Essence:  Still Eluding the Enquirer

Essence: Still Eluding the Enquirer

I wrote in my last article about how the Irish squander their hard-earned grace and inner connection, the essence, without a second thought, within five days. Not to criticise or be caustic about them; it’s just that I am living here amidst them, and their ways and celebrations are all new to me.

This phenomenal, negligent behaviour is not just specific to the Irish though. It is the ubiquitous human nature. It transgresses religions, geographic boundaries and cultures. It percolates into our very innate nature.

The wise men of yore, of every religion, gave us guidelines or directives to help us lead a life keeping the connection with the creator alive and strong. Vedas, which are known to have have come down to us as instructions ‘Shruti’; and are our oldest known scriptures, even before Hinduism, got its suffix of -ism and became a religion. They have given us a set of instructions on the ideal way to live and staying connected to the source. The etymology of the word Veda is: Vid- to see, or to know. What is there to see or to know is our next question. Once we read the Vedas, we realise that they are based on 3 founding principles; Sambandh: to know our relationship with God (the source or the creator), Abhideya: to revive our relationship with God, and Prayojana: to establish oneself in this relationship. These scriptures had a very definite goal for the readers: to know, see and maintain this relationship with the Essence or the creator. Acknowledge and experience that we are all a part of this ever-pervasive essence.

Christianity has the Ten Commandments, which, as we are all aware, are a set of biblical principles related to ethics and worship. They play a pivotal role in both Judaism and Christianity. The essence of these teaching is again the same. Worship the Lord. Honour your parents. Stay away from blasphemy, theft, dishonesty and other similar practices. It emphasises that we keep the Sabbath and keep it holy. After six days of work we asked to remember that the seventh day is exclusively for the Lord, in His remembrance. That is why we attend the church and offer our prayers, our way of re-establishing the connection with the creator, of communicating with the lord.

The five pillars of Islam, the core religious practices, are also in the same vein. They are declarations of faith, prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage. They unconditionally believe that ‘Allah is the only one worthy of Worship’. The way to connect with Allah is to offer prayers and gather spiritual strength and peace of mind. And, this is done five times a day, very assiduously. They recognise that wealth is a blessing from God, and it is their duty to spread it by giving it to the needy and poor, not hoard it. Ramadan is one month of fasting, a time spent in intense spiritual devotion. Lastly, in their lifetime, every Muslim strives to go on the Haj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

Every religion has this common denominator. Live a life in constant remembrance. Do everything with awareness of the divine presence in the sub-conscious. Till the conscious mind does not learn to work with the sub-conscious mind we are likely to fumble, go off track, get engrossed in this myriad of illusory enchantments offered on a platter in our daily life. Pick any religion, we see the same advice or words of caution ingrained in the scriptures. The seers knew how forgetful we are. They had zero faith in our earnestness to pursue the true goal or to be able to retain the connection with our creator. I sincerely apologize for singling out the Irish in my last article, because the issue is all pervading.

Today, we have distanced ourselves from these places of worship. We used to go every day, then once a week, and it has trickled down to these big celebratory gathers, like Christmas and Easter. Hindus, even with their countless festivals, are unable to keep alive the inner connection. Most of our actions are mindless and automated. We have a severe paucity of time, too many distractions, and an inexorably long gestation period in getting answers from the Lord almighty. In this age of quick fixes and instant gratification, we had valid reasons for our straying further away from the essence.

The image of the boxing champion Muhammad Ali comes to mind. As he enters the arena, walking towards the boxing ring, he wears a huge hooded cloak, a very ornate one with his name emblazoned on it. Within the garment is the real man, who will unveil himself once he steps into the ring, fighting for the name and title inscribed on the cloak he cast-off. We also seem to be wearing this temporary cloak over ourselves when we enter our place of worship and try to communicate with Him, seeking moments of solace and inner strength, answers to unanswered questions and guidance. It is a small light showing the right way. Yet, the second we step out of the sanctuary the cloak is off, and we snap out of the forced reverie.

The cloak the boxing champion steps out of is temporary, and he does so with every intent of wearing the prized robe again as soon as possible. His goals are always aligned with the name and title inscribed on the cloak. All his battles are for that very inscription. We also cast off our cloak the minute we step out of our place of worship, divesting ourselves of the sheath of equanimity and grace those moments of introspection offered us. Actually, we would be better off, stitching it to our bodies. This very fabric is our protection, our connection to our inner self. This sliver is all we have, a hope for our re-union with the ultimate. This has our essence, the semblance we have with our creator. Today’s enquirer has a mere passing curiosity, a whim which ekes the spirit of inquiry, but lacks the steadfastness and sincerity of a true seeker. We are lured by mirages and caught in our self-created mires, and then we wonder why the essence still eludes us.



Eluding the enquirer: Essence

Eluding the enquirer: Essence

Happy New Year and a Joyous Life to all of you, again.

My sister said that the article I wrote was a little too sombre-ish and ill-suited to the light-hearted spirit which prevails during this festive season. I’m attempting this: an article equally insightful yet with a little humour interlaced in it.

This holiday season I was witness to a few paradoxical events. Between 24th December to 2nd of January Ireland celebrates two momentous occasions, and very uniquely too. The whole country is shut down from 24th December to 26th December. The families meet, attend church, rejoice, and spend time with each other. The whole country wears an exuberant, festive air. A very aware and alive festive mood prevails on these three days. The bars are shut down, even the airport is closed on the 25th of December. I never knew of any airports being closed for any festival anywhere in the world. The fiscal loss is mind boggling and can be a deterrent to any other materially focused developed or developing nation, but not to this unique country. This country truly honours and reveres their Lord and walks the whole nine yards in acknowledging the importance and overwhelming presence Jesus has in their daily lives. This is probably the only modern economy still grounded and rooted to its values and culture.

We live right next to a church and I was amazed to see the number of cars parked, and the throng of people in the church on 25th December. Even I get caught up in their frenzy and set up a Christmas tree. I felt very tempted to attend their mass and pay my respects, partake of the offerings and soak in the atmosphere of the church. They were unmindful of the damp weather, the incessant drizzle, the chilling wind piercing through their many warm layers; their countenance radiated pure joy and love. Every being who exits those huge doors carries a piece of Him in their hearts and that atmosphere inside the church becomes their inner climate. It is a miracle how they retain their inner warmth and buoyant spirits; a sharp contrast to the atmosphere outside.

