This fleeting life…

If you wonder about the transience of butterflies, whose average life span is about month, here is news for you. Our life span of 70-80 years, is also fleeting and transitory, in the face of the age of the universe. We are were now, gone then!

We live only once in this corporeal body in this planet earth. We are then gone forever.

Under these circumstances it is important to be aware of the following
There is no heaven or hell, no swarga or naraga. There is no afterlife, there is no rebirth. Also there is neither a soul nor is there an atman.

This life, this existence, is all that we have.
Given this fleeting existence, in this lonely planet, that is lost in the wilderness of space, does it make sense to fret, fume, worry, be anxious etc.? It really does not make any sense at all. The suffering, pain, anxieties, worries don’t mean anything in the long run. So the next question is why worry, why be anxious etc.?

Unfortunately it is not easy to break out of this cycle of worry, anxiety, anger and other negative emotions as we have been programmed to behave in this way. These emotions that we experience are the result of centuries of conditioning in our mental makeup. This conditioning forces to react in a particular ways.

When somebody hurts our ego we get angry. When we are humiliated we feel hurt. When we imagine some outcome that is contrary to what we expect, we start to be anxious and begin to worry. We can’t get away from this cycle. However it is good to temper all your reactions with the thought, that your emotions, worries and anger are irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. It may not do away with the ill feeling, but it is still worth a try.

The centuries of mental conditioning will cause the neurons to fire is specific ways, and we can’t make the neurons to ‘unfire’. We can’t swim against this tide of emotions which are reactions to events.

While there is no soul or atman, these may be useful mental constructs to some in  helping them to stick to values.  The soul is supposed to be ennobled by good deeds and defiled by bad ones. The atma is above buddhi(intellect), manas (mind) and the indriyas( senses and is synonymous with the Self. Supposedly knowledge of the Self will result in bliss and peace.

But the soul or atman don’t really exist. If one needs to take recourse to these concepts to maintain a value driven life it is fine. But we should be aware that these are just concepts.

I was reminded of this John Lennon song, Imagine
Imagine there is no heaven,
It is easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky

So in essence, in this short span of existence we should live sensibly. We need to look at life in the correct perspective and not get embroiled in imaginary concepts like swarg-narag, heaven-hall, soul-atman.

While we cannot avoid some of the emotions we must be cognizant of the fact that all good and bad experiences must pass and we will leave this corporeal frame forever.

Beware the mental mirror


Warning: The person in the mental mirror is smaller than he/she appears.

The above message is something that we should keep in mind always. The person we see in the mental mirror, most of the time (ourselves), is in reality much smaller in every aspect than the image that this mental mirror shows. This is a fact. We are with ourselves all the time. That is a no-brainer. We are so full of ourselves that we appear mighty clever, smart, generous, kind and all the usual good stuff.

However in reality this may be very far from truth. There is always a ‘little narcissist’ in each of us all the time who makes us appear larger than our true selves. If we don’t heed to the warning above we will be in danger of behaving proudly and possibly head for a nasty fall. It is very important that we apply the necessary corrections when we views ourselves.

Another weird aspect of this mental mirror is the fact that, while it may inflate one’s own opinion of oneself, it will usually distort the image of others. So as a consequence we tend to look down on others. We assume others don’t know as much as oneself or are not as nearly smart. We tend to judge others based on this distorted view of reality.

How can we really know others when we don’t know ourselves fully? We should really be careful when forming opinions about others based on the little and often incorrect information we have about others. This in conjunction with the aberration that our mental mirror creates, is enough to make us look down on many in our social circle..

The mental mirror is something we have to mighty careful about, otherwise we will exist in a world that will be completely skewed from reality. It is extremely important that we adjust our view of ourselves and of others every now and then.

To get a more balanced view of oneself I personally think that it is very important that we have a lot of friends who can be honest with us. With a larger circle of friends we will get automatic corrections to our own self-image.

In general it is always better to avoid judging others based on usually available scant information and the occasional encounters. It is really important that we get to know the other person better before we jump to conclusions about them.

In any case keep your mental mirror free of any aberrations and adjust your view of yourself and of others, every now and then.


