Stay with the truth, sleep well, stay blessed!

In any situation, stay with the truth.

In a workshop session I led yesterday, a young manager asked me if speaking the truth was worth it at all. He said, “I feel most comfortable saying things as they are. I prefer being in-the-face. But I am soon discovering that people don’t like it. I am losing friends and relationships.”

The manager raises an interesting question. We too have been told, or have sometimes experienced, that staying with the truth can be a competitive disadvantage. Sometimes, we wonder if speaking our mind will make others uncomfortable or even hurt them. We desist from speaking the truth also because we want to cover-up. But let me tell you, from my experience, that truth is a liberator. It is a healer. It is a very deadly weapon, a brahmastra, in our arsenal. I believe we fight shy of using it because we are worried about becoming vulnerable in this ‘big, bad, cold and merciless’ world.

Fundamentally, our world view has to change. The world is not made up of hypocrites, cynics, facists, rapists and terrorists alone. They are but a small population from all of humanity. Just like shadows in the dark are amplified by our fears, so are the deeds of a few men and women in the darkness of our minds and hearts. Arise and awaken to the glorious sunshine of the rest of humanity. Making yourself vulnerable by clinging on to the truth, irrespective of the circumstance, alone will fetch you the love, compassion and warmth of like-minded people around you. If someone deserts you because you spoke the truth, then they really were not worth being in your Life. Period. Besides, when you stay with the truth you don’t have to remember what you said! Most importantly, having embraced the truth, you will sleep well. When you can sleep in peace, you are truly blessed. Nothing else, believe me, matters! 

Understand the nature of, and reason for, your creation

All of us have been created equal. No one is superior. And none is inferior.
When we understand why we have been created, we will find meaning in our lives. It is in comparing ourselves with others that we lose the essence of creation and the awareness of the opportunity in front of us. Comparisons lend us to believe, for example, that just because Sachin Tendulkar is a great batsman, your child, who like most others has an above-average interest in the game of cricket, must become a cricketer. Or someone who can recite a few couplets mustbecome Javed Akhtar. Or because your neighbor has acquired a new Toyota Altis, you must get yourself a big car too. Abandon these comparisons, strip yourself of your desires to become something. Just be. Realize the power within you. Maybe the Sachin wannbe is actually an A R Rahman in the making. Or the part-time poet is actually someone endowed with leadership skills that may be more useful in a corporate role. Understanding the Self, your Self, can awaken you to THE truth: that you have all the energy that powers the Universe within you, and that it will all be available to you when you discover the reason for your creation.
In Hindu mythology, in the Ramayana, Lord Rama asks his Mr.Jeeves, Hanuman, “Who are you?”. Hanuman’s answer is not stemming from a theological and literary perspective. It comes from his being aware of his own Self.  His reply can be understood as follows: “You are the creator and I am the created, You are the Master and I am the Servant, You are the Teacher and I am the Taught, but at a soul level, You and I are one.”  This oneness needs to be discovered and understood, for each of us to live in bliss. In a recent Bollywood movie “Mausam”(2011; directed by ‘Karamchand’Pankaj Kapur and starring his son Shahid Kapur and Sonam Kapoor), the hero is a Sikh and the girl is a Kashmiri Muslim. When professing her love for the hero, the girl fears how her father will react to the relationship. The hero replies: “At the core of it, beneath the layers of religion, communities, color of skin, we are all human. That humanity will make way for us, uniting us.”
The problem therefore is not creation’s or Life’s. It is arising from a fickle human interpretation of this lifetime that has been gifted to us. Instead of understanding why you__and I__have been created, we are interpreting it basis religion, race, color, brilliance, money, assets, class of travel and such. We are missing the opportunity to live__therefore! Let’s awaken from this deep slumber. Let us know who we truly are. All else will follow.

