Spirituality is anything that enhances the spirit! Hence spirituality encompasses the sciences, commerce and arts, technology and development, health, law, culture, sports, entertainment… infact everything, including politics. Just as there is politics in spirituality, why can’t there be spirituality in politics? Politics is about taking care of the welfare and the wellbeing of people. Spirituality is politics in action; it is about caring and sharing, improving people’s standard of life and the standard of living.
India is the largest democracy in the World. Democracy is by the people, of the people and for the people. Our spiritual Gurus are the people of this country, the citizens of free India. To exhort that they should not talk about politics is undemocratic and amounts to violating the fundamental human right of freedom of speech, bestowed on each of its citizens without any bias, by the constitution of India.
Spiritual knowledge and spiritual practices are the essence of India. Then how is it that so many bad things are happening and the whole society and the times get tagged as bad? Do we have a dearth of good, well meaning people in this country? NO. It’s because we, the good people are not loud enough or united enough to make a difference. The sorry state that India is in is not so much because of the small number of bad people’s wrongdoings but because of the silence, the inaction and the disempowered attitude of the vast majority of good people!
By the way, Spiritual people are (also) the ones with values. If you want to silence them further or force them to stay away from social affairs, you are in effect, simply confirming your status as a person or party involved in wrongdoings. A truly pro-nation party will actively encourage spiritual people to take lead and use their influence to wake up the masses towards participatory democracy by voting and thereafter ensuring good governance post-elections.
Chanakya, the celebrated author of Arthashastra, had said.
Sukhasya mulam dharmaha
Dharmasya mulam arthaha
Arthasya mulam raajyam
Raajyasya mulam indriya nigraham ||
The basis of societal happiness (translated as Human Development Index (HDI) in today’s politically correct terminology) is values. Values flourish when economy flourishes. The basis of strong and stable economy is good governance, which in turn depends on the moral fiber of the king or the leader… And to have checks and balances on the moral fiber and fortitude of the leader (on their greed, individual egos, personal desires conflicting with national good etc), we had the spiritual gurus. To say spiritual leaders should shut up, politically amounts to saying no to checks and balances and pave the way for uncontrolled corruption, crime and communalism, short sighted policies and laws, hindrance in quick judgments… leading eventually to the degradation of the socio, political, economic, cultural and moral structure of the nation, as we see transpiring today.
There has been a special law of the land, the tradition and culture of the most ancient civilization in the world. Here, the kings have always had spiritual gurus as their advisors. Sage Vasishta and Valmiki as Gurus of Lord Rama, Chanakya for Chandragupta Maurya, Swami Samarth Ramdas for Shivaji etc. Because the Gurus were wise and learned in the ways of the world, they understood the minds and hearts of individuals and the masses, they knew the laws of Laxmi or wealth, they were up-to-date on education, health, science, statecraft, military and defence, foreign affairs… Their guidance, free from any motive of personal gains, has been invaluable to the Kings that ruled Bharatvarsha since time immemorial.
The spiritual people, as long as they are adhering to the spiritual code of conduct and not indulging in divisive messages on the basis of religion, caste or language (as some religious leaders and many politicians practice), should participate in the affairs of the nations more intimately and proactively.
So, in conclusion, how do religion, politics and spirituality fare in the social landscape of India? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had once said, “Religious people are supposed to pray and politicians are supposed to take responsibility. I (the spiritual people) pray and take responsibility!”
Have been reading a book called The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets. Turns out that many of the writers of Simpsons were mathematicians and they managed to sneak enough maths into the sitcom to fill up a university degree course! They have been secretly educating (or trying very hard to) TV audiences for years thru their use of some fairly advanced maths in the serial.
This book is written by Simon Singh and kept me entertained for almost a week, and now I can’t stop telling maths jokes and some crazy facts!
