Being human, not being religious, is the way to finding your God

Stop being humanly religious and instead be religiously human.
Religion, at best, is the path, not the destination. If religion could have helped us find God, all of us, you, me, everyone, should have met God and got Her autograph. Why is it that only few have seen God, fewer have experienced God, only a miniscule have KNOWN God and maybe, just a handful, know that THEY ARE God? That’s because, a large mass of humanity is religious, while a minority is spiritual.
To be sure all religions, and there are over 300 of them globally, champion God-realization. And promise the path to God. Not that they are wrong. But we, the followers, have become so obsessed with the path, not even the journey mind you, that we have come to imagine that being religious IS knowing God. To be religious is to be dogmatic, persistently ritualistic, about a faith. The only faith worth being religious about is being human. Most of humanity, however, while obsessing over religion, has completely forgotten what it means to be human. Take the case of Republican Jon Huntsman, who once was in the race for the Amercian Presidential nomination. A principal__political, not principled__charge against him was that he was raising two adopted daughters from other religions: one a Chinese Buddhist and the other an Indian Hindu. Does it really matter? The color of our skin and the nature of a faith that has been__like our birth__thrust upon us, without our asking for it, without choice to us, is not who we are. We are all human. Period. And we are not divided by race, nationality, faith and such as we imagine it to be. We are all one. Period. All of us have the same 5.5 liters of blood. And it is all red in color. All of us breathe the same Life source. What I exhale you breathe. And what you exhale I breathe. When I can breathe in what you breathe out, and live, why can’t I raise a child that happens to have embraced the same faith as you? If I can, why can’t Jon Huntsman? Huntsman and his wife have seven children, including Gracie Mei, 15, who was abandoned at a Chinese vegetable market at two months of age, and Asha Bharati, now 9, who was left to die on an Indian village dirt road the day she was born. A hands-on dad, Huntsman speaks to Mei in Chinese and is encouraging little Asha to learn about and appreciate her Indian culture and Hinduism. Had Huntsman got his party’s nomination and gone on to win the race to the White House, America would sure have shown the world what it means to be human__not just a Democrat or Republican.
Take also the case of a lady who is seeking an alliance for her daughter ‘within the same faith’, despite hating, from the bottom of her heart, the inhuman rituals of her faith that are perpetrated on girl children__a crude form of female circumcision__because she ‘does not know how people outside her faith are’. What would you call people who claim to be upholders of a faith that indulges in an act of violence against girls, and that too innocent children? We could call them terrorists. Terrorism and terrorists don’t belong to one religion. Anyone who kills humanity, kills Life, in physical or spiritual form, is a terrorist. Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), American sci-fi author, puts it so aptly: “If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.”

So true. Let me hasten to clarify that I am neither for atheism nor against religion. I am pleading for us all to just be human. And it begins with each one of us. We don’t have to adopt abandoned children, if we don’t want to, to do this. We don’t have to stop practicing our individual faiths to do this. We just have to stop clinging on to anything that divides us__race, nationality, color or religion. Instead, let’s celebrate being human. And let’s do that without fail, every moment of our lives, from here on__religiously! Believe me, that’s when you will find, just as I have, God!

Finding the real you!

To be free from stress, pressure, worry, pain and sorrow, you need to go within and find the real you!
There are three layers of each of us. Imagine yourself to be a Russian Matryoskha nesting doll which is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other. The first, outermost, you which is attached to all the material things in Life__that which is also trying to possess, protect and control all these things. The second, immediately inner,  you which recognizes and is aware of a larger cosmic design__but still leans towards possession, protection and control of all the things acquired in a lifetime. The third, the core, you which does not see itself as separate from creation and in which your Godseed really is. All the pressure, the stress we take on ourselves is because we are playing on our Life’s surface layer! Think about your worries, for example. You worry about your house, your car, your job, your business, your bank balance, your insurance claim, your Visa__and such. And any threat to any of them causes you to be under pressure, be worried, be stressed. As you advance in Life, with age and experience, you realize that there’s more to Life than material things and see a larger cosmic design, you appreciate it, and so your focus__and perhaps concerns__begin to include more meaningful things like your health, your family time, your passions, your causes or your beliefs. You feel you need to ‘invest’ in the quality of your Life than focusing only on the ‘quantity’ of whatever you have in Life. This phase is what is erroneously, and historically, called the “mid-Life crisis”. Please know that this is NO crisis. This is the biggest opportunity. Because someone, actually Elliott Jaques, a Canadian psychologist, called it so in 1965, we have believed it to be one! Hence while we see that our lives are perhaps pre-designed, we are worried about our time on this planet ticking away and so rush to go on to further control, further possess and further protect our lifetime’s acquisitions. Instead of reaching outward one more time, which we already know is the source of much pressure and stress, try going one layer below. The third you, your core doll in your personalized Matryoshka nesting doll set, is where you will find complete peace. Arriving here is when you will find no pressure, no want, no worry, no sorrow, and complete, unadulterated bliss. This is the layer that insulates you from all the chaos and turbulence in your Life. This is when you can feel__and therefore say__that you are capable of living in this world and yet being above it! Or when you can claim to live in the world but not be of it, as the Bible says.
This really means that when you are the outermost doll, which we all are, when we are emerging into early adulthood with starry eyes, dreams, wants, aspirations, lusts and desires, you are individualistic. Your worries are about you. Your wants are about you and your loved ones. But when you go deeper, to the next doll, you do see that things have been happening much beyond your own control and imagination. You see the design. You may deny it. But you can’t claim to have been untouched by it. It is only when you encounter the third doll, the real you, that you see how you are Creation, the Universe and the God, that you have always been seeking!

