Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Be Nice

"Be nice to everyone you come across; you never know whose help or support you will need tomorrow"

We interact with numerous people in our daily lives. With people who matter or who are important or powerful, we are naturally polite and courteous. The true revelation of our inner character is our behaviour with people who do not matter. Are we nice to them too? Or do we disregard them and their self-respect when we speak or interact with them?

It takes very little effort to be nice to everyone around us. Even if have to convey our displeasure over something that the other person has done, we can do it in a nice manner. Let us not worry that we will be ineffective if we are humble or gentle. Rather, people will respond to us better if our behaviour conveys respect to them.

When we are nice to people, we are nice to ourselves too. It has positive spin off effect on our health too. Our faces have fewer wrinkles and begin to glow. We create an aura of attractiveness around us when we are pleasant and nice. We win more friends and well wishers. And who knows when one of these people will come to our support when we need it most?

Come on and show to the world your gentle side. Let people around you bask in the warmth of your company. Just be nice - always!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fare well

Over the years, I have met people of different kinds – some happy, some sad, some angry, some irritable, some negative, some positive, some hopeful, some desperate etc. I am sure you, the reader, have also encountered all kinds of people in your lives. I have also had different kinds of experiences – some joyful, some dreadful, some fearful, some worrying, some frustrating etc. just as many of you would have.

I wonder why we go through such encounters and experiences. Is it just a part of life or does it have any meaning? When I reflect upon this question and also my own actions / reactions to different folks and situations, I realise that these are indeed presented to me for a purpose. I believe each situation is an opportunity to learn about ourselves and to improve as individuals.

In fact, I strongly feel that our life here on earth is one big test posed on us by God. People who do well in the test get positive results and others get an opportunity to face the test again. The good thing about the test is that we keep getting a chance to re-appear and there are no failures. We keep getting exposed to various challenging situations until we learn how to deal with it. Life itself is the teacher and is also the test.

As long as we have negative traits / thoughts / view points within us, we will react to situations incorrectly and be faced with unwelcome consequences. As long as we are positive oriented, we will experience pleasant situations and be filled with peace and bliss. The sooner we learn and practice this, the sooner we will reach our final destinations.

Fare well!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Become immortal

One of humankind’s biggest obsessions is to become immortal. From time immemorial, we have had various people trying to increase longevity. Indian mythology is full of stories of people who have undergone severe penances to achieve this goal. Most of the people have been failures in this quest.

It also seems pointless to become immortal when we are living in a body subject to various ailments and illness. With a no-so-perfect physical body, it would seem that it is better to die than live on forever. As we grow older, our bodies steadily decay and deteriorate. Our sense organs begin to fail. Under such circumstances, would not death be a welcome state to progress into?

Despite this, our scientists want to fight nature and work on increasing the youth span as well as life itself. Very few people appreciate death. Very few realise that death is a natural way of the renewal process. Life is sustained and re-created only due to the certainty of death.

Yet, there is a way to become immortal. We become immortal when we lead lives that are perfect in every way; when we epitomise values in every breath of ours; when people look up to us to show the right way; when our lives are shining examples of love, compassion, selflessness, truthfulness and integrity.

The world will forever remember people who stood steadfast in the midst of adversity to uphold values. The legendary child Prahalad, the son of demon King Hiranyakashipu, despite being threatened with death did not forsake His Lord. Raja Harishchandra protected truth and honesty despite immense suffering. Mother Sita suffered for long but upheld her loyalty and commitment to her Lord Rama. There are many such inspiring and powerful stories of how people became immortal through their display of sterling characters.

We too can become immortal in this manner. All we need to do is to uphold values at all or any cost.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recognise your enemy

"One of the most time-consuming things is to have an enemy" - E.B. White

Most of us would love to have a life without enemies. In fact, we go to great lengths to make friends and be happy. We read books on “How to win friends and influence people”. We dread the thought of having an enemy who is out to destroy our peace and success. If we were asked to think of and name our enemy, quite a few names might pop up in our minds. Some of us would go to great lengths to make a list and might even include anyone who has even slightly disagreed with us.

Not all are our enemies though. In fact, we are usually surrounded by well-wishers who wish to see us happy and fulfilled. People who criticise us are actually intending to correct us and guide us in the right path. People who punish us have similar motives. Come to think of it, every misfortune that we face is actually helping us become better human beings and more matured. Each experience is a lesson for us in our evolution process.

If that were so, do we really have any enemies? I would say that there is one enemy who is so close to us that we fail to recognise or realise him. That enemy is our own ego. Our ego is really our enemy because it is the one which makes us “difficult” people. Our ego stops us from having selfless and loving relationships. It is our ego which creates greed, envy, hatred, anger and all such negative emotions within us.

If only we realise this and shed our ego, we would be rid of the biggest enemy in our lives and progress much faster towards our goals. We would become less conscious of ourselves, less conceited, less inhibited and more positive in our lives. Recognise this and you become free!!

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner - Nelson Mandela

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Be Positive

At any and every point of time in our lives, we are faced with circumstances which have both positive and negative connotations. For example, I have just got a promotion means higher level, larger role, bigger pay (positives) and also means higher responsibilities, more work, bigger targets (not so positive).

