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Vedantic Wednesday: Giving and Taking

Though from my school days, giving has always been a part of me; it is more of a habit. It had been ingrained into us that there are people less fortunate than us and it is our duty to give. Though it seems true and a good starting point to start sharing what we have – it is not the end. ‘Giving’ as a form of sharing to those more unfortunate than us, means we see differences between us and them. This difference over time becomes complexes for both parties. While  this does not seem too obvious, they remain in the heart of both parties, only to erupt at future situations in life. Some feeling good about their good deeds, others feeling bad as receivers! Does this not make ‘giving’ simply a ritual?

With all due respects to ‘Giving’ as a wonderful practice, I think the opportunity to practice giving by choice without feeling that the other person is less fortunate, creates a huge difference. This choice makes all the difference. It teaches us one big lesson. While through the process we keep hearing from all that the act was holy, one thing that everyone missed telling us was that greatness of the receiver.

How could we have given had it not been for the other person to receive it? How often have you happily asked and received something? If you haven’t done it, try it. It is really difficult, especially if you are one (of the majorities) who has been grown up saying you are fortunate!

Taking is a much higher exercise than that of giving. Taking seems to be more holy than giving. Hence I took the effort to tell this person who received it, a wholehearted ‘thanks’. The reason was – he gave me the opportunity to serve him. But not all can help by taking, especially without the feeling of being less fortunate. It takes a great personality, a highly evolved soul to do that. If we are truly lucky we can experience ‘Giving’ this way. It lifts us and makes us blessed.

The next time you give, try to give without this feeling of superiority. It can change you.

Think about it!


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Vedanta and Me: Celebrating What: Life or Events?

I had a moment to celebrate this week, but as my tendency to stay quiet took the better of me, I told my dear friend not to celebrate. I told her that the very wishes and her happiness itself meant a lot to me. She was quite put off by my response. I had to explain my reasoning. But it rests on some serious philosophy, which can bring some peace to life.

It is often quoted in the scriptures that life should be a celebration. But sadly this is either totally missed or totally misunderstood. Lets look at both these lapses.

Celebrating is not Life: There are many people who don’t enjoy things in life. There are even schools of belief that life must not be enjoyed. Many belonging to this realm treat enjoyment as sin. They even put down any form of comforts in life. They spend their lives taking on pain and suffering. They believe that life is nothing but pain and suffering.

Celebrating Life means enjoyment: There is another group that does the opposite. They simply want to celebrate everything. All they need is a chance, not even a reason, to celebrate. While this looks close to an evolved stance, it actually only mimics it. Celebration does not mean making noise or going to parties. Inevitably we find that the people who do all this are also the ones who go through depression and loneliness. Much of the lifestyle problems are experienced by those who belong to the upper echelons of society. Hence this also seems wrong.

Then what’s the real understanding? Let us understand that there is a huge difference between celebrating life and celebrating events. This is what makes the difference. Think about it. If we celebrate events, then we are bound to see some events that we may not like so much and hence we have to court suffering too. But if we remain away disconnected from events in the first place, then chances are high that we can remain away from both joy and suffering. But once you hear this, you feel that a life like that is all boring. Sadly this is untrue. There is a way of celebrating life everyday. What is that? Celebrating that you are alive today! Celebrating that you were given the chance to see, hear, eat and receive help! Celebrating the chance to serve someone! Celebrating the chance to see success equally as courting failure!

Celebrating Life is more important that Celebrating Events. It can lead you out of this short term joys and short term sorrows. Life is to be celebrated and this is where a philosophy like Vedanta comes in and helps. It asserts that Life is to be celebrated, but this is all about celebrating the chance to attain freedom, liberation. It is not about those petty distractions (joys and sorrows) in life.

Think about it!


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Vedantic Wednesday: Handling Preoccupation

Are you preoccupied? If you are one who answered ‘No’, you are truly lucky, for that group is infinitesimally small. But if you are one who feels that he or she is a victim of preoccupation, then read on!

Preoccupation hurts primarily one thing – concentration. Why? At any point in time a person is involved in an activity. When involved in the action, the mind inside us keeps wandering everywhere else other than remaining here. If you are experiencing this, then you are preoccupied. Examples: Thinking about office work while in the shower, planning for a meeting while eating, wondering about a new character for the next novel while spending time with your spouse.

Preoccupation means there is no concentration on the activity on hand. The mind isn’t where the body is. Hence the action becomes mechanical and through this we lose awareness of the action.

