New Beginnings?

And so it has been announced. a 21-day lockdown. Unprecedented in India, and anywhere else in the world. Reactions have varied, from support for the move, to criticism, to despair. After all, we are a generation that has largely seen growth and prosperity for most of our lives. 

We have’t met a challenge of such enormous proportions yet. It is natural to fear the unknown…

Today is Ugādi — the first day of Chaitrā māsā, or the beginning of the new year. Largely celebrated in South India (where I am from), Maharashtra (as Gudi Padwa), Sindh (as Cheti Chand), and Manipur (as Sajibu Nongma Pānba). It is also the start of Navaratri. 

Unlike New Year’s day as per the Gregorian calendar, the start of a new year in Indian calendars is largely marked by ritualistic celebration — early morning bath, followed by prayers and visit to the nearby temple. Celebration is characterised by new clothes, sweets and social gathering.

Ugādi is a derivative of yuga-ādi, which means the dawn of a new age. So, in a way, the festival celebrates new beginnings. 

And today is the first day of a 21-day lockdown. Do we despair…or is there an opportunity lurking in the shadows?


The Lotus principle

It is a well known fact that no growth, be it personal, professional, domestic or spiritual, can take place without a “peaceful mind-set”.  A peaceful mind-set is directly related to our behaviour and attitude.  Unfortunately, not many people bother to check and control them.
Lotus principle** Do not interfere in other people’s matter / business.  We usually offer unsolicited advice, irrespective whether our advice is welcomed or whether we are even qualified to offer advice on an issue.  This is often annoying to others.  It does not end there, as we also tend to monitor the implementation of our advice, embarrassing people and brewing negativity against ourselves.
** Do not crave recognition.  This creates an expectation from others and the rule of expectation is that it never gets fulfilled.  So, in the end, we are dejected.
** Do not be jealous of others.  Most people are not happy with what they have and keep craving for more.  The focus is always on what they do not have.  So, they tend to be jealous of other people who appear to be better off.  The cause for jealousy could be anything from looks to intellect, name, fame, riches, house, car, prosperity and position.  We should consciously make an effort to be happy with what we have .  We must realise that what we get in life depends on our individual karma.  We must accept everything that we have as gifts from God and know that He is the best judge in these matters.
Lotus principle** Grasp the best and leave the rest.  All around us, we have a duality of people, things and situations.   The duality is “good” and “bad”.  Generally, our focus is on the bad aspects of people, situations and things, hence we land up grasping only the “bad”.  If we start grasping only the “good” from our surroundings, we would be the happiest people around.  One particular example that often finds mention in spiritual literature is that of the “lotus”  —– how it blooms amidst all the dirt around.  It is aware of all the dirt around it, yet it just absorbs whatever it needs to from the dirt for its own growth.  Similarly, we are surrounded by all kinds of people, but it is entirely up to us to absorb the good for our own growth without constantly trying to change our circumstances.
Pointing out flaws repeatedly acts as negative affirmation in the other person’s mind and instead of changing for the better, the other person feels dejected.  Another outcome of repeated fault-finding could be strained relations and friction.  The other person will avoid our company rather than listen to constant criticism.
——– Sadguru Rameshji.  

Silent dialogue

Prayer is an experience of resurrection, a rebirth, the birth of a new vision, new dimension, new way of looking at things and a new way of being.  Prayer is not something that you do : PRAYER IS SOMETHING THAT YOU BECOME.  It is a state of being.  It has nothing to do with words that you utter in the temples, mosques and churches.  It is a SILENT DIALOGUE WITH EXISTENCE.  It is to be in tune with the total, with the whole.
And prayer is such a vast experience that it contains contradiction.  So, one can say : PRAYER IS SILENCE —— and he is absolutely right.  And another can say : PRAYER IS DIALOGUE —— and he is right too, because PRAYER IS A DIALOGUE IN SILENCE.  Now DIALOGUE and SILENCE seem to be contradictory.  In DIALOGUE you SPEAK, in SILENCE you HEAR.  In DIALOGUE you COMMUNICATE, in SILENCE you ARE SIMPLY THERE —— there is nothing to say.