Beware the illusory ego

We view ourselves and the world through our ego. The dictionary states that the ‘ego’ is one’s image of oneself. This ego, in my opinion, is like a shape-changing lens through which we view ourselves and the world. So the image that we see through this lens depends on the current shape this lens has. Let me elaborate on this a little further.

Low self-esteem: There are times in our lives when nothing seems to go right. At these times we feel small and useless. We simply can’t seem to get anything right. In our minds we are ‘losers’ and really no good. Our self esteem is at its lowest and we are blaming ourselves for everything. Everybody, other than us, seems to be superior and very proficient. The lens simply shrinks the image we have of ourself. During these times, some people beat themselves for every mistake they commit during this period.

Feelings of grandeur: We also have times when we feel that nothing can go wrong. We succeed in achieving some of the goals that we set. We seem to be on a roll. Our mind magnifies every thing that we do and makes it appear great and grand. It appears that nothing can stop us. We feel extremely proud of ourselves. We also look down at the difficulties others are having and wonder why they are not getting it right. We feel pretty cocky.

The truth is neither of this real. We are neither losers, nor are we really superior. This is simply an illusion that our ego creates. But at these times we feel that this reality. Actually nothing can be farther from the truth.

We are still the same person we were.

We really have to wary of this illusion that the ego creates. During times when things go wrong we have realize that there is no finality in this failure. Life is a marathon and we can pick ourselves up and move ahead slowly. Similarly just because the going is good does not make you superior. We need to have the humility to realize that the success is temporary and we need to move on. We can revel in the success for some time but we should not let it get into our head.

During these times of success and failure we need to step back and look at ourselves. We should neither feel crushed because of defeat nor be arrogant because we succeeded where others did not. We must realize that these are stages in life.

Moreover it will help if we have a good circle of friends who can give us a honest opinion.

So there is no need to feel inferior or superior to others. Realize that the image that you see of yourself is the creation of the ego and is not real.

Tips to boost your self-esteem

There are times in our life when we are filled with self-doubt. Our self-esteem may be at an all time low. There are times we may feel like an imposter? Our confidence, may be low or ebbing If you have experienced any of these, take heart, you have a lot of com-pany. Here are 4 tips that will help to boost your sagging esteem.

Take the bull by the horns: You may feel that you are inferior to your colleagues at work or your classmates in school or college. If you do, the first thing you need to do is to stop beating yourself up. Rather step back, and take a hard look at your short comings. Think on what skills that you will need to acquire to be more conversant in doing the things that you need to do. Get cracking on learning these skills rather than simply feel-ing lousy and complaining to yourself. Take proactive steps in honing the skills that you lack. Once you start to learn the necessary skills you will be able to communicate better which will give a major boost to your esteem.

Build your esteem bit by bit: Confidence and esteem are like an account in a bank., We need to constantly add to our fund of esteem. We need to keep doing small things and building our self esteem bit by bit. We must not forget to pat ourselves for every success, however small it may be. So while you may not be the best in a certain area you will de-finitely be extremely fluent in other areas. Make sure that you give yourself adequate credit for all the minor or major achievements, This is extremely important. Esteem needs to be built brick by brick.

You are not who you think you are: Sometimes we tend to look down at ourselves more critically than needed. We many feel that we are not really as smart or as clever as some of our friends, peers or colleagues. But the truth is that our opinions about ourselves many not be correct. As they say “Who we think we are, who others think we are and who we really are, are in reality completely different. So even though you may feel that you are not all that clever , you may be much better than a whole lot of people you deal with. That may be one of the reasons why you are still doing what you are doing.

Don’t confuse familiarity with intelligence: Sometimes we are in total awe with the flu-ency with which our friends or colleagues are able to juggle with concepts and words. You may find yourself coming up short in communication. Quite often people confuse familiarity with intelligence. Familiarity is just knowledge and the able to articulate ideas on this knowledge is not the same as intelligence. A person who knows something is not necessarily intelligent. Intelligence and knowledge are 2 different things. So rather than being awed and feeling inferior you need to start to get familiar with subject. It is quite likely that you are intelligent and really only lack familiarity and pretty soon you will feel comfortable with the subject.

So get started now. Learn the necessary skills. Add to your fund of confidence. Under-stand fully how you really stack up with others, not just in your own eyes, but through the eyes of others and finally don’t confuse familiarity with intelligence.

