May 26, 2024

Can we change our opinions?



Can we change our opinions?

Can we change our beliefs?

Of course, we can. And we should. We review them periodically and change them based on new information and understanding. 

Swami Dayananda Saraswati says, "A belief can be defined as a judgment before knowledge. A belief, being a judgment before knowing, is subject to correction on knowing, on verification".

Many of my opinions and perspectives have undergone revisions and changes. To share a couple of examples,

(1) I used to think that following news was a waste of time and a drain on mental energy. I used to shut off from all news sources and be in total ignorance (haven't we heard the statement - ignorance is bliss?). But in the last year, I have changed this opinion of mine. What's happening around us - business/politics/administration/global events/policies, they all have an impact on us as individuals and on our families. Many new "-isms" are being forced upon us and on our children without our awareness. 

I follow the latest events and updates, but I try to build a boundary where I'm "informed but not get involved" - consider them as inputs for my intellect but not let my mind or emotions get affected by fear or uncertainty.

(2) I used to be a crazy fanatic of certain personalities (Sachin, ARR, Superstar). No doubt, they are excellent in their respective craft but I no longer blindly take inspiration for whatever they say or do. I have stopped having any admiration or adulation for popular personalities or influencers, having seen their true intentions that are money or power-driven.

Change is the only constant in life. It is perfectly fine to change our opinions as time goes by. 

What irks me the most is that when people build a business by sharing perspectives and opinions they have formed at a given point in time and which are bound to change in the future.  

Our scriptures and the various Darshanas (philosophies) give a lot of importance to Pramana (the source of truth). An evolving individual with limited life experience, a lack of scholarly wisdom, and wavering perspectives can never be the Pramana we can consistently rely on.

Learn skills from qualified experts.

Gather perspectives from a variety of sources.

Give priority to scriptures, scholars, and seers with dharmic intent.

Form your own opinions and beliefs.

Change or revise them when new information or experience comes by.

May 19, 2024

Book Review: Maturity by Osho

 


During a casual visit to Sapna Book Store a few months back, I stumbled upon this book. When I looked through the Contents, the chapter "Seven-year cycles of life" caught my attention. As I read through a few pages, it resonated with me deeply, and so were a few other topics. But the tiny font size was a blocker. I added the title to my Amazon Wishlist, merely for reference. 

I spotted a second-hand pristine copy of this title for Rs.180 during a recent trip to Blossoms. I decided to buy it, overlooking the tiny font size. What are reading glasses for? :-) 

According to the author, Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself. He focuses on the topic of Maturity and the aspects that contribute to this growth. He repeatedly states that it is not the same as growing old, and he substantiates it by beautifully bringing up the differences between growing old and growing up in the first chapter.

Every seven years, a new age begins, and a new step is taken. This idea is similar to the popular song from Thalaivar's Baasha. The purpose of each stage, the changes associated with it, and how one deals with the challenges are well explained. 

What blew my mind was this line:

"And near the age of forty-two, religion starts becoming important for the first time". 

This has been my personal experience in the last 1-2 years and I was nodding in agreement.

He then takes the topic of Maturity from the perspective of relationships and emphasizes why Interdependence (not Independence) is the need of the hour from the point of view of love and marriage. This is exactly what I was ruminating about while watching "Laapataa Ladies" a couple of weeks back. Though I loved the whole movie, I don't quite agree with the dialogue by Manju Mai when she tells Phool that women don't need men. 

An individual progresses horizontally from childhood, youngster, and old age towards death. But there is also a vertical progress where one's consciousness expands. 

There are some interesting insights about menopause and how it is not just for women. The topic of Saying No vs Saying Yes is just brilliant. Saying No feels like freedom and intelligence. The author says, "The freedom that is brought by no is a very childish freedom". 

There are quite a few provocative lines though, which I decided to bypass and instead, focus on the many eye-opening insights the book is filled with. 

Highly recommend this book if you are looking for new perspectives on growth and maturity.

