Living intelligently means to be able to live spiritually

To be spiritual does not mean you must not live well. Spirituality in fact makes no demands on you. There is no need to abstain from anything, no need to propitiate any Gods, no need to observe any rituals and no need to give up anything compulsorily.
Spirituality is the flowering of inner awareness. An awakening that teaches you how to live in this world and yet be above it. This awakening helps youmake choices that work for you. You are the decision maker. You are in charge. And so, you can earn money, indulge in comforts, even have a few indulgences in moderation, and yet choose to serve __ touching lives, making a difference. A teacher who taught the world this simple way to live was Guru Nanak, the Sikh saint, who lived and taught between 1469 and 1539. A beautiful story highlights Nanak’s prescription for living intelligently.
Nanak once visited Lahore in present-day Pakistan. A very rich man, Dhuni Chand, invited Nanak to his house. It was a huge bungalow and had seven flags fluttering in the wind outside it. The saint asked Dhuni Chand why he had seven, and only seven, flags outside his house.
Dhuni Chand replied, “They show how much wealth I have. Each flag denotes ten million rupees that I have. So, in all, I have seventy million rupees.”
The Guru observed, “Then you are a very rich man. You must be very happy and contended with yourself?”
Dhuni Chand replied, “Holy Sir, I cannot lie to you. There are some people who are much richer than I am. This makes me sad and I desire to have more wealth. I would like to be the richest man in the city. I cannot feel completely happy and satisfied until my desire is fulfilled.”
The Guru said, “But aren’t the people who are richer than you also trying to become even more richer? It seems that there is a race between you and them to become the richest in this city. Perhaps, you may not be able to beat them in this race for the most wealth. In that case you may never be happy. Have you ever thought of that?”
Dhuni Chand said, “Holy Sir, I have no time to think such thoughts. I just work day and night to gather more and more wealth”
Guru Nanak smiled and said, “Will you have time to do a small thing for me?”
Dhuni Chand replied, “Most gladly, Holy Sir. What can I do for you?”
The Guru took out a needle, and said, “Please keep this safely with you. Give it to me, when I ask for it, in the next world.”
Dhuni Chand took the needle from the Guru. Later, he took this needle to his wife. He gave it to her and said, “The Holy man wants us to keep the needle for him. He will take it back from us in the next world.”
The wife was astonished. She said, “Are you mad? How can a needle go to the next world? How can we carry it with us to there? Go back, and return it to the Holy man.”
Dhuni Chand went back to the Guru and said, “Holy Sir, please take back your needle. We cannot take this to the next world. We cannot carry it there. That is not possible”
The Guru smiled and said, “Dhuni Chand, this needle is small and light. You say that it cannot go with you to the next world. How can the seventy million rupees go there with you? What good will this wealth do to you there?”
Dhuni Chand realized his vanity and fell at the Guru’s feet and said, “Please Guruji, tell me how my wealth may go with me to the next world.”
The Guru said, “Give it to the poor. Feed the hungry. Clothe the poor. Help the needy. When you spend your honestly earned wealth on righteous things, then it will go with you to the next world. Otherwise, it will be plundered here by others.”
Dhuni Chand was awakened in that moment. And he soon became one of biggest champions of giving and serving, setting up various institutions in and around Lahore for the welfare of the common folk.

To be sure, there is a Dhuni Chand in each of us – who is amassing, toiling hard without doubt, subconsciously perhaps, beyond our needs, to satiate our wants; who is clinging on to material wealth out of fear and anxiety of losing it. Every once in a while a teacher like Nanak will appear, in the form of a friend, an event, a casual conversation, or a book or story, that will enlighten us. So that the Buddha within us is aroused. So that we may be reminded that while making money is important, putting it to use beyond ourselves is what is more meaningful. This is what, living in this world, and yet being above it truly means. This is the way to live intelligently. 

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!

Nothing can prevent you from realizing your True Self except you

This morning’s Times of India reports that the Akal Takht, the highest temporal Sikh body, bans Sikhs from keeping the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book and the “living, active Guru” of the Sikhs, in homes that also have bar counters in them. I don’t quite see merit in such a sanction.
Sikhism, as I have known and understood, is one of the world’s youngest religions, founded only around the 15th Century. It is not a religion that draws upon one line or school of thought. It is inspired by Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism and several others. It is also the only religion that is not built on the teachings of a single Guru, but is based on the teachings of 10 Masters, with the Guru Granth Sahib, being the final and ever-living Guru. To me, it is not even a religion – it is a beautiful confluence of various streams of wisdom. Which is why Sikhism, and the Guru Granth Sahib, are very contemporary and very relevant even today. Nanak, the founding Guru of the Sikhs, said that ultimately what __ or the only thing that __ matters is The Truth. And The Truth, he said, was unspeakable. Which is why he, and his successors, sang it. Which is why the Guru Granth Sahib is in verse, containing 1430 angs (limbs or literary sections), actually hymns, complied and composed between 1469 and 1708.
Perhaps, by virtue of their religion being so young, or maybe their upbringing is based on practical and liberal tenets, I have found Sikhs to be very fun-loving, friendly and caring. They live Life to the fullest. They are never self-obsessed and choose always to get involved, and to serve whenever they get an opportunity. They are also the only set of people on the planet who can laugh at themselves. The innumerable Sardarji jokes that we come across is strong evidence of this. No other community will be so tolerant if they were to be the butt of so much global ribbing and ridicule. So, when a stricture is passed on such a wonderful people, it does shock and surprise.
I have another personal reason and learning to share. Understanding and realizing The Truth that Nanak sang about, and that which every spiritual path will take you to, does not require abstinence. In fact, intelligent living does not demand anything from you. It only wants you to be. To live in the moment and experience the Now. This will happen, only after a person’s quest for inner peace, through pursuing material matters of the world, draws no result. Only when seeking outside is futile, does man consider seeking within. That’s when, as Nanak taught, and Sikhism preaches, the individual sees the panj chor (Five Thieves) of ego, anger, greed, attachment and lust, as distracting from being on The Path. So, in essence, each one of us has to find our ways to get on to The Path – through experience, through stumbling, through falling and through learning. No religious diktat exists nor can any direct anyone to The Path, unless, she or he really wants to be on it. Whatever dos and don’ts abound around us, are the handiwork of the mandarins that want to control, using the name of religion, and causing fear of retribution by an external God, to coerce the masses into submission.
Simply, nothing outside can distract you or prevent you from realizing your True Self – and the Godliness in you – except you! As Nanak himself has sung it so beautifully: “As fragrance abides in the flower, as reflection is within the mirror, so does the Lord abide within you. Why search for Him without?”

