Beat “maya” with M.A.Y.A

Life is but an illusion. A seen between two unseens__of the time of the soul before death and its time after death.This is the big teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. This is the essence of being in this world and yet being above it.
When we realize that whatever is happening to us__fame, success, defeat, pain, loss__is not happening to the real us, that all this is a perception, we will be able to stay detached. Life is like going to the movies. When we go to watch a movie, we see the entire story play out in front of us, on a giant screen, we get involved sometimes with the characters, but never attached. When the movie is over, we get up and depart. Life is that movie, and you, the real you, are the spectator, the watcher. Your journey on the planet in a human form is like the stint of the movie-goer in a movie hall__you arrive, you witness, you depart. And a movie is just an imagined story, a perception of reality, really not the reality itself.
In Indian mythology, and in Indian scriptures, this whole illusionary experience of Life is called maya. So if we are to assume that everything we know or have ever known is only an illusion, then what is the point to it all? That, the Gita explains, is a good question. Krishna asks Arjuna: “Why do we find sorrow in this truth that the attachment to all that is unreal, and only a perception, is pointless?” But there’s a way out from this entrapment__from this illusion, from maya. And that solution, I have read somewhere, is M.A.Y.A.The cure for mayais M.A.Y.A, which is to be Mindful, Awakened, Yielding and Accepting! In being Mindful of the now__focusing on whatever is happening than focusing on what happened or will happen__we will be Awakened to immense possibilities and opportunities. From that Awakenedstate we will see value in Yieldingto__and not resisting__Life. When we Yieldwe reach a state of Acceptance. In Acceptance, and only in Acceptance, do we find total bliss. And only in bliss will we find our true, real, Self! So beat maya with M.A.Y.A. Be Mindful, Awakened, Yielding and Accepting __ always!

Hiss when you must…!

Sometimes, you may have to be firm and tell some people off. In doing so, you are not being unkind or rude. You are simply responding to a situation that has been created by someone and which you intensely dislike.
This happens to all of us. Especially in close relationships. That people start taking you for granted. They intrude on your privacy. They want to have an opinion about everything you do. And they, if you are not wary, end up treating you like a doormat. You suffer them because you don’t want to be either petty – like them – or it’s not in your “intrinsic nature” to be “unkind” to people. Now, let’s get this right. There’s nothing “unkind” in asserting yourself so as to protect your inner peace and dignity. Whoever it may be – parent, sibling, child, neighbour, colleague or friend – no one, no one has the right to treat you in a manner in which you don’t like or don’t want to be treated. Period.
There’s an ancient story of the Buddha and a snake. A snake wanted to play with the children of the village. But every time he went near them, the children would pelt him with stones and hit him with sticks. They were scared he may bite them. The snake reached out to the Buddha when he was visiting the village: “O Merciful! Can you draw out my poison so that even accidentally I won’t harm the children. That way, over time, they will understand me and include me in their games.” The Buddha obliged. But the children, still in fear of the snake, continued to abuse and attack him. On the Buddha’s next visit to the village, the snake once again prostrated in front of him and asked him what to do. “Look at my body; I have so many bruises and it is very painful.” The Buddha replied, while patting the snake on his back: “My dear, I removed your poison so that you don’t, even accidentally, bite those children. But I never advised you not to hiss!”
So, hiss when you must. Just to put people in their place and to protect your inner peace.
Some of the situations Life places you in will also require you to fight for justice. Often with people who are supposedly close to you. Don’t get clouded by sentiments about close blood relations in such cases. I am not encouraging you to fight because it is the right thing to do. But what do you do when the situation created by people around you demands a firm – sometimes even legal – response? Don’t let your ego – in the garb of compassionate sentiments – come in between you and what you must do. Just do whatever you believe must be done in the interest of all parties concerned, without hatred, without anger, without any rancour.  
A friend of mine called to say how his older brother, with whom he shares the ownership of the family business, was making it almost impossible for both of them to co-exist and survive. “Neither is he accepting a separation of the business and the assets, nor is he allowing me to lead it and run it well, nor is he running it efficiently. We are bleeding losses month-on-month. He’s challenging me to fight him. If I fight him I can at least save half the family’s fortunes – for my immediate family and for my mother and sister. But how can I fight my own brother? I am not interested in any fight,” lamented my friend. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna: “Don’t escape from the war… because I can see this escape is just an ego trip. The way you are talking simply shows that you are calculating, you are thinking that by escaping from the war you will become a great saint. Rather than surrendering to the whole, you are taking yourself too seriously– as if there will be no war if you are not there.” Krishna says to Arjuna, “Just be in a state of let-go. Say to existence, ‘Use me in whatever way you want to use me. I am available, unconditionally available.’ Then whatsoever happens through you will have a great authenticity about it. It will have intensity, it will have depth. It will have the impact of the eternal on it.”
Such is Life. When you have to do something to ensure that your inner peace is not disturbed, you have to do it. And only you can do it. Do it also knowing, as Krishna says, that you are a mere instrument, a conduit for something that Life wants done through you! So, don’t fall short, don’t fight shy. If you don’t do what you must do in such situations, you will come in Life’s way and you will cause your own suffering. When you allow Life to flow through you, and you choose not to suffer, is when you are happy and in bliss.

