What makes us happy?

सर्वं परवशं दुःखं सर्वमात्मवशं सुखम् ।
एतद् विद्यात् समासेन लक्षणं सुखदुःखयोः ॥

sarvaṃ paravaśaṃ duḥkhaṃ sarvamātmavaśaṃ sukham |
etad vidyāt samāsena lakṣaṇaṃ sukhaduḥkhayoḥ || 

Manusmriti 4.160

All that is dependent on others is painful; all that is dependent on oneself is pleasing; he shall know this to be, in short, the definition of pleasure and pain.

A very simple, but profound way of looking at pleasure and pain, at happiness and unhappiness. A lot of times, we look for complicated answers, when the solution can be quite straightforward. As succulently put by Manu, thousands of years ago. 

The root cause of all misery is desire – so says the ancient Vedic texts and the Buddha. A lot of us tend to misunderstand this to be a call to asceticism. If desire is the root cause, then it must be evil, isn’t it? Well, the pillars of Vedic Indian thought are four goals of human life, or Puruṣārtha – dharmaarthakāma and mokshaKāma, or desire, is very much a part of our lives. The right desire is what is referred to here – desire that creates life, that improves oneself – and not the desire for mere materialistic things. 

The wrong desire causes heartburn – a sense of anxiety and unfulfillment when we do not get what we want. This also extends to our feelings – the more we are dependent on external factors for happiness, the more we are likely to be disappointed. Manu advises us to look inwards – and understand what makes us truly happy is within us. This will lead to freedom of thought and action, and in turn lead to lasting happiness and peace.

What is the recipe for success?

यशोधिगन्तुं सुखलिप्सया वा मनुष्यसंख्यामतिवर्तितुं वा |

 निरुत्सकानामभियोगभाजां समुत्सुके वाङ्कमुपैति सिद्धिः ||

yashodhigantum sukhalipsayā vā manuśyasamkhyāmativartitum vā nirutsakānāmabhiyogabhājām samutsuke vānkmupaiti siddhih

Kavya Prakasha

Success itself is keen to fall in the lap of and embrace a person who is not very keen to be famous, or who is not desirous of attaining pleasure or happiness, or who wants to be the very best (in any field) but the one who performs his duties diligently and selflessly without any undue anxiety about the results of his/her action.

This śloka is from the The Kāvyaprakāśa, a Sanskrit scripture written by Mammaṭa in the 11th century. This work is also termed kāvya-śāstra (‘science of poetry’). According to tradition, part of the text was said to originally have been composed by Bharata, the legendary author of the Nāṭyaśāstra.

Very much in the vein of Karma Yoga, the śloka sheds light on very contemporary thoughts – ambition and competition. 

Our educational system lays emphasis on these two traits in ample measure. Right from the beginning, we are introduced to a sense of ‘I have to be better than everyone else’ – a feeling that we nurture and carry all through our study life, and further into the workplace and the business world. 

How to be successful – there is an industry of self-help books and motivational coaching built around this paradigm, this magical secret of success that everyone is so desperate to find. Be the best, go for the gold – no one remembers second place…a motivational exercise has you staring at yourself in the mirror every morning repeating to yourself – I AM THE BEST…Are you? And how does it matter?

When Mozart made his first composition at the age of 5, was he thinking about whom to beat? Or when Sachin started his diligent practice under Shri. Achrekar, was he concerned with the records he went on to make? I don’t think so. Mozart composed since he loved music, Sachin played cricket because it was his passion. 

I think their single-minded focus on learning, on discovery, on following their passion, led to the flow – the symphony and the beauty of that famous cover drive. 

The rest followed. 

Let us aim to be a bit better than yesterday – a lot better than when we started out, and the best version of ourself, when it is time to leave. 

Work hard, and if you have given it your best, don’t ponder over the result

Arjuna and Karna in the Mahabharata

What is meant to be for you, will never be denied, and what is not meant for you, will never come your way.


What is my duty in life?

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् |
स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेय: परधर्मो भयावह: || 

śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt
swa-dharme nidhanaṁ śhreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ

Srimad Bhagavad Gīta 3.35

It is far better to perform one’s natural prescribed duty, though tinged with faults, than to perform another’s prescribed duty, though perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous. 

