Philosophy

Tenant Owner

Tenant Owner

Tenant – Owner

An interesting incident happened recently which set me thinking about how confused we are about our feelings of ownership. The depth of this confusion is so severe that it wreaks havoc with the lives of tenants, sub- letters and everyone else who inadvertently gets entangled in the same web.

My sister and family visited us this Christmas and we planned a short trip to London. A friend graciously offered the key to her apartment, because they were travelling to India during that period, free boarding would be a real big help. Hotel expenses would have blown our budget out of proportion, with this option we could spend our ‘hotel money saved’ on frivolous ‘luxury shopping’ with impunity. All this planning began in September. Trying to accomplish anything in an unplanned, impetuous way does not work well; it is unaffordable and stressing. Blowing a budget in pounds seemed daunting and a setback we probably would never recover from. Thus, all the detailed planning and organizing, pre – booking etc.

About a week before our visitors were to arrive, our friend sent us this newspaper clipping. Their apartment complex was in the news. The tenant of an adjacent apartment sublet his ‘rented’ apartment to some boys, through online booking service.  He was away for 10days and maybe greed got the better of him. Without doing any background check, he rented it to people from his ‘own country’ which according to him was a safe option. To his misfortune though, those boys turned out to be rogues, dealing drugs and loaded with arms. On the third day, the neighbors heard gunshots and dialed for the police. The whole apartment was a mess, bottles strewn all over the place, carpet had cigarette burn marks and the place had an overpowering stench of vomit and urine!

The police put the whole apartment complex on a lock down, the residents were asked to vacate immediately and shift to some other place. My friend shifted to a nearby hotel, at his own expense and sent us this regretful bad news. Thus, for no fault of his, our friend was put to a needless inconvenience, so were the other innocent residents. Needless to say, we had to incur the expense of a hotel room, last minute booking, holiday season, everything went into a spin; out of control. And all this headache because someone (totally unrelated) got delusional about the ‘owner-tenant’ covenant.

The above narrative is all to do with worldly affairs and how our planned life goes into a tailspin because of some third party’s delusional thinking. From a personal perspective, I continue to make this mistake all the time! That’s the part which is more worthy of understanding and changing. My owner is my heart, yet all my decisions seem to be taken by the tenant, my mind; worse is, I identify myself utmost with my sub-tenant; my physical self. This mind (tenant) is a monkey, a monkey which ceaselessly sees a ripe banana beckoning to be plucked. The lure of profit, worldly success, a little name, a fake lottery ticket, everything is a lure, a ripe banana for this incredulously, self -deluded intellectual mind. It refuses to listen to the owner, and with time, the owner unfortunately becomes a mute spectator. The game goes on between the tenant and the sub-tenant, the tug of war in changing the sub-tenant to please the tenant and I wonder why this never seems to come to a satisfying conclusion!

Verse 44 (How does one gain freedom?) of Vivekachudami explains this confusion, and what ensues because of this perplexity, elaborately.  Sankaracharya says, ‘In the jagat, there are two things: nama- rupa, or names and forms, and vastu, the reality. There is a difference between them; nama-rupa is nothing but vastu but the vastu is not nama -rupa. The body is only nama-rupa but is mistaken for the vastu, the atma.….. In a clay pot the pot is nama-rupa and the clay is vastu.

This ignorance is at the root cause of all our problems. This identifying with the body and mind and becoming unaware of the eternal presence of the atman, forces us to make mistakes. These mistakes become layers and the ceaseless cycle of mistakes, layers, suffering and life after life commences.  In verse 45 (How to distinguish atma and anatma?) of vivekachudamani elaborates further with these profound lines, ‘Nobody says, ‘I am the body’, but one does say, ‘I am fat’. The attributes of the body are superimposed upon the atma. In the same way there are various notions like the prana being the atma, the mind being the atma etc. These notions are universal because ignorance is universal’  

Imagine the depth of our mistaken identification and obsession we have with our physical self, the sub-tenant! The growing number of beauty parlors, aerobics centers, short cut diet schemes are a testimony to our lack of awareness, or deliberate negation of this simple truth. We spend all our life adorning and pampering the tenant and sub-tenant, spend money, kill precious, irreversible time beautifying the sub-tenant, thinking it to be the owner. That’s the reason we are stumped when the tenant misbehaves. The tenant continues to give attention and keeps its focus on the sub-tenant, (the lure of temporary profit) and try as one might, pleasing this sub tenant is impossible. The owner is subjugated and bound by the whims and fancies of the tenant. And the tenant is intertwined with the sub-tenant. In the material world, the owner suffers because of a wrong tenant and the ways of an errant sub-tenant.

In our personal lives, the owner (our soul) suffers because of our obsession with the tenant who in turn is lassoed with the sub-tenant. This ignorance and confusion between tenant, sub tenant and owner has cost us not just this life, but maybe many lives in the past and probably many more to come in the future, yet we adamantly remain blindfolded. We continue to identify with the sub tenant and tenant; and remain unaware of the true owner’s existence.

Webbed Independence

Webbed Independence

I have always had, (still have) this independent streak in me. I try my utmost to accomplish every task solo; without bothering a single other soul. Not because I don’t wish to seek outside help or that I shy away from stretching my hand to ask a favour of someone. Just that, it has been that way with me; I need to do it all myself! With every passing day, a realization keeps showing its true face to me, teasing me about my illusory independent accomplishments. The verity is that life is rife with webs. We live a webbed life striving to achieve that elusive independence.

How can I be independent? Dependence begins with birth and goes on.  My mind is forever juggling more than one thought process, my heart is experiencing more than one emotion at a time and my physical self is an expert multi tasker, it barely ever shows one singular symptom at a point of time. One thing is dependent on the other within me, in me I have a web, and I am at the centre of this web, breaking free. Forget about my association with the world and its connections; that is a bigger, wider net and little introspection will reveal, that this is a web I can be free of, gain independence from; if I so choose to do so.