The enduring relevance and power of Truth and Ahimsa

Truth and Non-Violence are the only two real assets that you possess. Nobody can take these away from you. No recession can erode its market value. They are eternal, importantly, practical, assets that are as relevant today as they were in Mahatma Gandhi’s time.
In fact, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an ordinary barrister at law, a man as trapped in worldly affairs as you and I are, transformed to become ‘mahatma’ (great soul) because he discovered these assets within him. These two transformational tools that are in our arsenal but we don’t deploy them because we think they are outdated concepts that don’t work. Wrong. I have lived, experienced and learned to report that they work. Big time. And are the only two weapons or resources that we need to survive the vicissitudes of Life.
Truth is not just about seeing, saying and doing the right thing. In fact, ahead of that, comes the realization that all Life is equal. This is the whole, the absolute truth. In front of this truth, all else pales in significance, everything is stripped naked. Apply this truth in real Life, in today’s world. You are plagued by worries of job security, of not getting a visa, of an unknown, scary future because you are out of job, of death because you are terminally ill. Now ask yourself why do you want this worry to cede, to go away? So that you can live in peace. To do what? So that you can die in peace. Now, therefore, if there is birth, you agree, you know, that death will happen sooner or later. If all of us have to eventually die, and we know that is inevitable in the future, why worry? Why wonder if we will have a job, a marriage, health and so on? Why not chooseto live in peace even now? The truth is that whoever you are comparing yourself is alsohuman. And so will eventually die too. When you awaken to the reality that all Life is equal, you start valuing Life and begin to live in the present.

Non-Violence is not just the absence of physical violence as Gandhi discovered. He found, understood, practiced and taught it as ‘ahimsa’. Which when understood from the original Sanskrit implies that ‘when all violence in the human heart subsides, the state that is arrived at is intense love’. None of us is physically violent at most times. We don’t go about hitting each other or killing people. But there is so much violence in our hearts. We hate people, we hate attitudes, we hurl abuses at each other, we swear on the roads, we wish pain and suffering to those who cause them to us. All this, Gandhi classified as violence. And pointed out that when we are filled with so much metaphorical, verbal, emotional violence__hatred__how can we go to our native state of love? From the neighbor who insensitively parks his car outside your garage to the colleague who plays petty politics at work to the tyrant boss who does not regard merit to the government official who demands a bribe from you to the guys on the street who eve tease your daughter, we are hating someone, somewhere, all the time. When so much instinctive, intuitive hatred fills our Life, where is the scope for love to prevail?
Gandhi was inspired by the Buddha’s teaching that ‘when one person hates another, it is the hater who falls ill__physically, emotionally, spiritually.’ Gandhi employed these two tenets of Truth and ‘Ahimsa’__intelligently to first transform himself and then the world. He called this process ‘satyagraha’__which means nothing but ‘truth in action’, and is certainly not some vernacular jargon for describing a protest methodology. Gandhi proved through practice that you can fight any battle, even an army, with just these two weapons. To be sure, he did notsay that we must not fight for our rights, for what is right or for justice. He only said that we fight it with non-violent means and while upholding the truth of our creation as equals. He explained this, in his context, thus: “I do not hate the domineering Englishmen as I refuse to hate the domineering Hindus. But I can and do hate evil wherever it exists. I hate the system of government that the British people have set up in India.” Gandhi’s philosophy, then and now, remains a game changer.

I have learnt the futility of imagining that we are all created different__and grieving and suffering from comparing, from pining and from staying rooted to an I-don’t-have mentality. I have learnt that violence in the heart is more destructive, more lethal than all the arsenic and all the RDX in the whole world__it burns you day in and day out, and leaves you emotionally charred. I used to be called ‘chiefscreamer’ at work (my colleagues invented this, punning on my work title that says ‘chiefdreamer’) and my choicest vitriolic abuses were even compiled as AVIS-isms by some of my more creative colleagues. But when I discovered the potency of ‘ahimsa’, and practiced it, I now realize that getting angry is an option, not a necessity. And when I do get angry and agitated, an inner alarm goes away, calling me back to attention and mindfulness. These two tenets that Gandhi lived and taught have transformed me and my Life. They can do so to you too. As Gandhi himself claimed: “I have not the shadow of a doubt that any [one] can achieve what I have, if he would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.” 