At every given point of time, we are also faced with a mix of events some of which are happy and some not so happy. For example, I just got a new cell phone (happy) and I lost / misplaced my favourite pen (not so happy). So, life is a big mix of high & low feelings and emotions.

The moot question is - what do we focus on? If we are the proverbial optimists, we tend to see the brighter side of things almost always. If, however, we are pessimists we tend to see the half empty glass. It is true that it takes all kinds to make the world go around and it is also true that there is a place under the sun for everyone.

Yet, there is a strong case for being positive. Positive people are cheerful and spread positive energy. They make the most of every moment. Life seems so lively when we are around them. Their spirits never go down and they are always full of hope. Such people have better health and happiness quotient. They also have better relationships with others. People just love to have them around.

Being positive does not mean one should be unrealistic. It is not meant to ignore problems or issues. It is just an attitude where the solution gets precedence over the problem and mind refuses to dwell on pain. It is a mindset where one accepts unwelcome events or situations without being overwhelmed by it. It is a reflection of confidence in ones own abilities as well as faith in the Almighty.

"A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug" - Patricia Neal

"Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results."
- Anonymous

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Inculcating values in children

A friend asked me this question and it set me pondering "How can we inculcate values into our children?"

After some introspection, I thought of a few ways by which this can be effectively done and I give them below.

Start Early - The younger a child is, the better it is to mould them as per our desires. Their minds are still flexible and open to learning. The kind of exposure they get as infants really sets the course for their lives. The younger a child is, the easier it is to get her time. As they start growing up, they find lesser and lesser time for parents. Young kids often seem eager to listen to stories and what better way to introduce values through simple and interesting stories? Besides stories, one can also do simple course corrections in day to day life too. For example, if you catch them lying / stealing / being dishonest, you can use the occasion to help them understand the importance of values.

Set Examples - Children tend to mimic their parents. If the parents are always smiling and cheerful, the child tends to be like that. If the parents are grouchy or serious, the child becomes that too. It is not merely genetics at play here. It is also the overpowering influence of someone the child looks up to. So, if we want our child to be less aggressive, for instance, we need to display that behaviour too. No point in using threats to change an aggressive behaviour - that will be counterproductive. We cannot scream at a child and say "STOP SCREAMING". The child learns to be quiet if we show her how. We cannot also ask the child to lie when it is convenient for us - for example, "Tell them I am not at home" when you want to avoid a phone call, gives a subtle message to the child that it is OK to lie.

Praise openly - There are many occasions when the child displays good behaviour. Make her feel special whenever she does well. Let her realise that good behaviour leads to instant acknowledgement and positive strokes. Tell everyone around, and within her hearing, of your joy and pride on her positive behaviour. Create a self image in her mind that will encourage her to make values an integral part of her character. Giving a gift / reward for positive behaviour may not be sustainable nor is it the right thing to do.

Counsel mildly - There would be occasions when the child falters and it is the responsibility of every parent to counsel the child. The method of counselling would have to be mild. It cannot be done by using force, threats or even punishment. The child should be made to realise through a soft discussion on the consequences of not practicing values. Old stories may be repeated and used for reinforcing. The whole effort would have to be to get the commitment from the child to be better in future. We should realise that no one is perfect and that everyone deserves a chance to improve and evolve.

Make Rules - It is easy to form habits when one is young and something is repeated frequently. There are many simple values that can be built in our children if we have simple rules in force. For example, we can have rules of etiquette to be followed religiously - Saying "please", "Thank you", talking softly and smiling often can all be programmed in children at an early age.

Right environment – For a child to inculcate values, it is important for her to grow up in the right environment. Parents can help in this process significantly. Is she having the right kind of friends? Is she having the right kind of activities? Is the school right for this? Is she staying in the right locality? Is she watching the right kind of programs? All of these are factors which have direct / indirect influences on her character. Choosy parents will make sure that every aspect is attended to and that there are no negative influences coming her way.

Shower Trust – One important dimension that parents should remember is to trust their child. They should explicitly and implicitly tell the child that they trust her fully. They should never be seen as probing too deeply and checking every single thing minutely. This is especially true as the child reaches adolescence. Otherwise, it might cause the child to rebel and display opposite behaviour.

The above points are not necessarily comprehensive. I am sure readers will have more suggestions and thoughts on this topic. I welcome your thoughts which will add value to this note and help in inculcating values in our children and through this process make our society a happier place to live in.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Being Indifferent

There was once a guy who was searching for a spiritual Guru and was keen to get an Upadesh (or spiritual advice)from such a Guru. One fine day, a renowned Guru was camping near his town and so he went to visiting. The Guru usually observed a vow of silence and would not speak with anyone. When this guy went near the Guru and asked his for the Upadesh, the Guru spoke two words "Chuuma Iru" in Tamil which meant "Keep quiet".

Normal people would take this as an admonition and may sulk. However, so intense was this desire of this devotee that he literally accepted the Guru's words as gospel and started observing a vow of silence himself. Over a period of time, his observation skills shot up sharply. He also slowly started withdrawing into himself as his conversations with others had ended.

