Saturday, April 3, 2010

On education

Dear Divya
You have been away for more some time now; Away from all of us ; to study at the best place there is, for the profession that you have chosen for yourself. I understand that this pursuit of knowledge is essential for you to have a successful future.

You know, in the last month, sine you have been away, I have been chewing on this question  - “How essential is it to disseminate this education,  that we are all working so hard to give you - our children.”  After all, most of us have gone through the system as it stands today. It’s true that people would weigh our capabilities based on what our qualifications are. But, we also know that what we need to do well in life are the relevant skills and a great attitude. I wonder then how, just going through a process of rote learning is going to add value, in this meaningless race that doesn’t really matter. Why are we asking you children, to bear the burden of such an education? To what end?

My agitation about this issue has increased in the recent past, triggered by the fact that you are away from all of us. I have been wondering if we have made a wise decision in sending you so far away from all of us for “higher” education. Will the end result of this major compromise justify the hardships that we are all enduring today?

As all these thoughts churn through my mind, I think of the Gurukul system that we used to have, where the child is sent away to grow up in his Guru’s house as soon as he is old enough to learn - Away from home at a tender age where the intellect is not mature enough to appreciate the reason for the separation but yet feels its pain. It struck me then that ultimately, whatever the process of learning or system of education, whatever its flaws, the ability to learn and grow is only in the hands of the learner himself. 

We could come face to face with expertise and yet not be able to pick up even a part of that knowledge. How much we yearn to seek knowledge will determine how knowledgeable we get. All people bear an inherent potential to become knowledgeable in any area they choose to pick up. Human spirit and intellect knows no boundaries. It expands based on the challenges that it faces. We have to accept that we are the ones limiting ourselves due to our own unreasonable fears and limiting imaginations. We are often so bogged down by picking holes in what is there before us that we fail to take the positives and move on. After all no system or process can be totally hopeless or perfect?!

So, we all need to learn enough to create a good future for ourselves. We must learn all the skills and knowledge that will enhance our perspective to this beautiful world, the people around us and our ability to manage all of it, ethically. Knowledge is the only wealth that will remain and grow with us provided we apply it with the right attitude. It is the only tool that we really need to succeed- of course like I have said it has to be tempered with the right attitude to life and work.

We all need to appreciate and learn to work on the tremendous potential that we have, to evolve into whatever it is that we wish to be! Limits exist only in our mind!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Does He Really Exist ?

Does He really Exist? Or is he a figment of my imagination - a life line created in a weak moment
The world around me is full of disparities. There seems to be relentless suffering. Then why should I believe ?
I don’t need Him! I believe in myself. So I don’t need any prop to support me through tough times.
Faith is meant for the weak-hearted; For those who need a justification for their failures - Blame it on Karma! What else!
How do I know He is there?

I have gone through these questions myself. Today, as I stand on the threshold of my faith, I realize the immaturity and absolute audacity of these thoughts.

Firstly , I’ve understood now that faith is not something that I can intellectualize. It cannot be apprehended by logic. It is not something that can be understood by the mind alone. It is a function of the heart, of feeling, of experiencing what it is like to have someone you can ALWAYS rely on, no matter what. To be able to experience His presence in every moment of your life is a euphoria that cannot be described. It has to be felt. I can explain to you the sweetness of the sugar cube in my mouth and what I am going through. But to really understand, you have to put the sugar cube in your mouth, yourself. Our experience can then be shared but may never be the same. How we comprehend and experience our faith is a factor of our emotions and bonding with Him. What relationship we strike with Him defines our experience.

As years pass, we experience life and often, our faith begins to shake. In this journey, somewhere, our disgruntlement with the so called caretakers of our religion too, has made us disown our faith - we have chosen to throw the baby out with the bathwater! The loss is completely ours and its impact is all around us – from the rudderless butterfly generation that flits from one enjoyment to the other and yet feels empty inside to the insecure elderly who are not sure what they did with their lives except to know that they traveled aimlessly, a long way to a destination that they are now sure they never intended reaching. Life for both has nothing to offer but grief, pain, disillusionment, misplaced anger and frustration. In an attempt to ease all of this, they sink further, holding on to makeshift gurus who have utilized the situation to their personal advantage.

Does God really exist? The answer does not lie outside us. It lies within our introspective thought. So here are my answers!!