A very paradoxical scenario played out on the 27th of December, at the Dublin airport. We were standing in line, waiting for our turn to board the plane to London. In front of me was a lady on her phone, very urgently crunching some numbers with the person at the other end. I was admiring her capacity to be so engrossed in her work when the whole country was still luxuriating in their holiday zone. She had a sandwich in one hand, phone in the other and was gently trudging the suitcase and inching her way forward in the queue. Next minute, the phone was cradled between her ear and shoulder and the free hand dived into her bag and she flipped open her tablet to clarify some details to the person on the phone, still eating and still pushing the suitcase with her leg.  Now, she was at the counter and it was her turn to show her boarding pass; she is not flustered in the least. Amazingly, and very smoothly, she puts the sandwich on the counter top and the free hand fishes out the boarding pass and flashes it. So, at that moment she was juggling five different things with absolute ease and totally in control! Of course, it was too good to be true. All hell broke loose when the uniformed lady politely informed this busy bee; “Ma’am, you are standing at the wrong gate”!

The play of expressions on her face is indescribable. Pandemonium ensued, followed by a string of epithets about how the airport was to be blamed, and how she will sue the airport for the loss of business because of their negligence! Needless to say, she missed her flight and beyond that I don’t know how the story ended. I can only conclude that between 25th December and 27th December this poor lady had totally lost control of her inner climate and whatever little portion of church atmosphere she was carrying within her was gone too.

I was mulling over this incident and my therapist mind wondered if this could be a dissociative personality disorder or something akin to that.  Then, this happens on 1st January 2019, at 3:30 am: I was about to sit down and meditate to welcome the new year on a ruminative note. It was my time to introspect, to re-align my goals and promises for the coming year. Suddenly, I heard loud jeering and slurred singing and laughter from outside! A group of inebriated men and women were making their way back home at 3:30 AM, wishing each other a ‘Happy New Year’. They could barely walk. They dragged their feet and one was supporting the other from falling on the road. They were all singing too, at the top of their voices. Nothing coherent or even close to a tune! It lasted for about 2 -3 minutes and the voices died down as they made their way uphill. I actually found it cute. The Irish were living up to their party spirit reputation.

When the same scene replayed itself every time I tried to meditate, it quickly stopped being cute or funny. I was irate and ready to open the door and pick a fight. From 3:30AM to 4:30 AM people were returning home and would certainly sleep through 3/4th of the New Year’s first day. Not only were they totally out of their own climate and atmosphere, this intermittent, noisy intrusion was marring my climate and atmosphere too!

In a span of five days they forget, abandon and lose that inner climate they so cherished and carried in their hearts on the 25th of December. That is how long it lasts! The connection and the essence we so carefully gathered on the 25th of December is decimated even before we can truly imbibe and make that essence a part of our inner self. Luckily, we have Christmas every year and we can partake of that essence atleast once a year. Maybe with time, we will outgrow our frivolous obsessions with the outside, and learn to cherish the atmosphere of the 25th of December and make it our own permanent climate.

Free of Freedom

Free of Freedom

Free of Freedom

2018 began on a very sombre, subdued and introspective note, but its closure is bringing hope and new prospects with it. I am eagerly looking forward to the dawn of 2019. With the number of grieving moments far outnumbering the celebratory occasions which spanned the year, life’s questions kept resurfacing. Every news of a death or grave illness made me realize how ephemeral life is, and I felt the urgency of having to accomplish whatever I set out to achieve in life. I awakened to the verity that my life is slipping through my fingers; like the grains of sand I refused to let go from my vice- like grip, yet very effortlessly they always manage to break free.

On the other hand, news of a wedding or a birth makes me feel as if life has just commenced, or a new opportunity has just opened its doors, and I have ample time to ponder, plan and proceed; life would perpetuate, be my ally. This oscillation between the feeling of imminent mortality and lasting immortality, depending on the supervening circumstances and events of life, summarises my 2018. The year rolled by with me updating my bucket list on one side of my journal and the prospective ventures I planned to start featuring on the other.

Interestingly, during the first half of the year, I had a barrage of all-time low experiences. Everywhere I turned, I encountered some dismal news, personally and professionally. It was as if each passing day was telling me to close my affairs as urgently as possible; I may not live to see a tomorrow. So that is how I lived the first six months, like there is no tomorrow. Learning to live in the moment, savour the moment, to be a part of the journey and stop fretting about the destination became my mantra. Living in the moment and experiencing it, be it of sadness and pain, or of pleasure and joy became a transformative learning. I could live a lifetime in that moment of pain or pleasure and yet remain unaffected and equanimous within, by being the observer. Alternatively, I could revel in that feeling of pain or pleasure, become bonded to it and allow every other experience to bypass me, by getting engrossed in this one experience. The option of being in its grip, or free of it; this is a choice I always have. This was a revelation to me.

The second half of the year went away like a breeze, with many celebrations and success moments; yet, my inner climate never reached the satiated stillness point. It craved for something else, something more. Not encumbered by anyone or any situation on the outside; my inner climate, my perpetual embroiled state with my own situation and environment kept me shackled. So, to sum it up, I was free in the literal sense of the term, yet I felt chained. Life is such magical web, it seemed to ensnare me further and furthermore, never allowing me to free myself of desires and wants.

“Ashtavakra (and I agree with him) does not believe in emptiness of action. Action here is never born out of self-interest, i.e., out of what is good for me. Action derives from what is good for the whole.

Void of action refers to the action of the wave becoming the ocean. The essence of the wave in the sea is not described by the shape of the wave; it is the water.

The question is, do I realize that I am awareness? Can I observe the essence, the state of alone, the void of action? Can I be the wave but never forget the awareness of the essence, which is the ocean. This is what Ashtavakra mean by cutting the bondage.” (Third Sutra – page 45; Bitten by the Black Snake by Manuel Schoch)

If I were a drop of water trying to make my way to the ocean, all this knowledge of experience becomes a vicious cycle, my bondage. Resultantly, these very insights become a hinderance for the drop to merge with the ocean. It gives me the illusion that every pond (experience I have) is an ocean, and I have arrived, reached the culmination. This knowledge is robbing me of my spirit of enquiry and lulling me into an illusory ephemeral state of peace. The lasting true merger is only possible if I can sell this knowledge and buy confusion (innocence and the wisdom to wonder).