Build your esteem. Stand tall and don’t compromise on yourself. You are all that you got!

Who I was, who I am, who I will be …

For a moment ask yourself this question “Who am I?”. If you think deeply about who you really are you will realize that you are made of a bundle of beliefs, opinions, biases, fears, hopes and ambitions. You want to do and achieve a lot of things in life. You have a of limited knowledge of the world.

Now pause for a moment,  and try to think about who you were a few years ago. You will quickly realize that you had a different set of beliefs and opinions. You were fascinated by certain things and hated certain other things.  A few years back you had some goals. It is likely that these goal no longer interest you.

Many things would have changed. Your opinion on things and people in this world would have also undergone a certain transformation. It is likely that you deeply believed in something. You may not possible believe any more in this. It could be that you did not believe in a leader and now you are willing to be more open to the person’s ideas and ideologies or vice-versa. Alternatively a belief you had in a faith no longer brings the same reverence and faith in you.

With changing times, the ‘I’ also changes.

What I am driving at is that the ‘I’ that we think that we know intimately actually undergoes constant change.

In your mind you are the same person from time immemorial.  But if you closely look into yourself you will realize that as your external body grows and ages so also does this ‘I’.

We are constantly learning and unlearning new things. We shed our old opinions and biases only to pick on new opinions and biases. Our ideas change. We acquire more knowledge, though limited,  of the world through learning and experience. Sometimes some event, or person has such a strong influence on us that we are willing to change our age old concepts of things. Our opinions change. Our credulity or skepticism about things also changes.

It is likely that if we happen to meet our former self  from a few years ago, we may have a lot of differences. This ‘I’  is constantly growing, aging and transforming every moment, every day, throughout our lifetime.

So who will you be many years from now? I think none of us can say this with absolute certainty. Who knows what event and what transforming event awaits us? Who will we encounter in our future? What new experiences awaits us?

All we can and should hope,  is that at least, we hold on to our core values of integrity, kindness and compassion in the years to come.

Just as we would not recognize our former self, the likelihood of us knowing our future self is also very remote!

4 things to stop doing right away!


stopHere are 4 things that we tend to do often in our lives and we need to put an end to it immediately.

Stop beating yourself over past mistakes: This is a bad habit some of us tend to have. We keep beating ourselves over some past events where we botched things or took a wrong decision. We must begin to accept things. We have to let go of the past and move on. It really does not make any sense in wasting out mental breath over things that have happened. Blaming ourselves will only make us feel guilty and small. Rather we should accept things and look for ways to make things better.

Stop procrastinating: Why do we procrastinate? I can see 3 reasons why people tend to procrastinate.

Firstly some people put off things for later because they dislike the task. The very thought of doing this task brings to the minds thoughts of unpleasantness, boredom or maybe they find it simply distasteful. These people would like to put off this unpleasantness to some later time.  Personally I think we should attack these tasks firsts and get the unpleasantness over with. It does not make sense to postpone the pain coupled with  nagging thoughts.

Secondly there are those who put off things hoping to get divine inspiration in the future. The advice of almost all famous artists & writers is to simply show up everyday and the Muse will also show up. So it is best to get down working rather than waiting for creative flashes.

Thirdly, there are those who are genuinely lazy. These people don’t care and would just like to goof around. If you are one of these types then you must get down to business otherwise you will simply be left behind in life.

When you procrastinate not only will you have eventually be forced to do  the task, but you will also have to contend with recurring nagging thoughts.

Stop playing mental games with yourself: The humanmind is a funny instrument. Quite often it can behave very bizarrely. What I mean is this. Many times we indulge in thoughts of revenge where we try to settle scores with someone mentally. We play mental games where we have the last word in a verbal argument. We try to get the one-upmanship in a verbal duel. Similarly we try to mentally role play where we win and somebody else loses. Sometimes we are filled with thoughts of hatred, jealousy or envy and we may wish bad things for other. Whatever be the kind of negative mental indulgence it is all bad and simple serves no purpose.

Like physical energy we have a limited quantity of mental energy. We should not expend out mental energies in useless and negative mental thoughts. Rather we should use it to more fruitful and productive work.

Stop whining: Finally stop complaining, we need to be content with what we have. There are many things we need to be grateful for in this world. Our minds tend to focus on negative things in complete exclusion to all that we already have. We need to practice more gratitude in our daily lives for all the little things that we are able to enjoy.