Here are a few:
Q. What did the number 0 say to the number 8?
A. Nice Belt!
After the floods, Noah tells all the animals to go forth and multiply and when he came to check after a few months all the animals had indeed multiplied except for a pair of snakes…
He asked them what the problem was, and they had a request. They told Noah to cut a few trees for them. Noah did that. When he came back to check on them a few weeks later, there were many, many baby snakes… He asked them how come they needed trees chopped to multiply.
They grinned sheepishly (if snakes can do that… use your imagination here) and replied, we are adders, we need logs to multiply!!
An infinite number of mathematicians walked into a bar. The first one told the bar tender he wanted 1/2 a glass of beer. The next asked for 1/4th glass of beer, the next for 1/8th glass and so on… The bar tender looked at all of them, poured out one glass of beer and gave it to them saying quite sternly – Know your Limits!!
Jesus once remarked, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like 2x2+5x-6
Thomas asked Peter, “What’s He talking about?!”
Peter replied, “Don’t worry, it’s just one of His parabolas!!!”
Q. What’s a Polar bear?
A. A rectangular bear after a coordinate transformation.
An amazing fact: 1000000000000066600000000000001 is a prime number – It is called Belphegor’s Prime, after one of the princes of hell. It is 1 followed by 13 zeroes, followed by 666 (the Devil’s number), followed by 13 zeroes, followed by 1. Possibly the unluckiest number on the planet!
Will leave all the others for you to discover… read the book!
Saw Queen. Went to see it thinking it was an English movie *blush*. Half way to the theatre realized it was a hindi one. Almost turned back, but all tickets had been booked and other friends were also on the way to see it, so went ahead.
Turned out to be a really very nice movie! Rani is a girl bought up in a fairly conservative north Indian family from Rajouri Gardens in Delhi. She has had a romance going for some time with a guy who she is on the verge of getting married to. Who, as the movie starts, suddenly does not want to marry her… and the marriage is just a day or two away.
It’s a typical north Indian marriage, with tons of relatives and friends from all over who have come to Delhi for the celebration and Rani has is utterly devastated. She simply cannot face anyone and to escape from her life that has been brutally destroyed, she decides that she will go for her honeymoon all by herself – to Europe… And so starts her adventure.
It’s an entertaining romp of a movie as Rani slowly blossoms into Queen. She learns to discern between “bad” and “good” and visibly grows as a human being. She meets the strangest of people and is faced with the most challenging of very pedestrian situations that she faces in the only way she knows, with authenticity and her own brand of integrity. Absolutely fabulous acting by Kangna Ranaut (and all the others in the cast), she carries the movie effortlessly to it’s stunning finale.
Please watch this with a big group of good friends, so you can hoot and cheer her on her very personal roller coaster ride of self-discovery…
Also watched the Lego movie. Very nice indeed. Watch out for Batman who wears only black and “very, very dark shades of grey!” … An unexpected twist at the end lifts the movie from being another mundane cartoon to something quite sophisticated.
Another superb movie we saw was About Time.
“The men in our family have this curious ability… We can go back in time! It’s not as glamourous as it sounds, we can’t go back to where we have never been… Can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy, but wherever we have been, we can go…”
If you are 21 and desperately in love with a girl who looks like a Goddess AND can go back in time, then life can get pretty interesting… though not necessarily in the way you think it could be.
It has an incredible ending… One that left me with tears in my eyes though it was not even remotely tragic. Rarely a movie comes along that is so thoroughly enjoyable to watch, full of laughs and surprising little twists… Which in two short hours or so leaves you happier and wiser and loving your own life a whole lot more! Watch it with someone you love.
Quick answer? NO!
What is an exam?
An exam is a way for you to figure out how much you know and have understood a particular subject. It is a way to match your wits against your teacher. The teacher also realises how good he has been in teaching the subject to the students. It’s a game the teacher and student play for mutual benefit – The student to find out if he knows enough to be declared an expert, the teacher to see if his teaching methods are working.
