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TAKE A WALK !


Health, as the saying goes, is wealth. If health takes a back seat in your life and you thrust all your energies towards amassing wealth indiscriminately, you may not be in a healthy condition to enjoy your hard-earned wealth. This is the harsh reality of life and the sooner you realize it, the better it will be.

In the first place, the myth that the body is a ‘structure’ should be taken out of mind. It is in fact a set of processes. In order to ensure the organic processes happen as they should, you need to be in tune with nature and exercise should be treated as a non-negotiable activity of your daily life.

The simplest form of exercise is walking; it has a multitude of benefits both physical and psychological. A simple walk on a daily basis puts you on sound health. The testimony comes from none other than a grand old man of 102 years from Mahabubnagar district (Ayyavaripalli village in Veepanagundla Mandal ) of Andhra Pradesh.

Sesha Sarma, by profession a family priest, wakes up at the crack of dawn and starts his fitness regimen with 2 km walking even at this ripe age. When asked about the secret of his healthy life, he says that he has been walking and doing yoga uninterruptedly for the last 72 years.

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician and father of western medicine sagely said that “Walking is man’s best medicine.   An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. One of America’s greatest philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson used to finalize his talks during his morning walks.

Henry David Thoreau in his much acclaimed essay titled ‘Walking’ (1862) says that walking only comes by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from heaven to become a walker. T o support his assertion, Thoreau says that he can not preserve his health and spirits unless he spends four hours a day at least—and often more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.

While pitying non-walkers, Thoreau says that “When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them —as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

On the mechanics of walking, Thoreau says that you must walk like a camel which is said to be the only beast that  ruminates when walking. Health experts say that the best way to walk is to swing your arms while at it. Bend your arms at right angles to the elbows and swing them while you walk. This will increase the speed of your walk and keep the body in the aerobic zone (the maximum fat-burning zone).

Research reveals that walking increases the level of endorphins – naturally secreted hormones working in brain which increase the sense of wellbeing. A regular walk boosts the immune system, improves mood, reduces blood pressure apart from controlling weight. It is the best stress buster and keeps the head cool.

When it comes to right gear, wear apparel made of breathable fabric. Also invest in good shoes – a flexible, roomy toe to accommodate foot’s forward thrust; and a smooth sole.

Walking has both physical and psychological benefits. Unless a conscious decision is taken at individual level, fitness will remain as a dream.  Experts say that knowledge is of no avail to you if you don't  act upon. So all you need in the first place is, walk the talk!


Book Review : ELEVEN COMMANDMENTS OF LIFE

 

Competition, success are now-a-days more synonymous with Private Sector where the employees need to hone their skills to fight everyday battles of professional life. You need to adopt thousands of tricks to impress the customer. The sales professionals work day is very draining and unless they show up the results at the end of the day, their survival in the organization becomes questionable. For people of such background, this book is a minefield.

His expertise lies in sales, leadership and entrepreneurship skills. He is a known corporate trainer whose target work is productivity enhancement.

Santosh's 11 commandments are as under:

1. Declare your expiry date
2. Be a possibility thinker
3. Rock the boat in the middle of the sea
4. Be autonomous, declare your constitution today
5. Declare that every resource around you will be maximized
6. Declare your thoughts, words, and deeds
7. Declare to be a leader for life
8. Say goodbye to Emotionally Draining Distractions
9. Be ready to be a loner
10.Declare that you will be 'forever alive'
11.Live a life that is difficult to duplicate


Santosh in the Preface of the book says that he started his life as a salesman 29 years ago and chose to be a Meaningful Specific which comprise only 5% in the world. In this great book, he culled out his knowledge and experience from ground zero and wrote this practical book which is a rare of its kind.

The author says that this book is only for those who want to live, learn, love and leave a legacy behind. So investing some bucks for this book is not a bad deal, provided you are willing to raise your bar!

Book Review: HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE by Dale Carnegie

Investing rupees hundred on this book more than a decade ago introduced me to Carnegie's literature and thereafter ignited me to read more self-help books of West.

The principles underlined in this best seller is known to everybody, but the implementation part differentiates a successful man from that of failed lot . In fact, this book is a compilation from the two great books of Dale Carnegie : How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Carnegie wrote these books in 1930s, but the ideas and strategies he recommended remain unchanged as there would be no change in human dimension. It is only the context that changes but the thinking remains same in any age. New technologies may give new comforts but man's explorative mind don't alter with time.

In the Foreword, Dorothy Carnegie says that you already possess hidden assets within yourself that can make your life glorious. All you need is the determination to uncover and use them.

When it comes to the contents of the book, it has all the necessary stuff one needs to tone up his inner world. It has four parts :

- Part One : Seven Ways to Peace and Happiness.
- Part Two : Fundamental Techniques in Handling People.
- Part Three : Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking.
- Part Four : Ways to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

Each part has 4 to 7 chapters each with sub-headings with strategy to be adopted to a particular dimension of problem in life. Those who want to improve in life must keep this book on their bed-side!

THIS IS RIGHT BOOK TO KNOW ''HISTORY OF INDIA''

India is a land of rich culture and traditions. It's civilization flourished when the western civilizations were in the nascent stage. To know what India did in the past centuries, you need to revisit the history and you could not find a better book than Sheila Dhar’s "Children's History of India'' published by Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India (ISBN 978-81-230-1872-0)

The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru in his Foreword to the book on 1st August, 1960 said that ''I have looked through this little book and have liked it. We lack good books on the history of India, more especially for children. This book fills a vacuum and fills it well. The language is easy and suited to young boys and girls.''