How could I break free of this loop with a string of goals to achieve? All of them were my goals, and I was actively engaged, motivated, earnest about all my dreams and wishes. I was a wave which reached a pond or a stream and thought it to be the ocean. Temporarily, if the wave could forget its exclusivity, the wave and the ocean became one, but very soon something would happen, and the wave separated itself from the ocean, creating an all new experience for itself. The wave swept the shores and unlike the ocean was never able to leave behind the debris. The high tide came, and the wave danced with joy and went further into the ocean, unable to divest itself of the desire to retain its uniqueness. Unfortunately, this very desire to be free became my biggest bondage and I spent 2018 like this wave; making its way to the ocean but forever forgetting the essence.

To be free of freedom, I had to abandon the thought and desire to be free. Live like a wave with awareness of the ocean. That’s our essence too; we were always free. We are caged by our own thoughts, desires and fears.

Here’s wishing ALL of you a free of freedom filled 2019 and every year after.

Dublin Diaries-8

Dublin Diaries-8

Looking beyond…

We will be completing three years in this lovely country, in November, and this country continues to keep me intrigued, revealing interesting new learnings every day.

This nation has endured immense hardships, undergone suffering and is now wanting to match strides with the other developed nations like America and its nearest neighbour, England. I find this admirable when I compare the mindset of this countrymen to the people in my country; and my tug of war with ‘Desh-bhakti’ commences. I never got the feeling of being an immigrant in this country. Unlike other immigrants my husband does not believe in living ‘amongst their own kind’. Conclusively, I live in a predominantly Irish locale, a very touristy part of the city. Yet, I don’t feel quaint or unwelcome or feel the prying distrustful eyes on me (like almost all immigrants feel globally). America has rebounded from the first Afro- American President rule, to building walls on the Mexican Border and making the immigration rules inordinately stringent. The developed world in a way is closing its doors on the rest of world, salvage its depleting resources, and revive their culture (especially the British). Don’t know much about the Americans, except that, I feel they cried ‘freedom’ too long and too loud. The meaning of freedom has been taken to extremes and appears like ‘individual anarchy’ today (to me). Every state, member of the house is demanding freedom, from what and who, they are confused, clueless and thus inconclusive.

Immigrants world over are now made to feel unwelcome; uncomfortable and apprehensive to say the least.  We watch over our shoulder, and wait for the bomb to drop. We don’t know when we may be asked to leave, when our papers might be rejected, when our continuance may not come through, it is all uncertain today. The world has not just shrunk in size, the inhabitants are forced to mark and guard their territory ferociously.  Yet, taking the citizenship of a developed country continues to lure the people of developing nations. Nothing seems to deter us, we still vie for foreign postings and a chance to make the first flight out of our own, abysmally failing country is more than welcome.  Thus, I find it doubly endearing that Ireland has not only kept its doors open to the immigrants, the Irish make them feel at home.

The Irish Times: “Last Sunday, on the morning of his 36th birthday, Leo Varadkar posed on the steps of the RTÉ Radio Centre, a bottle of water in hand, deep, tired circles under his eyes and a smile on his face. The deed was done. “I am a gay man . . . Looking back now, I always knew, but I didn’t know in my own mind really until maybe a year or two ago. I’m not sure why that is or was, but that’s just the way it is.”

The above – mentioned person is an Irish – Indian, the new leader of Ireland. The father is from Mumbai and mother is an Irish lady. Leo is their only son; they have 3 daughters, born and brought up in Dublin, Ireland. He first came to the limelight because of his honesty declared his personal preferences.  Ireland is still a very conservative, catholic dominated country; accepting a gay person is a huge step, moreover accepting a gay half Indian -half Irish person to be nominated for the most prominent leadership post in the country is a big change.  In times when the rest of world seems to be pulling the curtains over immigrants and trying to reclaim their lost indigenous status, Ireland willing to accept a gay, half Indian – Half Irish person to lead their country comes as a pleasant surprise, and reveals a very magnanimous side of this nation, which truly wants to see beyond religion, race, colour, a one world, unified brethren.

Despite being forced to acknowledge and intensely dislike the many faults my country has, I always have been a hardcore Indian. Travel the world, but the final resting place is home, and home is India.

That was the mindset with which I have lived all these years. So, coming to Ireland was also temporary for me, I always intended to go back home. We have lived two and half years here, and we can now apply for a long term stay permit, if we want to. And the truth I acknowledge to myself is, ‘I am open to the idea. I can spend the rest of my life in this country’. This is one of the few countries in the world which has made me feel like I can belong here, giving meaning to the phrase, ’home is where the heart is’. To be honest, my own country is plagued by interstate war. This country has won my heart, it does have its wars, of religion (catholic and protestants is a big issue here), women empowerment, problems of the youth are also on the rise. Yet, it is bold enough to face them head on, pick a young leader, a leader who dares to defy, does not fit the accepted nomenclature. But, they stand as one, for the country as a whole and not indulge in inter-county wars, bicker amongst themselves. They are trying to create a new blend of tradition and values which can be understood and imbibed by the present generation. Whereas in my own country, interstate wars are commonplace today, the prosperity of one state waves a green flag in the neighbouring state!

Ireland and India have more in common than I cared to acknowledge. I feel sad that we (our countrymen) have moved a step backward and are trying to break up our own country. No outsider wants to come home, we are ready to leave home, and to top it all what is left of our nation, we are very well disintegrating it. On the other hand, this country has moved forward, overcome its own limitations, fears and inhibitions and continues to retain its simplicity, see beyond the physical boundaries and make everyone feel one, belonged. A thing or more to learn form this thriving country.

Lucrative-st  Career

Lucrative-st Career

Lucrative-estest Career

I started off wanting to declare that the most lucrative career as being a house – wife (provided the world can afford her salary), but a look at the present times reveals a career far more lucrative, risk free, and much more rewarding than a salaried- housewife (and luckily every housewife over qualifies for this job).

