God is not a coat-hanger. God is not a wishing-well.

Our lives can be easily divided into 3 categories. Things we can control in life, things we cannot control in life and then things we ‘like to think’ we cannot control in life.

The first 2 categories are obvious. I am more interested in the last category where we simply dump things into a large space meant specifically for the ‘power beyond us’.

Here I am referring to the omniscient and omnipotent God. In this world, many people conveniently shift their responsibility to a supreme being or a divine power.

It is in this context the following 2 points are pertinent

God is not a coat-hanger: There is a notion that God will take care of one’s problems in life. People wish that by praying they can shift their problems to a super natural being. They feel really relieved and are deceived into believing that their problems have gone away. Unfortunately this is not true.

If an omnipotent, omniscient God has decided to dump problems on your lap then he is obviously expecting you to work them out. You can’t tell God ‘No, no you take that!” and wash your hands from the issues in life. You can’t pass the buck back to God. Your problems are your problems. If you wish or pray, life’s problems will not vanish. In some cases providence or coincidence may come to your aid, but you better not hope that it will always happen

In fact, you will be better off taking ownership of your problems and try to resolve then rather than expecting divine intervention on your behalf. The sooner you come to terms with this reality the better it will be for you in the long run.

God is not a wishing-well: This is another popular and prevalent idea in our midst. People wish that their lives turn out a particular way. They may want some career change, a promotion or to cross some academic hurdle.

Some think that if they pray hard enough or make frequent visits to temples, churches or mosques their wishes will be granted. An omniscient and omnipotent God is not keeping scores for each and every one in this world. You will not get extra marks for having uttered God’s name a zillion times nor will you get special favors based on how fervently you prayed.

Your destiny is in your hands. You are the architect of your future. You should be working to make your dreams come true. Remember “the best way to predict the future is to create it. So don’t keep posting all your wishes to God and hope he will respond to it.

We need to be practical in life, take ownership of our problems and also work towards creating the future we desire.

Having said that, I will agree that prayer does give one hope. And hope is essential in our journey through life. But hope alone does not accomplish anything.

Action does!

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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.

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.