Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Degrees - Bachelors, Masters, Doctorates, Honorary degrees, (un)honorary degrees, earned degrees, stolen degrees - how many kinds of degrees one can get?!

While growing up in India, it used to fascinate me to see long list of degrees against the names of prominent people like famous doctors, lawyers, professors etc. People used to spell out degrees, subjects, universities in such detail that their names used to be totally obscured from all that mumbo jumbo.

"Universities give you degree. Not necessarily education."

"Life is a teacher which gives tests first and lessons there after."

Best university in the world - UHK. Not university of Hong Kong. But, University of HARD KNOCKS. (aka LIFE).

"Only degree that really matters is the degree to which you help others."

Do we have this degree? Are we even working on this degree? How often we can say that we have helped someone with no selfish motives at all?

No wonder one of the best stanzas from Bhagvadgita says - They are forever free who break away from the ego cage of I, ME and MINE. Another verse says - They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them.

Mere data is not information. Mere information is not knowledge. Mere knowledge is not wisdom.

Cheers to getting the only degree that really matter.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010


"Burden on your shoulders is exactly right the amount for you. Not one pound more than you can carry. Not one pound less than you are able to carry."

I think the above quote is from Bible.

Sometimes when I hear people grieving about their losses, problems in their lives and so on and so forth, this is the saying that comes to my mind. It's easy to say to them. However, it's better if you follow this up with little more information.

Repeating this quote mechanically does not bring any comfort to the people / friends who are going through some problems. You are telling them that -" too bad. Your life is a mess. Hang in there. Things will get better." Not too sensitive. Right? Their reaction will be - "I hoped you would just hear me and provide me some comfort. Instead you preached me dry philosophy which only make me more mad because it seemed so insensitive."

Some famous Malayalam Poet (I think Panicker) wrote a beautiful poem on this topic.

The essence of the poem is like this.

In India, especially in rural areas, there are some elevated platforms built on the shoulder of the roads. They are called 'athani' in Malayalam, it seems. The whole idea of those raised platforms is for people to put down the loads they are carrying on their heads, rest for a while, then easily pick up the loads and continue on their journey to market to deliver their goods.

Look at the practicality of these raised platforms or 'athanis'. They are at perfect height for a normal man. All the man has to do is to position himself correctly around it and slightly tilt the load from his head or back. Whatever he is carrying slowly falls and rests on the platform. When he is ready to pick it up, all he has to do is to adjust the position of his load on athani, move himself closer and then slowly drag the load on his head or shoulder. Although I have not personally seen it being done. From the description, it seems like a great mechanism for people to load and unload stuff on their head or back without requiring much assistance from others. On desolate rural roads, it will be impossible to find someone to help load the stuff on your back or head if you put it on the ground. Sheer height (say 5 to 6 feet) that load has to rise from the ground and then come on your head or back is impossible for one man to do. Raised platforms like 'athani' make it possible for a man to be on his own.

This is a beautiful illustration. The poem says we have the best 'athani' to put our load of burden when we are very tired. God is the best 'athani' we have. Whenever we are tired, we can just find God anywhere and put all our burdens on him. During the time we have put our burdens with him, he will let us rest. Of course, we will have to complete the journey with the regular quota of load but we know that whenever we need rest or feel that burden is too much and we are on the verge of collapsing, we do not need to look too far. The best athani custom made just for us and our load of burden is right near us. It's up to us to use it to take rest.

How do we make use of this divine 'athani'? By repeatedly calling the Lord with his holy name. People who remember to always repeat the holy name have ready access to vital energy to counter any of their problems.

So, next time, when you have to counsel friends going through tremendous problems, feel free to use the quote from Bible but do not just stop there. Help them understand the concept of 'athani' also. That will be more soothing. That will give them some comfort than mere dry philosophy.

Of course, if you think they are not in a position to understand and appreciate anything you will say. Just shut up and listen. Many times people just need someone who can listen to them and their problems without any prejudice. If you can be that for a few people, you can rest assured that you have done it for this year.

Henry Ford said -"I do not worry about anything. I leave worrying to God. I just do my job. Worrying about my problems is his job."


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Ego to God

"They are forever free who break away from the ego cage of I, Me and Mine. To be united with the Lord of love. This is the supreme state. Attain to this and move from death to immortality."

