Category Archives: higher purpose

Six techniques to better navigate through life

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Whether by an accident of nature or by design, we have arrived on this pale, blue planet of ours. You have arrived at this page by another accident or by intention. Regardless we still have a lifetime ahead of us.

 

Here is a post that gives 6 key strategies that will enable you to lead a more complete and fulfilling life.

 

Problems are a reality of life: This is the first and foremost fact that one needs to understand. Life’s problems are real. Accept it. Everybody from Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa or Buddha has had their share of problems. There are no exceptions. The sooner we realize this fact the better is our chance of handing our life better. While everybody has problems, the real difference comes in how we handle issues in life. Some get cowed down by problems, some constantly complain, and while others sit down to deliberate the best strategy to handle the problem. Instead of fretting and fuming, we could better use our energies in attacking and resolving the issue. We need to set the steps in motion and get on with life.

 

Accumulate small victories over time: It is necessary that we constantly and continually attain small victories. For this we need to set ourselves small, realistic goals and go about achieving them. This is particularly important for those who are low on confidence, have a defeatist attitude or even those who have an intact self-esteem. The Tao-Te-Ching gives the example of water being able to erode the hardest rock by constantly flowing over it. The erosion happens in infinitesimal amounts but over time can break through mountains.  We need to build our edifice of self esteem one brick at a time. This will enable us to take on larger tasks as we progress in our confidence

 

Envision a goal that is larger than yourself: To lead a fulfilling life we need to have a goal in life that is larger than ourselves. Simply wanting to be a CIO of an organization,a talented musician or  a great cricketer in 10 years time would not suffice. It would be too pedestrian. Your goal in some way should elevate and ennoble you. Rather your goal should be to reach a position where your influence in some way changes the life of many for the better. Other goals would be to become writer who can entertain and relieve boredom, a social worker who can alleviate the suffering of people or a blogger who can incite critical thinking. Your goal should have some qualifying aspect which you can relate to in a deep way. Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s search for meaning” discusses how prisoners in the concentration camp were able to avoid death since they had an ennobling purpose in life.

 

Once you have your purpose it is essential that you work towards it. This has to happen consistently. You have to pursue your purpose with unshakeable fervor. It is likely that you will achieve your goal if you pursue it with steadfastness.

 

Delve into your past: In this world nobody is poor. We are all rich in a way. We are rich with our own experiences. Dive into your past. Look at your past accomplishments, your failures and your non-starters. What can you learn from your experience? As somebody said “Failures are failures, only if you don’t learn from them.”

 

Pause and reflect: Every now and then we need to come to a complete halt in life. We need to come to a absolute standstill. We need to enjoy the silence of stillness. We need to look inward at our desires, wishes, hopes, fears and thoughts. We have to see ourselves for what we are and what we stand for. This we can only do,  when we come to an absolute stop. This pause in life is necessary to make course corrections in life. In this silence we can understand our weaknesses and plan our future direction better. We can come to terms with our problems in life. We can better understand our prejudices and biases. This meditative silence is the best time when we can take stock of our personal, professional and social lives and make the necessary adjustments. Making this pause in our daily lives is extremely important in our fast paced lives these days

 

Sleep and exercise: Finally we need to make sure that we spend adequate time in exercise and sleep. The importance of physical exercise is vital to life. As we grow older, exercise takes on added importance. Spend the time outdoors in a brisk walk at least a few hours per week. Besides exercise ensure that you get adequate sleep. It really makes no sense to be miserly in the hours of sleep. A sleep refreshed body and mind can work far more efficiently.

 

These are some techniques that will help you navigate through life better. Consistent application, patience and a visualization of a larger goal can make life more meaningful and enjoyable.

 

The puzzle of life – The Hindu, Christian and Buddhist view

Life is a puzzle at best. Different religions and religious philosophies have different approaches to life and the way to handle it. While at one end of the spectrum all religions are the same, at the other end they are unique and look at life from a completely different angle. This post tries to look at 3 of major religions of the world and their approach to life and how to conduct ourselves

Buddhism: Buddhism answers the essential question “What is life?” The root of all existence,according to Buddhism, is human suffering. Buddha expounds that life is suffering, in his four noble truths. Buddhism further clarifies that suffering is born of attachment, cessation of suffering is attainable and the path to cessation is based on taking the middle path given in his eight-fold path.

Hinduism: Hinduism essentially answers the question as to “how should one lead life?” According to Lord Krishna in the Gita, one should perform one’s duty with detachment and without any concern for the fruits of the action. We should perform all actions as a sacrifice to God in the full awareness that it is the Creator who is the doer of all actions. Further the Gita tells us that it is better to do what is intrinsic to one’s nature rather than just do something for another.

Christianity: The central message of Christianity is “how should one behave”. The bible requires us love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. In fact, Jesus goes to the extent of requiring us to love where we would want to hate or in other words we are to “love our enemy”. The Bible also enjoins us to forgive those who err against us, pray for those who despise us. We are to lead a life of love, compassion and mercy.