You will never awaken unless you are felled by hubris

Beware, as you ascend in Life, in career, in society, in name and fame, of the Master Feller – Hubris!

Tarun Tejpal
Much is being written and told of former TehelkaEditor-in-Chief, Tarun Tejpal’s rise and fall this past week. Almost everyone who knows him is sure that he was struck by hubris – excessive pride and a presumption that one is infallible! Because nothing else can explain why Tejpal, now 50, and one of India’s finest thinkers, editors and writers, would want to allegedly sexually outrage his much junior colleague, who not only is his daughter’s age, but is also her best friend? As one commentator, Vijay Simha, wrote yesterday: “His argument that it was a fleeting consensual encounter suggests that he may be in a state of denial. He may be having difficulty processing the consequences of his actions.Friendly or hostile is not the point. Tejpal simply shouldn’t have been there. A legal victory, which he seems to think he will have, is a mere footnote. The only real authority a human being has is moral. All other forms of authority are fugacious. Tejpal has ceded moral authority.”

Tejpal was once my senior colleague. Indeed I am saddened by what has happened. But I am not here to preach morality in Life. I may hardly qualify to be able to do that. But let me warn you about hubris. Because I too have been felled by hubris.

There was a time when everything about my Life was just the way I had wanted it to be. I come for a middle-class background. So, as I grew up, for various reasons, I developed this urge to want to succeed beyond even the wildest imaginations of my family. I wanted name, fame and money. To be sure, I got all of that. By the time I was 35, I had it all. I had built a very successful consulting Firm, I lived in a premium neighborhood, I was famous in the industry we worked in and I had money. Then I made mistakes with the way we chose to grow our business. I was warned that this was not the way to go about growth – by my soulmate and partner, my wife. I was warned by senior advisors who we had on our Firm’s management council. I was warned by my colleagues. But hubris always strikes stealthily. You will never know that you are thinking of yourself as infallible. On the contrary, hubris will wear the mask of humility and complete down-to-earthiness. It will make you believe that you can conquer the world. It will make you think that all those who are offering you sane counsel are wimps. And just when you believe that nothing ever can go wrong with your Life, everything really will! My decisions blew up on my face. My Firm’s fortunes came crashing. And in no time we were bankrupt! All that I had painstakingly built up – from my career to my Firm to my finances – went up in smoke. Everything that I was attached to was taken away from me.

It was very, very, very difficult to accept whatever was happening to me. I resisted. I fought. I cried. I sulked. But Life only got more difficult to face. It hurt me so much that I had failed and fallen. I desperately wanted to let go of the past and I wanted to know how I could be peaceful, happy and content.

