Never operate from fear – simply do whatever gives you joy!

Don’t be God-fearing. Be God-loving. That too, love the God, within you. Heed your inner voice. And do only what gives you joy.
My friend bought me a drink the other day. In fact, he bought me a few! But he did not drink. I knew he had had a problem with alcohol some years back. He had struggled to quit it for several years. In vain. Until, as he told me, “Sai Baba appeared in my dream and ordered me to quit.” So, he has been off alcohol all these years. I asked him if he was enjoying abstinence. He confessed that he hated it. But he said he was “scared of Baba’s wrath” if he violated the “order” and so he motivated himself each time to stay away. Which is why, he claimed, he often entertained friends so that he could have the “joy of being in a bar”. I told him, at the cost of sounding rude, that he may have got off alcohol, but he was still “alcoholic in attitude”. I said, “Don’t do anything out of fear. Baba may have given you the right direction – because you indeed had a drinking problem. But there’s no point fearing him. By doing that, you are only suppressing your desire out of fear that you will be otherwise reprimanded. Act freely. Drink responsibly, drink with awareness, and you will never overdrink. By abstaining, and craving, you are only creating a context for you to slip back, one day, when your resolve will break, let’s say when you are angry with yourself or the world or even with Baba, your suppressed desire will explode and you will hit the bottle again!”
My friend politely refused to take my advice. And I appreciate it. To each one their own.
I strongly believe that the human mind tries to trick itself by bringing the fear factor into play in most situations where individual actions require justification in a social context. The mind revels being gripped by fear – of someone or something. Fear of God, especially, is a convenient way to justify decisions relating to personal choice. In fact the whole issue of morality is debatable and is governed by this kind of fear. For instance, many believe that to have an extra-marital affair is a “sin” that “God will never forgive”. Some see eating non-vegetarian as sinful. Others think that drinking alcohol will tantamount to being disrespectful to their religion. And some think of women in their menstrual cycle going into the kitchen or prayer room as sacrilegious. My humble view is that morality is like body odor. It’s intensely personal. And if it is not dealt with properly, honestly, by the individual concerned, it stinks. Period. I don’t see any role for (an external) God to play in any of our human choices – especially those that are driven by our very human, sensory cravings! Therefore, if we drop this fear of an external God that’s in us, we will be free.
The only person you are answerable to is the one you see in the mirror. The only voice you must heed is the one you hear from within. When you operate from the core of loving whatever you do – be it drinking, be it eating meat, be it having an active sex Life with multiple partners, be it choosing to pray to a Higher Energy the way you want to and when you want to – you will experience a great inner peace. Because in doing all of that, and more, you are going with the flow of energy from within you, from your individual Godhead. It is only when you run scared that you run confused. Where there’s confusion, how can peace prevail?

Stand up for yourself – for no one else may!!

Never confuse your right to be firm with your need to be forgiving in relationships. In fact, you can be both – firm and forgiving.
There’s a warm and compassionate side to each of us. We are, by nature, willing to forgive people for their transgressions. But often times our softer side is viewed and interpreted as our weakness by people who trample upon our emotions or deny us our freedom or even basic, fundamental, human courtesies. In such situations, it is absolutely fine to stand up for yourself, look the someone who is bullying or harassing you in the eye, and say that you will not take this treatment anymore.
I have learned this from Swami Sathya Sai Baba: “In any relationship between two people, one may well be a cow and the other, a bull. There’s nothing wrong in being either. Each has a role to fulfil and each has something to offer the other. But at any time that the bulls starts taking advantage of the cow’s benevolence, mistaking it for meekness, the cow will be well within its rights to assume the ‘avatar’ of the bull. In taking a stance, in your own interest, there is no right or wrong. Just be righteous. The cow need not perpetrate any acrimony, aggression or animosity. But the cow shouldn’t suffer any of these either.”
In essence, while to make a mistake is human, and to forgive such a mistake too is human, to suffer in silence and sorrow is both unjust and inhuman. It is the biggest hurdle to inner peace and joy. So, don’t confuse being compassionate and being firm. They need not be exclusive. Simply, no matter who it is, don’t let anyone take you for granted or play with your self-esteem. Remember: if you don’t stand up for yourself – chances are, perhaps, nobody else will!

“Being happy means simply being – no conditions can apply!”

You can only be happy in the present. Or to say it differently, you can only be happy if you are present!

A friend called yesterday to say that his world is falling apart. His business is doing badly and his marriage is on the rocks. “I am very, very unhappy! I hate being this way. But my worries and anxieties are pinning me down,” he lamented. Surely nobody loves being unhappy! I can totally empathize with my friend. But only he, neither his business doing better nor his marriage being saved, can pull him out of the rut he finds himself in.

