Speculations on Hindu Rituals

Tags

To believe, or not to believe

To do, or not to do

To fear, or not to fear

There comes a time in the lives of some Hindus when he or she gets to contemplate the deeper meaning, purpose and implications of various Vedic rituals.

Some are born into rituals, some take to them along the way, some have rituals thrust upon them.

Any ritual, modern or ancient, has a purpose. Its inculcates habit & discipline to achieve a goal, like daily running is a good habit or ritual for an aspiring marathoner.

Over time, however, rituals have the tendency to gather ‘bells & whistles’ which, though decorous and interesting, have to be stripped away to get to the real purpose behind them. Many modern exercise regimens, accessories & gadgets have made running so complicated, expensive & daunting that the simple exhilarating pleasures of freestyle running are largely forgotten.

Vedic rituals, over time, have become so complex, mysterious and voluminous that we need a guru or guide to help us navigate them. However, most gurus just show the path without shedding much light on what lies ahead on the path. They tell us what rituals to do and how to perform them, without saying much about why we need to do them at all.

The result is fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Rituals are designed to serve our needs. We don’t need rituals for the sake of having rituals. Our ancestors who originally designed the Vedic rituals would have had a purpose or goal. Some of those purposes may not be valid in today’s world where we (hopefully) have a better understanding of nature and how it works. It’s safe to assume our ancestors would not have fashioned the rituals to create fear, panic or uncertainty in our minds.

It’s useful to cut through the weeds and get to the heart of the rituals. Lets look at just two common rituals.

tharpanam_hand_1

  1. Marriage rituals

At the core, these rituals are vows and promises the couple make to each other in the presence of various witnesses – celestial, terrestrial and in-between. It’s quite natural for these rituals to have acquired, over time, various elements of celebration, education, entertainment, and prayers to invoke blessings of Gods & ancestors. A tinge of Godly fear and respect also prevails over the rituals to caution the couple in case they venture beyond the boundaries of the wedding vows and promises. This fear perhaps serves a useful purpose for the couple, their families and societies to be organized and disciplined. But when the fear and other ‘bells & whistles’ dominate, the original purpose and the meanings of the vows & promises are lost.

2. Death rituals

These are more complex and tedious which have, over time, acquired various elements of fear to enforce rigor and discipline. We need respect & curiosity to understand these rituals, not fear. Our ancestors would have fashioned the original rituals, without the attending frills, to serve a purpose which is more important to understand. Would our ancestors, having died and gone to wherever they go to, be dependent on us for food & water or curse us if we don’t perform various rituals?  Fundamentally, these rituals are a way to offer our respects & gratefulness to our ancestors – both human & non-human (like trees, animals & insects). They provide an occasion to think about and learn from our ancestors, how they lived their lives, their success and failures, lessons they taught us directly or indirectly, and so on. 

When we remove layers of modern technological marvels and conveniences which dominate our times today, our lives are little different from those of our ancestors’. They probably went through similar lifetimes of ups & downs, childhood and adulthood, faced similar fears & pains, joys & happiness, wondered similarly about birth & death.  Are our experiences & circumstances in life vastly different? Probably not. If we want to know how to live life well, find a satisfying job, get married, make friends, wage war or even die well, we just need to turn the pages of history. It’s all been done before. We can learn much from past masters, and our ancestors.

Most death rituals provide an opportunity to contemplate our ancestors, their lives and past times. There is much to learn from them, not fear them.

Such a rational approach to understanding rituals can be labelled speculative, preposterous, atheistic….

But, perhaps, it is better than blindly performing the rituals out of fear or compulsion.

————————————————-

So what do we gain by performing “mere” rituals? We will acquire one-pointedness of mind, discipline, non-attachment, will power, humility. On the whole it will help us to live a moral life. Without moral conduct there can never be Atmic inquiry and Atmic experience.

There are many benefits that flow from rituals, puja, etc. One of them is that they help to make us good. They are also of value in taking us to the path of workless yoga and the inward quest.

Rituals are indeed not necessary for one who has realized the Self. But we must put the question to ourselves whether we have truly realized It, whether we are mature enough for realization, whether we have become inwardly pure.

  • PUJYASRI CHANDRASEKHARENDRA SARASWATI SWAMI

——————————————————-

Advertisements

Hey Brahman !

