Life = It is what it is

Life can be both an irony and a tragedy at times.  This isn’t the problem. Because such is Life’s nature. The problem arises when you don’t understand Life’s true nature and expect Life to be in a certain way – as you wish it to be!
Prasanna, A R Rahman and Vivek
Picture Courtesy: Internet
This morning’s papers carry the poignant story of Tamil comedian Vivek’s 14-year-old son Prasanna’s untimely death. The boy succumbed to suspected dengue and brain fever after 40 days in hospital. One of the papers pointed out the irony – Vivek has been an ambassador for the Tamil Nadu government’s dengue-prevention campaign! My auto-rickshaw driver amplified another angle to the irony: “Saar, Vivek made so many people laugh their guts out as a comedian. Poor guy, he is now having to cope with such a huge loss.” When I heard the news first, I remembered A.K.Hangal’s immortal dialogue (written by Salim-Javed) in Sholay (1975, Ramesh Sippy): “Jaante ho duniya mein sabse bada bhoj kya hota hai? – Baap ke kandhe pe bete ka janaaza!” It means: “The heaviest burden in Life is a child’s coffin on a parent’s shoulder”.
I am sure everyone today must be sending Vivek and his family a silent prayer and positive energy. Of course, beyond that none of us can do anything. The truth is, when our time comes, each of us has to deal with our own Life situations. This is perhaps why the famous Hindi poet, Harivansh Rai Bachchan (1907~2003), said this: “Jeevan ka matlab hai sangharsh”; “Life is a struggle, a challenge.” It doesn’t mean that Life is only full of pain and challenges. It means that you have to go through your share of challenges no matter who you are and no matter what you have done or not done, no matter whether you think you deserve it or don’t deserve it.
This is where the Buddha’s advice is very relevant. He said this: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Suffering is a human, self-inflicted condition. You suffer when you expect your Life to be any different from what it is, from the way it is. Someone dies and you feel the grief. That’s because your pain leads you to grief. And that is natural. But the moment you ask why should this person die or ask why should this person die now, then you have invited suffering into your Life. Who is going to answer your “whys”? Actually nobody has any answers. So, following any painful event or situation, only when you keep clinging on to the grief, do you suffer.

A friend, a retired Wing Commander from the Indian Air Force, who lost his grandson within a day of the child’s birth, had this to say: “Well, he came, he fulfilled his time on the planet and he went away. That was his design. We can’t do anything but accept his reality.” I agree completely with my friend’s outlook to Life. In fact, the simplest way to live Life is to be prepared for anything – and everything. And let us not ask the “whys”. Just take it as it comes. For it was what it was, it is what it is and it will always be what it will be. 
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Life never is what could have been or what it will be

The Deepavali spirit was celebrated by Team India yesterday with a spectacular win in the series clinching One Day International at Bangalore against a very strong Australian team. Harsha Bhogle, while delivering the match summary, said that things could have been different had James Faulkner (116 from 73 balls) stayed on. But Bhogle also quickly added: “Cricket is not about what might have been!
And so it is with Life. Life isn’t about what might have been, what was or what will be. It is what it is! And also, whatever happened or is happening, is always for making us better, stronger and happier!
We all do, however, wish that our Life be in a certain way. But Life doesn’t ever really pan out the way we plan. So we get stuck in a past event – grieving. Or worry about a future event – fearing how it will be. Our definitions of good or bad are made from our own perspectives. So if we wish for something and it doesn’t happen, we think it is a bad deal for us. For instance, Rohit Sharma, the Indian opener who scored a brilliant 209 yesterday, was not selected to represent India in the 2011 World Cup. His coach Dinesh Lad says Sharma was shattered when he was not picked up to play for India in that historic tournament. He was really depressed (at) that time when he was dropped from the World Cup squad. But eventually that proved to be the best thing that happened to him. It made him focus on the game a lot more. ‘I’ll come back into the Indian team with a bang,’ he told me. His game changed completely. He started capitalizing on his starts and became a different player,” Lad told Times of India.
Just the same way, invariably, all the events we thought of as setbacks in our Life have contributed to our evolution – emotionally, physically, professionally, financially and spiritually.
To be sure, if you sit down and review your Life, you will agree that everything that has happened in it so far has made you who you are today. Indeed it never could have been any different from what it was. And really your Life cannot be any different from what it is just now.  
So embrace Life for what it is, love what you have and live it fully! Remember: each moment that you wish your Life could have been different or worry about how it will turn out to be in the future, is a moment you have squandered, a moment that you will have not “lived”!

