I was having a chat with one of my close personal and family friends yesterday. It was a casual chat, but as always it turned into a deep discussion on several matters which have always been close to my heart, and I am sure, to his heart as well.
While we meandered around issues and challenges of mutual interest, we finally landed on the most important and critical issue that should dominate every discussion that people over 50 years of age are having, and that is, how to make the best out of the rest of our lives.
Yes, it is something that we should not shy away from. Discussing potential death timeline, and how to deal with it in advance, and understanding how others would deal with your death, is something that is direly needed. We do not discuss such matters. Period. Don’t you agree? It is considered inauspicious to even think of such things.
While discussing death could be seriously challenging, what about discussing about how to make things better for others while we are all on the firm and unchangeable path to our respective deaths? In a nutshell, how to make the best out of the rest of our lives? How can the rest of our lives be useful to not only the people closest to us, but also to people in the society we live in?
While my friend and I discussed this matter briefly, it was clear in our minds that this was something that is going to dominate our thoughts and actions in the coming months and years. Again, let us think about our legacy. Who will remember us, year after year, outside of our very close relatives and family friends? Is there someone out in the open world who would recognize your contributions to the society that you had lived in before you passed away – someone not related to you, someone not your friend? You do not have to be famous or a big philanthropist to have that kind of recall.
As we plough through our conscience, our entire life till now, our close family members and friends, it becomes very clear that there are very few people outside our circle who have been impacted by your presence in this world (let us say over 50 years, could go on to a 100 years!).
Did we ask the right questions to figure out who needs our help? Did we consciously feel that we could have been of service to those in need? Did we do public service? Did we mentor people who are not related to us or not friends of us? Did we donate to charity every year? Did we give out time to people who would have benefited? Did we even ask our own close personal and family friends if they need any assistance?
Very few people do these things. Just touch your heart and respond. We want to have a drink and relax, or we want to attend parties and network, or we go for movies. We worry about our financial position all the time. We worry about the condition of our car, yes, we “feel” for our car, or our apartment. We worry about tons of mundane things. But we do not worry about how to make the best use of our time to help others in need.
Money and material things dominate our conversations, even those within our own family network. There is no spirituality in almost everything we do. We should not confuse religious affiliation or temple visits or prayers or rituals with spirituality. This is a common mistake we all make. You attain spiritual well-being when the Super Power (not the U.S.) determines that you are (a) devoid of material desires; and (b) you have rendered help to several poor folks who would vouch for your generosity, kindness, time and assistance. It is not going to be based on how many times a month you visited temples or prayed for your own material success.
I think if you are reading this blog post, you are going to probably ring me. You would want to discuss more. Yes, I think there is a lot more to this topic than what I have written thus far. Let us discuss. I strongly believe our times are limited, and we have to contribute urgently. No one can predict how long we are going to live. Why bother about the lifespan if you can focus on things which help others? Not that it would assure a place in heaven, but that is the best thing that you can do.
Think about it, and let us talk soon!
5th November 2017
What kind of topic is that?
I have been thinking of what to write this weekend in my Blog, and I was deluged with a number of potential topics. In fact, there were so many topics, I just could not decide during the course of today on the specific topic which would be of interest to me. Yes, to me. After all, my Blog exists for the pure purpose of satisfying my writing and literary skills, and nothing else/nobody else. If others read my Blog, that is fine, but that is not a pre-requisite for the existence of my Blog. I love writing and writing on a wide variety of topics which interest me. I am constantly on the prowl for issues which are of importance to me, and by extension, to other people! I am sure my readers see the relevance. It is not my intention or desire to conform to prevailing norms or practices. It is my desire to think and think deep and well, for my own benefit.
When I started my life, I was very religious and prayed everyday. My mom taught me that it is important to pray to God everyday, and especially to the Elephant God (Ganesha as we call Him in Hinduism) as He is the greatest remover of obstacles in one’s life.
So, I was religious for almost three decades. It was good, as I had some “hold” on the Hindu faith and God(s) in general, though I was not a big temple visitor, or follower of religious rituals. I believed in the power of one God and its influence for the good of mankind. I never asked God to grant me anything. In that sense, I was a man without “material” wishes. I knew that what I need for life has to come through my own hard work, and not because God decided to give me something by granting my wishes.
