In today’s Vlog I answer a question that I am often asked: “How can one follow their bliss?”
View time: 3:54 minutes
In today’s Vlog I answer a question that I am often asked: “How can one follow their bliss?”
View time: 3:54 minutes
In today’s Vlog I share spiritual perspectives I picked up watching a recent film on cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar! Viewing time: 4:12 minutes
Just let the song in you play – it doesn’t really matter what others play or have to say!
The past few days we have been doing a round of the free kutcheris on the Madras Music Season circuit. I don’t understand Carnatic music the way it should be – I don’t know how to identify ‘raagams’, I don’t know the nuances of the art form, I don’t know the compositions, in fact I know precious little about the genre. Yet I lose myself whenever I find any music moving me from within. Immersion, I guess, works for me with music, more than academic understanding, more than being a connoisseur. The concerts this season that I have so far been to featured the veteran Hyderabad Brothers and the young, happening, Sandeep Narayan and Rithvik Raja.
Sandeep and Rithvik have both been guests on my popular Bliss Catchers Event Series. Sandeep is a disciple of Sanjay Subrahmanyan; Rithvik has been learning from T.M.Krishna. According to me, both the young artistes are very versatile, hugely talented singers. But I often find people comparing them to their gurus and to each other. I find such comparisons really misplaced and quite unnecessary. Someone who was in the audience in Sandeep’s concert remarked that he’s “better” than Rithvik – and “that’s because Sanjay’s better than TMK”. A FB post remarked that Rithvik’s “soft-natured rendering” was “nothing” in comparison to Sandeep’s “aggressive” stage presence. Then there are those who lament about how TMK does more things than just sing. And how they hope “at least” Rithvik will stay the course on music. Of course, there are those who swear by TMK, and “therefore”, by Rithvik. They are quick to add that Rithvik will emerge as the numero uno soon!
To those soaked in the fever of the Music Season these comments may appear to be part of the usual sabha canteen banter. But to me they are symptomatic of a social trend, a malaise – which is to treat Life as a race, as a competition, where someone necessarily has to trounce someone to win; which also means that one has to always be better than the rest! I know Sandeep and Rithvik personally. And I see no such streak in them to compete at the cost of the other. I know their gurus too and I have never sensed that they may have inculcated such a crass urge in their disciples. Simply, to me, comparing people and passing judgment is truly the bane of our times.
Why can’t people just be allowed to be who they are? Each one is unique. And has an individual way of expressing themselves. Why don’t we celebrate that expression than invest time in analyzing and drawing meaningless inferences? This tendency to compare people does not restrict itself to the Carnatic music scene alone. In every walk of Life people are expected to be like others. Junior Bachchan, Abhishek, is always measured through the prism of his father’s greatness; just as Parineeti Chopra is often judged against Priyanka Chopra’s popularity and performances. Or consider this one: isn’t Asha Bhonsle a better singer than the more feted Lata Mangeshkar, because Asha continues to be relevant at 80+? Virat Kohli is always reviewed basis two benchmarks: Dhoni’s captaincy and Tendulkar’s batting genius. Already the hyper-opinionated janata darbar, a.k.a Twitteratti, is debating whether Ravichandran Ashwin can ever be better than Erapalli Prasanna or Bishen Bedi! NaMo’s chest-thumping is always seen as “superior” compared to Manmohan Singh’s dignified silence. To be sure, comparisons are not a new-age, social media phenomenon. Social media is only a new platform that makes comparisons, trial by public, judgments, both visible and rabid. As a child I was always asked by my parents why I couldn’t be like my cousins – who studied well, who got good marks and who never gave their parents any “tension”. Even now, in fact, I guess this issue rankles my parents, that I am unlike my “well-settled” cousins; that I am in debt and that I am yet to carve out a retirement plan or create assets (Read more on why my parents may feel so here: Fall Like A Rose Petal).
But why? Why does one have to be like someone else or be better than another? Why can’t one just be who she or he is?
A tragic fall-out of this tendency to compare people is that pretty soon, subconsciously, the urge to review yourself basis others creeps in; you start taking those social pronouncements seriously. If someone has more likes or followers than you have, you feel disillusioned. If you have more than others, you think you are the child of a bigger God! But please remember, either pole is a risky one to climb and hold on to: if you consider yourself better than someone, beware of hubris; and if you think someone’s better than you, beware of jealousy or depression getting the better of you! Bottomline: comparison is a zero-sum game; it ruins inner peace!
Going back to where I started, using the music analogy, let me just remind that there’s a song in each of us. And yours is unique to you, as mine is to me. So, why not just let it play? Won’t more original music, from more people, make our world nicer, merrier, happier?
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Find out what your Zone is. Live in that Zone, play in that Zone, work in that Zone, you will then forever be blissful. To me the Zone is when you forget you are alive, you lose yourself to whatever you are doing, you immerse yourself doing only what gives you joy! The Zone knows no time, the Zone remains detached from money, from reward, recognition and material benefits, and the Zone doesn’t tire you.
