Kabali…my thoughts

Rajinikanth…a huge Asian phenomenon!

Shihanspeaks

KabaliThe release of a movie of Rajnikanth is a festival in itself…from the announcement, to the first look, the decked up theatres, the fan frenzy, and now of course the craze on social media as well. It’s apparent that people buy into the mania, the celebration, the pride of the ‘first day first show ‘ ticket, and the kind of hype that surrounds the movie, rather than the movie itself. I’ve observed this happening from the past few years, and increasing exponentially with time. Well…Kabali may be the subtle, yet strong signal to all of us that the superstar has had enough of only playing to the gallery, and now wants to go back to performances.

So how’s the movie?

Kabali ( and note here that everytime I type the name, it capitalises itself!) is a gangster movie, which could have gone one of two ways. The first, a more…

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Nishkama Karma

Nishkama karma


NISHKAMA KARMA (State of No – Action) becomes possible only for a yogi at heart.  Meditating on what is unimaginable is considered to be the ultimate sadhana.  It is supposed to be beyond any conceptualisation.  If we imagine light, that is also a kind of form.  If the mind keeps thinking about the term ‘unthinkable’ to focus on, that is also limited in sphere.  So it is a challenge,  one has to overcome and the secret is that it can be attained by not pursuing anything with an intention to pursue, by becoming absolutely blank.

That is the state of ‘no – action’ in every sense (the state of Godhood) that supplies the energy for all action.  Why do we need sadhana of the unthinkable ?  We need the strength to pursue the most fruitful action.  Ramakrishna talks about three thieves, representing three gunas : RAJAS (can make you exhausted), TAMAS (can completely destroy you ) and SATTVA (the thief that has a lot of compassion)  SATTVA also guides you to the road that takes you safely home, the STATE OF NO – ACTION.

Kabir Das called this SAHAJA YOGA.  If we can become completely blank even for a moment, that is the real state of GOD – REALISATION.  In deep sleep, we may attain this stage.  But from a spiritual point of view, this state has to be experienced when we are awake.

It is very difficult to become completely thoughtless.  After remaining blank for a while, w may feel sleepy, but even then it is worth practising.  The effort to make ourselves thoughtless is also an action.  So, that action has to be discarded.  But as a beginner, we may take some form or light and remain blank, which may ultimately lead to the state of nothingness and thoughtlessness .

A sage suggested, you may think of God’s feet to begin with, but do not try to perform anything on the feet.  Just remain stable.  A state will come when the feet will disappear ——- what would remain is ‘nothingness’.  As one attains the state of ‘nothingness’ spontaneously, permanent peace prevails.

That is why it is said that BRAHMN is ‘unspeakable’.  Even one who realises cannot utter a word about it.  Buddha simply smiled and said nothing as He was asked to comment on NIRVANA.  It is for individuals to experience it.  Those who follow the path of sadhana and human welfare are able to perform this selflessly.  Thus, NISHKAMA KARMA becomes possible for a yogi at heart.

———– Arup Mitra. 

Palmerston Island

Palmerston Island


PALMERSTON is an island paradise that will adopt you.  On this fascinating South Pacific island, all 62 residents are related, everyone shares the same surname ——– MARSTERS ——- and can trace their lineage to one British man ——— WILLIAM MARSTERS.

Located between the better-known South Pacific sailing ports of Bora Bora and Niue, Palmerston is the only Cook Island that the prolific explored actually set foot upon, although the clump of fifteen islands are named for him.  Cook dubbed the then-uninhabited atoll PALMERSTON.

Today, it is a postcard -perfect paradise with no bank, store or road.  Islanders have to travel 800km south to the largest island, RAROTONGA,  to find these modern day conveniences.  The island has the largest number of freezers per capita in the southern hemisphere.

