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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Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga, or अष्टाङ्ग (Ashtanga Yoga), is an 8-fold path followed as a discipline in Yoga. Ashta is eight, and anga means limbs.

The eight limbs of yoga are: yamaniyamaāsanaprānāyāma, pratyāharā, dhāranā, dhyāna, and samādhi.

Yama and niyama are codes of ethical behaviour and restraint. Yama is ethical behaviour, and niyama is the self-discipline that follows our ethical behaviour. For example, to practice ahimsā, or non-violence (yama), one has to practice santoshā, or contentment. The desire to harm usually comes from discontent, doesn’t it? Without going into too much detail at present, let me just say that as good conduct and restraint are the foundations of any moral society, the practice of yamas and niyamas gives a foundation to the journey of yoga.

Āsanā is the third limb of yoga, one that is the ‘most popular’ and has off late become the face of yoga practice. While āsanās are important, over-reliance on postures without understanding (or working towards) the larger goal merely reduces this powerful practice to a sequence of twists and stretches.

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Nature

Why is it that we think of a retreat, of going away from it all, we always tend to go closer to nature?

I am fortunate enough to live in a community that is very close to nature. We have low-rise buildings, larger terraces, trees all over and abundant green spaces. I wake up with the chirping of the birds, and this continues all through the day, until they retire at sunset. A couple of bowls of fresh water, a few pieces of tomato and a smile in the heart is all it takes to connect with these birds. They have nested many times, and I’ve been privileged to see more than a dozen eggs hatch, and young ones being fed by their parents…

We are all extensions of nature – hence the term ‘Mother Nature’. We are born from nature, we live by nature, and when we are gone, we become part of nature again.

This cosmic bonding with nature is why we feel so calm and composed when we are surrounded by nature in it’s abundance. Take a walk in the morning sun, feel the green grass under your bare feet, run your fingers through the flowing water of a stream, hear the sounds of birds and crickets – being in nature, and with nature, is the antidote to any level of stress that you may experience. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.

I just heard about the art of Shinrin-Yoku, or the Japanese art of forest bathing. Shinrin means forest, and yoku means bath.

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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?

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Love in the times of a curfew

I witnessed something amazing today – a billion people came together to celebrate humanity. 

Janta Curfew – how does that work?

A clarion call by the Prime Minister – rather, a request to all Indians to observe a self-imposed curfew today, and another request as well – to stand at balconies, terraces, doors and windows at 5 pm – and celebrate our healthcare and sanitation professionals for 5 minutes. Celebrate them, since they are at the forefront of the fight against Corona. 

And boy, did we observe the curfew. Roads in India were deserted the whole day, shops were closed, people were indoors. And what happened at 5 pm?

Do see for yourself.

7-day Sādhanā challenge – Day 1

Photo by Moodywalk on Unsplash

Being at home for an extended period of time usually gets us into vacation mode. This time, it’s different. Circumstances are not pleasant, and the immediate future doesn’t look very bright. Being self-quarantined means less or no access to some of the basics that form our routine – the neighbourhood gym, your favourite coffee hangout, and the biggest of all – your workplace. 

While we may have experimented with working from home before, this time around, it isn’t business as usual. We feel that our lives have been disrupted, we may be struggling to get our short-term routines right. 

Is this a crisis? Yes. Is this an opportunity – yes too. Depends on how you adapt to it.

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A prayer for humanity

Group Sadhana for 11 days – Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, 108 times – for the country, for humanity. 

From home, but not alone. We all can – collectively, harmoniously, pray to nature, recognising our true place in the scheme of things. We are just a fleeting glimpse in the unending vista of images – let us be part of nature and not against it. 

ॐ द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः 
पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः ।
वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः 
सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