Does He really Exist? Or is he a figment of my imagination

Undoubtedly God exists. Just because I don’t see, touch or hear him, doesn’t mean that he isn’t there. Let’s take an example - Someone who has traveled extensively, comes back from his trip to this unknown destination, and tells us of this spectacular place that he visited. He takes out the map and shows us the geographical coordinates and location of the place. He even has photographs. We are struck by the beauty of the place and believe him. Hasn’t this happened to most of us? Well, why am I willing to believe this person, when he tells me that this place exists? On the contrary, why am I unable to believe when a believer says God exists. The believer too, is also able to show me details from the scriptures of how to get there, about what the journey will be like, how the place looks like, what the experience will be like. He also has photographs of the destination & the Lord based on people who have experienced God. Then why this disbelief! The reason is simple. God is not tangible – I can’t in my mundane existence, see or feel him. I cannot understand all of what the scriptures are saying. There are misinterpretations and too much conflicting data. But it is not true that what we don’t understand does not exist, isn’t it?

For those of us who do believe we feel his presence - In the daily events; the answers that come unasked; in the sudden help that comes from an unexpected hand. Most people would agree to the presence of a larger force that drives events and decisions in our life. If you look around you with an open mind, you will be able to see that so much of the world is held by this force. From the planets that don’t collide to the upshoot of a sapling from a dry bark to the power of water and fire. How does one explain why life began? What prompted that chemical composition to suddenly react and begin to grow? Our intellect cannot answer that. Faith can. Intellectualizing and seeking proof for everything maybe greatly rewarding – but after a point, it shakes up your core and fundamentals. I might be able to subject my parents and myself to DNA  testing to prove who my father is – but will that act ever allow our relationship to trust & grow? I think not. Where the intellect ends, faith begins. It is far beyond what our minds can comprehend. It is sufficient to believe that God exists. When we do, then answers fall into place.
The world around us is full of disparities. There seems to be relentless suffering. Then why should I believe ?

Lets look at it like this. When we get into a relationship, we don’t necessarily do it for a gain. We form a bond because the person means something to us. Often as a parent or a child, we continue to love despite the frictions or negativity. The reason is simple - we love them. Well, if we gain from that relationship - that’s a bonus. If the person loves us in return , then we are very lucky. But we love them all the same. Our faith in God is also like that. We love and believe in Him because He is our own. That he loves us is indisputable. In fact, we are the ones who spread negativity in this relationship and refuse to love him. He continues to care and nurture.

If he loves and nurtures then why is there so much pain – you may ask. Well, there are 2 reasons –Firstly, its like the mother, who force - feeds bitter medicine to the child in the hope that it will cure the disease. Any person who has gone through repeated hardships in life will be able to see a pattern of events in them. When we don’t learn from our past mistakes and keep repeating them, then God keeps knocking us on our heads in the hope that we will understand and correct ourselves. Often we don’t. We choose the same type of people and situations. We fall into a pattern of emotions that is negative and drives our minds to make decisions that fulfill our thoughts. One negativity drives another.

Secondly, most successful people would vouch for the fact that they have become who they are because they went through untold hardships. Yet as parents today, we want to protect our child and give them a soft life. What God is trying to do is give us experiences that will toughen us for life to come so that we will be stronger and better equipped. He is making sure we succeed.

Pain is not bad provided I choose to channelise it. There are people who have come out of suffering choosing to ensure that others don’t suffer like them – yet others have taken to drugs and alcohol. Did one feel less pain than other? No. The reaction to pain has differed. What we are expected to do with our pain is pretty simple – Use it to gain mental strength and support people around you, use that learning to create a better world - Bear it & bare it!

You don’t stop loving your parent because they make you go through an unpalatable experience. When you trust them, you grit your teeth and bear it - you know that they would never put you through something that would not benefit you in the end. In that faith, you will be sure that the experience will make you a better human being and serve a larger cause.

Seemingly, people who believe seem to have more difficulties and pain to overcome, while the atheists or the unrighteous seem to have an easy life. Why should I believe?  What do I get?

If I look around me, it is what I don’t have that attracts me to the other person. If it is wealth I seek then it is the rich who attract my attention. If I think I don’t look good then I’m drawn to attractive people. It seems to me they have everything that they need to be happy (because that is what I want). However, what is visible need not necessarily be true, isn’t it? What another’s pains are, I don’t really know. However, well endowed a person might be, no one can claim to be completely, undilutedly happy at a given moment. There will always be something missing in their life. But this state of undiluted happiness is possible for those of us who don’t seek anything & are contented with what we have. It might seem like an utopian state to be in. But its possible to get there. That’s where faith helps.