Multi-tasking seems to fueling this fire. Here are some examples:

Trying to feed an infant: Speaking on the phone while we are feeding an infant or giving instructions to what food to cook in parallel are all example of a preoccupied mind

Driving and talking on the phone: Speaking on the phone while driving the car is an example of preoccupation. The mind is constantly trying to move between the conversation and the traffic on the road.

Studying something: While a student is trying to learn a subject, he or she is constantly thinking about who will win the world cup or is wondering what he will buy in case he comes first!

I am sure there are enough instances in life where we are at one place and we are thinking so hard about another that we feel we are actually at the other place and in that situation. This illusion makes us distracted and tired. If only we can remain in the action that we are involved in, life will be happier because we will be more fully engaged

Engagement gives a feeling of completeness. Ask a person who has experienced the thrill of completing a job, especially after being fully immersed in the action – the joy is very different from one who does it as an item to be knocked off the task list.

Lack of preoccupation is critical to real joy and satisfaction. Because if the mind can be kept where the body is, there is greatest involvement in the action and the joy out of such an action is immeasurable.

Think about it!


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Vedantic Wednesday: If Only!

I could know exactly what I want and what I don’t want

I could know what I should buy and what I shouldn’t

I could know what I should do and shouldn’t

I could know that time was my most important resource

I could know that money was not as important as I deem it to be

I could know that recognition is not as important as taking initiative is

I could put in effort irrespective of results

I could go for my daily exercise without feeling lazy

“If Only” thoughts constantly make us ruminate, search for ideal or better solutions and hence don’t allow us to act. They constantly make us remain indecisive, slow down and many times even stop. The worst is we don’t even recognise that we are experiencing this!

If only we can overcome this inertia that makes us feel we are doing something when we are only ruminating, we would lead very fulfilling lives and have less time to worry or be anxious. A little bit of philosophy can help us become more aware of such mind games and hence not fall prey to them. Vedanta, a school of Indian philosophy is one such that can really help in the process. It constantly reiterates the importance of action and how we should move back into action without getting caught up with these mind games.

Learn, become aware and thrive!


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Vedantic Wednesday: Life is a Sport

The Vedantic masters keep reiterating this truth. The sanskrit word ‘leela’ seems to be used as a definition of what life is? But somehow every time we get into the world and start engaging in any action, we get attached to it. It becomes a battle, something to be won or lost. Something that when won, creates joy, and when lost, creates disappointment. When children play on the street, there is nothing to win or lose in it, but they take it so seriously, and even fight at times. But the same is done when people play after they grow up too.

Why take life so seriously when we know and see all around us that everything is so temporary?

A question quite easy to ask others, not oneself. But if one dares to ask this to oneself, you are bound to start some inner exploration. This will lead to placing right values on actions and results. All of these will help us make progress in life, but on factors like peace and happiness. But sadly these are not tangible and have very little social currency in the short term. Most people who appreciate all this are close to retirement, where they know they have missed the opportunity to attain it in the current life. They advise others, but to no interest from younger ones. Like one successful man said, when he advised his son to take life cool during his 30s, the son told the dad to remember how he was in his 30s. With respect for his dad, he did assure him that he would take up spirituality and philosophy in his later years (just like his dad), but for now, life was to be aggressive and achievement oriented. Especially in a way that there is some social currency.

If you study Krishna’s life, my master keeps saying that there was no dull moment. This inspires. A man who lived a worldly life without the worries of tomorrow. This made him alert, peaceful, happy, playful and cheerful. With all these characteristics, he was able to live a full life. This also enabled him to be of great help to so many others. There are many other examples in Indian Philosophy to show how to treat life as a sport.

If only we can take up the study of Vedanta and learn this one truth – life will instantaneously turn spiritual and provide everlasting joy, just like a sport!

Think about it!


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Vedantic Wednesday: Wealth and Richness

They have no correlation. While I have heard it many times from my master, I used to always wonder how, since it is anti-thesis to what we have been taught from childhood. But in recent times as I have begun to observe wealthy people more closely and interact with them more often, I am beginning to see the truth in that statement.

Almost everyone accumulates wealth. Nothing wrong with it. But as studies suggest, happiness and peace has nothing to do with the quantum, at least once you pass a certain level. Wealth in reasonable measure helps you lead a good life. In fact a certain amount of wealth is needed to stay afloat and every one of us has to do our bit of effort to gain it. Health, Peace, Education, Happiness, etc are all related to wealth, but when it is kept at its right place, to the right amount and used with the right attitude. I was startled to find out why some people look rich, even though their asset statements don’t reflect it. Equally startling was the fact that some people with all the riches on paper, could not look rich at all. Why is this? Can’t wealth buy richness? Apparently no!