This is one of the stanzas from 2nd chapter of Bhagvadgita.

I, Me, Mine - three legs on which EGO rests. Reduce focus on I, Me and Mine and you automatically reduce self-will. As you reduce self-will, you feel lighter and better overall.

EGO - Eliminate E and add D (as in Devotion) and you get GOD.

Cheers on this Thanksgiving day!

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Let Nothing Upset You

Let nothing upset you;
Let nothing frighten you.
Everything is changing;
God alone is changeless.
Patience attains the goal.
Who has God lacks nothing;
God alone fills every need.

 - Saint Teresa of Avila

There is a lot said about 'finding your center.' It has become as common as 'touching all bases', 'looping in', 'take it offline' etc.

So, what can people  do to find their centers?

May be use this beautiful prayer of St. Teresa of Avila.

Look at the simplicity.

I think this is one of the few prayers which highlights the very underappreciated virtue - PATIENCE.

I think Sura 8 of Quran is another place which describes Patience in detail.

http://www.muslimaccess.com/quraan/arabic/008.asp. Search for 'Patient' on the page. (Not patience)

Patience  saves a lot of energy. If you get provoked at every little thing, then you are going run out of gas in no time. Knowing that we all have a long journey, it makes sense to drive carefully and conserve as much gas as possible.

"Life is a war won by carefully selecting all the battles NOT to fight."

Another line that is full of meaning is - Who has God lacks nothing.

Just change words a bit and other meaning is equally profound - Who lacks God has nothing.


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Some of you commented about sudden spike in my blog posts.

What happened, you asked? How come all this activity after a few months of lull?

Well, looks like I have been reading far more than I used to. Read a lot. Did not take much time to reflect, distill and write.

Blame it on Kindle. So much easy to read. So much easy to so many books around. Happy to have read so much in one last year. Thanks to kindle for that.

An excellent quote from Einstein was a nice kick to get back to writing from time to time.

"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking." - Albert Einstein.

Not sure what to make out of this.

Gandhi said - "Live as though you will die tomorrow. Learn as though you are going to live forever."

Einstein and Gandhi need not be contradictory. Although Gandhi said you should learn a lot. He did not say learn only from reading. Probably life's experiences are better teachers than bookish knowledge.

One piece of probably useless trivia - Einstein was one of the founding members of my alma mater - Brandeis University. The quarrel he got in with others on the future of Brandeis and left it is a different story .:)


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Likes and wants

"If you stop doing what you like, you will have all the time to do what you want."

Makes sense?

For example - you like to read a lot. But, what you want to do is to get some physical exercise. If you reduce the time you spend on doing what you like then you can use that time to do what you want to.

Likes are like dead fish. They are the only fish that flow with the current.

Wants are like live fish, they flow against the current.

If you look closely, most of  your wants require a jolt of energy to be acted upon. On the other hand, likes seem to require no additional energy or barely minimum. It is like a boulder on the top of the hill. Just a light touch will suffice. Gravity will do the rest. Such are likes. What it takes to watch TV hour after hour? Little or nothing. But, it takes some will and energy to go out and get some exercise.

Make 2 lists. One list of all that you like to do. Second is a list of all that you want to do. Then see how much time you spend on each item on likes and wants. For every like you can possibly remove, you will find time to do something you want to.

Always remember the golden rule of 21. For anything to become a routine, it takes 21 days. So, just persist for that long. Say to yourself that if you do not wish to continue after 21 days, you can revisit and renegotiate with yourself.

This wisdom is better explained by Sri Eknath Easwaran in his very important book - Mediation. Read page 115. Link is - http://www.google.com/books?id=evOewbpTXr0C&lpg=PP1&dq=eknath%20easwaran&lr&as_brr=0&pg=PA115#v=onepage&q&f=false


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Saturday, November 20, 2010


From the book - The complete works of Swami Vivekananda - Vol. 2

Every religion has three parts. Philosophy, Mythology and Ritual.

Although all religions say the same truth, since they are cater to people of different regions, beliefs, lifestyles and tastes, they have to be delivered in different  fashions. Mythology and Rituals are the vehicles by which philosophy of the religion is delivered to the masses.