Though, it was mentioned that this book is meant for children this books also serves elders as well. The interesting part of the book is all dates were given at the end of the book for reference purpose. The author says that the aim of the book is more to stimulate interest in the study of history than to present a comprehensive survey of facts.

The book is a lucid narrative of history of India in a sequential way. It is a book you need to keep in your personal library to come back and forth whenever necessary !

FORGOTTEN CLASSIC

 

Folk wisdom demands a book review of only new books being published. But sometimes an exception needs to be drawn to some timeless classics of older times.

Dr. Alexis Carrel's book "Man the Unknown' falls under this category. It is a book that delves deep into understanding complex human system. This book is one of the three favorite books of  Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, the former President of India who shared it in his book 'My Journey - Transforming Dreams into Actions (published in 2013). In Dr. Kalam's own words, the book is a description of the human body - how it is an intelligent, integrated system - is explained clearly and brilliantly. He recommends the book for everyone, especially for those whose aim is to study the medical sciences.

Dr. Alexis Carrel is a Nobel laureate in Physiology/ Medicine in 1912. He spent his life promoting spiritualism. When this book was published in 1935, it became an instant best seller, because he cleverly separated the known from the unknown.

What he crystallizes is the existence of unknown and the unknowable. What he said more than eight decades ago still holds good, because we are still in no way nearer to the understanding of basic tenets of life which is self-organizing and also in perfect symphony with Nature.

In fact, the development of science and technology has deepened the mystery of our own existence. Still we don't know where our memory is stored. According to Harvard Medical School professor Rudy Tanzi who is one of the world's foremost experts on the causes of Alzheimer's ( a disease of memory loss) says that we don't know where memory is stored at cellular level though we know that it is conjured up inside the brain.

The book is an interesting journey slowly unraveling truths of human system which is author's long labour and patient research.

Happiness is not a pill we can administer to a person. On this count, Dr. Carrel says that we can not artificially give any individual the formula for happiness.

His insights say that men of genius are not tall. Mussolini is of the medium size and Napoleon was short. While answering the science's most puzzled question, Dr. Carrel says that we don't know the relationship between consciousness and nervous processes. It is still a mystery today to scientists how certain chemical reactions at sub atomic level in the body give the feeling of I'ness or subjective experience - qualia which they term it as 'hard problem'.

Dwelling on the significance of exercise, Dr. Carrel says that certain exercises appear to stimulate thought. For this reason, he relates that Aristotle and his disciples were in the habit of walking while discussing the fundamental problems of philosophy and science. With regard to beauty, he says that the sense of beauty does not develop spontaneously. It exists in our consciousness in a potential state. On the importance of books, Dr. Carrel says that school teachers and university professors, as well as libraries, laboratories, books and reviews are adequate means for developing the mind. Even in the absence of professors, he says that books could be suffice for this task.

The most striking advice from Dr. Carrel is 'work is more effective than alcohol'. The more a muscle works, he says the more it develops. Activity strengthens it, instead of wearing it out.

While analyzing the personality, Dr Carrel says that the richer the personality, the greater would be the individual differences. As he peels off man, he finds vast unknown regions whose potentialities are almost inexhaustible. Equilibrium, he says is obtained in a large measure by intelligence and self control. Dr. Carrel wraps up the book with this exhortation : " We must liberate ourselves from blind technology and grasp the complexity and wealth of our own nature"

A must read book for a holistic approach towards understanding the man who is the crown of creation.

A BOOK REVIEW : LIGHT FROM MANY LAMPS



Great lives give great inspiration.

If wisdom of ages is properly archived, it would definitely help to the succeeding generations.

The book Light from many Lamps, edited by Lillian Eichler Watson' is a perfect blend of wisdom of East and West. It is a storehouse of inspiring quotes with caricature of world’s renowned personalities.

This book is a result of long labour by Watson in culling out the wisdom of past centuries. As the cover flap truly suggests, it is a book of infinite richness and abiding values.

This book is not meant for casual reading. It is a book which you have to come back and forth to endure your sufferings and lift your spirits.

Reading this prose will change the trajectory of your thoughts. The starting page itself is a minefield of timeless wisdom . "Who is a wise man ? In reply, Talmud says that ' He who learns of all men'. The contents of this book is broadly divided into interesting chapters like 'Happiness and Enjoyment of living' and "Faith and inner calm etc . The labour involved in writing a book is better explained by Samuel Johnson ' A man will turn over half a library to make one book'.

While reading this book, the reader gets an opportunity to know the lives of some of the greatest philosophers of past centuries. These immortal words of Charles Kingsley would inspire anybody : " Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done whether you like it or not. Being forced to work and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance, self-control, diligence, strength of will, content and a hundred other virtues which the idle never know' and "Faith and inner calm etc.

The book also has chapters on Rome's best known philosopher Seneca. America's best known President Abraham Lincoln finds place twice in the book. It has chapters on Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Shakespeare, Hippocrates, ST. Paul, Confucius and many more epic personalities.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in his book "My Journey : Transforming Dreams into Actions" mentions this book as one of his three favourite books. Befitting to its tile "Light from many Lamps", truly gives you 'Inner Light' !

GITANJALI - POETRY AT ITS BEST

 
It is exactly over a century ago in November, 1913, a man with flowing beard and sweeping robes of India brought the first Nobel prize for his masterly work called Gitanjali (Song offerings) which is nothing but a loose translations of his Bengali poems.

Rabindranath Tagore is a multi-facet personality of India He is a poet, novelist, playwright, painter, essayist and music composer. He is the first non-European Nobel laureate in literature. His poetry stands aside from the mainstream poets of English world. His open minded reasoning is a celebration of human freedom. Humanism and universalism are the underlying threads of all his literary works.

Gitanjali is a culmination of his accumulated wisdom. This child prodigy churned out his first verse when he was 13.

