Friday, January 31, 2014

What are we doing here?

A king presented a rich Kashmiri shawl to a pundit. The poor man had no idea of the value of the shawl. He wiped his running nose, cleaned the nostrils and his dirty feet with the shawl. Angry at such foolishness, the king ordered the shawl be taken away from the pundit who was ignorant of its value or use. It was promptly snatched away from the pundit.
This analogy was used by Swami Sivananda to convey that most of us unaware of the value of human life bestowed on us by God in His kindness use it for lowly purposes as the pundit did only to find it being taken away after some years. While the sole purpose of life could be for realizing the self and liberating from this cycle of births and deaths, the burden of this article is not towards a spiritual quest. For many of us  the search for a good life in ease and comfort is far more important than undertaking a journey in uncharted direction in quest of self and the Ultimate. Most of us are also not mentally inclined to take such a path for whatever reason, karma or otherwise.
But the journey in life should not be aimless. There should be a purpose. To study well, equip for a job, marry and enjoy the pleasures of life, get children and acquire wealth could all be normal pursuits in life and its mundane goals. To achieve these we would  ever be engrossed in such pursuits till one day in advanced years, we stop the chase only to find that we have not really enriched our lives or done something soul filling  with a social content. Having wealth, family or happiness do not constitute as the real purpose. They are like blowing the nose in the expensive shawl of life. It should have a greater meaning and richer content.
Mahatma Gandhi spent major part of his life for the freedom of the country while Nelson Mandela was compelled to spend long years in prison for his fight against apartheid. Abe Lincoln fought for abolition of slavery while Mother Teresa spent all her life for destitutes.Vinobha sacrificed his life for landless. When you think of philanthropy the names of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Azim Premji come to our mind. They worked to give away large share for noble causes. Many stop the chase after lucre to work in villages silently without glare of publicity and devote their time for worthy causes like education, health, creation of skill, upliftment of tribals,care of the old and such expecting nothing in return. There is no dearth of social causes
Are you content with routine goals or wish to do something extra in return for the blessing? Choose some worthy cause that is within your reach and practicable,not self centred but encompasses a larger canvas as your life’s purpose.
Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” The purpose of life cannot be better said than this by Bernard Kelvin Clive “You may or may not make a million dollars in life, a song may not be sung in praise of you, monuments may not be erected in your name but promise me this: to live life fully, to give wholeheartedly, to do your best with what you have, to impact souls, to use your gifts and talents to serve humanity, to live, love and leave a legacy in your own way.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What distinguishes the grain from chaff?

Years back when computer was not in vogue, I was recruiting stenographers for a lubricant company. Though many would appear for the interview, their performance would be dismal. In a short passage there would be innumerable spelling mistakes and words/sentences would be left out. Their listening skill was poor and knowledge of English weak. They wouldn't be able to complete within the liberal time allowed. Nevertheless I gave the test again to three who made the least mistakes only to find them below par. It was a frustrating experience to go through this exercise frequently to find good candidates.
It was on one such occasion, I had dictated an easy passage with the names of a few our products to a group of a dozen candidates. Amongst the typed sheets there was one where the candidate had typed the passage with very few mistakes and had spelt the uncommon names of the products of the company correctly. The rest of the papers were all duds.
 When I asked this boy of just 19 years whether he had worked earlier in a lubricant or oil company,he said this was his first interview. To another query he replied that he had no relative or friend in the company.
When asked how he typed the names of various products correctly, he replied he had come about 45 minutes earlier and saw a calendar of the company hanging in the waiting hall. It had all the names of company's products like Gear oils, Brake fluids, Hydraulic oils, Wire rope lubricants, Quenching oils etc. It seemed he thought the dictation may consist of a few names of these products and spent the time memorizing the words and spelling. When asked what the other candidates in the room did, he said they were chatting
This incident demonstrated the usefulness of the powers of the observation in our day to day life. I was pretty sure that this boy would rise to very high level in his career given the high motivation and intelligence he had. Most of the boys would have seen the calendar but the words did not register in their minds. They did not also anticipate the likely words for the test as this boy did. They took the examination and interview casually in their stride.
 There is a lesson in this incident. Most of us see but rarely observe what we see. Seeing and observing are different. How many of 25 items spread on a table and seen for three minutes, can one recollect?  It should become our second nature to be keenly observant about men and matters to serve us in good stead. This trait is what distinguishes a Holmes from Dr Watson, the successful from the not so successful.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Walking in others shoes

