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Showing posts from April, 2018

Zenith

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Life is like a trek in the mountains. Every peak entices you. Standing on the zenith, you look at other peaks which beckon you. Conquests, that’s what trekking is about; that’s what life is about. The joy that a trekker experiences while standing on the zenith of a mountain is quite different from, say, what you experience when you receive a promotion at your office. Real conquests fill the spirit with a new vigour in spite of all the pain you endured on the way. The rugged paths through the mountain slopes, the exhaustion on the way and the rain and the sun that you braved, they don’t matter now. In fact, they metamorphose into a special kind of joy. As Richard Bach said, when you have conquered certain heights you don’t want to go down; you want to spread your wings and fly. That’s what zeniths do to you. You don’t want to go down; you want to spread your wings and fly. Zeniths that really enrich life are not about amassing more wealth or attaining higher positions

Yes to Reality

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At Allahabad Triveni Sangam where I said Yes to one of the harshest realities of my life “I don’t know Who – or what – put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or Something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.” Dag Hammarskjold, Secretary General of the UNO wrote those words just four months before his death in 1961. Saying Yes to reality is a self-surrender. Unless you can surrender yourself to both the joys and sorrows of life, both hope and despair, light and darkness, you can’t say Yes to reality. Your triumph in life is a catastrophe and the catastrophes of life are triumphs when you say Yes to reality. Your Yes to reality carries you to the realisation that “the only elevation possible to man lies in the depths of humiliation” (Hammarskjold’s words). There is no greatness in life that is

Xanadu

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My Xanadu must have a lot of water and greenery Xanadu is a paradise. Originally it was the summer palace of Kublai Khan celebrated by poet Coleridge in his poem, ‘Kubla Khan’. The Tatars ruled by Khan were barbaric. Khan created his personal paradise, Xanadu, as a refuge from the savagery of both his people and the nature. We all need to create our own Xanadus in order to take shelter from the resounding savagery around us. Each one of us must find his/her own way of creating the personal paradise. I create my Xanadu through reading and writing. You can create yours following your own passions. Music, craft, gardening – there is an infinite variety of options open to you for the creation of your Xanadu. It is a place or ambience that gives you personal gratification. It helps you move closer towards self-realisation. In the biblical creation myth, Adam and Eve lived in the Paradise created by God until the couple was driven by the irresistible human urge to know good

Words

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“Words, words, words,” says Hamlet when Polonius asks him what he is reading. When asked further what the words are about Hamlet’s answer is, “Slanders, sir.” Rumours and slanders abound in people’s usual conversations. We love conversations. Have you ever noticed that most of our conversations are about other people and that most of the time we speak bad things about others? Words can kill. People love to kill the reputations of other people. But words can heal too. Words can be magical. Words create music. If we change the way we wield words, we can usher in magic to our life, to the world itself. A good word, a word of encouragement, a word of joy can transform the life of the person to whom it is uttered. One of the tragedies in our life is to begin the day with the morning newspaper which brings us negative words: reports about rising prices and taxes, rapes by spiritual leaders, corruption of political leaders, and so on. It is difficult to sustain our smiles in su

Values

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Image courtesy here “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society,” said Jiddu Krishnamurti. There are too many well-adjusted people today. They are rich, they are found frequently in shopping malls and entertaining places, and they are religious. They are well-adjusted at home too. The husband and the wife have their own entertainments and possibly partners outside home. The children find their own entertainments wherever they are. After all, they all live barricaded safely in their gated communities. They have insurance for everything from themselves to the last item in the kitchen. Everything is taken care of. Perfect. And yet sick. They are so sick that they have to visit gyms and/or detox clinics to extract the venom within. They need gurus most of whom are fake to give them spiritual solace. They have medical insurance to pay their unending hospital bills. Hospitals generate more diseases than they cure. Medicines become food instead of

