Life is pure. Life is beautiful. Life is uncomplicated. And simple. It offers no guarantees and demands nothing from us.
The other day, we visited a friend whose husband had died recently. He was an alcoholic and despite her best efforts she could not wean him off the habit that eventually consumed him. She had taken him to therapists and counsellors; and he had been through rehab three times! She says she had pleaded with him and prayed for him – “incessantly”. “I tried everything that’s humanly possible but eventually I lost,” she told us. He was only 40. “I don’t think Life is fair or that there is any justice in this Universe. I don’t think there is any God. I have stopped believing in God. Tell me, AVIS and Vaani, is there any point in praying to God,” she asked us.
She loved him deeply. They had met in school and their love for each other was well known in our circle of friends. She told us that they had everything – money, assets, a flourishing business, two beautiful children – and yet “Life was so meaningless and empty now.” “The one thing I just couldn’t control, nor could he, was his drinking. I fasted for Shirdi Baba every Thursday, I went to Vaishno Devi, I visited Tirupati too every month…but…but…my prayers fell on deaf ears,” she lamented, sobbing quietly for several minutes into her dupatta.
In a while though, she regained her composure and repeated her question: “Is there any point in praying to God?”
This is both an important, and interesting, question. And it is almost always asked when you don’t get what you want or when you get what you don’t want!
Think about it. When everything in your Life is going the way you want it to go, if you are a believer, you may feel grateful and prayerful but you never question God’s existence. It is only when you are in a situation that you intensely dislike, it is only when you pray and don’t immediately get what you want, that you start challenging the now-all-so-popular God theory.
From what I have learnt from Life, from my lived experiences, this entire God theory is a human invention. To me, Life is the only Higher Energy that is there. Just plain, simple, Life. Which is why I always spell Life with a capital ‘L’. Without Life, of course, we are all dead. So, I believe, if there is ever a God, it is Life!
Here are a few irrefutable truisms about Life. It has no religion, no color, no race, no caste and no creed. (And, interestingly, God has all of that!) Yet, without Life no form of creation can survive. Each of us is created by this Higher Energy a.k.a Life without our asking to be created. And our biggest blessing is that we are created human – so that we can experience this Universe in a manner that is so different from all other forms of creation. Now, the other truth is also that, when we are created, when we are born, Life makes no promises to us; it gives us no guarantees. As in, none of us is born with a warranty card or a trouble-shooting App to help us “fix” our Life should things go “wrong”! You are just born, the way you are – into a family, country, gender, and you have no control over any of this! Besides, from your birth, to your death, all you have is a set of experiences and events happening to you. This is what your Life really is. You have no control over any of them too.
Religion, God, ritual, prayer – all these are introduced to you, conditioned in you, by your parents, by family, by society. Which is why I believe God is a human invention. Pause and reflect on this: why does no other species, except us humans, have religion or God or ritual or caste or creed? If you get the point being made here, why will you either demand “fair-play” or “justice” from a God, who never invited herself or himself into your Life in the first place, or blame this God for whatever is happening to you?
Does the no-God-in-the-popular-sense theory then mean there is no Higher Energy? Of course not!
Surely, there is an inscrutable Higher Energy, a power that is more intelligent than you and me. It is this intelligence, for instance, which has made you a human that is capable of contracting the H1N1 virus and it is the same intelligence that creates the pig that carries and gives out the H1NI virus, the swine flu. Pause and reflect again – you may well have been created as the pig; how – and why – is it that you are human? So, clearly, there is a Higher Energy. But that Higher Energy, which is Life, neither promises nor demands anything from us. It certainly does not say “believe, pray or fast”! On the other hand, Life has a mind of its own and simply keeps on happening to us – whether or not we want it happening in a certain way, whether or not we belong to any religion, practice a ritual or believe in a God!
Life is pure. Life is beautiful. Life is uncomplicated. And simple. You make your Life miserable by subscribing to the “invented” God theory and by having an expectation that your prayers must be answered.