I read a story where a king met a sage in the forest and after paying obeisance assured him he would give whatever he wished for. The sage to king’s surprise asked for his kingdom. The king readily agreed and stepped aside. The sage immediately ordered that king’s consorts in the harem to become maids and the maids as consorts. He put the jailer and the warders inside the prison and the prisoners as warders. He sent the courtiers to the fields and the farmers to the court. He made a young man as prince and had the former prince whipped. He replaced the sentries at the gate. The affected people complained to the old king while the others expressed happiness. The king just kept quiet.
After a fortnight the sage gave back the kingdom to the king saying his purpose was served. Perplexed the king asked him what the purpose was. The sage said “The queen and your other consorts were abusing and harassing the maids and never knew of their problems. The jailer and warders were ill treating prisoners and making their lives unhappy. The courtiers never knew the sufferings of the people and were feeding you with false information. You were pleased with their praises. The arrogant prince lashed everybody for slightest reason. The sentries at the gate were taking money for allowing people. Now all of them got taste of their own medicine and hopefully realized their mistakes. Rule the country well.” The king bowed to him in gratitude as the sage left.
The message in this story is that we would realize the sufferings of others only when we think in terms of their feelings by putting ourselves in their positions. The rulers if they walk in the shoes of the poor (only metaphorically as poor do not have shoes) they will know the abject poverty and miserable living conditions of sizable chunk of population. With prices sky high and income abysmally low living in dirty slums with scanty water and no toilet, no schools or clinics, the rulers will run helter skelter to their comfort zones. Officials will know how hard it is to get things done without bribing. Traders will know dearly the consequences of adulteration and doctors will know how patients are fleeced. The list is endless.
This walking in others shoes applies to all human relations too, the way others are treated at homes, offices and public places. We would experience their travails and difficulties instead of blaming them. There will be better understanding between spouses, parents and children, bosses and employees, teachers and students, lawyers and litigants and importantly the rulers and the ruled. It is only then when our perspective has changed that we will know where the shoe really pinches. One can say confidently then ‘I know what problems you are going through and I will do what I can to redress’. But as of now the powerful stay comfortably cocooned away from the weak oblivious of the ground reality. It may perhaps be considered naïve but it is time we constantly ask ourselves what it is like to walk a mile in another’s shoes.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The soul and the sea

A little wave was bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He's enjoying the wind and the fresh air--until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore.
"My God, this is terrible," the wave says. "Look what's going to happen to me!"
Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him, "Why do you look so sad?"
The first wave says, "You don't understand! We're all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn't this terrible?"
The second wave says, "No, YOU don't understand. You're not a wave; you're part of the ocean."
The spiritual message in this short story by Mitch Albom is compelling. I could not resist comparing the waves to life in any form and human life in particular. Some waves are short-lived and some last a little longer depending on its size but all of them get broken and dissolved in the ocean in a few moments. New waves arise to meet the same fate with an endless cycle of waves erupting and vanishing somewhat like human lives being born and getting immersed in earth eventually.
The admonition to the first wave that it is not a wave but a part of the mighty ocean has a familiar ring. The soul in human body has no separate existence and like the wave it is a part of mighty ocean that we call as God or the Ultimate. It is this Ultimate or the God that underlies and animates all living things. We all live under the illusion that we are distinct from the Supreme till we realize the true nature of our soul while we pass through the cycle of births and deaths. The human body is a sheath or bag that houses the Unseen power or the soul and once it exits the body perishes. The soul is a part of the Central Soul or the only Reality that is Omni present. Once the true identity of the soul that it is but a fragment of the Universal Soul is realized and the knowledge that it is the same as the Supreme is understood, we are said to be liberated or evolved. When such a gyan dawns, the man is freed from the fetters of body and mind and sees in every living being the same Supreme Consciousness. Such men/women are  present as a human being like any one of us but what would strike of such saints free from bondage is their ‘sprite-like in freedom, gentle in regard and the cold fire of eternity with a far-away look’.
The end of human endeavour should be to know its real identity as part of the Supreme. Once he realizes this, he sees the same identity of his in all forms of life and knows they are all same, the same God within and without. From this awakening arises Universal love seeing no difference amongst the different constituents..
Our religions tell this universal truth in different ways like ‘Look inwards to realize who you are or the Kingdom of God is within you.’ Once you see the unity of soul with god, the liberation takes place just like the wave losing its separate identity and becoming part of ocean.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How good are you in conversation?

