Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dew drops and Kabir

So far, I've tried to be a responsible blogger - I like to think that all my posts are relevant to somebody somewhere. Today, I'm breaking this practice. This post is only for me - for me to enjoy years from now, when the memory of this evening becomes hazy.
When my friend Susheel invited me for a satsang at his restaurant Vriksh and he told me that a renowned Kabir panth will be singing his doheys, I knew I was in for a treat. What I didn't expect was a soul-altering experience.
Shabnam Virmani, along with Vipul, mesmerized her small audience, reducing a good number of us to tears on more than one occasion. Each time she hit a high octave, I found my body tremble with ecstasy and the atoms therein rearranging themselves into a newfound harmony. Adding dimensions of power to her voice were her 4-stringed tanpura, a linear cymbal-like instrument and, of course, the contemplative poetry of the great mystic. During the brief moments when I was able to slip out of my trance, I marveled at the magic Kabir created by mentioning impermanence and un-truths. It was equally amazing to discover his ability to use Ram as a motif to speak about a universal divinity, including the spark within ourselves.
I think I better stop here. Trying to intellectualize this experience will only dilute it. Besides, years from now, when I want to recollect this evening, the relocated atoms in my body will refresh my memory.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The mythical mantra of success

In addition to less flattering instincts, we humans are born with the desire to make sense of our lives. Thereby, we spend a lot of time introspecting on our thoughts, feelings and actions. The rigidity of the past and the uncertainty of the future rankle us. We need answers. Now! And in this search, we might often reach a dead-end question:
how can I make perfect decisions when I don't even know why I am here?

What I've noticed amongst very many successful people is the exact opposite. They don't seem to be plagued by doubt. On the contrary, they seem to feed their lives with a diet of certainties. Per se, this is inspiring. The less fortunate amongst us can look up to these souls to derive solace and confidence. Yet, there is one questionable attitude in some of these successful people. And it is a result of the following linear reasoning:
1) My life has been a series of challenges which I countered with courage, stamina and a lucid perspective.
2) As a result, my life is a great success story.
3) Therefore, I must have stumbled upon the secret of the universe.
4) And it follows logically that if others follow my path, they too will find success and fulfillment.

To be fair, this linear reasoning isn't confined to the un-doubting successful people of our world. We've all done this at some point in time. Some of us indulge in it more than others, especially when we talk about domains that we appear to have "conquered." And the issue here is point #4. So long as our reasoning is restricted to points 1 to 3, we might just develop arrogance, an inability to empathize etc. But point #4 turns us into preachers.

Let me explore this phenomenon by alluding to a person who told us about the importance of perspective. She said that no matter what challenge we are facing in our lives, we can "switch" - like a light bulb - into a new paradigm of thinking, thereby allowing us to feel empowered and act accordingly. It's a beautiful concept.
If you think your life is difficult, your feelings will dishearten you and your actions will be laboured and ineffective. But if you change your thinking and say: "Life is beautiful!" then you will feel elated and your actions will deliver magical results. In other words, how a situation "occurs" to us determines our behaviour therein. Simple enough.
But can this be taught?
The speaker can say it and the listener can intellectually understand it. But can he accept it? Shouldn't he have to experience the "truth" of this statement? And what about those people who try it out and reject it as unworkable? Does it mean that the idea is untenable?
The issue here is not the idea but its dissemination. Life's lessons are better left open-ended. The most a teacher can say is: "Hey, here's an idea. It's worked well for me. See if it fits you. If not, another idea will come along."

The humblest amongst us might decide that self-awareness is a never-ending process. No matter how much we achieve and where we reach, we can continue to approach every situation with curiosity and wonderment. Such people will not see the situation as something "known." Instead, they will see it as something "new," an opportunity to learn and develop. And in this space, they will no longer feel the desire to extrapolate and "help" others with their findings.

P.S: The very fact that I wrote this essay means that I'm a long way away from attaining this ideal. :).