It is implicit faith that helps me to understand that what is given to me and what I am going through, is His will. With that belief, it becomes easier to accept and live through that moment. This is not fatality or an attitude where I don’t do anything. It’s a way of life that helps me to look at events with a sense of detachment.  It helps me to fulfill what  I have to do happily because it is what He wants. Automatically, my thoughts and actions also get tempered by a value system that ensures optimal benefit to me and the world around me.

 So, when I believe, I don’t know if its going to ensure that justice is done to the wrongdoers but its does ensure that I can lead a contented life – one that also makes the world a better place in the process.

I don’t need Him! I believe in myself. So I don’t need any prop to support me through tough times.

Many times, we may have wondered why is it that two people with exactly the same genetic compositions, and calibers, put in the equal effort – one succeeds while the other fails. Why is it that I lead a comfortable life while my neighbour struggles with multiple problems constantly? Why did one person survive a natural calamity or accident while another seemingly more deserving person didn’t make it. The answer is very simple – there are calculations being made that demand that we pay for our actions in the past (both known and unknown). Often then, our confidence and will alone is just not enough to succeed. It takes a larger power to get us there. Faith is not a prop; it’s that fabric on which we paint the colours of life and they show bright because of the deep quality of that fabric.

All of us would have experienced those intuitive moments when at a turning point in our life , we took the un-trodden path – it just felt right at that moment. That was the guiding hand of providence. Social Scientists too, studying profiles of successful people have mapped clearly, that it is those who factored in the unexpected into their plan & action for success were the ones who really made it to the top.

So confidence in oneself is essential; action orientation is equally necessary, but faith in His will is what will get us to our destination

Faith is meant for the weak-hearted
Actually putting your implicit faith in God is an act of courage & wisdom. It requires that you put aside your pride and place your complete trust in another being knowing that He will take care. It takes a certain emotional mettle to be able to decimate your faith in your own intelligence and prowess and believe implicitly that there is a power greater than you in your life.

A gurgling baby being tossed high by her father, not scared. She is happy because she believes implicitly  in the fact that her father loves her and has the ability also to catch her. Hence since he can and he wants to protect her – she is sure that she will not be dropped. That child like faith is what we miss as adults. Even to lean on a expert friend or hold his hand on a treacherous path, we find it hard to let go of our judgment and abilities and intelligence. 

Faith is certainly not for the weak and immature. It is a strong person who can trust

How do I know He is there?

For those of who want to believe, you can  feel his presence in every moment of your life. To those who still question, everything seems a fallacy. I think Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa put it beautifully, when he explained faith:

A man standing outside the market place hears the general buzz; nothing is distinct. But his perspective changes as soon as he enters the market. The transactions are all clearly heard & understood. Similarly, when a man is away from Iswara, his enquiry is all in confusion. There is no end to his search into cause & effect, to his cogitating over the why & how of things, to his debates, arguments and counter-arguments, to his theorizing. On realization of Iswara, all these speculations and conjectures come to an end. The mystery of nature becomes an open book to him

From the commentary by Swami Chidbhavananda
Ramakrishna Tapovanam

Ultimately, if you want to feel his presence, just look around you, you will see him all around you. Take that one step toward Him – even if it is just to say with honesty and faith, “I don’t know what to believe, You help me !”. The answers will fall into your lap – just like that!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On Being a Teenager

You know Divya, I think for most of us the teenage years are probably the most exciting and frustrating too. One keeps wanting to explore forbidden territories, yet there is fear of the repercussions. Sometimes the fear itself is an exciting feeling by itself that may push us into trying the world out.

I remember, when as a teenager myself, I often felt that the whole world was out to get me. Everything that had given me comfort till then, suddenly seemed very constraining. Parents who I couldn't do without till then, suddenly seemed to be people who had arrived from another era! Somehow, the whole world became topsy-turvy. Nothing seemed to make sense – neither the people around me nor I myself.  It was such a confusing period with mood swings from feeling that I was the best thing that happened to the world to hating the way I was becoming! I was pretty sure that nobody could understand me and my feelings – I didn’t understand them myself !! Yet it irritated me that people who mattered never could see my view point!

I  seemed to thrive on company all the time; and yet there were moments when I just didn’t want to look at another human being – the whole tribe bugged me! And at most moments – the mention of  family, was enough to make me want to migrate to the other end of the earth! I couldn’t understand myself  - I loved my family there was no doubt, then why did I feel so alienated from them?

