“With acceptance there is only happiness”

‘The Happiness Road’ is a weekly Series on this Blog that appears on Sundays where I share my conversations with people while exploring their idea of happiness!
This Sunday I feature the dancer couple Shanta and V.P.Dhananjayan.
There’s a glint in the eyes of the Dhananjayan couple that you can’t miss. Over the last three decades, I have noticed the glint every time that I have seen them perform or on the few rare occasions that I have spoken to them. Recently, I met them for about an hour at their Shastri Nagar home. And all through the conversation, I couldn’t but help admire that glint. Perhaps, I wondered, the glint reflects their state of inner joy and peace – what you will find in people who love what they are doing and do only what they love!
Almost as if he is reading my mind, Dhananjayan says, “Happiness is just being.” “It is about being satisfied with what you are doing, with how you are living,” adds his wife Shanta.
Picture by Vaani Anand
Dhananjayan qualifies his earlier remark saying he feels blessed in many respects to have had the “right influences that impact happiness” at different times in his Life. First, he considers himself fortunate to have been born in a family where his father, a school teacher, instilled in him the value of ‘giving’ and taught him to never cling on to anything material. “He gave away everything he had to his sisters, leaving nothing for his eight children. Yet, all of us grew up happy, even if there was no food to eat at home on some days.” Second, living and learning in a gurukulam, at Kalakshetra, helped him understand that “group energy spreads harmony” – a work model that he has preserved over the years. Third, his companionship with soul-mate and partner Shanta, says Dhananjayan, has contributed immensely to the way he has grown through and evolved in Life. “We share each other’s ideology. Our art brings our hearts together. There’s a great understanding between us…we complete each other.”
Picture by Vaani Anand
Dhananjayan believes that when you know what you want from Life, and what makes you happy, you can face any situation, any challenge stoically. Shanta says that when they left Kalakshetra in 1968 they were only in their twenties, but they were already clear that they wanted to dedicate their lives to “putting Bharatanatyam on the world map”. “With the 25 continuous years we have spent conducting our summer gurukulam at Yogaville, Virginia, with the global collaborations we have had with artists from various genres and with the contribution we have been able to make to propagate Bharatiya sanskruti and kala worldwide, I guess we both have had a very fulfilling Life journey.”
But hasn’t there ever been a blemish on the bliss canvas? A challenge that threatened to disturb their inner equilibrium?
“Oh! There have been many,” exclaims Dhananjayan, adding, “But art teaches you humility and gratitude. When you have that attitude you always overcome.” He recounts his 15-year saga to establish Bhaskara, an academy to preserve and nurture the performing arts, in Payyanur in Kerala’s Kannur district. Everyone, from environmentalists to common-folk to a cold bureaucracy to disinterested politicians, came between him and his dream. For years, he soldiered on, investing every available hour and their hard-earned money in the project. Initially Bhaskara was only Dhananjayan’s baby. But when Shanta saw his intent and his passion being challenged by those who were opposing the project, she jumped in too, backing him fully. But “the people who operated the system” queered the pitch every single time. Finally the couple gave up, selling their investment to an educational institution that runs a B-school there now. “I was drained. When people don’t want to understand you, it can be very difficult. Kerala may be God’s own country, but it is also the Devil’s workshop! One day, seeing me frustrated, Shanta pointed out that there was no point in doing anything, even if it is your dream, if your inner peace is going to be disturbed. I saw light in her perspective,” confesses Dhananjayan.
Would he consider the Bhaskara project an epic loss – something that he failed at? “Fortunately, the Bhagavad Gita has taught me to keep my mind steady. Yes, there may be instances when the mind will waver. That’s when my art has helped steady it again. I have realized that there’s no success or failure. I have learnt to deal with both joy and sorrow with acceptance. With acceptance there is only happiness,” explains Dhananjayan.
So, here’s the secret, as I have discovered it, of that glint in Shanta’s and Dhananjayan’s eyes: Do what you believe in and love doing, always be grateful and content, simply accept whatever comes your way and never let anything disturb your inner peace!

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In Life’s fairy tale, there are no sad endings

Don’t approach anything that happens in your Life from sadness.
A loss. Pain. A heart-break. An insult. All of them are not what we ever want in our Life. And so we respond with shock, anger and sorrow. But after we get over the initial response, we must develop the attitude to shift the attention to joy.
Exult in the opportunity that each of those surprising events has thrown up. A loss always points to a gain in the future. It has also taught you through your grief what is more valuable in your Life. You grieve a loss because you attach a value to it. This awakening to the realization of what’s important to you must call for celebration. And joy. If someone insults you, you must celebrate because you have now the opportunity to live with an insult. A capability that you never thought existed in you. Again, it calls for joy! Your spouse tells you that she or he can’t carry on in the relationship with you anymore. Beneath the obvious layer of shock and tears, it actually opens so many more opportunities to start afresh in Life. To explore newer horizons rather than be stuck in a bad relationship in grief, in sorrow, in pain. Joy here means the suffering for both of you has come to an end. Yes the pain of going through the process of separation will have to be dealt with. But eventually it too will lead to joy!

What is certain about your Life and mine is that it will end one day. But interestingly when your Life ends you will not even know it. Only those who you leave behind will feel sad. And again you will not know that they are sad! So, in reality, in Life’s fairy tale, there are no sad endings. So, why be sad about the interludes over which we have no control? 