Celebrate creation’s essence, the Godliness, in you!

The beauty of Life lies in understanding that you have both the ‘essence’ and ‘presence’ of creation – a.k.a God – in you.

We are all created with the essence of God in us. Yet, not realizing this miraculous grace, we continuously seek God’s presence in our lives. We run from temple to mosque to church. From idols to godmen. Resultantly, we grieve. Because how can you find what you seek outside of you, when all along, it is within you? The presence of creation, of God, according to me, can be found only when we are present in the NOW. Life’s what’s happening to you right now. Are you there? 

When you are in the now, you can feel the Godliness in you. You can experience the miracle called you. You can see the manifestation of the Universe’s creative energy in you. The ‘essence’ of this energy is your ability to see, hear, touch, feel, speak, move about, apply your mind, feel love, touch another Life. Without this energy, we would all merely exist like a rock does. The fact that you are able to live a Life apart from, and beyond, inanimate objects, which are also manifestations of creation, is evidence of the Godliness in you.

So, stop seeking the presence of a God outside of you. Look within, and you will find all that you need. Osho, the Master, said this simply yet profoundly, “There’s no God. Only Godliness.” Celebrate creation’s essence, the Godliness, in you! Have a great day ahead!

I drink alcohol…and I am spiritual

Just because you don’t like the message, don’t shoot the messenger!  
A couple of days ago I received an email forward of a media release purported to have been issued on behalf of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living organization. I don’t know if the release was indeed issued on Sri Sri’s behalf. I hope not. The release attacks, albeit in a veiled manner without naming them, director Rajkumar Hirani, actor Aamir Khan and their movie PK, for “projecting sadhus (Hindu saints) in bad light”, for “promoting dargahs (Muslim shrines) and putting down ashrams(Hindu monasteries)” and for “influencing young minds”. The release also says that the makers of PK have been funded by a terrorist to put down spirituality.
I find the content of the media release preposterous. And the charges against Khan, Hirani and PK baseless. Whoever authored that release and whoever authorized its circulation neither understands spirituality not do they understand PK’s message.
Spirituality is the flowering of inner awareness. It is the realization that comes from within that you are the divinity that you seek. Spirituality is deeply personal, it is intense and it is liberating. It sets you free. Religion, on the other hand, tries to achieve the same result but ends up making bad spaghetti out of a good recipe. Not because there’s anything wrong with the recipe. But because the cooks, the high priests of the various religions (as the PK character says in PK, “the managers of the various companies”), have hidden and divisive agendas; they promote ritualism and hold gullible people – like you and me – hostage! In the movie, in one brilliant scene, PK picks up a new born baby to inspect if the baby is born with a “stamp”, a means of identification, that he or she was actually created (“sent down”) to be a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim. The message is stark and uncomfortable: that our religion has been thrust upon us. We are born free to simply be human. But the label of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jew and such is stuck on us as an afterthought. Our family and society force us to follow the religion that they have chosen for us. To add to the confusion, people who are self-proclaimed leaders of the various religions, induce fear among their followers saying that if you question what is being told and practiced, you will be punished by your God! PK makes another important, uncontestable point – the God, he says, that created you and me, is different from the God that we humans have created to suit our convenience. God, the creator, is compassionate, loving and is ever present – within us. The God we have created, he says, is forever elusive, being “managed and protected by agents and managers” and making people fearful. The truth is where there is fear, there is no faith. And when there is faith, there can be no fear. Faith is like light and fear is like darkness. You can bring light to drive away darkness. But you cannot bring darkness into a room which is well lit. You cannot, therefore, claim you have faith in a God, your God, and yet be fearful of either God or Life or both!!
The media release makes one other ridiculous, erroneous point. It states that people who consume alcohol are not spiritual! Spirituality is totally unconditional. Being spiritual means just being. You can be whoever you are. You don’t have to abstain from anything, you don’t have to fear anyone, you don’t have to fast, you don’t have to pray and you don’t have to follow any rituals. You just have to be who you are and enjoy being who you are. Spiritually empowered people employ this freedom, this fearlessness, this faith – that they will be taken care of and provided for by the Universe – to live in bliss. To them nothing is a sin. And nothing is forced. They live simply – seeing the divinity in themselves and in everyone and everything around them.