Over a period of time, he became what a true Yogi aspires to be. He started observing things with a disinterested eye and witnessed events without getting involved. He realised through personal experience that the world is like a stage with different people playing different roles. Different event occurred unexpectedly just as it would in a interesting play. He realised, in his mind, that nothing is permanent and there is no point getting attached to things. Just as the waves which rise and fall again in the mighty ocean, thoughts come and go, possessions come and go, friends come and go...

His mind became peaceful and balanced. Nothing disturbed his equilibrium and calm state of mind. Soon he too became sought after as a Guru.

This real story shows us a path to realise our life's purpose. We too can cultivate an attitude of indifference in ourselves. We too can withdraw ourselves from the overpowering attraction of the world and start seeking inwards. We too can use our senses for the right purposes only and not misuse it for indulging ourselves.

Of course, this path is not easy and not for every one. One practicing it will find people mistrusting and unhappy with this approach. One can be accused of hypocrisy. One way to reach this stage is to practice meditation earnestly. If we can learn to be indifferent at all times and in all eventualities, we will certainly find peace.

Moderation, which consists in an indifference about little things, and in a prudent and well proportioned zeal about things of importance, can proceed from nothing but true knowledge, which has its foundation in self acquaintance. – Plato

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Living in harmony

A movie I saw recently called the "The boy who wore stripped pyjamas" disturbed me greatly. The movie deals with the subject of Nazi cruelty to Jews seen from the eyes of an innocent 8 year old son of a Nazi commander. It shows how everyone was brainwashed into believing that Jews were oppressive, destructive etc. and also how Jews were not really people but a different kind of creature. People who had difference of opinion were dealt with severely till everyone fell in line with the central thinking.

Even to this day, a similar kind of tragedy, torture and killing is happening. The only difference is that we are now dealing with birds, animals, aquatic creatures etc. In the name of food processing industry huge amount of creatures are killed every day in the most inhuman manner. It is as if the poor animals do not have any right to life or dignity.

Most people who eat meat do not think about the suffering that the animals have to go through in order to become food on their table. The animals are bred and fed in very filthy environments. They are injected with drugs to make them grow abnormally. They are castrated in a brutal manner. Their body parts are chopped while still alive ignoring the pain that they undergo.

Some questions we seriously need to ask ourselves is - Are we really human? If yes, how do we allow / encourage such actions? How do we choose to act ignorant and look the other way when such acts are committed? Do we not care about the pain of the other creatures? How can we think of feeding ourselves by causing so much pain around?

This is not just about our eating habits. I have often seen speeding cars knock down animals on the road and going away without even a backward glance. It is as if the lives of other creatures do not matter. As if it is OK if they are injured, hurt or bleeding. There are very few people who care about the lives of others, especially other creatures.

We should recognise the Lord Almighty in every living being. We should be gentle and kind to all creatures. Even if we cannot go out of the way to feed them and take care of them, the least we can do is to refrain from harming them. Together we can make this world a better place. A place where every creature has a rightful place and role to play. A place where everyone is kind and gentle towards all creatures.

Let’s live in harmony and joy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Confess to progress

One of the aspects of Christianity that I love is the practice of confessing our sins. Within ourselves, it is easy to know when we have sinful thoughts or have committed sins. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge and even more guts to admit it to someone else. Someone who has taken the step of confessing is surely on the right path to becoming a better person for she has recognised her sin, admitted it and resolved to rectify.

Confession is good for various reasons some of which are listed below:
1. It takes the load off the mind
2. It is the first positive step in self-improvement
3. It is an open declaration of one's resolve
4. It enhances the value of honesty which paves the way for other values to creep in and establish their presence

The act of confession by itself does not atone for sins. One should not carry an impression that confession "clears the slate" and permits one to sin again. It should not be treated as a ritual which needs to be completed after every sin. The very purpose of confession seems to be to make a strong resolution to avoid similar sins in future. It is like making a public declaration of our intentions to be better human beings.

We are all human and are prone to sinning (a) consciously or unconsciously (b) physically or mentally. We can reach the ultimate goal of divinity only when we are able to cleanse ourselves of sins. By sinning surreptitiously and projecting a clean image to the world, we are only fooling ourselves. People who strive to become better human beings and spiritually evolved would recognise the tremendous power of confessions.

Confess to progress

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Give more, Seek less

We all seek happiness and peace. This desire is universal and most of our activities are done in search of happiness and peace. We make friends, read books, watch movies, earn money, spend money, marry, visit places, pray etc. with the hope that it will help us gain happiness. Many of the activities indeed give us happiness but these are momentary and transient. Within no time we start feeling unhappy and empty and crave for the same or better kind of pleasure again.

One of the biggest delusions that we all carry is that happiness lies in getting something. We feel that we are incomplete and that by adding something to ourselves we will become complete and happy forever. Right from childhood, we display this trait of seeking something like a toy or a sweet to be happy. This also leads us to a mistaken belief that our possession is the source of our happiness. We also start believing that an 'exclusive' possession gives higher level of happiness.

A look around us tells us that happiness does not arise out of possessing something. If that were so, the richest people would be the happiest people. Yet, we see that that is not the case. The rich might enjoy comforts but they are always fearful that their wealth will get stolen or taxed. All their time is spent on thinking of ways and means to protect or enhance their wealth. So much that they neglect almost everything else.

