I can fully empathize with Ambati Rayudu. I have been there, done that. Over time, I have realized that getting angry with people, events, situations and Life is of no use. It is what it is. So, wanting to be seen as one who has been wronged may soothe one’s ego, but Life – people/establishments/the system – doesn’t ever bother. Life just goes on. And you continue to sulk, being unhappy…until you realize the futility of it all. So, the big lesson I have learnt is…keep playing your game (whatever it is), without expectations, for the sheer joy of playing…just that…nothing more…and as long as you are playing…no one, nothing in fact, can ruin your Happiness!
Why is there so much suffering in, and around, us – despite so much emphasis on religion and rituals?
We were with some friends yesterday. And the conversation slowly wound its way to us sharing notes on the inscrutability of Life and the power of prayer and surrender.
A friend threw up these questions: “Is ritual an enabler for prayer? Is it necessary to be ritualistic to realize God – and happiness and equanimity? And does any ritual aid the process of surrender?”
Now, those are important questions. And I believe the answers, as I have gleaned from learnings from my lived experiences, lead us to a deeper, better, understanding of Life.
We must realize that we have all been created without our asking to be born. This is a choiceless birth for each of us. So, we must recognize that there is a Higher Energy, Creation, that has given us this human form and has given us this opportunity to experience this lifetime the way we are experiencing it presently.
I see this Higher Energy as Life itself. And I humbly submit to its intelligence, to its might and to its grace.
Some look upon this Higher Energy as ‘God’ – and their religious conditioning gives this ‘God’ a name, shape or form. But clearly, there is no disputing that there is a Higher Energy that powers this Universe, that has designed, and is administering, the cosmic Master Plan. Otherwise, why would you and I be human? We may well have been created as a less endowed species in the animal or plant world or even be an inanimate object – after all, they were all created too, without any of them asking to be!
So, to me, there are only two states to be in – eternal gratitude and total surrender. In fact, it is when these two states are maintained in unison, it is when they confluence, in us, in our view of our world, that true happiness and equanimity can be experienced and sustained.
Prayer is nothing but a way of expressing gratitude – Thank ‘you’, Thank ‘you’, Thank ‘you’! And prayer itself denotes surrender – I don’t know, I don’t understand, so I give myself up to ‘you’. The ‘you’ here is the Higher Energy, Creation.
This is all there is to Life. It is simple, easy to understand and easy to practise. The truth is you can never understand the mind of Creation. You simply cannot understand Life. At best, you can be forever grateful for who you are and what you have, and in complete surrender, flowing with Life for what it is.
We however complicate this process of flowing by resisting what is, by bringing in our logic, desire and expectations. Much of all human distress stems from our wanting our Life to be a certain way – to be different from what it is. As long as we want something, in a certain fashion, we will suffer. And that is what is happening to – and in – all of us.
The human mind, when it is suffering, is like a smoldering cauldron of myriad, uncontrolled, often wasteful and debilitating, thoughts. And religion, as a means of suggesting a method to calm the mind, to weed out debilitating thoughts and emotions, recommends rituals. The larger idea is that the rigor of ritual – in spirit and activity – will help you learn the value of gratitude and surrender. Deep at the core of all rituals, across religions, is this idea of complete, total, surrender. But what have we been conditioned to believe? Practise rituals to cleanse your sins; be ritualistic or you will be punished by ‘God’; if you want your prayers answered, your wants fulfilled, follow this ritual or that; rituals can banish your ‘bad’ phases and so on and on. Bottomline – we have been fed loads and loads of garbage in the name of religion and rituals. Which is why, despite all the rituals, despite all the religiosity in us, many of us are still unhappy, fearful, worried and are suffering endlessly!
So, my answer to my friend’s questions was this: “Do you normally need any apparatus to help you breathe? Not really. But, if your body systems are weak, well, you do need a ventilator. Similarly, do you need a method to practise gratitude and be in total surrender? Surely not. For, if you understand that being created in this human form is a blessing, you can only be grateful, you can only be in surrender. But if you don’t realize – or reflect on – this blessing, well, you then need a method, a device – a.k.a ritual and/or religion – to help you along. But, clearly, no method can help you live happily – in gratitude and surrender – unless you are willing to flow with Life’s Master Plan, for you, the way it is.”