It is the nature of worries and anxieties to debilitate. If they are holding you hostage, it only means that you have allowed them to be that way. The human mind plays tricks on you all the time. It consistently strives to take you away from what is and gets you to attend to what once was or what may possibly be. So, most of the time, you are not present in the now. And happiness is always in simply being – present, in the now! When you impose conditions on what is, unhappiness sets in.

There was a time when I did not know, or understand when I eventually got to know, this secret to living. I remember waking up in my air-conditioned bedroom in the nights, some years ago, sweating. Sleep evaded me for months on end. I would pace up and down a long hallway in my apartment each night – worrying, fearing, feeling angry, guilty, helpless. I knew what I was doing was stupid. It was crazy. But I just could not sleep. I could not focus on the present.

Once I went to a live concert of R.D.Burman hits (performed by a fantastic national-level orchestra). The hall was full. And the audience was hysterical. About an hour into the concert, I suddenly realized I had not even known which songs had played until then. I was there physically, I was hearing everything, I was watching everyone clap, shout, whistle and sway to the legend’s unputdownable music, but I was not “in” the concert. I was not present there. What finally woke me up from my worry-filled reverie, was one of my favorite R.D. numbers from the film Golmaal (1979, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Kishore Kumar). The song went like this: “Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai, Hosake To Isme Zindagi Guzaar Lo, Pal Yeh Jo Jaane Wala Hai…” The lyrics meant a lot to me that day: “The moment which is coming will go away, if you want to, live in this moment, for it will be gone soon too…” Not that I had not heard that song before. But that evening, that song stirred something within me.

Swami Sathya Sai Baba
As they often say, things happen in Life, when they must – never a moment earlier or later. The next time my inner consciousness was stirred was through an experience I had with Swami Sathya Sai Baba (whose birthday it is today), which happened within a week of the R.D. concert. I confessed to Swami that I was very worried and anxious about the future. I told him I saw no way out of the problems that we were faced with as a family. I said, I simply cannot go on like this. Swami asked me what would it take for me to be happy. I replied that if someone could assure me that my problems would be taken care of, I would be happy. Swami then told me that I would never be happy if I thought this way. “To imagine, to desire, to wish that you will not or you should not have any problems is the biggest problem. As long as you have this problem, you will be unhappy. Being happy means simply being – no conditions can apply!” explained Swami.

That conversation with Swami changed my entire approach to Life. I soon found a wonderful method called ‘shubha mouna yoga’, which is to essentially practise silence periods daily, that helped me discipline my mind. The human mind, I discovered, is like a dog. If you don’t train it, if you don’t discipline it, it will lead you. But if you coach it and teach it to “stay still”, and to obey you, it will never stray. Swami’s inspiration and his awakening message to me, and my practise of mouna, has taught me to be happy despite the circumstances I am faced with in Life.

We have to learn to accept that Life will have problems. And our entire lifetime has to be spent dealing with these problems. Now, we can grieve over the fact that we have problems, and wish, in vain, that we have none, and so be perpetually unhappy. Or we can expunge such an expectation and be happy – in the here and now!


(Disclaimer 1: The author, AVIS, does not that he is the be all, know-all and end-all of all that he shares based on experiences and learnings. AVIS has nothing against or for any religion. If the reader has a learning to share, most welcome. If the reader has claim a bone to pick or presents a view, which may affect the sentiments of other followers/readers, then this Page’s administrators may have to regrettably delete such a comment and even block such a follower. Disclaimer 2: No Thought expressed here is original though the experience of the learning shared may be unique. AVIS has little interest in either infringing upon or claiming copyright of any material published on this Page. The images/videos used on this Page/Post are purely for illustrative purposes. They belong to their original owners/creators. The author does not intend profiting from it nor is there any covert claim to copyright any of them.)