By copying in an exam you defeat the very purpose of taking the exam. You write stuff out that you have little to no idea about and get “good” marks when you shouldn’t. You get yourself certified to be an expert in a subject you don’t know and ultimately make a fool of yourself. Yes, in the short term, getting something you don’t deserve does bring some glee (Glee: Swimming in a septic tank and enjoying it!) and may give you a stronger head start in your career. But that victory will soon be for naught because you don’t know what your certificate says you know. You will be doomed to failure in whatever you are going to undertake which will require the knowledge of the subject you copied in. In some cases, your failure may not just affect you, but many others as well. This is where it can become really dangerous, because an innocent person may have to suffer the consequences of your lack of knowledge in a subject you claim expertise on.
You deny yourself the challenge and thrill of cracking a tough question… and the sure fire certainty of “knowing” that comes when you have not cheated.
Having said all this, I must admit that there were times when I copied. The very first was when I was in third grade. We were having a spelling test and the word to spell was biscuit. And I couldn’t for the life of me remember if it was biscuit or bisciut. I wrote out biscuit… It was the only spelling that I had a doubt about and was all that was between me and a perfect score. The teacher used to give out gifts to people who had perfect scores and she was a teacher I really loved. I knew there was a calendar hanging on the wall advertising Parle biscuits and I glanced up, just to check if I was right… Of course I got a 25 on 25, but I also had a guilty conscience. The teacher was giving out little trinkets to all of us who had got full marks, and when she got to me… I blurted out that I had copied and burst into tears. Very gently, she asked me what I had copied and in between sobs I told her the whole story… She smiled at my honesty and privately I think she must have giggled at my ingenuity – And she gave me a huge silver star, a christmas tree decoration that I know I still have around somewhere.
Then there was a time in college that I copied and got close to full marks in a subject I had no idea about. I copied because everyone else was copying… The teacher said we could if we wanted to, he would turn a blind eye. If he had not allowed it, I may have known more about Quantum Physics than I do now. And when I realised this, that finally I was the fool, that I had denied myself a chance to learn something wonderful. I stopped copying. I failed twice because I refused to copy. But both times, when I attempted the exam again, I was master at the subject and got medals which I am very proud of.
Yes, there were a few subterfuges and white lies that I did indulge in to get out of some subjects that I had absolutely no interest in – But those are stories for another time…
Study for Knowledge, not for marks. When you have the knowledge, the marks will come. Get an education, not just a degree… In life, marks and worthless degrees will not help. When push comes to shove, only your knowledge of your subject will bring you success.
All the very Best!
I can say Arvind Kejriwal has been a friend of ours since quite some time. When the Anti-corruption movement in India started with the Art of Living’s initiative of the ‘March against Corruption and Terrorism’ on Parliament Street in New Delhi on 1st March 2009, we invited Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal (an RTI activist then), Darshak Hathi, Pralhad Kakkar and others to address about 10000+ youth present. Why had the News Channels in India not promoted this enough, even though every major ones were on locale?
In the Nirbhaya case too, the Art of Living Youth were, as usual, the pioneers by starting protest with a silent candle light march and prayer meditation at India Gate. This is hidden from India’s populace because we never paid Indian Media to buy news. And it is on occasions like these, we were hit by the cold truth – Is there nothing but money that makes an event or a person news worthy?
It was Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji who brought Anna on the National stage (from being an anti-corruption activist in Maharashtra) and initiated the India Against Corruption Movement. We, the Art of Living youth, hugely supported Arvind during Anna’s campaign in the mobilizing of the huge rallies across the country and executing key functions.
The awareness about the Jan Lok Pal Bill began to gain momentum all over India with the active participation of the Art of Living volunteers and other civil society representatives. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar personally travelled to more than 16 states across India to address hundreds of thousands at Art of Living satsangs raising awareness about the Jan Lokpal Bill and offering holistic solutions to tackle corruption.
I dare Arvind to deny any of the above.