I have a friend whom I dread to meet. If I see him coming my way, I take a detour. Not that he is an undesirable character, but is a veritable long winding bore. A very knowledgeable man, he can talk on any subject endlessly. The only snag with him is that he plays solo and cannot end speaking. A compulsive talker he has no sense of the value of time, his or mine. If perchance I cross his path and ask him a formal “How do you do?” he would drone on for half an hour on his health, his recent ailments, the high costs of treatment, the imposition of unnecessary tests, the secret deals between the doctors and laboratories, the duplicate medicines that abound in the market, drug trials in collusion with pharmaceutical companies, the relative merits of alternative branches of medicine and the new found cure-all from ancient Chinese treatise. His topics would branch off in unexpected directions and in diverse tangents. He would not let go my hand till I forcibly wrench myself. He would bemoan that I was always in a hurry.
There are many such for whom brevity is never a virtue. In the present day world in hurry everything is short. Résumés longer than a page are passé. Business speeches are no more than 15 minutes in duration and vote of thanks not beyond two minutes. Eye catching advertisements convey their messages tellingly within 30 seconds. The lengthy reports in the AGMs are taken as read. News papers do not accept articles beyond 800 words. Say it well but concisely is the mantra. Verbosity is Victorian style long abjured. Oratory is limited to political meetings and debating societies.
I have another friend who is the other extreme. I was convalescing in the hospital after a myocardial infarction. With nothing to do, I was looking for friends to drop in. This friend came with an umbrella and flowers in hand.. He smiled at me and sat by my side holding my hand. He did not utter a word and after what seemed an eternity said “It is raining heavily.” There was a long pause before he assured me “Nothing to worry. You will be ok soon.” I was shooting many questions about common friends and he responded in monosyllables or grunts or just vacant look as if he had not heard me. Possibly he was concerned about the exertion to me. But the point is he was poor in conversation. He sat with me for 45 minutes and except for gazing at the monitor behind me and staring at the nurses he spoke little. But I know he had affection and a genuine concern for me.
Conversation is not a monologue as in the first case or shy silence as in the latter. It involves more than one person and recognizes the presence of other person(s).The topics chosen should be of interest to all. It should be relevant to the group. One may be well informed on special subjects and that does not give one the right to compel others to listen. There is a place, time and people for everything. One cannot be morose and laconic in a Baraat or boisterous and chatty in a funeral procession. There are some thumb rules for a good conversation.
-Do not take more time than your proportionate share. Fifty percent for two and twenty five percent if there are four is ideal.
-Resist the temptation to talk about home in office and vice versa
-Keep an eye on the body language of the listener(s)
-Keep the voice to moderate level and the tone non-abrasive
-Smile and be relevantly witty
-Welcome changes in topics discussed
-Take interest in what others say
-Keep mum if you do not know the subject or have anything to say
-Avoid embarrassing subjects and lewd matters
-Wait for your turn
-Say your views but do not argue
-Lastly be brief.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The conquest of pain