Research shows that a housewife earns more than $120,000 per annum in savings for the family. She is a full time cook, nutritionist, cleaner, nanny, driver, teacher, counsellor, and accountant. She is a part time tailor, beautician, laundry woman, and much more. I am not adding sexual partner here, because that role is limited to the husband alone, whereas the house wife is catering to everyone, including the spouse. The other important criteria of this job are that it is not only full time, this job profile has no holidays, and it is an emergency service with no off-clock hours, you cannot catch a break nor grab a quick shut eye in between working hours, lest all hell breaks loose! What makes it worse is that the role is taken for granted by the very people being nurtured, or taken care of, and is resultantly slighted upon by the society at large, and the deserving home maker is awarded a crown (of thorns) of being ‘just a house wife’.

With the disadvantages weighing so heavily against them, this home maker role has become more or less redundant now. Unless the Central Government does not recognize this as a paid service (which it cannot possibly do, unless it is willing to risk bankruptcy) and allocate a decent figure, lowest and highest UGC scale; with HRA; PF, PPF and other incentives, this job profile is on the brink of extinction in India too. It is extinct in the developed countries, they, very intelligently, emulate the Rig Veda (Indian Scriptures) which says, “Both men and women support each other and meet half way… Man works outside, woman works at home. Or both work outside and at home. At the end of the day, they share, respect and encourage each other’s dreams, ambitions and talents, not just their responsibilities and obligations. For we all have a greater purpose and are given certain talents for a reason. It does not have to interfere with our core duties but rather enhance our quality of giving and nurturing, for we are receiving and feeling nurtured ourselves…”

Mothers are not so happy being mother only, same is the case with home-makers; they want something more. It is not money, per se; (though it does play a very pivotal role) but the tag of being ‘just a house wife’ sounds like an insult, a crown jewel meant for display only; a beauty with no brains. Not a single ‘just a house wife’ ever becomes famous, nor is she known in her own social circle with some respect and regard. Some other vocation has become a must, for the woman to be able to look at herself with self- respect and have a healthy self-esteem. So, with the concurrence that being a house wife is not worth it anymore, I started my research on other viable options of lucrativest-est career!

Shri Gaur Gopal Das Prabhu video clip (I have shared the link) nails it perfectly. He says, “After a 10year service a teacher saves probably a Lakh; a software engineer (40 -50 Lakhs), a politician (with all the scams, and black money put together – 30-40 crores) and a religious leader earns (10 year saving 238 crores only…4000 crores only) …choose your career carefully baba!”I think you all get the drift of what I am trying to say and which career choice I am about to make my own.

So, the safest surest road to fame, wealth and unprecedented respect is: Spiritual Speaker. But with the deluge of gurus today, people are shying away from them; differentiating the pseudo poser from the indigenous saint is a tricky business. So, how am I different from the others? I definitely will not wear the saffron robes, but I can explain why I will not wear them, or why I think I am not qualified enough to wear saffron robes. I don’t think any of the present day spiritual gurus has explained the true significance of that colour and the reason why sanyasis wear that colour.

Those robes instantaneously command respect, and place the person on a pedestal. Swami Ram Teerth says, “So this red colour implies that the man who has worn these clothes has sacrificed his body, has placed his body on the altar of Truth, all the worldly desires burnt, burnt, burnt. All the worldly hungering and hankering are consigned to flames.”

Swami Vishwananda corroborates and adds, “The significance is that saffron or ochre are the colors of fire. A sannyasin has renounced the world and his sradda ceremony is performed on the day he takes his vows, and it is done in front of him. In many places in India a corpse is covered in ochre or saffron. As a sannyasin is now dead to the world, he wears the colors of a corpse.”

So, I will humbly acknowledge that I have a long road ahead of me, before I can think of myself as a sanyasi. But, I promise to explain these little nuances and raise the spirit of inquiry in my readers. Knowing and following brings a certain dedication and sincerity to our actions. The spirit of enquiry helps us divest ourselves of the needless and become discerning enough to listen to the heart. And, that makes all the difference, right? So, a good deed done, and a good night’s sleep guaranteed for me, and no loss to any of the followers/ readers either; all in all, a win -win for everyone.

The most attractive part about this career is, every woman has the potential to become one. We are inherent counsellors, all we need is little finesse’ and polish, chip off the rough edges and we are at the helm of our affairs. Fame and money, I am sure, will soon come knocking too, what say friends? Lucrativest-est career choice made? – Gaur Gopal Prabhu

and – Jaya Kishori ji

Knowing and Feeling

Knowing and Feeling

I was watching some show on BBC hosted by Stephen Fry (some quiz show; I forget the name now). In that particular episode, Stephen Fry shows an experiment enacted by the guests.

This is how the interesting experiment goes: There is a small divider and on one side is prosthetic hand and on the other side is the actual hand of the participant. The other participant is asked to stroke the prosthetic hand with a brush, gently at first and gradually increase the speed to brisk strokes. The participant whose prosthetic hand is being stroked is laughing and squirming, saying the prosthetic hand feels ticklish! Now, how can a prosthetic hand feel? That’s the question friends. The other participant suddenly hit the prosthetic hand and this guy let out yelp of pain! Although he knows fully well that the hand being hit is a prosthetic one, the feeling and response is somehow contradictory to the ‘knowing’! They felt pain is what they said. I have given the video link below; enjoy. My description will help you know, but the video clip increases the feel-factor!

I found it revealing at many levels. A simple experiment and yet it tells us so much about our mind, heart, and human psychology. The mind knows it should listen to the heart, it is the heart which is the seat of emotions, and it is the heart which feels, dictates our moods and emotional well-being; yet…the acknowledgement refuses to happen.

Another interesting, related observation was how the mind or our psyche refuses to acknowledge the core! What do we notice most often when we look at our wrist watches or even the wall clocks? The hands of the clock, because that’s what tells us the time, right? what else would you notice? When you are shopping for a clock, maybe you will check out the shape and colour of the outer frame, but that’s about it. We seldom pay attention to the centre, the small pin that holds these 3 needles in place. The clock is a clock because of that miniscule, yet pivotal centre pin that holds the hands, isn’t it? Yet, most of us never bother to pay attention or give it a second glance. It is there, and is taken for granted; that’s about it. Similarly, from the time we are born (hour 0) to the time we are near death or are almost near 0 again, having completed the circle; our life, heart, and breath is something most of us take for granted. Only if we have palpitation do we run to the doctor in a tizzy. Otherwise, as long as our heart is beating, we are knowingly willing to stretch it to its optimal best output.

