Getting from here to there in life

There are 3 essential qualities, if you wish to go from where you are to where you wish to be in life. The 3 qualities are

  1. Grit b) Knowing yourself c) Desire and plan

Grit: By far grit is the most important quality that one must possess to get anywhere in life. Grit is the ability to face problems in life head-on and not flinch from the chosen path. It is the quality where one is able to tide over troubles and move ahead in life regardless. In life there will be ups and downs. There are no exception to this rule. Everybody from the rich man to the pauper, from the saint to the sinner will have face changing fortunes. What sets them apart is how they handle their troubles. Do they break under stress or just bend? Does one become stronger in the face of troubles in life? Those who are resilient and possess the inner strength will be able to tide over any troubles and forge ahead in life. So grit is a critical ingredient for success in life.

Know yourself: To get ahead in life another quality that is essential is to ‘know oneself’.

Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Know yourself.
Do you know where you  stand in your personal, professional and social life? Know yourself.
Do you know where you are and where you would like to be in 10 years? Know yourself.
Do you know your wants, do you know your needs? Know yourself.

To know oneself, it is imperative that we spend long hours thinking through ourselves, exploring our inner selves. We need to know what it that we desire is and what is it that we really need.

Once we truly understand ourselves we can take active steps to move in the direction of achieving them.

Desire and plan: Unless one pulls the arrow backward, it will not fly towards its target. So to get anywhere we must have the desire to reach the goal at a minimum. Intense desire must be followed up with a concrete plan to achieve the same. A strong motive is necessary. We must sincerely want to achieve something in life. This is not be confused with greed or avarice. Desire and ambition are necessary for the growth of individual. Once we know our destination in life we must strategize properly to reach there. We must monitor our progress as we move along towards out target

Hence to get from here to wherever you desire in life you must fill your life with these 3 important ingredients of grit, knowing yourself and desire.


What does religion mean to you?

Karl Marx famously said “Religion is the opium of the people”. He was really not very off the mark.

To a large section of the people religion is an escape route from the trials and tribulations of life. It is an avenue where one hopes for a solution to their worldly problems.  People secretly wish that their problems are solved. Moreover people hope that this divine power also showers on them objects of desire.

Others spend time singing hymns, bhajans, performing rituals or attending mass. To many doing this creates a “nice, peaceful and easy” feeling.  There is a temporary sense of well being.

There is nothing wrong in singing hymns, bhajans or performing rituals by itself. The issue is that this is done as chore. Once the mild sense of peace wears off, people are back to their mean and nasty ways.

So you will find people who will pray fervently. With equal fervor they will be rude or nasty, the moment they are back to the real world. Jealousy, envy or anger plays an equal part to their religious fervor.

Does this kind of religiosity make sense?

The real meaning and import of religion and all that it stands for is generally missed. All major religions teach key values of tolerance, compassion, kindness or forgiveness.  But none of these are given a thought. Most of the times, the prayers, bhajans or hymns are performed without much reflection, even if it is done with great zeal.

It is more important to reflect on the principles that great religions lay before us. It is absolutely essential that we practice them.

That to me is more important, than all the other customs or rituals of any religion.

So what does religion mean to you?

Is it a panacea for your day to day problems?

Is it a force of habit?

Or is it a blueprint for making you a better person?

Think about it.

The experience and the experiencer

The experience and the experiencer

Anger, envy, jealousy, pride or hatred – these are all negative emotions that bind us completely. Whenever these emotions hit us we are left reeling under the impact till much later. We are completely ensnared by its viciousness. Sometimes we get a little wiser as an afterthought, if we are vigilant. Otherwise we just wallow in the cruel tidal waves of the emotions.

The key thing to understand here is that when we are held in sway by these negative emotions is that there is “the experience” and there is “the experiencer”. More often than not we are not able to separate ourselves from the experience as it completely controls us and we do not have access to conscious reasoning. Whenever we are angry, jealous, proud or just egoistic we just are so completely full of it that we don’t realize that we are under the grip of an emotional storm.

What is important is to be able to detach ourselves from the onslaught of this mental maelstrom. We need to be able to look at “the experience” as being separate from us, “the experiencer”. When we are angry, we should be able to pause and tell ourselves “I feel anger” or when we feel proud we should be able to reflect on the feeling as “I am feeling proud”. This simple reframing of the situation can work wonders. Here we see ourselves the “I” as being different from the emotion “anger” or “pride”. We are able to distance ourselves from the fury of anger and look at it as an observer. Similarly when we feel proud or arrogant, we need to able to look at the pride as an observer.

This is an extremely difficult thing to do. Since, we have absolutely no control when the emotions of anger, hatred, jealousy or pride take over us. It takes a lot of practice to be able to see the experience as different from the experiencer i.e. ourselves. We need to be able to tell our minds “Get off, of me”. This requires a lot of insight into ourselves and enormous soul searching on our part.

But if we are able to successfully view the experience as being different from the experience we are bound to have attained a greater degree of control over our lives.

The difference between ambition and desire

Ambition & desire are two seemingly similar ideas but in reality are concepts that have a world of difference. Ambition is the desire for achievement, while desire in its most raw form is just pure greed and avarice. While it is perfectly reasonable to be ambitious it really does not bode well if we are too desirous of something.

Oftentimes we get confused with the philiosophy of the Gita which advocates niskama-karma or desireless actions. We think that this basically means going through life in a mechanical way without any ambition. We then start to drift aimlessly in life.

Ambition is very important in life. It is the chief motivator that propels us to be achieve great things, It makes us want to do better in life. However pure desire is bad. Desire for power, wealth or fame is extremely bad and in fact can tempt people to use dishonest means.