Mula came upon a frowning man walking along the road to town. "What's wrong?" he asked. The man held up a tattered bag and moaned, "All that I own in this wide world barely fills this miserable, wretched sack."
"Too bad," said Mula, and with that, he snatched the bag from the man's hands and ran down the road with it.
 Having lost everything, the man burst into tears and, more miserable than before, continued walking. Meanwhile, Mula quickly ran around the bend and placed the man's sack in the middle of the road where he would have to come upon it.
When the man saw his bag sitting in the road before him, he laughed with joy, and shouted, "My sack! I thought I'd lost you!"
Watching through the bushes, Mula chuckled. "Well, that's one way to make someone happy!"
The man in the story was initially unhappy that he had nothing except the tattered bag. When he lost the bag he became miserable. When he got it back he turned happy even though the tattered bag was the same. The intensity of the pain changed when mental circumstances changed. He realized the value of the bag that he despised initially only when he lost it and therefore was pleased when he got it back.
A child injures its finger slightly and cries hard. When running towards its mother, it falls and gets hurt in the knuckle. The pain in the finger is gone and the one at the knuckle is causing trouble. When a bigger problem comes, the minor one is gone. Is it not then the mischief of the mind? It is like drawing a longer line by pencil by the side of a line to make it appear short.Nothing was done to the line, yet it became shorter.
There is another aspect. The pain for the same problem is felt differently by different people depending upon the circumstances. The loss of a ten rupee note by a beggar is more painful than the same loss is to a white collared employee. The fear of loss of job is more to an unqualified individual than to a person with professional qualification. The intensity of the pain is proportionate to the fear. Some people shudder at the thought of a prick with the needle by a nurse while a soldier in the front with one leg shot and incapacitated keeps fighting bravely. It is again the mental makeup. Cowards suffer more.
We have heard the story of a man clinging in great fear to a straw-like branch over a bottomless deep pit not knowing what was there deep down and yet when a drop of honey fell on his chin from a beehive, he licked happily the sweet treacle with his tongue with the fear gone for a while. A small pleasure like the smile of a child blunts the great unhappiness of a grieving man.
Diverting the mind to God when the trouble seems insurmountable lulls the stressed mind into calm. The problems do not vanish but the mind is turned away in hope. This is what all of us do.
Sage Ramana Maharishi suffered from an extremely painful form of bone cancer in his elbow. The doctors suggested amputation of the arm but Maharishi declined saying with a smile: “There is no need for alarm. The body is itself a disease. Let it have its natural end. Why mutilate it? Simple dressing of the affected part will do.” The disease did not yield to treatment. The sage was quite unconcerned and was supremely indifferent to suffering. He sat as a spectator watching the disease waste the body. But his eyes shone as bright as ever and his grace continued to flow towards all beings. He was unconcerned and assured the weeping devotees that the body is not the Maharishi. He conquered pain by detachment but such stoicism does not come by easily to ordinary folks.
Many a pain is caused by desire. We long for things we do not have and feel bad for not possessing it. Once you get it, the mind seeks another one, a new and novel thing. Not all things are easy to obtain. We use short cuts that are not always proper and results in trouble. There is no end to pain till you curb the desire

“Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.”Rabindranath Tagore

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The art of giving

​​ A man was traveling from one city to another when he heard that a ferocious battle had taken place and that his cousin was among the wounded soldiers. He rushed to the place and saw that his cousin was on death's door.
 He offered him a little water from his canteen, but just at that moment another wounded soldier beside him groaned, and the cousin asked him to give the water to his neighbor.
"But if I go over there, you may not survive! All your life you have been always so generous!"
Gathering his last ounce of strength, the wounded man replied: "That's another reason to be generous, now that I'm about to die." - Paulo Coelho
Generosity, charity and philanthropy are generally associated with rich and wealthy but the trait can belong to any individual irrespective of birth, position, power or wealth.

Give without expectation and unknown to others: Giving back to the community is not a virtue seen commonly. One reason could be that people like to conserve for them and for their off springs even if they live in comfort or have amassed fortunes. The other reason could be that philanthropists do so silently unseen and unobtrusively. The important element in true generosity is in giving even when knowing there is nothing in return except the joy of giving. "Rivers do not drink their own water, nor do tree eat their own fruit, nor do rain clouds eat the grains reared by them.” Absence of selfishness is an integral component of altruism. This is exemplified in the Biblical statement
But when thou doest alms, let not thy
left hand know what thy right hand doeth
The giving has to be done quietly, without noise and publicity.

When to give: There is the famous incident from Mahabharata. Yudhisthir, asks a beggar seeking alms to come the next day. On this, Bhim rejoices, that Yudhisthir his elder brother, has conquered death! For he is sure that he will be around tomorrow to give. Yudhisthir gets the message. One does not know really whether one will be there tomorrow to give! The time to give therefore is now. Do not wait for an appropriate time. "Nandre seyyinum andre seiga" is a Tamil adage that tells If you want to donate, do it today and not postpone.

