define, and perhaps invent, their insecurities. They define them through demanding a sense of security in an environment, in Life, where none can be guaranteed. Demanding means you insist Life should be the way you want it to be. But Life works only the way it IS and never works like it SHOULD. And how Life IS you can only say in the moment, in the now, in the present. You cannot create a Life by aspiring it, anticipating it, fearing it or demanding it! You can only live the Life you are given in the moment. So, there will always be a fuzziness, a certain insecurity, a cluelessness that you will always experience about Life. You will have to yield to this insecurity by welcoming it, by accepting it and by living it!

Referring to our prolonged bankruptcy, a creditor asked me and my wife the other day how is it that we have managed at an emotional level when we see no evidence of Life improving for us financially.

“It must be very fearful__living the Life that you live,”declared this person.

I replied speaking from, and sharing, our experience: “It used to be fearful. It used to be scary as long as we demanded that evidence__that semblance of security. It is only when you want to seek the light that the walk up to it becomes fearful. Supposing you don’t want the light anymore? Because you have tried you damned best to get to the light but it hasn’t happened. All your attempts have come a cropper. And the fear of what-will-happen-now suffocates you every single time, makes you insane, leaves you to suffer. It was such a horrible, reclusive existence we led. So we broke free. We gave up on seeking the light. And accepted the darkness and began to love it instead. We have accepted that we will never know what will happen to us next! We have also realized by now that we wouldn’t have known any better had we been financially secure. So, we live in a newfound awareness__call it happiness__having made peace with our insecurity. The light of our awareness makes it possible for us to love our insecurity and live in it peacefully!”

Accepting and embracing insecurity in any Life situation does not mean inaction. It simply means stopping to look for or demand evidence that comforts or reassures you. It means to know that such evidence does not exist in the first place. So, it is foolish to demand it. Instead it means starting to live with the insecurity and working through it, with it. It means realizing that nothing is permanent. Nothing is certain. Nothing is secure.

When you embrace your insecurities, all your suffering will magically, instantaneously, cease! So, don’t demand security from Life. Learn to love it for what it is. Then, and only then, will you be able to live it in peace, joy and bliss!

Forgive, forget, act__but don’t avenge!


This may well sound counter-intuitive. Contradictory too!  How can you forgive and forget, still act, but not avenge? Doesn’t action, or reaction or revenge, come from remembering__and not forgetting__the pain of an injustice, an injury? How can one forgive and act__without avenging?

Let me share some learnings here. One sure learning is that we have made it complex with the way we deal with injustices and injuries in Life! This is not as difficult to achieve or as complex to understand as it sounds.

I met a friend recently after 20-odd years. I knew she had been divorced from her husband (whom I also knew very well__all three of us were colleagues at one point in time) for some years now. So, when we met for coffee, I did not bring up any reference to him, choosing to hold conversation over her son, her work and her interest in my work. Then, after hearing some of what I do and what I plan to do with our business, she quickly suggested that I should meet her ex-husband. I was quite surprised. I had known through common friends that in the years she been separating from her husband, things had been pretty rough for her. And so I had concluded that there might still be much acrimony between them. My first response was one of amazement when she said she would speak to him and re-connect me with him!

I asked her: “If you don’t mind, what led to the two of you divorcing? And how’s it that you both are still in touch?”

