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?
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?
Pushing hard against a brick wall doesn’t help – walk around and you may just find that door.
Re-evaluation does not stop just with work. Relook at all aspects of your life. Are you happy living the way you are? What would you change, if given the chance? Use these times to search for methods in which you can alter your life in a way that you are better at the end of it. You may not be able to start on a new path right away, but you can at least recognise the way ahead, and lay the groundwork.
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This is not the best of times, for sure. The year hasn’t started very well (understatement), and the past two months have brought mostly bad news. First the virus, now the stock market crash, and uncertainty all around. The after-effects of travel bans across many countries will reverberate for many months, possibly even years. Businesses may struggle, jobs may be lost, and we are staring at a possible recession. In these times, how does one stay positive?
Here are a few thoughts penned down, in no particular order. Consider them to be musings of a fellow traveler, in the journey called life.
The very fact that you are alive and breathing, is a cause to celebrate, isn’t it?
The mesmerising moments captured at Pandharpur Wari, the annual pilgrimage to the town of Padharpur, which is the seat of Lord Vithoba in the Indian state of Maharashtra, in honour of the deity. Palakhis (palanquin processions) carrying the paduka (foot prints) of the deity and various saints, most notably Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram from the Varkari sect, are taken from their respective shrines to Pandharpur. Varkari or Warkari is a Marathi term which means “one who performs the Wari” or “one who venerates the Vithoba”. The tradition is more than 700 to 800 years old.
Belief is a strong emotion in itself. It can move mountains. Believe in yourself, and celebrate life. The world will begin to look like a much brighter place.
“Why have you followed the spiritual path for your whole life ?” There are many answers to this question, but a big one is, “It brings me freedom”. Freedom to change negative patterns that have kept me in their clutches, freedom to respond with calmness and kindness even when others are angry or challenging, freedom to enjoy whatever life brings.
Swami Kriyananda says, ” When you see a fault within yourself, don’t despair, but rejoice. It has been there all along, but now that you have seen it, you can start working to change it.” What are some spiritual tools that help us to break free of our Karmic patterns ? Karma is simply energy generated by past thoughts or actions that we have steered in a certain direction.
With conscious awareness and determination, replace a negative pattern with a positive one. Use affirmations repeatedly with deep concentration to change chronic patterns of thinking. Be patient. The deeper the Karma, the longer the time required to change it. Don’t constantly dig up the spiritual seeds you are sowing to see if they have taken root. Let them grow in their own time to become mighty plants.
Bring the problem to God in meditation and prayer. Our sincere efforts and desire to be free draw the grace that brings release. We have to do our little part, and then God steps in and unties the knots of Karma that have kept us bound.
A person who meditates sincerely generates tremendous energy within and around him. Existence blesses him with healing powers that are also felt by others. The same could happen to a devotee whose prayers originate from his heart and is not a mechanical ritual taught by priests. Authenticity is needed in both the cases. The healing with the meditator or the devotee is not something of his own, but a blessing from the divine or God’s grace. When the flower blooms it has the fragrance that spreads around.
The flower does not go into an ego trip. In one of his discourses on THE HIDDEN SPLENDOUR, Osho makes this point with a Sufi story : A Sufi mystic was so full of love and joy —- his life was filled with laughter, music and dancing. So God became very interested in because he never asked for anything, he never prayed. He never went to the mosque, he never even uttered the name of God.
God became intrigued with the mystic and came to the Sufi and said, “I am immensely happy because that is how I want people to be. I don’t want them to pray for an hour and do the opposite in the remaining 23 hours. I don’t want them to become pious once they enter the mosque, and when they go back, they leave their piety in the mosque and are just their own selves : angry, jealous, full of anxiety and violence. I have watched you and I have loved you. That is why you have become the prayer. You are, right now, my only argument in the world that something more than man exists —– although you have never argued, you have not even uttered my name, but you live, you love, you are so full of joy that there is no need for any language, your very presence becomes the argument for my existence. I want to give you a blessing. You can ask for anything.”
The Sufi said, “But I don’t need anything. Forgive me, I cannot ask, because I really don’t need anything. You are generous, you are loving, you are compassionate, but I am so full, there is no space within me for anything else.” God said, “I knew you would not ask for anything. Don’t ask for yourself, but you can ask for others, because there are millions of people who are miserable and sick, and have never known anything for which they can be grateful. I can give you powers to do miracles, and you can change the lives of all these people.”
The Sufi said, “If you insist, then I can accept your gift under one condition.” God said, “Condition ? You are really strange. What is the condition ?” The Sufi said, ” My condition is that I should not become aware of what is happening through me, by you. It should happen behind my back. It should happen through my shadow. I may be passing and my shadow may fall on a dead tree, and the tree may become alive again, but I should not know it, because I don’t want to fall back. If I know it —– that I have done it, or even that God has chosen me as the instrument to do it —– it is dangerous. So my condition is : a blind man might start seeing, but neither should he know that it is because of me, nor should I know that it is because of me. My shadow behind my back will do all the miracles.”
And it is said that God said to him, ” You are not only strange, you are unique and rare. And this will be so : You will never know what things are happening around you. Miracles will happen. And I will remember your condition.”
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.