On the surface, this shloka can be a bit confusing, and easily misinterpreted. What is my prescribed duty? Does it mean that once I am assigned a duty, or a vocation, I cannot change it? What if I grow out of it, and want to do something else?

These are some of the questions that even Karnā (from the Mahābhārata) faced. The son of a charioteer, he faced ridicule and social unacceptance when he wished to train in archery. All through this life, he struggled to prove that he could be the best archer the world had ever seen, but was killed by Arjuna in the epic battle. So was he right, and society wrong? 

Dharma is derived from the verb root dhṛi, which means to “hold, maintain or keep”. But it should also be ḍhāraṇ karane yogya, or “responsibilities, duties, thoughts, and actions that are appropriate.”

Swa means the self, and hence swadharma means the duties and responsibilities, thoughts and actions that are appropriate for us, keeping in mind the situation, maturity and profession in our livesDharma has to always be in accordance to Ṛta, or the natural order of things. The English word ‘right’, owes its origins to Ṛta. Which means, 

swadharma has to be seen in the right context, and not just taken as an unchangeable fact. 

I have studied to be an Engineer – in fact, passed out in the top 3 in my batch, with distinction. And I have not worked as an Engineer for a single day of my life. I found my calling as a consultant, something that interests me, and comes naturally to me. I may have turned out to be a great engineer, who knows, but that would not have come naturally to me. My mental state would have been in conflict, since I would not enjoy what I would be doing, in spite of doing it well. I may not be the best consultant there is, but my mind is aligned to my vocation, and that keeps me at peace. 

We are also tempted to try something else just because someone you know is more successful doing that. I did too – when I attempted becoming a CFA Charterholder in 2007. The finance field was booming, and CFAs were in high demand. It seemed to be an interesting subject, I would have been able to put my hard work into it and clear it as well, but somewhere along the way, I realised that I would not be truly happy. 

What is the use of clearing yet another exam, getting yet another degree, trying yet another field of work, maybe even being successful, if the mind doesn’t enjoy it?

Swadharma can change, with time, maturity and context of the situation. Bhishma thought that his dharma was loyalty to the throne, and hence he did not intervene when Draupadi was humiliated in public. This was not swadharma, since the situation demanded action, and hence Bhishma had to pay with his life, killed by his own grandson. 

So the next time you are faced with this question – what is my swadharma – you will have to take a step back and look at the situation, and what comes naturally to you, where your mind, body and capabilities are aligned, and more importantly, what is right for you..and then take a decision. 

It is not easy doing something that is unpopular, or that doesn’t pay as much as what others may get, but if it is in line with your capabilities and you feel that it is appropriate for you, then you cannot go wrong. 

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Not my quote, this is by Steve Jobs.


Two fishes and a frog

As the frog said, “the one with thousand tricks sat on the head of the fisherman, the one with hundred tricks is hanging by the fisherman’s arm and I with only one trick am happily swimming in the water.”

Two fish named Sahasrabuddhi and Satabuddhi made a lake their home. They had a frog as a friend whose name was Ekabuddhi. Every day, they used to meet on the bank of the lake and discuss everything under the sun and disperse at sunset. One day, they saw some fishermen equipped with nets and each carrying a basket full of fish came that way and saw the lake and noticed that it was full of good fish. They told themselves that they should come early the next morning and bait the fish.

The fish heard their conversation and were very worried. Then the frog asked Satabuddhi for advice.

“O Satabuddhi, you have heard what the fishermen were planning. Now tell us what we should do. Should we remain in the lake or go somewhere else.”

Sahasrabuddhi answered the question, “Don’t worry. You should not be scared by just words. 

The learned have said “The world is still safe because the dreams of snakes and wicked men never come true.” 

The fishermen may not even come tomorrow. If they come, I am here to save you.”

Satabuddhi said, “You are a genius. What you say is correct. There is nothing that accomplished men cannot conquer. Remember how Chanakya had killed all the armed Nandas.

“Where one cannot pierce sun and wind, the wits of a resourceful man enter.
One should not leave motherland, for, nothing is happier than one’s own land.”

Then, Ekabuddhi, the frog, said, “Friends, flight is the only thing I know. So, I and my wife will leave this place tonight itself.”