I never really gave all this much thought; because this independent streak always limited itself to doing things, accomplishing the worldly deeds and pursuits in a self-reliant way. That was my struggle and definition of being independent; breaking free of the web outside. Now, this independence is also a pseudo independent state, don’t you think? Because, everything I wish to accomplish, there are many interlaced events and people involved who have to participate on my schedule and whim, to bring the event to timely fruition; my way. This, I realised only when I came across many stumbling blocks in the recent past, and my daughter commented about how ‘my independent decisions’ were affecting her life and decisions because she is dependent on me!

Apparently, my interdependence was not as harrowing nor did I have to make any big sacrifices like her. Since I was too busy to commit to 2 days a week to collect her after school; she was forced to forego the exclusive choir group in her school (only 16 girls from the whole school were hand -picked and she was one of them). The poor girl swallowed the bitter pill with great equanimity, yet I was gently reminded of her sacrifice more times than I care to recall. And all this occurred because of her dependence on me. Ah ha! I thought, all this doing solo and not getting in the way of anyone else is a big sham; I am dependent on everyone and everything for everything.  And so is my poor kiddo! We are a part of this huge web and in that the only independent space is the individual space! All else is knotty and intricately knitted, well-crafted work of God almighty, so we cannot Break -Free! And thus, came my moment of epiphany…

My umpteen failed attempts to be regular with my blogs and posts is yet another example worthy of mention. The first step towards this was to be regular and disciplined; and this is where I have consistently boomeranged!  I had a finger in every possible pie; something pressing always took precedence and writing remained on the ‘to do’ list.  With dedicated prioritisation, I finally committed to one post per week, and then I realize I forgot to pay the fee for my website, and thus the website was inactive. So, I patiently wait and get that work done, then my editor gets busy and goes on a sabbatical, so another setback, unfazed, I decided to put up some poetry and unedited posts (at the risk of quality versus continuity) then my website goes on to some maintenance and is offline yet again! It was as if the world had conspired to stop me from being regular, try as I might, my interdependence would not allow me to accomplish this job ‘my way’. I was webbed; and I had to lump it.  This is just a very small instance, which I noticed because of my daughter’s comment. We all have such webbed moments, and I am sure the feeling of being independent is very illusory. Maybe that’s why the most common sigh we have in our moments of frustration is,’ Oh! when will I be free of all this!’

The above aberrations did not make me feel webbed; I could be independent and interdependent; this was the revelation I had. If I could be emotionally free, detached and unaffected, all the other webs (social and worldly) hardly bothered me for long. They were small speed breakers on the road, part of the journey, and probably imperative too, to maintain my speed, and help me see the view on the way. My daughter’s gentle reminder of ‘her sacrifice’ brought to the fore what I personally was trying to break away from; the emotional burden we carry for every action we take or escape.  The constant nagging and having to ask, seek permission, being judged, is what the heart wants to break free from; physically we don’t mind the dependence, on the contrary, we welcome it! It gives us a chance to pass the buck, and have a ‘shared burden companionship’ feeling. It is the emotional clutter that we hanker to clear and yet unwittingly latch on to.

Whenever I feel webbed, I clean the clutter of the house, throw unwanted things, clear the cobwebs, make a schedule; get things under control (as much is possible)! This external control over things helps me put a leash around my free- spirited thoughts and the clearing makes my heart ‘see’ better, I think.  I learn to enjoy the webbed independence state, independently.

Loneliness and Solitude

Loneliness and Solitude

Loneliness and Solitude

Recently, a friend lost her husband. A hale and hearty man waved goodbye to his wife and kids; went to work and it became the last time! He is no more; she has to live the remaining days alone; raise the children alone, fend for herself alone, seek companionship from within, the one closest friend has deserted her, with no warning, no preparation. She is amidst family members, friends who are helping her cope with her grief and loss, but for how long will this companionship serve to be an effective distraction?

Another friend lost her dad; a dad she dearly loved, who was a role model for her. She emulated him, looked up to him; would consult him for every small concern. How does one cope with the loss of some who means who more than life itself? Is it possible not to feel devastated; is it possible to move on? I don’t think so, forgetting is impossible, and being stuck and not moving on is not an option either! So, how does one cope?

My cousin was hospitalised and has just about managed to escape the clutches of lord Yama; she was battling for her life alone, in the ICU. On the other side of the door the whole family prayed fervently for her recovery, each alone with their thoughts and fears. Having witnessed a spate of such incidents with people near and dear, it has brought to fore this million-dollar question, ultimately; ‘Aren’t we all alone?’  It is moments like these which make me wonder; we crave company all our life, want to be surrounded by loved ones, why? Is it because we are afraid to be alone? Or is it solitude and what solitude entails that makes us afraid? We are always alone, so we cry about our loneliness and seek companionship, but solitude means that we acknowledge being alone, and at the cost of stunning the world (the world does not understand the difference between solitude and loneliness) we cannot pretend being sad because of our loneliness.

The Geeta explains loneliness and solitude beautifully; here is a humble translation: Loneliness is the biggest punishment in this world! And solitude is the biggest blessing/gift. These two words appear so similar, yet cannot be more apart, like heaven and hell. “Loneliness is suffering, and Solitude is relaxing. Loneliness is fear, and Solitude is peace/Shaanti. Till we look for solace in the outer world we will experience loneliness. But when you look for it within you, you start experiencing solitude. This life is nothing but a journey from loneliness to solitude. A journey, in which the path is us, the traveller is also us and so is the destination.”

Personally, I am in agreement with the thought that we are all alone, our attitude and experience of the word is what differentiates and gives it meaning, being alone or in solitude. Like it is so beautifully elucidated in The Geeta, alone or in solitude makes the biggest difference. Unknowingly we crave solitude but we are terrified of being alone.

My husband’s observation about me is that I keep insisting that I be left alone! ‘Don’t work from home, go to office so I can have my space!’ ‘All of you go, I will stay back.’ I am sure most of us, especially housewives like me, share the sentiment. We are hounded by our filial duties and a chance to get the house all to ourselves is a chance we would not miss for the world. We do not want this for long though, definitely not, juts for an hour or so, for us to be able to put our feet up, unwind. I also have this craving for being alone, and till I did not read the above explanation I never realised I was actually craving for solitude, being alone was as unsavoury as ever; but solitude is what the heart wants and longs for.