Tags

Hey Brahman, who are you?

What’s all this?

Is it all real or illusory?

Or something else?

 

If its real,

Why is it imperfect?

Why all these ups & downs?

Twists & turns, trials & tribulations?

Why the many temptations & sins?

Desires, joys & sorrows?

Why can’t it be simpler, easier, perfect?

Is it simple, but I make it complex?

Is it easy, but I make it hard?

Is it perfect, but I can’t see it?

It’s all surreal

Consciousness_Mountain

If its illusory,

Why the elaborate delusion?

What are you trying to prove, teach, learn or discover?

Why & for whom?

For yourself, your ego, your desires?

You too suffer these human frailties?

Why such a complex & fantastic magician’s trick?

Why don’t you simply say so?

Are you dropping hints here & there?

No, I don’t see them.

It’s all surreal.

 

Is this something else, maybe your play?

Why should I be a part of it?

What am I supposed to learn?

Discover myself or you?

Why this long journey & many acts?

What are we trying to do?

Its abstruse, frustrating

It’s all surreal.

 

Where are you from?

What was before you?

What is after you?

Is there a ‘before’ and ‘after’?

What is death?

What happens after?

Do we become one?

Do I come back?

Gods, Vedas, Rituals, Devotions…

How do they all fit in?

They seem superfluous

It’s too difficult, beyond me.

It’s all surreal.

 

Is this your idea of having fun?

All this elaborate creation or delusion, or whatever it is?

Should I relax, have fun, or drown in sorrow?

Should I be stoic and tranquil?

Should I give it all up and await death?

There are so many questions, so many paths, so many ideas.

What is true, what is real, what should i do?

It’s too confusing.

It’s all surreal.

 

There must be an easier, simpler answer.

What’s the right question?

Lets start again

Hey Brahman, who are you?

Another Chat with Brahman

Tags

Me : Good to have you back

Brahman : You had something in mind?

M : Yea. You do get right down to business, don’t you?

B : We kind of know each other….we had a chat before.

M : Not really. You may know me well. But you are still a mystery to me.

B : Is it?

M : Yea, I have been thinking about you & our last chat. I am reading up a few Masters, as you suggested last time.

B : That’s a good start.

M : That doesn’t sound very encouraging. You seem to imply I have a long journey ahead of me.

B : It depends on you.

M : I know, I know. You said it last time.

B : …

M : Ok, lets plunge in right away.

B : Go ahead.

M : I have been reading and thinking about the illusions of maya, irresistible pull of desires, machinations of the ego, how to live without attachments, how to just do my duties and live without expectations …and so on..

B : Sounds good

M : It all sounds very complex

B : Really?

M : Why is it not simpler to understand and pursue?  Why make it complex?

B : It is simple.

M : But it’s not. Believe me, I am trying hard.

B : Work on it some more.

M : Thats my point exactly. Why should it be hard? Why can’t you make it simple so all of us understand it easily and fast?

B : It is simple

M : Is it?

B : Yes

M : Well, if its simple, we should have more enlightened souls on earth.

B : Whats bothering you?

M : Why create all this complexity? Why have all these desires, suffering, attachments, maya, and so on? Why can’t we have a simpler, easier and tranquil life?

B : You can have it, if you want to.

M : Are you pulling my leg? Look at the world around me. Is it simple & easy?

B : Yes

M : Aren’t you contradicting yourself? You seem to agree its a complex world and life, but you say I can make it simple?

B : Yes, its your choice.

M : I thought you will say that. It’s always my choice, right?

B : Yes

M : I can choose to make my life simple or complex?

B : Yes

M : But why did you create this complex world? Why all the elaborate maya, attachments, desires etc. Are you playing a game?

B : No

M : Maybe your creation just ran out of control?

B : No

M : Or perhaps, you want to teach us some kind of a lesson?

B : No

M : Come on, your monosyllables are not helpful. Why did you create all this complexity

B : I didn’t create that

M : What? You must be joking. Who else could have done it?

B : You

M : Me?

B : Yes

M : Surely, you are joking.

B : No

M : How could I create all this stuff? I understand I am part of you and you are part of me…we are both one and the same, and all that stuff we spoke about last time. But why should I make my own life more difficult and complex?