Accordingly, the frog left the lake immediately. Next day, the fishermen came and netted lot of fish, frogs, crabs, turtles etc. and also Satabuddhi and Sahasrabuddhi and killed all of them. 

One of them carried Sahasrabuddhi on his head because he was heavier and slung Satabuddhi to his arm because he was long.

Ekabuddhi showed this scene to his wife and said, “Didn’t I tell you what the fishermen will do? Now, see the plight of Satabuddhi and Sahasrabuddhi. The one with thousand tricks (Sahasrabuddhi) sat on the head of the fisherman, the one with hundred tricks (Satabuddhi) is hanging by the fisherman’s arm and I with only one trick am happily swimming in the water.”

The wise indeed say:
Wisdom is superior to knowledge

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Happy Janmashtami!

Krishna, Kishan, Madhav, Banke Bihari, Gopala, Kanhaiya, Ranchhod, Parthasarathy, Ishvara…the many names and the many facets of the personality of the most loved God in the Hindu pantheon – Sri Krishna. 

God is all-powerful, controls the Universe – fear God, they say – since He is looking at all your bad deeds and will punish you. Pray to God, else you will rot in hell. Be afraid. Don’t speak ill of Him, be in awe of Him. The fear of God has led many men to do many things – good and bad. The eternal fear of going to hell and being punished by God has kept millions in check – why take a chance of offending the great one? 

And then there is Krishna. 

The first thing that strikes you about Krishna is his name – the dark-coloured one. In a country currently obsessed with fairness, it is ironical that their most loved God is himself dark. But wait – why him, and not ‘Him’? And how can you call him by his name? Isn’t it supposed to be Sri Krishna? 

Well, Krishna means a lot of things to a lot of people. Some love him as Bal Gopal – the naughty kid who loves butter and steals it (maakhan-chor), the natkhat child who loves troubling his mother Yashoda…others love him as Kanhaiya who engages in Ras-Leela with the gopikas of Vrindavan, the eternal lover of Radha…yet some others revere him as Narayana – the supreme God who stood in the middle of the biggest armies and delivered the sermon of life – the Bhagvad Gita. They look up to him as their guide – Parthasarathy, their God Ishvara, the supreme Yogi Yogeshwara, the liberator Mukunda, the forgiver of sins Hari, and the Jagadguru – the Guru of all Gurus and of the world. 

You can love him, you can also scold him, you can cry with him, you can laugh with him, you can get angry with him, you can worship him…Krishna is your friend, your lover, your guide, your God, your child, your parent…Krishna is what you make of him, and he is always there for you – because he exists within you, as a part of you. 

With which other divine personality can you share such a wide range of emotions and feelings? Which other God can you love and adore and revere all at the same time?

In his younger avatar, he is almost every kid who loves to be naughty and playful, in his teen avatar he is the ultimate prankster, and in his adult avatar he is the Chakradhari – the one who has the power to end the Universe if he chooses to. Yet, he is also a Ranchhod – the one who runs away from the battlefield. Krishna is cunning and shrewd – he is not the straight arrow that Rama was, yet he is worshipped more than any other deity. 

And the reason is – that he is like me and you. He is divinity in human form, and he is the ultimate expression of the human form. He shows us that it is ok to be wrong, as long as you find the right way…why – he even gives you different ways to the destination, and he doesn’t let you get there alone. Krishna is there as a guide, as a friend, to help you along the way, saving you from the pitfalls and lifting you up when you fall. You have to walk on your own, you have to fight your own battles, he says. Yet he stays with you, starving when you starve, feasting when you feast, suffering when you suffer, and rejoicing when you rejoice. He does not give up on you, even when you give up on yourself. He doesn’t scold you, even when you make a hundred mistakes. 

What kind of God is this, who is so forgiving, so personal, so intimate?

And that is why you find yourself drawn to this personality – it starts slowly – after all, you are apprehensive – this is GOD we are speaking about. What if I say something wrong, or do something wrong? What if I don’t follow the right method to worship him? But then he says – even a leaf or a small flower that you offer to me, is the biggest gift I can get. That easy? You find yourself thinking. 