That’s when, by sheer accident, actually cosmic design, I stumbled upon my Guru, Eknath Easwaran’s (1910~1999) book Gandhi The Man. Easwaran talks about the evolution of spirituality in the ordinary mortal – who was pretty much like you and me – M.K.Gandhi, eventually making him a Mahatma. Easwaran shares a verse, and I reproduce a relevant part of it below,  from the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita that Gandhi meditated on each morning for over 50 years of his Life.

Arjuna asks Krishna: “What are the marks of the man who lives in wisdom, completely established in himself?” (Himself here means ‘his true, real, Self’). Krishna replies:

“….He lives in wisdom
Who sees himself in all and all in him,
Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed
Every selfish desire and sense-craving
Tormenting the heart. Not agitated
By grief, nor hankering after pleasure,
He lives free from lust and fear and anger.
Fettered no more by selfish attachments,
He is not elated by good fortune
Nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer…”
I too have found great value in meditating on this verse. As I struggled to get over my fall, and my losses, Easwaran’s commentary on learnings from Gandhi’s Life and this verse helped me immensely. I soon discovered that what’s more valuable and enduring in Life are not what we acquire for ourselves in our lifetime but what we will leave behind – by way of a message, by way of creating something that will continue to be useful for generations to come, by way of leaving the world better than we found it!

To be wise, to live intelligently, is not difficult. It is a choice. All of us – you, me, everyone – will be struck by hubris at some time or the other, in our own unique ways. When you understand that Life is far more meaningful than satisfying your sensory pleasures and amassing wealth or seeking fame, you will have built the best armor around you to protect yourself from that wily predator – hubris. But the interesting irony about Life is that – in big or small measure – unless you are felled by hubris, you will never awaken!

To avoid suffering – simply let go!

We all resist and grieve when things__or people or opportunities__get taken away from us. Actually, what has to happen will happen – so why cling on to what’s being taken away from you and create so much suffering for yourself in the bargain?
Sunita Naik: Pic Courtesy: Shailesh Bhatia, India Today
I read the moving story of journalist-turned-editor-turned-millionaire-turned-pauper-turned-destitute Sunita Naik, 65, last week. A former editor of the Marathi magazine Grihalaxmi, Naik had at one time, just over a decade ago, two apartments in prime locations in Mumbai, cars, a good, steady income and a solid cash reserve. She is single and does not have anyone in the world. Then, over the years, she lost her job, got into debt, had to sell off her apartments, and live off the interest her cash reserve was generating each month. However, someone known to her, under the pretext of helping her with her banking work swiped her accounts clean, leaving Naik penniless. Evicted from her rented house in Thane, Naik came to the streets. She took refuge on the pavement outside a gurudwara in Versova and lived there for a few months with her pet dog, Sashi. A Mid-Day reporter bumped into her one day and ran her story in the paper. People pitied with her. But few showed active interest in helping her. She was not begging. She was just homeless and penniless. Finally, a compassionate couple, Christine and Gregory Misquitta offered her shelter in their home. They love dogs so Sashi found a home too!
This story, of course, reminds us yet again of the fickle and fragile nature of Life. But I also learned from Sunita’s story that she displayed a great sense of “let-go”. She seemed to be in great acceptance of the whatever was happening to her Life – whether it was a career-high at one time or numbing penury and homelessness at another! And things did happen to her – just the way they had to, right up to good folks, the Misquittas, taking her home!
A prime cause of suffering in our lives is that we resist whatever we dislike. But whatever’s happening to you does not pause to enquire whether you like it or not. It just happens. So, when you can’t prevent whatever’s happening, the best way forward is to stop wanting to and trying to control it. Simply let go. And let things happen! Irrespective of what you believe or think, whatever happens, eventually happens for your good __ every single time!
On this Gokulashtami, Sri Krishna’s birthday, revisiting the Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, can, I believe, have a calming, uplifting effect on you – no matter what you are dealing with currently!
Whatever happened, it happened well.

Whatever is happening, it is happening well.