An indisputable reality about Life is that if you are born, you will eventually die. And as long as you are alive your Life is simply a series of experiences. Some of these experiences may meet your expectations or exceed them – like having good health, great talent, money, love, fame – and some of them may not meet your expectations – like having a cancer or a relationship mess or a bankruptcy or loneliness. And in everyone’s lifetime there will be a sprinkling of both kinds of experiences, at different times, with varying degrees of impact. So, when you clearly can’t control the Life that is happening to you, what is the point in blaming Life if you don’t get what you want? What then is the point in blaming your God, who is only a figment of poor imagination, invented by humans through a flawed theory?
So, what should one do then, in the wake of Life’s upheavals? Well, once you realize that you can never understand Life, this one’s a no-brainer: simply accept your Life for what it is and keep going on. Because no matter what you wish, no matter whether you are a believer or not, it is always what it is. Yes, you can certainly pray – just as I do – by being eternally grateful for this Life and this human experience – it is still a great blessing, no matter what is happening to you right now! Now, please remember, prayer does not quite solve problems in the way we expect them to. But it surely helps us last longer so that eventually when Life changes, with time, we can celebrate getting what we have always wanted! This awareness, this clarity, holds the key to being happy despite your circumstances.
You have to go through what you have to go through!
Yesterday, the Allahabad High Court acquitted the Talwar couple, Nupur and Rajesh, in the sensational murder case of their daughter Aarushi. Vaani and I always believed that the couple were not guilty. We have been following the case closely over the past 9 years. We have read Avirook Sen’s book Aarushi and have watched Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar (2015, written by Vishal Bharadwaj, starring Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Neeraj Kabi) too. Every shred of evidence in the case has always pointed to the innocence of the Talwars. And now the Allahabad High Court rules that there never was, and there isn’t, any conclusive evidence that proves that the Talwars murdered their daughter and their domestic help, Hemraj. Besides, anyone who knew anything about the case, also knew that the UP Police and the second team of the CBI that investigated the case, had done a very shoddy job of the investigations. So, as the Allahabad High Court’s verdict streamed in, many, many people across India felt justice had been done. Of course, some people, rightly so, seek justice for Aarushi and Hemraj – who killed them, and why is the killer(s) still roaming free? And there are others who maintain that the Talwars “got away with it” while some others believe that our system – of crime detection and jurisprudence – stinks.
I have blogged on my learnings from the Life of the Talwars a few times in the past. Life doesn’t bother what you feel about it ; Our Life design, the Master Plan is inscrutable, but it has to be accepted and faced; Judgments and opinions have no place in a Life that spares no one .
As I sat down to write today’s Blogpost, what struck me was the meaninglessness of it all, the inscrutability of Life’s design! If the Allahabad High Court eventually acquitted the Talwars, then why were they convicted in the first place? Why did the couple have to go through this harrowing experience – when they have not even been able to grieve the loss of their child privately? Who will compensate for the 9 years of their Life that the Talwars have lost battling courts and investigating agencies, serving an unfair jail sentence for over 4 years? Why do good people have to go through tough times?
In these questions lie a brutal, non-negotiable truth about Life. Our Life. Yours and mine. And that truth is this – Life just keeps on happening; it has a mind of its own! It doesn’t matter to Life whether you are ethical or talented or sincere or hardworking. No matter who you are, you have to go through what you have to go through. Asking Life questions serves no purpose. Because you aren’t going to get any answers.
Personally, I take away a lot from the Talwars – from the way they have stoically faced their excruciating Life situation. They have not just lost their only child, they have lost their privacy, their reputation, perhaps their sanity too in the wake of such senseless trial and scrutiny by media and public alike; in their incarceration in Dasna, UP, they lost their freedom too – yet they have soldiered on. At each stage, they have done what they had to do, and what they could do – which is, they have relied on the legal system. However biased the system may have been against them, they have ploughed on within its framework. To me, Nupur and Rajesh are embodiments of what the Bhagavad Gita urges all of us to do – focus on our actions, on what we can do in a given situation, and leave the outcome, the result, to Life.
