Look up from your ‘busyness’ to see the beauty in each moment

Stand, stare, pause, reflect…slow down and soak in Life. Don’t keep running, with no time to stop and smell the roses, as if Life were a race.
Hari and his friend
Yesterday, on our morning walk we saw a milkman feeding a stray cat. We paused and asked him why he was doing that. He beamed a big smile, said hello, introduced himself as Hari, and explained, “I just found her hanging around this neighborhood everyday as I made my deliveries. One day I offered her some milk. And since then we have become good friends. She comes by whenever I am here. I enjoy seeing her and feeding her. Poor thing, all she needs is some care and milk!”
Hari’s random act of kindness is so inspiring. It made me think. How often do we do something like that – which is to pause and care for someone who does not have anything to offer us in return?
Further down our walking route, my wife Vaani, an ardent lover of nature, birds, flowers and, in fact, of Life itself, pointed to a tall tree and its fall colors. I looked up, Indeed the patterns that the morning light was weaving through the leaves uplifted their colors. Vaani, who schooled at Rishi Valley, where her parents were teachers, said J.Krishnamurti (the philosopher who lived between 1895 and 1986; he founded the Rishi Valley School and The Krishnamurti Foundation) taught her, and her sister, “the value of mindfulness and observation”.
It’s been 28 years since I have known Vaani. Initially, I could never understand why she always got so excited when she saw a tree or a bird or a flower. But over the last decade or so, ever since I was forcibly evicted from the rat race – thankfully, mercifully – I have also learned to pause, observe and reflect. I have learnt to appreciate Life better by slowing down. There’s great beauty in each moment, I realize now, provided you look up from your ‘busyness’!  
Besides, beneath all the chaos and grime that hold a big city in a stranglehold, there are still ordinary folks like Hari who teach us how to be compassionate and there are people like Vaani who remind us that it is possible to find beauty in the most unexpected of places.

The greatest wealth in Life is be able to enjoy the gift of this lifetime. In trying harder to run faster to get to a destination you think is your ultimate one, you are missing out on the scenery and the opportunity that each moment is offering you. I am reminded of W.H.Davies’ (1871 ~ 1940) poem Leisure. What he wrote back then is still so, so, relevant: “A poor Life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”
Advertisements

Get off the “becoming treadmill”, just be!

Stop competing, drop all comparisons, and you will live happily ever after!
We were having tea with a friend who was visiting us with his family after many years. Our friend was schooled at the famous Rishi Valley School, founded by the thinker-philosopher J.Krishnamurti (1895 ~ 1986). It’s a school that spurs the spirit of inquiry in children and lets them enjoy the process of learning than drive them to acquire knowledge that can showcase them as achievers to society. Our friend told us how much he valued the Rishi Valley way and said that his whole Life and career had been blessed by his experience of learning at that school. Naturally, we asked our friend’s children, who were in high school in Doha, Qatar, if they ever wanted to go to Rishi Valley School. Our friend’s daughter answered that question. She said: “I love Rishi Valley and the ambience there. But I don’t think Rishi Valley prepares you for the real world.” Her mother, our friend’s wife, piped in, “Well, schools like Rishi Valley don’t make you street smart.”  
What could have been an intelligent conversation sadly ended there as samosasand dhoklas were served and everyone got distracted in the direction of all the food and tea.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the observations that were made that afternoon – one by a child and the other by a parent! And I wondered if we really need to be street smart and prepare ourselves for the real world?
Think of what the real world really is: a place where everyone is busy running a rat race, where the spirit of inquiry and learning is stifled very, very early on in Life and people are only keen on their GPAs and placements, where top draw salaries are a means to acquire all material comfort and where innovation and enterprise and sacrificed on the altar of quarterly earnings and wanting to be seen as the number 1 and not necessarily striving to be the best! Competition has become the very basis of Life. No doubt competition, like in sport, brings out the best in a person. But to obsess oneself with competition, being street smart and constantly compare with others can ruin the joy of living. In fact, Krishnamurti has said, “Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” And he has also said, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” So, in effect, in the so-called real world that we have created today, there is no more learning. We have lost all our learning ability trying to grow our earning potential. And, obviously, at the cost of not employing our intelligence, we have begun to love, and therefore cling to, things and use people, whereas, it should be the other way round!
It is this obsession with comparing with others, with competing with a desire to vanquish others, that has made our world, this real world of ours, such a cold place to live in. Driven by the hunger to be successful you have stopped celebrating your uniqueness. Instead of just being, you are on this ‘becoming treadmill’ – wanting to become someone else or wanting to become like someone else. Running on a treadmill has an inherent pitfall – you keep running harder no doubt but, in the end, you are still at the same place! Comparison with others, being in continuous, endless, competition, breeds ambition. No problem with being ambitious. But when ambition makes you combative, restless and subconsciously violent – where you are fighting continuously with who you are because you are wanting to be someone else – then your inner peace and happiness are destroyed.
Krishnamurti urged us to look at nature. He used to say that the flowers bloom for the joy of blooming; the trees don’t compete with each other, they simply enjoy each other’s presence and growth; the sun rises and sets because it simply has to – there’s no attitude to nature’s magnificence. Osho, the Master, went a step further to clarify: “All that is divine is non-competitive – and your being is divine. So just sort it out. The society has muddled your head; it has taught you the competitive way of Life…when you are non- competitive, only then can you be yourself. This is simple.”

So stop trying to become – something, someone. Just be. Then, whether in the real world or not, whether street smart or not, you will always be happy and at peace with yourself! 

When we are illuminated from within, we are enlightened

The ability to see Life clearly is what leads us to be illuminated from within, to be enlightened.
A holy Hindu scripture, Brihadanyaka Upanishad, has a prayer with the line that goes “Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya”, imploring the Almighty to lead the prayerful from ‘darkness unto light’. From a state of existing to awakening. From being unenlightened to enlightened. This state, while salubrious to the soul when in prayer, is often, in all practicality, seen as unattainable. And this is why humankind fail to see the huge opportunity to evolve and awaken to this simple truism.
We think enlightenment is for the Buddha, for the fakirs, for the Himalayan Masters. And that those of us who are caught in the worldly web of action, emotion and desires, have to be content with just prayer which sounds pious on the lips but is listless in the heart! And so, we have concluded that several of us will suffer in the dark recesses of our existence. This need not be so. There is a way out. Interestingly, simply, practically, it is possible to lift ourselves from darkness to light. Instantaneously. All we need to do is to see Life with clarity.
Legend has it that when the Buddha was dying, and was about to embark on his ultimate journey, his disciple Anand, was distraught and was crying. He asked the Buddha, “What will happen to me?  Who will guide me now?  Who will show me the light?”  Buddha opened his eyes and uttered his last famous words, “Appo Deepo Bhava”. (Be a light unto yourself!)  “There is no one else on this inner journey.  We are all alone.  We need our own light to show the way,” was the advice the Buddha gave Anand.
Indeed, to find enlightenment, you don’t need anyone, you don’t need a venue, a tree or a religion. You only need yourself. You are the One! You are the only one who can be your own light. What is this light? This light is nothing but clarity in and about Life. To see things as they are. And not to interpret them or try to choose between them. There is always clarity in each moment. And you need not do anything other than just see it. For example, if there is death of a dear one, see it that way. Don’t avoid it or lament it. If there is loss in business, in love, see it as a loss. If there is birth of a child, see the new Life. Don’t reason, don’t justify, don’t exult, don’t gloat. When you see Life for what it is, as it is, choice disappears.
J.Krishnamurthi (1895~1986), the renowned philosopher, calls this choicelessness. This ability to see things as they are. When we have the clarity of this insight, it brings us freedom. Because we are no longer fearful of a choice that may lead to grief or are desiring success and witnessing the bloating of our egos because we chose right. This clarity, this freedom, is the light that can illuminate our souls. When we are illuminated from within, we are enlightened. We would then have passed from darkness to eternal light.

Of Krishna the Lord, Krishna the seeker – and bliss!

Whatever you do, do it as an offering to the Universe – from your soul to the cosmos. And you will be at peace with yourself!
T.M.Krishna
Picture Source: Internet
T.M.Krishna continues to amaze me. In a recent interview to Sumana Ramanan of the Open magazine, titled The Argumentative Musician, Krishna has laid bare what he believes in and why he often ends up doing what he does. For instance, at a concert last December, during the famed Chennai music season, Krishna stopped singing an hour ahead of schedule and drove away, much to the chagrin of the organizers and his own rasikasand fans! Opinions flooded the music scene – ranging from how arrogant Krishna had become to his hitting a creative block to the premise that he did so only because it was a free kutcheri(concert). But Krishna told Ramanan: “I had actually reached a point of fulfilment. In that state of repleteness, I felt there was nothing left for me to sing. I may have been able to sing for another hour, but would that have been music…it had nothing to do with the fact that the concert was free…Music is not about delivering a fixed number of hours’ worth of singing, but (it is) about transcending the earthiness of being.” Krishna elaborated further on what drives him: “…I am not doing this (whatever I am doing) for reasons that have anything to do with T.M.Krishna, the performer. I do not even like the title ‘performer’. I am in this because I passionately and insanely believe that music has given me a window into Life that is taking me somewhere…I am not afraid of disappearing from the popular stage.”
For those of you who do not know Krishna well, he, at 38, is regarded as one of Carnatic music’s most outstanding young proponents. His talent is regarded as prodigious and many expected him to walk the predictable path to “glory” in the highly templated Carnatic music industry that thrives on overflowing kutcheris, raving, nodding rasikasand awards and titles being accumulated annually. Perhaps it was Krishna’s personal quest (his seeking the ‘earthiness of his being’), influenced by his schooling with the KrishnamurtBi Foundation of India (founded by renowned philosopher J.Krishnamurti), for finding a deeper meaning to Life, that led him to stop running the “Carnatic rat race”. He stopped playing to the rules long back and has done “crazy” stuff like refusing to sing at paid-for concerts. To many, he’s the enfant terrible of Carnatic music.
I don’t know much about Carnatic music for me to be able to comment on Krishna’s genius. But I firmly believe he’s not being argumentative ever. If anything, he’s spiritually evolved.
Consider what we can learn from him. For one, we are all so conditioned to chasing success – recognition, fame, wealth – in whatever we do, that even if we don’t enjoy what we are doing anymore, we continue to do them because we want to protect our trappings of success, the “fringe benefits” of earning-a-living! In choosing to sing for himself, for his inner joy, not fearing a loss of popularity or demand, Krishna is highlighting the importance of following your bliss. Second, although he hasn’t said so in his interview to Ramanan, Krishna reminds me of what Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the concluding verses of Chapter 9 of the Bhagavad Gita. Here’s my guru Eknath Easwaran’s translation of the relevant verse:
A leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even

Water, offered to me in devotion,

I will accept as the loving gift

Of a dedicated heart. Whatever you do,
Make it an offering to me –
The food you eat or worship you perform,
The help you give, even your suffering.
Thus will you be free from karma’s bondage,
From the results of action, good and bad.

I don’t want to get into the merits or demerits of Karmic theory or the existence or non-existence of God here. The point is very simple. You and I, and Krishna, have been created without our asking for this lifetime. We have been endowed with our own special talent. In Krishna’s case, it is proficiency in Carnatic music (and in writing, as I have come to discover; his book ‘A Southern Music – The Karnatik Story’by Harper Collins was released by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen last month). This Life, therefore is a gift. The talent each of us possesses too is a gift. So, the best way to live the Life given to us is to offer whatever we do to the Universe – freely, without seeking anything in return. When there are no expectations from whatever you do, there can be no agony. And when there is no agony or suffering, you will thrive in your native state of inner peace, joy and bliss! That’s what Krishna of the Bhagavad Gitaprofessed and that’s what T.M.Krishna believes in – and is championing!

Don’t give a heap of words the power to injure you

What others think of you is none of your business! Seriously!!

A common trap we all fall victim to is to grieve over the perceptions that others have of us. For some strange, inexplicable reason, what others think of us, always, matters more than what we think of ourselves. And while these opinions, that others have of us, cause us untold hurt and, often, suffering, we still continue to give them the importance that they absolutely, simply, don’t deserve.

There are only two kinds of opinions. One that creates value – which is, when you heed them, they help you become a better person, professional and human being. The other kind debilitates. It hurts. It is the second category of opinions that we must be wary of. We can’t escape them. But we sure can choose not to let them affect us when they are thrown at us!

I learnt this lesson the hard way in Life. For a long, long time, well into my late thirties, I would hurt from others’ opinions of me. Which, predictably, varied from the banal to the absurd. I would work hard at clarifying to people who had read me wrong or strive, even harder, to change their opinion of me. In trying to do all this I would grieve and suffer endlessly. Then, one morning, I read this quote by the famous philosopher and thinker Jiddu Krishnamurthi (1895~1986): “The ability to observe oneself without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.” I remember that I was in the middle of my daily practice of mouna – observing an hour of silence. My business had collapsed. There was no money to even support the family. I had to deal with a lot of creditors – each of whom were driven by their urgency to recover their money that was stuck with me/in our business. So, each one employed a different method to force me and my business to pay up. A common approach many used was to accuse me of being a cheat. It was humiliating at one level and very, very painful at another. Soon the perception that I may be faking a financial crisis spread to my own family. And when I was called a cheat among people with whom I shared a blood relation, I was devastated. That was when I came by Jiddu Krishmamurthi’s quote. I read it a few times that morning. Then it struck me that if one had to ‘rise’ above judging oneself, in order to stay anchored and peaceful, what purpose did it serve to worry about others’ opinions of you? In a flash I awakened to the pointlessness of it all.

Ever since, I have let my awareness build a protective shield around me. People still opinionate about me, my actions and my Life. These opinions come flying at me. But they bounce off my awareness – unable to touch me or affect me.

A few weeks back, a close friend, called me a ‘coward’. He called me a ‘coward’ because I was not willing to debate a point of view with him. He shared this opinion of me over facebook chat with me. I simply pasted a smiley emoticon as my reply to his unsolicited opinion. I am not sure what he made out of my benign response. It doesn’t matter to me at all though. But another mutual friend, who heard of this other friend’s effort to “chat” me up, called me and asked me not to take the latter’s actions seriously. This is what I told that friend: “Choosing not to enjoin in a pointless debate is not cowardice.” I was only expressing myself. But my caller friend summed it up brilliantly: “As long as we are sure of what we are doing and are at peace with ourselves, it shouldn’t really matter how people perceive us.”

That is so true. And that’s all there is to it! Let people keep judging and opinionating. If their opinions are constructive, take them on board. If they are aimed at only causing you insult and injury – beware! You can’t stop them from coming at you. But you can well choose to ignore them! An opinion that you don’t allow to affect you is nothing but a harmless heap of words. You give that heap the stature of an insult and the power to injure you by taking it seriously!