A counselee used to incessantly ask me how she could alleviate her stress levels and what she could do to lead a calmer life. Her routine was not hectic per se, but with her advancing years, she wanted to give some time to herself. She knew she was drinking a little too much, smoking maybe a cigarette or two more than necessary. She knew she should hit the gym, walk a little. She kept on ranting about all that she knew that needed a bit of trimming and changing. But, she was yet to feel the need to change and whatever suggestions I offered for her to implement or ruminate over fell on deaf ears. She would come and regurgitate her frustrations. I barely managed to wedge in a word or two and those too would boomerang anyway. I would dread her next visit.

After a short hiatus, she reached out and said she was diagnosed with throat cancer. She was desolate, did not know what to do, and wanted to pay me a visit. I wondered what help I could offer or what solace she would receive from me.

Surprisingly, she herself asked me to make a regimen for her; starting with a diet, exercises, and the whole gamut! I was pleasantly surprised. We sat together and chalked out a daily, weekly, and monthly plan for her. We diligently did this for a month and she followed it to the T, never missing a single item on the schedule. No surprises, she recovered and lead a very healthy life, saw her children settle down in life and played with grandkids too.

We remained in touch via mails. Recently, I received a mail from her saying she had succumbed to the dreaded malady for the second time. She recalled the first time and reminisced about the alacrity with which she had bounced back to a nicotine free, disciplined life. I wrote back to her saying, ‘You know what to do, you beat it once, you can beat it again. Start implementing your prior regimen immediately. I am here to help you, always’.

She did not mail after that and I had to call to enquire. She was not cheerful, but not worried sick either. She sounded sad and kind of resigned. What had changed? She was afraid both then and now. She still wanted to recover and be healthy again. Everything was apparently the same and yet, she did not want to make those imperative changes. She knew whatever was likely to happen with her; her mind would tell her all the pros and cons, and yet, the healing did not happen! She went for chemotherapy and radiation as prescribed but was not inclined to quit smoking and would not deprive herself of her evening elixir. I tried my best to instil a sense of urgency so she could heal totally and find a reason for her to live a healthy life, completely rid of the malaise. But I failed. She had capitulated to that truth. The will to live was less in comparison to her need to indulge in these small pleasures which made her feel temporarily happy. She passed away before her third chemo.

This happened long ago. But, that episode on BBC, and then the clock anecdote somehow brought this lady’s image to the fore. This whole connection of knowing and feeling penetrated me. It’s the feeling or the emotion which we experience that has the possibility of bringing a change. Only knowing is futile. The mind always finds some logic and all our knowing is rationalised and negated or ignored; whereas feeling evokes a response.



Hurdles Galore

Hurdles Galore

Why it’s so Difficult


“In order to save myself, I must destroy first the me I was told to be- the Dreamer”

Whilst I was grimacing and looking morosely at my unsold books, (I made a very brave attempt to pen my experiences, a journal narrating the first 5 years of meditation and the metamorphosis that occurred within me) and wondered why I am so pathetic at marketing myself; my daughter made a very astute observation.

She picked up the books and said, “Ma, why are your books so thin? I mean, all the books I read are 3 to 4 volumes and each volume has about 500 to 1000 pages! Look at these books of yours; both the books put together maybe 250-270 pages only”. I smiled at her, picked a few more books I had read in the recent past and pointed out to her, “Most of the spiritual books I have read are between 125 to 200 pages only, betu. Most of the books published by Sahaj Marg, Ramkrishna Mission, Divine Life society are more like booklets, rather than books.”

“Ah! Right!”, she said, comparing the thickness of the few books I showed her, and the next doubt popped, “But why? Why are they so thin? Can’t they write a thicker more voluminous one?”

I could have laughed out aloud at her innocence. How could I explain to her that true philosophy is a study of the Self, the earnest interest to know oneself. When the singular question ‘Who Am I’ and probably ‘what is my goal?’ (which gets answered if one answers the first one though); sums up philosophy and spirituality put together, how much can one write volumes about knowing oneself? It is a unique journey to be experienced by the person concerned. As long as the experience continues, the journey is ongoing, and they are able to share their experiences. Unfortunately, spiritual journey is rife with pain and desolation; and the books make the reader emotional, and teary, which is what people shy away from, not willingly seek, to say the least. Who wants to know about someone else’s grief when there is enough sorrow in one’s own life? The bliss is when the person has reached the zenith, gets merged with the Creator. Now, the person ceases to exist, and so the narration too comes to a halt. It is like the dew drop merging with the vast endless sea. Then how does one differentiate the dew drop from the sea? And where is the dew-drop to tell its story?

That’s just one aspect of it, the more realistic fact is, the number of people who broach this question can be counted on our fingertips. The rest of us live ignorant about our true calling and purpose in life. So, with less than one percent being interested in the truth, how can thick books possibly be written?

So, why is spirituality or practicing spirituality so difficult? Why are most of us happy within the tenets of religion?

“Page xxix: Introduction by C.G.Andrews for In the woods of God realisation  by Swami Ram Teerth: ‘Dark is the world to these? Thy self art the reason why: For is He not all but that, which has the power to say ‘I am I’. …. the loss of personal identity or complete absorption, as the final end of the soul, is a conception from which the poets of the West shrink back with dread, rather than accept with satisfaction’.”

I think what Sir. C.G.Andrews opined about the people of West has an ubiquitous applicability today. The loss of personal identity is something which no one is able to fathom, and spirituality demands exactly that, the complete absorption of Self, and a comprehension of Nothingness.