To be sure, each of us has a Zone that’s special to us. Someone may find their Zone, as in Zen, in chopping wood. Another may find her Zone in cooking. Someone else will find it in art, in music, in dance. Yet another person may just find the Zone in fishing. To each one his or her own Zone. There is no problem when we operate within our Zones. The problem arises when a person who loves theatre is working as a dispatcher in a logistics company. Or when a teacher has become a lathe operator. Or when a musician has become a lawyer. My former colleague, Bobby Ghosh, once, writing for TIME magazine, demystified the Zone. He was writing on Sachin Tendulkar: “When he goes out to bat, Tendulkar seeks ‘the Zone’. It’s a mental state familiar to great athletes in which the mind filters out the crowd, the opponents, the score and other distractions; performance (in sport) is guided by a magic combination of intuition and muscle memory. Tendulkar speaks of it in terms more spiritual than sporting: ‘I need to surrender myself to my natural instincts. My subconscious mind knows exactly what to do.’” But the concept of the Zone is not limited to sport alone. It applies to anything we do. This is what Osho, the Master, calls being in unison with the Universe. It is from this oneness that world-class performances and bliss ensue, perhaps not in the same order! Reading Ghosh’s quote, and knowing of Tendulkar’s deification, may well give anyone a complex that we__ you and I__are not cut out for such divinity. You may want to conclude that the Zone is the exclusive prevail of prodigies and geniuses. Wrong. It is because people perform in their Zones that they create work that gets celebrated that makes them all-time greats.
The idea is not to get into the Zone because you want to be great or be seen as great. The idea is far simpler. If you know your Zone and live in it, you will live in bliss. When you live in bliss, you will be able to give your joy expression with your craft in more ways than you can even fathom! As Osho would say, “‘IT’ happens. Something breaks down inside you, the barriers are lost, and you become one with the Universe. A great orgasm spreads all over your being, you are in tune with existence.”
So, find your Zone and ‘be’ in it. Just ‘be’. And watch, and experience, the magic happen!
Does it make any sense being everyone’s go-to person when people only come to you with their wants – often supporting a morally and financially corrupt ecosystem, that too in your name?
This morning’s papers are full of pictures of Sachin Tendulkar, his wife Anjali and Telugu superstars Chiranjeevi and Nagarjuna visiting the famous shrine of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati yesterday. I have no information if these VIPs got a special darshan at the temple which overtly champions equality and ostensibly administers an efficient, impregnable queue/visitor management process. But seeing those pictures reminded me of my several visits to Tirupati and how, over four years of going there, I was weaned off my desire to go after God!
Almost 15 years ago a friend of mine, sitting at the Westminister bar in the erstwhile ITC Park Sheraton Hotel (it became the Crowne Plaza Hotel last year), told me that if I wanted business success I must take to worshipping Lord Venkateshwara “religiously”. He cited how the country’s top business people unfailingly went to Tirupati to pay obeisance to the Lord. “Have you ever wondered why their businesses are more sucessful than yours or mine,” he asked me, adding quickly: “That’s because they are blessed by Balaji, Lord Venkateshwara.”
I found my friend’s logic unputdownable. And so, on the first day of the immediate quarter that followed, Vaani and I went to Tirupati. We had not been there in over two decades. And so we had no idea of how to secure the tickets for darshan or how the queue system worked. After a lot of traumatic exploration – read running from pillar to post; that was also the non-internet era, so we had to literally scavenge for reliable information – for five hours we got our tickets. As we snaked our way into the Vaikuntam queue complex, we were appalled when, after three hours of barely inching forward, our queue was halted. Even as we were wondering why we were not making progress, we found Anil Ambani and his wife Tina, walking breezily past us in the adjacent, barricaded, queue lane. I was livid. Even then, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) advertised that it practiced an all-are-equal darshan policy. So, I was even more piqued that the TTD was not keeping up its own promise. But I knew I could do nothing to challenge what was going on. So, I did the next best thing. I worked over that quarter and quickly cobbled together a network of influencers within the system who I could tap to have our special darshan “arranged” even at short notice. For the 17 quarters (that is, four years) that followed, Vaani and I got “great darshan, with extra-time in the main sanctum sanctorum”, at Tirupati.
But eventually, we stopped making that pilgrimage to Tirupati for two reasons. One, our own spiritual evolution happened and it clarified to us that the God we seek so desperately is within us. We realized that we found meaning and value in spirituality and not in religion. Two, every visit to Tirupati – or to any place of worship that reeked of crass commercialization (and most places, sadly, are that way) – left me more disturbed than at peace; the behavior of the self-proclaimed representatives of God was appalling, they appeared to be no better than vultures that avariciously pecked away at corpses. During my mouna sessions (daily practice of silence periods) I examined the guilt that was gnawing within me. I realized that I was feeling so because I was literally ‘bribing’ God to give me an appointment; I was imploring God to prioritize me over hundreds of thousands of others who could not afford the ‘bribe’. Over time, mercifully, this guilt transformed into an awakening, a realization that God must not be chased, that God need not be searched for, that God must not be either feared or bribed. And that’s how I weaned myself away from wanting to go see God in a place that’s outside of me. Let me tell you, I have never experienced, in 48+ years, more Godliness and inner peace than I have in the last eight years that I stopped visiting places of worship!
So, this morning, when I looked at the pictures of the VIPs’ visit to Tirupati, all these thoughts came gushing. I have nothing against God, godmen, representatives of God, religion and the many, many people who still believe God resides in places of worship. I only feel sorry for God, as in the human definition and interpretation of God! Being God, I guess, must be pretty stifling. Imagine being God and being locked up in an unventilated, dark place, when you can’t even move! Imagine how you will feel if the only people who come to you are those who never ask you how you are or offer gratitude for what you have already given them, but only ‘want’ something for themselves! Imagine people using your name to divide each other! Imagine having to watch helplessly as ritualistic and gender-biased restrictions are imposed on women even though you created them with the same love and compassion as you created men! Imagine being God, won’t you feel sorry for yourself?