Since I was on my own from the age of 17 (my father died at that age of mine), I built my life on my own. People around me used to say that God always helped me, and at that time I believed in a power bigger than mine guiding my actions. I used to go to the temple near my house every week (and sometimes twice a week), and thought that it was the most appropriate thing to do. Since I had many critical responsibilities at a young age, it kind of helped me to think about God sometimes. I did very well in my studies, and in fulfilling my family responsibilities, by my sheer hard work and personal commitment and drive. I declined to marry a rich girl as I thought such a marriage would be incompatible with my socialist views and adherence to a frugal philosophy in my life (several close friends of mine know about my life and behaviour during those formative years). I went against my mom’s wishes, and told her that I was not ready for a huge marriage commitment, based purely on economic betterment.
So, life went on, and slowly but surely I discovered myself.
It is very important for each one of us to “discover” ourselves.
I began to visualize my own contributions to my own life and to the lives of my siblings and immediate family circle. I understood that nothing would have happened had it not been for my vision and hard work. Yes, it was very very hard work at a very very young age. I sacrificed many things, which I would not have done if my father had been alive.
Slowly, I stepped away from blind faith.
Slowly, I stepped away from following others.
Slowly, I stepped away from the thought that God provided guidance and help.
Slowly, I became an agnostic.
I began to question everything in life.
I kept my views private. Only my wife knew about my thought processes. However, she remained and continues to remain a devout religious person, despite the influence of my own wandering ideological thoughts and philosophy.
She always respects me for who I am. She never challenged me. She only pointed out what I was leaving on the table. Yes, of course, I was leaving several things on the table. My significant connections to a private circle of relatives. My strong connections to a religious community. My double standards when it came to very close relations, from who I have to partially hide my views (like my own mom, uncles, etc.,). However, I knew how to keep my private views away from table top discussions, it was never my intention to offend anyone for their own beliefs or faiths.
So, it has gone on for the past 15 years or so…………….I am still strongly beholden to my own religious views. I think that religions have divided rather than unified mankind. I believe (I think it is true) that religious wars have killed millions of people around the world. I think religions provoke unnecessary tensions, wars and passions. I think we can do well without all this stuff, and direct our collective energies towards the betterment of humankind.
Some folks I know think that I am idealistic. I am not pragmatic. I am not a model human. I am not a person that falls in line. I could be a trouble monger. I am not a human being that understands how other humans work. And, so on and so forth.
The issue, of course, has always been the same – people have been endowed with enormous brain power. Why are they not using it for improving the livelihood of poor people? Why are they spending so much money on religions, temples, and faiths? Why are they allowing religions to be misunderstood and crucified by gurus who are no messengers of God? Why are they allowing rape, killings and house burnings of non-conforming folks (like in the latest example of Rohingya Muslims who are being driven out of Myanmar by practicing Buddhists, Buddhism being the most pacific religion of all)? Why are injustice and inequity not being called out by religious followers? Why is there a deafening silence from “good” folks?
Well, my conclusion has been the same for the past 15 years. That is, God is a Socialist and never a Capitalist or a Communist. He wants us to help the poor. He wants us to share our wealth and savings. If He exists, He would insist that we cause no harm to others. He would emphasize the importance of Love and Peace.
I am not going to follow any religion because I was born into one, or because I was directed into another, or I was forced into one. Man and Woman have the power to think, conceptualize, contribute and improve the society. That effort is not going to happen because God asked us to do that. It happens because WE want to do that. We look out for one another. We realize the importance of LIFE. We conclude that all lives are equal and same.
So, my life is no longer religious. My life is going to be human. Just going to temples is not going to absolve us of our irresponsibility and collective darkness. The LIGHT is within us. It is up to us to discover and light it.
21st October 2017
What is “wisdom”?
There is a simple definition – without any attribution, I think that wisdom is one’s ability to reach intelligent conclusions on any problem statement, with a combination of judgement, insight, experience and knowledge that one has accumulated over the years. Of course, there should be ample common sense, a keen understanding of the issues on hand, an analytical mind, et al.