Life hai…kuch bhi ho sakta hai! – It’s Life…anything can happen!
Like almost everyone else, Vaani and I too are still coming to terms with Sridevi’s sudden, tragic, death. We have been reading up every possible – credible – piece of information that has had a fresh perspective to share on what exactly happened to her.
And then, a couple of days ago, we came across this Blogpost by Bollywood trade analyst Komal Nahta, who is believed to be a close friend of Boney Kapoor and Sridevi. If we go by Nahta’s account of what happened in the final couple of hours of Sridevi’s Life, it appears that even as Boney Kapoor was surfing TV channels in the living room of their suite at the Jumeirah Emirates Tower Hotel, waiting for Sridevi to get ready and join him; so they could go out for dinner, Sridevi was drowning in a bathtub – in the suite’s master bedroom, barely a few feet away from him! And he could do nothing, nothing at all, to save her.
I read and re-read Nahta’s Blogpost. Only to conclude that everything about Sridevi’s death is so unreal, so bizarre. What are the chances someone can drown in a bathtub, in one of the most premium (and therefore considered safe) hotels in the world? What are the chances that a loving, doting, caring husband, can be completely oblivious of his wife drowning, even as the tragedy happened, especially when he was within shouting distance of his wife? What are the chances that you say you will “freshen up and come” and actually die in that time – in under 15 minutes – by drowning in a bathtub?
But such is Life. It is so totally, totally, inscrutable. I am reminded of Indeevar’s deeply contemplative lyrics from that iconic song in Safar (1970) rendered in Kishoreda’s immortal voice (music: Kalyanji Anandji)…“zindagi ka safar…koi samjha nahin, koi jaana nahin…” . Life is indeed totally, totally, inscrutable. And this morning, I read this equally bizarre story of this man, literally, waking up from the dead! It made me conclude, yet again, that anything, absolutely anything, can happen in Life!
The more I go through Life, the more I experience it, the one indisputable truth that strikes me repeatedly is this – no matter who you are, you have to go through what you have to go through. You just cannot negotiate with Life over your Life’s design. As I see it, in Life, it is always what it is. You have to bear your cross. And you have to live through the design that Life has planned for you. In fact, as it appears to me, Life’s Masterplan has no flaws!
Consider the late Sridevi’s Life again – her design took her from obscure Meenampatti in Tamil Nadu and made her a pan-Indian screen diva; then the same design forced her into near oblivion, after she married Boney Kapoor and they had Janhavi and Khushi, for 15 years from 1997~2012; the design then brought her to centerstage again with English Vinglish (2012) and Mom (2017) and, posthumously, the same design ensured she was feted, in memoriam, on the Oscar stage this past Sunday! And yet, despite all her greatness, her fame, her glory, this legendary star drowned, helpless, in a five-star hotel’s bathtub? Well, clearly, that’s how her Life’s design willed her story to end!
I have realized that our material success – particularly our ability to earn an income using our talent and skills – makes us believe that we control our Life. The truth is that we never were, we are not and we will never be in control. Life is always in control. It keeps on happening per its inscrutable, unique, design for each of us. It often takes a crisis, an event that defies all logic and cocks a snoot at our problem-solving abilities, or death, to shake us awake from our stupor and remind us that it is not us, but Life which is in control. When we realize this, we too learn to be accepting of the Life we have and learn to go with the flow.
There are no two ways with Life. It is only what it is. You are always playing only with the cards that Life has dealt you. And then, when your time here is up, when your name is called, you stop your game mid-way, even if it is in the middle of a bath, and leave! So, approaching Life with humility and a sense of amazement are perhaps the best way to live it well. Humility, because Life is the Higher Energy (which is why I always spell Life with a capital ‘L’) that powers everything in the Universe; and amazement, because you never know what hand you are going to be dealt next! After all, Life hai…kuch bhi ho sakta hai!
What do you do when you don’t know what to do in Life?
A young lady reached out to Vaani and me recently. She said her 2-year-old marriage was breaking up. Her parents were both diagnosed with cancer. Their family property, which had been under litigation for years, was decreed in favor of her uncles. And she had been laid off at her job. “Where do I begin to fix my problems? I have nowhere to go with my ailing parents and my one-year-old child. I don’t know what to do,” she confessed, breaking down inconsolably.