May 14, 2024

26 Qualities of Daivi Sampath



In an earlier post, I shared about Aasuri Sampath from Chapter 16 of the Bhagavad Gita. In the first three shlokas in the same chapter, Bhagavan Krishna outlines the qualities of Daivi Sampat - qualities that lead one toward the wealth of spiritual development. Here's the list of those 26 qualities in the same order as mentioned in the shlokas:

  1. Fearlessness
  2. Purity of mind
  3. Being established in the pursuit of jnana (knowledge) and yoga (practical realization)
  4. Ability to share one's wealth with others
  5. Discipline of sensory energies
  6. Sacrifice by worship and other practices
  7. Self-study, understanding of knowledge
  8. Concentration of the energies of the mind
  9. Straightforwardness
  10. Non-violence
  11. Truth
  12. Absence of anger
  13. Spirit of detachment and renunciation
  14. Peacefulness
  15. Absence of ill-feeling towards others
  16. Compassion toward all beings
  17. Uncovetousness - not having the feeling "someone has something, I must also have it."
  18. Gentleness
  19. Modesty
  20. Absence of fickleness, a state where the mind is unable to decide on anything
  21. Energy
  22. Forbearance
  23. Tremendous willpower
  24. Purity, cleanliness
  25. Not harming others
  26. Without excessive pride or elation

This list gives a beautiful way for us to self-reflect on our thoughts, words, and behaviors and understand where we need to put our efforts.

Reference: Universal message of the Bhagavad Gita Vol 3 by Swami Ranganathananda 

May 11, 2024

Derangement of Intellect



 "There is good in every bad" - We might have heard of this phrase in the context of positive thinking and looking for a good thing that turned up due to a bad incident/situation. For eg, let's say, you are stuck in a terrible traffic jam. You are tired and getting frustrated with the wait. You turn on your Spotify playlist and the Smart Shuffle feature belts out songs that you really love but haven't listened to in a long time. It makes you feel nostalgic and cheerful. The wait didn't seem so bad, after all.

Let me turn the tables - "There is bad in every good". Yes, you read that right! And this isn't negative thinking. This is a principle to be kept in mind in these times of kali yuga when adharmic activities are prevalent and most importantly, in those cases that don't seem that way when looked at from a surface-level view.

Let's say, you have got the offer for a job that you have been looking for - excellent pay, amazing perks, higher position of authority, larger team, grand vision, etc. Everything looks too good to be true on paper. After you take up the job, you get impacted by internal politics and ego battles by peers who block you at every step, causing extreme stress and anxiety.

The same is applicable for 

  • products we buy - all those junk foods marketed as healthy, all those herbal(?) cosmetics (with words like earth, nature, mama, green, etc) but containing harsh chemicals
  • services we avail - investment policy advisors who promise big returns on paper, self-proclaimed gurus who swear that they can make you enjoy your lives
  • discount offers and deals with a *Conditions apply hidden somewhere

The intent of this post is not to sound pessimistic, but to be aware of the choices we make every day. If something sounds too good to be true, let's question it, do our research, and analyze it from various angles. If someone promises tall claims, then question how they intend to deliver such claims and what's their plan of action.

This is the power of our "intellect", which is a gift given to all of us. Off late, we have neglected this gift or used it for purposes for which it is not intended (should I drink 3 liters or 5 liters of water per day?). 

The derangement of our intellect is an important issue, and many of us are not paying enough attention to address it. It is high time we take charge and look at all those interferences that block our intellect from performing to its full potential.

May 8, 2024

Chapter 16 of Gita and its relevance in the social media influencers era

 I recently learned Chapter 16 of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. This chapter outlines the characteristics of Daivi Sampath and Aasuri Sampath. While listening to a lecture by Prof Mahadevan on this chapter, some of the insights were hard-hitting and eye-opening. I'm now more and more aligned with the belief that if we have questions regarding values, life choices, conflicts, relationships, self-improvement, goals, and the purpose of our existence, it is best to look at our scriptures for answers. This will take time and effort, but the clarity that emerges during this process is rewarding.

Both groups (people with qualities of Daivi Sampath and Aasuri Sampath) have greatness, but only people with Daivi Sampath have goodness in them.

In the lecture, Professor talks about how Aasuri Sampath unfolds as a 6-step process. 

