In today’s Vlog, I share from personal experience how Life has cut me down to size and has humbled me. Clinging on to things, opinions and even ego, I have realized, is a sure cause for misery.
View time: 3:19 minutes
My Vlog today says receiving help and support from people around you is an integral part of the process of Life! There is no shame in receiving. It is a humbling experience.
Viewing time: 2:28 minutes
Humility, gratitude and responsibility are integral to receivership.
My family and I are once again humbled by the generosity and compassion of the Universe. Here we are trying to fix an apparently hopeless, broken, financial situation where even living expenses are almost always unavailable. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal.) And one more time we are being helped along the way in the most incredible, miraculous manner.
I am often asked if I don’t feel guilty “accepting so many favors” from people. With no end in sight to our enduring bankruptcy, and with therefore no way to project when we will be able to repay our creditors, don’t we feel “worthless” or “ashamed” when continuing to receive help from people? The simple answer is this – I once used to feel traumatized that I was unable to provide for my family and also unable to repay our debt; but, no, I don’t feel so anymore.
I have come to see the whole Universe as compassionate. Every aspect of creation is constantly giving and receiving. There is no turmoil in the mind of Nature, there is no shame, there is no guilt. The Persian poet Hafez (1325~1389) said it so beautifully: “And still, after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe Me.” Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.” This is what Life is all about – unconditional love, limitless compassion. Money and materialism are human inventions. So, the moment money and material wealth come into a transaction, an obligated sense of give only when you receive or you have taken so you return arises. It is only in the human world that conditions apply for every transaction, that debt exists, worse still, as a burden!
I was born in a Brahmin family. My upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony) was performed when I was 13. What I remember from that time is what the priest taught me. That the duty of a person wearing the sacred thread was to humbly seek alms for survival – bhavati bhiksham dehi. Meaning: may you give me some alms. When I look back at that indoctrination, I believe what we are being taught at that early age is to drop our ego and be humble receivers. This wasn’t about begging as much as it was about egoless receivership. When I was suffering owing to my inability to fix my business, and resultant financial situation, and I was grieving over having to be at the “mercy of Life and people around me”, during one of my daily mouna (silence) sessions some years back, I reflected on that learning. An ex-employee of my Firm, whom I had unceremoniously sacked, had given me Rs.15,000/- (which I am still to repay) the previous day to help us deal with our crisis. I was torn by guilt and shame. And then, although I had stopped being Brahmin in a communal and ritualistic sense, I thought about the meaning of bhavati bhiksham dehi. In that nanosecond clarity emerged. I decided from then on to expunge all debilitating, wasteful, emotions and to simply be a humble, grateful, responsible receiver.
So, I have learnt to trust the process of Life. To me, my Faith in Life – that since I have been created I will be taken care of – is my ATM card. I really don’t examine which ATM is dispensing the miracle – emotional, material or pure, hard cash, whatever! I am just a humble, eternally grateful, responsible receiver. And I know without a shred of doubt that, in every moment, a miracle is unfolding for me. This doesn’t mean I am reasoning my poor credit rating and decade-long history of non-repayment of legitimate dues with philosophy. Of course, I am accountable for all the money that I owe people – which I why I treat responsibility as integral to receivership. But, at the same time, I don’t treat the responsibility as a burden – else it will weigh me down and negate whatever chances remain of my financial recovery.
Not just in a material or money context, when you pause to zoom out and look at your entire Life’s design as a witness, you will discover that everything is given to you in this lifetime. The Life you have in this human form is your biggest gift. Everything else you receive after that it is inconsequential. Truly, you make nothing here and you will take nothing from here. So, give, give, give. Give unconditionally. And when it is your turn to receive, receive humbly, gratefully, unquestioningly. Then there will be no grief, no guilt, no suffering!
Only those who change from within when Life changes live a full Life!
A young business leader who I know for some time now connected with me on Facebook. He had been in several of my workshops in the past. I used to then, as a champion of organizational culture and high-performance, lead sessions on Jim Collins’ and Jerry Porras’ Built To Last model. I would exhort my audiences to think beyond goals if they wanted to make their organizations great and build them well enough to last long after they themselves were gone! While introducing Collins’ and Porras’ concept of BHAGs (pronounced bee-hags) – meaning Big Hairy Audacious Goals – I urged teams to draw up their own BHAGs. So, my manager friend, asked me this on FB Messenger: “AVIS, do you still talk about BHAGs?” I smiled at his question. I thought for a moment. And I replied: “I do. Except BHAG now, to me, stands for this – Be. Humble. Accepting. & Grateful.!”
