Two sides of a prison wall

September 30, 2005 at 10:00 am

[via Boopesh]

A young Japanese man named Shui was riding on a crowded train when a belligerent drunk made his way through the train car and began to rough up passengers. Shui had studied martial arts for many years, yet never before had he been forced into a public confrontation. Shui felt his blood begin to boil, and realized the ruffian needed to be stopped before he hurt someone badly.

Shui stood up, blocked the fellow’s path, and the two exchanged angry words. As the men were about to square off, Shui felt a hand on his arm. He looked down and saw a frail old man. “Let me handle this,” the elder insisted.

Shui watched in amazement as the old man invited the heavy to have a seat next to him. Strangely, he acquiesced. The elder began to engage the fellow, asking him questions about his life and looking him in the eye with kindness and compassion. After a while the thug confessed that his wife had just died and he was in great pain; he had gone out and gotten drunk to numb his agony. The old man placed a comforting hand on the fellow’s shoulder, and he began to weep. Before Shui’s eyes the intruder was transformed from a villain into an innocent child.

When the train arrived at the next station, the tough guy thanked the old man and exited the car. Shui, stunned, sat down next to the old man and asked him, “Why did you stop me?”

“You were about to meet that man’s violence with your own,” answered the old man. “In true martial arts, if you hurt your opponent in any way, you cannot call your act a victory.”

We have all encountered people whom we feel we must protect ourselves from. Yet there is a way to keep ourselves safe without hurting others. It is the strongest way to protect our peace. Although we have been taught that we must wield pain as a weapon to keep others at a distance, it is not so. We gain all together or not at all. To wish ill upon anyone is to hurt ourself.

I used to visit a prisoner named Ron. Years earlier, in college, Ron had a girlfriend named Jen. One night the couple had an argument, and in a fit of rage, Ron beat her up. Tragically, she died. Ron was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to many years in prison.

I met Ron when he was up for parole after nine years of incarceration. In contrast to his violent act, I found him to be a gentle soul. He was contrite about his crime and he had used his time in prison to advance his spiritual growth. Ron studied A Course in Miracles, he was active in the prison church, he was liked by the other prisoners and staff, and he had worked his way up to a responsible position managing the prison laundry. When I visited Ron, I sensed no cruelty in him and he certainly did not seem like a dangerous criminal to me.

Ron told me that he had been denied parole repeatedly because Jen’s parents had mounted a citywide campaign to keep him in jail. Each year when Ron was eligible to be released, Jen’s parents took out newspaper ads, exerted their political influence, and orchestrated a concerted community effort to “keep this killer off the streets.” Yet, looking at this man, I did not see a killer at all. I saw a basically good man who had made a heartbreaking mistake.

“So how are you dealing with Jen’s parents?” I asked Ron.
“I send them love and prayer,” he answered. “I understand that they are very angry and they must be in great pain. If I could go back and undo my act, I surely would. More than anything, I wish I could bring Jen back. But I can’t. So I am just deepening my relationship with God right where I am and trying to be a blessing to the world.”

As I left my meeting with Ron that day, I wondered who was really in prison. Ron was locked up physically, but his soul was soaring. Meanwhile, Jen’s parents were quite wealthy and enjoyed unlimited physical freedom, yet they were consumed by anger and vengeance. It seemed to me that their wrathful thoughts were creating walls more formidable than those encasing Ron.

Because we are spiritual beings at our essence, what we do with our spirit influences us more profoundly than what we do with our body. Heaven and hell are not places we go or conditions the outer world imposes on us; they are experiences we create with our thoughts and beliefs. A Course in Miracles tells us, “I am affected only by my thoughts.” Where our mind goes, there we are. The desire to hurt brings us instant pain, while the desire to heal brings us instant freedom.