What can be said to “existence” ?  He knows all that you can say in the first place.  you can bow down, celebrate.  But still your bowing down, celebration, festivity, thankfulness, gratitude —— they are still ways of speaking.  You are trying to say something without words, because words are very small and the heart really wants to say something.

So, it is “dialogue”, although “silent”.  It is a communication in a sense, because you are there and the whole existence becomes your beloved, the whole existence becomes a “thou”.  And yet there is no “I” and there is no “thou”  ———– BOTH DISAPPEAR.  Both meet and merge into one unity, one organic whole.  Just as the dewdrop disappears in the ocean, you disappear.  There is no separation between you and existence, so how can there be a dialogue ?
Science gives definitions, Religion cannot.  You ask, “What is water ?” and it says “H2O”  Prayer is subjective.  It is not an object that can be analysed.  You cannot show your prayer to anybody.  When prayer exists, it is not that prayer exists in you ———- on the contrary, YOU EXIST IN PRAYER.  You vibrate in that enormous dimension; that plenitude.
Prayer is a feeling of immense gratitude and thankfulness.  You are in this beautiful world, with these trees and rivers, mountains and stars, and you are pulsating, you are alive.  You have not earned this opportunity—– IT IS A GIFT.  Prayer is thank fullness for this gift of life.  Just to breathe is such a joy, just to open your eyes and see the greenery.  Just to listen to the chirping of birds, or the sound of running water or the silence of the night, or the dawn and sun rising ………. We have not earned all this.  They have been given to us, and we are not even thankful.
Prayer is a way of living, it is not something that you do early in the morning like a ritual.  If it is a ritual, it is meaningless.  A man of prayer remains in prayer 24 HOURS A DAY.  Prayer is deep down at the core of one’s being.
Man has lost many capacities, and one of the most important has been the capacity to pray ——- because it is only through prayer that we make a bridge between our tine self and the Infinite and the Absolute.
—- Abridged from THE PERFECT MASTER, courtesy : Osho International Foundation,  (Speaking Tree).

A very happy New Year!

A New Year (2016) has begun.  Everyone receives text messages or email wishes for a Happy New Year.  There should be something new in our lives besides the date on the calendar.
Does it bring any external or internal change ?  Internal change is the change in our viewpoint.  If our vision of life does not improve, we keep living the way we always did.
Happy New Year 2016For a happy life, it is necessary to have good health, so we must ensure that we keep our body healthy. The next requirement is that of wealth.  We must have enough wealth, both in our homes and to help those in need.  The next requirement is a discriminating intellect, which helps us to distinguish right from wrong, and it also inspires us to hold on to the right path.  Goodness, purity of emotion and feeling and truthfulness of heart are the qualities that lead to true happiness.
Let us start this year on a happy note and prepare ourselves for all that the year holds in store for us.  Let us accept all the blessings with a grateful heart, and let us try and spread happiness all around.  A VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO ALL.

Year-end rituals

Each year’s regrets are envelopes in which messages of hope are found for the NEW YEAR. ——— John R. Dallas Jr.
Take a radical reboot to get past this year’s bad memories and negative experiences, and thus free you soul.  Yearends can be the perfect time for emotional makeovers.  Wrap up your emotions —— give yourself some sort of closure as 2015 comes to an end.  It is easier said than done, but be sure to not take the emotional baggage into 2016.

letting go

Renowned German psychologist Carsten Wrosch and professor of psychology at the University of Columbia, Gregory Miller, stressed the importance of learning to ‘let go’.  Wrosch said, “Bitterness can be triggered by events that are associated with feelings of unfairness, which make people feel like the victim”.  Latching on to this feeling for too long is hazardous to the mind and body.  This, creating ‘year-end rituals’, both ‘celebratory’ and ’empowering’, becomes a necessity.