This is just the beginning of problems if one intends to practice spirituality in totality. On the other hand, religion has so many advantages, especially our Hindu religion! Islam, Christianity, Sikhism all have one text and they close their eyes, and abide by the book, with absolute faith. They don’t question their texts nor do they have Mohammad, Jesus, or Guru Nanak amidst us today, to make changes or answer any contemporary doubts and questions.  Hinduism has happily relegated the Gods who took human form and lived amongst us to God status, we have temples for Gods, Godmen and Saints. Unquestioningly we worship them, one and all, if our prayers are answered, perfect; else we blame our fate, or in moments of desperation we can blame the Gods too! How unkind, unjust and cruel they are, so as not to heed the earnest prayers of the seeker! Everything depends on our caprice, you see!

That’s the disadvantage of spirituality; our prayers are answered only, and only if, we are deserving and we continuously question our own deservingness before asking for anything. So, in spirituality we have questions galore! That’s the first big hurdle to cross, the inner Self keeps raising its hood and asks us to look within. Prayer for change becomes imminent and the blame game stops too, we have only ourselves to blame for our own failings.

The other advantage of Religion is, in Religion we have no mirrors; how do I put it… like we look at the mirror to appreciate or alter our physical appearance, so does our heart need a mirror, to tell us how well we know the Self within, the creator’s true abode being the heart, we need a mirror for our heart, do we not?  In Religion we go to our place of worship, pay obeisance, offer our prayers, make an application (we always have something we want done) and seek blessings from the priest and we get on with our life. How many of us really bring the temple home? That mindset of inner reflection, do we carry it with us? The prayers offered are rushed and amalgamated with other household chores, wedged in just so that He is not offended. Sadly, that’s not the case with spirituality.

The God is within, and not outside the person, there is the hurdle, again. If we have to check or measure the level of water in a well, do we look inside the well, or outside? So, no temple or temple functionary can help us in spirituality. We have to help ourselves, hold the mirror to the heart! And a mirror which is constantly vigilant, probing and always questioning the Self! Such a headache. Who has the time to be questioned every waking moment, and in sleep too! Knowing oneself is an arduous task with no palpable, material benefit one can showcase. In this day and age of material gain, lure of name, fame and glory, the spiritual journey is least becoming! Troubles never cease, no respite for the spiritual seeker. Is it any wonder that people are unable to rise to the challenge and pursue the quest of the inner Self?

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

I have elucidated at great lengths about the hoity-toity developed countries and their arrogance, the crisp response or cold reception one receives when one steps into their arena, {especially towards a person who comes from a developing nation or a third world country like I do}. But my recent harrowing experience at the Paris airport has brought many more thoughts to the fore about developed countries and the convoluted reasoning they have for their behaviour just because they are a high and mighty developed nation. I assuredly don’t think Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport; alias Roissy Airport deserves to be called an airport at par with world standards.

Reports say that in 2017, the airport handled 69,471,442 passengers and 475,654 aircraft movements, thus making it the world’s tenth-busiest airport, Europe’s second-busiest airport (after London Heathrow) in terms of passenger numbers. It is also the world’s tenth-busiest and Europe’s busiest airport (ahead of London Heathrow) in aircraft movements. In terms of cargo traffic, the airport is the twelfth-busiest in the world and the second-busiest in Europe (after Frankfurt Airport), handling 2,150,950 metric tonnes of cargo in 2012. The incumbent director of the airport, Franck Goldnadel, was appointed to his position on 1 March 2011. 

What good is all that grandeur if the nescient transit passengers feel harrowed and dread buying a ticket which has this airport as its transit destination.  My first experience was so traumatizing that I have practically banned Paris itself as my tourist destination, I am happier not seeing the magnificent Eiffel Tower; such is my fear of having to set foot on that airport. First is the sheer size of the airport, the labyrinth terminals; and gates in each terminal are a 10,000-piece crossword puzzle.  I was travelling from Raipur (Chhattisgarh, India) to Mumbai (Maharashtra, India), from Mumbai to Paris (France) and from Paris to Dublin (Ireland); this was my whole sinuous travel itinerary. The first hurdle came when Raipur airport issued a boarding pass only till Paris! I had to collect the Paris to Dublin boarding pass from Paris airport. This was already extra work for me, a boarding pass in hand saves time and the headache of hunting for the booking counter (customer service desk) in international airports. I had already endured an unpleasant experience in the past, and I was not looking forward to another one.

I actually tried to haggle, beg, implore at the Mumbai airport customer service desk, to issue the boarding pass for my last sector; just to escape the torture at Paris.  International airports are ginormous; I have severe language problem (all is lost in translating my Inglish (Indian- English) and understanding their accented- Frenglish!), there are not many staff in sight, and even though people are all over the place, there is actually no one who you can approach and ask for help or assistance! Thus, I disembarked at Paris airport with an already heavy heart. I knew that my Paris to Dublin flight was from Terminal 2, and we landed at Terminal 1. The bus which took us to our next destination had a map indicating the stops and the very wise me disembarked at Gate 2L. But, I made the fundamental folly of thinking if I reached terminal 2, the gates starting with 2 will all be within the same premises.

Boy! was I wrong, the torture had just started!

My premonition came true, the customer desk (which I could locate on the third attempt!) was deserted. I waited patiently for 10 minutes then asked a uniformed officer passing by if someone would ever come! The lazy reply was, “Ouie’ Recepsion, (reception) mam!” (pointing in the opposite direction). So, I dragged my feet to the reception area where I could see a pleasant and pleasing persona (God’s small mercies) behind the desk. He issued my boarding pass and one look at that pass I knew my next headache was on its way.  My boarding gate was 2K and that gate was in another building!

I needed to make my way back to the bus stop, go to the other building marked Gate 2K. So, again I ask for directions and the crisp response is, “Ouie’ Follow allow (arrow)! directions” (with a grand wave of the hand). Those arrows were leading me nowhere and I was getting frustrated with these French and their weird accents! They spoke English like French and flayed their arms way too much, gesticulating wildly for everything and vociferously too, if I may add. Again, God’s kindness, a passenger who knew French was next to me and could fathom that gibberish and asked me to race behind him.

Huffing and puffing we reached the gate, boarded the bus and made our way to Terminal 2, Gate K, phew! I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I still had time to kill, and I was totally ravenous from all that running around. Like I usually do, I parked my suitcase on a chair and started to head towards the rest rooms to freshen up, when I heard the announcement, “Please do not leave your bags unattended, it will be treated as a bomb scare and disposed immediately!”

