Sometimes when I give too much importance to my emotions then I see the quality of my life deteriorating. Activity of the mind becomes uncontrollable. Closing eyes seems to take you to the heart of the matter but only to increase the activity further. How do we break free from our tendency to identify ourselves with thing that we clearly know we aren’t?
Yesterday my colleague and I had a longish discussion on ‘free will’ and ‘determinism’ (Ok ok, don’t close the window, they are in fact the world’s way of communicating simple things. Look at these links  and . Don’t read in detail – just the first couple of lines will give you an idea of what they mean) and his conclusion was that ‘Illusion of free will is necessary for society to carry on’. Okay so at a fundamental level I don’t believe in either of them. And no this is not going to be a long post about my philosophy and all that. Just a word on how my experience transcended both the above-mentioned concepts!
I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.
My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.
Sometimes, there are events that occur that cannot be labeled as mere events. These events (I continue to use the word because of the lack of a better alternative in my woefully inadequate vocabulary of English) change something at the core of you. The “you” that you don’t even know forget getting to understand. Something to that effect happened to me yesterday. Though it happened yesterday I had like to believe that it was some sort of a cumulative blast of all these days that I thought I was alive.
As you know, I did my Yoga class again this June. But this time round there was a grand climax to the class. All the participants would get to meet Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev [To know more about him, click here] in a Maha Sathsangh on Sunday, June 22 2008. Though I call it climax, this was not a climax to an end but a climax to an all new beginning. Since I had done the class I was also there at the Maha Sathsangh appropriately titled “Ananda Sangham”.
It started at 6.00PM or so. We started our Yoga practices in unison. Imagine around 8,000 people doing Yoga together and chanting “Aum” at once. The vibrations that I felt was a divine experience! As we finished, Sadhguru appeared clapping to the tunes of ‘Sounds of Isha’ – Isha Foundation’s own musical band. All of us stood up and tried getting as close as we could to catch a view of Sadhguru but I guess I was outdone by the pace of others. Though I went up and near I found I did not have a place to squat, so I came back to roundabout the same place I was before. And this was the last row of the gathering. I sat down with my legs stretched out. Araam se!
Sadhguru started with the story of his great grandmother who lived for 114 years and who he met only during his summer vacations. This was when he was in his early teens. His great grandmother renounced the world and family and left for her vanaprastha at the age of 69. She built a small temple on someone else’s land and lived there despite her family owning thousands of acres of ancestral land that left her family members wondering what she was upto. She used to come back to her ancestral home whenever Sadhguru and his cousins came for vacation and stay for a while. During this period Sadhguru observed that she used to do lot of the so-called crazy stuff. She would feed half of her meal to the ants in the house and watch with tears of happiness flowing down her eyes as they ate what she offered. She would go into the Pooja room and laugh loudly, cry with happiness, offer flowers to the Gods through her feet and do all kinds of stuff that people labeled her as a crazy woman. Nobody ever understood what was happening. Whenever Sadhguru approached her and asked her to explain her actions she would apparently let out a loud laugh and say nothing else. Sadhguru always wondered at the large-heartedness of his great grandmother. How could she give away half of what she was supposed to eat to the ants?
“Here I am with a few marbles that I cannot part with. Even when friends asked me for those marbles I would give them with great reluctance and maintain accounts at the same time. I would ensure I had it recorded somewhere, even if its only in my brain, that to whom I have given how many marbles. And in front of me is a lady who cries with happiness donating half of what she is supposed to eat to the ants! How is that?”, wondered Sadhguru. And as usual whenever he asked her anything about any of her actions, the only response he ever remembered getting was loud laughter. Sadhguru never quite got to the bottom of it considering that she died at the ripe old age of 114 years that too because she was fighting cancer for the last couple of years. Cancer affected her due to the habit of chewing tobacco leaves that she caught on from the age of 24 or so.