Back in the days of organizing the huge Delhi March against Corruption and Terrorism, we were faintly aware of the leftist and communist inclinations of Arvind Kejriwal during our interactions with him. But our spiritual training made us keep our cynicism aside and give honesty and dynamism a chance. But looks like, we were not the only ones to spot the honesty and dynamism of this man. The Congress with its acute political smartness also identified it and saw the simultaneous strong trend of Indian youth towards honesty (thanks to Congress’ reliance and indulgence on mass scale corruption plunging the country into a crisis). And so, did the unthinkable happen? Was honesty brought off for a price?! Did the Govt, with its media on sale and its policy of ‘news at a price’, blew smoke in the eyes of the aam aadmi by promoting the so-called honest crusader?
On the lines of Sonia Gandhi ‘sacrificing’ her PMship, he has sacrificed his CMship now. He has gone back on every single promise given to people AND held the people themselves responsible for it. He has broken our heart and betrayed our trust at every turn. Time may reveal more.
We hoped for a revolution through Arvind Kejriwal. Now, Young India is seeing it crumbling to nothingness. Will Mother India have to suffer because of our error to give in to the strong human weakness of continuing to support lies and wrong conduct just because we called him ours once and supported him? Knowing the truth now, are we, as responsible citizens, willing to start conversations and do everything in our capacity to arrest the lie and ensure true change towards a non-coalition stable government with an experienced, strong and tested leader? I feel India deserves it and so do you. Let us Vote for a Better India…
The other day in the middle of a discussion, someone said, let’s just ask Gurudev. And that lead to my experiences with asking Gurudev questions…
The first thing to remember when asking Him a question is, it should be specific and well researched. You cannot ask Him, Gurudev what should I do next? You need to say, Gurudev, these are my options, here are the pros and cons of each and this is the one I really would like to pursue… What would be Your advise to me?
He will typically never say no. If a No comes from Him, it means by doing this, you are risking your life or the life of someone dear to you. He will typically say choice is yours, blessings are mine, or, wait for a while, then we will see, or some such statement. Though interpreting something Gurudev has said is not very wise, I interpret this as a No, with a capital N! There are times when He does want to give you a choice, possibly all options are good, but I have seen when He wants to say Yes, He will say so in so many words… Yes, Yes, Go ahead!
Don’t ever go to Gurudev, expecting Him to give the answer you want Him to give. His answer will be one that’s best for you, not necessarily the one you want to hear. If you are going to ask Him a question, be ready to listen to Him. Don’t make your own interpretation of what He has said. Listen to Him. And then follow exactly what He said you should do. Many times, I have come away from Him, quite disappointed with His answer… But later have always realised, that this was exactly what I needed to do at that time.
Faith is knowing HE knows what He is doing!
How far should you follow what Gurudev says to you?
Well, do what He says, but use your own intelligence while doing it. Don’t question Him about it.. why should I do it? etc… For example, if He says go to Bhubhaneshwar quickly, you go as fast as possible. But you obey traffic rules and drive safely. If a cop catches you for disregarding some traffic rule, you cannot lament saying that oh I was doing Gurudev’s work and following His instructions and yet I got caught, why did He not take care of me?!
You definitely do not ask Gurudev why should I go to Bhubhneshwar? What’s the point? etc… That is foolishness.
Wisdom is to do what He has said should be done, and to do it intelligently.
You are of course welcome to point out objections if you have any… as well as mention preferences. But ultimately, acknowledging that He is your Guru means you put all that aside and do what He says should be done.
Some times, He may ignore you or simply not acknowledge you when you have something to ask. Don’t get depressed or impatient. This means you have not done enough homework on the subject. Once you are ready to ask, He will be ready to answer.
One thing is for sure… He will be there for You when you need Him… not necessarily when you think you need Him!
Finally, remember that He is not here to solve your problems. He is here to give you the strength to solve them yourself. He is not here to make you dependent on Him, but to make you ultimately independent. He is not here to help you live your life – He is here to help you find the ultimate goal of life…
Like He once said – “I am not here to clear the clouds, I am here to make sure the sun rises!”
and then He added with a mischievous smile, when there are a few clouds the sunrise is so much more beautiful!