Swami Vivekananda provides a fantastic example. Take example of rice. Indians consume it with variety of curries and they use their fingers in a very artistic form to delicately mix a small portion of rice with different curries and enjoy each morsel thoroughly. After a couple of morsels, they take a bit of relish or some condiment to change taste as an alien beat is inserted in the music. It's an elaborate ritual.

When you provide the same bowl of rice to Asians, they prepare it differently for consumption. They will probably throw in vegetables and meat and stir fry it. Then they will use chopsticks to eat it. Their condiments are different.

Now give the same rice to westerners. They will use spoon and fork to eat the rice. They will consume it in variety of ways too.

So, Swami Vivekananda says, in this way, different people consume the same rice in different ways using different utensils and condiments. They all consumed the same rice and it is going to nourish them. Same thing with religion, they all teach the same thing. But, their philosophy, mythology and rituals are different the way fingers are different than chopsticks and chopsticks are different than forks.


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Vacuum cleaner,toaster, microwave, TV - which is greater?

Imagine how it will be if electrical appliances in your house start talking about each other and start arguing which is more superior.

Vacuum cleaner may say it is the greatest, because without it, the house is just not habitable at all. If you can not live in the house, other appliances there do not matter at all.

Toaster may say - even after God answers your 'God, give us this day our daily bread.', you are not going to enjoy a piece of toast if the toaster can not toast the God given bread.

Microwave may say some other point of self importance.

TV may say that you all will go nuts if I do not keep you glued to something to get over your boredom.

Do you see the ludicrousness of such an argument?

If you do see that, then you can also see similar argument when we differentiate one human from the other and treat one is better than the other because of what he does, because of his external features, because of his outside worth and so on.

All these appliances are driven by the same energy. It's the same electricity which drives them all. It's the same energy which manifests into different form. If we can agree to this and make it part of our psyche then most of our problems with other go away.

Let's say, there is a person who is doing something that we do not like. Because of  it we start hating that person. For example,  I do not like the sound of leaf blowers. They are very noisy. When the yard workers blow it non-stop just outside my patio it drives my crazy. But, in the fall they have to do it.

I can not become resentful of the leaf blower or the person operating it. Same with other people and what they may be doing. People who annoy may be like leaf blowers. But, even those people with all their annoyances are serving some purpose. We may or may not understand the purpose but the person who is operating the leaf blower understands it well. So, instead of getting all aggravated, let's learn to live with it.


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Who is checking out your gold? Goldsmith or blacksmith?

If you take a block of gold to a blacksmith and ask him to check it out for quality, what will he do? He will shrug his shoulders and will tell you that you have come to the wrong person.

You may have the best of the best gold with you. But, if you do not find a right goldsmith, it is not going to get a fair value or even fair interest and evaluation.

I was reading some book. The author gave this as an illustration to deal with 'perceived' slights and injustice. 'Perceived' is the key word here. Because, if you take gold to blacksmith and if he nonchalantly says he does not know about gold or does not see you quickly enough or does not treat you with all fan fare, it was not his mistake. It is your mistake to have taken your gold to the wrong person. So, any following feelings of disappointment etc. are solely due to your misjudgment. So, do not be angry about the person who could not see gold for what's it worth. He is not qualified.

If this is so simple, then why we feel let down when someone does not evaluate us (i.e. gold) as we should be? People complain that their bosses do not see their worth. People complain that their spouses and kids do not see their worth and so on. So question is - are those whom you seem to be pissed about goldsmiths or blacksmiths? Have you put your heart (or career or life) of gold in the hands of a blacksmith instead of a goldsmith?

Even after you give your gold to goldsmith. Be patient. It's the very nature of gold smithy that it takes long time to do anything. Even simple things like checking out the purity of gold takes good amount fine work. So, even after seeing a goldsmith, give him enough time to check out your gold and give you back his evaluation. It will be worth the wait when he gives you an excellent feedback about your gold. It will be even better when he offer a great value for your gold. This all will take time.

In life, it's the same. We are all gold but we do not always get to meet right goldsmiths who can value us fairly and treat us fairly. Sooner we realize it and take back our gold carefully from the hands of blacksmiths, better we will be. This means if you work for a poor boss, he is like a blacksmith who is not able to appreciate a golden employee. Get out of it if you care about gold (i.e. yourself and your career). Same thing in other relationships too.