Marsters landed on Palmerston in 1883 to set up a COPRA (dried coconut) trade with other Polynesian Islands.  He brought two Polynesian wives from neighbouring PENRHYN, and later married a third lady from the same island, producing an impressive 23 children and 134 grandchildren.  Before he died in 1899, Marsters divided the 2 sq.km atoll into thirds to give each of the three wives and their descendants a share.  The residents still govern themselves based on these hypothetical lines, and cluster their families on their respective chunk of the atoll.  Marriage within a family branch is prohibited.


Palmerston Island beach


White sand  frames the island.  Wind, rain and waves have slowly eroded the atoll, leaving most of it just barely submerged.  The highest point on the entire island is only 6ft high ———- a man-made mound called REFUGE HILL, where the residents cluster during summer cyclones.  Boats are still the only mode of transport to and fro.  A cargo ship from RANGIROA, the largest city in the Cook islands, stops by just three times a year to drop off supplies, loading back up with crates full of flash-frozen parrotfish, Palmerston’s only export.

Palmerston’s residents sometimes hop aboard the cargo ship, squeezing in alongside the freezers, to visit neighbouring islands to catch a flight to New Zealand.  The only other option for leaving the island is to hitchhike on a passing sailboat.  But the window for thumbing a ride is narrow : Yachts only travel through this part of the South Pacific from May through September to avoid cyclones and maximize the trade winds.


Palmerston Island people


Palmerston Island has a tradition of welcoming cruising yachts . When you arrive, you are met by a member of your host family, who will show you where to anchor and give you a lift to the island.  They say they want to think you are part of the family, but it feels more like you are an honoured guest.

There are some shared facilities on Main Street that are for the community.  Then, there is the famous driftwood Church that was damaged in the last hurricane, and it has been replaced with an attractive modern Church.  Marsters’ driftwood house is still behind the church, and gives a feel of the early structures which were built from the timbers of early shipwrecks.  The water catchment is an open community area with two large tanks that collect rainwater from the roof  for the community during droughts.  Most homes have their own water catchments, but after several months they run dry and the community system is used.


Palmerston Island homes


Palmerston is surprisingly civilized for such a remote island.  All homes have electricity from 6 to 12 in the morning and evening, provided by a community generator supplied by the government.  The island pays maintenance and fuel through a charge based on electric meters on each house.  Many houses have TVs and VCRs and movies are a big hit with the locals.  Almost every house has a freezer, though few have refrigerators and some have automatic washing machines.

The freezers are important, because the cash crop of Palmerston  Island is the parrotfish, which is plentiful and safe to eat.  They sell the frozen parrotfish fillets to Rarotonga for $14 NZ a kilo, which is a little over $3US.  It is a lucrative catch, but they have a big problem getting the supply ships to call regularly, thus they have a hard time getting their product to market.

It is a good idea to bring things for the people on the island  ———- clothes, staple foods like rice and flour, VHS movies and educational tapes and toys for the children.  Do not bring alcohol, firearms or ammunition, bud DO BRING fishing tackle and line.

Palmerston is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places on earth.

The soul is layered

Once there were two frogs who lived in a well.  One day one of the frogs jumped out of the well and disappeared.  He was gone for several days, and when he returned, the other frog asked him where he had been.

“There is such a whole big world out there beyond the well”, said the first frog, and he began to describe all the sights and sounds he had heard. ” You must be making all this up”, said the second frog.  “There is nothing but this well.  You are imagining all the things you have told me.  If there were all those things you describe, then surely they would be here in the well.  I have not seen them.  They cannot possibly exist”.

human soul


Often we are like the second frog  We my think that because we have not seen all there is to see, that nothing else exists.  We close our mind like the frog in the well.  There was a time when people believed that the world was flat, until an explorer proved it was round  There was a time when scientists believed that the Earth was the centre of the Universe and the Sun revolved around it, until they discovered this to be false.  Throughout the ages, there have been visionaries who discovered their soul.  They left behind accounts of their experiences in the form of scriptures and oral traditions, which were then recorded by their students.  We are their beneficiaries and we can try these techniques for ourselves.  We some practice, we can expand our inner vision.