Lesson in Acceptance and Bliss from Afzal Guru



Just as it is in the English language that A precedes B, so it is in Life that Acceptance precedes Bliss!

Bliss has been marketed, over the centuries that human civilization has been around, as something that has to be pursued, sought for and found. In reality though Bliss is always available, 24×7, provided you are tuned in. Tuning in simply requires Acceptance of what is and not wishing what could be or should be or fearing what would be. Unfortunately, a large mass of humanity is wedded to what could be, should be and would be, and never really relates to what is. Therefore, Bliss is projected as something that is difficult to attain and something that has to be worked hard for! Resultantly, Bliss has a bit of a lousy reputation. To most people I guess it is like the Indian Chartered Accountancy exams, critical to appear for and useful in one’s career, but difficult to prepare for and almost impossible to clear in the first few attempts!

Since most of us are logically driven, let’s take a simple example. 2+2 = 4. This is what we have been taught. And this is what we have understood it to be. Also, what we eventually learned and found to be true too. Now, we accept that 2+2 CAN ONLY be 4. So, this Acceptance delivers us Bliss in that context. It is that simple. Just imagine how vexed you will be if you had worried about what 2+2 could be or should be or would be. Isn’t even that thought preposterous and unnerving? Think of someone trying to prove to the world that 2+2 could be 5 or should be 5 or would be 5! Now, think similarly of a situation in any other context of your Life. You get it? Focus on what is. Accept it. You will experience Bliss__then and there__in a nano-second.

Afzal Guru
Over the last couple of days I have learned a very important lesson from Afzal Guru, who was convicted in 2002 by a special Prevention of Terrorism Act court in the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and was hanged in Tihar Jail on Saturday, February 9th. Even before I share what I learned let me clarify that I am not opinionating on his actions, or the judgments of the various Indian courts including the Honorable Supreme Court, or on the President of India’s rejection of his mercy petition on February 3rdthis year, or the secrecy with which his execution was carried out. I am also not opinionating here in favor of or against capital punishment. I am here to share with you what I believe I have learned from Afzal Guru’s last day in Life. My learnings are based on what I have pieced together from media reports. The Hindu’s Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar, in his detailed account, quotes a jail official as saying that Guru was the most ‘calm and composed’ of all the 10 prisoners, he (the official) has seen in his career, who have been walked to the gallows at Tihar. Guru apparently talked of the similarities between Islam and Hinduism__having been well versed with both the Holy Quran and the four Vedas. In his last hour, an official described (to The Hindu) Guru as being ‘joyful’, greeting each of the jail staff by their first names and saying ‘al vida’ (good bye in Urdu) to the executioner, looking him in his eyes, before the black cloth was drawn over him! Importantly, reports The Hindu, “Another difference between Afzal and others who were executed for terrorist crimes terrorists, the official said, was that while almost all others had made religious or political cries before being hanged, Afzal just walked the last 100 steps from his cell to the gallows as he normally would and went away wishing those around him.” Today’s Times of India quotes a jail source, sharing broadly the content of the personal letter that Guru wrote to his wife Tabassum, who lives in Sopore in Kashmir: “It was an extremely personal letter where he told his wife to take care of their son and not agonize over his death. In very gently worded language, he said that she should remain strong for their son and not give in to despair. As ever, Guru was calm and dignified in his parting words.”

