In today’s Podcast, I champion why we must celebrate being clueless, unsettled and living dangerously! Listen here: 5:43 minutes
Awareness holds the key to intelligent living.
A reader wanted to know how to deal with suppressed desires and emotions. He cited his experience of being brought up in a conservative fashion and him not having touched alcohol all his Life. He agreed that he was old enough to be making his choices, but he felt his family would not approve of them. “So how does one deal with an urge to experience something without feeling guilty or fearing about being judged,” he asked.
I am of the view that everything in Life has to be experienced. But you must never let yourself be controlled by anything. You must be aware of what you are doing. So, drinking socially is okay. But being controlled by your drinking or drinking and driving is not okay surely. You must train yourself to make this intelligent distinction, every single time, with everything that you choose to do.
And please don’t suppress any emotions. The more you suppress something, the more it will want to break free and express itself. So, if you have an urge to try out something new – whatever – go do it. But do it being fully aware of the consequences of it controlling you. I practice a simple process of holding on to each debilitating emotion I experience, examining it, and setting it down. Anger, fear, sorrow, guilt, jealousy – whatever comes my way, I look at it closely and then I let it go. This way, nothing controls me. And since there is no resistance, there is no suffering.
Finally, please don’t make decisions wanting to please others. If there is something you want to do, you want to experience, you have to go do it. Or if you choose not to do it, for whatever reasons, don’t think about your choice again. Don’t try to keep flaunting your martyrdom – “Oh! But for my family, I would have been this way or that way!” It is simply not worth it. That way, you will feel depressed and will end up wallowing in self-pity.
That brings me back to the point about awareness. The key to intelligent living is awareness. If you train your mind to be aware, nothing can entice you, nothing will torment you or control you. Awareness makes Life simpler. It liberates you. Nothing is wrong and nothing is right, in a moral sense, in Life. So, do whatever you feel like doing. But do it with complete awareness of what you are doing, why you are doing it and what consequences are likely to follow. As Osho, the Master, says, “There is only one sin and that is unawareness, and only one virtue and that is awareness.”
Don’t be God-fearing. Be God-loving.
A young friend wrote me a mail from Kerala. She wanted to know if fearing God served any purpose.
I smiled looking at her mail. I was reminded of a conversation I once had with a friend in a dimly lit bar in Saidapet in Chennai some years ago. My friend bought me a few drinks that evening. But he did not drink.
I knew he had had a problem with alcohol in the past. He had struggled to quit it for several years. In vain. Until, as he told me, “Sai Baba appeared in my dream and ordered me to quit.” So, he had been off alcohol for years. I asked him if he was enjoying the abstinence. He confessed that he hated it. But he said he was “scared of Baba’s wrath” if he violated the “order” and so he motivated himself each time to stay away. Which is why, he claimed, he often entertained friends so that he could have the “joy of being in a bar”. I told him, at the cost of sounding rude, that he may have got off alcohol, but he was still “alcoholic in attitude”. I said, “Don’t do anything out of fear. Baba may have given you the right direction – because you indeed had a drinking problem. But there’s no point fearing him. By doing that, you are only suppressing your innermost desire out of the fear that you will be otherwise ‘reprimanded or punished’. Act freely. Drink responsibly, drink with awareness, and you will never overdrink. By abstaining, and craving, you are only creating a context for you to slip back. One day, when your resolve will break, let’s say when you are angry with yourself or with the world or even with Baba, your suppressed desire will explode and you will hit the bottle again!”
That evening, my friend politely refused to take my advice. And I appreciate it. To each one their own.
I strongly believe that the human mind tries to trick itself by bringing the fear factor into play in most situations where individual actions require justification in a social context. The mind revels being gripped by fear – of someone or something. Fear of God, especially, is a convenient way to justify decisions relating to personal choice. In fact the whole issue of morality is debatable and is governed by this kind of fear. For instance, many believe that to have an extra-marital affair is a “sin” that “God will never forgive”. Some see eating non-vegetarian as sinful. Others think that drinking alcohol will tantamount to being disrespectful to their religion. And some think of women in their menstrual cycle going into the kitchen or a prayer room as sacrilegious. My humble view is that morality is like body odor. It’s intensely personal. And if it is not dealt with properly, honestly, by the individual concerned, it stinks. Period. I don’t see any role for (an external) God to play in any of our human choices – especially those that are driven by our very human, sensory cravings! Therefore, if we drop this fear, that we have cultivated in us, of an external God, we will be free.
The only person you are answerable to is the one you see in the mirror. The only voice you must heed is the one you hear from within. When you operate from the core of loving whatever you do – be it drinking, be it eating meat, be it having an active sex Life with multiple partners, be it choosing to pray to a Higher Energy the way you want to and when you want to – you will experience a great inner peace. Because in doing all of that, and more, you are going with the flow of energy from within you, from your individual Godhead.