If you are angry with anyone, or involved in a conflict, keep reaching for a solution that leaves everyone whole. If you feel you need to hurt someone or take something away from them to make things even, you do violence mostly to yourself. Instead of seeing them as a villain, regard them as wounded or calling for love. No one does anything mean or foolish unless they are in great pain. To try to inflict more pain only exacerbates their sense of disconnection. As you connect with your own sense of peace, you invite them to claim theirs. Only then can you say you have won.


Time to change your point of view?

September 29, 2005 at 11:30 am

[via Iti]

Imagine you’re in an Airport. While you’re waiting for your flight, you notice a bakery counter selling fresh cookies. You buy a box, put them in your traveling bag and then you patiently search for an available seat so you can sit down and enjoy your cookies. Finally you find a seat next to a gentleman. You reach down into your traveling bag and pull out your box of cookies.

As you do so, you notice that the gentleman starts watching you intensely. He stares as you open the box and his eyes follow your hand as you pick up the cookie and bring it to your mouth. Just then he reaches over and takes one of your cookies from the box, and eats it! You’re more than a little surprised at this. Actually, you’re at a loss for words. Not only does he take one cookie, but he alternates with you. For every one cookie you take, he takes one.

Now, what’s your immediate impression of this guy? Crazy? Greedy? He’s got some nerve?! Can you imagine the words you might use to describe this man to your associates back at the office? Meanwhile, you both continue eating the cookies until there’s just one left. To your surprise, the man reaches over and takes it. But then he does something unexpected. He breaks it in half, and gives half to you. After he’s finished with his half he gets up, and without a word, he leaves.

You think to yourself, “Did this really happen?” You’re left sitting there dumbfounded and still hungry. So you go back to the shop and buy another box of cookies. You then return to your seat and as you begin opening your new box of cookies, you glance down into your traveling bag. Sitting there in your bag is your original box of cookies — still unopened.

Only then do you realize that when you reached down earlier, you had reached into the other man’s bag, and grabbed his box of cookies by mistake. Now what do you think of the man? Generous? Tolerant? You’ve just experienced a profound paradigm shift. You’re seeing things from a new point of view. Is it time to change your point of view?

No small meetings

September 28, 2005 at 3:00 pm

[via Boopesh]

How much is a kind word worth? How deeply can a touch heal? How important are your little interactions with your family, friends, and clients?

Hairdresser David Wagner learned these answers from a customer who came to him regularly every month. One day she phoned David in between her regular visits and asked if he would style her hair for an important event that evening. David fit her into his schedule and gave her his usual loving attention. He talked amiably with her, laughed, touched her kindly, and told her how beautiful she looked. After her session, she smiled and thanked him.

You can imagine David’s shock when a few days later he received a handwritten letter from the woman explaining that the important event she wanted to look good for that evening was her own funeral. She had planned to commit suicide later that day. When she spent time with David, however, the kindness he showed her influenced her to change her mind. She decided that life was worth living, and she could go on.

This extraordinary feedback inspired David to reconsider what he was doing with his work and his life. He realized that his purpose with customers went far beyond cutting hair. Within his own sphere of influence he had the power to make people’s days – and even lives. So he adopted the vocation of “Daymaker.” Now, as owner of ten successful spas that treat thousands of people each day, David teaches his employees to see themselves as daymakers.

His inspiring book Life as a Daymaker chronicles his adventures and techniques. Never underestimate the power of a kind word or thought. It may affect one or many, many people without you even knowing it. Even a gentle touch can make a huge difference.

My friend Rick Jarrow was participating in an intensive Zen meditation retreat that required him to meditate many hours a day in rigorous conditions. One morning Rick decided this was just too hard, and he would leave the retreat after the morning silent walking meditation practice. During the walk, a student behind Rick gently placed his hand on Rick’s shoulder. “In that touch,” Rick told me, “I felt totally comforted and encouraged. It was as if my friend was saying, ‘I know this is hard for you. I believe in you. You have what it takes to do this.’ So I decided to stay, and I went on to gain tremendous strength from that retreat. That touch was the turning point.”