However, wisdom is not just knowledge only. Neither is it just experience. And, I don’t believe that wisdom accrues based on age – meaning it is not necessarily true that wisdom is directly proportional to just age. The older one is, the wiser he becomes – this is not true, while it may be true in exceptional individuals who combine other factors to become a sort of sage with head filled with abundant wisdom.
It is also not true that young people are waiting to gain wisdom. There have been thousands of stories of young individuals who are far wiser for their age, and have even built companies at a rather tender age, and running their business with financial and technical acumen, not seen even in much older folks.
So, wisdom has a qualitative edge to it which is sometimes inherent in the individual. Experience does add significant value to people, and helps to generate an insight into problem resolution. Knowledge is important, but much less important than experience and judgement. We find older folks (like me for instance) are more judgemental (not a good thing), more critical (not a bad thing), and less wise when it comes to seeing new things in a new light, or even existing things in a new light. Being judgemental is not a good thing, but having a good judgement is a good thing. Hope you understand the difference. Being negative does not add to one’s wisdom either. We can be critical, but cannot be negative.
Increasingly, we find that young folks between the ages of 10 and 30 are playing in the world with wisdom that did not exist in us when we were their age. So, we need to understand that the context, ecosystem, and social development have progressed in an exponential manner just in the last two decades, which has produced wisdom in many young people.
Why did this not increase wisdom in the older people?
Interesting question. My answer may not satisfy the older folks, however.
As we age, we set our minds on things which we believe are unchangeable. What are these things? Integrity, Honesty, Affection, Commitment, Focus, Dedication, Determination, Achievement-orientation, and a lot of ego. We think and believe that in essence, we are innately good people, and we can do nothing wrong. At least, nothing wrong that could affect other people. Nothing wrong in the moral, spiritual, religious, or intellectual spheres.
In other words, we get fixated on things which are important and critical to us.
We also do not update ourselves to stay in sync with the fast evolving human ecosystem, and we dismiss most of it as not relevant to achieving what we had achieved in our working lives. We continue to live in our own space, not really accepting what our children are doing while they are growing up. This means that mentally and intellectually, we stay disconnected, though we yearn for a complete sync.
It does not take more than 30 seconds to put your right hand on your heart and feel if what I am saying is true or complete hogwash.
I truly believe that though I have kept myself technologically updated, in my mind I am still the same old guy from wherever I came from. Nothing much has changed in my mind, though I do certain things not compatible with my heritage like eating non-vegetarian foods and sending ugly WhatsApp messages, etc., We all have to make an inventory of things that have changed in ourselves from the time we started going to primary school.
When I am still the same old guy, how am I going to change myself? Can I ever change? Can I challenge myself? What should I do to generate “new” wisdom in myself?
I have not finished. I am just at the ground floor of this rather interesting and challenging topic. This blog post came about because I met one of my mentors (who really thinks I am a rebel in most things I do) this evening, and he suggested that I should start analyzing the subject of wisdom vs. age……….that set me thinking.
Wine has been banned at home for some 10 days, so my brain is a bit challenged to think more at the end of my Saturday. However, don’t you guys think this is a good and relevant topic for all of us?
Let us exchange notes and discuss.
Have a great weekend.
23rd September 2017
This blog post is one of my self-help advice posts, which I sometimes write out after significant experimentation with myself. May not work for all, but I believe that it is important and critical to share one’s own experiences, positive or negative, in trying to shape one’s life. Simply because the sharing will potentially help someone with positive benefits of positive experiences, or dissuade one from pursuing similar tactics if the experiences related are negative.
Well, I hear some grunt nearby – can’t I write simpler English please and why do I have to resort to compound sentences to convey something which could easily have been explained in simpler terms?
Well, my dear, you know what, I relish in writing such complex and complicated English precisely because it allows me to torture my readers. Why do you read the same?
Just ignore the above two paragraphs!
Now how do we get control of ourselves?
What are the mechanisms that we can follow?
Or, indeed can we ever get control of our thoughts or even actions?
Difficult questions, I agree.
But then, as intellectually driven species with our infinite capacity to think, there is always a different way to look at anything – any complex matter, with an understanding which could vastly differ from traditional views or understanding.
Do you agree? You may or may not.