Gitanjali is a timeless classic that centers on man’s eternal quest. It is a spiritual poetry of 103 beautifully weaved verses in an orderly fashion. Through his work, Tagore shows the path towards the ultimate freedom.

Generally, we are attracted to poetry of rhythmic sounds which is not seen here. What matters here is sophistication of ideas and Tagore poured out his heart in simple lucid prose.

Had the Gurudev not translated Gitanjali into English, perhaps, his poetic beauty might have limited to Bengal only. By doing so, he gives large audience an opportunity to devour his poetry.

When you read Gitanjali, you could say that he became voice of India’s spiritual heritage. When, he was awarded the Nobel prize, vanity did not come on his way. This telegram he flashed on 10th December, 1913 for banquet speech of Award ceremony is strewn with spirituality “I beg to convey to the Swedish Academy my grateful appreciation of the breadth of understanding which has brought the distant near, and has made a stranger a brother”.

His poems are rhetorically simple with philosophical gravity. He left a heritage which no fire could consume, says the noted Bengali film director Satyajit Ray in his documentary on Rabindranath Tagore made in 1961. Ray terms his literature as heritage of words, poetry of ideas and ideals.

The great Irish poet W.B. Yeats who himself was Nobel laureate in 1923, in his Introduction to Gitanjali says that ‘though these prose translations from Rabindranath Tagore have stirred my blood as nothing has for years, I shall not know anything of his life, and of the movements of thought that have made them possible, if some Indian traveler will not tell me.’ Yeats made a sweeping remark that ‘We write long books where no page perhaps has any quality to make writing a pleasure, being confident in some general design, just as we fight and make money and fill our heads with politics – all dull things in the doing – while Mr. Tagore, like the Indian civilization itself, has been content to discover the soul and surrender himself to its spontaneity'.

Gitanjali makes a fiery start with THOU HAST made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fills it ever with fresh life. At some other place, assuming himself as little flower, Tagore earnestly pleads Almighty “ PLUCK THIS little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust.

The cornerstone of Gitanjali is this verse which could well-up your eyes with a sense of gratitude “My poet’s vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only let me make my life simple and straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music.’

While advising contentment in life, Tagore says that “Day by day thou art making me worthy of the simple, great gifts that thou gives to me unasked – this sky and the light, this body and the life and the mind – saving me from perils of overmuch desire.” Many more such soul-stirring verses in Gitanjali are the nuggets of wisdom which takes your soul to new heights.

The real tribute you could pay to this master poet is to read Gitanjali in its entirety and try to grasp its inner dimension which is sublime, musical, mystical and thought provoking!


BUFF YOUR BRAIN

 

In the last two decades, brain science has advanced to phenomenal levels. However, the fact remains is, whatever we discovered is only a tiny fraction of what there is to know about human brain !

Look at this 3 pound mass jelly which consists of 100 billion intricate network of neurons. Each neuron makes synaptic connection (points of contacts where information is shared between neurons) anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000. The permutations and combinations it could make is beyond the elementary particles of known universe. The fuel oxygen is 20 % of our total intake.

Numerous studies have been made on the cognitive abilities of humans which indicate that if we learn a second language, the cortical circuits that hold both languages, become active. The prefrontal cortex which is just behind our forehead, the so called CEO of our brain then steps in to choose the right word.

During brain anatomy studies, researchers observed that the gifted writers and poets may have excess connections between word and language areas of the brain. Likewise gifted painters and graphic artists may have excess connections between high-level visual areas.

Brain scans of London cab drivers gave an interesting insight. They have been found with larger posterior hippocampus, the region which files the spatial memories. These findings reiterate the fact that any skill can be cultivated by repetition which will not only improve our motor abilities but activate the non-mechanical parts of brain and fine-tune those abilities.

Brain is simply not a processing machine but a data warehouse. All the events of our life are stored in memory which is categorized into three kinds: procedural memory (new skills like bicycling), semantic memory (factual knowledge) and episodic memory. If we don't take enough care about what we are reading, seeing or hearing, it won't be retained in our mind.

Research also reveals that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing. It becomes easy to remember something written down on paper. So next time when your child faces any memory retention problems, ask her/him to write down which  solves the problem.

Scientists believe that our greater cognitive capacity comes from having more neurons or synapses. The compounds such as BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) stimulates the production of new neurons and synapses. Physical activity gives enormous boost to the brain power. Walking 30 minutes a day stimulates the production of BNDF for creation of new neurons and synapses that underlie learning. Laboratory studies reveal that exercise increases grey matter in the region of the hippo-campus that processes new knowledge and dispatches it to permanent storage in the frontal cortex.

Meditation increases the thickness of regions that control attention and processing of sensory signals from the outside world. Indulging too much in gizmos will only lower our natural abilities. See how our mathematical ability has fallen drastically after the advent of calculators !

Engaging in constant activity will seriously jeopardize the brain performance. Those who want to ride with time should also listen that a nap in the afternoon not only restores brain power to its fully awake best, but can also raise it beyond what it would have been without some shut-eye. Studies also show that 15 minutes after-noon nap is ideal to refresh the mind. That's why the search engine giant Google went a step ahead in providing nap pods for their employees and others must follow the suit to increase the employee productivity.

The more you know about your brain, the more still remains to know. The old myth about human body as a structure should be replaced with what mind-body medicine expert Dr. Deepak Chopra calls as "Energy and Information Field.'

To put it in a flash of insight : an intention to excel in any activity is the prime driver to keep your brain at best!

TIME TO FLEX THE MUSCLES IN THE BRAIN

We are groomed in a system where books are treated more as an academic tool than life enriching experience. We see only a minuscule percentage of people who nurture reading as a habit beyond student life.