B : Its your choice.

M : Hmm, you are back to your favorite reply. Are you saying I made a choice to make my life complex….that is, humans over time have made their lives more complex and are now struggling in the complexity they have created?

B : Yes

M : But why can’t you help us out of it?

B : You can help yourself, as much as I can help you.

M : Are you saying you cannot help me?

B : You can help yourself and that’s easier.

M : You can’t wave the magic wand and make my life easier, simpler and tranquil?

B : No. You got the magic wand

M : I have it?  Come on, you are kidding me.

B : No, recollect what I told you last time?

M : Study the masters and their ideas?

B : Yes

M : But what’s the purpose of this whole exercise? Why am I here, creating all this complexity and making my life difficult for myself?

B : That’s not the idea

M : You mean the original idea was different?

B : Yes

M : It was not to make life complex and difficult?

B : Yes

M : Then what went wrong?

B : It was your choice.

M : There you go again.  My choice?

B : Yes

M : I am part of you, eternal & all-knowing. How can I make a bad choice?

B : You are discovering yourself

M : But why go through this elaborate complexity?

B : You don’t like it?

M : Not really. I do like some aspects of this worldly life.

B : Focus on that

M : You mean I just ignore whats not good or complex.

B : You can do that.

M : You don’t answer directly, do you?

B : …

M : I…I mean humans…created all this complexity, desires, attachment, ego and so on, over time. But I still can choose to focus to spend my time and energy on whats good for me? Avoid complexity, pain, suffering, illusions and those things which doesn’t make sense?

B : Yes

M : You do make me say a lot of stuff. And, continuing the flow of my thoughts, I can focus on the good, happier, simpler stuff?  Enjoy the worldly life and also discover my true self in the process?

B : Yes

M : But that’s easier said than done. The obstacles are many. The complexity is mind-boggling. Desires, ego, & attachments don’t make my life easy.

B : Study the masters

M : You said it before

B : Yes

M : But, going back to my original question, why create all this illusory complex stuff at all in the first place. Why can’t we, you & I, just stay put? In our original state, whatever it is or was.

B : That was a choice

M : My choice, or yours, or both?

B : Guess you can say both

M : Thats not comforting…the idea we created something so monstrous, deceiving and illusory.

B : You said you like some aspects of this worldly life.

M : Yea, I do. But that’s a small part & transient. The larger complex, illusory, less understood, and frustrating part of this worldly life is overwhelming, threatening, disappointing, depressing….

B : It doesn’t have to be that way

M : I know what you are trying say. I can choose to focus on the easier and simpler things that matter, right?

B : Yes

M : But, at the risk of being repetitive, why create the bad complex stuff which is not required?

B : Ignorance

M : You mean I, we…humans over time…created this monstrous complexity because of our ignorance?

B : Yes

M : But am I not all-powerful and all-knowing?  I am part of you, right?

B : Yes.

M : Then why embark on this complex project of creation and go through the upheavals of a worldly life?

B : That was a choice

M : But why?

B : You have to discover it yourself.

M : Can’t you explain it now?

B : I can and will, at the right time.

M : Now is not the right time?

B : You are not ready

M : I can study the Master, follow their ideas…and the know the truth ultimately?

B : Yes

M : And, while I do that, I can also have fun?

B : Yes

M : The Masters, their work, ideas & life sound serious & dry. Did they have fun?

B : Yes

M : I guess you mean responsible and detached joy, not the kind of worldly fun the material world knows. Though am not completely sure what it means…

B : …

M : You…I…having made the choice of creating this complex illusion, why not have fun exploring it? I can study and learn from the Masters. I can discover my true self and also enjoy the process. What do you say?

B : Yes

M : Yea, guess that’s a better choice, rather than being discouraged, depressed, confused or bewildered.

B : ….

M : If Buddha or Sankara can do it, guess so can I

B : Yes

M : Thats reassuring.

B : ….

M : But, you know, I still am not convinced on the need for all this complexity. It looks like the whole nature of this complex creation has become more bewildering over time. Are we making life more & more difficult for ourselves, as time goes by?

B : You could say that

M : But I can unravel it, right? All this stuff I see and experience have some good reason to exist and I should be able to find it.

B : Yes

M : And therein lies the fun & joy?  Of exploration, excitement, discovery?