However, I believe that any big learning comes from looking inside oneself. Of course, some part of our learning comes from external sources, for sure. But, if we do not learn from our behaviour and our mistakes, then that would be the biggest mistake that we can commit in our life. It is all right to read philosophical books and listen to the occasional books on how to lead your lives in a more productive yet peaceful manner. There are any number of mythological, parental, spiritual and friendly influences in our lives that demonstrate how to plan and lead our lives on this planet. And, of course, there are examples of friends who are apparently leading successful yet controlled lives, are they not?
So, what is my prescription to the apparent lack of control most of us experience in our lives all the time? There is this seeming lack of a solid grasp when things happen to you without any forewarning, the tendency to blame oneself for what are not controllable factors, the feeling that everything is slipping away………….
What does one do?
Well, first it is critical to gain focus on yourself – who are you, what have you accomplished in life, what are the things that are yet to be done, who are the people very close to you, what are the things in life that you hold dear to you, and most importantly, what are you doing at this moment. Are you creating or adding value, or are you frittering away preciosu time that we all have before we realize there is no further time available? Are people around you feeling the strongly positive impact of your presence and advice? Are you proactively seeking out and helping people around you? Have you given at least one hour of your time, on a weekly basis, to help disadvantaged or poor people? Look at yourself, look at what you are doing, imagine what better things you can do in this life, and think while keeping your eyes completely closed. If you find it difficult to gain focus, I would suggest that you first try a breathing exercise, focus on your own breath while keeping your eyes closed. Inhale to four counts, hold the breath and slowly exhale to the same number of counts. I am not a yoga teacher, so you would have to figure out how to control your breath and focus on it. Once you gain some focus traction, use that ability to think of things which I explained earlier in this paragraph in a calm environment. Make a list of things you can do, which you haven’t yet accomplished.
It is not that difficult if you think about it. Just give it a honest try.
I can assure you of the benefits of such hard thinking – you would discover a new “you”, who can deliver much more to this planet than has been the case thus far (bad English, I guess!!!).
You are now well on the way to “gaining” control of yourself. There is no self help book required. You are an intelligent human being, that’s all you should care about. You are able to focus and you are able to think. Then you are able to make a “to do” list and execute for your own benefit.
There will be a huge change in yourself, and your family members and friends will see that you are a “transformed” individual with a far greater potential than they imagined, or you yourself had imagined. Now, you are ready to unleash the potential that you have gnerated in yourself – for your benefit and for the benefit of this world. It is not difficult, it is not complex, it is not complicated, it is rather simple.
This is what I do. This is what I believe in. We do not need gurus or books. What we need is an attitude, an inclination, a propensity to rediscover oneself and do good for others.
Think about this message. Let me know if this does not work for you. I will be very surprised. Have a good week.
31st January 2017
More than anything else which matters, it has always intrigued mankind when it comes to a state of happiness – when is a man or woman truly happy? What makes one happy? How long that state of happiness lasts? What results from a state of happiness? Why are most people around you look morose or forlorn? Why are people not generally smiling?
We often read that the happiest people on earth is from one of its poorest countries – viz., Bhutan. How come Bhutanese are the happiest people on earth when they simply cannot afford many of the material possessions that we take for granted in the more developed countries? Is there any mystery to their happiness?
Well, it turns out that they live a peaceful, calm, and nice life in the Himalayas surrounded by some of the most gorgeous sceneries in the world – more than 60% of Bhutan is still in wilderness, untouched and amazingly beautiful. Bhutanese are Buddhists which means that their religion is a peaceful influence in their lives. Buddhism teaches them non-violence and peace – which the world lacks today almost everywhere else. Buddhists believe in performing good deeds in this life, so that they can be reborn in a better life. The Bhutan government actually measures its citizens’ GNH or Gross National Happiness index! They are so serious about ensuring happiness!!
Have you seen a country like that? We are surrounded by concrete everywhere we live, we face pollution, we have struggles and war, we have violence, we have countries at loggerheads, we have racial and colour issues around the world, we have religious issues all over the world, and what not. Is it a surprise at all that most people are unhappy, or the GNH is far lower than that of Bhutan?