  1. Aasuras develop enormous strength through Tapas (one-pointed, concentrated effort). During this process, they also develop enormous ego.
  2. Because of the new-found power, they get into Adharmic indulgence, acquire more and more wealth in unscrupulous ways, and pursue activities that hurt/harm others (physically or emotionally). They brim with ego and exude a"no one can match me" attitude deluded by ignorance.
  3. As they continue such behaviors, they start to get more curses from the affected people. More debit points get added to their karma. By their own acts, they fix their destiny.
  4. Destruction begins, though they tend to ignore the early warning signs. They tend to dismiss the counseling and advice coming their way from well-wishers.
  5. Destruction is now imminent. They try to deny the reality but are unable to do so. They get into a phase of repentance but it is too late realization though they were given many chances to relook at their choices.
  6. The aftermath is colossal. Destruction not only affects them, but also their family and their circles.

I reflected on this process in the context of social media influencers gone rogue (Aasuras of modern times, if we may say so!). They start with concentrated effort, though not at the scale to be qualified as "tapas". There is a certain exhibition of greatness.

Followers and people who would blindly believe them start to increase, which reflects as high power.

This high power gets projected through a high ego. They tend to think that they are superior and no one can question them.

More egoistic behaviors start to show up with an attitude of "I know everything". They start showing authority in areas they have no expertise/experience. In this process, they also start being criticized and sometimes, to the extent of getting curses. 

Steps 4, 5, and 6 and the consequences may or may not be visible to the outside world through their carefully curated social media posts.

The important takeaway is that they are writing their destiny with their acts, for which they will pay a price. As people who are observers or those who are/were at the receiving end, we don't need to feel affected or impacted when we observe behaviors of modern-day Aasuras who operate with a motive of milking more money or power.

This is only my interpretation and I might be completely wrong. But it brought a sense of closure to the issues my mind had been grappling with.

May 7, 2024

My Reading Process



 K asked me to write about my reading process. If you are a reader, I'm sure you would follow a process that's unique to you depending on your values, preferences, and idiosyncrasies.

Your reading process tells a lot about your personality. Let me share a few specifics of my process.

When I pick up a book, I read from the first page to the very last - yes, the preface, prologue, forward, epilogue, and acknowledgment pages as well !!

I feel compelled to finish the book cover to cover. The same holds for movies too. I don't advocate this practice, as I have wasted quite a bit of time watching boring movies, just because of this need for "completion"! But for books, I don't consider it a waste of time, as sometimes a boring chapter could be a temporary barrier to be crossedpost which there could be relevant insights in the latter chapters. 

If my interest in a book wanes off after a few chapters, I add the title to my "Books in progress" list. I don't add it to my "Books completed" list. I would feel a sense of guilt IF I say I have completed a book that I haven't.

I read at least 2-3 books at the same time. Depending on my mood at a given time, I pick up one of the books and read a few pages.

I read for at least 40 minutes every day - 20 minutes while having my cup of chai in the mornings and 20 minutes before sleep. The habit of picking up a book happens on autopilot during these times, until and unless I'm tired or busy with some other work.

I carry 2-3 books whenever I travel. I notice that I progress faster in my reading during vacation days. There are pockets of time when I resort to reading - the quiet mornings in a hotel room where you only have a corner and nothing much to do, the late evenings after a long day of roaming around in a new town/city, the waiting times in the airport/railway station, etc.

I always read a book, along with a highlighter or a pencil. I love to underline or highlight important lines or passages in a book. Many people read an entire book without a smidgen of ink on the paper. I don't belong to that category! At the same time, I don't write a lot on the margins, scribble, or put up colorful sticky notes. 

In the middle of the spectrum. No extremes, as always! 

I don't like to skim through passages having content that I'm already familiar with. I would still read them with the same level of focus. I also tend to subvocalize while reading, but it doesn't deter my reading speed.

I choose books based on the genres of my interest. Recommendations, Amazon reviews/ratings, and of course, price plays a vital role in my purchase decision.

My max cutoff price for a book is Rs.300. I rarely buy books beyond this price. 

Though I have a Kindle and have read many e-books, my preferred choice is a paperback any day. I find reading physical books more enjoyable than e-books. I have also observed that I retain the material more effectively when I read from a physical book.

I don't listen to audiobooks, as I find myself getting easily distracted without a visual medium. I prefer to read the words and learn. 

I love second-hand books. They are not only affordable but also provide the opportunity to connect with the previous reader in a subtle way - the underlined passages, earmarked pages, scribbled notes, or old bills inside the book.