B : Yes

M : But what happens if I get distracted, or get beaten even after trying very hard? Most folks seem to have gone down this path and failed, over the ages.  Very few Masters seem to have discovered the truth.

B : Try, keep trying.

M : And don’t get discouraged or distracted?

B : Yes

M : Till the very end?

B : There is no end

M : Really?

B : Yes

M : Ok, guess I will take your word for it now.  The idea of time and death opens up another huge complex subject which we will deal with another time.

B : As you wish

M : Ok. I feel kind of cheered up. I see possibilities. I see a path which ought to be explored. A path fraught with distractions and challenges, but still holding up the promise of fun and excitement. And you say the journey itself will be rewarding….I don’t have to worry about the destination now.

B : Thats one way of saying it.

M : You are a perfect sounding board.

B : ….

M : I am going to dive in with fresh enthusiasm and curiosity. Life looks good.

B : It is

M : Good to hear it from you.

B : …

M : That’s a good positive note with which we could wind up our chat for now. I will need to consult you later as I make my journey.

B : I am here always

M : Great. Thanks for dropping by.

B : Welcome

Can you (really) change the world?

Tags

Many feel the urge to change the world, make it better. But perhaps any effort to improve the world, like making it more equal or egalitarian, is futile and contrary to the ordinary course of nature. The law of the jungle and survival of the fittest seem to be immutable realities. The strong and smart thrive by edging out the weak. It’s a zero sum game. If you win, somebody else has lost. Governments, philanthropists, great men & institutions may try to equalize, redistribute and establish order. But perhaps chaos, disorder & inequalities cannot be abolished completely. They may even be a necessary condition for a thriving vibrant world.

All of us are not rich, intelligent & healthy. Some are better than others. And they claim their pound of flesh, before they give, or even as they give.

4531635-were-sorry-for-inconvenience-trying-to-change-the-world

Big changes seem to entail big costs. Big philanthropic gifts may come from dubious business profits. Almost all big businesses make big profits by extracting big pounds of flesh. Big revolutions cost lots of lives. The ends do not always justify the means.

We live in a complex world. The costs & consequences of changes and improvements we seek are not immediately clear. Many costs are hidden, latent, spread out in space and time. What looks good to us now may not be so for others in a different space and time. Even well-meant humane & developmental works may have hidden costs and consequences beyond our understanding.

One country’s rise may suppress another country. One society’s improvement in living standards may be at the cost of another. One generation’s pursuit of happiness may harm future generations. The rise of one species may destroy few others. Wealth accumulation by the top 1% of the population may be sufficient to render many millions poor, homeless & starving. Unintended, unforeseen or unplanned eventualities and accidents are more common than we care to admit. Even a regular middle class salaried job (in a bank, factory or school) ultimately polarize the world by indirectly advancing (not always benign) goals of business profits. Many of us don’t pause or bother to think of costs & consequences of our actions.

History teaches that big changes come with big costs. And many a time, the costs are known much later, after a few decades or even centuries. An idea, work, invention or discovery may change the world in the span of a few years or decades, but previously unseen costs and consequences may become evident after a few centuries. The change agent may have died happily, satisfied he had changed the world in his own lifetime. But, subsequent generations may not exactly agree with his ideas or actions.

Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Mozart, Leonardo Da Vinci, their ideas & actions may have changed the world for the better. But have Einstein, Shakespeare, Steve Jobs, capitalism, the Internet and Google improved the world? We may have to wait for a few more generations or centuries to find out.

How then to change the world?

Perhaps we cannot. The world seems to change & evolve naturally by itself, with or without us, despite (or in spite of) our actions or inaction.

What then can we do?

We can live responsibly, make small & steady improvements to our lives and in our spheres of influence, watch out for hidden and unintended costs & consequences, and hope to make a small net positive impact over our lifetime.

That sounds boring and unexciting. But perhaps thats the only benign way to change the world.

Better to accept it, learn how to do it well, and enjoy the journey.

 

Tao is Brahman

Tags

,

While reading the chinese classic Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, one can observe its striking similarities to Hindu thoughts.

Some parts are mystical, but the text is full of sound practical wisdom on how to live well.


When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.

Chase after money and security and you heart with never unclench. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.

Success is as dangerous as failure. Hope is as hollow as fear.