A very close friend’s mother is unwell for some time now, and is bravely fighting a losing battle. The whole family has surrounded her, trying to give her strength, courage and moral support, not just to the mother, but to the dad too, to be able to fight this battle. I speak to this friend every day and I sense that her parents are alone in all this. The presence of family members or the lack of it is a superficial balm to an inner wound which cannot be healed by any one. They smile for others sake, they pretend all is well, things are going to be better, but the verity cannot change just because we decide to wear rose tinted glasses. I sense that they are party to all the smothering they receive and yet experience profound loneliness. How can one let go or be able to let go of a partner of more than 50 years? The time when we finally learn to live comfortably with one another, seems to be the time when we may verily be alone, by one Self! Again, live alone or live in solitude? Probably answering this question may help make the right choice, allow the ‘let go’ to happen, give precedence to the loved one’s interests, cope with grief better? Solitude is what helps us live at peace with our Self, practice attached detachment and heal.

Transformative creativity is a constant need to change, every day of life, to last day.  Inner weather changes and we are unwilling to adapt. We need to be courageous to see my Self, which is possible only if we meditate. The subtle yet yawing difference between loneliness and solitude can come to light only through meditation, there is no other way.

Meditation is all about self-awareness. Being a true companion to the Self; praying for Nature’s forces to conspire and help us get better, make us better beings. Meditation has taught me the subtle difference of being able to appreciate solitude in those alone moments; moments which seemed dreadful earlier are matter of fact today, even joyful and insightful.

Dilettante’

Dilettante’

Dilettante’

‘Keep asking yourself; ’My future comes from where my time goes; so, where should my time go?’ :Mahatria Ra.

The above question is borrowed from the book ‘Most and More’ and another set of three questions the author posed for daily introspection are, 1. ‘Am I doing justice to my potential? 2.Year after year, in how many more lives am I becoming useful? and 3. Day by day, am I living my life in ways by which I am moving closer and closer to my God?’ Needless to say, the book is replete with wisdom and plenteous food for thought. I am forever cursing these learned people and their sermons; because I can neither leave them nor live by them cent percent!

The above question stood out because of it was not the typical run -of the mill question that I read in most self-help books. ‘Go with the flow’.’ Don’t resist’. ‘Things happen as they are meant to happen.’ This is the gist of all that most learned people have to say. They ask you to introspect, meditate, know your goal, rather broad – spectrum stuff.  But, here this person was asking me to track my time on a daily basis, because my life ahead depended on it. Today, I am on the doorstep of half a century and I am oblivious as to where my time went, (I was going with flow, remember?!) and where it is going to go. So, how do I aspire for a future for which I have no plan in place.  

All this learning I gently transfer to our son, in the hope that something will register, and he will have lesser hurdles on his life-path. He dabbles in everything (like me) loses interest before he has mastered it completely (partially excelling is the same as mastering, like me, again!) and he is already in search of something more exciting, challenging (unfortunately, again, like me). That brings me to the title, ‘dilettante’.  A single word, 10 alphabets in all and yet, it aptly describes me!  English Cambridge Dictionary gives the meaning for this word as: ‘A person who is or seems to be interested in a subject, but whose understanding of it is not very deep or serious’.

 A trivial example is a new app; ‘HABITICA’ which our son downloaded and egged us on to follow suit. Like with everything new, my daughter and I excitedly downloaded the app and set our goals, dailies, to-do’s and reminders.  First few days we called and messaged each other to keep a tab on our progress, Gold earned, levels crossed etc. The first one to slip was me, I could not make head or tail of the challenges, and the tasks I had assigned for myself seemed more like pseudo challenges, I succeeded every time, that became a bore. Our son suggested that I increase the difficulty level; but I had already lost interest and I noticed that the very next day our daughter forgot to update and that was that. Our son fell sick and he was forced to discontinue for a week.

So, in a span of 3 weeks we had downloaded an app, tried to inculcate a good habit and also had given up on it, that was the speed with which the habit made an entry and exit from our lives. This is a very inconsequential matter; the sadder revelation was that this was a recurring issue!  It was not just ‘Habitica’; many other activities (learn a new language, Skating, Keyboard) we had started everything with aplomb and dropped them with equal panache’.

This search for something new, this craving for the excitement has led us to have a very small threshold for patience, and sustenance. Mahatria writes; “Under the pretext of wanting to avoid boredom, monotony and repetition, using the context of change, variety and versatility and variation, you guys don’t stick to anything long enough.  When a seed stays rooted in the soil long enough it will develop roots and eventually grown into a tree. However, if I keep unearthing the seed every few days, and keep re-plating it in different places, it will not even become a plant.”

Another fable with the same moral is, a man dug 15meters deep in search of water, and upon some other person’s suggestion, tried his luck at some other spot. Like this he dug 15meter deep holes at some 20 places with no sign of water. A wise man smiled and said, “If you had listened to your heart alone, and not to every passer- by, you would have continued digging in one place and struck gold by now.”

This ‘gold-fish attention span syndrome’ is ubiquitous.  Rarely do we find a person who pursues his or her dreams and see them come to fruition. Rarer still is a person who waits and deliberates long enough to realise what exactly is their dream, every passing fancy is a temporary dream, half accomplished and cast aside. We have this fancy to be Jack of all trades, and have no patience to become ‘master in one’. Every child today is taught music, dance, some instrument, a marital art, some sport, drawing and all this is apart for regular school. We, as parent are as unsure as our parents were (about us) I think, we don’t know what choices the child may finally make and we want to cram everything, in tit -bits so that the child can pick up anything! And the bizarre irony though is that most children go ahead and pick nothing that they have already had a brush with; they seek something new! So, again all that half -baked knowledge, half -hearted attempts finally go down the drain to be replaced by some new fancy which has piqued the kids interest, temporarily.

