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.