You don’t even need to speak or touch someone to help them. You can serve simply by the energy of your being. Emerson noted, “Who you are speaks to me so loudly that I can hardly hear what you are saying.” Indeed at every moment we radiate empowerment or discouragement simply by the feelings we dwell in.

One day while I was standing in line at a deli counter, I noticed a woman in a line beside mine. She kept looking at me as if she knew me. I didn’t recognize her, so I just kept moving ahead. When we finally arrived at the counter at the same time, the woman turned to me and asked, “Why are you so happy?” Her question took me by surprise. I wasn’t thinking about being happy or even trying. “I guess I’m just glad to be here and alive,” I answered. “How about you?” I asked her. “How is your day going?” She thought for a moment and then answered, “Well, it wasn’t going so well. But now that I saw you, I feel a lot better.”

With that, we both smiled and went on our ways. As I thought more about her comment, I realized it was the most meaningful compliment I could ever receive. Just being was healing. I have experienced such healing simply by seeing a peaceful person for a moment.

One day I was rushing through an airport when I noticed a man who looked unusually serene. His face was soft, his gait was light, and his demeanor felt comforting. In that moment my energy shifted from anxious hurry to deep peace. Though he will never know it, he taught me that airports are not necessarily stressful. Stressful thoughts are more dangerous than airports. If we choose healing thoughts, we become a beacon of peace in apparently dense or dark places.

A friend went to pick up a revered rabbi from the airport. As the two drove toward the tollbooths to exit the airport parking lot, my friend had to choose between an automatic payment lane and a lane manned by an attendant. “Take the lane where you pay a person,” the rabbi urged him. “Why is that?” asked my friend. “Because any opportunity to make contact with another human being is a blessing from God,” answered the rabbi.

In this light, every one of our interactions is a prayer. There are no chance encounters and no small meetings. Everyone we meet is sent to us by God for a noble purpose. Every relationship, no matter how brief, is an invitation to connect. As we remember to keep love first, we have our priorities in order and we might even save someone’s life – beginning with our own.


Paheli is India’s Oscar entry

September 27, 2005 at 1:00 pm

Oh S**t!

You’ve got to believe me

September 27, 2005 at 10:10 am

[via Boopesh]

Are you worrying about how something important to you will turn out? I know the answer. You’ve got to believe me.

I dreamed that a friend of mine had just gone through a painful breakup with her boyfriend. She felt devastated because she had thought for sure this fellow was the man of her dreams and they would be together for life. Now she was heartbroken and discouraged, and feared to face her future.

In the dream, I was telephoning my friend from two years forward in the future. From that vantage point, I knew what had happened since her breakup. Her future was already history to me. During that time she had met a wonderful man, they had married, and she was very happy. The breakup was of no consequence now; in fact, it put her in a position to meet this fine fellow.

On the telephone, I told her, “Please listen to me. I know this sounds crazy, but I am seeing your life from two years ahead of where you are now. I know what will happen because, from where I am standing, it has already happened. Within the next two years you will meet an awesome man and be happily married. You’ve got to believe me.”

I awoke from the dream feeling deep bliss and fulfillment. There are many levels and kinds of dreams; this one was an inspirational vision from a higher power. Beyond the message for my friend, I had received a universal lesson. God could call any of us up and say, “Please listen to me. I am standing in your future, and I can tell you with perfect assurance that the thing you are worrying about now is utterly meaningless. Everything is going to turn out all right, and you will have everything you want. You’ve got to believe me . . .”

One day when I had just begun to present seminars, I was driving to a program and I began to feel nervous. What if my presentation flopped? What if people did not like me? What if my anxiety undermined my skill? And on and on. Then another voice popped into my head with a profound statement that helps me even now. It noted, “You always get nervous before a program, and the program always turns out great. So why bother worrying?” Instantly I relaxed and let go of my fear. The program was a success, and since that time I have approached my presentations with a sense of knowing that all is well and everything will turn out fine.