I love to shop in cramped bookstores, with books stacked all over and very little space to move around. The dusty shelves, the aroma of old books, and the messy organization have their old worldly charm!

I prefer to gift books to friends and family. I prefer to receive books as gifts.

It bothers me a lot that the habit of reading books is on the declineI believe that a new idea/perspective doesn't stick when consumed in a 30-second reel format. It needs long-form content, dedicated focus, and convincing insights.

Our reading process is unique and special to us. There's nothing right or wrong about what we read, how we read, and how often we read. It just shows a glimpse of our unique tendencies.

May 4, 2024

Knowledge isn't given


 

 "Knowledge isn't given. 

Knowledge is to be taken

It is taken through a process of deep questioning.

The intent of Questioning is not to prove someone right/wrong, but driven by the need of a real quest."

I came across this perspective recently and it made so much sense. As I pondered over the "quest" being referred to in this context, it is THAT insatiable thirst to quench one's curiosity and gain a better understanding of the world - both the external and the internal.

But somewhere down the road, many of us have either

  • lost the connection with our inherent curiosity
  • lost the will to pursue where our curiosity might take us
  • started to look for easy, quick-fix solutions
  • started to rely on a single person or a resource that would hand over all the knowledge that we needed on a platter
  • decided to wait for the right knowledge to come knocking at our doorsteps
  • settled with commonly held beliefs and notions about life, values, and goals
  • adopted certain ideologies and principles but kept switching them depending on what was popular and trending
  • pushed ourselves to a point of high distraction that we no longer feel the urge to sharpen our intellect

We are living in times where information is abundant and easily accessible by all. But the efforts to synthesize, assimilate, apply, experiment, absorb, and align with our learned experiences are likely missing.

Let's take a simple example. We bookmark so many posts (recipes, book reviews, interesting insights, tips and tricks, health guidelines, etc). Among the bookmarked ones, how many have we gone back and looked at and taken some action on?  

Let's invest some time every day, nurturing the sapling of curiosity.

Water it with new ideas and perspectives.

Nourish it with the fertilizer of authentic, reliable sources of knowledge that have stood the test of time.

Sprinkle the manure of deep questioning.

Prune the unwanted weeds that lurk around in the form of self-judgments, self-doubt, and lack of visibility into where it might lead us.

May 3, 2024

Book Review: Creative Use of Emotion by Swami Rama and Swami Ajaya



 An impulse purchase sometimes turns out to be the book with the right insights you need to hear. During my recent trip to Mussoorie, I stopped by the famous Cambridge bookstore to check out Ruskin Bond's books. Amidst the shelves with limited walking space, I spotted Swami Rama as the author of this book. The title sounded interesting and of course, the print quality and font size were perfect! As you age, font size becomes an important criterion for buying a book🙂 

This book written by Swami Rama and Swami Ajaya brings out the interesting contrast between Western and Eastern psychology. Though the title emphasizes "Emotions", it is NOT the core theme of this book, I must admit.

The authors start with explaining the need for expanding our consciousness, the misconceptions surrounding this idea and the changes one starts to experience when one moves from individuality to universality. This perspective shift is fundamental, as we progress in our spiritual journey. 

One of the hurdles that come our way is the attachment to our identities and self-concept. The authors clarify how the evolution of consciousness doesn't mean annihilation but an expansion of identity. The difference in the importance given to thought - The Western idea "I think, therefore I amvs Eastern perspective "You are not your thoughts" is explained very well. Similarly, the concept of Self in both these streams of thought is brought out beautifully.

There is an exclusive chapter dedicated to the role of suggestions coming in from external environments and their conflicting nature. Though this book was written way before the social media era, the insights are quite relatable.

My favorite chapter is the one on Freedom and Responsibility. This line "Freedom exists only in proportion to the amount of responsibility that we assume" requires deep introspection in today's times. There are some relevant takeaways for young parents in this chapter. 

The chapter on Emotions breaks down each emotion into its source and explains how one could understand them better - be it desire, fear, greed, depression, pride, etc. 

The book ends with fantastic insights into the role of forgiveness and the pitfalls of pursuing social justice in the name of inequality, much needed for the present global situation. 

Though the language is simple and the book is only 160 pages, the material is dense because of the sheer volume of insights. Not to rush through, but to read slowly and contemplate many of these perspectives. 

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