A good guru makes you realize yourself

A true, good guru is quite unlike the popular perception that exists of a guru. A good guru is simple, humble and unpretentious.She or he asks for nothing from the disciple except objectivity and making an informed choice. And a guru need not be in ochre robes or having matted hair. Nor does a guru need to be religious. A good guru is always a great teacher. Someone whose compassion and charisma draws you to that person no doubt, but equally important, the person invokes in you the urge to learn, to unlearn, and to make the journey inward, to find yourself. Your true self.
My experience with my gurus have all been uplifting. I have not found myself gravitating to a single person. Instead I have derived great inspiration, and gained even greater insights, from several gurus – from my barber Ramalingam (who taught me the essence of the Bhagavad Gita) in Bengaluru to my former colleague Deepak Pawar (who awakened me to realize that I was controlled by my ego) to my dear friend Raja Krishnamoorthy (who taught me to appreciate the inscrutability of Life and to learn to go with the flow) to Swami Sathya Sai Baba (who I have never met, but have always experienced, who taught me the way to live in the moment) to a Siddha Master Kavi Rajan (who taught me the Power of Acceptance and Loving What Is) to another dear friend Vijay Easwaran (who taught me the Power of Silence – shuba mouna yoga) to Osho, the Master (again, who I never met, but who taught me to celebrate Life) to Shirdi Sai Baba (who taught me Faith and Patience)! Apart from these notable influencers, I have learnt, and continue to learn, from the countless people that I encounter in Life. The word guru means the dispeller of darkness. Therefore, anyone, who can remove your ignorance, shine light upon you, dispel the darkness, is a guru. So, as I have realized, each person, including your detractors, brings along a teachable point of view, if you are open to the learning. As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher always appears!
This guru purnima day express your gratitude to all those who have taught you in Life. Without their influence on you, you wouldn’t be who you are today. More important, continue to be open to learning – and unlearning. As long as your sails are open and hoisted, as the venerable Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said, the winds of grace, which are always blowing, will fill them and you will reach where you must and are destined to be.  

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!

Love yourself to find your God within you!


What you fear will enslave you and what you love will liberate you!

 

You often hear people referring to themselves or others as “god-fearing”. Last night I saw an electronic billboard outside a place of worship that read: “The Fear of God is the Beginning of Wisdom”! Nothing can be more untrue.

What kind of a God is it that wants you__or me__to be fearful? Religion and its self-serving propagators have turned God into a mega-brand that is propped up so that it earns them (the propagators) money and keeps them powerful. The 2012 superhit Hindi film ‘OMG – Oh My God!’, directed by Umesh Shukla and starring Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar, satirically and successfully, challenged the popular concept of God, as the religions and its leaders want us to believe. The movie had an unputdownable awakening feel to it. A Rediff review of the film summed up its message: “A brave and absorbing blend of satire, fable and fantasy that brings our attention to the misuse and commercialization of religion.”

This is indeed true. The most corrupt institutions in society today are the ones that engage with and thrive on religion. The people who run them have their followers in their stranglehold by playing up concepts of sin, retribution and divine punishment. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844~1900), the German philosopher, busted this whole God theory rather forcefully. He declared, ‘God is dead. Now man is free.” Understand this in a less debatable context. You see a snake at your feet. And you freeze, fearing it. You can’t think of anything else but your imminent death. Is the snake scaring you or your thought of it scaring you, crippling you? Anybody who understands snakes will tell you that they don’t harm UNLESS they are harmed. So, if you replace your fear with love and move away slowly you will be free. But no, you will stay frozen, not so much grounded by the snake, but by your fear of the snake! The same argument applies in the context of God. When every scripture (not religion) champions love, compassion and surrender__to the moment, to Life__how and why do we buy this absurd logic of fearing a God? Fear cripples. Debilitates. Love frees, liberates. How can you fear God and be free? When you fear a God__you will be dying every moment that you are alive. You will be enslaved by superstitions, rituals, dogmas and will be looking for an, unavailable, approval of each of your actions. Which is also the reason why you are plagued by anxiety, worry, grief, suffering and stress, DESPITE your being so God-fearing! The irony is that you are suffering only because you are God-fearing! If you are God-loving, your suffering will disappear. Think about it. You were born free. And in your infancy lived free. Don’t you realize that if you have stopped being free it is your fear of God that has made you so?

Swami Sathya Sai Baba explains this so beautifully: “Everyone is God. But some are unconscious of their divinity and are conscious only of the body-state, some are partly conscious of it and a few are fully God-conscious. Complete self-surrender and unquestioning love becomes possible when man achieves unswerving faith. Once God is realized there is no question of faith at all, just as there is no question of faith when a man knows himself to only be a man.” Note here that the faith that Swami refers to here is faith in Life __ that if you have been created, you will be looked after, provided for. And he talks of surrender to the Self, not to some external entity __ living or otherwise!

 

 

Drop all your fears. Recognize the value in loving the God you so desperately seek. You cannot find that God by seeking, searching, running from one place of worship to another. Or by wearing stones and rings on your fingers. Or by fasting and abstaining. You can and will find your God only when you find yourself. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek language. ‘entheos’, in Greek, meaning enthusiasm, is a combination of two Greek words: ‘en’ (within) and ‘theos’ (God). ‘entheos’ therefore means ‘the God within’. So, be enthusiastic about Life. Love the Life source within you. That is your God. One whom you don’t need to fear at all. Through this love, and only with this love, will you awaken to freedom and bliss.