At one seminar, a young Jewish woman tearfully told of a painful relationship conflict she was struggling with. She was in love with a Muslim man, but her father forbade her to see him. This created a deep quandary for her, since she could not reconcile her love for this man with her desire to honor her father’s wishes and keep harmony in her family. She went on to wrestle with this issue for a long time, and returned to another seminar a year later, still distraught.

Then, several months later, she mailed me a copy of a letter she had written to her father. The letter was a masterful communication filled with honesty, clarity, and compassion. She told her father that she loved him very much and appreciated all that he was to her, but she had to follow her heart and be with the man she loved. As I read the letter, I realized that this woman had finally claimed her power and made a loving stand for her truth.

A year later I received a beautiful photo of her wedding, and a few years later I received another photo of their newborn child. Meanwhile, her father came around to support her. This woman’s joyous resolution represents thousands of journeys I have been privy to in my seminars. I see so many people stuck, confused, or fearful about what will come next. Eventually they somehow handle their issues, and the universe gives them a hand with the details. I have seen this process so often in so many lives, including my own, that when I offer counseling, I can assure my clients that somehow things will work out. Their job is to get out of the way and let it be.

And not only do things somehow work out, but the process of getting to that point ultimately empowers them more than if the challenging event had not occurred. So every piece of the jigsaw puzzle fits.

A Course in Miracles tells us, “A happy outcome to all things is sure.” That’s a big chunk of truth to bite off if you are accustomed to fearing that if you do not control every detail of your life – and perhaps the lives of others – things will fall apart. But when you let go and trust the process, things usually fall together. The Course also tells us that it takes great learning to realize that all events, encounters, and experiences are helpful.

So here I am, two years into your future, telling you that that thing you are worried about will turn out fine, and every step in the journey will be an integral one. You’ve got to believe me.


Rising above self, using technology for common good

September 26, 2005 at 10:00 am

A nation is not its land and buildings—it is its people. If we as a nation have to rise and be empowered, the first and the foremost thing we need to do is to empower the people.

Empowerment does not mean amassing of material wealth, or technology, but is entirely an inner process, a spiritual process. Without the necessary sensitivity, inner balance and the faculty of discrimination in individuals, widespread negativity and perversions creep in. This is how a human being or an entire culture sinks to its depths.

Never before has mankind been as comfortable as it is today. The kind of comforts and conveniences that even kings did not have a hundred years ago are now available to the common man. Today our pursuit for these is so vigorous that the very life of the planet is being threatened. Yet, it cannot be said that we are any happier than our forefathers. This is because people try to create an outwardly perfect life, but the quality of our lives is based upon our interiority.

Modern technology has tremendous capability for both—creating well-being or total destruction. Without bringing in the dimension of spirituality that brings an experience of all-inclusiveness in individuals, it will surely bring destruction not just to humanity but the planet itself.

After all, whatever every human being is doing, whether it is pursuing money, or pleasure or God, he is only seeking his own well-being. Spirituality only expands this innate urge to include the whole humanity within oneself. This is the only way that human well-being can happen.

Developing the spiritual core of humanity does not mean propagating any particular religion. Unfortunately, today most religions have been reduced to mere belief systems. And belief systems are bound to conflict with one another. Spirituality means to raise the body, mind and spirit to its true potential. Once this is established other challenges can be handled rather effortlessly. When we strive to create human beings functioning at their ultimate potential then his general well-being is naturally take care of.

In every society, it is necessary that there is at least a handful of people whose passion in life is beyond their own well-being. Every society needs those individuals who will go on planting mango trees without thinking whether they will get to eat the fruits or not. Of all the degenerations we have suffered, this is the most damaging, as the nation has been deprived of its greatest strength—producing exalted beings who are rooted in a different dimension of existence and whose very presence is a blessing to the planet.

One example that the world is familiar with and whose fruits we continue to eat is Gautama Buddha. As a prince, perhaps he would have had a few more wives and children and ruled over his little kingdom, but as an Enlightened Master in many ways he has changed the course of life on the planet. We value this culture not because we happened to be born into it, but because this culture had perfected the technology of producing such beings.