On deeper thinking I am beginning to wonder that richness is a state of mind, an attitude, which one needs to develop. It results by a change in thinking. The truth behind this thinking as stated by my master is that – if a man has wealth more than wants, he is rich; otherwise, he is poor. Does it really matter if you have a dollar or a million – what matters is how you view your wants.

This is not superficial thought. In fact a lot of people dismiss it very quickly saying that it is not practical. I find the same people complaining, worrying and anxious, even upon having a lot more than what any average man will earn in his whole life!

Hence, if your ambition in life is to be rich, don’t stop working and deny wealth its fair due. On the contrary begin to understand what richness is all about. Use wealth in the right way – if our forefathers did not value wealth, why do we have a Goddess dedicated to just that: Goddess Lakshmi.

Think about it!


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Vedanta and Me: Use of Rituals and Routines

Rituals have been one of the most controversial aspects of Indian society. But they are not only spoken of here. Almost every civilisation has had its version of rituals. Today’s hatred towards rituals stems from their misuse rather than their use. Every activity had a purpose and when its purpose was over, it had to be dropped. But when society holds on to rituals beyond its purposeful life, it decays and creates problems. This has happened a lot in Indian culture.

Thousands of rituals are spoken of in the ancient Indian literature (Vedas). But before we read about them randomly and dismiss them as useless or mindless, we should give credit to their creators. We should take effort to understand who created them, why was it created, in what context was it created and what was their intentions in laying them down, etc? Without understanding all of this, dismissing them is like a having sparkling diamonds and throwing them away suggesting that it is, after all a variation of carbon!

Rituals were created to build discipline. This was a step towards making ourselves eligible for higher knowledge. Without this we may hurt ourselves in receiving knowledge prematurely. It is like trying to do a doctoral level program without having gone to college or studied that subject and its existing literature base at all. That is why the academic community insists on going through a literature survey before beginning any research work at the doctoral level.

How is all this relevant to the majority of us?

We must create our own list of rituals with a purpose. If we are writers we can create routines and rituals to ensure our focus remains on our writing. Many artists had their rituals as non negotiable. Here is the review of a book about them: https://rajshankar.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/books-and-me-daily-rituals/ This enabled them see success.

Entrepreneurs have had successful habits and routines. Some never sat at their offices, but spent time meeting customers. Some spend their time building amazing products and ignoring the markets. Some went behind maximising profitability, some behind creating spectacular products and even some behind delightful services. None the less, all of them held on to some non negotiable routines / rituals / habits and stayed consistent with them.

Was this then the reason for their spectacular success and achievements? If so, why not use rituals as a tool in our budding ventures as well? Why not keep rituals to their intended reasons and ensure everyone following them, does it for the spirit behind them, rather than the mechanics. This can result in big achievements for your start-up.

Think about it!


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Vedanta and Me: Celebrate, to defeat Jealousy

How in the wildest of imaginations does ‘celebration’ help defeat ‘jealousy’? But in many ways this seems to be the only way to defeat it. Read on and think about it!

In today’s world (as it has always been), people feel happy and excited when something that they want happens. We all celebrate our wins, however small. But when someone else shares his or her victory with you, we don’t seem to show the same enthusiasm for celebration. Why? This is even more pronounced when the person who is sharing this happy news is our competitor!

Why is it that we are able to celebrate our wins more enthusiastically, more gregariously, more grandly, than another’s? It is because there is an amount of selfishness present in all our actions. This selfishness keeps gaining weight within us as we see ourselves lose and especially when we see others (especially peers) win. This creates envy, jealousy. Most of us must have experienced this in some form. In fact as the new batch of students pass out this season (from schools, colleges, etc) almost all of them are being trained by the environment on how to feel bad that something nice (actually better) happened to the other. This over time develops into a habit which we are not even aware of! This sense of selfishness, envy, jealousy becomes a burden for ourselves, which we are not aware, that actually stops us from progressing in life. Amongst the many who are affected by this challenge, many seek to do away with this silly feeling, but truly don’t know how? This leads to the envy and jealousy bothering us too much.