Enjoy (your) God! Cheers!!!

God has to be enjoyed, not feared! Live your Life simply, purely, being present in the moment, and you will experience the God that you always seek. Today is as auspicious as any other day. This moment is as sacred as any other. It is our beliefs, primarily conditioned through the medium of religion, that have taken us away from enjoying Life for what it is and have led us to fear (a) God! And anything that’s feared cannot be enjoyed!
Mandarins of religion, historically, down the ages, have written or propounded principles that are aimed at scaring people that something grave will happen to them if they “disregard or ignore” an external God! As a child, I was warned, by my grandmother, that if I don’t eat my meals on time, “sami vandhu kanna kutthum!” (God will come and pierce or gorge your eyes out). So, the first conditioning we often receive is to “fear” God. More recently, a family member who lost her mother, was not allowed to attend the obsequies by her husband because someone else (a distant relative) had died in his side of the family – and per traditional “religious” practice/protocol you must mourn your husband’s loss first over your own! What kind of a religion is it if it prevents a daughter from mourning the loss of her mother and being with her own siblings and father in a time of grief? But such absurdities abound – and worse, they are adhered to because the protagonists “fear” God will harm them if they “dare to disregard, disrespect” or “sin”!
There’s a story from Guru Nanak’s Life that delivers an awakening message. It is said that, per Islam, sleeping with your feet in the direction of Kaaba, which is one of the most sacred sites for Muslims and is in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is not permitted. Now Nanak is believed to have visited Kaaba and was found sleeping with his feet pointing to the Kaaba. The Imam, the holy priest, of Kaaba came over and angrily shook Nanak awake. He asked Nanak to explain how dare he point his feet at the holy site.
He thundered at Nanak, “Whether you are a Muslim or not, can’t you obey the rules? Shame on you! Now change your direction and go to sleep.”                                                                                                                                                                      
Nanak replied humbly: “Sir, I have tried but it is just not working out. Why don’t you try pointing my feet away from the Kaaba?”
The Imam was furious. He violently dragged Nanak’s feet away from the Kaaba. But however much he tried, the Kaaba moved too, to be always ending up facing Nanak’s feet. The Imam tried a hundred times. But a hundred times, the Kaaba moved following Nanak’s feet.
Nanak laughed and said: “This is my problem. I also tried. And I also gave up. In which direction do I point my feet? I realize that every direction is holy – and all creation, existence, is divine.”
So it is. A memorable point-counter-point among three famous Urdu poets, spread over 200 years and three generations, further amplifies this message!
 The venerable Mirza Ghalib (1797~1869) was once caught drinking alcohol in a mosque. He said, when asked to explain himself, “Sharaab pene de masjid mein baith kar, ya who jagah bata jahan khuda nahi…” It means: “Allow me to drink in the mosque or tell me a place where God isn’t present (so I can go drink there!).
Allama Iqbal (1877~1938), perhaps offering a counter to Ghalib said: Masjid khuda ka ghar hai, peeney ki jagha nahin, Kaafir ke dil mein ja, Wahan khudaa nahin… It means: “A mosque is God’s abode, not a place to imbibe alcohol, go to the heart of a non-believer, as God does not reside there”
Ahmed Faraz (1931~2008), offered his take on Iqbal’s, saying: Kaafir ke dil se aya hoon mein yeh dekh kar, Khuda maujood hai wahan, Par usey pata nahin… It means: “I have come from seeing a non-believer’s (perhaps referring to himself) heart, God is resident there too…but the non-believer doesn’t quite know this!”
I am not sure if an external God, a Creator of the Universe exists, in reality. But I do believe that all of creation is so beautiful, so divine. And each of us has been created to experience this. Through this experience, we will find our God – within us! As Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet says: “As oil is in the oilseed, so is the Lord within three, unrevealed”. I also have come to believe that this God within has to be enjoyed, not feared! As the Quran says, Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim__meaning, if you believe there is a God, then that God is, in the name of Allah, Benevolent and Merciful!

Here’s hoping that this Eid, you too celebrate the Universal Energy that powers you and enjoy the God that resides in you!