Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Honesty And Diplomacy

We have always been taught that honesty is the best policy, and that to lie is a bad thing to do. As we grow older, we realise that in many situations it is a good idea to keep quiet or, better still, be diplomatic and tactfully handle sensitive issues. The line dividing honesty and diplomacy is a thin one. We have to be careful in deciding when to be honest and when to be at our diplomatic best. We also have to decide whether we should be absolutely candid, or use the truth as a matter of convenience.
    Our relationships demand complete honesty, or else, we get into trouble. In a household, for instance, the oldest member I  was quite diplomatic in commenting on the new cook’s unpalatable creations. Whatever he would cook, the cook would always be told that the food was ‘not bad’. I would avoid criticising the cook for the mediocre food he dished out. The situation worsened to a point when what was cooked was almost inedible. I could not take it anymore and screamed at the cook for serving such bad-tasting food. The cook was taken aback. From that day onwards, everything that I had diplomatically papered over started to show huge cracks. Daily fights and arguments became the order of the day and, one fine day, the cook simply left.
    Therefore, diplomacy or lack of honesty can lead to deterioration in our relationships. Before you decide to be totally frank, you must carefully analyse all consequences of your actions. While life needs a good mix of honesty and diplomacy, when to be honest and when to be diplomatic is a tough individual choice. Whatever we do must make us comfortable, peaceful and happy. An honest person will feel frustrated and restless when forced to be diplomatic against his will, while a diplomatic one will get highly stressed at the thought of speaking the plain truth. How to react in a situation also depends on what is at stake. If you want to be honest and speak your mind against your boss, you better be prepared to lose your job. If you tell your friend what you hate about him, it might end your friendship. Once you are ready to accept the consequences without regret or remorse, then you can be honest.
    Why do we become diplomatic when we know the obvious truth? Diplomacy is always an escape hatch that we use to avoid hurting others and ourselves. When the boy asks his girlfriend: “Am i looking fat?” and the girl answers honestly, “Yes, you have put on too much weight,” one can well imagine her boyfriend’s reactions. But if the girl speaks her mind and faces her boyfriend’s wrath out of genuine affection for him, it is likely that he will take the issue of weight control seriously. Diplomacy protects us in the short term, but it is honesty that brings long-term benefits and permanent gains.
    To be completely honest, you must ask yourself, “Why am i afraid of speaking the truth?’’ Diplomacy is for our self-protection and self-preservation. Our egos are too fragile to accept insult and criticism. Few of us would want to rock the boat by speaking the truth at work or home. We like to avoid confrontations. Honesty and diplomacy, however, are not mutually exclusive. It takes tact and courage to speak the truth at the right time in the right manner, without being abrasive.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Wheel Of Joys And Sorrows

 The Taoists speak of 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys, with the joys turning to sorrows and sorrows turning to joys without breaking a sweat. In fact, Buddhists talk of four sets of contrasting conditions that most of us will go through at various times in our lifetime, namely, praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, and fame and disrepute, a set called ‘Dhammas’. The response called for in these events, even according to our scriptures, is a balanced one, because we must be able to see their insubstantiality, impermanence and tangible nature.
    Leo Tolstoy said in War and Peace that “pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy”. The more we get attached with our successes and the more we gloat in their palliative warmth, the worse will be the retribution when we fail. William Wordsworth in Resolution and Independence said, “As high as we have mounted in delight, in our dejection do we sink as low.”
    When the Indian cricket team won the World Cup this year, there was an overwhelming outpouring of national joy and enthusiasm. During all the hype and celebration, few would have remembered the retribution and stone-throwing that cricketers faced after their losing a game in 2007. It, therefore, behoves the players, authorities and the public to take victory in its stride and though they may enjoy and savour the moment, they should not build sandcastles so high today that they find themselves in the adjoining trenches of their own doing tomorrow. Moments of joy will breed an equal and opposite reaction of sorrow in times to come and more often than not sorrow creeps up on one like a bad habit, sooner than one would expect.
    As a society, are we mature enough to handle happiness? The way we react to disaster, tragedies and miseries in life is much more measured than our response to happiness, as was demonstrated by our much calmer, cool, calculated and measured response to tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters; but it appears that such is not the case with happiness. Osho said, “But when happiness comes, it is as if the heavens are open for you and it is raining cats and dogs, and your small hut is just in a flood…all boundaries are lost. It is maddening.”
    The extreme reaction to art and culture is also a reflection of the same mindset, and the intolerance that abounds also comes from a similar attitude. It, therefore, is important that we do not go overboard but treat victory in the right spirit.
    To remain unmoved by achievement and failure is a sign of balance and stability. The most significant aspect of progressing on the spiritual path is maintaining equanimity, a term which is central to every religious theme in the world. In Buddhism, we call it Upeksha; in Patanjali’s Yogasutra it is mentioned as one of the four sublime attitudes; in Judaism as Menuhat Ha-Nefesh or Yashuv HaHa Ha-Da’at. In Christianity, Islam and in Hinduism, there is talk of equanimity of response as being necessary for upward evolution and graduation to a higher form. “Equanimity is not a dry neutrality or cool aloofness, but mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being.”
    So let us learn to be equanimous in both our achievements and failures,

