Category Archives: faith

Travel lightly in life!

travelerPeace in life is a continuum and cannot simply be isolated instances of freedom from discord. But peace in life is a mirage. We never seem to attain it and are usually burdened with worries, anxieties, fears, animosities and the like.

To get anywhere even close to peace and happiness in life the first thing we need to do is to travel light in life.  Here are some prescriptive processes that will take you closer to peace in life. As mentioned above they are prescriptive and they are processes and will need to be followed in your journey through life

Let go of animosity and hatred: This is the cardinal principle of living lightly and is embodied in Lord Jesus Christ’s immortal words “Love thy enemy”. One needn’t be religious to understand the brilliance in the above statement. Letting go of hatred is simply “smart mental energy management”. Harboring hatred and venom for another can sap your energy and strength. So simply let go and better still forgive and forget.

Strive for mental poise: Here is another no-brainer and is the utterance of Lord Krishna in the Gita “A true yogi is one who is unruffled by praise or criticism”.  You don’t have to be a yogi to realize the truth in the above statement. Praise usually makes us excited and giddy headed. Our head could swell with exaggerated pride. This is often very tiring. Similarly criticism can make us feel crushed and hurt. This is another mental energy sapper. So we need to be able to consciously brush off both praise and criticism,

Take on problems head-on: As I mentioned in my earlier post “Life sucks … big time”. All of us are given a unique set of problems to handle in life. There are no exceptions. So handle your problems head-on. Don’t put away the issues you face in life. It is your problem and your responsibility to get it solved. So get cracking and start to work towards possible solutions.

Don’t procrastinate: This is another important step to travel lightly in life. Having a large to-do-list is bad. In fact go ahead and banish the to-do list from your life.  Whatever you need to do for yourself, your family or in your profession get started and have them completed. In my opinion a ‘to-do’ list is really a ‘to-nag’ list. The tasks in your list have the dirty habit of lurking in the recesses of your mind and robbing you of your peace.

So get started. The first step is always the best step.

Let go of hatred, practice mental poise, take your problems on your chin and avoid procrastination.

Unclutter your mind.

Travel light in life!

Uncovering morality in the Mahabharata – Part 2

Arjuna’s despondency
When the Pandavas return after their exile from the forest after 13 years and try to reclaim what is rightly theirs they are only met with stout denial by Duryodhana. Lord Krishna tries to negotiate a settlement where the Kuaravas would only need to part with 5 villages to Pandavas. But even this meager request results in a refusal by Duryodhana. Finally after much deliberation Yudhisthra as the eldest amongst the Pandavas declares war.

On the day of the war with both armies standing impressively facing each other Arjuna whose chariot is driven by none other Lord Krishna himself suddenly is overcome with mental anguish. Arjuna the great and courageous warrior goes through intense emotional turmoil. He is not able to come to terms with the violence of war where he would have to kill the Kauravas who are his own cousins. Besides the Kaurava army also has in its ranks the venerable Bhishma and Drona who have taught him all the necessary lessons of life along with the skills of warfare. This is an important juncture in the Mahabharata where the epic balances human emotions of compassion against the needs of justice. It is as this point Lord Krishna sings the inimitable and ineffable song of the Gita. Lord Krishna reiterates that man must perform his duty without attachment to the results of his work. He should look at joy and suffering with equanimity. The Gita also expounds that behind the material body is the indestructible soul or the Atman which is eternal in nature.

Arjuna is finally convinced when he witnesses Lord Krishna’s divine form and starts to fight for dharma or justice. The war results in victory for the Pandavas. However, the Pandavas are able to overcome Bhishma, Drona and Karna only through devious means. The Mahabharata brings into its narrative a human element of frailty. It clearly shows that even the virtuous Pandavas are not superhuman. Besides it brings into question again the issues of ends versus means. What is dharma? Does it represent something that should be beyond individual interests? Should one subordinate individual interests to the larger interest of the people?
The war ends with victory for the Pandavas. However, even the Pandavas army is destroyed by the wrath of Aswatthama leaving only the five Pandavas with widows and an empty kingdom.

Yudhisthra rather than rejoicing in his victory is tormented by the Pyrrhic victory which resulted in a lot of bloodshed. Again the Mahabharata does not glorify the victors nor belittles the vanquished. The Mahabharata does make one to reflect deeply on what is right and what is wrong. Given the virtues of truthfulness, compassion, ahimsa, charity what should be the most appropriate course for an individual be?

Parallels in Hindu & Christian philosophy

It is remarkable that Hindu and Christian philosophies which evolved independently of one another more than 2 millenniums ago have such striking similarities.

1) The Bible maintains that all human beings have a soul behind the material body. The Bible also states that somebody can hurt the body but not the soul which is immortal. According to the Hindu belief behind the body is the unchangeable Atman which is immutable and eternal. In Chapter 2 of the Gita Krishna expounds “That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable Atman.”

