Studying from the Book of Life

Human life, insignificant? When we consider the average human life span, of 75 years, in the eternity of time, of 13.4 billion years, since the Universe was born; or if we look at this speck which we call Earth, in the immensity and vastness of space we will be inclined to look at our lives as merely insignificant. To some extent this is true.

But then we are here and we have a life to live and we better make our lives as significant as we can.  Here are some thoughts on how to lead a far more significant life. To lead a far more fruitful and fulfilling life we need to study from what I would like to call ‘The Book of Life’

The Book of Life:
The Book of life has 3 main sections. They are included below

1) Studying from one’s own life: This is the first section in this book. Poor or rich, wise or stupid all of us carry a wealth of experiences and personal knowledge. We really need to dive deep into our own lives. There are many gems of truth and knowledge we will find in the deep waters of our past lives.  The past is many ways is our compass to our future. We need to analyze our motives for our past actions. We must delve into our biases, our judgmental ideas ingrained deep in our minds. Can we justify these prejudices of ours?

We can learn more from looking into ourselves than by reading any book or listening to any sermon.

2) Studying from our social circle: There is a lot we can learn from immediate and larger social circle.  What makes them tick? What drives them? How do they handle problems?

What would you have done if you were in the situation that they are in? Would you have handled the situation differently? There are so many lessons that life offers us. We need to be observant and reflect.  If you have a role model in life try to see how they handle adversity. What are the qualities in their life that you admire? What makes them different from you? How can you emulate some of their virtues? This is the next section in this Book of Life.

3) Studying from the enlightened ones: This is the last but an important section. There is a lot we can learn from the wise sayings of Krishna, Buddha and Christ. These enlightened souls had an extraordinary insight into human nature. We need to reflect on the pithy sayings of these souls.  Here is a sample

Christ (Bible): Love they enemy
Judge not, lest ye be judged

Krishna (Gita): Do your duty without regard to the fruits thereof
A true yogi is one who is not affected by joy or sorrow

Buddha: Anger is like hot charcoal. It burns the hand that hold it.

There is an enormous amount of meaning and depth in each of these sayings. We can use them in different situations in our lives.

We need to really drink deeply from this Book of Life. There are many things that this book can teach us and help us lead a more fulfilling life.

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2 essential paradoxical truths of life

Here are 2 truths that appear paradoxical but are extremely important in different situations in life.

Stop… to progress in life: This statement may appear more absurd than paradoxical. But if you think on this for a while you will realize the truth behind this paradoxical statement. In our daily lives we are in one headlong rush to nowhere. From the time we get up, to the time we go to bed, we are constantly flitting from one task to another.

We browse the newspaper, rush to office, jump from one assignment to another, return home, flip TV channels, do some browsing and then hit the bed. We repeat this ritual every day. We simply react to external events. We could even say that we are driven by external events in our life. It is important that we come to complete halt in our lives. We must hit the pause button every once in a while.

In fact, it would really help if we allocated at least 30-40 minutes every day where we reflected on our lives. We need to see where we are in life and where we want to go to. We need to look inward into our lives identify things that we are doing right and those that we need to change. We could do this by either sitting cross-legged in a meditative pose, or take a leisurely walk. Others may find some mild exercise, meditative. Whatever method you choose it is really essential that you put a halt to the furious pace of your life and spend time introspecting and charting the future course of your action. Hence ‘to make serious progress in life we must come to complete stop and look inward’

Act by doing nothing: This is another seemingly nonsensical statement. Sometimes in life the best course of action is ‘complete inaction’. In fact the Gita claims “a true yogi is one who see action in inaction and inaction in action’. What this implies is that sometimes the best course of action is inaction. At other times action is futile and is equivalent to no action or inaction.

There are times when simply reacting to a circumstance will tend to exacerbate a situation. It may be more prudent to sit still and be patient. We could let ‘time’ play out her card, observe the outcome and then take appropriate action. An example would be not to retaliate to every move made by a foe. Rather it would make more sense to observe what the enemy is trying to do and then deal the fatal blow. So the time we spend appearing to do nothing is the time we spend in observing what the motive of the foe is.

Even In our professional lives there will be times when nothing seems to go right, you may have some misunderstanding with your boss, you may not have delivered up to the expectations or things may not be exactly hunky dory with your colleagues. Rather than taking hasty action it may be sensible to bide your time while you try to set your house in order. You must not take precipitate action but rather sit still. I am reminded of a Kenny Roger’s song, the Gambler, which goes

You must know when to hold to hold ‘em,
Know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run’

So it is imperative that we know when to act and when not to act. This is critical in life

These 2 paradoxical rules are key to manoeuvring through the alleys of life.

3 essential do’s and don’ts in life

3 essential do’s and don’ts in life

There are 3 do’s and don’ts that are essential in life

Here they are

a) Go after what you need first, then after what you want:

In life it is extremely important that you go after on what you need first. In other words we must focus the bare essentials in life. To some this may be owning a house, to others it may be getting their dream job. Whatever it is focus on what you need first before going after what you want.

In life we may want many things. Some of us want a flashy car to impress our neighbors, others may want the biggest size TV, while still others may want to take a vacation in the Bahamas.