When I undertake journeys, it is appalling to see few people with books. In this respect, our Western counterparts are a wiser lot, because their society is more knowledge centric. This behavioral deficiency can be cured by taking a conscious decision to nurture the habit of reading as a daily dose to make life more blissful.

“Books” according to American critic E.P. Whipple, “are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time. “ Through reading, we get the endurance to accommodate the view point of others. Reading is more a sort of exercise to the mind. A book will give the necessary impetus to withstand the pulls and pressures of daily life. Books are messengers through which a person’s ideas, experiences and insights are shared with the whole world.

The great people of past have already recognized the importance of books. The Catholic archbishop, poet and writer François Fénelon sagely said “If the crowns of all the kingdoms of the empire were laid down at my feet in exchange for my books and my love of reading, I would spurn them all

Books should not be chosen casually as we are generally deceived by the title of books but be rather  intelligent enough to choose a book.  Then comes the task of ‘reading’. The ‘how’ of reading a book is better interpreted by Sir Francis Bacon: “some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested”.

Reading makes a complete man. Moreover, reading is not a passive activity. To read a book, you have to prepare the mind in that direction and a conducive atmosphere needs to be created.  The decisive factor involves in choosing a good book is to gaze into its reviews which form a central plank in deciding the fate of the book.

In fact the holistic approach for book reading is to take important notes in the course of reading that book which will aid  you  for future reference.  Book reading is not for sensual pleasure. The books that kindle our imagination and elevate our thoughts are the right kind to read. “No entertainment is so cheap as reading” says 18th century writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. We cannot bring any radical change in people’s perception regarding ‘books’ unless we first achieve cent per cent literacy.

According to UN Human Development Report - 2020, adult literacy rate of India is pegged at 74.4%. We are in shambles with regard to Human Development Index (HDI) which is 0.645 (Rank 131), lagging behind our neighboring island nation Sri Lanka which is at 0.782 (Rank 72).

A multi-pronged approach is needed to achieve the objective . Yearly Book Fairs that are now held only in some select cities need to spread to every district headquarter and a coordinated approach is required to attract local people. Moreover State Libraries need to be strengthened with adequate funds to mould them into ‘modern temples of knowledge’. School children must be nurtured to go to libraries and parents need to give them books as gifts for occasions. There is also a need for Self Knowledge Groups’ among students and other stakeholders for sharing of knowledge.

Other than governmental interference in the form of financial aid and policy planning, a parental approach will only bring a perceptible change. Otherwise we continue to remain in dirt.


THE POWER OF INFORMATION

 

Benjamin Disraeli, the famous British Statesman observed that the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.

Before advent of internet, books are only the source of information. Ever since the dot com world stormed our lives, it dramatically changed the way we seek information. Now getting information relevant to our needs is a mouse click away and everybody is banking on internet like never before.

In fact internet contributed to the free flow of information and no earlier generation is so blessed like ours. But the secret lies in choosing the right kind of information. Suppose if we dive deep into the information ocean aimlessly, we may hit the rock.  So we have  to quantify our information needs for our daily needs of life.

According to Parkinson's Law, you have to fix time-frame for every activity. If you don't fix target slot to be devoted, your work expands to spill over all the time forcing you restricted to accomplish  other important jobs. Thus the German philosopher Goethe’s advice comes to our aid: "Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

STOMACH WISDOM

 


The other day, I fell ill, because, I ate cold curd in the mid-afternoon. My gut feeling cautioned me not to take it but impulse drove me and I bore the brunt of the situation. A sore throat accompanied by stomach ache showed me the hell.

After a long time, I was plagued by ill-health on so flimsy ground and I decided to tighten my belt. What I realized after deep contemplation is that my mouth is my guard post and the sentry there should be much more vigilant to protect the treasure called: Stomach. I took the vow to be more cautious for any faulty decision.

Being happy and falling ill takes a fraction of second. Though Nature is offering so many lessons, I rather half-shut my eyes so far and it is time wake up.

What I see is that I feel uncontrollable pangs of hunger at 6 pm in the evening and I must be alert and not to eat junk food during those crucial hours.

Health experts say that realizing what goes wrong would put you on a higher pedestal. The umbrella rule for taking food is this: Take food as medicine, otherwise, you are perforce take medicine as food.

HERACLITUS - A RARE BREED OF GREEK PHILOSOPHERS

 

The life of philosopher always gives deep insights to tread a path of perfection. One such Greek philosopher whose profound wisdom inspires is Heraclitus ( c. 535 – c. 475 BCE), a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and a native of the Greek city Ephesus. He is like Gautam Buddha or Lao Tzu, but the Greek soil was absolutely unkind for him.

He is one of the most highly penetrating souls.

His famous saying : "No man ever steps in the same river twice" He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that "the path up and down are one and the same"

He says that Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.


His immortal quote is “ Big results require big ambitions

YOU ARE UNIQUE AND SPECIAL

 


                   Winston Churchill Biography
            Prime Minister, Journalist (1874–1965)


'We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glow-worm.'

                                                   - Winston Churchill

Since my college days (1989/90) onwards, I am in the habit of taking note of great people's quotes which inspire me. My selection of quotes is such that they not only ignite me when I read them with the strength of thousand elephants and also to whoever read them.

The above quote of Former British Prime Minister is one of my all time favorite quotes. It reflects his personality and confidence on himself. History witnessed that he rallied his people during World War II and led his country from the brink of defeat to victory.

Like Churchill, everyone must have faith in himself/herself which becomes the bedrock of success in any activity they undertake. So work on your goals and show to the world what you could achieve!