Also, once you have something, the mind is busy craving for something else. The mind is always seeking what we "have not" while ignoring / taking for granted what we already have. It is always seeking new conquests and new acquisitions. While we are thus 'seeking' we are feeling restless and anxious. The sense of satisfaction that leads us to happiness is missing.

On the other hand, giving gives great joy to us. When we give, we get the feeling of abundance in us. We are no longer anxious about what we do not have. The satisfaction we get in giving is lasting and leads us to great happiness. The joy that we create in others gets reflected in us. In giving and sharing and serving lies the source of all happiness that we are seeking.

When we give, we get.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Enjoy your present

A class of spiritual aspirants were once asked to list down their most happy moments. People wrote about their happiness on graduating, on marriage, on meeting a long lost friend, a picnic, a game etc. Some even wrote on their anticipated happiness events on awaiting a child, a forthcoming foreign holiday, a new job etc.

All of us follow this practice - looking back with joy and nostalgia or looking forward in pleasure to a planned / unplanned event of joy in our lives. Even for the most well endowed & gifted person, who never has faced a disappointment in life, it seems as though that joy is a past / future event.

Of course, we all do have our joyous moments too when we are conscious of the feeling of bliss and satisfaction. Take for example, winning a game or getting a promotion. At that point of time, we become truly happy and want to share the news as well as the joy with everyone around. And we can't stop smiling.

Most of the time, however, the pleasure of the moment is lost on us. For e.g. if we remember our school days, we sigh and wish we could re-live those years. But whilst in school we were keen to grow up and join college. Similarly, if we think of a holiday, we relish the memories. But whilst in the holiday, worries about safety, security, budget, health etc. were eating our minds...

In reality, every moment is a moment of joy - often realised only too late.

If we can realise this great secret and start appreciating our present moments, our lives would be more fulfilling indeed. Enjoy your present. Bask in gratitude for the things that you have in life. Share with others less privileged. Smile often. Spread the message of joy with everyone around. Think positive. Create lovely memories whilst living joyously.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Purpose of life

Last week a young friend passed away suddenly. He slipped into coma when his blood sugar went down. Despite continuous medical attention and all parameters being normal, he remained in coma and passed away after ailing for a short while.

On hearing about his death, I realised again about the fickleness and uncertainty of life. We all realise this but quickly forget it in the hustle & bustle of everyday life. King Yudhistir was once asked about what surprises him immensely and he replied “Everyday all around us we see death and yet people believe that they will live forever”.

Even knowing that our days are numbered and that we shall give up the ghost sooner or later, we continue to lead lives without worrying about the purpose or our direction. We continue to chase after, and bemoan about, things which do not matter. We aspire for temporary pleasures. We pursue worthless goals. We discuss vague topics. We listen to junk.

We fail to see the presence of God everywhere. We fail to acknowledge His creation. We forget to remember Him. We avoid discussing Him. We turn away from music that praises Him. We do not sincerely worship Him. Nor do we show gratitude for His grace and generosity.

Wake up. Waste not a moment. Focus all your senses and mind onto Him. Feel blissful and be blessed. Discover the true meaning of your life. Achieve the true purpose of your life. Reach out to Him before death robs you of this opportunity.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Three C's to avoid

Peace of mind is something that we all crave for. We cannot achieve this state without putting effort. After all, peace of mind is not something that can be procured by spending money or by force. The mind needs to be balanced and in equilibrium before it can reach that state. For the mind to be balanced, we have several 'dos' and 'don’ts' to follow. Given below are three 'don’ts' which go a long way to achieve that state. They are described as the three Cs.

Criticizing: The first C is criticizing. It is one of the most natural talents that we all have. Our minds seem to be tuned to find fault and spot blemishes. Many a times, we see problems where none exist. It is as if our minds have the uncanny knack of identifying a problem. At the same time, our tongues are eager to let others know of our 'superiority' in being able to articulate those problems. When we criticize thus, unnecessarily, we are unknowingly building resistance as well as enemies. These lead to unwarranted arguments and attempts to prove a point. Moreover, our minds which get clouded in negativity refuse to let us reach the state of equilibrium.

Complaining: The other C is similar to the first C and yet more damaging. Complaining is taking criticism to a higher level and almost results in condemning others. As long as it is constructive in nature and comes with intent to resolve and rectify, it is still bearable. What takes the cake is complaining which sounds like whining. It is other extreme of appreciating. It creates a huge negative whirlpool from which we are unable to extricate ourselves. We also carry the feelings of hurt and annoyance in our minds which prevents us from experiencing bliss.

Comparing: Another C which we seem to be unable to avoid is the comparison bug. It is almost like a virus which is in the air. Many of us are comparing all the time - ourselves with those around us. It could be about anything - wealth, friends, physique, job, dogs, appliances etc. It gives us momentary pleasure when we see others in a worse situation than us and also give us sleepless nights when we see others enjoying more than us. Comparison is a never ending maze where people get lost and unable to recover their bearings. It is a method of inventing joy / sorrow out of nothing.

