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Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Year thoughts

PP Wangchuk

Even though sad to think that the New Year makes one older by a year, it is nevertheless good to have feelings and expectations that the bad days are gone and one may yet see one’s hopes and aspirations coming true. I received a message wishing me a new turn in life that could be, in a way, reward
for all my hard work for decades without much in return. One hopes that happens, and yet one could be better off expecting nothing spectacular happening.

I am a fan of John Keats, and used to memorise his beautiful poetic lines during my college days. One of his poems is emphatic on not to expect anything in life until it happens. “Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced. Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it.”

So, that is that. My New Year resolutions have this point clearly drawn. Work hard, even madly, but never expect that great returns will come your way. If they come in course of time, fine; otherwise one need not bother much. The very fact that you have worked hard and sincerely will give you peace of mind and happiness. You will have sound sleep and good health too. What else does one need?

One more thing that experience teaches is that one does not make full use of all the opportunities that comes one’s way. Even if one grabs 50 pc of these opportunities, one would have been miles ahead in terms of achievements. What I see is that we lack the strength to make sound judgments, and don’t pursue our goals all the way. We are too lazy and give up too easily. Nothing is impossible, only that we make it so by our thoughts and actions not being in tandem.

Also, one must value time and must never let

it go wasted. Shakespeare reminds us how we while away out life: “… we play the fool with time and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us.”
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New year, new life

Ragini Gulati

Happy New Year! But one wonders will it really be a happy new year? It is quite natural to feel certain amount of uncertainty and the fear of the unknown. The problems never change, the prospects look dim and yet, we need a new beginning, a ray of light, a fresh new feeling of hope that all is not
yet lost, that, indeed, there is a way to make it. A new year brings to us all that and much more.

The rising sun is a symbolic dividing line between one day and the next. Every day, we begin a new chapter of our lives. The whole day stretches before us, a pristine wonderland of potential, a clean slate unsullied by mistakes, failures and disappointments.

A new year is a chance to reinvent our lives and reinvigorate ourselves. It is like a blank paper given to us, waiting to be filled up. Each day holds its promise, and life's journey begins anew. No matter what we have done or what others have done to us, it is a chance to start afresh. When we cross out the past year and welcome the new year with open arms, there is the promise of a whole new future awaiting us. Truly, there is something tremendously exciting about new beginnings.

An important part of preparing for a new year is to review the past year and learn from it. The past is gone and cannot be changed but the future holds possibilities. A new year gives us a chance to break through from the habitual and constraining chains of the past and build a better future for ourselves.

The Bible has examples of God giving people second chances. That is exactly the promise God holds forth. We may have been through troubled waters in the past but God offers to us, right now, the exciting promise of a new beginning. And remember, “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” --- Buddha.
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Talking to God


Constant communion with God is the gateway to peace and happiness. Though omnipresent, we can’t see Him with our naked eyes but sure we can see Him with our inner eye. As a child I used to talk and interact with God in innumerable ways. Sitting in the verandah of our cottage in Cherrapunji, midst
thick shrubs, trees and pouring rain, I used to make paper toys and write letters to Him and they used to reach Him! And, I used to get replies along with gifts too!

Of course, all this was courtesy my mother, but I was too naive to understand all that. I also used to see Him; God used to visit me in my sleep. These were probably my sub-conscious thoughts but for me all that was real. I used to narrate this to my mother to the extent of describing His looks and dress — long robe, flowing beard and smiling face. I now realise the reason for this image — I have always adored pictures of Lord Jesus Christ and Rabindranath Tagore. As I grew up, I realised the truth. My mother’s post office service was a way to inculcate in me a deep faith in Him. I felt a little deprived for sometime — no letters, no toys from Him and no ‘meetings’ either. But soon I realised that the feeling of His omnipresence, or rather His presence around me, had become inextricably woven in my very being.

What I read as a little girl in school — faith in personal God and self surrender to Him, is a gospel for me. Just surrender yourself to Him, and let Him take your charge. I am constantly in communion with Him. I talk to Him, share with Him and at times also express my disappointments, little realising that He has His own plans for us and in these disappointing moments are hidden appointments with what is in our best interests. If we all keep communion with God, there will be love and peace around.
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Fearless steps

PP Wangchuk

The world celebrates from tomorrow the 150th birth anniversary of one of the greatest sons India has ever produced. Swami Vivekananda lived a short life of 39 years but did a thousand years’ work of revolutionary nature. Here was a monk from Kolkata who wanted us to be fearless and acquire the
spirit of a rebel. He was relentless against the undesirable and dogmatic and ritualistic ways of life.