Unfinished Business

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In psychology, unfinished business refers to emotions and memories surrounding past experiences that one has avoided or repressed. Life is very generous with painful experiences like the loss of a beloved one or the break-up of a genuine relationship. Poet Khalil Gibran sang of pain as “the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” Understand your pain, accept it. That’s the secret of dealing successfully with pain. Pain is a season of the heart even like “the seasons that pass over your fields.” But we often choose to avoid or repress pain. When we do that, the pain goes into some dark chamber of our consciousness and remains there like a smouldering cinder beneath the mounting ashes. Some of us may seek to escape the pain by consuming intoxicants or engaging in binge eating or compulsive shopping. Unfinished business is dangerous. It burns within. It can burn us out by filling our souls with sadness, fear, anxiety, mistrust, hate and whole lot of negative e

Thinking

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The Thinker (Le Penseur) Our thinking plays a vital role in making our life magical or miserable. Thoughts have the power to perform miracles. Cognitive psychologist Albert Ellis presents an A-B-C framework to explain the importance of our thoughts. A stands for the activating event, B for beliefs, and C for consequence. Let us understand this through an example. Joe and Ann break up their relationship. Joe goes into depression. A is the divorce and C is the depression. But did A cause C? No, Ellis says. B causes C. Joe’s beliefs about the divorce are responsible for his depression. Joe believes that the divorce proves his inability to love or that he is a failure or that he is not even worthy of love. What we believe about things happening to us makes the world of a difference to the consequences. Some 2000 years ago, Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “People are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.” If we change our views, the event chan

Secret

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Every secret has a certain degree of power. The moment you reveal a secret to anyone, you are giving that power to the other person. The more the secrets you keep in your heart, the greater your personal power. It is not power over other people; it is power within. You don’t know how a revealed secret will come back to you with a sting. People love to play games with other people just for the sake of preserving whatever ascendancy they have over others. People love power. Worse, they don’t know how to use power for the welfare of others. Why do you want to give your power to another person and be his slave? There are only two kinds of secrets: the kind you don’t want to share and the kind you don’t dare to share. There may be a few, a third kind, which may do a little good by sharing: like reduce a burden in your heart. It may be quite alright if you have a good friend who can share your burden. But the question is how many such good friends does anyone really have? Th

Religion

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At prayer :) My religion is one of the accidents that happened to me when I was an infant. I was just a few days old when my parents took me to the church for christening. Thus I became a Christian without my knowledge or consent. For most people religion is a similar accident; it is given to them at birth. You are a Hindu or Muslim or whatever merely because you were born in a family whose members also had their religions foisted on them by others. That given religion becomes a part of our personality. Christianity played a major role in shaping my personality. It gave me a lot of guilt feelings because almost everything good is a sin in that religion. I outgrew my religion when I became an adult. I could not accept most of what it taught me. So I gave up the religion and sought truth in my own personal way. Life becomes magical when you begin to discover your own truths though the process is not easy. Religion can help in the discovery of your personal truths, no

Quest

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Photo by Tomichan Matheikal In one of his poems John Keats presents a knight who met an exceptionally beautiful woman in some distant land. The knight instantly fell in love with her beauty. But the woman disappeared after tantalising the knight’s passions. The knight started searching for her. He never gave up the search though the woman seemed untraceable. If you reach that land even today, you will find that knight roaming there like a weary skeleton continuing his endless quest, says the poet. Genuine quests are endless. Saint Augustine of the Catholic Church famously said, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” That you was god for Augustine. Augustine was quite an adventurer in his youth who enjoyed life to the hilt like other young men of his time. He had his fair share of beautiful women too who did not elude him like Keats’ La Belle Dame sans Merci. The women did not, however, satisfy Augustine’s passions. God did. God is infinity. Anyone can go on qu

Paradigm shift

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Paradigm shift, in simple words, is a change from one way of thinking to another. For example, we can think of religion as compassion instead of a set of rituals and prayers. A paradigm shift can bring about miraculous changes in our life. A prisoner, for instance, will make his life miserable if he despairs of his condition or can make his term a happy period if he chooses to do something creative under the given conditions. Aren’t we all prisoners in this world? Awareness is a necessary prerequisite to all meaningful changes. One plain truth is that we love to live in our comfort zone. Only when we become aware of facts like our comfort zone is not the best of zones available and that there are many other better possibilities and options open to us, will we be able to change. In the beginning of his novel, Illusions , Richard Bach tells a story about some water creatures. These creatures spend their entire lifetime clinging to the rocks and twigs at the bottom of the