We need a burning desire to find out who we really are.  When we want something intensely, we become so focussed that we block out other distractions.  When we desire to awaken our soul, it responds and its faint call can be heard.  Its own power starts to stir and our attention can no longer ignore it.  The stronger the cry, the more our attention is drawn to it.  With time, the call of the world can become more and more faint as our attention is pulled irresistibly towards love, music and bliss of our soul.

——–Sant Rajinder Singhji.

Mediocrity

The message in the Bollywood flick ‘Three Idiots” was loud and clear.  Listen to your heart, follow your passion and step away from the mundane chores of life.  While we all want to make the essence of the movie our ‘mantra’, in reality, the situation is pretty different.  Believe it or not, we often love to indulge in this sin called ‘MEDIOCRITY’, as that allows us to slip into this cosy, comfort zone, which we find difficult to abandon.  Here is a sneak peak at ‘stereotypes of mediocrity’, and decide for yourself which category you identify with.

(1) The HARDWORKING mediocre : “No news is good news”.  You have often heard this proverb.  Well, a typical HARDWORKING person who is very diligent describes a perfect life with this punch-line.  Sure, in hard work, you can’t beat him. Give him a task and he meets the deadline five minutes before the stipulated time.  A ‘hardworking mediocre’ shirks taking risks and is therefore often hesitant in taking up new challenges.  He is just happy at being adept at mediocrity.

(2) The BORED & FATIGUED mediocre : This one is ‘problematic’.  These are people who are thoroughly BORED & FATIGUED with life  —— be it their mundane jobs or with their equally monotonous lives, and this combination cannot be deadlier.  They often ask this question to themselves, “Why does life suck so much ?”  Stay away from them.

mediocre-samaritan(3) The CHAMCHA mediocre : This is a rather common category.  They mould their ways to fit into everyone else’s shoes but their own.  So, more often than not, they land up becoming CHAMCHAS of other larger mortals around.  The problem with them is they have devoted too much of attention to the people around them —– be it in their professional, social or personal life.  If they want to foray into a brighter zone, it’s high time that they live life on their own terms and conditions.

(4) The LUCKY mediocre : This is an offshoot of the previous category —— the ‘chamcha’ mediocre.  In this classification, people don’t know much, they are not too adept at work (there are others who are actually far better than them), yet they are achievers in their own right, thanks to their Godfathers.

(5) The SHORTCUT mediocre : Lots of ambitions but no patience ——- this is an apt description for the people who ‘qualify’ for this category.  They are always busy  ——– busy scouting for SHORTCUTS around.  They are happy to meet people’s expectations and have no qualms about not exceeding them.

(6) The MISFIT mediocre : A lot of times, people stuck in this situation may dread to spell it aloud as it may require them to change or restructure a big part  of their lives, yet they must do it.  They should chase the muse within, mull over the things that they enjoy doing the most and carve out something that suits them.  After all, no one in this world should spend time doing things they are not good at or live in situations that are not meant for them.

So all in all, if you want to exceed your competition, make sure you pick up a fight with the mediocrity within you and take a leap forward.

——– Anisha Motwani (Bangalore Mirror)

The Puranas & the Vedas

PuranasHinduism can easily be divided into phases : the VEDIC PHASE and the PURANIC PHASE.  The Vedic phase focussed on  ritual, while the Puranic phase is about narrative.  The Vedic phase continues to be mysterious, even out of reach, while the Puranic phase, with its heroes and villains, seems to make immediate sense.

Historically, the Vedic phase begins 4,000 years ago and wanes after the arrival of Gautama Buddha, 500BCE.  The Puranic phase follows the rising appeal of the Buddha and his teachings, something that continues today.


Krishna Arjuna


The Vedic phase is associated with the hymn collections (SAMITHAS) ——RIG, YAJUR, SAMA, ATHARVA —– the ritual manuals (BRAHMANAS), and the philosophical texts (ARANYAKAS) and more prominently, the UPANISHADS.  The Puranic phase is associated with the great Epics ( the RAMAYANA and the MAHABHARATA), and with chronicles known as PURANAS.  There are many Puranas : 18 major ones, 100s of minor ones, including those restricted to a particular place (STHALA – PURANA) or to a particular community (JATI – PURANA).  It is through the Puranas, that Vedic Wisdom reaches the common man.