I will write at least 2 posts every month on this blog!
This is the first one for January
When you hear bad news, don’t be too quick to believe it. It will usually not be as bad as it is made out to be. And by having faith in that news, your own energy gets linked to it giving it even more momentum…
Instead simply say ok, alright. And take a few breaths and wait for a bit before acting on it.
Normally, we want to act immediately on it and do so out of a very perturbed state of mind. Most times those actions prove to be disastrous… So, wait a bit when you hear bad news, don’t believe it in it’s entirety and quite often you will see that it doesn’t turn out to be as bad as it was made out to be in the first place.
Jan 3rd, the third day of 2014 is already upon us. Time goes so fast… This year focus on the great and the good. Move from success to success. Say I love you to those you love. Don’t say oh they know, no point telling them. Tell them anyways! Smile more and make others smile too.
If you can say you are a better human being tonight than you were in the morning then you are leading a charmed life!
A very Happy January 3rd!!
It was one of those cold nights in the month of December. After taking a walk in the Sumeru Mantap, couple of us were sitting with Gurudev in his kutir. Gurudev got a call from from Mehul, our main teacher coordinator from Ahmedabad. Along with his wife, he had taken up the mission of teaching Art of Living programs to bureaucrats and lawmakers in Gujarat. After meeting Gurudev, Mehul’s life had seen a huge transformation – from being rebellious and wayward to becoming a gentle and committed social worker.
Usually very happy and jovial, Mehul had concern and worry in his voice, as he conveyed to Gurudev a conversation he had with one of his contacts (a businessman who since then has moved to the US). He was informed that there had been a meeting of few Congress party members. There were discussions to create some trouble along communal lines for the newly formed Narendra Modi Government. This conversation shook him. He thought frantically, “Are big riots in the works here?” What should he do next? Would it better to relocate to Bangalore with his family? Would that be a right thing to do?
He asked Gurudev for guidance. For a moment, all the laughter in the kutir turned into silence. Gurudev closed his eyes for a few moments. His smiling face assumed a serious look one has not often seen. He told Mehul to be strong and continue working in Ahmedabad. After the call, Gurudev said that we needed to write a book that highlighted the common thread between Hinduism and Islam. Gurudev previously had authored a book on Christianity and Hinduism. Usually, writing a book of this nature would take its own sweet time but it was different this time and the book was published shortly per Gurudev’s instructions.
There was a big international course happening at the Bangalore ashram the following week, and we all got tied up with responsibilities and totally forgot about this whole incident.
During those days, the Ayodhya issue was simmering and Gurudev wanted to find an amicable solution that would bring the two communities closer. He held several talks with VHP and Muslim organizations in and around Delhi. He met several leaders from both sides including Ashok Singhal, Kamal Farooqi and Javed Akhtar among others. The whole idea was to have intercommunity dialog and keep it apolitical. There was positive response from both sides but progress was halted when Sudheendra Kulkarni got involved with Kanchi Shankaracharya and completely sidelined Gurudev’s efforts.
It was during this time that the Godhra carnage took place followed by the riots across Gujarat. Ahmedabad was under curfew for several days. Thousands of people were displaced and living in relief camps. Per Gurudev’s guidance, Art of Living Foundation started redeploying volunteers from 2001 earthquake relief efforts to provide trauma relief workshops for riot victims. Gurudev visited Gujarat early April, about a month after the riots, to meet the victims, conduct peace marches to redouble our efforts to bring communities back together. AOL organized nine different interfaith events across the riot-affected area. Gurudev personally met hundreds of Muslim and Hindu community leaders, spent hours together in meeting riot victims, hearing their plight and consoling them. Many Art of Living teachers and volunteers were working day and night in various relief camps providing much needed trauma care.
Shabana Azmi and others alleged that it was the Sangh Pariwar who had set their own people on fire in the train to create a reason to attack minorities. On hearing this conspiracy theory, Gurudev shook his head and said that such a thing was hard to believe and quite impossible. (Interesting to know that one of the Congress office bearers from Godhra was later indicted in inciting the riots.)