These three Cs are best avoided and conscious efforts taken to prevent ourselves from getting entrapped here. It would be a good idea to ask one of our close spiritual friends to help us in the process. If someone were to remind us each time we use these Cs, it will help us tremendously in making course corrections. Over time, we might become habituated to completely avoid them and progress towards the much coveted state of peace in our minds.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Beauty of Character

Many years ago, as a young bachelor, I had an animated conversation with a group of friends on marriage and the process of selecting a bride. Most of us, enamoured by reading love stories and seeing movies with similar themes had felt that falling in love with a beautiful person is the best way forward. Some of us also had a notion that beauty and goodness of character are directly related. There was only one person in our group who had a strong different view point.

He said physical beauty has nothing to do with character. Character depends on ones up-bringing and innate nature. Physical attractiveness has more to do with state of health, fitness and youth rather than with character. Given a choice, he said, he would go for a person with character as a life partner rather than a person with physical beauty.

There was wisdom in my friend’s thoughts. The problem with physical beauty is that it fades with time. One has to put in huge efforts to delay the inevitable process of aging and consequent impact on health and beauty. All efforts in this direction only give temporary benefits or results.

To build a solid foundation of trust and love, the most important ingredient is character. It is next to impossible to think of a long term relationship with anyone whose character is acutely flawed even though the person is exceptionally beautiful or even talented. At best, such relationship can be termed as fragile or opportunistic and it can never be solid.

It goes without saying that no one is perfect and each of us has our blemishes in character. Marriage is a great institution to gradually evolve into a better person. It is here that one learns all about supporting and adjusting with each other. It teaches us on the importance and value of differences and on accepting the same. A marriage will be robust and permanent when the partners have beauty of character (BOC). Higher the level of BOC, the better and more stable is the marriage.

BOC is relevant for all kinds of relationships and not only for marriage. One would love to be, work, play and interact with people who have BOC. Such people are always in demand and are ever popular. Success seems to be at their beck and call. Their faces always radiates with joy and peace. Life seems to be extra-kind to people with BOC.

Cultivate your BOC. Embrace a life of values.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What is your priority?

How important is money to you? What will you do without money? Can you live without money? When will you feel you have enough money? Is a life of poverty worth living?

Some of these questions popped up in mind after a recent discussion with an acquaintance. She was of the firm opinion that money is critical and that it is easier said than done to live a life without money. People will intellectualize that money is not important but in reality will actually crave for it. Without money life is full of suffering and hardships etc.

It led me to think deeply on this subject and below are some thoughts that occurred to me. I give below 4 specific thoughts that came to my mind which makes me believe that there are other more important things than money. Yes, money is a tool and helps live life comfortably but it is not worth putting money into the center of our lives.

The first thought that came to me was of Steve Jobs. Here is a man - undoubtedly successful and extremely rich but with a terminal sickness at a fairly young age. What would be his priority? Will he not be willing to give up his entire wealth for the sake of a few more years of healthy life? His confidence in his abilities would be certainly high and he would probably give anything to have more time in this world. If not for anything else, he would want to live so that the ideas / innovations in his mind can see the light of the day. So, health probably is more important than money.

The second thought that came to me was of my mother. She passed away a few years ago. What use is wealth if it cannot be shared with ones loved ones? There might be so many people with no dearth of wealth but with a certain feeling of loneliness in their lives due to the absence of loved ones. So, between wealth and love, love takes a higher position.

The third thought that came to my mind was integrity and values. To what extent would one go to earn money? Is it right to compromise on morals and give a higher ranking to money. Most of us would emphatically draw the line and say that on the question of integrity there can be no compromise even if it means sacrificing lots of money.

The last thought that came to mind was the situation in Mahabharatha in which Arjun and Duryodhana are in Lord Krishna's chambers seeking his help in the Mahabaratha war. While Duryodhana chose the vast armies of Krishna (symbolic of worldly wealth), Arjuna was content with Krishna on his side. He thought that if I have God on my side, what else is required.

Money is no doubt important to get us material comforts. But matters like health, love, integrity and spirituality are more important and if we focus on these, money will never be a priority or a scarcity in our lives.

So, what is your priority?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Awaken your Hanuman

Today is Hanuman Jayanthi. Practically every Indian is familiar with Hanuman - the monkey with supernatural powers who is an eternal devotee of Shri Ram. His contribution to locating Sita and in the war against Ravana is legendary. People love his accomplishments, knowledge and his steadfast devotion. His ability to fly long distances, increase / decrease his body size etc. never ceases to amaze. Scores of people worship Hanuman and seek strength, wisdom, devotion etc. from Him.

There is a Hanuman within each of us. That is our mind. Like a monkey, the mind is restless and ever active. At the same time, our minds have great power. It is magical. We can fly. In an instant we can travel across great lengths. We can defeat powerful armies fighting single-handedly. We can subjugate fierce wild animals. We can sing. We can do almost anything within our minds. In that sense, we are as powerful and endowed as Hanuman.

What we might be lacking is in humility and in our inability to control our egos. This is what we have to learn from Hanuman. Despite our strengths (real or imagined) we should consciously subjugate ourselves before the Almighty and be willing to do His bidding. There should be no sense of "I"ness and all personal needs / desires should be eliminated. An intense devotion to the Lord is all that we should be conscious of.