“If you feel it is a repetition then you are not growing through that experience. Only when you stagnate, you start viewing experiences as repetition. …. The mind needs variety. It thrives on new circus.  A time for everything and everything in its time; that’s what discipline is all about and it absolutely suits the body. But the mind feels suffocated by such monotony. “what is the point if today is just a repetition of yesterday?” the mind wonders. So, the mind pulls you into undisciplined indulgence. Th every desire of the mind to get away from monotony draws us towards intoxication.  The internal drama due to intoxication is entertaining to the mind, and thus it eggs us on towards more forms of intoxication.”

 “Expertise comes with time, but you need to stick to the job long enough, precision come with time, but one has to follow the process long enough; perfection comes with time, but we are happy with superficial excellence.” So, I reiterate, where is your time going? Because, your future goes where your time goes’.

Life is not about what you do, it is about the quality you bring to everything you do. 

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Wikipedia says, ‘Puruṣārtha (पुरुषार्थ) literally means an “object of human pursuit”. It is a key concept in Hinduism, and refers to the four proper goals or aims of a human life. The four puruṣārthas are Dharma (righteousness, moral values), Artha (prosperity, economic values), Kāma (pleasure, love, psychological values) and Mokṣa (liberation, spiritual values).  All four Purusarthas are important, but in cases of conflict, Dharma is considered more important than Artha or Kama in Hindu philosophy.Moksha is considered the ultimate ideal of human life.’

All the sites I browsed, explain the ‘goals of life’, ‘object of human pursuit’ as is. Bar wikipedia and a few others, none give much significance to the order. Thus, even though I have heard the above 4 terms explained countless number of times, I never really gave much thought to the order in which they come, and if that order had any significance at all.  

I think I mentioned the serial, Upanishad Ganga, many times already. The epiphany moments whilst watching this show are ceaseless. Upanishad Ganga has dedicated 4 episodes trying to elucidate ‘the goal of human life’ and the first Purusharth explained is Dharma. Why Dharma should come first; the significance of the order, how Dharma is interlaced with the following purusharths is beautifully brought to light in these episodes.

The life of King Harishchandra is exemplified to depict Dharma. Harishchandra not only foregoes his kingdom, crown, riches and name; he sells his wife and child to uphold Dharma. The chandala employed Harishchandra as a worker at his cremation ground. He directed Harishchandra to collect fees for everybody cremated there: a part of the fee would go to the chandala, a part would be given to the local king, and the rest would be Harishchandra’s remuneration. Harishchandra started living and working at the cremation ground. One day, his queen stood crying before him; she held the dead body of their son, who had died of a snake bite. The queen readied to cremate the dead body of their son. But, Harishchandra told her that he would not let her do so without paying the fee. He was bound by his Master’s word, fee for everybody cremated. Even though it was his own son, and even though his wife was too poor to pay any fee….“ Thus, was the struggle of Raja Harishchandra to uphold Dharma.

I thought the story was a bit too extreme, I mean, putting oneself to so much trouble, pain and grief to uphold Dharma; was Dharma really that pivotal?

“In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible,and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’.In Buddhism dharma means “cosmic law and order”,but is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for “phenomena. Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice.”

The first lesson we learn is Dharma: duty, our duty. Verily, it is bound to come first. It is the foundation stone on which the edifice of our life lies.  The first thing we are taught is ‘know your duty’ and ‘do your duty diligently’. At the tender age of 8 our duty is to study, be a person of moral character and abide by our parents’ words. As we grow older the duty changes, we are duty bound to earn a living, enter the second pursuit of life; Artha. Making a livelihood with legal means within the bounds of our duty, ethically. Profiting off someone else’s loss, earning for the sake of a better life, more than the someone else, in competition with others; these are prominent reasons why we lose our power of discernment and behave contradictory to our true nature. It is Dharma which is the fine line standing between, need and greed. Subtly, it highlighted again that without Dharma, Artha can become a war for power and wealth, sans the foundation of ethics or values.

The gradual progression from Dharma and Artha is Kama, the third Purushaarth. The world is in chaos, misguided probably because of the preference this Purushaarth has been given! The youth today falls in love first, decides all other duties and responsibilities later. People are asked to vote at the age of 18-21, the driving license is issued at the age of 18years, but to fall in love there seems to be no such age bar. What happens when we practice and live life in the reverse order is the plight of the world today. Once again, Dharma helps us ennoble ourselves with love, rather than fall prey to lust. These subtle differences which prepare us for our last Purushaarth, Moksha, have to be followed in the said order. A confusion or transgression of the order keeps us away from our goal. It is by design that only on following Dharma can we be aware of the true goal of life; a life led with Artha and Kama deviod of Dharma are bereft of the last purushaarth.

 “Our discriminative faculty is so much over-shadowed by the hankerings of the mind that we have become quite blind to the real value of things concerned with in life. As a matter of fact, everything in life is for our ultimate good; only we have to learn their proper utilisation so as to turn them to our advantage.” – (Complete works of RamChandra, Vol 2- Ram Chrandra of Shahajahanpur,UP)

Somerset Maugham ends his book, ‘The Razors Edge’ with “The difference between the sublime and the foolish is that of a Razor’s Edge”.  That’s what life is I think, with Dharma in place it can be a life of a sublimity, else of one living in a fool’s paradise. Life may remain successful, infused with joy, wealth and prosperity; yet the goal may elude us, the true goal of life. 

The 4 Purusharth’s are interlaced; Dharma being the foundation on which the edifice of life stands defining the choices we make, and who we become.

 

http://www.ekatvam.org/liberation/dharma-artha-kama-moksha.html

http://swamij.com/purusharthas.html

King or Pawn

King or Pawn

KING or PAWN

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

William Shakespeare

Did you know that chess is our gift to the world? Some 1500 years ago! Our predecessors played this game to devise war strategies. In the 6th Century during the Gupta Empire time, it was known as Chaturanga, which translates to four divisions (of the military): the infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariotry. They evolved into our modern-day Pawn, Knight, Bishop and Rook. From India, the game travelled to Persia and was a part of Persian nobility. When Arabs conquered Persia, the game travelled its way into the Muslim land. For the Arab Muslims, the word ‘ch’  and  ‘ng’ were negative terms and thus came into being our present-day name ‘Shatranj’. ‘Shah’ means king in Persian and Mat means ‘helpless’; the king is helpless and thus defeated; this term is used even today; ‘Check-mate’  in English and ‘shah aur mat’  in our country. 70% of our country men play this game. No, no; relax. I belong to the remaining 30%.