How much to give: Everyone has wife, children and other members of close family. How much should we provide for our heirs and how much marked for charity is one question that may bother one who wishes to donate? The answer is given by Warren Buffett: "Leave your kids enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing! Again referring to Mahabharata, the great warrior Karna  even when he lay grievously wounded in the battle field gave away to a wily Brahmin the life protective divine  rings on his ears and all the punya (noble deeds) he had amassed feeling sorry that he had nothing else to give. He gave as much as he could!

What to give: Apart from wealth even time devoted for the needy or for other noble and worthy causes is generosity and equally laudable. Physical help, moral support, canvassing for good causes done willingly are equally worthy.

Whom to give: There is a Tamil adage patthiramarindhu picchai idu meaning give to deserving people. Charity to a wicked man for an evil cause is a no no.

In what manner to give: Give in utter humility without regret or looking back. Let not the recipient feel obliged and instead let the giver feel grateful for the opportunity given to help
Giving is God’s way. It is the way that I now understand is the truth of the Universe. Giving multiplies me and makes me feel complete and fulfilled. Giving makes me feel that I make a real and important difference.” Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen


Monday, January 20, 2014

God is within you

Everyone in the village got "pilgrimage fever" and everyone got busy packing up some traveling clothes and food for the road. All except for Nasrudin, who watched them laboring away. Soon, all of the village: the men, women, and children, were heading out to Mecca. They were singing songs and shouting with great excitement about how they were off to find God.
 They got about one mile away, when Nasrudin suddenly riding up on his donkey, shouting about some terrible emergency. They caught the donkey and made him tell them what the problem was.
 "I'm trying to find my donkey! Where is my donkey?"
"Why, Nasrudin, you're sitting on top of your donkey," answered the villagers.
"Oh really. Is that so? And why are you all going on a pilgrimage to find God?"
Nasrudin in his inimitable humorous style was telling all his village men that God is within each of them and that they need not go far but look inwards to find Him..The quotes from many religions emphasize this universal spiritual journey. and their commonness is striking.
Guru Nanak(Sikh)
As fragrance abides in the flower,
As the reflection is within the mirror,
So doth thy Lord abide within thee,
Why search Him without?
Lord Buddha (Buddhist)
The subject on which I meditate is truth.
The practice to which I devote myself is the truth.
The topic of my conversation is truth.
My thoughts are always in truth.
For lo! myself has become the truth.
Jesus Christ (Christian)
Being asked by the Pharisees when the
Kingdom of God was coming, he answered them,
"The kingdom of God is not coming with signs
to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or
‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is within you”
Vedas (original Indian holy text)
There is one Supreme Ruler, the inmost Self of all beings,
who makes His one form manifold.
Eternal happiness belongs to the wise,
who perceive Him within themselves - not to others
Prophet Mohammed (Islam)
He who knows his own self, knows God
Zoroaster (Zoroaster)
One need not scale the heights of the heavens
nor travel along the highways of the world
to find Ahura Mazda. With purity of mind
and holiness of heart one can find
Him in one’s own heart
Zen (Zen Buddhist)
One moon shows in every pool; in every pool, the one moon.
Sri Sankaracharya (Hindu)
Curb your senses and your mind and see the
Lord within your heart.
Swami Vivekananda (Hindu)
It is impossible to find God outside of ourselves.
 Our own souls contribute all of the divinity that is
outside of us. We are the greatest temple.
The objectification is only a faint imitation of
what we see within ourselves

