Vedanta and Me: The Two people inside ‘You’

In recent times there has been an increasing discussion around two people inside each one of us. They are namely – the rational self and the emotional self.

These two people sit inside every one of us. I am not sure if you have a choice to have them or not. Nature ensures every one of us has both of them. In some people, one of them is more pronounced than the other. This is the reason why you come across people who are more rational or some who are truly emotional.

One must spend time with themselves to understand how each of these two people operate within you. Knowing is the first step to using them wisely for your development and happiness. Align your activities with the one (emotional / rational) that is more pronounced within you.

A metaphor that is used to describe these two people is comparing the emotional self within, to an elephant and the rational self within to the mahout (rider). You can reflect on this interesting thought. It will tell you why, when you don’t manage your emotional self within, you end up going through emotional swings – when the mahout (riding the elephant) loses control over the elephant, there is little that can be done.

Vedanta Philosophy clearly highlights the importance of honing the intellect so that the emotions are always within limits. Read other posts under ‘Vedanta and Me‘ section to know more about this philosophy.

Whatever the implications and how each one of us wants to  handle them, acknowledging that there are these two characters sitting inside each one of us is the first step to any development.

Happy Thinking!!


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!

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: What should I do in Life?

Today I had lunch with a bunch of young minds from across the country and we were joined by a few from other nations as well. Among the many conversations, we had one short conversation on whether one should try to find what they should do in life and then go into it or figure it out along the way. This is always a debatable topic and so we did have numerous opinions. While I work a lot in entrepreneurship and encourage a whole lot of experimentation in business, I still belong to the school that one needs to find the direction in life before embarking in life. The earlier we learn this lesson in life the easier it is to make changes to direction in life. But how does one actually go about doing it? Even before that why should one even attempt this route?

In Vedanta there is a repeated mention across scriptural texts on the concept of ‘svadharma’ or one’s own nature. Every human being has an innate tendency. Every individual has an inherent interest towards certain activities or domains. However due to various expectations and attachments in life we are coerced into following what most of the world thinks is the right thing. Hence we find almost every student becoming an engineer and joining similar jobs. While all this seems like the best thing, most of the pleasures are short lived. Life becomes very stressful and strained due to not choosing the right vocation based on our inherent interests.

Why do we not choose to do what comes to us naturally? It is simply because we cannot make do with what our natural interests provide as returns. When we are born to be an artist we must understand that we cannot define timeline based outputs. If this is the case we cannot afford a lifestyle that is like the many who go to work or who go into business. As a result we give up on our interest or close to heart activity and go behind what provides the lifestyle that we want to match.

If we want to lead a happy life then we need to do what comes to us naturally, we need to practice what is our natural strengths and be contended with what that action provides as the result. To make this happen we need to align our lifestyle to enable us practice our natural vocation. Attempting to match what others have in the world is the beginning of giving up our deeply held talents. Over the long term this leads to discontentment and disillusionment. Sorrow, agitations and anger follows. Not recognizing the root cause of the problem we keep trying to solve the symptoms.

So why should one try this approach – for the simple reason that we can gain peace and stay in harmony.

Think about it!

Vedantic Wednesday: Finding purpose of life – is it the question right?

Every once in a while all of us face this question: “What is the purpose of life?” But the speed with which we hear the question is the same speed at which we forget it. We get back to our daily operational hustle and bustle of life. We are always busy and the remaining time we are exhausted trying to be busy. There doesn’t seem to be an end to this tiring cycle.

When I was listening to a session on ‘branding’ recently I was startled that while people were asking many tips and tricks to build a brand, no one asked the fundamental question – “what should my company / product be remembered for?” Without that question we will end up creating brands anyway. In fact brands will get created anyway if we don’t create them – isn’t it? Does this question then apply to life as well?

The bigger question that Vedanta asks us is “Why should you be remembered?” And I think it is important to think on this very deeply before we appreciate the peace and happiness that can instantaneously descend on us once we reflect on this question. The quest to find meaning is life then almost immediately gets replaced by trying to find why I have an existence? What role can I play in fulfilling this great opportunity handed down to me? How can I make a contribution with whatever skills and knowledge I have to the ecosystem? How much can I give of what I have been given? These then lead us into action. Then it looks like the most important activity of life is figure what is our real nature and how we can put that to use – irrespective of how much it benefits somebody.

Vedanta exposes us to many ways in which we can find this out for ourselves. It looks like tests and other people are not going to tell us this. It is a very personal exercise and experience. We have to go through these ourselves and discover who we really are. This is also the reason why throughout the ‘Vedic’ knowledge base we have self realized people from all walks of life. Is there are clear and loud lesson for us here?

Is it then time for us to change the question? If we don’t change the question we may actually end up finding right answers to the wrong question and wondering why we feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled even after all the achievement!


Vedantic Wednesday: Teaching under a Tree

Yesterday I had the pleasure of conducting classes in a remote location of Tamil Nadu. This was part of a faculty development program on entrepreneurship and the only thing different this time around was the experiment of trying to conduct class at a location close to nature. We went there in the morning by bus and were soon in the midst of hills and thick vegetation. There was only brown and green all around. The air was filled with oxygen and silence. We had hens and goats roaming around, a little brook flowing behind and thatched classrooms. Our first session happened in the classroom. At tea break we sat on the benches under a tree and chatted. I proposed to the group if we could continue our session right there under the tree – the excited group (about 20 of them) agreed instantaneously. We moved a little white board and started.

That was my first ever class facilitated under a tree right in the open. No walls enclosing us, no technology like projectors, computers or speakers – just the 20 of us, a whiteboard, goats and hens.

We went on with our class till end of day. Since it started drizzling we moved back into the class for the closing session of about 30 minutes at end of day. Here are some interesting observations about the session and the experience:

  • Not even once did anyone feel sleepy or drowsy even for a moment
  • The whole class was discussion oriented without any technology distractions
  • There were no inhibitions and no limitations via walls – made us feel open both physically and mentally
  • Though the interactions were intense, they happened in a very light and informal setting

The validation that most of these were heavily influenced by the setting became clear when we found people becoming drowsy during the last 30 minutes when people went back into the classroom. No wonder then that our ancient Gurukula system happened in open spaces! Education needs to be as open as possible for it to deliver greatest value, and there seems to be no better setting to make learning happen than under a tree. Our ancestors (seers with great wisdom) had experimented and evolved these education methods. Hope we don’t lose out on our ancient wisdom.

Look forward to learning and teaching more in such natural settings. Think about it!