Overcome

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Image from Fluidsurveys You may feel oppressed at least occasionally. Even in a well-oiled democratic system, the citizens can feel oppressed by various policies of the State. As poet Louis Macneice said in his poem, Prayer before Birth , the world can convert us into “lethal automatons,” make us “a cog in a machine,” or blow us “like thistledown hither and thither.” The State and its various machineries may decide what food you can or cannot eat, what kind of dress you should wear, how much money you can save, and so on. The State can make you feel powerless. There are even States which encourage one section of the citizens to eliminate another section. Both the eliminator and the victim are powerless. You want to overcome the lies   that create powerlessness. There is only one way of overcoming that kind of powerlessness: living in your personal truth. The State compels us to live within a lie, as political thinker Vaclav Havel said. You don’t have to accept the

Neurosis

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We are all neurotics though we convince ourselves that we are normal especially because our society approves of most of the things we do. The society is the benchmark for the sanity of our actions. We can even murder people in large numbers and call it religious fervour or patriotism. We are doing it everyday. We are doing it indirectly perhaps like, for instance, when we glorify the soldiers who kill at the borders or the militants who kill wherever they wish. There is no need to go to the extent of murders in order to be aware of our neurosis. If we analyse our usual thoughts and actions, we will find that quite many of them are plainly absurd if not insane. One of the jokes that I have quoted again and again in my classes is from Albert Camus’s essay, The Myth of Sisyphus . There is a mad man who is fishing in a bathtub. The psychiatrist asks him with a plan to start a session of counselling, “Hey, got any fish?” The mad man frowns at the doc and gives a harsh reply,

Meaning of Life

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Image from Introvert-Inspiration Viktor Frankl spent several months in Hitler’s concentration camps. It is very difficult to nurture hope and not capitulate to despair when you know that your days are numbered.   Frankl was lucky to survive. He wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning after his release from the camp. The book sold millions of copies. Meaning is what sustains us. That is Frankl’s essential message. It is not at all easy to find meaning in a life that is about to be snuffed out in a torture camp. The first thing you need is hope, says Frankl. You know that there is someone outside there waiting for you, waiting with agonised longing for your safe return. That one person alone is enough to generate hope in your heart. That person may be your spouse, your offspring or even your god. You are very precious for that someone. All of us have someone for whom we are very, very precious. We have to live for that person. We have to win for that person. Hope alone

Love’s dilemmas

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Othello and Desdemona Image from Wikipedia Love is a complex thing though it ought to be the simplest being the most natural feeling between human beings.   Love makes the world go round.   Love is a feeling that wells up within us almost always.   We love our family members, friends, colleagues and a whole lot of people with whom we establish some sort of relationships. Yet it isn’t a very simple feeling. Othello loved Desdemona arguably more than any man would love a woman. Yet he ended up killing her. He killed her for love. Can anyone kill the person whom he loves so much? Can we call that emotion love? Desdemona was a pure woman who loved Othello as much as he loved her.   Her love was simple.   It was a childlike trust.   She was so innocent that she could not even prove that innocence.   Should love be so innocent, so trustful, so childlike?   Did Othello really love Desdemona?   Or did he love himself more?   He killed her because he thought she had betray

Knowledge and Folly

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Source: Quotefancy “You understand, and that’s why you’ll never have any peace. If you didn’t understand, you’d be happy.” Zorba the Greek , protagonist of the eponymous novel by Kazantzakis, tells this to the narrator who is a young man of much knowledge. “You’re young,” Zorba goes on, “you have money, health, you’re a good fellow, you lack nothing. Nothing, by thunder! Except just one thing – folly! And when that’s missing, well…” Zorba doesn’t complete the sentence. The sort of folly that Zorba wants his boss to attain is not something that can be explained. It is the product of enlightenment . It dawns on you when you stop depending on your brain for everything. “A man’s head is like a grocer,” as Zorba says, “it keeps accounts. I’ve paid so much and earned so much and that means a profit of this much or a loss of that much! The head’s a careful little shopkeeper; it never risks all it has, always keeps something in reserve. It never breaks the string.” Knowledge i