ART OF LISTENING

 


Over the years, I have been carefully observing that my listening skills are not up to mark and they need to be fine-tuned to understand more of my Self than the words of other persons.

The awareness goes to next level only if the help comes from a spiritually illumined person who is matured enough to give a sermon on human relations.

I don't find more authoritative than Jiddu Krishnamurti who left nothing unsaid about human life. He says that:

           '' We listen with the various depths of our being, but our listening is always with a preconception or from a particular point of view ” He further stays that “ We do not listen simply; there is always the intervening screen of our own thoughts, conclusions, and prejudices. To listen there must be an inward quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention. This alert yet passive state is able to hear what is beyond the verbal conclusion. Words confuse; they are only the outward means of communication; but to commune beyond the noise of words, there must be in listening, an alert passivity. Those who love may listen; but it is extremely rare to find a listener. Most of us are after results, achieving goals; we are forever overcoming and conquering and so there is no listening. It is only in listening that one hears the song of the words."

When I read, re-read repeatedly the above lines some years ago, I felt ashamed of my listening skills. Krishnamurti's words ratify the fact that you must be in another dimension in life to simply listen the way it should be. I could vividly remember how I wildly beaten my elder child before fully listening to her version when she poured hot milk on her bare chest when she was hardly 4 years. I still repent for my ghastly act I committed in my 30s.

So, it is not bookish knowledge that bring serenity in our lives but the wisdom to understand the humans for which, we need to master the nuances of ''listening''.

WHAT DETERMINES THE QUALITY OF YOUR INNER LIFE ?

Whatever you do, your intention should always be for the good of people.

As long as the intention is good, you need not worry. The doctor when he uses a knife for the patient's operation , is lauded, whereas the robber when he uses the same knife to torment the householder to steal his wealth, is caught and punished. Here the knife is same, but the person who uses it and the intention are different.

As long as our actions help others to grow in life, we should not think otherwise.

So act with a positive mind-frame!

JESUS - THE MESSENGER OF PEACE

 


All roads lead to Rome. All religions preach the same message, the Message of Peace and Unity.

In fact, religion is purely a personal domain that should not be brought to public debate. We being humans must use the faculties the Creator has endowed. Even those who don't have faith in God or Creator should not make a mess out of it. They can follow their own conviction without violating other's freedom/rights.

But so much violence is inflicted in today’s world in the name of religion & God.

If you read any sacred text of any religion, the message is same. It is to nurture human values and respect the life.

The Holy Book Bible is full of snippets of wisdom.

If you read the Bible, there is no difference in the sayings of Jesus to what Krishna taught in Bhagavad Gita and the sayings of Muhammad Pravakta in Qur'an.

The central message of life of Jesus is the sacrifice for the sake of others; serve the humanity and leave your personal comforts behind.

Swami Vivekananda, the torchbearer of India's Spiritual Wisdom to the West was a great admirer of Jesus Christ. Between 1888- 1893 when he travelled in his own country – India, he accompanied two books, one of which is 'The Imitation of Christ’ written by Thomas a Kempis.

In many of his tours in the West, Vivekananda was often referred as Hindu Monk, but he is a true messenger of all religions and he spoke a lot on Christ, Muhammad, Buddha and other wisdom masters.

Persecution is not a solution nor enmity a way out. To keep the fabric of society united, respecting all religions is the need of the hour and there is no difference of opinion on this count by any religion!

BUDDHA'S WISDOM



In the long chequered history of human civilization, one man whose teachings created ripples in the world and a religion took birth by his name - Buddha.

According to Wikipedia, Buddha was born either 563 BCE or 480 BCE in Lumbini (a place in present-day Nepal) and died in 483 BCE or 400 BCE which means he probably lived about 80 years on this planet. His marathon life helped the mankind to juice out his wisdom.

If we go into important landmarks of Buddha's life, we see that except his birth, all other phases of his life journey centered on India only.

- He attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, India
- Gave his first sermon at Sarnath, India.
- Finally, he left his mortal frame at Kushinara or Kashia in Uttar Pradesh, India.

His teachings / insights in nutshell are:

Three Great Truths:

1. Nothing is lost in the universe. Matter turns into energy and energy turns into matter.

2. Everything changes.

3. Law of cause and effect. We receive exactly what we earn, whether it is good or bad.


Four Noble Truths:

1. Suffering is common to all.

2. We are the cause of our suffering.

3. Stop doing what causes suffering.

4. Path to end suffering is to get enlightened.


Noble Eightfold Path:

1. Right View.

2. Right Thought.

3. Right, Speech.

4. Right, Conduct.

5. Right Livelihood.

6. Right Effort.

7. Right Mindfulness.

8. Right Concentration.

So, no outside interference is necessary to blossom which is a self-driven process.

SRI CHINMOY - EAST's SHINING STAR OF WISDOM

There are many Indian Masters who went to West and propagated the message of India, after Swami Vivekananda.

Philip Goldberg in his much-acclaimed book "American Veda' termed him 'The Olympian Guru'. Born as Chinmoy Kumar Ghose in 1931, Sri Chinmoy was orphaned at 11 and spent next 20 years in the ashram of Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry, South India. Set his foot on New York in 1964 and worked as a clerk at the Indian Consulate before known to the world as Sri Chinmoy, the leader of a spiritual community in Queens.

Compare to other Gurus of his generation, it is said that Sri Chinmoy had relatively few disciples. He is such a prolific writer with more than 1,500 books, 115,000 poems and 20,000 songs. His core philosophy says that a sound body may lead to higher elevation in spiritual life which can be emanated from the fact that he used to participate in marathons and ultra-distance races. All through his works, he taught the Vedantic message of oneness.