While it is difficult to underestimate the influence of material possessions on most of us (why not get a BMW or Mercedes instead of Toyota or Nissan for example), it is critical to realize that people tend to be happier when they can have social cohesion, freedom of thought and expression, psychological and physical well-being, good quality of education for the children, non-violence, and good governance. There are many such factors which go into the measurement of GNH, not the least of which is how people feel about their overall quality of life. I think GNH is a very important measure for all of us to understand, imbibe and communicate. Contentment and being happy about what one has are important aspects towards achieving happiness in one’s mind.
Are we there yet?
Most of us are not. We are so mortally afraid of missing out something in our lives, of not being able to be around when our families need us, of death and misery, of war and violence, and what not. We must think of such fear every day, it keeps our head on our shoulders! But we cannot be subjugated by such fears. The world moves on without all of us anyway, so why be afraid? Participate in the happiness around you, or be the creator of happiness for folks around you. It is critical to be happy. It is very critical to ensure that people around you are happy. This would involve a lot of work if you think of it.
Spreading joy should become everyone’s mission instead of spreading unhappiness. Come to think of it, I realize that being joyful for even a minute about something as simple or as casual as my car looking swelte and clean after a car wash that I myself performed for more than 60 minutes with my hands, will lead to a positive state of mind over the next day or so. You can think of countless such examples. When you meet positive people, then you can see that things happen. Things work out. Everyone seems happy and positive.
This is not hogwash. This is real stuff. This is the way to become happy.
You will see that your life improves dramatically with positive and happy frame of mind. You will tend to be more successful. You will make others successful. Now you start to understand why Bhutanese people are happy, living, working and playing with each other in their tiny country without much separation from one another. They are in their lives together!
Don’t you think you should be happy? I can be your consultant!! Or you can visit Bhutan to learn firsthand!!!
21st August 2016
I have written previouly on how leading a purposeful life with clear goals will reduce stress and create a more meaningful life for you and a fruitful impact on others surrounding you.
Not sure which one of the over 1,200 blog posts cover this topic however !
I have long been looking for meaning in life. Is there a greater purpose to one’s life than just performing routine task-oriented demand-driven and interrupt-driven chores right through the day ? And, tomorrow and the day after ? Is the purpose of life to make money and lead a comfortable life ? Is it to ensure that your immediate and extended family is well taken care of – in some sort of way ? Is it to network and build equity with friends and business associates ? Can one find meaning in his/her own life within a reasonable period of time, instead of belabouring upon this topic till the end of one’s life ? Is there a way to discuss these matters with others and with one’s mentors and family and friends without being perceived as crazy ?
I am sure we all go through these kinds of situations in life. As we collect baggage living the life we are destined to live, our inertia increases. We are loath to make changes in our own lives, which are definitely possible if a purpose or meaning could be established for a serious change. But do we even have the courage to countenance such changes ? Are we in a position to visualize what purpose that we wish to go after ? What kind of troubles that our pursuit of meaning in life could bring upon us ? etc., etc.,
We have to think of course. Thinking is the gift that humans have received from a bigger force which creates order and maintains the same in this universe. If a bigger force exists, and if it could sustain the orderliness of this universe and, therefore this world, then that bigger force will provide human beings with the capability to run this world, and along with that capability, the ability to think. And when we do think about matters such as science or maths, our minds do get the clarity needed to solve the world’s problems.
But do we think about ourselves and our apparent inability to find a meaning in life ?
Life is tough with the kinds of problems that it throws on unsuspecting lives. It is hard to keep up with the pace of life. You solve one problem, another one pops up in a few minutes, and so on and so forth. In this non-stop life handling, we do miss the ability to decipher the code that exists in all of us.
What is that code ?
It is the cipher which if you could break it using your intellect and experience, will tell you what is the kind of life that you are destined to lead, what is your purpose in life, what are your goals, how are you going to be measured by the bigger force which controls this universe, and what kind of actions that you have to take in what time frame to be able to find the meaning of life and impact the lives of others.
Just think about it – the meaning of life is not in the Himalayas or in the Arctic Ocean. It is within you. It resides in you. It is waiting for your urgent discovery.
Only when you are able to calmly decode this cipher of your life, will you be in a position to appreciate your life with all its full purpose.