None of us can say we understand what they have gone through and how they must be feeling now after their acquittal. But what we can do is to learn from their story – we can learn that we can’t reason or negotiate with Life; we have to go through what we have to go through! And yes, we can, of course, send them all our love and prayers…
Sometimes, you may have to be firm and tell some people off.
Well-meaning organizations, who necessarily don’t have a budget to remunerate us, sometimes invite us to deliver my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk. Since the opportunity is in line with our Higher Purpose of Inspiring Happiness we do accept such invitations and I deliver my Talk pro bono in such cases. But we do insist that our travel and logistics are taken care of. Recently, a host who, in our opinion, could have afforded to make our ground transfers more comfortable, was pushing us hard to accept mediocre arrangements. Further, the tone of the email we received was unprofessional and lacked dignity. We refused to accept the arrangements they proposed and canceled the Program. When I shared this instance with someone who was struggling to make a similar choice he wanted to know how we can make such a decision simple. “Doesn’t it appear that you are being finicky about making a small adjustment for a larger good? Isn’t there always this conflict,” he asked.
And I think his question is very pertinent. This happens to all of us, all the time, in all situations. The simplest way I have learnt to reason with this apparent ‘conflict’ is to ask myself if I am comfortable doing what I am being asked to do or what I am setting out to do. If I am not, I immediately withdraw myself from the scene, from the opportunity – whatever may be the context or whoever may be involved.
I have realized that if you don’t draw a line, even in seemingly ‘small or trivial’ matters, you will dither when it comes to making a choice with ‘bigger’ ones. Especially in close relationships where people start taking you for granted.
What do you do, for instance, when people close to want to have an opinion about everything you do. And they, if you are not wary, end up treating you like a doormat. You suffer them because you don’t want to be either petty – like them – or it’s not in your “intrinsic nature” to be “unkind” to people. Now, let’s get this right. There’s nothing “unkind” in asserting yourself so as to protect your inner peace and dignity. Whoever it may be – parent, sibling, child, neighbor, boss, colleague or friend – no one, no one has the right to treat you in a manner in which you don’t like or don’t want to be treated. Period.
So, be firm when you must. Just put people in their place. Protect your inner peace, because no one else will do this for you.
Some of the situations Life places you in will also require you to fight for justice. Often with people who are supposedly close to you. Don’t get clouded by sentiments about close blood relations in such cases either. I am not encouraging you to fight because it is the right thing to do. But what do you do when the situation created by people around you demands a firm response? A friend of mine recently called to say how his older brother, with whom he shares the ownership of the family business, was making it almost impossible for both of them to co-exist and survive. “Neither is he accepting a separation of the business and the assets, nor is he allowing me to lead it and run it well, nor is he running it efficiently. We are bleeding losses month-on-month. He’s challenging me to fight him. If I fight him I can at least save half the family’s fortunes – for my immediate family and for my mother and sister. But how can I fight my own brother? I am not interested in any fight,” lamented my friend. I told him: “Don’t let your ego – in the garb of compassion – come in between you and what you must do. Just do whatever you believe must be done in the interest of all parties concerned, without hatred, without anger, without any rancor.”
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna: “Don’t escape from the war… because I can see this escape is just an ego trip. The way you are talking simply shows that you are calculating, you are thinking that by escaping from the war you will become a great saint. Rather than surrendering to the whole, you are taking yourself too seriously– as if there will be no war if you are not there.” Krishna says to Arjuna, “Just be in a state of let-go. Say to existence, ‘Use me in whatever way you want to use me. I am available, unconditionally available.’ Then whatsoever happens through you will have a great authenticity about it. It will have intensity, it will have depth. It will have the impact of the eternal on it.”
Such is Life. When you have to do something to ensure that your inner peace is not disturbed, you have to do it. And only you can do it. Do it also knowing, as Krishna says, that you are a mere instrument, a conduit for something that Life wants done through you! In doing so, you are not being unkind or rude. You are simply responding to a situation that has been created by someone and which you intensely dislike. So, don’t fall short, don’t fight shy. If you don’t do what you must do in such situations, you will cause your own suffering.
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