So, please don’t be God-fearing. Be God-loving. That too, love the God, within you. Heed your inner voice. And do only what gives you joy. It is only when you run scared that you run confused. Where there’s confusion, how can peace prevail?
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Think abundance and you will be happy! Think scarcity and you will run scared!!
A friend posted on Facebook that she did not like the ‘spiritual energy’ in her new house. She bought this one less than a year ago and has tastefully, passionately, done it up. Prior to this, she has changed as many houses in under 10 years complaining of ghosts, tantriks and pesky neighbors in most places and even of a lecherous landlord in one. So, I am not surprised that she is complaining of her new residence now. While I don’t want to discount her experiences by judging them, I genuinely feel sorry for her. Sometimes, Life does put you in a spot when you imagine that the whole world is conspiring to ruin your happiness and inner peace. Famously, Bollywood star Parveen Babi (1949~2005) lived the last years of her Life imagining so. I have lived this way too for a while. It wasn’t until I realized that no one or nothing can affect your inner peace unless you let them to, unless you give them permission, that I arrested my downward spiral towards being delusional.
People are people. They will do what they want. And you have to do what you want to and believe in. Events are events. They will keep on happening in your Life. The more you imagine that people and events are against you, the more you will see Life from a scarcity, fear and anxiety point of view. Then you are not living freely, fully and happily. You are running scared and are fearing Life. How can you experience inner peace when you are filled with negative and anxious thoughts?
Let me explain this using an analogy that is relevant today, given that it is Diwali! Everyone is busy asking the other, at least in Tamil Nadu, whether they have finished their ‘auspicious Ganga snanam’. A dip in the Ganga is believed, per ancient Indian folklore and mythology, to purify one of their sins and past karma. To dispel this myth, a Master once sent a bitter gourd fruit with his disciples to be dipped in Ganga. When the disciples came back from their bath in the Ganga, he asked them if they had dipped the bitter gourd too. When they nodded in affirmation, he asked them if the bitter gourd would have lost its bitterness. The disciples laughed at their Master. How can bitter gourd lose its bitterness just because it has been dipped in the Ganga, they wondered. The Master smiled back and asked them how they then believed that a human being can be rid of her or his sins, or past karma, by bathing in the Ganga? The disciples got the message – loud and clear! Interestingly, that question applies to all our lives; and I hope we too are picking up that message!
I have come to realize that there’s no point in wondering if anything is sinful or not, there’s no point in trying to study past karma and its implications on this Life or on a future one, there’s no point in reviewing, or stressing over, anything that’s not in your control. Instead live each moment fully, happily. The human mind thinks up 60,000 thoughts daily. Most of these thoughts are invested in worry, fear, insecurity, anxiety, guilt, grief, anger, jealousy or hatred, and in similar debilitating emotions. Instead, through any meditative practice, if you can focus a majority of your 60,000 thoughts daily on being happy, with whatever is, on being grateful for what you have, you will find that no one, or nothing, can ever affect you or disturb your inner peace. In every sense therefore, more than Ganga snanam, or a homam, or Vaastu or Feng Shui or Numerology (as in my friend’s context) a meditative, reflective practice daily of being thankful is what can curate and uplift your spiritual energy. Simply, the key to unlocking your spiritual energy lies in thinking abundance, being happy – and grateful!
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It is to live dangerously that we have been created!
Ever since senior journalist and TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked Tennis ace Sania Mirza that question about ‘settling down and motherhood’ a couple of days ago, the question itself is being seen as an affront to gender equality. I believe going forward this question will be categorized as one among those that we must never ask a woman. I don’t disagree.
Further, while I believe that the entire argument in favor of ‘settling down’, if at all, must be gender neutral, I prefer to campaign for avoiding the very argument.
Anxious parents and a ‘holier-than-thou’ society define ‘settling down’ as ‘having an income, saving money, creating material assets, raising a family and begetting children’. It’s a simple thumb rule that the world expects you to conform to – “if you have attained adulthood, necessarily, you shall earn money, marry, buy a house and procreate”. If you notice, in the popular notion or context of ‘settling down’, no one talks about ‘being happy’. Which is why I find this ‘settling down’ discourse sinful.
I believe we are missing the moot point here. The reason we have been created – to be sure, each of us has been born without our asking to be born; that’s incontrovertible evidence that we have been created – is not to merely ‘earn a living’. We have been created human so that we can experience the beauty and magic of this ‘uncertain, inscrutable’ Life and be happy. Osho, the Master, says we have ruined this experience by building a social framework, partly financial, partly material, and wholesomely driven by our wants and expectations, around something that can never be boxed or contained. Life is free-flowing, it has a mind of its own. It is unpredictable. And every moment of living is like a bungee jump, a deep dive into the unknown. Into this deep dive, by introducing a pay check, we think we have stemmed the uncertainty and made the whole experience predictable. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Financial security is an illusion – it is human-made and so doesn’t conform to Life’s free spirit. Which is why, despite all the money you may have, you still can’t fix some quirky health situations, you can’t unentangle complex relationship issues, you can’t buy happiness, you can’t find inner peace or you just can’t get a good night’s sleep!