Indeed. For me now, the biggest, most audacious goal anyone can and must have in Life is to just be. To be humble. To be accepting. And to be ever, perpetually, grateful. So, the punctuations in my version of the expansion of the BHAG acronym are not accidental. It is not ‘Be Humble, Accepting & Grateful!’. It is ‘Be. Humble. Accepting. & Grateful.’ (In the strictest sense to just be can never be a goal and it is simple to just be; however, since most beginners, for lack of proper hand-holding struggle with the idea, and to draw a parallel with the material world of BHAGs, I have taken the liberty to suggest that it is an audacious goal! Seek the understanding of all of you who know the value of just being, and are evolved, who are reading this!)
Post my FB Messenger conversation with the manager I reflected on how much I had changed over the years. There I was, some 15 years ago, ambitious, aggressive, sometimes abrasive, hungry for material success; and always impatient and angry with the world. And here I am totally anchored, extremely at peace with, and in, my completely battered and devastated material world – not bitter, not angry and no longer impatient! The way I look at BHAG as a concept now personifies the change in me.
And when I look around me, I see everyone changing. Some of them change, of course, because the wind is blowing in a different direction. But others change because they genuinely feel differently about Life. I always believe that the second category of people are the ones who change from within. Tamil film Super Star Rajnikanth, in his eulogy, the other day, to Jayalalithaa acknowledged that he had made a mistake in the way he had judged her and opined about her. That kind of genuine transformation, honest appraisal, can only come from within. And it is this change, seeing it, seizing it and being it, that is the real wealth in Life.
I guess anyone can have all the fame, all the money and all the power – and yet may not have the ability to just be: to sleep under the stars, to be humble and to acknowledge that Life happens through you and never because of you or for you. But only those who can, in any circumstance, just be – be immersed in the moment, who realize that they don’t control Life and who can accept whatever comes their way with open arms and immense gratitude – only such people really live a full Life.
The manager’s question, my seemingly witty one-liner, and my deep reflection on it reminded me that I have miles to go. But I am happy and grateful that I am on the right road, and am headed in the right direction!
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In prayer, be grateful and offer yourself to the Universe.
I know someone who is never available for any conversation or meetings. Every time we try to connect with him he’s either at work (which is for about 5 hours a day) or he is performing poojas, worshipping. He runs a small business and by his own admission, performs 8 prayer rituals a day, in three spells, over 12 hours. “Are you happy,” I asked him one day. “Hardly. Business is tough. A lot of money is stuck with debtors. I am continuously in prayer trying to seek a way out,” he said.
This man’s confession substantiates the case I am making – merely being ritualistic is never going to solve any problem for you. Yet, to each, his or her own way. Especially in matters concerning faith and prayer. But Zen offers a beautiful perspective on prayer. And it is worth thinking about and understanding.
Zen Buddhism says that true prayer is when no petition, no wish, is made, when no assistance is sought, but when mindfulness is practiced. Through such practice, you offer whatever you have, a flower, an incense stick, or maybe even yourself, to something higher than yourself. What can be and is greater than you? Creation. Creation is the Higher Energy. So, offering yourself to Creation, makes you be one with the Universe. When you offer yourself you are expressing your gratitude for your creation and everything that you have. You are saying – “You created me. Thanks. I am offering everything I have, mindfully, consciously, with all my being, to you.” That’s when you truly unite with the Universal energy and are soaked in its brilliance and abundance.
The popular notion that prayer is an appeal to an “external, invisible” God is a by-product of how religion has come to be practiced over many centuries. Maharishi Patanjali had demystified this in one of his works, perhaps at the beginning of the Common Era, where he equated God to be a mere clothes peg. Just as you would hang a coat on a clothes peg on the wall, we have been taught to pray looking to a “non-existent” God. He says, God is an invention, because, if God isn’t there, who will you pray to? But just as you would have learnt to hang your coat elsewhere if there were no clothes peg, you must learn the value of prayer, and develop the ability to pray, in the purest, truest sense. When you pray, as a means of complete surrender to Creation, then you don’t need a God, you are the prayer and you are one with who you pray to. God, he says, is for beginners. Like when you are learning cycling, you need the small wheels on either side of the bicycle’s rear wheel to help you balance. But once you have mastered cycling, you don’t need those two small wheels jutting out – you discard them and that helps you ride freely. So, it is with prayer. The more you learn to pray, unconditionally, humbly, as a thanksgiving, the more peaceful you become.
True prayer is totally non-ritualistic and non-demanding. It imposes no conditions. It asks for nothing from you – not your time, not your offerings. You don’t need to fast nor do you need to give up or abstain from anything! It is not what you do out of fear (that God will punish you if you don’t pray) or out of greed (I want this or that – grant me my wish!). It is always about being in the moment. The moment that you choose to offer your gratitude to Creation for all that you have and are endowed with – that moment itself is your prayer. You can be anywhere in that moment – you could even be seated on the potty! Also, there is no price to be paid in prayer and there are no rewards to be claimed. When you pray, you pray. And that prayerful moment, when gone through with all humility and gratitude, is itself the reward, the treasure, the fortune!
PS: If you liked this blogpost, please share it to help spread the learning it carries!