The Master doesn’t talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people say, “Amazing, we did it, all by ourselves!”

Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous!

If you want to be given everything, give everything up.

A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.

Do you want to improve the world? I don’t think it can be done. The world is sacred. It can’t be improved. If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it. If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.

The Master does his job and then stops. He understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao. Because he believes in himself, he doesn’t try to convince others. Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need others’ approval. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.

If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.

When there is no desire, all things are at peace.

The greatest wisdom seems childish. True wisdom seems foolish.

If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled.

True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It can’t be gained by interfering.

The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings.

Knowing how to yield is strength.

The Master’s power is like this. He lets all things come and go effortlessly, without desire. He never expects results; thus he is never disappointed. He is never disappointed; thus his spirit never grows old.

Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.

The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas.

Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. You spoil it with too much poking.

Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.

Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.

The Master takes action by letting things take their course.

The ancient Masters didn’t try to educate the people, but kindly taught them to not-know. When they think that they know the answers, people are difficult to guide. When they know that they don’t know, people can find their own way.

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.

Failure is an opportunity. If you blame someone else, there is no end to the blame. There the Master fulfills her own obligations and corrects her own mistakes. She does what she needs to do and demands nothing of others.

The Master has no possessions. The more he does for others, the happier he is. The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is.


Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

What can go wrong as we age?

Tags

, , ,

While aging & death are unavoidable, do they also have to be scary, pitiable, despondent & miserable?

Even as our physique weakens & mental abilities wither, our emotional & psychological outlooks can keep us in good stead and help us age well. And that’s possible only if we make the conscious effort to learn and incorporate such attitudes into our psyche when we are younger.

Instead of asking ‘what ideas can be adopted’ to age well, it may be worthwhile to invert the question and instead ask ‘what ideas should be avoided’, which may be easier to answer.

1. Losing purpose is not good for any age, even more so for the elderly. Many of us subconsciously define our lives around our work & family which unfortunately is not sufficient, and becomes a limiting factor later on. When we retire and the family thins out, our lives start looking empty, with no purpose or reason to live for. It’s useful to identify or seek a few purposes, in our 20s or 30s or 40s, which can last for a long while. The aging person may still earn an income, run a business, spend time with family and grandchildren, but they may turn out to be ephemeral or unsatisfactory in the long run. A big bold larger than life goal may help us stay active, agile & satisfied as we age. If the goal is ambitious, always looks slightly out of reach but still achievable, not so enormous that it becomes a burden, then that perhaps is the purpose we need in our lives, till our death. The goal can be personal, related to family, social, political, etc., but it must be something we are really interested in, supported by some related knowledge and skills we have acquired through the years.

2. Slipping behind the times happens so smoothly, without us being aware of it, that we are alerted by rude shocks to its impact on us, in our 40s, 50s or later. This predominantly cultural & social generation gap is natural. Uncles & grandmothers find their ideas and comments being labelled old-fashioned. Many aged people are unable to accept new realities, ideas, concepts, traditions, etc., even when some of them are just old wine packaged in new bottles. As we age, we need to make extra effort to learn, unlearn, renew and update our ideas, views & opinions. If we do so, we can avoid being exposed to unnerving rude shocks to our psyche. This may not be easy or convenient, and may even seem unnecessary. We may choose to live a peripheral life, away from the new & modern, but let it be a conscious choice while simultaneously being aware of and accepting the changing times. Nostalgia and memories are fine, but constantly living in the past is inviting danger.

3. Self-pity can be excruciating.  It does us no good & is addictive, even as we are pulled deeper into its abyss. Most of us are its victims. It can be more damaging to the vulnerable elderly, when they start pitying themselves about their conditions, relationships, health etc. We need to constantly guard ourselves against falling into the throes of self-pity, which seems to be a natural human response to distress. It wastes time, energy and provides no relief. Why indulge in it?

active_people_likelier_to_live_longer_1357646490_540x540

3. Anger never helps. It’s easy to get angry with ourselves, our family, the society, and so on. Anger makes us loose reason. We can’t think properly. We jump to the wrong conclusion or course of action. Many elderly are angry. It doesn’t help them or the people around them. It’s perhaps easier when young to make the conscious effort to bring the tendency to get angry under control.