“This does not mean that if you chew on tobacco leaves, you will live for 90 years. [Laughs] Imagine the number of years she would have lived had she not chewed on those leaves”, said Sadhguru to which the crowd responded through loud applause. Sadhguru wanted to drive home the point of offering yourselves completely to whatever you do. It did not matter what you did. Even feeding a few ants would then become such an act of pleasure that anything in this life could be made joyful. In fact life is joyful
Being joyful is the fundamental position of a human being. Shambhavi Maha Mudra [Link] is a powerful process of immeasurable antiquity. Sadhguru said that it (the Mudra) was being used in an elite circle of Yogis and enlightened people till now because they did not want such a powerful technique to get into the hands of the common man as it might be used for the wrong purposes. But he has apparently toned it down into a capsule and administered it into us so that we can attain happiness out of it for sure but if and when we try to misuse it, it will not work. That’s they way he has built the course.
“For most of you, the happiness from the Mudra might not be evident as yet but then the seed has been planted. The seed will grow into a plant and a tree if you provide the right conditions for it to grow. The conditions have been taught to you in the class. If you do not provide the right conditions for the seed to grow then it will be equivalent to keeping the seed on a rock. Nothing will happen. If you try to use the positives arising out of the Mudra for foretelling the future or something like that it won’t happen because that is the way it has been designed”, said Sadhguru. “If you have a problem doing the practices twice a day for 40 days and then atleast once a day for 6 months, then do it twice a day for the entire six months!”, he concluded to a rapturous applause.
Then it was question and answer session. We were given chits of paper on which we could write down whatever questions we had for Sadhguru to answer before the program started. People had different kinds of questions to which Sadhguru had quick, intelligent and most importantly un-redoubtable answers. One question and answer I remember very clearly was this:
Q: Sadhguru, how do we get over the death of a dear one?
A: [Sadhguru breathes in and out heavily and asks] “What is this? Life? Right?”
[Sadhguru breathes out once and stops for a while before asking] “What is this? Death? Right?”
“Now, someone or the other is dying in my family on a daily basis. What should I do about it? You don’t understand? This universe full of people is my family. How should I get over it? Get over what? You mean to get over the fact that the body, mind and emotions that you recognised the person by is no longer here, right? But when you could feel all of that of that person what did you do with that? The very fact that you want to get over it means that there is something that you did not do for the person which you ideally wanted to do when the person was alive. Do you know what that means? The person died but is alive inside you.
Everything happening in this world is happening where? Inside you. Am I right? I am talking here, where is it happening? Inside you. The tree is there but where is it actually? In your eyes, again inside you, right? You know all that nonsense of light falling on that image is getting reflected and creating an inverted image on your retina that is being read by your mind and shown to you in the way that it is, right? So where is everything happening? Where is the world? Inside you. Whatever is happening here is actually happening inside you. The moment it comes into your experience the world is inside you. So where is death of a dear one happening? Inside you?
This January when I was at the World Economic Forum, there was this nonagenarian lady who came upto me and narrated her experience. As a 13 year old she was from some part in Europe that was being conquered by Hitler and they were systematically exterminating the Jews and other people as well. It was at a time when her parents had disappeared, assumed dead, and she was left with her 8 year old brother at the railway station for around 4 to 5 days waiting for a train that would take her somewhere. As soon as they got on to the train, she noticed that her kid brother was not wearing shoes. He had missed it somewhere. The temperatures there are freezing cold. She got enraged and wrenched her brother’s ears for not wearing his shoes and scolded him almost throughout the journey. The boy did not respond even a single line. As the train reached its destination the boys and the girls were separated and taken away to their respective camps for extermination. The girl survived the camp and came out alive after 4 or 5 years and never saw her brother again.
To this day she remembers this incident with lot of emotions. But she said that she made an important decision from then. The last thing that she ever gave her brother was admonishment and hence whoever she met from that day on she spoke to them as if it was the last word she would ever speak to them. Please see how you interact with people at home, neighbours, colleagues, people on the road and others. Imagine if it was the last word you would ever speak to them and speak to them from now on. How would you speak? Would you still speak the same way or would there be a change in the way you spoke to them? In fact it is a reality. Look at it – you are here now, I am speaking to you. Is there any gaurantee that you will be here next moment or tomorrow? Not that I want all of you to die or disappear suddenly, in fact I wish and pray that all of you lead long and happy lives [folds his hands in prayer], but can you gaurantee me that you will be alive the next moment for me to speak to you?