Wrap it up, de-clutter your emotions, release the bondage which perpetuates negative emotions, and release the clouds of negative attachment, and practise the art of forgiveness, and thus we can bring happiness to others and ourselves.
Japanese New YearClosure is a personal process.  So, how does one go about wrapping memories and emotions that refuse to leave us ?  Psychologist Sonali Gupta feels that the first step is to accept that we don’t have control over some things.  Next, pen down your experiences or channelize grief into an art form like poetry, dance or painting.  Be thankful for every moment, and this exercise of gratitude allows us to continuously seek and appreciate positive experiences as compared to holding on to the negative moments.  Lastly, do not forget to exhale to release the tension.
Italians throw out old things out of their windows every New Year’s Eve.  On December 31st, people walking the streets actually have to look out for falling objects.  In Ecuador, people make dummies, stuffed with straw, to represent events of the past year.  These ANO VIEJO or “effigies”are burned at midnight, symbolically getting rid of the past.  In Spain, people put 12 grapes into their wine at midnight.  The grapes represent the months of the year ahead.  At the stroke of midnight, after raising a toast, people eat the grapes as quickly as possible, making a wish on each one.  In Japan, OSOJI or “end of year cleaning and purification” in offices and homes is quite common.  This ritual welcomes the TOSHIGAMI-SAMA (God of the New Year).

Silent night

The true celebration of CHRISTMAS is an invitation to “inner silence”, where we learn to live with opposites.
A Jewish Rabbi, teaching the Talmud to a group of students, asked them what they saw on the page.  All said that they saw the “words ” on it.  None of them had noticed the “white spaces that separated the words”.  Were it not for these spaces, the words would become unintelligible.  What is more, he pointed out, these spaces formed the background and the context I which what was written could be understood.
Christmas paintingGod has been described as a sphere whose circumference is everywhere, but whose centre is nowhere.  We are enfolded by the Spirit and it is the context in which we live our daily lives.  Most of the time, however, our activities are so closely juxtaposed, that like words not separated by spaces in between them, they seem meaningless.  Our proximity to one another as we jostle for space in public transport systems only ends up as our being a juxtaposition of solitudes.
Social networking affords us the opportunity not only to be more connected to others, but more disconnected from the core of our being.  For those who still, somehow, manage to make the time, the spiritual becomes an ‘add-on’ that often fails to load since the basic operating system is out of sync and out of date.
The “spiritual” is embedded in our collective subconscious.  The Christmas story is about our being awakened to its presence, like Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi, who are characterised by their state of wakefulness.
Individuals have always been conscious of the presence of the Divine.  The history of religions reveals that there has been a progressive deepening in the understanding of God’s presence.  It has evolved from God’s presence in nature, controlling its various elements and reflecting his glory in creation to a localised presence in temples of worship.  The celebration of Christmas draws our attention to the fact that God is not only with us but also within us.  We do not have to ‘go into his presence’.  The outward journey to places of worship and pilgrimages to holy place are meant to direct us to the journey inwards where we experience his real presence with us.  It becomes the source, meaning and purpose of everything we say, everything we do.  God is the context in which we live our lives.  The written word begins its existence only when it is placed on a page.  It owes its being to the space that surrounds it.
Creation is the revelation of God’s silence —— the space between the words ——- in which his presence is felt and experienced.  The poet Kabir laughed when he was told that the fish in the ocean were thirsty.  We often thirst for God’s presence, unaware that we are surrounded by it.
Contrary to what we might expect, the true celebration of Christmas is an invitation  to inner silence.  It is a silence in which we recognise our connectedness by being enfolded within it.  The journey into the world of silence is a journey that takes us back from the world of dissipation into wholeness.
By its very nature silence cannot be exploited.  The power of silence is its ability to mediate the irreconcilable.  In the realm of silence, irreconcilable differences can co-exist without tension, because silence is non-judgemental, and differences travel toward one another with no need to swallow or disintegrate or demolish each other.  Silence frees us from the expectation that we can understand and resolve the myriad irreconcilable elements of existence.  Journeying into the ‘womb of silence” in meditation, we discover the capacity for co-existence : we learn to live with opposites.
May the silence of that first Christmas night be the harbinger of peace on earth to all people of goodwill.
————– CHRISTOPHER MENDONCA (Speaking Tree)