You start getting drawn into his world, you start to understand that divinity is not to be feared, but loved, and not just ordinary love – an all-encompassing, all-surrendering love – that others call bhakti. And you start to fall in deeper – so deep that you are no more in his world, nor he in yours...he BECOMES your world, and here is the beauty of it – you become his world too. 

And then you forget who you are – or who you thought you are – and realise that you are a part of him – a drop of the ocean that is him, inseparable and indiscreet. You realise that you don’t love him…HE IS LOVE. You realise that you have been searching for him your whole life, while he was waiting, eagerly yet patiently, with a soft smile on his face, flute in hand, playing a beautiful tune that you know is just for you….

Discover your Krishna, love him and worship him and surrender to him. He will stand by you, and help you to fight all your battles, not by picking up his sudarshan chakra, but by empowering you. Make mistakes, he will forgive you. Do good, and he will appreciate you. And when your time has come, he will also make you one with him. 

This is my Krishna, and today is his birthday. Happy Sri Krishna Janmashtami!

श्री कृष्ण जनमष्टमी की हार्दिक शुभकामनाएँ!

जय श्री कृष्ण!

Who am I?



न च व्योम भूमिर्न तेजो न वायुः

चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ।।

manOBuddhyahankAra cittAni nAham, na ca SrOtrajihvE na ca ghrANanEtrE | na ca vyOma bhoomirna tEjO na vAyu:, cidAnandaroopa: ShivOham ShivOham ||

Nirvana Śhatakam by Ādi Śańkara

I am not the mind, the intellect, the ego or the memory,
I am not the ears, the skin, the nose or the eyes,
I am not space, not earth, not fire, water or wind,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal consciousness…

If there is only one composition that you would wish to learn from your heart and mind – it is this.

It is said that when Ādi Śaṅkara was a young boy of eight and wandering near River Narmada, seeking to find his guru, he encountered the seer Govinda Bhagavatpada, who asked him, “Who are you?” The boy answered with these stanzas, which are known as “Nirvāṇa Shatkam” or Ātma Shatkam”. Swami Govindapada accepted Ādi Śaṅkara as his disciple.

There are compositions that one can give a commentary on, and there are others where you don’t need any guidance, or explanation.

The six verses of Nirvana Śhatakam explain the concept of Nirvāṇa – which means “to extinguish” or “to blow out”.

Extinguish what? Your outer self, the separation that we put in between us and everyone else, and everything else. Ādi Śańkara starts with the physical body, then the subtle body (na ca praNasamjnO na vaI pancavAyu:), then strips away emotions, likes and dislikes, even relationships, and then reveals the inner Self as our true nature.

Nirvana Śhatakam has helped me during tough times…times when I was searching for answers, when I was questioning the purpose of life, and the goodness (or lack thereof) of people around me. I listened to this daily, on my way to work (takes just 10 minutes), and it made a huge difference to my state of mind.

You may not find all the answers, but your questions will surely disappear.

Here is the rest of the composition, without the need for any explanation:)

The best time to do anything

यदपि स्यादसमये यातो वनमसाविति ।
अकालो नास्ति धर्मस्य जीविते चञ्चले सति ॥ 

yadapi syādasamaye yāto vanamasāviti |
akālo nāsti dharmasya jīvite cañcale sati

Buddhacarita 6.21, by Aśvaghoṣa

Though he might be said to have gone at a bad time to the forest, in dharma, in truth, no bad time exists – life being as fickle as it is.

The Buddhacarita (Saddharma-pundarika) by Aśvaghoṣa is a famous Sanskrit mahākāvya revolving around the live and exploits of the Buddha. In those days, the āśrama system of living was practiced, where the human lifespan was divided into 4 stages, each approximately 25 years (āśramas). Each āśrama focused on the development of some specific facets of the individual, and aiding fulfilment of his or her duties – Brahmacarya (learning), gṛhastha (household), vānaprastha(retirement) and sannyāsa (renunciation). Of these, the sannyāsa stage was mostly carried out in a forest, away from humanity. The vānaprastha stage was for preparation of going to the forest. 