Whatever will happen, it will also happen well.
What of yours did you lose?
Why or for what are you crying?
What did you bring with you, for you to lose it?
What did you create, for it to be wasted or destroyed?
Whatever you took, it was taken from here.
Whatever you gave, it was given from here.
Whatever is yours today, will belong to someone else tomorrow.
On another day, it will belong to yet another.
This change is the Law of the Universe.

Indeed, you cannot be serious about Life!


A key factor that inhibits progress on the spiritual path is our tendency to take Life too seriously. Everything that we do, it appears, seems to key us up. Every small conquest seems to be a moment to claim superiority and every failure is seen as a numbing, lethal, final blow! So much so, when a hard-earned victory comes our way, we fritter away the moment in showmanship and bury ourselves under a heap of unsolicited critique and free opinion, when we fumble and fall.

So, it was with great interest that I read noted columnist Nirmal Shekar’s views on Indian cricket captain M.S.Dhoni in yesterday’s Hindu. Celebrating Dhoni’s legendary equanimity, Shekar made a case for sportspersons having the ‘right perspective’ to their game. That perspective, wrote Shekar, is to understand that a game is just a game. “…Sport is not really a matter of life and death. Sport is enjoyable only so long as we can get our perspective right and put it in its place, put it where it really belongs in the big picture. If we let it become too important, then what was sought as a pleasurable experience will turn out to be a pain.”

I completely agree with both of Shekar’s views: on Dhoni’s attitude to the game and on the nature of sport itself.

My two-penny worth learning from this lifetime’s experience so far is that Life is no different. In Life too the right perspective is very important. And we must place ourselves, and our perspective, where they belong in the big picture. Else what could well be a pleasurable experience may well turn out to be a pain!!!

The past week, I have been limping around, literally, owing to a nagging, painful condition in my right leg. Even a small step forward, at times, requires a big effort. I felt, at several times, crippled unable to carry out my routine normally __ like a bath, or driving, or going out for my daily walk. However, on my visit to the hospital the other day for a review with the doctor, I found a young lady seated on a wheel-chair. She seemed fine, for all practical purposes, laughing and joking with her family and nurses. So, I even wondered what she was doing seated cross-legged on a wheel-chair. Only when I looked closely did I realize that all her limbs were deformed. She didn’t have legs to speak of! Her lower limbs had shrunk abnormally owing to either a disease or birth deformity. Her hands were not normally formed either and her fingers seemed to be sticking out, without a palm, on both hands. I reflected on her spirit. And on my condition. I felt ashamed about the brouhaha I was creating over it! The right perspective and its place in the big picture fell in place immediately. I laughed to myself, much to the surprise of the nurse attending on me. When she insisted I tell her what the joke was, I said, “This leg, this painful condition, is the biggest joke! I find it absolutely funny!”

So it is with everything in Life! What seems like a grave problem momentarily, over a period of time, surely turns out to be laughing matter!  The key, I believe, is not to get keyed up about Life. The operative word and sentiment here is equanimity. Equanimity is simply the ability to deal with both success and failure, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, dispassionately. Dhoni has it. You too can. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gitaends with the highest state of consciousness a human being can attain. Krishna, replying to Arjuna, says: “…He lives in wisdom…Who sees himself in all and all in him…. He is not elated by good fortune…Nor depressed by bad…Such is the seer…!”

Whatever you are going through, take it easy! This Monday resist the temptation to get wound up any further. Invoke the right perspective and place it where it belongs in the big picture. To quote Swami Sathya Sai Baba, “Don’t we sometimes wake up from a dream, ponder over our conquests and defeat in our sleep-state, and shrug it all off thinking ‘it was but a dream’? We need to bring the same approach to Life as well. Because this lifetime is nothing but a dream.” Indeed. Maybe you will not understand, appreciate or accept this perspective just yet. But, may be you will at the end of your journey on this planet. Just maybe. That you really cannot or should not (have ever been) be serious about Life!