The story goes that a fisherwoman’s son called Krishna Dwaipayana, whose name means “the dark one who was born on an island”, compiled and organised the Vedic hymns, which was why he was given the title of VEDA VYASA, who then wrote the ADI PURANA full of stories that made Vedic Wisdom accessible.  From the Adi Purana came the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the many Puranas.  Thus,, in traditional lore, Puranas are fruits of the tree that is the Vedas.


Puranas


The sages see Puranas as an extension of the Vedas, yet modern scholars separate Vedas from Puranas.  Some see Vedas and Puranas as two distinct traditions that have nothing to do with each other, but the Mahabharata says, “Study of Epics and Puranas supplements the understanding of Vedas”.

Others see Vedas as ‘superior’ and Puranas as ‘inferior’, a hierarchy that was common amongst Greek Aristocrats, and later Colonists, who preferred philosophy over poetry and saw ‘logos’ as superior to ‘mythos’.

At the heart of the Vedas is BRAHMAVIDYA ——– a deep understanding of human nature, which does not change with time (SANATHAN DHARMA).  The sages struggled to communicate this idea.  First they used rituals, hence the Vedas.  Later, with increased confidence, they used stories, hence the Puranas.  The former created an elite club.  The latter reached to the general public.

In the 21st century, we are seeing a trend towards anti-elitism and anti-intellectualism.  Why do some people insist that the Vedas are seen as different than and superior to the Puranas ?  Why do we reject the fruit and prefer the tree ?  Does it indulge the ego ? Does that not go against the very point of Vedic Wisdom ?

——– Devdutt Pattanaik. 

What do people fear?

People of each age group have their own individual fear projections, though some fears are common to all ages.

The fear of losing a loved one transcends all other fears across age groups.  This is followed after a long gap by the fear of being embarrassed in public.  Then comes the fear of pain and death, followed closely by the fear of loneliness.

Each age group has its own peculiar fears, though interestingly certain fears,Gran such as the fear of heights and creepy crawlies, is consistent across age groups.  The dread of accidents, getting assaulted and natural disasters is also consistent across age groups.

fearA fear that did not crop up in any other group except the 15-25 year olds is the fear of ghosts.  Other fears of this group had to do with not being able to achieve success at work, or not finding work that challenges their mind enough.  This was followed by the fear of not being noticed or being unable to discover the purpose of their lives.  A few interesting fears that cropped up in freewheeling discussions are the fear of depression, addiction, Black Magic, terrorists, clowns, spiders, rats, impulsiveness, people and God.

What is strange is that emotional fears such as betrayal or fear of love did not find any weight with youngsters.  It is the age group 25-35 that embroils itself in emotional turmoil and fears betrayals and rejections.  Men and women in this age group also fear growing old and dying.  Fear of failure, losing control and aging are their key dreads.

FearIn the age group 50-70, people’s fears change completely as is to be expected.  The greatest fear that incumbents of this age group have is becoming useless and dependent on others, and of illness.  Women are fearful of their children being unhappy, and men worry about losing respect in the eyes of others, leaving behind unfinished business and losing friends.  Loneliness and illness are also fears of this group.

Surprisingly, fewer fear death than one expected.  That is because people seldom think of death.  It is pain and suffering that people fear more; death is oblivion.  As one person put it, “Frankly death is not my problem.  What I fear is suffering or not living a good lifestyle in the manner I wish to.”

People have several other phobias that could be the result of several factors.  Each fear has its own origin and psychological projection, and needs to be dealt with differently.

Though leader Karl Albrecht in his newsletter BRAINSNACKS explains all fears as basically falling in five categories —— Ego Death, Separation, Loss of Autonomy, Mutilation and Extinction.

———–   vinitadawra.nangia@timesgroup.com.