Osho encouraged us to dump the false comfort that financial security gave us. He invited us to embrace uncertainty and live dangerously. He called his point of view ‘the joy of living dangerously’. He championed for a Life beyond ‘earning a living’, beyond the ‘slaving-earning-saving-procreating’ paradigm. He invited people to be happy, doing whatever gave them happiness. Alan Watts, the British philosopher, invited us to choose the Life we want to live by first imagining what we would be doing in a world where money was not an object. Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist and author, beseeched us to follow our bliss. All their clarion calls asked of us to choose to be happy even if it meant being unsettled. Happiness above all else, was their mantra. I completely agree with all of them.
For reasons that I can never understand or explain beyond what I share daily, here on this Blog, or what I have shared in my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’ (Westland), Vaani and I have been ‘living dangerously’ for years now. We have no money and we have ceased to seek financial security. Yet we are not insecure, we are not unhappy and we are not spending all our time – or sleepless nights – worrying. In a purely worldly sense we have still not “settled down” – we have no income, no savings, no assets, no health or Life insurance and a mountain of debt to repay – yet Life goes on for us. Just as it goes on for so, so many “unsettled” people around us, all over the world. The common thread that links all of us “unsettled folks” is that perhaps through discovering the “joy of living dangerously” we have learnt the art of “living in the now, in the present moment”. Let me hasten to add that living “unsettled” is very, very challenging no doubt, but it is the adventure that is the reward here! Which is why, having tasted that adventure, and enjoyed the reward, we find that “settling down” is perhaps sinful – if ever anything is sinful!
Love the Higher Energy that powers the Universe. If you want to call this Energy God, please do. But please be God-loving, not God-fearing!
A story on Vaani and me broke on the popular media platform for entrepreneurship YourStory earlier this week. We have since been inundated with messages from people seeking perspective on dealing with their Life situations. One gentleman shared how his already struggling small enterprise got burdened with debt. His father passed away last year while visiting his pregnant daughter in the US. Traumatized by her father’s demise, the man’s sister developed serious complications with her delivery. The man said he had to travel to the US and stay on there to assist his sister. So the last rites of his father had to be performed in the US. The family decided to also do the elaborate rituals that follow a person’s demise. The man had to borrow from his family and friends and ended up spending Rs.20 Lakh on performing the rituals! One thing led to another – his business folded up, his income stream dried up and to keep his creditors at bay, the man started borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. His debt stands at Rs.1 crore now and he doesn’t have money to buy groceries!
I can completely empathize with the man’s plight. I have been there and I often end up being in a penniless state every once in a while – even now!
With due respect to the gentleman’s belief systems, I would like to question the validity of rituals and religion in Life. I wonder why we want to perform rituals for a deceased person at such high costs? I have nothing against the economic model of priests and all those who call themselves representatives of God or religion. To me, it’s a business model that must thrive like any other. So, the model’s mandarins will market rituals as a must-do and the way they convince their customers – people like you and me – is that they play up the “fear-God” angle. Especially when it comes to rituals related to someone’s death. I have heard that carefully crafted and articulated pitch: “You have to do these rituals to keep the deceased’s soul at peace, to do your duty as a blood relative of the deceased and for the welfare of the generations that will follow you in your clan. If you don’t do these rituals you will be sinning and God will punish you and your family.” The moment God’s dark – vicious – side played up, the ignorant, unawakened, gullible fellow voyager capitulates. And so rituals get done and that’s how the religion-ritual economy thrives!
At this point, let’s step back to understand Life better. Obviously there’s a Higher Energy that has created all of us. That Energy, without doubt, is inscrutable. Yet there’s something definitive and visible about this Energy: it promises nothing and demands nothing. So why fear this Energy? Think about it. You have been created without your asking for it. You will live as long as you will and then you will die. Death is a certainty that you are born with. And have to live with. So why fear death? And why fear an after-Life that no one has ever come back to talk about? Similarly, when someone dies, why brood over their death or mourn endlessly? Why perform rituals fearing incurring the wrath of this Higher Energy? Why not just celebrate the Life of the deceased by doing what the person loved doing a lot? Ask yourself, if you would still do the rituals you do – or are made to do – if you were implicitly convinced that the Higher Energy, that you call God, need not be feared? If you would still do it, then go on, stay ritualistic. But if you would rather not do it, then I rest my case.
Simply, any form of fear must be dropped. You and I have been created to live a full Life and enjoy it. You are not here to fear anything – not even your impending death. So love your God, the Higher Energy that has created you, than be God-fearing! Anything that holds you hostage and makes you cower in fear must be abandoned – and that includes religion and rituals.