Be true to yourself – just say the unvarnished truth always

As long as you know it is the truth, always speak it. Because the truth can and must never be hidden.
But the most baffling thing about humankind is that we find it very easy to lie, to cover up, to say what immediately comforts us and the listener, than to speak the truth. Having spoken what’s easy, what came easy, the ideal situation must be to not suffer anymore. Yet, most of time, the person who has chosen not to speak the truth, grieves and suffers. This is what is most tragic. Let’s say you have a tyrant for a boss. And you wish you could tell him what he was doing was wrong. Instead you keep praising him or approving of all his nonsensical behavior because you feel it is easier to pamper him than provide him with constructive feedback. Now, as long as you are living peacefully having deceived yourself and falsely pumped up the boss’ ego, there will really be no problem. But if you continue to feel miserable because you have been saying what you don’t believe in, then you have a problem. The only solution then is to speak the truth about your boss, to him!
Contrary to most opinions, the truth is always respected. Both by the one saying it and by the one listening to it. But always say it to the one who is directly concerned with the truth. If you don’t, and choose to speak to a third party, you are actually promoting gossip. That’s when you are vitiating the atmosphere. For you, and for the person to whom you intend to speak the truth.

Truth does not require any crutches. It can stand on its own. And you too can say it without any fear. But you believe just the opposite is true, in any relationship, because you don’t want to be the person saying it. You prefer that someone else bell the cat. Or that a kid, than you, tell everyone that the emperor is wearing no clothes! That’s fantastic. If you are comfortable being someone who continues to thrive while pleasing everyone around, that’s just fine. Then, why are you grieving? Please don’t. If you are grieving over the state of any of your affairs, and if the people connected with your Life, need to be shaken awake, then throw the truth at them. Let them deal with it than you suffer with it! That’s the way to intelligent living. That’s the way to peace.

Own up your mistake, drop the guilt, be happy

Beware of the one you see in the mirror. Because you can never hide the truth from those eyes.

When you feel naked in front of those eyes, humbly accept your mistake and reform yourself. To make mistakes is human. It is but natural and an integral part of growing up. But never allow yourself to get carried away by the power of your own arguments that make you justify your mistakes. To try to justify them to others is bad enough, but don’t try to kid yourself with your own misplaced logic. A mistake is a mistake. It has happened and it is over. And it ceases to hurt or come in the way of progress and inner peace when you fundamentally accept it as one. That’s when it becomes a learning opportunity. All transformation__within or otherwise__happens when you recognize the transgression you have made, accept its outcome, and are willing to move on.

However, when you accept the truth to yourself, you cannot escape feeling guilty about what you have done. But with acceptance and introspection you can overcome guilt. Undoubtedly, guilt is a way of being truthful. But holding on to guilt can be debilitating. Feeling constantly guilty for what you have done means that you are living in the past. When you are in the past, you are not present in the now. But Life is happening in the now. Which is why, guilt often holds you to ransom and prevents you from enjoying what you have. When there’s no guilt, happiness follows.


To find your peace, look at yourself in the mirror and accept, acknowledge, own up humbly before those eyes. Drop the guilt when it surfaces. This is the way to happiness.

Always empower your children with the truth

One of the key responsibilities we have as parents is to be honest and speak the truth with our children.
There may often be the urge to hide the truth from children imagining that they may not comprehend or they may not be able to handle the real world. So, whether there is a relationship issue between parents or there is some difficult or unique Life situation that the parents are handling, with regard to either the children or the family, it is best to share whatever is going on with the kids. Honestly. Transparently. Of course, you can always package the truth in a creative yet simple manner in which the children will understand it better.
All of us know that children are very perceptive, intelligent and curious. Yet we are reluctant to share what we have learnt from Life with our children. Really, the adult view that children will not understand is a myth. They know almost everything about everything. Often times, they know better than the parents! An integral part of parenting is to have open conversations even on “seemingly difficult or taboo” subjects like sex or a biological process like menstruation or divorce. Children have no notion of right or wrong. And none of what is socially taboo is really wrong. So, by not discussing with them or telling them what we know when they ask us, we are encouraging them to either conform to mindless social norms or to think of those subjects as wrong! Which is unfair. For if sex were something wrong to indulge in then children wouldn’t be born in the first place. Or how can a biological process, which is as an aspect of creation, be wrong? It is like saying facial hair in men is wrong – even if you don’t like it, can you do anything about the way a male is biologically engineered? Is going for a divorce really wrong? It is only an affirmation of incompatibility between two people – which really is a great step towards their own happiness and inner peace. It’s another matter that most parents can’t handle incompatibility issues maturely and make the divorce process messy – particularly for their children.

