In today’s Podcast, I talk about why families must bond and come together in times of crisis. I share from my own experience, while relating to a Malayalam film “#JSR” I watched recently. If there ever is a “Kingdom of Heaven”, then your family holds the key to it!
Listen time: 6:52 minutes
Why suffer holding on to anything?
Watching the inauguration of the US President on Friday last, I could not but help reflect on the beauty of the American democratic system. Every 4~8 years it promotes the effective practice of detachment – not just for those administratively connected with the Presidency but for all American people. As Michelle and Barack Obama’s Executive One helicopter took off from Capitol Hill, I felt, the moment was poignant. “That’s it. The Barack Obama Presidency can never be back. America has to let him go. No choice,” I remarked to Vaani. I felt a lump in my throat, as did Vaani, as did perhaps so many millions of people across the world. But such is Life when it comes to the American Presidency. Which is why I feel it holds out a great lesson in detachment to all of us.
We often think of detachment as something which is beyond the reach of common folks like us. We think of it as the exclusive prevail of more evolved, spiritually-inclined people. But I think different. Each of us is capable of understanding and practicing detachment. All we need to do is to celebrate the impermanence of Life itself. If you are born, death is certain. So, when Life is impermanent, transient, why cling on to anything? In a way, one of the most powerful positions in the world – purely going by the worldly definition of power – has a limited-period tenure, between 4~8 years. So, why suffer wanting to hold on to anything – least of all material?
I believe that the key to happiness is to be detached – from what you possess, from what you want, from what haunts you, from what possesses you, from what worries you and from all who you love or dislike. If you can immerse yourself in whatever you love doing – painting, cooking, gardening, reading, singing, cleaning, whatever – without regard to either space or time, then you can call yourself detached. Then you can only be happy!
In a way, I guess guided detachment helps. Like in the case of the US Presidency. During the early months of our bankruptcy (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), I found it very difficult to stop worrying. It seemed such a natural, normal, thing to do. When you don’t know what to do, you end up first worrying that you are clueless. Then you start being fearful. And you are soon pinned down and held hostage by your fears and your worries. It’s an ugly state to be in. I hated being that way. Then through my daily practice of mouna (silence periods), I learnt to postpone worrying. The more engaged I was in the beauty of the present moment – however imperfect it was, it was always beautiful – the more I was able to detach myself from my worries and fears. I told myself that we were waging a war. And to fight that war, Vaani and I needed to be in top gear – physically, emotionally, spiritually. So, every evening we came home battle-scarred, but we refused to let the pressure get to us once we sat down for dinner. This is how I trained myself in the art of detachment.
Detachment doesn’t mean you are irresponsible. Nor does it mean inaction. It simply means you are smart enough, intelligent enough, not to take Life so seriously that you stop enjoying the journey because you are obsessed with the reward – a reward that you cannot anyway take with you!
Your Life’s Purpose is not to earn a living alone and to keep thinking you deserve more!
A FB post by a friend raises this very interesting, fundamental question: “Do uncertain times call for a certainty of Purpose?”
My answer: “Of course it does!”
Though we don’t normally see it, recognize it or realize it, all creation has a Purpose. If you look around you, every aspect of Nature serves a Purpose. The sun, the trees, the animals, the birds, the insects, the rivers, the oceans – each of these forms of creation is there with a reason. The human species too has been created with and for a reason. But somewhere along the way, we humans have forgotten a. that we have been created b. that the Purpose of our creation is not to merely earn a living or to plunder the planet and cannibalize other species that we co-habit this space with.
Let us first appreciate that the human form is a blessing we receive from creation. Think about it: we could have been created in any other form – why are we created human? Therefore, we must then understand that if we have been created human, there must a reason for it. And that reason cannot be to amass wealth, to stress over material accumulations and to suffer when our wants are unfulfilled. Very simply, the Purpose of being created human is to serve, and through serving other forms of creation, being happy. But what do we do instead? We are continuously seeking deservance, and when we don’t get what we want, we are ending up being unhappy! Isn’t this a complete waste of our being human?
Now, to go back to my friend’s FB post, we all know, without a doubt, that all Life is uncertain. And inscrutable. When you have clarity on why you are here, why you are going through this human experience, you can live Life better. It is when you are confused that you are confounded. That’s how you end up suffering. Let me explain. When you think of your Life’s Purpose as only making money or as being successful or famous, and when these things don’t happen or if they happen but also don’t stay with you permanently, then you are unhappy, then you suffer. But if you realize that, despite your having money or not, despite being successful or not, despite being famous or not, your Life’s Purpose is only to serve, only to make this world a better place, then you can only be happy. Simple.
So, clarity of Purpose is crucial to help us along the journey of Life. When there is an awareness of the why of your creation, when there is Purpose, your Life matters. And only the presence of what matters to you can make you happy!
…And it has no flaws!
A very good friend of ours is enjoying time with his infant grandchildren. When I connected with him earlier this week, after many months, I remarked, “Wow! Isn’t it wonderful to be a grandparent? We are still getting ready to be empty nesters. But you have already been there, done that, and now, your Life has come a full circle as the family is together again with the next generation coming in as well!” My friend laughed. He then said, “AVIS bhai, one small correction. No one’s been there. No one’s done anything! Life just happens to you.”
Indeed. This has been my belief too. I may have said “been there, done that” to my friend more as a manner of speaking, but I totally, completely, resonate with the “Life happens to you” perspective.
I have another friend who is a famous CEO. He went into a depression for a few years when he lost his entire business empire and he went bankrupt. He subsequently bounced back and is a thriving business leader today. When my own business and financial challenges began (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), in early 2008, I visited him in Hyderabad for getting his perspective on dealing with a bankruptcy. At the end of our conversation, as I got up to leave, he pointed to a plaque on his desk. It contained a quote from Yogavasishta Ramayana which read: “Whatever (is) to be done, I do. But in reality I do not do anything.” He told me: “Just follow this principle. You can never escape pain in Life, but, with this principle, you can avoid the suffering.”
The quote and my CEO friend’s advice did not make much sense to me then. But almost a decade down the line, I am wiser. I have come to realize that the truth of our lives is that we have to do what we have to do, and yet Life will keep happening to us; ultimately, Life’s Master Plan is what prevails and so we must learn to be unfrustrated with Life, with what we get, with the outcomes of our efforts. Or simply, Life’s Master Plan keeps happening to us, irrespective of what we do or don’t do, and this Master Plan has no flaws!
This learning is now ingrained in my spiritual DNA, if I can call it so. Even this morning, in a state of absolute cluelessness over a very urgent situation, that demands immediate hands-on leadership, which we can’t provide just now owing to lack of money, I meditated on this learning. I let go. And I surrendered. I am not just feeling a lot better, I am convinced that Life will take care of us – just as we have been taken care of all this time.
All our suffering, I have realized, is because of this misplaced notion that our Life happens because of us. I am reminded of what music maestro Ilayaraaja said once in an interview to Radio Mirchi: “Thaan sapitta unavai thaane jeernika sakthi ulla manithanai yen munnal niruthungal!” It means, “Show me a human who has the ability to digest their food through their own ability.” The import is that if you believe that Life happens through you, and not because of you, and that Life happens to you no matter what you do or don’t do, then, and only then, can you live in peace and be happy!