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Two Ways To Activate Memory

What is memory? Memory or smriti is recreation of things already perceived by the mind. For instance, a person may not always recollect what he ate the previous day, but if he thinks hard, the items that were eaten will flash in the mind. Daily, we are constantly recollecting things perceived in the past.
    How does one activate memory? There are two ways: internal and external. The internal way is to revive the undistorted image of perceived incidents in the nerve cells. Perception in the primary stage is registered in the unit mind through the nerve cells, and the vibrations of those perceptions remain embedded in the nerve cells. Some cells carry vibrations of knowledge, others the vibrations of action. Microcosms with brains do not have much difficulty in creating ideas at the psychic level carried through inferences because the vibrations in the nerve cells remain undistorted for quite some time.
    If the external factors necessary for the revival of memory remain undisturbed for some time, one can more easily recreate events already perceived. But, after a lapse of much time, when the external factors necessary for the recreation of that image change drastically, it becomes difficult for the brain to remember the details of the event. At this stage, to recollect the image, one has to penetrate the chitta of the unit mind. Of course, once an incident is recollected, its impression remains understood for some time before it finally disappears.
    Thus the brain is nothing more than a worldly machine for mental recollection. Its various parts assist the mind in various ways. But the permanent abode of memory is the chitta. So, even though an impression has faded from the nerve cells, the mind can recreate the impression by its own power. When the brain assists in the recollection of any event or fact it is called “cerebral memory”.
    The human mind has three stages: crude, subtle and causal. There are also three states in human existence: wakeful, dream and sleep. The crude mind remains active during the wakeful state and the causal mind remains active during sleep. The causal mind is the repository of infinite knowledge. Whatever samskaras we recreate in the wakeful and dream states remain stored in the causal mind. When the causal mind sleeps we call it “death”. After death the disembodied mind floats in the vast space with its unexpressed samskaras. Later on, with the cooperation of the mutative principle, the disembodied mind finds a suitable physical base. The memory of its past life remains awake for approximately the first five years of its new life. Although the child remains in a new physical environment, mentally it continues to live the joys and sorrows of its previous life. That is why children sometimes laugh and cry in their sleep.
    To re-experience past events one does not need the cooperation of the old brain. The newly-born mind has not yet had time to build a close relationship with the new brain. The revival of experiences of past lives is what we call “extra-cerebral memory”, and is principally the task of the causal mind. Through sadhana human beings attain a certain degree of control over the relative factors. After a long journey of hundreds of years one begins to visualise the samskaras of one’s past lives. He will intensify his spiritual practice and advance rapidly towards Parama Purusha.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

No Escaping The Big Boss

 When the rich and famous are caught cheating, the common man feels good. He feels, at last justice has prevailed. Riches bring a feeling of resentment in others unless they are available to all. The rich might flaunt their wealth. However, if we are true to our pure nature, our instinct would be to share it with others. This is selfless action. Selfish actions are condemned by all whether they are well versed in scriptures or not. It comes from loving all, arising from the feeling of devotion and the realisation that the world is an illusion and nothing is mine.
    A guru asked two disciples to kill two pigeons where none could witness their act. One disciple went to the forest and wrung the bird’s neck and came cheerfully to the guru but the second disciple explored the whole forest, the village, nearby hills and river and came back tired saying that wherever he went he saw two eyes of the pigeon staring at him. “Those frightened
eyes followed me everywhere, looking at my actions. You had said that no one should witness the killing but even when i closed its eyes, they appeared in the sun, clouds, sky, moon, water, hills, trees, birds. There was not a space where those eyes did not follow me. I could not kill it.”
    There is no escape from Nature. All its elements witness our actions and thoughts. That is why sages called them devatas. All Vedic samskaras are held in the presence of Nature’s elements whether it is marriage, funeral or worship. Natural forcesregulate the outside and the inside; devatas rule all our organs. No thought or action goes unnoticed.
However, we can appeal for mercy, just as a convicted prisoner appeals to the president. For, isn’t life, too, one big jail where we are prisoners of our own thought, action and deed?
    Chanting God’s name, accepting teachings of scriptures, becoming selfless, loving God and His creation, accepting all that comes our way calmly and realising that the world is an illusion, are ways of appealing. Seeing our changed behaviour, the compassionate One reduces our suffering and we soon find that our outlook has changed and our difficulties seem so tiny.
    A saint regularly visited the local jail to help inmates understand the goal of life, mys
tery of God and His ways. One day the jailor took him to a miserable inmate who kept saying how unjust God was. Someone had looted and murdered a village merchant with whom he was not on good terms. But since people had seen this man (the one convicted of the crime) with the victim, he was assumed to be the murderer. Due to circumstantial evidence, he was given life imprisonment.
The saint met the jailor, lawyer,
neighbours and relatives of the convict and saw that everything pointed towards him. Puzzled, the saint started spending more time with the inmate. One day the inmate began recalling his earlier life in which he had caused the death of a man but escaped punishment as it was deemed to be a case of suicide. Wondered the saint: Was this man paying in this life for his past actions? Is there no escape from God’s watchful eyes?
    It is a difficult question to answer. However, it is beneficial to perform only such actions as are deemed to be positive – and that do not hurt another – whether one is being watched by God or not.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Daily ways to NIRVANA