Though his childhood is full of rough weather as his parents had passed away in much younger age, but something positive in life was in store for young Chinmoy who took shelter in Sri Aurobindo ashram, Pondicherry that changed his destiny. His following verse inspires me a lot:

"Our goal is to go from bright to brighter to brightest, from high to higher to highest. And even in the highest, there is no end to our progress, for God Himself is inside each of us and God at every moment is transcending His own Reality."

After a fruitful life of 76 years, Sri Chinmoy attained Samadhi on 11th October 2007 in New York city.

SUFISM OFFERS DEEP WISDOM


When you check Wikipedia on Sufism, it reverts back with the following definition:

Sufism is a concept in Islam, defined by scholars as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam; others contend that it is a perennial philosophy of existence that pre-dates religion, the expression of which flowered within the Islamic religion.

Rumi is a great Sufi poet and his poems offer deep wisdom.

The following Sufi story (Source: Book " The Language of God: A Scientist presents Evidence for the Belief ” by Francis Collins) always puts me on modesty:

A FIERY POET - SUBRAMANIA BHARATI


If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.

                                                                                      - Isaac Newton

Some books come to us by divine intervention. Some years ago, I came across a translated version of Bharati's works authored by Prema Nanda kumar. In fact, that book was published by Sahitya Akademi and I tried to buy the same, but could not procure as it was out of print. I searched for other scholarly translation and immediately I was landed up in Usha Rajagopalan's - Everyman's Selected Poems of Subramania Bharati.

The book offers the treasure of information about the life of Subramania Bharati. He is one of the 20th century's greatest Tamil Poets. He was a child prodigy. Bharati was his title conferred on him at the age of eleven which means ' one blessed by the goddess of learning'.

His works are philosophical. When you read, you get a feel of reading Indian Ancient Texts : Vedas /Upanishads. His poems are devotional and catching his imagination on Nature is difficult to fathom.

Some of my favourite lines of Subramania Bharati are :

The hand opens a lock,
Wisdom opens the mind.

The mind controls the breath,
Right action shields the body.

I came across a baby fire,
I kept it in a tree hollow,

The forest charred and cooled.
Fire Power - is it young or old ?

Whoosh, crackle, snap, sizzle.
May we reap quickly the fruits of our effort.
May we earn wealth and joy, fame on earth.

( credit: Usha Rajagopalan's book: Selected Poems of Subramania Bharati )

His poem 'The Goddess of Beauty' is very touching. His other poem on the greatness of 'worker' is equally inspiring. His poem on 'Awake, Mother India!' helped in strengthening Independence Movement from British.

History reveals that great people have not lived fully on this planet and they came only for a short sojourn but during that short period, they made ripples. Bharati who moved India with his fiery poems also died at the young age of 39 much like Vivekananda who also left his mortal frame at the same age. 

Hope these stalwarts continue to inspire succeeding generations !

A PARABLE ON 'HAPPINESS'



I opened some years ago a journal to jot down the great sayings of wisdom masters on happiness.

A wise man says that happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.

This Zen parable on 'Happiness' is my all time favourite :

Once upon a time, there was a king who had everything he could ask for in life, wealth, health, a loving family and many caring friends. But he could never feel happy. A saint offered him an easy solution. Happiness would come his way if he wore the shirt of the happiest person in his kingdom. So his men searched far and wide and finally found a truly blissful soul in a grimy shanty on the fringes of the town. But they asked him for his shirt, he could not offer one. He had none.

PHILOSOPHICAL CONNOTATIONS OF DEATH

The other day I along with  my   colleague went for tea  at our office cafeteria.  I couldn't forecast that I had to return with a sad note.

When we were sipping tea in the warmth of sun on that winter morning, suddenly a car ran over a puppy in front of our eyes. The puppy with its black and white shades was very cute. It was playing leisurely with its mother on the road when the incident happened. When the dogs were on jolly mood, we were keenly observing and discussing how cute the four puppies and we could not even have the slightest hint that death was looming on one of them.

See how death touches any creature on Earth. Some die naturally and some others forcefully and you can't say why one is living above ninety and the other is perished to death in mother's womb itself. The animal kingdom being limited in their faculties may not express the way we humans do. But the basic emotions are same. My eyes welled up with emotion when I saw the mother dog making circles around its dead puppy.

Who don't fear death? The famous writer Khushwant Singh in his book "Khushwantnama says that "All that I hope for is that when death comes to me it comes quickly, without much pain, like slipping away in sound sleep."

Like he cherished, he died at 99 in sleep on 20th March 2014. Quoting a passage in the Mahabharata, Khushwant says that the greatest miracle of life is that while we know that death is inevitable, but no one really believes that he/she too will die one day.

The Buddhist monk Dalai Lama when asked how one should face the death, he advises 'meditation'. It is easy to say not to fear death, but very difficult to distil into wisdom. The famous American Indian doctor and the New Age spiritual guru Deepak Chopra says that the Prince of Death is just behind you. He experimented on 'death meditation' during his sojourn in Thailand in 2011. By doing Buddhist way of doing meditation on death, Dr. Chopra says that you would constantly know the impermanence of life and certainty of death.

Life is like a passing stream. At every point, there are endless lessons to learn, and lessons on death should not be isolated. We need to maintain serenity even in the midst of turbulence. When the mind is prepared for the worst, whatever less damage happens in front of you, should not grab your peace.

TOO MUCH MATERIALISM IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH!


Generally we are driven by comparison mania. If our neighbor brings home a new product, our heart craves to possess that by hook or crook. Whenever such thought crops up in your mind, just pause and think of the fate of people living in utter poverty.