Despite instigating an ill feeling and acting as a catalyst to many fights, I always preferred to play Snakes and Ladders and shied away from Chess. My chances of winning this game were never in question; how badly and how miserable would be the loss and how I would salvage my bruised ego, these were the worries.

I tried hard to feign interest whilst my siblings waged war; 64 squares of black and white and the power struggle to trap the King. It never was a quick game though (like it is said that it used to be in the good old olden days); some tactical maneuvers and a ‘check-mate’; game over; that would have been to my liking. Rather, it went on forever, a long- drawn strategic planning ensued; my clever siblings continued to plot and scheme and bore the audience to death with their tortuous thinking and eyes boring a hole into the board, willing to burn the opponent’s King. Yet, I persisted. The more I watched the more the game revealed itself to me. I realised that the most powerful piece around which the whole game revolved, the king, verily, happened to be the most powerless piece. The queen had all the powers, could move in any direction, any number of squares and a force to reckon with. If the queen is trapped and ousted from the game, a quick closure was imminent.

The Queen, Knights (horse) and Rooks (elephant) and the Bishops (camel) all are powers to protect the king and help their Queen trap the opponent King. Yet, they are confined to that singular power vested on them; a horse cannot play the role of an elephant and the bishop cannot jump two and a half squares like the knight. They all are forced to play their part, die their part; trapped in it unto death. A bit better than the life of the helpless King; nevertheless, a handicapped life. The surprise super powers in the game though, were the Pawns; the soldiers. The queen if dead, she was out of the game, the knight the elephant could play just their part, they did not have the power to become a queen, or any other power. But a pawn, had the potential to become a queen, the most powerful piece in the game, give a losing game a fighting chance and a victory too, maybe. A pawn trudges, inches its way slowly up to the opponent’s side, 6 squares away from either protecting his own King or on the way to becoming a power player!

 

What Shakespeare says reveals itself in this game. The powers have greatness thrust upon them; the knight, bishop and rook. But for some unknown reason the game is designed thus; it symbolises these powers as animals, lower forms of creation. They are born to a nature, very early in life, adapt to their intrinsic nature but the growth stops there. That’s why animals function the same throughout their life cycle. That’s their boon or curse (whatever one chooses to consider it as). The greatness thrust upon these powers in chess is the same, don’t you think so?

Same goes for the King! He is born to greatness, by virtue of birth, the King’s first born ascends the throne and wears the Crown. Likewise, the poor queen is also unwittingly caught in the game. By virtue of being the king’s wife; she has greatness thrust upon her and she too must play her part. Both may suffer or enjoy their part, yet they have to live up to the role they have been assigned. Now, where is the handicap, you may ask. Can the King ever be anyone other than a king? No! They are unfortunately born to that nature and will die within that nature itself. That is there fate, greatness which they were born with and will die in.

Some achieve greatness: is those Pawns, the soldiers in the game, standing in the frontline; guarding the powers. Both, my sister and brother were easy to sacrifice the pawns in the first half of the game; but as they started to lose their powers; the focus shifted. They kept a close watch over the remaining soldiers; slyly inching the corner most pawn up and up into the opponent’s side; hoping they could revive the dead queen; regain power. The pawn has the potential to become someone great; someone who he is not born into, a garb not thrust upon him, can be earned by this pawn. Is this not the same for us; the middle class; or the common man? We all are born to a nature, yet, only we have the ability to transcend our nature. We may fail; yet we can aspire for success. Like pawns, we are born to a nature, but need not leave this world in the same garb; we have the power to choose, aspire to become someone worthwhile. We are a few steps away from our cherished dreams and aspirations; and step by step, we move closer to achieving our aspirations.

The unnoticed pawns in this game fought by powers and super powers; working their way up, from the periphery; and having the potential to come out a winner; achieve greatness. Fascinating game; intricately woven craft, daring us to seek out the simplest truth!