           There may be no easy route to success. Yet, everyday life offers us a hundred different chances to attain a higher level of consciousness. At home ,in office and else where are plenty of opportunities to empathize ,forgive & evolve.
           Take those who are rude & mean or nasty towards you. There are two choices facing a person who has to deal with malice, jealousy and bickering, daily. You can either respond in the same manner as your antagonist does ,or take the opportunity to rise above him.
         "You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger," said the Buddha.
The Buddhist Bodhidharma texts classify jealousy as part of hostility. They define it as " a disturbing emotion that focuses on other peoples accomplishments and is the inability to bear their accomplishments."
           It’s a fact of life that those who harness others are quite miserable themselves. They are blinded by rage, jealousy & resentment & knowingly walk into the abyss of self-destruction.
          Buddhist monk Mittavinda harassed another 'perfect' monk and had to repent for 1000 lifetimes, thereby acquiring 'The Curse of Mittavinda'. The Jataka Tales narrate how this monk ,once happy with his simple village life, did not realize how lucky he was and let jealousy consume him ,literally.
         When Christ said, "Father, forgive them ,for they, know not what they do," he meant that the cross of forgiveness and magnanimity had to be carried by the humbler, more evolved person. He meant that although the easy way out was to react, the humane approach was to rein in your response.
        For, in the end, the wheels of life come a full circle & teach us all the lessons that we need to learn, in this life & in the next. These immortal lines from Magna est  VERITAS put it well: "for want of me, the worlds course will not fail; when all its work is done, the lie shall prevail, when none cares whether it prevails or not."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Be Good To Be Good

                    Last Sunday ,I read all over again all the interesting SMSes that I had received over the last 1 year.
And lived for some time in a world far removed from the reality of the present. If I was thrilled to read some of them ,there were others that reminded  me how cruel the world we live in is. And yet some others reminded me of some great virtues of life ,which ,if applied in life ,could make our existence on this planet much more meaningful & enjoyable.
                     One of them was this: God asked a young girl ,"What is forgiveness?"  The girl replied ,"It’s the wonderful fragrance given to us by a flower when crushed. Or the lasting auspicious color those mehendi leaves give us when  ground to pulp."
                     It is difficult to be a Gandhi or a Christ & follow them. But it is not impossible. One who understands the nature of life & its ultimate aim can very well see reasons good enough to be a Gandhi or a Christ. And if you deliberate on the pros & cons of forgiveness, you will realize  that your victory lies in showing the other cheek.
                       I m a fan of Robert Browning . He is one who give you gems of lessons for living a good & a purposeful life . Reflect on these words," It's good to forgive ,best to forget". By forgiving someone who has wronged  you or harmed you, you rise to the level of gods. That is why Peter Von Winter, the great German opera composer, had said," It is mankind to punish, but godlike to forgive".
                       The best and the most sublime enjoyment of life can be only tasted after forgiving your enemy. You will realize that you have not done anything good to your enemy but to yourself because, as Winston Churchill said, nothing is more costly, nothing more sterile than vengeance. One has to be necessarily kind & loving because only kindness gives birth to kindness. Remember this truth that you cant be good until you are good to others!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Total Surrender

