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How to Begin Each Day: A Recipe for Unshakable Sanity and Inner Peace

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but of the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.

Shyam

Journey towards self

Journey towards self

मेरी अना ने डाल दी ज़ंजीर पांव में

यूँ तो पहुँच से दूर तेरा घर नहीं रहा
                                                               अभय कुमार “अभय”

Rumi says: “Ego is a veil between humans and God, in prayer all are equal.”

Shri Tulsidas ji, says in Ramcharitmanas: “Egotism is a counterpart of the most painful Gout (clotting of blood vessels). This Ego is like a cloud. When the cloud disappears you can see the sun. Similarly/Likewise, if the ego vanishes you can see God. Irony is, people often get confused between Ego and Self Respect. These are two different mechanisms and in a way, opposite of one another. While ego encourages manipulation, futile comparisons, self-respect on the other hand inspires us to work harder by providing us the inner strength which helps us in achieving big, with a positive frame of mind. For example, a gentleman claims that he is thorough in Biology and Physics, this is self-esteem. But to say that I know better than you, that is Ego. There is a very thin line between Ego and Self Respect. Wisdom is to know the difference between ego and self-respect, and to become more aware towards these.

In my opinion, Ego is the feeling of supreme. It is an attitude of thinking ourselves superior to others. It is an unhealthy attachment to self. Ego persists because you are deeply attached with your own ideas. From above statement, one can question me – How about if my idea is truly the best? Should I not fight for my idea then or would that also be ego? The answer is – now you know your idea is BEST. The associated feeling is of confidence and self-assurance. While in ego the associated feeling is of insecurity and fear. Ego is fueled by materialistic achievements, for example, you feel extremely proud of yourself when you buy a new house or a new car or when you get promoted to a higher rank. You start thinking that you are superior from rest of the world who are still struggling to achieve things which you have already mastered. You don’t realize at that time, you can lose all your wealth, fame or position in a blink of an eye and when that happens, all your ego gets shattered.

Unlike ego, self-respect comes from within you. It comes from virtues like honesty, kindness, commitment, patience and your smile. If you get attached to your virtues, it starts diminishing. The less you are attached to your virtues, the more self-respect you have. Non- attachment to virtues brings the highest self-respect. When you lose wealth or position, you won’t lose your self-respect. Individuals with positive attitude understand the significance of self-respect and self-awareness and they perform their actions accordingly. In self-respect, everything is a game, winning or losing has no meaning, every step is joy, and every move is celebration.

The best way of manage ego is to expand yourself. Enlarge your ego so much that the whole is included in its embrace. And when nothing remains outside you as “thou” then there is no way to say “I am”. I can call myself “I” only so long as there is a “thou” separate from me. The moment “thou” disappears “I” also ceases to be real. So the egoless “I” has to be vast, infinitely immense. Abhey Kumar “Abhey” an Urdu poet from Meerut, India says:-

                    मिरी ख़ुदी को अगर बेख़ुदी का नाम मिले

                        तो इस वजूद को फिर  आप ही का नाम मिले

It is in the context of this immensity of the “I” that the rishi, the seer of the Upanishad exclaimed, “Aham brahmasmi,” “I am GOD, I am the supreme.” It does not mean to say that you are not GOD, it only means that since there is no “thou” only “I” remains”. The egolessness that comes through this way is total, so total that nothing remains outside of one – not even this much. That he can say, “I am now egoless.”

Shyam

Sweet Tears

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Sweet Tears

Crying in relationship to God is one of the most sacred actions that is greatly dear to GOD. Crying is one of the highest devotional songs. One who knows crying, knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer.