If you drop all the above activities you are bound to be more proactive and productive. This is will result in a more enjoyable to a more fulfilling life.

3 facts to reconcile to in life

livingWe grow up with many myths and beliefs as we grow older. Some beliefs, we are able to shrug away, while others tend to stick around a lot longer. Here are 3 beliefs which we carry into our later lives resulting in much grief. The sooner we reconcile ourselves to some basic facts of life, the better it is for us in the long run.

So here goes

The myth of “Happily ever after’: As children we grow up with a lot of fairy tales which usually end up with the prince marrying princess. There would be a final sentence added “And they lived happily ever after.” We are supposed to conclude that after the wedlock the prince’s and princess’ lives were filled with marital bliss. Movies of yesteryears also tended to end with the hero & heroine cuddling up blissfully which is supposed to extend into their future.

However the reality is very different. All marriages tend to have their ups and downs. Be prepared for fights, frustrations, anger, grief along with joy and revelry. There are no exceptions regardless of whether it is love marriage or arranged marriage.

There is no ‘dream job’: Are you happy in your job? Do you feel stuck in a rut, while your friends and relatives are in nice, cushy and comfy job? Do you find yourself in a bottomless pit in your job, doing a boring, mindless job, with no possibility of escape?  Are you wishing and hoping for that ‘dream job’ which will make your life a source of perpetual enjoyment?

Well, here is news. There is no such thing as a ‘dream job’. Every job has its challenges. All workplaces are made up of humans, employees and colleagues who have human emotions and human weaknesses. So with every job territory you can expect petty jealousies, competition, envious eyes and even possibly backbiting. Also every job in this world will have interesting and boring parts to it.

There is no problem-free life: The sooner you reconcile yourself to this fact the better it is. Life, in the late 20’s and in the early 50’s, will be beset by problems.  Problems are a part and parcel of life. There are no exceptions to this rule. Saints, sinners and the common man all have problems. We have to accept that problems are a fact of life. We need to take this into our stride.

We really need to accept these 3 facts of life – there is no eternal marital bliss, no perfect job and a there is no problem free life.

Having said that marital discord, no job satisfaction and problems are facts of life, it does not mean that life is one long and tortuous struggle.

As long as you are mentally prepared you can handle the ‘slings and arrows’ that life throws at you. Harmony in marriage is really a policy of give and take between husband and wife. Be prepared for occasional outbursts from your significant other.

Similarly job satisfaction is as much a quality of the job as it is your attitude towards you job. As long as you take interest in your job, and build a great rapport with your colleagues and bosses you are bound to enjoy your job

Lastly life will keep throwing problems at us. We need to take them head on and solve them. If we do that we will learn a lot, besides becoming mentally stronger.

So accept these facts and life and manage yourself sensibly. You will have a far more fulfilling life.



On the universe, evolution, God and religion

Spiral-galaxy-wallpaperHere are some of my ruminations on the universe, evolution, God and religion

The Universe: If only we stop to ponder about the universe we will be absolutely fascinated by it. In the universe there are 100 billion galaxies, each galaxy has several hundred billion stars and each star has several trillion planetary systems and satellites. If we consider the universe to the size of the earth, then the earth itself would be the size of a grain of sand.

In other words the earth is a tiny, miniscule drop in the ocean of the universe. We are located in some remote, inconspicuous corner of the universe. The universe itself started 13.4 billion years ago when there was a cataclysmic event, the Big Bang, when the universe itself was a singular point in space-time. Time, space and the universe were created thereafter. The stars, planets, galaxies have been flung out from the moment of the big bang and the universe is still expanding, The fact that the big bang occurred and the galaxies, stars are moving away, can be measured by the velocity with which they are either receding or moving towards the earth resulting in a red or blue shift in the light spectrum.  A few weeks backs scientists have been able to measure the gravitational waves created during the birth pangs of the Universe about 13.2 billion years ago.