Anupam Kher, the best character artist of Bollywood in his book " The Best Thing About You is You!" says that

" I would like to share with you a beautiful thought, which I came to know many years ago and which has stayed with me : I always longed for a pair of shoes, until I saw someone with no feet. The powerful imagery of this humbling thought has always stayed with me. So too is a Gandhian saying "There is enough for the world's needs, but not enough for the world's greed."

We can lead a decent life with minimum possessions. Once a man or woman crosses forty, this wisdom must prevail. We must learn not only from the experience of ours but from other people's experiences which offer insights to lead a happy life. Like Anupam suggested, you must feel blessed with what life offered to you and there lies wisdom without pomp and show!

FASTING AS A TOOL FOR SELF-AWARENESS

 


It is said in Ayurveda that you should take food as medicine, otherwise you are perforce take medicine as food.

In my childhood days, my mother put us on fasting every Monday in Kartik maas (November - as per Indian calendar ) and myself and sisters used to take circles around the kitchen during those hungry hours  when sumptuous food is served after evening puja.  To endure the pangs of hunger, she used to  advise us to immerse in our  regular activity rather  thinking  food every moment. It is a tradition laced with potential health benefits.

Now after three decades, I am  back to fasting with rekindled enthusiasm after I was  convinced enough of  its immense health benefits.  

In fact, fasting is a cleansing process which takes out the toxic substances from your body. Spiritual luminary Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says Once in every 11 to 14 days, you may not feel like eating. On that day, you should not eat. You know, even dogs and cats have this awareness?  At least every 14 days, you could go without food. If you are unable to go without food, if your activity levels are such and you don’t have the necessary sadhana to support you, then you could go on a fruit diet. Just observe your own system, and you may notice that on certain days, you do not really need to eat. Forcing food on those days is not a good thing to do.

Fitness guru Rujuta Diwekar in her best seller " Don't lose your mind, Lose your weight' says Fasting is a powerful tool as a spiritual practice, but nowadays it is used mainly as a weight loss tool by 'experts'. 

All most all religions have fasting  embedded in their cultures. If you remain on fasting,  your decision-making  faculties would excel  and it  helps you gain more self-control. 

ROAD TO SERENITY

 

Never talk about the faults of others, no matter how bad they may be.  Nothing is ever gained by that.  You never help one by talking about his faults; you do him an injury, and injure yourself as well.

                                                                          -  Swami Vivekananda

Most of us  indulge in gossip and  dwell at length on the faults of others,  forgetting  our  own.   But the wisdom masters say that this trait will  put you in deep trouble and rob your own inner serenity.

When you talk  ill of others, the toxic emotions are bound to destabilize your own emotional balance.  That's why you must concentrate  your energies more on your own conduct than onlookers.     

Some months back I wrote this wonderful quote of Dalai Lama in my journal which I come back and forth to remind myself  of the truth:

If someone remains in a peaceful and tranquil state of mind, external surroundings can cause them only a limited disturbance.quo

If you are in a situation  which you can't  tolerate, better to walk out  politely instead of silently enduring the ordeal.   Suppose if the situation doesn't permit you to leave, be prepared to endure with full acceptance.   You get more inner strength by reading this famous quote of American novelist and short story writer James Lane Allen:

Man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realizes that he is a creative power and that he may command the hidden soil and seeds of his being out of which circumstances grow, he then becomes the rightful master of himself.


NEW YEAR GOALS


The other day when I browsed the morning headlines in the newspaper, one piece of news caught my eye.    It suggested some mobile app to accomplish New Year Resolutions. I laughed myself the way technology is suggested to strengthen the inner resolve.

We are already having superior technology inside each of us which converts the 'bread into blood'. What we need is only to have full heart to achieve our goals.

I don't think you need a mobile app to achieve your goals, What I suggest is, invest some bucks in small whiteboard and hang it into your study/ living room and write your goals there with a deadline. See the board as frequently as possible during the day which would strengthen your resolve and auto-suggest your mind to work towards the goals.

I think this whiteboard is the most workable formula. Don't clutter that board with lengthy resolutions. Write each goal/resolution in two or three words with a timeline. Don't write more than 5 Resolutions. Why 'Five', because you have five fingers so that you can instantly remember them when you are out of board's sight. Seeing the white board daily would train your mind in accepting them for accomplishment.

Split each goal/resolution into workable actions with clear deadlines and when you achieve even a small part of that goal, announce to the world or your near and dear ones about your achievement so that their words of appreciation ignite you further in achieving your leftover goals.

Further, you take a snapshot of your goals written on the whiteboard with your mobile phone and review it frequently even during 'on-the-go.

Some months back, I opened a notebook called "Black Book' in which I elaborately wrote what are my strengths and weaknesses and what are my goals to be achieved. The following is a rundown of my Goals:

1) Physical Fitness Goals - Healthy life

2) Intellectual Goals - Utilize all my Inner Resources/ talents the Creator has endowed me

3) Children Career Goals - Make them worthy of society

4) Financial Goals - Wealth at a comfortable level

5) Relationship/ Family /Welfare Goals - Good Samaritan

Under each primary goal, there are sub-goals which must be diligently written in a notebook meant for your goals and you need to give ‘timeline’ for each sub-goal. Some action under all five categories need to be taken on daily basis and it should be reviewed daily/weekly/fortnightly.

ZEN WISDOM

 

Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known to them.

                                                                           - Zen wisdom on modesty

Generally there is a tendency in all of us to show to the world that we are great and unique and there is nothing wrong with it. But the problem with majority of folks is they want frequent validation from outside world to gauge their self-worth. A person who wants to grow spiritually must not cling to this trait.

Zen wisdom offers more such insights on life. In fact, it is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that was developed in China during the 6th century. It emphasizes the value of meditation and intuition to grow spiritually. It recommends that we, instead of mere ritual worship or study of scriptures must transcend to a level where our life exuberates with joy at every moment.

