To the MAESTRO called YOU…

Sachin Tendulkar has finally announced his retirement from the game that made him God! While there are people who are still awestruck by his legend, there are others, his admirers-turned-critics, who opine that he should have quit the game at his peak – which was a few years ago. Sachin himself explains his rationale for continuing to play well past his prime in his statement, issued by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), yesterday. He says: It’s hard for me to imagine a Life without playing cricket because it’s all I have ever done since I was 11 years old.
I would like to share what I have learned, so far, from Sachin’s Life. Each of us has three questions to answer and three circles to fill in Life:
  •      What can you be best at in the world? – What’s your innate talent?
  •      What are you deeply passionate about? – What keeps you excited about living?
  •    What drives your economic engine? – What earns you money?

When you answer these questions and fill the circles with your answers, the one vocation – or answer – that leads to the convergence of these three circles is your inner core of joy, your bliss. When you follow your bliss, you too will become a world-leader and world-beater, and consequentially wealthy too, in your chosen field. Of course, the time it takes to reach that pinnacle of greatness varies from individual to individual – it is often a direct correlation between effort, the time the individual is passing through, and the larger, unfathomable, cosmic design. But one thing is for sure: if you have identified that one vocation, which led to the convergence of these three circles in your Life, your bliss that is, you will always be happy doing what you have chosen to do – even though your financial success make take time coming. They key is to keep following your bliss, as Joseph Campbell (1904~1987), the American thinker and writer, famously said, knowing that doors will soon open where only walls existed. The difference between people who have identified their bliss and those who go on to become Gods, legends in their chosen fields, lies in the following. When you follow your heart, your  bliss, no matter what, you will arrive where you truly must and deserve to be! Important, focus only on your bliss, while following it, and not on becoming great! Greatness follows when you truly follow your bliss! (Just to clarify: the concept of these three circles was first presented by Management Guru Jim Collins in the context of helping organizations derive their Core Purpose. But I have found it extremely relevant in the case of individuals too – after all, people make organizations tick!)
Osho, the Master, has explained following your bliss beautifully. He says when you do what you love doing, when the doer becomes the deed, for instance, when the dancer becomes the dance or when the player becomes the game, magic happens. That’s when the Universal, cosmic, energy is flowing through you. The actor and the action are in unison then. That’s what the world calls genius, greatness. That’s how ordinary people become maestros. Did you not see that magic in Sachin – then, and don’t you not see it even now, when he is on a song? Sunil Gavaskar, the legend himself, said this of Sachin Tendulkar when talking to India Today, a couple of years ago: “The secret of Sachin’s longevity in the game lies in his joy. His mind, body, soul – all three are in a state of perpetual joy when he’s playing!”
To reach your own state of perpetual joy, you need to only shift your attention from your economic engine circle to the other two circles – concerning your talent and passion – in your Life. Then you too will be soaked in bliss and will be able to uncork the magic within you! Here’s then, cheers, to the MAESTRO called YOU!

When you are fearless, you are free!