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Recently,  I went for a training program  where I happened to be the only Indian amongst all Irish abhyasis. They were curious or keen to know about my country and countrymen. The sheer diversity of the largest democracy and how we Indians could be best described. Their main query was how we experienced and stayed in sync  with all such diverse cultures, languages, cuisines, religion. While I was trying to tell them about my country and what made us the way we are today, the above title sprung to my mind. I feel, these two words best describes us….’’Defiantly Complacent” I think those two words describe my Indian mindset! They were appreciating the fact that Indian husbands are so accommodative and understanding (my husband took me to the venue which is almost 180kms away, spent the day with our daughter, returned to pick me up in the evening). Had it been an Irish male he would have refused to budge out of the bed on a Saturday morning. I had a very complacent look on my face, but my mind had many defiant reasons to counter their appreciation. I complacently accepted the gesture that he drove me all the way, back and forth. My mind defiantly countered, ‘These foreigners! they want to be independent about everything and yet want an accommodating partner too! It takes two to tango. Whenever,  we wave the independence flag, then we end up having to do everything independently! What do we need anyone else for!’ I did not know how to drive and my understanding husband had graciously done his duty. I was defiant that he had to be specially appreciated for doing something he should have done spontaneously! Am I making sense? I was defiantly complacent at the same time. This emotional tug of war is akin to my country folks. As a country reflects the sum of individual faces and philosophies, isn’t it? I think I have already cited few examples of inconsequential or not so relevant issues where we have been profusely vocal and defiant (the ones that play ‘Dangal’ with my mind!). Then a few issues which I thought had merit and concerned us. The people of the country and we accepted those decisions without a demur, very complacently.   Another recent episode that comes to my mind and takes me on my thinking mode  is Amma’s demise. Half of Tamil Nadu went into mourning and the other half was keeping a hawk eye on who would be the heir to her abundant wealth. She left no apparent heir and has wealth enough to buy the whole nation. As she was the leader of a state, her wealth belonged to the state and not to any one person or successor of her political party. Neither it belonged to her ‘so called’ illegitimate daughter whose pictures were all over the internet. But, the funny thing was, we whole heartedly were shedding tears and mourning our sad loss. Her despicable wealth was such a big issue. We all knew in our heart of hearts what kind of a person she was, yet we cried our heart out and very complacently did nothing about which way her amassed wealth finally goes. It may very well have landed into the wrong hands yet again, and we would very humbly accepted it. Not a whisper about any of this amidst all the teary blogs, twitters and media posts.   The other instance that sprung to mind concerns the very popular show ‘Koffee with Karan’.  One of the guests (it is always a cine world person) said, ‘this is all we talk on the sets, in between shoot break, in the make-up vans and the buzz is all about who said what about who on this show’. Now, this made sense to me. They belong to that world and it is their life and they wish to keep themselves updated.  What puzzled me was the ensuing posts that popped up from everywhere else! We seem to have no life of our own, we have too much time on our hands. We are clueless about how to put this abundant free time to some constructive and productive use. Thus, we idolize these movie stars, emulate them, judge them, for their deeds or misdeeds. Their life somehow seems to add sparkle to our otherwise drab lives and makes it more purposeful.  It somehow gives me a feeling that we thrive on other people’s affairs; the more distant and disconnected the person the more is our curiosity to pry and be aware. After all, they lead a happy, rich and fulfilled life, and we squabble about them and miss out on our life. The fact that we don’t even argue about worthy stuff, is my other concern.  When Sania Mirza married the Pakistani cricketer, we had nothing to say. She happily got on with her life and keeps coming on the cover pages of glossy magazines, not sure how popular she is in Pakistan, she is a big role model in our country. Even our beauty pageants make a beeline for acting as if it is the  only career option for them. Their behavior affirms that “Beauty is skin deep” and young minds get convoluted with all the glamour and show. Why no one ever puts a ban on these beauty queens from taking up acting as their career choice is beyond me. With all the mindful  and meaningful interviews they give and all  the brand endorsements they would have signed, they should prove their point doing something more worthwhile than run of the mill acting! Yet, we have no say on this either.   We get very angry that people from other states have encroached and robbed the original residents of good jobs. We go on endless strikes trying to stop Karnataka from giving water to Tamil Nadu. We have divided our states for whatever political reasons. We stage dharana’s trying to put an end to the influx of people from Bihar and Jharkhand to Mumbai, Maharashtra. Within our own country, we are unable to share our resources, give umbrage, we become defiant. The gross truth is that we are not very tolerant, we are not as secular as we pretend to be, either. Yet, almost the whole state of Andhra Pradesh has gone and set camp in America; we are very complacent. We are entitled to go abroad, we encourage this move and are very defiantly too.  What sort of a logic is this? How can one explain this is beyond my understanding?  Are we not a very contradictory lot? Hypocritical too, if I may add.  We turn a blind eye, become defiantly complacent and take everything for granted in all the aspects pertaining us. And very defiant when things don’t affect us at all, how bizarre are we?

FASTING

FASTING

Amongst all the rituals I have practiced, my longest association as a practitioner and an observer has been with fasting! For as long as I can remember my mother fasted on Friday; ‘Santoshi Ma vrat’. This weekly ritual continues; because of her health and growing years, she has given herself some latitude. Presently, she does not eat anything sour; tomatoes, lime and the like are banned on Fridays, and she has her dinner before sunset. Luckily, for devout Hindus, dieting is a piece of cake.  We have a God assigned for every single day of the week and to appease them we fast on their day. Call it hilarious or illogical or just the whim of a staunch devout (an impressionable child who believed in the power of prayer);  I started fasting when I barely 16years old. Since I did not have a specific favourite God, I fasted on Saturday (the day I am born). This day is said to be ruled by Saturn. So, to appease the devil Himself to keep me out of harm’s way; I opted for this day. I very judiciously continued this ritual till I got married. Apart for the fervent hope that I was guarded from the evil influences of Saturn, fasting helped me stay slim. I was diligent, judicious and had absolute faith in what I was doing. Every Saturday, I woke up earlier than usual, went to the temple to offer my prayers before beginning my day. When in college hostel, my friends very concernedly had something nice and warm waiting for me when it was time to break my fast. Call it fate or that my years of fasting had rendered Saturn effectively powerless; I entered a family where food plays the most pivotal role. Thus, ceased my days of fasting.

Many years later, my colleagues were fasting for ‘Karwa chauth‘; and my reconnect happened. On an impulse, even I fasted that karwa chauth. This is a fast women keep for the longevity of their spouse. I was transported to my childhood days; my mother fasting, sitting in front of our temple singing bhajans, cooking prasad and humming a bhajan to herself, she used to be smiling and engrossed. Despite the empty stomach and extra work her countenance glowed; devoid of stress and zero sign of weakness. She read the ‘katha’, explained the significance to us; she had knowledge of the why of every small ritual. It was a very learning experience for us; and I probably wanted to relive all that, after so many years. But, throughout the day our discussion revolved around how hungry we were, what gift we would receive from our spouse, would our spouse return home early from work, was the spouse also keeping a fast for his wife, whether the moon would rise early (to be able to offer prayers and break the fast) or it would be a long arduous wait. So many discussions, yet none revealed the reason why this fast was so important. It threw no light on the essence nor the significance of this fast. It was about new clothes, jewellery, mehendi, the torture of fasting… To make it even more hilariously meaningless, my dear husband (totally distraught that I had kept a fast for his long life!) bought me a beautiful gold necklace set but could not make it home till past midnight! So, I ‘broke the fast’ sans ‘pati-dev’, happily ate dinner with the kids and was fast asleep by the time he could get away from work. Such was my reunion with fasting.

The next day, my guilt ridden better half made many snide jokes about this ritual, saying it was a big sham, fasting itself is a big sham, as per him. Even though he sounded disrespectful and was very rudely questioning the veracity of a very sacred ritual; his statements were undeniably true. He was voicing what I had experienced yesterday. Where was the faith; the simple honesty with which we practiced such rituals?  None of us seem to dwell on the reason anymore. We superficially follow ‘old traditions’ and grumble about the inconvenience such rituals cause to our daily life.