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Make it simple

One night the poet Awhadi of Kerman was sitting on his porch, bent over a vessel. Shams e-Tabrizi happened to pass by.
Shams: "What are you doing?"
Awhadi: "Contemplating the moon in a bowl of water."
Shams: "Unless you have broken your neck, why don't you look at the moon in the sky?"
A short story that tells we too complicate things in our lives like the poet did by looking at the moon in the bowl instead of directly. How much of the self created complexity is necessary is a question the answer for which will vary from person to person. The problem is we are creatures of habit and allow things to continue because they have been there for long.
Recently my daughter gifted me with a mobile phone that has innumerable features and applications. It has tiny buttons on all sides and if you press any of them something is activated or shut down. Ninety percent of the features are unnecessary for me except for receiving/making calls or sending messages. I am always at sea with it. I have an iPad, a laptop and a computer gifted to me on different occasions. I would like to simplify things without hurting them. Duplication is complication. We have Adhaar card, voter ID, Passport, ration card, driving license and such and all of them are meant to ensure the identity of individual for different purposes. Cannot one will do?
When I go to a sweet shop to buy some sweets, there are four persons ahead of me in the line. The showcases contain different varieties in mind boggling shapes and colours of the same basic ingredient. The man at the head of the line is unable to decide what he wants and spends long time in making his choice. Why can he not decide beforehand what he wants instead of making others behind him getting impatient? If you had gone to a jewelry or sari shop with your wife or girl friend you would know how complicated and time consuming it is to choose from the bewildering varieties. Choices add to complication.
Buying automobiles or electronic items like computers, TVs, washing machine is a complex area. Would not life be wonderful if we keep them simple and not unduly complicated? In everything you need, you have umpteen types, shapes, sizes, price ranges and sophistication. Some things are essential as labour saving devices but we need to eschew complexity in them. We often forget simple is elegant but overload ourselves with many things or inputs. We minimize the importance of the functional and go for gloss and complexity. The main areas we need to simplify are food, clothes, gadgets and clutter in the house.
Life would be far more comfortable if only we keep things simple.. It will save avoidable bother. Let us not forget that simple and beautiful can go together But what is simple and functional varies with individuals. The bottom line however is life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Coming out of comfort zone

Here is an interesting story from an unknown author that explains a lot
“A beggar asked Ibrahim ibn Al Adham for charity. Ibrahim told him: "I'll give you better than that; come with me." Ibrahim accompanied the beggar to a merchant, and asked him to find a job for the beggar. As Ibrahim was well trusted, the merchant didn't hesitate to give some merchandise to the beggar and asked him to travel and sell them in another city.
A few days later, Ibrahim found the beggar still in a miserable condition; surprised, he asked him about the matter. The beggar informed him: "While traveling, I found a blind eagle in the desert, and I was very curious how it got food though it was blind; I observed it for some time and, at my big surprise, another eagle came with and fed it. Thus, I said to myself: it's WHO took care of that blind eagle in this desert the same WHO will also take care of me! I returned to the city and gave the merchant back his goods."
Ibrahim, after reflection, asked him: "But tell me, why you chose to be the blind eagle, not the other one, who could fly, chase, and take care of others?"
We often come across with many young people who have big dreams of making a big career, changing the way society behaves, the unsatisfactory political system or some such lofty ideals. They initially get some small job, get married, have family and find things are hard to change. They fall into the routine of life and become creatures of habit. They give up on their dreams by finding some lame excuses or taking it out on their family members. But they are at ease with the status quo and do little to change their lives. The comfort of the status quo seems soothing to them like the beggar in the story.
There are many reasons for not going after greener pastures or charting new territories. The fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, the reluctance to take even reasonable risks, the comfort of the present with the predictable routine, the safety and warmth of known friends and the location, the family commitments, discouraging advice against change by well-wishers(?)and/or finally a sense of contentment. The problem with status quo is that it is familiar, it is normal, does not rock the boat and gives a false sense of complacency. It is like horses with blinkers pulling the cart daily on the beaten track. I have known many join a company in a small job and retire after three decades or so with no big achievement. “If you keep on doing what you've always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always gotten.”(W.L.Bateman). If one is satisfied with such an outcome, it is ok.
The difficulty is for people who wish to break the tight shackle of status quo, those who are not happy with the present lot and those in whom the dreams are still alive. It is those, who feel like square pegs in round holes, who are unhappy with the present situations and who are willing to take reasonable risks, who eventually make the grade. They get out of the comfort zone forcibly, push their limits to challenging levels and associate with like minded people. It calls for grit and hard work but is worth the effort. All achievers in any field  fall in this category