I seriously hope Sri Sri’s ashram did not issue that release and that the mail I received was just one of those hoax forwards. If it was indeed a genuine communication, I pity those who put it out – for they are missing PK’s central message and shooting the messenger, Aamir, just because he’s seen, per worldly definition, as a Muslim.  PK is not about Hindus and Muslims. It is not about Hindu Gods and a Muslim God or a Christian God. It is about you and me and how we are allowing ourselves to be trapped in the vicious cycle of religion, rituals, godmen and fear. Watch PK if you can and care. And even if you don’t want to watch it, raise a toast when you drink tonight!! To Christmas, good health and happiness. My toast, however, is to the authors of that redoubtable release: “Hey, I drink alcohol…and I am spiritual”!   

If you want rain, carry your umbrella

Keeping your faith in times when everything is going the way you have intended them to is easy. Obviously it is a lot more challenging to keep the faith in times of stress, self-doubt, pain and suffering.
There’s a simple way in which you can overcome this challenge. And that way requires you to ask yourself: 1. What are the most precious things in Life that you still have and treasure? 2. How often have you been let down by Life for you to give up your faith now? 3. Define ‘let down’: Does ‘let down’ (to you) mean not getting what you want while still getting everything that you need? 4. By giving up on your faith, do you think you can solve your problems? When you sit calmly and answer these questions to yourself, in the context of your own Life situation, your faith will be restored.
Faith here does not refer to a God or a religion or a belief in an external entity. Faith really means the ability to trust Life, which gave you the gift of this lifetime, without your asking for it, to take care of you and help you to reach the shore despite your treacherous and turbulent circumstances. Faith also means refusing to get trapped in the imagery of your current circumstance but to believe that every dark night will be followed by a beautiful dawn. 
Here’s a story that illustrates this the best. There was once a small village, which was suffering from a severe drought. The crops were dying, and the villagers and their animals had very little water to drink. One day, to try to find a solution to the drought, the village priest called the villagers to gather at the village square to pray together for rain. He told them to bring along a token of their faith, so the prayer would be done in sincere faith. And so, the villagers gathered at the square bringing with them tokens of their faith. Some brought the Bible while others carried small crosses as tokens of faith. Others brought the Holy Quran and still others carried the Bhagavad Gita. They all prayed aloud with great faith and hope. Sure enough, within a few moments it began to rain. The whole crowd was overjoyed and danced happily. The priest noticed that among the joyous crowd was a nine-year-old boy, the only one holding open an umbrella as a token of his faith. The priest admired this little boy who had brought an umbrella in total faith that his prayers would be heard and that it would rain.

Learn from, and live inspired by, the little boy! What token of your faith are you willing to show Life today? 