While all the religions require us to conduct our lives with highest moral principles they essentially show a different path.

Redefining happiness

The human yardstick for happiness is the success one achievs in life. And success to most of us is measured in terms of wealth, fame, power and recognition. When we don’t achieve these things life we assume that we are unsuccessful which in turn results in us being unhappy. However these measures of happiness are a social invention through the ages and in reality should not have any bearing one’s happiness.We are programmed
to feel elated when we achieve material successes like fame, wealth and power the reality.

However,with a little thought we realize that happiness is a personal emotion and is of our creation. With a little introspection we will realize that happiness or contentment does not require external successes or validation but depends
more on our inner victories that we achieve.

We need to set small, realistic goals for ourselves and strive to achieve perfection in them. For example we could learn to play a musical instrument, or spend some time in creative arts like painting, writing etc. The satisfaction that we gain by achieving success in our personal goals will result in real personal satisfaction and contentment in us. So we can measure our inner joys by the little achievements we make towards our own personal goals. We should not hitch our happiness to external validation.

Besides, there are other sources of happiness in the real world. We could find joy in the innocence of children or in the endearing qualities of older people. We could find happiness in the accident of human life and its place in the cosmos. We need to understand that we are just minute specks in the vastness of the universe. We could find true pleasure in the evolution of life or as Kahlil Gibran puts it as “Life’s longing for itself”

Hence there are many avenues for happiness in life and we should not base our happiness in life on a narrow view of success on achievement of money,power and fame but on tre internal peace and contentment.

The Tao of Human Behavior

Are there fundamental principles or laws that govern human behavior? If there are what would they be? In my opinion right human behavior should be based on sound values of character which I state as “The Tao of Human Behavior”.

Tao originated in Chinese philosophy and can be loosely defined as “the way”, ‘doctrine” or principle. Clearly there are certain ways that enable one to lead a more full life.

The essence of right behavior can be captured in the following 3 laws

The Law of Immutable Values: This law requires that human action be based on sound principles of integrity, kindness, compassion, tolerance and humility.  This law requires that all human action be based on above values. Action based on values will ensure good providence or karma and will ensure enduring happiness.

The Law of Greatest Good: This law ensures that in any given situation when there is conflict among the immutable values as specified in Law 1, the value that provides the greatest good will be chosen among others. This law implies that, in real life, there will be delicate situations where there will be conflict of principles for e.g. there could be a situation where there is a conflict of honesty versus kindness or another where there is a conflict of tolerance versus correctness. In these situations when there is conflict among several values, the course of action taken should be based on ensuring that the act provides the greatest good for the longest time.

The Law of Greatest Good to Greatest Number (dharma): Implicit in this law is  that society takes precedence over the self in deciding action. Also this law requires that action taken must be such that it provides the greatest good to the greatest number. This law clearly places the world at large above the individual. Action based on this law will be selfless. However, sometimes the path taken can never make everybody happy. So this law requires that action should be based on providing the greatest benefit to the largest number by choosing an appropriate action based the second law.

These laws are based on good human behavior and sound conduct and have proven value and are the essence of right action passed to us through the ages.

If all human action is based on the above 3 laws, human society at large can be peaceful.

In search of life’s meaning …

Viktor E. Frankl’s classic book “Man’s search for meaning” recounts his experiences in a German concentration camp at Auschwitz during the peak of the Second World War.  It talks about the horrendous experiences of the camp’s inmates in the bitter cold and the inhuman treatment meted to them by the Nazi guards. Frankl, a psychologist by profession, in his book tells that those who were better suited for survival were those who had some higher purpose to their lives. To him the higher spiritual calling was able to bring forward unknown reserves of inner strength.

He tells that those who had some inner purpose, some loftier goal were those who were able to withstand the inhumanness of the camp. According to Nietzsche “If a man know the why to his life, he can tolerate almost any how”.

The purpose of this blog is to emphasize the need for some meaning in our lives.  Most of us just drift about in our daily lives, from one day to another. Then there are others who are so busy running from one crisis to another.  Both these classes of people are soon bound to run into rough weather in life. The former who just let life carry them along are bound to get bored and listless. They will soon be crushed by ennui. The latter are bound ti get unduly stressed and frustrated by the chaos in their lives

What is need from all of us at any point in our lives is to have some meaning, a purpose for which we exist. It need not be any lofty goal such as eradicating human misery, or becoming a tennis player of world repute.   We could just set ourselves simple goals. It could be something as simple as making reading a regular habit, exercising for half hour, four days a week or learning a new skill.

A life without meaning, without any ambition is like setting sail in the seas and being at the mercy of winds. We need some definite goals in our daily lives not only remove the humdrum of mundane existence but also to give us the joy of achievement in life. Also the  pursuit of concrete goals in life will also give us inner strength to handle issues in life.

Besides, as we pursue these smaller goals in life regularly, in the course of time, our larger purpose may become apparent

We will feel more fulfilled when we achieve the little goals that we set ourselves.