When I was twelve or thirteen years of age I happened to come across some literature in which Swami Vivekananda said ‘‘Give me hundred truly dedicated people and I will change the face of this country.’’ At that time it seems there were three hundred and thirty million people in this country, but he could not find a hundred truly dedicated people. I thought what a tragedy!

A man like Vivekananda, he’s a phenomena, he doesn’t happen every day. When he comes, we could not even give him a hundred people in this vast country. It seemed like a great tragedy for this culture and this country. From that day I always thought in my life I must create at least those hundred people the man dreamt of. For twenty years I have gone around working for this and today, I can proudly say, that we have created many people who place the well-being of the world around much above their own—life or death, these people will fulfill what has to be fulfilled.

Today, I can proudly say that in homes and the marketplace alike we have created people whose vision and experience of life is rooted in the harmony and unboundedness of life rather than any narrow perception of the limited. I can proudly say that it is not just the urban and the privileged, but even the impoverished, whose struggle for existence is a daily process, that are able to walk the inner path to well-being. But this is far from fulfilling what is needed.

There was a time where in a society a few people were spiritual and the rest of the people just went to them for blessings and sustained their lives. Today, with the tools of science and technology we have brought ourselves to a self-threatening situation that everybody in the society needs to turn spiritual, otherwise there is no survival for this world. With the kind of equipment, and capabilities that we have, it just takes one fool to blow it up. And there are any number of those fools standing in the queue to get to the top.

So spirituality is no more a fancy pursuit. It is an absolute necessity for our own survival and the planet’s survival that every human being brings in the spiritual dimension into his life. Unless some sense of oneness touches the people, especially to the leadership in the planet, then self-destruction is a live threat.

Skeptics are quick to ask, ‘‘Is such a thing possible?’’ I want to tell them, do not think of the future of the world on the basis of existing realities. Existing realities on the planet could be changed in a moment, because existing realities do not take into consideration people’s will, they do not take into consideration people’s commitment, they do not take into consideration the love in their hearts.

Existing realities are just looking at the number of people that died on the planet today, the number that were slaughtered today, the number of bombs that exist on the planet, but statistics cannot consider what is beating in the human heart. If only we can stoke that, if only we can stir up what is happening in individual hearts, miracles are possible.

It is not far away, we just need to work for it. With the spiritual legacy of this land, with the spiritual processes that are available to us today, it is definitely a possibility. If we dedicate ourselves to making this happen around us, we can see in our own lifetime something tremendous and dramatic happening on the planet.



Katha Upanishad – Discourse by Swami Atmashraddhananda

September 25, 2005 at 6:53 pm

As promised, the next post regarding the discourse by Swami Atmashraddhananda on Katha Upanishad on our blog.

Please click on “Reference” to take you there. Thanks.

Mr. Suryanarayana Rao – A Tribute

September 25, 2005 at 1:45 pm

As a tribute to my teachers, I had written this about Mr. Suryanarayana, my mathematics teacher during Intermediate days at Hyderabad:

“There was one Mr. Suryanarayana who was a Don in the World of Calculus. His style of teaching was so simple and clear that I became a fan of Calculus. He used to be called M1 at college. [It was a system to label teachers as M1, M2, so on in SRM Junior college/ Special Coaching Centre]”

In response to this, I have received a connect from one Mr. Vidyanath saying Mr. Suryanarayana is no more. He passed away 4 years back.

During our Intermediate days, professor was not keeping very well. He would come whenever his health permitted him to. We would wait with great excitement for his arrival. Because once he came, the class would be a roller-coaster ride. Nobody would believe it was a mathematics class. He would stand on the dais for a mere 15 minutes; explain the concept that he would be handling during the next two hours. Then, he would walk around between the benches clarifying doubts of students with amazing patience.

Subjects like Calculus, co-ordinate geometry and others were just made to sound so simple. It was Mr. Suryanarayana Rao who drove the fear of mathematics away from us. Instead he made it our most favourite subject. I know of atleast 80 people (my intermediate class) who just adored him. Some of us would call him “Thatha” not out of ridicule but affection.