Don’t philosophize the truth with your children. Tell it the way it is. Children are phenomenally intuitive. They grasp the truth. And internalize it quickly. My own experience with parenting has been full of interesting moments of truth and learning opportunities.
I remember when our son was about three years old, we attended the weddings of a few of our friends – all of which took place in the same year. And naturally, in the following year, some of these women got pregnant. We attended their baby shower events with our son in tow. Around then, my wife and I were also expecting our second one. One evening our son demanded to know from my wife: “Mom, how do people have babies?” My wife replied matter-of-factly: “When they get married!” There was a long silence for several minutes. It appeared to us that our son had forgotten both the question and the answer. He seemed to be immersed in playing with his collection of Hot Wheels miniature cars. Suddenly he looked up and shot his next question: “But dad and you never got married, so how did you have me? And now you are having another baby?” Startled, my wife and I looked at each other and smiled. Obviously, since our son was not at our wedding, he didn’t think of us as married at that time! I explained: “Babies are born when a man and a woman come together. Most of the times they are married when they come together. Just as your mom and I. You will learn how this works when you grow older. It’s pretty simple actually!” That’s it! Our son did not have another question. And we have never discussed it again!
Children are also always watching their parents – and imitating them. The first heroes and icons for a child are her or his parents. As a young CEO, I was wantonly aggressive in my 30s. I used swearwords all the time. My son was barely eight when I caught him swearing. The computer, on which he was playing a video game,  was hanging. “F#%$!”, he swore. I happened to be in the room. I looked at him and told him in a stern tone: “No! That’s not a word you must use son!”. He shot back: “But you use it all the time!” I remember being caught defenseless. I quickly apologized to him and promised him that I would not use it again. My assurance didn’t matter to him, I suppose, for he asked: “What does f#%$ mean, dad?” I concealed my shock and replied with a straight face: “It’s a word that people use to swear. It means the act of sex that a man and woman have. Again, I am sorry for using it. It’s not a word that people should use. Definitely not children. And you will understand this word and what sex means when you grow up. I won’t use the word again. It will be nice if you also don’t use it!” From that day on, I curbed my urge to swear – eventually I have given up swearing totally! I guess my son may be swearing at times, like most people do in a subconscious sort of way these days – but I am also sure he will remember this conversation from an educational perspective, of what he learned from me, just as the way I remember teaching him!
Surely, discussing the truth – in any context – is always uncomfortable. Yet, whenever we have had to discuss difficult situations or issues with my son and my daughter, through their teens and into adulthood now, my wife and I have always told them the truth. If we know better than them we share what we know. If we don’t know something, we admit we don’t know. Simple. At the end of every conversation, we pause and ask them if they have questions. If they don’t we invite them to come forward to ask them whenever they have one. We have found this approach very productive; evidence being that their adolescent years have been very enriching – full of learning, sharing and camaraderie – for all of us!
The initial growing up years of children, from childhood to adulthood, are both precocious and precious. It is important that parents hold their hands and walk them through this phase. What they learn through this time stays with them forever. Irrespective of the circumstances in which you have to be a parent to them and irrespective of the environment they have to grow up in, if you can help your children know and face the reality of their lives, of this world, you will have given them the best education that they can possibly receive. One reason why many of us like to avoid telling it as it is to children is because our parents never told us so. But that’s not a great excuse. The world we live in is not the same world in which we were raised. What our parents did__or did not do__was from their worldly view. Surely we don’t necessarily hold the same view. So, we can be progressive, a lot more liberal and certainly direct and upfront. Not that our children will not learn without us. They eventually will. But there’s greater joy in educating our children and empowering them with the truth than watching them struggle, stumble, fall and learn!

The whole idea of truth is that there are no versions!

Yesterday, I was with a friend who has got caught in a web of circumstances, all of them caused by his congenital tendency to lie. In fact his children called him a compulsive liar and did not want to do have anything to do with him, anymore. As my friend shared the list of choices he had made and the actions he had pursued, it appeared that he had unwittingly spun a web of deceit, some of them circumstantial – getting out of which now called for him to face the harsh realities of Life and which could take a long, very long time.

