Life only guarantees surprises and unpredictability

Tell Life each morning that you are waiting to be surprised and you will never be disappointed.
This is the way I have learnt to live Life. And I have also learnt that Life’s unpredictability is the only guarantee we can get from Life! True, Life’s not unpredictable. It is extremely predictable when we know that the only thing it will surely deliver, unfailingly, ceaselessly, is surprise. And the only way to respond to Life’s surprises is to be in amazement. Take delight in the continuous surprises that Life throws at you. Enjoy them.
How can you enjoy a health problem, a lost job, a misunderstanding, a loss of reputation or something that is painful __ physically and emotionally__you may ask? The truth is you can enjoy them just as you can enjoy the birth of a new child, a raise, a vacation or an orgasm. You don’t enjoy the challenges (also surprises) that Life throws at you  because you don’t see these ‘surprises’ as opportunities to learn, grow and evolve. Instead you see them as problem situations where Life has ‘put you down’. In reality, Life is actually lifting you up, raising your level of challenge so that you can rise up with it. Look at your Life so far. Despite all the hard kicking and struggle you have been through, haven’t you evolved from what__and where__you were a few years ago? That is Life. Your screaming, defying, resisting is not going to change the way Life happens to you. The best way to avoid strife, agony, grief and disappointment is to have a child-like curiosity, gleefulness toward Life.
Zen Buddhism says: “Be empty. Look without any idea. Look into the nature of things but with no idea, with no prejudice, with no presupposition.” To be empty, you must just, simply, await Life’s next surprise. If you are forever willing to be surprised, you will never be disappointed.

Get on with the business of living

Live with complete awareness of the true nature of Life – and you will be happy, no matter what you are dealing with.
Understand that one day this lifetime will come to an end. And yet you must live – and not just exist – until that end comes! This awareness is critical for you to live fully, blissfully, in continuous celebration of each moment. Celebration? When each day is a challenge to survive, how can you celebrate each moment? People, events, circumstances, financial issues, health problems, relationships, the traffic, the garbage, the theatre of the absurd – the upcoming Assembly elections (in Tamil Nadu)….do we think with so much chaos around us, we can actually celebrate? How can you even talk of a celebration, you may wonder. Indeed. Yet, it is the imponderables that make Life interesting.
We don’t see Life as interesting because we haven’t been taught to appreciate the unpredictability and inscrutability of Life. That appreciation would make living Life so much easier. Instead we are told that Life is about studying, working hard, earning money and living happily ever after. Had we been told that such a linear progression through Life would be interspersed with a zillion different challenges and that we must embrace them, live through them, learn from them, while being happy, wouldn’t we have been better off? This is the awareness that I have come to experience, understand and believe in.

This awareness is the key to happiness. According to ancient Chinese folklore, a traveler through the mountains came upon an elderly gentleman who was busy planting a tiny almond tree. Knowing that almond trees take many years to mature, he commented to the man “It seems odd that a man of your advanced age would plant such a slow-growing tree!” The man replied “I like to live my life based on two principles. One is that I will live forever. The other is that this is my last day.” The old man’s perspective is so, so beautiful. Look around you. What are the things you would like to complete if you were told today’s your last day here? What are the things you would like to set in motion if you knew you will live forever? Make a shortlist combining actions that are common to these two lists and get started. That’s how you really stop complaining, feeling lost and helpless in the humdrum of everyday Life, and get on with the business of living – fully and happily! 

A Life lesson in minimalism from Comrade Bardhan

Important Note: This Blog will continue to feature my daily blogposts. In addition, on Sundays, public holidays and long weekends, I will feature The Happiness Road Series and my #HelpYourselfToHappiness Vlog Series!

Here’s today’s blogpost!

The best way to be happy and content is to want nothing, cling on to nothing and just be!
A.B.Bardhan (1924 ~ 2016)
Picture Courtesy: Jitendra Gupta/Outlook
Three weeks ago, veteran Communist leader (CPI), A.B.Bardhan, passed away. I am not a communist. But I admired Bardhan’s simplicity, integrity and down-to-earthiness greatly. Even so, I was surprised when I saw a picture (see below) going viral on social media. Shot by someone called Bhupinder and shared by Bardhan’s close associate Vineet Tiwari, a writer from Indore, the picture shows the only possessions that Bardhan left behind: a rusted almirah, some clothes, a pair of shoes and a red suitcase that he used while traveling. Bardhan, I gleaned, did not even own or rent a house – after his wife Padma passed away in 1986, he moved into the CPI headquarters in New Delhi, Ajoy Bhawan. I have never known Bardhan personally. So, I am not sure if he was happy or what his idea of happiness was. But going by the tributes that flowed upon his passing, I believe that he was a much loved and respected man.
Picture Courtesy:
Bhupinder/Internet/Vineet Tiwari
My own admiration for Bardhan grew exponentially when I saw the picture. I have learnt from Life that minimalism – the art of living with bare essentials – is the key to happiness. Isn’t it a great idea to live with just a few sets clothes, and perhaps a passport if you love traveling, a mobile phone and a laptop with high speed internet connectivity? You may want to consider owning a house if you can afford one, or perhaps just rent one. After all, at the end of the day, you just want a roof over your head, meaningful work to do and some food to keep your body nourished and healthy.
I am reminded of a Zen story. A visitor arrived at the home of a Master. The home was just a small hut. It was absolutely barren. No furniture. No bed. The Master sat and slept on the ground. He ate fruits from the orchard in the neighborhood and drank water from a stream nearby. He had one robe which he washed and re-wore every day.
The visitor was intrigued. He asked: “Master, how come you have nothing here. How do you live without anything – no furniture, no utensils, no clothes?”
The Master looked at the visitor and said: “Sir, you too have come empty-handed – no furniture, no utensils, no clothes!”
The visitor was surprised with the Master’s remark and exclaimed: “But I am just a visitor!”
The Master, beamed a big, glowing, smile and replied: “So am I!”

That’s what we all are. Mere visitors on this planet. And to live here – and be happy – we need nothing more than the bare essentials! For almost 7 years now, my wife Vaani and I have been following a simple principle: anything, barring our passports and important documents, that we have not used, we have been giving away – every six months. This process helps us sustain a free flow of positive energy while keeping our home clutter-free. This energy, we realize, is the key to inner peace and happiness. Each person’s idea of peaceful living and therefore their version of the bare essentials will vary. But our experience has been that the lesser we want, the lesser we cling on to, the happier we are.