Once you find a good goldsmith, give them time to evaluate your gold and treat you fairly. As said before, anything with gold smithy takes tremendous amount of time due to all the fine work involved. So, be patient. If you are convinced the your counterpart in any relationship is a genuine and qualified goldsmith, entrust your gold (career, heart, life) in their able hands and pray for the best. Things will work out.

This metaphor applies to you as well from the standpoint of you being the goldsmith. As a human being, as your gold is being evaluated by all sorts of people for all sorts of purposes from employment to relationships, you are also evaluating gold of other people for similar reasons. For some people you will come across as goldsmith and for some others you are going to surely come across as a blacksmith.  That's fine. Just do not try to be what you are not.

In Hindi, there are a couple of great sayings to illustrate the differences between blacksmiths and gold smiths.

"Sonar ka sau maar aur lohaar ka ek maar." - This means that it takes hundreds of delicate and intricate strokes of artwork it will take a goldsmith to craft a beautiful jewel. But, it will take just one hit of heavy hammer from blacksmith to destroy that fine piece of jewelry.

"Zhaveri hee jane khare sone ka kimat. Lohaar nahin." - Only the best jeweler knows the value of pure gold. Not the blacksmith.

Cheers to being a golden person and finding the right goldsmith who appreciates your gold.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Which 50%?

"In advertising we know only 50% of the budget (money) spent produces any effect. We do not know which 50% is that. So, we need to continue to spend full 100%."

Took some time to make sense. It would be nice if we can 'isolate' that 50% which produces results and spend only that. Do you see the irony in that? It's like saying - in the world out there, there is a woman who delivers a baby every 6 seconds in the world. In order to control population, all we need to do is to, find THAT woman and stop her. :)

Advertising budget mention was made in some self-help book. The author was saying - we do not know which of our efforts will produce good results. As with adverting budget, probably only 50% of our efforts produce any result. But, we do not know which 50% is that. So, in order to maximize the output, we have to keep on putting in our 100% effort day in and day out. Many times it's very frustrating to see none of our effort producing any result at all. But, if we broaden the horizon and see, we realize that we have been paid back for at least of 50% of efforts. So, you put in $100, you got back $50. If you put in $100,000, then you got back $50,000.

This probably the reason, Gandhi said  - Full effort, full victory.

Also the main message of Bhagvadgita. "You have right to work. But, not the fruits of your work."


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Fake it

"Fake it till you make it."

Is faking all that bad?

For a refreshing perspective on 'faking', you may want to read excepts from Sri Eknath Easwaran's commentary on Bhagvadgita.


Read pages 395 and 396 and more if you like.

Fake it till you make it is a perfectly good strategy when you are working on perfecting good qualities such as patience,compassion etc.

Read it for yourself and I am sure many will have an 'aha' moment!

Cheers to faking!

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Darkness to Light

Lead me from the  unreal to the real.

Lead from darkness to light.

Lead from death to immortality.

With our ears, may we hear what is good.

With our eyes, may we see your goodness.

Tranquil in body, we me who worship you find rest in you.

Om! Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Om! Hail to the supreme self.

Translation of the famous verse 'Asatoma.....'  from Brihadarnyaka Upanishad.

This is probably one of the best passages for meditation.

The message or the core of the verse is so positive. It is sure to stir up all your inner wisdom and make the cream rise to the top.

Call it meditation or self fulfilling prophecy, if you want to be thinking about over and over again, may be we should be thinking on these line.


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Peace of mind

"I tell you one thing.

If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with the world.

Rather learn to see your own faults.

Learn to make the whole world your own.

No one is a stranger my son.

The whole world is your own. "

These were the famous parting words of Sri Sarada Devi, wife of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa - famous mystic of 19th  century in India.

There is so much meaning in these few lines.

"If you expect anything from the world, world may give it you. Like a giving some small change to a beggar. But, you will miss the real treasure by focusing on trivialities."

Another line that stands-out is - No one is a stranger my child. When everybody else is paranoid about meeting someone else, this should come very reassuring. "There are no strangers. Only friends that we have not met yet."


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