This lack of knowledge has made a mockery of these rituals. We keep fasts today for krawa chauth, vat savitri, bhai dooj, chhatt… but we all look drained and weary; our heart is not in it. The glow and radiance my mother had on her face; I have not seen it in a long time. Thus, began my journey of trying to figure out the true reason for fasting; the etymology of fasting; if I can call it that.

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from food, food and drink too (absolute abstinence) for a period of time. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism, every religion has one common denominator for advocating fasting. Fasting is a way of purifying oneself. Abstinence from food, drink and physical proximity is a way cleansing the body, mind and soul.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity says, ‘The purpose of fasting is not to suffer, but according to sacred tradition to guard against gluttony and impure thoughts, deeds and words. Fasting must always be accompanied by increased prayer and almsgiving. To engage in fasting without them is considered useless or even spiritually harmful. To repent for one’s sins and to reach out in love to others is part and parcel of true fasting’.

Islam believes, ‘By fasting, whether during Ramadan or other times, a Muslim draws closer to God by abandoning bodily pleasures, such as food and drink. This makes the sincerity of their faith and their devotion to God (Arabic: Allah) all the more evident.

Jainism states that, Self-starvation by fasting is supposed to help shed karma. Santhara (Self- starvation leading to death), the individual gets ample time to reflect on his or her life. The goal of Santhara is to purify the body and, with this, the individual strives to abandon desire.

Buddhism advocates the Middle Path, asking the followers to avoid extremes of indulgence and self- mortification too.

Sikhism is the rare path which does not promote fasting. ’Human mind requires the wisdom, which can be achieved by contemplating on words and evaluating it, torturing body is of no use’.  If you keep fast, then do it in a way so that you adopt compassion, wellbeing and ask for the good will of everyone: ‘Let your mind be content, and be kind to all beings. In this way, your fast will be successful. (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 905; 299)

One religion realized how farcical this sacred ritual would become and decided to stay away from it altogether. We stopped contemplating long ago; torturing our body without understanding the wisdom; fasting has become a mere charade.

Sources: wikipedia

Kalash Pooja

Kalash Pooja

My spiritual guide, my Master, recently published a post on Speaking Tree titled “Fasting and Autophagy: Ancient Wisdom and Scientific Research Intersect”. This brought back many memories and I pulled out my long forgotten notes; all the diligent studies I had done to understand the true significance of so many rituals I blindly followed in the past.

I have already written about Lighting the lamp, Prasadam, Idol worship and Bhajans. All these rituals have a profound meaning and done in true spirit and with perfect understanding, they should result in achieving our ‘goal of life’.  Another such ritual which I mindlessly followed was Kalash Pooja. This article is an attempt to understand the true significance of this important ritual.

It is believed that before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world.
And Lord Vishnu held Kalash filled with nectar during Samudramanthan (churning of the ocean). All deities are believed to reside in the kalash.

Since then the kalasha is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom and immortality. The Purna-Kalasha is considered a symbol of abundance and “source of life”. It is also called Soma-Kalasha, Chandra-Kalasha, Indra-Kumbha, Purnaghata, Purna-Virakamsya, Bhadra ghata, or Mangala ghata.

We find a kalash in the hands of Hindu deities Brahma, our creator, Shiva our destroyer and teacher, Laskhmi our goddess of prosperity. Every auspicious occasion, be it Gruh Pravesh, Gauri pooja, Deepawali , marriage and  even to celebrate the arrival of a new born, we perform kalash pooja.

I enter this home with a kumbha; fill it with ambrosia and anoint

All those who drink of this heavenly water and protect this home.

I enter this house to dwell in it. ( Atharva veda: 3.13.7-9-5000BC)

The Kalash and its adornment have a very symbolic meaning for every occasion. To welcome the new born Kalash represents material things: a container of fertility – the earth and the womb, which nurtures and nourishes life. The mango leaves associated with Kama, the god of love, symbolize the pleasure aspect of fertility. The coconut, a cash crop, represents prosperity and power. The water in the pot represents the life-giving ability of Nature.

For Gruh Pravesh and other household functions, a silver or brass face of the Goddess is attached over the coconut of the Purna-Kalasha. In this form, the Purna-Kalasha symbolizes the Goddess as the manifestation of mother earth with her water, minerals, and vegetation.

Other interpretations’ of the Purna-Kalasha associate with the five elements or the chakras. The wide base of metal pot represents the element Earth, the expanded centre is water, neck of pot is fire, the opening of the mouth is said to represent air, and the coconut and mango leaves: ether. In context of chakras, the Shira (literally “head”) – top of the coconut symbolizes Sahasrara chakra and the Moola (literally “base”) – base of Kalasha – the Muladhara chakra.

The water in the kalasha symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from the energy behind the universe. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the abhisheka. The leaves and coconut represent creation. The thread represents the love that “binds” all in creation.
On some occasions the Kalasha is filled with coins, grain, gems, gold, or a combination of these items instead of water. The coronet of 5, 7, or 11 mango leaves is placed such that the tips of the leaves touch water in the Kalasha. These leaves are known as leaves of deity’s seat. The coconut is sometimes wrapped with a red cloth and red thread; the top of the coconut is kept uncovered. A sacred thread is tied around the metal pot. The Shira is kept facing the sky. The kalash is used for creating seat for invoked deities during the puja ritual. The water inside the kalash keeps this seat pure till the ritual of Pranapratishta (invoking deity into an image, idol, coconut or betelnut). Thus, the invoked deity principle stays for a long period.

Putting a coin is symbolic of sacrifice. Through this medium there is sacrifice of wealth and jiva (embodied soul)’s attachment is reduced. This qualifies the worshipper to benefit more from the sattvikta of puja ritual. A copper coin is put in the kalash. The copper has more capacity to project sattvik frequencies. It helps in emanation of sattvik frequencies present in the water into the atmosphere.