Ambition is never affected by evil thoughts. Ambition is pure. It is the driving force which makes us do things, to get better in life.

Ambition propels us to great heights while craving or wanton desire can really result in a person’s downfall.

So while we should be ambitious we should really avoid greed and avarice.

The inscrutable but predictable mind

Our mind is a wonderful instrument and thought is probably the greatest faculty of man. We are capable of analyzing, solving, creating things through our mind. But our mind is probably also the least understood capability of mankind.

Thinkers, sages have long sought to understand the workings of the mind but it has all been in vain. Our mind is truly inscrutable. However hard we may try to understand how our mind works, we will never be closer to the solution than when we started.

While on the one hand the mind is a puzzle that is still be cracked there is a certain predictability in the way we behave under certain circumstances. We get angry when our ego is hurt, we feel annoyed when people irritate us, we become slaves when we see objects of desire. We may try as hard as we want in trying to distract ourselves but when the situation presents itself we just tend to behave in extremely predictable ways be it anger, hatred, contempt or envy.

So while the mind is truly conundrum which cannot be understood, there are many aspects of its behavior that is really predictable. The interesting thing about the mind is that we cannot train the mind to behave in a different way. While we can train our bodies to lift weights, we cannot train our mind to be magnanimous when somebody hurts our ego or suppress the envy we feel when somebody succeeds where we fail. We cannot learn to be tolerant when we are irritated. The mind will just continue to behave in the way it always does.

Probably a lot of our behaviors are the legacy of our forefathers and are deeply ingrained in our mind. Most of these behaviors are hard-wired into our brain and we cannot unlearn or train the mind to behave differently.

What is needed is to be able to transcend our mind much like those who are truly enlightened be it Lord Krishna, Jesus Christ or a Buddha. We have to be able to rise above centuries of programming. While these enlightened souls point the way to transcend our minds there is no certainty we will reach there.

Till that time we have to live with our inscrutable but truly predictable mind!

The Roots of Misery

Suffering is inevitable in human life. Nobody is immune to it. The moment we are born in this world we are destined for our quota of pain and misery. We cannot wish it away nor can we escape it. This article looks at some at most common causes of human misery. By being aware of these causes we are better prepared to face pain and misery head on

A look at the roots of suffering …

Desire : This is by far the most common and most prevalent cause of pain and suffering in this world. We want more, we want better, we want bigger than before. This desire and this want of ours remains in our lives and cannot be easily removed. The Gita clearly stresses that “desire is the root of all suffering” and we should overcome this desire of ours.

Ego: This is another major contributor to agony in life. We are nothing more than “walking egos”. We feel we are better, smarter and cleverer than most of humanity. When this ego of ours is hurt in anyway we feel truly miserable. Our egos are crushed when we are insulted or humiliated. We just fail to understand why the world cannot acknowledge our greatness. While we should rid ourselves of our swollen egos we should never compromise in our self-pride. Self-pride and self-esteem are extremely important for successful living.

Expectation: We generally expect the world to behave in a certain way. When things do not happen to our expectation we feel hurt. We may expect that people treat us a particular way. We may expect that our child do well in his/her studies. We may expect to be rewarded for something we do. When our expectations are not met we feel let down and miserable. To be free of misery of unfulfilled expectations we should adopt the philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi who states “Expect nothing, enjoy everything”.

Attachment: As a mortal we are attached to people, to things and hopes. When we are forced to part with our children, when we have to suffer losses in the family or when something that is extremely dear to us like our car is damaged we are hurt. While we can get rid of attachment to things it is very difficult to get rid of the bonds we have with our dear ones. But still we have to rise above ourselves and understand that everything in this world is transitory.
These are the most common reasons for most of human pain and misery. When we are aware of the causes behind our sadness we can address them better, mitigating to some extent at least the intensity of our suffering.

Dissecting Desire

Desire, we are often told, is the root of all misery. But what is the root of desire? Is there something behind desire that makes us crave for certain things?

We may have desire for wealth, material possessions, an office promotion or fame. Is there a common denominator behind desire?

Whenever we want something we are usually prompted by thoughts of increased happiness, more satisfaction etc. For e.g. the reason most of us desire wealth is because we think that more wealth implies more happiness. To a large extent the thoughts of an increase in our happiness quotient is the result of our memory. We can easily recall our experiences when we have a pleasant experience because of more money.  So in many cases the cause behind our desire is the memory that tells us that when we achieve the object of desire we will be happier. Our memory is based on past experiences of similar events. So our experience coupled with the pleasurable recollection of the experience is one of the causes of desire. Another factor behind desire is the thought of an increased comfort that will be ours when we get what we desire.

However another of the causes of our desire is an imagined future. For example when we crave for fame, power or a promotion at office we usually imagine that when we achieve that power or fame we will also win the esteem of our friends and relatives. To some extent the motivation for the need for an increase in the self-esteem in the eyes of others is driven by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in which esteem is the second most important need of mankind below the need for self-actualization.  This feeling of an imagined increase in one’s value in the eyes of others is a powerful driver for a lot of our desires.

Hence the root of desire is either the lure of pleasure, the promise of more comfort or an increase in one’s esteem in the eyes of others.

Whatever the drivers are for our desire it is difficult to get rid of desire. Without the exercise of powerful restraint we really cannot suppress desire.

Repressing desire will only result in conflict and will usually result in a losing battle. The more judicious approach is to sublimate the desire we have for wealth, power or fame.

In my opinion, it is not wrong to desire more wealth, power or fame as long as one utilizes what one gets also for the benefit of others.

Clearly if the desire of wealth, recognition or power is not merely selfish but is also used for the benefit of society at large then it makes very good sense to go after what one desires.