What a Siddha yogi and ‘PK’ taught me about ‘my’ God

Learn to value and celebrate the divinity within you. It may not solve your problems but will show you a better way to live with them!
Yesterday, I heard of the demise of a good friend of mine, Kavi Rajan, who was a Siddha yogi and was only 47 years old. We first met him 10 years ago when we had gone to him “seeking solutions” to our debt problem. He said, rather simplistically: “Embrace your debt. Love it. It is a guest in your Life. It has come to teach you something. It will go away just the way it has come.” Initially I resisted his advice. But, over the years, I found his call to “accept Life for what is” very meaningful. This drew me and my wife closer to him. We met him probably once or twice in a year. But each time we came away enriched and energized. He was not the bearded, saffron-clad yogi. No, he was not a Godman. He wore a lungi, a sleeve-less vest or a shirt, smoked a beedi and led a normal, worldly Life with his wife and two young children. But he was a man who, according to me, certainly had realized his God. He would tell us: “Don’t make me a guru and don’t think I am your God. Realize the divinity within you. I am only a means to your spiritual awakening. Once you are awakened, you won’t need me.” My wife and I will miss him in his physical form but we are sure we will always feel his presence in our lives.
Aamir Khan in ‘PK’
Picture Courtesy: Internet
I only wish many of the seekers out there get an opportunity to be guided and awakened by evolved souls like my friend Kavi. What is unfortunate is that almost every religion’s preachers today claim to find “solutions” to people’s problems and in turn make them fearful and confused. In the name of helping them reach or connect with God, those who have made religion their business, exploit gullible people of their money, time, resources, emotions and faith. This is the central theme of a beautiful movie I saw yesterday – Aamir Khan’s PK(2014, Rajkumar Hirani). Khan’s character PKmakes an impassionate appeal to all of us. He says, that there is no problem with the creator, the one who created the world and its people. The problem is with the God that man created. That God, he said, was a hostage of individual religions and the self-proclaimed custodians of these religions are exploiting mankind. PK urges us to snap out of our stupor and awaken to a more meaningful way of living our lives! He makes a pertinent and sound case for a world without religion, where all people are equal – just the way they are created – and who respect the divinity in each other.
Indeed there is a divinity in each of us. This divinity is nothing but the Life energy that is powering us – because of which we are alive and are capable of experiencing the abundance in our lives and in the Universe. But we miss this abundance because we don’t realize this divinity. We are trapped in our self-defined world of limitations – our anxieties, insecurities, grief, guilt and fears – and in our elusive search for a God outside of us. Only when we break free from our limitations and look within – a journey which can commence through self-realization and awakening – will we find lasting inner peace and happiness.

When you realize yourself, you will appreciate and celebrate the fact that there’s no greater God than the one you see in the mirror every morning. You will understand that there is no better way to live than to accept what is or whatever is happening to you. You will then value each moment and begin to live your Life fully – without fear and without expectations!

You are an ‘avatar’ too … created with a specific Purpose!

The key to intelligent living is to look within and find your Life’s Purpose manifest itself in front of you!
Here, take a break. And think about this calmly. There obviously is a reason why you and I have been created as human beings. Else, we could have been created as the swine that spreads the flu. Why be created as the human who gets that dreaded flu? So, let’s stop cribbing and instead celebrate being human. 
The problem with most of humankind is that we lament being human. We say, justifying our limitations and frailties, ‘After all, I am human’. When we look at our creation from that perspective, we miss seeing the limitless power and potential within us. We are so overwhelmed by stories from history that we fail to see our true Self. We have grown up imagining that we are lesser mortals. For instance, when Krishna was born, so we are told, the prison gates opened and the serpent sheltered the baby as the father crossed the overflowing river in pouring rain. When Jesus was born, again as we have been told, the three Kings were guided by a star in the sky. When Nanak was born, I remember reading this in an Amar Chitra Katha edition, those visiting the child found a halo around the baby’s head. But who recorded what they saw when you and I were born? Who tells the stories of our birth? Therein lies the reason as to why we don’t recognize who we are and what we are truly capable of.
Know that if Mother Teresa’s Life had a Purpose, if Swami Vivekananda’s Life had a Purpose, if the Prophet’s Life had a Purpose, so do our lives__your’s and mine. Swami Sathya Sai Baba says it beautifully,”The difference between you and me is that I know that I am God. And you don’t know, or you refuse to accept, that you are God!” We will start living intelligently when we know that each of us has been created as a human with a specific Purpose. We are ‘avatars‘ too….or ‘messiahs’, if you like.

Simply put, your Life’s Purpose will manifest itself in front of you when you stop searching for God outside of you. Being human is to know that the Godlight is within you. When you find it within, you too will ‘awaken’ to a lifetime of loving, serving and living!