4. Ego is the big ‘I, me, & myself’ behind many a ruined life. Thoughts like ‘I am entitled to…’, ‘I can seldom be wrong’, ‘I want, need, desire, seek, so i must…..’, ‘How can I be insulted like that?’, ‘I am more knowledgeable than…, so….’, etc. are sure recipes to a disastrous life. Ego expresses itself as anger, lust, desire, conceit…any extreme emotion which bypasses rational thought. An elderly person with a massive ego is pathetic sight. Ego is perhaps easier brought under control before 40s, providing one makes the effort to recognize it first. Ego raises its head so often, many times a day, subconsciously, and we are blissfully unaware of its machinations. Only conscious effort can help keep it at bay.

6. Self-abuse & self-neglect is common among the elderly. Many neglect their health & finances, give up on relationships & hope, & pity themselves into worser conditions. A sunny and positive attitude, if developed in their younger lives, will help them sail through their later lives in good spirits. Life is never perfect. Most of us never get all that we desire. The best thing to do is to constantly scan for and hold on to the rays of hope & positivity, rather than succumbing to the depths of despair and depression.

Living may not be easy. But aging & dying can be easier and even exhilarating, given that we have had a long runway.

Riding into the happy sunset requires effort, in our younger lives.

 

 

 

What Is Dharma?

Tags

, , ,

What is right and what is wrong? What are the key principles & morals we should live by? Is there an underlying order to our lives which can serve as a common guide to all of us?

Mahabharata is a good source to study such questions due to its rich & varied characters, situations & dilemmas.

When the myths and supernatural aspects of the epic saga are stripped out, and the story is spun in a believable fashion full of human foibles, as in ‘Parva’ by S.L.Bhyrappa, it is a compelling narrative we can relate to in our day-to-day lives.

The wide variety of questions dealt with in Mahabharata expands the mind. Why should we respect elders? Is pre-marital sex fine? What about adultery, polyandry and polygyny? Should one always say the truth? Can we eat meat? Can we fight, kill, pillage & plunder? Can we cheat? What acts are sinful? Are all humans same or some better than others? What is God? How to reconcile conflicting views of various religions, rituals, habits, customs & cultures? What are our duties & rights? Whats the best way to live? How much can one consume? Should we protect the environment? How should one die? How should we treat our friends? How to resolve conflicts within family? What is a meaningful life? Should I accumulate wealth or live as a recluse? …..

dharma

Perhaps there is no common dharma, acceptable to all. Morals and principles are constantly in flux, both across time and cultures. What was acceptable 10, 100 or 1000 years back is not acceptable now. What is acceptable in India is not acceptable in the US. What is allowed in Islam is not allowed in Buddhism. Communism, capitalism, dictatorship, democracy, etc. have their own fervent believers and practitioners. Further, moralistic fads come & go, with short-lived successes & failures.

What can one do? Should one stay confused or just dismiss thoughts about dharma & morals? Is it easier to follow the fads and fashions of the day & local culture?

Perhaps it is helpful to fashion one’s own personal dharma. A set of morals & principles drawn from various sources, cultures & histories which may have to be tweaked or even changed radically, as one ages & gathers experiences. Such a personal dharma or set of beliefs may or may not be similar to that held by spouse, children, neighbors, countrymen, colleagues & friends. We have to constantly gather superior ideas, beliefs, morals & principles, tailor and incorporate them into our personal dharma. We have to be resolute about living by our personal dharma, while at the same time being ruthless to discard aspects which turn out to be inferior or meaningless. It requires extreme boldness to live by such an inner scorecard, not being influenced or confused by what’s happening around us. We also need to be ready to face consequences of practicing a personal dharma, some aspects of which could be considered bohemian.

There seems to be no simple way to answer the question ‘What is Dharma?’.

Everybody, and everything, can be right or wrong, depending on one’s point of view.

Parva by S.L.Bhyrappa

 

Robin Hoods or Robber Barons?

Tags

, , ,

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are seen as the high priests of modern corporate philanthropy. They are folks who made (or are making) all their wealth by being successful capitalists. Now they want to give it all away, distributing their wealth to a wide range of causes in a business-like fashion, tracking outcomes, improving lives and inspiring other philanthropists.

But, are they worthy of our adulation?