Okay, can’t risk that, so with the bag I drag myself to the rest room; when I receive this message from my husband, “Take care of your purse and belongings! People get robbed in Paris!” Oh! Wow, I thought. It does not end here though; I loitered into a Michael Kors store, picked up a wallet and immediately sensed the saleswoman breath down my neck. I was a little disturbed by her look and proximity; yet managed to ask if she could show some more wallets, different colours, maybe. The response I received was the weirdest ever; this lady asks me which country I am from! Now, I was totally taken aback, what was the connection, I wondered, my nationality and the wallet?

I said, ‘Indian’

Believe it or not; she shows me the prize of the wallet! I cannot tell you how huge the explosion in my head sounded! For the gall and nerve of that woman, I thought! How dare she show me the price! I wanted to stomp out of her stupid shop, but my better senses prevailed. I smiled with poise and equanimity and said, “It can be higher than this, please show me a bigger size and some other colors too!” It was fun and gratifying; her dumbfounded expression, and change in her demeanor. I did buy a wallet, just to prove a point.

Finally, it was time to board leave the dreadful place (the welcome note again totally lost in Frenglish) and head for Dublin (the Irish are the most charming, welcoming people). I happily stood by the said conveyor belt waiting for my suitcase; 10, then 20 minutes passed, and I get the sinking feeling again, the French were continuing to take their revenge. I went to the customer service desk and the lady was profusely apologetic (big difference); my suitcase was still in Paris, it will be loaded in the evening flight.

So, the most advanced airport in the world; and not one single thing happens in an orderly way, from boarding to getting home with my luggage; all went awry! Need I say more?



Choose Wisely

Choose Wisely

Choose Wisely

With so many spirituals paths, yoga centres and double the number of religious organizations it is understandable if a novice is confused about who is the right seer and which would be the right path to follow, for one’s spiritual/ personal growth. The plethora of options available trap the unaware fledgling and before he/ she can be any wiser about the path, purpose and goal, the journey would have already reached a stage where the person may feel like there is no turning back, or is afraid to restart elsewhere, or thinks they are all the same anyway, how different can the other paths be, let me continue where I am. This is not the case at all, because every path or any path one chooses to walk upon has to answer only one crucial question, which is: ‘what is it that you are seeking?’

Every path, spiritual or religious, offers only, and I reiterate, only what we ask for. So, I repeat, what is it that you want? For example: if it is purely physical fitness, the obvious choices will be, Ramdev Baba, of Pathanjali Yoga institute, or Guru B.K.S. Iyengar of Iyengar Yoga, from Mysore. I am mentioning only yoga with the surmise that we are going to get interested in the inner self too, someday in the future. Else, the world is over burdened with Gyms, Aerobics, Pilates, and many other only physical fitness centric institutions which I have deliberately refrained from mentioning. Yoga within itself has 8 steps (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) and somewhere at the top comes meditation, which is the first step towards self- awareness. Hence, only two renowned names are mentioned above, with the hope of veering in the direction of meditation.

Now, like I already said, the key question we should always ask ourselves and pretty much, reiteratively is, ‘what do I seek?’ ‘what is it that I am searching for or wanting to get out of any path or practice that I intend to follow or am currently practicing?’ The second question as per me would be, ‘Has the path/practice brought about any change in me?’

To answer the question, ‘what do I seek’? I started with peace of mind, and anger management. Coming from a very religious family and having entered an even more ritualistically religious family, post marriage; religion is where my education commenced. My personal experience reveals that religion has benefitted me to the extent that I knew where I was going wrong, and that I was still missing something. Thus, peace of mind remained elusive. This augmented my sense of failure and thus I progressively became an irate person.  What I was seeking; none of my ritualistic, religious practices could answer nor appease my curiosity.  Swami Vivekananda rightly said; It is very good to be born in a church (Religion), but it is very bad to die in a church (Religion). It is very good to be born within the limits of certain forms that help the little plant of spirituality, but if a man dies within the bounds of these forms, it shows that he has not grown, that there has been no development of the soul. – The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda: Volume_2: Bhakti or Devotion

If the seeker is happy within the purview of religion and ritualistic practices, then perfect. I guess the journey for that person ends here, whatever else any seer might have said differently. So, if we are not seeking anything beyond a regular happy life, basic comforts, and we don’t mind coming back again and yet again to lead the same life, with a few variations; our journey of the Self remains stagnant or dormant. We have no need nor the desire for self-enquiry; hence religion is what we identify ourselves with.

But, for me; Swami Vivekanand’s words have a veracity and appeal. I seek more than just the rigmarole life.  And for seekers like me I guess the next step is to seek a path which is more than ‘only religion’, or beyond religion. This search naturally led me to meditation and through meditation I understood spirituality a little better. Meditation enables change through repeated introspection. In meditation too, the important question remains the same, ‘what do I seek?’

Meditation helped me manage my anger, be at ease and at peace with myself.  My journey did not end with these changes though, change is continuous and the nature of questions changes, the questions themselves do not come to a halt. Life for a spiritual seeker is one which is constantly uncomfortably comfortable, if I can put it that way. Restlessly at peace is the key feeling. Today, I strive to emulate my Master and be/ live like Him, and someday become one with Him.

Which path we choose to walk on is very seeker dependant. Between us siblings, all of us are on a different path and attached to a different organization. Understandably, we are asking different questions, questions individually unique, and we are getting the answers wherever we presently are. For me, I practice Heartfulness Meditation (Sahaj Marg Meditation) because this path has the answers to my questions. I am a better person today; and I am inspired to improve myself with each passing day. Heartfulness Meditation enables me to make possible both my aspirations; a. I do not choose to be a disciple all my life, I somewhere along the line, with practice, learning and meditation aspire to be self- realised, like my teacher, the role model of my life. b. Serving without the feeling of servitude, being a master of Self and a servant only to the One, the creator, is the final goal. The Master teacher on this path leads a householder’s life, and yet is a realised soul. He, his way of life is balanced, suited to the present times and fills me with hope that if He can achieve it all in one lifetime, so can I. This path has a guru who encourages the aspirants’ world over to imbibe the craving to become a master of Self. My persona should reflect my inner Self, as is, simple and devoid of duplicity. I should transcend every barrier of the mind; learn to introspect and be discerning enough to aspire for spiritual Oneness. God created one world; and meditation enables us to acknowledge this Oneness, and accepting the many disparities.