 It would not be an exaggeration to say that almost  half of our life are spent in trying to understand what life really means and what should be the best means to charter it in the right direction. It is not possible to say a final word on the subject, given the mysteries & complexities of life.
     I am reminded of an Urdu couplet 'um-er Dara maang Ker layee they char din, do arzoo Mein beet Gaye do intzar Mein'.
      These were the words of the last Emperor of Hindustan, Bahadur shah Zafar, meaning " God gave us four days: Two days were spent in nurturing great expectations &  the rest two in waiting for their fulfillment."
      Despite the craving for material gains & all that, we do realize that there is an eternal truth about life that it cannot be led to our complete satisfaction. That is why we find people crowding places where religious discourses are being delivered. I happened to come in close touch with a senior officer whom I met in a temple. I was greatly moved by his ideas  &  simplicity. He always advised me to leave everything 2 god - total surrender. Every morning, he would stop for a few minutes & tell me something which I find difficult to forget. He used to often discuss epics like Ramayana & Mahabharata. We used to debate on many points like the genesis of 'total surrender'. It owes its genesis to Bhagwad gita. Lord Krishna told Arjuna not to be disturbed by the big question about God's existence but leave everything to Him.
      Things do not go the way u want to u have to learn to reconcile to the situation u are in. Greta Garbo went to the extent of saying," there seems a law that governs all over actions so I make plans". However ,this does not mean renunciation of action. We have to play our role in the best manner we can, & leave the rest to Him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Live life with compassion

Compassion is not an attribute of any one religion. It is a universal principle for happiness and peace. In a world torn by conflicts and strife, where violence and not love dictates peoples actions, what every person, at every level, of every age needs to learn is the art of nurturing compassion within. Be it a homemaker fulfilling the many needs of her family, an entrepreneur meeting people and clinching deals  for her company, a politician passing bills in the legislature that can change the destiny of millions or an auto rickshaw driver bargaining for higher rates with his passenger - whoever you may be, u need compassion. Compassion should no more lie in the ideologies of philosophers, or in the lucrative rewards of theologians ( in the afterlife). The voice of compassion needs to be heard in every household, educational institution,office,business unit,shop,mall and theater, besides other places and circumstances.
For centuries now we have reserved compassion to be a prerogative of a chosen few, like a Christ or a Buddha. We have also conceptually dismissed the possibility of someone living and embodying such a quality in the hurry-burly or everyday life. Is it so difficult to live compassionately?  Or are we so incapable that we cannot raise ourselves to those standards?
Compassion begins with empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel for another. Those who are sensitive to the motions of life, to the experiences of pain and pleasure, are capable of empathy. Those who have watched the movements of their thoughts, the burden of unnecessary thinking, and the pain of conflicting thoughts know it well. Those who have paid attention to their emotional upsurges, the unintelligent ways of anger, hurt or hate, the irrationality of fear, feel empathy for another who is going through a similar emotion. Hence , compassion begins with attention to one's own life experiences, be it physical or emotional.
Empathy and compassion thus born would naturally blossom into acts of kindness to reach out to others. Well-being of the other is the highest priority for a compassionate person; hence her actions would reflect tremendous intelligence, fortitude and discretion. It could also be gentle words of love  and strength or a heartfelt prayer for divine help.
Compassion is not the armor of the weak; it is the weapon of the strong. It is irresponsible to think, believe and preach that anger and violence can solve our problems. Problems at micro as well as macro level arise because of lack of understanding and love between the people. Problems that are situation-based are very less compared to those that are emotion-based. Situation-based problems need better strategy and skill to  solve them but emotion-based problems need people who are involved in moving out of those negative emotions that are causing them.
That is why any constructive change can never be effected through anger and violence. Compassion is the answer.
Let us nurture the noble virtue of compassion consciously with dedication. Let us see the faces of people who walk into our world with smiles, tears, affection and wrath. Let us meditate on their feelings 2 let compassion blossom