My learnings:

  1. Right or wrong, whether you are committing it or whether you are being subjected to it, has NO relevance in the realm of what is. It is only what it is, AS it is!
  2. Only Acceptance of what is, irrespective of who caused it, can heave you up from the abyss of suffering and deliver to the altar of bliss!

There can be several arguments in favor of Guru and against him. Contesting his execution and celebrating it. Mourning the lack of human decency in the manner in which his execution was carried out with no intimation to his family; to saying his family too deserved to experience the pain that his purported actions caused to people affected by them. But I am inviting you to rise above all that. A simple question needs consideration. How many of us will have the ability to be detached from our worldly moorings when death comes calling, especially when we KNOW that the end is upon us? Guru’s ability to have accepted his reality__again, I repeat, irrespective of any judgment of his deserving of it or otherwise__led him to his bliss which the jail authorities saw as his being ‘joyful, calm and composed’!

So live with and love what is. Don’t try to avoid it or resist it. Open your eyes and see your reality. Accept it with humility, compassion and love __ irrespective of who is responsible for this reality. The moment you Accept your reality, you will be, and in, Bliss!



Life didn’t promise fair-play or a zero-problem lifetime!


How good you are has nothing to do with what you have go through in your lifetime.
This is one paradox that flummoxes all of us: If being good, doing good is the essence of humanity, then why do I have to go through pain and suffering despite being good and doing good myself?
Look around you and you may get enough evidence of this perspective to be true. Good people are going through troubled times __ joblessness, cashlessness, poor health, broken relationships. And the corrupt, the unethical, the violent folks seem to be having a good Life. Is there any fair-play at all in Life, you may wonder?
Let’s address your concerns. First, know that Life did not promise any fair-play. It did not guarantee you anything when you were born. It didn’t say if you are good, ethical, sincere and hardworking, it assures you a problem-free lifetime. So, the expectation that you should have no problems is irrational, impractical, unfounded and unrealistic. Second, the nature of Life is that it is pre-ordained. You believe it or not. But everything that you have gone through, are going through and will eventually gone through, is cast. All you can do is to play the game of Life, every single living moment of yours, even as the joystick is in Life’s hand and so is the rule book. Life’s essence is to deal with WHATEVER comes at you! Therefore, third, don’t wallow in shallow unjustified perceptions that the unethical and corrupt,  who in your eyes do all wrong, are living it up! By imagining so, you cause yourself more grief. Fourth, if you have been created, as you have been, and you are alive, as you are, then be sure, your Life will have its share of problems. Life’s meaning is not zero-pain. Life is really about developing the ability to deal with pain, while learning to avoid the suffering that comes with it. Intelligent living, therefore, is all about being happy despite your circumstances.
Today is the celebrated Tamizh poet Subramaniya Bharathi’s 130th birth anniversary. History and the present generation will both concur that India may well not see another poet ever of Bharathi’s stature, brilliance and patriotic fervor. Yet, apart from dying young at 38, Bharathi also died with so much pain. It was so irrational. First, he was imprisoned several times by the then British rulers of India. Then he was felled by an elephant at the Parthasarathi Temple, Chennai, which, ironically, he used to feed regularly. He never really recovered from these setbacks. His prolonged bouts of ailments finally took his Life on September 11, 1921. It is both a recorded and ignominious fact that ONLY 14 people attended his funeral. Imagine, India’s most revered son and celebrated poet today, did not have more than 14 people to see him off on his last journey! How unfair and cruel is that?
So, stop expecting Life to be fair and mourning the fact that it never is. To be sure, it never promised it would be fair. So, accept it for what it is. The key is to understand this truism. And continue being good and doing good, not expecting anything in return, and to know that your goodness is good for your inner peace, and to know also that what’s embedded in your Life’s design, you HAVE to face and overcome. If you learn from that experience and, importantly, learn to be happy despite what you have to experience, well, then you will have lived your Life meaningfully!