The word Zen, in fact, originated from Sanskrit root word dhyana which means meditation.

Do we really care ourselves to grow in life in terms of abilities and talents the Creator has endowed ? Many complain that they are riddled with so many problems in life which if we see in correct perspective, are not problems but opportunities.

Experience defines our quality life. If the experience is sore, we naturally switch to an action which gives joy. The experience is the lens through which we discriminate people, choices and situations. That lens could turn into a third eye and guide you if you keep it clean with the path shown by Wisdom Masters.

Success and Spirituality go hand in hand. Those who are successful are more spiritual because they know the impermanence of success and they profoundly believe in a Higher Power that dictates their destiny.

What is success ? Anthony Robbins, America's prominent personality development guru says that "success is the result of the good judgement; good judgement is the result of experience; and experience is often the result of bad judgement"

How you perceive the bad experience is all that matters. Why Buddha is often talked about? Because, he is the person who worked on his own mind before he shared that wisdom with the world. His words: better to win over yourself than to win a thousand battles' illustrate the point of how difficult it is to control the mind.

Is there any connection between game and spirituality. The answer is obviously ''yes''. Experts say that if there is any game that inculcates spirituality, it is Golf. Amy Alcott, an American professional golfer and golf course designer who won five championships quotes that "Golf is a spiritual game. It is like Zen. You have to let your mind take over.

We have very prominent golfers amongst them is Deepak Chopra, the famous Indian-American doctor and rock star of spirituality. He wrote a book "Golf for Enlightenment: The Seven Lessons for the Game of Life.'' which is one of the best sellers.

Modesty is the key to Zen way of living. If you give too many swings to happier moments, then you are bound to let down in moments of sorrow. Striking a perfect balance to dualities is where the wisdom lies and Buddha is a state of mind, which is a possibility field open to everyone!

BE COMPASSIONATE AND NON-JUDGEMENTAL

 



Indian wisdom tradition says that senses are outward bound and the more you indulge, the worst would be your condition. Hence, moderation is the key. Make it a habit to continuously judge yourself rather than others. This helps to shine your own inner life.

Make it a rule not to abuse anybody by impulse. Before such toxic emotion runs you, consciously pass it through a filter of your intellect. Observe your reaction before you react. This sounds easy but very difficult to act upon. But with constant practice, it becomes easy.

You must understand other person's emotional cues from the web of your own experiences and respond positively so that you could take your relationships to next level.

Noted Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti in his book "Freedom from known' says that :

>  Relationship between human beings is based on the image-forming, defensive mechanism.

>  In our relationships each one of us builds an image about the other and these two images have relationship, not the human beings themselves.

> The actual relationship between two human beings or between many human beings completely ends when there is the formation of images.

> Relationship based on these images can obviously never bring peace in the relationship, because the images are fictitious and one can not live in an abstraction.

While talking on comparison mania, Krishnamurti says that :

> Why do you compare yourself with another? This comparison has been taught from childhood. In every school A is compared with B, and A destroys himself in order to be like B.

> Trying to become like somebody else, or like your ideal, is one of the main causes of contradiction, confusion and conflict.

Generally, we make snap judgements on roadside unknown people or people with whom we are envious or those with whom we don't have harmony or love and affection.

In fact to judge others is an evolutionary impulse to save ourselves from life threats. But, we the humans need to tackle this situation with what Dalai Lama's model of intimacy which is based on a willingness to open ourselves to many others, to family, friends, and even strangers, forming genuine and deep bonds based on our common humanity.

When you connect others with warmth, there is no question to think ill of him or her!

STUDY THE FACE OF NATURE



Study the face of nature and you will never be bored.


                                        - Ruskin Bond

We easily get bored with the objects and people if the indulgence exceeds a threshold limit. But the same is not the case with Nature. It gives a novelty at every moment.

Health experts advise that we must spend quality time with Nature daily. It stirs you into creativity. A day spent in the lush green patch would give more joy than a day spent in a five-star restaurant as outdoors open your own inner doors of creativity.

Rabindranath Tagore used to spend large chunks of his time in the gardens due to which great writings happened from him. Eminent philosopher of 20th century Jiddu Krishnamurti says that intelligence implies that you see the beauty of the earth, the beauty of the tree, the beauty of the skies, the lovely sunset, the stars, the beauty of subtlety.

The great Indian Writer Khushwant Singh used to spend his mornings and evenings in the park nearby his home. In his much acclaimed book : "Khushwantnama - The Lessons of My Life' he says that "My Nature watching has been mostly restricted to the back garden of my house in Sujan Singh Park, but how much that little garden has taught me !"

Your body is made up of five Primordial Elements and that's why your connection with Nature is eternal. So make it a habit to immerse yourself with Nature on daily basis.

IDEAL DAY



Your routine of the day decides the quality of life you live. If it is not in consonance with nature's cycle, progress in any area of life can't be achieved. This is the pragmatic wisdom and the sooner you realize, the better it would be.


Deepak Chopra, the famous American Indian medical doctor and the champion of health cause on American soil is the right blend of science and philosophy. He suggests that the ideal day should have the following components:


- Sleep Time
- Play Time
- Exercise Time
- Focused Work Time
- Relationship Time
- Down Time - Out of action
- Meditation Time.


Deepak further suggests to draw a Soul Profile by self-questioning the following:

- Who am I?
- What do I want?
- What is my purpose in this life?
- What sort of contribution do I want to make?
- What are my unique skills?
- Who are my heroes?
- What is a meaningful relationship
- What do I expect from one, and what do I give?


These are the questions that take you to the higher level of wisdom in life!