How can we do away with jealousy? I came across a thought which may be of interest. Can we attempt to feel, acknowledge, celebrate the wins of others as much as if it were ours? Can we celebrate the wins of our peers just the way we would if we had won? While it may sound extremely difficult to be done consciously, it will help us genuinely help us get over envy and jealousy. This is a tough habit to break, but once broken, it has the potential to make our lives lighter, happier and peaceful. Over time, just like any other habit, this too becomes a habit. You start celebrating everybody’s wins, victories. This makes more people seek you to share their successes and winning moments. This makes you sought after and you will always have victories around you, be it your’s or other’s.

You will over time lose the feeling of wondering why someone else is winning? The feelings of envy and jealousy will die away as you begin celebrating everybody’s successes just as yours!

Think about it! Try it!


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Vedantic Wednesday: Enjoying Versus Capturing

The importance of living in the present and with awareness has been highlighted numerous times by every master. A simple place where we can practice this can be found using this example: Imagine you are staying in a hotel on the 20th floor with a whole wall made of glass. Your cot is facing the glass The glass wall is facing the east. During the morning you wake up and sit facing the rising sun. I am not sure if you are the one who is inspired by the rising sun and the sky around dawn – if you are, then this is a sight not to miss. If you are lucky the sun and the sky could display numerous shades and forms, some of which we may never get a second time. What do you think you will do when you are in this situation? Especially if you are out on a work trip and are alone in the hotel room!

In all possibility you will pull out your camera and start clicking snaps to capture those unique moments of beauty that nature is displaying for you. Today our phones have cameras that are more powerful than separate camera units. Why do we so naturally incline to capturing moments than simply sitting and enjoying them? Why are we wired to capture the beauty than enjoy the beauty? Why is it that almost every one of us is wired to push enjoyment into the future than enjoy in the present?

This is exactly what most master tell us not to do when they say – stay in the present with awareness. If we can sit simply and enjoy the beauty here and now, rather than capture it on a camera, life they say can become beautiful and rewarding. How, you may ask? The only answer to this is to try it out once. Sacrifice the urge to capture and tell yourself that its a gift from nature for you and it must be consumed here and now. If you do this in the above example of staying in the hotel, it would mean, enjoying the sunrise rather than capturing it on your camera. I also hear from people that if they try to do this, they get restless as they are not used to sitting and enjoying – hence they invariably get down to clicking snaps almost involuntarily. No worries, begin somewhere assure the masters and you will overcome this pavlovian habit. A good place to start is situations similar to the sunrise example quoted above.

Think about it and try it out!


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Vedantic Wednesday: Focus on the doing, not the quantum

We all want to save money, but the excuse we give yourselves is that we will do that when we start earning a lot. But the reality is ‘saving’ is a habit and has to be cultivated. It is easier to feel good saving a few thousand rupees or a few hundred rupees every month, than looking at placing fixed deposits for a hundred thousand every time. The most important thing is routine doing or habit, not really the quantum. But the mind asks, what are you going to become by saving so little? Wait and you can always save in larger quantities; at least it makes financial sense!

The same goes with exercise. What if you can’t go to the gymnasium every day? Why can’t you start by going for a walk every day? Why can’t you start by going for a walk every alternate day? Even better why can’t you start by going for a walk every Sunday? No! I am not joking. The more infrequent the periodicity, the easier it should be to follow. But the mind asserts itself and convinces you saying that it really is not going to have any effect if you walk once a week. Absolutely! The reasoning is right. You are not going to lose weight walking once a week, but it is easiest to start a habit doing that, than waiting to join a gymnasium and go every day.

In every aspect of our lives we do this mistake of not creating routines and getting started with action. Rather we will wait to have the perfect way to get started and end up not getting started at all or in too many failed starts. Why does this happen? Because doing is a habit, it requires a routine, which is easiest to start when the quantum is small. But the mind does not like small quantities of anything. Hence it dissuades you from getting into action and more so in building little routines.

Spirituality in its core is all about building routines, that too consciously. To make this happen one needs to be alert to the functioning of the mind and the intellect. Once we become aware we realize that in life action matters, not the quantum, results matter, not the quantum, happiness matter, not the quantum. We will become Child-like! We will become joyful at everything. We will be excited to do even little things as though they are the biggest things. The child is able to do this. We are not, because we have lost the fundamental ability to think clearly.

Try doing little routines daily – and watch your mind revolt, give you reasons, justify and convince you as to why it is not worth doing it. It is an experience worth experimenting!

Think about it!

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