Every human being has a purpose in his/her life. He or she needs to discover it. And, do that quickly. I have taken a long time to discover what is my code. With all the technological marvels that increasingly surround us, I am afraid we will miss the boat of life’s meaning. Technology makes us interrupt-driven. It is essential for our lives, but it also disrupts our lives every six months. There is an urgent need to step away from the mayhem and think calmly about oneself. Find your code, and do that quickly. Do not wait, time is very precious in life as you all know.
Well, it is not magic. Look inside yourself first. Look at what you are doing in your life. Look at what others around you are doing. Look at the moral predicaments that the world puts itself in – one has just got to read the world news. Why is everyone killing each other ? Have they all lost their purpose in life ? Why is everyone so rushed ? What is happening ? Take a raincheck. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Stay in a trance-type condition for some 30 minutes. You will feel that your mind is going blanc and your blood pressure is dropping. You will rise and fall with your breath. You cool down. You exhale and come off the trance. Look at yourself. You will new and fresh. You can think more calmly, more intensely, more productively.
Well, find the code and find the meaning in life.
Each human being is precious. Each person has a purpose in life, whether he or she knows it or not.
Strange, isn’t it ?
Well, we will connect soon for more on this topic.
19th December 2015
I know a number of friends who have deep faith and follow highly spiritual philosophies in their daily lives.
I respect them and their commitment to faith. Their commitment to their faith is of the softer variety, and is very personal to each one of these individuals that I have known for many years. They do not carry their faith on their sleeves – there is no proclamation, no evangelizing, not much of a talk except for messages that they are planning to attend some related event.
I also respect folks who apparently do not profess any faith. Not that they do not have faith in anything, but they probably have faith in themselves.
There are many such individuals, who have come to “terms” with themselves, are in perfect sync with themselves, have been able to reconcile differences with society at large, and at the end of the day are in peace with themselves. They also do not harm others intentionally or even unintentionally.
In the first group of folks, there is a full sync with the immediate and extended families and friends’ circles. Most of the people with similar faith congregate together, network together, connect with each other vigorously, see eye-to-eye on most matters, and even eat/travel together. There is a feeling of comfort that, while not unique, provides a sense of togetherness and comfort. There are many such communities, but in keeping with my tradition of not naming specific things to avoid misconceptions and misunderstandings, I leave it for the readers of this blog to derive the meaning of what I am writing about.
In the second group of folks, the sense of community does not exist. The reason for the same is not easy to determine – such people are spread around in the society, and do not publicly proclaim their lack of the “traditional” faith. In circumstances wherein they do so, it is not difficult to visualize their predicament as it is likely that most of the people surrounding him/her are of the first variety described above. Not that such self-faith people will be automatically excommunicated, just that there is a possibility of discomfort developing when the views do not match.
There is a quiet determination in people belonging to the second variety that they made their own lives and directed the circumstances and the environment around them to move ahead in their lives. While this can mostly be true, I discovered (obviously I belong to the second group) that while my hard work, commitment, passion, drive and determination got me to where I am today, the circumstances and environment could not have been “accidental” or directed by me alone.
This is not an insight. It was a learning from a senior friend of mine, who acknowledged respectfully my position, but differed that everything has been done by me in my life. Obviously others have helped me to shape my life, even though I do not think they have been instrumental. But my friend pointed out one critical aspect – things happen positively to those people who work hard (not always though) and they are put into a situation which is conducive to their success. Not always as I only too well know. However, there was some point in what he said. Obviously, there is a bigger force which organizes matters and determines the flow of situations, circumstances and opportunities.
I asked this friend about possibility of reaching a higher set of goals faster, if I could only negotiate with this bigger force. Is there a shortcut to success that could be achieved by praying ? How about I switch over to the first group in the hope of a shorter runway to more material (and spiritual) success ?
My friend said “no” – that is not possible. The bigger force, or the God, does not work that way. If He gives in to such rather mundane requests which would be pouring in by the millions every day, He would not be doing His job. He expects people to work their way through their lives, while holding on to their faith.
My faith still remains on me – may be I need a stronger anchor. I am working on the same. In the meanwhile, this post might have baffled you. I do not wish to offend anyone. This post is more about the deeper inner conversations that each one of us have to have in our journey of life.
30th August 2015