Now the reason that you want to get over the death of a dear one is because somewhere deep down you feel you have not done or said something that you ideally wanted to do for the departed. Now that the person has departed you feel you have lost the opportunity of doing whatever you wanted to do. Imagine if you spoke and lived as if it was the last time you ever saw the person. Would there be any reason for you to get over death at all?
While doing this program, Anandha Alai, two of my volunteers have had an accident and have broken their skulls and died. Two others of my family, very loved ones, very dear ones have passed away recently. If we have done whatever we wanted to do for them then we continue to live joyously, right? We don’t have to let sadness affect us because they have passed away. We can be joyful and happy when our conscience is clear”
There were many other questions and answers. This one answer particularly created a deep imprint. There were questions on how to move my body energies from one chakra to another and many other topics that Sadhguru handled with typical elan and wit. The Q&A session ended by 8.45PM or so. I have no idea about the timings because I did not carry a watch with me. I did not want any distractions while I was with Sadhguru. Sadhguru asked us all to stand up and sing along with him. He sang a song in the praise of Lord Shiva and we sang along. Then ‘Sounds of Isha’ took over and played some soulful music. And Sadhguru was walking off the stage while saluting all of us. As he came to the edge of the stage he stopped and turned. The music was playing all along. He was still saluting us, but this time round his expression seemed to be more serious. This routine, of Sadhguru walking upto the edge of the stage and returning to the center, repeated itself again and by the fourth time I was close enough to the stage to see tears streaming down Sadhguru’s eyes. Sadhguru had tears streaming down his eyes, uncontrollably, and his hands were tied in an eternal namaskaram. Seeing him like that something happening inside me. I went into a daze. He finally walked off the stage after around ten minutes on the stage. (Any reference to absolute time or period of time is absolutely a figment of imagination. I have no idea how long anything took)
In the same dazed state, I too walked off. I sensed that ‘Sounds of Isha’ had continued their music and there were people dancing blissfully to it. But in my daze, my feet took me to the chappals stand. My chappals were exactly where I had left them! Imagine 8,000 people and still your chappals have not even moved in their position by an inch! I was amazed that in this daze I could actually analyze something to this extent. And walked to the parking lot. All the way I was looking only one way – down at my feet. I didn’t look at anyone else or anything else. This I realised only later.
As I reached the parking lot and got to my bike I broke down. I cried uncontrollably. Tears came out as if they were just waiting for years to come out. I had no idea why I was crying. At the same time as I was crying my mind was telling me, “Adi, what is this? why are you crying? this is a public place. stop crying. don’t be a fool”. I had no idea what was happening to me. Initially I tried to stop the tears and the crying, I was hugely unsuccessful. I did not know if it was the effect of anything at all. I do not know, even now, why I cried. I just cried. It kept coming. There was no way of stopping it. Then my mind realised it knew how to stop me from crying. It asked me to call my wife and tell her that I was on my way back home. I realized that was not such a good idea later.
I picked up my phone from inside my bag. I remember seeing the time then as 9:23PM and all the timings you see here are a reverse calculation from here. I called my wife.
My voice broke.
My wife: “Hello, hello, hello….”
Me: “It’s me Aditya speaking”
Wife: “What’s wrong? Your voice does not seem alright”
I broke down completely. I was sobbing uncontrollably again. And at the same time, since it was a parking lot and had rained the day before, a enfield bullet guy fell down as he was taking his bike out. I went forward to help him, all this while I am sobbing uncontrollably. I lift his bike up and he leaves.
Me: “I will come home and speak”
Wife: “Hope everything is alright?”
I don’t remember if I answered the question or not. Because I do not know, even now – after almost a day has passed, if everything was alright.
I got on to my bike and started driving home. On the way tears just kept streaming down my cheeks. My helmet was completely wet by the time I reached home. It was a good 20 to 25 minutes drive. And nothing seemed to stop my tears. I assumed that once I get back home I had be normal.