One of the most common reasons for sincere believers crying before God when alone is their earnest prayer to Him. This is especially true when a person experiences severe emotional distress during hopeless situations, when all else in the form of worldly means have failed to save him or her from certain loss, grief or death. These are times when a person comes with tears in his eyes.
When he leaves, he is carrying the same tears, but the quality of tears is different, it is of gratitude. Still tears flow, but those are of gratitude, of love; it is so beautiful to cry in love of God. Here are some evidences that depicts crying for God is an extraordinary blessing recognized in all devotional paths:-

Tirmidhy reported in his Sunan from the Hadith of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “One who weeps out of fear of Allah, will not enter the Hell till milk returns back in the udder; and the dust which a person suffered in the cause of Allah shall not gather with the smoke of Hell-Fire.”[4]

 “He who loves me is made pure; his heart melts in joy. He rises to transcendental consciousness by the rousing of his higher emotional nature. Tears of joy flow from his eyes, his hair stands on end, his heart melts in love. The bliss in that state is so intense that, forgetful of himself and his surroundings, he sometimes weeps profusely, or laughs, or sings, or dances; such a devotee is a purifying influence upon the whole universe.”
~ Srimad Bhagavatam 11.8 (Lord Krishna to His disciple Uddhave)

“As a [thirsty] hart* longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
My tears have been my food
day and night.
~ Psalm 42.1-3

Our lives appears as different as we live it. We pursue our distinctions, whether they are achievement, wealth, even philanthropy. Then at the end of life, we become more similar again, the way we were as babies. How we cry out at the end of life will depend on how much we desired our Heavenly Father all the years in between. Blessed are those described by Psalm 84:2 “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”. Abhey Kumar “Abhey”, an Urdu poet from Meerut written exquisitely:-

                    सफ़र हयात का हँस कर गुज़र भी सकता था

                     तुम्हारी  याद में रोकर गुज़र गया लेकिन

Connecting with God or inner Self is the one thing that matters most. Beyond that I wonder if in God’s eyes the lives we live are not so different. Perhaps whether we live in wealth, in poverty, or in a totally different culture, our earthly life is secondary. Perhaps to him our hardships and successes don’t matter so much. I suspect that, like a parent, God longs to hear us call out to him long after we’re babies. He recognizes every voice and feels the beat of every heart. He longs to hear us call and never stop until our dying day.

Let us pray to be among those fortunate ones whose eyes gush forth as they remember Almighty in solitude, especially when praying the late-night prayer in the dark – in complete seclusion from the eyes of the world. One, who has cried even once in love (Meera, Drupadi, Buddha, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu…..), knows the taste of it, of surrender and of devotion and the entire creation rejoices it. The entire creation is longing for only one thing, the transformed tears, from salty tears to sweet tears.

Shyam

Settled Thinking

Settled Thinking

On occurrence of any unexpected event, a foolish person keep constantly thinking about it and loses his mind. A foolish person, should think that all the events that occurs in life, happens to teach something, and to make one wiser. The wise men accept every event as outside of their direct control, and choose not to perpetuate them further.

In Seneca’s, ‘On Anger’, he describes the mind movement in three stages:-

  • The first movement, arises involuntarily as a ‘preparation of emotion’, an automatic reaction triggered by external impressions or bodily sensations, such as shock in response to sudden startling noise.
  • In the ‘second movement’, we give ‘assent’ to the initial disturbing impression fusing it with the value judgement that it concerns something absolutely ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘helpful’ or ‘harmful’, from which further judgements follow about what it is appropriate to do.
  • In the ‘third movement’, we lose control, get ‘carried away’ into excessive, irrational and unhealthy desires and emotions, which seek to have their way at all costs, even at the expense of wisdom and virtue.

An ancient writer called Aulus Gellius tells a related story in his Attic nights. During a stormy trip at sea, a philosopher was seen to become pale and nervous. Once ashore, Gellius asked how a philosopher, who is supposed to have no emotions, grew so pale in the storm. The philosopher explained himself that ‘Epictetus says that when a terrifying sound surprises us, such as thunder or a falling building, or when we are suddenly confronted by some unexpected news, even the wise man is necessarily disturbed, because the initial impressions forces itself on our mind, and he may grow pale and shrink back automatically for a moment. However the wise man will not give his ‘assent’ to these terrifying impressions, by making corresponding value judgements. He rejects them completely, judging there to be no reason continue being afraid. This is the key difference between the wise men and ordinary people. The foolish person assents to his initial impressions of danger or impending harm, ‘confirming them with his judgement’ and concludes that he is right to cower in fear.