Friday, January 17, 2014

Different strokes for different folks

Here is a small story that can set you thinking
“I have been a misfit since childhood. I knew that no one understood me, not even my father. He once said, "You are not a madman, fit to be put in a madhouse, nor are you monk to be put in a monastery. I just don't know what you are!"
I replied: "You know, father, I can tell you what it is like. Once a duck egg was put under a hen to be hatched. When the egg hatched, the duckling walked along with the mother hen until they came to a pond. The duckling took a nice dip in the water. But the hen stayed on the bank and clucked."
"Now, my dear father, after having tried the sea I find it my home. If you choose to stay on the shore, is it my fault? I am not to be blamed."
No two are identical not only in looks but also in mental makeup.Even two children born and brought up in the same family in identical circumstances are vastly different in their personality, attitudes and ambitions. Some would explain it away as the result of past karma but the differences do exist.
I knew closely a friend from young age. He was different from others of his age group. Even as a young boy he collected idols of Rama and Krishna, hid them on the terrace away from his father’s eyes and spent all the time except school hours decorating the dolls with flowers. Naturally he did not study well and was average except in Sanskrit for he loved scriptures. His dad tried in vain by various methods to discipline him to fall in the conventional mould. As he became a young man he spent his waking hours in a mutt assisting its chief and tending to ailing people. He took a government job, remained a bachelor and spent his earnings on poor. He cared little about his looks. He never spoke about his beliefs nor spent time in idle talk or in socialising.Deeply spiritual, he lived a life of what others thought as recluse but what he felt as meaningful. Bliss to him was freedom from attractions of the world. His was an altogether different world; it was the sphere of spirit and service.

Most of the great men be they saints or famous in some chosen fields are out of the ordinary and different from the run of the mill type. They have their own value systems. Things are desired only to the extent they are valued and a thing is valued only to the extent one’s mind sets value by it. Life is a matter of mind and mind is what makes life-a heaven of hell or hell of heaven. The perceptions differ from man to man according to their minds or karma if you believe in it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The faith

Below is a small story by an unknown author. It speaks of the transformation of an agnostic into a believer in an unusual circumstance. Please read on.
"A young man who had been raised as an atheist was training to be an Olympic diver. The only religious influence in his life came from his outspoken Christian friend.
 The young diver never really paid much attention to his friend's sermons, but he heard them often.
One night the diver went to the indoor pool at the college he attended. The lights were all off, but as the pool had big skylights and the moon was bright, there was plenty of light to practice by.
The young man climbed up to the highest diving board and as he turned his back to the pool on the edge of the board and extended his arms out, he saw his shadow on the wall. The shadow of his body was in the shape of a cross.
 Instead of diving, he knelt down and asked God to come into his life. As the young man stood, a maintenance man walked in and turned the lights on.
The pool had been drained for repairs."
Normally he would have dived without making much of the shadow that appeared as a cross on the wall. But it was night time with him being alone and none around the pool. it was dark and somber with no lights turned on producing a lonely feeling. It is only when things are different from normal and when you are alone that mind turns towards the unknown god. The shadow of a cross formed by his body with extended arms was enough to bring a sudden transformation in his uneasy mind. He looked in the shadow the presence of God that he has been ignoring all the time. It was the personal repentance at that moment that made him kneel before the shadow and seek God coming into his life.
Many of us cry out to God when we pass through difficult times in our life particularly when we feel helpless, weak, abandoned or overwhelmed by daunting challenges. Even during life threatening circumstances we turn to God. When our ego is less, we are closer to God and once the situation changes for the better the old ego returns stronger we tend to live in our normal ways away from Him.
It was for this reason that Kunti, mother of Pandavas in Mahabharata, prayed to Lord Krishna to keep her always in trouble so that she will remember Him always.
“My Lord, Your Lordship can easily be approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One, who is on the path of [material] progress, trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling.”(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.26).
The utterance of Lord’s name no doubt has potency but is very high only when it is uttered sincerely with total faith in surrender mode. It is the quality of feeling or yearning that determines the potency. Such sincerity comes only when one feels helpless and has no material devices to fall upon.
Such a transformation process or change of mind towards God is preceded by sincere repentance. It is to say to the Lord, “I want to turn towards You and away from the life I’ve lived independently from You. I am sorry for who I’ve been and what I have done and I want to permanently change. I wish to receive your forgiveness for my sins.”
The miraculous appearance of maintenance man and switching on the lights in the nick of time to save the young man’s life is indicative of Lord having forgiven him.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Leaving behind problems at the place they belong to