On his subsequent trip to Gujarat, Gurudev met with Chief Minister Narendra Modi and pointedly asked him “Did you do all that was in your capacity to stop these riots?” With moist eyes, Mr. Modi replied “Guruji, kya aap bhi aaisa sochate hai? (Guruji, do you also think this way?)” There was a lot of pain and sorrow in his eyes. An intelligent person at the helm of affairs would not smear their own face with tar.
Later on, Gurudev went to visit a prison in Ahmedabad. In the prison, there were many innocent women and men locked up. Gurudev spent several hours listening to them. I remember thinking that these trips were very different. Most often when Gurudev visits any place, people are joyous and happy. But during these trips, people would come and tell horror stories of those dark days. When you heard their stories, whether Muslim or Hindu, one’s hair would stand on end in pain and disbelief. One’s heart would cry, “Sabko sanmati de bhagwan.” (Bless everyone with good thoughts). How could we as a human society move so far away from the values that we have cherished over the centuries. This experience increased my resolve to continue the work of Gurudev to bring harmony in diversity and communities together.
While there were several NGOs working on either side, most of them tended to be biased and hateful of others. There was hardly anyone who was balanced, unbiased, and apolitical toward the whole scenario. The victims of either side were often controlled by these NGOs, who prevented them from having an open dialogue with others. We were in a precarious position. While some thought that the Art of Living is pro-Congress, others thought that the Art of Living was pro-Hindutva. It was a very challenging situation for us to work. Thanks to the inspiration of Gurudev, in all these tough scenarios, our volunteers managed to keep themselves focused and moved on forward.
This whole journey with Gurudev was such a learning experience for me. By just being around Gurudev, I learned how not be biased, hear both sides of the issue, and remain poised in the face of challenges. I was so inspired by Gurudev’s unwavering commitment, equanimity, farsightedness, and on top of it all – patience.
When asked about Modi, Gurudev once said, “Truth will prevail, he will come clean of these allegations.”
It is around the same time that war clouds were looming over Iraq. Deeply concerned, Gurudev sent a team of teachers to Iraq on a peace mission. More to follow in a later post!
… is a fantastic movie!
It’s the second part in the second series of the Lord of the Rings which is actually the first… Because the events in this set of movies occur before what happens in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s the story of Bilbo Baggins and how he managed to lay his hands on the one ring… and all the other events in Middle Earth which caused the war of the ring to happen.
It is a brilliantly made film, with all the fantasy elements perfectly in place … Orcs who die in spectacularly gruesome ways, Legolas the warrior elf makes his stunning entry into the story with Tauriel his equally adept warrior elf companion, the dwarves are as solemn and funny as ever, a friendly (?!) werewolf, a fire breathing egotistical dragon guarding a hoard of gold unlike any seen in films of recent times, Bilbo being cheeky with the dragon, giant spiders, tumbling over rapids in barrels while fighting off hoards of orcs, Sauron’s grand entry, and I did mention the gold right?
The music is spot on. The pace relentless. The setting perfect. The acting superb and the fights spectacular… And the dragon a show stealer!
“Come now… Don’t be shy, Step into the LIGHT!”
Do watch it in 3D on as big a screen as possible!
10 slices of any good bread … I use the bread we make in Cafe Vishala
1/2 Litre of milk
2 tsps of cinnamon powder
1 tsp of agar agar powder
a few glugs of maple syrup, more if you want it sweeter
1 tsp good vanilla essence
Blend all the above (don’t blend the bread please) in a mixie until ummm… blended 20-30 seconds. Pour out the mixture into a biggish bowl.
Dunk the bread slices 2-3 at a time depending on size of your frying pan into the mixture and let them soak for about 5 minutes.
Heat butter and some oil in a pan. When hot, add in the soaked bread and fry for a few minutes. then turn over and fry again to golden brown.
Serve scalding hot with some fresh cream if you really want to add on to the cholesterol!