To conclude, any incident that seems outside of one’s control, think what wise man would do in same situation. “The wise man is affected only superficially and momentarily, but he remains consistent in his philosophical judgement that things that appear terrifying are actually ‘indifferent’ and don’t deserve to be feared. A wise man always embrace, what happens inside his volition is God’s favor, and opposite is God’s will. They are ‘empty terror’ like someone wearing a frightening mask that might startle as at first until we realize that it’s just a mask and nothing genuinely terrifying. So, firm faith in God, gives meaning and purpose to human society.

Shyam

Love Naturally

Love Naturally

First and foremost we should remind ourselves that some things are under our control, whereas others are not, and that only what is ‘up to us’ can truly be good, or part of our happiness. One of the keys to grasping this to love someone ‘as a mortal’, who may leave us at any time.

When we love without wisdom, we become overly attached to individual things or people, forgetting that external events are outside of our control. This causes us to irrational ‘craving’, and to vacillate between love and hate depending on external circumstances: ‘in short you grieve, fear, envy, are disturbed, you are changed.’ Epictetus actually says all the enmity between people is down to single judgement of this kind, they ‘put themselves and what belongs to themselves in the category of things which lie outside the sphere of volition’. We see dogs playfully fawning on each other and might say they love each other as ‘friends’ but if we throw a piece of meat between them then they are quickly pitted against each other. Similarly throw some money, land, fame or women between two friends then a fight breaks out.

According to Epictetus, wise men remember that their families are merely parts of the whole of nature, which they love above all. The wise men loves others in accord with the ‘discipline of desire’, accepting that the relationship is ultimately beyond our direct control, and that change or loss may be our fate. Love is thereby turned from an irrational ‘passion’, a kind of ‘lust’ or ‘craving’ characterized by over-attachment or dependence, into a more ‘philosophical’ or detached form of affection. This brings us into harmony with nature by placing our relationships with others within the broader context of our relationship with the whole of existence. However, ‘healthy emotions’ to love require consistency and natural affection, that’s only possible if our underlying attitude of benevolence is, in a sense, unconditional, and does not change just because others change their behavior. Crucially, although loving others is within our control, being loved in return is not, which means love others, but don’t even preserve any desire, to desire for receiving anything in return. It reminds me of a beautiful couplet of Abhey Kumar ‘Abhey’:-

 ऐ ‘अभय’ माँगना वफ़ा का सिला

जज़्बा – ए – शौक़ का मर जाना है

जज़्बा – ए – शौक़ :- emotion of love

 To conclude, We should not compromise our own moral integrity or mortal serenity in our love for others, nor is our love impaired by our knowledge of the mortality of our loved ones. Our love and affection serve only to enrich our humanity, never to subject to psychic torment. Remember if what we are calling ‘love’ or ‘affection’ makes us enslaved to our passions and miserable, than it’s not good for us, and that’s the sign something is wrong.

Shyam

Test of Three

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I really liked this, thought to share with all of you on my blog. Hope you like it.

In ancient Greece (469 – 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.

One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him  excitedly and said,
“Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me,
I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.

“Test of Three?”

“That’s correct,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even  though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, “You may still pass though because there is a third test – the filter of Usefulness.
Is what you want to tell me about my student  going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really…”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor  good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and  ashamed and said no more.

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high  esteem.
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Empathy

Empathy

Normally there are differences between the way we explain our own behavior and the way we explain another’s in similar situation. This is one of the major problem in today’s complex world that undermines human happiness. Surprisingly, when practicing empathy, we tend to perceive other in the same way as we think of ourselves regarding how we explain the causes of their behavior or interpret their activities. Under ordinary conditions we tend to explain the causes of our own behavior as having more to do with situations-i.e., if we come home to our messy apartment, we tend to explain it based on circumstances (“I was working late last night and didn’t have time to clean up” or “I was running late to work”). On the other hand, when it comes to explaining another’s behavior, we tend to attribute the cause to dispositional explanations – i.e., that is “the way they are,” it is part of their intrinsic character or disposition. This fundamental difference between how we normally explain our own versus another’s behavior is called the FAE – the fundamental attribution error. Studies have shown that when we empathize, the FAE disappears.