Life’s arduous situations can break you physically, can make you immobile, can cripple you – but they cannot break your spirit, they cannot puncture your conviction, if you simply choose to remain strong from within! But how do you remain strong from within when there’s absolutely no respite from the outside? Say, when your Life is hanging by a thin thread owing to a terminal health condition, or when you are caught in a legal maze and there’s no way out, or when your business has gone bust and you simply don’t have any money to even meet your daily needs, or when your separation from your spouse has drained you emotionally, financially, physically and you have lost your will to live? Where do you draw strength from in such, and other debilitating, circumstances, where you are consumed by fear, self-doubt and hopelessness?
Interestingly, you must leverage your fear to gain courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is what you get by looking your fear in the eye, by accepting it, and deciding to face it. In reality, a courageous person is also fearful of consequences that logically appear to be on the horizon. But while she or he is fearful from within, she or he is able to pull herself or himself together on the outside. A coward, on the other hand, is both fearful from within and on the outside. But if you can leverage your courage, while becoming more aware, you can attain fearlessness. And fearlessness is not an outward emotion. It is the complete attainment of freedom from fear – within! That will happen, that can happen, only when you realize the true nature of your inner being. When you know that your soul is untouchable, unbreakable and immortal.
Let’s understand this better. All the world’s scriptures talk of this truth. Yet why do you still fear things, people, events in your Life, despite perhaps, knowing and believing this doctrine to be true? Because you haven’t allowed your inner being, your soul, to experience this truth. Examine all your fears. They are always about losing all that you already know as impermanent – your job, your money, your health, your relationships! What kind of intelligence are you, the much educated you, displaying when you are fearful of threats to any of these impermanent aspects of your Life? Someone says you will die because of your health condition – and you are afraid of death? Someone says she will leave you for whatever reason – and you are afraid of losing her? Someone says you will be sacked for non-performance – and you are scared of unemployment? Someone says you will be convicted and sentenced – and you are afraid of imprisonment? But aren’t you already imprisoned, held hostage, by your fear(s)? Think deeply about this. Everything about your Life so far and the rest of your Life will be taken away from you sooner or later. If it is the fear of losing all that you hold on to that’s keeping you anxious, agonized and fearful, then know that your fears are fully justified. What you fear most will surely happen to you. Sooner or later. Including your death! It is only when you experience this realization, this awakening, at the core of your inner being, in your soul, will you be free from fear. Will you be fearless from within. Will you be free.
Review whatever’s making you insecure. Focus on what you fear. And peel away each fear by asking yourself, ‘So what if this (that which you fear most) happens?’ When you get an answer to this question, ask yourself this question again, in the context of your answer, and so on. Keep going until you have no more answers. For instance, ‘What will happen after I die?’ does not have an immediate known answer. Yes, conjecturally, from what the scriptures tell us, the answer could be that ‘your soul is set free’. And so what if the soul is set free? Or if it is trapped somewhere, someplace? Will it matter to the person that you are currently? Since it won’t, why labor over your fears? So, whatever be the situation confronting you just now, don’t resist it, simply accept it for what it is. And know that since your spirit can never be broken or taken away from you, anything that’s happening to you, therefore, is not at all relevant! So be fearless. Be free!

When you are lonely and in darkness, bask in the sunshine of your soul…!

Often times, there may be no way out of a Life situation. There may be nothing, or no one, to guide you either. Not even a ray of hope. It may seem that it’s all over. That you can go no further in this dark, seemingly endless tunnel. This is the time, when you are pushed to a corner, when you are up against a wall, that you must make your journey inward.
To be sure, there are many methods to go inward. The one that works for me is a long walk in silence. In the silence that engulfs me, I often find my real self. I don’t mean that the environment around me is quiet. Hardly. My walks are often through busy roads. But when I drop anchor, I become silent. This silence is what restores faith in a hopeless situation. This silence is what leads the way to the light within. And whenever I reach that point, I am reminded of this immortal line by the 14th Century Persian mystic and poet Hafiz: “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
If you find it difficult to either conceptualize the inner journey or comprehend the power of your real self, let me explain this again differently. The human body is simply a vehicle. Anything material you acquire in this lifetime is temporary and perishable. Including your body and your name! But what powers this body, and makes you experience this lifetime, is the energy in you. And that energy is indestructible. So whatever you are going through or are faced with is impermanent. If it is pain and suffering, know that it too shall pass. So, why grieve? Know that the worst thing that can happen, if ever it does in the throes of your crisis, is that you could die because of your situation. But why fear or worry about a death which is inevitable? Besides, when you die you won’t even know you are dead – because only someone else can pronounce you dead! So, when nothing seems to work and you see no road ahead, go within and bask in the sunshine of your soul. Stay calm. Stay warm. Allow your inner light to awaken you to your true self. That’s what challenging and hopeless times are really for – to take you to the real you!