Monday, September 12, 2011

Conflict Necessary For Creativity

When MK Gandhi was thrown out of a train in south Africa he had a choice 2 make- either 2 ignore the event & live in peace or enter into a conflict & face harassment, hardship & the possibility of getting physically hurt. He chose da latter. Why? Did he not have a guru who had taught him that living in peace & tranquility was the ultimate objective of life & the best way to achieve this objective was 2 avoid situations of conflict? Why did he not walk away?
The Dalai Lama chose 2 live in exile rather than live in peace in Tibet. He is a spiritual master himself. He preaches peace around the world. Does he not know that living in peace requires avoiding situations  of conflict?
Aung San Suu Kyi did not have 2 stay in jail. Winston Churchill did not have 2 join the world war. Nelson Mandela did not have 2 suffer in solitary confinement. Julius Nyerere did not have 2 fight a war with Idi Amin. There is a long list of people who have embraced conflict despite standing 4 peace, otherwise. They had the courage 2 stand up against repression rather than submit 2 it.
Both Ramayana & Mahabharata, revered Indic epics, are stories of war, not peace. Krishna did not tell the Pandavas 2 ignore the incident of Draupadi's humiliation in court. He encourage them 2 go to war. The Gita says engaging in war 2 uphold truth is not a matter of choice for a warrior; it is his duty. Islam says participation in jihad is the duty of a Muslim when the fight is to uphold justice when challenged by oppression, as a way of self-defense.
Most of us are confused between conflict & the method of resolving a conflict. We assume, incorrectly, that Gandhi, as a peace loving person, must have avoided situations of conflict. On the other hand, he faced conflict head-on. Bhagat Singh & Gandhi were both gearing themselves 2 deal with conflict, except that Gandhi tried 2 employ peaceful means while Bhagat Singh chose aggression.
The duty of a scientist ,artist or professor is also 2 engage in conflict against repressive regimes of knowledge. Any kind of limited knowledge is a form of bondage. Albert Einstein advanced the boundaries of scientific knowledge. James Joyce did the same in the field of literature. He flouted rules of writing as he saw them as restrictions on creativity. Picasso & M F Husain, for example, explored realms beyond accepted rules of visual art. Mother Teresa redefined the concept of caring, Every 1 of them faced criticism & controversy, yet they remained convinced of the nature of their work and the methods they used 2 fulfill their vision. They remained engaged.
One can only conclude from this that the people we admire & even those we worship have all rejected the existing as being adequate and have chosen 2 engage in conflict 2 extend the existing. They have redefined the purpose of our life.
The purpose of our life is not 2 live in passive acceptance but 2 engage with conflict in order 2 b creative.    Creativity is the purpose of life. The purpose is 2 advance an individual soul & the collective Consciousness. The only word of caution here is that we must first settle ourselves spiritually so that we know whether a conflict is justified or not.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Transcend All Identities

If we human beings are mortal, then how is it that we desire eternal existence, knowledge and bliss? Human beings devoid of the attributes of existence, knowledge and bliss,logically cannot express the desire to live in the world eternally , to attain complete knowledge and complete bliss.
Beyond the existence of the physical body, u can directly feel the existence of mind, intellect and perverted ego. As we are of a finite nature, our mental and intellectual capacities are also finite. The existence of perverted ego can be perceived by the presence of specific thoughts such as thinking that one belongs to this or that country; this or that religion; that one speaks this or that language or belongs to this or that group - whatever it may be. It may be questioned whether after death of the physical body there is the existence of any such nationalist, religious or language groups- in fact, it may be pertinent 2 ask whether everything is destroyed or if there is the existence of a subtle body consisting of mind, intelligence and perverted ego or even beyond that, the existence of an eternal entity.
Human birth is best due to endowment of the special quality of power of discrimination between good and bad and eternal and non-eternal. Physical bodies are in the grip of numerous births and deaths, ad are subject 2 many other drawbacks. This renders the physical body 2 being non-eternal. If this physical body is non-eternal then he body's sense organs must be non-eternal. Therefore, if there should be any eternal entity, it must exist beyond the comprehension of human material non-eternal sense organs.
In the Mahabharata,Arjuna was blessed with divine eyes, so that he may witness the vishwarupa of Krishna, a dazzling sight. Thousands were present at Kurukshetra when Krishna revealed His Virat form, yet Arjuna was the only one 2 see Him like that, why?
The supreme God is infinite; everything about his is infinite. He has created countless species 2 a plan. If one accepts that human beings can determine their own cause by means of material senses, mind or intellect, then that will be a mentally or intellectually concocted thing. That will not be Reality. If Reality is in fact reality, then He must always exist. What is the Truth? Why do we wish 2 be eternal? Why are we eager 2 learn and 2 experience bliss? We are a part of the supreme - so we are like the Supreme in some respects. He is Sacchidananda and so are we. Sat in Sanskrit means eternal life, chit is eternal knowledge and ananda is eternal bliss. Soul is Sacchidananda.
We were given this limited body 2 know our true identity. Our duty is not 2 hanker after temporary bliss, but 2 have eternal bliss. We  have 2 find ways 2 realize our true identity 2 become servants of Sacchidananda. Since we are part of the supreme Lord, it is our primary task 2 serve Him or to act in a way that pleases Him. Once we realize Him, we will also realize other eternal truths, and know that not only He, but His Associates, too, do not take birth, but descend.