The scientific & industrial revolutions spawned capitalists like Gates & Buffett who lured billions of gleeful consumers. The runaway consumption economy has made our world more unequal, poor, diseased and less hospitable & peaceful. Both Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway have significantly contributed to this state of affairs, directly or indirectly.

Microsoft supplies business software to thousands of consumer goods companies, advertising agencies, weapons manufacturers etc., thereby indirectly supporting rampant consumption, arms race etc. Microsoft & Bill Gates have made all their billions by indirectly contributing to most of the ills facing us today. By deploying his wealth to fight the ills he has caused, can Bill Gates absolve himself?  If he is really serious about improving our lives and the world, should he not shut down Microsoft, or at least be more discriminative of the customers & prospects he engages with?

give-and-take-556151_960_720

Berkshire thrives on consumption, directly and indirectly, through its 100+ businesses. It produces, markets & transports hundreds of consumer and industrial categories of goods. When we celebrate Warren Buffett’s unbeaten track record of 19% compounded return over 52 years, we also need to pause and think how much plundering of natural resources & rampant consumption has contributed to Berkshire’s billions. By giving away all his wealth, can Warren Buffett absolve himself? If he is really serious about improving our lives and the world, should he not shut down those businesses which have made (or still making) our world a less hospitable place?

Corporate philanthropists play on two key arguments. We don’t know of any other system better than capitalism. And modern science, technology & innovations will solve all our problems sooner or later.

Both the arguments are inherently weak. We cannot perpetuate capitalism and its ills just because we don’t know an alternative. Why can’t responsible corporate philanthropists, having made their wealth through capitalism, shut down their businesses partially or completely? Why can’t they spend their money to fight for better regulation, discouraging wasteful consumption etc.? While modern science & technology are indeed solving many problems, isn’t our present system creating more problems than solutions?

As high priests, Gates & Buffett should rethink how they make & spend their billions

 

Meditations On My Ego

Tags

My ego says I am right. But I have been wrong many times.

My ego says nobody else can tell me what to do, say or think. But I always learn something from others.

My ego says I am entitled to this & that. But that leads me to reckless behavior.

My ego says my group, my community…are the best. But I haven’t seen the world.

My ego says I can never fail. But I have failed many times.

My ego says I  can be selfish. But that makes me greedy and unhappy.

My ego says I am beautiful. But that makes me vain.

My ego says I am powerful. But I have failed many times.

My ego says I am knowledgeable. But I don’t know everything.

ego-as-baggage

My ego says I am perfect. But I am imperfect in many ways.

My ego says I am strong. But I have many weaknesses.

My ego says I can change the world. But I am a small speck in time & space.

My ego says I have time. But I can die in an accident tomorrow.

My ego says everybody loves & respects me. But I don’t know what they really think.

My ego says my family needs me. But I know they can do without me.

My ego says I can influence my future. But I can only control my thought & actions, not my future.

My ego says I am trustworthy. But I regret many of my actions & thoughts.

My ego says I am honest. But I lie many times to myself & others.

My ego says I deserve a better life. But so do others.

My ego says…

My ego says…

My ego won’t go away. Keep it in check.

 

Contemplations on Death

Tags

, ,

The father dies. The family mourns. Memories flood back. Friends gather. Tears are shed. His character, qualities, actions & times are remembered. His frailties are glossed over. He’s given a fond farewell. Mourning continues for a while. He slowly fades away. He becomes an occasional thought. He’s forgotten.

The leader dies. The town mourns. Eulogies pour in. Fans, followers, admirers & friends gather. Opponents & critics are generous in their praise. Her life & times are recounted. Emotions run high. Public grief overflows. She is given a fond farewell. Mourning continues for a while. She slowly fades away. She becomes an occasional thought. She’s forgotten.

life-862985_960_720

Everybody dies. Accept it.

Contemplate death before it happens.

Contemplate your own death.

Every death is a lesson on how to live well.

The eminent and not-so eminent dead are good teachers.

Avoid their mistakes. Adopt their strengths.

Respect the dead. But remember they don’t run or ruin lives.

Praise the living. They will soon die.

The dead instruct. They have faced all situations.

Nothing is new. History repeats. Life repeats.

Learners do well, for themselves, and for others.

Death improves life.

Celebrate life. Live well. Die well.