Even today if I am faced with a problem of mathematics, I won’t run away saying that I have forgotten all this. Instead I will try approaching it from first principles. The fundamentals which the Great professor has so superbly taught us. It is now fun to do mathematics.

Thanks to you Sir. Thanks! If I say you were God to me, I don’t think I would be off the mark. Guru devo bhava. Now that you are with God, please tell God to send more people like you to make more students understand the fun behind every subject. You know the best as to how learning can be made effortless.

In the form of your death, special coaching center has lost its best professor. The students are never going to realize what they have lost. The student community, who has learnt from you, will know what a great loss it is. For me, it’s a great personal loss. I have lost my Guru. And I guess I had done something really bad not to know about the loss for 4 years. I will miss you Sir!

Also, thanks to Mr. Vidyanath for updating me. Please keep in touch.

The Brick

September 23, 2005 at 6:30 pm

[via Suma]

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.

The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?” The young boy was apologetic.

“Please, mister…please, I’m sorry but I didn’t know what else to do,” He pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop…” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. “It’s my brother, “he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.”

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. “Thank you and may God bless you,” the grateful child told the stranger.

Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.

It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: “Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!” God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It’s our choice to listen or not.

Visting parents – God thinks otherwise

September 21, 2005 at 3:30 pm

Hyderabad is where my parents stay. I work out of Chennai. Though not a home-sick kind of guy but still like going home. I feel there’s a certain duty that I owe towards my parents. And these duties we can carry out only on being with them.

Once during a discussion with my close friend – Iti – we agreed that there were so many things that our parents depend on us for. But most of the time, we were away [atleast Iti and I were away from our parents while studying and working] from them pursuing what we called the ‘career’ aspects. And in fact, they [our parents] wanted us to succeed in them. And once we got into the ‘career’ mode that was it, we went on with our lives as if it was now absolutely independent from the whole world. Yeah, we keep talking about how “teamwork” is important at workplace and how we should life our teammates when they are down or help them out in case they had some issues. Somewhere down the line, we slowly pushed our parents and family to the background. They are always there.

In fact, when my dad bought his first car – a second hand blue Maruti 800, I was so excited. At that time I was with my parents [doing my intermediate] and it was really a happy issue for me. Not that I did something great on the car’s arrival. It was just that I was there. After that, we moved through a new white maruti 800 – to – a silver maruti Zen – to – a Hyundai Accent. I never even knew the day when these cars were being purchased. [Yeah, I know the mistake here is mine and throughout this article I continue to admit that the mistake is mine]. I missed sharing the joy of my parents on getting the new cars. I wasn’t there.

My brother on the other hand has always had the great fortune of being with our parents throughout. Though he feels he would have done better if he had moved away for his undergraduation [Like me], I think he has a long way to go. During which he can actually go through everything he wants.

Iti says, “There are so many things that our parents want us to do for them. But they don’t generally say it out because they feel we might not like it. But as you start living with them, you realise that there are so many small things that you do which give them immense happiness. These things you cannot do if you are away from them”. Typical of Iti to put the most sensible of things in the most simple of ways!

I have been wanting to go to Hyderabad for the past couple of months now. And something or the other keeps coming in my way. This time I have planned to make it there for the weekend of 24th & 25th. And with heavy rains lashing the state of AP, many trains have been cancelled [including Charminar express]. And my dad also says, that it’s better I stay put at Chennai. And he was the one who was asking me if I would be coming home this weekend or not during every phone call.

God has his own ways of dealing with things. I find myself too small-minded to accept his ways. And I can never be big enough to refuse them. If he just wanted me not to go to Hyderabad he could have done something else. What’s the use of troubling so many people all over the state for it? I protest. And God, you better listen. Enough is enough. Among many other things, You flooded mumbai, hit New Orleans with a hurricane, now again inundating Andhra. What’s your anger against?