On the surface, this śloka speaks about living life as per dharmā, or the right path, and that there is no good time to begin living this way, given the fragility of life. The latter half of this sentence holds special importance. Two months back, who could have thought that life would come to a near standstill, the whole world would be locked down, and we would be taking permissions to even step out of our homes? Who would have thought that going to the supermarket would be a task in itself, and that birthdays and anniversaries would be muted celebrations within our houses? Or that oil would trade below one dollar a barrel? Or that more than 180,000 people would be dead from a virus, with more than 40,000 dead in the most advanced country in the world?

Yes, life is fickle, and there is no better time than now to actually realise it. 

According to research done by Dr. Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University, people are really bad at predicting who they will be in the future (your future self). The reason is simple: it’s far easier to remember the past than to imagine the future.

According to Chris Bailey,

the more you see your “future self”as a stranger, the more likely you are to give your future self the same workload that you would give a stranger, and put things off to tomorrow.

It’s important to get in touch with your future self, by doing things like sending a letter to future you, creating a “future memory,” or even downloading an app that will show you what you look like in the future.

And so, with this realisation, we need to re-evaluate our lives, our priorities and ways of living. 

There is no better time, than NOW. If you want to change your life, there is no better time than NOW.

If you wanted to start to learn something, or to drop a habit, or to exercise, or to say I love you – there is no better time than NOW. Be kinder to your future self, realise that whatever you put off today – a healthier lifestyle, a sustained savings plan, a better way of living and thinking – will all affect YOU in the future. 

And as the next śloka aptly puts it:

तस्मादद्यैव मे श्रेयश्चेतव्यमिति निश्चयः ।
जीविते को हि विश्रम्भो मृत्यौ प्रत्यर्थिनि स्थिते 

tasmādadyaiva me śreyaścetavyamiti niścayaḥ |
jīvite ko hi viśrambho mṛtyau pratyarthini sthite || 

Buddhacarita 6.21, by Aśvaghoṣa

Therefore my determination is, ‘I must seek my supreme good this very day.’ For who can rely on lasting life while death stands by?

The discipline involved in learning…

आदौ नित्यानित्यवस्तुविवेकः परिगम्यते । 
शमादिषट्कसम्पत्तिर्मुमुक्षुत्वमिति स्फुटम् ॥ १९ ॥

ādau nityānityavastuvivekaḥ parigamyate | 
śamādiṣaṭkasampattirmumukṣutvamiti sphuṭam 

from Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, written by Jagadguru Adi Śaṅkarācārya

First is enumerated discrimination between the Real and the unreal; next comes aversion to the enjoyment of fruits (of one’s actions) here and hereafter; (next is) the group of six attributes; and (last) is clearly the yearning for Liberation.

Knowing the goal is important, but equally important is knowing the path to get there. Adi Shankara, in his Vivekachudamani (prakaraṇa grantha or teaching manual) has laid out the Sādhana-Catuṣṭaya (Sadhana Chatushtaya) -the four fold path of practice for seeking spiritual liberation. The four disciplines are vivekāvairāgyāshatsampat and mumukshutva. Today, I will look at some aspects of this śloka, in the context of learning and self-discipline, rather than spirituality. 

Students have to learn to discriminate between what is important and helpful in their educational pursuits, and onward career development, and reject the rest.

If your aim is to become an engineer, your mind should be focused on seeking everything that is essential towards fulfilling that goal. If you are training to be a classical dancer or a martial artist, your practice should be intense, and your mind should be tuned to recognising the right food, the right amount of rest, and the right knowledge that is essential to complement your practice.

Knowing the right from the wrong requires discrimination, and this is vivekā. The process of rejecting what is unnecessary, and what doesn’t contribute towards your progress towards the goal, is vairāgyā.

Shat-sampat loosely translates into six treasures. Every personality development workshop there is surely talks about these six attributes – śamaḥ,damaḥ,uparama,samādhāna,śraddhā and titikṣā

Śama – keeping calm under any circumstance. 

A large part of student life goes in experiencing pressure – the pressure of performance, the pressure of constant exams, the pressure of achieving campus placements and the pressure of landing a good job. Learning how to keep calm is essential – for only a calm mind can think clearly. Nothing is lost if you get less marks, or get a lower rank – you can still make it up, provided you keep your composure, learn from your mistakes, and work harder the next time around. 