The betel nut kept in the kalash is to enhance sattvik and rajsik components in the water of the kalash. This increases the capacity of the water to emit manifest principle of deity. The betel nut contains particles related to absolute earth element which are useful in binding of sattva particles related to sattva component. This then easily helps in retaining the sattvikta of water for a long time. Five precious stones like pearl, diamond, emerald, blue sapphire, ruby and gold are also added to the water of kalash. The five precious stones and gold have capacity to attract and emit the principles of five superior deities. This benefits the worshipper. But with changing times the use of five precious stones and copper is reduced and replaced by alloys which are spiritually less beneficial.
The consecration (kumbhaabhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaborate rituals including the pouring of one or more kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple.

There is a world of depth, meaning and essence to every ritual. Everything that was said and done during our Vedic period had the backing of science, logic and reasoning. It has sadly deteriorated with time and gone into oblivion today. Every ritual I have performed in the past would have fructified if I had done them myself, with full awareness and knowledge, the essence of what I am doing and why. I was always sincere but lacked the jijnasu quality, the spirit of inquiry was missing. Meditation (I have come back to Meditation, I know:) ) has made me aware of this yawning gap between my actions and ignorant actions!

Action is purification of the mind; not for gaining (knowing) the truth. Knowledge of the truth is by inquiry alone; not even a little knowledge is gained by crores of action. Vivekachudamani (5.11)

Sources:

http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.ie/2013/05/kalasha-symbol-of-cosmic-womb

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalasha

http://bharathkidilse.blogspot.ie/2009/10/kalasha

Self- Imprisoned

Self- Imprisoned

‘If we are not progressing, it is because we create problems inside ourselves, by ourselves, for ourselves.’ -Shri. P. Rajgopalachari

A decade ago if anyone mentioned the word ‘Meditation’ and started to explain the need for meditation, I would have scoffed; looked incredulously at the speaker and walked away. In this day of rush, competition and buzz, who is foolish enough to meditate? Moreover, who has the time or luxury to sit for meditation? Instead of wasting an hour sitting with their eyes closed and building sand castles in the name of meditation; a wise person can achieve some other tangible, productive goal.

Today, for every ailment, physical or emotional, the only panacea that comes to my mind is ‘meditation’. On the surface of it, I am very much the same person; I am still studying books on psychology, albeit the reading has now shifted from pure Behavioral Psychology to psychology and the role it plays in Spirituality. I still practiced counseling; work as an online behavioral therapist; yet my suggestions have changed. Earlier I used to suggest some therapy, now all I can recommend, talk about, suggest or advise is ‘Please experience Meditation’. I seem to have forgotten all else, no therapy comes to mind!

Any ailment I have; psychological or physical, I resort to meditation. I need to know the reason as to why it happened, the psychology behind the physical manifestation of the problem and then alone do I accede to proper medication. Somehow meditation answers everything for me, it gives me all the options, throws light on the path and I feel enabled because of this awareness. Knowing myself is possible only through meditation and unless I try to ‘know’ I remain stagnant.

I wonder if this is not the same thought that crosses every mind? Don’t all of us seek to ‘know’ and after knowing, should we not try to ‘change’ or attempt to become a better person? I find it strange that anyone would deliberately shy away from meditation. Why do we resist change, what is our fear?

 ‘The root fear is the fear of death, namely the fear of psychological death, or the death of ego.

The root fear, not being mastered, manifests itself in a quantity of secondary fears: fear of others, fear of liberation and even of course, fear of love, of the Real love of the Master, since it is going to consume us…

Another way of saying the same thing is to consider the desire to retain desires as the main cause of our ambivalence and our resistance to change…’ (Psychology and its role in Spirituality- Ferdinand Wulliemier)

A few years ago my sentiments matched verbatim with the author. I was unwilling to relinquish my Self. I used to see my life as a utopian one. where was the reason to change such a life? My complaints were many and for every complaint my search for a solution would start afresh. If it was a physical problem visit the doctor, if it was an emotional one then simmer in it and blame the world, and how unjust the world is. After a few days of such simmering and moaning I would compare my situation with some less fortunate person (according to my myopic understanding) and get back to feeling happy. Today, I realize that I resisted change because I had imprisoned myself. All my battles were momentary and situation based. With lapse of time or some external adjustment the situation changed and I presumed (very incorrectly) that all was well again. The change never happened. It remained a cyclical state.

 I thought I had it had all. Because, any outsider who saw me and the life I lived, continue to live; would say it was, is, hunky -dory.  With everything in my favor, my persistent feel was one of dissatisfaction. I did not feel perfect nor did I feel I was competent and complete. When the complaints are from others we can ignore them. We can bring to the fore a few extra flaws in that person and pacify ourselves. It is easy to find fault in others. It is easier to overlook our own faults and compare ourselves with others and feel good. The problem starts when the self begins to complain. That’s when knocking on doors outside of the self, for answers, becomes futile.  Something kept nagging, I continuously kept facing some physical aberration or the other which made me wonder and dig deep within.

Meditation introduced me to this ‘dig deep within’ and thankfully I am able to feel more ‘free’ and ‘self-aware’. I still am self -imprisoned, yet to break free totally, especially in the emotional attachment and ‘expectation from others’ category. But, meditation has made me aware of the simple fact that: ‘If I refuse to face you in my inside, I have to face you outside’ – P Rajagopalachari.

This sentence glares at me every time I feel intolerant, irritated, simmer with anger. Such feelings get actualized with some relationship issues or some physical ailment surfaces. This inner discontentment with the self reflects on the outside and triggers conflicts with family and friends or some health issue escalates and I am forced to confront my ‘inside’.

I meditate and learn that my discontentment with my inside is not a valid reason to misbehave with others outside. If my inside is resolved and I am brave enough to ‘know’ and tackle my inside, then the outside takes care of itself. So, as long as I refuse to face my inside, I will be forced to face it on the outside.

I need to get rid of this self -imprisonment, to be ‘free’ in the real sense.  And the prison is mine, so the first conscious step and the remaining journey too, the initiative to break free of these shackles needs to stem from me, and me alone.