“I will die a thousand deaths than lead a jelly-fish existence and yield to every requirement of this foolish world.” That is the very essence of the Swami’s philosophy and he lived and proved his belief until the very end. One can say, the Swamy inspired and transformed millions and brought them out of the rut of the times.

Success in life, whatever the field, does not come if one tries within the conventional comfort. One has to think of ways to rebel and kick off the oft-trodden path to achieve one’s goal and make a difference to one’s self and thereby to society at large.

The rebel in the young Swami was so ignited that once he remarked,” Human help I spurn with my foot. He who has been with me through hills and dales, through deserts and forests, will be with me.”

The Swamy was a born optimist, and he was sure that his life was meant to show the world a meaningful life and that won’t come by being a nice, obedient and hardworking person. That could be left to the animals who would work as per their master’s calling. The Swamy’s sense of belief in himself and his capacity to overcome obstacles on the way to his destiny is reflected in these words. “Have faith that you are all born to do great things. Let not the barks of puppies frighten you --- no, not even the thunderbolts of heaven --- but stand up and work.”

Yes, as the New Year has set in, we need to stand up and act with the zeal, fearlessness and rebellion of the scale the Swamy had. Success does not come being a couch potato!
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Staying alive

Dinkar Shukla

"The sun never sets on one's problems". How true! I had heard this many years ago. Life is such that problems keep cropping up every now and then. I, too, had my share of problems. But the profound statement would surface in my mind and enable me to wade through the problems without getting
disheartened. Once I found myself in such dire straits that there seemed to be no way out. It happened when I had lost my job, which was my only source of livelihood and my only hope of continued education. Things worsened as time passed.

Soon a day came when I did not know as to how to arrange for the next meal. The wolf was standing at the door. Several days went by one after the other with nothing but plain water to subsist on. And I had no one around to look up to. I had huge responsibilities to fulfill and so the thought of suicide could never enter my mind.

How did I muster the courage to get over the calamitous situation? First, my faith that this phase would pass. And what fuelled my faith were two priceless books I had read. One of these was the Diary of Columbus. The great mariner and visionary records the progress of his voyage of discovery at the end of each day. It seemed to be an endless sailing through the turbulent waters of the North Pacific Ocean. For days on what Columbus recorded in the Diary was the repeat of a one-line statement: "This day we sailed on, course WSW (west south west)". No sight of land day after day. Columbus was the only one on the ship who would look forward to the next day with renewed hope while all his mates kept cajoling him to turn back.

The other book that helped boost my dipping morale was Lust for Life. It was about the life, work and struggle of the immortal Dutch painter of the 19th Century, Vincent Von Ghogh, each of whose paintings ironically fetched millions of dollars after his death.

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Be happy now

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

If an alien visits our planet and watches football or a cricket match, he will be shocked. One leather ball and so many people after it! The alien would say, “This world has so many things. Just give a ball to each player. Why cause such a commotion?” For an alien, this appears unintelligent and
useless. But fans of football or cricket will say, “Oh we had such a fantastic time!” Because the one purpose of everything that man has created is for happiness. And it is for the same reason that God created this beautiful creation. God is trying his best; he has created so many things for you to be happy. God wants to see you full of enthusiasm, compassion and joy.

But what do we do? We keep a long face, worry about this and that. What are you waiting for to be contented? Everybody keeps postponing his or her happiness. A child thinks she/he will be happy when they go to college, then thinks she/he will be happy when they start earning, then thinks she/he will be happy once married.

And the story goes on and that special day never comes! What’s the fun? Life is not meant for this. It is a mixture of problems and pleasure. In life, there’s 20% sadness and 80% happiness. But our mind converts the 20% into 2000%. If you can win your mind, you can win the whole world.

When the mind is outward and stuck in an event or incident, you have to retrieve it back. You think life is miserable because you are hanging onto desires of the past, not accepting the present, not moving ahead or hoping for something too much. Wisdom is to see the past as destiny, future as free will and be in the present moment. So, resolve to be happy now.There are two ways of looking at life. One: “I’ll be happy after achieving a certain objective.” The second: “I am happy come what may!” Which one do you want to live?