We can thus awaken the Hanuman within us. That is what we should strive and pray for.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Be a role model

Each one of us is good at giving advice. We tell our children to be obedient, have pleasing manners, be disciplined etc. We tell our juniors at work to be punctual, focused, over-achieve etc. We tell our spouses to be balanced, mature, cool etc. We tell our neighbours to be friendly, helpful etc. Our expectations from others always borders on perfection.

Ever wondered what the expectations of others are? They expect us to be perfect too. At the very minimum, they expect us to practice what we preach and "walk the talk". It would seem too far fetched if we demonstrate some behaviour and expect a contrary behaviour from others. For example, if we were to be short tempered ourselves, how can we expect our children, spouse or neighbour to be any different?

If we strive for perfection ourselves, without worrying about others, we might soon end up becoming a role model for others. People might start looking up at us and emulating us. We might create the change that we wish to see merely by adopting it in ourselves. What greater achievement can there be when we have conquered ourselves and, in the process, unleashing a wave of change around us?

The world, that we perceive, is merely a reflection of ourselves. If we are filled with positive thoughts and emotions, we will see a wonderful world around us. Every moment will become a moment of joy and every person an angel from heaven. All we need to do is to adjust our lens and improve ourselves.

Be a role model in your circle of influence. Embrace a life of values.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Sensitivity

I was driving with a friend one day when we came across a strange spectacle. By the roadside, we saw a person seemingly crazy or drunk, throwing rubbish on passing cars. When our car neared her, she threw some garbage on our car too. Although our windows were rolled up, we instinctively ducked. Then, my friend got worked up and started scolding the mad woman from inside the car. I did not stop the car and drove on.

Later, my friend, in a pensive mood said "I was stupid to react. Knowing fully well that the person was not in her senses and that there was no point in trying to reform her, I should have been more cool."

This is a common occurrence in our lives. Whatever we do or don't, there are always people criticising us. Some will be constructive while some will be downright lies or false allegations. Why should we let this this ruffle us? It will be foolish to expect nothing but praise from others. There are many who relish rubbishing others and imagine that it makes them superior. If we have a clear conscience and heart, nothing should disturb our equilibrium. We should learn the art of avoiding being too sensitive.

Why do we tend to deem it necessary to react to every provocation, every comment, every thing that disturbs us? In a way, we are trying to do the impossible here - to change the world to suit us. In a way, we are showing our insecurities and our lack of confidence in ourselves when we feel upset or sensitive to things that hurt us.

We display maturity when we allow others to criticise or comment negatively without getting upset.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Charity & Sacrifice

“Warren Buffet and Bill Gates contribute billions to charity” screamed the headlines in leading newspapers. The rationale for their magnanimous gesture - any surplus wealth left after taking care of all our requirements, and that of our children, are much more useful if donated in charity. Now, both of them are on a crusade to persuade other wealthy people to do likewise.

When I read the news of this extraordinary generosity of the two richest men in the world today, I was reminded of a story which features in our Puranas. Once, a very wealthy & powerful King had organized a huge Yagna or sacrifice. The practice of those days was that the King, upon the conclusion of the rituals, would give away large sums of wealth, grains, cattle, clothes etc. as charity to the needy people who would throng such occasions.

The king felt blissful and blessed after he had given away significant part of the wealth that he had accumulated through conquests, taxes etc. Suddenly, a hare appeared and started rolling on the grounds in front of the king. He noticed that one side of the hare was golden and the other side was normal. Intrigued, he asked the hare as to what it was up to.

The hare replied that it was in search of a worthy sacrifice to ensure that its body became fully golden. It said that half of its body became golden when it rolled in the floor of a peasant whose sacrifice was extraordinary. The King wanted to know more about this. So, he asked the hare to tell him the story of the peasant and his sacrifice.

The hare informed the king that there was a family of peasants who were very kind and charitable. They would often starve due to poverty and, on the days they could afford, would eat their meal only after feeding more needy people. One day, as they were about to eat, after starving for 3 days, they had a visitor who was hungry. They gladly invited him for sharing their meal. After he had been fed, as the family sat down to eat, another visitor came who was also very hungry. By the time they fed him, all the food in the house was over. They only had water left to drink. Just before they could have it, another visitor came with dogs and said that the dogs were thirsty. So, they even gave up the water for the dogs.

They gave up their lives in this manner and attained the highest goal. The family was blessed because they did not distinguish between themselves and others. Their sacrifice was indeed greater than any charity that people do after taking care of their needs. The hare rolled on their floor and became half golden. Since then, he was searching for a similar level of sacrifice so that he could become fully golden. The King, after hearing the story, realized that his effort, although praiseworthy, paled in comparison to the sacrifice of the peasant family.

Charity is when you feel for others. Sacrifice is when you treat others as yourself.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Use time well

I met a 75 year old man yesterday who is working as a senior executive in a large firm. He said that although he retired many years ago, he has allowed himself to be persuaded to continue employment and put his talents, knowledge and experience to productive use. His wife passed away recently of cancer and he regretted that he could never spend enough time with her or his children. It seems she always complained to him that his work was his first wife and she was only his housekeeper. I could sense that he was deeply upset over his neglect of her.