‘Vishu’ and the art of witnessing

In brief spells of awakening, we become witnesses. In those spells we do see Life for what it is. And not for what it once was or what it should be. If we can learn the art of being mere witnesses of our lives, all the time, we can be free from all bondage and therefore from all suffering!

Today is the festival of ‘Vishu’ – a celebration of abundance and prosperity that all people with roots in Kerala observe. I have become non-religious and non-ritualistic over the years. Even so, I love ‘Vishu’. Because the festival calls for a true celebration of abundance! When you wake up, you are escorted with your eyes closed to the prayer room or to where a special arrangement has been set up. You are to open your eyes only in front of this arrangement of fruits, vegetables, flowers, rice, pulses, coins and everything beautiful that the lady of the house will have set up overnight. To me, the festival is not only a gentle reminder that there is so much abundance in our lives, that we are blessed to be waking up in a home, where our basic needs are taken care of, but it is also a reminder that we can perhaps choose to always be witnesses – just as we are when we are in front of this resplendent arrangement. ‘Vishu’ asks for nothing from you. All you are required to do is to just be a simple witness. Just observe. Drink in the sight that fills your soul with peace and joy!

Being a witness is blissful. Because a witness has no role. A witness just watches. Observes. There is no analyzing. Therefore no judgment. Therefore there is no suffering, no misery. Witnessing means being minus the mind. The mind is the source of all interpretation. When you are witnessing, you have disregarded the mind. This is what happened to me when I saw the ‘Vishukani at home today. I did not analyze. I did not question. I did not opinionate. I simply saw, with bleary eyes and amazement perhaps, how bountiful Life is.

This is the quality that is missing in our daily living. Witnessing brings us to perfectly focus on the now. You obviously can’t witness either the past or the future! So, when there is no past, no future, what you are left with is the present. As witness, you have no role in the present. It is unfolding in its inscrutable pre-ordained fashion. And you, you can only merely remain a witness. Witnessing takes you away from all your suffering, into a realm from where you will never want to come back – bliss!

Don’t intellectualize Life, just live it!

You can’t intellectualize Life. You can only live it.

And the best way to live is to see from your soul. From the real core of your being. When you open your soul, you will see the light.

You are really not what you think you are __ you are not your name or body or qualification or your job! You are the Universe’s energy that’s powering you, and is actually powering all of creation. This isn’t complex at all. Every thing that’s happening to you and has happened or will happen in the future, is transient. Which is why in Indian culture, we refer to Life as ‘maya’ or as an illusion. So, in the end, this entire lifetime will be over, this experience you have had will end, but you soul will go on.

All your problems, worries, anxieties, fear, suffering come when you intellectualize Life. I have no money, what will I do? I am starting a new job, what will happen if I don’t fit into the new place’s culture? I have cancer and I will die soon. All these are intellectual responses. You have been conditioned to believe that you need money to live. That you cannot survive cancer. That people are unkind and that you must be wary of them in general. The soul has no such issues. It is impregnable. Nothing can touch it. If you understand your true Self, and see from your soul, you will live Life. And not merely exist.

Swami Ramakrishna Paramhamsa explains this very well. He was asked: “What is the logical, rational support for your illumination?” The question really was to understand what as the evidence for Ramakrishna’s enlightenment. He replied: “I am the argument. If you can understand me, if you can feel me you will know my illumination. It is radiating but your eyes are closed. Now I am not responsible for your eyes. If you want to know me, open your eyes — and not only the outward eyes but the inward too, because my illumination is of the inner.”

So it is with each of us. Our souls are closed. We operate as if our excel sheets and smart phones and our decisions make our lives happen. The truth is that Life makes our lifetimes happen. We don’t! If we accept this reality, Life will be simpler and much, much, much more beautiful!

When you pause for a while and watch lazy raindrops fall rhythmically on water puddles, when you see a baby sleeping peacefully with no care about the world around it, when you hear the bleating of a goat, when you see the sun magically disappear over the horizon, when you reflect on your breathing… those times, your soul will be open. The key is to make this experience consistently repeatable. And that can happen ONLY when intellectualization stops and living begins!