Dama – The restraint of the sense organs. 

Śama is the inner restraint (of the mind), and dama is the external restraint. Our sense organs (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch) are the means through which we experience the world. Every product that is sold out there, be it movie, or a device, or food, or clothes – they all in some way engage our senses. This is also why we find it so difficult to control ourselves – we always more more of everything. 

Practising dama is critical for self-discipline. Yes, that Netflix series is enticing, everyone has been talking about it – but it may be more prudent to engage your senses in completing your studies for the upcoming exam. This is dama. 

Uparama – Upa is above, and rama – is enjoyment. Uparama is a consequence of śama and dama.

Where you go beyond fickle pleasures, and get prepared for a higher state of bliss. No matter how many movies you see, or how many ice-creams you eat (if you like ice-cream that is), there is no end to it. We always want more. 

न जातु काम: कामानामुपभोगेन शाम्यति ।
हविषा कृष्णवर्त्मेव भूय एवाभिवर्धते 

na jātu kāmaḥ kāmānām upabhogena śāṁyati
haviṣā kṛṣṇa-vartmeva bhūya evābhivardhate

Desire cannot be quenched by the fulfilment of desire. Desire increases by its fulfilment, as when clarified butter is poured over fire it increases the ferocity of the flame; it does not make it cease.

Yoga is an active process and requires pravṛtti , whereas Jnana nivṛtti requires the avoidance of any action. At Uparama, actions also come to a standstill, but attaining wisdom remains the focal point. Uparama occurs as soon as our senses and our minds stop getting distracted and start to truly concentrate on the goal. This is the state you achieve when you enjoy your studies, you immerse yourself in dance and you focus on BECOMING THE PUNCH, in martial arts. 

Titikṣā is perseverance, patience, tolerance. 

Everything cannot be the way you want it to be. What you can change – change it. What you cannot change – requires tolerance to bear it. Yoga is not about avoiding situations – it is about persevering through them. As a student, or at work, there are many circumstances that are adverse – you cannot control them. Titikṣā is the quality that helps you go through the situation, without suffering or complaining. As the saying goes 

“Give me the power to change what I can, the will to bear what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

Śraddhā is devotion.  śrat – our truth, and dhā – or hold (in the heart). Śraddhā is that deep truth that you hold in your heart – your truth – which may be different from mine and anyone else’s truth. It is what you truly believe in, regardless of your religious practices. Śhraddhā is also used to describe intense devotion – to your God, to your work, to anything that you work hard to attain. As a student, unless you are intensely devoted to your goal, you will not be able to learn. A degree you may achieve though strategic study yes, but knowing the subject and being the best that you can at it comes from śraddhā. There are black belts, and BLACK BELTS – being the latter requires śraddhā.

Samādhāna is intense concentration of the mind. Pure focus – of Arjuna holding the bow, aiming at the target – not the bird on the tree – but just seeing the eye. Learning any skill, or art, requires samādhana – being the best at work, and achieving the flow – also requires samādhanaMeditation helps in building samādhana, and is equally important to the student as it is to a spiritual seeker. 

Sama, dama, uparati, titiksha, sraddha, samadhana are the six virtues, the six treasures will help you become calm from the inside, and help you focus your efforts towards your goal. The icing on the cake – the final cog in the wheel, is mumukshutva – or intense longing to reach the goal. That is all what’s required, and it sounds so easy. It is. 

The only problem is – your desire to reach the goal should be intense enough. 

So intense that it is all you can think of, from the bottom of your heart, from every cell of your body, from every inch of your mind – what you truly desire with such intensity – is always fulfilled. If it isn’t, then you just didn’t want it enough:)

We are all worthy

अमन्त्रमक्षरं नास्ति नास्ति मूलमनौषधम् ।
अयोग्यः पुरुषो नास्ति योजकस्तत्र दुर्लभः ॥

amantramakṣaraṃ nāsti nāsti mūlamanauṣadham ।
ayogyaḥ puruṣo nāsti yojakastatra durlabhaḥ ॥


There is not a syllable which is not a mantra; there is not a root that is not a medicine. There is no person who is not able, but rare is the person who knows how to apply his true potential!