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Attachment blues

AK Bhargava

Love is one of the most used words. I love myself, I love my family, and I love ice cream. What is the difference between love and attachment? Is attachment pre-requisite for love? Or is it possible to be detached and full of love? Superficially, it is difficult to distinguish between attachment and
love. In Vedanta, we find attachment is deplored but love is acceptable. While love is a source of joy, attachment leads to pain and bondage. One of the secrets of spiritual life is to know the difference between love and attachment. But the two have got so intertwined that we have both love and attachment in our life.

What is attachment? The Sanskrit word is Raga or Moh. Detachment is Viraga or letting go. Attachment can be to a place, person or object and is seen as getting involved in the world while detachment is seen as isolating ourselves from the world. Attachment develops with sense of 'I' and this sense of ego spreads its tentacles in the form of ownership and leads to idea of mine. 'I' seldom stands by itself. 'I' always wants mine. 'I' is weaker than not 'I'. So 'I' makes itself larger by owning something like my family, my community or my country. Thus, 'I' feels itself larger and it develops into 'Mine'. To defend this 'I', we add more 'Mine' and thus give rise to Raga.

'I' vanishes in deep sleep and so does 'mine'. So mine cannot exist unless 'I' exist. This attachment to 'I' and 'mine' produces all the problems we have in life. Attachment also brings fear, fear of losing. What am I attached to, what motivates me in life? Depending on the answer we get we will be able to understand the source of joy and sorrow, freedom and bondage. Attachment leads to bondage and stress while detachment leads to freedom.

True love wants freedom and joy just like detachment. The more detached we are, the more loving we become. Rama, Christ and Buddha were detached, yet very loving.
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Beauty of concepts

VN Chhibber

We have created beautiful concepts. One of these is the idea of relationship. What we discover, what we create, is with a view to making life more comfortable and happy. The first relationship is with yourself. Do you have low self-esteem? Do you feel inferior? If your reply is in the affirmative,
then you stand to lose in life’s journey.

One ought to have a clear relationship with self. Do you think you are learned or skilled to earn through honest means?

You have to have enough for yourself and your kith and kin. If you think you are fit on this score, half the battle is won.

If you think in a specific way, it is unique to you. Why do you need a relationship? For happiness or for security?

If both, you have to set up a relationship with the Divine. Even hunger can form relationship. You enter into relationship with food for each particular part of your body. You may grow with relationships, with contacts, and remember that all the possibilities are voiced from within.

Like a TV set, your channel may start showing negative frames and in your wisdom you can instantly change the channel.

When you meditate, you are nourishing the human soul. And when you feel the hunger to feed the soul, then regular meditation begins, and it becomes effortless. We start by remembering the Divine, and if we do it most of the time, it comes naturally.

Life is not an illusion for us to hide in the high Himalayas. Life is beautiful and the future of life is life divine. By awakening to the hunger of our being, we see divinity around and divine hand in everything we handle.

Relationships get soured owing to ego. Do not be driven by ego, but have the upper hand. Benign humility takes you to great heights. And as a superior soul, you will be cherished as one in millions.
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With change comes creativity. Welcome it

AK Agarwal

Creativity and change are closely related as they depend on each other. When change take place in your life, it takes creativity to get through it. Creativity, then, causes another change in how you respond to a given situation. Both, the new change and the creativity to handle it, have certain
risks involved leading to a new direction. You may experience fear and anxiety; and at the same time, there may be joy and excitement.

At times, these changes can occur too rapidly in a short span of time. The loss of tradition in one's life and too much of newness can lead one to a nervous breakdown. There are certain limits to one’s ability to bounce back.

Humans tend to act contrary to nature’s will. And then there are personal changes like marriage, children and the loss of one’s dear ones etc. that require a great deal of creativity to carry on with life.

Women especially have to be highly creative to deal with the problems these life changes bring about. They are the ones often in charge of most of the developments occurring in a family.

In such cases, one has to not only get adjusted to the new developments but has to reevaluate one’s entire life and go for drastic changes. One has to reinvent oneself. It is here that creativity is the key to making it through this kind of trauma.

Actually, one should reinvent one’s life on a daily basis so that one does not get into a depression. Your ability to creatively deal with the situation at hand will determine your success or failure.

One way is to see whether you could do better by moving to another place. One must understand that it is change that opens up new opportunities. History tells us that those who could invent great things were those who were desperately in need of them. That is why it is said that necessity is the mother of invention.