2) According to Christian thought is the concept of sin. Based on our actions in this world we will be judged on the ‘day of judgment’ when the good deeds of the person will be weighed against the bad deeds. A virtuous person will enter heaven or the kingdom of God and an evil person will enter Hell. Similarly according to the Mahabharata there is a concept of “swarga” or heaven and “naraga” or hell. Chitragupta is the king who keeps tally of the good acts of the person against the evil acts and sends the person to either swarga or naraga. However the Hindu philosophy differs slightly from Christian thought in that a human being’s stay in swarga or naraga is not permanent and he will have to undergo another rebirth. The concept of rebirth is not there in Biblical thought.

3) In the Bible, in Matthew 7.7 are the words “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”. There is a similar saying in the Ramayana which states “If only it would ask, it would tell the truth”.

It is really amazing that these two major religions of the world have such similar ideology.

Karma or plain convenience

Last night while I was returning home at around 10 pm I had a stop at a traffic signal. In the maze of the stopped vehicles I saw two little girls stopping at cars to beg. They were dirty and ragged. They must have been around 5 years old. Their cute, innocent faces looked tired. One of the girls walked to my car and tapped persistently on my vehicle.  The other girl decided to take a breather and sat on the median between the roads. I am sure that their day probably starts around 6 am and end around 11 pm.

When I looked at the little girls faces I started to wonder what they had done to deserve this. Their life had hardly started and they were forced to work for their living at such a tender age, so late in the night. When other children of their age must be listening to bedtime stories or having cute baby dreams these two little ones were out on the street, in a dangerous road, working their way between speeding vehicles, begging for alms.

My mind immediately turned to the old faithful theory of karma. I thought to myself that it was the karma of these two little girls that they had to suffer this fate. But I realized that these two little ones were too little to have done anything bad in life to have to undergo this tribulation. So then I started to think that in their past birth they must have done things and are suffering in this birth.

Somehow I found no satisfaction in either of these trains of thought. I just realized that life is unfair. It can be cruel. There is no real rhyme or reason behind the inequities of life in the world. It is just a throw of the dice of fate and depending on how the dice turns up we see either good times or bad times.

It is definitely true that karma provides an easy excuse for most of life’s problems. When we experience problems in life for which there is no easy explanation we conveniently rationalize that it is all our karma. We think that in the distant past we must have done thing bad and we are seeing the repercussions of this now. If that does not satisfy us we argue with ourselves that we must have done something downright bad in one of our previous births which is having its effect in this birth and in the current time.

However looking at these two little girls I somehow came away feeling unsatisfied with the theory of karma, This time I felt karma is just a convenient theory to answer life’s inequities. To me there was no plausible reason for these two little girls to undergo such an ordeal so early in their life.

I just came away with the realization that life can be unfair. Some people just suffer while others get away. We need to accept this reality and move on life. There are no other explanations. Do you have any thoughts?

True faith is difficult

True faith or bhakti, devotion or all an encompassing love of God is very difficult to achieve in real life. We generally assume that the simple act of praying, chanting bhajans will take us closer to God. But mindless or even mindful saying of prayers will take us no closer to the divine. Bhakti or devotion is something that has to be grasped by us both in body and spirit in our journey in life.

However all the really enlightened souls have clearly indicated that bhakti, faith and love are the real method to achieve liberation.

According to Christ it is an all encompassing love. Love that is beyond simple definitions. We are to love everybody else as we love ourselves and also love our enemies. To do this requires us to really rise above pettiness in life and is really an impossible task to accomplish. However we should follow this path if we want to get closer to God.

The Buddhist philosophy advocates moderation not just in action but also in thought. We cannot harm anyone even in thought. The Buddhism method of liberation is based on kindness and compassion. As human beings we are so prone to anger, hatred and envy that being tolerant and compassionate always in clearly difficult.

According to Hindu philosophy bhakti or devotion is the path to liberation. Even Sri Sankara states that the path of bhakti is superior to even the path of knowledge. However bhkati in the sense implied is a complete internalization of true values. Our love for God should be based in true principles of kindness, truth and tolerance and we should live these principles in our daily life.

The basis of bhakti or faith is that we recognise God’s signature in all things in this universe of ours and perform service to humanity as our devotion to God.

Bhakti is not just unconditional love. Any mother will have unconditional lover for her child. It is not just mere surrender to a divine power. Surrender without the accompanying right living is useless. It is all that and much more.

What is required for true bhakti or devotion is a real internalization of values of integrity, compassion, kindness and humility. Our devotion to the Supreme must be accompanied by a virtuous way of life.

Bhakti or faith in reality requires us to adopt good principles as a way of life. It is a continuous process and cannot be substituted by occasional thoughts of a divine power.