With the hope that the above helps the reader choose wisely, thank you.


Mixed Signals

Mixed Signals

Mixed Signals

The more I pay heed to the many spiritual gurus in our nation, the more befuddled I become with what they preach and proclaim! Not just the spiritual gurus, guides, philosophers and yoga experts too.

Are you aware that Shri Shri Ravi Shankar commenced His spiritual journey under the aegis of Maharishi Mahesh yogi, the proponent of Transcendental meditation? Much later, Ravi Shankar started His own spiritual organisation with Sudarshan Kriya, His key finding, as a tool offered to enable a life of self- awareness and the joy. Was a separate organisation imperative though, I wonder? Transcendental Meditation and Sudarshan Kriya could be merged and taught to the millions of followers, cheaper and probably be more beneficial too, is it not?

That’s not all, out of the blue, He is seen sharing the political dais with the demagogues’ and again, I am bit flummoxed. I don’t know what exactly is the Spiritual leader trying to convey with this move.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has offered to mediate in the Ram Temple row for an out-of-court settlement, to which the Supreme Court is not averse.”

For a preacher of spirituality, the Shiva Ratri celebrations in His ashram remain unparalleled. A spiritual leader propagating ritualistic practice so elaborately, and on such a massive scale leave me muddled. If Spirituality is beyond religion, can celebrating one festival appease or work towards unifying the followers or believers of other religions and faiths?

Another household name today is, Jaggi Vasudev, spiritual leader with a difference, the modern-day yogi. But, many actions of this maverick mystic give rise to many questions within me. His voice is heard world over, millions follow Him and keenly hang on to every word He speaks. When so many are influenced, should not the speaker be more prudent, discerning in voicing his/her opinion and have an awareness of how his/her words may impact the lives of millions of followers?

Jaggi Vasudev addresses and speaks in front of a very erudite audience, most of the interviews I have seen have the elite Indian segment or foreigners. The bourgeois India today is very tech-savvy, ambitious and competitive. To such an audience He says something like, ‘Don’t produce children if you cannot raise them, you go on producing children irresponsibly and you don’t know what to do with them…’  I think the people who listen to Him are NOT in the business of ‘producing children’ as He put it, contrarily, the emerging urban middle class is facing the quandary of not wanting to have children! He flippantly throws comments in the face of a wrong audience! The more I listen to Him the more irresponsible He sounds. To a single mother who wanted a method to juggle her many duties and responsibilities; he suggests community cooking, community living (don’t know how that answers the lady’s query). To ‘Why women cannot be Spiritual Leaders?’ His response is; ‘women today are getting all the wrong training; the focus is more on modelling and external beautification rather than on inner spiritual evolution’. He laughingly makes such odious comments and the audience continues to revere Him, enraptured by his words. Like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, this maverick Yogi too believes in ritualistic practices, and seems to revere only Lord Shiva, as the Adi -yogi.

“It is essential that the next generations of people on this planet are seekers, not believers. As philosophies, ideology, belief systems that don’t stand the test of logic and the scientific verification will naturally collapse in coming decades, you will see the longing for liberation will rise. When that longing rises, Adiyogi and the science of Yoga will become very important,” Sadhguru said .The Prime Minister also took stock of the sprawling precincts of the Isha Foundation’s ashram, as he visited the 22-feet underground water body at the Suryakund that aims at the physical cleansing and balancing of the human body.He participated in the Pancha Bhuta Aradhana by Sadhguru – a yogic process of cleansing the five elements of the human system – at the Dhyanalinga, a multi religious meditation shrine, followed by a visit to the Linga Bhairavi, a feminine shrine for physical, material and spiritual wellbeing.” “A 6.4-metre (21 ft) statue of Adiyogi was unveiled in Tennessee, USA, in October 2015 by the Isha Foundation. The abode called “Adiyogi: The Abode of Yoga” in Tennessee is spread over a 2,800 m2 (30,000 sq ft) area and the project cost over $8 million.”

“He has once said that 3 things should never be commercialized…education, health care and spirituality. He is commercializing all the three as – a) isha home school charges around 6 lakh per annum, b) isha arogya (medicine) products are sold through isha stores and c) inner engineering and all other programs (spirituality) are also being sold to the masses.”

Similarly, Baba Ramdev, a yogi, a household name for Patanjali Yoga, panache for every malady! He shot to fame for practicing yoga, teaching yoga and successfully exhorts the world to practice yoga! So far so good, and hats off to the magnanimous person. He too began his career with bold declarations like, “We don’t make products to sell or earn money, our end game is not profits! We can easily make millions if we advertise and market our products, but that is never our intention.” Mixed signals started to come when there was a mismatch between his proclamations and actions! When this goal altered or took a deviation is unknown. Baba Ramdev has created an empire with his consumer goods, and now is expanding further, branching off into textiles and probably plans to start a political party in the hope of ‘clean politics’. He is, today, the 8th richest man in my country. Doesn’t all this reek of contradiction and seem far away from truth?

The three names I mentioned above have a very contradictory practice. If one asks oneself, spirituality is everyone’s birth right and cannot be bought at any price! How can one put a price on spirituality? Ramdev Baba teaches Yoga for free! He should be charging for that, he does not. Whereas Ravi Shankar and Jaggi Vasudev have put a price on Sudarshan kriya and Isha Yoga classes!

The whole purport of a spiritual organisation, for me, is to enable the aspirants to become like the leader, and I do not see myself wanting to become like them. Moreover, I am unsure how following these leaders will enable the followers to become their leader.

Spirituality or meditation is all about knowing one Self or knowing the Divine within. How can one put a price on God- knowing? Secondly, God created this world free of cost; He never charged anything for His creation, how can we put a price on any knowledge or method, or path which proclaims to help us know Him, or know one Self? I can go on, but I think this is enough food for thought…

Disclaimer: These spiritual leaders are seers who are unselfishly, tirelessly working for the upliftment of the world, unifying the world. None of the above undermines their good work.  I am ignorant and merely pondering over their contradictory actions/words which leave me confused.