All great inventors had turned to their individual creativity for resolution.
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Prayer for goodness

VN Chhibber

“Those who really seek the path to enlightenment dictate terms to their mind. Then they proceed with strong determination.”—Gautam Buddha. Mind is a bad master, but a good servant. Prayer is like breathing. Without breathing we can’t live. Prayer is communion with Him. We become
more like Him.

Prayer is not only asking Him for this or that — the relationship is valued in itself, as in other relations of love. Does not God know what we need? But God wants that our will should not bend towards negative desires, but desire the good with deep fervour. We must also acquire the capacity to will the good, so that it happens as we wish.

In unselfish prayer, the first focus is Him. His name, His kingdom, His benign will. The second focus is other people, inclusive of the self. Prayer can achieve miracles of healing and change that cannot be explained medically. In prayer, we may be alone. But group prayer is more lasting and full of zest.

Prayer has to be learnt. It is like swimming. When you are first thrown into water, you may sink. By repeated struggle, you acquire the skill of keeping your head out of water, afloat.

The first rule in prayer, as in swimming, is not to give up just because you do not succeed in a couple of attempts. Prayer is a spiritual skill to be acquired by regular practice. The second rule is to ‘let go’, to let the water support you for relaxation. Swim with the current.

Have full faith. The third rule is to keep up the practice.

The fourth rule is to develop the discipline of prayer through self-control and fasting. Fifth, use your entire body in the service of prayer. Sixth, keep balance between personal prayer and satsangh. Seventh, prayer needs to be nourished by reading scriptures and articles and meditating.

Prayer is for common good. It creates all-round goodwill and love for fellow humans. It lays a solid life foundation.
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Celibacy and spirituality


The whole dimension of spirituality is to grow beyond the physical. If your involvement with the physical is very deep then naturally your attachment to the body is very strong. It is not sex per se which can be an impediment in one's growth but generally sexuality breeds an attachment to the body;
in that context this has been said.

But does the physical act itself stop a person from pursuing his spiritual path? Not at all, but what is being said is, unless your focus is strong and pointed, the chances of progress or the progress itself will naturally be very slow because you are thinking in many directions at the same time. For a person who wants to go all out and do things in a short time, the advice is definitely not to get entangled with these bodily aspects.

Though people would like to project their sexuality as a very conscious process, it is not so. It is a compulsive process. Maybe, it is handled a little consciously by some people while others do it compulsively but essentially the ingredient, the basic seed of sexuality is a compulsive process. It is physiological and chemical; it is the function of the hormones which is driving you like that.

So, unless you are able to transcend all compulsiveness within you, definitely it is an impediment in that sense. Any kind of activity, whether it is eating or sexuality or talking or whatever, if it is a compulsive process, if you are enslaved to it, then that is an impediment.

If you look at what is causing this compulsiveness, if you understand that and handle that aspect, then compulsiveness goes away. That's definitely moving towards freedom.

If one pursues a spiritual path, irrespective of where he is right now, gradually he may evolve out of many compulsions within himself.
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Soul search

Taking refuge in myself/ coming back to myself/ I am free. That was the Buddha hours before he died. Buddha, it is said, called an assembly of monks and nuns and told them about the essence of enlightenment. He told them it was one's inner-self that one had to seek and realise its importance. And
that it is the inner-self that gives one the ultimate shelter and liberation from the never-ending pangs of life.

Last Sunday, I happened to visit a monastery where a spiritual Lama tried to dispel misconceptions we lesser mortals hold. The Lama told the gathering about the importance of undertaking pilgrimages, visiting places of worship, listening to sermons, doing prayers and meditation. These are the tools for the common man to make him realise who he is and what is the ultimate purpose of life.

Meditation after listening to a religious discourse can lead one to self-discovery and the rich inner world. Meditation is a tool that helps one become humble and pushes him towards the ultimate goal of liberation.

That is why Thich Nhat Hanh stresses that meditation helps one water the seeds of joy and happiness in our garden (my word) of consciousness. "Joy and happiness are the food of a Zen monk. Before eating, we say, may all beings be nourished by the joy of meditation?"

The inner world is one's ultimate destination where joy and happiness are like the fruits in an orchard. When you are one with yourself, it is then that you can see yourself in everything around you — be that your worst enemy or the starving souls in your surroundings. It is at this point that the real you awakens and tries to make your life purposeful and useful.

It is at this stage that you become a blessed being.

Your mission is complete and the tree of life that you have nourished so well bears fruits.

PP Wangchuk
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