The one set of people I felt that I could relate to were my friends. They were also going through what I was and understood me. Yet, paradoxically, those years were also my loneliest!! Funny, isn’t it?!

From what I see of you and your friends, teenage doesn’t seem to have changed all that much! The feelings have remained pretty much the same! Though times have changed since then, I guess the difficulties of going through this phase are still there. You would probably be feeling as confused and insecure as I did. One thing has changed though & that is the magnitude of peer pressure - Its much more & that probably makes it harder for you to reach out for help.

I just want you to know, that it’s quite natural to feel this way. For generations people have gone through this turmoil and survived to tell the tale! It’s only the intensity and expression of it that has changed over the years. Otherwise the rebellion, the  anger, the fun  and the loneliness have all remained. All of us -

From thatha trying out his first cigarette while in class 6,
To my reading the forbidden Harold Robbins novels and
Now you arguing with me to go for a sleep over

We all have been victims of this age old syndrome called Teenage. The only cure to its stormy and painful symptoms is to hold on tightly to the fact, that horrid as they might seem at that time, the true friends that you really have are your family, particularly your parents.

We really love you and when you hurt we are hurt too. Whatever we say, may sound outlandishly old fashioned and unreasonable, but it is well-meaning. You can blame us for being claustrophobically constraining, breathing down your neck and of espionage; but remember that our only fault is that we love you too much. Don’t let yourself forget that fact. Unfortunately none of the succeeding generations have learnt enough  from the past to change that.

And thank God for that!!



This series is dedicated to my mother who through her own life, gave me lessons on what I should do and to my daughters in whom I am able to see a reflection of who I am.

* * * *
Dear Divya & Amrita

As I sit to write this, there is an overpowering but mixed sense of nostalgia, a feeling of loss, of happiness, of pride in having contributed to your becoming such a fine person that you are today. It’s difficult to see what I write as my eyes blur with tears. I guess its time to let go – to let you explore this beautiful world outside on your own.

Being the protective parent that I am, I am unable to do so without sharing, as it were, some learnings that I myself have had in this long journey from being a pampered young brat, to an immature wife to now a mature business woman, wife, mother and what have you.

I hope you will find some of this useful and relevant as you go along. Some of what I have to say may sound too constraining. You will have to judge for yourself and make your decisions of the right and wrong of it & the choices you make

I want you to know that you will always be loved and cherished for the lovely person that you are. You will always also be special to me as the one person who gave me my first sight simultaneously into my past and future.

Good luck and Take Care!

Love Amma

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Misfortune

My misfortune always seems to take dinosauric proportions! Life always seems to do me an unfair turn. I always seem to be at the recieving end of the stick. When I see people around me, they all seem happier, wealthier, healthier and better off in all ways than I. Lost in that moment, I get despondent.

However, as I reflect at that moment, I find that even in that misfortune there is a lot to be thankful for. There are a lot of people around me who have more critical needs and greater sorrows than I can ever imagine. As I do a flashback of my past, I realise that every tough situation had brought out unknown reserves in me that I never imagined existed. I gained expertise and evolved. I found opportunities that I had'nt seen before. I reached out to people whom I had lost in my climb up but who were important to me. I found new ones who added colour to my life.

Well! Its time to dust myself and carry on with my journey. Maybe the path is new, co-travellers are unfamiliar - yet the journey remains beautiful because I went through this misfortune.

After all, I am who I am because I went through this experience!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What this blog is all about....

Ive been reaching out to young people through my work as a behavioral trainer, all of 17 years. Issues have always been about their emotional well being and how well they are able to connect to themselves and people around them.

Somewhere in this journey, I have realised that there is a deep connect between feeling comfortable with yourself and how evolved you are as a spiritual being. I am not talking religion here - After all, any religion is about connecting within and living a value system that ensures that you help others flourish as you grow within. To me ultimately, life is about living on our terms - in the process, have we added value to this world? Is the world a better place because I passed through it? Have I been able to ensure that my thought, word and deed are in sync with each other? If yes, then I am who I am - no regrets!

This blog is about sharing my experiences and beliefs through notes, stories ..- in the hope that I begin a dialogue with people I know and dont know. In the process, probably, we all evlove and become better spiritual human beings. At least, we will know where we are, where we have to go and how to get there!