Month: December 2016

The most important project you will ever work on is yourself

You have been doing projects ever since you remember. Be it school or workplace, business or fun, you will have done and will do innumerable projects in your lifetime. Your career is a project. Education is a project. Your friends, family and social relationships are all projects. Projects depend on other projects for their success. Your career project, for example, will depend to a degree on your education project. Out of all these projects, do you know which is the single most important project that all other projects depend on for their success?

You create study timetables before examinations. You do biannual performance reviews. You make business plans. How often do you take out a moment to plan not your career or vacation, but the development of your self? At work, you allocate resources to different projects by ranking them according to importance. You may set aside time for family and hobbies. You will change jobs and careers. Your bosses, colleagues, customers, interests, passions, cars and clothes will keep changing. Money will keep coming in and going out of your bank account. People will keep coming in and going out of your life. Every thing around you will keep changing except for one thing. There is only one thing that will be with you throughout your life and that is your self! Your self is the most important thing you have. It is your only possession that truly belongs to you. It is the only thing that will be with you till your dying breath and beyond. Your self is the most important project you will ever work on. Nurture and develop it. Do not neglect it. There is nothing more important than that!

Renounce and rejoice

The Isha Upanishad is one of the shortest and sweetest of all Upanishads. Mahatma Gandhi had said that if all Upanishads and all other scriptures were suddenly reduced to ashes and only the first verse in the Isha Upanishad survived, the heart of Hindu philosophy would still live for ever! This first verse which he spoke about is:

ॐ ईशा वास्यमिदँ सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् ।
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम् ।।

This verse represents the essence of the Upanishads. It says that Isha, God, the fundamental vibrations that sustain the universe, gives form to everything in the world. All things, living or non-living, material or abstract, in the past, present or future, real or imagined, are only manifestations of these vibrations and belong to God. Do not covet these things since they will never belong to you. You have come in this world empty handed, and you will leave it empty handed. You cannot own these things. You can only, temporarily, use them. Do not crave for them. Do not deny yourself happiness by becoming a slave to your desires!

Instead, renounce them and break the chains that bind your happiness. Renounce your desires so you can truly enjoy your possessions as a master of your will and not as a slave of your whims! Renounce the trivial and inconsequential to embrace that which truly matters. Renunciation is not denying yourself the good things in life. It is denying your hankering for them which only prevents your happiness. Happiness cannot be acquired by collecting possessions. It is a state of being that exists inside of you. Let your inner happiness shine forth. Renounce and rejoice in life!

Can you afford to be angry with the whole universe?

Why do you get angry at people? Do you also get angry at objects? If you are walking on the road and accidentally trip over a brick, will you get angry at the brick? Why not? Because the brick has no mind of its own? Because the brick did not choose to do anything and simply happened to be in your path due to a chain of cause and effect? How are people any different? Yes, they do have a mind, but their mind is a slave of causality too! It is causality that brought the brick into your path and it is causality that made a person behave in a certain way. If you want to get angry, don’t get angry at the brick, don’t get angry at the person, get angry at causality herself! But do you know what it means to get angry at causality? It means to get angry at the whole universe! Anger corrodes your soul. Every time you get angry, you make deep cuts into your soul. Can you really afford to get angry at the universe?

The wise man grieves neither for the living nor for the dead

Mighty armies were arrayed, facing each other, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Valiant heroes whom even the Gods feared stood at attention awaiting the beginning of the epic war of Mahabharata. Commanders on both sides surveyed the formations and.. my thoughts were disturbed by a knock on the door.

It was one of the darkest times of my life. My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and we were fighting anxiety, emotions and hospital visits. The air and my thoughts were saturated with desperation and hopelessness. I was faced with important decisions in my personal and professional life which I did not know how to make. The grim situation demanded from me sincere answers to profound questions and I felt utterly incapable of producing those answers.

I returned to my desk and picked up the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna, the mightiest of the Pandavas, was dismayed seeing the assembled armies. The enemy ranks consisted of brave warriors but those warriors were his own brothers, uncles, and dear friends. Suddenly overwhelmed at the prospect of fighting to death the very people he loved, Arjuna lost his strength. His body trembled, mouth dried up and he laid down his bow. With tears in his eyes, he told Krishna that he could not do it!

गतासून् अगतासूंश्च नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिताः ॥

And then Krishna told him something that has helped me immeasurably through the most testing of times. One of the the very first things Krishna said to him was, “The wise man grieves neither for the living nor for the dead!”. I did not understand the import of the statement then, but it gave me hope and I steadfastly held on to it. As I delved into the Gita and the Upanishads, into the world of Vedanta and Buddhism, I began to understand and absorb this timeless wisdom and the world was never the same again!

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