I got back home. I picked up my 14 month old son and sat down on a chair while he was on my laps . My wife came and sat down next to me near my legs in a very concerned manner. She knew something was wrong but was not sure whether to broach the topic or not in front of the kid. The kid would get disturbed to see his father sobbing like a child. But I guess she could not control and asked, “So, how was it? What happened there?”
I started my reply with something I don’t quite remember but broke down midway again. This was shocking. Tears again. My son was thankfully looking at the Sun TV music that was playing loudly. He loves that music. My wife said, “Ok stop now. Don’t cry in front of him. He will get scared”. I don’t know if I understood what she said but nevertheless I controlled it somehow. As I went to change my dress, I found tears coming. And I guess that was the last instance I saw of it. Then we sat down for dinner and it was all fine. Post dinner I watched Star Movies that was playing “Rang De Basanti” which is one of my all-time favourite movies and I slept after that.
I am going to leave this post untitled because I don’t know what I can call this experience. Something inside me changed for sure. I am not trying to analyze why the tears came or why I cried or what happened. It just happened and that’s the truth. I wanted to share my experience with all of you and hence the blogpost. It might sound like just another story when you read it on this blog, I know that and despite that I am posting it here because I wish and pray that everyone in this world goes through an experience that is so deep that putting it down in words becomes impossible. I want to end this post with my utmost gratitude to Sadhguru. I am yours Sadhguru. Do what you want with me.
There was a yoga course that I did in September 2005. Today I attended the first class of another programme by the same foundation. It is a good foundation to be involved with an enlightened guru leading the way – Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. I had a couple of posts [1,2] on Sadhguru in the past. Yet to have the privilege of meeting him face to face. His CDs and DVDs are a very influential source by itself. I can imagine meeting him must be quite an experience of energy.
Some people have this amazing knack of ignoring problems. Unfortunately they don’t ignore the problems, they ignore the people behind the problem leaving behind a tremendous sense of frustration in the people with whom they were once interacting. And when at some point of time there is a face-to-face interaction which goes beyond a given point then they are usually stunned to see the amount of flak they are recieving. Why is it tough for them to understand that they were the ones who swept these things under the carpet when they had to deal with it?
Watched this movie ‘Santhosh Subramaniam’ yesterday. Its a tamil remake of the telugu blockbuster “Bommarillu“. Here is a feel-good review about the movie. I am not sure it is so pleasant to sit through, but it is okay. The point of bringing it up here is that I wanted to discuss the concept of the movie. I liked the fundamental idea of how an over-caring parent can actually affect the childrens’ lives. Though I have certain differences in the way I think reality pans out and the way the movie does. The discussion here is not about the movie. I just want to pick the concept and start a thread here on it.
Parents, some of them, do not realise that they are overstepping their roles under the garb of ‘caring for their children’. In fact overstepping would be the wrong term to use. They would cease to be parents when they don’t understand what’s the best interests of their children. There are some parents I know who always are with their children, physically present I mean. As absurd and practically impossible as it might sound, I know some of them who do this. A manifestation of this is seen in the mentality of the parents while deciding on sending their children out of station for studies. That child has to make a living on his/ her own and you need to give him/ her the best possible education. If the best means outside the city you are staying in, then so be it. What is the big deal? The kid will stay outside your shelter during his/ her formative years and will learn to deal with the world on his/ her own terms. This will help the kid become a much better person. Why can’t parents understand this?
I know a father of two who had to send his younger daughter for her MBA to a city that’s around 300+ kilometers away from his home city. He reacted as if the daughter was being pushed into the dungeons knowingly. It took me quite some time to convince him and then his wife started off with her usual “She is a kid, will she be able to manage?” kind of stuff. Well, I told them, its precisely why she should be sent there so that she will learn to manage. Manage herself, her friends, her stuff, and pretty much everything that relates to her. Hostel life is something that teaches you what you need to do yourself to become successful in life. And such overprotective parents really affect the development of the child. Today the child can walk into a railway station all alone, spot her train, get into it and reach the destination without any pangs of pressure. Just ask her mother to do it – she cant travel alone even to save her life! Even her dad (the mother’s dad) is not sure if she will reach the destination for which she is seated in the train! And she wants to bring her daughter up to become like her.