Great truths

Toys and trinkets are ‘easily won’, but the greatest things are ‘greatly bought’.  The top-most place of power is always bought with blood.  You may have the pinnacles, if you have enough blood to pay.  That is the conquest condition of the heights everywhere.  The  chief values in life and character are not blown across our way by vagrant winds.  Great souls have great sorrows.


Great Truths are dearly bought, the common truths,
Such as men give and take from day to day
Come in the common walk of easy life
Blown by the careless wind across our way.
Great truths are greatly won, not found by chance,
Nor wafted on the breath of summer dream,
But grasped in the great struggle of the soul,
Hard buffeting with adverse wind and stream.
But in the day of conflict, fear and grief
When the strong hand of God, put forth in might,
Rakes up the subsoil of the stagnant heart,
And brings the imprisoned truth seed to the light.
Wrung from the troubled spirit, in hard hours
Of weakness, solitude, perchance of pain,
Truth springs like harvest from the well-raked field,
And the soul feels it has not wept in vain.
The capacity for knowing God enlarges, as we are brought by Him into circumstances which oblige us to exercise faith ; so, when difficulties beset our path let us thank God that He is taking trouble with us, and LEAN HARD UPON HIM.
“On all bare heights shall be their pasture” (Isa. 49:9, R. V.)

My pilot knows

When you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to God and ask Him to shut against you every door but the right one.

Meanwhile keep on as you are, and consider the absence of indication to be the indication of God’s will that you are on His track ………. As you go down the long corridor, you will find that He has “preceded” you, and locked many doors which you would fain have entered, but, be sure that beyond these there is one which He has “left unlocked”.  Open it and enter, and you will find yourself face to face with a bend of a river of opportunity, broader and deeper than anything you had dared to imagine in your wildest dreams.

God guides us, often by circumstances.  At one moment the way may seem utterly blocked, and then, shortly afterward, some trivial incident occurs, which might not seem much to others, but which to the keen eye of faith speaks volumes.  Sometimes, these thins are repeated in various ways, in answer to prayer.
They are not haphazard results of chance, but the opening up of circumstances in the direction in which we would walk.  And, they begin to multiply as we advance toward our goal, just as the lights do as we near a populous town, when darting through the land by night express.
If you go to Him to be guided, He will guide you, but He will not comfort your distrust or half-trust of Him by showing you the chart of all His purposes concerning you.  He will show you only into a way where, if you go cheerfully and trustfully forward, He will show you on still farther.

stormy weather ship

As moves my fragile bark across the storm-swept sea
Great waves beat o’er her side, as north wind blows
Deep in the darkness hid lie threatening rocks and shoals
But all of these, and more, MY PILOT KNOWS.
Sometimes when dark the night, and every light gone out
I wonder to what port my frail ship goes
Still though the night be long, and restless all my hours
My distant goal, I’m sure, MY PILOT KNOWS.