Why is it so difficult to face reality and speak the truth – in any context or situation? People chose to lie because it is convenient. Often times, people are even lying to themselves when they are refusing to see the reality and are in denial. Or they are dressing up the reality to show a different face to the world or themselves. But this is so hypocritical. The idea of truth is that there are no versions. Whatever is, is the truth. Analyzing a situation and arguing in your favour does not change the truth in any way. It only makes you believe that the situation you are imagining and conjuring up is the truth. This is the way that people fool themselves and get into a trap of covering up, lying and running away from the reality, until, as in my friend’s case, they cannot run or hide any more.
This is true of all situations in Life – of habits, in relationships, in business and even in the way we think and feel about ourselves and our emotional states. A simple principle to follow is to ask yourself if you are running away from something in Life and if whatever you know, see and feel is the truth. If it indeed is, irrespective of situation or consequence, simply stay with that truth. Life may appear to be complex with the truth but it surely will be peaceful. And when you are at peace with yourself, you can face anyone or any situation in Life!

Face your inner demons to change yourself

When you need to change yourself, you must face yourself – your inner demons and the brutal reality of your Life.
There’s a beautiful parable I remember reading in Daniel Gottlieb’s ‘Letters to Sam’. Once a man came back home late in the night to find that he had been locked out of his house. His neighbour saw him searching for the key under the streetlight and he too joined the search. Soon several other neighbors joined in the search wanting to help their distressed neighbor. After a while, one of them asked the man where he had last seen the key he was searching for. “Near the front door,” replied the man. The neighbor was puzzled. “Then why are you looking for it down here by the streetlight,” he asked. “Because the light is better here,” came the reply! Gottlieb shares the moral of this parable saying that when we are looking for answers in Life, we intuitively go where the light is better. Because it is convenient to search! But sometimes, says Gottlieb, for real transformation to happen, we must go where it is dark!
To be sure, no one likes to face the truth. The truth always is uncomfortable. Even thinking about it leads to a gnawing feeling arising within, doesn’t it?
Almost a decade ago I had a tobacco habit. For years since my early adulthood I had been chewing tobacco. I tried to give it up many times in those years. But every time I attempted, my resolve would break in few weeks because my mind would insist that I needed that habit, that crutch, to help me deal with the stressful Life I kept. So, I would capitulate and allow the habit to take over. But soon I would start feeling guilty – and depressed – with my inability to quit. Then one day, my doctor told me, that with the way my medical reports were reading, I would not live to be 40! I was 36 then. He held a mirror to me. And for the first time I faced my fear of my death. It was a very scary and, at the same time, awakening moment. I must confess that every time I popped tobacco into my mouth, I would always think of cancer and death. But I would brush aside the thought telling myself that since death was inevitable I would face it whenever it came. Besides, I vainly kidded myself that the habit helped me relax – when in reality it actually made me feel guilty and fearful, every single time that I chewed. But that moment in the doctor’s clinic was different. I clearly understood the import of what he was saying. I knew that if I continued this way, I was sure to die in the next few years, maybe as the doctor had estimated, by the time I was 40! I quit chewing that instant. I did not even heed my mind urging me to pop one last sachet of tobacco as I left the clinic and got into my car to drive back home. I simply quit. Period. When I look back now, I feel that it had been possible to quit – and abstain ever since – only because I had faced what I feared most – the reality about where I was headed with my habit and my lifestyle.
Interestingly, all of us know what’s right for us. We know the futility and the ruinous nature of some of the choices we have made and continue to make. It is our inability to face our realities that keeps us running down the path of escapism. The more we run, the more we live haunted lives. The more we run away from the truth the more we struggle to change, to transform.
It is only when you stop, turn back, and face your inner demons that you will truly transform. When you allow the truth about yourself to hit you, you will wake up to be the change that you wish to see in you – and in your world.