This meeting set me thinking. Sometimes we are confused about our priorities. We tend to focus on the the wrong things only to realise and regret much later. We get employed to sustain ourselves and our families but get carried away and imagine that our career is of paramount importance. We begin to enjoy the rat race and do not know when to stop. We begin to crave for continuous success in this race and want to win at any cost.

Of course, there are some people who are clear about their goals and purpose. If career is indeed ones sole pursuit, it is great to be focused and dogged about it. However, for most people, career is not the sole goal. They seek happiness in the family front too. Some have spiritual goals too. For such people, it is frustrating to be unable to give adequate attention to other goals. One should not end up as a successful yet unhappy or dissatisfied person due to neglecting other goals.

It would be useful, from time to time, to step back and re-evaluate our direction and our time allocation to various activities. Are we allocating sufficient time for our physical well being? Are we giving enough quality time and attention to our loved ones? Is recreation, rejuvenation and connecting with God featuring in our calendar? Are TV & computers becoming an obsession? Is there any mismatch between our priorities and our activities?

The time to course correct is now. Do not let inertia dictate your life. Get in control of your time. Because without our realising it, we are getting older and exhausting our precious and limited time.

Use your time well.

“Put your family first. I’ve yet to see an obituary that says, “He died peacefully surrounded by his stockbroker, his accountant and his golf partner.” - Robin Sharma

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” - Annie Dillard

“If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness.” - Robin Sharma

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Live light

When we are born, we are born without any baggage. We live at the mercy of others around us. All our needs are taken care of by others. Seeing us so innocent and so light, everyone is attracted towards us. We give nothing to others and yet receive so much love, so much affection, so much care and so much attention. A slightest cry from us would be enough to melt everyone around.

Over the years, as our ego develops, we start accumulating possessions. We start getting attached to things. We start having desires. With desires comes anxieties and worries. The more we get, the more we expect. When expectations are not fulfilled, we become angry or disappointed. It is clear that our accumulation habit leads us to many negative situations.

The more baggage we carry, the more tiresome our journey becomes. If you want to enjoy the journey, travel light. Shed your ego. Shed your desires. Shed your possessions. Shed your attachments. Enjoy every moment in the blissful light feeling.

Live right. Live light.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Slow down

A rich guy went on a holiday to a beach resort and saw a fisherman dozing under his boat on the shore. The rich guy admonished him for wasting his time and told him to use his time more productively. He said "You can work more, catch more fish, buy more boats and make much wealth rather than being a poor fisherman". The fisherman wanted to know the objective of making much wealth. The rich man said "You can then feel secure and be able to enjoy your wealth and relax in peace". The fisherman reminded him that it was exactly what he was doing before the lecture began!!

One of the distinctive features of living today, especially in urban areas, is our fast paced life. We try to experience and enjoy everything without having to wait. It is as if we do not want to waste a single moment of our precious lives. All around us we see people in a hurry to get to their destinations and their goals. Each one seems to be in a tearing hurry to accumulate wealth. No one wants to enjoy the journey anymore. This can be quite disorienting to people who come from rural areas where the pace of life is much slower.

Within a short time of beginning to learn something, we want to become experts at it. Budding artists are keen to display their talents, be it music, dance or something else, to everyone even before they have mastered it. Children yearn to complete the education process quickly and begin their careers early. It would not be surprising if people expect shorter pregnancies in times to come!!

While it may be good to have quicker results and faster turnarounds, it should not be at the cost of quality. We must not forget that everything has a gestation period. If we try to unnaturally complete tasks, we might end up getting contrary results or bad end products. Moreover, all this results in a highly stressful life. When we become excessively demanding with ourselves as well as others, we end up creating high levels of stress and consequent health as well as quality issues.

We must pause a while and consider the impact of our high speed living. Is it really worth it? Are we really accomplishing something worthwhile by living thus? What prompts us to live such lives? Is there a fear of getting left behind that is driving us? What is the consequence of running this rat race? Is there something that we are missing while leading such a life? Are we impacting our relationships by our quest for speed?

The objective of this post is not to ask people to hibernate, go into a shell, run at snails pace or not be ambitious. It is to point out the benefits of being natural and experiencing the positive spin-offs by a moderate and simple life style. Please read the story by Leo Tolstoy on "How much land does a man need" at http://www.katinkahesselink.net/other/tolstoy.html and you will understand the essense of this post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Value Dilemma

People who are following values diligently are sometimes faced with situations when one value seems to conflict with another. If one value is practiced, it might result in violating another value. What kinds of situations are we talking about? And how does one deal with such a situation? I give a couple of examples of conflicting situations to illustrate the point.

Instance one: An animal, say a cow, has escaped a butcher and is running down a road with the butcher in hot pursuit. It takes a side road and the butcher does not see it. He goes up to a pedestrian who has witnessed the entire sequence and asks him if he has seen the animal. If the pedestrian speaks the truth he ends up sending the poor animal to its death which it is seeking to escape from. Thus, truth (value) is seen as conflicting with compassion (value).