Vaani and I have been in her situation. We too have felt clueless and lost. What do you do when you don’t know what to do in Life?
I remember Thursday, April 29th 2014 vividly. On that day, we went ‘zero-cash’. We spent the last eighty rupees with us on an auto ride and lived in Chennai, in spells of pennilessness, for months on end after that. Our bankruptcy had blown up into an incomprehensible phase of prolonged worklessness and pennilessness. At one time, we endured 30 months, between 2012 and 2014 when we had no work, no income. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal and watch this Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk.) This, despite, our best efforts to work our network of contacts, pound the pavement, restructure our delivery model, and put our business back on track. It’s a phase that we are still enduring at varied levels of intensity and challenge from time to time.
It is through this darkest phase of our Life that Vaani and I have understood the true meaning of faith.
We have understood that faith is not quite about trusting an external resource or agency, also popularly known as God. Faith truly means trusting the process of Life – and being happy despite the circumstances; which means, being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. We realized that despite our excruciating circumstances, Life was providing us all that we needed. Nothing went according to our plans. Nothing still does. But we have survived a decade of bankruptcy and its attendant, often imponderable, challenges. In this time, our children graduated – our son from an overseas University in 2012. Our daughter too is doing her Master’s abroad. Miraculously, every time we came to the brink, a helping hand appeared from nowhere and hoisted us up or ‘someone’ opened our wings and taught us to fly. That’s what faith has come to mean to us – to know that since you have been created without your asking for it, you will also be, unfailingly, looked after, provided for and cared for. We have learnt that just because we find the going tough, we must not conclude that Life is cruel. In fact, as we have discovered from our experience, Life is most compassionate – always giving you a situation only so that you grow better from dealing with it.
This is what we told the young lady too who sought us out through our Let’s Talk Happyness Program. When you don’t know what to do in Life, you simply let go and you let Life take over. To be sure, you never were in control of anything. Life was always, Life is, and Life will always be in control. Or simply, the Master Plan has no flaws. All that you have to do when you are clueless is to trust the process of Life, keep the faith, and take each day as it comes.
If you wish to seek our perspectives on a Life challenge you are faced with, please reach out here – Let’s Talk Happyness! If you have a personal story of faith, please share. Or tag someone for whom this Post is likely to be useful.
The Master Plan has no flaws.
Yesterday, just ahead of a very important workshop that I was leading, the sole of my decade-old pair of shoes came off – as in, there was a yawning, gaping crack on the sole of the shoe on my left foot. I was already dressed up and set to leave home. It was raining. And the car that had been sent for us by our host had arrived. I could have changed into another pair of shoes. But they were brown in color and would not match the trousers that I was wearing. So I decided to just go on – broken sole, that uncomfortable, worn out, feeling in one foot, et al!
Just a day earlier I had revisited a Japanese concept – wabi sabi. It basically means that Life is transient and imperfect; and that it is in embracing our imperfections that we must find beauty and inner peace!
As I walked on to centre-stage at 9.30 am to anchor my day-long session, I decided to celebrate that imperfect, uncomfortable feeling under my left foot. I didn’t try to push it away or forget that discomfort. I just accepted it for what it was. And I had a whale of a time delivering my 7-hour marathon workshop! The audience was fantastic and I immersed myself in doing what I love doing.
It was only when I finished closer to 6 pm that I actually realized that I had all along, throughout the day, been walking around with a broken sole below my left foot! When I reached home, and literally put up my feet, I thought back to my favorite poet Jalaluddin Rumi’s lines: “Live your Life as if everything has been rigged in your favor.” Vaani and I should know the value of this line. In a material sense, our Life over the past decade (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) resembles that broken sole of my left shoe. We know it is broken. But we clearly have been unable to fix it. And yet, like the workshop yesterday, our Life in the same decade has been miraculously flowing along – beautifully. At most times it has been painful, yes, but there’s a beauty, an indescribable sense of liberation that accompanies that pain. In every sense we have been, like yesterday’s shoe episode and workshop, celebrating wabi sabi – the impermanence and imperfection of, and in, Life!
This morning, on the eve of a very important milestone in my Life, my 50th, I recognize, yet again, that the Master Plan clearly has no flaws! Every minute of my Life I worship this truth and celebrate it!