Because the truth involves you

About 25 years ago, when I used to work for The Indian Express, the newspaper had a tagline – ‘Because the truth involves us all’. Those were the days when Arun Shourie, the paper’s firebrand editor and his boss, the irrepressible Ramnath Goenka, were taking on the then Government  on the Bofors scandal exposing the corruption and rot within. That positioning statement then meant to me, as a young, impressionable journalist, that one had to take on the establishment and bring the truth, with honest reportage, no matter what.
Over the years, I have carried this spirit in me, though I have mellowed down, or matured perhaps, to understand and appreciate that while the truth does not need to be advertised, it surely needs to be always, and surely, spoken at the right time, with the right person, at the right place!
As long as you know it is the truth, always speak it. Because the truth can and must never be hidden. And because the truth involves you! But the most baffling thing about humankind is that we find it very easy to lie, to cover up, to say what immediately comforts us and the listener, than to speak the truth. Having spoken what’s easy, what came easy, the ideal situation must be to not suffer any more. Yet, most of the time, the person who has chosen NOT to speak the truth, grieves and suffers. This is what is most tragic.
Let’s say you have a tyrant for a boss. And you wish you could tell him what he was doing was wrong. Instead you keep praising him or approving of all his nonsensical behavior because you feel it is easier to pamper him than provide him with constructive feedback. Now, as long as you are living peacefully having deceived yourself and falsely pumped up the boss’ ego, there will really be no problem. But if you continue to feel miserable because you have been saying what you don’t believe in, then you have a problem. And the only solution then is to speak the truth about your boss, to him!
Contrary to most opinions, the truth is always respected. Both by the one saying it and by the one listening to it. But always say it to the one who is directly concerned with the truth. If you don’t, and choose to speak to a third party, you are actually promoting gossip. That’s when you are vitiating the atmosphere. For you, and for the person to whom you intend to speak the truth. Truth does not require any crutches. It can stand on its own. And you too can say it without any fear. But you believe just the opposite is true, in any relationship, because YOU don’t want to be the person saying it. You prefer that someone else bell the cat. Or that a kid, than you, tell that the emperor is wearing no clothes! That’s fantastic. If you are comfortable being someone who continues to thrive while pleasing everyone around, that’s just fine. Then, why are you grieving? Please don’t. If you are grieving over the state of any of your affairs, and if the people connected with your Life, need to be shaken awake, then throw the truth at them. Let them deal with it than you suffer with it! That’s the way to intelligent living. That’s the way to inner peace.

Wear your Life on your sleeve

Don’t fear being vulnerable. Be true. When you are true, primarily to yourself and then to whatever you believe in, then you need no defense. And nothing, no one, can touch you!

Often times in Life, we fear that people will exploit us. That they will want to “use” our vulnerability to their advantage. While conceptually, in a world where everyone is fighting to win at the cost of someone else, this may appear to be true, in reality this is hardly so. The world is not infested with blood and flesh thirsty sharks and vultures as we imagine. But is inhabited by perfectly normal, compassionate, beautiful, loving people__just like you and me. So, when you wear your Life on your sleeve, when you expose your stark vulnerability, you will discover how kind people really are.

I have often found that saying things as they are, the truth, always helps. It may lead to people drawing different meanings from what you say. But Life is not about inferences and interpretations. Because when you bring in either inference or interpretation, then you are bringing in logic. And there’s no logic to and in Life. Life is about experiences. And people are going through experiences similar to yours, or they have already been there, all the time.

When you are vulnerable, you are willing to face Life. And face the consequences. Even death perhaps. When you are in that state, you are never insecure. Insecurity comes when you fear that you will lose something __ your position, your status, your title, your wealth, your reputation or your Life. At times, you may fear losing someone. But if you are past that fear, then your vulnerability is an asset, never a liability. Of course, chances are that there may be a few exploiters who will step into the ring. But face them. When you look them in the eye, they will step back. Exploitation cannot stand the brilliant gaze of truth. Exploiters can never face the courageous. When someone whose weapon is fear, recognizes you are fearless, then he or she becomes fearful. This is how Life works!

Try this in any situation you are faced with currently. Whatever you have wanted to say or do, if you have held it back because you thought of yourself as becoming vulnerable, go do exactly that now. Watch what happens. How much ever you may think it to be potentially disadvantageous, you will always find that your being true leads the world around you to be true as well. Remember this: you cannot live in fear, you can merely exist. To live fully, you have to wear your Life on your sleeve.