Anger is not your enemy

“Don’t try to destroy your anger, transform it into constructive energy,” says THICH NHAT HANH. 
To sit is not enough.  We have ‘to be’ at the same time.  To be what ?  To be is to be a something, you cannot be a nothing.  To eat, you have to eat something, you just cannot nothing.  To be aware is to be aware of something.  To be angry is to be angry at something.  So, to be is to be something, and that something is what is going on : in your body, in your mind, in your feelings and in the world.
THICH NHAT HANHWhile sitting, you sit and you are.  You are what ?  You are the breathing.  It is like a television set of 1 million channels.  When you turn the breathing on, you are the breathing.  When you turn the irritation on, you are the irritation.  You are one with it.  Irritation and breathing are not things outside of you.  You contemplate them in them, because you are one with them.
If I have a feeling of anger, how would I meditate on that ?  How would I deal with it ?  I have to deal with my anger, with love and tenderness, with non-violence.  In Buddhism, we do not consider anger, hate, greed as enemies we have to fight, to destroy, to annihilate.  If we annihilate anger, we annihilate ourselves.  If we deal with anger in that way, we would be like transforming ourselves into a battlefield, tearing ourselves into parts, one part taking the side of Buddha and the other part taking the side of Mara.  If you cannot be compassionate to yourself, you will not be able to be compassionate to others.  When we get angry, we have to produce awareness.
THICH NHAT HANH imageIn the case of a minor irritation, the recognition of the presence of the irritation, along with a smile and a few breaths will usually be enough to transform the irritation into something more positive, like forgiveness, understanding and love. Irritation is a destructive energy.  We cannot destroy the energy, we can only convert it into a more constructive energy.  Forgiveness is a constructive energy.  Understanding is a constructive energy.  Suppose you are in a desert, and you only have one glass of muddy water.  You have to transform the muddy water into clear water to drink, you cannot just throw it away.  So you let it settle for a while, and clear water will appear.  In the same way, we to convert anger into some kind of energy that is more constructive, because anger is you.  Without anger, you have nothing left.  That is the work of meditation.
Here is an example : A big brother gets angry at his little sister at first, and later finds that se has a fever and he becomes concerned, and he tries to help her.  So the destructive energy of anger is transformed into the energy of love.  Meditation on your anger is first of all to produce awareness of anger, I AM THE ANGER, and then to look deeply into the nature of anger.  Anger is born from ignorance, and is a strong ally of ignorance.

Design your life

Just start by believing that the obstacle in the path to your life goals can be overcome.  Designing life is about acquiring  a certain skill set that motivates you towards your life goals.  As the late Steve Jobs, had famously said, “Design is a funny word.  Some people think design means how it “looks”.  But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it “works”.  Essentially, it means there’s a lot that you can design about your life.  Whether you are in your 20s, 40s, 60s or 80s —— you can empower yourself to make life changes.
design your lifeIn fact, these days, there’s an entire industry to help you design your life.  You could hire a life coach, join a ‘design your life’ boot-camp or enrol in MIT or Stanford’s ‘Designing Your Life’ course for “bold immediate action”.  ‘Designing Your Life’ teach that passion isn’t an inherent trait, it can be developed.  They believe that instead of thinking you’ll start something when you get to so-and-so point, you can start right now.  And most importantly, no problem can be solved if you think there isn’t any problem.  Be truthful, accept and challenge your fears head on.  It is in this crucial area that most people falter.
Professor David Mindell asks his MIT students to pick an area of life they have difficulty in designing, and start working on it.  “If your desire is to ‘run’ —— go running every week at least three times.  Once you have mastered one challenge, set another”, he says.  Sarod player Amaan Ali Khan says, ” The formula is simple.  Learn to take up challenges, develop personal integrity by keeping the promise and don’t fall into the ‘excuses trap’.  That can be fatal.”
Corporate guru Azim Jamal says,” Your vision is derived from your life purpose.  It is essential to apply a sense of balance in life.  The big stumbling blocks to your life plan can be inconsistency, lack of self-discipline and bad habits.”
For designer Puja Nayyar, designing clothes and designing life require the same skill set.  Be focussed, don’t be confused and you may actually get more than what you desire.  A formatted life can lead to more happiness.
So, how do you make big and small changes in your life plan ?  “We need to ‘doubt our doubts’, live our life with trust and faith.  Don’t be a victim to your self-developed belief system.  Break out of it.  That’s how you can be the designer of your life”, says life coach Warren Stagg.
Without your soul and heart, making a life blueprint will be just another project —– to make it really work, make a diary of your progress.  Says Mana, soul coach,” Life is something new each day.  Allow yourself to receive.  We receive when we hold expansive beliefs, such as, ‘I am improving every day in every way’.  Heart without action is a daydream ; Action without heart is a nightmare”.