There are times when the right spoken word can really make you feel happy for days. That’s exactly what happened to me.
I had invested all my effort, days and time into making a report for one of our investee companies (I am an investor now. Check out my about page). I spent two nights sitting awake completely, purely working on this document. I had, for some strange reason, taken this assignment as a do-or-die for me. There had been many fingers raised and pointed at me for my lacklustre communication in official documents, maybe that was the reason. My boss guided me a lot on putting it all together. She is a good friend and a well-wisher who I knew before joining this organization.
Finally, the d-hour came when my super boss saw the document. He is known to be a stickler for detail and presentation. To get a document through him is equivalent to getting a piece of paper through a shredder unshred! As he opened it, I could feel my heart in my mouth and could have donated it to him since he anyway did not have one, atleast while looking at written documents. The first word he said just blew me away. “Good!”. Thankfully nobody was looking me because I had broken into an involuntary grin! And somehow could never bring my lips together to shroud my teeth! Yeah that’s how much I was grinning. I mean imagine SB (super boss) saying it was good. Good! Good?!! As he browsed through the document he said thrice “Good”, “very good” and “good”. And capped it off with another “Good, looks like lot of work has gone into this document”. That was it! That pretty much sealed it for me for all the work I had done.
Post Script: SB is not always looking at criticizing. He is actually a very stable and balanced person. He rarely has any biases against anyone or anything. It’s just that his standard of quality expectation from a common man like me is very high. But it’s good because now I know that if I stretch myself I can reach the standards he expects out of me. That’s what actually is making me feel good. The belief that I can do it. Had lost it somewhere along the way. The regaining process has just recieved its first boost!
Someone pinch me please…
It was the shooting of the final episode of the TV program “Ooh… la.. la.. la..“. My brother-in-law Girinandh [Link to one of the news articles on the formation of their band] leads a band called ‘Oxygen’ which has entered the finals. A R Rahman was the judge for the final round. After Oxygen’s performance, Girinandh and his band members went to Rahman to get a group photo done. Apparently, Girinandh had asked my wife to call me [while he finished with his group photo] so that he could introduce me to Rahman. [Can you imagine being introduced to A R Rahman?! As compared to meeting him as yet another guy on the road!] My wife ran up two flights of stairs to call me and I will be eternally grateful to her for the physical strain she undertook at 3AM in the morning.
As soon as I came to know what was happening I dashed downstairs and was standing next to the stage in a jiffy. Girinandh was still involved with the group photo. A R Rahman presented them [all the band members of all the finalists] with an autographed “Pray For Me Brother” DVD. And the band members dispersed after thanking Rahman. On his way back from the stage Girinandh spotted me and waved asking me to come onto the stage. I ran.
It was India versus England. Natwest trophy finals. Kaif and Yuvaraj were guiding India to a historic victory. My father, brother, mother and even my grandmother were on tenterhooks and totally excited watching the action on TV. Every single was cheered and a boundary would just blast the noise levels of the household. And we could hear similar noises from every house in the neighbourhood.
Sitting in a room right next to the TV Room was my kid-cousin Akshay. He was sitting on the computer browsing the net or doing some complicated stuff. He was totally unruffled by the noise and excitement in the adjoining room. In fact from where he sat he could easily see us jumping. He was the youngest in the family (then) and was having such a composed look on his face while we were behaving like children at a zoo! Cricket didn’t matter to him. Everytime there was a roar from our end he would just shout, “what happened?”, to us. We would reply, “Yuvaraj just smashed Harmisson for a boundary! Only 30 runs to go and 4 overs remaning!”. He would reply, “Oh aste na. sari”.
But his best reaction was when we were all thrilled when India won the match. He casually walked out of his room and said, “Did India win?”. He said that, he didn’t ask because nobody answered!