Vedantic Wednesday: Is this ‘maya’?

I have been looking for a new arrival book in the library for a week now. A search on the electronic catalogue says ‘available’ but I have not been able to locate it. When I asked the library professional manning the front desk, she said ‘it is at this (identified) location’. Both of us search to no avail. She does some search and figures out that it is a new arrival (cannot be issued out) and hence will be in the new arrival section. She dashes off with a sense of accomplishment only to return disappointed. After all this, she could only say that ‘Someone must have taken it to read. We will have to wait until they put it back’.

Something that says ‘available’ but remains ‘unavailable’ reminded me of the subtle message that philosophy attempts to teach. While this may not be the ideal example for teaching the concept of ‘maya’ – why not use every opportunity to remind ourselves of the elusiveness of this world?

So, is this ‘maya’?

Some humour, some truth! That’s life.


Vedantic Wednesday: Ego

When ‘ego’ lifts its’ ugly head, human beings (man/woman) display certain strange signs:

  • Develop anger at the drop of a hat
  • Not able to accept ‘no’ for an answer
  • Cannot accept an alternate view on anything
  • Become unreasonable
  • Become vengeful
  • Become happy at another’s unhappiness
  • No concept of forgiveness

While noticing these are signs of ego at work, it also has implications on oneself:

  • Become irritable
  • Reduced focus / concentration
  • Internally restless / disturbed
  • Increased stress levels
  • Lack of sleep
  • Erratic moods

And all of these (and more) lead to more of the former list. The cycle repeats itself and eventually becomes a downward spiral leading to a loss of one’s ‘self’. The fall to a state of unhappiness and disturbed living is inevitable. These are beautifully described in Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita as the ‘Ladder of Fall’.

The worst thing is – most of the people who fall into this spiral are people who have read the Bhagavad Gita. Life is full of irony. It is no surprise that sages and saints constantly repeat that the goal of spiritual evolution is to drop the ‘ego’.

I don’t know the ‘ego’ but I know it shows itself all the time. I saw one manifest even today. The problem is not in seeing it in the other – all of us can. The real chance to evolve and become eternally peaceful is in becoming aware of it within oneself. It is the only way to everlasting peace and happiness.

Happy Thinking and Happy Becoming!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!