Sanskrit is a very advanced and highly systemised language – it is the only language in the world that is arranged by the principles of phonetics. According to Paramahansa Yogananda, God Talks With Arjuna, The Bhagavad Gita, “In a highly simplified description, it may be said that the fifty letters or sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet are on the petals of the sahasrara, and that each alphabetical vibration in turn is connected with a specific petal on the lotuses in the spinal centers (which have a total of fifty corresponding petals…)“Petals” mean ray or vibrations. These vibrations, … are responsible for various psychological and physiological activities in the physical and astral bodies of man.”

Each letter of Sanskrit can be treated as a mantra, if recited in the right manner – with your breath, mind and body in unison. 

But today’s śloka doesn’t limit itself to Sanskrit. Speech is a powerful tool – it defines who we are, and it can also cause manifestations of your thoughts. Science has proved that matter is energy, a series of vibrations, and conversely, a series of vibrations can define matter. Speech is a series of vibrations, and hence we have to be very mindful of what we say. 

amantramakṣaraṃ nāsti – there is no letter that you say, that can not have a powerful effect – all you need is the proper pronunciation. Which also means that there are no useless syllables, or letters. 

nāsti mūlamanauṣadham – there is no plant or food without medicinal value – all we need is the knowledge of Āyurvedā to decipher it. Ancient scriptures found medicinal properties in most herbs, roots and plants –

the humble turmeric that we use so frequently in Indian cooking has only recently been ‘found’ to be a super medicine 

(and hence the turmeric lattes at Starbucks). 

ayogyaḥ puruṣo nāsti – This is a very powerful phrase – there is no one who is without potential, no one who can be called useless. Brain science has demonstrated that at a subconscious level, we have more stored information than we ever thought before. The basal ganglia, or ancient part of our brains, store our experiences and the feelings associated with them, without us even knowing it. This is what kicks in when we have a ‘gut feeling’, or ‘instinct’. 

When we are such a treasure trove of information, without even consciously working on it, imagine the potential we all have when we combine this with conscious effort. 

yojakastatra durlabhaḥ – This is an equally powerful line. It is tough to find a person who can recognise and tap this potential. The potential within oneself, or also the potential within others.

To tap one’s own potential, one has to use introspection – without bias, without thinking of what you want to become – and by focusing on what you can become by applying your knowledge, experience and most importantly, interest. śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt– It is far better to perform one’s natural prescribed duty, though tinged with faults, than to perform another’s prescribed duty, though perfectly. 

To tap the potential within others – this needs a Guru. For only a Guru can dispel the darkness (Gu) of ignorance and take you towards the light (Ru).

Only a Guru can bring out your best abilities, your best potential. And yes, it is rare to find a person who can truly introspect, and even rarer to find a true Guru. 

Meditate on this śloka whenever you feel low, or think that you are worthless. The smallest parts of existence, every cell in your body, has a function, and is important for you to live a healthy life. Everything in this Universe has a reason for being, and we as humans have been given far more capabilities – we need to recognise them, harness our potential, and work towards a better life, a better society, and a better future.

And what do we take with us?

नामुत्र हि सहायार्थं पिता माता च तिष्ठतः । 
न पुत्रदारं न ज्ञातिर्धर्मस्तिष्ठति केवलः ॥ २३९ ॥

nāmutra hi sahāyārthaṃ pitā mātā ca tiṣṭhataḥ | 
na putradāraṃ na jñātirdharmastiṣṭhati kevalaḥ || 239 ||

Manusmriti 4.239

The Manu Smriti tells us: namutra hi sahayartham pita mata ca tisthatah. na putradarah na jnatih dharmas tisthati kevalah. “When you depart from this world, your father will not come with you, your mother will not come with you, your brother will not come, your sister will not come, your husband will not come, your wife will not come, your children will not come, your money will not come, and even your body will not come with you.” 

Then what will come with you? The verse mentions that your spiritual merit alone accompanies you. 

Everything else remains here – life goes on, the assets that we accumulate pass on to the next generation, or wither away. How many of us can recall (or even know) the names of our great-great grandparents, and their parents? Even our names will be forgotten within 2-3 generations, and that is the truth. 

How we live everyday counts – not towards any credit that we can cash out on when we depart, but towards our growth now.

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