Trust the hand that gives

Life is more meaningful when we humbly accept whatever comes our way, while implicitly trusting the hand that has given us this beautiful experience.

As 2015 gathers momentum and we settle down to our routines, the celebrations and hangovers of festivity make way for another year of opportunity, challenge, apprehension and faith. It is just the right time for us to think and reflect on something that will set the tone for the rest of the year to follow. This one is a story from Osho, the Master, that reminds us that when we accept what comes our way, there is joy and fulfillment. Here’s hoping you find it relevant to all that you have experienced or will encounter as you cruise along through the year.

A slave had served his Master faithfully for years. So diligent was he that the Master rewarded him by taking him along on a tour of the Amazon jungles. They camped at night and walked, exploring nature’s pristine beauty, during the day. The loyal slave never failed in his duty to his Master even though the trip was his reward. He would feed his Master, make his bed and keep him warm at nights by stoking the bonfire. Impressed further by his service, one day at lunch time, when they both spotted a big, exquisite, colorful fruit, the Master insisted that the slave have the fruit first. When the slave was shy to take up his offer, the Master said, “My dear son, you have served me well. Go on, eat this rare fruit first, and give me a small portion at the end.” The slave reluctantly agreed. And had a go at the juicy fruit. As he devoured the first few slices, the Master asked him how it was. And the slave replied: “Extra-delicious”. A few more slices later, the Master again asked him how it was and the slave gave the same reply. Big fruit that it was, larger than a pumpkin, the Master got the same reply time after time. Soon, more than three-fourths of the fruit had been eaten by the slave and the Master began to worry that he would not get to taste it. “Slaves will be slaves,” he thought, “Selfish and greedy.” Losing his patience finally, the Master snatched the last slice from the slave and bit into it. He shrieked in horror throwing the slice away. It was the bitterest fruit he had ever tasted in all his life. He looked at his slave in dismay and asked him: “But didn’t you say it was extra-delicious? Didn’t you seem to be enjoying it? How and why, my son? Explain.” “Master,” replied the slave, “All my Life you have looked after me. Whatever you have given me has only enriched my life. So, when you gave me this fruit to eat, its bitter taste did not matter to me at all. I just blindly trusted the handthat gave me the fruit.”


Huge learning there from the slave’s attitude to Life and his Master. There’s great joy in accepting. Let’s stop resisting Life’s vicissitudes and simply accept whatever comes our way! With prayers for a happy, peaceful and healthy rest-of-the-year for you and your precious family….

Give your attention to what’s more important than to what comforts you

Whatever we give attention to in Life grows.
You and I are who we are because of what we have focused on. If we have dwelt on mundane issues, we will be stuck in the rut. If we have looked at the magic and beauty of Life, we will be surrounded by people, events and scenarios that make us happy. For you to understand how this works, you must know what’s important for you in Life. And you must shift your attention to those things, those pursuits that are really important. When you look at the roads, the unpicked garbage and the street people or when you read the headlines about selfish, corrupt people you will end up being cynical. This cynicism will grow. Making you bitter and angry. Instead, if you focus on the good that people do each day to make your Life possible with a degree of comfort you have chosen, you will find gratitude welling up within you. This gratitude will make you both peaceful and prosperous. If you focus on how it’s possible for your child to go astray in this big, bad world, that feeling of insecurity will chew you up. It will haunt you even in your sleep. Instead if you focus on the joy of having brought a new Life into this world, through you, and allow that goodwill to grow within you, you will see your child as a wholesome individual charting her own path in this world.

In Life, all things you seek and that comfort you are mundane at one level: the money you have, the control you think you have on your circle of influence, the respect you get from society and other such similar stuff. And yet what you have and don’t think of always are the most important at another level: this Life, your family, the ability to touch, see, feel, hear, express….Give your attention to what’s more important than to what comforts you. You will then invite abundance unlimited into your Life!

Let your sadness make way for joy!

Don’t approach anything that happens in your Life from sadness.
A loss. Pain. A heart-break. An insult. All of them are not what we expect. And so we respond with shock, anger and sorrow. But after we get over the initial response, we must develop the attitude to shift the attention to joy. Exult in the opportunity that each of those surprising, often times even shocking, events has thrown up. A loss always points to a gain in the future. A loss also teaches you, through your grief, what is more valuable to you in your Life. You grieve a loss because you attach a value to it. This awakening to the realization of what’s important to you must call for celebration. And joy, not grief and sorrow!
If someone insults you, you must celebrate because you have now the opportunity to learn to live with an insult. A capability that you never thought existed in you. Your spouse tells you that she or he can’t carry on in the relationship with you anymore. Beneath the obvious layer of shock and tears, it actually opens so many more opportunities to start afresh in Life. To explore newer horizons rather than be stuck in a bad relationship in grief, in sorrow, in pain. Joy here means the suffering for both of you has come to an end. Yes the pain of going through the process of separation will have to be dealt with. But eventually it too will lead to joy!

So, in effect, there are no sad endings in Life. Why then be sad about the interludes over which we have no control? A beautiful song from the John Abraham movie ‘Jhoota Hi Sahi’ (2010, Abbas Tyrewala, A R Rahman, Javed Ali, Chinmayi) comes to mind. It is among the most spiritual songs to emerge from Bollywood recently. The message is simple: Why Cry! Life’s too short to be spent in sadness and worrying!