A lesson in living from the Jayalalithaa episode

Anything, absolutely anything, can happen in Life! You just have to be prepared to accept whatever comes your way and know that nothing is permanent – neither success nor defeat!
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Yesterday’s conviction of J.Jayalalithaa by a Bangalore Special Court in an 18-year-old “Disproportionate Assets” case, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, holds an important lesson in living for all of us. No, I am not going to comment on either the merits of the landmark judgment nor am I going to analyze the political future of Jayalalithaa, her AIADMK party and the state of Tamil Nadu. To me the singular takeaway is this: whoever you are, wherever – even if you are high, mighty and powerful or meek, written-off and in oblivion – you are, your Life will play out exactly per your cosmic design. One moment you can be an immensely popular and powerful – seemingly infallible – Chief Minister of a state and in another you can be prisoner number 7402 at the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison, lodged in VVIP Cell 23, disqualified as MLA and CM and barred from contesting elections for 10 years!
It is this understanding – that anything, absolutely anything, can happen in Life – that we all completely lack in our lives, caught as we are, in trying to make sense of our own individual, inscrutable, Life stories and designs. Even as I write this, news has come in that my wife’s classmate lost her young adult son in an accident earlier today. And next week, on the popular Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) show, host Amitabh Bachchan will hand over the Rs.7 Crore bounty, for the first time ever, to brothers Achin and Sarthak Narula. The Narulas least expected to be on the show. But when they did get there, they thought they will get to the Rs.25 Lakh stage and then quit the game. Little did they imagine, or believe, that they would hit the Rs.7 Crore jackpot and create history! So, anything can happen in Life – an Emperor can become a pauper and a pauper can become an Emperor – at any time!
Which is why you – and I – must develop the attitude and temperament to accept Life for what it is. The truth is that beyond human comprehension, there’s a higher intelligence, a Higher Energy, at work. Different people see this differently. Some believe this Higher Energy is an unseen, invisible Creator, a God – whose works you can touch and feel though. Some, like Apple’s late Steve Jobs described, say that you cannot understand Life as it is happening to you – you can only infer that it all happened per a “larger cosmic design” by “connecting the dots backward”. I simply believe this Higher Energy to be Life itself. The same Life that keeps us alive. This Life is intelligent. As in, it has a mind of its own. Which means whatever has happened, whatever is happening and whatever will happen is per a Masterplan.
You and I can’t ever fathom what this Masterplan is all about – not even in the contexts of our own individual lives. The only thing we can be sure of, based on all that’s happening to us and around us, is the fact that this Masterplan has no flaws. Which is, we must understand and appreciate that everything that’s happening to us is happening only so that we learn, evolve and grow stronger from the experience. When we begin to understand that this is the way Life works, we will get better and better with living, and living intelligently, with each new experience we encounter!

The best way to live, I have learnt, is to know that you and I cause nothing – neither our successes nor our failures. Life is what keeps on happening to us – from birth to death. Some of what happens to us, makes us exult, some of it buries us under its fury. Whatever happens, it is best to stay humble and stay accepting of Life – knowing fully well that nothing is permanent, neither our successes, nor our falls!

Your pain is your teacher, your God

Pain is an important, necessary and sufficient pre-condition for your personal evolution. Don’t, therefore, hate any pain that you are put through.

Sometimes people around you put you through pain. A normal reaction would be to hate them. You may want to get even with them. Don’t. Oftentimes Life too will inflict pain on you. Don’t hate Life either! Because your hating Life is only going to make you miserable. What is the point? Who loses when you hate a teacher? Does the teacher lose anything? Or do you? Ultimately, if you don’t learn the lessons that the teacher is teaching you, you lose. Similarly, each painful event, caused by a fellow human being or by Life, is teaching you something. Don’t hate the teacher. Instead, learn the lesson and be grateful for the experience that taught you the lesson.
When you hate someone or hate Life, you are entrapping yourself in a quagmire of negative, debilitating emotions: anger, fear, bitterness, cynicism, self-pity. No event in your Life is going to make a difference to you as your Life comes to an end. Your awards, medals, successes, wealth, the career you built, all this and more will mean nothing. Your lost fortunes, the number of times you have been betrayed or let down, your lost health, your lost image – none of these will matter in the end either. When this lifetime is over, only your soul will prevail. And the soul thrives only when you are at peace. The more pain you undergo, in an accepting, non-resisting way, the more peaceful you will be. Peace is the grace that arrives when pain strikes you and you accept the pain. Most often, however, when pain strikes you, you recede into a shell, plunged in grief, letting the pain numb you. As long as you remain in the stranglehold of pain, you will feel debilitated. The moment you understand, accept and appreciate that pain is a great teacher, you will learn and you will grow. You will realize that you can live through pain, without suffering from it. You will find the world to be a beautiful place where you can be happy despiteyour circumstances.
You may sometimes wonder where is God when you are in pain? The truth is your pain is your God. Because the pain is in your Life to teach you the value of Life, the value of grace and the opportunity for your soul to grow into peace. What more do you want from your God anyway?