However it is necessary to postpone what you want, till you get what you need first. What this boils down to is that one must address one’s needs before indulging in anything else. Splurge only after you are satisfied that you are financially secure.

b) In the short term – Do what you must, before doing what you want:

In our daily lives we usually have a million and one things to do.  All too often we tend to do what we like and put off what is important because it is slightly distasteful. We procrastinate on doing what we really must because we dislike it. We keep doing things that we like,  till the task that we kept putting off becomes all too urgent and critical.

In my opinion we must first do things that we absolutely must, whether we like it or not before doing what we like. This is very important. By doing what we dislike, yet we must, we get the task over with. That is one less thing to worry about. Once we have this important task out of the way we can spend as much time on things that we like to do

c) In the long term –Do what you like, not what you must:

In the long term however we must do things that we like and not force ourselves doing that we think that we must do.  We should center our lives on things we have a passion for. We should not spend our lives working in jobs that we don’t have any interest in, but we think that we must to provide for the family. Usually there will be avenues to get the job that you like provided, you look for it. In a famous study, one of the chief regrets of people in their death bed was that “they felt that they had wasted their lives living to other people’s expectations rather that doing what they really wanted”.

So in the long term go after what you desire and what you are passionate about.

These three do’s and don’ts are very important in our day to day lives

Pray less, Act More!

The title of this article may sound blasphemous to some. Yes, I am advocating that we pray less and act more. (Note the title was not “Don’t pray … act!). Since prayer offers hope, we cannot entirely do away with prayer. As human beings we are fragile and we are in dire need of ‘hope’ to pull us through our sea of troubles we seem to have in our lives.

Ideally, a self-actualized person, may be able to entirely do away with the act of prayer and simply act.  Such individuals can determine the course of future actions, entirely by their own will. But most of us are mortal and we do need to pray.

However there is no need to pray to an external divinity. In fact, the Gita’s central message is ‘Tat tvam asi’ or Thou art that. You are all that you seek for in this life. Given this statement from Gita, we really don’t need to seek solace in an external divine entity.

I am not entirely against prayer. If prayer offers hope, then by all means pray, take part in hymns, bhajans and chant away. Where one needs to draw the line, is not to be so entirely consumed by prayer that all action is abandoned. It does not make sense to imagine that a divine external force, is listening to your message and will intervene on your behalf to solve your problems.

There is a real need to be practical and to get on with life. This may sound slightly harsh to the more religious minded. However we often see many people praying and entreating God to solve all their problems in life, while they spend time in wishful thinking when not praying fervently.

Too often people are so consumed in their thoughtless devotion that they wish that their problems will miraculously melt away. Remember, no God will come before you to grant you boons for your devotion. Neither will miracles happen that will magically spirit away your problems in life.

According to the Gita, Bhakti Yoga or (Path of devotion) is the highest form of devotion even above that of Karma Yoga (Path of Action) or Gnana Yoga (Path of knowledge). However I don’t see how devotion alone, will help if not accompanied with action.

When devotion or love of God translates to love of human beings in general, bhakti or devotion makes sense. If love in the benevolence of a higher being, results in compassion for all human beings then go ahead and devote away!

If has been famously said that “The best way to predict the future is to create it!” So take steps to achieve the future you desire with or without prayer. In the final analysis, strong north bound values coupled with decisive action are what makes a great human being.

3 important rules to live life by

Here are 3 vital guidelines with which we need to live our lives.  Rather than going after success or the means to live happily ever after, this article gives 3 simple rules with which we need to live our lives. These 3 rules will help to keep our lives in proper perspective

 All good things take time: In life, all good things take time. When you make a plan or set a goal, remember to look at it long term. So for example if you would like to learn a musical instrument, become a writer, or even lose weight you will have to plan for the long term. It is important that you expect results in about 2, 3 years or maybe later. Too often we want to see immediate results in the next couple of months. We want to become rock stars, superstars or lose 5 kgs in 2months. When we don’t see quick results we generally lose interest and drop the activity altogether. So whenever we embark on any new venture set goals for the long term.

Problems are here to stay: Nobody in this world is immune from problems. Everybody from the prince to the pauper, from the saint to the sinner has to contend with his or her own set of problems. There will be always be ups and downs in everybody’s life. We need to be prepared for issues and problems in life. Buddha has said “Suffering is inevitable in life”. Hence, we can and we should never expect that we will ever live a carefree life.

What differentiates one person from another is how he or she handles their own set of problems. Suffering in life makes one stronger. So don’t wish away your problems, rather face them head-on and overcome them.

Don’t let success or failure determine your life:  Never let success or failure determine how you conduct your life. Remember success or failure are only temporary stops in your journey in life. The destination is far, into the future.  There are some who are completely broken when they face failure in their effort. They abandon the pursuit of their goal. As already mentioned failures or setbacks are temporary.  We have to learn from our failures and setbacks and move on in life.  Similarly, we should not let a couple of successes lull us into contentment. We must look ahead and aim for bigger and better goals in life. Life is long term and we must and should move on.

Finally,

Make these 3 rules below your guidelines in life

  • Life is long term
  • Problems are part and parcel of life
  • Life should go on regardless of success or failure along the way

These guidelines will prepare you to face the worst and also help to accept with magnanimity  your achievements in life.

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.

Beware the mental mirror

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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.