She replied: “Well, after the initial euphoria of the physical attraction had died down, we discovered that we could be excellent colleagues but never be good soul-mates. We enjoyed discussing work. But the moment we looked at each other as spouses we found we could not relate with the other on expectations, roles and responsibilities. Our sex Life had virtually ended in a few years of the marriage. But we went on with the charade of a marriage, first for family, then for society and then for our child. Every day was a nightmare__fights, followed by long periods of sulking. I always got the feeling he wanted me out. And I thought he was also interested in someone else. So I became both combative and possessive. This led to more fights. Then, seven years ago, I reasoned to myself, why am I holding him and me, and our son, to ransom in a relationship which is dead? It was so evident that it doesn’t exist. I reckoned that while I demanded him to be my husband, I had long ago refused to treat him as one. He was a doting father. But I could not accept him as my husband. While the early attempts to let go of him and our marriage were complete with mature reasoning, at the execution stage__when it came to speaking my mind__I faltered. Each time I tried, the beast of betrayal consumed me. I wanted to avenge him. But later I realized it was meaningless. It dawned on me that the reason he was interested in someone else was that he was no longer interested in me. So, I forgave myself, forgave him and decided to act! We sat together and agreed that we needed to dissolve this meaningless framework of marriage. We agreed to separate, divorce, while continuing be good colleagues. We are very good friends even now. He’s a good father to our son. He’s remarried and has a child from his second marriage. And there’s so much peace for all of us.”

I am impressed by the mature, practical approach my friend had taken in place of action that could well have been acrimonious, full of pain and suffering for all parties concerned.

My learning is that everyone who has been treated unjustly, unfairly by Life, or by someone, will initially want to dwell in the following two realms:

  • How dare ____________  do this to me? Fill in the blank with he, she, person’s name, company name, team name, Life, country name__whatever suits the context.
  • I will avenge this come what may!

Thinking within these realms is normal. So, relax if you have thought this way! But also know that both these realms thrive in the dark epicenter of your ego. If you are feeling hurt, feeling vengeful, about anyone or anything, it is because of your ego. The ego controls all negativity in you. The antidote for ego is awareness. When you are aware that the nature of Life is inscrutable__that anything can happen, including injustice, to you, you will be unmoved. When you realize that people act unjustly, causing untold suffering and misery to those around them, because they themselves are suffering, you will respond with empathy than react with anger.

Look around. There’s so much injustice that’s happening to you or to people around you! Even before the memories of the gory end Nirbhaya met with have died down, the Suryanelli rape case (of 1996) has come back into focus. If you read the facts of the case, your heart will ache with compassion and grieve with helplessness. If you understand truly how the ‘collective conscience of the Indian people’ led to the questionable trial and redoubtable hanging of Afzal Guru, you will feel your blood boil.

So, in a way, I don’t think either the world or Life is going to get any more just or fair. Every such episode can unleash in you a torrent of anger, anguish, suffering and misery! There’s no way you__or I__can escape being touched by the ripples of everyday Life. But you can, with awareness, refuse to be moved by them. Seeking vengeance always delivers more suffering than there already is. Awareness, on the other hand, delivers forgiveness. Understand the true implication of practicing forgiveness. Forgiveness is for you to feel free, liberated, because it is important you get away from what is causing you the suffering! It is only when you think forgiving someone is letting them go scot-free, that you hesitate, you cling on. Instead, focus on your freedom. Your liberation. Only then can you detach from what or who is causing the injustice and instead focus on the act of injustice itself. When you are free, detached, you are unmoved by the happening. It has touched you and left you unmoved. Like the way a wave touches the shore and recedes. You are then (like the shore) a mere witness, an observer, of your own Life, of people, of events (like the waves) in your Life. You will then be, and in, bliss.

This does not mean you should not act. If Gandhi had not acted on the injustice that was meted out to Indians, we would not have become free as a nation. Action, however, need not necessarily, in this context, connote revenge, violence and acrimony. Gandhi acted with monomaniacal focus, with ‘ahimsa’ (where he championed the absence of violent thought in the first place) as his main theme. Forgiving, forgetting if you can, acting, and not avenging, really means this: keeping the focus, replacing all violent thought with concerted action to change a current reality__that you find hard to accept__into a future state which you believe is the best for all concerned.

This is what my friend did. You too can try this in any situation you are faced with in your Life. Changing your approach to injustice, changes how you feel within yourself. How you feel within has a huge impact on what you will do to make things better. This is what intelligent living is all about __ making your Life better by living it better!