Evolution:  The theory of evolution as propounded by Charles Darwin in his “Origin of Species’ is truly a fascinating work of careful scientific analysis backed by painstaking effort at observing, recording and analysis. Darwin shows very clearly how different species of flora and fauna are formed. The forces of ‘natural selection’ and ‘survival of fittest’ act very strongly, resulting in the perpetuation of certain characteristics in the species, which allow it to survive into future generations.  Those species that are unable to survive by adapting to the natural environment become extinct. The evolution of mammals, fishes and birds all exhibit remarkable changes in physical characteristics of internal and external organs, color and other attributes.  These changes take place over many centuries. It is also fascinating when we realize in how many ways we have changed from our earlier ancestors for example the Neanderthals.

For e.g. the forearms have become shorter, our foreheads have become broader to accommodate a bigger pre-frontal cortex for more cerebral activities. The pre-historic man existed about 4 million years ago. We, the modern man, have a come long way through evolution.

God: The knowledge of the universe and evolution clearly show us where we have come from and how we have arrived here. So where does this leave God?  To be honest, God, as we now know it, loses significance. As Carl Sagan says, it would be really odd that in this vastness of space and time, to believe in a local God for this earth in some insignificant corner of the universe.   Our understanding of God is only about 5 thousand years old. Whereas the universe in itself is more than 13.5 billion years old. The fact that we evolved from pre-historic man is an established fact.  The age of the universe has been confirmed time and again. We need to rethink our beliefs in this context. Also evolution has confirmed the progressive sophistication of beings and thus man.

It is possible that you may ask? What was there before the Big Bang? Who created the universe at the time of the big bang?  The answer is “We don’t know”. Can we assume that chance and nature created man and all creatures with such complexity? To this we can say that evolution for millions of years have produced all these variations.

So, to many of the questions,  we can just say,  we don’t know. Our limited intellect and finite brain cannot comprehend beyond a certain amount. So it is best to say we really don’t know.

Religion: So really nothing can be said about God. There are lots of things we don’t know.

So what can we say about religion. In my opinion, we do not need a God for religion. All religions talk about the same principles of integrity, kindness, compassion and mercy. So whether we believe or don’t believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, all knowing God, we can all practice good moral values of kindness, integrity, compassion and love. This is something that is eternal and has always existed.

So whether you agree or disagree with my views I hope you subscribe to the moral view that we need to have true north based principles and values in this existence of ours.

Caring for the important others in life

Your life is made up of ‘others’, in case you haven’t noticed! Often we consider ourselves as the center of the universe. Our world and our thoughts are so full of “I, me, myself & mine” that we hardly have time for others.  We need to step back and reflect on the significant others in our lives and we need to care for them. Here are a list of things that we need to do

Empathy: Quite often when your friend, colleague or family member relates their troubles to you, you find yourself judging them too quickly. You may see them as weak, or stupid and unable to handle their problems effectively. But what is really needed is empathy.  Empathy is the most important habit we need to cultivate in our relation to others. Empathy is the ability to sense the emotions and feelings of others. It is the ability to step into the other person’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. When we see the other person’s problems through the other person’s eyes, we are able to appreciate the reactions and emotions the other person is going through. If only we could see it through the lens of person relating the problem you will be able to appreciate it better.

Empathy, often gets confused with sympathy, where we acknowledge the hardship of the other person and provide comfort and assurance. People are not looking for your comfort but more for your understanding of their situation.

Listen more, talk less: When a family member, colleague or friend is relating their successes, failures or their experience, stop and listen. Let them have their say, whether it is a display of excitement, joy or sadness. Do not interrupt them with your own ideas, opinions and judgments. Listen more. Observe the visual cues and the body language of the other. Share in the joys and sorrows rather than giving your opinion and views on it. People like others who listen.

It is more important to be kind, than correct: This rule is an extension of the 2 points above. When the other person is venting their anger, relating their woes or showing enthusiasm and joy, be empathetic. There is really no need for you to correct the other person’s views, even if they are wrong, immediately. Let them vent their frustrations, even if unjustified. Listen to them. There will be time to tell them what your real view is. Honesty, in my opinion is over-rated. Honest is second only to kindness. Hence it is more important to be kind than correct.

Do unto others, as you have them do unto you: “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”. This is something that we need to keep in our minds all the time. Remember that just as you would like others to be kind, grateful and nice to you, so should all your activities to others be.

You don’t live in this world in isolation. Your life is made up of important others, all the time. Treat them well and they will treat you well in return.

So, pay heed, and care for the important others in your life!