No one is spared of pain and sorrow in life. Everyone has his or her quota of them in varying degrees. Good and bad come in one’s life at unexpected times. While the good events are accepted with glee, the bad incidents always leave us in despondency and trauma. They are felt more and affect the rhythm of life. The longer it lasts the pain and helplessness grows in intensity. We often compare with others and feel more miserable. We even tend to blame others for our misfortune or curse God for making us victims while sparing others. We become grouchy and tend to carry the problems at home to office and vice versa. Frustrations like sick child, lack of money, poor accommodation, and quarrelsome relatives and so on may manifest in irritable behavior in office, poor output and brooding. The pressure in office, the displeasure of boss heavy work, poor quality, and long commuting may result in sulking at home, abrasive tendency, lack of warmth and pleasantness. The joy in the home is robbed off and everyone moves to some corner unable to bear the stuffiness. We think we are lightening our mind even by sharing our problems with rank outsiders. This is a common human trait
I read this story by an unknown author in the net
“The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.
On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.
 Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.
"Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied." I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again."
He paused. "Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there ain't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."

As the carpenter did, we must learn to segregate the problems we have outside and inside the home and not bring the wrong ones to the wrong place. They hardly help in resolution of the issues but surely affect the peace and harmony at either location. Most of the problems get resolved, may be not to our full satisfaction, in a few days and if only we had the trouble tree outside the home and office as the carpenter had, life would be far more pleasant. Tough as it may seem, if tried sincerely, it will make for greater harmony.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Care for the living

“A farmer got so old that he couldn't work the fields anymore. So he would spend the day just sitting on the porch. His son, still working the farm, would look up from time to time and see his father sitting there. "He's of no use any more," the son thought to himself, "he doesn't do anything!"
One day the son got so frustrated by this, that he built a wood coffin, dragged it over to the porch, and told his father to get in. Without saying anything, the father climbed inside. After closing the lid, the son dragged the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff. As he approached the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from inside the coffin.
He opened it up. Still lying there peacefully, the father looked up at his son. "I know you are going to throw me over the cliff, but before you do, may I suggest something?"
"What is it?" replied the son.
"Throw me over the cliff, if you like," said the father, "but save this good wood coffin... Your children might need to use it."
As I read this story told in different ways, one thing struck me. What we do returns to us sooner or later, may be in this birth itself or in the next birth too, if you believe in Law of karma. This law in its essence is found in many great faiths and cultures. Put it differently; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The lesson is parents who respect and treat their parents with affection unconsciously teach children certain values who in turn would care for them with love in their old age. The converse of indifference or neglect is also true. The parents and children are just an example. It applies to all other virtues or vices.
As per Hindu religion, every person is born with four debts to be discharged during one’s life time.
The first debt is to God to be repaid by regular prayers and worship, and selfless service to all of God's creatures. The second debt towards the sages and saints, who have revealed truths in scriptures is discharged by service to the needy, handicapped, sick and poor, and less fortunate. The third debt is to one's ancestors, parents and teachers and a fourth debt--a debt unto mankind
The third debt enjoins on us the duty to treat our parents with respect and do all that we can, to keep them happy and  in comfort. We cannot adequately compensate  for all the sacrifices they made on our behalf.
Dignified treatment of parents irrespective of their nature and taking care of them while they are alive falls under this duty. Neglecting them when alive and shedding tears and doing rituals, after they are gone, smack of hypocrisy. This does not also mean blind obedience to do certain things bidden by them or tolerate actions from them that militate against the dharma or law of land.
The concept of old age homes, though does not fit in our culture, has become necessary due to changes in life style, breakup of joint family system and the compulsion to work in far away places.While there be no regret on this score where inevitable,this however does not absolve the children from extending due care whenever needed for their well being monetarily and otherwise.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

As ye sow,so shall ye reap

I wish to share this message of G.B.Shaw from my mailbox
George Bernard Shaw said, "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, they make them."
Well, it's pretty apparent, isn't it? And every person who discovered this believed (for a while) that he was the first one to work it out. We become what we think about.
Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn't know where he's going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry—his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing... he becomes nothing.
How does it work? Why do we become what we think about? Well, I'll tell you how it works, as far as we know. To do this, I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.
Suppose a farmer has some land, and it's good, fertile land. The land gives the farmer a choice; he may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn't care. It's up to the farmer to make the decision.
We're comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn't care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn't care what you plant.
Now, let's say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand—one is a seed of corn, the other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds—one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land...and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what was planted.
As it's written in the Bible, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."
Remember the land doesn't care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants—one corn, one poison.
The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn't care what we plant...success...or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal...or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant must return to us.

You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant.