In any crisis the greatest benefit is the lesson it teaches you

Life’s beauty lies in knowing that the tougher the situation, the stronger you will emerge from it.
I met up with a four of my close friends from college, who were visiting Chennai, at a coffee shop last weekend. The conversation soon veered around to how my wife Vaani and I were coping with this seemingly endless bankruptcy of ours. One of my friends, who lives in Jakarta, complimented me and said: “You are remarkably resilient man. I don’t think any of us here would have got through what you and Vaani are facing.” The others at the table agreed with his view wholesomely. I explained to them that resilience is a quality that all of us are endowed with. We will never know it exists until we summon it in the wake of a crisis. “All smartphones these days have Bluetooth. But unless you activate your Bluetooth option you cannot use it,” I said, adding, “Resilience is like that. When the situation demands that you have to be tough, you will be. Anyone in that situation will be.”
Of course, one good way to remind yourself that you can survive, endure and get through a crisis is to look up to someone who has done something similar. In our case, Vaani and I looked up to Amitabh Bachchan and his wife, Jaya. Their company went bankrupt too. They had loans of Rs.90 crore, 55 legal cases and several creditors at their door for months and years on end. At one time, their house, “Prateeksha”, in Juhu was attached by a bank for a loan default. But despite being the celebrities they were, they overcame the embarrassment of being without money and faced their situation stoically. It is from seeing how they did it that we believed that we too were capable of being resilient.
Each of us is resilient. To be resilient is not rocket science. You must however believe that no matter what, there will always be a door that will open. So, when everything is dark, when there is absolutely no way out, breathe easy. Because when it is dark is when light can shine! Light cannot shine when it is bright. When what you see are only walls, and no road ahead, anchor within, with your deepest intent. If you have integrity of purpose, the walls will make way for doors to open, even mountains will move, to roll out a path in front of you!
Consider this: take your own Life. Make a list of all the crises you have faced so far. And make a list of learnings you gained and personal traits you see developed in yourself through those situations. Give yourself a score on 100! I bet you, you will score a full 100! Problems and challenges are Life’s way of humbling us. Of coaching us. What is the point of all this you may wonder? Why do I want to be taught anything? I just want to be left alone, you may protest. But such is Life. You can say what you want, think what you want, but Life will still do what it wants. So, the best thing to do in a situation, where you are not in control of the game, but are merely being played on, is to sit back and count your blessings. In a crisis, the greatest, and perhaps only, benefit is the lesson it teaches you. Celebrate that learning. Each new learning makes you wiser.

In India, we have a custom, a tradition, of touching the feet of those older to us, and seeking their blessings. Many do it mechanically, mindlessly. They do it thinking it is a sign of respect. It surely is. But what you are actually doing is telling the older person, “Boy! You have a wealth of experience with living Life and I salute you!” The older person was not born any wiser than you were. But Life taught her or him. They learned. Are you willing to? 
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If you love, love openly

When you understand the true meaning of love, you will go beyond its physical expression.
Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha: Rang Barse
Yesterday, I watched ‘Silsila’ (Yash Chopra, 1981, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Rekha, Sanjeev Kumar) one more time. It’s a story of complicated relationships and of the people who are entangled in them. The movie made history not only because of the onscreen chemistry between Amitabh and Rekha but also because of the much rumored offscreen affair between them and the stresses between Amitabh and his onscreen wife Jaya (his real Life wife too). In one scene, in the iconic ‘Holi’song ‘Rang Barse’ (sung by Amitabh Bachchan himself), Amitabh hugs and kisses Rekha, much to the shock and dismay of their respective onscreen spouses, Jaya and Sanjeev Kumar – and to the surprise of the audience. While contextually, the hug and kiss are meant to only be a bold expression of the Amitabh-Rekha onscreen romance, there can be a spiritual interpretation to it too!
Here’s a Zen story, that I recall, to illustrate the point.

Twenty monks and one nun, called Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen Master.

Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.

Eshun did not reply. The following day the Master gave his customary morning lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written to her, she said: “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”

The import of the story is that if you love, love openly. For long society has suppressed love. It is natural, it is human nature, for people to love other people. But society has placed a restriction. For ages now, society has proclaimed that you cannot love more than one. And that restriction has come about from what society has created again – the institution of marriage. Religion has made this even more complex and intimidating by introducing the concept of sin. So, if you love another when you are married to one, it is both illegal and a sin. This is because the meaning of love has been distorted. Love has come to mean something conditional – almost everyone is saying, at least through implication, that if you behave within the contours of a relationship, you will be loved by me.

So, Eshun’s open invitation in the Zen story, and Amitabh’s ‘daring’ act in the ‘Rang Barse’ song may alarm many. But, however difficult it may be to immediately relate to it or accept it, the truth is that it is they who personify true, pure love. As human beings, our true nature is love. We don’t have to do anything to love or be loving or become loving. We just have to tear down all the walls we have allowed to come up between us and our expression of love. Then love will transcend the physical plane and break through social barriers. Then we will love openly!


A goose in a jar, Jai’s death in Sholay, and a lesson in being happy!

When you step back and witness your own Life, objectively, dispassionately, you can then find bliss even in a tragedy or catastrophe.

When you are in the throes of a big crisis, when you don’t see a way out to end it, take a deep breath, step back and watch the situation with the eye and view of an observer. Be a witness. Don’t participate in the situation by thinking, by worrying, by attempting to solve it! Just watch the crisis, your place and role in the situation, and let an awakening happen within you – that enlightens you!

A Zen Master once gave his disciples a ‘koan’ to deal with. A ‘koan’ is a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to encourage them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment.

The ‘koan’ given here was the one of a goose within a jar. When the goose was small, the task was to simply feed the goose. Soon the goose grew big. And was barely fitting in the jar. Now the task was getting the goose out of the jar without either breaking the jar or killing the goose. Disciple after disciple kept thinking of achieving this task by looking at the situations from different angles. Each of them concluded that it was impossible. They saw it possible only if the jar were to be broken or the goose was killed. Now, neither of these actions was allowed. They gave up.

But one disciple persisted. He too was tired of examining the situation from every conceivable dimension. He too wanted to give up. That’s when he concluded that his Master may not have recommended this situation without a reason. In a flash, it occurred to him that the Master was perhaps not interested in either jar or the goose. The Master wanted the disciples to learn something else. He recognized that the jar represents the human mind. And the goose represents you – the individual. He concluded that the Master wanted them all to understand that to experience bliss, the ‘you’ goose must detach itself from the ‘jar’ mind.

So, the disciple rushed to the Master and declared: “Master the goose is ‘out’!”

The Master applauded him: “You are right! You have understood the essence of this ‘koan’. The goose was never ‘in’!”

Zen Masters have taught that the mind is at work 24×7. It is eating you up all day with thoughts of worry, anxiety, anger, fear, insecurity and hatred, among many, many more. Now, in a crisis, unless you realize that you are like the goose in the jar, and stop believing that you were ever stuck in the jar, you cannot feel freedom. For this to happen you have to step away from the problem situation and merely ‘witness’ or ‘observe’ it. If you don’t do this, your mind will continue to hold you hostage and keep you trapped. A mind at work, or being controlled by the mind, means being susceptible to misery. The mind is a procession of thoughts. Like a full length movie. The thoughts are like the characters or the actors or the locales in the movie. The key is to not to identify yourself with these thoughts – the characters or the actors or the locales. Because once you identify yourself, you will get stuck with both the beautiful and the terrible moments in Life – as in a movie.

Dharmendra (Veeru) and Amitabh Bachchan (Jai) in Sholay
As a young boy when my parents took me to watch ‘Sholay’ (Ramesh Sippy, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri and Amjad Khan) in a New Delhi cinema hall called Rachna in 1975, I remember I refused to come out of the hall when the movie got over. I was grief stricken that Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) was dead. I had come to identify with him. It was only when my dad sat me down and counselled me that the ‘real’ Amitabh Bachchan was still alive, and this was just a movie, did I understand and, therefore, went home with my parents!

Many of us are in so much grief with our Life situations. This is because all of us are like that goose or like I was after watching ‘Sholay’. Struggling with our ‘jar’ minds. Unless we step back and away, as my dad counselled me, and see that our whole Life is just an illusion, like a movie, we will continue to be miserable. Life happens. And keeps on happening. There were crises, there are crises and there will be crises as we go through Life. Each of those Life crises or tragedies or painful situations will leave us numb and confounded. The only way out, and the only way to find inner peace and happiness, is to stop identifying with anything or anyone.

You are not your problems. You are not your relationships. Identification is the root cause of all misery. And the only way not to identify with anyone or anything is to simply witness Life. Be and behave like a third party. Then, through your awareness, you will discover that there was, is and never will be a crisis. What there always was, is, and will be, is happiness!


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!