Instance two: A group of fundamentalists are attacking / persecuting a person for his religious views which are conflicting with theirs. The attacks are ferocious and life threatening. A group of neutral by-standers are watching this and have to decide whether to interfere or not. One value (that of protecting the weak and defenceless) is conflicted with the value of non-violence.

There could be so many instances in our daily lives that put us in such a dilemma. Should one use the cane on a child or use more gentle approaches? Should one continue to trust someone even when there are instances where the trust is betrayed?

One way would be to go "with ones conscience" and "listen to the heart". All lay people would recommend this as it is easy to implement and seems most logical. The problem, however, is that one conscience is conditioned by ones upbringing and past experiences. This may lead to different people using different approaches when dealing with similar situations. This is not desirable as inconsistencies are not the sign of a mature and balanced society.

This is the reason why our seers wrote epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabaratha to guide people on the best way to deal with situations. The reading of such epics is essential for all if we have to develop a consistent approach on dealing with value dilemmas. The stories are intricately narrated with various instances of conflicting situations and one can learn from how the characters deal with such situations. Dharma or Values are explained at length throughout such epics in a very logical and convincing way.

In the first instance given above the protection of the animal is considered as a higher value and therefore has to be followed even at the cost of being untruthful. And in the second instance, the reaction of the by-stander would be based on their caste (a brahmin may advice and a kshatriya has to fight) and in case of doubt, the value of protecting is higher than that of non-violence.

I would love to hear comments on this very important topic for discussion.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Earn Respect

I overheard two senior citizens talking about something animatedly. One said "I really felt insulted when he did what he did. After all I deserve some respect. I retired as Chief of XYZ organisation and I am no ordinary guy. I still feel hurt and upset over that incident....". He went on and on. How many of us have felt similarly at some stage in our lives? We all crave for recognition and respect. And if there are instances where we experience something else, we feel hurt and brood over it for a long long time.

I remember a favourite saying heard in my childhood days "Command Respect and don't Demand Respect". I always felt that it is important to know how to command respect and this blog attempts to address this question.

In order to command respect from other, we would need to do one or more things from the list given below. This list is only indicative and not exhaustive. Moreover, it is not listed in any particular order other than how it occurred to me. To earn and retain respect, we should:

1. Give respect to others and their feelings
2. Be humble
3. Work without expectations
4. Be selfless
5. Have courage
6. Have high integrity
7. Listen more
8. Speak well
9. Deliver on promises

It occurs to me that people tend to genuinely respect only those people who live a life of values. Others may be able to create a false respect out of fear or greed but these are short lived and certainly not heartfelt. Whatever your role in life may be - whether as a boss, a friend, a mother, a teacher, a parent or anything else, in my considered view, real respect is only reserved for value based living.

What are your thoughts on this?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Embracing Values

Yesterday I read in the newspapers that B schools are planning to introduce and cover the subject of ethics in their curriculum. This thought has come about after seeing many scams that have been perpetrated by the educated professionals. I was heartened by this news as this subject is close to my heart.

I have always believed that the world will become difficult to live in unless everyone lives a life of values. Anarchy. lawlessness, violence, cheating etc. will thrive without values being practiced in earnest by people. We might progress materially but will decay in every other aspect without values guiding our lives.

Having said this, I feel that ethics or values cannot be inculcated by teaching it as a subject and getting students to learn the theory of values. People who have ethics as a subject to be passed to become a graduate might end up mugging this subject and not really understanding it or imbibing it. The very objective of introducing the subject and inculcating it might get diluted if were to be a mere topic for study.

What then is the way forward? I give below some thoughts that come to mind and hope to see it getting enriched by the comments of my readers.

1. Ethics education should begin early. Right from childhood. The parents, siblings and others who make up the child's world (core group) should be actively involved in educating the child right from the impressionable age.

2. The core group should also demonstrate and live a life of values at all times. The child who is thus exposed to value living at an early age will imbibe it and practice it.

3. Encouragement should be given to the child every time she confirms to the value living concept. She should be lavishly praised for every single example in her life which shows values. Her mind should thus get firm on living a life of values.

4. If there are errors or judgement or occasions of default, it should be noted but not excessively dwelt upon. Instead, encouragement / positive strokes should be used liberally to imbibe values.

5. Others should also be spoken of highly for the values they show. This will create an intense desire in the child to inculcate those values too.

6. Children love hearing stories and they should get to hear, see and read stories wherein the themes revolve around values. The main characters should be exemplars in this area.

7. School should also be having curriculum, methods and standards which encourage values. Yardstick for judging a child should be the demonstration of values and not success / wealth etc. acquired through unfair means.

8. Society should also be built on similar lines. People who live ethically should be recognised, appreciated and even rewarded more than others who do not follow. They are the ones who should be treated as the heroes of every society.

9. Only such people who live ethically and with values should be allowed to elect and be elected as leaders and law makers.

I think the above steps outlined gives a fair idea of how I think. I know it can be branded as impractical and impossible to implement. However, I feel that if we want a clean society, we have no option but implement the above. If we work towards this relentlessly, we will eventually achieve our objective.

I am looking forward to your views on how we can create a world for the future generations which will be a pleasure for them to live in.