There can be many definitions of Empathy. But regardless of the differences between definitions, they all seem to include certain basic features: First, there is some kind of emotional connection with another person. Second, there is also some kind of cognitive component, such as judgements or ideas about the other. And third, there is some kind of mechanism responsible for maintaining boundaries between self and other, something that helps the person keep track of which attributes or emotions are his or her and which belong to the other. On a popular level, it seems that empathy is most often thought of as the capacity to “put yourself in another’s shoes”, the capacity to imagine or sense what another person is experiencing.

Our human capacity for empathy is one of our most wonderful attributes, particularly when it is used in the service of love, compassion and kindness – but even in the absence of these sublime states of mind, empathy plays a critical role in our ordinary day-to-day lives. As we all know, human beings are social animals. In order to function effectively in groups, we need a way of “reading” other people, of anticipating the behavior and reaction of others – and by facilitating our ability to do this, empathy plays an essential role in human evolution. As we have become more interdependent and our social systems more complex, empathy has become even more indispensable in today’s world. One important detail regarding practicing empathy, seeing them as more like ourselves, is that generally when we attribute our own traits to another as a result of practicing empathy, we should assign our positive traits to them, but not our negative traits. The positive effects and benefits of empathy can be far reaching. The practice of empathy reduces social aggression and improves attitudes and evaluations of out-groups.

A deep understanding of our common humanity, empathy and compassion, an awareness of the true practical value of these things, and the courage to implement them in daily life can determine or influence levels of personal and societal happiness. Ultimately they have the potential to shape the future of humanity.

Shyam

Live with Compassion

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Nassim Nicholas ‘Taleb’. One of hottest thinker of world today says, “For the compassionate, sorrow is more easily displaced by another sorrow than by Joy”. He is so true, in the ethics of compassion one must move beyond to a plane of genuine selflessness, which I see as a matter of fostering the qualities of a good heart. I often think of mother as first teacher of compassion, for nine months we are nurtured in our mother’s womb and at the moment of birth we are completely helpless. In this state of absolute vulnerability, our first act as a newborn baby is to suck our mother’s breast. And with her milk we are nurtured and given strength. As a result of this intense need for her in our early development, a disposition toward affection is natural to human being.

The vision of selfless compassion is at the heart of the ethical teachings of the world’s major religions. It has been articulated like this:-

  • In Hinduism scripture, Shiva Mahapurana, one of the great texts states, “There is no other Dharma better than to extend compassion to all beings. Therefore all the people should extend compassion to all creatures” (Rudra Samhita (Chapter 5)
  • In Christianity, Jesus says, “Love your neighbours as yourself”, Jesus is effectively suggesting that the true test of one’s love of God is how much one love one’s fellow human beings.
  • In Quran, it states, “We feed you for God’s sake only, we seek of you neither recompense nor thanks”
  • In Sikhism, in the Adi Granth, it is written, “One who serves and seeks no recompense finds union with the Lord, such a servant alone takes the master’s guidance.

All other faiths and traditions (Daoism, Jainism….), expresses same about Compassion. It is a marvel of human nature, foundation of our well-being and the harmony of our societies. Compassion reduces our fear, boosts our confidence, and brings us inner strength. A compassionate person eyes has the power to even melt the stone hearted person. Here I would like to quote Abhey Kumar “Abhey” couplet:-

मोम कर देती है जो पत्थर – सिफ़त इन्सान को

काश इक दिन हम भी उस चश्मे – हसीं को देखते

What is important is that when pursuing our own self-interest we should be wise selfish and not foolish selfish. Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow short sighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being Compassionate.

Forgiveness is an essential part of compassionate attitude. To forgive is not the same as to forget! Instead what I suggest that we find a way of dealing with wrongdoing that gives us peace of mind and at the same time keeps us from succumbing to destructive impulses like the desire of revenge. This truth always keep in mind that forgiving others with love has an enormously liberating effect on oneself.

Shyam

Religion and Ethics

Marxism, one of the most powerful secular ideologies of the twentieth century denounced religion as the “opium of the people”. Many of the most influential thinkers and reformers till date, viewed religion not as an avenue to human liberation, but as an obstacle to progress. Today, in a scientific age in which religion strikes many as meaningless, what basis of inner values is left to us? How can we find a way of motivating ourselves ethically without recourse to traditional beliefs?

To my mind, although humans can manage without religion, they cannot manage without inner values. So my argument for the independence of ethics from religion is quite simple. As I see it, spirituality has two dimensions. The first dimension, that of basic spiritual well-being – by which I mean inner mental and emotional strength and balance – does not depend on religion but comes from our innate human nature as beings with a natural outlook toward compassion, kindness and caring for others. The second dimension is what may be considered religion-based spirituality, which is acquired from our upbringing and culture and it is tied to particular beliefs and practices. The difference between the two is something like the difference between water and tea. Ethics and inner values without religious content are like water, something we need every day for health and survival. Ethics and inner values based in a religious context are more like tea. The tea we drink is mostly composed of water, but it also contains some other ingredients – tea leaves, spices, perhaps some sugar – and this makes it more nutritious and sustaining and something we want every day. But however tea is prepared, the primary ingredient is always water. While we can live without tea, we can’t live without water. Likewise we are born free of religion, but we are not born free of the need for compassion. Here I would like to quote one couplet of Abhey Kumar “Abhey, which I really cherish:-

कुफ़्रो – ईमां    के    मैं    दर्मियां – दर्मियां

कुछ इधर मिल गया कुछ उधर मिल गया
                                     अभय कुमार “अभय”
कुफ़्रो – ईमां :- नास्तिकता और आस्था

I do not think that religion is indispensable to the spiritual life, while inner values are. We have an underlying disposition towards love, kindness and affection, irrespective of whether we have religious framework or not. When we nurture this most fundamental human resource – when we set about cultivating those inner values which we all appreciate in others – then we start to live SPIRITUALLY.

Shyam

The noble soul

The noble soul

लोग  जो  देते  हैं  दुनिया  को  वही पाते हैं

मांगने  वालों को इज़्ज़त नहीं मिलने वाली
अभय कुमार “अभय”

One of the ethical teachings, according to my understanding is the ethics of restraint, which is the basic level and involves refraining from actions harmful to self and others.

All the world’s religions, has an idea that a person’s behavior toward others should be guided by the way he wishes them to behave toward him. The key consideration here is the reciprocity. If you are involved in these seven deadly sins, which are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy and pride, it will generate negative hormones in your body that is very unwholesome. It has been formulated in the world’s faith tradition:-

  • Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you” (Mahabharata 5:1517)
  • Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire law; all the rest is commentary” (Hillel, in the Talmud for the Sabbath 31a)
  • Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself” (Dadisten-I-dinik 94:5)
  • Buddhism: “Since others too care for their own selves, those who care for themselves should not hurt others” (Udanavarga 5:20)
  • Jainism: “A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated” (Sutrakritanga 1.11:33)
  • Daoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss” (Tai-shang Kan-ying P’ien)
  • Confucianism: “Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state” (Analects 12:2)
  • Christianity: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12)
  • Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself” (Hadith of al –Nawawi 13)

The main point underlying the ethics of restraint in all of the world’s religions is the avoidance of doing harm to others. If you harm someone, physically, verbally or mentally, will face the same consequences of it.

To come out from this vicious circle of action and reaction, one should keep trying to be a super being. Here I would like to quote preaching from the great epic, the Ramayana:

“A superior being does not render evil for evil; this is a maxim one should observe; the ornament of virtuous persons is their conduct. One should never harm the wicked, or the good, or even criminals meriting death. A noble soul will ever exercise compassion, even towards those who enjoy injuring others.” (YUDDHA KANDA: 115)

Shyam